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Smegma: Strange rumblings from legendarily freaky art-damaged noise rock improvisers
02:52 pm


Richard Meltzer

When Smegma first formed—I’m referring here to the avant garde improvisational free music noise group, not that other stuff—in Pasadena, California in 1973, the collective’s membership came together in the back room of the Poo-Bah record store. The Poo-Bah was located in a basement next door to a sleazy porno theatre and the owner encouraged some of the shop’s patrons (who coalesced around a shared love of Zappa, Beefheart and the Residents) to utilize his space. The Poo-Bah later merged with the Los Angeles Free Music Society or L.A.F.M.S., a parallel group of local freaks into the same things, to release records, cassettes, newsletters and a fanzine, and to promote live events and art happenings, including those of Smegma.

Smegma’s cast of characters took on goofy pre-punk pseudonyms such as “Ju Suk Reet Meate,” “Dennis Duck,” “Cheez-It Ritz,” “Amazon Bambi,” “Chucko Fats,” “Pizza Rioux,” “Iso,” “Dr. Id,” “Dr.Odd,” “Foon,” “Ace Farren Ford,” “Electric Bill,” “Borneo Jimmy,” “Burned Mind,” “Oblivia,” “Victor Sparks,” and “Harry Cess Poole” and members overlapped with L.A.F.M.S. which might be considered the loose umbrella organization representing a scene of freaky people who were into making freaky head music. Their sound incorporated tapes, free jazz, power electronics, the Ventures, drones, proto-Plunderphonics tape loops and encouraged inspired amateurism rather than musical prowess. “NO HIPPIE MUSIC” was their guiding motto. Their disgusting name is a pisstake on le nom de French prog-rockers Magma. It should come as no surprise that Smegma were included on the infamous “Nurse with Wound list.”

In 1975, Smegma’s loose center of operations moved to Portland, Oregon where they became an important part of that city’s musical history even if most of that burg’s residents were and are still blissfully unaware of this fact. Over the decades they’ve recorded with noted oddballs like Frank Zappa discovery Wild Man Fischer, Boyd Rice, and Japanese noise prankster Merzbow (on the dual release Smegma Plays Merzbow/Merzbow Plays Smegma.) During the late 1990s, the noted pioneer rock scribe and literary cult figure Richard Meltzer served as the group’s lyricist and frontman.

More Smegma after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa wants you to ‘vote like a beast’
01:50 pm


Frank Zappa

Vote suppression is in the news again. In August, Donald Trump, likely recognizing that he was going to lose the election, started talking about the need to prevent voter shenanigans in “certain sections” of Pennsylvania—“you know the ones,” he told them—clear code to his supporters that black people in Pennsylvania’s urban areas were plotting to steal the vote on behalf of “Crooked” Hillary Clinton.

The truth is something like the opposite. Acutely aware that it has a purchase on a dwindling minority of voters, the Republican Party has for some years used the specter of vote fraud to enact legislative measures that would require increased documentation at polling places, measures that are likely to have the effect of limiting the turnout of low-income and/or minority voters, both of which are reliable Democratic constituencies. The “voter fraud” scare is now widely seen as itself to be a voter suppression gambit, as some high-level Republicans are sometimes unwise enough to actuallly admit to in public.

The crucial importance of the vote can be seen in the centuries-long struggles over who gets to vote and who does not. In a sense, artificial or scarcely justified limits on the franchise are as American as apple pie, as Your Vote, a 1991 program for The Learning Channel hosted by none other than Frank Zappa, explains.

Frank Zappa was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1990, after the disease had progressed unnoticed for roughly a decade. Obviously, as he neared his untimely death, which eventually occurred in December 1993, Zappa’s illness restricted his ability to travel or undertake arduous projects. Zappa is hardly the vigorous figure here that he had once been, but his commitment to the cause of participatory democracy was such that he did the project anyway.

The show begins with footage of George Herbert Walker Bush and Michael Dukakis, the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees for the most recent national election in 1988. It would be easy to frame the story of franchisement in the United States as an optimistic one, with the vote being granted to ever more groups, but that is not the tone adopted here. In this program, the emphasis is squarely on the unjustifiable shenanigans that prevent people from exercising one of the most basic human rights.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Totally 80s tarot deck with Punk, Post-Punk and New Wave icons
12:23 pm



It seems like there’s a tarot card set for freaking everything nowadays and this long list now includes a “New Wave” tarot deck by Amanda Lee Stilwell of Last Craft Designs on Etsy . The cards feature iconic musicians including Siouxsie Sioux, Nina Hagen, Nick Cave, Genesis P-Orridge, Klaus Nomi, Grace Jones, Kate Bush, Marc Almond, Steve Strange, Peter Murphy and many more.

