Installment # 3, June 1999, New York

  How Research Becomes Image and Text...
The Anita Pallenberg Story
Laura Cottingham
Text. 3 for haus.0

Since the Rolling Stones are artists working in a popular culture medium who became a global phenomena, many of their works---especially their most popular albums---are available for purchase in city and suburbs throughout the industrialized world. Where I live, in the East Village of Manhattan---just five blocks east of Keith Richards's New York address---rock and roll is commercially and artistically sanctified. While white Uptown Manhattan preserves opera, Beethoven, Baroque and chamber music at Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Opera House and other scared architectural and performance shrines, Downtown does what it can to keep some key aspects of twentieth century American music alive--by keeping record stores in business, recording studios active, the doors of CBGBs open, and renaming Avenue B after Charlie Parker to commemorate the Bird's residency there.

One of our first research projects was to assemble a collection of Rolling Stones CDs. To do so, we just walked around the neighborhood looking for new or used discs to purchase. For white male rock and roll bands like the Rolling Stones, their legacy survives due to the dedication of their fans---especially the clerks and owners of record shops. It's amazing how much these guys at record shops know---in general, they have at their fingertips more information about their product than any other sales clerks do. In fact, some of them seem to know more about rock and roll than most academics know about their fields of interest; and certainly, it was my experience that the guys who work at record shops know and care a lot more about what they are selling then most people who work at contemporary art galleries know about their products.
I say guys---and I mean guys. White guys. At the records shops specializing in techno, rave, house, rap, and blues in the East Village, the clerks might be Japanese and Black. And they might even have a young bimbo woman at the counter. But at the mostly- Rock music havens, the owners and the clerks are all white guys, and with long hair. Rock and Roll is their heritage: they cherish, protect--and sell--it.

What do they know? They know which albums are in print. Which song and which version is on which album. They even know what make of guitar Keith played on which song and they like to discuss some of the recording 'mysteries'--such as who really did the back-up vocals. Of course some of the real rock aficionados think it is beneath them to talk about the Stones: the Stones are too mainstream to be interesting to them. Even the early Stones music they consider too derivative. They want to talk about the Stooges instead; or they bring up even more obscure bands than Iggy Pop and I have no idea what they are talking about. But it's fascinating: They care as much and as intensely about the history of Rock and Roll as WWII veterans care about the war.

This really impressed me. Since I have spent twenty years going into contemporary art galleries as a critic asking for information, where too often people at the galleries don't know or care too much about their product (they care about a SALE!), to meet this kind of intensity in the course of gathering a few CD s was refreshing, sometimes even exhilarating.
And the sexism: well, the navigation of that is standard. Going into a white male rocker shop is like going to the hardware store, car repair shop, photography lab, video editing suite, and other bastions of white male bonding and ownership. The scenario is pretty predictable. The men stand around talking to each other, even if there is no other customer there. They want to make it clear to you that you are not welcome and that they really would prefer not to work with you, that they know that, since you are female, you are an idiot. Depending on how evil they are, they either wait for you to exhibit signs of exasperation or wait for you to acknowledge your subordination to them by flirting with them. If you act like you want to suck their cock, they think you are behaving appropriately to the situation and maybe then they will inquire as to why you are there.

Since the general scenario is consistent, I have developed my own way of dealing with the sometimes necessary excursions into the manlands. I just stand around, pretending not to notice that they are willfully ignoring me. I wait it out. Sooner or later the tension in the dynamic reverses: they become uncomfortable that I am impervious to their neglect. They realize that I am not going to attempt to advance my position by getting down on my knees to them, metaphorically or otherwise. Sometimes, in the course of the limited conversation regarding a purchase, they even treat me like a human being--instead of like a woman.
It went like that in all the record shops. Not only in the East Village, but also in London, where I started on Denmark Street and wandered through the labyrinth or record shops around Charring Cross during my weeks in and out of London while on tour with Not For Sale in December 1998.

But we found all our CD s, even some of the original vinyl. For our project, we really wanted the original cover art for Sticky Fingers, because Warhol designed it. Although we still don't know whose body is featured: the man in the tight white briefs is not Mick Jagger, although that is one of the mythic inaccuracies that appears over and over again in the numerous journalistic and fanzine-style books and magazine articles that have been published on the Rolling Stones.

Some of our notes on some Stones songs:

"Lets Spend the Night Together":
On the Ed Sullivan show, Mick is forced to sing "Let's Spend Some TIME Together"...and to deal with the compromise, he rolls his eyes to camera each time he says "time".

"Sympathy for the Devil":
One of the 3 songs Mick and Keith perform in our film-- my favorite, Godard's film, Altamont's preamble.

"Dear Doctor":
Hilarious fake Southern accents from Mick and Keith. Other misunderstandings of the culture and geography of the Southern United States abound here and elsewhere in Mick-Keith lyrics. My favorite: "Bourbon so SOUR." (Bourbon never 'goes sour.') And Mick's twangy "I'm down in Virginia with your cousin Lou. (Virginia is the North of the South: we wonder where his "down" is down from?)

"19th Nervous Breakdown":
This song, we think, is about Marianne Faithfull.

"Jumping Jack Flash":
A classic, but the lyrics are nonsense.

"Street Fighting Man":
Mick's anthem to political revolution, man-style.

"Salt of the Earth":
More leftist leanings in the name of the working MAN.

Beautiful--and the name of the Stones main fanzine, still publishing.

"When the Whip Comes Down":
Not Lou Reed, but trying.

"Beast of Burden":
Not one of my favorites.

"Play With Fire":
One of the 3 songs Mick and Keith perform in our film--it has everything. With think of it as the gallery artist's paean to the collector class.

One of the 3 songs Mick and Keith perform in our film. One of the only Stones song I know of where Keith gets to sing. The lyrics make no sense whatsoever. "I never got a whole in my pants"!!!! We found no filmed recording of it--so I couldn't figure out WHAT THE HELL Mick does when he doesn't have the microphone.

The Ultimate Stones. This song epitomizes 1968. It's one of the theme songs in our film: so many good bands have done (illegal) covers of it.

"Jigsaw Puzzle":
This song is completely ridiculous. What WERE they on when they wrote it? Where did they learn to write and think in English? Have they ever read Keats? Do they know what a poem is? Not ANYTHING Joni Mitchell would have penned. Even an advertising writer would have trashed these lines but, oh well....

"Parachute Woman":
Yet another BLOW JOB homage.

"Lady Jane":
Mick does a great ballad: this one is about love according to the rigid demands of England's class structure. One of my favorites---though, of course, too 'soft' to be classic Stones.

"Mother's Little Helper":
Almost a FEMINIST song. Not a song you could ever imagine from The Beatles, though the melody is gentle enough the lyrics aren't.

"No Expectations":
featured in Yvonne Rainer's first film, Lives of Performers.

from other Bands we tracked down, most out of print:

Different versions of "Satisfaction" - Devo, The Residents, Jane's Addiction Half Japanese doing "Paint It Black"
The Flying Lizards doing "Suzanne"--not a Stones song, Leonard Cohen's, but we wanted it because it resounds in Fassbinder's Beware the Holy Whore,and the Judy Collins version was my favorites song when I was 15.
David Bowie doing "Let's Spend the Night Together"--he's talking to Mick, you know.

OTHER MUSICIANS and MUSIC relevant and useful:

Iggy Pop--especially "Sister Midnight," our nickname for Cosima von Bonin
More David Bowie, it's all too wonderful


MOJO,from London. We love it. So informed. So serious. So fun. In their summer 1999 issue MOJO ran a long cover story on Brian Jones on the ocassion of the 30th-year anniversary of his death. It was published after we had finished shooting, but we appreciated it anyway. In the fall of 1999 they published a cover story on Satanism in Rock and Roll--which discussed Mick, Kenneth Anger, Keith, Jim Morrison, Anita Pallenberg.
And over the past few months they have published great smaller articles, such as short interviews with Marianne Faithfull that was good and another really good one with Iggy Pop.





  GOSSIP   4. GOSSIP: What people think they know and are happy to tell you about Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones