1/30/09

Heirs of Antmusic

May 4, 1979 is the date Margaret Thatcher took power. Punk music is said to have been officially pronounced dead on this day, and so it was the birthday of New Wave music.

The term "New Wave" is such an amorphous umbrella that it has been used to include anything from Wham! to The Ramones. It was coined by Malcolm MacLaren, the Sex Pistols' controversial manager, in 1976; however, the common conception of New Wave changed from being interchangeable with punk to being post punk music. Where punk by its very nature never could garner much financial success, the New Wave acts instantly started scoring big hits.

Who was the first? Well, you could argue that question all day long, but Adam Ant (album Kings of the Wild Frontier) was surely among the first big successes (interestingly enough, Ant's mother was a house cleaner for Paul McCartney).

Antmusic pocketed loads of cash and danced on the grave of punk, and thus a new brand of music was unleashed upon the world. It was perfect timing too, because MTV happened to come along at that time and the two were a match made in heaven.

Here's a few great tunes from this era that perhaps went under the radar in the US. There was such a great influx of musicians getting in on the New Wave gravy train, that I think a lot of great music got missed.

"Runaways" by XTC


I remember reading in a magazine in 1982 that the best album of the year was English Settlement by XTC. I thought to myself, "Who the hell is XTC?"
Of course, my favorite record at that time was Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, if that gives you an idea of my musical tastes in 1982.

"Seven Seas" by Echo & the Bunnymen


Everyone from Hall & Oates to Wall of Voodoo found a home somewhere on MTV in the early days. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the more "alternative" New Wave bands were relegated to the fringes and only shown at odd hours on The Cutting Edge or later on 120 Minutes. Thus, many bands like Siouxie and the Banshees, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Cure went largely unnoticed by the mainstream in The States (unless you happened to have KROQ on your radio dial).

"Working Girl" by The Members


This song starts slow but has a great hook and is the perfect example of a 1970s punk band morphing into a 1980s New Wave band. The Members didn't last long after this hit single, but it was interesting to see these raunchy 70s punkers putting out pop friendly songs with videos sandwiched between Duran Duran and Men Without Hats.

Issue 15 of Tops comic, January 16th, 1982

1/29/09

Why I Watched Steve Austin Get Captured by Killer Sharks

What was TV like for kids in the late 70s/early 80s? I don't think any description I could give would quite do it justice. Let's just say that on any given night you might find The Six Million Dollar Man trapped on a nuclear sub with a smoking hot woman who can control sharks! Or (holy shit!) Shaun Cassidy and Pamela Sue Martin go to a Transylvania rock concert and meet up with friggin Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein!

You're thinking: So what? It's only TV, so who cares?

Well, back then, it was a big deal because you basically had nothing else to do during prime time.
(1) It was too dark to keep playing outside.
(2) No one did homework back then. None. Zero.
(3) Boomer parents were way too wrapped up in themselves to orchestrate any activities, thank goodness.
(4) There was no internet or video games or cell phones (if you wanted to talk to your friends, it was on a harvest yellow non-cordless phone in the kitchen).

Maybe I don't speak for everyone, but even if everything I said is false, you can't deny the incredible line up that was on TV night after night. I listed the 1980 lineup on a previous post, and it is striking.

And on an unrelated note...

I came across this ad for Fridays, a SNL rip off that was actually pretty good in its own right. It had a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards and Larry David with fro!

Also featuring Mark Blankfield, who starred in possibly the most brazen endorsement or cocaine in the history of cinema - the disco flick Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde... Together Again. I first saw it on Night Flight (remember Night Flight?) and have never been quite able to shake the memory.

Note: The ads were swiped from the wonderful Branded in the 80s, which hasn't had a new post since Christmas and I'm going through withdrawals.

1/28/09

Crossing Over from the Music Biz


Did you know that Chuck Barris of The Gong Show wrote "Palisades Park" (1962)? I found out only fairly recently around the time of George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind based on Barris' psuedo-autobiography.

Here's a few other celebs that had a previous life in music.

1. Throughout my childhood I knew Shel Silverstein simply as the author of the silly children's books Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) and A Light in the Attic. Much later, it came to my attention that he'd also written an impressive catalog of songs including "A Boy Named Sue" for Johnny Cash and "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" for Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show (who, if you've been reading Retrospace, you know this group placed real high on The Ugliest Bands of All Time list).

