Thirty years on from the emergence of Chicago house and Detroit techno, electronic dance music has been pretty well integrated into the mainstream entertainment industry. Now we don’t just have superstar types like Skrillex and Steve Aoki, but also a whole tier of underground stars DJing and playing live regularly to massive club and festival crowds. For many who’ve been involved in aspects of the genre for a while, both the star system and the lack of innovation in the consumed canon can get a bit distressing.
Thankfully, some EDM artists have managed to scrupulously avoid the limelight—eschewing most live opportunities and even interviews—and let their music speak for themselves. Along with Burial, Warp label duo Boards of Canada—comprising Edinburgh musicians and siblings Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin—has worked almost facelessly in a scene filled with fame-hungry clowns. BoC’s blend of substantive synth sounds, emotive ambience, and electro- and hip-hop-referencing beats has enchanted a fan-base that’s only grown since they released their debut EP Twoism in 1995.
Now their new album Tomorrow’s Harvest—their fourth studio set and first release in eight years—has become one of the more anticipated album releases of the year. So it’s as good a time as any to note the recent posting on Mixcloud of this 2002 mix that BoC did for the Helter Skelter radio show on Paris-based community station Aligre FM. Broadcast just as the band released their claustrophobic second album Geogaddi, the mix features lots of rare bits from their early-‘90s era, along with remixes of electronica peers like Meat Beat Manifesto, and R&B stalwarts Colonel Abrams and Midnight Star. Although it’s been dispersed via MP3 amongst BoC fanatics, it’s good to see this excellent broadcast finally on stream.
57:58 - 65:00 - “XYZ” (Peel Session - not on CD)
64:42 - 69:18 - Midnight Star “Midas Touch” [Hell Interface Remix] (Mask500)
69:18 - 70:22 - “A is to B as B is to C” (Geogaddi)
70:22 - 74:20 - Bubbah’s Tum “Dirty Great Mable” [BOC MIX] (Dirty Great Mable) [WITH CHAT]
74:20 - 76:13 - “Music Is Math” (Geogaddi) [WITH CHAT]
76:36 - 82:25 - Michael Fakesch “Surfaise” (Trade Winds Mix by BOC) [PLAYED TOO SLOWLY]
82:15 - 85:43 - Meat Beat Manifesto “Prime Audio Soup” [Vegetarian Soup by BOC] (Prime Audio Soup) [PLAYED TOO SLOWLY]
85:13 - 86:41 - “From One Source All Things Depend” (Geogaddi - Japanese Bonus Track)
86:40 - END - “Poppy Seed” [BOC Remix] (Slag Boom Van Loon - So Soon) [WITH CHAT]
The more my daughter and her friends listen to Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Ke$ha, the more I miss Wendy O. Williams.
However, if you are under 40, there’s a good chance that you haven’t heard of Wendy O. Williams, and that is tragic.
There have been imitators of the shock rock icon known as the Priestess of Metal here and there, but no front-woman has come close to replicating her aggressive sexuality, gleeful destructiveness, violence, provocative art, or flagrant disregard for her own personal safety.
Ivy League-educated artist, producer, and promoter Rod Swenson hired 27-year-old Wendy O. Williams as a dominatrix for his experimental theater/live sex show “Captain Kink’s Theatre” in New York City in 1976. Wendy had led a nomadic existence since running away from home at sixteen, making and selling crafts, cooking, working a string of jobs such as lifeguard, stripper, topless dancer, and Dunkin’ Donuts server. Swenson was also making videos for young New York punk bands like The Ramones, Dead Boys, and The Patti Smith Group. He decided to form his own punk-metal band, The Plasmatics, a year later and recruited Wendy, by then his girlfriend, to front it. With an initial line-up of Richie Stotts on guitar, Chosei Funahara on bass, and Stu Deutsch on drums, The Plasmatics debuted at CBGB’s in 1978. Wes Beech was soon added on guitar and the only band member other than Wendy to weather repeated personnel changes. The Plasmatics’ music and stage shows became infamous, prompting the curious to wait in line for hours to watch them at CBGB’s.
Live Plasmatics montage from 1981:
Plasmatics songs were loud, authentic tributes to sex, violence, independence, and rejection of societal norms. Their fusion of punk and metal, common two decades later, perfectly complemented Wendy’s raspy, shouting, snarling vocals and her wild stage persona. With a platinum blonde mohawk (offsetting Richie Stotts’ blue one), smoky eye makeup, lean, tanned body clad in tight black leather or as little as possible (sometimes only a leather jacket and black underwear, a G-string and shaving cream), Wendy’s physically demanding act involved wielding chainsaws to dismember guitars (in lieu of guitar solos) and hefting sledgehammers to smash television sets. When the band outgrew CBGB’s, Wendy added smashing and detonating cars (especially Cadillacs) onstage, an unmistakable middle finger to consumerism.
“Basically, I hate conformity. I hate people telling me what to do. It makes me want to smash things. So-called normal behavior patterns make me so bored, I could throw up!”—Wendy O. Williams
Below, WOW talks with Tom Synder. You get a great sense of her personal philosophy here:
Sexually provocative without even trying, Wendy shamelessly simulated sex and masturbation onstage, which eventually led to her arrest on obscenity and public indecency charges in Milwaukee and Cleveland. Following these charges (eventually dismissed), Wendy took to wearing her trademark strips of black electrical tape over her nipples like a walking censored photograph. She dominated her performance spaces like a tattooed Amazonian stripper with rage issues.
Thanks to MTV’s willingness to play Plasmatics videos, Wendy will always be remembered for her doing her own dangerous stunts involving explosives, helicopters, school buses, and cars with no brakes. She was a peculiar contradiction of reckless daredevil and fitness and health nut. Unrelated to her sexual persona and shocking subject matter, she had a soft spot for animals, so much so that she pioneered animal rights, vegetarianism, and ecological concerns at a pre-Meat is Murder time when these views were not widespread among musical artists—forget the general population—other than Paul and Linda McCartney.
First signed to Stiff Records in the U.K., The Plasmatics recorded five studio albums (New Hope for the Wretched, Beyond the Valley of 1984, Coup d’Etat, Electric Lady Land Sessions, and Maggots: The Record) and three EP’s (Meet the Plasmatics, Butcher Baby, Metal Priestess). While not massive sellers, these releases, particularly New Hope, were hugely influential, and The Plasmatics gained mainstream attention from unexpected sources: ABC’s late night comedy show Fridays, Tom Snyder’s talk show Tomorrow, an opening spot on a 1982 KISS tour, and SCTV, for which The Plasmatics made a charming cameo in the “Fishin’ Musicians” sketch.
The Plasmatics on Fridays:
Wendy recorded three “solo” albums (W.O.W., Kommander of Kaos, and Deffest! And Baddest!), using Plasmatics members but not naming the albums so for legal reasons, and three collaborative EP’s with Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead (Iron Fist, Stand By Your Man, What’s Words Worth?).
“She was great, I used to fuck her. Although sometimes you ought to say she fucked me. She was a workout freak, muscles like steel rope.”—Lemmy Kilmister, Lemmy: The Movie
“No Class” with Motörhead:
W.O.W. was produced and co-written by Gene Simmons, with some of the songs appearing on later KISS albums. This hard rock offering earned her a Grammy nomination in 1985 for Best Female Rock Vocalist. Kommander of Kaos, her second solo album, was co-produced by Swenson and Wes Beech.
Wendy ventured into acting as early as 1979, when she appeared in porn (Candy Goes to Hollywood), later followed by indie film (the execrable Reform School Girls which at least contained her songs), musical theater (Rocky Horror), and mainstream television (MacGyver, The New Adventures of Beans Baxter) with moderate success.
Then suddenly in 1988, when heavy metal hair bands were dominating popular music, Wendy was bizarrely convinced by Rod Swenson to change her career path to rap (technically “thrash-rap”). This was only a few years after Dee Dee Ramone’s own similarly bad decision. In 1988 Wendy released Deffest! And Baddest! as Ultrafly and The Home Girls. Unfortunately that was her last recorded work. Her final live performance was on New Year’s Eve, 1988, with Richie Stotts’ post-Plasmatics band, playing “Mastermind.”
Wendy abruptly left both music and acting in 1991, when she and Rod Swenson moved to rural Connecticut. Wendy’s explanation was that she was tired of dealing with people. In Storr, Connecticut Wendy worked as an animal rescuer, natural foods activist, and kept a day job at a health food co-op.
But she was not happy and fulfilled in her retirement and seclusion. She struggled with untreated depression for seven years, and made at least two unsuccessful suicide attempts. She finally succeeded in a methodically planned suicide in 1998, spending her last moments alone in the woods, feeding squirrels before turning a gun on herself.
“For me, much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm.” – Wendy O. Williams, suicide note
The loss of Wendy O. Williams’ voice and strong personality is still felt, 14 years later. Little has been released of her original, unedited concert footage, and there has been no proper retrospective of her career and enigmatic personal life. She deserves better.
