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Tangled up in Blue: When Stephen Colbert met Jack White
06.09.2017
03:55 pm
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The “Blue Series” started in 2009 with the simple idea of a continuing series of 7-inch singles to be released via Jack White’s Third Man Records label. Each artist/group would be given just 24 hours notice, the music would be recorded in the same studio (at Jack White’s house), the songs would all be produced by Jack and the cover photo would be the performer(s) in front of the blue wall in the Blue Room at Third Man’s Nashville offices.

From that sprung 40 releases spanning every sort of style and genre and all pressed at the same local pressing plant. The beautifully-published new book The Blue Series: The Story Behind the Color is an extensive 282-page oral history of the project presented in a hardback slipcase-clad volume featuring a series of interviews conducted with the Blue Series’ many contributors giving a lot of insight into how these spontaneous recordings came to be. This excerpt with one of the series’ more surprising participants can be read in full in the pages of The Story Behind the Color. Courtesy of editor Ben Blackwell and Third Man Books.

Ben Blackwell writes:

While his team was always assuring me otherwise, I never really thought Stephen Colbert would have the time to speak to me. The onset of our conversation was probably the only time in the writing of the book where I was legitimately nervous. But he’s so easy to talk to, so affable…he SPEAKS for a living and that’s a great asset to have in an interview. By the time we landed on Neutral Milk Hotel I’d just thrown that in there out of personal interest, yet THAT part of the interview became one of my favorite parts of the entire book. I don’t know if he’s ever explained so in-depth his appreciation for the band.

BEN BLACKWELL: This is Ben Blackwell from Third Man Records.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Hey! How are ya?

BLACKWELL: I’m good, how are you doing?

COLBERT: Doing just dandy.

BLACKWELL: That’s just great. Are you a big fan of Black Oak Arkansas and Jim Dandy the lead singer?

COLBERT: Of course I am. Of course I am.

BLACKWELL: So yeah, I’m calling to talk about the wonderful recording experience you had a couple years back when you came down here to Nashville.

COLBERT: Yeah!

BLACKWELL: So I guess where does your memory bring you in terms of how all this came about? Where did the idea spring from?

COLBERT: Well we were fans of Jack, and one of my producers, a guy named Aaron Cohen, came to me — he was also one of my writer/ producers who also was always making music recommendations to me, so he always came in with his music ideas — and he goes, “would you wanna go, would you wanna record something with Jack White at Third Man Records?” And I said “Yeah, sounds great!” And he goes, “We’d have to go to Nashville,” and I went, “I don’t know about that,” because traveling was difficult — we had to do a show every day. And he goes, “No it will be fun, please, let’s go. It’s supposed to be like a musical playground down there.” And I said, “Alright, sure, I’ll give it a shot. What are we doing?” “Oh we’ll do a sequel to ‘Charlene,’” and I said “That will be fun.” And I don’t think… I can’t remember if we had Jack on the show yet, I can’t remember if we had him on yet because I know evidently we had a show where we did something a little different, he didn’t want to be interviewed.

BLACKWELL: I don’t think you did from my recollection.

COLBERT: Ok. He’s pleasantly difficult, is how I would describe Jack. A difficult that leads to creativity because you have to find a new way to talk to him or play with him and it’s always fun, because he’s particular about the way he likes to do things, which I respect. And so, I said “sure,” that was it. Just one of my producers was a fan of Jack’s and he knew that I liked Jack and The White Stripes and I said “sure let’s give it a shot.” But I didn’t know what to expect at all.

BLACKWELL: Do you have any recollection — I remember back in, whenever it was, 2005 or so, at some point in the lead up to your show —


COLBERT
: — Oh shit, yeah! Ok so here’s the deal: Jack agreed to do our theme song, the original song, and listen, I didn’t have the original conversation with Jack. It was Ben Carlin, one of my old execs, and he goes, “Hey, Jack White said he’s up for doing our theme song.” And I’m like, “Oh that sounds fantastic! That’s great!” And the closer we got, the less it seemed like it was gonna happen so Jack finally said like, “I just don’t have time. I know you guys are coming up, I wanna do it, I just don’t have time.” And I had always thought that — I was very excited that Jack wanted to do it — but I hadn’t actually reached out to Jack because I didn’t know him. And I was always like, I kinda felt like we were gonna go with Cheap Trick and my exec was like, “Would Jack White be fine too?” And I’m like, “Yeah sure.” It was just another thing I didn’t want on my plate. And I was thrilled it was gonna be Jack, and then I found out he couldn’t do it and I was like, “Man, fuck Jack White!” And then I was like, well let’s go with what I wanted. Then we went with Cheap Trick and had a great time. But yeah, Jack was originally gonna do the theme song.

BLACKWELL: And Rick Nielsen has since made millions off of your theme song.


COLBERT: God I hope so.

BLACKWELL: I remember being with Jack at the time and him saying, “Yeah I’m gonna do the theme song for this new Stephen Colbert show.” Oh wow, that sounds pretty cool. And not hearing anything from him between when he said that and I was watching the first episode going like, “can’t wait to see what Jack did! Ehhh this doesn’t really sound like Jack.”


COLBERT: [laughs] Does not sound like him, no. And that was my original thought. Because I had totally forgotten about that. So when they said do you wanna do something with Jack White. I was like “I’d like to plan to do something with Jack White” —

BLACKWELL: So you had to travel down here, you guys— you and a bunch of your writers — kind of started sketching out the idea of the song. Was there a little bit of back and forth? You guys came up with lyrics and —

COLBERT: Yeah, what would the next version of the song be …

BLACKWELL: Right. You guys didn’t do any of the music part at all, right? You guys just only focused on lyrics?

COLBERT: Yeah, I think so we just did the lyrics and Jack came through with the music, I think that’s how it worked.

BLACKWELL: Right. And how did you feel about that, did that feel all in concert with the interview and the actual filming or did you view it as two separate, but connected, parts?


COLBERT: Well the funny thing was, the interview that I did with Jack, felt so different from almost any other interview I’ve ever done because it was all just about music and Catholicism. Those two subjects that we talked about. And he’s got an irascible nature, and it was such wonderful friction to go up against. Because you really want somebody to resist you in an interview situation. So you have some place for sparks to happen. And he’s all either flint or steel. I’m not sure which one it is. So there are so many sparks, even if — think I was like, “What’s your favorite Bob Seger song?” And he’s like, “excuse me?” I’m like “C’mon, Seeg?” And it’s time for the comeback. “What’s your favorite Seger song? Don’t tell me you don’t have one. Don’t tell me you don’t have a favorite.” And in some ways I’m fucking with him but it was kind of sincere. I ran my interview with him, but the song is totally in character. The song’s totally in character. But I was doing the interview with one of the early examples of like, this is what I would be like if I could just interview people not in character. Because yeah, I was fucking with him but just like a comedian, but it was entirely enjoyable just to spend time with someone as opinionated and as, oddly, both opinionated and reticent at the same time. Having to pry answers out of him at times and almost entirely be combative, but seeing that he would enjoy it, it was such a joy to do. So the interview was totally not the song. The process of the song was, let’s complete this character game that we created in the first months of the show when the character was very tightly wound. And the interview was the loosest one I’ve ever done up until that point. Even though I was, I had a game of just messing with him. So, yeah, they were very different.

BLACKWELL: You had said, at some point you said to someone, that Stephen Colbert, the character, and Stephen Colbert, the person, are both huge fans of Bob Seger.

COLBERT: Yeah that’s true.

BLACKWELL: And do you recall at the time that Bob Seger was actually in Nashville?

COLBERT: He was?

BLACKWELL: He was in Nashville and it seemed like we almost got him down to appear on-screen to play one of those nights you were filming here.


COLBERT: [laughs] I remember something like that. I actually ran into Seger about a month ago.

BLACKWELL: Oh nice!

COLBERT: I had never met him before, but I was at the Kennedy Center Honors and he was there to sing “Heartache Tonight” for the Eagles, which I guess he co-wrote with Don Henley. I think it was Henley he wrote it with. With Glen Frey, he co-wrote it with Glen Frey. And we were seated next to each other at the actual award ceremony at the White House. He leans forward around his wife and goes, “Heyyyy,” and I said, “Oh man! So nice to finally meet you.” And he goes, “I saw your thing with Jack. Really liked it, man. We were playing it around the office a lot.” And so that was a real joy. I’m still waiting for the re-Segerence. I know he’s never going anywhere and he’s still been around but somebody needs to do a movie with an entire soundtrack of just Seger. But let’s get back to Jack.

BLACKWELL: Well, we’ve been working on it since, at least since then to try to reissue some of that stuff. But that’s another story. So the whole Catholic throwdown thing, you talk about the interview being nothing but talking about music and Catholicism — my side question becomes, you have a — I remember preceding this Jack said it’s really hard to be interviewed by you because first of all,  it’s not a traditional interview. Second of all, you actually need to come in with an approach as maybe you dealt with a lot of people who were trying to be funny in response to you? And maybe a lot of people weren’t coming in thinking no you actually need to dial it back and Stephen’s the funny one and you need to be the straight guy. Did that feel at play with that conversation at all?

COLBERT
: No, I didn’t feel that at all. Not with Jack at all. He was very — I mean, I don’t know what he’s like to people who have known him for a long time, but he’s got a combative nature — at least when I talked to him — and he’s also got a little bit of “oh you’re not so great. You’re not so great. Why are you such a big fucking deal?” And so it’s like, “Oh you’re not the biggest Catholic, I’m the biggest Catholic.” You know? [laughs] He wouldn’t give me an inch. And my character is usually very high status. And just like having a TV show is very high status. And he wouldn’t give me the status. Which was always fun. It ended up being the status game. The status game evolved very quickly into specifically the Catholic status game. Who could stump the other person. I don’t even remember how we got to the first question about it.

BLACKWELL: He asked you how to spell your name.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.09.2017
03:55 pm
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Before ‘Dolemite,’ Rudy Ray Moore was an accomplished early rock and roll singer
06.09.2017
09:33 am
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Rudy Ray Moore is best known for his Dolemite character which appeared in a string of low-budget 1970s blaxploitation films. His jive-talking, rhyme-spitting comedian/pimp/martial artist character has become a cultural icon and has been homaged by Mad TV and in the loving blaxploitation tribute, Black Dynamite.

Moore’s best films, Dolomite, The Human Tornado, Disco Godfather, and (my personal favorite) Petey Wheatstraw have all been recently reissued in gloriously fully-loaded, ultra-deluxe Blu-ray editions by boutique label Vinegar Syndrome, and I can’t recommend them enough for fans of ‘70s so-bad-it’s-good grindhouse fare.
 

Rudy Ray Moore, straight pimpin’, in “Petey Wheatraw, The Devil’s Son in Law.”
 
Though Moore, who left this mortal coil in 2008, sold thousands of spoken-word “party records” as a comedian, he is not widely remembered for the dozens of records he released as a musician. Moore is considered by many to be “the Godfather of rap,” as his rhymed “toasting” storytelling style is often cited as one of the great inspirations on that musical genre; but Moore’s own musical recordings are, by and large, straight r&b and early rock and roll affairs, with many of the early singles demonstrating obvious Little Richard and Chuck Berry influences. 

His talent as a singer rivals his talents as a comedian and martial artist—and depending on your level of Rudy Ray Moore fandom, that is either a slight or high praise.

I’ll let you be the judge.

Have a listen after the jump you no-good, rat-soup-eatin’ motherfuckers…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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06.09.2017
09:33 am
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Michael Moorcock’s TV special on ‘positive punk,’ featuring Siouxsie, 1983
06.09.2017
09:08 am
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Positive punks in the February 1983 issue of The Face
 
In 1983, Michael Moorcock, the science fiction writer who collaborated with Hawkwind and wrote the novelization of The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, hosted an episode of London Weekend Television’s South of Watford that investigated the new phenomenon of “positive punk.” Yer tiz.

In the frame story, Moorcock visits the Tribe to take in a bill of Blood and Roses and Brigandage and meet some of these positive punks of whom he has heard tell. But it feels like the story Moorcock really wants to tell is how punk rock fell short of its revolutionary ambitions, and he interviews several ‘76 alumni about punk’s failure to bring about “permanent change.”

