Okay, so maybe this isn’t a real thing yet… but, c’mon, you know it’s coming! With the tagline “Bringing eye contact back to the 21st century” the Texting Hat is here to solve all your phone zombie problems. What a great invention. You look like you actually care when in reality zero fucks are given!
Right now they’re not for sale, but the Texting Hat website encourages you to just make your own goddamned hat:
“The weekend starts here!” was the opening catchphrase for Ready, Steady, Go!—the preferred pop show of choice for millions of British youth between 1963 and 1966. Filmed in a small studio in central London, Ready, Steady, Go! was the first pop show (from 1965 onwards) to present bands playing live—unlike its rival Top of the Pops that continued with predominantly mimed performances until the late 1990s.
Though it may not seem it now, Ready, Steady, Go! was revolutionary television when first broadcast, leading one TV historian to see the program as “a line of demarcation drawn between one kind of Britain and another.”
The “Queen of Mods,” Cathy McGowan was the program’s best known host, who had originally been hired as a production advisor after replying to an advert looking for “a typical teenager.” Other presenters included the (middle-aged) Keith Fordyce and (briefly) singer Sandie Shaw. Unlike most music shows at the time, Ready, Steady, Go! brought in a live audience that could be seen dancing, cavorting and occasionally mobbing the acts.
The show also benefited from allowing artists to play full versions of their songs, and one of the highlights was the specials featuring bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Animals showcasing recent hits. Between ‘65 and ‘66, The Rolling Stones made two showcases performing a variety of tracks including “Under My Thumb,” “Paint It Black” and “Satisfaction.” These sets have since been edited together as a Ready, Steady Go!: Rolling Stones Special which was aired on Channel 4 some thirty-odd years after first broadcast.
Watch the Rolling Stones on ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ after the jump…
Monday, 29th May 1967: Four young groups—hopeful, enthusiastic and slightly out of tune—thrash it out at a “Band Festival” in the Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School, Croton-on-Hudson. NY. Their classmates dance. Indulgent parents look on. The bands roll through the songs they’ve rehearsed during nights after school—when they listened to vinyl, picked up chords, learnt how to play covers of songs by The Doors, Santana, Bob Lind and Wilson Pickett.
Still checking the fingering’s right.
“We sucked pretty bad on that one,” says the young, cherubic lead-singer of The Bad Habits after belting out a song called “Grandma’s Disco.” It’s raw, jangly, almost punky—and certainly didn’t suck as much as they thought.
The other bands stick to tried and tested covers—The Active Ingredients do a catchier version of Lind’s “Cheryl’s Going Home” and a decent “Light My Fire.” Tradewinds rock, The Hairy Things roll.
The band line-ups shift and mix, with a young Stephen King lookalike singing most of the songs. He’s sincere, plaintive, full of that earnestness only youth can endure. All the while the kids happily dance on.
The importance of being earnest.
I wonder what happened to these bands, these young singers and musicians? Mike Turturro, a member of The Active Ingredients filled in some of the details with 60’s Garage Bands site:
In the spring of 1966, my friend Tim called me to play drums in a group he hoped to start. We practiced the next weekend at his house outside on his patio. As I recall, we consisted of Pete on guitar, Tim on bass, and also on a Hammond organ, another person on guitar (I don’t know his name; he was there only once or twice) and me on drums. We had a lot of fun and played a lot of Rascals tunes.
We continued to practice at Tim’s house for a few more weeks. The unnamed guitar player was replaced by Bruce from Ossining, NY and that made our band, but we still had no name.
One night after practice Tim went home with bad headache, reached for a bottle of aspirin from his medicine cabinet and saw the words “active ingredients” written on the bottle, and that’s how we became The Active Ingredients….
About a year after we got together as a band, we began practicing every week in my basement on Thursday nights and playing out here and there. One night at practice Tim told us that on Memorial Day weekend (1967) there would be a Band Festival in our town, Croton-On-Hudson and we decided to play in it. My good friend John’s father was producer for one of the major news networks at the time. John told us there would be a big surprise at the band festival, but no matter how we pestered him to tell us what the surprise would be, John would not say, other than to tell us to wait and see!
We continued to practice for the show and came up with a song list that included new songs that were popular at that time: ‘Midnight Hour’, ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Catch The Wind’. And as mentioned, we liked to play songs by The Young Rascals.
Getting in the groove.
Memorial Weekend finally came and we were ready to play. By the time we had arrived to set up at the school where the Band Festival would be held, word was out that a major TV network had a film crew on hand to film the show. There was no lack of equipment to use that night as every band brought what they had and we all shared what we could. The Active Ingredients had the unfortunate luck to go on first but we did have fun and we thought we played pretty well. The Hairy Things were by far the hit of the Festival and they were really a great band! And what great night!
Two or three minutes of nearly thirty minute film footage of the Band Festival was shown on national television during the next week on slow news nights. The newscasters would note that instead of young kids playing after school sports, they were forming rock band in their garages and basements, and remarking how times had changed!
The Active Ingredients went on to play that summer at parties and dances but September was coming fast and Pete was off to college and Bruce got a call from Uncle Sam. Tim joined another band and had a cameo in the Woodstock movie, and I went on to seek employment but still played with a number of different groups and still play drums today (on my Active Ingredients set) in a group called 145’s, which is a ‘60s cover band.
It’s a beautiful little film. Innocent, delightful, a perfect time capsule of one night, long ago, when everything seemed fun.
“Long hair… Short hair… What’s the difference once the head’s blown off?”
A while back I was adding things to the Netflix queue, when I noticed, to my surprise and delight, that there was a video document of the 1973 Off Broadway production of National Lampoon’s Lemmings. Lemmings notably starred a very young John Belushi (who was 23 or 24 years old at the time), Christopher Guest (then 25), and Chevy Chase (30, with long hair). It was chiefly written by Tony Hendra (the manager in This Is Spinal Tap, who also co-directed), National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney (he was “Stork” in Animal House) and P.J. O’Rourke.
The first surprise was that it even existed in the first place. I’d known the record since I was a kid, but who knew there was a video of this? Well, there is and it’s fascinating, if not exactly all that funny. It’s interesting because it’s got these three great funnymen seen before they would achieve fame a few years later with SNL and also because it’s a wild period piece. If you don’t go in expecting it to be the best thing you’ve ever seen and don’t expect belly laughs (there are a few) then you’ll be able to appreciate Lemmings more on its own, slightly rumpled terms. Comedy doesn’t tend to age very well, but that’s not why you want to watch this. One strong disclaimer, though, for “younger viewers”: most of the references are going to be completely incomprehensible unless you’ve seen the Woodstock documentary.
The “plot” of Lemmings, as such, is that the audience is supposed to be present for a Thanatos-celebrating rock festival, “Woodshuck: Three Days of Peace, Music & Death.” A Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young spoof (“Freud, Pavlov, Adler, and Jung”) sees the group singing a parody of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” (with Rhonda Coullet doing a perfect Joni Mitchell) but the lyrics have been changed to “We are lemmings”—instead of stardust—and Belushi, as the MC makes constant references and updates about members of the audience killing themselves and snuffing it (“The brown strychnine has been cut with acid.”). Near the end, as the heavy metal group “Megadeath” (yes, Megadeath) are playing, a groupie asks “Did you know that pure rock sound can kill? Isn’t that far out? So the thing to do is go over to the amp and put your head there.”
Someone on reddit recently spotted this fantastic shirt in Seattle—you can get it here on eBay for $23.99 plus shipping.
It’s an open question how many AC/DC fans know that “AC” stands for “alternating current” and “DC” stands for “direct current”—but for those looking to catch up, Tesla invented AC, and Edison backed DC. Tesla had previously worked for Edison. Tesla was a genius and died alone in a hotel room in New York; Edison was also a genius and died as rich as Croesus. Edison killed an elephant named Topsy to demonstrate the supposed dangers of alternating current, as depicted in a 2013 episode of Bob’s Burgers called “Topsy.” Tesla was a man made for our underdog-rooting and nerdy age. David Bowie played Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s terrific 2006 movie The Prestige.
On the flipside, science nerds, AC/DC is an Australian rock band. If you don’t already know that, you probably don’t really want this shirt too bad, do you?
In celebration of 4/20 today, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is encouraging media outlets to use these stock images of people enjoying marijuana instead of the usual hippie–dippie photos we always see.
Media outlets continue to use stereotypical “stoner” images for otherwise serious news stories about marijuana. The Drug Policy Alliance is offering an alternative: stock photos of real, everyday people who use marijuana.
These photos are open license and free to use for non-commercial editorial purposes, and we hope they will help make the jobs of editors easier and the content more relevant.
