Category Archives: Music

Mother, Sausalito, Albert Brooks, Dad, and the News

Last night, the following two media items were in a pile on my computer desk:

Item #1. Mother, d. Albert Brooks (1996) on VHS tape.

Mother is a pretty decent movie. Its value in this format on Amazon is virtually nil. The movie itself is not that easy to download, or wasn’t when I checked. I decided to keep it. I’d watched it just a few months earlier. Albert Brooks is John Henderson in the movie; Beatrice, his mother, is played by Debbie Reynolds. As you can gather from the end of this clip, Beatrice, the mother in Mother itself, lives in Sausalito, California, and the film was shot there on location, among other places.

Item #2: Time Flies…The Best of Huey Lewis & the News (1996) on CD.

Here again, the Amazon value of this item is virtually nil. I considered just ripping it to mp3. I like several Huey Lewis songs. True, the image on the CD itself, of Huey mid-jump during a live set, is kind of great. As I flipped through the CD booklet, I gathered that Huey Lewis & the News were a San Francisco-based band. I’d never thought of them that way, but there it was, in black and white. Next, I figured I’d find out whether one of my dad’s favorite Huey Lewis recordings had made this particular Best Of disc. And sure enough, there it was, track #10: “It’s Alright,” an a cappella take on a Curtis Mayfield song. Finally, I read the small-print recording info under the track title listing:

This 1993 recording of “It’s Alright” had been set to tape in Sausalito, California, at a studio called Muther’s Recording.

I decided to keep the CD, too.

Advertisements

Tapping the Light of Day

People in America aren’t seeing much Light of Day these days. Far as I can tell, 1987’s smallish “Problems of Being in a Cleveland, Ohio, Bar Band” movie has never been available to the US market on DVD. If you want a legit copy of it—and you happen to have a not-so-legit region-free DVD player—go ahead, be my guest: Buy the Region 2 edition for (when last I checked) $199.00 plus shipping. Knock yourself out. Personally, I’m living happily with my beat-up old VHS of it.

I kind of thought that the release of the 2010 film The Runaways, which detailed the formation of Light of Day frontwoman Joan Jett’s early real-life band, would’ve maybe prompted the reintroduction of Light of Day here in the States. Didn’t happen. Still, it’s a pretty decent movie. Joan Jett’s good in it, as Patti Rasnick, lead singer of The Barbusters; Gena Rowlands is her over-religious mom; Jason “The Exorcist” Miller shows up; and Michael J. Fox capably provides lead Barbuster guitar. He and little Benji Rasnick even play an improvised song, “You Got No Place to Go,” on guitar together. And no less a talent than Paul Schrader directed.

When I first came across it not long ago, that last factoid sort of shocked me : Paul “Taxi Driver/Raging Bull/Last Temptation of Christ/Affliction” Schrader had directed an all-but-forgotten Michael J. Fox rock band vehicle I had enjoyed at least twice on late-night cable as a teen? Weird. That same fact also brings me now to the reason for this post.

Last time I watched Light of Day—mostly to see if it was, like a Schrader movie should’ve been, as good as I remembered—I was watching pretty carefully. And I noticed something. Something that referred, without question, to the undisputed king of movies about fictional rock bands. Something graffitied on a punk rock dressing room wall, prominent enough, yet almost hidden among a million other scrawled and spraypainted messages in the background behind Joan Jett’s consternated Patti Rasnick. See if you notice it too:

See that? Right next to the blue shirt? Look here or check out 2:06 in this clip if you prefer moving images I’m not good enough to have faked. SMELL THE GLOVE? Really? That kind of blew my mind, as it would the mind of anyone who’s seen This Is Spinal Tap as many times as I have. Need I even tell you that Smell the Glove (Polymer, 1982) was the (fictional) album that the (fictional) band Spinal Tap spent the better portion of Rob Reiner’s 1984 mockumentary touring in support of? Just for fun, let me quote Bobbi Flekman here as regards Smell the Glove‘s infamous original cover art:

“…a greased, naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck and a leash, and a man’s arm extended out…holding on to the leash and pushing a black glove in her face to sniff it.”

Who, you’re asking, might—if given the chance—advertise crudely on a bar-basement wall for such an offensive and, in fact, non-existent LP? As far as those who must’ve had All Access on Schrader’s Light of Day shoot, I’d say Suspect #1 has got to be Bu Montogomery, bass player for The Barbusters:

Michael McKean as Bu Montogomery, bass player for The Barbusters

See, in Light of Day, Bu Montgomery’s bass was played by none other than actor Michael McKean. Did the whole thing of this post just clang you on the head as hard as it did mine….?

