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  • Toys for boys: Tech Hifi catalogs of vintage stereo equipment are bizarre fun
    11:48 am

    Pop Culture

    Tech Hifi

    This 1981 system, featuring components from Cerwin Vega, Hitachi, Philips, and Audio-Technica, cost $829 at the time.
    Only the staunchest of old-school stereo dorks remember it today, but from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, Tech Hifi was one of the best-known retailers of audio equipment on the East Coast.

    The chain was founded by two MIT academics, mathematician Sandy Ruby and engineer John Strohbeen. According to the New York Times, Tech Hifi’s franchises were known for their “knowledgeable salespeople who could satisfy the comparison-shopping stereo connoisseur”—a type so gorgeously satirized by Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope in Boogie Nights.

    Another of the hallmarks of Tech Hifi was apparently its expensive and imaginative catalogs, which presented elaborate tableaux of the store’s stereophonic offerings being used in fanciful and even borderline bizarre situations.

    Seizing on a ripe market of affluent audiophiles, Tech Hifi grew rapidly, and by the 1970s it had become one of the nation’s largest sources for consumer electronics, with upwards of 80 stores, mostly in the Northeast, including more than a dozen in and around New York City.

    Nobody knew it when these catalogs were being produced, but Tech Hifi’s days were numbered. Unanticipated competition from discount retailers and a wobbly economy forced it out of business in the mid-1980s.

    Note that inflation has increased the prices of equivalent goods by roughly 289%, so you have to triple the prices listed here in order to get an accurate assessment of the pricing at that time. All of the photos in the 1979 catalog were taken by Al Rubin, and all of the photos in the 1981 catalog were taken by Clint Clemens. You can enlarge all photos by clicking on them.

    The cover of the 1979 catalog.

    This 1979 system featuring components from Crown, Nikko, Infinity, Micro Seiki, Ortofon, Micro-Acoustics, Tandberg, and Phase Linear, cost $10,000 at the time.
    More goodness from vintage Tech Hifi catalogs after the jump…

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    Radiohead release new single and video for ‘Burn the Witch’: Watch it here
    11:45 am



    Here’s the video for Radiohead’s new single “Burn the Witch.” The claymation video was directed by Chris Hopewell.

    As other people have said on the Internet, this is the first preview of what will be Radiohead’s ninth studio album.

    I’m not sure if I like this or not. Perhaps I’ll warm up to it after a couple more plays. It’s still too hot off the presses to tell.

    via CoS

    Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
    Fabulous modern illustrations of Witches (and their familiars)
    11:26 am


    Camille Chew

    Throughout history witches have generally been described in word and illustration by men. It’s the male eye that has conjured up portraits of witches as cackling hags with bad orthodontists and hygiene problems in written works by authors as different as Shakespeare and Roald Dahl or by artists such as Henry Fuseli or Walt Disney.

    In truth, any woman who was deemed to have subverted patriarchal control was called a witch—and the stereotypical image devised for such women was created by a deep and fearful misogyny.

    Artist and illustrator Camille Chew has created a series of beautiful portraits of modern day Witches (and their familiars) that subverts inherited misconceptions. Chew’s witches are independent, strong women who give help and succour with their occult powers.

    Chew’s illustrations are created “entirely in Photoshop CS6 with a Wacom Bamboo tablet.”

    The brush I use most often is just the standard round brush with the spacing set all the way down to 1% for smooth edges. I also sometimes overlay scanned in watercolor washes, hand drawn patterns, etc. (usually on layer mode>soft light) to add texture.

    A graduate of Alfred University, Camille’s art work explores themes of mythology, fantasy, and the occult. Her illustrations are available to buy as prints and even as tattoos—details here
    Spell Book.
    Palm Reader.
    More of Camille Chew’s witches after the jump…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    Satanic strippers: Vintage burlesque performers dance with the devil
    10:35 am



    Actress Marian Martin and a burlesque cape featuring our pal, Satan, 1930s
    Actress Marian Martin in a Satan-themed burlesque cape. Martin actually played a dancer named ‘Pinky Lee’ in the 1943 film, ‘Lady of Burlesque’ which was based on the novel ‘The G-String Murders’ written by strip tease queen Gypsy Rose Lee. Martin was not a burlesque performer, but her costume is in the satanic burlesque spirit of this post.
    Of the many fun things that comes along with being a part of the diverse compendium that is Dangerous Minds, those rare days when my feet hit the floor, and I have no idea what I’m going to write about that day, are not among them. Which is why I try to stockpile posts concerning the guy who should have built my hotrod, Satan, for those kinds of days. Because let’s face it—Satan is a big crowd pleaser among DM’s readership.
    Burlesque performer Diane de Lys in a publicity photo for her show
    Burlesque performer Diane de Lys in a publicity photo for her show ‘The Devil and the Virgin,’ 1953.
    I hate to admit it, but sadly I know very little about the world of burlesque despite having a few friends who actually work in the field professionally. So the discovery that dancers back in the 1920s and 1930s (and beyond) used an unusual prop—a costume that was split into two distinctly different styles that was used for a “1/2 and 1/2” style of dance performance was sort of new to me.

