Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Annals of Sibling Rivalry

From his 1980 debut solo album, please enjoy Kinks legend Dave Davies and the quite remarkable "Imagination's Real."

I know I had the LP version of this, and in fact I'm almost positive that I reviewed it for The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. On the other hand, I have absolutely no recollection of what I said about it -- although given my unfamiliarity with the record since, I suspect I thought it wasn't as clever as its cover art. In any event, having chanced across a digital version recently, I'm frankly very pleasantly surprised by how nice the album mostly is.

As you can hear, it's not remotely in what you might have thought was Dave's style (he plays and sings every note on the album, BTW), and the production is extremely bare bones (apparently deliberately). That said, I absolutely lurve the guitars on this one, and there's really something quite interesting and haunting about the whole thing.

[h/t Willard's Wormholes]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bird is the Word

So yesterday they were having an Anne Francis marathon on Turner Classic Movies, and before I dozed off, I was watching A Lion is in the Streets, a mostly excruciatingly bad 1953 knock-off of the far superior All the King's Men, with Jimmy Cagney doing a horrible Southern accent.

Although the young Annie (that's her on the left -- Barbara Hale, of Perry Mason TV fame, is in the middle)...

,,,looks pretty woo-hoo as a leggy heartbreaker named Flamingo.

Anyway, like I said, it's a terrible movie, but right after Annie was introduced it suddenly dawned on me, by which I mean the answer to a pop music question that had always puzzled me.

To wit: What the hell was 60s songwriter Mark Barkan thinking when he wrote "Pretty Flamingo," the 1966 classic originally recorded by Manfred Mann? I mean, who ever heard of a girl named Flamingo? Certainly nobody in my neighborhood.

So, obviously, Barkan had to have seen A Lion is in the Streets.

Anyway, that's my theory now, and I'm sticking with it. And if a bad movie can inspire a great's an absolutely gorgeous 1975 cover by Bruce Springsteen....

...then I guess the whole thing turns out to have been worth it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Steve's Tchotchke Collection (An Occasional Series): Charlie's Good Tonight, Isn't He?

Still in DivShare Hell at the moment. But in the meantime, here's another interesting relic of mine recently rescued from storage, along with various audio cassettes and VHS videos of crappy bands I've been in.

A 1991 reissue of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts' utterly charming 1964 kids book about Charlie Parker.

Ode to a High Flying Bird.

As you can see, the illustrations are in the same wonderful cartoon style as the ones Watts contributed to The Stones' Between the Buttons album. The book itself came into my possession as a record company promo; Our hero was touring with his big (jazz) band, and whatever label put out the accompanying CD included this as a bonus for press geeks like myself.

Of course, my copy is personally autographed, thanks to a colleague who got to interview Watts at the time.

Needless to say, I am rather insufferably pleased to have this one.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide."

So the other week our pal Sal Nunziato, over at Burning Wood, was pondering the idea that maybe, just perhaps, the mostly disreputable Peter Frampton -- mega over-exposure victim of the 70s due to the (largely indefensible, I think) multi-platinum Frampton Comes Alive double LP -- might possibly deserve some critical re-evaluation.

Well, I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I must admit that "All Night Long," from Frampton's second (1973) solo album (at a time when he was actually considered tres hip in what was then the hard-rock underground) has always struck me as an estimable piece of power pop. And that guitar riff on the choruses is way cool.

Apparently it appealed to Roger McGuinn as well, because he covered it -- tepidly -- on his 1977 Thunderbyrd album, the depressing near MOR followup to the wonderful Cardiff Rose.

In any case, it's still a good song. Like I said, though -- I'm not really sure if I'm ready to give Frampton a pass for his 70s heyday yet.

And yes, I'm still in DivShare Hell on my computer at home -- I did this on a certain shady dame's Mac in Brooklyn -- which is why there's no Listomania this week.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Quiet Man

The trailer for Martin Scorsese's upcoming documentary on one of those Beatles guys.

