The mavens will know this stuff, but it merits a recap: the Move were a vital link in ‘60s British rock between the R&B-influenced early ‘60s scene and the hard rock and prog that were to come. They distinguished themselves not just with heavy sounds, but with violent stage antics that made the Who look like featherweights—most notoriously, singer Carl Wayne was noted for destroying TV sets with axes. As hard rockers from Birmingham, the Move surely had an impact on the young men who’d form Black Sabbath, and indeed, Move drummer Bev Bevan turned up in that band’s lineup years later, on the tour in support of the Born Again album. But ultimately, despite their notoriety and influence in their day, the Move became best known in the early 1970s, when a later member named Jeff Lynne shepherded the band through its transition into the slick, orchestral-pop juggernaut Electric Light Orchestra, and they remain best known today under the long shadow cast by that enormously popular group.
Here’s a 1966 television interview that captures the young band at its most manic—this is the original lineup of Wayne, Bevan, founding bassist Ace Kefford, and guitarists Trevor Burton and the band’s de facto leader Roy Wood—mugging, goofing off, and generally just being silly young men on speed. When they (OK, not really “they,” mostly just Carl Wayne) manage to let off any serious answers, the origin and creative intentions of the band are discussed, but things really heat up when the band gets to playing. The mugging ends, their faces get serious, riffs get mangled, notes get bent out of shape, fires get lit, and a TV set is handily reduced to scrap. This is the band at its most insane, in the sort of performance that made its reputation as a live must-see.
Much gratitude is due to Craig Bell for this find!
As far as reading for research is concerned, I’ve always been very fortunate in my friends. For years, Dr. Christopher Evans, a psychologist in the computer branch of the National Physical Laboratory (whom I visited regularly until his death—his lab was just a ten-minute drive away), literally sent me the contents of his wastebasket. Once a fortnight, a huge envelope arrived filled with scientific reprints and handouts, specialist magazines and reports, all of which I read carefully.
In his last book, the autobiography Miracles of Life, Ballard sketched his late friend, who died of cancer in 1979, during the filming of his last TV series, The Mighty Micro:
Chris Evans drove into my life at the wheel of a Ford Galaxy, a huge American convertible that he soon swapped for a Mini-Cooper, a high-performance car not much bigger than a bullet that travelled at about the same speed. Chris was the first ‘hoodlum scientist’ I had met, and he became the closest friend I have made in my life. In appearance he resembled Vaughan, the auto-destructive hero of my novel Crash, though he himself was nothing like that deranged figure. Most scientists in the 1960s, especially at a government laboratory, wore white lab coats over a collar and tie, squinted at the world over the rims of their glasses and were rather stooped and conventional. Glamour played no part in their job description.
Chris, by contrast, raced around his laboratory in American sneakers, jeans and a denim shirt open to reveal an Iron Cross on a gold chain, his long black hair and craggy profile giving him a handsomely Byronic air. I never met a woman who wasn’t immediately under his spell. A natural actor, he was at his best on the lecture platform, and played to his audience’s emotions like a matinee idol, a young Olivier with a degree in computer science. He was hugely popular on television, and presented a number of successful series, including The Mighty Micro.
I’m afraid Evans’ producers at ITC made him cover up his Iron Cross, but The Mighty Micro is up on YouTube (except episode two, which you can find at archive.org), and it’s fascinating to watch. Based on Evans’ book of the same name, the series looks at the history of counting machines, calculators and computers in order to understand the radical changes the microprocessor will bring about over the coming decades.
Of course, some of the show’s predictions are wide of the mark. Citizens of the UK were not able to vote through their television sets by the mid-80s, computers have not eliminated war, and as you are no doubt painfully aware, robots have not yet replaced our teachers or bosses, or delivered the five-day weekend. The series’ emphasis on the psychological dimension of technological change, however, is properly Ballardian, and many of its claims are eerily prescient. The third episode hints at the ways our notions of privacy will be reshaped by computers; the fourth, which includes a look at a 1979 prototype of a Kindle-type device, ends with this message-in-a-bottle to the present moment:
The one note of warning is sounded by the compelling nature of the computer itself. Increasingly, it will draw you into an obsessive embrace, where the world comes to you in your home. The current limitless fascination with microprocessor-based toys is but a tiny indicator of the trend towards an introverted society.
With the computer as an increasingly interesting and useful companion, could the factories and office blocks empty, commuter lines fall silent, as we retreat into our own private universe?
