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  • NBC explains KISS to old people, 1977
    06:56 am



    From Kiss’s 1977 special edition Marvel comic. They said that drops of the band’s own blood had been mixed in with the ink.
    Gimmicks get a bad rap, and the music snobs who supposedly abhor them tend to be very inconsistent in their denouncements. No one would talk shit on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ manic voodoo schtick for example (unless, I guess, they’re just openly anti-fun). Likewise, “serious” music nerds love bands like The Spotniks, and “Swedish science fiction bluegrass surf” is about as “novelty act” as you can get. But mention KISS in a Pitchfork crowd and you will inevitably encounter at least one disdainful scoff—if not the entire room—but if you can’t appreciate a man in glam rock alien makeup vomiting blood onstage, I feel sorry for you. Take this 1977 NBC mini-doc—“Land Of Hype And Glory”—as your cautionary tale.

    The piece starts with scenes from a carnival, which is actually a decent metaphor for the band (carnivals are fun! People love carnivals, and people love KISS!). But the narration goes for the P.T. Barnum angle—“there’s a sucker born every minute”—implying that KISS fans are somehow being swindled by enjoying a sensational live show. (Fun and entertainment? Whatta bunch of suckers!) The reporter goes on to ask the band if they’re “bludgeoning rock to death,” and interrogates Gene Simmons on KISS’ “less-than-average” music. Simmons is quick to point out that their songwriting is intended to be “accessible,” rather than “self-indulgent.” Intended as a denunciation of hype, the entire feature comes off as a besuited old man scolding a group of professional showmen who aren’t taking themselves too seriously.

    You don’t have to be a fan, but KISS are dumb, loud and easy, and if you can’t appreciate that, you’re really missing something fundamental about rock ‘n’ roll. And now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to run away before I am pelted by Sleaford Mods and Brian Eno CDs…

    Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
    Watch the insane 1970 satire ‘Mister Freedom,’ featuring Serge Gainsbourg
    06:41 am



    Mister Freedom on the cover of Evergreen Review #77
    Meet Mr. Freedom, a shit-kicking superhero employed by America’s largest corporation, Freedom, Inc. He hates blacks, Jews, Communists, foreigners, women, JFK, and everyone else who has been compromised by the dangerous ideology of antifreedomism. Carried through the world on a tide of blood, the hero of William Klein’s French satire beats the snot out of anyone who would thwart his right to take pleasure in indiscriminate violence. Does that sound like American foreign policy to you? Plus ça change…

    You’ll recognize Donald Pleasance as Dr. Freedom, Delphine Seyrig as Marie-Madeleine, and Yves Montand as Mr. Freedom’s opposite number in France, Capitaine Formidable. Of course, my favorite member of the cast is Serge Gainsbourg, who appears in several scenes—most of them in the movie’s last third—as Mr. Drugstore, a French partisan of the cause of freedom. Gainsbourg also composed the soundtrack with the help of his arranger Michel Colombier.

    Serge Gainsbourg, Delphine Seyrig and John Abbey in a still from Mister Freedom
    Grove Press—the legendary American publisher of Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller and Jean Genet—released the movie in the U.S., hoping to break into the movie business thereby. Richard Seaver, Grove’s editor in chief, devoted a page of his memoir The Tender Hour of Twilight to Mister Freedom:

    The April 1970 issue of Evergreen Review had on its cover a fully clothed, futuristic male, looking for all the world like an astronaut-hockey player, complete with shoulder pads, a helmet, a Rangers jersey, gloves, and a hip-holster pistol. In his arms—one hockey glove grasping the midriff, the other the wrist—Mr. Freedom (for that’s who our hero was) held a scantily clad, sequin-spangled red-white-and-blue redhead, whose open mouth could just as easily be construed as a cry for help as a moan of ecstasy. Let the beholder decide.

    The magazine cover, intriguing in itself to most, was also a prime example of Grove’s new internal synergy (a word we actually used in our discussions of Grove’s future, God help us all!). Not only did it supply grist for the Evergreen Review mill, it also served as the poster for the U.S. release of the Grove film, Mr. Freedom, a not-too-subtle satire on America as it moved out of the turbulent 1960s. A scathing attack on American foreign policy, especially its “vulgar and grotesque” involvement in Vietnam and the Strangelove notion that democracy had to be brought to the rest of the world, even at the cost of destroying it, the French-made film was written and directed by the ex-patriot (sic) William Klein. It starred John Abbey as Mr. Freedom; Delphine Seyrig (who had been propelled to cinematic stardom as the Garboesque lead in Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad) as Marie-Madeleine, organizer of the Whores-for-Freedom network; Donald Pleasence (whose voice and accent bore an uncanny resemblance to Lyndon Johnson’s) as Dr. Freedom, the mad mastermind behind the movement to save the world from anti-freedom infiltration; and Philippe Noiret as Moujik Man, Russia’s answer to Mr. Freedom.

