Ok, so November 27th is the *actual* birthday of All Things Must Pass, but the 50th anniversary reissue just came out this past week, so like most Beatlefans, I’m celebrating now. It’s taken me til the weekend to truly listen to most of the album + extras and man, it’s a lot to unpack. (Can we also address the Uber Deluxe Edition, which includes—in addition to 8 LPs, 5 CDs, 4 gnomes, 3 books, Rudraksha beads, and a Klaus Voormann illustration—a wooden bookmark made from a felled oak tree in George’s Friar Park garden?? It’s almost enough to distract me from the $1,000 price tag.)
I have yet to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, but some initial favorites:
“Behind That Locked Door” – This has always been one of my top songs on the album. I’m a sucker for pedal steel guitar, and combined with Billy Preston on the Hammond and Klaus Voorman on bass? *chef’s kiss* A real treat. I usually feel like I don’t have the ear to comment on production, but the 2020 mix really gives those vocals life, wow!
“Om Hare Om (Gopala Krishna)” – This feels like one of those songs Phil Spector told George couldn’t be on the album because it’s a little too devotional—or maybe because it doesn’t lend itself as much to the ol’ Wall of Sound. I love it, though. George’s vocal line in the verse would make a lovely lehra (the melodic line accompanying a tabla solo), which could very well have been his intention. Can’t get this one out of my head.
“Run of the Mill – Day 2 Demo, Take 1” – The album version is nice, but I think this acoustic demo version evokes a lot more feels, especially knowing that this song was a reflection of the Beatles’ pre-breakup rift.
“Art of Dying – Day 2 Demo, Take 1” – Similarly, I love this stripped down version, sans Clapton’s in-your-face wailing. I just recently read this song dates back to 1966 (when Geo was a mere 23-year-old bebe). Can you imagine if this was on Revolver? It’s too good for the Beatles, honestly. 😬 The version on Disc 5 is a jam too.
“Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine)” – DELIGHTFUL. More pedal steel please!!
“Get Back” – It’s George singing Get Back accompanied by horns, what’s not to like!
I’ll leave you with the luscious “Isn’t It A Pity” (Take 27) and its equally luscious video. Coincidentally (and unfathomably), George was 27 years old when ATMP was released. I always forget this fact, because he definitely gives off Wise Old Philosopher vibes throughout the album and in all the pictures from that era. But nope, he is the same age in those pictures as Justin Bieber is now. What is life?!
And in a lovely display of serendipity, my two-weeks-post-vax mark just happened to coincide with the Balboa Theater’s reopening weekend. So Alex and I went to see Interstella 5555, Daft Punk’s 2003 animated film set to the album Discovery. I had never seen it before and thought it was delightful. And then, because the Roxie Theater was *also* celebrating its reopening, we went to a Memorial Weekend screening of Sisters With Transistors, a 2020 documentary about women in electronic music, which is what I’ve come back here to blab about.
If you are even just mildly interested in music, music history, and/or women’s history, you should watch this film! I’m now graced with the knowledge of so many artists I’d never heard of before, and got to learn more about those I may have been familiar with but hadn’t really explored much. The documentary website has a great rundown already, so here are just a few highlights…
I’d seen a video or two of Clara Rockmore (née Reisenberg), but didn’t know much of her backstory. She was a classically trained violinist who came to America from Russia to study music. Unfortunately, she developed tendonitis at a young age and had to give up the violin, but then shrugged it off and became a theremin virtuoso instead. (I love the tidbit that Léon Theremin was apparently so enraptured that he proposed to her—several times, according to some accounts—but she politely turned him down.) She went on to help Theremin develop the instrument into its modern day design and also created her own technique for more precise phrasing and articulation:
Daphne Oram became a sound engineer at the BBC during WWII and spent late nights in her makeshift sound studio experimenting with electronic music. She came up with Oramics, a method of producing music that involves drawing notation on blank 35mm film and running it through a wild-looking apparatus called the Oramics Machine. She called it “drawn sound” and it’s fascinating to me:
Pauline Oliveros made a lot of experimental music (a good amount of it featuring the accordion!) and she also has some crossover into the meditation world with her notion of “deep listening.” (While most of Oliveros’s stuff is a little too out-there for me, I’d totally buy this album.) I was interested to learn about her involvement with the San Francisco Tape Music Center, an experimental music studio headquartered at 321 Divisadero in the 1960s (it later moved to Mills College). I wonder how much, if any, the electronic music scene from the San Francisco Tape Music Center overlapped with the psychedelic rock scene in the Haight that was happening at the same time? Were there ever shows where you could experience artists from both? That’d be pretty wild.
