Glamorous Romy Haag is one of the most famous transgender women in Europe and a cabaret performer of some renown. She is also well-known as a former lover and muse of David Bowie during his Berlin years (and indeed was the apparent reason for his move to the city in 1976). Her influence on his work is clearly evident in the “Boys Keep Swinging” video, where Bowie appears in triplicate as a chorus of drag queens.
Haag was born in 1948 and early in her life, the issue of gender reassignment was discussed. She developed breasts naturally. Haag left her home at the age of 13, working as a clown, then a trapeze artist with the Circus Strassburger before becoming a female impersonator in Paris. At this time, Haag began living as a woman.
After performing her nightclub act in Fire Island and Atlantic City in the early 70s, in 1974, she opened what would become Germany’s most popular nightclub during the disco-era at the age of 23, “Chez Romy Haag.” Celebrity guests included Bowie and Iggy Pop, who were regulars, Bryan Ferry, Freddie Mercury and Lou Reed. Mick Jagger was another patron and allegedly had a brief affair with Haag.
Haag began her musical career in earnest in 1977. In 1983, when she was in her 30s she had a sex change operation and in 1999, published an autobiography with the great title, A Woman And Then Some. She’s still an honored performer and going strong at the age of 67. Follow Romy Haag on Twitter.
Below, Romy Haag discusses her relationship with David Bowie.
Romy Haag in 1978 performing her disco single “Superparadise” on the ‘Musikladen’ TV show. Compare this to the “Boys Keep Swinging” video.
I don’t know about you, but as the years go by, I find that I really have to struggle to justify buying a CD or DVD anymore—not to my wife, I mean, but to myself. There’s a higher threshold for me spending ten bucks on a Blu-ray today than there ever was for me spending $59 for a VHS back in 1985 when I had far less disposable income.
Like with movies, if there’s little chance of repeat viewings, why would I want to own it? The last time I went to LA’s gigantic record emporium, Amoeba Records in Hollywood, I came home with seven DVDs and Blu-rays purchased with store credit and not one of them has even had the cellophane cracked on it yet. In fact, I doubt that I will watch ANY of them in the next twelve months. And perhaps not during the year after that. Or ever. And do I really, really NEED to own The Wizard of Oz on Blu-ray when it’s probably streaming in HD on Netflix? Why? What’s the real difference if it’s on a disc or digitally pumped into my house like a utility? Why did I bother?
Furthermore, I’m planning to move soon so I’m sizing up everything in my office with a wary eye, and most of what I’m keeping are straight up “in concert” DVDs with 5.1 soundtracks and stuff like that. Gorillaz. Pulp. Nick Cave. The Grateful Dead Movie. Born to Boogie. Paul McCartney and Wings’ Rockshow. Magical Mystery Tour. Yellow Submarine. The Monkees movie, Head. Tommy. The Last Waltz. Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones. Things like that. Things with “playability.”
I’m only boring you with this information, dear reader, to let you know that the latest release “From the Vaults” of the Rolling Stones, The Marquee Club Live in 1971, which comes out tomorrow on SD Blu-ray (and various other formats) from Eagle Vision, is one such “keeper.” If you’re a serious Stones fan, this short set showcasing some songs from the soon-to-be-released Sticky Fingers album and shot for American television (it doesn’t say for what exactly, or if this ever aired in the liner notes) is a must own. To my mind, this release, which has been lovingly remastered in DTS-HD Master Audio by Bob Clearmountain from the original multitrack masters (and they’ve done a great job with upscaling the video) belongs in the “essentials” of a Rolling Stones collection. Next month sees their Hyde Park concert of 1969 coming out, too. Can an unexpurgated release of Robert Frank’s notorious document of the Stones’ drug and groupie fuelled 1972 American tour Cocksucker Blues be far behind?
Tonight at the The Perfect Exposure Gallery in Los Angeles is the opening of a show of photographs taken at the Marquee by Alec Byrne from 7-9pm. The show will be running until the 28th.
Below, “Dead Flowers,” a clip from the Rolling Stones famous Marquee Club performance of 1971, shot in front of an audience of VIPS that included Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton.
This interview with Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO has been bouncing around for a while but with inexact provenance information. Yesterday Televandelist uploaded a better copy and usefully marked it as coming from The Cutting Edge Happy Hour, an MTV show started by the I.R.S. record label in 1983. For most of its existence the host of the show was the Fleshtones’ lead singer, Peter Zaremba, whose flat Long Island accent can be heard at the start of the clip.
It’s safe to say that this clip dates from 1987—Televandelist labeled it as 1987-1988. First off, Wikipedia explains that The Cutting Edge Happy Hour went off the air in 1987. Furthermore, Mothersbaugh was being interviewed to promote an exhibition of his postcard paintings—the astute Dave Thompson mentions in his book Alternative Rock that Mothersbaugh had just such an exhibition of his postcards in Los Angeles in 1987, so that’s certainly what we’re looking at here.
These are the same postcards featured in Mothersbaugh’s 2014 book Myopia, which we wrote about last November.
Towards the end of the interview Mothersbaugh offers his views on the future of society—not so strongly in the hyperbolic Mothersbaugh “character”—and they’re pretty darn interesting:
I’m anticipating a matriarch system, where women finally say, “We’ve had enough of this shit [bleeped] with men in control,” and they take over. I mean, they’re smarter, they’re prettier, they live longer, they’re healthier, they don’t need men to have children anymore, they don’t need us as beast of burdens anymore even, they got machines to take care of all that, and so I think men should be ready to assume their logical place on the planet, and that is as objects of pleasure for females.
Amazing! Mothersbaugh accurately anticipated much of this decade we are in—women are increasingly the breadwinners in many families, and the question of machines supplanting workers in general has already become a pressing issue for unions and politicians for the foreseeable future.
There exists a rich musical history of recorded songs about cocaine use dating at least as far back as Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson’s 1927 “Dopehead Blues,” or Dick Justice’s 1928 “Cocaine.” On one end of the spectrum are commendably classic tunes about nose-candy such as Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues,” J.J. Cale’s (later made shitty by Eric Clapton) “Cocaine,” and Laid Back’s quirky “White Horse,” which advises the listener to ride the “white pony” (coke), rather than the “white horse” (heroin), and of course on the other end of the spectrum are absolutely dreadful blow anthems that will totally ruin your night at the club like Buck Cherry’s “Lit Up.”
Perhaps the greatest (or at least weirdest) joy-powder paean comes to us via Jamaican artist, Dillinger. 1976’s “Cokane in My Brain” from his CB 200 album is a funky slice of reggae/proto-rap, clearly recorded under the influence of—I don’t know—let’s say a kilo of the white stuff. The song’s “riddim” is based on the Gamble and Huff-produced Philly soul classic “Do It Any Way You Wanna” by People’s Choice. The refrain “I got cocaine runnin ‘round in my brain” comes from Reverend Gary Davis’ “Cocaine Blues” but the (apparently) nonsensical riddle about the correct way to spell New York:
“A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork, that’s the way we spell New York, Jim!”
... comes from an actual Disney record!
Do go to the seven-minute mark and hit play. You will laugh:
“No matter where I treat my guests, you see they always like my kitchen best. Cause I’ve cocaine running around my brain.”
Incredibly, the song went to number one on the Dutch charts.
Here we have a video from the Dutch music program TOPPOP, broadcast in the Summer of 1977. TopPop was the first dedicated Dutch pop music TV show, broadcast weekly from 1970 to 1988. Hit songs were generally mimed by artists appearing on the show, but often times tracks were played to a dance routine by choreographer Penney de Jager and her troupe, as is the case with this particular clip.
TOPPOP choreographer, Penney de Jager
The feel of a ‘70s New York club is recreated here through a Dutch lens. The dancing seems a bit awkward, not through any fault of the talented dancers, but because the song itself is rather awkward in its coke-damaged delivery. Still, trust us, it’s an earworm you’re not likely to shake anytime soon.
A knife, a fork, a bottle, and a cork… That’s the way we spell New York
When the Specials’ self-titled first album, produced by Elvis Costello, dropped in 1979, it instantly became one of the founding documents of the ska revival movement, or 2 Tone, as it became known. The band had a remarkable run of hit singles from 1979 to 1981, with both “Too Much Too Young” and “Ghost Town” hitting #1 on the U.K. charts before the group broke up. Terry Hall , Neville Staple and Lynval Golding would go on to form Fun Boy Three, whilst the Jerry Dammers-led contingent pressed on as The Special AKA, releasing new material through 1984, including the influential hit single “(Free) Nelson Mandela.”