As long as there’s been music on television, there’ve been mimed TV performances, and as long as there’ve been mimed TV performances, there’ve been bands who hated miming. Asking bands to mime can be understandable; even though it’s tacky, setting up for live band performances, getting a mix that works for the live audience AND the TV audience, all of this can be logistical hell, and not every show is going to be equipped for that. Even Saturday Night Live has broadcast some mighty iffy mixes, and they’ve been doing it weekly for decades. But still, there are as many—if not more—good reasons to despise miming as there are to resort to it.
Sometimes bands will just rebel against the process, and that can be memorable art in its own right. I’m sure many DM readers are aware of Public Image Ltd’s appearance on American Bandstand in the late ‘70s, wherein John Lydon abandoned his requisite fake singalong and dragged the show’s studio audience onto the stage to dance with the band. In his memoir The Real Frank Zappa Book, Frank Zappa described what must have been a very early example of mime rebellion, from the Mothers of Invention’s 1966 tour:
In Detroit, we did a television show where we were asked to do something perverted:“lip-sync our hit.” We didn’t have a ‘hit,’ but the producer said, “Lip-sync your hit—or else.” So I asked, “Do you have a prop department here?” fortunately, there was one.
From it, I gathered an assortment of random objects and built a set. We had been asked to pretend to play either “How Could I Be Such A Fool?” or “Who Are the Brain Police?” so I suggested that each member of the group choose a repeatable physical action, not necessarily in sync with (or even related to) the lyrics, and do it over and over until our spot on the show was concluded—Detroit’s first whiff of homemade prime-time Dada.
If that footage exists anywhere, I’d sure like to know about it.
Thanks to Ultimate Classic Rock, I’ve been alerted that Iron Maiden—a band I love every bit as abidingly as Public Image Ltd. but for totally different reasons—flipped the bird at a lip-sync performance of “Wasted Years,” the first single from Somewhere In Time (the one with the cover art of a bio-mech Eddie brandishing a laser gun in a Blade Runner-ish setting), in Germany in 1986.
It was filmed in August 1986 for a German TV show called P.I.T. While it starts off looking like business as usual — except that Steve Harris and Dave Murray have switched instruments — at the 40-second mark Bruce Dickinson is grabbing the guitar from Harris and strapping it on. Harris takes over the microphone while Dickinson bounces around the stage and pretending to play a guitar solo in the middle of the verse. Nicko McBrain pops out from behind the drums to take center stage for the chorus, and he’s handed a bass, and Harris winds up behind the drums.
It kind of devolves from there. At one point, three members are playing drums simultaneously, McBrain puts his hands on Adrian Smith’s guitar neck in the middle of the solo. Smith, for the record, is the only one who isn’t clowning around.
Here they are the same year, doing the song live for real.
2015 marks twenty-five years since the debut of both Twin Peaks and the Super NES game console, and evidently, both of those things have some devoted fans at a creative agency called Beutler Ink. In celebration, they’ve produced a Twin Peaks town map in the 8-bit graphics style of Super Mario Bros., which turns thirty this year. Feel old?
Giclée prints in various sizes and the usual array of print-on-demand apparel are available from Society 6. Here’s the whole map. Clicking spawns a readable enlargement.
Apparently, this Halloween while you’re out trick or treating, TPing houses or getting diabetes from all that free candy, Satan will be chowing down on all the freshly prepared “Christian meat” served up by his faithful acolytes on Earth. Which, let’s be honest, is certainly some feat considering the number of his alleged followers in the USA alone. I mean, Old Nick’s waistline must be XXXXL and his cholesterol thru the roof if all he does is feast on those freshly grilled human patties and barbecued spare ribs—no wonder he only dines out once a year.
Thankfully, not all so very long ago, a Christian church in Chicago decided to help Satan with his dietary issues by warning off unsuspecting Christians from ending up in a well-roasted burger bun in Hades from celebrating Halloween. Through a character called Sam Hain (boy that’s original…) the ad was supposed to shock young, innocent (feeble-minded?) boys and girls about the hidden dangers of Halloween—that this was not a time of fun and games but the Devil’s party night, when he comes a-looking for “Christian meat.”
As any fule no, Samhain is the Gaelic festival marking the end of summer and the start of the “dark half” of the year, when harvest was finished and yon cattle brought down from pasture to shelter from the long, cold winter. What this has to with a kooky Christian anti-Halloween advertisement, I’m not quite sure, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of good giggle at the devil’s expense…
Today I have pulled together a post that features a pretty solid collection of highly desirable velvet paintings from a cast of characters that runs the gamut from pop culture phenoms such as Weekly World News cave-dwelling poster child, Bat Boy, to the bad-ass South African duo, Die Antwoord. How’s that sound to ya’?
Divine (as Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos)
Most of the paintings I’ve featured can be had for a couple of hundred bucks or so. Could there possibly be anything cooler than a slightly inception-esque velvet painting of the Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed by artist Diane Bombshelter? Probably not. But I’ll let you dear DM readers be the judge of that.
If while scrolling through this post you find the next thing you never knew you couldn’t live without, most (with the exception of Lou Reed and Morrissey) can be obtained by way of Ebay or Etsy.
“Computer Show” is the latest in a lengthy recent tradition of brilliantly conceived cringe comedy making fun of the hidebound conventions of the recent past, and it is blazingly enjoyable.
It’s a satire of PBS tech shows from the 1980s such as Computer Chronicles, the bland, gee-whiz, slightly vacant affect of which it nails righteously. The host of the show is one “Gary Fabert,” and I would argue that Rob Baedeker in 20 scant minutes has earned himself an honorable place in Richard Metzger’s Pantheon of Clueless White Guys with yards to spare, alongside such heroes as “Jerry Hubbard” (Fred Willard) from Fernwood 2Night and Andy Daly from Review with Forrest MacNeil. He’s that good.
The ingenious idea of “Computer Show” is to send Internet entrepreneurs from our moment back in time to 1983 and see what the people from 30-odd years ago make of it. In the first two installments of “Computer Show,” the hosts welcome reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Lumi’s Jesse Genet and Stephan Ango; in both cases the guests’ every utterance is met with blank stares and abrupt changes of subject. Not knowing what else to say, Fabert invariably responds with smarm and unearned condescension. (Sample line: “So, users at home, a vector is any place you would go to use a computer.”)
The ostensible subject of the show is the unbridgeable gulf that separates those who have experienced the Internet and those who have not, for it renders communication utterly impossible—when words like website or link instantly baffle and lose whatever party you’re speaking with, how on earth can you explain such essential parts of our lives as Rule 34 or Godwin’s Law? You can’t, is the answer.
The humor that most seems of our era often takes the form of convincingly stiff or chintzy imitations or “versions” of helplessly clueless artifacts from the recent past (often the 1980s or 1990s but sometimes the 1970s). In our sleek and pixel-perfect age, we are apparently fascinated, enthralled, horrified, what-have-you by the imperfections inherent in, say, any long-playing album or VHS recording. The examples are too numerous to name, but I’ll list a few obvious touchstones:
Another one that fits is the fake ad with Rob Huebel and Colin Hanks from a recent installment of Last Week Tonight (jump to the 14:40 mark). We punish our forebears mercilessly for being so impossibly credulous and cute, but there’s a moral element too: “Computer Show” punishes Fabert for his sexism, and also sorely wants to draw attention to how nauseatingly corporate PBS became after the 1970s (the show is brought to you by “The McGarblin Group” and “Ludlow Ventures,” among others).
“Computer Show” comes from Sandwich Video, the founder of which, Adam David Lisagor, pops up at the end of each episode to give a poorly lit and poorly mic’d, overly earnest op-ed style speech in what looks like an uncomfortable swivel chair reminiscent of David Suskind or Tom Snyder.
The actors are uniformly excellent. In episode 1 Diona Reasonover does a great job playing vintage high school nerd “Angela Dancy,” while in the follow-up Jas Sams is splendid as “Sherri Longhorne.” But the comedic weight falls most heavily on Rob Baedeker as Fabert, and he is jaw-droppingly good—it’s hard to imagine the show without him. Bravo!
Spooky Tooth were an incredibly proficient gaggle of musicians whose individual talents were often greater than the sum of the band—when they were good, they were brilliant, but when they were okay, well they were just okay. The original line-up included two powerful keyboard-playing lead singers Gary Wright and Mike Harrison, a brilliant guitarist in Luther Grosvenor (who became equally famous as Ariel Bender with Mott the Hoople), bassist Greg Ridley (who was a founding member of Humble Pie with The Small Faces’ Steve Marriott) and drummer Mike Kellie (a future member of The Only Ones). Later, the line-up included Mick Jones who (of course) went onto world domination with Foreigner—yeah, I know, but somebody had to do it.
The debut Spooky Tooth album ‘It’s All About’—you can see they’re wanting to be hip & trippy.
Originally tinged with psychedelia and early prog rock, Spooky Tooth’s musical focus was shaped by the songwriting talent of Gary Wright over the first two albums—It’s All About (1968) and Spooky Two (1969). But this nascent potential was literally destroyed by the strange collaboration with electronic wizard Pierre Henry for their third album Ceremony (1969), which Wright claims ended the band’s career:
Then we did a project that wasn’t our album. It was with this French electronic music composer named Pierre Henry. We just told the label, “You know this is his album, not our album. We’ll play on it just like musicians.” And then when the album was finished, they said, “Oh no no — it’s great. We’re gonna release this as your next album.” We said, “You can’t do that. It doesn’t have anything to do with the direction of Spooky Two and it will ruin our career.” And that’s exactly what happened.
Like a hole in the head—a collaboration too far? The now praised sonic experiment ‘Ceremony’.
Devastated, Wright temporarily quit, and Spooky Tooth’s next album (billed as Spooky Tooth featuring Mike Harrison) was a rather mixed bag of covers The Last Puff (1970)—though it did contain the greatest ever Beatles cover “I Am The Walrus.”
New line-up, same jeans. Spooky Tooth in ‘73.
Then Grosvenor and Kellie quit, Jones joined and Wright returned to the fold penning nearly all of the songs for their bizarrely titled fifth album You Broke My Heart So…I Busted Your Jaw (1973). It was another mixed bag, and felt like the band had been treading water for three years rather than moving towards some recognizable goal.
Next came Witness, which was Harrison’s last album with the band, before the arrival of the more poppy The Mirror (1974), which was generally well received. The band split—Jones went onto greater success, while Wright released his million-selling solo album Dream Weaver, which was the kind of thing that punk was invented for.
‘The Mirror’-an album Julian Cope rather liked—and not just for its awful cover.
Spooky Tooth deserve attention not just because of the quality of their disparate players, but also because of the quality of their early and late music—which can partly be seen in these “lost broadcasts” where Spooky Tooth perform “The Weight” on Beat Club in 1968, followed by “Old As I Was Born,” two versions of “Cotton Growing Man,” “Waiting For The Wind” and two versions of “Moriah” for Musikladen in 1973.
I recently watched the H.R. Pufnstuf movie (don’t ask) and for whatever reason (alright, I was stoned), I really enjoyed it. Talk about psychedelic eye candy! Although the two brothers behind this colorful, low budget, live-action puppeteering, Sid and Marty Krofft, have always strenuously denied that drugs—specifically pot and acid—had anything whatsoever to do with the inspiration behind their trippy animist good vs. evil fantasy lands where hats were alive and trees talked like Boris Karloff and Edward G. Robinson (“We’re bizarre, that’s all” as Marty once put it), I mean, COME ON.
And “Pufnstuf”? HOW can that not be taken as a druggy double entendre? Six years after the controversy over Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon,” along comes yet another friendly dragon with a name like “H.R. Pufnstuf” and it’s got nothing at all to do with pot? It could be a coincidence, sure, but I just don’t believe that. Jimmy’s friend Freddy the solid gold diamond-encrusted magic talking flute might as well have been a solid gold diamond-encrusted magic talking bong named “Bongo.” They had to be puffin’ stuff to come up with this stuff. It’s not all that far away from The Mighty Boosh, now is it? What does the “H.R.” stand for anyway? Short for “hand-rolled”?
The thing is, if you read enough about the Kroffts, as much as they tried to act like they were all goody two-shoes in nearly every single interview, they actually did admit that the name of their subsequent kids show Lidsvillewas in fact a pot reference. A “lid” was hipster-speak for an ounce of cannabis at the time and they got a kick out of passing Lidsville by the network censors. Again, they denied this for a long, long time, but as they were in the business of producing television for young children, they can of course be forgiven for this little white lie. But it does put a different spin on what you were feeding your head with on Saturday mornings, doesn’t it?
This morning my wife told me that Nickelodeon were going to revive H.R. Pufnstuf after 45 years. My immediate reaction was totally negative. Blasphemy! How dare they? It would be like that shitty Tim Burton Willy Wonka movie with Johnny fucking Depp. H.R. Pufnstuf was of its time. And too well remembered. There doesn’t need to be a remake of it. It was also kind of perfect—like Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka—as it was. Certainly there would be no way to improve upon the original, so what would be the point? A bit of a “First World problem,” I suppose, but I was pretty perturbed!
And then I actually read the article and realized that it was Sid and Marty Krofft themselves who were bringing back their own character. Frankly, I’d assumed that they were dead, but this is hardly the case, not only are the Krofft brothers both alive, they are still actively making children’s television.
Nickelodeon is bringing “H.R. Pufnstuf” back for a new televised adventure for the first time in 45 years. The network announced on Tuesday that it has greenlit “H.R. Pufnstuf Comes to Mutt & Stuff!” The special will be part of the network’s order for 20 additional episodes of live-action preschool series “Mutt & Stuff” from Sid and Marty Krofft, the creators of “Pufnstuf.” The beloved character that debuted on NBC in 1969 will return to TV in early 2016, along with friends Cling and Clang, Freddy the Flute and the Rescue Racer. Production on the special is beginning this fall.
Danceteria was arguably the most influential and important club in New York City in the 1980s. Any musician who mattered played there, and it was featured prominently in the movies Desperately Seeking Susan and Liquid Sky. I spent a little while going through this intriguing collection of Danceteria flyers, and came upon the following names: the Fleshtones, Madonna, Sonic Youth, Marc Almond, Sade, Alien Sex Fiend, the Smiths, Cocteau Twins, Gene Loves Jezebel, Diamanda Galas, Beastie Boys. On December 16, 1982, A Certain Ratio played Danceteria with Madonna opening—she was at the time employed as the club’s coat check girl. It’s a place with that sort of pedigree.
The two main figures at Danceteria were Rudolf Pieper and Jim Fouratt. Pieper was German, and it’s his accent you hear in the crazy commercial embedded below, in which he calls himself “the head bimbo of Danceteria” and supports Esperanto as the language of the club and claims to oppose the inclusion of a Belgian ethnic group called the Walloons unless they “dress fabulously,” of course. Oh, and “exiled Latin American dictators have free admission here, every night.”
John Argento, who was instrumental in the club’s move from West 37th Street to 21st Street in 1982, says, according to Trey Speegle’s blog, this about the commercial:
What can I say? Low budget, public access TV… Rudolf does the voice over, reiterating long standing door policies such as ‘Latin American Dictators get in for free’…’Walloons only if they’re dressed fabulously.’
I remember him doing the voice over in the fourth floor DJ booth… I believe the soundtrack was from the movie La Dolce Vita. A difference of opinion then, the choice of music looks like the right thing to have done now.
One might ask, why would a club that was as successful as Danceteria was at that time even bother with a commercial? Why would they need it? Jim Fouratt, who was the talent booker for the club, remembers it as “a nightmare of lies and intimadation [sic],” in effect an effort to displace Fouratt’s role in the club as well as other ventures like Interferon, which failed. Here’s Fouratt’s account, typos included:
I was sent this commercial for Danceteria .. it comes from an ugly period. I had been locked out of the club on 21st and my average normal business accounts were frozen because my business partner had accept the offer of Alex Delorenzo of the son of mobster and real estate mogul offer to work with his protege John Argento who he had invested over a million dollars into a failed club that was to replicate the Original Danceteria . It ws called Interferon. (good grief) .It failed . Delorenzo called me and I brought putting to the meeting . I forgot the history of putting Germans and Italian together (sorry) , Argento and Delorenzo’s son-in-law had cleared a block of rent regulated tenants in the East 50’s so Delorenzo could raze and build. They had used every kind of intimadation to frighten the hell out of the tenants. Delorenzo wanted to reward them and Argento said he wanted to open a club on 21st in a building Delorenzo owned (it was a dead street at the time). He did . It failed We made a deal and one of the points was Argento was not to be involved .; Delorenzo wanted to protect his other business realtons and insisted Argento be icharge of all the day deliveries .. including liquore , napkins, etc the cash items and the cleaning and removal of the trash. We agreed once it was agreed the Argento would have nothing to do with the club other than his janitorial job I sued Delorenzo for contract violation (yes sued Godfather like business family ) and sued Rudolf for fiduciary betrayal.. it ws a nightmare for six years . This commercial was to establish Rudolf as Danceteria honcho.. he had been telling people I had AIDS .. and that is why I wasn’t there . The real reason was greed .. i was told I was paying talent too much money .. and the club when I was they was a hige hit. Trust me I would neve have approved a commercial .. we did nto need it ..and my door policy insured a fabulous safe mix of people and my bookings were the best in the universe (ok hyperbole) ... this is nto the place to go into just what a nightmare of lies and intimadation .. but since this video has turnes up ... I wanted to put it in context… and no i did not nor do have AIDS or am I HIV +. ...
Golly! Who would have thought that such an innocent-seeming and campy commercial could have that kind of darkness behind it?
It was edited by Danny Cornyetz, who went by the name Dee Cortex. Experience some primo 1980s oddness below: