A wonderful artifact just popped up on YouTube this week—a 1985 Melvins rehearsal tape, of pretty high quality for a boombox recording, bookended by the complaints of band member Dale Crover’s mom that the band is drowning out the TV!
Melvins, as constituted in 1985, were already on their second lineup. Founders Buzz Osborne and future Mudhoney member Matt Lukin (the first in Melvins’ Spinal Tap drummer-like procession of bassists) had recruited drummer Crover the year before to replace original member Mike Dillard. Osborne was 21 at the time, and Crover only 18, and the band practiced in Crover’s mother’s Aberdeen, Washington home. But despite their youth, the soon-to-be-influential band were already burgeoning road warriors. After the rehearsal tape, I’ve included footage from a concert that same year, in Calgary, Alberta.
Here’s part one of that concert in Canada. Part 2 is here, and 3 is here.
I have a grudging respect for U2, although I am not really a fan of their music. I say “grudging respect” because a) they are one of the biggest rock bands in history and plenty of people love them and b) I can’t overlook the fact that of any “classic” rock act, they’ve probably been consistently better than almost any band you can name, and for a longer period of time, too. Compare U2 to the Rolling Stones. The Stones’ classic period begins in 1966 and is over by the time fucking Ronnie Wood joins. Eight good years out of what, 90 or something? Even the towering genius of David Bowie’s peak creative years have got nothing on U2 who have never really been “bad” in over 35 years. U2 have had a remarkably good run of it. Put them next to any longterm rock superstars, and they acquit themselves admirably.
Still, they are just not my cup of tea. I think I feel a little guilty about putting them on DM, I guess, because, frankly, I’ve always found them a bit naff and Bono, although he’s undeniably done some good things in the world, strikes me as a man who absolutely loves himself, like Sting does. For the record, I like Boy (but don’t own it) I like the Zooropa-era material (but don’t own it), and I thought “It’s a Beautiful Day” was… just beautiful. But there are only really two tracks by them that I am absolutely nuts over: “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” from 1995’s Batman Forever soundtrack, which just completely blew me away, and the least-known single of their career, 1982’s “A Celebration.”
“A Celebration” does not appear on any U2 album and was deleted six months after it came out. According to a 1983 interview with drummer Larry Mullen Jr.:
“We did a video of it. We went to this prison in Dublin, where the 1916 uprising took place, called Kilmainham Jail, and filmed it with the idea of breaking out. It was very much a look at ourselves. Like when we were in school and everyone was telling us ‘you’re crap’ and we couldn’t get a record dealit was the triumph of breaking through.”
The reason for the record’s cold shoulder from the group who recorded it—and were presumably proud enough of it to shoot a video for the song—have to do with the way Bono’s lyrics were misinterpreted. From a transcript of a 1983 radio interview
Interviewer: I wanna play the other side of that, which is ‘A Celebration’, since we have no hope in the world of hearing this tomorrow, since the band’s forgotten it we’re gonna play that. This is a terrific track, is it ever going to appear on an album?
Bono: No…(laughs) I don’t think so. It ah -
Interviewer: Do you not like it?!
Bono: No I do like it actually, I’m… sometimes I hate it, I mean it’s like with a lot of music, if I hear it in a club it really excites me, and I think it is a forerunner to War and a lot of the themes. It was great in Europe because… A song like ‘Seconds’ people thought was very serious - on the LP War ‘Seconds’ - it’s anti-nuclear, it’s a statement. They didn’t see the sense of humour to it, it’s sort of black humour, where we were using a lot of clichés; y’know It takes a second to say goodbye, blah blah, and some people took it very seriously. And it is black humour, and it is to be taken sort-of seriously, but this song had the lines in it, I believe in a third world war, I believe in the atomic bomb, I believe in the powers that be, but they won’t overpower me. And of course a lot of people they heard I believe in a third world war, I believe in the atomic bomb, and they thought it was some sort of, y’know, Hitler Part II. And Europeans especially were (puts on outraged French accent) Ah non! Vive le France! and it was all like, all sorts of chaos broke out, and they said, What do you mean, you believe in the atomic bomb? And I was trying to say in the song, I believe in the third world war, because people talk about the third world war but it’s already happened, I mean it’s happened in the third world, that’s obvious. But I was saying these are facts of life, I believe in them, I believe in the powers that be BUT, they won’t overpower me. And that’s the point, but a lot of people didn’t reach the fourth line.