Wendy Carlos doesn’t get much airtime in the film, but we have her to thank (in part) for the Moog synthesizer, this album of Moog’d Bach that I desperately want, and the soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Tron. Also, Wendy’s cat-filled Greenwich Village studio is life goals:
Suzanne Ciani was one of the early aficionados of the Buchla synthesizer (a Moog competitor). She also hung out at the San Francisco Tape Music Center and studied at both Berkeley and Stanford (then moved to NYC).
There’s a lot of goodSuzannecontent on YouTube and in general she is very online, so I had a hard time picking a video to share here. I chose the one below because A) part of it was featured in the documentary, and B) I just found it immensely soothing (I can guarantee it’s popped up in some ASMR community somewhere). Now, I’m sure this is partly because this video was recorded for a children’s program, and also because Suzanne seems to really enjoy sharing her knowledge of electronic music with other people, but I love how patient and generous she is with her answers. I feel like women who are experts in any field are usually more inclined to humanize the complex parts of their craft—a sort of nurturing approach, with the intention of helping someone to understand something—rather than try to impress (or mansplain, if you will). Obviously this is a generalization, but the number of times I’ve felt dumb trying to understand this stuff when men explain it is embarrassingly high, compared with my experiences watching these videos.
There are many more, like Delia Darbyshire, who arranged and performed the original Doctor Who theme; Maryanne Amacher, who created mind-bending sounds based on physical spaces; and Laurie Spiegel, who wrote a piece of music software called Music Mouse, for which the late-90s-era website still exists. I was woefully unaware of most of these women before watching the film, and am feeling grateful to have learned about their lives and work (and also more about electronic music in general!).
PS: If you’re interested in watching, it appears that the documentary is available here with a subscription. Or, if you’re in SF, there’s a second showing at the Roxie this month! See you at the movies. 🍿
I like to think I’m good at staying up to date with noteworthy Rolling Stones videos, but somehow I missed this ADORABLE video of Mick and Keith talking about their shared flat in London:
I would love more than anything to just listen to them talk about mundane things like carpets and laundry. Horrrrrrendous.
Last time I was back home I packed up a box of Beatles and Stones books from the archives so I could clear out some space in my parents’ garage (Alex and I have a house now, so I can finally fill my place of residence with as many books as I want, muahaha). One of them was Nankering with the Rolling Stones by James Phelge, described as “a hilariously disgusting memoir of living with Mick, Keith, and Brian in a squalid Chelsea flat in 1963.” I almost put it in the donate pile, but figured it might be worth a re-read. And now, inspired by the above video, I’ve had an amusing time flipping through it again. If anyone’s looking for stories from the Edith Grove days, this book is a solid gold mine.
A couple of days later we came home together and found all the pots and pans, as well as the cutlery, neatly arranged on the small kitchen table. They looked gleaming and clean, almost like new.
A few minutes later Judy from downstairs came up and entered the kitchen. “I picked up all your pans and cleaned ’em for you,” she said. “What did you throw them all in the garden for?”
“Because they were dirty,” replied Keith.
“Keith,” she said. “You can’t just throw them out the window if they’re dirty. You have to wash them.”
“We thought it was gonna rain and that would clean them,” I told her.
She pulled a face that told us she thought we were hopeless. We just stared at her and smiled.
Of course, after all this, I turned to YouTube and went down a rabbit hole of early Stones videos. In particular, the early TV performances when they were basically a cover band, like this gem:
Look at those bebes!! Mick is such an effortlessly sexy frontman, ughhh. And lol at Ed Sullivan trying to mimic Mick’s pointing at the end.
