Weekend links 405

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Taro Okamoto’s Tower of the Sun on the cover of an Expo ’70 guide.

• Last week I was watching the restored print of Howard Brookner’s excellent William Burroughs documentary, Burroughs. Among the later scenes are shots of the writer visiting Britain in the autumn of 1982 for the Final Academy events, a visit also recorded on Super-8 by Derek Jarman, and by the video cameras of the Haçienda nightclub at a reading I was fortunate to attend. Included in the Brookner film are brief snatches of an interview with Burroughs for BBC Radio 1 by John Peel’s producer, John Walters, something I missed when it was first broadcast.

• Taro Okamoto’s Tower of the Sun was built in Osaka for Expo ’70, and unlike many one-off expo buildings has managed to survive years of neglect and threats of demolition. Visitors to the Tower may now explore the restored “Tree of Life” interior, although places are limited so it’s necessary to book in advance. Related: Expo ’70 at ExpoMuseum, and Tower Of The Sun (1997) by Shonen Knife.

• Also at Dangerous Minds this week: a 1969 TV recording of Krzysztof Penderecki’s notorious The Devils of Loudon, an opera based on the same Aldous Huxley book as Ken Russell’s The Devils, and which includes (among other things) a singing nun enduring a forced enema.

• The new Cavern Of Anti-Matter album, Hormone Lemonade, is released this week. XLR8R has a preview. Related: an old/undated mix by Tim Gane for The Brain radio show here.

Milton Glaser on some of his favourite posters. Milton Glaser Posters, a book collecting 427 poster designs, is published this week by Abrams.

• The Ghosts of Empty Moments: Christopher Burke reviews M. John Harrison’s You Should Come with Me Now.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 644 by Susanna, and XLR8R Podcast 534 by Pär Grindvik.

Emily Temple found 25 of the most expensive books you can buy on the internet.

Towers Of Dub (1992) The Orb | Tower Of Our Tuning (2001) by Broadcast | Television Tower (2001) by Monolake

Psychotronic Video

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I was going to wait until the weekend to mention this but it’s too good to be lodged in a collection of links. Michael J. Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (1983) has long been one of my favourite film books, a collection of reviews by Weldon and friends written for Weldon’s NYC fanzine, Psychotronic TV. “Psychotronic” was Weldon’s umbrella label for the low-budget fare that would usually be avoided by other reviewers: “horror, exploitation, action, science fiction, and movies that used to play in drive-ins or inner city grindhouses.” A small handful of actors were considered psychotronic enough (on account of their appearing in many psychotronic films) that Weldon claimed their presence in any film made it psychotronic even if it contained no overt genre or exploitation content. So the Encyclopedia lists Fellini’s 8 1/2, for example, simply because Barbara Steele appears in it. Likewise, Casablanca is psychotronic because of Peter Lorre. As I recall, the other psychotronic actors were John Carradine (“the greatest PSYCHOTRONIC star of all time”), Vincent Price and Boris Karloff.

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The trouble with books of film reviews is that the passage of time makes them increasingly subject to omissions, so I was delighted when Weldon launched Psychotronic Video magazine in 1989. Not only was this a continuation of the encyclopedia’s film listings it was also filled with related features: interviews with character actors, cult figures and interesting stars; a regular music column which mostly covered the kinds of bands who would watch psychotronic films; a regular obituary feature; and pages crammed with bizarre and curious graphics: film ephemera, ads from old magazines, headers by comic artist Drew Friedman, and mermaid drawings by Weldon’s girlfriend, Mia. One of my favourite features, which ran from the first issue, concerned Weldon’s obsession with The Rivingtons’ Papa Oom Mow Mow and The Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird, an ideé fixe which had Weldon cataloguing as many cover versions or film inclusions of the songs as he could find.

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Psychotronic Video ran for 41 issues until folding in 2006. I bought the first 23 or so then lapsed after the one comic shop selling it in Manchester was closed down by the IRA bombing of the city centre in 1996. Back issues are increasingly scarce (and not always cheap) so it’s good to find all 41 issues at the Internet Archive together with 10 issues of the even more scarce Psychotronic TV. The quality isn’t perfect—some of the scanned pages are subject to blurring—but I can now see what was in the rest of the magazines, and finally get to read the Timothy Carey interview in the one issue I missed, no. 6. Many of the actors interviewed with enthusiasm by Psychotronic Video have since died so the magazine is even more valuable for its insights into careers ignored by other publications.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bikers and witches: Psychomania
The Cramps at the Haçienda

The Cramps at the Haçienda

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At last: something that has no connection with HP Lovecraft… This was one of several design jobs during a very busy summer, a long-delayed DVD release by Savoy of the Cramps playing Manchester’s trendiest club of the 1980s, the Haçienda. The posthumous reputation of the Hac (as it was locally known) has been inflated in recent years; you’ll hear much about its thriving dance nights but little about the early days when the huge and often chilly space was seldom even half full. The Cramps played there twice in 1984, and like many bands with a cult following, managed to fill the floor with eager fans; Savoy’s video captures the second performance on May 23rd. It was standard policy at the Haçienda to film every event, and some of the more popular performances—William Burroughs’ reading, a concert by The Birthday Party—were later released by Ikon, the video wing of Factory Records. Two cameras on either side of the Haçienda balcony covered the stage but on the night of the Cramps’ performance none of the Ikon staff wanted to assist Linda Dutton in filming the gig. So this recording is a rudimentary one—a single U-matic camera and mono sound—but Linda captured a tremendous hour-long concert with an outstanding Iggy Pop-like performance from Lux Interior.

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For my design I wanted to avoid Goth clichés and create something in keeping with the band’s trashy rock’n’roll aesthetic. All the portraits are by Kris Guidio from the comic strips he was producing in the early 1980s for Lindsay Hutton’s Next Big Thing zine; the lurid headlines are lifted from film posters found in back issues of Psychotronic Video magazine. The DVD has an 8-page booklet and an interface which I also designed although this is merely functional, nothing like the elaborate animated affair I created for The Mindscape of Alan Moore. When concerts such as this are routinely put onto YouTube for free it hardly seems worth going to all this trouble, but for Savoy it provides another connection to a favourite band. The PAL DVD is priced at £10, and may be ordered direct.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Haçienda ephemera
Lux Interior, 1946–2009
The Final Academy

Cabaret Voltaire on La Edad de Oro, 1983

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Cabaret Voltaire appeared on Spain’s La Edad de Oro music show a few months after Tuxedomoon in November 1983. This was three months after I saw the Cabs at the Haçienda in Manchester, a concert you can see yourself in terrible sound and picture quality on a Cherry Red DVD. (Granted, the Haçienda video recordings were never intended for public sale but that taping looks particularly poor.) So it’s good to find this Spanish broadcast capturing the band performing songs from their recently released The Crackdown album. As with many of the other British groups given a slot on La Edad de Oro, this was a much more generous showcasing than was allowed by the UK’s music shows of the period, most of which tended to favour safe pop or rock acts. One reason Cabaret Voltaire formed their own video label, Doublevision, was to provide an outlet for visual works by groups that the major TV channels were ignoring. The tenth release on the Doublevision video label happened to be Tuxedomoon’s Ghost Sonata film.

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The drummer for the Spanish broadcast, as on the Cabs’ albums, was Alan Fish, and the performance is mixed with shots of the band’s vaguely ominous film and video material. Both this show and the Tuxedomoon performance have translated lyrics running over the screen, a strange thing to see with Cabaret Voltaire who never printed their lyrics.

By coincidence a new Cabaret Voltaire compilation album has just been released, #7885 (Electropunk To Technopop 1978 – 1985), which Eugene Brennan reviews here. I’ve already got everything on it but it’s a good overview of the group’s evolution from post-punk weirdos to a formidable electronic-dance outfit. (Although the full-length 12″ tracks are the essential versions.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tuxedomoon on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Network 21 TV

Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire

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Videocassette box insert. Design by Neville Brody.

A couple of years back I tracked down some of the releases on Cabaret Voltaire’s Doublevision video label, the early titles of which have never been reissued on DVD. The first Doublevision release was the Cabs’ collection of their own music videos which Mute Records reissued on DVD 2004. That reissue seems to be deleted for the moment so it’s good to find a copy of the original tape release on YouTube. As with the other Doublevision releases I was well aware of this but didn’t have a VHS player at the time so wasn’t eager to buy anything I couldn’t watch. Unlike the other releases I did get to see several of the tracks during the Cabs’ Doublevision video night at the Haçienda in 1983, an evening that ended with the group performing for an hour.

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It’s good to be reminded of these videos, however crude they appear today. As with any early use of technology you need to bear in mind the limitations of the time. The tape was released in 1982 but the group had been experimenting with video equipment from about 1979 onwards. At that time commercial music video was just getting started but most of the examples on TV were paid for by the big record companies. Cabaret Voltaire and some of their associates in the UK Industrial scene—notably Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo—were ahead of the game in acquiring equipment to make their own video recordings and promos. These videos were seldom shown on mainstream TV: I recall being thrilled to see a clip from the Nag, Nag, Nag promo on a pop programme but that was a rare one-off moment. The music industry was being forced to accommodate the awkward DIY merchants but the gates of broadcast television remained heavily policed.

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And speaking of heavy policing, you get some of that here, the Cabs’ obsessions with coercion and control being illustrated by footage of riot squads, together with religious mania, medical surgery, psychotronic films and much else, all of it processed, fragmented and distorted. Direction was by the group and by St. John Walker, with an extract from Johnny YesNo (recently reissued by Mute) directed by Peter Care. I’ve been listening to Seconds Too Late a lot this week so it’s great to see a video for that song. There’s also a slight conundrum in the tracklisting: if you’re familiar with the free four-track single that came with The Crackdown album it seems that Badge of Evil and Moscow have had their titles swapped. The Moscow video track, however, includes a shot of an Aeroflot passenger plane so it’s more likely that the tracks on one side of the single were mis-labelled when they appeared a year later, an error carried over to the CD release.

Tracklist: Diskono / Obsession / Trash (Part 1) / Badge Of Evil / Nag, Nag, Nag / Eddie’s Out / Landslide / Photophobia / Trash (Part 2) / Seconds Too Late / Extract From Johnny YesNo / Walls Of Jericho / This Is Entertainment / Moscow

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Network 21 TV