It’s been an uncharacteristically un-prolific several months for me—I’ve been busy recuperating from / dealing with complications of knee surgery while trying not to contract COVID-19 during any of my frequent in-person visits to various medical facilities. But I did get asked by my friends at the National Air and Space Museum to talk for a few minutes about departed legend David Bowie’s association with Mars on the Museum’s Instagram feed on Friday, part of an evening of Mars-themed programming they’d assembled in anticipation of the Mars 2020 rover launch—now set for sometime between July 30 and August 15. The launch has been delayed a few times, but it’s certainly going to happen before Tenet is released in theaters.
Anyway, you can watch the video here if so inclined.
In tomorrow’s Washington Post – the part of it that’s already out today, in fact–I review Peter Bebergal’sSeason of the Witch, a book that actually manages to make the intersection of rock and roll and the Occult seem boring. The Bowie photo is from Nic Roeg’s creepy movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, wherein the Thin White Duke plays an alien visiting Earth from a drought-stricken planet.
But other than the skull cap and the contact lenses, that’s what he really looked like in 1975 when a 19-year-old Cameron Crowe interviewed him. His raging abuse of cocaine during this period had made him paranoid, and specifically convinced that witches were trying to steal his semen to create a homunculus. According to Bebergal. I regret that I couldn’t find space to mention this in my 500-word review. (I don’t remember anything about that in the Bowie biography I wrote about in the Dallas Morning News a few years back, but my memory is worse than useless.) Continue reading →
Old 97s play their best album, 1997’s “Too Far to Care,” at the 9:30 Club tonight. Miller is second from the left.
Formed in Dallas in 1993, the alt-country act Old 97s combines the heart-tugging wordplay of Townes van Zandt with the attack of The Clash. After a couple of indie releases in the mid-90s, the group were the beneficiaries of a bidding war, signing with Elektra Records. Their major-label debut, 1997’s Too Far to Care, remains their best and best-loved album. Despite retaining a substantial following — their show at the 9:30 Club tonight is sold out — the group never reached the level of stardom their big label demanded. Since 2004, they’ve been recording for the New West label.
Their current tour supports a 15th anniversary reissue of Too Far to Care, which they’re playing in its entirety in sequence, along with a selection of other songs. I spoke with singer-songwriter Rhett Miller (whose career as a solo artist runs parallel to that of his band) by phone about the quest for perfect setlist, the excesses of major label recording contracts and the perils of singing songs you wrote at 25 when you’re 42.
I struggled with Kathleen Akerley‘s production of Sam Shepard‘s The Tooth of Crime after I saw it last weekend. The play is a fascinating time capsule of how much danger and possibility pop music, and rock and roll specifically, must’ve still had when Shepard wrote it back in 1972. That gives it a charm that partially compensates for the fact the (apparently) postapocalyptic world it’s set in is so cryptic and thinly drawn. Continue reading →