Just in case it didn't: Michael McKean also toured extensively with another band—as David St. Hubbins, lead singer of Spinal Tap!

Nice, legible vandalism on the Light of Day set, Michael McKean! Good job! I’ll bet Smell the Glove is a really cool record! I believe your graffiti has convinced me to go out and buy it!

Hold on though: I don’t want to just post all this and rush off, forgetting to inform you that there’s a fairly intriguing Suspect #2, himself a Clevelander and a big music fan. The kind of guy for whom Smell the Glove and Spinal Tap just might’ve been a pretty big deal, round about 1987. A budding force of nature who himself worked in actual bar bands and as a janitor at Cleveland’s own Right Track Studios. A man whose only film appearance came with 1987’s Light of Day and his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as vocalist/keyboardist for The Problems, a local band in competition with Patti and Joe Rasnick and Bu Montgomery’s Barbusters, on stage right there at the Barbusters’ very own home-base bar, the Euclid Tavern. Suspect #2’s name? That would be Trent Reznor:

David St. Hubbins himself sums all of this up as well as anyone probably could:

I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything.

Amen, David St. Hubbins. Amen.


Strictly Commercial

tundracubs

My frustrating 2009 Chicago Cubs won their series against the Reds last weekend in Cincinnati, three games to two, and I watched a lot of it on TV, but all I kept seeing was that eerily familiar Toyota Tundra ad on the wall behind home plate.

Sunday afternoon, it finally hit me: THE TOYOTA TRUCKS LOGO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE FRANK ZAPPA’S MUSTACHE.

A few corners of the internet have already noticed how deeply Zappaesque the Toyota logo is, and it’s from those corners that I rip off this perfect comparison image:

Really perfect, because that mustache shot is a detail of the cover image from a 1974 Frank Zappa album, the one that’s really called but is best known (and pronounced) as Apostrophe.

And it was right at the very beginning of Apostrophe that Zappa “dreamed he was an Eskimo,” in the song “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow,” first in a four-part suite of connected story songs about stupid things going on way up in the frozen north. Second in that suite is the brilliant “Nanook Rubs It.” Listen to ’em both right here.

The story in these songs is rather dumb, and it goes like this: Nanook the Eskimo boy is hanging around the igloo, debating about whether to go to “the show,” when a fur trapper comes up and starts beating Nanook’s favorite baby seal. Nanook, real pissed, blinds the fur trapper with snow yellowed by huskie whizz and pounces on him too. The blinded fur trapper wonders what the hell to do, then recalls an “ancient Eskimo legend” about how, if you ever get blinded in a conflict with someone named Nanook, you must go on a very specific sort of quest.

If fact, according to Zappa’s ridiculous lyrics, you have to

“…go trudgin’ across the mile after mile…”

I guess Toyota's marketing geniuses felt like they could save some Arctic trudging time for that all-important "Blinded by Nanook" sector of the American truck-buyer demographic.

I guess Toyota's marketing geniuses felt like they could save some Arctic trudging time for that all-important "Blinded by Nanook" sector of the American truck-buyer demographic.

–Pancake Dominion would like to thank Songza.com and Scott Robbin for access to the linked Zappa songs and for pointing us toward “Nanook Rubs It” after our shared realization about the Toyota logo.


Canadian In Vader

Japandroids

Japandroids

I’ve never heard the band Japandroids, and, to be real frank with you, I don’t plan to hear them, unless I happen to walk by their set at the 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival. But that indie music review site’s own write-up of the act clued me in to a fact I haven’t really stopped coming back to for a few weeks:

ONE OF THE DUDES IN A BAND CALLED JAPANDROIDS IS NAMED DAVID PROWSE.

Now, for me and about 75 billion other movie nerds, the name David Prowse doesn’t exactly put us in mind of some Canadian garage rock duo who haven’t released an album yet. We’re reminded instead of things like blowing up the planet Alderaan, choking people from across the room without touching them, and saying things like “YOU ARE PART OF THE REBEL ALLIANCE AND A TRAITOR. TAKE HER AWAY!”

Because to us, David Prowse has always been the 6 foot, 7 inch bodybuilding British actor who was inside the Darth Vader costume for the first three Star Wars movies!
300px-Dave_Prowse_ChampionsEpisode_4_Darth_Vader_Point

Normally, that alone would be enough to make mention on this blog, but…well….The story just doesn’t end there, despite the fact that Prowse of Japandroids isn’t related to Prowse of Star Wars and, in interviews, he has sighed and said that “Every time I go into a video store I get that.”

