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‘The Ballroom Blitz’: The teenage rampage that inspired Sweet’s greatest hit

01sweetballr.jpg
 
Well now, I suppose you could call it art out of chaos. That in a sequinned nutshell is the story behind Sweet‘s “The Ballrooom Blitz.” For glam rock’s catchiest trashiest most lovable song was inspired by a riot that saw the band bottled off the stage at the Grand Hall, Palace Theater, Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1973. Boys spat and hurled abuse while girls screamed their loudest to drown out the music. Hardly the kind of welcome one would expect for a pop group best known for their million selling singles “Little Willy,” “Wig-Wam Bam” and of course their number one smash “Block Buster.”

Why this literal teenage rampage (the title of another Sweet hit) ever occurred and what caused such unwarranted and let’s be frank unnecessary violence against such four lovable glam rockers has been the focus of much speculation over the years.

One suggestion was the band’s androgynous nay effeminate appearance in figure-hugging clothes, eye-shadow, glitter, long hair and lipstick—in particular the gorgeous bass player Steve Priest—was all too much for the sexually binary lads and lassies o’ Killie.

Bass player Priest thinks so and has said as much in his autobiography Are You Ready Steve? But this does raise the question as to why an audience of teenage Sweet-haters would pay their hard-earned pocket money to go and see a bunch of overtly camp rockers they hated?

Money was tight. After all this was 1973 when the country was beset by cash shortages, food shortages, strike action, power cuts and three-day work weeks. People couldn’t afford to waste their readies on some pseudo queer bashing.

Moreover, homosexuality was out and proud, Rocky Horror was on the stage, Bowie was the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, teen magazines were giving boys make-up tips, and the #1 youth program was the BBC’s music show Top of the Pops—on which Sweet appeared to have a weekly residency.

Another possible reason for such fury was the virulent rumor Sweet didn’t play their instruments and were just a “manufactured” band like The Monkees. This story gained credence as the famous song-writing duo of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who wrote and produced Sweet’s hit singles were well-known to prefer using session musicians to actual members of a given group. It was just easier and faster to leave it to the pros.

The sliver of truth in this well-known rumor was the fact Sweet only sang on their first three Chinn-Chapman singles “Funny, Funny”, “Co-Co” and “Poppa Joe”. It wasn’t until the fourth “Little Willy” that Chinn and Chapman realized Sweet were in fact way better musicians than any hired hand and so allowed the band to do what they did best—play their own instruments.
 
02swetfro.jpg
Give us a wink…
 
Chinn and Chapman may have blessed Sweet with their Midas hit-making skills but it came at a price. This unfortunately meant the band was dismissed by London’s snobbish music press as sugar-coated pop for the saccharine generation. A harsh and unfair assessment. But this may also have added to the audience’s ire.

In an effort to redefine themselves with the public Sweet also tended to avoid playing their best known teenybopper hits when on tour. Instead they liked to perform their own compositions—the lesser known album tracks—and a set of standard rock covers. A band veering from the songbook of hits (no matter how great the material) was asking for trouble. As Freddie Mercury once said after Queen made their comeback at Live Aid, “always give the audience what they want.”

But it was the album tracks that gave Sweet and glam rock itself its distinct sound. The credit for this must go to Andy Scott’s guitar playing (his six-string prowess was often favorably compared to the talents of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck), Steve Priest’s powerful bass and harmonizing vocals, and Mick Tucker’s inspirational drums (just listen to the way he references Sandy Nelson’s “Let There Be Drums” in “The Ballroom Blitz”). Add in Brian Connolly’s vocals and it is apparent Sweet were a band with talents greater than the sum of their bubble gum hits might indicate.
 
More plus a short documentary on 24-hours in the life of Sweet, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Early photos of Boy George, Steve Strange & more at the club that launched the New Romantics

01princessjgeorge78.jpg
DJ and singer Princess Julia with George O’Dowd aka Boy George.
 
Billy’s was a nightclub in Soho, London, where every Tuesday for most of 1978 two young men—Steve Strange and Rusty Egan—ran a club night playing tracks by David Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. The club was in a basement underneath a brothel. From this small cramped space a new generation of artists, writers, performers and DJs first met up and planned the future together. Punk was dead. It was uncool. It had gone mainstream. The teenagers who came to Billy’s wanted to create their own music, their own style and make their own mark on the world.

