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Mark Stewart talks with Dangerous Minds about ‘Learning to Cope with Cowardice’
01.24.2019
10:36 am
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Illustration from the cover of the ‘Jerusalem’ 12-inch and the ‘Mark Stewart + Maffia’ compilation

Head above the heavens, feet below the hells, the singer Mark Stewart has embodied the international rebel spirit since he fronted the Pop Group as a teenager, giving voice to activist and imaginal concerns shared by punks, Rastas and b-boys. Mark Stewart and the Maffia’s moving, mind-mangling, amazing debut album, 1983’s Learning to Cope with Cowardice, whose sounds still beckon from an unrealized future, will be reissued on CD, vinyl and digital formats tomorrow, supplemented by an extra disc of recently discovered outtakes that differ radically from anything on the finished album. Sales of the double LP edition benefit Mercy Ships, an organization that provides lifesaving surgeries to people in poor and war-torn countries around the world.

I spoke with Mark Stewart last week by transatlantic telephone line. After he expressed his respect for Dangerous Minds, affably breaking my balls about the post in which I outed him as the owner of the face in Discharge’s logo, we talked underground media and mutual aid briefly before settling in for a discussion of his solo debut and the current historical moment. A lightly edited transcript follows.

Mark Stewart: I’m so pleased to be working with Mute again, and Daniel Miller has kind of rejuvenated Mute, and the independents—it’s a pleasure, you know, to work with cool people where something flows, you know? It’s really important for us that there’s those kind of columns in the underground.

Dangerous Minds: Holding it up.

Holding it up.

I wouldn’t have asked you about this, but I interviewed Adrian Sherwood the day after the Brexit vote, so it strikes me as funny that I’m talking to you now, right after the deal failed. Do you have anything to say about the situation?

I think it’s a total distraction. [laughs] I think it’s a complete smokescreen, and I’m very scared what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s like, I was watching something about Goebbels’ control of the media on some history channel, right, and how he learned from Madison Avenue. I’m not taking a position right or left on it, but I think it’s the most bizarre distraction in the last few years, and God knows what’s going on. But, you know, behind the scenes, our health [services]—there’s all sorts of things, all these laws are being passed behind the scenes, but that is the only thing journalists are looking at. Not the only thing, but do you understand what I’m saying? That isn’t a comment against whoever and whatever.

The problem is, in England, and I’m not being rude, is it is so class-ridden, it’s a problem for both sides of the spectrum. I was living in Berlin for a while, and I was talking to a very cool Japanese guy yesterday, who’s translating this friend of mine, Mark Fisher’s, this theorist’s book on capitalist realism. And in Germany, and I think until fairly recently in Japan, skilled laborers were treated with ultimate respect. The unions worked with the entrepreneurs, or the bosses, or whatever, and there was a kind of “synergy,” to use a wanky name, and so the economy was quite strong, and there was a social service system. . . you know, Germany’s quite an interesting model. But here—the craziest thing is, people are speculating, people are making big money out of these sudden changes, they’re spread-betting against these sudden changes of polarity, you know? I was reading, ‘cause I always read all sides of the spectrum, I was reading in a financial thing, suddenly sterling has got very, very strong. You know? And these politicians are being played. Do you know what I mean? They’re being played.

I can sit and talk to a Tory boy, I can sit and talk to whoever. And I’ll listen to people and try and talk to them in their language, and try and understand their point of view, right? ‘Cause being opposed to people, you don’t really get anywhere. But they think they’re doing something for whatever bizarre, medieval idea of nationalism or identity politics or whatever you call it, and there are some—there used to be this thing in England which was called “caring conservatism,” which was quite feudal, it was like how the king of the manor would give the employees some bread. [laughs] Scraps from the table or whatever. But here, the problem is, the working class are envious of the rich, and the rich want to squeeze the working class until it explodes to get every drop of blood out of them. It’s quite a strange system. And the middle ground that you’ve got in Germany, with the, whatever they’re called, Christian Democrats or something; back in the day, when people like Chomsky and everybody used to attack these middle-left kind of parties—you know, I read a lot of theory, but now, that is heaven compared to what’s happening these days! “The center cannot hold.” Everything is just. . . it’s bizarre, you know?
 

Adrian Sherwood and Mark Stewart, London, 1985 (photo by Beezer, courtesy of Mute)
 
But the problem is, again, my personal Facebook is full of loads of cool people who I really respect, so I get utterly impressed when, like, these Italian theorists start talking to me about how this album or our early work inspired people to get into different ideas about the planet. But I’m sick to death of people moaning about these non-events, which could be like—it’s like an orchestrated ballet of distraction. You know, it’s bollocks! “Never mind the bollocks” is never mind the fuckin’—it’s bollocks! And people are constantly talking about it.

And what I would be doing—so many of my American friends are just constantly posting this stuff about Trump, right? And I’m like—sorry, I’ll probably lose a lot of respect for saying this, I’m sorry, but as soon as the polls were looking like that, the guy’s been democratically elected, we’d roll up our sleeves and try and organize for 10 years down the line, if not five years down the line, and try and grow some sense of hope! Spread seeds of hope, culturally, in these small towns. That’s what things like punk are about. You know, with punk, a youth center opened, or a squat opened, and little places changed a bit, you know? Now people are just tutting. Saying “Oh, he’s bad”—so what? You’re bad for not fuckin’ doing anything! Sorry to rant, but there’s this culture, this narcissistic culture of wallowing in defeat. Which is basically another way of saying “I’m not going to do anything, but I’m gonna pretend to have a conscience by tutting.”

