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Vintage MTV: ‘Punks and Poseurs: A Journey Through the Los Angeles Underground’
08.21.2014
09:29 am

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture
Punk
Television

Tags:
MTV
The Dickies
GBH


This kid.

Knowing firsthand that MTV didn’t always totally suck asswater really dates you. When I have occasion to mention how, once upon a time, that justly-reviled network actually played some seriously cool shit, I half wonder if I’m coming off like my grandma used to when she talked about the Great Depression. But it’s true, even before long-running bones thrown to the weirdos like 120 Minutes and Headbanger’s Ball found their footing, MTV broadcast stuff like IRS’ The Cutting Edge and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes, which often rivaled even the USA Network’s mighty Night Flight for genuinely informative freak-scene value.

One jaw-droppingly excellent MTV show was the one-off special Punks and Poseurs: A Journey Through the Los Angeles Underground. A big mover behind its production was Charles M. Young, who, as sad fate would have it, passed away this week after a standoff with a brain tumor. He’s the guy at the beginning of the video, speaking with early VJ Alan Hunter, and while he looks for all the world like an unreconstructed Little River Band fan, don’t be faked out by appearances. Young was one of the first mainstream music journalists to take punk’s aesthetic merit as a given, and for that, we owe him a debt of gratitude. May he rest in peace.

At its core, “Punks and Poseurs” is a narration-free concert film, but it’s cut with terrific interview footage that explores the changing nature of punk, from insider and outsider perspectives. There’s a lot of great footage with writer/performers Pleasant Gehman and Iris Berry, torpedoing the influx into the music scene of neophyte phonies who just didn’t get it, explaining title of the program. (After this first aired in 1985, a bunch of the new waver/Durannie chicks at my high school—which is to say all the girls who were trying their suburban Ohio best to look like Gehman and Berry—started calling everyone “poseurs,” which was pretty funny.) There’s also a hilarious interview with employees at a store called “Poseur,” which sold punk fashions and accessories—people had to get that shit somewhere before Hot Topic forever banished punk to the mall, no?  Also keep an eye out for the kid giving a primer on how to fashion liberty spikes with Knox gelatine.

The performance footage mostly focuses on excellent, high-energy sets by The Dickies and GBH —the latter of whom were quite radical by MTV’s regular programming standards (and British, contra the program’s subtitle, but the concert took place in L.A., so whatever, I guess). There’s also an early glimpse of the excellent and still active Italian hardcore band Raw Power. I harbor serious doubts they’ve ever been spotted on that network again.
 

 
Many thanks to upstanding journalist and total fucking poseur Mr. Erick Bradshaw for this find.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Way USA’: Sleazy punk comedy travelogue is the greatest cult video you’ve probably never seen
The time Ian McKellen jammed with the Fleshtones on MTV in 1987
Debbie Harry, Ramones, Nick Rhodes, Courtney Love and more on MTV’s ‘Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes’

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘Twin Peaks’ opening credits in glorious 8-bit
08.12.2014
11:19 am

Topics:
Animation
Television

Tags:
Twin Peaks
8-bit


 
The tireless folks over at Welcome to Twin Peaks inform me that a Twin Peaks video game was rumored to be on the table in the early nineties, but never came to fruition. It’s never too late to live your dreams, however, as evidenced by both the recently designed (and free!) Atari-style Twin Peaks game, and by this 8-bit intro of the iconic Twin Peaks opening credits, complete with chiptune Angelo Badalamenti!

The attention to detail is exquisite! Now, could we get a chiptune “Dance of the Dream Man,” maybe with a dancing, 8-bit Michael J. Anderson?
 

 
Via Welcome to Twin Peaks

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Remembering Barbara McNair: Forgotten Motown artist and groundbreaking black entertainer
08.08.2014
07:16 pm

Topics:
Music
Race
Television

Tags:
Barbara McNair


 
When career opportunities for black women began to increase on television and in the movies during the 1960s, beautiful singer/actress Barbara McNair, all but forgotten today, was one of the fastest rising young African-American talents. After getting a break appearing on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts in the 1950s and working her way up through the show biz ranks, in 1962 McNair took over from Diahann Carroll, the original lead, in Richard Rodgers’ Broadway musical No Strings—an interracial love story set in Paris where a black fashion model falls in love with a white novelist. (During the show’s run, she endured obscene phone calls and hate mail.)