Also tucked away somewhere in my parents’ garage is a VHS tape I got from Spin Records with all of the Stones’ Ed Sullivan performances on it. I was obsessed with that VHS for a while. There are some memorable shows in that collection, like when they were forced to change “let’s spent the night together” to “let’s spend some time together,” in which I count at least five eye rolls, and the many examples of Brian Jones playing non–standardinstruments in pop songs (no comment on the sitar and mallet technique). Anyway, I’m getting a little carried away but all of this is to say, I’ve been on an early-Stones kick and it’s been very fun.
Now before I go listen to some 1970s Stones (the best era, although honestly they’re all excellent), here’s some bonus 2021 Jagger content: Mick and his cat Nero 😍
Hello, yes, I’m 32 years old and have finally watched The Sopranos, one of the greatest television programs of all time!
I seem to recall Alex and I floated the idea early on during the pandemic, in a “the world’s on fire, let’s do something crazy” sort of way. Organized crime shows are not my jam, but I was aware that The Sopranos is consistently recommended for fans of Mad Men (🙋🏻♀️) or anyone who loves a good antihero, so figured it was worth a go. And it was a good excuse for Alex to get in touch with his Italian-American roots. So after almost a year of saying we’d do it, we finally took the dive.
As you might imagine, I hated the violence but loved the mundane drama, mafioso home life, and family tree of complicated, layered characters. Watching one or two episodes a night became our ritual, and we slowly let the show seep into the rest of our lives. The therapy scenes inspired me to start writing in my dream journal again. We made so much pasta and fazool. Our spectacularly botched renditions of “Con Te Partiro” echoed through the house. It was great.
But also, six years’ worth of fictional mafia tension is exhausting. Not gonna lie, I was relieved when it was over. By the end, everything on the show was spiraling into bleakness, and I was ready to just go on YouTube and watch all the fan vids (because I think I enjoy that more than watching any actual show??). We finally finished the series last week, and now I’m debating whether or not I should listen to the Talking Sopranos podcast (2+ hours for each episode, that’s even more of an investment!).
Anyway, 4 dollars a pound here’s a bunch of YouTube links, thinly veiled in a list I’ll call Nikki’s Favorite Things About The Sopranos:
Surreal (but not overdone) dreamsequences. There’s some really great dream logic/dialogue (“Where were you? We were about to call the hospitals.”) and also an extended coma scene that was probably my favorite part of the whole series, but I won’t post any clips from that because I don’t want to spoil anything.
The gabagool. I’ll never eat it because “it’s all fat and nitrates”, but it’s absolutely the greatest Italian word to throw around. Alex got it on a sandwich recently in honor of the show (his review: “I’m not sure I like it.”).
Early 2000s ephemera. Ahh, to relive the ubiquity of AOL trial CDs and Nokia phones and Big Mouth Billy Bass.
Silvio Dante. I’m sure Sil being my fave had at least a tiny bit to do with a mafia man being played very convincingly by Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for the E Street Band. Mostly I just loved that Sil looks like such a caricature, yet he’s possibly the least over-the-top in terms of personality: a level-headed mediator and trusted confidant (unless you’re trying to sweep cheese from under his feet).
Nice-guy Finn being a Padres fan. What a fun surprise for Padres fans! (Although I know it’s because the writers needed to pick a historically bad team. 😭) When we first watched this scene and Vito goes “the Pads haven’t had a team in 20 years” (the year being 2004) I blurted at the screen “EYYY WHAT ABOUT ’98” right as Finn was saying the same thing. Maybe the most relatable character in the whole show.
Sunday dinners. Scenes at the Soprano house are my favorites. I’d watch an entire series of Carmela Soprano doing housework and yelling at Tony. This is still my favorite 45 seconds of the show:
While I’m at it, I wanted to do a little amendment to my earlier Life During Quarantine list (seeing as quarantine life may actually be ending soon?!). Here’s an abridged version of Notable Things I’ve Consumed Since Last Time:
LODGE 49. Equal parts inspiring and depressing, with a good dollop of anti-capitalism thrown in. And SoCal scenery! A highly underrated show, IMO.
DERRY GIRLS. The 2 seasons of Derry Girls were just a delight. Beyond the spastic dialogue and teen humor, it was quite educational. Between this, The Crown, and Downton Abbey, I’ve really learned a lot about English-Irish tensions. Speaking of which….
