New York, 1999: Blondie’s first show in their home city for 17-years.
Having split-up in November 1982, Blondie’s started reform as a band in 1996, when Debbie Harry and Chris Stein contacted original members Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri, and Gary Valentine. This tentative re-grouping led to a tour and eventually a mixed-bag of an album No Exit, which was recorded without Valentine, who was once again out of the band by 1997. No Exit gave Blondie, their first UK number single, “Maria,” in 20-years.
Blondie: Live in New York 1999 mixes old favorites, with new songs from No Exit. The show was originally recorded for VH1, and a longer version was later released on DVD.
02. “Hanging On The Telephone”
03. “Screaming Skin”
04. “Forgive And Forget”
06. “Union City Blue”
07. “Sunday Girl”
09. “Call Me”
10. “Boom Boom In The Zoom Zoom Room”
Blondie are currently on tour, playing the Isle of Wight Festival next weekend, details here.
It’s an hallucinatory, almost trance-inducing experience, said underground film-maker, photographer and poet, Ira Cohen about his film The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda (1968).
It’s like going on an ecstatic journey to another planet, full of magical beings, animals and plants.
It’s certainly all that and more, and also has a soundtrack by The Velvet Underground’s original drummer Angus MacLise.
Cohen filmed this phantasmagorical short at his apartment in New York’s Lower East Side. Cohen called his home “The Mylar Chamber,” as its walls were covered with Mylar, and he used its distorted and reflective quality to photograph various artists, writers and musicians. It was also a key component to The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, where its wonderful ripple effect is like one long trip. But to Ira Cohen back in the 1960s, it was “just reality.”
Next week marks the first release on DVD and Blu-ray of Rockshow , the two-hour plus 35mm concert documention of Paul McCartney and Wings’ 1976 American tour.
It’s a corker.
The “Wings Over America” tour (or “Wing Over The World” if you saw them elsewhere) was the largest tour that McCartney had mounted to that point (there were two small scale UK college tours in 1972) and based on the evidence of Rockshow (filmed in front of 67,000 fans at the gigantic Kingdome in Seattle and at smaller shows at The Forum in Los Angeles and New York’s Madison Square Garden), it must’ve been the very, very best time to have seen him perform other than during his Beatles days. (In any case, it was the first time North American fans had a chance to see McCartney perform since the final Beatles show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966.)
The set list is a motherfucker (song for song, the same as on the Wings Over America album) incorporating Macca’s very best solo material (“Band on the Run,” “Live and Let Die,” “Venus and Mars/Rockshow,” “Jet,” a magnificent “Bluebird”), five well-chosen Beatles numbers (“Blackbird,” “Lady Madonna,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Yesterday” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face”) along with an excellent cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory.” (I kept waiting for Denny to sing “Wish that I could be… John Denver” but that never occurs in this version, sadly.)
The incarnation of Wings seen and heard in Rockshow are Paul and Linda McCartney, drummer Joe English, and guitarists Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch. Brass and woodwind players Howie Casey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard and Tony Dorsey were also along for the tour and again, other than the Fab Four, this was the very best band McCartney ever worked with. Rockshow captures him at a time when he was on a creative, personal and commercial peak and he’s obviously having a grand fucking time, grinning from ear to ear. (Not to damn the great man with faint praise, but this WAS his post-Beatles career peak. The indifferent London Town came next and it was all quickly downhill from there…)
If you owned the triple LP Wings Over America set, you probably recall its distinctively murky, hissy sound quality. Here, the restored audio has been expertly realized and the super-clean 5.1 HD DTS surround mix can rattle the walls (I’ve been playing it a lot these past few days, I sure hope my neighbors like Paul McCartney!)
The camera work in Rockshow is solid enough (no allowances were made for the movie crew, so it’s often shot from the side or through mic-stands)) and since this was pre-MTV, the editing isn’t hyper-kinetic and you actually have a chance to see the musicians playing their instruments for at least several seconds at a time. Picture quality is kinda “eh” for 35mm on Blu-Ray (to my eye it appears to be 16mm blown up to 35mm and it’s more than a little grainy in the darker parts). Frankly, although I’d put this on and play it all the way through, it’s not like I’m ever going to sit there and watch it all anyway. Like most people, I just dip in and out of concert DVDs, so the picture quality (which isn’t bad, mind you, not in the least, it’s just not great either) doesn’t really bother me. It’s all about the audio quality in my book, and this sucker is the tits in the high fidelity department (I would never listen to Wings Over America again owning this one)
Occasionally there are continuity problems, as the group wasn’t all wearing the same clothes for each concert that was filmed, and at one point Denny Laine’s bass magically changes from a black Precision Bass into a blonde Telecaster. Something else that I found slightly amusing was during “Magneto and Titanium Man” when a huge Jack Kirby-drawn mural drops (after a little coaxing) then sits there, unmoving for the length of the song. Today that would be an animated 3-D CGI HD video spectacular, but I suppose that stadium rock was still in its infancy then. Another smile comes during “Live and Let Die” where it looks like the smoke bombs and pyrotechnics weren’t all that much fun for the band to experience from the stage.
For its minor faults, Rockshow is a delight, even the cutaways to the young audience members are charming. In his liner notes, BBC radio’s Paul Gambaccini describes them as “not baby boomers overcome by emotion as they recall the music of their childhood, these are young people hearing the music when it was still fresh”:
“When the camera focuses on individual faces during “Blackbird,” we see persons who are alive in the moment, completely engaged by the experience. They do not realize that, in 2013, they will be tearful with joy to have such beautiful memories.”
But don’t think this can only be enjoyed as a nostalgia trip, it rocks like a motherfucker.
Frankly, I get sent a lot of DVDs, but after I watch something once, I usually just toss it, give it to a friend or trade it in. Most DVDs are disposable to me, but I’m keeping this one. Rockshow is actually worth buying and making a part of your collection. Had a free review copy not arrived in the post last week, I’d have bought my own copy anyway. I’d rate Rockshow five stars out of five. If it sounds like something you think you might like, you probably will like it. A lot.
Rockshow came out on Betamax and laserdisc in the early 1980s, but it has not been available (legally) for over 30 years. EagleRock’s DVD and Blu-ray release makes the full concert available for the very first time ever. The excerpt below, from The McCartney Years DVD should whet your appetite for the full thing.
It’s the forty-sixth summer since the original “Summer of Love,” and June can’t go by without a psychedelia reference, can it?
The Electric Prunes, formed in the staid environs of the San Fernando Valley rather than the hip Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, were among the first psychedelic California bands typically associated with the free, experimental, blissed-out, drug-enhanced summer of 1967. The original Prunes were Ken Williams on guitar, James Lowe on vocals and autoharp, Joe Dooley on drums, Mark Tulin on bass and Dick Hargrave on organ. Their best-remembered song “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” was included on the Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 compilation, which became hugely influential on the younger musicians who started punk a few years later.
Above, Mass in F Minor
However, some of Electric Prunes strangest work came in 1968, when their manager Lenny Poncher convinced them to make an electric, psychedelic rock version of the Roman Catholic mass, Mass in F Minor, written by composer David Axelrod. Flower children probably did not dance to this album. Not surprisingly, Mass in F Minor has not been heavily used as actual liturgical music either, despite Catholic youth leaders’ desire to incorporate guitars into masses (in an effect to be relevant) for 30 years or so. This was followed up by another religious-themed album written by Axelrod, Release of an Oath: The Kol Nidre—a prayer of antiquity. This album combined Jewish and traditional Christian liturgy. The Kol Nidre service is intended to release a penitent from an oath “made under duress and in violation of his principles” according to the album’s liner notes and is still performed in synagogues today. Recording these two albums proved to be a stressful experience for the band, and they broke up during the recording of Release of an Oath. Axelrod had to bring in session musicians to complete the album.
Above, Release of an Oath
Above, The Electric Prunes do “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” on The Mike Douglas Show, and then they jam with Barbara Feldon, “Agent 99” from Get Smart!
