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King of Gonzo: Portraits of Hunter S. Thompson by Ralph Steadman
03:16 pm


Hunter S. Thompson
Ralph Steadman

A portrait of Hunter S. Thompson by Ralph Steadman.
Artist Ralph Steadman remained tight with his friend and muse Hunter S. Thompson until the later’s death in 2005—despite the fact that when Steadman first met the gonzo journalist in 1970 he was convinced that Thompson didn’t like him. And he wasn’t wrong.

When Steadman was given the assignment to create illustrations for a story Thompson was penning on the Kentucky Derby for the short-lived publication Scanlan’s Monthly  (The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved June 1970, Volume one, Number four), true to form, the notoriously cantankerous Thompson took an “instant dislike” to him. Steadman recalls that Hunter thought he was “pompous” and during several occasions when he was attempting to create some of the illustrations for the Derby story he could hear Thompson muttering the words “For God’s sake, stop your filthy scribbling.”

Although they got off to a rough start (like the majority of Thompson’s relationships with most human beings) the two would go on to collaborate for decades. I’ve been a fan of Steadman’s art since I was a kid thanks to my father and the confrontational artist was the focus of a great documentary back in 2012 For No Good Reason which I highly recommend you check out. Many of Steadman’s portraits of the great Dr. Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson follow.


More pure, unadulterated GONZO after the jump…

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The Nightmare Before Halloween: Insane early Van Halen set from 1977
10:29 am


Van Halen

The original lineup of the mighty Van Halen standing on the steps of David Lee Roth’s Pasadena mansion.

We try to look like the music sounds.

—David Lee Roth, 1977.

After leaving their disco pimping days as the house band for LA rock club Gazzarri’s back in the late 70s Van Halen would go on to play the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on nearly a monthly basis to thousands of enthusiastic air guitarists and other awestruck fans before exploding into mega-stardom. The audio from this performance recorded on October 15th, 1977—VH’s last at the PCA—will send chills down your spine as the quality is nearly beyond compare. As are the ear-piercing vocals of David Lee Roth that team up seamlessly with the on-point brightness of backing vocals from bassist Michael Anthony (a sound I sorely miss since Anthony departed VH).

Here’s Van Halen’s manager Marshall Berle (nephew of comedian Milton Berle) echoing my feelings about one of the band’s performances at the PCA in a quote from the 2011 book by photographer Neil Zlozwer’s on guitar mangler and musical virtuoso, Eddie Van Halen:

The lights went down and the announcer introduced Van Halen and the kids went nuts and started screaming. They started playing and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I got a chill right through my bones. I had never seen anything like this in my life. These guys were so good I almost crapped my pants. I thought “what the fuck is this?”

More after the jump…

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Julian Cope’s SydArthur Festival celebrates psychedelic giants Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee

Today—July 7th—marks the beginning of the first SydArthur Festival, a mental celebration (or “cerebration”) of Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett (who died ten years ago today) and Love’s Arthur Lee (who died 28 days later). The SydArthur Festival—organized by Arch Drude Julian Cope, his wife Dorian Cope (proprietor of the On This Deity blog) and their daughter Avalon—takes place entirely in your mind, and aims to get you (yes you) to contemplate the lives, art and influence of not only Syd and Arthur, but also Percy Bysshe Shelley, Henry David Thoreau, Roky Erickson, Nico, Cluster’s Dieter Moebius, George Clinton, English poet Robert Graves, Carl Jung, Aldous Huxley, Vincent Van Gogh, 17th century apocalyptic anarchist Abiezer Coppe (who, I am guessing, must be a Cope ancestor?) Jerry Garcia, William S. Burroughs and more.

There’s a SydArthur Festival website and a printed 28 page program. From the manifesto:

By dint of having died just one lunar month apart, Syd and Arthur have given us the rich opportunity to celebrate the summer henceforth and under the given name of the Buddha ‘Siddhartha’. Despite not being Buddhists ourselves, we’re nevertheless delighted to appropriate his name for rock’n’roll: For a great name it is. And ‘twas ever the truth that our divine artform takes, takes and takes whenever and wherever its voracious trip will best be served.

These 28 days are a grand opportunity to make a carnival time of this serendipitous cosmic accident. Accident? Do the heroes of Western culture move in any less mysterious manner than the gods of ancient times? Let’s take advantage of their overt poetry, of their celestial dance, and avail ourselves of the chance to build the first truly psychic and near-religious rock’n’roll festival. For this is – in the psychedelic spirit of its two major players – a mind-manifesting festival. No pricey tickets, no camping like sardines in some infernal swamp. For those of you who choose to engage in these proceedings, you may do so from your own homes, your favourite areas, but most specifically from within your own minds.

Between the pillars of Arthur and Syd lies a rich fertile land inhabited by a multitude of psychedelic events and of artists, authors and practitioners whose births and deaths fall conveniently within this 28-day period. These too are venerated. Miffed we are that not all of our heroes can be included. But hey, this be just the first such festival.

Let us put our minds together, deeply consider these people and events, and in doing so harness the energy of their seismic actions. Overall, during this moon tour let us consciously raise our Collective Consciousness.

A fun idea, I think you’ll agree, but especially when they put it that way. So if you will click on over to the SydArthur website, you can read today’s meditation on Syd Barrett and cerebrate his contributions. The Copes chose “Astronomy Domine” as the track they posted to represent maximum Sydness asking “Was psychedelic rock’n’roll ever more advanced than this?”

As I listened, I thought about that question, before ultimately coming to the conclusion that no, it never was.

Here’s my contribution to today’s festivities: Dig the sprawling freeform psychedelic jazz of Barrett’s 20-minute long shambolic—yet extremely cool—low-fi improvised jam (with Steve Peregrin Took from Tyrannosaurus Rex on congas) titled “Rhamadan.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Paul McCartney on the bust-up with Lennon

When The Beatles split-up in 1970 the music press divided the pop world into two camps: those for John Lennon and those against Paul McCartney (who, coincidentally met each other for the first time 59 years ago today). That both camps were basically the same thing meant McCartney had rough ride from “hip” musos over the next decades.

McCartney was painted as straight, safe, vanilla and very very bland—the sort of music yer mom and dad listened to when riding an elevator. It was fueled in large part by his former songwriting pal John Lennon’s vicious public spat with him. Lennon excoriated McCartney in his song “How Do You Sleep?” claiming the only thing he’d done was “Yesterday.”

Lennon was perceived as cool. McCartney was seen as square, fake and lacking any real artistic credibility—whatever that may be. He was the lesser half of the writing partnership Lennon & McCartney. This was how the music press in general and the British music press in particular painted the former Beatles. Of course it was wrong—very wrong. McCartney was the cool one, the smart one, the one who was hanging out with all those avant garde artists on the edge. He didn’t have to try on different party hats to find out who he was—he knew instinctively. The way the music press wrote about him you would never have known. But then again music journalists only write for themselves and their tiny band of fellow journalists—they do not write for the public or really understand that popular music is meant for all—the clue’s in its name—it’s not an exclusive club.

How McCartney weathered it all while starting out on his solo career, raising a family with his wife Linda, then forming the band Wings reveals just how strong and determined a character/a talent is James Paul McCartney.

Understandably, post-Beatles McCartney was always cagey about giving interviews. He knew (and knows) how interviewers turn words to fit their own preconceived opinions and how interviewers like to make themselves the star of the interview.

One of McCartney’s best ever interviews came in 1978, when he was featured in a short film for Melvyn Bragg’s The South Bank Show.
McCartney and Melvyn Bragg, 1978.
The South Bank Show was devised by Bragg as an arts magazine show that would cover high and low art—from TV and films to theater and pop music. This seems utterly run-of-the-mill now but back in the seventies this hi/lo concept was considered shocking. Pop music was in no way comparable to classical music. Television was never in the same class as theater, etcetera etcetera. Bragg was challenging the perceived orthodoxy when he kicked the whole thing off with The South Bank Show in January 1978, creating the kind of mix of high and low culture we take so very much for granted today.

The South Bank Show was originally a magazine program that featured one or two short films, plus a studio interview and usually some kind of performance. During the first series this morphed into one hour profiles of artists, writers, film directors and performers which remained the format.

Paul McCartney appeared in the very first episode in a short insert documentary filmed during the recording of the song “Mull of Kintyre.” McCartney is open to Bragg’s questions and even goes so far as to explain how he writes, giving examples of some of his best known songs. He also discusses the hurt he felt over the bust-up with Lennon and ends by explaining how he gets a thrill from hearing people whistling his tunes—or as he goes on to say, how he once heard a bird whistling a riff from one of his hits.

The following is the whole interview repackaged for Bragg’s The South Bank Show: Originals series recently broadcast on Sky Arts. It opens with Bragg talking about his memory of interviewing McCartney and contains comment from journalist Clive James who rightly describes Paul McCartney as a genius.

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Patton is GOD: Faith No More channel Black Sabbath with their crushing cover of ‘War Pigs’

Faith No More giving zero fucks.
It has been 26 years since Faith No More tore the roof off of the Brixton Academy in London on April 28th, 1990 during their tour in support of their third record, The Real Thing—the band’s first album with vocalist Mike Patton after FNM parted ways with former vocalist Chuck Mosely in 1988.

The show was released on both VHS and DVD called “Faith No More: You Fat B**tards: (Live at the Brixton Academy) and on vinyl as FNM’s only live album “Faith No More: Live at the Brixton Academy.” The band’s performance at Brixton is mind-meltingly energetic and the then 22-year-old Patton commanded the stage like a hyperactive kid who decided to mainline a dozen Pixy Stix just for fun. Which might help explain Patton’s wardrobe changes during the show that included a skeleton mask, a police helmet and the eventual loss of his shirt mid-way through the performance. As a die-hard fan of Black Sabbath it wasn’t hard for me to love FNM’s ferocious seven-minute cover of “War Pigs” which nearly gives the original a run for its money. It was also an opportunity for Patton to show off his prodigious six-octave range which he does with mind-altering precision. Get ready—the annihilation of your auditory functions await! 

Faith No More performing a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ at the Brixton Academy in London, 1990.
The entire show, after the jump…

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Freaky French comic from the 70s that tells the far-out story of Frank Zappa’s ‘Stink-Foot’

Frank Zappa ‘Stink-Foot’ illustration.
The strange French comic featured in this post based on Frank Zappa’s song “Stink-Foot” from his 1974 album, Apostrophe (’) was done by French illustrator Jean Solé back in 1975 when appeared in the French satire magazine Fluide Glacial in a special comic layout called Pop & Rock & Colegram.

An illustration from ‘Pop & Rock & Colegram’ riffing on the RCA Victor (among others) canine spokesperson ‘Nipper’ featuring Jean Solé, Gotlieb, and Alain Dister.
In the comics (that were published in Fluide Glacial from 1975-1978) by French illustrators Marcel Gotlieb (known as “Gotlib”) and Jean Solé the task was to create parody-style illustrations based on popular songs from bands like the Beatles, Roxy Music, Pink Floyd and in this case Solé‘s fantastic four-page take on Zappa’s “Stink-Foot.” Translated by renowned French music journalist Alain Dister, Solé‘s illustrations of Zappa’s jazzy six-minute jam about stinky feet is pretty spot on right down to an illustration of Zappa struggling to get his smelly python boots off. Here’s a samplings of the funky lyrics from “Stink-Foot:

You know
My python boot is too tight
I couldn’t get it off last night
A week went by
And now it’s July
I finally got it off
And my girlfriend cried, YOU GOT STINK-FOOT!
Stink-foot, darlin’

Your Stink-foot
Puts a hurt on my nose
Stink-foot, stink-foot, I ain’t lyin’
Can you rinse it off, do you suppose?

Though it’s rather difficult to find, the magazine has been reprinted since 1975 and if you dig what you are about to see, it’s well worth trying to track down.

More “Stink-Foot” after the jump…

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Behind the scenes photos with Joliet Jake, Elwood, Carrie Fisher & the cast of ‘The Blues Brothers’

An unused fake mug shot of John Belushi taken during the filming of ‘The Blues Brothers.’
I must admit a bit of bias when it comes to this post as its about my very favorite film of all time (and perhaps yours too), what could easily be considered the greatest credit in director John Landis’ long career, 1980’s The Blues Brothers.

John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Carrie Fisher looking cozy on the set of ‘The Blues Brothers.’
Of particular interest are the images of Dan Aykroyd and a 23-year-old Carrie Fisher looking quite cozy alongside her fictional cold-footed fiancee in the film, charismatic comedian John Belushi. Which of course got me wondering if I had somehow missed out on the news that the two actors had perhaps had a shotgun free, off-screen fling. As it turns out, Fisher was actually briefly engaged to Dan Aykroyd who asked her to marry him after he “saved her life” by performing the Heimlich maneuver when she was choking on what Fisher recalls was a boring old brussel sprout, not a fistfull of Quaaludes. Sadly the engagement didn’t last, and Fisher left Aykroyd for her former paramour Paul Simon whom she would marry in 1983—the same year that Aykroyd married former Miss Virginia of 1976, blonde beauty queen and actress, Donna Dixon.

