Tuesday, December 18, 2012

IN THE SHADOWS OF MURDER & BAD LUCK: Detour (1945)

One of the great, small film noir exploitations of the 1940s, this is a story of a man whose situation goes from bad to worse, all in the pursuit of love and success. Neither glamorous or pretty, this gritty, wicked little film follows a head over heels pianist in love with a singer, both determined to move to Hollywood, pursuing their dreams of a better life, a better career, a better way of being- to get married and play in the big leagues- to make it, to show the world their talent and all it holds. The dame makes the first move out to California, chasing the glory and the gold, as the piano player continues plying his trade in the east coast dive where they both began. Once the piano player gets the idea that he'll hitch hike after his girl- by hook or crook, broke or smoke- the plot is hatched and the trouble begins. Snappy, street issue dialogue, hot and nasty dames, dreams of a world more than either know. In Detour you get the guts and glow of the money chase, the affectionate punch you get when your heart goes boom and you are just trying to make it all work for yourself. Sometimes on the road to getting there, the most unexpected situations present themselves in the most haunting ways.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

KIDS ON THE STREET & THE GUTTER LIFE : Streetwise (1984)

The movie  today is a film that details a place and time I have some first hand knowledge of- NW street kids in 1984. I was neither homeless nor unloved by family, but I spent so much time hanging out in downtown Portland around this time I got to know many characters similar to the ones featured within this documentary. At 14 your relationship with your parents can be tenuous if they fail to understand how it is you are developing, and you seek support and community elsewhere to salve those emotional wounds. Being very much outside what society and the system dictated I should be, I spent as much time as I could hanging around other kids my age with a similar emotional situation- shoplifting, smoking weed, dancing in the streets, hanging out at shows, trying to make sense of what the adult world wanted. These kids had a much tougher road to travel that I- they were mostly running from abusive homes, or kicked out, or were unwanted. I had some traits I bonded with- I was adopted, I had a tumultuous upbringing- a child of divorce, an outsider who lacked the ability to understand the kids at school. When I discovered the downtown hang around lifestyle, it clicked, and made sense to me in oh so many ways. But soon after I found my focus (music and writing)- and left the idle time wasting behind, happy I found place and purpose amongst what was once chaos and disorder. STREETWISE details many of the kids who had a harder time escaping, who have not found that focus. Some survived, some did not, some went onto better things. It is a privilege for us to be able to glimpse the real world as it happened in films such as this- before reality television manipulated such things into a commercial endeavor for profit and gain. "You gonna be downtown, you gonna be cool, you better learn the ways of the streets if you're gonna be doin' the shit that you're doin'." 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

FIERCE FANTASIES & THE LEGENDARY CHILDREN: Paris Is Burning (1989)

Today's movie is a documentary that means quite a lot to me. It is a beautiful, touching, exciting, sad, wicked little film about poor kids not born into the more privileged lifestyle they covet and imitate. When it originally appeared I was living in Portland, Oregon and went to see it in the theater at Cinema 21 and it nearly blew the back of my head out. I was literally jolted into excitement by the dance, the dress, the desperation. It allowed me to reinforce my inner self, to value my uniqueness, to hold yourself accountable for your own system. I did not want to be like these fabulous children- I just wanted to a fabulous child. It was at a point when I was formulating the next phase of my existence, the real me that I was too repressed to become yet. And then I hit the streets of Chicago and let it all come out- at first going in for the typical mainstream cop out of fashion and follow, which lasted about 8 months until I unleashed the rock n roll motherfucker I truly am to this day- finally, one of the legendary children. Gay or straight, left or right, up or down, this film will give you a greater sense of the world and how others live and do, and how as much as you think you have the answers, whatever your background- there is an undeniable desire we all have to find our place in this mess of a universe that puts pressure against us every waking minute. So shake the dice and steal the rice, baby- this one is for you!

