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Johnny Cash’s musical ad for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 1971
08.20.2014
07:48 am

Topics:
Advertising

Tags:
Johnny Cash
Richard Nixon


You are in no position to give health advice, Mr. Johnny Cash!
 
Johnny Cash certainly lived his paradoxes—a champion of the rebel, yet oddly reverent of the powerful. He sympathized publicly with the margins of society while simultaneously invoking a kind of nostalgic, rural wholesomeness. That in mind, it makes total sense that he’d do a public service announcement on physical fitness for Richard Nixon.

It’s not totally without its charms, either! The tune is catchy. “The man I used to be” is a pretty clever euphemism for “I got fat,” and the whole thing lends itself to that wistful reminiscing you want from a Johnny Cash. This was recorded only one year in of a seven-year period of sobriety. Before 1970 he was still doing insane amounts of pills, and engaging in super-wholesome activities like driving out to the wilderness all cranked up and accidentally setting fire to 508 acres of California National Forest.

I guess Nixon thought America needed a fitness spokesman who wouldn’t make us all feel bad about ourselves?
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Entertainment: Gang of Four, live in Zagreb, 1981
08.20.2014
07:20 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Gang of Four


 
A blog I will never be able to read recently posted a gleaming gem of a video—professional footage of six live Gang of Four songs, performed in Zagreb, Yugoslavia (now Croatia, of course), around the height of the band’s strength. This was the Solid Gold tour. While that album isn’t quite the stone classic that their debut Entertainment! is, songs like “Outside the Trains Don’t Run on Time,” “Paralysed” and “What We All Want” easily rank with the band’s best work. The performance was recorded at Music Biennale Zagreb in 1981, the first year that long-lived festival featured rock music.

Though Gang of Four were on the rise at this time, they were also near the end of their original lineup. In a change from which the band wouldn’t ever recover artistically, bassist Dave Allen would soon leave to form the more dance-oriented Shriekback. In a dismal irony, Go4 themselves would become a markedly tamer, more accessible, dancier band after Allen’s departure. (Mind you, that incarnation of the band STILL slayed in concert—hell, singer Jon King was still an electrifying frontman even in Go4’s why-did-they-bother mid ‘90s resurrection attempt.) But in this Zagreb footage we can see the band still riding their initial burst of ferocious, jagged, Marxist-inspired salvos against leisure class complacency and economic injustice. God damn, they were glorious.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Dialectics & disco: post-punk Marxists Gang of Four get funky on ‘Dance Fever,’ 1982
Entertainment: complete Gang of Four show, 1983

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Electric Würms: ‘I Could Only See Clouds’ exclusive video premiere
08.19.2014
03:51 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Wayne Coyne
Electric Würms
Steven Drozd


 
The world premiere of the decidedly lysergically-informed new Electric Würms music video, “I Could Only See Clouds” directed by Wayne Coyne. The song comes from Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk (“Music that’s Hard to Twerk to”) out today on CD, vinyl and iTunes from Warner Bros. Records and available via the Flaming Lips online store.

Electric Würms is the side project of Flaming Lips Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne (who steps away from his normal frontman role here and plays bass) working with Nashville-based psych-rockers Linear Downfall. It’s a spacey, raw cosmic jam that Pitchfork called a “Live-Evil-era Miles (by way of Yoko Ono’s Fly) psych-funk shriek.”

What are you looking for? What are you really, really looking for? Maybe you’ll find it here. It’s worth a try, right?
 

 
Bonus: Würms on Würms…

Posted by Electric Würms | Leave a comment
Marxist Minstrels: The Beatles want to sexually hypnotize you into Communism!
08.19.2014
12:15 pm

Topics:
Kooks

Tags:
The Beatles
communism
David A. Noebel

Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles
 
If you’re like me, you can’t resist a good piece of moral panic red-baiting propaganda, especially when it’s directed at a social phenomenon that seems so chaste by today’s standards. As luck might have it, I recently came across the 1974 opus, The Marxist Minstrels: A Handbook on Communist Subversion of Music, by the good Reverend David A. Noebel.

Evangelical tracts denouncing rock ‘n’ roll, especially as related to either homosexuality or “race mixing,” aren’t hard to find if you scour antique shops in middle America, but as something of a connoisseur of the genre, I have yet to find a piece of literature that so succinctly combines the collective fears of old, white, crazy Christian dudes. David Noebel, ordained in 1961, started his illustrious career with the above pamphlet, Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles. He saw the rise of Beatlemania as the result of Communist indoctrination via hypnosis (yup, just like the title), a thesis he developed more thoroughly in his 1964 book, Rhythm, Riots, and Revolution: An Analysis of the Communist Use of Music, the Communist Master Music Plan. The book transitioned from The Beatles to folk artists, focusing on Bob Dylan, his colleagues, and their earlier influences. This is at least slightly more understandable, when one considers the political leanings of the folk movement, frequently with explicit anti-racist, pro-labor lyrics.

The Marxist Minstrels: A Handbook on Communist Subversion of Music however, synthesizes all of his previous work, citing children’s records, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll as being part and parcel to some elaborate integrationist, free-love, Communist conspiracy. As a rock ‘n’ roll propaganda collector, I’m used to trudging through a lot of this stuff, and the majority of it is incoherent ramblings—the sort of thing you’d read in a madman’s personal manifesto. Noebel is compelling because he’s intelligent, coherent, and well-researched, despite being absolutely paranoid and utterly mad. Aside from some minor comma abuse, he has a clear, if discursive thesis: rock ‘n’ roll is turning kids into gay, Communist miscegenators.

Some of his “evidence” is fascinating. For example, Alan Freed’s “payola scandal”—who was paying him to play all those rock ‘n’ roll records to unsuspecting teenagers? Communist record companies invade the airwaves by bribery, infecting the youth with music that is ““un-Christian, mentally unsettling, revolutionary and a medium for promiscuity.” He cites psychological studies, sociological statistics, numerology, etc. to scientifically “prove” the moral degradation incited by popular music, causing everything from sky-rocketing “illegitimate” birth rates to sexual rioting. Lots of sexual rioting. The appendices are incredibly dense and well-cited.

What follows his strange assessment of rock ‘n’ roll is an (actually, semi-accurate) account of the American Left, including some background of the American Communist Party and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Then of course, Noebel posits that folk artists were inspiring the youth to instigate a race war. He believed acoustic musicians like Malvina Reynolds (her “Little Boxes” is the theme music to Weeds) and Pete Seeger were instructing white students to join with “radical groups of Negro racists” so that they might revolt and achieve racial dominance in America. The weirdest part of all this is that by 1974, integration was (at least, on paper) complete. The folk artists who were most explicitly leftist or Communist weren’t a particular focus of pop culture, The Beatles had already long been broken up, and he never quite explains how these two very distinct fanbases are somehow connected (except that they’re obviously both very Communist). One can only imagine the lovely psychosis that The MC5 would have brought him.

Noebel is still living today, and I recommend checking out his extensive collection of YouTube videos and blog, if you’re looking for a laugh. These days, he’s much more on the “Obama’s a Socialist” train and decrying “Warmism” (Noebel’s evocative name for climate change) than he is into denouncing rock ‘n’ roll. Hell, even Paul Ryan loves Rage Against the Machine. Still, his older words bring an odd comfort, when we read his treatise on rock ‘n’ roll, comparing it to a children’s record that supposedly contained subliminal messages only audible when the record is played in reverse; “the noise that many of our youth call music is analogous to the story tape played backwards. It is invigorating, vulgarizing, and orgiastic. It is destroying our youth’s ability to relax, reflect, study, pray, and meditate, and is in fact preparing them for riot, civil disobedience, and revolution.” Dear god, I hope so.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Stockhausen’s audacious ‘Helicopter String Quartet’


 
It was a series of dreams that inspired the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen to write his controversial Helikopter-Streichquartett or The Helicopter String Quartet in 1992-93.

Stockhausen had been asked to compose a quartet for Professor Hans Landesmann of the Salzburger Festspiele in early 1991, but the composer had no interest in writing one, that is until he had a dream. Stockhausen was at a party, where the guests snubbed him, were rude to him, whispered behind their hands about him, and he dreamt he could fly away, quite literally:

l don’t have any philosophy, but all my life l’ve dreamt that l can fly, and that l know what it means to fly. ln lots of dreams l leave earth. l often dream that l’m in a cellar, surrounded by people in tuxedos, holding drinks in their hands, and l know l could shut them all up in one go. They don’t want me there.

Then l’m on tiptoes and l let myself go, l just take off and l end up on the ceiling. And then…l swoop down to the floor and fly up again, and everyone says, ‘‘Oh!’‘

l turn elegantly at the wall. l dream that the people are all speechless, watching me—a man, fly.

In another dream, Stockhausen dreamt he was hovering high above four helicopters in which of each four musicians were playing his music. On waking he saw the potential of such a work and made a series of notes and sketches. However, Stockhausen had never written a quartet, as he later explained in a documentary about the Helicopter Quartet:

lt’s the first and probably the last! All my life, l’ve never composed anything for a classical formation.

ln fact, the string quartet is a prototype from the 18th century. Just as the symphony and the solo concerto are the stamp of a very particular era in composition, both as regards interpretation and form. All my life l’ve kept away from that. l haven’t taken up the classical forms.

l’m a pianist but l’ve never written a concerto, and l’ve refused commissions for concerti for violin or piano. The same goes for symphonies and quartets. This quartet is the result of a dream. When the work was commissioned, l said, ‘‘No way, never!’’ Then l dreamt it.

And that’s when everything changed, because l started imagining the four musicians flying, playing in a completely different room. The show is put on for an audience sitting in a concert hall. They imagine the musicians in the air, playing in four flying objects.

ln the future, they could be in flying objects that go up even higher.

This idea was progressed by two further dreams: one in which Stockhausen saw and heard a giant swarm of bees, buzzing, swirling, turning in the sky like a helicopter blade; and a third in which he saw a violinist play music that captured the magical sound of buzzing bees.

Though often performed as a separate piece, the Helicopter Quartet is only one part (“Scene Three”) of Stockhausen’s opera Mittwoch aus Licht or Wednesday from the cycle of seven operas Licht (Light).

Light or “The Seven Days of the Week” consists of 29 hours of music with “neither end nor beginning” that Stockhausen composed between 1977 and 2003.
 
333helistocknotes3.jpg
 
Stockhausen sent his score for Helicopter Quartet to Professor Landesmann who welcomed it enthusiastically. Of course, Stockhausen has not always been received with such all-embracing support—many considered him to be the P. T. Barnum of classical music, eschewing content for showmanship. One can imagine the sharp intake of breath from some when reading of the requirement list for Stockhausen’s airborne quartet:

4 helicopters with pilots and 4 sound technicians
4 television transmitters, 4 x 3 sound transmitters
auditorium with 4 columns of televisions and
4 columns of loudspeakers
sound projectionist with mixing console / moderator (ad lib.)

Of course, Stockhausen was used to the criticism (perhaps the most famous line coming form conductor Sir Henry Beecham who when asked if he had heard any Stockhausen, replied “No, but I believe I have trodden in some”), and he showed it the disdain it deserved. These “negative critics” were part of that group he had once described, at a lecture on electronic music in 1972, as those who would fail to evolve as humans. Stockhausen believed that not everyone is equal and that his music would only help some people evolve to the next stage—whatever that may be.
 
helistock1.jpg
The composer at work on the ‘Helicopter String Quartet’.
 
Stockhausen is described as one of the most important and influential composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, who casts a long shadow over composers like Harrison Birtwistle and Jean-Claude Éloy; jazz musicians such as Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis—who cited his influence on the album On the Corner and later recorded with him on an (as yet) unreleased track in 1980; to The Beatles to Frank Zappa to Krautrock and beyond—Roger Waters, Björk, Kraftwerk and Can—whose members Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay both studied under him at the conservatory.

