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Farewell, Dear Friend: Peter Bergman (1939-2012)
02:19 pm



Dear Friends,

It is with a very heavy heart that I post this.

One of my very first heroes in life when I was a kid—and one of my dearest and most valued friends as an adult—Peter Bergman of the legendary Firesign Theatre, died this morning of complications from leukemia. He was 72.

The last time I talked to Peter was a few weeks ago. I’d picked up the Albert Ayler Holy Ghost box set, and there, on one of the live discs recorded in Cleveland in 1966, was Peter introducing the band! I called him up that morning and he excitedly told me about that event and we laughed a lot and I told him that he just HAD to write his autobiography.

“Pete, you’re the ‘Zelig’ of the rock era! You’ve been in a film with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Farrah Fawcett. You coined the terms “love-in.” You smoked a joint with Bob Marley and the Wailers when they were your opening act [True, the Wailers opened for Proctor and Bergman in Boston. Pete told me the joint was “arm-sized”!]. You guys gigged with the Buffalo Springfield. You’ve worked with Spike Milligan, and now here you are with Albert Ayler, for god’s sake! I mean, come on! You have to do this!”

Peter seemed to like the idea of writing an autobiography (a lot) and we talked about electronic publishing and Kindles and stuff like that. I had heard just a few days before, from my best friend, Michael Backes, that Peter was sick, but Mike said he played it off very cavalierly, like “Hey, if you’re going to get leukemia, this is the best kind of leukemia to get!” (meaning the most easily treated and managed with medicine).

I waited for the topic to come up on the phone that day. It didn’t, but just as I was about to broach it, Peter got another call and hopped off the line. It was the last time I spoke to him.

This morning I got a call from my wife, Tara, as I was standing in line with 4000 other people waiting to pick up my press credentials for the SXSW Festival. It’s a rainy, shitty day here in Austin, TX and with that call it got a whole lot worse:

“Honey, I’ve got some bad news for you. Some really bad news. Peter died last night. Taylor Jessen just sent you an email, but I didn’t think you’d heard.”

I stood in a room full of 4000 strangers and and quietly cried to myself, wondering how the rest of the Firesign were handling the awful news.

I’d lost a good friend, but they’d lost their brother.

From the Firesign Theater website:

Peter Bergman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the day after Russia invaded Finland and the day before Winston Churchill (Peter’s hero) turned 65. Peter’s comic career began in the sixth grade, writing comic poems with his mother for library class - a penchant that developed into co-authoring the ninth grade humor column “The High Hatters,” and his own creation “Look and See With Peter B.” for his high school newspaper.

Peter’s audio career was launched in high school as an announcer oh the school radio system, from which he was banished after his unauthorized announcement that the Chinese communists had taken over the school and that a “mandatory voluntary assembly was to take place immediately.” Russell Rupp, the school primciple, promptly relieved Peter of his announcing gig. Rupp was the inspiration for the Principle Poop character on “Don’t Crush That Dwarf”.

While attending high school, Peter formed his first recording group called “The Four Candidates,” turning out a comedy cut-up single titled “Attention Convention,” parodying the 1956 democratic convention. Released on Buddy records, it received air play in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

At college, Peter was managing editor of the Yale comedy magazine. He wrote the lyrics for two musical collaborations with Austin Pendleton, both of which starred Phil Proctor. He graduated as a scholar of the house in economics, and played point guard for the liberal basketball league whose members have since lost their dribble but not their politics.

Peter spent two graduate years at Yale as a Carnegie teaching fellow in economics, and as the Eugene O’Neill playwriting fellow at the drama school. After a six-month stint as a grunt in the U.S. Army’s 349th general hospital unit, he went to Berlin on a Ford foundation fellowship where he joined Tom Stoppard, Derek Marlow and Piers Paul Read at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin. There he wrote and directed his first film, “Flowers,” and connected with the Living Theatre - a major influence on his art.

Peter worked briefly in London with Spike Milligan and the BBC before returning to America in 1966. Back in the U.S., he secured a nightly radio show on Pacifica’s KPFK in Los Angeles: “Radio Free Oz,” around which the Firesign Theatre coalesced and gestated.

Peter coined the term “Love-In” in 1967, and threw the first such event in April of that same year in Los Angeles. That event ultimately drew a crowd of some 65,000 people, blocking freeways for miles. This so impressed Gary Usher, a Columbia Records staff producer, that he offered the Firesign Theatre their first record contract.

In the 1970’s, Peter diversified his comic career as the president of a film equipment company. He also helped produce a machine for viewing angio cardiograms and measuring the blockage of the arteries of the heart.

In the 80’s Peter turned to film and tape, producing the comic feature “J-Men Forever” with Phil Proctor, as well as producing television shows that featured various members of Firesign.

