Not always, actually quite seldom, is the distinction between art and absurdity a relevant one. And it certainly doesn’t matter when in a TV show you combine live music, in-studio party, fancy dress, videotapes, punk, disco, anarchism, new wave, visual arts, rap, interviews, phone-in sessions, shaky camera angles, crude advertising and live drug taking. All this featuring guests such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, David Byrne, George Clinton, Fab Five Freddy, Tuxedo Moon, Debbie Harry, Maripol, Iggy Pop, Chris Burden, John Feckner just to name a few. The uniqueness of TV Party, however, was not as a celebration of the apotheosis of the underground, but that this played out on the mass media it rebelled against.
On air for one hour every Tuesday night from 1978 to 1982, TV Party was a piece of DIY experimental broadcasting hosted and conceived by Glenn O’Brien. It pioneered an alternative use of the medium, breaking its rules by looking deliberately amateur and shattering the traditional distinction between the
Kim Jong Un has a girlfriend! Or maybe a wife! Or maybe a girlfriend who is somebody else’s wife! No one at Thunk Tank Central (or anywhere else) is really sure. But last weekend he was seen in public with a young woman. Who was she?
Korea Joongang Daily says that South Korean intelligence has identified her as Hyon Song-wol, former lead singer for the Bochonbo Electronic Music Band. Hot gossip: KJU might have had an affair with her when he returned home from his Swiss boarding school. His father, Kim Jong Il, may have objected to the (still unconfirmed that it ever happened) relationship and separated the two. Song-wol might have married an army officer! She might have had a baby! But whose baby was it?
If, you know, there even was a baby. Or if the woman in the photos with Kim Jong Un isn’t just his sister, which it might be. Whatever! Here’s the video for Hyon Song-wol’s #1 super hit from 2005, Excellent Horse-Like Woman!
In the pop music pantheon, guitar gods are a dime a dozen, ditto great sax-men, drummers, or trumpet players, but if you’re looking for someone to sit in on the vibraphone in your ideal, hypothetical all-star band, there’s really no other choice than jazz legend Lionel Hampton. In part, that’s because he’s one of the only widely known musicians to be closely associated with the instrument, that there’s just not the same competition for the title as there is with others, the guitar in particular, and in part because he was the first to push the vibraphone’s unique, ringing sound to the fore, but it’s mostly because when he played it, he did so with the same joyful, unfettered, borderline obsessive love of music and performing that also defined every other aspect of his varied, trail-blazing career.
First, a bit of background on the man: After his birth in Louisville, Kentucky in 1908 (or thereabouts, his birth certificate was lost to the ages), Hampton’s family bounced briefly to Birmingham, Alabama before heading north, first to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a Dominican nun at the Holy Rosary Academy gave
Today, three tapes which I've been saving for awhile, for just the right time. Now, instead of making each into a post of it's own, I've decided to bundle them together, into an "odds and ends" post.
First up, a very brief tape featuring someone named Oliver, a radio newsman who has been asked (in 1975) to provide a few seconds worth of introduction to a special program on Foreign Policy. He does so, giving seven nearly identical readings in about 90 seconds. What makes this tape memorable is the obnoxious version of the text he shares with his recipients after the seven intros, in giving an eighth intro, in an altered fashion. While I hope this sort of thing no longer goes on, I suspect it probably does.
Next up, an equally obnoxious tape. I knew I was in for an interesting listen when I opened this box and saw that the inside cover was labeled "Phallus in Wonderland". The resulting tape did not disappoint, although my enjoyment of it was mostly in the wonder of listening to two people who clearly thought they were being much funnier than was actually the case, rather than any humor or titillation I got out of it. For about 16 minutes, Jerry and an unnamed woman take a trip through a few different children's stories, replacing key words here and there or accenting certain syllables. If you're in the right mood, you may find it either fascinating or mind numbing, or maybe even both.
Finally, and on a truly different note, there is a recording of an amazing televised Civil Rights Discussion, probably from a public television station, from a some time in 1968. The last half hour of what was an hour long show is recorded here.
