Shit

Miss Violet Beauregarde, gone too soon.

Okay, Denise Nickerson.

The Black Godfather

Ok this is a great documentary. Clarence Avant freakin’ was into everything, and everything he touched turned to gold. I have to admit that I didn’t know much about him before I watched this, but now I’m fascinated. Login to the Netflix and watch this posthaste.

Speaking Of Classic Synthesizer Albums …

The soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was released to accompany the 1971 film of the same name. The music is a thematic extension of Alex’s (and the viewer’s) psychological conditioning. The soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange comprises classical music and electronic synthetic music composed by Wendy Carlos. Some of the music is heard only as excerpts, e.g. Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (a.k.a. Land of Hope and Glory) heralding a politician’s appearance at the prison.

The main theme is an electronic transcription of Henry Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, composed in 1695, for the procession of Queen Mary’s cortège through London en route to Westminster Abbey. “March from ‘A Clockwork Orange'” (based on the choral movement of the Ninth Symphony by Beethoven) was the first recorded song featuring a vocoder for the singing; synthpop bands often cite it as their inspiration.

Switched-On Bach features ten pieces by Bach available under the public domain, performed by Carlos, with assistance from Folkman, on a modular Moog synthesizer. Carlos worked closely with Robert Moog, designer of the instrument, throughout the recording process, testing his components and suggesting improvements. The album was recorded in a studio in the basement of a brownstone building acquired by Carlos and Elkind in the West Side of Manhattan in New York City, using a custom-built 8-track recording machine constructed by Carlos from components built by Ampex.

Recording was a tedious and time-consuming process; as the synthesizers were monophonic, meaning only one note can be played at a time, each track was assembled one at a time. According to Carlos: “You had to release the note before you could make the next note start, which meant you had to play with a detached feeling on the keyboard, which was really very disturbing in making music.” The synthesizer was unreliable and often went out of tune; Carlos recalled hitting it with a hammer prior to recording to obtain correct levels. After several notes were played, it was checked again to make sure it had not “drifted”. According to Carlos, Switched-On Bach took approximately five months and a total of one thousand hours to produce.

Bach provided only two chords for the second movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, intending that the musician would improvise on these chords. Carlos carefully constructed this piece to showcase the capabilities of the Moog.

John Belushi, Decathlon Champion

A classic!

Marv Albert narrates this commercial in which John Belushi attributes his athletic success as a cigarette-smoking decathlon champion to eating Little Chocolate Donuts for breakfast. [Season 3, 1977]

I Thought I’d Seen It All

Check out “Twink” miming with The Pretty Things for a bewildered French TV audience.  Ever heard of Twink?  I hadn’t, so I poked around on Google.  Nicknamed after a British hair product, Twink was a mime, drummer, close friend of Syd Barrett, and general scenester of the London psychedelic underground.  He played drums with an early version of T. Rex, with Syd Barret occasionally, on one Pretty Things album, and with the Pink Fairies.  In the early 70’s, he was in Hawkwind with Lemmy.  His band The Rings were on the ground floor of the London punk scene in ’77.  Some refer to their lone single, “I Wanna be Free” as England’s first punk record.  It’s not very good compared to what was about to come from the Damned, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Clash, and Jam.

What led me to this video was my fondness for The Pretty Things,  a very good British r&b band who never made any headway in the U.S.  Their guitarist, Dick Taylor, had been in an early version of the Stones.  Like the Stones, their forays into psychedelia were not always memorable, as you can hear above.   You can hear them at their best here and here.  Their raucous version of Roadrunner is my favorite cover of that song.

Those Wacky Yugoslavians

Apparently their talent for album art rivaled that of their auto industry. There are far more online than I have time to pass along, but here are a few of the best (?).

Pure Evil

Dimitri Shostakovich wrote this (2nd movement, Symphony #10) as a musical portrait of Stalin, who had harrassed him directly and indirectly throughout his career.  This is pure malevolence, published after Stalin was safely dead.  While Uncle Joe was alive, DS was mostly confined to putting out government approved, “socalist realist” garbage, while keeping much of his “real” work private.  Occasionally he could put one over on the Soviets and follow the letter of their requirements while mocking them.  One cool thing is that in the finale of this same symphony, he has a theme based on his initials, DSCH, vie for dominance against the Stalin theme from this movement.  DSCH wins.  Artistic revenge at its finest.  “He who laughs last, laughs longest.”

The conductor seems a little too into his hair, and I’m not sure why he appears to be grinning during this grim business.    But you’ve gotta give him credit, his musicians are playing the hell out of this.  He made his reputation whipping these young Venezuelans into a respectable unit.  He’s since gone on to greener pastures in LA.

Sweep The Leg…

So everyone knows what the biggest sports event of 1984 was right? Damn right you do, it was the epic karate battle between Daniel Laruso and Johnny Lawrence. Well, thankfully the good folks at ESPN have put together a 30 for 30 to commemorate the event. Sort of…