Among this small posse of teenagers were future stars like Boy George, Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), DJ Princess Julia, Jeremy Healy (Hasyi Fantayzee), Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife) and an eighteen-year-old Nicola Tyson who would go onto become one of the world’s leading figurative painters.

It’s rare that someone is savvy enough to ever take photographs of a nascent cultural revolution. But Nicola took her camera along to Billy’s and she documented the teenagers who frequented the club that launched the New Romantics and a whole new world of pop talent.
 
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A blonde-haired Siobhan Fahey with at friend at Billy’s long before she joined Bananarama and later Shakespeare’s Sister.
 
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Club host Steve Strange (in cap) with an unknown friend.
 
See more photos of Nicola’s photos, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Like the ‘Wicker Man’ on heroin: Nico and a young Iggy Pop in ‘Evening of Light,’ 1969
01.20.2017
01:29 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Iggy Pop
Nico


 
Promo video for Nico’s “Evening of Light” directed by François De Menil in 1969, but probably finished much later. There was a tantalizingly brief clip of this in the Nico: Icon documentary. Not the album version of the song appearing on The Marble Index, this alternate take was released as part of The Frozen Borderline: 1968–1970 compilation in 2007.

The story is told in Richard Witts’ (fantastic) Nico biography, Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon, that De Menil, heir to the Schlumberger Limited oil-equipment fortune via his mother’s family, who knew Nico via Warhol associate Fred Hughes, had become besotted by the Teutonic ice queen and proposed making a film with her.

At this time Nico was having a brief affair with a 21-year-old Iggy Pop, who she had met through John Cale, then producing the first Stooges album in New York. (Iggy once revealed to a French interviewer that Nico taught him how to “eat pussy.”) Nico told De Menil that he had to follow them to Ann Arbor, Michigan if he wanted to do it. De Menil obliged, shooting the film behind the house where the band lived.

The way Witts tells the tale is that De Menil seemed to want to get revenge on Iggy because he was Nico’s boyfriend, directing the Stooge to wear white mime makeup and frolic around in a doll-strewn field to embarrass him, but to my mind, this film—and Iggy’s participation in it—is absolutely stunning.
 

 
In an Australian interview Iggy told his version of how the film came to be:

“There were no videos and I didn’t know why she wanted to do this. She had a friend from a very, very wealthy dynasty called the de Menil family who are patrons of the arts in the USA. They have a couple of collections in Houston, they’re very powerful there, it’s oil money. They also contribute to the arts and the major museums in New York City.

“One of the sons, François, was a Nico fan. There was a nexus in New York between the disaffected and super rich kids and the Warhol group, where the art was interested in the money and the money was interested in being arty. She was supposed to do a film with this guy for a song called “Evening Of Light.” She told the guy at the last minute “actually, I’m going to Ann Arbor to live with The Stooges.”

“So he had to drive out with all of his stuff, which was very, very scarce at the time, there were no local rentals for this sort of stuff, and we did this video in a potato field for this beautiful song “Evening Of Light” that she sings accompanied and produced by John Cale, who throws all his art school tricks at this song and very effectively.”

“To me it evokes the old Europe, the feeling around twilight when the church clock is ringing six and the kids are playing in the square and there’s a kind of a peace at hand and a kind of a crack between the worlds and a kind of a feeling that you’re part of this ongoing generation of Euro culture. That’s how I heard it. John was astute enough to make sure this all musically collapses into some pretty scary violence.”

That it does…

Turn it up loud for the full effect!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Look Look,’ the XTC home video companion
01.20.2017
10:47 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
XTC


 
Before YouTube’s algorithm served up the XTC home video Look Look a few weeks ago, I knew of it only as the last line in the discography that concludes Chris Twomey’s fan bio Chalkhills and Children. The lone entry under “VIDEO,” sharing the book’s last page with Johnny Japes and his Jesticles’ single, “Bags of Fun with Buster,” its position in the band’s oeuvre is unexalted. But Look Look deserves better: it brings together all the videos (or “promo films,” if you prefer) XTC made between 1978 and 1982, the period of quality encompassing White Music and English Settlement.

