The acid-inspired interactive art of 1960s psychedelic collective ‘The Company of Us’
06:34 am



Artist Richard Aldcroft, in his “Infinity Projector,” featured on a 1966 cover of LIFE. The goggles prevented binocular vision and showed kaleidoscopic images.
“The Company of Us,” or USCO, was an ambitious, groundbreaking collective of artists and engineers heavily associated with LSD, although they formed in 1962, a few years prior to the explosion in public awareness of the drug. They counted among their ranks now notable artists like Gerd Stern, Stan VanDerBeek and Jud Yalkut, but at the time their ethos was rooted in collaboration and anonymity, so they only took credit for their productions as a group. Ironically, their work was actually helped by their druggy reputation, as they were featured in a 1966 LIFE magazine cover story—LIFE had published an editorial against the prohibition of LSD six months prior to USCO’s article.

The photos you see here are from their 1966 show at New York’s Riverside Museum which featured USCO’s psychedelic work in six enormous, completely tripped-out rooms. The collective created surreal environments—like “light gardens” and painted shelters—complete with electronic sounds, projections, flashing and pulsating lights, even an area with sensory goggles that blocked out any external vision. Everything moved and nothing was silent. The work was half druggy multi-media show, half interactive architecture, and it was quite the endeavor for a small bunch of outsider artists.

Stern says of the labor involved:

Part of the real problem that we had at USCO was that everything we did was very heavy. We would travel with a Volkswagen bus and trailers and thousands of pounds of equipment. Schlepping. In fact, I once wrote a piece for one of the art magazines called “The Artist as Schlepper.”

As I’m sure you would guess from an art show comprised of psychedelic rooms, many viewers of USCO’s “Down By the Riverside” exhibit were probably chemically altered, transforming the experience into a sort of amusement park of the senses where you could sit and fiddle with AV equipment or just lay there and watch the walls move. Of course, lingering and prolonged “observation” was encouraged—the show was actually where the term “be-in” was coined.

Painting of Hindu deity, which was flashed with color lights.

Artists Rudi Stern and Jackie Cassen work on an abstract slide show

Plastic eye illuminated with shifting light
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Morrissey talks to nobody on MTV, 1985
06:27 am



I can hardly think of a better format for a Morrissey interview than this: in 1985, MTV’s monthly weirdomusic program IRS Records Presents the Cutting Edge put him in a room alone with a camera and a pile of envelopes each containing a one-word topic, like “fashion,” “money,” “music,” and so forth. The Smiths’ vocalist simply opened the envelopes and expounded the topics given therein (and it’s a goddamn shame none of those envelopes contained the names of any bands he disliked). The results are, unsurprisingly, classic Morrissey. Would it surprise you to learn that he thinks every art form he can name is a dying art, and that the greatest art form is the one he happens to be known for? Of course it wouldn’t.

Allowing that this was probably sourced from someone’s VHS dub of the broadcast, it looks like even by 1985 standards that that was kind of a shit video camera in there with him—the whole thing has the hazy and noisy feel of old surveillance footage. The entire video was broken up into several segments and spread out through the broadcast, but what’s here just contains the edited-out Morrissey segments. Bafflingly, the beginning is labeled “Part 2,” and there’s a lot of needless overlap between the two parts. I’ve set it up to play here in the proper order without the loads of overlap. The alternative was to post a ghastly looking and sounding screen-shot video.

The rest after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Another year, another awesome Descendents Christmas sweater
05:40 am



SoCal punk heroes the Descendents have turned their Christmas sweaters into an annual tradition—here’s a gander at last year’s edition. This year, instead of emphasizing the noggin of Milo, from their 1982 album Milo Goes to College, they’ve gone in a different direction .... oh, who are we kidding, Milo’s gonna be on all the Descendents Christmas sweaters, okay?

The sweater costs $64.99 and comes in sizes ranging from XS to 2XL.





Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Made in Germany’ documentary explores the enigmatic blankness of Heino
05:36 am



There is something about Heino’s image that captures the imagination. All of the interview subjects in the documentary Heino: Made in Germany talk about the elements of the look: the blond hair, the dark sunglasses, the turtleneck, the inert stage presence. “Like a traffic sign or a pictogram, even children can memorize him,” former Heino impersonator Norbert Hähnel says. But what hides behind those dark glasses? There’s no lust, no dread, no anger, no sorrow, no mischief, no humor, no identifiable human desire of any kind in his persona. One young fan praises his “sobriety and modesty,” which may be the only qualities that can be positively attributed to the star.

Heino has called himself “the singer of the silent majority,” boasting that he’s sold more records in Germany than Frank Sinatra or the Beatles. There isn’t a perfect American analogue to Heino, but Pat Boone might give you some idea of the singer’s temperature. Both singers strive to appear wholesome and nonthreatening, though there’s a touch of militaristic pomp in Heino’s voice that would sound very strange coming from Boone. On his 2013 comeback album Mit Freundlichen Grüßen, Heino took a page out of Boone’s playbook, adopting a kind of Vegas/Ed Hardy “hard rock guy” image and covering Rammstein’s “Sonne,” along with other “folk songs of the young generation.”

Norbert Hähnel, one of the most interesting characters in the film, owned a Berlin record store and label called Der Scheissladen (I don’t speak German, but I believe this translates as “the Shit Shop”). Hähnel created a minor scandal in the 80s by impersonating the singer and insisting that he was the real Heino, earning him the hatred of Heino fans everywhere. Heino’s record company ended Hähnel’s career as “the true Heino” with a lawsuit that landed the Shit Shop owner in jail. Hähnel’s reminiscences of his first encounter with Heino are telling; even his youthful attempt to antagonize the singer only left him staring into the void:

It must have been at the end of the ‘60s. Maybe I was 17 at that time. Heino performed at a fashion show for older people. He had like two or three singles out so far. I thought it was actually very frightening to see what came up to us. But still I was fascinated by that person and so I had to watch his show. [...]

I think I remember a situation in which he was onstage saying, “All the young people nowadays don’t sing in anything but the English language,” and so on. I interrupted by yelling “fascist” or something like that. It ended up in a tumult. All the old people turned around looking for me. That’s the story. Just a small commotion, nothing to be too excited about.


Schlager singer Guildo Horn suggests the secret of Heino’s popularity lay in the relationship between his folk repertoire and postwar German identity:

After the Second World War, everything concerning German culture, German music, and especially folk music was so infested that you better not touch it at all. All the folk songs and stuff like that had been sung by the Nazis. They broke and tainted those songs. But then Heino came and didn’t give a damn about it.

It seems there was a thrill of the forbidden associated with Heino’s return to traditional German culture—that’s why it was banned in East Germany. The documentary includes a clip of East German broadcaster Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler denouncing Heino:

Every young and old reactionary can identify with this right-winger of the West German Schlager business. He is the flaxen-haired past singing the old songs.

The film also includes quite a bit of Heino-head Jello Biafra talking about his fascination with the singer, whose records used to blast through the PA before Dead Kennedys shows to wind up the crowd. Be warned: if you listen to enough of this stuff, you might start to like it.

Thank you Greg Bummer of Azusa, CA!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment