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Watch ‘Slade in Flame,’ ‘the ‘Citizen Kane’ of British pop movies’
06:34 am



Slade in Flame (a/k/a Flame) is a lot of fun—duh, it’s got Slade playing in it—but it’s also the only rock movie I know of that shows how desperately sad and awful show business can be. Set in the ‘60s, the movie starts out in the dingy, Broadway Danny Rose world of small-time entertainers: the cramped offices of talent agents who book jugglers and rock bands alike into bingo halls, wedding tents and bars. From there, Slade’s alter egos, Flame, climb to the top, but I wouldn’t say things get better for them.

Andrew Birkin (brother of Jane) based his screenplay on road stories he heard from Slade and their manager and producer Chas Chandler, who had a story or two to tell, having played bass in the Animals and managed Jimi Hendrix. Slade wanted Birkin and director Richard Loncraine to put the harsh reality of the rock biz onscreen, as Noddy Holder explained in a 2002 interview about the movie (embedded below):

When we read [the treatment], we liked the story, the basic idea of the story, but it wasn’t true to life of what a band’s all about. Unless you’ve been in a band, [screenwriters] tend to write about the myth of rock ‘n’ roll, not the reality of rock ‘n’ roll, and we wanted to show what rock ‘n’ roll was really like behind the scenes, not what the fantasy out front is, y’know, that everybody sees, the glitz and glamour and the parties and all that—we wanted to show the other side of the business.

Though the soundtrack and book were enormously successful in the UK, drummer Don Powell’s book, Look Wot I Dun, reports that Slade didn’t see any profits from the movie itself. However, Slade in Flame has consistently appeared in best-of lists since its release, and critic Mark Kermode has called it “the Citizen Kane of British pop movies.”

Watch it here before it gets yanked!

After the jump, a nearly hour-long interview with Noddy Holder that was an extra on the 2004 DVD of ‘Slade in Flame’...

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
Of Spiders, Pin-up girls and Silent Movie Mad Men: The Legacy of ‘Hollywood Imp’ Jack McDermott

Pin Up Model Betty Blue in front of the Spider Tile
There is something so delightfully decadent and downright pagan about Hollywood in the 1920’s. Maybe it was the heat and the transformation of desert wasteland to an arena of dreams and star making machines or perhaps the country’s overall shedding of prudish Victoriana morals and decor. Social and creative mores were pushed, at times, in the most delicious and evocative of ways. (As anyone who has studied pre-Hays Code films can probably assure you!) Sitting in the Hollywood Hills, like some pastiche Abbey of Thelema meets Silver Screen ambiance was the “Crazy House.”
Jack McDermott-Handsome Devil
“Crazy House” belonged to silent film writer/director Jack McDermott. McDermott was born in 1893 and originally from Green River, Wyoming, a mining town known for being one of the first in the country to ban door-to-door solicitation. When his family moved to Los Angeles in the protean days of filmmaking, it was kismet for an unrestrained soul like McDermott’s. Settling in the desert landscape like a holy burning bush as witnessed by a tribe of mescaline-dosed fops, McDermott’s reputation would soon grow legion. With directing credits dating back to at least 1916 and the last credited film of his being released in 1926, intriguingly titled The Love Thief, McDermott’s legacy in Hollywood mythos has become less solidified in silver nitrate and more in surreal antics and architectural wonderment.

Stories about McDermott the Hollywood Imp would soon circulate by the 1920’s. Gags such as giving guests a ride in his Model T in some of the rockier parts of the landscape, only to pull the steering wheel completely off and throw it out whenever his company started getting nervous, were just the tip of the iceberg. (McDermott’s car had foot controls installed that helped prevent certain auto-crash doom.) Driving shenanigans aside, it would ultimately be, as described in a 1927 issue of Picture-Play magazine as “The Strangest House in Hollywood,” that would make him a whispered name decades past his expiration date on this mortal plane.
Exterior of
Described by McDermott himself as his “crazy house,” what the structure lacked in modern cohesive design, it more than made up for with slackful ingenuity and a mega-ton of studio sets and props. Not just a few odds and ends here and there, but that the house itself was largely composed of set-pieces and what would now be viewed as Hollywood artifacts and relics.