It’s too bad, because this is a fucking corker of a song with an amazing guitar riff. Like I say, I’m not a big U2 fan, but I used to play this record over and over and over again back then. MTV on a rare occasion would play the video (and Vh1 Classics probably still does) but it’s still tragically the least known song in U2’s large catalog. Eventually it was released on CD in 2004 on The Complete U2.
Playing almost like a particularly claustrophobic Dario Argento film produced by Roger Corman, but starring Hammer’s two most notable leading men, the gory low-budget—but totally wonderful—Horror Express is one of those films that we of a certain age saw repeatedly on “Chiller Theater” type TV shows in the mid-to-late 70s. When I was a ten-year-old kid, this film absolutely scared the shit out of me.
In Horror Express, which is almost a horror comedy, a supposed “missing link” is discovered in Siberia, but the frozen creature is merely the vessel for an extraterrestrial “spirit of pure evil” that can hop from victim to victim turning them into zombies that bleed from their eyes. It stars Christoper Lee and Peter Cushing as two competitive archaeologists. Telly Savalas has a great supporting role as a brutal Cossack officer who’s a nasty piece of work and there is even a weird Rasputin character milling about. It was written by Arnaud d’Usseau and Julian Zimet, the same (one-time blacklisted) screenwriters who penned the “undead biker” cult classic Psychomania. It was directed by Eugenio Martín. Like many European films of the time, this Spanish production was shot without sound and the actors dubbed their voices in later so it’s got that loopy sort of feel.
Horror Express has been in the public domain for years and crappy quasi-bootleg copies have been making the rounds at 99 Cents Only stores and the like for a while now (I have one that has the film reels out of order). In 2011, Horror Express fans were treated to a deluxe 2-disc dual DVD/Blu-ray release from cult meisters extraordinaire, Severin Films. Created using the original camera negative, the DVD extras include a recording of an extensive 1973 interview with Peter Cushing. (Cushing’s wife died right before filming on Horror Express commenced. He almost backed out of the film entirely).
Horror Express makes for great campy “Midnight Movie” viewing. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s big fun.
Talking Jimmie Dimmick action figure (from Pulp Fiction) and his “really fucking good” cup of coffee
Toymaker Beeline Creative are the geniuses behind what appears to be the greatest line of action figures ever created - four thirteen-inch likenesses of Jules Winnfield, Vincent Vega, Jimmie Dimmick and Butch Coolidge from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction that are also able to hurl many of the memorable obscenity-laced quotes from the flick whenever the mood strikes you. Oh, I’m sorry… did I break your concentration?
All of the figures are poseable and also come with different artifacts specific to their character in the film. For instance, the figure based on Quentin Tarantino’s role as Jimmie Dimmick comes with removable slippers and a cup of “really good fucking coffee,” and Bruce Willis’ character of boxer Butch Coolidge comes with a samurai sword, bloody shirt and his “father’s watch” that was once carried around for safekeeping in “Captain Koon’s” ass (played by Christopher Walken in the film). Each of the figures have the ability to curse you under the table with the push of a button. In other fantastic fucking news, the Vincent Vega figure (pictured above) comes loaded with the most quotes of the four figures, a whopping twelve f-bomb laden lines from the film. Here’s everything that little Vinnie Vega says:
1. All right. Well, you can walk into a movie theater in Amsterdam and buy a beer. And I don’t mean just like in no paper cup, I’m talking about a glass of beer. And in Paris, you can buy a beer at McDonald’s. And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
2. Nah, man, they got the metric system. They wouldn’t know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
3. They call it a ‘Royale with cheese.’
4. Play with matches, you get burned.
5. I ain’t saying it’s right, but you’re saying a foot massage don’t mean nothin’ and I’m saying it does. Now look, I’ve given a million ladies a million foot massages and they ALL meant something. Now we act like they don’t but they do, that’s what’s so fuckin’ cool about it. There’s a sensuous thing going on, where even if you don’t talk about it, you know, she knows it. Fuckin’ Marcelus knew it and Antwone should have fuckin’ known better.
