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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Long Gone Saturday Night

"There's nothing more rebellious than some ugly person dancing around thinking they're wonderful"
-Kim Fowley

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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And speaking of Kim Fowley and Captain Beefheart, there's a great documentary on You Tube called "From Straight to Bizarre" about Zappa's legendary record labels: Straight and Bizarre Records and the artists that made it happen.

It's rich in rare footage of Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, featuring small capsule profiles on the artists run rampant on the labels: Alice Cooper, Wild Man Fischer, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, Essra Mohawk (Sandy Gurvitz), Jeff Simmons,and The GTOs. There's also a few bits about non-label artists like Vito and Mr. Ubiquitous, Kim Fowley.

There was a little too much GTOs for my liking and not enough Beefheart. A little background on the people behind the scenes like Cal Schenkel, responsible for the offbeat and provocative album covers would have been great to watch.

I was also disappointed to see Tim Buckley and Judy Henske cut out of the doc, which makes it not completely comprehensive in my opinion. They're quickly dismissed towards the end as simply being Herb Cohen's folkie clients. So what? They helped give the labels just as much personality as Alice and The GTOs. Nevertheless, this is essential viewing not just for Zappa fans, but for Sixties counterculture fans as well.

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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.

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.