Word from a Fab Five Freddy tweet and a post on his own MySpace blog is that New York hip-hop futurist Rammellzee has passed away at age 50 from as-yet-unrevealed causes. (@149st features a great, fact-filled interview with the man.) Emerging as a teen graffiti artist in the mid-‘70s, bombing the A-train from its last stop in his Far Rockaway, Queens hometown, Rammell ended up like many of his talented peers—a multidisciplinary creative icon submerged in the nascent metropolitan hip-hop scene. He first surfaced as a persona to the world in amazing fashion, dressed in trenchcoat and wielding a sawed-off shotgun as he MC’ed for the Rock Steady Crew in the Amphitheatre scene of hip-hop’s famous first film, 1982’s Wild Style.
Although I was too young to ever see them live, The Germs loomed large in my musical upbringing. They made deliciously evil sounding records that were irresistible to my friends and I. The legend of Darby Crash made its way out to us in the suburbs of Los Angeles and tales of “Germs burns” and other sordid activities titillated us as we blasted their sole LP and gazed at the spooky photos of the band members on the back cover. I tell you this because Rhino Handmade has just put out a limited edition CD of the final Germs show from December of 1980. Now here’s the thing: The Germs sucked live. The redoubtable Jonathan Gold does a wonderful job of describing what it was like to be there, but still I must ask: Has there ever in the history of music been a singer so utterly incapable of singing in time live as Darby Crash ? Have a listen to the clip below from said show and hear for yourself, then compare that to the truly wonderful contents of their classic first E.P. from ‘78 after the jump. I’m pretty sure all I missed out on by never seeing them live was a head injury !
Have you been keeping up with the delightful Pekar Project at the Smith website? The latest installment is my favorite, with Dangerous Minds pal Douglas Rushkoff co-starring with our hero! With terrific—kinda perfect—art by Sean Pryor.
Editor Jeff Newelt writes:
A year ago, our own cuddly curmudgeon, Harvey Pekar, joined author / media theorist Doug Rushkoff on his WFMU radio show, The Media Squat, to talk about a pet peev to both authors: the corporate takeover of society. Doug recently wrote LIFE INC: How the World Became A Corporation and How to Take It Back and Harvey legendarily bashed GE on Letterman in the ’80s, so jamming on this was a natural. To create this comic, “Pekar & Rushkoff Kibbitzin’ About How Life Got Incorporated” (part one of a four-part epic collaboration), we treated the transcript of their talk like the first track laid down for a jazz record. Harvey & Doug remixed the script and then artist Sean Pryor brought the dialogue to life. Note the masterful switch in coloring technique whenever the story shifts from the conversation itself to images of subjects being talked about. Sean first collaborated with Harvey on “Gauntet of Rock” a story for Royal Flush Magazine, and has since rocked out three Pekar Project stories, “Searchin’”, “Jungle Music,” and “Two Working Stiffs.” Sean also designed and contributed a Harvey Head to the new Pekar T-shirt.
This is fucking excellent!
Pekar & Rushkoff Kibbitzin’ How Life Got Incorporated by Harvey Pekar & Sean Pryor (Smith)
It feels like a Pop Group sort of day, so here we have a couple of vintage promo clips I’ve never stumbled upon before. Having long loved the records, the clips are a bit of shock. Such wholesome looking kids in their nice new wave gear making all that racket ! I never managed to see the doc that Mr Novicoff posted about here nearly a year ago and it doesn’t appear to be available anywhere. I both snooze and lose. Still, the shriek of vocalist Mark Stewart is a true force of nature, a sound like no other !
And difficult listening hour continues today with British free jazz giant, drummer Tony Oxley. Being a pioneer in the introduction of electronics and found objects into the standard traps, the man is a self contained orchestra. This however doesn’t stop him from being an MVP collaborator with the likes of Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton. The below clips of the man in typically furious action cause your humble blogging muso much happiness, I must say.
In 1978, when I was in the seventh grade, I was a total fanatic for Steve Martin. Comedy was as important to me at that time as punk rock was and Steve Martin, Fernwood 2Night, National Lampoon, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Marx Brothers and (especially) the Firesign Theatre were every bit the equal of the Clash or Sex Pistols in my eyes.
I saw Steve Martin “in concert” on the A Wild and Crazy Guy tour just as his career went supernova. King Tut was in the singles charts (I still have the picture sleeve 45) at the time and his latest album had just gone double platinum. Martin, is of course, still a big star, but in 1978, he was a rock star among comedians, arguable the biggest.
It was the first really big show I’d ever seen, held at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, a venue normally reserved for the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Emerson. Lake and Palmer. The place was huge and we sat in the very, very last row of the section furthest back from the stage. I get vertigo easily and it was acute for me sitting there, but no matter, I was about to see one of my heros in person!
When Steve Martin walked out onto the stage that night, frankly he could have been anybody with a white 3-piece suit (his then trademark attire), grey hair, some balloon animals and an arrow through his head. He was so far away that it was impossible for him to have had any rapport with the cheap seats other than to do the standard “How are we doin’ up there?” banter. But like I gave a shit, I was in heaven. Here I was in the same room with Steve Martin! Well me and 11,000 other people…
The encore, predictably, was King Tut. Performing to a recorded backing track, at one point an electric guitar was lowered from the flies, Martin grabbed it, attacking it furiously, strumming five chords in the space of about two or three seconds and up and and away it went again. I was buzzing about this show for at least the next three days.
Below are some examples of primo 70s Steve Martin appearances and an in-concert clip of King Tut. I noticed that one guy on YouTube has a 7 DVD set of Steve Martin on TV in the 70s. I might have to get that.
Dangerous Minds pal Taylor Jessen, the fabulously meticulous archivist for the Firesign Theatre is in the process of putting together the ULTIMATE collection of rare Firesign Theatre radio shows for a limited edition release via www.firesigntheatre.com. I’ve been raving about these programs (all recorded between 1968-72) on this blog for months and now you can hear them yourself, every Tuesday on WFMU radio at 7:00 pm in the New York area over the airwaves and streaming over the Internet on WFMU.org.
Below Taylor writes of what it was like trying to track down the audio cues used by the FST in an online essay on WFMU’s popular blog, with 30 mp3 files and a contest to win Firesign Theatre photographs signed by all four members:
For ten years or so, the Firesign Theatre has been engaging me in a friendly round of “Stump the Archivist.”
Between 1970-1972, Firesign did about seventy hours of original radio broadcasts. The shows were mostly an excuse for them to riff, but they also played a lot of music breaks, sound effects, incidental music, and total dada noise foofaraw. During those original broadcasts of The Firesign Theatre Radio Hour Hour, Dear Friends, and Let’s Eat, they put the needle on the record about 1000 times, and one of the most fun aspects of restoring all those airchecks (soon to be reissued, yes the whole schmear, in remastered digital audio with an accompanying 108-page comic-book-size color fan guide featuring complete show rundowns, an historical essay, new interviews with the 4or5 guys and their engineer & producer, never-published photos, collages, found objects, scripts, and good God make it stop, it’s just too awesome. Please check regularly here and at www.firesigntheatre.com for an official announcement; we’re only making 500 copies and they’ll never be sold in stores) – one of the most fun aspects, I say, of all this obsessive archival work was identifying those 1000 needle-drops.
To play along and try to identify these music cues—-some are easy: Beatles, Stones, Dylan, but others are pretty darn obscure—visit Firesign Theatre is Playing At My House (WFMU’s Beware of the Blog). You only have to be able to identify ONE of the musical mysteries to win!
Below, my recent interview with the Phil Proctor about the vintage Firesign Theatre radio shows being aired on WFMU:
There may be a short film that’s quite as vivid, courageous and intense as poet Forough Farrokhzad’s Khaneh Siyah Ast (The House is Black)—her 1962 portrait of a leper colony in the northwest of her native Iran—but I can’t think of it. Farrokhzad was a Tehran-born female poet born in 1935 to a career military officer and married off to the satiric writer Parviz Shapour at age 16. Farrokhzad divorced Shapour two years later and lost custody of her one-year-old child.
As much as it surfaces the sufferings of a rejected population, the 22-minute Khaneh… (excerpted below) clearly but subtly reflects Farrokhzad’s own attitude about autocratic Iranian society’s disapproval of her as a strong woman poet. The twenty-something scribe weaves her verse in voiceover throughout the footage, and her raw editing style moves agilely between long studies and quick cuts. The film would inspire the Iranian New Wave in cinema that flourished starting in the late’60s.
Farrokhzad would eventually adopt the child of two of the patients in the colony. Unfortunately, she died in a car-crash five years after the film was released, at the age of 32.
Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie I (1964) is a beautiful meeting of five people, a large gong, a microphone (used as a friction device) and a filter. From that unlikely grouping comes a cosmos of sound, so ripe is the idea of amplfied resonant metal. Need I point out that this is a major root of the later Neubautens and Organums of the world ? The clip below is packed full of interesting info so you can read along whilst having your face melted.