Friday, April 30, 2010

#172: Cars

Ain't she sweet? I found this dirty little beast in a car park today, waiting to go into an auction. At least, that's what I was told. Personally if it's still there tomorrow morning I might push it home and start restoring it back to health.

You don't see all that many Wolseley 24/80s around the place anymore - hell, you don't see many Wolseley's at all - and this one was last registered at some point in the 1970s, after which it was stored in a garage, obviously, and the dirt was allowed to settle on it. The interiors look good and as the car was only manufactured between 1962 to 1967 it'd be a bargain for anyone looking for a retro vehicle. And, even better, the Wolseley 24/80 was an Australian only car, so it's a definite collector’s item.

Man, I'd love to have one of these buggers in the driveway, but I expect that I'd shock a lot of people because, *gasp* I'd drive it as much as possible. But then you are talking about a guy who once drove to Noosa and back in a 1965 Beetle, that was so clapped out that it's top speed was 90kms per hour (going downhill). The best part was crossing the Hay Plains using a brick as a rudimentary form of cruise control as I hung my feet out of the window (it was the height of summer) to cool down.  Now that's a trip I should write about one day, but I have to check to make sure there's no charges pending, even after all this time.

Man, I miss that car. Until it finally died, and it died in spectacular fashion, it served me well. I'd love another Beetle of the same vintage, but I'm not holding my breath finding one. Until then, perhaps a Wolseley? Even a filthy little bitch like that one? Seriously, the dirt only adds to the appeal. Damn straight!

#171: Jesus Christ, Superstar

I'm kinda touched. In this day and age of paranoia and hate, the Atheists like me.  I find that somewhat refreshing really, even though they might find it somewhat puzzling that I'm a Buddhist.

In my defence, as I said to someone at Christmas, as she saw me tuck into the wine, I always say I'm a Buddhist, I never said I was a good one.  But, considering that there's some who are currently doing whatever they can and exerting the most amazing pressure to have me remove this blog from the face of the planet, the support of the Godless is wonderful.

Guys, I like you too.   I do have to ask though, what do you do at Easter and Christmas?  Just hit the booze, eat the puddings and go through the motions, or something else?  Still, no matter what you, or don't, you're alright in my book.

Now I might join their forums...

And, as a kid, who didn't sing the following at full volume:
Jesus Christ
Who the bloody hell do you think you are?
Did a skid,
Killed a kid,
Chopped off his balls with a garbage lid...

Or was that just the locals in downtown 'Lizbef?  But then I've always found it fascinating that many people use the name, Jesus Christ, virtually as a swearword.  Blasphemous rumours are always the best.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

#170: Saturday Night At The Movies

The question I want to know is, what colour was the paint?  Incredible to think that such a racist ad could exist in South Australia, as late as November 1957 (this ad was scanned from the Sunday Mail).  Go for it, Sambo!!  Paint that wall.  See 'em burning crosses, see the flames, higher and higher.

Meanwhile, did anyone actually go to any of these flicks?  Alas the Regent is long gone now, and only the memories remain.  I saw many a good movie at the Hoyts Regent, in both locations (they had the main cinemas in the Regent Arcade and another cinema downstairs where JB Hi-Fi now lives), and I have very fond memories of seeing The Return Of The Jedi there.  I did see Star Wars and Empire down at the Elizabeth Cinemas, which was pulled down in the early 1980s, putting a cap on the entertainment deficiet that existed in the northern suburbs. 

According to the ad the movie HELP started on the Thursday, the 13th of January, 1966.  Five sessions daily and I expect that it'd have had a lot of little tenny boppers screaming at the screen.  You could almost send anyone back to see what true mania was - piss off Justin Beiber, 5,000 little girlies isn't anything on the amount of people who turned out to see the Beatles in Adelaide - BEFORE they'd sang a note.  An estimated 350,000 people out of a population of around 1,000,000.  Drag those kinds of crowds in Beiber and I'll be impressed.  Until then you'll just be the current generations David Cassidy at best, only with crappier songs.

Loads of movies were screening at the same time.  You could have caught HELP and then wandered down to Hindley Street to the State Theatre (also long gone) and seen The Pelvis wiggle and sing his way through this crap. According to the synopsis, "The original king of rock-n-roll (Elvis Presley) stars in this light comedy musical as a singing buck who finds employment at an all femme ranch & spa. After kissing the girls and making them cry, the stud-clad crooner is sent away, but soon comes back to rescue a pretty maiden from the hands of fortune-seeking baddies."

Call me silly but that could describe any number of Elvis movies.  Still it wasn't Clambake and this time he wasn't singing songs like "Dominic The Impotent Bull".

Compare those songs to what the Beatles had on offer.  If you saw HELP you heard the following; Help!, You're Going to Lose That Girl, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, Ticket to Ride and I Need You, amongst others.  Frankly You've Got To Hide Your Love Away is worth the price of admission alone.  Great stuff there.

What else could you have seen?  Irma La Douce was in it's last weeks.  It'd be replaced the following week by Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, which was a bit of a steal of The Great Race, only not as good.  Damn, the pie fight in The Great Race was good.  They don't make movies like that anymore.  Spartacus was still screening at the Valleyline Drive In, Bedtime Story with David Niven and Marlon Brando was on at the Habourline.  And if you wanted some live action, there was a pantomime of Alice In Wonderland showing at Her Majestys.

You had more Elvis at the Seaton Park drive-in.  That movie was another of those where Elvis beat someone up, sang some shit songs and groped the girl.  Standard plot really.  Ten songs, none of them came close to be anywhere near as good as the worst effort that the Beatles movie offered.  Still there was some quality on offer with the second film, Tarzan Goes To India.  Brilliant!

Also at the drive-in, this time at Gilles Plains (up on Blacks Road) was the Billy Wilder classic, The Apartment, starring Jack Lemon and Shirley MacLaine.  This one had a stunner as the second film, a William Shatner movie called The Explosive Generation, a movie so forgettable that I can't recall it.

Drive-ins.  Remember those?  You'd pay a few bucks to see two movies.  One was generally crap and the other was good - an example was one of the first double bills that I saw at the drive-in down at Elizabeth - Rocky and Pirahna.  One was crap, the other good.  I'll leave it to you to decide which was which.  Generally you either smuggled people in via the boot (Leyland P76s were in high demand for this) or you jumped over the fence.  Either way you got in cheap and then went to work.  Up to the age of 16 I went to watch the movies and heave food at people for fun.  Once I turned 18 then I went to watch one movie, such as Commando, and went to work on the girl I was with during the next, such as Silverado.  Fights were the norm, and I'm sure there's a lot of people out there who were concieved at the drive-in.

All gone now.  Finito.  Replaced by car parks, housing developments, IKEA and ratshit hotels that block out the sun.  Such is the price of development.  Gone are the days when we could wander into the Hoyts Regent and see quality like Creepshow and witness a person throwing up on her boyfriends lap - mind you I'm not sure if the puke was due to the movie or the bonus that she got from the lap area seconds before.  I miss the cinema and the drive-in.  I know that cinemas are still with us, and some are classics - such as the Odeon (or the Windsor) down at Lockelys, but these days the bulk of the cinemas are large, lifeless conglomerates.

So, did anyone see these movies when they came out?  I saw Creepshow in it's first week, but I didn't see the others at the flickers - mainly because I wasn't born by that stage.

Oh, and what colour was that bloody paint?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

#168: Heroes And Villains

So, why do I despise Elia Kazan? It’s a tricky question to answer because I adore some of his films and can more than appreciate his career as a film-maker and stage director. However it was what he did off the screen that made me reconsider the man.

There’s no denying that Kazan was one of the pre-eminent movie makers of the 20th century. Only an idiot would argue against his achievements. Two Academy Awards for directing, five additional nominations for directing and screenwriting – all in all his movies gained a staggering fifty nine nominations over a career spanning five decades, from the 1930s through to the 1970s. He also gained three Tony Awards for directing on stage, from eight nominations and won awards and nominations from around the world. Cannes, Venice, Berlin – Kazan was applauded worldwide. And rightly so. He made some of the finest movies of the mid 20th century and helped launch and revitalise the careers of actors such as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Vivien Leigh, James Dean, Karl Malden, Kim Hunter, Lee Remick, and Jo Van Fleet, amongst others.

Kazan’s collaborations with Brando are the stuff of legends. I doubt that anyone can watch A Streetcar Named Desire in its purest form and not come away affected. Brando literally leaps off the screen and his sheer presence makes him attractive to both women and men. Streetcar shows Brando at his most animal savage and never has anyone cleared a table with such venom and hostility. Following that brilliant performance Kazan and Brando then gave us On The Waterfront, another stunning movie with another of Brando’s best performances. In my opinion, Brando in Streetcar slightly shades Brando in Waterfront, but he only won for the latter, and not the former. Hollywood just wasn’t that ready for someone as raw and brutal as Brando at the time. At the time Hollywood preferred its leading men to pitch woo and be handsome and cultured, ala Clark Gable. They didn’t expect a ruffian who’d as soon as rape a person as look at them and had muscles hanging out of their shirts, ala Brando. Between them, Kazan, Brando and Tennessee Williams reinvented the idea of a leading man.

So what did Kazan do that was so wrong? Easy – he blabbed to save his own skin. In 1934 Kazan joined the American Communist Party and appeared in a play written by Clifford Odets, who also belonged to the party. From there Kazan formed the Actors Studio, with Robert Lewis, Lee Strasberg, and Cheryl Crawford, this still exists today. The concept of the Actors Studio was to teach actors a new way of acting, called Method Acting. Despite dabbling in movies, Kazan’s early impact was conducted on stage, directing All My Sons and Death of a Salesman for Arthur Miller and A Streetcar Named Desire for Tennessee Williams. From there a career in motion pictures beckoned.

Kazan still had to deal with his past though. In 1947 the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation, actually let’s call it what it was, a witch hunt, into the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. The reasons for this are generally accepted to be one of control and political game. As Dorothy Parker commented to Martin Dies, the head of the HUAC at the time, “The people want democracy - real democracy, Mr. Dies, and they look toward Hollywood to give it to them because they don't get it any more in their newspapers. And that's why you're out here, Mr. Dies - that's why you want to destroy the Hollywood progressive organizations - because you've got to control this medium if you want to bring fascism to this country.” Such statements went right over the head of the HUAC. It really kicked into high gear in late 1947, when the HUAC interviewed over forty people who were actively working in Hollywood. Those who attended voluntarily were deemed to be "friendly witnesses" and during their interviews they began to name names and accused colleagues of holding left-wing views and belonging to various Communist organisations. It was the time of ‘Reds Under The Beds’. It mattered not who people were, the HUAC went after them all with the same zeal and venom. Those who were subpoenaed before the HUAC were labelled as being “unfriendly witnesses” and generally shouted down and denied natural justice. Most notorious of the latter group were the so called “Hollywood Ten”. Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Alvah Bessie all refused to answer any questions put by the HUAC and claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. All were subsequently found guilty of contempt of congress and received sentences of between six and twelve months in prison. None could appeal and none could defend themselves properly.

The main reason for this was the establishment of a “Black List” amongst the Hollywood studios. The general idea behind the List was that anyone who was named, or found guilty, or denied the charges would be added to the List and thus their career was finished. The List was always denied, but eventually details leaked out. Names on the list, over the years, included such luminaries as Lillian Hellman, Canada Lee, Paul Robeson, Larry Adler, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Parker, Leonard Bernstein, Eddie Albert, Richard Attenborough, Peter Viertel, Martin Ritt, Larry Parks, Luis Buñuel, Norman Lloyd, Barbara Bel Geddes, Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, John Garfield, Burgess Meredith, Gypsy Rose Lee, Jose Ferrier, Howard Koch, Lee J Cobb, Artie Shaw, Garsin Kanin, Pete Seeger, Kim Hunrer, Lena Horne and Edward G. Robinson. There were hundreds more. Some went into the theatre, some worked under assumed names, some moved to other countries and others fought the blacklist as best they could.

There were more casualties of the HUAC, both directly and indirectly. Charlie Chaplin was one high profile victim and was called to provide evidence in the late 1940s. Chaplin commented that he’d appear as his most famous creation, the Little Tramp, and offer his testimony in mime. Then he suggested that he wanted a Yiddish interpreter, despite his not being Jewish, or being able to speak or understand Yiddish. Eventually Congress decided to not call Chaplin, one only wonders about the performance of a lifetime that was missed. After making Monsieur Verdoux in the early 1950s Chaplin left America for a European holiday and his re-entry visa was cancelled before he even had a chance to leave American waters. As he said at the time, “.....Since the end of the last world war, I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary groups who, by their influence and by the aid of America's yellow press, have created an unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded individuals can be singled out and persecuted. Under these conditions I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion-picture work, and I have therefore given up my residence in the United States.” Chaplin would not return to America for another twenty years.

Carl Foreman, a scriptwriter, was busily writing High Noon at the time when he was called up. Despite not being a member Communist Party for almost ten years at that point, Foreman refused to name names and was deemed an "un-cooperative witness" by the HUAC. This resulted in Stanley Kramer attempting to have Foreman removed from the film, but he gained support from none other than Gary Cooper and director Fred Zimmerman, both of whom threatened to quit the film if Foreman was sacked. It worked, but Foreman later recounted the pressure that Copper was placed under as being immense. As it stands High Noon is one of the most enduring westerns of all time, and one of the most damning attacks on the HUAC and the McCarthy era committed to film. At the completion of the film and knowing that his career in American films was finished, Foreman simply moved to England, where he wrote, amongst other movies, Bridge On The River Kwai. This was done under an assumed name and caused a lot of embarrassment when it won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, as everyone knew that the winner could not appear in person to collect it, and the person who did collect it, didn’t write the film. It took nearly thirty years before this was officially rectified and Foreman was awarded his Oscar. By that stage he was dead.

There were several others. To read the stories of the HUAC and the McCarthy era is to read stories of incredible bravery and incredible cowardice. Kazan’s story falls into the latter. Kazan was called before the HUAC in 1952 and initially refused to name names. His defence was that he was no longer a member of the Communist Party and had no connection, nor contact, with anyone who was a member. This wasn’t good enough for both Hollywood or the HUAC. At the time Kazan was making On The Waterfont with Brando and the threat was given – name names or not only will you be sacked from the film, but you’ll never work in Hollywood again. It was a standard threat, given to all who appeared or refused to appear. Kazan was in a bind and discussed the situation with close friend Arthur Miller, who he met and went walking with one afternoon before his next appearance.

Neither man ever really commented on what was said during that meeting, but towards the end of his life Miller intimated that Kazan had told him that he intended to name names in order to save his career. And name names Kazan did. He stood before the HUAC and rattled off eight names, including those of his Group Theatre colleagues, Phoebe Brand and Tony Kraber (the latter whom Kazan had himself recruited into the Communist Party in the 1930s) and actors such as Zero Mostel. Kazan attempted to justify this by stating that the bulk of the people he had named had already been named by previous witnesses. Indeed Budd Schulberg and Lee J Cobb had also named names; the reward for Cobb was to be blacklisted. Mostel too saw his career end for the 1950s. After making five movies in 1951, Mostel would wait another ten years before being offered a role, and then only made another five movies for the entire decade of the 1960s. He spent this time in the theatre, and experienced a resurgence in popularity amongst filmgoers in the 1970s.

Kazan, meanwhile, was allowed to return to movies and to finish his preparations and filming for On The Waterfront. First he had to deal with an angry Brando who, initially, refused to make the movie with Kazan at the helm. This was soon sorted out and filming went as planned. On The Waterfont has long been considered to be Kazan’s response to his critics, and, in particular, Arthur Miller, in relation to his HUAC testimony. Certainly when you watch the movie you can see the parallels in Brando’s character and Kazan’s own point of view. Silence = death, but sometimes speaking is the worst thing you could do.

