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The Ramones on the Jerry Lewis Telethon
05:57 pm


The Ramones

Well here’s something kind of strange and wonderful: The Ramones playing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in September of 1989. The choice of songs couldn’t be more appropriate: “I Believe In Miracles” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.” This was C.J.‘s debut gig with the band and it must have been a particularly surreal initiation for the newly adopted Ramone.

This was aired on WWOR-TV in New York City.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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‘Superstars In Concert’: Jimi, Cream, Rolling Stones, Ike & Tina Turner & more in obscure classic

When the question of “What’s the best/great rockumentary of all?” is asked, the answers can range quite widely obviously, from something like Don’t Look Back or Let It Be to The Last Waltz or Stop Making Sense (which both seem to make almost everyone’s lists) to something totally out of left field and life-affirming like Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King. I really loved the new Pulp: a Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets... and wouldn’t “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” be in the running for all-time best rockumentary? Of course it would be!

It’s an impossible question to answer, but sidestepping it somewhat, if I had to pick the best overall “time capsule” of the rock era to preserve for future generations, it would probably be Peter Clifton’s Superstars In Concert.  Also known as Rock City in a different edit, the film was directed and produced by Clifton (The Song Remains the Same, Popcorn, The London Rock and Roll Show) and is a hodge-podge compiling (mostly) his promotional short films and snippets of concert performances shot between 1964 and 1973 by the likes of Peter Whitehead (Wholly Communion, Charlie Is My Darling, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London), Michael Cooper (who shot Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising), Ernest Vincze (the cinematographer responsible for the 2005 Doctor Who reboot) and Ivan Strasburg (Treme).

Featured in the film are The Rolling Stones (several times), Eric Burdon and The Animals, a typically demure appearance of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Otis Redding bringing the house down, Cream, Steve Winwood, Blind Faith, Cat Stevens (a stark Kubrickian promo film for his “Father and Son” single) , The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Donovan, Joe Cocker, a segment with The Ike and Tina Turner Revue that will bring a smile to your face, Pink Floyd and Rod Stewart and the Faces. Pete Townshend is seen getting in his digs at the Stones for promoting pot use, managing to make himself look like a blue-nosed twat in the process, while Mick and the boys are seen doing “Jumpin Jack Flash” in the (decidedly more evil) warpaint version of that promo film (there were two, this is the one that was NOT shown on The Ed Sullivan Show for obvious reasons) and in their promo film for “We Love You” which features Keef in a judge’s wig, Marianne Faithfull as a barrister and Mick nude wrapped up in a fur rug (a sly joke that if you don’t get, then google “Rolling Stones,” “Redlands,” drug bust, her name and “Hershey Bar.”)

Superstars In Concert came out in Japan on the laserdisc format and that’s how I first saw it, in the late 80s. Since then, other than the various clips showing up cut from the film on YouTube, it’s remained an obscurity. Apparently there was a Malaysian bootleg and then in 2003 a Brazilian magazine called DVD Total gave away the film for free with one of their issues. So far fewer than 200 people have viewed the video.

DO NOT miss what’s perhaps the most intense version of Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe Eugene” ever captured on film. This entire film is absolutely amazing from start to finish, but it jumps off the scale during that part (Otis Redding is no slouch, either!) I highly recommend letting it load first before you hit play, otherwise it’s kind of flickery. If you wait a while, it doesn’t hang up and looks and sounds great.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Cool in the Pool’: Beating the heat with Can’s Holger Czukay, 1979
06:40 am


Holger Czukay

Holger Czukay’s first solo single “Cool in the Pool”
Holger Czukay, the bassist who co-founded Can, quit the group after 1977’s Saw Delight. His departure marked the beginning of the end for Can, who split in 1979 and didn’t play together again for almost a decade.

Around the time of the split, John Lydon, then leading Public Image Ltd., suggested Can take him on as lead singer. “There was all this trouble with Holger leaving, which was a sad thing,” Can’s keyboardist Irmin Schmidt told MOJO. “It was time to stop, and even John Lydon wouldn’t have brought anything into it!” (Lydon didn’t end up singing for Can, but PiL bassist Jah Wobble did collaborate with Czukay a few years later.)

Holger Czukay’s 1979 solo album Movies
Meanwhile, the 41-year-old Czukay had more important things on his mind, like how to beat the heat. With nothing more than a tuxedo, a comb, a bow and a French horn, he made this supremely silly promotional film for “Cool in the Pool,” the first song on his solo album Movies (1979). Most of the lyrics are as straightforward as it gets, though I’m afraid I can’t help you decipher the parts about the donkey dancing forward and the ice cream soda. However, Holger’s vamps can help lower your body temperature a few degrees.

Come on in—the water’s fine!

Holger Czukay “Cool in the Pool” music video

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Incredible music billboards from the Sunset Strip
06:37 am


Robert Landau

UFO, Obsession, 1978
I love everything about these remarkable advertisements, all of which were on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles between 1967 and 1981. We have photographer Robert Landau to thank for these pictures, as his collection represents the best available resource about them. Last year he came out with a very pretty book called Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip.

According to Landau, it wasn’t until 1967 that the music industry ventured into billboards to advertise new rock albums. The first rock billboard was for the Doors’ first album. As we can see here, other acts had billboards by 1967, so it must have caught on quickly.

“When I went out to explore the world,” says Landau. “I felt the Strip was like a gallery; there were these hand-painted works of art on the street. ... They looked like giant art pieces that kind of represented my generation and the music I listened to.”

“At one time, L.A. just felt a lot funkier. It felt more Western, and ... people could come here and do whatever they want. To a degree, that created a lot of chaos, but there was something about that freedom that allowed people to do fun things,” he says. “Things were a little quirkier back then. There was a bit more of a personal feel to the environment.”

A few notes about the pictures below. The ELO billboard is noteworthy because of the custom-made plexiglass neon space station, based on John Kosh’s logo for the band, which cost $50,000. Obviously, the Abbey Road billboard pictured here was defaced by some Beatlemaniac, which is why Paul’s head isn’t there. My favorite billboard of the bunch (and Landau’s too) is the remarkable one for the London Symphony Orchestra’s recording of Tommy from 1972; the billboard features no text whatsoever, just those creepy sci-fi eyes staring out at you. So ballsy!

Pink Floyd, Atom Heart Mother, 1970

Cocker Is Coming

10cc, Deceptive Bends, 1977

Joni Mitchell, Blue, 1971

The Knack, Round Trip, 1981

Jimi Hendrix, Axis: Bold as Love, 1967
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Zuma, 1975

London Symphony Orchestra, Tommy, 1972

ELO, Out of the Blue, 1977
Many more billboards plus a video, after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Lose your mind and play’ Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd ‘live’ on TOTP, 1967

I type this as someone who has (perhaps obsessively) gone out of his way—for decades now—acquiring Pink Floyd bootlegs. I couldn’t get enough of them, always trading up in quality if possible. There was always an endless supply of them, with “new” ones popping up constantly. It was a disease like stamp collecting. I even paid a hundred bucks for one that I just had to have…

Since YouTube launched in 2005, of course, there’s been so much additional Pink Floyd goodness making its way to the public—an avalanche really—which is the only way to explain how THIS ONE got past me in the Floydian deluge… I’d read a few years ago that the British Film Institute had located tapes of two of Pink Floyd’s three Top of the Pops appearances in the summer of 1967 and that the quality was a little ropey. I promptly forget about it, but that footage turned up on YouTube about a year ago, even if I just saw it myself this morning.

True the quality isn’t great—only one of the tapes was watchable apparently—but who’s going to complain about catching a rare glimpse of a still functional Syd Barrett fronting Pink Floyd on TOTP in 1967??? Before this video was located, practically the only documentation of the group’s trio of appearances on the program was the color shot used on the Syd Barrett bootleg “Unforgotten Hero” as seen above.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Fantastic footage documenting the Tower Records shopping experience of 1971
07:16 am


Tower Records

The Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. circa 1988 (note the poster for the Coming to America soundtrack)
This utterly enthralling footage of the Tower Records on 8801 Sunset Boulevard was shot by Sacramento City College professor Darrell Forney in 1971. It’s available on It’s ten solid minutes of pretty much random footage on a typical day, scored to Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” and Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” Anyone who’s old enough to remember those days—or simply anyone who’s into record collecting—set aside ten minutes to take this wonderful footage in. Then set aside another ten minutes to watch it all over again.

