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Home of the Brave
May 11, 2008 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Laurie Anderson live in concert - 1984; Sharkey's Night: Language is a Virus: Talk Normal: Langue D'amour: Sharkey's Day: Gravity's Angel: Radar: Kokoku: How to Write: Late Show: Excellent Birds: Zero and One
posted by vronsky (60 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, we were just laying there.
And this ghost of your other lover walked in.
And stood there. Made of thin air. Full of desire.


Absolute genius. As amazing today as when I first heard her 25 years ago. Thanks vronsky.
posted by The Bellman at 7:40 PM on May 11, 2008


Ah, the Sound of Soho! When gen-yoo-wine New York City Art Music cracked the Top 40! Ah yes, I remember it well... Did a gig once with her percussionist (you'll see him in some of these clips) David van Tieghem: a pretty big gig, actually, at Lincoln Center, no less. Later a friend, who was in the audience, told me that he could see me playing onstage, but couldn't hear a thing I was doing. As I had suspected (since I couldn't hear myself in the monitors at all, either), my sound was not being fed to the PA. I dunno, maybe the soundman had it in for me or something.

Here's van Tieghem's Ear To The Ground, from back in the mid-80s as well.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:40 PM on May 11, 2008


Man, I loved her then. Saw her perform in 87.

But I have to say, her schtick hasn't aged well. There's something about the hyper-self-consciousness of it that makes me think of a South Park version of the avant garde.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:41 PM on May 11, 2008


well done!
posted by moonbird at 7:46 PM on May 11, 2008


Her newer stuff doesn't do much for me either Joseph, but her first few albums sound as fresh to me now as when I first heard them (or what the Bellman said).

I used to play Big Science and Sharkey's Day all the time when I was a kid and I remember my Dad just loved her. He is very respectable looking, old fashioned, listens to classical mostly, but when I put Laurie on he would always come in and sit down and listen to her with me. That and theTalking Heads, "Remain in Light". He loved those two albums. I guess I had a weird family, because he would always tell me to "turn that up!"

Cool story flap. And you are right. Where is the American avant garde today? Is there one?
posted by vronsky at 7:57 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Where is the American avant garde today?

I avant garde a clue.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:00 PM on May 11, 2008 [9 favorites]


No, it's the old stuff I'm talking about, vronsky. Sounds as stuck in its time and place as Jimi Hendrix's vocals.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:03 PM on May 11, 2008


here is some wiki info on the film -- "Home of the Brave is a 1986 American concert film featuring the music of Laurie Anderson, who also directed the movie. The film's full on-screen title is Home of the Brave: A Film by Laurie Anderson. The performances were filmed in Brooklyn during the summer of 1985.
The film included appearances by guitarist Adrian Belew, Beat author William S. Burroughs (who famously briefly dances a slow tango with Anderson during one song), keyboardist Joy Askew, and percussionist David Van Tieghem. Also, Barry Sonnenfeld, who was early in his movie-making career, receives an early film credit for operating "second projection camera" on this film. The film was released by Warner Bros., but was commercially unsuccessful."
posted by vronsky at 8:14 PM on May 11, 2008


She was interviewed on Sound Opinions last week. (Scroll down to show #127.)
posted by sugarfish at 8:17 PM on May 11, 2008


Laurie married Lou Reed last month! Great rocknroll marriage!
posted by porn in the woods at 8:20 PM on May 11, 2008


I do remember listening to Laurie Anderson on my Walkman in high school -- strange feeling, made me feel like (more of) an alien. No one else even wanted to know. I also remember that in the time right after 9/11 only Big Science, and "O Superman" in particular, made any sense. They're American planes, made in America. Smoking or non...smoking?
posted by argybarg at 8:33 PM on May 11, 2008


But I have to say, her schtick hasn't aged well.

I dunno about that. I was listening to Mr Heartbreak a lot recently and, for me, it's every bit as fresh as it was in 1984, maybe better. I can't know for sure, but I heard a lot of Mr Heartbreak in The Knife's work; I'd say that not only is Laurie Anderson's work still good, it's still relevant.

Of course, my favorite avant garde artiste sucks, natch.
posted by lekvar at 8:40 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


O Superman & Let X=X have hung on especially well, IMHO. C'mon, anything that can inspire this out of a pair of highschool students using early 80s gear is automatically brilliant.

