January 19, 2004

the other picture view

Thanks to the Multnomah County Library's marvelous hold policy and liberal boxed-set buying policy, I've been gradually devouring The Complete Hank Williams over the past few days (liner note that appeals to the way I like to think about certain things: "To the extent that country music is populated with clichés, they're Hank's clichés"). One thing that's particularly captured my attention (and I know it's old hat to anybody who knows their Hank, but that's not me): the Luke the Drifter stuff. Williams was most commercially popular as a singer, but he also liked doing recitative-over-music stuff; his label hated the idea of anyone putting a coin in a jukebox, punching up a Hank Williams song, and getting a spoken sermonette. So they created the persona of Luke the Drifter, who got to do maudlin spoken-word stuff in a sonorous T. Texas Tyler voice. (The liner notes say that Hank claimed they were for "the take-home trade.") Some of them are not bad--I like "No, No Joe," the anti-Stalin rap, which he delivers as amused advice rather than the hectoring it might have been--but they're much more the records Hank wanted to make than the records anyone else wanted to hear.

Obviously, I like the idea of separate personae to write (or record) something diferent--I've done it enough! I do find it kind of strange, though, when even when jukeboxes don't enter into it, well-known musicians can pursue one direction so far that, when they want to do something different, they have to do it under another name, essentially creating a whole new persona with its own career. (I remember the bad techno record that I think Paul McCartney made as "The Fireman" a few years ago--is that right? And I've wondered in public a couple of times what might happen if Nick Currie recorded a solo album, i.e. not as Momus.) I'm also trying to think if people do that in any other kinds of art. I guess Julian Barnes did it with the mysteries he wrote as Patrick Cavanagh (although, for the kind of situation I'm imagining here, Stephen King's Richard Bachman books don't count, since I'm told King didn't really write differently as Bachman--he was just trying not to flood the market, I think).

Who else? And why?

Posted by Douglas at January 19, 2004 1:11 AM
Comments

the near-entirety of the techno world to thread! usually--see Aphex Twin especially--it's because they want(ed) each alias to express a "different aspect" of their musical personality, or so I've been told and/or always assumed.

Posted by: M Matos on January 19, 2004 4:05 AM

My memory is hazy on this, but I think Stephen King's books written as Richard Bachman were (with the exception of -Thinner- and -The Regulators-, written after his cover was blown) actually published in the mid to late 70's, when he was successfull but not the brand name he is now. They might have been written even earlier. King's intro to -The Bachman Books- goes into some detail on this.

Those first four Bachman novels are somewhat different than King's usual works. Two are straight dramas with a violent ending (one about a teenager who takes a classroom of his friends hostage, two decades before Columbine, though this teen's intent is not to kill anyone; the other is a story of a man dying of cancer and the extremes the illness drives him to). The other two are science fiction stories with a social critique and a dark King-esque element. Both are quite pedantic in their politics (very much unlike King's usual fiction), and I think owe a debt to the socio-political science fiction of the 60's and 70's (a la Harlan Ellison and J G Ballard). The angry teen story, "Rage" is the best of them, and quite good, with a strong character-driven narrative which isn't typical King (his strength is in story-driven plots).

McCartney: he's done that many times, actually! The first was an odd album called -Thrillington-, which was the songs from -Ram- recorded in different genres (a reggae number, an orchestrated pop version, etc.) There's a strong trad jazz feel to most of it. The record was cut at the same time as -Ram- in 1971, but wasn't released until 1977. Capitol pushed the album as a work by "Percy Thrillington," with no promotion other than a few items about the fictional Percy given to gossip columnists, and no mention of Paul. Given that this was basically -Ram-, it wasn't hard to figure things out. (Capitol actually reissued this on CD, but deleted it pretty quickly). Paul's also reissued singles as the Country Hams, Suzy And The Red Stripes, and, yep, the Fireman. There might have been some others I'm not remembering.

Posted by: James on January 19, 2004 5:24 AM

Isn't there some "Iain Banks" vs "Iain M. Banks" distinction via which he writes both SF and "literary fiction"?

I also have a faint memory that there was some pattern to which pieces Duchamp signed "Rose Selavy" and which he used his own name on, but I'm not sure.

Posted by: Aaron on January 19, 2004 10:11 AM

One of my favorite preachy science fiction writers, Sheri S. Tepper, wrote a couple of series of mystery novels using a different pseudonym for each (B.J. Oliphant, A.J. Orde), and a couple of her earliest horror genre novels were published under yet another name. Since "Sheri S. Tepper" is also a pseudonym, I think this qualifies as "different name = different voice," although her politics and pet issues (environmental degradation, patriarchal cultures, the evils of fundamentalism, etc.) tend to come out in everything she writes.

"Richard Bachman" also wrote *The Running Man* before the secret came out, and it fits into the above "political sci fi" description perfectly.

Finally, didn't Paul Westerberg put out two different albums under two different names last year?

Posted by: Nate on January 19, 2004 1:04 PM

Pope.
Kierkegaard.
Pessoa.
Simenon.
Pound.
O'Brien.
Nabokov.
Kabakov.
(Adams.
Brooks.
Klein.)

and
there must be a boatload of mystery authors who have respectable day jobs--Wilkie/Pym; just-dead Yale prof Robin Winks.

Posted by: Sam on January 19, 2004 6:26 PM

Don "Cleo Birdwell" DeLillo and Neal "Stephen Bury" Stephenson.

Also: Uwe Schmidt aka Atom Heart aka LB aka Geez 'n' Gosh aka Eric Satin aka Los Samplers aka Atom and Tea Time aka Senor Coconut.

Posted by: Jeremy on January 21, 2004 2:08 PM
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