Print ad featuring Merle Haggard (RIP) for George Dickel Whisky, 1986.
Most of the time when our favorite musicians or celebrities appear as though they have “sold-out,” we all breathe a collective sigh of sadness. Such as the time that John Lydon shilled for Country Life Butter (the proceeds from which the crafty Lydon used to fund the creation of PiL’s 2012 album, This is PiL. Take that haters!), or when a part of you died after seeing Bob Dylan in a strange television commercial for Victoria’s Secret in 2004. As was the case with Lydon, it’s not always a bad thing. I mean, even I couldn’t hate on The Cure’s “Pictures of You” (from the band’s brilliant 1989 album, Disintegration) playing in the background of a Hewlett-Packard commercial back in 2003.
Dennis Hopper and John Huston for Jim Beam.
But back to the point of this post—if there is a more perfect pairing when it comes to commercial endorsements than badass celebrities and musicians pimping out booze, I do not know what it is. And I’m quite sure that many of these vintage ads will have you checking your watch to see if it’s already noon. However, if you’re like me and go by the guideline that it’s always noon somewhere, then congratulations! Because you’re probably on your second Bloody Mary, rationalizing that it’s okay because it’s almost a meal as long as it’s served with olives and celery. Tons of vintage ads for Jim Beam, Smirnoff, Colt 45 and other party liquids, held lovingly by folks such as Merle Haggard (pictured at the top of this post, RIP), Chuck Berry, Dennis Hopper (seen above with director John Huston), Telly Savalas, and two badass ladies—Joan Crawford and Julie Newmar—follow.
Julie Newmar in an ad for Smirnoff Vodka, 1966.
More celebrity boozehounds hawking hooch (say that in a slurred voice) after the jump…
Have you ever wanted to be able to ask a professional dominatrix anything? Anything at all about the private kinks of the rich and powerful financial elites?
That’s what happens in the latest episode of VICE’s outrageous Confessions of A... series: Wearing a mask, hoodie, and with a robotically disguised voice, a professional dominatrix in NYC shares the details of the torturous techniques she uses to help “de-stress” her high-powered Wall Street clientele.
And if you don’t know what “CBT” is… you’re about to find out. Ouch!
Advertising is supposed to be a creative endeavor for creative people. People who are so creative that they’re actually called “Creatives” professionally. What they actually do isn’t merely described as creative (an adjective), creative is also used as a noun (as in the creative.) They’re creative folks, these Creatives who are creating this (supposedly) creative creative. Got it?
Or are these Creatives really creating such creative creative, after all? As anyone who has ever toiled away in the trenches of the creative field (raises hand, ashamed) can tell you, there is precious little actual creativity that goes on in the advertising industry. Why? Because of the Creatives. Their creative is seldom very creative. The dirty secret of today’s Madison Avenue—listen up, all you would-be Don Drapers—is that creating actually creative creative (on the part of the Creatives, I mean) is frowned upon by the people upstairs. Decisions need to be justified up a chain of command—and clever ideas get hammered into fuckstick shitty ones as the creative moves along the assembly line of the corporate “creative process” (and yes, those are ironic quotation marks).
At the top of the Creatives salary range is usually someone so exasperatingly stupid and ridiculously out of touch that you just want to scream. This absurd corporate clown who wants the soundtrack to be “one of those great old Motown songs!” and thinks that this is an original idea or who wants to scrap something that’s already been shot and edited because “the Moon here looks too much like a 1970s-style moon.” It might be the actual Moon in the sky that this salary-justifying executive plonker is talking about, but this is the level of upper level Creative one tends to encounter in a career spent eating shit, smiling and saying how good that yummy shit sandwich tastes. You play it safe if you want to stay employed and keep sucking at the teat of the Capitalist system. It’s much easier that way, bucko. Wise up! It’s not your “art” and who the fuck cares anyway if every bit of everything that was good gets squeezed out of the Motown catalog to successfully advertise Kellogg’s Raisin Bran?
This is why most advertising SUCKS. This is why most people simply tune ads out. Ad blockers? I don’t need no stinking ad blocker! I got me an ad blocker right here in my head, baby!
