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Johnny Thunders stars in rarely seen French movie ‘Mona et Moi’
09.28.2016
09:00 am

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Johnny Thunders as “Johnny Valentine.”
 
Mona et Moi directed by Patrick Grandperret in 1989 is mainly notable for Johnny Thunders’ performance as a character—clearly based on himself—named “Johnny Valentine.” The film’s storyline is bare bones: Valentine flies to Paris to headline a concert organized by some low-level rock promoters/fans who are in Valentines’ thrall. Nothing much happens but Thunders is given plenty of screen time and actually does a pretty good job of acting. But given that his character is described as “a beautiful loser, a junkie, busted but unbowed,” there’s not exactly a shitload of acting required of him.

There are some brief scenes with Heartbreakers Billy Rath and Jerry Nolan and some live performances of Heartbreaker tunes including “Born To Lose.” In addition to rock and roll, there’s a smattering of sex, drugs, existential angst and Thunders appearing now and then to keep things interesting.
 

 
Denis Lavant, the lead actor in Mona et Moi, should be recognizable to anyone who’s paid attention to French films of the past three decades, having starred in films by Leos Carax, Clair Denis and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. He doesn’t have much to do in Mona et Moi except to look forlorn while Thunders/Valentine steals his girlfriend Mona, the dramatic highlight of the film.

France has always been friendly turf for American rockers who struggled to make it back in America, including Thunders, Stiv Bators and Willy DeVille. Perhaps they were seen as later day Rimbauds and Artauds—Genet Vincents—vulnerable bad boys in black leather.

Video after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
Eating rats with Morgan Spurlock at Fantastic Fest 2016
09.26.2016
02:27 pm

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Movies
Science/Tech

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At this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin the movie with the highest gross-out factor wasn’t a horror flick. It was the documentary Rats directed by Morgan Spurlock. As a New Yorker who braved the garbage strikes of the 70s, I know a thing a or two about rats. Rats as big as cats. I don’t like them. Spurlock’s film made me hate them. The disgusting little creatures are taking over the world and Spurlock has shot the film in ways that make the invasion as spooky as an episode of The Walking Dead. Using bursts of sound, night-vision photography, jump cuts, creepy point of view shots, skewed camera angles and Pierre Takal’s subtle but unnerving score, Rats shows us that reality can be far more horrifying than fiction.

I ran a few bars in downtown Manhattan in the 80s/90s. One was right near The Bowery. A giant 9000 sq.foot space. We had a serious rat problem. I came up with a somewhat effective solution. I offered my night clean-up crew $10 bucks for every rat tail they’d bring me. In the mornings when I got to work there would be a plastic bag containing dozens of rat tails in a box near the door to my office. One guy was picking them off with a .22 caliber rifle. No shit.

Some of the best moments in Rats feature battle-hardened exterminator Ed Sheehan who’s been in a Sisyphean war against the rat population in New York City for more than fifty years. He’s a cigar-chomping character right out of central casting. Here’s our next Netflix hero.
 


 
In addition to screening the film, Alamo Drafthouse had a special treat for the people attending Rats. Drafthouse chef Brad Sorenson prepared some delicious (so I’m told) rat curry. Here’s a shot of some stouthearted men (including Drafthouse CEO Tim League) chowing down on vermin vindaloo. Supersizing was not an option. Rats can carry up to 5 million viruses on just one of its tiny little gross rodent hands. So no rat sushi.
 

Photo: Scott Weinberg.
 
As repellent as the idea of eating rats is to westerners, the fact is that rat is a commonplace dish in many parts of Asia. One can see this as nature’s way of dealing with a rodent problem. As a vegetarian, the thought of eating a rat isn’t that much more repulsive to me than eating a chicken or veal calf. And all rats are free range and locavore. Rat is going to be the next foodie trend. Just wait.
 

Rat Thai-style goes nicely with red chili sauce.
 
Rats will be screening on the Discovery Channel on October 22.  Tune in. Just don’t watch while eating a TV dinner. Or anything else.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
Unknown hero of rock ‘n’ roll: Soul singer, percussionist Vin Cardinal, R.I.P.
09.24.2016
06:20 am

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Music
R.I.P.

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Vin Cardinal’s son announced Friday on Facebook that Cardinal has died at the age of 83. While Cardinal never made it big in America, he had a devoted following in Scandinavia and Europe for decades.

A superior soul singer and percussionist, Vin Cardinal left his home in Trinidad and moved to Sweden where he became a pop star in the 1960s. With his band The Queens, Cardinal toured throughout Europe and recorded several albums which were regional hits. In the early 1970s, he moved to the States and signed with Motown but never attained the popularity in America that he enjoyed overseas.
 

