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Revisiting Pete Shelley’s groundbreaking multimedia album project ‘XL1’
12.11.2018
10:11 am
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Pete Shelley died late last week, a very sad day for all of us at Dangerous Minds. He will be missed.

Everyone reading this knows that Shelley played an important role in the UK punk scene as the lead vocalist and songwriter for Buzzcocks and was an important new wave innovator as a solo artist. Over the weekend John Coulthart called attention to an aspect of Shelley’s career I hadn’t known about, his innovative use of computer technology to create alternative means of enjoying music in the televisual age.

On the cover of Shelley’s first proper solo album, 1981’s Homosapien, a dandified version of the artist perches awkwardly in an extremely 1980s sort of “office” that featured (among other objects) a pyramid, a phrenologist’s skull, and, significantly, a Commodore Pet, which was one of the first personal computers sold directly to consumers, in the late 1970s. Wittingly or no, that Pet would signal a bold direction Shelley would take on his 1983 follow-up, XL•1, which featured a suite of “videos” to accompany each of the album’s songs that consisted entirely of computer graphics. The program was programmed by Joey Headen for the ZX Spectrum, a home computer of that moment that served as the approximate British equivalent to the Commodore 64 in the United States. (Remember: If you’re not pronouncing it “Zeddex Spectrum,” you’re not saying it right.)

According to Headen, Shelley, an early adopter of the ZX Spectrum, wrote a simple program in BASIC that would display the words to one of his songs in response to a series of key presses. Eventually, with the help of some computer-savvy friends, Shelley put together a test of a program that would run without requiring human intervention—using Wire’s “A Question of Degree” as the guinea pig. Shelley liked the results so much that for a time he would enthusiastically show the program off to houseguests.
 

 
Shelley’s producer Martin Rushent was (like Shelley) quite technophilic and thus instrumental in making the ZX Spectrum version of XL•1 come into being. Rushent’s home studio was technologically forward-looking enough that in 1983 the magazine MicroComputer Printout would quip that his mixing desk “looks like something out of Star Wars.” Rushent invited Headen and another programmer named Francis Cookson up to his home studio to work on the program while Shelley cut the tracks for the album. Headen later reminisced:
 

We decided the program was going to be divided into 10 different sections, one for each song. Each song was going to have a different graphical look.

The lower third of the screen, 8 lines of text, would contain the lyrics. I had devised different methods for the text appearing: instantly, slowly, from the side and from the top. These could be used depending on the song. The top part of the screen would be used for graphics. The graphics were kept simple—pixels, lines, circles, color blocks, scrolling horizontally and vertically.

With three weeks until the album was to be finished, I moved down to the hotel to work on the program full time. This was crunch time, and Francis and I spent most of the time working in the hotel room. In fact it took us three days before we realized that there was only one bed in the room and we had to change rooms.

 
Here’s one of the pages Headen saved from that month of work—a lyrics sheet in Shelley’s handwriting for XL•1‘s first track “Telephone Operator.” I’m not sure but the numbers on the right might have been some kind of notation for Headen to keep track of the program’s cues.
 

 
The program was crude but anyone who remembers 1983 at all will testify that such oddities didn’t seem crude whatsoever at the time.
 
After the jump, experience the full multimedia experience of XL•1….......
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.11.2018
10:11 am
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Mutant children of the hydrogen age: Gorgeous, glammy album outtakes of the New York Dolls from 1973
12.10.2018
10:36 am
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“The mutant children of the hydrogen age.”

Rolling Stone magazine on the impression the New York Dolls made during a string of shows at the Mercer Arts Center in lower Manhattan.

Before the release of their first record, the New York Dolls had already been through a lot of shit together. Record companies were terrified of them for various reasons including their sexual ambiguity, raunchy lyrics, and outrageous stage shows. In November of 1971, the band found themselves living in the notorious Endicott Hotel—one of New York’s many notorious “welfare hotels.” Violent crime was rampant in the Endicott and in early 1972 four female residents of the hotel were found murdered on the premises. The band would play any gig they could get including two held in NY gay bathhouse Man’s Country surrounded by men clad only in towels. Sylvain Sylvain remembers the band got $400 bucks and were able to pay their rent for their new digs—a loft above a noodle shop in Chinatown. After gigging around Europe in 1972, drummer Billy Murcia (a childhood friend of Sylvain Sylvain and Johnny Thunders) OD’d in a bathtub at a party, and the Dolls then headed back to New York to audition new drummers including Marc Bell (Marky Ramone), Peter Criss of KISS, and a friend of theirs, Jerry Nolan, who got the gig.

Todd Rundgren would step up to produce the band’s first album, and while Rolling Stone loved it, other reviews likened the sound of the Dolls’ guitars to “lawnmowers.” Love them or hate them, CREEM called them both the “best” and “worst” new group of 1973. The album cover (shot by Toshi Matsuo) of the Dolls sitting together on a couch in Matsuo’s loft looking hotter than hell in platforms and makeup fit for a serious-as-fuck queen got everyone’s attention. Toshi took many more photos of the band as individuals on the white satin couch, as well as in front of the famous Gem Spa corner store (home of the egg cream!), pictured on the back of the album.

There is one aspect of Matsuo’s outtakes for which I have no explanation—the appearance of a small child holding a Rayline Jet Disc Tracer Scope rifle (a toy) in every shot taken of the Dolls except for the one of Syl in front of Gem Spa. Who is this little badass, honorary New York Doll? I’d really like to think he turned out as cool as he looked in the photos you are about to see, as I’ve had little luck in tracking him down myself. Matsuo’s outtakes of the Dolls from 1973 follow.
 

David Johansen photographed by Toshi Matsuo.
 

Johnny Thunders.
 

Arthur “KIller” Kane.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.10.2018
10:36 am
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‘Glen Campbell Sings for The King’: Listen to the vocal guide demo tracks made for Elvis to imitate
12.10.2018
10:00 am
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It’s well-known that several prominent musicians and songwriters—Glen Campbell, PJ Proby, Mort Shuman and Delaney Bramlett among them—recorded “vocal guides” so that a post-army Elvis could make better use of expensive recording studio time for his Hollywood movie soundtracks. The singers would do the songs in Elvis’s style, he’d listen to them, and then he in turn would let it rip, in a sense, imitating them imitating him. It was nothing, if not efficient. The studio musicians who performed on the demos were often members of Phil Spector’s LA-based “Wrecking Crew” and apparently it was a bit of an assembly line process going on with up to six of them getting recorded per day. One prolific songwriter, Ben Weisman, who wrote or co wrote 57 numbers for the King (including one of his greatest “shits,” the income tax-related song, “He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad”) explained how it worked:

“I approached writing for Elvis differently than I did for any other artist. The songs had to have a combination of blues, country, rock and pop [what came to be called ‘rockabilly’]. It was like walking in his musical shoes. With each new Elvis movie, more of my songs were being recorded. It became more and more exciting, for I was becoming the only songwriter to have so many songs recorded by him.

After completing each song, I would make a demonstration (demo) record, using a singer that could copy Elvis’ sound. I used the same type of rhythm section that he used, with the same type of vocal backgrounds. The end result was a tailor-made production, just for him.

One of the first demo singers I hired was Otis Blackwell, who wrote such great Elvis songs as “Don’t Be Cruel,” “All Shook Up,” and many more. Some of the other talented singers I found were Glen Campbell, Delaney Bramlett, P.J.Proby, Ray Peterson and Dorsey Burnette.

Among the musicians who played on my demos were Phil Spector, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell, Larry Knechtel, plus Ronnie Tutt, Glen D. Hardin and James Burton, who ended up in Elvis’ band.”

Texas-born singer PJ Proby—Elvis once dated his older sister—did twenty such vocal guides for Presley (for just $10 a pop!) mimicking his singing style in a full-throated manner that was said to have mightily amused him. (This talent for imitating Elvis came in handy for when Proby portrayed the “later years” Elvis in a West End musical.) Songwriter Gerald Nelson wrote and performed nineteen songs for Elvis, Don Robertson did at least two dozen, but it was Glen Campbell, who Presley is said to have greatly respected, whose vocal guides—for Weisman and his songwriting partner Syd Wayne—got the most serious attention from Elvis. (When Presley resumed live performances in the late 60s, he’d even asked Campbell, who he’d known since 1956, to be the lead guitarist in his TCB touring band, but by this time Glen Campbell was already far too big a star in his own right with his popular Goodtime Hour TV series and massive hits like “Wichita Lineman,” and so James Burton, recently relieved from his duties in Ricky Nelson’s band, got the gig. During the 70s, Campbell would perform “Loving You” onstage, doing a nearly perfect Elvis imitation.)
 

 
Since Glen Campbell’s death last year, it’s no surprise that his longtime label Capitol Records would trawl the vaults for what they might turn into product, but apparently the cupboard was pretty bare. Then the original reels of Campbell’s Elvis guides were found by producer Stephen Auerbach, the nephew-in-law of Ben Weisman, in a storage locker. The results heard on Glen Campbell Sings for the King—like those found on a decade’s worth of the soundtracks to Presley’s own 1960s films—is pretty, er, spotty, but there is some (admittedly goofy) fun to be found here. I reckon it picks up a bit at the halfway point.

The collection will also be available on limited edition 180-gram clear vinyl only at GlenCampbell.com. There’s even more Glen Campbell on UMe’s terrific new Bobbie Gentry box set, The Girl From Chickasaw County - The Complete Capitol Masters.
 

 
More after the jump, with an exclusive clip of Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine on Glen Campbell…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.10.2018
10:00 am
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Lubomyr Melnyk: An interview with the mystic genius of piano
12.07.2018
08:19 am
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Lubomyr Melnyk portrait by Alex Kozobolis

A few years ago a friend of mine emailed me a YouTube link to the Ukrainian-Canadian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk playing for a rapt audience in Germany. His message said only:

“This guy is a fucking genius.”

He was right, and I was a fan within minutes of pressing play on that clip (see below) and experiencing the overwhelming numinosity of Melnyk’s music, which is both spiritual, and yet highly physical, and not unlike Sufi whirling dervish dancing in the concentration it would require. (It came as no surprise when he mentioned P.D. Ouspensky, the disciple of Gurdjieff, as one of his primary influences during the interview.) His playing can be a blur of passion, laser-like intention, and above all speed. His remarkable FLOOD of sound and cascading harmonics is unlike anything you are ever likely to have heard a piano sound like. Melnyk is considered the world’s fastest pianist, and has been timed playing nineteen and a half notes per second with each hand. The human ear cannot entirely take that much information in and make perfect sense of it, and so the music starts to twinkle and BREATHE and zen you out like a mantra. Although he admits to being influenced by Terry Riley and Steve Reich, he’s the exact opposite of a minimalist. The succinct opening paragraph in Melnyk’s Wikipedia entry reads:

Melnyk is noted for his continuous music, a piano technique based on extremely rapid notes and complex note-series, usually with the sustain pedal held down to generate harmonic overtones and sympathetic resonances. These overtones blend or clash according to harmonic changes. Most of his music is for piano, but he has also composed chamber and orchestral works. His piano music requires a special technique, closely related to the martial arts, and is too complex and difficult for any concert pianists to play. Because of his lifelong devotion to the piano, he has been called “the prophet of the piano.”

Melnyk told one interviewer:

What I do on a piano, nobody did before me. Because it is impossible to do it physically. It is something like a miracle. I don’t boast, God gave me this possibility. It is not me, it is not me who did it. I don’t wear a special royal dress and say that “I am the piano king because I do it.” No, it is all a gift from God. And I do it. People don’t understand that it all – from my spirit to fingers on keys and those sounds – is a whole life.