DOWNTON ABBEY. I really wasn’t into watching this when it first came out, but golly it was an easy binge. It also has the distinction of being the show that occupied our lives after moving into our house(!), so I think I’ll always have fond memories of watching it in our unfinished den while sitting on camping chairs and eating takeout.
SKETCHY, Tune-Yards. The latest Tune-Yards slaps! So grateful to have new music and video content from Merrill and Nate. I’m a bit obsessed with the video for “nowhere, man”.
UNCANNY VALLEY, Anna Weiner. Seemed like a must-read for anyone adjacent to the SF tech industry in the early-to-mid-2010s. And it’s a fun little game of Guess the Proper Nouns. There wasn’t really anything new to me here, and towards the end it got a little tired, but it was a good reminder to always keep a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to tech.
BILL GRAHAM PRESENTS: MY LIFE INSIDE ROCK AND OUT, Bill Graham and Robert Greenfield. This was research for another piece I wrote for The San Franciscan, but even if it wasn’t, it’s still right up my alley. Bill Graham’s early life was remarkable: he was orphaned and escaped Nazi Germany by way of France and a ship to New York. Then he made a home in San Francisco and became the biggest promoter in rock. You go, Bill.
MOBY DICK, Herman Melville (in progress). Our friend Eugene started a virtual book club, or perhaps I should say Moby Dick book club since I’m not sure if any other books are planned after this. I’ve never read MD before, but have to say it’s been a lot more entertaining than I was expecting. Haven’t yet gotten to the extended interlude about whaling, but oddly looking forward to it.
This post brought to you by the surprisingly comprehensive Christmas album We Three Kings by the Roches. I spent the better part of a day off last week baking cookies while listening to it, and I dare say it was the closest to the holiday spirit I think I’m going to get.
For a taste, here’s a wonderfully 90s promo video, and a live version of “Deck the Halls” that you’re either going to love or hate (I love it):
I’ve been meaning to do a Roches post for a while now. I was in a blogging slump when I got into them a few years back, otherwise I would’ve done it much sooner! So please enjoy a humble sampling of these three sisters this holiday season—and then throughout next year and beyond, because they are a treasure.
The song that got me (and I suspect others) hooked was “Hammond Song.” It popped up in my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist and I just couldn’t stop listening to it. Those harmonies! Maggie’s low alto!
Listening to “Hammond Song” will inevitably lead you to the Roches’ eponymous debut album from 1979, which has become one of my all-time favorites. But before that, Maggie and Terre Roche had already released an album—the gloriously folky Seductive Reasoning—which definitely deserves a mention. (Side note: I don’t know why I love this album cover so much, but I think it’s really great.)
By the way, I’m sad there’s not better quality video of a lot of these performances, but so glad the video footage exists at all! I love that when they weren’t singing original songs in concert, they sang Handel covers:
The Roches made 11 albums together (including the Christmas album), and admittedly I haven’t listened through them all yet. The Roches and Another World are the two albums I own on vinyl, so I guess I’m biased towards those.
I think the general consensus is their first two albums, produced by Robert Fripp, are the best, with the others becoming more commercial and mainstream. But I am also a person who loves 1990s Rolling Stones albums as much as their 1970s albums (looking at you, Voodoo Lounge) and can’t say that I mind the synth pop production or weird music videos:
Sadly, Maggie Roche—too good for this world—passed away in 2017. She seemed like such a sweetheart (and so quiet! Quiet people are usually the best). Right about now is the part where I wish I knew what it was like to have sisters, or siblings at all really. Y’all better appreciate your sibs, even if you’re not in a band with them. 😭
I’m still exploring all of the Roches’ albums and spinoffs, so I’m fully expecting a follow-up post at some point. I will say, one blessing from this year was a beautiful collection of songs by Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. It was some of the most comforting music I heard all year. So I’ll leave you with this, while I go dive into more of the back catalog. Happy Chrimble!
Oh, hi. Nothing like new Beatles footage to bring me scrambling back to the blog. LOOK:
I’ve been waiting impatiently for any news of this documentary since its premiere was delayed earlier this year, so I nearly burst with excitement when I saw this update tweeted out this morning (it was literally the reason for getting out of bed: I had to go into another room to watch it without waking Alex up). August 2021 is so far away, but these few minutes of footage reassure me that it’s going to be 1000% worth. Thank heavens New Zealand has its act together and the crew can resume editing work.
If this indeed is an accurate picture of the film, then I am giddily looking forward to…
Coming up with a new drinking game, this time with tea.
More of George and Ringo’s frilly shirts.
Billy Preston! George Martin! Mal Evans!
Yoko and Linda just hanging out??
John antics (honestly, these two seconds are very relatable).
All the vintage recording equipment (and the boys dunking on Glyn Johns).
And just generally seeing a happier side of this chapter. <3
And just to tide us all over a bit longer, here’s some footage from the original film, in the video quality I remember.
So stoked to see the Beatles get the Peter Jackson treatment.
Saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1978 version) for the first time yesterday, at a drive-in at Pier 70. It was honestly the best way I can think of to spend a Halloween night in quarantine. Similar to the Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema drive-in we attended earlier in October, the event was super well organized. It was especially impressive watching volunteers coordinate the parking logistics amongst San Franciscan drivers who aren’t the best at parking in straight lines. :P As a bonus, we got tacos from Mi Morena delivered right to our car, and a commemorative poster to take home!
I’m not really a horror fan, but a sci-fi horror based in 1970s San Francisco I can definitely get into. I loved all the shots featuring the Transamerica Pyramid (which was only 6 years old at the time, still probably a novelty) and various areas around Civic Center. It’s too bad we hadn’t seen this movie before our wedding; we took photos among the sycamores in front of City Hall and it would’ve been perfect for recreating that last scene (***obvious spoiler alert).
So yeah, the San Francisco setting is an obvious reason why I loved the movie. But also?! Just look at these faces:
That’s Leonard Nimoy as a psychiatrist in a tweed suit, Donald Sutherland as a Public Health Department inspector with a ‘stache and perm, and baby Jeff Goldblum as a poet with a nosebleed. I meeeeannn, you really can’t go wrong.
Some other bite-sized observations and questions:
Why does Donald Sutherland say “bo-dy” like that? Is that a Canadian thing? (Also, YIL Donald Sutherland is Canadian.)
Why doesn’t anyone have a nickname in this movie? They’re all Elizabeth, Geoffrey, Matthew, David…I guess maybe it’s more effective when the characters are constantly screaming each other’s names in terror.
For some reason, the dialogue in this scene tickled me just right. “Like a fetus.” “You just said it was an adult.” “I said it was an adult because it was tall.” (also, Jeff Goldblum’s last “why?” at the end.)
A while back, out of nowhere, I got the urge to fill out one of those surveys like the ones that used to circulate in my Hotmail and Myspace inboxes back in middle school: you know, the 100-line long questionnaires with annoyingfont colors and *~*wRiTiNg LiKe ThIs*~*.
Mostly I wanted to have something to fill out because it’d be an interesting snapshot of Life During Quarantine. But that was back in spring when everything still felt new and weird, and by now (apocalyptic skies aside), I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve settled into the pandemic lifestyle. No fewer than 15 masks hang by our front door. Running essential errands or going on walks are pretty much the only reasons we go out. Seeing people hug on TV shows makes me uncomfortable. I’d say we’re in it for the long haul.
My personal journal (the one not on the Internet) used to be where I wrote about vacations and get-togethers; now it’s where I document the Netflix shows we’ve gone through and new recipes we’ve tried. I figured I’d pull out some of those mundane details and compile them here in a non-comprehensive list: newish and relevant movies, shows, albums, books, and other random things Alex and I have consumed since March of this year. Use it as a list of recommendations if you want, but mostly it’s just here to serve the same purpose as those middle school surveys: as a time capsule.
THE VAST OF NIGHT. Quirky low-budget Amazon Prime movie with surprising shifts in pace and a couple of genuinely chilling scenes. The setting is in a small New Mexico town in the atomic age, which gave me real The Return Part 8 vibes (not a bad thing).
DA 5 BLOODS. Hard to finish, but worth it. Chadwick Boseman plays a central role even though you only see him for about 20 minutes total.
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Watched this one as part of a virtual movie night hosted by our favorite neighborhood theater, the Balboa. A thoroughly enjoyable Hitchcock film with an insane climax. (The experience of watching with a chat room full of people—and everyone pressing play at the same time—had a very 2000s feel to it.)
