Thursday, September 08, 2005

THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL WITH THE CARS, THE RECORDS, "M", LENE LOVICH, IGGY POP AND SUICIDE FROM SOMETIME IN THE LATE SUMMER/EARLY FALL OF 1979 (DVD-R)

I'll bet Jon Behar's wondering why I'm not writing more about all of dem CEE-DEE-ARES he recorded for me a few months back...I mean, I can see ol' Jon right now frothin' at the mouth thinkin' that I'm prob'ly using the entire batch of that precious booty he sent me for skeet shooting or something, totally unamused by the fact that he spent all that time "roasting" up various Taj Mahal Travelers, Fushitsusha and Peter Laughner disques for my listening pleasure and I'm more or less poo-pooing his efforts. Well, heave awe Jon, because it's not that I've been neglecting the vast array of recorded gems that you have made for me, it's just that I'm spacing 'em out in order to keep my listening ears fresh 'n fertile especially in times of musical/monetary stagnation. Yes, sometimes I'm a little strapped for the old buckskins and when I am it's not like I can plunk down money for an order to one of my fave internet emporiums for the latest platter to strike my fancy. As Freewheeling Frank should have said, "Music will get your through times of no money than money will get you through times of no music," and after a good three decades of record hoarding I shoulda known that by heart!!!

Anyway, one of the things that Mr. B so graciously "burned" for me was a DVD of a MIDNIGHT SPECIAL program from 1979 featuring what could be called a "new wave night" of groups, tonight's stars being none other than the Cars, an act one could say was perhaps the new waviest of the wavers who were flittering around during the brink of the seventies transmuting into the eighties. It was a time when many predicted that we'd be hearing NOTHING but this stuff for the next ten years, and I guess the folks at NBC wanted to make sure that you got to hear some of it before anyone else offered! And what a show to bring back memories...at that time (autumn 1979 I guess) I was pretty much a tee-vee addict and (if you can imagine) a bigger madman for the stuff than I am now. Although I'm sure that nobody would own up to it these days that time in television was pretty snat (though quickly fading) for entertainment-starved goons such as I, and although I pretty much avoided the prime-time fare barring MONTY PYTHON on PBS or some old moom pitcher that one of the struggling lower-class indie stations would still offer at nine in the evening, I could still find loads of worthwhile television from the aforementioned PBS imports as well as old and forgotten fare to classic reruns and not-yet subversive "hip" comedy with relative ease. Watching this MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, complete with the douchebag commercials, local promo spots (this show was dubbed from a WAFF, channel 48 which is located in Huntsville Alabama) and now-dated station IDs hyping POP GOES THE COUNTRY left intact reminds me of the serious, half-asleep late-night viewing I engaged in for years, switching from programs like this to the late movie and back, soaking in all the ennui and wishing in my heart of hearts that I was hanging out at Max's Kansas City and not stuck in some no-fun do-nothing dunghole like Sharon PA!

Enough warm 'n fuzzy reminiscences...as for the SPECIAL, it certainly is special for that night (or morning, since the show aired at one o'clock) there were no hosts or hostesses acting as coy and cute as they did on HULLABALOO, nor was there even a hint of Wolfman Jack doing his hipster rap in an era which seemed to keep him on only as an Uncle Dudley of a fast-fading relic. Naw, tonight was a special wordless episode of THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL with alla 'em precocious and edge-cutting new wave acts being introduced by chyron-typed characters crawling up, down and across your television screen sans any idiot card rap or opening theme music for that matter. Yeah, it was experimental and foreshadows a whole lotta eighties tee-vee trips that helped send me running as fast from the box as I could, but howcum I keep thinking about Ernie Kovacs' EUGENE special and the opening from that bona fide experiment that at least WORKED when I see this thing???

The Cars, riding high on a string of AM chartbusters (no surprise, since it was the likes of the Cars that was considered the STRONGEST form of new wave that the average bloke out there could take back in those rather straight-jacketed days) take up the hugest hunkerin' portion of the show which would figure, but really, all I can say after watching Ben Orr in his Mick Ronson 'do and Ric Ocasek's adam's apple bobbing up and down is that when KICKS referred to the Cars as being "asexual muzakers" they were being kind. Really, if anything, the Cars should be noted for taking some of the better moments of mid-seventies underground pre-Sex Pistols rock (everything from the Flamin' Groovies, New York Rock and of course their fellow Boston groups who also sprang from the loins of the Modern Lovers such as Fox Pass and Susan) and "synthing" these tasty tidbits into a steaming glop of produce that the FM-bred classic rock dunces could digest with relative ease. I dunno if there's an award available for all of those groups who twisted the underground to suit their warped desires (while the real "music that matters" whether it be the Zantees, MX-80 Sound or Bernie and the Invisibles for all I know stayed cloistered in their respective scenes), but if there was one I would think it would be the hottest spot in Hell, Dante's or otherwise!

I dunno if the Records belong in that same hotspot alongside the Cars...at least "Starry Eyes" was a refreshing single even though it was aimed at the same morons who bought Pat Benetar records and no-bout-a-doubt-it a "twee" excursion into the then-hot "power-pop" genre. And "twee" these Britsters certainly were (even though one of 'em previously played in the early-seventies "people's" band Magic Muscle who at least had the brains to cover "Waiting For My Man" since the London hipster community was still keen on the Velvets as late as 1972), in fact "twee" enough that I found myself taking pee-breaks during their songs and rushing back to the screen for the commercials! Sheesh, I remember dismissing the Raspberries late in their career thinking they were snoozing out (with Eric Carmen's solo singles bearing out my initial suspicions), but next to the Records ol' Eric and company might as well have been the Stooges doing "Raw Power" for all I care.

And speaking of the Stooges, Iggy also makes a rock video appearance here lip-sync-a-gooching a coupla his solo things that never did appeal to me (and in fact helped turn me off to searching for his Stooges material that certainly would have been conduit to my listening parameters at the time), but watching these Iggy vids once again flashes me back to KICKS, more specifically Miriam Linna's review of "The MTV Awards" when Iggy himself accepted one for his "close, personal friend" David Bowie and Ms. L suggested that Mr. Osterberg was acting nicey-nice for the cameras just so's one of his own vids'd win an award next time around. Sorta like the time Lou Reed said all those nice and wonderful things about longtime enemy Frank Zappa just so's the Velvet Underground would be nominated to the Rock Hall of Fame, and I'm not sayin' that I wouldn't step up to the podium if the cause didn't suit me (I have my price), but (keeping with those Detroit aesthetics that are so important) comparing the '79 Iggy Model with the '69 classic is kinda like comparing a '67 Thunderbird with a '57!

Lessee...what else was there? Oh yeah, "M" doing a video of "Pop Music" which precurses the eighties infatuation with the form complete with all the arty eyeball candy you could find (and it would figure that, given the general seventies "live at the local rock arena" look of THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL that the whole thing would eventually give way to the tres-eighties FRIDAY NIGHT VIDEOS a few years later), plus Lene Lovich is unbearable to watch (despite that one song of hers approaching Sparks-level mid-seventies deca-pop) with all of those cloying art/angle shots and quick editing that I guess was supposed to "say" something albeit I dunno if I'd wanna know what was being said.

But then again there's Suicide, fresh from opening for the Cars at a number of disastrous gigs and not quite into their second LP new wavey synth mode. I was told years back that Alan Vega performed wrapped in chains...this is not true and for once we get the feeling that we're watching a show at Max's and not the Fillmore which is the way it ought to have been for rock on television during that sorry decade. The Revega team do a fine "Cheree" and "Ghost Rider" and it 's fun finally watching the two move around and perform for you, even though they're acting just like I always imagined they would anyway.

Of course all of this, with local and national commercials and station ID's intermingled, makes for fine viewing...maybe "nostalgic" to an extent even though I don't have any great love for late-seventies Carter-era happy-face mentalities, but it does remind me of a time in my life when things around me were positively stale and all I had to rely on to get through the days/months/years was this extreme obsession/fascination with the Velvet Underground, Cleveland first and second-wave bands, and of course those New York groups that seemed to be running on concepts that appealed to me as a pimple-infested, emotionally distraught ten-directions-at-once self-made pariah. The DVD ends with the station signing off before fading into snow (no nat'l anthem though...COMMIES!) reminding me of when I would watch tee-vee stations signing off and stare at the screen for awhile before deciding to head on up to my room and maybe read a rock mag or two sorta half-consciously wreaked with a strange and incurable case of loneliness and self-loathing. A lot has changed since then, but I gotta admit that the late-night creeps still get to me at certain unguarded moments, at which times I write blog posts. Hey Jon, thanks for the memories!

9 comments:

tim ellison said...

"Starry Eyes" is a GREAT single. I don't know who it was "aimed" at, Chris.

"Lene Lovich: that one song of hers approaching Sparks-level mid-seventies deca-pop"

"Lucky Number?" A classic!

Christopher said...

As I said, "Starry Eyes" was aimed at the same people who were buying Pat Benetar records, and Van Halen ones and disco (which was croaking around that time anyway)...and yeah, I don't have the same set of univeral tastes as you do Tim (in fact. you could say my tastes are rather horse-blinded), but I did say it was "refreshing" and a nice change from 1979 business-as-usual. It was still "twee" but it was a nice twee and they never did come up to terms with the rest of their oeuvre, even their cover of the Move's "I Can Hear The Grass Grow."

I had an interest in Lovich because of her association with Stiff records at the time...of course, this was when that label was gravitating from the likes of Richard Hell, the Damned and a variety of old-time pub acts to a more new wave clientele (something which didn't quite set in until it suddenly dawned on me what a sham that label had become), but anyway I did enjoy "Lucky Number" or whatever you said it was called even though watching the videos made me nauseated! I know that you have a different set of musical values, but anyway I am one person who still doesn't herald the advent of the rock video which really turned rock as pop into a ball of wax that fortunately isn't as potent as it was twenty years back, but is still rancid enough.

tim ellison said...

Comparing "Lucky Number" to Sparks is a good call, I think.

Anonymous said...

I was about 12 when I saw this broadcast, and Suicide scared me like that Gilligans Island ep. where Giliagan drank the profs' glow-in-the-dark paint , and started radiatin'; I was 4, and I thought he was a ghost!!
I gotta get a copy, if just for the suicide footage!
-Goubler

Anonymous said...

I saw that Midnight Special as a teen and remember Suicide's performance on it. It was actually the first time I'd heard them (I'd read stuff about them and was seriously intrigued - that was aired the weekend after their show opening for the Cars at the Universal Ampthitheatre in the valley, in which they were heavily booed).

Suicide were the least commercial act ever on Midnight Special (along with Ravi Shankar, but if not for Harrison he would've never been on.....)

As for the Cars, they certainly were for the mass market not the underground, but they certainly did take aspects of cool stuff like Roxy Music (especially), the V.U. and Modern Lovers and make it palatable to the mainstream. Although, in terms of how consequential their stuff is in the grand scheme of things, one could say they were more or less to the 70s what the Strokes are to the 21st century (minus the pretty boy looks of course)

Nothing wrong with the Records, and the later Raspberries were hardly a "snoozefest" - Side 3 and Starting Over are better than the first two albums.

Re: Lene Lovich, "Lucky Number" is a good song and her stuff has held up rather well. It's hard to believe now how exotic Eastern Europe seemed back before the wall came down, such that she could build an image around said exoticism. (And yes, I know that she was really a Brit. ISTR she was born in the USA and raised in the UK from a young age, but she certainly wasn't actually raised in what was then Yugoslavia.....)

-Michael Snider

Christopher said...

Mike, I gotta admit to not liking the later Raspberries singles. I actually forget why, though I do recall watching them on this NBC Saturday early-afternoon kid-oriented 60 MINUTES-styled show whose title I forget which showed them recording an album. Well, actually I was washing dished while it was on...had a can of Old El Paso flat enchiladas in case you're interested!

If I gave 'em another listen I might change my mind about the later Raspberries. Of course solo Eric Carmen sticks in my mind a lot as well...

Anonymous said...

The singles from SIDE 3 were "Tonight", "I'm A Rocker", "Ecstacy", and "Drivin' Around". The singles from STARTING OVER were "Overnight Sensation", "The Party's Over" and "Cruisin' Music".All of those were great songs IMO. Now I'll agree that the title track from STARTING OVER was one of their weakest songs (and prefigured what Carmen would do soon afterwards) but it wasn't a single. Yes, not only the solo work of Carmen but Fotomaker as well proved that Eric and Wally really needed each other. I don't know if I'll catch the reunited Raspberries here in a week or so.....

Michael

Christopher said...

I remember passing off those later singles when they were hitting the charts! Then again at that time my tastes were pretty screwy. (I mean, I liked AM glam rock which undoubtedly was the highlight of the top 40 situation at the time, but I actually couldn't stand Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" which was one of his better hits!) Of course, when Eric came up with his solo schmoozers in '75/'76 I was sorry I had ever liked the strains of "Go All The Way" considering what a rut the guy had fallen into...what a stoopid doopid kid as Richard Meltzer would say!

Anonymous said...

It's sad that the post-Raspberries Eric Carmen decided to be the Jewish Elton John. And Fotomaker wasn't so hot either, despite the talent involved (not just Wally Bryson but the Rascals guys). Along similar lines to Boston or Foreigner -i.e. mid/late 70s AOL schlock.