El Vez, the Mexican Elvis: Che Guevara meets ‘Viva Las Vegas’
04.10.2014
06:42 pm

Topics:
Art
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
The Zeros
ELvis
El Vez


 
Although he regularly tours internationally—and he might not even live here anymore—I tend to think of El Vez, the Mexican Elvis, as one of the best things about the city of Los Angeles. One of my very, very first nights out “on the town” when I first moved here involved catching El Vez and the Elvettes—totally by accident—at the Atlas Bar and Grill on Wilshire Blvd. Claiming to be the bastard son of Elvis and Charo, his act was super fun—reminding me of John Sex, Deee Lite or The B-52s—and the sort of multilayered political and racial satire and hilarious dog whistles that went into his material like “En El Barrio” made me an instant fan. Over the years I’ve seen El Vez (real name Robert Lopez) at least a dozen times and it’s always been a blast. He’s a local institution. (Still in high school, Lopez co-founded LA punk legends, The Zeros way back in 1976. He can also be seen as part of Catholic Discipline in The Decline of Western Civilization.)

El Vez doesn’t only do Elvis songs. He might do something by ABBA or The Clash or T.Rex or David Bowie (El Vez had his “Thin Brown Duke” phase), but it’s always ultimately filtered through his “Chicano power” persona, one part Che Guevara, one part Viva Las Vegas. The guy pays attention to the details and the revolutionary politics in his idiosyncratic (and very, very funny) artform. Is it just a novelty act? Well, sure, but only to someone too stupid to get all the jokes. He’s like The Simpsons, even someone thick would enjoy seeing El Vez do his thing.

El Vez will be touring with his Cinco de Mayo review. Dates are listed on his website, where you can also buy a lock of his hair (in a “deluxe” ziplock bag) for just $3.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Much more El Vez after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Kick out the jams with ‘Brother’ Wayne Kramer of The MC5, this week on ‘The Pharmacy’
04.10.2014
01:59 pm

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
MC5
The Pharmacy
Wayne Kramer


 
Gregg Foreman’s radio program The Pharmacy is a music / talk show playing heavy soul, raw funk, 60′s psych, girl groups, Krautrock. French yé-yé, Hammond organ rituals, post-punk transmissions and “ghost on the highway” testimonials and interviews with the most interesting artists and music makers of our times…

This week’s guest is the Wayne Kramer from the legendary MC5:

  • Where The MC5 came from and what “the Revolution” was all about
  • Why the MC5’s first record was a live record which was rather untraditional at the time , and the differences between the records and recording ...
  • The MC5’s affinity with free jazz musicians like like Sun Ra and Albert Ayler.
  • Why The MC5 were the only band to show up at the 1968 Democratic Convention…
  • Wayne’s post-prison band, Gang War with Johnny Thunders

Plus some advice to the kids…


 
Mr. Pharmacy is a musician and DJ who has played for the likes of Pink Mountaintops, The Delta 72, The Black Ryder, The Meek and more. Since 2012 Gregg Foreman has been the musical director of Cat Power’s band. He started dj’ing 60s Soul and Mod 45’s in 1995 and has spun around the world. Gregg currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and divides his time between playing live music, producing records and dj’ing various clubs and parties from LA to Australia.

Set List

Mr.Pharmacist - The Fall
Ramblin’ Rose - The MC5
Pow! To the People - The Make Up
INTRO 1 / Boogaloo - Rx/Carol Kaye
Wayne Kramer Conversation Part 1
Tonight - MC5
Night Time - Strangeloves
Camel Walk - The Ikettes
Le Responsable - Jacques Dutronc
INTRO 2 / Sliced Tomatoes - Rx / Just Brothers
Wayne Kramer Conversation Part 2
1969 - The Stooges
I Can’t Stand It - James Brown
Action Woman - The Litter
Oh How to Do Now - The Monks
INTRO 3 / The Swag - Rx / Link Wray
Wayne Kramer Conversation Part 3
The American Ruse - MC5
Blank Generation - Richard Hell and The Voidoids
All This and More - Dead Boys
I Can Only Give You Everything - Them
Wayne Kramer Conversation Part 4
Kick Out the Jams - MC5
I’m Ready - Fats Domino
Wayne Kramer Conversation Part 5
The Wig - Lorenzo Holden
Twine Time - Alvin Cash and the Crawlers
Chasing a Fire Engine - Wayne Kramer and the Lexington Arts Ensemble
Outro

 
You can download the entire show here.
 
Below, the absolutely terrific documentary MC5: A True Testimonial:

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Comedians on psychedelic drugs


 
If you just want the tl;dr, feel free to skip to the bottom of this post where comedians George Carlin, Joe Rogan, Doug Stanhope, Bill Hicks and Duncan Trussell are heard discussing their experiences with psychedelic drugs. I won’t be offended.

There was a period of my life when I was in my 20s where I had no idea what to do next. I’d been in Los Angeles pitching TV show ideas around, without success, and had moved back to New York in an effort to shake things up and change my luck, but that was even worse. I was depressed and confused basically about what direction my career and life should take, working in a shitty job I hated and… things just sucked.

It was at this point fate intervened and presented me with a gram vial of DMT. Why not? It was a message in a bottle from God, I rationalized, as I went through that gram, and then a second, and about, I dunno, perhaps 45 grams of mushrooms in the coming two months. I could smoke DMT four times a day, easily. That probably seems just a little bit excessive, I realize, but I still held down a job even if I was carrying on a schizophrenic dialogue with my spirit guide, a wise-cracking raven with a voice like Eddie Murphy.

Just kidding. No, I’m not going to get into any of my “tripping stories” or anything like that (plenty of those—not mine—over at Erowid Vaults) but I will say that it did inspire me to change my act basically, like George Carlin talks about in his section of this video. Within a few months of my “psychedelic period”—this was in the mid-90s—the possibility the Internet seemed to offer as a place for my particular talents to prosper was becoming apparent to me and I started trying to get Disinformation off the ground.

I agree with Terence McKenna: If you go to your grave without having pierced the veil with psychedelics, it’s like dying a virgin. Yeah, I maybe went a lil’ ‘round the bend for a couple of months, but like the gentlemen in the video below, no regrets:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Lou Reed part 2’: Little-known Public Image Ltd. footage from 1982
04.10.2014
11:55 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
John Lydon
PiL
Keith Levene
Public Image Ltd.


 
When I was a kid, more than any other group, Public Image Ltd. were my band. As a teenager, I was a major acidhead who hated religion and PiL suited that state of mind better than just about anything. They were demented dada geniuses, doing more to move music away from the three chord blues-based rock and roll that had dominated popular music since the days of Chuck Berry than anyone else. It wasn’t as if John Lydon’s previous outfit had done much to musically challenge the status quo. The Sex Pistols may have shown that the prevailing rock acts of the day were all “dinosaurs,” but their music really wasn’t anything all that “new” was it?

Who would say that about Public Image Ltd.? With their second album, Metal Box, they changed the state of modern music the way Picasso and Georges Braque had changed the act of perception itself with the advent of Cubism some seventy years earlier. After PiL, everything was different and nothing was too weird. A hundred years from now those first three PiL albums will still be revered the same way they are today, except that by then they’ll considered classical music or something…

I was lucky enough to see PiL in 1983. I’d run away from home and PiL were playing a few days later on Staten Island at the horrible, decrepit and just downright shitty Paramount Theater (a venue that should have required a tetanus shot to enter). Jah Wobble had already been kicked out of the band, but that didn’t bother me (I’m probably just slightly more partial to The Flowers of Romance than I am the first two albums) and this was a few months before Keith Levene and Lydon had their famous falling out.

Without Wobble you still had PiL, but as Lydon would soon prove beyond all argument, he was only as good (or as bad) as his collaborators. When Keith Levene fucked off, forget it, after that it was Public Image Ltd. in name only. Not that Levene did much of anything—for years decades—without Lydon anyway, but Lydon without Levene was hopeless, a fucking joke from 1983 onwards if you ask most fans of the original group.

I’ve mentioned on the blog before that I have a pretty decent collection of PiL bootlegs on vinyl. Truly “oldschool” boots produced over thirty years ago, most of them pretty primitive pressings. When I got rid of most of my records ten years ago (keeping collectibles and signed pieces, plus my Jeannie C. Riley albums) I still retained them and as a percentage, they comprise a good bit of what’s left of a once ridiculously huge record collection. One of them is a boot of the actual show I saw called “Where Are We?” taped on March 26th, at the Paramount Theater.

The title comes from a song PiL had been playing in their sets around that time that was originally called “Lou Reed Part 2” and then later rechristened “Where Are You?” (the spiteful lyrics are about departed PiL video maker Jeanette Lee). It came out on both Lydon’s “official” This is What You Want, This is What You Get album and Levene’s less official version on the Commercial Zone bootleg.