Monday, December 10, 2012

MIND CONTROL MELTDOWN & THE BRAIN POLICE: Split Image (1982)

Tonight's film is a superb, taut psychological thriller - this is one of the finest exploitations on the brainwash tactics of cults- how they lure kids with the promise of a better family than the one they are born into. This movie is an explosion of shouting, crying, and desperation. Michael O' Keefe plays an aspiring Olympic gymnast  who is lure into "Homeland"- a working commune- by a hot chick (played by Karen Allen), where he is then brainwashed into believing his previous existence was nothing more than "death in life," and is forced to burn his clothes and forget his past and feed the needs of the commune, which is run by a Jim Jones type psycho- dressed in all white, played with brilliant, subtle aggression by Peter Fonda. James Woods shows up as a bounty hunter who is hired to kidnap the kid and deprogram him. Woods sort of steals the show- his character is so unlikeable and nasty and foul mouthed. Brian Dennehy and Elizabeth Ashley play the parents in their best over the top, worrisome tone. This is one of those great little human dramas that is high strung, action packed, and hard boiled in it's effort to grab some truth through entertainment. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

BUST OUT INTO THE STREETS! Straight Time (1978)

Tonight's movie concerns an ex-con, played by Dustin Hoffman, who enters back into society after serving time in prison, only to arrive in a world full of more hassles on the outside than he can possibly handle. Based on a book written by real life ex-con Edward Bunker, this movie is an excellent expose of underworld criminals who crave the action and release and easy money that robbing and thieving provide. Made in 1978, when the world still had a gritty, seedy, decadent look to it, this movie captures a place and time as far from us as the roaring 20s. Hoffman's nervous, tense performance keeps you interested in the petty mind twist of a life long criminal hell bent on going straight but not having the full understanding how to get there. A sweet artifact and a well played, well made portrait of a man desperate for much more than the hell he got himself into. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

BURN DOWN THE GODDAMN WORLD & CALL IT A DAY: Over The Edge (Matt Dillon 1979)

This is the first of several movies I will be posting to this blog as I find them. These are films of note that I believe have a huge entertainment value many big budget blow up blowouts do not. These are direct, human stories full of the realities of the time period they were created in. OVER THE EDGE is absolutely one of my all time favorite films, a movie notable for introducing a young, unknown Matt Dillon- elevating him to teen heart throb soon after. I have had a hard on for this movie since I first saw it when I was 13, when the world looked a little bit closer to this all around. It reflected how me and my friends acted and saw the world at the time, how we then spent our teenage lives living out this juvenile macho fantasy. In some ways we were worse, in others not so much. The world has obviously moved onward, as this sort of teen angst has given way to deeper wounds- sex scandals, mass shootings, gang banging, internet bullying, bath salts, AIDS, video games- so this film seems more an overblown adventure from a time gone by, though I still have yet to hear about anything happening as incendiary as this film's climax at a real world high school as of yet. And what, pray tell, happens in the end?? Just watch this teenage wasteland classic and see some hot kids, great 1970s hard rock, and how the punks dealt with the world back in the 20th century. It may just blow your mind!!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

BUY TRASH ZINE NOW ON LINE!!!

Have you ever entered a record store that you knew were carrying TRASH but could not find the issues, no matter how hard you looked, no matter what employee you ask?? Fear NOT! For you you can NOW order this on line and receive it right to your front door with none of the hassles! ISSUE #22- the most current edition- is still available! ORDER YOURS NOW!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MODS DAY OUT

I had an opportunity to meet one of English Pop music's finest craftsmen- Paul Weller. With The Jam he reached the top of the pop charts, the biggest thing England had since The Beatles. His ability in adopting pre-existing modes of musical expression, adapting them to his own ideas, and then creating somewhat of a post modern hybrid from this, has become one of the great pop stories of the last part of the 20th century. His influence on further generations of musicians- be it Morrissey or Oasis- unquestionable, and even his detractors will come around to admitting he has a way with a lyric and a melody. After disbanding The Jam in 1983, he formed a pure 80s pop group called The Style Council, who produced a gaggle of wonderful songs, dance party new wave soul, up to the trends, with a look and sound befitting the band's name. Though the man lost some hardcore fans of The Jam, who wished Paul would go back to playing brash guitar, he gained a new audience of stylish synth kids bent on something colder, more synthetic, yet no less soulful. And they got it. But the guitar came back out when Weller broke up The Style Council, going solo, bringing back the Modfather persona, and rocking out once more. This time the influences were more varied and wide reaching, with jazz and folk and psychedelia and African music informing much of his output. His latest LP, Sonik Kicks, still has that old Weller imprint, but ratchets up some of the action with electronic samples to hold. The man himself was lovely. Polite, curious, generous, one fo the best experiences I have had with meeting a musician. Unpretentious, a down to earth bloke all the way. I really wanted to sit down and have a pint of lager with him, he was so personable and friendly and excited to be talking about music with so many of us who love music. I spoke with him about Dinah Washington, Matt convinced him to come back and do an in store performance, Patrick talked to him about the latest Tame Impala record. He bought lots of jazz. And some Ethiopian funk. This truly was a wonderful day.

