Phil Lynott was Thin Lizzy. The talented, beautiful, iconic Irishman was the band’s heart and soul, and its demise in 1984, presaged Lynott’s early death on January 4th 1986 - fifteen years to the day Thin Lizzy started recording their first album.
Bad Reputation is an honest and affectionate documentary that tells the story Ireland’s greatest band. Starting with guitarist, Scott Gorham and drummer, Brian Downie remixing the classic Jailbreak album, the film quickly revisits the band’s early incarnation as The Black Eagles, Orphanage, and then Thin Lizzy, named after a character from the comic the Beano.
Produced and directed by Linda Brusasco, the film includes very rare footage of a young Phil at the start of his career, and includes revealing interviews with him through the highs and lows, together with interviews from nearly all of the key players, Brian Downie, Scott Gorham, Eric Bell, Brian Robertson, Midge Ure, Bob Geldof, and legendary record producer, Tony Visconti.
The reformed version of Thin Lizzy are currently touring, check here for details.
This little clip of a puppet Rupert Murdoch, having an editorial with his vulturous editors, is almost as fresh today as it was twenty-five years ago, when it first aired on the satirical sketch show Spitting Image.
Is it a surprise that twenty-five years ago Murdoch was seen as a ghastly, untrustworthy, muck-raking shit?
How could anyone have forgotten?
The fact that so many did, and the fact that Murdoch became so very, very powerful over those twenty-five years, fully underlines the extent to the unhealthy and undemocratic relationship maintained by past governments with the media tycoon.
After four on a Saturday afternoon, housewives, grandmothers, and young fearless children watched grown men in swim trunks hurl each other across a canvas ring. These men weren’t just wrestlers, they were household gods worshipped by generations: Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Les Kellett, Mike Marino, Jackie (“Mr. T.V.”) Pallo, the masked Kendo Nagasaki, and my favorite, “the man you love to hate”, Mick McManus.
British wrestlers were more like stage entertainers, who traveled around the country fighting 4 or 5 times a week in different venues across England. They mixed the camp (Gorgeous George, The Gay One) with the bizarre (Catweazle, Rollerball Rocco) and the best (Mick McManus, Kendo Nagasaki), and by the time wrestling became the biggest hit for ITV’s Saturday’s World of Sport, most of the big names were in their late thirties and early forties, but it didn’t stop these podgy, middle-aged men from becoming sex symbols.
The people’s favorite was Big Daddy (aka Shirley Crabtree), who had made his name as a rugby player before wrestling under the names of The Blonde Adonis, Mr. Universe and The Battling Guardsman, in the 1950s.
Crabtree, with his ill-fitting leotard (decoratively embroidered by his wife) was coaxed out of retirement and became the most successful and best-loved wrestler of the 1970s and 1980s - even Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a fan. Though limited by his size and age, Big Daddy brought such novel wrestling moves as the “Belly-Butt” and “Belly-Splash” to the audiences’ delight, who chanted “easy, easy, easy,” whenever the likable Daddy stepped into the ring.
Big Daddy had feuds with various wrestlers, most notably Giant Haystacks, the 6 foot 11, London-Irish wrestler, who at one point weighed 48 stone. How this giant of a man was ever beaten by Big Daddy is beyond belief, and led to suggestions the sport was fixed. This was later confirmed in 1985, by “Mr T.V.” Jackie Pallo, in his autobiography You Grunt, I’ll Groan. Pallo was a flash, show biz wrestler, with long hair and striped trunks, who claimed referees carried razors to nick wrestlers’ ears to add authenticity (Pallo preferred to bite his lip) and said the sport was TV entertainment:
“Of course it was, it was pure showbiz right from the start.”
Pallo had a career in TV, appearing in The Avengers, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and regularly on stage in pantomime. Where Palo was a showman, wrestlers like Mike Marino, Les Kellett and Mick McManus took the sport seriously. The short, dumpy, balding McManus was the sport’s anti-hero.
