In the spring of 1984, Marvel Comics published a very strange one-off called Generic Comic Book, which was exactly as advertised: an all white cover to mimic ‘80s generic food labeling, an all white and nameless hero to the same end, completely one-dimensional characters and situations and a heavy reliance on tired tropes… so basically it was any old B-grade comic, only pointedly worse. I discovered it in the bargain comics box of my favorite toy shop, marked below its 60¢ cover price. You would have bought it, too.
The story begins with several pages of expository dialogue and internal monologue. We see right out of the gate that our hero has a girlfriend, but that’s about all that’s right with his crapsack life, and the girlfriend doesn’t even last past the first page. She’s literally put on a bus, never to be seen again. Our hero is broke. He wants to buy a house for himself and his girl, but he lives with his parents and also needs money to—I shit you not—“get little Bobby the operation he so desperately needs.” A professional writer got paid to write that line. I’m not bitter.
Could someone tell the letterist about “to” and “too?”
On his way home, our hero’s problems are compounded when he gets mugged by some generic goons. Acting out in frustration, he smashes the Three Mile Island snow-globe (RELEVANT SOCIAL ISSUE YOU GUYS) from his prized collection of glow-in-the-dark crap, setting in motion one of the most admirably preposterous superhero origin stories I’ve ever read: breaking the Three Mile Island snow globe atomically activated all the other iridescent stuff in the room (SEE? SEE? TOTALLY RELEVANT!), giving our hero super strength, super vision, super hearing—and bleaching his hair bright white.
If you can’t read whitey’s pin, it says “HEAVY MEAT.” I want to hear that band.
This is only the beginning… much, much more after the jump…
Most Americans pay absolutely no attention to British politics, and frankly why should we? Our politicians are actual goddamn sideshow freaks, whereas the UK just has a bunch of drips, simps and wimps with only one actual lunatic in the person of Ukip’s unhinged dingbat, the Palinesque (and I don’t mean Michael) nincompoop Nigel Farage. BORING.
I do follow British politics (I lived there for a while during the Thatcher era) and like many actual Britons, I too believe this is one of the most important elections for the country in our lifetime. The UK is most assuredly at a pivotal juncture politically, with issues of wage stagnation, structural unemployment, immigration, the conservatives’ much hated NHS reform, affordable housing, tax cuts for billionaires and many, many other serious matters seeing that this election has an extremely high level of public awareness.
Again, most of my fellow countrymen couldn’t care less about any of that stuff, but now they have a reason to pay attention because there is a celebrity angle: Comedian and social activist Russell Brand has done a bit of a U-turn and decided that INDEED there is a reason to vote and he’s throwing his support behind the Labour Party and Ed Miliband. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Big deal, some celebrity big ups a politician, who cares?” Owen Jones writes at the he Guardian that “Brand matters” and why the comedian’s surprise endorsement of Miliband should have the Tories quite worried:
And however much bluff and bluster the Tories now pull – maybe more playground abuse from David Cameron, who called Brand a “joke” – his endorsement of Labour in England and Wales will worry them. More people have registered to vote than ever before: between the middle of March and the deadline to register, nearly 2.3 million registered, over 700,000 of them 24 years old or younger. In countless marginal seats, disillusioned voters who were either going to plump for a protest party or not vote at all could well decide whether we are ruled by David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith for another half a decade.
Even in a country as large as America, 2.3 million newly registered voters *SNAP* like that in would be seen as a somewhat staggering number, so in a nation the size of Great Britain, this should be seen as an incredibly significant development. Russell Brand’s opinions matter to young people, even if, it would seem, that (happily) many of them ignored his “Don’t bother voting” hectoring last year that he obviously doesn’t even believe himself anymore.
And don’t think any of this is lost on the current resident of #10 Downing Street as Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly spoken with scorn at Brand’s surprise endorsement of his political rival. In recent weeks this race has gone from merely tight to a real who-knows-what’s-going-to happen nailbiter and he knows it. Politically speaking, tectonic plates are shifting in Great Britain, this just makes the situation even more volatile.
Brand shot back at the Tory leader:
“David Cameron might think I’m a joke but I don’t think there’s anything funny about what the Conservative party have been doing to this country and we have to stop them.”
We’ll soon see how these newly registered voters tip the scales politically in the UK, but just hours away from the vote, the flux and uncertainty of the situation is impressive to say the least. Brand’s last minute endorsement of Miliband, and the effect this might have on the election’s outcome, is interesting to contemplate. Even if you’re only tuning in now and following the broadest strokes of the horse race, it’s worth paying attention because all bets are truly off.
