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George Michael and Morrissey discuss Joy Division (and breakdancing) in 1984
12.28.2016
10:03 am

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Amusing
Dance
Music
Superstar
Television

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02georgmorr.jpg
 
In May 1984, George Michael and Morrissey appeared alongside the unhip, uncool and utterly square antique DJ Tony Blackburn on BBC youth programme Eight Days A Week. The show was a weekly round-up of the latest music, film and book releases as pecked over by a trio of celebrities. It was aimed at a young happening audience with the intention of fulfilling the ye olde BBC charter obligations to “educate, inform and entertain” (perhaps not necessarily in that order).

The week George appeared on the show he was storming up the UK charts alongside Andrew Ridgeley as Wham! with their hit single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” while Morrissey with bandmates The Smiths were just about to release their song “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.” And Blackburn—well, he was still unutterably anodyne, nauseating and the very establishment edifice these two young artistes were (in their own ways) rebelling against—no matter how much Blackburn sought credibility by pronouncing his deep love of soul music.

At the time of its broadcast, the fey, young aesthete Morrissey would have been seen as the “cool” one. But in truth it’s George Michael who steals the show with his honesty, sensibility and utter lack of pretension. He says it as it is and plays to no gallery as both Morrissey and Blackburn were wont to do.

The topics up for review the week this trio appeared were Everything But The Girl‘s debut album Eden, the crap movie that film producers Golan & Globus called Breakdance (aka Breakin’) and a book about Joy Division called An Ideal for Living: A History of Joy Division by Mark Johnson. While Morrissey does Morrissey whilst talking about another Mancunian band, it is George Michael who delights with his (low) opinion of pompous English rock scribe Paul Morley and surprises by revealing his love of the brooding quartet.  While the show’s host Robin Denselow (probably an apt surname) asked, “George, I wouldn’t imagine you as a Joy Division fan, maybe I’m wrong?”

George: Ah, you might be wrong! This book, just became incredibly suspect for me, the minute I saw…

Denselow: You do like them?

George: I do like them, yeah. It became very suspect when I saw that it was partially, a lot of the contributions were from a gentleman called Paul Morley.

Denselow: You don’t approve of Paul Morley?

George: You’d need a book a lot thicker than that to list that man’s ideas or hangups, whatever you’d like to call it. It became very, very pretentious, in so many areas, I actually didn’t finish it, I did not get anywhere near finishing it.  And I actually really liked Joy Division, or particular their second album Closer. I thought Closer, the second side of Closer…it’s one of my favorite albums, It’s just beautiful.

Watch George Michael & Morrissey talk pop, film and books, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
That time it cost Bill Maher $1,700 to insult the Melvins
12.28.2016
08:46 am

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Amusing
Music
Television

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Bill Maher is sometimes a trenchant, cranky, and astutely funny gadfly telling brave truths to power, and that guy can be a joy to watch. However, sometimes he’s merely a smug and cringeworthy backpfeifengesicht poster child nursing a nauseating schoolgirl crush on his own opinions. Maher’s unabashedly opinionated nature is an asset, but his arrogant posturing often blemished (I won’t say “marred” because that’d be cheap) his otherwise great feature length documentary-as-takedown Religulous. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool atheist who largely agrees with him on matters of faith, but his pomposity in that film sometimes felt just as gross to me as the most self-satisfied hubris of right wing Christian exceptionalists. But when he’s on, he can be magnificent, and the remarks that land him in the hottest water often happen to be the ones where he’s most dead-on correct.

And once in awhile he’s just an ass with shit for taste in music.

Just a couple of years ago, Maher tweeted that the game show Jeopardy was a game show for smart people and that Wheel of Fortune was for idiots. He’s not really wrong, but he might be a wee bit biased, as he himself appeared on Jeopardy twice. In November of 1995, he played Celebrity Jeopardy against actors Swoosie Kurtz and Charles Kimbrough. (His charity of choice: PETA. Have fun with that.) He returned two years later for a “Power Players” match against NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell and I shit you not disgraced Lieutenant Colonel and serial non-recaller Oliver North. In that episode, Maher pulled an Audio Daily Double in the category “It Came From Seattle,” wagered $1,700, and was treated to a clip of the excellent Melvins’ song “Copache,” a fan favorite from their 1993 album Houdini that’s liable to turn up in the band’s live sets to this day. The clip accompanied a question about the grunge movement, which of course rather famously emerged from Seattle (though Melvins themselves did not). Maher chose to opine about the song instead of answering the question, betraying his pedestrian tastes by lamely joking “well that song sucked, that’s for sure.” His pleas that he intended to answer the question fell on the tinnitus-deaf ears of righteous sludge metal rager Alex Trebek, and Maher forfeited his $1,700.