He won his first wrestling title, the British Welterweight Championship, in 1949, by defeating Eddie Capelli. He lost it to Jack Dempsey in 1957 but regained it, then lost it again. In 1967, McManus won the British Middleweight Championship with a victory over Clayton Thomson. He also won the European Middleweight Championship in June 1968 by defeating Vic Faulkner. Though lost it again to Faulkner the following year. Never fear, McManus won it back in 1971, and held onto it for 7 years.
McManus was brilliant, always entertaining, and usually bent the rules with some questionable blows. He was famous for his fore-arm smash and Boston Crab and relished the audience’s jeers. He never seemed to change, and thirty years after his hey-day I once saw McManus in a bar, immaculately dressed in a suit, and looking no different than he did back in the 1960s and ‘70s.
McManus is credited as an influence on Kendo Nagasaki (real name Peter Thornley), who refused to reveal his identity, and disguised himself behind a samurai mask. Nagasaki was another brilliant wrestler, who mixed Martial Arts, Eastern philosophy with incredible skill. He was famously robbed of the CWA World title by Giant Haystacks, after Haystacks ripped off his mask, forcing Nagasaki to abandon the contest.
It was McManus and Nagaski who inspired British Pop Artist, Peter Blake to paint his wrestler series.
Another brief star of wrestling was the world’s first DJ and legendary Top of the Pops host, Jimmy Savile, who fought in golden leotard and boots, before giving it up after losing too many fights.
These fabulous posters from the golden age of British wrestling has been compiled by Jane McDevitt on her fantastic Flickr stream, which can be seen here. Check out some of the pics and names - wonderful.
With thanks to Tara McGinley
More fabulous posters of these wrestling legends, after the jump…
Apparently, in Estonia the average person spends 3 to 4 hours a day watching television. A fact which photographer Andris Feldmanis has used for the basis for his latest project TV Portraits.
Feldmanis’s idea is quite simple but highly effective, as he has reversed the point of view (a bit like My Game Face or a photographic version of The Royle Family), creating portraits of people “posing for their television sets.”
“It is not a critique of mass media and its influence, it is a document of what the TV sees.”
Kicking off with “Rockaway Beach” this is The Ramones performing live on the classic German TV show Musikladen, in a special recorded on September 13 1978, in Bremen.
“I Don’t Want You”
“Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”
“You’re Gonna Kill that Girl”
“Don’t Come Close”
“I Don’t Care”
“She’s the One”
“Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”
“Needles & Pins”
“Listen to My Heart”
“I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You”
“Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”
Star Trek: Phase II was originally planned as a follow-up series to Star Trek, but it never came to be. Still good ideas will out, and in 1997 actor, producer and Trekkie, James Cawley concocted a plan to make his own further adventures of Captain James T. Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr “Bones” McCoy and the crew of SS Enterprise.
Roll on a few years to 2003, and Cawley is not only producing these new on-line adventures called Star Trek - New Voyage but is also playing Kirk.
It proved an internet hit, and even enticed guest appearances from original Star Trek actors George Takei, Walter Koenig, and Grace Lee Whitney. In 2008, the series changed its name to Star Trek: Phase II and the adventures continue.
For a fan produced series Star Trek: Phase II is exceedingly good fun. Six episodes have been made, each one better than the last, the most recent, “Enemy Starfleet” is below. Filming begins on a new episode “Mind Sifter” next month, and certainly for the love, dedication and hard work of all involved, Star Trek: Phase II deserves its to succeed.
What next for fan-based TV? The Partridge Family, The Waltons, Dallas? Suggestions please.
Bonus episode of Star Trek: Phase II, after the jump…
In the Fall of 1982, Eric Bogosian traveled to Britain, where he performed in his two solo shows Men Inside and Voices of America. His tour took him from London’s ICA, through Cardiff, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Middlesborough, to Glasgow and Edinburgh, during the months of October and November , traveling with just one small suitcase of clothes, a black wool overcoat, and a selection of paperbacks to keep him company. Quite a feat at a time when things were organized without the advantage of the internet, emails, texts or mobile phones. It reveals much about Bogosian’s ambition and self-belief, as it does about his talents.
Bogosian had opened Men Inside and Voices of America that Fall, at the Martinson Hall in New York, where he was hailed as “the best performance artist I’ve yet seen,” by Valentin Tatransky in Arts Magazine. He had also been described as like “a man possessed, a medium, a schizophrenic,” by Sally Banes in the Village Voice, and as someone who could “perform the performer, and out-perform the performance artist,” in Flash Art.
At the time, I was a student, avoiding studies while editing the university magazine. How I’d heard about him, I can’t recall, a press release or flier most likely - my life back then seemed lived from the inside of an aquarium - knowledge, happiness, love and success were always beyond the glass. This disengagement with the external world might explain why I turned up late after his first show at the Third Eye Center, on Sauchiehall Street. Understandably, he was pissed, but I made my excuses and walked him back to his hotel on Cambridge Street, with arrangements to see and meet the following night in Edinburgh. These then are extracts from that interview.
Bogosian performed in a small stage area, surrounded by raised seating. He was imposing, for such a compact figure in black shirt, black pants. A bare stage except for one chair. Everything was suggested, created, from Bogosian’s physical presence. He walked onto stage and became a small child flying as Superman, talking to his father, mimicking adult bigotry before, shockingly, breaking into a stutter. So began the darkly comic Men Inside a carnival of souls from a troubled America - dysfunctional men, unable to interact with the world because of their bigotry and hate.
From Superman, Bogosian became a young man masturbating before declaiming his loneliness by saying “I love you” to a centerfold. Then on to a bored teenager, a stud, a bully, a sleaze-ball, a down-and-out, a Blood and Sword evangelist. It was loud, noisy and funny. Bogosian’s performance was as brilliant as his characters were low:
“Each character, each scene, flows into the next presenting different aspects of man gone wrong: his sexism, his racism, his hate.
It’s my effort on my part to try to communicate from a man’s point of view, trying to be sympathetic to men, saying this is how it happens, this is how a man ends up with these perspectives about women, about life - what can we do about it?
The thing I’m trying to lay out on women is the whole discussion of Women’s Liberation, Feminism, and the like, is all very complicated and that’s the first thing - it’s a complex issue, it’s not black and white. Women are perfectly justified in complaining about their situation, however, in different times men have also been put into situations that are not so great, the biggest one I can think about is certainly war.
War is Hell on Earth, and nobody should ever have to go through that. And of course, now, here in Great Britain people are thinking of the Falklands thing. I mean, it has to be thought about, if anything is sexist, it’s men should have to go off and die, that is sexist thing too. All I’m saying, we’re all people, let’s try and be a little sympathetic to each other, while we try to find out what exactly is going on.
I was in a restaurant on a Sunday morning in Vancouver, on tour, and I came in and had my breakfast around 10 o’clock in the morning, and there was all these men in the place, all by themselves: smoking a cigarette, reading a paper, eating a breakfast, looking kinda glum, kinda down. And these two couple came in, both in their sixties, and each guy was very dapperly dressed with his wife. And the women were happily chatting with each other and the men were sort of ushering their wives in. And you had a very strong feeling that these women were in some way protecting these guys, they were giving them something to do with themselves, yeah know. They weren’t like every other guy in this place, and you got the feeling that these guys were kinda looking across at these two couples, how these guys’ clothes were clean, their clothes were pressed, and how, how they had something to fucking do.
And all those other guys were just crumpled up pieces of paper. And here are these two guys, who because they stuck it out with a couple of marriages, now that they were in their sixties, had something to do. And somehow I wish people would admit this: that mean and women are different, and that for whatever reasons, whether they’re cultural or whatever, they are complimentary aspects of one another.
Bogosian was concerned that some of the Scottish audience was offended by certain aspects of his performance thinking they may have confused the views of the characters with the performer’s. After all, this was dangerous stuff to bring to a city more attuned to the Royal Lyceum’s revival of Noel Coward, than an act billed as a cross between Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor.