Yeah, people are glued to their TV sets and the news constantly, and it makes them feel powerless, and they don’t do anything. I don’t know if it’s a similar thing with Brexit.

I don’t know. I think people make a choice not to care from an early age. I’m not being rude. You can blame this, you can blame something outside of yourself, but as I grow a little bit older and I get more pulled into weird, sort of Taoist sort of things, it’s to do with putting a foot forward and breaking outside of the mold, and if you get hit, you get hit. Or if somebody says you’re a nutter, like they said about us back in the day, you know, or they say you’re wrong, or whatever, at least you stepped forward, outside of the embryonic—do you understand what I’m saying? You have to do provocations. In my sense, it’s kind of art provocations. What I do is, even if I’m not sure about something, I think It’s enough of a curveball to go in that direction, or to spin against my own stupid sense of conditioning: sparks will fly. Let’s go! Let’s do it. Do you know what I mean?

It’s this sitting back—and now you’re getting people kind of reminiscing about the Cold War! Which again was a distraction. It’s just nonsense, you know? People want to live in this nostalgic bubble. And now they’re saying that the fuckin’—a journalist in an English paper was saying that the Cowardice times were more paranoid than now? What the fuck? [laughter] With Cambridge Analytica, we got fuckin’ algorithms—if there was a Night of the Long Knives overnight and somebody got control of the algorithms, thousands of people could just be rounded up for reading Dangerous Minds. Do you understand what I’m saying? And it’s all sold to the highest bidder; there isn’t even any politics involved. It’s naked capitalistic control. But, you know, now I’m moaning like I shouldn’t have done. Daniel Miller had this idea of enabling technologies, and in America, there was always like Mondo 2000 and Electronic Frontier Foundation. So I’m positive as well as being. . . it’s very interesting times. And when there’s change, there’s possibility.

One of the main reasons I wanted to interview you about this record is that “Jerusalem” is one of my favorite recordings.

This one, or another one? My one, or somebody else’s?

No, your “Jerusalem” is one of my favorite records. Part of it is, there’s the Blake poem, which has all this revolutionary, visionary significance, but then there’s so much layered on top of it—all this patriotic meaning, and it’s in the hymnal, and I don’t know if you know that story about Throbbing Gristle playing at the boys’ school and the boys singing them offstage with “And did those feet in ancient time”—

No.

—so I wonder if you could tell me about what that song means to you, and whether you were trying to recover some of the William Blake in that song.

Well, it’s a long, long, long story, and a lot of it’s got to do with an ancient tradition of kind of English, kind of Celtic mysticism, which is—I’m gonna sound like David Tibet now or something—but I’m a Stewart, right? And our family history is linked to this other family called the Sinclairs. My father died a couple of weeks ago, and he was a real, to use the word nicely, occultist. He was a Templar, and he taught remote viewing. But for me, I feel, growing up near Glastonbury—this might sound very, very hippie, this, but it’s the kind of mysticism of Blake that I really liked, right? There was a review in the Wire, when the record first came out, back in the day, and they said me and Adrian, it was a perfect alchemical marriage, or something. If you can be kinda hopefully mystical at the same time as being hopefully an activist, there’s an uplifting sense of that tune in specific.
 

Mark Stewart and the Maffia’s first performance, CND rally in Trafalgar Square, 1980 (courtesy of Freaks R Us)
 
What happened was that the last ever Pop Group concert and the first ever Maffia concert were on the same day. Basically, I’d got sick to death of music, I’d kinda packed it all in, I thought we weren’t ever gonna get anywhere with it, and I was just bored of it, right? And I became a volunteer in the office of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in London, in Poland Street, right? And one day in the office, Monsignor Bruce Kent, who was in charge of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at the time, we were organizing what turned out to be the biggest postwar demonstration against nuclear weapons, and the center of London was brought to a standstill by 500,000 people. People came from far and wide, from Scotland, from everywhere. And he turned round and said, “It might be good to have some music,” ‘cause, you know, Tony Benn and all these amazing people were speaking, and I said, “Oh, I’ve got a band!” And I said, “I can ask some of my mates.” So I asked the Specials and Killing Joke; Specials couldn’t do it, but Killing Joke did it, and we ended up playing between the lions in Trafalgar Square. My brother and loads of my weird artist mates did this huge kind of amazing mural of this baby coming out of this atom bomb.

Basically, I was thinking to myself, What would be a classic rallying song, that people young and old—you know, ‘cause very few people would have known about the Pop Group in this demonstration—young and old, like Woody Guthrie, or Pete Seeger, or something like “We Shall Overcome,” what would be good for England? And immediately I thought of “Jerusalem.” And the Pop Group was going all sort of free-jazzy and out there and stuff, where I couldn’t get it together with the Pop Group. I was already hanging out with Adrian and starting to make some sort of reggaeish stuff, so the first version of the Maffia got up and played “Jerusalem” and a few other songs a few hours later in the day, ‘cause people sing it on marches and stuff in England.