Kazan ruined careers. None of the defenders or the revisionist historians can deny this, as much as they might try to. And in ruining those careers Kazan ruined lives. Kim Hunter, whose career was effectively ended after Kazan testified, insisted that Kazan deserved the honorary Oscar that Hollywood bestowed upon him in 1999, but I’m not so sure. And, for perspective, up to and including 1952 Hunter made nine films and won an Oscar for her brilliant performance as Stella in Kazan’s Streetcar Names Desire. She then made nine films in the next twenty years, with four of those coming between 1953 to 1963. Name me one other Academy Award winner whose career ended in such a manner. Here, I’ll help, other than the obvious ones, such as Peter Finch and Heath Ledger, there are none. Unless a person is dead their career thrives – look at David Niven for proof of that.

Why do I despise Elia Kazan so much? Because he had the chance to make a difference and he didn’t choose wisely. He did make a difference to a lot of people, but it wasn’t a positive one. His career continued to grow; he won more awards, became acclaimed and became very rich. Those who he named found themselves ostracised from society, found themselves out of work and found themselves destitute, in more than on case. Kazan named names, without any proof, and won, those who he named and were essentially convicted without defence, lost. I’ll leave it to others to decide the price of his victory. The HUAC and their witch hunt were one thing, as with all witch hunts it was wrong, set up to promote and further the careers of those sitting on the panels and to victimise the innocent. Would that the world be a far better place, where these things never happened.

Sadly the world, and a lot of those within in, are very flawed. And as with all flawed people, they refuse to see their own unique flaws. Kazan certainly didn’t see his, and managed to justify his actions until the day he died. Thus do all of those who do injustice to others and ruin lives and careers in the name of self preservation.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

#168: Witchcraft

I've always been fascinated with the origins of words, in particular when I first heard them and how they apply into the modern world. I'm well aware of the meaning of the words 'witch hunt', (and isn't that a great font?) and how they became very popular in the 1950s through the use of the term in Arthur Miller's brilliant 1950s play, The Crucible.

I performed in The Crucible when I was in year 11 at school, and apparantly I didn't do a bad job. Ah, you see the ham inside of me hasn't gone off just yet.  I did bloody well as John Proctor and although I didn't get the girl in the end, I did get a great pre-death scene.  And the death itself?  Well, as anyone who has performed The Crucible knows, Proctor is hung but the really impressive execution happens off stage when poor old Giles Corey is crushed to death.  You see Giles suffered Peine forte et dure, and for those too lazy, or ignorant to look it up, Giles was a crotchety old bastard who refused to enter a plea, any plea, even though he was tortured.  The method of torture, in this case, involves the subject is pressed beneath an increasingly heavy load of stones, in an attempt to make him enter a plea. Brilliant!

What stunned me the most though at the time was that Giles Corey was a real person.  Born in 1611 he was married three times and ultimately accused of being a warlock by three young girls, who were more than likely trying to cover their own tracks after being caught out doing things that they shouldn't have been doing.  He was duly arrested in April 1692 and refused to enter a plea.

After sitting in the pokey for five months with his wife, Martha, Giles was then brought before the court and faced his accusers.  The testimony against him was read out.  This is taken from a deposition dated the 9th of September, 1692, and is held in the files of the Court of Oyer and Terminer:
Mercy Lewis v. Giles Corey: The Deposition of Mercy Lewis aged about 19 years who testified and said that on the 14th of April 1692 "I saw the Apparition of Giles Corey come and afflict me urging me to write in his book and so he continued most dreadfully to hurt me by times beating me & almost breaking my back tell the day of his examination being the 19th of April and then also during the time of his examination he did affect and tortor me most greviously: and also several times sense urging me vehemently to write in his book and I veryly believe in my heart that Giles Corey is a dreadful wizard for sense he had been in prison he or his appearance has come and most greviously tormented me. Mercy Lewis affirmed to the jury of Inquest. that the above written evidence: is the truth upon the oath: she has formerly taken in court of Oyer & Terminer: Septr 9: 1692.

Other depositions were equally as useless and biased, not to mention outright lies.  Giles sat still and mute throughout the trial, no matter what evidence was put before both himself and the court.

It was a great load of shit really, but a very dangerous load of shit at that.  Giles was continually asked (and orderd) to enter a plea of some sort and time and again refused.  It was then that the order to 'persuade' Giles was issued.  According to the law of the time a person could not be tried if they refused to enter a plea.  Opportunity was always given for a plea to be entered, and the alternative was normally more than enough to convince people to enter a plea, if they were guilty or not.   After refusing, again, to enter a plea Giles was stripped naked and a heavy board laid on his body. Rocks or boulders were then laid on the plank of wood. Such was the process of being pressed to death in the name of justice.

Giles had no choice.  If he had entered a plea of not guilty then he'd have been found guilty regardless and put to death.  If he'd plead guilty then he'd have been put to death as a warlock.  Such was the hysteria of the time.

Thus the order was given for Giles to be "...remanded to the prison from whence he came and put into a low dark chamber, and there be laid on his back on the bare floor, naked, unless when decency forbids; that there be placed upon his body as great a weight as he could bear, and more, that he hath no sustenance, save only on the first day, three morsels of the worst bread, and the second day three droughts of standing water, that should be alternately his daily diet till he died, or, till he answered."

Here's where Giles became a legend in my eyes.  Giles was placed in a pit in an open field beside the jail and in accordance with the process, before the Court and witnesses, stripped of his clothing, laid on the ground in the pit, and boards placed on his chest. Six men then lifted heavy stones, placing them one by one, on his stomach and chest. Despite this Giles Corey did not cry out, let alone make a plea.  In fact he did better than cry out or beg for mercy.

After two days of suffering, Giles was asked three times to plead innocent or guilty to witchcraft. On each occassion he merely replied, "More weight." The sherriffs of the court were more than happy to oblige him and as such more rocks were piled on him.  In a particularly sadistic extra form of punishment, the Sheriff would stand on the boulders staring down at Corey's bulging eyes. A witness, Robert Calef, later said, "In the pressing, Giles Corey's tongue was pressed out of his mouth; the Sheriff, with his cane, forced it in again."  Still Giles would not enter a plea either way.  One of the reasons why Giles did this was to protect his family, believe it or not.  Under the law of the time if Giles was not convicted of a crime then the state would not be able to sieze his farm upon the death of both himself and his wife.  Giles had recently deeded the farm to his two sons-in-law, thus ensuring that they would have something once he was gone.
The only food given to Giles during this torture was a mere three mouthfuls of bread and water.  Finally, on the 16th of September, 1692, Giles Corey cried out "More weight!" and died.  According to the official report, "...about noon at Salem, Giles Cory was pressed to death for standing mute; much pains was used with him two days, one after another, by the court and Captain Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance, but all in vain."

Giles might have lost his life, but he proved his point.  Never allow anyone to prove false charges against another.  Poor Giles, his wife of less than two years, Martha, was executed by hanging a mere six days later.  The only thing that can be remotely called positive from all of this was their son, Thomas, being awarded £50, as compensation for his mother being illegally hanged, on June 29, 1723.  Initially buried in an unmarked grave, Giles was subsequently given his proper due with a suitable headstone with the simple statement that you can now see.

I can't help but admire Giles Corey.  I admired him then and I still admire him now.  His death was possibly the most brutal carried out during the Salem Witch Trials as the bulk of the other accused were hanged.  All of those brought to trial were ultimately found guilty and nineteen people, fourteen men and five women, were executed without any actual evidence provided.  Since then the term 'witch hunt' has become synonomous with an unfair trial, especially one in which the verdict has been decided before a plea has been entered, or any real evidence has been lodged.

I'd love to perform in The Crucible again, and I'd easily hand over the much desired character of John Proctor for a chance to play Giles Corey and have that stunningly impressive death scene.

I also can't help but admire Greg Matthews too, but we'll get into that at a later date.  After all that's one bastard of a drinks break that he's taking there.  Yeah yeah!

Meanwhile, digest this stuff and tomorrow I'll tell you why I don't like this man that you see on your right.


#167: Kanga-Roo

The world needs more National Emblems who can stand bolt upright and give the universal signal for 'fuck off'.  I found this rude roo on the weekend, God love the fuzzy little bastard, sitting in the yard of a dis-used gaol somewhere out in the docks of the boon.  And yes, I gave it right back at him, but only after he'd given it to me several times over.

