Looking for Confidence

“…There’s nothing to gain when there’s nothing to be lost
There’s nothing to gain if you stay behind and count the cost
Make the decision that you can be who you can be
You can be
Tasting the fruit come to the Liberty Tree…”

Excerpt from Shaking the Tree

Composed by Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour

 

Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats was released in 1990 as Peter Gabriel’s first “greatest hits” album, including songs from his first solo album Peter Gabriel (I or Car) (1977), through Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ (1989). It was remastered with most of Gabriel’s catalogue in 2002

 

The original photo session was at the late Robert Mapplethorpe’s New York loft studio in 1986. He spent some time getting to know Peter and during the session got him talking about many subjects on which he was passionate.

Mapplethorpe explained that he felt his subjects revealed more of themselves when talking about things they loved. At a time when many portrait artists were looking for vulnerability, Mapplethorpe was looking for confidence.

Peter really enjoyed getting to know Mapplethorpe and found him smart, funny and charming – “Robert Mapplethorpe is one of the great photographers. I was really happy with the results. I had this idea to do some with my eyes shut, so you have one which is on the front with eyes shut and then others with eyes open” Peter Gabriel.

The photo selected for the album cover was initially used for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

 

 

Rolling Stone Magazine cover, January 29, 1987

 

To listen to the song Shaking the Tree, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

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An Insistently Metaphysical Mind-Bender

 
 

海辺のカフカ (Kafka on the Shore) (海辺のカフカ) is a 2002 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. In “Subconscious Tunnels: Haruki Murakami’s dreamlike new novel” (The New Yorker, January 24, 2005) John Updike described it as a “real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender”. Since its 2005 English language release (translated, from the Japanese, by Philip Gabriel), the novel has received mostly positive reviews and critical acclaim, including a spot on The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2005 and the World Fantasy Award.

Comprising two distinct but interrelated plots, the narrative runs back and forth between both plots, taking up each plot line in alternating chapters.

The odd chapters tell the 15-year-old Kafka’s story as he runs away from his father’s house to escape an Oedipal curse and to embark upon a quest to find his mother and sister. After a series of adventures, he finds shelter in a quiet, private library in Takamatsu, run by the distant and aloof Miss Saeki and the intelligent and more welcoming Oshima. There he spends his days reading the unabridged Richard Francis Burton translation of One Thousand and One Nights and the collected works of Natsume Sōseki until the police begin inquiring after him in connection with a brutal murder.

The even chapters tell Nakata’s story. Due to his uncanny abilities, he has found part-time work in his old age as a finder of lost cats (notably, Murakami’s earlier work The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also involves searching for a lost cat). The case of one particular lost cat puts him on a path that ultimately takes him far away from his home, ending up on the road for the first time in his life. He befriends a truck driver named Hoshino, who takes him on as a passenger in his truck and soon becomes very attached to the old man.

Kafka on the Shore demonstrates Murakami’s typical blend of popular culture, mundane detail, magical realism, suspense, humor, an involved plot, and potent sexuality. It also features an increased emphasis on Japanese religious traditions, particularly Shinto. The main characters are significant departures from the typical protagonist of a Murakami novel, such as Toru Watanabe of Norwegian Wood and Toru Okada of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, who are typically in their 20s or 30s and have rather humdrum personalities. However, many of the same themes re-occur in Kafka on the Shore as were first developed in these and other previous novels.

In an interview posted on his English language website, Murakami says that the secret to understanding the novel lies in reading it several times: “Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the kind of novel I set out to write”.

Various Forms of Temptations

Theatrical release poster

 
 

The Last Temptation of Christ is a 1988 fictional drama film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation of the controversial 1953 novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis. It stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ, Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot, Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, David Bowie as Pontius Pilate, and Harry Dean Stanton as Paul. The film was shot entirely in Morocco.

Martin Scorsese had wanted to make a film version of Jesus’ life since childhood. Scorsese optioned the novel The Last Temptation in the late 1970s, and he gave it to Paul Schrader to adapt. The Last Temptation was originally to be Scorsese’s follow-up to The King of Comedy; production was slated to begin in 1983 for Paramount, with a budget of about $14 million and shot on location in Israel. The original cast included Aidan Quinn as Jesus, Sting as Pontius Pilate, Ray Davies as Judas Iscariot, and Vanity as Mary Magdalene. Management at Paramount and its parent company, Gulf+Western grew uneasy due to the ballooning budget for the picture and protest letters received from religious groups. The project went into turnaround and was finally canceled in December 1983. Scorsese went on to make After Hours instead.

In 1986, Universal Studios became interested in the project. Scorsese offered to shoot the film in 58 days for $7 million, and Universal greenlighted the production. Critic and screenwriter Jay Cocks worked with Scorsese to revise Schrader’s script. Aidan Quinn passed on the role of Jesus, and Scorsese recast Willem Dafoe in the part. Sting also passed on the role of Pilate, with the role being recast with David Bowie. Principal photography began in October 1987. The location shoot in Morocco (a first for Scorsese) was difficult, and the difficulties were compounded by the hurried schedule. “We worked in a state of emergency,” Scorsese recalled. Scenes had to be improvised and worked out on the set with little deliberation, leading Scorsese to develop a minimalist aesthetic for the film. Shooting wrapped by December 25, 1987.

Like the novel, the film depicts the life of Jesus Christ and his struggle with various forms of temptation including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance and lust. This results in the book and film depicting Christ being tempted by imagining himself engaged in sexual activities, a notion that has caused outrage from some Christians. The movie includes a disclaimer explaining that it departs from the commonly accepted Biblical portrayal of Jesus’ life, and is not based on the Gospels.

Scorsese received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, and Hershey’s performance as Mary Magdalene earned her a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress nomination, while Keitel’s performance as Judas Iscariot earned him a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor nomination.

 
 

Peter Gabriel’s Passion – Sources CD cover

 
 

The film’s musical soundtrack, composed by Peter Gabriel, received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture in 1988 and was released on CD with the title Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ, which won a Grammy in 1990 for Best New Age Album. The film’s score itself helped to popularize world music. Gabriel subsequently compiled an album called Passion – Sources, including additional material by various musicians that inspired him in composing the soundtrack, or which he sampled for the soundtrack.

 
 

Mercy Street

45 Mercy Street

In my dream,
drilling into the marrow
of my entire bone,
my real dream,
I’m walking up and down Beacon Hill
searching for a street sign –
namely MERCY STREET.
Not there.

I try the Back Bay.
Not there.
Not there.
And yet I know the number.
45 Mercy Street.
I know the stained-glass window
of the foyer,
the three flights of the house
with its parquet floors.
I know the furniture and
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,
the servants.
I know the cupboard of Spode
the boat of ice, solid silver,
where the butter sits in neat squares
like strange giant’s teeth
on the big mahogany table.
I know it well.
Not there.

Where did you go?
45 Mercy Street,
with great-grandmother
kneeling in her whale-bone corset
and praying gently but fiercely
to the wash basin,
at five A.M.
at noon
dozing in her wiggy rocker,
grandfather taking a nap in the pantry,
grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid,
and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower
on her forehead to cover the curl
of when she was good and when she was…
And where she was begat
and in a generation
the third she will beget,
me,
with the stranger’s seed blooming
into the flower called Horrid.

I walk in a yellow dress
and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,
enough pills, my wallet, my keys,
and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?
I walk. I walk.
I hold matches at street signs
for it is dark,
as dark as the leathery dead
and I have lost my green Ford,
my house in the suburbs,
two little kids
sucked up like pollen by the bee in me
and a husband
who has wiped off his eyes
in order not to see my inside out
and I am walking and looking
and this is no dream
just my oily life
where the people are alibis
and the street is unfindable for an
entire lifetime.

Pull the shades down –
I don’t care!
Bolt the door, mercy,
erase the number,
rip down the street sign,
what can it matter,
what can it matter to this cheapskate
who wants to own the past
that went out on a dead ship
and left me only with paper?

Not there.

I open my pocketbook,
as women do,
and fish swim back and forth
between the dollars and the lipstick.
I pick them out,
one by one
and throw them at the street signs,
and shoot my pocketbook
into the Charles River.
Next I pull the dream off
and slam into the cement wall
of the clumsy calendar
I live in,
my life,
and its hauled up
notebooks.

Anne Sexton

 
 

 
 

Mercy Street is a song written by Peter Gabriel from his 1986 album So. The song deals with the life and conflicting emotions of the poet Anne Sexton, and makes frequent allusions to incidents from Sexton’s life and a number of her poems, in particular the work 45 Mercy Street. Themes touched on in the song include suicide attempts, troubled parental relationships, a desire to become whole, attempting to come to terms with the past, and confessing. It is featured in the film Life or Something Like It (Stephen Herek, 2002), starring Angelina Jolie and Edward Burns.

The White Duck Beneath the Waves

The White Duck illustrated by Ivan Bilibin

 
 

The Russian folktale Белая уточка (The White Duck) also bears some resemblance to the story of Лебединое озеро (Swan Lake) ballet, and may have been another possible source. The contemporaries of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky recalled the composer taking great interest in the life story of Bavarian King Ludwig II, whose tragic life had supposedly been marked by the sign of Swan and who—either consciously or not—was chosen as the prototype of the dreamer Prince Siegfried.

