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Lipstick Traces, a Secret History of 20th Century (1989) - Greil Marcus

Related: Situationist International - medieval heretics - punk - Sex Pistols - Lettrism - Dada - Greil Marcus - secret history

Lipstick Traces, a Secret History of 20th Century (1989) - Greil Marcus [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

This book is about a single, serpentine fact: late in 1976 a record called "Anarchy in the U.K." was issued in London, and this event launched a transformation of pop music all over the world. Made by a four-man rock 'n' roll band called the Sex Pistols, and written by singer Johnny Rotten, the song distilled, in crudely poetic form, a critique of modern society once set out by a small group of Paris-based intellectuals. First organized in 1952 as the Lettrist International, and refounded in 1957 at a conference of European avant-garde artists as the Situationist International, the group gained its greatest notoriety during the French revolt of May 1968, when the premises of its critique were distilled into crudely poetic slogans and spray-painted across the walls of Paris, after which the critique was given up to history and the group disappeared. The group looked back to the surrealists of the 1920s, the dadaists who made their names during and just after the First World War, the young Karl Marx, Saint-Just, various medieval heretics, and the Knights of the Round Table.

My conviction is that such circumstances are primarily odd. For a gnomic, gnostic critique dreamed up by a handful of Left Bank cafe prophets to reappear a quarter-century later, to make the charts, and then to come to life as a whole new set of demands on culture—this is almost transcendently odd. --Greil Marcus, from the back cover


Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (1989) is a non-fiction book by American rock-music critic Greil Marcus that examines popular music and art as a social critique of Western culture. A theatrical version played off-Broadway in 2001.

The book covers 20th century avant-garde art movements like Dadaism, Lettrist International and Situationist International and their influence on late 20th century countercultures and The Sex Pistols and Punk Movement.

A "soundtrack" to Lipstick Traces, compiling many of the songs referenced in the book, was released by Rough Trade Records in 1993. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipstick_Traces:_A_Secret_History_of_the_20th_Century [Mar 2006]

In ‘Lipstick Traces - A Secret History of the Twentieth Century’ Greil Marcus traces a subliminal trajectory where nearly-invisible connections arc across punk, the Situationists of 1968, Dada in 1916, the Enrages of the French Revolution and heretical millenarianism in medieval times. He isn’t describing the direct causal link of past and present but suggesting a more opaque entanglement. “Is history simply a matter of events that leave behind those things that can be weighed and measured - new institutions, new maps, new rulers - or is it also the result of moments that seem to leave nothing behind, nothing but the mystery of spectral connections between people long separated by place and time, but somehow speaking the same language?....If the language they are speaking, the impulse they are voicing, has it’s own history, might it not tell a very different story from the one we’ve been hearing all our lives?”

[...] Dan 18/5/99 -- Unruly Myth http://www.sparkchamber.co.uk/unrmyth2.html

Just four years after Combat Rock, with "Rock the Casbah" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go" still firmly ensconced in the radio consciousness of the Western World, Greil Marcus went Hebdige one better. His book Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century used the punk events between 1976 and 1979 as the touchstone for his ambitious title. Lipstick Traces places the full weight of the history of the twentieth century intellectual avant-garde squarely on the shoulders of punk. For Hebdige, punk was emblematic of particular sociocultural moment in history; for Marcus, punk was emblematic of the nature of twentieth-century history itself. All of this scholarship romanticizes the idea of punk as a kind of living history that is not only historically interesting but necessary to subvert, from within, what is constructed as a creeping fascism of government in league with consumer culture. -- Greg Wahl via http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue02/features/roots1.htm [2004]

Soundtrack to Lipstick Traces

This is a soundtrack to "Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century," (1989); by Greil Marcus, originally published in the US by Harvard University Press.

I'd love to hear this collection condensed into a six minute rap tune, or a twelve minute techno mantra, but in the meantime we begin, with a giggle...Jon Savage, 1993

Track #1 : SLITS: "A Boring Life."
Track #2 : ORIOLES: "It's Too Soon To Know."
Track #3 : TRISTAN TZARA, MARCEL JANCO, RICHARD HUELSENBECK: "L 'Amiral cherche une maison a louer."
Track #4 : JONATHAN RICHMAN: "Road Runner."
Track #5 : GUY DEBORD: Excerpt from soundtrack to Hurlements en faveur de Sade.
Track #6 : THE ROXY, LONDON: Ambience.
Track #7 : JEAN-LOUIS BRAU: "Instrumentation Verbale (Face 2)."
Track #8 : BUZZCOCKS: "Boredom."
Track #9 : ADVERTS: "One Chord Wonders."
Track #10: RAOUL HAUSMANN: "phoneme bbbb."
Track #11: GANG OF FOUR: "At Home He's A Tourist."
Track #12: ADVERTS: "Gary Gilmore's Eyes."
Track #13: KLEENEX: "U (angry side)."
Track #14: GUY DEBORD: Excerpt from soundtrack to Critique de la separation (Dansk-Fransk Experimentalfilmskompagni, 1961).
Track #15: CLASH: Stage talke, Roundhouse, London, 23 September 1976.
Track #16: MEKONS: "Never Been In A Riot."
Track #17: LILIPUT: "Split."
Track #18: PETER BLEGVAD, et al: "rohrenhose-rokoko-neger-rhythmus."
Track #19: ESSENTIAL LOGIC: "Wake Up."
Track #20: KLEENEX: "You (friendly side)."
Track #21: GIL J. WOLMAN: "Megapneumies, 24 Mars 1963 (Face 1)."
Track #22: RAINCOATS: "In Love."
Track #23: GUY DEBORD: Excerpt from soundtrack to Hurlements en faveur de Sade.
Track #24: MARIE OSMOND: "Karawane."
Track #25: BASCAM LAMAR LUNSFORD: "I wish I was A mole In The Ground."
Track #26: MEKONS: "The Building."
Track #27: BENNY SPELLMAN: "Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)."

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