Before he even became the bassist of the Specials, Horace Panter, who went by Sir Horace Gentleman, had a degree in fine art from Lanchester Polytechnic, and he apparently imbibed a solid sense of the pop aesthetic in addition to considerable draftsmanship skills. From 1998 to 2008, Panter was “Head of Art” at a secondary school. Panter lists as his influences “Peter Blake, Kenneth Noland, Wayne Thiebaud, and Joseph Cornell as well as the naive style of Henri Rousseau.”
Panter’s pop art paintings cover a wide swath of ground but I found his series of cassettes the most amusing. Most of the canvases are about three feet wide, and many are available for purchase.
Clicking on any painting will yield a larger image.
Violet and Daisy Hilton had a life punctuated by great tragedy. Born out of wedlock in Brighton, England in 1908—the first conjoined twins born in Britain known to have lived longer than a few weeks—the sisters were actually sold by their mother Kate Skinner, who feared their conjoined condition was a punishment from God. The buyer was Skinner’s boss, Mary Hilton, who saw nothing but opportunity in the newly christened “Hilton Sisters.” Mary Hilton physically abused and isolated the twins, all while making a mint off their talents and “freak show” appeal. In 1926, Bob Hope formed a Vaudeville act called the Dancemedians with the sisters, who had a tap-dancing routine. They were an incredibly popular stage act of the day, but all of their money was kept by their handlers. When Mary died, the girls were bequeathed to her daughter, an equally awful woman.
Eventually the sisters sued themselves out of slavery, and received $100,000 in damages at the age of 23. This should have been enough to sustain them indefinitely, but the sisters found themselves ill-equipped for the outside world, and their lives of excess bankrupted them. During this time, they famously appeared in Tod Browning’s Freaks and had many love affairs—one even attempted to marry, but was told by a judge she was unfit due to their conjoined condition. The girls still pursued show business though, even playing themselves in a cheap exploitation film, 1951’s Chained for Life, a film usually screened these days alongside something like with Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space.
The last time the Hilton Sisters appeared in public was at a drive-in in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1961. They were abandoned by their manager there and with no money, forced to take a job in a nearby grocery store, where they worked for the rest of their lives. When the twins didn’t show up for their shift on 4 January 1969, their boss called the police who found them dead in their home. Daisy died first with Violet dying between two to four days later according to the coroner. Cause of their death was determined to be the Hong Kong flu virus.
In 2014, The Hilton Sisters were the subjects of director Leslie Zemeckis’ documentary Bound By Flesh.
The Hilton Sisters were truly talented musicians—hear some of their beautiful duets below and after the jump.
I think it was Liza Minnelli’s bright-eyed character Eliza in Albert Finney’s film Charlie Bubbles who noted that all the pleasure in life when collected together would probably only fill a thimble when compared to all the dull, beige and unhappy moments that weigh-in by the bucketload. Strangely, perhaps, I’ve always found this a reassuring thought as it makes life an adventure to be won. It’s always gladdening, therefore, to find one of those precious little delectations that put a skip in the day. Such a delight, well for me at least and hopefully for you too, is the Bonzo Dog Band’s short film The Adventures of the Son of Exploding Sausage from 1969 or thereabouts. This little vintage piece of Bonzology turns up now and again like some long lost friend, but usually disappears with the speed of a unauthorized clip of Prince getting his groove on.
I have loved the Bonzos since being smitten by their presence on Python-forerunner series Do Not Adjust Your Set when a very young thing, and was genuinely more disappointed by the news of their disbandment than by the break-up of The Beatles, or the retirement of Ziggy Stardust or the demise of The Young Ones after only two series. Why this should be has everything to do with the sheer pleasure to be found in their music—their love of novelty tunes, their ability to pastiche pop and an unruly genius for original and unforgettable songs. It is as if The Goons, Monty Python and The Beatles had formed a band.
The Adventures of the Son of Exploding Sausage is like the Holy Grail of Bonzo clips. It’s their take or version or whatever you want to call it of the Fab Four’s Magical Mystery Tour (which, of course, the Bonzos are in themselves, singing “Death Cab for Cutie” in the strip club scene), where similarly not very much happens, other than a trip out to the country, a visit to a farm, a meeting with some children, a game of football and a performance of the songs—“Rockaliser Baby,” “We are Normal” and “Quiet Walks and Summer Talks.” It’s a bit like the 1960s as a film—indulgent, fun, bubbly and rather messy.
This won’t be to everybody’s taste, but then again, why should it be? If you know it, you’ll enjoy it. If you don’t, why not give it a try?
Bonzos bonus clip at the Plumpton Jazz & Blues Festival, 1969, after the jump…
The incident that made Alice Cooper a household name was captured on film by D. A. Pennebaker, the director of Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop. It doesn’t appear in Sweet Toronto, Pennebaker’s documentary about the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see why it ended up on the cutting room floor. Let’s say it’s not long on “good-time rock and roll” vibes.
Like me, you’ve probably seen the split-second clip of Alice throwing the chicken into the Toronto festival audience dozens of times, but it’s a different story in the context of the actual feedback-soaked bacchanal. The climax of the set Pennebaker captures on these thirteen minutes of film is so violent, so unsettling and so totally deranged in 1969 terms that you can forgive witnesses for thinking the bird was ritually sacrificed, or deliberately shredded by the band as a Dadaist outrage.
Getting Alice Cooper on the bill at this festival was a coup for manager Shep Gordon, whose unlikely career in showbiz is the subject of the entertaining documentary Supermensch (now streaming on Netflix). As Alice and Shep tell the story, the manager turned down an offer for 30 percent of the festival’s profits, instead opting to book Alice for a nominal fee of $1. In exchange, Shep’s clients got the slot in between the festival’s two headliners: John Lennon, in his first performance without the Beatles, and the Doors. From Supermensch:
Alice Cooper: Sixty thousand people. We go on, and it’s great. We’re tearing the place up, and the feathers are going, and I look down and there’s a chicken onstage. The only person that could’ve bought the chicken was Shep, because nobody in the audience would bring a chicken to that concert. Nobody would say, “OK, I got my keys, I got my tickets, I got my chicken.”
Shep Gordon: I thought, “Let’s have a live chicken, it would be fantastic.” I threw it out at him.
AC: I took the chicken and tossed it, thinking it had feathers, it should fly. Well, it didn’t fly as much as it plummeted.
SG: Everybody went wild.
AC: The audience tore it to pieces.
SG: They threw it back at him. They threw back wings, and legs, and heads came flying back up on the stage. And then I saw blood, so I turned my head ‘cause I faint when I see blood.
AC: Next day in the paper, “ALICE COOPER RIPS HEAD OFF CHICKEN AND DRINKS THE BLOOD.” What should have been incredibly horrible press for anybody became the thing that put us on the map. Now we could do anything we wanna do!
Alice throws the bird at 11:38, but you’ll miss nearly all of the actual mayhem if you fast forward. The song they’re playing at the beginning, often called “Freak Out Song,” is a version of “Don’t Blow Your Mind” by proto-AC band the Spiders. It’s nice to learn that Alice was a fan of The Prisoner.
The great L.A. band the Byrds can be (and are) credited with seminal innovations in folk-rock and country-rock, with singer/guitarist/lone constant member Roger (nee Jim) McGuinn’s unmistakable 12-string Rickenbacker chime sharing the spotlight with the band’s commanding vocal harmonies. The band was comprised of straight up folkies who harbored a fascination with the Beatles’ self-contained band model, and while their original compositions were excellent (if you only know the two songs that concern us here, pick up a best-of, seriously), they remain best known for an early pair of folk covers: Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s Ecclesiastes adaptation “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Both were #1 hits, and were also the band’s only #1s.
A pair of YouTube videos endeavors to underscore the group’s impressive vocal skills by stripping away their music, and it’s really no surprise that what’s left is quite lovely. In The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, Peter Lavezzoli describes the Byrds’ harmonic process, ultimately boiling it all down to one member, guitarist/singer David Crosby:
For his part, Crosby applied his skills as a harmony singer in unconventional ways. Rather than attempting three-part harmonies like the Beatles (or five-part harmonies like the Beach Boys), the Byrds almost always employed the two-part harmony strategy of the Everly Brothers. But Crosby took the two-part approach a step further, based on his understanding of jazz and Indian modes. While McGuinn and Gene Clark sang the same notes in tandem, Crosby would move freely between a perfect fifth, flatted fifth, third, or seventh, resulting in an unusual sound that ranged from haunting to ethereal.
“We sang together well,” offers Roger. “I give the credit to Crosby. He was brilliant at devising these harmony parts that were not strict third, fourth, or fifth improvisational combinations of the three. That’s what makes the Byrds’ harmonies. Most people think it’s a three-part harmony, and it’s a two-part harmony. Very seldom was there a third part on our harmonies.
Here’s “Mr. Tamborine Man,” helpfully synced to television footage of the original band miming the song. Chris Hillman’s hair kinda steals the show.
I have some experience with record collecting, mostly as a seller. I’ve yet to make a really big sale, though a White Stripes single I bought back in the day for two bucks once sold for $350, which paid my rent that month. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve purchased my fair share of rare records, I just could never fathom paying thousands of dollars for a slab of vinyl. But that’s exactly what record collectors do all the time. Take for example this seldom seen 1968 Rolling Stones 45, which recently sold for $17,100.
That’s right: $17,100.
Records by bands considerably less famous than the Stones also have value to collectors, especially those by virtually unknown groups that produced extraordinary music, but didn’t release much material. That, combined with the scarcity of the records, equals big bucks in the marketplace. Snotty garage rock from the ‘60s is a genre that causes collectors to drool with delight, and one such record, a 45 by the Albuquerque band the Chob (a group so obscure there are no known photos of them), is among the holy grails.
Initially going by the name the Choab, the band released a 7-inch under that moniker before shortening it and adding a long vowel accent mark. The Chob would release just a single 45, one that’s now treasured by fans of ‘60s garage punk. Alec Palao of Ace Records explains why (as well as the story behind their mysterious nom de plume) in the liner notes of the compilation, Uptight Tonight: The Ultimate ‘60s Garage Collection.
Two minutes and twenty-five seconds of pure punk genius, ‘We’re Pretty Quick’ emerged from the fertile minds of five Albuquerque, New Mexico teenagers - Dick Hanson (vocals) Quinton Miller (guitar), Robbie Crnich (organ), Keith Bradshaw (bass) and Dave Elledge (drums). This song of songs appeared as a small pressing in April 1967 on Southwest rock maven Lindy Blaskey’s Lavette label, barely sold at the time, and is now considered a prize rarity.
For all its novelty – a breathtakingly frantic pace and one of the more bizarrely entertaining lyrics of the era – the arrangement of ‘We’re Pretty Quick’ bore a couple of classic hallmarks of the garage band style. For instance, the guitar break’s lengthy, unmodulating crescendo was something commonly adapted by many combos of the time from the Yardbirds’ influential and much-covered ‘Mister You’re A Better Man Than I.’ And the sound at the very end of the record is that of organist Crnich switching off his Farfisa whilst holding down a note, providing the odd high pitched sucking sound that can be heard at the climax of several garage discs. Sadly, that was the last we were to hear from this inspired aggregation. Oh, and what is a chob, you ask? Apparently the band’s codeword for a pimple.
It isn’t known for certain how many copies Lavette pressed of “We’re Pretty Quick” b/w “Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” (a competent Young Rascals cover), but Alec believes it is likely in the 200-300 copies range, definitely not more than 500. I’m inclined to lean towards the lower number, as it doesn’t turn up for sale all that often. I searched the web, including popular auction sites, for a copy currently being offered for sale, and was able to find just one.
Before you say, “That’s crazy!” consider that in 2009 a less than stellar copy sold for $435, and two years later a “mint-minus” specimen went for nearly $2,000. The Amazon seller lists their Chob 45 as being in similar, near-perfect condition, and as rare records such as this certainly aren’t going down in value, it’s conceivable it could sell at auction for more than four grand.
In any event, “We’re Pretty Quick” is a prime example of 1960s American garage rock, and you can always pick it up on the aforementioned Uptight Tonight compilation. Alec Palao tells me the song’s inclusion is the only instance of it being officially licensed for re-release (it’s been bootlegged many times). If you really must have the original artifact, and $4,200 seems a little steep, you can always contact the seller in regards to the price. Maybe you can even get a break.
But probably not!
Special thanks to Alec Palao for his assistance with this post.