Serves his ass right. He’s probably a fuckin’ Eagles fan, anyway.
 

 
There is more, after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Super-sexy-mini-flower-pop: The surreal & futuristic Afri-Cola ads of the late ‘60s
12.20.2016
10:09 am

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Advertising
Drugs
Television

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In the 1960s, German soft drink Afri-Cola (which first hit the shelves in 1931) was quickly losing to its competitors Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In 1968, the brand started searching for a new marketing campaign in an attempt to regain their image. They hired prolific commercial designer and photographer Charles Wilp from Düsseldorf. The wildly eccentric 36-year-old was rarely seen not wearing his trademark canary yellow jumpsuit and his provocative ideas that knew no creative limits would soon elevate him to a pop star level. 
 
While visiting the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Wilp looked into the “Cryo Chamber,” (a tent where rockets are inspected at below zero temperatures), and through various iced plastic films saw a folding door with the image of a pin-up girl. He began envisioning the playmate floating around the room as if she were a ghost, and this gave birth to his groundbreaking ad concept.
 

 
Approximately 20 deliberately taboo TV spots and print ads with surreal-futuristic images began running all over Germany. These bizarre visuals included attractive nuns wearing makeup and eyeliner, lascivious stewardesses administering transfusions with cola instead of blood, an American soldier with a dove of peace, and a nude mustachioed male (the very first nudity in advertising history) weightlifting a soft drink bottle. Wilp’s risque ads, aimed to make viewers feel intoxicated without the use of drugs, were met with furious protest from ecclesiastical moralists who unintentionally helped the brand achieve exactly what they wanted: Afri-Cola became the cult drink of the flower power generation overnight and sales increased by a remarkable 30 percent.
 
Charles Wilp achieved this success by rejecting ad agency tools such as market research and media planning. Instead, he moved forward with his own strategy based on reversing visual perception. “If, for example, the market researchers say Afri-Cola is for young people, smiling young people should appear on the display. And if the media planners say Afri-Cola is a drink for hot days, then the ad should be in the magazines in the summer. I do the opposite: I photograph Afri-Cola with nuns and connect that with intoxication. I do not take a man with two girls, which would be common, but a girl with two men.” The breakthrough ads featured representatives of all different races, sexes, and levels of social strata.
 

 
Originally, Charles Wilp hired German-based American garage rock band The Monks to record a jingle, he thought their experimental sound and blasphemous image that mimicked the Catholic church would be a perfect fit for the controversial advertising campaign. Unfortunately, his plan didn’t work out. “The musicologists and the CEO couldn’t agree with me and the whole thing failed.” Charles Wilp explained in the 2008 Monks documentary The Transatlanic Feedback. “I performed my Afri-Cola music with 48 strings, 2 oboes, 2 harps, 4 timpani, classical instruments. And I created this ‘unreal’ sound which I always wanted to do and which I could have achieved faster with The Monks. Then I didn’t have to deal with the burden of conventions.” Wilp’s orchestrated Afri-Cola score was released on vinyl as a “super single.”
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
‘Christmas in Tattertown,’ Ralph Bakshi’s bizarre holiday TV special
12.19.2016
09:47 am

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Animation
Television

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Although famed animator Ralph Bakshi tends to be best known for racier material like his classics Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic, in 1988 he wrote and directed a half-hour holiday TV special called Christmas in Tattertown. It used to run every year on Nickelodeon in the 1990s (indeed, this YouTube video was taken from a Nickelodeon broadcast).

The plot is none too easy to discern, but it has something to do with a little girl who is transported, Alice in Wonderland-style, to a strange, run-down jazzy urban landscape known as Tattertown, which is redolent of the 1930s. Once there, she interacts with dilapidated toys and explains to the discarded playthings what Christmas is (they have never heard of it).

