Saturday, January 30, 2010

ROCK Sex: Jacqueline Taieb, French Garage Grrrl!



ROCK Sex tells you what time it is.


Yesterday I mentioned JACQUELINE TAIEB, so let's get more hip to that trip.

Jacqueline Taieb was born in Tunisia but raised in France. As a very young teen in the mid 60's, she recorded singles during the ultra-cool YeYe scene. Her biggest hit was "7 Hueres du Matin" which she also recorded in English as "7:00 AM". Garage Rock fans enjoy her because of the edgy use of guitar on this song and her hip cultural references to Paul McCartney, Elvis, Little Richard, and The Who.

Here's a tribute I made homaging her, as well as Mod clothing designer Mary Quant and the Swinging London era.

JACQUELINE TAIEB -"7:00 AM" (1966)


And here is the alternate version in French.


Recently MAREVA GALANTER gave her own tribute with this great cover:

MAREVA GALANTER -"7 Hueres du Matin" (2006)



40 years later, Jacqueline returned to record a cool sequel called "7h du Soir", with a Dutch Garage band backing her.

Friday, January 29, 2010

LADIES FIRST: 'Chick Habit!'



LADIES FIRST brings you another classic song that 'she did first'.

Who didn't love the song "Chick Habit" from Tarantino's film "Death Proof"?


The original was recorded by French teen chanteuse FRANCE GALL as "Laisse Tomber les Filles" ('Forget the Girls') in 1964. The lyrics by Serge Gainsbourg had an unusually harsh and jaded worldview that caused controversy coming from a teen Pop girl's mouth.

FRANCE GALL -"Laisse Tomber les Filles" (1964)



In the 90's, APRIL MARCH did both a French and an English cover of the song. It retains the retro rock sound while amping it up a bit. She named the English version "Chick Habit", and Tarantino used both versions in the credits of his film, "Death Proof" (2007, half of the combo film "Grindhouse").

APRIL MARCH -"Laisse Tomber les Filles" (1995)


APRIL MARCH -"Chick Habit" (1995; film footage (2007))



Before that film came out, FABIENNE DELSOL had brought it full circle by covering the original.

FABIENNE DELSOL -"Laisse Tomber les Filles" (2004)



Soon after her but still before the film, neo-YeYe artist MAREVA GALENTER also covered it, along with songs by seminal French Garage Girl Jacqueline Taïeb ("7:00 AM", "On roule à 160").

MAREVA GALENTER -"Laisse Tomber les Filles" (2006)



"Hang it up, daddy,
a girl's not a tonic or a pill!

You're gonna need a heap of glue
when they all catch up with you
and they cut you up in two!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BEYOND COOL: Pedro Bell, Funkadelic's visionary!


Tribute to Pedro Bell; art by Tym Stevens.
Larger here


Let's set the record straight. There are three factors that made FUNKADELIC what it was:
  • The first is the brilliant musicians, particularly the 1970 and the 1975 line-ups.
  • The second is the bent vision of GEORGE CLINTON to pull it all together on record.
  • But the third is just as crucial, and just as clear to all the real fans: the album artwork of PEDRO BELL.


Pedro Bell, with original size art for "Electric Spanking of War Babies"


Funkadelic had been alarming/converting audiences for around four years before he showed up. Hindsight shows that in those years, between 1969 and 1973, they were trying anything and everything like they had nothing left to lose. Which they didn't since they were on an obscure label, an erratic tour circuit, and haphazardly building a odd cult of fans while being run out of towns.

Pedro was like many of those fans, a young person into the hothouse explosion of hybrid musics that gushed over from the expansive late '60s. Like the deepheads, he loved Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles. He particularly liked the distinct and disturbing packaging of Frank Zappa albums. It gave a special identity to the artist and to the fans who dug it. It plugged you into your own special shared universe. So he sent elaborately drawn letters to Funkadelic's label with other samples. George Clinton liked the streetwise mutant style and asked him to do the "Cosmic Slop" album cover in 1973.

That was the moment Funkadelic became everything we think about them being.


