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R.I.P. Jack Bruce of Cream
10.25.2014
09:22 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
Jack Bruce
Cream


 
This morning, the home page of the great British blues/rock bassist Jack Bruce announced his passing, of unspecified causes.
 

 
Bruce was of course best known as the bassist and singer of Cream, the heavy blues-rock band of the late ‘60s that is justly credited with contributing to the invention of heavy metal, and which also featured guitarist Eric Clapton and completely insane drummer Ginger Baker. After that band’s dissolution, Bruce was the only band member not to join Blind Faith, instead pursuing a career playing bass in jazz and blues trios, and working solo, and notably, he was the bassist on almost all of Lou Reed’s high-watermark album Berlin.

Just six months ago, Bruce released his first solo album in over ten years, Silver Rails. It will presumably be his last word, though there will surely be some posthumous blood-from-a-stone compilations in the offing. There’s excellent background info on Bruce’s early career (and terrific recent interview footage with him) in the must-see Ginger Baker documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, which is streaming on Netflix. The 1969 documentary on Bruce, Rope Ladder To The Moon details his early solo career. You can watch it here. Among other great performance moments to be seen here, about 17 minutes in there’s some SCORCHING live footage of Bruce playing upright jazz bass with Dick Heckstall-Smith and John Hiseman of the British prog/jazz/rock band Colosseum. The song is “Over the Cliff” from the 1970 LP Things We Like. Naturally there’s Cream footage included, as well.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Long live the Ramones: Incredible unseen early Ramones news story!
10.25.2014
08:10 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Ramones


 
Just when you thought there was nothing left to see, that you’d watched every Ramones clip YouTube has to offer, up pops something like this. A veritable ten-minute rock and roll history lesson from the Ramones. The fact that they were put on TV this early in the midwest is shocking enough, but for an extended story that is quite unedited, where their message comes across loud and clear, a message that holds true to this day and forever, well, it’s just something else. It’s so exciting for me to revisit the open and endless possibilities of that time, to see the group embraced by small town weirdo hippies turning punk right before our eyes as the whole country got bored of so-called “rock music” and disco! And the local news (or maybe this was a local PBS newsmagazine, it’s hard to tell) totally getting it!

We see the band performing three numbers at the Red Lion in Champaign IL and signing autographs at the local Musicland store (‘mema them?). Johnny Ramone does most of the talking and he is already looking forward to retiring! Beyond great! Major thanks to whoever found this, it’s only been up on YouTube for a few weeks. And to think that I just received a gold record for the first Ramones’ LP (thank you Linda Ramone!) which took 38 years to happen. THIRTY EIGHT YEARS to sell 500,000 copies! I will never understand this. U2, who have a song about the Ramones on their new “download thing,”  had it put in 500 million iTunes subscribers pockets in one day. It’s not fair! But in the end it all came true as the Ramones become what they always knew they should be, one of the top most influential bands of all time… I just hope they can see it happening from whatever juvenile delinquent heaven they’re rehearsing in. Long live the Ramones!
 
kjpog
 

Posted by Howie Pyro | Discussion
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Mingus, Monk and more: Portraits of jazz greats painted on drum skins
10.24.2014
05:54 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
jazz
Charles Mingus
drums
Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk drum skin art by Nicole Di Nardo
Thelonious Monk
 
Twenty-seven-year-old Toronto based artist Nicole Di Nardo says her desire to paint portraiture on drums skins was inspired by “tondos” or “circular” works of art whose origins have been traced as far back to 500 BC in ancient Greece, then were popularized again during the Renaissance in the 14th century and in the 15th century by Sandro Botticelli. Di Nardo gives used drum skins she obtains from the Humber College of Music in Ontario a new life by hand painting images of jazz greats, especially drummers, on skins that have been worn in a way that helps illustrate the musical passion that drove her subjects to create their music. Here’s a little bit more from Di Nardo’s bio on her creative process:
 

I source skins that are beaten to the point of near uselessness by eager young musicians. I then repurpose the skin by selecting it based on its unique design, which corresponds to the portrait I wish to render. I am interested in painting portraits of musicians who have fire in their bellies, those that reach a transcendental state while performing which is reflected in their expression. During these moments, I believe the tarnish of life fades away and the human spirit is evident most clearly.

 
Di Nardo’s subjects also include a few rockers like Janis Joplin and Tom Waits, but it’s her portraits of Charles Mingus, legendary percussionist Max Roach, and modern day timekeeper Questlove that really shine. Di Nardo’s works run around $180 dollars each over at her Etsy store.  Images of Di Nardo’s works follow. Dig it, Daddy-O.
 
Charles Mingus drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Charles Mingus
 
Max Roach drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Max Roach
 
Elvin Jones drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Elvin Jones
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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The Beginning of Doves: EARLY live Marc Bolan performance from 1967


 
John Peel intros this early on—and I do mean really early on, he’d just left John’s Children—performance by his chum Marc Bolan’s brand new “little group,” Tyrannosaurus Rex.

After a single disastrous gig with a four-piece rock group, Bolan slimmed the act down to just himself and wild-man bongo player Steve Peregrin Took.

The duo are seen here performing in the legendary psychedelic nightclub, Middle Earth in late 1967. Tyrannosaurus Rex were one of the most regular acts to play the club, along with Soft Machine, Tomorrow, The Deviants and the Graham Bond Organization.

The number, “Sarah Crazy Childe,” was a John’s Children b-side written by Marc.

If there’s an earlier clip of Tyrannosaurus Rex, I’ve not seen it.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Mashup fun with Derek Jarman’s 1976 Sex Pistols footage
10.24.2014
04:04 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Derek Jarman
Sex Pistols


 
So I was searching YouTube, like one does, for interesting obscure music stuff to watch (and post to DM, of course), and lo, laid before mine eyes in the related videos column to the right of a Sylvain Sylvain video was “Sex Pistols - 1976 02 14 Butler’s Warph (sic) Earliest Known Footage,” shot by no less a luminary than the legendary underground filmmaker Derek Jarman! Now, for all I know, there may be earlier extant Pistols footage, but one way or the other, I don’t care, as the stuff is captivating. The young band is captured here in its initial burst of brash glory at a time when punk was still too young for its tropes to have become tedious clichés, and a technical happenstance rendered the footage absolutely lovely—as the captions will inform you when you watch it, Jarman shot this on Super-8 film at a nonstandard frame rate, rendering the footage soft, choppy, gauzy, and otherworldly.

When I muted the sound to answer a phone call, I noticed something—absent the Pistols’ music, it kind of reminded me a little of the video for “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by the Sundays. (If you don’t know it, click the link and take a few minutes to check it out, it’s a very pretty pop song that begins to border on shoegaze. It was popular among the 120 Minutes set in 1990, and it holds up quite well.) So suddenly, I was on a mission. I opened some new browser tabs and tried playing a couple dozen shoegaze, indie, dream-pop and post-rock songs along with the silenced Sex Pistols footage.

There are far worse ways to kill an evening.

I found something out rather quickly—there’s such a thing as too slow. Stuff I tried by Slowdive, Mogwai, and Godspeed You Black Emperor just didn’t work well at all. The music that seemed to work most satisfyingly was dense and trippy, but still uptempo. I encourage you to do some searching on your own—and please post your wins in the comments, of course, as I’d love to try them out—but I included some embeds that I liked in the hope that might start things rolling. Oh, and tiresome punk purist fogies getting ready to agonize at me about how HORRIBLY WRONG it is to play a Lush song over this precious heavenly golden dewdrop of rebel history? It’s a bit of fucking fun, lighten the hell up. I MEAN IT, MAAAAAN.

Here’s that Pistols film, to begin with, and a pile of alternate soundtrack options follows. I don’t even have to tell you to try playing them all at once, right?
 

 
It continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Appreciating the peculiar Euro-disco genius of Boney M.
10.24.2014
01:17 pm

Topics:
Dance
Music

Tags:
Boney M.


 
In addition to being a hell of a lot of fun, the 1970s Euro-disco sensations known as Boney M. are an academic paper on gender and ethnicity in popular music—or three—waiting to happen. Boney M.‘s best years were from 1974 to the early 1980s, a pretty healthy run for a genre that often favored one-hit wonders.

Operating out of Germany, Boney M. were an outfit consisting of one man and three women, all four of whom were from the Caribbean and read as “exotic” in the lily-white Vaterland. (Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett were from Jamaica; Maizie Williams was from Montserrat; and Bobby Farrell was from Aruba.) As their producer, Frank Farian, later attested, Farrell made almost no vocal contributions to the group’s studio output, while Farian himself performed the male parts for the recordings. Farrell’s primary functions were to look awesome and (just as with the three women) to dance his ass off, often in that synchronized Spinners sort of way. The vocal hooks were often quite infectious, and the busy beat gave people something to dance to. When Boney M. were good, they were very, very good.
 

 
They never did much damage in the U.S., but Boney M. were a force in Europe. Farian had a sense for how to get the most out of “unlikely” combinations of talents. His most notorious act (by far) was Milli Vanilli, who if you notice, followed a very similar template to Boney M., attractive black people pretending to sing vocal tracks they had not sung in the studio (to be fair, Boney M. generally did sing their own vocals in live settings). We encountered Farian a few months ago when we wrote about “Wow,” the Milli Vanilli opera. As Wikipedia blandly says of Farian, “His tendency to create bands with a visual image distinct from the recorded musical performances led to controversy in the case of Milli Vanilli.”
 
 
In any case, 1975 wasn’t 1990, so the media police were quite willing to let Boney M. persevere with their quasi-lip-synched presentation—of course, Boney M. never won any Grammys. Their first hit, “Baby Do You Wanna Bump?” was inventive disco to be sure (ripping off the horn riff from Prince Buster’s 1964 ska hit “Al Capone”—a song also “homaged” in The Specials’ “Gangsters”) but generic in terms of subject matter. With “Ma Baker” and “Rasputin,” Boney M. cashed in on the exoticism implied in their group’s concept.
 

 
The story of “Ma Baker” is likely the most interesting in Boney M.‘s catalog. The birth name of Ma Barker (not “Baker”) was Arizona Donnie Clark, and in the early 20th century her four sons committed enough violent crimes to be called “the Barker gang”—Ma Barker traveled with them as they terrorized the midwest. She was killed in a shootout with the FBI in 1935, and of all possible people J. Edgar Hoover called her “the most vicious, dangerous, and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.” Now that’s a resume! For whatever reason Farian felt that “Baker” sounded better than “Barker” (not that it matters, but I think he was wrong about this). So this track about a legendary American female crime lord was recorded by four black people from the Caribbean and overseen by a German—calling the music ethnologists, there are monographs to be written here…. (Probably worth pointing out right here that the b-side was a discofied take on the Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad” which was practically a Gregorian chant in the gloomy original!)
 

 
The exotic concept continued with “Rasputin,” which likely has the most hilarious lyrics in the Boney M. catalog—for instance, get this: “Rasputin! Lover of the Russian queen, there was a cat that really was gone. Rasputin! Russia’s greatest love machine, it was a shame how he carried on!” Alas, the Soviet Union banned the song, which probably didn’t bother Boney M. too much.
 
“Rasputin”

 
More delirious Boney M. videos after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Martha Stewart’s idea of a ‘punk rock party’ is the least punk rock thing that ever happened


 
So look: I’m a slacker to the bone, purest Generation X, product release 1970. When I was paying the most attention to pop culture—the early 1990s—Richard Linklater and Douglas Coupland were new figures to the cultural discourse, OK Soda was available in stores, Ethan Hawke was starring in Reality Bites, and Steve Albini was writing about fucked-up record deals in an issue of the Baffler with the words “Alternative to What?” on the cover. The point in me telling you all this is that (a) I’m comfortable with the term “sellout,” and (b) I’ll never not worry, at least a little, about something crossing over too much.

With these thoughts in mind, we turn to Alexandra Churchill’s recent article on Martha Stewart Living about “throwing a punk rock-inspired party,” which, I swear to god, I think may represent a new signpost in the debate about corporate cooptation of rock music, just like, say, Bob Dylan’s Victoria Secret ad. It may be the least punk thing has ever happened, right alongside the 2013 Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which took punk as its theme to honor the Institute’s exhibit “Punk: From Chaos to Couture” (if you haven’t seen the pictures in that link, you really need to click on it).
 

 
The pictures in the Martha Stewart Living article are utterly astonishing in their entitled, privileged cluelessness. Since punks are doomy and scary, they recommend serving “Spinach Ricotta Skulls” on a coffin-shaped platter, which obviously seems a lot more “goth” than “punk.” Their vision of “punk-inspired garlands” involve the use of safety pins—yes, MSL, you got that one right—and “plaid fabric,” which ends up evoking a Burberry’s catalog a lot more than it does the Bromley Contingent.
 

 
To be fair—which I’m doing despite myself—the text isn’t quite as bad as the imagery. Churchill at least has the wit to name-check “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “London Calling.” Honestly, if the phrase “ransom note” had even been mentioned as a possible design motif, I’d've let them off the hook completely. Apparently that did not occur to anyone. Instead they went with coffins and fondant with sheet music on it (?).
 

 
Even the one picture on the page that is within shouting distance of punk rock—the cover of the Police’s second album, Reggatta de Blanc—has this as its photo credit: “PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART.” Fuck the man!
 

 
I draw two lessons from all of this. The first is that the appeal of punk rock may be far stronger than anyone imagined. Punk rock—even the words “punk rock”—might be a toothless gesture in the direction of something angry and oppositional, but the root idea of it still has impressive staying power, to the point that someone at Martha Stewart Living wants to take some of it over and make it theirs, make it represent them. The second lesson is that there is still something profoundly scary about the anger and nihilism inherent in punk, to the point that Martha Stewart Living has to repress all traces of it and pretend that it’s a neutral style choice like the Pre-Raphaelites or Art Deco. Of course, it isn’t, and that very un-neutrality may mean that we’re heading for another 1977 moment in our culture sometime soon.

Here, MSL’s Erin Furey—almost an apt name, there—teaches you how to make Punk-Rock Inspired Pumpkins, or, er, “Studly Punk-ins,” at the end of which she hilariously throws down a “sign of the horns” hand gesture because it’s so punk rock!
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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JJ Burnel: Stranglers bassist, karate master
10.24.2014
07:41 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Sports

Tags:
The Stranglers
karate


If you find yourself in this situation, RUN.

Add this to the list of reasons to be very, very nice to Stranglers bassist and singer Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel, if you should ever meet him: he can kill you with his bare hands.

Burnel has, let’s say, a heavy reputation. According to the Guardian, the Stranglers’ authorized biography devotes no fewer than 20 pages to the subject “Burnel, violence.” The Stranglers’ former singer and guitarist, Hugh Cornwell, writes that he and Burnel fell out when the bassist attacked him backstage after a show in Italy, and that the incident was a factor in Cornwell’s decision to quit the band in 1990. Burnel had famously beaten up punk journalist Jon Savage in 1977 for giving No More Heroes a bad review in Sounds, and decades later, in an interview with Strangled, he was unrepentant about that encounter:

“I tracked him down one night to the Red Cow,” JJ explained. “And I punched his lights out right there in front of Jake Riviera, Andrew Lauder – our A&R guy, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe – all these people saw what I did. So yeah, we made a lot of enemies, bless ‘em, and these people got in a lot of influential positions within the music industry and literature… Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill… But we weren’t gonna suck up to these c*nts.”

 

Has anyone heard from the magazine editor who misspelled JJ’s last name recently?
 
Burnel, now 62, started training in martial arts at the age of 19. Since 1991, he has been the branch chief and chief instructor of the Shidokan GB organization. He is a sixth dan black belt, and as a teacher he has attained the formal title of Renshi. (I am just a flabby nerd from the suburbs and I do not pretend to know what these ranks and titles mean, but they scare the shit out of me.) According to the Shidokan GB website, London residents can train with Burnel at Slim Jims in Broadgate on Tuesday evenings. There are a few clips of Burnel in competition at the 1:40 mark in the segment below, from the ITV series After They Were Famous.

When most musicians say they have “chops”... oh, never mind.
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The amazing old Paramount Records ads that inspired R. Crumb


 
The story of Paramount Records is a fascinating one—the beginning is set about 100 years ago, in a Wisconsin furniture company that began pressing records in hopes that’d help them sell record players, which in their early years were indeed whoppin’ big ol’ pieces of furniture. The middle sees that furniture company curating and releasing a jaw-dropping and still legendary catalogue of classic early jazz and Delta blues 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The end of the story sees the closing of the company and disgruntled employees flinging those now priceless shellac records into the Milwaukee River and melting down the metal masters for scrap. The whole story can be found in greater detail online, or in the books Paramount’s Rise and Fall and Do Not Sell At Any Price.

What concerns us here are the label’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency. The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb. Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.

Here are a few of those ads. Where the ad copy is adequately readable, I encourage you to give it a look, because some of this stuff is priceless—I’m wondering how many old blues songs weren’t about wangs and adultery. Bear in mind, please, that the ads I chose to post here weren’t necessarily selected for resemblance to Crumb’s work. Some I simply felt like sharing because they were just too much!
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Ridonkulous ‘Beat Club’ showcase featuring Captain Beefheart, MC5, Alice Cooper, NY Dolls and more!


 
Beat Club was the German TV show dedicated to rock performance that later became Musikladen (Music Store), a show we’ve featured here at DM many times. I don’t know exactly what kind of acid they put into the performers’ (or the producers’) drinks, but this compilation, known as “The Crazy World” (and originally released on a Laserdisc) is totally out-o-sight and generally kicks ass. Enhancing all the rockin’ are a lot of groove-tastic green screen effects. The visuals on this show were almost as mind-bending as the audio.
 

The Three Faces of Vliet
 
The music is tuneful and heavy, all around. I’d scarcely heard any Flo & Eddie, but they hang right in there with the rest of them. I was prepared not to dig the Slade number much, but it rocked. Everything on this compilation rocks, even the otherwise sprightly number by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

They really don’t show music like this on TV anymore, like ever. I’m not sure people can even make music like this any more, maybe the iPhones are slowly sucking it out of us. Hmmm. I’m open to hypotheses.
 

Track listing:
Alice Cooper: “I’m Eighteen”
Alice Cooper: “Public Animal #9”
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: “I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby”
Phlorescent Leech and Eddie: “Feel Older Now”
MC5: “Kick Out The Jams”
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: “Fire”
Slade: “Goz I Luv You”
New York Dolls: “Lookin’ For A Kiss”
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band: “I’m The Urban Spaceman”

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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