Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy Birthday to my mother, Diane ... here we are dancing together for the first (only?) time at my cousin Aaron's wedding a few years ago. It isn't polite to ask a lady's age, so I have no idea which birthday this is. I would guess she's somewhere in her late 40s. She's a retired schoolteacher (kindergarten in inner-city Flint MI is a much tougher environment than you might think), a world traveller and collects Hummel figurines, but her favorite hobby would probably be bargain-hunting, a pasttime she first took up while raising two children alone on a substitute teacher's "salary." When she was a young girl she had a crush on Pat Boone, and at one point she was married to my father (or so I've been told).

I love you, mom.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hot Summer (aka Heisser Sommer)

A group of teenage boys and girls find love and adventure during their summer holiday in this 1967 musical filmed behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany. The ten boys and eleven girls meet while hitchhiking to the beaches of the Baltic Sea, and their initial instinct is to terrorize each other with pranks. The two camps converge soon enough, however, for a series of mild flings. A love triangle emerges between a blonde party girl and two boys, leading to a fistfight and a joyride in a stolen fishing boat, but the authorities are forgiving of these youthful indiscretions and the groups remain intact. Heisser Sommer is packed with sprightly pop tunes, colorful dance numbers and an overall veneer of innocence that compares with the "Beach Party" films that were popular in America earlier in the decade. Two featured performers in the ensemble cast, Chris Doerk and Frank Schoebel, were major pop stars in their country at the time of this film's release, as well as husband and wife. Heisser Sommer was a huge hit in East Germany, and the video release features English subtitles for both songs and dialogue.

Heisser Sommer is a unique oddity for American viewers, most of whom will be surprised to see that such a fluffy teen musical could have been made in a country under Communist rule. Despite fresh-faced youngsters in blue jeans and eye shadow, however, the film toes the party line pretty effectively. For the most part, the scenes are played out in groups; everyone dances, swims and travels together, and whenever one of the characters deviates from the group's plan (by staying out all night with a boy or escaping from a makeshift jail), they're quickly chastised and brought back into step. The collectivist message is subtle, but certain, though the East German audience that came out to see Heisser Sommer again and again probably never noticed or cared. The songs are corny orchestrated pop flavored with dashes of country and jazz, but they're undeniably catchy, and the visual flash of twenty-one youngsters cavorting on the beach was obviously exciting enough at the time to make the film a big hit. Modern viewers will see the film differently, as a campy exercise in culture appropriation. When the girls arrive at their living quarters and are told "We fixed up the meeting room in the cooperative for you," there's no doubt that this is a very different kind of beach party. FRED BELDIN
Seaside Swingers (aka Every Day's A Holiday)
A group of high-spirited youngsters finds friendship, love, and music together while working summer jobs at a holiday camp in this Merseybeat musical. Gerry (John Leyton) is a bartender who fantasizes about being a famous pop star. Christina (Grazina Frame) is an upper-class bird who sneaks off to be a waitress against the wishes of her Aunt Winifred (Hazel Hughes), who would rather she keep up her operatic voice lessons with the great Italian maestro Professor Bastinado (Ron Moody). Susan and Jennifer (Susan and Jennifer Baker) are boy-crazy twins who work in the nursery, and Timothy Gilben (Mike Sarne) is the arrogant nightclub singer who signs on as the camp's entertainer before realizing his audience will be a gaggle of preschoolers. The camp's annual talent show is to be televised live this season, so the gang sets aside their jockeying for each other's affections long enough to form a musical group. They need to practice in secret to keep Christina away from her meddling Aunt Winifred, but Gerry's father (Michael Ripper) recognizes the Professor as a Cockney comic from the old music hall days, and the outed Bastinado is forced to help the kids if he wants to keep his secret. British Invasion pop stars Freddie and the Dreamers appear as five musical, madcap chefs and sing two numbers, while Liverpool beat group the Mojos supply some hard teenage blues during a swinging dance club scene.