But think about the name “Japandroids.” It’s an example of what’s called “portmanteau,” wherein two distinct words are mushed together to make a new one. The two words here are pretty easy to parse:

JAPAN + ANDROIDS = JAPANDROIDS

Yeah, it’d be great if Darth Vader was himself an android, but he’s not. He’s a human being who’s been augmented with mechanical/robotic parts, perhaps more machine than man, but expressly not an android….Those are all robot.

But in a sense, Vader is Japanese. Everybody in Star Wars is sort of Japanese, in fact. Because it’s been really well documented that George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, has admitted to borrowing heavily for his “space opera” from The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa, perhaps Japan’s single greatest moviemaker. Here’s Lucas himself:

Hidden Fortress was an influence on Star Wars right from the beginning….I was searching around for a story. I had some scenes—the cantina scene and the space battle scene—but I couldn’t think of a basic plot….And then I thought of Hidden Fortress….

It’s not even an “Oh, OK, I can sort of see that…” kind of linkage between the films, either. It’s pretty obvious. Darth Vader is Lucas’s extrapolation of the villainous warrior General Hyo Tadokoro. The Hidden Fortress, from plot to characters, is like watching an early version of Star Wars unfold in Kurosawa’s deft hands, in Japanese, and a long time ago, in a feudal land far, far away.

Even better, though: the two characters from The Hidden Fortress you can most easily see echoed in Star Wars are a pair of bickering peasants, Tahei and Matashichi, from whose perspective the story is told. They wander around, get split up, get tossed into a slave camp by the enemy, are miraculously reunited, and finally hitch up with a princess and a sword-fighting samurai. Starting to sound real familiar? It should. George Lucas turned Tahei and Matashichi into C-3PO and R2-D2. The Droids!

peasants133946__tatooine_l

Early in Lucas’s development of Star Wars, he didn’t even turn them into robots. They were just human, “space opera” versions of Kurosawa’s original bickering Japanese peasants. Only later, in the process of outlining, scriptwriting, and mythologizing, did they become droids…or, as we may now forever think of them, “Japandroids.”

Oh, by the way, I lied. During the writing of this post, I stumbled across some Japandroids music, probably on that myspace page of theirs. Eh…not so great. What I heard sounded like Braid recorded onto cassette tape in a closet half-full of aluminum. Trust me, readers: “THESE AREN’T THE DROIDS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.”
obi wan


I can’t believe the first real article in this blog has to do with King Diamond.


This is what I get for going to thrift stores.

I bought just one item this time around: Hard ‘n Heavy Volume 5 on VHS tape. Take a look at that cover; cost me 50¢. The back cover, though, is what made me sacrifice the pocket change. On it, I saw a tiny picture of King Diamond and the promise of an interview with he, the Danish Supreme Being of operatic black horror metal, himself an avowed Satanist. I obsessed about him as a teen and to this day I struggle to live with myself through annual bouts of dork-metal nostalgia, during which I cue up lurid cassette tapes that haven’t seen daylight in a dozen moons. Those same dark impulses forced this VHS purchase upon me.

A morning or two later, I watched the interview portion of the tape with a sickening fascination; it reminded me of how badly I had longed long ago to see video of King Diamond, concert footage, anything; I listened, later, to Abigail, his masterpiece 2nd album; on YouTube I watched subtitled Danish TV clips of King Diamond being interviewed while my frozen pizza dinner baked in the oven. And that was when King Diamond, sans ghoulish face-paint and being grilled by the host for his unseemly religious preference, informed me and a million Denmark TV viewers of the late 80s that “Satan” means “opposite.”

Photobucket

He’s right, you know. “Satan” does come from a Hebrew word that means “to oppose.” Fair enough. Satan does oppose a lot of stuff in general.

Now ever since I first ate it, I thought that seitan,–that suspicious, not bad-tasting, opposite-of-meat stuff you get at vegetarian places–was hilariously named. I mean it is pronounced “SAY-tan.” C’mon now: the irony! We eat SAY-tan so we can all feel nicer and kinder and gentler to cows and stuff. And I’ve always wondered where that unfortunate food name came from. Well, it turns out that the word “seitan” is a Japanese neologism meaning, loosely, “is protein.” What would you have done next? Me, I needed intensely to know the origin of the word “protein.”

The word “protein,” it seems, is from a Greek word meaning “of first importance.” But of course! Who would want to live a day without it? Not me. But I would like to add those two word origins together…add ’em up and find out that “seitan”–or “is protein”–really means “is of first importance.” And there you have the reason I wrote this entry.

Say it with me now, preferably with a sing-song, kindergarten lilt: “SAY-tan is of first importance.”

I bet King Diamond would be so proud.


%d bloggers like this: