Saturday, March 21, 2009

Early cut of Lucifer Rising available


Lucifer Rising, the film by Kenneth Anger that was originally intended to have a soundtrack by Jimmy Page, was eventually released in a much longer version with a soundtrack by Bobby Beausoleil.

An early cut of the film with Jimmy Page's music intact was shown a few times in the seventies. By the mid eighties, only four prints were thought to exist. It has never been available to the public.

Now, a VHS rip of a claimed early cut of the film, complete with Jimmy Pages's score, was available for download by torrent here. Bear in mind that two friends of mine have told me that the torrent site is not a safe website – unless you have good anti-virus protection you might want to wait until it shows up elsewhere.

It is described as:

Sent to me anonymously, this is the original version of Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising with Jimmy Page soundtrack.The quality of the VHS tape that I received is far from good, so the digital rip is exactly as is. Given that this is probably the only copy anyone is ever likely to see, I'm sure connoisseurs of the curious and unusual will be delighted to see it nonetheless.Don't ask me where I got it — I don't even know myself. All I can tell you is that I put the feelers out for this about twenty years ago, and somehow it ended up in my lap.

Jimmy Page's music

Jimmy Page's music for Lucifer Rising has been available in one form or another for many years. Recently, three separate and slightly different cuts have been available as a bootleg under the name A Taste of Satan.

The download for A Taste of Satan was described as:

This torrent was originally posted about a year or so ago. The original FLAC or SHN files weren't kept, so it was redone again from the same source.
There are three different versions of this piece which I have found, and there may be more. Page had scored this music for the Kenneth Anger film of the same title. Page and Anger had a falling-out somewhere along the way, and the use of Page's music was discarded.
The sources are as follows:An incomplete version of the film was screened in the 1970's, and an audience tape was made of the soundtrack. This version comes from the mega-rare boot LP "Solo Performances"
A supposedly finished version was also bootlegged on a 10" blue vinyl record, called "Lucifer Rising". This version was respliced together for this torrent.
The last version came on a video tape from an early ebay auction. It features outtakes from the film, along with a third version of the piece.

The version available on the new VHS rip torrent is the third piece of music. Edit: I checked the track against the Blue Vinyl version available at Lucifer Rising on MySpace and it matches. The credits at the beginning and end of the video match the description of the video shown by Chris Dietler. It appears to be the real deal.

For those just tuning in.

The film-maker Kenneth Anger is a practicing occultist who has described his films as "Spells and Invocations". The influence isn't exactly hidden in his movies, even the popular Scorpio Rising. When you watch Invocation of my Demon Brother, any other interpretation would be kidding yourself. Jimmy Page is a well-known collector of Crowleyana, owning a large collection of Crowley manuscripts and drawings. In the seventies he owned a London bookshop called Equinox which existed to trade in Magick-related items and to build up his collection. At one point he owned Crowley's house at Loch Ness, Boleskine House. He is believed to have practiced Magick, at least at some time in the past, but he does not speak about it in public if he can avoid it.

Jimmy has stated on more than one occasion that he does not worship the devil – not that I thought he did, but there may be others reading this who do not know he's put that statement on record. He has also said,

"But I'm not really interested in going on about Crowley in so much as, say, Pete Townshend does about Meher Baba. I'm not interested in trying to turn anybody on in any way whatsoever. You know, there are a thousand paths and they can choose their own. All I know is that it's a system that works. (laughs) Although, of course, there's not much point in following a system that doesn't work."
"I just don't want it rammed down people's throats as though I'm saying it's the be-all and end-all and the only way you'll be able to put things together. I'm not saying that at all. You might go off and study the Gurdjieff system and be equally.
"But what I can relate to is Crowley's system of self-liberation, in which repression is the greatest work of sin. It's like being in a job when you want to be doing something else. That's the area where the true will should come forward. And when you've discovered your true will you should just forge ahead like a steam train. If you put all your energies into it there's no doubt you'll succeed. Because that's your true will. It may take a little while to work out what that is, but when you discover it, it's all there. "You know, when you realize what it is you're supposed to be here for. I mean, everyone's got a talent for something. Not necessarily artistic but whatever you care to say. And it's just a process of self-liberation. I mean, I just find his writings to be twentieth century. As a lot of the others weren't. And there's really nothing more to say than that. I find him quite a curious, highly enigmatic character. Consequently I enjoy my researches into him. But it doesn't want to be blown out of all proportion, though, because that would be silly, you know. I'm just another artist, too." [Salewicz]

Jimmy Page and Kenneth Anger supposedly met in 1971 when Anger and Page were bidding against each other on Crowley manuscripts. Page thinks that's unlikely – he had 'people' to bid on his behalf – but wherever they met, they hit it off immediately due to their shared interest in Crowley.

"I was at his apartment when he outlined this idea for a film that became Lucifer Rising, that he had already started shooting in Egypt. Actually, he took some footage of me in the library, I remember. It was then he asked me if I would like to take on the commission to do the music and I agreed to that." [Knowles]

Here is that clip of Jimmy Page in the library. It ended up in the finished film of Lucifer Rising, not the work in progress I am discussing here. You can see that Page is holding the Stele of Revealing, which I mentioned a couple of days ago, and looks up from it to a picture of Aleister Crowley.

The work was productive. Jimmy said,

When I finished the first piece of music he came down to my place in Sussex and bought a projector with him. He put it on and played the film and the music was perfectly in sync with everything that was going on – it was astonishing. [Knowles]

Jimmy invited Anger to work at his London place, The Tower House. Anger was confined to the basement where he had access to good quality editing gear and a chance to work on the film for free and uninterrupted. However, the collaboration did not last long. According to the commonly told version of the tale, the housekeeper discovered him giving guided tours of the house. (Tower House is a beautiful work of art, designed, built and decorated by William Burges.) There was an argument between Anger and Jimmy's then wife, and he was asked to leave. According to Jimmy Page, Anger then retaliated with curses which signally failed to upset the fellow practitioner of Magick.

Didn't he come down here and stick things onto the door of this record company?
"Oh, that was his curse. That was pathetic. His curse amounted to sending letters to people. Silly letters saying 'Bugger off, Page' and this sort of thing. How can you take that sort of thing seriously? (Sounds quite deeply disappointed). A man you had thought to be a genuine occultist and it turns out to be just. theatre. It's a shame, really." [Salewicz]

According to Knowles, Jimmy said, "Kenneth took umbrage that he couldn't show people around and the next thing I knew I started getting all this hate mail directed at my partner and myself. It was quite pathetic, actually, because it was like newspaper articles underlined in red ink – I guess if that was supposed to be some kind of curse, it fell flat."

A source more sympathetic to Anger, the website Anger Rising, puts it this way:

Anger's work at Page's house was terminated by an extraordinary sequence of events beginning Tuesday night when Anger apparently the unwitting victim of domestic fracas was ordered to leave the house by Page's girlfriend, who was staying there at the time. No reason was given for his eviction. He returned to the house Wednesday morning to collect his film material and belongings to find the door locked and bolted. The same afternoon, Anger, unable to reach Page himself, informed his management/record company Swansong that the film collaboration was off and that Page had been fired from the project. Thursday morning Anger was eventually able to recover some of his belongings and the film from Page's now empty London home. Jimmy Page, in town for a friend's funeral, was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson from Swansong claimed to be totally mystified by the news that the guitarist had been fired from the Lucifer project; he even expressed surprised at the information that Anger was even in London.

It goes on to quote Anger:

"The way he's been behaving is totally contradictory to the teachings of Aleister Crowley and totally contradictory to the ethos of the film. Lucifer is the angel of light and beauty. But the vibes that come off Jimmy are totally alien to that-and to human contact. It's like a bleak lunar landscape. By comparison, Lucifer is like a field full of beautiful flowers - although there may be a few bumble bees waiting to sting you if you are not careful. I'm beginning to think Jimmy's dried up as a musician. He's got no themes, no inspiration, no melodies to offer. I'm sure he doesn't have another "Stairway to Heaven", which is his most Luciferian song. "Presence" was very much a downer album . In the first place his commitment to Lucifer seemed to be totally serious, and he was very enthusiastic about the project. On the other hand he's very into enterprise and hard work. But on the other hand he has this problem dragging him down. He's been acting like Jekyll & Hyde, and I have to have someone who's 100%. This film is my life's work."

He went on to lambast Page for being under the influence of drugs and not a true Thelemite.

Whatever the actual story, the first 23 minutes of Jimmy Page's score for Lucifer Rising were completed and delivered before the fracas. The incomplete film was shown along with Page's soundtrack on at least one occasion. When he saw it, Jimmy said,

"The man's pacing is absolutely superb. It starts so slow and after say four minutes it gets a little faster and the whole thing starts to suck you in. The thing was, I only saw clips, and 20 minutes is a long time, and he put the music onto the visual - I know he didn't do any edits because I saw the piece with different music-and things just worked out in synch. Like certain bits match certain actions. It's so well crafted, and this undercurrent of everything working independently. It's just so arresting. I had a copy and while I was in the states I hooked it up to a big stereo and frightened the daylights out of everyone." He laughs softly. I was on the sixth floor and there were complaints from the twelfth. There's a real atmosphere and intensity. It's disturbing because you know something is coming. I can't wait for it to come out." [Anger Rising]

Kenneth Anger went on to ask Bobby Beausoleil, the man more famous for his association with Charlie Manson than with music, to complete the soundtrack. Anger added more material and a full length film was released with the Beausoleil music. It's available on DVD currently and is a glorious testament to Lucifer, the bringer of light, shot in saturated colors and starring a host of countercultural names from the sixties and early seventies.

A man named Christopher Dietler heard of the Jimmy Page soundtrack and contacted Anger. According to a 1987 article in the Sacramento Bee reprinted from a clipping in Lashtal, there were four prints of Lucifer Rising made, and Dietler purchased one. He had the soundtrack remastered on to vinyl, which eventually became the Blue Vinyl source for the bootleg. For his troubles, he was thrown out of his magickal order, the O.T.O.
In its review of this version of the soundtrack, Big O Zine says,

The Page material was released on a soundtrack album of uncertain legitimacy on the label Boleskine House Records on June 19, 1987. The blue vinyl disc contains 23 minutes of soundtrack music Page provided for the movie but was dropped from the final release. (Page played electric guitar, guitar synthesizer and the theremin.) Theall instrumental soundtrack was originally recorded by Page between November 1973 and 1974. As far as we can ascertain, this material has not been officially released and continues to be shared among Zeppelin connoisseurs. [Big O]

In the long and beautifully-researched piece on Lucifer Rising in Classic Rock (2006), Christopher Knowles says:

Although perhaps too short by half, Page's soundtrack to Lucifer Rising is one of the great unheard works of the rock era. (It was latterly released on 12" blue vinyl by Boleskine House Records in 1987). The guitarist synthesized Indian ragas, Moroccan Jajouka, Tibetan chants and Eno-esque electronic drones into a minimalist symphony that composers Terry Riley and Phillip Glass would be proud to call their own. The piece makes uses of Pan pipes, Buddhist chants, Tabla drums and cello. It bridges the gap between ambient and ceremonial music and packs a powerful occult charge even today. [Knowles]

When I heard the bootleg, I put it this way:

Page does a great job considering the synthesizers of the time. The wind instrument sounds are works of art. You can hear what sounds like a Ram's horn, a Conch horn, and the Ancient Egyptian silver trumpet everyone was so proud of in 1972. The sound of storms and wind eventually gets irritating to the modern ear. It was very effective back in the Seventies, but now a Hawkind-style atomic-bomb-blast-followed-by-soughing-wind to end a segment is just a little pass̩. The music is actually a great deal like Pink Floyd's Echoes Рexcept instead of having that watery dawn feel, it has a desert pre-dawn feel. There is a feeling of struggle and potential failure in the soundtrack. You can tell from the moment it starts that Echoes is going to get its "million bright ambassadors of morning" and we'll all be happy ever after, but this soundtrack pulls back after every advance, retreating into some unfinished sounding chord or having the wind come by and erode all the victories in the previoussequence. The chanting strikes me more as whistling past a graveyard than glorifying anything. I'm still not convinced we even get the dawn in the end.

Jimmy thought of it as an advance over playing the guitar alone and saw it as something he would like to explore in the future. According to Guitar Player Magazine in July 1977,

"The trouble is keeping a separation between sounds, so you don't have the same guitar effect all the time. and that's where that orchestration thing comes in: it's so easy. I've already planned it. it's already there; all the groundwork has been done now. and the dream has been accomplished by the computerized mixing console. the sort of struggle to achieve so many things is over. As I said, I've got two things written, but I'll be working on more. You can hear what I mean on Lucifer Rising. You see, i didn't play any guitar on that, apart from one point. that was all other instruments, all synthesizers. Every instrument was given a process so it didn't sound like what it really was – the voices, drones, mantras, and even tabla drums. when you've got a collage of, say, four of these sounds together, people will be drawn right in because there will be sounds they hadn't heard before. That's basically whatI'm into: collages and tissues of sound with emotional intensity and melody and all that. "[GP]

And that's what he got across, all right.

So, what does the music sound like now I have seen it in situ, so to say? The portion of the movie on the VHS rip is much shorter and to the point than the final finished Lucifer Rising, consisting of short clips edited together in sync with the soundtrack. (Anger is often credited for inventing the MTV music video editing style). There is a lot of stock footage and not so high a proportion of acted footage that gives the finished film its slower rhythm. It is cut superbly to the music, enhancing both itself and the soundtrack. The occultism is much stronger than in the finished film, and at this stage looks to be the whole point – it is indeed an invocation, not an attempt to tell a story. When coupled with this kind of urgency, the music does not have that aura of melancholy and the surges and setbacks make perfect sense – oh, and there is a dawn at the end!

Symphony for the Devil by Christopher Knowles, Classic Rock 2006 (not online: see Knowles)
Clip of Lucifer Rising: Page in the library.

(Edit: I've restored what links I can - it's by no means all of them. 07/2017)


Casey said...

Excellent. I, too, recently downloaded the torrent from the VHS, but haven't had a chance to really study it. I to own the "finished" cut of LR on DVD, and I've had a rip of the blue vinyl soundtrack for years.

I think I'm gonna to my own post on LR, and I'll definitely be linking over here.

I also enjoyed your stele of revealing entry.

Keep up the fascinating work!

Peromyscus said...

Thanks, Casey!

I have updated yesterday's post to reflect the fact that I re-listened to the Blue Vinyl version from another source ( and I'm now convinced it is the same track as the VHS rip. (Two of the 3 tracks on A Taste of Satan a very similar, differing mostly in the mix, not the timing - I'd pegged the VHS rip as track 3, but it could be track 2 remastered, and anyway the tracks aren't labeled as to what is from which source.) So this seems like the real deal and I'm very happy to have it.

I look forward to your post. Please let me know when it's up.

Casey said...

Our resident psychonaut, Dr. Agamenon Cox, weighs in.

Peromyscus said...

So he did. Thanks, Casey and Dr. Agamemnon. Interesting website you have there. I will peruse that some more!

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