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  • ‘Fuck the Draft’: The amazing story of Kiyoshi Kuromiya, creator of the iconic protest poster

    Fuck the Draft
    Much to my conservative, very Lutheran parents’ chagrin I’m sure, the image above hung prominently over the headboard of my bed when I was 16 years old. It was a grainy copy that my friend and I made secretly in my high school graphic arts class. I liked it for its shock value and because I was just starting to learn about radical groups like the Yippies and the Weather Underground thanks to another friend’s cool older brother who played in a grind-core band called Hell Nation and who collected tons of weird-ass countercultural stuff. That was around 1990. There was obviously no draft going on, further confusing my parents and making me feel pretty edgy and weird. I was far too naïve to think too deeply about the backstory of the cool piece of radical ephemera with the image of the guy burning his ticket to the Viet Nam War. 

    Recently though, I came across the image again while doing research for another DM piece and decided to try to learn a little more about origins of the iconic image of 60’s radicalism. It turns out that the poster has a cool pedigree, and the piece’s creator, Kiyoshi Kuromiya, born in a Japanese American internment camp in 1943 in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, was a prominent underground civil rights figure and gay rights activist. Kuromiya worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. in the mid-sixties and tending to King’s children in the aftermath of his assassination. He was a founder of Gay Liberation Front –Philadelphia, worked with the Black Panther Party to advocate for gay rights, co-authored a book on a utopian future through technology with Buckminster Fuller, and was a leading pioneer in the fight to promote AIDS awareness after his own diagnosis later in life.

    Kuromiya made a name for himself in radical protest circles at the University of Pennsylvania where he went to school to study architecture by pulling stunts like this bait-and-switch, anti-napalm demonstration in 1968 which he discusses in a great, hugely comprehensive 1997 interview:

    A notice showed up, a leaflet showed up, signed by the “Americong” that, in protest of the horrors of using napalm on humans, there was going to be a demonstration in front of the library at Penn. An innocent dog would be burned with napalm, showing what an awful thing napalm was, O.K.? So, of course, the mayor, the police chief, everybody said whoever was perpetrating this would spend a long time in jail, etcetera. The day showed up and at noontime there were four ambulances from four different veterinary schools there. People, as a lark, brought their pet dogs. There were a lot of dogs. There were 2000 people. It was the largest antiwar demonstration in the history of the University of Pennsylvania. I had four friends of mine. I had a printing press in my basement and I was a publisher at the time. So out of the crowd, leaflets showed up. And I handed out these leaflets, Americong, you know, was a fiction. There was no group. But the leaflets showed up at this big rally and it said, “Congratulations, you’ve saved the life of an innocent dog. How about the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese that have been burned alive? What are you going to do about it?”

    Later in the same interview Kuromiya talks about the Fuck the Draft poster. Along with placing the image in an ad (and act that he claims got him arrested by federal marshals) he handed several copies of it out during the chaos of the riots surrounding 1968 Democratic Convention:

    And then a couple years later, I published, under the name Dirty Linen Corporation, these Fuck the Draft posters with a guy burning a draft card and it said in huge letters, “Fuck the draft.” The guy was someone from Detroit who was doing prison time for burning his draft card. I was arrested at home by federal marshals and the Secret Service for using U.S. mails for a crime of inciting with lewd and indecent materials. I had run an ad that said, “Buy five and we’ll send a sixth one to the mother of your choice.” And I listed a number of places, including the White House. So I was kept at the FBI headquarters here. They couldn’t hold people overnight so they took me in chains down Chestnut Street with four guys watching me, down to the Round House and I was held there. Anyway, I took these posters to the Democratic Convention in Chicago. And everybody was told to stay away. This was going to be very dangerous. But I went anyway. I rented a car to haul these posters around. And I had a coat and tie on so I could move easily in and out of the hotels and the various delegations and caucus meetings at the convention. So I was the only one in Yippie Park, Lincoln Park, in a coat and tie. But I handed out the posters, 2000 of them, at the amphitheater just minutes before the riot where someone tried to lower the American flag.

