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Dame Edna’s alter ego: Sir Les Patterson and the Chinese Year of the Trouser Snake
07:58 am

Pop Culture

Barry Humphries

The “Aussie Ubu

The legendary Australian comedian Barry Humphries is a satirist whose subject is the monstrosity of decent middle-class people. Though I love his most famous character, Dame Edna, my favorite will always be the superlatively obscene Sir Les Patterson, who claims to be Australia’s cultural attaché to the Far East. From his loose, drooling grin to his loud, puke-stained clothes, everything about Les is repulsive. 

John Lahr’s page-turner, Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization: Backstage With Barry Humphries, devotes a chapter (‘Sir Les Patterson and the Chinese Year of the Trouser Snake’) to the character. Here’s how we meet him:

Sir Les bursts the seams of the real. He is a rollicking, tumescent theatrical creation whom Humphries has described as ‘on a sort of bacchic trip’. His cock, a pendulous eight inches of padded cotton, dangles beneath Humphries’ upholstered belly to his knees, making Humphries look for all the world like an Aussie Ubu. [...] Sir Les’s record Twelve Inches of Les and his book The Traveller’s Tool all draw attention to his most salient anatomical feature, which he refers to variously as ‘the pyjama python’, ‘the one-eyed trouser snake’, ‘my not-infrequently-felt-tip’, and ‘the enormous encumbancy which I’m holding down at the moment’.


Channel 4’s 1991 special A Late Lunch with Les
Sir Les has never appeared on stage or screen in the United States; Humphries, who announced his retirement in 2012 and is currently giving a farewell tour, seems to think the character wouldn’t play well here. Though Les appeared at the farewell shows in Europe, it looks like he’ll be absent from the tour’s US dates, which is too bad for us. (Of course, that doesn’t mean you should pass up your last chance ever to see Humphries live, which is the way to see him—his gift for spontaneous comedic creation is unrivaled.)

Sir Les Patterson live in 1988

His career started with Dada. In 1952, when he was a student at Melbourne University, Humphries put on “the first Pan-Australian Dada Exhibition.” Among his works on display were packages of a fictitious platypus poison (“PLATITOX”), a pair of Wellingtons filled with custard (“Pus and Boots”), and an image of Queen Elizabeth II with stubble (“Her Majesty’s Male”). Other pieces were made out of cake, lambs’ eyes, shoes, and tomato sauce.

From there, Humphries moved on to disruptions of everyday life. These were not performed for an audience or documented in any way, just carried out like acts of terror. Lahr describes one such action:

In one notorious escapade, Humphries had his accomplice, John Perry, dress as a blind man and take a seat in a non-smoking compartment of a Melbourne commuter train. Perry had dark glasses, his leg in a cast and was reading from a piano roll that looked as if it was braille. Humphries entered the compartment and began to smoke. He was dressed garishly and reading a foreign newspaper. Later, as he got up to exit, he unleashed a barrage of foreign-sounding gibberish, grabbing the ‘braille’ and tearing it, kicking at the ‘blind man’s’ leg, throwing his spectacles to the floor and leaving. ‘Commuters were invariably transfixed in horror,’ Humphries says. ‘No one ever pursued me. Mind you, I ran as fast as I could. People tried to comfort John Perry. He would always say, “Forgive him.” It was also very funny to do, and very hard not to laugh. It’s a bit hard to say what effect the stunt was meant to have, since it was meant to amuse us, a kind of outrageous public act.’

And another:

Later, Humphries would get himself banned temporarily from Qantas flights for tipping a tin of Russian salad into a sick bag, loudly feigning illness, and then eating his ‘vomit’. ‘If an air hostess sees you,’ he said, ‘it can produce what I call the Chain Chunder. Five minutes later the pilot is throwing up.’


Sir Les’s autograph
In his official capacity as cultural attaché to the Far East, Patterson reported on the 1997 return of Hong Kong to China for the BBC. He approached the story with the cultural sensitivity for which he is famous.

More of Sir Les after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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‘Wow’: Milli Vanilli, the opera
07:11 am


Milli Vanilli

Opera is renowned for its receptivity to the most intensely dramatic moments, which may be why there has lately been something of a trend in the world of modern opera to turn to celebrity headlines and reality TV for fodder—witness the mid-2000s phenomenon of Jerry Springer: The Opera as well as the more recent opera Anna Nicole, about the curtailed life of former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith, which had its U.S. premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last September. (At the New York City debut of Jerry Springer: The Opera at Carnegie Hall in 2008, Harvey Keitel played the role of Jerry Springer—I sure wish I had seen that.) Last November DM reported on the existence of a Toronto production of Rob Ford: The Opera.

So it may not be so terribly surprising that the brief and controversial career of Milli Vanilli would eventually become the inspiration for a serious opera. To recap for the uninitiated, Milli Vanilli consisted of Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, who under the guidance of producer Frank Farian became a German R&B pop duo responsible for several hits, most particularly “Girl You Know It’s True.” “Rob and Fab” didn’t have the best command of English, which prompted some observers to wonder about their verbal fluency on their songs.

As Wikipedia tells it,

The first public sign that the group was lip-synching came on July 21, 1989 during a live performance on MTV at the Lake Compounce theme park in Bristol, Connecticut. As they performed onstage live in front of an audience, the recording of the song “Girl You Know It’s True” played and began to skip, repeating the partial line “Girl, you know it’s…” over and over on the speakers. They continued to pretend to sing and dance onstage for a few more moments, then they both ran offstage. According to the episode of VH1’s Behind the Music which profiled Milli Vanilli, Downtown Julie Brown stated that fans attending the concert seemed neither to care nor even to notice, and the concert continued as if nothing unusual had happened. In a March 1990 issue of Time magazine, Pilatus was quoted proclaiming himself to be “the new Elvis”, reasoning that by the duo’s success they were musically more talented than Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger.

That last sentence is a doozy, illustrating the perceived need for the comeuppance Milli Vanilli would soon receive. Curiously, it would take more than a year for the ramifications of that lip-synch incident to become clear. In February 1990, Milli Vanilli was awarded the Grammy for Best New Artist; only nine months later did Farian reveal to reporters that Rob and Fab had not actually sung on any of the records (the real singers were named Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howell). Milli Vanilli’s Grammy was withdrawn before the week was out (the only time such a thing has happened). Arista Records dropped Milli Vanilli from its roster and deleted their album and its masters from their catalog, making Girl You Know It’s True the largest-selling album to ever be taken out of print. A court ruling in the United States entitled anyone who had bought the album to a refund.

If nothing else, the backlash against Milli Vanilli reeked of excess. The public vitriol was intense; Milli Vanilli was instantly transformed into a laughing stock, an easy punchline. Rob Pilatus spent most of the next few years battling substance abuse, and on April 2, 1998, he died of an overdose of alcohol and prescription pills in Frankfurt.

Milli Vanilli were victims of shitty timing, to some extent. Obviously their success came at a time when the delicate technology of CD playback enabled the possibility of an embarrassing “skip,” although really any fakery always has the potential to be exposed in a humiliating fashion; for proof of that, just watch Singin’ in the Rain. But the timing of the public’s perception of artifice versus authenticity would end up punishing Milli Vanilli. When their story broke, nobody had any way of knowing that the most talked-about band in the country not even a year later would be Nirvana, whose very existence represented a punk-y rebuke to the likes of major touring acts like Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, etc. Whatever else they were, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were perceived as being very strongly anti-artifice, and they and several other Seattle-based bands would spearhead the grunge movement, which would take as its symbol par excellence the material of flannel, available not in haute couture design houses but in every Salvation Army in America. Furthermore, the new technology behind Soundscan was bringing new rigor to the process of tracking America’s #1 hits, and the payola-ish forces that enabled Milli Vanilli’s very existence would come to feel a thing of the past very quickly.

Christian Hawkey, Joe Diebes, and David Levine
The story of Milli Vanilli has it all: a fast rise and a faster fall, issues of powerful inclusion and exclusion, race (Milli Vanilli were a multi-racial outfit), temptation and exploitation. ... above all it has everything to do with the authenticity of the human voice, which is the kind of thing an opera can make hay with. As a child of grunge myself, I’m not alway so predisposed to let Milli Vanilli off the hook; their prefabbed sound represents the polar opposite of, say, Jesus Lizard. And yet the notion that Milli Vanilli was essentially crucified to make a lavish point about integrity in the music industry seems entirely inarguable.

Such a notion has inspired composer Joe Diebes, librettist Christian Hawkey, and director David Levine to pursue a remarkable operatic work about the Milli Vanilli scandal that has been several years in the making. It’s called “Wow,” and it was performed at BRIC House in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, earlier this year. In the piece, librettist Hawkey takes pains to bring in some notable examples of mass media fakery in the pop culture arena that failed to elicit comparable outrage, including Audrey Hepburn lip-syncing her songs in the movie version of My Fair Lady, the use of a dancer in Flashdance, as well as the Monkees, who were a TV band before they became a real band. Any opera that features the line, “but the ass of the woman in Pretty Woman was not real….” has got to be worth a listen.

In an interview with the New York Times, Diebes said, “Aside from their story being inherently operatic, in terms of the Faustian bargain the duo made with the German pop producer Frank Farian. ... I am interested in the machinery that surrounded and ultimately destroyed them, and what that can tell us about our contemporary digital situation. It’s significant to me that they emerged at the same time as digital culture went mainstream, and MIDI sequencers and drum machines became common.”

As Brooklyn Paper reported earlier this year,

Diebes’ score is a deconstruction of Wagner’s “Der Meistersinger von Nurenberg,” which will be fed to the singers and orchestra live on video monitors, making for a new show each night. Levine’s staging is inspired by the act’s music videos.

“They had an extraordinary amount of charisma and were able to create an act that was totally singular,” said Hawkey. “There was a level of choreography and even costume that was just utterly fantastic. I love shoulder pads, and they knew how to rock them.”

“I remember feeling at the time when the scandal broke that they had been wronged,” said librettist Hawkey, a poet who teaches at Pratt Institute. “That they were probably victims of a larger corporate system that gobbled them up and spit them out.”

Here’s a workshop of the “untitled” piece dating from 2011, in which you can hear some of the key arias:

More after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Hot damn: Incredible footage of Django Reinhardt’s guitar technique
07:03 am


Stéphane Grappelli
Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt is one of the undisputed guitar jazz masters. Is he the most important jazz guitarist of all time? I don’t even know who else would be in the running for that…. Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian? Django’s pretty close to the top, by anyone’s reckoning. Reinhardt gets extra coolness points for being a gypsy, for possibly being illiterate, and for losing the use of his ring finger and pinky in a fire when he was 18 years old.

That fact, of Django’s maimed hand, has heightened interest in his technique, because if nothing else it forced him to rethink his approach to the instrument.

In 1939, a promotional film in English was made for Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Hot Club of France. The title of the video is “Jazz ‘Hot.’” It’s possible that the video was generated for a tour of Britain the Hot Club would do that year. The first half of the video is a little introduction to jazz; the second half of the video is a performance by the Hot Club. If you’d like to see Django’s fingers dance all over the guitar with a camera placement designed to showcase it in all its glory, here’s your chance. Stéphane Grappelli, of course, also appears on violin.

Absolutely astonishing footage.

Unfortunately, embedding is disabled on the video, but you can watch it here.

via Lawyers, Guns & Money

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The Standells rock with Bing Crosby, 1965
06:20 am

Pop Culture

Bing Crosby

There’s a TV law of nature that describes a very nearly universal tendency in sitcoms: if a show stars a performer already well known from an entertainment industry sector other than television, and the main character’s first name is the same as the performer’s, and that shared name is not “Bob” or “Lucy,” odds are extremely high that the show will fall somewhere between unrelentingly bland and totally unwatchable.

So did you even know Bing Crosby had an eponymous domestic sitcom for two years in the ‘60s? Despite his extremely high stature as a widely beloved singer and movie star, his completely unexceptional show was apparently no one’s favorite. Crosby played Bing Collins (there’s your red flag), a former singer who gave up the limelight to teach at a small college. His wife hated campus life and craved a return to showbiz glitz. They had two daughters, an airhead and an egghead. I got bored witless just typing that—care to sit through a few episodes? I think I’m safe in guessing not. In fact, while Der Bingle’s feature films and Christmas specials are readily available on DVD, I’m unable to find evidence that his sitcom was ever anthologized for home video in any format.

But just as bright children can be born to dull parents, even this puddle of middling televisual goo begat a moment worth preserving. In the aftermath of the Beatlemania bankability exploison, when countless also-ran bands could land on TV simply because anyone with guitars and shaggy hair would do, The Bing Crosby Show aired an episode guest starring the godfathers of garage rock, the Standells. Before they became known for their seminal single “Dirty Water,” that band made a fair few TV appearances, including on The Munsters and the medical drama Ben Casey. On Bing, they portray the Love Bugs, a not-trying-very-hard counterfeit of the Beatles. (That sort of thing was even more blatant in their Munsters appearance—they actually played “I Want to Hold Your Hand!”) Girls scream. Teenagers frug. Parents don’t quite get it. Blah blah blah. It’s worth it for the mimed performances of early tunes like “Come Here,” the inspired “Someday You’ll Cry,” and a take on the oft-covered Leiber/Stoller classic “Kansas City” with an amusing vocal turn by Crosby—it’s almost enough to make you forget what a twisted child abuser he was! Luckily, the YouTube user who posted this cut out most of the dismal sitcom crap in-between the tunes.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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David Bowie should be in every video game
02:46 pm


David Bowie

While I strive to be a Bowie completest, I feel like I’m constantly coming across some weird little project he did on the side, many of which are more intuitive than others. Somehow I entirely missed that he partially scored and had a small voice-over part in the 1999 adventure game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul. Frankly I’m a little surprised he never got into video game acting earlier—he has a great speaking voice, and is there a rocker more sci-fi than he? And that face! Those chiseled cheeks are perfect for 3-D animation.

The plot of Omikron even reads like a concept Bowie came up with. The player enters an alternate dimension to investigate murders in a futuristic city, eventually liberating citizens from a fascistic techno-government while attempting to evade demons trying to steal their soul (you know, script number 3). Bowie wrote some decent pop tunes for the soundtrack and played an underground revolutionary. He also makes an “appearance” as a singer for a band that plays illegal concerts. It’s all very much the cyberpunk “vive la résistance” aesthetics à la The Matrix, which came out the same year.

Where it falls flat is the attempt to divine a music video from the not-so-slick game animation—a rare miss from Bowie’s aesthetics. I mean, it’s not “Dancing in the Street” bad, but it’s no Labyrinth either.


Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Vintage MTV: ‘Punks and Poseurs: A Journey Through the Los Angeles Underground’
09:29 am

Pop Culture

The Dickies

This kid.

Knowing firsthand that MTV didn’t always totally suck asswater really dates you. When I have occasion to mention how, once upon a time, that justly-reviled network actually played some seriously cool shit, I half wonder if I’m coming off like my grandma used to when she talked about the Great Depression. But it’s true, even before long-running bones thrown to the weirdos like 120 Minutes and Headbanger’s Ball found their footing, MTV broadcast stuff like IRS’ The Cutting Edge and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes, which often rivaled even the USA Network’s mighty Night Flight for genuinely informative freak-scene value.

One jaw-droppingly excellent MTV show was the one-off special Punks and Poseurs: A Journey Through the Los Angeles Underground. A big mover behind its production was Charles M. Young, who, as sad fate would have it, passed away this week after a standoff with a brain tumor. He’s the guy at the beginning of the video, speaking with early VJ Alan Hunter, and while he looks for all the world like an unreconstructed Little River Band fan, don’t be faked out by appearances. Young was one of the first mainstream music journalists to take punk’s aesthetic merit as a given, and for that, we owe him a debt of gratitude. May he rest in peace.

At its core, “Punks and Poseurs” is a narration-free concert film, but it’s cut with terrific interview footage that explores the changing nature of punk, from insider and outsider perspectives. There’s a lot of great footage with writer/performers Pleasant Gehman and Iris Berry, torpedoing the influx into the music scene of neophyte phonies who just didn’t get it, explaining title of the program. (After this first aired in 1985, a bunch of the new waver/Durannie chicks at my high school—which is to say all the girls who were trying their suburban Ohio best to look like Gehman and Berry—started calling everyone “poseurs,” which was pretty funny.) There’s also a hilarious interview with employees at a store called “Poseur,” which sold punk fashions and accessories—people had to get that shit somewhere before Hot Topic forever banished punk to the mall, no?  Also keep an eye out for the kid giving a primer on how to fashion liberty spikes with Knox gelatine.

The performance footage mostly focuses on excellent, high-energy sets by The Dickies and GBH —the latter of whom were quite radical by MTV’s regular programming standards (and British, contra the program’s subtitle, but the concert took place in L.A., so whatever, I guess). There’s also an early glimpse of the excellent and still active Italian hardcore band Raw Power. I harbor serious doubts they’ve ever been spotted on that network again.

Many thanks to upstanding journalist and total fucking poseur Mr. Erick Bradshaw for this find.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Way USA’: Sleazy punk comedy travelogue is the greatest cult video you’ve probably never seen
The time Ian McKellen jammed with the Fleshtones on MTV in 1987
Debbie Harry, Ramones, Nick Rhodes, Courtney Love and more on MTV’s ‘Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes’

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Dance Noir: James Ellroy’s ‘My Dark Places’ inspires modern dance piece
09:00 am


James Ellroy
Hans Van den Broeck

James Ellroy is not the real name of James Ellroy, did you know that? He was born Lee Earle Ellroy, after his father, whom he would come to despise. He changed his name to James Ellroy around the time he published his first novel.

In 1958, a few weeks after Lee’s tenth birthday, the body of Geneva “Jean” Hilliker Ellroy was found in the shrubs outside of Arroyo High School.

Those of you who have read Ellroy’s My Dark Places know this story. The never-solved killing of his mother has understandably haunted Ellroy his whole life. A year later, when he was eleven, his dad gave him a copy of Jack Webb’s book The Badge, which contained a synopsis of the gruesome 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, who would forever be known to history as “The Black Dahlia.” Ellroy’s breakthrough novel, as well as the first novel of his “L.A. Quartet,” was called The Black Dahlia. Unsurprisingly, the brutal death of a beautiful young woman in Los Angeles resonated with Ellroy. Ellroy spent most of his early years in erratic fashion, he briefly joined the American Nazi Party (mostly for shock effect), and he also became a petty criminal and burglar; he was arrested several times. After he became a successful writer of brutal noirs set in Los Angeles, he hired a private detective to investigate his mother’s murder, a process that led to the writing of My Dark Places.

If you think all of this is horrendously unpromising material for a dance piece, then you aren’t Hans Van den Broeck, of the Brussels-based dance group SOIT (Stay Only If Temporary). He has choreographed a dance piece called “The Lee Ellroy Show,” which premiered in Brussels last November and recently was staged for the ImPulsTanz festival in Vienna, Austria. (Van den Broeck appears to have some prior connection to Vienna; a 2010 piece of his is called Café Prückel, a magnificent old Kaffeehaus on Vienna’s Stubenring.)

The story is set in the 50’s. Divorced and lonely, James Ellroy’s mother moves to El Monte, part of the endless sprawl of greater Los Angeles. The new suburbia, isolated and eerie. A sordid boiling hot place risen from the dessert, a nowhere, where she was prone to meet other lost souls and eventually did. On a ‘cheap’ saturday night she met her killer, the ‘swarthy man’, a murderer who was never found. She had a night out on her own, a few drinks, a talk, a dance and was discovered in the early morning hours in the bushes of a small dirt-road. An existence halted in the grass, a life that never blossomed.

This sudden, traumatic disappearance condemns James Ellroy to a life-long search for the mother he never really knew, a loving mother. He embarks on a disturbing journey ; from a big mouthed young bully, to a shoplifting teenager, a voyeur and finally nearly losing his mind as a homeless young adolescent. About to tip over the cliff, he devotes himself to writing. It will be his salvation and a sublimation of the trauma, a life-long battle with the omen living inside him.


As Van den Broeck has said of the piece, “It has such a tragic and obsessive undertone: that man has really been obsessed by that loss throughout his whole life. It led to him becoming a writer, of course, but also, among other things, to a love-hate relationship with women. I trained as a psychologist and that fixation with an unresolved trauma of that kind really fascinated me. But in terms of language and style, too, it is a hugely inspiring book: obsessional in tone, written in a staccato rhythm, and quite ‘in your face’.” Jake Ingram-Dodd and Anuschka Von Oppen are the two dancers who inhabit “The Lee Ellroy Show.” The piece will have performances in Belgium this coming October and next March.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Russia to cheeky Bulgarians: Quit messing up our war memorials

ukraine bulgaria
Vandalizing Soviet-era war memorials to fallen soldiers in clever ways in Eastern Europe has become an anonymous sport. Well, Russian diplomats call it vandalism. Others call it awesome street art.

The Russian government has gotten increasingly pissed off by the attacks on the frequently targeted bas relief sculptures on the west side of the pedestal of the Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Russian embassy officially requested that Bulgarian authorities clean up the most recent incident this month, in which red paint was daubed on the monument on the eve of the 123rd anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, track down and punish those responsible, and do more to protect the statues instead of what they’re probably doing now, which is taking photos of it with their smartphones each time it’s vandalized.
Earlier this year the monument was spray-painted the colors of the Ukrainian flag. In 2011 the long-suffering soldier statues on the monument were notoriously painted to include Ronald McDonald, Wonder Woman, Robin, Santa Claus, The Joker, The Mask, Superman, Wolverine, Captain America, and an American flag. In 2012 balaclavas like the members of Pussy Riot wore were painted on the figures and, in separate incidents, Guy Fawkes “Anonymous” masks and ski masks were placed over the soldiers’ faces. Last August the monument was painted pink with apologies in Bulgarian and Czech for Bulgarian participation in the suppression of the Prague Spring uprising in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Pink was the chosen color in a tribute to Czech prankster and artist David Cerny, who painted a Soviet war memorial in central Prague (Monument of Soviet Tank Crews) pink in 1991. When Cerny was arrested, supporters repainted the tank pink. Similar defacement of Soviet monuments have taken place in Estonia and Romania.
Cerny is also known for floating a boat on the Vltava River containing an enormous purple hand flipping the bird at the Czech government building last fall.

People who object to this sort of behavior have asked that the Bulgarian memorial be moved to the fairly new and apparently disappointing Museum of Socialist Art. The monument’s most hostile critics think it should have been destroyed after the fall of the Soviet Union, so it’s probably fair game as a focal point for political and cultural protests by activists and general mischief.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Patti Smith’s ‘Career of Evil’ with Blue Öyster Cult
07:57 am


Patti Smith
Blue Öyster Cult

In the 70s and 80s, Blue Öyster Cult had their pick of interesting lyricists. Their friend Richard Meltzer, one of the first rock critics, contributed a number of songs, among them “Harvester of Eyes,” “Stairway to the Stars” and “Burnin’ for You.” Like Hawkwind, BÖC collaborated with sci-fi author Michael Moorcock, who wrote the words to “Veteran of the Psychic Wars,” “The Great Sun Jester” and “Black Blade.” And how better to while away a lazy afternoon than by puzzling over the gnomic lyrics of manager Sandy Pearlman, author of such intelligence-resisting classics as “7 Screaming Diz-busters” and “Dominance and Submission”? But the only Commandeur dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres to have written for the metal gods is Patti Smith, who was romantically involved with BÖC keyboardist Allen Lanier in the mid-70s.

In her memoir Just Kids, Smith mentions Richard Meltzer as one of the rock journalists she “held in esteem” in the 70s. A few pages later, writing about her first performance with guitarist Lenny Kaye, she suggests the writer was more Kaye’s friend than hers, listing Meltzer as one of “Lenny’s people [who] came to cheer him on.” For what it’s worth, Meltzer’s version of events, as told in Blue Oyster Cult: Secrets Revealed!, is quite different from Smith’s, and characteristically scabrous:

“OK, basically, I was the one who brought her to the band,” recounts Meltzer. “She was my friend. In the summer of 1970, my dentist was around the corner from the bookstore where she worked, Scribner’s Books on 5th Avenue in the 40s. And I stopped in there and we became great friends. And somewhere down the line I brought her to the band. And Pearlman wanted to fuck her and that was his interest. And I don’t know if he did or didn’t, but once it was clear that she was with Allen, it got to be that there was a lot of tension between Pearlman and Allen. And Allen and Patti were very anti-Semitic folks, without any irony whatsoever. You know, fuck the Jews, all that kind of stuff. And so there was a lot of anti-Pearlman wrath from both of them. I lived with this woman Ronnie and we would hang out with Allen and Patti a lot, through the mid ‘70s. And essentially what made the relationship viable was that we didn’t mind their anti-Semitism. But the point is that Allen thought the faux-Nazi stuff was a joke. I mean, everybody took it as a joke. Except, as I remember, Eric [Bloom] thought there was something cool about it, that the Third Reich had its shit together. You know, the Jew in the woodpile was the one that took it the most seriously.”

Well that’s interesting, isn’t it?

If I’m not mistaken, Smith’s voice first appeared on Ray Manzarek’s The Whole Thing Started with Rock & Roll Now It’s out of Control (1974), which is hard going even (especially?) for a Doors fan. However, the first Patti Smith lyric committed to vinyl was 1973’s “Baby Ice Dog,” sequenced as the first song on the second side of BÖC’s masterpiece Tyranny and Mutation. Set on a frozen Mongolian steppe, the song tells the familiar tale of man’s betrayal by dog, dog’s fatal plunge through ice, and man’s fantasy about “unnatural acts” involving ladies who’d “like to make it with my big black dog.”

“Baby Ice Dog” from Blue Öyster Cult’s Tyranny and Mutation
With its unrepentant declaration of adherence to the left-hand path, Smith’s next BÖC lyric, “Career of Evil,” makes the first lines of “Gloria” seem like not such a big deal. For starters, she wants to seduce your wife and daughter, rob you, hold you for ransom, and charge you for unnecessary brain surgery. When it was released as the single from BÖC’s third album Secret Treaties, the line “I’d like to do it to your daughter on a dirt road” was amended to “I’d like to do it like you oughta on a dirt road.” Meltzer calls the song “the first forcible fusion of rock and Rimbaud.”

“Career of Evil” from Blue Öyster Cult’s Secret Treaties
The platinum-selling Agents of Fortune—the one from 1976 with “Don’t Fear the Reaper”—includes two songs with lyrics by Smith. The chorus of “The Revenge of Vera Gemini,” a duet between Patti and BÖC’s lead singer Eric Bloom, refers to Smith’s debut album Horses, released the previous year:

Oh no more horses, horses
We’re gonna swim like a fish
Into the hole in which you planned to ditch me
My lovely Vera Marie


“The Revenge of Vera Gemini” from Blue Öyster Cult’s Agents of Fortune
The last Smith lyric BÖC recorded was 1983’s “Shooting Shark,” released during her retirement from music. In the video for the song, guitarist and singer Buck Dharma takes part in an unspeakable ritual, chases a spectral woman with an equally spectral gun, and sees a lot of things that are just plain mysterious.

The music video for “Shooting Shark” from Blue Öyster Cult’s The Revölution by Night

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Bizarre, expensive porcelain stereo speakers in the form of political dictators

Russian artist Petro Wodkins is behind the design, manufacture, and sale of these hand-made porcelain “Sound of Power” speakers in the shape of five powerful heads of state. The group consists of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Barack Obama of the United States. I find it almost refreshing that Obama could make this list, it smacks of a certain contrarian je ne sais quoi.

The craftsmanship on these beauties is purported to be impressive: as the PR materials brag, “The figurines are crafted by artists and we put a lot of attention to the authentic details, like the small stars on the buttons on the shirt of Kim Jong-Un.” I have to admit that when I do shop for international dictator audio equipment, I do look for that sort of attention to detail.

The speakers come in three sizes. The 10-inch model costs about $1,200 and is appropriate for use with a desktop computer. The largest is the 43-inch model, which runs roughly $39,000 and will instantly become the most attention-getting object of almost any room in which it is present, as depicted below. As you can see, the speakers are also useful for providing a surface upon which the spoiled children of plutocrats can lean comfortably.

If you don’t like speakers in the shape of meanie dictators, you can opt to get speakers custom-made of your own head or anyone whose head you can subject to a 3D scanner. The custom model is available in “white or gold” and “prices start” at around $165,000.
Kim Jong-Un
via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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