I'm calling it a discussion, although for significant stretches of it, it's really more of a barely-under-control argument, to the point that at times, the microphones in one of the two studios being used are cut so that the other parties can respond without being interrupted (although you can still hear the "cut" participants continuing to talk). I think I've identified one participant as Maryland Representative Charles Mathias, and wonder if "Mr. Kilpatrick" is one-time segregationist James J. Kilpatrick. I also think one of the speakers may be Hosea Williams, who was part of Dr. King's inner circle. As to the others, I think there are mentions the names Mr. Field, Mr. Palmer and Mr. McKissick, but beyond hearing those names, I have been unable to identify these other speakers.
At the end of the show there is over nearly 90 seconds of muffled conversation, followed by some ending voice-over comments, and I couldn't help but laugh at the song which started the commercial for an upcoming show, a song whose lyrics did not really fit with what had just gone down. I've left in a moment of that song for your enjoyment.
According to Hesiod, Dreams are the children of Night, and brothers and sisters of Death and Sleep. Like these they are represented in the Odyssey as dwelling in the far West, near Oceanus, in the neighborhood of the sunset and the kingdom of the dead. Deceptive dreams issue from a gate of ivory, true dreams through a gate of horn.
"The ancient Egyptians postulated seven souls. Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that's where Ren came in.
Second soul, and the second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power, Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right button.
Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she, or it is third man out ... depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and head of light. Sort of thing you might see on a screen in an Indian restaurant in Panama. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense- but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go back to heaven for another vessel. The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the Land of the Dead.
Years ago, while I was still stuck in that “why can't I just fall down a flight of stairs” phase of high school which most of us seem to go through, I put on Joy Division while driving with my brother. After a few minutes of music, he said something along the lines of “What the fuck is this? This guy sounds like he wants to kill himself.” To which I replied “Well, funny story."
In reality, of course, the 1980 suicide of 23-year-old Ian Curtis, vocalist and occasional guitarist of Joy Division, is not a funny story at all. It's actually a really fucking sad story, one that revolves around Curtis's epilepsy, a love triangle between his wife, Deborah, and Annik Honoré, a Belgian reporter, and the pressures of being in a popular band. Worse, Curtis's often intensely autobiographic lyrics tend to plot out the depths and causes of his depression. “Existence, well what does it matter/I exist on the best terms I can,” he moans in “Heart and Soul,”while “Isolation” has him pleading “Mother I tired please believe me/I'm doing the best that I can.”
Even “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” a track which featured a music video and peaked at number 13 on the
Watching an Otis Redding performance is like witnessing a force of nature, as if he’s channeling directly that very powerful, ineffable thing that gives soul music its name. The voice that pours out of him doesn’t describe an emotion, it is an emotion, a raw transference of yearning loneliness or excited passion, whatever the song calls for. It’s so organic, so unfettered, like a man possessed, that it hides another aspect of Redding’s live show, which is that a lot of thought and preparation and work went into it. It’s not contrived by any means, the feeling in he brought to the stage is 100% real, it’s palpable in every breath and every jerky movement, but it took years of consciously honing his craft to be able translate it to an audience in a way that they could understand.
Like so many of his peers, Redding’s first experience with singing and playing music came from the church, specifically the Vineville Baptist church, where his father was a preacher. He sang in the choir and a gospel quartet as a teenager, but not all of his influences were so clean cut growing up in a rough-and-tumble
I was 16, in 1976, when I first discovered the availability of bootlegs. After written requests to addresses in the back of a magazine, a few different catalogs arrived in the mail, and I stocked up on things like The Sweet Apple Tracks (still a favorite), The Beatles Christmas Album and a host of other Beatle related products of varying quality, from priceless to dubious.
