August 29, 2012


The surrealism and satire boom in the UK during the 1960s, fueled by Peter Sellers, Beyond the Fringe, Richard Lester, John Lennon, and Monty Python were an integral part of a new perspective on life that wasn't afraid to confront social issues with humor and flair. Thinking outside the box led to so many qualities and creations that we hold dear today. Experimentation was essential for this growth, and sometimes the experiments pushed outside the envelope- an experience that can be challenging, but rewarding with the proper context.

The Beatles experimented often during their career, pushing pop music into uncharted territory and exploring the avant-garde. John Lennon collaborated with Yoko Ono on many experimental films and sound recordings. He also starred in Richard Lester's experimental surreal film, How I Won the War. George Harrison played with early Moog music and contributed the soundtrack to the movie, Wonderwall. Paul McCartney made a number of experimental films and tape-loops (later stolen) that inspired the sound collage on Tomorrow Never Knows. McCartney returned to experiment with electronic music and sound collage with the Firemen and Liverpool Sound Collage projects. And Ringo Starr pursued an acting career that included collaboration with Peter Sellers. (see various clips below). At the heart of The Beatles' success was perhaps their playful humor- a quality that originally secured their contract with George Martin, who had produced records for Peter Sellers and The Goons. Much of their work was steeped in play and a love of 'happy accidents' in the studio. The decade saw a boom in surreal British filmmaking. Imagery from Carroll's Alice loomed large and the Beatles were a part of this wave. Spy Vibers interested in exploring the world of 1960s surrealism further should check out the BBC Alice in Wonderland (with Peter Sellers, Peter Cook, and a soundtrack by Ravi Shankar), The Bed Sitting Room, How I Won the War (with John Lennon), The Knack... and How to Get It, Not Only But Also, Beyond the Fringe, and Monty Python's Flying Circus.

In 1967, The Beatles made an experimental film called Magical Mystery Tour. Although it left many viewers scratching their heads (even today), the movie is filled with treasured moments of the group presenting some of their greatest work and playing around with surrealist imagery and challenging movie conventions. It was not another A Hard Days Night, but it was an important work from a group of 1960s artists that we love BECAUSE they were willing to push the envelope and think outside the box. I believe that viewers going into the film, knowing that the movie is influenced by surrealism, Lewis Carroll, Lord of the Rings, and 1967 counter-culture, will find it an interesting experience.

Magical Mystery Tour has been remastered and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 9th (John and Sean Lennon's birthdays). Special features include director commentary by Paul McCartney, interviews, and many un-seen scenes. A collector's edition includes a reproduction of the 2-vinyl record EP (in glorious MONO!), and a book. There will also be a limited theatrical release starting September 27th. Roll up! Roll up! Don't miss it and keep your minds (and ears!) open. Here is the trailer and one of my favorite segments of the group performing I Am the Walrus in the film. 

Essential Beatles Experimental Work:
Revolver (Bealtes album)
SGT Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Beatles album)
Magical Mystery Tour (Beatles film)
The White Album (Beatles album)
Two Virgins (Lennon/Ono album)
Life With the Lions (Lennon/Ono album)
Wedding Album (Lennon/Ono album)
Lennon/Ono film shorts
Electronic Sounds (Harrison album)
Wonderwall (Harrison film)
The Magic Christian (Starr film)
How I Won the War (Lennon film)
Georgia Stone (Ono/Lennon track)
Liverpool Sound Collage (McCartney album)
Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest (McCartney album)
Rushes (McCartney album)

I had a chance to make a music re-mix a couple of years ago for Yoko Ono that won a contest she was holding with the Plastic Ono Band. I followed it up with an experimental short film that you can see here: The Sun is Down. I also made a tribute sound collage and film for John Lennon's 70th birthday, Lennon70

Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger Langley, Craig Arthur, Fleming Short, Matt ShermanCheck out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

August 28, 2012


It's interesting to see how one person can make a difference in so many lives. For anyone who have seen Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, the idea is probably clear in your mind. As a person can act as a catalyst for others in daily life, like a conductor of sorts, so can a person conduct mass culture over the course of their career. Sir George Martin is the man with the golden ear. Producer George Martin was celebrated last year as part of BBC's Arena series. The film covers George's long career working with Peter Sellers and The Goons, The Beatles, Cilla Black, and many other iconic artists. The documentary film, Produced by George Martin, will be released in September 11th (10th in the UK) on Blu-ray and DVD. 

