13 June 2011

KENNETH ANGER'S LUCIFER RISING/SOUNDTRACK BY JIMMY PAGE

I have been hearing about the infamous falling out between Led Zeppelin maestro Jimmy Page and filmmaker, writer Kenneth Anger for decades now. Sadly the only the material I can find on the net still seems to the same variety of articles that appeared in rock fan magazines back in the seventies. This is actually one of the few great legends in the world that I have some sort of direct connection with. Well, in a sort of indirect direct way. I saw Page with Zeppelin back in 1977 in Ohio, and briefly met Anger at a book signing at the wondrous Scarecrow Video store in Seattle, where he signed my special copy of Hollywood Babylon with the Aleister Crowley quote Do What Thou Wilt from The Book of the Law. I had a nice little collection of Crowley books at one time, though I doubt it could compare to the collection by Anger and of course the filthy rich Jimmy Page who was reputed to have had at one time the 2nd largest collection of Crowley books and memorabilia in the world, including Crowley's Boleskin House, perched on the cheery shores or Loch Ness in Scotland. It was one of three fantastic houses a then young Page owned (all have since been sold I believe). He also owned a house in the Kensington district of London called The Tower House, designed by Victorian architect and formally owned by Richard Harris, and it is in this house I believe that the drama between Anger and page unfolded.

Anger had long been inside the rock circle for some time, in part due to his avant garde (a fancy word for confusing usually) films such as Scorpio Rising which had a score of old rock music that actually prevented the film from being shown publicly for decades due to copy write issues. He met Anita Pallenberg who was seeing soon to be deceased Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones. She would later become Keith Richards's common law wife. The Stones took a liking to Anger and his liberated views and vast knowledge of occult matters, and in particular his passion for British occultist Aleister Crowley. Their public image would shift from Brit bad boys to decadent and sinister rockers during their time with Anger. Jagger would even score an Anger film called Invocation of My Demon Brother. I have seen the film and it is a really horrendous soundtrack in my opinion. Some repetitive experimental sounds on what sounds like an early Moog synthesizer.


Jimmy Page had developed his own interest in matters occult and with Crowley in particular. He owned an occult bookstore called the Equinox and, as mentioned, out-bidded other rock dignitaries like David Bowie in the purchasing of Boleskin Manor. Page and Anger met at an auction of Crowley memorabilia in about 1973 and a friendship was formed. Anger asked Page if he would be interested in scoring his latest and most ambitious film project Lucifer Rising (or whatever the working title may have been) and Page enthusiastically accepted. Anger was allowed access to a film editing facility in the basement area of the Tower House that was set up to edit scenes for The Song Remains the Same, the Led Zeppelin concert film. Exactly what the reasons for Jimmy's alleged loss of interest in the project are depend on what source you are reading. A lot of things were said later in the press that seemed fueled by resentment on both men's part. Essentially after a period of time the friendship began to cool off and  Anger returned to one day to find himself locked out of the lower area of the house he was working in. The rest of the house was off limits to Anger. It seems there was a domestic quarrel between Page and his girlfriend (perhaps Charlotte) the night before and it was she who locked Anger out. Anger could not reach Page and Swan Song offices did not communicate with him. He gathered his belongings and called the offices to inform them Page was fired as the film's composer. In interviews following the incident Anger blamed Page's lack of productivity (after more than year he had produced only 23 minutes of music that Anger found too morbid) on his increasing use of heroin. In some interviews (there is a brief on youtube) Anger does not seem that bitter and says Page is a beautiful person who has let his drug use get control of him. In other he has also said Page has a good work ethic, but that he had basically became a junky and now behaves like a junky in unpredictable ways.

Page seemed surprised by his firing and has said he had been kept busy with Zeppelin matters and thought Anger was happy with the music he had so far produced and that he had more. Page was less hostile in press statements than Anger was (what do you think with a name like that, right? Though he was born Kenneth Wilber Anglemyer) but seemed disappointed. The simple truth is that Page did have a drug problem and it did affect his decisions and performances in later Zeppelin periods. Too what degree that affected this situation we can only speculate.Anger would eventually get the help of ex-protogee Bobby Beausoleil in getting a finished soundtrack for the film. This was no simple task since Beausoleil had been a California prison since 1969 for a Mansion Family related murder, though not of Sharon Tate. A soundtrack was released in the early eighties on Anger's own Boleskin House Records, catalog number BHR666 and was limited to a release of 1000 copies on clear blue vinyl and these are considered almost priceless now to vinyl collectors.
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Well, I have linked the song here from my Internet Archive page and you can be the judge of it (sadly the piece was removed due to copyright reasons but I linked a Youtube video below until I can find another way to host the MP3). Page plays all the instruments, including guitars, ARP synthesizers, percussion and the theremin (or sometimes theramin, the music instrument over used in old sci-fi flicks that responds to body temperature and motion). There is some vocal section near the beginning area that sounds like the chorus in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the apes are flipping out around the monolith. The intro to In the Evening from In Through the Out Door is supposed to from some of the recording sessions. It has also been said that some of the incidental music from Death Wish II was based on what Page was working on during the Lucifer Rising sessions. For years I had always heard of this mentioned to as "The Black Album" and it was the substance of myth. Along with the myth of the album were the myriad rumors that began during this period of the late seventies that Jimmy's involvement in black magic had led to the bands misfortunes, such as the death of Robert Plant's son, Robert's serious car accident, Page's health issues and declining ability to work and perform as he once had and finally the death of John Bonham at Page's house. These rumors and legend still persist in the history of the band. Both Page and Anger, as far as I can tell, got over their period of conflict and moved on with their lives though the friendship was over. In later interviews the men had good things to say about each other and any mention of a black magic curse is done tongue in cheek by the both of them.









2 comments:

solerso said...

Thanks for that good but rather just-the-facts-ma'm synopsis...Now for some pure speculation...Page has always struck me as the kind of person who tends to use other people..Anger has always come across to me as the kind of person who tends to get used by other people...add in Pages drug addiction, and whatever other volatile elements existed and bam..legendary spat

Bill D. Courtney said...

Thanks for the comment on this, one of my favorite posts I have done. Certainly Page had an erratic and sometimes volatile, and slightly paranoid, personality from what I have read. In later interviews Page does come off as more level headed and dismissive of the whole affair, while Anger was at times pretty pissed off. I think later anger let it all go, but in press anger seems to be the more hotheaded of the two. But he had some legitimate gripes I think, with being sort of corralled into the a corner of the house and not being able to get in and out of his section easily, and basically being made to feel like a potential thief by Page. Again, Page had quite a collection of things, including Crowley artifacts, and maybe had a right to be protective or even paranoid.

In the end I think both men shared an interest in Crowley but little else. Anger's criticisms of the soundtrack music do not seem reasonable, it is not that bad and I think better than the Bobby Beausoleil score. And I am not saying that because I like Page more, you just ave to listen to both score and compare. Hell, have you heard the Mik Jagger score he used for Invocation of my Demon Brother? Total noise.