Acrobat Music is about to release the boxed set of live John Coltrane Quintet recordings, So Many Things: European Tour, 1961. The collection is billed as a sequel to Acrobat’s Miles Davis set, All of You: The Last Tour, 1960, which featured Coltrane and was his last trek with Miles. This time Trane is in charge, and the featured sideman is multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. Dangerous Minds has a preview of So Many Things, a track that would become a significant Coltrane piece.
“Impressions” initially went by other names for years before it became the title song for John Coltrane’s 1963 LP. The composition was already a staple of his concerts in 1961, and would be a part of Trane’s live repertoire until 1965. One such performance of the tune took place during Coltrane’s first Finnish gig, which was held on November 22nd, 1961, in Helsinki.
In the boxed set’s liner notes, Simon Spillett writes that the version of “Impressions” from the Helsinki show “contains one of Eric Dolphy’s finest moments of the entire tour—an alto solo full of impossibly rangy lines, honks, and high harmonics,” and that Coltrane’s second solo is “overflowing with choked false-fingered passages and vocalized delves to the bottom of the horn.”
Paul Tschinkel’s Inner Tube may have been low rent, but it was one of the grooviest TV rock shows in the history of the medium. The show ran on Manhattan cable from 1974 to 1984. With a shoestring budget, Paul managed to capture the raw energy of what is arguably the last great era in rock and roll. He filmed seminal performances from musicians like Klaus Nomi, Lydia Lunch, DNA, The Contortions, Johnny Thunders, The Blessed, The Cramps and many many more members of New York City’s punk and no wave scene.
Here’s some very cool footage from Inner Tube of The Cramps performing “Beautiful Gardens” at the Mudd Club in 1981. Who needed the Internet when TV was this good.
Oh my, oh me
What in the world’s come over me?
I’m seeing things that I should never see!
Spiders in my eyelids and ghosts in the cheese!
What in the world’s come over me?
I’ve lost touch with reality!
The video features the second best lineup of The Cramps (my personal favorite was with Bryan Gregory on guitar): Lux Interior, Ivy Rorschach, Kid Congo and Nick Knox. While versions of this video have floated around the ‘net, this is by far the best looking and sounding. It’s from the source. Many thanks to Paul Tschinkel.
They had a couple of people there passing around ideas. The first one was these leather outfits that were monochrome — someone in solid red, someone in solid yellow. They had fringe on them. They were awful. We nixed that one. Then they had these guys trying to convince us of this New Romantic look, which was Adam Ant and Spandau Ballet. That was the better of the two choices.
Village person David Hodo in 1978
Village person David Hodo in 1981
And so with the marketing angle determined, the Village People released the LP mega-turd, Renaissance, which noted music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine described as “simply an embarrassment that never should have seen the light of day.”
Hodo had turned in his signature hardhat for a doublet, lip gloss, blush, and (at least five) beauty marks.
Despite the deceptive packaging, Renaissance has nothing musically to do with the New Romantic movement. The music barely even qualifies as new wave. Most of the tracks are simply bad 80’s MOR rock and bargain basement Kool and the Gang-ish r&b. That is, with one notable exception, which Hodo himself provides vocals for: the improbable final track on the album, “Food Fight,” a fake-punk masterpiece easily as good as anything Plastic Bertrand or Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias ever laid down.
“Food Fight” is an anomaly in the Village People’s oeuvre: a first and last attempt to cash in on the punk audience from a band clearly grasping at straws, willing to try absolutely anything to stay relevant.
Musically, one can hear the best elements of DEVO, as well as The Dickies, and Hodo’s nerdcore vocals sound remarkably like Weird Al.
“Food fight” plays out like the music you’d hear in an early 80’s teenage T & A movie where there’d be some marginally “punk” band playing on the beach in wrap-around sunglasses and clam-diggers, while a bunch of girls in string bikinis did robot dances in the sand. Yes, it’s that good. The subject matter would seem to indicate the Village People’s new target demographic was middle school children.
Hodo himself hates the song, calling it “some of the worst” music the group ever recorded. It’s a shame, because had the Village People followed Renaissance with an album full of songs in the “Food Fight” vein, they easily could have been the greatestfake punk band of all time.
The Village People’s fake punk student rebellion anthem, “Food Fight”:
With Seasonal Affective Disorder slowly crushing my soul into oblivion, I have been absolutely starved for some aural “sunshine.” The Beach Boys are the obvious choice, but a little too obvious, don’t you think? Enter The Honeys, the beachy girl-group that boasted Brian Wilson himself serving as songwriter and producer. You got your surfing anthems, your boy-crazy ballads and all the shimmering, girly harmonies you’ll need until spring.
The Honeys with Brian Wilson
The Honeys actually formed after sisters Marilyn and Diane Rovell saw the Beach Boys perform. Brian Wilson took to courting high-schooler Marilyn (the foxy brunette on the far left), and after the addition of the Rovells’ cousin Ginger Blake, Wilson took them into the studio to record some pop music gold, though most people would more likely recognize them on Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve” and “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” or cheering on The Beach Boys’ “Be True To Your School.”
The Honeys never really blew up. Surf music faded, Marilyn Rovell became Marilyn Wilson and had daughters Carnie and Wendy (yes, thatCarnie and Wendy), but oddly enough, the girls attempted a very weird comeback in the 80s before embracing the nostalgia of their earlier work and releasing a box set. In addition to some of their earlier work, I’ve included (as a “bonus”) their 1983 album Ecstasy—it is very… 1983.
This morning Dangerous Minds pal Chris Holmes (he’s been all over the media recently with his “Anti-Paparazzi” clothing line) sent over the Soundcloud files of a couple of the “Ziggy Stardust” remixes produced, but ultimately not used, for Disney’s Fantasia videogame.
Although the remixes are simply wonderful as heard here, when Chris demoed the songs for me in his studio, he showed me his innovative idea for the game, which would have allowed the player to “parallel remix” (or “conduct”) the song on the fly, as with Ableton Live, or a similar program.
The idea for the remixes was to create fourteen separate remixes simultaneously in Ableton, and then have all of those tracks available in groups (drums, lead lines, strings, vocals, guitars) available to the user in the game to make their own remix each time they play the game. I think the concept of parallel remixing has a lot of potential in the VR, webspace, and future Oculus like worlds where users actions determine the how the music develops. It’s been sitting on my hard drive for almost two years now. The remixes turned out great, but I think the most important thing is turning people on to the concept of parallel remixing.
You could strip it down to the original version at any point or to a totally acoustic version, or go totally orchestral. These mixes have elements of each. It was very difficult because the timing had to remain in time with the original Bowie song which speeds up and slows down around 15 bpm over the course of the song. It would be far easier to do it with a consistent bpm.
This is the second version of our Fantasia “parallel remix” of “Ziggy Stardust.” This one is more electro dubstep, playing the game you can morph between any of the mixes and make your own using the game controller.
In the years following the success of her memoir The Happy Hooker and the launch of its film franchise, Xaviera Hollander dabbled fairly widely in merchandising the “Happy Hooker” name. She can hardly be blamed, it’s such a catchy phrase that it’s been cheekily co-opted by everyone from crochet hobbyists to fishermen. Hollander has been involved in drama production, written a long-running advice column (and penned plenty of sex-advice books), and she even had a Happy Hooker board game.
Lest you think I was kidding about that, here you go.
Hollander produced a kitsch artifact holy grail with her 1973 LP Xaviera! It’s mostly a spoken-word album, with tracks featuring Hollander detailing her philosophies regarding sex generally and prostitution specifically. There are a few tracks that are basically dramatizations of trysts, but the real money-shot here (sorry) is Hollander’s bonkers cover of the Beatles’ classic “Michelle.” It’s been a mix-CD staple of mine since I found it years ago on April Winchell’s old MP3 page (it’s not on her current page, but don’t let that stop you from heading there anyway to revel in all the marvelously bizarre delights contained therein), and it could not be more out of place, either on that LP, or on planet freakin’ Earth.
I don’t want to mislead, this isn’t anything like full on Mrs. Miller-level self-deuded badness. But it’s still pretty out there, and bad in a way and to a degree that make it truly compelling. At no time is the song ever actually “sung”—it’s moaned in a breathy, overwrought “Happy Birthday Mr. President” way that often out-camps most intentional campifications of sexuality. And when the most famous prostitute on Earth moans “I want you, I want you, I WANT YOU,” should it not maybe feel more believable? Fittingly, the track ended up on the Golden Throats 4: Celebrities Butcher the Beatles compilation, and as far as I know, it would be another ten years before Hollander endeavored to sing on an LP again, for the Dutch-only release Happily Hooked. (See what I mean about that branding? That shit is durable.) And even on that album—or at least the part of it that my DM colleague Amber Frost found—she still basically just talks over music. Not that exceptional singing is the reason you listen to it anyway, it’s all in good fun.
One last trivia nugget for the trainspotters: the Xaviera! LP contains a “special guest” credit to the rockabilly pioneer Ronnie Hawkins, who, apart from his own musical contributions, assembled the musicians who would come to be known as The Band. Whether his guest appearance is as the guitar player on “Michelle,” or as a male voice in one of the performances, or both, I couldn’t say.
In 1987, Dr. Timothy Leary paid a visit to MTV to be a guest VJ. He had a few more IQ points than some of their regular contributors. It’s a treat to hear him set up the video for Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”:
Now this is a real heavy one—I don’t know what this means. It has something to do with the third world and the exploitation by the first world and our hopes that the third world will get behind the camera and start becoming part of the cybernetic age. I don’t know. Watch it and make up your own mind. It’s a good tune.
Leary also talks about playing percussion on “Give Peace A Chance,” shows off some early CGI in the video for “Hard Woman” from Mick Jagger’s unloved She’s the Boss, and shares his thoughts on Nancy Reagan’s drug policy. It ends with a spectacular Ike and Tina Turner rendition of “Proud Mary” that’s worth sticking around for.
Buying audio equipment is an addiction for some people (99.99999999999% of these “people” being male people, of course). Although it is perhaps a more respectable addiction than either drugs or alcohol, and less expensive than gambling, it is, at its root, still an illness. For once you begin climbing on the ladder of high fidelity audio… they’ve got their hooks in you. You’re never satisfied, because there’s always something better. Buy that better amp and it’ll just expose the weakness of your speakers. The solution? Better speakers! But those new speakers don’t really blend well with your subwoofer, do they, which now sounds kinda flabby, doesn’t it? Finally you simply can’t take it anymore and replace your sub with a better one… Repeat this process several times per decade, if not annually. The story ends with the death of the audioholic or else said audioholic’s better half putting her foot down on his headphones while he’s wearing them.
That said, high fidelity audio equipment, like HDTV sets, is getting waaaaay cheaper while quality and performance is going up, up, up. A $10,000 stereo system purchased in the late 1990s is nowhere near as good as what you can buy for a fraction of that today. Over the years, I’ve owned gear from Marantz, Pioneer’s Elite line, Sony’s ES series, Carver, Klipsch, Hafler, Rotel, Harmon-Kardon, Boston Acoustics, Polk Audio, Yamaha, Philips, Panasonic and others. I am by no means an “expert” but I do research this stuff obsessively and keep up with what actual experts have to say. And I look a lot at the Amazon rankings and reviews because the group mind is seldom wrong in consumer reviews (and where do you go to demo and hear this kind of equipment in action anymore? Depending on where you live, it might take a leap of faith).
Recently a friend of mine asked my advice on building his sound system and this is the gist of what I told him…
First off, you’ll note that I’m keeping turntables out of the equation entirely. I disagree with the likes of Neil Young and others, who feel that vinyl is superior to digital. It’s not. No audio engineer thinks that. Young told a reporter at the CES show that “[vinyl is] the only place people can go where they can really hear.” Bullshit. It’s where you can really hear pops, clicks and dusty grooves. These things can be tested and measured, of course, it’s not a subjective judgment call. A pressed platter made of a petroleum product with a needle running across it isn’t going to sound as good as a CD, SACD, Blu-ray “Pure Audio” disc or a download from HDTracks.com. A record will not—will never—have that kind of sonic range.
If you are someone who “feels” vinyl sounds better than a CD, that’s fine by me, but let’s not pretend that the technology is superior. After all, it’s Neil Young himself who is hawking the “high definition audio” 192kHz/24-bit downloads for his PONO device. His was the first major artist Blu-ray box set, too, so his message seems muddled at best. Nevertheless, Young should applauded for at least trying to educate the public about better sound quality. He’s done more than any of the major labels ever have, that’s for certain.
So how best to work with the newfangled audiophile formats like Blu-ray audio and HDTracks digital downloads kept on an external disc drive? There’s really only one obvious solution, if you ask me, and that is an OPPO universal Blu-ray player. The top of the line OPPO players are packed full of super high quality features and components like the SABRE32 Reference ES9018, the world’s best performing 32-bit audio DAC for high-end consumer and professional studio equipment, 4K video upscaling and a proper headphone amp. In a word, they are magnificent.
My first bit of advice: Make an OPPO player the centerpiece of ANY home theater AV system. More than a mere universal disc player, it’s a full featured, powerful digital media nerve center/switcher that can even take the place of a high quality pre-amp—there’s simply no longer a need for one—and handle just about any kind of format you can throw at it. This Amazon review gave me a hard on. Read it now and then come on back, I’ll wait.
We all know Apple fanboys, well I’m an OPPO fanboy. Listening to music is one of the greatest pleasures in life and my life noticeably changed for the better the day that my OPPO BDP-105D was delivered. Unboxing it was a lot like getting a new Mac, come to think of it, and the OPPO player’s solid, obviously high quality build is impressive indeed, just like getting your hands on a new Apple product for the first time. (It’s also VERY heavy. When the Fedex guy handed it to me, I wasn’t prepared for this and nearly toppled over.)
Everything I had sounded better on it. I am currently still in the process of rediscovering my entire music collection through fresh ears, and hearing nuances I have never heard before in familiar songs. That’s really a gift, isn’t it? In the event of a fire, after my pets were safe, my OPPO BDP-105D and the drive with my music on it are the very first things I’d grab.
Now the OPPO BDP-105D player is their most expensive model ($1299), a hot-rodded version, if you will, of their OPPO BD 103, with the addition of aforementioned DACS, headphone amp and something called Darbee Visual Presence Technology, which is essentially a subtle drop shadow/luminance value effect that brings out insane levels of extra fine details of an 1080 line video signal (something users of HD projectors will REALLY notice, especially with wide shots) and even improves upon standard definition video sources. (Here’s a video that explains how Darbee works.)
Bear in mind that a good outboard DAC can cost $1000 and a decent headphones amp about the same or more. If you’re on the more demanding team of audiophiles, you’ll have to have the BDP-105D—it’s drool-worthy—but the rest of the OPPO line are pretty damned amazing, too and are priced starting at around $499 for the OPPO BDP-103 (a decent VHS player cost $600 in the mid-1980s for some perspective) and $599 for the OPPO BDP-103D with Darbee Visual Presence (a stand-alone Darblet costs $200).
As I was saying at the start, acquiring a better component—and let’s face it, the OPPO BDP-105D player is the ultimate better component—can expose the weaknesses of your system. The OPPO line features 4K video upscaling so you’re going to want a receiver that can handle 4K too and that would mean something introduced to the AV market in the past year or so. If I was going to buy a new, mid-priced receiver right now, I might go with something like the Onkyo TX-NR636 which has really nice specs, sounds great, handles Dolby Atmos multidimensional sound and is 4K video ready. If you are buying a new receiver today, you’d want something that won’t become obsolete too quickly and the Onkyo TX-NR636 is a popular model that’s a great value (it lists for $600 but Amazon sells it for around $430) and about as “future proof” as you are going to find today considering that 4K sets are about to become the next new thing in home entertainment. It’s even got a phono stage if you want to hook up a turntable.
(Some of you reading this might get sniffy at the idea of a mid-priced receiver, but do keep in mind that much of the circuitry present in receivers costing from $300 to $3000 is EXACTLY THE SAME STUFF.)
Which brings me to some utterly amazing—and as these things go, dirt cheap—speakers. A few years ago, Pioneer put out a line of low cost speakers designed by their chief speaker engineer Andrew Jones, a man known for making reference speakers that sell for $70k and now even audiophiles who can afford speakers that are that expensive find themselves preferring his cheap ones. Jones set himself the challenge to make the best possible speaker for the lowest possible price utilizing Pioneer’s vast resources, bulk purchasing power and production chain. The result is that the various models in the line of Andrew Jones Designed speakers have absolutely mind-blowing sound for a fraction of what it normally costs to buy sound gear that is this crazy good. A pair of Jones’ bookshelf speakers—perhaps the best smaller speakers I have ever heard—cost just $127. Two of the towers will set you back around $260, the subwoofer around $156 and the center channel speaker $97, but the sound is pretty priceless if you ask me. Amazon also sells the entire Andrew Jones 5.1 home theater speaker package for $549.
So if you add all of that up, for a totally kickass 5.1 home theater surround system, 4K video ready to boot, it would be around $1500 for a system utilizing the OPPO BDP-103 and $2100 for one built around the OPPO BDP-105D. I think the modded audiophile add-ons of the BDP-105 are well worth it for getting the most out of the newer digital audiophile formats, and the Darbee processing highly desirable for use with HD projectors, but with any OPPO model, you really can’t go wrong.
In conclusion, some of you reading this will think “He’s right, that’s not a bad little system for the money” and others will probably totally disagree with me, although I suspect near universal agreement on the merits of the OPPO BDP-105D, because it’s just that amazing of a device and is, if you ask me, not only a total game-changer in the AV marketplace, but something that should be incorporated into ANY attempt to put together a high quality home theater system. (They rated the hell out of an OPPO BDP-105D on Audioholics, tests which showed levels of distortion almost too low to measure. It’s so close to perfection already that it would almost be impossible to improve on its specs… well, for years to come.)
Quibble with the details in the comments, please do, but I think I gave my pal some damn good advice. Although the price is certainly right, this is no mere “entry level” audio system that I suggested—with all of his money Tom Cruise can’t buy a better universal media player than an OPPO BDP-105D and neither can you.
*Fun fact, our own Marc Campbell’s video rental store in Taos, NM was the first authorized OPPO retailer. These days Marc’s the proprietor of The Sound Gallery in Austin, TX, probably the world’s largest retail selection of vintage audio gear.
Below, a reviewer from AudioHead on the OPPO BD 105.
In 1977, a small label out of Ft. Lauderdale, Soul Deep Records, released the debut LP by one Frederick Michael St. Jude. Here Am I was conceived as a commercial album, and though it didn’t make the Billboard charts, as was hoped, it did eventually earn a cult following thanks to St. Jude’s unique take on pop music. His distinctive vocal quiver, reminiscent of Bowie, Ferry, and Jobriath, sits atop a varied set of catchy tunes. Some songs are bleak and futuristic, others show a country influence, while a couple of tracks conjure up the drama found in musical theater.
Not long after Here Am I was released, St. Jude visited the office of his label, only to discover Soul Deep had closed its doors and the owners were nowhere to be found. Luckily, St. Jude was able to salvage the Here Am I master tapes, as well as those for his in-progress second album, from the company’s dumpster. Inspired by the circumstances, he set aside the songs he had written for the Here Am I follow-up, and went about composing material for a bold new project, a dystopian rock opera about gangs. Though an album’s worth of material was recorded and an abbreviated version was released on a 1982 EP as Gang War – A Rock Opera, the remainder of the recordings were shelved. Subsequently, St. Jude began pursuing other endeavors, such as magazine publishing and acting, including multiple appearances on an now iconic ‘80s TV show.
Advertisement for the EP
In 2013, the Chicago-based record label Drag City re-issued Here Am I, and they’re about to unleash Gang War, which means Frederick Michael St. Jude’s rock opera will finally be released in its entirety.
Cover art by Frederick Michael St. Jude
After the introductory, opening theme sets the stage, it quickly becomes apparent that Gang War isn’t exactly about gangs, but is a metaphor for the personal and professional struggles of life. St. Jude incorporated an interesting amalgamation of styles for the album, as the songs bring to mind glam rock titans, Bowie and Bolan; the softer side of Led Zeppelin; the futuristic, dystopian imagery of Gary Numan; and anthemic arena rock by the likes of Styx, Queen, and REO Speedwagon. It’s funky, punky, and rocks with a fist in the air. It’s quite a record.
Here’s our interview with Mr. St. Jude, which was conducted via email.:
What was your creative vision for Gang War?:
Frederick Michael St. Jude: With me, it all begins with strumming chords on the guitar, to be truthful. I had just changed the strings on my Giannini twelve-string and began the initial “break-in”...giving them a stretch, when the series of chords I was playing just sort of clicked. I was overwhelmed with a melody line and the lyrics just came crashing in. We are talking about the main theme song now [“Gang War Theme”]. By the time I was finished, I sat there, stunned. I had been writing songs for years and most came pretty effortlessly, but this…this amazed me. It didn’t take a thud to me head to realize I was onto something important. Especially once I realized it was more than just a song. It was more of a prophecy. From that point on, I was in high gear and the songs just came ripping in. The year was 1982 when this miracle all took place. I say miracle because I am still stunned at how all of it fell into place. I don’t know if Gang War is my “swan song”...I am still writing and recording with my co-producer, Norman Titcomb via computer, but it will certainly do until that “swan song” (if any or another) gets here.
Read more and hear a song from ‘Gang War’ after the jump
The news release heralding Superior Viaduct’s reissue of the Residents’ deeply messed-up “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” b/w “Loser = Weed” single contains a quotation that rang oddly familiar to me:
The Residents’ 1976 version of The Stones’ Satisfaction is nearly everything the better known version by Devo from a year later is not: Loose, belligerant, violent, truly fucked up. A real stick in the eye of everything conventionally tasteful in 1976 America. Delightfully painful to listen to thanks to Philip “Snakefinger” Lithman’s completely unhinged lead guitar and mystery Resident member’s menacing vocal, this is a timeless piece of yellow plastic.
That blurb is from Brad Laner, a member of not one but two of myfavorite bands and a former Dangerous Minds contributor, and in fact, it was a DM post about five years ago—a post I happen to agree with. The Residents’ “Satisfaction” IS pretty admirably unhinged, genuinely frightening, and a righteous fuck-you to a rock canon classic that, in some circles, remains beyond sacrosanct. Contemporary with their second album, the unfuckwithable Third Reich ‘n’ Roll, which, like the single, is an unsparing deconstruction of classic radio hits, many of which were still fairly new songs at the time. “Satisfaction” isn’t on the album—the Rolling Stones are represented there by a half-reverent, half-funereal take on “Sympathy for the Devil” in the album’s coda. While it did appear on the 1988 CD reissue as an extra, along with “Loser=Weed” and a couple of Beatles travesties, the wax itself is a rare collectible, fetching in the neighborhood of $35. Superior Viaduct’s colored vinyl repress, at $9, still feels a tad spendy for a 7”, but that’s way more manageable than procuring an original. It can also be had as part of a five-record bundle with reissues by Flipper, X, the Dils and the Germs, at $40 for the whole set. (I totally want the Flipper one, too, but that’s another post.)
The Residents, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction)”
Of course, DEVO’s version of the song is the one that most aggressively vies with the Rolling Stones’ original for definitive status, and how could it not? Obviously, the original is indisputably classic in every sense of the word, and after five decades, it’s still one of the most widely covered ‘60s songs this side of “Stepping Stone.” But who can really believe that song from Mick Jagger? By the song’s mid-1965 single release, he was already a gazillionaire rockstar heartthrob who probably had illegitimate children in all 48 contiguous US states, so did anyone seriously believe there was anything unsatisfying about that man’s life? For all its musical timelessness—good LORD, that riff!—the Stones’ version edges out Britney Spears’ cover for plausibility (neither singer was particularly “on a losing streak” at the time their version was released), but that’s about it. None of that does all that much to dull its effectiveness as an anthem, but I buy a song about sexual frustration and contempt for commercialism much more readily in the anxiety-ridden version by the brainy midwestern dorks in DEVO. Unlike the Residents, DEVO aren’t shooting for a takedown or a deconstruction; their version feels more like a successful effort to finally put the song in a proper context. Alan Myers’ freakishly asymmetric drum beat and Gerald Casale’s rubber-band bass line are every bit as capable of inducing existential dread in a socially insecure geek as Keith Richards’ ingenious three-note intro riff is of inducing “fuck yeahs” in a classicist, and doesn’t that speak more closely to the intent of the lyrics—not a single word of which DEVO changed?