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“Mondo Deco” — A Panel on THE QUICK at BB

Thursday, June 14, 2018

“Mondo Deco” — A Panel on THE QUICK at Beyond Baroque

Dennis Cooper’s Little Caesar magazine was one of the best literary magazines published in the 1970s, although categorizing it as a “literary” magazine minimizes its cultural contribution. Cooper wanted poetry to be read with the same pleasure and admiration as the best of pop music, but he also wanted poets to listen to pop music with the same level of appreciation that they had for Frank O’Hara. Little Caesar did not keep its affections for pop music in its back pages. A full frontal shot of Iggy Pop stands out as one of its issues’ classic covers.

Tonight, at Beyond Baroque, there will be a panel discussion devoted to The Quick, one of the bands that Dennis Cooper incisively championed. The Quick only performed for about three years in the mid-1970s, and they seem to have had the bad luck of emerging just before the lassitude of the post-1960s cultural success of pop music collided with the Punk movement. If any account of an artistic period almost always oversimplifies things (and the statement I just made is a prime example), then it is the inexplicable failure of gifted artists to attain proportionate recognition that provokes reassessments of those accounts. While tonight’s panel, which features the main songwriter for The Quick, Steve Hufsteter, along with Lisa Fancher, the founder of Frontier Records, will no doubt talk about the inability of the band to break through the stultified filters of the music industry at that time, I would hope that the conversation would devote itself to a mood of celebration.

The Quick’s first and only album, Mondo Deco, was far from a commercial success, but it was not forgotten by its devoted listeners. It is finally being re-released over 40 years after its first appearance, in a version that includes a second album’s worth of additional songs that were subsequently recorded before the band broke up. I hope the success of the panel tonight, which has added a 10 p.m. follow-up to its sold-out 8 p.m. presentation, helps spread the word about some of the music that fascinated the youthful insurgency of poetry in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

I wish I could attend this event, but I am teaching English 474/574 in the first summer session at CSULB, and it meets in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For further background information:

Film Obituaries Radio

Joe Frank and “The Shape of Water”

Joe Frank — (Aug. 19, 1938 – January 15, 2018)

Back in the days and nights when I worked as a typesetter, it seems as if I had more time for my own writing and for reading and listening to what I was interested in. Among other places where I keyboarded for hours on end on a Compugraphic 7500, I spent ten years at Radio & Records, a trade newspaper for the music industry. In the production department, the radio was on almost constantly, primarily tuned to a station that played a lot of INXS and Depeche Mode, or so it seemed in the years when they were most popular. One shift was particularly long: Tuesdays started at 11 a.m. for typesetters, and went until 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Dinner was catered, and it was usually pizza eaten at one’s work station. One learned how strong a bond could develop when a crisis hit, and it took a 24 hour shift to get the paper to the printer.

Off the job, I could devote my energies to my writing, as well as projects such as the Gasoline Alley Reading Series, which I ran for two years with Phoebe MacAdmans, and Put Your Ears On, a cable-television poetry show I did at Century Cable. I also had far more time to listen to radio programs that I enjoyed than I do these days. One favorite show that I shared with many people who had grown tired of hearing about the eccentricities of the inhabitants of Garrison Keillor’s updated version of Winesburg, Ohio was Joe Frank’s program. In truth, I haven’t thought of Joe Frank for several years now. In fact, I don’t recall having listened to one of his broadcasts in the past twenty years. Back in the last decade of the past century, however, it was a special treat if life found one driving on L.A.’s freeways at night, and suddenly Joe’s voice was on the radio. If you were driving home, for instance, from a good visit with a friend, and it was a long drive, then the distances between friends in Los Angeles weren’t something to regret. One just eased one’s car into a right hand lane and drove at a steady speed, and let Joe’s voice ride shotgun.

A week ago I read the announcement that Joe Frank had died, and I took advantage of my access to search engines and listened to a couple of his programs, which can be found on his website. I picked them out at random, since I didn’t remember any particular titles of shows.

As is the case with many successful artists and writers, Frank knew that the “secret” is to find the prototype of content and form that can be identified instantly as having your signature. One walks around a corner at a museum and sees a sculpture of a horse made out of sticks and mud. “Deborah Butterfield,” one thinks instantly. Intoned with a resonance befitting the opening notes of a medieval prayer being chanted in a cathedral on the eve of a feast day, Frank’s stories remind me of a comment made by Jean Luc Godard, “Editing is the process by which contingency becomes destiny.” (Thank you, Amy Davis.) One knows that Frank is editing these stories as one listens to them, and yet one doesn’t feel manipulated. One trusts Frank, to a degree that is unusual in the co-dependent world of authors and readers.

In retrospect, thinking of having seen The Shape of Water about a week before Frank’s obituary brought him back to mind, I wish somehow that it had been his voice that had accompanied the opening images of that film. The Shape of Water is, of course, just a re-telling of The Beauty and the Beast, a realization that hit me about a third of the way into the film. Perhaps there is a way in which that binary is also at work in almost all of Frank’s work. Most certainly, the afterglow is just as haunting as that moment in Cocteau’s version, where the arms hold up their lamps in a tunnel of uncertainty.

May eternal sleep be a feast for you, Joe Frank.