So that was the reason for the “Jerusalem” thing. And that moment, that moment in the middle of London, you know, it was the proudest day of my life, to actually be involved in—I’m just trying to organize something just now, just before you phoned, to try and kick off a big sort of demo this year, because that’s what gets me going! It’s like when we used to do Rock Against Racism; we did stuff for Scrap SUS, when they used to just stop black kids on sight and search them, the police; Anti-Fascist League, you know, and now we’re doing this stuff for these Mercy Ships people, who build these boats—they do up these old kind of trawlers and park them out in international waters, outside war zones, and make them into little floating hospitals and operate on kids and stuff. That’s what the money from the limited vinyl’s going towards. But it’s just like—when it’s a benefit, you can get other cool bands. There’s a band here called Fat White Family and all these offshoots of them, Black MIDI or something, there’s these conscious young bands who are mates of mates, and I know in a couple of phone calls I can get an amazing bill together, and the people around me aren’t gonna ask for so much money, they’re more likely to answer the call, you know? And people remember those events for years to come.

Well, I remember you said something in an interview years ago, “The political and the mystical go hand in hand.”

[laughs] I always say the same bollocks! You’ve caught me out!

Much, much more after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.24.2019
10:36 am
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Why was the best album of 2018 not on any of the year end ‘best of’ lists?
01.23.2019
11:48 am
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Jonathan Wilson by Magdalena Wosinska
 

[TL;DR: I have no idea why. It doesn’t make any sense.]

I was going to do one of those “top ten albums of 2018” listicles, but I procrastinated too much over the holidays and never got around to it. The thing was, I had dozens of albums that I loved in 2018, far more than ten, but it was like I had a clear #1 hands-down favorite and everything else was simply after it and in no particular order beyond that. However, in the past few days I’ve found myself clicking through the top 100 lists at several of the music blogs I frequent and I was a little shocked—and frankly annoyed—that what I felt was, without the slightest doubt, the single best thing released all year was not only given critical short shrift, it was hardly afforded any shrift whatsoever.

And the album I refer to, is, I can assure you, one of those affairs where you could not possibly be exposed to it—I don’t think—and not be suitably impressed, if not utterly flabbergasted by the gleaming brilliance right in front of your ears. Nothing subtle, but the kind of music, performance and production quality that is obviously next level stuff. I felt like I was seeing something that rightly should have been proclaimed an instant classic get lost in a year of tumultuous shuffle.

Not only that, I’m friends with the artist and was involved with drafting the press materials for the release. I’d interviewed him about the music and what inspired and motivated its creation, and in fact, I’ve had a copy of the album since mid-2017 making it my favorite new album of both that year and of 2018. This album was played nonstop in our house for many months. If I woke up in the middle of the night to take a piss, it was inevitably playing in my head. The second my eyes opened in the morning it was still there on a loop between my ears, often in mid song.

I refer here to the phenomenal Rare Birds by Jonathan Wilson. As I was saying above, I thought 2018 was a great year for new music, but there was for me nothing else even close to this album. Luckily for me I really don’t have to try to convince you of the resounding correctness of my opinion as you can simply press play below from the comfort of where you are reading this and have a listen for yourself. But I also know that fewer than 2% of you will bother to listen to the thing you are happily reading about. People would rather read a short description of something than to actually experience it for themselves. That seems odd to contemplate, but we all do it. Me, you, everyone does. So that’s what I’m working with here. Having said that, to those readers curious enough already to think they might just want to give it a listen, don’t wait, pause for a moment, scroll down the page a bit, hit play and come back. I’ll wait. Go on, DO IT.
 

Jonathan Wilson onstage with Roger Waters. He even sang “Money”!
 
I guess what might be in order, would be a little background: Jonathan Wilson is an American musician based in Los Angeles and the owner of a very nicely appointed recording studio housed on his hillside Echo Park compound. He is generally considered a “guitar hero.” For the past few years he was a featured part of Roger Waters’ touring band, playing lead guitar and taking the vocal duties over for the Dave Gilmour numbers. You might also know him as the creative partner/producer of Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, on Tillman’s first three FJM albums. He’s collaborated with the likes of Dawes, Chris Robinson, Bob Weir, Erykah Badu, Robbie Robertson, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Roy Harper, Will Oldham, Elvis Costello, Conor Oberst, Karen Elson, and Wilco’s Patrick Sansone. He’s toured the US with Tame Impala (a fantastic double bill, I can assure you) and in Europe he’s opened for Neil Young and toured with Tom Petty.

In England, where Wilson records for Bella Union, his first album, Gentle Spirit, was (appropriately) given rave reviews and prominent spots in several year end lists (#4 in MOJO, #16 in Uncut, #28 in The Guardian) while Jonathan Wilson himself was named Uncut magazine’s 2011 “New Artist of the Year.” Back home, the album was known to hardcore music heads, and the more clued-in Father John Misty fans, but that was about it. I did, and do, find that a ridiculous state of affairs. I watched a truly classic debut—one that should have been a bestseller and multiple Grammy nominee—fall through the cracks in real time. The astonishing follow-up, Fanfare, which I found to be equally as good as its near perfect predecessor suffered a similar fate. Not for any lack in the music, but from a baffling lack of listeners. (I’ve said it above, but will repeat: I cannot imagine having halfway decent taste in music, being exposed to Wilson’s output and not recognize that you’ve just had gold poured into your ears.)

Rare Birds, Wilson’s third album—I won’t say it’s “his best” because they are all the best—is by far his most complex offering. It is an album which demands to be paid attention to. It’s something that’s meant to be listened to all the way through, from start to finish, stoned, alone, and in the dark. A work of art, in other words, not something to stream in the background on Spotify. His first two albums were compared a lot to CSNY and Pink Floyd—a bit too much if you ask me, even if I am guilty of it myself—but it is true to say that his guitar playing on those records occupies the exact midpoint between the styles of Stephen Stills and David Gilmour. (If you won’t take my word for it, perhaps you’ll take Roger Waters’ opinion seriously?) With Rare Birds no one would make those same comparisons. Here Wilson does a full tilt 1980s Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel thing, using as many as 155 tracks on a given song. Everything is recorded to 2” analog tape through an audio board that was once used at Pye Studios in London (The Kinks, Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull, and many others have recorded with it) and taken into ProTools from there before being laid off again to 2” tape for mastering. He’s the type of maniac who will use eight mics for a single drum and told me that he perceived the process of making Rare Birds as if he’d assigned himself a puzzle—a 155 multi-tracked musical Rubik’s Cube—which he then had to solve.

The overall sonic signature of Rare Birds, not heard before on one of Wilson’s albums, is the sound of multiple synthesizers and drum machines that will remind many listeners of Talk Talk’s lush Spirit of Eden (although that album, which was largely improvised, utilized the exact opposite of Wilson’s meticulously planned-by-schematic—included in the vinyl release—working methods.) Inspired by watching Roger Waters working in his studio, layers of sound effects have also been added to the mix. And did I mention that he’s also playing and singing almost everything heard on the album? There are some notable guests—Laraaji, the new age musician and Brian Eno collaborator whose otherworldly vocal contribution to “Loving You” opens the album’s third eye; Father John Misty, the vocal duo Lucius, and Lana Del Rey (instantly recognizable, her minimalist whispered vocal contribution to “Living With Myself” accomplishes so much with so little)—but by and large he’s Todd Rundgrening it here. As far as self-produced solo albums go, this one’s pretty damned solo.
 

 
Thematically, Rare Birds is a break-up album—like Blood on the Tracks, and I can assure you that I am not bringing up that masterpiece for no particular reason here. As the album begins, he’s seeing his ex everywhere. She’s driving on the 405 listening to Zappa, or walking across Trafalgar Square whistling a tune with Little Jimmy Dickens. The point is that he’s seeing her everywhere and the album as it progresses is a diary of how he processed what happened to that relationship. During the meet/cute moment she enters her name “just as ‘tight blue jeans’ in my phone, I guess you do this kind of thing…” It’s specifically about one relationship, but anyone going through a break-up and trying to heal afterward could easily project themselves onto the lyrics. It’s songs about love lost, but in the end everyone is going to be fine.

The audiophile-level sound quality of the entire affair is nothing less than remarkable. When I first got it I listened to it, for months, via speakers. Then one night I had just gotten a new pair of headphones and I decided to listen to Rare Birds with them which revealed layer upon layer and subtle details galore that I had never noticed before, despite hundreds of listens. It was astounding to me and exactly the sort of experience that I crave and seek out as a listener. Two months ago I considerably upgraded my stereo system and one of the very first things I thought to play was Rare Birds and once again, I could hear far deeper into the mix. Layer upon layer deeper. This is a much, much higher fidelity than we typically get from any artist. And it is noticeably so.*

Last year, writing about Britpop’s acerbic uncle Luke Haines, I called him the very best British songwriter of his generation—that he is—and remarked that comparing what he did to what most other pop musicians do was like comparing a master mason to someone good at putting up sheds. I feel similarly about Jonathan Wilson and have been on record for some time touting him as, in my opinion, the single best American musician working today, but Wilson can also make a guitar by hand (his axes fetch five figures), as well as build and wire an entire recording studio from the ground up. He isn’t merely a master mason, he’s handcarved all of the very elaborate furniture in the house and done the inspired landscaping. He’s a musician’s musician, with an almost unfathomable talent and breathtaking prowess on so many instruments—he’s the most complete musician that I have ever met—but the notion that he’s someone’s sideman—even to greats like Father John Misty and Roger-fucking-Waters—well that’s just not right.

But what would it take to convince you of that? A classic 10/10 gleaming audiophile masterpiece? The man’s put out three of ‘em so far. It’s time for the listening public to catch up to Jonathan Wilson in 2019.

Jonathan Wilson and his band will be touring selected American cities next month. More information and tickets here.
 

 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.23.2019
11:48 am
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F#ck it up Pigface: Watch the fabled industrial supergroup’s 1992 tour documentary
01.22.2019
05:56 am
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The phrase “industrial rock supergroup” is not something you hear very often. Back in 1990, Al Jourgensen assembled scene all-stars Martin Atkins (PiL, Killing Joke), Nivek Ogre (Skinny Puppy), and Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks) to tour with Ministry in support of their record The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste. The onstage chaos can be seen depicted in the video companion to their live album, In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up.
 
Atkins recognized the potential of this joint effort, in more ways than what he referred to as a “Ministry cover band.” Along with Ministry’s William Rieflin, the two drummers formed Pigface. They recruited other like-minded members of the music community to perform in and collaborate with the collective, keeping it an experimental “revolving door” of participation. Both Nivek Ogre and Chris Connelly were contributors to Pigface, along with an insanely long and impressive list of rotating, alternative heavy-hitters, like Trent Reznor, Flea, David Yow, Genesis P-Orridge, Black Francis, Steve Albini, Michael Gira, Jello Biafra, and so on.
 

“The Industrial Show from the Blackest Pit of Hell”: Pigface in Ann Arbor, 1993
 

Pigface - “Suck” (feat. Trent Reznor)
 
Given that a transformative project as ambitious as this could fizzle out at any second, Pigface released a VHS tour documentary called Glitch in 1992. The video is made up of snippets of backstage interviews and live footage of their high-energy concerts, described in the film as “a circus that keeps changing every time.” The group may have released their most coherent and well-received record Fook during this span, yet the tumultuous 10+ member live performances were known to be inconsistent and oftentimes nightmarish.
 
There have been gaps in between, but Pigface has never broken up. That’s the beauty of a band with over one hundred members, although the self-inflicted anarchy at its core has made it difficult for fans to follow along. In 2016, Pigface reappeared for two shows in Chicago, featuring members both old and new. In 1996, a follow-up documentary was released, titled Son of a Glitch. There are snippets of it around Youtube, or you can get the DVD.
 
Watch industrial supergroup Pigface’s 1992 documentary ‘Glitch’ after the jump…
 

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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01.22.2019
05:56 am
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Why Iggy Pop’s guest role on ‘Miami Vice’ never aired
01.18.2019
09:29 am
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Iggy and dominatrix 1
 
Mid-1983 through 1985 are considered Iggy Pop’s “quiet years,” but he was still active and looking for ways to challenge himself. Acting was one such endeavor, with Pop taking classes and auditioning for various roles. This included a 1984 tryout for a part on a new NBC program, Miami Vice. During a 1986 newspaper interview, casting director Bonnie Timmermann talked about Iggy’s audition for the show.

He came in with his big eyes and black hair and sat and stared at me. Despite his reputation as a wild man, he was gentle. I immediately liked him. Iggy came in for a biker role, but we ended up giving him another part.

The Ig was slated to play opposite fellow Michigander Glenn Frey in a February 1st, 1985 episode named after Frey’s song, “Smuggler’s Blues.” But Pop didn’t turn up on set, and his absence was widely reported in the press. “He was supposed to be in the show. We announced it,” said an NBC spokesperson in January 1985. “But when it came time to make the arrangements, we couldn’t find him.” It seemed Iggy had simply flaked.
 
Iggy clipping 1
 
But that wasn’t the case. When Iggy saw a February 1985 article in the San Francisco Examiner about his “no show,” he was stunned. He never knew he had been given the part.
 
Iggy clipping 2
 
Miami Vice must have accepted this explanation, as Iggy was cast in another season one episode, entitled “Evan.” Pop’s part was that of a police informant named Thumper, a proprietor of a S&M-themed club. A scene was shot in the club’s setting, and Iggy’s guest role was noted in newspapers, but when the episode aired on May 3rd, 1985, the Ig was nowhere to be seen.
 
Iggy and Don
A publicity photo of Iggy Pop and ‘Miami Vice’ star, Don Johnson.

So, what happened with Iggy and the show this time?

This scene was cut by NBC Censors (Broadcast Standards Division) due to its S&M content. Camille Sands, an actress who had the small part of a dominatrix called Velvet, remembered later that the scene contained a customer of the S&M studio being molested on a torture rack while Don Johnson talked to Iggy Pop. The urge of NBC to cut this out led to the first serious argument with the Miami Vice producers, who refused to alter the episode. Subsequently, NBC used its contractual right of final cut, and cut the whole scene. (from the Unofficial ‘Miami Vice’ Episode Guide)

What would have been Iggy Pop’s dramatic television debut remains unseen to this day. All we have are a handful of publicity photos and snapshots taken on set.
 
Iggy as Thumper
 
Iggy and dominatrix 2
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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01.18.2019
09:29 am
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Watch some ball-kicking self-defense with seventies pop princess Lynsey de Paul
01.16.2019
08:12 am
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01ldp.jpg
 
Down these mean streets a pop star must occasionally go. Though they may not be mean themselves, they are sometimes trained in martial arts like Elvis Presley who was a black belt able to disarm a whole plateful of cheeseburgers at fifteen paces. Or, Stevie Nicks who could fuck you up with her four-inch platform heels. Or, the late seventies pop princess Lynsey de Paul who was so adept at kicking butt in self-defense she made her very own video to let others in on her secret ninja skills.

Lynsey de Paul may not be as well-known today as Presley or Nicks but at the peak of her career in the 1970s, she was a chart-topping star on both sides of the Atlantic. The first woman to win an Ivor Novello Award for her song “Won’t Somebody Dance With Me” in 1974 (she won a second the following year with “No, Honestly”—the theme tune to a hit TV series), de Paul scored a string of hits before her career imploded after a fall-out with her manager Don Arden—aka Sharon Osbourne’s dad. Osbourne described de Paul as “a miserable old cow” and allegedly, during one acrimonious tour, urinated in a suitcase full of the singer’s clothes.