Detail from "Cosmic Slop" album cover (1973)


Before, Funkadelic used shocking photos of afro sirens along with liner notes lifted from the cult, Process Church Of The Final Judgement. Very sexy, very edgy. But looking a bit too much like labelmates The Ohio Players' kinky covers, and reading like a Charles Manson prescription for apocalypse. A more cartoonish cover for the fourth album "America Eats Its Young" (1972) along with more coherent production and song structure was a new start. But Pedro chrystallized their identity to the world with that next LP.

In 1973, there was no MTV, no internet, no VCRs, no marketing strobe in all media. An act toured, they put out an album once a year, and they were lucky to get a TV appearance lip-synching a hit. You couldn't tape it and you were lucky to even see them. As a fan, almost your whole involvement with the band came through the album cover. It was big, it opened out in a gatefold, there were inserts and photos and posters. Sitting with your big ol' headphones, you shut off the world and stared at every detail of the album art like they were paths to the other side, to the Escape. Who were all those people in the "Sgt. Pepper" crowd?; what alternate reality were artists Roger Dean (Yes) and Mati Klarwein (Santana, Miles Davis) from?; why are the burning businessmen shaking hands?; is it an African woman standing or a lion's face?; does it say "American Reality" or "American Beauty" or both?


Funkadelic, "Standing On the Verge of Getting It On" (1974)


This was an art era for an art audience. Posters, T-shirts, LPs. These were your subculture badge of honor, your spiritual battle cry, your middle finger to mediocrity. They took every cent you had saved and were even harder to come by, which made it even more personal, more rebel. Your LP was a shield, your T-shirt was armor. They got you expelled, ostracised, beat up. They scared the living hell out of the straights around you...and you loved that. It reaffirmed your faith that you were into something good, something unique.


Interior art of Funkadelic from "Standing On the Verge"


What Pedro Bell had done was invert psychedelia through the ghetto. Like an urban Hieronymus Bosch, he cross-sected the sublime and the hideous to jarring effect. Insect pimps, distorted minxes, alien gladiators, sexual perversions. It was a thrill, it was disturbing. Like a florid virus, his markered mutations spilled around the inside and outside covers in sordid details that had to be breaking at least seven state laws.


Funkadelic, "Hardcore Jolllies" (1976)


More crucially, his stream-of-contagion text rewrote the whole game. He single-handedly defined the P-Funk collective as sci-fi superheroes fighting the ills of the heart, society, and the cosmos. Funk wasn't just a music, it was a philosophy, a way of seeing and being, a way for the tired spirit to hold faith and dance yourself into another day. As much as Clinton's lyrics, Pedro Bell's crazoid words created the mythos of the band and bonded the audience together.


Detail and textagraphic slams from "Hardcore Jollies", Funkadelic.


Half the experience of Funkadelic was the actual music vibrating out of those wax grooves. The other half was reading the covers with a magnifying glass while you listened. There was always more to scrutinize, analyze, and strain your eyes. Funkadelic covers were a hedonistic landscape where sex coursed like energy, politics underlay every pun, and madness was just a bigger overview.


Detail from "One Nation Under a Groove" cover, Funkadelic (1978)


Pedro called his work 'scartoons', because they were fun but they left a mark. He was facing the hard life in Chicago full-on everyday with all the craft and humor he could muster.


The uncensored cover for "Electric Spanking of War Babies", Funkadelic (1981)


Pedro's unschooled, undisciplined street art gave all the Suit execs fits, as when the cover for "Electric Spanking of War Babies" caused such a scandel that it had to be censored before release. It also opened the door for all the great NYC graffiti artists of the late '70s, for the mainstream success of Keith Haring's bold line cartoons, and James Rizzi's marker covers and "Genius of Love" video animation for The Tom Tom Club.


Cover for "Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends", George Clinton (1985)


When Parliament and Funkadelic went on hiatus in the '80s, it was Pedro Bell's art that gave the P-Funk identity to George Clinton's albums like "Computer Games" (1982), "You Shouldn't-nuf Bit Fish" (1983), "Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends" (1985), and "R&B Skeletons In the Closet" (1986); as well as spin-offs like Jimmy G And The Tackhead's "Federation of the Tackheads" (1985), and his clay figure art for INCorporated Thang Band's "Lifestyles of the Roach and Famous" (1988).

He also did a spectacular animated scartoon of his original character, Larry Lazer, which was broadcast on MTV:

By the early '90s the game had changed and not to Pedro's favor. MTV had turned every song into a jingle, and every album into a quarterly marketing plan. Every star's face was in your face every place all over the place, milking an album for three years until the next committeed go-round. CDs shrunk the album cover experience into a coaster. The days of swimming in your LP cover were gone. (But conversely Rock concert poster design exploded, as fans were desperate to have some great art to fill the void.)

During the decade Pedro continued soldiering on with the CD covers for P-Funk-inspired bands like Maggotron's "Bassman of the Acropolis" (1992), "Funkronomicon" for Bill Laswell's all-star funk collective, Axiom Funk (1995), and Enemy Squad's "United State of Mind" (1998). And of course for George Clinton's "Dope Dogs" (1994),"TAPOAFOM (The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership)" (1995) and "Greatest Funkin' Hits" (1996); and P-Funk's "How Late Do You Have 2 B B4 U R Absent?" (2005).

In the meantime his style was homaged/appropriated/bit by other artists designing for Digital Underground, Miami Bass groups, and dodgy Funkadelic compilations. But he received better due with a great write-up in the countercultural art magazine Juxtapoz (#16, Fall '98). He also had a couple of his Funkadelic covers in Rolling Stones' "Greatest Album Covers Of All Time" issue.


Portrait of Sun Ra (2006), by Pedro Bell, Seitu Hadyen, and Tym Stevens.
Larger here


During the '90s Pedro started having health difficulties, including issues with his vision. He worked with a few friends to get his creations out there to the world. One such project was this recent fine art print of Sun Ra, based on a layout he first came up with in the '70s.

Pedro Bell is still with us, but having some hard times. Though he basically 'branded' Funkadelic's entire identity, he has seen little for it financially. In a just world, Pedro would get the Juxtapoz treatment like Robert Williams and Robert Crumb and the like, with coffee table books, T-shirts, posters, figurines, and hip retrospectives in galleries. But bad faith and ill health have prevented that.

Nowadays, awake and aware young people who are sick of the packaged machine that music has become vehemently reject it. They embrace adventurous musics from before The Slickness, wear vintage weathered T-shirts, and hang LP covers on their walls as art objects. They want it rough, real, and wide open again with weird possibility. It's these brave new souls who need to free their minds with Pedro's kaleidoscopic visions.

Pedro Bell is an unsung genius who deserves his place in the sun. Let's give it up for our Brother From Other!



© Tym Stevens, 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ROCK Sex: 'Oye Como Va!'


(art: Abdul Mati Klarwein)



ROCK Sex says "Oye como va, mi ritmo, bueno pa'gozar, mulata!"


The original "Oye Como Va" is by Mambo bandleader TITO PUENTE:

TITO PUENTE -"Oye Como Va" (1963)



In 1970, SANTANA made it an international party anthem with their Latin Rock redux:

SANTANA -"Oye Como Va" (live, 1971)




You can still hear both in this recent Electro Rock version by KINKY from Mexico:

KINKY -"Oye Como Va" (2004)

Monday, January 25, 2010

LADIES FIRST: 'You Ain't Nothing But a HOUND DOG!'



LADIES FIRST brings you another classic that 'she did first'.

Today it's the monster classic "Hound Dog".


"Hound Dog" was written and produced by the budding talents Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, and first recorded by the irrepressible BIG MAMA THORNTON. Along with her blues-belting style, Mama also retooled some of the lyrics, did flavorful ad libs, and hard accents in the phrasing that gave the song its fierce identity.

BIG MAMA THORNTON -"Hound Dog" (1952)



Thornton's version was recorded in 1952, but released in the spring of 1953. Within a month there were a handful of Country artists who did their take on it. One of the most unsung is this one by BETSY GAY:

BETSY GAY -"Hound Dog" (1953)



Memphis radio DJ RUFUS THOMAS did an answer record to it, taking mock affront to his nickname as 'hound dog'. It was too similar and Sun Records got in a lot of legal trouble. Later, Rufus and his daughter Carla Thomas recorded classics for Stax Records.

RUFUS THOMAS -"Bear Cat" (1953)



A burlesque group called FREDDIE BELL AND THE BELLBOYS did a campy, striptease-style take on it. Freddie smoothed over some of the lyrics, adding such pivotal lines as "cryin' all the time" and "You ain't never caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine." They performed it regularly in Las Vegas.

