Before they shortened their name and became a Halloween-loving ska octet called Oingo Boingo, movie maestro Danny Elfman and his brother Richard Elfman were the leaders of the sprawling weirdo performance art/musical troupe, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Formed in early 70s Los Angeles, here’s a look at what their act back then was like, with this 1976 appearance on The Gong Show.
Richard Elfman is in the rocket, and Danny is playing the trombone. The celebrity judges are Buddy Hackett, Shari Lewis (sans Lampchop, sadly) and “Mr. Eddie’s father” and future Bruce Banner, Bill Bixby. They won that episode, receiving 24 points out of a possible 30, without getting gonged. You’ll recognize many of the faces here from Richard Elfman’s cult classic, Forbidden Zone.
We ended up becoming internet pen-pals of a sort. Through this, and through some of his friends (who all expressed great affection and protectiveness toward Leon) I learned more about his visual and performance art work. In that work, in his written word, and in some of the incredible monologues you can find from on YouTube, his presence radiates. All who knew him, and all who were touched by his spirit through those videos, will know what I mean when I say that he emanated deep sincerity, gentleness, a serenity and quiet wisdom. Leon was aware of his own mortality in ways most people are not. He transformed that awareness into a sort of mindfulness of how vast and awesome life is.
One day over email, Leon shared with me that the passing mentions of him that existed on Wikipedia were upsetting to him. He was mentioned only on the page for Die Antwoord, and under the page for his disease, progeria.
“I was a bit paranoid that my art wouldn’t be in there, in case something happened to me,” he said.
Leon was very mindful of the value of the internet as a reflection of human life, and an archive of the living after they die. He wanted to be understood as a complex, self-determined, thoughtful creator and connector and thinker. Not as a disease, and not as a footnote in someone else’s better-known story. He wanted to be known for who he really was while he was alive. He wanted us to respect him, and his work, after he was gone.
Recently, our email exchanges seemed to include more and more news of challenging physical hardships from Leon. He never complained, but when I asked after longer silences, he shared. I can’t imagine the physical suffering he endured.
“I always thought when I was little, like, all of this is okay,” he wrote in one email. “Just please don’t let it reach the levels where it is now.”
Read more of In memoriam: Leon Botha, South African artist, DJ, and wonderful human being (Boing Boing)
Hardcore heroes Fucked Up’s new album is released today. David Comes To Life is being touted in some quarters as a modern classic, a rock opera romance for the ages set in 80s Thatcherite Britain. So is it that good? You can make your own mind up by listening to it in full at this link. Or, if you like what you have already heard, you can just go ahead and buy it here. There is more info on the album at Davidcomestolife.com.
Before Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City hit the markets in the late ‘80s, New York culture maven Michael Holman first made the move to put hip-hop culture on TV with the show Graffiti Rock.
In 1984, Holman—who played music with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Vincent Gallo in the legendarily obscure band Grey—got a bunch of banker friends to put together $150,000 to shoot the pilot for the series at Madison Ave. and 106th St. It screened on WPIX channel 11 in June 1984.
Holman turned the show into a seminar on the culture. Alongside future superstars Run D.M.C., Kool Moe Dee and Shannon—and cameos by “Prince Vince” Gallo and Debi Mazar—he featured his own crew the New York City Breakers, pieces by graf artist Brim, and hilarious slang translations. For the time, the show is pretty slick and ready for prime-time. Holman picks up the tragic story from there…
So the show airs and actually does much better than people thought! We got great ratings and aired in 88 syndicated markets, nationwide. But when we went to Las Vegas to sell the show at NAPTE (National Association of Producers of Television Entertainment) we hit a wall. First, the station managers (the people responsible for purchasing new shows in their markets) didn’t understand why “Graffiti Rock,” and hip hop was different to what Soul Train was offering. Secondly, certain stations wouldn’t take the chance to buy “Graffiti Rock,” unless other, larger markets did first. Chicago was waiting on L.A. to bite, and L.A. was waiting on New York. But the major New York syndicated stations at the time, were controlled by unsavory characters, and they wanted money under the table to put the show on the air! My main investors refused to deal with these forces (I of course would have done whatever I had to to get it on the air, and am still pissed they didn’t play along!)...
Graffiti Rock proved a legendary snapshot into what hip-hop TV was about to be. What a shot in the arm it would have been for the culture. Gnarls Barkley would later lovingly spoof Holman and the show for the video for their 2008 hit “Run” and before that, the Beastie Boys sampled Holman’s excellent little seminar on scratching in pt. 2 on their tune “Alright Hear This.”
I’ll leave part 3 of the YouTube of Graffiti Rock off this post in an appeal for you to reward a culture hero like Holman by buying the DVD.
It’s a Saturday night and I’m feelin’ alright… and this excellent dj mix is just too damn good not to share!
“Boogie” is an often overlooked subset of disco and funk. It peaked in the early 80s when many of the acts from the disco era looked for a new dancefloor style, swapped their guitars for synthesizers and modified their syncopation to suit the popular roller disco phenomenon. Though relatively short lived and with no major artists representing the style in the mainstream (outside of funk-pop acts like Cameo or the more P-Funk-y Zapp) it managed to be hugely influential. It reared its head again for a while in the 90s when many of the original records found themselves being sampled in hip-hop and in particular g-funk, courtesy of producers like Dr Dre. It’s a very West Coast sound, and when it comes down to it nobody knows boogie quite like Dam Funk.
Dam Funk - “Hood Pass Intact”
This native Los Angelino’s name should be familiar to music cognoscenti, as he has released a string of records to much critical acclaim on San Francisco’s Stones Throw label, including the mammoth 2009 5-LP set Toeachizown. A man with a strong fetish for original FM and analog synths, his sound is definitely heavily influenced by early 80s funk and disco and 90s hip-hop, while maintaining a singular sound and atmosphere.
But Dam Funk is not just a talented producer, he is also an excellent DJ, as this awesome set proves. Although he hosts a weekly funk shindig in Los Angeles called Funkmosphere, this recording is taken from the first birthday party of the London night Deviation, and uploaded to Soundcloud by the BBC Radio 1 DJ Benji B. Dam is what is known as a “personality DJ” who is not afraid to get on the mic, give shout outs to the audience, and tell us the names of the tunes he is playing. And damn are those tunes hot - I just keep playing this mix over and over, it’s that good.. You can find more info on Dam Funk (including tour dates, merch and downloads) on the Stones Throw website. But for now just hit play, blaze, boogie and have a great Saturday night:
Thanks to Kelvin Brown for the link.
The original video for Dam Funk’s DJ staple “Dangerzone” by Midnight Express (whose dancing zombies theme possibly pre-dates “Thriller”):
Amazing and hilarious, especially the clip with the mother and child. Here are The Rolling Stones at their satanic peak doing promo clips for the 1969 ABC-TV show Music Scene. Wikipedia had this to say about this odd phenomenon:
Existing promos initially used to sell this show to ABC affiliates featured the improvisational group The Committee, which featured actor Howard Hesseman (then using the name Don Sturdy), as well as the Rolling Stones. The promos implied that the Stones would be appearing with some regularity on the program. However by the time The Music Scene went on the air, the Committee was nowhere to be seen and the Stones never appeared on the show.
This of course sent me scurrying about finding clips from the actual show. Richard previously posted this one of Sly and the Family Stone. Here are a few other great ones for your weekend viewing pleasure:
Three Dog Night doing Laura Nyro’s “Eli’s Coming.” Heavy Hollywood/ Satanic/ pre-Manson/ Rosemary’s Baby vibe going on here.
“This series, which as been quite successful, features four young men who dress as ‘beatnik types’ and is geared primarily to the teenage market.”
A lot of it is still redacted, but here is the pertinent description of the concert from the file:
“…that ‘The Monkees’ concert was using a device in the form of a screen set up behind the performers who played certain instruments and sang as a ‘combo’. During the concert, subliminal messages were depicted on the screen which, in the opinion of [redacted] constituted ‘left wing innovations of a political nature.’ These messages and pictures were flashes of riots in Berkeley, anti-U.S. messages on the war in Vietnam, racial riots in Selma, Alabama, and similar messages which had received unfavorable response from the audience.”
There is a second Monkees-related document that remains classified!
Below, “Daily Nightly,” thought to be the first use of the Moog synthesizer in a pop song. Micky Dolenz saw one demonstrated at the Monterey Pop Festival and was amongst the first people to own one.
By now you’ve probably heard that assisted suicide advocate, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, AKA “Dr. Death,” died this morning at the age of 83.
But what you might not know is that Kevorkian was an accomplished painter and jazz musician.
Yep, it’s true. One day I was crate-digging in some record store in New York City and I came across his jazz CD, Kevorkian Suite: Very Still Life for a buck, so I bought it. The CD booklet has several full-color reproductions of his paintings, and as you can see in the video below, the subject matter of his paintings often pertained to rather macabre things, as I am sure will come as no surprise. And yes, that’s his music, he’s playing flute and organ. Not bad, but it wouldn’t be the last thing I’d want to hear…
Released only on VHS and Laserdisc in 1995, Neil Young’s film Human Highway, filmed in 1978, contains this marvelous footage of Young and Devo having their way with Hey Hey My My. Match made in heaven sez I ! Enjoy this excellent quality clip before the corporate music police take it down.