6. Chill Jules, this shit happens.
7. Do you wanna continue this theological discussion in the car, or in the jailhouse with the cops?
8. Alright, it was a miracle, can we go now?
9. Aw man! I shot Marvin in the face!
10. Chill out, man! I told you it was an accident! You probably went over a bump.
11. I was washing ‘em. But this shit’s hard to get off. Maybe if you had Lava, I coulda done a better job.
12. I got a threshold, Jules. I got a threshold for the abuse that I will take. Now, right now, I’m a fuckin’ race car, right, and you got me in the red. And I’m just sayin’, I’m just sayin’ that it’s fuckin’ dangerous to have a race car in the fuckin’ red. That’s all. I could blow.
Butch Coolidge talking action figure
The figures are out now and will run you about $50 bucks a pop (I’ve included links if you care to purchase any of them in the post) with the exception of Butch Coolidge (above) which appears to have a Spring 2016 release date.
One Sunday afternoon in Fall of 1989 I was walking around Greenwich Village and I popped into Bleecker Bob’s record store to see if my old friend Nate Cimmino was working that day. He wasn’t and so I used a pay phone (remember them?) to call him to see if he wanted to have lunch and go record shopping. As the phone was ringing, I saw him walk briskly past me and make for the phone right beside the one I was using.
“Hey! I was just calling you!” I said.
“And oddly enough, I was just about to call you,” he replied. “Guess where you’re going?”
“To see the Rolling Stones at Shea Stadium.”
“Right now. Let’s get on the subway and go. We’ll get there in time for the opening act if we leave right away.”
Although I was bummed that I didn’t have any pot on me—yes, I still recall this tiny detail a quarter of a century later—we jumped on the subway and made our way out to Shea Stadium in Queens—then home of the NY Mets—to see “the world’s greatest rock and roll band.” This was the “Steel Wheels” tour, a trek that some wags in the media had termed “Steel Wheelchairs.” The band first started getting called “The Strolling Bones” around then, too. Ah, if they only knew then what we now know… But this was when the Stones were really only just starting to get shit about getting too old to rock and roll. Recall that at one point Mick Jagger was saying in interviews that he couldn’t picture himself still singing “Satisfaction” onstage over the age of 30. In 1989 he was 46 and still singing it, but as the Stones hadn’t toured since 1982—Mick and Keith had been feuding for seven years at this point—they got a pass because everyone wondered, as the rumor mill had it, if this would be the final Rolling Stones tour.
That seems farcical now of course, but I will contend that this was the final tour before the Rolling Stones simply became a Rolling Stones cover band. It was the final tour that bassist Bill Wyman made with the group. It was also the last time they’d tour with both a hit album and a hit single. The Steel Wheels album went to #2 on the Billboard chart and the single “Mixed Emotions” was a top five hit. The video played constantly on MTV and radio loved the song, but again it was this implied threat that “this could be the last time” that made people flock to these shows the way they did, I think.
“Steel Wheels” was one of the most successful tours of all time. And the biggest, carted around on 80 trucks. It was the very first stadium rock show I’d ever seen and it did not disappoint. What a spectacle. The Stones have long had a (well-deserved) reputation for being an extremely sloppy live band, but they were a well-rehearsed music machine—with many quality side musicians augmenting the band—on the “Steel Wheels” tour. The stage was huge. The light show and pyrotechnics were impressive and they were simply damned good.
So with my fond memory of the show, I was curious to see the latest installment of the Stones archival “From the Vaults” series, Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990. The band’s first ever dates in Japan saw the end of the “Steel Wheels” tour in 1990 with ten shows, one of them taped for television broadcast. I wanted to see if it meshed with my own recollection of the show. It did! The quality of this new release is excellent and although the Blu-ray disc’s content is in standard (nicely uprezed) video definition, the Tokyo Dome show is absolutely superb. My favorite Stones on film will always be Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, then Gimme Shelter, but lemme tell ya, the sequence of songs that begins with “Paint It Black” followed by “2000 Light Years From Home” (this was the only tour this song was ever performed on a nightly basis, and I thought it the absolute highlight of the set) “Sympathy For The Devil” and then “Gimme Shelter” is pretty impressive here. Dramatic, with a wow factor the Stones haven’t really mustered since.
