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Frank Zappa & the Monkees: ‘No, YOU’RE the popular musician, I’M dirty gross and ugly’


 
The Monkees are often referred to as the “Pre-Fab Four” in reference to the fact that they were a TV knock-off of the Beatles, recruited from a help wanted ad in Variety. Still, no matter how “uncool” they were supposed to be, the Monkees casting was a rare example of stroke of genius by committee. It’s difficult to imagine anyone but the four of them having the same chemistry, both comedically and (eventually) musically. And to further refute their “uncool” rep, John Lennon called them “the Marx Brothers of Rock” (he was right about that) and the Beatles even hosted a party for the Monkees in London when they toured England. (Furthermore, Mike Nesmith was present at the Abbey Road recording sessions for “A Day in the Life” and Peter Tork played banjo on George Harrison’s eclectic Wonderwall soundtrack).

Even that most far-out of the really far-out musicians of the day, Frank Zappa himself, made not just one, but two onscreen appearances with the Monkees: First in a TV segment where Mike pretended to be Frank and vice versa (which certainly foreshadowed Ringo Starr’s portrayal of Zappa in 200 Motels) before they destroyed a car with a sledgehammer to the tune of “Mother People,” and again in a brief cameo in Head.
 

 
Zappa’s Head cameo, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa’s cover of ‘Stairway to Heaven’
03.12.2015
06:53 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Stairway to Heaven


 
Frank Zappa put together a formidable band in 1988, for what became his last tour; he later called it the best band he’d ever taken on the road. Zappa told an interviewer from Guitarist Magazine:

[The band] was unique because it combined a very strong five-piece horn section with all kinds of electronic stuff, with effects on the percussion section, on the drums, multiple keyboards—a very interesting blend of this horn harmony and very strange sound effects. [...] All those little effects and things coming in, that’s just the way it was on the live show. We had three stations generating samples; there was Ed Mann, who had this whole vocabulary of dog barks and bubbles and weird shit, then there was Chad Wackerman who had all these strange percussion things hooked up to a big rig, and then there was the synclavier, which I could play when I wasn’t playing the guitar.

Before the band dissolved in mutiny, it performed enough to generate material for three albums (two of them doubles): The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life, Make a Jazz Noise Here, and Broadway the Hard Way.

The sets included, in Zappa’s words, “deranged versions of cover tunes”: the band played “I Am The Walrus,” the theme from The Godfather Part II, “Purple Haze,” Boléro, “Sunshine of Your Love,” and “Ring of Fire.” My favorite of these is Zappa’s take on “Stairway to Heaven,” sung by the peerless Ike Willis. It’s like listening to Spike Jones—the band performs a meticulous arrangement of the song, down to the horn section reproducing Jimmy Page’s solo at the end, but comments on the lyrics at the end of every line with a gag sample. If you share my appetite for this flavor of broad shtick, listen for the “songbird who sings” and the forests echoing with laughter. You’ll never hear the original the same way again.
 

Zappa: “Yes, once upon a time, live musicians actually sang and played this.”

The 1988 band’s full concert in Barcelona is up at YouTube.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Opus 5’: Young Frank Zappa’s early avant-garde orchestral music, 1963
02.10.2015
09:23 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa


 

“The next piece that we’re going to play . . . Maybe I should tell you what we were doing . . . The, the signals that we were giving, I’ll explain to you very simply: This means ‘free improvisation’ and the finger signals told the performers which of the fragments they were to uh, play at any given moment. Anyway, the next piece that we’re going to play is in standard notation, and it’s actually pretty tame compared to the “Opus 5.” It’s called “The Collage Two,” and it was written last Thursday.”—Frank Zappa

Something truly amazing for Frank Zappa fans, a 1963—yes, 1963, you read that right— concert that was taped for KPFK radio on May 19th of that year at Mount St. Mary’s College. A young Frank Zappa put up $300 of his own money in order to hear his compositions played by The Pomona Valley Symphony Orchestra (who do a surprisingly great job considering the intensely difficult music they were asked to play.) There was an intriguing excerpt from this concert on The Lost Episodes rarities compilation, and where there’s an excerpt, usually there is a full recording…

The concert was taped by Chilean recording engineer, geographer, anthropologist and documentarian, Carlos Hagen, who had moved to Los Angeles the year before and was doing radio production for free-form underground FM station KPFK. Hagen provided many of the “Dear Friends” radio show tapes used by Firesign Theatre archivist Taylor Jessen in his essential Duke of Madness Motors book/DVD rom publication. I believe the story goes that Taylor found a copy of Hagen’s 1963 Zappa tape in the KPFK vaults in 1999 when he was researching Firesign tapes and sent it to the “Vaultmeister” of the Zappa Family Trust.

In a 1992 interview Frank Zappa talked about the recital:

Actually, the first time I had any of it [“serious” music] performed was at Mount St. Mary’s College in 1962. I spent $300 and got together a college orchestra, and I put on this little concert. Maybe less than a hundred people showed up for it, but the thing was actually taped and broadcast by KPFK. (...) By the time I graduated from high school in ‘58, I still hadn’t written any rock and roll songs, although I had a little rock and roll band in my senior year. I didn’t write any rock and roll stuff until I was in my 20s. All the music writing that I was doing was either chamber music or orchestral, and none of it ever got played until this concert at Mount St. Mary’s.

In the liner notes of The Lost Episodes,  Zappa pal, Rip Rense describes the event:

It took place in 1963 at, of all pastoral places, lovely Mount St. Mary’s College, a private Catholic institution perched in the lush Santa Monica Mountains above West Los Angeles. (...) The program included a piece called “Opus 5,” aleatoric works that required some improvisation, a piece for orchestra and taped electronic music, with accompanying visuals in the form of FZ’s own experimental 8mm films (Motorhead Sherwood described one such film depicting the Los Angeles County Fair carnival, double exposed with passing telephone poles).

The concert consisted of:

* Variables II for Orchestra
* Variables I for Any Five Instruments
* Opus 5, for Four Orchestras
* Rehearsalism
* Three Pieces of Visual Music with Jazz Group

Zappa conducted, played the zither and introduced the pieces. The was an intermission and a “Question and Answer Period"afterwards.

Carlos Hagen discusses the concert before it begins. The music starts at approx 14:30.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Watch ‘The Brainiac,’ the awful Mexican horror movie that inspired Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart
01.14.2015
07:48 am

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Captain Beefheart
The Brainiac


 
One of the strangest movies ever made, The Brainiac (a/k/a El baron del terror) is also the subject of “Debra Kadabra,” the first song on Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart’s Bongo Fury.

The song’s lyrics conflate a late-night broadcast of the 1962 movie on KCOP with an event from Beefheart and Zappa’s teenage years in 1950s Lancaster, when a cosmetics accident temporarily transformed Beefheart into something like a B-movie monster. One night, while the pair were in high school, Don Van Vliet (Beefheart) doused himself in some of the Avon prodcuts his mother sold; perhaps unsurprisingly, he suffered a severe allergic reaction (“His face looked like an alligator,” Zappa recalled). To convalesce, he went to a family member’s house in East L.A., where no one from high school could mock his disfigurement.

Cover my entire body with Avon co-log-nuh
And drive me to some relative’s house in East L.A.
Turn it to Channel 13
And make me watch the rubber tongue
When it comes out
From the puffed and flabulent Mexican rubber-goods mask

[...]

Make me grow Brainiac fingers
But with more hair

 

 
At the appropriate moments in the song, a trumpet quotes the score from The Brainiac. Barry Miles’ Zappa biography has a bit of the maestro discussing the movie’s relationship to “Debra Kadabra”:

Oh God, it’s one of the worst movies ever made; not only is the monster cheap, he’s got a rubber mask that you can see over the collar of the guy’s jacket and rubber gloves that don’t quite match up with the sleeves of his sport coat. When the monster appears there’s this trumpet lick that isn’t scary. It’s not even out of tune, it’s just exactly the wrong thing to put there, it doesn’t scare you… That’s what the song is about and when you hear in the background DA-DA-DA-DA-DAHH, that’s making fun of that stupid trumpet line that’s in that movie… When he’s saying “Make me grow Brainiac fingers”, that’s what he’s referring to, because Vliet and I have both seen that movie and it’s so fucking stupid.

You’ll love it! It’s a way of life…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa, John Cage, Patti Smith & others celebrate William S. Burroughs at the Nova Convention

Nova Convention
 
In 1978, after many years of living in London and Tangiers, William S. Burroughs decided to return to his home country. For a small group of artistic weirdos, this was a significant event, and a convention was held in his honor at the Entermedia Theater from November 30 through December 2, 1978, on Second Avenue and 12th Street in New York City (it’s no longer there). Much earlier, it had been announced that Keith Richards would be on hand, but after his heroin arrest in Toronto, his management calculated that it would not be wise to appear at a festival honoring the legendary deviant drug addict William S. Burroughs. Frank Zappa was enlisted to read the “Talking Asshole” section from Naked Lunch. Patti Smith, who wore “a glamorous black fur trench” in the words of Thurston Moore, objected mightily to having to follow Zappa and had to be placated by Burroughs confidant and organizer of the convention James Grauerholz, who explained to Smith that Zappa’s appearance was a last-minute necessity and not intended to show Smith up. You can listen to Smith’s contribution, in which she addresses Richards’ absence, here. At the “event party” for the convention, the musical performances included Suicide, The B-52s, and Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from Blondie. The inclusion of The B-52s is most fascinating, as they hadn’t even released their first album yet.
 