    One side would feature a “normal” kind of stage dress, and the other could be anything from a man or a maybe a gorilla (apparently, after King Kong was released in 1933, the popularity of girl/gorilla acts skyrocketed. Go figure). Or in the case of the images in this post, Satan himself! That said, I’d personally love to see this trend return to the burlesque stage (if it hasn’t already). Many of the photos you are about to see also feature burlesque performers all dolled up like the devil dating as far back as the early 1930s. They are also slightly NSFW. YAY!
    H/T: To the burlesque treasure trove that is Burly Q Nell.
    Burlesque performer with satan costume/cape
    Devil and the Dancer, 1932
    Early 1930s.
    More devilish dancers and their demonic debonair dance partner after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    ‘Scanners’ head-explosion ‘magic-motion’ lenticular postcards!
    09:39 am


    David Cronenberg

    File under “esoteric gifts to give someone to let them know they’ve blown your mind”:

    These are cool. The company Forever Midnight is offering up these killer “magic motion” lenticular post-cards of the infamous “head explosion” scene from David Cronenberg’s 1981 sci-fi horror masterpiece, Scanners.

    I’m a sucker for lenticular shit. I have a Jesus portrait with eyes that follow me around my room, keeping me sin-free. It works most of the time. But these Scanners cards are among the the best uses I’ve ever seen of the novelty effect, sometime called “wiggle pictures,” since the process was developed in the 1940s.

    The “head explosion” scene from Scanners is one of the great practical make-up effects of all time. The effect was achieved by creating a latex replica of the actor’s head, using a life cast. The head was fitted over a plaster base and the insides were filled with fake blood and various bits of dog food and rabbit livers and other things laying around the effects studio. The head was then actually blasted from behind by a 12-gauge shotgun held by special effects supervisor Gary Zeller. The end result is one of the biggest “oh shit” moments in cinema history.

    You’ll have to make the jump to see more head explody…

    Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
    Meet Wilma Burgess, country music’s first openly lesbian singer
    04:29 pm


    Country music
    Owen Bradley
    Wilma Burgess

    When country singer Chely Wright revealed to her fanbase that she was a lesbian back in 2010, many of the magazine articles at the time referenced k.d. lang or Melissa Etheridge, to name two earlier gay performers who opted to be true to themselves in public, but very few mentioned an even earlier lesbian country music singer to come out of the closet.

    Actually, Wilma Burgess, who had several hit singles in the mid-1960s was never in the closet to begin with. Burgess was a protege of the great country music producer Owen Bradley, one of the chief architects of the slick, string-laden “Nashville sound” of the 50s and 60s. Bradley, who had been Patsy Cline’s producer, heard in Burgess’ powerful voice a performer able to do something similar to the deceased singer and he signed her to Decca Records in June of 1964. Interestingly Burgess was reluctant to perform teary ballads where she was singing to a man, and preferred her material to be gender neutral and ambiguous. When she did agree to sing a song like “Ain’t Got No Man” it was something she negotiated with her powerful hit-maker mentor: One song she liked but that he didn’t have to, for every one of his choices that she went along with but wasn’t too fond of. Their partnership worked well and produced several hits, most notably the Grammy-nominated “Baby,” a 1965 hit Burgess was seen singing in the Jayne Mansfield B-movie The Las Vegas Hillbillys, and “Misty Blue” in 1967.

    For obvious teasons, Wilma Burgess ultimately found herself frustrated by the strict and ostensibly pious Nashville scene and left the music business in 1978. She would go on to open The Hitching Post, the first lesbian bar in Nashville, in the late 80s with the money she made during her career. Wilma Burgess died at the age of 64 from a heart attack on August 26th, 2003.

    More clips of Wilma Burgess after the jump…

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    Gorillas make up ‘little food songs’ while they eat: Listen to them here
    02:38 pm



    According to an article by Brian Owens in New Scientist, a German scientist working in the Congo has discovered a fun new fact about gorillas, that they hum and even sing during mealtimes. Food-related calls had been documented in chimpanzees and bonobos, but never in gorillas.

    But far from just vocalizing, gorillas appear to generate two different types of sound while eating. One of them was “a steady low-frequency tone” that sounds rather like a sigh of contentment, or a hum:

    The other was “a series of short, differently pitched notes” which resembles “a random melody”:

    And it’s not like they “sing the same song over and over,” commented Luef. “It seems like they are composing their little food songs.”

    According to Ali Vella-Irving of the Toronto Zoo, “Each gorilla has its own voice: you can really tell who’s singing. And if it’s their favorite food, they sing louder.”

    The behaviors, however, differ according to whether the primates are in captivity or not. In zoos every individual sings during meals, but Luef found that in the wild “it was generally only dominant silverback males that sang and hummed while eating.”

    She speculated that vocalizing might be the silverback’s method of informing the group that the meal is not yet concluded and that the time to move on has not yet arrived. “He’s the one making the collective decisions for the group,” Luef says. “We think he uses this vocalization to inform the others ‘OK, now we’re eating.’”

    Because there is so much variation in calls both between individuals and species, food calls provide a good way to study the origin of language, says Zanna Clay, a psychologist at the University of Birmingham: “It gives a good insight into the origin of meaning in animal signals, and also the social pressures that might drive the flexibility we see in language.”

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    The Monkees’ Peter Tork plays Bach and Elvis at CBGB during the height of the punk era
    12:34 pm


    The Monkees
    Peter Tork

    A bearded Peter Tork, around the time of his 1977 CBGB solo set. Can we call this his “head” shot?

    In 1977 The Monkees TV show was nine years in the rearview mirror, the Monkees hadn’t been active for six years, and an outfit going by the name Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart had released an album a year earlier.

    The post-Monkees years had not been easy for Peter Tork. He tried to start a band with his girlfriend Reine Stewart that was to be called “Peter Tork and/or Release,” but they never, ah, “released” anything (Tork says that he possesses Release demos to this day), and in 1972 he got busted for possession of hashish and did three months in an Oklahoma penitentiary. By 1975 he was a teacher at Pacific Hills School in Santa Monica.

    This pic comes from the September 22, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone—the same issue that memorialized the passing of Elvis Presley
    As improbable as it sounds, in 1977 Tork played a solo set at CBGB, the legendary venue catering to punk and new wave on the Bowery in Manhattan. The date was July 31, and no less a personage than Lester Bangs wrote a review of the show for the Village Voice.

    Tork’s jaunty, amateurish set was all over the map. Playing some guitar but mostly piano, Tork played “Prelude #2 in C Minor” as well as a two-part invention by Johann Sebastian Bach and Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel” and Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” One of the numbers was a Russian folk tune titled “Kretchman” that I recommend a certain DM contributor adopt as his new personal anthem. He played “I’ll Spend My Life with You”  off of Headquarters and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” off of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.

    This CBGB ad appeared in the Village Voice, August 1, 1977 issue
    Lester Bangs quotes Tork as saying before the show, “This is pretty much a one-shot for me; I was booked in here by a journalist friend of mine who’s helping me do a book on the Monkees trip, and after it’s over I’m gonna go back to California and teaching. I couldn’t do this on the West Coast; CBGB’s is psychedelic.” (To which Bangs blandly responds “If you say so.”)

    More after the jump…

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    ‘20th Century Toy’: Behold the glam-rock glory of this customized ‘Marc Bolan’ Lambretta scooter
    12:30 pm


    Marc Bolan
    T. Rex
    Lambretta scooter

    Danielz, the vocalist for the T. Rex tribute band, T.Rextasy sitting on the customized Marc Bolan Lambretta scooter
    Danielz, the vocalist for the T. Rex tribute band, T. Rextasy sitting on the customized Marc Bolan Lambretta scooter.
    In May of 2012, this vintage, customized Lambretta scooter plastered with images of T. Rex frontman, Marc Bolan sold for a whopping $17,372.22 in an Ebay auction. And once you see the images of said scooter, you’ll understand why.
    The customized
    Customized Marc Bolan Lambretta scooter.
    Made in Italy, this model of Lambretta (a “TV 175” according to the listing) was manufactured in 1964. The seller, who aptly dubbed the tricked out ride “20th Century Toy,” completely rebuilt the engine before a team of experts “glamified” the scooter in nearly every possible way. Such as the addition swan-shaped mirrors, the modification to the Lambretta’s handlebars that include an engraved nod to T. Rex’s smash from their 1972 album The Slider, “Metal Guru,” as well as the brake & clutch levers which were cleverly fashioned into Gibson “Flying V” guitars. Bolan was fond of using the Gibson Flying V during the 1970s, and one owned by the “Jeepster” himself sold for $36,000 at a Christie’s “Pop Memorabilia” auction in 2007.

    More photos of what possibly may be the coolest scooter ever, follow.


    More after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    Someone had to have invented the first selfie stick in history, right?
    11:34 am


    selfie stick

    I do particularly loathe the term “selfie stick” but what else could I call this shot of Helmer Larsson and his wife, Naemi Larsson, taken all the way back in 1934? I mean, he’s taking a picture of himself and he’s using a stick for Pete’s sake! Now I know this isn’t the first self-portrait taken with a camera, but it is the first vintage photograph I’ve seen where a stick was employed to push the shutter button by the subject.

    Whatever the case, I find the image adorable.

    via The Kraftfuttermischwerk

    Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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