You don’t need to know German to appreciate this clip. It happened on the WDR program “Ende Offen” on December 3, 1971, during a discussion about commerce and music.
The one doing most of the talking, the one who pulls out a hatchet and starts banging on the table, is Nikel Pallat, manager of a politically oriented West Berlin band called Ton Steine Scherben. The other guy is named Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, an influential producer who co-founded Ohr Records and later would run a label called Pilz.
In this melee, Pallat shouts, “You are working for the oppressors, not against the oppressors.” (“That’s your opinion,” goes Kaiser’s bland retort.) Then Pallat cries, “You have to work against the oppressors, you have to stay partisan, so that’s why I’m going to destroy this table here”—and proceeds to do just that.
Funnily enough, the table is made of sturdier stuff than Pallat was expecting, and hardly seems much different after a dozen or so blows; with his initial burst of rage now spent, Pallat starts unscrewing the microphones and stuffing them into his pockets so that he can give them to “youths in prisons.” Priceless.
Many thanks to Corinna Berghahn of the Osnabrücker Zeitung, whose 2011 article on this fracas was very helpful.
A kind soul has posted a segment from my old British Disinformation TV series—which was on Channel 4 way back in 2000 and 2001—the one about “space mercenary” Rocket Boy, a quirky individual who apparently believed himself to be a superhero (half cat/half human) and who fronted a noise rock band, also called Rocket Boy. He was never, ever out of character, as far as I could tell the few times I was around him. He always wore a cape, a plastic helmet and carried a kiddie toy “ray gun.”
He was kind of like a real-life version of the martian that Bugs Bunny meets.
I am Rocket Boy, space mercenary of the universe!
I ‘stroy world and planets.
I kill people and blow up their heads.
Just a-cause you pay me the most doesn’t mean that I obey you!
I saw his band play once in a dive bar in downtown Los Angeles in the early 1990s. The “musicians” just made great/terrible noise while Rocket Boy screamed. All of the music in this piece is his own recorded material. He also made a bizarre cameo in a porno film. It’s difficult to imagine anyone (besides him) getting off on it (and you’ll never think of cream corn the same way ever again, so be warned). I heard that he passed away a few years back.
In the clip below—one of my favorites from the series—directed by Brian Butler and shot and edited by Nimrod Erez, Rocket Boy goes head-to-head with his landlord and upstairs neighbor, Captain Art. Rocket Boy lived in Art’s basement in San Pedro and you see, they just never got along…
In 1993 PJ Harvey visited The Tonight Show With Jay Leno while she was touring to support her raw second album Rid of Me, which of course had been produced by Steve Albini. The date for this appearance seems to have been September 24, 1993. It was the first time she had ever been on The Tonight Show but she would return many times. The other guests that night were Michael Richards and comedian Kathleen Madigan.
Harvey’s performance of “Rid of Me” has hardly dated a jot since those years. She has no trouble securing our attention. Her vocal delivery is impeccable, mixing in the tricky falsetto “Lick my legs, I’m on fire” sections.
Harvey wasn’t using her trademark blue eyeliner yet—that look was unveiled at Glastonbury in 1995—but her selection of a simple one-piece gold skirt is a perfect expression of her self-defined individuality and projected carnality.
After her song, Leno’s limp comment to this unsettling ditty is “Very nice.”
On July 26, 1979, BBC2 aired an hour-long Tom Waits concert under the title Tonight in Person. The concert might be regarded as a straight taping of a live show but it also included elements that were more theatrical and seemed to be incorporated into the show as if it were an in-studio taping, a bit like when standup comedians bring in an audience for something that is understood by everyone present to be a recording of a TV special. That’s how this program feels, anyway, it doesn’t feel like a regular concert.
Some chronologies list this appearance as actually occurring on July 26 but I think that’s incorrect. If you look at a good chronology of Waits’ activities that year, it’s evident that he was touring Europe and Australia in the first part of the year and then started a U.S. tour in October, but he wasn’t playing music in front of audiences at any point in the summer. It’s hard to feature Waits flying from L.A. to London for a single show in July. I strongly suspect that he taped this show in late April, a couple of days after his appearance at the Konzerthaus in Vienna (which constituted the core of the delightful A Day in Vienna TV special, which we wrote about here). Waits played the Palladium on April 21, it seems, and probably this show was taped in there somewhere.
Waits starts things off with a track that never made it onto any of his albums called “With a Suitcase.” The song did appear in the Paradise Alley sessions of 1978, which are available on Tales from the Underground, Vol. 3. Waits sings the first verse of “With a Suitcase” and then breaks off and relates an amusing story about stumbling upon a clothing store on Beale Street in Memphis that is improbably open for business in the wee hours of the night: “You can’t get a sandwich at three o’clock in the morning but you can get a nice-looking suit.” I did some searches, and it’s possible that this was the only time he ever told that particular tall tale.
Waits sings two songs each from Foreign Affairs (“I Never Talk To Strangers” and “Burma Shave”), Small Change (“Step Right Up” and the title track), and Blue Valentine (“Red Shoes by the Drugstore” and “Kentucky Avenue”). A year later he would release Heartattack and Vine, and in fact the studio audience was treated to a preview of “On The Nickel,” which he refers to as a “hobo’s lullaby.”
Waits sings “Burma Shave” from a stage set of a typical American gas station from the 1950s—he’s pretty frisky with the words here…. the song opens with a verse that isn’t in the studio version and ends with a lengthy and touching “don’t you cry” coda that he also appended to the song when he did it on Austin City Limits in 1978.
The last proper song Waits performs is “Small Change,” which he sings under a lamppost…. once the song is done, as if to echo the refrain “Small Change got rained on with his own thirty-eight,” a sprinkling of glitter drifts down from the rafters and Waits opens an umbrella to protect himself from the downpour. Then comes “Closing Time,” during which Waits rummages through a garbage can and pulls out a creased top hat and a gold jacket, and puts them on.
Watch the show that every Tom Waits completist has to see, after the jump…
On October 20, 1982, The CBS Evening News, hosted by Dan Rather, ran a segment about a fellow in New York City who was currently upending the typical view of graffiti artists as untalented thugs. Charles Osgood did the report on the artist, who of course was Keith Haring.
Haring’s practice during that time was evidently to use chalk instead of spray paint, which (it seems to me) calls into question the fundamental law-and-order premise of whether Haring had actually damaged any property (Osgood says something vaguely similar). My guess would be that public hysteria over graffiti was just unreasonably high during the 1970s and 1980s. During the segment Osgood says that Haring sometimes gets arrested for his graffiti, and then, weirdly enough, that’s exactly what happens. (It almost feels staged.)
Osgood points out that the sentences are never very harsh, and that Haring is willing to assume that risk in order to bring his art to regular people. The segment makes a lot of hay on the idea that hoity-toity people in the art world pay high prices for artworks that you can see for next to nothing on the subway, but that irony seems like a big shrug to me.
Early on you can catch a glimpse of a large advertisement for the most recent issue of Penthouse (“Special Back to School Issue!”). All you New Yorkers out there, when was the last time you saw an ad for a porno magazine on a subway platform?
After the jump, watch the CBS news report, followed by a gallery of Keith Haring stalking the subways…
“Star Tract” is a low-budget parody of Star Trek (the original series) in which Kirk, Spock, and Scotty roam the universe in search of godless heathens to convert to the Gospel. It’s harmless and thoroughly non-crazy but also mightily amateurish.
The primary mode of “Star Tract” is, thankfully, comedic. The actor playing Kirk reads ... every ... LINE ... in ... the ... classic… patented ... Shatner parodic fashion in which seemingly every syllable is enunciated all on its lonesome. Spock works the word logically into every sentence, and Scotty’s main traits are that he is clumsy and Hispanic.
Two episodes are available online. The first one focuses on 1 Corinthians 1:27 and uses Scotty’s incessant klutziness as an occasion to reflect on the counterintuitive methods of the Godhead; in the second episode, “Captain Kirk and crew man #37 head to planet Moy Moy and learn about having the mind of Christ” and the key texts are 1 Corinthians 2:12 and 2:16. In case you were wondering, the denizens of Moy Moy talk like Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Between the twin humiliations of his frozen peas and Paul Masson commercials, and unable to finish his last feature The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles found himself on an LA soundstage with Burt Reynolds, wearing matching red shirts with enormous collars and chatting about showbiz for a TV pilot. This was Welles’ shot at hosting a talk show. There were no takers.
Like much of the great director’s work, The Orson Welles Show was made on the cheap, and if no one will confuse this unloved project with Chimes at Midnight, it’s not because Welles was slacking. In Orson Welles Remembered, the show’s editor, Stanley Sheff, says that he got the job by offering to work for free for three days, which “turned into a year of collaboration with Mr. Welles on The Orson Welles Show.” That’s right: according to Sheff, he and Welles put in a year of eight-hour days editing this 74-minute program on video, “working weekends and holidays when required.” Compare this with Citizen Kane, which started post-production in November 1940 and was first screened in January 1941.
Did I mention The Orson Welles Show was cheaply made? The budget was such that Sheff had to wear three hats, filling in for Welles as director for a few inserts and playing the part of the violinist in the big finish with Angie Dickinson. And according to the notes on YouTube, it’s not just the canned laughter that makes the lengthy interview with Reynolds (roughly the first half of the show) seem so odd:
Audience questions for the Burt Reynolds Q&A session were scripted, with members of the audience given line readings - this was necessary, as unlike normal talk shows filmed with a multiple-camera setup, the low-budget show was filmed with only one camera, and so it was necessary to do multiple retakes to get multiple camera angles.
The second half of the show runs at a higher gear. Welles intones something about “the unfathomable antiquity of ancient Egypt.” Fozzie Bear gets flop sweat doing his “A material” during the Muppets’ bit, which leads into an interview with Jim Henson (“think Rasputin as an Eagle Scout,” Welles says) and Frank Oz. But it’s the last fifteen minutes of the show that are pure Welles. Fans of F for Fake will discern a strong formal resemblance between that film and the elaborate magic tricks that close The Orson Welles Show; I’m guessing this is where all those hours in the editing room went.
Watch the pilot for ‘The Orson Welles Show’ after the jump…
By 1967 Pink Floyd was a significant presence on the UK rock scene. In the autumn of that year the group made its first trip to the United States, where they participated in a rather ill-fated tour that had to be rescheduled due to the late arrival of permits, leading to a great many cancellations. But the tour began in earnest on November 4, 1967, with a show at the Winterland Auditorium in San Francisco. Another factor making the tour difficult was that Syd Barrett was starting to fray in a way that couldn’t be ignored.
That first week in the United States, Pink Floyd taped a TV appearance for a show called Groovy on KHJ Channel 9 at the Cheetah Club in Santa Monica, then appeared on The Pat Boone Show, and a day later, American Bandstand and then another KHJ show called Boss City. These appearances would appear in people’s living rooms in a different order days or weeks later, but it appears that the American Bandstand gig was the third to be taped and the third to appear on TV. The Pat Boone Show appearance was apparently not saved for posterity, but at least a section of the American Bandstand appearance has survived, as you can see.
After playing the band’s fourth single “Apples and Oranges” (which failed to chart), Dick Clark engages in a bit of goofy Q&A banter, inanely asking Roger Waters about American cuisine. Waters says he’s only had “two cheeseburgers,” which “sat quite well.”
At a show at The Fillmore in San Francisco a few days after the American Bandstand appearance, Barrett slowly detuned his guitar during a performance of “Interstellar Overdrive.” By the following spring, Barrett would no longer be in the group.
Most teenage males “of a certain vintage” were hipped to Blondie by the video for the single “Denis” with a slinky Debbie Harry in a red-striped swimsuit and cascades of backlit blonde hair. Understandable. My introduction was via the radio—which meant my focus has always been on the music. I bought the 45rpm record of “Denis.” Wore it out and had to buy another copy.
Of all the bands that came out of punk or new wave, for me there has never been one as brilliant as Blondie. New wave in the UK was generally angry and political. American new wave—as epitomized by Blondie—was musical, ingenious, subversive and unforgettable.
What makes a song last more than a generation is its infectious tunefulness. Songs that connect on an emotional level, at a liminal moment of approaching joy. Blondie have a major back catalog of these kind of songs—all of which will last decades longer than their three minutes of play. Perhaps centuries, who knows?
I missed out on their eponymous debut album, but got up to speed with the second album Plastic Letters and then Parallel Lines. With Parallel Lines one would have to go back to The Beatles to find a band that produced an album filled with only quality songs of utter pop perfection. All killer no filler, it played like a greatest hits from the very first spin.
That’s not to say Blondie were sweet—their songs were often double-edged and charged with complex meanings. A cursory listen to “One Way Or Another” might make you think it’s just some old romantic song rather one about a stalker. Or, how cold is the dreamy “Sunday Girl”? And who else could write such a bittersweet disco song such as “Heart of Glass”?
I guess you can call me a fan of NCIS—the long running hit TV series about a group of agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In large part, I watch the series to keep abreast with one my childhood heroes David McCallum.
McCallum plays Donald “Ducky” Mallard, the wise, witty and slightly eccentric NCIS’ Chief Medical Examiner. No matter the storyline, McCallum is always enjoyable on screen—adding tension and fun to whatever he does.
For those of certain generation, McCallum is best known for his performance as the iconic Ilya Kuryakin in the glossy swinging sixties spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Though the series starred Robert Vaughn as the debonair agent Napoleon Solo—a character created by the author of the James Bond novels, Ian Fleming—it was always McCallum’s Kuryakin who drew the interest. Perhaps, I’m biased over my fellow Scot—though I think fan ratings from the day may prove me right.
McCallum is one of these actors whose career spans not just decades but several generations of fans—The Man from U.N.C.L.E., wartime drama about POWs Colditz, The Invisible Man, and that classic inter-dimensional cult sci-fi series Sapphire and Steel. Yep, I was a fan of all these.
A few years ago I punted the idea of a documentary on the great man making a return to his hometown of Glasgow in Scotland. It seemed an obvious win/win situation for BBC Scotland—but the powers at the top thought otherwise and alas this project was never made. However, when prepping the idea, one day and literally out of the blue, David McCallum phoned me at the office and gave his support to the project. He talked about his career and his memories of Glasgow and TV/Film and theater work. Never meet your heroes, they say. Well, I’ve met quite a few over the years and can honestly say I have yet to be disappointed. And talking with Mr. McCallum that rainy day in office in Anderston was a privilege and an utter delight. Maybe the BBC should rethink their demurral and make something soon….
But it’s not just his talent as an actor (or a writer) that makes McCallum special—he is also an accomplished musician who produced four groovy records in the 1960s.
McCaullm was born on September 19, 1933, at 24 Kersland Street, Glasgow, into a very musical household. His parents were both highly respected musicians—his father leader of the London Philharmonic—and they wanted their young son to follow in their footsteps:
...[T]hey suggested I take violin lessons—like father like son. Then they suggested the violincello—mother played the violincello. Then the piano—grandfather taught the piano!
Finally I gave in—my choice, much to their surprise—being oboe and English horn. I played both these instruments for many years and even studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
But then, McCallum decided he wanted to be an actor and a decision had to be made.
I had a choice: the theatre or music. I chose the theatre, and I was soon forced to give up all ideas of a musical career. I sold my oboe and I sold my English horn. But the desire to express myself in music never left and I still studied, including harmony, and the theory of music.
His acting career led him to America where he was soon a star—thanks to films like The Great Escape and of course The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on TV. McCallum was then offered the opportunity to his love of music.
In the fall of 1965, I devised an idea for a record album…born out of my past and out of my enjoyment of the music today. I wanted a sound that could play the current hits and at the same time possibly project something of me—a part of me.
McCallum took the idea to Capitol Records who liked the idea and within ten days the first session had been recorded.
Together with famed producer David Axelrod, McCallum created a blend of oboe, English horn and strings with guitar and drums. They recorded interpretations of such hits as “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” “Downtown,” “Louie, Louie,” “I Can’t Control Myself” as well as some of his own rather tasty compositions, “Far Away Blue”, “Isn’t It Wonderful?” and “It Won’t Be Wrong”.
‘The Edge’—David McCallum.
McCallum wrote “The Edge” which was later sampled by Dr. Dre as the intro and riff to the track “The Next Episode,” and “House of Mirrors,” sampled by DJ Shadow for “Dark Days”.