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After dinner with theremin pioneer Clara Rockmore and Robert Moog


 
Theremins are associated with the Beach Boys and as a cheesy sound effect used for UFOs in sci-fi movies from decades ago, although actually in both cases the instrument in question is actually a Tannerin, otherwise known as an electrotheremin, which is far easier to manipulate to get the desired tones—that was developed by Paul Tanner, trombonist with the Glenn Miller Band.

But this is the theremin we’re talking about, and you can’t talk about the development or popularity of the theremin without discussing Clara Rockmore. A native of Lithuania, Rockmore (1911-1998) has been called the “premiere artiste of the electronic music medium” (look at the album cover below), “the greatest theremin virtuosa” and “probably the world’s first electronic music star.”

Rockmore’s given name was Clara Reisenberg—her sister was the well-regarded pianist Nadia Reisenberg. In pictures, Rockmore seems like (in younger pics) a magician’s assistant or (as she gets older) someone’s dowdy old aunt. But don’t let appearances fool you—Rockmore was pretty badass. Léon Theremin, inventor of the instrument that bore his name, wanted to marry her and proposed several times, but she turned him down cold and married an attorney instead. In 1940 she toured the U.S. with none other than Paul Robeson. She was 66 years old in 1977 when her first album, The Art of the Theremin, was released. (Actually, the album in question, pictured below, hardly has a discernable title—if anything it’s Theremin—but over time it has come to be called The Art of the Theremin.)
 

 
Nobody seems to know when the footage in the clip below was taken, but judging from the quality of the video, the haircuts, and the clothes, I’d say it was the mid- to late 1970s. In attendance are Clara Rockmore and her sister Nadia; Nadia’s son Bob Sherman, who introduces the scene; Dr. Robert Moog; and Dr. Thomas Ray, who is named as a scholar of electronic music. Moog, of course, produced The Art of the Theremin, which perhaps serves as another clue as to the timing of this clip.

I really dig the odd sculptural item in the middle of the table, with the dangling silver orbs. After a few minutes’ chitchat about the theremin, Rockmore treats us to a few minutes of “Hebrew Melody.”
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Billy Idol says punk ‘didn’t make a dent in the political system’
11.12.2014
07:31 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Billy Idol


 
In an interview with The Big Issue, Billy Idol, punk rock’s biggest mainstream apostate, gave some blunt answers to questions about punk’s early days and its impact.

Was punk really the revolution it is supposed to have been or was it a natural evolution of what was going on at the time?
It did come in the form of a revolution but at the same time it was rock ‘n’ roll music forwarding itself into the new age. There was a lot of prog rock in the ’70s, which was cool and everything, but there became a glut and it was very difficult for anything else to break through. There were great guitar pieces but a dearth of songs.

Punk was not just about music though, was it also redefining politics and protest?
Punk rock opened the door to people like me – the marginalised. We got a chance to do something artistic with our lives. Everybody was exploring the artistic side partly because the Pistols said there is no future, there’s no future for you. That was a rallying call. That was the revolution.

The Pistols sang about there being no future, were they proved right?
I think they were to be honest. There was so much unrest. We believed in mixed communities and race mixing, not a country just for the white English. You got your head kicked in for it but that’s England sometimes! In some ways what’s going on now is reminiscent of those times.

So when you became famous and commercially successful, did you feel you had betrayed where you had come from?
Punk had done what it set out to do to a certain extent and it didn’t make a dent in the political system. Margaret Thatcher got in! That was scary. You went, “Fuck all that shouting, nothing happened!” It was demoralising. I didn’t see it as betraying anything at all. I saw it as moving on as an artist. I don’t think I did anything except follow my heart and that’s what punk was all about.

In his dismissal of punk’s political impact and his handwaving of sellout accusations, you kind of have to allow that the man has a point. Never mind what you think of his music, Thatcher DID get in. Thousands of “I Hate Reagan” bands made not even a tiny dent in Reagan’s horrifying 1984 landslide victory. And Fugazi, at last count, stopped ZERO wars, though Ian MacKaye’s brave anti t-shirt stance remains proudly unblemished. (No, it doesn’t.) It’s painful to allow this, but as populist music movements go, punk may think it has a lock on righteousness, but hippie was infinitely more effective in the realm of politics. Still, fuck hippies, though, don’t get me wrong…

There’s more to the interview. Not to spoil, but it turns out that “Dancing with Myself” actually was just about dancing. Far less surprisingly, Idol’s recently published memoir shares its title with that song.