Friday, May 4, 2012

DISTORTED SHADOWS: Neil Young Journeys- a film by Jonathan Demme

The third film in a trilogy, directed with dark beauty by noted film maker Jonathan Demme, Neil Young's Journeys is a loud, atmospheric cauldron of muted distortion, amplified and accented by Young's passionate persona. Unlike the golden tones of 2006's Heart Of Gold, or the plain, direct framing of thier second collaboration, 2009's Trunk Show, Journeys displays a much starker, heavier tone- a solemn reverie of time and place. Young's guitar may contain it's nastiest tone here, the over all sound thuds and scrapes and wails, filling up Toronto's Massey Hall (and the theater) entirely. In between the sonic bloodletting, Young takes us on a small tour through his hometown of Omemee, Ontario- the place from which many of his earliest songs grew. It is the "town in North Ontario" he sings about in 1970's Helpless. It is a beautiful, quiet place. A sleepy town. Young, his brother Bob in tow, details the landscape from which he sprang- the backwoods brush he would camp out in, to be near his chickens; the school named after his father- a famous Canadian writer, and the hall where his father performed as the only white man in a minstrel show. A black and white photo of little Neil, in full cowboy gear, appears. One of Young's funniest childhood tales is when he was convinced by another boy that eating tar off the road was a good thing, that it eventually turns into chocolate.
The music contained within is amazing in how Young has captured his essence as an artist and emotional being after 40 some odd years of doing this. Young's ability in fully possessing the moment, sans knee jerk professionalism, is a great tale to tell. With just Neil and his tricked out electric guitar- both hollow and solid body- he proceeds to pour his soul into the songs, attending to all that have made classics such as "Ohio'" "Hey Hey (My My)," and "After The Goldrush" soar, yet funneling them through an updated approach that stays in the moment, simultaneously creating a new vibe for future listeners to have and to hold. The newer material, much of it holding weight against the more familiar, is apocalyptic in tone, spiritual in execution, earthy in delivery. A song like "Peaceful Valley Boulevard" is as incendiary as a known entity such as "Down By The River," even when the feel comes on much more subtle. In Journeys, Young proves he still has a musical curiosity that can draw you inwards- into his darkest shadows, into the heart of his very best expressions.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