2. This from a previous post: Marcia Strassman (Julie Kotter on "Welcome Back, Kotter") actually had a recording career in the late sixties. Her song "The Groovy World of Jack & Jill" was released in 1967. Her other recordings were typical hippie fare like "The Flower Children", a song written by Jerry Goldstein, the guy who wrote "I Want Candy" (covered later by Bow Wow Wow).

3. Vicki Lawrence is probably best remembered for her appearances on The Carol Burnett Show and the spin-off Mama's Family. Before all that, however, Vicki had a number one hit with "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" - a song Cher was supposed to sing, but Sonny turned it down.

**Update*** correction courtesy Booksteve
I guess I should've known Vicki had actually been with The Carol Burnett Show since 1967, a good while before her song was recorded. Add Vicki's name to the long. long list of actors and actresses who've tried their hand at a music career. I wrote a post about it called Goldie Hawn, Telly Savalas and Other Celebrity Albums a while back. Personal fave: David Soul... Don't give up on us baby.

4. Many may know Ronn Moss from Bold and the Beautiful or the T&A flicks like Hard Ticket to Hawaii. He has recently been an object of jest on the TV show The Soup - the clip of him yelling "RICK!!!" over and over is hysterical (see it here). I found it surprising to learn that he was in the 70s band Player who scored a big hit with "Baby Come Back". I wrote almost an entire post on this believe it or not (man, I need to branch out).

1/27/09

Music Lists #2: 20 Reasons Why Disco Died

A lot of speculation has been made about the reason for the sudden backlash against disco at the close of the 70s. Perhaps it was grounded more in elitism, homophobia and racism than simply a reaction against bad music. While that may be true for some, the fact is that disco had become omnipresent by 1979; commercialized beyond all reckoning. What began as an innovative and underground sound had become a clownish watered down behemoth. Disco had reached critical mass and imploded under its own weight by the close of 1980.

I can't begin to list all of the insanely improbable and brazenly awful examples of late 70s disco projects, so let's take look at 20 reasons (in no particular order) why disco bit the dust.

1. The Ethel Merman Disco Album (1979) - Listen here (courtesy of Frank's Vinyl Museum ); here's a tip: have large doses of hydrocodone handy to help dull the pain

2. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart (1978)

3. "Soul Dracula" by Hot Blood (1977) - Listen here

4. "I Was Made for Loving You" by KISS (1978) - Listen here to have Paul Stanley destroy your faith in rock music forever.

5. Avenging Disco Godfather (1980) - Oceans of polyester, roller-skating, and indiscriminate use of neon make this film one of the leading culprits in the death of disco.

6. The Sesame Street Fever LP (1978)- Listen to the disco version of Rubber Duckie; followed closely by the Sesame Disco! LP in 1979



7. The Polka Disco LP (1979) - the two most hated words in music -- brought together for the first (and probably the last) time on this 1979 release from Jimmy Sturr and his orchestra. See it here.

8. Disco Christmas albums - For example, Disco Noel (1979); listen to a track here courtesy of Frank's Vinyl Museum - also see Christmas Disco Party and Christmas Disco below (click to enlarge).












9. The disco version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Ronnie Aldrich (1978) - Listen here and pretend your disgusted by it, but secretly love its funky grooves.

10. Can't Stop the Music (1980) - This film starred Steve Guttenberg, Bruce Jenner and The Village People. If you're wondering what's so bad about it, then perhaps you need to read the previous sentence again.

11. Dazzler - Imagine Olivia Newton John, circa "Xanadu", as a Marvel superhero. Now imagine her powers are really, really shitty. You got Dazzler! (Note: by the 1980s, Disco Dazzler had morphed into Flashdance Dazzler)

12. Dance Fever - This show actually outlasted disco, running from 1979 to 1987.

13. Roller Disco -This lame idea was marketed at any and every opportunity. A slew of roller disco movies all came out at once: Xanadu (starring Olivia Newton-John), Roller Boogie (starring Linda Blair), and Skatetown U.S.A.(starring Maureen McCormick).


14. The Saturday Night Fiedler LP- From 1930 to 1979, Boston’s native son Arthur Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops orchestra. Listen to Night on Disco Mountain to hear him piss it all away.

15. "A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy (1976). It is my personal belief that the spirit of the great composer placed a curse on disco after the release of this song.

16. Unforgivable Album Covers - Every genre of music has its share of bad album covers, but disco LP's seemed to thrive on buyer displeasure. I wonder how many lines of coke were snorted off the cover of this LP?

17. "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots (1976). "All of a sudden I began to change. I was on the dance floor acting strange. Flapping my arms, I began to cluck. Look at me, I'm the..." MAKE IT STOP!!!!!