 
 

Audrey Hepburn received a Tony Award for her theatrical performance in the 1954 Broadway play Ondine, directed by Alfred Lunt

 
 

The original Swan Lake was based on the story of Ondine, a German myth with a theme common in Romanticism that was adapted by Hans Christian Andersen for his story The Little Mermaid.

In that German tale known as Sleep of Ondine, Ondine (from Latin: Unda, “a wave”)  is a water nymph. She was very beautiful and, like all nymphs, immortal. However, should she fall in love with a mortal man and bear his child, she would lose her immortality.

 
 

Undine beneath the waves of the Danube. Illustration by Arthur Rackham

 
 

Ondine eventually falls in love with a handsome knight, Sir Lawrence, and they are married. When they exchange vows, Lawrence vows to forever love and be faithful to her. A year after their marriage, Ondine gives birth to his child. From that moment on she begins to age. As Ondine’s physical attractiveness diminishes, Lawrence loses interest in his wife.

One afternoon, Ondine is walking near the stables when she hears the familiar snoring of her husband. When she enters the stable, she sees Lawrence lying in the arms of another woman. Ondine points her finger at him, which he feels as if kicked, waking him up with surprise. Ondine curses him, stating, “You swore faithfulness to me with every waking breath, and I accepted your oath. So be it. As long as you are awake, you shall have your breath, but should you ever fall asleep, then that breath will be taken from you and you will die!

In Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Past Things, Volume II: Madame Swann at Home, the narrator’s girlfriend Gilberte is referred to as Undine: “… she assumed that vague air, full of reticence and kept secrets…like the Undine that she was…”

And Genesis’ 1973 song Firth of Fifth (from the album Selling England by the Pound) makes reference to Ondinal Songs.

Raise a Hare

Bat for Lashes, What’s a Girl to Do (2007) music video

 
 

Robbie Williams’ single cover artwork

 
 

You Know Me (2009) music video directed by Phil and Olly (a.k.a. Diamond Dogs).

 
 

Poster (based on David Bowie’s Aladdine Sane) for Foo Fighters The Joint tour, 2008 by Jermaine Rogers

 
 

Beck Hansen

 
 

This is not for an Easter postcard. Sea Change (2002) promotional photo by Autumn de Wilde

 
 

From Cool World (Ralph Bakshi, 1992) Original Music Soundtrack

 
 

(2003)

 
 

Artwork by Storm Thorgerson (2011)

 
 

Music from The Rabbit-Proof Fence (Philip Noyce, 2002). It was the first release of new music by Peter Gabriel since OVO(2000), also a soundtrack.

Peter Gabriel: From Genesis to Revelation

I’m posting various photo portraits, out of chronological order, depicting Peter Gabriel’s trajectory during and after his collaboration with Genesis. Whether wearing “civilian clothes,” costumes and make-up drawn from nature (wolf, flower, bat), comics (The Hulk) or those which came from an intergalactic fantasy, professionally Peter Gabriel was born this way.

 
 

In the beginning

 
 

Photo-shoot by Mick Rock, 1973

 
 

First appearance of Gabriel ‘in costume’. It was the dress-wearing, fox-headed entity immortalized on the cover of Foxtrot. The performance was a success, and it encouraged Gabriel to continue wearing creative costumes while singing

 
 

Watcher of the Skies is the first track on Genesis’ 1972 album Foxtrot. The title is borrowed from John Keats’ 1817 poem On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. During performances, Peter Gabriel wore bat wings on the side of his head, glowing UV make-up around his eyes, and a multicolored cape.

 
 

Costume Britannia for The Moonlit Knight (1974) a song from the album Selling England by the Pound.

 
 

Like a flower

 
 

Magog, worn for Supper’s Ready, from the album Foxtrot

 
 

The Old Man

 
 

The Slipperman

 
 

Rael, the protagonist of the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)

 
 

Still of Shock the Monkey (Dean Karr, 1982) music video

 
 

In company of Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Cindy Lauper, and Rosanna Arquette

 
 

Storm Thorgerson designing Peter Gabriel’s third solo album, commonly known as Melt

 
 

So (1986). Sleeve design by Peter Saville

 
 

Soundtrack album of The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, 1988)

 
 

Us (1992)

 
 

Ovo (2000)

 
 

Scratch my back (2010).

 
 

New Blood (2011)

 
 

The Road Not Taken

Peter Gabriel photographed by Anton Corbijn

 
 

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

 
 

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost