Pere Ubu were the quintessential midwestern art punks of the 1970s. Simon Reynolds notably referred to the music of Cleveland’s Ubu and Akron’s DEVO as “industrial grotesquerie.”
Charting the various trajectories of all the musicians connected with Pere Ubu during the 1980s would tax my paltry mental resources, but suffice it to say that Ubu put out an album called Song of the Bailing Man in 1982, after which the band split apart into two entities, Home and Garden (which did not include David Thomas) and David Thomas and the Wooden Birds (which did). But some centripetal force kept pulling the two parts together again, until in 1988 Scott Krauss rejoined Thomas and bassist Tony Maimone and sax/synth man Allen Ravenstine for what had looked to be another Wooden Birds recording but with that much Ubu DNA, it seemed sensible to regard it as an official Ubu release.
That album was The Tenement Year, and it was a triumph. Robert Christgau gave the album an A and wrote that “this record proves not only that good-hearted eccentrics can live in the world, but that they can change it for the better.”
Roland Rat with Samantha Fox
In 1988 Ubu traveled to the U.K. where they made what purportedly was the band’s first-ever appearance on British television, to play “We Have the Technology,” the final cut from The Tenement Year, for the final episode of a show hosted by a puppet rat named Roland.
Roland Rat appears to have sprung into existence on a British “breakfast network” called TV-am in 1983. Roland Rat (the show) enjoyed a three-year run on BBC from 1985 to 1988 before materializing on Channel 5 in the late 1990s for a series set in Los Angeles called (predictably enough) L.A. Rat. Roland’s full name seems to have been Roland Rat Superstar, and he released two albums under that name, the first of which featured a track called “Rat Rapping,” which I’m confident isn’t cringeworthy in the least.
The great American blues singer and pianist Victoria Spivey’s long and influential career began as part of her family’s string band which was led by her father, who would die when she was just seven. After this, Victoria would perform by herself at parties and various events around Houston, and later accompanying silent movies on the organ at the Lincoln Theater in Dallas.
Although she was mostly a solo act in her early years, on occasion she would perform with accompaniment from Blind Lemon Jefferson on guitar. Spivey took her cue from “dirty” blues belter Ida Cox penning and performing bawdy songs about drugs and sex in various dives, speakeasies, houses of ill repute, gambling parlours and gay bars.
King Vidor cast Spivey as the good girl Missy in his 1929 classic Hallelujah, one of the first Hollywood films with sound. Queen Vee was a star of Broadway’s famous Hellzapoppin’ Revue in the 1930s and logged many miles of road time with Louis Armstrong as a featured singer in various incarnations of his touring groups. Spivey retired from showbiz in 1951, but when the folk craze of the early 1960s hit, she found herself in demand again.
She and her boyfriend, jazz scholar Len Kunstadt, formed the Spivey Records label in 1962. Her first release on her own label featured a young Bob Dylan as a backing vocalist and harmonica player and the label would release albums by Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Big Joe Williams, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Lonnie Johnson, Memphis Slim, and Louis Armstrong. Victoria Spivey died in 1976 and the label was kept going until Kunstadt’s passing in 1996.
She recorded her first song, “Black Snake Blues” for the famed OKeh label in 1926. Here she is performing it in 1963 during the American Folk Blues Festival European Tour with Lonnie Johnson on guitar and Sonny Boy Williamson on harmonica.
“Girls with guitars? That won’t work,” quipped John Lennon as he watched four girls take the stage of the Cavern Club, Liverpool in 1963. The band was The Liverbirds and Lennon’s attitude was the kind of dumb prejudice these four faced every time they picked up their guitars and blasted an audience with their hard rockin’ R’n'B.
The Liverbirds were formed in Liverpool 1963. The original line-up was Valerie Gell (guitar), Mary McGlory (bass), Sylvia Saunders (drums), together with Mary’s sister, Sheila McGlory (guitar) and Irene Green (vocals). The band’s name was lifted from the liver bird—the mythical bird (most probably a cormorant) that symbolises the city of Liverpool and they were all girls (“birds” in the youthful parlance of the time). The group practiced every day until they were better than most of the local boy bands who were merely copycatting local heroes The Beatles.
The Liverbirds were apparently so good (if a bit rough around the edges) they were snapped up to tour with The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Rockin’ Berries. However, it was soon apparent that the girls—unlike the boys—were were being cheated out of a big part of their fees by booking agents—a crushing disappointment that led to the loss of their lead singer and guitarist to other bands.
It was beginning to look as if Lennon was right, but the girls refused to give up and continued touring with The Kinks. Unlike their northern counterparts, London’s all male bands The Kinks and The Stones were supportive of The Liverbirds—as Mary McGlory recalled in a letter to the Liverpool Beat in 2014:
The Kinks took us down to London to meet their manager, even booked us into a hotel, and told us to come to the studio tomorrow and bring our guitars with us (maybe there might be time to play a song for their manager). When we arrived there, the roadie came in and told The Kinks that their guitars had been stolen out of the van – so this was how The Kinks played our guitars on their hit recording of “You really got me“.
