Although there will always be people who will want to bitch and moan about Cat Stevens and some very regrettable remarks he made (more than once), these comments were uttered a very long time ago, he’s apologized (convincingly) a gazillion times for them since and it’s not like anyone died, so kindly move along if you are one of them. On point, the man has done a whole lot more good for the world than bad with his music, who is going to deny this?
For me, the news yesterday that Cat Stevens/Yusuf would be releasing a new R&B influenced album, Tell ‘Em I’m Gone and making an unexpected US tour sent me immediately to the website to buy tickets (but they weren’t on sale yet).
No surprise that the North American tour includes no southern states, the brief sprint will include five American dates in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles and one Canadian stop at Toronto’s Massey Hall that kicks the tour off on December 1.
It also reminded me that I wanted to post the animated “Moonshadow” short based on Stevens’ own drawings and voiced by British comedian Spike Milligan. The film was made in 1972 by an animator named Charles Jenkins (who had also worked on Yellow Submarine) from Stevens’ original drawings to promote the Teaser and the Firecat album. It was not widely seen however until it was made part of the Fantastic Animation Festival feature film in 1977. Cat Stevens also put out a Teaser and the Firecat book in 1972, which is where these illustrations are from. It’s the story of tophat-wearing Teaser and his pet, the Firecat and their adventures trying to put the moon back in the sky after it plops onto the roof of a barn one night.
When I saw this little video of Sir George Martin giving martini-making lessons (an excerpt from his 2011 BBC profile documentary, Produced by George Martin), a few things struck me—besides, of course, his obvious foxyness, even at the age of eighty-goddamn-five.
1) A martini is made with gin. There is the (laughable and pale) variation, the “vodka martini,” but anyone ordering simply “a martini,” with no qualifiers, should expect gin. Complaints to the contrary will result in a face full of vermouth.
2) The bolder choice in mixing technique and the not-so-cliché garnish—always keep ‘em guessing, George!
3) Always—and this is pertinent—end with a dirty joke, as George does here. Stay charming! Prurient poetry, wit and wordplay can be the only difference between an insufferable drunk and an enchanting lush!
I hereby declare we rename this particular cocktail (with the lemon rind) the “George Martini”—who’s with me?
In about a week residents of Chicagoland will be able to wallow in all things Bowie, as the much-acclaimed “David Bowie Is” exhibition makes its way there after its highly successful run in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, which curated it in the first place. It will be showing at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be the only U.S. museum to host the show. (The MCA is so excited about the show that there’s an actual countdown ticker on that page.)
Also so excited, as the Eater blog informs us, that they have created a special David Bowie-themed food and cocktails menu at the accompanying Puck’s Cafe, which means that you can expect a bunch of delicious creations thinly connected to various songs, albums, and movies from Bowie’s long and storied career. The “China Girl” cocktail description has the word “jasmin” in it, for instance.
In the mid-1970s, Bowie famously lived on a milk, red pepper, and cocaine diet—it’s noticeable that none of the items below feature any of those ingredients! It’s all just a huge missed opportunity. The special menu will be available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays only. I live in Cleveland, so I might make my way up to Chicago one of these days to check it out.
Here are the menu pages (clicking will get you a larger image):
And a text rendering of same:
Ziggy Stardust Schmaltz $13
Assortment of cheeses: drunken goat cheese, crispy parmesan reggiano,delice de bourginone, truffled cream cheese, pickled beech mushrooms, candied cashews and grilled french baguette
Thin White Duke $8
Wolfgang Puck flatbread, fontina and mozzarella cheese, confit garlic, roasted tomatoes, cracked black pepper, arugula salad
In 1982, an up-and-coming dark dance-pop band from Chicago called Ministry made its first video. The band would later go on to great fame and influence for pioneering a hybrid of industrial dance and thrashy heavy metal, but at the time of that first video shoot, they were straightforward synth-pop Anglophiles, in a career phase the band’s leader Alain (later just Al) Jourgensen would soon disown. Ministry’s evolving sounds and broken fan base were discussed at some length in this Dangerous Minds post last year, so we’ll rehash none of that here, except to say that if you’re among the many who consider the band’s early years to be artistically fallow, there’s some music at that link that may change your mind.
The early years certainly weren’t cosmetically fallow.
But back to that first video: the song was called “Same Old Madness.” It’s typical for a band’s first (or second, or ANY) video to accompany a single, but “Same Old Madness” was never released in any form. In fact, it’s seeing its first-ever appearance on physical media TODAY. Thirty-two years after the video was shot, “Same Old Madness” is finally seeing daylight as part of Cleopatra Records’ expanded reissue of Ministry’s Twelve Inch Singles 1981-1984 collection, which contains more than double the material of the original 1987 version on Wax Trax.
But there’s a wrinkle—one could justifiably argue that the song in the video has STILL never been released, as the song appearing on the expanded comp has significant variations from the one in the video. I searched for a version I could embed in this post to no avail, but the collection appeared on iTunes in advance of the physical release, and the preview of the song there has all the differences on display. It’s also on Spotify in its entirety, unsurprisingly. If you compare it to the video below, you’ll note that it has some jangly guitar added to the background of the chorus, and that the vocals are just insanely tarted up. In an effort to sort out why there were multiple recorded versions in circulation for a song the band never even saw fit to put out, I asked the band’s original keyboardist, Rob Roberts, for some history.
The session details involve working with Iain Burgess at, I think, Chicago Recording Company. And that version is the one featured in the video. The version with guitar and big vox FX added was kind of a rarity. I’m surprised to see it surface on this new release, to be honest. It’s the same basic tracks as the video version, but the guitar and FX and editing were added in Boston. It sure sounds like the same kind of editing that’s in “A Walk In the Park” and even the “Work for Love” dub/dance edits. The overdubs, arrangement and editing that appears on the Cleopatra release had zero input from Al or anyone else in the band. Al didn’t even play the guitar overdub. It was worked up by the crew back at SynchroSound in Boston with Ian Taylor behind the board. Neither my source nor I can remember exactly who played guitar, but it was either Walter Turbitt [Groove Brothers] or Elliot Easton [The Cars].
Those of you who take an interest in Ministry’s early years might enjoy Roberts’ extensive, thoughtful and informative Q&A on prongs.org. And that being said, I’ll not keep you from that early video any longer.
As Lemmy will tell you himself, those facial bumps are not warts they’re moles. He did have warts once, on his hands, nineteen of them with one going round his finger like a snake. But they all disappeared, one night, after he had a bath though his hands never went in the water. Or, so he claims.
Lemmy’s moles are famous. They even have their own Facebook page, with an ambition to “conquer every woman who gaze upon them.” Who knew they could be such aphrodisiacs?
They have also been the focus of much speculation from music journalists, who seem unable to resist asking why the LA-based legend has never had plastic surgery to have them removed? Usually, Lemmy just points to his mutton-chopped face and says:
What can you make out of this? What are you going to do? I think I look all right for my age, anyway.
Apart from being conversational ice-breakers, Lemmy’s moles have recently inspired one fan to make this little animation of Lemmy’s mole performing “Ace of Spades.”
20,000 Days On Earth combines documentary footage with scripted scenes to chronicle 24 hours in the fascinating life of modern renaissance man Nick Cave. Directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard and co-written by Cave, the film has great energy and Cave comes off as one would suspect: mysterious, devious and hugely charismatic. What might come as a surprise to some viewers is Cave’s self-deprecating humor and the deeply spiritual yearning that pulses in the heart of his art. Cave is a man who utilizes the forces of his creativity, particularly rock and roll, as a means to connect to human energy and to transcend it.
At a recent concert in Austin, I saw a side of Cave I hadn’t seen before, a certain humility and need that manifested in an almost vampiric hunger for flesh to flesh contact with his audience. He literally bared his heart before his audience, asking them to place their hands upon his naked chest. The fire and brimstone preacher was displaying a supplicant’s self-immolation at the feet of his worshipers. The tables had turned, the wax was dripping up the candle. This aching need to be part of the world at large, to expand beyond the ordinary while maintaining his teeth in the tissue of the meat upon which he thrives results in a tension between the sacred and profane. 20,000 Days On Earth makes clear that the balance between dark and light is stabilizing in Cave’s life and the fearless provocateur is taking on some of the mellowness of a wise elder. The film is a lovely meditation on the risks and epiphanies involved when an artist puts himself as far out as they can go while still keeping time in the dance of life.
Here’s some recollections of Nick Cave and The Birthday Party’s first appearances in New York City. I think I got most of the details right.
When The Birthday Party first came to New York City in late September/early October of 1981 they were booked into several venues. The first was a shitty disco on Union Square called The Underground. I have no idea who was responsible for the booking but it was like hiring Aleister Crowley to do stand-up at a Catskills Hotel. The band plowed though three songs (“Big-Jesus-Trash-Can,” “Zoo-Music Girl,” “King Ink”) in front of a confused and hostile audience who were there to dance to a deejay spinning records by Donna Summer and The Village People. During “King Ink”, Nick leaped into the crowd and wrapped his microphone’s cord around a woman’s neck. The club owners immediately pulled the plug and the show ended.
Next night at The Ritz, Nick smashed his head into the snare drum, drew blood, and a panicked Ritz management killed the power to the stage. Big mistake. Those of us who gave a shit about such things, felt this confirmed that unless you were a major label act The Ritz was not an artist-friendly venue. The following night’s Birthday Party booking at The Ritz was cancelled.
Other NYC gigs included two at Chase Park, a former bank (I think) with a lousy stage set-up and bad sound. The first night at Chase Park was cancelled when only one person showed up. The band’s second booking at the club was not much better than the first. The band played to an audience of a couple of dozen adventurous souls, including Lydia Lunch. The vibe was nasty and the band seemed like they couldn’t wait to get the fuck outta there.
At this point, you had to wonder who was booking The Birthday Party into these godforsaken nightclubs when CBGB and Max’s (on its last legs) were just around the corner? In the case of The Underground, it was Rudolf Pieper and Jim Fouratt expanding their reach beyond their legendary venue Danceteria. One night a week they booked The Underground with a New Romantic theme. But alas, The Birthday Party was to Duran Duran and Modern English what moonshine is to mimosas.
It wasn’t until their performance at The Peppermint Lounge on Oct. 4 (a Sunday night) that The Birthday Party played an entire set in a venue that was suited to their music. Yet even the Pep didn’t seem to know who the fuck Nick and the his posse were (check the ad below).But despite a small crowd, the band were explosive and I was there to experience it. The power, intensity, humor and theatricality of The Birthday Party was simply jaw-dropping and forever made me an admirer of the group, particularly the young Mr. Cave. While the entire band were extraordinary (I was particularly fond of bass player Tracy Pew, R.I.P.) it was Cave that shone brightest (or perhaps darkest) - brilliant, possessed, a madman out on the edge not looking back. Even in ‘81 at the young age of 24, Nick was drawing down some serious voodoo, scraping the shit of the marvelous off the bottom of his shiny black shoes.
What’s up with the question marks?
Later, after the show, Cave sat alone at the bar slouched over a drink. I joined him and we talked. He looked younger than his years, was soft-spoken, welcoming, and unassuming. We spoke about writers we liked - Rimbaud, Burroughs, Bukowski - the usual suspects. For the short time we chatted, I felt that this was a man that I could grow to like a lot. And I have. Like all great artists I love, Cave has kind of entered my DNA. He’s one of those rare creative people who continues to surprise and amaze me, who challenges me and compels me to dig deeper into that dark rich soil where art grows, where visions sprout and and bears seeds - both good and Bad. Long live Nick Cave.
20,000 Days On Earth works as a cinematic diary that flows in and out of dream. Late-night scenes of Cave driving around his home of Brighton have the cold, doomy clarity of a J.G Ballard literary riff echoing off the concrete urban desolation of a Wim Wenders’ film. But the chill is broken by whimsical flights of magic realism like when Cave visits collaborator Warren Ellis in Ellis’s Hobbit-like cottage overlooking the white cliffs of Dover. And the sudden, almost ghost-like, appearances of Kylie Minogue, Ray Winstone, and Blixa Bargeld. The movie gracefully bends time and memory into something like a living moment where all points come back to Cave’s sensing himself in the ever-present everythingness of now. Does it matter what is real or not? This is not a strict memoir. It is the person coming into being through his own creation.
Nick Cave has done something quite remarkable in the this day and age of rock bands that disappear as quickly as ice on a hotplate or those that have lingered far too long only to embarrass themselves in their utter irrelevance - he has stayed interesting. Through all of his permutations, experiments and chance-taking, Cave has, like the title of his song, pushed the sky away, not allowing even the heavens to bear down on him.
20,000 days on Earth? Who cares about time when the moment is so filled with wonder? Who cares about linear abstractions when every non-existent nano-second is laced with memory and desire? Cave has not mistaken the face of the clock for fact. He sees it for what it is. A circle. It’s not real, it’s a reel. Like film. Like your eye. Like that circular mark on your neck: that blood-red spot, that memory of a mouth, of love, of death.
20,000 Days On Earth begins its theatrical run this month. Click here for showtimes.
You may have already seen this excellent video of The George Mason University pep band, Doc Nix and The Green Machine, practicing Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” / “Bulls on Parade.” They “kill” it. The video made the rounds back in 2011 with much deserved fanfare. It’s worthy of an encore performance, methinks.
What I didn’t know is how beloved bandleader Michael W. Nickens AKA Doc Nix is among the students at George Mason University and folks living in Washington D.C. and Virgina. People love him so much there’s actually bobblehead made after him.
After watching the video below, I can totally see why. Just watch him in action!
“I like to mix the dirt with the music.” Iggy Pop on Late Night with David Letterman, 1988
Iggy Pop appeared on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman three times in the 1980s, and they were all memorable TV events. Iggy is, of course, as only Iggy can be, giving uninhibited performances in which he dances wildly and alternates between turning his back on the audience and confronting them. These were totally thrilling talk show segments and worth staying up (or setting your VCR) for back in the day. The Ig was also a charming and quotable interviewee; he and Dave, on the surface, seem to be hugely mismatched individuals, but they have a surprisingly great rapport, likely finding an unsaid common ground in the their shared midwestern sensibilities.
Iggy continued to pop up on Late Night and has been seen frequently on the subsequent Late Show with David Letterman over the years. You can’t beat these 1980s appearances, but he’s always waaaay more entertaining than the average boob tube talk show guest. This is, after all, Iggy Fucking Pop!
“Eat or Be Eaten,” December 8th, 1982 (unfortunately, the interview portion isn’t online):
Since the Black Belles’ gained prominence on Jack White’s Third Man label a few years ago, singer/guitarist Olivia Jean has distinguished herself not just as that band’s front-person, but as a side player for the likes of White’s now ex-wife, model/singer Karen Elson, the great rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson, and Mr. White himself. (Age test: did “Mr. White” make you think of Reservoir Dogs or Breaking Bad?)
Given that Jean’s shown skill with pretty much every rock instrument, a solo album was probably inevitable. Produced by Jack White (also inevitable), it’s called Bathtub Love Killings. As it’s on Third Man, there will of course be a limited colored vinyl edition on top of the usual LP/CD/digital release. The first single is “Reminisce,” and DM is pleased to be debuting it for you today. Like any given Black Belles song, it owes a lot to garage rock and ‘60s girl groups, but to my surprise, it’s a good bit less dark in its tone than the work the Belles are known for. Judge for yourself below.
The non-LP b-side is a marvelous cover of “Toot Toot Tootsie,” a song made famous by Al Jolson (though an earlier version was recorded by Eddie Cantor) in the groundbreaking 1927 film Jazz Singer. The first ever feature film with synchronized sound dialogue and music, it basically killed off the silent film era. Before we all take to the comments, yes, I’m aware that Jolson was best known as a blackface performer, and that this is now recognized by reasonable people as racist and offensive. Accordingly, I’m sharing a Jazz Singer clip wherein Jolson sports his natural Jewface.
Here are those Olivia Jean tracks for your consideration. Both songs, by the way, are downloadable, via the graces of ScionAV. Bathtub Love Killings is due for release on October 14.