TIME Books

A Long-Lost Stag Film, Reimagined by the Pixies’ Black Francis

Steven Appleby / HarperCollins

His latest project is a fantasy novel about one of the first pornographic movies ever made

It’s not the most original premise in cinema history: A soldier visits an inn and encounters the innkeeper’s daughter, and the two then have sex. The actors portraying the characters in this vintage black-and-white movie look more like confused amateurs than confident professionals in their awkward onscreen chemistry. At this point, if you’re still curious to see this, good luck — it’s very likely you won’t be able to find an actual print of it, let alone on DVD or online.

But this particular French movie, A L’Ecu d’Or ou la bonne auberge, made in 1908, does have some historical significance: it is believed to be one of the first-ever adult films. That piqued the curiosity of Charles Thompson, a.k.a. Black Francis, the singer of the alternative rock band Pixies.“I just began to kind of Google that information to see what came up,” Thompson tells TIME. “It seemed like the same bit of information kept coming up about this title, A L’Ecu d’Or ou la bonne auberge, which means sort of like, ‘The Gold Coin’ — it’s like an old form of French money — or ‘The Good Inn.’”

Thompson’s interest in A L’Ecu d’Or ou la bonne auberge served as an idea for a hypothetical movie, and he even recorded a few demo songs as a soundtrack. Discussing the idea in 2010 at a cafe in Austin, Texas with the writer Josh Frank, Thompson began to consider making an actual movie. The result: the two collaborated on a newly-published graphic novel also titled The Good Inn (with whimsical illustrations by Steven Appleby, who had provided the artwork to the Pixies’ 1991 album Trompe le Monde), based on the stag film.

Set in 1907, the book The Good Inn chronicles the adventures of a French soldier, simply named Soldier Boy, who goes on a journey after surviving the explosion of the battleship Iena. It does follow the original film’s plot in that he does have a sexual tryst with the innkeeper’s daughter named Nicole. But then a surrealist fantasy element is introduced — as he makes love to Nicole in the dark, Soldier Boy notices a light coming from a pinhole on the wall. Looking through it, he sees his own doppelganger and a woman resembling Nicole in bed while being observed by other people in the room. When Soldier Boy looks through the pinhole again, he sees no one in the room, except what appears to be a movie camera. It leads to a chain of events in which reality and fantasy intersect.

Thompson and Frank were unable to find a print of the extremely rare original movie, but they filled in the gaps for the book’s story through research about early French cinema. The authors also incorporated actual people from the era into the book — such as Albert Lear, one of the first French pornographic filmmakers, portrayed as a maverick who saw potential in the medium. “I really want to see a print of it for the purposes of this film script that we are writing because I don’t know what we can glean from it, but we might be able to get something,” says Thompson. “I don’t know if we’ll get a name or just some little thread to fill in the blanks a little more. I’ve been a little bit unsatisfied in that department.”

“I would like to see the film because I would like to see the credits,” says Frank. “I do want to see the names. But as far as actually seeing the movie, I like the fact that we have this freedom right now to make up a lot more. I feel like if we actually had the movie, maybe it would close us off from what we actually want to do.”

Soldier Boy is the book’s main protagonist; he gets involved in a series of unexpected events as he comes to grips with a ship explosion that killed his friend and the shock of seeing his lookalike in the adjoining room at the inn. “I think [Twilight Zone] is the greatest influence on me in terms of, ‘So, what do we do with this idea? What does Soldier Boy do?'” he says. “Well, he finds a hole, and there is a doppelganger. He doesn’t know why this is happening to him.”

“The real starting point for the invention of this idea was that Charles put together two separate true histories,” Frank says. “One being the explosion on the Iena, and the other being the first pornographic film starring a soldier. And I think the big starting point was, ‘What’s the back story of this soldier?’ and the other thing that interested you was the explosion on this ship, which happened in the same year.”

