ALF made a German hip-hop single: ‘ALF Will Be Our Chancellor’
05.29.2015
06:50 am

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Music
Television

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I remember ALF’s stateside singing career, which consisted of four flexis released by Burger King during the “Many Faces of ALF” promotional campaign, and it still strikes me as a missed opportunity. Why did ALF condescend to sing in our popular Earth idioms while the field hollers and sea shanties of his native Melmac languished in his memory?

Recently discovered ALF’s recording career auf Deutsch, and it is of another order entirely.
 

 
The sitcom must have been really popular in Germany, since Tommi Piper, the actor who dubbed ALF’s voice in German, recorded two albums and four singles as the cat-eating alien between 1988 and 1991. (Did the German audience somehow tune into the series’ sordid behind-the-scenes milieu, an infamous sewer of total depravity, where the show’s creators wallowed in every abject and wretched vice cataloged in the pages of Hollywood Babylon? No, they could not have, because the previous sentence is in no way a correct or accurate description of Alien Productions, the TV show ALF, or any person or persons ever associated with either of those entities, to the best of my knowledge, at the present time.)

Following the singles “Frohfest,” “Tujujahe (Es Tut So Wohl, Schön Faul Zu Sein)” and “Hallo ALF, Hier Ist Rhonda” (b/w “ALF’s Geburtstag’s Boogie-Woogie”) came the one that strikes me as the most bizarre: a hip-hop number called “ALF Wird Unser Bundeskanzler,” which allegedly means “ALF Will Be Our Chancellor.”
 

 
It’s not just that the idea of a puppet from a sitcom running for chancellor of Germany is eerily reminiscent of that Black Mirror episode, or that the idea of a novelty rap record promoting ALF’s candidacy reminds me favorably of Alice Cooper’s “Elected,” though I like these aspects of “ALF Wird Unser Bundeskanzler” (as I understand it). You must actually listen to this thing. Especially if, like me, you speak no German, something about the massed voices chanting, the minor instrumental passages, and the humorless Schlager bass announcing “Ich bin ALF!” to the roar of cheering multitudes sounds maybe a little, ah, sinister? For a children’s record?

“ALF Wird Unser Bundeskanzler” came out in 1989. Again, I don’t have a clue what Tommi Piper is rhyming about, but if Billy Joel can act as if he helped bring down the Soviet Union, surely ALF can take some credit for tearing down the Berlin Wall?

Too bad they never made a music video, it would have been a fuckin’ classic…
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
So Radiohead named itself after ... Ned Ryerson from ‘Groundhog Day’? The truth revealed!
05.29.2015
06:26 am

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Movies
Music

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It’s common knowledge that Radiohead got its name from a song written by David Byrne called “Radio Head” that appears in the movie True Stories. What’s less well known is that Byrne wrote that song about Stephen Tobolowsky, a familiar character actor and raconteur whose signature role is Ned Ryerson in the classic 1993 movie Groundhog Day.

This remarkable happenstance was revealed on Tobolowsky’s recent appearance on the Nerdist podcast hosted by Chris Hardwick. The story is told around the 40-45 minute stretch of that episode.

So what’s going on? Let’s start with the premise that Stephen Tobolowsky claims to be more than a little bit psychic. Add to it the fact that Tobolowsky is credited as one of the co-writers of True Stories, along with the playwright Beth Henley. So if nothing else, Tobolowsky and Byrne were hanging out a bit during the mid-1980s, while they toiled on this movie. (In the Nerdist interview, by the way, Tobolowsky says that Byrne threw out most of Tobolowsky’s contributions as a writer.)
 

 
In his college years, Tobolowsky more or less stumbled on psychic powers of considerable potency, if the stories he tells are to be believed at all. As he puts it, he developed the ability to “hear” or “read” people’s “tones,” that is, to intuit a whole lot of private and even situational information about a person just by being in the same room with him or her. One story involves blurting out that a quasi-mentor of his was living under an assumed name and that his initials were actually “M.L.” or “M.K.” (they were “M.K.,” in the event). He tells a couple more stories of that level of mind-boggling ability—stories that, if true, would cause quite a few skeptics to give up the argument entirely. Tobolowsky continues:
 

So my girlfriend Beth at the time thought, “We have a real money-making thing here! ... You know, we’ll have people pay a quarter or a dollar and have you read their tones.” She would round up people, bring ‘em in to the green room or whatever, and you would think it would be funny, but I would go, like, “Ah, you just got an inheritance and you want to know how you’re going to spend that money,” and they would get up and cry, and everyone would have these creepy, creepy, creepy feelings.

Beth loved me for it, and she thought, “This is so cool, what are my tones?” and I said, “I gotta quit doing this, because this is way creepy, and I don’t really like it.” So—while that nineteen furious days that we were working on True Stories, Beth says, “Tell David. Because David wants to put all these true stories in his movie, Stephen. Tell him the true story about you hearing tones.” And I said, “No, baby, no, I don’t want—” “No, tell him the story about you hearing tones.”