In a word -- wow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Steve's Tchotchke Collection (An Occasional Series)

So moldy old cassettes and videotapes of bands I was in and 3D Viewmaster slides of my Bar Mitzvah (I am not kidding about this) are not the only things I got out of storage recently.

Case in point -- this extremely rare 1976 pamphlet edition of a poem by (then an item) Godmother of Punk Patti Smith and Television guitarist Tom Verlaine.

Patti was kind enough to give me an autographed copy during the course of the 1978 interview I did with her for the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. And years later -- some time in the early 90s -- a friend of mine, who was working with Verlaine's management, passed it along to Tom, who was equally kind enough to add his John Hancock along with handwritten notes as to which verses were his and which were Patti's.

What can I tell you -- it's one of my most treasured possessions, even if it IS pretentious enough to alternate pages in English and (presumably well-translated) French.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Well, I Guess It's True -- Death Sells!

Wow, suddenly fans of the late great Don Van Vliet are coming out of the woodwork.

Take this familiar...uh, face. Seen recently with a CD of his masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica.

And just last week, another person famous for being famous announced his affection for the great rock avant-gardist -- none other than blow-dried Republican presidential hopeful (and by hopeful, I mean in the sense that I am hopeful that some day I will have sex with Anne Hathaway) and Twitter fan Jon Huntsman!

From the Washington Wire, August 18, 2011:
By Neil King Jr.

Jon Huntsman, in his quest for more Twitter followers and — as an aside, the White House –- is highlighting some far-out tunes.

Like, well, Captain Beefheart jamming on a beach somewhere a long time ago and singing a raspy version of “Electricity.” With lyrics like: “High voltage man kisses night to bring the light to those who need to hide their shadow deed…Go into bright find the light and know that friends don`t mind just how you grow.”

The former Utah governor and ex-Obama ambassador to China flagged his love of the singer, who died last year, with this flash on his Twitter account: “I wonder if a tweet where I admit how much I like Captain Beefheart will make the followers skyrocket even more!”

The tweet provoked some fun responses on Twitter. “Nice try old man. You like Capt. Beefhart cuz he was a maniac who imprisoned his band, treating them like serfs,” said one Huntsman follower. “So your plan for relevance is to EMBRACE quirky/weird? Is that an admission credentials/brains don’t matter in today’s GOP,” said another.
The Paris Hilton pic and the Huntsman item also occasioned the following e-mail from my old college chum Eric C. Boardman:
He [Huntsman]'s my man!

Obama's internet team is still canvassing which bands he should like. And once he declares, he will waffle a week later. "Americans still believe in an America where anything's possible. For instance, three months without a Neil Young release. Or a Dillards reunion." There's some effing change to believe in.

And like Huntsman, Ms Hilton believes in climate change. At a symposium of Euro-trash trust fund douchebags in Prague she often said, "That's hot."


Monday, August 22, 2011

More Proof, If Any Was Needed, That the Only Real Sin, in Commercial Terms, is Being Ahead of Your Time

Okay, if this one doesn't blow your mind, nothing will.

First of all, take a listen to the unidentified mp3 below. All I will say about it is that it's the work of a fairly significant figure in rock history, and that it's a mostly dismissed-at-the-time cut on what is generally considered to be his best solo album.

Sounds like The Clash, right? I mean, EXACTLY like The Clash...specifically The Clash circa "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" in 1982.

Well, it's not. And, in fact, at the time it was recorded, in early 1976, The Clash hadn't even played their first gig as a band, let alone begun work on their debut album.

Trust me -- when you finally Google it and figure out who it is, your jaw is going to drop around the vicinity of your ankles.

[h/t Willard's Wormholes]

Saturday, August 20, 2011

You've Got a Day to Waste, Right?

