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‘Home of the Brave’: Laurie Anderson in concert (with William Burroughs)
03:42 pm


William S. Burroughs
Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson’s 1986 film, Home of the Brave, a cinematic documentation of her Mister Heartbreak concert tour, was shot in Union City, NJ, in the summer of 1985, at the Park Theater. Directed by Anderson herself, the film is a great record of the tightly choreographed hi-tech multimedia theatrical gimmickry she is known for, at an exciting stage of her career.

I recall thinking when Home of the Brave came out that it was an attempt to do for Laurie Anderson’s profile what Stop Making Sense had done for the Talking Heads, but that it was even better. King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, percussionist David Van Tieghem and Joy Askew are in her backing band here and William S. Burroughs walks onstage from time to time muttering cryptic things to great effect and dances a slow waltz with Anderson.

Home of the Brave has never been released on DVD, although it was announced at one point as part of a DVD box set that never came out. A (quite decent) torrent file made from the laserdisc is pretty easy to find and is probably the source for the (quite decent) version you can see via YouTube embedded below.

Last night Anderson did a Q&A at Cinefamily in Los Angeles, where they screened a recently discovered 35mm print of Home of the Brave. There will several more screenings there over the weekend and into next week. Anderson’s new film, Heart of a Dog, opens in wider release today across the country and is getting rave reviews.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The entire print run of transgressive LA punk art and music zine NO MAG is now online
07:57 am


Ryan Richardson
Bruce Kalberg

Ryan Richardson is one of the United States’ foremost collectors, archivists, and dealers of punk rock records and ephemera, as well as being the Internet saint who created free online archives of StarRock Scene, and Slash magazines. He also runs, a repository of various early punk zines as well as the exhaustive punk info blog Break My Face.

We’ve written about Richardson’s punk altruism before here at Dangerous Minds, and well, it looks like he’s gone and done it again—bigtime.

Richardson’s gift to the world this time around is a doozy. He is hosting on his website,, the entire print run of the early LA punk and art magazine NO MAG. The fourteen issues published between 1978 and 1985 by Bruce Kalberg cover a lot of the same musical ground as LA contemporaries Slash and Flipside, but NO MAG is decidedly artier and, well, filthier than those publications. 

Be warned before you download and open these issues—they aren’t exactly safe for workplace viewing. If Larry Flynt and the Vienna Aktionists got together and published a punk zine in the late ‘70s, it would have looked a lot like NO MAG. NO MAG‘s publisher Bruce Kalberg, and the sordid turns of his life, were recently covered in LA Weekly‘s piece “Beautiful Loser, Tortured Killer.” 

From that article:

Bruce Kalberg started NO MAG in 1978 with Michael Gira, a friend from Otis College of Art and Design, who left for New York after several issues to form the early noise band the Swans. Aside from the requisite profiles of X, Fear, the Germs, Johanna Went, Phranc, Suicidal Tendencies, ad gloriam, this sub-Slash tabloid fanzine amply captured the corrosive admixture of medical atrocities, sexual pathology, gallows humor and political anarchy endemic to the times: autopsy photos; profiles of working dominatrixes; textbook entries on female circumcision and how to synthesize heroin from morphine; cartoons of “Nancy Reagan’s favorite color” (bloody Tampaxes); and house ads featuring photos of progressive gum disease, with the caption, “You liked our smile, now catch our disease” — what Kalberg once called “the old cliché of shit-and-guts imagery” by which to wage war on polite society.

It also frequently bordered on the pornographic — Susanna Hoffs topless, Belinda Carlisle naked under tights, Germs producer Geza X with his cock in his hand, the Cramps’ Brian Gregory with a semi-erection and a python, and the irrepressible El Duce shitting on a plate are a fair representation—forcing him to manufacture it in San Francisco, where printers are apparently more tolerant.

NO MAG in many ways reminds me of a flashy LA version of what Search and Destroy was doing in San Francisco around the same time period. In my opinion, this rare print run being made available is an even bigger “get” than the Slash print run recently offered by CirculationZero. It’s an edgier magazine and, in many ways because of the artistic focus, seems more timeless than its contemporaries, dated only by its political incorrectness and non-digital layouts. The sometimes-transgressive art and photography, along with the interviews of now-legendary bands, make this run a crucial historical resource.

The download of the complete set is free, but Richardson asks that those taking advantage make a charitable donation to Electronic Frontier Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, or Austin Pets Alive. He has provided donation links on—go there now to download NO MAG, and while you’re waiting on that file transfer, scroll through this gallery of covers:


More after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
So these are the houses where they made the punk rock
01:40 pm


Google Street View

Decatur, IL 62521
MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, issue no. 35, April, 1986
“Is this misogyny or childish ghoulism?”

Before the internet, unsigned and unheralded punk and hardcore bands used analog processes like mimeographing, mass mailings, and silk screen to get the word out and build community. For bands with zero access to a word processing program, a desktop publishing program, or any kind of email, such processes were brutally time-consuming, and many of the bands that made an impact did so by dint of humongous gobs of back-breaking work. Michael Azerrad’s engrossing 2001 book Our Band Could Be Your Life is especially good on this point. Here’s a section from the chapter on Minor Threat:

Even though it was a fairly small operation, there were still plenty of things to do. Cutting, folding, and gluing the seven-inch covers, then inserting the photocopied lyric sheets, was a lot of work, so they’d have folding parties and invite their friends. “You’d just watch TV,” [Minor Threat drummer Jeff] Nelson recalls, “and get blisters and burn your nails from folding over the paper and gluing those down.” Some copies would get a special touch: “Folding all the lyric sheets and sealing them with a kiss or a fart,” says Nelson. “That’s what we’d do on some of them, we’d write ‘S.W.A.K.’ or ‘S.W.A.F.’ on a few of them.”

Throughout the 1980s, the influential zine Maximum Rock & Roll (or, if you prefer, Maximumrocknroll) became the de facto center of the American DIY music movement—largely by adopting an ethic of integrity every bit as committed as that of, say, Fugazi. In its heyday, Maximum Rock & Roll surely published thousands of reviews of independently generated punk and hardcore demos, EPs, albums, and 7-inches, and because of that analog world, there wasn’t any at the end of the reviews so that the reader could find out more. No, what there were, very often, were mailing addresses.

Most confrontational hardcore bands had a significant interest in coming off as inscrutable, perverse, or intimidating, and in most cases a simple street address would simply and conveniently serve to fuel the imagination if a reader was so inclined. But where were these houses, anyway? Where were the places the birthed so much of American punk rock? Was it hovels in run-down urban districts, or was it posh suburban palaces? Marc Fischer of the Chicago-based art group Public Collectors decided to find out, and to do so, he had the brilliant idea of taking the addresses found at the end of MRR reviews and seeing what happens when you plop them into Google Street View. The results are pretty fascinating.

Fischer’s project, which exists as a Tumblr page, is called HARDCORE ARCHITECTURE. It’s no secret that punk gravitated more to cities, while hardcore was often an endeavor reflecting a specifically suburban anomie. But the juxtaposition of forbidding band names and sprawling prefab cubes of plenty can’t fail to elicit at least a smirk of humorous recognition. “Oh really? That uncompromising band Crippled By Society was based out of this expensive-looking McMansion?”

HARDCORE ARCHITECTURE looks exclusively at the 1982-1989 period, and it goes without saying that, well, 30 years have passed since then and now. Surely that McMansion wasn’t even there in 1985. But the beauty of Fischer’s project is that it eschews commentary, it merely presents the facts, as it were puts a face to the name.

Here is the statement that any reader of HARDCORE ARCHITECTURE encounters:

Hardcore Architecture explores the relationship between the architecture of living spaces and the history of underground American hardcore bands in the 1980s. Band addresses are discovered using contact listings found in demo tape and record reviews published from 1982-89 in the fanzine MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL (MRR). Google Street View is used to capture photos of the homes. Street names and numbers are removed to respect the privacy of people currently living at these addresses.

While care is taken to confirm that the home in the photo matches the street number listed in MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, accuracy is not guaranteed. Some addresses have been confirmed using real estate websites. When multiple homes are built close together, the band-associated home is the house in the center of the composition. If you are a member of a band on this page and notice an error, please feel free to contact me. This research will later be supported by additional writing and exhibitions.

Every post presents the picture of a location, a band name, and then the name of the municipality, the relevant issue information of MRR and then the datestamp of the picture (obviously quite recent), and finally a sample quotation from the review and the identity of the reviewers. (Fischer uses an initial system—so “TY” stands for Tim Yohannan, “Jel” stands for Jello Biafra, and “TV” stands for Tesco Vee.) Specific street addresses are not published, although obviously anyone interested enough to find out could do so.

From Half Letter Press you can purchase a “booklet, flyer, and print pack” for just $20 (limited run of 100)—other items are cheaper and not part of a limited run.

Criminal Mischief
Reno, NV 89509
MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, issue no. 35, April, 1986
“There’s some metal damage but not to a distracting degree. Power and production are tops; intense lyrics too.”

Sonic Youth
New York, NY 10002
MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, issue no. 21, May/June, 1985.
“We’re bordering on ambient slow-burn here, but I’m still drawn…no, sucked into this band’s whole thing. They simply can do no wrong. I’m the biased jerk who really shouldn’t be reviewing this babe. Not for everybody, but then neither is good taste.”
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Wendy O Williams, Bozo the Clown, and more in National Lampoon’s ‘Mad as Hell’

Sometime during the mid-‘80s, I stopped buying MAD every month and begun habitually picking up National Lampoon. Both publications were in decline at the time, though in my teens I hadn’t the perspective to know that. I think I was probably flattering myself that the more collegiate content of the Lampoon was more my speed, but in any case, in 1985, I picked up an issue of the Lampoon that I would hang onto for decades to follow.

It was dated November, 1985 and titled “The Mad as Hell Issue.” Apart from a handful of fucked-up cartoons, it featured none of the magazine’s usual content, and instead was an open forum for celebrities of varying degrees of fame from the worlds of show business, publishing, music, et al, to vent about what irked them, and none were written by contemporary NL staffers, though some past names from the publication’s masthead were included. It can easily be found on eBay and Amazon, and naturally it’s part of the CD Rom release of every issue in the magazine’s entire history. Editor Matty Simmons introduced the issue thusly:

This issue of the National Lampoon is completely different from any other issue of the magazine published in its more-than-fifteen-year history. It has, first of all, basically been written by guest contributors, most of whom are not humorists. Second, much of what appears on these pages is not intended to be humorous. In many cases, the text is an expression of absolute anger, or, at least, pique. Other “mad as hell” pieces are indeed written humorously. It’s a mixture. And it’s a fascinating first for this or possibly any other national magazine.

You will read reflections here from governors and mayors and actors and authors and rock stars and directors and other celebrities, and some from people who are not celebrities. They’re just “mad,” and, we think, they express that anger interestingly. Why have we done this?

Maybe because there is so much to be mad about these days. Maybe because we’re all so well informed, so exposed to so many things because of television, we’ve learned to react — good or bad— more than we ever have before. It’s healthy to be “mad as hell” about things you think are wrong. Apathy is a dangerous lack of a state of mind.

Why this departure from an editorial policy which is always all-humor and usually mostly fiction? Because we think it’s an idea that works, and innovation is mostly what we’re about.

And anyway, we took a vote of the entire staff. There was one vote for doing the issue, and nineteen votes against it.

So I won.

The issue included exceptionally thoughtful long-form essays by columnist Jeff Greenfield and filmmaker John Waters, whose piece would be reprinted in Crackpot. There were “Jesus wept” length contributions from actor Mickey Rooney (“People aren’t mad enough about improving things—about themselves or our country.”) and Broadway luminary Hal Prince (“I’m madder than hell at all this trivia!”). The great clown Larry Harmon, who created the extraordinarily famous and durable character Bozo, contributed a piece about the travails of his 1984 in-character presidential run.

Click here to enlarge

Plasmatics singer Wendy O Williams offered a photo essay about dickheads who grab their junk:

Click here to enlarge

Charles Bukowski and some other unexpected National Lampoon contributors after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The time a small town booked a Rage Against the Machine show then shat its pants about it

Sometimes when I despair at the abject cluelessness and parochialism of local news “journalism,” I’m reminded that at least I live in a city, and could have WAY WORSE local news pickings were I to forsake easy access to museums and concert clubs for the quiet life. Take the small town of Spanish Fork, Utah. A quick jog south of Provo, it’s bisected by a Main Street that runs a whoppin’ five miles from its northern to southern borders, and with a roughly 10% Hispanic population, Spanish Fork doesn’t boast a whole lot of Spanish speakers. This is no bastion of urbanity, and of course that’s fine, not everyplace has to be.

But when their fairgrounds manager booked a Rage Against the Machine show, the residents and the local news all UTTERLY FLIPPED THEIR LIDS.

Local lore holds that the booking was made under the misapprehension that “Rage Against the Machine” was the name of a touring tractor-pull or monster truck rally. The fairgrounds manager and city manager both deny that in a City Weekly article published last year, but whatever the reason for the booking, hysteria ensued. A contemporary article in the LDS-owned Utah paper Deseret News reported thusly:

A rally at the city park organized by Shelley Matterson expressed some residents’ own rage against the booking of the group but acknowledged that fairgrounds manager Steve Money, who scheduled the band at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds, did so in error. “He’s devastated,” said Ann Banks, daughter of Mayor Marie Huff. Banks said her mother had been subject to verbal attacks by residents who called the mayor, wondering how the controversial group could have been booked to appear there.

Most residents expressed fear that the group - known for its loud music and rough lyrics - was coming to Spanish Fork. Tash Johns urged the council in absentia to “take the bold stand and cancel the concert. We will stand behind them if they take this stand of courage,” she said.

Residents said they feared the lyrics that will be heard well beyond the fairground’s wooden fences as well as the rocker fans that would be there and the potential for injuries that one man who favors the concert said would likely result. Others expressed concern about lawsuits that could result if someone is killed or injured during the concert. They also fear a discrimination lawsuit if the concert is canceled.

Wouldn’t want the rocker fans to kill anyone now…

But that article is quite measured. It’s local TV news where out-of-touch bafflement and old-people paranoia really shine brightest. This news report was completely alarmist even though it was produced after the concert took place—and of course nothing bad happened except that a terrible rap-metal band that made “anti-establishment” “socialist” records to profit the international corporation Sony played its shitty high-fivin’ bro-down music. I kinda lost it a little at the remark about the “big city rock band.”

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Excerpts from the secret ‘autobiography’ David Bowie gave Cameron Crowe in the mid-‘70s: EXCLUSIVE
11:56 am


David Bowie
Rolling Stone
Cameron Crowe

Mid-1970s Bowie is my favorite Bowie. 1975-1976, living in the Los Feliz house of Glenn Hughes, bassist for Deep Purple. Bowie’s coked out and coked up, obsessed with the occult and given to paranoid delusions. Bowie consorting with witches. Bowie starring in Nicolas Roeg’s excellent The Man Who Fell to Earth and releasing Station to Station, perhaps his most scorchingly funky album and also, as it happens, my favorite of Bowie’s albums. These were the “Thin White Duke” years, as the first line of that album has it; whatever was possessing Bowie, to quote the same song, “It’s not the side effects of the cocaine / I’m thinking that it must be love.”

The primary chronicler of this period in Bowie’s life was unquestionably Cameron Crowe, whose youthful journalistic exploits for Rolling Stone were depicted, after a fashion, in Almost Famous. Not only did Crowe write a cover story on Bowie that appeared in the February 12, 1976 issue; he also interviewed Bowie for the September 1976 issue of Playboy, an interview that featured several remarkable statements, most prominently, that “yes, I believe very strongly in fascism.” Amazingly, Crowe was a teenager when all of this was happening—he turned 20 in July 1977.

If you are a David Bowie addict, it’s fairly likely you have read these lines, which appeared in Crowe’s 1976 feature on Bowie for Rolling Stone:

Bowie announces that he’s got a new project, his autobiography. “I’ve still not read an autobiography by a rock person that had the same degree of presumptuousness and arrogance that a rock & roll record used to have. So I’ve decided to write my autobiography as a way of life. It may be a series of books. I’m so incredibly methodical that I would be able to categorize each section and make it a bleedin’ encyclopedia. You know what I mean? David Bowie as the microcosm of all matter.”

If the first chapter is any indication, The Return of the Thin White Duke is more telling of Bowie’s “fragmented mind” than of his life story. It is a series of sketchy self-portraits and isolated incidents apparently strung together in random, probably cutout order. Despite David’s enthusiasm, one suspects it may never outlast his abbreviated attention span. But it’s a good idea. At 29, Bowie’s life is already perfect fodder for an autobiography.

The article in Rolling Stone also included an excerpt, in a box. It looked like this:

So Bowie gave Crowe a manuscript of some sort. What was in it? Has it ever been published in full?

This “first chapter” of The Return of the Thin White Duke clearly has never been published. I consulted ten book-length treatments of Bowie’s life and career (a list of these works can be found at the bottom of this post), and only 2 of them even bothered to mention it, and neither dwelled on it for very long. It’s abundantly clear that not many people know anything about this text.

Bowie: A Biography by Marc Spitz includes the following on page x of the introduction:

Bowie’s autobiography, purportedly entitled The Return of the Thin White Duke (after the opening lyric to the 1976 song “Station to Station”) has been rumored for years as well, but either the asking price is too high or it’s a bluff; or it’s really in the works, and like Bob Dylan’s Chronicles volume one, it will arrive when it’s the right time.

Meanwhile, in The Man Who Sold the World, Peter Doggett writes on page 285:

Much of The Man Who Fell to Earth was filmed in Albuquerque—the so-called Duke City, having been named for the Spanish duke of Albuquerque, Spain. And it was there that David Bowie, who was unmistakably thin, and white, began to write a book of short stories titled The Return of the Thin White Duke. It was, he explained, “partly autobiographical, mostly fiction, with a deal of magic in it.” Simultaneously, he was telling Cameron Crowe: “I’ve decided to write my autobiography as a way of life. It may be a series of books.” Or it might be a song—or, as printed in Rolling Stone magazine at the time, the briefest and most compressed of autobiographical fragments, which suggested he would have struggled to extend the entire narrative of his life beyond a thousand words.

In 2012 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened its Library and Archives in Cleveland, Ohio, and one of the institution’s most intriguing holdings is the Rolling Stone Collection, which contains the editorial files, notes, work product, etc. for all issues starting in 1974 and stretching all the way to 1989. It’s a lot of super-interesting material to which all rock journalists should be paying attention.

The manuscript of chapter 1 of The Return of the Thin White Duke that Bowie gave to Crowe is in those files, and I’ve read it in its entirety.

Rolling Stone’s arrangement with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives does not permit visual reproduction of its work product, so it is not possible for Dangerous Minds to post the pages of this manuscript here. However, researchers are permitted to quote portions of items found in the Rolling Stone Collection—I was told that I am permitted to quote 10% of the manuscript as “fair use.” I’m going to do just that, in a minute.

When I first encountered this at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives, I excused myself from the archive (cellphones are not permitted in the room itself) and Googled a few choice phrases to see whether anyone else had ever published it. I came up with zero hits in all instances.

The manuscript is nine pages long, typewritten. What’s contained in the archive is a Xerox copy of the original; where the original is, I have not the slightest idea. On the top of the first page is typed, in allcaps, “THE RETURN OF THE THIN WHITE DUKE.” Underneath that, in someone’s handwriting—perhaps the author’s, perhaps Crowe’s—are the words “BY DAVID BOWIE.”

It is quite a remarkable document, with Bowie inserting often mundane impressions of the past into a grandiloquent, over-the-top sci-fi allegorical construct reminiscent of Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or, indeed, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. (Just to give you an idea, the named characters in the manuscript include the “Thin White Duke,” the “Finder,” the “Fatal Father,” and “Magnauseum.” I think.) As for the more workaday parts, there’s a paragraph comparing the relative merits of chisel toes versus high pointers (these are types of shoe), with Bowie, in whatever fictive guise, preferring the chisel toe. Another longish passage is dedicated to the decisions involved in painting his home: “Deep blue was the color that I took to every dwelling,” starts Bowie on that subject.

The text is broken up into many, many shorter sections, most of which are just a paragraph or two long. For some reason Hebrew letters are used to distinguish the sections (ALEPH, BETH, GIMEL, DALETH, HE, VAU, ZAIN). In between the more prosaic bits that are apparently about Bowie’s own life are sections in which the Thin White Duke and possibly others—it’s not quite clear—present their verbose and overblown pronouncements about life and music and fame.

Oh, also? There’s a fair bit of sex in it. A couple of the passages are quite steamy.

Much, much more after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Short animated film depicts the agony of alcoholism

Twelve-step programs have long achieved remarkable things using the simple technique of a single voice speaking with honesty and humility, and it is precisely this device that works so smashingly well in this animated short crafted by the production company Buck for Alcoholics Anonymous.

In “Doors,” the simple aural method of a multitude of voices detailing (necessarily incompletely) the abjectness of their situations is singularly effective, singularly moving, singularly powerful. The iconic and yet entirely fluid visuals in the short reminds me a great deal of the work of Eric Drooker, whose wordless novel Flood of some years ago evinced similar feelings of helplessness, dread, isolation, and desperation.

“I’m Justin H., I’m an alcoholic.” “I had no friends, I burned every single bridge, my family had cut ties from me, I was unemployable. ... All of those things because, you know, drinking was more important than anything else.” The snippets start out bleak but, inevitably, turn more hopeful as the narrative edges towards probably the planet’s most effective counter to dipsomania—Alcoholics Anonymous.

Just as AA meeting structurally resemble Moth storytelling gatherings, so too do these recorded clips remind one of This American Life—but so many right-thinking NPR addicts have become trained in empathizing with just such voices.

By the time the short had ended I was almost disappointed to see that it was, no matter how well executed, yes, a commercial for AA. But on second thought, that’s the best use for such a fine piece of work.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Kenneth, what is the frequency?’ The weird connection between AC/DC and the 1986 Dan Rather assault
11:51 am


Ken Schaffer
Dan Rather

Dan Rather’s career as a network news anchor was full of memorable moments, but perhaps the single most surreal incident was the time he had to report a crime in which he was the victim. He was walking to his NYC home on October 4th, 1986, when he was accosted and beaten on the sidewalk by men who pummeled and kicked him while repeating the question “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”

It was freakin’ weird, so weird that there were some who thought Rather had lost his marbles and made it up. Most doubts were squashed when a doorman who witnessed the incident and helped thwart the attack corroborated Rather’s version of events, and remaining doubts were put to rest 11 years later, when one of the assailants was at last identified, as an apparently unwell man who thought the news media was transmitting messages to him, and who furthermore was serving time for the 1994 murder of a Today show stagehand. By then, the phrase “Kenneth, what is the frequency” (interchangeably with the misquote “What’s the frequency, Kenneth”) had long since entered pop culture, becoming the title of a cool piece of music by Game Theory in 1987, and a very popular REM song in 1994.

As it turns out, there really WAS a Kenneth, and the incident may have been a monumental case of mistaken identity. Ken Schaffer was a music publicist turned inventor who, during what would turn out to be the tail end of the Cold War, found a way to use TVRO dishes to receive Russian television broadcasts from Molniya satellites, a system he installed at the Harriman Institute for Advanced Studies of the Soviet Union at Columbia University. He even enabled the broadcast of a full week’s worth of Soviet television on the then-embryonic Discovery Channel. An amazing and weird article I found on the SETI League web site illuminates Schaffer’s connection to the Rather assault:


Because Soviet TV broadcasts were generally unavailable in the U.S., the receiver Kenny set up at the Harriman institute drew a number of visitors. Some, such as English rock musician Gordon Sumner (better known as Sting), were there to learn about the arts scene behind the Iron Curtain. (One of the first adopters of a wireless guitar amplifier developed by Schaffer two decades earlier,  Sting was moved by the Molniya viewing experience to compose his popular song “Russians,” sung to a theme from the Lieutennant Kijé Suite by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.) Some of the visitors were American diplomats, hoping to use the knowledge gained from the screen to ease international tensions. Others, including TV news anchorman Dan Rather, came to do what journalists generally do—learn about upcoming trends so they could later report on them.

Then there were the visitors from the shadow world, all wanting to know how Schaffer was pulling these elusive signals out of the ether. Kenny generally refrained from telling them, likely hoping to capitalize on his technology by keeping the details to himself. When asked about frequencies and modulation modes, he usually changed the subject.

On the October 1986 night Rather was attacked, he and Schaffer had just left the Columbia campus, where they had been watching Molniya video downlinks. “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” Rather was asked repeatedly while being pummeled by unknown assailants. Kenny Schaffer believes this was a simple (although painful) case of mistaken identity. The muggers followed the wrong man.

Unfuckingreal, right? We not only have Schaffer to thank (or curse, depending on your alternarock tolerance levels) for that astonishingly durable REM song, he was possibly the intended victim of the Rather beating, AND he’s complicit in that monstrous piece of crap Sting song. That last demerit, though large, is more than mitigated by the fact that Schaffer is also responsible for the monstrously awesome guitar sound on AC/DC’s early ‘80s albums. Did you note the mention in the quotation above of Schaffer’s wireless guitar amplifier? That’s a misnomer—Schaffer’s system was not an amp, but a transmitter/receiver.

The Schaffer-Vega Diversity System was an early wireless transmitter for guitarists. Its popularity blew up exponentially after its adoption by Ace Frehley of KISS, who’d been electrocuted during a performance in Florida, when his hand touching a metal guardrail completed an AC circuit with his ungrounded amp. Soon, many, many people began using Schaffer-Vegas (Frehley could easily have died, the incident was no joke), including Van Halen, the Stones, Bootsy Collins, and Frank Zappa. But the device’s moment in the sun came not from any live performance, but its use in-studio, really the last place anyone needs wireless anything.

A bit of oversimplified tech here: the Schaffer-Vega compressed a guitar’s signal before transmission, and expanded it at the receiver end, before feeding the transmitted signal to the amp. While it expanded the signal, it boosted certain frequencies that could tend to be lost to compression. So not only did the device wirelessly transmit a signal, it colored the guitar’s tone in distinctive ways, creating harmonic distortions, but they happened to be pleasing distortions.


Angus Young with Ken Schaffer. Photo: SoloDallas

And so it was that Angus Young of AC/DC began using wireless in the recording studio. Unable to satisfactorily record his ridiculous ball-crunching live sound, he soon resorted to the obvious move, and used his live rig:

George [Young, Angus and Malcolm’s older brother and first AC/DC producer] had suggested that I use the SVDS in the studio in 1978, then when Mutt Lange came in [producer of Highway to Hell, Back in Black, For Those About to Rock We Salute You], he asked me to use the same stuff that I was using for my stage sound, so we used the SVDS again.

The Schaffer-Vega’s unique compression/expansion/EQ scheme turns out to be THE key to AC/DC’s distinctively rich guitar sound, every bit as much as a late ‘60s Gibson SG and a late ‘70s Marshall amp. However, the units had to be abandoned in 1982, victim both to changing FCC regulations on wireless specs, and Ken Schaffer’s changing interests… changing interests which led to a Cold War satellite breakthrough, which led to a really famous reporter getting his ass beat down on Park Avenue. Nutty world, isn’t it?

There’s a happy ending for the Schaffer-Vega, though—this is the news item that got me down into this rabbit-hole to begin with, in fact: the device has been resurrected, redesigned by a company called SoloDallas from Schaffer’s original units and named the “Schaffer Replica.” An early run of the replicas is sold out, but not only is an updated version available, it’ll be featured at this week’s musical instrument industry exposition, Summer NAMM. It’s available both as a wireless transceiver and as a regular guitar pedal. To be blunt, both of the devices are spendy as hell, though either option is cheaper by far than a late ‘60s Gibson SG or a late ‘70s Marshall amp. Angus Young used the newly recreated gizmo on AC/DC’s likely farewell album, the well-received Rock or Bust, making it the first AC/DC album to feature one since 1983. (And I don’t want to goddamn hear about it if you don’t like AC/DC—you’re just wrong. I love them abidingly for the same reasons I love the Ramones and Lungfish: if you keep making more or less the same album over and over again for decades and I love that album almost every time, you’re on to something worthy.)

Here’s some killer footage of AC/DC live on The Midnight Special in 1978. Angus Young is SURELY using a Schaffer-Vega wireless setup here:

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The entire print run of classic punk Slash magazine is now online
09:13 am



I have excellent news for the world. Ryan Richardson, one of the United States’ foremost collectors, archivists, and dealers of punk rock records and ephemera has given us a most welcomed gift.

Richardson has uploaded the entire print run of the classic L.A. punk magazine, Slash, to his website

A true Internet saint, Richardson has previously blessed us with free online archives of Star magazine, Rock Scene magazine, and, a repository of various early punk zines. Richardson also hosts the exhaustive punk info blog Break My Face.

Unlike crucial, pioneering magazines such as Touch and Go and We Got Power!, which have recently gotten deluxe anthology treatments, Slash magazine has remained hidden from public view since its demise in 1980, save for the surviving copies in the hands of primordial punks and collectors with the scratch to afford valuable originals on eBay.

Richardson has collected the entire print run of 29 issues from 1977 to 1980.

The importance of Slash to the L.A. punk scene, and really to the worldwide punk scene in general, cannot be overstated.  The writing of Claude “Kickboy Face” Bessy, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, and Chris D. helped to define the attitude and outlook of the nascent subculture, while the imagery of illustrators Gary Panter and Mark Vallen established punk as an art movement working outside of—but in conjunction with—the music scene. Photographers like Ed Colver and Jenny Lens provided essential documentation of the era, making names for themselves producing some of the most important rock photography ever captured.

The layout design, graphics, and writing put Slash spiky-head-and-shoulders above most any other punk fanzine before or since. And in terms of being a historical record of a cultural time and place, this print run is priceless. We hope you have several hours to kill. You can download the entire archive right here or from

The zip-file download of the complete run is free, but Richardson asks that those taking advantage make a charitable donation to Electronic Frontier Foundation, Doctors Without Borders or Austin Pets Alive. He has provided donation links on

While you’re waiting on this large file to download, here’s a gallery of covers and pages included in the archive:


More after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Mel Brooks demonstrates the 12 emotions that every actor must master
05:25 pm


Mel Brooks

This remarkable gallery of Mel Brooks making the most of his entirely rubbery face appeared in a 1982 issue of Best magazine, a French publication. Here’s a typical cover of Best, also from 1982:


Anyway, here was the spread as it appeared in the magazine. As you can see, Brooks is giving his impression of 12 core emotions, including fear, joy, astonishment, and sadness. In each case Brooks has supplied a little comment on what the emotion means. If you click on this image, you will be able to see a larger version.

Here are better views of the panels, with inexpert translations that were enabled in large part by Google Translate.

Sadness: Debussy
Hatred: I do not practice it.


Shyness: The very big girls
Seduction: I cannot go to the discos without locking myself in the bathroom because the women are so beautiful.


Joy: A girl named Sheila, against my expectation, gave me her address.
Love: A good book in the hand of a beautiful naked girl when I’m in a hotel room that she paid for.


Provocation: A waiter spills soup on me, I leave without paying.
Ennui: All the Jews who borrow money from me under the pretext that am one.


Fear: When there are many people at the table but they bring me the check.
Stupidity: Believing the promises of politicians.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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