The music-sharing scene took a beating in 2012, what with the demolition of Megaupload, the neutering of Rapidshare and Mediafire, and the immolation, self- and otherwise, of countless shrines to music adoration across the blogosphere. But through it all, the hits just kept coming and we here at Mining the Audio Motherlode were mighty chuffed to celebrate the best of the choicest postings in this space on a weekly basis.
Before we turn our earlobes to the torrent of brilliant recordings to come in 2013, let's take a look back at the Miner's favorite offerings in the past year of Motherlodes. In case you missed them the first time, the download links to these wonders are still working, so get your clicks on. Happy Old Ears!
From Motherlode #170 "It is a good time to revive that anthem that made Timmy Thomas so special to millions of South Africans. Milner Park Stadium, Johannesburg in December 1978 was an edgy place for thousands of black South Africans to sing songs like “Why Can’t We Live Together” at a live concert. The song again became a big hit on the eve of South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. For many, the song still holds relevance today, in South Africa and elsewhere in the world. (Description from Chris Albertyn, at Electric Jive)
It was a night of true magic, back in early October, when some of Brooklyn's finest improvisers gathered at WFMU / My Castle of Quiet, to offer unique, exclusive performances, on a double-bill to support the station's pre-Hurricane-Sandy, Web-only fundraiser for that month.
First, Lea Bertucci, a master of spacious atmospheres, and gloomy, contemplative soundscapes, on her trademark combine of physical, open-reel tape and electroacoustic bass clarinet. Lea's two sets from this night evoke The Grand Canyon, and Utah's wide-open spaces, where she'd spent several months earlier in the year on artist's retreat. Lea has been performing solo for many years (see her bio, at Broken Diorama, linked above), as well as in the hometown-favorite duo of Twistycat.
Second, K-Salvatore, the duo of Jason Meagher and Pat Murano, coming off the high of their landmark LP, Tsar Ova Elk, a veritable shoe-in for the My Castle of Quietend-of-year music list (like I said, glaring omissions; this one very worthy of inclusion and just slipped off my mental radar at the time the list was being compiled.) Pat has appeared twice before on the show, both solo as Decimus, and in 2010 with Malkuth; both Jason and Pat are founding members of the No-Neck Blues Band. Their set hummed and shook our building; as "top shelf" as anything from the aforementioned newest LP.
Huge thanks to Ernie Indradat, for engineering two live artists in one night, with his usual cool head and cosmic sensitivity. Thanks again to Lea, Pat and Jason, for their ample talents.
Here are some of my favorite releases from the past year, in no particular order, plus a big-ass mix of my favorite songs from the Free Music Archive that I discovered in 2012:
StacianSongs for Cadets (Moniker) - perfect soundtrack for a robot dance party | listen Eric CopelandLimbo (Underwater Peoples) - sounds from the ghettos of outer space | listen Jonathan Kane’s FebruaryLive at Issue Project Room (Issue Project Room) - rocking at a steady pace | listen HouseholdItems (Dull Knife)* - fans of Rough Trade lady groups of the '70s take note | listen Moonmen On the Moon, ManMaan (Cape Shock) - bratty bedroom punk | listen XRay PopThe Dream Machine (Dark Entries, reissue) - minimal synth pop | listen 9th Ward Marching BandSneakin Up the Street (Rhinestone) - giant marching band plays the hits | listen MazesMazes Blazes (Parasol) - melodic pop gems | listen Laurie SpiegelThe Expanding Universe (Unseen Worlds, reissue) - epic, spacey synth journeys | listen Mark SultanWar on Rock and Roll (In the Red) - multi-song meltdown | listen
*technically this came out in 2011, but it didn’t hit my eardrums until 2012, so I'm counting it here, dammit.
Quentin Tarantino's hypnotic Django: Unchained, like all Tarantino films, makes one consider the movies that influence his work. Media attention has focused on spaghetti westerns like the film's namesake Djano (1966), but for those savvy with the seventies, it is the forgotten genre of slave vengeance films, an offshoot of the Blaxploitation craze, that comes to mind. Movies like Mandingo (1975) and Drum (1976) made enormous sums at the box office. For all the chatter about the liberal use of the N-word in Django: Unchained, it doesn't come close to the audaciousness of its motion picture brethren of the 1970s that used the word in the actual title.