After this astonishing new musical discovery, I raced off to Discogs immediately to grab whatever I could find of Lubomyr Melnyk on vinyl. Solo piano sounds so amazing on wax, but the problem was one of scarcity. What existed on vinyl went for top dollar and some of it was only ever issued privately on cassette in the first place, so good luck finding those (most of his releases have zero for sale on Discogs). In recent years as interest in Melnyk’s fascinating music has risen around the world, his work has been issued by the Erased Tapes label and is becoming much easier to find. His latest release, Fallen Trees, was inspired by travelling Europe by train. Riding through a dark forest full of recently felled trees, this sad sight was his muse: “They were glorious,” he says. “Even though they’d been killed, they weren’t dead. There was something sorrowful there, but also hopeful.”

On January 24, celebrating his 70th birthday (which will be on December 20th), Lubomyr Melnyk will play a concert at London’s EartH venue in Hackney, with special guests Peter Broderick and Hatis Noit. (Get tickets here.)

I asked the maestro a few questions via email.

Richard Metzger: Where did you first “hear” your music? In the sense that you will often hear musicians say that a repetitive rhythm might come from having worked for a time in a factory. Captain Beefheart famously found a “floppy” drumbeat in his car’s windshield wiper. Your piano style is so distinctly your very own music, that once someone has heard you play, you could never be mistaken for anyone else. Where did you first “hear” it? What made it possible?

Lubomyr Melnyk: It is funny you mention these things because I have been told by close friends that I am in fact a true drummer!  The beats are just pouring out from my mind and my fingers. The origins of Continuous Music are indeed drumming with various rhythms appearing and various harmonics and upper frequencies. All my life I have heard the phenomenal sounds of melodic rhythms in machinery, what wonderful wonderful sounds they are! And this has been a secret source of my music. But only in a secret dimension kind of way. Without the power of drumming in my body and mind, this music would never have been born.

How do you define your “Continuous Music”?

You might as well ask me to define time and all five dimensions (there are more by the way, I just said five for now because it points us in the right direction…) In other words, it is transdimensional and metaphysical ability, similar to kung fu or Tai chi, for example; it’s not possible to separate the music from the technique, like you can not separate the “sound of the sword” from the body of the master. They are one and so is Continuous Music one with the being of the pianist. This might not explain it very well, but it is really quite impossible to describe. Continuous Music is a vast river flowing inside your soul and this river contains the four winds and it contains ice and it contains water and it turns to stone when you so wish.
 

Portrait of the artist as a young man

I’ve read that one formative aspect of your career was accompanying a dance troupe. How did playing for bodies in motion influence your style?

This is a super important element in the birth of Continuous Music. The master dancer Carolyn Carlsson was the inspiration for these dancers and the basic fundamental and pervading aspect of the classes was transcendent. They strove to transcend all time and all space and they inspired me to travel with them. You can not imagine how it was a special bubble of existence we experienced there, in 1972, in the attic of the Paris Opera high above the city, with huge windows and old old wooden floors with a grand piano. Me and these magnificent beings, the dancers.

This brings to mind John Cage, of course. You seem like someone who would take John Cage very seriously. Are you a student of his work and of his thought?

I loved John Cage and everything he did and created and wrote.  His books were of great importance to my musical thinking and in fact, it was John Cage who, at our tea-meeting at his home in New York, pointed me into the direction of a certain German transcendental composer of the 1930s whose musical language became the foundation of Continuous Music… the constant maintaining of harmonies and changing them very slowly so yes, he had an enormous effect on my pianistic development and of course, his interest in Zen thinking was another great influence.

What, or who else, has been an influence on your work?

Ah, what a list this would be! Let’s start with hippiedom and then of course, all the books the hippies read. My university studies of philosophy because, in fact, I wondered why intelligent professors ran to the hills when they had to confront Zeno’s paradoxes. And then musicians like Ravi Shankar, John McLaughlin, Jimi Hendrix who was on the guitar what Carolyn Carlson was to dance, and Ouspensky the philosopher. The list to goes on and in fact, it never ends. Continuous Music is a wonderful physical activity that never stops to grow and the beauty of the piano never ends. Never!

