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Big Beat:  Watch a complete Sparks concert from 1976
10.20.2015
10:01 am

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Heroes
Music

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Sometimes a band’s best recorded work is never truly appreciated until long after its original release. This has long been the case for brothers Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks, whose god-like output is still being discovered, rediscovered, and praised many years after it first made vinyl.

Forty years ago this week, the brothers Mael offered up their fifth studio record Indiscreet to a seemingly indifferent public. Produced by Tony Visconti Indiscreet should have been a crowning moment for Sparks, as the record seamlessly developed themes from their previous hit LPs Kimono My House and Propaganda to create a beautiful sonic concoction. Alas, the music press were overly harsh in their reviews, being too busy finessing their hyperbole for the next big thing to appreciate the quality of riches on offer from Ron, Russell and Tony. The album punctured the UK’s top 20 chart, while the two singles “Get in the Swing” and “Looks, Looks, Looks” haunted the lower regions of the top 30 for a few weeks. Disappointed, the Maels disbanded their latest incarnation of Sparks and decided to return to their hometown Los Angeles.
 
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Sparks’ superlative fifth album ‘Indiscreet’ produced by Tony Visconti.
 
However, the return to the nest was interrupted by a stopover in New York, where the brothers had picked-up on the buzz over punk rock. With a briefcase full of unrecorded rock songs—a few of which were staples of their live set—Ron and Russell decided to record their sixth album Big Beat in the city. Stripping down their lush, instantly recognizable sound to a more basic strum and bang of guitar and drums—a return of sorts to the sound of their early Todd Rundgren/James Thaddeus Lowe-produced albums Sparks and A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing. To augment the sound, the brothers considered signing-up David Bowie’s “Spiders” guitarist Mick Ronson to join the band. A series of demos were then recorded with Ronson on guitar, but Mick had to pull out due to his other commitments—recording with former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter and playing as part of Bob Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Revue.” The Maels therefore signed-up a group of talented session musicians as their backing band and set about recording a more raunchier, rockier more muscular Sparks.

Sparks hoped their slightly harder sound would give them another hit album in the US, and plans were hatched for a tour with the Patti Smith Band (which never came off) and they signed up for an appearance in the blockbuster movie Rollercoaster, where they performed two songs—the album’s opening track (and first single) “Big Boy” and (its B-side) “Fill ‘er Up.” There were also plans for a recording of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with Marianne Faithfull, who dropped out at the last moment leaving Russell to sing it on his own.
 
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After the Marx Brothers, the Sparks Brothers.
 
Big Beat is undoubtedly more appreciated today than on its first release. It may have been a transitional record of apparent off-cuts, B-sides and startling outstanding originals, but there was enough toe-tapping thrills to write home about. The opening track “Big Boy” is a delightful crowd pleaser, while “Fill ‘er Up” and “White Women” poke a tongue at certain elements of the traditional white rocker’s love of women and speed—with a pointed aside about the racism therein. The doozy is “Confusion” which was intended for a film the boys worked on with great French comic Jacques Tati. “I Bought the Mississippi” harks back to very early Sparks, while “I Like Girls” and “I Want to be Like Everybody Else” could have sat comfortably on Kimono My House or Propaganda.

I clearly recall the week Big Beat came out and when my brother brought it home how we spent many hours listening to this leftfield record, marveling at the manner in which Sparks had once again produced something wonderfully unexpected, original, challenging yet utterly engaging. I suppose my brother and I were the odd ones out, as everyone else in the UK seemed to be preoccupied by ABBA, Rod Stewart, Frampton Comes Alive! and the imminent arrival of punk. Similarly, the kind of clever, ironic social commentary the Maels dished up to the delight of Europe was not going to find an instant audience with an America enamored by Kiss, The Eagles and MOR. Sparks were not to have another hit until their teaming up with Giorgio Moroder for the album Number One in Heaven in 1979.

In November 1976, Sparks appeared at the Capitol Theater, NJ, where they ripped through a powerful set of hits and tracks from their latest album Big Beat. Track listing: “Nothing To Do,” “I Want To Be Like Everybody Else,” “Something For The Girl With Everything,” “White Women,” “Talent Is An Asset,” “I Bought The Mississippi River,” “Everybody’s Stupid,” “B.C.,” “Equator,” “This Town Isn’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us,” “Amateur Hour,” “Big Boy,” “Fill-er-up.”

The whole of Sparks concert plus bonus newbie track for Udo Kier movie ‘The Forbidden Room,’ after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Bettie Page & more roller skating (because roller skating rules!)
10.16.2015
02:06 pm

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Heroes
Pop Culture
Sports

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Andy Warhol roller skating
Andy Warhol roller skating
 
If you keep up with my posts here at DM, you know I often put together cool photo-sets featuring famous people doing things that we all like to do like hitting the beach or lying in bed. This time around I’ve pulled together something fun for you to kill time with this Friday - images of people way cooler than us on roller skates.
 
Bettie Page and Gus the Gorilla roller skating, mid-1950s
Bettie Page and Gus the Gorilla roller skating, mid-1950s
 
Some of the images are from the wide variety of films with either roller skating themes or scenes in them such as Raquel Welch tearing it up on the derby track in the 1972 film, Kansas City Bomber. Others are from the late 70s and 80s when Roller Disco was all the rage. There’s even a few that go way back in time that I slipped in because they were just too cool not to share.

I’ve also included a video that features Dutch girl band, the Dolly Dots roller skating around in leotards lipsynching to their 1979 track, “(They Are) Rollerskating.” Because, like I said, roller skating RULES!
 
Grace Jones roller skating at Compo Beach, 1973
Grace Jones roller skating at Compo Beach, 1973
 
Judas Priest roller skating in 1981
Judas Priest, 1981
 
Many more famous rollerskaters, after the jump…

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Hollywood’s macho, tough guy legend: ‘Lee Marvin, a personal portrait’ by John Boorman
10.16.2015
11:16 am

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Heroes
Movies

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Lee Marvin was the kind man you’d want at your side should ever you get in a barroom brawl. There was something about Lee Marvin that you could trust—an integrity that meant he’d be there trading fists until the very last varmint was out cold. Sure he was tough, but there was also a great sensitivity to Marvin—he had an intuitive understanding to other’s needs and a knowledge on how best to help them.

When John Boorman was directing the closing scenes for Point Blank on Alcatraz, Marvin recognized the young director was out of his depth and needed a little time to get his head around how he was going to direct the scenes. To give him time, Marvin played drunk—singing and roaring. The production manager took Marvin away and fed him black coffee. As soon as Boorman had his thoughts together, Marvin was ready to shoot the scene.
 
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Lee Marvin was born in 1924 into a middle class family his father was an ad executive, his mother a fashion writer. Lee once claimed his family could trace their lineage back to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. He was educated at a Christian socialist boarding school, which shaped his politics as a lifelong liberal and Democrat.

As a youth, he hopped trains criss-crossing America. In the Second World War, he enlisted in the US Marines serving as a sniper with the 4th Marine Division fighting in the Pacific. During the Battle of Saipan most of his platoon was wiped out. Marvin was badly wounded—shot on the foot, leg, and buttocks—a deeply traumatic event that left him feeling guilty to have survived when so many of his comrades had died. He later said he felt he was “a coward,” which was the exact opposite of what he had been. Later, when he was an established star, he joked in one TV interview that being a young soldier in battle had taught him how to act.
 
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In movies Marvin’s tough, granite, impassive looks made everyone else look like they were acting. He was a genuinely brilliant actor, who brought subtly to gesture and movement, and purpose to the simplest of lines few actors could match.
 
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John Boorman and Lee Marvin during filming of ‘Point Blank’ 1967.
 
John Boorman had his big break through Lee Marvin. Fifty years ago when Marvin was the King of Hollywood—after beating Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton to best actor Oscar for Cat Ballou—he gave Boorman his full and unmitigated support as the director of Point Blank. Boorman was a novice who had made only one (flop) movie, but Marvin liked and trusted him. It was a major risk for Marvin, but he saw something in Boorman that was worth standing up for. Point Blank once again confirmed Marvin as top of the tree and started Boorman off on his long cinematic career.

More Marvin after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Even Fox News knows that Bernie won the debate last night
10.14.2015
08:09 pm

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Heroes
Politics

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There were two blink and you missed ‘em moments on both CNN and Fox News after the Democratic debate last night that I wanted to call to your attention while the memory is still fresh…

Who “won” the debate? We know who didn’t win it—everyone not named Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, but of the two of them, who was the winner in the eyes of the Democratic electorate?

The narrative, according to the mainstream media, at least, was that Hillary Clinton was “back” and had scored significant points, while Bernie Sanders more or less held his own, but was unlikely to have picked up many new fans.

Welllllll mainstream media, not so fast there. Voters must’ve watched a different debate. Sanders picked up a lot of new fans. And money!

To wit: On Fox News, evil Republican genius Frank Luntz did his familiar polling routine where a preselected group of informed voters, not wildly for one candidate or another, were hooked up to some sort of galvanic skin response detector and watched the debate wired to gauge their emotional responses.

Probably 90% of the mainstream media called it for Hillary, but even on Fox News, the voters had a much different notion of who had really won the debate. Watch this, it’s fascinating:
 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Surprising photos of a young, good-looking André the Giant from the late 60s and early 70s
10.06.2015
09:25 am

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Heroes
Sports

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A young André the Giant lifing the front end of a car
A young André the Giant lifting up the front of a car
 
Before André René Roussimoff (aka, André the Giant) became best known for his wild, out of control hair and mean mug in the world of professional wrassling, he was really quite dapper and dare I say, hot in his pre-WWF days.
 
André the Giant as
André the Giant as “Jean Ferre,” age 18 (billed at a height of 6’10)
 
Born in Grenoble, France (and neighbor of the great Samuel Beckett) André wrestled under a few other names during his early years. Such as Jean Ferre (or Géant Ferré”) after moving to Paris at the age of seventeen, and later as the “Monster Roussimoff” in the early 70s while tearing up Japan for the IWE (International Wrestling Enterprise). Mr. Roussimoff was quite the looker, no?
 
André the Giant in the French Riveria, 1967 (age 21)
André the Giant in the French Riviera, 1967 (age 21)
 
I suppose his legendary drinking (Modern Drunkard author Richard English claims André‘s bar tab for a month’s stay at the Hyatt in London while filming The Princess Bride came to just over $40,000) and his love of gourmet food was in part to blame for his slide into his better known, much loved self. André was even the proprietor of a short-lived French restaurant in Montreal, although it appears that the main motivation for going into the restaurant trade was so he could sit at the bar and drink all the booze he wanted. Well played, André, Well played.
 
André the Giant as
André the Giant during one of his many trips to Japan as “Jean Ferre”
 
Like many of you who read DM, I’m a HUGE fan of wrestling and its many heroes. And André the Giant is perhaps the greatest of them all. I hope that you enjoy looking at these images of the super suave Mr. Roussimoff as much as I enjoyed digging them up for you.

I also included footage from one of André‘s film roles in Casse-tête chinois pour le judoka, or Chinese Headache For Judoka from 1967 which features a 21-year-old, incredibly agile André (sporting a “Moe Howard special” bowl cut hairdo) sparring with a room full of unfortunate opponents. 
 
André the Giant at a Paris fashion show, 1966 (age 20)
André the Giant at a Paris fashion show, 1966 (age 20)
 
More “little” André after the jump…

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That time Peter Cook plugged Sparks with a hidden message on their singles
10.01.2015
10:02 am

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Amusing
Heroes
Music

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There is a well-worn myth about Peter Cook that his career went into sad, alcoholic decline after his longtime comedy partner Dudley Moore, who became a famous Hollywood star, ended. Poor old Cook supposedly spent his days pissed out his brains, counting his millions, bemoaning the loss of his once great talent while raging with jealousy over Moore’s success. Of course the truth is never quite as simple or as boring—in fact Cook rarely stopped using his talents to amuse, entertain, experiment or just fuck about for the hell of it—albeit at times on a somewhat smaller stage.

In 1979, while bringing down the house as the judge in The Secret Policeman’s Ball—where he ruthlessly lampooned the dubious summing-up in the infamous trial of Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe for the attempted murder of his alleged lover Norman “Bunnies” Scott—and hosting the chaotic punk music TV show Revolver, Cook squeezed in time to record two improvised adverts for Sparks’ album No. 1 in Heaven. These ads were hidden on the inner grooves of the twelve inch singles for the Mael brothers’ hits “Beat the Clock” and “Tryouts for the Human Race.”
 
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Picture discs, colored vinyl, 12-inch singles and alike were all part of the many gimmicks used to sell records in the late 1970s, and credit must be given to whoever it was that thought up the jolly wheeze of hiding a wee plug from the subversive Mr. Cook on the latest toe-tapper from Sparks—it was certainly a novel way to shift merchandise.
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Vintage photos of female starlets and musical icons chilling with their turntables
09.30.2015
11:08 am

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Heroes
Movies
Music

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Marlene Dietrich and her turntable, 1956
Marlene Dietrich and her turntable, 1956
 
Originally known as a phonograph (or gramophone), turntables have been around since 1877. I think it’s fair to say that many of us have fond memories of our first Fisher-Price record player, and that most of you who are reading this right now still probably own a turntable and a fat stack of records to boot.
 
Bille Holiday, her pitbull Mister and her turntable
Billie Holiday, her pitbull Mister and her turntable, 1945
 
I’m sure you’ve probably seen many photos of your favorite rock stars or celebrities posing with their prized record collections, or spinning said vinyl on a sweet portable turntable in a hotel room. That said, I’m going to hedge a bet that the vast majority of the photos in this post will be new to your eyes.

From screen icons like Marlene Dietrich to musical chanteuse Billie Holiday, they all adored their turntables. And I’ve dug up photographic proof of this love affair that in some cases dates back all the way to 1925. I’ve done my best to attach dates to the images. The “good old days,” have never looked better. Enjoy!
 
Jean Harlow in a scene from The Girl from Missouri, 1934
Jean Harlow in a shot from The Girl from Missouri, 1934
 
Gloria Vanderbilt
Gloria Vanderbilt
 
Lauren Hutton around 1960 with her record player
Jill Melford
 
More after the jump…
 

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Prince, His Purple Badness as a DC Comics Superhero
09.23.2015
02:06 pm

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Art
Heroes
Music

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From what I can tell, Alter Ego, the three-issue story originally published by Titan Books in Great Britain in 1991 and then re-published by Piranha Music/DC Comics, is a subtle piece of work. The comic appears to present Prince’s own famously bad self in the frame of a superhero, but it’s unclear whether he has any superhuman powers or anything like that. In effect, it’s the Prince origin story, a la Purple Rain, but with a big superhero-style archenemy plot thrown in. It’s a glib comparison, but writer Dwayne McDuffie and penciler Denys Cowan appear to borrow liberally from the Batman mythos, and in 1991 no name was bigger in the Batman comics world than Frank Miller. (For the record, the lettering was done by Bob Lappan, Noelle Giddings did the coloring, and the covers were by Brian Bolland.)

So basically, if you took Purple Rain and mashed it up with The Dark Knight Returns, you’d have something an awful lot like Alter Ego (which, yes, is available on Amazon).

According to a 2008 post from commenter “robinesque” on the Prince.org message boards, “It is basicly the story from the love symbol album. the princess and the three chains of gold.” In that same thread commenter “jonnymon” summarizes the contents of the three issues:
 

The 1st to come out is the one with Prince on the motorcycle. It’s basically a comic book history of Prince’s musical career. Best part is at the end where the book says there is a huge rivalry going on between P and MJ, and that they hate each other. Even says that at the end of the Batdance song, Prince is screaming “MICHAEL JACKSON”....when we all know he is saying “DON’T STOP DANCIN’!”

2nd book, with the yellow cloud guitar, has P as a muscian/superhero saving the world from a rival musician called “Spooky Electric” and his mind controlling beats. Best scene here is when Prince steps up to a group of thugs and basically threatens to beat their ass, to which the cowar like dogs. Gotta admit, Jet Lee wishes he had some of the kung fu moves P displays in this book.

Last book is semi-based off of the song “7”. Prince is on tour and must save Princess Mayte from evil-doers that wish to cause her harm. Wish I could remember a scene from this one, but I know P is more James Bond/Jason Bourne than the androgonist rock star we know in this title.

All three are great, and as a side note, I believe the Cloud Guitar cover won an award for the best comic cover for that year. Brian Boland is the artist and really did a great job.

 
Earlier today James Harvey tweeted several panels from the Alter Ego sequence, which is how I came to hear about it. Here are his tweets in chronological order:
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘I would love to play for you, but I can’t’: Lemmy stops gig after two songs for health reasons
09.02.2015
11:33 am

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Heroes
Music

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It’s one of the more poignant entries on Setlist.fm I’ve ever read, by far. It’s a list of the songs played at last night’s Motörhead show at Emo’s in Austin, Texas, and it reads, as follows, in full:

1. Damage Case
2. Stay Clean
3. Metropolis (partial)

Note: Lemmy left stage at the start of the third song because he wasn’t feeling well.

Rock and roll fans the world over have been tracking the news about Motörhead’s beloved bassist and frontman Lemmy Kilmister, who is still touring at the age of 69 against the advice of doctors. (Lemmy turns 70 on Christmas Eve of this year.)

Just a couple of weeks ago, the news that Lemmy was switching from his beloved whisky to vodka for health reasons made the rounds. Some observers pointed out the contradiction inherent in Lemmy’s big quote from that story, “I am still indestructible.” Lemmy was treated for a hematoma in 2013, and he has also been fitted for a defibrillator.

This week Lemmy’s health issues are finally coming to a head in a serious way. On Thursday Lemmy similarly cut the show in Salt Lake City short because he was having difficulty breathing in the thin air of the high-altitude city. The next night’s show, in Denver, was cancelled altogether for the same reason.

Here’s a report from Eduardo Rivadavia at Ultimate Classic Rock:

We were in attendance at last night’s Austin show, and can report that the evening’s activities got under way normally enough, with a well-received set from Pennsylvania stoner rockers Crobot, and then a quite commanding one from New Wave of British Heavy Metal survivors Saxon.

Unfortunately, Lemmy seemed shaky from the start, as he ambled onto the stage looking noticeably gaunt and tried to sing the first number, “Damage Case,” clearly out of breath and at half speed. Meanwhile, guitarist Phil Campbell was doing everything he could to compensate by running about and engaging the audience much more than is his habit. Drummer Mikkey Dee also seemed to be trying to will Lemmy onward with his more measured but typically powerful attack.

Alas, the situation did not improve as Motorhead struggled to complete another Overkill standard, “Stay Clean.” After greeting his fans and admitting he was still under the weather, Lemmy lasted barely one minute into their next song, “Metropolis,” before dropping his arms, backing away from his microphone, and conceding defeat in obvious disgust, as his bandmates simultaneously ground to a feedback-screeching halt.

As for the crowd, many of whom were no doubt aware of the frontman’s recent health issues, they had nothing but supportive chants of “Lemmy! Lemmy! Lemmy!” — especially once Kilmister briefly returned to the microphone, leaning on his now familiar cane, and apologized yet again for his inability to carry on, leaving those assembled no choice but to turn away and start filing out.

Motörhead is touring to support its 22nd studio album, Bad Magic. The trek began on Aug. 19, in Riverside, Calif., and is slated to run until February. Their next scheduled show is tonight in San Antonio’s Aztec Theatre—the only information I was able to find out about that show comes from the well-known German tabloid BILD, which reported that the San Antonio show “fällt definitiv aus”—is definitely cancelled.

You can watch Lemmy’s heartbreaking announcement, as well as the loud support of the fans at the venue, right here:
 

 
via Ultimate Classic Rock

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Bubblegum’ version of Bon Scott performing ‘Nick Nack Paddy Whack’ with the Valentines in 1969
08.14.2015
10:16 am

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Heroes
Music

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Bon Scott and Vince Lovegrove of the Valentines
Bon Scott and Vince Lovegrove, co-vocalists of the Valentines
 
The term “bubblegum music” came to be sometime back in the early 1960s with help from Brooklyn music producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. Known as Super K Productions, the duo helped bring “bubblegum” bands such as the Ohio Express (of “Yummy Yummy Yummy” fame), and Crazy Elephant (“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’” from 1969) large but short-lived fame. The Australian group, the Valentines—whose lineup included a 23-year-old Bon Scott, also rode the bubblegum music train back in the late ‘60s.
 
The Valentines--Wyn Milson, Bon Scott, Vince Lovegrove, Paddy Beach, John Cooksey
The Valentines (Bon Scott, second from right)
 
The Valentines got together after Scott parted ways with the popular Perth band the Spektors in 1966, and enjoyed a rather successful run down under until they called it quits in 1970. The Valentines kind of had it all—great hair, cool matchy-matchy clothes, and two good-looking vocalists who shared the spotlight in Scott and Vince Lovegrove. Lovegrove, who remained friends with Scott until his death in 1980, would go on to become respected journalist and manager of the Divinyls before passing away in a tragic car accident in 2012.

If you’ve never seen the band performing, then you are in for a treat. The footage of the Valentines performing “Nick Nack Paddy Whack” (a riff on the nursery rhyme “This Old Man”) from the Australian music television show, Hit Scene (below) was shot on July 12th, 1969, just after Scott’s 23rd birthday. And the man who would soon front AC/DC looks like he never stopped celebrating. Whenever the camera catches Scott in action (the one on the left without an instrument, he gets his big close-up at about 01:25), he’s either laughing, hilariously and barely mouthing the words to the song, or is grooving out of time with the music while his massive bell bottom sleeve top flops around. In other words, it is two minutes plus of pure, vintage, must-watch awesomeness.
 

The Valentines performing “Nick Nack Paddy Whack” on the Australian music TV show Hit Scene, July 12th, 1969

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