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Mashup fun with Derek Jarman’s 1976 Sex Pistols footage
10.24.2014
04:04 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Derek Jarman
Sex Pistols


 
So I was searching YouTube, like one does, for interesting obscure music stuff to watch (and post to DM, of course), and lo, laid before mine eyes in the related videos column to the right of a Sylvain Sylvain video was “Sex Pistols - 1976 02 14 Butler’s Warph (sic) Earliest Known Footage,” shot by no less a luminary than the legendary underground filmmaker Derek Jarman! Now, for all I know, there may be earlier extant Pistols footage, but one way or the other, I don’t care, as the stuff is captivating. The young band is captured here in its initial burst of brash glory at a time when punk was still too young for its tropes to have become tedious clichés, and a technical happenstance rendered the footage absolutely lovely—as the captions will inform you when you watch it, Jarman shot this on Super-8 film at a nonstandard frame rate, rendering the footage soft, choppy, gauzy, and otherworldly.

When I muted the sound to answer a phone call, I noticed something—absent the Pistols’ music, it kind of reminded me a little of the video for “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by the Sundays. (If you don’t know it, click the link and take a few minutes to check it out, it’s a very pretty pop song that begins to border on shoegaze. It was popular among the 120 Minutes set in 1990, and it holds up quite well.) So suddenly, I was on a mission. I opened some new browser tabs and tried playing a couple dozen shoegaze, indie, dream-pop and post-rock songs along with the silenced Sex Pistols footage.

There are far worse ways to kill an evening.

I found something out rather quickly—there’s such a thing as too slow. Stuff I tried by Slowdive, Mogwai, and Godspeed You Black Emperor just didn’t work well at all. The music that seemed to work most satisfyingly was dense and trippy, but still uptempo. I encourage you to do some searching on your own—and please post your wins in the comments, of course, as I’d love to try them out—but I included some embeds that I liked in the hope that might start things rolling. Oh, and tiresome punk purist fogies getting ready to agonize at me about how HORRIBLY WRONG it is to play a Lush song over this precious heavenly golden dewdrop of rebel history? It’s a bit of fucking fun, lighten the hell up. I MEAN IT, MAAAAAN.

Here’s that Pistols film, to begin with, and a pile of alternate soundtrack options follows. I don’t even have to tell you to try playing them all at once, right?
 

 
It continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Appreciating the peculiar Euro-disco genius of Boney M.
10.24.2014
01:17 pm

Topics:
Dance
Music

Tags:
Boney M.


 
In addition to being a hell of a lot of fun, the 1970s Euro-disco sensations known as Boney M. are an academic paper on gender and ethnicity in popular music—or three—waiting to happen. Boney M.‘s best years were from 1974 to the early 1980s, a pretty healthy run for a genre that often favored one-hit wonders.

Operating out of Germany, Boney M. were an outfit consisting of one man and three women, all four of whom were from the Caribbean and read as “exotic” in the lily-white Vaterland. (Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett were from Jamaica; Maizie Williams was from Montserrat; and Bobby Farrell was from Aruba.) As their producer, Frank Farian, later attested, Farrell made almost no vocal contributions to the group’s studio output, while Farian himself performed the male parts for the recordings. Farrell’s primary functions were to look awesome and (just as with the three women) to dance his ass off, often in that synchronized Spinners sort of way. The vocal hooks were often quite infectious, and the busy beat gave people something to dance to. When Boney M. were good, they were very, very good.
 

 
They never did much damage in the U.S., but Boney M. were a force in Europe. Farian had a sense for how to get the most out of “unlikely” combinations of talents. His most notorious act (by far) was Milli Vanilli, who if you notice, followed a very similar template to Boney M., attractive black people pretending to sing vocal tracks they had not sung in the studio (to be fair, Boney M. generally did sing their own vocals in live settings). We encountered Farian a few months ago when we wrote about “Wow,” the Milli Vanilli opera. As Wikipedia blandly says of Farian, “His tendency to create bands with a visual image distinct from the recorded musical performances led to controversy in the case of Milli Vanilli.”
 
 
In any case, 1975 wasn’t 1990, so the media police were quite willing to let Boney M. persevere with their quasi-lip-synched presentation—of course, Boney M. never won any Grammys. Their first hit, “Baby Do You Wanna Bump?” was inventive disco to be sure (ripping off the horn riff from Prince Buster’s 1964 ska hit “Al Capone”—a song also “homaged” in The Specials’ “Gangsters”) but generic in terms of subject matter. With “Ma Baker” and “Rasputin,” Boney M. cashed in on the exoticism implied in their group’s concept.
 

 
The story of “Ma Baker” is likely the most interesting in Boney M.‘s catalog. The birth name of Ma Barker (not “Baker”) was Arizona Donnie Clark, and in the early 20th century her four sons committed enough violent crimes to be called “the Barker gang”—Ma Barker traveled with them as they terrorized the midwest. She was killed in a shootout with the FBI in 1935, and of all possible people J. Edgar Hoover called her “the most vicious, dangerous, and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.” Now that’s a resume! For whatever reason Farian felt that “Baker” sounded better than “Barker” (not that it matters, but I think he was wrong about this). So this track about a legendary American female crime lord was recorded by four black people from the Caribbean and overseen by a German—calling the music ethnologists, there are monographs to be written here…. (Probably worth pointing out right here that the b-side was a discofied take on the Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad” which was practically a Gregorian chant in the gloomy original!)
 

 
The exotic concept continued with “Rasputin,” which likely has the most hilarious lyrics in the Boney M. catalog—for instance, get this: “Rasputin! Lover of the Russian queen, there was a cat that really was gone. Rasputin! Russia’s greatest love machine, it was a shame how he carried on!” Alas, the Soviet Union banned the song, which probably didn’t bother Boney M. too much.
 
“Rasputin”

 
More delirious Boney M. videos after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Knick-knacks of the damned: Infernal ceramic children that will haunt your dreams
10.24.2014
12:13 pm

Topics:
Art

Tags:
ceramics
porcelain


 
Danish artist Maria Rubinke creates porcelain figurines of children. Terrifying children. Children of netherworldly terror. These hellish Hummels manage to contrast a traditionally refined medium against cutesy schlock and supernatural horror. Rubinke classical skills were honed at the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, specifically the School of Glass and Ceramics on Bornholm—a Danish island popular among tourists for its scenic nature and tradition of craftsmanship. And don’t these pieces just scream “quaint, bucolic holiday?”

It’s the combination of her skilled hand the formality of porcelain that makes these surreal little cherubs so haunting. Behold, Beelzebub’s babies, for theses are surely Satan’s tchotchkes!
 

 

 

 

 
More of Maria Rubinke’s macabre porcelain figurines after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Alfred Hitchcock: On nightmares, suspense and how to scare people
10.24.2014
10:43 am

Topics:
Books
Movies

Tags:
Alfred Hitchcock

alfdbrdhtch.jpg
 
Every second Friday was mobile library day. At ten to four, I would run down the street to the local co-op store where the giant black library truck always parked, next to a small power generator with its electric hum, rushing to be first in line, waiting for the librarian to lower the steps and squeeze open the vehicle’s accordion door. Inside were tightly crammed wooden shelves of dreams and adventures and endless pleasures. I always made straight for the horror and ghost stories, the monsters and creatures from some dark beyond lurking inside their covers. I liked Poe, I liked Blackwood, I liked James, I liked Bradbury, I liked Bloch, I liked Hitchcock. The librarian always scanned the covers with her cool blue eyes, fin-tailed spectacles tied to a chain around her neck. “Isn’t this book a little old for you?” she would ask tapping a finger on the cover of the latest Alfred Hitchcock compendium of tales. I didn’t think so, and protested, saying I’d read all the others she had, so what could possibly be wrong with this one? “But he’s so macabre,” the librarian replied, taking out the stamp, dampening it on the ink pad and punching out a return date. “I hope you don’t get nightmares, now,” the librarian said as I ran down the stairs and back home through swirling autumn leaves.

Of course I wanted nightmares, that was the whole point—why else would I read Alfred Hitchcock’s “tales to make my skin crawl” or “tales to make my heart stop”? That was the whole idea. I knew Hitchcock didn’t write the stories, but knew he had chosen each story because they were supposedly so terrifying, so gob-smackingly horrific, and I always hope that they were. In my innocence, I believed that in facing up to the worst terrors an imagination could conjure up would only make me stronger.

The covers may be different from the books I borrowed from the mobile library, but the titles and the tales were the same. The trick of thrilling suspense, as Hitchcock once said in an interview in 1966, was to make the reader or viewer identify with a central character and bring in the unexpected—like a man who sees a road accident, sees the dead body and moves on, only on a second look does he suddenly recognise the dead man. And then we’re hooked, like I was once hooked on these Alfred Hitchcock books.
 
alfantisocial.jpg
 
alfbreakscreambarr.jpg
 
alfcoffincorner.jpg
 
alfdeathbagcorpse.jpg
 

 
More classic Hitchcock covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Martha Stewart’s idea of a ‘punk rock party’ is the least punk rock thing that ever happened


 
So look: I’m a slacker to the bone, purest Generation X, product release 1970. When I was paying the most attention to pop culture—the early 1990s—Richard Linklater and Douglas Coupland were new figures to the cultural discourse, OK Soda was available in stores, Ethan Hawke was starring in Reality Bites, and Steve Albini was writing about fucked-up record deals in an issue of the Baffler with the words “Alternative to What?” on the cover. The point in me telling you all this is that (a) I’m comfortable with the term “sellout,” and (b) I’ll never not worry, at least a little, about something crossing over too much.

With these thoughts in mind, we turn to Alexandra Churchill’s recent article on Martha Stewart Living about “throwing a punk rock-inspired party,” which, I swear to god, I think may represent a new signpost in the debate about corporate cooptation of rock music, just like, say, Bob Dylan’s Victoria Secret ad. It may be the least punk thing has ever happened, right alongside the 2013 Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which took punk as its theme to honor the Institute’s exhibit “Punk: From Chaos to Couture” (if you haven’t seen the pictures in that link, you really need to click on it).
 

 
The pictures in the Martha Stewart Living article are utterly astonishing in their entitled, privileged cluelessness. Since punks are doomy and scary, they recommend serving “Spinach Ricotta Skulls” on a coffin-shaped platter, which obviously seems a lot more “goth” than “punk.” Their vision of “punk-inspired garlands” involve the use of safety pins—yes, MSL, you got that one right—and “plaid fabric,” which ends up evoking a Burberry’s catalog a lot more than it does the Bromley Contingent.
 

 
To be fair—which I’m doing despite myself—the text isn’t quite as bad as the imagery. Churchill at least has the wit to name-check “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “London Calling.” Honestly, if the phrase “ransom note” had even been mentioned as a possible design motif, I’d've let them off the hook completely. Apparently that did not occur to anyone. Instead they went with coffins and fondant with sheet music on it (?).
 

 
Even the one picture on the page that is within shouting distance of punk rock—the cover of the Police’s second album, Reggatta de Blanc—has this as its photo credit: “PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART.” Fuck the man!
 

 
I draw two lessons from all of this. The first is that the appeal of punk rock may be far stronger than anyone imagined. Punk rock—even the words “punk rock”—might be a toothless gesture in the direction of something angry and oppositional, but the root idea of it still has impressive staying power, to the point that someone at Martha Stewart Living wants to take some of it over and make it theirs, make it represent them. The second lesson is that there is still something profoundly scary about the anger and nihilism inherent in punk, to the point that Martha Stewart Living has to repress all traces of it and pretend that it’s a neutral style choice like the Pre-Raphaelites or Art Deco. Of course, it isn’t, and that very un-neutrality may mean that we’re heading for another 1977 moment in our culture sometime soon.

Here, MSL’s Erin Furey—almost an apt name, there—teaches you how to make Punk-Rock Inspired Pumpkins, or, er, “Studly Punk-ins,” at the end of which she hilariously throws down a “sign of the horns” hand gesture because it’s so punk rock!
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
JJ Burnel: Stranglers bassist, karate master
10.24.2014
07:41 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Sports

Tags:
The Stranglers
karate


If you find yourself in this situation, RUN.

Add this to the list of reasons to be very, very nice to Stranglers bassist and singer Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel, if you should ever meet him: he can kill you with his bare hands.

Burnel has, let’s say, a heavy reputation. According to the Guardian, the Stranglers’ authorized biography devotes no fewer than 20 pages to the subject “Burnel, violence.” The Stranglers’ former singer and guitarist, Hugh Cornwell, writes that he and Burnel fell out when the bassist attacked him backstage after a show in Italy, and that the incident was a factor in Cornwell’s decision to quit the band in 1990. Burnel had famously beaten up punk journalist Jon Savage in 1977 for giving No More Heroes a bad review in Sounds, and decades later, in an interview with Strangled, he was unrepentant about that encounter:

“I tracked him down one night to the Red Cow,” JJ explained. “And I punched his lights out right there in front of Jake Riviera, Andrew Lauder – our A&R guy, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe – all these people saw what I did. So yeah, we made a lot of enemies, bless ‘em, and these people got in a lot of influential positions within the music industry and literature… Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill… But we weren’t gonna suck up to these c*nts.”

 

Has anyone heard from the magazine editor who misspelled JJ’s last name recently?
 
Burnel, now 62, started training in martial arts at the age of 19. Since 1991, he has been the branch chief and chief instructor of the Shidokan GB organization. He is a sixth dan black belt, and as a teacher he has attained the formal title of Renshi. (I am just a flabby nerd from the suburbs and I do not pretend to know what these ranks and titles mean, but they scare the shit out of me.) According to the Shidokan GB website, London residents can train with Burnel at Slim Jims in Broadgate on Tuesday evenings. There are a few clips of Burnel in competition at the 1:40 mark in the segment below, from the ITV series After They Were Famous.

When most musicians say they have “chops”... oh, never mind.
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Never look bored—or unconscious—even if you are: Tips for the single woman, 1938
10.24.2014
07:16 am

Topics:
Amusing
Feminism
History

Tags:
dating tips


 
And… THIS is how you land a man 1938-style. Now put a ring on it, dammit!

It was 1938 and times were oh-so-much different then. I always find these vintage “dating tips” for single women hilarious. I mean, “Don’t drink too much, as a man expects you to keep your dignity all evening. Drinking may make some girls seem clever, but most get silly” and “Careless women never appeal to gentlemen, Don’t talk while dancing, for when a man dances he wants to dance.” 

The last image in this series is the true winner though…
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Ernest & Bertram’: Banned short on the Sesame Street love that dare not speak its name
10.23.2014
03:18 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Queer

Tags:
Sesame Street


 
Look, we’ve all had our suspicions about Bert and Ernie. It’s hardly nosey to question the nature of their relationship—right? They live together, take baths together and they bicker like an old married couple. We’re all adults here!

The 2002 short, Ernest and Bertram does a little bit of speculative fiction on their very special relationship—lifting dialogue from Lillian Hellman’s 1934 play The Children’s Hour, in which two two boarding school headmistresses are accused of having a lesbian affair. Bert has been outed by the tabloids—who are guessing, but it’s enough to put him in a terror, and motivate his girlfriend (Miss Piggy), to pack her bags. What follows is a confrontation and confession by Ernie, who questions the truth in the rumors—it ends in a (strangely moving) tragedy!

Sadly, the (surprisingly litigious) folks at Sesame Street served filmmaker Peter Spears with a cease and desist order for copyright violation. It’s a real bummer, because the film is funny (the Spartacus poster in Bert’s home is a nice touch), and Sesame Street is such a gay-friendly institution at this point it’s silly not to acknowledge this parody as a valid cultural contribution—the film was a hit at Sundance! You can compare it with the scene from The Children’s Hour here.

Don’t worry, this homoerotic Muppet contraband is all psychological and safe for work—we’re not that sick!
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The amazing old Paramount Records ads that inspired R. Crumb


 
The story of Paramount Records is a fascinating one—the beginning is set about 100 years ago, in a Wisconsin furniture company that began pressing records in hopes that’d help them sell record players, which in their early years were indeed whoppin’ big ol’ pieces of furniture. The middle sees that furniture company curating and releasing a jaw-dropping and still legendary catalogue of classic early jazz and Delta blues 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The end of the story sees the closing of the company and disgruntled employees flinging those now priceless shellac records into the Milwaukee River and melting down the metal masters for scrap. The whole story can be found in greater detail online, or in the books Paramount’s Rise and Fall and Do Not Sell At Any Price.

What concerns us here are the label’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency. The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb. Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.

Here are a few of those ads. Where the ad copy is adequately readable, I encourage you to give it a look, because some of this stuff is priceless—I’m wondering how many old blues songs weren’t about wangs and adultery. Bear in mind, please, that the ads I chose to post here weren’t necessarily selected for resemblance to Crumb’s work. Some I simply felt like sharing because they were just too much!
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Horrifying masks give you EXTREME plastic surgery look
10.23.2014
11:06 am

Topics:
Art
Pop Culture

Tags:
plastic surgery


 
From a wild art installation titled “Too Good to be True” by German artist Meike Harde. Meike designed these masks in order to raise questions about contemporary beauty standards. The work asks: How much is too much plastic surgery?

The installation Too Beautiful To Be True was developed on the occasion of the exhibition Fine Arts in Saarbrücken, Germany. Masks which picture the eye and mouth area correspond to the current ideal of beauty. When put on, however, they cause a contortion of the face. This is meant to show that artificially produced beauty is not always beautiful; instead it can evoke the very opposite. The pictures with the masks should be allegorical for effect of artificially produced beauty.

I noticed there were no plastic surgery-style masks for men. Apparently, Meike has never seen Bruce Jenner’s or Kenny Roger’s mugs. Men can take it too far too, ya know!
 

 

 

 

Below, the video for “Madame Hollywood” by Miss Kittin and Felix Da Housecat.

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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