December 21, 2018

SPY DUST CALYPSO

Before the Internet there was Calypso! Serving traditionally as a musical tradition to convey news, reviews, and culture, you can really learn what people were thinking about during various eras by hearing their songs. As I wound up the fall semester with our annual art show, I found my own curiosity returning to the topic of roots music. Maybe not as fantasy-fun as movie soundtracks, but interesting in terms of how music reflects society and expresses real human experience. I've been a doing a deep-dive into Bob Dylan's work, as well as other artists who came up through the folk and blues scene in the early 1960s. I even got to see Peter & Paul (of Peter, Paul & Mary) perform recently and was really struck by the authenticity, heart, and investment in seeing humanity come together. Coincidentally, Smithsonian Folkways is about to release a new set aptly titled The Social Power of Music. Refreshing in our era of auto-tune confections of sound and image. But back to Calypso! Spy Vibers might recall my many posts in the past about Calypso and Ska songs in the 1960s that addressed the Spy Boom in pop culture. Recently I came across an interesting piece about actual espionage by Mighty Sparrow. Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) is a Trinidadian who started out as a kid (then called "Little Sparrow") and found success by the mid-1950s. And as far as I can tell he's still going at 83! In the mid-1980s he recorded a song that responded to news that the KGB was using what became known as "Spy Dust" (Nitrophenyl pentadienal, NPPD, nitrophenylpentadienal), an invisible powder to track people. Although it had been detected in the early 1970s, it wasn't until the mid-1980s that KGB defectors provided more info about it. In 1985, when Might Sparrow released his song "Spy Dust" (A Touch of Class/B's Records BSR-SP-041), the US State Department protested the use of the chemical due to fears about its potential health impacts. Sparrow must have scanned the newspapers, like any great Calypso man would, and used his song to forward international anxieties to his listeners about how this Cold War Spy Dust might cause cancer and other maladies. Apparently it was later determined there was no real threat health-wise, but Mighty Sparrow's track remains an interesting time capsule. Check it out below. I'll post another Sparrow tune next. Spy Vibers, I also have a new book out (over 700 pages!) about one of America's great cartoonists. On other creative fronts, folks might not know that I began exhibiting as a fine art photographer in the late 1980s. I haven't shared that part of my life here much, but readers might like to see some of my work on Instagram. Enjoy!


Selected Spy Vibe Posts: Atomic Cafe, John Barry MonoInterview: John Barry BookLand of the Giants ScoreSkyfall ConcertDearest EmmaSpy Vibe Radio: UppersevenOgilvy at ElstreeMabuse PropagandaBond Beatles DaySpy Vibe Radio: LiquidatorDiabolik LPFab DressesEurospy Music CollectionBeetle Bailey in West BerlinWhy Mort Walker?Spy Vibe radio: The Beatles Help!, Avengers Critical GuideThe SpotnicksBenny SpiesJames Pond 0017'Satire StonesAnnette Andre BookCat DaySpy Vibe Radio: Get SmartCaine: My GenerationInterview: Ian OgilvyHorror of Party BeachSylvie Vartan RenownRingo At 78Dark Shadows StripsSpy Vibe Radio: FlintArchie Batman 66Paul at 76Beatles Pac-ManSpy Vibe Radio: Jerry CottonThe Invaders007 Horowitz Book TourMcGoohan/Prisoner Event at ElstreeThe Prisoner Interviews Vol 1British Underground PressInterview: Fab4 ManiaBond Cocktail BookBond at BletchleySpy SmasherSpy Vibe Radio: Peter GunnAgent Zero MNew Prisoner ComicDr. No Villains Edition,  Spy Vibe Radio: Danger DiabolikDr. No 60thOy-Oy-SevenSpy Vibe Radio (UFO)Cold War Comic StripsThunderball EventMission to IndiaMort Walker Celebration,  Peter Wyngarde CelebrationBatman 66 ExhibitPrisoner Fifty EventIan Fleming Publications 2017-2018Interview: Ed Hulse PulpAvengers Audio DramaInterview: Callan At 50Interview: Playboys, Spies, Private EyesTWA ReturnsSpy Vibe Radio 8Interview: Ryan HeshkaMid-Century Modern SchulzAgent WerewolfMata Hair ExhibitJohnny Sokko 50thInterview: Trina RobbinsEddie IzzardThe Prisoner Capt Scarlet 50thHugh Hefner R.I.P.Jack Good R.I.P.Interview: Shaken Not StirredCallan 50thSpy Vibe Radio 7The Prisoner 50th EventSpy-Fi EventKaho Aso 007Two MillionBo DiddleyCarnaby PopLe Carre EventsBilly Bragg SkiffleElvis 68Jack Kirby The PrisonerCasino Royale ConcertReview: The Prisoner Vol 2Interview: The Prisoner Essential GuideMaud Russell MottisfontSpy Vibe Radio 4Batman GallantsAdam West R.I.P.Village TriangleRoger Moore R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio 3Sgt Pepper 50thSatanik Kriminal OST60s OverdriveMake Love in LondonSpy Vibe Radio 2Spy Vibe Radio 1James Bond StripsPropaganda MabuseInterview: Police SurgeonXTC Avengers1966 Pep SpiesBatman Book InterviewExclusive Fleming InterviewAvengers Comic StripsRobert Vaughn RIPUNCLE FashionsThunderbirds Are Pop!, Interview: Spy Film GuideLost Avengers FoundThe Callan FileMission Impossible 50thGreen Hornet 50thStar Trek 50thPortmeirion Photography 1Filming the PrisonerGaiman McGinnins ProjectIan Fleming GraveRevolver at 50Karen Romanko InterviewMod Tales 2Umbrella Man: Patrick MacneeNew Beatles FilmThe Curious CameraEsterel Fashion 1966Exclusive Ian Ogilvy Interview007 Tribute CoversThe Phantom Avon novels returnIan Fleming FestivalArgoman DesignSylvia Anderson R.I.P.Ken Adam R.I.P.George Martin R.I.P.The New Avengers ComicsThe Phantom at 80007 MangaAvengerworld BookDiana Rigg Auto ShowThe Prisoner Audio Drama Review.

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