But where was I? Oh fuck it…. Well, here’s another ad. But a very creative one. I think you’ll like it.
At the very end they tell you what the actual service or product is or does, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for you.
When I was a boy, Fleetwood Mac were “the enemy.” I just hated their soft “stadium rock” and you simply could not escape them on radio at the time. I was into David Bowie, the Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols. None of my musical heroes had long hair or beards. None of that hippie shit for me, 9-year old budding rock snob that I was.
Then, as it happened, a few years later I got a cassette tape of their Tusk album sent to me by mistake by Columbia House, which for those of you too young to remember was a “Twelve albums for a penny!” deal advertised in TV Guide and the Sunday paper. Once you got your initial dozen albums, you had to buy like six more at full list price with exorbitant postage and handling charges tacked on. Each month they’d send you a printed catalog along with a card that you had to put a stamp on and return refusing the automatic selection of the month or else they’d send you whatever “popular” album they were featuring and send you a bill for it. (This is how I came to own Ted Nugent’s Free for All, Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs and Jethro Tull’s Songs from the Wood.) Although I didn’t actually decide to purchase Tusk and as a two-record set with the extra high list price of $15.98 (a small fortune back then) it was an especially galling thing to get a bill for, I had to admit that I was crazy about the title track, which was on the radio at least once every few hours throughout 1980. I had one of those tape decks that would play to the end of one side and then the heads would flip over and play the other. What went from me playing “Tusk” (the song) over and over and over again ultimately became me listening to the entire album over and over again. During an an era where I mostly listened to XTC, Talking Heads, the Clash and things like that, I really got deeply into Tusk. I know every crevice, nook and cranny of that record. I think it’s an absolute masterpiece, sonically, from a songwriting, vocal, production and performance point of view, the total package, it was the creation of a group of truly great musicians at the height of their powers. With a practically unlimited budget.
A big part of Tusk‘s mythology has to do with the fact that it was the most expensive album ever recorded, with the final tab running over a million dollars. It was recorded in “Studio D” of the legendary Village Recorder in West Los Angeles. Much of the outrageous expense was due to the studio being kitted out to the group’s exacting specification, including 72 digital faders and an exact replica of Lindsey Buckingham’s home bathroom, where one can suppose he liked to… think? God knows how much more money was spent on cocaine. Only the accountants and the dealers and the dealers’ accountants and the dealers’ Maserati dealers know for sure.
Last year I had a chance to tour “the Village” and I’ve been in the very rooms where Fleetwood Mac were holed up for better than a year recording Tusk. I stood in the vocal booth where Stevie Nicks lit candles and incense and laid Oriental rugs and pillows. I imagined the exotic instruments and wall coverings, the actual tusks and the shrunken heads that sat around the room. I imagined the feasts fit for rock’s richest royalty that must have been served there day after day. It was a fascinating superstar “inner sanctum” for a fan to be allowed to enter. (And yes, I saw Lindsey’s personal crapper, but I did not use it.)
With the new 5.1 surround mix of Tusk available on Rhino’s new box set 5CD/1DVD/2LP deluxe release of the classic album, you can hear how at least some of that money was spent. Sounding better than it ever has, Tusk in surround is exactly the sonic revelation that I hoped for and wanted it to be.
When I get a box set, I want to lose myself in it. Smoke a joint, sit back, relax and listen to music. Not passively. I want to really get into it. Actively listen. When it’s over I want to play it again. And again. And over again. Folks, believe me when I tell you that I spent all weekend stoned, laying on the couch listening to Tusk to the exclusion of practically all other activities. I played all the outtakes and alt mixes (the way the title number was birthed is worth listening to) and the great live material from the Tusk tour of 79/80. It’s all good stuff and it has some of the more engrossing liner notes I’ve read in a long while, nice packaging too… but the 5.1 surround mix. Oh man. If you care about such things—and you should—it’s a truly peak experience when it comes to achieving an Earth-shattering high fidelity eargasm. “Sara,” the classic Stevie Nicks ballad, sounds like the gossamer and fine lace Stevie was probably wearing when she sang it. Christine McVie’s “Honey Hi” and “Think About Me” are pure pop perfection as is Nicks’ stunning “Beautiful Child.” Although I’m reasonably sure that most of the vocal and instrumental performances on Tusk were recorded individually and then stacked up on the mixing board and diced and sliced by Buckingham, when you hear those incredible harmonies coming at you from all corners of the room, each voice with a speaker to itself, it’s as if you are in Studio D of the Village and standing in the room as Tusk is being played live.
Tusk was always one of those albums that got pulled out for stereo demonstrations at the hifi stores of its day like a cliché, but until you have heard Ken Caillat’s stunning surround mix of the title track, you haven’t experienced the best of how a rock classic like this can sound reimagined for a 21st century audio system. “Tusk” starts out with the loopy drum loop played on a box and builds up to a thunderous and dramatic climax with the USC marching band’s participation taking it all to an outlandish level of sonic excess and gloss. The way the overdubbed voices and layered guitars leap out of the speakers is damned impressive. One is also really impressed by Lindsey Buckingham’s lightning fast finger-picking/strumming style as the 5.1 surround format puts a lot of space around what he was doing. The “wow factor” here is off the scale. I could listen to that one song for hours on repeat.
All in all, Rhino’s new deluxe Tusk box set is the classic rock box set of the 2015 Christmas season. No one who finds it under their tree on Christmas morning is going to be disappointed. The definitive edition of an essential album. A+
Here’s the TL;DR version: If you are an aficionado of 5.1 surround music, run, do not walk, to buy the new Velvet Underground Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition box set NOW. Don’t hesitate. It’s fucking amazing.
For readers who want a more considered review, read on. Full disclosure, this is a sponsored post, but I can promise you that what you’re reading is 100% the way I really feel.
I had been very, very anxious to hear the newly reloaded Velvet Underground Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition box set. I’m a big fan of surround music and I am a big fan of the Velvet Underground, so the idea that I would get to hear Loaded, one of my favorite albums of all time in 5.1 surround seemed too good to be true. I recently moved and made a point not to set up my audio system until I had said VU box set in hand. I wanted it to be the first thing I listened to in the new place. For days I watched the mail like a hungry hawk. It arrived late yesterday morning. Around 5pm, I started setting up my audio system, calibrated everything for the new room it was in, etc., and then just as I was about to toke up, sit down and listen, the amp went into protection mode, shut down and an error message told me to “check speaker wires.” Shit!
It took me five incredibly annoying hours of troubleshooting until I found the culprit, a tiny splinter of barely visible copper wiring that was touching between two poles on one of the speakers. I had to remove it with tweezers it was so small. In any case, I mention this because while I was removing the speakers and adding them back in one at time to figure out the source of my problem, starting with the center speaker, I was playing the 5.1 surround mix of Loaded and it was very interesting to hear the component parts of an album that I thought I was molecularly familiar with in that new way.
And that’s the point of 5.1 surround audio, to hear something “classic” with fresh ears, like you’re hearing it for the first time. Well, I just listened to it twice this morning, all the way through, and here are my initial thoughts. As it would be pointless for me to “expound” on Loaded and try to come up with something new and profound to say about it, I won’t insult my reader’s intelligence, because honestly who cares what I think about this classic? (I don’t care what you think either.) I just wanted to give my opinion of “the product” here.
So on the count of “hearing something old again with fresh ears,” they certainly did right by Loaded. The mixes, done by Kevin Reeves at Republic/4th Floor Studios in New York, are very well realized and he’s made some choices—very good ones, creatively, I hasten to add—that I think many a producer would not have made. There’s somewhat of an orthodoxy when it comes to mixing for 5.1 that some mixers fall into—favoring the fronts is how I’d put it—that Reeves wisely avoids. Lou Reed and Doug Yule’s lead vocal tracks are pushed up high in the mix, making Yule’s voice sound more innocent, for instance, while Reed’s vocals are so well presented here that you can practically hear the spittle spraying the microphone. Nuance galore is revealed. The lead vocals often appear “bare” in the center speakers, but other than that, Reeves really endeavored to truly “surround” the listener. The Association meets street corner doo wop backing vocals are given a full sonic spread. The wall of guitars in “Rock and Roll” is MIND-BLOWING coming at you from all sides. “Sweet Jane” sounds so damned crisp and you’re right smack in the middle of it. I thought it was a thrilling ride from start to finish. By the time it ended with “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” I felt like I was listening to the saddest song of all time. (I’ve always loved that song, but hearing it in 5.1 was like a religious experience.)