So I sat and told David the story of me hearing tones. And he looked and says, “You’re kidding!” And I said, “No, David, that’s really the story but I don’t do it anymore, I don’t like to do it anymore, it was too creepy, and I don’t like to do it anymore.”

So anyway—sure enough, a year later, David has written into True Stories a character that hears tones, and he wrote the song, that day he came over and played “Wild Wild Life,” he says, “Here is a song that I wrote for you, Stephen.” And we put it in the thing, and it was “Radio Head.”

[Hardwick gasps.]

“I’m pickin’ up somethin’ good…. Radio Head….”

So Radiohead got their name from the song David Byrne wrote based on my psychic experiences when I was in college!

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
It is what it is: Head-spinning supercut of ‘The Wire’
05.28.2015
12:01 pm

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Television

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In The Wire, you know, the writer is the writer, and the script is the script, and the text on the page is what it is. You say “Action!” whenever you say “Action!” and the actors’ll say whatever they’re going to say.

Look: HBO is HBO, you know? The Wire is The Wire, and you’re going to watch whatever you watch.

This video is the video:
 

 
via Slate

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The wild wild world of Japanese rebel biker culture
05.28.2015
11:50 am

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Fashion
History
Pop Culture

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Former bosozuku leader, Kazuhiro Hazuki
 

“I was interested in them because they were punks and they were against society.”—Kazuhiro Hazuki, Narushino Specter gang

 
Back in the 1970s the term bōsōzoku (or “speed tribes”) was first used to describe Japanese biker gangs that routinely fought in the streets with rival gangs and the police. Often dressed like Kamikaze pilots, the bōsōzoku wreaked havoc speeding through the streets on their illegally modified bikes, blowing through red lights, and smashing the car windows of any motorist that dared defy them with baseball bats. Foreigners were an especially favorite target of the bōsōzoku’s aggression.
 
Bosozuku photo from a Japanese biker magazine with modified bike and helmet
Bōsōzoku biker with illegally modified bike and helmet (taken from a Japanese biker magazine)
 
Bosozuku bikers, 1970's
Bōsōzoku bikers, 1970’s
 
Bosozuku biker with his bike and bat, 1980's
Bōsōzoku biker, 1980’s
 
Bosozuku biker with bike and bat
 
The earliest incarnation of the bōsōzoku, the kaminari zoku, appeared in the 1950’s. Not unlike their idols from the films, The Wild Ones or Rebel Without a Cause, the group was formed by the youthful and disenchanted members of Japan’s proletariat, and the gang provided a place for the emerging delinquents to call their own. A fiercely disciplined and rebellious group, the bōsōzoku once boasted more than 40,000 members. By 2003 the bōsōzoku’s numbers had dwindled to just over 7000. According to first-hand accounts from former senior members, the modern version of the bōsōzoku (known as Kyushakai) no longer embody the rebel spirit of their predecessors. In fact, some have returned to homaging their rockabilly idols by donning elaborate Riizentos, a style of pompadour synonymous with disobedience. These days many ex-bōsōzoku parade around on their bikes in non-disruptive groups and enjoy dancing, performing music and socializing in groups in Harajuku, an area well known for its outrageous fashion.
 
Harajuku Black Shadow dancers (ex-bosozuku), 2008
Harajuku Black Shadow dancers (ex-bōsōzoku), hanging out in Harajuku, 2008
 
Ex-Bosozuku hanging out in Harajuku, 2008
 
Many factors are to blame for the demise of the traditional bosozuku. A former leader of from the Narushino Specter gang in the 90s (and one time Yakuza loan shark), Kazuhiro Hazuki recalls that the police were once content to allow the bōsōzoku to run riot and no matter how many times they were arrested, a gang member never had their license revoked. Over the years, revised traffic laws have led to a rise in the arrest and prosecution of the bōsōzoku. Some also point to the inclusion of women as bōsōzoku riders, now a common sight in Japan, and a less than robust economy (many bōsōzoku bikes can cost as much as ten grand) for the drastic reduction in the gang’s numbers.
 
Modern day Bosozuku
Modern-day bōsōzoku
 
Bosozuku biker girl
 
Modern Kyushakai bikers
Modern Kyushakai bikers
 
If this post has piqued your interest of vintage Japanese biker culture, there are several documentaries and films based on the bōsōzoku and other speed tribes in Japan, such as 1976’s God Speed You! Black Emperor, 2012’s Sayonara Speed Tribes, a short documentary that features historical perspective from the aforementioned Kazuhiro Hazuki, or the series of films from director Teruo Ishii based on the bōsōzoku that began in 1975 with, Detonation! Violent Riders. If you are a fan of Japanese anime, the story told in the cult film Akira deeply parallels the real world of the bōsōzoku in their heyday. Many images of the bōsōzoku of the past and their mind-boggling motorcycles follow.
 
Bosozuku biker, early 1970's
Bōsōzoku biker, early 1970’s
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment