When I think of Iggy and Stiv together, I might think of their mutual penchant for self-mutilation and animalistic performances. That it was supposed to have been Stiv who passed Iggy that famous jar of Skippy. Or maybe I think of midwestern punk and my heart swells with vulgar, snotty pride. At the very least, I think of their unbelievable drug stories I read about in Cheetah Chrome’s book. What I tend to forget is that they were friends and colleagues. It’s an unsettlingly earnest moment to watch, but when you get past the creeping threat of voyeurism one tends to feel at such a naked display of emotion, the warmth and sincerity of the eulogy is one of the most loving moments in punk rock.
Peter Sellers didn’t know he was dying, he believed he was going to live until he was seventy-five. That’s what his spirit guide, the ghost of Victorian Music Hall performer, Dan Leno had told him.
Sellers was terribly superstitious, his film career had often turned on the say-so of his clairvoyant, Maurice Woodruff. By the early 1970s, Sellers believed he was similarly able to communicate with the spirit world. He also recounted to his friends how he had been various famous people in various past lives. His colleague and friend Spike Milligan, poked fun at Sellers’ beliefs, pointing out that he was always Napoleon, or Ceaser, or Leonardo da Vinci in his past life, rather than some ordinary joe.
Perhaps Sellers should have listened to Milligan, for he may not have been so credulous. He may even have uncovered that his faithful clairvoyant Woodruff was in the pay of the film studios, and his advice on starring roles was not inspired by Tarot, but rather on the size of check Woodruff received. Similarly he may found out his beloved Leno had died babbling insane, a victim of tertiary syphilis.
If Sellers had stuck more to the real world, then he may have accepted Dr. Christiaan Barnard’s offer in 1976 of open-heart surgery and the bypass that would have certainly lengthened his life. Though he attended a heart operation and photographed Barnard at work, Sellers was fearful he would die on the operating table as he had in 1964, after suffering 8 heart attacks.
Come 1980, with the failure of his third marriage to Lynne Frederick, and a grueling work schedule, Sellers was physically exhausted. As before at such times, he reached out to those people who had created some of his happiest working days: his fellow Goons, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe.
Two months before he died, Sellers wrote to Milligan in the hope that the 3 of them would once again work together on some new comedy shows. Sadly it wasn’t to be, as hours before the 3 men were about to meet, on the 22nd of July, Sellers suffered a fatal heart attack.
28 MAY 80
MR SPIKE MILLIGAN
DEAR SPIKE I AM DESPERATE TO HAVE SOME REAL FUN AGAIN WITH YOU AND HARRY. PLEASE CAN WE GET TOGETHER AND WRITE SOME MORE GOON SHOWS? WE COULD PLACE THEM ANYWHERE I DONT WANT ANY MONEY I WILL WORK JUST FOR THE SHEER JOY OF BEING WITH YOU BOTH AGAIN AS WE WERE.
Now a classic Goon Show sketch, “What time is it, Eccles?”
It was the summer holidays and we were visiting my grandparents. It was warm and giddy, and there was a rippling excitement at the thought of a man landing on the Moon.
No one actually doubted it, but then, no one was really sure it would happen. All we knew was that somewhere above our heads a rocket was hurtling its crew towards their fateful destination.
It was to be shown live on TV. The time difference meant it that the landing was set for the wee small hours of our morning. That night we bought cones from the ice cream man, who still claimed the Moon was made of cheese and the mice would see these astronauts off. He meant well, but I was 7, and didn’t believe him.
Later, sleepily awake, we sat huddled on the sofa, a flickering black and white picture, that suddenly burst with the pock-marked surface of the Moon. It was unbelievable. It was fantastic. And as the Lunar Module Eagle landed, I wondered how this would change our lives? For it seemed to me then that we had gone in search of dreams and had only discovered a rock.
But I was wrong. This was only the beginning.
As the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong was a hero. More, his actions had a greater significance: they cut away the hold of superstition and ignorance from controlling our destiny.
