Every generation has at least one song that captures the essence of their era. For the loved-up clubbers of the late 1980s and early 1990s, there are more than a few generation-defining songs to choose from. Near the top of any such list would be “Weekender” by London five-piece band Flowered Up.
Released in 1992, “Weekender” was Flowered Up’s ironic paean to rave culture—a hedonistic life of partying all the time, living life for drugs and music. It was the band’s biggest chart success, just skirting the UK top twenty and was deservedly hailed as their “masterpiece.”
Formed in 1989 by brothers Liam and Joe Maher, Flowered Up had a short but bright career that promised much more than was delivered, with the group sadly disbanding before achieving their full potential.
Apart from being a classic rave song, “Weekender” became a short film written and directed by W.I.Z. (aka Andrew “W.I.Z.” Whiston)—a hip young promo director who went on to direct music videos for Primal Scream, Oasis, Massive Attack, Manic Street Preachers, Kasabian and Dizzee Rascal, amongst many others. W.I.Z. took Flowered Up’s song and created a film that captured the hedonism of “E” culture and tied it back to its musical antecedent The Who’s Quadrophenia. Flowered Up were often “lazily compared” to “Madchester” bands like Happy Mondays and Northside, but as W.I.Z. once wrote in his obituary for Flowered Up’s lead singer Liam Maher, who died in 2009 from a drug overdose, Flowered Up were:
...much closer to The Clash or The Who, sharing the contradictions of white boys within a black music scene, Liam articulating with incandescent anger the doubts hidden by the prevailing euphoria.
W.I.Z. described Liam as “a vital poet, like Pete Townshend before him”:
...he was the first of his generation to eloquently question the sincerity of its unbridled hedonism. Nowhere more savagely succinct than in their swansong, ‘Weekender’.
W.I.Z.‘s film Weekender opens and closes with the iconic image of lead actor Lee Whitlock staring directly at the camera as he slowly descends on a window cleaning platform, while Phil Daniels’ dialog from the film Quadrophenia plays underneath.
There’s nothing romantic about this, as when ecstasy culture finally expired, [Liam] like many of his peers were cast-offs, left skint with crippling drug addictions, unable to reconcile the comedown and the missed opportunity (for social change) that he, before anyone else, had had the honesty to admonish.
A quarter of a century on, Weekender has lost none of its power and daring in capturing the hedonism of rave culture—and here it is in its uncensored glory.
Shout Factory TV has given us an early Halloween treat by posting a twenty-five-year-old roundtable discussion from The Dick Cavett Show with Stephen King, George Romero, Ira Levin, and Peter Straub.
The discussion, in two parts, was originally broadcast on October 16 and 17 in 1980, shortly before Stephen King and George Romero began collaborative work on the film Creepshow.
King at that point was “the best-selling author in the world.” Romero’s greatest successes to that date were with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Peter Straub’s major accomplishment up to that point was Ghost Story, which would be adapted into a motion picture the following year. Ira Levin represented the old guard on the panel, having written Rosemary’s Baby in 1967 and The Stepford Wives in 1972.
The fascinating discussion takes place over two separate 30-minute programs. Personally, I could have watched another two hours of these guys talking about their work and inspirations. If you are a fan of any of these individuals, or the horror genre in general, the conversation is crucial.
The panel analyzes the appeal of horror, which Stephen King describes as a healthy way of exorcising the dark emotions of fear, aggressiveness, anger, and sadism in a harmless way. He calls it a way of “blowing off anxieties and bad feelings.” According to King, “You seek out the things that [as a child] scared you the most and you try to get rid of them.” Romero states that the success of horror is based on the ability to induce involuntary responses in the audience.
A poster for Blue Cheer and Jerry Abrams’ Head Lights at the Salt Lake Coliseum
Before he broke into the porn business with 1970’s Overdose of Degradation, Jerry Abrams was a fixture on the San Francisco psychedelic scene. As Head Lights, Abrams and his partner Glenn McKay put on some of the most fondly remembered light shows of the era, to the extent such things are remembered at all. Bill Graham gave Head Lights regular work at the Fillmore after the company dazzled the crowd at Monterey Pop. They did the light shows for the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Big Brother and the Holding Company, among others.
Between 1967 and 1968, Abrams also directed three psychedelic short films: Be-In, Lotus Wing and Eyetoon. The last of these, with its “Fuck for Peace” theme, pointed in the direction of his, uh, more mature work. But here’s Abrams’ first movie, which simply condensed the Human Be-In, held in Golden Gate Park in January 1967, into seven minutes of manic activity and brilliant colors, set to a soundtrack by Blue Cheer.
Chantal Akerman has died. Cause of death was suicide. She was 65 years old. I wrote about Akerman’s News From Home a few years ago here on Dangerous Minds. As a tribute to her fine work as a director, cinematographer and writer, I am sharing it again.
The films of Chantal Akerman are meditations on space, interior and exterior, and the emptiness within the clutter of both. There is a sense of alienation and distance in her films that can be chilly and desolate. The camera moored to the urbanscapes and architecture she sets her eye upon. Her art records the simple drama that exists in the day to day rhythm of life as lived, rarely pumped up by any narrative or cinematic gimmickry. Under the steady gaze of the camera the ordinary can be quite magical.
In Akerman’s News From Home , the main character is New York in the rough and tumble ‘70s. Akerman, a young woman alone in the city during perilous times, uses the camera as a means of dealing with a new and alien reality. As Akerman reads from letters sent from Belgium written by her concerned mother, we watch Manhattan in constant movement, a living, breathing thing. Among the people, buildings, automobiles and streets of the city, there is the quiet, lonely soul who observes and feels apart from it all - watching detached, without engagement but great curiosity. The letters create an intimacy that contrasts profoundly with the coolness of the imagery.
Shot in 1977, News From Home, captures New York at a time when many artists, like Akerman, were coming to the city to tap into the energy and to be challenged by the prospects of living in the belly of the beast. It was a wonderful time, but it was also a dark time. In these images, you see a city on the cusp of transformation…for the good and the bad. From a purely historical point of view, to see 90 uninterrupted minutes of Manhattan in the mid-70s is a treat for my eyes. Rich with memories. This is the New York that informed revolutions in popular arts and spawned the arrival of punk culture.
Click the option to watch it in high definition, the clarity is stunning.
If Times Square grindhouses still existed, the films of Nicolas Winding Refn would be right at home projected on their faded and tattered screens. With films like Drive, The Pusher Trilogy and Only God Forgives, Refn has proven to be a worthy heir to the mantle worn by film makers such as Mario Bava, Tobe Hooper, Enzo G. Castellari, Seijun Suzuki and Bo Arne Vibenius. Refn’s films are beautifully shot, brutally violent and possessed of a certain dark poetry that is very easy to appreciate but hard as fuck to create.
We can now add curator of trash cinema movie posters to Refn’s ever-expanding resume. In collaboration with author Alan Jones (whose bibliography is as hip as it gets), Refn has unleashed one of the most impressive coffee table books to come out in many moons. The Act Of Seeing (Fab Press) is a hardbound collection of several hundred beautifully reproduced exploitation posters from the heyday of truly independent cinema. The Act Of Seeing is a doorway into a lost world that is gone forever. While Tarantino, Rodriguez and Refn himself may honor the grindhouse aesthetic in their own movies, the era in which these kinds of dirt cheap DIY assaults on good taste is behind us. Filmmakers may try to replicate them but irony is no substitute for genuine unselfconscious badness.
Act Of Seeing is available for purchase here. It’s a limited edition and my gut feeling is it will sell out soon. $80 is not too much to pay for a book of this scope. It weighs eight pounds so figure it’s costing you ten bucks a pound. If you’ve got an Amazon Prime account and you want to get the book fast, click here.
Here are a few of my favorites from The Act Of Seeing:
More posters, plus an interview with Nicolas Winding Refn and Alan Jones after the jump…
Green Room is to cinema what hardcore is to rock and roll: brutal, blunt and exhilarating. With its explosive mix of anarchic punks, neo-Nazi skinheads, pitbulls, machetes and shotguns, director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) has made a gory thriller that has the impact of a jack boot kick to the face. Artfully constructed and highly entertaining, Green Room was one of the most exciting features screened at this year’s Fantastic Fest. It’s got A-list actors, including a sinister turn by Patrick Stewart, and enough Hollywood sheen that it may be that rare “cult” flick that forces its way into your local cineplex, where it will be about as welcome as a Skrewdriver cover band at a Bar Mitzvah.
Green Room‘s plot is crazily clever: Ain’t Rights, a young punk band from the Washington D.C. area who proudly channel their Dischord Records’ influences, land a last minute gig during a tour of the Pacific Northwest (somewhere near Portland). Booked into a rural music venue that turns out to be a gathering place for white supremacist headbangers, Ain’t Rights find themselves confronting the mosh pit from Hell. Far from the security of the suburbs where Hot Topics sell Doc Martens to fifth generation punks, Ain’t Rights are hurled into a dark reality where Ed Gein has traded in his plaid cap for a pair of red bootlaces and suspenders. Performing Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” before a mob of Hitler-worshiping fuckwads is a heroically dumb move for our band of young anarchists, but it’s just the beginning in an ever-escalating nightmare involving murder, thrash metal, heroin and a violent gang of skinheads led by the epically skin-headed Patrick Stewart.
While the movie avoids getting too deep into the sociopolitical aspects of its story, the similarities between the Aryan Youth Movement and Patrick Stewart look-a-like Tom Metzger can’t be an accident. I’m rather certain director Saulnier’s choice of location, Portland, wasn’t arbitrary. The hipster capitol was at one time a headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan and until recently the home of Volksfront , a particularly nasty group of numbskull Nazis. The Green Room doesn’t shove any of this down the viewer’s throat, it doesn’t preach. It makes its points by bringing us into its world without having to describe it.
Whether or not you give a shit about its cultural resonance, Green Room succeeds in its mission to pin your ass to the theater seat. It combines the tightly crafted action chops of John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 with some of the psychotic mayhem of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hill’s Have Eyes. But instead of mutant cave dwellers and Leatherface, we’ve got goose-stepping skins with boxcutters and shotguns: The Rocking Dead.
For those viewers who know more than a little bit about punk culture, Green Room works so well, despite its off-the-wallness, because it feels authentic. It gets the details right. Jeremy Saulnier knows the punk scene and the vibe of his subjects because he was one of them, as evidenced by a savvy soundtrack that perfectly weds music to action. Napalm Death, Bad Brains, Misfits, Minor Threat and Slayer create the background roar to a movie that is disturbing, funny and supremely badass. I only wish that Saulnier had thrown The Damned’s “Smash It Up” into the mix.
Weegee is most renowned for his brilliant photos of crime scenes as well as other urban subjects from the 1940s, but what you might not know is that Weegee was a “technical consultant” on the set of one of the greatest movies ever made, Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Furthermore, it seems that Peter Sellers’ vocal pattern for the eponymous character owes more than a small debt to Weegee, whose Hungarian/NYC voice Sellers recorded and apparently inspired him in creating Strangelove’s distinctively foreign accent.
As though a satire about bombing all of humanity to death wasn’t gruesome enough, Kubrick brought in as technical consultant the photographer Weegee, who was known for having taken stark, emotionally charged photographs of an estimated five thousand murder scenes over the course of his grim career. Named Usher Fellig at birth, Weegee moved with his family to New York at the age of ten; officials at Ellis Island changed his name to Arthur. As a photographer, he seemed to be clairvoyant in terms of knowing where crimes had been committed; Weegee often arrived on the scene before the police. Hence his nickname (inspired by the Ouija board). Officially, Weegee’s technical consultations involved Dr. Strangelove’s periodically harsh, crime-scene-like black-and-white cinematography, but because he had an unusual accent—German overlaid with New York, all with a nasal, slightly strangled, back-of-the-throat quality—he inadvertently provided technical assistance for the film’s star as well.
“I vas psychic!,” Weegee told Peter on the set one day—a conversation Peter was taping for research purposes. “I vould go to a moidah before it vas committed!” Peter’s vocal model for Strangelove was Weegee, whom Sellers pushed further into parody.
Among other things you can see shots of the famous “pie fight” sequence that was filmed but did not make it into the final cut of the movie.
When I was a kid, along with CREEM and Crawdaddy, the National Lampoon was one of the indispensable counter culture magazines. It was simultaneously raunchy, nihilistic, intellectual, dumb and dirty. I loved it and it very often it had NAKED LADIES inside the covers. To my innocent mother’s eyes, the National Lampoon probably looked like MAD magazine. Little did she know…
Dangerous Minds readers have probably noticed our pal Michael Simmons’ occasional guest posts along with his frequent comments here. He was a consultant—and interviewee—in director Douglas Tirola’s new documentary about the Lampoon, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon opening wide today in theaters and VOD. Michael grew up Lampoon. His father was the publisher, Matty Simmons. I asked him a few questions over email.
Richard Metzger: As the son of the publisher, you obviously had a ringside seat for the rise of the National Lampoon, which was really one of the defining magazines of the 1970s. When he first told you about the new business he was starting how did you react? Did you perceive your dad as a really hip guy?
Michael Simmons: I was thrilled when he decided to publish the Lampoon — I was 15 when the Lampoon debuted in April 1970. Like many kids of bosses, I worked at “Dad’s store” after school and summers. I was already a self-defined member of “the underground” — what the media called “hippies.” I met the three Harvard guys — Doug Kenney, Henry Beard and Rob Hoffman — sometime in 1969 and immediately hit it off with Doug who was the freakiest of the three and therefore the closest to my sensibilities.
Prior to the Lampoon, Matty had published Cheetah magazine – a slick, smart, high-quality mag that was meant to cater to freaks. It was pubbed around the same time as Rolling Stone—Cheetah went under after less than a year. So while Matty was of a different generation and cultural perspective, Cheetah had loosened him up considerably. Screaming matches about my hair length eventually ceased.
Being the boss’ son has never been the easy ride some may think. Lampoon contributor Anne Beatts claims in the documentary that her boyfriend Michael O’Donoghue quit because Matty “gave” me Anne’s desk in early 1974 – an utterly absurd fallacy. She’s been repeating this canard for 40 years. I was living in upstate New York at the time and didn’t have an office at the Lampoon. Matty was The Chairman Of The Board – not The Chairman Of Desks.
So while “The Boss’ Son” tag could be a drag, I also had adventures I otherwise wouldn’t have been privy to. When I was 19, I was company manager of The National Lampoon Show with John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis, Joe Flaherty and Paul Jacobs. That was singular — to put it mildly.
What’s “the one thing” about him that you remember the most from around that time?
Michael Simmons: Matty is often portrayed as simply “the business guy,” but it was his idea to do Lemmings, The Radio Hour, The High School Yearbook (including the infamous cover), Animal House, bringing John Hughes to Hollywood, and more. He’s the epitome of the “Idea Man.”
I like how the doc focuses on the brilliant art direction of the magazine. If you look at it year to year, issue to issue, there is an unflagging brilliance there. Michael Gross and David Kaestle were design geniuses, up there with the likes of George Lois and Milton Glaser. I feel they are unfairly neglected in the history of graphic design. Without their input it really wouldn’t have been the same thing, would it?
Michael Simmons: Michael Gross was crucial to the Lampoon’s success. As Gross and others explain in the documentary, he understood that to parody something properly, the parody had to resemble the object being satirized.
Overall, working at the early Lampoon was an extraordinary experience – the smartest, funniest, edgiest writers and artists under one roof. I’ve never experienced anything like it before and I don’t believe I ever will. The generation of the 1960s and ‘70s has been called the most educated. In addition to tits and ass jokes, there were literary references that most young people of The Twenty-Worst Century simply wouldn’t get – text messages having replaced Yeats and Shakespeare.
Any good Michael O’Donoghue stories you’ve heard that have never made it into print or the documentary?
