June 30, 2010
Check out posts from the past few weeks to see Spy Vibe's look at Go Go Dancing and the 1960s club scene.
June 28, 2010
Today we spotlight Johnny Rivers, famous for the Secret Agent Man theme for the US release of Patrick McGoohan's UK spy series, Danger Man. Rivers was given a contract in 1964 to be the resident attraction at the new Whiskey A Go Go club in Hollywood. Check out this collection of vintage images of the Whiskey A Go Go on YouTube (not available to embed here on Spy Vibe). Rivers made many TV appearances, often with Go Go dancers. Hullabaloo offered the energetic dance styles of the early-mid 1960s. This 1966 promotion for Secret Agent Man, suggests a change to more of a "dance party" atmosphere.
The last clip today jumps us ahead to a 1967 TV appearance to promote Baby I Need Your Loving. I absolutely love the minimal stage set design. The dancers' space age-inspired, silver mini skirts look amazing against the background colors. In the case of this performance, it would appear that the use of female dancers in mainstream entertainment had become more stylized and acculturated. As dancing itself became more improvisational for party-goers, it would suggest that Go Go dancing for a general, family audience became more uniform and symbolic. Looking now at these silver shakers, as fabulous as they are, it's not a huge leap to translate them into a contemporary period piece that attempts to recapture early-mid 1960s style (for example, the Austin Powers films). They are both a product of their time and, if it's not overstating, a parody of it. Still, they are undeniably groovy!
June 27, 2010
She (Hammer Horror/Ursula Andress)
Kaleidoscope (Warren Beatty and Susannah York)
The Defector (Roddy McDowell and Montgomery Clift)
Two rare treats for music fans:
Carny (Robbie Robertson)
Urgh! A Music War (live shows from many cool bands in the 1980s, including XTC, The Police, Oingo Boingo, Devo, Gang of Four, Dead Kennedys, Gary Numan, Klaus Nomi)
Some classic intrigue from the list: Operator 13, Operation Secret, Split Second, Tall Target, and I Was an American Spy.
Sale ends June 30th.
June 26, 2010
June 25, 2010
June 24, 2010
We can see a similar teaching moment and more 60s club culture in this famous clip from The Beatles' first tour of the United States in 1964. The film was shot by Albert and David Maysles for Granada television, and bits of footage was televised by Granada at the time. But the talented filmmaking brothers also edited a full documentary version, called What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A. Much of the film was released as The Beatles First U.S. Visit on DVD in 2004. The director's cut has only been seen by a few film festivals over the years.
The scene takes place at the Peppermint Lounge. The New York club opened in 1958 and is famous for being one of the birthplaces for that seminal solo/freestyle dance, The Twist! House band, Joey Dee and the Starliters, recorded the Peppermint Twist in 1961 (preceded by Hank Ballard in 1959 and Chubby Checker in 1960). The Twist craze inspired many artists to jump on the dance bandwagon (including Bo Diddley's a Twister in 1962!).
In footage from the Maysles film, the Starliters pump out a primal version of the song Money. The Beatles also recorded this tune live in Hamburg in 1962, on their Decca audition tapes in 1963, and again on With/Meet The Beatles just before their US tour. A lovely club-goer counts out steps for Ringo and Murray the K, while the rest of the band parties with the locals. It's a cool window into 1964 club culture and dance.
Screenwriter Alun Own traveled with The Beatles for a few days prior to this tour to research the film he was writing for Richard Lester, A Hard Days Night. In this scene from the film, art imitates life beautifully as Ringo and George dance to some of their own tunes from With/Meet The Beatles. For those who don't know the movie, the disco is intercut with scenes of Paul's "grandfather" gambling at the swanky Le Circle Club.
June 23, 2010
In the clip below, Hollywood Backstage takes us along to the 1963 premiere opening of Gazzarri's Broadway A Go Go club in Hollywood. The camera follows Grammy-winning songwriters Nino Temple and April Stevens to the party. Some of the Gazzarri Dancers really shake it up! The announcer mentions that the dancers divided their time between the club and television appearances. It's my understanding, however, that the main dance team appeared briefly at the club and then were featured primarily on TV's Hollywood A Go Go.
June 22, 2010
June 21, 2010
To start the buzz for this cool on-line radio event, here is a clip from The Green Hornet (1966-1967). This fave episode, The Preying Mantis, highlights co-star Bruce Lee's action sequences when our heroes' investigation into Tong activity in Chinatown leads to a dramatic fight to the death. This kind of straight edginess is one of the reasons that The Green Hornet stands today above its campy-cousin, Batman, as cool, costumed, action-adventure. Younger fans who are familiar with Samurai Jack should keep their eyes peeled for Japanese actor, Mako (voice of Aku). Enjoy, and don't miss Dave White Presents this week.
June 20, 2010
June 18, 2010
Paul McCartney was born sixty-eight years ago today. His mother Mary (as in "mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom") was a nurse. His father, James, was an amateur musician. He had his own "Jim Mac's Jazz Band" back in the hot jazz days, and he brought Paul and younger brother Mike up with an appreciation for all kinds of music. The family listened closely to old 78 records and the radio, and McCartney developed a keen ear and passion to make music of his own. After a brief interlude with a trumpet that his dad gave him, he was inspired by the skiffle craze to pick up the guitar. He swapped his horn for a Framus Zenith acoustic model. It wasn't until he saw an image of Slim Whitman that he realized he could restring the instrument backwards for easier playing as a lefty. As Lonnie Donegan belted out Rock Island Line and other skiffle hits, McCartney wrote his first tunes, including When I'm Sixty-Four. In 1956, Paul found his "messiah" Elvis Presley. With Elvis, the floodgates of Rock came rushing in with the likes of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and the Everly Brothers.
McCartney's childhood friend, Ivan Vaughan (also born on June 18th), brought him to the Woolton County Fete on July 6, 1957, where he formally met John Lennon for the first time. The two of them shared a love for Rock n Roll, especially two rockabilly cats that would tour England quite a bit in those early years, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent (Vincent seen below with Paul and John in matching leather gear). As the story goes of that first meeting, McCartney impressed Lennon with Cochran's Twenty-Flight Rock and Lennon played Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula for the first time on stage. McCartney joined Lennon's band, and history followed with Hamburg, Liverpool's Cavern, world tours, Sergeant Pepper, and beyond.
Although the movie A Hard Days Night created an on-screen persona of McCartney as the cute, crooning Beatle, history shows that McCartney and Lennon belted out rockers and ballads equally. McCartney's musical background did broaden his pallet to include jazz and show tune-influenced songs, which Lennon called "granny music" in his vitriolic years. And although Lennon embraced avant-garde projects in the later 1960s, it is not as well-known that McCartney was a cultural trailblazer for the group in the mid-1960s. While his band mates moved out to the suburbs, McCartney stayed in Swinging London to feed his appetite for new avenues of creativity. McCartney's lead Epiphone riff is featured in his song Paperback Writer, mimed by the band for this promotional video.
McCartney helped Barry Miles start the underground London paper, International Times and they attended happenings at the Roundhouse with performances by Beat Poets and The Pink Floyd. McCartney began to attend film screenings and to make experimental films. He also became fascinated with John Cage and the creation of tape loop, sound collages, which he called "electronic symphonies." He facilitated Lennon's contribution of his hand-written lyrics to The Word to Yoko Ono's score book for John Cage. McCartney helped to renovate and set up the Indica Gallery (Miles and McCartney shown below at Indica- where Lennon later met Yoko Ono). A true renascence man, McCartney's experiments fed many Beatles projects, including the seagull-sounding tape loops on Tomorrow Never Knows, Sergeant Pepper as a concept album, a subsidiary record label devoted to poetry (including William S Burroughs) and experimental music, and the Magical Mystery Tour film.
Paul McCartney has continued to explore mainstream and experimental projects each year since his first, famous group disbanded in 1970. In the last twenty years, he has released many classical music compositions, new electronic experiments, an anthology of poetry (including a memorial to childhood pal, Ivan), and he exhibited a large body of work as a painter. How does he manage it? If lifestyle is any clue to his output, jogging, family, laughter, music, and being meat-free seem to be the top of the list. Spy Vibers will, of course, celebrate McCartney's addition to the world of James Bond with his theme to Live and Let Die. Others may also applaud him for his Swinging London style. It all comes back, however, to his deepest roots- music. He's a charismatic powerhouse on stage, which Spy Vibers can see for themselves during his current tour. I look forward to seeing him again next month in San Francisco!
Check out 68 years of McCartney on Pop Matters. Sir Paul was recently awarded the George Gershwin Award by President Obama. Photos from Getty Images, Richard Avedon, Mike McCartney, and press archives. If you are interested in seeing more of Paul McCartney's experimental work or historical projects, here are the essentials.
Working Classical (1999)
Run Devil Run (1999)
Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest (1993)
Liverpool Sound Collage (2000)
Electronic Arguments (2008)
Ballad of the Skeletons (Allen Ginsberg/1996)
Hiroshima Sky is Always Blue (unreleased/Yoko Ono/1995)
Good Evening New York City (2009)
Live At the Cavern Club (2001)
The Real Buddy Holly Story (2004)
My Old Friend (1998)
Paul McCartney Live in Red Square (2005)
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Music & Animation Collection (2004)
The Unknown Paul McCartney (2002)
Many Years From Now (1998)
The Complete Beatles Chronicle (2010)
Paul McCartney Paintings (2000)
The British Invasion (2009)
June 17, 2010
June 16, 2010
I was really into a documentary about ten years ago called The Cobra Ferrari Wars (alternate title: The Snake and the Stallion) from Spirit Level Films. Although I lean toward British cars, the gorgeous lines of the vintage Shelby Cobra and Ferrari GTO were irresistible. Suddenly struck with car-kit fever, I discovered Factory Five out of Wareham, Massachusetts. They have a number of kits that are really impressive and that bring retro design within reach for those with handy-man skills (or for those who "know a guy"). The kits take Mustang engines and other base parts. Now, if only they'd make a hybrid or electric, we'd be pro-environment and Spy Vibe styling!
"More than fifteen years have passed since we launched our first roadster kit. Back in 1995, kit cars were at opposite ends of the spectrum. There were well-built replicas that were laughably expensive on one end, and there were poorly built, cheap “kit cars” at the other end. This is still true today, except for a replica kit made by a small group of wing-nuts at a company called Factory Five Racing. Today, more people build Factory Five Racing roadster replicas than all others combined! At the heart of this revolution are some simple concepts: a better product at a better price… sold by a committed group of professionals who love what they do"
Type 1965 Coupe
"There were just six original Coupes built in 1965. Despite the fact that the design never entered production, those six cars won the 1965 World Championship for America. In addition to its racing heritage, the Coupe is one of the most unique and stunning shapes in automotive history. More than ten years ago we began designing the Type 65 Coupe as a pure replica, dedicated to the authenticity and artistry of the original 1965 World Championship Coupes. The Factory Five Type 65 Coupe captures the look and feel of the original 200 mph GT cars, but with today’s engineering, it is more reliable and performs better. Today you can build and pilot a car that is almost identical to those driven by guys like Bob Bondurant, Dan Gurney and Ken Miles. The only difference is that these days, technology has enabled vintage lines to merge with modern comfort and performance."
"While the car is a steel and aluminum, wooden steering wheel, fire breathing monster vintage race car, it has benefited from a good amount of refinement and modern engineering. Like the roadster, we wanted to capture that vintage look and feel, but use modern running gear and enhance comfort and driveability. Today Factory Five Coupes have indeed become known as the most authentic and accurate replica, but now the design has grown to encompass a much larger role. What began as a replica of a track-only race car, has evolved into a chassis kit capable of delivering everything form open-track dominance to daily driver comfort. Customization has entered the Coupe world and today the Coupe you build is up to you."
Spy Vibers who are interesting in learning more should check out the Factory Five website. They will even send a free promo DVD and brochure about their projects. Images from Factory Five and Carl Edwards.
June 15, 2010
Spy Vibe's TOP pick in this batch, Stanley Donen's Charade (1963). People often describe this as one of the best Hitchcock films Hitch never made. An amazing cast includes Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and James Coburn. The film has wonderful wit, fashion, and even a great Spy Vibe scene 1 with a luger "assassination" atop a ski resort. Spy Vibe looked briefly at writer Peter Stone and Donen's Charade, Arabesque (1966), and Stone's Mirage (1965) here. Criterion: In this deliciously dark comedic thriller, a trio of crooks relentlessly pursue a young American, played by Audrey Hepburn, outfitted in gorgeous Givenchy, through Paris in an attempt to recover the fortune her dead husband stole from them. The only person she can trust is a suave, mysterious stranger, played by Cary Grant. Director Stanley Donen goes splendidly Hitchcockian for Charade, a glittering emblem of sixties style and macabre wit.
Godard's feature debut, Breathless (1960), is a stylistic and seminal film from the French New Wave that features a jazzy score and cool, jump-cut editing. Criterion: There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspired him as a writer for Cahiers du cinéma. With its lack of polish, surplus of attitude, anything-goes crime narrative, and effervescent young stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, Breathless helped launch the French New Wave and ensured that cinema would never be the same.
There are just some movies that I have been waiting for for years. Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), was one of my faves during the 1980s (along with Diva). Ryuichi (YMO) Sakamoto's score is one of the best soundtracks of all time. When I lived in Japan I bought a rare, solo piano version he released and it remains one of my favorite recordings ever (and you know I'm a music guy). Heads up to Bowie fans: Criterion's editions of The Man Who Fell To Earth are about to go out of print! Also on the OOP list is John Schlesinger's classic Billy Liar (1963). Criterion: In this captivating, exhilaratingly skewed World War II drama from Nagisa Oshima, David Bowie regally embodies the character Celliers, a high-ranking British officer interned by the Japanese as a POW. Music star Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also composed this film’s hypnotic score) plays the camp commander, who becomes obsessed with the mysterious blond major, while Tom Conti is British lieutenant colonel Mr. Lawrence, who tries to bridge the emotional and language divides between his captors and fellow prisoners. Also featuring actor-director Takeshi Kitano in his first dramatic role, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is a multi layered, brutal, at times erotic tale of culture clash that was one of Oshima’s greatest successes.
