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‘Boogie ‘Til You Puke’: The gonzo weirdness of the legendary Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band


The great Root Boy Slim aka Foster MacKenzie III.
 
While the artist known as Root Boy Slim, Foster MacKenzie III, departed this world entirely too soon at the age of 48, he left us with a highly entertaining and weird catalog to remember him by. Though my previous statement seems to suggest that one might somehow forget about the existence of a group called Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band, I’m here to tell you won’t be able to. Here’s why.

First of all, the band is called Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band. And there is no way that anyone could possibly be expected to forget a mouthful like that. It just can’t be done. If you are not aware of Root Boy Slim, then you probably didn’t come of age in the late 70s and early 80s in the Washington, D.C. area where MacKenzie was/is pretty much a folk hero. Do you remember the guy who tried to scale the fence at the White House in 1969 who claimed to be searching for the “center of the universe” while tripping balls on acid? That was Foster MacKenzie III. This unfortunate trip would land MacKenzie in a psych ward that resulted in being diagnosed as a schizophrenic which required he be medicated for life. Perhaps the time George W. Bush (one of MacKenzie’s frat brothers at Yale) hurled him off the front porch of their frat house because he caught him smoking weed resulted in some sort of head injury. Who knows? Whatever propelled the madness that was Root Boy Slim it just simply worked, even though songs from MacKenzie’s catalog include titles like “Liquor Store Hold-Up in Space,” “I’m Not Too Old for You,” and “Too Sick to Reggae” that all sort of scream “joke rock,” making it easy for the casual observer to perhaps dismiss Root Boy Slim as some sort of goofball gimmick. However, that assessment would be pretty far from the truth.

Foster MacKenzie III was a lot of things, including being quite talented. When he got up on stage and sang “Boogie ‘Til You Puke” with his liquor-soaked voice, it was in complete earnestness just like any other musician who cared about their craft. He surrounded himself with quality musicians like saxophonist Ron Holloway who had previously stood beside Gil Scott-Heron and Dizzy Gilespie. In 1977 he managed to secure a lucrative record contract with Warner Bros. to the tune of $250,000. In 1978 Root Boy and his Sex Change Band opened up a show for the Ramones and the Runaways after which MacKenzie attempted to sweet talk a young Joan Jett to no avail. According to legend, a year later at a show MacKenzie got blotto on blow and fell off stage causing mayhem all over a table where an upper-level record executive with the label was seated with his wife. Needless to say, that didn’t go over well and after dismal sales for their debut album Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band with the Rootettes, Warners bought MacKenzie out of his contract for $40,000.
 

The front cover of Root Boy Slim’s 1986 album ‘Don’t Let This Happen to You.’ 
 
In 1979 MacKenzie and the band got another shot at fame when they were asked to perform “Boogie ‘Til You Puke,” in New York. The band’s performance was used for a scene in Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video—a bizarre NBC late-night television special created by Michael O’Donoghue, the brilliantly funny writer whose credits include National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live and the film Scrooged. Long story short, the special, which also included appearances by Klaus Nomi, Debbie Harry, and Sid Vicious, never made it to the airwaves because when the suits at NBC saw it they refused to air it. That same year the band played the nineteenth annual Reading Rock Festival sharing Saturday’s bill with Cheap Trick and the Scorpions. Despite all the coke and failed record contracts, 1979 had its moments for MacKenzie and I.R.S. records would sign the band to their sub-label Illegal Records, though, just like Warner, the label would later drop kick MacKenzie to the curb thanks to album number two Zoom which tanked just as hard as the band’s debut.

Though Foster went by the moniker Root Boy Slim, MacKenzie, who is often affectionately referred to as the “Lenny Bruce of the Blues” was a pretty big dude clocking in at over six-feet tall and two hundred or so pounds. But that didn’t stop him from performing all kinds of antics on stage like pretending to vomit (which earned him another nickname the “Duke of Puke”) or perhaps curling up in the bass drum for a brief, make-believe nap. It’s all pretty fantastic stuff. Thankfully, a documentary on Root Boy Slim has been in the works since last year thanks to the great Jeff Krulik of Heavy Metal Parking Lot fame who got filmmaker Dick Bangham (who was already working on a RBS doc and also designed album covers for MacKenzie back in the day) together with Scott Mueller. The documentary tentatively titled Boogie ‘Til You Puke: The Forgotten Legend of Root Boy Slim is due out sometime this year or in 2018.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The worst/best cover version of Serge Gainsbourg’s infamous ‘Je t’aime…’ that you’ll ever hear
04.21.2017
03:47 pm

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Serge Gainsbourg
Jane Birkin


 
Serge Gainsbourg’s infamous duet with Jane Birkin, “Je t’aime… moi non plus” (“I love you… me neither”) released in the “annee erotique” of 1969, had originally been recorded in late 1967 with Brigitte Bardot who the song was written for, a penance/apology from Gainsbourg for a disastrous first date. Bardot’s estranged husband, German photographer Gunther Sachs, got wind of the steamy song via reporters eager to drum up another scandal surrounding the sex kitten. The number’s orgasmic female moaning was said to be “audio vérité” (apparently at least half true, as Gainsbourg is alleged to have fingered the actress in the vocal booth) and Sachs demanded the release be pulled. The famously private Bardot begged her notoriously sardonic lover to withhold the song, prompting him to tell her “For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it’s taken badly.” Their original version would not be released until 1986.

Gainsbourg asked Marianne Faithfull, Valérie Lagrange and Mireille Darc (the model/actress perhaps best known for her role in Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End) to record the duet with him, but they all turned him down, until, as fate would have it, he was to meet his greatest muse, English model/actress Jane Birkin on the set of the film Slogan. Birkin quickly agreed, seething with jealousy over the idea of someone else singing this sexy chant d’amore with him. When “Je t’aime…” was finally released, the song was banned from radio play in Spain, Sweden, Brazil, the UK, Italy, and Portugal. Even in France, the song was forbidden to be played before the hour of 11 pm. Most US radio stations didn’t touch it, but still the song went on to sell over four million copies.

“Je t’aime…” has been covered—a lot. There are moog versions, parodies and recordings of the song by the likes of Nick Cave and Anita Lane (who also recorded it with Barry Adamson), Psychic TV, Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer, Pet Shop Boys with artist Sam Taylor-Johnson, Einstürzende Neubauten, and by Placebo’s Brian Molko with Italian actress Asia Argento (who reversed the gender roles). And that’s a very partial listing. I think it’s also safe to assume that at this very minute and indeed during every future minute before time comes to an end, that there are at least two drunken fools in love singing “Je t’aime…” in a karaoke bar somewhere on the planet.
 

Serge Gainsbourg et Jane Birkin performing “Je t’aime…” at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But probably the weirdest cover of “Je t’aime…” ever performed is by an enigmatic little old man by the name of Zvonimir Levačić or “Ševa” as he was known to viewers of Noćna mora (“Nightmare Stage”), the defiantly strange long-running live late-night telecast on Croatian television, which as far as I can tell was something analogous to an Eastern European version of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Ševa was one of the show’s most popular performers and according to his bio (unless Google translate was way off, which it think it might be in this case) was a bit of a war hero who was considered to be an intellectual and philosopher. Still he seems a bit more Richard Dunn than Slavoj Žižek to me.

Watch it after the jump, and no, this is NOT a recent Happy Mondays reunion…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Bowie, Bolan, dressing up & going out’: Boy George takes a personal trip through the 1970s

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September 1982: Hit rock ‘n’ roll singer Shakin’ Stevens can’t make his scheduled appearance on BBC chart show Top of the Pops. Panicked producers make the life-changing decision to fill the gap left by Shaky with an unknown pop group by the name of Culture Club. Minutes after the band’s debut television appearance on the show, phones start ringing at the BBC switchboard asking What the hell did we just watch?. Next day, newspapers run similar stories filled with offensive mock outrage questions: “Who is Boy George?” “Is he a boy or a girl?” Within weeks, Culture Club was number one and Boy George was the nation’s sweetheart.

But how did it come to this? Where did Boy George come from? What shaped the life of this brilliant, iconic “gender-bending” singer?

Well, these are some of the many questions answered by the lad himself as Boy George aka George O’Dowd takes the viewer on a very personal pop culture trip through the decade that shaped him—the 1970s.

The seventies are all too often dismissed by the more, shall we say, snobbish cultural critic as “the decade that fashion forgot,” ridiculed for its supposedly bad taste in fashion, politics, sex, music and hair. Yet for Boy George, the seventies was a “glorious decade…all about Bowie, Bolan, dressing up and going out.” The “last bonkers decade,” when the young teenage George discovered all these “amazing things… punk rock, electro music, fashion, all of that.”

Of course, there was the downside to all of this heady excitement: the political crisis, the three-day working weeks, the strikes, power cuts, mass unemployment, grim poverty, and racism. But George was too young to know much about any of this. He was too busy finding out about music and glamor and miming to Shirley Bassey in his parent’s front room. He was about to hit puberty. He felt different from the other kids and was looking for a sign that he was not alone in this gray suburban south London landscape.

Then came the sign he’d been hoping for: the day he saw David Bowie performing on Top of the Pops in 1972. That’s when George knew he wasn’t alone. The androgynous Bowie in his fire-red hair, make-up, and jumpsuit with his nail polished hand slung defiantly over Mick Ronson’s shoulder as they sang “Starman.” This was a sign that life could be extraordinary and was just an adventure to be gained.

Save Me from Suburbia is more than just Boy George telling his life story, it is an essential history of the events and pop culture that shaped a nation during ten heady years from skinheads and strikes to punk and Margaret Thatcher. George takes us on an utterly fascinating tour through the decade with a little help from his friends and accomplices like Rusty Egan, Princess Julia, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife), and Caryn Franklin—and most revealingly his mother.
 
Watch Boy George’s revealing pop culture trip through the 1970s, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘And when he is come’: A treasury of unintentionally ‘dirty’ double-entendre gospel LP covers
04.21.2017
08:37 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Gospel
LP covers


 
Last week Dangerous Minds brought you a gallery of the worst album covers ever created. It was a fine sampling, showcasing some of the best of the worst, but my own personal favorite genre of “bad album art” was under-represented. I’m talking about, of course, the private-press gospel record with double-entendre title.

Now, most of these records generally fall into two categories: titles about someone being touched and titles about someone coming, in one instance “quarts of love.”

Usually, the naïve graphics on the covers sell the unintentional jokes.

Below are some of my favorites. If I missed any, let me know in the comments!
 

 

 
Many more questionably-titled Christian album covers after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Jean Cocteau’s poem for Orson Welles
04.21.2017
08:16 am

Topics:
Art
Heroes
Literature
Movies

Tags:
Orson Welles
Jean Cocteau


Orson Welles by Jean Cocteau (from the frontispiece of André Bazin’s book on Welles)
 
Orson Welles and Jean Cocteau first met at a performance of “Voodoo Macbeth,” the all-black Shakespeare production Welles staged in New York in 1936 with funding from a New Deal program. They remained friends and encouraged one another’s rascality, according to Simon Callow’s account of the 1948 Venice Film Festival in One-Man Band, the third volume of his Welles biography:

He and the perenially provocative Jean Cocteau formed a sort of anti-festival clique, clubbing together to commit what Cocteau rather wonderfully called lèse-festival. [...] Together in Venice, the two men behaved like two very naughty boys. Welles shocked his hosts by ostentatiously walking out of the showing of Visconti’s uncompromisingly severe masterpiece, La Terra Trema.

 

Cocteau and Welles in Venice, 1948
 
Welles was a member of the Comité d’Honneur at Cocteau’s 1949 Festival du Film Maudit, at which both The Magnificent Ambersons and The Lady from Shanghai were screened. (Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks made its European debut there, too, and Artaud’s “Sorcery and Cinema” was first published in the festival catalog.) Cocteau contributed this sketch of his friend to the program for Welles’ The Blessed and the Damned, an evening of two one-act plays that opened in Paris in 1950:

Orson Welles is a giant with the face of a child, a tree filled with birds and shadows, a dog who has broken loose and gone to sleep in the flower bed. An active loafer, a wise madman, a solitary surrounded by humanity, a student who sleeps during the lesson. A strategy: pretending to be drunk to be simply left alone. Seemingly better than anyone else, he can use a nonchalant attitude of real strength, apparently drifting but guided by a half-opened eye. This attitude of an abandoned hulk, and that of a sleepy bear, protects him from the cold fever of the motion picture world. An attitude which made him move on, made him leave Hollywood, and carried him to other lands and other horizons.

Quoting some of the increasingly hysterical praise for Welles printed elsewhere in the program and then in the show’s reviews, Callow wonders: “At least Cocteau had the excuse of being an opium addict; what were these chaps on?”

Keep reading, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Iggy Bop? New music from the godfather of punk on his 70th birthday—with a jazz trio!
04.21.2017
07:39 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Iggy Pop
Bobby Previte
Jamie Saft
Steve Swallow


 
James “Iggy Pop” Osterberg is one of a handful of figures who need zero introduction to Dangerous Minds’ readers. Not just a godfather of punk rock in his capacity as vocalist for the Stooges, but a far greater champion and exponent of its aesthetic and ethos than fellow proto-punk figures like Reed, Tyner, and Bowie. His influence was and remains incalculable—TRY to imagine David Johansen, Nick Cave, Johnny Rotten, or Stiv Bators without elements of Iggy’s bratty, combative, and entirely unhinged stage persona to draw from. He’s settled into a marvelous and once-improbable-seeming afterlife as one of music’s great coolest-guy-ever figures, holding a similar status in rock ’n’ roll as Bill Murray does in the film world. But sorry not sorry, Iggy’s cooler.

The date of this posting is Pop’s 70th birthday (happy birthday, sir, and thanks for all the awesome shit), and even at this age, he continues to explore new territory. Today, it’s Dangerous Minds’ pleasure to premiere a new track featuring Pop singing with Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow, and Bobby Previte, the jazz trio behind 2014’s acclaimed album The New Standard, a title they used as a band name for a spell, but it didn’t stick. A traditional piano/bass/drums trio, Saft, Swallow and Previte have earned justified praise for straddling trad and transformative, jumping genres and modalities effortlessly while preserving the ineffably cool feeling of mid-century instrumental jazz, never becoming precious or NPRishly slick—Swallow’s bass playing is brawny and fiercely eclectic, and pianist Saft and drummer Previte are both former Zorn collaborators, so preciousness is likely not part of their vocabularies. Their forthcoming album Loneliness Road features Iggy Pop’s vocal contributions on three tracks, the title track, “Don’t Lose Yourself,” and “Everyday.” It’s the title track we’re sharing today.

Listen after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Steven Spielberg predicts the psycho-delic future of today in 1971’s ‘Los Angeles: A.D. 2017’!


 
I had heard about this impossible-to-see episode of The Name of the Game—a cutting edge television show that ran for seventy-six 90-minute episodes from 1968 to 1971 on NBC—but until recently, I’d never seen it. The Name of the Game had the biggest budget of any show of its time and a very interesting concept. First of all each episode was, in effect, it’s own semi-standalone 90-minute movie. The series was one of the first of what was then known as a “wheel series.” A wheel series was mostly known as a time slot on TV that two or three different shows shared, alternating each week. With The Name of the Game‘s high concept though, this wheel was alternating between three different stars who were featured in their own episodes/movies. And what a high concept it was!

From Wikipedia:

The series was based on the 1966 television movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, which was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and stars Tony Franciosa. The Name of the Game rotated among three characters working at Howard Publications, a large magazine publishing company. Jeffrey “Jeff” Dillon (Franciosa), a crusading reporter with People magazine (before there was a real-life People magazine); Glenn Howard (Gene Barry, taking over for George Macready, who had originated the role in the earlier film), the sophisticated, well-connected publisher; and Daniel “Dan” Farrell (Robert Stack), the editor of Crime magazine. Serving as a common connection was then-newcomer Susan Saint James as Peggy Maxwell, the editorial assistant for each.

 
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Which brings us to one of the last episodes of the series, LA 2017 aka Los Angeles: AD 2017. This episode was the first long form directing assignment for 24-year-old Steven Spielberg. Written by well-known offbeat author Phillip Wylie (who wrote Gene Barry’s wild episode Love-In At Ground Zero in the first season). Wylie’s work is known to have inspired the characters of Superman, Doc Savage and even Flash Gordon (from his story that was later made into the film When Worlds Collide). In this episode, Glenn Howard is hunted down in a lethally polluted, frightening and sometimes hilarious Los Angeles of the future, where the fascist government is ruled by psychiatrists and the populace has been driven to live in underground bunkers to survive the pollution. Sounds about right, right? This was the sixteenth episode of the third season, and the cast included Barry Sullivan, Edmond O’Brien, and (in a brief cameo) Spielberg’s friend Joan Crawford.
 
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It starts out with a car crash while character Howard (Gene Barry) is seen driving through the mountains recording a memo to the President to do with an important pollution scandal story that will appear in his magazine, and ends up being a dream, which allowed the science-fiction plot to fit into the modern-day setting of the show, though in the final moments he is still contemplating what happened while driving back in his car (cue close-up shot of his tail pipes chugging out 1971 style car exhaust fumes). In the end, we see a stiff bird hanging in a tree… a close encounter of the (dead) bird kind indeed!
 
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Watching this 1971 pop culture prophecy in the actual Los Angeles of 2017 is a total mindblower. Some of it is insanely far-fetched and yet there are a few humdingers that really freak you out and make you think, the most well known being my favorite scene where we are taken into a truly “underground” club with a demented octogenarian acid rock band totally freaking out (or at least trying to):
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
For when you have more dollars than sense: $2,145 designer purse resembles the blue IKEA bag
04.20.2017
12:01 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Fashion

Tags:
IKEA


 
This is perhaps one of the dumbest ideas I’ve seen in a long time: A $2,145 Balenciaga handbag allegedly inspired by the blue IKEA bag. Is this for rich people to haul their dirty clothes to the laundromat in? ‘Cause that’s what I use my IKEA bags for. But then again, the wealthy probably don’t use laundromats. What was I thinking?

Anyway, the bag is on Barneys website with this description:

Balenciaga’s Arena extra-large shopper tote bag is constructed of blue wrinkled, glazed leather.

The real question is though: does it make that annoying crunchy sound? That’s how you get the full effect of an IKEA bag.

Here’s what IKEA has to say about the $2,145 designer bag:

We are deeply flattered that the Balenciaga tote bag resembles the ILEA iconic sustainable blue bag for 99 cents. Nothing beats the versatility of a great big blue bag!


 

 
via Today and Geekologie

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Dolly Parton performing a death metal version of ‘Jolene’
04.20.2017
09:09 am

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
Dolly Parton


 
You’re either going to find this amusing for shits and giggles purposes or completely loathe it. Here’s Dolly Parton “singing” a death metal version of her classic ballad, “Jolene.”

The video is by Los Angeles-based musician and producer Andy Rehfeldt. He’s also responsible for the death metal version of Mary Poppins singing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” that went viral a few years ago.

If you can’t get enough of these, you can see more of Andy’s work on his YouTube Channel.

 
via Laughing Squid

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Attention ‘Slow Ass Jolene’ Dolly Parton uploader: Plunderphonics did that same thing 25 years ago!
That time in 1978 when Dolly Parton posed for Playboy with a super pervy-looking bunny
Dolly Parton talks about growing up poor, 1978

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Oh, you pretty thing! Polaroid portraits of Andy Warhol in drag
04.20.2017
09:07 am

Topics:
Art
Heroes
Pop Culture
Queer

Tags:
Andy Warhol
drag
polaroids


Andy Warhol in drag taken with a polaroid camera.

Back in 2013 auction house Christie’s sold off 62 of Andy Warhol’s Polaroid photos for the tidy sum of $978,125. Fifteen of the Polaroids were of objects such as shoes and Absolute Vodka. Another 37 of the shots in the group were portraits taken by Warhol that he would then use to create silkscreens of his famous friends and muses like Grace Jones or Jean-Michael Basquiat. In a fascinating (at least to me) analysis done by Exhibition Inquisition, it appears that Andy’s Polaroids of women sold for vastly less than their famous male counterparts—by an approximate margin of $7,000. Even in the art game, us girls can’t seem to get a fair shake. Who knew?

Exhibition Inquisition also broke down Warhol’s “top ten” selling Polaroid portraits which included some of the artist closest acquaintances like Debbie Harry and Dennis Hopper. Farrah Fawcett also made it into the top ten as well as former governator of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and Muhammad Ali.

Now let’s discuss the topic of this post—Warhol’s drag self-portraits which were taken in the early 80s. In this series, we see Warhol in full make-up and bombshell red lipstick wearing a variety of different wigs from a smart, short black bob to full-on, teased-up heavy metal hair and black eyeliner. Here’s more on the creative process that got Andy ready for his closeup as a girl from the Getty Museum’s website:

Andy Warhol enjoyed dressing for parties in drag, sometimes in dresses of his own design. He admired “the boys who spend their lives trying to be complete girls,” so in 1981 he and a photographic assistant, Christopher Makos, agreed to collaborate on a session portraying Warhol in drag. In many ways, they modeled the series on Man Ray’s 1920s work with the French artist Marcel Duchamp, in which the two artists created a female alter ego name Rrose Sélavy for Duchamp.

Warhol and Makos made a number of pictures, both black-and-white prints and color Polaroids, of their first attempt. For the second round of pictures, they hired a theater makeup person. This stage professional better understood the challenge of transforming a man’s face into that of a woman. After the makeup, Warhol tried on curled, straight, long, short, dark, and blonde wigs.

Warhol might not have been the most attractive fella (or dame) but he knew how to give great “face” and his drag self-portraits are absolutely mesmerizing. Curiously, they are not as covetable to collectors as one might think. Warhol’s selfies out-of-drag have sold for far greater sums that his drag portraits. And it seems that the most covetable Polaroid images of Andy are the ones that were taken of the pop culture icon in his famous “fright wig” (you know, this look) which have sold at auction for $50 grand apiece. I’ve included the drag Polaroids of Andy below for you to check out. Warhol’s Polaroids can be seen in the wonderful, well worth owning 2015 book, Andy Warhol: Polaroids.
 

 

 

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
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