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‘The Complete Zap Comix’ box set is the greatest thing in the history of the world, ever


 
Over the Halloween weekend I was visiting my family in Wheeling, WV (it was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary) and I needed to buy a cheap one-hitter to help get me through it. There’s only one place to buy that sort of thing in my hometown and this would be Wheeling’s sole smut emporium, the very downmarket Market Street News.

Thirty-five years ago, in better economic times for that town, Market Street News was still a dirty book store, but back then it also sold bongs, rolling papers, fake drugs like “Lettuce Opium” or “Coke Snuff,” British rock mags, National Lampoon, biker rags like Easy Rider and Iron Horse, High Times and a small handful of underground comics. A bead curtain separated the front of the shop from the over 21 area and the place smelled heavily of incense, cigarettes and Pine-Sol. It was here, age 11, where I bought my first issue of High Times, the October 1977 issue with Johnny Rotten on the cover and the now infamous “Ted Nugent shits his pants to get out of the draft” interview. What kind of degenerate sold a little kid High Times?

Let me assure you that I was not an innocent child. By that age, I’d already read Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce!!, I owned a copy of Naked Lunch and had already tried getting high (unsuccessfully) by eating fresh ground nutmeg and morning glory seeds, something I’d read about in that book’s infamous index section. I wanted to do drugs, I just didn’t know where to get ‘em (aside from “Lettuce Opium,” which yes, I admit that I tried.“Coke Snuff,” too!)

I couldn’t “score” real drugs, but at the age of 11, in a low level smut shop in a podunk West Virginia town, I was able to get my mitts on something equally mind-expanding (and only slightly less illicit): Zap Comix. Lewd, crude, incendiary, mind-blowing in the extreme and incredibly smart, I embraced Zap Comix wholeheartedly, even if I, a sixth grader, was considerably younger than the audience of “adult intellectuals” it was ostensibly intended for.
 

 
Although Zap founder Robert Crumb himself was already a very well-known and widely respected artist and counterculture hero by the time I discovered Zap in 1977, I can’t image that it was too much earlier than 1973 or ‘74 that something like Zap Comix would have had the kind of distribution that would have allowed it filter down to small town America. The first (#0) issue of Zap came out in 1968. Not every small town had a head shop at that time, of course, and even when they did, carrying Zap Comix—which presented some completely insane stuff, images WAY more perverse than anything that was being cooked up in Denmark or Sweden at the time—was probably not worth the heat it would bring, especially in that line of work. If they can bust you for selling bongs, why carry filthy and obscene comic books to further tempt fate?

Most people probably found out about Zap generally around the same time I did, no matter what age they were. Unless you were living in a big city or in a college town, it would have been highly unlikely to have encountered it otherwise. This is why I associate Zap with the punk era. At least that’s when a copy first made it into my young hands.

Crumb did the first two issues on his own before ultimately assembling a “Magnificent Seven” of the best underground artists around—San Francisco poster artists Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso, Marxist biker cartoonist Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton (the creator of “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers”), painter Robert Williams, the demented S. Clay Wilson and later, after Griffin’s death, Paul Mavrides, known for his Church of the Subgenius graphics. The Zapatistas were a sort of “supergroup”—the dharma warriors of comics. Inkslingers. Revolutionaries. The best of the best. Their only yardsticks for comparison were each other and that sort of fraternal competition raised the bar and kept their art constantly evolving and their social satire razor sharp.
 

 
Like punk (and Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, Firesign Theatre and John Waters) Zap Comix kind of helped to deprogram me at a young age during my rustbelt Christian upbringing. My deeply religious parents never looked twice at my “funnie books” but if they had they’d have been utterly appalled, finding between the covers of Zap Comix characters like S. Clay Wilson’s gay pirate “Captain Pissgums” who liked to have his crew of perverts, um, piss in his mouth or the “Checkered Demon,” a randy devil cheerfully doing the most obscene things that I’d ever seen depicted on the printed page. It was shocking then and it’s equally shocking today.

Take a look at this short piece from S. Clay Wilson titled “Head First”—IF YOU DARE.

See what I mean? Remind yourself that this strip is now nearly half a century old. The reason I linked to it is because embedding it would probably have made our advertisers very nervous about what kind of people we are! Crumb’s Zap contributions were never as out and out repulsive as Wilson’s, yet he was still utterly fearless in portraying his own infantile sexual fantasies and neuroses (and finding willing groupies to help him act them out along the way. Which he then wrote about in subsequent issues of Zap. Heavy meta…).

