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Miserable in Manchester: Amusing letters and music reviews from a young Morrissey
01.27.2016
09:16 am

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Heroes
Music

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Morrissey, the writer
A young Steven Morrissey contemplating the state of punk rock
 
Recently, I spent some time collecting for you my dear Dangerous Minds readers, numerous amusing pieces of personal correspondence (adorable typos and all) from a young, pre-Smiths Morrissey. Even back then, Morrissey was busy cultivating the melancholy persona that we all know and love today.
 
The home address of a teenage Morrissey
The home address of a teenage Morrissey
 
A page of a letter from Morrissey to his pen pal, Robert Mackie
Part of a letter from a young Morrissey to his pen pal, Robert Mackie, October 22nd, 1980
 
In addition to excerpts from many of his pen pal letters to Robert Mackie, I’ve included a few of Morrissey’s letters to various magazines and several of his reviews of bands like Depeche Mode and The Cramps that appeared in the weekly British newspaper, the Record Mirror from 1980.

I’m especially fond of the then teenaged Morrissey’s review of a live gig in April of 1980 by The Cramps at Manchester Polytechnic (which you can read below) that he wrote for Record Mirror in which he muses “Is it true that guitarist Ivy Rorschach sets fires to orphanages when she’s bored?” If only. What follows makes for some fantastic reading, enjoy!
 
A review of a live Cramps gig at Manchester Polytechnic that appeared in Record Mirror on April 4th, 1980
A review of a live show of The Cramps at Manchester Polytechnic that appeared in the Record Mirror, April 4th, 1980 written by a 21-year-old Morrissey
 
More Morrissey, after the jump…

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Love it to death: Alice Cooper’s original guillotine ‘headed’ to auction
01.25.2016
02:25 pm

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The guillotine used during the Billion Dollar Babies tour, 1973
The guillotine used during Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies tour in 1973
 
Alice Cooper drummer Neal Smith will be auctioning off some of his career memorabilia including what Smith says is the guillotine used during the tour in support of Billion Dollar Babies in 1973. Nice.
 
The guillotine used during Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies tour, 1973
The guillotine!
 
Neal Smith's mirrored drum kit used during the
Neal Smith’s mirrored drum kit
 
Other items of note in the auction held by Heritage Auctions which is set to begin sometime in early February are Smiths’ mirrored drum kit that he used during the Billion Dollar Babies tour, and a load of glammy clothing Smith wore on stage in the late 60s and early 70s. Some of my favorite items from the auction follow.

Interested in bidding? Click, here.
 
Silk shirt worn by Neal Smith made by Alice Cooper's mother, Ella Mae, 1968
Silk shirt worn by Neal Smith and hand-made by Alice’s mother, Ella Mae in 1968
 
Bodysuit worn by Neal Smith during the Billion Dollar Babies tour, 1973
According to the auction description, the “pink dye” from Smith’s red and black pants seeped into the bottom of the bodysuit causing it to stain
 
More after the jump…

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The Dangerous Brothers: That time Rik Mayall set fire to Ade Edmondson
01.25.2016
11:33 am

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Amusing
Heroes
Television

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Probably the most hazardous double act to appear on TV during the 1980s was the aptly named Dangerous Brothers—a frenetic pairing created and performed by Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson. Mayall was the pretentious but sycophantic Richie Dangerous and Ade was the gullible yet blase Sir Adrian Dangerous.

The act was an offshoot of their original pairing in 20th Century Coyote. The Dangerous Brothers carried on with the same kind over the top violent slapstick they made famous through Rik and Vyvyan in The Young Ones and later as Richard “Richie” Rich and Edward “Eddie” Elizabeth Hitler in Bottom.

Mayall and Edmondson first met at Manchester University where both were studying drama. According to Mayall their introduction was across a crowded classroom:

It was our first lecture and the professor swept in with his flowing hair and gown and I stood up because that’s what I’d been taught at school. No one else did. And this one bloke – with long hair and John Lennon glasses and a fag in his hand and his f-ing feet on the table – just laughed at me and said, “Tosser!” That was Ade.

Maybe I always wanted to be as cool as him. Maybe that’s why I took great satisfaction in him going bald. He was always so strong and quick and self-assured. I wanted him to be my friend. I got a 2:2 in the end, which Ade won’t f-ing shut up about because he got a 2:1.