Tower Records was based in Sacramento and had existed since 1960—when this footage was shot, the Sunset Blvd. location had been open for only a year. It would be a mainstay for Los Angeles music lovers for more than three decades, until it finally closed in 2006.

I love how they just stack the records in the middle of everything. New albums appeared to cost $3.55 for the most part—not all that cheap, that translates to about $20 today (a good number of those albums in reissued LP format would run about $20, no?). We can see staff members unpacking many, many boxes of George Harrison’s 1970 triple LP All Things Must Pass. Does anyone see an album that definitely dates this at 1971? I thought I saw Elton John’s 11-17-70 but it was actually his self-titled album. Fascinating to see 8-track cassettes being sold in large quantities and also, not ironically.

Hey, that clerk is smoking!! Surely he was risking a fine?? Oh, what am I talking about, this is 1971, nobody gave a hoot about stuff like that. (There’s even an ashtray on the checkout counter.) At least two handsome pooches are also depicted, I can’t imagine they were letting dogs in by the time 2005 rolled around.

There’s a lingering shot of someone thumbing through a new copy of the Schwann Stereo Record Guide. I’m going to assume that this was an essential bit of stereophile literature, but it’s before my time. I was a little surprised to see that the familiar red-on-yellow typeface was already in place this early.

I’ve been a CD/mp3 person for most of my life, but last autumn I finally gave in to the LP impulse—this is the most mouth-watering thing I’m likely to see all week. Luckily Amoeba Records has already done the bloggers of 2056 a big favor by thoroughly documenting the scene there, including live performances and inviting fun people to spend a hundred bucks in the store during their “What’s In My Bag?” web series.

Here’s a promo for Tower Records that John Lennon taped during an in-studio radio appearance on KHJ in 1974. The album he was promoting was Walls and Bridges. This cute montage uses a whole lot of Professor Forney’s footage. (You can actually see Paul McCartney’s first album, which is a little odd.)

via Wax Poetics & Vintage Los Angeles
Thank you Blue Arrow Records of Cleveland, Ohio!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Wattstax’: The ‘Black Woodstock’ music festival

The Watts Riots are often referred to by lefties as “The Watts Rebellion.” While both are technically accurate descriptions, “rebellion” is considered the preferable word by sympathists, since “riot” has a negative connotation. For me, the word “riot” lacks any moralist stigma, since rioting has historically played a necessary role in the resistance of oppressed people. I also think “riots” paints a more identifiable picture.

In addition to less explicit economic discrimination, the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles was plagued with racist attacks from both white gangs and and a militarized police force (sound familiar?). The 1965 events that incited the riots are convoluted, but (briefly) a black man was arrested for driving under the influence, his brother (who was was a passenger), left to inform the man’s mother, who showed up to the arrest. There was a physical altercation, all three black citizens were arrested, and onlookers from the neighborhood began throwing things at the cops.

Eight days later, 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries and 3,952 arrests. 600 businesses were destroyed and over $40 million was done in damages over a 46-square mile-area.

In 1972, Stax Records put on a concert featuring their artists to commemorate the riots. Tickets for the Wattstax music festival (held in the massive L.A. Coliseum) were sold for $1 each to keep the event affordable for working class Los Angeles residents. Mel Stuart, who had just directed Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (a box-office bomb, despite its classic status), documented the concert in Wattstax, the electric results of which you see below. Wattstax has been shorthanded as “The Black Woodstock,” but it’s so much more.

The film is something greater than a record of fantastic concert footage, though the performances from artists like The Staples Singers, Isaac Hayes and The Bar-Kays are mind-blowing. It’s the interviews with Watts residents, who reflect on their lives and politics and what has and hasn’t changed since the riots, that really make the film. Richard Pryor serves as a kind of Greek chorus, and his interactions with the crowd are hilarious and full of humanity. You’ll notice that nearly the entire audience defiantly stays seated during Kim Weston’s rendition of the national anthem.

If you want a good clip to sample, there’s a fantastic bit starting around the 38:30 mark where Richard Pryor riffs on black identity (and pork). It then cuts to The Bar-Kays (looking like a heavenly choir from outer space), who do a blistering version of “Son of Shaft.”

