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Insane footage of The Clash, Joy Division, The Jam & The Specials on UK TV
06.19.2017
03:32 pm
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An early shot of “the only band that matters,” The Clash.
 
According to what I was able to dig up about the footage you are about to see from UK television show Something Else, the performance by The Clash that was filmed in 1978 was allegedly their one and only live contribution to be televised by the BBC. Strummer and his bandmates never appeared on Top of the Pops because they refused to lip-synch their songs. In addition to that cool piece of punk history, Joy Division’s appearance on the show, during which they played “Transmission” and “She’s Lost Control” would be the last videotaped-for-TV footage of the band when it was shot in the studio for the show in 1979.

It’s important to clear up the possible misconception that all of the bands in the footage below appeared at the same time on Something Else, though The Jam and Joy Division performances were aired on the same show. It’s also safe to assume that appearances by all four of these bands on one singular TV show might have caused viewers to spontaneously combust into flames after witnessing the adrenalin charged performances by four of the greatest bands to ever come out of the UK. The program itself was a precursor to other notable shows like The Tube and Oxford Road Show which integrated the format used by Something Else. The show’s “vibe” was also famously parodied by the strangely ribald BBC comedy/music series The Young Ones. The dig was also said to be directed at the Oxford Road Show which as I mentioned borrowed heavily from Something Else.

The episode in question, Demolition, was the first show of season one which aired on November 9th, 1982. During the episode we see Rick, played by the late Rik Mayall, frantically “shushing” his roomies so he can watch the faux television show “Nosin’ Around” which later causes him to kick in the TV screen in frustration because someone purporting to “speak for the youth” was wearing “flared trousers.” I can’t say that I blame him for his reaction either as I feel the much the same way anytime I see someone wearing white shoes. While I’m sure the footage I’ve posted won’t make you want to stick your foot up your television’s “ass” so it shits size eights, it will make you want to smash something. So perhaps have an easily breakable item close by that you won’t miss just to be safe. Posers get LOST!
 
Watch after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.19.2017
03:32 pm
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Ralph Steadman’s grotesquely brilliant illustrations for Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’
06.19.2017
12:04 pm
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George Orwell had difficulty in getting Animal Farm published in the 1940s. His satirical fable about a farm being taken over by a cowardly, power-mad pig was seen as an undisguised and rather offensive attack on Soviet Russia and its leader Joseph Stalin. As Orwell later explained in his introduction to the book, it was not considered the done thing in 1940s Britain to criticize their war ally Russia and especially its leader Stalin in any way. (Sidebar: Orwell’s introduction was not included in the book on its first publication and is still missing from most editions today.)

Due to the war, any criticism of Uncle Joe was not tolerated—even if there was ample evidence that things might not be as jolly as the Russians liked to pretend. The media (including the BBC) and its allies in left-wing intelligentsia swallowed wholeheartedly every piece of propaganda issued by the U.S.S.R. which was then spewed out as fact.  But Orwell was never one to be swayed by the heady eau de cologne of fashionable politics. Orwell actually believed in a practical socialism—not one that resulted in the oppression of the majority by a tiny minority as was the case with Stalin, whose dictatorship had murdered up to 60 million.

Eventually, after a series of surprising knockbacks from British and American publishers (including one from T. S. Eliot at Faber & Faber), Orwell’s tale was successfully published by Secker & Warburg in August 1945 and has never been out of print since. However, its release was not well received. Certain critics tried to damn the book with faint praise or dismiss it as “clumsy” and “dull.” Now, clumsy and dull are not the kind of words I would ever associate with Orwell’s fastidious writing or with this allegorical masterpiece.

Orwell first had the idea for Animal Farm after seeing a small boy whipping a horse:

“...I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”

Orwell wrote Animal Farm between 1943 and 1944, during the height of the Second World War. He also added in some of his own personal experience of having witnessed firsthand the Communist purges during the Spanish Civil War which revealed to him “how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries.” Orwell intended his novella as a warning and a condemnation of Stalin’s vicious dictatorship and his corruption of socialist ideals.

Political cartoonist David Low was the man who first illustrated Orwell’s political parable. While Low’s work was satirical and well-matched to Orwell’s prose, his illustrations pale when compared to the scabrous beauty of Ralph Steadman’s grotesque scratchings. Steadman provided illustrations for the 50th anniversary edition of Animal Farm in 1995.

I’d be hard put to think of any other artist who so effectively depicts the grim satire at the heart of Orwell’s tale. Steadman’s drawings seem to be on the verge of exploding with fury at the raw injustice of life or, in this case, the political allegory of the endless brutal horror of Animal Farm.
 
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See more of Ralph Steadman’s gonzo illustrations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.19.2017
12:04 pm
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The look of love: Rarely-seen intimate pics of Freddie Mercury and his partner Jim
06.01.2017
09:51 am
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Jim Hutton and Freddie Mercury with Dorothy the cat, Munich 1986.
 
The first time Jim Hutton met Freddie Mercury, he told him to “fuck off.” They were in the Copacabana, a gay club in the basement of a hotel in South Kensington, one weekend in late 1983. Jim was at the bar with his lover, John Alexander, drinking from a can of lager. When John went to the lavatory, Freddie pushed his way through the crowd and offered to buy Jim a drink. Jim, who had almost a full can in his hand, said, “No, thank you.” When Freddie then asked what he was doing that night, Jim told him to “Fuck off.” Freddie quietly wandered back to join his friends.

When John returned, Jim told him someone had just tried to chat him up. John asked, “Who?” Jim pointed him out—a slight figure with a mustache in jeans and a white t-shirt. He wasn’t Jim’s type—he preferred his men “bigger and butcher.” John was dumbfounded. Didn’t he know who that was? “That’s Freddie Mercury,” he said. “Freddie who?” The name meant nothing to Jim, who carried on sipping his beer.

Eighteen months later, on Saturday, March 23rd, 1985, Jim had been out drinking for most of the day. Instead of going home to his rented rooms in Sutton, he decided to spend his last five quid on a night out in Heaven—the large gay nightclub at Charing Cross. Usually, Jim didn’t go to clubs like Heaven. He thought they were too large, anonymous, and noisy. But that night, he wanted to dance. As he stood at the bar, a slight figure slipped in beside him and offered to buy him a drink. It was that bloke from the Copacabana again, Freddie whatsit? Slightly tipsy, Jim’s defenses were down and he offered to buy Freddie a drink. “A large vodka,” came the reply. There went most of Jim’s five quid.

Freddie then asked, “How big’s your dick?” It was his usual opening gambit. Jim ignored him saying something like, “Well, you’ll have to find out,” before telling the singer to drop the phony American accent. “But I don’t have an American accent.” Freddie protested before inviting Jim to join him and his friends.

What Jim didn’t know was that Freddie had spent part of the previous eighteen months checking up on him. He had found out where Jim drank and would send one of his assistants in to see if he was at the bar. Freddie liked men who looked like burly truck drivers. Though Jim didn’t quite fit that bill—he was a hairdresser—he did have the look that Freddie found utterly desirable.

Freddie invited Jim back to his apartment on Stafford Terrace, where they eventually fell drunkenly into bed, cuddling and talking until they fell asleep. When they awoke, they continued talking where they left off. Freddie made Jim tea, then they exchanged phone numbers. It was the start of their relationship that lasted until Freddie’s untimely death in November 1991.

Long before same-sex marriage ceremonies, Freddie called Jim his husband and they exchanged rings. Freddie wore his until the day he died.

I met Jim a few times when I was producing a documentary on Freddie’s friendship with Kenny Everett in 2002. He was a charming, warm-hearted and genuinely kind man. Straightforward, down-to-earth, and instantly likable. It was easy to see why Freddie fell for him. Jim sadly died in 2010.

The following photographs give some idea of the great love Jim and Freddie had for each other. The pictures come mainly from Jim’s personal collection, many of which were included in his memoir about Freddie, Mercury and Me.
 
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The very first time Freddie Mercury took Jim Hutton to see his home Garden Lodge, 1985.
 
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Freddie and Jim at the start of their relationship.
 
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What Jim described as ‘sparring partners’ with Freddie on Queen’s ‘Magic’ tour 1986.
 
More photos of Jim and Freddie, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.01.2017
09:51 am
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Before he was ‘Freddy Krueger’ actor Robert Englund was a surfer & super hunk
05.30.2017
01:18 pm
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A photo of a young Robert Englund aka “Freddy Krueger” from the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ film series giving Paul Newman a run for his money sometime in the early 1970s.
 
You may not always agree with everything I write about here on DM but one thing is for sure—actor Robert Englund was a super-fit surfer/actor back in the in the 1970s who appeared in films alongside Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, Richard Gere, Sally Field, and Henry Fonda. Now let that sink in for a few minutes before you say the words “no fucking way.” 

It’s actually pretty easy to express disbelief about this revelation. Mostly because Englund—an experienced and classicly trained actor—spent so much time in front of the camera in heavy makeup and prosthetics as “Freddy Krueger.” Englund was only 37 when he took on the iconic character in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, and he was still quite the looker when he embarked on the career-defining role that would make him a massive star. But most people don’t really think about that kind of thing when it comes to Robert Englund because for nearly twenty years he spent most of his time looking like his face was melting off while slicing up sleep-deprived teenagers on the big screen. However, during his days doing theater in the 60s, and the films he appeared in during the 1970s, we got to see a much different version of Englund, sometimes shirtless and gorgeously brooding in early publicity stills where he looks remarkably like a young version of the late Layne Staley of Alice in Chains. Once I got to digging around for images of Englund in his younger days, I couldn’t stop because the more I searched, the more I found and the more fascinated I became with Englund’s pre-Freddy Krueger life.
 

Robert Englund or Layne Staley of Seattle band Alice in Chains? It’s hard to tell but this is, in fact, one of Robert Englund’s head shots taken during his regional theater days in the late 1960s.
 
Englund honed his acting chops doing regional theater around California as a child, something he continued to pursue all through high school. After three years as a student at UCLA, he left California to study at the Meadow Brook Theater in Michigan where he would perform in classic stage productions written by Shakespeare and Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. In 1974 Englund would appear in his first big Hollywood role in the film Buster and Billie with actor Jan-Michael Vincent. A few years later and with nine films already under his belt, Englund would audition for the role of “Lance B. Johnson,” the reluctant soldier and LSD-dropping surfer in Apocalypse Now. According to Englund, who was born in 1947, he was told that he was “too old” for the role and the casting crew sent him across the hall to read for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars where he was told he was “too young looking.” Englund headed home and after drinking a bunch of beer he got in touch with his friend Mark Hamill and ended up being one of a few of Hamill’s young actor friends who suggested that he go try out for the park of Luke Skywalker. The rest is history as they say. Englund has done more than his fair share of films (almost 50) and it is that kind of rigor that helps separate the wolves from the pack in this game.

Full disclosure: I’m an unabashed fan of Englund’s, and bonafide horror film junkie to the core and this discovery was sort of like winning the horror-nerd lottery for me. I mean, the images of Englund, a native of Glendale, California, waiting for a wave along with fellow surfer and screenwriter Dennis Aaberg during some downtime on location for the 1978 film Big Wednesday (which is fantastic in case you’ve never seen it) is everything. As are images of Englund from his appearance in director Tobe Hooper’s 1976 film Eaten Alive (which is also pretty great), where he plays a womanizing lothario named “Buck” with a tanned, chiseled physique. Zowie. If all this sounds awesome and unbelievable to you then I’m sure you’re going to enjoy this unexpected trip down memory lane by way of Elm Street.
 

Englund (pictured first in this photo with the baseball hat on) headed out to catch some waves during a break in shooting the film ‘Big Wednesday’ in 1978.
 

FREDDY CAN SURF!
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.30.2017
01:18 pm
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Try to imagine how insane this TV footage of Roxy Music (with Brian Eno) looked in the early 1970s
05.26.2017
11:41 am
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Roxy Music: Not just another guitar band.
 
The great Roy Wood said on some late-nite radio show that for a long time he thought Ike and Tina Turner were a cool-sounding R&B band called I Can Turn A Corner. Easy mistake. For a long time, I thought Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music was singing about “wee-wees up the walls, and mashed-potato smalls…” when he sang “weary of the waltz, and mashed-potato schmaltz” on “Do the Strand.”

That I thought Roxy Music could sing about urination as decoration or squidgy y-fronts and not consider it at all out of place in their repertoire gives but some small idea as to how radical, how shocking, how breathtakingly original Roxy Music seemed when they first landed. Their debut single was named after a packet of cigarettes (“Virginia Plain”—actually a painting of a packet of cigarettes). They sang about blow-up dolls (“In Every Dream Home a Heartache”), and a kind of Ballardian love interest contained/hidden in a car’s license plate—the CPL 593H on “Re-make/Re-model.” So why not edible undergarments? It seemed all too feasible in an era of instant mash, Angel Delight, moon landings, Teflon frying pans, group sex, safari suits, and silver hot pants.

Roxy Music sounded as if they had just beamed down from outer space and brought along the music of the spheres. In fact, they had. Roxy Music was the sound of the future—but we just didn’t realize it then. Roxy was so overwhelmingly new. No one knew what to think. The group was originally comprised of Bryan Ferry (vocals, keys, and chief songwriter), Graham Simpson (bass), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (saxophone and oboe), Paul Thompson (drums and percussion), and last but not least, Brian Eno (VCS3 synthesizer, tape effects, backing vocals and “treatments”). Ferry had started the band alongside Graham Simpson. The cool suave vocalist came from a poor working class background. His grandfather had courted his grandmother on a horse and plow for ten years before getting married. Times were tough. Ferry later claimed his parents lived “vicariously” though they were always better dressed than everyone else. It was via his mother that Ferry got his introduction to rock ‘n’ roll—she took him a Bill Haley concert in the 1950s. But Ferry preferred jazz and soul and his ambition was for a career in art and possibly teaching if that didn’t work out.

This all changed after Ferry hitchhiked to London to catch an Otis Redding concert. Redding was one of the greatest soul singers/performers of all time. It was a life-changing experience. Ferry knew he had to be a singer.
 
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Roxy model for the IKEA catalog.
 
Most of his life Ferry had felt out-of-step with his contemporaries. He felt like “an oddity.” It wasn’t until he started studying Fine Art under the tutelage of pop artist Richard Hamilton at Newcastle University that he found the confidence to push forward with his own ideas and believe in his own talents. Inspired by Redding and by Hamilton’s pop art aesthetic, Ferry started writing songs. He also started singing and performing. Graduating in 1968, Ferry moved to London. After a couple of false starts with the bands the Banshees and Gasboard, Ferry formed Roxy Music with Simpson in 1970. Andy MacKay and Eno soon joined, then Thompson and finally Phil Manzanera.

As Manzanera later recalled, the rich diversity of those early sessions together created Roxy sound:

“We’d start off with ‘Memphis Soul’ Stew, and then we’d go into ‘The Bob (Medley)’, this heavy bizarre thing about the Battle Of Britain with synths and sirens. We had everything in there from King Curtis to The Velvet Underground to systems music to ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll. At the time we said this was ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s rock’n'roll. Eno would respond to something that sounded like it came off the first Velvets album, then Ferry would play something ‘50s and I’d play my version of ‘50s. I was always a terrible session player. I could never learn a solo and I stuck that ‘not quite right’ approach onto Roxy. Six people in a band created this hybrid.”

More early Roxy Music, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.26.2017
11:41 am
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The B-52s’ lost recipe for sweet potato cornbread
05.26.2017
09:24 am
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Some principles are non-negotiable. I like talking to people whose views on religion, politics, food, the environment, hairdos and footwear differ from my own. But I stand firmly behind Dangerous Minds’ “zero tolerance” policy for anyone who doesn’t like the B-52s. Those jerks can wash down a plate of boiled shoe leather with a cold glass of splinters. The rest of us will be borne aloft on the angelic sounds of Ricky Wilson’s guitar and the subtle flavors of Cindy Wilson’s sweet potato cornbread.

This recipe ran in the B-52s’ fan club newsletter. I came across it on the blog Evenings with Peter, which also broke the story of Fred Schneider’s Italian-style Soba noodles.

CORN BREAD WITH SWEET POTATO IN IT

2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
⅔ brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 medium size sweet potato (cooked and mashed)

1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Sift dry ingredients together.
3. Beat egg, add wet ingredients, mix together.
4. Coat cast iron skillet with cooking oil. Put in oven to get hot. When hot, pour in batter.
5. Leave in oven about 20 minutes.

A regular baking pan can be used instead.