 
This beautifully shot 1967 film footage of Vin and The Queens performing at the Bilzen Jazz And Rock Festival in Belgium is one of the coolest things ever. The Queens are divine and Vin is a knockout of a singer. A power trio delivering some delicious garage soul. This performance alone should be enough to secure Cardinal a spot in R&B’s storied history.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
Meet the Father of Prog Rock
09.14.2016
02:34 pm

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Music
Pop Culture

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003123cloudsbillyritchie3.jpg
 
For some the question is Prog Rock—who’s to blame? But that’s more than a tad unfair. For at its heart Progressive Rock was about great musicianship—virtuoso players who played their instruments more like classical musicians than buskers. It may have been indulgent with endless noodling guitar solos, bass solos and eighteen-minute-long drum solos—but this should not detract from the high quality of musicianship which at the very least deserves tribute.

Most musical genres are born out the cross pollination of different musical styles. Usually there are one or two pioneers who can be credited with starting the whole thing off. In the case of Prog Rock that honor goes to one (not so very well known) Scot by the name of Billy Ritchie and his band 1-2-3.

Ritchie was born and raised in the small village of Forth—nestling midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Born the year of the D-Day landings, Ritchie started off his musical career playing harmonica as a boy. Coming from a working class family meant that owning a musical instrument was not one of life’s necessities. His talent as keyboard player may never have flourished had it not been for a neighbor throwing out an old piano. The piano was reclaimed and given a new home. Though in disrepair, Ritchie quickly taught himself to become a wizard on the ivories.

The facility with which he learned to play the piano made Ritchie think he was just an okay player. He didn’t fully appreciate his staggering musical talent as a pianist until he joined a band. While his fellow bandmates found it difficult to pick up on one of the more tricksy rock ‘n’ roll tracks—Ritchie could master the song—any song—after just one hearing.

He also had a great ability to improvise variations on any song—reinventing it as something altogether new. His talent for arrangement was to play a key part in the development of the Prog Rock gestalt. Another key was his choice of Hohner Clavinet as his preferred instrument. In the years of guitar bands no one played the organ and no one took the instrument seriously, but Billy Ritchie’s chosen keyboard (he later changed it to the Hammond organ) was another key influence in shaping the Prog Rock sound.
 
002cloudsbilly2.jpg
 
Ritchie played with various bands eventually joining The Satellites in the early 1960s. He then joined up with another group—The Premiers who become the Prog Rock pioneers 1-2-3 around 1966—and were later renamed Clouds in 1968.

In 2011, Prog Archives interviewed the band about their earliest beginnings:

When, where and by whom was Clouds started ? Did any of you, past and present Clouds members, play in any other bands before joining up in Clouds? Why did you choose that name?

In 1964, Ian (Ellis) and Harry (Hughes) were playing together in a group called ‘The Premiers.’ The line-up of the band was two guitars, bass, drums (Harry), and vocalist (Ian). The band decided to recruit an organist, and Billy (Ritchie) joined (1965). Billy had been playing in a band called ‘The Satellites.’ The organ was so obviously the leading instrument, it changed the dynamic of the band, the lead guitarist left, the band fragmented, leaving just Ian, Billy, and Harry, and we decided to start a new band together.

We wanted to do something different, and as there were only three of us, we decided to call the band 1-2-3, it seemed a hip name, and something different, like the band itself. It was only much later (the winter of 1967) that we became Clouds. The name was chosen by our new manager, Terry Ellis. He felt we needed a fresh start and a new name. We never liked the name, we preferred 1-2-3.

Usually keyboard players are situated to the side and back when a band perform live, but Ritchie rejected this formation. He wanted to play up front, center stage under the spotlight. He was also one of the first—if not the very first—to play keys standing up. Sure Jerry Lee Lewis played standing up but he alternated between standing and sitting and occasionally even jumping on the piano. Ritchie didn’t.

Back to the interview:

Not many people know this, but Clouds was one of the first bands who combined rock and classic music. If not the first band, that is. Other bands like The Nice, Genesis, Procol Harum, Yes and ELP followed suit. How did you get this idea and how did this idea really take off in Clouds?

1-2-3 was the earliest band to play that form of music. It was only later that this style became part of what would be called progressive rock. We were certainly the only band around the Marquee and London scene playing that form of music, though experimentation was beginning to take place in other ways. Cream, and Pink Floyd, are the other names that spring to mind, though all three of us were trying new music from different directions. It just so happens that our music seemed to find a branch of its own in progressive channels. The basic idea was rewritten versions of pop music songs, and it all sprang from Billy, who had a very radical approach to the arrangements. He took the view that anything was possible, and there were no barriers. The blueprint he used was the exact model that Yes used a year or so later.

Ritchie was taking songs by other artists—sometimes songs that had as yet not been recorded—and turned them into something different—something exciting. He took Paul Simon’s “America” before it was recorded in 1968 and rearranged it onto a jazz—rock—proto-Prog song. He did the same with David Bowie’s “I Dig Everything.”
 
More on the birth of Prog Rock with Billy Ritchie and 1-2-3, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘He was like a walking hit of acid’: Remembering Rex Thompson of the Summer Hits (1968-2016)
09.14.2016
11:59 am

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Fashion
Music
R.I.P.