The “Crazy House” featured rugs, furniture and walls straight off the sets of films like the 1924 Raoul Walsh actioner The Thief of Baghdad, a roof constructed from Lon Chaney Sr.‘s classic Phantom of the Opera, fencing from one of Rudolph Valentino’s last films, 1925’s The Eagle, among many others. McDermott even reportedly utilized the tombstones used in the 1923 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame to form part of a stone wall on the property.
More on Jack McDermott’s crazy house, after the jump…

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
Pioneer of New York City underground TV: Efrom Allen R.I.P
05:16 pm


Efrom Allen

Along with Robin Byrd and Al Goldstein, Efrom Allen was one of the pioneers of NYC cable TV talk shows. With its mix of porn stars, punk rockers and nightlife impresarios, Allen’s Nightlife was always reliably weird. As punk rock was throbbing in the clubs downtown, Manhattan cable TV was experiencing its own kind of anarchy. D.I.Y programs like Nightlife were offering demented and surreal entertainment to get us energized before hitting the clubs or to soften the crash as we wound down from a night on the Bowery. The coaxial pipeline was sending signals into our decrepit little apartments that were raw, spontaneous and often exhilarating, punk rock’s cathode equivalent. It was underground, avant garde, sloppy black and white television with a grimy technicolor soul. And Efrom Allen was the ringmaster at the rock and roll circus that made Manhattan in the 70s one of the most wonderfully strange places on the planet.

Leslie Barany has informed Dangerous Minds of the sad news that Efrom Allen has died. He had been suffering from lung cancer.

I was addicted to many things in the 70s and one of the healthier habits I accrued was watching Manhattan public access TV. Uncensored and subversive as hell, public access was truly what it claimed to be. You could reserve time for free on certain cable channels and do pretty much whatever you wanted. What made Efrom Allen stand out was his absolute coolness. He wasn’t cool in the hipster sense, he was cool in the sense of always maintaining an even keel while shit was happening all around him. From nasty crank calls to surreal interviews that included Nancy Spungen, William Shatner, a nude Marilyn Chambers and The Ramones, Allen dealt with everyone with a Zen equanimity, never breaking a sweat and never condescending to his guests no matter how fucked-up or difficult they might be. On the surface, he seemed a bit square but he was actually a pretty gutsy guy who went out on the limb every time he did a show. Nightlife was cutting edge stuff and it makes the current crop of late night talk shows look hopelessly square.

In a phone call earlier today, Leslie Barany said that those close to Efrom will be working on a project to insure that his video archives will be “transferred to a museum or institution that appreciates its historical value, and will digitize it, preserve it and make it available to the public.”

Below, Efrom Allen with Sid Vicious, Stiv Bators, Cynthia Ross and Nancy Spungen:


Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
Limbo, NYC’s ‘Tuned-in Generation’ 60s fashion emporium (and their amazing artist-in-residence)

It all started a few weeks ago with a nice lady dropping by the record store with two cardboard moving boxes full of old newspapers. “I thought I’d see if anyone here wanted these before I threw them out.”

I looked into the first box and on top was an issue of The Village Voice from April of 1969. Without even hesitating I said “Yep, I’ll be happy to take these in.” Digging further, I saw that I was looking at two boxes full of old Voice issues from the late ‘60s—mega score. All I had in my pocket was ten dollars, but I offered it to the nice lady. “These are cool, please take my ten bucks. And THANK YOU!”

