Friday, June 29, 2012

The Housemartins-1986/1987

I occasionally have moods where no music sounds good to me. I'll keep putting different things on then taking them off because whoever it is, is just not doing it for me. It's a frustrating feeling akin to when you feel hungry but can't decide on what you want to eat because nothing sounds appetizing. I had been in a period like this the last week or so and finally broke out of it when I pulled out the Housemartin's London 0 Hull 4.  It had been ages since I had listened to this record. I was reminded of how much I liked it in high school and I was surprised that it still sounds really good to me. So in honor of this momentous occasion let's watch some videos!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

If There's A Hell Below We're All Gonna Go-1970's Politically Incorrect Edition

Gatefold to Lou Reed's 1978 live album Take No Prisoners

The 1970's, those were different times my friend, a time when people were able to, for better or worse, speak freely and run the risk of offending others without ensuing a shit storm of nonsense, and although part of this might have to do with society at large paying less attention to this particular segment of the culture and the absence of 24 hrs news networks that need to fill time with something, it also reflects a certain looseness and frankness in the general culture that will probably never return. 

In actuality this century's AM radio right-wing blowhards and the media/entertainment industry's fascination with the seamy side of everything (sex, death and destruction)- the whole lets play that tragic video or 911 call again and again- are way more offensive than anything represented below, certainly more depraved and hateful.  I've tried to make sure all of the songs below, in addition to having aspects that may at least be eyebrow raising in our current era, are also good songs. As Lester says in one of the songs featured in this mix "you can always leave if you don't like what's happening."

1. Political Science- Randy Newman- "They don't respect us, so let's surprise them, we'll drop the big one and pulverize them".  Course its satire, but delivered without the broad nudge and wink that is required today, though Newman can't help but smile ever so slightly in the performance below. "We'll save Australia, don't want to hurt no kangaroo, we'll build an all American amusement park there, they got surfing too!"

2. If There's A Hell Below We're All Gonna Go-Curtis Mayfield- Curtis levels the playing field with "Sisters, Niggers, Whiteys, Jews, Crackers, don't worry if there's hell below we're all gonna go!"

3.  Open Up and Bleed- Iggy Pop and the Stooges- "This is up your ass" and "Let's give all the people who hate the Stooges a chance to clap, who hates the Stooges out there?" are just a couple of golden ad-libs from Mr. Stooge. 

4. Let It Blurt- Lester Bangs-  With lines like "After the abortion only rancor left alive" and "bitch, bitch, bitch, I wish your ass was dead!" Lester was bound to offend some, interesting that by the time he recorded this ditty he was entering his more "enlightened", to the point of being a little uptight, phase- trying to police the punk/no-wave scene, seeing misogynists and racists everywhere he looked, making up for past indiscretions I suppose. Great guitar by Robert Quine.

Lester's yearbook photo- feeling like an ofay

5. Black Messiah- The Kinks- "Everybody's got the right to speak their mind, so don't shoot me for saying mine".  Ray Davies hassles with his Rastafarian neighbors chanting down Babylon.

6. Everyone's A Bigot- The Offs- One misconception some white folks have is that minorities actually crave their approval and are not just as prejudiced against others that are different from them, prejudice indeed is not limited to honkeys though they certainly still have an advantage in terms of exercising it in a particularly damaging way due to the power structure.

7. I Want To Be Black (live)- Lou Reed- This is Lou Reed's stand up comedy album, chock full of speed induced insults, raps and put downs, he really does more talking than singing throughout Take No Prisoners, and he's damn funny, its a shame he's lost his sense of humor these days. Below you'll find the 1978 version from Take No Prisoners followed by an earlier and much different version from 1975.

8. Arrested for Driving While Blind- ZZ-Top- In which ZZ-Top celebrate the joys of driving an automobile while inebriated.  I was just a little guy back in the 70's but I can tell you I remember that drinking and driving was just a given at the time, no stigma attached, no questions asked.  "Hey its only blood grain alcohol".  Bill Hicks clip below on the changing attitude towards drunk driving.

9. Glad To See You Go- The Ramones- The Ramones cartoonish image allowed them to deliver violent lyrics that would seem way out of line from others in a manner that somehow managed to remain lighthearted and fun, especially with their first two albums, which contained their most violent imagery, witness "gonna take a chance on her, one bullet in the cylinder, and in a moment of passion, get the glory like Charles Manson".

10.  Kid Stuff- MX-80 Sound- From 1977's Hard Attack album, the narrator kidnaps a "rich bitch" who refuses to leave the party with him.  "I'm putting on kid gloves to get in your kid stuff". The arch vocal delivery is amusing and musically the song is way ahead of its time. Interesting TV performance and interview with the band below.

11. Rock n' Roll Nigger- Patti Smith Group- Patti seemed to not understand or maybe just didn't care how offensive her casual use of this word could be, her take is that she is using it as a metaphor for the artist/outsider.  I haven't heard the n word so many times in a row since Easy E's heyday.  I'm still waiting for the fabled NWA/Patti Smith duet.

12. Mongoloid- Devo- Frustratingly the Bruce Conner film that uses this as a soundtrack has been taken down from youtube, so here's a live version from 1978.

13. Cocksucker Blues- The Rolling Stones- The Stones recorded this song for Decca as their last single knowing they wouldn't be able to release it, or so the story goes.

14. Raped and Freezin'- Alice Cooper- Thankfully it's the male narrator who is "raped" and left freezing in Mexico. In the words of Spinal Tap "there's such a fine line between stupid and clever."