Via Open Culture

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill’: Watch the new BBC documentary
12:10 pm


Kate Bush

Although it’s front page news everywhere in the United Kingdom today, there wasn’t much mention here of Kate Bush’s return to the concert stage last night in London after a 35 year absence. I suppose that makes sense, as she is one of England’s greatest living musicians, but I still thought it would get a little bit more play here in the States. I think we’ve got our own fair share of Kate Bush fanatics.

What’s worth remarking about, I thought, was how The Telegraph’s reviewer decided to allude, not subtlly at all, to the 56-year-old’s weight in the subtitle of their review (”Singer defies weight of expectation on her comeback live performance to thrill audience with her theatrical imagination and undiminished voice”) and then DO IT AGAIN in the opening sentence (”The weight of anticipation bearing down on Kate Bush’s 5ft 2inch frame ahead of her opening night must have been near unbearable.”) Coincidence?

What’s unbearable is this… shitty prose.

Who does the Telegraph’s Bernadette McNulty think she is to write about the great Kate Bush in this manner? Even if her review is, overall, a positive-ish one, I will admit to a sleepy, pissed off, lemon-faced reaction when I read that this morning. What sort of fucking idiot writes such a thing about a major artist, revered the world over, returning to the concert stage after decades and thinks that they’re being clever? And coming from a female journalist, yet? LAME. Whether Bush is dressed in a leotard or a kaftan, McNulty isn’t of sufficient stature to kiss the hem of either…

Thankfully, The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis was there and offered up something more intelligent than McNulty could muster:

Over the course of nearly three hours, Kate Bush’s first gig for 35 years variously features dancers in lifejackets attacking the stage with axes and chainsaws; a giant machine that hovers above the auditorium, belching out dry ice and shining spotlights on the audience; giant paper aeroplanes; a surprisingly lengthy rumination on sausages, vast billowing sheets manipulated to represent waves, Bush’s 16-year-old son Bertie - clad as a 19th-century artist – telling a wooden mannequin to “piss off” and the singer herself being borne through the audience by dancers clad in costumes based on fish skeletons.

The concert-goer who desires a stripped down rock and roll experience, devoid of theatrical folderol, is thus advised that Before the Dawn is probably not the show for them, but it is perhaps worth noting that even before Bush takes the stage with her dancers and props, a curious sense of unreality hangs over the crowd. It’s an atmosphere noticeably different than at any other concert, but then again, this is a gig unlike any other, and not merely because the very idea of Bush returning to live performance was pretty unimaginable 12 months ago.

He goes on to say that the likes of Bush’s “Before the Dawn” theatrical spectacle hasn’t been seen since Pink Floyd toured The Wall. The concert includes helicopters, skits and a video of Bush seen floating in a sensory deprivation tank.

In anticipation of Bush’s shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, the BBC recently aired The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill, a portrait of the enigmatic artist with comments from St. Vincent, Big Boi, John Lydon, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, David Gilmour, Tricky, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Viv Albertine and others. Of particular interest is Elton John’s anecdote about how when Kate Bush came to his civil partnership ceremony with David Furnish, even in a room full up with hundreds of famous people, they all wanted to meet her.

Don’t expect to see much footage of the 22 London shows surfacing on YouTube. Bush is asking all concert attendees to turn their phones off.

“I have a request for all of you who are coming to the shows,” she wrote on her site last week:

“We have purposefully chosen an intimate theatre setting rather than a large venue or stadium. It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows. I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iphones, ipads or cameras. I know it’s a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together.”

Anyone dumb enough to pull out their iPhone is likely to be kicked to death by rabid Kate Bush fans. [Nope, I stand corrected, someone did and lived to tell, or at least sell it to Gawker.]

Thank you to DM’s editor-at-large Marc Campbell for sending me this one!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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The Suicide Commandos make a music video in front of their own burning house, 1977
08:58 am


Suicide Commandos

DEVO fans take note: Chuck Statler, the director of the spuds’ “The Truth about De-Evolution,” “Come Back Jonee” and “Satisfaction” videos, also made this 1977 video for the Suicide Commandos’ “Burn It Down.” It’s a simple song with a memorable message, namely that you should set fire to anything you don’t like.

The video, Statler’s second, captured the band playing “Burn It Down” on the street as the condemned house where they lived and practiced burned to the ground behind them. (Statler hired drunks from a Twin Cities unemployment line to bowl in DEVO’s “Come Back Jonee” video, and he seems to have used a similar casting technique for the beginning and end of this one, in which local folks wearing fire helmets take turns slurring the band’s name.)

The Suicide Commandos “Burn It Down”
Now legendary, the Suicide Commandos were a Minneapolis power trio comprising singer and guitarist Chris Osgood (also Bob Mould’s guitar teacher), bassist Steve Almaas and drummer Dave Ahl. Their debut album, The Suicide Commandos Make a Record, was the second and final release on Mercury Records’ Midwestern punk imprint, Blank Records, which perished because its roster was too good for this wicked world. Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance had been the first Blank release, and the Bizarros’ debut LP was to have been the third.

“Chuck Statler made the video of our house which got condemned because it had no heat or running water,” Osgood told Minnesota Public Radio in 2012. Band members would walk down the street from “Utopia House” to a tennis club to shower. “It was October of ‘77 when Utopia House got burned down, and we knew that it was going to be demolished, or going to be burned [and used as] fire department practice. So I wrote ‘Burn It Down’ so that that could happen, and we had the idea of playing in front of our house as it burned down, ‘cause Chuck Statler had made a little musical movie with a band called DEVO from Akron, and there you go.”

The Suicide Commandos Commit Suicide Dance Concert, the Suicide Commandos’ equivalent of The Last Waltz, was the first LP released by Minneapolis’s Twin/Tone label. Improbably, their music was actually used for a Target commercial in 2004.

Hüsker Dü fans take note: here’s one of the Commandos’ best songs, “Complicated Fun,” from the Twin/Tone compilation Big Hits of Mid-America Volume III. Hear anything familiar?

The Suicide Commandos “Complicated Fun”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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‘Breaking Bad,’ the Opera
07:56 am


Breaking Bad

Just a couple nights ago, Breaking Bad beat out True Detective, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for the second year in a row. Breaking Bad had a great night, picking up three acting awards and a writing award as well. The glorious and gut-wrenching fifth and final season, which came to an end last September 29, was an authentic cultural phenomenon, which the pile of Emmys merely confirmed.

One relatively unexpected product of Season 5 is an actual operatic adaptation of Breaking Bad. The composer, Sung Jin Hong, also the artistic director of One World Symphony, was so inspired by the series that he wrote the entirety of “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias” in the four or so months between the end of the series and its premiere in New York on January 26, 2014. “Ozymandias” is the title of the 14th episode of Season 5, and is a reference to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1818 sonnet of the same name, which touches on the fleeting nature of empire.

Sung Jin Hong was urged by his sister to watch “the best show ever” (she’s certainly not alone in this judgment), and before he knew it, the show had become “an addiction.” As Sung Jin Hong says, “The eureka moment probably occurred after I explored and exhausted many possibilities. I had been sketching for almost a month and had not committed to a motif or rhythm. After a long morning run in early November in Prospect Park, I felt as if I could hear my heart beating. I immediately committed to elaborating on what has become the Heisenberg chord and his rhythmic heartbeat in my composition.”

As with the series itself, one of the more attention-getting aspects of the opera has been the character Jesse Pinkman’s propensity for using the word bitch in conversation. “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias” features a “Bitch Aria” that requires significant audience participation (see video below). The opera was performed twice on January 26 & 27, 2014, at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea in Manhattan. The two performances required the use of folding chairs to accommodate demand, and the reviews appear to have been very positive.

On this page are two snippets of songs from the opera in a format that we unfortunately cannot embed here. The first song is called “The Moment,” and was inspired by “Fly,” episode 10 of Season 3. Here are a few lines from it:

That was the moment
that night
I should have never left home
Maybe things would have…
I was at home watching tv
Skyler and Holly were in another room
She was singing a lullaby
If I had just lived right up to that moment and not one second more
That would have been perfect

Soprano Dorothy Smith Jacobs, who played the part of Jane, Jesse’s drug-addicted friend from Season 2, said, “I think there is a need for operas to be 2014 scandalous, not 18th-century scandalous, while never ever sacrificing musical integrity.”

Perhaps emboldened by the success of “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias,” Sung Jin Hong has chosen as the inspiration for his next work another televised embodiment of pure evil: Hannibal Lecter.

“Bitch Aria”

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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