    The ad that Kuromiya talked about in the interview appeared in the April 12, 1968 issue of the Berkeley Barb and it looked like this:
    Fuck the Draft Ad
    1968 Fuck the Draft poster ad from the Berkley Barb
    As Kuromiya mentions, you could send five dollars to get five “Fuck the Draft” posters for yourself and sixth would be sent to the “mother” of your choice.  You could take your pick amongst Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson, Mrs. Shirley Temple Black, Lieutenant General Lewis B. Hershey, General William Westmoreland, Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, Mrs. Richard Hughes, or “other.” One presumes that the “mother” in some of these cases was of the “fucker” variety.

    Here’s an image of the full page on which the ad appeared:
    Berkeley Barb Fuck the Draft Page
    In the 1997 interview mentioned above, Kuromiya discusses his political activism at length. He was a prominent early gay rights advocate working in and around Philadelphia to bravely advance the cause at time when the issue was still somewhat taboo, even among many in the anti-war community. In 1970, Kuromiya and the Gay Liberation Front of Philadelphia published the Gay Dealer, only one issue of which was ever released. After being denied funding by a Philadelphia community organization, the Gay Liberation Front got the money they needed for the issue by selling MMDA capsules according to Kuromiya.
    Gay Dealer
    Cover of The Gay Dealer, October 1970
    Kuromiya and an unidentified friend from Gay Dealer, 1970
    In 1977, during a long recovery from metastatic lung cancer, Kuromiya became enamored of the works of Buckminster Fuller. He began working with the futurist legend of geodesic design and Kuromiya is credited as “adjuvant” on Fuller’s book, Critical Path.  From Kuromyia’s New York Times obituary:

    In 1981, he assisted R. Buckminster Fuller, the architect and thinker, in writing Critical Path (St. Martin’s Press). The book sketched a vision of a bountiful future created by technological advances. In what James Traub in The New York Times Book Review called ‘‘a bizarre and often revelatory volume,’’ the authors suggested that the blossoming of technology had the potential to end war.

    Fuller Kuromiya
    Buckminster Fuller and Kiyoshi Kuromiya with a copy of Critical Path
    Kuromiya was diagnosed with AIDS in the late 1980’s and, according to the LGBT archives of Philadelphia:

    In 1988/1989 he founded the Critical Path AIDS Project, which applied ideas and strategies from Buckminster Fuller’s 1981 book to the AIDS crisis. The project began as a newsletter about AIDS treatment that Kuromiya researched, wrote, edited, and distributed himself. The Critical Path AIDS Project grew to offer a 24-hour AIDS treatment hotline, a web hosting service for AIDS-related websites and listservs, and computer access for individuals in the Philadelphia area.

    Kuromiya’s activism seems to have known no bounds. He was a founding member of ACT UP/Philadelphia, he was a participant an early successful lawsuit against Internet censorship surrounding the Communications Decency Act and was the leading plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, Kuromiya vs. The United States of America, calling for the legalization of medical marijuana.

    Kuromiya died of AIDS related complications in 2000. 

    The video below features footage of William Burroughs, Jean Genet, Ed Sanders, Allen Ginsberg and Dick Gregory at the 1968 Democratic Convention protest where Kuromiya handed out 2000 Fuck the Draft posters. At around 6:38 you can see the crowd in front of the “band shell” in Grant Park and the moment that someone pulls down the American flag causing all hell to break loose. Kuromiya says that he was handing out “Fuck the Draft” posters in the crowd right around this location just minutes before the incident.

