When the legendary comedian Soupy Sales died in 2009, Alice Cooper issued a brief statement through his publicist:
Being from Detroit, I came home every day and watched Soupy at lunch. One of the greatest moments of my life was getting piefaced by Soupy. He was one of my all-time heroes.
Soupy Sales and a pie in the face have more to do with the Detroit of John Sinclair than you might guess. As “The Heart of Detroit by Moonlight” by the Destroy All Monsters Collective (Mike Kelley, Cary Loren, and Jim Shaw) makes clear, Soupy’s TV image inhabited the same psychic space as Alice, the MC5 and Lester Bangs. Not only was Soupy’s anarchic spirit beloved of Motor City rockers, but his actual sons, Hunt and Tony, played in Iggy Pop’s band in the seventies. The Sales brothers were Iggy’s rhythm section on part of Kill City, all of Lust for Life, and the famous 1977 tour with David Bowie.
So there he was: Alice Cooper, rock star, crouched frontstage in the middle of his act with a faceful of pie and cream with clots dripping from his ears and chin. So what did he do? How did he recoup the sacred time-honored dignity of the performing artist which claims the stage as his magic force field from which to bedazzle and entertain the helpless audience? Well, he pulled a handful of pie gook out of his face and slapped it right back again, smearing it into his pores and eyes and sneaking the odd little fingerlicking taste. Again and again he repeated this gesture, smearing it in good. The audience said not another word.
Here’s the full 1979 episode of The New Soupy Sales Show where Alice takes another pie in the face, cued up to Alice’s bit. Soupy finds a bug in the backyard that can sing and play piano, and he figures he can make big money if he books the insect, Buggy, as the opening act on his buddy Alice Cooper’s upcoming tour. Perhaps remembering the early-morning audition at Frank Zappa’s house that gave him his own entrée into the world of showbiz, Alice drops by Soupy’s place and listens as Buggy tears up “Autumn in New York.” It’s sensational—a star is born! But how will White Fang, the meanest dog in Detroit, react to the sudden rise of this upstart arthropod?
A lot of people have written sonnets, but nobody in the English language is more associated with the form than William Shakespeare.
In 1609 Thomas Thorpe issued a quarto edition containing Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man, but the final subset of sonnets are mostly addressed to a “dark lady.” A fun fact that is not very well known is that not all of the sonnets are actually sonnets in the technical sense. The sonnet forms Shakespeare was using have 14 lines, but Sonnet 99 has 15 lines and Sonnet 126 has only 12 lines.
When Jeffrey Lewis noticed that the words “sonic” and “sonnet” have a certain acoustical similarity and went so far as to imagine a series of mini-zines called Sonnet Youth based on classic Sonic Youth albums, it followed naturally that he might write a Shakespearean sonnet for each track of the albums he chose to highlight. Lewis has been active as a comic book artist and musician since the late ‘90s and likes nothing more than to poke fun at his musical heroes in songs like “The History of The Fall” (which appeared on the comp Perverted by Mark E) and “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror.” Since 2004 he has put out a self-published comic book called under the title Fuff.
Each line is in iambic pentameter (the rhythm of “To BE or NOT to BE, that IS the QUEStion…”) and each poem is structured into the sonnet structure of three quatrains and a closing couplet. Naturally there’s also accompanying illustrations by Jeffrey.
Here’s Lewis’ sonnetic version of the song “Kill Yr Idols”:
It fills me up with anger and depression
There’s more to art than being on a list now
So why still try to make a good impression
On any music critic, even Christgau?
Leave behind all former tags and titles
Slay them with your brutal sonic force
As Nietzsche said, you have to kill your idols.
All uncertainty is intercourse
Keep skepticism strong and un-suspending
Perhaps that’s what the message of this tune is
The world you knew is coming to an ending
So kill it and embrace the crazy newness.
And kill me also, if I get too preachy.
Treat no one sacred—me, Christgau or Nietzsche.
It may not be great poetry but it is a damn sonnet and it does engage intelligently with Sonic Youth’s work.
All of the zines obviously come with a great many doodles drawn by Lewis—Shakespeare is prominent in the reworked album covers.
Images from Lewis’ Sonnet Youth zines after the jump…...
Despite the fact that I do tend to mostly post about music here, and that we are, editorially speaking, an outsider arts/music blog, of course, I do not, and never have considered myself a music journalist or like a “rock critic” or anything of the sort. We’re seldom very “critical” of anything on this blog. Instead the idea is to write about topics that we’re enthusiastic about. The philosophy more being “check out this hidden gem” and not “here this smells like shit, smell this.” We endeavor to call your attention to the good stuff. Things that we love. We’re fans, not critics.
