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Black Monk Time: Coming of the Anti-Beatle (1994)

by Thomas Edward Shaw & Anita Klemke

Before there was punk, there was Monk.

An odd book about an odd band by one of the oddest of the band members.

As I read, I kept thinking what a movie it would make. Turns out it has been optioned and several scripts have been written, but that seems to be as far as things have gotten. If the filmmakers don't cast Peter Stormare as Karl, they need a new casting director.

Until the movie comes out, glean the outlines from the following:

  • [H]e had somehow gotten out of step with the events that had come to shape his world. He knew that he had learned something, but what was it? Words could not explain it. There is nothing to claim in a place where people are not held accountable for anything. It made him feel subversive, and then he fell asleep. (3)
  • The message broke through with multimonstrous explosions of discombobulating quicquidlibets. (6)
  • If you ask me, it's complicated enough, just trying to decide who you are -- not to mention, are you who you want to be. During the voyage, I had talked with two German businessmen who had come out of their cabin only once during the whole trip. They had told me that they had resolved long ago that they would live in America, but then when they got there, they decided that they really wanted to return to Germany. Once they had gotten themselves back to where they had started from, they then realized that they didn't want to live in any place they knew of. They said they now travel back and forth between continents -- living on the ships that cross the oceans. (9)
  • That was when I got the black eye. It's also when I learned it didn't take much to start a fight. Fountainhead, Schmountainhead -- what did it all mean? I never -- never -- discussed intellectual subjects again, as long as I was in the army. (27)
  • "You're in the army now ... you're not behind a plow. You'll never get rich, you son of a bitch. You're in the army now. In some ways the experience was good for me. Don't underestimate the value of being able to cope with things that are incredibly stupid. (28)
  • That's the only thing that makes rock and roll good. You have to get past the point of being an amateur and still provide the image of being one. (50)
  • It's amazing the things a person will do to entertain himself. We didn't need to want a large audience, because there it was, right in front of us. In the back of your mind, you think, they can kill you on the spot. You don't reflect on it, because it's a stage thing. You see everything as the blurred lights of speeding objects, the Doppler effect. It must be the lights. The songs are fast. The lights are blinding. Noise roars as a rush of adrenalin, which does not stop and there is nothing to do, but move and play and perform, as a lost toreador attempting to fool the onrushing elephant. (76)
  • I'll have to state, frankly, that marriage is frightening. (96)
  • She packed her bags and said she was going home to her mother. At the end of the night, Gary and Dave talked her out of it, while I sat in the other room considering how a rascal is not much different from a fool. Occasionally the head of a rat would pop out from behind some object, to remind me how life as a rock musician is lived on a more basic level. (149)
  • The next day, during practice, and every day after that, we continued our research. There was something about the sound that had to be developed. We all knew that changes had to be made in order to define the sound without having it turn into an undecipherable mess. Roger's cymbals didn't match with the sound of the feedback. It didn't take long to discover that drums without cymbals provided a stronger vehicle to the freed forces of electrons. It's fun to be at a place in your life where you can make up the rules as you go. (160)
  • All bands were even beginning to look the same, with only small differences, of course. We all could be described as small male-oriented clubs, dedicated to impressing the unwary. We all could have just as easily named ourselves "The Gardens of the Galoots" -- "The Cooperative Brotherhood for Breaking into the Spotlight" -- "The Gleaming Untouchables" -- "The Exalted Legion of Flamboyant Conspicuants" -- "The Kings of Drink" -- "The Flashing Astonishers." (162)
  • "We will work with you on your image. We will be your professional representatives. We will get you a recording contract. You will play concerts and television."
    "Aha! See?" Dave began to squirm in his chair.
    "What makes you think that?" Roger said.
    "We have listened to you. You will play the music of the future." (170)
  • Karl glowered.... "The world of tomorrow will not be a pretty place. The music will not be pretty. If you say that everything will be pretty, then you do not know the world of tomorrow." (181)
  • The monk sound was produced by all the musicians playing unconventional -- the banjo, the tom-tom driven beat -- my bass speakers buzzed naturally from being overdriven. The strings were plucked hard. We had created a very loud, dirty sound.
    The lyrics of the songs matched the timbre of the music... "Shut Up!"
    "Don't Cry!"
    "I don't like it!" all strong words of personal meaning. (182)
  • We were beginning to understand that we attracted a very different kind of woman. (213)
  • Walther was always smiling; Karl always intent upon the work that had to be done.
    "You are tired," Walther would say. He played the sympathetic role.
    "No ... you are supermen. You will tear the studio walls down," Karl stated, matter-of-factly. (214)
  • It's amazing what the mind will do, when it wants to forget something. Zirkus Krone became a minor event. In fact, even now, to this day, I cannot say for sure that it did or did not happen. Maybe I just dreamt it. (260)
  • It was like a moment of Shakespeare. Don't ask me why I say this. I know it's dumb. (261)
  • Isn't it amazing when strangers, other than the CIA and the FBI, want to know personal things about you? (280)
  • The professor tried to change the subject. "Your clothing. Those ropes that you wear for ties ... do they represent something?"
    "If you really want to know the truth, it represents about two Deutsche marks a meter. We buy it by the roll, and cut it into pieces." (281)
  • It's amazing how much fun people can have with nothing. (285)
  • In front of thousands, Gary screamed and pounded on his guitar, holding it down in front of the amplifiers, as if it was the devil's suction pump, extracting electric milk from a ten-thousand watt cow. As the Magi brings apostolic frenzy to the baptized, Gary milked every last decibel from the speakers making his white guitar scream with feedback, "Don't touch me! I'm electric!" (288)
  • We were jabberwocky monks, spreading the contagion of our ambitions, "Yea, though you swim against the stream of Paisley, fear not, because black is the symbol of nothing. White is the blinding color of the void. Lay down your love beads. Read not the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but praise the rockets that blast off. World is so worried. World is so worried." (288)
  • We were the anti-everything -- the anti-beatle. We presided over the unholy Eucharist -- smashing golden idols of Bing Crosby, Fabian, and Paul McCartney. (288-9)
  • One reporter for a music column reported that we imitated no one.
    "Maybe it's good that they don't know where we're comin' from," Larry said.
    "Where are we coming from?"
    "I don't know." (291)

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