What’s that, friend? You say you’re narcotized by modern life, and Cupid’s arrow has lost its sting? Love just doesn’t hurt like it used to do?
If hearing Bret Michaels serenade Rock of Love contestants with his 1988 hit “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” wasn’t painful enough for you, artist Michael Ridge has come up with just the thing to give this hoary old power ballad some spice. With the aid of a contact mike, Ridge has figured out how to play Poison’s hit on his turntable using a branch from a rose bush in place of a stylus arm, with actual thorns doing the needle’s job.
Remember that one relationship that “really put you through some changes”? It felt just like this sounds. As I type this, I am suffering serious chest pain!
Thanks to Aaron Dilloway and John Olson of Violent Ramp
If you are say, 35 years of age and up, hearing the opening bars of “Doin’ the Do,” the 1990 smash hit single by Betty Boo will probably bring an instant smile of recognition to your face. I could easily “name that tune” with just the very first note, and so can many of you reading this very sentence, I’m pretty sure. If you are younger than 35, however then you probably only know it as that catchy song they always play at LA Fitness during your spinning class.
Betty Boo was the original Spice Girl—it’s fairly well documented that Chris Herbert, one of the music biz managers who originally “manufactured” the Spice Girls was looking for “five Betty Boos”—but this is not to imply that Boo—real name Alison Clarkson—was a pre-fab pop star because she was anything but, not only writing, but producing much of her debut album, the platinum-selling Boomania. She was the real deal, even if this was not widely recognized during her brief fame.
When she was 16 and still in school, Clarkson joined a Salt-n-Pepa influenced rap trio called She Rockers. In a chance encounter in 1988 with Public Enemy’s “Minister of Information” Professor Griff in a McDonald’s in Shepherd’s Bush—incredibly caught on video—the cheeky young Clarkson performed an impromptu rap with Griff’s “beatbox” accompaniment. This led to She Rockers going to New York where Griff produced their debut single “Give it a Rest.” She Rockers also opened for PE during some American tour dates, but Clarkson soon left the group.
Back in London, she attended a course at the Holloway School of Audio Engineering and sang as a guest vocalist on a hit single by the Beatmasters, “Hey DJ / I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing)” in 1989, which led to her getting signed as a solo artist. With the financial windfall from the Beatmasters collaboration, Clarkson loaded up on audio equipment—samplers, sequencers, keyboards—so Betty Boo could do her own do. Boomania, which spawned three hit singles, was largely self-produced on her own equipment in her own bedroom, and written by Clarkson herself.
When Boomania came out, I played the shit out of that record. Pure pop perfection in a glossy pop art package. What’s not to love? The album’s first single was “Doin’ the Do.” The way she spits out her brassy, sassy rap out here is razor-sharp. Monie Love-level good!
“Doin’ the Do”
If you don’t think that song is absolutely amazing, please stop reading this blog. I hate you.
Annoyingly, she was seldom given full credit for her accomplishments, not even for her own highly original fashion sense!
‘When you’re a girl and you make pop music, it’s assumed you haven’t got a mind of your own. But it was me who wanted the Emma Peel look.’
And she chose her musical style, too, that blend of rap and frothy pop. ‘I like the Beatles, the Monkees. I like dinky sounds. I’d like to sound like the young Michael Jackson - sweet.’ She did a course at the Holloway School of Audio Engineering and co-produces her recordings. She says it sometimes irks her how little credit she gets for that, but she offsets her frustration with the thought that ‘the people who buy my records like the sound of my voice and the tune; they’re not interested in credits’
I met Betty Boo in New York in the summer of 1990. It was in a nightclub where I was working at the time called Mars on the Westside Highway just below 14th street. I think it was her publicist from Sire Records who introduced us. I told her that I really loved Boomania and congratulated her on the clever use of the “morse code” Reparata and the Delrons interpolation (it’s not really a sample) from “Captain of Your Ship” in “Doin’ the Do,” which she seemed quite pleased someone had noticed. Obviously, she was a complete knockout and although she would have only been 20 at the time, she was reserved and serious, giving the impression of being someone who was very much in control of her own destiny. She didn’t in any way act all full of herself, either, as you would expect a young person thrust suddenly into that kind of rockstar fame might behave. I thought she’d go on to become a big star, but her second album, Grrr! It’s Betty Boo—which is excellent, too—sold disappointingly. She was on the verge of signing with Madonna’s newly formed Maverick Records—Madonna has praised Betty Boo several times in interviews—when her mother became terminally ill and she took time off to care for her, and later her grandmother, effectively abandoning her performing career.
