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Instead of diseased lungs, what about putting obnoxious assholes on cigarette packs?
05.20.2016
11:50 am

Topics:
Drugs
Politics
Pop Culture

Tags:
smoking


 
Starting today, EU regulations require that cigarette packages carry large-format “Shockbilder” (German for “shock-pictures”) on them. You may have seen these before, especially in foreign countries—usually they are super-disgusting medical pictures of diseased lung tissue and things like that.

Such “Gruselbilder” (“gross pictures”) are definitely enough to give one pause, but all in all, they probably don’t affect cigarette consumption all that much. The left-leaning German newspaper taz.die Tageszeitung, however, ran a cover page today with an intriguing take on the issue—taz thinks that putting annoying public figures like Heidi Klum or right-wing politicians like Donald Trump, France’s Marine Le Pen, and Germany’s Markus Söder on cigarette packages might be fiendishly effective. Other pictures taz proposed were Korean leader Kim Jong-un and a thick, green smoothie. Here, look: 
 

 
Donald Trump is so incredibly loathsome that taz hardly deserves credit for including him. Obviously the entire continent of Europe is quivering with dismay at the prospect of a Trump presidency.

I decided to speculate on what the cigarette packs might look like if they were targeted at a U.S. audience:
 

 
I’m pretty bad at Photoshop, but even I was able to alter a few of taz’s examples to get what I wanted. Here’s the original image. I’m sure that the talented DM readership will be able to surpass me in no time at all…...
 
via Kraftfuttermischwerk
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Department S: The cult band who were more than just ‘a bunch of cults’

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The one good thing about music show Top of the Pops was the chance of eyeballing something special, something new, something you might not get the chance to see anywhere else. This could be David Bowie, or Motorhead ripping through their latest number, or Public Image Ltd. or Blondie or Siouxsie and the Banshees throwing pocketfuls of confetti onto the studio audience.

Sometime in early 1981, I was very fortunate to catch a new five-piece band from London called Department S who made a damned fine impression on me with their debut single “Is Vic There?” The track had been played a few dozen times on the radio but I was none the wiser to the who, what, when, where, why of the band.

Taking their name from a cult TV series, Department S looked assured, interesting, had a catchy first single and an iconic lead singer in Vaughn Toulouse. Their music was different to many of the angry disillusioned post-punk bands clogging up the charts—they were upbeat, thrilling, with an almost John Barry Bond-like riff countered by Toulouse’s vocal delivery.

Department S. came out of London’s punk and ska scene. Toulouse had been with a band called Guns For Hire. Guitarist Mike Herbage joined the band and wrote their only single. The group then evolved into Dept. S and was joined by Tony Lordan (bass), Stuart Mizon (drums) and Eddie Roxy (keyboards). In one early interview they described themselves as “not just a bunch of silly cults”—a reference to their crafted individualism.

There’s no particularly dominant member of the band, although Vaughn writes all the lyrics and mostly steals the limelight “Cos I’m the best lookin’ I s’pose.”

“We’re not a group as such,” he continues. “We’re five individuals that make Department S. It’s like a closed-circuit business-sort of a PIL set-up.”

“Is Vic There?” seemed to hang around the chart for ages—as if the public weren’t quite sure about the group, the song, or what to make of the strange attractive Gene Vincent allure of the lead singer—before eventually (thankfully) making it all the way to number 22.
 
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Come summer: Dept. S were playing support and headline gigs around London and working on an album (Sub-Stance) when they released a second single “Going Left Right” on glorious 12-inch. While the B-side “She’s Expecting You” sounded like the same band who had recorded “Is Vic There?” the second single almost sounded like a completely new and different band. It led some music critics to describe Dept. S as “a tricky band to pigeonhole” while giving “Going Left Right” two thumbs up—calling it “far superior” to “Is Vic There?”
 
More from the Department S. file, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Vintage photos of the US Amateur Roller Skating Association
05.13.2016
10:06 am

Topics:
Fashion
Pop Culture
Sports

Tags:
roller skating

1967
Skaters from the 1967 U.S.A.R.S.A. (the United States Amateur Roller Skating Association) competition.
 
Although I was an avid roller skater in my youth (as were both of my parents), I had no idea that the the United States National Amateur Skating Association (or U.S.N.A.S.A.) existed. Had I known, I would have immediately run away from home with my brown suede skates (with sweet orange wheels and stoppers) to pursue my dream of being an Olympic Champion roller skater. Regrets, I’ve had a few.
 

