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Metal gods Judas Priest cover Joan Baez, Fleetwood Mac, and Spooky Tooth


Defenders of the faith, Judas Priest.
 
If you’ve found yourself with a bad case of the heavy metal bed spins after reading the title of this post, you have my sympathy fellow headbangers. And I’m going to tell you right now that you are not alone as many Priest fans are completely unaware that the epic 1978 jam most would credit JP for, “The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown),” was originally done by Fleetwood Mac in 1970 while guitarist Peter Green was still with the band. According to folklore surrounding the song, the influential Green has said that it was the product of a drug-soaked dream involving a green dog. While the revelation that “The Green Manalishi” isn’t a Priest original might be a surprise to some, Green’s drug use, especially the psychedelic variety, was well-known. Shortly after the release of what the guitarist referred to as his “least appreciated” song, Green would succumb to the side-effects of his overuse of party favors and mental illness and bow out of Fleetwood Mac.

Interestingly, after Rob Halford returned to Judas Priest in 2004 following his departure in the early 90s, bassist Ian Hill said that when the band finally got to perform again the first song they would rip into was “The Green Manalishi.” Nice. So how did one of the heaviest bands from the NWOBHM get the idea to put their own spin on Joan Baez’s devastating, “so long love” song about her ex, Bob Dylan? Vocalist Halford recalls it happened like this:

It was 1978 and I remember we were all together and someone from the label or the management came in and said, ‘Listen to this song. The label would like you to consider covering it.’ And when we put it on, all we heard was Joan Baez singing this song with the guitar, and your knee-jerk reaction is, ‘Are you fucking crazy? We are a heavy metal band.’ But again, typical of Priest, we’re like, ‘What’s the logic behind this?’ And then after a couple of listens, we decided it was a good song. And a good song will take any kind of interpretation. It opened the door for us in radio in a lot of ways, and I think that for the first time, a metal band was able to get the kind of accessibility.

 

Dylan and Baez in happier times.
 
So what did Baez think when she heard Priest’s version of “Diamonds and Rust?” She loved it, just like I do. Now, let’s get on to JP’s cover of a Spooky Tooth song found on the final album from the Carlisle band with their original late-1960s lineup, “Better by You, Better than Me.” If you had a pulse and paid attention to the news during the mid-80s, you will likely recall that the song brought a lot of horrifically unwarranted heat on Priest after the 1985 suicide/suicide attempt of Raymond Belknap and James Vance who both shot themselves on a church playground after a six-hour long alcohol and drug infused session listening to Priest’s 1978 album Stained Class. Belknap’s death was instantaneous, however, and despite the fact that he suffered massive facial injuries, Vance would survive though he never quite recovered from the incident physically or mentally. Three short years later he was dead, too.

In court, the song became one of the primary targets of the prosecution who alleged it was a harbinger for subliminal suicidal messages that infiltrated the drug-addled minds of the two young Judas Priest fans. The story is immensely troubling and it is difficult to comprehend how “Better by You, Better than Me” could be considered the impetus for what Belknap and Vance did at the behest of imaginary hidden messages on the version recorded by Judas Priest.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Johnny Ramone compares the Clash to Joan Baez on Minneapolis TV, 1978


 
Local news stories about underground music can always be counted on to cluelessly pander to the paranoid grandparent demographic, which makes this 1978 Minneapolis public TV segment on the Ramones such a gem—it takes punk’s aesthetic merits seriously and keeps to a minimum the then-typical hysterics about audience violence. An announcer calls punk “the theory of minimal art applied to rock ‘n’ roll,” right there much more gravitas than the subject usually got from hinterlands journos.

The interview segment sees the band talking about the punk bands in England (the voice-over announcer misidentifies England as punk’s “ancestral homeland,” apparently not knowing the Ramones were Ur-punks who beat the Brits to the punch by a couple of years). Dee Dee dismisses them with a blanket “they stink,” and Tommy downplays that scene’s vaunted political engagement, singling out the Clash & Sex Pistols as exceptions, while heavily qualifying the latter group. Johnny handwaving the British punks’ political leanings as “a bore” and lumping them in with Joan Baez is funny in hindsight, as most of us know by now what an arch-conservative he turned out to be.

Watch this fun 11-minute feature after the jump…

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Richard Pryor’s ‘Dynamite Chicken’ is a raunchy, NSFW time capsule of the hippie era


 
Sorting out who is and who isn’t in the 1971 “comedy” movie Dynamite Chicken, written and directed by Ernest Pintoff, is no easy matter. The montage-heavy movie relies so much on found footage that it’s accurate to say that John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Lenny Bruce, Malcolm X, Humphrey Bogart, and Richard Nixon “appear” in the movie even if they were scarcely aware of it or, in some cases, were long since deceased at the time. Not to put too fine a point on it, the makers of the movie were verging pretty close to fraud here.

Richard Pryor they definitely had, as well as a lot of countercultural figures like Paul Krassner, Tuli Kupferberg, Joan Baez, Sha-Na-Na, Peter Max, and a comedy troupe called Ace Trucking Co. that featured a young Fred Willard. The movie’s a bit like Kentucky Fried Movie, only far more political in intent; it’s chock-a-block with skits, snippets of musical performance, political debate, a strip-tease or two, and whatever else popped into the noggins of the filmmakers at the time. There’s tons of quick-cutting montage of newspaper clippings and just a ton of random footage.
 

 
The full title,  “Dynamite Chicken: A Contemporary Probe and Commentary of the Mores and Maladies of Our Age … with Schtick, Bits, Pieces, Girls, Some Hamburger, a Little Hair, a Lady, Some Fellas, Some Religious Stuff, and a Lot of Other Things,” is an accurate reflection of what the movie is like. The emphasis here is squarely on free expression; the movie starts with a scroll explaining, in a way we today associate more with Lenny Bruce, that Richard Pryor had been witnessed “in the late ‘60’s” by a policewoman saying the words “bullshit, shit, motherfucker, penis, asshole” during a public performance. The distance between “free expression” and “annoying the audience for the sake of it” is pretty small, and in addition to some salubrious footage of women in various states of disrobe, we also get a pointless and somewhat sickening exegesis of a comic book about slicing women in two with a buzzsaw. Early on, I had been thinking that Chicken Dynamite is an almost perfect cinematic equivalent of SCREW Magazine, when who should materialize on the screen but Al Goldstein and Jim Buckley themselves.

Andy Warhol was one of the few luminaries who apparently did consent to be filmed, for a short sequence in which Ondine reads aloud from Warhol’s book a: A Novel while Warhol looks on. John and Yoko weren’t involved; their bit is just a statement about peace from the Montreal Bed-In a couple years earlier. The link to National Lampoon, mostly a spiritual one, is made explicit with a clip of Michael O’Donoghue, then one of the chief writers at the magazine, in a spoof of a cigarette commercial. There’s a bit towards the end in which Ron Carey (known to me primarily as a bit player on Barney Miller) dresses up as a priest and does some soft-shoe in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Ave., scored to Lionel Goldbart’s “God Loves Rock and Roll” that is pretty delightful.

The footage with Pryor was shot outdoors in a single day; Pryor riffs on a bunch of raunchy material while messing with a basketball somewhere in the projects. At this point in Pryor’s career, the similarities with Dave Chappelle were (in hindsight) particularly strong. After Pryor became a big movie star in the early 1980s, he apparently became annoyed with his association with Chicken Dynamite, as he successfully sued to bar “the distributors of the film ... from emphasizing his role in the film,” according to an issue of Jet from December 1982.
 

 
In the end, Chicken Dynamite was probably a little bit dated even when it came out. It’s a movie made by people who are waaaaay too “serious” to be funny, for the most part. It’s the kind of movie that even if you are “enjoying” it, you might choose to turn it off before reach the end of its 75-minute running time, just because it wears you out. Still, some parts are pretty entertaining, and it’s worth a look for those who missed the era and those who didn’t.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Legendary poet Christopher Logue reads: ‘I shall vote Labour’

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In 1964, The British Labour Party was elected into government with a slim majority of 4 seats. Such a small majority made governing the country difficult for canny Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. Therefore, after 17 months in power, Wilson called a second election. In support of winning re-election, the Labour Party’s magazine, Tribune asked a selection of writers and artists who they would vote for in the 1966 General Election. In response, sensing Labour might not hold to their socialist ideals, poet Christopher Logue wrote the poem “I shall vote Labour.”

I shall vote Labour

I shall vote Labour because
God votes Labour.
I shall vote Labour to protect
the sacred institution of The Family.
I shall vote Labour because
I am a dog.
I shall vote Labour because
upper-class hoorays annoy me in expensive restaurants.
I shall vote Labour because
I am on a diet.
I shall vote Labour because if I don’t
somebody else will:
AND
I shall vote Labour because if one person
does it
everybody will be wanting to do it.
I shall vote Labour because if I do not vote Labour
my balls will drop off.
I shall vote Labour because
there are too few cars on the road.
I shall vote Labour because I am
a hopeless drug addict.
I shall vote Labour because
I failed to be a dollar millionaire aged three.
I shall vote Labour because Labour will build
more maximum security prisons.
I shall vote Labour because I want to shop
in an all-weather precinct stretching from Yeovil to Glasgow.
I shall vote Labour because
the Queen’s stamp collection is the best
in the world.
I shall vote Labour because
deep in my heart
I am a Conservative.

Christopher Logue was a poet, writer, journalist, dramatist, screenwriter, actor and performer. Born in Portsmouth, in 1926, Logue was an only child of middle-aged parents. After school, he served in the Black Watch regiment, from which he was given a court-martial for selling stolen pay books, and given a 16-months’ jail sentence.

On release, he moved to Paris and started his career as a writer and poet, ‘out of complete failure to be interested by what was happening in London at the time.’

‘It was so drab. There was nowhere to go. You couldn’t seem to meet any girls. If you went up to London in 1951, looking for the literary scene, what did you find? Dylan Thomas. I thought that if I came to the place where Pound flourished, I might too.’

In Paris, Logue met writer Alexander Trocchi (who saved Logue from an attempted suicide), and the pair set-up and edited the legendary literary magazine Merlin, which premiered work by Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Chester Himes, as well as Logue and Trocchi. The pair also wrote pornographic novels for Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press, and briefly met William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso in the late 1950s.

George Whitman, propietor of Shakespeare and Co., described the pairing of Trocchi and Logue as:

‘True bohemians, Beats before Beats officially existed. Christopher was the scruffy poet, quite down and out most of the time. He definitely fancied himself as Baudelaire or somebody like that.’

In Paris, Logue toyed with Marxism, and was once famously put down by the author Richard Wright.

‘You’ve got nothing to fight for, boy—you’re looking for a fight. If you were a black, boy, you’re so cheeky you’d be dead.’

But Logue lost none of his mettle, or his socialist convictions and he continued to be a gadfly throughout his life. In the 1960s, he collaborated with Lindsay Anderson, giving poetry readings at the National Film Theater between features. He was a pacifist and a member of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, taking part with Bertrand Russell on the marches to Aldermarston.

He appeared at Peter Cook’s club The Establishment and wrote songs for jazz singer Annie Ross, and had one recorded by Joan Baez. He also appeared at the Isle of Wight Rock Festival, and contributed the wonderfully bizarre “True Stories” to Private Eye magazine. He acted for Ken Russell in The Devils, wrote the screenplay for Russell’s Savage Messiah, and acted in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky. Logue’s poetry was incredibly popular, even appearing in posters throughout the London Underground. His most famous works were Red Bird, a jazz colaboration with Tony Kinsey, and War Music, a stunning and critically praised adaption of Homer’s Illiad. He was awarded the 2005 Whitbread Poetry Prize for his collection Cold Calls.

Logue died in 2011, and Wilson won the 1966 election with a majority of 96 seats.

This is Christopher Logue reading “I shall vote Labour” in 2002, as filmed by Colin Still.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti’: Extraordinary Joan Baez performance


 
I suppose this could be a well-known fact in certain circles, but until this afternoon, I, myself, was unaware that the late Steve Jobs dated folksinger/activist Joan Baez in the late 70s/early 80s and according to several sources, wanted to marry her. On Joan Baez’s Wikipedia page it says the pair split up when the matter of Baez’s age (she was in her early 40s at the time) meant children would have been unlikely. Think about it: Baez dated Bob Dylan, Steve Jobs, and she knows Thomas Pynchon! She’s still has a Bacon Number of 2 in the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game. How can this be?

Click here to watch an extraordinary live performance of one of the songs from the Sacco and Vanzetti soundtrack, circa 1979 on YouTube (I can’t embed the clip).

Below, The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti, lyrics by Baez from the actual words and letters of Bartolomeo Vanzetti, music written and conducted by Ennio Morricone. This is an absolutely incredible piece of music.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment