Category Archives: blog – 1: ART (comics, film, music…)

Mara Page 4

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To help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

By this point I knew, without a doubt, that this entire book was going to be based on the work that most influenced me, the work from the Warren Publications, “1984,” “Creepy,” “Eerie,” and even “Vampirella,” and artists like Alex Nino, Frank Thorne, Esteban Maroto, and especially Jose Pepe Gonzalez. Though to be honest, I have only recently become obsessed with Pepe’s work. See below, Jose Pepe Gonzalez inking with markers (a rarity).

I became obsessed with Jose Pepe Gonzalez after viewing the brilliant “Love Strip” documentaries about him and his work, find those on Youtube, they are brilliant. I fell in love with his odd mix of easy looseness and tight perfection, and through the film, his tragic personality, innocence, humor and a childishness that contributed to his downfall. Flawed artists, it seems, are attracted to other flawed artists.

And as I said before, I do a lot of research, not just into the art I love, but into anatomy, animals, how fat works, how wrinkles work, all these things influence me deeply. I am a research junkie, and fear I sometimes use it as a crutch.

I think the things that have most deeply influenced me have been Exploitation films, so I will be talking a lot about Exploitation films and directors as these blogs ramble on. To tell the truth, those films probably had as much if not more influence over me than any comics or art, especially the work of directors like Jess Franco and Jean Rollin, both of whom created images so audacious that the have continued to haunt me, for example, the below image from Jean Rollin’s “Fascination.”

Jean Rollin "Fascination"

Jean Rollin “Fascination”

But perhaps the imagery that has most haunted my erotic imagination comes from the great Master himself… Libertine, Sadeian, and genius… Jess Franco!

His absolute fearlessness and willingness to explore his darkest deepest fantasies, and on the lowest of budgets, remains an inspiration. Jess was a visionary, a hack, a madman and a master. He loved to show his heroines in all their glamorous glory one moment, and in their greasy bug-bit misery in the next. He explored any fetish that crossed his mind, yet remained always true to his nature as a voyeur. His shots are so consistently voyeuristic, so often we view his films as if we were a pervert hiding behind the plants in the apartment, or peeping through a mirror or window. Come to think of it, I need to play more with those visual themes as this project progresses past the first issue.

I think you can see in the bedraggled beauty below, just how significant an influence Jess Franco has had on me.



And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts:
https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

The Goddess and the Whore

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Drawing, or at least living for it, has turned me into a beggar. THAT, was not my dream, rather a betrayal of it. My dream was “To make a living as an artist,” never to starve, never to go months without any income, never to become an internet whore.

I share my art on Facebook (which I hate), and resent that I have to dance with that devil to to attend a party, that had I gotten an invite, I would have thrown it away. It doesn’t matter if you’re any good or not anymore, it matters how well you market, how charming you are… how many friends you have (on Facebook, no less?). Art is a popularity contest. Let’s just say this… in high school… I was not winning any popularity contests. Quite frankly, the modern way of doing things has exhausted me. So much so, that I am not even sure if what I want is worth the price I’m having to pay.

What I dreamed of doing, of being, is not there for me, and I’m not sure if it’s not there for me anymore because I’ve lost the hunger to pursue it all over again, or if it’s simply not there anymore. This world is not my home, this construct is not the one I had prepared myself for. This maya is rubbing me the wrong way.

So, what do I do? I launch a Patreon site, begging people to love me, to love my work, to send me money, like one of those people on a street corner with a cardboard sign, or far worse, like a someone in marketing. All I’m told now is I have to market myself to make it in the current climate… hell, had I wanted to go into marketing, I would have gotten a marketing degree. Had I wanted to win popularity contests I would have gone into politics. No, this world is not my home, this world has reduced me to a beggar, a marketer, and a narcissistic politician… a fucking whore. And the worst part isn’t that I don’t know how to do any of this, it’s that I don’t want any fucking part of it. Fuck Facebook! The fact that I am on it at all leaves me feeling, for the very first time in my life, like a fucking sell-out.

I have sold out, I am on Facebook, I am on Patreon, and to add insult to injury I am selling out for a pittance, for so little I cannot even pay the rent. Not only am I whore, I’m a cheap whore. But I’m in this squalor now, I’ve settled into this culture’s muck, and I’m going to have to learn to live with the smell of this sewage with every breath.

I’m going to have to put up with the assholes on Facebook who insult me because they misread my tone. I have to deal with men with fragile egos who defend themselves against offers of daises.

But my work, my Mara, is the same as she ever was, pure, a dark reflection of my soul.

Mara, a soul nourished on a diet of forbidden fairy tales.

Mara, an entity that rose up from the fertile soil of my struggles and insights.

She is all that is left of the purity of my ego.

The Mara story is my story, and I am Mara. I may have become a whore, I may have sold out as a human, but Mara, my work, is as pure as it ever was, in fact, more pure by far. I have sold out everything but Mara, she remains a demon and a goddess bound in the jungle of my ego, released through the grinding of my pencil as it scratches, seeks, sometimes fails but usually finds her on the page.

Welcome, Justine Mara Andersen, to the field of opposites, to the dualities of being, of being an artist.

And welcome Mara, too, because what has tainted me will be your cross to bear as well. My weariness will reflect in your eyes.

I will suck the cock of social media, but Mara will forever be a virgin. Her purity will have to carry me through this mire.

I will seek redemption through Mara, as I always have. I am willing to get my hands dirty and dance with these devils if I can keep her breathing. And you can help me keep her breathing.

May her feet stay bare and stray from harm.

If you want to see Mara come to life, if you want to become a patron of the arts, I am asking you to do so. Your contributions will help feed me and keep me alive, it will keep Mara running barefoot through her adventures, it will allow her to grow, perhaps beyond the bounds of Facebook. Help me help Mara, and you’ll get cool exclusive stuff, stuff about the process, scans of the work in progress, and the pleasure of knowing that the money you are donating is making a direct and immediate impact.

To become my patron: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

Mara Page 3

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Become Justine’s patron: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

And introducing… MARA! This is where the truth starts to shine through, the influence of of everything, DMT, Exploitation cinema, and, of course the artists that influence me, and this is where all that merges into the real me.

Early on, Berni Wrightson had a huge influence on me, and in many ways, this page was a tribute to his beautiful mad scientist laboratories, only mine is more organic, and I wanted to get away from Wrightson’s Gustave Dore obsession to remain true to my stylistic preferences. But that’s always the way with the things that influence me, once they are filtered through me, they end up looking little like the source from which I took inspiration.

…And this was also all merging with my love of research. I wanted this image to have the feel of an opium den. For me Mara is very much a “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella” story, in that I am excited by the vision of her beauty surrounded by the foul and beastly, whether that foul and beastly presence be a place or an entity. Plus, at this point in the story, Mara has to be at rock bottom… or at the very least is traveling in that direction. I also have a fascination for things of the past, so a good old opium den setting was far more interesting to me than a rave.

Funny, but the truth is, my fascination with the opium den setting goes back to a fantastic old penny arcade machine I saw in San Francisco at the Musee Mecanique, I was lucky enough to find a picture of the very machine that fired my imagination… wish this was a video and we could watch it move.

I’d like to note also the “DMT toad” in the upper left. Now here is where I have to be totally straight, the entheogenic drug Mara is on is NOT actually DMT, let alone 5-MeO DMT, but a FANTASY version of DMT. Below I have included a photo of a DMT toad… the DMT is NOT activated by licking the toads, but by extracting the fluid from the sacks on the toads.

I’ve never actually had DMT from the toad, but since this is a fantasy, that seems irrelevant. The toad was more picturesque.

At this point I’d like to point out that Mara’s world isn’t so much a future world of any particular time, Mara’s world is another dimension, an alternate reality, and its logic runs on the logic of that reality, as dreams run on dream reality and fairy tales run on fairy tale reality, and Exploitation films run on Exploitation reality.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

Mara Page 2

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As I explained in the video, page 2 was in a sense a compare and contrast between the world of Mara’s DMT visions and her “reality.” The page was laid out with the same panel dimensions, and the top panels of both pages were meant to compositionally run parallel to each other.

So, I am showing them side by side below:

Side By SIde Justine's Mara Pages 1-2

Side By SIde Justine’s Mara Pages 1-2

I think in a sense this imagery is a meditation on how entwined the realities and dimensions we live in are, the reality and dimension of our fantasies, and that of our reality.

Yet there is MOST definitely a difference between fantasy and reality, something the political correctness movement has entirely lost track of. It amazes me how quickly people will assume things about an artist’s politics or philosophy based on the fantasies in their art. I was once asked (hell… not asked… ACCUSED) by an ass-kissing gallery owner about my erotic fantasy work, “What does this say about slavery? About women’s rights?” I said, “Uhm… nothing.” I am constantly astounded at how many people cannot tell fantasy from reality. Let’s face it, most of the stuff that happens to Mara I would not want to live through, but that has nothing to do with what I might fantasize about. Fantasies should never line up with ideology, if they do, then I think you have surrendered your imagination, or perhaps chained it, to your politics. Shame, isn’t it?

