DEAN & BRITTA

Excerpt from Liner Notes by Dean Wareham

These two discs contain studio recordings and subsequent remixes that Britta and I created, under commission from the Andy Warhol Museum and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, to perform with 13 of Andy Warhol’s four-minute silent film portraits: the Screen Tests. The choice of subjects was ours; only the number was given: 13, because Warhol had sometimes screened the films that way—13 Most Beautiful Girls and 13 Most Beautiful Boys.

I visited the museum in Pittsburgh and looked at about 150 of the screen tests, without quite knowing what I was looking for. Warhol had shot more than 470 of these films. Some were so immediately stunning—Jane Holzer brushing her teeth, Ann Buchanan crying a tear—that I knew I had to include them. Many of the subjects appeared uncomfortable. Others seemed beaten. Some were insolent, provocative. Or insolent one moment and provocative the next. Mary Woronov observed in Swimming Underground: My Years in the Warhol Factory that the screen tests were like a psychological test: “You would see the person fighting with his image—trying to protect it. You can project your image for a few seconds, but after that it slips and your real self starts to show through. That’s why it was so great—you saw the person and the image.”

I came home from the museum with a reel of about 40 screen tests, and we started thinking about music—watching the films and throwing different pieces of music at them: maybe a cover version, or a half-finished song we had sitting about, sometimes something simply conjured up on guitar and keyboard in response to the subject’s actions on screen. Narrowing the selection to 13 was difficult. But after reading all the Factory memoirs we could find, we decided that the people who were there on a daily basis—young dancers, actors (though Warhol’s “actors” were more often non-actors with no formal training), playwrights, musicians, talkers, speed freaks—were the ones we should sing about. Even Dennis Hopper (Track 9) played an important role in Warhol’s life – he was the first person every to buy a soup-can painting. Of the thirteen we selected, five died too young: Nico, Edie Sedgwick, Ingrid Superstar, Freddy Herko and Paul America.

Ann Buchanan had connections to the Beat poetry scene; she was briefly married to poet Charles Plymell, and shared a San Francisco apartment with Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg (who mentioned her in his poems). Hers was Warhol’s favorite screen test – he called it “the girl who cries a tear” because she stared at the camera for a full three minutes without blinking – till tears roll down her cheeks.

At a party on Leonard Street we ran into artist Jack Early (half of the notorious art duo Pruitt-Early), who proffered his iPod and asked us to listen to a track he had recorded with our mutual friends Sweden: “It Don’t Rain in Beverly Hills.” Later that night we played it against Edie Sedgwick’s screen test and knew we had found the song for her.
Bob Dylan filmed a couple of screen tests at the Factory, but had trouble sitting still. On his way out that day he took one of Warhol’s Elvis paintings, which he later traded to his manager – for a used sofa. Perhaps this seemed like a good idea at the time. For Nico we decided to record Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine.” Nico and Dylan had met in Paris in 1965, and he reportedly gave her the song for her Chelsea Girl album.

Paul Johnson, aka Paul America was likely named for Hotel America, where he lived, but he also looked like a Paul America, being blonde, chiseled, and incredibly handsome. For a while he was Edie’s boyfriend, living with her at the Hotel Chelsea. After leaving the Factory, he apparently turned cat burglar (stealing works by Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, and Warhol from Henry Geldzahler), was imprisoned on drug charges in Michigan, joined the army, and spent time on a commune in Indiana. He died in 1982 in Ormond, Florida, hit by a car while walking home along the side of the road from the dentist’s office.

“Teenage Lightning (and Lonely Highways)” (originally recorded by Luna) seemed right for this portrait of Paul America, especially with an added verse written just for him: Don’t know why I’m always driving / lonely highways through the night / driving byways in the moonlight / lonely street lamps for my light.

The screen tests are lit by Billy Linich—Billy Name. “The names of Warhol and Linich…should be synonymous with each other. That’s how important Linich is,” says Ondine in Factory Made. In the summer of ‘63, while living at 272 East 7th Street, he bought a quantity of Krylon silver spray paint and Reynolds aluminum foil, and “silvered” his whole apartment. That December, Ray Johnson brought Warhol to one of Linich’s famous haircutting parties. Warhol liked the silver and asked Linich to do the same for his new studio on East 47th Street. Linich painted it silver, and then moved right in, living at the Factory for the next four years and becoming a day-to-day manager and official photographer. Our “Silver Factory Theme” is an instrumental that has become our favorite part of the live show, a simple guitar line on top of marching snare and tambourine that builds and builds – while Billy Name stares at the screen, unmoving except for the occasional amphetamine twitch.

Dancer Freddy Herko was a sometime roommate of Name’s on East 7th Street, and one of the Mole People – a group of speedfreaks who hung around the Factory (Ondine, Orion the Witch, Billy Name among them). Herko’s screen test, filmed in the summer of ‘64, is tough to watch when you already know he will be dead a few months after filming it, dancing out the windows of a fifth-floor walkup apartment on Cornelia Street, while Mozart’s Coronation Mass played on the stereo. Herko’s life ended tragically, but with an element of triumph; we wanted the music to do the same. In Sonic Boom’s remix (Disc 2), you can hear a portion of the Coronation Mass playing in the background.

When a hitherto unknown V.U. track popped up on the internet last year—a bootleg of the band performing “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore” live in 1966, the same year Lou Reed’s screen test was filmed—we knew we had a good track for his screen test. We have included two very different versions in this package: a live studio recording, and My Robot Friend’s thumping remix.

For further information please contact Mary Moyer, Asha Goodman or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000, mary@sacksco.com, asha.goodman@sacksco.com or carla@sacksco.com.