Holy Freak Out, Batman! Frank Zappa and ‘The Boy Wonder Sessions’

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This song, believe it or not, is actually a collaboration between Burt Ward, better known as “Robin” on the 60s Batman TV series, and Frank Zappa. Long circulated on variously titled bootlegs, “The Boy Wonder Sessions” were recorded in 1966 with Mothers of Invention (and Velvet Underground) producer Tom Wilson at the mixing desk. Mothers Jimmy Carl Black, Elliot Ingber and Roy Estrada are present, however Zappa doesn’t actually play on these sessions, although he arranged and wrote most of the material recorded. Note the bit that sounds like Zappa’s later “Duke of Prunes” composition near the end.

From Burt Ward’s autobiography, Boy Wonder, My Life In Tights:

I should have had the wisdom I now have when I signed a recording contract with MGM Records- I wouldn’t have signed it. MGM staffer Tom Scott [I think he means WIlson] was assigned as my producer. He brought in one of the visually wildest groups imaginable as my backup band, the Mothers of Invention. What a sight! Neanderthal. They had incredibly long, scraggly hair, and clothes that appeared not to have been washed in this century if ever. These were musicians who became famous for tearing up furniture, their speakers, their microphones and even their expensive guitars onstage. They were maniacs!

Of all the people in the world to team with this wild and crazy bunch, I can’t believe I was the one. The image of the Boy Wonder is all American and apple pie, while the image of the Mothers of Invention was so revolutionary that they made the Hell’s Angels look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even I had to laugh seeing a photo of myself with those animals.

Their fearless leader and king of grubbiness was the late Frank Zappa. (The full name of the band was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.) After recording with me, Frank became an internationally recognized cult superstar, which was understandable; after working with me, the only place Frank could go was up.

Although he looked like the others, Frank had an intelligence and education that elevated him beyond brilliance to sheer genius. I spent a considerable amount of time talking with him, and his rough, abrupt exterior concealed an intellectual, creative and sensitive interior.

For my records, the plan was to record four sides and then release two singles prior to producing an album. After listening to me sing, Frank got a wild idea to make use of my hideous voice to do a hilarious recording with a song that had some of the Batman feel to it. He picked “Orange Colored Sky.”

I can’t bear to think of this song. The memories are too embarrassing. Though the intent was to create comedy by putting my lousy singing to good use, the actual result was so disastrous that the studio thought the tape had been left out in the sun and warped. They insisted on re-recording.

But first, MGM took a radical step as an insurance policy that my next session would sound better. They sent me to an expensive vocal coach—and no doubt hoped for divine intervention. Back in 1966 they were shelling out about $1,000 a week for those lessons. That was a lot of money, more than three times what I was bringing home after working twelve hours per day in my monkey suit for an entire week. With the coach raking in that much, even I am surprised that after two weeks of training, the lady politely asked me not to come back. I’m not sure if she felt that having me as a student was damaging to her career or if listening to me sing was destroying her eardrums, or both.

In an attempt at self-preservation, the record company had me just talk on the second two sides I recorded. That I could do very well! The material for the song was a group of fan letters that had been sent to me. Frank and I edited them together to make one letter, which became the lyrics for the recording. Frank wrote a melody and an arrangement, and we titled the song, “Boy Wonder, I Love You!”

Among the lyrics was an invitation for me to come and visit an adoring pubescent fan and stay with her for the entire summer. She wrote, “I will even fix you breakfast in bed. I love you so much that I want you to stay the whole summer with me!” The lyrics ended with “I hope you know that this is a girl writing.”

Lots more information can be found here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
London Swings: Mary Quant’s revolutionary mod fashions, 1967
07.31.2013
07:29 am

Topics:
Fashion
Heroes
Pop Culture

Tags:
Mary Quant
mods

quant
 
A Pathé News clip previews the fashions of ultra-cool British designer Mary Quant. Quant, was the inventor of the mini-skirt and minidress and popularizer of hot pants, PVC coats, tall boots, and patterned tights. She frequently used models such as Twiggy and Patti Boyd Harrison to display her designs.

Now 79 and an OBE Quant was nominated in 2011 for the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award for “improving the human condition both by adding to our material pleasure and by promoting liberty.” A Mary Quant dress from the 1960s (or earlier) is a valuable museum piece today
 

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
Happy Birthday Kate Bush!
07.30.2013
01:16 pm

Topics:
Heroes
Music

Tags:
Kate Bush


 
Happy birthday Catherine “Kate” Bush, born today in 1958.

