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‘Kenneth, what is the frequency?’ The weird connection between AC/DC and the 1986 Dan Rather assault
07.08.2015
08:51 am

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Media
Music
Television

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Dan Rather’s career as a network news anchor was full of memorable moments, but perhaps the single most surreal incident was the time he had to report a crime in which he was the victim. He was walking to his NYC home on October 4th, 1986, when he was accosted and beaten on the sidewalk by men who pummeled and kicked him while repeating the question “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”

It was freakin’ weird, so weird that there were some who thought Rather had lost his marbles and made it up. Most doubts were squashed when a doorman who witnessed the incident and helped thwart the attack corroborated Rather’s version of events, and remaining doubts were put to rest 11 years later, when one of the assailants was at last identified, as an apparently unwell man who thought the news media was transmitting messages to him, and who furthermore was serving time for the 1994 murder of a Today show stagehand. By then, the phrase “Kenneth, what is the frequency” (interchangeably with the misquote “What’s the frequency, Kenneth”) had long since entered pop culture, becoming the title of a cool piece of music by Game Theory in 1987, and a very popular REM song in 1994.

As it turns out, there really WAS a Kenneth, and the incident may have been a monumental case of mistaken identity. Ken Schaffer was a music publicist turned inventor who, during what would turn out to be the tail end of the Cold War, found a way to use TVRO dishes to receive Russian television broadcasts from Molniya satellites, a system he installed at the Harriman Institute for Advanced Studies of the Soviet Union at Columbia University. He even enabled the broadcast of a full week’s worth of Soviet television on the then-embryonic Discovery Channel. An amazing and weird article I found on the SETI League web site illuminates Schaffer’s connection to the Rather assault:
 

 

Because Soviet TV broadcasts were generally unavailable in the U.S., the receiver Kenny set up at the Harriman institute drew a number of visitors. Some, such as English rock musician Gordon Sumner (better known as Sting), were there to learn about the arts scene behind the Iron Curtain. (One of the first adopters of a wireless guitar amplifier developed by Schaffer two decades earlier,  Sting was moved by the Molniya viewing experience to compose his popular song “Russians,” sung to a theme from the Lieutennant Kijé Suite by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.) Some of the visitors were American diplomats, hoping to use the knowledge gained from the screen to ease international tensions. Others, including TV news anchorman Dan Rather, came to do what journalists generally do—learn about upcoming trends so they could later report on them.

Then there were the visitors from the shadow world, all wanting to know how Schaffer was pulling these elusive signals out of the ether. Kenny generally refrained from telling them, likely hoping to capitalize on his technology by keeping the details to himself. When asked about frequencies and modulation modes, he usually changed the subject.

On the October 1986 night Rather was attacked, he and Schaffer had just left the Columbia campus, where they had been watching Molniya video downlinks. “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” Rather was asked repeatedly while being pummeled by unknown assailants. Kenny Schaffer believes this was a simple (although painful) case of mistaken identity. The muggers followed the wrong man.

Unfuckingreal, right? We not only have Schaffer to thank (or curse, depending on your alternarock tolerance levels) for that astonishingly durable REM song, he was possibly the intended victim of the Rather beating, AND he’s complicit in that monstrous piece of crap Sting song. That last demerit, though large, is more than mitigated by the fact that Schaffer is also responsible for the monstrously awesome guitar sound on AC/DC’s early ‘80s albums. Did you note the mention in the quotation above of Schaffer’s wireless guitar amplifier? That’s a misnomer—Schaffer’s system was not an amp, but a transmitter/receiver.
 

 
The Schaffer-Vega Diversity System was an early wireless transmitter for guitarists. Its popularity blew up exponentially after its adoption by Ace Frehley of KISS, who’d been electrocuted during a performance in Florida, when his hand touching a metal guardrail completed an AC circuit with his ungrounded amp. Soon, many, many people began using Schaffer-Vegas (Frehley could easily have died, the incident was no joke), including Van Halen, the Stones, Bootsy Collins, and Frank Zappa. But the device’s moment in the sun came not from any live performance, but its use in-studio, really the last place anyone needs wireless anything.

