There are certain songs that represent a time and a place perfectly. Not just for one person, but for everyone who was there. Without question, one of those songs is “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight,” a 1984 dancefloor smash that is probably THE most emblematic song of New York City nightlife circa 1984. Probably? I’m stumped for any other example of a song that was so large and in charge that year, but nothing else comes to mind. It was pretty much THE song. Any “period piece” film about the East Village in 1984 that left this song off the soundtrack would be remiss in their duty to be historically accurate.
By the time I personally parachuted into NYC in Fall of 1984 “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight” was already quite the omnipresent dance floor staple. There’s no doubt in my mind that it provided part of the soundtrack to my first night out in the city (an evening that saw me nearly knock Andy Warhol on his ass after being shoved into him by a future murderer) and for many nights afterwards. The song never really faded away but while it was HOT you heard it nightly at Danceteria (where I hung out several nights a week), at Limelight (where I worked), at the Pyramid Club (where one of the producer’s had a Monday DJ residency) and just about every downtown club or party where you might find yourself. You couldn’t escape it if you wanted to. While the rest of America was listening to Billy Idol, Madonna and Phil Collins, NYC was all about “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight.” Even if you never consciously thought about it, you got it via osmosis if you were out at night.
I’m sure that some of you reading this could “name that tune” with but a single note, but if the song title doesn’t immediately call to mind the music, stop reading, scroll down a bit, hit play and then come back.
Defying any easy category—was is synthpop? electropop? freestyle? Latin-influenced? Euro-disco?—with what sounded like synthetic steel drums and one of the first uses of a newfangled keyboard effect called the “Emulator,” “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight” was the product of Stuart Argabright, formerly of Ike Yard (who were signed to Factory Records); vocalist Claudia Summers; Ken Lockie of Cowboy International (who’d also played drums for Public Image, Ltd.); and producer/remixer Ivan Ivan (who would go on to work with Depeche Mode, DEVO, New Order and many others). Composed by Argabright, with Lockie, about an actual dominatrix he once dated, the song’s initial sessions were recorded at the New York studio of Tangerine Dream’s Peter Baumann on gear that had been built by Conny Plank, the German producer of Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Eurythmics and many others.
Producer Arthur Baker heard the song and wanted it for his Streetwise Record label, where it was released in Spring of 1984. But when the group began to play live in clubs around the city to promote the record, Claudia Summers was replaced with model Dominique Davalos after she was cast as the dominatrix in the music video by underground filmmaker Beth B. Although the video is actually pretty tame (see for yourself) it wasn’t played on TV at the time, but is now a part of the permanent collection at MoMa. The song had a second wind after it was used on the soundtrack of the 1997 John Cusack movie, Grosse Pointe Blank.
If you are one of those intrepid crate-diggers making the rounds this weekend for Record Store Day, you might want to make a beeline for Get On Down‘s special deluxe pink vinyl repressing of “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight.” Like all of Get On Down‘s high quality “for the discerning collector” products, it’s an especially nice trophy to bring home today, a heavy, sturdy recreation of the original 12” (down to the labels) with a glossy 16-page book that includes press clippings about the song and input from Argabright, Ivan Ivan and Dominique Davalos.
The trouble with getting famous when you’re young and cherubic is that you’re forced to grow up in public—a public that still wants you to be the nerd from The Breakfast Club, no less, when you’re Brat packer Anthony Michael Hall. Hall attempted to buck typecasting with his role in the 1986 stinker, Out of Bounds, a “gritty” film directed by no other than Richard Tuggle—who wrote the actually gritty Clint Eastwood film Escape from Alcatraz. Trouble is, Anthony Michael Hall isn’t Clint Eastwood or even in the remote vicinity, and his role as an Iowa farm boy searching for the LA drug kingpin that murdered his brother is not his finest moment.
It is so bad. Between stilted dialogue and Anthony Michael Hall’s attempt to pull off a tough-guy act, we’re talking hilarious 80’s cable TV B-movie fare here. The soundtrack however, is from Stewart Copeland of The Police, and it is surprisingly good, if a little schizophrenic! With music from Copeland and Adam Ant, Night Ranger, Belinda Carlisle, The Smiths, The Cult, The Lords of the New Church(!), Sammy Hagar, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, who actually had a cameo in the film—you can see the performance below. Don’t get me wrong—the hamfisted inclusion of some good music for cool cred does not save this bomb, but maybe they’re enough to make it a cult classic?
