Disco Killed the Radio Star

Recently there was a post on BoingBoing about a Bollywood video cover of I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and it reminded me of one of my favorite Bollywood finds — a videotape that I got from an Indian grocery I lived near. The catchy “Disco Disco” label first caught my eye, but the contents turned out to be better than I could have imagined: a compilation of solidly 80’s era Bollywood music videos. No plot developments, no Hindi dialogue I can’t understand; nothing but wall-to-wall music videos with guys dressed like forgotten Jacksons brothers singing in front of giant light-up Rubik’s cubes. Yesssss!

Buried in this kitschy mess was the video below. It’s a cut from the movie Disco Dancer (the title clip of which starts out the tape) but they don’t give the title for this song, so I’m calling it “Disco Killed The Radio Star” since it’s basically a take on The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”. This is — well, not a cover, exactly — but the distinctive piano and “Oh-wah-oh” backup singing makes it the cheap, copyright-free “Hey, that reminds me of”—version of the song. And considering the root ersatzness of the Bollywood aesthetic, that make it even better.

Leo Diamond: Skin Diver Suite

[cover of Skin Diver Suite]Harmonica virtuoso Leo Diamond was in a couple novelty combos in the 1940s and early 1950s, and then signed with RCA Victor for a series of solo albums. This is the first one, Skin Diver Suite. It’s irresistable for the cover alone, but side one (“The Skin Divers”) is surprisingly experimental; a 20-minute collage of 1950s orchestral glissandos, home-on-the-range–style Americana, and sound effects of water splashing. It’s the Lumpy Gravy of easy listening.

This was recorded just a little too early to be stereo, which is a shame; it would have been a great entry in RCA’s “Living Stereo” series.

  1. The Skin Divers
  2. April Again
  3. Melinda
  4. Wendy
  5. Reminiscing Interlude
  6. Ride the Dark Hills Home
  7. All I Desire

Conquer the Video Craze

[Conquer the Video Craze cover] Conquer the Video Craze was issued in 1982, at the height of arcade games’ popularity. Over a background of ambient arcade noise, Curtis Hoard, “Atari Champion finalist”, reads convoluted game tips in a slow nasal monotone.

I’ve not been able to find out much about Hoard; most of the search results point to articles about a different Curtis Hoard, a sculptor of some reknown at the University of Minnesota. Perhaps this fellow’s father? One of the few links I found about this Hoard says that he graduated from Alhambra High School in California in 1981. Perhaps he knew David Wills (“The Weatherman” from Negativland), who also attended around that time.

The liner notes talk a little about Hoard and his sad, sad life:

There are few games in the marketplace that Chris has not mastered. He has extensive experience at playing video games and diciphering [sic] their patterns and techniques of play. His analytical mind automatically envisions patterns and virtual line drawings of the games. He currently logs more than 8 hours of play per day and has been coined by his peers and friends as the “Human Video Game”.

The label, ALA Enterprises of Los Angeles, is similarly obscure. They issued a motley grab-bag of products in the late-1970s–early-1980s, including bootlegs of Memphis Slim and Canned Heat; “Dungeon Key”, a cassette game for the TI-99/4a computer; and film composer warhorse Alan Silvestri’s soundtrack for blaxploitation flick The Mack and His Pack.

I’ve always thought that between the subject matter and Hoard’s slow talking, this would make great sampling material; just snip off the introduction where he says the video game’s name, and you have a man saying things like, “As a beginner, it is better just to kill everyone as fast as you can”, utterly deadpan. At least one DJ, Canadian Kid Koala, had the same idea.

  1. Introduction
  2. Centipede
  3. Defender
  4. Stargate
  5. Dig Dug
  6. Donkey Kong
  7. Pac-Man
  8. Ms. Pac-Man
  9. Tempest

The Symmetries of Shiina Ringo

[photo of Shiina Ringo]Shiina Ringo was a pop star in Japan. She courted all the right producers, appeared on all the right television shows. Each record was more successful than the last. But Ringo was an odd pop star: her voice could be grating, she was sexually aggressive, she had an edge. Eventually she got a producer and a contract that allowed her full control, and she vanished into the studio in 2003.

Fans lined up for another sunny pop excursion — but what they got was an art-rock concept album in the Björkian mold, with surreal and at times impenetrable lyrics sung in an archaic dialect, featuring a full orchestra and more than 30 instruments played by her hand-picked ensemble, credited on some songs as “Special Forces”. The album is short, but it is crammed to bursting with melodic ideas and meticulous attention to sonic detail — as shown by its mysterious symmetries: the CD is exactly 44 minutes and 44 seconds long, and is constructed in two parts, each song of which has lyrical and stylistic correspondences to the song on the other half. “Doppelgänger”, the second track, is followed by “Poltergeist”, the next-to-last track, for instance. At one point Ringo sings a line from an earlier song backwards phonetically, only possible in Japanese. Even the track titles are symmetrical, presented in formal kanji only used in legal documents. The CD’s spine from which the two leaves branch is a lovely tune without a twin called “Kuki”, or “Stem”.

The CD’s reception was confused: Ringo let her too-nasal voice careen from child to world-weary to vixen and back again, sometimes in the space of one line, like her heroine Fiona Apple (“ringo” is “apple” in Japanese). The packaging was back-to-front, only found on traditional Enka recordings. The gorgeous melodies were undermined by disturbing language, made more so by the fact that the lyrics (even for native speakers) were difficult to decipher. The title of the record is Kalk Samen Kuri No Hana, which could be translated as Chalk, Semen, Chestnut Flowers; on the bridge of “Shuukyou” Ringo sings “I can’t find a cup I like anywhere I go. Why/Even though so many buildings and streets are increasing/Do we stare at the unreasonableness of the bottle we can’t finish drinking?”

[Kalk Samen Kuri No Hana cover]For Ringo making KSK “[had] been the realization of a dream — for a long time I thought J-pop was weird and really artificial sounding. I have always tried to create something more genuine.” Because of its uniqueness Kalk Samen Kuri No Hana sold more than 400,000 copies — but once it was completed Ringo decided that this record was the cap to her career thus far, that there had been a line crossed and retreat was necessary. She formed a band, Tokyo Jihen (Tokyo Incidents), which reduced the focus on herself, toned down the experimentation of the music, released a single formed entirely out of samples from her back catalogue (with a video that matched the concept), and most tellingly, had the mole on her face removed, as if these gestures shut a door on something — or someone — considered done and not to be revisited.

Ringo remains immensely popular in Japan, having released two records under the Tokyo Jihen name. She shows no inclination to make music like Kalk Samen Kuri No Hana again, and there has been speculation that the record is somehow more brilliant than she can be capable of — a masterpiece arrived at by accident. Kalk Samen Kuri No Hana is also thought of as the greatest J-Pop record ever made.

Alejandro Jodorowsky: The Holy Mountain

[photo of Alejandro Jodorowsky]Alejandro Jodorowsky is a fascinating character: he’s a mime who studied under Marcel Marceau, an expert on the Tarot, a writer of comics (the wonderful L’Incal and Metabarons among them), and a psychotherapist/shaman — but he’ll always be known for his films, the most famous of which are El Topo and The Holy Mountain from the early seventies.

[screen capture from “The Holy Mountain”]El Topo is his most highly regarded film, depicting a guru-gunslinger in a highly symbolic spiritual quest. The idea of the quest is repeated in The Holy Mountain, but the scope of the film is much larger, with elaborate sets, a large cast, and jaw-dropping scenes like frogs reenacting the Spanish conquest of Mexico and religious symbols made into weapons. Its filming was no less bizarre: Jodorowsky made the cast train for months under a human-potential guru he’d hired, insisted that the female members of the cast sleep with him (“No men. Only the women,” he laughs), and he was nearly killed in Mexico after being suspected of performing a Black Mass. All very hippy-dippy Carlos Castaneda Sixties, but Jodorowsky’s commitment to change people through art is intense: “Now I think is a fantastic moment for all of us because now we are fighting for our world, our life. Now is the moment to be awake or to die.” For Jodorowsky, Hollywood is “a child’s industry – for me, a good picture changes your life.”

[painting of H.R. Giger's sandworm]After The Holy Mountain Jodorowsky attempted to film Frank Herbert’s Dune, which if completed would have floored cult-cinema junkies worldwide. Artists recruited included H.R. Giger and Moebius, both of whom would go on to work on Alien along with screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. Pink Floyd was to score the film, and the cast was an absurdist parade: David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Alain Delon, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dalí­ (who demanded $100,000 for an hour’s shoot). Nothing this strange — and colossally expensive, and 14 hours long — could live, and the film adaptation of Dune would have to wait for David Lynch to come along a decade later.

After the collapse of the Dune project three more films were made, none of which approached the madness and extravagance of his previous work. Plans were made for a sequel to El Topo starring Marilyn Manson (the two are close friends — Jodorowsky officiated Manson’s wedding), but nothing came of it, partially because the rights to both El Topo and The Holy Mountain were in the hands of Beatles manager Allen Klein who refused to release them. Existing DVDs (there have been legitimate relases in Italy and Japan) were of poor quality due to the lack of access to film elements.

Nothing was heard for decades but the news has arrived that both El Topo and The Holy Mountain are indeed being digitally remastered and released. Happy news, made happier by the thought that one day another Jodorowsky film will be made.

Featured here is the soundtrack to The Holy Mountain, credited to free jazz god Don Cherry and Archies keyboardist Ron Frangipane along with Jodorowsky. The quality could be better (it’s directly from the film so all the dialogue is present), but enjoy.

Update: thanks to Nick Scholl for sending the missing 17th track!

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Great Toad and Chameleon Battle
  3. Symbol of Christ/Two Halves/Love
  4. Ascending the Tower/The Magus
  5. The Tarot
  6. Venus (Vond)
  7. Mars (Esla)
  8. Jupiter (Clen)
  9. Saturn (Sal)
  10. Uranus (Berg)
  11. Neptune (Axon)
  12. Pluto (Lute)
  13. Holy Mountain Within
  14. Acts of Christ
  15. Across the Ocean
  16. Throw that Monster into the Water
  17. Pantheon Bar
  18. Climb to the Summit
  19. Face Your Fears/End Titles

Pascal: The Sixth Ear

[photo of The Sixth Ear LP cover] Nik “Pascal” Raicevic’s chief claim to fame is as a session percussionist for two tracks on the Rolling Stones’ Goat’s Head Soup, but in the early 1970s he released several pioneering electronic instrumental albums under various names.

His first release, in 1970, was an eponymous album under the name “Head”; it was released by Buddah Records and contained tracks with names like “Cannabis Sativa” and “Methedrine”. Buddah had second thoughts fairly quickly and Raicevic was soon on his own. He released four albums on his own label (keeping the drug theme by naming it “Narco Records and Tapes”) before selling all his equipment to Steve Roach and dying of an overdose or finding Jesus or something.

This is The Sixth Ear, from 1972, with great spacey Moog sounds. For you DJs out there, this makes a fantastic music bed for back-announcing. Raicevic credits himself under three different pseudonyms on the involved musicians list on the back cover. The engineer is listed as “William Elder”, but I don’t think it’s the Mad/Playboy artist.

[photo of The Sixth Ear 8-track cover]

  1. The Sixth Ear
  2. Journey Into the Light
  3. Subconscious Nebula
  4. Anandamayi
  5. Identity
  6. Demons of Rage
  7. Karma
  8. Vision of Kali
  9. Life

I have this on LP, but I’d really like to find the 8-track, which has a great warning on the cover: “DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS TAPE IF YOU ARE STONED”. It’s unclear what would happen if you were to ignore the warning, or why it wasn’t on the cover of the LP.

Qur’an for Little Muslims

Hello Gardners; a pleasure to be here — and to make my first contribution.

I’ve been a die-hard forgotten media collector and create digger for many years, amassing an enormous library of strange sources to be used to create music as/with The Evolution Control Committee. So, it just seemed natural to start off with a good find — expect more to come.

Having amassed most of my vinyl treasures in the bible belt and Devo state of Ohio, religious vinyl artifacts are a familiar and favorite find. Whether it’s another piercing sermon from Jack Van Impe (or occasionally his kick-ass accordion playing) to irritating Christian puppets, there was always a glut. So much so that I eventually had to split my “Religion” record category in two, separating the adult material from the kids (the latter category becoming “Opiates For The Lasses”). But … always, always, always Christian.

Qur'an for Little Muslims - Side 2

Which was what made “Qur’an for Little Muslims” so refreshing.

Once you’re past the gleeful shock of the title, look at the cover — what’s wrong with this picture? Could it be the blond-haired, blue-eyed, Aryan Youth dutifully studying his Qur’an? There’s also something neatly symbolic about the faceless girl, conveniently looking another direction. Yeah ”¦ keep it that way, you.

Qur'an for Little Muslims - Cover

As for the contents, it’s Islamic storytime with a very white sounding soccer mom. Uh, in a burqa. Not thrilling, but Negativland did use a bit in their 2006 shows after I sent a copy to Mark Hosler, even with no “My First Car Bomb” track. Nonetheless, here it is in its entirety for you, complete with artwork.

  1. Introduction
  2. Al Fil
  3. Al Alaq
  4. Al Maun
  5. Al Asr
  6. Al Fatiha
  7. Al Falaq & Al Nass
  8. Al Lahab
  9. Al Nasr
  10. Suras Recitation

Qur'an for Little Muslims - Inside

Korla Pandit: The Universal Language of Music Vol. 1

[photo of Korla Pandit] The 1950s’ mysterious, romantic exotica organist Korla Pandit was born in New Delhi, India in the early 1920s. Born into a higher-caste family, he showed immense musical talent at a young age, and his father sent him to study music at elite prep schools in England. In the early 1940s, he came to the United States to enroll at the University of Chicago.

Actually, that’s all lies. That was the story Pandit always gave, and for decades it was accepted by everyone as his biography. But after his death in 1998, it was discovered that he really was a black guy from St. Louis named John Roland Redd.

Heh.

Anyway, the rest of his biography is less murky. His big break came when he was hired to do background music for the revival of the radio show Chandu the Magician in 1948. He caught the attention of a producer with KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, who hired him to star in a daily 15-minute show, in which he played the organ and never spoke.

Pandit had already released several singles (including a couple under his previous incarnation, “Juan Rolando”) and a few EPs, but this is his first full-length LP: The Universal Language of Music, Volume 1, from 1954.

[photo of album cover: The Universal Language of Music, Vol. 1]

  1. The Banjello
  2. Clare de Lune
  3. Stormy Weather
  4. Over the Rainbow
  5. Samba
  6. Trance Dance
  7. Theme from Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony
  8. Aicha’s Dance (Moghul Suite)
  9. Intermettzo
  10. Beyond the Sunset
  11. Chopin’s Waltz in A Major

I should add that the voice you hear on these tracks (in full 1950s Authoritative Narrator mode), is not Pandit, who never spoke on his shows or at performances, but rather somebody named Dave Ballard. Ballard also was the announcer for Pandit’s TV show, but I haven’t been able to find out much about him. He might be the same guy as this Dave Ballard who was active in 1950s television. IMDB says he’s 7'6"!

Terry Riley’s Ultimate Disco Mix

[photo of Terry Riley]In 1967 Terry Riley was playing one of his “All Night Flight” concerts in Philadephia, featuring his soprano saxophone, keyboards, and tape delay devices, which went on for hours in the trance-inducing Minimalist fashion — as documented on the Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band “All Night Flight” Vol. 1 CD. (Later, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp would adopt similar methods for their “Frippertronics” concerts and LPs like No Pussyfooting and Evening Star.) After the show the proprietor of a local discotheque asked Riley to compose a piece to be played in his club, and Riley obliged — but with a version of Harvey Averne‘s “You’re No Good”, a single off Averne’s 1968 Atlantic LP Viva Soul.

[cover of Harvey Averne — Viva Soul]Riley took a Motown-inspired pop tune and transformed it into a twenty-minute exploded view, slicing the track into long and short bits and looping them, as Steve Reich had done a few years earlier with his “Come Out” and “It’s Gonna Rain” pieces. The Riley remix (“No Good” becoming “Nogood” to echo his Poppy Nogood character) is wonderfully perverse: beginning with a two-and-a-half-minute piercing sine wave drone, increasing in pitch to the point of unbearability before suddenly breaking into the Averne song, which becomes more and more fragmented and complex, towards the end adding Moog shrieks. Averne’s song refuses to die even under this treatment, determined to keep the good times rolling even as it’s being puréed.

“You’re Nogood” was rescued from undeserved obscurity by the Cortical Foundation, run by Gary Todd, which lovingly repressed a series of very well-received Riley CDs as well as work by Derek Bailey, Hermann Nitsch, and the Scratch Orchestra (whose “The Great Learning” has since been reissued by Deutsche Grammofon). In 2001 Todd was seriously injured, and there has been no further word of his health or the possibility of future releases on his label. We wish him all the best.

Kangaroo Kourt: Atmospheric Distortions

Nobody seems to know anything about Kangaroo Kourt, but their albums found their way into many college radio stations’ libraries in the late 1980s. This is Atmospheric Distortions, which I believe is their first album.

Side 1 has interesting noise interspersed with samples of children’s records and some apparently-original skits. Their humor isn’t for everyone, but it’s so off-the-wall that I greatly enjoy it (“The High Geek has repealed the 7% suicide tax”). Also, another warning against masturbation (see my earlier post). One more and it’s a trend!

Side 2 is just straightforward noise (if that’s not an oxymoron) — no voice samples. Still very much worth downloading.