Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Don't Look Back in Anger

Kenneth Anger's chaotic relationship with British rock gods

A follower of Aleister Crowley's Thelema religion, Kenneth Anger's filmic influence can be seen in the emergence of the music video, and the work of David Lynch and John Waters.

SANTA-MONICA born Kenneth Anger is equal parts Aleister Crowley disciple, avant-garde filmmaker, and gay Hollywood gossipmonger. Fixated with fading silver screen stars and homosexual male icons, his scandalous tome Hollywood Babylon lifts the lid on an endless array of tinsel town drug abuse and depravity, stories of deviance and death that would befit The Great Beast himself. Anger considered Rolling Stones guitarists Keith Richards and Brian Jones - and Anita Pallenberg, who had been a lover to both musicians - to be at the centre of his provocative path. Perhaps the Stones themselves saw Anger as a possible conduit for the rebellious tone of the late 1960's, yet looking at the cover of their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request, it isn't absolutely clear how serious the group were taking the magus (the band wear sorcerer garb that would only suit a pantomime).

Anger's infamous film LUCIFER RISING is a mesmeric ritual charting the shift of Christianity (Aeon of Osiris) towards a demonic land (Aeon of Horus). Anger considers movies as spell-casters, "a transparent excuse for capturing people," but this subscribes to Crowley's religious cycles, looking at a post-anointed faith. Mick Jagger was intrigued by Anger, and how occultism had the potential to inspire counterculture. The filmmaker tried to convince The Stones talisman to take the role of Lucifer, but Jagger baulked and offered his brother Chris instead. The more famous Jagger composed a gratingly discordant moog score, which would be used in INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER, a short that salvages initial LUCIFER RISING footage and splices scenes from The Stones Hyde Park concert for what is essentially a film about a funeral for a cat. Donald Cammell was also cast as Osiris in LUCIFER RISING, together with Marianne Faithfull as Lilith and Jimmy Page in a cameo as "Man holding the Stella of Revelation." On set, Anger repeatedly argued with Chris Jagger, resulting in the latter being fired, and Faithful fell off a mountain, luckily sustaining only mild concussion.

Mick Jagger's score for INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER was created from a newly acquired Moog synth and it shows; it has the much the same effect as turning on the instrument and leaving it running.

The soundtrack to LUCIFER RISING is another contentious affair. Anger met Page at a London auction where they were both bidding for Crowley memorabilia. Anger convinced Page to compose the soundtrack for his film, with the rock star giving Anger permission to move into the basement of his London mansion to use his editing suite. In October 1976 Anger got into an argument with Page's then wife Charlotte, who threw him out for allegedly giving guided tours to strangers. The magus consequently labelled Page as a washed out musician unable to meet deadlines, and removed him from the project. In fact the Led Zeppelin guitarist had the soundtrack in place before he ever saw any footage; Page had extended an existing piece that he thought would fit the film, centred around a "majestic drone" on a bass tanpura acquired from India. He then used chants and assorted instrumentation to create a twenty-minute track that takes up one side of the 2012 release Lucifer Rising and Other Soundtracks.

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