Apparently Mark Hamill has a good sense of humor about his Luke Skywalker days and isn’t afraid to crack wise and fuck up some Star Wars‘s fans’ trading cards when signing autographs.
These are pure gold:
He keeps going, after the jump…
Apparently Mark Hamill has a good sense of humor about his Luke Skywalker days and isn’t afraid to crack wise and fuck up some Star Wars‘s fans’ trading cards when signing autographs.
These are pure gold:
He keeps going, after the jump…
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Rhino has re-issued four iconic Joy Division albums on heavyweight 180-gram vinyl. Each design replicates the original in painstaking detail, including the gatefold covers used for Still and Substance. The music heard on the albums was remastered in 2007 when Rhino introduced expanded versions of the albums.
Joy Division recorded two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, before singer Ian Curtis tragically took his own life in 1980. But what the Manchester quartet lacked in longevity, it more than made up for in quality. The band’s only two studio albums were groundbreaking and helped shape the sound and mood of the alternative music that followed in the band’s wake.
The compilations Still and Substance fill in the missing pieces of the band’s history with non-album singles (“Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”), unreleased studio tracks (“Something Must Break” and “Ice Age”), and choice live recordings (“Disorder” and the only performance of “Ceremony.”)
Mid-1970s Bowie is my favorite Bowie. 1975-1976, living in the Los Feliz house of Glenn Hughes, bassist for Deep Purple. Bowie’s coked out and coked up, obsessed with the occult and given to paranoid delusions. Bowie consorting with witches. Bowie starring in Nicolas Roeg’s excellent The Man Who Fell to Earth and releasing Station to Station, perhaps his most scorchingly funky album and also, as it happens, my favorite of Bowie’s albums. These were the “Thin White Duke” years, as the first line of that album has it; whatever was possessing Bowie, to quote the same song, “It’s not the side effects of the cocaine / I’m thinking that it must be love.”
The primary chronicler of this period in Bowie’s life was unquestionably Cameron Crowe, whose youthful journalistic exploits for Rolling Stone were depicted, after a fashion, in Almost Famous. Not only did Crowe write a cover story on Bowie that appeared in the February 12, 1976 issue; he also interviewed Bowie for the September 1976 issue of Playboy, an interview that featured several remarkable statements, most prominently, that “yes, I believe very strongly in fascism.” Amazingly, Crowe was a teenager when all of this was happening—he turned 20 in July 1977.
If you are a David Bowie addict, it’s fairly likely you have read these lines, which appeared in Crowe’s 1976 feature on Bowie for Rolling Stone:
Bowie announces that he’s got a new project, his autobiography. “I’ve still not read an autobiography by a rock person that had the same degree of presumptuousness and arrogance that a rock & roll record used to have. So I’ve decided to write my autobiography as a way of life. It may be a series of books. I’m so incredibly methodical that I would be able to categorize each section and make it a bleedin’ encyclopedia. You know what I mean? David Bowie as the microcosm of all matter.”
If the first chapter is any indication, The Return of the Thin White Duke is more telling of Bowie’s “fragmented mind” than of his life story. It is a series of sketchy self-portraits and isolated incidents apparently strung together in random, probably cutout order. Despite David’s enthusiasm, one suspects it may never outlast his abbreviated attention span. But it’s a good idea. At 29, Bowie’s life is already perfect fodder for an autobiography.
The article in Rolling Stone also included an excerpt, in a box. It looked like this:
So Bowie gave Crowe a manuscript of some sort. What was in it? Has it ever been published in full?
This “first chapter” of The Return of the Thin White Duke clearly has never been published. I consulted ten book-length treatments of Bowie’s life and career (a list of these works can be found at the bottom of this post), and only 2 of them even bothered to mention it, and neither dwelled on it for very long. It’s abundantly clear that not many people know anything about this text.
Bowie: A Biography by Marc Spitz includes the following on page x of the introduction:
Bowie’s autobiography, purportedly entitled The Return of the Thin White Duke (after the opening lyric to the 1976 song “Station to Station”) has been rumored for years as well, but either the asking price is too high or it’s a bluff; or it’s really in the works, and like Bob Dylan’s Chronicles volume one, it will arrive when it’s the right time.
Meanwhile, in The Man Who Sold the World, Peter Doggett writes on page 285:
Much of The Man Who Fell to Earth was filmed in Albuquerque—the so-called Duke City, having been named for the Spanish duke of Albuquerque, Spain. And it was there that David Bowie, who was unmistakably thin, and white, began to write a book of short stories titled The Return of the Thin White Duke. It was, he explained, “partly autobiographical, mostly fiction, with a deal of magic in it.” Simultaneously, he was telling Cameron Crowe: “I’ve decided to write my autobiography as a way of life. It may be a series of books.” Or it might be a song—or, as printed in Rolling Stone magazine at the time, the briefest and most compressed of autobiographical fragments, which suggested he would have struggled to extend the entire narrative of his life beyond a thousand words.
In 2012 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened its Library and Archives in Cleveland, Ohio, and one of the institution’s most intriguing holdings is the Rolling Stone Collection, which contains the editorial files, notes, work product, etc. for all issues starting in 1974 and stretching all the way to 1989. It’s a lot of super-interesting material to which all rock journalists should be paying attention.
The manuscript of chapter 1 of The Return of the Thin White Duke that Bowie gave to Crowe is in those files, and I’ve read it in its entirety.
Rolling Stone’s arrangement with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives does not permit visual reproduction of its work product, so it is not possible for Dangerous Minds to post the pages of this manuscript here. However, researchers are permitted to quote portions of items found in the Rolling Stone Collection—I was told that I am permitted to quote 10% of the manuscript as “fair use.” I’m going to do just that, in a minute.
When I first encountered this at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives, I excused myself from the archive (cellphones are not permitted in the room itself) and Googled a few choice phrases to see whether anyone else had ever published it. I came up with zero hits in all instances.
The manuscript is nine pages long, typewritten. What’s contained in the archive is a Xerox copy of the original; where the original is, I have not the slightest idea. On the top of the first page is typed, in allcaps, “THE RETURN OF THE THIN WHITE DUKE.” Underneath that, in someone’s handwriting—perhaps the author’s, perhaps Crowe’s—are the words “BY DAVID BOWIE.”
It is quite a remarkable document, with Bowie inserting often mundane impressions of the past into a grandiloquent, over-the-top sci-fi allegorical construct reminiscent of Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or, indeed, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. (Just to give you an idea, the named characters in the manuscript include the “Thin White Duke,” the “Finder,” the “Fatal Father,” and “Magnauseum.” I think.) As for the more workaday parts, there’s a paragraph comparing the relative merits of chisel toes versus high pointers (these are types of shoe), with Bowie, in whatever fictive guise, preferring the chisel toe. Another longish passage is dedicated to the decisions involved in painting his home: “Deep blue was the color that I took to every dwelling,” starts Bowie on that subject.
The text is broken up into many, many shorter sections, most of which are just a paragraph or two long. For some reason Hebrew letters are used to distinguish the sections (ALEPH, BETH, GIMEL, DALETH, HE, VAU, ZAIN). In between the more prosaic bits that are apparently about Bowie’s own life are sections in which the Thin White Duke and possibly others—it’s not quite clear—present their verbose and overblown pronouncements about life and music and fame.
Oh, also? There’s a fair bit of sex in it. A couple of the passages are quite steamy.
Much, much more after the jump…
Sexism. A board game from 1971
Sexism was a board game, conceived back in 1971 by Carolyn Houger, a resident of Seattle, Washington. With the creation of Sexism, Houger hoped to “bring out the humor in the Women’s Liberation movement.” The idea for the game came to Houger after her four-year-old daughter returned home after playing the card game “Old Maid” with her friends and made the statement, “wouldn’t it be terrible to be an old maid?”
According to the folks over at Board Game Geek, the goal of Sexism is to move from the “doll house,” to the White House (flash-forward 44 years and we’re still waiting, but I digress). The first player to move into the White House, wins. Sexism is compelling on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to start. Just take this game board square from Sexism called “Abortionist.” The square itself depicts a pregnant woman and a clothing hanger(!) with the following game instructions if you land on it:
The bill didn’t pass.
Go to the Maternity Ward
Laundry Service and Part-time You Know What!
Sexism encourages players to play as their opposite gender as it is known to produce “hilarious role-playing situations.” So, if you win as a “woman” the game will instruct the other players that, “You are now a person, and must be treated as such for 24 hours. Non-winners may be treated as usual.” If you play as a “man,” you are greeted by a cartoon of a large thumb pushing a woman down with the following message: “Congratulations, you’ve won — or have you?” Wow.
Decisions, decisions. White House or Playboy Club game squares from Sexism
When it comes to the cards that you might draw while playing Sexism, playing as a woman you might draw a card that says “Go back two steps because you’re a woman. You’d just as well get used to this.” Whereas a man might draw a card that makes this incredible statement:
I staunchly defend motherhood, God and country. I’m against giving more money to ADC (Aid to Dependent Children) for each child. I’m against abortions. I’m against women earning as much as men. I’m against paying taxes for free child care centers. Go ahead three steps.
In an interview with Houger from 1972, she said that her intention wasn’t to create an “anti-male” game. In addition to enlightening folks to Women’s Lib, Houger had high hopes that the game would start a dialog about sexism, as well as help people understand that both men and women should be treated as “people.” Houger also said she wanted to highlight the fact that women can also be sexist, by “reinforcing sexism” with their actions or attitudes, especially when it comes to assigning gender-specific roles - a point that she makes rather directly on many of Sexism’s game squares.
More on Sexism after the jump…
This is good fun, and it’s a damn shame it’s not more widely known—in 1989, comedic actor Rick Moranis released a Kraftwerk cover on his album You, Me, the Music and Me. Moranis became known in the ‘80s as Bob McKenzie in SCTV’s “Great White North” sketch and its feature film Strange Brew, as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, and for damn near movie-stealing supporting roles in Ghostbusters and Spaceballs. In the ‘90s he softened his image to suit the family-oriented Honey, I Shrunk [whatever] franchise before real-life family matters prompted his mid-decade retirement.
Despite having been released on the highly notable indie label IRS Records, the album just doesn’t exist anywhere anymore. For some reason, there was no CD issue despite the 1989 release date, and Spotify, iTunes, et al seem to have never heard of the thing. (I’d bet rent money Grooveshark had it, but sadly, that service and its founder are both gone now.) As of this posting there are zero copies for sale on Amazon, Discogs or MusicStack, so unless a copy happens to find its way into your hands on a digging expedition, the debut solo LP by a beloved performer is effectively unobtainable.
‘80s graphic design. Hey, it’s been 30 years, isn’t this style due for a revival?
And it’s kind of a bummer that the album seems to be such a total ghost. I’d like to check it out even just once, even though I don’t have the highest expectations for it. Moranis’ 1981 Great White North LP with Dave Thomas is one of the all time great comedy records, and there’s just no way You, Me, the Music and Me could measure up. Judging by the credits, Moranis seems to be assuming the guise of a DJ, commenting on various musical phenomena—already a played-out premise even then—as well as covering tunes like “A Day In The Life” and “Light My Fire.” Um, OK. Though very little of the album exists in Internetland, one thing that IS available is the “Ipanema Rap,” an ‘80s white-guy rap parody of “The Girl From Ipanema.” You’re groaning, aren’t you? You’re right to be groaning. It’s pretty awful. The video is worth a look, if only so you can marvel at how a video from 1989 looks so much like a video from 1981. IRS was apparently pretty tight-fisted with all that R.E.M. money.
But the album ends on a really high note—Moranis’ fairly reverent cover of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn.” It’s only four minutes long, which is a mercy, it wouldn’t be very amusing for the full 22+ minutes of the original, but the material actually suits him quite well. The spoken bit at the end is clearly a part of the album’s DJ conceit, and can be ignored.
After the jump, Rick Moranis turns Japanese…
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…
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.
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.
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:
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.