DJ Steve Lamacq premiered the new PIL song earlier today on BBC 6.
Our John may have lost his upper register, but it is nice to hear him strain at it in such a raw way over the type of back-to-basics reggae-rock bed that’s screaming for a remix/dub-out…
If you want to know what British TV was like in the 1970s, well, apart from watching the repeats on BBC4, this will give you a fair idea. Elton John and Michael Caine getting all “Knees-up Mother Brown” round the olde joanna on Michael Parkinson‘s show.
All this the same year The Sex Pistols released “Anarchy in the U.K.” on EMI, The Ramones singled “Blitzkreig Bop” and Patti Smith “Pissing in a River”. Cor blimey, guvnor.
Leonard Cohen’s new album Old Ideas is being released next Tuesday. The critical reception has been ecstatic. Which thrills me because I have loved Cohen from the moment I heard “Suzanne” when I was 15 years old. He’s been a massive influence on my own music. My debt to him is deep.
Here’s something to hold you Cohen fans over until Old Ideas release: a brilliant performance by Mr. Cohen on Austin City Limits from 1988.
This French documentary from 1992 is an enjoyable overview of Brigitte Bardot’s forays into pop music. It features insightful interviews with Bardot, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, as well as dozens of clips of Bardot’s appearances in TV shows, Scopitones and movies.
Needless to say (though I’m saying it), Bardot was not much of a singer. But her willingness to poke fun at her sex kitten image and serve as a comedic and visual foil to the gruff machismo of Gainsbourg makes it easy to forgive her limitations as a vocalist and appreciate her sassy self-awareness. She’s having fun and so are we. One gets the impression that Bardot was perfectly content with her status as a pop icon, leaving the existential Sturm und Drang to her chain-smoking, brooding co-star.
“As an obsessional artist I fear everything I see. At one time, I dreaded everything I was making.”—Kusama interviewed in BOMB magazine in 1999.
You may have seen some of the lovely, now-viral shots of renowned Japanese Pop/Minimalist/AbEx artist Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room installation at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art, in which children are handed colored polka dots stickers at the museum’s entrance with which to deface a pure-white-painted living-room.
Whimsical as those images are, it’s important to remember that Kusama’s pattern-obsessed work reflects her career of art-as-therapy in response to a life marked by childhood abuse early on and mental illness throughout. As someone who’s both seen a measure of fame in New York City’s underground art scene in the ‘60s that rivaled Warhol’s, and lived in a mental institution in Japan for the past 34 years, Kusama strikes a remarkable figure. The raising of her profile in the US has been a long time coming for the 83-year-old.
Heather Lenz’s forthcoming documentary, Kusama: Princess of Polka Dots, promises to more fully flesh out the story of Japan’s most popular living artist. The film’s slated for a summer 2012 release to coincide with the arrival of a Kusama retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
After the jump: check out Kusama’s Self Obliteration, a portrait of the artist at one of her peak periods…
Ciao! Manhattan director David Weisman claims that this is “the only known footage of the inside of Max’s Kansas City.” Of course, he’s not including all the films and videos of performances shot at Max’s. But those don’t reveal what the club as a whole looked like.
A brief glimpse into New York’s epicenter of cool when everything and everyone seemed larger than life.
Viva, Richie Berlin, Ara Gallant and Paul America make fleeting appearances. This was shot in the late Sixties. Weisman narrates.
It was art out of chaos. Pop art. The Sweet‘s “Ballrooom Blitz”, Glam Rock’s catchiest, trashiest, most lovable song, came from a riot that saw the band bottled off the stage, at the Grand Hall, Palace Theater, Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1973. Men spat, while women screamed to drown out the music. Not the response expected for a group famous for their string of million sellers hits, “Little Willy”, “Wig-Wag Bam” and the number 1, “Block Buster”.
Why it happened has since led to suggestions that the band’s appearance in eye-shadow, glitter and lippy (in particular the once gorgeous bass player Steve Priest) was all too much for the hard lads and lassies o’ Killie.
It’s a possible. Priest thinks so, and said as much in his autobiography Are You Ready Steve?. But it does raise the question, why would an audience pay money to see a band best known through their numerous TV appearances for their outrageously camp image? Especially if these youngsters were such apparent homophobes? Moreover, this was 1973, when the UK seemed on the verge of revolution, engulfed by money shortages, food shortages, strike action, power cuts and 3-day-weeks, and the only glimmer of hope for millions was Thursday night and Top of the Pops.
Another possible was the rumor that Sweet didn’t play their instruments, and were a manufactured band like The Monkees. A story which may have gained credence as the band’s famous song-writing duo of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, preferred using session musicians to working with artists.
The sliver of truth in this rumor was that Sweet only sang on the first 3 Chinn-Chapman singles (“Funny, Funny”, “Co-Co” and “Poppa Joe”). It wasn’t until the fourth, “Little Willy” that Chinn and Chapman realized Sweet were in fact far better musicians than any hired hands, and allowed the band to do what they did best - play.
True, Chinn and Chapman gave Sweet their Midas touch, but it came at a cost. The group was dismissed by self-righteous music critics as sugar-coated pop for the saccharine generation. A harsh and unfair assessment. But in part it may also explain the audience’s ire.
In an effort to redefine themselves, Sweet tended to avoid playing their pop hits on tour, instead performing their own songs, the lesser known album tracks and rock covers. A band veering from the songbook of hits (no matter how great the material) was asking for trouble. As Freddie Mercury proved at Live Aid, when Queen made their come-back, always give the audience what they want.
Still, Glam Rock’s distinct sound owes much to Andy Scott’s guitar playing (which has been favorably compared to Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck), Steve Priest’s powerful bass, and harmonizing vocals, and Mick Tucker’s inspirational drums (just listen to the way he references Sandy Nelson in “Ballroom Blitz”). Add in Brian Connolly’s vocals, and it is apparent Sweet were a band with talents greater than those limned by their chart success.
So what went wrong?
If ever there was a tale of a band making a pact with the Devil, then the rise and fall of Sweet could be that story. A tale of talent, excess, fame, money, frustration and then the decline into alcohol, back-taxes, death and disaster. Half of the band is now tragically dead: Connolly, who survived 14 heart attacks caused through his alcoholism, ended his days a walking skeleton, touring smaller venues and holiday camps with his version of Sweet; while the hugely under-rated Tucker sadly succumbed to cancer in 2002.
The remaining members Priest and Scott, allegedly don’t speak to each other and perform with their own versions of The Sweet on 2 different continents. Priest lives in California, has grown into an orange haired-Orson, while Scott, who always looked like he worked in accounts, is still based in the UK, and recently overcame prostate cancer to present van-hire adverts on the tube.
This then is the real world of pop success.
I doubt they would ever change it. And I doubt the fans would ever let them. So great is the pact with the devil of celebrity that once made, one is forever defined by the greatest success.
Back to that night, in a theater in Kilmarnock, when the man at the back said everyone attack, and the room turned into a ballroom blitz. Whatever the cause of the chaos, it gave Glam Rock a work of art, and Sweet, one of their finest songs.
Bonus ‘Block Buster’ plus documentary on Brian Connolly, after the jump…
This headline reads like a spoof from the Onion, but it’s not. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. From the Metro:
The Daily Mirror reports he told the crowd before singing Meat Is Murder: ‘We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 dead.
‘Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried S*** every day.’
Has Moz been listening to too much Glenn Beck? FFS, lighten UP Morrissey!
“The Wanna Be Oddie” is a short animated film made by Ben Lam as his MFA project at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. In it, he masterfully appropriates certain qualities of vintage, black and white animation, then updates them with 3D graphics and a kooky homage to Transformers, for one of the most charming animations I’ve seen in some time. Thoroughly modern, yet retro (in the best sense), too.
When I was a little kid, I used to collect silent movie comedies on Super 8 film from Blackhawk Films. I’d project them on the wall in my parent’s basement and I’d watch them over and over again. I really studied them and I must say, Ben Lam must’ve watched the same stuff, because he really perfectly abstracts and captures the “vintageness” (and all that would imply) of Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, early Mickey Mouse, Ub Iwerks and Max Fleischer cartoons. He didn’t just slap a scratch filter over his animation, in other words, there’s some organic magic happening here that really puts his work at the head of the class. When you get the small details right, the bigger picture is so much more vivid.
Even in this crappy job market, I’m sure a talent like Ben’s was snapped up by the likes of Pixar, post haste. If this was a Coca-Cola commercial and only the difference was that the vending machine and bottles were red and sported logos, not much would change, and it would still be just as great.
Stated differently, If advertising was this cool, I wouldn’t tune it out.
“Come Fly With Me” by Larry Tee and the Love Machine, is yet another of the low budgetmusic videos I co-directed with Alan Henderson in the 80s. The video for this club kid anthem featured RuPaul, Lady Bunny, Lahoma Van Zandt, “Party Monster” Michael Alig, Vanity Fair‘s George Wayne, Justine Cooper, Amy Mellon, DJ Keoki, and many more people whose names I can’t recall. The brunette with the great eyes later played Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriend in a few episodes of Seinfeld. I think this was made in 1989.
The “Kaleidoscope” digital effects device was new on the market then and we used the crap out of it, here. This was made and mastered on analog tape. It’s not impressive now, but before you had After Effects, you had to be a maniac to attempt something like this. Larry Tee was later responsible for RuPaul’s “Supermodel” song and is an in-demand DJ and remixer who has recently worked with Lady Gaga. The infectious bassline sample is from “Reach Out in the Darkness” by Friend & Lover.