Ah, Samuel Fuller. The great director, on some levels, exists in his very own category, creatively hitting up in the Kubrick/Kurosawa/Bergman leagues and yet hardly most people outside of serious film geeks have ever heard of him.
Arguably, Fuller has been largely ignored historically because, even in the 50s and early 60s he was cranking up the intensity to levels that simply could not be tolerated by most cinema-goers or even movie critics. Confronted with Fuller’s incendiary vision, American society collectively slapped their hands over their ears and repeated, No, this can’t be the way things are. But they were that way, and Fuller presented it in such a way that you couldn’t deny it. Forget about mom, apple pie and the postwar American dream, Samuel Fuller’s films metaphorically lifted Marilyn Monroe’s skirt to reveal a maniacally grinning demon underneath.
For instance, here’s white supremacist Trent from Shock Corridor, and remember this came out in 1962:
See what I mean? If you’ve never experienced that scene before, right now you’re probably saying, “Holy Shit…”
Sam Fuller was a classic cigar-chomping old school man’s man who’d been a crime reporter in the 1930s and then shipped off to World War II. He fought on the beaches of North Africa, Sicily and Normandy before helping to liberate the concentration camp at Falkenau, where shot some of his earliest film footage.
By the time he made his first movie in 1949 at the age of 37, Fuller was already loaded for bear with levels of life experience most of us would never even wish for. His films combined newspaper sensationalism sprinkled with bits and pieces from his own life. Although not nihilistic, Fuller didn’t have heroes or villains in the classic sense but populated his films with real characters with good and bad all mixed together. You know, like in real life.
Like any artist or writer or, well THINKER worth a damn, you can’t easily pigeonhole his world view. In Sam Fuller, The Typewriter, the Rifle and the Movie Camera, a documentary about Fuller’s life, Jim Jarmusch describes the iconoclastic director as an “anti-totalitarian anarchist,” though Fuller took heat from both the right and left for Pickup on South Street (which was accused of “Red baiting” and anti-Americanism at the same time!). In the film you can also see Fuller describe both the fascists and mid-20th century communist regimes as “Enemies of humanity.”
Like Luis Buñuel, Fuller got kicked to the curb for a number or years for just going too damn far, with the controversial White Dog—which never did see a US release—about a dog trained to hate black people [A neighbor of mine in Brooklyn had a doberman that hated black people, so this isn’t as far-fetched as you might think], whereupon he moved to France, where he was, of course, hailed as a genius, and finished out the rest of his creative career.
Here’s the entire film about Fuller, shot during his lifetime so that there are plenty of classic quotes from the man. Just as amusing are the shots of Quentin Tarantino and Tim Robbins rooting around in Fuller’s pre-France work-space, uncovering all sorts of Fuller’s old treasures, even as they imitate him and invoke his spirit at a distance:
A few months after the release of Midnight Love in 1982, Marvin Gaye told N.M.E.:
I don’t make records for pleasure. I did when I was a younger artist, but I don’t today. I record so that I can feed people what they need, what they feel. Hopefully, I record so that I can help someone overcome a bad time.
Midnight Love was to be Marvin’s last complete album, and was the biggest selling record of his career at that time, selling 6-million copies worldwide. Its release, coming after a self-imposed exile in Belgium, marked a major development in Marvin’s song-writing and performing talents, with its eclectic mix of influences, Soul, Funk, Synth Pop, and Reggae, that the “Prince of Soul” made unmistakably his own.
Midnight Love was considered by many critics to be the album of the year, and in June 1983, Marvin showcased (lip-synched) a selection of songs from this classic album on a special edition of Soul Train.
Oo-er. Bringing a double meaning to when a cop says “Assume the positions,” or “Up against the wall,” (fnarr, fnarr) Cops and Nobbers re-imagines different police forces pounding the beat with dildos in their hands.
The future of policing? Think about it… who would want to take on a police officer if there’s a chance of getting battered by a double-ender.
Here’s a great song that has been beaten into banality by the ever-growing number of people who sing it with none of the sense of humor, sexiness or irony that Leonard Cohen intended when he wrote it. “Hallelujah” has been turned into musical mulch in which the insipid flowers of sentiment and false emotion have blossomed and unfurled their sickly sweet petals.
John Malkovich is using a cheat sheet to inform him of what he’s feeling. Oh, the passion.
Happy Birthday Sir Christopher Lee, actor, singer and cinematic icon, who celebrates his 91st birthday today.
I can still recall the fabulous thrill of seeing Lee’s performance as the gruesome “Creature” in The Curse of Frankenstein (1956), where he managed to make the brutally disfigured creation both pitiful and terrifying. He achieved greater success as the Count in Dracula (1958), a performance that established him as an international star. Lee made the role of Dracula his own by bringing a charm, sophistication, intelligence and sexual attraction to the role.
In both films, Lee played against his friend and colleague Peter Cushing (who would have been 100-years-old yesterday) and together they dominated the box-office from the late 1950s-to mid-1970s, with a range of classic Horror movies, including The Gorgon, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The Skull, Scream and Scream Again, The House That Dripped Blood, Dracula 1972 A.D., Nothing But The NIght, The Creeping Flesh, and Horror Express.
Of course, there were also his solo turns with The Devil Rides Out, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Wicker Man, The Three Musketeers and The Man With The Golden Gun.
But unlike Cushing, or Vincent Price (whose birthday is also celebrated today), Lee wanted to be more than just a Horror actor, and therefore moved to America in the 1970s, where his starred in a variety of films—some good, some not-so—which ranged from Airport ‘77, 1941 and Gremlins 2.
Most careers would have finished there, but not Lee’s. He return to form and greater success with roles in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999) and then the BBC TV-series Gormenghast (2000), all of which led onto Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and episodes 2 and 3 of Star Wars.
At 91, Sir Christopher is making 2-to-3-films-a-year, and has just recorded and released a Heavy Metal album, Charlemagne: The Omens of Death.
Happy Birthday Sir Christopher and thanks for all the thrills!
Behind the scenes with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing on ‘Dracula 1972 A.D.’
A preview of Christopher Lee’s heavy Metal album ‘Charlemagne: The Omens of Death’
Okay, first of all, let’s get this out of the way: big, burly men declaring that they’re “managing your meat everyday” is quite possibly the best imaginable homoerotic theme for a fast food advertisement. So let’s just have ourselves a giggle. Go ahead. Someone clearly meant for you to laugh, because there is no way that wasn’t intentional.
But moving on…
If you don’t follow labor news (not that it’s easy, since the largest media outlets tend to ignore it), you may not be aware that New York has had a recent upswing in strike activity, particularly among the notoriously difficult to organize service sector. Since November, coalitions of unions, community organizations, and labor rights groups have been endorsing fast food workers in their fight for a living wage and a union.
Since Burger King is one of the targets of these protests, it was particularly dizzying to see this corporate art decorating the wall of one of their locations in Tribeca, in Lower Manhattan. The aesthetic appeal of a “Stacker’s Union” might’ve seemed “cute” to the marketing execs, a nostalgic reference to a time when unionized industrial labor held the promise of a good life for a working class family. I doubt, however, that any of Burger King’s employees (or the workers who pick their tomatoes) would find it so cute.
It even has a little fake union logo, to represent the fake solidarity of the union workers that don’t actually exist!
What’s even weirder is the style of the art. At first glance, it appears to be referencing the public art of the Work’s Progress Administration, the New Deal program that put so many Americans to work during The Great Depression.
Hmmmm… close, but not quite. However, upon further inspection, this poster is so Soviet-inspired you can practically taste the corn syrup-suffused borscht (made with real beet extract):
I’m not sure what to make of it, honestly. On the one hand, I find it completely believable that a giant union-busting corporation would intentionally appropriate the title and aesthetics of labor to seem warm and fuzzy. On the other hand, I could also believe they’re all clueless idiots who just hired someone (who is apparently a droll comedic genius) to make them a cool-looking poster.
Marie Antoinette used to dress as a milkmaid for kicks. At the time, the bucolic peasantry was a signifier of idyllic, simple beauty. While it seems absurd to us now, the habit of the powerful to emulate an idealized working class persists today. We see designer jeans for hundreds of dollars, intentionally distressed so as to appear rugged, aged in the nobility of hard work. Folks mount their expensive, high-tech electronics on “rustic” stands. These are microcosms of the tendency, for sure, but Burger King playing “dress-up” with unions isn’t really too far off from Marie A playing dress-up as a farm girl.
Who sunbathes in socks? Morrissey sunbathes in socks. He is immune to tanlines because his body rejects sunlight
Screaming over what sounds like a soundcheck in the background, Moz and his interviewer do their darndest to get through the spot without completely losing composure. He may have jumped the gun foretelling the end of music videos (and thank heavens, since they provided some truly wonderful examples of his weird dancing), but you have to admire that moody Mancunian’s trademark negativity!