WTM #1071: Lydia Tomkiw’s Algebra


wReck thiS meSS ~ Radio Patapoe 88.3
Amsterdam ~ Ethno-Illogical Psycho-Radiographies

read my discussion with Sharon Mesmer about Lydia Tomkiw in Merida

28 September 2009 // 17.00-19.00

I know the good die young and I’m not up for sainthood /Not enough time left to become immortal, or revered in this lifetime

• Lydia Tomkiw, “Incorrigible”

“Why kids look like distortions of their parents”
• Lydia Tomkiw, “Praxis”

“Abandon the silence in their clothes”
• Lydia Tomkiw, “Dead Bodies

photo: “God Famous” with Lydia, WTM & Theo Dorian by Don Hedeker

Paloma PTP ID [6 years old] > MC Pal2
Scavenger Boom Static Megaremix > B/art vs Black Sifichi
Bart’s in the area > Little Annie
Lady Scarface > Lydia Lunch
True Romance at the World’s Fair > Algebra Suicide [45 / Buzzerama, 1982]
What I Like Doing Best > Algebra Suicide [Tongue Wrestling / Widely Distributed]
My Echo / My Shadow > Solomonoff & VonHoffmanstahl
Recalling the Last Encounter > Algebra Suicide [45 / Buzzerama, 1982] “A form of algebra suicide I guess…”
Desire > Algebra Suicide [Tongue Wrestling / Widely Distributed]
Bigshadowdaddy > B/art & Dada Frolic
Incorrigible > Algebra Suicide [Tongue Wrestling / Widely Distributed]
Rotating Bodies Explode > Master Slave Relationship
Apologize for Radio > B/art
Tonight / Agitation > Algebra Suicide [45 / Buzzerama, 1985] Ag “Boys who make suicide impossible”
Panzerprick Ripper > Le Syndicat
Blush #102 > Algebra Suicide [Swoon / Widely Distributed, 1991]
Patrick McGoohan Theme > La Sonorite Jaune
After Busy Summer > Algebra Suicide [Swoon / Widely Distributed, 1991]
An Explanation for that Flock of Crows [45 / Buzzerama, 1985]
Somewhat Bleecker Streets [45 / Buzzerama, 1985]
He’s Famous Now > Algebra Suicide [Swoon / Widely Distributed, 1991]
Patrick McGoohan – The Chase > La Sonorite Jaune
Jealous / That Small Convulsion > Algebra Suicide [Swoon / Widely Distributed, 1991]
The Impossible Man > Master Slave Relationship
Pretty Something > Lydia Tomkiw vs Edward Ka-Spel [Incorporated / Widely Distributed, 1995]
True Romance at the World’s Fair > Algebra Suicide [Real Numbers / Pursuit of Market Share, 1988]
Sub Rosa > Algebra Suicide [Real Numbers / Pursuit of Market Share, 1988]
Let’s Transact / Heat Wave > Algebra Suicide [Real Numbers / Pursuit of Market Share, 1988]
Praxis / In Bed with Boys > Algebra Suicide [45 / Buzzerama, 1982]
Sonics / Mantic Ray > Algebra Suicide [Swoon / Widely Distributed, 1991]
Sumer Virus Night [Alpha Cue]  > Algebra Suicide [Swoon / Widely Distributed, 1991]
Little Dead Bodies Video > Algebra Suicide
Don’t Tease My Dreams Collapse in the orange Landscape > La Sonorite Jaune
Freedom WTM ID
The Nun – or the Whore? > Solomonoff & VonHoffmanstahl
By Force > Master Slave Relationship
True Romance at the World’s Fair > Algebra Suicide [45 / Buzzerama, 1982]

This show was an homage to Lydia Tomkiw who died in tragic circumstances 2 years ago in Arizona after numerous bouts with liquor, self-doubt, writer’s block, loneliness – you name it. It was just a few weeks before this show that Don Hedeker,  ex Algebra Suicide and Achim from Dom Elchklang Records approached me to write the liner notes to a new CD called Summer Virus Night, which would feature songs from AS’s live concerts in Germany in 1990. The record has since come out and is now available via Dom Elchklang Records  and various online sites.

The rest of the selections are related to AS in certain ways such as period-style-geography [Master Slave Relationship, also from the Midwest], 1/2 of La Sonorite Jaune, which was Pascal Dauzier who arranged the Paris concert at EPE, Le Syndicat whose chief member was one of the co-organizer-curators at EPE, Solomonoff & VonHoffmanstahl, the noise terror Sonny & Cher whom I performed with as well in the early and mid-1980s. They were also a couple on and off stage. Black Sifichi because me and him were the opening act and is now a formidable extended spoken word performer in France. And Lydia Lunch because she was the “other” Lydia. And Dada Frolic, a Sound of Pig ensemble that used noise, mangled effects and some of my words every now and again…

I will reproduce an excerpt from the liner notes here:
The daughter of Soviet refugees, she’d moved to Humboldt Park, a blue-collar Chicago neighborhood, where white-flight had left whites in the minority. To stay off the streets and out of trouble, she spent “countless hours listening to radio, watching TV – [which] presented this ‘window’ into other kinds of lives, that there was something else out there beside this violent power struggle. I dreamed of being on the Brady Bunch and having a convertible full of friends and surf boards … I also fell in love with reading and I wrote short pieces, fantasies about having fun and glamour without danger.”

“In [high school] I discovered Gerard Manley Hopkins – a priest who wrote like wild and could almost make me cry. I took [his] clue – you can name things that have never been named before and write about them … Bill Knott, Frank O’Hara, are major influences, Patti Smith, Lou Reed…” At the University of Illinois “the love of language took over … I wrote and wrote and found out I was good.” Poetry became her life blood “because no one ever listened to me until I started writing.” Words can negotiate, if not alter, realities.

Her spiritual bifurcation was love and death. Love will tear us apart, love is the drug but also a panacea that can save you from death. She described it as “my affection, my affliction” and to come down she would think of “all the dead people I knew to make me drowsy.” Like Keats who mashed poetry, love and death in his “swoon to death.”  In “One Night I Fell in Love” she describes how nothing can distract her: “I had fallen in love and was dizzy with it / And it made everything seem delightful … I was holding my breath / I was so much in love and I turned a lovely blue.”

I remember her photo from the “True Romance at the World’s Fair” single: like Theda Bera playing Little Red Riding Hood – embodying that fragile, naughty-but-nice tension between femme fatale and femme tragique. Lydia, like other divas of her time, re-“vamp”-ed the mirage of erotic/exotic intangibility: part Betty Page, part Dorothy Parker, a kinder Lydia Lunch, a gentler Diamanda Galas, a subtler Patti Smith, a more earnest Laurie Anderson, a perkier Deborah Jaffe [Master/Slave Relationship]. “True Romance” got major airplay on college radio including WFMU (NY/NJ) because of its clairvoyant lyricism: genuine, DIY, of the moment, hopeful, and macrocosmic-in-the-microcosmic –  like vinyl Emily Dickinson.

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