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Watch Burt Reynolds and the Muppets on the unaired pilot for ‘The Orson Welles Show,’ 1978
04.14.2016
10:34 am

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Heroes
Television

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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…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Watch Pink Floyd make an early appearance on American television, 1967
04.07.2016
03:46 pm

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Music
Television

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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.
 

 
via Open Culture

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
In the Flesh: Blondie’s perfect pop performance on German TV, 1978
04.01.2016
09:28 am

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Heroes
Music
Television

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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”?

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
David McCallum: Chill to the now sounds of the Musician from U.N.C.L.E.
03.31.2016
10:27 am

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Music
Pop Culture
Television

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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.
 
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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.

 
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McCallum took the idea to Capitol Records who liked the idea and within ten days the first session had been recorded.

Between 1966 and 1968, released four albums on Capitol Records: Music…A Part Of Me, Music…A Bit More Of Me, Music…It’s Happening Now!, and McCallum.
 
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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”.

More McCallum after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
This ‘King of the Hill’/‘Spiderland’ mashup could not be more perfect
03.30.2016
01:32 pm

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Music
Television

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Hey Internet, can we get this fantastic image on a T-shirt, please? Thanks so much.

Most readers of this site will be familiar with the iconic cover art of Slint‘s second and final album Spiderland, released in 1991.

This amusing reworking inserts the familiar foursome of idle males from the long-running FOX series King of the Hill into the album cover. So according to this, moving from left to right, Dale is bobbing where Todd Brashear once bobbed, Bill is Brian McMahan, Hank is Britt Walford, and Boomhauer is David Pajo.
 

 
As we learned a couple years back, the quarry in which the picture was taken is located in or around Utica, Indiana, not far from Louisville, whence the band hailed. The original photograph was taken by Will Oldham.

This clever image appears to be the product of a fellow named J.W. Friedman, who along with the intrguingly named Chris Collision runs I Don’t Even Own a Television, which is a “podcast about bad books.” Hats off to you!

After the jump, there’s an 8-bit rendition of “Good Morning, Captain”...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Kinks showcase a storming selection from ‘Sleepwalker’ live in 1977
03.30.2016
10:58 am

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Heroes
Music
Television

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1973 was not a good year for The Kinks. Personal problems, changes in line-up and a whole shift in the music scene led Kinks frontman and main songwriter Ray Davies to question what he was doing with his life. In June of that year, Davies’ wife Rasa left him taking their children with her. It sent Davies into a major depression.

During the band’s headline concert in July at the White City Stadium in London, Ray Davies announced from the stage he was quitting the band. According Roy Hollingsworth in his review of the gig for music paper Melody Maker:

Ray Davies should never have been at London’s White City Stadium, on Sunday. Physically, and more important, mentally. Davies was in no fit condition to play. And in no fit condition to stand on a stage and say that he was quitting, He was a man neck-high in troubles, and when he shouted “I quit,” he should have shouted “Help!”

Ray looked frightening in dark glasses for the sun wasn’t shining … He was a wreck that evening … Davies swore onstage. He stood at the White City and swore that he was ‘F—ing sick of the whole thing … Sick up to here with it … and those that heard shook their heads.

After this tirade, Ray walked across to his brother, guitarist Dave, kissed him on the cheek and exited the stage. He then collapsed from a massive overdose of “valium.” According to Dave Davies this was the night Ray had “tried to top himself.”

I thought he looked a bit weird after the show—I didn’t know that he’d taken a whole bloody bottle of weird-looking psychiatric pills. It was a bad time. Ray suddenly announced that he was going to end it all—it was around that time that his first wife left him. … She’d left him and taken the kids on his birthday, just to twist the blade in a little more. … I think he took the pills before the show. I said to him towards the end that he was getting a bit crazy. I didn’t know what happened—I suddenly got a phone call saying he was in the hospital. I remember going to the hospital after they’d pumped his stomach and it was bad.

During his recuperation in hospital Ray spent much of his time listening to Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony The Resurrection—the story of one man’s redemption and resurrection after death, which Ray described as “a moving piece of music.” It made him think about taking the band in a more theatrical direction.

When Dave came to visit him, Ray told his brother he no longer wanted to just be a rock band but “wanted to explore the idea of rock theatre, something no one else had really done before.”
 
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In many respects this idea—or concept albums similar to this idea—exactly what The Kinks had been experimenting with since The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society in 1968, and had continued with in Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) (1969), Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (1970), Everybody’s in Show-Biz (1972) and Preservation Act 1 in July 1973.

