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Culture

December 2009

Here you can step back through the vortex of time to view old PopKrazy content. Pages, Podcasts, Polls, and Stories will appear here.

London W14 Calling

 

It was

seven years ago

this Tuesday

that I lost the first friend I ever made

in the U.K..... 

 



GENE GENIE: A TEEVEE LEGEND BITES THE DUST

The 1950’s brought us one of more intriguing (and lasting) of showbiz phenomena’s—The TV Star. Suddenly, outside of the movies, theatre, and radio loomed a new pop landscape, one where big buckaroos could be grabbed and across-the-board popularity could be achieved. Gene Barry, who passed away this week at the age of 90, was a TV Star, one with particular staying power, and a vivid persona—The New York Times obit mentioned insouciance, yet his was speckled with a comic inner irony-that made him extremely likeable and easily memorable.
Of course Barry, born Eugene Klass on June 14, 1919, in New York, actually did his time in radio, on stage and up on the big screen, starting out as a radio singer on New York’s WHN, graduated for roles opposite Mae West and in musicals before hitting it big in George Pal’s early sci-fi extravaganza, The War of the Worlds in 1953. Barry’s movie career was largely negligible, outside of a co-starring role in the Robert Mitchum’s corny but endearing Thunder Road (1958) and two cool outings with Samuel Fuller ( a director known for his work with wooden leading men and outré character types) in China Gate (1957) and Forty Guns (1957).
Barry was perfectly cast as the dapper and suave (but very macho) Bat Masterson (108 episodes from 1958-1961). The series has been in syndication for years, and it doesn’t measure up well to the better TV westerns. But Barry’s dandified Masterson, a derby-wearing, cane-twirling, clothes-horse, ladies-man Westerner who preferred to use his brain over his obvious brawn was a huge hit with audiences, both parents and western-addicted kiddies, and his cheeky charm established him as a true prince of the small screen.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRANCIS A, HOBOKEN'S FAVORITE PUNK

Do you think Sid and Frank are up there in pop music heaven on a fluffy white cloud singing My Way?

frank sinatra mug shot  sid vicious mug shot

Sid's spastic blown-larnyx performance of Frank's signature song is a fine homage to Sinatra's pugnacious bombast, minus his suave phrasing, dynamics, pitch, arrangements, and stage banter.

Just watch em both! First, Sid singing My Way:

 

Now, Francis A sings his anthem:

 



Caught In A Trap

 

Before we all rush

towards Elvis' 75th (!!!)

let us recall

what took place

eleven December Twelfths

ago....

 



THE HOMBRES LET IT ALL HANG OUT IN A GARBAGE CAN

The Hombres
Let It Out (Verve/Forecast FTS-3036)
1967

This is one of the great American garage albums that just don’t give a hoot.  A Memphis combo, the Hombres opted for the lighter side of garage-punk.  The Hombres’ album cover (which is their only album cover since no record label was brave enough to release another record by them) is an obvious reference to the Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird LP, released in ’64, which shows the infamous surf band from Minneapolis clustered around a garbage truck.

The Hombres from Memphis album cover


Ironically, the Hombres had originally intended to be a surf band.  In 1967, they traveled through Houston posing as a pop version of a West Coast surf group and somehow got tangled up with Texas producer Huey Meaux.  In ’65, Meaux had already transformed a band of San Antonio punksters into an ersatz British Invasion act, the Sir Douglas Quintet (featuring a very young Doug Sahm).  And so, with the Hombres, Meaux saw an opportunity for reshaping the rebellion of a garage band into a comedic sensibility.



I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

john lennon in nyc t shirt29 years later and it's still news. 

Next year is Lennon's 70th birthday.  Well, we know what his old compatriots are up to  these days--Mick is still preening on stage like a scrawny banty rooster, and Dylan's doing a demented Santa. (Paul and Ringo are off limits today.)

Pete Hamill, in his long article published in New York Magazine just weeks after Lennon's death, writes that Lennon imagined himself at 60 writing children's books. (Of course, he'd already written several books by the time he was 30.)

And, of course, if he'd lived on and was still walking the streets of New York today, there would be some snarking at his efforts.  We are deprived of that privilege.

 

    John Lennon, 1940-1980

 



BETWEEN THE LINES: ONE HELLUVA MAGIC CARPET RIDE

Of all the major sports, baseball has always seemed to lend itself to the written word, with scores of analysis, history, reference, biography, ethnography, fantasy, and geez, even poetry constantly being devoted to America’s most hallowed pastime, a large portion of it from a scholarly or literally point of view. (Of course the sad, plain truth remains that football has truly become, outside of celebrity peepshowin’, real America’s real favorite pastime.)
 A lifetime baseball fan, I’ve scoured the collected work of the venerable Rogers (Kahn and Angel), devoured the reportage of Thomas Boswell and Dan Shaughnessy, sat perched upon the shoulders the of both Jim Bronsan and Jim Bouton, and dipped into the rosin-stained lives of everybuddy from Ty Cobb to Harry “Steamboat Johnson” to “Super Joe” Charbonneau, and been delighted by the fictional firepower of Robert Coover (The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.), Barry Beckham (Runner Mack), and Donald Hays (The Dixie Association).
Through it all, (and every year brings a new stream of publishings) the arguable best baseball read I’ve ever got my hands on is In the Country of Baseball (originally published in 1976, rereleased with a new epilogue in 1989 by Fireside), the story of the one and only Dock Ellis, a collaboration between the colorful pitcher and the poet Donald Hall.
dock ellis in uniform and hair curlers


CLAUDIA JENNINGS MEMORIAL BLOG

Later this month, Claudia Jennings would have turned 60 years old.  Poor girl never even made it to 30.

After being named the Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1970, Jennings became one of the next decade's biggest drive-in movie queens, starring in a string of hits that included Unholy Rollers, Truck Stop Women, Gator Bait, Moonshine County Express, and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase. She was romantically linked to Bobby Hart, was up for one of the three leads in Charlie's Angels (she should've got it), and was the agent looking for a guy who "fit the suit" in the Johnny Bravo episode of The Brady Bunch.  As the decade wore on, her parts got smaller and less frequent, and she fell deeper and deeper into the Hollywood drug scene.  On October 3, 1979, she was killed in a head-on collision in Malibu, California.  Her last film credit was in David Cronenberg's Fast Company, released earlier that year.

Jennings in Unholy Rollers (1972)



ROCK 'N' ROLL LOST AND FOUND #1: THE BEATLES SING THE OLDIES

HERE begins an ongoing series of song lists that will attempt to create, restore, retrieve, amplify, or defy the traditional rock 'n' roll canon.  Most of these creations don't really "exist" (whatever that means anymore in a free-floating universe of whathaveyou). 

In addition, the series will dig up lost (often demeaned) albums that have been denied their position in the established rock-crit canon.

Please keep in mind that I will NOT be sharing MP3s or any downloadable material.  Just like I had to do, you will have to seek this stuff out yourself. (It's not that I'm selfish--I fear the dreaded, albeit friendly, Web Sheriff.)

Below is a list of songs, all from The Beatles' Live at the BBC collection from 1994.  I swear to its repeated playability, which will be the primary criteria for creating or digging up a new contender for the canon.

Beatles back cover for A Collection of Oldies Beatles import LP

Rock & Roll!!!! or The Beatles Sing the Oldies But Goldiest

1) I Got a Woman

2) Soldier of Love

3) Clarabella

4) Sweet Little Sixteen

5) I Just Don't Understand

6) The Hippy Hippy Shake

7) To Know Her Is To Love Her

8) Some Other Guy

9) I Got to Find My Baby

10) So How Come (No One Loves Me)

11) Crying, Waiting, Hoping

12) A Shot of Rhythm and Blues

13) Lonesome Tears in My Eyes

14) I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)



ROGER CORMAN, KING OF THE B'S: A TOP TEN

Last month, the Academy finally saw fit to give Roger Corman an honorary Lifetime Achievement Oscar.  Well, it's about time.  But Joe Bob Briggs gave Rog a Lifetime Achievement Award at the First (and only?) Annual World Drive-In Movie Festival and Custom Car Rally way back in 1982, and in my book, that's a lot more impressive.

Still, this is obviously a major milestone: recognition from an industry who looked down their noses at him for his entire career, yet had to marvel at his ability to always turn a profit.  Corman and his partners at American International Pictures didn't invent ballyhoo or exploitation, but they perfected in a way few others have.

In recognition of this belated honor, I'm going to run down what I consider to be the ten best movies Roger Corman ever directed.  When Corman is honored these days, it's usually as a producer who spotted a lot of great young talent, but between 1955 and 1971, he was furiously working behind the camera, churning out low-budget hit after hit--53 in all over those mere seventeen years!!

Of course not all of them were great, but even some of the mediocre ones had unforgettable titles. Check out 1957's The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent.

On second thought, don't check it out. Check these out instead:



JEAN-LUC GODARD MEETS JEFFERSON AIRPLANE

Late in the pivotal year of 1968, Jean-Luc Godard, then a Marxist-Leninist filmmaker, came to America to make a revolutionary film about the '68 American revolution. With documentary filmmakers Richard Leacock and D. A. Pennebaker, Godard began shooting on locations in and around New York City on a project he called One A.M. ("One American Movie").

But One A.M. was never completed. Eventually, from some of the footage shot, the team of Leacock-Pennebaker put together another film called One P.M. ("One Parallel Movie").

One P.M. included the cast of Godard's One A.M.—Rip Torn, Tom Hayden, Eldridge Cleaver, The Jefferson Airplane, LeRoi Jones, among others. It also showed lots of scenes of Godard directing and Richard Leacock photographing One A.M (along with much footage of a couple of sound girls, some New York policemen,and Godard's wife, Anne Wiazemski.) One P.M. works as the record of the making of a movie, and it may be all that is left of a movie that was not finally made.

It's hard to say why One A.M. was abandoned. Some film scholars say that Godard failed to understand the nature of the movement in America.

DVD cover for Jefferson Airplane Fly Jefferson Airplane

The highlight of the film may be the footage of Jefferson Airplane performing "House at Pooneil Corners" live on the rooftop in Midtown Manhattan on December 7, 1968. Remember, this was shot over a year before the Beatles pulled the same stunt while rehearsing and recording their Let It Be film.

Once again, Godard was intuitively and radically ahead of his times.

[One P.M. is currently available in 10 short clips on YouTube.)



BANDS MAKE IT ROCK BUT ROADIES MAKE IT ROLL

How does Roadie sound on paper?  Well, not much different now then when Creem magazine's Dave DiMartino wrote in a 1980 Meat Loaf/Debbie Harry cover story that the plot of the then still in-production flick was "incomprehensible to the untrained eye".

The basics: Meat Loaf plays Travis W. Redfish, a good ol' Texas boy who drives a beer truck and lives with his father (Art Carney) in a television-filled house in the middle of a salvage yard. One day he helps fix a broken down RV on the side of the road which turns out to be transporting equipment for a Hank Williams, Jr gig in Austin. The truck also needs a driver, and jailbait groupie Lola Bouilliabase (Kaki Hunter) entices Travis to save the day. 

Finally arriving for the show, the crew is given ten minutes to get Bocephus on stage by badass concert promoter Mohammed Johnson (Soul Train's Don Cornelius!!). Travis proves to be a born super-roadie and Don Cornelius,... I mean Mohammed Johnson calls him "the Ali of roadies, the fastest I've ever seen," and hires him on the spot for his big "Rock and Roll Circus" tour.  Next stop: LA; "Louisiana?" Travis asks.  "Not that LA," Lola tells him, "THE LA": Sunset Strip, swimming pools, rock stars. 

Much cross-country mayhem and slapstick ensue. In addition to Messers Loaf, Carney, Williams, and Cornelius, Roadie also features Roy Orbison, Alice Cooper, Asleep at the Wheel, and Blondie (who we get to watch dressed in full cowboy garb performing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" at an Austin racetrack).

movie poster for roadie with Debbie Harry and Meatloaf



BOO HOO, SOB SOB, THEY DIED IN 2009: WHO WILL YOU MISS THE MOST?