Previous month:
September 2012
Next month:
November 2012

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Op… Op…
Oppa Gangnam Style!

 

A new oppa

 

I know people are upset that they paid too much to see a seeming one-hit wonder (yes, yes, six albums in his native Korea but you'd need a couple of North Korean ships allegedly full of heroin to sit through them, I bet) perform his one song and then nick off from a nightclub. Still, I can't help myself. Along with the Oppa Gangnam Heil meme, may I present:

Long, long ago, in a Gangnamcy far, far away…

 


Elvis Costello & The Imposters -
Australian Tour 2013

So Elvis Costello is back in 2013. He was last here late 2009 doing a solo turn - I remember having to make an early departure from the first night of the World's Funniest Island Festival on Cockatoo Island to get to the Enmore Theatre for what was an excellent show that reinterpreted a lot of the old songs and divided a lot of the audience.

I'll write more before the tickets go on sale on October 29, but for now, here's a photo. It's from backstage at the Capitol Theatre back in 1999. On that tour, it was just Elvis and his long-time keyboard player Steve Nieve.

EC_Backstage capitol

 

I was lucky. I'd run into Tom from Universal. Who used to be Tom from EMI when I was a shop assistant at Mall Music, back in the day: I was a massive record-collecting music nerd who'd scored a summer job at the record shop where I'd bought my first record ('Beatles Movie Medley', if you must know - a 1982 single put together to promote Reel Music, a compilation of songs from the various Beatles films) and most of my records subsequently. Tom was the sales rep from EMI. Record labels don't have sales reps anymore - shops who still stock music phone in orders (to some off-shore answering service, probably) and a box of stuff they never ordered mysteriously arrives. Back in the day, each major distributor - that would be the home to a multitude of labels - would send out sales representatives who would take orders for back catalogue items as well as showing off advanced copies of new releases.

Tom and I hit it off because he was a Liverpudlian who happened to be a Beatles fan to boot. And, as it turns out, Elvis Costello was also a Liverpudlian who happened to be a Beatles fan to boot.

So in 1999 at the Capitol I ran into Tom and made big fanboy eyes and asked if there was any chance of going backstage. There were a heap of people I knew from various music shops. Tom said, 'wait here, I'll see what I can do' and we were ushered backstage.

What do you say to Elvis Costello?

I could only come up with shop talk:

"Loving the reissues with all the bonus tracks, but when are we gonna get a decent live anthology?"

"Well," Elvis replied, "it's not like we haven't tried. But it's the Neil Young thing, you know, every time you think you've got the album finished, you realise you've overlooked something important that should be on it."

Or words to that effect.
One of the guys I recognised was Ric - who'd worked at cool collector store Rocking Horse in Brisbane and come to Sydney and worked at the mecca of music stores still standing, Red Eye and would go on to open Egg Records with his brother-in-law Baz, where I'd work from time-to-time. Ric came equipped with stuff to sign: a copy of Trust and a publicity photo. I had no idea I'd wind up backstage, hogging the photo. But I had a ticket!

EC_Ticket

Come back for a more involved exploration of the oeuvre of Declan Patrick Aloysius McManus. And - hopefully - a cool caricature from Nick O'Sullivan.

Check back soon. Meanwhile:

 

Fine Print:


A DAY ON THE GREEN SHOWS
with Sunnyboys, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Tex Perkins & the Dark Horses, Stephen Cummings

• Saturday January 26 - Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley VIC
• Sunday January 27 - Leconfield Wines, McLaren Vale SA
• Saturday February 2 - Bimbadgen Winery, Hunter Valley NSW
• Sunday February 3 - Sirromet Wines, Mt Cotton QLD
• Wednesday February 6 - Kings Park, Perth WA

For all transport, accommodation and event information go to www.adayonthegreen.com.au
Proudly presented by MAX and LG

THE SPECTACULAR SPINNING SONGBOOK SHOWS
with Joe Camilleri (duo)

• Friday January 25 - Palais Theatre Melbourne
• Wednesday January 30 - State Theatre Sydney

For information go to www.frontiertouring.com.au

TICKETS FOR ALL SHOWS ON SALE MONDAY OCTOBER 29
from ticketmaster.com.au & 136 100


Mickey Mouse doorbell

Mickey Mouse doorbell

 

I was wandering the back streets of Glebe the other day, having attended (and recorded) October's edition of Tell Me A Story when I came across only the best doorbell ever. (It's not like I was randomly approaching doors of houses, casing joints - although I did note it was set into the high wall-with-solid-security-door surrounding the yard.) It's Mickey Mouse, in a classic vintage pose, cast in metal.

