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‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare’: The origin of Spinal Tap
01:09 pm


Spinal Tap

Spinal Tap
Legend has it that the initial creative spark for This is Spinal Tap was generated from a serendipitous moment at the Chateau Marmont in 1974, when Christopher Guest overheard the following “duncelike” dialogue between the bassist for a rock band and his manager:

Manager: All right, well, we’ll take our instruments up to the room.
Bassist: Don’t know where my bass is.
Manager: I beg your pardon.
Bassist: I don’t know where the bass is.
Manager: Where is it?
Bassist: I think it’s at the airport.
Manager: You have to get back there, don’t you?
Bassist: I don’t know, do I?
Manager: I think you better.
Bassist: Where’s my bass?
Manager: It’s at the airport.

Guest let that idea ping-pong around his head for a while, and in 1978 Spinal Tap made its first appearance on an ABC sketch program called The TV Show, which aired at 11:30 pm. The initial target of the sketch was an NBC music show called The Midnight Special. In the book Risky Business: Rock in Film, R. Serge Denisoff and William D. Romanowski explain that the three main characters of the band were developed during video shoot. According to Harry Shearer (bassist Derek Smalls), “We were shooting a takeoff on ‘Midnight Special,’ just lying on the ground waiting for the machine that was supposed to make the fog effect to stop dripping hot oil on us—and to relieve the tension of that moment, we started ad-libbing these characters.”

In the clip, Rob Reiner introduces the band not as “Marty DiBergi” but as Wolfman Jack. The video is a kind of repository of heavy metal video tropes—the endless over-emoting on stage, the quasi-choreographed physical interplay between the band’s members, a video montage including a trippy poker game and a death’s-head judge pronouncing the band to be “guilty,” complete with gavel. There’s also a sublime Busby Berkeley moment that no real heavy metal band would ever be caught dead executing—this is the reference to “lying on the ground” in Shearer’s comment above. And just to top it off, there’s a shot of a playing card—the ace of spades, natch—on fire.

You can’t tell from watching it—at least, I can’t—but the keyboardist in the video is none other than Loudon Wainwright III.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Toto’s ‘Africa’ sucks, we all know that, but you should still hear this guy explain WHY it sucks

Just look at these idiots

I will not oversell this with breathless Upworthy-esque superlatives. It might not be the funniest or the most brilliant thing you’re going to see online all day. But it is damned witty and amusing, and absolutely worth spending ten minutes with, should you happen to have a spare ten minutes to kill. Award-winning essayist and short story writer Steve Almond - known for Candyfreak, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life and God Bless America - in a speech given at Tin House Magazine’s 10th anniversary celebration in 2009, delivered a terrific takedown of that depressingly durable, dangerously soporific, and shamefully not entirely unenjoyable early ‘80s hit, “Africa,” by the indisputably crappy band/punchline Toto.

Though it’s maybe shooting fish in a barrel, this needed to be done. Toto were a canned band of six session musicians, previously footnote-worthy for their work on several best-selling light pop and vaguely fusiony rock albums, who united so as to grope for stardom in their own collective right. They were responsible for some of the most unlistenable radio dreck of their late ‘70s/early ‘80s heyday, but “Africa,” from their ha-ha-we-won-all-the-Grammys blockbuster 1982 album IV, is the massive and enduring überhit that’ll get played at all of their funerals. And it’s not hard to see why, as really, it’s an undeniably pretty song with a very well-crafted emotional arc. And it’s kinda soothing. And it grooves along well enough in the background, so you sorta don’t mind it, and then oh right on, here comes that big soaring chorus and JESUS BALLS CHRIST it’s so obviously a douchey black hole into which all that is not mightily vile gets sucked and yet this creepy, pandering, empirically wretched smooth-jazz/pop dross has been a mainstay for over 30 years and how how HOW THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT, TOTO, YOU AWFUL, AWFUL MEN? I am persuaded that a horrible bargain was struck with the same pop Satan that handed “Orinoco Flow” to Enya.

Almond’s fine belittlement of the accursed thing begins with a funny line-by-line parsing of the lyrics - which make very nearly no sense. He goes on to quote at length from a truly stupid interview with Toto’s lyricist, revealing that the man, though gifted at extracting money from the pop charts, was kind of an embarrassingly clueless fuckstick. Almond concludes with some brutal truths about the narcissism of white, Western privilege that I would love to blockquote here, but to do so would be to rob the man of his well-earned money shot. I’ll let him do the rest of the talking.

Hat tip to Paul Scot August for bringing this little gem to my attention.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Hotel Room’: David Lynch’s oddball HBO mini-series, 1993
12:52 pm


David Lynch

“It’s kind of beautiful, though, the dark…”

In roughly speaking his Twin Peaks/Wild At Heart era, director David Lynch executive produced—and directed two episodes—of a three-part HBO mini-series, Hotel Room, that was broadcast over two days, January 8 and 9, 1993.

The quirky dramas are strangely absorbing, like most of Lynch’s work, but mercifully a bit more straightforward because he didn’t actually write the scripts. Hotel Room is the work of author Barry Gifford, (who also wrote Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula, the novel Lynch’s film was based on, and the screenplay for Lost Highway) and Jay “Bright Lights, Big City” McInerney.

The stagebound Hotel Room takes place in the same New York City hotel room (number 603 of the Railroad Hotel) in 1969, 1992, and 1936, respectively. The guests change from story to story, but the hotel employees do not. Nor do they age.

In his book of teleplays, Barry Gifford writes in the preface:

“The only rules regarding composition were that the action take place in specific years–“Tricks,” for example, is set in 1969—and be set in a particular New York City hotel room (numbered 603), the corridor immediately outside the room, and the hotel lobby. A bellboy and maid, the only continuing characters in the series, were to be included in the plays at my option…

“Blackout” was written in two days with the admonition from Messrs. Montgomery [co-producer Monty Montgomery] and Lynch that it be “something our grandmothers could watch.” I told Monty that would not be a problem; I’ll write the play, I said, you guys gag and tie up the old ladies.”

Each episode begins with the director solemnly intoning:

For a millennium, the space for the hotel room existed undefined. Mankind captured it, gave it shape and passed through. And sometimes in passing through, they found themselves brushing up against the secret names of truth.

In a note to “Tricks,” which stars Harry Dean Stanton, Glenne Headly, and Freddie Jones as two guys and a hooker, Gifford wrote:

The pace of the play is slow but tense, the actors’ movements almost agonizingly exaggerated, their words deliberate with a kind of mock profundity. The impression should be one or two steps removed from reality.

That it is. The two other stories were McInerney’s “Getting Rid of Robert,” directed by longtime SNL producer/director James Signorelli and starring Griffin Dunne, Deborah Kara Unger and Mariska Hargitay; and “Blackout” with Crispin Glover and Alicia Witt. The soundtrack was provided by frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti.

Speaking of David Lynch and hotel rooms, Lynch has designed a suite at the Hotel Lutetia in Paris. I thought it would have red walls!

Below, all three Hotel Room episodes, back to back.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Is Rolling Stone trolling an entire generation of electronic music fans?
12:34 pm


Rolling Stone


DJs. Criminals with a license to shoot shit into our eardrums.

This commercial, directed by Federico Brugia and Filmmaster Productions, purports to be for Italian Rolling Stone Magazine. I can’t find much about it online except for this information on Ads of the World and Rolling Stone Italy.

It’s either a real ad commissioned by Rolling Stone or else something for the director’s reel, it’s unclear to me. Whatever the case, I’m sure the ad—which is basically calling out DJs as assholes—is going to piss a lot of people off. If the (obvious) object of this exercise is to get people talking about Italian Rolling Stone, I think it worked. Maybe they should consider renaming the magazine “Trolling Stone” if they keep this up!

I must admit, I did mildly chuckle at it. 

Not safe for work.

Via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Righteous Motörhead Christmas sweater
10:47 am



Motörhead Christmas sweater
It’s a little early to be grooving on Christmas merch, but this was too good to resist. The online store Shredders was offering this fucking fantastic Christmas sweater with the Motörhead hell-boar on it, but it’s been yanked. (They used to have a Wu-Tang sweater too, but that one too is no longer available.)

