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Desert trip: Gram Parsons and ‘The Gilded Palace of Sin’
05.23.2017
11:11 am
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A recent poll of young Britons found that nearly a third of younger millennials—29% of 18 to 24-year-olds to be exact—claimed that they had never knowingly listened to an Elvis Presley song. Zero percent of this age group reported listening to Elvis’ music daily. This really isn’t all that surprising—or at least it shouldn’t be. We’re soon approaching the 40th anniversary of Presley’s death and while everyone of a certain age can probably recall exactly where they were when they heard that the King of rock ‘n’ roll had died—whether you were a fan or not, it was earth-shaking news in 1977—to someone born after that, bluntly put, the once titanic cultural importance of Elvis Presley is pretty negligible. If your reaction is that this is depressing—and perhaps it is—then you’re only showing your age. It’s just the way things are.

As the editor of a blog like this one—I was eleven years old when Elvis ate his final fried peanut butter and banana sandwich and frankly I doubt that I listen to him more often than once annually myself—I’m acutely aware of the balance between nostalgia and discovery. The biggest cohort of our readership is comprised of millennials. If nearly a third of young Brits have never purposefully or consciously listened to an Elvis Presley number, then how many of them would know a DEVO song? If you were born in 1965 or 1975, how much knowledge of the music of the 1940s or 1950s do you realistically possess? DEVO’s heyday is even further back than that for someone who is a high school senior in 2017.  “Oldies” radio doesn’t play Herman’s Hermits, the Supremes or Sonny & Cher anymore, it programs Sting, Nirvana and Celine Dion where that format even still exists.
 

The FBB in their custom Nudie suits. You’ll note that Parsons’ suit is festooned with pot leaves and opium poppies
 
So where would that leave the legacy of a cult artist like Gram Parsons, who died in 1973 at the age of 26 with but a small, yet influential body of work, as the 21st-century marches ever onward? If you are of a certain age, and presuming that you are a pretty big music fan, you no doubt have heard and hopefully appreciate the “cosmic American music” of this golden-voiced country rock progenitor/genius. To be sure, I think that there’s still a pretty strong Gram Parsons cult out there, but in 2017 its members tend to be know-it-all baby boomers with graying ponytails who want to give you their opinions of whatever album you happen to be looking at in a record store.

Only in Southern California, always a stronghold of Flying Burrito Bros. fandom, does there seem to be an organic all ages awareness of the great Gram Parsons. This has much to do with the desert and how inextricably intertwined the desert trip is with the mythos of Parsons’ death by OD in room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn and how his body was subsequently stolen and given a drunken cremation near Cap Rock by his manager, Phil Kaufman.

It’s a SoCal rite of passage to do magic mushrooms in Joshua Tree and trip out under the desert stars listening to The Gilded Palace of Sin by the Flying Burrito Bros. as there is simply no greater soundtrack for this sort of activity in that particular place and I’d wager that 99% of all the patrons of Pappy & Harriett’s, whether young or old, male or female could readily identify any song from it that came on their jukebox. But again, it’s specifically a desert kinda thing. Let’s assume that the rest of the country’s Gram Parsons fans are probably spread out a little bit more.

Which is why the word needs to get out about Intervention Records’ recently released vinyl and (upcoming) SACD re-issue of The Gilded Palace of Sin. Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, this is one of the best-sounding slabs of wax that I’ve ever heard in my entire life, which is exactly what you would want someone to say if you’re a new boutique record label catering to the snobbiest of jaded (and easily disappointed) audiophiles.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.23.2017
11:11 am
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I sing the Apocalypse: The ‘mud-lightning metal’ of Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth
05.23.2017
10:43 am
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I tried to catch Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth at a local art gallery a few months back, but I blew it. You really gotta be on time for events of this magnitude. By the time I got there, it looked like a garbage truck had crashed into an art supply store. There was glitter, paint, feathers, sweat, piss and melted crayons everywhere. The room smelled like burnt rubber and semen. The joint was filled with creeps, crazies and zonked-out dreamers, but I had no idea if any of them were in the band or not. You couldn’t tell where the aftermath ended and the afterparty began, but the star of the show had definitely vanished. “The kid in the wheelchair split,” shrugged the disappointed art-school chick in the lime-green cardigan. There was more than a little unrequited lust in her eyes.
 

Danny Cruz, Dragon King
 
Flaming Dragons formed in 2007 in Turner Falls, Massachusetts (don’t bother looking it up, FDOME are definitely the most exciting thing about the place). Every Thursday at the Brick House Community Resource Center, Danny Cruz—a resourceful young dude with muscular dystrophy, a fearsome scruff of facial hair and a seriously banged-up wheelchair—would jam with whoever was around on whatever instruments they could scrape up, eventually creating a bowel-loosening neo-hard rock, aggressively psychedelic spazz-punk sound that Cruz likes to call “Mud Lightning Metal.” And who are we to argue?


The cover of FDOME’s 2014 opus, ‘The Seed of Contempt’

The band has been going strong ever since. The members change constantly. There’s been a wizard on bass and a kid with Down’s syndrome on drums. Doesn’t really matter. All of it channels through cosmic shaman Cruz, who turns his ragtag noise crew into a life-affirming blast of pure holy light. They have a clutch of official albums released on OSR records and piles more unreleased or unofficial or just waiting patiently to be born. They often perform in unsuspecting art galleries or community centers or public access TV stations in Western Massachusetts and no one is the same afterward. In between gigs, Cruz hits up YouTube and pontificates on chemtrails (hint: it’s aliens!) and whatever other urban ailments he’s feeling that day.

If his band didn’t play freeform jazz metal, he’d probably be the new Roky Erickson. At the very least, he’s the new Eugene Chadbourne. If you haven’t been covered in feathers and buckets of paint lately, I’d suggest maybe you catch a show.

Take a look, after the jump…

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Posted by Ken McIntyre
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05.23.2017
10:43 am
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Ultramega OK: Soundgarden destroy the Whisky a Go-Go, 1990
05.22.2017
12:59 pm
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Like many of you, I’m still trying to process the sudden death of Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell last week. Here in Seattle, where Cornell was born, there were several memorials held around the city including one at the site that inspired the band’s name—A Sound Garden—a musical sculpture park where twelve 20+ foot structures outfitted with organ pipes emanate with sound whenever the wind blows. After Cornell passed, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron posted a heart-wrenching comment on his Facebook page saying “My dark knight is gone,” a sentiment that hit entirely too close to home for those who knew Cornell as well as those who often suffer in silence—forever searching for ways to deal with their own depression and anxiety.

At an impromptu memorial held at the radio station KEXP on the day of Cornell’s death, 400 people showed up to collectively grieve at the station’s gathering space. While addressing the crowd, long-time DJ John Richards said that “part of the city (of Seattle) had died” that day. Often, music is something that can be hugely helpful and cathartic when you’re trying to make sense of unfathomable events such as Cornell’s impossibly sad, untimely passing. And that is exactly the purpose of my post today—to share Soundgarden’s legacy by way of their sonic, ear-smashing music.

Though I know your social media feeds have likely been filled with news about the legendary vocalist, I really wanted to support as well as spread the idea of celebrating Cornell’s life and his work with Soundgarden, who are/were without question one of the greatest rock bands of the last 30 years. A large part of their appeal was, of course, the animal magnetism of Chris Cornell’s stage presence and his immaculate four-octave vocal range. Cornell was also the primary lyricist for Soundgarden, which helped solidify his deep connection to their fan base.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.22.2017
12:59 pm
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The Monkees’ last stand: Their final 1969 TV special ‘33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee’
05.22.2017
12:34 pm
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After the glorious fiasco that was the 1968 movie Head, the last project that the Monkees undertook as a quartet was a TV special for NBC called 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee. It’s basically the TV equivalent of Head, complete with corny jokes, audacious cameos, hummable ditties, and stuff that makes you scratch your noggin in puzzlement.

Like the band itself, 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee, which aired on April 14, 1969, is thoroughly of the Sixties, somehow managing to blend (say) the Batman TV show and Barbarella with musical performance shows of the day like Shindig! (which makes sense, as the producer of Shindig!, Jack Good, was involved with this as well.

The Monkees enlisted Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll to take care of the half-baked framing narrative, a crazed musical impresario (errr, Don Kirshner?) who turns the four Monkees into mindless automatons so that he can “brainwash the world!!” (I told you it was right out of Batman.) The Monkees’ arrival is highly reminiscent of the “beaming” effect on Star Trek, which had been out for a couple of years by that point, so that counts as a reference.

About a third of the way through the show, Auger (still in “sinister” character) explains the nature of the musical mind-control properties of the rock and roll piano chords via an audacious device—the camera shows Auger at the piano and strategically pans away from the action to reveal that Auger’s piano is perched on a piano played by Jerry Lee Lewis, which is perched on a piano played by Little Richard, which is perched on a piano played by Fats Domino. Like this:
 

 
It was probably no accident that the band chose a metaphor of being controlled by a sinister puppet master. After all, the Monkees’ story is the most vivid example in rock history of a band struggling to seize the means of production (we call them “instruments”) from the corporate overlords that had conjured them into being in the first place—in the show, Auger actually uses the word conjure to summon them into being. Later on in the show, the four fellows sing a discordant little ditty called “Wind Up Man” (as wind-up men), which included lyrics like this:
 

I’m a wind up man
Programmed to be entertaining
Turn the key
I’m a fully automatic
Wind up man
Invented by the teeny bopper
Turn me on
And I will sing a song about a
Wind up man

 
As mentioned, it would seem that the stress of being the world’s first purely manufactured rock and roll TV sensation had gotten to the boys…...

More fun than a barrel of Monkees after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.22.2017
12:34 pm
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Honda scooter ads featuring DEVO, Lou Reed, Miles Davis, Grace Jones, and Adam Ant
05.22.2017
10:46 am
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In the mid-1980s Honda had a series of quite dauntingly cool musicians hawking their scooters. They had particularly playful, sexy commercial in which Adam Ant and Grace Jones flirt with each other and then presumably fuck because they are so preposterously vital and attractive. Others featured DEVO, Berlin, Lou Reed, and Miles fucking Davis.

The Adam Ant/Grace Jones ad was “racy” enough that there was an edited version. In the full version Jones bites Ant’s ear, an act that doesn’t seem especially interesting. In any case, there was second version that trimmed the ear bite. The video below features both versions.

Were the commercials successful? I don’t know, Honda is still in business so probably, yeah. Do you know anyone who owns a Honda scooter? Hmmmmmm.
 

 
References to Reed‘s Honda commercial are inevitably rather amusing. Mick Wall in his book Lou Reed: The Life writes:
 

New Sensations was so listenable that ... it attracted the attention of an advertising agency executive, Jim Riswold, then chief copywriter for the Madison Avenue [actually Portland] giants Wieden & Kennedy. ... So he approached Lou Reed to help make an ad for Honda scooters.

At the time, Riswold recalled, “advertisers didn’t put people in commercials who had a long history of drug addiction, and of course [Lou Reed] was a man who at one time in his life was married to a man, and that man was a transvestite, so I guess you could say he wasn’t your typical spokesman. But if you looked at who we were trying to sell scooters to, it was natural. Actually, when you look back at that commercial it seems pretty damn tame today.”

Actually, at the time it just seemed plain hilarious. Lou Reed in a TV commercial? Selling scooters?

 
As Wall points out later, it was doubly weird because in the title track of New Sensations, Reed rhapsodized about a competing vehicle, the Kawasaki GPx750 Turbo motorcycle, singing that “the engine felt good between my thighs.”

Similarly, here’s Nick Kent, in the anthology Miles on Miles: Interviews and Encounters with Miles Davis:
 

America’s TV heartland has already witnessed this curious image of a man, a skinny figure with gleaming skin and what remains of his hair curling all over his shoulders: his hands grip (what else?) a trumpet, his lithe form is slouched against a small Japanese scooter, his eyes stare out at the viewer with imperious disdain. Then the voice, emanating from that shredded, node-less killing-floor of a larynx, mutters, “I ain’t here to talk about this thing, I’m here to ride it.”

 
Watch the Honda scooter commercials after the jump….....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.22.2017
10:46 am
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Buffalo: Australia’s answer to Black Sabbath
05.22.2017
08:37 am
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Buffalo and Black Sabbath
 
The Australian band Buffalo was one of the earliest acts to show an obvious debt to heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath. Their Sabbath-inspired debut, Dead Forever…, came out in 1972 and sold over 25,000 copies. The Sydney-based group was signed to Vertigo Records, which was also Sabbath’s label in Australia.

Prior to the release of their third album, a live Buffalo set was recorded for Australian TV, with portions airing over multiple nights during the GTK (as in “get to know”) program. The below video is a collection of the five clips, ending with their version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” which doesn’t appear on any Buffalo LP. If you want to skip to “Paranoid,” start at 19:47, though I’d suggest you watch the whole damn thing. You’ll be glad you did.
 