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Rex in the Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico 2001
Rex in the Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico 2001 Sasha Eisenman/Sun-Godz
 
In the early 1990’s a 22-year old surfer kid from Newport Beach hit the L.A. music scene and turned it inside out. Rex Kingsley Thompson (nickname: “Tatarex”) was a thin, cool, attractive, 6’4” tall creation that looked like he had just arrived in a time machine. His band The Summer Hits released a handful of singles between 1992-1996 and were played on BBC Radio 1 by legendary deejay John Peel. Then like a flash, Rex left southern California for Europe without a penny in his pocket where he spent twelve years exploring chic, tropical islands and castles with beautiful women of royalty. Last week the news of Rex’s passing at the age of 47 hit the internet and saddened thousands of friends and followers who recount his super unconventional lifestyle and profound cult-like influence on people everywhere he went.
 
Known around skateboard parks for always drinking pink lemonade, Tatarex was also somewhat of a local at “The Wedge” in Orange County, a surfing spot just off the end of the Balboa Peninsula popular for its big waves and laid-back lifestyle. As a mohawked youth back in Glendora, Rex had originally intended to be a tennis player but once he hit his 20’s and left home he began shifting his focus towards other interests such as fashion, the beach, music, and recreational drug use. “He walked around like he was this psychedelic blue blood sometimes. You know what I mean? Because he was always asking everybody about their fashion, and clothes, and hygiene, and appearance. He didn’t judge you he would just kind of point people in the direction of the finer things in life. Not just expensive things, but the things that make you live free and think that you can really enjoy life” says longtime friend Brent Rademaker.
 
Rex drove around in a Volkswagon bus he called “Peanut” searching local vintage stores for groovy clothes and groovy records. Brent recalls the modes of communication before cell phones existed: “He worked at the Newport Classic Inn, I’d call him there. The only way to get in touch with him would be to call him at work. He’d answer the phone ‘Good afternoon the Newport Classic Inn Hotel this is Rex speaking’ It was kind of like the thing in Quadrophenia when the Ace Face gets outed as a bellboy. I even went down there and Rex is dressed in a button-down shirt with a tie. Darren and I came from Florida and Rex really lived all things west coast and lived all things southern California. He made us honorary Californians and he didn’t treat us as outsiders.”
 
The Summer Hits, mid-'90s collage courtesy of Brent Rademaker
The Summer Hits, mid-‘90s collage courtesy of Brent Rademaker
 
With no prior musical experience or training, Rex picked up a left-handed bass and taught himself to play. After his first band fell apart (a C86 influenced local group called Speed Racer) Rex formed The Summer Hits by recruiting friends Darren Rademaker and Josh Schwartz (of the lo-fi “indie rock” band Further). They released a handful of 7"s on labels such as Small-Fi, Volvolo, Silver Girl, and 1000 Guitar Mania. Rex’s unique singing voice on the 8-track recordings was nearly drowned out by a wall of fuzz and feedback, with lyrics that reflected all of his most favorite things: summer, the beach, drugs, listening to music, girls, runnin’ from the fuzz, and retreating into the desert night.
 
In 1997 the year following the band’s split, Brent issued The Summer Hits compilation CD on his own label Xmas Records. “I took every dime I had to put that Beaches and Canyons CD together. I found all the comp tracks and all the singles and all the tapes and I took them down to Capitol (Records) tower and mastered them. The guy looked at me like I was insane when it came on. You know? And I’m like ‘Can you add even more fuzz?’ and he’s like ‘What?! I can’t clean these up,’ I said ‘I don’t want you to clean them up, I want you to make them dirtier.’”
 

 
Besides being the life of the party and a psychedelic social butterfly, Rex Thompson had been making amazing mixtapes which were then duplicated and passed down by friends and friends of friends. The more tapes Rex made the deeper the tracks got and the more extensive his handwritten linear notes became.  One tape of Rex’s in particular titled Find the Sun really stood out amongst his circle of friends and focused on recordings from 1966-1973 by groups all over the world experimenting with the “west coast sound.” Rex’s personal description of the tape was “Magic hippie vibes for lost cosmic children with countrified brains.” Brent recalls, “It had a great title and it was full of obscure, beautiful, beautiful groups. One day Chris Gunst, Josh Schwartz, and I were listening to that tape and one of us just said ‘We can make a group that sounds like this.’ Slowly our clothes started changing, next thing Chris was wearing cowboy western shirts.” L.A. supergroup Beachwood Sparks was formed, they had a successful career on Sub Pop Records and were later featured on the soundtrack to the 2010 cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. “We wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for that tape and Rex’s influence.”
 
Radio Stars vol.8 mixtape courtesy of Sasha Eisenman
“Radio Stars vol.8” mixtape courtesy of Sasha Eisenman/Sun-Godz
 
Find the Sun mixtape linear notes courtesy of Maura Klosterman
“Find the Sun” mixtape linear notes courtesy of Maura Klosterman
 
“Another thing that speaks so highly of Rex, the linear notes on his tapes are so in depth. And I’m not saying that the pre-internet world didn’t learn or share knowledge or do research. But at what he had at his disposal he really went in depth and he knew what he was talking about when he was talking about country rock, psych, folk, west coast garage, fuzz. Whatever it was, he knew it.”
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Discussion
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