It’s fair to say that almost everyone loves Kate Bush. She is, after all, one of those rare artists whose work can joyfully unite almost everyone—including the most unlikely though similarly emotionally attuned disparate groupings of virginal schoolboys, Riot grrrls, Goths, Punks, Classicists, Folkies and the likes of John Lydon, who famously once described Ms. Bush’s work as “beauty beyond belief.” And that is a very fair description, for Kate Bush’s music is beauty beyond belief.

Here’s to a very special and brilliant woman—Happy Birthday Kate!

To celebrate this original and unique artist, here’s an unedited interview with Kate, recorded in November in 1985, not long after the release of her brilliant Hounds of Love album, for the series Night Flight. This is the unedited interview, which reveals how the media conduct their question and answer sessions, and how they manipulate and relentlessly seek the answers they want, rather than one given. It perhaps explains why Ms. Bush is so reclusive.
 

 
Bonus clip ‘Hounds of Love,’ after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Elvis died for somebody’s sins, but not Mick Farren’s
07.30.2013
07:13 am

Topics:
Books
Heroes
Literature
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
Mick Farren


A swashbuckling young rockstar Farren onstage with The Deviants.

During the last couple of years of his life, I had the pleasure of visiting the late, great Mick Farren a handful of times in his flat in Seven Dials, Brighton, mostly to discuss his Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine collection, which I was helping to edit and flog for the publishers, Headpress. He was a very lovely geezer.

Mick’s place, as you’d imagine, was well littered with music and literature, as well as framed posters and other random knickknacks and artifacts from his distinguished life. There was always an open bottle of JD floating about, as near to hand as the plastic mask and oxygen tank that helped keep him relatively comfortable and alive. At his desk in the far corner, his chair was cocked between the computer he worked at, and the constantly murmuring television by the window—a set-piece that struck me as a pretty apt symbol of his prose.

In person, Mick was quite a sight. Physically, aging appeared to have almost uniquely traumatised him. Outraged folds of flesh drooped down between the curtains of his long curly black hair. “Don’t ever get old, will ya!” he once implored me, in his memorable, wheedling voice, after having had to avail himself of a few especially long pulls of oxygen.

But here was the thing…

Even as he was, essentially, slowly dying, Mick’s writing was still, I thought, getting stronger. The handful of new pieces Headpress commissioned him to write were among the finest he’d written (one of them we posted here at DM, an amazing article on Nick Cave and the devil): on the page, the man could boast almost burgeoning youth.

Only when he read his work aloud was this disparity brought into full relief. On the brink of publication, David Kerekes and I brought along a video camera and invited Mick to read a few passages from the collection. (See below.) Mick, of course, was up for it, and his sentences fell with chaotic but pleasing rhythm from his lips. At the end of each, though, he would have to inhale, gaspingly, his chest set off like a drill.

I was under the impression that Mick very rarely left the house other than to do gigs, and the thought of these genuinely daunted me. I imagined the words just about making it out, and the PA morbidly amplifying that deathly rattle…

So when I finally made it to a Deviants gig earlier this summer, I was in for a surprise. Mick sat there, hunched on a stool in the middle of the stage, and as the band rang out with impressive muscularity, his songs flew from his lungs, absolutely full bodied. I stood there grinning from ear to ear and shaking my head. How the fuck was he managing it? Not only getting through the set, but doing so in such style?  That he collapsed and died following one of these performances shows just how difficult these near miracles must have been… and how much he must have loved to pull them off.
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
Give The Anarchist A Cigarette: Counterculture legend Mick Farren dies with his boots on


 

“This is British amphetamine psychosis music and if you don’t like it you can fuck off and listen to your Iron Butterfly albums”—Mick Farren

It is with great sadness that I report the death of my friend, Mick Farren, the legendary author, novelist, journalist, leader of The Deviants and prime mover of the counterculture for five decades. A wake in London is being organized in London by Charles Shaar Murray. There’s going to be a wake in Los Angeles next Saturday, at 3pm, at The Cat & Fiddle on Sunset Blvd.

A few years back, on this blog, in a review of Rich Deakin’s excellent book, Keep It Together!: Cosmic Boogie with The Deviants and the Pink Fairies, I wrote:

The Deviants were the first British band who were true anarchists. “Street Fighting Man” was just a fashionable pose, these guys lived and snorted their politics. Agitprop bands like The Clash, Crass and Manic Street Preachers would most definitely tread in their ideological footsteps, whether conscious of it or not.

I also returned to Mick Farren’s autobiography, Give The Anarchist A Cigarette and spent some time looking over the issues of The International Times that are online. When I was in my teens, maybe 15 or 16, I found a whole stack of old issues of IT (which Farren wrote for) in a used bookstore where I’d normally buy back issues of National Lampoons, comics, Rolling Stone and Creem. How they got there, I will never know, but Mick Farren’s political rants and commie/anarchist screeds really resonated with me. Finding these underground papers demonstrated for me the existence of a world outside my hometown—an underground—that I had to become a part of myself. It was an amazing score for a kid like me, as you might imagine and I would read then over and over again. I’m sure that stack of mags had a lot to do with me picking up and leaving home when I was 17 and moving to London, where I lived in a succession of squats for a couple of years. Reading Keep It Together, I became much more aware of what a big influence Mick Farren had on me politically during my formative years and that influence, I think was major. Extremely important to me, thinking back on it. (Whenever I see that one of my own political rants makes it to Mick’s Doc 40 blog, I always get a kick out of it).

At that same time, I was also a subscriber to The Trouser Press, the “New Wave” and post-punk magazine, and Mick wrote a lot of each issue. Via that publication—which I would patiently wait by the mailbox for, psychically willing it to show up—he was probably the rock writer second only to the great Lester Bangs in turning me on to good music.

If ever there was a figure of 20th century counterculture who should be lionized and treated as a respected and revered elder statesman whilst he is still with us, it is the one and only Mister Mick Farren. Farren left sunny Los Angles to return to the UK late last year. People of Great Britain, a legend drinks amongst you! Where the hell is Mick Farren’s Guardian column already? Come on let’s pick up the pace.

Mick told me that he didn’t want to die in America and who could blame him? You know the old adage, “It’s not the age of the car, it’s the mileage”? Well, there was a helluva lot of mileage on Mick’s body. In earth years he was 69, but if you take into account all of the life lived that was crammed into those decades—and all the pounds of drugs and thousands of gallons of alcohol that have coursed through his liver and bloodstream—he was probably twice that old in real terms. In my entire life, I’ve only ever known one single solitary person who could drink with more two-fisted gusto than Mick. The guy partied with Lemmy, for chrissakes! The last time I saw Mick, right before he left Los Angeles in 2010, he could barely breathe. Walking even a short distance completely winded him.

A few years ago, the matter of Mick’s precarious health came up in conversation with a mutual friend. We both wondered how in the world he could make it through the length of an entire Deviants gig, but the conversation ended with the two of us agreeing that we both hoped he’d die onstage.

Mick Farren died last night in London after collapsing onstage at a Deviants gig at the Borderline.

He died with his boots on. Like a rockstar.

Goodbye Micky, you were truly one of the greats.
 

 
As intense as the MC5 and The Stooges and as irreverent as The Fugs, here are The Deviants, LIVE:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
The Slits’ Ari Up jams with her 9-year-old son on NYC Ska TV Show, 2003
07.17.2013
09:46 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music
Punk

Tags:
Ari Up
The Slits
Motherhood


 
Ari Up of The Slits was a punk pioneer, self-described “child star,” reggae and dub-world artist (known as Baby Ari and Madussa), and a mother. She became pregnant with her twin sons, Pedro and Pablo, around the time of the Slits’ break-up when she was barely in her twenties. She and her boyfriend Glenmore “Junior” Williams moved to Belize and Indonesia before more or less settling in Kingston, Jamaica and Brooklyn, New York. She had another son, Wilton, in Jamaica in 1994. Wilton’s father was tragically shot and killed before his birth.

I interviewed Ari in Brooklyn in August 2004 after she had decided to reform The Slits with Tessa, Sex Pistol drummer Paul Cook’s daughter Hollie on keyboards, drummer Anna Schulze and guitarist Adele Wilson. Our conversation drifted to Ariel Gore’s Hip Mama magazine and motherhood. She was packing to go back to Jamaica the next morning. I told her that Hip Mama’s readers would love to hear about her experiences. 

Ari said:

That’s a whole fucking book! A natural lifestyle. Natural birth. Empowering women. Breastfeeding and being out there [outside] naked wherever you can.