    On the surface it was a perfect vehicle for the Grove Movie Machine: irreverent, sexy, outrageous, politically pointed, a no-holds-barred attack on the establishment. Unfortunately, its script, dialogue, and direction, alas, were sufficiently amateurish to give film critics a golden opportunity to lambaste it.

    I’m not sure “amateurish” is the right word. As befits a playful, cartoonish satire, the movie’s politics are a bit crude here and there, and maybe the dubbing is shit in places, but Mister Freedom is expertly made, by my lights. It’s a feast for the eyes and a gas to watch.

    Thanks to Sam McPheeters and Tara Tavi for jumping me into the freedom gang.

    Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
    What if that Human League song were only ‘you were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’?
    01:39 pm



    File under “so dumb it’s genius.”

    You Tuber svantana has reduced the lyrical content of Human League’s 1981 hit “Don’t You Want Me” to the catchiest and, perhaps, most thematically important line: “You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar.”

    The gist of the entire song boils down to that anyway, right?

    At 1:35 into the song Susan Ann Sulley takes up her half of the duet with Philip Oakey and responds “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, that much is true. I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar. I guess it’s just what I must do.”

    What’s clearly important here is that both sides understand that the woman was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar.

    Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
    The Rolling Stones at their worst is still better than most bands at their best (but not always)
    01:30 pm



    A still from Kenneth Anger’s “Invocation of My Demon Brother

    When reviewing the newest Blu-ray release from the Rolling Stone’s “From the Vault” concert series, one must take careful pains to point out that even when one is recommending it to the consumer, so should there be an extreme caveat issued: Hyde Park Live 1969 is not exactly the Stones at their in concert zenith. Not by a longshot. Never the tightest group live at the best of times, here the Stones sound like a ramshackle bar band covering their own songs.

    Still, if you are a Stones freak—and even if this does happen to be a substandard performance, because that’s what it basically is—you have to have this one. It’s not like this show’s charms, or lack thereof, have ever been a secret, everyone knows that it was a bad performance, but this is also the highest quality that you’re ever going to see this show in, and I for one am glad to have that in the collection. It’s the definitive release of the Rolling Stones live in Hyde Park, 1969 (or as likely as we’re ever likely to get, this being the Granada TV “Stones in the Park” special and not the entire concert, which is annoying) and it seems like it was “kind of” mixed for 5.1, although the audio is somewhat of a moot point considering the ragged musicianship. It was $13. Hell, I’ve paid $20 for a shitty VHS bootleg of this show, so I’m happy to replace it.

    But if it sounds like I’m damning Hyde Park Live 1969 with faint praise, well, I sort of am, and it does sorta suck, but at the same time, I’m glad to own it because it’s a somewhat essential historical document of the Rolling Stones, this being their inaugural outing with new guitarist Mick Taylor. The band had not played live onstage for a long time, they’d hardly had any time to rehearse with Taylor and they are… rusty, to put it kindly. In spots they rise to the occasion—like the extended “Sympathy for the Devil” with all the African drummers—but some of it just sounds like a bluesy catterwaul. (My wife asked “What the fuck is this? This is horrible.” When I told her it was the Stones, she scrunched up her face and said “It sounds like they’re a high school punk band.”)

    Here’s a clip of “Satisfaction” from Hyde Park Live 1969 that’s actually not half bad:

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    You know, this is—excuse me—a damn fine cover! The Joy Formidable revamps the ‘Twin Peaks’ theme
    12:39 pm



    For over five years, Welsh trio the Joy Formidable have been making wonderful, headstrong records that combine hard-rock intensity with shoegaze’s dense trippiness. Wolf’s Law and The Big Roar are the easiest for American types to get ahold of, and if you dig bands like Curve, they’re probably well within your zone (but if I’m in the mood for this kind of thing, frankly I way prefer TJF over Curve). Just this afternoon, the band released a nicely reverbed-out cover of the Twin Peaks theme song, “Falling.” Between the series’ 25th anniversary taking place this year, and the announcement of new episodes coming in 2017, I suppose we should all brace ourselves for a LOT of this sort of thing coming up. The band told the essential Welcome to Twin Peaks blog:

    “We had some time during the making of our new album to get excited that a new series of Twin Peaks is on the horizon,” the band told Welcome to Twin Peaks. “Here’s our tribute to that legendary series and it’s beautiful theme music by Angelo Badalamenti.”

