“That’s The Story of My Life” (The Velvet Underground)

Lou Reed has only a pair of observations to make, and then repeats. First: “the story of my life” has been a moral one through and through, and its guiding thread is “the difference between wrong and right.” On the other hand, Billy Name (a key participant in La Monte Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music and Andy Warhol’s Factory scene) has clearly told Lou: “both those words are dead.” The world is now beyond right and wrong, or good and evil, as Nietzsche might say, and Billy and Lou are exploring superabundant life and the will to power in New York’s gay bars and with the help of methedrine. And that, too: “that’s the story of my life.” In short, the singer finds himself between two worlds, in two distinct historical contexts, and each acts as both a break with and an ongoing dialectical critique of the other. Relaxedly gliding between these moments in the ongoing history of nihilism, Reed’s vector points two ways and suggests that metaphysics has been weakened (but still has a part to play).


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“Hey Hey Guy” (Ken Laszlo)

Primo Italo disco from 1984, and easily mistaken for an early Pet Shop Boys trax, unless you are listening to the long version with the spoken word introduction and interlude. The scenario involves gay “love for hire,” arranged over the telephone, with a whiff of both the anonymous and “dangerous.” One suspects that none of those involved here—Laszlo, Marco Torre, and Gianni Corianni—is proficient in English, but this can’t explain why the phone conversation sounds like two spies using secret code. Neither side seems to be responding to the other: “Oh dear, you have a phone,” says the rent boy (which is truly odd since he seems to be making the call). The French trick replies, “Yeah, hey guy, tell me about your menicure” (some neologism for a male manicure, and trimming what exactly?). You won’t get your answer here. And on and on, the oblique non-sequiturs never stop: “It is the true.” “Don’t fool out, it’s dangerous.” “Everything is same as all.” If you don’t understand this conversation—it’s hinting tone without clear referents–then perhaps you don’t belong. Delinking from the realm of the straight and straightforward.

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“Any Other Way” (Jackie Shane)

Jackie Shane had three strikes against him as he entered the sixties music business: he was queer, cross-dressing, and Canadian. Here, the singer’s friend has been sent to find him by his ex-girlfriend, in order to suss out how he’s doing since she dumped him (she’d love to know he’s miserable and repentant). Even his erstwhile friends are laughing at him behind his back. And Jackie actually is on the verge of tears, but not for her. “Tell her that I’m gay,” he suggests, and here he’s right on the line between “carefree” and “homosexual” (how you heard it, in 1963, depended upon whether you had queer ears). “Tell her I wouldn’t have it any other way,” however, is the key construction here. The implication that boy-girl love/sex is an “other way” subtly and slyly seeks to overturn the logic of the primary and secondary, the normal and the pathological. Yes, he’s out, but this is “it.”


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“Verlier Nicht Den Kopf” (Deutsch Amerikanishe Freundschaft)

Literally “do not lose the head” and, in racier terms, don’t stay buried. Of course, “closeted” comes to mind, related to the inverse: the convincing conniving of staying “forever young” and unblemished. The figure behind/below this twink-ish character (who’s pocked by longings of ornateness produced amid a (arrested) futurism) demands a controlled willfulness. Stay young for this future’s/relationship’s burial and emerge willing (never ready).


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“Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)” (!!!)

To legally dance in New York City, an establishment needed a Cabaret license until 2017. And when an establishment applied for one, they’d have to be approved by the fire department and a Community Board. With a history often centered on Giuliani’s “quality of life” campaign. the hazy origins of the law—that its institution and enforcement in the early twentieth century is related to segregation—allow alternate evasion strategies to emerge from the shadows, such as how gay bars routinely evaded the law’s enforcement. (And why Giuliani as “Julio”?) With so many layers of approval and overbearing officiousness, !!!’s focus on the “piggiest pig[’s]” stutters when it equates NYC’s situation with Footloose. There’s certainly paternalism in common, but there’s no ban. And there’s no generational conflict to exploit. It is, though, a question of what a just measure is, especially in light of NYC’s selective enforcement. The creation of an illicit dancefloor can be theorized aggressively, as Autechre’s project shows. It can also advocate for counterhegemonic praxis, as with the focus here on dancers sharing “nothing more than this very second” because mortality is always a beat away. Unlike Oliver Wang’s notion of dancefloor intersubjectivity, we shouldn’t claim that we “barely understand” what happens on the dancefloor. We listen and watch for its utopian possibilities and manifold realizations.


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