William S. Burroughs
 
Other participants included Terry Southern, Philip Glass, John Cage, Laurie Anderson and Allen Ginsburg. You can read a writeup of the event from the December 4, 1978, edition of the New York Times: “Of the other performers, Mr. Burroughs himself was the most appealing, and this had less to do with what he was reading than with how he read it. Although he has created some enduring characters, he is his own most interesting character, and he was in rare form, sitting at a desk in a business suit and bright green hat, shuffling papers and reading in his dry Midwestern accent.” An LP and cassette documenting the event were released in 1979 and they fetch top prices today at Discogs.

According to Ted Morgan in Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs,
 

The Nova Convention took place on November 30, December 1, and December 2, 1978, with the principal performances being held on the last two days at the Entermedia Theater, on Second Avenue and Twelfth Street, which had in the fifties been the fabled Phoenix Theater. Attending were an odd mixture of academics, publishers, writers, artists, punk rockers, counterculture groupies, and an influx of bridge-and-tunnel kids drawn by Keith Richards, who made the event a sellout.

-snip-

Saturday night the Entermedia was packed, largely with young people waiting to see Keith Richards. There was a small hitch, however, which was that Keith Richards had cancelled. He was having problems as the result of a heroin bust in Toronto, and his office convinced him that appearing on the same program with Burroughs was bad publicity.

But the show had to go on, and the composer Philip Glass, playing one of his repetitive pieces on the synthesizer, was thrown to the wolves. The disappointed kids who wanted Keith Richards shouted and booed. Then Brion Gysin went on amid cries of “Where’s Keith?” and found himself hoping that the riot would not start until he had done his brief turn.

In a last-minute effort, James Grauerholz had recruited Frank Zappa to pinch-hit for Keith. He volunteered to read the “Talking Asshole” routine from Naked Lunch. But as Zappa was preparing to go on, Patti Smith had a fit of pique about following him. James did his best to make peace, saying “Frank has come in at the last minute, and he’s got to go on, and he’s doing it for William, not to show you up.” Patti Smith retreated to the privacy of her dressing room, and Zappa got a big hand, because that’s what they wanted, a rock star.

 
From July 1 through July 13, the Red Gallery in London is putting on an exhibition dedicated to the Nova Convention. The exhibition is curated by Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz; Moore, who was present at the event in 1978, supplies a short piece called “Nova Reflections” to the exhibition catalogue; here are some snippets of that:
 

What I remember of the Nova Convention, in my teenage potted reverie, was a palpable excitement of the importance of Burroughs’ return to NYC. He had been living and working in London for some time, and before that, was residing in Tangiers. My awareness of the poets and performers on the Nova Convention bill was obscure, but I did realise everyone there had experienced a history in connection to the man. The poet Eileen Myles performed, and I have a hazy memory of what she has since reminded me was a polarising moment that night: She and a femme cohort came out on stage and performed the so-called William Tell act where in 1951 Burroughs tragically sent a bullet through his wife Joan Vollmer’s skull, killing her instantly. According to Eileen she was hence persona non grata backstage, and frozen out from the coterie of avant lit celebrities shocked at her “reminder” performance.

-snip-

Glass’s idiosyncratic high-speed minimalist pianistics was natural, gorgeous and sublime. Zappa came out and read a Burroughs excerpt “The Talking Asshole” which seemed appropriate and was mildly entertaining. Patti hit the stage in a glamorous black fur trench, purportedly on loan from some high-end clothier. She rambled on a bit, brazenly unscripted, testing the patience of the long night when out of the audience some fan-boy freako leapt on stage and bequeathed her with a Fender Duo-Sonic guitar. She accepted it cooly and before long was gone. And we stumbled into the 2nd Avenue night.

 
In his catalogue piece, Moore leads with an anecdote about photographer James Hamilton, whose astonishing pictures of rock icons are collected in the book (Moore was intergral in putting that book together as well) You Should Have Heard Just What I Seen. Hamilton was covering the event for the Village Voice, and while it’s not stated as such, presumably many of Hamilton’s photographs, are featured in the exhibition.
 
Here’s Timothy Leary, Les Levine, Robert Anton Wilson and Brion Gysin engaging in “conversations” about Burroughs’ work:

 
And here’s Frank Zappa reading “The Talking Asshole” from Naked Lunch:

 
Preview video of the “Nova Convention” exhibition at the Red Gallery:

 
via {feuilleton}

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa & The Mothers live in London, 1968: The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves the Stage


Painting of The Mothers of Invention by the great Cal Schenkel
 
This is the footage that matches much of the Ahead of Their Time live album that came out in 1993. It’s essentially a comedy “play” featuring Zappa as “The Imaginary Director” with Mothers Don Preston, Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner, Roy Estrada, Ian Underwood, Euclid James “Motorhead” Sherwood, Arthur Dyer Tripp III and various members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Filmed on October 25th, 1968. Part of the long out-of-print Uncle Meat VHS release from 1987.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa solos furiously as Kenny Rogers, Jimmie “J.J.” Walker and Mike Douglas look on


 
Longtime afternoon TV talkshow host Mike Douglas was so square—and seemingly so self-aware of his basic squareness—that he ended up being one of the most unlikely “hip” people on American television in the 60s and 70s. Mike Douglas didn’t try to be “down” with John and Yoko, Malcolm X, The Rolling Stones, Sly Stone, The Vanilla Fudge, Angela Davis, Moby Grape or any of the other counterculture types who occasionally came on his normally staid Philadelphia talk show, but he was unfailingly friendly and cordial to them all and genuinely interested in what they had to say. That Patti Smith made a couple of early appearances on his show (she brought her mother, a huge fan of his, to one of the tapings) says much about how agreeable and open to new things the guy was, but he never pretended to be anything that he wasn’t. (Fun fact: Mike Douglas provided the singing voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney’s Cinderella.)

A great example of the often incongruous people a viewer could tune in and see randomly assembled on a given day on The Mike Douglas Show occurred when Frank Zappa appeared to promote his Zoot Allures album on November 9th, 1976. The “Dy-no-mite!” co-host that week was Jimmie “J.J.” Walker star of Good Times and the other guest that day was Kenny Rogers. There’s a brief interview before Zappa, performing with the unseen house band, does a scorching “Black Napkins” one of his signature mid-period compositions. Then there’s more conversation before Frank shows an excerpt from A Token of His Extreme featuring Bruce Bickford’s freaky claymation.

Imagine how strange seeing this on TV after school was. But it wasn’t so much that it was strange as that it was the Seventies…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World’


 
The wah-wah guitar effect pedal makes a “cry baby” sound by filtering the electronic frequencies up and down controlled by the players foot. The first one was put on the market in 1967 by Warwick Electronics Inc./Thomas Organ Company, the somewhat accidental creation of Brad Plunkett, a junior electronics engineer at the company. Plunkett’s prototype used a volume pedal from a Vox Continental Organ and a transistorized mid-range booster, but his original goal had only been to switch from a finicky tube to a much cheaper, easier to use piece of solid state circuitry. (Chet Atkins had designed a somewhat similar device in the late 1950s, which you can hear on his “Hot Toddy” and “Slinkey” singles)

Almost immediately the Cry Baby wah-wah pedal was adopted by the most famous guitar slingers in rock. One of the first was Eric Clapton, who used the effect to great effect in “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” Frank Zappa was a huge fan of the effect and is said to have introduced Jimi Hendrix to the Cry Baby who used it on “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and quite a bit after that. One of the most famous uses of the wah-wah pedal’s “wacka-wacka” effect is heard on Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft.”

In Joey Tosi and Max Baloian’s documentary Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World, the filmmakers explore the influence of the wah-wah pedal on popular music, talking to inventor Brad Plunkett, longtime Rolling Stone contributor Ben Fong-Torres, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Buddy Guy, Art Thompson, Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Dweezil Zappa and Jim Dunlop, a man whose name is synonymous with the production of musical effects devices.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa as record label honcho in ‘From Straight to Bizarre’


 
By far the majority of artist-run record labels exist as mere vanity imprints, releasing an album or two by the musician/would-be entrepreneur him/herself, and that’s that. Noteworthy exceptions are certainly around—Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records and Null Corporation, Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe, and Jack White’s Third Man are a few artist-run labels that have achieved significant successes.

An early example of such an artist using his own label to bypass the strictures of major label deals is, unsurprisingly, the iconoclastically independent-minded Frank Zappa. In the late ‘60s, when Verve Records inexplicably missed their deadline to re-up Zappa’s contract, he and his manager Herb Cohen used that leverage to establish their own production company and label, to retain creative control, and to release artists they favored. The labels they established were Straight Records and Bizarre Records. Between them, in a mere five years of existence, the labels released albums by Lenny Bruce and Wild Man Fischer, and now-immortal recordings like Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death, Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, and Captain Beefheart essentials like Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby.
 

 
Tom O’Dell’s 2011 documentary From Straight to Bizarre tells the labels’ story in detail, through interviews with Pamela Des Barres, John “Drumbo” French, Sandy “Essra Mohawk” Hurvitz, Kim Fowley, Alice Cooper’s Dennis Dunaway and the Mothers of Invention’s Jeff Simmons, among many others. YouTube user Treble Clef has broken the feature-length doc into short chunks for your piecemeal viewing convenience. There’s a lot of illuminating stuff herein, so please, enjoy.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Classic rock conspiracy theory: ‘Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon,’ the dark heart of the hippie dream


 
The standard modus operandi of a work of “conspiracy theory” is fairly straightforward. The author/researcher takes some commonly accepted historical narrative, and lavishes scepticism upon it, while simultaneously maintaining an alternative understanding of what “really” happened, one that ostensibly better fits the considered facts.

While Dave McGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon : Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & The Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream, indubitably follows this approach, its focus is utterly unique. Not to put too fine a point on it, the book is no less than the Official Classic Rock Conspiracy Theory, with individual chapters tackling the unlikely subjects of Frank Zappa, the Doors, Love, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Gram Parsons and more, the careers of which are scrutinized for the fingerprints of the secret state.

What you make of McGowan’s criteria in and of itself (which ranges fairly widely, and at times wildly, from a “tell-tale” preoccupation with the occult to heavy military-industrial family ties), to my mind the virtue of Weird Scenes dwells in the ensuing atmosphere of incredible fairy-tale strangeness—not unlike Joan Didion’s own famous look at California in the late sixties, The White Album. On almost every page, movie-star mansions, knitted with secret passages, spontaneously combust; murders, suicides and overdoses spread through the celebrity populace; cults spring up peopled with mobsters and spies… and all the while, this timeless, intriguing music keeps on geysering away. I contacted McGowan about his bizarre book earlier this week…

Thomas McGrath: Hi Dave. Could you begin please by telling us something about your previous work?

David McGowan: My work as a political/social critic began around 1997, when I began to see signs that the political landscape in this country was about to change in rather profound ways. That was also the time that I first ventured onto the internet, which opened up a wealth of new research possibilities. I put up my first website circa 1998, and an adaptation of that became my first book, Derailing Democracy, in 2000. That first book, now out of print, was a warning to the American people that all the changes we have seen since the events of September 11, 2001 – the attacks on civil rights, privacy rights, and due process rights; the militarization of the nation’s police forces; the waging of multiple wars; the rise of surveillance technology and data mining, etc. – were already in the works and just waiting for a provocation to justify their implementation. My second book, Understanding the F-Word, was a review of twentieth-century US history that attempted to answer the question: “if this is in fact where we’re headed, then how did we get here?” Since 9-11, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching the events of that day and looked into a wide range of other topics. My third book, Programmed to Kill, was a look at the reality and mythology of what exactly a serial killer is. For the past six years, I have spent most of my time digging into the 1960s and 1970s Laurel Canyon counterculture scene, which has now become my fourth book, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon.

Thomas McGrath:  Am I right in presuming that you take it as a given fact that power networks are essentially infected by occultism? Are these cults essentially Satanic, or what?

David McGowan: Yes, I do believe that what you refer to as power networks, otherwise known as secret societies, are occult in nature. The symbolism can be seen everywhere, if you choose not to maneuver your way through the world deaf, dumb and blind. And I believe that it has been that way for a very long time. As for them being Satanic, I suppose it depends upon how you define Satanic. I personally don’t believe the teachings of either Satanism or Christianity, which are really just opposite sides of the same coin. I don’t believe that there is a God or a devil, and I don’t believe that those on the upper rungs of the ladder on either side believe so either. These are belief systems that are used to manipulate the minds of impressionable followers. In the case of Satanism, it is, to me, a way to covertly sell a fascist mindset, which is the direction the country, and the rest of the world, is moving. Those embracing the teachings think they are rebelling against the system, but they are in reality reinforcing it. Just as the hippies did. And just as so-called Patriots and Anarchists are. I don’t believe there has been a legitimate resistance movement in this country for a very long time.

Thomas McGrath: Tell us about Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon. What is this new book’s central thesis?

David McGowan: To the extent that it has a central thesis, I would say that it is that the music and counterculture scene that sprung to life in the 1960s was not the organic, grassroots resistance movement that it is generally perceived to be, but rather a movement that was essentially manufactured and steered. And a corollary to that would be that for a scene that was supposed to be all about peace, love and understanding, there was a very dark, violent underbelly that this book attempts to expose.

Thomas McGrath: How convinced are you by it and why?

David McGowan: Very convinced. It’s been a long journey and virtually everything I have discovered – including the military/intelligence family backgrounds of so many of those on the scene, both among the musicians and among their actor counterparts; the existence of a covert military facility right in the heart of the canyon; the prior connections among many of the most prominent stars; the fact that some of the guiding lights behind both the Rand Corporation and the Project for a New American Century were hanging out there at the time, as were the future governor and lieutenant governor of California, and, by some reports, J. Edgar Hoover and various other unnamed politicos and law enforcement personnel; and the uncanny number of violent deaths connected to the scene – all tend to indicate that the 1960s counterculture was an intelligence operation.

