Klaus Nomi Hits the Iceberg

Antonioni died a day after Bergman. How about that?

Last night, while deadening the brain with some good channel surfing, I happened upon an awful FUSE(?) American-Idol-type competition for unsigned rock bands, which I won’t even name. The bands are uniformly horrible: there’s the ska band, the bloc-party wannabees, the Soundgarden ripoffs, the rap-rockers (with 12 fucking members – any band with that many members has drug dealers in the band); but it was interesting for a couple things:

The prize isn’t “a recording contract!” as it would have been as little as five years ago; rather, winners get a cool million bucks, ostensibly to go and make their own record, own the masters, and sell the rights to itunes and etc, since they’ll be famous (enough) after they win. How’s that for a flare gun in the face-like signal that the major labels have hit the iceberg?

Second, Johnny Rotten is one of the judges. He’s the Simon Cowell judge, too, albeit less scripted, probably not scripted, swearing consistently, but seeming to enjoy himself; I was shocked to see him on the show at all. While he’s a performer, and knows his role well, he’s rarely ever working for someone else, as here. All art world iconoclasts earn their check by giving in to the public, at the end of the day, but Rotten rarely cares enough to do that. The Sex Pistols reunion tour album was called Filthy Lucre Live for a reason.

The show doesn’t transcend, anyway: A stupid band member int he rap-rock outfit, probably put up to it by the producers in order to get the ‘script’ going, sarcastically remarks “wow, who knew Johnny Rotten knew something about hip hop,” which is hilariously stupid, but not so stupid as this show’s failure to explain why it’s stupid as the feud gets scripted into a fury.

So I’m enjoying a little imaginary instant where the actual musicians in this idiot’s band take him aside, off camera, and tell him “uh, dude, johnny dropped a single with fucking Afrika Bambaataa before your daddy got to second base with any girl.”

They’d win if they kicked the stupid guy out of their band. But they won’t.


But what I really wanted to say was that after this disgusting detour, I watched The Nomi Song, a documentary on Klaus Nomi that might have been the best rock-doc I’ve seen in a while, sadder than the Daniel Johnston doc by a mile, and better.

As many know, in 1983 Nomi was one of the first public figures to die of AIDS almost before it had a name, but was better known as a strange and supernaturally talented singer. Sometimes an in-joke (his “Lightning Strikes” cover) sometimes an otherworldly stunner (“Keys of Life”). Yet few of his recordings deliver the effect of seeing the archival footage of his soprano – yeah, he was a soprano – version of the Samson and Delilah aria.

Klaus Nomi – Lightning Strikes (wait for the chorus)
Klaus Nomi – Keys of Life

He lived a lonely life, it seems, and the doc does a great job of explaining without going too far.

It was almost as if he truly was from outer space. But he was just from Berlin.


2 thoughts on “Klaus Nomi Hits the Iceberg

  1. Bluh? That was my reaction. What’s this show called? I would watch anything with John Lydon in it. His talk show, from oh, ages ago, was really good (is there a DVD?). The interview with Neil Young is particularly interesting. Uncomfortable, if I remember correctly.One other great Rotten moment … American Bandstand. That’s right. Seek it out. Public Image Ltd. He blows a snot rocket. Who knows what Dick Clark was thinking. Maybe he had a stroke that day.Nice work (and Klaus Nomi!). FYI, I bought a “greatest C&W hits” at a garage sale. The double album has zero hits. Every song is an obscure Starday Records single, some by well-known artist, others utter obscurities. About 60% of them are really good …


  2. hey thanks – I’d never seen PIl on American Bandstand — < HREF="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmS548i0LMk" REL="nofollow">it’s on youtube here<> and there’s a < HREF="http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2005/10/pil_on_american.html" REL="nofollow">writeup on WFMU’s site, too<>. That’s pretty awesome/hilarious; it’s also my fave PIl song “Careering.”


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