Thursday, May 24, 2018

THROWBACK THURSDAY: A Sun Ra Birthday Party

Corrected


One hundred and four years ago this week -- May 22, 1914 -- Herman Poole "Sonny"  Blount was born in Birmingham, Alabama. In the early 30s he began a career in music. Moving to Chicago in 1945, Sonny played piano with R&B shouter Wynonie Harris and jazz greats like Fletcher Henderson and Coleman Hawkins.

By the early 1950s, Sonny transformed into Sun Ra, a visionary emissary from the planet Saturn, sent to earth to preach a cosmic philosophy of peace and love.

Like Sonny Blount, Sun Ra was a great musician. He formed an amazing musical collective called the Arkestra that played with him, in various forms, for the next 40 years.

Here's what The New York Times said about Sun Ra in its 1993 obituary:

Sun Ra was jazz's most theatrical band leader. A performance of his would feature anything from large drum choirs and African-style chants to orchestral be-bop, free expressionism and swing pieces. He had singers, dancers and acrobats and sometimes film and light shows ...

He and his band, usually called the Arkestra, dressed in a funny version 1950s intergalactica, with glittering hats (which, in fact, were spandax tank tops), robes and amulets that signified everything from Egyptology to outer space surrealism. Sun Ra made his performances a mixture of camp, pandemonium, seriousness and musical intelligence.

Below are a couple of lengthy performances by Sun Ra and crew. The first includes two songs from a 1989 appearance on the syndicated Night Music.



And here is part of his set at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival



Finally here's a fun little tune from Sun Ra's Walt Disney tribute album, Second Star to the Right.



R.I.P Saturn man. May Mr. Bluebird always be on your shoulder.

Correction: The earlier version if this post said Sun Ra was born 114 years ago. Actually it's a mere 104 years. Thanks to Facebook friend Russ for pointing it out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

WACKY WEDNESDAY: So Goes the Legend of Bonnie & Clyde


On this day 84 years ago a team of law enforcement officers led by the Bureau of Investigation (back before they were known as the FBI) killed Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Park in an ambush near Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

According to the FBI website:

Before dawn on May 23, 1934, a posse composed of police officers from Louisiana and Texas, including Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, concealed themselves in bushes along the highway near Sailes, Louisiana. In the early daylight, Bonnie and Clyde appeared in an automobile and when they attempted to drive away, the officers opened fire. Bonnie and Clyde were killed instantly.

And thus ended the bloody career of the armed and dangerous couple known as Bonnie & Clyde.

At least until they were reborn as Hollywood legends in the 1960s.

Here's what the feds have to say about Bonnie & Clyde's earthly career:

At the time they were killed in 1934, they were believed to have committed 13 murders and several robberies and burglaries. Barrow, for example, was suspected of murdering two police officers at Joplin, Missouri and kidnapping a man and a woman in rural Louisiana. He released them near Waldo, Texas. Numerous sightings followed, linking this pair with bank robberies and automobile thefts. Clyde allegedly murdered a man at Hillsboro, Texas; committed robberies at Lufkin and Dallas, Texas; murdered one sheriff and wounded another at Stringtown, Oklahoma; kidnaped a deputy at Carlsbad, New Mexico; stole an automobile at Victoria, Texas; attempted to murder a deputy at Wharton, Texas; committed murder and robbery at Abilene and Sherman, Texas; committed murder at Dallas, Texas; abducted a sheriff and the chief of police at Wellington, Texas; and committed murder at Joplin and Columbia, Missouri.

But like I said, Bonnie & Clyde staged a spectacular comeback in 1967.


Filmmaker Arthur Penn directed Bonnie & Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. It became a box office smash. There were questions about the movie's historical accuracy and controversy over what some saw as a glamorization of criminals. But soon after it's release, everyone knew who Bonnie and Clyde were.

Besides the movie, several musicians jumped on the Bonnie & Clyde bandwagon in 1967 and 1968. Here are some of them.

Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames had a big hit with "The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde."



Merle Haggard wrote and performed "The Legend of Bonnie & Clyde."



Even Mel Torme couldn't resist. His song is called "A Day in the Life of Bonnie & Clyde."


Meanwhile, French pop star Serge Gainsbourg teamed up with the one and only Brigitte Bardot (!!!) on a song called "Bonnie & Clyde." This tune borrows heavily from the poem Bonnie Parker wrote about her exploits with Barrow.



Thursday, May 17, 2018

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Songs for Hopper



Here's a musical tribute to one of my favorite actors, the late Dennis Hopper. His 82nd birthday would have been today.

Hopper was not a musician. But his greatest films were full of unforgettable music. Here are a few of the songs that helped make those movies resonate.

The 1969 hippie odyssey Easy Rider was full of great music from the heyday of the counter culture. While many tunes in the soundtrack had been big hits before Easy Rider, this one, by a group called The Fraternity of Man, became well-known because of the movie.


This tune by ex-Byrd Gene Clark was the theme song of a 1971 documentary about Dennis Hopper.


Hopper directed a 1988 movie called Colors, which dealt with the Los Angeles gang wars. The title song, by Ice T, is an early example of gangsta rap.



For my money, Hopper's greatest role was the evil Frank Booth in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. With the help of lip-syncher Dean Stockwell, Blue Velvet made a perfectly decent Roy Orbison song into something twisted and perverse.



The candy-colored clown returned with a vengeance in this subsequent scene.





Wednesday, May 16, 2018

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Birthday Salute to Ray Condo



The late Canadian rockabilly Ray Condo, born on this day in 1950, was a natural rocker, mastering that sweet spot where rockabilly intersects with western swing and post-war honky-tonk.

And he also had a humorous edge to his music -- as shown in the title of his album Door to Door Maniac -- which was the title of a 1961 crime movie starring Johnny Cash as a kidnapper. (It was originally released under the name Five Minutes to Live.)

As Condo said in a CBS interview in 2000, "We like to keep a sense of humor about it and kind of keep it on the light side.

Condo was born Ray Tremblay in Quebec. After a stint in a Vancouver punk band called The Secret Vs, the Condo persona didn't emerge until he moved to Montreal in the 1980s. Forming a band called the Hardrock Goners (a play on the name of proto-rockabilly Hardrock Gunter). By the early '90s, Condo moved back to Vancouver, where he started a new group, The Ricochets.

Condo died of a heart attack  in 2004 at the age of 53.

Here are a few samples of Ray Condo's music -- the first two videos being cartoons.







Here is a live video of Ray and boys covering a long-forgotten country novelty song, "I Lost My Gal in the Yukon."



And here's that CBS interview I mentioned earlier.








Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Yes, There IS a Brand New Big Enchilada Episode

THE BIG ENCHILADA



I'm back! I was laid up in the hospital for nearly a month -- and I missed the April episode -- but I'm healing up at home now and chomping at the bit to bring you some crazy rock 'n' roll.

So in the tradition of Big Enchilada 47, which I recorded while recovering from a hip replacement, I give you Music to Heal By 2. (I even borrowed the opening sound collage from that show.) Soak in the sweet healing sounds of The Dirtbombs, Archie & The Bunkers, The Cramps and more.

And remember, The Big Enchilada is officially listed in the iTunes store. So go subscribe, if you haven't already (and gimme a good rating and review if you're so inclined.) Thanks. 

SUBSCRIBE TO ALL RADIO MUTATION PODCASTS |

Here's the playlist:

(Background Music: Wipeout by The Eliminators)
Pray for Pills by The Dirtbombs
Fire, Walk With Me by Archie & The Bunkers
End of Nowhere by Trixie & The Trainwrecks
Don't Torment Me by The Masonics
Crazy Pills by Quan & The Chinese Takeouts

(Background Music: Sardonic Recovery by Vinnie Santino)
I Ain't Dead Yet by Mondo Topless
I Bring Home the Bacon by The Dappers
Half Nelson Headlock by The Common Cold
Hospital by Skip Church
Shake That Bat by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
White Wedding by Herman's Hermits

(Background Music:Ya Move Ya Lose by Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band)
Bop Pills by The Cramps
The Ugly Side of the Face by Hang On the Box
Dr. Boogie by Flamin' Groovies
Mystic Waves by San Antonio Kid
St. James Infirmary by Johnny Dowd
(Background Music: General Hospital Theme)


Play it below:




Thursday, May 10, 2018

THROWBACK THURSDAY: I am Normal and I Dig Bert Weedon!

I'd never heard the name "Bert Weedon" until I heard the Bonzo Dog Band's immortal song "We Are Normal" in the late '60s or early '70s. 

It's toward the end of the song, when after  one of the many times they shout, "We are normal and we want our freedom," one of the Bonzos proclaims, "We are normal and we dig Bert Weedon."

I didn't know who he was, but I figured Weedon was some obscure Brit celebrity -- and that it probably wasn't "normal" to dig him

Decades later I stumbled across a used CD compilation of Weedon's music.

And damn if I didn't dig him too.

Weedon was born 98 years ago today in London. He died in 2012, just shy of 92. He started his musical career as a teen in the 1930s. In 1959 he became the first solo guitarist to have a hit in the British charts.

Besides his recordings, Weedon was influental as the author of guitar instruction books like Play in a Day and Play Every Day.

Here are some Weedon songs in honor of his birthday.









In conclusion, The Bonzo Dog Band stands by its original contention.



Wednesday, May 09, 2018

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Songs of the Vast Wasteland



On this day 57 years ago, Newton Minow, the nation's new chairman of the federal Communications Commission -- appointed earlier that year by President John F. Kennedy -- gave a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters' convention in which he called commercial television a "vast wasteland."

Though TV still was fairly new back in 1961, that phrase stuck.

Here's what Minow said:

"When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.
"But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.



"You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it."

Pretty strong stuff.

Luckily all the broadcasting heavies in the audience paid heed to Minow's words and immediately set out to make sure television truly lived up to its potential.

Just kidding. They didn't.

I don't know whether the musicians whose work is shown below actually listened to Minow's famous speech, but it's obvious they agree with the sentiment.

Let's start with Frank Zappa, who's 1973 album Over-Night Sensation included this little gem called "I'm the Slime."




I've always liked Bruce Springsteen's take on TV from the early '90s -- although the idea of "57 channels" now seems rather quaint.



The late Gil Scott-Heron lampooned the Wasteland in his first hit "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."



Then there was this sardonic ode to the one-eyed God from Black Flag:



But nobody took on TV like the proto-punk wonders Figures of Light. At their debut concert in 1970 at Rutger's University, the band smashed 15 television sets on stage. Unfortunately I couldn't find video, but there is audio of the event.








THROWBACK THURSDAY: A Sun Ra Birthday Party

Corrected One hundred and four years ago this week -- May 22, 1914 -- Herman Poole "Sonny"  Blount was born in Birmingham, Al...