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Rare behind-the-scenes photos of Alex Cox’s gritty f*ck Reagan masterpiece ‘Repo Man’


Emilio Estevez on the set of ‘Repo Man.’
 
Alex Cox was thirty-years-old when he took on the task of directing his first feature-length film, 1984’s Repo Man. It’s a film which seems to perfectly encapsulate gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s apocalyptic quote “Too weird to live, and too rare to die” as it nears its 35th anniversary this March.

Unlike what the ravages of the aging process does to most of us mortal types, Cox’s film endured and remains as defiantly DIY as does its equally angry soundtrack, containing venomous jams from the Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop, and Suicidal Tendencies. However, Cox faced an uphill battle while trying to shop Repo Man around because nobody outside of actor and writer Dick Rude understood what the fuck the film was supposed to be about. Rude had approached Cox with his short story Leather Rubbernecks, hoping to make it into a short film but ultimately Leather Rubbernecks would become a part of Repo Man, as did Rude in his role of sushi chew and screwer Duke in the movie. At some point, the Repo Man script would end up in the hands of former Monkee and visionary in his own right, Michael Nesmith. According to folklore, Papa Nez was instantly impressed and stepped into the role of Executive Producer for the film because, as we all know, Papa Nez gets it and helped Cox (a former repo man in real life) bring Repo Man to the big screen.

Wild stories surrounding this timeless film have been discussed and dissected by writers, film historians, and scholars since its release. A few weeks ago I cracked open my copy of Criterion’s impeccable 2013 release of the film and rewatched it in all of its pissed-off glory. Of the film’s vast merits, which are too numerous to lay out in this post (all of the repo men are named after domestic beer brands, and so on, and on), let’s focus on what many consider to be Harry Dean Stanton’s best acting performance as unhinged repo man Bud (a play on the gross suds known as Budweiser).

Stanton was 58 when he took on the role of Bud (which almost went to Dennis Hopper) and had long since established his alpha hangdog status in Hollywood starring in films with elite actors like Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, and Donald Sutherland. Stanton didn’t waste any time letting everyone know, especially Alex Cox, what he was and was not going to do during filming. Within a few days, he was already refusing to learn his dialog for the film. Stanton supported his decision by citing actor Warren Oates who Stanton claimed read his lines off of cards stuck to a car dashboard while filming 1971’s Two-Lane Backdrop. All of Stanton’s complaints finally set Cox off and the director began to think it might be easier to cut their losses by writing Stanton out of any future scenes. With Nesmith’s support he shut down Cox’s quest to make Bud disappear and eventually, Stanton delivered his lines without skipping a beat. But that didn’t mean Stanton suddenly became some sort of fucking choir-boy after almost getting ghosted by Cox. And this time his bad-boy behavior involved baseball bats.
 

Stanton and his trusty baseball bat.
 
For a scene involving Otto (played by a 22-year-old Emilio Estevez), Stanton pitched the idea of using a modified baseball hand signal used in a scene to tell Otto where to park a car. Cox said no, and Stanton went off telling Cox that other “great” directors he had worked with like Francis Ford Coppola let him do “whatever the fuck he wanted.” Later in a scene where Stanton was to act aggressively with a baseball bat at competing repo dudes the Rodriguez brothers, Stanton requested he be able to use a real baseball bat claiming he could do the scene in one take. The film’s cinematographer, Robby M├╝ller, didn’t get behind the idea of arming Stanton with a baseball bat for the scene and was afraid the combination of an unruly Harry Dean Stanton and a baseball bat equaled bad times for someone’s head or worse. When Stanton was told he would have to switch out his Louisville slugger for a plastic version he went batshit and allegedly screamed the following in response:

“Harry Dean Stanton only uses REAL baseball bats!”

The quote “Harry Dean Stanton only uses REAL baseball bats!” is on par with Dennis Hopper’s terrifying endorsement in Blue Velvet for Pabst Blue Ribbon and it’s regretful at best that no footage of Stanton screaming these words seems to exists. In closing, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the Criterion release of Repo Man as, in addition to a fantastic booklet full of illustrations by Cox and Mondo artists Jay Shaw and Tyler Stout. I’ve included all kinds of cool visual artifacts from Repo Man below including rare photos taken on the set, vintage German and Japanese lobby cards and posters, and some of the gritty neon artwork from the Criterion release.
 

Michael Nesmith and Harry Dean Stanton on the set of ‘Repo Man.’
 

A candid shot on the set of ‘Repo Man’ of Emilio Estevez, his father Martin Sheen, Harry Dean Stanton and Alex Cox.
 

Estevez, Stanton, and Cox.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.05.2019
09:21 am
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Lydia Lunch and Penn & Teller in ‘Barbecue Death Squad from Hell,’ directed by Michael Nesmith
01.29.2019
08:36 am
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In 1986, Penn & Teller put out “Barbecue Death Squad from Hell,” a parody short film purporting to advertise a company whose business model was to take home movies shot in vapid suburbia and transform them into heart-palpitating schlock horror movies, all for the low, low price of $109. The movie lasts eight and a half minutes and manages to represent the brash and sarcastic comedic style of Penn & Teller adequately.

The idea of the short is that Penn & Teller portray two sleazy Hollywood producers who think they have hit upon a can’t-miss idea: send them your otherwise-useless home movies and, with the use of automated dialog replacement, or ADR, and a little bit of added footage, they will turn it into a schlocky horror movie in the Troma style, a type of entertainment that was seemingly omnipresent during those years. Somehow the conceit allowed the two alt-magicians (?) to direct their satirical eye at two hated groups, regular normies and shitty fly-by-night entertainment people.

What sets the project apart isn’t so much the content but the collaborators. Former Monkee Michael Nesmith was firmly ensconced in the world of video production by that time, and he is credited with directing “Barbecue Death Squad from Hell.” Strangely, at the precise moment this was being produced, the other three Monkees were enjoying an improbable career renaissance courtesy of MTV. Furthermore, no wave goddess Lydia Lunch was featured in the video for no discernible reason, other than the obvious.

The main actor in the “home movie” featured in the movie is James Rebhorn, a noted character actor (a favorite of mine) who appeared in such movies as The Game, Lorenzo’s Oil, and Scent of a Woman before unfortunately passing away in 2014. For a brief moment I thought that “Uncle Ernie” was a very young Ben Stiller, but no such luck. 

At the very end of “Barbecue Death Squad from Hell” there briefly flashes a disclaimer, which is sort of the funniest thing in the video. Using my “pause control,” I froze the image and read the following:
 

Notice:

If you went to all the trouble to use your pause control and read this, you probably have enough of a brain in your head to realize that this whole thing is a joke, get it? We don’t really beef up videos, and if you do send your tape and money to us, Mike Nesmith will keep your hundred and nine dollars and we will all laugh at you and make fun of your family.

You can check out the video after the jump…
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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01.29.2019
08:36 am
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Monkee Mike Nesmith is one of the great underrated musical geniuses of our time
12.04.2013
03:57 pm
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As longtime DM readers know, my Monkees fandom is not casual. It runs pretty deep. So it came as quite a surprise to me to find out that not only was there a box set of their 1969 Instant Replay album, it came out a long time ago. There’s even been a subsequent box set and I hadn’t heard of that one, either. I’m also friends with Andrew Sandoval, the ace producer behind all the amazing and lovingly compiled Monkees’ releases. How this slipped past me is a mystery, but thanks to Jason Elzy at Rhino, I have now been enlightened (which is to say fab Jason sent me one recently).

I could go on about what a great package the Instant Replay box is—it’s quite good as these things go with a clear plastic “window” overlay on the front of the box which is the same size as a 45rpm record (two are included in the set), three CDs with TONS of unreleased Monkees material and Andrew Sandoval’s always superb liner notes—but what I want to concentrate on is what a goddamned musical genius Michael Nesmith is!

It pains me, just pains me, to consider how little credit this guy gets as a musician and songwriter—I’m sure it doesn’t bother him that much, he’s an extremely wealthy man, accomplished in many fields, but I’m upset for Papa Nez, goddamnit!

If you know how the Monkees records were made, Headquarters aside, it usually wasn’t so much of a “group” effort as it was Micky or Davy singing on a track produced by the finest musical talents in Hollywood (usually the Wrecking Crew) and written by the likes of Boyce & Hart, Goffin and King, Neil Diamond, etc. or Mike Nesmith working on his own stuff (often with the very same musicians his fellow Monkees worked with—”Sweet Young Thing” was written by Nesmith, Gerry Goffin and Carole King—but he was much more hands-on with his recording sessions. Generally speaking, that’s what happened, and Nesmith’s more countryfied contribution to the Monkees’ overall gestalt, I’d argue, can stand alone, and be evaluated apart from the Monkees context.

In other words, what would an overall career box set retrospective of Nesmith’s work look like? It would be pretty amazing, I’d wager and would do a lot of the work towards establishing Nesmith’s rightful place in the 60/70s Laurel Canyon/country rock pantheon, something critically denied to him because, of course, he was on a kids show. MOJO readers would eat it up.

This Instant Replay box set is absolutely bursting at the seams with little-known or previously unheard gems, including the majority of Nesmith’s sessions recorded at RCA Studios in Nashville in 1968. As pointed out in the liner notes, Nesmith, the group’s most prolific member had quite a stack of incredible unused songs, but why they were never chosen for release at the time is baffling. In terms of the country rock hybrid sound, Nesmith—clearly—was a visionary of the form. He can be credited as much as ANYONE—including The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, even CSNY—with inventing the sound. Mike Nesmith was doing country rock dating to 1966’s “Papa Gene’s Blues” on the first Monkees album. Give the man a lil’ credit where some visionary credit is definitely due!

Here’s a sampling of the Nesmith songs heard on the Instant Replay box (might not necessarily be the exact version, everything isn’t on YouTube):

“St. Matthew”: This one kills me. My favorite song at the moment. I listened to this on repeat for most of last week:

“I Won’t Be The Same Without Her”:

“Some of Shelly’s Blues”:

“Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun to Care)”:

“The Crippled Lion”:

“If I Ever Get to Saginaw Again”:

“Carlisle Wheeling”:

“Hollywood”:

 
The gorgeous “Nine Times Blue” on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969:

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.04.2013
03:57 pm
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The First National Band: Michael Nesmith’s criminally overlooked post-Monkees country-rock classics
01.13.2011
08:48 pm
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If you haven’t been able to tell from all of the Monkees posts I’ve been doing recently, I’m going through a bit of a Monkees “phase” right now and probably annoying the hell out of Tara with it. It started when I was listening to “Sunny Girlfriend” from Headquarters. I must have played that song fifty times last week. I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s so catchy!

Then I moved on to other of their hits featuring Mike Nesmith. Pretty much 100% of the songs he wrote and sang (and even the material he sang but did not write, for that matter) with the Monkees are total winners. And distinctively his.

After Nesmith bought himself out of this Monkees contract in 1970, he formed a country-rock group called Michael Nesmith and The First National Band. Nesmith and the group released two albums in 1970, Loose Salute and Magnetic South. If you like the sound of his Monkees contributions, you’ll find no surprises with the First (and later “Second”) National Band material. Clearly it’s the same songwriter and voice we all know so well, but with a more mature style that compares favorably with The Flying Burrito Brothers. And the songs are still as catchy as hell. The guy’s an absolutely ace songwriter.

The reason Michael Nesmith doesn’t get as much credit for birthing the country-rock genre as he should is simple: the stigma of being involved with such a commercial proposition as the Monkees tapped his street cred. That’s too bad, because from the vantage point of 2010, Loose Salute and Magnetic South seem like criminally overlooked classics overripe to be critically reassessed.

Here’s a sampling of three of my favorite tracks from Michael Nesmith and the First National Band:

“Silver Moon” (dig the pedal steel guitar solo from longtime Nesmith collaborator, Red Rhodes):
 

 
“Joanne”
 

 
“Tumbling Tumbleweeds” (from the 1935 Gene Autry movie of the same title)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.13.2011
08:48 pm
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