MOONLIGHT. I regret that I didn’t see this when it first came out. It’s everything I love in a movie: the slow unfolding of a character arc, extremely aware of its setting, sad and beautiful all at once.
THE CONVERSATION. Paranoia in 1970s San Francisco? Say no more!
SHIRLEY. I just love that this movie exists. Plus, Elisabeth Moss as Shirley Jackson is a mood.
Documentaries and docuseries
THE BOOKSELLERS. A documentary about antiquarian booksellers, how very up our alley.
THE LAST DANCE. I don’t like sports and I don’t like drama, but somehow loved this docuseries about the 1990s Chicago Bulls?? A+ editing and interviews. And Alex got to relive the height of his basketball card-collecting years by naming every player who appeared on the screen and their team.
13TH. An essential watch and another one I wish I’d seen sooner. Can’t recommend highly enough.
TAKE THIS HAMMER (DIRECTOR’S CUT). This was my proper introduction to James Baldwin, which I’m very grateful for. It’s also an important glimpse into San Francisco’s history with race. (Warning: it’s not pretty.)
A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. I need to read this book!!!
REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE. I naïvely didn’t know any of the history behind Sam Cooke and his music. A fascinating and depressing story.
TV shows and limited series
DARK. Just a great mind-bending, post-apocalyptic German show to watch in 2020.
GODLESS. A quick little miniseries featuring an intimidating Jeff Daniels, a bunch of badass women, and some excellent western scenery.
WATCHMEN. Perhaps the most relevant thing in this whole post, and also one of my favorites even though I was hesitant at first to watch it. (It helped that Alex could explain the nuances of the DC universe to me while we watched, but that’s not necessary to enjoy it!!)
RUSSIAN DOLL. V easy to binge. Relatable in the sense that every day lately feels the same.
THE X-FILES. We’re currently on Season 6 (a very alien-heavy season so far) and it’s been a ride. Not gonna lie, I’m mostly in it for the fandom, and so I can watch supercuts on YouTube without spoilers.
TRICK MIRROR, Jia Tolentino. A collection of essays that hit hard.
THE OX, Chris Rees. a.k.a. John Entwistle’s authorized biography. Nothing too groundbreaking, but some good stories to be told.
THE MADDADDAM TRILOGY, Margaret Atwood. I would highly recommend reading this in 2020.
THE VANISHING HALF, Brit Bennett. A character-driven story set in some of my favorite places.
THE FIRE NEXT TIME, James Baldwin. An important read. Baldwin discusses ugly topics more eloquently than anyone I’ve ever read.
LITTLE WEIRDS, Jenny Slate. An apt title, and the kind of book you can read in bite-sized pieces. Depending on my mood during each chapter, I either loved or hated it.
SONGS FOR PIERRE CHUVIN, the Mountain Goats. I feel like I’m not a real Mountain Goats fan because I’m not as into the early stuff, but this came out at just the right time (April 2020) and the return to lo-fi was so befitting while we all stayed cooped up in our homes.
FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS, Fiona Apple. Sonically transcendent.
WOMEN IN MUSIC, PT. III, HAIM. Every track is just so good. Snippets of Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Ace of Base, and Uncle Kracker(?!). Fun fact: When it comes to Famous People of Our Generation, I’m one degree of separation away from Este Haim, who was in my classes/Bachelor’s program/graduating class at UCLA.
SET MY HEART ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY, Perfume Genius. So dreamy. Will probably always remind me of cooking dinner with Alex and Coop (who likes to sit on the fridge supervising us), one and a half glasses of wine in, thinking about how even though everything else in the world was a disaster, our tiny little family couldn’t be happier.
I’ve been lowkey making a pandemic playlist on Spotify, which you can find here. It’s mostly stuff that has come out since March, but also includes some older songs by artists we’ve lost since then, and some others that for whatever reason remind me of these strange times.
Red pepper, potato, and peanut sabzi. Bon Appetit may be cancelled, but I’ll be forever grateful to the Test Kitchen squad for introducing us to some great recipes. This one from Priya is SO GOOD.
Sourdough crackers and sourdough biscuits. Thanks, King Arthur Flour! And thanks to my coworker Alysia for sharing some of her sourdough starter with me at the beginning of all this.