After the jump, the B-52s go in search of “Quiche Lorraine” in Passaic, NJ…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.26.2017
09:24 am
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‘Henry & Glenn Forever’ is now a coloring book so all is finally right with the world
05.24.2017
09:48 am
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Tom Neely’s indie comic Henry & Glenn Forever has an amazing premise that made it an instant classic: the very very well known punk/metal singers Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig are a couple in a long term romantic relationship, living together in a house next door to Daryl Hall and John Oates, who are perennially robe-clad members of a Satanist cult. Rollins was as tickled by the premise as one would expect, characterizing it as one of his favorite uses of satire. Also predictably, Danzig was not amused, and he expressed as much to a Decibel writer for an article which, alas, is no longer online, forcing me to link here to God damned Uproxx.

That premise has yielded much fruit—the original 6x6” book in 2010, four serialized comic books published between 2012-13, and a 2014 trade paperback that collects the comics with a generous amount of additional material, and which coincided with an exhibit at L.A.‘s La Luz de Jesus gallery. This year, the series’ publisher, Microcosm (we’ve told you about them before) is puling out all the stops on the conceit, releasing Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever: The Completely Ridiculous Edition, which includes under its wonderful Tom of Finland parody cover all of the foregoing, plus even more previously unpublished material, and a foreword by ROB FUCKING HALFORD OF JUDAS FUCKING PRIEST.

Also on the horizon is the wonderful Henry & Glenn Adult Activity and Coloring Book. Like it says on the cover, the book features 132 pages of coloring fun by an assortment of artists, plus other activities including mazes that look like intestines, paper dolls—“Marriage Equality Glenn” is a winner—and a word search. You don’t even have to be familiar with the comics to find this all utterly hilarious. Though the book doesn’t come out until November, Microcosm let us pick through it to share several of our favorite pages with you. All art is by Tom Neely unless otherwise specified. Clicking an image spawns an enlargement.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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05.24.2017
09:48 am
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Cool for Cats: Squeeze’s East Side stories, working class poetry and kitchen-sink dramas
05.23.2017
11:36 am
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Squeeze: The classic line-up.
 
Like everyone else, I’m a sucker for a song that marries a well-crafted lyric to an unforgettable tune. That for me is what makes classic popular music. It can be Chuck Berry with “No Particular Place To Go,” or Sparks with “Something for the Girl with Everything,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” or even a music hall number like “My Old Man (Said Follow the Van),” or George Formby’s “When I’m Cleaning Windows.” Each of these songs has a clever lyric that tells a little story matched by compelling music that carries us along to a little nirvana of pure pop joy.

Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook write these kinds of perfect songs. Songs like “Up the Junction,” “Tempted,” “Labelled with Love,” “Another Nail in My Heart,” “Cool for Cats,”  “Black Coffee in Bed,” and “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell).” Beautiful works of art that touch both heart and mind.

Together Difford and Tilbrook are the core of Squeeze—the band they formed sometime in late 1973 or early 1974. It all started after Difford put an advert in a newsagent’s window for a musician to gig and record with, who liked the Small Faces, Hendrix and Glenn Miller. Difford had been writing poetry for years but had a desire to write and perform songs. Tilbrook had been playing guitar and writing songs since around the age of eleven. He was the only musician who replied to Difford’s ad. It was one of those marvelous quirks of fate that brought together the two young men who would one day be hailed as the “new Lennon and McCartney.”

Difford and Tilbrook were joined by boogie-woogie pianist Jools Holland on keys, Gilson Lavis on drums and eventually John Bentley who replaced Harry Kakoulli on bass. This became the classic Squeeze line-up. Through their manager Miles Copeland III (who also managed the Police, and later released albums by R.E.M., the Cramps and the Bangles), the band had their first EP A Packet of Three and their first album produced by John Cale. 
 
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Squeeze: The eighties line-up.
 
Difford and Tilbrook had taken the name Squeeze from the Velvet Underground’s (worst) album Squeeze, so there was some synchronicity that Cale produced Squeeze’s earliest output. But Cale wanted sex and imagined passions rather than the world of personal experience and kitchen-sink drama from which Difford pulled his cache of working class poetry. Whereas the first album and single (“Take Me I’m Yours”) put the band on the map and led to their three-month tour of America, it was the second Cool for Cats that showcased Difford and Tillbrook’s genius for songwriting, which was followed by the classic albums Argybargy and East Side Story, right up through to the band’s fourteenth studio album Cradle to the Grave in 2015.

Squeeze arrived at a time of a great and rich musical diversity. When there were various genres like punk and ska, new wave and rap, disco and synthpop, and so on. It was also a time when pop music no longer had that shiny exciting novelty it once had in the fifties and sixties, which meant that sometimes the praise and respect Difford and Tilbrook richly deserved was occasionally diminished or overlooked by rock critics searching for the next Sex Pistols or Paul Weller. Not that Squeeze weren’t popular or greatly loved, far from it, but that there was an equally talented (and often times not as talented) number of other bands also demanding attention who were simply less conventional.

Watch Squeeze in concert from 1982, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.23.2017
11:36 am
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Ultramega OK: Soundgarden destroy the Whisky a Go-Go, 1990
05.22.2017
12:59 pm
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Like many of you, I’m still trying to process the sudden death of Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell last week. Here in Seattle, where Cornell was born, there were several memorials held around the city including one at the site that inspired the band’s name—A Sound Garden—a musical sculpture park where twelve 20+ foot structures outfitted with organ pipes emanate with sound whenever the wind blows. After Cornell passed, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron posted a heart-wrenching comment on his Facebook page saying “My dark knight is gone,” a sentiment that hit entirely too close to home for those who knew Cornell as well as those who often suffer in silence—forever searching for ways to deal with their own depression and anxiety.

At an impromptu memorial held at the radio station KEXP on the day of Cornell’s death, 400 people showed up to collectively grieve at the station’s gathering space. While addressing the crowd, long-time DJ John Richards said that “part of the city (of Seattle) had died” that day. Often, music is something that can be hugely helpful and cathartic when you’re trying to make sense of unfathomable events such as Cornell’s impossibly sad, untimely passing. And that is exactly the purpose of my post today—to share Soundgarden’s legacy by way of their sonic, ear-smashing music.

Though I know your social media feeds have likely been filled with news about the legendary vocalist, I really wanted to support as well as spread the idea of celebrating Cornell’s life and his work with Soundgarden, who are/were without question one of the greatest rock bands of the last 30 years. A large part of their appeal was, of course, the animal magnetism of Chris Cornell’s stage presence and his immaculate four-octave vocal range. Cornell was also the primary lyricist for Soundgarden, which helped solidify his deep connection to their fan base.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.22.2017
12:59 pm
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Demons, Imps, and Fay Wray: William Mortensen’s incredible masks
05.16.2017
10:49 am
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‘Salome’ (1924).
 
A chance encounter with big shot director Cecil B. DeMille gave photographer William Mortensen his first job in Hollywood. It was the kind of lucky break that would look hokey as a plot device in a B-movie. Mortensen was working as a gardener but was soon on the set of DeMille’s King of Kings (1927), then designing voodoo masks for Lon Chaney’s movie West of Zanzibar, and then ending-up taking publicity shots and portraits of stars like Marlene Dietrich, Rudolph Valentino, and the original “It girl” Clara Bow.

Before Hollywood, Mortensen had spent his time traveling around Europe in the early 1920s soaking up all that fancy art and culture. He got hep to all the Old Masters like Goya and Rembrandt. This together with his experience of working on films made Mortensen approach photography in a wholly original way.

It was a similar kind of thing that had once happened to writer James Joyce, who had opened the first cinema in Dublin in 1908. Joyce realized traditional story-telling could not compete with movies. Why write a page describing the looks of some lantern-jawed hero when a movie could transmit such information in an instant? Movies taught Joyce to rethink literature—and so he wrote Ulysses.

Mortensen made photographs that mixed painting, drawing, theater, and movies. He manipulated the image to create something more than just a straight photographic representation. His approach was anathema to the more traditionalist photographers like Ansell Adams, who called Mortensen the “anti-Christ” for what he did to photography.

Mortensen produced beautiful, strange, often dark and Gothic, sometimes brutal, though usually erotically charged pictures. While other photographers sought realism, Mortensen used props and gowns and his own vivid imagination to enhance each picture. He went on to have some success but fell out of step with the rise of photojournalism that came out of the Second World War and was (sadly) largely forgotten by the time of his death in 1965. In more recent years, Mortensen has been rightly praised for his photographic genius. What I am intrigued by in Mortensen’s work, is his design and use of masks (including one of “scream queen” Fay Wray) in his photographic work—from which a small selection of which can be seen below.
 
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‘Masked Woman’ (1926).
 
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‘Fay Wray.’
 
More of Mortensen’s masks, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.16.2017
10:49 am
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