USARSA Senior Dance Champions of 1961, Jay & Janet Slaughter of Illinois.
 
In 1937, a Detroit-based group comprised of seventeen roller rink owners formed the RSROA (the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association). The creation of the RSROA didn’t go over that well with the Amateur Athletic Union (or AAU, a national amateur sports organization formed in 1888 who worked with amateur athletes all around the country, helping many on their way to the Olympic Games) as the membership of RSROA included the rink owners themselves and professional skaters. So, in 1939, the United States Amateur Roller Skating Association (USARSA) came to be and became a part of the the good-old AAU.

There were so many competitive categories within the USARSA, ranging from skate-dancing, novice, a curious sub-novice category, and a few for “tiny tots” that could skate (photos from which have been cataloged over at the site USA Roller Skaters), that I can only imagine the competitions themselves were long, grueling events not only for the skaters, but for the fans in attendance. The images in this post provide a fun and fascinating look back in time. Some remind me of the beautiful awkwardness that is the obligatory (and dreaded) senior prom photo. Your good-times roller skating flashback moment, begins now! 
 

Hugh Devore 3rd Place (the outfit is 1st place material all the way), USARSA Senior Men’s Singles, 1956.
 

USARSA Junior Dance contestants, 1953.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The Move: The drug-addled, axe-wielding rock group who got sued by the Prime Minister

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It’s one of those odd quirks of fate why sixties beat group The Move never became as big as say The Who, Kinks or the Dave Clark Five or even (crikey!) The Beatles or The Stones. There are many reasons as to why this never happened—top of the tree is the fact The Move never broke the American market which limited their success primarily to a large island off the coast of Europe. Secondly, The Move was all too often considered a singles band—and here we find another knotty problem.

The Move, under the sublime writing talents of Roy Wood, produced singles of such quality, range and diversity it was not always possible to identify their unique imprint. They evolved from “pioneers of the psychedelic sound” with their debut single “Night of Fear” in 1966—a song that sampled Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture—through “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” and “Flowers In The Rain” to faster rock songs like “Fire Brigade”—which inspired the bassline for the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”—to the chirpy pop of “Curly” and “Omnibus” to sixties miserabilism “Blackberry Way” and early heavy metal/prog with “Wild Tiger Woman,” “Brontosaurus” and “When Alice Comes Back to the Farm.” Though there is undoubtedly a seriousness and considered process going on here—it was not necessarily one that brought together a united fan base. Those who bought “Flowers in the Rain” were not necessarily going to dig the Hendrix-influenced “Wild Tiger Woman” or groove along to “Alice Comes Back to the Farm.”

That said, The Move scored nine top ten hits during the sixties, were critically praised, had a considerable following of screaming fans, and produced albums which although they were considered “difficult” at the time (Shazam, Looking On and Message from the Country) are now considered pioneering, groundbreaking and (yes!) even “classic.”

The Move was made up from oddments of musicians and singers from disparate bands and club acts who would not necessarily gravitate together. Formed in December 1965, the original lineup consisted of guitarist Roy Wood (recently departed from Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders), vocalist Carl Wayne who along with bass player Chris ‘Ace’ Kefford and drummer Bev Bevan came from The Vikings, and guitarist Trevor Burton from The Mayfair Set. Each of these artists had a small taste of success—most notably Carl Wayne who had won the prestigious Golden Orpheus Song Festival in Bulgaria—but nothing that was going to satisfy their ambitions for a long and rewarding career.

It was David Bowie—then just plain David Jones—who suggested Kefford and Burton should form their own band. They recruited Wood onto the team sheet and decided to follow another piece of Bowie’s advice to bring together the very best musicians and singers in their hometown of Birmingham. This they did. And although technically it was Kefford’s band, Carl Wayne by dint of age steered the group through their first gigs.
 
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The Move’s greatest asset was Roy Wood—a teenage wunderkind who was writing songs about fairies and comic book characters that were mistakenly believed to have been inspired by LSD. This gave the band their counterculture edge when “Night of Fear” was released in 1966. They were thought to be acidheads tuning into the world of psychedelia a year before the Summer of Love—but as drummer Bev Bevan later recalled:

Nobody believed that Roy wasn’t out of his head on drugs but he wasn’t. It was all fairy stories rooted in childhood.

Young Wood and Wayne may have been squeaky clean but the rest of the band certainly enjoyed the sherbets—with one catastrophic result.

After chart success of “Night of Fear,” The Move were expected to churn out hit after hit after hit. Though Wood delivered the goods—the financial rewards did not arrive. Ace Kefford later claimed the pressure of touring, being mobbed by fans, having clothes ripped—and once being stabbed in the eye by a fan determined to snip a lock of his hair—for the same money he made gigging with The Vikings made it all seem rather pointless.

But their success continued apace. By 1967, The Move had three top ten hits, were the first band played on the BBC’s new flagship youth channel Radio One, and were touring across the UK and Europe. They also caused considerable controversy with their live stage act which involved Carl Wayne chopping up TV sets with an axe. While the golden youth were wearing flowers in their hair and singing about peace and love, The Move were offering agitprop political theater.

Then they were sued by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
 
More of The Move, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Instant Karma 1955: John Lennon’s high school detention logs
05.10.2016
10:17 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
John Lennon


 
That John Lennon, inarguably one of the rock era’s greatest creative figures and pop culture icons, had a troubled childhood is hardly a secret—he came from the broken home of Julia Lennon (née Stanley) and the husband she’d married on a lark, an itinerant sailor called Fred Lennon who may have been in jail in North Africa at the time of his son’s birth. The young Lennon was raised by his aunt Mimi, not knowing that Julia was his real mother until he was almost 10, and behavior problems showed up early. Lennon once related to Beatle biographer Hunter Davies (The Beatles, The John Lennon Letters) the following:

The sort of gang I led went in for things like shoplifting and pulling girls’ knickers down. When the bomb fell and everyone got caught, I was always the one they missed. I was scared at the time but Mimi was always the only parent who never found out.

It merits mentioning that Lennon above is describing primary school, before he even attended high school. Upon his arrival at Liverpool’s Quarry Bank High School, his grades began to plummet, except in art. Celeb biographer Jeff Burlingame, in his John Lennon: Imagine, notes that

Even the corporal punishment administered by the teachers at the all-boys school did not stop John from misbehaving. He began his first year at Quarry Bank (which is equivalent to the seventh grade in the United States) as a top student, placed in what was called the “A” class, along with his best friend, Pete Shotton. As the years wore on, Shotton recalled the pair had clowned around and neglected their studies so frequently that they were moved down to the lowest-possible class, the “C” level “among the hardcore troublemakers, deadbeats, and halfwits.”

 

Troublemaker. Deadbeat. Halfwit.

Burlingame quotes Lennon:

I looked at all the hundreds of new kids and thought, Christ, I’ll have to fight my way through this lot…There was some real heavies there. The first fight I got in I lost. I lost me nerve when I got really hurt. Not that there was much real fighting. I did a lot of swearing and shouting, then got a quick punch…I was aggressive because I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted everybody to do what I told them to do, to laugh at my jokes and let me be the boss.

Because of the Beatles’ seismic popularity and outsized influence, pretty much anything even remotely connected to them is basically a fucking cash forge, so a page from Lennon’s Quarry Bank High School detention log from the 1954/55 school year is up for auction, and expected to fetch up to $4,000 USD. Per the auctioneer, Julien’s (the same auction house that recently sold for charity an intimidatingly huge trove of memorabilia from Ringo Starr’s personal hoard, including White Album #1), Lennon’s infractions included “silliness,” “fooling,” “nuisance,” “noise,” and “paper dart,” and notes that Lennon seems to have been referred for discipline every day, and sometimes twice a day. To be fair, Lennon’s were hardly criminal behaviors, and Quarry Bank must have been a mighty strict school—the last item shown in one image provided by the auction house is “decorating his exercise book.” What clearer pathway to prison could there be than THAT shocking transgression?
 

 
Whether you’re a Lennon obsessive or just a really specific discipline fetishist, the auction goes live on Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 10:00 AM EDT. The auction theme is “Music Icons,” so there are other lots of interest to classic rock ‘n’ roll and Beatles fans generally, and Lennon fans specifically, including autographed photos, some of Lennon’s artwork, and White Album #2. Good luck.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Since Yesterday’: The beautiful pop of Strawberry Switchblade

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Strawberry Switchblade was Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall—two girls from the opposite ends of the city of Glasgow.

Jill was at art school with ambitions to be a painter. She loved music and dreamt of maybe one day being a singer in a band.

Rose was from the deprived working class side of the city where violence was endemic. Her father had once been hit in the head with an axe in a case of mistaken identity. Rose felt different and wanted to do something more creative than just tick a box of the choices of life offered.

She therefore started her first band with her boyfriend after seeing the Ramones in concert. Her attitude was if they can do, so can we. She took up the drums and the pair formed The Poems.

After punk, it seemed every teenager in Glasgow was in a band. In 1977 there was Johnny and the Self Abusers, who became better known as Simple Minds; Edwyn Collins formed a band called Nu-Sonics that evolved into Orange Juice; Paul Haig and Malcolm Ross were in TV ART which became Josef K;  and so on so on and so forth….

Come the 1980s, the next generation of post punk, new wave, new pop artists were coming through: Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, Bobby Bluebell and The Bluebells. It was in this milieu that Jill and Rose formed Strawberry Switchblade in 1981.
 
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Rose and Jill in all their finery.
 
Jill quickly learned how to play the guitar and started writing songs. Rose had the voice and moved from drummer to singer. Together their voices created beautiful uplifting pop harmonies. Over a short period of time, they wrote songs, appeared on John Peel and Kid Jensen radio shows, which was quickly followed by a management offer from Bill Drummond (later of the KLF), who also offered the girls an indie record deal. They move to London and released their first single “Trees and Flowers” in 1983. This led to their signing with a major label—Warner Brothers.

Theirs was the kind of whirlwind career that only happens in books or in movies or on TV. Dressed like they had woken up in a haberdashery for dolls, Jill and Rose’s beribboned polka dot chic was soon everywhere.

A second single “Since Yesterday” came out in late 1984 which propelled the girls to even greater success.

“Since Yesterday” hit number five in the charts and the Strawberry Switchblade were suddenly on every TV chat and music show. The song’s upbeat sound belied the serious intent of the subject matter—which according to Rose is about nuclear war.

Strawberry Switchblade became a sensation in Japan—their look, their sound made hundreds of thousands of Japanese weak at the knees. Sell out concerts, traveling in limousines, mobbed by fans wherever they went—it should have been the start of an even great career—but things were falling apart.

Jill suffered from agoraphobia which stymied much of the pleasure she could have from the band’s success—it was also something that had inspired the song “Trees and Flowers.” There were also problems between Rose and Jill that led to a “cold war” between the two. They worked together professionally but in private had little in common. It was business, but it was no longer a fun business.

More Strawberry Switchblade after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sparks fly: A brief trip through Ron & Russell Mael’s appearances on German TV over the years

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You know you’re getting old when your love for a band hits middle age. Yikes. It’s forty-two years since I was first heard Sparks’ single “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us” on the radio. A couple of weeks later I caught them on Top of the Pops—the bottom-wiggling Bolanesque lead singer Russell Mael and the stern, strange, Hitler-mustachiod pianist Ron Mael. The differences of the brothers’ iconic images very much suited the joyous one-upmanship of their performance—the battle between Russell’s impressively soaring vocals and Ron’s cleverly structured music.

Sparks evolved out of another band called Halfnelson (which was the Mael brothers and guitarist Earle Mankey,  bassist Jim Mankey and drummer Harley Feinstein) formed in 1968. They were mainly popular with the brothers’ relatives and friends, though they did attract the attention of musician Todd Rundgren who produced their brilliant eponymous debut album. It didn’t sell well. A problem of perhaps having too small an extended family or a limited number of friends. But still there was enough interest to give the brothers a new record deal.

The record company suggested the band rename themselves the Sparx Brothers—in reference to the zany comedy troupe the Marx Brothers. Ron and Russell agreed to to keeping the “Sparks” but dropping the brother bits. It was obvious enough anyway.

A second album (the rather superb A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing), a move to England, a new band line-up (Martin Gordon on bass, Adrian Fisher on guitar and Norman “Dinky” Diamond” on drums) led to the the superlative album Kimono My House and a legendary career began.
 
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With age comes maturity and sometimes good sense. I’ve stopped evangelizing about the utter genius of Ron and Russell Mael sometime ago. Well, about an hour ago—to be exact. As sadly there comes a point when attempting to convince other people to listen to something you like becomes a bit like the well-meaning Hare Krishna pestering a passersby to shout “Gouranga!”

Sparks don’t need a plug. They’re too good, too brilliant, to need anyone shouting their genius from the rooftops. If you are a fan (or have been paying attention) then you’ll know what I mean. Sparks have kept evolving, developing and progressing—their music today is as great, if not greater than the work they produced forty-five years ago.

Most bands after their fifth decade together just hash out the greatest hits for the stadium audience. Not Sparks—they are still writing, producing and performing new, audacious and original material. Last year the Brothers Mael collaborated with Franz Ferdinand to form the supergroup FFS—one of the best (if not the best in this reviewer’s opinion) albums of the year. Their show was certainly the best gig I saw in 2015.  I know you’re busy but if you could just say “Gouranga..!”

This little selection of Sparks’ live appearances on Musikladen show the big shift in the brothers progress from classic Kimono My House and Propaganda-era art-rock-pop to the minimalist-experimental-electronica of the Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins album—that eventually led to their masterpieces of Lil’ Beethoven and The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman. As a band Sparks are tight—something they never quite got the credit for—and as a way of life—hell, there’s nothing to beat ‘em.

Track Listing: “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both Of Us,” “Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil,” “Something for the Girl with Everything,” “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’,” “Frankly, Scarlett, I Don’t Give a Damn,” “BC,” “(When I Kiss You” I Hear Charlie Parker Playing” and “Senseless Violins.”
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Motörhead, The Cure, The Jam (+ a bizarre Adam Ant comic) from the pages of cool 80s mag Flexipop!

Motörhead on the cover of Flexipop! magazine, June, 1981
Motörhead on the cover of Flexipop! magazine, June, 1981.
 
UK music magazine Flexipop! was only around from 1980 to1983, but in that time it managed to put out some pretty cool content within its pages, such as the sweet 7” colored flexi discs that featured music from bands featured in the mag like Motörhead, The Cure and The Jam. One flexi-disc from the February 1981 issue was a recording of Adam and the Ants riffing on the Village People anthem “Y.M.C.A.” called “A.N.T.S,” which you can listen to in all its early 80s glory (as I can’t embed it), here.
 
Adam Ant on the cover of Flexipop! #4
Adam Ant on the cover of Flexipop! #4.
 
Adam and the Ants Flexipop! flexidisc from Flexipop! #4
Adam and the Ants Flexipop! flexi disc from Flexipop! #4.
 
Another thing that Flexipop! featured were cool “live-action” storyboards as well illustrated strips that detailed the the fictional exploits of various bands and musicians. Starting with the September 1981 issue, there was a three-part-series about the career to date of Adam Ant drawn by Mark Manning. Manning—who would go on to assume the cool-as-fuck moniker “Zodiac Mindwarp” and form the biker sleaze band Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction in the mid-80s—was Flexipop!‘s acid-dropping art editor at the time. I’ve included Manning’s “Adam and the Ants” comic strip in its entirety, as well as some scans from the magazine’s inner-pages.

Surprisingly, given its short existence, you can find lots of issues of Flexipop! out there as well as flexi discs from the magazine’s colorful discography on auction sites like eBay and Etsy. Cooler still is the fact that you can look through even more pages from Flexipop! that have been scanned and uploaded at the blog Music Mags 1970s-1980s.
 
Flexipop! March, 1983
Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie (The Creatures) on the cover of Flexipop! March, 1983.
 
Much, much more after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Toys for boys: Tech Hifi catalogs of vintage stereo equipment are bizarre fun
05.03.2016
11:48 am

Topics:
Advertising
Pop Culture
Science/Tech

Tags:
stereo
Tech Hifi


This 1981 system, featuring components from Cerwin Vega, Hitachi, Philips, and Audio-Technica, cost $829 at the time.
 
Only the staunchest of old-school stereo dorks remember it today, but from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, Tech Hifi was one of the best-known retailers of audio equipment on the East Coast.

The chain was founded by two MIT academics, mathematician Sandy Ruby and engineer John Strohbeen. According to the New York Times, Tech Hifi’s franchises were known for their “knowledgeable salespeople who could satisfy the comparison-shopping stereo connoisseur”—a type so gorgeously satirized by Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope in Boogie Nights.

Another of the hallmarks of Tech Hifi was apparently its expensive and imaginative catalogs, which presented elaborate tableaux of the store’s stereophonic offerings being used in fanciful and even borderline bizarre situations.

Seizing on a ripe market of affluent audiophiles, Tech Hifi grew rapidly, and by the 1970s it had become one of the nation’s largest sources for consumer electronics, with upwards of 80 stores, mostly in the Northeast, including more than a dozen in and around New York City.

Nobody knew it when these catalogs were being produced, but Tech Hifi’s days were numbered. Unanticipated competition from discount retailers and a wobbly economy forced it out of business in the mid-1980s.

Note that inflation has increased the prices of equivalent goods by roughly 289%, so you have to triple the prices listed here in order to get an accurate assessment of the pricing at that time. All of the photos in the 1979 catalog were taken by Al Rubin, and all of the photos in the 1981 catalog were taken by Clint Clemens. You can enlarge all photos by clicking on them.
 

The cover of the 1979 catalog.
 

This 1979 system featuring components from Crown, Nikko, Infinity, Micro Seiki, Ortofon, Micro-Acoustics, Tandberg, and Phase Linear, cost $10,000 at the time.
 
More goodness from vintage Tech Hifi catalogs after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Anarchy!’ Malcolm McLaren, punk rock’s Molotov cocktail


 
Phil Strongman’s new documentary Anarchy! McLaren Westwood Gang is a politically-fueled, fashion-conscious deeper look at how the English punk explosion was ignited—how the bomb was built and under what circumstances, in other words.

Coming in at almost two and a half hours with an incredible cast of characters, Anarchy! McLaren Westwood Gang traces Malcolm McClaren back to his birth with loads of never before seen films and photos, personal information and interviews with family members, friends and others, taking us into the all important mid-sixties where the real nucleus of the Sex Pistols concept begins to form within the Situationist movement, King Mob (the UK equivilent), art school and observing the tribal customs and costumes of rock ‘n roll fanaticism.

The 1968 the French student riots had a huge influence on McLaren, who travelled to Paris at the time, and there were key players from that era who played recurring roles in his life. Much of the concepts and ideas—art, slogans, everything really—originated there and then. The interviews with the people from this period were what I wanted to see most and there was no disappointment. The interviews with Malcolm himself indicate that he still was speaking in slogans right up to the very end.
 

 
If you’re looking for yet another love letter to punk rock (yawn) with the same old crap stories, then keep on pogoing as this is a very interesting (for the most part) tale of politics, sex, drugs, bombs, rock ‘n roll, and the all important fashion accessories to wear whilst bombing and rocking and rolling and fucking on drugs. If punk never really happened and this was just a wild tale of a bunch of crazed young people that tried to accomplish what punk wrought and failed, it would still be just as interesting. The fact that first an entire country and then the entire world sat up, noticed, listened and actually feared this tiny group of absurd-looking lunatics (some leading, most following) on their search and destroy mission is incredible to contemplate. Today they’d just be given their own reality TV show.

It’s a bit of a revelation for those who think a few drunk idiots formed a band and yelled and jumped around a lot while desperately trying to learn how to play their instruments. (Even at this late date it is still being said that these guys could not play or sing, which is ridiculous as is easily proven by any Sex Pistols live performance video from any period.) However, someone could have done enough homework to know to leave out Ben Westwood’s totally wrong assumption (stated as fact, of course) that Sid’s mom and girlfriend gave him heroin that he overdosed on (I personally was there that night and I and enough other people have done countless interviews stating what really happened). He even calls Methadone, Methadrone (good name for a band actually). Other than these two minor problems, and the rather large objection that for a film titled Anarchy! McLaren Westwood Gang it’s quite light on the Westwood side of things, this very long film goes by very quickly, and is really well made. Director Strongman was good friends with McLaren, having worked in the Glitterbest offices (the Sex Pistols management company) and was an actual eyewitness to much of what he is discussing here.
 

 
There lots of great interviews with everyone from Adam Ant to Don Letts to Tracey Emin to Boy George (who tells a great story about when he sang for Bow Wow Wow) to Sex Pistol Paul Cook (with amazing black and white footage of the Pistols hanging around at the Berlin wall). The music is honestly the least of the subjects focused on. In fact much of the film is framed with scenes of girls modeling Dame Westwood’s fashions (partially topless) to a modern soundtrack with an operatic vocal sung onscreen. (And thank god for that. I’m sick of these formulaic punk rock docs, aren’t you?)

There’s a lot to get out of this film, historically speaking. It’s intelligent and everything a documentary should be. It just may not be about what you thought it was going to be about. This is the history of European Anarchism as it helps beget the birth of the Sex Pistols. It’s also the story of a man who broke all the rules before that was fashionable, who ran blindly into the fire more than once and always came out the other side… many times with the prize. Or at least some money. I’ve already watched Anarchy! McLaren Westwood Gang three times and I’m not the type to really ever watch anything even twice, certainly not in the same day.

All Malcolm McLaren ever wanted was to be something akin to the “next Andy Warhol.” It’s an idiosyncratic aspiration to be sure, but one category that he (and perhaps he alone) truly belonged in.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
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