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David Bowie on ‘Heroes,’ Iggy & Eno: ‘The Un-Aired Interview,’ 1977
11:55 am


David Bowie

“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.

All in all, this is one of the very best Bowie interviews I’ve ever seen. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, “The world will never run out of “newly uncovered” David Bowie videos.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The macabre occult photography of White Zombie’s Sean Yseult

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.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Kryst the Conqueror: When The Misfits went all Christian metal

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:

The biography This Music Leaves Stains: The Complete Story of the Misfits gets up close and personal with Kryst:

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?
Kryst the Conqueror’s entire unreleased album:

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
The Kinks: Blistering ‘Beat Club’ session with songs from ‘Muswell Hillbillies,’ 1972
11:57 am


The Kinks
Beat Club

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.”

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Dolly Parton talks about growing up poor, 1978
08:47 am


Dolly Parton


I’m just pretty open and honest. There’s not just a whole lot I won’t tell you.

Right before her Playboy photoshoot in 1978, Dolly Parton sat down with interviewer Larry Grobel to talk about growing up poor in Tennessee with 11 siblings. She gives sweet and sincere answers to Grobel about her childhood, being a teenager and fashion.

Just to give you a taste, below she’s describing what it was like to sleep with her brother and sisters in the same bed every night:

Dolly Parton: I would wash every night. And as soon as I go to bed, the kids would wet on me and I’d have to get up in the morning and do the same thing.

Larry Grobel: When they wet on you, though, did you get up and wipe yourself down or just sort of accepted it?

Dolly Parton: No, that was the only warm thing we knew in the winter time. That was almost a pleasure to get peed on because it was so cold. Lord. It was as cold in the room as it was outside. We’d bundle up to go to bed.

Where most people would be complaining about this type of upbringing, she speaks of her childhood with sincere affection or sweetly giggles it off. It’s all she knew.

I’ve always loved Dolly. This interview made me love her even more.


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner with ass-kicking West African rockers Songhoy Blues—a DM premiere
05:51 am


Nick Zinner
Songhoy Blues

It’s extremely tempting to compare Songhoy Blues with Tinariwen. Both bands hail from Mali, and offer a GRIPPING Saharan blues that takes significant inspiration from Western rock music. Both bands also share, in their backstories, flights from political unrest and refugee experiences that had direct consequences for their bands’ formation. There are of course differences—Tinariwen are Tuareg nomads who favor hypnotic, reflective explorations to match the desert’s stark vistas. Songhoy Blues tend towards a more animated approach, being of the urbane Songhoy people, a once-prominent group now marginalized by Islamist militias who’ve imposed an incredibly strict reading of Sharia rule in parts of Mali back in 2012, a reading that includes a prohibition against playing music. There’s a history of enmity between the Tuareg and Songhoy, though perhaps the common enemy of an encroaching hardline theocracy might temper that conflict.

Guitarist Garba Touré is the son of Oumar Touré, a percussionist who played with the practically deified guitarist Ali Farka Touré. As a refugee in Bamako, Garba met musicians Aliou Touré and Oumar Touré. (No relation except where noted—Touré is an extremely common name. Think of it like how there were three unrelated guys coincidentally named “Taylor” in Duran Duran.) The three formed Songhoy Blues with drummer Nat Dembele, and while there have been plenty of African artists who’ve connected their traditional music with Western forms, few created such an immediate sensation. The band was featured prominently in They Will Have to Kill Us First, a documentary about the survival of Malian music after the Islamist takeover in the north of that long-troubled nation, and they’d soon enjoy the patronage of Blur’s Damon Albarn and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, who performed on the song “Soubour” with them. He related that meeting to DM in an email exchange:

I first saw them while I was in Mali with the Africa Express project together with Damon Albarn and Brian Eno. We were all there to make a record in a week and were scouting different artists to collaborate with. We saw Songhoy Blues play and I was immediately struck by their insane guitar player and the fact that they had a proper lead singer, which I learned was quite rare in Mali. Basically, they were a fantastic and energetic band.

I had no idea what to expect when I first met them, and I’m sure the same goes for them, but we managed to record “Soubour” in about an hour. When I was first mixing it while we were all in Bamako it was cool to have all these musicians on the trip come up where I was working and say ” soooo… I hear you’ve got something”. I recorded Damon for the background vocals, and everyone started dancing to it when we had our first group playback night.

The language barrier wasn’t that big of an issue, I speak some French and Manjul, our engineer, also helped with translations when I went back to Bamako to produce the record. It’s really a cliche, but I believe it’s remarkably true how well we were all able to overcome any barriers with the music itself and communicate clearly both ways. Despite not being able to understand most of the words, the band would explain what the song was about and I was able to connect pretty deeply on an immediate emotional level with what they were doing. I think their music and melodies are so strong that those types of barriers are basically irrelevant.


“Soubour” damn near steals the show on the excellent 2013 Africa Express compilation Maison Des Jeunes, and it’s the first single from their album Music in Exile, which was co-produced by Zinner, and sees its US release next week. DM is pleased to debut the official video for ‘Soubour,’ which unsurprisingly features Zinner, who takes a back seat and lets the band kick some mighty ass.

A previous video for the song, after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Sun City Girls’ Alan Bishop pays mind-bending tribute to Indonesian psych-rockers Koes Plus

Bands like Sun City Girls don’t come around often. Born in the Phoenix, AZ weirdo-punk scene that birthed the Meat Puppets and JFA, Sun City Girls distinguished themselves by being the weirdest. Cheekily naming themselves after a retirement community northwest of Phoenix, they explored long-form improv, tape manipulation, and world music, with lyrics steeped in esoterica and UFOlogy. They were a musically gifted, wonderfully tweaked, consciousness-expanding delight, and in about two and a half decades of existence, the prolific band produced dozens upon dozens of full-length releases. Just between 1986 and 1989 alone, they released about two dozen cassettes, none of which are gettable except for the first, the astonishing Midnight Cowboys From Ipanema—a hodgepodge of warped classic rock covers and short original song snippets recorded on a tape deck whose batteries were dying—which was reissued on CD in 1994. Other vital SCG albums include 1990’s definitive Torch of the Mystics (did I say “definitive” when I meant “essential?” OOPS), Dante’s Disneyland Inferno, 98.6 IS DEATH, and their surprisingly accessible swan song, Funeral Mariachi.

The band ended in 2007, with the cancer death of drummer Charles Gocher. I must veer off topic for a moment to relate a Gocher story: in 1992, when the Sun City Girls were on tour with another favorite band of mine from that period, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, both bands crashed at my house after their show at Cleveland’s Euclid Tavern. My housemates and I had turned our attic into a makeshift noise lab, replete with iffy guitars, iffier amps, a couple of beat-ass horns, a reel-to-reel deck for loops, an ad-hoc scrap metal “drum kit,” and a four track cassette recorder. Gocher, who was celebrating his 40th birthday that day, if I remember correctly, was notably absent from the living room hangout that was going on until he poked his head out from the stairwell and said “Hey, I found the attic, you guys wanna play?” It was like 3:30 in the morning in a residential neighborhood, so there was NO WAY that could happen without police involvement. I truly wish it were otherwise; I’d love to be able to say I rocked with the Girls and the Fellers. But I respect and admire the shit out of a guy who, at 40, in the wee hours of the morning, in the comedown from a gig, is still raring to throw down some improv with his college-age hosts. More musicians should be like him, but they aren’t, so it’s understandable that in the wake of his loss, the remaining Sun City Girls, brothers Richard and Alan Bishop, declined to continue the band.
The music starts after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Siouxsie Sioux dolls
10:59 am

Pop Culture


Siouxsie Sioux doll by Refabrications
Somehow I found myself googling “Siouxsie Sioux dolls.” The best ones, IMO, are done by Alyissa Brown AKA Refabrications. I *think* you can purchase the dolls on her website.

I tried to find other Siouxsie dolls by different artists, but sadly the majority of them just ended up looking like Edward Scissorhands.

I couldn’t find the artist’s name for the amigurumi Siouxsie Sioux. So if anyone out there knows, tell me in the comments and I’ll update the post with proper credit and a link.

Siouxsie Sioux doll by Refabrications

Siouxsie Sioux doll by Refabrications

Siouxsie Sioux doll by Refabrications
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
John Lennon sees a UFO in New York City, 1974
06:49 am


John Lennon
Bob Gruen

The November 1974 issue of what was then known as “Andy Warhol’s Interview” featured a curious interview with John Lennon, conducted by Dr. Winston O’Boogie, who, for those in the know, was one of Lennon’s better-known aliases. (Lennon’s middle name was Winston.) We’ve posted all of the pages of the interview below; the full, playful, and rather awkward title is “Interview/Interview With By/On John Lennon and/or Dr. Winston O’Boogie.” I found it at the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, who has graciously allowed Dangerous Minds to reproduce it here.

The entire interview is vintage Lennon being playful and generally full of beans; at the time he was promoting Walls and Bridges—in the liner notes was a curious note that read as follows: “On the 23rd August 1974 at 9 o’clock I saw a U.F.O. - J.L.”

In the interview, Lennon took the opportunity to expand on that note:

A. If you look closely at the wonderful “Walls and Bridges”, out now, album package, you will notice a little notice saying, “I saw a U.F.O. . . ” why don’t you ask me about that?

Q. Oh. I hadn’t noticed, did you really . . . where you drunk? high? having a primal?

A. No. Actually I was very straight. I was lying naked on my bed, when I had this urge . . .

Q. Don’t we all . . . ?

A. So I went to the window, just dreaming around in my usual poetic frame of mind, to cut a long short story, there, as I turned my head, hovering over the next building, no more than a hundred feet away was this thing . . . with ordinary electric light bulbs flashing on and off round the bottom, one non blinking red light on top . . . what the Nixon is that! I says to myself (for no one else was there) . . . is it a helicopter? No! It makes no noise . . . ah then, it must be a ballon! (Frantically trying to rationalize it, in all my too human way) but no!! Balloons don’t look like that, nor do they fly so low, yes folks, it was flying (very slow, about 30 m.p.h.,) below . . . . I repeat, below most roof tops (i.e. higher than the ‘old building’ lower than the ‘new’.) all the time it was there, I never took my eyes off it, but I did scream to a friend who was in another room “Come and look at this” etc. etc. My friend came running and bore witness with me. Nobody else was around. We tried to take pictures (shit on my polaroid, it was bust) with a straight camera. We gave the film to Bob Gruen to develop, he brought back a blank film . . . . said it looked like it had been thru the radar at customs . . . .  well, it stayed around for a bit, then sailed off.

Q. Did you check to see . . . . . . .

A. Yeh, yeh, the next day Bob (is it in focus) Gruen rang the Daily News, Times, police to see if any one else reported any thing. Two other people and or groups of/ said they too saw something . . . . . anyway I know what I saw . . . . . . .

In his song “Nobody Told Me,” which was recorded during the Double Fantasy sessions but wasn’t released until several years after Lennon’s death, there appears the line “There’s a UFO over New York and I ain’t too surprised,” which is surely a reference to that 1974 incident.

Lennon’s companion that night was almost certainly May Pang, with whom he took up during an extended separation from Yoko Ono. Steven Tucker, in his book Paranormal Merseyside, expands on Lennon’s UFO sighting (note: I don’t vouch for any of the information in that book):

David Bowie … was an amateur ufologist before he became famous in the guise of his Ziggy Stardust persona; he once stood up on top of a rooftop in Beckenham pointing a coathanger into the sky and seeing if he could pick up any alien messages from outer space. Apparently, he only gave up in this task when a passer-by asked him if he could get BBC Two!

Given this climate of UFO belief among the top pop stars of the time, then, perhaps it should come as little surprise that John Lennon himself—the most UFO-obsessed member of the band—claimed to have had his own saucer sightings, at least according to his one-time girlfriend May Pang. Supposedly, the two lovers were in their apartment in New York one night when they saw a spaceship flying by. It was shaped like “a flattened cone” with a “large, brilliant red light” on top and “a row or circle of white lights” running around its rim. It was flying below roof level and giving off visible heat waves and yet, strangely enough, nobody else saw it, other than Lennon and Pang, standing there in wonder on the balcony. The aliens didn’t land and take them away, however, perhaps being frightened off by the fact that they were both stark naked at the time. Pang later made the claim that Lennon had seen other UFOs before this night, and that he felt he might have been abducted by extraterrestrials while still a child living in Woolton.

That UFO sighting, curiously, might be the second-most interesting thing about that Interview feature. The picture that accompanied the piece, by Bob Gruen, is one of the most iconic images in rock and roll history, John Lennon standing on the roof of his building wearing a sleeveless white “NEW YORK CITY” shirt. It’s been reproduced countless times and is certainly the most famous image Gruen, even with his illustrious history as an elite rock photographer, ever took. This appearance in Interview was probably the first time anyone in the world at large ever saw that picture.

Also, it was taken just a few days after that UFO sighting (Gruen of course also has a cameo appearance in that tale). According to Lennon’s liner note on Walls and Bridges, the sighting was on August 23, 1974, and that picture was taken, according to New York magazine, less than a week later: “It was August 29, 1974, midday, and John Lennon, nearly 34 at the time, was up on the roof of his rented East 52nd Street penthouse.”

Here is that Interview feature, in full:

(If you click on the next three images, you will be able to see a much larger version.)




Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Do you remember ‘Night Flight’?’
12:38 pm

Pop Culture

Night Flight

This is a guest post written by Kevin C. Smith, author of Recombo DNA: The story of DEVO, or how the 60s became the 80s.

“Do you remember Night Flight?”

It’s a seemingly innocuous yet ultimately loaded question for the culturally adventurous of a certain age. For Night Flight was the sort of cultural touchstone that—if one was lucky enough to have experienced it firsthand—one is not likely to forget and can even serve as a sort of secret handshake decades later. Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre has gone so far as to claim, “I learned about punk from this cable show called Night Flight” and Richard Metzger, co-founder of this very blog, described his intentions for Dangerous Minds to the New Yorker as, “a late-night television network for heads, like Adult Swim, but different. Do you remember Night Flight in the early eighties? Something like that.”

A lot has been made of MTV’s launch on August 1, 1981, but Night Flight—appearing on the fledgling USA Network—beat them to the punch by nearly two months premiering on June 5 of the same year. Though Night Flight played its fair share of videos and music films, its scope was much broader encompassing all manner of cult films and shorts extending back over several decades. However wide-ranging its programming, though, it was always informed by a subversive, outsider sensibility. The show had no host, just a disembodied female voice accompanied by (at the time) cutting edge computer animation of the Night Flight logo (unsettlingly similar to the 80s cheese rock band Night Ranger’s own logo) flying over darkened landscapes.

The show ran every Friday and Saturday from 11PM to 7AM but actually only contained four hours of programming simply repeating the previous four hours again at 3AM. This inevitably led to hordes of teenagers making the ill-advised decision to stay awake for at least four additional hours to catch anything they missed the first time around (especially if they had the VCR cued up with a blank tape). Imagine that kind of dedication in today’s on-demand generation. Just what you would see when you tuned in was anyone’s guess. It could be a contemporary rock documentary such as the Clash’s semi autobiographical Rude Boy; Urgh! A Music War featuring performances from the Cramps, DEVO, X, Pere Ubu, and Gary Numan amongst a host of other; or Another State of Mind documenting Social Distortion and Youth Brigade’s ill-fated cross-country tour (an education in punk rock indeed). Or it could be 1938’s The Terror of Tiny Town, the world’s only musical Western with an all midget cast; cheesy Japanese tokusatsu TV show Dynaman (dubbed with completely different parody dialogue); Reefer Madness; Proctor and Bergman’s J-Men Forever! or classic 1919 German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. There were plenty of brand new music videos (like The Residents’ “Three-Minute Movies”) as well including a segment dedicated to Britain’s Some Bizarre Records (Coil, Foetus, Einstürzende Neubauten, etc.) or the popular “Take Off” segments (how about “Take Off to Sex” featuring Duran Duran’s uncensored “Girls on Film” video?), or live in studio performances courtesy of Peter Ivers’ (originally cable access) New Wave Theatre from the likes of Fear, Circle Jerks, or Suburban Lawns.

So who, you might ask, was behind this creation? The show was the brainchild of Stuart Shapiro who had run a film distribution company which had specialized in cult films (“pretty much horror films and music films” he has said) many of which had ended up in the eccentric yet social atmospheres of midnight screenings. While the nascent cable networks offered a great deal of promise bordering on hype for expanding television’s horizons, they were yet to deliver on that promise. “At that time there was this sort of evangelistic attitude that cable was really gonna come out and be another world for alternative programming,” Shapiro recalled.

Cable television promised to reach niches previously underserved. “It was gonna be the birth of a freer reign of programming.” One key area that Shapiro saw was sorely lacking was the late night time slot. Many channels simply stopped airing content after 11 or midnight. From seeing the films he distributed performing well on the midnight movie theater circuit, Shapiro “knew that there was a culture of late-night [moviegoers] that were hungry for programming late at night on the weekends. In the beginning, the cable system was going dark late at night - there was really nothing on, so I felt it was a wonderful opportunity to try to put cool hip programming on television.” Shapiro’s business partner, Jeff Franklin, happened to have a friend at the USA Network and when they pitched their idea there they already had the bulk of their programming in Shapiro’s quirky catalog. In addition to the go ahead from the network, USA exerted no control over the pair’s programming choices. “It was the height of freedom,” Shapiro recalls. (What’s more, the network had no way to track which segments were driving the show’s overall ratings.)

Night Flight played a large part in exposing people to up and coming bands (and not just those on major labels with mainstream commercial potential) as well as the new format of the music video but they did even more by putting those videos in perspective by placing them in the larger context of underground video art. In time, of course, they would come to be seen as nothing more than advertisements selling a product. But Night Flight represented the kind of free form spirit embodied in places like college radio where ratings and revenue were not factors but trust in your favorite DJ was enough to for you to give them an hour or two of your time to see where their idiosyncratic taste would take you. It was an approach that would not last through the decade with Night Flight’s final episode airing on Saturday, December 31, 1988.

MTV’s corporate and unadventurous programming would eventually win the day and become the future (and eventual demise) of music video programming. “Discovery was the most important ingredient about Night Flight,” Shapiro would later recall. “You could come and sit down and know that you would be turned on to discover something, no matter what segment it may be.”

Night Flight Odds n’ Ends”:

More ‘Night Flight’ after the jump…

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