beth ditto: agony aunt.

it’s one of those weird things, when a member of the tribe hits the big time (see beck, elliott smith, ghost world). beth ditto is huge over here in the uk. the gossip is blaring out of all the high street shops. I don’t know, but I don’t think this has happened on the same scale in the us (anyone? is anyone there?). first the nme proclaimed that she was the coolest woman in rock, then the guardian weekend magazine slapped her on the cover with something about how “she’s fat, she’s gay, she’s cool.” and now she has her own advice column in the guardian. and she’s clearly been influenced by ronnie spector, at least where eye makeup is concerned…

oh ronnie.

this new york post article about ronnie and phil spector featured some fascinating insight into the wall of sound producer’s relationship with his own hair, not to mention his ex:
[[“He was so upset over his hair!” says Ronnie. “When we had dinner, everything was really dim, because he had bad hair. Toupees.” She pauses. “Boy oh boy – it got so hard to do anything because of his hair. If he couldn’t get his hair right, he’d say, ‘I don’t feel good.'” Hair issues gave way to darker concerns. Ronnie wasn’t permitted to leave the house alone, ever. According to her, she would be summoned to Phil’s side while he was recording with other artists – just to sit on the stool next to him, not moving. “He would say, ‘You’re my inspiration,'” she recalls. She would be punished like a little girl, often sent to bed hungry. “It was a sick love,” she says. “He even said, ‘I have a glass casket in the basement, for Ronnie. So I can look at her anytime I want.’ But I was in love with the guy, so I didn’t think that was too bad.”]]

nothing really surprises me anymore about phil, ronnie and their relationship, though. it’s sad. he was/is a total freak, and that’s never going to change. ronnie, on the other hand, may be as crazy as phil was (if only for falling for him, but we all have foggy goggles on when we fall in love, don’t we?), but she continues to be historically relevant as singer of the ronettes, the voice behind “be my baby” (one of my all-time favorite karaoke tunes and one of the greatest pop hits ever), and just a total style icon. that’s right, youngsters (are there any youngsters reading this site?), where do you suppose amy winehouse got the idea for her big hair/big eyeliner look anyway? all kinds of girls in camden and kentish town and south london have been featuring that look for a while now, and ms. ronnie deserves her due.

old new york.

I was reading somewhere yesterday, god knows where, that waxing nostalgic about previous eras in new york history is all the rage. I can understand that. I feel like I left new york when maybe it needed me, or maybe I couldn’t have changed a thing. I’ve been living in london since 2003, and I really miss those old new york venues where we used to have chickfactor parties. in the early days it was under acme, a nice chilled-out room with blue xmas lights and a party vibe, where we had our little things. I think we had to pay a $150 deposit, and in the end we had a falling out with a certain soundman who thought he would ruin one of our parties by “losing” our special party music and putting on tori amos instead. later the venues of choice were mostly fez under time café and tonic, two very different rooms. we always had shows at fez because they let us have all ages shows there, but the gold lamé/red velvet vibe was parfait for our events. it was easy having events there, despite the bossy hosts and hostesses, the two-drink minimum (pretty funny when you realize that your waiter is never coming back to take a second drink order) and the strict, giuliani-era no-dancing laws. still, what could be better than a venue that serves chocolate cake until midnight? tonic came later, and had none of the velvet-rope baloney that fez occasionally had (time café was a very busy venue on weekends, so we can understand its need to herd its clientele), good sound and good vibes. our shows were usually on sunday night, because tonic usually only had jazz, klezmer and other non-pop music on the menu. the loss of these two places is a real shame. I walked by the chinese something or other café that now occupies the old time/fez space a few weeks ago and all the well-heeled yuppies brunching outside made me feel melancholy. where was brian? where was ellen? the nice bookers I used to be able to call and book a weekend from without even knowing who was playing. that would never happen in london (where I need £700 deposit for a weekend cf event at my venue of choice). I was so distracted that I even forgot to look at acme to see if it even still exists (does it?).

ps. did you know that the cover of get lost was photographed inside the time café?

go see pipas.

pipas are currently on tour of the two coasts in the usa. see them in los angeles on 24 may (knitting factory with the clientele); brooklyn on 27 may (luna lounge at the pop fest); and manhattan on 8 june (bowery ballroom with the clientele). it is only a matter of time before they are filling stadiums and you will be hearing their music in tv commercials.

photograph: gail o’hara