Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#200: Forever Live And Die

A while back a close pal of mine asked me what I thought the most perfect album released was. I answered, as I always do, without any hesitation, “In my own worthless opinion, What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye is the best album ever released.” My pal took this in but still thinks that Exile On Main Street is a killer. And it is. To use the cliché, it’s a motherfucker of an album that still holds up, and the recently released outtakes are incredible. They’d be any other band’s hit singles. Then I was asked, what’s the most perfect song ever released? I began to ponder, but in my pondering I already knew the answer. Then it hit me like a studded cattle prod up the Gary Glitter, and it said, “This is an opening verse that Mick Jagger WISHES he was good enough to have written.”

We can dance if we want to,
And leave your friends behind.
‘Cause your friends don’t dance
And if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

Good music comes in all shapes and forms, but ultimately it’s only ever good if you enjoy it, otherwise you’re nothing more than an elitist. Marillion has released several billion albums, but only one song of theirs has reached me, Kayleigh, a powerful song about the loss of innocence and eternal love, with imagery that can, if it gets you at the right time, make you openly weep in public. Great song. I feel the same way about Into Dust by Mazzy Star, or Pavarotti singing Ave Maria and any number of songs that you might otherwise think are crap.  Hell, if you can reach Nirvana via Hellhound On My Trail, then you're doing better than most.

Men Without Hats? Men Without Jobs by now surely.

Could Jagger have written the Safety Dance? Perhaps, perhaps not. It’s debatable if Jagger could write something so simplistic, but then have a listen to Satisfaction – that wasn’t written by a mental giant. Lyrically it’s not much more advanced than Un Paloma Blanca or even Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime. Actually Satisfaction, lyrically at least, is on a par with Rocket Ride by Kiss. Has Bob Dylan ever written anything as instantly catchy as ‘New York, London, Paris, Munich, everybody’s talkin’ bout, mmmmm pop music” or “Twenty five whores in the room next door, twenty five floors and I need more” or “I love rock and roll, so put another dime in the jukebox baby”?  I’ll answer that for you – no, he hasn’t and he never will. I might like Dylan but the truth is that if you put any Dylan song on at a party then you’re gonna kill it dead. Conversely if you put I Want You Back by the Hoodoo Gurus on at a party and people don’t dance, then go home, they’re all dead. A good Dave Faulkner tune can make zombies boogie. On the other side of the fence is the likes of Justin Beiber, someone whose singing voice is slightly less annoying than a man slurping soup loudly. Then again…

But then nobody is releasing books devoted the meaning of Robin Scott’s lyrics. Or Judie Tzuke, John Oates, Peter Schilling or even Joey Scarbury for that matter. But they should. And especially Andy Prieboy. After all it’s very easy to write a song in the ‘vein of’, but bloody hard to write an original song - just ask Madonna, who has made a career out of jumping onto bandwagons and stealing ABBA songs. David Lee Roth tells a great story about a time when he was auditioning guitarists. Loads of them came in and began playing Van Halen songs, note for note. Roth would sit there until they finished and then would lean forward and ask, “Ok, now can you play me something you wrote?” Around 49 out of 50 guitarists were stumped at this. Roth didn’t want someone who could play Van Halen, he wanted someone who could play their own music. After all, Roth once had Van Halen, so anyone else was always going to be a poor carbon copy, other than Steve Vai. Roth should have gone off and written songs with Billy Gibbons for what's worth.

I knew an ape like that. He could play any heavy metal song you’d want to think of, note for note, but when a few of us would jam he’d be lost. Unless we were playing a song that he knew he’d not be able to contribute. He released a CD and gave me a copy, which I happily and rapidly lost, but before I did ‘misplace’ it I had a listen. If I closed my eyes I could almost see him, in the studio, and recognise what Dream Theatre song he was listening to when he recorded his ‘music’. Foul. Any monkey with an iota of talent can write a song like Tomorrow Wendy, but it takes Prieboy to write it. Sean Kelly (Token Angel) can steal from Robbie Robertson (Fallen Angel), but that says more about Kelly’s lack of ability, at the time, than anything else. Wang Dang Poontang!

So, what is the most perfect song, in my view? Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World. Why? Because it’s a beautiful piece of music, a beautiful vocal. It’s the song that I walked down the aisle to and the song I wish to be buried to. Feel free to disagree with me, but I’m telling you right now, you’re so bloody wrong it’s not funny.

And therein lies the joy of music. 

Now 'scuse me while I kiss the sky.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

#199: Drinkenstein

And I quote from the comments on this fine piece of country music, "It's like an atomic bomb of shit detonating directly on my eyeball."  Amen brother, amen.  May no-one ever allow this man near a microphone again.  Fucker scared all of my cats when he started wailing, dogs were howling four streets across and several little old ladies phoned the police and reported an escaped lunatic who they believed was acting like a werewolf.

Having said that, ladies, if you're looking for the perfect gift then go no futher than this:
It's a shame that Benny Hill didn't think of this, he'd have a field day with it, as it was he had to be content with smacking the shit out Jackie Wright and thus inventing the expression, 'slaphead', which is now in common usage to define bald headed old bastards who refuse to wear a syrup, much like all of my brothers.

#198: Love Me, Do

Looks good, doesn't it? An Australian Beatles Programme for the 1964 tour, you know the one - the only time they ever visited the country and the source of an ongoing feud between Ernest Sigley and Robert Francis. But seriously, this isn't the original programme, it's a lovely reproduction that was issued in 2004, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the tour. The reproduction is perfect in every way, and to ensure that people aren't fooled and ripped off into paying the few hundred that an original programme costs, it actually has text detailing the reproduction on the rear cover.

Still it's a great artefact to own and if you can't afford an original, then this is the next best thing to have.

How much do they cost?  Depends on who you buy it from and where you find it.  Amazingly I found three brand new ones this morning at one of the many trash and treasures that are held around Adelaide for a whopping $5 each.  That's right, three of them for $15 all up.  Tasty.

The programme is full of the usual propaganda, but the stuff that always interests me are the ads and the peripheral material - such as this brilliant ad for the Melbourne Southern Cross - get a room for as little as four pounds per day.  I'm betting that the Beatles paid a bit more than that.

And Vox amplifiers.  It didn't matter what instrumentation that the Beatles used, nobody could hear them over the screaming idiots that went to the show, but then again things aren't that much different these days, especially if you see something like Justin 'Wanker' Beiber, just on a much smaller scale.  Trust me Beiber, you might think you're it and a bit, but you're nothing and, to my ears, you sound like a female version of Usher anyway.

Bring back real music.

Friday, June 18, 2010

#198: Turn Up Your Radio

Back in my former career as an Occupational Egg Beater I had the chance to present a radio show here in Adelaide on a major radio station. The show ran every Thursday evening and I’d talk about all kinds of crap and interview all kinds of people, some good, some, well, not so good. As always, the best stories came when we went off the air and were over at the pub, but, as any Lunchtime O’Booze will tell you, that’s generally when the good stuff is spilt, both in and out of the glasses.

As we’re dealing with many things Adelaide, I’ll share a couple of the stories that were told to me off air. One such story involved the band The Masters Apprentices. I’m not going to name names here, but one evening we had three of the Masters, two via a phone hook-up and one live in the studio. The Live Apprentice was a damned good guy indeed, very happy, quick of wit and somewhat pleased that we’d managed to dig out some really obscure stuff of his to showcase over the past few months. Good guy and when I see him I generally stop and say hello and he does the same, but it has been a few years between drinks. This one evening we were so caught up in the memories that we didn’t notice that time had escaped us, so when we got the thirty second warning we hastily said out goodbyes, off air we went and out came the red as we stayed on the conference call for another twenty minutes, most of which was recorded for future use, not that it was used, but I still have the tape somewhere.

As we were leaving someone mentioned the garish stage clothes that the Apprentices used to wear and my guest hung his head. As he told me he’d taken possession of the bulk of the stage clothing once he’d left the band and had stored it at his mothers place. Flash forward about twenty years and he went to collect it, only to discover that his dear mother had donated the lot to the Salvos only a year or so before. All that satin, velour and velvet, gone forever. I could have cried myself. So, historians, that’s why you rarely see any stage clothing from that era for the Masters Apprentices.

The other story, well I won’t name the band but they were huge in the ‘60s and very early ‘70s and no, they weren't the Masters Apprentices. Massive, in fact, but they then split up and went their separate ways, with one guy becoming huge in America, one becoming huge worldwide in another band and the other trading barbs with a stuffed animal on kiddies TV. Here’s how this story was told to me by the guy it happened to. One of the members of the band was contacted by a well known DJ here who was ‘collaborating’ with a brilliant journalist on a book about South Australian music. The musician gave an interview to the journo and the DJ asked if he could borrow the musicians rare tapes and acetates, consisting of demo recordings and live material from the Adelaide version of the Cavern Club, that used to be on Rundle Street, now Rundle Mall (where Muses now is), all for 'research' mind you. The musician handed over his prized booty and off the DJ went. The musician waited for the return of his rare music, but nope.