I enjoy watching your performances on YouTube where you can catch a glimpse of the audience—like your performance of “Illorium Nr. 03B” on German TV—and they seem to have been led into meditative states by your playing. It’s interesting to note that people react similarly to La Monte Young’s piano, and yet he and you are doing the exact opposite thing musically—obviously there is nary an arpeggio in his repertoire—and yet the end result on the listener is one that leaves one deep in thought, and unavoidably so. You are a sort of wizard. Your method of charging the atmosphere and the air around you is remarkable. What is your aim, in a magical sense, to impart to your audiences?

I want the river of sound to carry people along a world of beauty and deeper thought, a time where time stops, a place that has no space, a world that is more real than this world upon which we walk so that their souls will be strengthened and find a meaning in their life that is good and beautiful. Music exists to lift us up, up from the miserable mud of our hardships. It is a great gift and we should be grateful every minute of every day that we can hear music. It is really not so easy to hear it actually.
 
Much more Melnyk, after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.07.2018
08:19 am
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David Lynch sings Bob Dylan
12.06.2018
01:30 pm
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David Lynch’s second solo album, The Big Dream, seems to have made less of a splash than its predecessor, Crazy Clown Time. I have no empirical evidence to support this claim, just the practiced eye of a former record store clerk and lifelong cheapskate.

The Big Dream should not be overlooked, because it includes David Lynch’s reading of “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” by Bob Dylan. You may prefer the Stooges’, the Neville Brothers’, Nina Simone’s, or perhaps even Entombed’s version of Dylan’s take on “Pretty Polly,” but I’m partial to the particular feeling of emptiness Lynch summons.

In the movie David Lynch: The Art Life, the director tells a story about walking out of a Bob Dylan show as an art school freshman in 1964, leading to a bust-up with his roommate Peter Wolf, future singer of the J. Geils Band. As Lynch tells it, back in their room after the concert, Wolf scolded him—“Nobody walks out on Dylan!”—and Lynch responded “I walk out on Dylan—get the fuck outta here!”
 

David Lynch and Scotland’s answer to Bob Dylan, Donovan (via Pinterest)
 
Bob doesn’t appear to have played “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” that night in Boston, but the song, released earlier that year on The Times They Are a-Changin’, is a murder ballad about a man who kills his five children and his wife before turning the shotgun on himself—Dylan’s “Frankie Teardrop.” I suspect Lynch was drawn to “Hollis Brown” as much by the violence in the song and the blankness of the singer’s persona as by the cosmic perspective that appears in the last verse. It’s worth considering that this move to a God’s-eye view of the Wheel of Birth and Death isn’t necessarily redemptive. I take it to mean that a murder–suicide is as natural as the weather.
 
Listen after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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12.06.2018
01:30 pm
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Watch a 19-year-old Robert De Niro acting in his first film role, for which he was paid 50 bucks!
12.06.2018
01:30 pm
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The Wedding Party
 
It isn’t discussed all that much, but actor Robert De Niro and director Brian De Palma—both Hollywood titans—worked together at the start of their careers, when both were unknowns. De Niro appeared in the first three De Palma films, which have been recently restored and packaged together for an upcoming boxed set. Dangerous Minds has a preview.

Brian De Palma produced, directed, and edited his first film, which would be called The Wedding Party. Shooting began in 1963, but the movie wasn’t completed until 1966. Three more years would pass before it was released. The Wedding Party is about a man facing doubts about his imminent marriage. Shot in black and white, De Palma’s film is a comedy that is, at times, experimental.

Robert De Niro first heard about the production via an ad in the casting weekly, Show Business, and went to De Palma’s studio to audition. The director noticed De Niro was shy, but was subsequently blown away by his acting chops. When De Niro received the call that he got the part of groomsman, he was so excited that he misheard what his compensation would be. He thought he’d be getting $50 a week, but it was actually $50, total, for the role. Still, De Niro was thrilled. It was the first time he’d be paid for acting. He was nineteen.
 
De Niro
 
This was also the debut for another future star, Jill Clayburgh, who’s the bride-to-be. The other groomsman is played by quirky character actor William Finley, who is surely memorable to many of our readers as Winslow/the Phantom in De Palma’s awesome cult classic, Phantom of the Paradise (1974).

Four months before The Wedding Party was released in April 1969, another De Palma movie, Greetings, hit theaters. Greetings, a satirical picture, was the first film to receive an X rating.
 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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12.06.2018
01:30 pm
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Black Xmas: Half off classic cult movie posters sale (for the weirdo on your Xmas shopping list)
12.05.2018
10:38 am
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Torture Garden’ (UK, 1967)
 
Every year around this time, Westgate Gallery‘s poster concierge extraordinaire Christian McLaughlin drastically cuts prices for his annual Black Xmas 50% Off Sale. Why it’s almost half off, even…

Anyway, my pal McLaughlin, a novelist and TV/movie writer and producer based in Los Angeles, is the maven of mavens when it comes to this sort of thing. You couldn’t even begin to stock a store like his if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for in the first place, and if you want a quick (not to mention rather visceral) idea of his level of deep expertise—and what a great eye he’s got—then take a gander at his world-beating selection of Italian giallo posters. Christian is what I call a “sophisticate.”

He’s got a carefully curated cult poster collection on offer that is second to none. His home is a shrine to lurid giallo, 70s XXX and any and every midnight movie classic you can shake a stick at. But why would you want to shake a stick at a bunch of movie posters to begin with? That would be pointless. And stupid.

The Westgate Gallery’s Black Christmas 50% off sale sees every item in stock at—you guessed it—50% off the (already reasonable) normal price. All you have to do is enter the discount code “BlackXmas2018” at checkout and your tab will be magically cut in half.

The selection below is only a very tiny sliver of what’s for sale at Westgategallery.com.
 

‘Multiple Maniacs’ poster on sale at Westgate Gallery
 

Grave of the Vampire’ aka ‘Seed of Terror’  (USA, 1972)
 

The Pit’ aka ‘Teddy’ (Canada, 1981)
 

‘Andy Warhol’s Dracula’ poster for sale at Westgate Gallery
 

Rare Japanese ‘Sisters’ poster for sale at Westgate Gallery
 
Many, many, more marvellous movie posters, after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.05.2018
10:38 am
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Freddie Mercury really loved his cats
12.05.2018
06:46 am
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02fmcats.jpg
 
Freddie Mercury had many loves in his life. One of his big passions was his love of cats. Mercury so loved cats he was once described as “rock’s greatest lover of cats.” According to his last partner (and the man he called his “husband”) Jim Hutton, Mercury “treated cats like his own children.”

He would constantly fuss over them, and if any of them came to any harm when Freddie was away, heaven help us. During the day the cats had the run of the house and grounds, and at night one of us would round them up and bring them inside.

When on tour, or away recording, Mercury regularly phoned home to speak to his beloved felines. During his lifetime, Mercury had ten cats starting in the seventies with Tom and Jerry (who he shared with the woman Mercury described as his “common-law wife” Mary Austin), Tiffany (a present from Austin), and then a cluster of cats (Delilah, Dorothy, Goliath, Lily, Miko, Oscar and Romeo) who he shared with Hutton at their home in Garden Lodge, Logan Mews, London. As Hutton later wrote in his memoir Mercury and Me, Mercury’s favorite feline was his calico cat named Delilah:

Of all the cats at Garden Lodge, Delilah was Freddie’s favourite and the one he’d pick up and stroke the most often. When Freddie went to bed, it was Delilah he brought with us. She’d sleep at the foot of the bed, before slipping out for a night-time prowl around Garden Lodge.

Delilah was a spoilt cat and depended on Freddie for everything, even protection from the other cats. They would gang up on her and she would run into our bedroom—it was a cat sanctuary, In many ways the cats were Freddie’s children, and we all thought of them that way. The slightest feline sneeze or twitch and he’d send them off to the vet for a check-up. And we were old-fashioned when it came to having to have sex in total privacy. Whenever Freddie and I jumped in the bedroom to make love, he would always ensure that none of the cats were watching.