Michael Simmons: I could write a book filled with O’D anecdotes – “colorful” is an understatement. Underneath the rage that animated much of his work was a deep soulfulness. But his temper is correctly recalled as epic. I was his assistant for a couple of years – an interesting gig for a teenager. I had a desk outside his office from which I would do his bidding. One day I heard him telephoning the Columbia Record & Tape Club. Apparently they’d sent him the wrong records. He began screaming and threatened to send them 40 tons of bricks COD – cash on delivery – and listed a slew of other acts of vicious revenge. This escalated to the point that several staffers gathered around Michael’s office. After he slammed the phone down, he peeked out the door of his office with a devilish grin on his face, knowing that this impromptu performance art was partly for our benefit. We applauded.
I brought Michael and Anne to Max’s Kansas City to see this new comic I’d flipped over — Martin Mull. That precipitated several very liquid lunches on the Lampoon dime with O’D and Mull at full throttle. It’s rare that I have that kind of fun these days!
You were in some of the “Foto Funnies,” weren’t you?
When I became an editor in 1984, like previous editors I’d write Foto Funnies designed to include myself – one way of guaranteeing the company of naked models.
One of the other exaggerations told about the Lampoon is that it became a skin magazine in the 1980s. It was always a skin magazine to some degree. This increased our popularity among young men as actor Kevin Bacon points out in the documentary. Our circulation jumped when a scantily clad, attractive young woman was on the cover, so it was largely a business decision. We’ve been criticized for overdoing the under-dressed dames by a handful of bitter former employees, but they enjoyed getting a paycheck – so fuck ‘em.
How did Animal House change things in the National Lampoon orbit?
Michael Simmons: Hollywood—and Saturday Night Live – began waving money and many of our best scribes defected to the Hollywood Hills and Rockefeller Center. We became a victim of our own success.
Who owns the National Lampoon trademark today?
It’s a corporation owned by the stockholders. Two guys named Jerry Daigle and Alan Donnes currently run it.
A friend of mine (Jesse Merlin) was in the most recent Lampoon stage show a few years back and he said that he thought Matty was a really good, very dynamic and energetic producer. Is he still at it?
Michael Simmons: He is indeed still at it. My father amazes me. He’s still writing and just wrote the cover story for Reader’s Digest which my brother edits. I hope I have his energy when I’m his age.
Slade in Flame (a/k/a Flame) is a lot of fun—duh, it’s got Slade playing in it—but it’s also the only rock movie I know of that shows how desperately sad and awful show business can be. Set in the ‘60s, the movie starts out in the dingy, Broadway Danny Rose world of small-time entertainers: the cramped offices of talent agents who book jugglers and rock bands alike into bingo halls, wedding tents and bars. From there, Slade’s alter egos, Flame, climb to the top, but I wouldn’t say things get better for them.
Andrew Birkin (brother of Jane) based his screenplay on road stories he heard from Slade and their manager and producer Chas Chandler, who had a story or two to tell, having played bass in the Animals and managed Jimi Hendrix. Slade wanted Birkin and director Richard Loncraine to put the harsh reality of the rock biz onscreen, as Noddy Holder explained in a 2002 interview about the movie (embedded below):
When we read [the treatment], we liked the story, the basic idea of the story, but it wasn’t true to life of what a band’s all about. Unless you’ve been in a band, [screenwriters] tend to write about the myth of rock ‘n’ roll, not the reality of rock ‘n’ roll, and we wanted to show what rock ‘n’ roll was really like behind the scenes, not what the fantasy out front is, y’know, that everybody sees, the glitz and glamour and the parties and all that—we wanted to show the other side of the business.
Though the soundtrack and book were enormously successful in the UK, drummer Don Powell’s book, Look Wot I Dun, reports that Slade didn’t see any profits from the movie itself. However, Slade in Flame has consistently appeared in best-of lists since its release, and critic Mark Kermode has called it “the Citizen Kane of British pop movies.”
Watch it here before it gets yanked!
After the jump, a nearly hour-long interview with Noddy Holder that was an extra on the 2004 DVD of ‘Slade in Flame’...