As Steely Dan sang, “When Black Friday comes/I’m gonna’ dig myself a hole.” That sentiment seems to have been shared, if initial reports are to believed.
But not by me.
And while I confess the temptation was there for me, I did not go over to the Dark Side. Not a cent was spent, not here in Pagosa Country, not in Durango, nor anywhere, not even online.
I boycotted the day and I was glad for it.
Besides, I believe the real bargains will be just at the last moment when merchants are truly desperate because, I think, well … they’ll be truly desperate.
My holiday version of Game Theory.
If there was indeed an inclination to dig a hole, it would have been something around six feet deep, in a remote location, and furnished with ample amounts of lime. The brain trust that determined a week off from school during Thanksgiving break was a nifty idea would now be facing charges as accessories to murder.
With them having the whole week off, I was at my wit’s end. Literally. By Sunday, I was lip diddling, drooling, der der derrrrring.
Back when Wooly Mammoth was served during the big day and the Macy’s parade was comprised of a dozen or so Native Americans toting a pilgrim effigy, we might have had, at the most, Black Friday (known then as the-day-after-Thanksgiving) off from school; maybe Wednesday if we were travelling to be with distant relatives. Times were hard back then and it used to snow a lot more.
Thus, it was my three, cold weather, a feast and scant reason to travel beyond the tribe.
If you’re not afraid, yet, get afraid.
With no shopping, no sanity and no motivation to do much of anything (including, digging deep holes — I was wearing the stretchy pants, yo), I was further left with no decent programming on the tube, unless endless holiday movies or Deadliest Catch marathons is your thing. Not mine. Click, Monk. Click, Law and Order. Click, Mythbusters.
Yawn. Rinse, repeat.
Late one night, however, scrolling past the standard dross on HBO, I came across “Control,” a biopic based on the life of Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis. And it occurred to me, as I watched it, that I had stumbled across the final part of an unintentional triptych of movies: the aforementioned “Control” (2007), “Velvet Goldmine” (1998), and “24 Party People” (2004). Although the threads are all there, as surely as they are for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, each movie was produced independently (in every sense of the word) with no connection with the other. Except that, they are all connected, in extremely interesting ways.
While “Velvet Goldmine” is certainly the least of the three, it is the necessary starting point in the trilogy.
Less documentary and more allegory, VG charts the rise and fall of a David Bowie-esque character named Brian Slade (none-so-subtly hammering the point home with four songs on the soundtrack by either Slade, Brian Eno or Eno-era Roxy Music) and through his story, the similar mercurial story of Glam Rock.
Ostensibly paying homage to Citizen Kane (with a young Christian Bale, as the journalist sent out to discover the story of Slade), the movie soon loses its way, slipping quickly from a potentially brilliant story to become a mediocre movie. Thinly veiled references to Iggy Pop-slash-Curt Cobaine in the character of Curt Wild (and, ho hum, Oscar Wilde) and Lou Reed do little to salvage the car wreck the film. However, with a little imagination and ample substances (and a mind open enough to overcome the movie’s outré sexual themes), one can get an idea of what was happening in the early ’70s that led to the early punk scene in England.
It’s important to note, however, that while the early Glam Rock scene influenced the British punk scene (especially bands like the New York Dolls, Mott the Hoople, the previously mentioned Slade and Bowie, himself), punk took an ethos and sound from the Glam Rock scene and twisted it to — well, anarchic ends.
Following the worst of the bunch, “24 Hour Party People” is the best of the bunch. A quasi-documentary about the Manchester scene from the mid-’70s until the early-’80s, 24HPP does a brilliant job of capturing how punk, disgusted in its emergence from the Glam Rock scene, evolved in so many directions. In a short amount of time, like tentacles from an amorphous (and sexually ambiguous) dark cloud, that influence continues to confound record executives. Digital downloads or not, the suits have never figured out what the kids like. Ever.
The next movie charms us from the beginning. Narrated by British TV newsman Tony Wilson (a real character, played by comedian Steve Coogan), the movie charts the fortunes of Factory Records and Wilson’s own demise (for better or worse) as his record company and club gives rise to the Rave scene, something that lingers with us, like a case of herpes.
Don’t let my description dissuade you, however; the movie will have you laughing out loud. It’s not just a movie for music geeks. Of the three, it’s the one that I recommend as a stand-alone, the one that is, by far, the one you should see.
Early in the film, Wilson signs “Warsaw” to his label, a band not completely within the punk umbrella — and definitely problematic. As its lead singer deals with a relationship he doesn’t want and epilepsy he can’t control, Wilson realizes he has genius on his hands and he’s signed all his control away. Furthermore, after the band changes its name to “Joy Division” (the name the Nazis gave to women forced into prostitution in concentration camps), the band acquired an unwanted following by neo-Nazi skinheads. Not an auspicious beginning for Wilson’s first signed act, an act he signed, by blood.
While the next two-thirds of the film deal with the Factory Records fortunes and the aftermath, “Control” sits just beneath 24HPP. It’s not a bad movie (“Velvet Goldmine” is not a bad movie either, in that “so bad it’s good” sort of way). It’s just not great’– and kind of depressing.
If you want to end your mix on an upbeat song, “Control” won’t allow you that; you’re going to bed feeling bummed.
As I said, the movie delves into the life of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis and his, frankly, bleak existence (despite the fame). While 24HPP lets you know that, what remained of Joy Division became New Order (and the biggest money maker for Factory Records), it doesn’t tell you the danger of nihilism, in all it’s stripped down realism; “Control” does, almost to the point of making you gag.
So, how does this all become, as I said, an unintentional triptych?
Joy Division was never a punk band; their influences go back to the Glam Rock movement, no matter how un-glam they seem. In fact, what they did was blur the lines, spread velvet across the fissures that were created while rock was spitting into seemingly indivisible lines.
The evidence is there in the second movie. The wrap up is in the third movie.
The spear that brings it through, like it’s ripping through a hunk of Jamaican goat (seared in the offices of Factory Records), is the weird little movie that starts the watching.
As much press as was given to Curt Cobain blowing his brains out, Curtis had sparse mention. He hung himself. The TV was on while he did it. One in a million in America knew what he did as opposed to Cobain, who one-in-five or something like that knew what happened, a pretty face shattered face all over the covers of grocery store magazines.
Yet, while Curt Cobain gets reverence from a certain, narrow segment of music, Curtis’s influence remains widespread — from Lady Ga Ga to, yes, Widespread Panic.
With more holidays coming up and many of us wondering if we can afford the local day ticket or maybe it’s better to stay close to home, on those nights locked in the cabin, I recommend those three movies, back–to-back or at least, a few nights in a row. Fill your jug, though.