PETER GABRIEL, LAURIE ANDERSON, OINGO BOINGO, ALLEN GINSBERG, JOHN CAGE & OTHERS USHER IN 1984

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PETER GABRIEL, LAURIE ANDERSON, OINGO BOINGO, ALLEN GINSBERG, JOHN CAGE & OTHERS USHER IN 1984.

George Orwell’s sinister novel Nineteen Eighty-Four made it inevitable that the arrival of his eponymous year would be a media event. Decades after his death, Orwell made it onto the cover of Time magazine in late 1983, but on the big day itself—January 1, 1984—TV visionary Nam June Paik ushered in the year with an ambitious international video program called Good Morning, Mr. Orwell that was broadcast live simultaneously from New York (WNET public television), Paris, and San Francisco, with broadcasters in Germany and South Korea also carrying the transmissions if not contributing content.

Among the performances: Gabriel and Anderson combine on a duet called “Excellent Birds”; a fitfully amusing comedy sketch called “Cavalcade of Intellectuals” in which a transatlantic discussion devolves into an interpersonal spat (a gag that worked better in Airplane! using airport PA announcers); a sprightly song by Yves Montand; John Cage plays “amplified cacti and plant materials” with a feather (so great); Oingo Boingo perform a song called “Wake Up (It’s 1984)”; Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky sing a little ditty about meditation to the cello stylings of Arthur Russell; and much more.

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