I’ve always read about this film, Louder, Faster, Shorter, directed by Mindaugis Bagdon (one of the contributors to the Search and Destroy ounk zine) but never saw it until today:
San Francisco, March 21, 1978. In the intense, original punk rock scene at the Mabuhay Gardens (the only club in town which would allow it), the Avengers, Dils, Mutants, Sleepers, and UXA played a benefit for striking Kentucy coal miners (“Punks Against Oppression!”), raising $3,300. The check was actually mailed and received. One of the only surviving 16 mm color documents of this short-lived era.
If you’d like your own copy of this film on DVD, they’ve got just a few left at RE/Search.
The Rolling Stones hanging out at Brian Jones’ Courtfield Road apartment for an Italian news item, in January 1967. Jones tickles the ivories, Jagger smokes, and Richard lies in bed strumming his guitar. The Stones were about to release Between the Buttons, their 5th U.K. and 7th U.S. studio album, and the last produced by Andrew Loog Oldham. As was the practice back then, the U.S. version differed from the U.K. release with tracks replaced with the singles “Ruby Tuesday”, and “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. The album was a glorious pop masterpiece, and contains the first hint of psychedelia (“Yesterday’s Papers”), which The Stones would focus on with the next album Their Satanic Majesties Request, and Keith Richard’s first lead vocal on “Something Happened to Me Yesterday”.
Though this clip has been over-dubbed, it doesn’t take away from its cultural importance, as it captures The Stones in a relaxed mood at the start of what would be one of their more difficult and controversial years. Within the year, Jagger and Richard were arrested, tried and sent to prison for drug possession. Jones suffered a similar fate, though escaped jail. Where their experience strengthened the bond between Jagger and Richard, it left the fragile Jones broken. Interesting then, to see from this clip, that Jones was the main focus and appeared to be the group’s leader, what a difference 12 months would make.
The best band that emerged out of the fertile soil of the UK punk movement in the 1970’s, is, for my money, The Damned. Sure, I love the Pistols, but they imploded as quickly as they emerged. The Clash were good but got bloated by the end. (Plus, I am forever bitter about having “Car Jamming” forced on me at a formative age. Really, guys?) But The Damned have never let us down. From their debut, Damned Damned Damned to the psychedelic rock infused masterpiece of their 2008 album, So, Who’s Paranoid, they have never sold out, gotten stodgy or taken the easy way out. With each album, you can hear a band that started off strong only get progressively better and more bold. Simply put, The Damned is one of the greatest bands ever and the time has finally come for their story and music to be embraced in documentary film mode.
Wes Orshoski, who was one-half of the directing team behind 2010’s excellent documentary, Lemmy, which coincidentally (or not) featured Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible from The Damned, has started work on the as-of-now untitled film project. As a longtime fan, this is extremely exciting and if it’s at least as good as Lemmy, then this is truly going to be a long overdue treat.
For more information, you can read about this on The Damned’s Official Site.
If there’s any one artist who represents everything that was revolutionary about disco music, it was Sylvester. It doesn’t matter how many Bee Gees, Ethel Mermans, Rod Stewarts, Boney Ms et al you can throw at the genre as a reason to hate it, the fact is that if it wasn’t for disco there is no way that a linebacker-sized, black, openly gay, outrageous, gender-bending performer like him could have reached the top of the world’s charts.
Sylvester broke every taboo going. In fact he didn’t just break them: he tore them up, threw them on the floor and stamped on them with uproarious glee, all while dragging you out to dance with his irresistable energy. He didn’t have to shout about any of his social or political inclinations because he was already living them, out in the open, for everyone to see.
Sylvester didn’t make “political music” because he didn’t have to: Sylvester’s very existence was inherently political.
That to me is the rub when it comes down to “disco” versus “punk”, and all that bullshit snobbery and scorn rock fans heaped on disco. Contrast Sylvester with any one of the gangs of middle class, straight, angry-at-whatever white boys that were supposedly turning the world upside down in the name of “punk” and it becomes clear who was really pushing social boundaries.
The fact that the music was instantaneous and accessible only deepens the subversive effect. It’s unfortunate that “disco” has become an easy way to dismiss that which genuinely does not fit the rock cannon’s hardened mould, be it for reasons of race, gender or sexuality, but the music itself never died away. It reverberates still with an incredible, universal power. Sylvester was a supremely talented vocalist and performer, and I just couldn’t take seriously any music aficionado who claimed not to be moved by “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real” (not to mention “I Who Have Nothing,” “I Need You,” “Do You Wanna Funk,” “I Need Somebody To Love Tonight,” etc, etc.)
And besides, if I had a choice between a bunch of white punk boys or black drag queens, I know who I’d rather party with.
Unsung is a series produced by TV One profiling some of the more over-looked, yet supremely talented, names in black music from the 70s and 80s. There’s much to enjoy here if soul, funk and R&B are your thing. Other artists covered include Teddy Pendergrass, Zapp, Rose Royce, the Spinners and many more.
But for now let’s just enjoy the uplifting, touching and ultimately tragic story of the real queen of disco music:
A special treat this Sunday for all our disco-fan readers outside the UK, The Joy Of Disco is a BBC documentary about that much derided music genre that seemed to come out of nowhere to change the world in the late 70s.
I’ve seen a lot of documentaries about disco, and this is undoubtedly one of the best. Featuring new interviews with many of the key players (Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers, Nona Hendryx, David Mancuso, Tom Moulton, Kathy Sledge, Nicky Siano and lots more) and some great, rare footage of top nitespots like The Gallery and Studio 54, this is a real treat for the disco fanatic.
But what really makes The Joy Of Disco so good (and well worth a watch, even if you are not a disco fan) is the placing of the music in its proper historical and social context. Disco was black, urban music that became the soundtrack to the gay liberation movement and, according to the program makers:
foregrounded female desire in the age of feminism and led to the birth of modern club culture as we know it today, before taking the world by storm.
All up to the (seemingly inevitable) racist and homophobic “Disco Sucks” backlash. That put paid to the faddishness of the genre, but ultimately, by driving it back underground to the gay and black clubs that spawned it, helped make it stronger than ever and actually did very little to kill the sheer joy of the music itself.
The Joy Of Disco explores these issues in the kind of detail they deserve. It aired on BBC4 on Friday night, and some industrious soul has already put it up on YouTube to share the love (yes, it’s another case of get it before it’s gone). This is highly recommended viewing - you won’t see anything this interesting, exciting or fabulously funky on your screens this evening:
Last year, DM colleague Marc Campbell started a series of posts on one-hit-wonders, with the mysterious J. Bastos and his hit “Loop Di Love”. Now, I’d like to add Lieutenant Pigeon, who were more of a 2 (or even 3, depending on your country) hit wonder, who topped the U.K. charts with their bizarrely catchy instrumental “Mouldy Old Dough” in October 1972.
Lieutenant Pigeon consisted of Stephen Johnson (bass), Nigel Fletcher (drums), Robert Woodward (keyboards, guitar, tin whistle), and his mother, Hilda Woodward (piano). The band was a side-line project for Woodward (who fronted the experimental music group Stavely Makepeace), and their musical style was greatly influenced by his mother Hilda’s rag-time piano playing.
Written by Woodward and Fletcher, “Mouldy Old Dough” was number 1 for 4 weeks in Britain in 1972, and was the second highest-selling single in the U.K. that year (after the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards with “Amazing Grace”). This was in a year that offered such wealth as Roxy Music “Virginia” Plain”, David Bowie “Starman”, “Jean Genie”, Marc Bolan “Metal Guru”, “Solid Gold Easy Action”, Slade “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, Alice Cooper “School’s Out”, and even “Pop Corn” by Hot Butter.
Hilda Woodward died aged 85 in 1999, but Lieutenant Pigeon still carry on making their own particular type of music.
Lester Chambers, former lead singer of The Chambers Brothers, highlights the hard reality of the record company’s exploitation of its artists. Chambers sang such hits as “Time Has come Today”, “People Get Ready”, “Uptown”, “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and “Funky”, went for almost thirty years without seeing a royalty check, and has still to see the majority of payment due to him for all of his recordings.
Last year, Chambers was inducted into the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame, which is an honor, but hardly full recompense for all the years of being screwed over by record companies.
I AM the former Lead Singer of a 60’s BAND. I performed before thousands at Atlanta Pop 2, Miami Pop, Newport Pop, Atlantic Pop. I did NOT squander my money on drugs or a fancy home. I went from 1967-1994 before I saw my first Royalty Check.
The Music Giants I recorded with only paid me for 7 of my Albums.
I have NEVER seen a penny in Royalties from my other 10 Albums I recorded. Our Hit Song was licensed to over 100 Films, T.V. & Commercials WITHOUT our permission. One Major TV Network used our song for a national Commercial and my payment was $625. dollars. I am now 72, trying to live on $1200 a month. Sweet Relief, a music charity is taking donations for me.
Only the 1% of Artist can afford to sue.
I AM THE 99%
Check here for the Lester Chambers’ Sweet Relief Charity Fund.
The Chambers Brothers perform “The Time Has Come Today”.
Stiv getting the V.I.P. treatment at The Starwood, Los Angeles. Photo: Jenny Lens.
Lords Of The New Church appearance on this 1982 edition of Nickelodeon’s ‘Live Wire’ is really quite extraordinary. Stiv Bators seems in a fugue state (probably hadn’t slept) as he talks about dreams, trance writing and the mystical act of creating music. And the young female audience not only gets it, they’re intrigued and curious. As Edgar Allen Poe is evoked, a sweet and acrid scent of blossoming gothettes fills the air and the cathode ray tube transmitting the vibe flickers like the shadows of falling angels bisecting the rays of a dead moon. Yes, these pubescent blond women will be going home and dying their hair jet black tonight and in the afternoon when they wake they will see themselves as they truly are: trash, beautiful unadulterated trash, and they will go forth and become slaves to the Lords of rock and work in strip joints to buy their heavy metal lovermen new guitars and tight leather pants. Yes, ‘Live Wire’ was the secret spawning ground for a generation of enslaved rock bitches. Nickelodeon, the Devil’s network
In the mid-80s my band was on a tour of West Coast clubs that was one day behind The Lords tour of the same. We’d arrive the day after The Lords had played the club the night before. As part of Stiv’s stage show he would place his head in a noose and swing out over the audience. The following day when my band would arrive at the club there was usually a piece of cut rope still dangling from a ceiling beam. Like Hansel and Gretel, Stiv had left his trail behind him, a lethally impotent necklace of hemp
Stiv Bators was one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known. He was fearless, reckless and foolish. He thought his body was immortal but a taxi cab in Paris proved him wrong.