One Album Wonders: The Music Machine's (Turn On) The Music Machine

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 3, 2015 09:16pm | Post a Comment

The Music Machine

Los Angeles
's  The Music Machine are one of those bands which was not only a one album wonder but a one hit wonder as well (there are a few of them). The Music Machine’s big hit was “Talk Talk,” a stomping, grunted neolithic garage stomper from 1966 that quickly rose to #15 on the charts and remained in the Top 40 for twelve weeks. 

The Music Machine’s San Jose-born singer-songwriter Sean Bonniwell, Doug Rhodes (organ), Ron Edgar (drums), Keith Olsen (bass), and Mark Landon (guitar) first assembled in 1965 as The Ragamuffins. Rhodes and Edgar had previously played with Curt Boettcher in folk-pop act, The Goldebriars. The changed their name to The Music Machine in 1966 and seem to me to have been musically inspired by The Troggs — a British band capable of peppy pop (“With a girl like you”), sparkling psychedelia (“Purple Shades”), and caveman rock (“Wild thing”). Sartorially, they were inspired by bands who adopted a gimmicky uniform like The Count Five, The Monks, and Paul Revere & the Raiders. The Music Machine’s look consisted of head (including dyed hair) to toe black — topped off with a single, black glove. It’s a gimmick, to be sure, but one that nonetheless allowed for more individuality, creativity, and fun than a nation of indistinguishable crate-service-clothed beardos.

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One Album Wonders: Sonic Boom's Spectrum

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 25, 2015 03:27pm | Post a Comment

For this edition of One Album Wonders we take a listen to Sonic Boom, who released one album, Spectrum, in 1989. 

Sonic Boom Spectrum

Sonic Boom 
is Peter Kember, an English musician born in Rugby in 1965. In 1982, whilst at Rugby Art College, he co-founded The Spacemen (later Spacemen 3) with Jason Pierce. After releasing two albums -- 1986's Sound Of Confusion and 1987's The Perfect Prescription -- Kember signed a deal with Silvertone Records for a solo album. On the resulting album, Spectrum, Kember's professed influences such as SuicideThe Velvet UndergroundThe Stooges, and early electronic music were all on display.

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One Album Wonders: Baader Meinhoff's Baader Meinhoff

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 18, 2015 10:53am | Post a Comment
Luke Haines has released music under several names and as a part of several bands including The Auteurs, The Black Arts, Black Box Recorder, The Deverell Twins, The North Sea Scrolls, The Servants, and the One Album Wonder that is the subject of this piece, Baader Meinhof. Baader Meinhof were named after the West German terrorist group who actually went by the name the Rote Armee Fraktion.

Baader Meinhof album

As a child in the 1980s, I remember the Weather Underground’s heist of a Brink’s truck, the MOVE firebombing, and stories about Carlos “The Jackal.” The first (and second to last) car that I owned was a still-boxy black BMW adorned with a bumper sticker informing anyone stuck behind me in gridlock “Ich gehöre nicht zur Baader-Meinhof Gruppe.” I only know about ten words of German but own an un-subtitled copy of the documentary Starbuck Holger Meins (I get the gist). My interest in Leftist urban terrorism is such that even if a completely generic whoa-oh band were to title a song "Deutscher Herbst," I'd probably listen to it less critically than I would were it instead titled something like "England Skies."

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Movies for Mother's Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 10, 2015 08:02am | Post a Comment
Mary Cassatt After the Bath (circa 1901)
Mary Cassatt's After the Bath (circa 1901)

The American Mother's Day was invented by Anna Jarvis in 1905, when her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Her mother's death proved the inspiration for a holiday and by 1908 others joined her in this macabre celebration.

After five years of dedication to her obsession, Mother's Day was first observed in West Virginia in 1910. Although writing "I love you" on a post-it note would be more meaningful, by the 1920s consumers dutifully purchased pre-made Mother's Day cards from the Hallmark corporation. Disgusted by this perversion of her crazy vision, Jarvis unsuccessfully tried to kill Mother's Day. 

Whatever you do this Mother's Day, please don't spend $17.95 on a Spring Multicolor Floral Infinity Scarf, $24.95 on a Bronze Metal Birdcage Lantern Wall Decoration, or $29.95 on a Coral-inspired Jewelry Tree. Instead, take her on a hike, go for a swim, eat a type of cuisine neither of you've ever had before, go to the ballet... or watch one of these films.

Mother (마더, Bong Joon-ho, 2010)

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Mildred Pierce
(Michael Curtiz, 1945)

May the Fourth -- A Look at Star Bars and Deep Space Discos

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 4, 2015 11:27am | Post a Comment

The original Star Wars had a huge impact on pop culture. As a child, nothing in the film had more impact on me than the cantina scene -- and judging from the changes in dance music and imitations that followed I wasn't alone. What better occasion to reflect on the film's impact than May the Fourth, also celebrated as Star Wars Day.


Star Wars was released on 25 May 1977. I was probably three years old when I saw it in the theater because my fourth birthday followed a couple of weeks later and there were Star Wars dolls* emerging from the middle of a birthday bundt cake. After The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas would increasingly strain to appeal directly to children by introducing cuddly aliens and increasingly relying on cartoonish CGI but for me and many other children, Star Wars was already deeply appealing, dark and sometimes frightening as it was. 

For comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell, the cantina scene was the "threshold crossing" in the "hero's journey." For me it was a bit like viewing an ethnographic bestiary -- or a Halloween party (in the 1970s, Halloween hadn't yet been hijacked by adults and turned into streetwalker cosplay). One of the cheif appeals of Star Wars was its mystery and world building -- something which the expansion of the franchise would later explain away with banal backstories -- but on full display in the cantina. Of all the characters, 
Greedo was addressed by a name. The rest of the assembled wore no pageant sashes, name tags, or hash tags and aside from the viewers' understandings of evolution there were few clues as to the conditions of their home worlds. 
LAX Theme Building

The Star Wars cantina was what I wish Encounter in LAX's Theme Building had been, and what it will be if they get it right when it's re-opened. What the cantina wasn't was every lame, uninspired hive of pretense and conformity which bills itself (despite having a liquor license) as a "speakeasy."  It wasn't illuminated by Edison bulbs, the wines weren't listed on a chalk board, there was no unfinished wooden sign on the building's exterior describing it as an apothecary, and it was probably cash only. The bartender wasn't a lumbersexual and he didn't spend twenty minutes rubbing herbs on a mason jar in the name of "mixology."

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