Every Day's a Holiday (known to American audiences as Seaside Swingers) is an insufferably sunny, corny romp that will put guilty smiles on the faces of anyone who loves the Merseybeat sound. While the bulk of the music is vocal and interweaved with the plot, a number of full-band performances from the Mojos and Freddie and the Dreamers (doing "The Freddie," no less) offers the rare chance to watch some nearly forgotten British Invasion groups at the peak of their brief popularity. But there's far more pop than rock on display, as the teenage leads sing sticky ballads and smarmy show tunes, stumbling through outlandish choreography with various levels of proficiency. Every Day's a Holiday is breezy, goofy fun without a brain in its head, and should inspire a nostalgic mood in any viewer who can overlook some very dated prejudices; there is a brief blackface routine within the first five minutes, and, in two separate songs, Christina is said to be "not too smart" (or at least, "not as smart as men"). Still, much of the comedy is sharp and the entire exercise is energetic and quintessential British, with Cockney slang abounding and what appears to be vintage footage of an actual holiday camp in 1965. Michael Ripper -- who plays Gerry's father as a faded music hall star with a few more soft-shoes left in him -- was best known for his work in Hammer studios horror pictures (he appeared in The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb the same year). John Leyton had some British pop chart success in the early '60s working with legendary superproducer Joe Meek, and Mike Sarne went on to direct the bizarre big-budget gender-bender Myra Breckenridge. Director James H. Hill returned the following year with the deathless family classic Born Free. FRED BELDIN

Monday, January 28, 2008

The weekend was a wash. The End Times never made it to our show in Ellensburg, as the snow fell and clogged the pass and I discovered that Scions were not meant to be driven in deep winter conditions -- they're meant for hauling loads of throw pillows, driving little old ladies to bingo games and delivering metrosexuals to martini bars. It was a tremendous blow to have to turn around after an hour of driving and go home, although to keep on moving forward would have meant death, or at least inconvenience, and I was in no mood to deal with either prospect. It would hardly have been a stellar performance anyhow, for physical afflictions, inexact text messages and a deadly combo of pride and passive aggression had us all snarling. But even a poorly-played gig beats no gig at all, so my disappointment stands.

Thanks to Matt and Jillian for inviting us. We did our best.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Australian stuntman Grant Page accepts a job on an American television series and travels to Los Angeles, where he reunites with old friend and fellow daredevil Curtis Hyde. The hirsute Hyde performs magic tricks and feats of daring for a heavy metal act called Sorcery, each gig playing the part of a demon locked in "cosmic combat" with Merlin the Magician (Paul Haynes) while the band blasts out a theatrical but muscular hard rock. Page's first stunt for the cameras goes awry and he is hospitalized, but defies his doctors by escaping out a fifth story window to get back to the set. Such reckless behavior attracts the attention of a newspaper reporter (Margaret Gerard) who is writing an article on people obsessed with their careers, as well as a TV star (Monique van de Ven) who finds herself drawn to the stuntman's professional fearlessness. Together they attend Sorcery concerts, enjoy Hollywood parties with the band and explore the nature of extreme living. Director Brian Trenchard-Smith worked with Page on an earlier "stuntsploitation" film called Deathcheaters, which also featured plenty of hair-raising stunt work.

This unique collision of documentary, fiction, and music video overcomes a serious deficiency of plot with non-stop action and blazing rock & roll. Stunt Rock performs like a demo reel for its dual protagonists, stuntman Grant Page and heavy metal band Sorcery. At the time Stunt Rock was made, Page's stunt credits were primarily Australian action/adventure films (Mad Dog Morgan, The Man From Hong Kong, High Rolling in a Hot Corvette) and director Brian Trenchard-Smith gleefully cuts away at random intervals to footage of Page hang gliding off a mountain, leaping from skyscrapers, driving motorcycles through fire and other death-defying gags. The rest of Stunt Rock's running time is dominated by Sorcery, a 70s-era metal band that presented its bombastic occult-themed rock with an outlandish stage show. Unlike contemporaries like Kiss or Alice Cooper, the members of Sorcery stuck to their instruments and employed a pair of long haired illusionists to handle the theatrical elements. Each concert featured elaborate magic tricks and special effects to dramatize a battle between good and evil, pitting a leather-clad demon against a bearded sorcerer amid pyrotechnic displays. There isn't much more to tell about Stunt Rock; two female characters take turns expressing astonishment at Page's dangerous antics and gasping in surprise when one of Sorcery's illusionists pulls a cigarette out of thin air, and a smarmy Hollywood agent gets his comeuppance during a rock & roll pool party, but that's about as dynamic as the storyline gets. But Trenchard-Smith keeps the pace swift and the volume loud, so those predisposed to the action at hand will hardly notice. FRED BELDIN