 

Posted by Bart Bealmear
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05.22.2017
08:37 am
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Guided by Voices make their drunken TV debut on ‘The Jon Stewart Show’
05.19.2017
10:39 am
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Before he took over the hosting duties of The Daily Show in 1999, comedian Jon Stewart had his very own late-night talk show, The Jon Stewart Show, which aired weeknights on MTV. The short-lived program lasted just two seasons (1993-1995) but despite its failure to garner high ratings, Stewart would achieve much fanfare among the MTV clientele. Besides launching Stewart’s career as a TV host, The Jon Stewart Show boasted an impressive list of musical guests, many getting exposure to a mainstream audience for the first time. Memorable performances include those by Quicksand, Killing Joke, Slayer, Body Count, The Breeders, Marilyn Manson, Sunny Day Real Estate, Bad Religion, Rocket from the Crypt, Naughty by Nature, Danzig, Warren Zevon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Notorious BIG, Redd Kross, and many more.
 
The sixty-fourth episode of The Jon Stewart Show saw appearances by celebrity guests Anthony LaPaglia, Lisa Rinna, Matt Borlenghi and featured the television debut of lo-fi indie rock heroes Guided by Voices. The performance, which aired on March 30th in 1995, contained three numbers from GBV’s seminal album Alien Lanes, which would be released later that week on Matador. Almost as noteworthy as Guided by Voices’ relentless musical output of simplistic rock ballads (under two minutes), was their celebrated pastime of bigtime boozing. Their alcoholic aspirations were even pursued on live television performances, as vocalist Robert Pollard can be seen throughout the first half gripping a red Solo cup—the sign of a pro (see also Bannon, Steve) just moments away from full-blown inebriation.
 

GBV perform “King and Caroline” into “Motor Away”
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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05.19.2017
10:39 am
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The Apprehension Engine: The most terrifying musical instrument of all time
05.19.2017
10:03 am
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I recently fell down a rabbit-hole of “unusual musical instrument” videos while doing some research on aquaphones for some indie-horror soundtrack work I’m doing. While aquaphones and theremins are the go-to instruments when thinking of “classic” horror sounds, I happened to run across the ultimate terror instrument—a home-made device that can produce a wide array of horrific soundscape elements all in one compact unit.  “The Apprehension Engine,” as it is called, was created by Canadian guitar maker Tony Duggan-Smith as a “one off” for Mark Korven, who is best known for his soundtrack work on The VVitch.

The unit has a hurdy-gurdy-like mechanism, along with a spring reverb, suspended metal parts which can be used percussively or played with a bow, and a string which can be played with an Ebow. The echoey sounds coaxed from this machine are other-worldly and much more terrifyingly organic than similar tonalities which may be produced digitally through synthesis.

According to one of the comments on the video from a week ago, Duggan-Smith is considering the idea of producing more of these infernal machines. If that’s the case, I’d like to be added to the waiting list!

Fans of Harry Partch and other outsider musical instruments, take note!

See this amazing instrument in action, after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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05.19.2017
10:03 am
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Sun Ra’s recipe for Moon Stew
05.19.2017
09:23 am
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Starting in the sixties, when Sun Ra and his Arkestra were living in a communal house in the East Village, the group sometimes subsisted on a home-cooked vegetarian meal named after their lunar complement. Like Gurdjieff’s salad, not all of its ingredients could be precisely measured, says Ra’s biographer John F. Szwed:

Sometimes when they were short of money for food [Sun Ra] took over the cooking, and his cooking was like the music, individualized, spiritually guided, mysteriously concocted. Moon Stew was his chief dish, a mix of green peppers, onion, garlic, potatoes, okra, tomatoes, and ears of corn. And when it was done right, he said you could taste each ingredient individually. Once when he was asked to share the recipe for a musicians’ cookbook, he warned the authors that there were no fixed proportions to it, and that it required the ingredients of sincerity and love, to say nothing of the ability to make the fire burn with psychic intensity:

“You can’t say, ‘One teaspoon of this, or one teaspoon of that.’ Like a musician, you improvise. It’s like being on a spirit plane; you put the proper things in without knowing why. It comes out wonderful when it’s done like that. If you plan it, it doesn’t work.”

The cookbook was Jazz Cooks: Portraits and Recipes of the Greats, which included recipes for Dave Brubeck’s burgers and Max Roach’s corn. One of the book’s editors told the LA Times Sun Ra made him work for the Moon Stew recipe:

“I sat with him for an hour and a half, and it was hard to keep him on planet Earth,” Young said. “He never did give exact amounts of his ingredients, or cooking time, but he really went on about what he ate as a child.”

The Arkestra’s current director, Marshall Allen, recently confirmed that no one makes Moon Stew like Sonny did:

I tried making the Moon Stew myself. I used all the same ingredients like him, but it didn’t taste like his.

 

 
As reported by the food blog A Slice of Earthly Delight, the unharmonized melody goes like this:

Moon Stew

Ingredients:
Green Peppers
Onions
Garlic
Okra
Tomatoes
Corn
Flour
Butter or Vegetable Oil
Broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Sincerity
Love

1) Chop the vegetables.

2) Bring the broth to a simmer on the stove while making a rue. To make the rue, melt the butter or vegetable oil in a pan and add flour, stirring until it reaches the consistency of wet sand. Stir a little of the broth into the rue and then add the rue into the broth.

3) Add the vegetables, salt, pepper, sincerity, and love to the broth.

4) Cook for at least one hour and serve to family and friends!

At 44:09 in the interview below, Marshall Allen and Danny Thompson of the Sun Ra Arkestra (now on tour) describe life in the Sun Palace, the Arkestra’s former East Village digs.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.19.2017
09:23 am
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Disneyland’s mega-discotheque Videopolis was the ultimate 1980s dance party experience
05.18.2017
09:47 am
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“Tonight’s your special night for an exclusive premiere of the summer’s newest hotspot—Videopolis. It’s the dancing, dating, party scene you’re going to hear a lot about. The volume’s cranked up, the videos are rolling. And the lighting effects? A real killer! Tonight, you’ll be the first to experience this high-tech, high-energy nightclub phenomenon.”

When the obviously un-cool Michael Eisner became Disney’s C.E.O. he was desperate to appeal to teenagers and young adults. In an attempt to attract edgier teens of the MTV generation Eisner developed Videopolis: an epic 5,000 square foot all-ages discotheque located just west It’s a Small World in Fantasyland, strategically placed in the corner of the park where the loud volume would not disturb the other park guests. This state-of-the-art, $3 million outdoor venue complete with hundreds of neon lights & lasers, 70 video monitors displaying music videos, spotlights shooting into the sky, a snack bar called “Yumz,” and a dance floor large enough hold 3,000 guests opened on June 22nd, 1985. It was constructed in just 105 days using some staging elements from a 1984 Los Angeles Olympics facility. A sophisticated light show slowly lowered from the ceiling, and three camera crews captured dancers and projected them onto two 16-foot screens as computer generated “light sticks” effects were superimposed onto them in real time.
 

 
Imagineer Carl Bongiorno described Videopolis as “the first, the fastest, and the finest… it is the first attraction completed under the new Eisner-Wells team. The fastest construction project we’ve ever completed, and the finest dance facility of its kind anywhere.” To help make the attraction popular and affordable to teens, Disneyland introduced the “Summer’s Night Pass” for just $40 which gave you a Videopolis membership card plus admission into the park every evening after 5pm all summer long. Local 106.7 FM KROQ deejay Swedish Egil gave away prizes such as a $25 gift certificate to Tower Records, a Sony AM/FM Walkman, and free concert tickets to the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. Every night, Videopolis would play “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood during the fireworks show which took place right above the dance floor, offering partying guests a spectacular view.
 

 
Many special videotaped events were held where popular singers like Rick Ashley and DeBarge performed live. A 2-hour TV special titled Disneyland’s Summer Vacation Party aired in 1986 and featured Miami Sound Machine, Boy George, The Bangles, and Oingo Boingo performing live on the Videopolis stage. In 1987 Videopolis had a short run as a TV series on the recently launched Disney Channel. Hosted by Randy Hamilton, the show spotlighted top-notch dancers as well as awkward teens who would interact with celebrity guests such as Debbie Gibson, New Kids on the Block, Tiffany, New Edition, Pebbles, and Janet Jackson.

The Disney dance party’s popularity soared in the late ‘80s surpassing its competition over at Knott’s Berry Farm’s “Club K” which was attracting up to 2,000 teenagers a night. Not all parents approved, and one mother wrote to the Anaheim Bulletin warning of “Punkers in Fantasyland,” claiming that since the dance club opened “It’s Halloween every day” at Disneyland.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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05.18.2017
09:47 am
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