The Australian band Baby Grande surely would’ve been lost to history if not for the work of HoZac Records. The label has unearthed the Baby Grande tapes, which date from the mid 1970s, but weren’t released. The group features future members of the Church, but that’s not the sole reason the material is interesting. Formed during the period when glam was on the way out, but punk wasn’t a thing yet, Baby Grande were a little of both. Their glam/punk songs are really quite good, which makes their impending album of archival recordings something to get excited about.
Baby Grande got going in 1975. Singer Steve Kilbey and drummer Peter Koppes had previously played together in another band, the Precious Little. Baby Grande were based in Canberra, and started playing area clubs, though it was hard to get the attention of attendees, who were mainly there to booze it up. Even a high profile gig opening for AC/DC didn’t result in any new fans. Not helping matters, the group found they had few contemporaries, as most of the other Canberra outfits only did covers, and Baby Grande had no connection to the sharpie movement.
Koppes eventually switched to second lead guitar and a new drummer was brought aboard, but then Koppes left the band when gigs became few and far between. The remaining four members realized they really only needed one lead guitarist anyway, with Kilbey playing rhythm guitar as needed.
Despite the fact that they didn’t have much of a following, Baby Grande got their big break, signing with EMI Records. In January 1977, they went into the studio to record what they thought was a demo, but after submitting the tapes to the label, they were dropped. Turns out, the suits were expecting a finished product and were disappointed with the results. It wasn’t long before Baby Grande had broken-up.
A couple of years later, Kilbey and Koppes reunited and formed the Church.
HoZac Records drops the album of Baby Grande studio recordings, which is entitled 1975-77, on October 5th. Pre-order your copy here. Dangerous Minds is thrilled to have the premiere of one of the highlights of the record, the exhilarating glam/punk rocker, “Zephyr.” The track was amongst those rejected by EMI for being too raw, but that quality is part of what makes this and other Baby Grande songs so exciting—what do the suits know, anyway?!
I’m no synesthete, so I’m still not sure what Eddie Van Halen meant by “the brown sound.” Sorry, Eddie: I’m the kind of literal-minded philistine who sees with his eyes and hears with his ears. Regular slobs like me have to make do with the pitch-and-color correspondences of Alexander Scriabin’s Theosophically inspired score Prometheus: Poem of Fire, which included a part for color organ.
(N.B.: As this article points out, a century ago, “synesthesia” did not exclusively refer to a neurological condition, but described “a broad range of cross-sensory phenomena” that could arise from mystical or aesthetic experience. So asking whether Scriabin himself was “really” a synesthete is beside the point.)
There’s ever so much bullshit about Prometheus on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Internet. As a corrective, let’s start with some heavy scholarship from the eminent musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky:
Scriabin made an earnest attempt to combine light and sound in the score of Prometheus, in which he includes a special part, Luce, symbolizing the fire that Prometheus stole from the gods. It is notated on the musical staff as a clavier à lumieres, a color organ intended to flood the concert hall in a kaleidoscope of changing lights, corresponding to the changing harmonies of the music. Unfortunately, the task of constructing such a color keyboard was beyond the technical capacities of Scriabin’s time. Serge Koussevitzky, the great champion of Scriabin’s music, had to omit the Luce part at the world première of Prometheus which he conducted in Moscow in 1911.
Alexander Wallace Rimington with Colour-Organ (an instrument that did not, in fact, perform ‘Prometheus’ in 1915)
The Russian Symphony Society gave the first performance of Prometheus with lights at Carnegie Hall on March 20, 1915, a little over a month before the composer’s death. James M. Baker’s “Prometheus and the Quest for Color-Music” sets Scriabin’s work in historical context and traces its path to Seventh Avenue. The essay overflows with detail on the particular system of correspondences Scriabin worked out, the history of synesthetic compositions, and Prometheus’ relationship to Theosophical lore. Significantly, Baker agrees with Slonimsky that, when Scriabin wrote Prometheus, he had no clue how the Luce portion of the score would actually be played (much less how “to flood the concert hall” with colors):
Although documents from the time are sprinkled with comments hinting that various color apparatuses had been tried and had failed in preparing earlier performances, in actuality there was no color organ ready and available for which Scriabin had conceived the part. It is true that Alexander Mozer, the composer’s friend and disciple who taught electrical engineering at a Moscow technical school, had constructed a small color device with which Scriabin experimented in his apartment, but this was merely a crude circle of colored light bulbs mounted on a wooden base.