In 1965, a New York Times writer declared that the “strikingly beautiful” McNair “does not have to depend on looks alone. She is a highly knowledgeable performer who projects an aura of beauty, a warm personality and an appealing sense of fun.” She also possessed a phenomenal voice.
 

 
McNair—a serious babe as you can tell from the photos—recorded for Motown (who never seemed to know what to do with her) and other labels. She continued appearing on Broadway and in a number of television variety shows of the era like Hollywood Palace, The Dean Martin Show and Hullabaloo, plus acted in guest-starring roles in popular shows like I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Hogan’s Heroes and Dr. Kildaire. Additionally she performed for the troops stationed in Vietnam with Bob Hope and had a role as a nun in the Elvis film Change of Habit which co-starred Mary Tyler Moore.
 

Mahalia Jackson. Elvis and McNair
 
In the cinema, the Elvis flick aside, McNair’s work was more varied. She was cast as Sidney Poitier’s wife in They Call Me MISTER Tibbs, its sequel The Organization and If He Hollers Let Him Go, a 1968 film about race very, very loosely based on the Chester Himes novel of the same title. In 1969 she became one of the first black women in the history of the medium to have their own television show. The Barbara McNair Show was produced in Toronto for first run syndication in America and lasted until 1972.
 

 
The thing that seems somewhat unclear to me researching McNair today is how she sort of had one foot in the world of very staid and family friendly show business, while on the other hand she was stripping down for Playboy (one of the first black women to do so), friends with Lenny Bruce, known to have attended at least one ceremony of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan in San Francisco and co-starred in Jess Franco’s avant garde exploitation film Venus in Furs. Additionally she was involved in a 1972 drug bust (holding half an ounce of heroin) with her husband/manager Rick Manzie, who had reputed mob connections and was murdered in their Las Vegas mansion in late 1976. Although the drugs charges were dropped, neither of these events would have had a positive effect on her career.

From the available evidence Barbara McNair wasn’t one thing or another but a force of nature with her own center of bohemian gravity. It’s interesting to remember this woman who could straddle the squeaky clean world of a Bob Hope USO show, while doing full frontal nudity in European art films that co-starred Klaus Kinski! She seems like she was a hip lady. McNair continued performing for some time and died of throat cancer in 2007 at the age of 72.

Somebody should really write her biography. She’s obviously a worthy—and fascinating—topic.

Below, McNair’s minor hit for Motown, “You’re Gonna Love My Baby.” Although long considered a Northern Soul classic that can instantly fill a UK dance floor, WHY isn’t this song as famous as anything anyone ever sang on Motown? This song is fucking incredible!
 

 

McNair in the NSFW trailer for Jess Franco’s Venus in Furs
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Koyaanisqatsi’ director’s dystopian PSA for The New Mexico Civil Liberties Union, 1974


 
Godfrey Reggio is best known for the first installment of his avant-garde “Qatsi” trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. The 1982 film was a Philip Glass-scored non-linear experiment in slow motion and timelapse footage, depicting urban and natural scenes throughout the US. Koyaanisqatsi contains no dialogue at all, and its follow-ups, Powaqqatsi: Life in transformation (1988) and Naqoyqatsi: Life as war (2002), contain very little—all three films are named for words in Hopi, as Reggio believed “language is in a state of vast humiliation,” saying, “It no longer describes the world in which we live.”

Before all of this however, Reggio was a community activist working on issues of health care and gang violence in New Mexico, eventually forming a sort of media activist non-profit, the Institute for Regional Education. The IRE was commissioned by the The New Mexico Civil Liberties Union to create a public service announcement warning of the growing surveillance culture, resulting in the trippy, insidious short you see below. In addition to cinematographer Ron Fricke‘s trademark visual style, the PSA parallels Reggio’s later work pretty clearly in terms of theme. There is a palpable fear of an unfeeling, authoritarian modernity, a historical period of technology and industrialization, rather than humanity.

While the campaign ran on billboards, radio and in print ads, it was the television commercial that really caught on—viewers actually called stations to see when the ad would air again. Despite the success of the campaign, the ACLU stopped funding the IRE, and after an unsuccessful Washington fundraiser, Fricke suggested the remaining money be used to fund a full-length film—Koyaanisqatsi.
 