OK, rant over, Just for fun, and to show how page 1 and page 2 relate even more clearly, I have merged the two pages into one below:

Justine Mara Andersen New Mara Pages 1 - 2 Merge

Justine Mara Andersen New Mara Pages 1 – 2 Merge

To be honest, I don’t really have much of a feel for science fiction, too much technical stuff, I prefer the organic quality of fantasy, but for the story to work, Mara had to start out in a world in which she feels misfit, so I had to draw environments in which I feel misfit.

Whenever I draw science fiction, I tend to turn to Syd Mead for influence, the man who essentially designed Blade Runner. I turn to him not so much to copy, but to draw influence, I also turned to Roy G. Krenkel for influence, but I could not find the Krenkel in particular that influenced elements of this page.

Below I have included a fine example of a Syd Mead, a world I admire as an act of creation, but not a place in which I would want to spend any time, a place Mara is forced to exist in… at least for now.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

Mara Page 1 (& Classic Mara)

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Watch video above!

Old Mara Art

Old Mara Art

These entries are meant to compliment the on-camera video flip-through (TOP) I did with Tom Hart for the unfinished relaunch of my highly personal Mara comics series. At first we thought we might edit in close-ups and images from the artists that influenced me, but it seemed that a better treatment was to write accompanying blogs so the viewer can perhaps come in closer, or at least spend more time with the images I want to spotlight.

Before even going into the first page of the new Mara, I spent some time discussing “Classic Mara,” if something as utterly ignored and low-selling as my Mara can ever be considered “classic.”

Regardless, that old Mara project came from the heart, and it kept me “sane,” and drove me nuts at the same time… and kept me poor. But I felt I had something to say then, and then I thought it was important. Now, I have something to say, but being older… I no longer suffer from the delusion that it will be in any way “important.” As I often say, “I wanted to leave a mark, but I fear all I’ve left is a stain.” What kept me doing it even while it was being so utterly dismissed was that I had never seen anything like it. In other words, as familiar as I was with Exploitation Cinema, eroticism, and comics in that style, nothing sated my thirst, ONLY Mara did that. My unique vision was what kept me going.

Here she is, good old Mara! The image below was done about the time I had begun to burn out, it’s hard to believe now, but I abandoned this page because I thought it was lousy…

It ain’t!

Classic Unfinished Mara by Justine

Classic Unfinished Mara by Justine

The first page of the “New Mara” was inspired by my experiences with the psychedelic DMT, experiences which ended a couple years back. The problem with translating these experiences into art is that the DMT experience does not translate into the limitations of this reality. The DMT experience is not about seeing and hearing things, it’s more about BEING things. And worse, the DMT experience is a lot like having a handful of gold in the cave of wonders, gold that quickly turns to dust once you exit the cave.

How does one draw that which cannot be grasped, that which cannot be described or defined, or even remembered? About all an artist can do is try and recreate what the experience felt like.

I found the image below, and while it is not what I experienced, it came far closer than anything else I have seen. But imagine if the image below were in motion, the colors rotating, luminesce, and wholly immersive. All I could find to credit the artist was that it was done by “Beacon.”

I think if you look at the 2nd panel of the first page you will see that I did a variation on this image, but chose to reference the trunk of the Hindu deity Ganesh. Also note the floating circles and how they pan across all 6 of the lower panels.

Justine Mara Andersen's Mara Page 1 Detail

Justine Mara Andersen’s Mara Page 1 Detail

The grid underneath was intended to help me maintain symmetry, but I am thinking I might ink it in, it seems now to be a part of the drawing.

I was asked just yesterday if the DMT experience changed me for the better or for the worse. I stammered, and had to say that every action comes with consequences, some could be seen as positive, some as negative. All I know is that the changes have been profound and utterly irreversible. What I have learned from DMT has expanded me, and somewhat frightened me, it’s not something that should be undertaken lightly. Was it for the best or for the worst? I don’t know, but I don’t regret it.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

Mara Intro.

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In this video I’m showing you how I live, where I work, and a little bit about who I am. Who is this madwoman creating Exploitation comics in this day and age? Just me… Justine Mara Andersen.

You’ll be seeing my room, my “psychedelic pad,” my “little slice of paradise.” Eclectic as the setting may be whenever I watch Bollywood movies in my room at night… the movies just seem to settle right into the decor, and at times it’s hard to tell where the movie ends and the room begins, especially when watching Sanjay Leela Bhansali films. At night, when the curtains are pulled, the room takes on an exotic magic that feels quite different from the vacation in paradise setting of the daylight hours.

And definitely the forest around my room has been integrated into the decor. The yellows and greens play about on the walls creating a seamlessness between the interior and exterior.

In fact, the below photo was taken directly from my room. My nearest neighbors are animals, deer, bald eagles, hawks, alligators, wild turkeys, and lots of little lizards and gorgeous green tree frogs.

I took this picture from my window, a great view right into the forest. (pic by Justine Mara Andersen)

Mara Medievalist (by Justine)

Mara Medievalist (by Justine)

And here, in this setting, in this room, is where I do my work, my drawing and my dreaming. In many ways, this relaunch of Mara seems like an exercise in madness.

Many might ask, why return to a project that was wholly ignored, sold poorly, and has been ultimately forgotten?

There is no logical answer, other than the one French exploitation director Jean Rollin gave me when I asked him why he kept creating under such adversity, he told me, if I don’t write or make films, I die.

When I began Mara back in 1989 (or so) I knew nothing about her or her world, nor did I know how to draw or tell a story. Of course the image above is from one of the last Mara books, and is quite accomplished, but in so many ways Mara has never left me. Even if the rest of the world chose to ignore her, and ignore me as an artist, she and I have always been one.

And even if many want to call me out for “sexualization” or being somehow anti-feminist for drawing good old fashioned romantic erotic fantasy, Exploitation, I no longer care because that, too is part of me. I don’t do this for money, I don’t do this because “sex sells,” or to be a “sell-out,” I do this because it’s the truth of who I am.

Be careful when judging a person’s art, when assuming their motives. Very often the anger of the viewer is the only lens through which they can see art that does not conform to their ideologies.

I guess if you don’t like Mara, you don’t like me, and you know what, that’s fine by me. As deep as I am into this incarnation, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I no longer expect to be loved by all.

All I can do is love what I do and tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.

Oh, and funny note about the above Mara panel… that word balloon “I feel like a Victorian” was a direct reference to how dismissive David X Cohen was of my work when a friend delivered it to his desk in the hopes that I might be able to find work with the Simpsons (by the way, I had sent in cartooning samples, not just Mara), he tossed it aside and said, “It’s too Victorian.” Well like when Lennon said all McCartney did was write silly love songs and Paul wrote “Silly Love Songs” in response, I did the same here.

What’s so wrong with being Victorian anyway?

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

Band On The Run, Concept Revealed

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(This is a repost of an older blog entry, reposted to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of this masterpiece. The genesis of this piece bears explaining, first off, the whole notion that the concept of the album is one of motion came from a comment a friend of mine made, something he had read in a review. I have not read the review, and opted instead to take that idea and run with it in my own way.)

Tune into www.growradio.org for Barefoot Justine's show "Get On The Right Thing."

Tune into http://www.growradio.org for Barefoot Justine’s show “Get On The Right Thing – McCartney Reconsidered with Barefoot Justine.”

“Band On the Run is one of those rare albums that spans a magically self-contained world. From the unfolding promise of its title track – itself a pocket symphony of dawning optimism and thrilling new horizons – this is music that takes us places.” In his intro to the deluxe edition of Band On the Run Paul Du Noyer goes on to say, “Is it a ‘concept album’? Not exactly.” Ah, look closer Mr. Du Noyer.

Band on the Run is a concept album. This, of course, flies in the face of Paul McCartney’s phony assertion otherwise. The jig is up, Paul, at last we are on to you. And bandmate Denny Laine states as much himself when he says, “It’s not the tracks, it’s a concept album.” So who are we going to believe? NOT McCartney. He has an annoying way of self-mythologizing into a self-defeating malaise of ordinariness and fluffiness that betrays the depth and significance of his post-Beatle work, his fans, and ultimately undermines his credibility. When it comes to his being respected as an artist, Paul McCartney is his own worst enemy and has contributed more to the lack of respect he receives from the public than any critic. The undoing of his reputation as an artist is, at this point, solely of his own doing.

Let’s quickly set the stage, the Beatles had been over for about 3 or 4 years (Band On the Run was released in late ’73). This was to be his fifth solo album, two of those had been Wings albums, a 5 piece line-up. McCartney had become discouraged and at one point had allegedly told Linda, that if he didn’t get the magic back he was going to cut his throat. Unbeknownst to Paul, the magic had been there through all four of the albums that predated Band On the Run, but Paul McCartney, his fans, and the public had bought the assertion of the critics that his new music was no good. Critics are fools. It really is that simple. Anxious to “get the magic back,” he took off for Lagos. McCartney does not like to sit still as an artist, his first album was recorded by himself at home (quite a daring, dare I say “ballsy,” departure from the glorious Beatle approach heard on their swansong, Abbey Road), the second album (Ram) he recorded in New York, the first Wings album in 2 weeks, and the second Wings album was recorded under far more conventional circumstances. Over the years since McCartney has recorded albums on boats, in castles, improvisationally, and in New Orleans. It seems his creative juices are fueled by adventure. Well, not so for his bandmates. The evening before (an hour before according to some accounts) Wings were to fly to Lagos, two of the members quit. Unphased, a determined McCartney simply said, “I can play the lot myself.” Farewell to them all the same, Henry McCullough’s rotten attitude and sloppy uninspired playing were hardly an asset anyhow. McCullough, it seemed, believed, erroneously, that he was too hot a guitarist to play McCartney’s crafted melodic solos.

paul and wings3

A three man band, Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, and the ever loyal Denny Laine took off, determined to create an album the other 2 members of the band would forever regret walking out on. Quite quickly the whole experience became far more trying than he could have expected. While in Lagos the monsoons had hit, McCartney was taken aback at seeing corpses in the street, the studio was not yet built (in fact, contrary to the idea that Paul’s a bit of a dandy, he is not only a take charge kind of guy, but quite handy at real work, so he took hold of a saw and helped with the labor of getting the studio into a functional state), the McCartney’s were mugged at knife-point… their demo tapes lost to the muggers, he fell under suspicion by the local African musicians and had to allay their defensive and hostile reaction to his recording there, and finally McCartney himself collapsed and feared he was dying as he was being rushed to a hospital. Picture McCartney in an unfamiliar studio in Africa frightened to death, with half a band, and NO record of the songs he was about to record, the demo in the hands of muggers. This is the world in which Band On the Run was created.

Under the shadow of not knowing if he remembered the songs, McCartney stepped up to the drum kit and got to work.

For years, people studied the album to work out what the concept was. Eventually, everyone seemingly accepted defeat and regarded the album as a near-miss conceptually, though a tremendous achievement creatively. But here’s the rub, McCartney is a sly guy, a clever guy, a complicated man, a conflicted artist, and—as I said earlier, a piss-poor self-mythologizer—elusive to say the least. Even his anti-intellectual phoney-baloney claims to be “ordinary” are denied when you get to know him better as an artist. Take these quotes, which give his smoke screen of shallowness away: “What I have to say is all in the music. If I want to say anything, I write a song.” Indeed, and this: “I can’t deal with the press; I hate all those Beatles questions.” His messages are in his work, and he dislikes the press, so he takes the easy way out, turns off, phones in, and gives them nothing more than what they want–the umpteenth telling of how he met John. If we are going to get to the core of his work and unveil the meanings, we have to do it ourselves. So, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain (that man being the public persona of Paul McCartney), and let’s go…

“’Band On the Run’ itself sets the tone. It moves in and out of beats and genres, and just seems to work. That struck me about it. In fact it made me think, ‘We just didn’t give a damn back then!’” says Paul looking back on the album’s title track. The key word in there is “moves.”

John Conteh, who appeared on the cover, had this to say: “The best one I like about that was ‘Band On the Run.’ I think it’s uhm… the slowness of it at the beginning, and it seems to reach like a climax, an escape, and explosion… BAM! ‘BAND ON THE RUN! We head into the sun, and the first one said to the second one there, I hope you’re having fun,’ so there seems to be some kind of messages then, you know. Ones passing the message, they’ve got an experience, and they pass the message on to someone else, like, you know. So they’ve got all these people on the run, you know. And the run maybe being… of eh, you know, life itself, locked into this prison of self or whatever it is, or a problem whatever your problem, or an actual prison as well.”

And there’s the key, not to take it literally, to see the song and the album as metaphor or allegory. There is no central plot that drives the album as a coherent story, but there is a purpose, a meaning and a concept that everything intentionally revolves around. The meaning is, in a sense not only in McCartney’s life, but in all our lives. Paul McCartney has always been one to take his own experiences, tragedies, and such, and make them universal by in large part relying on fantasy and archetypes. Witness “Let It Be” which while on the surface seems to be about THE Mother Mary, it is actually quite cleverly about HIS mother Mary. There is a similar story about Hey Jude having originally been about Julian Lennon, but cleverly turned into something far more universal. The problem with this is that people like their messages preached rather than prosed. Lately he has been more autobiographical in a way most people would recognize, but if you follow McCartney you realize that one of his techniques is universalizing personal experiences so that anyone can relate to his work in some way or the other. Of course “Band On the Run” works nicely as an enigmatic little story, a fable of sorts, but it also applies to an adult need for rebirth, reinvention, release, and ultimately… freedom. As a song, it is for anyone who feels imprisoned by anything.

Thanks to my friend Ed McLaughlin’s summary of a review he recalled reading, I got started down the path of understanding what this album is all about. It’s about rebirth, release, re-invention, movement and freedom! The title track is in a very real sense McCartney releasing himself from the myth of the Beatles, having become tired of carrying that weight, he insisted that Wings be its own band, that they not rely on Beatles songs in concert, that they not play the same kind of music. It was a start from scratch… an escape from the prison of the megalithic success he had with the Beatles, a mythology that was seemingly impossible to live up to. Few would dare try.

The song opens with: “Stuck inside these four walls, sent inside forever.” The four walls are prison walls, but more specifically the four walls are the four Beatles, and of course McCartney’s pain and depression at losing them as well as his worries about how to follow them. McCartney had this to say about the origin of the verse: “It started off with ‘If I ever get out of here.’ That came from a remark George made at one point at one of the Apple meetings. He was saying that we are all prisoners in some way, some kind of remark like that.” He later adds, “… all put together ‘Band On the Run’–escaping, freedom, criminals. You name it, it’s there.”

“If I ever get out of here,
Thought of giving it all away
To a registered charity.
All I need is a pint a day
If I ever get out of here.”

The autobiographical elements are coded, universalized, fictionalized, and turned into allegory so that we can each get out of it what we need, which, as I have said, is consistent with McCartney’s approach. Moreso, knowing that the above verse was taken from Harrison certainly suggests that we are not over-thinking this song, there are real clues to its meaning, and that the song does inherently have meaning. It is, of course, simpler to take the easy way out as critics do (having never been a particularly deep, patient or insightful group of people) dismissing the fanciful nature of the song, falling back on a cynicism that has no patience with fantasy or romance. From the longing of the song’s intro, it launches into thunder, sun and NEW adventures, and this is stated in a passage that I recently saw pondered over at “mclark.wordpress.com.”

“Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash
As we fell into the sun”

McCartney frequently uses water, rain, tears, rivers, as symbols, and elements to propel not only the narrative, but the metaphors of his songs. Rain is often used in film and narrative work as a device to show that this is a period of transition, of a new dawn. The Beatles are over, Harrison and all have been released from the four walls, hence the explosion of rain. Furthermore, “we fell into the sun,” the sun, a literal source of light, but also metaphorical of new knowledge, the shedding of light on new possibilities… of a new dawn.

They have escaped from the past and into brave new worlds of sound and thought, a new decade, and new successes. But of course, they are being doggedly pursued, not merely by the “Jailor Man” and “Sailor Sam,” but by the legend of the Beatles and the expectations of the fans–not to mention McCartney’s expectation for himself.

Paul had this to say as well: “… the spirit was like ‘We’re all in this together.’ So anything about desperados or ‘on the run’ kind of united people against all authority. And, you know, we happened to be part of all that.” Keep in mind that this song was actually banned in Russia, it was found too subversive, they saw serious subtext in the songs disregard for authority. Subtext which was, as it turns out, truly there according to Paul. But before we go, let’s take note that the song’s theme is one of movement and release in pursuit of freedom, and there is a lot to talk about here as we notice that most of the songs are about the same thing.

This journey of finally understanding this album did not begin with Ed, no, it started with Tom Hart (founder of SAW, where I teach). This is something I have not often discussed on my blog, as it is part of Tom and Leela’s journey, but I think a little perspective may help, and their situation too, has gone from one of imprisonment to escape. See, Tom and Leela lost their child about 2 years ago, and they just had another. They had been living in a sort of prison, up until this new birth. Tom sent me this after the birth of their new baby girl: “@BarefootJustine should be interested to know the first song I heard after the birth was a McCartney song.” The song was… “Band On the Run.” Of course, of course. Tom also noted that the slow bits made him tear up. To this my friend Ed got the ball rolling by summarizing a review he had read: “The whole album was of hope and looking forward not back. The ‘running’, the rolling, ‘Let Me Roll It’, The flying, ‘Jet’, the future ’1985′ written in 1973, Bluebird, Helen Wheels etc. ‘If I ever get out of here.’” to which Ed added that even “Picasso’s Last Words” is the final movement, death. But McCartney doesn’t stop there thematically, no, he starts out the album very much in the past with a title track that opens full of regrets and pain with one imprisoned by his past, then the title track rushes into the present thematic core of the album with motion, with escape, rebirth, with reinvention, then on to death, and lastly even to the future with the closing song “Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five.” It’s heady stuff, and I think as you can see, this is too well planned and too conscious and consistent to be coincidence or wishful thinking. Ah, but wait, there’s more!

