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Salad Days: A talk with the former fanzine kids behind the new 80s DC punk documentary
11.04.2014
06:43 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Punks
Washington DC

Salad Days
 
During the ten-year timespan that encapsulated the Reagan presidency and the emergence of Washington, D.C. as the nation’s murder capital, the1980s DC punk underground became a hotbed of incendiary youth activism. The 1980s saw the birth of Dischord Records and DC bands like Minor Threat, Beefeater, Fire Party, Soulside, Rites of Spring, and Fugazi as the harDCore scene matured around community action groups like Positive Force that advocated for punk rock to take direct action against societal injustice.

The early scene was not without its critics, and was sometimes derided by music reviewers like Robert Christgau who, according to Positive Force founder, Mark Anderson, in his seminal history of DC punk, Dance of Days, once called the emerging aggressive breed of young punks “muscleheads.” As a counterpoint, according to Anderson, the comment lead to the title of Flex Your Head, a compilation of DC punk released on Dischord Records in 1982.

The DC underground’s fiercely D.I.Y and, often, cerebral take on traditional punk rock continues to resonate. 

A new documentary about the era called Salad Days: The DC Punk Revolution, is set to make its debut in a few weeks. Created by Director Scott Crawford, a then very youthful fanzine chronicler of the 1980’s DC punk scene and Jim Saah (Director of Photography and Editor), a now professional photographer who taught himself the art in large part by shooting DC punk performances, the Kickstarter-funded film will begin seeing the light of day in November after being in the works for nearly four years. Salad Days features interviews with DC punk and post-punk luminaries Ian MacKaye, J. Robbins, Brian Baker, Kenny Inouye, Dante Ferrando and many others. DC post-punk outfit Soulside, three members of which went on to form Girls Against Boys, will reunite for a handful of shows in conjunction with the NYC and DC premiers.
 
Soul Side St. Vitus
 
I sent both Crawford and Saah a few questions via email recently and asked them to discuss the upcoming release of the film, their backgrounds as young fanzine creators, and what the 1980s DC hardcore scene meant to them.

DM: Scott, tell me about your years of making underground publications and what drew you to the Salad Days project.

Crawford: My love of magazines started as a kid when I published a fanzine called Metrozine that was focused on the DC punk scene. I did that for almost three years until I started playing in a band. Years later, I started two other zines that focused on the indie rock world at the time and I worked with some amazing writers and photographers (including Jim Saah). In 2001, I started another consumer music magazine out of my basement called HARP that was eventually bought by another publishing company. I worked as the Editor and Creative Director for seven years—and the focus was independent music and culture. Unfortunately once the economy bottomed out, so did the magazine industry and we were a casualty.

I’d been wanting to document the DC punk scene in the 1980s somehow and just thought a documentary film was the best way to tell the story. Speaking with a lot of the people that I’d spoken to almost 30 years ago (as a fanzine kid) provides a type of perspective that I think offers a unique take on the story. Honestly, after the magazine went under, I was floundering a bit personally and professionally. While the film took almost four years to complete, it’s been therapeutic, humbling and incredibly satisfying.

DM: This music was literally life changing for so many young people, but there have always been haters out there about it from critics to other punks who thought the scene was overly earnest and self-righteous. As you pointed out in your Kickstarter campaign, so much is misunderstood about DC punk in the 80’s. What’s the biggest misunderstanding?

Crawford: The DC punk scene in the 1980s was polarizing. Whether it was straight edge, socio-political issues or “emo”, they all provoke a reaction of some sort—which speaks volumes for the impact that this city has had not just on independent music but the culture at large. My eight-year-old daughter has never heard an Embrace song, but she uses the word “emo” on a daily basis. But as the film explores, not everyone was straight edge, humorless and pious. It was a diverse community and while it had its share of disfunction, it was made up of incredibly creative, hard-working people that created a thriving music scene at a time when there was no real local radio support or music industry infrastructure to help support it. That’s no small feat.
 