One catalog promised something a bit different - reel to reel tapes featuring spoken word content involving or about the Beatles or the individual members. There were collections of Beatles press conferences, excerpts from the "Lennon Remembers" interview with Jann Wenner, a copy of a promotional interview released for a George Harrison album, and so forth. And so, long before I started deliberately collecting ephemera on this most magnificent of recording formats, I sent away for a half-dozen reels, perhaps the first reels I owned that were not pre-packaged releases from record companies or home-recorded tapes from my family's own collection.
The one that intrigued me the most promised to hold a radio documentary about the "Paul is Dead" rumors of late 1969. Every now and then I've thought about this tape, especially after a different program on the rumors was posted to the first 365 days project, several years ago.
This program is hosted by Christopher Glenn, who later went on to be the voice behind the iconic Saturday Morning "In the News" programs for kids, as well as the voice of the CBS World News Roundup, until just months before his death in 2006. The show features some of the early "clues", an interview with one of the people who broke the "story", other "expert" insight, and a lot of speculation.
I've always found the Paul is Dead stuff really fascinating - Iwhile don't believe for a moment that The Beatles were in any way behind the rumors, the sociology of it is quite compelling, and the lengths to which people went to imagine some of the clues is amazing. You can do the same thing with a lot of different ideas - I knew someone who came up with dozens of clues to show that The Beatles were trying to let us know that John had gone blind, just to show how easy it was to make unrelated lyrics and photos seem to mean something more important, and of course Charles Manson went in yet another direction with what he was sure was hidden in the lyrics. But that this particular group of clues spread so quickly and so completely is really something.
There is no indication within the program, as heard on the tape, as to its source, and the tape box was completely generic. But this program appears to date from very early in the spread of the rumors - I'm guessing late October or early November of 1969 - because many of the more obscure "clues" which were later taken as central to the "hoax" are not mentioned, and don't appear to have been "discovered" yet. What's interesting here is the almost complete acceptance of the exceptionally unlikely idea that The Beatles were involved in the hoax, on the part of everyone who is heard on the show.
Also interesting is that, despite being put together by a talented, respected newsman (and no doubt at least a few researchers), this program repeats the assumption that Paul wrote the music and John wrote the words, a description of their partnership that was never true, let alone by 1969. And finally, where would the report have come from in late 1969 that "The Beatles are known to be working on a new album"? By the time Abbey Road was released, John had quit the band, although this had been hushed up quite effectively, and although Let It Be was still awaiting release, no one at that time would have been reporting that the Beatles were recording together.
The Black and Blue Bowl at Webster Hall annually features a variety of hardcore bands. Considering my hardcore roots, I thought I would know more people at the show, but the bill was mostly mid-period bands. I did see some great metal shirts throughout, which made me immediatley comfy- Behemoth, Sodom, Gorguts..and at some point I did hear some Celtic Frost over the PA. The sold out crowd surfed, dove, piled-on and stared in awe at the slew of bands presented in this 9 hour day. There were no barriers in front of the stage, what a welcome touch. When the dancing actions of the hardcore genre were misconstrued as 100% aggression years ago, the barriers were born in almost all mid- to large-size clubs. It was nice to see more interaction with the bands. One of the bands on the bill early was Holland's Born From Pain, their new release:The New Future is available as a free download on their Facebook page; recommended. The Dave Smalley led DYS were a band I was really looking forward to seeing; full of fury, the Dag Nasty, Down By Law, and former ALL singer was all heart as usual, punchy as hell; most of my photos of him were blurry -running around on the stage like it means everything to his survival, he always brings all he's got to a live performance. Here is a shot of Dave with guest vocalist Drew Stone of NYC's Antidote. Drew will be a guest on the Peer Pressure segment of my program June 21st; he's the director of ALL AGES, The Boston Hardcore Film. The NY debut of this film will be June 29th-July 1st at Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema. From the west coast, the crowd was treated to a swift kick in the butt by Rotting Out from LA, who mixed their hardcore with thrash, in a super-infectious manner. The Mob, who debuted their soon to be released 45, Back To Queens to the sold out crowd, probably goes back furthest in NYHC history than anyone else featured at the BnB Bowl. With a few demos recorded previously, their first release: Upset the System came out in 1982, and they helped push initial recordings from Urban Waste and Agnostic Front in the early 80s as well. Vocalist Ralphie G was a featured guest on the Peer Pressure of DKFM in December; listen here. They were laser tight, heavy, and frenzied revealing their seasoned confidence. Paul Bearer's guillotine edged wit was center stage when Sheer Terror took over, taking out the audience with his barbs and his vocal braun.
By the sixth number the band were settling into the cavernous, drafty, boomy Russian Center and were pressing ahead louder and louder, with more and more echoing tsunami-like basslines and gut-twisting infra and ultra frequencies. The murky, hideous and terrifying films played out continuously in the background, leaving no escape from this double-pronged assault of audio and visual extremity. At the ripe young age of twenty-one it was my first 'live' noise/industrial band experience and I was eating it up eagerly. Suddenly out of the right corner of my vision I saw in the dark that the crowd was opening, separating rapidly like a parting sea in my direction for something...something. Something which was just as suddenly arcing over my head, a long and menacing tongue of flame, shooting out unbelievably from the stage. I had never seen a group of people that large move like that in a club before. And now I knew why - we were about to be incinerated.
Venues: Central New Jersey has had it's abundance of home venues/ house shows/locations for some time, changing from address to address in a moment's notice, but a fairly active scene. We recently lost New Brunswick's Court Tavern, a club that booked original music for decades, through many genres. It was a huge loss to the patrons of the bar, as well as bands needing a venue in that area to play, who were from all corners of the country, and to anyone just needing that live music fix.
Two days ago I went to the grand opening show at the Warehouse Motor Club, a new venue in Middlesex, NJ. It's a team-run, decent sized space in a cement walled warehouse. The venue capacity looks to be well over 400 people; I didn't see an occupancy sign. Initial impressions: they're gonna have to move the slot car track in the back if they have bigger shows; more people in it may make it sound a little less reverberant, but there is a need for more sound absorption material in the venue's future. It's an all-ages venue, so there is no alcohol, which will bring loyal youngsters, maybe alienate the heavy drinkers; matinees may be the way to go; there is a snack bar. There was a bit of record distro action as well as a space for band merch. I didn't check the bathrooms, so no latrine report today! It's got the racing flag motif and signs all over the place, they've got branding going on, light trusses, what looks to be a sturdy stage, and an arm wrestling station! All a great way to start, and time will tell how everything goes; they'll figure out what works and what doesn't. I certainly wish them the best of luck! Sunday's show featured Night Birds, Altered Boys and Real Cops. If they can get people to migrate to and venture from further areas, we may have a great new energetic spot in New Jersey, which is sorely needed. Clip on those jumper cables!
Today's sampling of my reel to reel collection features a tape containing a speech made during a gathering at Lake Forest College in Illinois, on February 22, 1967. On that date, Dr. Adrian Ostfeld, then the head of preventive medicine at the Univeristy of Illinois College of Medicine, spoke about his findings as an early researcher (at the beginning of the 1960's) into the effects of LSD.
As you will hear, he generally found the effects to be fairly limited, with the exception of a very few subjects who had quite extensive responses to the drug. Because of the many visual effects reported by those involved in the experiments, he expanded his research into those who were blind, and who had experienced the removal of their eyes, and he reports on the findings with those subjects, as well.
He goes on to discuss the vast difference between his rather banal findings and the amazing LSD experiences being reported by a variety of sources in the press and elsewhere, in those more recent days of 1966 and 1967, and speculates on some of the reasons for this, before ending with his own views on the likelihood of discovering anything worthwhile via the continued study of the drug.
This was apparently part of a larger presentation or event: the tape begins with a brief organ piece and an equally brief choral piece, before someone named Dr. Smucker introduces Dr. Ostfeld (another piece of music is beginning as the tape is shut off, after the speech). I have separated this four minute set of introductory items into a separate file, for those who might not be interested in this material, and the speech (which runs about 35 minutes) is heard in the second file, below.
In 2003, Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab founded the monthly film festival Channel101 with a simple premise: Make a five-minute pilot and if enough of the audience at the live screening in LA votes for it, you have one month to make another episode. If they vote for it again, you make another. Repeat. In 2005, JD Ryznar submitted Yacht Rock, which would go on to become one of the most successful shows in 101’s history and, over 12 episodes, create a new notch in the Internet’s heart for smooth, smooth music. We caught up with Ryznar for this interview...
If you have any appreciation at all for country music, you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can to get to Nashville to check out the Country Music Hall Of Fame's extraordinary new exhibit. Fortunately, you have a pretty spacious window in which to do so. The exhibit, which just opened and runs through December 2013, does a fantastic job of documenting the fabled "Bakersfield Sound," generally characterized by the sharp and piercing sounds of Fender Telecaster guitars, accompanied by fiddles, steel guitars and a honky-tonk ethos that was becoming less prominent in Nashville at the time.
The Hall is literally jam-packed with an amazing collection of guitars, fiddles, amps, stage costumes, photos, hand-written lyrics and miscellaneous ephemera documenting the country sounds emanating from not only Bakersfield, but Los Angeles and the West Coast in general.
No wonder Canada isn’t making pennies anymore—they’re using the copper for their new quarters! While the US goes on churning out those sad commemorative quarters that no one even knows about (Chicasaw?), Canada is creating the Greatest Quarters Ever, oversized cupronickel disks featuring bas-relief full-color dinosaurs—four of ‘em, starting with our old friend Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, and they are photo-luminescent so when you look at it in the dark, you see the glow-in-the-dark Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai skeleton!
And the obverse has the head of Queen Elizabeth, as per usual, but when you look at that side in the dark, you see the glow-in-the-dark depiction of her actual reptilian form!
Canadian money is so bad-ass! Next to the Thunk Tank Bieb (now the official currency of Iceland), it is the most bad-ass money in the world.
The response to Joe McCarthy's war on Communism, and its tactics, famously drew responses, comments and critiques from many corners of the worlds of art, news and entertainment. What other aspect of life in mid-50's America played such a strong role in the work of such diverse perfomers as Bob and Ray, Pete Seeger and Edward R. Murrow, among others far too numerous to mention? On the fringes of this response were some less well-known chapters of the story. Today's example is a 10" LP by The Barton Brothers, performing a 20 minute play written and directed by Hal Collins, titled "Mister Chairman! A Point of Order", and released in 1955 on the Allo Records label.
Such was the fear of McCarthy and his power, that the album - despite being released after public opinion and his Senate colleagues had turned against McCarthy - carries text on the back cover almost begging the listener to understand that it's contents are SATIRE, and that SATIRE is really OKAY. Oh, it's also that rare, special brand of SATIRE - "HUMOROUS SATIRE"! After going on to say that their album contains a caricature (capitalizing that word, while spelling it wrong, by the way) of the manner of presentation of a political investigation, they even assure us that "any similarity to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I'd love to say that hiding behind this timid, apologetic marketing lurks a great work of satiric, biting art, but...I don't actually believe that to be the case. This is fairly hamfisted stuff, in which McCarthy's doppelganger gets upset at being denied his favorite meal, and then becomes suspicious of the red.... well, I'll let you hear it and find out.
And now, if I may toot my own horn a bit, I'm very happy to say that an album's worth of humorous songs I recorded in the mid 1990's, and distributed privately on cassettes in 1997, has now been released by the fine folks at the online Happy Puppy Records label. It's full of originals, in addition to a couple of parodies, a song-poem cover, and even a cover of one of my beloved Star Ads. Have a listen, if you will!:
Almost a quarter of a century after the fact, these recordings of Daniel Burke on WZRD blow myself and probably most other freeform DJs out of the water. An incredibly important staple of the experimental/music scene of Chicago in the 80s, WZRD, broadcast from the decrepit and littered, cavernous bowels of Chicago's Northeastern University, represented pure unmiterated spirit. Burke, who has virtually been a kingpin of off kilter soundscapes since 1983, under the project name Illusion of Safety, not to mention also being a film maker, visual artist, photographer, pizza maker, and freestyle frisbee practitioner, does his job exceptionally well at the radio DJ console. These archives are rife with expeditiously shifting tectonic loops, apparently from his own personal rig; tertiary industrial totems often augmented with entropy, crime reports, and rare flash-in-the-pan underground relics from the cassette network of that time. Although he was anonymous simply as a "wizard", part of the station's traditional musk, Burke really made these radio shows his own. One notable aspect of WZRD programming also seems to be their penchant for designating the parameters of mandatory public service announcements very loosely, so rather than hearing about your average non-profit humane organization, which is all fine and good, we get to hear an articulate yet somewhat troglodytic Mr. Burke reading texts on the mysteries of sonic vibrations as dictated by Hafler Trio, or disseminating tragic information about the nuclear radiation that killedJohn Wayne and many others while filming in Nevada in the 70s. I promise to anyone who is interested in the evolutionary mnemonics of freeform radio, this is not to be missed. Many thanks to Dan for sharing!
*These dates correspond exactly to the labels on Daniel Burke's CDRs*
When was the last time you looked at a penny? I did when I noticed they’d suddenly begun looking like arcade tokens. which apparently started two whole years ago. But I didn’t even notice when they just went random with Scenes from the Life o’ Lincoln, which I guess was in 2009, although I’ve never even seen one of those. Where are all these weird pennies that are supposedly in circulation? Are people snapping up all the pennies and putting them in bottles on the dresser, like with those state quarters? (I still do not have my Guam quarter!) It’s not like they’re melting them down for the copper (currently trading at US$8,526 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange), since pennies aren’t made of pure copper anymore, they’re made of zinc drenched in creamy milk chocolate and covered with a thin candy shell. Right now the U.S. Mint could be putting anything on the backs of pennies, how would I know? I actually don’t know. What does a 2012 penny even look like?
Remember when all the paper money started going strange? The government said it was because they needed to make it harder for counterfeiters to make fake bills. But now every $20 bill I see looks totally different from every other $20 bill. I don’t even know what they’re supposed to look like anymore, which seems to me would make it easier for counterfeiters. Just hand me a green piece of paper with the number 20 and an engraving of Andrew Jackson’s face, that you can fold to see the burning Pentagon, and I will accept it in exchange for my goods and services.
This week in International Numismaticism, the Canadian Government Inc. (Stephen J. Harper, prop.) announced that it would no longer mint pennies—meaning Canadian pennies, which are copper-plated steel and nickel. It costs the Canadian government 1.5 Canadian Cents to make one Canadian Cent, so that just isn’t working out for them. BUT: It costs the U.S. Government 1.7 US Cents to make a US Penny. Does the US continue making pennies just to have somewhere to put their Picture History of the Deads? Here’s my idea: Canada can just start using US pennies. Let the US absorb the cost, and get your currency made for free. There’s no reason one country can’t use another country’s currency as their own legal tender; it's happened before. For instance, Panama and El Salvador both accept printed paper US dollars (including the $20!) as legal tender. And it’s been about 16 months since Iceland—which has never had a penny at all!—adopted the ThunkTank Bieb, and everything’s going great over there.
On today's tape (recorded sometime in the 1960's), a gathering of friends had been puttering along nicely, if somewhat boringly, being recorded for posterity. But at some point, one of the men present mentioned that he had a story he'd written about people he knew in childhood, which he intended to submit to Reader's Digest, and perhaps other magazines.
A bit later, he got around to reading his story to his friends. It turns out to be about life in 1926, at age 11, and specifically the two kids in his neighborhood, a boy and a girl, who were quite a bit more precocious than their peers, professing as they did to knowing about any and all things regarding sex. It's not a long or complicated story, but it is a little slice of life, and one from a very different time and place. Rather than summarize his story, I think I'll just let the listener experience it: