follow us in feedly
Jonathan Richman fills out the N.Y. Rocker questionnaire
12:03 pm



The February 1978 edition of N.Y. Rocker ran a feature by Craig Zeller called “Jonathan Richman: A Roadrunner for Your Love.” The article has one of the better opening lines I can remember: “I’m straight and I used to be in love with Jonathan Richman.” Not only does it reference one of Richman’s defining tunes, “I’m Straight,” but it also puts forward the prospect of falling out of love with Jonathan Richman. (Actually, having seen Richman complain about the A/C the last two times I saw him play live and also reading Zeller’s account of Richman’s prickiness as an interviewee, I get it.)

In Zeller’s lengthy intro, he puts himself across as a die-hard Richman fan frustrated that Richman’s recent work hasn’t lived up to the initial early promise. He tells of an NYU gig of October 29, 1977, singling out the new songs “I’m a Little Airplane,” “My Love Is A Flower (Just Beginning To Bloom),” “I’m A Little Dinosaur,” and (Zeller’s favorite) “The Morning of Our Lives.” The interview that ran in N.Y. Rocker took place after that show in chilly Washington Square Park (how about finding a bar somewhere, guys?) and was by his own admission a bit awkward.

This 1998 interview with Richman includes a reference to Richman’s distaste for N.Y. Rocker because “they had misquoted” Richman and “distorted some of [Richman’s] comments” and because “they had ‘lied,’” but what I can’t figure out is if this is the feature Richman was upset about—N.Y. Rocker covered Richman more than once, after all. What’s odd is that the interview reads like a verité transcription of what happened (there were four people present, and the interview is presented in straight (lengthy) Q&A style). And yet Zeller himself goes out of his way to explain Richman’s sensitivity on this matter, saying “I promised not to misquote him or take his answers out of context, which is one reason why he is averse to doing interviews.” It seems unlikely that Richman would single out this piece of all pieces for an accusation of distortion, but anything’s possible.

Zeller’s article is still an interesting and engaging read. One of my favorite tidbits is Richman’s mention of an earlier name for the Modern Lovers, that being “Jonathan Richman’s Rockin’ Roadmasters,” a fact that could be corroborated on the Internet solely by this Spanish-language article from 2003. It appears to be not widely known that RIchman had once favored that name for his band.

Tucked in on the final page of three is a quirky questionnaire, presented entirely without explanation or caption, that clearly has Richman’s answers on it…

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Famous Monsters: The eerie movie-monster portraits of Basil Gogos
09:04 am

Pop Culture


In it’s late ‘50 to early ‘70s heyday, Famous Monsters of Filmland became legendary. Though it thoroughly covered the horror film scene, it did its job with a surfeit of cheek that made it accessible to younger readers, making it a semi-serious film rag that appealed to the MAD magazine demographic. (Its publisher, Warren Publishing, was also home to MAD visionary Harvey Kurtzman’s Help!.) It spawned imitations, and soldiered on for over a decade past its useful life, to fold in 1983. The mag was revived in 1993, and after some legal contention, it continues today as a web site and a bimonthly print publication.

Between MAD magazine and Playboy, there was Famous Monsters of Filmland. For kids growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was one of the landmarks of adolescence; something that was frowned upon or simply beyond the comprehension of their parents; something that was uniquely their own. It was Forrest J. Ackerman’s genius to recognize that kids would love exploring the worlds of horror and science fiction and it was Jim Warren’s genius to grasp that by making the magazine scholarly but humorous, it would diffuse the subject matter’s dark side and make that younger readership feel welcome. In fact one of the striking elements of FM’s early years is how much interaction there was with its readership, through its lengthy letter column (which regularly printed reader photos) to the “You Axed for It” request pages and the fan club/“Graveyard Examiner” sections. The magazine had a curious innocence (engineered by Ackerman’s persona of a friendly, endlessly punning uncle), mixed with a sense of transgrescence. For all the jokes an light-heartedness, this was still a publication filled with images of monsters, the undead, vampires, and corpses which carried with it a frisson of danger and the forbidden.

The Warren Companion

One of the factors that distinguished Famous Monsters in its prime was stunning cover art, most notably the expressionistic character portraits of Basil Gogos. Gogos was a Greek national born in Egypt, whose family moved to the US when he was in his teens. He studied illustration under the Art Student’s League’s Frank J. Reilly, and began illustrating pulp westerns at the end of the ‘50s. His leap to the horror genre came quickly—his first FM cover was a 1960 portrait of Vincent Price, and he went on to do more than 50 utterly distinctive works for the publication.


Plenty more, plus a TV documentary about Basil Gogos, hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The Donald Fagen song that’s so obscure, Donald Fagen himself probably doesn’t even remember it
12:37 pm



A few weeks ago I was poking around John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit’s incredibly massive used bookstore—it’s one of the best bookstores I have ever been in—and I stumbled upon a curious volume, colorful and bright: The 90s: A Look Back—A History of the 1990s Before They Happen, edited by Peter Elbling and National Lampoon honcho Tony Hendra. Practically a magazine in book form and bearing a copyright date of 1989, the volume is some kind of satire of the media’s addiction to end-of-decade reviews. I popped it into my cart and didn’t think much more about it.

After I got home, the book began to puzzle me even more. The Hendra link obviously called to mind National Lampoon, but the presence on the masthead of the names Graydon Carter and “Kurt Anderson” (sic) suggested some kind of relationship with Spy, which was smack in the middle of its glorious heyday in 1989. A perusal of the table of contents yielded an astonishingly impressive list of contributors—David Mamet, Bill Murray, Ann Magnuson, Mike Wallace, Keith Haring, Paul Krassner, etc. Some nugatory Internet researches revealed the existence of a prior volume ten years earlier, edited by Christopher Cerf and Tony Hendra, that was far more successful, under the title The 80s: A Look Back at the Tumultuous Decade 1980-1989. Any decade that includes hefty doses of President Ronald Reagan is going to be somewhat impervious to satire, and this “90s” volume appeared to have come and gone without much comment.

Not surprisingly, the real world has a tendency to outstrip satire. The joke of the book is that the 1990s are described before they happen, and even if the joke were better, the transpiring of the actual 1990s we all lived through would inevitably reveal the project to be far less prescient (and interesting) and far more of its time than contemporaneous assessment would ever imagine. The gags of Japan and Disney purchasing everything, both tropes that were très big in 1989, predominate, but nobody thinks of the 1990s in those terms anymore. One exception to the rule is the contribution from George Carlin, entitled “S.P.I.N.,” an acronym standing for “Subscriber Preference Initiated News,” which predicts with devastating accuracy a post-newspaper world in which a reader’s news diet is tailored to his or her preferences, a media landscape that the Internet depressingly made all too familiar.

In the back of the book a few musically inclined luminaries including Spinal Tap‘s (and, lately, Better Call Saul‘s) Michael McKean, Weekend Update co-creator Herb Sargent, and not-yet-Disney-axiom Randy Newman collectively come up with the “Songs of the Millennium.” One of the songs is by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, whose previous full-length album, The Nightfly, had come out a hefty six year’s earlier.

Fagen’s contribution is called “The Mop Song 2000,” and purports to present the chart-topping hit of “Stend’or of the Rill,” who hails from “102nd Starfleet, Sector 1267H4, Earth Orbit 10021,” which is probably future-speak for New York’s Upper East Side. The ditty, which shows every sign of being tossed off, neatly ties together a cute, 1980s, sci-fi premise and the rejuvenating pessimism of millennialism, telling the tale of an Earth so fucked up that aliens show up to “mopify,” i.e. clean up, the mess we’ve made of it. Humanity’s time is “fini” so the best thing to do is to let the aliens wield their “Fire-Mop” and start afresh. Lord knows we can’t do it.

I’ve searched on Google for information about this song, and found precisely zero references to it, so DM duly offers it up for any Steely Dan completists out there. If anyone finds a bootleg track of Fagen demonstrating a melody, that would be mind-blowing and great, but in all honesty you can pretty much supply your own “Babylon Sisters”-ish vocal tracks in your head as you read the lyrics.


The Mop Song 2000

Say Mop-d’dwee-dit
The sky is falling
Men of Earth
Your time is up
We have come
To decorate your world
To mopify your planet
Say Moppity-mop-d’dwee-dit

Say celebration
Der Himmel fällt
Hombres de la Tierra
Votre temps est fini
It’s party time
But first a thorough cleaning
We’ll mopify your planet
Say Moppity-mop-d’dwee-dit

Our leader told us
That y’all are psycho
That soon you’ll be
Right in our face
Say Hallelujah
The Fire-Mop is hungry
We’ll mopify your planet
Say Moppity-mop-d’dwee-dit


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Contemporary celebrities inserted into art masterpieces
11:32 am



Miley Cyrus in “A Spanish Beauty,” by Henri-Guillaume Schlesinger
A French woman named Bénédicte Lacroix has a Tumblr going called “Voyage dans le temps” (Time Travel) in which she inserts photographs of 21st-century famous people into artistic masterpieces. We’ve all seen variations on this general idea, but I especially liked the execution here—not all of the paintings are so familiar, and in fact I would say that in every case, if you click through to the original painting (I’ve supplied the link at each title), you are guaranteed a glimpse of something sublime.

The Roger Federer one is especially clever.

Leonardo DiCaprio in “Self-Portrait,” by Vincent Van Gogh


Megan Fox in “The Girl With The Pearl Earring,” by Johannes Vermeer

Steve Jobs in “The Son of Man,” by René Magritte

Beyoncé in “The Necklace,” by Jean-François Portaels
More of these after the jump….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Real total war has become information war’: ‘This Is Marshall McLuhan’ wild experimental NBC TV doc
04:01 pm



In the 60s and the 70s, Marshall McLuhan, the pithy and eminently quotable Canadian philosopher of media and electronic communications occupied a rarefied niche (along with R. Buckminster Fuller) that really doesn’t seem to exist much in American culture anymore, that of the “public intellectual.” More to the point, McLuhan, who never met a TV camera he didn’t take an immediate liking to, was an intellectual celebrity.

Marshall McLuhan was once such a ubiquitous part of the media landscape that you could turn on the TV and see him hamming it up on the Today show or read Sunday funnies where cartoon characters debated his ideas. McLuhan even appeared as himself, employed as a human punchline in Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning Annie Hall. These days only someone like Slavoj Žižek has anything even close to that same sort of “smart guy” star power, but it’s difficult to imagine NBC devoting an entire hour to his work, like they did with 1967’s This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage.

An episode of the NBC Experiment in Television series, this was in fact pretty experimental stuff. A quasi-documentary cum visual essay (based on McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore’s best-selling coffee table book, The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects) it was heady and decidedly avant garde programming for middle America in 1967. Just how avant garde was it you ask? Well, it’s got Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman in it for starters. She’s not playing her cello topless here of course, but is seen wrapped in plastic. Artist Allan Kaprow, father of “the Happening” also makes an appearance. There’s a long quoted passage from John Cage and the piece is littered with Pop art trappings and evocative visuals. The producers, Ernest Pintoff and Guy Fraumeni, were obviously making a sincere effort to be forward-thinking. And it was, and is still very much a satisfying viewing experience nearly half a century later. The only thing I can think of today that would be similar in any way would be one of Adam Curtis’ films. (There’s one section where the VO discusses how all pervasive the mediasphere is on all of our lives while onscreen hands are seen kneading dough as a stand-in for our collective brains. It practically screams Adam Curtis.)

McLuhan reveals that many of the subjects he investigates are things that he in fact finds irritating and exasperating, causing him to wish to mentally “take apart” things like television and radio. It’s might seem counterintuitive to view him as a Luddite, yet here he all but describes himself that way (which makes him even more fascinating, if you ask me.)

Topics include the “causes” of go-go dancing and “the discothèque,” the passing of one style of humor in favor of one favored by younger people (Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart and Bill “My name — José Jiménez” Dana are shown as examples of the new!), how politics had become show business, why teens often seek out corporate involvement for their fashion trends, the influence of the Beatles, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Pablo Picasso, how images of abundance (things as commonplace to us as refrigerators) seen worldwide via our television programs would have inevitable and far-reaching consequences in poorer nations who would perceive themselves as deprived of something which they would then aspire to.

The Velvet Underground and Nico make an appearance in McLuhan and Fiore’s book in this two page spread.

We hear McLuhan’s blunt musings on the Vietnam War, the first televised war, which the nation was then in the middle of. Also touched upon is how the media revolution would eliminate entire classes of jobs. That would have seemed an eerie thought at the time, a sci-fi prediction if you will, but flash forward to today and we’re living in that future.

As Tom Wolfe once asked “What…if…he…is…right?” In retrospect, McLuhan was right about practically everything! From the perch of nearly fifty years ago, he was extraordinarily prescient. His track record as a futurist is much better than… well, anyone’s, when you get right down to it.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
See where 30,000 bombs fell during the London Blitz, 1940-41
11:20 am



In September 1940, the German Luftwaffe unleashed a strategic bombing campaign that targeted all of the major cities across the UK. Over 30,000 tons of high explosives were dropped on sixteen cities during a relentless over 267-day campaign, or “Blitzkrieg” (German for “lightening war”), that claimed over 40,000 civilian lives—half them in London alone—wounded over 100,000 and destroyed more than a million homes. It was an event that changed the nature of the war, and brought repercussions for Germany.

My mother was a child during the Second World War, living with her parents and sister in a tenement in the north-west of Glasgow. She can still clearly recall the regular sound of the siren warning of another German bombing raid. People decamped to the bomb shelters situated in the back gardens, where my mother listened to the whistle and blast of the bombs, land mines and other incendiaries raining down from the planes above.

In March 1941, she was briefly evacuated to a cottage in Milport on the isle of Great Cumbrae, off the west coast of Scotland. During this time, the Luftwaffe carried out two bombing raids on Clydebank—that have been described as “the most cataclysmic event” in war-time Scotland. My mother recalled how the German planes seemed to fly so low she felt she could touch them, while the flames from the raid lit up the sky like it was day.
Clydebank, near Glasgow, after the ‘blitz’ of March 1941.
Devastation in the south of London—a bus lies in the rubble of a bomb crater.
Central Coventry after a bombing raid November 1940.
Sleeping in the shelter of London’s Underground station at Elephant and Castle, November 1940.
More photos plus link to the interactive Blitz site, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Is that the Hadron Collider in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
11:29 am



Now, this little cock-up is why we should always check our spelling…

It would appear someone at the BBC was a tad over-excited by the news the Hadron Collider was back online after a two-year refit.

It’s not the first time the Hadron has been called a “Hardon”—two years ago the Daily Telegraph reported “Large Hardon Collider breaks energy record.”

The mind boggles…

Via the Independent

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Dope Rider,’ the trippy wild west comic from ‘High Times’
02:57 pm



A handful of times between 1975 and 1986, a comic called “Dope Rider” appeared in the rollable pages of High Times. Heavily influenced by the gritty, intense westerns of Sergio Leone, “Dope Rider” was the creation of a young New York comix artist named Paul Kirchner. If Kirchner’s strong compositions and clever wordplay didn’t already make him a perfect fit for High Times, the trippy visual tropes surely did, the most potent among them being the constant presence of a skeleton cowboy prowling the vistas of the American Southwest.

Kirchner himself has a blog up in which the entire run of “Dope Rider” is available as large jpegs—that’s right, every page. It turns out that “Dope Rider” didn’t even start its existence in High Times at all. The first incarnation of the character was executed on spec, so that Kirchner would have a sample ready for prospective freelance employers. It eventually appeared in the October 1975 issue of Scary Tales. Two more installments appeared in the November 1974 issue of Harpoon and the March and May 1975 issues of Apple Pie, which were actually the same magazine—the name change occurring “after lawyers for National Lampoon started clearing their throats.”

The same year “Dope Rider” found its way to High Times, where it reached its largest audience and also used color images for the first time, which certainly improved its impact on the magazine’s baked readers.

Kirchner’s High Times bio, from the August 1976 issue
The primary function of any “Dope Rider” comic was to induce an “Ohhh wooow” reaction from the zonked readers. The comic occasionally featured a locomotive engineer with a third eye in his forehead who would supply cockeyed dictionary definitions such as: “Pyramid, n., to look within, to peer amid.” Most of the comics featured either a psychedelic vista or a shootout in which the Dope Rider skeleton character was killed—if not both. In “Crescent Queen,” Dope Rider inquired of a raven how to get to Tucumcari; the bird replies, “No one gets there, man. It’s one of those places you just end up.” Right on, man…..

That first High Times comic, titled “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch,” got Kirchner a little unwelcome attention from the Hell’s Angels:

I did one very bad thing in this story—I depicted the logo of the nation’s premier motorcycle club on the back of Dope Rider’s vest. That motorcycle club, whose New York City clubhouse was a few blocks from the High Times editorial office, sent over a contingent of large, hairy negotiators to make it clear that they didn’t care to be associated with High Times or the Dope Rider character. [High Times founder and editor Tom] Forçade let me know he would just as soon not have that happen again. I’ve blurred the logo out here in case they’re still checking up. (Love you guys!!)


Kirchner would later find more regular work at Heavy Metal, where he turned out a brilliant, surrealistic comic series called “The Bus” for several years. (That series is available in book form.)

Here’s a list of all the appearances of “Dope Rider” in High Times:

“Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch,” August/September 1975
“Beans for All,” December/January 1976
“Crescent Queen,” August 1976
“Taco Belle,” June 1978
“Matinee Idyll,” January 1981
“Loco Motive,” May 1986

In addition, Kirchner also worked up a single-page parody of his own series for Al Goldstein’s National Screw. In that story the character was called “Dopey Rider,” and the story was titled “Toe-Jam.”

I’ve cherry-picked a few of the more striking images for this post, but to see the entire “Dope Rider” output, you just have to go to Kirchner’s blog. He also has a Cafe Press store with plenty of great Dope Rider swag.


More “Dope Rider” after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
New Zealand newscaster moved to tears by impromptu Sharon Van Etten serenade
08:05 pm



John Campbell is a well-known news anchorman in New Zealand—the show he hosts, Campbell Live, even bears his own name. His busy schedule prevented him from catching a concert in Auckland by his no-doubt-about-it favorite chanteuse, Brooklyn’s own Sharon Van Etten, and it was really bumming him out.

One of his colleagues, Ali Ikram, decided to surprise him during a live telecast with a special remote performance by Van Etten on Campbell Live—the touched host was taken completely by surprise.

Ikram began by referencing “the secret pain that you’ve been nurturing for days” before asking Campbell oblique questions about Van Etten, such as “What’s this performer’s name, that you like so much?” and then, “What does she look like? Is she about this high?” gesturing with his hand, before the camera swiveled to reveal the diminutive singer (who didn’t have headphones on and therefore couldn’t hear the particulars of what was being said.

Campbell said, “I’m completely taken aback! I had no idea!” adding, “Sharon, you ain’t Justin Bieber.”

Ikram continued: “What you need to know about John, audience, is that he’s incredibly passionate about music,—and he gives us long dissertations about each song, and we love all of them.” Campbell responded by saying, “I love Sharon’s music a stupidly large amount.” You’ve never seen a newscaster as happy as Campbell did at that moment.

Van Etten played a lovely rendition of “Tarifa” off of her 2014 album Are We There.

As she was ending the song, Campbell said, “I can’t recommend her music highly enough. ... This has been a very magic treat.”

via The Concourse
Thank you Kevin Neudecker!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Encyclopaedia of Ecstasy,’ incredible anarcho-goth-punk zine from 1983
02:34 pm



I’ve hardly encountered a specimen from the postpunk years of the early 1980s that better exemplified how mixed up and stimulating all the categories were getting, than The Encyclopaedia of Ecstasy, Vol. 1, an utterly mind-boggling zine put out by Alistair Livingston in 1983. Livingston had/has associations with the anarchist collective/zine Kill Your Pet Puppy which ran from 1979 to 1984…. he references Crass and Bauhaus and Blood and Roses. While one wouldn’t necessarily expect that a “psychedelic goth punk fanzine,” as Livingston himself termed the project, would contain visions that might have emerged from Arthur Rimbaud‘s absinthe-drenched writings, the fact is that any movement led by Crass and Psychic TV was going to be awfully erudite and aestheticized, fueled by some pretty foreboding concerns over technology and culture. It’s so “political” that it fans out into almost pure (hyperverbal, psychedelic) sensation. In keeping with the absinthe feel, one page is titled “Vivé La Decadence, Paris 1893-London 199?”

The cover, complete with an all-seeing Masonic pyramid, reminds me a great deal of Gustav Klimt, which when you consider that it appears to have been executed purely with blocky magic markers, is awfully impressive. (The Klimt association is far from accidental—page 6 features a Xerox’d shout-out to Klimt’s “Jurisprudenz,” which was later destroyed by the Nazis.) At one juncture Livingston inquires, “why aren’t crass the psychedelic furs?” (Good question!) There are suggestive cut-and-paste headlines such as “whoops there goes another nuclear plant” or “man sees world saved by robots.” At the bottom of page 1 is an exuberant shout-out to the like-minded: “There is more… Like “Kill Your Pet Puppy” (a zine)…. The Anarchy Centres, the Black Sheep Co-op, punk lives (!), the people, the music, the squats, the whole beautiful chaoticness.”

Livingston is still active, he has run a stimulating blog called greengalloway for years—in this entry from 2005 he quotes from his own diary from this same era, name-checking Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Lou Reed, Blood and Roses, et al.

This is a pretty rare item—you can get one from Portland antiquarian project Division Leap for $125.

(If you click on any image in this post, you can see a much larger version.)

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Page 3 of 46  < 1 2 3 4 5 >  Last ›