Sherlock Pays Tribute to A Clockwork Orange

sherlock moriarty missme

The BBC’s massively successful Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman gave an amusing homage to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in Series 2 with Moriarty’s robbery of the British crown jewels set to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, as in the derelict casino fight and cat lady scenes in Kubrick’s film. It isn’t the only moment Andrew Scott’s performance of Jim Moriarty reminds one of Alex. Both clockwork Alexcharacters are ebullient psychopaths with a taste for music, style, and the dance of ultraviolence.

The only question I have is whether producers/writers Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss intended Andrew Scott’s BAFTA winning portrayal of Sherlock’s arch-nemesis Jim Moriarty to be a kindred spirit of Kubrick’s Alex, or if Andrew Scott brought that joyous, violent psychopathy to the role himself. Let’s hope we see Moriarty again soon….







Hit Songs Squares Didn’t Realize Were About Drugs: Midnight Cowboy


Harry Dean Stanton, in the 2012 documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction:

“[singing] Everybody’s talkin at me…
–This is a heroin song, by the way. It was written by Fred Neil. It was inspired by Luke Askew, an actor.”

Luke Askew was a blues singer and actor who appeared in Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Easy Rider (1969), among many other credits.

Bill Paxton in an interview with

“Luke was with Fred Neil one time, and they were stumbling around, they’d both shot up and were on heroin, and Fred Neil said to Luke, ‘Man, how do you feel?’ And Luke looked at him and said, ‘You know, everybody’s talkin’ at me, and I can’t hear a word they’re sayin’.” 

Fred Neil

Fred Neil

Everybody’s Talkin’, the theme song from John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969), is performed by Harry Nilsson in the film. But the song was first written by Fred Neil and recorded by him in 1966. Nilsson covered the song in 1968 and the director chose it over Nilsson’s proposed theme: I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City. Nilsson’s cover of Everybody’s Talkin’ made him rich and famous. Fred Neil wasn’t interested in fame and retired from music in 1971.


Neil’s original version is better suited to the song: slow, sad, dreamy, and lonely:


Nilsson’s cover, which is the only version most people have heard, is faster and radio-friendly. It’s oddly upbeat, although that trait arguably fits opening of the film:


Bill Paxton on Luke Askew:

Luke Askew

Luke Askew

“[Luke Askew] had been a great actor, and he’d also been someone Bob Dylan first identified with when he went to New York and decided he wanted to play in the coffeehouses. He used to see Luke singing the blues… 

Most people think [Harry] Nilsson wrote that song, because he made a hit out of it in Midnight Cowboy, but Fred wrote that. [Sighs.] Luke Askew, man…”


From Easy RiderLuke Askew as Stranger on the Highway:

Billy: Where ya from man?
Stranger on the Highway: Hard to say.

Stranger on the Highway: I’m from the city… Doesn’t matter what city; all cities are alike.
Billy: Well, why’d you mention it then?
Stranger on the Highway: ‘Cause I’m from the city; a long way from the city, and that’s where I wanna be right now.

Stranger on the Highway: [giving Wyatt some LSD] When you get to the right place, with the right people, quarter this. You know, this could be the right place. The time’s running out.

dry tears and daydreams


castles in the sky
built on dry tears and daydreams
raindrops on the sand

lying in the sun
cold skin, bikinis, warm sea
clouds and our secrets

veins like brittle trees
make me dream of yesterdays
the sound of crickets

all night I tremble
reeds on ancient battlefields
Years pass like shadows

you miss the beauty
gaze at your own reflection
koi glide through water

lives I lost and found
always changing nothing yet
somehow still alive

I listen for you
to cup your voice in my hands
on dark starry nights

run away with me
promise I’ll never love you
double suicide

collapse into her
goodnight my sweet prince, she said
warm and safe again

Junk Romance #4: Nicole

“A mild degree of junk sickness always brought me the magic of childhood. ‘It never fails,’ I thought. ‘Just like a shot. I wonder if all junkies score for this wonderful stuff.’” 
-William S. Burroughs

True junk romance is to be totally alone, no matter whose eyes stare back at you with desire.

Relapse brings back the dreams. Withdrawal brings back the yearning. I can feel her calling, her shiver down my spine. We’re addicted to the withdrawal just as much as the high. The relapse makes the agony of her withdrawal worth every second.

In junk dreamtime, she teases me with visions of the ones I loved enough to pose a threat to her. I fell in love with her at first touch. She’s jealous because I fell in love with you at first sight.

I can see your brown eyes staring into mine in that fluorescent room with grey carpet and old computers humming to the drone of a lecture by a woman with an ironic obsession for Robert Carlyle. She can put me there with you right now, years ago, forever, some day soon. Beautiful with your short brown hair and olive skin, your elvish smile, your eyes never too coy to draw away from my gaze. Do you still exist? Will you ever? Junk makes time travelers of us all and gives us scattered dreams where we had lives as smooth as ravens’ claws.

I used to believe in love at first sight until I met her. She taunts me with your ghost and I’ve lost everything but your eyes. Dark eyes that stare into my empty soul. You’ll never exist again at seventeen, in this moment or in my collapsing future. And she’ll never let me go. I’ll only have your eyes watching me from the past, a cruel gift from her as she waits around the corner and in the dark alleys I’m drawn toward as I’m pulled away from you.


isla vista


“After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.” William S. Burroughs, 1992 (yes, I’m aware of the irony).

control your gun.
no tongue
no touching
control your love
with a bullet.
let’s get trigger happy
send flowers
to your funeral.
send bullets signed:
the end.
(of you)

17 minutes.
quiet. there.
someone just got shot
to death.
black kid probably.
not a person of use
to gun control advocates
his name
won’t be
in the papers.

don’t want to
get shot in America?
carry a gun at all?
never leave home?
(without a IIIA vest)

all Japan is an island.
an unarmed society
is a polite society.
the police carry
the criminals steal
totally implausible
you’d be shot.

if you want to feel
so safe
in America,
you had better start building
new constitutions
get better
end poverty.
end drug wars.
you know
that’s a lot of trouble
and you have
so many guns.

you could try asking nicely
for the police,
when a gun is aimed
at you.
they’re over there

maybe you would like
only criminals;cops,
to shoot people?
wait til you get shot
by a criminal/cop.
i won’t tell you
i told you so.
when you then buy a gun
or move to Japan
where you won’t need one.

Heroin: Art and Culture’s Last Taboo



These are the best journalistic pieces I’ve ever read/listened to that delve into the history of junk philosophy. The author doesn’t seem to have ever been a heroin addict, which is wonderful. What joy, to see our little tribe of philosophers in extremis considered on its merits by the outside world! Andrew Hussey deserves a round of slow, lethargic applause.

The Article: Heroin: Art and Culture’s Last Taboo — by Andrew Hussey, The Observer

The Radio Version, which is even better: BBC Radio 4: Heroin, by Andrew Hussey — on Art, Creativity and Heroin 

The drug did not give Baudelaire visions or hallucinations, even if he had wished for them; instead, it threw him into a profound meditation which detached him from the world and made him understand it more clearly…

Heroin users don’t need to do anything or go anywhere: they just are.

This above all is what makes the heroin user a threat to a society built on speed and movement. Heroin, in contrast, makes the individual deeply introspective. Beyond the “dirty junkie” cliches and the fear of disease, one of the reasons why heroin is still taboo is that it wipes away the sense of responsibility to the collective, to the herd. This is why heroin users are usually characterised as self-destructive narcissists who don’t really deserve to survive their habits.

But it is clear that artists who are heroin users have a clearly developed sense of negativity in relation to society, and that has its own aesthetic. This indeed is the true art of heroin – to refuse life, to refuse society; terrifyingly, in every absolute sense: to just say “no”.


Professor Andrew Hussey: dean of the University of London Institute in Paris


SYD ARTHUR’s Psychedelic Daydream Sounds: Talking Shop with Liam Magill and Raven Bush


Syd Arthur’s Liam Magill showing off his supercool electric fingerstyle

Syd Arthur, psychedelic rock virtuosos from Canterbury, opened last night for Sean Lennon at the Great American Musical Hall in San Francisco. Both bands were fantastic. Thanks to Liam for hanging out with us to talk shop at the expense of time, tobacco, sleep, and beer.

Syd Arthur’s music is like a stream of consciousness soundscape of psychedelia, rock, and funk, with undertones of folk and jazz and blues and more. It all makes for a really unique sound infused with some real history. Both Syd Arthur and Sean Lennon’s The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger are rarities in a psychedelic music scene dominated by electronica. It’s great to see a 21st century English psychedelic rock band with solid influences. It’s great to hear psychedelic music performed by people who can actually play instruments. It’s great to see two bands in one night that would both make a young Syd Barrett proud.


Syd Arthur is Liam Magill (vocals, guitar), Raven Bush (violin, mandolin, keys), Joel Magill (bass, vocals), and Fred Rother (drums, percussion).

You know a band is good when they sound even better live than when all tracked up and mastered. These guys are great musicians. Raven Bush (violin, mandolin, keys) explained that his music background is academic; he knows his music theory. It shows. His mandolin solos are a thing to behold. And I’m sure it made his night that he got to play violin with Bob Weir from The Grateful Dead in Sean’s encore.

Liam Magill (guitar, vocals, songwriter) says he comes at music more organically. His guitar style is a great mix of technicality and forceful attack, the kind of style that does develop organically over time as you find your own way. Liam does the lion’s share of the songwriting, and while touring can suck, I was amused to hear him say he just takes his electric keyboard on the road and does some contemplative composing. He also said he composes a bit on the flute, which is pretty damn cool, because there is definitely a little Jethro Tull in there somewhere.

Here’s what really got me, though: Liam has a vicious guitar fingerstyle. It’s something you don’t expect to see played on a Stratocaster, on rhythm, in front of a wall of sound. He brings the plectrum out as needed, but where everyone else would use a pick, Liam uses a sort of aggressive funk clawhammer with percussive slaps, downstroke strumming, and string-assaulting upstroke plucking. He’s got that aggressive Neil Young attack (although Liam actually moves his wrist) and the hard strumming of an angry John Lennon rhythm, but he does almost all of it without a plectrum. It’s an aggressive technique, it really stands out, and it works wonderfully in their music. Who needs a guitar pick after watching that? Not me.


So, you should really check out Syd Arthur. Go see them touring with Sean Lennon or at Bonnaroo. Take some 2c-e, 2c-i, 2c-whatever, DMT, LSD, shrooms, mescaline, maybe even some peyote if you can find it. Take them all together. And check out what real psychedelic music is, based on solid influences, performed by people who play real instruments.

Syd Arthur is touring with Sean Lennon and will be at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in a few weeks.

Syd Arthur’s new album, Sound Mirror, is out now in the US and coming out in June in the UK. Check it out.


On Facebook:

On Twitter:

On Band Camp:

Bad Cops, Good Drugs and Self Destruction: If you like FILTH, you’ll love BAD LIEUTENANT (1992)

Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant is a film about your average cop: a corrupt headcase with a gun who was born to be a criminal, but turned out to be a late developer. If you like James McAvoy in Filth, you’ll love Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant. This cop knows how to mix his drugs. He’s also good at mixing his drug taking with a lot of stealing, drug dealing, screaming, whoring, and hard drinking. He does have some problems with gambling, though.

Ferrara is always willing to go to dark places, and in Harvey Keitel he found an actor who could go all the way. This NC-17 B-flick full of drugs, degeneracy, wild nihilism, suicidal apathy, horrific rape, and total self destruction is such a beautiful train wreck to watch that even Roger Ebert thinks it’s wonderful. But it’s not the subject matter that makes the film: it’s Harvey Keitel. The parallels to Jon S. Baird’s Filth (2013) are striking, specifically James McAvoy’s reach-out-and-choke-the-audience performance.

This is one bad lieutenant

Harvey Keitel plays the titular and unnamed Bad Lieutenant, the baddest of bad cops, who makes McAvoy’s Filth corruption seem like schoolboy pranks. Keitel pulls the entire film up from its b-movie vibe. The cinematography is so bad it makes shot/reverse shot look nouvelle vague. But it doesn’t make any difference at all while you’re watching it. The visceral shock of Keitel’s acting makes everything else peripheral. See the stills? They don’t come close to matching the intensity of the performance at 24 frames per second. Rogert Ebert wrote, “Harvey Keitel plays this man with such uncompromised honesty that the performance can only be called courageous…” That’s a delicate way to put it. It’s better described as a performance of beautiful insanity.

Gambling his life away, lying, conning, thieving, stealing evidence, selling drugs, robbing criminals, sexually assaulting teenagers, snorting cocaine, smoking crack, smoking heroin, shooting heroin, shooting at people, shooting at car radios, and drinking to oblivion in a naked stupor while whoring with bondage hookers: this Bad Lieutenant is far too busy tearing his world apart to photocopy an image of his phallus just to pull the department secretary.

BAD.LIEUTENANT-(NC-17.RATING).avi_snapshot_01.30.07_[2014.05.13_04.56.38]Now, if you’re here for the existential nihilism like me, I have to warn you: it’s not really the elusive nihilist film you’ve been searching for, because like most screen nihilists, this Bad Lieutenant comes with a twist. Unlike most filmmakers who deal with nihilistic characters, however, Ferrara’s lens never really makes judgments. The camera just watches. And this is one hell of a spectacle.

If you want to see a more phillosophical brand of nihilism in action, check out Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973), whose lens is somewhat judgmental but leaves things open to interpretation. Mike Hodges’ Get Carter (1971) glorifies Michael Caine’s nihilist antihero. Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) is closer to the philosophical mark, and David Thewlis is as mesmerizing as Keitel. Finally, another worthy Ferrara film is King of New York (1990) with Christopher Walken as gangster antihero.

Ferrara is currently filming Pasolini starring Willem Dafoe as the infamous Italian poet, critic and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, in a portrayal of his final days leading up to his mysterious murder. Let’s hope that film gets released because if there ever was a great cinephile biopic in the making, it’s a story about Pasolini.