18. "Street Player" by Chicago (1979). We can forgive Streisand and Herb Alpert for going disco, but this is where Cetera really began losing street cred. Listen here.

19. As early as November 28, 1976, the warning signs of disco's demise were already appearing on the pilot episode of The Brady Bunch Hour. The fake Jan and the rest of the Bradys dance to "The Hustle" and "Shake Your Booty". Yes, disco had already jumped the shark by the end of '76.

20. Staying Alive (1983)... the final nail in the coffin. Disco R.I.P.

1/26/09

My Favorite Joyces

As you might expect, when I turn the TV on these days it's to watch shows (via Netflix) from around the 1970s... current TV just doesn't do it for ol' Gilligan. I've tried shows like American Idol, Desperate Housewives and Dancing with the Stars, but I tend to vomit in my mouth then black out half way through. I enjoy a lot of contemporary movies, it's the current TV I find to be... well, I think Kindertrauma said it best:

...nearly unwatchable, soul-destroying slip and slide ride into an endless abyss that will have you scrambling to piece together not only your will to live, but your tattered faith in humanity.

Of course, Kindertrauma was not referring to television, but rather a horror film (Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door), but I think it applies here.

Anyway, I'm taking the long way around to saying that you'd do well to turn off the cable and turn on Tony Orlando and Dawn's variety show. You won't find a better more likeable entertainer than Orlando, and a more talented singing duo than Dawn. Watching it recently, I was amazed at how well Orlando worked a crowd, how skilled and versatile they were as performers, and... how much I liked Joyce.

Orlando was the flamboyant crowd pleaser, Telma Hopkins was sassy (many may remember her from Gimme a Break), and Joyce Vincent Wilson was just quiet and nice. I liked Joyce, and still do. Her peaceful easy attitude, winning smile, and beautiful voice sooth me. This world needs more Joyce. If I were Obama, I'd fire Hillary and hire Joyce... what foreign despot, no matter how hardened and cruel, could resist the warm and cozy Joyce? Kim Jong-il will be singing "Candida" after two minutes with m'lady Joyce.

Joyce #2 is, of course, Ms. DeWitt.

Working alongside one of the top sex symbols of the 70s, DeWitt's contributions to Three's Company are often overlooked. But for every Ginger, you need a Mary-Ann - a girl-next-door to balance out the bombshell.

She maybe wasn't a comic genius like Ritter, but she held her own. She was likeable, often funny in a self-deprecating way, and really was quite a good actress. I think the whole Three's Company experience left a bad taste in her mouth for a while, and she dropped off the face of the earth following the show's cancellation. She might've gone on to bigger and better things had she given it a shot.

And Joyce #3 is the mysterious Mrs. Drake.

There are only ten known copies of the Joyce album in existence, making this album the holy grail of bizarre LP collectors. I could go on and on about my sick infatuation with Joyce, and my obsession with finding her true identity, but I'll just point you to a previous post instead. In the meantime you can listen to a song from her album here... the voice of an angel.

1/25/09

Trivia Newton-John #2

Question:

The man in this picture would love to get romantic with the girl he's sitting next to. Unfortunately, he just can't. What's his problem?

Leave your answer in the comments section. Be the first to guess correctly and win a nice Trivia Newton-John Award to place proudly in your blog's sidebar. When the correct answer is given, I will post the award for the winner. Good luck!


**Update**
Congratulations to Furious D. The man in the picture is in fact dead. Claim your trophy!

Vintage Men's Mags #1: When Animals Attack

"Sell the sizzle, not the steak" was the motto of post-war men's magazines. The contents of the mags were merely an afterthought - it was the cover that sold them. During their peak in the mid-fifties, these sleazy illustrations were stacked right alongside The Saturday Evening Post and Popular Mechanics.

I could literally devote the next year to writing about the impossibly gratuitous cover art and lurid headlines (ex. "Nude Lust Slaves of Hitler's Russian Monster") and only scratch the surface of the post-war male pathos. Sigmund Freud would have a field day with these magazines!

So, instead of looking at the entire genre, let's just focus on their tendency to have covers depicting women being ravaged and mutilated by wild animals.




These covers depict women being attacked by basically any animal you can think of: elephants, monkeys, cheetahs, lions, panthers, boa constrictors, crabs, scorpions, gorillas, alligators, snapping turtles, ants, vultures, boars, etc., etc. You name the species, and I guarantee there's a cover of it torturing and eating a scantily clad woman.

