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KISS, Sparks, & rock ‘n’ roller coasters: The legendary ‘Magic Mountain’ theme park of the 1970’s
01.11.2017
12:21 pm

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Amusing
Music

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On an incredibly hot memorial day weekend in 1971, Magic Mountain opened in Valencia, California just 18 months after construction began. The “theme” of this theme park was not entirely clear and it only had one roller coaster, however the park’s other offerings—the fireworks, rides, laser shows, arcade games, and nightly concerts—made “fun, magic, and rock ‘n’ roll” the name of the game. By the time the park was sold to Six Flags at the end of the decade, Magic Mountain had cemented a place in rock ‘n’ roll history by giving many young Southern Californians their very first live concert experience. Its three venues (7-Up / Dixi Cola Showcase Theatre, The Gazebo, and Kaleidoscope) were home to many great acts such as Fleetwood Mac, The Carpenters, Sonny & Cher, The Jackson 5, The Everly Brothers, and KISS who attracted a long-haired, beer can drinking parking lot crowd that didn’t meet Disneyland’s strict dress code and could afford the $5 admission price.
 

Sonny & Cher performed nightly from Sept 2nd-12th, 1971 at Magic Mountain’s 7-Up Showcase Theatre
 
When it first opened Magic Mountain secured a short-term deal from Warner Brothers to use their Looney Tunes characters, however when that agreement expired in 1972 a lineup of very unmemorable troll characters were introduced: Bloop, Bleep, King Troll (aka King Blop) and the Wizard. These bizarre, colorful, psychedelic looking walk-around characters became the most recognizable symbols of the park throughout the ‘70s. They greeted guests, posed for photographs, and appeared on all manners of merchandise and advertising before being discontinued in 1985.
 

“Trolls & Fountain” 1977 Magic Mountain postcard
 
By the mid-1970’s the park begun introducing faster and scarier rides such as The Electric Rainbow, Galaxy, and Jolly Monster. However, it was the Great American Revolution (the first modern, 360-degree steel looping coaster) in 1976 that gave the park its first real thrill factor. At the time Universal was filming a disaster-suspense movie called Rollercoaster about a young extortionist (played by Timothy Bottoms) who travels around the U.S. planting bombs on roller coasters promising horrific casualties to those who don’t meet his one million dollar ransom. The film’s climactic final sequence takes place during a huge rock concert celebrating the grand opening of Revolution. While teen-idol fan magazines Tiger Beat and Sixteen reported to their readers that the Scottish glam-rock band the Bay City Rollers were to perform in this film it was actually Los Angeles’ own Sparks who accepted the role having just relocated back to L.A. from England.
 
Sparks were documented on the big screen prior to their breakthrough commercial success during a strange transitional period for the band when they briefly dropped their quirkiness and demanded to be taken seriously. Concerned at the time that their music may have become stale, the Mael brothers left their synthesizers behind for a more “American” guitar sound on their Rupert Holmes produced album Big Beat. Although Rollercoaster was a modest success despite fierce competition from Star Wars at the box office that summer, Ron & Russell Mael of Sparks now look back upon the film with embarrassment. “Yes, you did see Sparks performing ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Fill’er Up’ in the film Rollercoaster during your last airplane trip,” said Russell Mael in the September 2006 issue of Mojo Magazine. “No, we didn’t know that the film was going to turn out like that. Rollercoaster movie proves that you have to be continually careful of what you do… You never know what’s going to last and what’s going to fall by the wayside, and man, does that last!” Sparks’ cameo in Rollercoaster is brief but fun and energetic, especially when Ron Mael gets rowdy and smashes his piano stool on the stage.
 

Russell Mael of Sparks performing in front of Revolution in the 1977 disaster film ‘Rollercoaster’
 
In 1978 at the height of KISS’ massive popularity, Hanna-Barbera Productions produced a made-for-television movie for NBC titled Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Filmed on location at Magic Mountain, the film’s poor script revolved around an evil inventor living underneath the theme park whose nefarious plans are thwarted by an other-galactic rock ‘n’ roll group with superpowers (played by KISS). Despite the fact that all four members were given crash courses on acting, much of the dialogue recorded was unusable and had to be re-dubbed in post production. Ace Frehley was said to have become increasingly frustrated with the long periods of downtime normally associated with filmmaking and stormed off the set one day leaving his African American stunt double to finish his scenes (which made for perhaps one of the most noticeable and unintentionally hilarious continuity errors in the history of cinema). KTNQ’s “The Real” Don Steele (one of the most popular disc jockeys in the U.S.) gave away 8,000 tickets to see KISS perform live at the Magic Mountain parking lot which was filmed for the movies big dramatic rock ‘n’ roll concert ending.
 