Lynsey de Paul was born Lynsey Monckton Rubin on June 11th, 1948, in north London. Her father was a bad-tempered old git, a property-developer who regularly beat de Paul and her brother. He also spent a lot of time demeaning and undermining his daughter who he claimed would never amount to anything. At the age of eleven, de Paul vowed to get her ass out of the family home ASAP and make enough dough to live an independent life far away from her old man. It was another ten years before de Paul managed to get out, but once gone she never looked back.

My motivation was negative because I was trying to get away from something. I turned it into something positive, so that I wasn’t walking away from home but towards something better.

De Paul studied at art college and had a brief career as a graphic designer before turning her talents towards songwriting in the late 1960s. She wrote a batch of singles for Oliver! star Jack Wild before writing a song called “Sugar Me” for Peter Noone. It was only when her then boyfriend Dudley Moore suggested she should record this single herself instead of Noone that a star was born. “Sugar Me” was de Paul’s first major hit in both the UK and the US. It was the kind of song that once you started singing the opening line, it was difficult not to follow on to the next.

One for you and one for me
But one and one and one,
Pardon me, comes to three.

A simple rhythm, a clever hook and then:

Honey sweet and all the while,
Hid behind the smile was saccharine
I’m a go-between.

I must have sung those lines more times than a few headshrinkers would think healthy. The first time I heard them, I was caught, filleted, and served up ready to eat. Not just for the beauty of the singer but the cleverness of the song. Those old enough to remember “Sugar Me” will know what I mean.
 

 
Watch Lynsey de Paul’s self-defense video ‘Taking Control,’ after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.16.2019
08:12 am
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Breaking bad: Mötley Crüe’s porny photo layout in OUI magazine, 1982 (NSFW)
01.14.2019
08:53 am
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An early promo shot of Mötley Crüe.
 
In an effort to not diminish the importance of heavy metal in the year 1982, I feel compelled to make a few opening remarks on the year horny metal band Mötley Crüe first terrorized the eyes of “readers” of a national publication—adult magazine OUI.

In 1982, Venom released their deeply influential second album, Black Metal, the Scorpions burned our faces off with their eighth record, Blackout, Judas Priest delivered Screaming for Vengeance, and Iron Maiden unleashed The Number of the Beast. 1982 was also the same year the Plasmatics socked it to us with Coup d’Etat, which the LA Times called “the best slice of unrelenting heavy metal since the last AC/DC album” (1981’s For Those About To Rock). If referring to the Plasmatics as a “heavy metal” band makes you shake your head, here’s an interesting fact: Wendy O. and the band recorded Coup d’Etat in Germany with Dieter Dierks who had just worked with the Scorpions on Blackout. He helped push the Plasmatics’ punk sound to a heavier, more metal realm. Reviews of Coup d’Etat have even referred to Williams as an “Iron Maiden” for her vocal work on the record. So the next time someone tells you how much music in the 80s sucked, tell ‘em to Stop. Now that we have established 1982 as a pretty damn good year for heavy metal let’s talk about Mötley Crüe’s appearance in Playboy magazine’s pornier sister publication, OUI. (Playboy’s Penthouse, if you will.)

As noted above, this would be the first time Crüe’s mugs (and more) would be seen in a magazine with national distribution. Crüe had not even been called Mötley Crüe for a year when photographer Mark Weiss came to LA to shoot the band in their natural surroundings for one of his monthly contributions to OUI which, according to Weiss, kept him busy taking photos of rock stars and naked ladies. While Weiss was in LA, he took twenty or so shots of Mötley mugging for their lives with a couple of topless blonde models, pentagrams, all of the Aqua Net, human skulls, and a motorcycle, among other heavy metal staples. The photoshoot is accompanied by a long interview with Nikki, Tommy, Mick, and Vince (the magazine mistakenly spelled Vince’s last name as “Neal”), with OUI writers Mikael Kirke and Joe Bivona. It is full of all kinds of salacious statements—as one should expect it to be. And, since OUI was a porn magazine, the 1982 version of Mötley Crüe were probably even more over the top than usual (you can read the entire interview here). Here’s one excerpt not about sex, but an account by Vince about a science experiment Crüe conducted in Canada in order to deduce how long it would take for a Sony television set to fall out of a hotel window:

Oui: Are you guys into tearing up hotels?
Vince Neil: We got thrown out of Canada for that. Don’t bring a Sony TV in front of Mötley Crüe. You won’t have it too long.
Oui: So how long does it take for a television to…
Vince Neil: To drop out of a hotel? We timed it. Everybody in the band had a TV set, and we threw them out one at a time. Mickey’s (guitarist Mick Mars) went down in exactly seven seconds, which is a little over his mark. Nikki’s went down in 6.3 seconds, but he gave it a little push. Tommy’s went down in five seconds flat and hit a hooker on the street. She must have some voice to scream that loud!