Today we speak with the man who starred, alongside Fred Williamson and D'Urville Martin, in the 1973 slave vengeance western - The Legend of Nigger Charley. He is one of the most prolific African-American actors of the last forty-five years, Mr. Don Pedro Colley.
Kliph Nesteroff: You became a steady character actor pretty quick. You did so many western television shows early on.
Don Pedro Colley: If you’ve ever looked at photos of old cowboys, of any old group in a bunch, there's always a Black person or two in that group.
Kliph Nesteroff: Let's talk abut a western film you starred in... the Legend of - you know what - Charley.
Don Pedro Colley: Well, the Legend of Nigger Charley is an authentic piece of history. It was based on a real person, a real story, from real life. It was very hard because the people that put it together were not concentrating on the story. They were busy playing Hollywood producer. There were girls around everywhere. Five girls at a time (laughs). “Girls, you go over there and sit. I gotta get in front of the camera!” Well, we’re supposed to have been riding through the desert for days and days and days, escaping from a plantation, yet our star looks like he just stepped outside of a shower! “Yeah, of course. I’m me. I’m too pretty. All that dust and shit? Give that to Don Pedro. He can have it.”
Kliph Nesteroff: Clearly you're referring to your co-star Fred Williamson, who was a staple of 1970s Blaxploitation. I've heard there was some kind of issue about the contracts with this film. Things were being done in a shady way or slipshod manner...
Don Pedro Colley: Well, it is a big challenge when you want to put out a project and Paramount is backing you and the project is named The Legend of Nigger Charley. It’s based on a real story. Even today people get a mouthful of gumballs and don’t know how to deal with the title, which is quite interesting. We were preparing to leave Hollywood and one of their representatives shows up at my house with a contract. Quickly scanning through it – it didn’t feel right. It didn’t look right. It wasn’t a type union contract, which was standard fare. I said, “Listen, my agents need to see it first before I sign it.” “God, you’re going to hold up production? Just sign the damn thing.” I said, “Man, I can’t. These are the people that get me work, my agents. All you have to do is send it to their office! I’ve never heard of a representative coming to my house with a contract.” That’s not the way show business is done and I was the bad guy because I was playing it straight. We get to New York and I’m there to participate in the casting of the film. I was already getting queasy feelings. I do not like to be associated with junk. It puts extra strain to overcome the junk around me and still salvage something. We were in New York, finished casting the rest of the people and I meet the director for the first time and the full nine yards. “Okay! We’re leaving by train to go shoot in Richmond, Virginia. Hurry up and sign this piece of paper. It’s your new contract.” "New contract? Send a copy to my agents.” “We don’t have time for that!” I said, “I can’t do that, man!” This was Paramount Pictures! We get to Richmond, Virginia and we go out to the plantation in Chester, Virginia. We get two whole days of film in the can. I’m in almost every scene. They come storming to my motel room. “Now you either sign this contract or we’re going to replace you.” This was the producer. He was in the hallway yelling at me. Larry Spangler. Jesus Christ, I can’t believe it. He’s trying to showboat me on the set and I was the only one there with motion picture experience on the bloody thing. Cast and crew had only done commercials in New York City. Making a motion picture is a whole different story. So he’s screaming at me that they’re going to fire me. He realizes in his bluff that he can’t because they’ve already spent so much of the budget in those first few days on location. It’s already in the can and can’t be redone. Paramount is queasy about the budget.
Kliph Nesteroff: And the title? It blows me away that Paramount was okay with the title.
Don Pedro Colley: Well, in the interim the local newspaper gets a hold of the title of our movie. Agents from the NAACP came down to our location – to shut us down – because we were making this “totally offensive movie.” I finally got away from this idiot and I’m in my motel room and I can relax for a little bit. Phone rings. “Don Pedro. We need you down in the lobby! Quick! Hurry! The NAACP is down here and they’re trying to shut us down!” I thought, “What? This is a historical piece of Americana that we’re trying to get down on film! How dare these people?” I went storming down to the lounge where there were a group of these people with their briefcases and their goggle glasses. Black folks. I stormed into the room and said, “What the hell is this all about?” Their eyeballs pop. I said, “How dare you! This is a piece of American history. We don’t have to be proud of it, but we should support it so that we don’t ever have to go back there again! How dare you try to shut us down?” They said, “We felt this is Hollywood trying to exploit. We want to make sure…” I said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got it under control.” It was about that time that the Paramount Pictures front office called me in my motel room and said, “Don Pedro Colley. Listen. You will be our eyes and our ears on the set until we get our financial officer over there. Okay?” I said, “Thank you, sir. I will do that for you.” About three or four days later, by that time we were in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I remember he had red hair, the financial officer representative from Paramount Pictures. He had two secretaries with him. I had more trouble before the fella showed up with our assistant director from New York. This hot shot crew. It wasn’t a class A crew. None of them had shot anything more than commercials. So they were moaning and groaning when we were in Virginia about everything. “We gotta film in this fuckin’ jungle, blah, blah.” Typical New York crap. We flew to Santa Fe, New Mexico – wide open spaces. Within thirty seconds everyone of them had cowboy shirts and cowboy hats and cowboy boots and chrome tips on the end. It was pitiful. So two-faced. I was watching all this shit happen. This assistant director who wanted to prove he knew more than anyone else… he can’t call the shots, but that’s what he was attempting to do. He was trying to take it over from Marty the director. Marty would look kind of puzzled because he wrote this script. He wasn’t sure how to step up, while this assistant director is getting more and more powerful he thinks. It became disruptive. He had a group of cronies patting him on the back for being so bold in doing what he was doing. He had the audacity to shout at me one day to hurry it up because I’m holding it up. I’m on my horse, ready for this scene and nobody knows what the fuck is going on. I had just had it with him. I called him out by name. “You will never disrupt this set again. You are not the director. You are the assistant director. Please assist the project or get the hell off of it.” The star and the producer stopped cold and looked at me. This was what needed to happen because it was harming the production. "Damn that Don Pedro!" It just pissed me off beyond belief to work with these rank amateurs who were trying to look for quick glory. None of them earned it.
Kliph Nesteroff: What was writer - director Marty Goldman like?
Don Pedro Colley: A very nice fella. He was a writer and he had some director’s ability and ideas that worked very well. He was kind of easily persuaded by outside forces that a director shouldn’t allow.
Kliph Nesteroff: And working with Fred Williamson and D’Urville Martin?
Don Pedro Colley: I hate to talk against people, but they make me so mad sometimes. You have to give certain people that they’re whole growing environment was in a closed society. If you don’t develop certain strengths for surviving – then you don’t survive. Then when you get out into the world with all kinds of different people and a different atmosphere, your survival skills are left… you don’t know what to do. I don’t act like you or talk like you because I’m not from the ghetto, never been to the ghetto, I don’t know your common colloquial idioms. They say, “What is that?” I was on the outs. Blacks don’t like me, whites don’t like me… well, okay, fine. I don’t care. I’ll just put out good work and try bring tears to your eyes. That’s always been my situation. As an actor you work off the energies that come at you. It was them against me. They all wanted me fired. They couldn’t get away with shit. They were planning to jack up Paramount Pictures. I’m saying, “No, you can’t. This is our chance in history and you’re going to leave this stain on it by being cheap thugs?” In those days we had a kind of community of African-American folks and we met at some of the restaurants here and there and what’s going on and back and forth. Everybody knew everybody, but when it came to jobs they’d get very jealous if you got something bigger than they had. It lead to a lot of disruption and bad feelings. So I had bad blood with D’Urville Martin and Fred Williamson. He plays The Hammer and “I’m a star!” at all costs. Of course I know he’s full of shit. You know? Having worked with him and taught him literally how to act. When we got on this train to go on location in Richmond, Virginia, I schooled him for hours and hours and hours. How to do the lines, how to find the character, how to feel internals that make the wheels work. I don’t need you to be standing around with your shirt open to your navel saying, “I’m pretty!” Which is what you do Fred Williamson – just because you know you got this animal magnetism. And you piss me off. He always has five girls around him. Always. Plucking the hair in his armpit. Obscene.
Kliph Nesteroff: What was the reaction to the title of the film at the time?
Don Pedro Colley: Well, I researched it and in doing so found it was a real story. In reading the real story I saw that it was a mismatch of several other stories that came out of the same period. I wanted to bring as much realism as possible, so I was personally fine with the title. It actually wasn't as controversial as you might think.
Today, a relatively brief piece of tape (just under 12 minutes) that I find
quite magical. It was buried deep in the middle of side two of a tape which was
otherwise taken up with musical performances. The text on the box indicated that
all of the recordings contained on it were from 1953, with this particular one
specified as having been made on December 25, with the added note "Todd's first
What you'll hear is a sound which will be (and has been) no doubt repeated all over the world this December, and every December for more years than any of us have been here. Things start off relatively quietly, with toddler Todd being walked through the opening of a handful of gifts, before daddy steers him towards something special - a train! Around the eight minute mark of this tape, Todd gets cranky for just a minute, but it passes very quickly (with the help of some questionable, yet tried and true words, from his parents), and within two minutes he is shrieking with joy at his new toy.
I love the end of this tape regardless, but particularly when heard after the section with the gift being received, the last two minutes here are, to my ears, pure magic.
I just can't resist pointing to this film today; I'm hoping I can get a few more unsuspecting people to watch this charming, scary and bizarre little gem (although I suspect a lot of regular WFMU people already know it - it's worth another viewing).
Like a lot of folks, I discovered it via the controversial show Mystery Science Theater 3000, where it became one of my favorite episodes. It stands on its own very well, however, and even though it is sluggish at the beginning, with a long sequence showing "children from around the world" in separate little musical numbers, if you stick with it it rewards with many nightmarish props and scenes that must have warped the minds of lots of matinee-going youth. It holds the distinction of being one of the few Christmastime movies to contain some genuinely creepy images without perhaps meaning to.
I think it qualifies as an essential holiday film, for those who like such things. See the video link below, after the jump.
Ah, the sweet scourge of "Christmas music." As with gruesome highway mayhem, you just can't avert your ears! Whether it's so bad it's good, or just plain so good, sonic seasonal fare is here to stay, so we might as well wallow in it. And wallowing in it is Mining the Audio Motherlode's organizing principle. (To prove it, check out our Xmas music features from 2009, 2010 and 2011.)
Of course, if the music-sharing blogs didn't go all Christmas-y, there would be nothing to blather on about here. Of all the holiday-related offerings in Blogland this season, the most satisfying comes from the sublime site Feel it, where host Darcy is posting a new track each day, advent-calendar style. Thanks Darcy!
The films listed below could all be considered "horror," the great bulk in the genre sense, with a significant few in the true-to-life, human-drama sense. Entries are by no means intended to be up-to-date or contemporary, though many are. A dozen-plus gems near-guaranteed to rock any cinéaste's watch list and/or Netflix queue.
Attenberg - A Greek drama, with a minimum of quirk and a lot of (tortured) soul; an alternately heartbreaking and humorous drama about two female friends, one who's deeply socially and sexually repressed (her closest connection being with her dying Father), while her girlfriend is basically the town tramp, continuously attempting to school her in the ways of love and men. Their stories arc, collide and intertwine, to a thoughtfully employed, rousing score of classic Suicide songs. Great, inspiring, slice-of-life stuff.
V / H / S - My favorite horror film of the year, with Kill List coming in at a very close second. V / H / S churns the handheld-shaky-cam technique to its most clever heights, with what's barely seen, or seen in a peripheral blur, to be the scariest material therein. The premise is also terrific, such that this collection of shorts are all presumed to be on unlabeled VHS tapes, found by some thieves in the house of a man who has either expired, or been rendered unconscious, in an easy chair, faced by a stack of snowy televisions. I love ideas; that's what keeps me coming back again and again to horror films, and V / H / S is simply overflowing. The film was a collaboration, a mash-up of sorts by some upper-echelon undergorund-horror writing and directing talent, people like Oren Peli, Ti West and Joe Swanberg. A tense and harrowing ride throughout. Don't try too hard to figure it out, or apply conventional narrative sense to the proceedings; just let it wash over, and prepare to be genuinely scared.
The song Happy Birthday to You (HBTY) has a story to tell, and it’s not wishing you to have a good one on this, the anniversary of your birth. The most recognizable song in the English language – a simple six notes and words - is owned by Time Warner, who will charge you ten grand to legally sing the four verses in a public place like a school or restaurant. But the history of how HBTY turned into a two million dollar a year corporate earner is the interesting part. It’s a case study in the copyright-by-fiat strategy that has recently proven so popular with corporate minions and robots. They allege intellectual ownership where none exists, and they often get away with it.
There are many ways to right this wrong. You could challenge HBTY’s dubious copyright in court, as long as you’re prepared for a foe like Time Warner. Or you could try to shame Time Warner by urging innocent birthday revelers to request permission for every innocent public “performance” of the song. Both are worthy endeavors, but neither one sounds like much fun.
No, for our purposes here, we’ll encourage you to unseat (or at least unsettle) “Happy Birthday to You” from it’s cultural throne by composing possible replacements. The Free Music Archive Happy Birthday contest seeks a few new Happy Birthday songs that are simple and catchy, with great earworm potential (remember: HBTY uses only six notes!) that can be sung in restaurants, bowling alleys, even in TV shows and movies – free of charge. Together, let us shake “Happy Birthday” from it’s fortified cultural throne, and replace it with a melody that the children can sing without fear of being served.
The three top entries will be all dressed up and distributed to the most powerful media companies on earth with colorful, Ross Perot-style financial incentive charts encouraging the recipients to better their bottom line by using one of these shiny new Happy Birthday replacement tracks. WFMU will organize and pay for the digital and physical mailings of the three winning tracks to the luckiest people on earth- any media or public organization who might have need for new birthday songs - movie studios; theater troupes, restaurant chains; sport leagues, scouting associations, youth groups; minor league baseball teams, major league Jai Alai squads, bowling alleys and we’ll also send the track to music journalists, bloggers and radio stations to help get the word out and cement the new songs into the cultural subconscious.
Calling all WFMU fans in the Crescent City and environs! WFMU pals Euclid Records, WWOZ, WTUL, and a bunch of fabulous bands are hosting a benefit event on our behalf at Siberia (2227 Claude St, New Orleans) TONIGHT!
Hurricane Sandy caused tons of electrical damage to our equipment, and proceeds from this show will fund WFMU's efforts to prevent future electrical problems. We hope to purchase generators, power conditioners, etc.
Huge thanks to our supportive friends in New Orleans!
Check out this video of Quintron and Miss Pussycat to get pumped:
Continuing my crusade to lighten the end-times pall occluding the blogosphere, I use this space to remind sonic explorers to check the archives at your favorite sites, for there's golden sounds in them thar pages. Take for example the lead off item in today's Motherlode.
A private press recording from '74 of black-positive musical theater from Chicago, this rarity has earned big bucks on the auction sites for years, but the LP has been posted, free for the taking since August 2011 at Digging for Diamonds in Mountains of Mediocrity. (How could the Miner not love a blog with such a name?) Most blogs provide easy-to-navigate links to archived pages. Use them!
Fairy Tale "'Black Fairy' was the second play at the Lamont Zeno Community Theater, a cultural program of the Better Boys Foundation, a family agency located in North Lawndale in Chicago. Many of the youngsters who perform in the play are members of our Youth Theater Development Program which is partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Under the capable guidance of Pemon Rami and his staff, we were able to take youngsters who had no previous theater experience and train them to become competent performers and also teach them other technical theater skills. The result of this effort has made 'Black Fairy' a favorite among both children and adults who have had an opportunity to see it. During the summer of 1974 'Black Fairy' was performed for over four thousand children in Chicago. And, in April of 1975, it played to over two thousand children in Detroit at Mercy College. 'Black Fairy' is the only the first of many children's plays we hope to produce at the Better Boys Foundation. There is an Afrikan proverb which says "Children are the reward of life." We at Better Boys Foundation are dedicated to this belief, and feel that helping children to appreciate their heritage is one means of showing our concern for their development." (Asante Sana Eugene (Useni) Perkins, from the liner notes)
[Note #1: This LP marks the first appearance on record of saxophonist Chico Freeman.] [Note #2: The production that preceded Black Fairy at Lamont Zeno in March '74 was the premiere of Oscar Brown Jr.'s musical Slave Song.]
Early this year, I began putting aside any song-poems I acquired that had to do with Christmas, and doing the same with any from my existing collection that I came across, with the intent of having the best of all possible Christmas oriented song-poem material for my song-poem blog, come December. Well, December is here, and I have found that I have an overabundance of material for that once-a-week website. And so this forum is the lucky recipient of ten examples of the finest Christmas offerings from the hardworking song-poets of yore, and the sometimes equally hard-working folks who toiled at the various song-poem factories, way back when.
I'll start with the one I think to be the best of the batch, and it's from our friends at the fabulous Fable Label. Label head Sandy Stanton sings this one himself, along with label stalwart Patty Wheeler. It's the sad, yet hopeful story of the author's "Christmas Tree". Although this record goes on more than a minute longer than it should (almost four minutes, a real rarity among song-poems AND among 45's from 1958), there is some nice guitar work in there, and the general off-kilter feel of the typical Fable release:
A close second would have to be this offering from two of my favorites from the song-poem world, Rodd Keith (heard here in my favorite era of his, the one-man-band Chamberlin era of the Film City label) and song-poet extraordinaire Edith Hopkins (my choice for the best writer of song-poems ever, and about whom I really need to do a full tribute to, one of these days). This record was undoubtedly contracted via Film City, but like most of Hopkins songs, it was released on her own "Inner-Glo" label:
Norm Burns is perhaps my favorite song-poem singer, at least based on his best work compared with the best work of other song-poem heroes. But he had his share of clunkers, too, and "Christmas With You", from 1973, is closer to the latter category than the former:
There are few relatively few records which have been discovered on the small Stylecraft label - it was one of the earlier labels, with releases stretching back to the 78 era, and the performances on their records show a level of thought, preparation and focus quite a bit higher than most of their cohorts at other labels, particularly the later labels. From Stylecraft, here's Lynne Richards with "Christmas in Ireland":
"A fella in the lobby asked me if we were going to record this album in stereo. I told him absolutely not. Stereo has two loudspeakers, one on each side of the set. The one on the right is OK, but I refuse to listen to anything coming from the left. Seriously though, if I brought home a record machine with a speaker on the left, my wife wouldn't let me in the house. Now there's a patriot for you!"
(from side two of "He's Your Uncle!")
Today we're presenting side two of this bizarre ultra-right-wing album from 1967, luridly written and directed by Vick Knight and voiced with gusto by Walter Brennan, in continuation of the first post on this subject two weeks ago. Since then I've tried to uncover more information about the KEY records label and its strong predilection towards hyper-conservative and inflammatory spoken-word albums. Join me after the jump for this entertaining record (via mp3) and the related facts and pictures that have turned up about this under-documented Los Angeles company.
Given the ever shorter shelf-lives of download links in free-music blogging, it goes without saying that the recordings shared in this space might not be around too long. I suppose it could be considered a minor (miner?) miracle if the music referenced here remains accessible during the entire week of each Motherlode posting. My best advice: Lunge don't linger.
But thinking about all the old links decomposing in the nearly four years' worth of Motherlode posts makes me sad. This column is meant to be a celebration, not a cemetery. To rectify this, I plan to reanimate great old shares from past Motherlodes by finding new blog posts with working links. Of course, these new offerings will go extinct sooner than later, so (referencing Manny Maris' beloved Prince Street record store of yore): Lunge—for your ears!
Kicking off this Frankensteinian effort is our lead item below, a fantastic compilation of Aboriginal country music first featured in the second-ever Mining the Audio Motherlode.
Re-unburied "Buried Country debunks the dominant myth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as exotic and tied to traditional music. The reality is that many are country people, and like rural and working class white Australians, have long found solace and creative expression in this American musical form. Buried Country shows how indigenous Australians have taken this cultural import and made it uniquely their own." (Description from Pluto Press)