Mark E. Smith and The Fall: My Favorite Musical Acts I Will See Again and Again. Part 1.

This piece was originally published May 18, 2009

Don’t Give Up On Live Music!

I'm A Mummy IconI’ve been going to see live music for as long as I can remember loving music. Whether it was as a kid being brought somewhere to experience the new sensation of various summertime jazz performers in the park, or later on as I ventured out to nightspots and musical gatherings on my own. I have lived music, played music, gone to support fellow comrades in sound as they too formed bands, and later helped put together a massive 3-day music festival that was beyond an incredible experience.

No matter what your particular preferred genre of sound, simply put, there is little in life that can come close to the thrill of seeing and hearing a live concert. If the concert happens to be by an artist whose music you are already familiar with and own work by, that’s a plus. For myself, there are then the wonderful few who make a return touring visit extra special and rewarding.

This is the first column for what will end up being 13 columns spread out over this year, for which I have cherry picked favorite musical acts that I really get excited about going to see over and over again in concert.

My prerequisites:
1) They are still currently making music I like and are touring live.
2) I’ve seen each more than a few times.
3) All stand out with a unique sound, presence and charisma.

Perhaps there is a chance you will have heard and love a few, or perhaps have not heard of any. Hopefully, at least one will tickle your interest enough to check out a sample or read further about them via their web site.

Fan=fanatic and I guess you could say that for each of the musical acts I will be covering, I am a fanatic and will almost always buy whatever it is that they have to sell me.

Part 1)

The Fall

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TREK WEEK: 13 Things I Obsessed About On Star Trek, The Original Series a.k.a. Just Where Are the Bathrooms On the Starship Enterprise?

This piece was originally published May 4th, 2009

Vulcan Man IconAh, classic 1966 Star Trek. We know it all too well: William Shatner’s inimitable Captain James T. Kirk; Leonard Nimoy’s half Vulcan, half human Mr. Spock; and Sulu. Not to mention, an immeasurable amount of fodder for discussion, trivia, merchandising and collectibles.

1966 Star Trek, in its endless cycle of syndicated reruns during my teenage years, was my very first foray into any type of a full blown obsessive, deep fan-trance, geeked out, collector type mentality.

Call it the beginning of my lovable/sick desire to collect memorabilia, toys, books and to actually go beyond that of merely absorbing something as just entertainment.

Sure, I had other loves before and spent any money I had on courting them as well. There was James Bond and all things spy; monster movies; music; models; MAD magazine and comic books (I was a proud member of Marvel’s FOOM); Saturday morning animation, and other groovy syndicated tv shows like Batman (Adam West),The Green Hornet, The Munsters and The Addams Family. Yet, Star Trek is where my young brain skipped a therapy session and decided to dive into things. I needed the toys, the books and devoted my pondering thoughts to all things Star Trek in a way that I not yet experienced.

Where no “I” had ever gone before.

Now, a small sampling of these as I list 13 things about Star Trek: The Original Series that I heavily obsessed about. In no particular order of importance, as they were all important…

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MONKS: THE TRANSATLANTIC FEEDBACK—Not Your Everyday Monk Rockers

This piece was originally published April 27th, 2009

Half Blue Girl IconHow could 5 American GI’s, stationed on a military base in the middle of 1961’s Cold War immersed Germany, in a few years become one of the most out there, avant garde, experimental garage rock and roll art bands to ever come along in pop music’s history?

Well, it doesn’t hurt if you have an electric banjo, are called MONKS and dress like…Monks.

For over ten years, Directors Dietmar Post and Lucia Palacios have been working to bring the little known tale of one of the wildest, most strikingly different bands of the sixties to the screen. This unlikely story is a superbly engaging film called Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback.

For those uninitiated to the Monks’ story, music or visual image, this film tells a thoroughly head scratching tale: they were a group of GI’s who originally set out to primarily have some fun and meet some girls through making beat music and covering Chuck Berry tunes under the name The Torquays in 1964 while performing for their fellow servicemen also stationed in Germany. They soon hooked up with “a pair of loopy existentialist visionaries,” namely two German art student/producers who helped use their own experimental ideas about art, noise, society, politics and generally how to create an in your face image—best seen to be believed—to shape the band into an altogether different kind of pop act.

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Hey Menko! A Look at Japan’s Colorful Little Card Wonders

This piece was originally published April 20th, 2009 Menko Man IconMenko is two things: first, a card game that has been played by kids in Japan since Japan’s Edo period (1603 to 1868 a.k.a. the pre modern isolationist Shogunate era of Japan, usually the period where most bad ass Samurai films take place) and is surprisingly still around today, and second, the name for the actual cards themselves. Menko as a game is similar to marbles and with much respect to this actual game, which is ingrained in a multitude of Japanese childhood memories to this day, you probably won’t be playing Menko anytime soon, nor will I, but oh boy, a piece of cardboard with a colorful printed image on one side has rarely been as visually appealing and fun as the glorious Menko. The Menko card reflects Japan’s cultural history, pop history and team sports history. Being a close relative to the trading card, or even a Pokemon card, kids have collected them, traded them and probably sneaked a few into their pockets at the corner store…uhh, forgetting to pay at the register.

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Little Steven’s Underground Garage: Celebrating 7 Years (So Far, and So Far Out) of Garage Rock Radio Greatness

This piece was originally published April 6th, 2009

Mop Top IconThe Little Steven’s Underground Garage syndicated weekly radio show began 7 years ago and is currently celebrating a seven year anniversary of playing selections from the ever growing umbrella of Garage Rock’s creatively wild, brilliantly defiant and just plain freakin’ good music from the ’50s to NOW. The current program is listed at show #366 and there is definitely no sign of slowing down.

One would be hard-pressed to find a better music radio host at the moment (ok Bob Dylan might be an equal, but he’s the subject of a future column) than the gravely voiced, street smart Dead End Kid who is Little Steven…

Steven Van Zandt a.k.a. Little Steven, was born at the beginning of the rock and roll decade, in 1950, to an Italian American family in Winthrop, Massachusetts. Moving to New Jersey when he was 7, his life as a musician will forever be one for modern music’s history books. Even an incomplete list of accomplishments is staggering: founding member of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, several early pre fame Bruce Springsteen bands, twice (and currently) a key figure in the legendary Springsteen E Street Band, activist and leader of the ’80s all star “Artists United Against Apartheid” Sun City benefit ensemble, and infamy as an actor in The Sopranos as the memorable Silvio. Hell, most folks would probably lounge on an island doing nothing else between recording albums and nightly four hour plus shows of touring with The E Street Band alone.

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Thankfully, for those of us who live, love and breathe cool music, Mr. Van Zandt seems to be a workaholic, and number one fan of all that he programs on his radio show.
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The Great Horror Family: Yet another wacky tv horror sitcom (!?) and one you may have missed…

This piece was originally published March 23rd, 2009 Onibaba IconThere have been plenty of horror and supernatural television series that have had a great deal of wit and/or a tongue in cheek aspect to them (think The Night Stalker and its offspring, The X-Files) but an all out goofy, slapstick filled, bloody horror / monster sitcom? You can pretty much count the television sitcoms that could be listed under “horror” on one hand. In the sixties, when television genres really started to loosen up and take chances begetting successful shows involving witches, genies, spies and animated cavemen or flying squirrels, you had two of the best loved—and primarily the only ones most people can think of as straight up horror comedies: The Munsters and The Addams Family. Both of these classic shows exemplified the love and obsession with monsters that had viewers flocking to cinemas and drive-ins throughout the ’50s and ’60s and reading magazines such as the ones that help spawn the love, Famous Monsters of Filmland or the omnipresent kid staple, MAD. For awhile it was monsters, monsters and more monsters—at least until the mid sixties James Bond spy craze took over and everyone needed a briefcase that contained a pop out throwing dagger.

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I Was a Teenage Movie Maker 2: Confessions of a Super 8 Freak

This piece was originally published March 9th, 2009

Frankie Teen IconI had fun making amateur movies as a kid with my friends. Things were different then…were they ever. You see, video — that was something that was waay out of our league. Only grownups that had academic credentials used video. I saw that firsthand, observing the wacky hipsters who came into our 3rd grade music class videotaping our visit from the local Looking Glass Theater children’s acting troupe. No, video cameras were out of the question. They cost unfathomable amounts of money, were huge clunky behemoths with accompanying heavyweight television monitors, and shot disturbingly poor grade black and white images. This did not meet with our colorful kid standards at all — video cameras were best left to the early German Krautrockers like Kraftwerk who also had room sized, hand built synthesizers.

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TajTunes: The Singing Telegram with a Happy Twist

This piece was orignally published February 23rd, 2009

Dr Guru from the 1967 Fantastic Voyage Saturday morning cartoon show IconIndia is a nation where music and song are ingrained into everyday life and virtually inescapable to the resident or traveling visitor. From outdoor market stalls and back alleyway shops, there are loud speakers often set up somewhere providing a daily soundtrack for the passerby. From business district to humble doorway, there are performers or non performers singing, chanting or at the very least changing the cassette or cd of their funky windowsill boombox.

It is nearly a prerequisite that most of the films released in the Mumbai based “Bollywood” feature song and dance sequences, regardless of the subject matter or genre, that will often tie into becoming massive selling soundtracks and popularly known songs throughout the gigantic country.

In keeping with this spirit of daily musical delight and escapist love of song and dance comes a happy company called TajTunes…

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What’s so funny about Peace, Love and …Dioramas??

This piece was originally published February 9, 2009

Japanese Robot Goldar from Space Giants Icon

 

I’m fairly certain that no dictionary definition is needed here for exactly what a diorama is.

Well, just in case there is one person who isn’t quite sure, or isn’t familiar with The Simpsons episode, Lisa’s Rival, here are two simple ones:

1) A three-dimensional miniature or life-size scene in which figures, stuffed wildlife, or other objects are arranged in a naturalistic setting against a painted background.

2) A miniature, three-dimensional scene, often depicting a historical event.

From childhood on, we have all seen and experienced firsthand the modern day examples of dioramas. Be it via the often creepy and slightly upsetting versions, at least that’s what comes to my mind whenever I am viewing say, a taxidermist fueled fest such as the kind of wildlife diorama found in a museum of science or natural history setting – teachers, scientists and tourists just love ’em – or the ones created with ever so cool toys that you want to touch, covet, take home and place into your very own fake grass and plaster over chicken wire creation.

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R.I.P. Lux Interior: Inimitable frontman for The Cramps

 

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This piece was originally published February 4th, 2009

Goo Goo Muck IconLux Interior, singer for The Cramps, died today.

The Cramps were formed in 1976 by Lux along with his wife, guitarist Poison Ivy, and together they made some of the coolest green slime Z movie sounds ever heard. 

 

The Cramps merged rockabilly, shlock horror, drive-in trash and underground punk rock into a voodoo stew that few others could even hope to attempt with such singularly perfect results.

Simply put, he was among the most greatest of all frontmen to have ever appeared on a stage.