The Painted Player Guitar Co. is a British team of luthiers and artists located in Basingstoke. They do some truly elite work, making dazzling guitars and modifications, offering instruments with vivid pop-art paint jobs, gorgeous custom refinishes, and relic work that closely matches the worn finishes of famous individual guitars played by the likes of David Gilmour, Rory Gallagher, and Andy Summers. The galleries on their web site are a droolworthy trove of guitar porn, but there’s one item in particular that amazes above all others: this bass themed after the titular vessel in the triptastic 1968 animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine.
Truly amazing in every way, this original concept from The Painted Player puts the legendary ‘Yellow Submarine’ quite literally in your hands! Beautifully hand crafted, this stunning bass guitar utilises a combination of a fully hand-crafted Alder body with Precision Bass influences while featuring hand-painted artwork that brings the whole piece to life. A musical icon as well as an animated legend, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ Bass is a must for the dedicated Beatles fan and the avid bass player alike, those who dare to stand out on stage.
The bass’ body is a custom build, and its neck, bridge and electronics are harvested from Fender Precision Basses—and BOY, I’d sure love to find the dumpster where they chuck the discarded bodies. Thoughtfully, Painted Player offers budget-minded players and enthusiasts who just want these as objets d’art and so don’t care if the electronics are top-notch the option to have their submarine made from a less expensive bass, though due to the custom built body and hand painting, even the entry level version is hardly cheap—low end models start at £1,299 (about $1650 USD).
Painted Player also offer much less elaborate but still quite stunning Yellow Submarine themed LesPauls.
Not long ago, L.A. producer/promoter/sonic hellraiser Sean Carnage posted a video to his Facebook page of a rather curious street musician called “Mrs. Smith.” It wasn’t immediately clear whether the performer was an aging trans woman with uncommonly conservative fashion sense or a cross-dressing man affecting a matronly vibe for laughs, but either way, s/he was absolutely KILLING IT on guitar, and the frisson of image and sound was as jaw-dropping as the guitar playing. Though it seemed to me like a one-note joke, a trip down a YouTube rabbit hole reveals that this isn’t merely a busker with a great hook for getting spectators to post phone videos, but rather a fully fleshed-out character with history and a backstory, a twisted and hilarious collision of Little Edie Bouvier and Monty Python’s Pepperpots.
The actor/guitarist who created Mrs. Smith—he asked that his real name be left out of this story to preserve the character’s mystique, a request I will honor—started her life sans shred, as an aging socialite who did a series of cat advice videos, though her own beloved cat, Carlyle, has long been missing. Smith grew an audience performing at the Emerging America Festival, Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and even starred in the bonkers musical Mrs. Smith’s Broadway Cat-Tacular!, which eventually landed at NYC’s 47th St Theater—not at all far from actual Broadway—in 2015.
Smith did some guitar playing in that production, but not very much. It was when she submitted an entry to the Guitar Gods Festival that her shredder rep took off. That’s an annual metal guitar event in Miami Beach that features performances by ‘80s guitar magazine mainstays like Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, plus performances by contest winners selected by those luminaries. Not only did Mrs. Smith make the cut, she wowed the crowd. (It’s worth noting that there is a contingent of Mrs. Smith fans who are unshakably convinced that she IS Vai in drag. Having actually had a conversation with her alter-ego, I can authoritatively say no. She is not Steve Vai in drag. She does use an old ‘80s model of Vai’s signature Ibanez guitar, which she refers to as her “flower guitar.”)
It’s weird that Smith found her biggest following in the metal guitar world—she made FUNNY CAT VIDEOS for fuck’s sake, that’s usually the key to the internet kingdom, no? But her guitar playing went viral after Vai started sharing her videos, which led to gear review videos (in characterand hilarious), and then I shit you not an appearance in a Gucci commercial.
Having occupied the worlds of comedy and music, she became a chimera of less-than-reputable art forms, namely drag and shred. But make no mistake, this is no ordinary drag performance. Smith isn’t a drag queen affecting a campy persona and lip-synching Thelma Houston songs in a club (though that of course IS tremendously fun in its own right), she can really fucking play in a technically challenging idiom. In fact, the whole conceit would fall flat if she was a bad musician. And as to the question of how she learned to play so well, I tried, dear reader, to get an out-of-character interview. When Mrs. Smith’s creator does such an interview, you’ll be in for a treat. Off record he was a funny and engaging conversationalist, but to my delight the in character interview turned out to be totally around-the-bend. I asked one question and Mrs. Smith just started riffing. Maybe watch some of her cat advicevideos before you read this to get a sense of her vocal cadences. Seriously.
MRS. SMITH: Oh, Ron, you’re catching me at a really bad time. I’m going to answer your questions, but you ARE catching me at a really tough time. I just want to put that out there. But I’m going to set that aside and try to answer with integrity, go ahead.
DANGEROUS MINDS: Sorry you’re having a rough patch, but thanks for making the time anyway.
MRS. SMITH: I HAD TO. I adore Dangerous Minds! I see what you’re doing, I love it.
DM: Kind of you to say so, I assure you that respect is mutual. So tell me about your background. You’re certainly a singular figure, there’s not a whole lot of—I hope the word “matronly” doesn’t offend—but matronly older women in the shred guitar world. So I’m curious as to how you acquired those skills.
MRS. SMITH: [sighs] Soooo funny, it’s actually good, I have a loooong, um, every year my psychoanalyst and I go on a long retreat. They’re not rituals; he’s a Jungian, so they are ritualistic, but they’re practices, to evaluate where we’ve been, where we’re going, where the relationship is, and I leave for this retreat in about two hours, and what I’m about to talk about will reeeeaaaally, if you think I’m in a bad spot now, it will really just send me, but I WILL talk about it. For Dangerous Minds. And for you. I will talk about troubling matters.
This is the topic of my show, that I do with my band, my band is called The Rage, Mrs. Smith and the Rage. [draws long breath] We have a show called “While My Guitar Gently Shrieks,” it sold out Joe’s Pub, it played La Poisson Rouge, and we’re going to return with the show, and whatnot, and this is why it’s happening, what am I seeing—people see this person on the sidewalk giving voice to grief and rage with a guitar, with such an unexpected…vocabulary. WHY is this happening? HOW did this happen? The show answers it all, but the short version is that in the ‘90s, I was kidnapped and held for ransom by a Norwegian death metal band. I suffered Stockholm Syndrome. And if that seems like a lot of Scandinavia for one anecdote, WELCOME TO MY LIFE.
Before the kidnapping, I was living, I was living kind of a living death. I was wrapped in a Chanel suit sitting at luncheons and galas and fundraisers thinking this was what I wanted. This is what I was taught to want, you do what you must and you become one of the ladies who lunch. I love that song! That song is real! I have lived that song! That song is, I mean, of course, Sondheim knows of this world. It is absolutely true, it is absolutely real, it is absolutely a nightmare! Imagine, you listen to that song and you think “wow, that’s dark,” well imagine LIVING IT. I did. And it is a living death. Yes, you have seemingly limitless resources, but at what cost?
So there I was, FOSSILIZED in this uppercrust, Upper East Side reality, and SMASH, through the door come these hooded figures dressed in black with those EYES! I thought that Beelzebub himself and his army had burst through the dimensional wall and had come to take me to literal Hell. I’d gone through social hell, and now I was going to literal Hell. I thought “Did I die?” You know, strike that, don’t use the word “Hell,” it’s a swear word to some people, I’m going to the Underworld. HADES itself has come to consume me. But NO, this was just a very desperate group of boys. They were musicians, they were Norwegian, and they had hit upon this as the way they’d strike their fortune, this was the way to strike notoriety. And you know, it was lightly covered in the press, in those sort of news-of-the-bizarre columns, and it was just so insulting! They dragged me to Norway and put me in this closet for three months.
Few albums have been, completely by accident, so aptly titled as Nico’s The Drama of Exile. Its recording and release history is convoluted and rife with drama, suspicion, fraud, theft, and legal recrimination. The album was Nico’s first since 1974’s The End, and features music written over a seven-year period. It was recorded twice in 1981—the first recording was released that year by a paranoid label boss who, convinced that Nico’s manager was going to swipe the master tapes and cut him out of the release, himself did exactly that, cutting Nico out of the release and issuing horrible sounding rough mixes as a finished LP, to the utter horror of the musicians and producer, some of whom went uncredited.
