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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pretties For You

In late 1971 Creem Magazine sent Lester Bangs out to write an article on the raging new rock force that was Alice Cooper, from which these pictures appeared.  It didn't hurt that the band spent a short tenure in the Detroit rock scene - where Creem Magazine was located - sharing bills with The MC5, Stooges, SRC, and The Frost (whose guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter later joined the band).

Before Alice became a trailer park rock god he earned a lot of bonus airline points playing the drag queen card, wearing falsies, Dolly Parton wigs and just queening out.  On the right is a still from the legendary "Ballad of Dwight Frye" song where's he's institutionalized in a strait jacket. In the next picture he's doing a bizarre Salvador Dali "Persistence of Memory" routine.  He later met Dali who adored Cooper to the point of creating a hologram of him.

Here's Alice in body stocking and heels to the left, and tearing the poster to the "Love It To Death" album on stage to the right.  Early footage of Alice Cooper performing live can be seen in Frank & Eleanor Perry's movie "Diary of a Mad Housewife" where chickens aren't killed, but pillows are ripped open instead and goose feathers are tossed around in a hail of pflug. 

When my band used to tour the driver got to choose which cassette tape we had to listen to while they drove. I had three guitar players; when one drove we had to listen to Neil Young & Crazy Horse, when the other drove we had to listen to the third Velvet Underground album, the real terrible one with songs like “I’m Set Free”, “Jesus”, and “I’m Beginning To See The Light”, yuck, and the third one played a tape that had Alice Cooper’s “Love It To Death” on one side and “Killer” on the other side. Guess who played the best guitar?

Here's Alice consolidating his queeny image by having his hair done at the beauty parlor.  He also had The Cockettes perform and appear at several events and shows around this time. I think Alice and Frank Zappa tried pretty hard to downplay any drug involvement because they were creepy guys from Laurel Canyon and at the time (1970-1971) every straight in LA thought if you had long hair and came from the Canyon you were Charles Manson, so eventually they went out of their way to brag about how average they were. Too bad. By the time "School's Out" was released (1972) our private party was over.

All photos by Ric Siegel, 1971

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smell Check 2010

Well, break out the champagne and crank up the brass band. Marc Jacobs has dropped his first men's cologne in 10 years called "Bang!" Not a great name but what a cool package! A bottle that looks like the bashed-in front of a car hood, all bent and twisted metal. The ad campaign (speaking of packages) depicts our intrepid designer totally nude sporting the ugliest tattoos this side of G.G. Allin with his jacked-up looking cologne bottle covering up his private parts (thank you, God!). The wait was definitely worth it; a sneak preview of the scent is enjoyable and sexy, so bypass the ads and just get it. You won't be sorry.

Light Blue (Dolce & Gabbana) = More Dolce than Gabbana, this sweet-smelling EDT (Eau de Toilette) has the standard blue, cool odor we've come to know and love by now. Very fruity, light and airy, but nothing new.

L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme (Issey Miyake) = A little cinnamon, a little musk, not a bad combination, I liked it much more than L'Eau D'Issey. Now that was nasty.

Eternity Aqua (Calvin Klein) = Bland and boring, skip it. The ad touts "a watery surge of cucumber, vibrant lavender and the warmth of sandalwood". Not an inspired combination of materials, and placed together didn't smell terribly wonderful.

Bleu De Chanel (Chanel) = Too many scents these days call themselves "blue" this and "blue" that, and frankly, they all smell the same. This is no exception. Pass.

Gucci Sport by Gucci (Gucci) = For those that have a fetish for sniffing the grass stains off some sweaty guy's pants after he's played Flag Football all Sunday. I'm not among them! Gucci makes great clothes for women, but men's fragrances is clearly not their forte.

Burberry Sport (Burberry) = A rather shrill, citrusy odor for people who want that Gatorade body aroma, hence the Sport tag. Me, I’d be happier with the Burberry Brit cologne line, which has a less strident scent to it.

Cool Water (Davidoff) = I went to school with a kid called Davidoff and he never used cologne, much less used deodorant. Again, any cologne or scent with the buzzwords "Blue", "Cool" or "Aqua" pretty much smell the same, and basically this pretty much smells like Bleu de Chanel and the rest of their peers.

John Varvatos Vintage (John Varvatos) = If you want a great combination, learn from the master. Varvatos Vintage showcases the combined scents of tobacco, suede and even patchouli. Sounds like my house! I'm pretty prejudiced towards this kind of musky business.

One of my guilty pleasures is buying cheap deodorant from the drug store, but this time something's gone pretty awry. A few applications of Axe Deodorant's new "Dark Temptation" reminded me of another scent in my bathroom, a far more expensive one: Thierry Mugler's Angel for Men deodorant. Not as strong, but so close it's as if someone stole the recipe and put their stamp on it. Just imagine saving yourself over $20 on Mugler's deodorant for the cheapie Axe brand. Why, it's scandalous! All's fair in love and cologne war.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Zapped - The Greatest $1 Music Sampler LP Ever

In the late 1960's Warner Bros. Records released a string of promotional song sampler albums featuring their best tracks, some of which were getting heavy airplay on the radio. They usually went for $2 and were in the double-album format. The line-up on a typical sampler would be The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, Tiny Tim (!), Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Arlo Guthrie, Deep Purple, T. Rex, etc. Not a bad deal for $2, and the artists you didn't like would even weigh in with a track that was halfway listenable. But formats begin to get stale after awhile and Warners began to play with it, releasing a sampler of easy-listening schlock called "Schlagers!" and going the extra mile for Frank Zappa's Bizarre & Straight labels with the best sampler ever (IMO) called "Zapped".

Released at the peak of Zappa's artistic powers and his impressive talent roster, "Zapped" is surprisingly eclectic, from Alice Cooper's haunted house metal (the genre he started), Tim Buckley's jazz-folk, The GTO's baroque minstrellisms, and vintage tracks from the Lord Buckley library. And the beast gores on. Liner notes were annotated by legendary rock critic John Mendelsohn, who deserves his own blog. A rogue critic for Rolling Stone Magazine in the Lester Bangs-R. Meltzer mode, Mendelsohn championed countless unknown British talents like The Move, Fairport Convention, The Kinks (when they were banned from performing in the States), and an unknown cross-dressing singer named David Bowie. He also had a great band called Christopher Milk, and I still own their excellent United Artists Records 7" EP with the gatefold cover. His liner notes are superbly informative.

Side 1 to "Zapped" begins with "Titanic Overture" by Alice Cooper, a solo pipe organ piece that recalls haunted houses and sailor shanties and quotes pop-schmaltz hit "I Think I'm Going Out Of My Head". Creepy stuff!

"The Blimp" by Captain Beefheart follows, a spoken word piece with a jumpy, jolting backing track complete with Zappa-style horns tooting. Beefheart's poetry is a joy to listen to, his affection for funny words ("Shadrach") is in the W. C. Fields tradition.

"St. Nicholas Hall" by Judy Henske & Jerry Yester follows. Frank liked to take hippie freaks and place them in stuffy, patrician settings for deadpan irony. Stilted vocals matched with an equally stilted harpsichord backing, The GTO's also used harpsichord on their album, too. The tuxedos worn by Yester and band on the cover were also employed by Captain Beefheart's band on the cover of "Lick My Decals Off, Baby". Maybe that's where the "straight" in "Straight Records" comes in.

"I Must Have Been Blind" by Tim Buckley is a nice song with some cool vibes backing him. Mendelsohn's liner notes indicate he didn't care much for this music, ha ha.

"Merry-Go-Round" by Wild Man Fischer is one of the earliest records that documented a street singer in his native habitat, warts and all. Many, many warts. This track features backing from the Mothers of Invention percussion section, Art Tripp III and Jimmy Carl Black.

"Refrigerator Heaven" by Alice Cooper comes from "Easy Action" and has a great Syd Barrett-style song construction with rabid guitars that play horror movie melodies in unison like some demented string section. And Alice's vocals rule the track. I love the final lyric, "I won't come back until the sun sets down on the moon".

"Little Boy Blue" by Tim Dawe is a surprisingly poppy folk track, catchy as hell. Tim Dawe was a founding member of The Iron Butterfly (!). The lyrics are very funny, too. There's mention of a woman dressed in black and busting out her whips. S&M folk? I love it.

"Governor Slugwell" by Lord Buckley is his version of a radio broadcast of a Gubernatorial fat cat's rally, with Buckley playing all the characters. His ear for people's voices is hysterical; the Irish cop, the crotchety politician hemming and hawing, perpetually clearing his throat, and tops himself with the Sun Shining Negro Drum Corps ("WHAM! PAM! WHAM! PAM! WUBBIDYBUBBIDYBOO!")

Side 2 to "Zapped" begins with "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up". Jeff Simmons was a Mike Bloomfield wanna be who played acid blues, and this track is great, featuring superb backing by The Mothers (who he would later join), and an even more superb Zappa superfuzzed-out guitar solo.

Captain Beefheart returns with "Old Fart At Play", another spoken word track which I find rather odd. There are better tracks from "Trout Mask Replica" that feature his wildman singing. I would have picked "Ella Guru", "Moonlight On Vermont", or at least "Ant Man Bee".

"Holiday In Berlin, Full Blown" by The Mothers of Invention follows, one of the airiest and prettiest compositions ever recorded by Zappa and his colleagues. It always puts a smile on my face, even the boozy "Thanks For The Memories"-sounding 1940's Big Band sax break.

"Circular Circulation" by The GTO's is a country tune about some outlaw called Muddy Guts. It's probably the most tuneful song on their album sung by Miss Pamela (she struggles quite a bit on it). The GTO's were really getting into country at the time because some of them were chasing The Flying Burrito Brothers, the only glam country band in recent memory. Loved those Nudies outfits, boys.

Of course the album ends with Frank Zappa and his swinging "Willie The Pimp", vocals by Captain Beefheart and wild electric violin sawing from Sugar Cane Harris. Anyway, I'll let Mr. Mendelsohn have the last word in his brilliant liner notes, who had this to say about the late Frank Zappa:

"Finally we come to the creep who started it all, the man who keeps digging up these perverts and encouraging them and producing them and foisting them on a defenseless public that he's rendered a pushover with his wild eyes and intimidating wit.
"What can one say, except that we have him to thank for opening up virtually countless areas of popular music and for infusing what we sometimes refer to as rock for lack of a more explicit term with the self-effacing wit that enabled it to survive as long as it did".