It appears that currently all of these nifty “New Wave” decks are sadly sold out. Perhaps if you contact Amanda on Etsy, and if there is enough interest, she’ll print up some more?

Update: you can purchase the deck here for $45.


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Live animals are known to be devoured’: Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles’ Sufi recordings

Part of Ira Cohen’s layout for the Jilala sleeve (via Granary Books)
Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka was not the first album of Moroccan music inspired by the kif-smoking literary expats in Tangier. In 1964, Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles taped the Jilala brotherhood, a Sufi order whose ritual dance and music were supposed to exorcise evil spirits and heal the sick. The LP Jilala, released a year or two later by Ira Cohen, brought these recordings into limited circulation and preserved them for posterity.

Poet, musician, traveler, author of The Hashish Cookbook, and director of The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, Cohen was another Olympian of the arts who had joined Burroughs, Gysin, and the Bowleses in Tangier in 1961. (My old employer Arthur Magazine brought out Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda on DVD ten years ago, with new scores by Acid Mothers Temple and Sunburned Hand of the Man supplementing the original soundtrack by founding Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise.) Years before his psychedelic photo experiments with Mylar, Cohen edited the literary magazine Gnaoua, named after a form of North African religious music that’s related to but distinct from the Jilala’s. 

It’s not entirely clear how Jilala is connected to another Paul Bowles recording project involving the same collaborators, time, and place. Bowles wrote Cohen in 1966 about donating the profits from something called the “Hypnotic Music record” to the Timothy Leary Defense Fund. In a footnote, the editor of Bowles’ letters says this refers to a compilation of Hamatcha, Jilala, Gnaoua, and Aissaoua trance music that was put together from tapes made separately by Bowles, Gysin, and Cohen and released by Cohen. However, the Independent reports that the Hypnotic Music record was an unrealized project, so perhaps Bowles’ editor has conflated it with Jilala, which Discogs lists as the sole release on Cohen’s Trance Records.

I would be delighted to be proven wrong about this. Does anyone have a copy of the Hypnotic Music record?

The cover of the original issue of Jilala
Before putting Jilala in your gym playlist, you should probably read Cohen’s liner notes (reprinted in full at Big Bridge and Discogs) so you know what you’re getting yourself into. The Jilala knew how to pitch a wang dang doodle with their flutes and drums. The bath salts of their day, these religious tunes have been known to make listeners eat live animals, slash themselves with knives, and drink boiling water straight from the kettle, as Cohen tells it…

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Blistering footage of a young AC/DC blowing the roof off the sucker in 1978
12:15 pm


Rock Goes To College

Perhaps I’m guilty of overusing words like “blistering” or “insane” when it comes to describing a live performance by AC/DC, especially when the perpetually shirtless Bon Scott is involved. However in this case both words perfectly describe this footage from the band’s appearance on the short-lived BBC television show Rock Goes to College back in 1978. The gigs filmed for the show were intimate affairs—limited to a few thousand fans which you really get a feel for when you watch the young hell-bent Aussies (Angus Young was only 23 at the time and his brother Malcolm just 25) rip through songs from 1978’s Powerage (as well as the band’s live record If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) from the same year), 1977’s Let There Be Rock, and 1975’s T.N.T. The resulting set is an absolutely titanic cross-section of the band’s already spectacular catalog. Also of note is the fact that in 1978 the band was still somewhat “under the radar” though they were already wildly popular in their homeland which makes this raw footage shot in the UK extra compelling.

See it after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Here you go, the first 16 episodes of the classic L.A. punk TV show ‘New Wave Theatre’
05:41 pm


New Wave Theatre

Last year DM alerted readers to the possibility of viewing all twenty-five episodes of the classic local music show that ran on Los Angeles area UHF station channel 18 from 1981 to 1983, New Wave Theatre. At that time we ended the post with the statement “Enjoy it before someone yanks it off of YouTube!” Well, sad to say, that warning proved all too apt, as the video has indeed since been pulled from YouTube.

In the intervening months I’ve received some requests as to where one could find the episodes, so I’m confident that there is some interest in this subject. It turns out that a YouTube user named TheSnappySneezer has uploaded first sixteen episodes of the show, so if you want to enjoy the punk and new wave madness, now’s your chance.