Starting in 1995, Peter began touring the country as a “high tech comedian”, delivering lectures and keynote speeches to computer oriented companies and conventions. He worked on publishing the web site for one of the candidates for Mayor of Los Angeles.

His latest venture, in association with David Ossman, started in the summer of 2010: the podcast revival of Radio Free OZ.

I called Mike to commiserate and he said something that was true for me, too, and I’lll end with his words: “I don’t think there is ANYTHING that defines who I was in high school more than being that kid listening to Firesign Theatre on headphones stoned out of my gourd. I think the way I think because of the Firesign Theatre. I phrase things the way I do because of the Firesign Theatre. I look at the world the way I do because of them. There might not be anything that had a bigger formative influence on who I am today when I really think about it!”

Losing Peter Bergman is a great personal loss. Farewell, my dear friend, farewell. And to the rest of the Firesign Theatre, know that I am feeling the same things that you are today.

Below, the Firesign Theatre’s anarchic 1969 TV ads for a local Los Angeles car dealer, Jack Poet Volkswagen.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Life Goes On
02:42 pm



I think I’ve seen a few of these at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Photo by Flickr user s_kessler.

The above photo was taken at St Pancras Old Church in the UK. Click here to see larger image.

Via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
An elegy for Davy Jones: Carole King’s demo for ‘Porpoise Song’
08:32 am



In light of the unexpected passing of Monkee Davy Jones, here’s Carole King’s original demo for Head’s “Porpoise Song” (co-written by Gerry Goffin). The Gregorian chant thing she’s got going here (it’s the Mass of the Dead, remember this was the song playing during Micky Dolenz’s “suicidal” jump off the bridge in the beginning of the film) seems like a fitting thing to post in Jones’ honor.

Sound quality is what it is, but no matter, this is still pretty amazing. Listen LOUD!

Thank you Simon Wells!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Ding dong: Andrew Breitbart is DEAD at 43!
07:01 am

The wrong side of history


The rage-aholic conservative blogger is no more…

Death at such a young age (although he looked so much older) is normally a tragedy….but in my opinion, the Grim Reaper couldn’t have visited a more deserving recipient. Hooray! It’s a gift!

You can just bet that the fact checkers did a triple check on this death notice. Via Huffington Post:

Andrew Breitbart, the conservative blogger and journalist, died suddenly on Thursday morning, according to his website Big Journalism. He was 43.

The site said that Breitbart died of “natural causes” shortly after midnight on Thursday. ABC News confirmed that Breitbart had passed away. Breitbart’s attorney also confirmed the news to CNN.

“We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior,” the post said. “Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love.”

Breitbart came to be well-known for his work with the Drudge Report (he also played an early role with The Huffington Post), and would go on to found the Big Journalism, Big Hollywood and websites. He was also an author, columnist and ubiquitous commentator in the media.

They say you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, so I deleted all the stuff I wrote about pissing on his grave, doing a happy dance of joy over the good news and feeling elated to know that one of the single nastiest, most sociopathic human beings ever to stain American civic life has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it? Fuck Andrew Brietbart. All he accomplished with his life was to make his world a meaner, shittier place to live in. I’m glad he’s dead.

He’s in a better place now..!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The other Monkees react to the death of Davy Jones
04:21 pm

Pop Culture


Gathering up the reactions of remaining Monkees Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter to the passing of Davy Jones

Mike Nesmith:

All the lovely people. Where do they all come from?

So many lovely and heartfelt messages of condolence and sympathy, I don’t know what to say, except my sincere thank you to all. I share and appreciate your feelings.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, or strange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don’t exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity.

That David has stepped beyond my view causes me the sadness that it does many of you. I will miss him, but I won’t abandon him to mortality. I will think of him as existing within the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane.

David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us.

I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels.

Peter Tork posted the following on his Facebook fan page:

”It is with great sadness that I reflect on the sudden passing of my long-time friend and fellow-adventurer, David Jones. His talent will be much missed; his gifts will be with us always. My deepest sympathy to Jessica and the rest of his family. Adios, to the Manchester Cowboy.

Peace and love, Peter T.”

Micky Dolenz released a statement:

“I am in a state of shock; Davy and I grew up together and shared in the unique success of what became The Monkees phenomena. The time we worked together and had together is something I’ll never forget. He was the brother I never had and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart. The memories have and will last a lifetime. My condolences go out to his family.”

Below a forever young Davy Jones makes a prom date with Marcia Brady.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Malcolm X: The truth is eternal
02:35 am

Class War


Malcolm X was assassinated 47 years ago today.

