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“PLAY MYSELF SOME MUSIC” : The Self-Made Magic of R. Stevie Moore

24/08/2009 19:36 by Kier-La Janisse

About five years ago my friend Rodney Perkins - ephemeral researcher, film critic and co-author of the book "Cosmic Suicide: The Tragedy and Transcendence of Heaven's Gate" - - put together a program of public access Tv clips called “Access Denied”, which played at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. Among the hundred+ clips was one of a spiky-haired blonde weirdo doing a kind of lo-fi punk version of the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace”. I never knew who the guy was, and didn’t think to ask at the time, although time and time again I would think of this clip and laugh.

A couple years later I was looking at the Handclaps website (a great source for short-form music films), and I came on upon a program billed as an “R. Stevie Moore Video retrospective”.  The name still meant nothing to me, until I read the description: “Often referred as the forefather of lo-fi home recording and DIY outsider art, R.Stevie Moore has maintained a remarkably low profile throughout a career which began in the early-1970s. Heavily influenced by the music of Brian Wilson, The Beatles, Mothers of Invention and the British Invasion, Moore’s self-released one-man band music is a virtuoso showcase and best proof for his enormous skill, traversing countless musical forms into nearly perfect pop songs.” Intrigued, I looked him up, only to find that he was in fact the very same spiky-haired blonde weirdo I had been enamoured with years earlier via my friend Rodney’s public access comp.

 

Now that I’ve spent more time with R Stevie’s back-catalogue (although with over 400 self-released cassettes and a dozen or so LPs and CDs it’s IMPOSSIBLE to catch up or consider oneself well-versed in his bizarre musical universe), I’m convinced that R. Stevie is one of the greatest songwriters of the last half-century. And he’s not particularly humble about it - in interviews he seems continuously shocked that people haven’t heard of him. His father was Bob Moore, famous Nashville session player (most notably for Elvis Presley), so R. Stevie grew up in a musical household, with early access to recording gear. But fame has eluded R. Stevie, who - despite the obvious Brian Wilson allusions in his music and singing style - is a wholly original and unique self-taught musician, who writes, performs and records almost everything himself. And he had an abundance of self-made music videos for his songs well before the advent of MTV. I don’t know where these videos would have played, if anywhere, but now you can find many of them on Youtube, which has resulted in a robust new fanbase for R. Stevie and his mail-order business.

 

He clearly relates to the obscure, misunderstood artist-type, evident by things like Jandek albums appearing in the background of his early music videos, the toys, dolls and varied pop culture ephemera cluttering up his apartment, his appropriation of political statements for an audience of one (in one video his guitar says on it: “This Machine Kills Fascists”, as did Woody Guthrie’s a generation earlier). And while there’s a weird pathos there in his lonely obsessiveness, there’s also a lot of downright hilarity and silliness. Even my boyfriend thought R. Stevie was pretty adorable.

You can read more about R. Stevie, and order copies of almost everything he’s ever done, from his OFFICIAL WEBSITE (here)  , and I would recommend doing this as the money goes directly to him, and he’ll even likely send you a little personalized note with your order. But Cherry Red Records released a pretty great ‘introductory’ compilation called “Meet The R. Stevie Moore” in 2008, ad a follow up called "Me Too!" both of which we have on order for Into the Music, so if you don’t like mail-ordering just hang tight and we’ll take care of your R. Stevie fix. But I warn you, it’s addictive! One CD will not be enough! Soon enough you will find yourself trolling his website and clicking that ‘buy now’ button. But he deserves your love, so give it to him in abundance and without reservation

 

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