The Monkees’ feature film Head was written and produced by Bob Rafelson (co-creator of The Monkees) and Jack Nicholson, and directed by Rafelson. The film aimed to deconstruct the “manufactured” image that the Monkees wished to leave behind far behind them by 1968. The group wander through a number of surrealistic scenes, Hollywood sound stages and trippy pop art musical production numbers. Along the way, they encounter the likes of Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Annette Funicello, Terri Garr, stripper Carol Doda, Frank Zappa, Toni Basil, fighter Sonny Liston, and weirdo character actor Timothy Carey. Victor Mature, an over-the-hill actor known for appearing in biblical epics and sword and sandals films, played a King Kong-sized version of himself (I’m not old enough to have much context for Victor Mature, but the way I take it is that he’s playing himself in a “human punch-line” kind of way, something that will no doubt be completely lost on future audiences for whom he’ll just appear to be some weird old giant guy who appears, apropos of nothing).
Head was initially released with a mysterious advertising campaign that never mentioned the Monkees and instead featured the head of a man apparently unconnected with the film (John Brockman, future literary super agent was in fact the film’s press agent and devised the campaign). It could have been about anything. The Monkees’ teenbopper fan base must have been mighty confused. These were still the Monkees they loved, but what was with all the lysergic Marshall McLuhan stuff, the Vietnam footage and the hookahs?
Head is an audio-visual mindfuck.
Head was a total flop when it came out.
Head’s reputation as a cult film grew during a couple of national CBS late night TV airings in the mid 1970s. A VHS was released in the mid-80s during the revival of interest in the group brought on by MTV screening The Monkees for a new generation. Today Head is properly considered a odd milestone in Hollywood history—it’s one of the highest budgeted rock films of the era and one of the first counter culture films to be produced by the studio system. And what a stylish time capsule of the era it is. In his liner notes to Criterion’s America Lost and Found box set, Chuck Stephens called Head, “the Ulysses of a hip New Hollywood about to be born.”
Although I have always appreciated his music (“Ride a White Swan” was one of the very first 45s I ever bought), I have never been what you would call a major Marc Bolan/T.Rex fanatic. Don’t get me wrong, I am indeed a fan, but I’ve always put Marc Bolan in the same category as I do Chuck Berry, Little Richard or Eddie Cochran. Translation: a decent “greatest hits” is probably all I really need to own (Bolan also stole shamelessly from each of these artists, of course).
In actual fact, I do own quite a few T.Rex albums. Probably my favorite song by Marc Bolan is the comparatively little known “Jasper C. Debussy.” It’s not like I’m ignorant of his work, it’s just that a lot of it sounds pretty formulaic and “samey” to me. Bolan had “a thing” that he did quite well, but he just kept doing it and that’s the problem I have with his music.
Having offered the above disclaimer, I don’t think that I ever truly “got” Marc Bolan until I picked up a used Japanese import copy of the “deluxe” Born To Boogie DVD box set from a few years back in the bargain bin for a mere $7 bucks. A friend of mine had the film on VHS in the 80s and I saw it 25 years ago and quite enjoyed it, but the DVD version, with a monstrously powerful 5.1 surround mix done by the great producer Tony Visconti, totally blew me away. It must be the apex of Bolan’s artistry. Nothing short of stunning.
You know there’s always one guy on every block who has one of those huge fuck-off audio systems that the neighbors for a quarter mile radius can hear? I’m that guy. After watching Born To Boogie with the sound cranked up so loud it would have drowned out a airplane landing on my rooftop, I finally “got” Marc Bolan, and can see clearly why the flame of eternal fan love for him will never die.
And now at long last, the Demon Music Group will be releasing Born to Boogie on Blu-ray, for the first time in HD on June 13th. There are tons of extras and both the earlier, late afternoon concert and the full evening show that was used in the film are included. 10/10 for content, audio/visual quality and overall “wow factor.” If you are wondering if you need to replace your old DVD, you probably do. There is no regional code on the disc, despite what it says on Amazon.
Born To Boogie was directed by Ringo Starr and produced by Apple Films. The concert segments were filmed at the Wembley Empire Pool in 1972 at the absolute height of T.Rextasy. Bolan’s guitar is just FAT sounding here and the 5.1 mix is outstanding. Listening to it cranked up is like having, well… a Tyrannosaurus Rex stomp all over your head… in a good way!
There’s also a stellar jam session sequence with Elton John and Ringo that was captured at the Apple Studios on Savile Row and some “surreal hijinks”—like the Mad Hatter’s tea party bit which was filmed on John Lennon’s estate—that bring to mind Magical Mystery Tour. Still, it’s the concert segments that dazzle the most with Bolan’s 500 megawatt charisma in full effect.
I recently checked up on the progress on the excellent looking board game adaptation of the 1986 film by Jim Henson, Labyrinth by game maker, River Horse and boy, am I glad I did as it appears that the game is nearly finished. Squeee!
Today is the last day to pre-order the game which is set for release this summer in the US, UK and EU. Game play has two stages—one has players traveling through the labyrinth in search of the Goblin King while trying to not fall into “oubliette” (you know, the place where you put people to “forget” about them?), and the second stage pits players against David Bowie’s character in the film, Jareth the Goblin King, in an effort to set Sara’s baby brother free from his clutches.
In addition to the highly detailed game board and a replica of the clock Jareth uses to count down the thirteen hours he gives Sarah to solve the puzzle of the labyrinth, there are also five game-play figures modeled after key characters in the film, loveable Ludo; the dwarf Hoggle; the worst babysitter ever, Sarah (played by actress Jennifer Connelly), Sir Didymus and his four-legged pal Ambrosius; and of course, Jareth the Goblin King, as played by David Bowie. It appears that the game will retail for about $50 and as I mentioned earlier, can be pre-ordered through the end of today, here. Images of the soon-to-be greatest board game ever, follow.
Game board and the sculpted figures from the upcoming board game, Labyrinth.
Here’s the original spread, which appeared under the banner “Screen-Age Kicks”:
The pictures are an undisputed success, due in no small part to McCulloch’s utter lack of distancing camp affectation or irony. It’s almost as if McCulloch knows damn well that he’s gorgeous, so why not go with it? (Actually, about that. See McCulloch’s remarks on the shoot below.)
Two years ago Buzzfeed did a list explaining why McCulloch was the 1980s version of Kanye West. The list is essentially a collection of astonishingly confident, self-admiring quotations from McCulloch, as in “The Bunnymen are the most important band to ever put an album out. And the Beatles, maybe the Stones. I think we’re up there in the top ten greatest bands of all time.”
Maybe something of that attitude is caught in the photo?
For a “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” feature in the pages of Uncut twenty years later, McCulloch reminisced about the photo shoot—his comments are frankly hilarious and a little bit baffling (calling Judy Garland “a bit iffy” and a “weirdo”):
The NME were doing this thing—who do you wanna be? Obviously Bono would’ve plumped for the hunchback of Notre Dame. But I thought Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, ‘cos she looked a bit iffy. I thought, to get my own back at the girls on the bus who thought I had lippy on—and I knew at the time, I’m a better-looking girl than you are—let’s jazz this Dorothy up, give her some beauty, not the weirdo Judy looked. Mark E. Smith—whooh! Frank Black—I’d hate to see him doing a picture from Last Tango in Paris. It was down to me. And I did it well.
In 2011 the well-known someecards company concocted an ecard that poked fun at McCulloch:
“It was down to me. And I did it well.” As a reminder of what could have given Ian such a massive ego to begin with, here’s a hefty chunk of footage of Echo and the Bunnymen playing the Royal Albert Hall in 1983:
Richard Kern was a big part of the underground cinema of the East Village in the 1980s. Among other things, he directed videos for Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ‘69” (which featured Lydia Lunch, of course) and King Missile’s ”Detachable Penis.” Kern was very much a part of the same scene that was more or less defined by Nick Zedd. He made many experimental and sexual movies on Super-8.
This fascination with the dark side of looking—with the dynamics and aesthetics of voyeurism—is Richard Kern’s theme and it runs through his films and photography. In many ways, Kern’s work is a culmination of self-referential approaches to depicting the artist’s relationship to his “subject.” And his subject is a kind of seeing. ... In many ways his movies are responses to popular film and commercial culture as a whole.
One of Kern’s early movies was The Right Side of My Brain, a 23-minute black-and-white experimental movie that is unabashedly about sex, violence, and control. This movie is about as NSFW as anything we’ve ever presented on the site.
The whole movie is told from the point of view of the character played by Lydia Lunch in a dreamy and sexualized and insular mode that was well-nigh invented by Maya Deren in 1943’s “Meshes of the Afternoon.” Lunch’s character goes through a series of assignations that involve varying degrees of violence. Around the 10th minute an actor credited as Clint Ruin (actually the musician J.G. Thirlwell) shows up and he proceeds to dominate Lunch’s character somewhat, after which she gives him a blow job. Yes, you read that right, most of that highly X-rated act is captured in the movie.
The bulk of the movie was shot in some claustrophobic NYC tenement, but in the sole outdoor sequence—possibly shot in Central Park?—Henry Rollins appears and follows the Lunch character. They too start making out and then the Rollins character has a kind of tantrum.
By the bye, when this was shot Rollins had the “SEARCH AND DESTROY” part of his back tattoo in place but not the rest. At one point Lunch is shown wearing a T-shirt with the Einstürzende Neubauten homunculus on it.
The images of sexual violence are, of course, disturbing; many ladies in the audience will enjoy the three smoking hot dudes in various states of undress.
In addition to the regular version, we’ll have a website exclusive version which includes a Seagull accessory ($190). The exclusive will be available for 48 hours from Thursday (5/26) at 12PM CST through Saturday (5/28) at 12PM CST.
The figure will be available to purchase today (May 26, 2016), starting at 1 PM EST. It’s selling for $185.00.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” said the Nexus-6 replicant Roy Batty at the end of the film Blade Runner.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears ... in ... rain.
It’s a great speech—one written by Rutger Hauer—which suggests this bad boy android or replicant has experienced a state of consciousness beyond its intended programming.
While we can imagine what Batty’s memories look like, we can never see or experience them as the replicant or android saw them. Which is kinda damned obvious—but raises a fascinating question: Would an android, a robot, a machine see things as we see them?
It is now believed that humans use up to 50% of their brain to process vision—which gives you an idea the sheer complexity involved in even attempting to create some machine that could successfully read or visualize its environment. Do machines see? What do they see? How can they construct images from the input they receive?
The human eye can recognize handwritten numbers or words without difficulty. We process information unconsciously. We are damned clever. Our brain is a mega-supercomputer—one that scientists still do not fully understand.
Now imagine trying to create a machine that can do what the human brain does in literally the blink of an eye. Our sight can read emotion. It can intuit meaning. It can scan and understand and know whether something it inputs is dangerous or funny. We can look at a cartoon and know it is funny. Machines can’t do that. Yet.
A neural network is a computer system modeled on the human brain and nervous system. One type of neural network is an autoencoder.
Autoencoders are “simple learning circuits which aim to transform inputs into outputs with the least possible amount of distortion.”
Here’s a robotic arm using deep spatial encoders to “visualize” a simple function.
Terence Broad is an artist and research student at Computing Department at Goldsmiths University in London. Over the past year, Broad has been working on a project reconstructing films with artificial neural networks. Broad has been
training them to reconstruct individual frames from films, and then getting them to reconstruct every frame in a given film and resequencing it.
The type of neural network used is an autoencoder. An autoencoder is a type of neural net with a very small bottleneck, it encodes a data sample into a much smaller representation (in this case a 200 digit number), then reconstructs the data sample to the best of its ability. The reconstructions are in no way perfect, but the project was more of a creative exploration of both the capacity and limitations of this approach.
The resultant frames are strange watercolor-like images that are identifiable especially when placed side-by-side with the original source material. That they can reproduce such fast flickering information at all is, well, damned impressive.
Among the films Broad has used are two Philip K. Dick adaptations Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly, which is apt considering Dick’s interest in androids and asking the question “What is reality?”
An interesting cinematic footnote to the Clash’s time spent in New York City in the early 1980s—while they recorded their sprawling three-record Sandinista album—is their “blink and you missed ‘em” appearance in Martin Scorsese’s dark classic The King of Comedy.
Apparently both Scorsese and Robert De Niro were huge Clash fans and saw them during their famous series of seventeen concerts at Bonds International Casino in Times Square during May and June of 1981. Aside from the band going out to bars a few times with the director and actor, it’s mentioned in several Clash biographies—and several about Scorsese, too—that Gangs of New York was originally something he envisioned for the group!
Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon and some of their cohorts—sometime manager Kosmo Vinyl, singers Ellen Foley and Pearl Harbour and filmmaker Don Letts are credited in The King of Comedy as “Street Scum.”
Pauline Boty was an artist, activist, actress and model. She was one of the leading figures of the British Pop art movement during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her contemporaries were Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and David Hockney. But when Boty tragically died at the height of her fame in 1966, her work mysteriously disappeared. Not one of her paintings was exhibited again until 1993.
Boty was all but forgotten by the time a cache of her paintings was rediscovered on a farm in the English countryside in the early 1990s. The paintings had been stored in an old barn for safe-keeping by her brother. Their rediscovery placed Boty firmly back into the center of the Pop art boy’s club.
Throughout her life, Boty kicked against the men who tried to hold her back. Born into a Catholic family in 1938, her father (a by-the-book accountant) wanted his daughter to marry someone respectable and raise a family. Instead she chose to study art to her father’s great displeasure. In 1954, Boty won a scholarship to Wimbledon School of Art.
At college, Boty was dubbed the “Wimbledon Bridget Bardot” because of her blonde hair and film star looks. She went onto study lithography and stained glass design. However, her desire was to study painting. When she applied to the Royal College of Art in 1958, it was suggested by the male tutors that she would be more suited studying stained glass design as there were so few women painters. Though Boty enrolled in the design course she continued with her ambitions to paint.
Encouraged by the original Pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi, Boty began painting at her apartment. Her makeshift studio soon became a meeting point for her friends (Derek Marlowe, Celia Birtwell) and contemporaries (Blake, Boshier, Hockney and co) to meet, talk and work. Boty started exhibiting her collages and paintings alongside these artists and her career as a painter commenced.
In 1962, Boty was featured in a documentary about young British pop artists Pop Goes the Easel alongside Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips. The film was directed by Ken Russell who created an incredibly imaginative and memorable portrait of the four artists. Each was given the opportunity to discuss their work—only Boty did not. Instead she collaborated with Russell on a very prescient dream sequence.
It opens with Boty laying out her paintings and drawings on the floor of a long circular corridor—actually the old BBC TV Center. As she examines her work a group of young women appear behind her. These women walk all over her artwork. Then from out of an office door, a nightmarish figure in a wheelchair appears and chases Boty along the seemingly endless twisting corridors. Boty eventually escapes into an elevator—only to find the ominous figure waiting inside.
Her performance in Russell’s film led to further acting roles—in Alfie with Michael Caine, with James Fox on the stage, Stanley Baxter on television and again with Russell in a small role opposite Oliver Reed in Dante’s Inferno. Boty was photographed by David Bailey, modeled for Vogue, regularly appeared as an audience dancer on Ready, Steady, Go!, and held legendary parties at her studio to which everyone who was anyone attended—from the Stones to Bob Dylan. Boty was the bright flame to whom everyone was attracted.
She was a feminist icon—living her life, doing what she wanted to do, and not letting men from hold her back. But the sixties were not always the liberated decade many Boomers would have us believe. Boty’s critics nastily dismissed her as the Pop art pin-up girl. The left-wing party girl. A dumb blonde. Of course, they were wrong—but shit unfortunately sticks.
Boty’s work became more politically nuanced. She criticised America’s foreign policy in Vietnam; dissected the unacknowledged sexism of everyday life; and celebrated female sexuality. She had a long affair with the director Philip Saville—which allegedly inspired Joseph Losey’s film Darling with Dirk Bogarde and Julie Christie. Then after a ten day “whirlwind romance” Boty married Clive Goodwin—a literary agent and activist. She claimed he was the only man who was interested in her mind.
In 1965, Boty was nearing the top of her field when she found she was pregnant. During a routine prenatal examination, doctors discovered a malignant tumor. Boty refused an abortion. She also refused chemotherapy as she did not want to damage the fetus. In February 1966, Boty gave birth to a daughter—Boty Goodwin. Five months later in July 1966, Pauline Boty died. Her last painting was a commission for Kenneth Tynan’s nude revue Oh! Calcutta! called “BUM.”
Pauline Boty in her studio holding the painting ‘Scandal’ in 1963.
‘A Big Hand’ (1960).
More of Pauline Boty’s paintings plus Ken Russell’s ‘Pop Goes the Easel,’ after the jump…
At the risk of sounding like a middle-aged white guy character in a Mike Judge film, the improbable soundtrack to my life for the past two weeks has been Schoolly motherfuckin’ D. For whatever reason, I pulled out an old CD of his—maybe for the first time this millennium—to listen to in the car the other day and now I can’t get enough of it. Alone in the car I play “P.S.K. (What Does It Mean?)” at an ear-splitting volume that I’m pretty sure bounces my conservative European automobile like a low-rider with tricked-out suspension. I probably look like an idiot, I grant you, but I don’t really care. This shit is amazing. I appreciated it when it came out—I saw him live—but why it captured my attention so much again thirty years later I couldn’t tell you. It just did.
Probably the original original gangster rapper—even Ice-T admitted in his autobiography that he might’ve taken a bite out of Schoolly D‘s style—the Philadelphia native, on his self-released records at least, perfectly played the role of the scary black gang member/rapper, alluding to, cataloging and boasting about the nefarious activities of the “Park Side Killers,” the local posse of bad boys he ran with. Schoolly—real name Jesse Weaver Jr.—was backed by his DJ Code Money and rapped about violence, guns, raunchy sex, “bitches,” crack and “cheeba”—Salt-n-Pepa or Run DMC were never going to mention such things, or use the “N” word in their raps. Schoolly D shied away from none of these topics or that word.
He told the Philadelphia Citypaper about where his lyrical inspiration came from in a 2004 interview:
“A couple of guys I know, Abdullah, Disco Man and my man Manny, were like, “Why don’t you write a song about us, why don’t you write a song about Parkside Killers?’ It was one of the easiest songs I’d ever written. I wrote it sitting at my mom’s dining-room table, smoking some weed at 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Armed with his newfound inspiration and a large amount of weed, Schoolly hit the studio. Out of necessity he was forced into recording in a studio designed for classical music.
“They had these big plate reverbs, that’s why you got the “PSK’ sound because nobody used the real shit. We did everything live, and if you listen you can hear my fingers programming the drum machine. We just kept getting higher and higher and higher, and smoking and smoking and all of a sudden the song just took on this whole other life because we were just so fucked up. It just made this sucking sound like “boosh, boosh’ and we just looked at each other and were like, “Yeah, do more of that shit.’”
The “boosh” sound is what really made “PSK” stand out as something that, until that time, had never been done. The tweaked-out reverb bass caused a sensation.
“I got home and I put the tape in the tape recorder and I was like, “What the fuck did I do?’ Nobody had ever done something like that before, with all the reverb, nobody. And I was like, “I gotta go back and take some of that reverb out because this shit just sounds kinda crazy.’ But I didn’t know that everyone else was making tapes and passing out copies to everyone in Parkside, so by the time that I wanted to go back to the studio it was already out everywhere, and motherfuckers was going crazy, they was like, “That’s the baddest shit we ever heard in our whole fucking life.’”