Let’s hope Brand gets a chance to meet with Bernie Sanders soon, eh? Keep it inneresting, mate!
Designer Boyd Baton has been crafting his dystopian designs for over 20 years in Barcelona, Spain. While attending school in his native Holland in the early 90’s, Baton found himself smack in the midst of the emerging Acid House dance scene and started making hand-painted T-shirts and costumes for his friends and the club kids. One of Baton’s first creations was a bra made from mirrored PVC, a fab fabric that he still incorporates into the futuristic looks that are a part of his label Divamp Couture which Baton launched in 2013.
While Baton says he admires the work of designers like Thierry Mugler and Jean-Paul Gaultier, he credits Mother Nature as his true muse. Since I’m pretty sure Barcelona is located on planet Earth, I find Baton’s nod to nature a bit confusing. Sadly, the truth is that I’ve never been to Barcelona. So I must suspend my disbelief that some areas of the city are inhabited by extras from Mad Max. But I digress.
Baton’s extreme duds are made from flexible mirrored PVC sewn onto a fabric lining. So they only look like they would repel bullets or protect you from a surprise roadside attack by The Acolytes. Also, if while looking through some of the images that follow of Baton’s sci-fi handy work you think that you’ve just found the perfect get up for Halloween this year, forget it. Baton’s more involved designs cost over a grand, and smaller pieces like this spiny armor for your arm will run you a few hundred dollars. Let’s face it, if you want to look like the alternate universe version of the Plasmatics (and who doesn’t?), it isn’t going to come cheap. If you’re currently in Barcelona, Baton’s work can be seen and purchased in at his brick and mortar store located on the popular shopping street, Carrer Petritxol.
The partisan animosity within The Ramones is arguably the most fascinating political subtext in punk history. Most famous is the story that “The KKK Took My Baby Away” was left-wing Joey’s kiss-off song to right-wing Johnny, who had recently taken up with Joey’s girlfriend. Joey’s brother disputes this interpretation, maintaining that the song actually referenced an ill-fated romance between Joey and a black woman, but the lyrics indicate a clear streak of a bleeding heart, regardless. There is also Johnny’s famous acceptance speech at the band’s induction into the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame, where he proclaimed “God bless President Bush, and God bless America” during that oh-so-embarrassing post-9/11 era of G.W love. There were other internecine jabs and some of them were in public.
The clip below is from one of The Ramones’ memorable appearances on The Howard Stern Show—this segment from 1990 probably didn’t help ameliorate the animosity between Joey and Johnny. The sketch features Billy West—best known as the voices of Ren of Ren and Stimpy and Fry from Futurama—as an oblivious President Bush. With surprisingly good comedic timing, Joey and Marky set up West to portray Bush as cavalier and avoidant, preferring golf to the responsibilities of the presidency (sound familiar?).
One can presume from Johnny’s political record (and his lack of participation) that he was not amused by such irreverent humor at the expense of our then commander-in chief.
In it’s late ‘50 to early ‘70s heyday, Famous Monsters of Filmland became legendary. Though it thoroughly covered the horror film scene, it did its job with a surfeit of cheek that made it accessible to younger readers, making it a semi-serious film rag that appealed to the MAD magazine demographic. (Its publisher, Warren Publishing, was also home to MAD visionary Harvey Kurtzman’s Help!.) It spawned imitations, and soldiered on for over a decade past its useful life, to fold in 1983. The mag was revived in 1993, and after some legal contention, it continues today as a web site and a bimonthly print publication.
Between MAD magazine and Playboy, there was Famous Monsters of Filmland. For kids growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was one of the landmarks of adolescence; something that was frowned upon or simply beyond the comprehension of their parents; something that was uniquely their own. It was Forrest J. Ackerman’s genius to recognize that kids would love exploring the worlds of horror and science fiction and it was Jim Warren’s genius to grasp that by making the magazine scholarly but humorous, it would diffuse the subject matter’s dark side and make that younger readership feel welcome. In fact one of the striking elements of FM’s early years is how much interaction there was with its readership, through its lengthy letter column (which regularly printed reader photos) to the “You Axed for It” request pages and the fan club/“Graveyard Examiner” sections. The magazine had a curious innocence (engineered by Ackerman’s persona of a friendly, endlessly punning uncle), mixed with a sense of transgrescence. For all the jokes an light-heartedness, this was still a publication filled with images of monsters, the undead, vampires, and corpses which carried with it a frisson of danger and the forbidden.