The pair shared a similar taste in cartoon comedy (Roadrunner) with a large dash of Python and a twist of Tommy Cooper. They became involved with the improvisational theater group 20th Century Coyote which soon became just Rik and Ade. By the late 1970s, they were part of the new roster of stars appearing at London’s Comedy Store. Together with Alexei Sayle, Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer (The Outer Limits), Arnold Brown and French & Saunders, they set up The Comic Strip—the foundation stone of Britain’s Alternative Comedy, blah-de-bloody-blah…
 
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Anyhow…after conquering the known universe with The Young Ones in 1982, Mayall and Edmondson returned to the small screen with The Dangerous Brothers. They appeared on a UK version of Saturday Night LIve—imaginatively titled Saturday Live in 1985. Compered by comic in a shiny jacket Ben Elton, Saturday Live hosted “a veritable Who’s Who of Alternative Comedy.” Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Morwenna Banks, Harry Enfield, Craig Ferguson and even Emo Phillips all appeared, along with too many others to mention. However, one of the highlights, nay, the highlight of the series was Richie and Sir Adrian Dangerous.

While the bulk of the show was broadcast live Mayall and Edmondson’s insert sketch as The Dangerous Brothers was previously recorded. Thankfully as it would turn out. For in their opening skit Rik set fire to Ade with near fatal consequences—as Edmondson later recalled:

I did set myself very badly on fire in a Dangerous Brothers sketch. They put this special gel on my legs, which was only supposed to go up to my knees, but I must have been feeling particularly confident that day because I told them to go all the way to the groin. I said, “If the flames come too high, I’ll shout out the special emergency code word.” The trouble was I forgot the word, so they let me burn like kindling.

Mayall was supposed to set Edmondson alight for the sketch “The Towering Inferno”—the title gives a big clue. But as the flames took hold no one noticed “that Sir Adrian’s convincingly pained expression was because the flames had started burning through his protective clothing.” Just before Edmondson was engulfed in flames, the filming stopped and the fire extinguished. Yet like real pros, they kept the fire in the final edited package… Edmondson’s legs were badly burnt and his eyebrows singed. Don’t try this at home….
 

 
More manic mayhem from the Dangerous Brothers, after the jump…
 

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Draw David Lynch’s hair
01.20.2016
11:09 am

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Amusing
Art
Heroes

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The good people at Welcome To Twin Peaks have shared a wonderful web widget with which you can kill some quality time today—”David Lynch Doodle.” It’s a caricature of Lynch (who turns 70 today) with his epic haircut lopped off, and you get to draw it in, with eleven simulated brushes to choose from. (While you justly make fun of my shitty efforts, bear in mind that I went to art school. And graduated. In lots of debt.)
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Tin Machine: When David Bowie was just the singer in the band
01.20.2016
10:45 am

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Heroes
Music

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David Bowie found that being a superstar in the 1980s was “not terribly fulfilling.” He started the decade with a massively successful album Let’s Dance and world tour. It made him very rich. It also brought commercial expectations to write another album of pop hits to make him and his record company even more money. But hard commerce and creativity rarely endure.  Bowie soon discovered that he had less creative independence to make the music he wanted. After the negative reception to his follow-up albums 1984’s Tonight and Never Let Me Down in 1987, he launched his massive Glass Spider tour. It made plenty of money, too, but with a set-list of greatest hits the tour looked like the Thin White Duke was rehearsing for a residency in Las Vegas.

In 1989, Bowie formed Tin Machine with guitarist Reeves Gabrels and the Sales brothers—drummer Hunt and bassist Tony. The band had grown out of jam sessions. The Sales had played with Bowie when they had backed Iggy Pop together in the 70s. Gabrels met Bowie during his Glass Spider tour and collaborated together on a reworking of the Lodger song “Look Back in Anger.” Tin Machine was structured as a “democratic unit.” Each member had an equal say. Bowie described himself as just the singer. Their intention as a band was to play “back to basics” music—hard rock, low production, no over-dubs.

They recorded over 30 songs in six weeks. Bowie enthused in interviews how liberating it was to write songs in collaboration with his bandmates. Of being able to share an idea and have it taken in an utterly different direction. Their 1989 debut album, the eponymously titled Tin Machine sold well enough but was savaged by the critics. The sales were in large part down to Bowie’s loyal fanbase and the band had a successful world tour. Then Bowie took a year off to do his solo Sound + Vision outing. In 1991, Tin Machine regrouped and released Tin Machine II—which received even worse reviews than their first record and led one music magazine (Q) to ask the question: Are Tin Machine crap?

Though both albums have noteworthy tracks, the main problem with Tin Machine is its being a “band” and not a David Bowie solo project. Having four equal partners in a group works best when there are four members of equal ability. Bowie was too talented, too clever and too damned good to share equal billing with three musicians for hire.

The critics may have been overly harsh in their judgment of the band—some even dared to suggest Bowie’s career was finished. But in truth, Bowie needed Tin Machine to purge what had been—what had gone wrong—so he could start again evolving again as an artist. This led to a return to form with his first solo album of the 1990s—Black Tie, White Noise.

More Tin Machine after the jump….