I’m not really even sure that there is much room anymore for music criticism, that the time for it has passed. When all anyone has to do is dial up Spotify or YouTube and listen for themselves, there’s not much need for a digital age Lester Bangs or Nick Kent to convince you to plunk down the cash for an album you had few ways of sampling before you bought, because you can hear everything. Instantly. You can just hit play and you’re off to the races. My job is simply to get you to do just that: to write some words conveying my own enthusiasm for a given item that will then in turn convince you to HIT PLAY AND LISTEN. That’s it. No more, no less, that’s my only goal: “Check this out.” There is an overwhelming amount of stuff. My job is to help.
But I also know from 23 years of Internet content creation that if 100,000 people read a given post, only between 1% and 3% will actually watch the associated videoclip. Even fewer will listen to an embedded sound file. So the “this sucks” approach clearly needs rethinking as it’s simply self-defeating in a pageviews-seeking paradigm. The general public would like some help with sorting through the detritus of a century plus of pop culture, in a breezy, easily digestible context, not to step in something unpleasant. Still, very few of us ever play the media, the stats remain remarkably consistent.
But let me rein this in: If you tend to trust or agree with my musical enthusiasms as related on this blog, then pay close attention here and for sure, do not just take my word for it, press play and listen for yourself. Promise? You’re gonna be glad that you did.
Lal Waterson, John Harrison, Mike Waterson and Norma Waterson
The Watersons were a mid-60s “traditional” English folk group. They consisted of three siblings—Norma, Lal and Mike Waterson, who had been orphaned and raised by their grandmother—and their cousin John Harrison. The Watersons were from Hull and sang traditional English folk songs, unpolished and a cappella. Once you have heard their very distinctive, weather-beaten voices singing together you would never mistake them for anyone else. Although their rough-hewn harmonies were considered the epitome of authenticity, they themselves never thought of themselves as such. A truly traditional British folk singer wouldn’t have been singing in nightclubs, for instance, but singing as one did their farm chores or in church. They weren’t precious or devout about themselves, no—and this they made clear in humble, self-aware interviews—but the music itself was treated with the utmost respect. The Watersons were extremely influential in mid-60s English folk circles (there was even a BBC documentary made about them in 1965) but by the end of the decade, tired of the grind of traveling around the country in a van they also often slept in and of performing for sustenance wages, Lal and Mike returned to civilian life, regular jobs and raising families while big sister Norma worked as a radio DJ in Montserrat.
By 1972 both Lal and Mike had amassed quite a catalog of original songs they’d demoed on a tape recorder at Lal’s house. Steeleye Span’s Martin Carthy visited Lal in Hull and she played him their tunes. Floored by what he’d heard, Carthy in turn played them for his bandmate Ashley Hutchings, who had formerly been in Fairport Convention. Hutchings felt similarly about the material and started the ball rolling, enlisting producer Bill Leader and his former Fairport bandmates Richard Thompson and Dave Mattacks to the task. A makeshift recording studio was set up in the basement of the Cecil Sharp House, the north London headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
The result was Bright Phoebus, one of the most striking, starkly observed and oddly beautiful albums ever recorded.
Mike and Lal Waterson
The ill-fated history of Bright Phoebus is a story by now well known to British music fans: The reviews, when there were any, were not generally positive. How could the esteemed Watersons, the very exemplars of authenticity have anything to do with this weird, non-trad music? Not only were there musical instruments involved, some of them were even electric. And there were sound effects. The conservative English folk music scene (mostly) rejected the album, or paid it no mind. Further compounding the album’s almost immediate obscurity was the fact that of the 2000 albums the record label had pressed, half had off center spindle holes drilled in them.
Over the years cassettes and CDrs of Bright Phoebus began to circulate, picking up fans like Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley, Fatima Mansions, Arcade Fire, Billy Bragg and others. From time to time one of the tracks might appear on a folk compilation, but the album was pretty much unavailable, with original copies selling for high prices. This was despite enough interest in the album that Lal and Mike Waterson tribute concerts (including Jarvis Cocker, younger Waterson family members, Norma and her husband Martin Carthy and others) were mounted, articles appeared in the Guardian about this unheard cult album, and there was even a Bright Phoebus BBC radio documentary. In 2017 Lal Waterson’s daughter Marry and David Suff remastered the album from the original master tapes and Domino Records released the album four ways, as a single CD with just the original album, as a double CD that also included Lal and Mike’s demo tapes and single and double vinyl versions.