Jon Savage, punk’s Herodotus, says everything that followed the Sex Pistols was a disappointment:

I remember Jamie Reid telling me that they all hoped—they all thought that they would just be the start. And what in fact happened is [the Sex Pistols] were the only punk group, and most of the other ones that came out afterwards were, if not pathetic, then sort of fatally flawed. I mean, the Clash, after being initially wonderful, turned into a bunch of social workers. Very successful, very honorable social workers, but social workers nonetheless. And, you know, the Damned and all the others were just sort of hyped-up entertainment, really. I mean, I’m not putting them down for that, but it meant that the original thing was diluted, and that sort of very pure expression of energy got diluted.

Identifying Siouxsie Sioux as the main inspiration for punk’s resurgence, Moorcock meets up with her and Steven Severin in a Camden shop about halfway through the show. As they tell it, punk 1.0 collided with a music industry “full of idiots” and a sclerotic media environment.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.09.2017
09:08 am
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‘Terminal Drive’: Pere Ubu’s Allen Ravenstine’s legendary long lost electronic composition FOUND
06.08.2017
09:32 am
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Pere Ubu co-founder Allen Ravenstine’s “Terminal Drive,” a crucial 1975 artifact from the primordial soup of punk, has recently been rediscovered after decades of being presumed lost. It’s a 16-minute electronic composition in two movements, performed by Ravenstine on synth with contributions from bassist Albert Dennis, and it’s THE piece of music that led to Ravenstine being asked to join the fledgling Pere Ubu, whereupon his distinctive amusical synth playing became mighty damn influential.

The only excerpt available from the piece until now has been a snippet titled “Home Life” which appeared, with incorrect session info, on the 1996 5CD boxed set Datapanik in the Year Zero.
 

 
Ravenstine left Pere Ubu in the early 1990s to become an airline pilot, and hasn’t really done a whole lot of talking about music since, so Dangerous Minds was extremely pleased to be granted some time to conduct an interview with him.

Dangerous Minds: I want to ask you about your approach to synth playing generally—I know you had some musical training, so I’m curious about how you developed your style. Was it just that those EML 200 synths had no keyboards, or was there a conscious decision at some point to reject playing notes?

Allen Ravenstine: My “musical training” was an attempt at playing trombone when I was in grade school. Much later, I had some boxes that were rewired from fuzztones to make oscillators, and I picked up a thing called a “clipper box,” and I was fooling around with these things just for my own amusement, and someone, I honestly don’t remember who, told me that they had all of these kind of little things in one box and it was called a “synthesizer.” And I became aware of the company EML. They had been commissioned by a department of education in Connecticut to devise a synthesizer that could be used to teach schoolchildren about what was then being called “electron music,” and it was supposed to be something that was basically indestructible, and I got one. It suited what I had already been doing, because it didn’t have a keyboard, it was just knobs, so I already had some sense of what to do with it. I was undisciplined, really, and I didn’t want to muster the discipline to learn how to play a keyboard, so a bunch of knobs was something I knew how to fiddle with to get something satisfying to me without having to go through the rigors of learning fingering. So I guess you could chalk it up to being lazy.

DM: Were there any electronic composers you were listening to at the time or were you more just firing blindly on your own?

Ravenstine: I was firing blindly on my own. I’m not really that aware of things other people have done that are similar to what I’ve done. I’ve always kind of operated from an internal sense of what made sense to me, and with Ubu I was able to hear something and respond. It’s kind of like painting. You mix a color, so you use it, and you get a sense of another color that would go with that color, and then you use that. And so I’m not painting a scene, I hear a sound that’s interesting to me and I put that sound down, and it suggests another sound which suggests another sound which suggests another sound, and then at some point or another I feel like the thing is finished. With Ubu I would listen to what they were playing, and I would listen to what David Thomas was singing about—take “Birdies” for instance, and I would just hear a sound and do something that related to it. So it was about a visual sense in some cases, it was about a literal sense in some cases, and in some cases it was—OK, say “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” I love the sound of a big rotary engine, like on an airplane, it’s a great sound which you don’t hear anymore, so that sound was suggested to me by the lyric, so I came up with something that was, um, not meant to duplicate that sound, I’m kind of more interested in creating the sense of that sound, not recreating the sound itself.

DM: Huh! So was there any extant music that influenced the creation of “Terminal Drive?”

Ravenstine: If there was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

DM: So you created this piece of music that’s now regarded as a lost classic. People know it existed and it’s generally known that it’s what led Pere Ubu to ask you to join them in forming the band. But it’s been gone for so long—who DID hear it, and how did that lead Ubu to you?

Ravenstine: I had been living in a rented house in the country. My housemates all moved out so I ended up having it all to myself. I wasn’t working at the time, and I would just sit with my EML 200 and make tapes. I had a TEAC 3340 recorder, and I figured out how to record three tracks, bump it down to one, then two more, bump it down to one, and so on, whatever that amounts to. And I’d make these recordings, and a guy who was connected with the dance department at Cleveland State University heard about what I was doing, probably because people would come out to the house and jam—[Pere Ubu drummer] Scott Krause was one of them—so people were aware of what I was doing. And one piece led to another piece, and I made this one where I went far enough to get someone else involved, I asked Albert Dennis to contribute, and when it was finished I wanted somebody to hear it. I knew Peter [Laughner, founding Pere Ubu guitarist, RIP 1977] and his wife Charlotte [Pressler, poet/musician], and there was a little gathering, just me and my wife and them and I played this thing and Peter responded to it.

I guess sometime later after that I was told that David was aware of it and wanted to know if I’d be interested in playing. And the sense I had at the time was this band Pere Ubu was an experiment. I don’t know, if David was standing here maybe he’d be shaking his head saying “you’re out of your mind,” but my sense of the idea was that if you put a bunch of people together that had a similar way of looking at the world, even if they weren’t necessarily musicians, you could give them instruments and they would come together and make something of value. So it was less about being proficient at an instrument, and more about who you were as a person. So I agreed to do it.

The first thing we were going to record was “30 Seconds Over Tokyo.”

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.08.2017
09:32 am
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Of hippies, ducks and capitalist pigs: Jefferson Airplane’s acid-drenched Levi’s commercials
06.07.2017
03:51 pm
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In 1967, Levi’s had a new line of white jeans it wanted young folks to know about, so they sought out three groovy acts from the West Coast and had them record free-form radio spots about the new white jeans as well as the revolutionary (har) stretchy qualities that made the jeans such an impeccable fit. The bands were the Sopwith Camel, Jefferson Airplane, and a Seattle group called the West Coast Natural Gas Co.

The Airplane had been together for less than two years by this point, and their breakthrough album Surrealistic Pillow had just come out. “White Rabbit” hadn’t been released yet, but “Somebody to Love” had been. They were basically in the act of cresting, and now they were appearing on the radio selling Levi’s jeans. 
 

 
The bands were given creative control over the spots, of which there were nine in all. They’re pretty amusing—you can almost imagine the Smittys in Mad Men pridefully taking credit for the idea. Four of the tracks are by the Sopwith Camel, and four were by Jefferson Airplane.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.07.2017
03:51 pm
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‘I’m Now’: The Mudhoney documentary
06.07.2017
12:23 pm
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Without Mudhoney, there’s no grunge scene writ large and so therefore there’s no Nirvana either. A bold claim to be sure, but not too controversial when you consider that Mudhoney was the first band from Seattle during that era to make a major splash outside of the Pacific Northwest, which had the effect of attracting area musicians to the city while also putting the world and major record labels on notice.

If you were a fan of the grunge movement as it was happening, you’ll be sure to enjoy the 2012 documentary I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney, directed Adam Pease and Ryan Short. It’s chock full of amusing tidbits.

For instance: Mark Arm’s day job is managing the Sub Pop warehouse. When you order something from Sub Pop, there’s a decent chance that Mark Arm himself is the person who seals it in cardboard for shipping.

The movie covers Mudhoney’s origins as a high school band called Mr. Epp, in which both Arm and Steve Turner played. Later on, Arm’s band Green River, whose LP was Sub Pop’s first release, broke up, and Arm instantly got on the phone to cajole Turner into forgoing his studies and joining forces.

Arm is touted in the movie as the originator of the term grunge but with typical humility he hastens to point out that the word was originally applied to Australian bands such as the Scientists and Beasts of Bourbon. In voiceover, a band member acutely observes that the term was really “a different way of saying punk rock.”

Legendary Seattle producer Jack Endino mentions that his only comment upon hearing the band play was, “Are you sure you want the guitarist to be this dirty?”

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.07.2017
12:23 pm
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The erotic lithographs of John Lennon (NSFW)
06.07.2017
11:04 am
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In 1968 Anthony Fawcett, a friend of John Lennon’s who later became one of the employees of Apple Records, proposed lithography to Lennon as an area that might spark his artistic interest. Lennon was initially reluctant, as the relatively time-consuming methods that were involved ran counter to the “impulsive” approach that Fawcett perceived as Lennon’s preference. Fawcett came up with a couple of hacks that would enable the lithography process to be more like Lennon’s usual facility at doodling and sketching.

Several months passed, and Fawcett assumed that Lennon had forgotten all about the subject. But when Lennon and his new bride Yoko Ono returned from Europe after the week-long Bed-In for Peace in the spring 1969 it turned out that Lennon had gotten more interested in the process. As Fawcett wrote in his 1976 memoir John Lennon: One Day at Time, Lennon “had made a series of drawings of the marriage and honeymoon, and was now anxious to see how they would look as lithographs. ... Yoko was the main subject, there were many portraits and nudes of her.”
 

When he saw them John was ecstatic, oohing and ahhing with childlike enthusiasm, laughing, wildly gesticulating and obviously impressed at the results. He seemed thrilled by the new dimension his drawings had taken on, master-printed on the thick luxurious Arches paper. Yoko, too, was excited for John and watched his exuberance with a kind of motherly pride.

 
A plan was concocted to sell some of the lithographs in a limited-edition set. The set would be titled Bag One, a reference to John and Yoko’s theory of “Bagism” which prevailed at the time. Peter Doggett in The Art and Music of John Lennon has this to say about the project:
 

The drawings were converted from Lennon’s small originals to poster size, organised into limited edition packages, and given to John so he could sign each lithograph. They were then placed inside special Bag One folders, and sold to art-minded (and rich) individuals around the world. It might have been more in keeping with Lennon’s principles if they’d been issued as postcards instead.

 
In the event, Lennon was obliged to sign three thousand posters, which he did at the Toronto-area farmhouse of Ronnie Hawkins.

In January 1970 the lithographs were displayed at an exhibition in London. The authorities, however, were not amused. As Fawcett writes,
 

Inevitably, on the second day of the exhibition, the police raided the gallery with a warrant, supposedly after Scotland Yard had received complaints, and eight of the lithographs were confiscated. The summons alleged that the gallery had “exhibited to public view eight indecent prints to the annoyance of passengers, contrary to Section 54(12) of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839, and the third schedule of the Criminal Justice Act 1967.


 
In January 1970 the magazine Avant Garde published what they termed “John Lennon’s Erotic Lithographs,” being a subset of the Bag One set. This post features the full magazine spread of that issue. You can see the full issue of Avant Garde here; vintage issues can be purchased at Amazon as well.

Avant Garde’s cheeky intro compares John and Yoko to other “famous couples in history” such as Dick and Pat Nixon, noting that we must exercise our imaginations to envision them in the act of lovemaking. Not so with John and Yoko!
 

 

 
Many more after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.07.2017
11:04 am
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Every review you’ve read of the new Roger Waters album is wrong (except for this one)
06.06.2017
06:53 pm
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Last Friday, June 2, I spent the entire day checking the mail. I’d preordered the new Roger Waters album—his first album of original rock material in nearly a quarter century—and was eagerly awaiting its arrival when I got notice from Amazon at about 7pm that evening that the delivery would be delayed, possibly until the following Tuesday. Being as I am, a married middle-aged man, this was going to be the highlight of my fucking week and listening to it on headphones, stoned to the gills, constituted most, if not the entirety of my weekend plans. Drats! Foiled again! My disappointment was palpable, but I googled the reviews to sate my curiosity only to read one critical appraisal after another of the most vaguely worded, tepidly positive sentiments. I’d seen the second (not including the dress rehearsal in NJ) show of Waters new Us + Them tour in Louisville, KY (more on this below) over the recent Memorial Day holiday weekend and the reviews I was reading didn’t really jibe with my expectations for the new album, having already heard a handful of the songs from the upcoming album played live and being blown away by how great the set’s new material was. It was difficult to tell what anyone really thought of it from the early reviews.

Rolling Stone’s reviewer was one of the worst offenders. The nearly pointless review of Is This the Life We Really Want? read as if he’d played the album once and dashed it off in about 15 minutes to collect a couple hundred bucks. (One commenter sighed “This review has zero substance. ‘It’s just Roger being Roger.’ Way to phone it in.”) One after another of these empty calorie reviews used the same words—“bitter,” “bleak” and “dystopian” prominently among them (and all referenced President You-Know-Who)—and indicated that good ol’ Rog was still up to his same old bag of tricks, etc, etc, etc. As the editor of a website like this one, I’m well aware of what lazy writing looks like and frankly nearly all of last Friday’s release date reviews of Is This the Life We Really Want?—at least the ones I read—smacked of it to my trained eye. In aggregate they equaled almost nothing useful. I wondered how it was possible not to have a strong opinion about a new Roger Waters album after so many years. Many of them, I imagine were written by underpaid millennials with only the dimmest idea who Roger Waters is, who were just cribbing from the press release.

The next morning the album was delivered before 10am and my weekend plans were back on.

Now don’t get me wrong, while anyone could be forgiven for assuming a priori that the first new release in decades from a 73-year-old multi-millionaire rock star would not necessarily be something to jump up and down about, by the time the first side was over I was completely gobsmacked, stunned at the darkly gorgeous poetry and sonic brilliance of the musical gold that had just been poured into my ears. I flipped it over for two even better, even more emotionally powerful songs. Riveting stuff. Oh sure, it’s true that not every new album by a septuagenarian rock superstar is going to be an instant classic, standing alongside their best work, but Waters’ astonishing and deeply profound Is This the Life We Really Want? is one, and does. I think it’s the best thing he’s done since Animals and I feel like that is saying quite a lot. This is a major event in pop culture. A big fucking deal with sirens blaring.

Now obviously, if you’re Roger Waters and you’ve got something (anything) to say, you (he) can say whatever you want, whenever you want and however you want to say it and a major media conglomerate will rush to exploit this to the hilt and squeeze every last bit of money they can out of your every utterance. Roger Waters and “the music of Pink Floyd” (as the current tour is billed) is a very big business—his multi-year worldwide The Wall Live trek is the highest grossing solo rock tour in history—but admirably, rather than put out one uninspired going-through-the-motions album after another like so many classic rockers of his vintage, Waters waits—25 years if he has to—to make sure that he’s got something important to say before going into the recording studio. No Sinatra covers for him. No Christmas albums. He’ll never record one of those awful “Great American Songbook” things. It’s just not going to happen. There is no squandered goodwill in that way between Waters and his fans. Since 1999 Waters has toured extensively, but without releasing any new material since 1992’s Amused to Death save for the recording of his French Revolution opera Ça Ira. After decades of playing the hits (and amassing a ridiculous fortune that’s managed to survive four divorces) the material on Is This the Life We Really Want? is just about the most potent musical statement imaginable for the Trump era, even if many of the songs were probably written and recorded before his surprise election. Perhaps the ferocious “Picture This” doesn’t refer directly to Trump, although it certainly seems like it does.

Picture a courthouse with no fucking laws
Picture a cathouse with no fucking whores
Picture a shithouse with no fucking drains
Picture a leader with no fucking brains

Top that! The song pulses and throbs like the best mid-70s Floyd barnburner, obviously quite purposefully and by deliberate design. Producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck) has surrounded Waters with a crack band of some of the finest musicians in America—among them Jonathan Wilson on guitar; vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius; REM/Beck drummer Joey Waronker, a Mason-esque octopus-armed pounder to be sure; and Roger Manning Jr. of Jellyfish on keyboards—with what seems to be the canny dual intention of simultaneously providing Waters with some inspired and well-chosen collaborators who bring their own magic to the table, and using this A-list crew to record what is probably the closest thing to a full-on Pink Floyd 70s headphones album experience as could possibly be hoped for (minus the obviously missing participants). The gorgeous string arrangements were done by David Campbell (Beck’s father, who Wikipedia tells me made his recording debut playing cello on Carole King’s Tapestry) and… wow… just wow. This album is just crazy fucking good on every level.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.06.2017
06:53 pm
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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club parodies from the Sex Pistols, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd & many more
06.06.2017
09:32 am
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In case you haven’t heard, this summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Oh yeah, that’s right—you probably have heard. On this very blog, in addition to Richard Metzger’s glowing review of the recent reissue, there’s also the terrific report from our own Oliver Hall on the curious fact that his grandfather, Huntz Hall of the Bowery Boys, is actually one of the gallery of famous faces on the album’s cover.

Sgt. Pepper’s is a common choice for “Greatest Album of All Time” and lots of people get tired of hearing about it for that very reason. It was and is an undeniably influential album, however, and one proof of that is the sheer number of musical artists who have imitated its cover art, which was cunningly executed for the occasion by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.

The first band to do a prominent parody of the cover, of course, was the Mothers of Invention, whose third album We’re Only In It For the Money took an unmistakably sneering attitude towards the Fab Four’s latest world-beating project. (They even got Jimi Hendrix to pose for it with them. That’s not a Hendrix cut-outs, it’s Jimi. Zappa put out an invitation to several others, apparently, but only Hendrix showed up.)

If you’re in a band and you don’t know what to do for your next album cover, you can try this: Spell out something in flowers in front of a drum head with some flamboyant text on it, while a throng of notables gathers and poses for an unlikely group portrait. Pink Floyd bootlegs. The Simpsons have done it. The Sex Pistols have had it done to them. Hell, even Ringo Starr has done it (kind of…..). If nothing else you get extra points for “taking on the rock and roll establishment” because nothing is more established in rock and roll than the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper’s.

There are literally dozens of albums that have used this trick, but we’re only showing a small selection. To single out two of my favorites: For the identically titled 1977 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which presented electronic covers of six tracks from the Beatles’ original, Jun Fukamachi reversed many of the elements in the cover, including having the crowd of personages “pose” with their backs facing the camera, all of which added up to an intriguing “backwards” concept. Meanwhile, Macabre’s 1993 death metal album Sinister Slaughter replaced the likes of Mae West and Gandhi with various serial killers and mass murderers.
 

The Mothers of Invention, ‘We’re Only In It For the Money
 

Ringo Starr, ‘Ringo
 

Jun Fukamachi, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
 

The Rutles, ‘Sgt. Rutters Only Darts Club Band’
 
Much more after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.06.2017
09:32 am
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Stoner doom-mongers The Sword recreate Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ in doom metal style
06.05.2017
05:35 pm
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To celebrate 50 years since the August 5, 1967 release of Pink Floyd’s debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Kyle Shutt, the guitarist from Austin, TX’s foremost stoner/doom-mongers The Sword, is releasing a complete cover of that seminal psych/prog band’s most popular album, The Dark Side of the Moon—by far a more metal-friendly album to rework than Piper.

The idea came to me after getting baked and wanting to hear a heavy version of “Time.” I thought, why not just cover the whole album? After sitting down and working out some loose concepts, the arrangement for “Money” materialized and I realized that I could totally do this if I assembled the right band.  It felt a little strange messing with someone’s legacy, but I’m treating it as a celebration of one of the greatest bands to ever rock, a party that everyone is invited to.

 

 
This is far from a new move—baby’s-first-prog-metal band Dream Theater has covered the entire album live, and a CD and DVD were released in the mid ‘oughts. Here’s a YouTube link to a live performance that’s probably my favorite Dream Theater thing I’ve heard. Make of that nugget of praise what you will.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.05.2017
05:35 pm
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