Jesse Jarnow

moving entertainments

big day coming: a reader’s guide

BIG DAY COMING

Yo La Tengo & the Rise of Indie Rock

reader’s guide plus

end notes, errata, & ephemera

 

see also: official Yo La Tengo Annotated Discography.

 

CHARACTER LIST

Yo La Tengo: Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, James McNew

with

Todd Abramson, current Maxwell’s co-owner, former YLT roommate
John Beers, Happy Flowers
Bruce Bennett, The A-Bones, auxiliary YLT guitarist during WFMU marathons
Nils Bernstein, Matador Records
Alan Betrock, New York Rocker founder
Fred Brockman, The Kinetics, Snacktime Studios proprietor
Rick Brown, Information, Fish and Roses
Irwin Chusid, WFMU
Byron Coley, writer
Clint Conley, Mission of Burma, Ride the Tiger producer, bassist #3
Gerard Cosloy, Conflict, Homestead Records, Matador Records
Liz Cox, Christmas
Michael Cudahy, Christmas
Jim DeRogatis, Jersey Beat writer, Chicago Sun-Times columnist, radio host
Jad Fair, Half Japanese
Steve Fallon, Maxwell’s co-owner, Coyote Records founder, occasional YLT manager
Gaylord Fields, WFMU DJ, former YLT roommate
Ken Freedman, WFMU DJ and station director
Bobbie Gale, Atlantic Records
Sue Garner, Fish and Roses, Run On, The Last Round-Up
Karen Glauber, A&M Records
Danny Goldberg, Atlantic Records
Richard Grabel, New York Rocker, later music biz lawyer
Mark Greenberg, The Coctails
Tim Harris, Antietam, bassist #14
Michael Hill, New York Rocker, co-booker of Music For Dozens for series
Nicholas Hill, WFMU DJ
Gene Holder, the dB’s, YLT producer, bassist #11
Peter Holsapple, the dB’s
Lyle Hysen, Das Damen, Snacktime Studios proprietor
Emily Hubley, filmmaker, Georgia’s sister
Stephen Hunking, Hypnolovewheel
Adam Kaplan, Ira’s brother, occasional YLT manager
Neil Kaplan, Ira’s brother
Terry Karydes, A Worrying Thing
Tara Key, Antietam
David Kilgour, The Clean
Hamish Kilgour, The Clean
Wolf Knapp, Antietam, bassist #7
Jamie Kitman, YLT manager, 1990-1992
Bob Lawton, booking agent
Michael Lewis, Lyres, DMZ, bassist #2
Laura Levine, New York Rocker photo editor
Chris Lombardi, Matador Records co-founder
Craig Marks, Homestead Records, YLT roadie-pal
Mac McCaughan, Superchunk, Merge Records co-founder
Mike McGonnigal, Chemical Imbalance
Glenn Mercer, The Feelies
Bill Million, The Feelies
Phil Morrison, filmmaker, YLT roadie-pal
Glenn Morrow, New York Rocker, The Individuals, Bar/None Records owner
Chris Nelson, New York Rocker, Information
Peter Occhiogrosso, SoHo Weekly News
Dave Rick, bassist #1, occasional YLT fill-in guitarist, Phantom Tollbooth, Bongwater
Will Rigby, the dB’s
Rick Rizzo, Eleventh Dream Day
Kevin Salem, Yo La Tengo lead guitarist on Fakebook tours
Tom Scharpling, WFMU DJ
Dave Schramm, Yo La Tengo lead guitarist, 1985-1986
Andy Schwartz, New York Rocker editor
Robert Sietsema, Mofungo, photographer, food critic
Chris Stamey, the dB’s, occasional YLT fill-in guitarist, bassist #6
Maynard Sipe, The Maynards
Jim Testa, Jersey Beat founder
Roy Trakin, SoHo Weekly News
Brian Turner, WFMU DJ & music director
Michael Vickers, Go-Betweens, bassist #9
Janet Waegal, New York Rocker
Kurt Wagner, Lambchop
Ken Weinstein, Atlantic Records
Stephan Wichnewski, bassist #5
Janet Wygal, The Individuals, The Wygals, bassist #13

 

INTRODUCTION: THE STORY OF YO LA TANGO

p. 2: An Australian promoter achieves the Yo La Tengo typo trifecta, spelling all three words incorrectly.

(see also: Yo La Tengo’s own gallery, Top Billing.)

 

PROLOGUE: THE ELYSIAN FIELDS

p. 13: Maxwell Tavern in 1974, three years before its purchase by the Fallon family.

(via the Hoboken Historical Museum)

 

CHAPTER 1: THE HUDSON LINE

p. 21: Tommie Agee made the two legendary catches in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series, not Cleon Jones. I should know better.

 

CHAPTER 2: NEW YORK ROCKERS

p. 39: Andy Schwartz and New York Rocker back issues in the Rocker office. (photo by Laura Levine)

(see also: a gallery of New York Rocker covers.)

 

 

CHAPTER 3: AT HOME WITH THE MAYPOS

p. 53: The voices of Georgia and her older sister Emily star in Windy Day, a 1968 Oscar-nominated short by their parents, Faith and John Hubley.

Georgia and Emily’s voices star again Faith and John Hubley’s Cockaboody, animated circa 1973, but recorded prior to Windy Day.

p. 59: The 1956 Maypo ad by Faith and John Hubley starring Georgia’s brother Mark that became a national sensation, eventually spawning the phrase “I want my MTV.”

p. 61: Faith and John Hubley’s 1962 collaboration with Dizzy Gillespie, The Hole.

p. 67: Emily Hubley’s hand-drawn video for “Big Brown Eyes” by the dB’s, 1982.

 

CHAPTER 4: MUSIC FOR DOZENS

p. 69: “Gauge-loving” should read “garage-rock loving.”

p. 69: The 1982 video for “Anything Could Happen,” from the epochal Boodle, Boodle, Boodle EP by The Clean, leading lights of Dunedin, New Zealand’s punk scene and longtime Yo La Tengo favorites.

p. 73: An early version of “Crazy Rhythms” performed by The Feelies at CBGB in 1978.

p. 74: Following the 1979 release of Crazy Rhythms, The Feelies morphed into the abstract and Brian Eno-influenced Willies and played around their hometown of Haledon.

p. 80: Bad Brains are (duh!) from Washington, DC, not New York — though they were NYC residents at the time of their first album, for which Ira wrote liner notes.

p. 84: New York Rocker photo editor and birthday girl Laura Levine fronts the newly formed Georgia & Those Guys at the New York Rocker office. (An interview with Laura.)

 

 

CHAPTER 5: GEORGIA & THOSE GUYS

p. 93: Some of Georgia’s flyers for the Music For Dozens series at Gerde’s Folk City, booked by Ira and Michael Hill from November 1982 through January 1984.

 

 

p. 98: In spring 1983, Ira and Georgia traveled to Boston to see one of the final shows by Mission of Burma, one of their favorite bands.

p. 109: The flyer for the first proper Yo La Tengo show, Maxwell’s–December 2, 1984–a co-bill with close friends Antietam. (Mucho excellent Antietam history at their official site.)

p. 109: The Urinals perform “Surfin’ With the Shah” live in 1983, the first song Yo La Tengo played at their first gig in December 1984.

 

 

CHAPTER 6: YO LA TENGO

p. 117: Georgia, visible in barely a single frame in the video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” shot by filmmaker John Sayles at Maxwell’s, September 1985.

p. 118: “The Hoboken Sound” aired on WNEW, which didn’t become WNYW until a few months later, in January 1986.


p. 119: Yo La Tengo with Mike Lewis (bassist #2) at the River City Fair in Hoboken, August 1985. (Photo by Jim Testa of Jersey Beat.)

p. 127:Mose Allison, not Moses.

p. 128: William Berger, not William Burger, whose “My Castle of Quiet” can still be heard on WFMU.

p. 130: Outtakes from the Ride the Tiger photo shoot. (photos by Carol Addessi)

The Ride The Tiger band with Mike Lewis and Dave Schramm (far left).

The short-lived lineup featuring both Dave Schramm (with baseball bat) and Stephan Wichnewski (bassist #5, far left) at the Stevens Institute near the Elysian Fields in Hoboken.

 

 

CHAPTER 7: ROAD FOOD, GOOD FOOD

p. 136: Georgia, Ira, and Stephan Wichnewski (bassist #5) perform “House Fall Down” at Cicero’s in St. Louis, November 1987, the earliest circulating footage of Yo La Tengo, recorded for the local cable access show Psychotic Reaction. (The opening act was Uncle Tupelo, making their first trip the big city from nearby Belleville, IL.)

p. 152: Ira and Georgia perform “Teenager in Love” and Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” in their Hoboken living room, spring 1988.

 

 

CHAPTER 8: FAKEBOOK

p. 165: A compilation of live and radio performances from the Fakebook years.

p. 166: A firsthand account of Yo La Tengo and Daniel Johnson’s February 1990 collaboration live on WFMU by DJ Nicholas Hill and link to the complete special.

p. 171: Yo La Tengo’s first video, for “The Summer.” Directed by Phil Morrison, summer 1990.

p. 171: Yo La Tengo with Gene Holder (bassist #11) perform The Kinks’ “Big Sky” in Berlin, August 1990.

 

 

CHAPTER 9: AND SUDDENLY…

p. 182: Maynard Sipe was the drummer for the Maynards, not the singer.

p. 187: James, in his solo Dump guise, performs several tracks (including a cover of the Fugs’ “Morning, Morning”) in the Dutch countryside, circa 1995.

 

 

CHAPTER 10: BIG DAY COMING

p. 189: A mix containing 7 radically different live versions of “Big Day Coming,” including its March 1991 debut at Maxwell’s.

p. 190: Bassist #15, James McNew, on the road with Yo La Tengo in St. Louis early in his tenure, ready to undergo the rite of snoots.

p. 197: Headphones firmly affixed, Ira prepares for another take of “Mushroom Cloud of Hiss.” May I Sing With Me sessions, Boston, fall 1991.

p. 214: Hal Hartley’s rejected video for “From A Motel 6.”

The remade video for “From A Motel 6.”

Phil Morrison’s video for “Big Day Coming.”

 

 

CHAPTER 11: HOT CHICKEN

p. 223: Lambchop’s 2009 concert film, Live at Merge XX, directed by Phil Morrison.

p. 229: Phil Morrison’s video for “Tom Courtenay.”

 

 

CHAPTER 12: ELECTR-O-PURA

p. 242: see also Yo La Tengo Sell Out.

 

 

CHAPTER 13: ROCKET #9

p. 250: The “Sugarcube” video.

p. 256: In fact, Oar Folkjokeopus didn’t close, merely changed its name to Treehouse Records. Stop by on your next trip through Minneapolis.

 

CHAPTER 14: OUR WAY TO FALL

p. 266: Jon Spencer and Yo La Tengo perform Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” at Matador’s 10th anniversary shows.

p. 268: A complete performance filmed at the Cat’s Cradle in North Carolina with Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and The Clean’s David Kilgour rotating on auxiliary guitar/vibraphone/keyboards, March 2000.

Yo La Tengo + two drummers + strings perform “You Can Have It All” on Conan O’Brien, June 2000.

p. 272: “Harold” should be “Armando.”

 

CHAPTER 15: A PLASTIC MENORAH

p. 285: Portraits of Yo La Tengo taken just before the release of 2003′s Summer Sun by photographer Jack Chester.

 


CHAPTER 17: POPULAR SONGS

p. 309: “1999″ from Dump’s redacted album of Prince covers, That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice?

p. 312: Yo La Tengo back Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner on “Theone” during an early Freewheelin’ Yo La Tengo tour, Nashville, January 2008.

p. 313: Alex Chilton joins Yo La Tengo at Maxwell’s, December 2007, for “Let Me Get Close To You.”

p. 316: Yo La Tengo and Roger Moutenot record Popular Songs at the band’s rehearsal space, 2009. Photo by Liz Clayton (and other photos from the sessions).

p. 321: There were two American installments of All Tomorrow’s Parties before the festival moved to New York, though none in the style of the festival’s British holiday camp roots.

p. 324: Yo La Tengo back Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on “Jesus, etc.” at Maxwell’s, 3 December 2010

The Elysian Charter School of Hoboken sings “Sugarcube” at Maxwell’s, 3 December 2010

 

NOTES

p. 327: The list of former Yo La Tengo bassists was accidentally printed alphabetically instead of chronologically.

Terry Karydes (A Worrying Thing, 1982-1983)
Dave Schramm (A Worrying Thing, 1983)
Dave Rick (1984-1985)
Mike Lewis (1985-1986)
Clint Conley (1986)
Steve Michener (1986)
Stephan Wichnewski (1986-1989)
Chris Stamey (1986)
Wolf Knapp (1988)
Tony Maimone (1988)
Robert Vickers (1989)
Al Greller (1990-1991)
Gene Holder (1990)
Wilbo Wright (1990)
Janet Wygal (1990)
Tim Harris (1991)
James McNew (1991-present)

running at the sunshine

Running at the Sunshine is a 2002-2003 collaboration between composer Matthew Van Brink, choreographer Judith Chaffee, and myself. It’s based on the Sunshine Motel, the last remaining flophouse on the Bowery. I’d often walk by en route from the Bowery Ballroom to San Loco and imagine life within. (Recently a cube of white light was built on the formerly vacant lot next door.)
Matt posted a video of Sunshine‘s debut performance at the Huntington Theater at Boston University on February 20, 2003:

Running at the Sunshine from matt van brink on Vimeo.

(Audio recordings available here.)

moving entertainments

New Music Tapes video:

Well, here’s a hearty WTF?:

The Day There Was No News:

Whoa, there was a Z-Rock Hawaii video (Ween + Eye from the Boredoms):

Wait for it…:

David Lynch makes a 55-second short with an original Lumiere camera:

moving entertainments

Charlie Rose interviews Charlie Rose:

Dude plays pretty music on glasses:

Yo La Tengo give M. Ward & Zooey Deschanel a little bit of that YLT feeling:

Snoop & Willie:

Not only do I think that it’s okay that Joe Smith talked back at heckling fans in Chicago, I think it’s kinda awesome. What’s the matter with ballplayers breaking the fourth wall (give or take, oh, jumping into the stands and beating up a handicapped guy, as Ty Cobb once did)?

Yes, Billy, this is a goddamn:

You watched Prince cover “Creep” when Pitchfork posted it, now watch it again:

moving entertainments

Trippy ’60s filmmaking #1, Arthur Lipsett, via Digaman:


A Goofy Music reedited into David Lynchisms, via SoS:

Near-psychedelic bluegrass, via Deadwood:

Ween jam (a little bit of) “Dark Star”:

’cause it’s still funny:

chop shop

Every Mets fan should see Chop Shop, which is at the http://www.filmforum.org/films/chop.html">Film Forum until Tuesday, and hopefully other art houses in other cities at other times. Though leads Alejandro Polanco and Isamar Gonzales are a bit melodramatic in places as adolescent brother and 16-year old sister Ale and Isamar, it’s still a valuable evocation of life in Willets Point, the scrapyard neighborhood bordering Shea Stadium. New Yorkers are long used to seeing movies set in the boroughs, but Willets Point — whose streets aren’t paved — might as well be another planet, even compared to projects and tenements and other slums.

Chop Shop has most often been compared to City of God, and that’s probably fair, both plots grown wholly from geographic/economic circumstances — in this case, Ale’s dream to open a food cart. There is little interaction between the neighborhood and the ballpark, but the economic chasm is constantly on display, the stadium lights sometimes seeming like alien backdrops. There is also, of course, quiet transcendence and something like authentic human life. With the construction of CitiField comes a looming threat of gentrification and Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to have the area leveled/redeveloped. Chop Shop is a world that might soon be destroyed.

elephant parts parts

Five segments from Michael Nesmith’s Elephant Parts that particularly hold up. (Sadly, neither “Name That Drug” nor “Tragically Hip” seem to be on YouTube.)

(It’s funny ’cause they never actually do “R.”)

two upcoming tech docs

BLIP FESTIVAL: REFORMAT THE PLANET trailer from 2 Player Productions on Vimeo.

vote hard.

Even as I plan to vote for Barack Obama tomorrow, Will.i.am’s “Yes.We.Can.” video kinda scares the shit out me, because it lays Obama bare. I am frightened by how easily the Senator’s cadences transform into music, how easily the simple harmonies pull melodies from his speech. And all, more or less, without content. When it boils down to it, I like Barack Obama because he’s got a good beat and I can dance to it. It won’t be the first time I’ve put my money where the music is.

xelor!

Thanks to MITU for turning me onto Dutch filmmaker/graphic artist Roel Wouters (aka Xelor), whose one-take Gondry-like shorts are immaculately conceived and executed. I love the human progress bar in “Grip.” Not so much into the tunes, but dizzamn.

raiders’ raiders

Download torrent. (File expires November 20th.)

- There is a suspension of disbelief in watching Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, and Jayson Lamb’s shot-for-shot adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which (beginning when they were 12) took them seven years to complete. Obviously, the cast isn’t digging in the desert near Cairo. There are just too many trees. There is little believability to the firefight in the Nepal bar. But, so what? There’s a suspension of disbelief in watching the original Raiders, too. It’s just something one deals with when watching movies.

- In Raiders, though, the disbelief is smoothed over by big budget special effects and Harrison Ford’s charisma. In the Adaptation, it is the opposite, coming via the sheer low fidelity of the project: the analog video blur that coats the actors’ mid-scene age changes, or the distortion that occasionally permeates the soundtrack, a tape warble transforming a melodramatic string swell into something like a theremin moan. It intensifies the disbelief until the movie becomes about something else entirely.

- With a plane replaced by a boat, a monkey by a puppy, dramatically speaking, the big tension isn’t what’s going to happen, but how it’s going to be executed. How are they going to shoot lightning ghosts from the Ark? Or make that dude’s face melt?

- What is the “correct” order in which to screen the films in a double feature? Does one show the Adaptation first, to let the audience members’ memories guide their viewing, and then show the original, to see how it matches up? On one hand, that’s probably more satisfying from a traditionally dramatic point of view, but why should Spielberg have primacy over the marquee?

a star wars thought appropos of almost nothing

The concept of Raiders of the Lost Ark – The Adaptation got me thinking: Just as George Lucas remade the original Star Wars movies to look as of he’d had all the money he’d wanted to make them, wouldn’t it be cool if he redid the second trilogy as if he’d had none of the money he wanted?

moving entertainments

Old news in many cases, but all great:

Priceless straight-facin’ via The Onion (NSFW):

Use Of ‘N-Word’ May End Porn Star’s Career

A preview for a shot-by-shot recreation of Raiders of the Lost Ark made by 12-year olds. Anybody have a working torrent for the full deal?


Storytime, Terry Gilliam’s first movie, circa 1968:

Leave Kang alone:

As Sancho sez: “Nature is awesome.”

Footage of a legendary “Dark Star” from the Fillmore East, 2/14/70:

no country for old men

In 89 words, Cormac McCarthy zooms from the broadest setting of a scene down to specific detail, nails a mood, sets up a relationship between two new characters, exercises his own typographical and rhythmic voice with the smallest tweakings of grammar and syntax, and creates a momentum that leads irresistibly into the chapter that follows.

The office was on the seventeenth floor with a view over the skyline of Houston and the open lowlands to the ship channel and the bayou beyond. Colonies of silver tanks. Gas flares, pale in the day. When Wells showed up the man told him to come in and told him to shut the door. He didnt even turn around. He could see Wells in the glass. Wells shut the door and stood with his hands crossed before him at the wrist. The way a funeral director might stand.

los angeles plays itself

Coming nowhere near a Netflix queue near you is Los Angeles Plays Itself, Thom Andersen’s three-hour docu-ode to the City of Angels. Made entirely from footage from other movies and narrated with omniscient nonchalance by Encke King, the film is a veritable geography of Los Angeles real, Los Angeles imagined, and — most intriguingly — the Los Angeles created between the two. Given the copyrights on the footage (which probably comes from at least 100 pictures, if not far more), there is no way this film will ever see widespread commercial release. So — both because it’s great & ’cause the Mang doesn’t want you to have it — here is a torrent of it.

our stories fit into phones.

In two recent movies I’ve seen for review — Jeffrey Blitz’s just-about-to-be-out Rocket Science and John Turturro’s forthcoming Romance and Cigarettes — the telephone plays a typically minor role as a plot device/prop, in much the same way it has for decades. That is, some element of the story is forwarded/revealed by a third party picking up a shared landline. Though plenty of people still have landlines, of course, the sight of them on screen becomes increasingly anachronistic with each usage. To be sure, cell phone use in movies is way up, too, perhaps the single most convenient prop ever invented, but such is the power of the landline, which won’t easily surrender itself to the present.