It was too good a doorbell not to photograph - even though I know, what with the dicky moustache, thick-rimmed glasses, t-shirt collection and hi-tops, this tendency to 'photograph random objects and blog about them' makes me an over-aged 'hipster', apparently.

But I couldn't just upload the image without actually saying something about it.

On first look, clearly, it could have been better executed: the actual button of the doorbell should have been one of the buttons of his lederhosen. Perhaps that was the original plan.

I decided to do a search for the 'original' image, hopefully to determine who the artist was. That proved a little difficult to ascertain: it may have been Les Clark, who was animating towards the end of the 1930s, or perhaps it was Ub Iwerks, who co-created the character. 

No matter. What proved more interesting was the fact that so many variations on that classic image exist. The artwork has been interpreted and adapted, and many of those images have been collected on Pinterest.

This surreal take, for example, as though created from an elaborate doodle, takes the form of the artwork frequently produced by schizophrenics and hippies under the influence of certain chemical refreshments. (Nowadays this art is being reclaimed as a kind of therapy called - and trademarked - as  'Zentangle'. I shall rant about this down the track, rest assured. It will probably include a joke about someone else 'owning your doodle'.)

 

 

Well, I thought it was psychedelic until I saw this one - the proper, full-blown LSD trip with all the colours and the paisley.

 

 

Then I found this more sinister variation. More '80s eccy than '60s LSD. Three buttons and scary tongue, it's with ear recursion, it's all a bit scary, really.

 

It makes a bit of sense that Mickey Mouse would be given the counter-cultural artistic make-over. On the one hand, it's rebellion: taking the symbol that may represent the commercial, conservative way of life reinforced by the military-industrial complex. Or whatever. But there's also that element of psychedelia that involves the LSD-user’s regression, to childhood. Hence the Victoriana and World War I chic that became all the rage during the swingin' 60s 'summer of love': the Beatles' Sgt Pepper costumes, Pink Floyd using the title of a chapter from Wind in the Willows as the name of their debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It's what those twenty-something hip acid trippers were recalling from their childhood, rooting around grandma's house. (The American psychedelic equivalent of England's Victoriana was 'cowboys and indians' - a similarly seminal idyllic of regression.)

Speaking of Mickey Mouse in psychedelia, Aussie pop artist Martin Sharp seems to have snuck a Mickey Mouse reference into the artwork he created for the cover of the album Wheels of Fire, by the legendary Cream (which featured Sharp's UK flatmate, Eric Clapton, on lead guitar). It's either on the back cover or the front cover, depending on which edition you have:

Max1317148868-back-cover

 

The Mickey motif appears in the corner, bottom right. Here it is in detail:

Wheels of Fire Detail

 

Obviously not the same classic Mickey, but certainly a reference looming in the mix. And speaking of Mickey Mouse looming in the mix of juvenile hippie regression and music, consider 'Mr and Mrs Mickey Mouse' by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, who specialised in presenting that older genre of music to hip, swingin' '60s audiences:

 

 

Returning to the initial theme of the post, the adaptation of the image of Mickey Mouse in that pose, here's an example from the digital age: Mickey rendered in the RCA leads that connect your blu-ray or DVD player to your telly.

 

 

More traditionally, there are products bearing the image. Mickey's one of those blue-chip trademarks that has spawned an industry. And clearly, a cup you can one-shot the hottest coffee out of…

 

 

And having appeared on all manner of mass-produced items, it's no surprise that  even Andy Warhol has had a go:

 

 

I did see that Mickey Mouse somewhere else… Where was it? Oh yeah, on Psy's belly, flashing that Oppa Gangnam Smile! (Even though he was looking in the opposite direction, and had somehow lost his tail.)

940762-pn-slide-gangnam-star


Mick Foley wrestles with comedy

Mick_Foley_Studio[2]

“I understand comedy wasn’t your first calling,” I begin. It's an understated opening gambit.

“Yes, that’s true,” Mick Foley confirms, equally understated. “I did something else for quite a while."

We're kind of hovering, shifting weight from one foot to the other, swaying from side to side slightly as we square off. Metaphorically, of course, because my interview 'opponent' Mick Foley, happens to be in another continent, talking to me over the phone.

Yes, the Mick Foley: the author, comedian, actor, voice actor and 'colour' commentator (the one that fills in the boring bits with comic relief and levity while also being an expert on the stats, facts and figures of each sporting contestant) who was in fact a champion wrestler first. That in itself is interesting when you first lay eyes on him, all hairy-beardy-weirdy lookin' like Jeff Lynne or the Lyndsay Buckingham of classic ’70s-era Fleetwood Mac. But he's a wrestler. Turned comedian. About to tour Australia with local-comic-who-conquered-the-world Brendon Burns. And, Mick says, "it's still largely a wrestling-oriented comedy show that I do." But it still doesn't make the concept of a wrestler-turned-stand up comic any easier to unpack.

"I loved it!" Foley enthuses of his wrestling. "From the time I was a teenager it just felt like something I wanted to do."

Mick's sense of humour was apparent early on, too:

"You find out, when you're trying to appeal to an audience and trying to do it over a length of time, you have to have a multi-dimensional character. Especially as I got older and more beaten up, I realised it's actually easier to make people laugh than it is to make them wince. So I started incorporating a little humour into my matches."

I hope when Mick's on the comedy stage, it's still easier to make his audiences laugh than to make them wince.

"Oh, they wince every once in a while too, when something doesn't work," Mick says. "I try a lot of new things out, and not everything works. But there's only one way to find out what works and what doesn't and that is to try stuff out. And there is some wincing; there is some wincing occasionally when I'm on stage."

Spoken like a true comedian - one who isn't afraid to break new ground - at least for himself, if not always for his audience. And I guess that bravery comes a little easier if you've had to already front up on stage and win an audience over. While fighting. Mick concurs: wrestling's "another profession where you get judged on what you do, and reactions can be harsh. If you're not performing and giving people their money's worth in wrestling, they'll let you know pretty quickly, and they'll let you know the same comedy. I've had my feelings hurt in both wrestling and comedy. But you get a kind of 'thick skin' to it."

You do if you're gonna last in that industry. In either industry, I guess.

You're probably intrigued as to what would prompt a guy like Mick to make the cross-over, to do it all from a different stage where you're not expected to jump from the ropes onto someone quite as often, just to please a crowd. The transition is in fact quite logical: Mick was given the opportunity to speak at American universities in 2000, and he took it up as a new career, touring educational institutions. But for reasons unknown to him, those speaking engagements dried up in 2007. "I don't know why, but he requests stopped coming." So when a similar opportunity arose, in 2009, to get on stage and do proper stand-up," Mick says, "I jumped on it, man!"

The experience?

"It felt a lot like doing the talks at the colleges, except that I actually had to be funny, not just 'interesting' or humorous'."

That was the challenge: it's easy to be interesting and humorous, funny's harder. More so to an audience actively seeking it. Go to see a sportsman or sportswoman you admire give a talk, they can be funny more easily because you're not expecting it. Under those circumstances, Mick says, "being funny was easier because it was just a 'bonus'. People didn't know what to expect. I'd be addressing the National Librarian's Conference, and out would come this wrestler who'd written a few books. But they're not expecting me to be funny, they're expecting me to be mean because that's their basic understanding of wrestling. And then when I'm kind of charming or humorous, it's all, 'Aah, I like him!' You're not being judged upon how much your making them laugh."

That's the rub: when you've crossed over to being labelled 'comedian', the audience comes expecting you to be funny, and being 'just a bit funny' or 'merely humorous' doesn't cut it. So on the stand-up stage, Mick has to "weed out the 'interesting' and stick to stuff that's funny!" But, he says, "I still don't like being judged on how much I make people laugh. It's more the quality of the laugh, and the way people feel when they leave." And for Mick, that makes it more like wrestling. "I don't judge matches by how much people boo or cheer, but how they feel when they leave and how much they enjoyed the match as a whole. And I intend to do that when I come and visit you guys over there."

I know that sounds like the perfect sign-off, giving you some indication of just how good a public speaker, presenter and performer Mick Foley is. But I'm not finished. He said he 'got an offer' to do stand-up, and I find that interesting. Who saw this former wrestler on the lecture circuit and realised he ought to be on the stand-up stage?

"It was just a guy…" Mick casts his mind back, starting to laugh. "He was called 'Joe Schmoe'. I don't think that was his real last name. I never asked for I.D. But he asked me if I wanted to do the Improv in Hollywood. I said, 'yeah, sure'."

That initial foray was a tester really. Mick paid his own way to LA, and donated his gig income to charity. Small price to pay, given that it opened him up to his new incarnation as a comic. Mick agrees: "It seemed like a good reason to go to Los Angeles, I did have fun, and I decided to pursue it."

More interesting is the connection to Brendon Burns, with whom Mick's touring.

For the criminally uninformed, Brendon Burns is an Aussie comic who left Australia some years ago, somewhat under-appreciated (some would say rightfully so, but they may be wrong) heading to the UK where he made his name as a brilliant stand-up, coming away from Edinburgh Fringe with the top award just a couple of years ago. He returned to Australia triumphant. And was, to a degree, under-appreciated. (Some would still say 'rightfully so', but this time they are definitely wrong!)

When I ask Mick how they hooked up, he chuckles at a whole body of reminiscence that I'm sure we'll never be privy to. But the short version is, they have a mutual admiration thing going and after Brendon did some unannounced support slots that pleased Mick's fans no end, he then campaigned to get Mick to the Montreal Just for Laughs festival. Now they're touring together. And, truth be told, Brendon's not shy of a scrape, either. I'm sure he'll bang heads together with the best of 'em when necessary. But he's seen another side to Burns.

"Brendon was mad at me because I was trying out new material in Montreal," Mick says. "He was like, 'Mate, you don't try out new material in Montreal…'. I said, 'why not?'"

The reason is because Montreal is where you do your most 'showbiz' show to hope world tours, film and television deals and other untold riches flow accordingly. It's for your very best, most polished, fail-safe stuff. Not for taking risks with untried material that may not fly, thus making you look less phenomenal than you actually are.

Brendon didn't take the time to explain this to Mick, instead demanding Adam Hills, also present, support him in the position.

"He said, 'Hillsy,  tell him; tell him, don't try out new material!'"

Turns out Hillsy was all, "Why not? Why not just go for it?'"

Mick's take:

"I can't believe Brendon Burns was the conservative guy in the group saying, 'Don't do this, don't do that, it's disrespectful'."

To put it in perspective, Mick explains that he will ensure he only drops one - maybe two at most - "f-bombs" in his show. "Brendon has that in his opening 'hello' to the audience!"

There is one last issue to explore, and I'll raise it as politely as possible.

Like comedy, a lot of work goes into making wrestling look improvised - as if it's being made up on the spot - when really there's a lot of choreography involved.

"It's a lot like comedy," Mick assures me. "There are a lot of styles involved. You will see someone on the stage who will look like his style is completely ad libbed, then you find out he's worked for months to make it look that natural. There are other guys with the one-liners who you can tell have been doing the same thing for a long time. In wrestling, it's the same way. You want it to look natural. How you get to that conclusion is up the the individual to do the best work he can."

Mick Foley wanted to try new stuff in Montreal. I reckon his wrestling is 'more real'. But, he says, it's behind him.

"I'm done. I had a good time exchanging words, but I can't exchange blows anymore."

Wrestling's loss is clearly comedy's gain as Mick himself assures us:

"You will, you will cry, you will kiss some hard-earned money goodbye!"

 

Fine print:

Mick Foley & Brendon Burns tour Australia with Good God Almighty! February 2013. Check out www.livenation.com.au for tix and info.


Inspirational teachers

 

Gillard on her teacher


"Dear Friend," Prime Minister Julia Gillard wrote to me in a personal email today. "Wherever I go in Australia, I see so many examples of excellence and hear so many stories of inspiring teachers. A great education is one of the most important gifts we can receive."

She goes on to talk about her inspirational English teacher, Mr Crowe, who taught her at Mitcham Primary School.

"Not only did I learn English from him, he taught us the importance of having confidence in your own voice."

She tells us all about him in a clip on her Facebook page and invites fellow Australians to post their own message, photo or film regarding their favourite teachers. (Don't try clicking the image at the top, it's a screen cap; use the highlighted link above.)

What with all the drama this last week - which continues to unfold - I couldn't resist. I had to contribute. Maybe my favourite teacher was a certain Senior English Master at The King's School, Parramatta: Mr Alan Jones.

(You don't know. He might have been my favourite teacher - even if he was never actually my teacher.)

228658_5424381490_1046_n
Watch out - I'm about to die of shame. Because of the hideous tie!

My post doesn't seem to have appeared on the Prime Minister's right honourable timeline. Can't imagine why! But this is what it looked like…

Screen Shot 2012-10-06 at 11.29

Fact is, I did have genuinely inspirational teachers, about whom I shall write in a future blog post. Meanwhile, checking the headlines, it turns out Alan Jones has become a magician.

Copy of 526988-alan-jones

No, really. He's made a $250,000 vehicle disappear. Mercedes-Benz are confiscating his sponsored car.


Tig Notaro's new live 'album'

Artwork
Tig Notaro reclaims the hand bra on the 'cover' of her new 'album'.


Given the choice, I'd always prefer to own the CD or the record instead of the digital file. If you want to make the digital download a bonus for buying the CD or the vinyl, thank you, it'll save me ripping the CD or hooking my turntable up to my computer. But if I'm going to pay for the download, I'd rather pay a couple of dollars more for the CD - than just buy the digital file. Because the physical artifact comes with stuff: there's the artwork on the cover, the sleeve notes, perhaps an inner sleeve with more jokes.

Consider the delicious artwork and bonus inserts that meant that almost every Monty Python album was an extended satirical take on the record industry itself .

Matching Tie Handkerchief
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief


The artwork, for example, that made The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief appear three-dimensional, as if you'd just purchased a matching tie and handkerchief in the box. The actual black polyvinyl chloride disc housed within the 'box' was labelled as a 'Free Album' that came with said tie and handkerchief. And when you removed the inner sleeve from the cover, it turned out the matching tie and handkerchief were on the recently hanged corpse depicted thereon.

Matching Tie Hand Inner
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief inner sleeve.

The other really cool thing about Matching Tie and Handkerchief was that it was 'three-sided': side 2 of the record consisted of two concentric grooves, each with half the material from that album. What you heard when you played side two would depend on where the stylus fell on the record. Confusing, until you worked it out.

Matching Tie Hand Label
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief free record label.


The Monty Python Instant Record Collection
was a compilation album. So it was an 'instant record collection' because it gave you the best bits of the back catalogue in one go. But it was also an 'instant record collection' because the original cover had extra flaps you could fold and connect so that it resembled a stack of records, the spines of which contained music industry jokes.

Try doing that with digital downloads!

But, some people would argue, it's all about the comedy, not the packaging. Particularly with stand-up: who needs all the frills and overheads? Cut out all the guff, the middlemen, the nonsense, and just bring the funny. Particularly in the digital age.

Louis C.K. makes a fine case for the digital download. For starters, he charges a flat five bucks, via paypal. The download system is simple. In the ten days of his making Live at the Beacon Theatre available, he made a million bucks - about a million bucks more, it would appear, than he was ever paid royalties for previous releases through the usual outlets. Furthermore, he makes the download method straightforward.

Now he's gone and released Tig Notaro's latest set.

I say 'latest set', but it's not the neat, polished show a world-class comedian might deliver after several months of developing material, breaking it in, having exposed it to a broad range of audiences in different cities and/or countries. It's her 'latest set' as delivered by a world-clash comedian, raw and fresh, while big, important events have just happened and she's still dealing with them - still exploring without necessarily having finalised her conclusions. It's happening 'in-the-moment' - or as close to that as live comedy will ever be.