Blessed with musical genius and a sense of humor, Martin is a bit like the Wizard of Oz- the man behind the curtain- whose work as a producer and arranger defined the music and humor of the last half of the 20th Century and beyond. The artists he worked with include Flanders and Swann, Peter Ustinov, The Goons, Peter Sellers, Sophia Loren, Beyond the Fringe (with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore), Matt Monro (of From Russia With Love), Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cellia Black, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Jeff Beck, Elton John, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Paul Winter Consort, and America. In addition to multiple Grammys and other major awards, George Martin has scored 30 #1 hits in the UK and 23 #1 hits in the US. (See Spy Vibe's article Peter Sellers to John Lennon and Peter Sellers posts for more about comedy in the UK). Of special interest to Spy Vibers, Martin also produced two James Bond theme songs: Goldfinger (1965) with Shirley Bassey, and Live and Let Die (1973) with Paul McCartney.

George Martin is most famous as the producer/arranger behind The Beatles career. Legend has it that a shared sense of humor sealed the deal between Martin and the Fab Four. The band loved his records with Peter Sellers and The Goons. In their first meeting in the studio on June 6th, 1962, the group recorded four test songs that didn't quite measure up. Martin gave them a bit of talking to about what they needed to do in order to become recording artists. When he finished, he added, "Is there anything you don't like?" Without skipping a beat, George Harrison responded, "Yeah, I don't like your tie." Jokes and laughter followed. The producer appreciated their irreverent humor and committed himself to recording the band. Martin's expertise fostered musical experimentation throughout the 1960s, allowing The Beatles to push their songs into new territory. Martin often contributed as keyboard player in the studio, in addition to arranging the accompaniment to well-know songs like Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby, and Penny Lane. George Martin recently worked with his son Giles to produce the soundtrack to the Cirque Du Soleil show, The Beatles Love.

I had a chance to make a music re-mix a couple of years ago for Yoko Ono that won a contest she was holding with the Plastic Ono Band. I followed it up with an experimental short film that you can see on Youtube: The Sun is DownSee Spy Vibe's secure Amazon Store for films and books about The Beatles, James Bond, and other 1960s coolness. 

Check out our recent posts, including Experimental Beatles and Magical Mystery Tour, Beatles First Recording Anniversary,  Neil Armstrong: One Last Step, Celebrating 450,000 visitors, Interview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger Langley, Craig Arthur, Fleming Short, Matt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

August 27, 2012


The Avengers 1968 film? Although this poster image has made the rounds among fans for quite a while, it wasn't on my radar until recently. In the same way that episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and other TV shows were spliced together to create movies for theatrical release in European markets, two unrelated episodes of The Avengers were released as a film in France in 1968. Picking some of the most entertaining and memorable stories from the color Emma Peels season (1967), the feature-length experience included The Return of the Cybernauts and Winged Avenger. It is surprising that Peter Cushing's name is not listed on the poster. As a star of Cybernauts, I would imagine that he would have been a big box-office draw. Experience-wise, I'm reminded of the recent Star Trek: The Next Generation screenings that spotlighted two episodes from two different seasons. Although the event was not as fulfilling as seeing a cohesive film, it was quite fun to spend two hours with Star Trek on the big screen. With that in mind, I really envy those movie-goers who got to see Steed and Mrs Peel larger than life at the theater.

August 26, 2012


Spy Vibers with a taste for adventure might enjoy a stay in the 007 suite at the 7 Hotel in Paris. In addition to this ultra-cool lounge area, the suite includes a large glass shower, modern furniture, and a golden gun-style lamp. Some of their suites have rotating design features, and I have seen two backgrounds for this lounge on-line. Reservations start at 447 euros. More info at the hotel website. This style of lit-alcove design reminds me of some of the 1960s-inspired interiors at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

August 25, 2012


Spy Vibe is dedicated to a time when new technology, space-age vision, and a young generation with playful flair, independence (and pocket money), combined to ignite a revolution in the Arts. Although the space program, for some, became a symbol of the nationalistic and militaristic culture of the older generation- and an extension of the Cold War, I believe that there was a forward-reaching spirit of science and exploration at its heart. One of the fearless pioneers in that program, Neil Armstrong, has passed away at the age of 82. The first human being to set foot on the moon on July 20th, 1969, Armstrong was never at ease being in the public eye and chose to lead a private life. You can read his obituary in the Washington Post.

The development of space suits had a large impact on fashion in the 1960s. New synthetic fabrics designed to withstand the cosmos found their way into the hands of young artists and designers, who molded it into space-age dresses, boots, hats, and eyewear. The fashion, as embraced by youth, symbolized a futuristic attitude, and according to Jane Pavitt (Royal College of Art/V&A Museum), it also reflected the deeper anxieties that people had about the dangers of new technology and radioactive fallout.

Neil Armstrong's suit is in the collection of the Smithsonian. Manufactured by ILC Industries, it was made from beta cloth, rubber, nylon, plastic, aluminum, brass, and neoprene. From the Smithsonian: "The lunar spacesuits were designed to provide a life sustaining environment for the astronaut during periods of extra vehicular activity or during unpressurized spacecraft operation. They permitted maximum mobility and were designed to be worn with relative comfort for up to 115 hours in conjunction with the liquid cooling garment. If necessary, they were also capable of being worn for 14 days in an unpressurized mode. 

The spacesuit has the designation A-7L, and was constructed in the Extra-vehicular or EV configuration.

 NASA transferred the spacesuit to the National Air and Space Museum in 1971." I have not read any of the Armstrong biographies, but I wonder if such a private man might have found comfort in the singularity of one's task and in the isolation of the cockpit- or encased in the mobile environment below. Rest in peace. For more on space fashion, check out the many books in Spy Vibe's secure Amazon store.

August 24, 2012


In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, IFC in NYC is screening a BOND-A-THON of every Sean Connery 007 film- including Never Say Never Again (1983)! The series will run between Aug. 26th and Sept. 1st. "Outfitted with the coolest gadgets, the driest martinis (shaken, not stirred) and the curviest co-stars, Sean Connery created one of the screen’s most indelible and iconic characters. Although succeeded by other actors, he’s never been surpassed, and, on his golden anniversary, Connery’s effortlessly suave superspy remains the gold standard. After all, you never forget your first Bond." IFC is located at 323 Avenue of the Americas, at Third Street, Greenwich Village. See the complete schedule at the IFC website. NY Times announcement here.

August 23, 2012


MI6 Confidential is releasing two new issues of their illustrated magazine and are offering a special that will save readers some shipping costs from the UK. Issue #16 celebrates the 50th anniversary of "Dr. No". As nobody knew quite what an international sensation Ian Fleming's spy would become on the silver screen, this issue is a fascinating snapshot in time just before Bond Fever hit. 

Issue #16:
His Name Is Bond - Sean Connery: from milkman to spy
Being Bond - In his own words, Connery reveals his approach to playing 007
The Man With The Platinum Hands - Meet 007's first megalomaniacal foe
The Girl Who Has Everything - Swiss beauty Ursula Andress makes a splash
Danger Man - When the action heats up, veteran stuntman Bob Simmons stands in
The Women Of 007 - Meet the other ladies vying for Bond's attention
Commander Jamaica - The "Dr. No" crew discuss shooting on location
Hero Number One - Realising Ian Fleming's imagination on the silver screen

Issue #17 previews the new adventure "Skyfall" including an exclusive interview with stunt coordinator Gary Powell about the stunts, spills & thrills of Daniel Craig's third outing as 007. Other features cover the new Bond Girls, the Barbican exhibition, inside the EON archive, and much more. More info at MI6Confidential

Issue #17:
Skyfall Action - Exclusive interview with stunt coordinator Gary Powell
Entente Cordiale - Bérénice Marlohe joins a long list of French Bond Girls
All About Eve - Naomie Harris plays an MI6 field agent in "Skyfall"
007 Legends - Activision lift the lid on their ambitious new videogame
50 Years Of Bond Style At The Barbican - Take a tour of the new exhibition
Inside The EON Archive - Exclusive interview with Archive Director Meg Simmonds
Sunspel In 007 Heaven - Recreating James Bond's iconic shorts
The Bond Connection - Ex-Special Ops agent Aaron Cohen reveals the secrets of "Haywire"