Thomas McGrath: You propose that hippie culture was established to neutralise the anti-war movement. But I also interpreted your book as suggesting that, as far as you’re concerned, there’s also some resonance between what you term “psychedelic occultism” (the hippie counterculture) and the “elite” philosophy/theology? You think this was a second reason for its dissemination?

David McGowan: Yes, I do. Hippie culture is now viewed as synonymous with the anti-war movement, but as the book points out, that wasn’t always the case. A thriving anti-war movement existed before the first hippie emerged on the scene, along with a women’s rights movement, a black empowerment/Black Panther movement, and various other movements aimed at bringing about major changes in society. All of that was eclipsed by and subsumed by the hippies and flower children, who put a face on those movements that was offensive to mainstream America and easy to demonize. And as you mentioned, a second purpose was served as well – indoctrinating the young and impressionable into a belief system that serves the agenda of the powers that be.

Thomas McGrath: One thing your book does very convincingly, I think, is argue that many if not most of the main movers in the sixties counterculture were, not to put too fine a point on it, horrendous, cynical degenerates. However, one might argue that a predilection for drugs, alcohol, and even things like violence and child abuse, does not make you a member of a government cult. You disagree?

David McGowan:  No. I’ve known a lot of people throughout my life with a predilection for drugs and alcohol, none of whom were involved in any cults, government or otherwise. And I don’t believe that a predilection for drugs makes one a degenerate. The focus on drug use in the book is to illustrate the point that none of the scene’s movers and shakers ever suffered any legal consequences for their rampant and very open use of, and sometimes trafficking of, illicit drugs. The question posed is why, if these people were really challenging the status quo, did the state not use its law enforcement powers to silence troublemakers? I do have zero tolerance for violence towards and abuse of children, which some people in this story were guilty of. But that again doesn’t make someone a member of a cult – though it does make them seriously morally challenged.

Thomas McGrath: You say in the book that you were always a fan of sixties music and culture. Weirdly, I found that, even while reading Weird Scenes, I was almost constantly listening to the artists you were denouncing. I mean, I found albums like Pet Sounds, Forever Changes, Return of the Grievous Angel,et al sounded especially weird in the context, but I still couldn’t resist sticking them on. I was wondering if you still listen to these records yourself?

David McGowan: Yes, I do. The very first rock concert I ever attended was Three Dog Night circa 1973 – a Laurel Canyon band, though I did not know that until about five years ago. To my mind, the greatest guitarist who ever lived was Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin was arguably the finest female vocalist – in terms of raw power and emotion – to ever take the stage. I don’t know that it is accurate to describe my book as “denouncing” various artists. Brian Wilson, who composed Pet Sounds, is described as the finest and most admired composer of his generation. The guys from Love, architects of Forever Changes, are presented as among the most talented musicians of the era. Frank Zappa is acknowledged as an immensely talented musician, composer and arranger. And so on. It is true that I believe that some of the most famed artists to emerge from Laurel Canyon are vastly overrated, with Jim Morrison and David Crosby quickly coming to mind. And it’s true that on some of the most loved albums that came out of the canyon, the musicians who interpreted the songs weren’t the ones on the album covers. And it’s also true that, unlike other books that have covered the Laurel Canyon scene, Weird Scenes doesn’t sugarcoat things. But the undeniable talent and artistry of many of the canyon’s luminaries is acknowledged. And the book also shines a little bit of light on some of the tragically forgotten figures from that era, like Judee Sill and David Blue, which could lead to readers rediscovering some of those artists and the talents that they had to offer.
 
Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & The Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream is available now in special pre-release hardback only from Headpress. The paperback is out next month, and should be available from all strange bookshops.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Beyond the Doors: Conspiracy theories about the deaths of Jimi, Janis and Jim

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Rock stars with their cats and dogs

555keefdo.jpg
 
Cool pictures of musicians with their pet dogs and cats, which show how even the most self-obsessed, narcissistic Rock god has a smidgen of humanity to care about someone other than themselves. Though admittedly, Iggy Pop looks like he’s about to eat his pet dog.
 
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Patti Smith and stylist.
 
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This is not a doggy bag, Iggy.
 
1818ramca.jpg
There’s a cat in there somewhere with Joey Ramone.
 
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Tupac Shakur and a future internet meme.
 
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Bjork and a kissing cousin.
 
111laudo.jpg
O Superdog: Laurie Anderson and friend.
 
More cats and dogs and musicians, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Starring Frank Zappa as The Pope’ in Ren & Stimpy’s ‘Powdered Toast Man,’ 1992

Powdered Toast Man!
 
Early in the second season of Ren & Stimpy, there appeared a rollicking and utterly disrespectful segment called “Powdered Toast Man.” 1992. The character of Powdered Toast Man unified the clueless and self-important silliness of The Tick with the tendency to wreak havoc of, say, Inspector Clouseau or Maxwell Smart. Voiced by the incomparable Gary Owens—and you might not know the name, but if you’ve ever seen Laugh-In or Space Ghost, you sure as hell know his voice—Powdered Toast Man was the spokesman for, obviously, a product called Powdered Toast, which was billed as tasting “just like sawdust!” According to Wikipedia, he was based on the character of Studebacher Hoch, from the epic song “Billy The Mountain” of off the Mothers of Invention’s 1972 album Just Another Band from L.A. I frankly don’t quite see the connection, but anything’s possible.
 
Powdered Toast Man!
 
It’s kind of amazing just how dark and subversive the Powdered Toast bit is. The anti-advertising message is just the start of it. Tasked with saving a kitten from being run over by a truck, Powdered Toast Man causes a passing jetliner to crash into the truck, thus saving the kitten at the expense of who knows how many lives (the injured survivors cheer him on anyway). A few moments later, Powdered Toast Man thoughtlessly tosses the kitten out of frame, where he is apparently run over by a truck, to judge from the sound effects. Later on, he uses the Bill of Rights for kindling. He induces projectiles to emerge from his armpits by doing that “fart noise” maneuver, he uses his own tongue as a telephone…....... actually, you really need to see the video to believe it. The satire of the prevailing superhero ethos really couldn’t be more savage—or more entertaining.
 
Powdered Toast Man!
The Pope, “clinging tenaciously” to Powdered Toast Man’s buttocks
 
Appropriately enough, the role of the Pope was voiced by Frank Zappa. According to IMDB.com, it was the last time he would ever portray a fictional character (granted, he didn’t do this all that often). How did this come to pass? As often happens in showbiz, Zappa had expressed some admiration for the early Ren & Stimpy episodes, and ... one thing led to another. John Kricfalusi tells the story on the commentary track for the episode:
 

Yeah, Frank Zappa was a fan of the show, and I was a huge Frank Zappa fan growing up. I had all his records. and when I found out he was a fan, our mixer, one of the sound engineers, was also mixing some Frank Zappa records, and he ... handed the phone to me one day and it was Frank on the line. So Frank invited me to his house that weekend. ... and I went with Elinor Blake and Frank and his family and I, Moon Unit and Dweezil. We all sat around watching Ren & Stimpy cartoons all afternoon. He was laughing all through them, and after it was over I asked: “Hey Frank, you want to BE in a cartoon?” and he said: “Yeah, that’d be great” and I said: “You want to be the pope?” and he said: “Yeah, I always wanted to be the pope.”

 
(Note: Elinor Blake has had a successful musical career in her own right: After working as an animator on Ren & Stimpy, she released several albums under the name April March.) As it happens, Zappa has hardly any lines, but that’s all right.

Another interesting link between Zappa and the show: There was a recurring Ren & Stimpy segment called “Ask Dr. Stupid” in which Stimpy would respond to letters in an incredibly stupid way. Turns out, Zappa recorded a track called “Ask Dr. Stupid” all the way back in 1979.

The episode is available in full on The Ren & Stimpy Show: The First and Second Season (Uncut)
 

 
via Showbiz Imagery and Chicanery

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
On Missing Persons, Frank Zappa, and women in rock: Dale Bozzio speaks
03.05.2014
08:52 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Dale Bozzio
Missing Persons


 
Missing Persons were an acutely ‘80s band, made up of former Zappa sidemen who heard the siren call of the New Wave and crafted compellingly icy and anxious music. Drummer Terry and singer Dale Bozzio (a married couple), guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, and bassist Patrick O’Hearn met during the recording sessions for Zappa’s masterpiece, the epic rock opera Joe’s Garage, and were encouraged to form Missing Persons by Zappa himself. The representative early single “Mental Hopscotch” gained a ton of well-deserved attention for their debut EP. (Crate digger advisory: used vinyl copies of that can still be found fairly cheaply. I’d recommend giving it a listen. I still have mine from when I was 14, it holds up.)
 