In this clip from Salad Days, Ian MacKaye talks about still addressing the straight edge issue.
 
DM: Talk about the Soulside reunion shows that are coming up in conjunction with the film’s release.

Crawford: I’d been talking to the band for a while about doing a reunion show when the film was ready to come out. They haven’t played on a stage in over 25 years so I really wasn’t sure if it’d actually come together, but I think the timing just worked for them. Personally speaking, they were always a favorite of mine, so it’s particularly meaningful to have them onboard. It’s going to be a really special weekend.

DM: Is there still a movement mentality in the D.C. underground?

Crawford: I think that’s part of the DNA of folks living in DC and active in the underground music community. I think having organizations like Positive Force in the city helps keep the activism alive.

DM: Jim, How long have you known Scott Crawford and how have you guys worked together over the years?  How’d you get involved in the Salad Days film?

Saah: I’ve known Scott since he was twelve years old. He called me and asked if he could use my photos in his fanzine. Then later on I would shoot photos for the various music magazines he would do over the years, Noise Works, Bent and Harp. I did fanzines of my own that Scott wrote for as well. In the 80’s I did Zone V which was a photo/fanzine, then in the 90s I did about a dozen issues of Uno Mas, which was more of a culture fanzine. I’ve thought about doing a book from time to time about DC punk rock but not a film. Scott came to me with the idea to make a film. He actually had to talk me into it a bit because I thought it was a daunting task. And it was! But since we have a long friendship and have collaborated on many things over the years it was very easy falling into a good workflow for the film.

DM: You shot everybody from the DC underground in the early 80’s including Faith, Government Issue, Scream, Black Market Baby, Iron Cross, and Minor Threat (including their last show at Landsburgh Center in 1983) to name just a few. How old were you in 1983? Did you feel like these bands were making history?

Saah: I turned eighteen in March of 1983. I didn’t have a sense of history being made at the time, but there was a sense that we found something special, something that spoke to us and wasn’t what everyone else at school was into. It was special. I was incredibly excited by the whole thing. I discovered older punk rock first; NY and British stuff from the late 70’s. But then I quickly found out that people were making incredible punk rock right now in my backyard! So we went to every show and drank it all in. I didn’t start a band but I did start a fanzine and took photos at all the shows and loved the community and camaraderie. It was a beautiful thing to be accepted by like-minded people.

(I asked both Crawford and Saah the following) What’s the underlying message of Salad Days and what do hope for young musicians and artists to take away from it?

Saah: For me the underlying message is that this music scene and community taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to, that I didn’t need anyone’s permission to be a photographer. I just needed to do it. It set me on a path that I’m still on. I took pictures of bands for my fanzine, then for the City Paper then for the Washington Post. The punk ethos taught me to believe in myself, and also taught me how to not settle for what’s put in front of me in regards to art and culture. It taught me that it may take a little work to find a band or book or movie that’s not easily found on the radio or in the library or at the Cineplex at the mall, but people are making incredible, moving and inspiring art that’s off the mainstream radar and it’s extremely rewarding to go find it. I’m still on the hunt to this day. And now my kids turn me on to cool shit that I didn’t know existed.

Crawford: Salad Days isn’t about nostalgia for me. It’s about looking at that period in my life and applying the things I learned then to my life now. In other words, my best days aren’t behind me—they’re ahead of me. Hell, they’re right now.

DM: How can people get their hands (or at least eyes) on the film once it’s released?

Crawford: We’re premiering the film over the November 14, 2014 weekend at DOC NYC Film Festival in NYC, and in the Midwest (the same night) at the Sound Unseen Film Festival in Minneapolis, MN and on Sunday, November 16 at the Olympia Film Festival in Olympia, WA. Then our Washington, DC premier begins on December 19 at the AFI Theater and runs through December 22. After that, we’ll be doing a few more film festivals followed by a theatrical run and DVD/VOD.

Look for updates on the film’s Facebook page and check out the trailer for Salad Days below:
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
Shania Is a Punk Rocker: Celebrities wearing Ramones t-shirts
10.30.2014
10:30 am

Topics:
Fashion
Pop Culture

Tags:
The Ramones
celebrities

Joey Ramone
Joey Ramone

It’s been a good decade-plus now, but at some point wearing faded band t-shirts from the 1970s and early 1980s started to become a trendy thing to do. Eventually celebrities got in on the act, and these days the very famous are frequently photographed sporting vintage (or faux vintage) band tees.

The t-shirt that’s all the rage amongst actors and pop stars is the one featuring the classic Ramones logo (seen above). The iconic tee has been worn with pride by faithful Ramones fans for nearly forty years, and that logo is so freakin’ awesome that its coolness couldn’t help but rub off on the punks who wore the shirt—partially due to the fact that even members of the Ramones could be seen in a Ramones t-shirt.

But now the rich and powerful want a piece of the hip pie, too. Knowing the group’s music doesn’t even seem to be a prerequisite for these celebs (does anyone really think Paris Hilton listens to the Ramones?).
 
Paris Hilton
 
Who knows, maybe Harry Styles from teen pop sensation One Direction actually likes the leather-clad punks from Queens, but he seems to over-compensating or something, as there’s a shit-ton of photos of him online dressed in the iconic t-shirt.
 
Harry Styles
 
Like Harry, most opt for the classic logo, but really any Ramones shirt will do.
 
Megan Fox
Megan Fox prefers Marky Ramone

Image-conscious celebrities co-opting cool isn’t anything new, so we shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe they genuinely appreciate the Ramones and are using their platform to expose the masses to the band. Perhaps we should be thanking them for keeping the spirit of punk alive?

Nah.
 
Fergie
Fergie
 
Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan
 
More celebrities in Ramones t-shirts after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
Do you really want to out me?: The trial of Kirk Brandon vs. Boy George

kbyg11180s.jpg
 
The golden rule: Never sue anyone unless you know you are going to win.

Eighties pop star Kirk Brandon should have considered this when he sued Boy George (aka George O’Dowd) for “malicious falsehood over allegations of homosexuality” contained in the singer’s autobiography Take It Like A Man and his song “Unfinished Business.”
 

 
Brandon is known as the frontman of band Theater of Hate, who had several hit singles in the 1980s most notably “Do You Believe in the Westworld?” Boy George is Boy George, and as everyone knows has achieved global success as a solo artist, DJ and with the band Culture Club notching up a string of number one records. Back in 1980, Brandon and George were members of the Blitz Kids—the young trendsetting New Romantics who were creating a club scene and were soon to dominate the pop charts.

In 1997, Brandon was incensed that George had “outed” him by writing about the couple’s “alleged homosexual relationship in the early 1980s.” (What’s wrong, I wonder, with just saying “relationship”?) Brandon said the “gay allegations” had damaged his career as a musician, claiming he “was terrified of being ridiculed as `some blond peroxided poof’.” A damning quote that tells you all you need to know about Mr. Brandon.
 
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The Blitz Kids: Kirk and George, 1980.
 
By 1997, Brandon was married and had a child, his wife Christina said, “It’s every woman’s worst nightmare to be told their partner is gay”.

Christina, 28, first read about the alleged affair in the gender-bender’s autobiography, Take It Like A Man, which was published in July, 1995.

And as she skimmed through the book in a bookshop her world fell apart.

“We had only been married a year and I just couldn’t believe what I was reading,” she says. “I knew that Kirk had been friendly with Boy George. I loved hearing about their time together. But, all of a sudden, I was reading about this intimate, sexual relationship they were meant to have had. I felt confused. Betrayed and humiliated. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. Then I felt angry.

“I rushed home to confront Kirk. I wanted the truth. Why he had lied to me? This could so easily have destroyed our marriage.

“But I know Kirk really well and I believe him when he says it’s not true.”

Yet, Brandon’s litigation was to prove otherwise.
 