A bit of oversimplified tech here: the Schaffer-Vega compressed a guitar’s signal before transmission, and expanded it at the receiver end, before feeding the transmitted signal to the amp. While it expanded the signal, it boosted certain frequencies that could tend to be lost to compression. So not only did the device wirelessly transmit a signal, it colored the guitar’s tone in distinctive ways, creating harmonic distortions, but they happened to be pleasing distortions.
 

 

Angus Young with Ken Schaffer. Photo: SoloDallas

And so it was that Angus Young of AC/DC began using wireless in the recording studio. Unable to satisfactorily record his ridiculous ball-crunching live sound, he soon resorted to the obvious move, and used his live rig:

George [Young, Angus and Malcolm’s older brother and first AC/DC producer] had suggested that I use the SVDS in the studio in 1978, then when Mutt Lange came in [producer of Highway to Hell, Back in Black, For Those About to Rock We Salute You], he asked me to use the same stuff that I was using for my stage sound, so we used the SVDS again.

The Schaffer-Vega’s unique compression/expansion/EQ scheme turns out to be THE key to AC/DC’s distinctively rich guitar sound, every bit as much as a late ‘60s Gibson SG and a late ‘70s Marshall amp. However, the units had to be abandoned in 1982, victim both to changing FCC regulations on wireless specs, and Ken Schaffer’s changing interests… changing interests which led to a Cold War satellite breakthrough, which led to a really famous reporter getting his ass beat down on Park Avenue. Nutty world, isn’t it?

There’s a happy ending for the Schaffer-Vega, though—this is the news item that got me down into this rabbit-hole to begin with, in fact: the device has been resurrected, redesigned by a company called SoloDallas from Schaffer’s original units and named the “Schaffer Replica.” An early run of the replicas is sold out, but not only is an updated version available, it’ll be featured at this week’s musical instrument industry exposition, Summer NAMM. It’s available both as a wireless transceiver and as a regular guitar pedal. To be blunt, both of the devices are spendy as hell, though either option is cheaper by far than a late ‘60s Gibson SG or a late ‘70s Marshall amp. Angus Young used the newly recreated gizmo on AC/DC’s likely farewell album, the well-received Rock or Bust, making it the first AC/DC album to feature one since 1983. (And I don’t want to goddamn hear about it if you don’t like AC/DC—you’re just wrong. I love them abidingly for the same reasons I love the Ramones and Lungfish: if you keep making more or less the same album over and over again for decades and I love that album almost every time, you’re on to something worthy.)

Here’s some killer footage of AC/DC live on The Midnight Special in 1978. Angus Young is SURELY using a Schaffer-Vega wireless setup here:
 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
David Bowie stars in Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Baal,’ 1982
07.07.2015
10:13 am

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Music
Television

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Baal was the first play written by Bertolt Brecht, in 1918 at the age of 20 as a student at Munich University. It’s a strange piece of work, a hybrid of the classic nineteenth-century drama of Strindberg and Ibsen and Chekhov and something rawer that belongs to the twentieth century. Brecht had not hit on his radical methods yet, but his basic bitterness and skill with words is already present.

The title might lead one to expect a play about topics bestial and Biblical, about the Canaanite god of thunderstorms, fertility and agriculture or a 17th-century demon “said to appear in the forms of a man, cat, toad, or combinations thereof,” but no. While it shares something of that Biblical feeling in the chorus’ allegorical songs and the main character’s wanderings in the middle of the play, the play is set squarely in the 20th century and is about an ostensibly mortal man, a poet in fact.

It is my belief that Baal, in addition to whatever other virtues it has, also served as some kind of wish-fulfillment for Brecht. The main character, Baal, is a poet of enormous talent who is irresistibly attractive to women and who also is willful enough to scorn several benefactors in the face of his own short-term self-interest. Here are two lines that illustrate the point. Early in the play a man says to Baal, “I can understand men giving their hearts to you . . . but how do you manage to have such success with women?” Yeah, right. Later on a woman tasked with looking after his garret whines about discovering yet another young woman in his bed: “Dawn to dusk – his bed not allowed to cool off!”
 