The Good Inn coincides with the release of the Pixies’ first new album in 23 years, Indie Cindy. (It’s also the first record without original bassist Kim Deal, who left the band in 2013.) One of its new songs, “Bagboy,” originated from the song cycle that Thompson had worked on for the proposed movie project. “As a band, we actually played a lot of the music that was around this song cycle,” he says. “But none of them have ever ended up as part of a record. I’m glad they haven’t merged too much. We didn’t know whether or not the book or the movie of how much it was going to dart around time. I haven’t been able to decide whether the music should be anachronistic or not, or if it should represent that time. I’m moving away now from being anachronistic.”

With the book now published, both authors are in the process of getting their film made and assembling a production team. “We had a couple of meetings,” Thompson, who admits he has fallen in love with the characters in The Good Inn, says. “We’re working on the script, we got a couple of people involved. There’s a music producer that I’m starting to work with, and another songwriter – a French woman – to help me compose some French libretto for the songs.”

“We thought this warrants a piece of art that you can hold in your hands,” says Frank. “But also it was the idea that by doing this book, this crazy movie idea might come together. I feel personally that it completely has.”

TIME Music

Cyndi Lauper Looks Back at the Unusual Record That Made Her a Star

Annie Leibovitz Cyndi Lauper circa 1983

The singer — who is kicking off a tour with Cher — revisits her blockbuster breakthrough album, She's So Unusual, which recently turned 30

As she recalled in her 2012 memoir, Cyndi Lauper went through a difficult period in her life during the early ’80s as an unknown singer in New York City. Her band Blue Angel was breaking up without achieving any commercial success, and she found herself involved a lawsuit with the group’s former manager. Then, Lauper lost her voice due to an inverted cyst in her vocal cord. And to top it off, she had to take on jobs to support herself that included working as a salesgirl and a maid.

But that all changed starting in the spring of 1983, when Lauper began to record what would be her debut solo album She’s So Unusual. Released in October of that year, the record spawned four Top Ten singles — “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “She Bop” and “All Through the Night” — and launched her as one of the major pop stars of the decade. By 1984, that record, which has since sold 6 million copies in the U.S., stood its own alongside other blockbuster albums such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Prince’s Purple Rain and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. And through the power of MTV, Lauper drew attention for her distinctive look and colorful fashions, serving as precursor to the styles of contemporary pop stars like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj.

To mark the record’s 30th anniversary, Sony/Legacy has reissued a special version of She’s So Unusual containing not only the original record but also demos and bonus tracks from the period — including an early raw guitar rendition of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” — along with new dance remixes of certain songs. Its release comes during a fruitful period for Lauper, who last year won a Best Original Score Tony for the hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots. And starting Wednesday, April 23, she will be touring with Cher through July. On the eve of the tour kickoff, TIME spoke with the singer about She’s So Unusual turning 30 and the album’s enduring impact.

It’s hard to imagine that She’s So Unusual is 30 years old now. Does it amaze you how much time has passed?

In one sense, it really does seem like yesterday. My memories of that time are so vivid. In other ways it feels very much like it was at least 30 years ago when you think about how much I have been through — not only as an artist, but as a human being. Lots of life in them 30 years. It’s very exciting that the album has had that staying power.

How does it feel to look back at all of this again?

Before Sony approached my manager about doing this 30th anniversary edition/celebration, I hadn’t really thought about the album critically, or really even listened to it in years. Of course, I continue to perform many of those songs live, but over time they change some from the original. So, to go back and really listen to the album again, to take out the demos and listen to what we were doing then and how the album evolved from rehearsals to recording was really great. With this release, fans can hear a bit of that journey.

At the time you were making the record, did you have any inkling that She’s So Unusual was going to be hugely successful? Were there big expectations riding on this record for you?

None of us knew. We hoped it would be a hit, but had no idea that it would take off the way it had. I had already had a record deal with Blue Angel so I knew that having a record deal didn’t necessarily mean you would make it. I did have quite a few offers from labels for this, my first solo record, so there was some expectation, but not in a bad way. I was allowed to be the artist I wanted to be, to sound like, to look like, etc. It wasn’t 100% what I wanted — I was only allowed to contribute a few songs that I had written, but the sound and the cover and the videos we made for the album, I was left alone to create those, and that was really cool. I wouldn’t have that kind of space again because once that album hit, there was a lot more micromanaging from the label.