...I mean, it must have taken them for freaking ever.
posted by aramaic at 8:43 PM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Mr. Heartbreak is what I meant, not Sharkey's Day, duh. Listen to "Blue Lagoon" and tell me she sounds dated. That is not a song, it is a journey!
posted by vronsky at 8:48 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the first or second Saturday in April of 1995 Anderson did a show in the small, acousitically sublime Bijou Theatre in Knoxville Tn. The imagery and narritive about her view of the First Gulf War in particular was riveting, a touch funny perhaps but still disturbing.
In particular I remember vividly her line: "(writers name forgotten) wrote "terrorists are the only remaining artists; they are the only ones capable of getting peoples attention"
A few days later, I was driving with the radio on and listened to the announcement of the Oklahoma City Bombing. It seemed as if the 1991 War and the Bombing was the first two points of a continium that I now suggest exists today.
It was a brilliant concert, though my date hated it and looked at me vacantly when I asked her if she noted the coincidence.

so it goes
posted by OXYMORON at 8:54 PM on May 11, 2008


I do remember listening to Laurie Anderson on my Walkman in high school

Same here. I remember one of the cool-in-an-obvious-way kids (who was into, idunno, the Sex Pistols or the Specials or something) asking what I was listening to. O Superman was on so I handed him the headphones:

"What? The? Fuck? In? The? World? Is? THAT?!??"

It wasn't meant as an expression of approval or disdain; more like how a cow might react if some aliens land in its meadow & start probing it with instruments: total and utter noncomprehension.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:08 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


So I fell in love with Laurie Anderson backward through her discography. I didn't even realize she had this song everyone knew about called "O Superman" until I'd bought several of her albums through the late 90's.

The Let X=X video made a connection for me - that in some ways the personality and humor in Still Alive share the same genuinely subtle avante-garde quality of reservation that I first picked up in Laurie Anderson. Or maybe it's just the harmonizer/vocoder.
posted by abulafa at 9:18 PM on May 11, 2008


Laurie Anderson was the best model I could find as a kid (when I was listening to her - I was born in the 70s) of what being female could mean.

Looking at that 80s footage now, I think options for women have gotten more limited since then. Or maybe she was a lone exception who transcends time. (But I don't think so because without much thought I can produce other androgynous and popular women stars of the 80s: Grace Jones, Annie Lenox, Patti Smith). I love that even now Laurie is one of the only butch, straight women in the public eye, and also, she still styles her hair with Vaseline.

Unrelated: Who is the dude who tells the story at the beginning of How to Write?
posted by serazin at 9:47 PM on May 11, 2008


When I was in high school in bumfuck egypt Virgina, back in the 80's... my sister went off to college and brought back Gibson's Neuromancer and Laurie Anderson's Home of the Brave. I hated them both until I was sick one week... Past the first couple of chapters and I was cyberpunk. Ten minutes or so into the video and I was Laurie Anderson freak...

This was a few months ago...

So, a few weeks ago I was under considerable stress, hadn't slept for days, lying on a strange couch listening to a wobbly ceiling fan trying to sleep. I close my eyes and in the blackness "O Superman" flashes in white text in my vision...

Then come the visuals. I either hallucinated or lucid dreamed a 15 minute long mix and match of Laurie Anderson songs with my own "videos". Halfway through, she kept pointing out problems with the world and saying: "But that doesn't apply to me, I'm from the future.".

It ended with her being a bartender, then a copy of her stood up from behind the counter and again: "But that doesn't apply to me, I'm from the future." Then the copy put on that mask thing from Home of the Brave and started doing the: "and 0, and 1, and 0, and 1". The 0s and 1s turned into her tie with the keyboard. She played it and vanished. Then I saw Peter Gabriel and a voice said: "What did Peter Gabriel ever do for you?"

I woke up going WTF? And I listened to the wobbly ceiling fan again.

And it was squeaking: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA ...

----
Saw her in a solo show in LA at the Wiltern tripping on acid. Love that girl, always thought she was a lesbian. Pissed at Mr. Reed, lucky bastard.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:14 PM on May 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Nice post. Thanks.

It's somewhat amazing and astounding to me that nobody ever mentions who the songs "Sharkey's Day" and "Sharkey's Night" are for and about. Bud Shark is a pretty cool guy; I've had the pleasure of meeting him here in Boulder and seeing a lot of his work. He's sincerely one of the great fine-art printers of our time, though that's not really a distinction that matters to enough people any more.

That cover of the Laurie Anderson album Mister Heartbreak? She and Bud did it together. His shop, Shark's Ink, in the awesome and tiny little town of Lyons, Colorado, does printing for a couple dozen really great artists. Here, look at some of them.
posted by koeselitz at 10:23 PM on May 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also, I should mention the first time I ever heard Laurie:

A friend of mine gave me a mix tape the year I graduated from college with a lot of music on it that became formative for me and influential on my taste for years to come: Pavement, etc. Anyhow, the last song was "From The Air." That song just happened to be playing at four in the morning as I was driving through the hills on my way in to San Francisco to see a friend right after I'd graduated. I wasn't ready.

I wanted to pull over, because I didn't really feel like someone as scared as that song had made me should drive, but I was afraid to. I just kept going faster and faster.

To this day, I feel tingles when I hear that song. Gah. Creepy as hell, especially when you're driving through a forest in the middle of the night. I don't know why.
posted by koeselitz at 10:31 PM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Joseph Gurl: But I have to say, her schtick hasn't aged well. There's something about the hyper-self-consciousness of it that makes me think of a South Park version of the avant garde.

Well, that makes perfect sense. Nothing ages well in the face of the absolute annihilation and dissipation of "South Park versions" of things. We're all cynics and skeptics now, unable to sense wonder or intrigue or fear or delight, so of course people who do experience or evoke these things seem dated.

But does the fact that a stupid goddamned TV show of the common kind today, the kind that ineptly masks its nihilism as childish wit, could easily poke fun at it without even having to expend much effort really mean anything at all?

I have a feeling that in five years everything we spend our time doing right now will not only seem dated; it'll seem like we were wasting our lives. And then, I'll pull out my Laurie Anderson records, and we can all dance.
posted by koeselitz at 10:38 PM on May 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


Can anyone remember her appearance on David Letterman's doomed morning show?
Lets see the youtube come up with that one.
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:05 PM on May 11, 2008


koeselitz: great comment. you really should twitter it, right away!
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:11 PM on May 11, 2008


Can anyone remember her appearance on David Letterman's doomed morning show?

No, but I think "Doomed Morning" as a name for a new kind of morning show would be... perfect.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:13 PM on May 11, 2008


I was ten years old at the time and thought her act was pretentious, not particularly profound and hyper-self-aware to the point of self parody then.

20-some years later it only seems moreso.

That isnt the result of an accelerating cultural cynicality.

Oddly enough, none of the pop culture spoofs about her (including Trudeau's spot-on lampoon) was ever funnier than the real thing.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:14 PM on May 11, 2008


See, I'm going to take it as a good thing that I have absolutely no idea what that means, Pere Ubu. Hah!
posted by koeselitz at 11:15 PM on May 11, 2008


Senor: I was ten years old at the time and thought her act was pretentious... 20-some years later it only seems moreso.

See, she's in earnest. She means what she says, and she cares about beauty. That's the thing that divides her from pretention, and I know that can be a subtle thing to note - I've thought her pretentious at times, and she's done some things that make my skin crawl, but she cares about the music she does and the beauty she can create in the world.

And I've yet to meet anybody who's heard "Sharkey's Day" and lived to think her pretentious. Yeah, fine, listen to Big Science and say that, but you have to give Mister Heartbreak a listen. I defy you to squeeze a solitary drop of pretentious out of that whole beautiful kumquat. Mister Heartbreak confirms what a lot of us suspected all along: she's not in it for the "art," she's in it for the love and beauty, just like you and me and all the rest.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 PM on May 11, 2008


I defy you to squeeze a solitary drop of pretentious out of that whole beautiful kumquat.

KUMQUATS!!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:30 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, fine, listen to Big Science and say that, but you have to give Mister Heartbreak a listen. I defy you to squeeze a solitary drop of pretentious out of that whole beautiful kumquat. Mister Heartbreak confirms what a lot of us suspected all along: she's not in it for the "art," she's in it for the love and beauty, just like you and me and all the rest.

On your recommendation, I will check it out free of agenda or presumption.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:43 PM on May 11, 2008


I was just listening to "Walking & Falling" the other day -- rediscovering its icy spellbound loveliness, basically -- and now this post. Thank you.
posted by blucevalo at 11:56 PM on May 11, 2008


I'm not a huge Laurie Anderson fan, but trying to catalog the awesomeness in Excellent Birds is difficult. Laurie is wearing a white suit with a black shirt and loose white tie. Laurie's hair. The drums are entirely digital. One of the backup singers has an exposed shoulder. The weird robotic well-synchronized dancing. The elevated synth player; her haircut. Laurie's synthesizer/sampler/control unit/alien portal is very thin and unusual. The flute. Appearing on the screen behind them: random "technical" things embedded within static in a "computer" typeface. Magic glowing hands. The flute guy suddenly singing with extremely processed vocals. Laurie throwing away bows. The fact that everyone on stage clearly takes the performance very seriously and that this thing has been exhaustively rehearsed. It's like some artifact from a long-lost civilization, from the days immediately after the Bell Telephone empire was destroyed, when people still bought analog recordings in stores and made jokes about answering machines.

Who were these people? Why did they do that? What did they believe to make them act that way? What does the white suit signify? When they said 'virus', what did they mean?
posted by ftrain at 12:12 AM on May 12, 2008


Her backup vocalists are teh gorgeous.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:20 AM on May 12, 2008


Her music is almost as good as Lou Reed's photos.
posted by matteo at 12:38 AM on May 12, 2008


almost...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:46 AM on May 12, 2008


Every single opinion about Laurie Anderson and her music expressed in this thread so far is 100% wrong.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:55 AM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read about Big Science in Time Magazine sitting in my parents' living room in 1983. Ordered it through the local music store. Listened to it over and over and over and over and over and over.
Saw her live in Burlington Vermont in 1984. My only front row seat gig ever.
She alienated me in the best possible way. Thanks Laurie!

"Ethics is the aesthetics of the future."
posted by crazylegs at 12:55 AM on May 12, 2008


Metafilter: Language is a virus.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:11 AM on May 12, 2008


My opinion of Laurie Anderson: Thank you.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:30 AM on May 12, 2008


Every single opinion about Laurie Anderson and her music expressed in this thread so far is 100% wrong.

Man, so glad you came to your senses and agreed with me, flapjax!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:24 AM on May 12, 2008


In about 1977 I was trying to re-connect with a wonderful old girlfriend and found her at the Pratt Institute (art school) in Brooklyn. She was into all this (speaking of) avant garde art, some of which I actually liked, and took me on tours of Soho and museums. The only gallery I remember was a show consisting of fairly stark 8" by 10" b & w photos around the walls and a jukebox in the corner. The photographs were numbered and the numbers corresponded to tunes on the jukebox. You put a quarter in the box, pushed a number, and Laurie Anderson sang a song to sort of accompany one of the pictures she had taken. One photo was of 2 ships passing on the East River and the only song I recall was " It Ain't the Bullet That Hurts, It's the Hole". This was my introduction to Laurie Anderson. We stayed there all morning. Then my friend invited me to sit in on a class where Laurie gave a talk about Art, Performance Art, Life, and Everything and I fell in love.
posted by Hobgoblin at 6:05 AM on May 12, 2008


I'm with koeselitz in that I think she's in it for the love and beauty. We went to see her in Vancouver in the Mr. Heartbreak tour ('87?), and that's still the best "concert" I've been to. People laughed and cried. The only thing I can compare it to is the feeling in the room after a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan concert - respect for an artist who just finished showing you something that you didn't know was inside yourself.

Plus I always thought Gravity's Angel was an outstanding American Pop song.
posted by sneebler at 6:18 AM on May 12, 2008


One of my favourite bits from United States

I ran full pelt into New York Art Stuff in the mid-eighties (Anderson, Burroughs, Glass, Jenny Holzer, Eric Bogosian doing short radio parodies as well as a lot of things I've forgotten now and things that were only tangentially related but are all mixed up in it now, like Discipline by King Crimson and the novels of Thomas Pynchon), partly thanks to the late lamented John Walter's programme on Saturday afternoons. And of course O Superman got to number two in the charts, which just bewildered most people. I still have no idea how that happened.

It seemed a lot more fun than actual popular culture.
posted by Grangousier at 7:27 AM on May 12, 2008


I still have the Let X=X I took out of my mother's Artforum magazine (Feb 82). She (my mom) didn't appreciate that very much.
posted by jdfan at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2008


Her backup vocalists are teh gorgeous.

Fun fact: the backup vocalists for the "Home Of The Brave" film were also part of Sting's band for the "Dream of the Blue Turtles" album.

I too was very into Laurie Anderson in the mid/late 80s, when I was in high school and college. Went to midnight showings of "Home of the Brave" a couple times with friends. Somewhere I have the vinyl boxed set of "United States, parts I-IV." I loved her inventive use of technology - like the violin bow where she replaced the string with a strip of audio tape, and replaced the bridge of the violin with a playback head, so when she pulled the bow across it you could hear what was on the tape, fast or slow. (If I recall correctly, in "United States," the tape on the bow was a recording of her saying "I dreamed I had to take a test in a Dairy Queen on another planet.")
posted by dnash at 8:08 AM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Love Laurie. Thanks for the post.

Let's say that you knew someone who was going to interview Laurie within a month or so (not for Wired, my usual gig, for the record). What intelligent questions would you want to ask her or know? Email me through the usual channels. Thanks!
posted by digaman at 8:25 AM on May 12, 2008


I think it's a pain cry.
posted by everichon at 8:45 AM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


About a decade ago, I wrote this in some now long forgotten message board. It's still on the Internet, captured out of context for all eternity. As I recall, the intent at the time was to do tribute art for whatever artist inspires you. Actually, come to think of it I've completely forgotten the context, and the end result is just that it looks like I'm spitting Laurie's waste back at her. My intent wasn't to be insulting, but it's a mad parody of her work, objectively speaking. Like a myna bird on acid.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn't get rid of it. Not that I'd want to. Funny how of all the crap I write on the web, the stuff that sticks around and washes back up to haunt me is the stuff I'd least expect.

I'm so vain, I think she's talking about me. Heh. Good times. Thank you Ms. Anderson. Long may you wave.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:14 AM on May 12, 2008


Wow, great comments everyone.

And flapjax, I was thinking about why you never see backup singers anymore like you did in the 80's (and also will sax ever be sexy again?)

The singers in this Steely Dan vid are even prettier than Laurie's.

Todd's girls are gorgeous too.
posted by vronsky at 11:16 AM on May 12, 2008


When I was a 16 year old lesbian, I was desperately in love with Laurie Anderson. I probably had the same kind of swoony idol-worship of her that my more normal peers had for Simon LeBon or something. Being the sort of social outcast that feels weird among weirdos, I even had difficulty fitting in with the punk kids, although I wore black and was angry. Try as I might, the Dead Kennedys never soothed my sense of alienation. Only Laurie's eerie, disjointed vision made me feel like there might actually be others of my species out there.

Despite my teenage crush (or perhaps because of it) I am tremendously happy that she and Lou have finally made it official. I think the knowledge that she was always alone added to my sense that mutants like myself could never find partnership in this world.
posted by Fenriss at 11:56 AM on May 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


I just broke out from only knowing Big Science and, with each listen of each piece, love her more and more. Haunting quirky stuff that makes you feel a little safer: at least someone is paying attention. Though most of the time her music sounds like maybe the last thing we'll hear before it all implodes. A sort of "This is Your Life" for western civilization, told in voice-over, in blackness, before total nothing, all longing and nostalgia and sorrow. I guess I find comfort in that.

Making art stoned and listening to her music is probably one of the best things I've done in my life.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:07 PM on May 12, 2008


I'm with koeselitz. "From the air" is one of the most haunting pop songs ever. It totally gives me chills too.
posted by umbĂș at 1:34 PM on May 12, 2008


Sharkey's Day was the first song I heard. It's a shiny, catchy song, so I think of her as someone who makes wacky-sounding pop songs rather than as a performance artist. Langue d'amour makes me just about melt into the floor. Along with PJ Harvey's Snake it's probably one of my favourite biblical retellings in song - a different sound, to be fair.

So yes, thanks for the post!

Your eyes - it's a day's work just to look into them.
posted by eponymouse at 2:08 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Her Puppet Motel CDROM.
posted by pinothefrog at 2:19 PM on May 12, 2008


Things I found out about first from Alive From Off Center, in 7th grade:

* Laurie Anderson
* Susan Sontag
* Nam June Paik
* Philip Glass
* The Flying Lizards

...and lots I'm forgetting. What a bitchin' show.
posted by everichon at 2:37 PM on May 12, 2008


So strange...coulda sworn they got married ten years ago. No matter, thanks for the post vronsky!
posted by owhydididoit at 8:04 PM on May 12, 2008


Wonderful... I walked down the aisle at my wedding to Kokoku. Dressed in full Japanese uchikake, carrying a parasol covered with butterflies.

Digaman, you might ask her about her love of opening shows at SMU in Dallas, for one. I really enjoyed Moby Dick when it came to town some years back. Seeing Lou Reed in the audience was a bonus.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:31 PM on May 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hideaway :-)

Crybaby ;-)
posted by vronsky at 7:57 PM on May 14, 2008


"When I was a 16 year old lesbian, I was desperately in love with Laurie Anderson."

When I was in love with Laurie Anderson, I was desperately a 16 year old lesbian.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:01 PM on May 15, 2008


When I was Laurie Anderson, a 16 year old lesbian I was desperately in love with came home to find all these pink flamingos arranged in star patterns all over the lawn.

Last time I ever did that; damned restraining order!
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:27 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


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