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Discussion
Welcome to the broken pyramid of your brain: The wild, weird & beautiful art of René Brantonne
01.06.2017
09:29 am

Topics:
Art
Books

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René Brantonne’s cover illustrations for French pulp paperback publisher Fleuve Noir are a riot of imagination, lysergic color and unparalleled weirdness. Born in Creteil France, Brantonne started his career as a young artist for hire in the 1920s creating movie posters for French releases of American films. For a brief period, Brantonne lived in the United States continuing his work as a poster artist for Hollywood studios. He returned to France and from the mid-1950s until his death in 1979 produced hundreds of covers and illustrations for sci-fi and adventure novels and popular comic books.

Of the work I’ve seen and enjoyed by Brantonne, it’s his work for Fleuve Noir’s Anticipation series that I find the most exhilarating. The art is filled with energy, movement, wit, trippy perspectives, occult intimations and colors that will slap you silly. And some are the stuff of nightmares in which the future is a constant battle between man, machine and the unknown. The future depicted as a giant shoe crushing humanity like a bug or the grinding wheels of progress (Metal de Mort) making mincemeat of our flesh and bone. Brantonne’s vision was everything but idyllic. If the machines don’t get you the giant serpents will.

Welcome to the broken pyramid of your brain.
 

 

René Brantonne.
 

 
More visionary weirdness after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
‘Kool Thing’: Kim Gordon’s 1989 interview with LL Cool J that inspired the Sonic Youth song
01.04.2017
09:14 am

Topics:
Feminism
Hip-hop
Music

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In the September 1989 issue of SPIN magazine, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon interviewed LL Cool J to get a feminist perspective on the male-dominated world of hip-hop. The result was an awkward and unintentionally hilarious conversation that served as the inspiration for the 1990 song “Kool Thing” which was Sonic Youth’s first major label single). At the time, LL was promoting his third studio album, Walking with a Panther, the cover which depicted the rapper posing alongside a cuddly and adorable black panther sporting gold chains.

“I had a thing for male Black Panthers, I also loved LL Cool J’s first record, Radio, which was produced by Rick Rubin.” Kim recounts in her memoir Girl in a Band. She had said publicly that Radio was one of the albums that turned her on to rap music, and that “Going Back to Cali” was one of her favorite music videos because as someone who grew up in L.A. she appreciated “the humorous way it made fun of the 1960s archetypal Southern California sexy white-girl aesthetic.” LL’s publicist couldn’t believe that anyone in Sonic Youth knew about LL Cool J and happily granted an interview which took place during a rehearsal break for an upcoming tour. “I’ve never interviewed a pop star before, and having just seen LL on The Arsenio Hall Show I’m nervous.” Kim prefaced in the SPIN magazine interview titled “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy.”

“When I — the Lower East Side scum-rocker, feeling really, really uncool — arrive at the rehearsal studio, the dancers are taking a break. They’re real friendly; we talk about my shoes for a second. They are three girls — one of whom, Rosie Perez, is in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing — and a young boy. A bunch of other people are just hanging out. LL is preoccupied talking to some stylists, gesturing about clothes. Occasionally he shoots a look my way; I have no idea if he’s expecting me or he’s just looking at my out-of-place bleached blonde hair. LL slowly approaches, checking me out but stopping to talk to friends. I jump up, walk over, grab his hand, introduce myself and say, ‘Can I shake your hand?’ He’s aloof. I marvel how boys who’re tough or cool to cover up their sensitivity keep attracting girls and fooling themselves.” Kim and LL sat down at a nearby empty studio and she began the interview by asking him to sign her Radio CD. She then gave him a copy of Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album (a pseudonymous side project of Sonic Youth and Minutemen/Firehose member Mike Watt). When she told LL Cool J that The Whitey Album sampled beats off his records he laughed out loud and said, “I got a CD in a couple of my cars, I’ll play it.”