So that's my return debut to the All Media Guide fold ... after a couple years off writing for them I've somehow wormed my way back in. Why? I don't know. Why does anything happen ever? It's all a mystery.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thanks to all who came out to the Hendrix Electric Lounge last night to dig The End Times and Keg ... Lori and I wound up sharing a mid-week hangover this morning, a rare thing (for her, anyhow) that was enthusiastically earned and richly deserved. Seriously, no more tobacco, that stuff is murder.

Celebrating a wedding anniversary in the company of this man was righteous indeed. The End Times got a lead on an Icelandic music festival that sounds too good to be true, but also too good to ignore. And out on the streets of Columbia City was a team (gaggle? pride? fold?) of beat-boxing freestylers that was heavy enough to make me stop and listen for a while. I suppose I should get back to work now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My wife Lori and I have three wedding anniversaries ... the divorce rate among our four biological parents is staggering (there are at least a dozen marriages between them), so we never figured the institution would be of any use to us, regardless of how seriously we took our relationship. After a brief failed breakup I packed up my records and t-shirts and moved across country from Chicago to Seattle, joining Lori in this magical passive-aggressive fairyland to officially start our lives together as committed life partners. That was May 2002, seven years after our first date, and since we knew that in the eyes of God we were already husband and wife, the legal step seemed unnecessary.

Several months later, pragmatism struck us -- some pricey prescriptions forced us to consider how much easier life would be if Lori's health plan covered me, so the decision was made to marry. After all, if gay couples can get those sweet benefits, why the hell shouldn't we? I don't believe that our relationship is any of The Man's business, but we're already part of the problem just by paying our taxes every year, so we might as well sign a binding contract to prove our love and file jointly.

It was all made legal four years ago today, January 23, 2004, at the courthouse downtown with a justice of the peace, a painless operation that we followed up with a nice steak dinner on the waterfront. Later that night the Dirtbombs played the Crocodile, so Endless Jim became the first in our family of friends to learn of our deed. For everyone else we kept it cool, instead letting my mother plan an elaborate outdoor "wedding" six months later in Swartz Creek, Michigan to serve as the public spectacle our assorted relatives would insist upon, and that's anniversary number three, June 26th, 2004.

Lori and I haven't made much fuss over these anniversaries ... in fact, for the first couple years we kept forgetting them, only realizing days later that one special date or another had passed (both dates are etched into the inside of our wedding bands, but who ever checks those things?). This year we might have forgotten again, if it wasn't for The End Times getting a gig on a date that sounded somehow familiar ... so we actually celebrated this round, spending last weekend relaxing in Portland (the city of lovers) where we had steak for every meal and alternated between extreme exercise and utter sloth. We considered checking out Blue Oyster Cult at the Emerald Queen Casino this Saturday ("Don't Fear The Reaper" is "our" song), but again, The End Times got offered a house party show in Ellensburg, so those plans were scuttled ... it's surely for the best, if BOC hadn't lived up to our expectations (a likely conclusion) it might have made for a very expensive disappointment.

Anyhow, I love Lori Tschirhart. I don't care if the government knows it or not.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Are you hip?


This most romantic of days will be commemorated by The End Times with
an all-new set of dimly-lit laments, performed free of charge in the
casual drinking environment provided by the Columbia City Theater.
Immediately following will be the unbelievable KEG, the one-man
rocknroll juggernaut whose life-changing performances never fail to
change lives. Please join us if you happen into the neighborhood.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All?

A good question, but the Firesign Theatre won't give you the answer if you listen to this, their second full-length LP of marijuana-addled comedy from 1969. While I personally prefer Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers (phrases from which have long been part of my daily lexicon -- "Raw, raw, raw!") this one might be a better starting point for the uninitiated, as it's slightly more concise than the aforementioned sprawling masterpiece and not quite as bleak as their dark-hued debut Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Like Him. Thanks to Holy Goof (a site I just discovered last night that appears to be doing some very good works indeed), HCYBI2PAOWYNAAA (as we fans like to abbreviate it) can be easily downloaded and enjoyed, preferably with the lights off, headphones on and bong close at hand. Disclaimer: the rampant Beatles references on side two might have been hip back in the day, but in this century (hell, by the time I first heard this recd back in 1983) they sound like your lame old pop trying to crack wise with the youngsters ... please overlook this imperfection and focus on Firesign's rapid-fire wordplay, eviscerting cultural satire and healthy sense of the absurd.