Larry Wessel’s 2011 Boyd Rice documentary Iconoclast was, I thought, an interesting way to spend four-odd hours. In it, Rice does come across as a curious individual, half dark lord and half fabulous fan-boy, with a mania for tiki bars, practical jokes, and a hundred other peculiar hobbies and fixations. It was noticeable however that the film—seemingly made in close collaboration with its subject—was also something of a white-wash regarding Rice’s flirtation with white-supremacy.
It seemed significant, for example, that the following appearance by Rice on the US Nazi Tom Metzger’s self-styled “controversial pro-white TV show” Race & Reason didn’t make Wessel’s capacious final cut. When not discussing electronic music’s “intrinsic whiteness,” and deriding “pitiful liberal humanist values,” Rice, Tom Metzger, and the show’s co-host (a Neo-Nazi Hank Kingsley!) find common ground concerning Adolf Hitler’s underrated prose style. “Whenever you see Mein Kampf referred to in print,” muses Rice, “they always use the exact same words—they call it turgid prose and incoherent and stuff (…) when you read it it’s like the exact opposite.” (Which, according to the Thesaurus, throws up the following antonyms: “humble, modest, quiet, reserved, self-effacing, balanced, collected, normal, sane.” Sounds like Mein Kampf to me!)
I have always thought William Burroughs was a terribly superstitious man. His life was tinged by the strange, the paranormal and the occult. Whether this was his interest in the number “23”; or his hours spent gazing into mirrors in search of visions; or his belief that he could negate curses by repeating his own (“Go back, go back…” etc); or that he could, somehow, divine the future from Brion Gysin’s “Cut-Up” techniques.
Of course, he couldn’t. But he was always smart enough to suggest he could (for what it’s worth), while at the same time creating distance through the wry aside, the knowing wink, to escape any suggestion he was deluded.
Put it this way, if some acquaintance buttonholed you at a party, with a relentless, monotone whine of how they closed down a Scientology office by repeatedly playing recorded tapes outside the premises, you would make your excuses and head for the canapes.
Burroughs claims as much here, in his explanation of Brion Gysin’s “Cut-Up Method.”
When you experiment with Cut-Ups over a period of time you find that some of the Cut-Ups in re-arranged texts seemed to refer to future events. I cut-up an article written by John-Paul Getty and got, “It’s a bad thing to sue your own father.” This was a re-arrangement and wasn’t in the original text, and a year later, one of his sons did sue him.
Then comes the knowing aside…
Purely extraneous information, it meant nothing to me. Nothing to gain on either side.
Before he goes on to confirm his acceptance of some mysterious powers of divination.
We had no explanation for this at the time, it just suggesting that when you cut into the Present the Future leaks out. Well, we certainly accepted it, and continued our experiments.
For fans of Neil Innes, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and the ‘80s British TV show The Young Ones, The Idiot Bastard Band is a wonderful mingling of these loves. The glory that is the Idiot Bastard Band currently consists of: Ade Edmondson (“Vivian” from The Young Ones, among other roles elsewhere), Neil Innes (Bonzo, Rutle and “seventh Python”), Phil Jupitus (improv comedian who is a panel member on the BBC’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks), and Rowland Rivron (drummer, member of Raw Sex, and comedian). Nigel Planer (“Neil The Hippy” from The Young Ones) has also been an occasional Bastard, (Sadly member Simon Brint (other half of Raw Sex and a composer) committed suicide in 2011.)
The Bastards are above all a comedic act but in the longstanding vaudeville or small town pub-closing time drunken singalong variety. Their songs include the wartime oldie “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr. Hitler?” the standard “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” “I Was Supporting Madness,” “Flop-Eared Mule”, The Bonzos’ “I’m the Urban Spaceman,” “How She Never Had An Orgasm” and “Isobel Makes Love Upon National Monuments.”
Ade Edmondson is already a member of the highly entertaining Bad Shepherds, who play folk versions of punk and New Wave songs with traditional acoustic instruments.