Of course, the scene where Joliet Jake and Elwood take a scenic 100 mph drive through the Dixie Square Mall (you know, the place that had “everything”) is probably the very first thing that most people think of when it comes to The Blues Brothers. The mall had been left to decline after closing its doors in 1979 and had since become an epicenter for gang violence and vandalism. A good bit of timing for Landis who proposed the idea of letting his movie crew and two actors—wearing dark sunglasses with a full tank of gas and a half a pack of cigarettes—finish it off. Dixie Square got a Hollywood makeover, and Landis let the cameras roll while Belushi and Aykroyd tore it apart again like a pair of wild dogs. However, the scene where the Blues Mobile makes its final journey to the place where they “have that Picasso,” Daley Plaza, proved to be a bit more difficult to pull off. So Landis sent John Belushi off to work his charm on the mayor of Chicago at the time, Jane Byrne.

According to Byrne, she met with a very “sweaty and nervous” John Belushi in her office who offered her a $200,000 donation to Chicago’s orphans if she would allow them to film that scene and others in Chicago. Byrne of course agreed and large group of stunt people, six camera crews; 300 extras (with an additional 100 dressed up as Chicago’s finest); 300 members of the National Guard decked out as soldiers; a four-man SWAT team; seven mounted police officers; three Sherman M3 tanks; five fire engines and two Bell Jet Ranger helicopters were unleashed on Daley Plaza. To the great satisfaction of Mayor Byrne who was not a fan of Chicago’s 48th mayor, Richard J. Daley who no longer dines at Chez Paul because he’s dead. Tons of intriguing images shot during the making of this remarkable rock and roll cinematic triumph follow. Dig it!

Former Chicago mayor Jane Byrne and her daughter Kathy wearing Jake and Elwood’s signature hats and sunglasses with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

Pope John Paul II paying a visit to the set of ‘The Blues Brothers’ to ‘bless the set.’ Here, John Belushi can be seen kissing the Pope’s ring.

John Lee Hooker with Belushi and Aykroyd.
More after the jump…

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Dennis Hopper gives a tour of his art collection

Dennis Hopper bought one of Andy Warhol’s first soup-can prints for seventy-five bucks. It should have been a good investment but then Hopper lost it to his first ex-wife—part of the divorce settlement. She also picked-up a Roy Lichtenstein that Hopper had bought for just over a thousand dollars. The ex-wife sold it for $3k. If she’d kept it she could have made a cool $16 million. But it was never about money for Hopper:

My idea of collecting is not going and buying bankable names, but buying people that I believe are really contributing something to my artistic life.

Hopper was a “a middle-class farm boy” from Dodge City, Kansas. He was born on May 17th, 1936. He had Scottish ancestors—which might explain some of his wild temperament. His mother was a lifeguard instructor. His father worked for the post office.

Hopper fought “the cows with a wooden sword…hung a rope in the trees and played Tarzan”—all the stuff kids do. He swam in the pool his mother managed. Fired his BB gun at crows. Once looked at the sun through a telescope and went blind for five days. Hopper was smart, creative, arty—went to Saturday morning art classes. But growing up on a farm he felt a childhood angst about missing out. He felt desperate. To get away from this feeling he went to the movies. He came home and sniffed gasoline. He watched the clouds turn into clowns and goblins. He sniffed more gasoline wanting to see what else the clouds were hiding. He OD’d. He thought he was Abbott and Costello and Errol Flynn. He wrecked his grandfather’s truck with a baseball bat.

The family moved and moved again—ending up in San Diego. In high school Hopper was voted the one most likely to succeed. He had a taste for theater and wanted to act. He went out to Hollywood and became an actor.

It was Vincent Price who first hipped Hopper to art. He told him “You need to collect—this is where you need to put your money.” But it wasn’t about money—it was “a calling.”

I always thought that acting was art, writing was art, music was art, painting was art, and I’ve tried to keep that cultural vibe to my life. I never wanted to don a tie, or go into an office.

Hopper was eighteen performing Shakespeare in San Diego when he was introduced to James Dean—“the best young actor in America, if not the world, when I met him.”