The goalposts have moved quite a bit over the decades as “obscenity” has been redefined by culture, AND YET that vile, hilariously fucked up strip has lost virtually none of its power to offend. This is only one of the reasons to love S. Clay Wilson—whose work ultimately sets the tone of Zap because his is the wildest, most feral and least compromising—his willingness to basically puke on his reader’s sensibilities, no matter how “far out” they think they are. The sole purpose is to be brutally offensive, no more no less. You can look for something deeper, go ahead, but I’m not sure you’re going to find it in a piece like “Come Fix” (click for pdf) in which a lesbian biker chick injects semen intravenously with an interesting result.
 

The front and back cover of Zap #14 by S. Clay Wilson
 
In the context of the late 1960s that was something both sickening and ENLIGHTENING. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with flower power or hippie. Zap Comix was cynical and dark, twisted and perverted, full of “gags, jokes, kozmic trooths.” Zap wasn’t interested in persuading you of anything, it wanted to beat its epiphanies into you.

This is another reason I see Zap Comix as being aligned with punk, because philosophically-speaking it was. Indeed in its crudeness, lewdness and desire to shake its readers out of their complacency, Zap anticipates punk (and a lot of other things!) and surely would have influenced many of punk’s prime movers who undoubtedly were exposed to it.

Anyway, when I bought my one-hitter, I got into a conversation with the guy behind the counter and I mentioned that I used to buy Zap Comix there when I was a kid. Then the very next morning in the hotel I read an article in the New York Times about how Fantagraphics were publishing the complete run of Zap, along with a sixteenth and final issue, in a deluxe slipcase box set weighing over 20 lbs, complete with sixteen high quality giclée prints of each Zap Comix cover.
 

The front and back cover of Zap #13 by Victor Moscoso
 
I immediately wrote to Fantagraphics fab director of publicity Jacq Cohen and requested a review copy of The Complete Zap Comix. It was sent Fedex two-day shipping, which seemed to me to be the longest two days of my entire fucking life. An eternity. In fact, it ended up being a day late, and by that time, I was truly salivating over the prospect of its arrival. I was not disappointed. I’m a man with a lot of toys and The Complete Zap Comix went immediately into my “prized possessions” category. If you’re reading this thinking “Yep, I need that” trust me, you do need it. However, as far as pricey Christmas presents to yourself go, you might not want to wait for Santa to lay this one under your tree because it’s probably going to sell out. Only 2500 have been printed and from what I can tell anecdotally from how many friends of mine are buying it, it won’t last long.

The irony of turning something that was once sold in dirty bookstores into a $500 collectible is delicious, but I can’t think of a more deserving title than Zap. The production quality of The Complete Zap Comix is first rate and the pages are clearer than they’ve ever been, blown up to 9.75” x 13.25” and painstakingly cleaned up digitally. Everything comes in a sturdy, gold-embossed slipcase and there’s a separate book dedicated to “The Zap Story,” an oral history/scrapbook that also reprints some Zap rarities and “jams” where each of the artists would complete a frame or two—upping the ante in the process—and then pass it on to the next guy.

In the title here, I declare that The Complete Zap Comix box set “is the greatest thing in the history of the world, ever” and I’m only semi-exaggerating. Seeing the whole of the Zap run laid out like this, it seems obvious—so very, very obvious—what a profound and truly American cultural treasure this is. This is great art of historical and cultural importance that changed people, blew their minds and inspired them. I know that it changed ME. Zap Comix deserves to be reappraised and valued for what it’s truly worth and Fantagraphics has done an amazing job with this stunning box set.

Now the Smithsonian Institute needs to step up to the plate while the remaining Zap artists are still alive and kicking against the pricks and give them their due. It could happen. It should happen. Let’s hope it does happen.

Below, one of the greatest—and most eerily prophetic—comics EVER by Gilbert Shelton, “Wonder Wart-Hog’s Believe It or LEAVE It!”...Um… he could be talking about TODAY’s America, here, couldn’t he???
 

 
More classics from Zap Comix after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Painting by Adolf Hitler expected to fetch over $60,000 at auction
11.21.2014
06:14 am

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
Adolf Hitler

ahpntng321p.jpg
 
It’s strange to think that when Adolf Hitler was struggling to eke out a living as an artist in Vienna during 1913 and 1914, he was residing in the city at the same time as Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky and Josip Broz Tito. With this in mind, it’s not too difficult to imagine that Hitler and Stalin could have easily passed each other on the streets during their early morning walks. While Hitler painted, Stalin was in hiding as a wanted revolutionary, Trotsky was writing political tracts as editor of Pravda and Tito, the future dictator of Yugoslavia, was working as a chauffeur and part-time gigolo.

One of those paintings done by Adolf Hitler in Vienna is expected to make over $60,000 when it is sold at auction this Saturday. The picture is a 100-year-old watercolor by the future Nazi leader of Munich’s old city hall. According to Kathrin Weidler, director of the auctioneers Weidler who are handling the piece, the painting has raised considerable global interest because it is a signed work by the Nazi leader.

The painting is being sold by two elderly sisters whose father originally purchased it in 1916. The picture is being sold with its original bill of sale and a signed letter from Hitler’s adjutant, Albert Bormann, who was the brother of Hitler’s private secretary Martin Bormann.

Bidding is expected to start at around $5,000, but Ms. Weilder believes the painting will reach over $60,000 and perhaps even double this figure. However, she says the painting is of minimal artistic merit and is uncertain if bidders for the Führer’s artwork will attend the auction in person. Which raises the question, who would want to spend over $60k on for something on the level of a doctor’s office painting by such an evil man?
 
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Via the Independent.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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New boxed set reveals John Coltrane created ‘terror’ during final tour with Miles Davis, 1960
11.20.2014
08:05 am

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
Miles Davis
jazz
John Coltrane

All of You: The Final Tour, 1960
 
In 1955, Miles Davis hired an up-and-coming musician named John Coltrane to play in his group. Over the next couple of years, the team-up produced some incredible music, but the personal relationship between the trumpeter/leader and the saxophonist was never steady. Backstage at a gig in the spring of 1957, Miles slapped Coltrane and then punched him in the stomach; Trane’s only response was to quit the band.

Coltrane returned to join Davis’ sextet later in the year, but during that short time away he had continued to make a name for himself as a group member, bandleader and recording artist in his own right. Trane played on Miles’ Kind of Blue (1959), now considered one of the cornerstones of the jazz genre, and accompanied Davis on a European tour in 1960, but mentally he was focused on his own music. Miles later admitted Coltrane “was ready to move out before we left.”
 
Kind of Blue
 
The spring 1960 European tour was spread out over twenty cities in nine countries. The new boxed set, All of You: The Last Tour, 1960 includes recordings from eight of those performances. Though the Quintet sounds fantastic as a unit, Coltrane’s solos are so unusual they caused quite a stir at the time. Kind of Blue is a lovely record that is also easy on the ears, but Trane was doing his best to make this music sound ugly.

Journalist Frank Tenot witnessed the first show of the tour in Paris: “People were very surprised why there was no John Coltrane like on Kind of Blue. So, part of the audience thinks that Coltrane doesn’t play too well, that he was playing the wrong notes, involuntarily.” Tenot went backstage after the show to tell the saxophonist, “You’re too new for the people… you go too far.” Coltrane just smiled and said, “I don’t go far enough.”

Other critics who witnessed the shows wished that Trane had held back. One reporter called his solos “scandalous,” and wrote that they “bore no relationship whatsoever with playing the saxophone.” Another writer was so horrified he equated Coltrane’s solos with the very concept of “terror.”
 
Trane in pain
 
As the leader, Davis takes the first solo during every song on these recordings, and as much as I dig Miles—his solo turns are as interesting and as exquisite as ever—after a couple of tracks, I found myself waiting for Coltrane to step up and blow me away. And he would do just that. Every time. It’s fascinating to hear him push the material—and thus, the band—especially as this was Miles’ group, not his. The fact that we now know he had mentally moved on from his role with Davis, as well as facing negative reactions to his output, only makes listening to these tracks all the more absorbing.
 
John Coltrane and Miles Davis
 
The Miles Davis Quintet returned to the states on April 11th, and it wouldn’t be long before Coltrane would make his exit. By then, Trane had made a name for himself and was well on his to becoming one of the titans of jazz.
 
John Coltrane
 
Some of the recordings on the boxed set are taken from radio broadcasts, while others were captured privately by audience members. Initially, my expectations were somewhat low as far as the fidelity of these live tapes—which date from over a half century ago—but aside from a couple of muddy sounding tracks and occasional issues with how the musicians were mic’d, the sound quality ranges from very good to surprisingly great. Hear for yourself, as we have an exclusive preview track, an up tempo version of “So What,” recorded in Stockholm, Sweden on March 22nd, 1960. The faster beat and Trane’s dissonant solo result in something excitingly different than the subdued mood created for the familiar Kind of Blue version. Enjoy.

All of You: The Last Tour, 1960 will be released on December 2nd.
 

 
Here’s a 1959 TV clip of “So What” played at a pace that more closely resembles the one found on Kind of Blue, but with Coltrane beginning to stretch, feeling his way towards the type of solos he would play on his final tour with Miles:
 

 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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Outlaw Biker: The photography of Danny Lyon
11.14.2014
02:33 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
bikers
Danny Lyon


Clubhouse during the Columbus run. Dayton, Ohio (1966)
 
In Danny Lyon’s career as a photographer, he has documented civil rights activism in the south, Texas prisons, Colombian bordellos and more, but his most famous subjects are the outlaw bikers of the mid-1960s midwest. Lyon rode with The Chicago Outlaw Motorcycle Club himself and was able to capture incredibly intimate moments for his seminal collection, The Bikeriders. The shots are obviously gorgeous, but if you feel they look a little staged, you’re probably picking up on Lyon’s own infatuation and idealization of biker culture—the man was admittedly romantic in his portrayal.

During his biker years, Lyon actually maintained correspondence with Hunter S. Thompson, who was writing Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga at the time. Lyon (an upper middle-class, privately educated Brooklyn Jew) recounts being told by Thompson (a Kentuckian and self-proclaimed “hillbilly” of troubled and impoverished youth) to wear a helmet—instructions Lyon never took. Unlike Thompson (who was later greatly disillusioned with biker culture), Lyon acknowledged that his work was “an attempt to record and glorify the life of the American bikerider,” and glorify it he did.
 

Corky and Funny Sonny. Chicago, Illinois (1965)
 

Joey and his girl. Chicago, Illinois (1965)
 

Big Barbara. Chicago, Illinois (1965)
 

Renegade’s funeral.Detroit, Michigan (1965)
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Black Panther: The revolutionary art of Emory Douglas
11.13.2014
02:38 pm

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
Black Panthers
Emory Douglas


1969
 
One of the unique aspects of the Black Panthers as a political project was their emphasis on the cultural component of revolutionary work. In addition to community-based education and social programs for both children and adults, the Panthers had a house band (The Lumpen—check them out), and a Minister of Culture, the groundbreaking Emory Douglas, whose art for The Black Panther newspaper created a visual context for black liberation. Douglas’ political art came honest. His own impoverished childhood in the Bay Area was interrupted by a spell in a juvenile detention center, where he found a niche in the prison print shop. He later studied commercial art at San Francisco City College, which is where he joined the Black Students Union before being appointed Minister of Culture.

Douglas’ work is incredibly distinctive, often produced with very little budget or time. He favored bold, organic lines, thoughtful collage-work and saturated colors, creating imagery of both dignified black people and cartoonish political antagonists (often soldiers, cops or politicians depicted as rats or pigs). You’ll notice a lot of weapons—remember, the original name was “The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense,” and much of the original intent was protecting black communities from police harassment—but Douglas was also invested in producing joyful or righteous images of hope. Douglas struck a perfect balance between optimism and realism, a negotiation that produced an enormous and varied body of work that still bore his unmistakable style.

Though Douglas continued producing art well after the Panther’s dissolution (most notably for the black-oriented newspaper, The San Francisco Sun Reporter) the work below is all from his tenure as Minister of Culture (between 1967 and the 1980s, though the dates for individual works are often unavailable or contested.). It’s only been since the 2000’s that Emory Douglas’ work has been curated into larger retrospective exhibits, and only since 2014 that his work has been collected into a (fantastic) book, Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas
 

1969
 

Date unknown
 

 

The text says, “We are from 25 to 30 million strong, and we are armed. And we are conscious of our situation. And we are determined to change it. And we are unafraid.”
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Let’s play Revolution: Gorgeous but violent Soviet board games, 1920-1938
11.11.2014
11:50 am

Topics:
Art
Design
Games
History

Tags:
Soviet
board games


“Chemical War,” 1925
 
The phrase “war toys” usually evokes images of little plastic guns, gritty action figures with kung-fu grips and more recently the first-person shooter video game. In Soviet Russia however, bloodthirsty board games were incredibly popular. I’d imagine this was partially due to a national penchant for games of strategy (like chess), but also probably owing (at least somewhat, if not to a great extent) to manufacturing considerations. Russia was still attempting a massive industrialization project throughout the 1930s, and board games were pretty quick and easy to produce without much in the way of materials or tools.

