Thursday, January 09, 2014

Look Back in Anger: Jimmy Page, the Manson Family and "Lucifer Rising"

James Patrick Page: 1960s session legend, Yardbird, Led Zeppelin guitar maestro. Charter partner at The Firm. And a septugenarian as of today. If you watch The Song Remains the Same from 1973, you'd doubt that he'd have made it to 40, no less 70... but nevertheless, here he is. I was watching the O2/London concert of Led Zep called "Celebration Day" from 2007, and I have to say he sounded sharper and better than in any of those old films. I guess lack of drugs and alcohol has its benefits after all!
I said to myself, what should I put up for this occasion? Not that there's a thing wrong with a standard issue unreleased Zeppelin soundboard from 1977, but I thought that wasn't, well, occult and weird enough for such a momentous milestone as 70. Then, it hit me.
The tales of the Jimmy Page-Kenneth Anger creative partnership and its collapse are legion, as are the details of how the film was made and how someone doing a life sentence in a maximum security prison for murder came to do the final music for it. The short version -- OK, the medium-sized version -- goes something like this.
In 1967 Kenneth Anger -- author of the Hollywood Babylon book series and absolutely one of the most out-there filmmakers of the 20th century -- began shooting Lucifer Rising in the Bay Area. His friend Bobby Beausoleil was supposed to star in the film and compose the soundtrack, and work was begun on filming. By 1969 the project had fallen apart, with Anger using the footage he had shot in another film called Invocation of My Demon Brother, and Beausoleil -- who just happened to have joined what came to be termed The Charles Manson Family -- was sent to jail for the (allegedly drug-related) killing of Gary Hinman, a music teacher. This was the first murder attributed to members of Manson's inner circle. It would not, obviously, be the last.
Enter Jimmy Page, whom Anger conscripted to take up the musical score for a resurrected Lucifer Rising sometime in 1970. Page delivered 20 minutes of music, but the famously irascible filmmaker needed another five minutes and insisted. As the legend goes, Page failed to ever deliver the additional music, even though Anger was living in Page's castle in Scotland by this time. The two fought and fell out, with Anger accusing the guitarist of being "a spoiled junkie," among other less-than-flattering public statements.
Anger took the film around to investors with the Page score appended to it anyway, trading on the composer's fame and notoriety to secure funding to complete the movie. During this time, he also secured permission for the incarcerated Beausoleil to complete the score... it would be recorded in the California State Prison at Tracy between 1975 and 1978, and comprise the full soundtrack of the film, which was eventually finished and released in 1980. The Jimmy Page score was abandoned and remained unreleased officially for decades.
On March 20, 2012 (the Vernal Equinox), Page released a super-limited run of his music for the film on red vinyl, through his website. There were 418 copies (a number with huge Kabbalistic significance, apparently) and 93 copies were signed (more Kabbalah numerology). It was not issued on CD and the small run of records sold out in minutes. It hasn't appeared since, and likely won't. So today, in honor of the composer's 70th b'day, here is an imagined "complete score" for Lucifer Rising, comprising a pristine vinyl transfer of the red record and also the Bobby Beausoleil music used in the actual final film, which was issued in 2004 from the master tapes but has since gone out-of-print.
Of course this music has little to do with Led Zeppelin, but it's brilliant in its own right for certain. You could even say that Page singlehandedly invents the Dark Ambient genre on these recordings, with very shamanistic tablas, stabbing Mellotrons and Eastern-sounding drones abundant. As for the B. Beausoleil score, it's of a piece with the Page music, surely, but has a more psychedelic, "rock" instrumentation with organs and drums and Pink Floyd-ish guitars weaving through it all. Both fit snugly on a single CD for those into ancient Egyptian media!
Lucifer Rising: deluxe OST
music associated with and from the film by Kenneth Anger

01 Jimmy Page - Lucifer Rising
02 Jimmy Page - Incubus
03 Jimmy Page - Damask
04 Jimmy Page - Unharmonics
05 Jimmy Page - Damask-Ambient
06 Jimmy Page - Lucifer Rising-Percussive Return
07 Bobby Beausoleil - Lucifer Rising, Part I
08 Bobby Beausoleil - Lucifer Rising, Part II
09 Bobby Beausoleil - Lucifer Rising, Part III
10 Bobby Beausoleil - Lucifer Rising, Part IV
11 Bobby Beausoleil - Lucifer Rising, Part V
12 Bobby Beausoleil - Lucifer Rising, Part VI

Total time: 1:15:26

1-6 from Jimmy Page, "Lucifer Rising and Other Soundtracks" LP, recorded 1971-73, issued 2012

7-12 from Bobby Beausoleil, "Lucifer Rising" original soundtrack, recorded 1975-78, issued 2004

169 MB 320K mp3s here
  380 MB FLAC/January 2014 archive link
Hope you enjoy this one... don't let it spook you out too harshly! Really, it's pretty melodious music for a movie about, well, Lucifer. And of course the purpose of this post is to celebrate and wish a very happy 70th birthday to the Maestro himself, Mr. James Patrick Page. --J.