 
In 1982 the esteemed TV director Alan Clarke filmed Baal for the BBC with David Bowie in the title role; he also sings the songs of the chorus that punctuate the play. It’s fair to say, I think, simultaneously that everyone involved did a fine job and that it doesn’t really work. Baal is part of the distant past, and therefore it requires extraordinary efforts to make it resonate in our age, otherwise you are left with a bunch of senseless declaiming. Bowie has a number of songs in the show, and I think it’s not unkind to say that he succeeds as a singer and not as an actor. The skills required of a flamboyant rock star are antithetical to quality acting—as good as he is, Bowie never quite gets lost in the role.

Additionally, the production is rather stagebound—I presume it was some species of a filmed stage production—and the quality of the transfer ain’t great either. I found it very hard to get into until I downloaded the approximate text of the play (.doc download) and read along as I watched the play, and then it began to cohere far more.

It’s easy to see why Bowie was attracted to the material—it’s a Brecht play in which he’s an artistic genius/super-stud and he also gets to sing and act. In 1982 Bowie released an EP entitled David Bowie in Bertolt Brecht’s BAAL, whose primary purpose in life has been to puzzle crate diggers momentarily as they hunt for a mint copy of Aladdin Sane.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Bartkira’: Japanese anime classic ‘Akira’ gets Simpsonized
07.06.2015
08:24 am

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Amusing
Animation
Art
Television

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If you’ve not seen the definitive anime Akira, I highly suggest you make the time to watch it. If you’ve not read the comic it’s based on, I demand you get on that shit, like, yesterday. Set in post-nuclear Tokyo (well, technically “Neo-Tokyo,” an artificial island in the bay), Akira is a sort of post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story—just with telepathy, gang wars and terrorism. The first of the six volume series was released in 1982, but the decrepit futurism and universal themes have made it a timeless classic.It’s difficult to imagine anyone collaborating with or updating it, but the Akira/Simpsons mash-up, Bartkira, is positively inspired.
 

 
Hundreds of cartoonists are collaborating to re-create all six volumes of the series, panel by panel, recast with characters from The Simpsons—you can see the cast list (pre-determined for consistency) here. The project will run until the series is reproduced in its entirity, and you can actually submit your Bartkira fan art to the Tumblr (which has a ton of great art), or send samples of your work to bartkiracommittee@gmail.com if you want to contribute to the actual Bartkira comic.
 
As if that wasn’t ambitious enough, over fifty animators have actually produced a video trailer for the project, and it’s dead-on. If you’re wondering if this is legal, so are the artists involved:

We’re not sure. We kind of just leapt into it. To be on the safe side, we’re keeping Bartkira as an entirely non-profit operation and we’re giving all the proceeds from sales of books, shirts and so on to charity. If you’ve made merchandise from your Bartkira artwork, we encourage you to do the same. We suspect the project occupies a legal grey area protected by parody laws. Regardless, as of writing we’re a year in and we haven’t received our cease-and-desist yet.

Supposedly, Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo got a kick out of the project, and while Matt Groening hasn’t been reached for comment, he’s got a huge collection of bootleg Simpsons merch, and likely wouldn’t care. And who wouldn’t be flattered by a project this formidable? The scope and artistry of the parody is positively sublime.
 

 

 

 
H/t Jason Clarke

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
That time Chris Elliott took a huge crap on artsy mime troupe Mummenschanz on ‘Letterman,’ 1986
07.03.2015
07:13 am

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Amusing
Television

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In his long career as a giant smartass pretending to be a know-it-all idiot, Chris Elliott has pissed off many, many people, including directors Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, and Jonathan Demme. His autobio The Guy Under the Sheets relates those tales in detail, and is well worth the time, but I was bummed that the book contained only a passing (and utterly bullshitfull) mention of one of my favorites of the many stunts he pulled on Late Night with David Letterman in the ‘80s—the time he gigantically took the piss out of the justly venerated Swiss mime troupe Mummenschanz.

Mummenschanz have been around for over four decades—I drove six hours to catch a show on their 40th anniversary tour in 2012, totally worth it as it was founding member Bernie Schürch’s final tour. Their performances conceal the artists’ identities, as they revolve largely around heavy costumery and mask play, sometimes downright pugilistic mask play, actually. A old post by my DM colleague Amber Frost does them justice, and I’d encourage you to have a look at it. (And I had to chuckle when I saw a commenter on that post had mentioned and posted the video I embedded below. Who says you should never read the comments?) They came to attention in the US during the ‘70s with appearances on TV variety shows, including a career-making guest spot on The Muppet Show, and their popularity grew to the point that they could enjoy a Broadway run from 1977-1980.

But it was during a later Broadway run, at the Helen Hayes theater in 1986, that Chris Elliott had his fun with them.

Now, I’m sure there was no mean intent in this jab, but it’s pretty audacious to make such a complete buffoonery of such wonderful and broadly-appealing artists with a golden international reputation. On Sep 30, 1986, David Letterman, brandishing a copy of Mummenschanz’s then-new book, introduced the troupe. In no time flat, it was clear that something was amiss, as the spotlight illuminated only a cheap costume-shop hot dog suit. Then came a fork and a spoon, not even really dancing, just sort of jogging in place and waving their arms like idiot children. Then out came a final dancer—later revealed as Elliott—in a mask of toilet paper rolls, which was a direct shot, as Mummenschanz actually used toilet paper roll masks. The audience is silent save for a few titters as it dawned on them that they’d been had. Someone started shouting “MORE, MORE” at the end—obviously that guy got it—and if a 2008 Rolling Stone article is to be believed, that guy was Screw magazine’s Al Goldstien. If you’re salty with me for spoiling, don’t be, the GOOD stuff is in the interview segment. Enjoy.
 

 
34 episodes of Elliott’s amazing and preposterous Adult Swim series Eagleheart recently turned up for streaming on HuluPlus. If you’re a fan of Elliott’s and a Hulu subscriber, I’d vigorously encourage you to dive straight on into that ASAP.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘The Name is Bootsy, Baby,’ the 1996 Bootsy Collins cartoon that never quite got off the ground
06.30.2015
06:10 am

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Animation
Music
Television

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Bootsy Collins is very much responsible for the insane cartoon pilot you see below. Named after his 1977 album, “The Name is Bootsy, Baby” is actually pretty fantastic; our titular hero uses his superhuman funk powers to surf through space (on his magical star bass, of course), fight crime, save hot ladies, and… battle vikings and dragons? He still makes time for the music and his legion of fans, but when some wannabe suit tries to jack his spotlight, Bootsy is forced yet again to battle the forces of anti-funk. Okay, so the premise is a little thin, but I remember 1996, and there were way more abominable attempts to sell merchandise and breakfast cereal than this one.

The cartoon wasn’t some two-bit operation either! Executive Producer Abby Terkuhle was responsible for some of MTV’s best animation—Aeon Flux, Daria, and Beavis and Butt-Head, just to name a few. Mike Judge, who gave us the voices of Beavis, Butt-Head, Hank Hill and more, lent his ridiculous vocal cords to the project. Bootsy voiced himself of course, and composed the music, but he also received a writer, director and producer credit. Obviously, “The Name is Bootsy Baby” never really got off the ground, but it’s rumored the cartoon was played before shows, making animated Bootsy his own opening act. That is some seriously meta-funkiness!
 

 
Via Network Awesome

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Furious idiot rails at NBC affiliate for changing its peacock logo to the ‘colors of gays’
06.29.2015
10:37 am

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History
Queer
Television

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If you were paying any attention to the news on Friday, the big day when the Supreme Court handed down its decision banning state-level curbs on gay marriage, thus making gay marriage legal in all 50 states, it seemed that everything was coming up rainbows, from the White House and Niagara Falls to Disney World and One World Trade Center, and that’s not even mentioning approximately 57% of the user icons on my Facebook feed, and I’m betting yours as well.