I don’t remember seeing any XTC videos other than the one for “Dear God” when I was growing up, though I was always searching for them. MTV was too busy making our country stupid with a diet of shit and garbage. (Waiter, I can’t eat this shit—it tastes like garbage! But I did catch “Towers of London” maybe, once, late at night?) Released in PAL format in the UK and NTSC in Japan, never issued in the US, Look Look did me no good until it surfaced on the web.
 

 
The tape is about to turn 35, so I would not hold my breath waiting for it to come out on DVD. Anyway, its considerable charms are well-suited to YouTube. These low-budget videos are livened up with such props as bounce houses and banks of TVs, such special effects as rear projection and chroma key, and such unlikely characterizations as Andy Partridge’s evil clown in “Making Plans for Nigel” and Colin Moulding’s straitjacketed puzzle-factory dweller in “Ball and Chain.” Snippets from interviews with Partridge and Moulding set up a few of the clips. Oh, and look look for Richard Branson in the “Generals and Majors” video, playing one of the song’s villains.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘It’s fun to smoke dust!’ Satanic panic preacher gets mashed-up with Queen
01.20.2017
08:53 am

Topics:
Drugs
Music

Tags:
Queen
Gary Greenwald
backward masking


 
From renown mashup artist, DJ Lobsterdust, comes this brilliant ode to 1980s Satanic Panic hysteria over “backward masking,” a process which many preachers insisted was being used to brainwash young music consumers into devil-worship and committing various other sins. These preachers claimed that backward subliminal messages were placed in rock songs, either by the design of the artists, or perhaps, demonically in order to seduce young people with Satan’s spell.

One so-called expert on backward masking in the ‘80s claimed that Richard “The Nightstalker” Ramirez was driven to commit murder from hearing the backward messages “I’m the law,” “my name is Lucifer,” and “she belongs in Hell” on the AC/DC album Highway to Hell. In 1990 Judas Priest was taken to court by families who claimed that two young men in Nevada had formed a suicide pact after hearing hidden messages in the song “Better By You, Better Than Me.” The case was dismissed by the judge for insufficient evidence.

I remember being in Catholic school in the 80’s and hearing constantly about backward masking. A song which was touted as one of the “clearest examples” of backward messages being placed into popular music was “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. It was claimed that playing the chorus backwards gave you the hidden message “It’s fun to smoke marijuana.” To be honest, if you use your imagination just a bit, it does kiiiinda sound like Freddie Mercury is saying that… but really only if you’d ALREADY BEEN SMOKING marijuana.

A great deal of the backward masking hysteria was spread by cable TV evangelist Gary Greenwald, who hosted a religious television program called The Eagle’s Nest. Greenwald crusaded against rock music, both on his program and through a series of popular audio tapes (which were the subject of great deal of sampling and laughing at by punks and metalheads in the ‘80s). Greenwald claimed most rock music contained demonically-inspired backward masking. He has also railed against action figures and Saturday morning cartoons, which he believed were influenced by the occult.

Listen, after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Moe Tucker hates ‘Heroin’: VU drummer talks about recording ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’
01.19.2017
10:36 am

Topics:
Drugs
Music

Tags:
The Velvet Underground
Maureen Tucker


 
Lou Reed and John Cale (but mostly Lou) get the lion’s share of the love when it comes to assessing the brilliance of that visionary American proto-punk band of the late ‘60s The Velvet Underground, but that group’s magic was a four-way synergy. Yes, Reed’s songs were ahead of their time, and yes, Cale’s avant-garde bona fides gave the band’s music shapes and timbres that were previously unknown in rock, but imagine how those songs would feel without Sterling Morrison’s slippery guitar stylings and the distinctive drumming of Maureen “Moe” Tucker.

The last thing, you don’t actually have to imagine—the band’s final album Loaded (please spare us any nerd-rage about Squeeze, nobody thinks that counts) was, contrary to what the credits read, recorded without Tucker, who was pregnant at the time of its recording. The difference is stark. Gone is the foreboding and moody thrum of Tucker’s cymbal-less mallet attack, replaced by standard 4/4 rock beats that a kid could play. And in fact, a kid DID play them—V.U. bassist Doug Yule recruited his teenaged brother Billy to fill in. It’s an irony that since Loaded was the only Velvets studio record never to go out of print it ended up being the album from which any given ’80s band that “sounded like the Velvet Underground” was most likely to have taken notes, though partly because of Tucker’s absence, it was the Velvet Underground album that sounded the least like the Velvet Underground.

Of the many songs Tucker did play on, “Heroin” from the band’s debut The Velvet Underground and Nico remains one of her most jaw-dropping moments. Starting with a caveman-ishly simplistic pulse, she ramps up the speed and the tension until the band eschews time-keeping altogether to swell into chaos, her tom-tom gallop coming just as unglued as the rest of the song, often dropping out completely, allowing the guitars to fly away. It was a breathtaking rebuke of all that was normal in rock ’n’ roll.

And Tucker went on record saying it sucked.
 

 
What Goes On was the official print organ of the Velvet Underground Appreciation Society. Founded in the mid ‘70s, the Society was pretty much the best way for a curious mutant to find out about the band in any kind of depth during those wilderness years of the ‘70s and ‘80s when much of its music was out of print. The Society curated an incredible series of bootleg cassettes called the “Afterhours Tapes,” which included the essential “Searchin’ for my Mainline,” a substantial historical survey of the band boasting plenty of rarities with high-quality sound. What Goes On was sporadically published—years went by between issues, and so it was that issue #4 came out in 1990, a decade and a half into the Society’s existence, and five years after issue #3. The featured article was a lengthy interview by Boston musician and Society co-founder Phil Milstein with Moe Tucker, in which she offered her take about the canonical recording of “Heroin”:

I was pleased because it was really exciting to have a record out. I was just so excited to have a record in the store, that I could go up the street to my local Levittown store and find my record. I was thrilled! I was not very excited about the production. Back then, it didn’t bother me as much as it does now, but the boys, they were, for some zany reason. I don’t know, maybe they thought, “Well, this is the best we can do with the time given, so we’ll take it,” but I hate it. “Heroin” is a mess. We had done the album in eight hours in the studio, and the producer was…Andy (laughter). So we didn’t know what the hell we were doing, and he certainly didn’t, as you can hear from the record. And then when MGM bought it, and agreed to put it out, they gave us three hours in California in the studio to fix it, to fix ten songs. And you can’t do anything in three hours. We did “Heroin” over, and, I’m pretty sure, “Waiting for the Man,” and maybe two others, which I don’t remember now. But so quickly, and with no time to say, “Well, let’s do this” or “Let’s do that.” We just didn’t have the time. “Heroin” drives me nuts. That’s such a good song, I remember getting chills whenever we played it, and to listen to it on the album, it’s really depressing. Especially to think of someone who listens to that, and never heard us play live. And they think that that’s “Heroin,” and they say, “What’s the big deal?” It’s a pile of garbage on the record. Because on that one, the guys plugged straight into the board. They didn’t have their amps up loud in the studio, so of course I couldn’t hear anything. Anything. And when we got to the part where you speed up, you gotta speed up together, or it’s not really right. And it just became this mountain of drum noise in front of me. I couldn’t hear shit. I couldn’t see Lou, to watch his mouth to see where he was in the song. And I just stopped. I was saying, “This is no good, this isn’t gonna work, we need phones or something.” SO I stopped, and being a little wacky, they just kept going, and that’s the one we took (laughter). And it’s infuriating, because you’ve seen us live, that’s a bitch, that song. I consider that our greatest triumph. Lou’s greatest triumph too, maybe, songwriting-wise.

 
Continues after the jump...

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Fun Boy Three cover the Doors, burn the American flag on TV, 1983
01.19.2017
09:44 am

Topics:
Music
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:
The Doors
The Specials
Fun Boy Three


Waiting, the second and final Fun Boy Three LP, produced by David Byrne
 
At the most recent meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of the Doors Study Group, my friend and former bandmate Jessica Espeleta showed her favorite video on all of YouTube: a TV performance of “The End” by Fun Boy Three, complete with flag-burning.