Some of the elements here are familiar from other places—the general mise-en-scene is reminiscent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, while the talking toys can’t help but remind us of Toy Story. Meanwhile, Inside Out, the recent Pixar hit, featured a memorable character named Bing Bong who wouldn’t be out of place here.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘She Said She Said’: That time the Beatles took LSD at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s house
12.19.2016
09:44 am

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Drugs
Music
Television

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Zsa Zsa Gabor, the much-married Hungarian-American actress and socialite (and great aunt of Paris Hilton) passed away yesterday at the age of 99. While she was an entertainer, her life didn’t have any obvious crossover with topics normally pursued on this site, but there was one. She played a not insignificant role in the creation of the Beatles song “She Said She Said”—even if she wasn’t actually aware of it.

As their 1965 U.S. tour wound down, the Beatles had a day off and used it to hang out with some Hollywood friends at a house they were renting from Zsa Zsa for six days. At the very height of Beatlemania and unable to socialize in public, with Gabor’s Spanish villa being besieged by hordes of fans and even paparazzi photographers trying to get shots of them from helicopters, they invited English actress Eleanor Bron over—she had appeared in Help! earlier that year—as well as folk singer Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and the rest of the Byrds, actress Peggy Lipton, and Peter Fonda. The day in question was significant in terms of the Beatles’ transition from mainstream showbiz to more of a counterculture act with a working familiarity with psychedelic drugs. John Lennon and George Harrison used LSD for the second time that day, and it was the first go-round for Ringo Starr. Paul McCartney had used LSD previously, but he chose not to join them that day.

It turned out that George had a really, really bad trip and needed to be talked down by Peter Fonda. George’s problem was that he thought he was about to die. Here’s Fonda’s version of events:
 

I told him there was nothing to be afraid of and that all he needed to do was relax. I said that I knew what it was like to be dead because when I was 10 years old I’d accidentally shot myself in the stomach and my heart stopped beating three times while I was on the operating table because I’d lost so much blood.

John was passing at the time and heard me saying “I know what it’s like to be dead.” He looked at me and said, “You’re making me feel like I’ve never been born. Who put all that shit in your head?”

 

The Beatles in late 1965
 
In the book Lennon Remembers, a 1971 book that features the Beatle’s interviews with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, John described the day—at the outset he is explaining that the Beatles had little experience with LSD and so didn’t understand the risks that taking it would bring. Among other things they were worried about the presence of a Daily Mirror journalist named Don Short who had also been invited:
 

We still didn’t know anything about doing it in a nice place and cool it and all that, we just took it. And all of a sudden we saw the reporter and we’re thinking, “How do we act normal?” Because we imagined we were acting extraordinary, which we weren’t. We thought, “Surely somebody can see.” We were terrified waiting for him to go, and he wondered why he couldn’t come over, and Neil [Aspinall], who had never had it either, had taken it, and he still had to play road manager. We said, “Go and get rid of Don Short,” and he didn’t know what to do, he just sort of sat with it.

And Peter Fonda came, that was another thing, and he kept on saying, “I know what it’s like to be dead.” We said, “What?” And he kept saying it, and we were saying, “For chrissake, shut up, we don’t care. We don’t want to know.” But he kept going on about it. That’s how I wrote “She Said She Said”....

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Freddie Mercury & Queen kick ass in ‘The Queen Special’: A seldom-seen pay-TV show from 1980
12.15.2016
10:37 am

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Heroes
Music
Television

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So today I have for you something that I quite frankly live for when it comes to rock and roll nostalgia—a one-off pay-TV special that aired in 1980 featuring the mighty Queen and their fearless frontman Freddie Mercury—sans-stache—sounding and looking god-like.

The Queen Special featured live footage during its 50 minute broadcast which was apparently shot at the last show of Queen’s “Crazy Tour” at the end of December in 1979. It also contains other material, including their electrifying performance during the Rock For Kampuchea concert (that also aired on television in 1980) and brief campy appearances from various celebrities such as Twiggy, John Cleese, Ringo Starr and his wife Bond girl Barbara Bach, and veteran British actor Roy Kinnear that you will most likely remember from his role as “Henry Salt” in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

And since I’m a bit of a Queen nerd I feel compelled to also talk about the appearance of Queen’s legendary gigantic stage lighting rig called the “Pizza Oven” in this vintage footage.
 

 
The Pizza Oven utilized 320 blindingly hot lights on its main truss. The audience couldn’t really see the huge lighting apparatus until the show started at which time it would slowly ascend amid high volumes of the rock and roll staples, dry ice and smoke. At the conclusion of the gig the Pizza Oven would come out somewhat over the stage illuminating the band as they bid their farewells. If you need a further visual for that, just take a look at the cover of Queen’s 1977 album Live Killers and you’ll see what I’m jawing about. I’d also like to point out since I mentioned at the beginning of this post that Mercury isn’t sporting his famous mustache, owever you will see said ‘stache in a segment for the show that features the band performing “Flash’s Theme” from Queen’s ninth-studio record, the original soundtrack for the 1980 film Flash Gordon. Here Freddie’s famous facial hair is intact. While confusing, if you do the math Mercury’s mustache officially made its return to his mug during the recording of the Flash score and the clip ended up making its way into The Queen Special to help further promote that (recent) release.

Watch ‘The Queen Special’ after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Excellent unedited DEVO interview from ‘Night Flight,’ 1981
12.14.2016
10:33 am

Topics:
Music
Television

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Dangerous Minds has written a bunch about the USA cable network’s transcendentally great Night Flight, an weekend overnight programming block that aired in the ‘80s, and which can justly claim credit for warping a lot of young minds and giving budding mutants a lot of places to start looking for suitably outré cultural produce. In the 21st Century, that show has morphed into a streaming video channel and a website not terribly unlike…Dangerous Minds. (Hardly a surprise, that, as our pooh-bah Richard Metzger once told The New Yorker that DM was partly inspired by Night Flight. And the log keeps rolling…) The programming was completely freeform and anarchic, and strongly bent towards the celebration of creativity and strangeness, especially via underground music and film—television had never been like that before, and never was again.

A highlight of every Night Flight broadcast was its “Take Off” segments—collections of music videos organized by a unifying theme, and supplemented with interviews and other informational content to flesh out the subject. I’m unable to find the “Take Off” segment that included this DEVO footage—it appears to have been scrubbed from YouTube by Warner Bros on copyright grounds—but I kind of don’t care, because what follows is the entire unedited interview. It’s dated 1981, and the plastic JFK pompadours the band members are wearing support that date. That was the headgear that replaced their famous Energy Domes on their 1981 album New Traditionalists. The provenance of the footage doesn’t lead directly to Night Flight. For the first two years that show aired, the “Take Off” features were made by a production company called Videowest, and bits of the interview turned up in a few places, including this clip about commercialization and merchandising in rock, which may have even been a part of the “lost” segment in question—“Take Off to Merchandising” featuring DEVO sounds plausibly like it could have happened.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Bob Hope and Raquel Welch’s unfortunate cover of ‘Rocky Raccoon,’ 1970
12.08.2016
12:46 pm

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Music
Television

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Rocky Raccoon sheet music; pictured here are its two very famous composers

There have been countless covers of Beatles songs over the decades, but surely one of the most regrettable has to be the version Raquel Welch and Bob Hope essayed of “Rocky Raccoon,” an original and enjoyable song off of side 2 of The White Album. The cover version Welch and Hope executed wasn’t a record, it was part of Raquel!, a Raquel Welch TV special that aired on CBS in 1970—DM’s Richard Metzger once described it as “a camp time capsule full of Bob Mackie dresses, Paco Rabanne spacesuits and Bob Hope singing “Rocky Raccoon” wearing a Davey Crockett hat.” Welch and Hope had a close relationship, she was a staple of his USO tours, one (perhaps two?) that the troops were always overjoyed to see.
 

 
The western motifs McCartney employed in his ditty provided the producers with an irresistible opportunity to put together a slapstick pastiche sketch à la The Monkees or Laugh-In or Benny Hill. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but the gags are pretty lazy. Welch can’t pass up the chance to do Mae West, and I’m not sure if whatever Hope is doing qualifies as Sprechgesang or Sprechstimme, but it ain’t singing (he sounded better doing “Thanks for the Memory”). Welch’s voice, however, is very nice but she makes no effort to capture the spirit of the original.

John Lennon got the last word on this subject. As Geoffrey Giuliano reported in Blackbird: The Life and Times of Paul McCartney, Lennon’s quote on the subject ran, “I saw Bob Hope doing it once on the telly years ago, I just thanked God it wasn’t one of mine.”
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Pixies telepathically host ‘PostModern MTV’ in 1989
12.05.2016
12:20 pm

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Music
Television

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After the arrival of Surfer Rosa in 1988, Pixies became the unavoidable new darlings of the college rock circuit—as this segment from MTV’s PostModern MTV from early 1989 amply demonstrates. PostModern MTV was kind of a truncated weeknight edition of their long-running 120 Minutes, which offered “underground” rock for a two hour programming block on Sundays.

In an MTV News segment hosted by Kurt Loder, the band is introduced purchasing knishes on the sidewalk in midtown Manhattan. Still known officially then as “Black Francis,” Frank Black is quoted as saying “We just wanna make everyone spine-tingly and everything.”

The original host of the show, Kevin Seal, kicks things off but then the four Pixies themselves take over—this YouTube video shows their bumpers and video intros but not the videos themselves. The bits were taped at the much-missed Scrap Bar on MacDougal Street in the West Village following a highly “clever” conceit that actually just comes off as “awkward.”
 

 
Seated behind a heavy iron grate, the band members were tasked with presenting their palaver “telepathically”—that is, keeping their mouths shut and gesturing emphatically in sync to pre-taped audio bits imparting the relevant info. Just watch it, you’ll see. It’s a good reminder of the tryin’-too-hard ethos of what would soon become associated with Generation X. In retrospect, perhaps the band members’ obvious discomfort with the setup was itself kind of a coded message to their collegiate (and college-adjacent) faithful.

Towards the end of the episode the band runs through the top ten “PostModern” videos, whatever that means, and based on the tracks that made the list that week, I’d peg this segment at June 1989, which was a couple of months after the release of Doolittle and also around when “Here Comes Your Man” came out. Anyone born during the Nixon administration is likely to have some strong opinions about the bands that charted that week…

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
That time Orson Welles met Andy Kaufman
12.02.2016
02:12 pm

Topics:
Movies
Television

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Orson Welles and Andy Kaufman were arguably the two greatest pranksters in American history. Welles infamously sparked an intense bout of public hysteria when his 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds conned thousands of radio listeners into believing that a Martian invasion of Earth was actually occurring.  Welles’ final finished feature film, 1974’s documentary F for Fake, about the notorious art forger Elmyr De Hory is a dazzling, intellectuality challenging masterpiece that can never quite decide if it’s a fake documentary about a painter of fake masterpieces who himself was the subject of a true biography written by a fake biographer (Clifford Irving)… or what it is.

Meanwhile, Kaufman’s legendary ability to take a premise beyond its breaking point was so developed that to this day many people still believe that he faked his own death 32 years ago.
 

 
The two men not only met, but Welles interviewed Kaufman when he served as a replacement host on The Merv Griffin Show. Despite his notably curmudgeonly behavior in his advanced years, Welles genuinely gushed about Kaufman’s remarkable acting talents. The date of the show was June 25, 1982. Observing the proceedings was Barney Miller actor Ron Glass, who passed away earlier this week.

I was happy to learn that Welles appreciated the comedic heights achieved by Taxi, which he calls one of the few things on TV that is not a “criminal felony,” but it’s even more interesting to notice the man behind the Mercury Theatre, possibly the greatest theatrical ensemble ever put together, observe that Taxi, despite its marvelous cast, often fell short of its potential as an ensemble show because the plots were seldom confined to the taxi depot (which would have the effect of forcing multi-character interactions).

Welles acutely observes that “Nobody ever came from nowhere as completely as” Kaufman’s character Latka Gravas did. Kaufman comes out wearing a neck brace but never makes anything of it—this was no doubt a product of his wrestling escapades with countless female opponents.

Roll tape, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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