Out of hospital, Davies returned to the band and started mining his “rock theatre” idea with Preservation Act 2 (1974), Soap Opera—which was made into a TV musical extravaganza Star Maker (1974), and Schoolboys in Disgrace (1975). Though each of these albums has its merits—and all deserve considerable reappraisal—they performed poorly in the charts and did little to keep The Kinks relevant with a younger audience. In hindsight, none of this matters much as the quality of the songs and Ray’s ideas have outlasted the fickle fancies of pop fashion. However, the Kinks’ record company was not impressed and demanded that the band’s next album had to be a stand alone traditional collection of good songs—as if such a thing can be ordered to suit.

In 1976, Davies therefore started writing a non-concept album Sleepwalker, which was released in February 1977. Though the songs still reflect Davies’ own preoccupations—the title track dealt with the singer’s insomnia after moving to New York—it was the first album to give The Kinks a top fifty placing since the singles “Lola” and “Apeman” in 1970.

Sleepwalker was generally well received—Melody Maker said the record was “the group’s strongest and most organised album in years” which:

...emphatically testifies to the dramatic artistic revival of Raymond Douglas Davies, whose supreme talents as a writer have been so distressingly overlooked during the first half of this decade.

 
The Kinks showcase ‘Sleepwalker’ and more, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa: Shut Up ‘n’ Play yer Bike!
03.29.2016
09:41 am

Topics:
Amusing
Heroes
Television

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Long time ago on British TV there was what I guess you might call a talent show titled Opportunity Knocks. Each week host Hughie Greene offered young hopeful singers, comedians, magicians, variety acts, you know the kinda thing, the opportunity to make it big.

Among those who did make it big were the likes of Mary Hopkins who sang “Those Were the Days” and was quickly signed to The Beatles record label Apple. There were quite a few others who are better known over here than over in the US.

And of the many people who did take part but never made it big, there was always some kind of novelty act—a bodybuilder who flexed his muscles and inflated hot water bottles with his mighty breath; impressionists whose speciality was imitating the sound of railway engines and planes taking-off; belly dancers; bird-handlers who pushed little budgerigars on rope swings then made them hop thru flaming hoops; and last but certainly not least, those hobbyists who made music out of everyday objects such as kettles, washboards, radiators, hoover attachments and alike.
 
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These freaks reminded me of Frank Zappa’s appearance on The Steve Allen Show in 1960, when the precocious young musician impressed with his ability to play a bicycle.

At the time, Zappa was earning a living playing cocktail lounges and writing a score for a film called The World’s Greatest Sinner. As he explained to Steve Allen during his appearance he had also written a “bicycle concerto.”

I suppose I have to ask, what kind of twenty-year old goes on national TV to promote himself as a player of the bicycle other than one who is utterly desperate for recognition? Not just any kind of recognition but one that highlights an interest in the avant garde, some serious musical intent and (you guessed it) a zany sense of humor.

That Zappa pulls off all three says much for his talent, ego, and ambition.

Watch the video, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘We’re addicted to making fools of ourselves’: The Replacements’ ‘shaved eyebrows’ interview, 1987
03.28.2016
09:30 pm

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Music
Television

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The Replacements had a reputation for unpredictable live shows—gleefully raucous one night, drunk and disorderly the next. With the 1986 sacking of founding lead guitarist Bob Stinson—a move the band made, in part, due to his increasingly erratic behavior—many assumed the ‘Mats would clean up their act.

With new guitarist Slim Dunlap in tow, the unit hit the road in the spring of 1987 in support of their latest LP, Pleased To Meet Me. Though they were indeed more reliable, the band didn’t exactly get sober, and they could still flop like murder on stage, especially if there was something at stake. For a June gig in L.A., in which numerous staff from their record label were in attendance, they rose to the occasion by performing a set of songs that consistently didn’t reach the finish line (reportedly only one was seen to completion), and handing off their instruments to audience members. They would return to the west coast for a final run of dates in December, with pals the Young Fresh Fellows as their openers, culminating with a now legendary disaster of a show in Portland (the night ended with the Replacements playing in their underpants). ‘Mats ringleader Paul Westerberg felt so bad about the performance that he wrote the song “Portland” as an apology.
 
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Members of both bands on stage during the infamous Portland gig.

Prior to the concluding shows of the Pleased To Meet Me outing, the Replacements were having drinks with Scott McCaughey, the singer/guitarist of the Young Fresh Fellows. Perhaps the rigors of touring (along with the alcohol) had gotten to them, as the boys decided to do something most wouldn’t do if you paid them: They shaved their eyebrows. The episode was recounted in Bob Mehr’s fantastic biography, Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements.

On December 1st, the band was hanging out at Seattle’s Mayflower Hotel bar with Scott McCaughey when Westerberg suggested they all shave their eyebrows. “By the time we actually got done with it,” said bassist Tommy Stinson, “the feisty stage was over, and it was like, ‘Oh . . . shit. I’m going to bed. I hope this goes away by the time I wake up.’ It didn’t.”

McCaughey later recalled that his eyebrows took months to grow back and that he looked like a “cretin” without them.
 
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The Replacements and the Young Fresh Fellows horsing around in 1987. Note: Eyebrows still intact.

The below interview with the Replacements was recorded for MTV’s The Cutting Edge Happy Hour, hosted by Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones. The show taped in Hollywood, so the segment was likely videoed when the band rolled through Southern California a few days after the Seattle incident. Looking as they did—ragged from the road and just plain weird without their eyebrows—most groups would’ve cancelled a scheduled television appearance, but not the Replacements. After all, this is the rock-n-roll combo that took the concept of shooting yourself in the foot and made it into an art form.

A variety of topics are covered in the clip—as well as excerpts from their contrary videos—including the elephant in the room: Why’d they shave their eyebrows? According to Westerberg, they did it in order to prank McCaughey’s band-mates.

But who was the joke really on?!
 
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The picture quality ain’t the greatest, but it’s classic ‘Mats, so just watch it already.
 

 

 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
‘Love Bites’: Watch the Buzzcocks on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test,’ 1978
03.28.2016
12:16 pm

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Music
Television

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When Howard Devoto left the Buzzcocks in 1977 to found Magazine, it left full control of the creative direction the band in the hands of Pete Shelley. The Buzzcocks’ first full album, recorded without any Devoto involvement, was Love Bites, released on September 22, 1978. A couple of months later, on November 14, 1978, the Buzzcocks took to The Old Grey Whistle Test to play two of its standout tracks.

The appearance of the Buzzcocks on The Old Grey Whistle Test was something of an innovation for the show. Annie Nightingale, shown in this clip presenting the band, had already created history by becoming the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1; in 1978 Nightingale became a new presenter on the program, and she was responsible for steering the show away from the country, blues, and prog that had been its bread and butter and for integrating underground music, including punk, into the show’s rotation.
 

 
Not that the Buzzcocks were the first band with any punk/underground cred to appear on the show; they weren’t—preceding them in the calendar year of 1978 were Talking Heads, XTC, the Vibrators, Television, the aforementioned Magazine, and the Ramones; less than a month later X-Ray Spex would appear on the show.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’ trading cards were the absolute best, right? You betcha!
03.28.2016
09:48 am

Topics:
Art
Games
Television

Tags:


 
Last week it seemed like all of America (certainly everyone on my Facebook feed) had taken time out to enjoy the latest installment of insanity from Pee-wee Herman, as Netflix started streaming Pee-wee’s Big Holiday on March 18. I thought it would be a good moment to look back at one of the most exceptional aspects of Pee-wee’s original TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse that doesn’t get talked about so much anymore, that being the utterly amazing set of trading cards that Topps unveiled to promote the show in 1988.

Seriously, I don’t think trading cards ever got any better than this.

Every package of the Pee-wee’s Playhouse trading cards was conceived as a “Fun Pak” that included a mishmash of items, including cards, stickers, temporary tattoos, and curious little lenticular images. It was truly a bounty—every single package came with enough brightly colored whimsy and silly puns to satisfy even the most immature middle schooler.

This is what a package (in rear) and its typical contents looked like:
 

 
A blog dedicated to the “Topps Archives” provides some crucial detail to the way this set worked, calling it “one of the most innovative sets [Topps] ever produced.” The good writer, going by “toppcat,” points out that “an artist, puppet master and set designer named Wayne White had something to do with the quirky look of the show and presumably the design of the cards. ... Pee-wee’s Playhouse must have been a risk as the show was mid-run in 1988 but that did not stop the creative team from going bonkers.”

The set featured bewildering variety for those accustomed to a simple 34-card series of Planet of the Apes images or whatever. No, the Pee-wee’s Playhouse cards defied the entire concept of sequence lists and categories, with confusingly repeating and mismatched fronts and backs and subsets, which leads to explanations like this: “The lovely Miss Yvonne, the Most Beautiful Woman in Puppetland is not actually #3, that is merely her sub-series number; a total of six represent various characters. Another sub-series is the multi-sticker, of which there are eight….”

The set included puzzle cards, temporary tattoos, activity cards, stickers, “nutty initials” (this one being a reworking of a 1967 Topps series), wigglers, “flying things” cards, playhouse foldies, puppet cards, door cards, disguise cards, and who knows what else!

As an adult looking back on these images, it’s impossible not to see it as the entire run of Art Spiegelman’s RAW repurposed and made accessible (and just as importantly, made more FUN!) for the brighter-than-average teen. The importance of Gary Panter in defining the Pee-wee aesthetic has been well documented, but these cards also featured the artistic input of such comix stalwarts as KAZ and Charles Burns.

Seldom has the trading card public been as dazzled by so much generous variety within a single line! Every single card is brimming with an infectious vitality.
 

 
Much, much more after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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