Fun Boy Three—the group formed by runaway Specials Terry Hall, Neville Staples, and Lynval Golding in 1981—started playing “The End” when the end of their brief career began to loom, according to The Rough Guide to Rock:

Tensions were growing within the band, aggravated by a punishing touring schedule to try to break the group in America. Including The Doors’ “The End” in their set may not have been the wisest move they ever made, especially when they climaxed it by burning an American flag.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Modern love: Valentines featuring Grace Jones, Robert Smith, David Bowie & other pop-culture icons!


Robert Smith-themed Valentine by Matthew Lineham.
 
We’ve shared the work of New York-based artist Matthew Lineham previously on Dangerous Minds and I can personally vouch for the quality of his work. To say nothing of the reaction I’ve gotten from folks who have received one Lineham’s clever cards featuring images of 80’s horror movie slashers like Jason Voorhees or Re-Animator‘s deranged medical student, Herbert West.

Though I’m not trying shove the faux “holiday” of Valentine’s Day down your throat—it started as a marketing thing, there was nothing traditional about it—I couldn’t resist sharing Lindham’s 2017 cards. These old-school sheet cards contain the images of Robert Smith of The Cure, Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis and an entire collection featuring the many alter-egos of our dearly departed David Bowie. There are three sheets in each pack for a total of 27 cards that also contain amusing greetings that occasionally reference song titles from the artists’ catalogs, which makes them extra-special. Just like your funny valentine, right? You can order the cards now over at Lindham’s site which will ship them out on January 24th—just in time to send one along to someone who you think is “B-52 Cute!” Awww.
 

 

 
More funny valentines after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Grace Slick says ‘f*ck’ on American TV for the very first time, 1969


 
Watch below as Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick becomes the very first person in history to say “fuck” on American television on August 19th, 1969—the day after Woodstock—on The Dick Cavett Show. Technically the whole band pretty much sings “fuck” if you want to split hairs. Someone had to do it first, I’m glad it was the Airplane.

“We Can Be Together” was the lead-off number on the band’s politically radical Volunteers album and the B-side for the “Volunteers” single. Due to the group’s unique contract for the times—they had complete artistic control—RCA had to go along with whatever the Jefferson Airplane wanted, including “shit” and “motherfucker” appearing in their lyrics. For the single, the “motherfucker” was mixed low, but not actually bleeped.

The song’s music and lyrics are credited to Paul Kantner, who claimed to be inspired by the Black Panther Party’s use of the “Up against the wall, motherfucker” battle cry, itself a phrase 60s activists often heard coming from police and national guardsmen during that tumultuous era.

Kantner also cribbed some (nearly all) of the lyrics from something called “The Outlaw Page” that appeared apparently first as a leaflet and then in the East Village Other underground newspaper. “The Outlaw Page” was a polemic written by a guy called John Sundstrom, who was a member of an anarchist/Situationist-inspired Lower East Side-based “street gang with analysis” called the Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers [UAW/MF] whose name came from a poem titled “Black People!” by Amiri Baraka. The Motherfuckers, whose unprintable name made them virtually press-proof, were involved with storming the Pentagon, setting up crash pads in New York City for counter culture types and the occupation of Columbia University. Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse’s stepson, Tom Neumann was an early member.
 

 
Sweet young Joni Mitchell had just finished singing her lovely, lilting “Chelsea Morning,” when big bad Grace belted these words out to an unsuspecting America:

We are all outlaws in the eyes of America
In order to survive we steal cheat lie forge fuck hide and deal
We are obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent and young
But we should be together

Come on all you people standing around
Our life’s too fine to let it die and
We can be together

All your private property is
Target for your enemy
And your enemy is We

We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very
Proud of ourselves
Up against the wall
Up against the wall motherfucker…

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Kid posts hilarious tweets asking ‘Does anyone know who this is’?
01.18.2017
09:30 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Nick Cave

 
Meet New Zealand-based James Malcolm. Yesterday on Twitter, James posted photos of himself with a certain celebrity in the background asking his followers, “Does anybody know who this is?”

It looks like James was in an airport when this was taken. Was James serious about not knowing who that certain person was or was he trolling his followers? That’s the million dollar question in the Twitterverse today.

One More Time With Feeling, Andrew Dominik’s acclaimed documentary about “this celeb” comes out on Blu-ray and DVD on March 3. Pre-order here.

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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