As promised, I have read, and carefully chosen bits to share with you from, Dean Wareham's autobiography Black Postcards: A Rock and Roll Romance. I loved this book. I loved Luna before I read the book, and now I love Luna even more. I loved Dean Wareham before I read the book, but now I love Dean Wareham even more.
But it isn't because I think I would like the guy. I'm pretty sure I would not. He's kind of a dick. And he does a lot of drugs--very casually--which makes me nervous. And he's smart, but he sort of spends a lot of time and energy trying to pretend like he's just a rock guy. Which I find sort of disingenuous. But he is also funny, and confessional in a way that is sort of endearing.
Most of the book is a history of Galaxie/Luna--time on the road and in the studio. There is precious little about his personal life and marriage to first wife Claudia, until he begins to detail his affair with bandmate Britta Phillips. At that point, the book becomes much more about his personal life. A chapter called "The Worst Moment of my Life" details, brutally, and somewhat self-indulgently, the day that he left his wife and toddler son. It's an odd departure from the rest of the material of the book, given how little he lets the reader know about his married life.
Still, it's a good read for the live-on-the-road sections. (I'm always a sucker for that, which explains how I can read so much Rollins.)
Here are some of the high points, so that you can get a feel for the book, but not have to read it yourself. Not surprisingly, I've had a hard time not commenting on the selections, so most of them are accompanied by a little analysis by yours truly. Enjoy, and listen to a little Luna if you have not recently, or (horror of horrors!) have not at all.
***I learned a lot of new things from reading this book, like about all the cars that Dean Wareham has ever driven (he's got a thing about cars), and about how there are Galaxie songs that are based on Star Trek episodes (this theme will return later). But I also learned about the existence of this:
[Talking about a friend in Germany] Armin invited me to eat with him and his girlfriend. We drank beer from large brown bottles, and he showed me his collection of Donald Duck toys (he owned three hundred). He was not only a drummer and a postman but also a Donaldist. He belonged to an organization called DONALD--and acronym for Deutsche Organisation Nichtkomerzieller Anhanger des Lauteren Donaldismus (the German Organization of Non-commercial Devotees of True Donaldism). (189)
***Here's an example of Dean's willingness to tell a pretty embarrassing story about himself, if it is a good story. This comes at the end of a long story about picking up and having a one night stand with a super beautiful woman named Marina in Majorca. This is a pretty awful way for something like that to end . . .
Then we talked about music. Mariana offered to sing her favorite song for me.
"Do you know it?" she asked, and sang softly into my ear.
Oh, no. I did know that song. "More than Words," the ballad by those dudes with the really long hair--Extreme. I hated that song. I remember the video that went with it--I hated that too. Yet there I lay with a stupid smile on my face while she sang it for me. This was my punishment. Or at least the beginning of it. (212)
The story wouldn't work as well if it were any other song.
***Not only did Dean write a Galaxie song about ST, but it is clearly a cultural reference that comes often and easily to him. After an inexplicable digression about Afghanistan (?!?) he writes:
It is okay to stone adulterous women if that is just part of your culture? Shouldn't everyone be allowed to learn how to read? These were the kinds of moral problems that Captain James T. Kirk faced in his travels around the galaxy. (245)
***Dean has some weird opinions. Here are a couple of examples:
[In Bordeaux, with Luna. Note the understatement, which he doesn't seem to mean ironically.]
Our hotel was a little odd. It had a nautical theme going, and the little rooms were decked out like a ship's cabins with round portholes instead of windows. I had my own room that night, and watched an excellent pornographic film on the free TV. Everyone was wearing masks and white wigs, and they were dancing and singing madly and having anal sex, and it was really very funny. It's fun hanging out in the hotel room, drinking a cold Kronenbourg and quietly watching French porn. (207)
[In France (again)] I spent a little time in the cell where Robespierre was held before his execution. I wasn't there long--unlike Marie Antoinette, who practically lived there. Marie Antoinette's cell had been re-created too, but I've never really been a fan of hers. Her head needed chopping off. (281)
I suppose that I shouldn't throw stones, since I believe that everyone should have a favorite economist (my is Malthus, who is yours?), but Dean has some issues with Marie Antoinette.
***I can't often disagree with Dean's opinions and observations about rock and roll though. Here are some highlights:
[At the Lorelei Festival in Germany] All the bands hung out in the amazing backstage area, enjoying the barbecue and the sun and scenery. All except the Ramones, who stayed in their trailer and had pizza sent up from town. This was very punk rock of them. The mountain, the cliff, the sunshine, the barbecue--they were against it. Since punk is a celebration of all things ugly, how can punk rockers enjoy the beautiful Rhine Valley? (88)
[A gig in Cincinnati] Sudsy Malone's was a bar, a rock club, and a laundry. You got a discount on the ticket to see the band if you brought your laundry as well. We were able to wash our clothes, and the club was packed. But it was a bit depressing to play at a laundry, no matter how punk rock it was. You could smell the fabric softener from the stage, and it didn't smell like rock and roll. (147)
[About hating SxSW] In March the band flew down to Texas to play shows at South by Southwest in Austin and at the Ridglea Theater in Forth Worth. It was our first time at SXSW and we didn't much like it. First of all, they don't pay you for performing there. We could earn $5,000 doing a show in Austin at any other time, so why were we playing there for free? Second, we were treated rudely by the staff at Emo's. They refused to give us any beer, and they rushed us off the stage just as we were hitting our stride. (254)
[This is funny, but maybe only to be and my youngest sib. B-this one is for you--I know that you will appreciate it.] Our final stop was the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. They had a terrific lineup, spread out over five different stages. I saw the Cramps and the Cure and Nick Cave and Bob Dylan. The first half of Dylan's show was awful. He had that dolt G. E. Smth on lead guitar. G. E. Smith was the bandleader on Saturday Night Live, and he was best known for making too many rock faces. Maybe his playing would be tolerable if he put a paper bag over his head.
I am opposed to rock-guitar faces. I am not turned on by guitarists who shake and stick out their tongue and drool during guitar solos. I prefer to let the guitar speak for itself. No need to sell the guitar solo with overly expressive facial expressions. (89)
***This is what I mean when I say that he's smart, but tries to act like he's just a rock guy. I mean, he knows Adorno and Althusser, and it isn't like he chose totally mainstream pop icons. And he went to Harvard, which he reminds us in another section of the book where he starts in on something about a class he took his sophomore year about Kant. See, disingenuous.
But I don't know culture from counterculture. Questions like that confuse me, and they don't help when writing songs. Let the rock critics read Adorno and Althusser. I will study Pops Staples and the Chocolate Watchband. (108)
***And this is what I mean by funny. These two sentences have made me laugh out loud like four times now. It's part of a story Dean tells about Neil Hagerty, a guitarist for the D.C. band Pussy Galore.
His eyes were pinned and he stood by the side of the stage, scratching his legs and telling me about the suede pants he had picked up on the street for $5. Admittedly, that is a very good price for suede pants. (58)
***I don't really have much to say about this one. It's just funny. And it is sort of poseur-y too.
[From Galaxie 500's first European tour in '89] Every French interviewer asked us about the Pixes. They figured that since we were from Boston, we must love the Pixies. Nonsense. We had no love for the Pixies. (71)
***Finally, a observation that makes a lot of sense. Again, a little self-deprecating, which is nice, considering a few of the more snarky comments above.
[On costume choice for the final Luna show in LA] I wore a striped purple Paul Smith shirt for the final Luna show, which I regretted when I saw it in the Luna documentary--because it's purple. (322)