Happy Birthday to the LAVA LAMP: Fifty Years of Cool Wax!

This piece was originally published July 15th, 2013.

Lava Lamp IconIn the mid-Fifties, a former WWII pilot and post-war British accountant named Edward Craven Walker was at a local English country pub called Queen’s Head along with a friend, and found himself staring at a homemade egg timer made by one of the pub’s regulars.

This particular object, which Walker described as a “contraption made out of a cocktail shaker, old tins and things” dated from WWII, and was filled with two immiscible liquids (liquids that do not mix together).

As the contents, “odd oily globules” were heated upon the pub’s stove, the wax rose and signaled that your egg was ready.

Inspired, he purchased the egg timer/lamp and worked for a decade and a half tinkering with various liquids and containers in an attempt to create a better version. He achieved his goal in 1963.

Walker filed a patent for a “Display Device” in 1965 and but had already started merchandising his creation in September of 1963 as a company called Crestworth Ltd. using the name Astro Lamp.

 

Edward Craven Walker

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BOB PEAK: American Illustrator Superstar

This piece was originally published June 1&th, 2013

Bob Peak Icon TemplateThere are times here at Mystery Box H.Q. when I set out to write about a subject that I feel is so undeniably a legend, so incredibly talented beyond mere words, and such a large influential part of the fabric of popular culture, that I start to feel…to say it in two words— humbly intimidated.

Bob Peak is one of those subjects.

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THE UNDERGROUND X-RAY RECORDS OF THE SOVIET UNION

This piece was originally published March 25th, 2013.

Soviet X Ray Records IconIt’s easy to take entertainment for granted.

In our present day we have the ability to purchase and enjoy so many recreational items: play a video game, listen to whatever it is we want, watch whatever we want, and, though there are still many folks out there who wish they could control our choices, read any books we can find.

Folks happily embrace the technology that has made obtaining our selections quick, simple and affordable, and we think nothing now of versions that exist only on the ether, or rather—on a cloud.

Still others, myself included, like to seek out older formats and what some will call obsolete mediums.

Some of these formats such as the vinyl LP have actually increased in their yearly sales and there are constantly new purveyors now marketing records, both for new album releases and reissuing older releases.

The annual April celebration event for small independent record shops around the world, Record Store Day, has increased popularity and made it a huge success. For many of these brick and mortar stores and the independent record labels that send exclusive items for sale on that day, it is their best retail day of the year.

Long thought dead formats such as 78 r.p.m. records, 8-track tapes, cassettes, VHS tapes and laser discs, still have numerous aficionados and collectors that will readily discuss at great length their obsessions and collections. In fact, there are even record labels, bands and filmmakers that choose to only release their output on some of these “antique” formats.

It wasn’t always this easy though…

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JOHN ENTWISTLE: Halloween’s Favorite Bass Player

This piece was originally published October 22nd, 2012.

John Entwistle was the legendary and highly influential bass player for The Who.

Before Entwistle, pop music fans of all different styles could care less about the bass as an instrument, often not paying that much attention to who was playing it or listening for its sound.

Playing the bass as a lead instrument with a full on volume, treble and bass attack, and with his very specific selection of type of bass, plus what strings and amplification to use, Entwistle brought an uncompromising new approach to the bass guitar.

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“Of Sounds And Something Else”: Remembering Music Producer TOM WILSON

This piece was originally published September 10th, 2012.

Tom Wilson Post Icon TemplateSeptember 6th marked the anniversary of the death in 1978 of one of music’s great producers of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Tom Wilson.

Although his name is not as familiar as that of say, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson or George Martin, his achievements and influence are profoundly important.

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Record producer and DJ Tom Wilson stands outside ABC Studios, in New York City,
promoting his radio show “The Music Factory” — June 21, 1967. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

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GEORGE CLINTON and PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC: THE MOTHERSHIP STILL ORBITS

This piece was originally published February 13th, 2012.

Funkadelic Post TemplateThe Mothership touched down a few nights ago here in Providence, RI.

Legendary “King Funkateer” George Clinton, brought his mighty Parliament-Funkadelic tour (now known as The P-Funk All Stars) to the venerable downtown nightspot, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel for an evening that will not soon be forgotten by the lucky punters in attendance.

Elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, Parliament/Funkadelic still remain as one of the largest groups to ever be elected to the Hall, and most definitely the most colorful of any to ever grace a stage.

The history of George Clinton’s musical accomplishments is as vast as the outer space themes he so frequently mined for ideas.

 

The Parliaments in 1969 (George on the right)

 

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Imagine a career that spans a timeline from the mid-fifties and mid sixties (brief songwriter with Motown, R&B vocal group The Parliaments) through to the late sixties and seventies (formation of Acid Funk Rock group Funkadelic and sister group, the chart topping hit-makers Parliament) to solo work in the eighties and nineties, and onto his present time as a heavily sampled and heavily influential bandleader.

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GENIUS BEFORE THE ARTIST: Michel Hazanavicius And His OSS 117 FILMS

This piece was originally published January 30th, 2012.

OSS117 Post TemplateMichel Hazanavicius’ The Artist has been garnering award after award and may very well end up sweeping the upcoming Academy Awardswell it should in any case.

Easily one of the best films that I have seen recently, I can honestly add it to the list of my favorite films of all time.

 

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Béjo in The Artist

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This story of a great fan fave silent film actor facing the oncoming changes that came with the new talkies era, is such a wonderful, skillfully crafted and entertaining homage to cinema’s past, that it will doubtlessly continue to snowball into a huge mainstream success, and deservedly so.

The genius of Hazanavicius’ filmmaking did not begin with The Artist however.

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MINGERING MIKE: THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF SOUL MUSIC’S GREATEST SUPERSTAR YOU NEVER HEARD

This piece was originally published January 16th, 2012.

Mingering Mike Post TemplateThe true story of Mingering Mike is as unbelievable and gloriously happily, as it is also sadly believable and poignantly bittersweet.

For a period of time there was little this amazingly talented Giant of Soul Music, with his touch of gold, did not turn into a massive success.

“Between 1968 and 1977 Mingering Mike recorded over fifty albums, managed thirty-five of his own record labels, and produced, directed and starred in nine of his own motion pictures. In 1972 alone he released fifteen LPs and over twenty singles, and his traveling revue played for sold out crowds the world over.”

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JAMES BROWN: HEP JAZZ CAT??

This piece was originally published March 1st, 2011.

James Brown Post IconJames Brown has been known by more nicknames than any other musical legend in history…

An incomplete list would include, “The Godfather Of Soul,” “Soul Brother Number One,” “The Minister Of Funk,” “Mr. Please Please Please Please Her,” “The Boss,” “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business,” “The King Of Funk,” “The King Of Soul,” “Sex Machine,” “Minister Of The New New Super Heavy Funk,” and “Mr. Dynamite.”

However there are a few nicknames that he will probably never be known for, like “Mr. Jazzman,” “The Swinging Hepcat,” or “The Emperor Of Jazz.”



Jazz might not be a musical genre that immediately comes to mind when thinking about J.B. but, like so many things that this talent of super human proportions was able to pull out of his musical bag of tricks, James Brown had a definite Jazz side that easily stands proudly alongside the rest of his brilliant oeuvre.

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MY TOP 13 BRADY BUNCH OBSESSIONS

This piece was originally published February 15th, 2010.

Johnny Bravo IconHere at Mystery Box H.Q. we spent a couple of months watching the entire run— all five seasons, 117 episodes— of The Brady Bunch.

As I have mentioned before, there is no other more enjoyable way for me to watch a television series and appreciate all the continuity, or lack of continuity, the scripting, progression of an actor’s character development and seeing just how a show is brought to a final ending, or if it just hangs there forever in limbo without any closure.

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