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Brandon and George in the early 1980s.
 
When the case came to trial in April 1997, bucking the trusim that the man who is his own attorney has a fool for a client, Brandon represented himself. He told the court how he had helped Boy George from his first band and that they were good friends, adding:

He would sometimes stay at the singer’s squats—but was away on tour when he is alleged to have had the affair.

Mr Brandon said: “[Boy George’s] career took off and his mind was otherwise occupied. He was totally ambiguous and never confirmed or denied any sexual preference, terrified of rejection and the obscurity which would follow.

“Unbeknown to me, in the midst of his wealth, his obsession for me turned into something bitter, some might call it evil, a grudge. Somewhere in his mind he believed I had dumped him. Perhaps somewhere in his drug problems or whatever, his hatred focused on me. Some years later became a cleverly calculated possibility. As [George] stated himself, his book would be his revenge. He wrote his book and wrote of the relationship he really imagined he had had.”

Mr Brandon said he also believed that the attempt to ‘out’ him which would gain publicity for the book and song was part of a ‘sickening and totally reprehensible strategy.’

 
Aaaabbghghsnbkbb801.jpg
 
Brandon’s opening gambit made him sound as if he was the man obsessed with Boy George, and bitter at his former lover’s success. He then began to interrogate Boy George asking him if he thought outing people in the public arena was a good idea? A question that implied Brandon himself had been in the closet.

“I don’t think you should be ashamed of what you are,” O’Dowd replied. “I don’t think you should wilfully drag people out of their closets, but our relationship was public knowledge. It was not something you denied at the time, You denied it later on.”

He told Brandon he was being “homophobic” in bringing the court action. “I said in my book that you were very talented and I loved you,” O’Dowd said. “Where is the damage in that? I am much more brutal about myself in the book about myself than anybody else.”

Avoiding the accusation of “homophobia,” Brandon changed tact accusing George of having “a kind of vendetta” against him:

“Why have you been obsessed with me all your adult life?”

O’Dowd: I am not obsessed with you.

Brandon: You were obsessed and you probably still are. Have you ever thought of leaving me alone?

O’Dowd: I would not say I am obsessed. I would say the obsession would be more on your part if you thought I was insane, why take this action? Why not just shrug and say: ‘He’s mad?’

Brandon: I would say you are a professional liar.

 
hdlbgkb97trl.jpg
 
The questioning shifted to the lyrics of Boy George’s song “Unfinished Business” from the album Cheapness and Beauty that George admitted was about Brandon.

He said the lyrics the lyrics included the line “You lie” and “You walk like a jack but are more of a queen”.

He added: “It says that [Brandon] has lied about our relationship and continues to do so. Songs are a way of exorcising feelings.”

Brandon: You get pleasure out of writing vindictive songs.

O’Dowd: Kirk, you were in a band called Theatre of Hate. You weren’t called the Blushing Flowers.

Brandon: Theatre of Hate was an art-house name.

 
bbgbkb80ghsgsh.jpg
 
The questioning sounded like the petty tiff of two former lovers rather than a formal cross examination. Any points Brandon thought he had scored were undermined by the appearance of one of Brandon’s former lovers Naimi Ashcroft who suggested the two men had been sexually intimate.

She said that she and Brandon had to hide from O’Dowd in nightclubs: “He did say George was upset and was looking to beat me up.”

Brandon told her: “You are here to fit Mr O’Dowd’s jigsaw. Can’t you just simply forget about me and get on with your own life?”

Every piece of a jigsaw has its own place and the picture the trial revealed was not one that Brandon particularly wanted to see.
 
hbbdbgdrstrl19.jpg
 
Brandon admitted sharing a bed with George in a squat in central London in 1980 but denied any sexual activity.

George recalled: “I said, ‘I don’t have a spare bed,’ and he said: ‘I will be safe won’t I?’” Both kept their T-shirts and underwear on as they shared the mattress.

George added: “Kirk pulled hold of me and we started kissing.