I’m guessing a stern message from Motörhead’s legal representatives put an end to that.

So hey, Motörhead—why don’t you offer an official one? I don’t want to support copyright infringers if I can help it…. I just want my own Motörhead Christmas sweater. Is that too much to ask?

Thank you Annie Zed!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The glorious heyday of FAKE Beatlemania
10:26 am

Pop Culture

The Beatles

Do the Beetle
By now it’s an article of faith that the Beatles are great, the Beatles were the best band that ever was, the Beatles changed the world, and the Beatles wrote and recorded the best ten thousand songs that ever were. Naturally the scale of the Beatles’ success, especially in the first 2-3 years after they broke, is a big part of the story. The near-universal love for the Beatles on the part of teenage listeners everywhere caused a massive disruption to the entertainment market—in the mythology of the Beatles, it was what World War I was to modernism.
The Beetle Beat
The Beatles remain as big as ever, but the weird detritus that accompanied their rise, well, that tends to fade. So we kind of ... forget that for a time there, dozens and dozens of acts copied, mimicked, “were inspired by” the Beatles, and not all of them were especially scrupulous about the consumer understanding whether their LPs were really from the Beatles or really from ... BJ Brock and the Sultans, or the Manchesters or The Original or the Blue Beats or on and on. Actually I think these albums were mostly directed at the teens’ parents who wouldn’t have the ability to remember just what moptop band young Gidget kept babbling about at the breakfast table this morning. You can just envision the heated conversation a day later: “Daaaaaaaaaaad, this isn’t the right one! I wanted the Beatles!!” “How was I supposed to know!? It says ‘Beatlemania’ right there!”

I ran across this video several years ago, and it never fails to amuse and inform. In keeping with the mock-academic trappings of the informal “Adult Education” lecture series held at Park Slope’s Union Hall, its title is “Yeah Yeah ... Uh, No: Exploring the Audiovisual Phenomenon of Beatles-Lookalike Long-Playing Albums,” but it’s really a vastly entertaining slide show, a comprehensive look at the year or two in which the marketplace saw a glut of albums masquerading as Beatles product. Few people know this terrain better than WFMU DJ Gaylord Fields, and it’s a pleasure to behold his geeky wonder (and corny jokes) at the naked greed and deception on display here. Misleading text and pictures, outright lies, all in the name of conning people into thinking that some band’s bassist just might be George Harrison if you squinted just so. It’s a parable for our times, a parable ... of America.
The Bearcuts
Really this is a lesson about capitalism first and foremost. You can’t have a mass phenomenon without a mass market, and, as Fields rightly emphasizes, the real start of the story isn’t so much the Beatles themselves but rather the reaction of countless record executives waking up the morning after the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show determined to sell a Beatles album come hell or high water, whether the Beatles were involved or not. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and popularity inspires copycats.
The Beatle Buddies

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Pretty—and bearded—in pink: Poster boy takes shot at pro-military attitude in gay rights movement
09:55 am



Published in 1993 by the Queer caucus of the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, (formerly the above-ground auxiliary to the Weather Underground), this sly little bit of radical propaganda was handed out during the 1993 National Lesbian/Gay Rights March in Washington, DC. The event was far from culturally or ideologically uniform, with Sir Ian McKellen, RuPaul, Eartha Kitt and Urvashi Vaid (radical, anti-assimilation queer activist) all present.

At the time, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was becoming a high-profile issue, and as gay rights began to seep into the mainstream, the more radical queer communities began to push back with a critique of the newly “family-friendly” direction of the movement. Of course, now queer rights are almost wholly represented in mass media as naught but marriage and military service, and those who want no part of the US military or the wars they fight are dismissed as marginal malcontents.

Given the scatter-shot state of the anti-war movement at present, maybe we can bring this guy back as a new mascot?
Via Bolerium Books

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Iconic historical B&W photos get colorized
08:47 am

Pop Culture


I normally dislike it when B&W photos get the colorized treatment. I feel like it takes a certain je ne sais quoi from the original image and the photographer’s intention to catch a particular moment in its own time. However, these colorized photos by redditors from /r/colorizedhistory and /r/colorization I kinda dig. I still prefer the original B&W images, but they do somehow make you feel like the past isn’t so… distant.

You can view the rest of the collection on Imgur.

Mark Twain in the garden, circa 1900

Auto wreck in Washington D.C, 1921

More colorized photos after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Talk Talk’s ‘Talk Talk’ pre-Talk Talk
08:23 am


Talk Talk
Mark Hollis
The Reaction

talk talk
Talk Talk’s journey from their start as opportunistic Duran Duran wannabes to the final shape of their most lasting influence as an innovative, atmospheric, experimental wonder - who inspired not just Radiohead’s Kid A and Amnesiac albums but the entire post-rock genre via Tortoise and Bark Psychosis - is one of the most amazing stories to emerge from New Wave. That story has been told in depth elsewhere, so I’ll not rehash it further here except to note that discussion of their early work sometimes tends to dismissively focus on how awesome it wasn’t compared to their last two albums, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock.

I beg to differ. Not only were none of their pop chart contemporaries doing anything that approached the depth of songs like “Such a Shame” and “I Believe In You,” even their first album’s blatant attempts at hitching on to the popularity of the New Romantic trend showed that the seeds of later greatness had already been planted - this was absolutely not a fallow period. The most telling comparison is not between early and late Talk Talk, but between Talk Talk and The Reaction, TT leader Mark Hollis’ prior band. There’s an actual A/B comparison to make there, since Talk Talk’s namesake debut single was in fact a remake of a song by the earlier band, which probably would have been lost altogether had it not turned up on a Beggars Banquet label comp. Check it out.

The Reaction, Talk Talk

And now, here’s the version the of-a-certain-age types will remember from its saturation airplay on MTV.

As goofy as Hollis’ over-emoting in that video seems, there’s still no contest. The original is kinda meh even without comparing it to the later hit version, and then Simon Brenner’s piano solo just absolutely cements Talk Talk’s superiority - it gets me every time - and he’s the guy that bailed when the band started its drift towards art-rock! (Probably not a terrible thing, all in all - here’s one of his solo efforts. I give it less than a minute in before you get why you’ve never heard of him.)

But while “Talk Talk” didn’t become a good song until other musicians re-worked it, The Reaction did release an enjoyable single - “I Can’t Resist/I’m A Case.” Enjoy it here via YouTube user toorlooo, whose page is a treasure trove of rare and interesting Talk Talk material.

The Reaction, I Can’t Resist

The Reaction, I’m A Case

Gingham and strawberries… because punk rock.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Female surf band La Luz in terrible collision with semi
07:50 am


Car Crash
La Luz

By far my favorite show all year has been La Luz. They’re one of those rare bands with a referential sound that still manages to feel innovative and gutsy (a precious rarity when so many groups sway derivative, “retro,” or kitschy). The songs are sexy and sleepy and mournful and absolutely gorgeous. The musicianship is deliberate but elegantly raw. And the band is simply hypnotic on stage. Seriously, check them out.

Unfortunately, the group’s van was hit by a semi the night before last, totaling their transportation, destroying nearly all their equipment, and injuring members. They’ve been forced to cut their tour short, and their record label has taken up a recovery collection. From their Facebook:

Last night was probably the most terrifying experience of any of our lives. But we’re ok! Thanks for the love and well wishes everyone. We lost a lot of things (pretty much everything we had) and got pretty banged up when we were hit by a semi on our way to Seattle last night, but we’re just awfully glad to be alive and we’ll be back on our feet in no time. For those of you who want to help out financially, Hardly Art set up this paypal to help us pay for some stuff and money we lost. Love to you all!

While no one can tend to every tragedy, I know the folks at Dangerous Minds have the best taste in music. A young, all-woman outfit creating fantastic tunes is the very sort thing we’d all like to support when we can, right? So, if you’d like to donate to their recovery fund, you can do it here (You might have to be logged into PayPal for the link to work). Remember folks, musicians don’t get disability, sick days, or medical insurance. Get well soon, ladies!

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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