“The blues is the blues and if the heart aches then that’s the sound that will come out whether you are playing guitar, a synth, a piano or playing futuristic guitar solos on your iPhone!”—Barry Adamson.
Multi-instrumentalist composer/filmmaker Barry Adamson first gained attention for his rubbery, metronomic and very precise bass guitar work in Magazine and then later in Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. His first solo release, 1989’s moody, astonishing Moss Side Story, was an original soundtrack for a film noir (“In a black and white world, murder brings a touch of colour…”) that didn’t exist and shrewdly announced his intention to compose music for cinema. He’s done that—for the likes of Derek Jarman, David Lynch and Oliver Stone—as well as prolifically releasing his own idiosyncratic, and relentlessly changing music over the years. A chameleonic master of sonics, Adamson is conversational in nearly any musical style, moving effortlessly from covering the Alfred Hitchcock Presents music to a ska version of the “James Bond Theme” to brooding and pulsating electronic beats.
He’s also getting into directing films himself and got behind (and in front) of the camera for his latest video “They Walk Among Us,” which comes from Adamson’s upcoming six-track EP Love Sick Dick out on April 14th. You can get it signed from his online store.
Adamson says of the song and video:
“‘They Walk Among Us’ explores the conviction of who or indeed what lies beneath the mask we present. The fantasy, the illusion and all too often foreboding reality.”
One of the most striking and iconic pieces of rock and roll clothing has to be the leopard head jacket worn by Iggy Pop on the back cover of 1973’s Raw Power, in the classic shot taken by photographer Mick Rock (above). The jacket was made by John Dove and Molly White in 1971 and appeared in L’Uomo Vogue. They only ever made five of them. Iggy bought one. Zoot Money bought another. One was a gift to their agent in Paris, Dove kept one and an unknown guy bought the other.
The saga of IGGY POP’S JACKET returns 18 years later when Iggy’s Jacket turns up on the back of Stan Lee, lead guitarist of the Dickies in the pages of Rolling Stone. Ruby Ray’s picture shows Stan half-heartedly assuming the Raw Power stance. The interview starts with Vale’s recognition, “The jacket looks like the one Iggy wore on Raw Power!”
“It IS Iggy’s jacket - I got it in a dope deal a few years ago. He didn’t have the bucks so I took that for collateral. For a while, he couldn’t afford it back, and now he’s a rich bitchin’ Iggy, he tried to buy it back and I said NO!...”
Andy Seven: “I remember seeing Iggy at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco after the Stooges broke up when he still had the platinum rinse, with Michael Des Barres, the singer for Silverhead. Stan Lee, who later started the Dickies, used to go there. He was this short, pushy little puffed-out guy with a Marc Bolan poodle shag, and he claimed he had the leopard jacket that Iggy wore on the back cover of Raw Power, he told me he got it from Iggy for dope collateral.”
Ron Asheton: “Oh, yeah, Iggy would trade his possessions all the time for drugs. That’s how he lost some of those great clothes, like that plastic jacket on the back of Raw Power with the Leopard’s head ... that got traded to somebody for drugs or whatever.”
Stan Lee: “When I was sixteen I used to hang out with Iggy. I got his Raw Power jacket in a drug deal that went down in The Whisky parking lot. It was used as collateral, and thankfully I
A few years later, art, record and toy collector extraordinaire, Long Gone John, boss of the mighty Sympathy for the Record Industry label (where the White Stripes, Hole and many others got their start) bought the jacket from Stan Lee. He picks up the story now in an email sent to John Dove and Molly White:
John and Molly
I wrote this for you while flying home from no. California… let me know if you need anything else ... want an updated photo of the jacket ?? all the best as ever…like that, john xx
“I remember Stan Lee from the Dickies wearing the Iggy jacket every time I saw him and remember thinking he’s gonna wear it till it falls apart…he was obviously really really proud of owning it…when you see photos of him wearing it you can see it was still in very good condition at the time…about 5 years before I bought it from Stan, a friend of mine, Tim Warren who ran the label Crypt Records who was living in Germany came to LA. and apart from whatever else he had to do he had intentions of buying the jacket from Stan for his cute french girlfriend ...Tim offered Stan $5000.00 which seemed an enormous amount of money…seems Stan was pretty flush at the time or at least he didn’t currently have a severe drug habit which he often did have throughout the years…anyway, Tim’s offer was turned down and his girlfriend was considerably heartbroken, but still very cute…
I didn’t think about the jacket for a long time until one day a friend called and said Stan wanted to sell the jacket and asked if I was interested…he said he thought Stan wanted $3000.00…I thought that the jacket was so important and would one day belong in a museum and figured it was well worth the money…I drove out to the Valley to meet him at the converted garage he lived in…the jacket was pretty worn, but it was also obvious it was made out of really cheap fake leather material to begin with…the cheetah head on the back was a bit rubbed off, but to me that was inevitable with age and gave it an air of authenticity considering it was at least 25 years old at the time…best as I can remember this was about 1998…being the bargaining fool that I am I offered Stan $2000.00 and after considerable haggling he finally agreed to accept it…the jacket was tiny Iggy is 5’ 1” as documented in the song with the same name Stan was also short, but not that short…i’m 5’ 11” so of course it didn’t fit me, but my interest in it wasn’t to wear it anyway…to me that jacket was so iconic I thought of it as The Shroud of Turin of Rock ‘n’ Roll…
I was about 21 yrs old when Raw Power came out and very impressionable…it was one of my favorite albums and I was completely mesmerized by both the front and back cover photos…that record was amazing and I never got tired of listening to it and never got the image of the jacket out of my mind…I have always felt extremely honored to own the jacket and will protect it’s legacy until the next caretaker happens along…”
Though a bit late in the game in 1987 to achieve the same sort of classic punksploitation TV status held by the likes of the Quincy and CHiPs “punk rock episodes,” the “Mean Streets And Pastel Houses” episode of 21 Jump Street did give us Johnny Depp in a Discharge “Protest and Survive” t-shirt slam-dancing to a Flock of Seagulls-looking dude lip-syncing Agent Orange songs.
As embarrassing as this sort of thing often tends to be, credit is due to the producers for almost actually capturing a realistic punk-show vibe.
In the episode, Depp’s character goes undercover as a punk rocker to investigate a rash of vandalism being committed by rival bands/gangs “Klean Kut Kids” (KKK, get it?) and “Your Friendly Neighbors.”
A young Jason Priestly plays one of the gang members.
Jason “Wattie” Priestly
The episode contains classic “hello fellow kids” lines like “Ever done any speaker diving?”
The “band” in this episode, “Klean Kut Kids,” mimes to three classic Agent Orange songs from the Living in Darkness LP: “Too Young To Die,” “Everything Turns Grey,” and ” A Cry For Help In A World Gone Mad.” The song “Bloodstains” is also briefly heard.
This was about as “hardcore” as network TV got in 1987…
When MTV ran the world in the 1980s and a few years after, it was de rigueur for bands to release VHS video compilations. The Police had one, Duran Duran had one, ZZ Top had one, you know Madonna had one. Typically, They Might Be Giants decided to name theirs Video Compilation.
Talking Heads were unquestioned pioneers of the music video form, so it would be only proper for them to release such an item. The band’s last studio album was Naked in 1988, the same year that Storytelling Giant, their video comp, came out. The band would wait until 1991 until announcing that they had broken up, but it seems likely that everyone knew the writing was on the wall, so Storytelling Giant can be seen as a quasi-conscious capper to their career as music video artists.
Here’s the (slightly bizarre) writeup of the compilation from the back of the VHS box:
“Storytelling Giant” is a work composed of all ten Talking Heads videos made over the past decade. They are connected by random, unrehearsed, spontaneous footage of real people talking. None of the people are actors, and all of them are wearing their own clothes. Many of them know nothing of the Talking Heads, and sometimes they tell stories that have nothing to do with the band’s music. Yet, somehow, their stories bring the Talking Heads music into another place. A place of giant lizards. . . A place where little girls sit on clouds. A place where everyone has enough to eat. . . And the government provides hairdressers if you can’t afford one. A giant man walks into a bar. He begins to wrestle with three nuns. A man with a toupée stops them, and they begin to speak.
The compilation is very effective in that cerebral Talking Heads way—the interstitial spoken-word bits are interesting but generally short—most of the time you’re hearing a bit out of context and you’re never really supposed to know what they’re talking about, it’s all about generating arbitrary connections.
A few notes about the videos. I’d forgotten that John Goodman is in the video for “Wild Wild Life.” That song is off of True Stories, and Goodman’s rendition of “People Like Us” is probably the high point of that movie, so that makes sense. Interesting to see him here, before he became famous.
The most pleasant surprise on this compilation, for my money, is “And She Was,” which was directed by Jim Blashfield, who has mentioned Terry Gillam’s cutouts as an influence. That makes total sense—the video kind of a 1980s version of the “Eleanor Rigby” sequence from Yellow Submarine using moving cutouts, and it’s dated extremely well in my opinion. I didn’t realize that Jim Jarmusch had directed a Talking Heads video, but there’s a reason for that, “The Lady Don’t Mind” is one of the less interesting videos here.