Below, Ari Up with her son Wilton on ‘Checkerboard Kids’ (2003)

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
The Indefinable Leigh Bowery: Vintage documentary presented by Hugh Laurie

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“Fashion is a bit of a problem with me, because you have to appeal to too many people, and I like appealing to maybe one-or-two. Then, I like them to be interested in me, but never dare copy me.”

Leigh Bowery admitted he couldn’t tell the difference between a stage and a street. They were both platforms on which to present himself. But if asked he was asked to explain himself, that presented problem that Leigh thought best solved by being thankful he existed.

Well, of course, as Leigh gave much to be thankful for.

Though Leigh Bowery defied facile definition, he is best remembered as a fantastical character whose talent, energy and discipline gave others the chance to be themselves, and thus to be free.

In this episode of the London-centric TV show South of Watford, Hugh Laurie (yes, him off House) trails around with Leigh, and takes a close-up look at all of his different creations: from fashion and dance, to clubs and films. It includes interviews with dancer Michael Clark, director John Maybury and gender illusionist Alana Pellay.
 

 
The rest of Hugh Laurie in search of Leigh Bowery, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
William S. Burroughs offers some advice for young people in ‘Commissioner of Sewers’
07.14.2013
06:53 am

Topics:
Heroes
Thinkers

Tags:
William S. Burroughs

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Portrait of William S. Burroughs by AtelierBagatelle

“Art makes people aware of what they know and don’t know.”

William Burroughs said in this interview with (“pilot & writer”) Jürgen Ploog.

“Once the breakthrough has been made there’s a permanent expansion of awareness. But there’s always a reaction of outrage at the first breakthrough.

The artist expands awareness, and once the breakthrough is made, it becomes part of the general awareness.”

The conversation between the two men forms the basis of Klaus Meck’s documentary William S. Burroughs: Commissioner of Sewers. Filmed in what looks like a hotel room, the duo’s dialog is inter-cut with clips of Burroughs reading extracts from his work, including “The Do Goods” and “Advice for Young People.”

Ploog’s questions rather randomly move from writing (where Burroughs claims if he hadn’t succeeded getting his novel Junkie published, he might never have become a writer); to religion and reincarnation; through Cezanne and Art and onto animals (where WSB discusses why humans empathize more with predatory animals than with their prey). Their disjointed Q&A has a strange “episodic” quality to it but Burroughs (and his encyclopedic knowledge) is fascinating throughout.
 

 
Bonus track: Burroughs reads “When did I stop wanting to be President?” after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘The Mojo Manifesto’: The about-damn-time Mojo Nixon documentary, coming soon
07.12.2013
08:54 am

Topics:
Heroes
Movies
Music
Punk

Tags:
Mojo Nixon

Mojo WBC
 
I can’t think of a worthier subject for a documentary than singer-songwriter (“Elvis is Everywhere”; “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin”; “Don Henley Must Die”; “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child”; “Redneck Rampage”; “Shane’s Dentist”), Jello Biafra collaborator (Prairie Home Invasion), controversialist, political commentator, actor, hater of banks and Sirius Satellite Radio DJ (Lyin’ Cocksuckers on Raw Dog, Manifold Destiny on NASCAR Radio, and The Loon in the Afternoon on Outlaw Country), Mojo Nixon. 

According to his various social media methods of communicating with his tribe of fans, The Mojo Manifesto is in the process of being filmed right now and produced by Freedom Records and Films.  Most recently a friend of his from childhood and pack-rack collector of Mojo memorabilia was interviewed for the project in Virginia.  The release is scheduled for next year.

Trailer for ‘The Mojo Manifesto’:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
Nick Cave, coolest man alive, falls right on his ass during concert in Iceland
07.08.2013
09:11 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music

Tags:
Nick Cave
All Tomorrow's Parties


 
One of the highlights of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ current set list as they tour in support of their fine Push the Sky Away album, is the astonishing “Jubilee Street,” one of the best songs Cave and crew have ever done. It brought the fucking house down when I saw them in Los Angeles earlier this year.

But at the All Tomorrow’s Party show in Iceland recently, after some particularly frenzied dancing that would put men half his age to shame, the Black Crow King made a wrong step and fell off the stage. Hard. (This happens around the 8:40 mark. You’ll note what he’s singing as he drops: “I’m flying. Look at me now. I’m flying. Look at me now.” Whoops!)

But have no fear, no mere mortal he, Cave returns to the stage almost immediately and finishes the song with all the aplomb of a demonically possessed Jerry Lee Lewis. Christ, talk about a recovery! Even falling on his ass in public garners Nick Cave more cool points!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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