Another version of the album was recorded only one month after the first, but wasn’t released until 1983, after a legal battle over the first version. The second album has a different track list from the first—it includes the songs “Sãeta” (also sometimes known as “The Line” due to its mistitling on the posthumous Hanging Gardens LP) and “Vegas.” Since neither song was on the first version of Exile, they weren’t tied up in the legal mess, and so were able to be released as a 1981 single—on a different label, we hope it goes without saying.
The single was well-received, and a lot of live versions of “Sãeta” have made their way out there, legitimately or not, even before the YouTube/ETEWAF era. But a previously unheard early version is coming to light. In 1976, to help promote the then recently re-opened and absolutely legendary NYC rock club Max’s Kansas City, talent buyer Peter Crowley compiled a selection of recordings by bands associated with the club, a collection that was released as Max’s Kansas City 1976, an epochal compilation that exposed adventurous listeners to radical new artists like Pere Ubu, Suicide, and Nico’s fellow Warhol Factory alumnus Wayne County, soon to become known as Jayne County. That album is being greatly expanded for re-issue—by Crowley himself—to 25 tracks on vinyl, and 40 tracks on a 2XCD set called Max’s Kansas City: 1976 & Beyond.
The expansion includes plenty of previously unreleased material and rarities by the likes of New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers, Iggy Pop, and Sid Vicious, and there’s a really, really great live version of “Sãeta.” I was hoping it was from a performance at Max’s, but evidently recordings made of Nico at that club didn’t survive. For the comp they’ve used a recording made in Europe in 1983, so I guess this falls under the “Beyond” category implied by the re-release’s title. I can live with that, though if there are lost Nico recordings from Max’s in 1976, somebody goddamn find those already. It’s performed in a different key and at a different tempo than the familiar single version, and it’s quite a stunner, with a very prominent guitar part played by the Invisible Girls’ Lyn Oakey. We’ve been permitted to share it with you ahead of the release, and because comparing versions is good dorky fun, we’ve also included the original single version and a live version performed in Manchester with the backing of the Blue Orchids.
Kim Gordon’s having a busy year. In March she released a noisy but atmospheric album called Glitterbust by a band of the same name consisting of herself and pro surfer Alex Knost. This morning, she’s released a solo single called “Murdered Out.” The song is a paean to stealth cars that have been completely blackened with matte black paint, as Gordon explained in a news release:
When I moved back to LA I noticed more and more cars painted with black matte spray, tinted windows, blackened logos, and black wheels. This was something I had occasionally seen in the past, part of low-rider car culture. A reclaiming of a corporate symbol of American success, The Car, from an outsider’s point of view. A statement-making rejection of the shiny brand new look, the idea of a new start, the promise of power, and the freedom on the open road. Like an option on a voting ballot, “none of the above.”
“Murdered Out,” as a look, is now creeping into mainstream culture as a design trend. A coffee brand. A clothing line. A nail polish color.
Black-on-black matte is the ultimate expression in digging out, getting rid of, purging the soul. Like a black hole, the supreme inward look, a culture collapsing in on itself, the outsider as an unwilling participant as the “It” look.
The song kicks pretty high ass—in the few years since Sonic Youth’s collapse, Gordon’s been doing the avant-garde thing pretty full-bore, not just with Glitterbust, but with Body/Head, a duo featuring guitar improviser Bill Nace, who released a self-titled LP in 2013. But this single features big riffs and deep-pocket grooves (drums on this were hammered by Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint), and Gordon’s distinctive cooing/warbling/moaning vocals are given equal priority to anxiously shrill guitar noise.
May the gods eternally bless Rhino Records for so many reasons, but one of that label’s greatest contributions to weird society was the Golden Throats series of compilation albums. It endeavored—and largely succeeded—at bringing wide attention to one of my favorite vinyl collectibles sub-obsessions: celebrities not known for singing who nonetheless and against all reason recorded albums on which they sang, often very, very poorly. Adding to the kitsch appeal of the phenomenon, these albums were usually lounge or easy listening, and were often recorded in total earnest.
Notably, key Star Trek cast members William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were disproportionally represented on those Rhino comps, appearing on all fourinstallmentsin theseries, and scoring four tracks between them on the first one alone. Shatner’s stilted cover songs have become legendary on the basis of just one completely bonkers album, 1968’s The Transformed Man which manages to be a major head-trip both intentionally AND accidentally. Nimoy released about a half-dozen musical albums, a couple of which are Trek themed affairs on which he sometimes sings in-character as Spock, which have moments that approach the outsidery awesomeness of the Shatner LP. The rest are straightforward folk-pop albums, which are unironically not half bad at all.
Sadly, DeForest Kelley never made a musical LP, so it’s impossible to collect a complete discography of Trek’s archetypal Freudian trio. HOWEVER, there was more music to be found on the bridge: the recordings of Nichelle “Lt. Uhura” Nichols were totally neglected by Rhino when they assembled the Golden Throats comps (probably because she was actually really good). Between 1967 and 1991, she released three full lengths (sort of), two 7” singles, and an EP. Before she blazed a massively important trail for non-servile representation of African-American women on broadcast TV, Nichols sang with both Duke Ellington’s and Lionel Hampton’s bands, and she debuted as a solo recording artist with 1967’s Down to Earth. The title was an obvious nod to her stellar day job, and fittingly, the music was anything but cosmic. It’s a lightly jazzy lounge pop album, typical of its time, and loaded with standards and showtunes.
Strawberry Switchblade was Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall—two girls from the opposite ends of the city of Glasgow.
Jill was at art school with ambitions to be a painter. She loved music and dreamt of maybe one day being a singer in a band.
Rose was from the deprived working class side of the city where violence was endemic. Her father had once been hit in the head with an axe in a case of mistaken identity. Rose felt different and wanted to do something more creative than just tick a box of the choices of life offered.
She therefore started her first band with her boyfriend after seeing the Ramones in concert. Her attitude was if they can do, so can we. She took up the drums and the pair formed The Poems.
After punk, it seemed every teenager in Glasgow was in a band. In 1977 there was Johnny and the Self Abusers, who became better known as Simple Minds; Edwyn Collins formed a band called Nu-Sonics that evolved into Orange Juice; Paul Haig and Malcolm Ross were in TV ART which became Josef K; and so on so on and so forth….
Come the 1980s, the next generation of post punk, new wave, new pop artists were coming through: Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, Bobby Bluebell and The Bluebells. It was in this milieu that Jill and Rose formed Strawberry Switchblade in 1981.
Rose and Jill in all their finery.
Jill quickly learned how to play the guitar and started writing songs. Rose had the voice and moved from drummer to singer. Together their voices created beautiful uplifting pop harmonies. Over a short period of time, they wrote songs, appeared on John Peel and Kid Jensen radio shows, which was quickly followed by a management offer from Bill Drummond (later of the KLF), who also offered the girls an indie record deal. They move to London and released their first single “Trees and Flowers” in 1983. This led to their signing with a major label—Warner Brothers.
Theirs was the kind of whirlwind career that only happens in books or in movies or on TV. Dressed like they had woken up in a haberdashery for dolls, Jill and Rose’s beribboned polka dot chic was soon everywhere.
A second single “Since Yesterday” came out in late 1984 which propelled the girls to even greater success.
“Since Yesterday” hit number five in the charts and the Strawberry Switchblade were suddenly on every TV chat and music show. The song’s upbeat sound belied the serious intent of the subject matter—which according to Rose is about nuclear war.
Strawberry Switchblade became a sensation in Japan—their look, their sound made hundreds of thousands of Japanese weak at the knees. Sell out concerts, traveling in limousines, mobbed by fans wherever they went—it should have been the start of an even great career—but things were falling apart.
Jill suffered from agoraphobia which stymied much of the pleasure she could have from the band’s success—it was also something that had inspired the song “Trees and Flowers.” There were also problems between Rose and Jill that led to a “cold war” between the two. They worked together professionally but in private had little in common. It was business, but it was no longer a fun business.