This 1982 report from Canadian television about PiL’s first performance in the country, at Toronto’s Masonic Temple Concert Hall, features a short excerpted performance of “Lou Reed Part 2/Where Are You?” and during it someone spits right in Lydon’s face. He’s not happy. At the end of the piece there’s a bigger chunk of a live “Public Image.” With so little decent footage of PiL around—I’ve seen very little video of the post Wobble group—this is a real treat. Lydon’s sporting a hospital gown and looks, as he often did in his youth, like an escaped mental patient.

I don’t know exactly what he means by this, but if you click over to Keith Levene’s website, he’s trying to raise the funds to “finish” Commercial Zone 2014. For a guy who was so, er, quiet, throughout most of the past three decades, for the past few years, Levene seems intent on making up for lost time, recording and gigging with Jah Wobble, releasing solo material and writing his life story, the nicely titled, This is not an Autobiography: The Diary of a non-Punk Rocker, available soon as an e-book.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘The Wig & Penis Open For Business’
04.10.2014
10:09 am

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
Penis
Banners
Wigs


 
When waterworks temporarily closed down a few streets in Truro, Cornwall, a pub named The Wig and Pen had a banner made to let folks know they were still open for business. Unfortunately, the person who made the banner didn’t leave enough space between “Pen” and “Is.” Since The Wig and Pen had already paid for the banner and needed to get something up right away, they hung it anyway. The banner has since been taken down.

Two great tastes that go great together: Wigs and penises!

Via Arbroath

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Rats with wings: Surveillance drones of the early 20th century?
04.10.2014
08:05 am

Topics:
History
Unorthodox

Tags:
birds


Julius Gustav Neubronner with carrier pigeon and camera
 
While the reality of drone surveillance (not to mention warfare) often feels like the very cutting edge of a new dystopia, it’s fascinating to remember all the clever (if disturbing) little spy ideas that came before. Julius Gustav Neubronner was a German pharmacist born in 1852, but he’s most famous for his innovations in camera technology—Neubronner was the world’s first pigeon photographer.

He began taking pictures in 1865, around the tender age of 13, when he bought a camera on credit after attempts to take pictures with his father’s old broken one failed. As an adult, he used carrier pigeons to deliver medical supplies to clients, but when one disappeared for nearly a month before returning, he decided to track it’s movements with a small, timed camera. He built, tested, and scrapped a few different camera/pigeon harness rigs before settling on the perfect design, and by 1908, he received a patent. You can see some rigged pigeons below, along with three panoramic pictures from Neubronner’s birds—one even has wings in the shot. The groundbreaking aerial photography won awards and was printed up on postcards, but never managed to make him any money.

Around the first World War, Neubronner’s work was further developed for military use. A Swiss clock-maker tweaked his design for the Swiss Army’s carrier pigeon program, and later, the CIA created a battery-powered pigeon camera for spying. It’s never been confirmed that pigeon photography has been used by the US for espionage, but we do know “war pigeons” were used for communication by the French during World War One, and by the UK and US during World War Two. In fact, in Britain, 34 pigeons have been awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for their service in war! Not bad for “rats with wings.”
 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Killdozer: greatest cover songs, or awesomest cover songs?
04.10.2014
07:57 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Killdozer


 
Along with the likes of The Melvins and Big Black, Madison, WI’s Killdozer pointed the way in the ‘80s to the bludgeoning, sludgy, heavy-but-not-really-metal underground sound that would own half of the ‘90s, but one crucial thing set Killdozer apart from their contemporaries—they were fucking HILARIOUS. Bassist/vocalist/ringleader Michael Gerald’s demented growl “singing” could inspire menace or laughter at his whim. You-have-to-be-kidding-me album titles like Intellectuals Are the Shoeshine Boys of the Ruling Elite and Uncompromising War on Art Under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and songs like “Man Vs. Nature,” the lyrics to which were melodramatically declaimed plot synopses of Irwin Allen disaster movies, cemented their rep in some circles as a goof band, despite their dark social commentary and completely BRUTAL music.

(Tangent/rant: this isn’t necessarily about Killdozer in particular, it’s really more general, but anyway, I do not understand the oft-diminished stature, in much of hip/crit culture, of bands that employ humor. It’s a damn good bit more difficult to make me laugh than to make me angry, but generally it’s been the angsty bands that have been considered “important?” Screw that. I respect the funny. They have a harder job to do.)

Some of the finest expressions of Killdozer’s humor lay in the many, many, completely incongruous cover songs they recorded. They did TONS of this stuff. There’s a cover on all but one of their albums and EPs, and covers comprise a hefty share of their 7” b-sides and compilation tracks.
 