A friend on FB posted this link, to Rock Scene magazine, which was published from 1973-1982. Though it's kind of embarrassingly Kiss-heavy (seems like I can't get away from that these days*), it's a fascinating core sample of the New York scene at the time, at least, it seems to be. Anyone who was there want to weigh in?

(Of course, I hunted for this first.)

Side note: all magazines need this sort of site. ALL.

*Finishing up Boys Don't Lie, responding to a perfectly reasonable request from my editor to keep up all from getting sued, I ended up spending days and days mired in Kiss minutae. Specifically, I needed to get to the relationship between Glickman/Marks Management and Simmons Records, just before, uh, Kiss fired G/M and sued them for, oh, $17 million dollars or so. Talked to this guy, who was wonderfully helpful, and I feel more or less legally sound now.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekend Cinema Listomania (Special The Dude Abides Edition)

Video Event of the Week: Might IFC's DVD of Super, with Rainn Wilson as a superhero trying to win back unfaithful Liv Tyler, by any chance be what we're talking about? Might Universal's Blu-ray of Paul, the sci-fi spoof with Seth Rogen as the voice of a C.G.I. alien, conceivably get the nod? Or is it remotely possible that Twilight Times' deluxe newly remastered disc versions of The Egyptian, the widescreen 1954 spectacle starring Edmund Purdom as the son of a cheesemaker (seriously -- he's referred to that way on several occasions) could actually be The One(s)?

All worthy, to be sure, especially that last (seriously -- it's a hoot), but for my money, it simply has to be Universal's deluxe new Blu-ray version of perhaps the greatest work of art in all of human endeavor, the Coen Brothers 1998 The Big Lebowski.

About the film itself, there is very little left to say except that it's still the most outrageously deadpan funny thing the Coens have ever done -- a sort of Raymond Chandler in a cannabis haze detective story in which L.A. figures as a character and the meaning of life can be found in a bowling alley. More to the point, there is dialogue in here that I would have absolutely killed to have written; I'm not sure on a day to day basis whether or not "Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos" is the most hilarious line in screen history (I'm also partial to the Dude's curt dismissal of Metallica, for whom he roadied in the 80s, as a "bunch of assholes"). But whichever joke is your favorite, there's no doubt that in The Dude, the Coens created perhaps the most original American comic character since John Kennedy Toole's Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces. Part stoner, part surfer, part schlemiehl, the Dude is a walking Zen koan, and Jeff Bridges shambling performance is a marvel of understated slapstick timing. And the rest of the characters, as brought to life by John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro and Julianne Moore (among others) are all almost equally memorable.

Here -- have a look at a recent cast reunion staged in honor of the new Blu-ray.

I should add that although the film has been upped to Blu-ray high def for this new edition, on a strictly technical level what's here differs only incrementally from the previous DVD versions. That said, the limited edition packaging is amusing (an interview with the actual L.A. indie film producer the Coens based the Dude on), plus there are a bunch of de rigeur (and generally interesting) making-of docs along with the new transfer. The real selling point, of course, is the digital copy deal; you can download TBL to your computer or the hand-held device of your choice, at least until the code expires at the end of December.

In any case, you can -- and if you're Blu-ray capable, probably should -- order the new Lebowski package over at Amazon here.

And with that out of the way, and because things will doubtless be a little torpid around here for a couple of days, here's a fun and clearly relevant little project to occupy us during the traditional downtime:

Not So Well Known Film That Most Deserves to Have a Cult Following But For Some Strange Reason Doesn't!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is/are:

5. The Ref (Ted Demme, 1994) )

On the run cat burglar Denis Leary takes suburban couple Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis hostage; unfortunately, they hate each other more than life itself. Absolutely hilarious black Christmas comedy, sort of like It's a Wonderful Life meets No Exit. Inspirational dialogue: "Great, I hijacked my fucking parents."

4. Whispering Ghosts (Alfred L. Werker, 1942)

A scary, atmospheric (in the Universal horror sense) and very very funny old dark house comedy of the sort they really don't make anymore. Uncle Miltie's a riot, but John Carradine steals it as a guy who does animal impressions for no apparent reason.

3. Among the Living (Stuart Heisler, 1941)

I've flogged this one before, but it remains an absolutely astounding B-thriller, with an almost Lang-ian visual flair and an amazing performance by Albert Dekker as good and bad twins separated at birth. Plus Frances Farmer and the young and va-va-voom Susan Hayward. It's never been on home video, for whatever reason, but you can watch it in its entirety over here.

2. The Last Legion (Doug Lefler, 2007)

Romans versus Goths, with outrageous fight scenes, a twist ending you probably won't see coming and Colin Firth in a skirt; essentially it's the biggest budget episode of Xena, Warrior Princess that never got made. Vastly entertaining hokum, and why it's disappeared down the memory hole is beyond me.

And the Numero Uno Should-Have-Been-An-Underground-Sensation flick of them all simply has to be...

1. Hickey & Boggs (Robert Culp, 1972)

A burn-out private eye (Robert Culp) and his thoroughly bummed-out partner (Bill Cosby) make their last stand via a great script by Walter Hill, and it sank without a trace when it was released theatrically. Vastly darker and more cynical than I Spy, but the Culp/Cosby chemistry is, if anything, even more palpable. There's a new DVD version coming in a few weeks; hopefully, somebody out there will notice what a terrific little movie this is.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Closed For Repairs

Well, this is irksome.

I had a really quite amusing post prepared for today, involving a certain 70s superstar who may or may have not gotten a bum rap from history, but when I attempted to download song links to DivShare I got...crickets.

That being the case, I'm taking the day off.

Normal posting will resume tomorrow even if DivShare is still down, but I make no promises about Monday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Previously Unreleased Stereo Mixes of the Gods (An Occasional Series)

Have I ever mentioned that The Beach Boys' Today! (1964) is one of the greatest albums ever made? Or that finding a stereo version (Brian mixed and released it in mono back in the day) has been sort of a personal Holy Grail of mine for the last several decades?

Well, I just just came across a complete, and credible, stereo version of Today! on the intertubes.

And from side two -- heh -- here's a stereo mix of the utterly gorgeous "She Knows Me Too Well."

Not all of the Today! bootleg tracks I discovered sound completely finished -- this one does, I think -- but they're all revelatory, and if you ask me really nicely, I'll send you the download link.

But trust me -- every single one of them, like the above, are so beautiful it hurts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Moment of Mea Culpa

If you were around on Friday, you may recall that I claimed that The Beatles' relatively obscure "Hey Bulldog" (from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack) hadn't been covered too often.

A trip to Wiki, however, suggests otherwise. In fact, it's been covered by Miles Kane, Alice Cooper, Crash Kings, Jim Schoenfeld, Tea Leaf Green, Eric McFadden, Ween, Elvis Costello, Cyndi Lauper, Fanny, Honeycrack, Ian Moore, Gomez, Rolf Harris, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Firewater, The Gods, Skin Yard, U-Melt, Dave Matthews, Paddy Milner, Of Montreal, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Bill Deal & the Rhondells, French rock band the Roadrunners, the Golden Ticket, Southern Culture on the Skids, Dave Matthews & Friends, the Chaperones, Charlemagne and the Independents, the Motet, Die Andalusischen Hunde, Les Shattels, as well as The Roots, who cover it during jams in their live shows with the Beatles' vocals replaced by rapping from their MCs.

I regret the error. Meanwhile, from 1976, here's a positively smoking version by underrated and quirky Brit prog-rockers Boxer.

You're welcome.

[h/t FD13NYC]

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Shamelessly Self-Promoting Cross-Blogging

Another of the Lost Floor Models Tapes© is now available for listening over at Floor Your Love.

For those who care, as always.

Moday Moment of "Where Has This Song Been All My Life?"

From 2003, please enjoy alt-indie-singer/songwriter/rocker Sam Roberts and his thoroughly kickass "Higher Learning."

I knew absolutely nothing about this guy until a few days ago, but apparently he's world famous in Canada (i.e. he can sell out 3000 seat venues in his homeland) and he's got a new album out that's apparently really good.

In any case, this particular song from his major label debut strikes me as the closest thing I've heard in ages to a 21st century version of The Kinks in their earliest 60s incarnation, which is obviously high praise in my book.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekend Listomania: Special The Song Remains the Same (or Something) Audio/Video Edition

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental cash on the barrelhead consultant Fah Lo Suee and I are off to...frankly, I got nothing. This whole bankster crap is just depressing the hell out of me; I mean, wouldn't it be really great if we had a liberal President dealing with all of it?

But, of course, we don't. And that being the case, and because things will almost certainly be a little sleepy around here until our return, here's a fun little project to help us all wile away the idle hours.

Post Elvis Pop/Rock Song That You'd Hope Would Have Been Covered A Lot, But For Whatever Reason Hasn't or Has But Only Rarely!!!

No arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much.

And my totally top of my head Top Six is/are:

6. XTC -- Senses Working Overtime

I have a theory as to why XTC isn't the biggest band on the planet, and it basically comes down to the fact that Andy Partridge's slightly adenoidal vocal stylings are, shall we say, an acquired taste. In any case, this song should by all rights be a standard, but as far as I know the only serious cover version of it is the above one by the perhaps overly perky Mandy Moore. Say what you will about the little Jeebus tart -- she can, in fact, sing, and to my ears anyway it sounds like she actually gets what the song is about.

5. Spirit -- Nature's Way

And speaking of gorgeous blah blah blah. Does it strike anybody else as odd that along with the dearth of covers, it's never (to my knowledge) been used for a commercial? Or a PSA by an environmental group?

4. Marah -- It's Only Money, Tyrone

Bruce Springsteen fronting The Replacements in an outtake from Exile on Main Street, and it doesn't get any cooler. Seriously -- if I had a loud guitar-driven band at the moment I would be using a cover of this to open our sets. So why hasn't anybody else gotten the message?

3. The Beatles -- Hey Bulldog

The Fabs' most overlooked, kickass riff-rocker, and you'd think it would be more ubiquitous. Fanny's 1971 cover version is the only one I can think of without Googling, and alas, like everything these admittedly pioneering gals did, it strikes me as sort of a dancing bear thing, i.e., it's not that it's done particularly well, but that it's done at all.

2. Thin Lizzy -- Old Flame

This one just slays me; 60s-derived r&b romanticism at its most poignant, and the guitars just make me float away. Why this wasn't the followup hit to "The Boys Are Back in Town" is a mystery that may never be solved, as is why somebody hasn't covered the thing.

And the Numero Uno They're (Not) Playing Our Song Song of all time clearly is....

1. The Rolling Stones -- You Got the Silver

A serious candidate for the Stones' most exquisite ballad ever, regardless of whether it's Mick or Keith singing it (the above is an absolutely devastating outtake alternate mix featuring Mick, for those of you keeping score). Pop Quiz: How come the song itself isn't as over-exposed as, say, "Wild Horses"?

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Early Clue to the New Direction -- Special Celebrity Guest Edition!!!!

A brief postscript to my paean to The Lovin' Spoonful's late psych/pop masterpiece "Only Pretty What a Pity" from from a few weeks ago:

I just got off the phone with the song's co-writer and lyricist, Spoonful drummer Joe Butler -- and I gotta tell you, to me that was as cool as if I'd been talking to a Beatle; I mean, I was and am a HUGE Spoonful fan -- and it seems I got the lyrics to the song slightly wrong.

The last verse actually goes...

Everyone, except the baby
Answers for the face they wear
It's the map of your contentment
Or the mask of your despair

...and I stand corrected.