    They (or someone) also cobbled together a video compilation of scenes from the series. Which is at once quite nice and too bad—a performance video probably would have been a lot of fun.

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
    The Great DEVO Cat Listening Party of 2010
    11:26 am



    In 2010, in order to promote its new album Something for Everybody, DEVO created a one-time-only “DEVO Cat Listening Party,” in which the band isolated a handful of kitties in “a specially constructed room” equipped with “an enormous blue Energy Dome scratching post.”

    This event happened on June 15, 2010, at the Warner Bros. offices in Burbank, California. Songs from Something for Everybody were for about two hours while the cute kitties, provided by Jungle Exotics, frolicked and played their feline games to the socially incisive pop music.

    Warner Bros. Records new media director Cara Heller stated, “We were told they like music, but we didn’t know how cats react to listening to music over long periods of time and we didn’t want to burn them out.”

    The event was streamed continuously on a dedicated Ustream feed, and in fact if you go to that feed today you’ll find a 50-minute video documenting the event. It’s embedded below. Judging from the video, they also had a massive supply of blue energy domes to give away—I wish I owned one, I would have worn it while writing this…..


    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    RIP Twinkle: Nearly forgotten 60s teen pop star, 1948-2015
    10:21 am




    “I didn’t have an image made up for me by a publicity department. All you saw was what I was. I’m very rebellious, and I was terrible anxious to get in with the fast crowd.”

    Some people we think of as being perpetually young, because that’s the sole image we have of them, so it was particularly jarring for me to read about the passing of “Twinkle” at the Ugly Things website over the weekend. She died a few months back, May 21 to be exact, of cancer.

    Lynn “Twinkle” Ripley, better known simply as “Twinkle,” was a pretty, blonde, green-eyed teenaged pop star of mid-60s Britain who never really crossed over to U.S. popularity. Her father was a wealthy Tory MP and her older sister, Dawn James, was a well-connected music journalist.  She attended the same posh girls school as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and the Redgrave sisters. She insisted from the age of six that she was going to be a pop star. Her biggest hit was “Terry,” a sappy, maudlin song she wrote herself. “Terry” tells the tale of an ill-fated motorcycle ride and slightly predates “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las. It’s sung like a very flat Leslie Gore. Twinkle was not blessed in the voice department, clearly.

    “Terry” was not based on a true story, but the fact that it was written by teenaged girl (and not a male songwriter channeling one) makes it all the more charming. None other than Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page was a session musician on the track. The song reached #4 in the British record charts around Christmas of 1964 despite being banned from BBC radio airplay (and TV’s Ready, Steady, Go) because it was considered in “poor taste.” It’s kind of odd today to consider that when the song was banned, it was being called “sick” and “dangerous drivel” by Lord Ted Willis. Pirate station Radio Caroline continued to play the record.

    Her next song, “Golden Lights,” about being the girlfriend of a pop star (she was, Dec Cluskey of The Bachelors was her then steady) was even better, but reached only #20 on the charts. (“Golden Lights” was later covered by The Smiths and is included in their Louder Than Bombs compilation).  Although she appeared on package tours with The Rolling Stones, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders and Herman’s Hermits (Peter Noone became her boyfriend for a while), she never really made it and “retired” from the pop world before she turned 18. She later went on to write TV themes and commercial jingles for ATV Music, recording and performing sporadically throughout the decades. Her later life was primarily devoted to campaigning for animal-rights.

    Below, a clip of her biggest hit, “Terry”:

    More after the jump…

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    Two rare Joy Division tracks were just re-released, and you can hear them here
    09:14 am



    Rhino Records recently did that thing they do very very well, and re-released Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Closer, Still, and Substance on 180 gram vinyl. My feelings are mixed on the recent flood of vinyl reissues of albums that have been widely available for decades, but the 2XLP reissue of Substance contains some items of interest that have never been featured on any release of that collection—a rare 7” b-side called “As You Said,” and the so-called “Pennine mix” of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

    “As You Said” was released as a b-side to a flexi-disc of “Komakino” that was given away in The Öther Söund magazine. That flexi also included a version of “Incubation,” and all three tracks were outtakes from the Closer sessions, the band’s final studio recordings. It’s a significantly brighter mix than the version that can be heard on the Heart & Soul box set and the Warsaw CD, and it’s only ever been issued with this level of clarity as part of the preposterous Singles 1978-80, an ultra-limited box set of ten remastered 7"s. It’s a synth-based instrumental curiosity, likely of interest to the überfan who’s heard it all.

    The Pennine version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was actually the rejected original recording of the song, recorded at Pennine Sound Studios in January of 1980 (the version with which we’re all much more familiar was recorded at Strawberry Studios in March). It was released as the b-side to the original 7” and 12” of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” along with “These Days.” Some versions of the 7” dropped the Pennine recording of “LWTUA” and featured “These Days” alone. It saw a 1988 release on the “Atmosphere” 12” that accompanied the original release of Substance. In a 2010 GQ interview, JD’s drummer Stephen Morris cited this version as his preferred recording of “LWTUA:”

    The Pennine version has always been there - it was on the b-side of the 12-inch when it first came out. But it wasn’t called “The Pennine Mix” or anything like that, it was just “Love Will Tear Us Apart” but a slightly different version. That version was the way we always played it live. The one that everybody knows, I actually hate.

    Why, because it’s too poppy?
    Just because of the bad, emotional things. Martin Hannett [Joy Division record producer] played one of his mind games when we were recording it - it sounds like he was a tyrant, but he wasn’t, he was nice. We had this one battle where it was nearly midnight and I said, “Is it all right if I go home, Martin - it’s been a long day?” And he said [whispers], “OK… you go home.” So I went back to the flat. Just got to sleep and the phone rings. “Martin wants you to come back and do the snare drum.” At four in the morning! I said, “What’s wrong with the snare drum!?” So every time I hear “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, I grit my teeth and remember myself shouting down the phone, “YOU BASTARD!” [smashes up imaginary phone.] I can feel the anger in it even now. It’s a great song and it’s great production, but I do get anguished every time I hear it.

    Hear both songs after the jump…

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
    Baby Charles Bukowski, André the Giant, Frank Sinatra and other rebels hanging at the beach
    07:45 am

    Pop Culture


    Andre the Giant at the beach picking up chicks
    André the Giant at the beach picking up chicks at Cannes, 1967
    As I type these words, many of you that are reading them right now are probably in the midst of a pretty nasty heatwave. So I thought posting some amazing photos of people way cooler than us, looking even cooler than usual (with one or two amusing exceptions) while hanging out at the beach was in order.
    Albert Einstein at the beach, 1945
    Albert Einstein, 1945
    You may have seen a few of the 24 images in this post before, but hopefully the majority will surprise you, especially the one of André the Giant literally picking up chicks at Cannes, or Albert Einstein (above) wearing some interesting footwear while the waves crash around his feet. Whenever possible, I included locations and dates of where and when the photos were taken as some were taken before the subjects became famous. Man, I feel cooler already. More reach-the-beach images follow.
    AC/DC in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1985
    AC/DC in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1985
    Slade in swimtrunks at the beach
    Slade, 1974
    Charles Bronson at the beach, 1974
    Charles Bronson, 1974

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    Disney tried to adapt Kevin Smith’s ‘Clerks’ into a PG sitcom (and it was soooooo bad)
    06:54 am



    Kevin Smith has caught a lot of hell for not “maturing” as an artist, but if you go back and watch Clerks, it’s pretty obvious that his strengths have always been juvenile humor with a shot of modern neurosis. And, while Clerks is certainly a product of its time, I maintain that it holds up as a really charming little film about youth, relationships and the absurdity of alienated wage labor under capitalism. Or maybe it’s just about snowballing (hey, six of one...). Highly sexualized semi-intellectual gross-out comedy is arguably the trademark of Smith’s indie opus, which is why it’s so weird that Disney tried to adapt the film for a PG audience. (Spoiler: it is bad.)

    It makes sense that Disney would try to capitalize off Gen-X disaffection I suppose, but did they really think Clerks could stand the Mickey Mouse treatment? You’ll notice the 1995 pilot bears no resemblance whatsoever to its source material—Smith wasn’t even told about its development until the actors that played Dante and Randal auditioned for (and didn’t get) their original roles. Smith even tried to help the project by writing a script, but Disney ultimately went with… this. You’ll see no Jay or Silent Bob, just a cast of suspiciously good-looking members of the strip mall proletariat. (They even added a sexy girl who works at the tanning salon next door played by a pre-Felicity Keri Russell).

    Needless to say, Smith was not pleased with the end result. Check it out below, if you dare.

    Via A.V. Club

    Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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