When Bright Phoebus was reissued I asked for a review copy and although I liked it, it didn’t exactly wow me at first. I probably played it twice before putting it away. I didn’t stick it into the trade pile, but for 8-9 months I didn’t reach for it again either. Then I reread Joe Boyd’s book White Bicycles—in which Norma makes a brief appearance—and Electric Eden, Rob Young’s encyclopedic history of English visionary folk which also mentions the Watersons, and Bright Phoebus in particular. I needed something to play in the car one day and decided to give Bright Phoebus another chance. I’m glad I did. By the end of my errands I was hooked on the album’s singular beauty and it has become one of my top favorite albums. There’s really nothing else like it.
I’m now somewhat of an evangelist for Bright Phoebus. As most Americans would have no affiliation to the Watersons, I’ve noticed that my impassioned ranting and raving about this British cult folk album with a strong whiff of The Wicker Man tended to provoke no reaction whatsoever until I mention Richard Thompson being all over Bright Phoebus and then the beneficiary of my rock snob wisdom tends to perk up. True, Thompson’s involvement is reason enough for any serious music fan to be intrigued, but a comparison that might bridge the Anglo-American divide is to put Bright Phoebus in the same rarified uncategorizable category as The Basement Tapes, another singular collection of songs recorded by freaky folkie friends in a basement. Dylan and the Band were channeling the “old, weird America” in that Woodstock house, while a few years later the Watersons and their allies took the spirit of pagan campfire music and wedded it to a forward-thinking—alternately bone-chilling, sweet and sunny or emotionally devastating—British folk rock that took the world 45 years to catch up with.
Very simply summarized, the Waterson’s music won’t be for everyone reading this far, or even for everyone who takes me up on my advice and samples the album below. I know that will only be a small portion of you, but among that number—and yes, I am addressing YOU—expect to find something to obsess about for the rest of your life.
On April 27th, 2003, a reunited Stooges played at Coachella, marking the first time in nearly 30 years Iggy Pop had performed with the Asheton brothers. It went so well that what was supposed to be a one-off gig turned out to be just the beginning. For the next five-plus years, the Stooges toured the world over, playing in front of adoring crowds—for the most part. Six months after the Coachella date, the band had another festival appearance, but instead of encountering their usual audience—fans thrilled to be seeing the Stooges—the group was met with indifference and hostility. This REALLY pissed off Iggy, and brought out the fighting spirit in him. The Stooges’ set that evening recalled the confrontational shows of the past, and turned out to be one of the most memorable gigs this version of the band ever did.
In 2003, the annual Voodoo Music Experience festival was held at City Park in New Orleans from October 31st-November 2nd. The lineup was a mix of jam bands, rap acts, and groups that were popular on mainstream rock radio at the time. Plus, the Stooges.
The Stooges’ November 1st performance was scheduled between nu metal band Staind and the headlining act, Marilyn Manson. At the conclusion of Staind’s set, a good chunk of the young crowd—who we have to presume had never heard of the Stooges—left to check out another one of the fest’s stages, while most of those that remained were there to hold their ground for Marilyn Manson. When an MC came out and hyped the upcoming Stooges set, there was faint applause, but the kids went crazy when he mentioned Marilyn Manson.
The Stooges hit the stage at 8:15 pm.
A photo taken by one of the few Stooges fans in attendance.
The first song is their usual set opener, “Loose,” from the second Stooges album, Fun House—one of the greatest records EVER MADE—and the crowd just stands and stares. Iggy immediately recognizes that the audience doesn’t care, and he becomes combative. Throughout the show, Pop hurls a range of insults at the apathetic kids—including a guy he can clearly see is yawning. The best put-down of the night: “You suck like the bands you like.” But there are moments when Iggy’s doing his best to stay positive; at one point, he invites the audience to come on stage, though just one dude takes him up on it. Other times, as he unleashes on the dum dums in attendance, the Ig’s rage is palpable.
It turned out to be a fantastic performance, despite—no, scratch that—*because* of the aloof crowd, which spurred the band on. It’s the closest a reunited Stooges would ever get to the days of Metallic KO.
I’m a person just like you, but I’ve got better things to do…
Ian Mackaye never intended to lead the straight edge revolution. Songs like “I’m Straight” and “Keep it Clean” prove that the punks had restraint before the Dischord-boom. That being said, Ian’s high school band Teen Idles did put out the Minor Disturbance EP, their only release, with younger brother, Alec MacKaye’s valiant, X’d up fists on its cover. The X’s, now a symbol of the anti-inebriation subculture, was meant to signify that he was underage and therefore “incapable” of drinking. In 1981, Ian’s DC-hardcore band Minor Threat released its fundamental, self-titled debut EP - on it included the moniker song “Straight Edge.” During a time when being a punk meant sniffing glue (“Just Say No”), Ian wrote a forty-six second statement about how you could be “straight” and still be like everybody else. So yeah, Ian Mackaye pretty much is the Godfather of straight edge.