Run Through The Jungle by Killdozer on Grooveshark

“Run Through the Jungle,” orig. Creedence Clearwater Revival
 

I Am, I Said by Killdozer on Grooveshark

“I Am, I Said,” orig. Neil Diamond
 

Age of Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine In by Alice Donut and Killdozer on Grooveshark

“Age of Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In,” with Alice Donut, orig. The 5th Dimension
 

Nasty by Killdozer on Grooveshark

“Nasty,” orig. Janet Jackson
 

 
Then, in 1989, what was surely inevitable happened: Killdozer released an entire covers album, For Ladies Only, which you’d think would have included the Steppenwolf song by that name. It did not. But it was still really, really nuts.
 

American Pie by Killdozer on Grooveshark

“American Pie,” orig. Don McLean
 

One Tin Soldier by Killdozer on Grooveshark

“One Tin Soldier,” orig. Coven
 

Funk #49 (James Gang cover) by Killdozer on Grooveshark

“Funk No. 49,” orig. The James Gang
 

 
This won my grin—YouTube user arfortiyef layered Killdozer’s take on “Hush” over the famous footage of Deep Purple performing it on Playboy After Dark.

 
Lastly, here’s my absolute favorite Killdozer cover—EMF’s “Unbelievable.” It was the flip side of the 7” of “The Pig Was Cool,” a killer song. This 1992 audience-cam footage isn’t much to look at, but the sound does the job just fine.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Pete Townshend and the Auto-destructive art of guitar-smashing
04.10.2014
07:33 am

Topics:
Art
Pop Culture

Tags:
The Who
Pete Townshend
Gustav Metzger

ratiugtwons.jpg
 
Pete Townshend said it was an accident the first time he smashed his guitar. He was playing with The Who in a small cramped room at the Railway Hotel in Harrow, west London. The ceiling was damp with condensation, the room smoky, a smell of sweat and stale beer. The Who were playing “Smokestack Lightning,” “I’m a Man,” and “Road Runner” when:

I scrape the howling Rickenbacker guitar up and down my microphone stand, then flip the special switch I recently fitted so the guitar sputters and sprays the front row with bullets of sound. I violently thrust my guitar into the air—and feel a terrible shudder as the sound goes from a roar to a rattling growl; I look up to see my guitar’s broken head as I pull it away from the hole I’ve punched in the low ceiling.  It is at this moment that I make a split-second decision—and in a mad frenzy I thrust the damaged guitar up into the ceiling over and over again. What had been a clean break becomes a splinter mess. I hold the guitar up to the crowd triumphantly. I haven’t smashed it: I’ve sculpted it for them. I throw the shattered guitar carelessly to the ground, pick up my brand-new Rickenbacker twelve-string and continue the show….

This is Townshend recounting the first time he smashed a guitar in his autobiography Who I Am. It’s an event that Rolling Stone magazine considered so important that it was included in their list of “50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll.”

When The Who played the Railway Hotel the following week, the audience expected Townshend to give a repeat performance of his guitar smashing. He didn’t. The next time Townshend smashed his guitar was at the Olympia Ballroom, Reading, in April 1965. This time it was done as a piece of self-promotion. The Who’s manager Kit Lambert had “invited Virginia Ironside (Daily Mail) and writer Nik Cohn along to this gig and briefed Pete to create an impression by smashing his £400 Rickenbacker, despite the expense.”

This he duly did, and Keith joined in by smashing his drums. However, Lambert had been waylaid in the bar with the journalists when this grand spectacle occurred and was reportedly horrified to find he had been taken at his word.

It wasn’t until 1966 that Townshend’s trademark guitar-smashing regularly became part of The Who’s performance right up to a concert at the Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo, Japan, where he smashed a gold Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster.
 

 
Over the years, Townshend has given various reasons as to why he first smashed his guitar in September 1964. He has claimed he deliberately did it because he “was determined to get the precious event noticed by the audience.”

Pete: I proceeded to make a big thing of breaking the guitar. I bounced all over the stage with it and I threw the bits on the stage and I picked up my spare guitar and carried on as though I really had meant to do it.

And he has also said it was “really meaningless”:

“I’ve often gone on the stage with a guitar and said, ‘Tonight, I’m not going to smash a guitar, and I don’t give a shit.’ And I’ve gone on, and every time I’ve done it. Basically, it’s a gesture that happens on the spur of the moment. It’s a performance, it’s an act, it’s an instant, and it’s really meaningless.”

“I thought, ‘It’s broken’” said Townshend. “‘Might as well finish it off.’”

But in his autobiography, Townshend ties his guitar-smashing into a more political act:

I had no idea what the first smashing of my guitar would lead to, but I had a good idea where it all came from. ... I was brought up in a period when war still cast shadows, though in my life the weather changed so rapidly it was impossible to know what was in store. War had been a real threat or a fact for three generations of my family…

I wasn’t trying to play beautiful music, I was confronting my audience with the awful, visceral sound of what we all knew was the single abso lute of our frail existence—one day an aeroplane would carry the bomb that would destroy us all in a flash. It could happen at any time. The Cuban Crisis less than two years before had proved that.  On stage I stood on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched, swooping like a plane. As I raised the stuttering guitar above my head, I felt I was holding up the bloodied standard of endless centuries of mindless war. Explosions. Trenches. Bodies. The eerie screaming of the wind.”

All this from one smashed guitar?
 

 
It’s undoubtedly good copy, and gives the young Townshend’s actions considerable cultural cachet, as The Who at this time were still little more than a pop band singing songs about white boy angst—music for young white working class kids who thought they were missing out on something, but weren’t quite sure what. By 1965, there was nothing particularly new about their music or their obsessions with girls, dancing, or their generation. But the association with Mods, and Townshend’s guitar-smashing gave the band an edge, which counterculture figures like Mick Farren would later see as making Townsend and The Who revolutionary figures offering a kind of leadership in the fight against a police state.

In the early sixties, Townshend had been a student at Ealing College of Art, where he attended classes given by the auto-destructive artist Gustav Metzger. In his autobiography, Townshend says he was “Encouraged too by the work of Gustav Metzger, the pioneer of auto-destructive art, I secretly planned to completely destroy my guitar if the moment seemed right.”

So, who is Gustav Metzger and what was his “auto-destructive art”?

Find out after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Found photos from Kansas City’s 1960s drag scene
04.10.2014
06:59 am

Topics:
History
Queer

Tags:
drag queens


 
Vintage drag is always a treasure, but my excitement over these gorgeous pictures increased exponentially upon learning they come from the Midwest and they were only recently discovered, by total chance. In 2006, an undergrad named Robert Heishman was rummaging through a Kansas City salvage yard in hopes of finding a subject for a documentary class. He came across some slides, discreetly labeled, “Jack’s Slides: Chicago and Kansas City,” and after flipping through some commonplace family photos, he hit drag queen gold and purchased the lot for $2.

Two years later Heishman’s friend Michael Boles found a shoebox of similar pictures, some of which turned out to be from the exact same parties as Heishman’s pictures. They combined their findings into a collection they call, “Private Birthday Party,” which contains over 200 photos from Kansas City’s incredibly vibrant 60s drag subculture. The bar that hosted these events would post a sign that read “Private Birthday Party” to keep the event covert—same-sex dancing was illegal in Kansas City and gay bars experienced regular raids. Knowing these photos were taken in the knowledge that they could have been used as “evidence” makes them all the more lovely a record of frolic.

With the help of writer Emily Henson and the Gay and Lesbian Archives of Mid-America, they hope to identify and contact as many of the performers and party-goers as they can find, and they even believe they are close to uncovering the identity of the photographer.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World’


 
The wah-wah guitar effect pedal makes a “cry baby” sound by filtering the electronic frequencies up and down controlled by the players foot. The first one was put on the market in 1967 by Warwick Electronics Inc./Thomas Organ Company, the somewhat accidental creation of Brad Plunkett, a junior electronics engineer at the company. Plunkett’s prototype used a volume pedal from a Vox Continental Organ and a transistorized mid-range booster, but his original goal had only been to switch from a finicky tube to a much cheaper, easier to use piece of solid state circuitry. (Chet Atkins had designed a somewhat similar device in the late 1950s, which you can hear on his “Hot Toddy” and “Slinkey” singles)

Almost immediately the Cry Baby wah-wah pedal was adopted by the most famous guitar slingers in rock. One of the first was Eric Clapton, who used the effect to great effect in “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” Frank Zappa was a huge fan of the effect and is said to have introduced Jimi Hendrix to the Cry Baby who used it on “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and quite a bit after that. One of the most famous uses of the wah-wah pedal’s “wacka-wacka” effect is heard on Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft.”

In Joey Tosi and Max Baloian’s documentary Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World, the filmmakers explore the influence of the wah-wah pedal on popular music, talking to inventor Brad Plunkett, longtime Rolling Stone contributor Ben Fong-Torres, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Buddy Guy, Art Thompson, Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Dweezil Zappa and Jim Dunlop, a man whose name is synonymous with the production of musical effects devices.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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