And this is before we get to his influence on novelists Philip K. Dick and Thomas Pynchon.

The Helicopter Quartet is one of Stockhausen’s most outrageous and incredible works, performed by four musicians, one in each of the four helicopters, who keep in sync with each other by monitors. The whole piece last 30-minutes with the helicopters hovering in the sky—the sound of the rotor blades adding to the music—as a long series of string tremolos (based on complicated formulae set forth by Stockhausen) are played over and over, in relation to the quartet’s three themes of Michael, Eve and Lucifer.

Surprisingly, the complete opera Mittwoch aus Licht was not performed in its entirety until 2012, when the English Birmingham Opera Company gave the opera its world premiere. This is the complete Helicopter String Quartet as performed by the Birmingham Opera Company on August 22nd, 2012.
 

 
A German documentary was made in 1995 about the preparation, performance and recording of and Stockhausen’s Helicopter Quartet. This film can be seen below, though you’ll have to click through to YouTube in order to turn on the English captions.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Red Headed Card Shark: Card Tricks with Willie Nelson
08.19.2014
09:22 am

Topics:
Amusing
Heroes
Music

Tags:
Willie Neslon


 
It doesn’t get any better than watching Willie Nelson working some fancy card wizardry on his sister, Bobbie Lee Nelson.

I’ve watched this video twice now, and I still can’t figure out how in the hell he’s able to do this.

What can’t Willie Nelson do? Amazing!

 
via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
MAGMA’s cheerfully insane brand of sci-fi avant garde make them prog rock’s weirdest outliers
08.19.2014
07:59 am

Topics:
Music
Unorthodox

Tags:
prog rock
MAGMA


H.R. Giger’s cover for 1978’s Attahk album

From the Dangerous Minds archives:

French progrockers MAGMA sing their lyrics in “Kobaïan,” a made-up phonetic language based on German and Slavic languages constructed by the group’s founder, Christian Vander, after he had a “vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future.”

MAGMA’s albums tell the multi-part sci-fi saga of humans who have been forced to leave a dying Earth behind and settle on the planet Kobaïa. MAGMA’s unusual sound is described as “zeuhl” in Kobaïan, which means “heavenly” and Vander claims his biggest musical influence is John Coltrane at his most celestial. One can also detect some Zappa, Stravinsky and “Carmina Burana.”

The mysterious MAGMA are considered somewhat tangential members of the progressive subgenre (“avant garde” might be a bit more accurate) and have little in common with the likes of Yes, Genesis or King Crimson. Certainly it can said that they hoe their own row! Often they sound like an extremely dark heavy metal band. You can’t really compare MAGMA to anyone else, they’re just that weird. Give me MAGMA over Emerson, Lake & Palmer any day!

As on YouTuber quipped:

If anything could be more twisted and insane than Magma, it’s early Magma.

They’re even weirder than Gong and that ain’t easy!
 

 
More MAGMA after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
ChávezPro: Hugo Chávez’s handwriting is now a revolutionary, anti-imperialist font
08.19.2014
07:47 am

Topics:
Class War
Design

Tags:
Hugo Chávez
fonts


 
Hugo Chávez’s regime was a mixed bag, but though the Bolivarian bureaucracy has its issues, the advances he made have seen him canonized among poor and working class Venezuelans. He’s responsible for massive developments in infrastructure like rural schools, free university and excellent, free hospitals. He democratized natural resources and largely dismantled the oligarchy that previously ran the country—these are the sorts of accomplishments that predictably produced a palpable cult of personality around Chávez as a leader. 

Still, it’s a little odd to see his handwriting commemorated in an “anti-imperialist” font. A group called Creative Trench actually reproduced his penmanship from his prison letters, and are giving it away for free (naturally), on their website.
 

 

For the full effect, try picturing the scrawl over this letter to his daughter, written from prison in February of 1992 after the failed coup. By the way, “Maisantera” is the name of their home, “the boy” is probably Chávez’s son, and the cuatro is a Venezuelan instrument.

My love: Hello, my heart!

I want you to know that day and night I carry you in my heart and in my mind.

I’m so happy that you are well.  As always, I am proud to have a daughter like you, pretty, intelligent and brave.

Maria, I’m in good physical health and above all have a tranquil conscience. I did what I had to do, with the hope that things would change, with the Bolivarian hope that there will be a better world for you in the future, a world where there is not so much injustice and such corruption, were children have food, shelter, medicine, toys, schools.  All of Venezuela’s children.

You are already a young lady so I’m sure you understand me.

The only thing, my baby girl, is that now I will not be very close to you [...] as before.  But my heart and my spirit are always there in the “Maisantera” and wherever they [the family] go.

Remember to apply yourself to your studies and to your reading, as well as to art and music. It will cultivate a noble and libertarian spirit that you will carry within.

Likewise with sport, to have “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. Keep going to the pool (be very careful).

I entrust the boy to you.  Encourage him to learn to play the cuatro, to write stories and to draw, and to keep going to swimming and to baseball. But please take care of him.

I must go now, my Maria, with the hope of seeing you soon and with the greatest love from,

Papa

ChávezPro (yes, that’s what it’s actually called) isn’t completely unprecedented. In Venezuela, Chávez’s handwriting is on all kinds of swag, from buildings to clothing. Still, the best use of ChávezPro has to be for covert trolling, no? I know exactly what font I’m using for my Republican relatives’ birthday cards, anyway.

Below, Oliver Stone’s Hugo Chávez documentary South of the Border:

 
Via Fast Company

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Trance out to the gorgeous sounds of Cluster and Eno
08.19.2014
05:57 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Krautrock
Eno
Cluster


 
Cluster, fittingly, is the name of a band around which the Krautrock family tree starts to look more like a tumbleweed. Founded in 1969 as Kluster by Dieter Moebius (Amon Guru), Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Aquarello), and Conrad Schnitzler (Tangerine Dream), the band released three albums, whereupon Schnitzler left. The remaining duo enlisted new collaborator Conny Plank (Guru Guru, producer of too many crucial Krautrock and New Wave albums to even start listing them, insulter of Bono) and changed its name by one letter, to Cluster.

Plank ended his tenure with Cluster in 1975, and Moebius and Roedelius joined with Michael Rother (NEU!, Kraftwerk) to form the group Harmonia. That band was freakin’ incredible—Michael Rother doesn’t do a whole lot wrong, really—and their third album, recorded in late 1976, was a collaboration with their very big fan Brian Eno. (That album, Tracks and Traces wouldn’t see release until 1997, credited to Harmonia ’76, and was reissued in the late oughts under the band name Harmonia and Eno ’76.) Upon its completion, Rother went solo, and Moebius and Roedelius reverted back to the name Cluster, and soon made another album with Eno, under the name Cluster & Eno.

Seriously, with all these back-and-forth hair splitting name changes, I don’t know how the hell even a devoted maven like Julian Cope can keep all this shit straight. There was a a really good Cluster album shoehorned in between Harmonia albums, too, I may as well add.
 

 
Anyway, that eponymous Cluster and Eno album is, I dare say, some of the loveliest music Krautrock produced. Unsurprisingly, given the band’s personnel history, it contains echoes of Tangerine Dream and NEU!, but it conspicuously lacks that defining NEU! element, the “motorik” drumbeat. In fact, the album has almost no overt beats at all. Eno’s innovations in ambient electronics were a fine match for Cluster’s love of repetition and intertwining looped passages. The songs sail past you almost frictionlessly, unencumbered by any needless ballast.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Flaming Lips talk Krautrock


 
Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips talk about their favorite Krautrock groups. Their Electric Würms side project Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk (“Music that’s Hard to Twerk to”) comes out on CD, vinyl and iTunes via Warner Bros. Records on August 19th.

Electric Würms will be playing in the UK at the End Of The Road festival in Dorset on August 31 followed by a headlining show at the Village Underground in London on September 1.
 

Posted by Electric Würms | Leave a comment
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