Best archival release of the year so far, hands down (and I haven’t even listened to anything other than the 5.1 mix so far). If you’re a Velvets nut and into 5.1 surround, this is what you want for Christmas... if you can wait that long.
Portable vaporizers have come a long way since they first started appearing in the marketplace around fifteen years ago. In those days, technology was still a bit limited, so manufacturers worked with what they had to piece together what was possible at the time, resulting in some seriously underwhelming offerings.
Early portables were either too bulky, too expensive or quite frankly - impractical. It wasn’t until about five years ago that the portable vaporizer revolution really began. Advancements in digital temperature control, battery efficiency, heating technology and mobile design sparked a sudden influx of new, cutting-edge portables from manufacturers across the globe.
Today, we’re witnessing unprecedented, sweeping marijuana reform from coast to coast. Even the staunchest opponents of the movement are finding it hard to deny the medical and economical benefits of decriminalization and legalization. That being said, folks in states like Colorado and Washington, where recreational use of marijuana permitted, are flocking to their local dispensaries and lighting up.
However, in today’s health-conscious society, folks are more aware than ever of the negative effects of smoking. It’s no secret that smoke inhalation can lead to serious respiratory issues, including lung cancer. When a flame is used to burn or ignite dry material, dangerous carcinogens and by-products are released from your herb into your lungs through the process of combustion. With the dangers of smoking now being widely publicized, many people are finding it as good a time as any to replace their old pipes and bongs with a new vaporizer. The issue for the consumer then becomes trying to figure out which vape to purchase.
Unfortunately, the process of choosing a portable vaporizer can be a somewhat disillusioning process, as the market has recently become flooded with re-branded, sub-par, cheaply made units that simply don’t perform as advertised. This has lead to many disenfranchised customers, whose initial vaporization experience could have turned out very differently if they had done a bit more research before making a purchase. That’s not to say there’s not some great units out there - quite the contrary. In fact, there are a handful of units that stand head and shoulders above the competition, with the Ascent being one of them.
Built by DaVinci to be the ideal option for vaping on-the-go, the Ascent’s ergonomic design lends itself well its overall portability. Designed to fit easily into any pocket, purse or bag, the Ascent redefines what it means for a vape to be truly portable. The simplicity and discreet nature of this device are overshadowed only by its unparalleled functionality and truly unique aesthetics.
While it seems most manufacturers are focusing more on profits than performance, DaVinci crafted the Ascent with both form and function in mind and created a vaporizer that doesn’t just look great, but works great as well too. Standing atop the new generation of high-tech portable devices, the Ascent features cutting-edge technology coupled with an artistically inspired design to create a portable unit that is second to none. By focusing on the core principles of vaporization, and not “in-your-face” marketing campaigns, DaVinci has gained the support of true vape enthusiasts across the globe.
Let’s talk specifications. The Ascent was one of the first vaporizers to utilize a glass on glass vapor delivery system, eliminating by-products which can be caused from metals or plastics - the result of which is pure, full-flavored vapor free of any impurities. Featuring advanced electronics and heating technology, the Ascent’s long wave infrared heating core is capable of adjusting and maintaining an accurate and consistent internal temperature during the entire course of your vape session. A uniquely designed glass lined ceramic filling chamber evenly distributes heat, ensuring your herbs are heating uniformly and efficiently.
Capable of reaching heats upwards of 430°F, the Ascent gives you option to experience with a wide range of temperatures, allowing you find your vaporizer “sweet-spot.” Just set the vape to any desired temperature via the OLED digital display, and in less than a minute, you’re ready to vape. To take a draw, simply slide the glass stem out of its enclosure where it’s safely stored during transit. Then, just sit back and immerse yourself in the pure, unadulterated vapor of the gods. Since your herbs are being heated below the point of combustion through the process of convection heating, no smoke is produced during the vaporization process.
If features such as advanced temperature control, extended battery life, overall portability, vapor quality/production and value are all things you’re looking for in a portable vaporizer, then the Ascent by DaVinci is a solid option. Check out their website at www.davincivaporizer.com.
In many ways, R.E.M. were always the quintessential MTV band. The group’s first single came out in July of 1981, while MTV debuted but a few weeks later, on August 1. MTV must’ve had a lot of rabid R.E.M. fans working there when they launched, because from the very beginning the band was seemingly always on the channel, a practically ubiquitous “indie” presence on programs like The Cutting Edge (which was produced by their label, I.R.S. Records), Alternative Nation, and 120 Minutes. Their career moves, tours and general gossip about them were constantly chronicled on MTV News. They were usually on the MTV awards shows getting them, presenting them and playing live. I think it’s safe to say that when MTV beckoned, R.E.M. showed up on time and did a great job and made everyone’s lives easier. That’s how a group stays on top for thirty years. To sustain that long of a ride you need to be professional, hardworking, easy to deal with, etc, etc.
As a result of their practically symbiotic relationship, MTV documented practically everything about R.E.M. right up to their decision to disband in 2011. R.E.M. BY MTV, the critically acclaimed feature-length documentary by Alexander Young, draws exclusively from archival events and traces the history of R.E.M. (and MTV itself) in a chronological manner, which makes it feel as exciting and immediate as it did when it first took place.
R.E.M. BY MTV is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 2 from Rhino, and includes some rarely-seen live performances. You can win a copy of the film—and a whole lot more—by entering to win in the widget below the trailer.
Genesis are one of those love-em-or-hate-em kinda bands. Kinda like Rush, except that with Genesis, you have rabid fans who are loyalists to the Peter Gabriel-era and simply HATE the Phil Collins-led band. And vice-versa. And then there are some hair splitters who can only go along with that group until Steve Hackett buggers off and then, you know, forget it.
Me, I always thought they sucked, with Peter Gabriel or without him. There were two weird kids in my junior high school who absolutely loved them, and would insult anyone “not smart enough” to “get” Genesis with withering and dismissive putdowns. These two also spoke to each other in a made-up language only they knew. You know how some people hate the Grateful Dead solely due to their distaste for tie-dye and hacky sacks? Maybe I was unfairly blaming Genesis for their geeky fanboys?
About five years ago I decided to go through the Genesis back catalog to see what I was missing. The one I really LOVE is their self-titled debut album that was recorded while they were still teenagers—apparently they themselves hate it—and I came to quite like the rest of the Peter Gabriel-era stuff. If you tell people who are normally Genesis-haters that Brian Eno is sprinkled liberally throughout The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, they’re usually more inclined to give it a chance. (I know because that ruse worked on me.)
As for the post-Gabriel group, I will admit to having a soft spot for Duke‘s “Turn It On Again.” It’s my jam! I’m playing it now as I type this. My wife must be groaning in the next room, but I can’t see her expression. I even have Duke in a 5.1 surround mix.
I threw the question out to the Dangerous Minds editors: “What’s your favorite Genesis track, but one that’s post-Peter Gabriel?”
Christopher Bickel: I think Abacab is a legit jam. Is there something wrong with me?
Richard Metzger: Why does everyone always use the term “jam” when describing the Phil Collins-led era of Genesis? I do it, too. What’s that all about?
Martin Schneider: I’m very fond of Abacab. I really like a bunch of Phil Collins-era Genesis stuff. I find the Gabriel-era of Genesis a little meander-y. If you listen to Seconds Out you get the best of both worlds, live Phil Collins hammering out a bunch of Gabriel’s best songs.
Ron Kretsch: In before someone posts the Patrick Bateman monologue.
Martin Schneider: The Sum of the Parts documentary on Genesis is very good—one of the things they mentioned that I didn’t really know is that the whole “I’m embarrassed to be a Genesis fan” stank has clung to them from the very first. “Genesis sucks man, and I love ‘em!” Or something.
Tara McGinley: Please take me off this conversation. Thank you.
Christopher Bickel: We’re totally being “those dudes at the party.” In some ways I’d rather listen to Wind and Wuthering than the Gabriel-era stuff because, even though Gabriel was better in every way, the music from that period is darker and less Renn Faire-y. Even some of the tracks from the time of edging into their MTV pop hit days were pretty good. “Mama” is a really creepy and weird song about being obsessed with a prostitute. It’s almost a pop version of Throbbing Gristle!
Ron went with “Man of Our Times” from Duke:
Duke sits very nicely in the sweet spot of post-Gabriel Genesis, avoiding both the overwrought airy-fairyness of Trick of the Tail and the abominable slickness (and that fucking gated-reverb drum sound) that was to come after Phil Collins’ solo success. “Man of Our Times’ hits all the right notes—it’s played as epically bombastic prog, but it’s possessed of pop restraint, competing with “Cul de Sac” as Duke‘s deep cut to beat.
Paul Gallagher chose “Trick of the Tail”:
Genesis were worried how their fans would respond to the band after Peter Gabriel had left. Their response was to knuckle down and start writing songs just to see what would happen.
Of course, there was another problem—a bigger problem: who would replace Gabriel as lead singer. The seemingly ever optimistic Phil Collins thought Genesis should just carry on as a four piece instrumental group—at least this would show they were not just “Pete’s band.” Of course, Genesis were never “Pete’s band”—they were always bigger and better than that. They tried out one singer, but he didn’t work, and so by good fortune as much by necessity Collins found himself singing the songs.
Genesis’ first single post-Pete was “Trick of the Tail.” It was also their first ever music video. Mike Rutherford later told Rolling Stone that he thought the promo was “really crappy.”
“I watch this video and I cringe. It’s just embarrassing. This was pre-MTV and we shot videos for this and ‘Robbery, Assault and Battery’ just to show them on TV. It’s really crappy.”
Written by Tony Banks “Trick of the Tail” is one of the very few pop songs inspired by a book by a Nobel prize-winning novelist—William Golding’s The Inheritors.
Chris Bickel ultimately went with “Abacab” from Abacab:
The title track from the last of the great, dark, “all new-wavey and weird,” post-Gabriel Genesis albums before they went full-blown radio-pop, “Abacab” is driven by an eighth-note pulse-beat groundwork over which an angular guitar barks at a variety of horror-synth sounds. Phil Collins’ vocals are especially aggro, proving the guy did actually have some range—no matter what the Gabrielphiles may have to say about it. Yeah, this is Genesis, but “Abacab” ain’t prog—this is straight-up post-punk. The LP version is superior, as it contains a haunting extended Eno-esque instrumental break not found on the single.
Martin sided with “Dodo/Lurker,” also from Abacab:
When assessing the glories (such as they are) of early-1980s Genesis, a word to keep firmly tucked in your brainpan is drama. How do these three blokes end up sounding so goddamn big? Mainly by twiddling a bunch of poncy knobs? It’s a mystery that cuts deep to the root of Genesis’ ever-widening appeal. Not for nothing was the working title for this ditty “German I & II,” which for a band from England surely evoked the biggest brand of drama you could demand.
Tony Hawk is synonymous with skateboarding, a living, breathing human trademark for his sport. An icon, he’s also a brand, running a business empire with tentacles in video games, amusement park rides, action sports exhibitions and his new YouTube channel, RIDE, which features Hawk himself in “Tony’s Strange Life.” He’s also known for his philanthropic activities, helping to build skateparks in low-income areas with his Tony Hawk Foundation, which has given away more than $3.4 million to help construct over 400 parks around the US.
We sat with Tony Hawk and asked a few questions about where he’s been and where he’s going next.
I’ve read that you were a really hyperactive child and that discovering skating helped you burn off that excessive energy. Is this why it’s so important for your charity to build skateparks in needy communities? So that other kids might find that same kind of focus you found through skating?
Tony Hawk: Yes, but it’s also important to me because I grew up near one of the last remaining skatepark of the ‘80s and I only realized later how lucky I was. It was a huge part of my life and gave me the opportunity to practice my passion, while spending time and sharing ideas with other skaters. I want to help provide the same type of opportunities and facilities for youth in difficult areas.
How do you tame that same hyperactivity today as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in sports? What keeps you centered and on target at this stage of your life?
My kids. Keeping up with them while trying to manage a career in skateboarding is a constant challenge. But I enjoy the challenges that being an “elder” skater and entrepreneur provide. It’s a whole new era of skateboarding and I am living the dream.
Sponsorships are obviously a large part of the business of Tony Hawk and you’ve always had A-list companies behind you. Tell me about some of those relationships. For example, you’ve worked with Nixon for a long time. How did that come about?
I have always admired Nixon‘s products and marketing, even before I was sponsored by them. I might be the only skater that begged my way onto the team, and I am proud to fly the Nixon flag in all my endeavors; they truly understand our culture.
What’s the project that’s currently got you the most excited?
My next video game, coming out in late 2015 for newer consoles. It’s already looking on point.
Japanese poster for ‘The Song Remains the Same,’ 1976
True or false: The performances from The Song Remains the Same, the concert film that supposedly documents Led Zeppelin’s 1973 Madison Square Garden shows weren’t actually filmed at Madison Square Garden?
It’s not exactly a secret but it’s neither something that seems to be widely known by the general public, or even most Led Zeppelin fans for that matter. Now I’m not trying to imply here that Led Zeppelin didn’t even play Madison Square Garden for three nights in late July of 1973, because of course they did and The Song Remains the Same‘s original director, Joe Massot (Wonderwall) was there with a camera crew trained on them when they did. This much is not being disputed.
The problem was, as the group and their manager Peter Grant found out only after they’d fired Massot from the project, is that he’d gotten inadequate—practically unusable—coverage that wouldn’t sync properly or cut. Some great shots but nothing that could be used to create an edited sequence.
Grant brought in Aussie director Peter Clifton, the guy they probably should have hired in the first place, to see what could made from this mess, but the initial prognosis looked pretty grim until Clifton suggested reshooting the entire running order of the Madison Square Garden show on Madison Square Garden’s stage… recreated at Shepperton Studios in England!
Everyone assumes they’re watching the group at MSG, but in reality what we are watching (for the most part) is Led Zeppelin rocking out on a soundstage in Surrey, southeast of London. Without an audience.
On a playback screen, the band could watch themselves in the earlier footage—keeping their movements and positions in roughly the same general areas—and play along to the MSG soundtrack. So what we mostly see in the finished film are Clifton’s close-ups and medium distance footage of the band members shot at Shepperton, but intercut with Massot’s footage of the trappings of MSG, wide shots, shots framed from behind the band towards the audience and so forth.
Once you know all this, it’s screamingly obvious what was shot where.
Complicating matters for Clifton, John Paul Jones had recently cut his hair short (he’s wearing a wig in the Shepperton footage) and Robert Plant’s teeth had been fixed since the New York City shows the year before.
Jimmy Page spilled the beans in the May 2008 issue of Uncut Magazine,
“I’m sort of miming at Shepperton to what I’d played at Madison Square Garden, but of course, although I’ve got a rough approximation of what I was playing from night to night, it’s not exact. So the film that came out in the ‘70s is a bit warts-and-all.”
This little known behind-the-scenes story of the making of The Song Remains the Same is barely touched upon in some of the major books about Led Zeppelin—but in Chris Welch’s 2001 biography Peter Grant: The Man who Led Zeppelin, the story is told in greater detail, finishing thusly:
As far as Grant and Zeppelin were concerned, the movie song had ended. But they left behind smouldering resentments among the filmmakers and a few puzzles for movie buffs. Says Peter Clifton: “If you look at the credits they wrote something very interesting. ‘Musical performances were presented live at Madison Square Garden.’ It was somewhat ambiguous because the film was obviously done somewhere else!”
When he was asked about the provenance of the ‘live’ shots of Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, Peter Grant did admit that they had indeed shot some material at Shepperton studios, recreating the same stage set while the band donned the same clothes they wore at the actual gig. “Yes, we did,” he said. “But we didn’t shout about the fact.”