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Holy Watusi, Batman! The Bay Area Batman-themed nightclub from the mid-1960s
12.06.2013
05:31 pm
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Wayne Manor
 
From the start of 1966 to the late spring of 1967 (if not longer), a period coinciding with the run of the groovy Batman TV show we all know and love, one of the hottest nightclubs in the Bay Area was a Batman-themed joint called Wayne Manor in Sunnyvale. According to the Chicken on a Unicycle website (love the name), “The club was decorated like the Bat Cave, and dancers were dressed like Bat Girl or Catwoman.” LIFE Magazine mentioned Wayne Manor in its March 11, 1966 cover story on the Batman-mania sweeping the nation.

The owner of the club was named Joe Lewis, and after attempting to run the nightclub as a South Bay branch of LA’s Whiskey à Go Go, took the advice of his 11-year-old son Garth—an addict of the DC comic books—and went with the Batman theme for the venue. Some have presented the two events as a mere lucky coincidence for Lewis, but I’m skeptical—the Batman series debuted on January 11, 1966, and the music listings on the Chicken on a Unicycle website go back only as far as February 1966—smells like good old-fashioned opportunism to me.
 
Wayne Manor
The (Fremont) Argus, Feb. 16, 1966
 
Musical acts would usually book for an entire week at a time. The roster of performers included such notable musical acts as The Music Machine (who played there in Oct. 1966), Dobie Gray (Dec. 1966), and—this will blow your mind—Sly and the Family Stone (a week covering the end of March and the start of April 1967 and virtually every day in May 1967).

Chicken on a Unicycle has an exhaustive collection of ephemera about the club, although most of the images are frustratingly small. However, it’s still very valuable in persuading people (me, for instance) that this actually happened.

There isn’t any video of Wayne Manor on YouTube (why would there be?), so instead we offer you all 14 window cameos from the original TV series:

 
via Messy Nessy Chic

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.06.2013
05:31 pm
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Watch all four Johnny Cash Christmas specials
12.06.2013
02:23 pm
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The Christmas Spirit by Johnny Cash
 
From 1976 to 1979, CBS ran a Johnny Cash Christmas special every year—it must have been a significant Christmas tradition in many homes (alas, not my own). For those who remember Cash as the ultimate rebel par excellence, these specials make for some interesting viewing. During the 1970s Cash experienced a slump in record sales, and during this period he was a familiar face on TV, appearing as a guest star on Columbo and Little House on the Prairie and doing commercials for Amoco.

In these specials, the sentimentality of the occasion can’t be ignored, so Cash gamely refashioned himself as a family-friendly country music TV host. We’re far from the middle-finger Johnny Cash or Folsom Prison Blues; there’s a decent amount of corny levity to be seen here. You might say that this is the closest that Cash came to a figure on Hee Haw (of course, he appeared on Hee Haw as well).
 
Johnny Cash as Santa Claus
 
Of course, June Carter Cash is every bit as present as Johnny—the emphasis here is charmingly on family, and many of June and Johnny’s wide-ranging clan of relatives are featured, especially in the 1976 and 1979 specials, which were taped in Tennessee.

If you find yourself inundated with cheesy Christmas songs in every retail establishment you dare to enter, you can surely improve your life by dialing up The Johnny Cash Christmas Special, with its mix of Christmas classics and country-western fare, in their stead.

Taped in Nashville, the special that kicked it off is the most homespun of the bunch. The entire second half of the show is framed as an expansive musical visit around the Cash family hearth. Earlier, Johnny and June join Tony Orlando for “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” and (back at the hearth) Barbara Mandrell, several years before she and her sisters got a show of their own on NBC, engages in some ass-kicking steel guitar wizardry before singing “A Beautiful Morning with You.” Billy Graham ends with a downbeat sermon.
 

 
The 1977 edition may be the strongest from a musical perspective, or maybe it’s just my own bias in favor of rock over country. There’s scarcely any humor sketches, which would predominate in the next two years, and the core of the show is dedicated to three of rock and roll’s most venerable heroes, all associated with Sun Studios, just as Cash himself was. In rapid succession we get Carl Perkins singing “Blue Suede Shoes,” Roy Orbison singing “Pretty Woman,” and Jerry Lee Lewis singing “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” before Lewis essays a reverent rendition of “White Christmas.” Then the three of them and Cash come together to sing “This Train Is Bound For Glory” in a tribute to Elvis, who had died just a few months earlier. Also, Johnny spends a good chunk of the show wearing Army fatigues (!).
 

 
The 1978 Johnny Cash Christmas Special, like the 1977 edition, was taped in Los Angeles, and it shows a little. The guests include Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and Steve Martin, who as a budding superstar is given a fair amount of time for his hijinks. The high point is probably Cash and Kristofferson singing the latter’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” together.
 

 
It’s not news that DM is very Andy Kaufman-friendly, so it was something of a shock to hit play on the 1979 special and see none other than Kaufman himself in the opening bit. For this version of the special, Cash returned to Nashville, and the presence of an appreciative Opryland audience is a blessing. Kaufman scarcely strays from his Latka character, except when he does a completely straight version of Elvis Presley’s “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” It’s well known that Elvis loved Andy’s impersonation; here’s a fine chance to see it.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.06.2013
02:23 pm
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Queen Bitch: Chris Lilley’s obnoxious ‘Private School Girl’ is a TV treat!
12.06.2013
12:41 pm
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Chris Lilley, the creator of the brilliant Australian comedy Summer Heights High, is back on US TV screens right now with Ja’mie: Private School Girl on HBO, a mockumentary comedy following three months in the life of Summer Heights High and We Could Be Heroes star, queen-ultra-mega-bitch Ja’mie King.

Having watched the whole series, which wrapped up in Lilley’s native Australia last week, I can attest that while it starts off slowly, it gets better and better, building up to a cracker of a final episode. Private School Girl has already come in for a lot of slack from some US critics, (in particular this bizarrely scathing review from the AV Club, which lobs in a wholly unwarranted and unqualified “transphobic” slur against Lilley, the kind of casual misuse of language that makes the author seem idiotic) but to these eyes and ears it’s nothing short of brilliant, a pinpoint accurate piss-take of teenage bitchery and the shallowness of youth.

By her very nature, Ja’mie King is a polarizing character, lacking any shred of warmth or sympathy, so it’s understandable how she can divide audiences and critics alike. But liking Ja’mie is not really the point, is it? For me, one of the biggest, and most disappointing, flaws of modern satirical comedy is the gradual humanizing of central anti-hero characters. Malcolm Tucker (played by Peter Capaldi) in The Thick Of It is a good example. A British political spin doctor, Tucker is literally the embodiment of all that is wrong with politics and the current democratic process in the UK, yet over the course of four series and one feature film, the audience was gradually asked to drop the “hate” part from “the character you love to hate” and to root for Tucker, even as he, and the system he represents, makes our lives demonstrably worse.

There’s no such problem with Ja’mie. She starts despicable, and she ends despicable, as befits a character who is so self-absorbed. See for yourself”. Here is the first episode of Private School Girl, in full, via YouTube (US only):
 

 
Even beyond the social satire inherent in making a mockumentary about modern teenage girls, to me Ja’mie King stands out as a feat of incredible female impersonation. I can’t think of another drag character on TV that is just so on point, from the language and vocal intonations to her subtle (an not-so-subtle) mannerisms and constant hair-fiddling. It’s simply uncanny, and the cognative dissonance of that face playing that part (as well as the abandonment of drag clichés like too much make-up) simply adds to the comedy. Lilley must know a lot of teenage girls to have that physical language so down.

Fans of camp and subtle observational humor will find a lot to like here. And let’s face it, Ja’mie appeals to the spoilt teenage brat and screaming diva in all of us, traits which have already made the character a budding gay icon (even though it will come as a surprise to many that Chris Lilley himself is not gay.) With that in mind, I would like to present my own Private School Girl tribute track, in a typical CVNT TR4XXX vogue-house style, featuring some of the best disses and bitchy quips from the show: 
 

 
Lilley is also prepping a new Summer Heights High spin off series centered around beloved bad boy character Jonah Takalua which promises to be more empathetic than cold-hearted Ja’mie, and hence better or worse, depending on which way your taste lies. We can judge that one when it comes out, but for now, let’s revel in the epic bitchery of Private School Girl.

To get you in the mood, and for readers outside the US, here’s a jaw-dropping DVD extra from Summer Heights High, a four minute scene of Ja’mie trying to convince her mother, via mobile phone, to come and pick her up from school. Presumably this is all improvised, and just goes to show what an incredible character actor Lilley is:
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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12.06.2013
12:41 pm
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Kate Bush, fitness guru
12.06.2013
10:32 am
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Earlier this week Paul Gallagher introduced us to “Kate Bush, comedian”—so why not end the week with “Kate Bush, fitness guru”? All right, I’m overselling it a little, but it’s true that in August 1981 the “extravagantly brainy spiritual sexpot,” as Robert Christgau once termed her, was featured in a segment on Looking Good, Feeling Fit, a U.K. show dedicated to well, looking good and feeling fit.

Interviewer Richard Stilgoe caught Bush while prepping for her bombastic and kinetic “Sat in Your Lap” video with dancers Stewart Arnold and Gary Hunt. As Stilgoe notes, the trio tried out the same strenuous dance routine “at least eight times while we filmed it from different angles.”

It must be admitted that Stilgoe indulges in some inane repartee, such as when he asks, “Now, in the music world there’s a lot of late nights, high living and things, and yet you do not have pimples, spots, and all the things that the rest of us get if we stay out late at night, how do you manage that?” For her part, Bush remains steadfastly humble and sensible throughout, insisting that she does indeed get spots, “everyone gets spots,” and advising viewers of the importance of using the right creams to protect your skin.

Considering that her athletic performances were as integral to her art back then as her bewitching music, it’s no surprise that Bush was in such excellent shape—as she allows at the segment’s close, “I don’t think I’m a healthy person. You see, I dance because I want to dance, not ‘cause I want to keep fit. And it’s just a sort of side thing that I happen to keep fit at the same time. I really like what I do and that that’s what it’s all about.”
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.06.2013
10:32 am
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Vampira’s Selfies
12.06.2013
09:32 am
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vampirapromo
 
Long after her forced retirement from acting, dancer-model-actress Maila Nurmi painted portraits of herself in the role she invented: the original Vampira. In her late seventies and eighties she sold these paintings through an L.A. art dealer and on eBay, along with autographed memorabilia. She made very little money to speak of as Vampira and was not remotely well off in her later years. Because she didn’t drive, she stopped painting when she moved to an artsy neighborhood that had no art supply stores within walking distance.

vampira selfie 1
 
vampira moon goddess prayers
 
vampira moon goddess
 
vampira plan 9
 
Nurmi relished her iconic image as the pioneering TV horror movie hostess for KABC-TV Channel 7 in L.A. in 1954, a regrettably short-lived gig, and Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. She championed the integrity of the Vampira character despite understandable resentment over her shabby treatment by the entertainment industry and countless campier and sluttier imitations.

Mark Berry of SFX Magazine described Vampira’s glamorous allure:

Before encountering the infamous film director with a fetish for angora, Maila Nurmi, the Finnish-born artiste beneath the famous black wig and hemorrhage-red nails, created a phenomenon with her Vampira persona in 1954. Her iconic gothic style, sardonic wit and incredible hourglass-figure made her the ghoulish fantasy of guys and ghouls across the globe, despite appearing on a TV show that was only broadcast to the Los Angeles area. With a venomous stare that would wither a black rose, the voluptuous vamp would emerge every week from thick, dry-ice fog to the sound of creepy organ music. Vampira would silkily perch upon a skull-encrusted chaise-lounge, and in a sexy, Marlene Dietrich drawl, introduce old horror movies like White Zombie and Island Of Lost Souls. Between reels, she would recite weird poetry, drink poison cocktails and chase her pet spider Rollo around set.

A tongue-in-cheek recipe for the Vampira creation is attributed to Nurmi:

2 oz. Theda Bara (vamp, vamp)

2 oz. Morticia (morbid Victorian)

3 oz. Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard)

4 oz. Tallulah Bankhead (the voice, dahling)

2 oz. Marilyn Monroe (demons are a ghoul’s best friend)

3 oz. Katherine Hepburn (Victorian English)

2 oz. Bettie Davis (mama, baby)

3 oz. Billie Burke (dilettante)

3 oz. Marlene Dietrich (singing voice)

8 oz. Bizarre pin-up

Add 3 lizard eggs, 2 mothballs and a glass eye from a pygmy. Shake vigorously till steaming.

Until her death in 2008 Nurmi was quite approachable, giving interviews regularly in her L.A. neighborhood and graciously interacting with her devoted horror and Goth fans (including the original Misfits lineup with Glenn Danzig). There is a lot of wonderful interview footage in Kevin Sean Michaels’ 2006 documentary Vampira: The Movie . Nurmi’s friend R.H. Greene’s documentary Vampira and Me was released last year.

Below, Maila Nurmi, a.k.a. Vampira, talking about her artwork:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright
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12.06.2013
09:32 am
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Fred Willard meets Stalking Cat
12.05.2013
03:06 pm
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On this episode of the VH1 documentary series Totally Obsessed, which I think ran in 2004, Fred Willard hosts a segment on Dennis Avner, self-styled “Stalking Cat”—he appears to have had his name legally changed—who underwent an ambitious series of body modifications (tattoos, implants, piercings) in a largely successful effort to become a feline-human hybrid. Avner passed away under mysterious circumstances in 2012. 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Avner spent time in the Navy as a sonar technician. According to his obituary in Modblog, he “identified strongly with his feline totem animals and in what he told me was a Huron traditional of actually adopting the physical form of ones totem, he transformed himself not just into a tiger, but a female tiger at that, blurring and exploring the gender line as much as the species line.”

As the Seattle Times reported in 2005, “He has had all his teeth removed and replaced with tigerlike dentures and fangs. He has had his lip split to resemble the mouth of a cat. He has six stainless-steel mounts implanted on his forehead and 18 piercings above his lip to which he can attach whiskers. He has had nose and brow implants, and silicone cheek, chin and lip injections. The tips of his ears are pointed. And he has so many tattoos they almost cover his body.”

I confess that I find the segment difficult to watch. On the one hand, I’m glad that Avner/Stalking Cat was able to pursue the life he wanted—on the other hand, one has to wonder about the possibility of body dysmorphic disorder or some other form of mental illness and a chosen life of exclusion from most of life’s offerings. It appears that he did have close friends who supported him, including but not limited to the furry community and the body modification community. 
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.05.2013
03:06 pm
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Quality television programs equal income, argues horrible person


 
In what would surely be the most amazing troll posted to a serious web site in recent memory if it didn’t seem to be perfectly earnest, columnist, author, and apparently completely shameless toady to the ruling class Virginia Postrel has argued on Bloomberg View that ordinary people are better off economically today than we typically reckon - because the quality of TV has improved. I’m not even slightly kidding about the impossibly stupid thing I just told you.

On a flight across the country, you watch the playoff game on live television, listen to some favorite playlists as you catch up on work, then relax with some video poker. Arriving home, you delete the game from your DVR and consider your options. Too tired for an intense cable drama—which you prefer to experience in immersive weekend marathons of at least three episodes each—you stream a first-season episode of “Duck Dynasty” from Amazon.com, then run last week’s “Elementary” from your DVR queue. While watching, you check IMDB.com to see where you’ve seen that familiar-looking guest star before, then you jump to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. You finish the evening with “SportsCenter,” recorded just far enough ahead that you can skip most of the commercials.

Little of this customized entertainment would have been possible a decade ago—and almost none of it shows up in the income and productivity statistics that dominate our understanding of the economy. A form of progress that large numbers of people experience every day, the increase in entertainment variety and convenience represents a challenge to the increasingly conventional wisdom that American living standards have stagnated, at least for the middle class.

Hear that, middle class? Standard of living, schmandard of living, you people have TIVOS!

Now, I suspect that viewings of Duck Dynasty and SportsCenter don’t show up in income stats because TV shows aren’t income. But what do I know? I’m not the former editor of Reason. Or a shockingly tone-deaf, overprivileged asshole.

After all, it’s not as though no one has noticed the improvements. Critics often opine on whether the proliferation has produced a “new golden age of television,” while media companies and advertising agencies live in fear of what all that competition means for future profits. From the mobile-phone business to social media—not to mention movies, games, music and sports—an enormous amount of innovative talent goes into developing new entertainment goods and services.

Yet in the economic statistics that measure living standards, this real-life value goes largely ignored. For the very reason that entertainment is so cheap, the enjoyment people derive from having a better chance of finding exactly what they want, when and where they want it, doesn’t count for much. Giving consumers new features for little or no additional money increases well-being but doesn’t do much for productivity statistics.

I would venture a guess that the proliferation of the entertainment industry into every nook and cranny of American life doesn’t find its way into productivity statistics because sitting on your ass watching So You Think You Can Fart Your Life Away is the opposite of productivity. But of course, I’m just a humble pop culture scribe for Dangerous Minds, not a respected, Ivy League-educated columnist for The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times and Forbes. Or a self-satisfied, grotesquely over-rewarded libertarian tool.

But let’s skip to the money shot, huh? Does she or doesn’t she tell us to watch cake?

“Too many people presume that what the poor want from the Internet are the crucial necessities of life. In reality, the enchantment of the Internet is that it’s a lot of fun,” the Indian journalist Manu Joseph observed in a September New York Times essay. “And fun, even in poor countries, is a profound human need. Quality of life is as much an assortment of happy frivolities as it is the bare essentials of survival.”

Holy free market, she actually managed to outsource her “Let them eat cake” line to India. Got that, poor people? Quit hogging those public library Internet terminals for your stupid job searches and bill payments! There’s fun to be had - ENCHANTMENT, even!

So let’s recap - time wasted is income! We can fairly extrapolate from this that the unemployed are the wealthiest people in America - so long as they watch assloads of TV. Thinking of goosing your budget by canceling that cable subscription and using the savings for unproductive mundanities like heat and food? Not so fast! Grey’s Anatomy is health care! The Apprentice is a national jobs program! BY GOD, THE SYSTEM WORKS.
 
postrel
Virginia Postrel, totally down with the commoners—the kind of Libertarian you can have a beer with!

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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12.02.2013
07:18 pm
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Kate Bush, comedian
12.02.2013
04:51 pm
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katebeanrowanbush.jpg
 
If you think of Kate Bush as some kind of intense Catherine Earnshaw-type, wafting silk scarves while rolling about on the windy moor, then you may be delighted by this clip of Kate duetting with comic actor Rowan Atkinson on the song “Do Bears….” for BBC’s charity telethon Comic Relief from 1986.

It’s an amusing little number and reveals Kate’s finely-tuned ability for comedy. Is there nothing this woman can’t do?
 

 
But this wasn’t Kate Bush’s only foray into the world of comedy, as she later appeared in The Comic Strip Presents in 1990 playing the bride to Daniel Peacock’s uncouth groom in the episode “Les Dogs.” This can be viewed in its entirety here, but a taster, mixing a performance from Kate’s 1979 Christmas Show with clips from “Les Dogs” can be seen below.
 

 
And if that weren’t enough, here’s “Ken” written especially for The Comic Strip Presents GLC—their satire on the rise and fall of London Labor politician “Red” Ken Livingstone. With Robbie Coltrane as a Charles Bronson-esque “Ken” and Jennifer Saunders as a Thatcher-esque “Ice Maiden.”
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.02.2013
04:51 pm
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Andy Kaufman punks ‘The Dating Game,’ 1978
12.02.2013
02:50 pm
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Andy Kaufman
 
Andy Kaufman’s stretch as an object of cultural attention was surprisingly short, 1975 to 1984, yet he packed a remarkable number of first-rate stunts into that time, including boorishly challenging to beat any female alive at wrasslin’ and spending his off-days as a key player on the sitcom Taxi bussing tables at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Studio City, California.

One of his finest instigations came in 1978, when he somehow inveigled his way onto the set of The Dating Game as a contestant vying for the favor of comely Patrice Burke, identified in host Jim Lange’s intro as a “chronic disco dancer” who wants to know whether “the Hustle [can] really clear up the stress in the lower tract” (your guess is as good as mine). In hindsight it’s clear that Kaufman was in full-on Latka Gravas mode on this occasion, although in the guise of “Baji Kimran.”
 
Jim Lange
Bumfuzzled Jim Lange
 
It’s a pity, really, that Kaufman’s refusal to play by the games of the entertainment industry precluded a regular career as a thespian, because his acting here is truly nonpareil. Note at 3:30 his convincingly guileless inability to understand the rules of the show, responding to the prompt “I’ll do anything for you, except—“ with “Except what?” There’s no break in character, no laughing that gives the game away. At one point “Baji” even solicits assistance from his clueless fellow bachelors. At the end of the show “Baji” (somewhat implausibly) engages in a minor meltdown because of the inherent unfairness in Patrice choosing studly Bachelor #1 even though “Baji” had “answered all de questions right!”

What a brilliant way to explode the witless, salacious premises of The Dating Game—by denying their very existence.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.02.2013
02:50 pm
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The Rise and Fall of Soft Cell, New Wave’s sleaziest synthpop duo
12.02.2013
09:41 am
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celldavemarcsoft.jpg
 
The track was “Memorabilia” and I heard it nearly every time I was out in some club in the early 1980s. Between dances, there was small disagreement over the band’s name, who they were and where they came from. It varied depending who you talked to. Then came “Tainted Love” and suddenly everyone knew who they were: Marc Almond and Dave Ball of Soft Cell.

When this duo first appeared on Top of the Pops with their number one hit “Tainted Love” in 1981, the florid Wing-Commanders and Colonel Mustards of Tunbridge Wells thundered, “Who the hell is this woman? That can’t be a man, surely? I fought a war for this?” It certainly was a man, and those damned lucky blighters were watching Marc Almond give one of TOTP’s most memorable and thrilling performances.

Marc is the Poet Laureate of sleaze, and Dave its Schubert. Together they wrote songs that perfectly captured an underclass world of the disenfranchised, the sexually ambiguous, and the impoverished. 

When their debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret came out on November 27th, 1981, I had to beg, steal and borrow a copy, and even wrote to Santa, bad Santa, for this delectable slice of vinyl. When it arrived, I played it endlessly. The NME may have hated it, but they were old, too old, and this was Year Zero for eighties music as far as I was concerned.

Just take a listen and you will hear why, as m’colleague Richard Metzger has previously written, Marc Almond:

”...is one of the truly great interpreters of song of our age. His distinctive voice, like Frank Sinatra’s, is instantly recognizable from the very first note.”

After Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret and Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing (arguably the UK’s first House record by a British band) came the richer and darker blooms The Art of Falling Apart and Last Night in Sodom, which only the most great and reckless talents could have produced. 

This documentary from the BBC series Young Guns traces the rise and fall of Soft Cell from student life in Leeds to the bright New York lights, and the seedy London back streets. Made in 2000, it has superb interviews form Marc Almond, Dave Ball, the band’s manager Stevo, and record execs.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.02.2013
09:41 am
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