Friday, January 18, 2008

SKREWDRIVER -- White Rider
It's difficult to objectively assess the artistic worth of a band that dedicates its music and message to white supremacy. For listeners with similar philosophies, their stance is a brave one to be celebrated regardless of sonic quality, and those appalled by racism won't ever be able to get beyond the politics. Skrewdriver is the quintessential example, if only because of their status as the most influential and well-known racist skinhead band. Much has been written about this group and leader Ian Stewart, but with their political beliefs so tightly entwined with the music, any review of their recorded work is bound to be blindly pro or reflexively con. The fact is that before plunging headfirst into Nazism, Skrewdriver were a bracing, energetic, punk rock band that pumped out a handful of bonehead classics like "Antisocial" and "Back Street Kids." These songs were aggressive working class Oi! shouters that spoke to a decidedly violent, conservative segment of the punk audience, but carried no apparent racist overtones. Unfortunately, frontman Stewart allowed his emerging political sensibilities to overtake the focus of the band at the dawn of the 1980s, giving them a ready-made audience of racist skinheads who were ready to hail their work even as it degenerated into limp cliché, so long as it espoused the narrow message of white pride. White Rider is such an album, often hailed as Skrewdriver's defining document by fans, but sadly lacking the rock & roll heat necessary to make it interesting to the unconverted. Lyrical content aside, White Rider consists of dull, mid-tempo Clash imitations as musically exciting as boiled celery. The band plods along without conviction, guitars that should roar can only meow, and Stewart's vocals are thin and nasal, nowhere near the harsh rasp of Skrewdriver's more muscular early work. A few songs ("Strike Force," "White Warrior") have anthem potential, constructed with chant-along choruses and big, simple, immediately recognizable riffs, but weak production and haphazard mixing renders them impotent. Skrewdriver attempts and fails to expand their sound with "The Snow Fell," an execrable ballad about the defeat of the German army on the Eastern Front during World War II. Stewart doesn't go for the jugular with his subject matter, avoiding direct remarks about race and sticking to vague slogans about white pride, standing up to the enemy, and strength in numbers. The irony of white separatists drawing from a musical tradition so heavily indebted to black and Jewish artists can't be ignored; while some modern death metal bands perform music nearly free of blues and Tin Pan Alley influences, the verse-chorus-solo structures favored by Skrewdriver are the result of the very cultural cross-breeding they rail against. Of course, most music listeners won't share the extreme racial and patriotic beliefs that Skrewdriver existed for, and will have no use at all for White Rider. Even rock-starved Nazis should probably look elsewhere, though if it's music free of African influence they seek, they're going to have a hard time finding it in the Western Hemisphere. FRED BELDIN

Monday, January 14, 2008

Endless Jim rescued a forgotten disposable camera dating back to the Deming/Pearson wedding ...

Everybody looks great.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thirteen years and still going strong.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

RIP Maila Nurmi, best known as the sultry TV horrorshow hostess Vampira, who apparently died yesterday at age 86. Go rent Plan 9 From Outer Space this weekend in her honor.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chains and Black Exhaust

Like wow. Get a load of all the heavy, noisy funk on this monstrous collection. "Showstopper" by Iron Knowledge is worth the price of admission, but Preacher's "Life is a Gamble" stands as a close second, and Gran Am's "Get High" is righteously inept. There's messy wah-wah abuse all over this thing, not the tight, clean, clipped rhythmic style you might be expecting but rather flaming amplifier wah-wah that melts conks and expands minds. Thanks to The Mystery Poster, whose blog is stuffed with bizarre home-cooked psych records so obscure that many of them don't even exist.
"By God, if Ken Knott can do it, I can do it."