Here’s a look at Idol when he sorta mattered some, as singer for Generation X. Marvel at the video editor’s complete disregard for synchronization!
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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This is it—the single most beautiful vinyl record I’ve ever laid eyes on
11.12.2014
06:21 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
vinyl
Unconscious Collective


 
Since the advent of digital B2B and streaming, the promotional records and CDs that labels used to send to music writers like junk mail are now mostly a thing of the past. This bums me out somewhat. Digital is fine, I like hearing new music irrespective of the “container” it comes in, but not only am I an incorrigible vinyl hoarder (and don’t get me started on the whole uncomfortable commodity-fetish aspect of that hobby, believe me, I KNOW IT), getting surprise records in the mail is just a lot of fun.

So when, unbidden, I got a vinyl copy of Unconscious Collective’s epic 2xLP Pleistocene Moon in the mail, it was a nice surprise, and it felt pleasantly like a throwback. Then I opened it to behold the most beautiful records I’ve ever seen. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. If what follows seems uncomfortably like a record-boy travesty of the business card passage from American Psycho so be it: each record is a lush, opulent vortex of a dense, eggshell cream and a raw, subterranean gold. They feel satisfyingly hefty in the hand, the 180-gram thickness of the media imparting further depth to colors that seem, almost magically, to alight and shimmer just beneath the grooves. It is stunning and elegant. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of great-looking records. This is the best. The glamor shots provided by the label and pressing plant don’t even come close to doing justice to these slabs, so I had a try at shooting some record-porn with my own DSLR. I think I got a lot closer, but this still ain’t quite there; alas, only reality is reality.
 

 

 

 

 
The packaging is equal to the media. Printed and foilstamped on heavyweight unbleached artboard (again with the Patrick Bateman-ing, sorry), the sleeve and inserts feature the cyanotype and tintype photography of artist Ginger Berry. Both of those processes are well older than anyone reading this, and so impart a distinctively antique look. Further, the package includes three 12x12” collodion photographs of the band’s members in their stage costumes, reprinted on linen paper. I absolutely adore it when a band goes to the trouble to make a release a proper art object, and Unconscious Collective have gone several extra miles on this one. Again, pixels fail to properly convey the depth and sheen you’d see in the real thing.
 

 

 

 

 
So now, at last, I’ll actually talk about the tunes: Unconscious Collective are Texan brothers Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez (bass and drums, respectively) with guitarist Gregg Prickett, and their music is a beefy and ritualistic jazz/prog/post-metal hybrid that’s full of amazing moments. Do not mistake this for mere jazz fusion. Their jazz elements are sinewy and tasteful, and contrived more to resonate emotionally than to showcase any one member’s ability to play tricky passages—though they can and do. And their rock has a goddamn spine of steel. (It’s entirely fitting that some tracks here feature the saxophone of Mike Forbes, of the equally powerful and genre-defiant Chicago jazzists Tiger Hatchery, who are one of my all-time absolute favorite bands to see live, and whose Sun Worship album is essential.) I could probably wax as rhapsodic about the music on this godmonster of an album as I have about the art, but there’s no need. Tofu Carnage Records have very graciously given us permission to stream the entire LP right here on DM, so you can hear it all for yourself.
 

 
Lastly, to give you an idea of the U.C. live experience (health issues forestalled their tour until this coming spring), here’s a live-in-studio video of the band performing “Kotsoteka.”
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Other Voices: The Doors without Jim Morrison, 1972
11.11.2014
11:28 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
The Doors


 
When Jim Morrison died in a Paris apartment bathtub at the age of 27 on July 3, 1971, the remaining Doors decided to continue. After considering replacing the late Lizard King with a new singer, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek decided to switch off on lead vocals. They would go on to release two more albums before breaking up in 1973. Both were constant denizens of dollar cut-out bins and neither album has ever been released on CD in America.

Almost immediately after Morrison’s untimely demise, they recorded Other Voices (get it?) during the summer of 1971, and that album saw release in October. Other Voices’ single was a number called “Tightrope Ride” sung by Manzarek. To support the record, the Jim-less Doors began performing live again with additional musicians, playing gigs during November in Lincoln, Nebraska, Carnegie Hall in New York and the Hollywood Palladium.
 

 
The following spring, they went into the studio again to record the jazzy sounding Full Circle which was released in August 1972. But before that album came out, beginning in May, they toured Europe joined by Jack Conrad on bass (he was on both albums) and rhythm guitarist Bobby Ray Henson. Here’s what little evidence exists of that outing, an appearance on Germany’s Beat-Club television show. Although it is 3/4 of The Doors, most of this sounds like a completely different group of musicians (variously they sound like Moby Grape, the Dead or a less funky Santana and the sole Morrison-era song is “Love Me Two Times.”) It’s not like it’s bad, but neither would anyone mistake it for being great. Still, I don’t want to slam the Doors, this set is an odd curio of the band’s career and not without its charm or interest.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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He’s gonna booglarize you, baby: Hear an amazing unreleased Captain Beefheart song
11.11.2014
09:27 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Captain Beefheart


 

“Art is rearranging and grouping mistakes.”
—Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart

It’s been said many times before, but Captain Beefheart was truly one of the great musical minds. Don Van Vliet mixed rock, jazz and blues to create his own brand of music that was a kind of avant rock. The Captain’s songs might’ve sounded chaotic, but they were actually painstakingly precise. Some of them were even catchy!
 
Sun Zoom Spark
 
Rhino’s new Beefheart boxed set, Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972, comes out November 17th, and includes the three albums that followed his groundbreaking double LP, Trout Mask Replica (1969), as well as a disc of previously unreleased outtakes. The CD of outtakes is enough to excite any Captain Beefheart fan, but the album that immediately followed Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970) has been out-of-print for years, and is just as essential as Trout Mask—even more so, dare I say.
 

 
Both Lick My Decals Off, Baby and the Captain himself nearly passed me by. The first Beefheart album I bought was a vinyl reissue of Trout Mask Replica—a legendary and revered release, and one of the strangest records to ever be labeled “rock.” But I just didn’t get it. I was a big fan of Frank Zappa (Don’s friend, closest musical comparison, and producer of TMR), but I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I set it aside, figuring I would give it another chance down the road.
 
Zappa and the Captain
Zappa and the Captain

A couple of years later, I though I’d give a different CB record a try, and picked up the reissue of Lick My Decals Off, Baby—and I couldn’t get enough of it. I would blast those tunes on my drive to the retail gig I had at the time, and it was comforting to listen to something so wonderfully stupefying before I had to re-join the world of normal people. For years, this was the only Beefheart album I felt I needed, and it would be a decade before I got into (and fell for) his late period records, Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (1978). I wouldn’t fully grasp Trout Mask Replica until after Don passed in 2010. I still prefer Decals. As it turns out, I’m not the only one:

You put on Lick My Decals Off, Baby, and at first it’s what the fuck…Then there are songs you would immediately dig, like ‘I Love You, You Big Dummy.’ Crazy, abstract, but still friendly, you know. Trout Mask would be hard to listen to for someone who didn’t know his music, but Decals, you find out it’s not quite as spooky…Once you get it, that connection, you feel closer to him. You feel this good-hearted, caring human being.
—David Hidalgo of Los Lobos

 

 
For his next album, The Spotlight Kid (1972), Van Vliet made a conscious effort to make his music more appealing to the masses. The record is a bluesy affair, and while it’s consistent, it doesn’t seem to find the Captain particularly inspired. Having said that, there are a few stellar tracks, including “Blabber ‘n Smoke,” a fantastic song that contains the Captain’s most humane lyric ever (“Clean up the air and treat the animals fair.”). Ultimately, the album wasn’t commercially successful. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, and a big Beefheart fan, sums up The Spotlight Kid: “You can’t call it conventional, but it certainly was friendlier.”
 
Clear Spot shirt
 
Clear Spot followed later that same year. The album is a schizophrenic mix of material, as if Don wasn’t sure which road he wanted to head down next. Some songs are similar in feel to the ones found on The Spotlight Kid, yet have more of the Captain’s distinctive sonic stamp. Lots of significant stuff here, including the absolutely transcendent “Big Eyed Beans From Venus,” but there are a couple of songs (“Crazy Little Thing” and “Long Neck Bottles”) that are so dumbed-down you can hardly believe this is the same artist. Fans may have accused Beefheart of attempting to cash-in during this period, but if “Too Much Time” is a sell-out, then it’s the greatest sell-out song of ALL TIME. It’s an awesome soul number that shoulda been hit.

The outtakes disc covers material recorded during The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot eras. It’s a fascinating compilation, as it includes early versions of tracks that would turn up on later albums, and it also features songs that are otherwise unavailable. A few are instrumentals, so the focus is on the gargantuan talents of the Magic Band, the rotating group of incredible musicians the Captain assembled. Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase here: This collection has to be one of the best outtakes discs ever assembled. This shit just (blabbers and) smokes, and the sound quality is top-notch. You can hear what I mean for yourself, as we have an exclusive preview of one of the oh-so-sweet previously unreleased tunes, “Two Rips in a Haystack”/“Kiss Me My Love.”
 

 
“I am my own artist,” Van Vliet once stated. “I like to listen to music, but I won’t trace.” Perhaps that’s the rationale for why Captain Beefheart wasn’t commercially successful, but it’s also just happens to be the reason fans continue to love his work. There was truly no one else like him.

Below, the television commercial for Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Yes, there was a TV commercial!

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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Neil Diamond fans, this excellent BBC ‘In Concert’ show from 1971 is a must-see
11.11.2014
08:10 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Neil Diamond


 
We’ve posted several vintage 70s BBC In Concert programs on the blog, wonderfully intimate performances featuring the likes of Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Carole King, James Taylor, The Carpenters, David Crosby and Graham Nash taped in front of small studio audiences at the old BBC Television Centre in London. With each of the artists they featured, the BBC sets are probably the very best records we have of these performers in their youthful prime. That would most certainly seem to the case with Neil Diamond’s set for the series. It smokes.

Admittedly I’m not all that big on Neil Diamond after his early years—he loses me pretty fast by the time he’s in his “hairy chest and glittery open shirt live at the Greek Theatre” phase, plus he and Billy Joel practically invented MOR—but when it comes to the first hits he racked up in the earlier part of his performing career, numbers like “Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Shilo,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Song Sung Blue,” “I Am…I Said,” “Kentucky Woman”—well, the man could do no wrong. He wrote “I’m a Believer” for chrissakes! I love Neil Diamond, but it’s a pretty specific sliver of his six decade career that I love.
 

 
So basically I only have two pre-1972 Neil Diamond CDs—this one and this one, to be exact—but believe me when I tell you that they’re never far from the speed rack or out of the car.

This is, in my opinion at least, when Diamond was at his peak. The show is seriously rad, dad and features a set list comprised of “Sweet Caroline,” “Solitary Man,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Done Too Soon,” a killer recital of “A Modern Day Version Of Love” at 16:22, “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother,” “Holly Holy,” “I Am I Said” and rounding out with a rousing “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” with its revival tent rap.

A better selection of Neil Diamond performances you simply could not ask for. Turn it up loud.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on ‘MTV Live ‘N’ Loud,’ 1997
11.11.2014
05:55 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
MTV
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds


 
In 1997, around the release of The Boatman’s Call, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds taped an episode of MTV’s Live ‘N’ Loud. Since Boatman was a significantly more sedate record than its predecessor, Murder Ballads, the “Loud” part of the title maybe wasn’t such a hot fit for the band’s music at the time, but the broadcast nonetheless featured a superb short set, shot in low-key black and white, of four Boatman songs, plus “The Carny” from 1986.

This MTV taping came less than a year, mind you, after Cave declined his nomination for an MTV music award with one of the funniest refusals of all time. (His problem wasn’t with MTV per se, but with competitions in the arts, though he has plenty of other awards, so who knows what was really up.) The jaw-dropping passage “MY MUSE IS NOT A HORSE AND I AM IN NO HORSE RACE AND IF INDEED SHE WAS, STILL I WOULD NOT HARNESS HER TO THIS TUMBREL—THIS BLOODY CART OF SEVERED HEADS AND GLITTERING PRIZES” would, in a better world, be immortal. The letter is still published in its entirety on Cave’s site, and also here on Dangerous Minds, so if you wish to read it at either of those places, knock yourself out, the video will still surely be here when you’re done.

Here’s the set list with rough start times if you want to skip to something:
00:21 “Into My Arms”
05:02 “Brompton Oratory”
08:51 “West Country Girl”
11:46 “Far From Me”
17:46 “The Carny”
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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When Iggy Pop was on ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’


 
In 1998 Iggy Pop guest-starred on an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as a Vorta overseer named “Yelgrun” from the planet Kurill Prime. Admittedly I never watched the Deep Space Nine series, but had I known back then that James Osterberg was going have a small role on it, I would have definitely tuned in.

Producer Ira Steven Behr was a massive Iggy fan and had always wanted him to be on the show. According to Memory Alpha:

...Behr made a point of visiting the set during production of the episode, which was something of a rarity due to his busy schedule. “For Iggy I would not be denied!” Behr joked. “I was a happy boy.” Similarly, Hans Beimler recalled, “Ira was thrilled! For cryin’ out loud, Iggy Pop has been a hero of his for years. I’ve heard about Iggy Pop since I’ve known him. I’ve seen Iggy Pop posters in his home. What can I say? The man was in heaven.”

Though he was excited to have Pop onboard for the episode, Behr did have concerns that the character perhaps wasn’t the best match for the singer, known for his wild stage presence. “I knew that the role was going to be tough for Iggy, because he’s a very kinetic performer”, Behr commented. “His physicality is certainly part of who he is, and unfortunately we cast him as a Vorta, one of the most immobile of characters.”

Behr declared that Pop was wonderful to work with and thought he nailed “...that demented quality the Vorta have, like Weyoun has-think Caligula! He was just a delight.”


Ira Steven Behr and Iggy Pop

Below, a video montage of Iggy’s most memorable scenes as “Yelgrun” from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “The Magnificent Ferengi.”

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Kate Bush’s former home is for sale, free turtle
11.10.2014
08:13 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Kate Bush


 
Kate Bush lived in this lavish 6-bedroom house in Eltham from 1985 through 2003 before selling the property to a Jackie O’Reilly, who put the house up for sale a couple of weeks ago. The initial price tag was £3 million (nearly $4.8 million) but has been reduced by £375,000 since the first listing. Eltham lies southwest of central London, about a half-hour’s drive away.
 

 
O’Reilly says, “I grew up in Eltham, and we always knew it as Kate Bush’s house, and caught odd glimpses of her. ... But she clearly valued her privacy. The house is surrounded by large trees, to keep out prying eyes.” The impressive wrought-iron sign over the front gate reading “Wuthering Heights,” which is also the name of Bush’s first single from 1978 and the only song of hers to reach #1 on the U.K. charts, was added not by Bush but by O’Reilly. “The house was already called that in the title deeds, so we decided to put that in as a homage to Kate,” she said. Parts of a video promoting “Wuthering Heights” were shot in what is now O’Reilly’s daughter’s bedroom.
 

 

 

 
Several more pictures of Kate Bush’s house, plus one featuring that turtle, after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Free Aphex Twin: Download 21-track digital album of modular synth experiments
11.10.2014
07:28 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Aphex Twin


 
Richard D. James has been on a bit of a freebie spree lately. In addition to sharing outtakes from Aphex Twin’s orchestral performances and a handful of songs he claims were composed by his five-year-old son, now, per Fact Mag:

Aphex Twin has shared more than 30 previously unreleased tracks, including dozens of studio experiments on his modular synthesizer and early versions of Syro tunes, in the follow-up to last week’s interview with blogger Dave Noyze.

Among them is a collection of over 20 completed tracks made about 12 years ago on Buchla and Serge modular synthesizers, which Richard D. James aptly describes as “a fucking racket”

True enough, that. Though some of these compositions have rhythmic elements, nothing on here has anything approaching a “beat” in the dance music sense. It’s a pigpile of bonkers, loopy scary, hilarious electronic noise, and all of it is downloadable free of charge from AFX’s Soundcloud.
 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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