With World Aids Day around the corner, Little Annie aptly releases a video for one of the most powerful, sentimental and alluring album tracks on Genderful, Billy Martin Requiem.
December 1 marks the 22nd annual World AIDS Day, and while there is still no “cure” for or viable vaccine against HIV, the positive strides made battling the virus over the last few years are undeniable. New drugs are making what was a death sentence now a manageable – if serious and chronic – condition. Generic versions of these medications, along with ambitious public health policies are helping make real inroads against the disease in the developing world. There is space for much optimism this year. But what’s lost sometimes with the good news is a space to contemplate what has been lost to us – irrevocably. The talent unrealized, the creativity and vitality extinguished, the knowledge and experience that won’t be passed on to new generations – this was and continues to be the fall out from the AIDS epidemic.
Which brings us to Little Annie and her song/video “Billy Martin Requiem”. This astonishing track – from Genderful, her collaboration with Paul Wallfisch (Southern Records) – is perhaps the most New York centered selection on this most NYCentric collection. It is a song that Annie says she has been trying to write for years. For how does one address the catastrophe of AIDS without falling prey to either to platitudes and cheap sentiment or to the black void of grief? If you’re Annie you do so with humor, compassion and most knowing sadness. She did, after all, see it all back in the day. She cut her teeth on the downtown music/art scene – back in the bad, old days of the late 1970’s when the Big Apple was a bankrupt, crime-ridden, graffiti-tagged Hell. (Unless of course you were an artist, a free spirit, a thinker and/or a gay man – in which case that Hell was Heaven.) And she was in the trenches of what she calls “the war”, and watched as – to paraphrase Allen Ginsberg – the best minds of a generation disappeared.
Over a sexy, loping groove Annie sets herself adrift on her own stream of consciousness – her mind flowing back to the day. Back to her youth in Yonkers – just north of The Bronx, back to Yankee Stadium – which her train would pass as she headed south and then back to Billy Martin, the Yankees’ ill-starred manager who would die in a drunk driving accident. “No they don’t make ‘em like Billy anymore”, sings Annie. From there she neatly segues to the male disco diva Sylvester, whose “high pitched call to glamour” was the soundtrack to her youth, to gay men God lead her to and so many of whom would be lost to AIDS. “And though it hurts like hell to say it, he was only one of millions. They don’t make them like Sylvester anymore” says Annie before launching in a role call of great artists lost to HIV. The song is elegant and simple and gently devastating
Danny McKernan’s video for “Billy Martin Requiem” is likewise elegant, simple and powerful – hearkening back to the days when promo clips where about the happy collision of a great song, a charismatic performer and film maker with a vision, as opposed to the bloated/vacant visual intravaganzas our eyes/ears are more often than not subjected to these days.
Both the song and the video gently ask the audience to never forget what is missing from this world due to HIV, and to remember the brilliance that has passed from our midst.
Annie in “New York I Knew You Well #1: The Bowery”
Ladies and Gentlemen, Annie is back!
A bon vivant born and raised in the Big Apple, Little Annie has commenced an impromptu, digital walking tour of the city that saved her life/damaged her irrevocably and ultimately inspired her music. What follows is a foretaste of Little Annie’s ongoing video guerrilla diary chronicling a history of NYC and she. You can find instalments #1, #2 and #3 of the seriesNew York I Knew You Well on theSouthern Records YouTube channel where the rest of the series will be hosted.
Annie’s comments on how things have changed/stayed the same/been radically transformed past any point of recognisability in her hometown is the perfect visual companion to her recent album, in collaboration with Mr. Paul Wallfisch,, Genderful (Southern Records).
Annie has just kicked off her European tour – where she is commencing a series of collaborative shows with the wondrousBaby Dee, with whom she has recently been writing and recording, to be followed by a guest support slot onMarc Almond’sforthcoming UK tour.
Here are the dates:
26 – The Crane Theatre, Cork IRELAND
29 – Small Beast @ Theater Cafe AM, Stadttheater, Dortmund GERMANY (with Paul Wallfisch)
30 – Malostranska Beseda, Prague CZECH REPUBLIC
31 – Rhiz, Vienna AUSTRIA)
1 – Unwound, Padova ITALY
2 – Kampnagel, Hamburg GERMANY
…Supporting Marc Almond, playing with Baby Dee
11 – Cliff’s Pavilion, Southend
12 – The Anvil, Basingstoke, Hampshire
13 – De La Warr Pavilion Marina, Bexhill On Sea, East Sussex
15 – St David’s Hall, Cardiff
19 – The Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
20 – The Lowry, Salford
22 – The Grand Theatre and Opera House, Leeds
23 – The Picturehouse, Edinburgh
24 – The ABC, Glasgow
25 – The Sage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
28 – The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Stay tuned for more news, and if you want to purchase Genderful then you can do so via the Southern Records webshop. Thanks!
In which our guest blogger, Little Annie, regales us with tales from her unpublished biography. In this chapter, the little lady from New York travels far far away across the ocean to take up residence with a gang of British anarchist hippie punks called Crass. They call her “Annie Anxiety”.
TEETERING DOWN the single file country ‘road’ that snaked its way to Crass’ Epping Forest home in my faux Frederick’s of Hollywood stilettos and dragging my equally glitzy chi-chi drag behind me, I may not have been the quintessential ugly American, but I was definitely the quintessential inappropriately dressed one. As the country lane turned into a path through a mud-slicked cow yard, I couldn’t help but wonder where this incredibly hip-and-happening second English Explosion Jammy Wonderland that all the knuckleheads back in New York were always yapping about was. Just as I was figuring that I was the butt of a very expensive and complicated episode of Candid Camera, the smoky-eyed, Jean Seberg-cropped Crass vocalist, Eve Libertine, drove up and rescued my quintessential daft ass. As we pulled up to the sixteenth-century former labourer’s cottage in Eve’s old blue Mini, its soft beauty knocked me out. Some members of Crass had found this once uninhabitable wreck many years ago, seen its potential and rented it from the farmer, who thought they were crazy, hence the ridiculously affordable rent. Hard work had turned this crumbling structure into a House and Garden – worthy Zen dream, and one that was more or less obscured by beautiful lush vegetation. Inside was equally impressive, immaculately clean and lovingly handcrafted. It was paradise, except for one little thing – it was in the country.
I had believed from the conversations with Steve (Ignorant) I had back in New York that they all lived in some sort of English version of the projects. In one of his letters, he had spoken of everyone sitting around in the garden. I just assumed he had meant a vacant lot or basketball court. I mean this was rural with a capital W, and I’m just not down with the country groove. It scares the hell outta me. Country life is all about the natural order: the cyclical process of growth and decay, sowing and harvest, waxing and waning. Children raised in rural areas grow with a firm comprehension of birth and death. City children have no such acceptance. We beat death by aspiring toward immortality by becoming drug addicts, boxers and movie stars. Continue reading →
We are happy to welcome the divine Little Annie on board at our blog. She has be regaling us with pages torn from her diary during her recent European tour-ette. As in mini-tour, not syndrome.
I’ve done most of my travelling alone. I was fearless, too dumb and too broke to afford trepidation of any kind. My wanderlust outweighed my common sense. Many a time I returned home, where ever that be at the time, with 4 cents in my pocket (once even devoid of shoes). I just didn’t worry about much as I had a basic belief it would all work out. Somehow. God protects fools and precocious little girls, most of the time anyway.
Ignorance is bliss til it isn’t bliss no more and you’re forced to wise up, which as always is a sliver of paradise lost. These days, though I don’t travel as emotionally light as I once did, I still believe that seeing as much as possible of this amazing creation that God made for us to live in is not a luxury but a basic human right. Or rather it should be. Since the age of 14 my only schooling has been experience and if I had not (thanks to Greyhound buses and the onset of cheap airfares due to the visionary that was the late Sir Freddy Laker) wandered some of this planet, I’d be most certainly as dumb as a bag of hair. There is an innocent joy in motion – that funnily enough is only matched by my desire to be a hermit in my apartment. Go figure.
I was shocked the first time that I travelled with another person. Though it was enjoyable enough I didn’t meet anyone as I didn’t have too. So though I have memories of the place, I do not have memories of being there, and if there’s no interchange, no taking part, then one becomes a voyeur. When I travelled alone I devoured the places I went. And they in turn devoured me. Of late my journeys are primarily for work, so thankfully there is no shortage of interchange. Even though flying becomes increasingly a pain in the carry-on, I still relish the blessing. Nothing beats barrelling off into the night.
Maybe it’s the vulnerability that one needs to be open to the adventure, that also makes us so damn over-sensitive. It’s hard to have a thick skin when you forgot to pack it.
This week, I was travelling from Torino to meet Paul in Basel where we had a gig at The Satisfactory. Bue took me to the station where we had a coffee and cigarette together before he put me on a train to Milan, where I would then catch another to Switzerland. We said our goodbyes on the platform. I boarded and pulled out my Diane Arbus biography, which was appropriate as some big guy right out of one of her photos of came to life a few seats away from me. No one had warned me it was a pop-up book.
Arbus Guy said something in Italian. I didn’t say anything as I couldn’t imagine he was talking to me, but as he got louder and angrier sounding I couldn’t help but look up. He was round and red with rage, and wore an expensive and very ugly looking denim shell suit kind thing. Something that Elvis might have worn if he had lived. Again he repeated whatever it was, so I replied in Italian that I don’t speak Italian. He then said fuck you in Italian which I absolutely understood. I buried my face in my book even deeper. He spent the next 20 minutes screaming over and over again
In my mind it synced with the whisper of the wheels on the rail. A madman’s mantra. The insane Buddha. His lullaby from hell was peppered with a bunch of words I didn’t understand (and was probably better off). A middle aged man caught my eye and gave me the international sign for sorry I’m not getting involved’. It would have been nothing in NYC , but with such a little grasp on the language I had no cultural context. Much less know what was making him so angry and what would happen next. He got off the stop before Milan, and I made some motions to clown the whole thing away, after all I couldn’t let a car of strangers who not only would I ever see again, but who had one set balls between them think I was pussy.
It was all a big nothing – still, I pulled down my Garbo glasses over my eyes and felt very alone, so raw raw with insomnia that I feared I might cry. When in that half-lit state, every sadness that ever touched your life since that first sense-memory of that wrenching awareness of self becomes one big timeless ball of Vague Hurt. It was not the actions of some (most likely) lone nut-case on the grassy knoll of ugly irritations that bugged me as much as the looks I drew from my fellow passengers. The Look. There is something about a person travelling alone that brings out the provincial lynch mob in the locals. And that is not just an Italian thing, it’s an everywhere thing. It’s universal. If you climbed the ragged and treacherous mountains way up into the clouds to learn the meaning of life in a remote monastery, I’ll put even money that on the path enlightenment there be some shady monks with a ‘who the fuck are you’ smirk on their otherwise holy faces.
My lovely pal Joel Diamond, a genius composer and fellow refugee from Yonkers told me about a year ago, how he had lived in Jersey for a little while and didn’t meet one soul the whole time there. He is single and doesn’t drive – which in the Weird Outsider Scale puts you pretty high up there on the lock-your- doors-there-goes-the-neighborhood kinda way. (Something akin to the way a head injury, childhood abuse and torturing small animals are markers for FBI in establishing a profile for a serial killer.) But Joel, who is most definitely not a serial killer, terminally ignored by the natives of the Garden State, he took pictures of himself daily and posted them on the internet as proof to himself that he in fact existed.
I remember that as I sat in this car full of strangers three thousand miles away. I put Ms. Arbus’s depression away in my carry-on and concentrated on my own. I didn’t have much time nor cause to brood, as while climbing aboard the Swiss bound train I was quickly surrounded by a wonderful Muslim family from Malaysia who insisted carrying my bags and spent the next four hours restoring my faith in humanity. God had given me compassionate traveling companions in order to lift my spirit out of its persecution complex. By the time we parted company, me on to showbiz and they onto Paris, I wanted them to adopt me. Gosh we are all just scarred bumbling children, traveling this planet confused as to which zone we are meant to be in.
A few hours later, the whole journey felt like a lifetime ago. Was met at the station by a gorgeous woman named Miriam. When she would turn her face to a certain angle she looked like some art house movie star from the 50’s. I needed a light and asked this insanely good looking Dane who obliged me. Within 30 seconds we were talking about the semantics of the word God. So he was stunning and smart. As a matter of fact I cant think of one un-stunning person I met in the 48 hours I was in Basel.
Miriam took me to the club where we were given an apartment to use during our stay. Showered and soothed, drinking organic vodka (what will they think of next!) and eating a wonderfully rugged bread soaked in home made olive oil made somewhere just south of heaven and brought to Basel by Marco, who is an expat from Torino (actually there were two Marcos from Torino who worked at the venue we played at, one did lights, one did sound and both were delightful). Paul turned up as the hot sun was setting over the courtyard that was part of this arts center. A gorgeous breeze caressing us, there were by now at least 10 of people sat around a huge wooden table, a miniature United Nations. It takes so little to ruin a day and so little to restore it. It’s bizarre when you think about it, how many thousands upon thousands of miles we rake up in order to sing for and hour and 15 minutes. That hokey old cliche is it’s the journey, not the destination that counts, or something like that, but you get my drift..Hokey but true.
I left Paul deep in conversation with yet another attractive Swiss couple. The conversation was something about the morality of economics. My brain was grinding to a halt.