Musically, She’s So Unusual is very diverse — there’s pop, New Wave, dance, reggae, funk, and even a little bit of punk. Did you know from the outset what you wanted this album to be?

Totally. Nothing on that record is an accident. I have a very clear vision of what I wanted to say on that record, what I had hoped people would feel when they listened to it. I wanted to be very clear that I was an artist that had been influenced by many genres of music, so I made sure you could hear a little bit of it all. I wanted all those influences included and to sound like me while also being commercial at the same time.

Obviously, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is your best-known and most beloved song. I always wondered how that song, which was written by Robert Hazard, fell into your lap? In the last 30 years, it has matured from a hit pop song to an iconic universal anthem.

[Executive producer] Lennie Petze brought me the song. He loved it. Well, the first time I listened to it, I didn’t love it. But then I went, “Wait a minute…” This song, sang from a woman’s perspective, could be really cool. Robert wrote it for a guy to sing about a girl… y’know, “girls want to have fun,” and I was like, “Ya know what, as a matter of fact, we do.” And I could see how I could turn it into a song about empowerment. I changed the arrangement so it would fit my voice and what I was doing on the record. Robert was cool with the changes and there you have it. What has been great to see is every year since that record has come out, when I perform it live, the women (and the men, too) in the audience celebrate. At first it was just women with their friends, then I started to see women with their young daughters, and now I see those little girls who are now in their 30’s with daughters of their own – three generations of “girls” and that is inspiring to me. That the words and that call to women to recognize their power still connects is something I am very proud of.

You came up around the same time MTV was still relatively new back then, and the videos you did for the album were just as memorable as the songs themselves. How would you characterize the marriage between you and the channel?

For me, music has always had a visual connection. When I listened to records as a kid I always tried to imagine what the singers looked like, where they were, what they were doing. Later on when I started to do gigs, I always imagine myself as the character in the song, her perspective, what she is thinking [and] doing when I sing the song. It was very important that the visual and the music tied together because that is just how my brain works. So when MTV launched and the video age really took off, it was thrilling for me. I needed MTV, and MTV needed an artist like me.

There is no doubt you have been so influential both in music and fashion since She’s So Unusual on today’s artists. How do you feel when you see them take a page from what you did 30 years ago?

Very much. Of course. Gaga and Katy and Nicki have all said things about my influence on them, among other artists of course —not just me — and that’s cool. As a little girl Nicki Minaj said she saw me on MTV and she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up (I think she said she was, like, 4 years old), and if by listening to my records and watching my videos she was even, in some small way, influenced, that’s gratifying. Because that’s what the music community should do. I was influenced by a whole list of female artists that came before me. From Big Mama Thornton to Janis Joplin to Joni Mitchell and more. That’s what I think these artists are referring to. I am a part of the tapestry that makes up their influences and I am happy to be that for them. They are all individual artists that have a unique perspective that will be the influencers of the next generation of artists.

You’re gonna be on tour with Cher this month. Had you performed with her before and were you a fan of hers growing up in the ’60s and ’70s?

Yes, this is my third tour with Cher, but it has been a long time — almost 10 years since last we toured together. I was a fan of hers growing up. I bought her records and of course watched the Sonny & Cher show religiously. I mean, the costumes and the hair and the makeup! Come on! I’m looking forward to being out on the road with her again. Cher has always been very supportive of me. There were times in my career when I needed her and she has been there for me, so I wanted to be able to go out again with her to say thanks.

It’s been a very active period for you in the last two years — with the memoir and the success of Kinky Boots. Plus, you’re nominated for this year’s Songwriters Hall of Fame.

It has been an amazing few years — yes, it has. While the successes have been recent, I’ve worked very hard throughout. My memoir and Kinky Boots were both about five years in the making. And honestly, I never give up. I am still inspired and I still want to be creative, and it’s really nice that I am being recognized for my work because it hasn’t always been that way.

Do you see yourself working on another musical after Kinky Boots?

Absolutely. Have already begun to have a few discussions about that. I love being part of the Broadway community and hope to be involved with many more Broadway musicals. Kinky Boots has its first national tour going out later this year, and that’s great. It’s also opening in England and South Korea, the first of many international productions.

TIME Music

Jimi Hendrix Honored On U.S. Postage Stamp

United States Postal Service The USPS released a new Forever stamp honoring guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

The United States Postal Service released a new Forever stamp honoring the late '60s rock guitarist as part of its Music Icons series

Jimi Hendrix died 43 years ago at the age of 27, but his legacy will live on “forever” on a new U.S. postage stamp.

The United States Postal Service released a new Forever stamp Thursday depicting the 1960s rock star as part of its Music Icons series, which honored Lydia Mendoza, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles last year. Designed by artist Rudy Gutierrez, the psychedelic-looking stamp shows Hendrix shredding his left-handed guitar.

A dedication ceremony for the stamp is scheduled to take place Thursday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., followed by a celebration concert featuring former Guns ‘n Roses guitarist Slash, Jane’s Addiction’s singer Perry Farrell, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, and ex-Doors guitarist Robby Krieger.

“I am deeply touched and so are other members of the Hendrix family by the issuance of this stamp, and I wish to thank the United States Postal Service for bestowing one of our nation’s highest honors on my brother Jimi,” Janie Hendrix, the sister of the late guitarist, said in a press statement. “While my brother has been cited many times as being among the most influential musicians of all time, the recognition implicit in his being portrayed on a U.S. postage stamp ranks as an unparalleled honor.”

The release of the stamp coincides with an upcoming biopic on the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, All Is By My Side, starring Outkast’s Andre 3000, which was scheduled to premiere at SXSW. Last year saw the release of People, Hell & Angels, a posthumous collection of previously unreleased recordings by Hendrix.

Next up in the USPS’ Music Icons series will be a stamp commemorating rock singer Janis Joplin.

TIME Music

Dean Wareham Finally Goes It Alone For His First Solo Album

Grandstand HQ Dean Wareham

The Galaxie 500 and Luna singer-guitarist gives TIME an intimate Q+A

There’s nothing wrong with the road we’re on/Happy and free for a while,” sings guitarist Dean Wareham on “Happy and Free,” the dreamy soulful final track off of his upcoming self-titled solo record. In a sense, those lines seem to describe this current stage of his life after spending more than 25 years of fronting bands. He first came to prominence in 1987 with the acclaimed Massachusetts indie rock group Galaxie 500, who were known for their slow, psychedelic drone rock. After the group’s demise in 1991, Wareham formed the New York-based Luna and released a series of well-received albums, including the outstanding Penthouse in 1995. Since Luna’s breakup in 2005, Wareham has focused on collaborative projects with his former Luna bandmate/wife Britta Phillips as Dean and Britta. Together they recorded three albums, including 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests.

This past October, Wareham released an EP, Emancipated Hearts, as a precursor to the brand-new solo record (due out this Tuesday) that was produced by My Morning Jacket singer Jim James. In contrast to Emancipated Hearts, which the artist himself described as a rainy day record, Dean Wareham sounds upfront and dynamic as it is atmospheric and romantic – with the common thread being Wareham’s spiraling guitar playing and his world-weary singing. TIME caught up with Wareham, 50, to talk about recording the new album and being a solo artist now.

How does it feel after 25 years of being in bands and collaborative projects to release a record under your own name?

I’m trying to think if it feels any different to have my name on the front – no, it doesn’t. Whether it was Luna or Galaxie 500, I was pretty invested in that too. It’s not like I was a side person in those bands. I’ve always written all the lyrics and melodies for my bands anyway. But it did take me a long time to make a solo album. This has been finished for about a year. So the process wasn’t that drastically different – maybe just more responsibility for me with the writing.

Was there any trepidation at first in going at it alone?

No. I always depend on the people around me. Even though it doesn’t have Britta’s name on it, she was very involved in helping arrange the songs, and so was our drummer Anthony [LaMarca] — and with this record Jim James as well. I think I have to remember when I’m surrounded with musicians who are better than I am that there are still fans who want to hear me play guitar solos and in my own style.

