Saturday, June 18, 2011

More thoughts about Andy Warhol and stuff

But I was talking about Andy Warhol, wasn’t I? I suppose I first became interested in Warhol because of the Velvet Underground, and I was interested in the Velvet Underground because of Joy Division, and how much further back do you want me to go? I was in my first year at university when he died: I remember the nascent artist/film-maker Nick Abrahams leaping out at me, hissing “Have you heard? Have you heard?” as I ambled along the High Street. I’d imagine we were both wearing Doc Martens, but that his were cooler than mine.

The following year, I took a course in writing radio drama, and one of my submissions was a sort-of-interior-monologue-cum-collage about Warhol’s last few minutes, largely drawn from his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: from A to B and back again. I vaguely recall Edie Sedgwick making an appearance as the Angel of Death (which was in turn influenced by Jessica Lange’s role in All That Jazz). The funny thing was, at that stage I knew very little about Warhol’s life, beyond the stuff he chose to make part of his public persona. It wasn’t until I read Victor Bockris’s biography of Warhol that I found out he was gay, for example.

I know, it seems astonishing now, but even in the mid-to-late-Eighties, such things weren’t as widely discussed as we might remember. There was simply an assumption of heterosexuality, the sort of thing expressed in this airline commercial.  Diehard Queen fans would get aggressive if one suggested that Freddie Mercury might not be entirely straight. John Inman and Larry Grayson, Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howerd refused to be drawn on the subject. Even the Pet Shop Boys refused to confirm or deny. Men flew Braniff because they liked the girls, unless they explicitly stated otherwise, which for the most part they didn’t. Remember this when people say Warhol made his life his art. Or was it the other way round?

It wasn’t just about sex, of course. Until I read the Bockris book, I don’t think I’d sussed that Warhol wore a wig either.

And I’m just about to post this when I realise that a few months after Warhol died, the Smiths broke up, and remember that we’ve just passed the 25th anniversary of the release of The Queen Is Dead, and I can’t think of much to say that hasn’t been said too many times already (often by me) but I’m certain that for some reason the occasion does need to be marked.


Annie said...

'because of the Velvet Underground' me too! I suffered through 'Chelsea Girls' for my art history dissertation directly because of Venus in Furs.

He was also a voyeur, that does come through in his art, even if the rest of his sex life was still in the closet.

Wow, you read the Bockris book, it was long. I also liked POPism: the Warhol Sixties.

Charles Edward Frith said...

I had no idea Mercury was gay till he died just prior to me leaving to work for Germany. It was all so bloody obvious after but then things are aren't they?

I thought you you were going to take your Joy Division, Velvet Underground odyssey to images of dancing in the mirror with a brush to Spirit in The Sky by Norman Greenbaum?

Michele R. Strüb said...

Don't know what' going on with the collective consciousness! Why would the age of Warhol come creeping back into view at this time. hmm.

Just the week before last I was at the Tropic Cinema, viewing "Beautiful Darling" - documentary featuring Candy Darling, member of Warhol's stable of cine stars --

...and last week saw "Blank City" -- documentary about the 'No Wave" movement in film making in NY --

hmm, are Super 8 cameras still be produced? Shall we make a movie?

Michele R. Strüb said...

and invite Lydia Lunch to narrate?

phil twitter i15minutes said...

I read through your list of fave artists (great list) but no Lou Reed. I was wondering if youre a Velvets fan but not a fan of his stuff after that?

Tim F said...

The Bockris is long, Annie, but I hoovered it up. Also managed the Ellman Oscar Wilde around the same time. Incidentally, I did enjoy Popism (and The Philosophy) but I think it wasn't until I read Bockris that I found out how minimal his involvement was in "his" books.

Hmm, maybe not Greenbaum, Charles. Maybe Love or Beefheart?

Michelle: I saw Lydia in The Venue, New Cross in about 1992. Cracking stuff, and Rowland Howard popped up for a coupla tunes. But why not get a modern-day Warhol to do the v/o? Simon Cowell, maybe :-)

Hello, Phil. I don't dislike all of Reed's solo stuff, but what I really love about the Velvets is the dialectic going on, the tension between different personalities, especially Cale (which is why my favourite album is the second one). Transformer obviously has some brilliant tracks, and I like the *idea* of Metal Machine Music, but I think in the 70s Bowie and Roxy picked up the torch that the Velvets had lit, and outstripped old Lou a bit.

phil twitter i15minutes said...

Agree with you Tim and nicely put. Coincidentally I'm off to see Lou in July London for a live version of Metal Machine Music.I may take ear plugs

Spinsterella said...

Somewhere I have a version of Metal Machine Music performed by a full orchestra. In Germany, I think. I'm afraid one listen was enough.

Anonymous said...

Good evening Mr Waldheim, that Smiths video was lovely.