If you ever needed another reason to love dear Phil Lynott then just watch this short clip from Jim’ll Fix It - Jimmy Savile’s classic dreams-come-true TV series - from 1982, in which 70-year-old grandmother, May Booker wrote to Sir Jim asking if he could fix it for her to play keyboards with her favorite band - Thin Lizzy. And you can guess what happened next.
May is rather good, and she has a fun time with Phil - who is such a delightful charmer.
Who Killed Bill? is a Sex Pistols for Dummies, bargain-bin video, consisting of a mixed collection of original archive news stories (mainly culled from London Weekend Television) and documentary footage, which tells the rise, demise, and return of the legendary band. It’s worth watching for the first fifty minutes or so, before the film veers off into a section on Vivienne Westwood’s fashion, then returning for the Filthy Lucre tour of 1996, and then beyond.
As it’s all original TV archive, there are some classic moments, including the early Janet Street-Porter interviews with the Pistols, and then with Lydon after his spilt, as well as coverage of the public’s fury for the band, and one disgruntled councillor who riffs off a long list of adjectives to describe his distaste for Punk Rock, before finishing with:
“Most of these groups would be improved by sudden death.”
There is also sections on Sid and Nancy the tragic couple and Alex Cox’s film. What’s quite startling is how The Pistols all look so young, and Lydon comes across as a shy, tense, nervous individual who seems ill at ease with his celebrity, describing its affects:
“It ain’t the person who changes, it’s people’s attitude towards them.”
Sadly, no classic tracks, just bogus lift muzak interpretations of a rhythmic Punk guitar. And the Bill of the title is, of course, Bill Grundy, he of the infamous launch-pad, “Filth and Fury” interview.
I first read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as a teenager in school. Though I didn’t buy into his hype for religion, I took much comfort and inspiration from his biography at a difficult time in my life. I was on the receiving end of bullying from a small but vicious clique of wannabe Nazis. I was a peacenik, who confused inaction with pacifism. Instead I should have been smart and quick enough to stop the bullying then and there. I didn’t, and rode it out for 2 years.
Not fun. But it showed me everyone got fucked over somewhere down the line, and made me aware that I could never tolerate that happening to anyone. Or as I read it in Malcolm X’s autobiography:
“Hence, I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.”
Here Malcolm X is interrogated by a group of hard-headed white men, who can’t get beyond their own prejudice to discuss, as one human to another, Malcolm X’s thoughts on religion, history and life. Throughout Malcolm X is an example of intelligence, dignity and grace, never allowing himself to be goaded by his detractors. Recorded in Chicago, March 17, 1963, for City Desk, with Malcolm X, and journalists Jim Hurlbut, Len O’Connor, Floyd Kalber, and Charles McCuen.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, RuPaul’s Drag Race is THE best reality show on TV right now. No, wait, let me rephrase that: RuPaul’s Drag Race is THE best reality show in the history of TV. Yes, I’m fucking serious.
It feels a bit like coming out all over again, to admit an obsession with a show so frivolous and outrageously camp as RDR. But I’m not ashamed, no siree. I couldn’t give two hoots what any of the detractors say, Drag Race is fun, funny, glamorous, touching and educational. It delivers on so many levels that it puts the bigger, mainstream reality shows to shame, a fact acknowledged by Pamela Anderson, who has stated that the talent on Drag Race easily outclasses that on American Idol.
And I’m not even a reality TV fan. I hate it! You know how these competition shows seem like such a fucking lie cos all the contestants are MOR dweebs hand-picked for their inanity, and the judges spew out bullshit platitudes when the truth is they have no clue how to control the market forces of the entertainment industry? That has always bugged me, as has the premise that somehow a mystical team of background operatives can bestow superstar status on an individual of their choosing. Well, Drag Race is different. Very different. First off, it’s a show about competing drag queens. Case closed. But in case you’d like me to explain further, don’t worry, I fully intend to…
Right away, out the window goes that hypocritical, bullshit false humility that stinks up reality TV. Being a show-off is always frowned upon on these shows, and a confident extrovert is generally framed as being “arrogant.” It’s a fundamental mythos of the entire reality genre (you know the score, the loveable loser who would still be lingering in a factory or waiting tables if it wasn’t for the grace of Simon Cowell to descend from his throne and bestow fame upon them.) Realistically the judges and producers need someone who is easy to manipulate and control, but they also need someone who is comfortable in front of an audience and a few cameras yet who knows their place and won’t outshine the real stars, the judges themselves.
Drag Race contestants are not random losers plucked from the braying horde to be made famous, these girls have been picked to compete because they are FABULOUS, and they are not scared of showing it off! RuPaul herself actively encourages showing-off, with a peacock-parade at the end of each show, and a lip sync competition between relegated queens to see who stays on. These are goddam drag queens after all, and showing off is in their bones, their genes, their very make-up. Seriously, who’s ever heard of a shy drag queen!?
RuPaul doesn’t promise these performers the world on a plate. No, she offers them a slot performing on a cruise liner. That and princely sum of $100,000. The queens are expected to bring their own talents to the table and to show us how hard they can work them, rather than having to bow to the judges nit-picking advice and barely-hidden agendas.
But it’s not even that that’s got me hooked. It’s Sharon Needles herself.
Here’s the other major lie of reality TV, one that is getting thinner and more see-through as the years go by, and turning off more and more fans of the genre. The lie that they actually produce stars. Seriously, in the ten years now that reality TV has dominated the airwaves, it has yet to produce one genuine superstar. One performer or personality that you can tell will still be around and claiming the spotlight once the promotional budget has run out or the new series has started. Well, step forward Sharon Needles.
Needles (real name is Aaron Coady) is a 31-year-old performer based in steely-grey Pittsburgh, a punk-rock goth queen who exudes wit and warmth and always looks simply phenomenal. Aaron describes Sharon as being “beautiful, spooky and stupid” and she quickly went from being Drag Race‘s rank outsider to head of the leader board, winning a record four challenges with a style that is equal parts Donatella Versace and Lux Interior (Sharon quotes Amanda LaPore and GG Allin as her drag idols.) She is television gold. Seriously, this is the first time I have ever watched anything like this and actually thought “Wow - this person really does deserve to be superstar.” It’s a slightly strange sensation, and is exactly what has made this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race so captivating.
Needles is not a queen without controversy, either. Within the world of drag Sharon is seen as a freak because she does not conform to “fishy” standards (looking convincingly sexy as a female) and even though she looks fantastic she has had to struggle to prove her worth to the other Drag Race contestants, not to mention to audiences and venues in her native Pittsburgh. But Sharon’s outsider/underdog status has actually worked in her favor. In the insular, catty scene of drag and female impersonation, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that to the straight world grown men dressing as girls is always going to be seen as freaky, no matter how fishy they are. Sharon’s open embracing of her own beautiful freakishness has endeared her to audiences both gay and straight alike.
Sharon’s outsider status has also brought to the fore stories of Aaron’s childhood bullying and social exclusion, from not only the straight world but also the gay scene itself. Aaron is an eloquent speaker against discrimination and bullying of all kinds, and Sharon’s warm acceptance of all of nature’s little oddities is a refreshing change from mainstream gay society’s focus on the shallow beauty of the image. In an era of institutionalised discrimination against homosexuals, where the battle for our basic human rights is still very much happening, Sharon Needles is the unlikely hero that we need. That we ALL need, regardless of gender, orientation, color or any of that. If you’ve ever felt even a little bit at odds with society and its relentless conformity, Sharon Needles is the fierce bitch for you.
A genuine one-off with charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to burn, Sharon Needles is a true star. In fact, she’s exactly the kind of contestant you don’t see on reality TV shows because they are just too good! And that’s why we here at Dangerous Minds would like to throw our full support behind her in the race to become America’s Next Drag Superstar.
VOTE NEEDLES 2012.
This video is a compendium of Sharon Needle’s best moments in the earlier stages of Drag Race, mixed with performance footage from the streets and bars of Pittsburgh:
RuPaul’s Drag Race airs on Logo TV, and the winner of Season 4 is announced on Monday.
Frank Zappa discussing television, sin and language on Canadian TV show The Day It Is in 1969.
“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.” ~ Frank Zappa.
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful and over-accessorized.
For several weeks prior to this year’s SXSW fest (I was on assignment), I kept my radio tuned to Sirius satellite station XMU. It’s the Pitchfork of the airwaves, a soul-crushing compendium of the most inert and listless music I’ve listened to since the last time I visited a dentist’s office. XMU is to music what Prozac is to mood swings - it levels everything out in such a way that there are no highs or lows, just a steady drone of zombied-out vocals mewling over testosterone-free guitar strumming, Lancelot Link-like drumming, and the blurts, pings and sweeping crescendos of freshly un-boxed synthesizers radiating the audio equivalent of the new car smell. Other than people like me doing research, who listens to this shit? If radios could vomit, mine would have spewed a Technicolor yawn all over my lap.
Having said that, I did discover a few bands that compelled me to check them out at SXSW. One was Grimes, a 24 year-old multi-instrumentalist from Montreal, that I found enchanting, ethereal and a wonderful songwriter. She reminds me a bit of The Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Fever Ray lite and Young Marble Giants in a good mood.
Here’s a lovely clip of Boucher performing on the Jools Holland show. She’s become the darling of the hipster press and sometimes those bearded mouth-breathers get it right.
The Black Keys back when the world wasn’t their oyster.
I just returned from the The Black Keys sold-out show in Austin at the Frank Erwin Center which has a capacity of 17,000. It’s been a long uphill trip for Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney since they played Emo’s (also in Austin) to a couple hundred people back in 2003. The Black Keys’ overnight success was 10 years in the making. Good for them. They’ve earned it.
Tonight’s show was terrific - great playing, great light show and an absolutely adoring crowd coalesced in one of those rock and roll moments that are too fucking rare these days. Add my freshly cracked tooth with exposed nerve endings to the mix and the whole experience was electrifying.
My tooth is still buzzing despite two glasses of wine and 30 milligrams of codeine. Rock and roll afterglow with a bit of s&m thrown in.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. Here are The Black Keys and Sonic Youth playing Austin City limits in 2010 and the entire Black Keys 2003 Emo’s show (after the jump).
In last week’s episode of Mad Men, smug Madison Avenue advertising honcho Roger Sterling drops acid for the first time, thumbs through a magazine with the above image and then looks into a mirror, seeing himself with a similar situation going on with his own hair.
The ad was actually real and so was the product: “Great Day For Men” hair dye. The gentleman modeling the two-tone ‘do? None other than future “Ted Baxter,” the great Ted Knight!