The Moon landing changed this, and we were at last able to begin our examination of the Universe.
A young Tony Scott stars in his brother Ridley’s first film Boy and Bicycle.
This was the film that inspired Tony to make movies, and it’s a long way from the loud, brash, stadium rock ‘n’ roll films he became famous for in later life.
Tony Scott had considerable skill as film-maker. He was great at large scale, set-piece action scenes, which he manipulated with the ease of a master conjuror. He was more than capable at getting strong performances from his cast, even when characterization was flimsy. And interestingly, his films brought together the most unlikely groups of fans - the Goths of The Hunger, the jocks of Top Gun, the Hip of True Romance, and the Geeks of Enemy of the State. I always thought he should have made a Batman or a Spiderman, or teamed-up again with Tarantino.
The news of his death was shocking, but the manner in which he chose to die had something terribly dramatic about it - his fall from the Vincent Thomas Bridge was witnessed by on-lookers and even filmed.
Tony Scott will be remembered for those populist, large scale movies that captured the audience’s imagination, while at the same time reflecting the cultural ambition, fantasies and fashions of their decade.
This is not an obituary for Scott McKenzie who died yesterday at the age of 73. It’s a reflection on a song he sang (written by John Phillips) and the place it held in my life and the Sixties culture that changed me forever.
Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” got a lot of shit for being perceived as cashing in on the counter culture. It was slammed as a corny hymn to hippiedom that had about as much to do with hippies as Maynard G. Krebs had to do with Jack Kerouac. The song was an enormous hit in 1967 and I remember hearing it on the radio at least a half dozen times a day. And loving it.
As much as McKenzie’s credibility as an ambassador to the Summer of Love was under fire by the hipster elite, there was no question that his song managed, in its lightly psychedelic way, to capture the moment when flowers became children and vibrations were good, good, good, good. There were other songs that caught or helped create the zeitgeist that summer (at least for me): “Purple Haze,” Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues,” and “San Franciscan Nights.” In the silly but hooky “Nights,” Eric Burdon actually made McKenzie’s song seem relatively sophisticated. But many of us chose to make the “establishment” the target of our criticism, not pop songs. And there simply was no arguing with Hendrix or Blue Cheer’s psychedelic bona fides or the good intentions of the slightly dazed and confused McKenzie and Burdon. It was a time in which all of us were having trouble getting a handle on what was happening, which is exactly as it should have been. Sometimes confusion is a good thing - it opens you up.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter to me whether “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” had the Better Heads and Gardens seal of approval. Anything that promised a groovy vibe somewhere other than where I was at became a destination point on my karmic map. I took my directions from wherever I could get them. Hell, my introduction to the hippie scene came via an article in a copy of Life magazine that I found sitting on my father’s desk. Living in the South in the Sixties, I was so hungry for a mind-altering experience that a series of photos in Life simulating the effects of LSD took the place of Playboy centerfolds as titillation in my psychedelically deprived reality. If there was one major recruiting vehicle for the Love Army, it was Life magazine. I recall two or three issues that helped make my mind up for me. I was definitely going to San Francisco…and yes, I would wear a fucking flower in my hair.
As it turns out, I ended up in Los Angeles. Blame it on the bossa nova or the go-with-the-flow nature of hitchhiking, I did not arrive in San Francisco as planned. I got a lift in Virginia from a trucker who took me to St. Louis where I stood by the side of the freeway for hours until a guy in a Rambler who chain-smoked Lucky Strikes offered me a ride to Vegas. I was so desperate, I took it. From Vegas, a bunch of rich kids from Pacific Palisades took me to L.A. I lasted a few weeks in the City Of Angels before I got busted for being a vagrant and was sent back home, where I lasted a mere few weeks.
While my mother was thankful to have me safely ensconced in suburbia. My father didn’t speak to me. The only time he recognized my presence was when he came into my bedroom and destroyed my record player while I was playing Country Joe And The Fish’s “Fish Cheer.” See, songs do make a difference. Dad was a Navy man and my choice in music drove him into pathological fits. He couldn’t take my hippie shit anymore and I couldn’t handle his anger. It took 20 years for us to finally come to understand each other and when we did it was a very beautiful thing. But in 1967, our relationship had hit the breaking point. The Summer of Love was not all flowers and love-ins. I left again.
When I finally arrived in the Haight Ashbury in 1968, love’s season had passed and the neighborhood was gradually becoming a cattle yard for runaways. Tourist busses clogged the streets and sightseers were everywhere. Kids with no money were spare changing and ripping off weekend hippies by selling them bogus drugs (gooey black incense passed for opium, aspirin dotted with food coloring for LSD-25). I stood on a corner and proudly sold “The San Francisco Oracle,” an underground newspaper/literary mag that distilled and focused the hippie scene, culturally and spiritually, while adorned with beautiful psychedelic cover art. Waving the “Oracle” in the air was like proclaiming my allegiance to something…I’m still not quite sure what. A new season was upon us: The Autumn Of Cosmic Blue Balls. When love comes to a screeching halt, the blowback hurts.
But I managed to keep positive. I avoided the clutter and craziness by spending most of my time in Golden Gate park reading books of poetry that I’d stolen from City Lights Bookstore in North Beach (merci, Monsieur Ferlinghetti). Technicians of the sacred like Phillip Lamantia, Jack Spicer and Michael McClure threaded their way into my consciousness like serpents whispering dark, luminous incantations into my inner mind’s ear. I learned to listen and in listening I learned.
At night I lost myself in music. It was a great time to be in love with rock ‘n’ roll and San Francisco was the center of a sonic electronic mandala. I basked in the psychedelia wafting through the Matrix and The Fillmore where Traffic, Incredible String Band, Eric Burdon and War, It’s A Beautiful Day, Albert King, The Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Country Joe and The Fish, The Airplane and Quicksilver elevated the collective kundalini of a generation of young, cosmically stunned hipsters.
I was crashing at a pad on Waller street right off Haight. The place was being rented by a high school friend of mine and draft dodger named Willy. Willy was a year older than me and had made it to the Haight a year before I did. There were at least a couple of dozen young runaways crashing at Willy’s place. One was this beautiful blonde girl with sad eyes from Reno, Nevada whose name I cannot recall (Reno will do). She had escaped a white trash background and had made it to San Francisco with a flower in her hair. The Haight had become a refuge for a lot of kids who were coming from some serious dysfunctional and abusive families. Not all of us were on a quest to find ourselves. Some of us were on the run from bad shit back home, comin’ to the Haight to get away from hate. Reno was one of those. She was sexually precocious and I can imagine the kind of attention she was getting from the predators back at the old trailer park in Reno. But, she had a sparkling quality about her that belied the sadness in her eyes. And I fell in love.
Reno was hooked up with Willy. But, back then, sexual relationships weren’t exactly binding. There was a lot of sharing going on. Because I was tight with Willy, I had my own “room”: a large walk in closet with enough space for a mattress. I covered the mattress with some groovy looking fabric from India and I decorated the walls with black light posters and called it home.
One night Willy needed his “space” and locked himself in the bathroom. I heard Reno crying outside the bathroom door and whimpering Willy’s name over and over again. Saint that I am, I went to console her. She was standing at the door completely naked, pale skin, long blonde hair, and small perfect breasts with nipples that looked like cherry flavored Jujubes. I threw my arms around her, lifted her off her feet and took her to my hippie hideaway. The black light posters were blazing day-glo, incense was burning, a candle lit. I gently lay on her on the mattress and proceeded to clumsily (and to an outside observer probably comically) lose my virginity. It was over before the hugeness of the moment even had a chance to sink in. Reno got out of bed, didn’t even look at me, and returned to the wailing wall of the bathroom door. I lay still, staring at the flicker of candle shadows dancing on the closet’s ceiling. I felt abandoned, vulnerable, but also deeply refreshed on some spiritual level. There’s really nothing like putting your dick in another human being for the first time…at least not for a 16-year-old guy who considered women the most mysterious and divine creatures in an ever-expanding Universe that was suddenly expanding really fast.
Sex, drugs and rock and roll had pried me loose from the waterboard of Catholicism and I felt free, free at last! And I had the evidence to prove it. A few weeks after fucking Reno my pubes started to itch like crazy and I was pissing fire. Reno had given me both the crabs and the clap. A bottle of A-200 and some penicillin quickly got me back to normal. Thanks to Reno I experienced the crash course in the both the upside and downside of the sexual revolution. Even in the era of free love, there was no free lunch. But compared to today when sex can kill you, those were innocent times.
On Monday nights Stephen Gaskin, an ex- Marine and former teacher at San Francisco State College turned spiritual teacher gave lectures on spirituality at the Straight Theater. His style was irreverent, plain spoken and often remarkably insightful. 100s of people gathered for ‘The Monday Night Class”. Here’s a quote from Stephen’s website describing what was going on at those gatherings: “The glue that held us [the Monday Night Class, also known as the ‘Astral Continental Congress’] together was a belief in the moral imperative toward altruism that was implied by the telepathic spiritual communion we experienced together. Every decent thing accomplished over the years by the people of Monday Night Class came from those simple Hippy values. It was the basis for our belief in Spirit, nonviolence, collectivity, and social activism.” While Gaskin was an entertaining and possessed of a guru-like lucidity, he also had a massive ego. I was later exposed to that ego one night when he had a showdown with Alan Watts at Alan’s houseboat in Sausalito. It was “The Shootout At The OM Corral.” I’ll tell you about that later.
I remember going to the Straight Theater at midnight to see a screening of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. The movie was projected on the ceiling of the theater and a couple of hundred stoned freaks lay on our backs on the floor and watched the film flickering on the ceiling. Despite all of our serious spiritual and political passions, hippies did have a sense of humor.
Yes, I went to San Francisco with a flower in my hair and Scott Mackenzie may not have been the vehicle that got me there but he certainly helped grease the wheels. There was a beautiful kind of hopefulness in his song that captured the moment when we (kids in the Sixties) really believed change was imminent and we were going to herald it in. We weren’t sure what it was (Mr. Jones wasn’t the only one) but we were eager to find out.
All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion
We were definitely in motion and the vibes were definitely strange, good strange. But as far as having any explanations…well we didn’t. We were learning and part of that learning process meant not needing explanations for awhile. We had had the world explained to us by people who hadn’t really lived in the world wholly and fully. In claustrophobic classrooms and soul-deadening churches, men of learning and of the cloth had regurgitated the same old shit for hundreds of years and we had stopped listening, the words had become dull and uninspiring. We needed fresh air. We needed to feel our bodies, to dance and fuck. We needed to get out of the dead zone and we did. And without us, the old guard staggered and withered. The new flesh had escaped their dominion, to celebrate itself in the golden streets of San Francisco. And in significant ways that strange vibration still endures and some of us still wear a metaphoric flower in our hair, you may not see it, but it’s there.
Charles Ball who co-founded seminal punk D.I.Y. label Ork Records with Terry Ork and later Lust/Unlust Records died Monday night of a heart attack in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Ork Records released Television’s debut single “Little Johnny Jewel” followed by records from Richard Hell, The Marbles and Mick Farren, among others. An Ork release was always a thrilling event for me. You never knew what direction the label would move and that was part of what made it such an exciting and ultimately ground-breaking enterprise. With Terry seeking out new bands and Charles keeping the machinery of the business running, Ork Records was a ticket to New York’s underground musical amusement park.
Eventually, Charles ventured out on his own by creating the shortlived but highly influential Lust/Unlust label. In a brief but productive period of time, he managed to release a handful of genre-smashing singles and LPs that expanded the field for rock ‘n’ roll in wildly unpredictable ways, including the first record by Teenage Jesus (with Migraine Records) and various projects by Martin Rev, DNA, Alex Chilton and Robin Crutchfield’s Dark Day. With his all-American looks, Charles may not have appeared dangerous but he had an outlaw’s vision and was taking risks at a time when the music industry didn’t have a clue. He’s earned every true rocker’s respect and will be fondly remembered for helping revive not only an art form but a city.
Here’s Alex Chilton’s “Bangkok” which was released as a single by Lust/Unlust in 1978
An auction of the late Sir Jimmy Savile’s belongings raised almost half-a-million dollars yesterday in Leeds, England. 700 on-line bidders competed with 350 buyers at the Savile Hall for an excess of gold lame suits, platform shoes, and a selection of the DJ’s bling.
549 lots were up for grabs in a sale organized by Dreweatts. These included gold lame suits, jogging gear, kilts, cigars, cigar boxes, shoes, trainers, furniture, records, record player, photographs, cartoons, numerous awards, assorted glasses, memorabilia, including Christmas cards from Royalty, and Jim’ll Fix It medallions, presentation gifts and the famous red-upholstered chair.
The auction lasted 13-hours, which saw the legendary DJ and broadcaster’s Rolls-Royce (nick-named “The Beast”) sold for $200,000, his famous red chair sold for $13,300, and individual items, such as one highly sought after Jim’ll Fix It medal reach $3,130.
All of the items reached over their original asking price:
Lot 174 - A pink satin padded bedspread with a gold J.S. monogram was sold for over $200.
Lot 185 - A novelty egg cup teapot with picture of Sir Jim holding it raised $60.
Lot 549 - Sir Jimmy’s favourite ashtray complete with a Romeo Y Julieta cigar - went for $220.
Chris Marker the influential French artist and film-maker has died aged 91. Marker died on his birthday, July 29th, which oddly reminded me of the time traveler in his 1962 film La Jetée who returns back in time only to see his own death at Orly Airport.
La Jetée is Marker’s best known work, which questioned the form of cinema, and the role within it of image, sound, editing and script. The film consisted of a series of still images, and one film sequence, which told the story of a post-apocalyptic world where a time traveler returns to the past to change the future. The film was the basis for Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, and original conceit for James Cameron’s Terminator. Today, French President Francois Hollande led tributes to Marker, saying La Jetée “will be remembered by history.”
Born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve on July 29th, 1921, Marker was vague about his biography, preferring to mislead and fictionalize elements of his story. He variously claimed he was born in Paris, Neuilly-sur-Seine, and Outer Mongolia. Marker never gave interviews, and refused to be photographed, though in later years pictures were secretly taken.
Marker was studying philosophy when the Second World War broke out, he served with the French Resistance, after the war he wrote a novel, Le Coeur Net (1949), joined the left-leaning magazine Esprit, contributing to poems, stories, and co-wrote the film column with André Bazin. He then wrote for Cahiers du Cinéma, before starting the globe trotting that would continue for the rest of his life, photographing and documenting his many excursions.
Marker’s first experimental film was a documentary on the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. He then worked with Alain Resnais on Les Statues Meurent Aussi, a hugely controversial film dealing with colonialism and art, which was banned in France on the grounds it attacked French foreign policy. Marker was a Marxist and his politics informed much of his work. However, Marker could be critical of Soviet Russia as he was of the west. In Letter from Siberia (1958), he famously critiqued Soviet and Western propaganda by showing the same piece of film three times, reporting it twice through East/West propaganda, and finally, ‘telling it like it is.’
Durng the 1950s, he also started a series of photographic books, one in particular on Korean women, developed Marker’s idiosyncratic style of mixing image and text, which possibly inspired the form of La Jetée.
Marker followed La Jetée with the less successful Le Joli Mai (1962), a 150 minute film made up from almost 60 hours of interview material on the lives, loves and politics of Parisians. He was then involved in establishing Société pour le Lancement des Oeuvres Nouvelles (SLON), which made collectively directed films and documentaries. Their first film was on Vietnam, and continued with the style of documentary Marker had devised with Le Joli Mai.
During the 1970s, Marker seemed to lose his way, making films about the politics of previous generations rather than the issues of feminism, sex, and personal liberty, that were central to the decade. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Marker returned to form with the cinematic essay, Sans Soleil (1983) and AK (1985), a documentary on Akira Kurosawa, making his epic movie Ran.
Marker continued working through his seventies and eighties and began developing a more personal and intimate style of film-making, focussing on his pets and zoo animals, creating his own bestiary.
Chris Marker wrote with the camera - his best works told cinematic essays that mixed the personal with the social and political.
Chris Marker (Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve), July 29 1921 - July 29 2012
In honor of the passing of Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played “George Jefferson” on the The Jeffersons and All in the Family television series, here’s a re-post from the Dangerous Minds archives.
Sherman Hemsley was known to be a huge fan of prog rock, especially Gentle Giant, Nektar and Gong.
Hemsley collaborated with Yes’s Jon Anderson on a funk-rock opera about the “spiritual qualities of the number 7” (never produced). Hemsley also did an interpretive dance to the Gentle Giant song “Proclamation” on Dinah Shore’s 70s talkshow, that was apparently somewhat confusing for her.
But the best story, I mean the best story of all time, is the one told by Gong’s Daevid Allen about his encounter with the beloved 70’s sitcom star. Here is Allen’s verbatim tale as related to Mitch Myers (and originally published in Magnet magazine):
“It was 1978 or 1979, and Sherman Hemsley kept ringing me up. I didn’t know him from a bar of soap because we didn’t have television in Spain (where I was living). He called me from Hollywood saying, ‘I’m one of your biggest fans and I’m going to fly you here and put flying teapots all up and down the Sunset Strip.’ I thought, ‘This guy is a lunatic.’ He kept it up so I said, ‘Listen, can you get us tickets to L.A. via Jamaica? I want to go there to make a reggae track and have a honeymoon with my new girlfriend.’ He said, ‘Sure! I’ll get you two tickets.’
I thought, ‘Well, even if he’s a nut case at least he’s coming up with the goodies.’ The tickets arrived and we had this great honeymoon in Jamaica. Then we caught the plane across to L.A. We had heard Sherman was a big star, but we didn’t know the details. Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there’s a big joint being passed around. I say, ‘Sorry man, I don’t smoke.’ Sherman says, ‘You don’t smoke and you’re from Gong?’
Inside the front door of Sherman’s house was a sign saying, ‘Don’t answer the door because it might be the man.’ There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, ‘Come on upstairs and I’ll show you the Flying Teapot room.’ Sherman was very sweet but was surrounded by these really crazy people.
We went up to the top floor and there was this big room with darkened windows and “Flying Teapot” is playing on a tape loop over and over again. There were also three really dumb-looking, very voluptuous Southern gals stoned and wobbling around naked. They were obviously there for the guys to play around with.
[My girlfriend] Maggie and I were really tired and went to our room to go to bed. The room had one mattress with an electric blanket and that was it. No bed covering, no pillow, nothing. The next day we came down and Sherman showed us a couple of [The Jeffersons] episodes.
One of our fans came and rescued us, but not before Sherman took us to see these Hollywood PR people. They said, ‘Well, Mr. Hemsley wants us to get the information we need in order to do these Flying Teapot billboards on Sunset Strip.’ I looked at them and thought they were the cheesiest, most nasty people that I had ever seen in my life and I gave them the runaround. I just wanted out of there. I liked Sherman a lot. He was a very personable, charming guy. I just had a lot of trouble with the people around him.”
Oi, if Daevid Allen thinks you’re weird, you must be a stone freak! (Like our pal, opera singer/actor Jesse Merlin. He met Daevid Allen in San Francisco and Allen said “Just look at him. He’s a perfect example of himself!” Coming from Daevid Allen, that’s the best compliment in the history of the world, isn’t it?)
Below, Sherman Hemsley as “George Jefferson,” dancing up a storm to Nektar’s “Show Me the Way”!