Absolute nonsense- they were a cool band but this DID not happen.
On YRGM I use my Harmony meteor thru the elpico green amp and ray used his tele and pete used his blue fender bass…what a load of bollocks.
However, The Kinks did help save The Liverbirds from splitting-up by suggesting they bring Pamela Birch in as vocalist. Birch was a big blonde bee-hived singer/guitarist. She had a deep bluesy voice which harmonized beautifully with Valeri Gell’s vocals. Birch was a perfect fit for the band.
They were a hit at the Cavern Club. They were a hit across the country. They were a hit on tour. But the band hailed as the all-girl Beatles at the height of Beatlemania couldn’t even get a record deal in England. However, things soon started to shift.
First Kinks’ manager Larry Page and then Beatles manager Brian Epstein wanted to sign The Liverbirds. But the girls were off to Hamburg to play the Star Club. The band was an instant hit in Germany as Mary McGlory recalls:
We arrived in Hamburg on the 28th May, 1964 and played the same night. The crowd was great and loved us right away. The Star-Club owner Manfred Weissleder became our one and only MANAGER.
A few days later he sent us to Berlin to play at a big concert with Chuck Berry, shortly before we went on stage we were told that it was forbidden to play any Chuck Berry songs. Well that was impossible for us, so when Val went to the mike and announced “Roll over Beethoven”, Berry’s manager ran on stage and tried to stop us playing, Val pushed him away and told him to “F. Off”.(She had probably had a shandy). Back in Hamburg, Manfred called us to his office, we thought he was going to tell us off, but no such thing, Chuck Berry’s manager wanted to take us to America. Manfred said he would leave the decision up to us, but then he added – he will probably take you to Las Vegas, and there you will have to play topless! Well of course that was his way of putting us off. After all, the club was still crowded every night.
The band had hits with the songs “Peanut Butter,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Loop-de-Loop,” and “Diddley Daddy.” Although in performance they played the very same Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry covers favored by the Stones and other boys, Birch also started writing original numbers, producing such favorites as “Why Do You Hang Around Me?” and “It’s Got To be You.” Though pioneering and incredibly popular, the girls (now in their late teens-early twenties) still faced the everyday sexism from record industry supremos who thought young girls should be on the scene, but not heard. Not unless they were in the audience screaming. These men wanted girls who dressed to please—not girls who played instruments better than the boys. Girls with guitars? That won’t work. Except for that, of course, it did. Splendidly!
In 1968, on the cusp of a Japanese tour the band split:
Until 1967, we played nearly all over Europe, recorded two albums and four singles for the Star-Club label and appeared on many television shows. Our drummer Sylvia married her boyfriend John Wiggins from The Bobby Patrick Big Six and left the band. Shortly after Val married her German boyfriend Stephan, who had a car accident on his way to visit her and was since paralyzed. So when we got an offer from Yamaha to do a tour of Japan at the beginning of 1968, Pam and I had to find two German girls to replace them. Japan was great, and the Japanese people really liked us, but Pam and I did not enjoy it anymore, we missed the other two, the fun had gone out of it. We thought this is the right time to finish, even though we were still only 22 and 23.
Today McGlory, Gell and Saunders continue with their post-Liverbirds lives. Sadly, Pamela Birch died in 2009. However, this all-girl guitar band should be given credit for pioneering rock and roll, R ‘n’ B and being right up there for a time with The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones.
I’m cribbing this from a smart friend: How do you explain to a child born in a year like 2008 what the sentiment “we’re gonna party like it’s 1999” was supposed to mean when that song was released way back in 1982? (Later he pointed out the sobering fact that 2016 is as far removed from 1999 as 1982 is.)
For those who were there in the early 1980s, the midnight throwdown on December 31, 1999, was absolutely going to be the apocalyptic bash for the ages—even if it didn’t necessarily work out that way in practice. If that song solidified “1999” as a supreme signifier for a Sixteen Candles level blowout celebration, it also cemented Prince’s status as the number-one muthafucka when it comes to how to party.
But doesn’t that make you wonder what songs Prince would play if he were to throw a party? Strangely enough, we actually have the data on that particular topic.
In 2013 the FOX show New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel aired a post-Super Bowl episode in which the characters Jess and Cece are invited to a party thrown by Prince. A gentleman named Steve Welch, employed by the show as an editor, took to Twitter late last week to explain that Prince actually sent the staff of the FOX show a list of his typical party jams so that the program’s representation of Prince in party mode would at least be halfway accurate.
For your convenience, here’s a Spotify playlist containing these tracks:
Here’s the playlist written out:
“City in the Sky,” The Staple Singers
“Country John,” Allen Toussaint
“Fire,” Ohio Players
“Happy House,” Shuggie Otis
“Higher Ground,” Stevie Wonder
“I Was Made to Love Him,” Chaka Khan
“Listen to the Music,” The Isley Brothers
“The Lord is Back,” Eugene McDaniels
“Lost in Music,” Sister Sledge
“The Pinocchio Theory,” Bootsy Collins
“Rubber Duckie,” Bootsy Collins
“Skin Tight,” Ohio Players
“We’re Gettin’ Too Close,” The Soul Children
“Wild and Free,” Curtis Mayfield
“After The Love Has Gone,” Earth, Wind & Fire
“Back in Baby’s Arms,” Allen Toussaint
“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” The Isley Brothers
“Don’t Take My Sunshine,” The Soul Children
“How Could I Let You Get Away,” The Spinners
“I’ll Be Around,” The Spinners
“Push Me Away,” The Jacksons
“Stay With Me,” Shirley Brown
“The Thrill Is Gone,” Aretha Franklin
I couldn’t find too much information on artist Tomba Lobos’ totally bizarre “portrait / Play-Doh” project, but the results are fun and freaky. From what I could find, these portraits are a mixture of sculpture (the flesh colored Play-Doh) and the use of Photoshop.
According to Lobos, it’s an ode to old school special effects, in particular to David Cronenberg’s fleshy Videodrome and Chris Cunningham’s music videos like “Rubber Johnny.”
Nine Inch Nails’ Broken (also known as The Broken Movie) is a 1993 short film featuring four music videos from the Broken EP with wrap-around segments shot in the style of an amateur snuff film. The extremely graphic film was directed by Peter Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle, Coil, and Hipgnosis design group fame.
The NSFW video has never seen an official release (perhaps because no label would want to put their name on it?) and has to this day been a difficult piece to track down.
The terrifying, violent, and unforgettable film was originally “leaked” by Trent Reznor himself via hand-dubbed VHS tapes in the ‘90s. The original tapes were given by Reznor to various friends with video dropouts at certain points so he could know who redistributed any copies that might surface. Reznor, later implied in a comment on the Nine Inch Nails website that Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers was responsible for the most prominent leak of the original tape.
In 2006 and 2013 the film was briefly “leaked” to the Internet, many believe by Reznor himself. In both cases, the film disappeared quickly. In the case of the 2013 “leak,” the entire video was made available for streaming on Vimeo via the Nine Inch Nails Tumblr account, but was removed by Vimeo almost immediately.
For the time being (in other words, WATCH IT WHILE YOU CAN), Broken has been uploaded to Archive.org under fair use laws.
It’s not for the squeamish, so we’re tucking of after the jump…
A miniature version of the infamous ‘Peep World’ porn shop, shown with a one-dollar-bill—how appropriate—to show scale.
Brooklyn native, artist Alan Wolfson was riding the subway into his beloved city by the time he was only ten-years-old and has strong recollections of what the city that never sleeps looked like back in the 1950s and 1960s. Although Wolfson says he never started out wanting to be an artist, in 1979 he moved to Los Angeles with the hope of cutting his teeth designing miniature effects for films. There, thanks to a bit of luck and good timing, a friend of Wolfson’s introduced him to an art dealer. A year later, Wolfson would showcase ten of his remarkably detailed 1/2-scale replicas that would launch his nearly 40-year career.
Take a peek inside ‘Peep World’ and their “Private Fantasy Booths.”
So painstakingly detailed are Wolfson’s tiny structures that it almost appears that they had once been inhabited by small sleazeballs or strippers. Many of Wolfson’s works are creative fictional mashups that he dreamed up—however some are modeled after real, seedy New York landmarks. Such as “Peep World,” the long-running porn theater and shop (near Madison Square Garden) that finally closed its doors in 2012. Thanks to Wolfson, we can still take a peek inside “Peep World” where the racks are still lined with filthy magazines, or leer inside one of the joint’s “Private Fantasy Booths.” You can practically smell the Pine Sol.
A look at Peep World’s dirty magazine and DVD racks.
Many more of Wolfson’s tiny, sometimes fictional homages to a lost New York, after the jump…
Though I don’t drive, have never owned a car, and take no interest in horsepower engines or miles to the gallon, I still find these photographs by Freddy Fabris of auto mechanics recreating classical paintings quite good.
Fabris first had the idea to create these pictures on a visit to his local garage. Taking his inspiration from Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and a selection of the Dutch master’s portraits—Fabris has crafted beautiful, modern and amusing portraits with the kind of blue collar workers, the types these classical artists would have perhaps used themselves.
After Michelangelo—‘The Creation of an Auto Mechanic.’
After Rembrandt—‘The Anatomy of a Car Lesson.’
More of Freddy Fabris’ classical portraits, after the jump…
Their coolest piece is called simply “the Bomb,” and it’s an ultra-sleek, ultra-fancy drinks cabinet that stands more than eight feet tall—made from an R.A.F. MK1 practice cluster bomb.
Standing more than eight feet tall and weighing 600 pounds, the mirror-polished Cluster Bomb Drinks Cabinet is a truly unique piece of furniture. Behind the gleaming 1970s missile fuselage, three glass shelves revolve around a gold-plated spindle; while in the base, a sliding platform built from lacquered American walnut conceals an armoury of custom-made cocktail utensils. With its potent fusion of industrial heritage and high-end craftsmanship, this breathtaking cabinet is without equal.
You can own one of these beauts for a paltry $53,000.
More gorgeous pics of this unusual item after the jump…....