Homemade spaghetti and sauce from the excellent Pasta Grannies book. Our ultimate comfort food.
Char siu chicken banh mi. Ever since we learned we could pickle food, the idea of making our own banh mi has been so enticing. This was so fun to make (and eat)!
Photographer and lifelong friend to my favorite boys from Liverpool. I was so sad to hear of her passing yesterday, but grateful to see such an outpouring of love for her work. I’ve wanted to do a tribute to Astrid for a while now…along with Klaus Voormann, she played such a huge role in shaping the Beatles’ image, and captured them beautifully in pictures.
Astrid was introduced to the Beatles by Klaus when they were playing their residency at the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg. She asked if they wouldn’t mind her taking some photos of them (and thankfully for all of us, they agreed). The result was their very first photoshoot, which is, to say the least, ICONIC:
Pete, George, John, Paul, Stu
John (& Stu)
Paul (& Stu)
George, Stu, John
She fell in love with Stuart Sutcliffe (John’s BFF from art school and then-bassist in the band) and Stuart eventually left the band to live with her. They got engaged, but he tragically died of a brain hemorrhage at age 21. Astrid captured some beautiful photos of Stuart, and also of John and George in his studio after his death:
John and George in Stuart’s studio
After Ringo joined the band and the Beatles became worldwide pop stars, they all remained close and Astrid took some wonderful portraits of them, when most others were either overly posed or just plain awkward. I also love the candids she shot. I’m sure they were more at ease with her than any other photographers, and it shows.
Ringo and John
She hung out with them during their newfound fame, took behind the scenes photos during the filming of A Hard Day’s Night, and stayed friends with them long after the band broke up. (I love the photos of George and Paul on holiday with Astrid – and Paul’s derpy face, haha. She was so pretty!)
Astrid and George
Ringo and Astrid
Ringo and Astrid dancing
Ringo, Astrid, and John on the set of A Hard Day’s Night
Paul, Astrid, and George on vacation in Tenerife
Paul and Astrid
Astrid and George
Astrid and George, d’aww
Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann
Astrid on the set of A Hard Day’s Night
Astrid eventually traded photography for interior design and lived a relatively quiet life in Hamburg, although she did a few photography retrospectives in recent years, I think. She passed away yesterday, aged 81. If you want to read more about her, this is a nice article.
Danke schön, Astrid. JPGR were so lucky to have met you.
Today would’ve been Record Store Day, but just like all other notable “holidays” that I usually celebrate around this time of year—Pi Day, April Fools’, Charlie Chaplin’s birthday—it was overshadowed by this pesky global pandemic and I very nearly forgot about it. (Technically, Record Store Day 2020 has been postponed to June 20, so hopefully we’ll get another chance to partake in crate-digging soon.)
Anyway, in celebration of what was supposed to be RSD 2020, today I donated to my favorite San Francisco record shop, spun some vinyl while reorganizing piles of paper in my work-from-home office (Paul and Linda’s Ram and the Stones’ Goats Head Soup, because I will never grow out of classic rock Saturday mornings), and then wrote a rambly homage to my favorite record album poster, this absolutely iconic image of Simon & Garfunkel from Bookends:
I still catch myself marveling at the presentation of the record album in general: the fact that every cover is a mini work of art, every vinyl disc contained in its own sleeve, and every once in a while, they’re accompanied by a full sized poster folded up neatly inside, an added bonus you didn’t even ask for. And yes, I’ve blogged about this before, but here I go again!
We bought our copy of Bookends on a brisk spring day in Lausanne, Switzerland, at a used record shop called Belair. I say “our” copy because I seem to recall upon sliding the record out of its sleeve and seeing the folds of a mint condition poster inside, Alex and I looked at each other in immediate and mutual recognition, making a silent decision that this was something we had to have. This was our first international trip together, a Genco family vacation to Venice and Tuscany with a little bit of Switzerland and France sprinkled in—and my first international trip, period—so I’m sure my memories are colored in a bit of a rosy tint. I’m not actually certain at all if that’s really what happened that day in the record store, but that’s what I remember. It was 2011.
We exited the record shop, which was located at the top of a graffitied flight of stairs. Back outside, a group of street musicians sang and played guitar in a plaza that overlooked a sea of terra cotta roofs. Kicking down the cobblestones in my coat and scarf and boots, newly acquired record tucked under my arm, I felt exactly like the type of person who would buy a Simon and Garfunkel record in Switzerland.