But I'll let Louis tell you in his own words, from the email sent to subscribers earlier today:

Greetings to the people and parts of people that are reading this. Hi. This is Louis. I'm a comedian and you bought a thing from me. Well, I'm writing to tell You that there is a new thing you can buy on my website louisck.com. It's an audio standup set by not me but another comedian named Tig Notaro.  Why am I selling someone else's comedy on my website?   

Well, Tig is a friend of mine and she is very funny. I love her voice on stage. One night I was performing at a club in LA called Largo. Tig was there. She was about to go on stage. I hadn't seen Tig in about a year and I said how are you? She replied "well I found out today that I have cancer in both breasts and that it has likely spread to my lymph nodes. My doctor says it looks real bad." She wasn't kidding. I said "uh. Jesus. Tig. Well. Do you... Have your family... Helping?". She said "well my mom was with me but a few weeks ago she fell down, hit her head and she died". She still wasn't kidding.   

Now, I'm pretty stupid to begin with, and I sure didn't know what to say now. I opened my mouth and this came out. "jeez, Tig. I. Really value you. Highly." She said "I value you highly too, Louie." Then she held up a wad of note-paper in her hand and said "I'm gonna talk about all of it on stage now. It's probably going to be a mess". I said "wow". And with that, she went on stage.   

I stood in the wings behind a leg of curtain, about 8 feet from her, and watched her tell a stunned audience "hi. I have cancer. Just found out today. I'm going to die soon". What followed was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can't really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life.  Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute standup voice to her own death.
 
The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying "wow. Right?". She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example.  So generous.

After her set, I asked Mark Flanagan, the owner of Largo (great club, by the way) if he recorded the set. Largo is set up for excellent recordings. He said that he did.

A few days later, I wrote Tig and asked her if I could release this set on my site.  I wanted people to hear what I saw.  What we all saw that night.  She agreed.  The show is on sale for the same 5 dollars I charge for my stuff. I'm only keeping 1. She gets the other 4. Tig has decided to give some of that to cancer research.

Tig, by the way, has since undergone a double mastectomy. She is doing well. Her doctors say her chances of survival are excellent. So she went there and came back. Her report from the frontlines of life and death are here for you to... Enjoy.

Please go to my site louisck.com and buy her show.  You can buy it here:

http://buy.louisck.net/purchase/tig-notaro-live

Thank you. Have a terrific afternoon. 

Louis C.K.

The show is available as an MP3 or FLAC. I've bought it. (Both MP3 and FLAC - the latter is a non-lossy format and I'm a nerd; whatever!) It comes with a digital booklet - which isn't the same thing as having cover art to fetish, but it exists. And it's brilliant.

You should buy it.


The Fat Anchor in History

 

There's a clip currently doing the rounds about a 'fat news anchor' who delivered a heartfelt reply to a viewer's rather rude and thoughtless - though possibly well-meaning - e-mail.

The viewer happened to stumble on a news broadcast on CBS WKBT and noticed that anchor Jennifer Livingston is full-bodied. The viewer felt it was Livingston's duty to set a better example to her 'community', especially kids - it's always for the sake of the kids! - and so should 'choose' to be thin instead of fat (as though it's a choice, and it's ever that easy). 

I'm actually pleased that there's a television station somewhere in the world that has hired someone who isn't the typical pneumatic babe (relax, I'm paraphrasing Aldous Huxley - so it's at least high-class, literary  sexism). As comedian Lee Camp has pointed out in a routine, the fact that there's someone on television presenting news who doesn't look like a model, can only mean that person is very good at their job. Which is Jennifer Livingston's only duty, really. The only example she has to set is of being a good news anchor.

Good on her and everything for taking the opportunity to address cyberbullied kids - choosing to define her receipt of the email as an instance of the same, rather than merely thoughtless fan mail.

I'm still fond of a certain other television anchor's response to attitudes towards his girth: comedian Allan Sherman, delivering his 'Hail to Thee, Fat Person' monologue. Comedy is going to trump piety and righteousness every time, particularly when dealing with narrow-minded people who get through life passing shallow judgements of people according to limited criteria.

(PS I hope you dug the Peter Carey reference in the title.)