I should add that Joe confirmed my suspicion that the song was inspired by a real person, but (to my disappointment) the details of her life as limned in the lyric are otherwise completely fictionalized. Joe also confirmed my recollection that the Spoonful performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show back in the day, although with the song's co-composer Jerry Yester; for some reason, I'd remembered that the then departed Zal Yanovsky was on board, but apparently I was on drugs at the time.

In any case, from 1966 and the great Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful album, please enjoy the previously unreleased backing track to what, ironically enough, is perhaps Joe's finest moment as a vocalist for the Spoonful -- the majestic and melodic "Full Measure."

And as always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans the clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

[h/t Watertiger]

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wails From the Crypt

"They're The Hounds and they're looking for work, too."

New Jersey public access cable TV, from 1973. The guy on the left in the Keith Richards shirt looks strangely familiar.

Wednesday PSA

I don't know if we have any PowerPop readers in the Sonoran Desert area, but if we do -- or if for some reason you find yourself in the vicinity of Cave Creek Arizona this Saturday -- my old pal Jim (J.D.) Gath is doing a benefit show for a very good cause.

You can read more about Jim's Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary, and Saturday's concert, over at the official website here; if you can spare a little coin for him, it would be a very nice thing.

I should add that J.D. and another old pal, Peter Fleischman -- seen below from 1970 in the wild and in the fullness of their hippie/punk youth...

...were actually college housemates of mine. They seemed to almost always travel as a duo, looking (as you can see) for all the world (as was later famously said of Keith Richards and Ron Wood) like a pair of diseased crows, and they were known to all and sundry as, simply, The Dudes (this being many years before the Coen Brothers stole the idea for some movie or other).

In any case, I can recall many a night when I retired to my bedroom, full of some controlled substance, and drifted off to sleep with the sound of Gath and Pete singing Dylan or Stones songs to the accompaniment of their acoustic guitars in the next room. Only to wake up some eight hours later and hear them still at it.

Now that I think of it, you can watch both of them -- from the same year -- in the newly restored artsy student film I bugged you guys about a few weeks ago.

Alas, Pete won't be at the show on Sunday, but if you do stop by, ask Gath to do "Wild Horses." You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday Shameless Self-Indulgence

Okay, I was gonna post this over at the more appropriate although hit deficient Floor Your Love website, but it's just too damn good not to inflict upon all of you.

In which case, from 1980, please enjoy Greenwich Village's finest, the fabulous Floor Models, and their very first home demo -- the glorious Byrds/Beatles homage that is "Enough's Enough."

Written and sung by my chum Andy "Folk-Rock" Pasternack, who's also responsible for the genius electric 12-string stuff. (And also featuring Gerry Devine and some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on guitar, bass, and harmony vocals, with the irrepressible Glen "Bob" Allen on drums).

As regular readers are aware, this is one of the many artifacts of my musical youth that I was able to retrieve from storage two weeks ago, and I must say it fricking slays me.

A few technical details, for younger readers who wonder how home demos were done in the long ago vanished era before computers and digital stuff.

To wit: the bass and drums were recorded in one (mono) track on a cassette plugged into the soundboard at the rehearsal studio we were using back then. Said mono track was then dubbed onto a reel-to-reel tape and three tracks of guitars (recorded directly into the tape deck via whatever effects pedals we were using in those days) were added using a Teac 4-track recorder (courtesy of our producer, David Grahame -- Paul in the 2nd original cast of Broadways Beatlemania). Those four tracks were then dubbed down to two on another reel to reel machine, leaving us two tracks to use to double all the vocals (which were recorded in David's apartment).

The whole thing then being mixed in real-time onto the Maxell cassette you see above.

Jeebus, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

In any case, I find it semi-miraculous that said three decade old cassette proved eminently playable. And that the song and performance still get me jazzed after all this time.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Monday's Moment of "You Gotta Be Sh***ing Me"

Well, it turns out that Buffalo Springfield isn't the only legendary band currently doing a reunion tour despite the fact that two of their founding members are dead. In fact, it turns out that there are two more legendary bands re-treading the boards (although they're actually performing under the same name. Sort of.)

In any case, despite the aforementioned dead founding members still being dead, please enjoy -- from just a week or two ago in Japan -- the legendary Small Faces/Faces and a thoroughly astounding live performance of the former's ever-riveting 60s classic "Tin Soldier."

And you'll never fricking guess who's replicating the late Steve Marriott's lead vocals. Not to mention who's playing the late Ronnie Lane's bass lines.

[h/t Sal Nunziato]

Friday, August 05, 2011

Weekend Cinema Listomania (Special Our Bodies, Our Shells Edition)

Video Event of the Week: Might Universal's Blu-ray updates of John Landis' work with John Belushi -- Animal House (great) and The Blues Brothers (not so great) -- be what we're talking about? Could HBO Video's DVD of Eastbound & Down: The Complete Second Season, starring Danny McBride as a disgraced former major league ballplayer, conceivably make the cut? Or even less likely, could Universal's new Blu-ray edition of the original Conan the Barbarian, a thoroughly idiotic film that the late Vincent Canby accurately predicted "will only be fully realized as a work of art when Woody Allen takes charge and dubs it into Icelandic," by any stretch of the imagination actually be The One?

All mostly worthy, in varying degrees, to be sure. But for my money it simply has to be Shout!Factory's absolutely glorious new metal boxed set edition of Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXI: MST3K vs GAMERA.

This is, as you may have already guessed, a collection of all five of the giant Japanese turtle movies the MST3K guys riffed on, starring show creator and original host Joel Hodgson, as the hapless Joel Robinson, along with the rest of what most fans consider the show's classic cast, i.e. Kevin Murphy and Trace Beaulieu as his robot pals Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot. (Oh, and also, of course, Frank Conniff as TV's Frank.)

Here's Shout!Factory's on-line trailer to give you an idea.

Pound for pound, this remains some of the most passionately funny stuff ever seen on TV, with perhaps the highest ratio of successful jokes per minute available in any entertainment medium this side of The Simpsons Movie. As always, SF has done the packaging up right, which is to say that along with razor-sharp new DVD transfers, you also get all sorts of cool bonuses, including new and suitable for framing mini-posters for all five movies, the original Japanese trailers for each film, and -- best of all -- the original MST3K Hour wraps, i.e. the very droll intros and outros done for Comedy Central's repackaged version of the show, featuring Michael J. Nelson as A&E's avuncular host figure Jack Perkins. It's some of the MST3K gang's best work, actually, and its nice to have it readily available again.

I should add that the segment below -- a love song to the much smaller tortoise owned by one of the alarmingly short-pantsed Japanese kids in the first Gamera flick -- remains pretty much my favorite MST-ie moment ever; Jacques Brel couldn't have come up with anything more poignant. Well, perhaps he could have, but certainly not anything as drop dead hilarious.

I should also add that the video quality of the above clip is vastly superior on the Shout!Factory set. But in any case, you can -- and frankly, what are you waiting for? -- order it over at Amazon here.

Okay, and with that out of the way and given that things around here will more than likely be a little quiet for the next couple of days, here's a fun and obviously relevant little project to help us wile away the idle hours:

Best or Worst Film in a Long Running Horror or Monster Series or Franchise!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is

5. Godzilla (Roland Emmerich, 1998)

A titular computer-generated monster that looks like the Jurrassic Park T-Rex instead of the made-in-Japan critter in the original films, not to mention even more embarrassing ethnic stereotyping than in Emmerich's earlier Independence Day? Yes indeedy, and the rest of this one is equally awful. Or as my old pal Ken Fox said in his review, "If CGI means that everything has to take place under the masking cover of rain and darkness in order to look 'real,' then bring on the guy in the rubber suit."

4. Dracula's Daughter (Lambert Hillyer, 1936)

Probably the most underrated of the classic Universal horrors; in fact, this is a gloriously atmospheric mix of Gothic chills and Sherlock Holmes-ish thrills, with an astoundingly sensual performance by Gloria Holden in the title role (not to mention a Lesbian scene I still don't understand how they got past the censors). Director Hillyer did almost nothing else besides B-westerns, incidentally, which after a viewing of this will strike you as a real waste of obvious talent.

3. Return of The Blind Dead (a/k/a Return of the Evil Dead) (Amando de Ossorio, 1973)

Those pesky eyeless Knights Templar return from the grave to interrupt some vaguely sleazy soft-core porn couplings in a cemetery. A thoroughly unpleasant experience on a number of levels, although this is probably the best of the inexplicably long-running series.

2. The Fly II (Chris Walas, 1989)

Technically, this is the fifth "Fly" film. More to the point, it's also an insultingly bad followup to David Cronenberg's 1986 masterpiece. A leading candidate for absolute shittiest sequel of all time, as a matter of fact.

And the Numero Uno Shiver Me Timbers classic of them all simply has to be...

1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton, 1948)

The best horror/comedy evah, and unlikely to be bettered IMHO.

Inspirational Dialogue:
Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney): "You don't understand -- when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf."

Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello): "You and eighty million other guys."
Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Okay, This is Getting Ridiculous....

Not a soundboard mp3 yet, but an incredibly good audience tape.

The recently reunited Buffalo Springfield, at the neo-hippie Bonaroo festival, with "Mr. Soul."

And dig the unseemly lascivious glee with which the song's now geriatric composer delivers the line, on the first verse: "...and I let her."


Seriously -- unless the traditional Stills-Young broken arrow bickering ultimately derails the project, this tour is gonna yield one of the greatest official live albums in history.

[h/t Gummo]

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday's Moment of "Words Fail Me"

The 'Oo, and perhaps their finest studio effort.

Found this on YouTube the other day and a) I'd never seen it before and b) it's like the coolest thing ever. Actually, it may in fact be the official video for the song (although the '60s term was promo film, of course).

It is perhaps also worth noting -- according to no less an authority than the song's composer Pete Townshend -- that drummer Keith Moon went to his grave having absolutely no memory whatsoever of the session at which the song was recorded.

An indication, as Pete told Rolling Stone, of Moon's "state of mind at the time."

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Music Makes Strange Bedfellows (An Occasional Series)

From 1974, please enjoy the other -- i.e., not particularly funny -- John Stewart and "Never Goin' Back," the concluding track from his remarkable live double album The Phoenix Concerts.

Stewart, of course, was the interesting first-generation rocker turned folkie with The Kingston Trio turned hitmaker for The Monkees (author of "Daydream Believer") turned vaguely outlaw country Austin guy turned 70s LA pop hit maker ("Gold," courtesy of huge fan/producer Lindsey Buckingham).

But I bring the whole thing up because when I first heard this live album track, I nearly fell off my chair when I realized that its several minute-long outro was, essentially, indistinguishable from the fade-out on the original 1966 Velvet Underground's classic "I'm Waiting for My Man."

Velvet Underground - Waiting For The Man .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Seriously -- it's the same one-chord vamp, in the same key, and Stewart's has the same early rock piano triplets and walking bass with which John Cale adorned the Velvets track.

I should add that the surprisingly primitive-sounding drumming on "Never Goin' Back" is provided by Jim Gordon, of Layla and Derek and the Domino's fame, who is currently serving a life sentence for acting on the voices in his head who demanded that he take an axe to his mom. Make of that one what you may.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Monday's Moment of "Like Wow!"

From 2007, please enjoy ex-Blaster Dave Alvin and his take on "Highway 61," which is my new favorite Dylan cover ever.

Alvin recorded this for a Dylan covers CD given away with an issue of UNCUT, a British music magazine which is to MOJO what CRACKED is to MAD, sort of. In any case, it's fucking fantastic is all I'm gonna say.