Noah Wall is a NYC-based musician who contributed to the soundtrack of the documentary Print the Legend and released a really enjoyable LP called Hèloïse, among many other projects, but this week he released something mighty awesome. Wearing a pair of microphones designed to fit on one’s ears, so as to make incognito stereo recordings as close as possible to exactly what one is actually hearing, Wall made multiple visits to a Manhattan Guitar Center store over the course of three days, and released an album of those field recordings he picked up at random in the Walmart of musical instruments.
March 27, 2015. It’s about 3 on Friday. School’s out and people are headed to Guitar Center Manhattan. I’m going there to do some field recording. A block away, I put on a pair of microphones you might find in a spy catalog. They look like earbud headphones but are actually binaural (stereo) mic’s that go in each ear. No one suspects I’m recording them - more like listening to music or something.
Upon entry, I grab and prominently display the Absolute Beginners Guitar Chords book under my arm. This helps others dispel the possibility of musical prowess on my end. Gets me closer to the action.
This is my third and last day recording here. Some cliques gather in the acoustic guitar room and the occasional couple show off for one another but this place is mostly loners. Trying out a guitar or amp or whatever, they probably didn’t come here to jam with others. But the din has an ensemble effect and the unintentional group is abiding some unspoken rules. There’s a general respect in terms of volume, and sometimes strangers play in the same key and seemingly with one other. On two different days, two different people on two different instruments in two different rooms play the same Jackson 5 song.
In the mere days since he posted the album on Soundcloud, Wall has won new admirers, and prompted discussion of whether making an album this way is even legal. And he posted this wonderful graphic on his Facebook page, compiling social media responses to the work.
Chubby Checker, born Ernest Evans, holds a place in rock history as the man who popularized “The Twist,” a song originally a minor hit for Hank Ballard. Evans was given the name “Chubby Checker” by (American Bandstand host) Dick Clark’s wife, as a play on “Fats Domino,” whom Evans did impressions of in his act.
Checker’s recording of “The Twist” was a number one Billboard Hot 100 smash in 1960—and again in 1962. The song kicked off a nationwide dance craze, and Checker followed it up with such diverse hits as “Twistin’ USA,” “Let’s Twist Again,” “Slow Twistin’,” “Twistin’ Round the World,” “Twist It Up,” and (not really, but according to a bit of hilarious wikipedia vandalism) “You Stopped Twisting. Why?”
After all but dropping off the music charts in 1969, Chubby came back hard in a poignant 1988 duet with The Fat Boys:“The Twist (Yo, Twist!).”
Chubby certainly is an important figure in rock history, and no one thinks so more than Chubby. I was recently unpacking a box and ran across a page from the July 28, 2001 issue of Billboard Magazine. This page was actually stuck to my refrigerator door for ten years before my last move, and is a full-page, paid-letter from Chubby Checker addressing “the Nobel Prize nominators and the nominators of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, TV, radio, motion pictures, entertainment, entertainers, and the general public at large, world wide.” It’s seriously one of the strangest things I’ve ever read, and I was surprised to do some research and find its contents haven’t really been discussed, at length, by “the general public at large, world wide.” A full-page ad in Billboard couldn’t have been cheap, even in 2001—so whatever Chubby had to say must have been really important.
Click on image for larger version.
In this rambling letter, Chubby Checker ranks himself in terms of greatness amongst Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Dr. George Washington Carver, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney, and suggests that he alone is responsible for people “dancing apart to the beat.” According to Chubby, “dancing apart to the beat is the dance that we do when we dance apart to the beat of anybody’s music and before Chubby Checker it could not be found!” As he clarifies in the letter, essentially, if you dance with someone and you are not touching—and you are dancing to the beat… well, Chubby Checker invented that shit.
In the letter, Chubby demands that he get his own private space, away from other performers, in the courtyard of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where they are to erect a statue on a “thirty foot or so” pedestal of Chubby in the pose from his “Chubby Checker’s Beef Jerky” logo (!!!)
In the letter, he is somewhat dismissive of Elvis and The Beatles, who, in his eyes were nothing new, though they did improve upon the artists that came before them—just as Chubby improved upon the hit song which he covered. But Elvis and The Beatles, after all, didn’t invent dancing—as Chubby states, “let’s face the truth… this is Nobel Prize territory.”
Here’s the full text of the letter, just in case it sounds like I’m making any of this shit up (Checker’s grammar left intact):
This is my message to the Nobel Prize nominators and the nominators of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, T.V., Radio, Motion Pictures, Entertainment, Entertainers, and the general public at large world wide. Should you choose me I’ll consider it honorable. However I have conditions for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
To place the “Twist” symbol that’s on Chubby Checker’s Beef Jerky, this statue on top of a thirty foot or so pedestal in the courtyard of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. l would like to be alone, thank you. I changed the business. I am often called the wheel that Rock rolls on as long as people are dancing apart to the beat of the music they enjoy. Before ”Alexander Graham Bell”...no telephone. Before “Thomas Edison”... no light. Before “Dr. George Washington Carver”...no oil from seed or cloning of plants. Before “Henry Ford”...no V-8 Engine. Before “Walt Disney”...no animated cartoons. Before Chubby Checker…no “Dancing Apart to the Beat”. What is “Dancing Apart to the Beat”? Dancing Apart to the Beat is the dance that we do when we dance apart to the beat of anybody’s music and before “Chubby Checker” it could not be found!
Elvis Presley is the King of Rock & Roll, no doubt, and we love him. However Rock & Roll was already here. He just became the king of it. The Beatles who we all love so dearly, their likeness was done by the Beach Boys, Buddy Holly and The Crickets. But it’s evident that they did it much, much better. Hank Ballard wrote and recorded the “Twist”. The inner city kids made a dance to that song. The record died on radio. Radio stopped playing the record. The “Twist” was dead. No one was going to hear the record and no one was ever going to see the dance. We re-recorded the “Twist” and campaigned the song and the dance at DJ dance parties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Radio stations started to play the “Twist” by Chubby Checker. We finally made it to American Bandstand and showed the world what it was. Chubby Checker changed everything. He gave movement to a music that never had this movement before. The styles changed. The nightclub scene is forever changed. Checker gave birth to aerobics.
He gave to music a movement that could not be found unless you were trained at some studio learning something other than dancing apart to the beat. It’s fun. The “Twist” the only song, since time began, to become number one twice by the same artist. Oh yes, we’re Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But lets face the truth. This is Nobel Prize Territory.
The “Twist” is very recognizable when you dance apart to the beat. But “The Pony”, two on one side and two on the other side, the dance that I introduced in 1961 is the biggest dance of the century. They do it to everything, in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and now 2000’s. And what about my “Fly”? To explain it better, throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care. If you “Fly” you automatically do the “Shake”. From I959 to this moment it’s either the “Twist”, the “Pony”, the “Fly”, the “Shake” or some other nasty stuff in between.
Please l urge you not to look upon my comments as self-centered, proud love thy self. This is not what this is about. Since l have such a unique situation in the music business, I feel only I can explain it. If the music industry knew or understood this reoccurring phenomenon, that’s renewed every time the beat begins, they would have explained it through decades. Yes, “Dancing Apart to the Beat” is Chubby Checker. Everybody is doing it everyday, every month, every year, since it’s discovery in 1959. Chubby Checker’s given the music business something great. Now he wants his greatness returned.
I want my flowers while I’m alive. I can’t smell them when l’m dead. The people that come to see the show have given me everything. However l will not have the music business ignorant of my position in the industry. Dick Clark said, and l quote, “The three most important things that ever happened in the music industry are Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Chubby Checker”. Now l ask you. Where is my more money and my more fame? God bless and have mercy. You know I love you.
P.S. l am also placing this letter on www.chubbychecker.com for the world to see. It would grieve me to have them ignorant of what l stand for in the music industry. Chubby Checker is King of the way we dance worldwide since 1959.
Original pressings of Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album included a 15-second track called “Farewell to John Denver,” in which the late poet laureate of Colorado sings a line of “Annie’s Song” before he is strangled to death. In the Pythons’ defense, Denver begs in the lyrics: “let me drown in your laughter, let me die in your arms” (though he does not, as far as I can tell, come on Annie’s pillow).
The track was removed from the album when Denver sued the Pythons for unauthorized use of his song. Terry Jones replaced it with a stammering apology to the listener titled “Omitted on Legal Advice.”
The item which follows has been omitted on legal advice. Uh, once again we apologize for that pause in the record which was owing to the, uh, original item being omitted on legal advice. However, I’m pleased to say we can now go on with the record, so here we are with “Finland, Finland.”
“David Bowie: The Un-Aired Interview, 1977” is all the information offered by the YouTube uploader, but the context is fairly obvious anyway: He’s being interviewed in a hotel room during a 1977 press junket in Holland to promote Heroes. It’s pretty long and if you’re a Bowie fan, it’s quite entertaining. He’s especially “real” and down to Earth here, obviously a rarity in his 70s interviews until this time (as he cops to, admitting that every interview he was doing during the Ziggy Stardust era was “in character.”)
Bowie charmingly and enthusiastically discusses his plans to produce DEVO (who the Dutch interviewers have never heard of), working with Eno on Heroes and the slog of show business rituals such as the one that they are all involved in at that very moment.
In the middle, Bowie does a lip-sync of “Heroes” while the camera stays in the control room. Afterwards there’s a photo session with dozens of photographers during which two young boys present him with a book about Egon Schiele (Bowie intended to play the artist in a film biography around that time) which he’s obviously psyched about! Then the footage ends back in the hotel room for more Q&A.
Those who know Sean Yseult are most likely to remember her as the woman who brought some seriously HUGE ROCK BASS to the transformative ‘80s/‘90s groove-metal band White Zombie. Since the end of that band in 1998, she’s played in other, less all-consuming outfits, and has returned to her originally intended trajectory as a designer and photographer. Like many, many memorable bands, White Zombie formed at an art school, specifically Parsons, where Yseult studied photography and graphics. Even as a full-time recording and touring musician, Yseult continued to shoot. Her documents of those years are collected in the book I’m In the Band, and since then she’s attracted praise for purveying gauzy, nostalgically-charged photos that express influences from Bellocq, Weimar erotica, the antiqued surfaces and grim moods of Joel-Peter Witkin, and the decadent, occultic history of her adopted hometown of New Orleans. By all means, have a look at it on her web site.
Recently, her work has taken an unexpected turn. Abandoning the dreamy atmospherics, Yseult has produced a visually livid and unsparing series that’s interesting for what it reveals rather than what it implies. These are huge prints, starkly lit and sharp as can be, an array of mystic still-lifes and elaborately staged tableaux vivants depicting the lavish gathering of a 19th Century secret society. A show of the work, Soirée D’Evolution, will open Saturday at the Scott Edwards Gallery in NOLA. The large size is understandable—one could return to these photos repeatedly and still keep finding new things stashed away in them, and there was just so much to unpack from the things that we decided it was best to just ask Yseult to walk us through a few of them.
My sister and I were in the Louvre, in the Dutch Masters wing. We got almost lost in there for about two hours, and at some point, she said to me “you know, for your next show, you have such an odd collection of things in your house, so many antiques and human skulls and strange things, you should just create a bunch of still lifes.” That was my original inspiration for the show, looking at these enormous paintings with all these garish things going on, and that was what I decided I should do, photo-realism but with actual photos [laughs]. I’d never done such detailed color photography before, nor had I ever gone so large. The thing that stays similar to the past work is thematically I’m always kind of obsessed with history and the macabre.
I started off with one still-life based on a kind of a Catholic reliquary and votive holder, decorated with human skulls, antique musical instruments, and candles. That was the first photo I took, it’s called “Opening Ceremony.” I ended up doing a lot of research on New Orleans and secret societies and the Krewes, these very high society people who created Mardi Gras and the parades here, around the 1850s. I ended up basing the whole show around 1873, because there’s an antique store around the corner from me where I bought this French banner dated 1873. It has musical instruments on it, and some information, which when I looked it up it led me to a story about the Wild Girl of Champagne, France. That was a feral girl found in the region of France where the flag was from, she’d been living alone in the woods for ten years. She’d escaped a ship that was raided by pirates, and when she was found, she’d been living off of killing animals and sucking their blood for nourishment, or sometimes catching fish and just eating them raw. So that was the second photo, a tableaux vivant of that. That’s her holding the club, and the guy on the other side represents the abbey in that town—when she was captured she was held in a castle next to that abbey.
Like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis before them, two members of Lodi, New Jersey’s Misfits changed their tune and got right with Jesus. In the late 80s, exchanging devilocks for golden curls and “Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?” for “In God We Trust,” they renounced sin and turned to praise metal.
Immediately after the Misfits’ breakup, Glenn Danzig fucked off to form Samhain with Lyle Preslar and Brian Baker of Minor Threat. Punk stardom, and the royalties from posthumous Misfits releases, were his; metal stardom would soon follow. But it was “oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again” for Misfits bassist Jerry Only (né Gerard Caiafa) and his brother, guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (né Paul Caiafa), who found themselves in a less enviable position. Only had financed the Misfits’ seven-year career by working at the Caiafa family machine shop, and this perhaps took on the appearance of a shit deal during the lean years after the breakup.
The cassette cover of Kryst the Conqueror’s Deliver Us from Evil EP
Now wise to Satan’s snares, the brothers vowed nevermore to be the devil’s plaything and evermore to be his scourge. To that end, they formed a Christian metal band c. 1987 called Kryst the Conqueror, recruiting Yngwie Malmsteen’s singer, Jeff Scott Soto, and a drummer credited as “The Murp” on Kryst’s lone release. Soto, who was Journey’s lead singer from 2006 to 2007, once looked like this:
Rechristening himself Mocavius Kryst (“Mo the Great” for short), Jerry Only spearheaded a viking-themed heavy metal act with Doyle called Kryst the Conqueror. Joined by fellow Lodian Jim Murray on drums, Kryst the Conqueror embraced a galloping power metal sound a la Helloween or Manowar. The overt Christian themes were difficult to ignore, however, not only in the band’s name but on their singular release, 1990’s self-pressed Deliver Us from Evil EP, which boasts songs such as “In God We Trust” and “Trial of the Soul.” There were also “Mo the Great’s” various fan club writings at the time. To wit: “In the final days of the second millennium, I, Mocavius Kryst, and my men now swear this pact with God. For it is by His command that I now open the gates, unleashing the fury of His vengeance… behold the power of truth for it burns its light up the sword of my brother.” “We don’t want people to come out and say, ‘They were great, but they’re into that devil shit,’” Only explained to Yeszista. “That’s not it, all of our songs are about going out and chasing the son of a bitch. That’s what it’s all about… if I made Kryst with a ‘C,’ people are gonna say, ‘He’s making fun of God.’ We’ve come in His name to do the job.”
Former cohorts would question the validity of the Caiafas’ sudden conversion to ultrapiousness (“They’re about as born again as Anton LaVey,” Bobby Steele snorted to MRR in 1992). Further doubts surrounded Jerry’s proclamation that Kryst the Conqueror was on par with Led Zeppelin and that the band’s music would sustain for a minimum of three decades. When push came to shove, “unleashing the fury” ultimately proved somewhat tricky for Kryst: The band never managed to employ a full-time singer as Jeff Scott Soto, the vocalist who sang on Deliver Us from Evil, was under contract to Swedish guitar sensation Yngwie Malmsteen at the time and could not commit fully to another project. In fact, Soto couldn’t even legally be credited in Deliver Us from Evil‘s liner notes—the vocalist listed on the sleeve is, in fact, Kryst the Conqueror.
Kryst the Conqueror has not been heard from since Jerry “Mocavius” Only won the right to the Misfits’ name in 1995. The new Misfits promptly hit the road, introducing the world to Republican singer Michale Graves, who is best remembered today as a vocal supporter of President George W. Bush. Hail Satan?
The Kinks-inspired stage show Sunny Afternoon won Best Musical at the Olivier Awards (the British equivalent of the Tonys) on Sunday night, while Ray Davies won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music for his work on the show’s score.
Accepting his award, Davies said, “When you write songs you write about people. Without people we have no plays, we have no films. People are the source of my material. Next time you’re sitting in a park and you see someone like me looking at you, don’t phone the police—I’m just writing about you.”
The show was written by dramatist Joe Penhall and tells the story of the early life of brothers Ray and Dave Davies and their band The Kinks. The actors who play Ray and Dave, John Dagleish and George Maguire, won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively.
Sunny Afternoon brings together over 30 of The Kinks’ songs including “You Really Got Me,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” “I Go To Sleep,” “Waterloo Sunset,” and tracks from the concept albums Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (1970) and Everybody’s in Show-Biz (1972).
During his time with The Kinks, Ray Davies began to move away from writing singles to concentrating on concept albums/musicals, most notably The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968), Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) (1969) (which was tied-in to a television drama), Preservation Act 1 (1973), Preservation Act 2 (1974), Soap Opera (1975) (which was made into a TV musical Starmaker), and later the film Return to Waterloo (1984), which Davies wrote and directed.
Davies’ shift towards more theatrically-inspired albums came after the disappointing response to The Kinks’ ninth studio album Muswell Hillbillies (1971). In April 1972, The Kinks were touring and promoting that record when they appeared on German TV’s Beat Club, where they performed a selection of tracks from the album and more. This was The Kinks last recording session for the show, with Beat Club going off air later that year. In total, eleven songs were performed by the band, though only one (“Muswell Hillbillies”) was ever aired.
In spring 2009, Radio Bremen presented a “new” transfer that collected together all the known clips from the session, including previously unseen performances of “Holiday” and “Alcohol.” Taken from that package comes this edited version of The Kinks’ Beat Club session, presenting six of the tracks performed: “Lola,” “Holiday,” “Alcohol,” “Skin and Bones,” “Muswell Hillbillies” and “You Really Got Me.”