“But on the first night, it was mainly hugging, kissing and touching, very affectionate, but no sexual activity.”

George admitted that in the morning he was unsure if he would see Brandon again in such an intimate way, but he returned with a bag and stayed for several days at the squat. George admitted he was very inexperienced at the time.

“Kirk never said he thought of me as a woman, but outside of the bed I did a very good job of looking feminine,” added george, “We slept together more than 100 times.”

George went on: “We were very close. Kirk was the great love of my life at that time. We were inseparable, holding hands in public and I was walking around in high heel shoes.”

Eventually the relationship finished and Brandon moved out claiming he needed “space.” George described how he “smashed up” his room and “cried for a while and walked in the rain.”

The trial lasted seven days at the High Court in London, with Judge Douglas Brown ruling in favor of Boy George, describing him as “an impressive witness.” As he gave his verdict, Kirk Brandon sat staring straight ahead as the Judge said:

“It’s difficult to believe Mr Brandon did not have a physical relationship with Mr O’Dowd.

“Mr Brandon agrees he knew Mr O’Dowd was a homosexual who was sexually interested in him, but went and stayed in his bed without protest, and without asking whether there was an alternative place to sleep.”

The judge added he did not believe Brandon:

“I am satisfied he has not been truthful about their physical relationship.”

Brandon was ordered to pay an estimated £250,000 in costs, but said he was unable to do so as he was bankrupt. Outside the High Court, he told reporters he had no regrets in taking Boy George to court:

“It was a matter of honour.”

The trail wasn’t about “honour” it was about Brandon’s misplaced personal sense of pride and vanity. His actions made him look foolish, petty, and dishonest. Boy George was vindicated, and left the court telling reporters that the verdict was “a great, great day for gay rights.”

A gallery of photographs of Boy George and Kirk Brandon in the early 1980s and clippings about the trial from 1997 can be found here.

A now bearded Boy George and Culture Club tour the USA this November details here. Theatre of Hate tour the UK this December details here.
 

 
H/T The Blitz Kids.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Predictions about the year 2000 by Arthur C. Clarke from 1964 (and the Stanley Kubrick connection)

Clarke Kubrick
 
In his 1972 book The Lost Worlds of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke says that he met Stanley Kubrick in a Trader Vic’s on April 22, 1964. The two formed a fast partnership. In May of that year, Clarke and Kubrick began hammering out the basic ideas that would eventually become 2001: A Space Odyssey. They would use Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel” as a jumping off point and, in order to generate a rich background for the film, they took the somewhat unusual approach of attempting to collaborate on the creation of a new novel “with an eye on the screen” before writing the screenplay (although, in reality, the process became much more blurred).

Right around the same time, Clarke appeared on the BBC series Horizon in September of 1964 where he discussed some of his predictions for the year 2000 and beyond. You can watch the fascinating appearance in the two clips below. Horizon, now its 50th year, had just aired its first episode on Buckminster Fuller in May of 1964. Clarke’s appearance was part of the 6th episode of the series entitled The Knowledge Explosion and it provides us with some interesting insight into his vision of the future and some of the concepts that he and Kubrick were likely contemplating. 

Clarke was keeping a detailed log of his work with Kubrick during this time period. To give the Horizon clips some context, here are a few of Clarke’s journal entries from 1964 as he and Kubrick went back and forth about their ideas for the novel and film. From The Lost Worlds of 2001:

May 31. One hilarious idea we won’t use. Seventeen aliens – featureless black pyramids – riding in open cars down Fifth Avenue, surrounded by Irish cops.

June 20. Finished the opening chapter, “View from the Year 2000,” and started on the robot sequence.

August 6. Stanley suggests that we make the computer female and call her Athena.

August 19. Writing all day. Two thousand words exploring Jupiter’s satellites. Dull work.

September 7. Stanley quite happy: “We’re in fantastic shape.” He has made up a 100-word questionnaire about our astronauts, e.g. do they sleep in their pajamas, what do they eat for breakfast, etc.

September 8. Upset stomach last night. Dreamed I was a robot, being rebuilt. In a great burst of energy managed to redo two chapters. Took them to Stanley, who was very pleased and cooked me a fine steak, remarking “Joe Levine doesn’t do this for his writers.”

September 29. Dreamed that shooting had started. Lots of actors standing around, but I still didn’t know the story line.

 

On Horizon, Clarke accurately predicts instantaneous communication via satellite between people across the globe and talks about putting space travelers in suspended animation to traverse long distances over huge periods of time just as the astronauts do in 2001. He also throws out some bizarre concepts like replacing human servants with bioengineered apes and dolphins, but as he says early in the first clip “If what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I’ll have failed completely.”

 

 
Part II after the jump…

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
Strange Trip: Artist takes LSD in 1955, while doctor interviews him on film
10.20.2014
06:15 am

Topics:
Drugs

Tags:
LSD
CIA

LSD Bottle
 
The study of the psychological effects of LSD was fairly widespread in the United States and the UK during the 50’s and 60’s producing thousands of pages of research. Cary Grant, Federico Fellini and even Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, all took LSD under very legal psychiatric supervision in the 1950’s. 

The U.S. Central intelligence agency also conducted thousands of experiments with LSD and other drugs on subjects both willing and otherwise during the 50’s and 60’s through a clandestine operation code named MKUltra. The CIA was testing the effects of LSD in part to find out if the mind-bending hallucinogen could be used as a thought-control substance. MKUltra came the attention of the general public in the mid-1970s. Hearings and a collection of declassified documents have revealed all sorts of insane mental experiments like subjects being observed while tripping for up to 77 straight days and dosing random people without telling them that they were about to have their minds blown and then subjecting them to hours of interrogation.

Is the clip below a “CIA sponsored trip” as the YouTube poster’s title indicates or just one of many psychological experiments conducted openly by U.S. medical practitioners before LSD’s official ban? I’m not sure, but it certainly gives an indication of the bizarre clinical nature of what these government sponsored “psychological evaluations” might have been like. The subject in the video, entitled Schizophrenic Model Psychosis Induced by LSD 25, at least seems to be perfectly willing to go along with the test in this case.  He reveals himself to be Bill Millarc, a 34-year-old painter from Los Angeles. As the video begins, the doctor, Nicholas A. Bercel, M.D. of the University of Southern California Medical School’s Department of Physiology (himself the very first American to drop acid, in 1951), gives Bill a dose of 100 liquid micrograms of LSD and begins to narrate Bill’s trip while conducting an interview throughout the entire experience. (Interestingly, the opening credits state “Material furnished through the courtesy of Sandoz Pharmaceutical Co.” Sandoz is the same Swiss company for which Albert Hoffman was working when he both famously and accidentally discovered LSD’s hallucinogenic effects back in 1943.)

Before long, Bill starts to report a few changes in perception. The rug’s pulsating. He has a very pleasant feeling of nausea. He feels like he’s hearing the singing of angels. It’s a very odd thing to watch as the guy tries to stay focused enough to answer the doctor’s questions as he starts to go further and further into “the zone.”

Many of us have seen the drawing circulating around the Internet where people make art under the influence of various controlled substances.  Here, the doctor does something similar by having Bill draw a charcoal rendering of a person summoned to the room early in the trip. Later, as Millarc seems to be just about flipping his lid, the doctor asks him to draw the same person.  As you can probably imagine, the second picture’s a little different from the first one.

Truth be told, I haven’t done acid in years and, thankfully, all of my experiences were eye-opening ones, but I can’t imagine tripping balls and having the doctor in this clip breathing down my neck the whole time. At one point the doctor claps his hands to snap Millarc out of what seems to be a particularly revelatory moment and Millarc becomes obviously annoyed:

“I was getting somewhere and you interrupted it.  I was sort of getting somewhere I suppose.”

 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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