Jimmy arrived, and I saw him start to act, and I realized I was nowhere near as good as him. I’d never seen anyone improvise like that. I was full of preconceived ideas about when to make a gesture, how to read a line. I considered myself an accomplished Shakespearian actor. And he’d do this improvising, and I’d check the script and think, “Where the hell did those lines come from?” He taught me some basic stuff. “If you’re going to drink something in a film, drink it. If you’re going to smoke something, smoke it. Don’t act as if you’re drinking or smoking, just do it as you would off-set.” That was such good advice. He taught me to live the moment, in the reality, not fill my head with presupposed ideas, or anticipate what may or may not happen.

Hopper signed to Warner Bros. Started making movies. Worked with Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Hung around art galleries—became a “gallery bum.” When Dean died, Hopper was devastated. It may have led to his “I’m a fucking genius, man” behavior that eventually got him blackballed from Hollywood.

He moved to the east coast. Hung around the art scene. Became friends with Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha. He still collected art—but it was never about the money.

Dennis Hopper would have been eighty this year. He died in 2010—three years after his mother died. She made it to ninety. Hopper left a vast collection of artwork—paintings by Warhol, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Hopper saw himself as a custodian—keeping the art until he died and it was given over to a museum.

More after the jump…

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Fearless female motorcycle stunt women take on the ‘Wall of Death’

Marjorie Dare (Doris Smith) riding hands free around the ‘Wall of Death’ sideshow at the Kursaal amusement park in Essex, England.
Born from board track racing and velodromes (a popular sport featuring motorcycles racing on a wooded track) as well as early bicycle stunt racing (also done on a wooden track), the “Wall of Death” was a wildly popular carnival attraction that made its first carney appearance in 1911 at one of the United States epicenters of weirdness, New York’s Coney Island.

Look Ma! No Hands! Motorcycle stunt rider, Cookie Ayers (aka, ‘Cookie Crum’).
What made this dangerous attraction especially attractive was the fact that female riders were a huge part of the carnival motorcycle stunt scene. One of the first pioneers of the sport was Margaret Gast. Calling herself “The Mile A Minute Girl” Gast nearly met her maker several times during her career and was once carried out on a stretcher, presumed dead. Another early rider was Hazel Eaton who joined the carnival after running away from home when she was fifteen. Like Gast, Eaton also nearly met her end while riding on the wooden motordrome when her bike’s rear brakes locked up leaving her with serious injuries to her head and face as well as broken ribs. Weeks later, Eaton left the hospital like a badass—in an open wooden casket.

More after the jump…

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Electrifying early-80s footage of The Cure, Bauhaus and The Smiths on the ‘Oxford Road Show’

Morrissey and Johnny Marr performing on the ‘The Oxford Road Show.’
A recent post that featured two-hours of “mind melting” high quality footage of Siouxsie and the Banshees performing on various music television shows such as the The Old Grey Whistle Test, Rock Goes to College, The Oxford Road Show as well as the ever popular, Top of the Pops was unsurprisingly very popular with our readers. As I was not familiar with The Oxford Road Show, I decided to take a deep-dive into YouTube land to see what other vintage delights the BBC show might have to offer.  I was not disappointed—and you won’t be either.

Robert Smith of The Cure in a still from ‘The Oxford Road Show.’
Once allegedly parodied as “Nozin’ Aroun’” on “Demolition,” the pilot episode of cult British sitcom The Young Ones, The Oxford Road Show (later known as “ORS”) was around for about four years until it marched off into the sunset. While not every band performed live (as you will see with the video of The Smiths below), many of them did and early on in their emerging careers. I cherrypicked a few highlights from The Oxford Road Show that I found most compelling such as The Cure’s 1983 appearance on the show performing “One Hundred Years” from their 1982 album, Pornography and Bauhaus in 1982 doing two of their early 80s singles, “Passion of Lovers” and an absolutely balls-out performance of “Lagartija Nick.” But what really killed me was The Smiths’ lipsynching 1984’s “What Difference Does it Make” while Moz sashays around on stage looking like he wishes he was home dancing in front of his mirror while giving zero fucks. In other words, what you are about to see is pure 80s vintage goodness that once again proves that the much maligned decade was actually pretty great.

The Cure performing ‘One Hundred Days’ on ‘The Oxford Road Show’ in 1983.

More after the jump…

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