It's also worth mentioning that another beautiful film with an outstanding soundtrack, Camu's Black Orpheus (1959), will be released this august on Blu-ray. The score by Jobim and Bonfa helped to launch the bossa nova scene that still echoes today. Bossa nova is the sound of Tokyo in the summer! Criterion: Winner of both the Academy Award for best foreign-language film and the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus (Orfeu negro) brings the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to the twentieth-century madness of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Your Criterion Picks?
As Spy Vibers, what films do you think deserve the Criterion treatment? Thanks to David at Permission to Kill, I think I'd have to put one of the Shaw Brothers movies on that list. Stylish and hilarious! Which films would you like to see given special treatment with a Hi-def transfer and historical supplements?
June 13, 2010
Spectropop celebrates The Duchess: "Lending her inimitable style to the grooves (and sleeves) of 1962's "Bo Diddley & Company" and 1963's "Bo Diddley's Beach Party" albums, she accompanied him on his first tour of England that same year, where her guitar prowess created a stir equaled only by that of her skin-tight gold lamé cat suit. Asked by one dauntless investigator how she managed to get into it, [The Duchess] responded by pulling out an over-sized shoehorn. Eric Burdon later immortalised her in the Animals' "Story Of Bo Diddley".
Like the women of The Avengers, The Duchess presented an interesting juxtaposition of strength (rocking out with cool confidence) and objectification (hot chick with guitar). Maybe objectification is too strong a word? Like Blackman and Rigg, I think she presented a healthy balance- an individual who was both equal partner and keeper of their own sexual power.
Seeing those performances by Bo and The Duchess got me thinking about the cultural climate of the times. There were big changes for young men and women in the early 1960s. The birth control pill was approved by the FDA in 1960. Hugh Hefner's Playboy was moving into its second decade and continued to represent a revolution away from the post-war family/suburbia ideal. Hef's company grew with the times, celebrating a sophisticated singles' life through a chain of clubs and new ventures into TV (party-style talk shows) and an annual jazz festival. It was rather like the Roaring 20s, with similar images of hot music, flapper girls, and new contraception. Liberated young adults (and their dollars) in the early-mid 1960s generated cultural trends in all areas of the Arts. For women, it was a time of both freedom and continued objectification.
Spy Vibe faves Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg from The Avengers stood out as strong, individual role models. The creators of The Avengers thought to have Blackman dress more like a man for the action scenes (she did many indoor scenes in her black underwear). Her leather gear serendipitously brought both action-agility and kinky eroticism. Courreges' white moon boots and mini skirts of the mid-1960s offered a similar juxtaposition of space-age toughness coupled with exposed-thigh titillation (a style that became a Go Go dancing uniform). Lady Bo, The Duchess, and The Avengers may symbolize a kind of liberation, certainly in comparison to the bikini voyeurism of, say, the playful Dr. Goldfoot films. I don't know what Bo's motivations were to first invite Lady Bo and The Duchess on stage. Maybe he was inspired by Les Paul and Mary Ford? I doubt that he was thinking of feminism as much as he wanted to heat up his stage act. Regardless of how these ladies got to the spotlight, Bo's female guitarists were ahead of their time.
In this clip from Hollywood A Go Go, Bo and The Duchess perform a song that sums up the plot of most early Rock movies, "Let the Kids Dance!" Keep your eyes on those Go Go dancers. We'll take a closer look at them next. B&W Photo from Getty Images.
June 11, 2010
June 8, 2010
June 7, 2010
Written by Edward Boyd (The Odd Man), the series stars larger-than-life character actor John Sharp and Elizabeth Shepherd, the actress originally cast as Emma Peel; guest stars include Windsor Davies and Pauline Collins. With wildly inventive storylines, offbeat, often humorous dialogue in which characters frequently break the fourth wall, strikingly original photography and heavily stylised sets, it’s no surprise to find it described as ‘the Twin Peaks of its day’, or akin to ‘a lost Harold Pinter play with an added dash of Monty Python’..! This unique series, unscreened since its original transmission in 1966, is now available on DVD for the very first time." DVD is PAL format and is currently on sale for $15.46 from Network.