    Posted by Jason Schafer | Leave a comment
    ‘Sin in the Suburbs’ & other cinematic delights: Joe Sarno’s life in dirty movies
    07:50 am


    Joe Sarno

    Poster art for
    There is nothing more inspirational, beautiful and harrowing than an artist who takes true risks. Being an artist, especially an independent filmmaker, is hard enough. It’s not like things like job security, steady paychecks and any sort of proper retirement are going to be a constant. Couple that with being a filmmaker who works within a genre that is often critically maligned and life is suddenly a much more harsh trek to cut through. But none of that ever stopped Joseph Sarno, whose cinematic trail began in the 1960’s, with such arty and dramatic forays like Sin in the Suburbs and Inga, then segueing firmly into being one of the most notable cult directors of the 1970’s and 80’s. His legacy was first covered in print thanks to RE/Search’s seminal Incredibly Strange Films book. However, it was only a matter of time for an enterprising filmmaker to come along and do a documentary on the man and his work.

    It took Swedish director Wiktor Ericsson and his film, A Life in Dirty Movies to make this needed venture a vital reality and bless him for it.
    Great Poster art for Sarno's amazing
    Ericsson and company had the chance to delve into Sarno’s rich cinematic past, talk with a few of his key artists and associates, as well as portray a slice of life into Joe’s golden years with his former actress, wife/partner, the lithe juggernaut of a woman, Peggy Steffans-Sarno. But A Life in Dirty Movies is about more than just a man who who forged his own path in the worlds of sexploitation and hardcore cinema and even, to some degree, more about one incredible love story of loyalty. It’s about the heart and soul of an artist in his later years who has given so much of himself to something he truly believed in. There are few things more compelling than a creative person with a “damn the torpedoes” approach, especially when it is coming from someone as emotionally forward thinking and sensitive as Joe Sarno.

    A Life in Dirty Movies is an interesting title for this film, since early on, it becomes readily apparent that Sarno’s approach to film was anything but dirty. In fact, a couple of commentators joke about how any raincoat crowd going to see one of Sarno’s moodier character studies would have been crippled when it came to having a private hand-party in the theater. (This all invokes one of my favorite film descriptors ever, courtesy of Eddie Muller and Daniel Faris’ book Grindhouse. The term in question is “a no hatter.” This was a term to describe a sexploitation film that failed to arouse the male audience, since they would often attend wearing hats for them to take care of business in.) But that’s the thing. Simple prurience can become boring quick unless there are other layers going on, which was something Joe often incorporated.
    One of the best film titles ever.
    With that, we get glimpses of his work, ranging from his exquisitely lit, black and white art-type 60’s films, like Sin in the Suburbs and Vibrations to his 1970’s color character-melodramas such as Laura’s Toys and Abigail Leslie is Back in Town. Former collaborators, ranging from editors to actors (including the fantastic Annie Sprinkle), noted film writers like Jim Morton, as well as admirers in the form of John Waters, are all interviewed and have similar observations of both Sarno the man, as well as the director. One of the biggest ones was Joe’s emphasis on female pleasure. In a world where male orgasm is king, while pleasure is relegated to borderline incidental for women, Sarno was indeed a rare bird in his time and, to a lesser degree, even now. He definitely paved the way for female-centric filmmakers in erotica, which would go on to include Eric Edwards (an actor who was in a number of Sarno’s films in the 70’s) and another ground breaker in the form of Candida Royalle, whose company, Femme, catered specifically to women. These were just two of many who were able to create what they created thanks to filmmakers like Joe. One impressive tidbit that is revealed within the film is that Joe wrote the scripts for every single film he ever directed and given that his filmography, including both his soft and hardcore work, is well over a hundred, that is no mean feat!
    Soap Opera meets Sexy Art: Abigail Leslie is Back in Town
    Sarno’s love and respect for women can also be summed up by his decades long marriage to Peggy. Well educated and born from a wealthy family in New York, Peggy’s an absolute lioness to her lion in twilight. Dark haired with piercing eyes and a throaty, yet feminine voice, Peggy’s most striking feature is her absolute fierce loyalty and belief in her mate. Especially given that it is not the blind, Hollywood-variety of faith. She talks candidly about the harsh realities of their financial situation and past deals that did zero to line their pockets. (Talk about the sad, blues-song reality of too many talented and notable artists in their later years.) Their relationship is, in many ways, even more notable than Joe’s impressive filmography because it is so intensely rare.

    More sweetness that is captured is getting to see Joe enjoy the beginnings of the revival of his art while he was still here. (He passed away on April 26, 2010.) It is hard to not feel some tremors of heart ache when you hear him say, “I thought everyone had forgotten me,” which makes moments like seeing him enjoy his very own tribute at the British Film Institute all the more resonant.

    Speaking of tributes, A Life in Dirty Movies is an honest and loving one to an American filmmaker whose craft was, to quote Peggy, “ his blood.” It’s a great documentary for fringe film fans and the curious alike. You don’t have to be into adult-themed films to appreciate the real-life story of a director who truly worked hard and cared about his craft and people in general.

    Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
    Roky Erickson will blow your mind… again: Live in 2007
    07:27 am


    Roky Erickson
    Rock and roll

    I moved to in Austin 2009 but I’ve been regular a visitor off and on since the early 90s when I was invited to participate on a SXSW panel. I love the place. But despite all the talk of Austin being one of the music capitols of the world, there’s only a handful of rock musicians to come out of Austin that deserve to be called “legendary.” Roky Erickson is one of them and his influence (both as a solo artist and member of the incredible 13th Floor Elevators) infuses the Austin music scene like a magical elixir. A modern day rock and roll Paracelsus, Erickson alchemised Austin to such a degree that even today his influence has given birth to a vibrant psychedelic/garage revival embodied by, amongst many, The Black Angels, Amplified Heat, Shapes Have Fangs and White Denim.

    Roky Erickson was by no means the only lysergically-inspired musician to have emerged from Austin in the mid-sixties. The list is long and includes mindblowers like Shiva’s Headband, Bubble Puppy, the Golden Dawn and Conqueroo. Bands who, at the dawn of Texas psychedelia, energized the epically historic acid shrine the Vulcan Gas Company. But decades after that incredible wave of musical and psychotropic experimentation, Roky is the musician that has garnered the most devoted and nurturing audience. In recent years, he’s made a comeback that is one of the most emotionally resonant and wrenching of any artist in the history of rock and roll - a real Phoenix from the ashes kind of resurrection. And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving and beloved human being.

    This footage shot in Oslo in 2007 shows Roky and his terrific band The Explosives at a high point in Roky’s resurgence. The set list consists of some of the wildest shit to have ever been unleashed on rock and roll. Cam King is incendiary on lead guitar. And the crowd goes nutz!

    01. Cold Night For Alligators
    02. White Faces
    03. Don’t Shake Me Lucifer
    04. The Interpreter
    05. The Beast
    06. Bermuda
    07. Splash 1
    08. Creature With The Atom Brain
    09. Starry Eyes
    10. Bloody Hammer
    11. Before You Accuse Me
    12. Two Headed Dog
    13. You’re Gonna Miss Me
    15. Night of the Vampire
    16. The Wind and More
    17. I Walked With a Zombie

    Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
    Detroit protopunk pioneers Death release a new single (and it sounds like… Death!)
    07:21 am



    If you’ve not yet familiarized yourself with the 1970s Detroit proto-punk band Death, I highly suggest you get on it, starting with the fantastic 2012 documentary, A Band Called Death. The anomalous three-man group—comprised of of brothers Bobby, David and Dannis Hackney, switched from funk to rock ‘n, roll after seeing a Who concert, and they created some absolutely amazing music that was rarely heard by all but the most dedicated rock historians, until the doc.

    Now brothers Bobby, Dannis and new guitarist Bobbie Duncan are promising a new album (literally titled N.E.W.), on their own label in April—even featuring some previously unrecorded songs written with the original lineup. You can hear the first single below, “Look at Your Life,” and honestly, it sounds like Death—heavy, erratic and wild, with the sort of nasty Motor City sound that pulses through Detroit peers like The MC5 and The Stooges. “Look at Your Life” is not however the first single in 40 years—as every outlet seems to be reporting. Two years ago, the same line-up put out a song called “Relief”—also worth a listen.

    You can pre-order N.E.W. here.

    Via Monster Children

    Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
    Jack White declares war on bananas
    10:03 am


    Jack White
    The White Stripes

    Rock and roll riders are always a lot of fun, whether it’s Van Halen‘s demand to have the brown M&M’s removed from their candy bowl (instituted as a foolproof test to see if a venue’s operators were fulfilling the more demanding portions of the rider) or Iggy Pop‘s riders, which, as DM has documented, are hilarious.

    On February 2 Jack White played the McCasland Field House on the campus of University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, in support of his latest album, Lazaretto. During the show White complained about the publication in the campus newspaper, four days earlier, of the full contract between White and the school.

    According to Consequence of Sound, White said from the stage, “Just because you can type it on your computer doesn’t make it right.” The newspaper has cited the Freedom of Information Act. Yesterday the William Morris Entertainment revealed that it was placing the school on a blacklist from any future Jack White concerts as well as those of any artist represented by William Morris Entertainment. (In an addendum to the original Consequence of Sound article from yesterday evening, it is explained that William Morris denies banning OU from future Jack White shows—while pointedly remaining mum about other acts on its roster.)

    Moral: Do not fuck with lawyers.

    The main reason for White’s irritation, as well as that of William Morris, was the revelation of White’s fee, which comes to $80,000. White’s contract includes a full recipe for guacamole, reproduced here, as well as an unexplained demand that his tour remain a “NO BANANA TOUR.” The rider explains that the person tasked with preparing the guacamole must be “careful not to mush the avocados too much. We want it chunky.” White’s dressing room, the rider stipulates, should be stocked with aged salami, a pound of “high-quality” prosciutto, beef jerky, dried fruit, cashews, and almonds.

    The performer’s alcohol requirements include bottles of red and white wine, Veuve Clicquot champagne, and Bulleit Bourbon (aged 10 years), although these were apparently waived for the OU show—those items are crossed out and the words “No Alcohol” are written nearby with a Sharpie.

    At the start of the “meals” section, there is a stern warning: “PLEASE NOTE: this is a NO BANANA TOUR. (Seriously). We don’t want to see bananas anywhere in the building.” It is not explained why bananas are not allowed to enjoy Jack White’s concerts, along with all the other fruits and vegetables.

    Here’s the full rider, so you can see for yourself.

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    The Dead Milkmen don’t know what they’re doing on MTV’s ‘120 Minutes’ but they don’t like Morrissey
    09:36 am


    The Dead Milkmen
    120 Minutes

    A dedicated alt-rock fan on YouTube recently uploaded some choice clips from 120 Minutes, and the best find in the bunch is most likely this extended clip with Philadelphia indie rock mainstays the Dead Milkmen, in which they played one quite rare cut and one track they almost certainly only played during this appearance.

    In early 1989 the Dead Milkmen were riding high indeed, thanks to the biggest commercial success they’d ever have, the well-nigh irresistible “Punk Rock Girl,” which had become a major crossover hit off of 1988’s Beelzebubba. This clip lasts nearly 22 minutes, skillfully editing out all of the videos and commercials and leaving just several solid minutes of vintage Dead Milkmen banter as well as two striking live performances. The second song they played was called “The Puking Song,” which eventually ended up as one of the miscellaneous tracks on the Smokin’ Banana Peels EP, which was released a year later. Host Kevin Seal makes a big deal about that “The Puking Song” is “unavailable in any store” so it’s my supposition that they may have written it for this appearance. In any case, it’s gross and funny in a way that only the Dead Milkmen did so entertainingly and so often.

    The other song is billed as “Save the Rainforest,” but that title is pretty clearly a bit of sneaky subterfuge because—the song is actually about not wanting to appear on 120 Minutes! I’ve seen this song listed on Dead Milkmen forums and stuff as “Save the Rainforest,” but that’s sheer silliness, that is not the title of the song. The true title of the song is (if anything) “We Don’t Want to Be Here.” Actually, judge for yourself, here are the lyrics, which I believe you won’t find anywhere else on the Internet.

