A few weeks ago Cherry Bombed, one of my co-conspirators here at Dangerous Minds, was working on a post about vintage Swedish rock and roll trading cards and contacted me to ask if I knew who “Bobby McGee” was. As well-versed in glitter and glam as I like to consider myself, I was at a loss. The Swedish trading card of the chick in lame′ spandex and leopard-print stand-up collar on the back of a chopper was an intriguing mystery.
It wasn’t an easy bit of searching to reveal the identity of this early ‘70s mystery artist either—as searching for any musically-related “Bobby McGee” (or more properly, as I’d learn, “Bobbie McGee”), was bound to return thousands of Janis Joplin and Kris Kristofferson entries.
Eventually “Bobbie McGee” revealed herself as Lady Teresa Anna Von Arletowicz, who was also dubbed by the music press of the day as “Gladys Glitter” for her musical and sartorial similarities to Gary Glitter.
Click on image for larger, readable version.
Arletowicz was born in London, but lived in South Africa for a time where her recording career seems to have begun with the release of the 1972 pop single “Zanzibar.”
Her 1973 UK glam rock single, “Rock and Roll People,” brought her some degree of cult status which resulted in a few TV appearances, music press articles, and at least one vintage Swedish rock and roll trading card—but not much else. It seems that the UK music industry was only interested in elevating one glam rock queen to superstar status and it wasn’t in the cards for Gladys Glitter—Suzi Quatro was to be the anointed one. A shame, in fact, because you can’t really have enough ‘70s badass rocker chicks. Bobbie McGee released four more singles that went nowhere before completely disappearing from music history’s radar.
Still, thank glob for unearthed Swedish trading cards to set us on journeys of pop-archaeology and YouTube for preserving what has become my favorite song of the moment. It may also be yours too—if you don’t think too hard about it. There’s some big dumb hooks in there.
Here’s to you Gladys Glitter, wherever you are.
Listen to the almost-coulda-been-a-hit “Rock and Roll People”:
Though it only existed for five years, from 1978 to 1983, NYC’s Mudd Club served as one of New York—and American—underground culture’s most crucial incubators. Talking Heads and Blondie were fixtures there, and artists that emerged from the scene it galvanized included Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Madonna, the B-52s, Kathy Acker… you get the point. It was the gnarly, buoyantly creative flip-side of Studio 54’s disco-glamour coin, a lightning-in-a-bottle moment that can’t be recreated.
This week, Mudd Club co-founder Steve Mass has contrived a Mudd Club rummage sale to benefit the Bowery Mission, a long surviving homeless shelter/food kitchen that remains in NYC’s onetime Skid Row, now, like basically all of Lower Manhattan, a playground for the privileged. The event will be held on Thursday, November 19th, 2015 at Django at the Roxy Hotel. Admission ain’t cheap. It’s $200 a head to get in, but again, the money goes to a homeless mission. What that gets you is a chance to buy a Vivienne Westwood dress donated by Debbie Harry, an original painting donated by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, and other items donated by Sting, Maripol, Patti Smith, and other members of the Downtown demimonde.
Mass assures us that, rather than being a Sotheby’s-style auction, the rummage sale will be “like we had it in the old days,” with $50 dollar trinkets casually laid out next to more expensive items. “If Marc Jacobs donates a dress from that period and it’s $4,000 or $5,000, it might be next to a pair of shoes of someone who lost them in the Mudd Club in 1980.”
That pastiche, Mass said, was true to the club’s sensibility. “We were merging all these disciplines, which hadn’t been done before in a club,” said Mass, citing the presence of filmmakers like Kathryn Bigelow, writers like Candace Bushnell and Jay McInerney, photographers like Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin (both of whom are hosts), and fashion designers like Anna Sui (another host) and Marc Jacobs, both of whom had early shows there.
The event will be open-bar, and will feature performances by the B-52s Kate Pierson and the Patti Smith Group’s Lenny Kaye, plus DJs and more to be announced.
Here’s some BADASS footage of the Cramps at the Mudd Club in 1981, from the contemporary NYC access cable program “Paul Tschinkel’s Inner-Tube.”
Jen Ray’s paintings of “sparring Amazonian women who inhabit decaying, semi-surrealist and strangely beautiful wastelands” evoke the late ‘70s avant-post-psychedelic science fiction worlds one would associate with Heavy Metal (the magazine, not the music), but with a decidedly feminist bent—both in subject matter, and, some might argue, in form as well. Angry, jagged, “masculine” lines are filled in with soft, “feminine” washes of color—that is if colors and lines can even be described as “masculine” or “feminine” in the 21st century.
Untitled. 2007. (Detail)—Click on image for larger version.
Ray seems to delight in playing with gender stereotypes, and it’s all the more obvious in the exceptional performance pieces she constructs to augment her magnificent large-scale works of fine art.
North Carolina born, Ray was based out of Berlin for nearly a decade before recently returning to her home state. Her exhibitions of painting and performance have been presented in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Wolfsburg, Paris, Copenhagen, Mexico City, Amersfoort (Netherlands), and most recently, at New York’s Albertz Benda gallery.
Ray’s newest exhibition, Deep Cuts, runs at Albertz Benda until November 7th. The presentation which accompanied the opening, directed by Ray, featured a performance by Honeychild Coleman and Amor Schumacher along with a chorus of women backing up détourned renditions of Public Enemy’s “Countdown to Armageddon” and The Guess Who’s “American Woman.”
In a world where the mere mention of the phrase “performance art” sends eyes rolling with assumptions of self-indulgent, pretentious, mess-making (and add the word “feminist” to that phrase and you’ll likely lose even more dudebro interest) it’s remarkable how entertaining, as well as conceptual and thought-provoking, Jen Ray’s productions are. It’s very nearly as populist as it is powerful in its approach.
Give it a couple of minutes to ramp up and stick with it till the end… this is killer:
The first of Jen Ray’s performance works that I viewed (and still my favorite) was Hits which takes Black Flag’s tongue-in-cheek 1987 macho party-anthem “Annihilate This Week” and turns it on its ass. My remark upon first viewing this piece was “this is more interesting than any (punk band’s) show I’ve been to in the past five years.” The sterile atmosphere of the gallery space and its attendees being invaded by singer “Mad Kate” out-Rollins-ing Rollins somehow makes the proceedings even more “punk.”
One of the sad things about discovering new music in the post-Internet age is that, even with trusted recommendations, we often tend to give a new artist ten to twenty seconds to “click” with us before moving along to the next bit of input stimulus. One of the few drawbacks of having instantaneous access to nearly every song on the planet is that we tend to spend relatively less time warming up to the complex or unfamiliar than generations who grew up with an income that may have allowed for one or two new album purchases per week (supplemented with mixtapes made by friends and lovers). Access to less musical input dictated that more time would be spent absorbing a work and giving it multiple plays to sink in, even if it didn’t connect at first.
When Rat Rios’ cover of Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” rolled across my desktop last week, I might not have even given it a play at all. It was just one bit in a constant stream of mostly useless information I’m subjected to on a daily basis. It did, however, come to me from someone with a trusted opinion, and Billy Idol is a guilty pleasure—so, click I did. THANKFULLY.
Perhaps it was the familiarity of the song itself (though Rat Rios’ cover sounds very little like the Billy Idol original). More likely, it was the production and singing style which immediately brought to mind Julee Cruise’s work with David Lynch. Yeah, it was probably that. Anyway, something about this hooked me well past the ten-to-twenty-second window I tend to give an incoming soundfile. I instantly fell in love and have played this song dozens of times in the past week.
I was surprised to find that the track hasn’t racked up many views (355 as of this writing) and Rat Rios’ Facebook page has less than a thousand fans (as of this writing). I’m hoping Dangerous Minds’ readership will love this as much as I do and explore the work of Samantha “Rat” Rios.
Rat Rios live. Via Facebook.
In a recent interview Rios cites David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti (longtime composer of David Lynch scores) as major influences. It’s fairly obvious when you hear this cut.
It’s rare that I think a remake or cover surpasses a well-loved original, but I’ve got to hand it to Rat Rios. This bedroom dream-pop version of “Eyes Without a Face” surpasses the Billy Idol original in every way.
I recommend committing it to mixtape for your next make-out session.
Thanks to digital media the line between “rare” and “forget it” has become more like a chasm. The meaning of rarity has changed—it’s kind of funny to see something on YouTube marked “rare” —um, if it’s on YouTube for the whole world to watch at a click I’m not sure how it qualifies as “rare” anymore. It’s similar, though not precisely equivalent, for online marketplaces like discogs.com—if you can find an item with a simple search and buy it with a click, it’s far from inaccessible. It may be priced out of a given coveter’s reach in accordance with its scarcity, but that’s a far cry from having to crate-dig at record conventions in the forlorn hope that the Holy Grail just jumps in your hands someday.
But as if to thumb its nose at the age of ETEWAF, the 1979 Dutch film Cha Cha is practically impossible to see in its entirety. I’ve located exactly one NTSC VHS copy on GEMM, and I’m unaware of a US DVD (the Dutch have been more accommodating on that front). It’s on YouTube—in 15 parts!—but the first part has been yanked on copyright grounds, and 3 & 11 are just straight up missing. I suppose it’s cool that at least some of it can be seen.
The film stars Dutch rocker Herman Brood, who was quite well-known in Europe, but his biggest impact in the US was a lone Top-40 single that peaked at #35 in the autumn of 1979.
No photo, like me in my senior yearbook.
Brood was kind of the Amy Winehouse of his time, renowned as much for his unabashed drug abuse as for his music, and his addiction issues are likely to have led to his 2001 suicide. In Cha Cha, for which he has a writing credit, he plays a character with parallels to his own life—“Herman” in the film is a bank robber who decides to go legit, and his dubious “straight” career choice is singing in a New Wave band. In real life, Brood served time for dealing LSD before forming Herman Brood & His Wild Romance in 1976. From the ever-useful Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars:
One of Holland’s most outlandish musicians, Herman Brood was a drug-dealer turned rock phenomenon who found success with a variety of acts—his main priority being to stay in the papers as long as possible. And this didn’t stop at his death…
A distinctive art-school figure with his shock of black hair, pianist Brood joined the Moans, later to become rock-revival act Long Tall Ernie & the Shakers, before going on to sing with no lesser musicians than Van Morrison and John Mayall, until his dealing in LSD led to his imprisonment in 1968. Once back in the outside world, Brood’s subequent projects put him in the esteemed company of a post-Focus Jan Akkerman, and new-wave femme fatales Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich, with whom he starred in the 1979 movie Cha Cha. His main band were The Wild Romance, who found some commercial success, although even this was hampered by the singer’s wayward behavior with narcotics and prostitutes.
Lene Lovich & Nina Hagen are reportedly in Amsterdam filming a movie in the making called Cha Cha with Dutch rock star Herman Brood. The film is about a bank robber who wants to go straight, and sees the easy path to that end is becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star. East Germany’s Nina Hagen shocked music fans with an announcement that she was not only leaving her band to go solo, but was also planning to marry Herman Brood.
While finding the film itself is a vexing matter, the soundtrack album is far more accessible. It’s quite good, full of spiky uptempo punk and post-punk, and in fact, it’s how I found out the film existed—I found the soundtrack LP for $5 (thank you, Hausfrau), and figured that was a reasonable price for a comp of Brood, Hagen, and Lovich tracks, peppered with a ton of Dutch and German bands I’d never heard of. Just be careful—Brood had a 1978 LP also called Cha Cha, which has no track overlap with the soundtrack album, and nothing in common with the film but the title.
Enjoy the trailer for the film, and if you should endeavor to procure a copy, happy hunting!
I have unscientifically determined that not enough people know about this (I mentioned it to someone I assumed would own a copy and she said “WHAAAAAT?”), so off we go: in 1994, Mute records released The Sporting Life, a fantastic collaboration between Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and the amazing avant-garde/operatic vocalist Diamanda Galas. The result was an album too underground for the casual Zeppelin-head, for whom lyrics like “Husband/With this knife/I do you adore” were probably a bit much (plus that crowd was occupied with drooling over Page & Plant around then anyway), yet tamer and more straightforwardly rock than Gala’s fans were used to. But goddamn if the thing doesn’t SMOKE—and the booklet photos of Jones and Galas cavorting in a convertible with a pretty intimidating knife are good fun, too. Per AllMusic’s Ned Raggett:
Having explored sheer extremity throughout her fascinating range of solo efforts, Galas takes a turn to the slightly more accessible with her collaboration with Jones on The Sporting Life. Her vocal approach is still something which will freak out the unfamiliar listener, so anyone expecting some VH1-friendly switchover needs to think again. Keyboards are once again her other main instrument of choice, with both Hammond organ and piano used. Meanwhile, the Led Zeppelin bassist and arranger handles production as well as guitar and bass, while one Pete Thomas—apparently the Attractions’ drummer on an interesting side effort indeed—handles percussion. While it’s inaccurate to say the results are Galas fronting Led Zeppelin, Thomas does put in some heavy pounding with a hint of John Bonham’s massive stomp.
The album is noteworthy for reasons beyond its unexpected combination of principals. Jones’ playing on the album really doesn’t recall Zeppelin all that much. It actually sounds as though he’d been taking some cues from the Jesus Lizard’s bassist David Sims, and it definitely plays like a product of its time as opposed to a ‘70s throwback, which isn’t too much of a surprise—I’d always sensed that Jones was a more musically adventurous Zep than Jimmy Page, who himself was hardly a slouch in that department. Check out the opening track, “Skótoseme” (the title is Greek for “kill me”).
The story goes that in 1978, the Cramps made a video, filmed by Alex de Laszlo, for their song “Human Fly,” that featured singer Lux Interior (RIP 2009) in a classic movie-monster transformation scene—but it seemed like nobody saw it, or could even prove it existed. A close perusal of Thomas Owen Sheridan’s collection of contemporary zine articles about the band—itself a rare Cramps collectible—yielded exactly one reference to its existence.
In May, The Cramps made their first tentative steps into the world of promotional video. A friend who was studying at film school suggested his services and a short three-minute film, based on the song ‘Human Fly’ was produced. The film was made for under $200 and featured Lux painfully transforming into a fly. This artefact is now so rare that even Lux and Ivy do not have a copy of the film.
In 2011, an amazing blog post by Kogar Theswingingape proffered actual screen caps and a scene-by-scene breakdown, but the video itself wasn’t posted.
The film opens with a countdown and a placard with: Vengeance Productions Presents a Film by Alex de Laszlo. It immediately cuts to a shot of Ivy walking down the street, transistor radio glued to her ear (The Way I Walk is playing), blowing bubbles and holding a glass bottle coke. Cut to a somber looking Lux in a smoking jacket sitting on what appears to be a leopard print sofa. He’s prepping a huge hypodermic needle by lighting a match and holding it under the needle.
Lux then gathers up some flesh from around his throat and slowly injects himself.
The result is immediate; he begins a transformation!
Well, it seems that a couple of months ago, the actual film, AT LONG LAST, after decades of existing as little more than a tantalizing rumor, finally and with little fanfare found its way to YouTube. It’s amazing that this sine qua non of Cramps ephemera has been online for months with such a paltry view-count. Let’s ramp those numbers up a bit, shall we?
This post is dedicated to the memory of “Brother Ed” Wille, who probably had this on an 8MM reel or something. Many thanks to Shawn Swagerty for alerting me to this find.
Those who know Sean Yseult are most likely to remember her as the woman who brought some seriously HUGE ROCK BASS to the transformative ‘80s/‘90s groove-metal band White Zombie. Since the end of that band in 1998, she’s played in other, less all-consuming outfits, and has returned to her originally intended trajectory as a designer and photographer. Like many, many memorable bands, White Zombie formed at an art school, specifically Parsons, where Yseult studied photography and graphics. Even as a full-time recording and touring musician, Yseult continued to shoot. Her documents of those years are collected in the book I’m In the Band, and since then she’s attracted praise for purveying gauzy, nostalgically-charged photos that express influences from Bellocq, Weimar erotica, the antiqued surfaces and grim moods of Joel-Peter Witkin, and the decadent, occultic history of her adopted hometown of New Orleans. By all means, have a look at it on her web site.
Recently, her work has taken an unexpected turn. Abandoning the dreamy atmospherics, Yseult has produced a visually livid and unsparing series that’s interesting for what it reveals rather than what it implies. These are huge prints, starkly lit and sharp as can be, an array of mystic still-lifes and elaborately staged tableaux vivants depicting the lavish gathering of a 19th Century secret society. A show of the work, Soirée D’Evolution, will open Saturday at the Scott Edwards Gallery in NOLA. The large size is understandable—one could return to these photos repeatedly and still keep finding new things stashed away in them, and there was just so much to unpack from the things that we decided it was best to just ask Yseult to walk us through a few of them.
My sister and I were in the Louvre, in the Dutch Masters wing. We got almost lost in there for about two hours, and at some point, she said to me “you know, for your next show, you have such an odd collection of things in your house, so many antiques and human skulls and strange things, you should just create a bunch of still lifes.” That was my original inspiration for the show, looking at these enormous paintings with all these garish things going on, and that was what I decided I should do, photo-realism but with actual photos [laughs]. I’d never done such detailed color photography before, nor had I ever gone so large. The thing that stays similar to the past work is thematically I’m always kind of obsessed with history and the macabre.
I started off with one still-life based on a kind of a Catholic reliquary and votive holder, decorated with human skulls, antique musical instruments, and candles. That was the first photo I took, it’s called “Opening Ceremony.” I ended up doing a lot of research on New Orleans and secret societies and the Krewes, these very high society people who created Mardi Gras and the parades here, around the 1850s. I ended up basing the whole show around 1873, because there’s an antique store around the corner from me where I bought this French banner dated 1873. It has musical instruments on it, and some information, which when I looked it up it led me to a story about the Wild Girl of Champagne, France. That was a feral girl found in the region of France where the flag was from, she’d been living alone in the woods for ten years. She’d escaped a ship that was raided by pirates, and when she was found, she’d been living off of killing animals and sucking their blood for nourishment, or sometimes catching fish and just eating them raw. So that was the second photo, a tableaux vivant of that. That’s her holding the club, and the guy on the other side represents the abbey in that town—when she was captured she was held in a castle next to that abbey.
Despite the sledgehammers, chainsaws and occasional police-instigated violence that became heavily associated with Plasmatics’ shows, the late, great Wendy O. Williams was first and foremost a gentle soul, with more than a touch of hippie influence. As a teenage runaway she bounced around the Rocky Mountains and sold crafts, moved to Florida to be a lifeguard and even cooked at a health food restaurant in London before making the stage her home.
Wendy was also an advocate for animal welfare and a vocal vegetarian. One might understandably assume that her dietary choices were entirely ethically motivated, but this 1984 interview from Vegetarian Times (see her as the adorable cover girl above) shows she was also incredibly health-conscious—a serious urban gardener who avoided drugs and alcohol, exercised regularly and sprouted her own macrobiotic diet from a Tribeca loft. Williams actually taught a macrobiotic cooking class at the Learning Annex!
The best part? The article includes Williams’ own super-hippie recipe for salad dressing—it actually sounds like a pretty intriguing flavor profile too. Save it for your next Plasmatics themed dinner party!
Wendy’s diet is very heavy on live foods and sprouts. The salad dressing is the result of experimentation in the blender and it’s rather unique in that it includes fresh greens chopped up into the dressing. She advises that its [sic] best to use two different types of greens; one for the dressing, one for the salad.
1 1/2 cups rejuvelac (soak a cup of wheat berries in 3–4 cups of water for 3 days or until berries settle; then strain)
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs. miso or soy sauce
2 Tbs. lecithin
1 Tbs. cumin
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
Fresh herbs of your choice
Mixed greens (parsley, celery, sorrel, lettuce, spinach, or green
Add seasonings to rejuvelac and whir in blender. Add, little by little, 1 pound of mixed greens, Until greens or chopped and mix well. Best when used fresh.
Below, Wendy and her fellow Plasmatics go on a safari with John Candy on SCT.
Cheap Trick’s two teen idols/two dorks visual presentation schtick probably struck a lot of people as a mere gimmick in the ‘70s, but I will always be grateful to guitarist Rick Nielsen for showing the nerdy kids that one of us could be a for real, high visibility rock star. Cheap Trick were contemporary with punk, but apart from a highly disco-fied Blondie, punk bands weren’t featured in the kind of late ‘70s mass media to which kids interested in music had access pre-MTV, so that you-can-do-it-too ethos had to come from elsewhere, and for me, Nielsen was as close as I found to such a model. When I was a kid, Dream Police was my go-to, but as I got older and started back-tracking through their catalog, I found much to love about the back-to-basics Midwestern RAWK in earlier releases like In Color and the absolutely essential At Budokan.
But while he was an outlier, Nielsen was still always way more arena-rock than punk, and he boasted plenty of unapproachable showbiz flash—namely, his celebrated guitar collection/hoard, which surely cost a small fortune even then and is definitely worth a large fortune now. From agonizingly envy-inducing vintage pieces, to very cool custom finishes and custom builds, to his famous and utterly ridiculous five-necked guitars, Nielsen possesses an arsenal that can make gear-fetishists drool oceans, and as it happens, he’s currently divesting some choice pieces of it. He opened an online shop on reverb.com in January, and he’s selling off GORGEOUS instruments almost as quickly as he can post them. There’s a great video of him going through the process of thinning the herd here if you want a glimpse into his stash. As I type this, all that remains is a 1956 Les Paul Junior, a stylin’ little Bronson lap steel, and an astonishingly pristine 1959 Gibson ES-330T. And by the time you read this, who knows what’ll be left from that? Reverb lets users set up alerts, so when Nielsen posts more instruments, you can be the first to know via email if he decides to let go of his self-portrait double-neck. But in the meantime, though most of this stuff is sold already, we can still enjoy some gear-porn.
Bronson B35 Lap Steel, ‘50s
Gibson ES-330T, 1959 and not a single goddamn scratch!
Framus Strato Deluxe 1960s Sunburst—SOLD
National Glenwood, early ‘60s—SOLD
Dean Psychobilly Cabbie, 2000s—SOLD
Fender Maverick, ‘60s—SOLD
Fender Floral Telecaster, ‘90s reissue—SOLD
Burny H, ‘90s—SOLD
Enjoy this backstage footage from 1985 of Nielsen explaining his guitar collection to a reporter.