Obviously not every Russian board game had the hawkish tenor of most of the games below (“Electrification”), but there’s certainly enough of them to see palpable themes of nationalism and war. You’ll notice the game “Battle” looks pretty wholesome at first glance… until you realize that the players are engaging in a leisurely game on a battlefield, seemingly unaware of the carnage taking place directly behind them. Despite the intriguing cover art, I can’t find much on the rules or premises of these games, except they they were educational tools and often contained a military trivia component. Still, as far as insidiously nationalist, war-mongering propaganda goes, don’t they look kind of… fun?
 

“Revolution,” 1925
 

“Air War,” 1925
 

“Battle,” 1938
 
More Soviet games after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The last words of Dutch Schultz, the cartoon
11.07.2014
07:36 am

Topics:
Animation
History
Movies

Tags:
Gerrit van Dijk
Dutch Schultz


 
People throw around the word “sociopath” a lot these days, but Dutch Schultz was a man who could commit murder “just as casually as if he were picking his teeth”—or so his own lawyer said. Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York tells how the gangster and his partner hung an uncooperative bootlegger “by his thumbs from a meat hook and beat him viciously,” wrapping a bandage around his eyes that “had been liberally coated with discharge from a gonorrhoeal sore.” The bootlegger went blind; Dutch went to the top of the world, ma! Then there’s this heartwarming anecdote about the Dutchman from Five Families:

When he suspected that one of his long-time trusted lieutenants, Bo Weinberg, was plotting against him with Italian mobsters, Schultz personally encased Weinberg’s legs in cement and dumped him into the Hudson River while still alive.

 

 
At the time of his death, Schultz was planning to murder special prosecutor Thomas Dewey in defiance of the wishes of the other major figures in organized crime, a hubristic move that likely resulted in the gangster’s own demise. On October 23, 1935, gunmen shot down Schultz and his men in Newark’s Palace Chop House. As he lay dying in the hospital with a 106-degree fever and bullet holes in his trunk, a police stenographer transcribed his ravings.

It is no use to stage a riot. The sidewalk was in trouble and the bears were in trouble and I broke it up. Please put me in that room. Please keep him in control. My gilt-edged stuff and those dirty rats have tuned in.

Please get me up my friends; I know what I speak of. Please, look out, the shooting is a bit wild, and that kind of shooting. Saved a man’s life. Oh, Elmer was. No, everything frightening; yes, no payrolls, no walls, no coupons.

Oh, sir, get the doll a roofing. You can play jacks and girls do that with a softball and do tricks with it. I take all events into consideration. No. No. And it is no. It is confused and it says no. A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim.

French-Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone.

 

 
These utterances were then scrutinized for all kinds of hidden meanings—not least for clues to the location of Dutch’s buried millions. Authors William S. Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson, however, found something else fascinating in the transcript; both men spoke as if it was at once the coded prophecy of a gangland oracle and a high modernist poem. Burroughs wrote a screenplay, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, which was never filmed despite his efforts to sell it in Hollywood, and Schultz’s last words feature in Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy.
 

 
Victor Bockris records how Burroughs described the deathbed scene, and its relationship to the modernists, to Lou Reed in 1978:

You don’t know about the last words of Dutch Schultz? You obviously don’t know. They had a stenographer at his bedside in the hospital taking down everything he said. These cops are sitting around asking him questions, sending out for sandwiches, it went on for 24 hours. He’s saying things like, “A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim,” and the cops are saying, “C’mon, don’t give us that. Who shot ya?” It’s incredible. Gertrude Stein said that he outdid her. Gertrude really liked Dutch Schultz.

 

 
In 2003, Dutch filmmaker Gerrit van Dijk used Schultz’s last words as the basis for an animated film, intercut with TV-style live-action dramatizations of the Palace Chop House shooting. Rutger Hauer, Schultz’s voice in the short, gives a surprisingly understated performance. The animated portion of the film represents Dutch’s subjectivity roaming freely through time and space, hallucinating past and future. Anachronisms slip into the 1930s world of newsboys, gangsters and gun molls: while Dutch rambles, Mike Tyson bites off Evander Holyfield’s ear, John F. Kennedy’s head explodes, O.J. Simpson is declared not guilty, and the first plane hits the World Trade Center. Even if none of this is up your street, the rotoscoping is quite beautiful, and there’s always the possibility that you’ll crack the code and find the Dutchman’s buried millions.
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Remembering Hines Farm, a legendary African-American mecca for the blues
11.06.2014
10:11 am

Topics:
Food
History
Music
Race

Tags:
Hines Farm


 
From the late 1930s until the early 1970s, a sprawling 32-acre spread in northeast Ohio known as Hines Farm, with its own open-air juke joint and enclosed night club, regularly attracted thousands of African-Americans with its ass-kicking blues parties. Hines Farm must have been a really special place, an oasis of incredible blues music, southern food, and (by the way) racial tolerance. It offered good times for all, with a roster of entertainments you wouldn’t find in New York City quite so quickly: roller skating, amusement park rides, exhibition baseball games, horse races, hobo car races, motorcycle races, squirrel hunts…. the list goes on and on.

Some of the biggest names in blues played there—B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, and John Lee Hooker, as well as jazz figures like Louis Jordan and Count Basie. Basie and his full orchestra were hired to play the grand opening of an outdoor pavilion in 1961. The pavilion doubled as a roller rink and a dance floor and could accommodate 1,500 people. People would come from miles around, from as far as Detroit or Cleveland, for the rollicking fun on summer weekends.

When B.B. King thinks of Hines Farm, he recalls the “good food, good music, and pretty girls. It was the only place that was happening.” John Lee Hooker called Hines Farm “a one and only place—wasn’t no other place like that I have been to that was like Hines Farm.” Hines Farm’s identity as an informal place for African-Americans to unwind, relax, and enjoy life started in the basement of Frank and Sarah Hines in the 1930s. By the late 1940s they had the first liquor license held by an African-American in northwest Ohio, and by 1957 they constructed an actual blues club.

Blind Bobby Smith, a Toledo blues guitarist who did session work for Stax Records, used to play in their basement in the early days. According to Smith, “After they’d close down outdoors we’d all pile in the basement. In the wintertime [Frank Hines] just ran it out of the house. It was, you know, everybody talkin’ at the same time ... passing the bottle around, and Hines wishin’ everybody’d get out of there so he could go to bed.”
 

Sarah and Frank Hines
 
For African-American men, Hines Farm was a place for sex, a place to dance and meet women. A neighbor recalled wistfully, “Man, it was good to go back there in the woods. See, I never took my car. I’d just walk back there and have me a cold beer and watch ‘em dance. See, that place back there, they used to dance. Chicks would come out of Toledo. Some of them ol’ gals was good lookin’. I’d sit there and drink beer and watch ‘em from mid-afternoon. Hell, I wouldn’t leave ‘til dark ... watchin’ them chicks shake it up.”

According to Big Jack Reynolds, one of the regular performers in the club’s early days, Mexicans and whites were perfectly welcome as well: “There was no discrimination there.” As Marlene Harris-Taylor, who has co-produced a documentary about Hines Farm, said, “When most African-Americans came north, they moved into urban areas. Most of the jazz and blues clubs that sprang up were in the urban settings. Hines Farm was unique. It was like home for African-Americans who had moved here from the rural South.”
 

The interior of Hines Farm Blues Club
 
It was Frank Hines’ job to keep the peace. Hines would check everybody for knives and guns and just take them, then return them when they left. Frank’s wife Sarah was the same way, wouldn’t let any trouble start. Henry Griffin, who owned the property of Hines Farm after the blues club was discontinued in 1976, remembered, “One time Sarah broke a beer over a guy’s head. He got out there and played like he was drunk and was sayin’ a lot of filthy talk in front of the women, and she tried to get him to hush, you know, and he wouldn’t do it. So she went to him a couple of times. The third time, he started all kinds of that filthy talk, and she just took a beer bottle and went up there and hit that son-of-a-bitch on top of his head. That damned bottle shattered all to pieces, man, and that guy said, ‘She tried to kill me.’ He grabbed his head and said, ‘She killed me. I’m gonna tell Sonny’—that’s what everybody called Frank Hines. She said, ‘I don’t give a damn if you tell Sonny—just get the hell out of here.’ And it was peaceful the rest of the night.”

It also had motorcycle races, which were a really big deal. It’s the one thing that everyone who was there recalled, aside from the food and music. Griffin remembered: “Hines would send out a flyer that he was havin’ a motorcycle race and he would have people come from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and they’d get on their motorcycles and ride right up there. And there’d be thousands of ‘em.”

Hines Farm shut down in autumn 1976 and quickly fell into disrepair. Steve Coleman, son of Griffin, who passed away in January 2013, has the place up and running again.

In this documentary clip, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker reminisce about Hines Farm:
 

 
Thank you Charles!

Sources for this post include “Historical Blues Club to Reopen” and “Remembering Toledo’s Blues Showcase,” both from the Toledo Blade, and this expansive piece from Toledo’s Attic by Thomas E. Barden and Matthew Donahue. Matthew Donahue is the author of I’ll Take You There: An Oral and Photographic History of the Hines Farm Blues Club. Buy it!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Studio 54: Candid photography captures all the bacchanalian revelry
11.05.2014
06:44 am

Topics:
History
Pop Culture

Tags:
Studio 54


 
74-year-old photographer Tod Papageorge is best known for capturing the buzzing streets of NYC and subtle moments in Central Park. His latest book, Studio 54, is a record of hedonism that includes actual swinging from the rafters and a literal procession of men in Dionysian drag. The setting is quite a departure from his most famous work, but Papageorge’s keen eye for detail and fascination with his subjects is consistently engaging—he just makes everyone look gorgeous.

Crowded scenes of fabulous party animals have the most obvious appeal—the fashion and the dancing just drip with the pursuit of pleasure and sensual self-indulgence. My favorite shots though, are post-party. Bodies sag, make-up is melted, and glamour gives way to fatigue. For those of us who prefer photojournalism to actual opulent dance clubs, the morning-after exhaustion on patrons’ faces may be the most relatable theme of the series.
 

 

 

 

 

 
More 70s revelry after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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David Johansen and Johnny Thunders talk Sex Pistols and Tom Petty in front of CBGB’s, 1976

Johnny Thunders and David Johansen
 
The New York Dolls essentially came to an end while touring Florida in 1975. A few months prior, the band was on their last legs when future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren stepped into the picture. McLaren had some insane ideas, such as re-imagining the androgynous Dolls as tongue-in-check Maoists. Drummer Jerry Nolan later recalled McLaren’s vision of “dressing us up in matching red leather suits and playing in front of a giant communist flag. It was so stupid!”
 

New York Dolls: Better red than dead? (photo by Bob Gruen)
 
Nolan and guitarist Johnny Thunders quit the band and headed back to New York, forming the Heartbreakers. Their earliest gigs, with original bassist Richard Hell, were at the club that would eventually be known as the ground zero of punk: CBGB’s. As for the Dolls, vocalist David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain recruited various musicians over the next couple of years, soldiering on until 1977 when they finally called it a day.
 
CBGB's
 
In the footage featured here, Johansen is seen conducting a mock-interview of sorts with Thunders in front of CBGB’s. Likely recorded in the fall of 1976, the two cover a lot of ground in the brief clip. Johansen asks about the Heartbreakers upcoming overseas tour, which turns out to be the ill-fated “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour with the Sex Pistols.
 
Anarchy tour poster
 
At the time, Thunders has no idea of the ultimate fate of the outing, in which nineteen shows are scheduled, though all but three are cancelled due to a backlash after the Pistols infamous appearance on Bill Grundy’s television program. Malcolm McLaren organized the tour, and when his name comes up the two have a few sardonic yucks aimed at their former manager (Thunders says he’s “the neatest”). They also talk about how the Heartbreakers might have to change their name, as there’s a new band making the rounds with a similar moniker: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
 
The Heartbreakers
The Heartbreakers, with Richard Hell, at CBGB’s, 1975 (photo by Chris Stein)
 
The former band-mates are seen smoking and joking like the old friends they already were at that point. To be honest, I had no idea the pair were even on speaking terms during this period, so it’s nice to see them getting along so well (it’s worth noting that the reconstituted New York Dolls is one subject they don’t broach).

The encounter was shot with photographer Bob Gruen’s video camera and included on the New York Dolls DVD of Gruen footage, Lookin’ Fine On Television.
 
New York Dolls
 

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