Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Long Gone Saturday Night

Another one gone: no sooner did I write a eulogy for the great Jack Bruce do I find myself mourning the loss of the great Kim Fowley. Kim Fowley, legendary Hollywood songwriter, performer, producer and Whirling Dervish passed on ten days ago, January 15, 2015. What makes Fowley so unique from all Hollywood movers and shakers is that there isn't anyone in Hollywood who couldn't claim Fowley as a musical associate, and that was the key to his staying power as an artist.

Through the garage, psych, glam, punk and metal eras and beyond there wasn't a style or project he deemed too small or beneath him. His work transcended trends due to his absolute belief in everything he worked on.

Talking to Kim was not for the weak of heart: he fixed his steely gaze at you from that skull-like face and spoke with a directness that either frightened you or made you laugh. It was actually a pretty good acid test to see who was sincere and who was just another Sunset Boulevard huckster.

And Sunset Boulevard! How many songs did he write about Sunset or Hollywood Boulevard? Songs like Hollywood Nights, Terrors In Tinseltown, Hollywood USA, Canyon Woman, Hollywood Child, Mayor of the Sunset Strip, ad infinitum.

Whether seeing him at Canter's in 1966 or Rodney's English Disco in 1974 or a Weirdos/Nerves show he promoted in 1977, even seeing him at the screening of "New York Doll" at the Director's Guild Theater in 2005, Fowley was there, a permanent fixture on the local scene.

My favorite album by him was Good Clean Fun, followed by Outrageous, where he took his manic Sunset Blvd. energy and distilled it into wild, raw, savage tracks, treading a demented balance between Steppenwolf raunch and Frank Zappa-style freakazoid documentary.

And speaking of Zappa, Fowley was one of the craziest voices on "Freak Out", the first Mothers of Invention album, babbling all the way through sides 3 and 4 in an improvisational foreign language known only to himself. Fowley can also be heard laying down an unbelievable rap about Wild man Fischer on the legendary "An Evening With Wild man Fischer" album.

With the loss of Kim Fowley the world has lost a lot more color. Things look a lot paler than they used to.

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Captain Beefheart fans will have to postpone their mourning for a little while, because Rhino Records in association with Warner Bros. have just released an amazing four-disc box set of iconic Beefheart albums titled Sun Zoom Spark. The discs included are the long out of print Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot, with a fourth disc comprised of unreleased outtakes and demos mostly recorded during The Spotlight Kid sessions.

Many Beefheart fans consider this period (1970-1972) to be his most fully realized (read freest) work ever, arguably better than his later Virgin Records output. I would advise many newbies to start with Safe As Milk, followed by Trout Mask Replica, and then this chunky monster of a box set.

But getting back to Sun Zoom Spark, the fourth disc is guaranteed to get even the most rabid fans to buy it. Beautifully packaged with tons of Don Van Vliet art, this is one of those box sets that's impossible to resist.

In addition to this treasure trove of newly released stuff is a download of the complete Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot outtakes, posted in its entirety on You Tube by Idiotska's Live Corner, seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCdwDSfsVFY. Clocking in at over three hours(!) this is even more phenomenal than the Sun Zoom Spark CD. An early version of "Ice Cream For Crow" titled Drink Paint Run Run starts the action, and it amply demonstrates Zoot Horn Rollo and Winged Eel Fingerling playing some of the most incendiary guitar you'll ever hear.

The three hour tapes reveal snippets, references and full-on previews of Low Yo Yo Stuff, Circumstances (played as a dirge), Sun Zoom Spark, Harry Irene, Suction Prints, Sheriff of Hong Kong, Ice Cream For Crow, Flavor Bud Living, Sue Egypt, Dirty Blue Gene, and even a hint of Up On The My-Oh-My.

I intend on getting the Sun Zoom Spark package because you get the great bonus disc as well as the very first official Warner Bros. release of Lick My Decals Off, Baby, which Rhino had in limited release for only two years, so seeing it back in print's pretty exciting. If you can get through a blistering thirty-minute version of Pompadour Swamp then your ship's come in. Forty years in the making and worth every minute waited.

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Hello, world, I'm still trying to sell my Lydia Lunch records. If you want to bask in her ridiculously nihilistic oeuvre here's your big chance!

I'm selling her 1979 album Queen of Siam on Ze Records, the Eight Eyed Spy album released on fetish Records in 1981, and an autographed 7" Teenage Jesus And The Jerks single baby Doll b/w Feud In Flop, all for the low price of $90. Robert Quine fans note that he played guitar all over the Queen of Siam album, so there's some major skronk going down for sale. Here's the link if you're interested: http://www.ebay.com/itm/171650590192?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Now Playing ABSOLUTELY FREE on You Tube - Hugo Haas Edition

Nine months ago I reported on full movies being available for viewing on You Tube. The variety of films available is staggering: in addition to rare noir gems I've viewed nearly forgotten silent films, obscure foreign classics, garish Italian giallo horrors, and even contemporary films with a twist, like Point Break in French and Looking For Mr. Goodbar in German.

If you're a Hugo Haas fan like me, and don't laugh, Richard Hell and Robert Quine formed a friendship over their love of all things Hugo, then you'll find a treasure trove of heretofore unreleased (on DVD) Hugo gems on You Tube. The best ones generally star his battleship blonde Cleo Moore.

Three films I've recently viewed are The Other Woman, Edge of Hell and the bizarre race drama The Night of the Quarter Moon. As beat as some of Hugo's films look many of them were released by major studios, mostly Columbia Pictures and a few from 20th Century Fox. Here's a small rundown of what you can catch on YT:

Night of the Quarter Moon (1959): One of Haas' last directed films, this sports a top-notch cast which includes Julie London, Nat King Cole, Jackie Coogan, Disney star Dean Jones, and Agnes Moorehead. Unfortunately it might be one of the worst films I've ever seen.

If I followed the film properly, and yes, it is confusing, Ginny Nelson (Julie London) gets her windows smashed in by some racist punks. Hubby Roderic Nelson (John Drew Barrymore) gets a call at work about the vandalism and races to the scene of the crime to stop the carnage. The police appear from out of nowhere and arrest Barrymore even though the punks are still brandishing bricks and rocks.

This is one of those movies that are supposed to wind you up because the bad guys just can't stop winning and the victims can't stop losing. Because London is "colored" she seeks the advice of attorney Nat King Cole, whose first recommendation is to "forget it". What the fuck???

The film can't make up it's mind what London's ethnicity is, either: first we're told she's black (!) and then we're told she's Latina. The films keeps flip-flopping about her being Latina and then going back to her being black. No question Miss London is a ravishing woman, but she's as Caucasian as it gets.

London spends half of the film building her court case against Agnes Moorehead, playing another cunty mother-in-law like in Bewitched and trying to contact her mentally ill husband, now sequestered away at Mama's house and forbidden to speak to Julie.

The film ends with an intense court battle which results in a lurid display meant to bolster London's case. I won't say what it is, because it's so stupid no court on planet Earth would entertain it. But Hugo Haas probably thought this was powerful stuff. I'm still trying to figure out what race Julie London was supposed to play.

Edge of Hell (1956): Hugo plays Valentin, a former Russian star of the theater, now reduced to living in the streets of New York on the bum. His only bread and butter is Flip, a scruffy dog who performs ordinary circus tricks like hopping around in a circle (wowie zowie). All through the picture Valentin spouts his philosophy on life to both his hobo pals and his rich clients - more on them in a second.

Edge of Hell follows Valentin through his daily life full of homeless whimsy, cloying and cute with bums who wouldn't hurt a fly. The squeeze play happens when Valentin brings Flip to a rich kiddies party to entertain the brats. After getting paid a paltry $20 for entertaining the snot noses and it's time to split the shindig, the rich birthday boy breaks down and demands that Flip stay at his plush home.

Dad offers Valentin $500 for the dog and with asthma attacks hitting him by the score and an eviction notice (he lives in a cold basement) hanging in his face, will he sell his pride and joy Flip or die on the cold streets of New York? Despite the noir title there ain't much noir going on here.

The Other Woman (1954): Noir all the way, and this time Cleo's on board doing what she does best. Cleo's plays Sherry, an untalented bit player who can't act her way out of a paper bag. After getting kicked off the movie by director Walter Darman (Haas), Sherry's madder than a wet hen and devises a scheme to get even with Darman.

Begging Darman to come over her place to prove there's no hard feelings, he finally relents and has a few drinks with her. Passing out from all the booze, he eventually wakes up to some fish story from her about how they had a night of sex.

Since Darman's a married man she starts with the blackmail phone calls, demanding he pay $50,000 ASAP or she's going to tell all to Darman's wife with a few muddy, dark photos. Since Hugo can't scrape up 50K to shut her up he makes plans to have her ass offed.

Ironically this is the best of the three Haas films; shot on a shoestring budget with cookie-cutter plotting, Haas proved his best work was in cranking out simple noir films. Everything else just paled in comparison, and Moore seemed to make everything work. As John Cale once sang, simple stories are the best.

The prominence of You Tube is more robust than ever, largely due to alternative video services' poor decision making: satellite television providers with increasing their monthly service fees - ours was $100 a month for basic service which we dropped a year ago; and video disc rental services like Netflix, who dramatically slashed their catalog of films without rhyme or reason. These bad decisions ironically opened up a large playing field for You Tube to actually grow and flourish in ways in all its years as a website.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Spurs Are Sharp (Wranglers' Canyon No. 9)

I guess I should've left town but I did what I did and what's done is done. After the late Sheriff Elroy Frehley passed his badge over to me it was expected by the townsfolk for me to give him a proper eulogy, but, balls! Let the worms eat his ass. He humiliated me before the entire citizenry of Jonestown and I wasn't about to boo hoo hoo like the rest of the liars assembled.

Damn straight I was going to make an appearance at his burial...way in the back of the chapel. When they did turn around to peer at me during the service there was fear in their eyes. They had a lot to be afraid of. They treated me like an abused tom cat and now it was my turn. Being the new town Sheriff gave me all the turns in the world that I wanted, they knew it, and they were scared, scared shitless.

The first thing we did was get our shit from the hotel to our new office, throw Frehley's crap out in the back and use his long bottomed drawers to wipe the mud off our horses. Fuck him.

Mumblin' Pete might be one of the quickest draws in the country but he couldn't make a pot of coffee for shit. It tasted like butt paste. On the plus side he rubbed tons of castor oil over my cuts and bruises that I had all over me. I needed a lot of relief because every inch of my body burned like hell.

We kept waiting for that coward Deputy Shugg to drop by but I guess the fear of God was all over him, too. He never did turn up. Too bad. I had some serious jawing to do with him and I was chomping at the bit.

I sat back in the Sheriff's chair with my long legs propped up on the desk watching Mumblin' Pete sweeping up the floor.
"Quit sweepin' for a second. Can't you hear everybody weeping outside?"
"Mnhjhgsh sgssh opw fehk".
"I know they've been whining all morning, but for some dad blasted reason I'm not getting tired of it".
Mumblin' Pete spat a big gusset on the floor. "Gfdsds uyt!"
"Hear hear!"

The jail cells were pretty empty and I thought it might be a good idea to start pulling a few yokels in so they'd get a good idea of what they've got to look forward to. Besides, it wouldn't help being stuck in this office all day or else we'd look like the real prisoners.

"Drop that broom, Deputy, we got some patrolling to do. I reckon we'll start, at, ahh....Sailor Jerry's".
Pete got excited and ditched the broom lickety split.

The little stroll we took over to Sailor Jerry's Dancehall was something to see. All the pretty, pretty people of Jonestown parted at the sight of us and split off to all the extreme corners out of our sight. It suited me just fine.

Jonestown was in a state of mourning for days following Frehley's funeral so Mr. Butcher left out one of his big free lunches for all the mourners. The usual fare was out on display: possum, hogs, squirrel, gopher, chicken, beef, lamb, and probably an unlucky iguana along the way.

Mayor Randall was jamming his fat worthless face by a table near the bar. Every once in awhile Jerry would step away from the bar and play some sad tune on the pipe organ.

"Froou sfg rt bjigc hhu ouijbxd?" Mumblin' Pete asked.
"Nah, you get the drinks", I said. "I'll just hang back here. I'm getting mighty tired of watching everybody look all scared".

Pete was a stand-up guy, though. He got the whiskey shots. When everyone noticed him buying, folks figured we were both here and gaped at me standing by the corner. Pete also grabbed two plates of food.

"You can have mine. I'm not much for eating today", I told him, not leaving my gaze at the frightened mob.

My eyes caught Randall beckoning me over to his table. I didn't budge. He made fun of my singing and my good looks, too, so he can sit in the dog house until his ass gets eaten by worms. I took my shot and just shook my head slowly. All that was missing was my turning my thumb down like some Roman emperor.

Miss Odessa saw me and put her money where her mouth was, walking up to me.
"Odessa".
"Sheriff".
"Where's the other gals? Clara and Teresa seemed mighty fired up when I was being disgraced and all".
"Teresa's kinda hiding after the big fracas and Clara left town, scared out of her wits. Right before she left she kept saying that if you didn't brand her hide the Hiss Ranch would after they shot up the Sheriff".
I sighed loudly.

Odessa shook her red hair and shrugged her pretty shoulders.
"If it makes a difference to you me and Charity never believed you were a killer and we stayed out of that whole circus going on last week".
"I believe you". She picked up a bottle and poured another shot for me.

Jerry played a nice, slow dirge, probably some old Maritime tune about burial at sea.

"The ocean is my resting home
Waves rock me Lord, so I won't be all alone
The rolling sea, Jesus spake to me..."

Mumblin' Pete was bawling all over again. He would've kept it up, only something funny happened. This hombre stepped in and he looked pretty familiar. I couldn't place his face too well so I just squinted and peeled my eyes a lot.

The guy was as dressed in dark blue, wide as a freight train and kinda barked at Sailor Jerry like a mangy mutt. What little I heard I didn't like. The bar patrons kinda backed off him the way they did to me just a second ago. Some of them even looked at him and then at me. What gives.

Jerry got up from his organ and went behind the bar, looking kinda nervous. I was kinda nervous, too. He went out of his way to serve the guy. I bent my ear closer to what was going on. It didn't sound too good.

There was a lot of nigger this and nigger that. I know Jerry's always dealt with loudmouth guys before but this guy had an extra scare on him. People were quietly walking away from this scene, washing their hands from the whole deal, just like they did when my head was on the chopping block.

Randall glanced at me from time to time, wondering what my next move would be. He wasn't alone. Jerry was about to rip the jackass across the face with his hook but saw me coming closer to the action.

I marched slowly towards the front of the bar. As I came closer I realized who the bully was. He was the big jerk who came in with Hiss the other day when old Hiss made his ultimatums.

"Ahoy, friend", I said. "Care to tell me what your business is around these parts?"
The bully turned around with a frozen sneer on his face, blue eyes blazing with cold fire.
"Just here to have a drink, partake in the funeral rites for the Sheriff, and teach this coon some manners".

"You had your drink. Now before you leave I want you to apologize to my friend for your bad manners".
His eyes widened. "Over my dead body".

"You know", I raised my voice so everyone could hear. "That reminds me of a story. Once I worked on a ranch. We had about a dozen horses on this ranch. We had black, brown, white, spotted horses, all kinds. But there was this one brown horse. The most aggressive horse I've ever seen. It kept biting and kicking the black and white horses. It would only run with the other brown horses. The ranch hands kept trying to get this stupid brown horse to ease up around the other colored horses, but it just kept kicking and biting away. Well, you know, they had no other choice but to take that dumb fucking beast out in the field and shoot it in the head. Now, what do you think of that?"

"That's the stupidest story I've ever heard".
"Well, I reckon you'd say that because you're just like that dumb ass beast".

He reached for his gun, and before he could fire I pulled mine out and shot him in the leg. Pete shot him in the hand so he got a double-dose of gunfire. The shot to the leg made him fall like a sack of bricks. I jumped right on his chest and pinned his arms down.

"I KNOW YOU! YOU'RE THAT GEEK EVERYBODY LAUGHED AT!"
I punched him in the mush.
"BUT NOW I'M THE SHERIFF! NOW APOLOGIZE!!!"

I got off him and he limped up and smashed me with his good hand in the face with his gun, hobbling out fast from the saloon and riding off. I almost passed out.
Mumblin' Pete ran out the doors and peeled out a few shots in the air to scare the bully off.

I staggered to the bar and Jerry gave me the whole bottle and rang his bell. I saluted him and walked out.
"Come on, Pete. This damn town's been harmful to my health".
"Bnghhw ebj svkl wwxg eeubm cdennm okjkn xbwhbhj, xuwhwjh! Qswhhj?"

I dunked most of the bottle for the rest of the night. My head was throbbing like crazy. We pulled the cots out of the cells and slept in them, right by the stove, catching some warmth from the cold Arizona night.

Two hours later, the darkness of our room were cut through by bright flashes of lightning. Pete opened the door and there was a massive torrential downpour of rain coming down, the kind you only get in the desert. The rain was punctuated by booms of thunder and bright flashes of lightning.

I woke up for a spell and cussed.
"Close the door, Pete. Don't things ever slow down around here, nohow?"
"Ghfr hgjs iofjk dcmnkdj egddjk!"

We both finally nodded off back to sleep, even though the sky was pissing rain and St. Peter was playing drums and Baby Jesus was flipping the light switch on and off like a maniac. Two hours later we heard an even bigger boom, only this one came from the front door. And it wouldn't stop.

Someone was banging to Kingdom Come on our door, so I finally cussed again and woke up in my drawers. I flipped the door open and saw Shorty from the hotel.

"Sheriff! Sheriff! The barber shop and general store are on fire! Hurry!" Shorty screamed, all drenched in rain, his features pale. I looked behind him down the street and noticed not all the bright lights were from the thunder, but from a string of wooden buildings burning down.

I ran over to Pete and shook his ass up and threw my clothes and coat on. "FIRE!"
Pete jumped up and threw his duds on and we raced down the street to see the flames leaping wildly from our favorite joints. The flames were getting closer and closer to Sailor Jerry's.

"GHET HNJHLKLK OPOOI HU!!!!"
A crowd of people were trying to bang blankets against the fires.
"STOP THAT!" I yelled at the crowd. "NOW LISTEN UP! I WANT Y' ALL TO GRAB BUCKETS, AS MANY AS YOU CAN AND BRING THEM OVER HERE!"

"GET SOME SHOVELS, TOO AND DIG FOR DIRT. DIG UNDER THE MUD UNTIL YOU REACH SOME DIRT AND FILL THE BUCKETS WITH DIRT. WE'LL KEEP DOUSING THE FLAMES WITH DIRT! C' MON! GO!!"

For a second they just stood and stared and then Bo the Blacksmith jumped to my side and yelled, "YA! LETZ GO I HAF BOOKETS SHERIFF ISS RIGHT!!!"
They all skedaddled and ran to get their shovels and buckets.

We formed a line of folks digging and others passing the buckets to a few hardy men throwing huge masses of dirt into the flames. It was working slowly but not fast enough.

"COME ON, FASTER! THE FLAMES ARE CATCHING! WE GOT TO STOP THE FIRE BEFORE IT GROWS!!!"

The fire didn't stop the rain from pouring heavier and heavier, the sky flashing like a lantern going crazy and the thunder booming so loud it made us all jump.

While I was working on the fire fighting train I saw a figure in the distance on a horse holding a torch. The man looked pretty big and wide, kinda like that bum I clobbered the other day.

"DEPUTY, TAKE OVER! I HAVE SOME SHERIFFING TO DO!!!"
Pete looked up at me with a confused look on his face. Good luck to anyone who can understand his orders.

I vamoosed over to Clyde as fast as I could, loosening the reins and hopping on him. He looked pretty freaked out over the thunder and lightning, the poor old guy. I kicked Clyde's ribs with my spurs and we rode off as fast as we could. The man with the torch saw me coming after him from the distance and dropped his torch, riding quickly away.

Thanks to the lightning I could catch quick spurts of light illuminating him riding away so I couldn't lose him. The wind blowing the rain in our faces made riding tough. The thunder made Clyde so panicky he rode faster than I ever remember him riding before. He ran like the Devil was after him.

We reached the town limits, getting into the forest and the mud felt deeper and more slippery than ever. For all of Clyde's running the poor beast slipped and sent me flying off him, ass over elbows into the mud.

Clyde breathed heavily, steam pouring out of his nostrils and he trotted around in circles. I was covered in wet mud. I got up from my knees and looked up.
"I think I broke my tail bone", I groaned, rubbing my poor ass. "How about you, Clyde?"

The lightning flashed a few more times until I noticed a looming shadow not five feet away from me. I looked up at where the shadow was and finally figured out what is, now was. I found Deputy Shugg.

Deputy Shugg hung from a tall oak by the neck, his nose cut off, his eyes gouged out, half his fingers cut off and his peter was missing, too, I think. There was a lot of dried blood between his legs. It was hard to tell because I had to go by the lightning blasts every ten seconds. One thing's for sure, I finally found the Deputy.

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This concludes the public edition of "Wranglers' Canyon". To see how the rest of this ruckus turns out be sure to get the eBook edition of the complete "Wranglers' Canyon" coming in July 2015.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Style Up From the Floor Up

The art of creating fashion is contingent largely on two things: the design, which becomes the pattern; and the fabric that’s used. To use an example, if I design a turtleneck sweater it’s not going to look special, but if I make it out of soft lambskin leather, than it becomes something entirely special.

Conversely speaking, anyone can design a leather jacket, but if you tweak it by adding extra compartments or stitch it differently than the normal methods then you’re on to something fresh and original.

Several years ago Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta released a series of leather fishnet tops that were stylish and wearable. Anyone can make a fishnet top for men, but the move towards fabricating it in leather makes it a definite game changer.

I don’t think you need to be a fashion egghead to pull it off, either. At the very least a splash of leather on a pair of leather pants or a shock of satin on a canvas jacket makes the whole design become chic, exotic and one-of-a kind. Just make sure it makes sense!

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If there’s an extinct cultural phenomenon that’s sorely missed it’s TV commercials for local boutiques, esp. menswear. Two of the most popular stores that regularly aired commercials in the Seventies were Zachary All and Wilson Bros’ House of Suede & Leather.

Zachary All was a men's suit outlet in the Miracle Mile District of Los Angeles (La Brea Tar Pits/LA County Museum of Art) and sold men's suits made mostly of double knits and synthetics. The commercials featured a very Italian-American New Yorker named Eddie, who was actually Armenian.

While he talked to us out there in TV land the vast expanse of the store was projected behind him, showing an endless array of plaids, stripes and brown suits being pulled from miles and miles of clothes racks. Eddie was very proud to let us know that Zachary All had styles to suit big and tall folks, too.

Wilson Bros’ House of Suede & Leather was more interesting because it was three kind of dorky Richard Gere lookalike brothers. They loved to rock the tans, browns and sepia leathers, and to be perfectly honest with you, when I think of the Seventies the color brown would be the primary color. Pastel for the Eighties and black for the Nineties.

Here for your entertainment is a great collection of Wilson Bros’ commercials You Tube channel “shinyfast” uploaded (thanks!). Tony Wilson takes the lead like a leather Diana Ross and the other two do a leather Cindy and Mary. I like the part where they join Tony at the end and pipe in with “SUEDE” and “LEATHER” like some Richard Gere tag team.

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Just a few fashion websites you might want to know about. I like a vendor from Korea called “New Stylish who rock a little goth and a little emo”, so if you don’t mind wearing skinny pants and jackets this might be your place. Please bear in mind that size transference from Asian to American sizes needs to be done, but they’re very helpful in that department. Shipping is also surprisingly quick for being across the globe. Here they are:

https://newstylish.com

If you’re more into the Sixties mod/ska/freakbeat look, you may want to look into Atom Retro who have a great extensive catalogue. They have velvet Edwardian suits like the ones The Kinks used to sport on their album covers. How awesome is that?

http://www.atomretro.com

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Tom Ford is rapidly becoming the Glenn Danzig of fashion – humorless, conceited and frightening. To add to the horror show that is Ford he’s filmed a batch of videos in collaboration with GQ Magazine (also scary in their own right). They can be seen on You Tube and bear such distinguished titles as “Tom Ford on Dressing Like a Grown-Ass Man”, “Why A Well-Groomed Eyebrow Can Make Or Break Your Look”, and “How to Succeed In Business Without Dressing Like a Jerk”.

In these videos he’s paired with a GQ fashion editor to evaluate an average Joe (average if stepping off the runway is considered normal) and edit their look. Whatever remarks the GQ editor makes are quickly stepped on by Mr. Ford. Every video includes a highly severe haircut, which makes me wonder if the clothes are doing all the talking, why even bother with the blow dry?

The resulting look that Mr. Ford throws together is actually a lot worse than what the problem dresser came in with. Proof positive that clothes designing and styling are two entirely separate skills, and in the case of Tom Ford never the twain shall meet.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Jack Bruce Forever

I had an epiphany when I listened to “Sunshine Of Your Love” by Cream last night. Ginger Baker’s drumming was amazing, his brilliantly tuned drums accentuating the bizarre staccato melody and Eric Clapton’s lyrical blues guitar with its perfect setting of sustain making the song sound beautiful. But none of it would have amounted to anything without Jack Bruce’s eccentric blues melody and understated yet perfectly rhythmic vocals.

To call Jack Bruce the pulse, the spine and the real heart and soul of Cream would be an understatement. The band simply never would have existed without him. Many bands before Cream played the blues in a reverential manner. What made Cream stand out from the pack was the way Bruce never oversang the blues like too many have before and after him, and his blues melodies were perfect in their respect for tradition while still adding something new and intriguing with each listen.

Bruce was a tireless collaborator who shined no matter who he worked with, a partial list would make any music lover drool: Leslie West, Manfred Mann, John McLaughlin, Public Image Ltd., Carla Bley, John Mayall, Lou Reed (“Berlin”!), Chris Spedding, Graham Bond, and Frank Zappa, to name a few.

Most of Jack Bruce’s lyrics were written by poet Pete Brown and they worked brilliantly with Bruce’s dramatic songs, White Room being a good example. Brown’s lyrics were wild enough to keep up with Cream’s unbridled acid blues, my favorites being like SWLABR, Tales of Brave Ulysses, World of Pain, Deserted Cities of the Heart, and Passing the Time. The genius of his music was the way he balanced traditional blues with surprisingly sensitive flourishes, some viola playing here or some cello added to add a fuller dimension to Cream's sound.

Even after Cream’s demise Bruce still managed to keep the jazz/blues sound exploding on his first solo album, “Songs for a Tailor”. Tracks like Ministry of Bag, Rope Ladder To The Moon and Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out of Tune employed horns and keyboards, significantly expanding his musical palette after performing in a trio format for the past several years.

Occasionally he was driven to playing in Cream-style bands in the years to come because the fans demanded it: there was West, Bruce & Laing (aka Mountain pt. 2) and BLT and probably a few more I left out, so he was never remiss in keeping his fans happy. A true showman til the end.

I wish anyone seriously making a go of being a blues singer would study Jack Bruce because he embodies the best of blues in that he never hollered and always managed to sound Scottish even when tackling classics like Born Under A Bad Sign. Bruce never failed to steal the show, as witnessed by his grungy fuzz bass playing on Frank Zappa's raging instrumental "Apostrophe". And nothing was more shocking than hearing him sing lead on the chorus to Public Image Ltd’s song “Ease”. Jack Bruce was a timeless talent whose influence will be felt for a long, long time.

Also RIP to Clive Palmer of The Incredible String Band, Alvin Stardust, Rosetta Hightower, and the incredibly awesome Ian McLagan of The Small Faces and The Rod Stewart-fronted Faces. Music's getting better in heaven that it is down here!