“I don’t expect anyone to be so critical about performance or experimental theater as I have been. I mean, it’s my life, it’s all I’ve been doing for the past 12-13 years, it’s all I’ve been doing - working in theater and complex theater. I don’t expect everyone who walks in off the street to understand about that - they’re taking it at face value, and they may not even notice the technique I’m employing.
For instance, the exotic dancer and the Led Zeppelin thing seem very alike, but their movements are very complex. You just can’t jump out and do that stuff, it’s all choreographed, and all rehearsed a lot, it’s just subtle. Someone might watch and go, ‘Hmm, not bad, that’s good movement.’ But not everyone’s going to understand that, what it’s about. They’re going to go ‘Ha-ha. look at that, he’s playing guitar,’ you know?
I can’t say if that’s something formal or theoretical in my work, it’s just something I’ve always done as an actor. It comes through from the inside. I don’t think any good actor can explain what happens when they become Someone. I become them totally and I know I’m inside them, and somehow it reads, and that’s the funny thing because at acting school they teach you how to relate what’s going on inside your head to what you look like outside. I don’t know what I look like, I’ve seen photos and stuff, but somehow what I look like is corresponding to what I’m feeling.
In a way that’s very direct and without any real training on it, I just hit the stage and it starts happening to me. But that’s just me, it’s like something I’ve got to my advantage, that I should make the best use of.”
The second half of the show was Voices of America a relentless tour of America’s airwaves, where every speaker, no matter how cheery or inane, seemed obsessed with death:
“If you had a choice to die from a nuclear holocaust (oh no!) or, a heroin overdose (oh wow!), which would you choose?” - ‘Voices of America’
This was all very much a hint of Bogosian’s Barry Champlain in Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio.
“Voices of America started out as a sort of finger exercise, so I could practice my voice, and it ended up as a piece.
At the time I was trying to get into advertising, so I made this demo tape of adverts and jingles and stuff, but the company thought it too cynical.
It’s very black. I’m interested in the way society’s fascinated with the lives of its stars and superstars, with its violence and consumption, its decadence.
Like how Keith Richard’s habits became published or how real death and real suffering are treated. How things are mass produced indifferently, and people’s suffering doesn’t come through, but is just forgotten.
Though I don’t think my philosophy or my ideas about anything are social or profound or anything, they’re just basic, mundane, liberal ideas, what we call liberal in America. It’s just like everyone else should be nice to everyone else, and how you can do it and go vote and I’m against the death penalty and for social programs. It’s just dumb stuff - I don’t mean these things are dumb - I mean I’ve got nothing to tell anybody that they shouldn’t already know. I’m just making stuff I’m interested in, it’s the piece I’m interested in - how can construct them and how can I act them out, it’s just all that stuff is in my head and it all might as well come out in the show, it might as well be there, as not be there.
And I know they’ll never put me on TV for saying these things, that’s the funny thing about it: I don’t think there’s anything radical about what I’m saying or doing, but they’ll never put me on a TV station saying this kind of stuff.
The current comedians in the States are just zany, they’re just crazy guys. Comedians with a conscience are not wanted in the mass media.
It’s just intuitive, a whole set of things are interesting to me, things that operate in my life. It’s like my face, if I get a nose job, and get my nose to be straight and my chin to be stuck out and stuff like that.
If I’m eloquent in expressing my particular set of perameters in my frame of mind they start to seem universal, or interesting or something like that, or, somebody at least might identify with them. I don’t start off with a theory and try to work it all out, it’s just that I try to express myself as best I can.”
Later, we walked out into the Georgian cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s New Town. It was late and cold, and the evening’s silence reminded us of our own past experiences of walking around empty streets at night listening for parties to crash.
Bonus clips of Eric Bogosian in performance, after the jump…
Derek Jarman rarely hedged a question, he answered each one as truthfully as he could. From the opening question in this interview with Jeremy Isaacs, Jarman’s candor and honesty is refreshing:
Derek Jarman, painter, writer, film maker; and in my view one of the most distinguished of our time, gardener. When you discovered at the end of nineteen eighty six that you were HIV positive you decided to let that be known; why?
Jerry, I did it for myself, really for my own self respect because my whole life had been a struggle to actually make my life open and acceptable. I found myself potentially in a form of a ghetto, really, of frightened and unhappy people, who felt that they couldn’t actually tell the truth about themselves. So I did it for my own self respect. I didn’t do it for anyone else. If it was any help for anyone else I’d be delighted.
Have you always been able to be open about your sexuality?
No, definitely not. I think it’s something that I actually struggled to be open with. Certainly when I was a young man in the fifties, in the sixties it was very, very difficult and I think that gave me a sort of a slight edge you know. It was difficult finding the whole centre of one’s life really; illegal in fact ‘till I was twenty five, so it was difficult, particularly difficult with parents, maybe not amongst friends. Eventually at twenty two I met people, and then after that it was a sort of a clique if you like, a gay Mafia.
Jarman goes on to talk about his childhood, his parents, his work as a painter, a set designer (on Ken Russell’s The Devils), to his own films, his garden, and how he would like to be remembered:
How do you want us to remember you?
Well, I think it would be marvellous to evaporate. I wish I could take all my works with me; that’s what I’d like to happen, to just disappear completely.
Originally aired in March 1993, this version of Face to Face was re-shown after Jarman’s death, and has a beautiful eulogy from Isaacs at the beginning.
The rest of this classic interview with Derek Jarman, after the jump…
An interview with Bob Dylan dating back to when he was working on the Hollywood movie Hearts of Fire, in which Dylan played a retired rocker called Billy Parker. Hearts of Fire co-starred Rupert Everett, Ian Dury and Fiona, and was written by overblown Hollywood scriptwriter, Joe Eszterhas. The film bombed, and was sadly the last feature from director Richard Marquand (best known for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Jagged Edge and Eye of the Needle), who died not long after completing the film.
This interview with Dylan formed the basis for a rarely seen BBC Omnibus documentary called Getting to Dylan (1987), directed by Christopher Sykes.
Once again, it’s the Eurovision Song Contest - that annual shindig where people who should know better represent their country in a live televised song competition. Even if you haven’t heard of Eurovision, you’re bound to have heard some of the past winners, such as: Abba with “Waterloo”, Teach-In with “Ding-a-Dong”, Lulu with “Boom-Bang-a-Bang”, France Gall with “Poupée de cire, poupée de son”, Dana International with “Diva”, Bucks Fizz “Making Your Mind Up” and Johnny Logan, with..well, Johnny’s your actual Mr Eurovision, having won the competition on three separate occasions.
This year the Eurovision has been slightly overshadowed by the (near) bankruptcy of certain Euro-zone countries and their bail out. This financial melt-down has inspired Portugal to select Homens Da Luta with their rousing radical ditty, “The Struggle Is Joy”, as their offiiclal entry into the competition.
The band have come up with “a politics-packed staging of their routine” which, as the Wall Street Journal reports, includes:
...red-and-green lighting to commemorate the country’s 1974 revolution, outfits symbolizing Portugal’s history (which, apparently, shares a lot with that of the Village People), and lyrics that tackle the Lusophone nation’s parlous economic state: There’s no point in tightening the belt
There’s no point in complaining
There’s no point in frowning
And rage is pointless, it won’t help you
Indeed, the €78 billion ($115.69 billion) financial bailout the country agreed with the IMF and EU last week will likely cause the Portuguese economy to contract by around 2% in 2011 and 2012, meaning that Homens Da Luta can’t afford to do too well when it comes to the voting, as hosting the competition next year — the winner’s honor — would likely add to the country’s budget problems.
Many people advise you to watch out
Many people wish to silence you
Many people want you to feel resentful
Many people want to sell you the air itself
This, surely, is a thinly-veiled reference to the multiple downgrades suffered by the country recently and IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn saying the package will require a “sacrifice” by the Portuguese people.
Moreover, just as some question the compatibility of the EU bailout package with the bloc’s treaties, Homens Da Luta, are being purposely vague with their lyrics in order to stay on the right side of Section 4, Rule 9 of the Eurovision Song Contest, which, just to recap, states that “No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted during the Eurovision Song Contest.”
This kind of specific political message is what saw Georgia’s 2009 entry excluded on the grounds of it’s Putin-baiting lyrics, bringing an unprecedented convergence to geopolitical tension in the former Soviet bloc and magenta sequin disco hot pants. According to Homens Da Luta, though, the message is more of a generalist call to feel good about Portugal.
“Our song doesn’t speak badly of Germany or any other country,” lyricist Jel told the BBC. “We go to Germany to show Europe that Portuguese people are not sad people. We are happy people who want to live with all our brothers in Europe.”
Portugal’s Homens Da Luta sing ‘The Struggle Is Joy’, after the jump…
For its access to interviewees and the archive alone this should have been a better documentary, but its proposition, the Final 24 hours of Hunter S Thompson’s life, stops it from being excellent. It’s too morbidly obsessed with why the great good man killed himself (just count how many times we’re told HST was in “constant pain”), his addictions, his operations and the method by which he died. All fine and dandy for Forensics 101, but Thompson deserves better.
The problem stems from TV commissioners, who don’t trust their audiences to sit through a straight documentary on Hunter S Thompson (or Jim Morrison, John Belushi or any of the other talents who’ve been included in the Final 24 series) without having a gimmick, a hook to keep them watching during the adverts. Most of the time these gimmicks just get in the way of what is usually a fascinating, full and inspiring life.
Okay enough from me, here’s the blurb from Biography:
He was an author trapped in the body of a rock star. His drug-fuelled adventures were legendary and became the basis of one of the classics of 20th century literature. Thompson’s constant questioning of authority and wild antics made him a hero for a generation of rebels across the globe. But in the end it wasn’t enough. A lifetime of alcohol and drug abuse was taking their toll and at 67, with a broken leg, two hip operations and in chronic pain Thompson could no longer live up to the legend he’d created. On February 20, 2005, he decided to end it all with one of his favorite possessions, a Smith and Wesson 45. We chart the life of this troubled genius and uncover why a bullet to the head was the only way out.
This documentary on Jean-Paul Sartre comes from the BBC documentary series Human, All Too Human, which examined the development of Existentialism through the lives and work of three philosophers: Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Beginning with Sartre’s notion that he only ever felt “truly free” under the Nazi occupation of France, the film examines Sartre’s development as a writer and thinker, exploring the difficulties he faced and his often contrary and changing beliefs - what his biographer Ronald Hayman described in 1986, as Sartre’s “thinking against himself by what Marxists call contradictions in the situation.”
“His influence is still enormous, but it cannot be analyzed because it cannot be isolated. Particles of Sartre are in the blood that flows through our brains; his ideas, his categories, his formulations, his style of thinking are still affecting us. Ripples are still spreading from pebbles he threw into the water…
“...A major part of Sartre’s achievement rests on his courage and obstinacy in asserting that we are what we make of ourselves.”
Now in its 80th year, Afri-Cola, Germany’s answer to those other well-known soft drinks, has used some wonderfully thirst-quenchin’ advertising to promote itself over the years. None more bizarre than this lip-smackin’ beauty from 1968, which says everything you need to know about the sixties and the “sexy-mini-super-flower-power-pop-op-cola”, Afri-Cola in sixty seconds.
If Dustin Hoffman had been born Scottish, then his recent advert for Sky Atlantic (a satellite channel which broadcasts mainly US programing to the UK), might have sounded something like this, focusing on our love of “stovies” rather than “stories”.
Stovies - a traditional Scottish dish, made from left-over meat, potatoes and dripping. A good recipe for stovies can be found here.