Man or Astroman?

Man or Astroman? is a surf rock group from the 90s.  True to their name, the group is wholly dedicated to marrying punk rock/new wave sounds to science fiction themes, audio samples, obscure electronic devices (such as theremins and tesla coils) in over-the-top live performances.

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In its standard form, the band generally consists of Star Crunch (aka Brian Causey) on guitar and sometimes vocals, Birdstuff (aka Brian Teasley) on drums, and Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard (Robert DelBueno) on bass guitar and electronics.  Over the years, however, the line-up has changed and the band actually sent both Alpha and Gamma Man or Astroman? Clone groups out on tour.

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They are super cool, super talented, and super out there.  Check out their website, and go see them on your for an out of this world, super sonic experience!

 

ESG

ESG (Emerald, Sapphire and Gold) is a band that emerged from the South Bronx in the early 1980s.  They were totally and completely unique, creating a sound that was unlike anything on the scene at the time – funky post-punk, post-disco dance music.

The band originally consisted of the Scroggins sisters, Renee (vocals), Valerie (drums), Deborah (bass) and Marie (congas, vocals) and friend Tito Libran (congas, vocals).  They were active in the early 80s, disbanded, and the re-formed in the early 90s after their music had become popular sample materials for bands like TLC, the Wu-Tang Clan, the Beastie Boys, Big Daddy Kane, Gang Starr, Junior Mafia, Tricky, Jay-Dee, as well as indie rockers like Unrest and Liars.  Accordingly, in 1992 ESG released the 12″ EP Sample Credits Don’t Pay Our Bills!

While ESG was super influential in NYC, and their influence on hip hop/rock/punk is beyond measure, they quietly hung up their hats to pursue fairly quiet lives in the city.  There have been a few releases, and shows here and there, but all in all the Scruggins sisters have moved on to other (if not bigger and better) things.  But, they will forever be remembered as one of the greatest bands you’ve probably never heard of!

Smarten Up with Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow

 

 

Making art is excellent, but creating a masterpiece with the help of a master artist is even better!  The goal of Smarten Up‘s Creative Learning Workshops is to plant the seed for creativity, inspiration, and curiosity.  We want children to walk away from each workshop experience with an object, image, sound, or movement that will expand their impression of the world around them.  Every moment is filled with unexpected possibilities, and we hope to help our students to discover them.

At our workshop on September 22nd, kids around the ages of 6-12 will have the opportunity to record a song with Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow.  Upon registration, children will be asked to send a sentence or two about their favorite animal.  At the event, the kids will make their own musical instruments (think water bottle maraca, tin can xylophone, shoe box guitar), and hear how their written submissions have been turned into a song.  Then, Wyatt will direct and record the mini-musicians as they sing and play in order to mix a Smarten Up song from the event.  Kids will not only be able to take home their amazing instruments, but they will also get an MP3 to help them remember the workshop forever.
Where: Above Allen at Thompson LES, 190 Allen Street, New York, NY
When: September 22, 2012 from 1:00 to 2:30ish
Tuition: $25
For more info visit www.smarten-up.com, or call 917-297-3764
Space is limited!

 

The Work of Peter Saville

Peter Saville created some of the most iconic record covers from the 70′s and 80′s right up until the present day. His list of clients include the legendary Factory Records and their artists such as Joy Division and New Order as well as Peter Gabriel, OMD, Pulp, Bjork, Suede and many others.

Google him and check out more of his work.  Totally rad.  Here is a great website to learn more.

Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band

Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band created music that is hard to characterize because it is completely unique.  It is most commonly tagged “,” but if you watch any of the videos posted here I think don’t think the label does Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band justice.  They are just too funky.

Throughout their career, the band’s musical direction was tightly controlled by Don van Vliet (1941 – 2010), aka Captain Beefheart.  The man was a true artist, committed to the craft of creation.   But that dedication, combined with super intense rehearsal regimes and poor salary, led in large part to the break-up of the original Magic Band.  

Beefheart reformed a new band of musicians under the name, but left the music industry for good in 1982 to pursue his career as a painter.

Although he and his band achieved little commercial or mainstream critical success, Beefheart sustained a cult following as a “highly significant” and “incalculable” influence on an array of New Wave, punk, post-punk, experimental and alternative rock musicians, most notably Tom Waits and the Residents.  Beefheart passed away in 2010 after a long battle with MS.   Below I have posted the last video of him.  It has nothing to do with his Magic Band, but it is just too great not to post.

If you don’t know much about Captain Beefheart, it’s worth checking out his Wikipedia page.  He is kind of like a little known god of music.  Way interesting story.

The Shaggs

The Shaggs are one of the more bizarre blips in music history.  The band consisted of three sisters, Dorothy “Dot” Wiggin, Betty Wiggin, and Helen Wiggin, who were forced into the industry by their nutcase father, Austin Wiggin.  You see he had his palm read by his mother and she made three predictions, the last of which was that his children would form a pop band. Since the first two predictions came true, their pop decided to take fate into his own hands by taking his three daughters out of school, buying them instruments and having them form the band in 1968.  Genius!

Despite being forced into it, the girls claim to have enjoyed their musical slavery. The next few years consisted of a few hours of schoolwork from a mail-order company, morning music practice, afternoon music practice and gymnastics.  In 1969 they released their only studio album, “Philosophy of The World,” which garnered no attention whatsoever.  In fact, the record’s producer ran away with 900 of the 1000 pressed copies – apparently later claiming: “Shock therapy and all the Prozac in the world would never stop the haunting sounds of these banshees.”

After their father died in 1975 the girls escaped their six stringed shackles and moved on with their lives. But in 1980 their album was discovered at a Boston radio station and they became moderately famous and admired for their “innovation”. Here were three teens playing instruments we’ve heard countless times, but this time with none of the familiar signposts – none of the standard rhythms or chord progressions we’ve come to recognize and expect.  In fact, the band is primarily notable today for their perceived ineptitude at playing conventional rock music having been described by Rolling Stone for “…sounding like lobotomized Trapp Family singers.”   They are considered groundbreakers in the field of outsider music. Kurt Cobain and Frank Zappa have cited “Philosophy of The World” as a major influence, with Zappa claiming the band are “better than The Beatles.”  Hmmm … not so sure about that one, What do you think?!

Bruce Haack, a True Visionary


Bruce Clinton Haack (1931–1988) … vocoder pioneer man, electronic music guru, musical mastermind, psychedelic pioneer, whatever one may call him (or associate him with), he was an utterly unique talent.  Electronic before Kraftwerk, psychedelic pre-Krautrock, Haack’s early music was ground-breaking space age pop songs written for kids, and his songs evolved into something even more groundbreaking all together.  Haack’s music influenced musicians like Beck, Stereolab, Kraftwerk, and his songs have been sampled by hip hop dj’s like Cut Chemist and J. Dilla.  And to think, it all started in the bizarre, often creepy world of children’s music …

Haack founded Dimension 5 records with Esther Nelson in 1963.  Their goal was to create a sound that mixed electronic music with storytelling and a psychedelic worldview.  The two created 11 children’s records in all that managed to pick up rave reviews from dancing, screaming children and the academic and popular media alike.  Most contemporary listeners express disbelief that these recordings are intended for children in the first place, as they can be quite sophisticated intellectually and musically. Even the storytelling segments, which are probably the closest these records get to traditional children’s fare, are unlike the fairy tale and Disney records most of us are used to, just listen …

Throughout the 60s Haack also did a bunch of commercial work, including scoring commercials for clients like Parker Brothers Games, Goodyear Tires, Kraft Cheese, and Lincoln Life Insurance.  He also continued to promote electronic music on television, demonstrating how synthesizers work on The Mister Rogers Show in 1968.

In 1969 Haack made his major-label debut with his first rock-influenced work, Electric Lucifer. The record is a concept album about the earth being caught in the middle of a war between heaven and hell.  It features a heavy, driving sound complete with Moogs, his friend, collaborator, and business manager Chris Kachulis singing, and Haack’s homegrown electronics including a prototype vocoder and unique lyrics.

As he describes the concept, “A primary function of ‘The Electric Lucifer‘ is to help end war – and hate and pain and fear.  The god I want mankind to walk with hand-in-hand is so full of love and genius that even Lucifer, the eternal underdog, will be forgiven … Lucifer is a love angel.  I supposed he could be made into a saint.  Oh what a painful fall – the cherubs all over said “No – it can’t happen-.”  Banishment of a leader who dared to what? Colonialism and clones duplicating clowns … Maybe the Angel People will all unite.  The key is Powerlove.”

Throughout the 70s, Haack focused primarily on making children’s albums including 1972’s Dance to the Music, 1973’s Captain Entropy, and 1974’s This Old Man, which featured science fiction versions of nursery rhymes and traditional songs, 1976’s Funky Doodle and Ebenezer Electric (an electronic version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), but by the late 1970s, his prolific output slowed.  That is until he released his swan song, 1982’s “Party Machine,” which totally telescoped toward the future, with Haack collaborating with a young Russell Simmons (yes, that Russell Simmons) to create a funky vocoder jam!

If no description is more overused than “visionary,” I’d say Haack is one of the few artists worthy of the word.

Slim Gaillard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slim Gaillard was a hipster of the highest order.  His status was even immortalized by the king of him himself, Mr. Jack Kerouac.  In On the Road Sal and Dean go to see Slim play in San Francisco and have a drink with him after his set.  “Bourbon-orooni … thank-you-ovauti …”  Oh yeah, Slim had his own language he called Vout.  It was mostly gibberish be-bop jive, but there was a method to Slim’s madness, so much so that he wrote a dictionary to prove it!

According to legend, Gaillard had an adventurous childhood, though few of its details have been confirmed.  While he was certainly born in 1916, one account has him birthed in Santa Clara, Cuba of a Greek father and an Afro-Cuban mother; another places Slim’s birth in Pensacola, Florida to a German father and an African-American mother.  Either way, it is certain he had an abnormal childhood as he traveled on board a ship on which his father was steward, and Slim was mistakenly left behind in Crete when the ship sailed.  While many a 12-year-old would have freaked, Slim seems to have kept his cool.  He was there for six months before he was able to work his way back home, and during his odyssey he learned to speak seven languages, including Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Armenian.  Back in the states he went on to work as a professional boxer, mortician, and illegal booze delivery man for the infamous Purple Gang in Detroit.

Slim also began to sing in speakeasies at this time. His first instrument was the vibraphone, although he was also proficient on piano, congas, bongos, and saxophone. When he heard Charlie Christian play electric guitar, he went out and bought one and mastered it.  He played the piano with the backs of his hands, palms up; the vibraphone with swizzle sticks; and the double bass below the bridge. He could play “Jingle Bells” on a snare drum, producing the pitches by sliding the fingers of one hand along the drumhead as he beat out the rhythm with the other hand.  Slim had skills, and everyone knew it, and soon enough he was in New York performing as one half of a duo with bassist Slam Stewart. They had their own music with their own sound, and Slim could make a song on just about any topic sound great – from potato chips to matzoh balls to cement! Slim and Slam’s success led to along running radio series and an appearance in the film Hellzapoppin.  

After his great jazz success Gaillard’s star continued to rise.  He appeared in several shows in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Marcus Welby, M.D., Charlie’s Angels, Mission Impossible, Medical Center, Flip (The Flip Wilson Show), and Along Came Bronson. He also appeared in the 1970s TV series Roots: The Next Generations and reprised some of his old hits on the NBC primetime variety program, The Chuck Barris Rah Rah Show. By the early 1980s he was touring the European jazz festival circuit, playing with such musicians as Arnett Cobb, and performing on the BBC television series of George Melly and John Chilton.  He also made an appearance in Absolute Beginners (1986) singing “Selling Out”.

In 1989, a film company set out to make an hour-long documentary, but it was lengthened to four hours instead. It was called “The World of Slim Gaillard”.  He passed away in 1991, and remained the hippest of the hip cats until the day he died!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Needs Yanni When You’ve Got Johnny? Richman That Is

I think it is totally safe to say that there is no other artist out there like Jonathan Richman. While a great deal of his songs about dancing, UFOs, martians, or the old corner store can seem embarrassing or just plain goofy, he is considered by many to be an absolute genius.  His music is simply impossible to listen to without breaking into a smile, and in concert his sweet presence and heartfelt performances are sure to nudge sensitivity and sheer joy out of even the most hardened, cynical punk or hipster.  Everyone needs a bit of that in their life, don’t they?

Massachusetts-bred Richman has been making music since the early ’70s. Co-founder of the legendary Modern Lovers (1970-74), a band credited with creating the sounds that led to a great deal of the punk rocknew wavealternative and indie rock music of later decades (during the Sex Pistols first rehearsal they played a Modern Lovers’ song, Road Runner), Richman has an impressive 22 full-length records to his credit (not to mention his treetop musical interludes in There’s Something About Mary).  He’s a magical being who sings in five languages, dances without shame, and is determined to make music quiet enough to never “hurt a baby’s ears.”  He was a geek who reveled in his geekness long before it became cool to do so.

Is he crazy?  You be the judge.  But what does it really matter anyway …

 

Visiting Kids – Bizarre on so many levels…

So, I saw this and I was left more or less speechless.  So many words came to mind – bizarre, educational, artful, creative, huh – but no matter what, nobody can say that this video is not amazing.  Visiting Kids was a Devo-related project/band.   The group featured Mark’s then wife Nancye Ferguson, as well as David Kendrick, Bob Mothersbaugh, his daughter Alex Mothersbaugh, and various other Devo members and their children. Their record was produced by Bob Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh; Mark also co-wrote some of the songs. This rather amazing video was created in 1990, and was the only one the band made.  However, they did have a couple other rather incredible performances.  Check them out below!