This show has been bootlegged a lot over the years but the new release by Eagle Rock, with its 5.1 HD DTS Master Audio soundtrack mixed by Bob Clearmountain is definitely worth the upgrade. It sounds simply fantastic. In fact it’s much better than I thought it would be, to be honest. On every level. If you’re a Stones fan, especially if you saw this tour, this DVD is a must.
A Sanford, Florida police officer was relieved of duty after video surfaced this week of him singing, while uniformed, onstage with death metal band Vital Remains.
It was reported that Officer Andrew Ricks attended the Vital Remains concert in uniform on November 13th and joined the band on stage to sing “Dechristianize.”
There seemed to be some degree of public outrage over the song’s lyrics, which include the line: “Let the killing begin.”
Police chief Cecil Smith stated in a report that:
“An incident of this nature erodes the thin fibers of trust which already exist between the community and the police, and it will not be tolerated within the Sanford Police Department.”
Officer Ricks had worked for the department for six years without incident.
The twist to the story is that Officer Ricks had already submitted a letter of resignation from the department on October 30th, with a pending separation date of November 20th. The department became aware of the “singing incident” on Novemebr 17th and proceeded to fire him only days before his scheduled final day on the force—perhaps qualifying him for unemployment? Considering how many cops got to keep their jobs after shooting unarmed people, termination for growling along with a death metal band seems just a tiny bit extreme, but it seems Ricks was already done with the job.
Anyway, it looks from the video like Officer Ricks is having the time of his life:
Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer collaborated on a few movies in the 70s and 80s. Frank, of course, is the photographer behind the book The Americans, the Beat movie Pull My Daisy and the notorious Stones-commissioned, Stones-banned Cocksucker Blues; Wurlitzer is the novelist and screenwriter who wrote the scripts for Two-Lane Blacktop, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and Alex Cox’s Walker.
(Incidentally, Wurlitzer and Cox allege that Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man is a ripoff of Zebulon, an unproduced screenplay Wurlitzer wrote for Sam Peckinpah in the 70s. Several years ago, Wurlitzer refashioned Zebulon as the novel The Drop Edge of Yonder.)
Among Frank and Wurlitzer’s collaborations is the 1981 pseudo-documentary short Energy and How to Get It, about real-life Tesla admirer Robert Golka’s experiments with fusion. It includes an entertaining turn by William S. Burroughs as the sinister Energy Czar, whose interests are threatened by Golka’s experiments and who knows how the world is really run:
Prayin’ is for the moron majority. They’re handy, they’re useful, but we don’t go in for that sort of rubbish. No, I mean, if we had to start prayin’, we’d be prayin’ to ourselves. ‘Cause we’re the source. If you want anything, you have to come to us.
Frames from Energy and How to Get It
Earlier this year, about fourteen minutes of the 28-minute short surfaced on YouTube. I’m not sure whether this is just the movie’s first half or if it’s the edited version that was released on Giorno Poetry Systems’ home video It’s Clean, It Just Looks Dirty. In any case, to see the 28-minute cut, you’ll have to track down the out-of-print German DVD Robert Frank: The Complete Film Works Volume 4. Good luck with that. In the meantime, behold this tantalizing glimpse of a future that never was.
Solid Gold was an acutely ‘80s syndicated pop music variety show that set itself apart from similar offerings with the utterly baffling Solid Gold Dancers. The show was conceived at the tail end of the disco era, and so along with the usual hodgepodge of mimed and live music performances, the show featured disco-inspired dance accompaniments—no matter what kind of music was being featured. It was silly and often wildly inappropriate, but sufficiently distinctive that the phrase “Solid Gold Dancers” still conjures images of vapid glitz even to people who never saw the show.
It’s hard to say whether it’s a relief or a cryin’ goddamn shame that those dancers didn’t accompany the Plasmatics, but either way, the very fact that that appearance even happened is amazing. This was in 1981, the year that multiple arrests for indecency made the band’s singer Wendy O. Williams notorious outside of underground music circles, and Solid Gold was a broad appeal, all-smiles show that usually aired during the family hour. (I myself was an avid watcher at age nine, the age at which Solid Gold turned me on to a little band called Blondie. That and my discovery of DEVO that same year set the stage for a great deal of weirdness to come.) But despite the general family-friendliness of the program, nothing particularly set this performance of the Metal Priestess track “Black Leather Monster” apart from any given Plasmatics show except for a lack of breast exposure. Williams shrieked, danced suggestively, and chainsawed an innocent Les Paul while the band made a spastic punk spectacle of itself. And the segment is followed by a preposterous and wonderful interview—Williams chats (or rather, haltingly reads cue cards) with ventriloquist Waylon Flowers’ famously raunchy dummy Madame.
Billboard Dec 19, 1981, page 8
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the band is here introduced by the show’s co-host at the time, the Bee Gees’ youngest brother Andy Gibb (the other co-host was 5th Dimension singer Marilyn McCoo). This may seem as odd a juxtaposition of punk filth with squeaky-clean pop as their booking on the show itself, but Gibb’s spotless image was a pop pretense. He would soon be fired from the show on the grounds that his apparently monstrous cocaine binges made him a frequent and unpredictable absentee from shooting.
Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay for Taxi Driver in about ten days. He was 26 years old. He wrote continuously, intuitively, from the gut—not like screenwriters today who write for a market, an audience, a paycheck. Schrader had been living in his car, parked at night on off-roads and empty, anonymous LA streets. One day, he was agonizing pain and was admitted to A&E. An ulcer had gone bad. When answering the questions of date, birth, allergies and such asked by a nurse, Schrader realized he hadn’t spoken to anyone in over three weeks. That’s when he got the idea for Taxi Driver:
It really hit me, an image that I was like a taxi driver, floating around in this metal coffin in the city, seemingly in the middle of people, but absolutely, totally alone.
The taxicab was a metaphor for loneliness, and once I had that, it was just a matter of creating a plot: the girl he wants but can’t have, and the one he can have but doesn’t want. He tries to kill the surrogate father of the first and fails, so he kills the surrogate father of the other. I think it took ten days, it may have been twelve – I just wrote continuously. I was staying at an old girlfriend’s house, where the heat and gas were all turned off, and I just wrote. When I stopped, I slept on the couch, then I woke up and I went back to typing.
The script kicked around Hollywood until Martin Scorsese picked it up. Then it was filmed with hardly any of Schrader’s original script being changed—it was only added to by the sheer bloody brilliance of Scorsese’s direction and the perfectly pitched, disturbingly real performance by Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle. I’ve watched Taxi Driver about 50 times—and with each viewing appreciate something new and different about it—it’s one of those very, very rare films that gets better with every viewing. How it didn’t clean up at the Oscars is still one of those great unexplained mysteries, as it was the best American film of the 1970s. In 1980, the trio of Scorsese, De Niro and Schrader reunited to make the greatest American movie of the 1980s Raging Bull—which similarly should have won all eight of its Oscar nominations.
Screenwriter Paul Schrader with Scorsese and De Niro.
Personnel Officer: How’s your driving record? Clean? Travis Bickle: It’s clean, real clean. Like my conscience.
More photos of Bob, Marty, Cybil, Jodie & Harvey, after the jump…
I never know what to get people during the holidays. The Holiday season is stressful. I worry that my gifts aren’t unique enough and will end up in the trash or at Goodwill. This year, however, I’m think about giving out some throw blankets. I mean, who doesn’t need a blanket when it’s cold? EVERYONE needs a blanket. Blankets are winners, but especially these blankets.
What I like about them is that not everyone has them. The links for each one is under the image. The prices range anywhere from $49 - $129 depending on the size.
The idea that there are Bootsy Collins and Peter Sellers blankets out there in the world is kinda rad.