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Leigh Bowery’s Raw Sewage

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Back in dear olde Blighty in 1975, the Observer Sunday supplement magazine published an article previewing The Rocky Horror Picture Show under the heading, “Something To Offend Everyone.” The thought of a musical focussing on a bi-sexual, cross-dressing, psychotic alien was enough to curdle the milk in Tonbridge Wells, and the article gleefully anticipated the shock the movie would cause. It didn’t. It was too far ahead of its time, and Rocky Horror would have to wait a year or so, until the Waverly Theater, New York, started the film’s slow, but relentless rebirth.

As a headline, “Something To Offend Everyone” could have been equally applied by copy editors to performance artist, fashion designer, dancer, actor, singer, style icon and all-round good egg, Leigh Bowery and his band Raw Sewage. The band was formed after Bowery’s 3-minutes of fame as a lip-synching backing singer to Felix on the BBC’s music chart show, Top of the Pops. The band consisted of Leigh, Stella Stein (Stephen Brogan) and Shelia Tequila, who together originally performed under the name The Quality Street Wrappers. In her biography Leigh Bowery - The Life and Times of an Icon, Sue Tilley described the band’s first gig:

Their first show was at the Iceni club in Mayfair. They sang the Donna Summer classic ‘Enough Is Enough’ to a live piano accompaniment. For their finale they stripped off naked and then walked around the club to receive the congratulations of all their friends. However, the management was not happy with this and asked them to put their gowns back on.

It was a start, and encouraged by the response, the band decided to cover a second song, Run DMC and Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’:

“Leigh rehearsed endlessly, demanding that every step was right and that they learnt how to throw the microphones to each other so that there was an element of juggling involved. Leigh designed new costumes for the band which were big net petticoats with tartan taffeta dress on top… Underneath this costume they had their genitals strapped back between their legs so it looked like they didn’t have any, long black stockings and three belts wrapped around their torsos. They then teetered on top of two-foot-high platform boots that Leigh had specially made… The look was completed with minstrel-style black faces with the main features highlighted in white.”

Bowery was convinced the band would achieve chart success, but not everyone was so enthusiastic as Sue Tilley recalled:

“...Leigh asked me what I thought and if they might get chart success. He was devastated when I replied that I didn’t think the record buying public were quite ready for three freaks on platforms doing second-rate covers of songs. It made me realize that Leigh was removed from reality. He was so far ahead of the general public in what he accepted as normal he couldn’t see that his semi-naked, blacked up, genital-less band might cause a bit of a problem.”

Leigh was impervious to criticism and the trio continued with their outrageous performances, each more bizarre than the last - one at the Fridge in December 1992, saw a drunk spectator fellated and smeared with excrement. By 1993, performing as Raw Sewage, the shows lived up to the band’s name with a mix of confrontational theater and childish shock tactics:

“They still started with ‘Walk This Way’ but the next number involved Nicola and Christine Bateman dressing up as nurses and injecting neat vodka into the group’s bottoms (that is all except Stella who had a phobia about needles). They then rushed backstage and filled their mouths with vegetable soup which they vomited all over the audience while singing ‘Mickey’, the old Toni Basil hit.”

Raw Sewage carried on for a few months, even recording a video at the Tracadero, Picadilly, before the band fell apart. Bowery went onto form Minty with his wife, Nicola Bateman, which became notorious for their stage show, where Bowery gave birth to his naked wife.

It was not Leigh Bowery’s ability to shock and entertain that made him important and influential, rather it was his ability to subvert identity and image through the way he presented himself. As the art dealer, Anthony d’Offay once said:

“I tried to think what was it that changed one’s feelings about things, why (Leigh) was so important, the thing that I decided whether right or wrong was this: I felt Leigh did was to be a very bright shiny mirror to reflect very clearly one’s conscious and unconscious thoughts…Leigh’s presence allowed you to grow into the person you really were and face your real feelings at that moment.

“He allowed you to feel real. When I said he was a shiny mirror what I meant was he allowed you to see yourself in this strange shape that he took and that for me was his genius….He unlocked a key in you…”

 

 
Bonus clips of Leigh Bowery and Minty after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Vivienne Westwood’s booze couture

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Chivas Regal 18 year old scotch gets a fashion makeover by punk rock/new romantic fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. A bottle of Ant music. This will be on sale for the holidays.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Old skool hip hop party flyers

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Most of these flyers were designed by Buddy Esquire and Phase 2. Drawn by hand and using Letraset, Xerox, Exacto knives, graph paper, stencils etc. these are artifacts of the days before Microsoft Word and Adobe photoshop, real cut and paste. Old skool.

You can check out more of these groovy nuggets of hip hop history at Toledo Hip Hop
 
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More flyers after the jump..

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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As seen on Twitter
11.05.2010
08:51 am

Topics:
Pop Culture

Tags:
Batman
Grant Morrison
Inc.

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Thank you kindly for the nomination, Ernesto Verdejo. I do hope that I could live up to this solemn challenge and I am very flattered.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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John Waters and Divine interview from 1975

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R. Couri Hay talks with Divine, John Waters, Mink Stole and David Lochary at Anton Perich Studio, formerly ‘The Factory’, in 1975. This must be a promo outing for Female Trouble. The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but this is 58 minutes of pop culture history and well-worth watching. Waters is amusing as always, Divine looks Garboesque, and it’s rare to see see David Lochary and Mink Stole being interviewed. Rich kid R. Couri Hay was a contributor to Warhol’s Interview magazine and gossip columnist for The National Inquirer in the mid-to-late 1970’s.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Grant Morrison on his new ‘Batman Inc.’
11.03.2010
08:30 pm

Topics:
Pop Culture

Tags:
Batman
Grant Morrison

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Returning once again to revamp the Batman trademark, Grant Morrison, unsurprisingly, manages to infuse his new take on the subject with his signature surreal counterculture concerns, in Batman, Inc. From Wired:

Batman, Inc. is the idea that we can all be Batman, if we want to,” the acclaimed Scotland-born comics writer told Wired.com by phone. “Batman travels the world recruiting new Bat-men and stamping them with his seal of approval.”

Given the superhero’s straight-edge persona, indefatigable work ethic and bottomless billions, his new Bat-capitalists should be light-years away from the corporate egotists heavily stroked in films like Iron Man 2, whose Tony Stark is a self-obsessed screw-up compared to Bruce Wayne’s solemn justice-seeker.

But you get what you pay for, said Morrison, whose Batman, Inc. debuts Nov. 17. “It’s a natural development, and just shows what we’re into nowadays,” he said. “Playboys who can do anything they want.”

Morrison’s storied run on comics’ timeless human superhero has dragged Batman through the apocalyptic depths of space and time. He killed and rebooted him in Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis. In Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, he tasked the Dark Knight with Herculean challenges usually reserved for immortals like Superman.

Patrick Meany’s documentary about the writer, Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (which I am in), is out now on DVD.
 

 
Read more: Grant Morrison’s Batman, Inc. Births Comics’ First Zen Billionaire (Wired)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Black Cracker’ by Josh Alan Friedman and new books from Chris D. and Wyatt Doyle

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‘Tales Of Times Square’ author Josh Alan Friedman has written a delightfully bent memoir of what it was like being a white kid attending an all-Black elementary school in Long Island during the early 1960’s. In ‘Black Cracker’, Friedman combines his usual sardonic humor with a surprisingly sweet tone and the result is both very funny and touching. It also deals with race in America by hewing to real life details, avoiding broad sentiment and proselytizing. The truth is really in the telling. This is a very funny book and an immensely satisfying one. Who knew that Josh could be such a warmhearted ol’ fuck.  

South School, 1962: The last segregated school in New York. Their teacher moonlights on ‘Lawrence Welk’, the lady principal wears boxing gloves, and the student body is all-Negro . . . except for first grader Josh Friedman. He’s white, but he’s working on it. Center stage in the unflinching and frequently hilarious funhouse tour of Friedman’s Long Island boyhood is a rogues’ gallery that includes Bobo, precocious third-grade dropout and boy prince of the ghetto; his bumbling (and alarmingly potent) ne’er-do-well Uncle Limpy; Mumsy, the smelliest shoeshine boy in Penn Station; Mrs. O’Leary, the menacing Irish nanny; her son, Drake, an etiquette-obsessed, switchblade-totin’ clammer overwhelmed by the tides of racial progress; and the impoverished Wilshires, the bone-white, nigger-hatin’-est crackers in town. At once heartbreaking and hysterically funny, ‘Black Cracker’ delivers a fearless account of adventures in the now-forgotten poor Black shantytowns of Long Island, exploring the singular ugliness of racism, the intrigue of janitorial whodunits, the tragic limits of friendship, and the inexplicable seductive powers of croco-print footwear.

‘Black Cracker’ is published by Wyatt Doyle/New Texture. Wyatt has also unleashed Chris D.‘s (The Flesheaters) ‘A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die’ and his own collection of short stories called ’ Stop Requested’.  Chris D.‘s anthology is comprised of his song lyrics, poetry, short stories, dream journal entries and excerpts from as-yet-unpublished novels. Chris was in the heat of the action during L.A.‘s 1970’s punk explosion and his book is street smart and unruly, filled with noirish surrealism and rock hard beatitudes that ache with yearning, anger and red hot eroticism. Shelve next to Patti Smith and Nick Cave.

Doyle’s ‘Stop Requested’ is a series of rueful, witty and occasionally heartwrenching stories about the fellow passengers that Doyle observes while riding the bus in L.A.. These are folks living on the margin between nothing and everything, stuck between Rodeo Drive and The Highway To Nowhere. Doyle’s gift is in capturing those tiny dramatic moments that linger for a brief moment on the periphery of vision. He has a Zen-like ability to cut through the bullshit and get to the heart of the matter (and everything matters), he finds consequence in the inconsequential. He’s Bukowski without the nasty streak. And he’s real good. Profusely illustrated with drawings by Stanley J. Zappa . Highly recommended.

Support indie publishers. Buy these suckers.

Completely unrelated to his book ‘Black Cracker’ (but so much fun I had to include it here), Josh has written a musical based on the life of Ed Wood Jr. Here’s an excerpt for your amusement.    
 

“Bela Lugosi” by Josh Alan Friedman (BLACK CRACKER) from New Texture on Vimeo.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

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Musical tastes are important when it comes to relationships, something I realized the night Alex Harvey died, in 1982. The radio was playing a loop of tracks in memory of the great man, when my then girlfriend asked why I liked The Sensational Alex Harvey Band? I explained, and she replied, ‘But he looked so dirty, like a bad workman that would come to your house and drink Dad’s booze and fuck Mom.’ She had a point, and some imagination, but that was the moment I knew we wouldn’t last.

If you lived in Glasgow in the 1970s, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were bigger than Jesus. Well, Alex was at least, for he was one of the city’s three religions - the other two being soccer and alcohol. While soccer could disappoint, and drink left you hungover, SAHB never let you down.

As Charles Shaar Murray wrote, after Alex Harvey’s death in the NME:

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were one of the craziest, most honest, most creative and most courageous bands of their time, and also the most public and best-known phase of the career of Alex Harvey, the man who won a Tommy Steele rock-alike contest in Glasgow in the mid-fifties and thereafter dubbed himself The Last Of The Teenage Idols.

Alex Harvey was a genuine working-class hero, born in Plantation, the harbor district of Glasgow in 1935, he grew up with a love of Billie Holliday, Big Bill Broozny, Charlie Parker, Elvis Presley and Little Richard. In 1959, he formed his first band, Alex Harvey’s Soul Band, which established his great, cigarette and alcohol voice that didn’t mimic American inflection, but delivered songs in his native Glaswegian. The band toured the U.K. and Europe, and for one gig had the embryonic Beatles as support.

But Harvey was more than just a Blues singer and he moved on to performing in the musical Hair, which inspired the theatrical style he used with his most successful group, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

SAHB were unique as they mixed genres and styles - Weimar cabaret, film, Blues, rock and torch song, with which, as Murray writes, “they achieved their impact simply because Alex Harvey had the insight to locate the central core of the song and the passion to get him to that core.”

What showed most about Alex Harvey the performer was his very real devotion to his audiences. He would go to any length to enlighten and to entertain, and - as his notion of theatrical presentation developed from a few simple costume changes and bits of business to complex arrangements of props and gadgets - his work was never bombastic and never attempted to substitute extravagance for genuine communication. Time after time, he would exhort his audiences to avoid both private and institutionalized violence - “don’t make any bullets, don’t buy any bullets and don’t shoot any fucken bullets” - and to behave responsibly towards each other and their environment - “don’t pish in the water supply.”

During the period of Alex’s greatest popularity, he did not just provide an escape from everyday existence through dem ol’ rock and roll fantasies, but he depicted and celebrated that existence and the process of that escape, and the relationship of one to the other.

Vambo still rules.
 

 
Bonus clips of SAHB plus an interview with Alex Harvey after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Soul Dracula: Disco vampire
10.27.2010
12:58 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Hot Blood
Soul Dracula

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Pre-Halloween disco grooviness.

Hot Blood’s classic ‘Soul Dracula’ was released in 1975. Here’s a clip from French TV
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Bill Hicks last interview: Austin cable TV 1993

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Bill Hicks on Austin cable television. The show aired on October, 1993, five months before Hicks died.

Bill knows his days are numbered and seems more intent on speaking truth to power than being funny. He’s getting his last licks in, discussing the Waco Branch Davidian masscres and censorship, including Letterman’s chickenshit decision not to air his appearance on The Late Show.
 

 
Waco is 102 miles from Austin and the Branch Davidian confrontation was taking place at the time of this interview. Hicks had visited the site of the compound during the siege. His thoughts on the matter swung wildly from being dismissive of Koresh to outrage at the government over the outcome. Here’s a couple of videos of Hicks talking about the Waco disaster.
 

 
More from Hicks on Waco after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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