Bands like Youth of Today, SS Decontrol, Gorilla Biscuits, and 7Seconds helped promote the core values of straight edge. Those being that one could rebel through self-control and individuality. And for punk rock, which already was reactionary toward the excesses and hedonism of the boomer generation, being straight edge was yet another way to resist the mainstream. At least I can fucking think…..
In the mid-to-late nineties, straight edge caught wide appeal. By this point, newer variations of hardcore began to embrace a lifetime commitment to a substance-free existence. Vegetarianism and social justice issues were integrated into its list of convictions and newer, more radical takes on the subculture began to appear. Hardline was a faction of vegan straight edge that promoted its oftentimes conservative judgements through imposition and direct action, even if by any means necessary. “Hate edge” militant gangs and crews formed, most notably in places like Salt Lake City and Reno, where McDonald’s locations were being firebombed and fellow punks were getting jumped for smoking and drinking. So naturally, the parents of America got concerned.
Youth of Today - the most straight edge band?
Similar to its interpretation of punk a decade prior, the media had a hard time comprehending the straight edge phenomena. Described as a “strange development,” several local news outlets across the country ran investigative reports into the drug-free hXc lifestyle and what it meant for our communities. Should I be concerned if my son is a straight edger? Mostly no, according to multiple reports, although a few of them profiled the animal liberation guerrilla efforts of hardline activists and the growing wave of violence committed by them. Straight edge was soon the subject of an episode of America’s Most Wanted and even on the daytime talk show Rolonda, in 1997.
Back in 1995, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was a correspondent for ABC News. That same year, he traveled to Syracuse, NY to report on a growing youth movement known as “straight edge.” The segment is introduced with shocking new evidence that teenage use of marijuana and illegal drugs is on the rise. Notwithstanding, rookie newscaster Anderson Cooper had supposedly “discovered a small, but growing group of young people who are refusing to engage in such self-destructing behavior.” Among them were brothers Trevor and Justin, the center of our cultural probe, who came upon a drug-free lifestyle to protest the self-indulgence of their generation, and of those past. Cooper narrates the report, but can be seen around the two-minute mark, sitting within a pow-wow discussion group of X’d up hardcore teens.
There’s a fellow out there named Todd Alcott who has put together an enchanting series of prints reimagining popular songs by some of the most vital musical artists of the 1970s through the 1990s as various graphical items mostly dating from before the rock era—e.g., pulpy paperbacks, “men’s life” mags, lurid sci-fi posters, and so on. They’re quite wonderful and you can procure them for yourself in his Etsy store. Each print will run you £19.78 (about $26) for the smallest size and prices escalate from there.
One endearing thing about Alcott’s images is that they are so clearly driven by the most beloved albums in his own collection—and his taste is excellent! So he transforms multiple songs by King Crimson, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, the Stones, David Bowie while also hitting a bunch of other faves (NIN, Nirvana, Fiona Apple) just the one time.
Alcott told Ayun Halliday of Open Culture that “these are the artists I love, I connect to their work on a deep level, and I try to make things that they would see and think ‘Yeah, this guy gets me.’”
My favorite thing about these pop culture mashups is Alcott’s insistence (usually) on working in as many of the song’s lyrics into the art as possible. That does admittedly make for busy compositions but usually in a way that is very true to the pulp novel conventions or whatnot.
According to his Etsy site, Alcott is also available for custom jobs should inspiration strike you! Here
After last year’s tour with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the members of Electric Citizen—vocalist Laura Dolan, guitarist Ross Dolan, drummer Nate Wagner and returning original bassist Nick Vogelpohl—went back into the studio to record the follow-up to 2016’s Higher Time, emerging with their new dirty rock and roll longplayer, Helltown. Named after the gritty Cincinnati neighborhood where the band live, rehearse and recorded the album, the album represents a back-to-the-basics return to their raunchier roots. Helltown was recorded at Mount Saturn studio in Cincinnati and produced by Brian Olive (The Greenhornes, Dan Auerbach, Dr. John, etc.)
In past years Electric Citizen have toured with Pentagram, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Fu Manchu, Budos Band, Wolfmother and played festivals like Psycho Las Vegas, Psycho California and Desertfest Belgium. They are currently on tour with the mighty Monster Magnet and will be playing tonight at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, BC.
“Hide it in the Night” music video directed, shot and edited by Grant Meeker and Alex Constante.
Remaining tour dates:
10/10 Seattle, WA at the El Corazon
10/12 San Francisco, CA at Thee Parkside
10/15 Santa Ana, CA at The Observatory Orange County
10/16 San Diego, CA at Brick By Brick
10/17 Phoenix, AZ at The Rebel Lounge
10/19 San Antonio, TX at the Paper Tiger
10/20 Dallas, TX at Canton Hall
10/21 Houston, TX at the White Oak Music Hall
10/22 New Orleans, LA at the Santos Bar (EC only)
10/23 Atlanta, GA at The Masquerade
10/24 Nashville, TN at The Basement East
10/26 Baltimore, MD Baltimore at the Soundstage
10/27 New York, NY at The Gramercy Theatre
10/28 Cambridge, MA at The Sinclair
The cover of Crime SuspenStories #27, 1955; first publication of ‘Maniac at Large’
John Frankenheimer, the director of The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May and Seconds, got his start working in TV in the fifties. After a long absence, he returned to the medium in 1992 with this episode of Tales from the Crypt.
In “Maniac at Large,” Adam Ant plays a crime-obsessed nerd whose preoccupation with murder terrorizes the new librarian, Blythe Danner, who is all het up about a serial killer on the loose. Ant’s quite good; I’m puzzled that his acting career faltered after his promising debut in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee, and he wound up in movies like Sunset Heat and Cyber Bandits. (Someday I’ll get around to watching Wayne Wang’s Slam Dance, just to see Harry Dean Stanton, John Doe of X and Adam Ant in the same movie.)
Frankenheimer’s psychological direction, which foregrounds the distorted perspective of one of the characters, transforms the public library where the story is set into a clammy tomb of terror. I got the fears!
The Louvin Brothers are everyone’s favorite Appalachian close-harmony brother duet (there are plenty of them). Born with the surname Loudermilk, the two brothers, Charlie and Ira, used to perform on a local radio station in Chattanooga as teenagers; in the 1950s they drew the attention of Acuff-Rose Music and eventually signed with MGM. In short order the Louvin Brothers released records such as Tragic Songs of Life (1956), Nearer My God to Thee (1957), and The Family Who Prays (1958). In 1960 the brothers released a gospel album called Satan Is Real, which has long since become a favorite of collectors because it’s an excellent album but also because the cover is just so interesting and odd. In 2012 Charlie Louvin published an entertaining memoir with the same title and cover motifs.
Last year two country-music-playing brothers named Malpass reached out to a talented bootmaker named Lisa Sorrell for some extra-special custom-made cowboy boots. Christopher Malpass chose to get a pair of nice light-brown boots with his name on them, but Taylor Malpass decided to recreate the cover of one of his favorite albums—you guessed it, Satan Is Real.
As she neared completion, Sorrell made the interesting comment that “often with a non-traditional design such as this one, I feel it’s most attractive when it’s flat and putting it on a cowboy boot makes me like it less. I’m liking this design more and more though.”
As Sorrell put it, “Satan has tiny hands and protruding front teeth.”
If you’d like custom cowboy boots of your very own with the cover of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless or Slint’s Spiderland on them, you can reach out to Sorrell and maybe you can figure something out. According to her website, prices start at $5,000.
Here’s a video of Sorrell working on the Louvin Brothers boots:
Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” is one of the most iconic songs of the 1980s. It was a huge song in 1981, and went to #1 on the Billboard charts on August 1st of that year (incidentally, the same day MTV premiered), and stayed there for two weeks. Those who came of age during that period might not realize that Springfield had been in bands since the ‘60s, and had already released a few solo albums. Amongst his early material are a number of tasty bubblegum glam tracks.
The first single released under his own name, the Sunshine Pop ditty “Speak to the Sky,” was a hit in his native land of Australia, and peaked at #14 in the America during October of 1972. This was his only successfully U.S. 45 until “Jesse’s Girl,” though his popularity increased in his home country, where he was promoted as a teen idol. In 1973, Springfield began wearing glam-inspired outfits, including an all-white, superhero-like costume, with a crest consisting of a lowercase “r” and a lightning bolt.
His second LP, 1973’s Comic Book Heroes, has a couple of glam songs, including the infectious, bubblegummy number, “I’m Your Superman.”
Springfield continued in this bubblegum glam direction on his next record, Mission Magic, which was the companion LP to the similarly named animated series, Mission: Magic!. The Saturday morning cartoon was an ABC-TV production, and starred Springfield as his animated self.
Even though it was an American show, the album was—for some reason—only released in Australia. Which is a shame, really, as it’s the best of his early records, with a handful of catchy bubblegum glam tunes.