While some of photos are a bit comical (I really dig the Jenga one! It’s perfect. No one would ever play Jenga unless they were stoned!) I get where DPA is coming from. It is highly annoying that the media keeps depicting every marijuana user as some sort of Burning Man, hacky sack-playing idiot with an IQ of 80.
The notoriously scuzzball Terminal Bar, as seen in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver.’
Though I may yearn for the rents of the 1970s, the “grit” of “old New York” can be heavily over-romanticized. Yes, it was cheaper, and the arts were more vibrant and the population more varied. There was shitloads of violent crimes, parts of the city were really dirty and dilapidated, and other parts just looked like some one had dropped a bomb on them.
Nonetheless, historical records of the all-too-recent period of NYC brutality are in high demand. Terminal Bar was most certainly an “old New York” institution. The infamously sleazy Port Authority-adjacent saloon opened in 1972, catering first to working class Irish-American toughs, then more for pimps, pushers, prostitutes, down-and-out drunks and drug addicts, finally attracting a primarily gay, black and male clientele before closing in 1982. During its ten-year run, bartender Sheldon “Shelly” Nadelman (the son-in-law of the bar’s owner Murray Goldman) documented his patrons and the area around the bar with a keen eye, and his collection, Terminal Bar: A Photographic Record of New Yorks Most Notorious Watering Hole continues to engross those of us with a taste for the louche.
Calling himself a “half-assed artist,” Nadelman mainly worked in portraiture of his regulars—beautiful black and whites of usually overlooked and often avoided faces. In 2002 his son Stefan made a small documentary, Terminal Bar, that took the 2003 Sundance Jury Prize for short film—you can now watch it in its entirety (and in HD!) below.
In a combination of interview, narration and slideshow, you get a taste of just how wild—and how alive—one little bar could be. The Renzo Piano-designed New York Times building now stands where the Shelly Nadelman once took his customers’ portraits.
Everyone knows that the 1970s was a very “interesting” decade. An era of druggy, sexual excess that saw the “Me Generation” do their collective thing, no matter how far out that sort of behavior would have seemed just ten years earlier. But it wasn’t just that sex, drugs and rock and roll went mainstream in a big way in the 70s, the occult was so… well commonplace then that the likes of LOOK magazine would publish entire issues on the subject, with Anton LaVey as the cover boy. Even the normally staid women’s magazine McCall’s published a quite remarkable (and lengthy) round-up article on not merely “new agey” or culty belief systems, but the more “evil” side of things as well. TIME magazine had a 1972 cover story declaring “Satan Returns.” (First TIME was wondering aloud if God was dead, now this!)
But if you REALLY want to get across the point of just how far the occult craze penetrated American popular culture at the time, look no further than the Man, Myth & Magic publication. Originally sold as a newsstand magazine in the UK, Man, Myth & Magic: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural was reformatted by the publisher for the US market as 23 hardback volumes with a 24th being the very detailed and cross-referenced index. Exorcism. Indian snake charmers. Astrology. Voodoo. Weird ghostly voices appearing on tape recordings. Witchcraft. Cargo cults. Nostradamus. Alchemy. Hypnosis. Tarot. Demonology. Aleister Crowley. Norse gods. Buddhism. ESP. UFOs. Zombies. Paganism. Telekinesis. Drugs. Rituals. Stonehenge, etc. You get the idea. But as sensationalist (and DARK!) as the trappings of the publication generally were, the editorial was scholarly, even academic, and lavishly illustrated in full color.
But what most people don’t recall (but many will) is that Man, Myth & Magic was actually sold in drugstores and supermarkets. It was also heavily advertised on television with a commercial featuring the demonic face you see above, painted by Austin Osman Spare. Imagine that! (Actually you don’t have to imagine anything, the commercial’s embedded at the end of this post).
This… happened! Although I was far too young for it at the time, I can vividly recall a huge display in the cereal aisle (natch) for Man, Myth & Magic at the local Kroger in my hometown of Wheeling, WV. If it got as far as a podunk town Wheeling, with a very large in-store display to boot, that’s a pretty good indication of what sort of distribution they had for it. Note at the end of the TV commercial they mention that you can buy it at the Walgreens chain, indicating that Walgreens was probably underwriting part of the cost to air the spot.
This would, of course, NEVER happen today, but back then? Man, Myth & Magic was sold next to the Count Chocula!
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.”