Okay, I haven't seen a koala attack yet, but that's not to say it doesn't exist.



There's such an encyclopedia of wild animals killing ladies that they could almost serve as a learning tool for species identification... that is, if they weren't so unbelievably brutal. Which brings me to my main thought - what is it about a cover depicting a half-naked woman being gored by a wild boar that had hundreds of thousands of men buying it?

I think it had a lot to do with WWII and the atrocities and inhumanities that these men faced on a daily basis. It couldn't have been an easy adjustment going from a world of omnipresent violence to humdrum suburbia and the daily monotony of the factory.



Similar surges in ultra-violent media occurred after WWI in pulp magazines and after Vietnam in exploitation films. Of course, there's other factors at work here: the damsel in distress motif has been in effect since the dawn of time, as has the "man vs. wild" theme. Sprinkle in a liberal dose of T&A and it's not hard at all to see why they couldn't keep these magazines on the shelf!

1/23/09

The Boob Tube #8: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Part 2)

My last post on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century filled me so full of love and admiration for the show that one measly post just won't suffice. I'm just not satisfied that the all-encompassing greatness of Buck Rogers was fully captured. A show of this magnitude and caliber deserves further analyses. So, without further ado...

Here's 8 reasons, in no particular order.

1. The Awesome Guest Stars
Jamie Lee Curtis (shown below), Gary Coleman, Jack Palance, Markie Post, Dorothy Stratten... need I go on? The Love Boat has nothing on Buck Rogers.

2. Gil Gerard
Gerard's portrayal of Buck Rogers is everything you'd ever want in a hero. He's got the bravery, command and swagger of a Captain Kirk, plus the womanizing mojo of a Dean Martin or James Bond.

3. It's the Connecticut Yankee in ReverseAnother aspect of Buck that I like is that he sets himself in a position of superiority based on his background of being from 1987. In other words, Hank Morgan in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness, both use the fact that they are from a more technically advanced society to take advantage of the population. In Buck Rogers it's the reverse: Buck is from a less advanced society, yet he uses this to his advantage. He scorns their artificial lifestyle and uses his good ol' fashioned know-how to one-up his foes. A neat twist on an old theme.

4. The Dark Side
Like Land of the Lost, Buck Rogers could surprise you with some rather dark themes. Some of the villains were flat out horrific looking. However, the episode that stands out as a particularly frightening one is "Space Vampire". The vampire was positively chilling to me as a kid, and Wilma even gets possessed and talks in a demonic tone reminiscent of The Exorcist.

5. Erin Grey
Okay, every red blooded American boy had a crush on Erin Grey at one time or another - either via Buck Rogers or Silver Spoons.

I chose the picture on the above-right because I find it a tad amusing. In this episode, Wilma must pose as a ravishing beauty in order to protect Miss Cosmos. The irony is that Erin Grey is naturally a ravishing beauty and the disguise is far from flattering - her hair style reminds me of the secretary on The Bob Newhart Show (Marcia Wallace). My wife found it amusing too - so I know I'm not the only one.

6. The Groovy Dialog
"Don't give me any of that Dr. Doom jive" says Gary Coleman to Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian). The show often interjected common 1970s slang and terminology, and Twiki the robot was the biggest culprit - often exclaiming things like "solid!" (a favored catch phrase of Linc Hayes on The Mod Squad). When I'm watching Buck Rogers, I'm prepared at any minute for someone to exclaim "Dyn-o-mite!" a la Jimmy Walker.

7. TwikiWay before there was a Bender (Futurama), there was the crass, sexist, wise-cracking robot Twiki (voiced by Mel Blanc).

In fact, the biggest womanizer on the show is not Buck, but rather his lustful robot sidekick. He's the opposite of C-3PO, always making lewd remarks (he calls Wilma "foxy" on more than one occasion).

In one episode, Twiki hooks up with a gold plated "lady" robot. Unfortunately, Dr. Huer needs Buck, Wilma and Twiki to report immediately back to headquarters. Ready for a little R&R after a big adventure, they pretend to not hear Huer's request... to this, Twiki adds an incomprehensible statement.



I know the audio sucks, but you can plainly hear Twiki say he's ready to "get it on" with the gold plated robot. I repeat: Twiki is getting ready to have sex with another robot. This opens up a whole can of worms I've already gone into, so don't get me started again.

8. The BabesAs if Erin Grey weren't enough, the show is literally wall to wall with gorgeous women. Below is the lovely Dorothy Stratten as "Miss Cosmos".

In the episode "Cruise Ship to the Stars", Buck and Wilma travel aboard a luxury liner which makes the Playboy Mansion look drab. Then there's a 2 part episode called "Planet of the Slave Girls" (let your imagination wander over that one) and another called "Planet of the Amazon Women". Notice a trend?

Also, skirts of the 25th century will be unbelievably short... and I mean ludicrously short, as in barely below the waist. This is evidently a hallmark of sci-fi women's fashion (Logan's Run, Star Trek, UFO, Land of the Giants, etc., etc. see my post on it) and Buck Rogers trumps them all.

related post: Spreading the Love for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Part 1)
related post: Short Skirts in the Sci-Fi Future
related post: Robots Are Making Love to Our Women

1/22/09

The Boob Tube #7: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century


Not long ago, I proclaimed the glory of Land of the Lost by walking through an episode step by step. Thus, we were able to taste of its greatness and learn of its splendor. This time round, we'll look at one of my favorite shows of all time, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. But before we begin, let's get a few things straight:

1. The second season was godawful - Gil Gerard took the helm, they got a feather-headed hawkman/idiot, and the show went to hell in a hurry. I'm only referring to season one.

2. The show is not meant to be taken seriously - this is pure camp and senseless fun. Buck Rogers has more in common with The Dukes of Hazzard than any serious minded sci-fi show like Star Trek or Dr. Who. Simply turn off the logic center of your brain and enjoy the ride.

To give those unfamiliar with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century a taste of its greatness, let's take a look at a random episode, "Happy Birthday, Buck" (Season 1, Episode 15) which aired 28 years ago.

After the William Conrad narration that began each episode, we find Buck at his swingin' bachelor pad in New Chicago. He's apparently getting homesick (why he'd want to go back to 1987 is beyond me) and is hanging what looks like a poorly done Thomas Kinkade.

Well, Dr. Huer and Wilma don't like seeing Buck so glum, especially with his 534th birthday coming up. So, Wilma decides to plan a birthday party for him. It'll be so exciting!

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Huer and Wilma are given the troubling news that there's a powerful criminal on the loose. Evidently, he's already claimed the life of one innocent victim and is currently prowling about the city in disguise. What type of disguise? Take a good look...

In order to obtain information on Dr. Huer's wherabouts to assassinate him, our incognito assassin (named Traeger) decides to pay a visit to a certain Dr. Delora Bayliss who is played by none other than Tamara Dobson - better known as Cleopatra Jones! So, we're only ten minutes into the show and we have (A) the biggest afro in the history of television and (B) Cleopatra Jones. Are you beginning to feel the love?

Next, we are introduced to a character named Raylyn (played by Morgan Brittany of Dallas). She is a so-called "psychic courier" - top secret info is implanted into her brain, and then extracted when she reaches her destination. I know that sounds like an absolutely asinine means to transport secret information, but hopefully you have remembered to turn off your brain's logic center and this won't bother you. The point is, Buck now has a lovely woman to keep him company.

Ahh, but we have a serious problem: Traeger and Cleopatra Jones plan to intercept this psychic courier and extract the top secret information themselves. Maybe next time the government will just encrypt the data and send it over a secure network instead of this idiotic psychic-courier business.

Not surprisingly, it takes all of five minutes to capture the psychic-courier. I swear Wal-Mart has better security than New Chicago.

Of course, Buck is hot on the trail and eventually tracks her down. He manages to beat the crap out of Traeger; however he is soon detained by a 25th century Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This scene also highlights Gil Gerard's copious amount of chest hair - always prominently on display in each episode.

Next, Cleopatra Jones uses her special chair to extract the information from the dumb-ass psychic courier. At last! Now Traeger can finally locate the elusive Dr. Huer!... hey,wait a minute - why is Dr. Huer so damn hard to find? I mean, he's not in hiding, he's in the same old office he's in every episode... it seems like Traeger could have found a much easier way to find Dr. Huer than extracting a psychic implant from a hostage!

Oh, well. Buck soon manages to escape (big shocker), and Dr. Huer and Wilma are meanwhile waiting for Buck at his surprise birthday party. Traeger crashes the happy gathering and tries to assassinate Dr. Huer... but not before Buck Rogers storms in and blows his ass away.

After they've cleaned away the smouldering remains of the dead Traeger, the gang settle down for a nice little party. Happy Birthday, Buck!

It was all a bunch of nonsensical fun, but it was fun nonetheless. Oh, and in case you were wondering... disco will be big in 2492.

related post: The Future Was Fab