They began discussing sports cars and LL’s newly purchased home he called “Wonderland,” as LL flipped through The Whitey Album CD packaging. He pulled out and unfolded an insert which featured a photograph of a young girl with dozens of black & white flyers for hardcore shows plastered all over her bedroom wall. “Who’s this girl? It must have been a long time ago for it to say The Negroes.” LL mistook a flyer he noticed for Necros (a punk band from the Detroit music scene.) “That’s the Necros, an early hardcore band. Are you familiar with the early hardcore scene?” “Uh-uh, what is that, like heavy metal?” “No, not at all! It was basically kids talking to other kids. The Beastie Boys were part of that. I remember when they were a hardcore band.” LL processes the information and then quips, “The Young and the Useless?” (referring to an early 1980s punk band that included future Beastie Boys member Ad-Rock, and so, cool points for LL Cool J). “That was another band. The Beastie Boys had their same name when they were a hardcore band. Hardcore was so fast that if your ears weren’t attuned to it you couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t meant for anyone outside the scene. Like rap music, some of it is so fast, unless you’re familiar with the slang you can’t get it. That’s why so many people who were into hardcore listen to rap. It’s something that excludes white mainstream culture.” Gordon explained. “That’s interesting, I never really knew anything about that.” Cool J said.
 

Photo from Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album CD insert fold-out
 
While Kim Gordon’s connecting the dots between hip hop and the early hardcore music scene made for a great start to the interview, things then took a dive when she asked him about the females fans who admire him. “What about women who are so into you as a sex object that they take a picture of you to bed with them and their boyfriends or husbands start freaking out?” “It’s not my problem,” LL responded. “The guy has to have control over his woman.” Gordon plays along without confronting LL Cool J about his misogynist comments. “Are there any female sex symbols that you relate to?” Kim asks, “Oh yeah, every day on the way to work.”

“It was totally ridiculous for me to assume that we had anything in common” Gordon later admitted in a 1991 telephone interview with the Phoenix New Times. “That’s why I tried to make the article show how elite and small the downtown scene that I come out of is. I was trying to make fun of myself. I don’t know if that came across.” Six months after the interview was published, Sonic Youth recorded the song “Kool Thing” at Sorcerer Sound Recording Studios in New York City. Although LL Cool J’s name is never mentioned, the song’s lyrics contain several references to the rapper’s music. Kim Gordon sings “Kool Thing let me play it with your radio” (a reference to LL Cool J’s single “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”). The lyrics “Kool thing walkin’ like a panther” are a reference to the LL Cool J album Walking With a Panther. She repeats the line “I don’t think so” over and over again which is also a repeating line in the LL Cool J hit “Going Back to Cali.”

Elissa Schappell, author of the short-story collection Blueprints for Building Better Girls, perfectly summarizes the clash between Gordon and Cool J in an essay she wrote for the anthology book Here She Comes Now: Women in Music Who Have Changed Our Lives:

“Kim was able to take the disastrous interview and elegantly turn it into something much larger than its parts. Working at SPY I was used to putting myself into the path of trouble, and when it found me I took notes. Kim had taken notes and then transformed the experience into a sharp and witty social critique of gender, race and power that you could dance to. ‘Kool Thing’ is more than Kim’s assault on LL Cool J’s ego, but a self-mocking jibe at her own liberal politics. The sarcasm in her voice when she addresses ‘Kool Thing’ (Public Enemy’s Chuck D) in the breakdown is self-mocking — the female voice inflated by privilege and naïveté. (‘I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me? I mean, are you going to liberate us girls from the white male corporate oppression?’)

More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Discussion
Fire Damage: Photographer documents the devastation of Gatlinburg
12.27.2016
11:32 am

Topics:
Activism
Art
Current Events

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001firegat.jpg
 
On November 23, 2016, a series of wildfires spread through the Smoky Mountains devastating Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in Sevier County. The fires were one of the worst natural disasters in Tennessee history—claiming fourteen lives and injuring 134.

When the blaze was first reported along the ridge of Chimney Tops mountain “no suppression activities were initiated.” On November 24, park rangers started containment procedures in a hope to stop the fire’s progression. Four days later the blaze had spread to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Pittman Center, as a result of sparks and downed power lines.

The worst of the inferno—what the fire department called “the apocalypse”—destroyed the majority of wooded areas surrounding the center of Gatlinburg. In total some 1,413 properties were destroyed.

Watching the devastation on television, Nashville-based photographer Jeremy Cowart decided to do something to help the victims of the fire. Together with a volunteer crew, Cowart documented the aftermath of the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires. Using a camera attached to a drone, he photographed many of the families and individuals whose lives had been devastated by the fire as they lay on a white mattress surrounded by the remnants of their homes.

A website Voices of Gatlinburg was set up to share the stories, images and most importantly help with the needs of those worst affected.
 
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I went to work that morning, like I always do. By 9am I knew that something was wrong. I was working on Sevier County Ambulance Service. We did business as usual until later that evening. It was about 10 or 11pm that evening when I first got pulled into Gatlinburg for mutual aid with EMS response. On my way to staging I passed by my residence and it was still there. We continued to run several more calls and about 1–2am I was going to meet up with another GFD EMS unit. That’s when I passed my residence, and that’s when I saw that my house was gone.

 
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It was scary because the smoke was so bad and sirens just kept passing going both directions. We finally got to my sister’s but the sky was bright orange.

 
004firegat.jpg
 
More voices from the Gatlinburg fire, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Holiday weirdness: Santa Claus battles the Devil to a psyche-rock soundtrack
12.24.2016
12:41 pm

Topics:
Animation
Movies
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:


 
40 psyche-pop tunes serve as the soundtrack for the extremely wacky Santa Claus (aka Santa Claus vs. The Devil) in a special Holiday mix from me to you.

The trailer narration of Santa Claus gives you a rough idea of the bizarreness that awaits the viewer:

Whether you’re in a cave, or behind a million mountains, Santa Claus sees you through his Master Eye, and invites you to his Magic Wonderland! See Santa Claus in his magic motion picture! Come past the doors of his towering castle, into a fantastic crystal laboratory, filled with weird and wonderful secrets; into his heavenly workshop, the most marvelous toy factory of all! Watch his battle with the mischievous demon who wants to get children into trouble! You’d better watch out!

 

 
There are so many disturbing elements to Rene Cardona’s film that it’s difficult to select just one. Advertised as “an enchanting world of make-believe”, it’s a surreal battle between Father Crimbo and Satan, who sends his minion, Pitch, to interfere in the spreading of comfort and joy. Prime nuggets? Pitch whispering to the young ‘uns that Santa’s actually a murderer (classy!) and Santa’s cloud-borne castle that looks less like a cheery base for making toys and more like something from a Bond villain’s architectural wet dream.

Enjoy the music. I don’t think you’ll miss the dialog. Happy Holidays.

01. “Is Anybody Home” - The Mirage
02. “Henry Adams” - The Frederic
03. “Princess Of The Gingerland” - Glitterhouse
04. “Travelling Circus” - The Epics
05. ‘Punch And Judy Man” - Pop Workshop
06. “Red, White And You” - Sounds Around
07. “The View” - Gary Walker and The Rain
08. “Tomorrow Today” - Kippington Lodge
09. “You’ll Find Me Anywhere” - Hi-Revving Tongues
10. Mix within the mix featuring The Groop, The Kinks,
    The Tages, The Exceptions, The Cyrkle, Frank Zappa,
    The Zombies, Mark Eric, The Sidewalk Skipper Band,
    The Beach Boys, Stained Glass, The Shaggy Boys,
    Free Design, Eternity’s Children, Summer Snow,
    The Counts, Johnny Cobb and The Attractions,
    The Family Tree (courtesy of FCR)
11. “What Are You Gonna Do” - The Summer Set
12. “Stop” - The Pan Pipers
13. “My Race Is Run” - The Motleys
14. “Buses” - The Hung Jury
15. “Alfred Appleby” - The Carnival Connection
16. “You Gotta Be With Me” - The Onyx
17. “Midnite Thoughts” - The World Column
18. “In The Land Of Make Believe” Jennifer’s Friend
19. “Walk In The Sky” The Crackerjack Society
20. “Your Way To Tell Me Go” - Plastic Penny
21. “Green Circles (Italian version)” - The Small Faces
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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