The working relationship with Jim James goes back to about 15 years ago, when you lauded My Morning Jacket’s debut album, The Tennessee Fire, in the press. And then Jim responded in an e-mail.

He kept reading reviews where My Morning Jacket would be compared to Galaxie 500. I mean, they don’t sound like Galaxie 500. I think he said, “We sound more like Galaxie 500 than we do like Eminem.” Also, I became friendly with Jim’s manager, Mike Martinovich, who was a huge Luna fan. He gave me a call one night, I had dinner with him, and then went back to his office and he played me some songs from Jim’s solo album. I thought it sounded great. Mike said, “Why don’t you two think about doing something together?”

Jim invited me down to play at this festival in Louisville he was curating and to stay at his house for a couple of days and see what came of it. We did four songs – three of them are on the album –and actually it was fun. It’s like you’re in a studio, but it feels more relaxed than a studio. So we did those four songs and then immediately decided to come back and do more.

Sonically, the new record shows a bit of more upbeat and direct side of your music that we’ve probably not been accustomed to, as indicated on the opening track “The Dancer Disappears.”

I’m not sure if it quite sounds like me. It sounds like my voice, but sonically it doesn’t really sound like anything I’ve done before. On that song, I was playing the chords from this old Glen Campbell song “Mary in the Morning.” I was trying to turn that into a disco song. But Jim had us to change the drumbeat kind of drastically. So were playing this slapback delay on the snare, which changed the whole feel of it. Anyway, it turned out nice.

On another track, “Holding Pattern,” you not only mention an NFL football game score (“San Diego over Denver, 17 to 6”), but also name-checked several popular late ’70s/early ’80s arena rock bands, such as Kansas, Boston, Toto, Journey, Foreigner and Styx. How did that come about?

I was sitting in a hotel room in Sacramento and I was trying to write another song. I was watching Monday Night Football and it was Seattle against Green Bay. It was the game that ended the referees’ strike because it was a just a blatant awful call at the end of the game. It was just egg on the face of the NFL and they had to cave to the union. So I was watching that and I started writing about being stuck in Sacramento, but I changed the teams from Seattle and Green Bay to San Diego and Denver. And then I started thinking about Kansas, Toto, Foreigner and Styx.

Were you a fan of those bands back in the day?

No I wasn’t. I can’t say that I actually owned any of their records. MTV killed all those bands anyway. That’s a good example of a song that Jim changed. The demo I made was a little country song. When we sat down to play it with Jim, he was like “No, stop playing guitars, just take out the chords, and instead I’m gonna put down the mellotron saxophone.” It’s cool because the saxophone could be so horrible in rock. But if you’re playing the mellotron, you just kind of get this raw saxophone-like sound, but yet it’s different.

Another track, the gentle ballad “Love Is Not a Roof Against the Rain,” sounds very personal.

The line “love is not a roof against the rain” is from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay [ titled “Love Is Not All”]. It’s something like, love is not everything, it’s not a meal, and it’s not a roof against the rain. In the end, she concludes that she would trade any of those things for love – that’s it’s more rewarding than any of those things. So I started with that one line. It was a trick I’ve been using a lot lately – just take one line from someone else’s song or poem or anything really, and then write my own song around it.

Given this collaboration with Jim, would you consider working with him again?

He’s incredibly busy. He was producing the Preservation Hall Jazz Band record and then his solo album. Now he’s already back working on another My Morning Jacket record. We’ll see. I’d love to.

You’ve been pretty busy since the demise of Luna. Aside from working with Britta, you’ve performed the songbook of your first band, Galaxie 500, on stage for the first time in a while. Could you have ever imagine revisiting those tracks again after that band’s breakup?

I guess it hadn’t occurred. At this one festival in Spain, this guy asked, “Why don’t you come back next year and do one Dean and Britta show, and then a show where you only play only Galaxie 500 songs?” I thought, “Okay, it could be fun.” And I did that and it was a lot of fun. It was pretty much 20 years after those the albums came out in the first place. It seemed like a good time to do it, too.

You wrote an appreciation in Salon about Lou Reed shortly after his passing in October – your band Luna once opened for the Velvet Underground on their European reunion tour in 1993 and then for Lou’s own band in 1996. When was the first time you met him?

I met him in a dressing room in Edinburgh [on the Velvet Underground tour]. It was after the show. Lou was like, “Oh, come back over” and he invited me into the dressing room. There were a couple of journalists in there. He was like, “Are you guys journalists?” And they were like, “Yeah.” He said, “Get the hell out of here! This is a private conversation!” He liked to tease journalists, especially British ones. He was always very nice to me and to Luna. You hear stories of what a cranky person he is. I’m sure he could be. But he was good to me.

Are you doing anymore soundtrack work like you did on The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding, both of which were directed by Noah Baumbach?

Not anymore. I have been doing a little acting. There’s only one person that keeps casting me and that’s Noah Baumbach. A couple of months ago, I shot a scene in this new film [While We’re Young] he’s doing with Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. I play the shaman in an ayuhuasca ceremony. It was fun. I am available for acting work. It’s easier than writing and recording songs. They write the words for you; you just stand in the right spot and deliver the lines, and all you have to do is act naturally.

Aside from working with Britta, do you see yourself ever being in a band again after spending almost your entire career with two of them?

I am too old to start a new band. I remember Mark Mothersbaugh saying being in a band is cool when you are in your 20s. And maybe your 30s. Beyond that, it becomes more difficult to organize your life around a collective, voting all the time. Though of course he went out and did a new Devo tour.

TIME Music

See All the Major Beatlemania Memorabilia in a New York City Exhibit

A recreation of a teenage Beatles fan's bedroom.
Jonathan Blanc—The New York Public Library A recreation of a teenage Beatles fan's bedroom.

A new exhibit invites nostalgia with an impressive collection of Beatles memorabilia

Fifty years ago this Friday, the Beatles made their first visit to America with a stop in New York City to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show – a moment in time that would enthrall millions of TV viewers and alter pop culture forever.

Now the Big Apple is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania through a new exhibit held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in conjunction with the Grammy Museum. Entitled Ladies and Gentleman…The Beatles!, the multimedia exhibit, which opened Thursday and runs through May 10, features over 400 items covering the history of the Beatles from their origins through the mid-60s. An opening reception was held Wednesday evening with the Beach Boys’ Al Jardine and Peter Asher of the ’60s British pop duo Peter and Gordon in attendance.

A recreation of the band’s live set up featuring Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass, George Harrison’s Gretsch guitar, John Lennon’s Rickenbacker guitar, and Ringo Starr’s Ludwig drums makes a grand statement upon entering the exhibit; nearby is a set of microphone stands that mimics the band’s famous press conference at John F. Kennedy Airport upon their arrival in New York. Further into the exhibit, there’s a treasure trove of photographs, newspaper clippings, fanzines, concert tickets and programs, and 45 rpm record sleeves for Beatles singles such as “Yesterday” and “We Can Work It Out.” Framed on the walls are gold records for the band’s Rubber Soul album and the “I Want Hold Your Hand” single.

Some of the iconic pieces the Fab Four wore are also represented: The jacket McCartney wore at the band’s legendary 1965 concert at Shea Stadium; Starr’s black jacket, as featured on the famous Abbey Road album cover; and John Lennon’s glasses from 1967.

In addition to the Beatles themselves, the exhibit also spotlights the band’s influences through memorabilia and artifacts from Ray Charles, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly. Other interesting touches at the exhibit includes a reconstruction of a typical American teenager’s bedroom filled with Beatles posters, fanzines and records; featured, too, is a glass case displaying vintage merchandise such as Beatles wigs and sneakers.

While the American teenage hysteria that surrounded the Beatles has long since passed, the enthusiasm for the band is still high 50 years later, as indicated by the large and diverse set of New Yorkers – old and young – who attended the opening reception. Boy bands come and go, but even the best of them are unlikely to surpass the sensation caused by the Liverpool quartet.

To read more about the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first visit to America, check out the new TIME book, The Beatles Invasion: The Inside Story of the Two-Week Tour That Rocked America, by Bob Spitz. Available wherever books are sold.

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