Baker writes that Scriabin’s plans for English performances of Prometheus accompanied by A. Wallace Rimington’s color organ were scotched by the outbreak of World War I. In New York, the technical problem fell to the Edison Testing Laboratories, which invented a color organ especially for the show: the Chromola, a keyboard of 15 keys hooked up to a number of lamps behind color filters, with two pedals to control their intensity. While more impressive than Mozer’s “crude circle of colored light bulbs,” the projections on a gauze screen fell short of the composer’s desired effect. The May 1915 issue of The Edison Monthly represented the debut performance of Scriabin’s “special light score” as a modest success:
The theory of the production is roughly this: Following out the analogy of light and sound vibration, Scriabine [sic], the Russian composer, hit upon the notion of writing a color score to accompany his orchestral “Poem of Fire.” In theory, the audience was to sit bathed in floods of changing light whose variations in tint and intensity should follow the sound variations. In practice, however, this became more complex.
It was found impossible to achieve “floods of light,” and in their place a gauze screen was provided on which the changing hues were thrown, controlled from a cleverly designed “color organ” or “chromola.” Scriabine’s original color scale was found defective and a more scientific one was provided, based on rate of vibrations, each octave extending from deep red at one end of the spectrum to violet at the other. Thus pitch was made analogous to hue, loudness to shade and quality to the intensity of illumination. Advocates of mobile color feel sufficiently encouraged by their experiment to wish to attempt another production under more favorable conditions. And apparently one of these will be a score somewhat less bewilderingly dissonant than the “Poem of Fire.”
Below, a 2010 performance of Prometheus approximates the totally bitchin’ immersive light show Scriabin imagined, with the help of 21st century lighting tech and Yale’s massive endowment (that’s Ivy League coin, perv!).
Why are Dario Argento’s films so compelling? It’s largely due to his knack for matching fantastic, terrifying imagery with amazing music that fully enhances the mood. The Italian writer/director works closely with composers, which has resulted in a number of highly effective horror movie scores. He’s frequently collaborated with the prog rock band Goblin, and soundtracks for two of those films, plus Argento’s team up with one of prog’s most famous and flamboyant figures, are about to be reissued on vinyl—and in lavishly packaged, expanded editions, to boot.
This Friday, Waxwork Records will release enhanced and complete soundtracks for three Dario Argento classics: Profondo Rosso (a/k/a Deep Red (1975), Inferno (1980), and Phenomena (1985). Profondo Rosso is the first Argento film Goblin scored, while the music for Phenomena was composed by Goblin band members, Claudio Simonetti and Fabio Pignatelli, and performed by the group. Inferno is the work of the late Keith Emerson. Waxwork has produced the definitive versions of these soundtracks, with lots of previously unreleased tracks. Each release includes stunning, newly commissioned artwork and cool colored vinyl, with high quality gatefold jackets.
We’ve got a sneak peak at what Waxwork is offering; the majority of these images are making their web premiere.
A photo of a young Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul on the queen of hearts card from a playing card set released by the NME in 1991.
I’m going to break the bad news to you quickly when it comes to obtaining your own set of NME’s l playing card set from 1991: Coming across a complete 52-card set is pretty much a mission impossible. Single cards occasionally pop up on auction sites and can sell for five bucks or more when they do. As somewhat of a collector of this type of ephemera, I can completely understand coveting a set of these rare cards as they include an array of arresting black and white photographs featuring the music world’s most elite talents.
Whoever did this for the NME really must have had fun. I mean, Morrissey is the queen of diamonds, Mark E. Smith is the joker, and James Brown is the king of hearts. NME even added an extra number six to all of the number six cards so the tops of the cards read 666. Before I completely nerd out more than usual, let’s take a look at the best of NME’s playing card set below. You can see all of the cards here.
Star Wars or Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, to give the film its proper title, is the single most influential, and thus arguably, the most important movie of the past fifty years. Nothing comes close to the cultural, social, and technical impact George Lucas’s sci-fi soap opera has achieved—whether you or I like it or not. It even has its own religion. Its nearest rival is probably Harry Potter or the Avengers franchise, neither of which might ever have made celluloid without the technical advances in special effects pioneered under Lucas’s direction. Whether it’s a good film/film series or not, is entirely another question.
What’s interesting, from a purely sociological point of view, is why such a fantasy epic should hold such sway—perhaps a loss of faith in religion and politics? Humanity’s overweening need for fairy tales and the comforting narrative that all will be well?
When it first opened in 1977, Star Wars looked set to be a flop as most critics hated it. Waspish pipsqueak Pauline Kael said the film was “an assemblage of spare parts” that had “no emotional grip.” Other papers described it as “unexceptional,” “corny, solemn comic-book tropes,” or just “a set of giant baubles maniupated by an infant mind.” The Washington Post was one of the very few papers to recognize the film’s merit. Critic Gary Arnold said Star Wars was ” new classic in a rousing movie tradition: a space swashbuckler.”
... a witty and exhilarating synthesis of themes and cliches from the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers comics and serials, plus such related but less expected sources as the western, the pirate melodrama, the aerial combat melodrama and the samurai epic.
Lucas worked on his Star Wars’ script for over two years. His original idea was to write a story about the relationship between a father and a son, or rather a father and his twin offspring. It grew and grew, until it became too unwieldy to film. He therefore decided to film the first third of his script as Star Wars Episode VI A New Hope, the other two thirds became episodes V and VI. The film reflects the time and culture of its day. In some respects it’s the last great all-white Boys’ Own adventure movie as the film featured only one female character Princess Leia—an intergalactic damsel in distress—and little diversity—other than James Earl Jones voicing Darth Vader. This imbalance has changed over the years to the point where there is a far more racially diverse cast and female characters taking leading roles.
But Star Wars as it was known on its release in 1977 was where it all began and for good or ill, cinema is still reflecting its influence forty+ years on.
More Polaroids for ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,’ after the jump…
Over the course of his decades-long career as a singer, Ronnie James Dio (RIP 2010) became as well known for wizards-and-demons-and-swords-and-sorcery lyrical themes as for his astoundingly powerful voice. But, to our amazement, we were able to locate the actual word “sword” in only one Dio song, “Push,” from his eponymous band’s 2002 LP Killing the Dragon:
You’ve ridden on a carousel
So you know the feeling as the ring slips through your fingers
Sometimes you justify it
But there’s the sword and you’re bleeding once again
To discover this bit of nearly unbelievable trivia, I combed as closely as I could through all of the lyrics of every album he sang on looking for the word “sword”, starting with his early-’70s hard rock band Elf—a tedious and not at all illuminating enterprise that I quite regret undertaking—and the only other reference I found was from Rainbow’s “Lady of the Lake” off of Long Live Rock ’N’ Roll, the lovely “silvery blade” line in this post’s headline. If I missed something, please do tell in the comments, but all the same, his rep for medieval mysticism was justified, and underscored by his penchant for brandishing swords in LARP-y promotional photos. And next weekend, swords from Dio’s personal armory will go up for public auction.
A sadly fictional View-Master package and reels for the 1980 film ‘The Shining.’
I came across a pretty sweet mock-up of a View-Master cover and reel for the 1982 film Fast Times At Ridgemont High posted on the Australian pop culture blog Repeat Viewing. Repeat Viewing even went so far as to create authentic-looking View-Master reels noting specific scenes from Fast Times, The Shining, An American Werewolf in London, Full Metal Jacket, and Jacob’s Ladder. This sent me off to find more reimagined View-Master covers and reels, and my Internet inquiries were rewarded with many more mock-ups of films which would be even more eye-popping, viewed through the specialized stereoscopes initially introduced in 1939.
According to the Wikipedia page on the View-Master, 65% of the world’s population is well acquainted with the brand name “View-Master.” If you didn’t have one as a kid, I’d be a bit confused because they still make variations of the little nostalgic slide-show device. And I don’t know about you, but if someone, ANYONE wanted to make adult-oriented View-Master reels, I would fully support the effort. The other images in this post were done by Nathan Martin of the blog CineCraze and Portland, Oregon artist Nate Ashley. Some are NSFW. YAY!
By Repeat Viewing. Other fantastic fake View-Master packaging and reels by Repeat Viewing follow.
We all know what Dracula looks like. Bela Lugosi and innumerable Hammer horror movies starring Christopher Lee have fixed the Count in our imagination. He’s tall, gaunt, interestingly pale, with slicked back hair, and a set of unfeasibly large canine teeth. He sports a cloak, and what appears to be an evening suit which can often make him look like a nightclub doorman or a shifty croupier at a Mayfair casino dealing from the bottom of the pack. When commissioned to provide the illustrations for a new edition of Bram Stoker’s enduring tale, artist John Coulthart decided to keep his work faithful to the source material.
Coulthart had previously been commissioned by the same publisher to illustrate Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with which he had similarly “opted for fidelity to the text and period details “:
Despite its epistolary form, Dracula is much more readable (in a contemporary sense) than Frankenstein, so more people will have read Stoker than Shelley; but the sheer scale of cultural mauling that Dracula has been subject to means that—as with Frankenstein—even the allegedly faithful adaptations often deviate from the novel. The lounge-lizard vampire that everyone knows was a creation of Hamilton Deane’s 1924 stage adaptation, the success of which led to Tod Browning’s film and Bela Lugosi’s performance (which I’ve never liked); film and theatre may have made Dracula universally popular but the Lugosi stereotype has overshadowed the more powerful and violent character that Stoker gives us, with his bearded face, hairy palms and glowing eyes. So that’s who you see here, although the restrictions of time and brief (one picture per chapter) meant that some of the moments I’d have liked to illustrate had to be forfeit. Poor old Renfield gets short shrift, and some of the minor male characters are out of the picture altogether.
Regardless of the constrictions of time and remit, Coulthart’s illustrations for Dracula are among the very best ever produced, as his detailed work fully captures the intense, eerie, menacing, and almost dreamlike atmosphere of Stoker’s novel where you can “believe in things that you cannot.”
See the complete set of John Coulthart’s marvellous illustration fro Draculahere.
See more of John Coulthart’s superb illustrations for ‘Dracula,’ after the jump…
Regardless of how you feel about their music, it’s undeniable that the first six albums by Van Halen had a massive impact on hard rock and heavy metal. Though they had catchy songs that rocked, and frontman David Lee Roth had much to do with their appeal, the influence of Van Halen is largely due to their guitarist, Eddie Van Halen. He not only wrote the group’s music, but his unique approach to his instrument inspired a generation of musicians. Unfortunately, many of them focused too much on Eddie’s technical prowess, seemingly failing to notice that his style has loads of personality, too. So, what if Eddie had died before Van Halen’s first album was even recorded? It’s interesting to ponder, especially as it nearly happened.
By spring 1976, Van Halen had been together for a couple of years. They were gigging regularly and had developed a following in the Los Angeles area, but a record contract had so far eluded them. They played all over Southern California, performing at house parties, high schools and colleges, as well as seedy nightclubs like Gazzarri’s. But there were also shows at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and the Golden West Ballroom in Norwalk, which were larger venues. Though Van Halen already had a number of original songs, their sets largely consisted of cover tunes—often at the assistance of club owners. For their May 9th appearance at the Golden West, in which they would open for popular English rock band UFO, they were told they could perform their own material. This marks the first time Van Halen would play a set of just their songs.
That night, after being introduced by early supporter Rodney Bingenheimer, Van Halen blew UFO off the stage of the Golden West. Their set off all originals went over so well that they were called back out for an encore, electing to perform the one cover they would do that evening, KISS’s “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
Afterwards, Eddie Van Halen hopped offstage and worked his way through the crowd of supporters towards the men’s room. His group had just played the biggest show of their young career, but nature called. Once in the bathroom, Eddie ran into a drug dealer he knew. This guy was so impressed with the performance he had just witnessed, that he freely offered what Eddie thought was cocaine, and that Ed could snort as much as he wanted—so the guitarist did just that. After thanking the man, Eddie left the bathroom and headed back towards the stage to fetch his gear. Once there, it wasn’t long before Eddie’s body started convulsing, and he soon collapsed to the floor. Turns out it wasn’t blow that he had snorted, but PCP.
As his bandmates and crew huddled around him, Edward’s face was drawn taut, like a mask. His jaw was locked and his eyes fixed. Panicking, Alex [Van Halen, drummer] yelled in his ear and shook him, and yet his younger brother remained rigid and unresponsive. Edward Van Halen was dying.
Night Tide it isn’t, but I like this cheapo TV movie with Dennis Hopper as hardboiled private dick H. Phillip Lovecraft. In Witch Hunt, the sequel to Cast A Deadly Spell, Hopper takes over the role from Fred Ward, and Paul Schrader relieves Martin Campbell of the director’s chair.
Both early nineties HBO features are set in a post-WWII Hollywood where everyone dabbles in black magic—the Portuguese title of Witch Hunt is Ilusões Satânicas, “Satanic Illusions”—and all dirty work is left to gnomes, sylphs, undines and salamanders.
Eric Bogosian plays Senator Larson Crockett, a McCarthyite anti-magic crusader whose voice emanates from every TV and radio, speechifying about the threat the dark arts pose to the American way of life. When the actress Kim Hudson (Penelope Ann Miller) hires Lovecraft to investigate her husband, the case draws them toward some mass-movement jingoistic witchery that makes Hollywood look sweet.
The score is Twin Peaks-y jazz by Angelo Badalamenti. One scene echoes Dean Stockwell’s performance of “In Dreams” from Blue Velvet, only this time it’s Lypsinka miming “I Put A Spell on You” as Hopper looks on with pain and delight.