First of all, Crüe’s antics during their 1982 tour of Canada are well documented and Lee’s television tossing has been verified as fact. However, if said television did inadvertently hit a hooker on its way to its death, I can’t understand why there isn’t a news item with the title, “Tommy Lee Nails Canadian Hooker With TV,” but that’s just how my brain tries to come to terms with such conundrums. I should probably get that checked out. Lastly, there is one more heavy metal connection in this issue of OUI—the model on the cover is Cheryl Rixon. Rixon, Penthouse magazine’s Pet of the Year in 1979, appeared in a controversial layout in Kerrang! magazine in 1982 with none other than Judas Priest.
 

 

 
More photos of Mötley Crüe behaving exactly like you’d expect Mötley Crüe to behave follow after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.14.2019
08:53 am
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‘Punk Nursery Rhymes’: The entertaining 1981 novelty album and the mystery band behind it
01.11.2019
09:27 am
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Album cover
 
I recently came across a novelty record called Punk Nursery Rhymes. Expecting unlistenable junk, I instead found it highly enjoyable. It was certainly better than it needed to be. Released in 1981, the record was attributed to a band called the Rotten Eggs, but that’s about all that could be immediately discerned. There are no credits included with the album, and it’s the only LP by the Rotten Eggs. I couldn’t help but wonder: who was behind this LP?

Punk Nursery Rhymes was issued by the Golden Editions label in 1981. Golden Editions was a part of Music World, a record company that could be described as Australasia’s version of K-Tel Records. Music World and their sub-labels specialized in budget compilations and novelty records, and like K-Tel, marketed their products through infomercials. You can see, above, that the “As Seen on T.V.” logo was worked into the album art, which features a rendering of Humpty Dumpty after his great fall. The “Humpty Dumpty” track was my introduction to Punk Nursery Rhymes. The song is brilliantly ridiculous—a nursery rhyme executed with the energy and attitude of punk. The song collapses at its conclusion, which is a perfect ending, as it works as both a parody of the ramshackle nature of early British punk, but also represents Humpty Dumpty’s tumble off the wall.
 

 
So, who were the Rotten Eggs? Blair Parkes a member of the Christchurch, New Zealand band, All Fall Down, has shed some major light on the mystery. Parkes has shared his memories of the All Fall Down days on his website, and in one section, wrote about their mid ‘80s visit to Tandem Studios in Christchurch. In it, he reveals who was behind Punk Nursery Rhymes:

I’d been up to Tandem Studios about five years earlier, as a member of the Newz fanclub. The band [the Newz] was briefly back from Melbourne and were recording Punk Nursery Rhymes as “The Rotten Eggs” for Music World. They were making the songs up as they went along. I’d not known you could do that. Eric Johns engineered both the Rotten Eggs sessions and ours. Eric was a very cool African-American guy married to a New Zealander. He had been in Heatwave who had struck it big with “Boogie Nights” and another couple of disco-era hits.

The Newz were a new wave act around for a spell in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. Also from Christchurch, the Newz released one album, Heard the Newz, which came out in 1980. Like Punk Nursery Rhymes, it was produced by Eric Johns and recorded at Tandem Studios. The LP was put out by Music World, with the Newz said to have been the only “proper” group on the label, at the time. It’s unclear how Punk Nursery Rhymes came to be, but my guess is that it was commissioned by Music World, and the Newz and Eric Johns did it to make a few extra bucks. It was all anonymous, so why not?
 
The Newz
The Newz

When I first found a stream of the full LP online, I figured I’d never get through all 18 songs, but Punk Nursery Rhymes is surprisingly entertaining. Punk parodies rarely capture the spirit of the genre accurately, but the Newz and Eric Johns not only did just that, they successfully paired punk with nursery rhymes—! The project may have come together quickly, but nothing about it seems haphazard. There’s even some post-punk weirdness worked into the mix, which was above and beyond the call of duty. The Newz are good players, and genuinely sound inspired. It’s all very infectious and splendidly absurd.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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01.11.2019
09:27 am
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Listen to Siouxsie Sioux’s glorious isolated vocal for ‘The Killing Jar’
01.09.2019
08:57 am
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01siouxsiekj.jpg
 
The second single off Siouxsie and the Banshees’ ninth studio album Peepshow was “The Killing Jar.” The dark song centered around the process that entomologists use to kill hard shelled insects “quickly and with minimum damage” by gassing them in a glass container.  It brings to mind the warped entomologist in John Fowles’ twisted novel The Collector, in which one Ferdinand Clegg moves from bugs to humans when he kidnaps a young art student Miranda Grey, as a specimen to be kept and examined in his cellar. The song reiterates a theme apparent throughout most of the Banshees work that adults are not to be trusted as they can never behave responsibly.

This was a harsh fact Siouxsie Sioux learnt early. When she was nine years old, she and a friend were sexually assaulted by a man. When she told her parents, they did not believe her. It became an unspoken secret in the family, leaving Siouxsie (aka Susan Ballion) isolated as she told Word magazine in 2005:

I grew up having no faith in adults as responsible people. And being the youngest in the family I was isolated – I had no-one to confide in. So I invented my own world, my own reality. It was my own way of defending myself – protecting myself from the outside world. The only way I could deal with how to survive was to get some strong armour.

Siouxsie’s old man was a drunk who died when she was fourteen. This caused more trauma that led to her being hospitalized with ulcerative colitis. Against this, Siouxsie dreamt of a different life. There were hints of what this could be—like seeing Bowie perform on Top of the Pops, or listening to Roxy Music—but it all came together when she saw the Sex Pistols perform with her friend Steven Severin (aka Steven Bailey) in 1976. Not long after, the pair formed Siouxsie and the Banshees.
 
02siouxsiekj.jpg
 
Released in September 1988, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ album Peepshow is one of the best in their catalog. Described at the time of release as the band’s “finest hour” which showcased “a brightly unexpected mixture of black steel and pop disturbance.” The single “The Killing Jar” was written by Severin, Siouxsie, and Budgie (aka Peter Edward Clarke) and featured Jon Klein on guitar and Martin McCarrick on keyboard and accordion. Released the same month as the album, “The Killing Jar” hit #2 in the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Much has been written about the vocal range of artists like Freddie Mercury but not so much on the equally brilliant Siouxsie Sioux, who developed from spiky, punky vocals to rich, powerful, and glorious textured tones in her later albums. She can hit the high notes and bring an unnerving warmth and menace to her lower range. Take a listen to this isolated track of Siouxsie singing “The Killing Jar” and you’ll hear just how good she is.

Hear Siouxsie’s isolated vocal for ‘The Killing Jar,’ after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.09.2019
08:57 am
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‘You didn’t want to support that guy!’ R. Crumb turns down Mick Jagger
01.08.2019
10:07 am
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Born in 1943, Robert Dennis Crumb is likely the most renowned underground comics artist and arguably the most adept comix practitioner of all time. As hyperbolic a figure as the Boomer generation ever produced, Crumb famously emerged out of a family full of nut cases to become a figure out of time, clinging to his beloved jazz records from the World War I era while loudly disdaining much of modern life and spontaneously projecting his wiry frame onto the lap of whatever healthy-buttocked woman is in the vicinity.

Crumb’s singular cover for Big Brother and the Holding Company represents something of an exception to Crumb’s distaste for the most beloved artifacts of his own generation. It was inarguably Crumb’s most successful foray into the rock milieu, but what is rather less known as that the Rolling Stones also wanted Crumb to do a cover for them, but he turned them down flat. 
 

 
In an amusing interview conducted by Larry Jaffee sometime during the George W. Bush administration, Crumb amusingly discourses on the commission to do the artwork for Cheap Thrills. He didn’t dig the music, but he did the cover because he liked Janis Joplin as a person, and she asked him to do it. He earned a cool six hundred bucks for the art.

When Mick Jagger came a-callin’, though, Crumb said no way. In the Jaffee interview, he says that he didn’t want to “endorse” the music of the Stones, because he found all of the guys in the band “irritating.” Crumb even candidly cops to a little jealousy with respect to Jagger’s sexual appeal. “All the girls liked it, girls didn’t like cartoonists, they liked Mick Jagger.... You didn’t want to support that guy!”

And then, of course, comes Crumb’s trademark chuckle.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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01.08.2019
10:07 am
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Frank Zappa’s nude harem: Racy photos of The Runaways, ABBA & more from Swedish mag ‘POSTER’
01.07.2019
08:54 am
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The Runaways in Swedish magazine POSTER.
 
If you were a kid during the late 70s and early 80s, I’m gonna hedge a hefty bet you probably owned a few too many posters which covered your bedroom walls. As it pertains to the youthful pastime of murdering your parent’s wallpaper, POSTER magazine founder Hans Hatwig was once quoted saying his magazine “papered the walls of a whole generation.” Hatwig actually took many of the photos himself during the magazine’s six-year run in Sweden, and Hatwig seemed to have no difficulty convincing acts from The Runaways, to KISS, Frank Zappa, and Alice Cooper to strike a pose for POSTER.

Hatwig’s affable nature led him to develop friendships with some of the musical luminaries he photographed. According to his bio, he hooked up with Angus Young early on while the band was in Stockholm in July of 1976. Hatwig and Young headed out to the Red Light District where he photographed Angus “pretending” to purchase condoms from a Durex dispenser, with other shots taken in front of the local sex shops and adult movie theaters. In all, Hatwig took about 40 images of Angus “on the loose” in Stockholm, and they are all fantastically candid, while remaining certifiably rock and fucking roll.

Earlier in 1976, Hatwig would photograph the ethereal Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA with a giant red and white lollipop clad in a barely-there white satin top and matching knee-high boots while surrounded by a gang of look-alike baby dolls. The instantly infamous images still burn retinas (in the best possible way) to this day. Just like the shot of Frank Zappa (though it appears not to be one of Hatwig’s photographs) wearing an animal print banana hammock taken in 1976 along with eight women—six of them topless—in a studio made to look like an exotic jungle scene. You can never unsee this image of Zappa and his nipply friends—life is beautiful that way sometimes.

Posters from POSTER and vintage issues of the magazine often fetch over a hundred bucks online. Thankfully, in 2008, authors Fabian H. Bernstone & Mathias Brink published the book POSTER: Nordens största poptidning 1974-1980—a 256 volume of images from POSTER, some of which never made it off of the cutting room floor. Images from POSTER follow, some are NSFW.
 

A shot of ABBA rocking matching tinfoil outfits from POSTER magazine.
 

 

Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA and her lookalike doll army. Photo by Hans Hatwig.
 

AC/DC.
 

Alice Cooper.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.07.2019
08:54 am
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