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Meet Aria, the band known as ‘the Russian Iron Maiden’
12:16 pm


heavy metal
Iron Maiden

An early shot of Soviet-era heavy metal band Aria, “the Russian Iron Maiden,” (looking here very much like the actual Iron Maiden)

Born during a tumultuous time in Russia where the Communist government was still routinely attempting to repress musical expression—metal band Aria became one of the first Russian bands in the genre to rise up and achieve commercial success in the 80s.

Aria (or if you prefer Ария) came to be around 1985 and if vocalist Valery Kipelov didn’t perform his vocals in his native tongue, the casual metalhead might be inclined to believe that Aria was some undiscovered gem that was a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands (or “NWOBHM” as I like to abbreviate it) that included heavy hitters such as Motörhead, Def Leppard, Venom, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. After releasing their debut Megalomania in 1985 the Russian music press and metal fans quickly bestowed the band with a weighty comparison, calling the group “the Russian Iron Maiden.” Which begs the question—did Aria deserve to be compared with a band that is as synonymous with heavy metal as leather pants, ear-piercing vocals, and sweaty, bare-chested hedonism? The answer is Da my devil-horn throwing friends.

As I mentioned previously, it wasn’t easy to get a band going as scrutiny by the Soviet government not only made it difficult for bands to do their thing, it also made their ability to procure the things they needed to do their thing difficult. Like instruments and amps and tape recorders. So repressive was the environment in Russia that it was conceivable that it might take more than a decade for a band to go from forming to actually releasing music as even acquiring basic necessities like guitars and drum kits could be next to impossible. Despite these challenges, Aria would thrive much in part to the death of Russian rock and roll’s worst enemy, Konstantin Chernenko, and the appointment of his successor Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. They would also seemingly pepper their music with anti-US propaganda, which is especially apparent in the title of a song from their debut “America is Behind.”

A vintage shot of Aria.

The band’s heavy, melodic sound and use of synth has also been compared to the work of Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner soundtrack composer, Greek electronic wizard Vangelis. I’ve included a number of selections from Aria’s massive catalog that spans over 30 years as well as some live footage, below. If the existence of Aria—who are still active and currently on tour with a 40 piece orchestra—is news to you, I’d highly recommend adding Megalomania to your vinyl collection as a start.
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Jane Birkin: The Mother of all Babes’
11:48 am


Serge Gainsbourg
Jane Birkin

Jane Birkin was—is—the unlikely girl who became a kind of royal figure in France due to her marriage and decades of collaboration with the country’s nonpareil musical genius Serge Gainsbourg. The Mother of All Babes is a documentary from 2003 directed by Birkin’s friend Gabrielle Crawford, who produced the DVD for Birkin’s Arabesque concert at the Odeon in Paris as well as published a book of photos of Birkin.

When Birkin went to France to do a film test for Pierre Grimblat’s movie Slogan, she had already appeared in Richard Lester’s The Knack and How to Get It as well as a memorable romp in the nude in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up.

Birkin’s first time meeting Gainsbourg, at that film test, was seemingly inauspicious. Discomfited by Gainsbourg in a taciturn mood, she demanded to know why he hadn’t asked “How are you?” “Because I don’t really care,” was Gainsbourg’s typically blunt reply. Birkin’s husband of three years, Goldfinger composer John Barry, had recently left her, and Birkin’s emotional state as well as her incomplete command of French made the test a challenge, but Gainsbourg gallantly assisted her and helped her get the part.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
GG Allin is (still) dead, so all we have left is noise rockers Cock ESP

What if I told you there was a 90s band still in operation who have one hundred albums out? I mean, none of them are even remotely listenable, but that’s still pretty impressive, isn’t it? It’s true. Not only that, but they’re also bloodthirsty maniacs, with a decades-long love-hate mostly hate) affair with their audience. Every live show from, say, 1995 onwards has been a chaotic display of grinding noise, cross-dressing, live sexacts, self-mutilation, fist-fights, erotic wrestling, eye-gouging, tooth extractions, and non-stop ecstatic dancing. And they only last three minutes. Their name is Cock ESP (really, what else could/would they be called?), and if they’re not your new favorite band, you must be some kinda fuckin’ dummy.

This shit is normal in Minnesota.

It’s obviously a long story, but the thumbnail version is that in 1993, Minneapolis power electronics noisemonger Emil Hagstrom teamed up with metal percussionist P.C. Hammeroids to form an even noisier metal percussion-slash-power electronics shithouse ball of hardcore lunacy. Insanely prolific from the beginning, the band released scores of records every year, many with humorous titles like Our Embarrassment Is Your Pleasure, Three and a Half Inches of Floppy Cock (released on a floppy disk, naturally), and Suicide Girls Has Ruined Porn For An Entire Generation. Most albums feature short bursts of harsh improvisational noise. Some feature slightly longer bursts of harsh industrial noise.Their most infamous release is 2000’s Monsters of Cock, a 5” vinyl single with 381 tracks on it, released simultaneously by a dozen different labels. Even five-second blasts of noise add up to a lot of work when you do it 381 different ways, man.

Hagstrom is the only original member of the band left, but he always manages to find a few new drifters, sociopaths or miscreants to keep things rolling. Cock ESP’s latest album, 2016’s Noise Bloopers, consists entirely of equipment malfunctions. For the past few years, the band has used wireless equipment on stage—they’re far less likely to accidentally hang themselves this way—but wireless noise boxes are constantly on the fritz, and even with a three-minute show they fuck everything up a lot. So they made a “worst of” album. It is completely indistinguishable from their other albums.

Cock rock for the now generation

Here’s the point: you are not as cutting edge as you’d like to be unless Emil Hagstrom has broken your nose at a gig or you own at least 38 Cock ESP albums (not 37, poser!). For better or for worse, they are as far out as you can possibly get. I mean it’s almost definitely for worse, arguably much worse, but GG Allin is still dead, so this is all we have left.

Watch these lunatics in action after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
The Black Flag tour machine grinds to a halt in ‘Reality 86’d’
12:08 pm


Black Flag

To support what would prove to be its last studio album In My Head, Black Flag did a full national tour in the autumn of 1985 and then basically repeated the process in the first half of 1986. For that second go-round—Black Flag’s last tour—they were joined by Painted Willie and Greg Ginn’s new side project Gone, which featured future Rollins Band members Sim Cain and Andrew Weiss. (Hard-hitting Cain was a sorely underrated drummer, while Weiss has production duties on several Ween albums on his resume.)

The drummer for Painted Willie was named David Markey, one of the founders of the punk zine We Got Power! and he took along a video recorder and took a copious amount of footage during the several months. By this time Kira was gone, replaced by C’el Revuelta, and Anthony Martinez had taken over for Bill Stevenson.

The result of Markey’s filming was an hour-long movie called Reality 86’d. The movie has enjoyed a contentious backstory. According to James Parker’s Turned On: A Biography of Henry Rollins,

The results of [Markey’s] on-off filming were edited together as the tour movie Reality 86’d—still unreleased, owing to the opposition of Greg Ginn, who owns the rights to much of the music featured in the film. (Ginn was invited to attend a private screening of Reality 86’d shortly after it was completed, but walked out halfway through.)

In 2011 Markey put the video up on Vimeo but today there is a notification indicating copyright infringement. Today it’s easy to find on YouTube and Vimeo.
Ginn and Rollins were the last gasp of the classic Black Flag impulse, and they were growing apart. Ginn was veering towards instrumental jam music, and Rollins was sticking to his harder ethos. In Parker’s book there is a telling anecdote, according to which Ginn had requested the construction of a box that could be fitted into the back of the tour van so that he could crawl inside and put on his headphones and just “be totally alone.” The split between Ginn and Rollins was accentuated by the presence of Rollins’ close friend Joe Cole, who wrote about this tour in Planet Joe, published after his tragic 1991 death at the hands of armed robbers in Venice Beach.

There’s an odd moment about a quarter-hour in when a shirtless Henry—although come to think of it, when was he not shirtless?—jokes in a swishy way about getting into rock to meet buff skinhead boyfriends. In the second half there’s a wonderful bit where a bunch of the guys sing the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” at the top of a picturesque mountaintop. This is followed up a silly rendition of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” which is a good indication of their location.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Ska, Ska, Ska: The Specials, Selecter & Bad Manners: Cool photos of the bands & their fans 1979-80

Jerry Dammers basically ran 2 Tone Records out of his bedroom. It was a do-it-yourself label started in 1979 to record his band The Specials and promote a bunch of other ska groups—mainly friends and colleagues in and around Coventry, England.

2 Tone was the start of a ska revival. At one point nearly every new British ska band was on Dammers’ label—The Specials, Madness, Selecter, The (English) Beat, Bad Manners, The Bodysnatchers and even an indie act named Elvis Costello.

The world was turning black and white. Quite literally as it turned out when The Specials toured America. At the Whisky a Go Go in February 1980, the whole exterior of the building was painted in black and white checks.

That summer was the last great high for the ska revival. The UK pop charts were crammed with ska music. The Specials scored another top ten hit with their fourth single “Rat Race.” They were recording their second album and played a sell-out seaside tour of England with support from The Bodysnatchers. They had also made a legendary appearance on Saturday Night Live with “Gangsters” which according to some was a performance that stands out as one of the best in the show’s history. The Specials also toured Japan where their opening gig at Osaka sent the audience into a frenzy of ecstasy. The audience rushed the stage and mobbed the band. As a result of this, the band’s manager was arrested and their further shows canceled. In Japan audiences were forbidden from standing or dancing at concerts—something these young fans found all but impossible to do.

Yet for all the success, the Specials were falling apart. There was infighting between lead singer Terry Hall and guitarist Roddy Radiation and loud disagreements between Dammers and other band members over the new direction the Specials’ music was heading. At the end of the year, Lynval Golding was brutally stabbed in a racist attack outside a concert in London. It began to look like the great multicultural pop movement represented by the Specials and all the other ska bands was coming to an end. The following year, the Specials split. Ska was replaced by the New Romantics and synth-pop.

These photographs capture the bands and fans of 2 Tone during 1979 and the summer of 1980 when ska united a nation.
Neville Staples and Jerry Dammers of The Specials, circa 1979.
Sarah Jane Owen of The Bodysnatchers, 1980.
More memories of the summer of ska, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘It’s A Complex World’: Long-lost rock n’ roll comedy with Captain Lou Albano, NRBQ & mad bombers
09:11 am



In 1978, Rhode Island filmmaker Jim Wolpaw directed the fantastically rough n’ ready short-form documentaryCobra Snake For a Necktie: Bo Diddley and the Young Adults. The film captured a raucous night at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, a then-new rock venue in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. Bo Diddley, still riding high on the heavy funky of his classic ‘74 album Big Bad Bo tore up the stage. So did local comedy-rockers Young Adults, as funny and nearly as wild as their San Francisco counterparts The Tubes. But the real stars of the show were the audience members, including a tenacious drunk who dragged most of the participants—including a put-upon Diddley—into witless conversations. It’s funny and weird and it captures the heart of Saturday night in a very authentic and spontaneous way.

Clearly, the spirit of that time and place stuck with Wolpaw because ten years later, he created a fantastically dark and hilarious ode to Lupo’s, (It’s A) Complex World, a low-budget, high-energy rock n’ roll musical comedy about one extremely eventful night at the storied rock dive.

Complex World was shot at the club over two years in the late 1980s. The plot is pretty loose, but the general idea is that a terrorist cell (led by Daniel Von Bargen, AKA George Costanza’s irresponsible boss Mr. Kruger on the final season of Seinfeld) has planted a bomb in the basement of the club at the behest of an evil state Senator, the father of the club’s owner. The terrorists want some kind of vague revolution and assume someone will give in to their demands before they blow the club up at midnight. The Senator actually wants to destroy the place with his son in it to garner enough sympathy to win his next election. Meanwhile, the mayor hires a biker gang (led by wrestling legend Captain Lou Albano) to terrorize the clubgoers for no solid reason.

Captain Lou Albano, who was an entirely believable maniac biker.

Confused? Me too. But none of this matters because no one at Lupo’s cares about bombs or Senators or lunatic biker gangs, they just want to get drunk and party. The Young Adults return as the evening’s headliners and are seen onstage playing songs like “Do the Heimlich” and “Kill Yourself.” The club is full of drunks and degenerates, including cult rock legends NRBQ, who do drugs in the basement with the terrorists and attempt to contact the ghost of John Lennon with a rotary phone. Jersey garage-poppers The Smithereens loiter at the bar, a manic street preacher (Tilman Gandy Jr.), spends the entirety of the film outside the club getting the Noah’s Ark story wrong, and nebbishy folk singer and begrudging opening act, Morris Brock, riles the repulsed audience into a froth of mutual animosity.

The Young Adults, who once had a local hit called “Meat Rampage”
Played by local singer-songwriter Stanley Matis, Brock is the star of the show, an incredibly bitter, mean-spirited nerd who hates the club and everyone in it, and proves his point by singing spiteful diatribes like “New Jersey” (“What an empty, barren wasteland/What a crass, commercial hellhole”) and “Why Do We Feed The Broads?” He’s also a member of the terror gang, although even they find him obnoxious.
More after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
Famous Rock ‘N’ Rollers in the style of old Mani-Yack monster transfers

These are off-the-charts cool.

Illustrator Tommy Bishop, the madman behind the weirdo children’s book Incredibly Strange ABCs recently introduced a killer set of die-cut vinyl stickers depicting legends from the early years of rock and roll in the style of the old Mani-Yack horror movie transfers.

Mani-Yack transfers were the first widely available commercial t-shirt iron-ons. Their monster designs were some of their most popular in the 1960s.

A sample of the classic 1960s Mani-Yack monster transfer style.
Bishop has two sticker sets available, each containing three images, of iconic rockers in the Mani-Yack monster illustration style. Set one contains Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. Set two contains Esquerita, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

I asked Bishop if he plans to do future sets and he indicated that an instrumental rocker set is in the works, likely to feature Link Wray and Dick Dale. He is also considering a James Brown set featuring three phases of Brown’s career:

[I thought about] pulling from time periods and nicknames like the Famous Flames era, Mr. Dynamite, Godfather of Soul or Hardest Working Man in Show Biz, or Soul Brother #1… something like that.

Bishop has also expressed interest in doing a classic country set as well.

The sticker sets are available for $5.00 each from his web store.




Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
That time the ‘world’s dumbest’ terrorist blew up the Rolling Stones’ equipment
01:10 pm


The Rolling Stones

Despite what recent political rhetoric would have you believe, terrorism is hardly the sole property of Muslims from the Middle East. Timothy McVeigh and his pals blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the left-wing Red Army Faction in Germany killed as many as 34 people in multiple incidents, and the Weather Underground destroyed the sub-basement furnace room of a townhouse on West 11th Street in 1970. One can multiply the examples.

Indeed, depending on the time and place, there have been terrorist incidents where the most likely suspects—the suspects many would have instantly guessed—were radical French separatists in Canada. Such a case occurred in the summer of 1972 during the Rolling Stones’ legendary American Tour that year, when a bomb destroyed part of a truck and several speakers of the group’s gear several hours before a gig.

New Musical Express, July 22, 1972
Rolling Stone reported at the time:

The two equipment vans had arrived from Toronto and were parked on a ramp at the Montreal Forum. The dynamite blast that exploded under the ramp blew out a slew of windows in a nearby apartment and the cones of 30 speakers inside one of the trucks.

“Whoever it was was the world’s dumbest bomber,” said press agent Gary Stromberg. “First he put the bomb under the ramp instead of the truck, and the other truck was the one with most of the stuff inside.”

Air Canada bumped luggage from a flight out of Los Angeles to accommodate the replacement cones, and the show was able to go on just 45 minutes later than planned. However, some sort of unrelated snafu left 3,000 disappointed Stones fans outside the venue without a ticket—they proceeded to engage in significant civil unrest, including pelting the building and police with rocks, wine, beer bottles, and bricks. Jagger himself was hit by a flying bottle inside the venue.

In his essential book S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, Robert Greenfield provides this account:

Later that night the phone rings in Peter Rudge’s room. He picks it up, talks for a while, then begins making phone calls. “Rudge-O here,” he tells Gary Stromberg. “This is rather important. Could you come down to the hall? We’ve been bombed.”

Some person (or persons) has placed one to three sticks of dynamite underneath one of the trucks. Fortunately, it is the one that holds the steel loading ramp, so all it does is blow a four-by-eight hole in the bottom of the truck, disintegrate the ramp, and destroy all the cones in the speakers. The driver, who usually sleeps in the rig, is off somewhere, which saves him from at least a heart attack, if not actual death. All of the windows are broken in the apartment buildings on the street facing the Forum where the truck is parked.

The street is roped off. The police are making diagrams and gathering shards and pieces and a very French Sergeant de Detectif is in charge. Rudge persists in calling him “captain.” Someone says to him, “Certainly this is the work of one of your French separatists.”

“OH NO M’SEIU!” he replies with classic Gallic outrage. “C’est une American draft dodgeur. Zey are all over. Zey come up here with impunity.”


The bomb at the Forum was just the first of four timed to go off at intervals during the day. They wake Jagger up to tell him about it. “Who did it?” he asks sleepily. No one knows. “Well,” he yawns, “why the fuck didn’t they leave a note?”

But he’s shook. The French separatists, it is well known, are cray-zee. They’ll stop at nothing, and all day long he keeps referring to the event uneasily, worried that they plan to pull something off at the show. But the show itself goes off peacefully, the bomb squad having turned the building upside down more than once. Outside the hall, the kids and the cops get down to it and fourteen people are injured, thirteen arrested, and a TV news cruiser is set on fire. UPI, in an inspired piece of fiction, reports that the Stones leave the Forum by means of a helicopter that takes off from the roof and circles the crowd announcing, “THEY HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING: GO HOME” in both French and English.

This difficult stretch of the tour was by no means over with. The very next day, in Rhode Island, the Stones’ entourage got into a fight with photographer Andy Dickerman, landing Jagger and Richards in jail.

New Musical Express image courtesy of the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Southern Gothic: The musical genius of Bobbie Gentry needs to be rediscovered
01:06 pm


Bobbie Gentry

One of the first major country “crossover” artists, Bobbie Gentry became an overnight sensation with her massive 1967 hit single, the hauntingly enigmatic “Ode to Billie Joe.” Sultry and sexy yet obviously whip-smart, the smoky-voiced Gentry was also one of the first female country artists to write and produce her own music. Additionally she could play guitar (with an immediately recognizable hard finger-plucked style), piano, banjo, bass vibraphone and other instruments. She was as gorgeous as she was talented, a poised and classy Southern belle born in Chickasaw County, Mississippi and raised on her grandparents’ farm in a home with no electricity. But when Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge he pushed even the Beatles from the top of the pop charts. The song sold over 50 million copies, and Gentry was instantly among the most famous people in America, winning four Grammy awards for her debut.

Bobbie Gentry was a nearly ubiquitous presence on American (and British) television of the 60s and 70s. You might see her one night singing a duet with Johnny Cash, the next night she’d be on The Hollywood Palace clowning around with Bing Crosby. Or on Ed Sullivan. Glen Campbell’s show. A Bob Hope special. The Smothers Brothers. Tom Jones. Andy Williams. The Carol Burnett Show. Morecambe & Wise. The Grammy Awards. Her own BBC series The Bobbie Gentry Show or her own CBS program The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour.

If you look back at the albums she released at a rapid clip in the years between 1967 and 1971 there are two obvious categories to divide Bobbie Gentry’s music into: the incredible songs she wrote and produced herself, which were catchy, deep, funny, sexy, bluesy, often rockin’ and sometimes even somewhat sinister, versus the songs Capitol Records had her record—the same pop covers as everyone else and duets with Glenn Campbell—to keep pumping out the product. She only really actively recorded for about five years. Throughout the 1970s she was one of the biggest-drawing acts on the Las Vegas strip, but she largely stayed out of the recording studio after 1971’s lost masterpiece concept album Patchwork.

The cover of her final album, 1971’s ‘Patchwork’ was an uncredited self-portrait.
More Bobbie Gentry after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Sex Pistols Number 1,’ the punk propaganda reel from 1977
09:36 am


Sex Pistols

Poster by Jamie Reid, via Recordmecca
Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40! Before The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle—before The Punk Rock Movie, D.O.A., Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Rude Boy, for that matter—there was Sex Pistols Number 1, a “show reel” of the Pistols’ TV appearances compiled in 1977.

Julien Temple reused much of this footage in his features about the Sex Pistols, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury, but this is the movie that opened for the Pistols and the Slits at the Screen on the Green and was projected before the last show at Winterland. Russ Meyer signed on to direct Who Killed Bambi? after seeing it.

IMDB credits Temple and soundman John “Boogie” Tiberi as the film’s directors. In England’s Dreaming, Jon Savage sheds light on what that actually meant, and how Number 1 came to be:

After the EMI sacking, McLaren began to assemble news and performance footage of the Sex Pistols for a possible short film. ‘Malcolm asked me to get hold of these bits of footage from the Anarchy tour to make a show reel,’ says Tiberi. ‘He had this idea to sell the group as a visual act. We were very aware of the group’s potential to get fired from record companies, and TV was a new direction. That’s why I was there, knocking on the door.

Number 1 was all re-filmed. It was very early days in home video technology. The only place we could get the Grundy programme was from a Country and Western promoter whom Sophie [Richmond, Glitterbest secretary] had phoned up to record it. Julien Temple did the refilming, he shot the video image on to film and edited it into chronological order at film school, overnight, and we showed a cutting copy the next night. It was very stirring stuff, propaganda-oriented.’

The brilliance of Number 1 was in replaying the media’s curses with a mocking laugh. The twenty-five minute short tells the story of the scandals from the group’s side, cutting supercilious youth presenters, pompous chat-show guests, mealy-mouthed academics, with simple, stark footage of the group playing and talking. It closes with ‘God Save the Queen’ playing over speeded Pathé footage of Royal Circumstance Past. The final shot pans from the glittering coach to sweepers . . . shovelling horse shit.

Watch it, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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