Mercury dedicated his solo album Mr. Bad Guy (1985) “to my cat Jerry—also Tom, Oscar, and Tiffany, and all the cat lovers across the universe—screw everybody else!” and so loved Delilah that he wrote a song about her on Queen’s Innuendo album in 1991:

Delilah, Delilah, oh my, oh my, oh my - you’re irresistible
You make me smile when I’m just about to cry
You bring me hope, you make me laugh - and I like it
You get away with murder, so innocent
But when you throw a moody you’re all claws and you bite

Delilah once peed all over Mercury’s Chippendale suite—something that apparently happened quite often with all of the cats on other fixtures and furnishings. Not everyone in Queen was so enamored by Mercury’s song to a cat, drummer Roger Taylor claimed he “hated it.”

Before he died in 1991, Mercury told one journalist he planned to leave everything to “Mary and the cats.” And here are some of those little darlings who outlived Freddie and inherited his wealth.
 
05fmcats.jpg
Jerry.
 
09fmcats.jpg
Romeo.
 
01fmcats.jpg
Oscar.
 
More of Freddie’s furry feline friends, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.05.2018
06:46 am
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Art, Bro: For a hundred bucks, Eddie Argos of Art Brut will paint the cover of your favorite album
12.04.2018
10:05 am
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The calendar says December, so that means that somewhere within a thirty-mile radius of where I am right now, “Wonderful Christmastime” is ruining someone’s day. On the bright side, it’s also seasonally appropriate to insert Bad Santa references into your repartee (especially if you work in an office).

It’s also a fine moment to pass along an unusual gift idea—an amusing painting about rock music painted by an actual rock star!

For a few years now, you see, the highly amusing Eddie Argos, frontman of the British rock combo known as Art Brut, has been offering actual painted creations for sale on his website Lo-Fi Punk Motherfucker. Most of the paintings Argos does are of album covers. He does Art Brut album covers, of course—you can buy a painting of Art Brut’s third album Art Brut Vs. Satan or It’s a Bit Complicated if you want one. He also has a series of Pulp album covers (Different Class, Intro: The Gift Recordings, Separations, and His ‘n’ Hers).

He also has a few typically unpretentious canvases dedicated to coffee and tea and ones about mix tapes.
 

 
The most intriguing category, for my money, is the “submit your own” one, which invites you to name your favorite album. Eddie will paint the album cover while listening to the album and then submit a hard-copy review of the same album along with the finished painting. The whole deal costs £70 for the small (15 cm) and £100 for the large (30 cm)—shipping included! He will perform this service for any album you name—even the Stone Roses. (It says that, “even the Stone Roses.”)

Last year I sent Eddie the requisite cash and title (The Meadowlands, by the Wrens) and he duly reciprocated by sending me the artwork pictured above. I’m very happy with it, and it now occupies a special section of my bathroom wall (this is true).

Eddie’s love affair with the painterly life stretches back at least as far as Art Brut’s first album, which featured a song in which Argos crooned about David Hockney and Henri Matisse.

Eddie’s Instagram page consists mostly of his album cover paintings, and they’re worth a look. Often he will append a brief comment about the album, in which you learn that he had not listened to Minutemen before (??!) and also, apparently, the Beatles, much. His comment on Soul Mining by The The is an absolute must-read.

At some point a few months ago Eddie made it known that he was no longer doing the favorite album series but a mysterious confrontation involving a spectre and a tombstone has apparently softened his heart and he has made it known via Twitter that he is “still making album paintings ... if you are looking for a Christmas present for someone.”

Much like Eddie and accepting album cover requests, Art Brut has similarly resumed an activity, namely that of releasing record albums. Earlier this year they put out a stimulating exercise in punky Sprechgesang called Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! and you should certainly buy it.
 

 

  
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.04.2018
10:05 am
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We all know ‘Music from Big Pink’ by The Band. What about ‘Music from “Lil Brown”’ by Africa?
12.03.2018
02:43 pm
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A few weeks ago—I recall the date exactly, as it was my birthday, so October 25th—I went downstairs at Shake It Records in Cincinnati, to their vinyl section, known as “Billy’s Basement.” A song had just started on the stereo: a slinky Latin-tinged psychedelic soul cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” As it went on, and on—it’s 7:35—I fell deeper and deeper under its jammy hypnotic conga drum-led spell. Not to imply any sort of improvisational looseness to the proceedings. The musicians were clearly professionals, the music was well-rehearsed and it was entirely planned out, not spontaneous in any true sense. It wasn’t like some hacky sack hippie jam band covering the Stones, but it wasn’t entirely obvious what it was. Or what vintage it was either.

“WOW! WHAT IS THIS?” I asked of Billy.
 

 
“It’s something called Music from “Lil Brown” by a group called Africa” he explained. “It’s obviously some sort of goofy reference to Music from Big Pink. Look at the album art.” He held up the cover and indeed on the front cover was a direct homage to the (Milton Glaser-designed) back cover of The Band’s album. On the back was a child’s drawing that echoed Bob Dylan’s Big Pink cover painting. The gatefold featured a group shot of assorted friends and family members labeled “Next of Kin” (another Band reference) and as if all that wasn’t crystal clear enough already, in tiny text at the bottom it read:

“Any similarity to any other album package was purely calculated and our thanks to all those concerned. Be sure and listen to the Band SKAO2955.”

Ahem…
 

 
The next song was a cover of the Doors’ “Light My Fire.” The first song on side two was a medley of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe” and “Louie, Louie” by the Kingsmen!!!

WHAT IS THIS?!?

The record was still sealed—he’d been listening to it on YouTube trying to figure out what it was so he could put a price on it—and he priced it at $50. Normally I try to keep a lid on my vinyl purchases and cap it at $30 per record (a two-record set can sell for $60 and I can still justify the expenditure in my fevered, Gollum-esque brain) but this was actually a bargain for this sucker—$50 and up for a decent copy on Discogs and this was sealed and IT WAS MY FREAKING BIRTHDAY so yes, that record—MY PRECIOUS—is now MINE ALL MINE…

I didn’t care how much it cost, frankly.

Africa was comprised of some musicians who had longed worked together, mostly as performers in various Los Angeles-based doo-wop groups, with names like the Valiants, the Electras, the Alley Cats, the Del-Mars, the Ring-A-Dings and the Untouchables. Brice Coefield, Chester Pipkin, Ed Wallace, Freddie Wills, Gary Pipkin were aided in their music making by Mamas and the Papas producer Lou Adler (who would, of course, go on to release records by Cheech & Chong and produce Carole King’s Tapestry and The Rocky Horror Picture Show) who brought in a mobile recording unit to their little brown rehearsal space in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.

There isn’t much more information out there about Africa, but the following was found on Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebooks:

“Finally, in late 1968, they all became the soul group Africa, recording for Lou Adler’s Ode label (a subsidiary of Columbia). Africa consisted of (in various combinations): Billy Storm, Brice Coefield, Rip Spencer, Chester Pipkin, Gary Pipkin, Ed Wallace, Billy Mann, and Freddie Willis (second tenor/baritone).

The recording group, however, consisted of Brice Coefield (who does all the leads), Chester Pipkin (who also did the arrangements), Gary Pipkin, Ed Wallace, Freddie Willis, and Billy Storm, who shares the lead on “Here I Stand” (a song he wrote), They recorded eight sides for Ode, which were released on an album. “We used to rehearse at Gary Pipkin’s house and he had this little brown shack, a playhouse in the backyard, for his kids.” So, probably as a tribute to The Band’s recent album, Music From Big Pink, they decided to name the album Music From ‘Lil Brown’. (Strangely, Africa’s name didn’t appear anywhere on the outside of the album.) Lou Adler got a mobile recording studio, and the tracks were mostly recorded at Gary’s house. A large mural of Africa’s photo was painted on the outside of the Whiskey à Go Go on the Sunset Strip in order to promote the album; it remained there for several months.

Five years later, Africa recorded ten more tracks for MGM, but all remain unreleased.

Music from “Lil Brown” has never been (legally) released on CD. It should be. In the meantime the wax needs to be in the collection of every self-respecting DJ, stat.

Have a listen for yourself after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.03.2018
02:43 pm
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