I started plowing through the contents of the two boxes when I got home that evening. All tolled, there were forty-five issues of the Voice dating between 1967 and 1969—one of the most interesting periods in U.S. history for art and radical politics. The Voice, at that time, was one of the major mediums carrying the anti-war message, not to mention reporting on the explosion of art, psychedelic thought, and counterculture. Every issue in those two boxes was a treasure trove of Vietnam era cool: Andy Warhol shot. Abbie Hoffman arrested. Eldridge Cleaver lecturing. Burroughs and Ginsberg hit up Timothy Leary’s LSD Center. Jimi Hendrix is playing this weekend. Janis Joplin is playing another. Hair is on Broadway. I Am Curious (Yellow) is at the cinema. EVERYONE is protesting. Cops are busting heads. I’m completely enthralled and lost in these stacks.

As I’m meticulously poring over the issues, I begin to notice the ads for one particular shop: Limbo. To say there was something special about these mystifying “anti-ads” is an understatement. My eye was drawn magnetically to the Limbo graphics. There was at least one in every issue. The designs were sort of a Dada/Pop Art hybrid, but actually quite unlike anything else—definitely unlike anything else in the Voice at that time. Sure, there were lots of era-typical psychedelic graphics advertising everything from fur coats to futons… but the Limbo ads weren’t exactly psychedelic… and they weren’t exactly advertising anything other than their own unique form. They seemed completely and beautifully out of place and time, something a step beyond the pop iconography of Warhol’s work from a few years prior. Familiar, yet obscure. Every image stopped me in my tracks and had me guessing at its mysteries.

Ads for Limbo as they appeared in the Village Voice.
I became obsessed. I went through every issue, specifically hunting each Limbo ad. They were all different. They didn’t repeat. All arresting and confounding.

Mesmerized, curious, needing to know more, I went to the Internet for information and with very little effort found that this long-defunct shop had both a handy Wikipedia entry and Facebook presence.

From what I discovered, I was surprised I hadn’t already known about Limbo. It was apparently the IT shop in the East Village. Writing in eye Magazine, Norman Steinberg described Limbo as “much more than just a clothing store. It is a social, intellectual, and entertainment experience that appeals to people of all ages, races, creeds, colors and political persuasions.”

Beyond being simply a retail shop, Limbo was a countercultural HUB for disaffected New Yorkers. The store, through a wholesale sales agreement with Fillmore East, dressed rock stars from Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, to the New York Dolls and Velvet Underground. John Lennon, Yoko Ono,  Andy Warhol and his “superstars” Baby Jane Holzer, Nico, Viva and Edie Sedgwick were all frequenters.

“Dress as decoration. Dress as defiance. Dress as decorum, or its opposite. That was at the heart of Limbo.”
Limbo sold not only typical “peacenik” clothes like Indian cottons and silks, but also military surplus for the Yippie warriors of the day. Limbo was one of the first sellers to make “vintage” clothing “hip,” calling the inventory on their flyers: “Dead Man’s Clothing.” Limbo is also often credited with starting the trend of “distressing” blue jeans before sale. As a retail shop, it served as a cultural focal point in the East Village—much in the same way that its successor served the early punk scene. Many of our readers may be familiar with the store which Limbo became after being sold in 1975: Trash & Vaudeville.

“Carefully Selected Dead Men’s Clothing For The Heads of All Nations”
As I thought about the notion of a shop like Limbo being a community axis, I was reminded of my own recent experience with the nice lady dropping off the two boxes of Village Voices at the record shop and felt connected to that tradition of storefronts being places that can exist beyond their capitalist function of exchanging goods and services for money—places that offer a space for like-minded individuals to meet and share ideas or pass things along simply because that’s a “cool thing to do.”

Scouring the photo galleries on Limbo’s Facebook page, I found many of the same striking ads I had seen in those Village Voice issues. Scanning through those, I located the name of the artist who had designed them: Ira Kennedy.
Much more after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Discussion
‘Punk Elegies’: Riveting late 70’s punk memoir set in the City of Angel Dust
12:52 pm


Allan MacDonell
Punk Elegies

MacDonell's Punk Elegies Cover Art a Go-Go
Memoir is a smooth sounding word that can often deliver either salacious insight or NPR-friendly whisper-soft introspection. In the hands of a writer like Allan MacDonell, you will get something that flirts with both approaches and yet ultimately is something entirely its own creation. Hence, you get a gem like Punk Elegies in your hot little hands. MacDonell, whose resume boasts writing for the seminal early punk zine, Slash to being a renaissance man/editor at Hustler, an experience that he documented in his excellent 2006 book, Prisoner of X: 20 Years in the Hole at Hustler.

While a number of books and films have been made about various players and aspects of the late 1970’s west coast punk scene, Punk Elegies stands out from the herd. There’s the obvious draw of having the writer/narrator being someone who was there and survived to tell the tale. That’s a given, but MacDonell’s approach, always intelligent, solidly articulate and ballsy enough to paint himself in the most unflattering colors, is the true sturm und drang to snag you and keep it fresh in your mind long after you finished the last page. Klaus Kinski once said that “Virtues can be faked. Depravity is real.” Mercifully for the author, MacDonell’s journey never quite gets to red-level-Kinski’s, but the quote still fits. Nobody comes off worse than the man himself.
Darby Crash on Slash cover
Punk Elegies also features key peeks into the short-lived but still legendary punk scene in Los Angeles in the late 1970’s. Artists ranging from X to The Screamers to The Go-Go’s to Black Randy & the Metrosquad and more all pop up throughout the tome. All of this adds up to a beautifully written book that is one part punk culture and all parts gut-throat memoir. Allan MacDonell was nice enough to agree to some questions regarding Punk Elegies.

How was it revisiting this part of your life for Punk Elegies? Was it pure reflection or part-exorcism?

First off, there’s not a lot of purity in anything I’ve done, but reflection is one of my great gifts, like it is with any self-loving, self-lacerating narcissist. Long stretches of pond-staring went into mapping out Punk Elegies. I tried to clarify, for myself, what I’d been up to with all this baffling behavior. Unfortunately, none of my demons were exorcised. They’ve all made themselves more at home.

What does LA feel like for you now? Is it still a vibrant hub of artists and misfits or more like a city of ghosts?

For me, L.A. now feels like it’s being overrun by a massive influx of real-estate refugees from Manhattan and Brooklyn. The hilarious rise in cost of housing, the absence of available parking, the increasingly ill-mannered gamesmanship on the locked traffic grid, these are a few surface indications of a deep metaphysical congestion in this city that has choked off the ghosts. I still like it here. They haven’t squeezed me out yet.

Have you gotten any feedback from anyone who was in your inner circle during the time period of Punk Elegies?

Most of the feedback I’ve received has come in the form of silence. Germs drummer Don Bolles, who plays a role in Punk Elegies, gave the book a video endorsement. I only had to pressure Don slightly. The original keyboard player for the Screamers left a nine-paragraph elegy of his own in the comments of a Punk Elegies playlist I put together for Decibel.

Are you still in touch with your first wife, Tommie, who is hugely prominent figure throughout the book?

I’m still in touch with practically no one who is depicted in this book. Inspirational kitten memes tell me there’s no point in wishing things were different, but sometimes I do.
Black Randy
There are a lot of great stories about Black Randy in Punk Elegies. It’s a safe statement to say that there really was no one like him back then or even now. In a just world, he would have all the cult appeal and fandom of, say Sid Vicious or Darby Crash. What is your take now on the legacy of Randy?

I do presume to speak through Black Randy a lot in Punk Elegies, but I wish he were around to answer this one himself. Somehow, I suspect he would object to being grouped with Sid Vicious and Darby Crash. I’m pretty sure he and Darby liked one another—Darby sang in the Metro Squad chorus at one of Randy’s live shows. But Randy operated in a separate category that included him and almost no one else. He had an acute disdain for herd mentality and smug groupthink and Halloween rebels and for self-proclaimed mavericks living out on the copy-and-paste cutting edge. In the decades since he’s been gone, it seems that fewer and fewer of these teachings of Randy are being passed down and honored. In that sense, it’s like his entire legacy is a vanishing ideal.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
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