072511browimageThe thematic motion doesn’t stop here with the end of the title track, not with human legs running from the law. The motion, in fact, becomes jet propelled, literally with “Jet,” a roiling rollicking pop-rock song that has legs of its own as it rushes from the speakers, a song I used to hear as I kid. I knew nothing of McCartney, but this song painted pictures in my head, filled me with questions and flooded my head with possible stories, and the song had the same effect on me physically as caffeine. It made me want to move! So with “Band On the Run” and “Jet” we went from on the run to actual flight. Poetry: “Jet with the wind in your hair of a thousand laces, climb on the back and we’ll go for a ride in the sky.” “Wind of a thousand laces” was always a line that stirred me, still is. Look closer, there is poetry buried in Macca’s power-pop! Additionally, “Jet” is also, much like “Band On the Run” a song about escape from authority, in this case into the skies and love, well away from the regimented discipline of the “Sergent Major.” It is interesting to note that “Jet” was the name of one of Paul and Linda’s puppies… yet more motion and birth, even in its origin.

Even at that, McCartney is not finished with the theme of flight. No, next up, organic flight with “Bluebird.” An old friend of mine, Ed Fitch (who wrote Pagan literature in California) pointed out to me that this song was Shamanic. Indeed it is, full of magic and transformation from human to animal. “Touch your lips with a magic kiss, and you’ll be a bluebird too.” This is not simplistic nursery rhyme stuff, no, this is archetypal shamanic vision.

21255949d54ad91ff74081007d40203fThis concept is confirmed by a book I have been reading on the women Saints of India (“Daughters Of the Goddess” by Linda Johnsen). At one point she is talking to Anandi Ma who is trying to explain the incomprehensible experience of awakening ones kundalini. In the process of her attempt at explaining kundalini Anandi Ma speaks of the very strongest feeling she has had since childhood, that of becoming a bird and flying away, not attached to anything. And this, of course is what “Bluebird” is about, keeping in mind McCartney’s time in India and continued interest in a “mystical” spirituality, this is scarcely far-fetched. Indeed, the vision of becoming a bird and losing attachments to fly away into freedom is at the very core of “Bluebird.” It is not surprising in some ways that McCartney does not expound upon these things as they are better left known and experienced than explained–as with all spiritual matters. Recall earlier his quote, “What I have to say is all in the music. If I want to say anything, I write a song.” He will not say this openly, it is in the song, very much deep in this song. Freedom, release, magic, the release of attachments, and of course, more movement and reinvention in that they were once human but are now bluebirds. In a sense, McCartney was once a Beatle, but he is now a bluebird… in Wings. He is at last free and unattached. “If I ever get out of here,” was his cry, and with “Bluebird,” he has… gotten out of there.

Up next, “Mrs. Vandebilt,” a big song in Russia, and a big song to me. The lyrics are in a very real sense about letting go, but this time, of stress:

“When your light is on the blink
You never think of worrying
What’s the use of worrying?

When your bus has left the stop
You’d better drop your hurrying
What’s the use of hurrying?

Leave me alone Mrs. Vandebilt
I’ve got plenty of time of my own
What’s the use of worrying?
What’s the use of hurrying?
What’s the use of anything?

Yes, with Band On the Run, even the mundane can be let go of.

Of course, an album highlight comes up next, “Let Me Roll It,” which has often been mistaken for a song about, and in fact imitating, John Lennon. No. Heavy guitar riff-driven songs have always been part of McCartney’s makeup (still are), and the assertion that the so-called primal scream at the end is McCartney mimicking Lennon is utter rubbish… folks, that’s Denny Laine screaming, not McCartney. That alone puts a close to that theory, even though McCartney himself tried to wishy washy his way into playing into the Lennon imitation myth. But simply put, the song is also about motion, movement, keep things going, “Let me roll it to you,” keep this album on the run.

Next up, a major favorite of mine, a song that is about life, the movement of life, and just as water (rain water in particular) was used as a metaphor or at least a poetic device in “Band On the Run” so it is in “Mamunia.” Water is a symbol often returned to by McCartney, a symbol he uses well in lyrical moments of darkness as well as of lightness. And in keeping with the international flavor of Band On the Run (having been recorded on Lagos) “Mamunia” is an Arabic word meaning “safe haven.” Even the title of this song is far far from Britain.

“The rain comes falling from the sky
To fill the stream that fills the sea
And that’s where life began for you and me
So the next time you see rain it ain’t bad
Don’t complain it rains for you
The next time you see L.A. rainclouds
Don’t complain it rains for you and me”

And more:

“It might have been a bright blue day
But rainclouds had to come this way
They’re watering everything that they can see
A seed is waiting in the earth
For rain to come and give him birth
It’s all he really needs to set him free.