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Charlie Chaplin on the set of ‘The Great Dictator’
01.19.2016
10:18 am

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Movies
Politics

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Even in these so-called enlightened times it’s not so unthinkable that some slobbering buffoon could be elected the leader of a great country to the detriment of its people, and indeed the entire world. In politics the unthinkable is always possible—and unfortunately such dangerous men often stand for election. You can recognize them by their speeches that play on fears and grievances and creates division thru trumped up accusations against anyone who disagrees with them—I’m sure you know the Trump type.

Charlie Chaplin was all too aware of the dangers of some twit being elected on a racist, xenophobic and downright nasty manifesto when he poked fun at Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator. Though Chaplin was criticized by various countries (Germany, Britain) for being irresponsible while making his fascist satire, he was soon vindicated by the actions of Herr Hitler and the Second World War—though the great comedian and director later said he felt some regret about making the movie:

Had I known of the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made The Great Dictator; I could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity of the Nazis.

On its release in 1940 The Great Dictator was an enormous success in the Allied countries—though not at all in Nazi Germany… The film was a rallying point for those who wanted to defeat the evils of Nazism. It helped people to laugh at the Nazis while at same time being made aware of the insidious dangers of voting a madman into power—a point still highly relevant today.

In the film, a Jewish barber is mistaken for the dictator Adenoid Hynkel and by chance ends up taking his place. At the end of the film, the barber addresses Hynkel’s army of followers with a speech about hope and humanity:

I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor – that’s not my business – I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.

We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls – has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed….

You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Now that’s the kind of manifesto I’d vote for.
 
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More photos of Chaplin as ‘The Great Dictator’ plus color footage, after the jump…

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Clock tower in Norway to chime songs by Bowie and Motörhead every day until the end of May
01.18.2016
10:00 am

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Heroes
Music
R.I.P.

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A fantastic but sadly fake
A fantastic, but sadly fake “photo” of David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister (see the actual photo of Lemmy and his French girlfriend, here)
 
The clock tower that stands on the grounds of City Hall in the capital of Norway, Oslo, has marked the passing of the hours with musical interludes for many years. Now at six and seven pm respectively, the 49 bells in the tower’s carillon will play “Changes” from David Bowie’s 1971 album Hunky Dory and, the track “Electricity” from what sadly turned out to be the last record Lemmy Kilmister would record with Motörhead, 2015’s, Bad Magic.
 
The music of Motorhead and David Bowie to play from the clock tower on Oslo City Hall through May 31st
The music of Motorhead and David Bowie to play from the clock tower on Oslo City Hall through May 31st

In an interview with Oslo Town Hall’s carillonist, Laura Marie Rueslaatten Olseng, after seeing how many of her fellow Oslo residents were affected by Lemmy’s passing, she felt that the lyrics to “Electricity” reflected “an attitude that fit Oslo very much.” After Bowie’s untimely passing, Olseng said that there was “no discussion” and the choice was made to add “Changes” to the clocks daily musical rotation which also includes music from Kraftwerk, Nine Inch Nails, and John Lennon. The clock tower will play both songs daily until May 31st. You can listen to the bells chiming for Bowie below, and the belfry belting out Motörhead, here.
 


The clock tower at City Hall in Oslo, Norway chiming to David Bowie’s “Changes.”
 
h/t: Metal Hammer

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Bruce Lee: Intimate photos of the martial arts legend and his young family
01.15.2016
10:44 am

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Heroes
Movies

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001bleefam1.jpg
 
Maybe it’s because I’ve become so used to seeing images of Bruce Lee from his movies—ripped, sweating and flashing his martial arts skills at some no good bad guy—that I find these photographs of Mr. Lee with his wife Linda and children Brandon and Shannon utterly charming.

Having grown-up with a wall covered in Bruce Lee posters and spent far too much time trying out nifty martial arts moves on anyone fool enough to let me, these pictures show Mr. Lee as just an ordinary Dad—doing what every doting parent does: playing with his kids, posing for that holiday portrait, showing off the newborn, or celebrating birthdays.

Of course, he would never dance like anyone else’s old man—as the mighty master of Jeet Kune Do was also an exquisitely graceful dancer who—in between waiting tables during his youth—gave dance classes. Which makes me think someone out there’s got a damn fine story to tell the grandkids about how Bruce Lee once taught them to dance the Cha-Cha-Cha.
 
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More of Bruce Lee and family, after the jump…

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Listen to Black Sabbath’s earliest demo recording from 1969
01.15.2016
10:00 am

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Black Sabbath, early 1970s
Black Sabbath, early 1970s

In 1969 while Black Sabbath was still sort of transitioning from their original name “Earth” (the band had booked gigs late into the summer of 1969 as “Earth,” and continued to billed as such for a few months), they recorded a few demos of songs written by fellow Birmingham musician, Norman Haines. Haines was the keyboard and organist in the Brummy band, Locomotive who scored a hit with their version of Dandy Livingstone’s ska-smash, “A Message To You Rudy”.

In August of 1969, and according to Tony Iommi in his book, My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, the band stepped into the same studio that The Beatles recorded much of The White Album in during the summer of 1968, the opulent eight-track room at Trident Studios in Soho, London. Iommi had never set foot in a studio before and had no idea how to mic his own guitar properly. The band recorded “The Rebel” and then a couple of months later a second track that was also written by Haines, “When I Came Down” at Zella Studios, Birmingham in October of 1969 .
 

Acetate of “When I Came Down” an early Black Sabbath demo from 1969
 
Engineer Roger Bain, (who had at time had never worked with Sabbath, but would go on to produce the band’s next three records) tried to reduce the amount of distortion in the band’s sound which resulted in Iommi’s very metal response “Fucking leave it! It’s a part of our sound!” If you haven’t heard “The Rebel” before, prepare to have your mind blown as the rousing, anthemic track is devoid of Ozzy’s usual high-pitch vocals, but not without Iommi’s instantly recognizable, licky as fuck riffs. I’ve also included the very Sabbath-y sounding “When I Came Down” for your headbanging pleasure. “The Rebel” appears on Walpurgis - The Peel Session 1970, along with “Walpurgis,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” and “Behind The Wall of Sleep” that were recorded for a session on John Peel’s radio show in April of 1970.
 
Continues after the jump…

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The Bowie, Elvis, Warhol ‘Black Star’ connection: Popism eats itself
01.12.2016
07:57 pm

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Art
Heroes
Movies
Music
Pop Culture

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wkgfynr
 
Like everyone else on this planet, I feel the loss of David Bowie like a black hole in my heart and this sets me searching and thinking and finding weirdness a go-go (and everything tastes nice). After watching the new video for “Lazarus,” I was left chilled to the bone as though it was recorded as he was dying, and as if he were speaking directly to me. The whole thing with UK newspapers saying there are “clues” all over Blackstar and all that “Paul is Dead” sorta stuff. Except David Bowie is dead. I mean he is dead, right? Then I was alerted to the unreleased song “Black Star” recorded by Bowie’s birth mate (everyone knows they share a birthday of course) Elvis!
 
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This track was recorded for a 1960 film that was originally to be called Black Star but that wound up being retitled Flaming Star instead.

The original recording sat in the vaults until the 1990s when it became available to the public. Besides sharing a birthday with the King of Rock and Roll, Bowie was very interested in and influenced by Elvis, too, so there would be no reason to think that he wouldn’t have been aware of this song, with its aptly chilling lyrics that could be applied to Bowie’s end of life situation…

Every man has a black star
A black star over his shoulder
And when a man sees his black star
He knows his time, his time has come

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true, black star

When I ride I feel that black star
That black star over my shoulder
So I ride in front of that black star
Never lookin’ around, never lookin’ around

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true, black star

One fine day I’ll see that black star
That black star over my shoulder
And when I see that old black star
I’ll know my time, my time has come

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true, black star

 
Here’s Elvis’ “Black Star”:
 

 
And Bowie’s “Blackstar”...
 

 
...with its own chilling and obscure lyrics:

In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the centre of it all, in the centre of it all
Your eyes

On the day of execution, on the day of execution
Only women kneel and smile, ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, at the centre of it all
Your eyes, your eyes

Ah-ah-ah
Ah-ah-ah

In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the centre of it all, in the centre of it all
Your eyes
Ah-ah-ah

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangster)

I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar)
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar)
I’m-a take you home (I’m a blackstar)
Take your passport and shoes (I’m not a popstar)
And your sedatives, boo (I’m a blackstar)
You’re a flash in the pan (I’m not a marvel star)
I’m the great I am (I’m a blackstar)

I’m a blackstar, way up, oh honey, I’ve got game
I see right so white, so open-heart it’s pain
I want eagles in my daydreams, diamonds in my eyes
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a star star, I’m a blackstar)

I can’t answer why (I’m not a gangster)
But I can tell you how (I’m not a flam star)
We were born upside-down (I’m a star star)
Born the wrong way ‘round (I’m not a white star)
(I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangster
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar
I’m not a pornstar, I’m not a wandering star
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

In the villa of Ormen stands a solitary candle
Ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, your eyes
On the day of execution, only women kneel and smile
Ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, your eyes, your eyes
Ah-ah-ah

And as all things in pop culture eventually lead back to Andy Warhol, the kicker for me is that as I was looking into this I realized that all the infamous Warhol Elvis silkscreen art that you have seen your whole life is from (of course) a still photo from Flaming Star. And I don’t have to remind you that Bowie played Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat do I? More will be revealed, I’m sure. It’s like that Kennedy and Lincoln coincidence thing, isn’t it?
 
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