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Morrissey talks to nobody on MTV, 1985
11.26.2014
06:27 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Morrissey
MTV


 
I can hardly think of a better format for a Morrissey interview than this: in 1985, MTV’s monthly weirdomusic program IRS Records Presents the Cutting Edge put him in a room alone with a camera and a pile of envelopes each containing a one-word topic, like “fashion,” “money,” “music,” and so forth. The Smiths’ vocalist simply opened the envelopes and expounded the topics given therein (and it’s a goddamn shame none of those envelopes contained the names of any bands he disliked). The results are, unsurprisingly, classic Morrissey. Would it surprise you to learn that he thinks every art form he can name is a dying art, and that the greatest art form is the one he happens to be known for? Of course it wouldn’t.

Allowing that this was probably sourced from someone’s VHS dub of the broadcast, it looks like even by 1985 standards that that was kind of a shit video camera in there with him—the whole thing has the hazy and noisy feel of old surveillance footage. The entire video was broken up into several segments and spread out through the broadcast, but what’s here just contains the edited-out Morrissey segments. Bafflingly, the beginning is labeled “Part 2,” and there’s a lot of needless overlap between the two parts. I’ve set it up to play here in the proper order without the loads of overlap. The alternative was to post a ghastly looking and sounding screen-shot video.
 

 
The rest after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Turn on Negativland’s ‘No Other Possibility’ and fry your brain
11.25.2014
08:40 am

Topics:
Idiocracy
Music
Television

Tags:
Negativland


 
No Other Possibility was Negativland’s first video, released in 1989, the same year as “Helter Stupid,” pitched right between their “Christianity Is Stupid” hoax of a couple years earlier and “U2” a couple years later.

I hadn’t seen this in quite a while—I had honestly forgotten how tremendously enjoyable Negativland is. Their stuff is way more entertaining than any anti-establishment culture-jammin’ nutcases have any right to be. (I guess if you invent the term “culture jamming,” you have a license to transcend the genre.) This video is very good, and I had also not realized the high level of musicianship on display here—certainly “Nesbitt’s Lime Soda” and “Fire Song” and “Very Stupid” (I’m not sure that last one has an official title, the Internet seems to call it “Theme From ‘a Big 10-8 Place,’” which is dumb) are all top-notch.

Negativland are pitched almost exactly between DEVO and Tim & Eric—with less instinct for schtick than either (this is a brave and good thing). And yet there is a kind of schtick to it, too. In the opening crawl, supposedly penned by “Crosley Bendix, Director, Stylistic Premonitions” (later played by Don Joyce), you can hear that excessively modest and self-annihilating tone, familiar from David Letterman in his NBC days and also certain misanthropic comix guys like Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes. I think the idea is that you have to be as hard on yourself as you are on your target; you have to torch the self because you can begin to reconstruct (and also criticize/satirize others).
 

 
The video is purest 1980s slacker fodder in that the biggest sin is to be unaware, to be incapable of irony. If only the suburbans/corporates/normals could be more ironic! You see much the same idea in, say, Reality Bites, but it’s not really a good tack—the slackers (hey, I’m one too) couldn’t figure out any other point of attack. Negativland’s methods haven’t dated much at all IMO, but that part, the pro-irony ethos, does feel a bit dated here.

In addition to being an essay about the vapidity of American culture, No Other Possibility also serves as a kind of diary for the Negativland guys themselves. About halfway through we get a video report about a fire that destroyed their apartment/studio in El Cerrito, California on Friday, February 13, 1987. The very end of the video is taken up with a terribly earnest report about Negativland’s involvement in the David Brom murders of 1988, based on connections that were entirely made up by Negativland.

At some point “Crosley Bendix” (Don Joyce) has a little speech about numerology, at the end of which he cries, “Thanks a million! You’ve been a wonderful audience. Bye, Cleveland!” Which is only noteworthy because I was in fact watching it in Cleveland.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The Jam deliver two scorching songs on ABC’s ‘Fridays,’ 1980
11.24.2014
06:05 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk
Television

Tags:
The Jam
Fridays


 
From 1980 to 1982 ABC ran a live comedy show on Friday nights at 11:30 pm—live, just like Saturday Night Live; it had the appropriate (and similar) name of Fridays. As Dennis Perrin, author of Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue, the Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous, observed at the comedy blog Splitsider, Fridays was “the SNL ripoff that nearly surpassed the original,” given that the mix of comedy and pop music performances owed a hell of a lot to Saturday Night Live. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the very first sketch of the very first episode tried to defuse that issue by joking about it: “Backstage, the producers remind the cast that the show will not be a clone of Saturday Night Live and the cast (dressed as SNL recurring characters) take off their costumes.”

Fridays two-year run was marked by some controversies. In an early episode, a sketch about a zombie diner cost them some much-needed affiliates. The most famous Fridays episode is likely the February 20, 1981, episode, for an incident involving Andy Kaufman, who was hosting that night. During a sketch about two couples at a restaurant who keep sneaking off to the bathroom to smoke pot, Kaufman seemed to break character, saying, “I can’t play stoned,” and there was an altercation with Michael Richards, who was also in the sketch. It turned out that the whole apparently authentic breakdown had been orchestrated by Kaufman and Richards and a couple others on the Fridays staff.

According to Perrin, for many years a DVD edition of Fridays was blocked by Larry David, but finally a 4-disc set was released in 2013. 
 

The cast of Fridays. Standing at upper right is Larry David; seated at lower left is Michael Richards.
 
Fridays benefited from SNL’s rocky 1980-1981 season, the one with Charles Rocket and Gilbert Gottfried and headed by Jean Doumanian. Suddenly the ripoff didn’t seem so derivative anymore. As Splitsider’s Perrin wrote, “If SNL was classic rock, then Fridays was decidedly punk.”

Ah, punk! That’s right, I remember now, punk rock on the tee-vee. SNL may have had Fear and Patti Smith and Elvis Costello, but only Fridays could boast an appearance by the Jam. Here we have Paul Weller and Co. playing “Start!” off of Sound Affects (1980) and “Private Hell” off of 1979’s Setting Sons.
 

 
After the jump, the Jam play “Private Hell”.....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Patti Smith interviews David Lynch
11.22.2014
07:30 am

Topics:
Movies
Punk
Television

Tags:
Patti Smith
David Lynch

psdl123.jpg
 
Though I’m sure your thoughts are probably on higher things than mine, I couldn’t help but consider the benefits of hair dye while watching this interview between Patti Smith and David Lynch. Is there a point when life can be enhanced by a teeny drop of Nice ‘n’ Easy? I was a tad surprised this question wasn’t raised during the interview, however, Ms. Smith and Mr. Lynch did share their thoughts about singer Bobby Vinton and the film Blue Velvet, the series Twin Peaks (which Smith claims “reconnected [her] to the world and art”) and the feminist band Pussy Riot, of which Ms. Smith says:

These girls did something absolutely original. As even a mother or a grandmother, they are in my prayers.

The interview is taken from the “Encounters” strand of BBC’s “flagship” news and current affairs program Newsnight,  in which two notable people interview each other about issues relating to their work. If you’re a fan of either Ms. Smith or Mr. Lynch, you will surely enjoy this.
 

 
H/T NME

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The nicest Lou Reed interview you’ll ever see
11.21.2014
05:26 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Lou Reed
Flo & Eddie
Midnight Special


 
So the story goes like this: In the spring of 1978, shortly after he’d released the amazing LP Street Hassle, Lou Reed was asked to host an episode of NBC’s late-night music program The Midnight Special. Reed was asked to submit lyrics to the songs he wished to perform, and, quelle fucking surprise, NBC balked at airing some of them. Rather than alter his work, Reed declined to appear, no harm done, except that an episode that could have been an all-time classic was instead ultimately hosted by—hold on to your lunch—Journey.

But Midnight Special did something exceptionally cool. Instead of just letting this matter pass quietly, they invited Reed on as a guest, in an interview segment hosted by Turtles/Zappa madcaps Flo & Eddie, specifically to talk about exactly why he wasn’t serving as the program’s host that night, and in the process they discussed censorship in broadcast media and the validity of “shock value” in pop music! At a generous seven and a half minutes long, the segment covered a lot of ground, and astutely at that. Perhaps because they were fellow weirdo musicians, Flo & Eddie got a genial, reflective Lou Reed, not the notoriously spiky prick who could and would unhesitatingly annihilate interviewers.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Cranky Lou Reed interview from 1975 is full of hilariously nasty gems
‘Lou Believers’: Sonic Youth in the weirdest Lou Reed ‘tribute’ you’ll ever see
(B)Lou’s on first? Dangerous Minds sparks clash between Blue Man Group and Lou Man Group!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘Beatles Electroniques’: The Beatles warped beyond recognition, 1969
11.20.2014
11:31 am

Topics:
Art
Music
Television

Tags:
Beatles
Jud Yalkut
Nam June Paik


Beatles Electroniques, 1969
 
The relationship and eventual marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, looked at from a slightly unusual perspective, can be seen as an alliance between the high pop mastery of the Beatles and the playful avant-garde methods of the Fluxus group. Ono was obviously one of the major Fluxus artists of the day, and in taking up with her Lennon exposed himself to avant-garde art in a particularly intimate way—and vice versa.

It would be a stretch to say that the Beatles were authentic pioneers of electronic music, but at the same time it couldn’t be clearer that McCartney and Co.’s relentless experimental incursions into the medium of pop music had an enormous effect on what was regarded as “in bounds” for rock music. The introduction of feedback on “I Feel Fine,” the use of reversed tape loops in “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the maelstrom of nonsense in “Revolution 9,” the symphonic collision of melody in “A Day in the Life,” and so on. In 1967 McCartney contributed a 14-minute tape loop composition called “Carnival of Light” to an awesome-sounding event called the The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave that has never reached the public even to this day (Harrison and George Martin loathed the piece; Harrison vetoed releasing it every chance he got). Meanwhile, Harrison himself made a key contribution to the canon of electronic music with the release of his second album, titled simply Electronic Sound, in 1969; the album consisted solely of two loooooooong Moog compositions, as my colleague Ron Kretsch ably explained on DM a few months back. Of course, Lennon himself was burrowing into weirdo musique concrete with Yoko, in various releases like Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions, Two Virgins, and Wedding Album.

Once dubbed “The Artist Who Invented Video Art,” Nam June Paik was an incredibly prolific and amusing conceptual artist from Korea in the postwar era; he is most associated with his works incorporating the cathode ray tube (we usually call it a TV set), including “TV-Buddha,” “TV Chair,” and “Family of Robot,” the last of which is essentially a series of robots made out of TV sets. Earlier in his career Paik was associated with John Cage, particularly his notorious 1960 work “Etude for Piano,” which culminated in Paik cutting off Cage’s necktie and washing Cage’s hair with shampoo.
 

The Beatles, 1969
 
In 1969 Paik teamed up with Fluxus-associated filmmaker Jud Yalkut to create Beatles Electroniques, a three-minute video in which Beatles footage is messed with electronically. I would argue that Beatles Electroniques is an essential proto-Plunderphonics text. I’m tempted to call it the first important Plunderphonics work in everything but name—the term “Plunderphonics” was coined by composer John Oswald in 1985 to describe works stretching back no earlier than the 1970s. Oswald’s key recordings include the Plunderphonics EP (1988) and the Plunderphonics album (1989). Key inheritors of the Plunderphonics style are Negativland and Christian Marclay. The Residents fucked with Beatles source material in The Beatles play The Residents and The Residents play The Beatles, but that was fully eight years after Beatles Electroniques.
 

Nam June Paik
 
As Barbara London’s essay “Looking at Music” described it in the volume Rewind, Play, Fast Forward: The Past, Present and Future of the Music Video,
 

In October 1965, Paik screened his first videotapes as part of a series of “happening nights” at the Greenwich Village nightclub Cafe au Go Go—a venue that included Lenny Bruce and the Grateful Dead among its roster of performers. … Beatles Electroniques, 1966-69, made with the experimental filmmaker Jud Yalkut, is nothing less than an early black-and-white music video. Paik grabbed bits from the mock documentary A Hard Day’s Night (directed by Richard Lester in 1964), refilming and further distorting the footage through his video synthesizer (developed with engineer Shuya Abe). Snippets of the Beatles’ faces are caught in a loop of warped abstraction. To accompany the endlessly folding imagery, Paik created a sound track with Kenneth Lerner, which featured fragmented Beatles songs recited again and again. Whereas the original film is an upbeat paean to Beatlemania, Paik’s strategies of appropriation and repetition are conceptually closer to Andy Warhol’s silk-screened paintings of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, 1962, and Steve Reich’s phasing of spoken words from a publicized racial incident in his sound composition Come Out (1966). Like these works, Beatles Electroniques brought seriality into the realm of sensory overload.

 
Nobody seems to know what these “fragmented Beatles songs” actually are, so transformed are they in Paik and Yalkut’s work. Without further ado, here’s Beatles Electroniques:
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Hello Arthur? This is your mother. Do you remember me?’: The comedy genius of Nichols & May
11.20.2014
11:25 am

Topics:
Television

Tags:
comedy
Mike Nichols
Elaine May
Nichols & May


 
Something from the Dangerous Minds archives to commemorate the passing of Mike Nichols. This was originally posted on January 31, 2011.  

“Sometimes each of us would be thinking “Oh god, I know where we’re going,” and both of us would race to get there first.”—Mike Nichols

Over the weekend, Tara and I watched a 15-year-old PBS America Masters documentary on the incredibly brilliant 50s/60s comedy duo of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Titled Nichols & May: Take Two, it features thoughtful discussions of the pair’s work by the likes of Steve Martin, Jules Feiffer and Tom Browkaw. What made the hour-long piece so especially exciting to watch was, well, finally getting to watch them do these great routines that I have listened to over and over and over again on records. Most of it was new to me (visually speaking, that is) and I was just ecstatically happy to see it. (Not to mention how absolutely stunning Elaine May was! Wow! What a fox!)

When I was a kid I absolutely adored Nichols & May. As Steve Martin remarked about their albums, there was really something quite musical about their comedy that leant it to repeated listens. Robin Williams compares the dance of their wit to a beautiful ballet. What they created together wasn’t really like anything else, either before or since. Their comedy albums weren’t stand-up comedy at all, of course. Nichols & May were actors and writers performing their own material, often the result of improvisations (a hallmark of their live act). Both of them have really great, expressive voices and their classic routines are absolute perfection, as honed and as precise as language can be used. Much of their material begins with seemingly random, meandering or nervous conversation that eventually comes into sharp focus. They were great at portraying pompous idiots with nothing to say and no qualms whatsoever about saying it. Although hardly risque, Nichols & May were “grown up” and probably the first satirists to include riffs on post-coital pillow talk and adultery in their repertoire during the Eisenhower administration.

A large part of the appeal for ardent Nichols and May fans was the cultural signifiers they—well, their stuffy, insecure characters—would casually drop into their routines. College-educated, upscale fans who made the high IQ duo such a success on Broadway would feel a part of the “in crowd” when presented with material referencing Béla Bartók or Nietzsche, although no one was exactly excluded by their brainy comedy, either. Routines about phone calls from foreign countries, getting ripped off by funeral homes and psychotically nagging mothers could be enjoyed by anyone, but the high falutin’ grad school references were the dog whistles that garnered them their staunchest fans. Amusing to consider that these “sophisticates” were usually the very people skewered most savagely by the double-edged sword of Nichols & May’s humor.

Often, it was Elaine May’s characters who set about psychologically torturing the hapless male creations of straight-man Nichols. Gerald Nachman relates several examples of May’s emasculating wit in a pre-feminist era in his book Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. One tale is told of May getting wolf whistles and noisy kisses from two guys who followed her down the street. “What’s the matter? Tired of each other?” she asked. One of them yelled back, “Fuck you!” and she fired back, “With WHAT?

 

 
In their famous “Telephone” sketch, Nichols plays a hapless man, stranded and down to his final dime, trying to use a pay phone with disastrous results. May plays three different telephone operators, none about to give him his “alleged die-yum” back. To SEE them do this&8230; Ah! I was in heaven:
 

 
Plenty more Nichols & May after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Check out ‘The Internet Show,’ an hour-long PBS special from the dawn of cyberspace
11.19.2014
11:59 am

Topics:
Science/Tech
Television

Tags:
Internet
PBS


 
A YouTube user named Andy Baio has collected a number of explanatory videos dating from the very dawn of the commercialized World Wide Web (roughly 1995 for our purposes here) and created a killer playlist featuring them. Here’s Baio on the group of videos:
 

A while back, I started collecting old VHS tapes about the Internet from the early- to mid-1990s. While most of these are pretty corny, they also inadvertently captured pieces of the web that don’t exist anywhere else. The Internet Archive’s earliest snapshots were in late 1996, so anything before that is extremely sparse. The videos, silly as they are, still represent valuable documentation of the early web.I digitized the VHS tapes using a VCR connected to a MiniDV camera’s pass-through feature to my Macbook Pro. After I started putting these online, a couple more were sent to me, which I’ve included in the collection. And then my VCR broke.

 
As Baio writes of this delicious video, which dates from 1995, “Ripped from VHS, The Internet Show is an hour-long introduction to the mid-90s Internet from PBS Home Video, hosted by writers Gina Smith and John Levine.” It’s impossible for such videos not to appear hideously dated, but this program isn’t too horrible. Smith and Levine do a decent job walking newbies through the history of the Internet (ARPANET etc.) and some technical aspects no ordinary end user needs to know about (packet switching) as well as the nuts and bolts of writing an email and so forth. They bandy about a whole lot of scarcely familiar slang, such as “Internaut” (???) as well as well-nigh obsolete terminology like “cyberspace.” But you can hardly blame them for that. Pre-iPhone, pre-Facebook, pre-Google, pre-Netscape even, the Internet in 1995 seems awfully arcane to us today but in fact the essential components of the Internet were already present, including email, chat, newsgroups, spam, political activism, mapping programs, emoticons, and e-commerce—Smith and Levine touch on them all.

The general tone and the graphics and the clothing styles are purest mid-1990s, which is always amusing. One of the most surprising aspects of the video is that it’s shot not in Silicon Valley but in Texas, at Houston’s Rice University. At about 20 minutes in, there’s a nice Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference, which is all the better for the hosts not calling attention to it.
 

 
via ANIMAL

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Joan Jett and The Jam’s Paul Weller talk New Wave on ‘The Tomorrow Show,’ 1977


 
In October of 1977, Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show hosted one of US media’s early attempts at a thoughtful discussion of the then-new phenomena of punk and New Wave. Disappointingly, but still understandably, the discussion mostly features establishment figures, whose basic understanding of what was actually even happening varied wildly. Legendary concert promoter Bill Graham, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn’t get it at all. He’s here representing the old guard, and all his knowledge of the new noise appears to derive from sensationalistic rumor, though at least he admits to limited first-hand knowledge. (At one point he talks about bands burning Stars of David and wearing KKK uniforms. Wuuuuuuuut?) Also unsurprisingly, LA Times music writer Robert Hilburn offers some of the most thoughtful and informed comments. The Runaways’ producer Kim Fowley is obviously approaching the discussion from a knowledgeable position, but he clowns around and snarks incessantly—he claims to see the trend-orientation of the discussion as a farce that diverts attention from the artistry of the bands and their music, but he’s hardly one to talk about that, now, is he? Though his remarks are often too insidery to actually be informative to the civilians watching this, at least he knows what makes for good TV.

B+ for effort, seriously, but it’s all pretty dry and speculative until the real marquee names arrive. You can see the beginnings of the discussion on YouTube in three parts (1) (2) (3), but it was really only once the RunawaysJoan Jett and the Jam’s Paul Weller joined the conversation that things got significantly more interesting and relevant. It’s one thing to hear oldsters blather on about music they’d never even heard (to his credit, Snyder came around to a deeper understanding of the stuff), and another to hear about the music from the people making it. And amusingly, after Jett and Weller started talking, everyone else’s comments improved. It’s a good deal harder to throw around bullshit about swastikas and self-mutilation when you’re talking face-to-face with thoughtful artists who defy the stereotypes you’ve been fed. Watch it here, it’s good stuff.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Hitler’s home movies, starring Mel Brooks (with a young David Letterman), 1978
11.17.2014
10:37 am

Topics:
Television

Tags:
Adolf Hitler
David Letterman
Mel Brooks


 
It’s well known that Mel Brooks has something of a Hitler obsession. His first directorial feature was The Producers, which centered around an irresistible ditty called “Springtime for Hitler.” In Blazing Saddles, set in the Wild West several decades before Hitler’s rise to power, Brooks managed to smuggle in the Nazis indirectly, via Lili von Shtupp, a Marlene Dietrich parody played by Madeline Kahn, as well as the Germanic baddies that show up to be part of Hedley Lamarr’s army of mercenaries. In 1983 Brooks remade the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch classic To Be or Not to Be, which revolved around actors pretending to be high-echelon Nazis, including a musical number in which Brooks’ Fredrick Bronski (dressed as Hitler) sings “A Little Peace,” a merry song of his own composition about invading every country in Europe.

The recent American Masters documentary on Brooks, Make A Noise, actually dedicates a section to Brooks’ recurring interest in Hitler and even bothers to ask Brooks if he can remember the first time he ever became aware of Hitler, a query Brooks describes as “crazy.”
 

David Letterman and Alan Oppenheimer as Dan Cochran and Miles Rathbourne
 
Brooks even played Hitler himself once, in a parody of 60 Minutes-style TV news magazines called Peeping Times, which ran on NBC on January 25, 1978. Four years before getting his own talk show on the same network, David Letterman played “Dan Cochran,” one of the show’s anchors. One of the segments purports to show recently unearthed footage of Hitler and Eva Braun in the mid-1930s. You can even hear Alan Oppenheimer’s Miles Rathbourne snort in voiceover, “He looks like Mel Brooks.” Naturally, Brooks plays Hitler for maximum silliness, dancing a little jig, getting spoon-fed by Eva like a small child, and complaining that the cameraman (Rudolf Hess) isn’t shooting the footage properly. Note that the fellow who cues up the footage is played by a young James Cromwell.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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