New Wave Theatre had an frenetic DIY vibe that perfectly mirrored the energy of the L.A. punk and new wave scenes. In Josh Frank’s book In Heaven Everything Is Fine, Ken Yas described New Wave Theatre as “Ed Sullivan on acid meets American Idol on cocaine.” New Wave Theatre provided a showcase for acts like the Angry Samoans, Dead Kennedys, 45 Grave, Fear, the Plugz, X, Circle Jerks, and many more.

It’s impossible to discuss the show New Wave Theatre without confronting its memorable host, Peter Ivers. Ivers was an L.A. musician who wrote “In Heaven (The Lady in the Radiator Song)” for David Lynch’s 1977 masterpiece Eraserhead (many years later, it was covered by the Pixies). In 1983 In early March 1983 Ivers was found murdered in his apartment, beaten to death with a hammer. The crime is officially unsolved but all indications appear to implicate one of his business associates.

After the jump, episodes 1-16 of New Wave Theatre….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Meet the ‘black Charlie Chaplin’ who devised the Moonwalk before Michael Jackson

Johnny Hudgins is not the first name to come to mind when considering influential 20th century comic performers—but perhaps he should be.

I had never heard of Johnny Hudgins until about a week ago when his name popped up in a conversation about long forgotten vaudeville stars. An old archivist friend was telling me how there were once many African-American blackface performers—among them Johnny Hudgins who became an international star in the 1920s. Hudgins was more than a star—he was hailed as “the colored Charlie Chaplin.” Famed for his trademark dance and comedy routines, Hudgins literally spawned a host of imitators I was informed—most notably Josephine Baker who copied his act and took it to France where she became a star.

I noted my friend’s information—it was one of those useful kernels to be tucked away for later use.

Then last night while catching-up on TV, I watched a documentary called Trailblazers of Dance—one part of the excellent Trailblazers of… series narrated by Slade’s Noddy Holder no less. From what I’ve seen of this series, it’s certainly one I’d recommend. Anyhow—in this documentary Hudgins again popped up—this time being credited as the originator of the “moonwalk”—the impossible-seeming dance step Michael Jackson made famous in his video for “Billie Jean.”
Johnny Hudgins with the Blackbirds.
This spot of serendipity led me to do a little research on Johnny Hudgins.

For someone whose career apparently influenced the iconic Josephine Baker and Michael Jackson, who had Duke Ellington serenade him at supper, whose portrait was painted by Kees van Dongen, who was even filmed by Jean Renoir and who was so famous he had a kid’s doll made after him in France—there really isn’t a heck of a lot of stuff out there on dear old Mr. Hudgins—well, other than passing mentions in academic texts like this from Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender, and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance:

Virtually forgotten in the early twenty-first century, Johnny Hudgins was a celebrity in his day. Born in Baltimore in 1896, Hudgins began performing as a song-and-dance man on the burlesque circuit before joining Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s all-black revue The Chocolate Dandies in 1924. A successor to the song-writing team Sissle and Blake’s earlier hit, Shuffle Along (1921), The Chocolate Dandies was more ambitious—it featured extravagant stage settings, including live horses running on a treadmill during a horse race scene—but ultimately less profitable, closing on Broadway after ninety-six performances.

During his run in the musical, Hudgins developed a series of comic pantomime acts that won him acclaim nationally and internationally. The most famous of these was his “Mwa, Mwa” routine, in which he opened and closed his mouth in silent mimicry of the “wah wah” sounds of an accompanying trumpet or cornet.

Branded both the successor of the celebrated blackface vaudevillian Bert Williams and “the colored Charles Chaplin,” Hudgins spawned a host of imitators, among them Josephine Baker, who appeared with him in The Chocolate Dandies.

After touring Europe for several years in the mid-1920s, Hudgins returned to the United States to star in Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1928. By 1930 he was reported to be the “highest paid night club entertainer of his Race.” He continued to tour Europe, South America, Canada and the United States through the 1940s. Due in no small part to his use of blackface, Hudgins fell out of favor with a later generation of performers and critics. He died in 1990.

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Brigitte Bardot, badass biker babe

Brigitte Bardot posing on a yellow Harley-Davidson chopper built by Maurice Combalbert.
It’s fairly well known that golden haired French film goddess Brigitte Bardot was a huge fan of the Solex (or “Velosolex”), a kind of moped/bicycle hybrid which the bombshell was widely photographed riding around in the 1970s. No stranger to knowing how to have a good time Bardot was also photographed tooling around while looking flawlessly beautiful on other kinds of motorized two-wheelers such as a Yamaha AT-1 for which Bardot did a series of 1971 print advertisements clad in hotpants and white gogo boots.

Some of the most iconic photos of the actress/model/singer and animal rights activist (Bardot dedicated herself to helping animals after retiring in 1973) and a motorcycle were taken along with a Harley-Davidson custom built by Parisian chopper pioneer Maurice Combalbert when Bardot performed her wacky love proclamation to the iconic motorcycle on her 1967 French television special Brigitte Bardot Show.

Here’s a nice selection of Brigitte Bardot looking cooler than any of us will ever look on various motorcycles, as well as a few where she’s making riding a regular bike look like the best time ever.


More Bardot on bikes after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
France Gall Sings About ‘Computer Dating’ In 1968
09:12 am


France Gall

Der Computer Nr.3 45 on Decca Records
In 1968, Serge Gainsbourg protégé France Gall participated in the televised song contest Deutscher Schlager-Wettbewerb (“The German Schlager Competition”) where hundreds of composers and lyricists from all over Europe were called upon to write a brand new hit song. A total of 495 titles were submitted, and only twelve songs were selected for the finals which were broadcast live on channel ZDF. Although she was French-born and famously known as a yé-yé singer, Gall did enjoy a successful career in Germany in the late ‘60s. With a little help from Werner Müller and Giorgio Moroder, she published 42 songs in German language between 1966 and 1972.

On July 4th, 1968, 21-year-old France Gall took the stage at the Berliner Philharmonie concert hall and performed a song titled “Der Computer Nr.3” live with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra leaving 300 people and a panel of judges dramatically baffled over what in the world she was singing about: “Computer #3 searches the right boy for me. The computer knows the perfect woman for every man and happiness is drawn instantly from its files.” The song then suddenly takes an unexpected turn when it switches over to a vocoder German computer voice which pre-dates the formation of Kraftwerk “22 Jahre, schwarze Haare, von Beruf Vertreter, Kennzeichen: Geld wie Heu” (Age: 22 years, black hair, professional representative, features: money galore)

The song (credited to the biggest hit-making duo in Germany at the time: music producer Christian Bruhn and lyricist Georg Buschor) then takes yet another completely unexpected turn as it dips into a Beatles cover for a brief moment before diving right back into the subject matter at hand. “Lange war ich einsam, heut’ bin ich verliebt, und nur darum ist das so, weil es die Technik und die Wissenschaft und Elektronengehirne gibbet.” Translated into English, France Gall is singing perfectly to the “Eight Days A Week” melody “Ohh I need your love babe, yes you know it’s true, that’s only because the technology and science and electrons are there.”

Cut to the audience to see hundreds of upper-class post-war Germans staring blankly, emotionless, and reactionless at the very first song ever written about computer dating. While personal computers and the internet were still years away, computer dating was an actual trend in the late ‘60s being targeted to lonely hearts all over the world by way of magazine advertorials. Participants would submit their vital stats, a punchcard-plotted questionnaire, and a personal check in the amount of $3-5 in an old-fashioned stamp-licked envelope. Then they waited patiently (usually several weeks or months) while an IBM mainframe the size of an entire room crunched the numbers on their personalities, intelligence, and preferences (no photos were involved).

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
Rhino’s Desert Getaway: Win box sets from Bowie, Ramones, Cars, Doors, Monkees, Dead & more
01:46 pm


Rhino Records
Desert Trip

If you’re a music fan of a certain age, then the recent Desert Trip (AKA “Oldchella”) musical festival might’ve seemed like a dreamy nostalgic return to your younger years seeing your baby boomer idols all in one place, with said location having plenty of toilets and concession stands instead of brown acid and mud-covered hippies. If you’re on the other side of the age spectrum, a millennial, it was a lazy way to earn rock snob bragging rights for when you’re old. (“Yeah, yeah, of course I saw Dylan live. McCartney? Yep. The Stones? Check. Neil? C’mon, like I’d miss seeing Neil Young!” and so forth.)

No matter which camp you fall into, who doesn’t want to win a whole mess of free box sets? Between now and Halloween, you can enter to win just that—box sets from Led Zeppelin, Ramones, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, The Band and many more classic rock artists (who may—or may not in some cases—be at Desert Trip 2017).

It’ll be like an early Christmas this year for one lucky entrant…


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