One of the factors that distinguished Famous Monsters in its prime was stunning cover art, most notably the expressionistic character portraits of Basil Gogos. Gogos was a Greek national born in Egypt, whose family moved to the US when he was in his teens. He studied illustration under the Art Student’s League’s Frank J. Reilly, and began illustrating pulp westerns at the end of the ‘50s. His leap to the horror genre came quickly—his first FM cover was a 1960 portrait of Vincent Price, and he went on to do more than 50 utterly distinctive works for the publication.
Plenty more, plus a TV documentary about Basil Gogos, hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, after the jump…
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a real thing yet… but, c’mon, you know it’s coming! With the tagline “Bringing eye contact back to the 21st century” the Texting Hat is here to solve all your phone zombie problems. What a great invention. You look like you actually care when in reality zero fucks are given!
Right now they’re not for sale, but the Texting Hat website encourages you to just make your own goddamned hat:
“The weekend starts here!” was the opening catchphrase for Ready, Steady, Go!—the preferred pop show of choice for millions of British youth between 1963 and 1966. Filmed in a small studio in central London, Ready, Steady, Go! was the first pop show (from 1965 onwards) to present bands playing live—unlike its rival Top of the Pops that continued with predominantly mimed performances until the late 1990s.
Though it may not seem it now, Ready, Steady, Go! was revolutionary television when first broadcast, leading one TV historian to see the program as “a line of demarcation drawn between one kind of Britain and another.”
The “Queen of Mods,” Cathy McGowan was the program’s best known host, who had originally been hired as a production advisor after replying to an advert looking for “a typical teenager.” Other presenters included the (middle-aged) Keith Fordyce and (briefly) singer Sandie Shaw. Unlike most music shows at the time, Ready, Steady, Go! brought in a live audience that could be seen dancing, cavorting and occasionally mobbing the acts.
The show also benefited from allowing artists to play full versions of their songs, and one of the highlights was the specials featuring bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Animals showcasing recent hits. Between ‘65 and ‘66, The Rolling Stones made two showcases performing a variety of tracks including “Under My Thumb,” “Paint It Black” and “Satisfaction.” These sets have since been edited together as a Ready, Steady Go!: Rolling Stones Special which was aired on Channel 4 some thirty-odd years after first broadcast.
Watch the Rolling Stones on ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ after the jump…
Monday, 29th May 1967: Four young groups—hopeful, enthusiastic and slightly out of tune—thrash it out at a “Band Festival” in the Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School, Croton-on-Hudson. NY. Their classmates dance. Indulgent parents look on. The bands roll through the songs they’ve rehearsed during nights after school—when they listened to vinyl, picked up chords, learnt how to play covers of songs by The Doors, Santana, Bob Lind and Wilson Pickett.
Still checking the fingering’s right.
“We sucked pretty bad on that one,” says the young, cherubic lead-singer of The Bad Habits after belting out a song called “Grandma’s Disco.” It’s raw, jangly, almost punky—and certainly didn’t suck as much as they thought.
The other bands stick to tried and tested covers—The Active Ingredients do a catchier version of Lind’s “Cheryl’s Going Home” and a decent “Light My Fire.” Tradewinds rock, The Hairy Things roll.
The band line-ups shift and mix, with a young Stephen King lookalike singing most of the songs. He’s sincere, plaintive, full of that earnestness only youth can endure. All the while the kids happily dance on.
The importance of being earnest.
I wonder what happened to these bands, these young singers and musicians? Mike Turturro, a member of The Active Ingredients filled in some of the details with 60’s Garage Bands site:
In the spring of 1966, my friend Tim called me to play drums in a group he hoped to start. We practiced the next weekend at his house outside on his patio. As I recall, we consisted of Pete on guitar, Tim on bass, and also on a Hammond organ, another person on guitar (I don’t know his name; he was there only once or twice) and me on drums. We had a lot of fun and played a lot of Rascals tunes.
We continued to practice at Tim’s house for a few more weeks. The unnamed guitar player was replaced by Bruce from Ossining, NY and that made our band, but we still had no name.
One night after practice Tim went home with bad headache, reached for a bottle of aspirin from his medicine cabinet and saw the words “active ingredients” written on the bottle, and that’s how we became The Active Ingredients….
About a year after we got together as a band, we began practicing every week in my basement on Thursday nights and playing out here and there. One night at practice Tim told us that on Memorial Day weekend (1967) there would be a Band Festival in our town, Croton-On-Hudson and we decided to play in it. My good friend John’s father was producer for one of the major news networks at the time. John told us there would be a big surprise at the band festival, but no matter how we pestered him to tell us what the surprise would be, John would not say, other than to tell us to wait and see!
We continued to practice for the show and came up with a song list that included new songs that were popular at that time: ‘Midnight Hour’, ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Catch The Wind’. And as mentioned, we liked to play songs by The Young Rascals.
Getting in the groove.
Memorial Weekend finally came and we were ready to play. By the time we had arrived to set up at the school where the Band Festival would be held, word was out that a major TV network had a film crew on hand to film the show. There was no lack of equipment to use that night as every band brought what they had and we all shared what we could. The Active Ingredients had the unfortunate luck to go on first but we did have fun and we thought we played pretty well. The Hairy Things were by far the hit of the Festival and they were really a great band! And what great night!
Two or three minutes of nearly thirty minute film footage of the Band Festival was shown on national television during the next week on slow news nights. The newscasters would note that instead of young kids playing after school sports, they were forming rock band in their garages and basements, and remarking how times had changed!
The Active Ingredients went on to play that summer at parties and dances but September was coming fast and Pete was off to college and Bruce got a call from Uncle Sam. Tim joined another band and had a cameo in the Woodstock movie, and I went on to seek employment but still played with a number of different groups and still play drums today (on my Active Ingredients set) in a group called 145’s, which is a ‘60s cover band.
It’s a beautiful little film. Innocent, delightful, a perfect time capsule of one night, long ago, when everything seemed fun.
“Long hair… Short hair… What’s the difference once the head’s blown off?”
A while back I was adding things to the Netflix queue, when I noticed, to my surprise and delight, that there was a video document of the 1973 Off Broadway production of National Lampoon’s Lemmings. Lemmings notably starred a very young John Belushi (who was 23 or 24 years old at the time), Christopher Guest (then 25), and Chevy Chase (30, with long hair). It was chiefly written by Tony Hendra (the manager in This Is Spinal Tap, who also co-directed), National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney (he was “Stork” in Animal House) and P.J. O’Rourke.
The first surprise was that it even existed in the first place. I’d known the record since I was a kid, but who knew there was a video of this? Well, there is and it’s fascinating, if not exactly all that funny. It’s interesting because it’s got these three great funnymen seen before they would achieve fame a few years later with SNL and also because it’s a wild period piece. If you don’t go in expecting it to be the best thing you’ve ever seen and don’t expect belly laughs (there are a few) then you’ll be able to appreciate Lemmings more on its own, slightly rumpled terms. Comedy doesn’t tend to age very well, but that’s not why you want to watch this. One strong disclaimer, though, for “younger viewers”: most of the references are going to be completely incomprehensible unless you’ve seen the Woodstock documentary.
The “plot” of Lemmings, as such, is that the audience is supposed to be present for a Thanatos-celebrating rock festival, “Woodshuck: Three Days of Peace, Music & Death.” A Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young spoof (“Freud, Pavlov, Adler, and Jung”) sees the group singing a parody of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” (with Rhonda Coullet doing a perfect Joni Mitchell) but the lyrics have been changed to “We are lemmings”—instead of stardust—and Belushi, as the MC makes constant references and updates about members of the audience killing themselves and snuffing it (“The brown strychnine has been cut with acid.”). Near the end, as the heavy metal group “Megadeath” (yes, Megadeath) are playing, a groupie asks “Did you know that pure rock sound can kill? Isn’t that far out? So the thing to do is go over to the amp and put your head there.”
Someone on reddit recently spotted this fantastic shirt in Seattle—you can get it here on eBay for $23.99 plus shipping.
It’s an open question how many AC/DC fans know that “AC” stands for “alternating current” and “DC” stands for “direct current”—but for those looking to catch up, Tesla invented AC, and Edison backed DC. Tesla had previously worked for Edison. Tesla was a genius and died alone in a hotel room in New York; Edison was also a genius and died as rich as Croesus. Edison killed an elephant named Topsy to demonstrate the supposed dangers of alternating current, as depicted in a 2013 episode of Bob’s Burgers called “Topsy.” Tesla was a man made for our underdog-rooting and nerdy age. David Bowie played Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s terrific 2006 movie The Prestige.
On the flipside, science nerds, AC/DC is an Australian rock band. If you don’t already know that, you probably don’t really want this shirt too bad, do you?