 
Via Network Awesome

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Wally George, insane, screaming Reagan-era TV demagogue interviews GWAR and The Mentors
08.07.2014
06:51 am

Topics:
Kooks
Television

Tags:
Wally George
Hot Seat
Mentors
GWAR


 
Every weekday after school, I used to tune into KDOC to watch Wally George spit right-wing hate from a dingy studio in Anaheim. I must have found it comforting in the same way procedural dramas or reality shows can be comforting. The simplicity of the dramatic formula, the banishment of thoughts and thinking from the action, and the very narrow range of rhetorical and emotional possibilities are all balm for the soul.

Wally’s set was austere and his talismans were few: a gavel, an American flag, a photo of a space shuttle launch with the caption “USA IS #1,” and an outrageous combover. Somehow, I had learned that he was estranged from his daughter, the actress Rebecca De Mornay. He seemed like he was maybe not the most sympathetic resident of Orange County.

George was all assertion, no argument, and he didn’t actually say very much—it was all about how he said it. With his voice always rising in pitch and volume, George punctuated his screams by slapping his desk or banging his gavel. His laconic cries left no doubt about his political views. He was for Reagan, Bush, televised executions, Star Wars, the war on drugs, the war in Iraq; against abortion, health care, gay people, evolutionists, devil worshipers, obscenity, metal, punk, and women. He did think racism was a bad thing, or said so.

Gauging the sincerity of these opinions was never easy because the show was so theatrical. To give you a taste of the level of discourse, here’s a brief exchange about the death penalty with regular Hot Seat guest Rick Scouler:

“First of all, what we have to admit is that the death penalty does not cause a downward trend in murder. Okay? That’s proven. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a jerk.”

“No, Rick—the first thing we have to admit is that you are an idiotic nerd!

(George also liked the insults “stupid moron,” “freako” and, for women, “bimbo.”)

As with George himself, it’s often hard to tell how committed the audience was to any position. On every show, spectators would chant “SICK! SICK! SICK!” and heckle the guests, but the crowd looks and sounds more like it belongs at a pro wrestling event than a hate rally.

Whatever the level of cynicism in the room, the beliefs were bad enough. As one-time Hot Seat guest Timothy Leary told People in 1984, “George is part of the 1984 George Orwell nightmare.” Here’s Wally advocating the quarantine of people with AIDS and explaining how you can catch AIDS from a sneeze:
 

 
There are now hours and hours of Hot Seat episodes and clips on YouTube, but you, citizen, will most likely want to skip right to the GWAR and Mentors episodes. The GWAR interview on Hot Seat remains, for me, their definitive TV appearance. Presidential candidate Sleazy P. Martini earnestly defends a key plank in his platform, a modest proposal to legalize crime.
 

 
More Wally George madness with GWAR and The Mentors, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Catch ‘Fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston in ‘Chopsticks,’ a Salinger-esque TV pilot about child prodigies
08.04.2014
06:00 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Billy Preston

Billy Preston
 
Billy Preston had one of the most remarkable musical careers of the twentieth century, joining Little Richard’s band at the age of 16, becoming a favorite of both the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, scoring the #1 hits “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing from Nothing,” appearing as the very first musical guest (with Janis Ian) on Saturday Night Live in 1975, and so on. Preston was known for his endless good cheer (he is almost always pictured smiling), his eye-popping afro, but most especially his natural musical flow.
 

Preston with June Christy
 
In this un-aired TV pilot hosted by John Scott Trotter that was probably shot in 1958, Preston at the age of 12 appeared alongside four other musically gifted youngsters for a kind of musical quiz show called Chopsticks. It’s hard not to think of “It’s a Wise Child,” the fictional quiz show that J.D. Salinger invented for his short stories involving the precocious Glass family. The spectacle of five talented children playing the piano with virtuosity doesn’t mix well with the requirements of a game show—in an early round, for instance the pianists are invited to come up with tunes that conform to the requests of viewer letters, such as “a tune with a girl’s name in it”—but you can see why they tried to make it work. Preston plays “Mary Had a Little Lamb” early in the show (in response to the above query) and later gets a brief solo appearance on the organ. Singer June Christy comes by an does a brief duet with each of the young soloists.

One of the children—Mark, on the far end—appears to be visually impaired (although nobody says anything about it). Preston was not the only panelist to achieve a significant musical career as an adult; the young lady on the panel, Jane Getz, became a respected jazz pianist and session musician, playing with the likes of Charles Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, and Harry Nilsson.
 

 
via Ken Levine

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Lesley Gore on ‘Batman,’ 1967
07.31.2014
06:10 am

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture
Television

Tags:
Batman
Lesley Gore


 
In a two episode story arc from the classic 1960s Batman TV series, Catwoman and her protégé Pussycat drugged Batman and Robin in order to compel them to become criminals. Robin got a little fresh, too, incidentally. But in the end SPOILER FROM ALMOST 50 YEARS AGO it turns out that all along, Batman was faking being drugged so that he could infiltrate Catwoman’s crime organization and rescue Robin. Cheeky devil! You can clearly see why that needed to be two episodes.
 

 
Of course it’s pretty stupid, but nobody watches that show for award-winning teleplays, we watch it because nobody sane hates huge, goofy, colorful fun. POW! And we watch these two episodes in particular because Pussycat was played by pop icon Lesley Gore, who gets to perform a song in each episode, and nobody sane hates awesome, sugary, ‘60s female vocal pop. You don’t hate that, right? If you do, Jeeeeesus, how many puppies have you kicked today, fascist?

When these episodes aired, Gore was still only 20 years old, but was already a veteran pop star, famous for still-familiar hits like “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and the awesome “You Don’t Own Me.” Gore never left the music business, though she stopped regularly producing LPs in the mid ‘70s. She earned an Oscar nomination in 1980 for co-writing (but not singing) a song from the Fame soundtrack, and she made headlines in 2005, when her coming out as a lesbian more or less coincided with her song “Words We Don’t Say” being featured in an episode of The L Word. Amusingly, her super-chipper 1965 top-20 hit “Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows” has lately found a 21st Century afterlife, being featured in multiple commercials, and in the kiddie flick Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. On Batman, she’s seen performing music from her then-forthcoming LP California Nights, “Maybe Now,” and the title song, which would enter the top 20 within a couple months of the episode’s broadcast.
 

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
You Don’t Own Me: Lesley Gore, Lena Dunham, Miranda July and others fight back in the war on women

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Replicas of the floating pink teddy bear from ‘Breaking Bad’ for sale
07.30.2014
09:18 am

Topics:
Amusing
Television

Tags:
Breaking Bad


 
Think Geek just released a life-size replica (18 inches tall to be exact) of the iconic pool-floating pink teddy bear from Breaking Bad.

I have to say that all this Breaking Bad merchandise is getting a bit stale. Come on. The show ended last year. But I do dig this gnarly pink teddy bear… in a Mike Kelley sorta way.

  • Now you don’t have to throw your own teddy bear into the swimming pool
  • Life-size replica with screen-accurate airplane damage (and only one eye)

It’s reasonably priced at $29.99.


 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Klovn: Watch one of the funniest—and most outrageous—TV shows in the entire world. Ever
07.29.2014
08:14 pm

Topics:
Television

Tags:
Klown
Klovn
Casper Christensen
Frank Hvam

 
In 2012, Klown, a Danish comedy made in 2010, was given a limited release in movie theaters and on VOD by Drafthouse Films. It’s one of the funniest, raunchiest and just plain wrong comedies to come along in… well, years, really. The outrageous Klown was marketed like it was a Danish version of The Hangover and that seems about right. Todd Phillips and Danny McBride are said to be planning a Hollywood remake.

I saw the movie then, loved it, but didn’t really think that much more about it until a few months ago, when I picked up the Klovn DVD box set used for twenty bucks at Amoeba. [Klown was the “film of the TV show” that aired for six series between 2005 and 2009, but that’s spelled Klovn and how I will spell it from here on out.]

Of late, with the summer TV doldrums, the wife and I have been watching several episodes of Klovn a week. I think it’s safe to assume that people who come to this blog regularly do so because they trust our tastes and recommendation of fun stuff to get stoned and watch. Well listen up then, because if the idea of a Danish TV comedy, a sitcom for fuck’s sake, where you’d be expected to read subtitles, doesn’t immediately seem like something you might like, give Klovn a chance, because in the five years of doing this blog (we turned five two weeks ago) this is one of the top things that I am the most enthusiastic about recommending to our high IQ, good-looking readers, ever.

And no, I’m not suggesting that you go out and spend $100 for an imported DVD box set that your DVD player probably won’t even play based on my say so, because every episode of Klovn is on Hulu. Who knew? (And who knows what other great shit lurks there if this gem of genius comedy is any indication?)
 

 
Klovn is the product of two of the most devious comedic minds on the entire planet, Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen. Imagine a Danish buddy version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. As with Larry David in the American sitcom, Christensen and Hvam play fictionalized versions of themselves, two middle-aged comedians in a sort of docu-comedy meets Dogme 95 kind of thing, which makes sense as Lars von Trier’s Zentropa produced it. He even makes a cameo appearance, playing himself, as do other internationally notable Danes like Oscar-winning director Bille August and actor Mads Mikkelsen. Co-star Iben Hjejle (who plays herself playing Caspar’s often exasperated girlfriend, as she once was in real life) will be familiar to American audiences for her role as John Cusack’s girlfriend in High Fidelity.

Casper and Frank were already well-known in Denmark prior to Klovn, having appeared previously in Langt fra Las Vegas (“Far from Las Vegas” where Christensen played himself in a behind the scenes of a morning show situation comedy and Hvam played his geeky best friend, a sportscaster) and a sketch show, Casper og Madrilaftalen. Both of them, but especially Christensen—who has been a household name since he was nineteen—have also hosted mainstream television variety shows and radio programs.

Which is why it’s so extraordinary just how far they are willing to go. Casual racism. AIDs. Political refugees. Drug overdoses. The handicapped. Sexual harassment. Abortion. Men made to look like total fucking idiots while the female characters (Hjejle and Mia Lyhne who plays Frank’s girlfriend “Mia” but who is not playing “herself”) just look on in utter, befuddled amazement.


 
They go there. Oh do they got there. Christensen and Hvam do not give a fuck about portraying themselves as complete assholes (“Alan Partridge” is a character after all, his name isn’t Steve Coogan!). It’s about the laugh and the laughs are HUGE in this show. The writing, by Hvam and Christensen, is as sharp as an informercial knife and they manage to employ a charming formula of laying a long fuse near the start of each episode that eventually explodes in the face of one or the other, or both, of our hapless, but thoroughly immoral protagonists. Apparently when they first sat down to write the series, they challenged themselves to come up with a list of the most troublesome and politically incorrect topics they could think of and then wrote an episode around each of these offensive themes. If I tell you that during the course of the series that one of them gets caught shitting in a litter box and flirts with a high school girl who has a colostomy bag by telling her that he has one, too (and getting caught in this lie), I’m not giving away much, just a bit of the flava.

But don’t take my word for it. Just hit play and smoke one if you’ve got one. It’s worth noting that the jaunty music played in the Danish version of the series—it’s played incessantly—has been swapped out for different music here. That’s too bad because it really adds to the show’s unique personality, but it’s not like anyone would know the difference outside of Denmark anyway.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Men in black: The Stranglers’ BBC documentary about the color black, 1982
07.29.2014
06:42 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Television

Tags:
The Stranglers


 
In 1982, BBC Southwest aired a short documentary about the color black made by two members of the Stranglers. Singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell and drummer Jet Black
“were asked to put together a piece about the colour black for an arts programme called RPM,” according to Cornwell’s autobiography.

Around this time, the Stranglers were obsessed with the sinister Meninblack (as they stylized it) legends of UFO lore. They had released their great concept album, The Gospel According to the Meninblack, and changed their names to Hughinblack, JJinblack, Daveinblack and Jetinblack; they were even thinking about changing the band’s name to the Men in Black. Ultimately, these pursuits scared the band shitless.

“We were unearthing very curious connections between UFOs and dark forces,” Cornwell writes in his autobiography, characterizing the period as “disastrous.” “It wasn’t until after we had finished on The Meninblack album and had moved on to working on La Folie, that the misfortunes stopped.”
 

 
Cornwell touches on the BBC documentary in The Stranglers: Song by Song: “Jet and I made a television programme about how the colour black has always been associated with authority. We were doing a lot of research into the Meninblack, but there were certain crucial books that we couldn’t get hold of at the National Library. It just so happened to be the books that related to the connection between the Meninblack, religion and civilisation.”
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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