JOHNNY RAMONE Vs. THE WORLD

On April 26, 2012, I was honored to peform a DJ set at Amoeba Music Hollywood, in conjunction with the release of COMMANDO: The Autobiography Of Johnny Ramone. 8 years after his death and it finally comes out. In attendence were original drummer Tommy Erdelyi, Johnny's widow Linda Ramone, and publisher John Cafiero. This was an exciting moment for me. The Ramones have meant various things to me over the years- I have loved them, hated them, taken them for granted, worshipped them, and been frustrated by them. Their power on those first 4 records is undeniable. The invention, the songs, the presentation. The following 10 records- from 1980's End Of The Century (released January 1980) to their final LP, 1996's Adios Amigos- are a gaggle of the most difficult, failed experiments in chasing a hit song you may hear a band record. Some of these records are great, a few are awful, yet all of them maintain a quality level most bands would be thrilled to obtain. So when I was asked to do this DJ set while Tommy, Linda, and John met the fans and signed the book, I accepted instantly. Every other song I spun was a Ramones tune. I avoided any of the big tunes, the ones everyone knows, the ones you can hear at any Lakers game. No- I played the inbetween tracks, the stuff that compounds and expands their legend, rather than the stuff that perserves it. The other songs were either tunes that inspired and influenced The Ramones, things Tommy had produced, or a few special requests. I had Tommy sign a copy of the book for me, and he commented on the DJ set: "You played some great songs!" he said. "Oh, thanks. Well, you made em!" I smiled. He then flashed a mischievious grin. "Well, No, I meant the inbetween stuff." "Aw, thanks." I said. And that was it. Tommy looked a little tired from all the record signing he had done that evening, and I did not want to bother the man any further. John Cifero was an incredibly sweet guy, and I had some very nice verbal exchanges with him about Elvis Costello and the like. I did not speak to Linda, and I do not know why. I felt that I am such an inquisitive person for all the wrong questions, and was not in a mood to field bad reactions to probing questions about the Joey/Johnny situation, which I most certainly wanted to know more about. She was dressed in some flashy, astounding silver boots and a wild 1960s dress. She looked good, and was accompanied by a younger guy who looked like a refugee from some Dutch psych rock band. Suffice to say- I dug his outfit. COMMANDO: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone, at 176 pages, is as quick a read as a Ramones album. I sped through it in 3 hours, and it was absorbing and entertaining. Johnny reveals much, yet holds back much. His attention towards detail is lacking somewhat, as he prefers to get to the meat of the issue, as with his guitar playing. You could easily tag him the Archie Bunker of rock n roll- cantankeous, opinionated, funny, no nonsense, slightly ridiculous, and pretty damn brazen. A proud Republican, Johnny's political views are mired in knee jerk dogma in which he would seriously ask a guy like Lester Bangs if he was a card carrying communist, sans any hint of sarcasm or levity. Which makes for some hilarious dialogue. When told by manager Gary Kurfirst that people were giving him grief about the lyrics to their song "Warthog," particularly the line "junkies, fags, Commies, and queers," Johnny asked "Who are you getting complaints from- junkies, fags, commies, and queers?" And so on. But The Ramones could not have existed without all 4 of those guys, the core original line up. Dee Dee and Johnny have stated in interviews that Tommy did not necessarily influence the sound of the band that much, but many of us fans know better. Marky is a incredible drummer-and became as much a part of The Ramones as any of them (no matter what anybody says, CJ, who seems like a sweet guy, is just a day player to many of us), but it is Tommy's original drumming technique and attack that created 25% of that band's best moments. Their most revolutionary moments. He put the band together. Those guys may have still been passed out, or working construction, if Tommy had not pushed them to play together. So Tommy is MEGA important. And those first three records have a feel and focus Marky could not have created (his finest moment, I believe, is on the first Richard Hell LP- his drumming on that thing is some of the best, most inspired shit you may hear in punk at that point; jazzy, jagged, intense- a whole army of post punk wags owe Marky a little place.) The book is a worth while telling of The Ramones story, through Johnny's filter. It made me Ramones crazy all over again, revisiting their career entirely, checking back in on the things I love, the stuff I think is just ok, and then the stuff I really dislike, the things that ended up ruining the band for me in some ways. Though, in the end, you cannot ruin The Ramones. Songs like "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" or "Locket Love" prove that The Ramones will always have a place in my heart. Always.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

JOHN DERBYSHIRE: A Character Study.



I feel it is important to get a clear, concise, visual picture of just who John Derbyshire of The National Review is- as Prudence Pingleton from the movie Hairspray. This scene should best describe the emotional effect black people must have on Mr. Derbyshire for him to write such a careless, sad, fearful screed. I think this scene nails the tone of his article completely.

THE HYPE MACHINE BREAK DOWN: Alabama Shakes.



Today we examine the upcoming hype on a band called Alabama Shakes. A band that has been getting buzz for some time now, many a rock fan just dying to get their hands on this thing. This lead single is extremely characteristic of the entire CD- slow, gritty, blues infected soul music, played with average affection by indie rockers (i.e. more strident and literal than swinging and physical). If not for the singer, this band would have nothing very interesting to offer, sans the guitar player's ease in copying standard southern style soul riffs. It all comes on a bit bland- the record tends to drag about mid way through, and the songs don't carry much weight beyond the basics of what it projects. That being said, it is also a nice, solid, consistent affair that should entertain on a beautiful Sunday morning before you launch into the day. I like em' just enough. In the end- it really is about how much her voice grabs you, keeps you, how deeply it affects your sense of interest.