About two years later he was stunned to see the tapes had been released on album, fully credited and attributed to the DJ. This was the musicians property, so he phoned the DJ but didn’t get through. He then went to the radio station, announced himself, sat down and waited. An hour later he was escorted off the premises. This happened more than once as he attempted, without success, to get his property back. He then contacted the record label who had released the tapes and demos and filled them in on what had happened. They told him that the DJ had said that he’d ‘found the acetates and tapes in an op shop, or in a record library, he wasn’t sure where’. The musician said that the material was his and, by the way, he’d like to get paid.

Nothing doing and please fuck off and don't call us again. That was the end of that conversation. He never got his acetates or tapes back from the DJ, and he became a very bitter person for it. The DJ, mind you, went from strength to strength, some of it on the back of a book that he had nothing to do with, other than lending his name and photo to the cover – seemingly he didn’t write a word, but he got the credit anyway.

I had the misfortune to work with the same DJ a few years later. Never again. I was staggered at his utter lack of knowledge of music in general – if it wasn’t written down he’d not say anything. He began to argue with me over a few points, when they were resolved in my favour, and verified by the artists in question, he accused me of undermining him. In one of my finer moments I said that the only way to undermine a man such as himself was to merely provide facts to refute the bullshit that he dribbled.

Thus ended my brilliant career in television. Such is life. The DJ was stricken a few years back and I’m not sure if he’s still alive. I hope he is and, and this is a horrid thing to think let alone say, I hope he’s in a lot of pain. He certainly created enough pain of his own as he merrily went along, ruining careers and lives with no regard for the consequences.

Music is full of such stories and I’m happy to share some of the ones I know. No names though, but the dots are there for anyone with half a brain to connect.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

#197: The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking.

You just don't see these kinds of things anymore.  A classic souvenir of the Majestic Cinema, dated 1942, but then you don't see too many cinemas in Adelaide anymore either.  Sadly it seems that crappy hotel chains have moved in, pulled the best ones down and put up bloody great buildings that block out the sun in a park for the bulk of the day.

But that's progression for you. Some made out like a bandit on that deal.  It was probably a better deal than seeing Lucky Jordan, a movie so forgettable that it doesn't even turn up on the community TV channel, ACE TV, let alone Channel 7's Midday Movie these days.

Still, Alan Ladd was Shane and he did pop up at the end of Citizen Kane, not that you were aware of it, but trust me, he's there, the bloody midget, and he did make an impact in This Gun For Hire.  This card is probably life sized, the sawed off little high heel wearing, box standing bastard.  I never rated Ladd as an actor, other than about three movies, one being Shane, but Ladd was gifted the part when Montgomery Clift pulled out.  Good thing for Ladd as Clift would have killed in the role, as he did with virtually everything he did.

And acting with Clift would have meant that Jean Arthur wouldn't have had to walk in a ditch.

"Shane! Shane! Come back Shane!"  Run for President!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

#196: Cut A Long Story Short

Like anyone who is over the age of 40 I grew up watching both The Addams Family and the Munsters. Loved them both. The Munsters rocked in the vehicle department, but the Addams Family had something special – Morticia Addams. I didn’t know, at the time, but I always preferred watching the Addams Family. For years I thought it might be due to the insane sense of humour, or perhaps the gothic setting, beats me. But then I had the chance to see and meet John Astin, aka Gomez Addams, aka Evil Roy Slade, doing his brilliant one-man Edgar Allan Poe show here and was enthralled.

After the show I waited by the stage door and got the chance to meet him and got some stuff signed, along with a number of other people. Astin was lovely; he made a point of talking to everyone, signing everything that he was asked to and posing for photos. He might have been a television star, but he was a major star in my eyes – hell, it was GOMEZ! The proper Gomez at that.

When he reached me we got to talking about The Munsters versus The Addams Family as a preferred show. I told him that I did prefer the Addams Family, but I never knew why. He then asked which did I prefer, Lili Munster or Morticia Addams? I replied, "Morticia,” and then it hit me, “because while you might have wanted Lily to tuck you into bed, even as a kid, I wanted Morticia to climb into bed with me."

He looked at me and started to laugh and did a perfect Gomez: "Capitol choice, old man!" Then he giggled a bit and said, "You know, I always felt the same about Morticia myself. Glad I wasn't alone".

Some of the best few minutes of my life, and I’m pleased it took Gomez himself to help me find the answer to a pressing question in my life.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

#195: Return To Sender

The things you find when you buy a lot of stuff without seeing. In a recent lot of what was otherwise garbage these little historical artefacts emerged. The first is a letter of thanks to the Adelaide band The Macmen. According to Dean Mittelhauser’s excellent article from the The Livin’ End #3, “The In-Sect originally formed in Adelaide around 1961 as Dave Thunder & The Macmen (although there was no one in the band called Dave Thunder.) The band’s early members included Tony Martin and Simon Paul (who later wrote their two classic punkers.) The band played the local dance scene for the few years, and by late 1965, their line-up had stabilised at: Frank Sebastyan (vocals), Geoff Pretty (drums), Phil Wooding (guitar), Allan Sands (bass) and Peter Manuel (organ). They released their first 45 in February ‘66, the dire “CLAP YOUR HANDS“. I say dire because it really was pretty bad and it gave little hint of the wild tracks they were later to cut. It was about this time that they became the In-Sect, a pointed reference to the Beatles.”

You wouldn't want to lay odds on finding such documents in their purest form, as most of them would now be destroyed over time. But, here it is.

In the same bunch were these two documents relating to the Boomerang Club in Brighton. I'll be the first to admit that I know absolutely nothing about the Boomerang Club, other than the fact that Ivan Dayman ended up running/owning it (as can be seen from these two documents) and that he ended up moving it to Brisbane.  I expect that someone, somewhere, would love to get these items, if so, if someone actually has a proper historical society going, then feel free to make contact and we'll take it from there.  Glenn A Baker need not apply.

More to come.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

#194: No More People (Mondegreen)

I never could afford to buy the Kiss comic when it was released in 1977. Hell, I was only ten years old, so it wasn't like I even knew about it, as it would have been hidden behind the Spider-Man comics and would have cost too much for me to afford on my limited funds.  Hell, when I think back to the late 1970s I think I lifted more comics than I bought, until I discovered a second hand shop down at Elizabeth South that'd sell all their comics for about five cents each, covers and no covers.  I'd grab a few bucks and go for it.  Never saw the Kiss comic though.

I did read about it as I was growing up, and eventually I did finally see a copy.  I wanted it, but I wasn't about to pay the $100 that the guy who had it wanted for it.  Bastard.  So I passed.  I was gutted, but hey, such is life.

When I finally got a copy I was stunned.  The art, by Alan Weiss, who is now a close pal of mine, was nothing short of amazing.  The story was, well bizarre, but then again it was written by Steve Gerber, a man who created Howard The Duck and also brought us Giant-Size Man-Thing.  I had the chance to speak to Steve before he passed away, what a guy, as funny as you'd want and as generous as they came. 

Back to the comic.  The selling point of the comic was that the thing was actually printed in real Kiss blood!  The photos in the comic book told the story, that the band went to a doctor, rolled up their sleeves, had some blood taken out and stored it.  About three months later they wandered down to the printing press and poured the vials of blood into the red ink.  Along the way they had the whole process documented and notarized and witnessed by, amongst others, Stan Lee, Gerber and Weiss, who were present at both the drawing and pouring of the blood. Gene Simmons remembered, "As the KISS comic book project moved along, someone came up with the idea of putting real blood in the ink. It wasn't me — maybe it was Bill [Aucoin] or Sean [Delaney]. We got into a DC3, one of those big prop planes, and flew up to Buffalo to Marvel's printing plant, where they pour the ink and make comic books. A notary public actually witnessed the blood being drawn."

There's another story I could tell about Stan Lee and Kiss, but I'll hold that back for the time being.

Thrilling, eh?  Well, not so thrilling really.  The urban myth has it that the blood never reached the comic book.  Recently I recieved an email that had this to say about the blood/ink combination.  "The band, having done their photo-op with their blood being poured into the ink leave the printing-plant. Later, the printer has to get an issue of Sports Illustrated done and, without a thought, used the red ink that was supposed to be for the KISS Super Special. No one made a big deal out of it when it was found out, because after all, who is really going to be able to tell if there's blood in the ink used or not? Thus, none of the KISS Super Special has "REAL KISS BLOOD!!!" ... but there's an issue of Sports Illustrated that does!"

Now I have no idea if that's the truth, or not, but damned if it doesn't make for a great story.  Now if only Kiss would actually pay the original creative teams royalties each time they reprint the stories, but then that'd be asking too much, wouldn't it?

What we do have left is some incredible art and a story that was as wild as they come. No matter how bad the reprints look, and frankly they look horrid, the original comic book is well worth tracking down, which is what I'm going to start doing.

Oh, and don't bother looking for any of the original art from the book, Gene bought it all at the time.