Back in our hotel room, we pulled out the poster and admired it in its full glory: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel floating in nothingness, their bodies becoming the 59th Street Bridge and East River at sunset (or is it sunrise?), a sprig of flowers artfully placed above Art’s shoulder. The bridge, the flowers, the turtlenecks: it perfectly embodied the aesthetic of late-1960s folky New York, a time and place I desperately wish I could’ve experienced.
When we returned from our trip to our little San Fernando Valley apartment, the carefully packed record and poster were waiting for me in my suitcase. Instead of buying a new frame, I repurposed a cheap plastic frame I was using to display another favorite poster: a black and white photo of the Beatles from the Mad Day Out session, the one of them huddled together in the London wind, their signatures scribbled below the photo in gold. The frame was very slightly too big for the S&G poster, so instead of having the cardboard backing peek out around the edges, I put the Bookends poster directly on top of the Beatles poster, which from far away made it look like it had a nice white matting. The bottom of the T in the Beatles logo peeked out from behind, along with pen strokes from Paul and Ringo’s signatures, but they were hardly noticeable.
Simon & Garfunkel, sandwiched between the Beatles and cheap plastic, have graced the walls of four apartments and one house since then. They presided over my cinderblock-and-wood bookshelf in the LA house Alex and I shared with three musicians, in a bedroom of Ikea furniture and tablas and a boxy TV with a rabbit-ear antenna. Then when Alex got a job in San Francisco and we moved into a tiny studio in Cole Valley, they were the first thing you saw after climbing up our stairwell, greeting each visitor to our cozy one-room home. They followed us to our Inner Richmond apartment, hanging prominently from a picture hook and fishing wire in our sun-filled Victorian living room. And when we moved to the top of a foggy hill in the Outer Richmond, they took up residence on a wall in our “dining room,” named that only because it’s where the dining table was, not because we ever ate there. They’ve made their way into the background of so many photos I’ve taken over the years that Google Photos includes both Simon and Garfunkel in the personalized “People & Pets” album that it created for me:
Now, in Bernal Heights, we’ve leveled up to a two-bedroom apartment. The second bedroom was originally intended to be a recreation room/guest room but now serves as a work-from-home office. I had grand ideas for the rec room when we first moved here, which involved framing and hanging all of our Fillmore concert posters, the enormous 2001: A Space Odyssey poster Alex got from an executive at his company, and the six Star Trek posters we bought online: one for each TOS movie. I didn’t get much further than the Fillmore posters, and then the record player got finicky, so we ended up spending less time in the rec room than we originally thought we would. In an effort to fill up blank wall space and keep the room from looking too depressing, I put our trusty Bookends poster above the futon, where it’s been hanging slightly askew for the past year and a half. As a result, S&G now watch over me every day while I work, occasionally making an appearance in a Zoom meeting, always there to transport me—even if for a second—back to another time and place where my nostalgia can run free.
It’d been a long time since I’d actually listened to the Bookends album itself, but one recent night (pre-quarantine) when I was home alone and accidentally got too high, I put on Side A and let “Save the Life of My Child” rattle my eardrums as I lay on the futon in a daze, staring up at the 59th Street Bridge and the East River as “America” morphed into “Overs” morphed into “Voices of Old People,” which seemed to carry on forever until I found myself in a silent room, the record having stopped 10 minutes prior. Listening again today, the album feels like a collage: snippets of sounds cut and pasted, images of park benches and Greyhound buses and Kellogg’s cornflakes, all of it glued together with the simple and heart-wrenching “Bookends” theme. I had forgotten how lovely it is.
I’ll be forever grateful to that record shop in Lausanne for gifting us with this album and poster. It’s not a rare album by any means (although it can be tough to find with the original poster in good condition), but something about the circumstances in which I came across it makes it feel more special than most records I own. I hope Belair is doing ok these days, and that record stores everywhere are able to come out of this in tact. It’s been a quieter RSD than usual, but I’m still thankful to be able to celebrate it.
Bonus material, thanks to Google’s People & Pets album:
First appearance above the brick-and-board bookshelf in LA