15. Peaches- The Stranglers- "liberation for women, that's what I preach". 

16. X-Offender (single version)- Blondie- Original title Sex Offender. Dig the Shogun Warriors in the clip below.

17. Los Angeles (Dangerhouse version) - X- "She started to hate every nigger and Jew, every Mexican that gave her lotta shit, every homosexual and the idle rich". Yikes.

18.  Belsen Was A Gas- The Sex Pistols- From the not so fertile pen of Sid Vicious.

19. Final Solution- Pere Ubu- It's really only what the title is referencing that is dubious, great song though.

20. Some Girls- The Rolling Stones- Jesse Jackson attempted a boycott of Some Girls due to the line about Black girls just wanting to get fucked all night, but it was Garrett Morris on Saturday Night Live who had the best response. Unfortunately SNL keeps a tight clamp on all of their video clips so here's a pic and the transcript:

Garrett Morris: [dignified, dripping with snooty condescension] Now, I'd like to speak about the subject of a certain Mick Jagger - of the Rolling Stones. ... And I'm going to talk about the song he sang -- a song in which he sings these very words: "Black girls - just want to have sex - all night long." ...

Now, Mr. Jagger, there is only one question I want to ask you -- Jaggs. ... And you better have the answer, man, you better have the answer, since you have besmirched the character of black women. Therefore, here is my question, Jaggs. [pause, takes off eyeglasses, suddenly drops the pose, pleading] Where are all of these black broads, man? ... [huge cheers and applause] Hey, like, where ARE they, baby? You got any phone numbers for me, baby? ... Please send 'em to me. [puts glasses back on, dignified again] Thank you. ... [enthusiastic applause]

21. Short People- Randy Newman- Mr. Newman points out the arbitrariness of prejudice by example, and some people still don't get it.  So it goes.

Here's a little bonus (for all the little people) another great one and probably the funniest track on Lou Reed's Take No Prisoners lp

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Badlands OST-1973


Listen to your parents and teachers, they got a line on most things, so don't treat em like enemies, there's always an outside chance you can learn something.
Kit Carruthers, Badlands

Terrence Malick's first feature film, 1973's Badlands, is nothing short of a masterpiece. One of the greatest American films of the 1970's, or any other decade. The movie stars three of my favorite actors; Martin Sheen, Warren Oates and Sissy Spacek. It's a fairy tale of sorts, based loosely on the late 1950's killing spree of James Dean obsessive Charlie Starkweather and his teenage girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. In lesser hands, say Oliver Stone or Quentin Tarantino, this material would have come off as cheap, tawdry and exploitive as it may at first sound, but Malick uses elements of the true story only as a jumping off point and goes on from there to create a startling dreamlike atmosphere that revolves not so much on the violence or killings but the strange and inexplicable relationship between the two main characters and the hermetically sealed off world they create together while on the run.  The majority of the story is filtered through the impressions of 15 year old Holly, played by Spacek, who narrates the film. Here's Holly describing their time hiding out in the woods "Mostly, though, we just lay on our backs and stared at the clouds and sometimes it was like being in a big marble hall, the way we talked in low voices and heard the tiniest sound." Badlands is a beautiful and haunting fairytale and very funny to boot, especially the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of Kit as played by Sheen. To illustrate more clearly the magic of the film here's one of my favorite scenes.

I've watched Bandlands countless times, probably more than any other film, though Mean Streets might run close, and it never disappoints or gets old. I always find new nuances to admire in the script, the cinematography, the acting, the use of music, and the landscapes depicted. In very simple terms the film casts a powerful spell. And the carefully chosen music plays a large part in the casting of this spell. I was recently reminded of Badlands when I saw Wes Anderson's new movie, Moonrise Kingdom, a very good movie in its own right, which though different in many ways from Badlands, not the least of which is tone (Badlands is a much darker story), is also clearly influenced by elements of Malick's masterpiece.

As I've alluded to before when I'm not working, sleeping or caring for my two cats I often while away my spare hours assembling film soundtracks that were either never released commercially or released in incomplete form. In the case of Badlands it's the former, an official soundtrack was never released. I made an attempt at compiling the music used in the film 7 or 8 years ago and what I am posting here is the results of that first go round. I've included the music of Carl Orff, Gunild Keetman, Erik Satie, Nat King Cole and Mickey and Sylvia in roughly the correct chronological order that it appears in the film. Missing is the music composed specifically for the film by George Tipton, and a brief instrumental piece by James Taylor titled "Theme Migration". But I've included as a bonus track the song "Migration" by James Taylor which developed out of the instrumental theme first composed for Badlands.

I refer to this as a first attempt because I do plan at some future date to try to get a digital copy of the audio track from the dvd in order to add the "Migration Theme" and Tipton's score in the appropriate places. The last clip below is the 2003 appearance of Martin Sheen on Inside the Actors Studio in which he discusses his career up to that point, including of course, Badlands, the work of which he is most proud.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Breakaway with Antonia Christina Basilotta

Antonia Christina Basilotta
Here's one of my favorite short films Bruce Conner's Breakaway from 1966 starring Antonia Christina Basilotta, better known to the general public as Toni Basil.  Toni Basil is a dancer, choreographer, singer, and actress. Basil's 1966 single on A&M records, "Breakaway", after which the film is titled, is also the soundtrack to Toni's frenetic dancing in the film. You can watch more of Toni Basil dancing and acting in such firm film favorites of The Sound The Past Makes as Pajama PartyThe T.A.M.I ShowVillage of the GiantsHead, and Easy Rider.  Breakaway is followed by the B-side of that single, a Graham Gouldman song called "I'm 28".