It’s not like American politics could get weirder (he wrote, praying that American politics doesn’t overhear and respond with an “Oh yeah? Hold my beer”), but that kind of baffling episode last week when noted musician Moby asserted definite insider knowledge of Russians having blackmail material on President Godfuckinghelpusall was, while far from a new and dizzying height of strangeness, certainly an amusing diversion. Here are his FB posts; I’d be loathe to accidentally misrepresent his words by paraphrasing:
It’s pretty hard to argue with much of that second post, and you can’t say he didn’t totally call it on Michael Flynn with a few hours to spare, though it may be a sign of encroaching Trump fatigue (if anything ever needed a long German portmanteau word, THAT’S IT) that my bigger takeaway from that was “How cool of a Dangerous Minds post would it be if Moby actually was into making balloon animals?” Moby, if that’s for real, please get in touch.
But still, this prompts, um, QUESTIONS. I don’t think it’s such a foregone conclusion that a pop musician couldn’t possibly know someone with such information and a willingness to gossip about it, but wouldn’t you think that someone possessing evidence of foreign blackmailers with a grip on the West Wing might find it more utile to share that with an investigative journalist or a prosecutor instead of, you know, MOBY?
But there’s news from the musician of a less cloak-and-dagger nature. That long-lived and celebrated unit Tunnelmental Experimental Assembly have done a new remix of Moby & The Void Pacific Choir’s “Don’t Leave Me,” that single from last fall’s These Systems are Failing with the incongruously animal-rightsy video to accompany the song’s plaintive breakup lyrics. Tunnelmental’s version is a good bit noisier and more aggressive than the already headstrong original, and the man himself seems to be pleased, telling DM “I love this Tunnelmental remix, and that I’m now in the Psychic TV, Killing Joke club of people who’ve received Tunnelmental remixes.” For Tunnelmental’s part, producer Nigel Mitchell’s comment was a good bit more verbose:
We all see things differently, so when Derek [Pippert, producer/beat doctor] and I work on a remix we use our experience as songwriters as well as our producer skills. We paint a “tunnelmental” picture from pieces of someone else’s painting, it’s like “collage” art where you get to add your own colours and shapes to form an alternative piece of art. We have the greatest respect for artists and it is an honour when they entrust us with their art. Remixing an artist like Moby’s music is a fun challenge, his work is already so good, you really have to channel that original and find an innovative way to make it your own without losing the original creative energy.
International superstars though they may have been, the members of ABBA were not, individually, all that fascinating. If you think the group identity that emerges during, say, their medley of “Pick a Bale of Cotton,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” and “Midnight Special” is less than exciting, check out what Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid had to say when they met representatives of the press in their capacity as persons. I’m not just being snotty. As I understand it, the absence of personality is a key part of ABBA’s appeal, and I’m all for it. Zero subjectivity—let’s go! In the same way Kraftwerk audiences greet robotic simulacra of Ralf and Florian with ten times the enthusiasm they muster for the actual human beings in the group, I’m counting the days until I can buy tickets to hologram ABBA, even though I probably would not get out of my chair to see plain old meatbag ABBA reform. The collective, or in this case the brand, is everything.
But the ABBA brand itself could not talk to journalists, and compelling TV the meatbags’ interviews did not make. Into this void, BBC cast John Peel, duded up in smarter attire than wardrobe provided on other occasions. Enlivening the proceedings with Peel in this 1993 retrospective were Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, Roy Wood, and Ian McCulloch. Generous helpings of these and other interview subjects, plus clips of ABBA parodies from Not the Nine O’Clock News and French and Saunders, make A for ABBA (in homage to the 1985 TV special A for Agnetha?) the best encapsulation of the band’s story for those of us who are grouchy, impatient, and easily bored.
One thing we cultural anthropologists of the amazing future year 2017 know that contemporary viewers of this program did not: the lone ABBA LP in John Peel’s collection was their disco record, Voulez-Vous. An orthodox ABBA fan, Peel asserts in A for ABBA that Stig Anderson was the group’s fifth member, ignoring the heresy of the Tretowist deviation. Without discipline, the party of ABBA is nothing!
Lutes aren’t rock n’ roll, everybody knows that. Lutes are the stuff of medieval folkies. Lutes are for the Incredible String Band or Gentle Giant, not Black Sabbath or Van Halen. At least, that’s what I used to think… and then I heard Dawn Culbertson.
A reclusive but active member of Baltimore’s folk, baroque, and classical scenes for decades, Culbertson was a composer, performer, and radio personality, who hosted an overnight classical music program on John Hopkins University’s radio station for over a decade. She played bass in an avant-garde big band and played lute on the weekends at local restaurants in Baltimore. In 2004, at the still-tender age of 53, she died of a heart attack. She was twirling the night away at a waltz event at the time. If you’re gonna go at 53, you might as well go out dancing.
While she will be surely be fondly remembered in her native Baltimore for her tireless work promoting folk and classical music, to the rest of us, she will remain the undisputed master of what she liked to call “punk lute.” Shortly before she died, Culbertson began performing covers of popular punk and metal songs on her instrument. They are collected on a long out of print and highly sought-after 2011 cassette release, Return of the Evil Pappy Twin. “The Evil Pappy Twin” was her punk lute alter-ego. We all have one. Accompanied by her plaintive, unwavering vocals—a kind of bored monotone drone that really is punk-as-fuck—these magical covers breathe new life into crusty old nuggets by DEVO, Van Halen, The Ramones, Black Sabbath, the Stooges, Sex Pistols and more, turning them into doomy outsider ballads from the outer edges of sanity.
I honestly like most of her covers way better than the originals!
One of the more startling musical transformations in our era was the one that Radiohead pulled off between their 1993 debut album Pablo Honey and their 1995 follow-up The Bends.
It wasn’t just Thom Yorke’s blond locks that cause quite a few critics to liken Pablo Honey to watered-down Nirvana. Pablo Honey got generally lukewarm-to-good reviews at the time—3 stars out of 5 from Rolling Stone, which is the same rating it currently receives at Allmusic.com (it must be admitted that Stephen Thomas Erlewine’s brief review is far more charitable than that rating suggests). And Radiohead’s later successes haven’t shielded the album from vitriol. At Pitchfork, notoriously one of Radiohead’s most unshakable defenders, Scott Plagenhoef gave it a piddling 5.4 out of 10 as late as 2009.
Even that tepid Rolling Stone review ended with the words “Radiohead warrant watching,” but if you had said in 1993 that in less than a decade, Radiohead would be doing arenas with a highly worshipful following and the most ironclad critical reputation in all of rock music, that possibility would have seemed remote indeed. The Bends and OK Computer in 1997 were the astounding one-two punch that few saw coming and set Radiohead up to be the top rock band of the 2000s.
So when I come across a piece of Radiohead press from 1993, I’m inclined to pay attention. I was at the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland recently, thumbing through a stack of old copies of Ray Gun magazine from the 1990s, something you can only do at a place like that. One of the 1993 issues had a little piece on Radiohead that was inexplicably formatted in an actually readable typeface (rare for that magazine). Here it is (if you click on it, the image will get quite large):
The last bit of the piece reports Yorke’s feelings on whether Radiohead qualifies as “pop” thus:
“Yesss,” he says slowly. “My definition of pop is tapping into something…. my ideal pop song is one that says something people want to hear lyrically and that grabs them by the neck musically. And one that has some sort of depth that moves it beyond a happy tune that you whistle at work. Songs like ‘Under Pressure,’ something that makes you want to fall down on your knees. That to me is the perfect pop song.”
Model Pat Evans on the cover of the 1972 Ohio Players album, ‘Pain.’ Photograph by the late Joel Brodsky.
Though it appears at this point we are all collectively reviewing a daily damage report of sorts when it comes to the news, I have more for you to digest today. Though I’m not comparing the heartbreaking losses in the music community in 2016 to the ones we’ve had thus far in this still young year, I have to tell you 2017 hasn’t been all that kind when it comes to the departure of more of our heroes to the great beyond. Case in point is that late last month we lost Walter “Junie” Morrison. The almighty “Funky Worm,” Morrison was an instrumental part of the success of the Ohio Players and long-time Funkadelic, Parliament, P-Funk All-Stars, and George Clinton collaborator. He was only 62.
If it came down to living out the rest of my days listening to music only produced during the 1970s, it would be a sweet, finger-licking piece of cake. Growing up in Boston my folks had a record player and a nice stash of records that they kept in a built-in cabinet in the wall. I would spend a lot of time going through the albums just to look at them, opening up gatefolds and reading liner notes and lyrics. I especially remember being way too big of a fan of the original soundtrack to Star Wars by John Williams and The London Symphony Orchestra which I played over and over again until my folks got tired of that endless loop and started buying other records for me. My love of vinyl (especially vintage vinyl), was instilled in me very early on. So after Junie passed, I started looking back into the OP catalog and became obsessed with the images that graced the group’s early records, most of which feature the enigmatic, instantly recognizable model Pat Evans.
Walter “Junie” Morrison and model Pat Evans.
Evans appeared on several OP album covers in empowering, thought-provoking photographs, many of which were taken by Joel Brodsky. The most famous, but by far not the most controversial being the cover and gatefold of the 1972 album Pain on which Evans’ appears in a leather studded bikini, Rob Halford-style spiked armbands, defiantly clutching a cat o’ nine tails in her hand. And if you think that sounds like a good time, you should see the inside of the gatefold. Damn. Here are a few words from the late Mr. Morrison on the photos, which were his concept and working with the impossibly perfect Evans back in the day from an interview he gave in 2015:
I think the idea of Pain as it was conceived by me in that particular instant, was taken a bit out of context by others with different life experiences. To me, it had to do with a love affair gone wrong, something that most teenaged people can attest to from time to time. My limited experience was translated by New York photographer Joel Brodsky into something a young man from the early ‘70s Midwest would never have imagined. Pat’s incredible presence was carried forth through the remaining Westbound/Ohio Players offerings and to some extent, to their Mercury albums, as well.
Evans would make several more appearances on albums for the Ohio Players including the 1974 album Climax, their last one on Detroit record label Westbound. The gatefold image, again shot by Brodsky, shows Evans appearing to stick a knife in the back of the lucky/unfortunate guy on top of her. The image was chosen by Westbound as a dig at the band who dumped the label and went on to sign with Mercury Records. A year later their first album with Mercury would produce what most consider their most risqué cover for the album Honey. And instead of Evans and Brodsky, it featured Playboy magazine’s Miss October of 1974, Ester Cordet shot by Richard Fegley who photographed, ahem, 69 centerfolds during his 30-year tenure with the magazine.
I’ve included a pretty steamy selection of album covers from the Ohio Players catalog, and every single one of ‘em is NSFW.
The gatefold image inside of ‘Pain.’
Pat Evans and friends in the gatefold image for the 1973 album ‘Ecstasy.’
Last night I saw a concert by Billy Bragg, whose socialistic music and entire socialistic steez has taken on new ultra-relevance in an era in which Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. Bragg was suitably fired up, and you can be sure he whipped the audience at Cleveland’s Music Box Supper Club into a righteous frenzy before the night was out.
Opening was the venerable Jon Langford of the Mekons, and he told an amusing story from the stage involving Johnny Cash. The starting point was the ‘Til Things Are Brighter project, which Langford and former Fall member and later BBC deejay Marc Riley spearheaded as a way to pay homage to Cash. This was the late 1980s—seven years after Cash was nearly killed by an ostrich in 1981—and Cash’s stock was at a relative nadir. As Langford explained, Cash was a bit dejected because it looked for all the world like his productive career was over and he had little to look forward to beyond a lengthy dotage and an inevitable slide to obscurity.
The roster of musicians is rather eye-popping. The album opens with Michelle Shocked, whose breakthrough album Short Sharp Shocked came out the same year, doing “One Piece At A Time.” Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks covered “Straight A’s In Love” while Cabaret Voltaire‘s Steven Mallinder took on “I Walk the Line.” The Triffids’ David McComb gave “Country Boy” his best while Langford’s Mekons and Riley played “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Wanted Man,” respectively.
All thirteen backing tracks were recorded by Langford and Riley and their house band in one day at RikRak Studio in Leeds, and the vocal tracks were picked up as various opportunities arose over the next several weeks. As the Guardian’s Graeme Thomson wrote in 2011,
Langford recalls that Marc Almond, the one “proper” pop star taking part, came in and “told me I’d cut “Man in Black” in the wrong key. He had a horrible fit in the studio. Sally [Timms, from the Mekons] talked him down and coaxed this fantastic performance out of him, but I think he was a bit nervous. It was maybe a bit odd for him to be doing Johnny Cash songs.”
Odd perhaps, but Timms did some good work there—Almond’s vocal track is arguably the best thing on the album.
One of Langford and Riley’s clever ideas was to have Mary Mary, the (male) singer of the Grebo band Gaye Bykers on Acid execute a cover of Cash’s classic song “A Boy Named Sue.” They were concerned that Cash might not be enthusiastic being covered by anybody associated with a band of that name, but not a bit of it, he was totally open to it and found the idea entirely amusing.