“Girls with guitars? That won’t work,” quipped John Lennon as he watched four girls take the stage of the Cavern Club, Liverpool in 1963. The band was The Liverbirds and Lennon’s attitude was the kind of dumb prejudice these four faced every time they picked up their guitars and blasted an audience with their hard rockin’ R’n'B.
The Liverbirds were formed in Liverpool 1963. The original line-up was Valerie Gell (guitar), Mary McGlory (bass), Sylvia Saunders (drums), together with Mary’s sister, Sheila McGlory (guitar) and Irene Green (vocals). The band’s name was lifted from the liver bird—the mythical bird (most probably a cormorant) that symbolises the city of Liverpool and they were all girls (“birds” in the youthful parlance of the time). The group practiced every day until they were better than most of the local boy bands who were merely copycatting local heroes The Beatles.
The Liverbirds were apparently so good (if a bit rough around the edges) they were snapped up to tour with The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Rockin’ Berries. However, it was soon apparent that the girls—unlike the boys—were were being cheated out of a big part of their fees by booking agents—a crushing disappointment that led to the loss of their lead singer and guitarist to other bands.
It was beginning to look as if Lennon was right, but the girls refused to give up and continued touring with The Kinks. Unlike their northern counterparts, London’s all male bands The Kinks and The Stones were supportive of The Liverbirds—as Mary McGlory recalled in a letter to the Liverpool Beat in 2014:
The Kinks took us down to London to meet their manager, even booked us into a hotel, and told us to come to the studio tomorrow and bring our guitars with us (maybe there might be time to play a song for their manager). When we arrived there, the roadie came in and told The Kinks that their guitars had been stolen out of the van – so this was how The Kinks played our guitars on their hit recording of “You really got me“.
Absolute nonsense- they were a cool band but this DID not happen.
On YRGM I use my Harmony meteor thru the elpico green amp and ray used his tele and pete used his blue fender bass…what a load of bollocks.
However, The Kinks did help save The Liverbirds from splitting-up by suggesting they bring Pamela Birch in as vocalist. Birch was a big blonde bee-hived singer/guitarist. She had a deep bluesy voice which harmonized beautifully with Valeri Gell’s vocals. Birch was a perfect fit for the band.
They were a hit at the Cavern Club. They were a hit across the country. They were a hit on tour. But the band hailed as the all-girl Beatles at the height of Beatlemania couldn’t even get a record deal in England. However, things soon started to shift.
First Kinks’ manager Larry Page and then Beatles manager Brian Epstein wanted to sign The Liverbirds. But the girls were off to Hamburg to play the Star Club. The band was an instant hit in Germany as Mary McGlory recalls:
We arrived in Hamburg on the 28th May, 1964 and played the same night. The crowd was great and loved us right away. The Star-Club owner Manfred Weissleder became our one and only MANAGER.
A few days later he sent us to Berlin to play at a big concert with Chuck Berry, shortly before we went on stage we were told that it was forbidden to play any Chuck Berry songs. Well that was impossible for us, so when Val went to the mike and announced “Roll over Beethoven”, Berry’s manager ran on stage and tried to stop us playing, Val pushed him away and told him to “F. Off”.(She had probably had a shandy). Back in Hamburg, Manfred called us to his office, we thought he was going to tell us off, but no such thing, Chuck Berry’s manager wanted to take us to America. Manfred said he would leave the decision up to us, but then he added – he will probably take you to Las Vegas, and there you will have to play topless! Well of course that was his way of putting us off. After all, the club was still crowded every night.
The band had hits with the songs “Peanut Butter,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Loop-de-Loop,” and “Diddley Daddy.” Although in performance they played the very same Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry covers favored by the Stones and other boys, Birch also started writing original numbers, producing such favorites as “Why Do You Hang Around Me?” and “It’s Got To be You.” Though pioneering and incredibly popular, the girls (now in their late teens-early twenties) still faced the everyday sexism from record industry supremos who thought young girls should be on the scene, but not heard. Not unless they were in the audience screaming. These men wanted girls who dressed to please—not girls who played instruments better than the boys. Girls with guitars? That won’t work. Except for that, of course, it did. Splendidly!
In 1968, on the cusp of a Japanese tour the band split:
Until 1967, we played nearly all over Europe, recorded two albums and four singles for the Star-Club label and appeared on many television shows. Our drummer Sylvia married her boyfriend John Wiggins from The Bobby Patrick Big Six and left the band. Shortly after Val married her German boyfriend Stephan, who had a car accident on his way to visit her and was since paralyzed. So when we got an offer from Yamaha to do a tour of Japan at the beginning of 1968, Pam and I had to find two German girls to replace them. Japan was great, and the Japanese people really liked us, but Pam and I did not enjoy it anymore, we missed the other two, the fun had gone out of it. We thought this is the right time to finish, even though we were still only 22 and 23.
Today McGlory, Gell and Saunders continue with their post-Liverbirds lives. Sadly, Pamela Birch died in 2009. However, this all-girl guitar band should be given credit for pioneering rock and roll, R ‘n’ B and being right up there for a time with The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones.
Legendary studio musician Carol Kaye is one of America’s most prolific bass guitarists, playing on an estimated 10,000 recordings in her 50+ year career. She was a member of “The Wrecking Crew,” a group of studio musicians who played on a significant number of hit records from LA in the 1960s. “The Wrecking Crew” were Phil Spector’s house band, sometimes credited as the “Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra.”
In the clip below from the hip-hop documentary, Sample This, Carol Kaye gives KISS’ Gene Simmons an impromptu lesson on the bass. Simmons has played professionally for nearly 50 years himself, and is arguably no slouch, but there’s a bit of snarky satisfaction in watching him struggle with the groove Kaye lays down so easily. If it weren’t for the fact that Simmons has cemented a life-long reputation as an egocentric, misogynistic, asshole, it wouldn’t be quite as funny. But he has, and it is.
“You gotta do it with the beat, Gene.”
After the jump, watch Carol Kaye take Gene Simmons to bass school…
“Why can’t we have a baby?”
“Uh, DUH, because I like abortions.”
“But can’t we let one go to full term?”
“Oh gross. Look. You know the rules. Only live things go in my pussy…”
“Yes, and only dead things come out, yes I remember.”
I was just having a conversation with my editor and comrade here at Dangerous Minds, Richard Metzger, and we were discussing classic overdubbed comedy videos, such as the ones we recently featured in this post about The Rusty James Show.
I was surprised to find he was unfamiliar with the Internet classic, Jiz. Later, in talking to others, I found that I actually had a great number of friends that had never been turned onto the work of Sienna D’Enema and his reworkings of the classic Jem and the Holograms cartoons. This is certainly a tragedy that must be rectified.
A truly, truly, truly outrageous tragedy…
Most of the Jiz cartoon parodies are about six years old now, but the humor is timeless if you enjoy very politically-incorrect toilet humor about drag queens who love drugs, abortions, the word “motherfucking,” gangbangs, shitty panties, and lipstick lesbians.
After the jump, some classic transgressive get-real-high-and-overdub-shit video art…
Vampira’s highly successful show was cancelled after only a year in 1955 when she refused to sell the rights to the character to ABC. The popularity of the Vampira character spawned imitators all over the country. It seems that at some point every major television market has had at least one ghoulish horror host or hostess. One of these was Portland, Oregon’s Tarantula Ghoul—known as “Taranch” to her fans.
From the March 29, 1958 issue of TV Guide.
Tarantula Ghoul was a vampy “monster of ceremonies” for KPTV’s House of Horror from 1957 to 1959. Played by Suzanne Waldron, the Vampira-like character bears a striking resemblance to Wynona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz character from Beetlejuice.
House of Horror followed the standard format of showing z-grade movies with comedy bumpers. The cast members included Milton, a grave-robber-turned-gardener, Baby the boa constrictor, and Sir Galahad the tarantula. Sadly, all episodes of House of Horror seem to be lost to the sands of time. No footage exists of the show or of Waldron in character. According to Patrick McGreery, general manager of Fox KPTV and KPDX, “The archives are gone. Nobody did a good enough job saving the clips.”
TV Radio Mirror - July 1958
The show was cancelled in 1959 when Waldron became pregnant out of wedlock. This was unfortunately very frowned upon at the time, and Portland lost a classic campy horror hostess as a result.