So the next time you see L.A. rainclouds
Don’t complain it rains for you
So lay down your umbrellas
Strip off your plastic macs
You’ve never felt the rain my friend
Till you’ve felt it running down your back

So the next time you see rain, it ain’t bad
Don’t complain it rains for you
The next time you see L.A. rainclouds
Don’t complain it rains for you and me”

Besides this being a classic acoustic McCartney song, it’s also pure Paul optimism. He’s never been one to let rain spoil his day, after all, rain is life. If it rains, strip off your rain gear and get wet! As a side note, that’s Ginger Baker of Cream fame playing shakers (gravel from outside the studio in a can).

Ah, but there is a song about Lennon, the very next one, “No Words,” and as is always the case, no amount of rebirth and movement comes without some amount of looking back, pain, or regret:

“You say that love is everything
And what we need the most of
I wish you knew, that’s just how true
My love was.
No words for my love”

And more:

“You want to turn your head away
And someone’s thinking of you
I wish you’d see, it’s only me,
I love you.”

“No Words” is not a vague half-baked love song, it is instead a rather elegant, poignant and highly personal love song of an unconventional nature.

And now we are coming near the end, and by that I mean the very end, the final movement, the final release, death. In fact, the death of Picasso, a song inspired by Dustin Hoffman. He was initially impressed that McCartney was in Jamaica (where they met) for a very admirable reason, to research Reggae, says Hoffman, “I thought, Gee, he’s doing research like anybody does. He said he did that often. He would hear about a new music and no matter where it was in the world and he would go towards it.” Contrary to popular critical opinion, McCartney takes his work and art very seriously. Though the story from Hoffman is better told by him, the basic point was that he challenged Paul to write a song on the spot while they were having dinner. Hoffman, a Picasso fan, was just reading about his death, and told Paul about it in the hopes that he might write a song. When Hoffman finished, McCartney strummed his guitar and instantly had this song, an event that Hoffman, to this day, finds profound… a moment of “birth” as he puts it. So even Hoffman uses the word “birth,” and above talks of motion with, “he would go towards it.” The song itself, “Picasso’s Last Words,” production-wise was never a favorite. I never cared for the jarring jumpiness of it, the weird way things cut in and out in a seemingly clumsy way–very unlike Paul, and I realized years later that what I didn’t care for about the song is in a sense the same thing I dislike about Picasso’s work. McCartney intentionally set out to make the song “Cubist.” That explains the off-putting nature of the piece. But I do have to admire McCartney’s high-minded (and successful) effort to create a Cubist piece of music. Oddly, one of the things I love about McCartney is his experimental way of writing, often disregarding verse chorus verse chorus formula, but in this case, the flow seemed, as it turns out, appropriately disjointed.

And lastly, we come to “Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five,” which takes us beyond death and propels us (moves us) into the future. The lyrics do not tell a narrative of any kind. They are rather stream of consciousness, but that to me does not make the lyrics dismissable. They fit, flow, and sound exactly right in the context of the rhythm. I never considered McCartney’s lyrics weak, not at all, nor even stream of consciousness, no with McCartney the lyrics are too perfectly fit by far, and too evocative. His lyrics instead being more like “stream of collective unconscious,” as I like to say. More trippy and archetypal than nonsensical. And as another friend of mine says with snorting dismissal at the charges that McCartney’s lyrics aren’t any good: “Those are the lyrics to the song.” Yes, and McCartney knew that well enough to not fight the flow of words that came with the song. Beyond the words… the song propels the listener faster and deeper into an explosive big bang ending through McCartney’s brilliant piano work and the powerful orchestration. Dare I say… it’s rather apocalyptic. The final movement of the album, with Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five is significant.

That would round out the album, except for one other song, that originally was sandwiched somewhere into the middle on the American version of the album (it never appeared on the British version), “Helen Wheels” a roadtrip song, and what says more about motion, movement, fast motion and freedom than a road song? Perhaps the only British road song. Additionally, this song was quite literally born of motion as “Helen Wheels” was the name of their land rover.

So that, in a nutshell, is Band On the Run, the concept finally explained, movement and reinvention, freedom and release, rebirth and an allegorical journey from the past right through to the future; every single one of the songs perfectly lined up to propel this enigmatic if not complicated concept to fruition. As for me, albums don’t come much more conceptual than that. Take that, Major Tom!

(Note: If you see any factual inaccuracies or notice anything I have missed, I welcome contributions, comments and suggestions that are passed along in a friendly manner. I am better by far with concepts and ideas than with specifics of date, etc.)

Poetry Reruns…

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So, I’ve decided to rerun some of my poems because I have recently gotten involved in an illustrated poetry book. I am pleased with the images and thought I should run them with my poems… plus, no one ever reads my poetry, so I figure if I rerun a few of them, maybe 3 or 4 more people might read them.

Below is an illustration for a poem I did not write.

The rest (below) are all illos. for poems I did write… enjoy!

Existence

Existence