Wednesday, April 15, 2009
13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests
On Saturday, March 21, my boyfriend, Kent Thompson and I went to the ICA in Boston on the wharf to experience Dean and Britta's (pop musical duo spin-off the rock band “Luna) commissioned musical accompaniment to 13 of Andy Warhol's screen tests from 1964-1967.
I was totally enchanted by what this virtuosic husband and wife pair came up with to score 3 minute screen tests of the glamorous misfits of the Warhol factory scene: Richard Rheem, Ann Buchanan, Paul America, Edie Sedgwick, Billy Name, Susan Bottomly, Dennis Hopper, Mary Woronov, Nico, Freddy Harko, Ingrid Superstar, Lou Reed, and Jane Holzer. Culled from approximately 500 screen tests the subjects were asked "to pose, lit with a strong backlight, and filmed by Warhol with his stationary 16 mm Bolex camera on silent black and white film."
Introduced by ancecdotes about these characters lives, Dean invented some actual songs with lyrics for several of the film portraits -- canny, wry and always at some sort of magical angle to the persona viewed. For Lou Reed, he chose to sing an old Velvet Underground tune "Not a Young Man Anymore." His original band, Luna, supposedly took a lot of musical cues from the Velvet Underground and Wareham continues to evolve as a brilliant guitarist and songwriter, always laid-back and somehow elegant simultaneously. Britta’s a lovely and poised performer; ultra-talented on both electric bass and synthetic keys. Their dreamy pop progressions and the tribal-like drums and retro feel made these somewhat bizarre portraits come to life.
Out of this night, I wrote two poems one of which I'd like to share: a snapshot of three of the "uniques" being filmed: Ann Buchanan (who wept after about a minute and a half,) Lou Reed, and the last of the series, Jane Holzer, who to my giggling astonishment actually managed to brush her teeth without a mirror for 3 minutes smiling maniacally at the camera
SCREEN TEST FOR ANDY WARHOL
Three x three minutes*
I never blinked but after a few minutes
behind my mane of chestnut hair
I started to weep. Like Mona Lisa
breaking down and cracking the slightest
highway smile. It was only water tearing
from my eyes. One tear ran down my cheek.
Then the screen went white and I was undone,
Would I be the same?
What would be my new name?
Am I christened now to be a velvetspeed freak?
I’m Lou Reed with lunar skin
and large black shades.
You can’t see my eyes; they’re
closed inside my pockets with nickels and dimes.
Laughing inside, I swig from a bottle
of coke in three directions…almost
A commercial, more like a joke.
I already sing and shoot dope.
How did I come off?
Will the coke still pop?
What will be my sound?
What pretty tramp will stick around?
I teased my blonde hair into waves
like ocean knives and my eyes
are flashing like flash cubes, like stars.
I’ve got my teeth behind bars and
my prank is to brush them brush them
Oh yes, I can froth and brush, and
swish and clean them spotless
like the silver gleam of the factory scene.
No, I won’t bleed for you Mr. Warhol,
But catch the white white white
of my smile.
I only spat out once.
* I encourage anyone fascinated by Warhol’s scene and the fate of those who sought his approval and glamour to check out the DVD of Dean and Britta’s work. 13 MOST BEAUTIFUL will be released on Amazon.com shortly. They are already taking advanced orders.