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Leon Russell’s groovy Terry Gilliam-esque animated promo for ‘Roll Away the Stone’
11.15.2016
12:01 pm

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Leon Russell


 
It’s been widely noted that 2016 has been an especially rough year for legendary musicians. Sunday brought news of the passing of the great and prolific troubadour Leon Russell at the age of 74. Russell routinely put out gold albums in the 1970s and was a profound influence on singers as varied as Elvis Costello and Frank Black.

A bit surprisingly, Russell never had a top 10 album or song until The Union, his 2010 album wth Elton John. His early composition “A Song for You” was covered by countless musicians, most notably the Carpenters, but his highest-charting track was actually “Tight Rope,” which appeared on 1972’s Carney.

It’s amusing to notice the high-powered talent that he attracted for his first album, which came out in 1970. Credited are three Stones (Jagger, Wyman, Watts), two Beatles (Starr and Harrison), plus Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, and Klaus Voormann.

The first single he ever released was “Roll Away the Stone,” and his label Shelter put together what can only be called a “music video” but everyone insists on calling a “promo.”

The animation was by Brian Zick, a graphic artist from southern California who is known for his striking pop art illustrations. You can see the influence of Yellow Submarine but it’s also a lot like the brilliant cut-out animations of Terry Gilliam for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which are more or less contemporaneous—I’d reckon Zick had never seen them. Zick did a bunch of album covers in the 1970s and 1980s.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
A preview of ‘Häxan’ (‘The Witch’) the latest from Swedish psych-prog rockers Dungen
11.02.2016
11:29 am

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Animation
Movies
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Dungen


 
Last year my #1 top favorite album was Allas Sak by proggy Swedish psychrockers Dungen. As I prattled on at some length about it then, I’ll direct you now to that earlier post from 2015 if you are interested, but let me add that I still play this album all the time. As in all the time all the time. It’s just that good. Whenever you hear someone lamenting that they “don’t make ‘em like that anymore” sit ‘em down, stick a joint in their mouth, slap some headphones on ‘em and then play them Allas Sak and watch them convert. They do still make ‘em like that.

Before that album was even released apparently there was already another full-length Dungen project in the can, their all-instrumental original score to German director Lotte Reiniger’s early animated feature film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed from 1926.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed, based on an Arabian Nights fable by way of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, took three years to make, and was animated with a unique silhouette “shadow show” animation technique Reiniger herself had invented using cardboard cutouts and thin sheets of lead placed under a camera. Reiniger’s original musical collaborator was German composer Wolfgang Zeller who wrote his score to match the onscreen action and “photograms” were created for orchestras to follow along with. Although all known German nitrate masters of the film had basically disintegrated, it was painstakingly restored by German and British technicians in the late 1990s using the Desmetcolor process and has become well known to modern day cinema buffs.
 

 
Dungen’s re-imagined score for The Adventures of Prince Achmed—released by Mexican Summer later this month (Novermber 25th, this year’s “Black Friday” Record Store Day, to be exact) as Häxan (“The Witch”) is a bubbling caldron of everything great about the Dungen sound, but even more dramatic, mystical and moody. Freer. More extreme. The sound of the album varies a lot, but the flute and Mellotron brings to mind Moody Blues or Focus in the prettier moments, and in the harder-rocking sections Pink Floyd’s “Nile Song” and even riff-heavy Sabbath-influenced stoner rock. As I type this, I’ve only listened to it once all the way through, but I fully expect I’ll be playing Dungen’s mighty Häxan longplayer as much as I played its glorious predecessor.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Peter Murphy stars as ‘The Dead’ in the experimental Super 8 film ‘The Grid,’ 1980
10.21.2016
09:53 am

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Animation
Movies
Music

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Bauhaus
Peter Murphy
JoWOnder


The VHS release of The Grid (via Tumblr)
 
In 1980, the animator Joanna Woodward (a/k/a JoWOnder) cast her boyfriend Peter Murphy in a short film called The Grid. Now I know it’s hot on planet Earth, but goddammit! If In The Flat Field-era Peter Murphy playing a character called “The Dead” doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, then maybe somebody’s forgotten the true meaning of Halloween.

Here are JoWOnder’s own notes about her movie, which she says was projected at Bauhaus shows in the 80s. I wish she explained what T.S. Eliot is doing on the soundtrack. Typos are hers.

A story about a time traveler and the search for the first cell of one’s existence. ‘The Dead’, played by Peter Murphy searches for and finds a ‘Grid’ which enables him to watch the beginning of his life -from the moment of conception.

Tip: For a better picture view: watch using the ‘Full Screen’ Option.

Filmed when, when Peter was the boyfriend of Joanna Woodward in the 1980’s, on Super 8 Film Format. This copy has been taken by Jo from the VHS which Peter sold copies of on his, 2000, international Just for Love tour. (The original a clear picture Super 8 copy having been mislaid).

The Grid, movie toured with Bauhaus and was projected on stage in the 1980s. Jo says;’ that she was much more interested in fine art and not so much commercial art or popular music. Punk was predominant at that time and it was quite common for things to get ‘gobbed at’ as a sign of appreciation.’

The closing music here is Subhanallah by Peter Murphy however, the original concluding music track, for The Grid was Kate Bush, Lion Heart. Jo finds both concluding music tracks satisfying however, the Kate Bush track was intended to echo the opera music earlier in the film and the female ‘creator of life’ bursting through. The film’s main soundtrack Jo devised herself on a synthesizer with live playing of a recorder. The tiny sound of ‘clicks’ that can be heard are, literally the sound of switching on and off equipment as she recorded live to the film picture with an open microphone.

Watch ‘The Grid’ after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Anti-drug PSAs by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the rest of the ‘Looney Tunes’ gang


 
According to Discogs, the National Association Of Progressive Radio Announcers, Inc. made only three records. On the first, 72 Vote P.S.A.‘s, everyone from Howdy Doody to Daniel Ellsberg pleaded with you, the 18-21 head so lately enfranchised by the passage of the 26th Amendment, to register and vote in the Nixon-McGovern contest.

NARPA’s other two releases were Get Off (1973) and Get Off II (1975), collections of anti-drug PSAs by practically the whole cast of 70s showbiz: Alice Cooper, the Eagles, Dr. John, Brewer & Shipley, Black Oak Arkansas, Yes, Papa John Creach, Grand Funk, the Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, George Carlin, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, War, the Staple Singers, the O’Jays, Robin Trower, Bill Withers, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, John McLaughlin, Three Dog Night, Dave Mason, and Star Trek‘s Kirk and Spock all contributed. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the great Mel Blanc appeared on Get Off II as himself and five of his Looney Tunes characters, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Porky Pig, and Yosemite Sam.
 

 
As you can probably tell by looking at the cover of Get Off II, these PSAs were strictly against hard drugs. Because I grew up during the absolutist D.A.R.E. years, I was relieved to hear that Bugs just wants me to stay away from smack and downers. He doesn’t say a word about pot, acid, or mescaline, bless him!

Blanc’s PSAs start out upbeat and lighthearted. As the band strikes up “Hail to the Chief,” Daffy addresses the nation:

Hello, America, this is Daffy Duck! I may be daffy, but I’m not crazy. I’m smart enough to know that hard drugs like heroin and downers are a bummer. Don’t fool with ‘em! Take it from yours truly—dangerous drugs are despicable! See ya.

But they quickly turn dark. Foghorn Leghorn demands, “What are those red and yellow pills you got there?” Porky Pig sounds like he has been severely traumatized by going to a party where everyone was “m-m-mumbling” and using “hard drugs, l-l-like smack and d-d-downers.” And Yosemite Sam complains that there are no tough guys left because they have all been turned to “mashed potatoes” by the ravages of skag. It’s like a real bummer, man…
 
Listen, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Ramones, Butthole Surfers, Violent Femmes and more, covering Saturday morning cartoon theme songs


 
In 1995, MCA Records released Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits, a compilation of then current alt-rock stars and also-rans transforming the 30-60 second theme songs from classic children’s shows into three-minute pop songs, accompanied by a full length home video that featured all the songs on the comp with the linking device of Drew Barrymore watching them all and commenting with her central-casting Gen-X friends. It dovetailed both with the vogue for alt-rock tribute comps and the ongoing popularity of the Television’s Greatest Hits series, which by then had been around for ten years.

Though they win points for sporting cool Glenn Barr cover art, both the CD and video were pretty crummy overall, but naturally, amid the dross of tepid mid-’90s radio alt (Sponge, Semisonic, Collective Soul, Sublime—I’ll bet you just can’t wait to hear it now, right?) there were some terrific moments. How could the Ramones doing the unforgettable theme to those endearingly cheap 1967 Spider-Man cartoons be bad? IT CANNOT. Violent Femmes went on a marvelously weird tangent. Instead of covering the Jetsons actual theme song, they did a deep cut: “Eep, Opp, Ork, Ah-ah!” by the in-universe teen idol Jet Screamer. It’s pretty great. The Reverend Horton Heat did a roaring psychobilly medley of the Jonny Quest theme and another deep dig, “Stop That Pigeon” from the short-lived Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. The Butthole Surfers, though they were well past the height of their powers by then, did a mindwarping take on the Underdog theme. And there’s perhaps the album’s most perfect pairing of artist and material, the Aussie folk-pop band Frente! doing a really charming “Open up Your Heart (and Let the Sunshine In),” a 1954 song about rejecting the Devil, which became huge when the infant Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm sang it on The Flintstones.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Everything you need to know about the Frank Zappa auction
10.11.2016
09:52 am

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Art
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Music

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Frank Zappa
Bruce Bickford


 
“Auction House to the Stars” Julien’s has announced a large sale of items from the estate of the late cult rocker/social provocateur Frank Zappa and his wife Gail, the trustee of his legacy who herself passed away a year ago this week. Besides revealing a surprisingly gaudy decorating sensibility, the auction is typical rock star fare—paintings of and by the deceased musician, gold and platinum records and other sales awards, clothing, jewelry, and other ephemera that for some reason people want to possess. And of course there are some pretty tasty guitars in the offing—including an Acoustic Control Corporation Black Widow, a very rare guitar that made news about a year ago when Jimi Hendrix’s was the object of a lawsuit. But the items that make this auction truly noteworthy in our opinion are the original assemblage sculpture that served as the cover art of Burnt Weeny Sandwich, the set of apparently one-of-a-kind Zappa portrait matryoshka dolls
 

I kinda REALLY WANT these.

…and the dozen lots (324-335) of Bruce Bickford claymation figures used to make the brain-eatingly lysergic animated sequences in the classic Baby Snakes concert film.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu gets the anime treatment
09.29.2016
01:07 pm

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Animation
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Cthulhu
H.P. Lovecraft
anime


 
The year 2018 will see the release of an omnibus anime feature film based on Force of Will, a fantasy trading card game first launched in 2012 in Japan—the project sounds vaguely similar to 2003’s The Animatrix based on the Matrix universe. Excitingly, one of the six movies is called “Cthulhu” and is based on H.P. Lovecraft‘s famous monster. Other narratives in the movie are called “Pinocchio,” “Monkey King,” and “Zombie.”

In his 1926 story “The Call of Cthulhu,” Lovecraft described his most famous creation, Cthulhu, as “a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.”

See the trailer after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Red Meanies, Blue Meanies: The Cold War roots of the Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’


 
Yellow Submarine is such a brilliantly fun movie experience and so perfectly in the Beatles’ mass culture, mind-evolving spirit that it takes an effort to recall that the Beatles themselves didn’t really have very much to do with it. It says a lot, perhaps, about the strength of the Beatles brand at that time that Yellow Submarine could work so splendidly, even with most of the artists involved being forced to intuit what jokes and artworks constituted an acceptably “Beatles” and “fun” sort of thing. Not much doubt that they succeeded, eh?

The man in charge of the operation was a Czechoslovak-born German named Heinz Edelmann, an artist with a wide portfolio who seems to have become somewhat chagrined at always being thought of as the “Yellow Submarine guy”—that is, unless Peter Max (who was never involved with the movie in any way) was being called the “Yellow Submarine guy” in his stead!
 

Heinz Edelmann
 
In 1993 Edelmann consented to appear on Baltimore’s Best 21st Century Radio hosted by Bob Hieronimus, a fervent admirer of the movie.

Edelmann explained that he was contacted for the Yellow Submarine project by Charlie Jenkins, the art director in charge of the special effects who was responsible for the glorious “Eleanor Rigby” section of the movie, among other sequences. He also pointed out that Yellow Submarine did not represent the first attempt to “do” the Beatles in animation. Starting in 1965 there were also the series of short cartoons that made up the Beatles TV series. and in fact the producer and director of Yellow Submarine, Al Brodax and George Dunning, had also worked on the more rudimentary television shorts.

Things were moving so fast, Edelmann pointed out, that when the TV series was being made, the Beatles were primarily thought of as a Liverpool phenomenon, with the plots staying more or less true to that, but by 1968, when Yellow Submarine was released, that was no longer the case, they belonged to the world, and the tone had to be more universal.

That may explain one of the more intriguing false pathways the movie might have gone down—but didn’t. According to Edelmann, as hard as it seems for such a thing to be possible, the original conception of Yellow Submarine hewed to a Cold War framework. And it actually might have stayed a Cold War allegory—but someone ran out of red paint. Here’s Edelmann:
 

The point, I think was, what I thought the one meaningful thing about it all was, in ‘68 this was more or less the end of the Cold War. Even in the Bond movies they gave up the KGB as the enemy and turned to self-employed villains. So, one had in ‘67, one had the feeling that (a.) the Cold War’s over, that Russia is changing. But also our world is changing with new values to which, with a new vision of the world in which the Beatles played an important part. So, the Meanies, in a way to me, represented a symbolic version of the cold war. And originally they were the Red Meanies.

...

And only because the assistant who came in to do the coloring, she either did not quite understand my instructions, or deliberately did not understand them, but it also could be we didn’t have enough red paint in the place. So they became the Blue Meanies.

 
Certainly Edelmann’s status as a German, coming from a country that was split in two by the Cold War, half of which was experiencing repression from Moscow, would have had something to do with this—because it’s really rather difficult to derive any Cold War meanings out of the Beatles’ own lyrics, which tended to focus on a specific story or else espoused an adherence to universal values. Obviously a message like “All You Need Is Lovewas in some sense about the Cold War, but—well, suffice it to say that the choice to make the movie more about intolerant conservatives and power-hungry buzzkills of all stripes was surely a wise one.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Inhale deeply from Ty Segall’s evil psycho-delic exhaust pipe
07.12.2016
09:36 am

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Ty Segall


Photo of Ty Segall by Denee Petracek

In my (n)ever so humble opinion, the ultra-prolific Ty Segall is today’s ultimate guitar prophet of mind-expanding gasoline and PCP-infused avant garage-psych-o-tic reaction post-proto-punk lysergic rock riffage. He’s at the exact place on the musical map triangulated by Tony Iommi, Jack White and Snakefinger, a territory surprisingly barren until colonized by the energetic young Mr. Segall, a man who clearly enjoys drugs. Lots and lots of them from the looks of things. His lyrics put me in mind of Marc Bolan without any of the innocence and a massive crack habit.

Ty Segall’s latest album is called Emotion Mugger, out now on Drag City. We’re pleased to debut the new video here today, directed by Meghan Tryon and Garrett Davis, for “California Hills.”

Inhale deeply from Ty Segall’s evil exhaust pipe…
 

 
After the jump, a flock of Segall’s recent videos promoting ‘Emotional Mugger’ and some live appearances…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Ralph Bakshi’s animated assault on racism in America is still an uncompromising gut punch
07.11.2016
11:37 am

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Animation
Movies
Race

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Ralph Bakshi


 
A subversive and satirical re-imagining of Disney’s Song Of The South transplanted to Harlem, Ralph Bakshi’s incendiary masterpiece Coonskin exploits and eviscerates grotesque American racial stereotypes with a politically incorrect, profane and vicious sense of humor. The film’s hyper energy is emphasized by Chico Hamilton’s percussive score and the mix of animation and live action set the tone for films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Despite its innovative visuals, there’s nothing slick about Coonskin. The movie has the perfect low-budget skeeziness of a Dolemite flick. And casting Barry White as Brother Bear/Samson and Scatman Crothers as Papa Bone adds layers of pop cultural resonance that continue to reverberate even today. (Did Rick Ross cop his fashion sense from Samson?)
 

 
Released in 1975 to a firestorm of controversy, it took Coonskin several years before the film found an audience that could appreciate it as an edgy aesthetic experiment and a powerful social statement. Wu Tang Clan had plans to re-make it and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, released 25 years after Coonskin, echoes Bakshi’s brutal take on the pervasive, ages-old racism that permeates American popular culture. Al Sharpton and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) went apeshit and picketed Coonskin before anyone in the organization had even seen the film. (Sharpton quipped “I don’t need to see shit to smell shit.”) Bakshi had hired a number of black animators to work on the film and the NAACP felt it was an important work but still Sharpton couldn’t resist the opportunity for some press. New York City theaters were smoke-bombed during screenings of Coonskin. Nationwide theaters panicked and cancelled bookings.The film’s distributor Paramount Pictures eventually freaked and pulled it from circulation. The positive reception from critics didn’t make up for the fact that most audiences, both black and white, just didn’t get it.
 

 
Quentin Tarantino has championed Coonskin over the years and provided some critical insight into Bakshi’s methods. Tarantino describes the film as…

... hands down the most incendiary piece of work in the entire (blaxploitation) genre. Using negro folklore and slave tales of nonviolent resistance, along with the White American/European media’s racist caricatures of the past (i.e., Disney’s Black Crows, Warner Brothers’ Coal Black, every James River pickaninny that smilingly stared back from grocery shelves, the spaghetti benders of Lady and the Tramp, and the Jews of the Nazi Party-produced The Eternal Jew), Bakshi, with zero timidity, challenged his audiences’ sensibilities in ways that made all the other blaxploitation titles seem like the wish-fulfillment fantasies they were.

In fact, the only voice of the time that had a symbiotic relationship to Bakshi’s work could be found in Richard Pryor’s monologues. To discover that the two gentlemen were friends, and Pryor was a huge fan of Coonskin, comes as no surprise. An America that considers Blazing Saddles and All In The Family stinging racial satire is an America not ready for Coonskin.

 
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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