FREDDIE BELL AND THE BELLBOYS -"Hound Dog" (1956)



The young and barely-known ELVIS PRESLEY saw their show and put it in his rep for fun. When he appeared on the huge TV hit, "The Milton Berle Show", Milton urged him to leave his rhythm guitar and stand out front. The song's strippery rhythm and Elvis' startlingly sexual gyrations (and air of threatening menace) caused a storm of shocked controversy and made him a national star overnight.

This may have done as much to inject Rock'n'Roll into world awareness as any other event.

ELVIS -"Hound Dog" (1956)



Rock'n'Roll was written off as dumb pop for juvie kids by the robot mainstream of the times. They probably thought it was cute to trot out little BRENDA LEE like Shirley Temple in the family parlor. But for me, you can still hear all the raw blues anger and cocky swagger in Brenda's great voice:

BRENDA LEE -"Hound Dog" (1956?)



JIMI HENDRIX loved Elvis and also all the Blues greats like Big Mama Thornton, who was then showing up at the same Blues and Rock festivals reclaiming her song (with her cool penchant for wearing mens' clothing). Here he is jotting off genius like it was a gesture:

JIMI HENDRIX -"Hound Dog (acoustic)" (1968)



And the revolution continues...

LILIANA ROSE -"Hound Dog" (2008)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

ROCK Sex: "When She Walks, The Revolution's Coming!"



ROCK Sex 'thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood'.

Today's connection is the running theme of rebel women.


DEAN CARTER straddled Rockabilly and Garage Music better than anyone in the mid-60's. Here's his roaring homage to his Rebel Girl; "There's a strange quiet girl I long to meet/ wears tall black boots, walks down the street!"

(Dean also produced acts from his home studio, and this CD collection of those singles includes two great covers of this cool song; listen to #3 and 20.)

DEAN CARTER -"Rebel Woman" (1967)



Here's the dance band DNA sampling David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" behind their freestyle Rap:

DNA -"Rebel Woman" (1991)



And of course here's our Kathleen Hanna and BIKINI KILL adoring their favorite Riot Grrrl:

BIKINI KILL -"Rebel Girl" (1993)


Which undoubtedly inspired the group REBEL GIRL into action.


"That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood
I got news for you, SHE IS!"

Friday, January 15, 2010

LADIES FIRST: "I'll Keep On Holding On!"



LADIES FIRST spotlights another classic that 'she did first'.


Today's song is the Motown classic, "I'll Keep On Holding On". Written by the prolific pens of stalwart writers Mickey Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter, THE MARVELETTES broke back into the charts with this hip-swaying hit. Wanda Young (later Wanda Rogers) swaggers the lead vocal:

THE MARVELETTES -"I'll Keep On Holding On" (1965)




The Mod scene in Swinging London of course adored Motown, Stax, and all directions Soul, so THE ACTION did their equally-loved take on it. Fans of the NUGGETS II box set will recognize it along with their own "Shadows and Reflections":

THE ACTION -"I'll Keep On Holding On" (1966)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BEYOND COOL: The Love Me Nots!



BEYOND COOL is about things I love, like celebrating this brilliant band.


THE LOVE ME NOTS are a modern Garage Rock band from Phoenix, Arizona. If you don't know, it's time to get with it, baby!

THE LOVE ME NOTS -"Move In Tight" (2007)



After a rhythm section shift, singer/oraganist Nicole Laurenne and guitarist/backvox Michael Johnny Walker blazed on without a blip to hotwire your car for more torrid road trips!

THE LOVE ME NOTS -"You're Really Something" (2008)



They will come to your town and burn it down. And you'll be an accomplice.

THE LOVE ME NOTS -"You're Bringing Me Down" (live, 2009)



Show THE LOVE ME NOTS some love:

MySpace
FaceBook
YouTube




Buy "Detroit" here





Buy "Upsidedown Insideout" here




"Atomic....Furious...Upsidedown Insideout raises the bar, with twelve catchy, immediately-classic songs that all sound like potential hit singles."
- Rolling Stone

"This Phoenix outfit turns a geeky garage schtick into white heat." -
SPIN


"FOUR STARS. One of the more exciting rock acts of the moment. DETROIT is Stunningly feverish. Disc of the month."
- Rolling Stone

"Top 10 Albums of 2008. DETROIT will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck."
- Bill Holmes, The Village Voice, 2/09

"If the gospel according to The Love Me Nots is 'give em what they want,' then this is it. Brilliant."
- BBC Radio, 2/09

"Enough full-throated, '60s soul, Mosrite fuzz, hip-shaking, back-alley stomp to rock the door off the garage."
- San Francisco Bay Guardian

"Atomic guitar licks that make your legs shiver."
-Kick Out The Jams (Spain), 9/08

"This band is on fire. Led by punk pin-up Nicole, a great garage party that would make neighbors seriously consider moving."
- Garage Greaser (Brazil), 9/08, 1/09


So act like you know and let's go go go!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ROCK Sex: "Teenage Kicks!"




ROCK Sex gets its kicks right through the night.


Today's hand-off is about the song "Teenage Kicks".

It was first done by irish punkers THE UNDERTONES in 1978. DJ John Peel immediately considered it one of his favorite songs of all time and helped push them to success on the charts and Top Of The Pops. But the single was only a warm-up for the astoundingly rock solid first album, "The Undertones".

Watch a cool feature about the recording of the song here.

THE UNDERTONES -"Teenage Kicks" (1978)

The Undertones - Teenage Kicks

Simon | MySpace Video



Sweden has a storied history of great Garage Rock bands from the 60's to today. The recent wave included luminaries like The Hives, Mando Diao, The Flaming Sideburns, and SAHARA HOTNIGHTS. SH did this adrenalized cover which was included in an expanded version of their breakthrough album, "Jennie Bomb".

SAHARA HOTNIGHTS -"Teenage Kicks" (2001)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

BEYOND COOL: Cambodian Garage GRRRL!



BEYOND COOL is a new rotating feature here starting today.

With ROCK SEX entries I trace the cultural hand-off and odd connections of pop songs, while LADIES FIRST showcases the often unacknowledged women who did the first versions of classics we take for granted. With BEYOND COOL, I'll just spotlight things I think are beyond cool.


Rock'n'Roll had immediate impact all around the world, with thriving scenes following or advancing every changing trend through the decades. Record collectors who once helped excavate and archive all the great 60's Garage Rock eventually spread into the international variations of it. Today we are still catching up with thriving scenes from France, Japan, Italy, Sweden, Hong Kong, and Australia, to name a few.

Here is a young woman from Cambodia named ROS SEREYSOTHEA. This song sounds like a crazed jam between Asha Bhosle and Creedence Clearwater Revival! Asha, of course, is the reknowned queen of Bollywood soundtracks who sang all female leads for decades. Ros' register is similar but her rocking sentiment is notably more freewheeling. (As for CCR, Ros also did a cover of John Fogerty's "Proud Mary".) And that big chunky rhythm they settle into is a monster groove!

ROS SEREYSOTHEA -"I'm 16 (Chnam Oun Dop-Pramp Muy)" (197 )


Now the sad part. It is feared that Ros Sereysothea may have been among the millions killed in Cambodia by the murderous Pol Pot and his hideous Khmer Rouge. The only revenge we have against holocausts like this, besides not repeating them, is to fight back against any repression and regression when we can. So I say, spit in the face of the killers of culture: spread this video to everyone you know and help Ros rock forever!

Monday, January 11, 2010

LADIES FIRST: "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)!"



LADIES FIRST hits you with another classic that 'she did first'.


The song "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)" was first done by THE IKETTES, the back-up group for Ike & Tina Turner. Fronted by the powerful belting of Dolores Johnson, this single was meant to expand the Turner brand into the market.

THE IKETTES -"I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)" (1962)



Here's a refreshingly genderless take shortly thereafter...

THE NEWBEATS -"I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)" (1964)



The song was also covered by The Spencer Davis Group, featuring Steve Winwood, in the mid 60's. But it got its biggest fame blasted out Garage Rock style by THE 5.6.7.8.S in a showstopping preformance in the film "KILL BILL, Vol. 1":

The 5.6.7.8.'s -"I'm Blue" (2004)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

ROCK Sex: "Miserlou!"



ROCK Sex pulps fiction for facts.


Today's relay is about the classic "Miserlou".

The song originates from Greece in the 1920's as "Misirlou", first performed by MICHALIS PATRINOS' band and then recorded in 1930. He then did a New York recording the next year. It quickly became a standard within the Greek, Turkish, and Arabic immigrant communities in America.

Wikipedia informs us that "the Greek word Misirlou refers specifically to a Muslim Egyptian woman (as opposed to a Christian Egyptiotissa); thus this song refers to a cross-faith, cross-race, relationship, a risqué subject at its time." That makes the song even better.

MIKE PATRINOS -"Misirlou" (1930)



Here's a terrific overview of ensuing versions compiled by 'Romeikos2' on YouTube:

TETOS DEMITRIADIS (1940) / MARIA KARELLA-ROUMEL ('41) / DIMITRIS 'BEBIS' STERGIOU ('62)/ DEMETRIOS PAPPAS & The Amphion Choir ('60)/ GUS VALI ('60)/ HRACH YACOUBIAN ('61)/ -"Misirlou"



KORLA PANDIT, the organ maestro and early television pioneer, did an amazing verison. Watch him give Grandmaster Flash and Jimmy Smith a run for their money with his deft moves at 1:14:

KORLA PANDIT -"Miserlou" (1951)



And then of course there is the champion. DICK DALE was familiar with "Misirlou" from his Lebanese family members, and when a fan dared him to play a song on one string, Dick unleashed this tsunami:

DICK DALE & The Del Tones -"Miserlou" (1962)



Catching the wave, THE BEACH BOYS released a Dale-inspired cover. The session work is by 'Wrecking Crew' stalwarts, including guitarist Glenn Cambell, pianist Leon Russell, and drummer Hal Blaine:

THE BEACH BOYS -"Miserlou" (1963)



Most know BOBBY FULLER from his Buddy Holly style and cover of The Crickets' "I Fought the Law". But surf fans love his ferocious live take on "Misirlou", especially the freeform climax:

BOBBY FULLER FOUR -"Misirlou" (196 )




If you want to sing along, here's a really fun vocal version by
Connie Francis
(1965)!


And of course the song was catapulted to world fame by its use in the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino's film "PULP FICTION" (1994). Tarantino equated the mediterranean melody and stinging surf of Dale's version with the Spaghetti Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, such as "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". In truth, the surf songs with international riffs had inspired Ennio's approach to Westerns in the first place.

"Pulp Fiction" montage



The song was then turned inside out as a fuzz Jazz permutation...

BEN FOLDS FIVE -"Theme From Dr. Pyser" (1997)



And rode another wave in HipHop pop...

BLACK EYE PEAS -"Pump It" (2006)



"My Miserlou, has lit a flame in my heart,
Your two lips are dripping honey, ah!"

Saturday, January 9, 2010

STARSTRUCK "Roots Of" Addition!

Starstruck Galatia & Brucilla

For all you fans of STARSTRUCK, the illustrated epic where riot grrrls conquer the galaxy, I've added a new piece into the huge "Roots Of STARSTRUCK" article. You can read the revision here, and within the main article here.




BORGIA

"Now we are in the power of a wolf, the most rapacious perhaps that this world has ever seen. And if we do not flee, he will inevitably devour us all."
-Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici (later Pope Leo X), warning of the Borgias' reign


TOP: Pope Alexander VI; Cesare Borgia; Lucrezia Borgia
BOTTOM: Baron Bajar; Kalif Bajar;
Lucrezia Bajar


The rebel Medea family has been in a generational war against the corrupt Bajar dynasty. The Bajars have names that act as historical signifiers of evil scheming:

-Baron Roderigo Sejanus Vasco d'Gama Bajar, the machiavellian twit
-his son, Prince Phillipe Cesare Kalif Alexander Bajar, the chosen heir and airhead
-his daughter, Indira Lucrezia Ronnie Lee Ellis Bajar, the slighted heir with slight-of-hand

Primarily the Baron and his scheming son and daughter reflect the Borgias of Renaissance Italy: Roderic de Borja i Borja of the Spanish kingdom of Valencia, who bribed his way to become Pope Alexander VI; his murderous son Cesare Borgia; and equally poisonous daughter Lucrezia Borgia. Just as the Borgias misused their religious power to murder, rob, and colonize, the Bajars use religion, the military, and politics to advance their wicked power dreams. Pope Alexander may have been poisoned by his son, a fate that doesn't portend well for Baron Bajar.

The word "bajar" is spanish for 'to descend', a pun on both decline and descendents. The spiritual incest at the heart of the Bajars' backbiting struggles is doomed to eat them inside out. The Baron's name also refers to Sejanus, the Roman Praetorian who ended badly; and Vasco da Gama, the thuggish Portuguese explorer.

The Bajar son's name refers to (perhaps) Phillip III of Spain, a right bastard; the general term Kalif/ Calliph, a Muslim civil and religious leader, but also Kalifah, a radical revolutionary distortion of that power; and Alexander the Great and Pope Alexander VI. Clearly his father was loading the conqueror thing on heavy.

This is leavened by the wily daughter, whose name happily puts good Indira Gandhi right next to twisted Lucrezia Borgia, aptly summing her schizoid potential; and the downhome Ronnie Lee Ellis, which probably has nothing to do with basketball player LeRon Ellis but may have some hint of a certain sci-fi writer turned evangelist....



StarstruckComics.com

Friday, January 8, 2010

LADIES FIRST: "His Heart Is Out In the Streets"



LADIES FIRST brings you another classic that "she did first".


The original "Out In the Streets" was by the great SHANGRI-LAS, whose middle ground between uptown girl and biker girl made this song a perfect choice, and set the stage for acts like The New York Dolls, Suzi Quatro, and The Runaways after them.

THE SHANGRI-LAS -"Out In the Streets" (1965)



BLONDIE let its mid 60's roots show constantly, with their retro Mod clothes, 'With The Beatles'-style album covers, and Girl Group harmonies. One of the first things they ever recorded was a demo of this song:

BLONDIE -"Out In the Streets" (1975)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

ROCK Sex: "Forbidden fruit, Hidden Eyes"



ROCK Sex is 'left with memories of yesterday'.


Today's cultural relay is about Portishead's "Sour Times". It interpolates a theme that reknowned score composer LALO SCHIFRIN created for an obscure television series called "The Danube Incident". Schifrin is revered for his classic scores for "MIssion: Impossible", "Bullit", and "Enter the Dragon":

LALO SCHIFRIN -"The Danube Incident"



PORTISHEAD was in the forefront of acts who melded hiphop and soundtrack motifs into moody dance music. Kindred spirits included Massive Attack, Morcheeba, Bjork, Hooverphonic, Tricky, Barry Adamson, and The Propellorheads. They were often blanketed with the term TripHop against their will. Although, honestly, I think it's clever and fitting.

Listen for some of chameleonic singer Beth Gibbons' Billie Holiday influence at 1:36...

PORTISHEAD -"Sour Times" (1994)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

STARSTRUCK #5 Is Out Now!



STARSTRUCK, the illustrated Sci-Fi masterpiece where Riot Grrls take over the galaxy, has new pages on FACEBOOK!

You can join the Group page...

...and also become a Fan...


Starstruck Galatia & Brucilla

We all know that the 80's renaissance of comix included WATCHMEN, DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, AMERICAN FLAGG, MIRACLEMAN, and LOVE & ROCKETS.

But easily as bold, much more ambitious, and far more funny was STARSTRUCK. Yet the acclaimed series by Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta was criminally overlooked. And let's face it... it's because it starred kickass funny women instead of terse aggro men. Now it has returned in monthly issues with expanded art and stunning color.

Time to catch up to the better revolution and support STARSTRUCK today!

StarstruckComics.com

LADIES FIRST: "Love's Gone Bad!"



LADIES FIRST brings you another "she did it first" classic.


CHRIS CLARK cut a startling figure at Motown Records, a six-foot blond goddess belting out soul songs. Despite the stewardship of friend Berry Gordy, this fantastic song wasn't the hit it should have been. Later Chris was nominated for an Acedemy Award for co-writing the Billie Holiday biopic "Lady Sings the Blues". She then became a Vice President in Motown's film division. She's now a photographer and sings better than ever.

CHRIS CLARK -"Love's Gone Bad" (1966)



THE UNDERDOGS hit the big time with their classic "Time Won't Let Me". But as all "NUGGETS" and Garage Rock fans know, they also knocked out a mean cover of Chris's song:

THE UNDERDOGS -"Love's Gone Bad" (1967)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ROCK Sex: "A Day Is Worth a Million"



ROCK Sex says 'don't waste a day'.


Today's carousel of culture is about the song "Live", first done by cult tunesmith Emmitt Rhodes and THE MERRY GO ROUND:

THE MERRY GO ROUND -"Live" (1966)



Emerging from the revivalist Paisley Underground scene of the early 80's, THE BANGLES did a letter perfect rendition of it. Their stellar debut album "All Over the Place" (1984) is a gem that I will never tire of promoting; a must for fans of Mersey Beat, NUGGETS, and Girls In the Garage (hint, hint):

THE BANGLES -"Live" (live, 2006)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

LADIES FIRST: "Go Now"



LADIES FIRST doesn't 'want to see you go'.


Another classic from the "she did it first" file. Soul singer BESSIE BANKS recorded the original "Go Now", written by her husband and produced by the esteemed Lieber & Stoller:

BESSIE BANKS -"Go Now" (1964)



Singer Denny Laine fronted THE MOODY BLUES' hit version of the tune, showcased in this groundbreaking video:

THE MOODY BLUES -"Go Now" (1964)



Later, as a cohort with Paul McCartney in WINGS, Denny performed it on their huge 1976 world tour.


Recently it has been rethought by SIMPLY RED in a more upbeat pop style.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

ROCK Sex: "I Fought the Law and I Won!"



ROCK Sex joins in fighting the power.


Today's musical relay is all about the pinball journey of "I Fought the Law".

It was triggered by BUDDY HOLLY, with his zig zag guitar rhythms and galloping delivery, as heard in songs like this one:

BUDDY HOLLY -"Rave On" (1958)




In the wake of Buddy's tragic death, his band THE CRICKETS carried on the legacy with this very Holly-esque raver, the original verison of "I Fought the Law". It was written by member Sonny Curtis, who also wrote perennials like "Walk Right Back" (Everly Brothers, Anne Murray), "More Than I Can Say" (Leo Sayer), and "Love Is All Around" (The Mary Tyler Moore show theme):


THE CRICKETS -"I Fought the Law" (1959)



But it was THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR who made it a smash hit. Tragically, Bobby Fuller died soon after in strange circumstances. While many people believe it was a murder, the legal verdict that it was a suicide despite clearly botched evidence lent a deeper resonance to the lyrics of the song.

BOBBY FULLER FOUR -"I Fought the Law" (1965)




Soon after, the all-female rockers THE SHE TRINITY put another slant on it.

THE SHE TRINITY -"He Fought the Law" (1966)



For many people the definitive version is by THE CLASH. They were recording their second album in San Francisco when they heard Fuller's single on a local jukebox. In some ways this song sums up their whole rebel stance and puckish humor more than their own.

THE CLASH -"I Fought the Law" (1978)



Meanwhile the San Francisco punks DEAD KENNEDYS had their own take on it, recorded in the wake of the brutal murders of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Singer Jello Biafra defiantly changes the chorus to "I fought the law and I won!":

DEAD KENNEDYS -"I Fought the Law" (1978)



Because of The Clash many current punk bands like Green Day have covered it.

But Canada's METRIC brought another new dimension to it. In the wake of the massive public outcry and bitter frustration against Bush's engineering of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they summed it up with "I fought the war but the war won't stop, for the love of god/ I fought the war but the war won." They also allude to the symbolic death of Bobby Fuller: "Daddy Warbucks up against Bobby Fuller/ and it beat him hands down..."

METRIC -"Monster Hospital" (2005)



Bite the hand that beats you!

Friday, January 1, 2010

LADIES FIRST: "You Do Something Strange To Me, Baby"



LADIES FIRST just can't let it go.


Another great song from the "she did it first" file. Brooklyn's Soul dynamo EVIE SANDS belted out this killer single in '66, with its propulsive rhythms, catchy back-ups, and full-tilt vocal:

EVIE SANDS -"I Can't Let Go" (1966)



Unfortunately, because of bad luck with label issues, it didn't get the promotion it deserved and missed the charts. This was terrible luck for Sands, but worked in favor of THE HOLLIES, whose cover version reached #2 in the UK:

THE HOLLIES -"I Can't Let Go" (1966)



Later, LINDA RONSTADT did another tribute to her roots with this swaggering cover:

LINDA RONSTADT -"I Can't Let Go" (1980)