 

 
Despite its collective musical chops, the band’s focal point was the kitschy but high-octane outer space sexuality of singer Dale Bozzio. As a former bunny at the Boston Playboy Club, Bozzio was comfortable flaunting her figure, and had a penchant for performing in things like plexiglass bikinis and bubble-wrap jackets, foreshadowing Lady Gaga’s costumery by decades. Her outlandish appearance far outpaced contemporaries like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, which made Missing Persons a darling of MTV, which in turn propelled their debut LP, Spring Session M to chart HUGENESS. The band continued past its initial burst of inspiration, though—their follow-up, Rhyme & Reason, was less musically exciting (perhaps the element of surprise had worn off), and it failed to crack the Top 40. 1986’s Color in Your Life fared even worse. Commercial failures and tension in the Bozzios’ marriage finally doomed the band. Cuccurullo went on to further success as Andy Taylor’s replacement in Duran Duran, and Terry Bozzio returned to high-profile session work.
 

 
Dale, however, has lately gone the “featuring” route, having yesterday released Missing In Action by “Missing Persons featuring Dale Bozzio.” Missing Persons is missing a lot of people—Bozzio is the only member from the original lineup to appear on the album, but casual fans are probably unlikely to care, as to most people she was the band. Her performance on the single “Hello Hello” is actually quite good. Her voice has lost a lot of flexibility (that’s not a criticism, age does that, so it goes), so all the idiosyncratic hiccuping accents she used to pull off aren’t to be heard here, but her singing has retained expressiveness and gained depth. The music, composed by latter-day Yes member Billy Sherwood, feels like it’s trying a bit too lazily to sound conspicuously early ‘80s. It would have been so much cooler if she’d hired someone like Trans Am to write the music, honestly.
 

 
Bozzio spoke illuminatingly about her life and career at last year’s Scion Music(less) Music Conference, and as it turns out, she’s a terrific storyteller, and seems like a hell of a cool lady. The whole interview is good, but for the impatient, there’s a kinda cute Hugh Hefner story in part 1, GREAT Zappa stuff in parts 2 & 3, and Missing Persons’ origin story is in part 4.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Sleeping in a Jar’: Amazing naughty Frank Zappa animation from the late 60s
02.27.2014
02:44 pm

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa


 
The advent of YouTube laid waste to the smug superiority that extreme Zappaphile fanboys had about their own deep knowledge of the history and collected improvisations of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. No matter how much you thought you knew—and I include myself in this equation—even if you’d have read every single book ever written about the man, when YouTube launched, it became obvious that major gaps existed in nearly every Zappa otaku’s mental database and record collection.

This is especially true when it comes to things that appeared decades ago on European television (most unmentioned in the major Zappa biographies). Here’s one amazing little example, an animated short set to Uncle Meat‘s darkly surreal ditty “Sleeping in a Jar.” This seems like it might have been made for some sort of demo for Madison Avenue (it’s not dissimilar from the Clio Award-winning Luden’s Cough Drops commercial Zappa scored in 1967) but it’s kind of smutty for that purpose with that not-so-subtle carbonated cum shot.

Interestingly this racy animation aired on Swedish television in 1971 on a show called Spotlight. They say the Swedes are a liberated people sexually speaking and if this passed muster for TV back in 1971, well, that’s saying quite a lot. This wouldn’t be shown on American network television today.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Acne bacterium is named after Frank Zappa, immediately releases four albums in gratitude
02.19.2014
12:02 pm

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa
 
I lived in Austria for a while—I was living there in 1993 when the sad news of Frank Zappa’s death came down the pipe. It was striking to me how much more vital his fandom was there; intense Zappa fans were (and are) very, very common, you’d see casual references in the media to Zappa quite often. This quality he shares, I suppose, with Jerry Lewis and countless bebop heroes, he was more appreciated in Europe than in his native U.S. When he died he was truly mourned in the public sphere. I wasn’t in America at the time (obviously), but I doubt that it was quite as keenly felt here as it was in Europe.

So when I heard that some scientists had decided to name a strain of bacteria after Frank Zappa, I knew that they would turn out to be from Europe, and I was right about that. Italian microbiologist and ardent Zappa fan Andrea Campisano of the Edmund Mach Foundation is the lead author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution about P. acnes Zappae, “a formerly pimple-causing bacterium that apparently has moved from human skin to the bark of grape vines.”

The Italian word zappa means “hoe,” and the name of the new strain is also a reference to “the agrarian roots of the wine-related institute where the discovery was made.” Actually, Zappa has this in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The root “egge” in Arnold’s name means “harrow” or “back hoe,” and the word “Schwarzenegger” would translate as “black back-hoe man.”
 

Campisano said he played Zappa’s music regularly and kept a quote from the genre-bending rock musician displayed on his computer screen in the laboratory: “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television … then you deserve it.”

 
Insofar as pimples and Frank Zappa albums share the trait of being incredibly common—Zappa released somewhere in the neighborhood 60 albums during his lifetime, and he died at the young age of 52—that’s another link.

And then there is this...

Here’s Frank and the Mothers of Invention, live at the Roxy in LA in 1973.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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