Oh boy, first we were treated to a Rick Santorum portrait made entirely out of gay porn, and now an animated GIF of him “enjoying” a frothy whipped ice cream cone. It doesn’t get much better than this. Oh wait, it does. The GIF comes with its own soundtrack, “Lollipop” which you can view and listen to here.
This Ain’t California is a 90-minute documentary by director Martin Persiel that takes “original clips of the “wheel-board-riders” – straight out of the East German scene in the 80s – and mixes it with animations and reencounters with the protagonists today. It is not just a well thought out story on its own – this film also raises the aesthetic bar.”
Life in the GDR as it has never been seen: a film that shows a unique generation from the GDR in the 80s which has never before been shown in a film. It is free from the classic GDR clichés, which are often adopted by the occidental point of view.
A film in which the East takes a look at the West, right up to the year 2011 – always with one theme clearly in focus: friendship.
“You know you talk so hip man! You’re twistin’ my melon man!”
Although, of course, they are still well-loved and known as one of the two defining bands (along with The Stone Roses) of the so-called “Madchester” rave era in the UK, for the majority of American rock fans, Happy Mondays are seen more as early 90s British one-hit-wonders for “Step On” and just that. For a brief spell they looked set to breakthrough here, too, with their incredible third album, Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches, but that never happened. Today, in the US, Happy Mondays are no better recalled than, say, the Soup Dragons or Jesus Jones, something you might see flipping past Vh1 Classics.
I had the good fortune to see Happy Mondays do one of the greatest live sets, like, fucking ever, at the Sound Factory in New York in 1990. The Sound Factory was a legendary dance club catering mostly to black and Latino gay men. Hallowed House music DJs like Frankie Knuckles and Junior Vasquez spun there and the place was known the world over for having one of the most insanely powerful, bass-heavy sound systems that you could ever possibly experience at top volume while tripping your face off on Ecstasy. It was the sort of place where the bar sold mostly bottled water and the crowd spilled out into the streets as the sun was coming up. Although not generally thought of as a live music venue, the Sound Factory seemed to be THE place where all of the British “Acid House” and rave-related groups wanted to play when they came to New York in the late 1980s/early 1990s.
Dee-lite were the (perfect) opening act and they killed it, as they always did (I saw them dozens of times during that era), leaving the E’d up crowd good and energized for the headliner’s set. The Mondays came out and absolutely blew the roof off the place. From the minute they walked onstage, hundreds of joints were lit up and with that crazy Sound Factory BASS moving the crowd as one, it was a high-energy, you had to be there to believe it experience. It was you might say, a memorable evening of music being made for people on drugs by people who were on drugs themselves. A crazy good time was had by all and this was on a week night!
As far as rock shows go, their druggy, trippy, shamanistic set was a triumph by any standard and the Happy Mondays must’ve felt like they were the kings of New York that night. They were! From low-level Manchester hoodlums and drug dealers to the top of the pops at home and being welcomed as heroes in New York City? What an experience that must have been for them.
But it didn’t last long. Singer/lyricist/ringleader Shaun Ryder—whose surreal wordplay Factory Records boss Tony Wilson compared to W.B. Yeats—was deep into a heroin habit that turned into crack addiction in Barbados as the band recorded Yes, Please! the follow-up to Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads. The idea was to get Ryder to a place where drugs would be difficult for him to find… like Barbados?
Chris and Tina usually get the blame for Yes, Please! but believe me when I tell you that when I saw Happy Mondays around the time of that album’s release—I think it was at the Manhattan Center that time—they were but a hollowed-out shell of the scrappy, confident to the point of being arrogant group from just a few months prior. In contrast to the Sound Factory gig, this time The Mondays performed what could barely be called a perfunctory set, standing under a large neon sign that said “DRUGS” in chunky letters. To say that they seemed “tired” or “uninspired” would be too kind, they were like burnt-out ghouls. They were fucking horrible! The best thing about the show was that neon sign.
Nevertheless, through tabloid drama, drink, drugs, reality TV, more drink, more drugs and a guest spot on the classic Gorillaz single, “Dare,” Shaun Ryder inexplicably lives on. A few weeks ago it was announced that the band’s original line-up would reform for some UK tour dates in 2012.
For those of you who might’ve missed out on their charms back in the day, here’s a sampling of classic Happy Mondays from, uh… when they were peaking…
An interesting curio from the back catalog of the Jim Henson estate here - the first ever (pilot) episode of The Muppet Show, which was recorded late in 1974 for broadcast in 1975. From the Muppets wikia:
The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence aired on ABC on March 19, 1975, and was shot on December 10-16, 1974.
It was one of the two pilots produced for The Muppet Show. The other pilot, The Muppets Valentine Show, aired in 1974.
In this half-hour variety special, the Muppets parody the proliferation of sex and violence on television.
Subtitled “An End to Sex & Violence,” this first ever episode of the world’s favourite puppet theatre seems a bit racy for a supposed family audience. However, watching this pilot it’s clear that Henson and co. were aiming for a more adult-orientated, risqué edge to the material, akin to the sketches they provided in the very early years of Saturday Night Live (and which were deemed, in the end, not to work.)
Obviously some more fine tuning was needed on this material before it became the international hit we all know and love. Not least a honing of the format and pacing of the show. This early version is a lot more fast-moving, with quicker cuts between multiple sketches, which we return to numerous times. The show had also yet to make musical numbers its main focus, perhaps explaining the later decision to constrain the sketches to single slots allowed to play out in full.
That’s not the only thing that’s disconcertingly different though: the usual Muppet Show host Kermit is relegated to just a bit part, even though by this stage he had become well known through appearances on Sesame Street. Sam the Eagle has a lot of screen time, and an early variant on Miss Piggy makes a brief appearance.
The main presenting duties go to a humanoid Muppet called Nigel, who is backed up by right hand man by Floyd Pepper, better known as the bass player in Dr Teeth’s Electric Mayhem and the popular character Janice’s main squeeze. The main Muppets’ to-camera addresses are a lot more knowing and audience-literate than Kermit’s let’s-get-this-show-on-the-road style, again hinting at the influence of a more grown-up, hip comedy aesthetic influenced by Lorne Michaels and even Monty Python.
Still, flawed as it may be, this is well worth a watch for Muppet fans and even the more curious viewer. Below is part one, while parts two and three are after the jump:
The Muppet Show: Sex & Violence Parts 2 & 3 after the jump…
Chris Jagger presents a short film on Michael Joseph and his famous photo-shoot of The Rolling Stones’, for their Beggars Banquet album at Swarkestone Hall Pavilion, in 1968. Though Joseph’s photographs are now considered “among the best ever” taken of The Stones, a dispute between the band and their record label saw a plain R.S.V.P. invitation card used for the cover, which was later replaced by the infamous photograph of a graffiti-covered toilet.
Drag superstar Alexia Twister recreates Madonna’s entire Super Bowl spectacle in Brazilian gay club Victoria Haus - a rather amazing feat considering this show was probably produced with less money than the cost of Cee Lo’s dressing room deli tray.
Neil Young sitting on a sidewalk in Glasgow back in 1976 singing the “Old Laughing Lady” and playing his banjo as people file past him with little clue as to who this longhaired hippie is.
When Dangerous Minds’ contributor Paul Gallagher shared a shorter version of this video last year, he wrote…
[...] Hoots mon! Rare film of Neil Young busking in Glasgow city center, April 1 1976, prior to headlining at the city’s legendary Apollo Theater later that night.
Mr Young performed outside Glasgow’s Central Station, on Gordon Street, where he sang “Old Laughing Lady”. Because of the date - All Fool’s Day - it has been suggested that Mr Young was carrying out his own practical joke for the benefit of those lucky denizens of the Dear Green Place.”
The photo above of Kraftwerk popped up on my friend Justin Strauss’s Facebook page. I loved the energy in the picture, the mix of uptown, downtown, black and white, and was curious about its history. So I asked Justin if he knew anything regarding the genesis of the photograph. He did indeed.
A deejay, musician and producer (he did a dance mix of one of my songs back in the 80s), Justin describes the night Laura Levine snapped the picture :
Everyone in New York was buzzing about this show. Krarftwerk had not played in the city since an early tour in the 70’s, and by this point, in the summer of 1981, their influence was huge.
I was lucky enough to be one of the main dj’s at the Ritz club. Night after night, the most amazing talent played in that place and I would dj before and after the shows. I mean everyone from Prince, U2, Depeche Mode, Human League, Public Image Ltd (I dj’d at this legendary show as well), Tina Turner, on and on. I had the best seat in the house, the dj booth at the Ritz.
When it was announced that Kraftwerk would play two shows there in support of their newly released “Computer World” album, I flipped. So excited to be able to see this show.
It did not disappoint. I invited as many of my dj friends as I could over the course of the two nights. Afrika Bambaataa, Francois K., Ivan Ivan, Larry Levan all hung out as we watched Kraftwerk’s amazing performance.
It was the first tour they used the Kraftwerk “dummies”, and the whole theme and set design was some sort of U-Boat feel to it if I remember correctly. When they performed their song “Pocket Calculator” Florian came out to the audience and let the crowd press the buttons on the small keyboard he held in his hand.
The show and the music were ground breaking and anyone who was there could not help but be totally mesmerized and influenced by what they saw and heard. I"m glad I was one of them.
Levine’s photo and Justin’s remembrance ultimately led me to the documentary Krautrock - The Rebirth Of Germany. Did Walt Whitman imagine a future world where machines and men would blissfully merge when he joyously exclaimed “I SING the Body electric?”
Nina Simone was born 79 years ago today, on February 21st 1933. Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of her passing, but for now let’s remember one of the greatest artists of the last century with her jaw-dropping performance of Morris Albert’s “Feelings” from her controversial set at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1976. Nina looks stoned here, and apparently she didn’t feel the crowd at this show were reacting appropriatley, explaining some of the tense spoken word interuptions. Still, if any doubts exist about Nina Simone’s skill or talent, watch this clip then tell me she is not one of the great artists of modern times:
Nina Simone “Feelings” Live at Montreux Jazz Festival, 1976