Of course, the ruling elicited, in addition to unmeasured outpourings of joy and exultation, plenty of expressions of feckless, petulant resistance from those who are not on board, or not on board yet, with the concept of gay marriage. Starting with the Justices themselves, Justice Scalia just about blew a gasket, claiming that now the United States “does not deserve to be called a democracy” (?!) and Chief Justice Roberts, curiously, wrung his hands over the fact that the “the proponents of same-sex marriage” had “lost, and lost forever ... the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause.”

As if it were the responsibility of oppressed people to go without their fundamental rights so that ........ bigots can have some kind of edifying teachable moment? That’s the best I can do with it. Today it was reported that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is now insisting that county clerks in Texas have the right to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples if the clerk has a religious objection to same-sex marriage, which frankly ushers in a bizarre new chapter in legal theory (“I’m sorry, I can’t serve you alcohol at this bar, I’m a Muslim…...”).

Anyway, of all the spittle produced in behalf of monolithically hetero weddings, my favorite is probably the bit of outrage produced by Don Stair, most likely a resident of Arkansas, who, confronted with images of celebratory rainbows everywhere, decided to reach out and let a local TV affiliate know that he disagreed with their choice to join the bandwagon and switch to a rainbow logo. The problem is, the channel in question was KARK, an affiliate of NBC, and their logo is a rainbow peacock, exactly the same as it has been for literally decades.

Here was Stair’s message, on Facebook, as displayed by KARK:
 

(Screenshot via KARK 4 News on Facebook)
 
With admirable economy, KARK responded to its viewer’s outrage in the following manner:
 

 
The NBC peacock logo has actually been around since 1956, predating even Ellen DeGeneres, the Village People, Stonewall, and Dan Savage. Soon enough, some of KARK’s more liberal viewers joined in to make fun of Stair:

 

 

 

 
via Addicting Info
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Pee-wee Herman and pal strut their stuff as ‘Suave & Debonair’ on ‘The Gong Show,’ 1979
06.26.2015
11:44 am

Topics:
Dance
Television

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Paul Reubens invented his primary character Pee-wee Herman one night in 1977 while he was performing with The Groundlings. Reubens was having trouble remembering lines for the sketches, so he developed a character who was funny in a free-floating way that wasn’t dependent on dialogue. In Prime Time, Prime Movers: From I Love Lucy to L.A. Law—America’s Greatest TV Shows and the People Who Created Them, David Marc and Robert J. Thompson claim that The Gong Show represented Pee-wee’s first appearance on national television, but I’m actually not sure they mean Reubens or the Pee-wee character.

According to the NNDB website, Reubens “loved” The Gong Show and appeared on it fifteen times as various characters. On this occasion Reubens and longtime collaborator John Paragon were playing a silly dancing duo called “Suave & Debonair.” Paragon later played Jambi the Genie on Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

How do they dance on their toes like that??
 

 
via Televandalist
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Watch ‘Cucumber Castle,’ the Bee Gees’ goofy 1970 TV movie
06.24.2015
07:15 am

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Amusing
Music
Television

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Once upon a time, a king lay dying. His loyal subjects were overcome with grief—and non-payment of wages.

So begins Cucumber Castle, a 1970 BBC film and an oddity in the Bee Gees’ oeuvre. Of course, if the Bee Gees are known for their involvement in a film, it’s Saturday Night Fever, the ‘70s disco movie that became so popular as to pose an existential threat to rock ‘n’ roll itself, but all the really good Bee Gees fans know about their original psychedelic period. If you need to be brought up to speed, this can be done briefly: the early Bee Gees’ four albums from 1967’s Bee Gees 1st to 1969’s masterpiece Odessa are indispensable psych-pop GEMS with which no fan of that era’s rock would be unfamiliar in a better world. I feel like having a home without Bee Gees 1st is as incomplete as having a home without a dog or cat. Sure, it can be done, but why would you want that?
 

 
After Odessa, the band experienced a falling-out. Vocalist Robin Gibb (RIP 2012) left the band for a brief period, leaving the group as a trio of his twin brother Maurice (RIP 2003), elder brother Barry, and drummer Colin Petersen, who himself would be soon out the door. The remaining band’s next endeavor was Cucumber Castle, an affably goofy, mildly Pythonesque musical film about a dying king (TW3 comic Frankie Howerd hamming it up through the damn roof) dividing his kingdom between his sons Frederick and Marmaduke (Barry and Maurice Gibb) into the Kingdom of Cucumber and the Kingdom of Jelly, over which spoils the brothers immediately proceed to quarrel. The Gibbs aren’t half bad comedic actors in a stilted, they’re-not-really-actors way, and the film includes appearances by Bind Faith, Spike Milligan, Vincent Price, and Lulu (who was married to Maurice at the time), with abundant uncredited cameos whom I won’t name, as it’s more fun to watch the hour-long special and do your own trainspotting. And of course there are shloads of musical numbers—though it should be mentioned here that I know of nobody who considers the Cucumber Castle LP essential.

The Brothers Gibb played host to Hit Parader’s Margaret Robin during Cucumber Castle‘s filming, and Barry offered this take, published in that mag’s April, 1970 issue.

The concept was of a Laugh-In type of show, but set roughly in Tudor England. The way that a lot of the sketches worked out was that the punch-line was in the sudden contrast between the Tudor times and a confrontation with the 20th Century.

We are very pleased with the results we have seen so far, but we know that the real art of making a comedy film is in the editing, and we are getting the best professional help that we can in that department.

It was when we began to really work on the story that we both realized that the outline of the story contained so many parables relating to reality. So it worked out that several of the sketches—for us, anyway—have a meaning above and beyond the obvious joke.

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Idea’: Incredible pop-psychedelic Bee Gees TV special, 1968

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Walter Cronkite introduces America to the Velvet Underground on national TV, 1965
06.18.2015
02:42 pm

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Music
Television

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On the last day of 1965, viewers tuning into CBS were treated to a 6-minute report presented by Walter Cronkite himself called “The Making of an Underground Film”; DM’s Richard Metzger wrote about it last year. CBS’ news story prominently mentioned and showed a new band named the Velvet Underground—their first time on TV, ever.

The actual focus of the story was the underground movie scene, in particular an experimental filmmaker named Piero Heliczer. When CBS came a-callin’ to do its story, Heliczer was shooting a 12-minute short called Dirt, featuring the Velvet Underground, and that was the scene Heliczer happened to be shooting that day. (For some reason none of the fellows in the band are wearing a shirt.) Heliczer was actually an important figure in the development in VU’s sound, as we shall see below.

Reporter Peter Beard begins his report standing outside the Bridge, a theater located on 4 St. Marks Place in the East Village, an early center for alternative arts. In fact you can plainly see the word “FUGS” next to Beard on the facade of the Bridge. Remarkably, Cronkite interviews “the godfather of American avant-garde cinema,” Jonas Mekas and the undisputed king of über-experimental abstract movies, Stan Brakhage. CBS even shows more than 30 seconds of a Brakhage movie, presumably part of Two: Creeley/McClure, which is predictably a rapid-fire montage of stutter-y and blurry images—it almost feels like CBS’ little joke on the underground scene. Naturally, CBS also looks at Warhol’s Sleep and documents Warhol filming one of his own parties, at which Edie Sedgwick is joyousy bopping away.


 
One impetus for the CBS story was an interest in this new phenomenon, “underground” art. In Victor Bockris’ Up-Tight: The Velvet Underground Story, Sterling Morrison explains:
 

Whenever I hear the word “underground,” I am reminded of when the word first acquired a specific meaning for me and for many others in NYC in the early Sixties. It referred to underground cinema and the people and lifestyle that created and supported this art form. And the person who first introduced me to this scene was Piero Heliczer, a bona fide “underground film-maker”—the first one I had ever met.

On an early spring day John [Cale] and I were strolling through the Eastside slums and ran into Angus [MacLise] on the corner of Essex and Delancey. Angus said, “Let’s go over to Piero’s,” and we agreed.

It seems that Piero and Angus were organizing a “ritual happening” at the time—a mixed-media stage presentation to appear in the old Cinematheque. … It was to be entitled “Launching the Dream Weapon,” and it got launched tumultuously. In the center of the stage there was a movie screen, and between the screen and the audience a number of veils were spread out in different places. These veils were lit variously by lights and slide projectors, as Piero’s films shone through them onto the screen. Dancers swirled around, and poetry and song occasionally rose up, while from behind the screen a strange music was being generated by Lou, John, Angus, and me.

For me the path ahead became suddenly clear—I could work on music that was different from ordinary rock & roll since Piero had given us a context to perform it in. In the summer of 1965 we were the anonymous musicians who played at some screenings of “underground films,” and at other theatrical events, the first of which was for Piero’s films (I think that Barbara Rubin showed “Christmas on Earth” and Kenneth Anger showed a film also).

-snip-

Around this time, somehow, CBS News decided that Walter Cronkite should have a feature on an “underground” film being made. By whatever selection process, Piero was able to be the “underground film-maker”; since he had already decided to film us playing anyway, we got into the act (and besides, we had “underground” in our name, didn’t we? Maybe someone at CBS reads Pirandello).

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Christ versus Warhol: Julian Cope and The Teardrop Explodes on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test,’ 1982
06.18.2015
06:23 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:


 
WHOA. Bits and pieces of this excellent show have been floating through the Internet ether for some time, but I’ve never seen all of it, and I’ve definitely never seen the entire thing intact. This is Liverpool’s brightly and briefly burning post-punk psych messiahs the Teardrop Explodes in an April 1982 appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, on an upswing amid the band’s numerous ups and downs. Here, they’re shaking off the disappointing sales of their initially misunderstood second album Wilder and mixing in new material that would feature on their third album, had they indeed actually finished one without, er, imploding.

The Teardrop Explodes were contemporaries and rivals of Echo and the Bunnymen, and were at first the more popular band, launching the career of veteran cosmic polymath Julian Cope. They favored a more organ-heavy approach to post-punk neo-psych than the Bunnymen, but the bands weren’t especially dissimilar, and they grew more musically ambitious more or less in parallel (Cope and head Bunnyman Ian McCulloch had briefly been in a band together prior to their fame). The Teardrops’ lineup did some revolving during their lifetime, but here it’s Cope, founding drummer Gary Dwyer, on-again-off-again keyboardist David Balfe, guitarist Troy Tate, and bassist Ronnie François, supplemented with occasional horns, possibly Wilder session players Luke Tunney and Ted Emmett, but I can’t confirm that. Here’s the set list. Note that there’s not a single tune from their revered debut Kilimanjaro here, save for “Suffocate,” which was only on the US version.

Colours Fly Away
Falling Down Around Me
You Disappear From View
Seven Views Of Jerusalem
Log Cabin
Tiny Children
Screaming Secrets
Suffocate
The Culture Bunker
 

 
Within months of this luminous performance, Cope would jettison François and Tate (the latter of whom would end up in a lineup of Fashion by September of ‘82), and the trio of Cope, Balfe and Dwyer would enter the Studio to record LP 3. It was doomed. Keyboardist Balfe, who’d not really seen eye-to-eye with Cope and as such had been fired from and re-hired into the band before, took over the recording process, endeavoring to create a synth record. Cope was too acid-fried to do much of anything about it besides quit after recording a mere handful of vocal tracks. What could be salvaged was released as the weird-but-not-really-in-the-good-way You Disappear From View EP, though the “last album” Everybody Wants to Shag The Teardrop Explodes was eventually cobbled together for release in 1990. Cope of course went on to a fruitful and still quite active career as perhaps the single most productive acid casualty in the history of mankind, producing numerous and wonderful pop albums, curating compilations, and writing authoritative books on Krautrock, Japanese experimental rock, and archaeology.
 

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