In this two hour compilation of speeches, the brilliance of Malcolm reaches through time and space to touch us and remind us of the harsh truth that almost a half century after the man was killed America is still struggling with most of the same problems we were struggling with back then. Technology, drugs and the silhouettes of cars may have changed, but the reptilian brain still keeps us anchored in the murk of class war, racism and injustice.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Whitney Houston stunningly beautiful on American TV 1985
07:19 pm

Current Events


As the airwaves become flooded with the deafening clamor of mindless chatter revolving around the death of Whitney Houston, I hope the voice of the woman herself isn’t drowned out.

This clip from the TV series Silver Spoons features 22-year-old Houston singing her first top ten hit “Saving All My Love For You” and it’s gorgeous.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Long live the Ugly One: R.I.P. pioneering reggae MC King Stitt
08:25 pm



It can hardly be said that Jamaican microphone man King Stitt, who died today at the age of 71, was a conventional pin-up boy in his time. In fact the man was a bit of a physical mess due to a facial deformity with which he was born. But he made the absolute best of it. Stitt nicknamed himself The Ugly One (inspired by the spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly). He then proceeded to help shape the MC tradition in reggae over the next 50-plus years, and inspire less-than-handsome rhymers (like albino MCs Yellowman, Mellow Yellow and Purpleman) to pick up the mic and overcome their looks with expert vocal hype. 

Born Winston Sparkes in 1940, Stitt began deejaying (as Jamaica used to call MCing back in the day) at age 16 with Coxsone Dodd’s sound system, called Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat. Although Stitt’s mic work prefigured rap, his vocals plugged into the more laidback, syncopated, hype-man style of the day, with his rhymes spread across bars rather than sticking strictly in time to the beat.

Stitt’s style and courage stunned Jamaica’s dancehalls and in 1963, he was crowned “king of the deejays.” By 1969 he had recorded a bunch of singles for various labels, including his most famous, the Clancy Eccles-produced “Fire Corner,” which featured his later-much-sampled intro line, “No matter what the people say/This sound lead the way…”

Throughout reggae music’s development over the past half-century—from ska to rocksteady to roots to dancehall to today’s bashment—Stitt has remained a stalwart reminder of the determination it took back in the day to become a star.
Producers like Bruno Blum recognized the history, and let the Ugly One do his thing on “The Original Ugly Man,” Blum’s remix of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Des Laids Des Laids” from the 2001 reissue of Aux Armes Et Cetera, one of the French crooner’s late-‘70s reggae sets.

Here’s a bit of the King in raw action in the dancehall from the Studio One Story DVD, doing a bit of tune selecting as he chats…

After the jump: check out an interview with Stitt on his early days…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Funk legend Jimmy Castor RIP
06:17 pm



Legendary funk saxophonist and band leader Jimmy Castor, of The Jimmy Castor Bunch - the sample source for a huge amount of hip-hop records - died today in Las Vegas of causes that are “currently unknown.” Sad news. Castor is best known for the evergreen breakbeat classic “It’s Just Begun,” “Troglodyte (Cave Man),” which was a huge hit for The Jimmy Castor Bunch in 1972 and “The Bertha Butt Boogie.” Here’s an excellent clip of the band performing “It’s Just Begun” live on TV (apparently the show is called Soul School), and tearing the roof off that sucker:

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Jennifer Miro of The Nuns R.I.P.
07:36 pm



Jennifer Anderson (aka Jennifer Miro) of pioneering San Francisco punk band The Nuns died on December 16 at the age of 54. Cause of death was cancer. She died in New York City. News of her death was only officially announced today.

Anderson co-founded The Nuns with Alejandro Escovedo and Jeff Olener in 1975. The band performed regularly at legendary S.F. music club Mabuhay Gardens. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1980.

Combining provocative lyrics and imagery with an aggressive musical attack, The Nuns were part punk, part goth, part satire and totally themselves.

While continuing to periodically record and perform with The Nuns (sans Escovedo) through the 1990s and beyond, Anderson was a popular model within the fetish and S&M community and a budding screenwriter. In the last few years of her life she worked in the law office of Raoul Felder.

Despite her cancer becoming progressively more incapacitating and pain increasingly intense, Anderson shunned conventional treatment and followed a regime of homeopathy and exercise.

According to long-time friend Peter Young, “she was very optimistic and positive. One of the last things she told me was she wanted to do another modeling shoot because she was so skinny from the last bout with the disease.”

Estranged from her family, with just one close friend and the occasional nurse attending to her, Anderson spent the last months of her life by herself in her apartment in Manhattan. Even for a woman who embraced privacy, this was a particularly lonely end. When remaining at home was finally no longer an option, she was moved to Bellevue Hospital where she died.

In this footage from a Nun’s performance at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on July 30, 1977, Anderson’s haunting beauty and dark humor is in full display.

Songs: “Lazy” and “Savage.”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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