    We don’t know what we’re doing here!
    Trapped inside of your TV
    Forced to host 120 Minutes
    For some free publicity
    There’s no Debbie Gibson or Tiffany
    But you might have to sit through some Morrissey
    We don’t want to be here
    We don’t want to be here
    We’d rather be at home!

    Stick your head into the toil of tomorrow
    Become one with the cosmic head
    Stay up late, call in sick
    Tune in, turn on, drop dead!
    You won’t have to look at much Kevin Seal tonight
    But you’ll have to look at us instead!
    We don’t want to be here
    We don’t want to be here
    We’d rather be in bed!

    [guitar/whistling solo]

    There’s no Debbie Gibson or Tiffany
    But you might have to see the Cowboy Junkies
    We don’t want to be here
    We don’t want to be here
    But it’s better than drinking alone! (several times)

    Of course, the title could be “Save the Rainforest” if you accept that the subterfuge is part of the song or something like that. As far as I can tell, this track, which obviously makes sense only if you’re actually performing it at MTV for a taping of 120 Minutes, doesn’t appear on any Dead Milkmen albums or EPs. As you can see (or hear) for yourself, they went out of their way to make fun of Morrissey in the song, but they weren’t done with His Holy Pompadour just yet.

    During one of the interview segments, after Joe Genaro had finished demonstrating a drum-playing panda toy to everyone, Rodney Linderman tells a story about walking into a bar and seeing a guy eating a steak, drinking beer, and punching a guy in the face and then stealing his best gal, with the punchline being that it was Morrissey, who clearly “eats steaks, drinks beer, and chases women,” har har.

    Just for bookkeeping’s sake, Kevin Seal mentions that they’ll be playing videos from Lou Reed, the Beatnigs, the Smiths, Thelonious Monster, Elvis Costello, Hugo Largo, XTC, the Wonder Stuff, Depeche Mode, the Pursuit of Happiness, Thrashing Doves, and Throwing Muses. We also see part of a Jane’s Addiction video. They also spend a good chunk of time discussing the Plimsouls. The episode must have taped in late March of 1989, because according to a crawl late in the clip, the Dead Milkmen had gigs at D.C.‘s 9:30 Club, Chapel Hill’s Cat’s Cradle, and Atlanta’s Cotton Club in early April.

    via Slicing Up Eyeballs

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    ‘Amazing Stories’: The bizarre-o pulp science fiction artwork of Frank R. Paul
    09:24 am

    Pop Culture

    Frank R. Paul

    Frank R. Paul Covers
    The hardest part about this post has been deciding which of Frank R. Paul’s mind-bending works of satisfyingly strange science fiction art NOT to feature here on Dangerous Minds. Virtually everything the man touched was oddly compelling. The creative genius behind some of the most delightful pulp magazine cover art in history and widely recognized as the “Father of Science Fiction Illustration,” Paul crafted hundreds of vibrant and wonderfully weird compositions to be used as illustrations for several pioneering science fiction periodicals including Fantastic Adventures, Wonder Stories, Science Fiction and Amazing Stories among many others. 

    Some of Paul’s work was collected in a 2013 book called Frank R. Paul: The Dean of Science Fiction Illustration from IDW Publishing. In the portion of the book on trailblazing science fiction publication, Amazing Stories, the chapter’s author, Frank Hill documents Paul’s storied working relationship with influential science fiction publisher Hugo Gernsback. According to Hill, Gersback began publishing Amazing Stories in 1926 after the success of his Science and Invention magazine at a time when there were only two other science fiction magazines available: Argosy and Weird Tales

    It’s pretty incredible what you could by for a quarter in those days. Here’s Hill’s description of the first issue of Amazing Stories:

    Naturally, the cover and interior illustrations for this issue were supplied by Frank R. Paul, who had been in Gernsback’s employment since around 1914. The new magazine had a distinct look about it, containing ninety-six pages and printed on heavy paper with even heavier cover stock. The whole magazine weighed in at half a pound, measured over a half-inch thick, and contained stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, among others.

    With Frank R. Paul working as illustrator, Amazing Stories quickly became very successful according to Hill, reaching a distribution of 100,000 readers. Ray Bradbury once said: “Paul’s fantastic covers for Amazing Stories changed my life forever.” 

    Frank R. Paul was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009.

    I did the absolute best I could in matching the images below with the publications in which they originally appeared, and I hope that I wasn’t too egregiously off on any of these.
    Tetrahedra of Space
    “Tetrahedra of Space,” November, 1931 Wonder Stories Cover
    Air Wonder Stories Frank R. Paul
    Air Wonder Stories Front Cover August, 1929
    Wonder Stories Cover, February, 1933 Frank R. Paul
    Wonder Stories Cover, February, 1933
    Much more after the jump…

    Posted by Jason Schafer | Leave a comment
    Captain Beefheart’s eerie premonition of John Lennon’s death
    07:38 am


    John Lennon
    Captain Beefheart

    People who knew Don Van Vliet said he had strange gifts, and I’m not talking about his musical talents. Lester Bangs told this story:

    Once in Detroit I walked into a theatre through the back door while he was onstage performing. At the precise moment I stepped to the edge of the curtains on stage right, where I could see him haranguing the audience, he said, very clearly, “Lester!” His back was to me at the time. Later he asked me if I had noticed it. I was a little shaken.

    And the music historian and critic Robert Palmer reported:

    Sitting in the Manhattan living room of the guitarist Gary Lucas, who is the Magic Band’s newest member, Don Van Vliet shut his eyes, squinted, and said, “It’s going to ring.” The telephone rang as if on cue. Mr. Lucas laughed nervously and said that sort of thing happens all the time.

    Palmer was one of a number of journalists who met with Van Vliet at Lucas’ apartment in the autumn and winter of 1980. Van Vliet was giving interviews there on the night of December 8 when John Lennon was shot outside the Dakota. Lucas recalls:

    In the middle of an interview, at eight or nine o’clock as I remember, Don said, “Wait a minute, man, did you hear that?’ He put his hand over his ear, but we didn’t hear anything. He said, “Something really heavy just went down. I can’t tell you what it is exactly, but you will read about it on the front page of the newspapers tomorrow.” We said, “Well, what?” and he said, “I dunno.” Then the guy left and another journalist came. We were in the middle of another interview and about eleven, the first guy called me and said, “Did you hear the news? Something just happened, John Lennon was shot.” And I couldn’t believe it. It really seemed like Don predicted this. So I told him and he just looked at me and went, “See? Didn’t I tell you?” That was really eerie.


    Richard “Midnight Hatsize” Snyder, the Magic Band member who played bass, marimba and viola on Ice Cream for Crow, gave a similar account of that evening’s events in a 1996 interview:

    While we were in New York, Don was being interviewed by some magazine on the night that John Lennon was killed. At one point during the interview, Don stopped speaking, closed his eyes and then opened them again, saying to the interviewer: “Something big is happening tonight—something horrible. You’ll read about it in your papers tomorrow.” Knowing full well that the doubting Thomases among you will say: “Ah, yes—but he wasn’t specific about the event. The way the world is, you could say something like that any day and still be right more times than not.” Nevertheless, it was the strangest coincidence—if indeed, that was all it was.

    A Beefheart fan who was in the audience at the Captain’s Irving Plaza show the following night writes that Van Vliet opened the set with a soprano sax solo, which he dedicated to Sean Lennon: “That was from John, through Don, for Sean.”

    For his part, Lennon was a fan of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s debut album, Safe As Milk. Note the “Safe As Milk” stickers prominently displayed on the cabinet doors in the sunroom of Kenwood, the house where Lennon lived from 1964 to 1968.

    Below, video of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s set at the Mudd Club on December 10, 1980:

    Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
    Bring back the feminists of W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell)!

    1969 WITCH protest in front of Chicago Federal Building.
    Of all the second wave feminists who exploded into action over the 1960s and 70s, no group seems to have had quite as much fun as WITCH—the fabulous acronym for Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell. Like so many other groups, WITCH was formed from a split, this one from New York Radical Women. Their counterpart, Redstockings, became the more famous “intellectual” feminist group, producing such visionary minds as Ellen Willis and Shulamith Firestone (who, among many other far out things, argued for the option of robotic wombs to liberate women from childbirth). WITCH on the other hand was the wild and wooly protest group, easily identifiable by their Halloween get-ups.

    Protesting beauty pageant circa 1969.
    The group specialized in disruption of the sensational bent, shrieking and chanting in black clothing and white face paint, and “throwing hexes” at enemies of the people. Among their many targets were beauty pageants, Wall Street, bridal fairs, Chase Bank, the presidential inauguration, and even sexists in the politically left anti-war movement. Some of the more famous work was actually quite modest in its goals (hey, all politics are local politics), including protesting public transportation fare hikes with this little hex:

    Witches round the circle go
    to hex the causes of our woe,
    We the witches now conspire
    To burn CTA in freedoms’ fire.

    Bankers gall, politicians guile,
    Daley’s jowl, lackey’s smile,
    Trustee’s toe, bondholder’s liar
    These we cast into our fire.

    Meetings held, messages sealed
    When the fare hike is revealed
    We, the people, are the prey
    Of the demon, CTA….

    WITCH were one of many radical feminist groups of the second wave (1960s and 70s), and one of many that is sadly understudied and overlooked. Luckily women like director Mary Dore work on projects like She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a new documentary that chronicles the feminist lay of the land in the days of the counterculture revolution. It’s baffling to think that explicitly socialist groups like WITCH and the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union started out on the same footing as Hillary Clinton boosters like the National Organization for Women, but we all know that even in the feminist movement, the game is rigged towards Wellesley girls.

    You can find a screening of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry here, and I say it should be mandatory viewing for all girls under the age of eightteen. Where else are we going to get the next chapter of WITCH from?

    Via Mother Jones

    Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
    Empire of Drugs: Vintage ads for when cocaine and heroin were legal

    Pope Leo XIII’s longevity as Pontiff of the Catholic Church (the third longest in church history) may have been down to his favourite tipple Vin Mariani. Pope Leo was so enamoured by this French tonic wine it is claimed he kept a hip flask hidden under his cassock, so he could enjoy the occasional snifter to perk up his spirits—which it undoubtedly did, as Vin Mariani was a heady mix of Bordeaux wine and coca leaves. The original drink had 6mg of cocaine per fluid ounce, which went up to 7.2mg per fluid ounce for the export market—mainly to compete with similar coke-filled tonics—such as Coca-Cola—sold in the USA.

    It was claimed that Mariani wine could quickly restore “health, strength, energy and vitality,” and hastened convalescence (“especially after influenza”). In one of their ads, His Holiness the Spokesmodel decreed:

    ...that he has fully appreciated the benefit of this Tonic Wine, and has forwarded to Mr. Mariani as a token of his gratitude a gold medal bearing his august effigy.

    Talk about a celebrity endorsement, eh? If God’s representative on Earth approved of the coca-infused tipple, that would have been quite a boon in marketing terms.
    Cocaine enhanced drinks were common in the late 1800s, and there is an academic paper to be written on the influence of cocaine and the rise of the British Empire—how else to explain the sound of grinding teeth among all those overworked lower classes whose labor put the Great into Britain?

    But it wasn’t just adults who benefited from the restorative powers of cocaine, it was added to pastilles for teething children, throat lozenges for flu and colds, and as a cure for hay fever.
    After the jump, heroin for kids and more…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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