Tesco Vee has reformed The Meatmen and will be back to his old schtick in Lansing, MI at Mac's Bar on March 1st. Wake me when Just Say No reunites. Is that one bald guy still alive?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Wealthy oil man Shugfoot Rainey and his live-in girlfriend, Linda, have been shacking up for five years, and their relationship has grown contentious enough that Shugfoot wants her out. He's sent for his stripper niece, Jonelle (who he refers to as "Baby Doll"), to take her place, but Linda loves the cantankerous old goat and doesn't want to leave her home. She checks with a lawyer and learns that she is legally Shugfoot's common law wife, so she buys herself a ring and lets him know that she's staying put. Jonelle arrives in town and realizes she's been shut out of her cushy arrangement, so she moves in with her sister and brother-in-law, Sheriff Jody. Five years earlier, Jody and Jonelle were an item, and the sheriff is anxious to continue their illicit fling, but all Jonelle wants to do is get rid of Linda and get her hands on her uncle's considerable fortune. When Jody won't help her, Jonelle turns to Bull, the local bootlegger who supplies moonshine whiskey to Shugfoot. Together they hatch a plan to poison the old man, which drives Linda to exact a ghastly revenge.

This gloriously sleazy soap opera has everything a down-home regional production needs to succeed: incest, murder, adultery, strippers, moonshiners, and a hidden still in the swamp. All that's missing is a lynch party, though it's hardly necessary. Common Law Wife throws enough hopped-up tawdry thrills together to make the viewer feel the sweltering, stifling small-town heat. This Texas production doesn't always make sense (Jonelle is transparently contemptuous of her rich uncle, so much so that she's clearly going to be the first suspect if he's murdered) and the budget is as cheap as they come, but it's thick with attitude, humidity, and a torrid jazz score that sounds great, if a little urban for the setting. The viciously curvy Lacy Kelly spits fire as Baby Doll, and Anne MacAdams gives the most human performance in the film as the desperate Linda (she would go on to a number of Texas-lensed exploitation films, most notably the insane Don't Look in the Basement!). FRED BELDIN

I reviewed Common Law Wife some eight years or so ago, but watched it again this morning. What a great way to start the day. Anyhow, it's still exceptional, so check out a clip here.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Oh, what's that? Another of Bryan Bong's bands made it onto a year-end best-of list? Yawn, simply yawn. When the noise-rock backlash starts, then I'll get excited and start touting his merits again. Til then, I'll let everyone else do it ... congratulations, Poor School.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New on Frenzy of the Visible ... Mark Lansing and His Bored of Water & Light and the mighty Poor School.
The Death Killers

This is sublime. Two children trying to recreate doom metal with acoustic guitar and Casio. Listen to it right now. Or you could make friends with them.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Eve 2007/2008 was not like some I've enjoyed in the past. I didn't stay up late with my parents watching the Village People sing "Ready For The Eighties" on TV at midnight. I didn't get puking drunk on vodka and Faygo red pop with the other guys in my comedy troupe. I didn't make out with a real live girl for the first time. I also didn't have sex for the first time with that same girl the same night in the backseat of an olive green Pinto. I didn't go on a first date with a woman I'd end up in love with for four fruitless but powerful years. I didn't see the Queerdaddies play at the Howland House, so I didn't hear "Boredom Thing" for the first time. The Clutters didn't play at a house party. I didn't drive back from Chicago nursing a hangover 24 hours after the Apollo Nine opened for the Sea & Cake at Lounge Ax, and Noelle wasn't by my side gradually getting sicker and sicker with the flu as each mile flew past. I didn't drink a bottle of champagne alone and fall asleep at 10:00pm while watching a Charlie Chaplin movie. I didn't kiss Suzanne Howard at midnight. I didn't listen to The Scotts drunkenly chant "5-4-3-2-1 -- Happy New Year!" over and over all night and fool people into joining in every time. I didn't threaten to throw Mark Deming down a flight of stairs. I didn't hang out with Vanessa Lucas but get so wasted that at 3:00am I couldn't quite remember where we went or what we did. E.J. and Matt didn't take off the stupid punk rock records I was playing and slap on my secret stash of Mamas & Papas platters, to the delight of everyone assembled -- and when they left they didn't run screaming for help in the streets in an effort to bring police attention to our party. That also didn't happen.

What did happen is that I made out with my beautiful wife and watched several episodes of Knots Landing. Beat that. You can't.