Stupid bloody thing that he is.  I looked deep into his rough, black eyes and thought, "Hmmmm, I wonder if I drove another 300kms would I find a relative of his who'd tripped on a fence and was still juicy?"

Bugger me if I didn't find the very same thing.  "That'll teach him," I thought, "cheeky bastard."  Still, did I wish ill on the rude roo?

Of course not.  "Perhaps," I thought, "I'll lie down in this fine town and have a rest?  Surely nothing bad could happen?  After all they know how to deal with their errant Skippys."

Wrong again.  As can be seen from this headstone if you fall asleep in certain areas then the odds are great that you'll simply be crated up and shipped off to the great reward, wherever and whatever that reward might be.

You have to wonder though, are those holes in the ground where the undead has been trying to dig their way out, or is it someone trying to dig their way in?

Either way I don't think I really want to know.  Bloody rabbits.

Still, it could be worse.  Caught out ironing your smalls is never a good thing, but really, it could be far worse.  The jocks might have shreddies.  Still, it's good to see some traditional values are fully intact.  Get to work and iron your best undies.  Surely the shame would be in not ironing your worst undies?  Is there shame in being hygenic?

But I do have to ask, does anyone iron their undies anymore?  And did they ever?  C'mon, fess up.  What was the preferred method of post-washing preperation for the under-crackers?  Or do more and more people freeball these days?

Questions without answers.

And, in closing, get a fucking job, you hippy!  I don't care how you do it, just pull your finger out and do it.  At least this way you can either eat the left-over product, or mix it in with some soup, strain the results and get whacked right off your tits.

Can life be better than that?

I think not.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

#166: Let Me Go, Rock 'N Roll

The things you find when you're not really looking for them. I scored this book today during an extensive Op Shop run, which netted me several choice items, some of which I may, or may not, discuss in detail down the track. What makes this book a prize is the content, which is both laughable and serious, all the same time. Written by a pair of record burning Christian Fundamentalists, and published in 1984, the amount of errors and mis-information contained inside the covers of this volume is incredible. For example, the authors go to great length to convince the reader that all Kiss songs are about drugs and rebellion. Now I might not be an expert on many things, but I have been listening to Kiss from around 1978 onwards and I can't think of a single song about drugs that they've sang.  Grog, yes, (hey - it's Cold Gin time again) but drugs? Nope. So help me Rhonda, and do what the Peters brothers don't, and cite examples.

Even weirder is their description of the movie, Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park, an almost unwatchable movie by anyone's standards. In this movie, according to the Peters brothers, 'Gene Simmons breathed fire and flew effortlessly; Ace Frehley blasted death rays from the palms of his hands; Peter Criss crawled catlike over hill and dale; and Paul Stanley portrayed a man with X-ray eyes'. I'm not sure what movie the Peters brothers watched, but in the flick I saw no-one was killed by any 'death rays' and Criss was lucky to be standing up, let alone 'crawling catlike over hill and dale'. Indeed the movie has neither hill nor dale and if Criss was indeed crawling in the movie, which he wasn't, then it'd have been towards the table with a big pile of coke on it.  Now if the Peters brothers had said that the movie was a waste of money and film then they'd have had a point to argue, as it is what they've watched, if they ever actually watched it, wasn't what everyone else, regrettably, saw.

The Peters brothers also go on the attack with a massive number of other bands as well. AC/DC, another of their main targets, is described as being 'cult like' with 'hypnotic, repetitive tunes'. Other bands are written off just as easily.  Pink Floyd are 'depressive', and several children, some as young as 13 years old, have committed suicide to their 'nihilistic, punkish pap'. Punkish pap?  Pink Floyd?  I can think of several adjectives to describe Pink Floyd, but punish and pap just don't spring to mind. As for the mass suicides, again, although they claim they have evidence, they never actually cite it or provide a reference.

Black Sabbath's 'rowdy sound' (actually quite accurate really) is a 'good example of...negative philosophy'.  Jackson Browne, Billy Joel, John Lennon, Duran Duran, Marvin Gaye and even The Cars get a look in as examples of music to kill oneself by.  Tom Robinson nearly gives them heart failure because, after all, like Elton John, another target in the book, he's *gasp* a homosexual!!! Instantly he's evil and is corrupting the youth of the world.  The Rolling Stones are 'the dirtiest band in the world'.  The Clash are 'one of Englands most notorious punk bands'.  Maybe they were, for about twenty seconds before they branched out into the mainstream.  Bon Scott died of a drug overdose, as did John Bonham. Funny thing that, I kind of remember them both dying from an overdose of booze.  All of the inaccurate descriptions and genralisations makes me wonder, just what did the Peters brothers actually listen to back then?  Well, that is when they weren't busy burning records.

For a book that claims to be 'a definitive, comprehensive analysis of rock music by recognised authorities on the subject' you'd expect that at least a few of the facts would have been checked before publication. As it stands they've listed some publications that they've sourced - such authoritative tomes as Rock And Roll Babylon (a book that, like it's counterpart, Hollywood Babylon, deals in scurrilous rumours over facts and should be taken with the proverbial grain), Albert Goldman's Elvis, a book called 'Rock 'N Roll Quotes' along with various issues of Creem, Hit Parader and Circus Magazine, magazines which, as we now know, were full of comments and quotes that the people attributed to them never actually said.  In short sloppy research abounds in this book, but it is fascinating to read, if only to see how wrong people could get.

At the end of the book there's a 'Ten Most Wanted List'. At first I thought that these were the ten people that the Peters brothers wanted knocked off with high powered rifles, but alas, no, all they want is for people to pray for them.  As the 'most notorious stars', the Peters brothers wanted people to write to them and ask them to embrace Jesus into their lives. The top ten, in order, were:
Angus Young
Rob Halford (God, the Peters must have stroked out when Rob came out of the closet)
Prince (who always sang about God, but then again he sang about *eek* sex...go figure)
Joe Elliot
Gene Simmons
Mick Jagger
David Bowie
Ozzy Osbourne (who only wore a crucifix for shock value, he wasn't actually religious, no matter what he said)
David Lee Roth
Steve Perry.
That's right - Steve freaking Perry from Journey.  JOE Perry I could understand, but STEVE Perry? Frankly he was probably happy that ANYONE was writing to him by that stage. There's also sections 'explaining' record covers and obituaries. The latter is particularly amusing, if only for the amount of errors it contains.

The most telling exchange in the book is this interview. Conducted by a local television station in 1983, it brought the Peters brothers, or, at least, one of them, together with Gene Simmons. Now feel free to say what you want about Simmons, but anyone would freely admit that the man is not an idiot. When he wants to be he is highly articulate and extremely intelligent. You can also add to that the fact that he once taught theology at college level in the early 1970s and you're in for a lot of fun.

Simmons states in his own autobiography that he used to love it when zealots would come backstage and quite scripture at him because he'd explain the context and then quote more scripture back at them while explaining his own comments as well. Brilliant.  Bamboozle them with bullshit. However it appears that when the Peters bothers met Simmons they had no idea of who he was - the comments throughout the book make it clear that they considered him an intellectual lightweight, and I can't help but wonder if they ever realised their (fatal) error before it was too late. Probably not. However they did wade in and here's the results, presented without any additions (other than one word, you'll soon pick it) and corrections.

KISS and Tell
PLACE: WCCO-TV, Five P.M. Report, Minneapolis, MN
TIME: Friday, February 18, 1983
CAST: Gene Simmons (KISS), Anchorman Don Shelby, Dan Peters
SHELBY: The person you’re about to see is a fellow named Gene Simmons. He is one of the most talented and creative of all current rock stars. He plays in a group known as KISS. We also have an individual of interest who is named the Reverend Dan Peters of Zion Christian Life Center in North St. Paul, Minnesota ....Reverend Dan Peters believes that the rock music in KISS is the work of the devil, and that it is a corruption of youth. Simmons believes that rock music is fun, it’s enjoyable, it’s harmless to everyone-except preachers who are a bit frightened by it. Now, you may know that Gene Simmons is in makeup here in the picture we see, and that is the way he is always seen by the public because he doesn’t want anyone to see what he really looks like-for his own purposes (*NOTE: KISS has since “unmasked” but, by their own admission, the group’s members have not changed their lifestyles, lyrics, intentions or concert antics). Gene, are you there?
SIMMONS: Yeah, I’m right here.
SHELBY: Okay. Now, the Reverend Dan Peters is downstairs in our news-room, and we’re going to be hooking him up. Here’s a picture of him. Gene, I don’t know if you have a monitor-
SIMMONS: (gasp) Oh! What ghoulish makeup!
PETERS: (chuckling) I don’t have any on, Gene.
SIMMONS: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
SHELBY: Now you two have had a running battle here ever since one came to know the other, and we want to carry it on here. First of all, let’s let Dan-I understand that’s what you prefer to be called?
PETERS: Yes, sir.
SHELBY: Okay. I would like you to state your case briefly so that we can get Gene, here, on the phone, to respond to you. What is your case? Why don’t you like KISS?
PETERS: It’s not that we dislike Gene Simmons personally. It’s just that we do not appreciate some of the things he stands for, some of the things he sings about. We do feel we have a responsibility to one another as part of our society, to encourage one another to live good, godly, moral lives, and it’s just that so many of the things that Gene has stood for in the past-including making plaster of Paris molds of men’s genitals-we are just not really in favor of children being encouraged to do-
SIMMONS: What have I done? What did you say?
SHELBY: What he said, Gene, you made plaster of Paris molds of, uh, of male genitals.
SIMMONS: I think you better get your story straight. You must be talking about somebody else.

The plaster’s getting harder and my love is perfection
A token of my love for her collection
If you wanna see my love just ask her
-from Plaster Caster on KISS’s Love Gun album

PETERS: Well, I’m talking about the song, “Plaster Caster,” and some of the things we talked about on the phone last week, Gene. I’m just concerned about the general trend of morals in America.
SIMMONS: Let’s first straighten out something. What, uh, Dan-who prefers to be called Dan instead of “Reverend”-what Dan asked me in an interview about a week ago was what “Plaster Caster” was all about. I told him then that it was a song about “groupies,” actual fans that exist-female variety-who once lived in the Chicago area, and who did make plaster casts of rock stars’ (pause) certain parts-parts they preferred. That’s their story. My story is writing the song, and-
PETERS: Which you dedicated to them.
SIMMONS: Of course! It’s unfortunate that you didn’t like it, but listen, millions of people have, and still do, and life goes on.
SHELBY: The point is-to clarify, Gene-Dan here is saying that you do “ungodly” work, unholy-
SIMMONS: Who’s God? Who determines what “ungodliness” is? And who is Dan? I represent myself and my own viewpoint, and if they happen to coincide with a certain rock and roll lifestyle, then that’s the way it goes. Who does Dan represent? Who is he?
SHELBY: Okay. Let’s find out.... Dan, now, who is to say that Gene is not doing God’s work?
PETERS: Our main concern is that the Bible-and of course, Gene coming from a Jewish background could appreciate the story of Cain and Abel-the Peters brothers have expressed concern that we are all responsible for what happens to each other. We have to accept some kind of responsibility to one another in society for what happens to them and that’s why we don’t appreciate rock musicians who sing about standards that would be immoral and-
SIMMONS: I do agree that there are some standards that are on the “maybe” mark for some people. I do want to point out, though, that your hair is a little long for a preacher, don’t you think?
PETERS: Well, I don’t think the Bible really teaches much of a standard as far as hair goes-
SIMMONS: Now wait a minute! Ten years ago, when I was growing up and hearing ministers and all shake their fingers at us and telling us to “get a haircut” and be “righteous, God-fearing people”. . _so what are you doing with long hair, there-hippie person?
PETERS: You see, you’re trying to draw a parallel between me and the Inquisition-something else that’s been done in the name of God. Now, I’m not trying to group all rock musicians together, Gene. But we are concerned about the things that you sing about. In fact, didn’t you say in one of your interviews that KISS has probably gone to bed with more teenage girls than any other rock band?
SIMMONS: No, I didn’t say KISS-I said I have!
PETERS: Okay-you have personally gone to bed with more teenage girls. And when I asked you in the interview [published in the Minneapolis Tribune] as far as your own sexual standards, you said you did enjoy group sex. You saw nothing wrong, in fact, with getting involved sexually with . . . teenage girls-maybe 14 or 15 years of age-even if their parents were against it.
SIMMONS: Well, those are your age figures, but I absolutely think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing anything between consenting adults.

STANLEY: Do you feel good tonight” (Screams from crowd)
STANLEY: Do you care what your parents think about us”
STANLEY: Do you care what those preachers think about us?
STANLEY: We don’t give a fuck!!
-Paul Stanley, addressing KISS fans on February 18, 1983, at Met Stadium, MN, immediately after their interview with the Peters brothers.

SHELBY: Okay, let me step in here.... So what we have here is not hysterics, but what I see is a disagreement in lyrics.
SIMMONS: Well, I think there is a basic problem here. The problem is that I make no bones about who I am, who I represent. It’s very clear in the songs.... What I write is pretty much a belief in a certain lifestyle which is a free soul, a free person, doing basically what he wants to do without hurting anybody else. And I represent myself and a certain viewpoint.

I guess I always wanted to be God. What that means really is that I want to be It. Mr Cool. Mr Top. And there’s nothing higher than God.
-Simmons in Circus, September 13, 1976

The brief skirmish you have just witnessed is just one episode in the battle being fought over rock music, but hopefully, you are beginning to visualize some of the important “banners” under which each side is fighting.
Although, to be fair, it certainly cannot be said that Gene Simmons speaks for everyone who loves or is involved with rock music (and Gene Simmons may have dropped out of the rock scene altogether before you ever read this book); still, the flag under which Simmons tights is quite universal: namely, that he is a “free soul” speaking and acting only for himself, his own pleasures and purposes. And let the rest of the world be hanged-as if the whole issue were really quite amusing.

The Peters brothers, however, are in earnest. They believe each person’s actions affect other people, that each person is his “brother’s keeper.” If Gene Simmons-or any rock celebrity-is flaunting a destructive lifestyle, promoting unhealthy lyrics, peddling sexually suggestive album covers, or advocating immoral causes, you most probably will be influenced by it, and you have a right to know.

It was wishful thinking on the Peters brothers side to think that Simmons would have dropped out of music completely by the time the book was published in 1984. It must really boil their piss to think that, twenty six years after the book was published, almost everyone on their Top Ten Most Wanted List, with the exception of Steve Perry, would still be going strong, and in the case of Simmons, Prince, Jagger, Bowie and Angus Young, still at the top of their game. Let alone what they think of the Hip-Hop and modern R&B movement And Eminem! The poor bastards.  I eagerly await the revised edition.

And, to be honest, all Kiss's music made me want to do was to rock and roll all night, and party every day.  And have sex.  And read comic books.  But not in that order.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

#165: We Are The World

Welcome to Part II of the Live Aid wrap up.  Read Part I first and then come back to this one.

Back?  Good.  Now that it's all been set up, let's git it on!

Bernard Watson – who? Promoter Bill Graham allowed him on stage to open the USA leg of the show after he spent the week sleeping in the car park. The classic rags to rags story.
Joan Baez – the first of the old hippies and the main difference between the UK and the USA concerts. The UK performances were generally fun and party time, the USA performances were dead serious man. Good ole Joanie is still out there and making her political views known.
The Hooters – you may not believe this but they kept going until 1995 when they quietly ‘went into hiatus’. Have since reformed as of 2001 and released their latest album in 2003. Didn’t make the final cut on the DVD.
The Four Tops – Motown legends. Remained together from 1953 through to 1997. Sadly death has seen the group whittled down to one original member. Also didn’t make the final cut on the DVD.
Billy Ocean – is still around and last toured Australia in 2008. Was awarded an honorary doctorate of music in 2002 by the University of Westminster. Clearly Chris DeBurgh wasn’t available on that day.
Black Sabbath – yep, you missed this one. Ozzy reformed the original Black Sabbath for the day and had to plead for a slot. Go figure. Anywhere else in the world they'd have been given a prime headlining spot, in the USA they were given 11 minutes and told to either take it or fuck off.  Have had more singers than Spinal Tap have had drummers, but it all comes back to Ozzy. Have since reformed several times, to varying degrees of success, and Ozzy, when not mumbling and swearing his way through his reality television show, is now an official heavy metal legend. I swear he’s had a facelift though.
Run DMC – another act you forgot you saw. The brilliant Run DMC split in the early 1990s and reformed in the late 1990s and only came to a stop when Jam Master Jay was tragically shot and killed in 2002. Still, there are rumours that Run and DMC will perform at some point this year. Fingers crossed.
Rick Springfield – made millions as the template for Ronn Moss. Came back to Australia to tour as part of the Countdown concerts, ironic as he wasn’t really part of Countdown when it happened at the time. Your mum loves him to death. Didn’t make the final cut on the DVD.
REO Speedwagon – now REO Speedwagon are the classic example of bottom of the barrel scraping. This may stun your socks off, but they’re still around.
Crosby, Stills & Nash – on and off all the time. Seriously, they’re only good when Neil Young is with them.
Judas Priest – lead vocalist Rob Halford split in 1991 on the back of the whole subliminal messages trial (a few kids killed themselves, like most Americans the parents couldn’t blame either the kids or themselves, so instead blamed Judas Priest and took them to court. Priest won). Halford since came out of the closet in 1998, much like George Michael it surprised three people who’d just come out comas. Halford and Priest reformed in 2003 and have been going strong ever since. A true powerhouse of the genre.
Bryan Adams – still polluting the world with his own unique brand of music.
The Beach Boys – more like The Beach Boy. The last Wilson, Carl, who was in the band died in 1998 and since then the ever increasing maniacal Mike Love has claimed the band name for himself. He still tours, with Bruce Johnson, who replaced Glen Campbell who replaced Brian Wilson.  Most of them turned up on the day though and sang their little hearts out, God bless 'em.  Having said that they've done nothing anywhere near as good as the late Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue since the mid 1960s.
George Thorogood & the Destroyers, with Bo Diddley & Albert Collins – George still tours and makes music to drink beer and bash people by. Albert Collins passed away in 1993 and Bo Diddley in 2008.
Simple Minds – split, reformed and split again only to reform again. Crashed into the 1990s with the brilliant Real Life album and then BANG! Nothing. Well, not quite. Band members kept leaving until the band was a duo. Reformed properly in 2009 and have been going strong ever since.
The Pretenders – is still Chrissie Hynde. Have had more band members than albums released I believe.
Santana & Pat Metheny – Santana hit on the idea of hiring hip young singers, such as Steven Tyler, to sing songs while he overplayed along. Still believes Che Gurvera was a saint. Pat Metheny is still touring and making interesting little jazz albums. Santana was so happy with his set that he refused to allow Geldof to include it on the official DVD. Grab the bootleg and check it out. It’s not that good.
Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass – poor Teddy. It was both heartening and sad when Ashford & Simpson rolled Teddy out in his wheelchair to sing. His voice was weak but hell, it was Teddy Pendergrass. Sadly he passed away early this year. Ashford & Simpson are still producing and performing, but try not to confuse them with Womack & Womack.
Madonna – Gawd. Madonna. The best story of the day was when Madonna came backstage and the minders asked Robert Plant and Eric Clapton to move out of the way and avert their eyes as “Madonna is coming.” Clapton fixed his stare on the minder, retorted, “Yew must be joking,” and turned back to his conversation while Plant did the sensible thing and merely ignored the whole spectacle. Sean Penn later revealed his embarrassment in print. Since then Madonna has leaped on and off more bandwagons and released more bad albums and worse movies than any other act known to man, and that includes the Legendary Stardust Cowboy.
Tom Petty – hit the big-time when George Harrison asked if he’d like to join his band. Said band also contained a guy called Bob Dylan, along with Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. The Traveling Wilburys lasted two albums and survived the death of Orbison, but the death of Harrison was the end of that. Petty still tours and releases interesting albums.
Kenny Loggins – Footloose! Danger Zone! Kenny! Only sang one song! That sums up his career in the shell of a nut.
The Cars – at the end they genuinely hated each other. They split and never reformed again. There was a push to reform in the late 1990s, but the death of Bengamin Orr put paid to that.
Neil Young – the Grandfather Of Grunge. Is still touring and, when he wants to, releasing very dangerous albums with some of the best, and most unique, guitar sounds you’re ever likely to hear.
The Power Station – vocalist Robert Palmer had left this Duran Duran offshoot before Live Aid. They split about ten minutes after coming off stage and reformed in 1995, without John Taylor but with Palmer. They split for good in 1996 and the deaths of Palmer and drummer Tony Thompson in 2003 laid the band to rest for good. Thankfully didn’t make the final cut on the DVD.
The Thompson Twins – wrote I Want That Man for Debbie Harry. Split in the early 1990s and have since refused all offers to reform since. On the day performed with Madonna, Steve Stevens (famous for being Billy Idol’s guitarist) and Nile Rogers. The less said about that the better.
Eric Clapton – performed with Phil Collins. Tuned a tribute song written about the tragic death of his son, Tears In Heaven, into the biggest money maker of his career and raked in the awards. Is about to tour the USA with Jeff Beck, a combination that should prove interesting to say the least as Jeff can outplay anyone he wants to.
Phil Collins – see the UK entry.
Led Zeppelin –the news of the day was the reunion of Led Zeppelin, or what remained of them. Robert Plant had no voice, Jimmy Page’s guitar hadn’t been tuned since he last pulled it out of the case in 1980 and John Paul Jones was such a late addition that he was placed on keyboards. Two drummers, Tony Thompson and Phil Collins added to the mess. Still magical, according to people who were there, but the screen doesn’t lie, nor does it carry sentiment. Plant, Page and Jones refused to have this on the official DVD and instead donated royalties from their own projects to the cause. Zep reformed a few times since, notably in 1989 (another disaster) and on awards shows and parties. Played properly in 2007 in a one-off concert which, by all accounts, was brilliant. Plant refused to reform properly and efforts by Jones and Page to find a new vocalist was in vain.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – see their separate entries. Didn’t make the final cut on the DVD and for good reason.
Duran Duran – was whittled down to a duo in the 1990s before enticing all the original members back in 2001. Andy Taylor has since left, again, and come back, again, and left, again. Have become one of the biggest bands on the planet from the 1980s.
Patti LaBelle – reformed LaBelle in 2008 and has been touring and releasing albums since Live Aid. Still has a brilliant voice.
Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin – Hall & Oates never split, they just stopped working together at times. They’re still out there, and playing blue eyed, white boy soul music. Eddie Kendricks died in 1992, and David Ruffin went from us in 1991, but the Temptations are still touring with original member Otis Williams. No less a talent than Marvin Gaye always applauded the tone and power of Ruffin’s voice.
Mick Jagger – famously wasn’t knifed by Keith Richards and rejoined The Rolling Stones, not that he really left, in the early 1990s. Has since placed his band on top of the world and is still active and touring, despite being the Oldest Man In The World. He did a duet with Tina Turner, who is also still touring, although success has faded a bit, but she must be sleeping easier now that Ike is dead.
Bob Dylan with Keith Richards & Ron Wood – did you see it? Dylan snapped his guitar strings, Woody gave him his and they kept on going. Lionel Ritchie was overseeing the set up of the stage for the big finale behind him and doing a sound check that could clearly be heard over Dylan’s own warblings. According to Wood they rehearsed four songs, of which Dylan played one, with the other two being Dylan’s last minute choices, despite the fact that neither Richards or Wood knew how to play them. I expect that was very, very deliberate. The bad performance didn’t injure anyone though and showed the day up for what it was at times – a farce.

So what were we left with? For some it was the best day of their lives, for others it was one big joke. “This is the Woodstock for your generation,” claimed Joan Baez as the concert started. Considering how bad Woodstock was, both musically and physically, she might have been right. What Live Aid needed was a moment like Woodstock had, a Jimi Hendrix to rip the day apart with his Star Spangled Banner. Instead we got Bono leaping off the stage and into the crowd, mullet flying, to grope some poor woman.

That was our generation.

#164: Feed The World

Live Aid.  I mean, sure, we all admired the principles behind Live Aid, even if it was questioned both at the time and since as to the distribution of the funds (it would appear that some of the money was knowingly used to buy arms), but we enjoyed the music most of all. Quality acts, all of them. Hit after hit. Or were they?

Of course they weren’t. They were acts of the time, chosen more for popularity than any real musical ability. In those choices were quality acts, but the bulk never lasted the test of time. But, hey, unlike possibly you and definitely me, they can say that they were at Live Aid, on the stage, singing away for the assembled masses. We hadn’t seen a concert of it’s like before, although it has become so common now that they generally pass un-noticed when they happen. Such a shame.

Checking this stuff out it got me thinking as to who is actually left from Live Aid. Who survived and who faded away. Let’s look at Wembley first:

Status Quo – now pared down to two members, still touring whenever they want to and engaging in disgusting games, mainly called 'seagulling' from hotel balconies around the world.
Style Council – Paul Weller pulled the pin on this project in 1989 and finally, thankfully, went solo. Weller is still a force in music, and was highly regarded by bands such as Oasis. Released the brilliant Stanley Road album in the 1990s.
Boomtown Rats – Live Aid marked the final performance from Bob Geldof’s band. They split soon after, mainly due to Geldof concentrating on his humanitarian efforts. Some members occasionally tour as The Rats, but a reunion is highly unlikely.
Adam Ant – went nuts, culminating in his pulling an albeit fake gun on a patron in a bar. Still working and trying to find a record label.
Ultravox – Midge Ure’s project all the way. Finally split in 1987 and reformed in 2009 and touring.
Spandau Ballet –Split in the early 1990s and spent the following ten years engaging in legal action against each other for promised, unpaid, royalties. Managed to sort stuff out and are back and better than ever.
Elvis Costello – is still around, just being Elvis. When he’s not impressing people with his music he’s stunning us all by marrying Diana Krall.
Nik Kershaw – really was a minor player, sorry to say. One big hit, Wouldn’t It Be Good, and a few minor hits, such as The Riddle, was never a career going to make. Still gigs and records though, but you’ve not heard any of it. Truly the Robin Scott of the 1980s.
Sade – is still around and recently released another album. Is still as beautiful as ever and her voice is still able to make grown men cry from joy.
Sting – spent the bulk of the 1980s and beyond forging a successful solo career and being derided for his political leanings by the likes of John Lydon. Reformed The Police in 2007 and toured the world, has since gone back to be a solo act. Made some interesting music along the way – Fortress Around Your Heart is a definite lost classic of the 1980s.
Phil Collins – divorced his wife via fax. Finally left Genesis and went full solo, and rejoined Genesis in 2007. Took his most personal song, In The Air Tonight, and pimped it out for beer, chocolate and Mountain Dew commercials. Is running neck and neck with Eric Clapton for the ‘most pathetic use of a personal song for commercial gain’ award. Played at both venues, Wembley and Philadelphia, on the day.
Howard Jones – is still touring, sans hair. Released a brilliant live DVD upon which he dragged out Midge Ure and Nena to sing their 1980s hits as well, thus removing him from being a current act to being a high priced retro show.
Bryan Ferry – well Ferry wasn’t really 1980s was he? After converting a Smiths’ instrumental into a massive hit, went back to Roxy Music in 2001 and toured the world once more. Hasn’t done a lot since.
Paul Young & Alison Moyet – Paul Young was last seen burning pies on a Celebrity Kitchen show from the UK. His last album, Rock Swings, wasn’t released in 2006. Moyet, on the other hand, silently went into motherhood until coaxed out of semi-enforced retirement by Vince Clarke, with whom she reformed the might Yazoo and toured. Before that she spent a bit of time being a session singer, with clients such as Ocean Colour Scene, Tricky and The Lightning Seeds. Still puts out the occasional album.
U2 – faded away into obscurity. No, seriously, moved forward with the times and became one of the biggest bands of all time. Last album, No Line On The Horizon, is an absolute masterpiece. Bono has become the butt of a lot of jokes, mainly due to his insistence of asking people to give money to the poor at concerts, concerts where he’s just slugged tens of thousands around $150 each for a ticket. Also famous for tantrums and hiring a plane to fly a hat across the ocean.
Dire Straits – Mark Knopfler’s band and don’t you forget it. Toured the world for seemed like a decade non-stop before Knopfler finally pulled the pin in 1995. Has since scored many films and toured as a solo act and resisted the lure of lucre to reform Dire Straits. If he did reform the band then they could surely count on making more money than ABBA.
Queen – were close to calling it a day when Live Aid happened. The day was the shot in the arm they needed and most consider them to be the best thing that happened, along with U2 and Bowie. Went from strength to strength until the untimely death of vocalist Freddie Mercury in 1991. Have since reformed, albeit guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, and engaged the services of Paul Rogers, which would be like asking Dido to sing with Nine Inch Nails. Didn’t work, Rogers left after a few tours and an album that you never bought, and the due are now looking for a vocalist once more.
David Bowie – is still David Bowie. Possibly one of the biggest acts on the planet. Wasn’t a creation of the 1980s, along with Queen, but made them his own. Formed a band, called Tin Machine and released two albums which are criminally under-appreciated. Went back to being David Bowie and is still making quality music and is still on top of the world.
The Who – when they weren’t beating each other up they reformed and liked the money so much they stuck with it. The death of bassist John Entwhistle didn’t slow Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend down at all, neither did allegations of paedophilia against Townsend. Still touring.
Elton John – like David Bowie is still Elton John. Still throwing tantrums around the world and playing concerts that can range from 90 minutes to over three hours, depending on his mood. His co-performers have had mixed success. Kiki Dee is still touring and still releasing albums and DVD to her devoted fans. Wham! Meanwhile split soon after. Andrew Ridgeley released an album that should have seen him jailed for, and George Michael was on top of the world until he was arrested for soliciting lewd acts from an uncover policeman in the USA. Came out as gay soon after to the surprise of nobody and still tours. His popularity took a nosedive though, but can still pack ‘em in.
Paul McCartney – released a pile of non-descript albums until he, along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, decided to reform the Beatles with a dead John Lennon on vocals and keyboards. Made millions from the Beatles Anthology series and then went back to being Paul McCartney. The death of George Harrison thankfully put the kibosh on anymore Beatles reunions, although it’s now hard to say that McCartney was the most boring Beatle – after all he did marry, and subsequently divorce, a one-legged ex porn star with mental health issues. Brilliant!

Next I’ll look at the American side of things.

Monday, April 19, 2010

#163: Yesterday

Just a thought, now that Hey Hey It's Saturday has returned, unaltered with the same stale jokes that really weren't that funny in 1986, then surely the return of this show won't be that far behind.

I never had anything against Hey Hey - after all it was moderately amusing back in 1987 when I lived in Melbourne- but, seriously, once you've watched about a months worth of it, at any point in time, then you've seen every episode. Really. If you think I'm joking then visit their site and check out the 'Classic Video' section - the same stuff is now rehashed. The only thing that has changed is the colour of Daryl Somers wig, but that's about it. It would appear that John Blackman has dusted off his 1972 Joke Book, read some old Al Jaffee 'Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions' gags and is armed to go. And Wilbur Wilde, well he was never that funny in the first place, nor is he the best sax player in the country, in fact there's quite a few times when he's not the best sax player in the room.

I could continue to pick the holes in this crap all day, but frankly I can't be bothered.  Channel 9 would be better served if they took the money they're sinking into this steaming pile and actually invested in some decent Australian content, perhaps a drama show, or some comedy. Perhaps even a variety show that actually contains variety, humour and music and is relevant for today's audiences. Sadly Hey Hey no longer fits any of those bills and has finally become Ho Hum It's Banality.

After all there was a legitimate reason why that show was cancelled in the first place. Let's not forget the main reason why - it was out of date.  Watching Hey Hey today is like looking into a time capsule.  You might be hoping to get Frank Sinatra on the Dean Martin Show, but instead you're getting Frank Sinatra Jr on the Joey Bishop Show.  I expect more Australians would watch repeats of a genuinly funny show, such as Blankety Blanks with Graham Kennedy, than they would watch 'new' editions of Hey Hey.  Still, if it rates then it remains on the screen.  How else do you explain such tripe as Home And Away and Neighbours?  Quality television drama just drips off the screen in those half hours doesn't it?

To cap it off, doesn't it sound a bit, well schizophrenic to have a show titled Hey Hey It's Saturday screening, first run, on a Wednesday evening?  Even Don Lane wasn't that thick.

Still if the networks want to bring anyone back then why not dig out good ole Deadly Earnest.  Or bring back the Curiosity Show?  Perhaps dig up Julius Sumner Miller?  I'm sure that someone, with the right software, can have the Professor demaning, "Why is it so?" to anyone within a few minutes.  Sonny Tufts anyone?

As a bonus, here's a couple of photos of quality South Australian television.  The shot of Humphrey Bear dates from early 1966 - the cigarette was airbrushed out.  You can put it in where it clearly once was.  Although I enjoyed Humphrey Bear I'll freely admit that I absolutely adored Fat Cat, if for no other reason than it featured Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot! Life didn't get any better than those days really.

As for the other image, dating from 1971, does anyone, other than myself, remember Hot Dog?  I loved that guy!  Same with Wilbur Worm.  Winky Dink, along with that other childrens icon Fat Cat, survived into the late 1980s, but sadly Hot Dog and Wilbur Worm didn't make it to the end of the 1970s.  Such a shame really.  As a youngun I once had a Hot Dog doll.  I lost it in a fairly bad car accident near Mildura in the mid 1970s and I've been looking for another one ever since.  Anyone got any ideas as to where I might be able to source one?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

#162: Bord To Be Alive

The current Premier's wife was in a ‘rock’ band in the 1980s? Who amongst us wasn’t? At least mine was crap, but I did manage to reach a higher position in the 3-D charts than Sasha did. Mind you this was when 3-D was called Triple M, before the country wide radio network broke into Australia and the station sold its name for a pint of beer (financial dealings back then were handled by idiots with zero negotiating skills. I kid you not about the pint of beer. The final sale was around the same amount that’d get you a second hand Datsun 180B and a handful of blank tape was thrown in. The people doing the 'negotiating' for what would become 3-D were overjoyed by that, the bulk of the station were dismayed as an opportunity to set it up, financially, for quite a bit of time to come, was gone.  15 years plus of name brand and goodwill had gone down the chute for nothing.  I’m sure that the Triple M network people are still laughing at that deal – akin to Fremantle FC trading Andrew McLeod for a dud).

I never saw Psychotronix but I can assure you that nobody ever saw Neal Sadistic perform either. Who was Neal Sadistic? None other than yours truly! Yes, I can finally reveal, after all these years, that I was Neal Sadistic and that I reached the #2 spot on the Triple M charts on the 7th of March, 1993 with my not so original song, Bord To Be Alive. How did this happen?

Easy. I used to spend a lot of time at the station at around the same time as my marriage was crumbling into dust. I’d hear several demo tapes come by and ‘finished’ performances by people who couldn’t sing, play or write a decent tune to save their lives. The charts, at the time, were full of crap, and I believed that if shit sells, well I’m going to add to it. Not that I ever made a cent from Neal Sadistic or the massive chart success that I had. Armed with several reels of blank tape, tape, razor blades and several dozen samples, ranging from sound bites of Terminator and Highlander flicks through to Warner Brothers cartoons, video game music, interviews and more, I entered the production studios when nobody else was around (at Triple M that was usually anytime after 11pm on any given night – the hardcore subversives would have gone home to bed so they’d not be tired for work the next day, and the hippies would be too stoned to move). I then started to pull apart several instrumentals and inserted samples and other musical elements – the usual guerrilla tactics that I admired in acts such as the KLF and Negativeland – and arranged the songs so that they sounded nothing like they once did. My first efforts weren’t that bad, one, titled ‘Bastards’, even got some minor radio play, notwithstanding the swearing throughout the song. But it wasn’t enough, I’d not dented the charts. Something was needed.

I always knew that the full version of Patrick Hernadez’s Born To Be Alive contained the complete song as a dub, a good four minutes plus of music and backing vocals. I quickly edited that down to the musical core (again, using nothing but a razor blade and that thin white tape used to join recording tape together) and inserted a voice saying, “Rock and roll has got to go!” at the beginning. I then added a few other samples, including Curley from the Three Stooges (“Woo woo woo” and ‘N’yuk n’yuk n’yuk” amongst them) and added some assorted, bizarre sounds. I’m going from memory here as I’ve not heard the song since around 1994. I do have it here, on reel to reel tape, but I’ve no way of playing it. Somewhere is a five track cassette that I did of other songs, but for some stupid reason, I left off the only hit I ever had. Go figure.

Once the song was ‘finished’ I played it to a few people. Most chuckled but it was missing something and that something was vocals. I sat down and in twenty minutes had taken the melody of Born To Be Alive and re-written it as Bord To Be Alive, lifting actual lines and writing the song about various things that had happened in the station at the time, including the mystery person who used to find it amusing to urinate in the coffee machine. Nope, it wasn’t me, although I was blamed, but then if war had broken out I’d have been blamed for that too, such was the hatred and dislike for me by the majority of the station. Such is life. Anyway, I needed vocals and had no idea how to sing them, or what I wanted. I spoke to a pal of mine who happened to be a vocal coach and she suggested that I take a few lessons as my voice wasn’t that bad to begin with. I was sceptical, but went along regardless as we both had designs on each other, and once we were both single we cashed in on those designs.

“You need to tell me what you want,” she said, “Who do you want to sound like?” By then it was clear in my head. “Jesus Built My Hotrod” by Ministry was, and still is, one of my favourite tunes and I wanted a vocal approach of Gibby Haynes similar to what he did on that track. “Too easy,” she said and went about showing me how to achieve that guttural vocal approach, which I can still do, and how to project it into the microphone. She stressed the importance of rehearsal, even to just speak the words, so that the lyrics would become second nature. I did that for a week and we both went into the production studio to lay down the vocals (by this stage I’d become a whiz with tape and could talk the talk). We set the microphones up and off I went.

I could only do two takes before blood began to come from my throat; such was the violence that I sang. I think my vocal chords took a month to recover. However in two takes we had the vocals, so I laid them onto the backing track, mixed the lot down and produced the cart containing the song. I then labelled it and placed it in the demo pile and went along my merry way not giving a thought to it.

Then it happened. About a fortnight later I was driving home, turned on the radio and there it was, on the chart show, no less. It’d entered the charts at #4, just behind The Hummingbirds, Dinosaur Jr and the Lemonheads. I was amazed and kind of happy all at once. The following week was a bit of a blur, but the song did hit #2 in the second weeks charts (kept off by Jesus Jones) and then vanished for good. It wasn’t that it stopped being played, what happened was that certain people around the station discovered that I had put the song together and, citing conflict of interest, removed it from chart contention. This was despite the fact that many band members working at the station would either endlessly play their music in order on their shows or politik it to everyone in order for it to hit the charts. A higher chart position would equate to a better price for gigs and longer lasting success. Never happened for any of them. A quick look at the chart reveals a pile of local bands whose members are either driving cabs now or are still on the dole. Go for it!
Despite me personally pumping quite a few thousand dollars into the station my time ended badly. A practical joke went wrong and, as usual, I wore the total blame and was apparently banned for life, not that anybody told me then, or indeed will tell me now. There was no natural justice, but such natural justice, general defence, the right to respond to allegations and right of reply always went out the window where certain people were concerned. There were bylaws, but these were ignored when it suited some people. Frankly I have no desire to talk about that time period, nor the small minded peanuts that were in charge of the station at the time, and who cost the station several hundreds of thousands in misappropriated, stolen and lost money, yet walked away clean. I’d like to go back and work the airwaves again, but I have no desire to go anywhere near a pack of people who don’t want me there. Still, I have the charts and, somewhere, I have the tapes to prove that I was a rockstar, albeit an anonymous one, for a fortnight.

And clearly my effort was better than anything Sacha could produce, after all I reached one spot higher. Well done to me!