In Britain during the 1970s live wrestling matches were broadcast every Saturday afternoon on the ITV channel. Millions of fans tuned in to watch such legendary British wrestlers as Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy. These men were working class heroes—no nonsense traditional wrestlers in trunks and boots. Though they looked like your Dad—a bit a chubby, with a liking for beer—in the ring they were ruthless. Each was a master of a particular wrestling technique with which they showed off their athletic prowess.
Then one Saturday there arrived Adrian Street—a peroxide blonde, in lipstick and mascara, nail polish and pantyhose. He was the most glamorous wrestler on the planet. Street was camp, outrageous, a glam rock wrestling superstar who dispatched his opponents without chipping a fingernail. He was the “merchant of menace,” the “sweet transvestite with a broken nose.” A herald of the social and sexual changes happening at full tilt across the country. He was loved and loathed in equal measure—an older generation feared what he represented; a younger generation embraced it.
Each week Adrian turned up in more elaborate costumes, more glittering makeup and a selection of moves that brought the crowds to their feet. His trademark was to kiss his opponent. While they reeled from the shock of being kissed by another man, Adrian flattened them with a forearm smash, a drop kick, or his favorite the sleeper hold.
Adrian Street was born into a mining family in Brynmawr, Wales in 1940. As a child he fantasized about running away with a tribe of Native American Indians. He wandered neighboring fields dreaming he was Tarzan and picking bluebells to give to his mother. In his teens he started body-building and briefly worked with his father down the mines. He then moved to London where he began his wrestling career in 1957. He was trained by Chic Osmond and fought under the name Kid Tarzan. During his time in London Adrian had his first taste of bohemia life hanging out with artists and writers most notably Francis Bacon. By the late sixties, Adrian reinvented himself as the androgynous wrestler “The Exotic One.” He went on to fight an estimated 15,000 bouts over a seven decade career.
In 2010 the artist Jeremy Deller made a documentary on Adrian Street called So Many Ways To Hurt You. Deller had been inspired to make his film by a photograph of the wrestler.
I first became aware of [Adrian] through a photograph showing him with his father in 1973, which seemed to me possibly the most important photograph taken post-war. It encapsulates the whole history of Britain in that period – of our uneasy transition from being a centre of heavy industry to a producer of entertainment and services. It’s a rather bizarre and disturbing photograph, taken when Adrian went back to Wales, to the mine that he had worked in as a young man, to meet his father. Adrian’s still very much alive and still wrestling in Florida, where he has settled. He’s an incredible person, who has tremendous willpower and a great sense of his own worth. His story has an epic quality to it, he has basically reinvented himself for the late twentieth century.
As much of an influence as all the pop artists who liberated teenage minds during the 1970s, Adrian Street opened up a world of rich diversity to an older generation who had been shaped by the austerity and hardship of post-War Britain.
One of the first images in “Nick Cave: Stranger in a Strange Land” is a glimpse of the Berlin Wall, which (it’s strange to imagine) would only be in use for a couple more years. “Stranger in a Strange Land” was produced in 1987 by Bram van Splunteren, and it appeared on the Dutch TV channel VPRO. I saw the second half of this movie when I was living in Austria in the early to mid-1990s, so it’s a pleasure to come across it again!
Cave lived in Berlin in the 1980s, during which he appeared in one of the greatest movies of all time, Wim Wenders’ Das Himmel Über Berlin, known to English speakers as Wings of Desire.
Giving the crew a tour of his digs, Cave says one of those things only Nick Cave would say, glumly referencing “my collection of German Gothic paintings, my gun, and my desk.” Later he grabs his “little black book,” which is a little album containing some startling religious iconography, some of which made it into the artwork for the 1986 album Your Funeral ... My Trial.
There’s some bracing footage of Cave with the Birthday Party as well as rehearsals with the Bad Seeds, during which Cave belts out the chorus to “Yesterday,” of all possible things. In the rehearsal we see them do a version of “The Singer,” which appears on Kicking Against The Pricks.
The voiceover is in Dutch, but the interviews with Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey and so on are in English. Mark E. Smith pops up unexpectedly, Cave makes a joke about “two hugely intelligent frontmen.”
Just in time for Valentine’s Day… some super sexy lingerie-style Bernie Sanders underwear! (I refuse to use the word “panties,” btw.) Made by Bullet and Bees on Etsy—the same shop who brought you The Golden Girls underwear a few months ago—the Bernie-themed underwear sells for anywhere from $40-$60 depending on the style.
Don’t say I never gave you nothing for last minute gift ideas.
Just a year and a half since Dangerous Minds reported on Guided By Voices’ breakup comes the news that the band’s ringleader and lone constant member Bob Pollard has reunited the band yet again—kinda. The group was announced as the headliner of the Sled Island festival in Calgary, Alberta, and various credible outlets have reported that a new GBV album is in the works with Pollard playing every instrument. Which would seem like less of a “reunion” and more of an indication of Pollard’s evident willingness to keep hauling the GBV name out of storage for as long as obsessives are willing to line up to buy yet another GBV album—with the recent release of the fourth installment of the blood-from-a-stone “Suitcase” series of multi-CDsets full of alternate takes and discarded songs only underscoring that point. The move of calling a solo album Guided By Voices might not sit well with those subsets of the band’s fandom that hold that it’s not truly Guided By Voices without early ‘90s guitarist Tobin Sprout or later-era-defining guitarist Doug Gillard, but then this turned up on Twitter:
And the new GBV live line-up is: Robert Pollard with Bobby Bare Jr. (guitar), Kevin March (drums), Nick Mitchell (guitar), Mark Shue (bass)
Bobby Bare, Jr. is a highly noteworthy roots rocker. Kevin March was the drummer of GBV’s previous final lineup. Nick Mitchell is Pollard’s (and March’s) collaborator in the band Ricked Wicky, and Mark Shue was the bassist for The Library Is On Fire, connected to GBV via producer Todd Tobias. This is just the live lineup, and there’s no indication that this will be a creative unit, but whatever shows that ensemble does should probably be pretty goddamn good. Snobbier uberdorks who haven’t gotten over the fact that Guided By Voices is whatever Bob Pollard wants it to be are 100% guaranteed to cry foul about the lack of past members anyway, but this sort of thing has happened before.
In 1997, Pollard jettisoned the band’s entire lineup and replaced them with the arty glam-punk band Cobra Verde, a supergroup with members of Death of Samantha, garage-punks The Reactions, and power-metalists Breaker. That version of the band committed the GBV sacrilege of recording most of the album Mag Earwhig! in an actual multitrack studio, an apostasy that was rewarded when the Gillard-penned single “I Am A Tree,” originally released by his own band Gem, became one of GBV’s most revered fan-favorites. “Guided By Verde” only lasted the one album; ironically, that major GBV lineup shuffle provoked a major shakeup in Cobra Verde, as well. Gillard remained in GBV with Pollard (and quite edifyingly, at that) while CV’s honcho John Petkovic ended up carrying on with an entirely new band, himself.
What I like about this video is that’s it’s a supercut of Rob Halford’s infamous high note. It’s not just one long 5-minute high note to test your patience. I watched this all the way through and afterwards immediately grabbed a glass of water to whet my whistle because… ouch. I don’t know how he does it.
Over on Etsy, there’s a Warhol/Velvet Underground-inspired portable banana-shaped record player from the 1970s for sale. The asking price is $1500. That seems a bit steep to me, but truth be told, I’ve never seen one of these before. They must be pretty scarce!
From the write-up on Etsy:
Ok, folks. I bought this record player because the time to buy something you have never seen is when you see it. And I am a huge Warhol fan. At the time, I could find no information on this. A friend was able to find this old advertising for it in an old Speigel catalog. In searching the internet, there are only 2 of these known. There is one in Indianapolis that a guy has from his youth- a present from his grandmother. The other one is in the Banana Museum in California. I even wrote to the Warhol Foundation to find out if there was any kind of affiliation, but they had never heard anything about this and had no record. They came up with the same information I did. Mine is not perfect, it shows wear and I cannot determine if the black markings on this have been redone or if they are original- looking at the picture in the ad, it is still hard to tell, but they look rough to me. I still love this. It runs properly at all 3 speeds, but it will need a needle. The cord is in good condition and the case locks as it should. The ad touts that this will play in any position, even upside-down, but I would not suggest such a thing, as it cannot be good for your records.
If you’re interested in it or want to contact seller, click here.
Jarvis Cocker takes a selfie as his alter ego “Darren Spooner”
After Pulp went on their rather extended hiatus back in 2001, Jarvis Cocker kept quite active. He got married, became a dad and a stepfather, moved to Paris, DJ’d, and did voice-overs for Wes Anderson. He also worked on solo albums and various one-off collaborations with the likes of Nancy Sinatra, Marianne Faithfull and perhaps the strangest project of his career, Relaxed Muscle, a freaky duo formed with electronic musician Jason Buckle. Previously Cocker had worked with Buckle when the latter was a member of the Sheffield-based All Seeing I collective. Cocker recorded with them and even appeared live with All Seeing I on Top of the Pops in 1999 singing “Walk Like A Panther.”
Relaxed Muscle was a dirty-sounding, dirty-minded concoction conceived to be an “anonymous” band. The name seems to refer to Viagra, which relaxes smooth muscle to allow for more blood flow to the penis. One of the songs on the album, A heavy nite with… Relaxed Muscle, is called “Rod of Iron.” You get the idea. Musically they sounded sort of like Suicide meets Cabaret Voltaire meets Add N to (X). Richard Hawley played guitar under the moniker “Wayne Marsden” which is the name of a kid who bullied Jarvis at school.
The lengths Cocker—who was billed as his alter ego “Darren Spooner”—went to hide the fact that he had anything to do with Relaxed Muscle (which I think was a pretty open secret) included using a Darth Vader voice box during phone interviews with journalists and wearing a skeleton leotard bodysuit and deliberately naff corpse paint on his face in photos, videos and when they played live. Few were fooled.
Which brings us to Darren Spooner. How did he come about?
Jarvis: Oh, right. Well, that happened years ago. Pulp was making a video for one of our songs called “Mis-Shapes”, which is on that DVD. It’s not one of our better songs, to be kind. And the concept the director had come up with, which we agreed with, was that I was going to play two characters in the video. So I played myself, and then I played this kind of rough guy who was the leader of this gang. In England we used to call them townies. It’s the kind of guy who would go out on a Saturday night and they’ve all got a sort of short-sleeved shirt on even when it’s the middle of winter, and just want to have a fight after the pub. Kind of like that. So I drank about three quarters of a bottle of brandy, and then did my acting bit, and anyway, I got into character, and suddenly the name Darren Spooner came into me mind. I don’t know why because I was so drunk, but I guess because it sounds a bit like Jarvis Cocker, it has the same number of syllables. And I became Darren Spooner for that day. And unfortunately when I went home, I couldn’t get out of character. My girlfriend at the time came into the flat we shared and I was on the kitchen floor singing “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” by Michael Jackson. Anyway. So that was the first appearance of Spooner back in 1995. And then it became my pseudonym, like when I was on tour and I checked into hotels.
And for those last couple of years did he reappear? Is there any trace of him in the last couple of years of Pulp?
Jarvis: I’m sure it comes out now and again. But more probably he comes out when I’ve had too much to drink.
So for that video you shot, he made an official kind of coming out.
Jarvis: Yeah, but then, I didn’t want people to know it was me.
Oh, well done!
Jarvis: I thought if I had skull makeup on, people wouldn’t know. At least I wouldn’t look like myself. I was happy with it. He’s like an anti-superhero, a super nasty hero. And I thought he was quite good. I was nicking his look really. As l said, a lot of it is instinctive, so I can’t say why really.
Make-up can’t really disguise how tall someone is, can it? By the time Relaxed Muscle played live, the pretense was definitely over, although I don’t think that really mattered to any of the participants, who seemed to be having a good time:
In 1983 a director named Sam Scoggins made a 23-minute movie with the title The Unlimited Dream Company; the film gestured at being an adaptation of J.G. Ballard‘s 1979 novel of the same name but is actually something far more compelling, an experimental profile of Ballard himself with some of the most fascinating footage ever taken of the writer.
You couldn’t ask for a more thorough examination of Ballard’s themes, work, and bio in 23 minutes. The movie alternates between footage of Ballard himself speaking and strange clips accompanied by clinical extracts from The Atrocity Exhibition read by Julian Gartside. Sometimes Ballard’s comments also receive a filmic accompaniment. In his own comments, Ballard discusses his childhood in Shanghai and describes in some detail a car crash he experienced, an event that occurred, curiously, after Ballard had written Crash.
There are two main types of material intercut in the film:
1) A big close-up of Ballard’s face. He talks, looking straight at the camera,
2) Ballard’s alter ego wearing a ragged flying suit wanders through “Ballardian” landscapes and in each makes a portrait of Ballard from things around him.
The landscapes are:
a) The jungle (past). He makes a portrait from feathers.
b) Motorway/Scrapyard (present). He makes a portrait from crashed cars.
c) The Beach (future). He draws a huge spiral in the sand.
These sections were shot in black and white, then printed each in a different monochrome, i.e. a green, b) red, c) blue.
The enthralling core of the movie is unmistakably “(v)”, which is described thus: “A 6 min. duration very slow zoom in from a head and shoulders shot of Ballard to a very large close-up of his right eyeball. Off camera a voice asks the 90 questions from the Eyckman Personality Quotient, each of which Ballard answers Yes or No.”
This section in some quarters bears the title “Answers Given By Patient J.G.B. To The Eyckman Personality Quotient Test.” (A commenter points out, its actual name is the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire.) It’s reminiscent of the Voigt-Kampff test from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, adapted in 1982 by Ridley Scott as Blade Runner. It’s a six-minute shot in which the camera slowly zooms in on Ballard’s left eye (the above synopsis has the eye wrong) during which the writer gives candid answers to questions such as these:
Are you an irritable person?No Have you ever blamed someone for doing something you knew was really your fault?No Do you enjoy meeting new people?Yes Do you believe insurance schemes are a good idea?Yes Are your feelings easily hurt?No Are all your habits good and desirable ones?No Do you tend to keep in the background on social occasions?Yes