This is an amazing one-man show by Roger Guenveur Smith called “A Huey P. Newton Story.” Smith is someone you’ll probably recognize from many films over the past 25 years (especially in several Spike Lee films), but nothing will prepare you for his performance as Huey P. Newton delivering a monologue about his life. This was directed by Spike Lee for the Starz cable channel back in 2001, but has since slipped into obscurity, which is a real shame. Regardless of how you may or may not feel about Newton historically, this is one of the most ferocious and electrifying performances you’ll ever witness.
The Rotary Connection were a psychedelic soul band from the late 1960s / early 1970s that recorded for Chess Records. Their most famous member was Minnie Ripperton, who later had a huge solo hit with the song “Loving You” in the 1970s. Ripperton was also the mother of the beyond awesome actress / comedienne Maya Rudolph and you can definitely hear Ripperton in the background of this song. How did I uncover this gem? This played at the end of Spike Lee’s severely underrated and controversial 2012 film “Red Hook Summer.” The song sounds a little awkward at first, but seriously, you need to stay with it. A totally amazing song that demands rediscovering.
I don’t have much to add to all the praise and hubbub that this episode is generating out there. But it’s a prime illustration of why “Louie” is one of the coolest, ballsiest TV shows of all time. “Louie” has continually been one of those shows that’s hysterically … oftentimes profanely … funny, but isn’t afraid to get serious if that’s what the moment calls for. And when I mean serious, it’s not in “a very special episode” kind of way. The common denominator on “Louie” is exposing what’s real. It treads the line between funny and serious better than almost anything I’ve ever seen.
A friend of mine once told me he had difficulty seeing what all the fuss was about re: “Louie.” I advised to not think of it like a sitcom, but to watch it the same way you would watch a Spike Lee film. Lee’s films are oftentimes really funny and serious as s–t … sometimes going back in forth several times between both poles in scenes lasting no more than 5 minutes.
Some damn fine doo-wop courtesy of Lewis Reed … aka Lou Reed, the Prince of Darkness … recorded in 1962. Though that “Prince of Darkness” label is a bit unfair. Lou was always a closet softie and if you don’t believe me, check out the Velvet Underground albums after John Cale left. The 3rd Velvet Underground album and “Loaded” had much mellower vibes and were filled with love songs and songs about seeking redemption. Reed definitely had a dark side, but arguably, Cale pushed him to pursue this side when he was with the Velvets and once Cale left, Reed let his sensitive flag fly. Please note that I’m not taking sides on the “dark Velvets v. light Velvets” debate. It’s a draw and everyone’s a winner as far as I’m concerned.
This is a lengthy, riveting, and extremely funny interview with Bob Zmuda, late comedian Andy Kaufman’s partner-in-crime that Marc Maron conducted back in 2012 on his “WTF with Marc Maron Podcast.” The interview is over 2 hours long, but if you’re an Andy Kaufman fan, this is a must-listen. While a lot of this is probably bulls–t to a certain degree (some parts are not consistent with the account Zmuda gave in his 1999 book “Andy Kaufman Revealed”), trust me when I say that this is some goooood bulls–t! I guarantee you won’t be bored. The interview starts 6:27 into the presentation.
P.J. Soles is an actress who had many prominent roles in classic films of the late 1970s / early 1980s such as “Carrie,” “Halloween,” “Stripes,” “Private Benjamin,” and her greatest role … Riff Randell in “Rock n’ Roll High School.” Her career kind of faded in the mid-1980s, though she does pop up in things every now and then. From the extremely cool and heavy 2004 album “Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?”
This theme song for Alex Cox’s demented 1984 punk rock science-fiction comedy was the first Iggy song I ever heard (aside from David Bowie’s cover of Iggy’s “China Girl”). I can only imagine what went through Iggy’s head when he wrote this, but I like it because it has very little to do with the movie it’s written for. The cool guitar work is courtesy of the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones. Favorite line: “I’ll turn you into a toadstool!”
“Pull My Strings” was only performed once by the Dead Kennedys and it was basically a prank they pulled when they were asked to perform at the 1980 Bay Area Music Awards (the “Bammies”). They started out playing their underground hit “California Uber Alles” wearing white button down shirts with “S”‘s on them. They suddenly stopped playing and announced “We’ve got to prove we’re adults here … We’re not a punk rock band, we’re a New Wave band!” and then pulled skinny ties around from the back so the “S”‘s became dollar signs. The skinny ties and white button down shirts were a direct knock on the Knack, who were then considered the most popular of all the New Wave bands. Anyway, the band launched into “Pull My Strings,” a song that critiqued the current state of rock at the time and was specifically directed at all the luminaries at the gathering. According to legend, Boz Scaggs was allegedly seen clawing his seat in anger. On the other hand, Eddie Money apparently told the Kennedys he liked it. In any case, it’s a funny and ingenious way to take the piss out of a group of fevered egos gathered together to pat themselves on the back. The song eventually appeared on the Kennedys’ compilation “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death.” At some point in the late 2000s, “Death” went Gold, meaning it had sold 500,000 copies, a remarkable achievement for a hardcore punk band from the early 1980s.
A terrific Beatles cover by Clarence Reid. Reid had the talent and chops to be as big as Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett, but he became more popular doing dirty parodies of soul hits (“S–ting off the Dock of the Bay,” “What a Difference a Lay Makes?”) with his XXX-rated alter-ego Blowfly. As much as the 3rd grader in me loves Blowfly, I’ve been rediscovering Reid’s straight soul recordings as of late and have been completely knocked out by how good Reid was … and also a little sad that Reid found more success with a gimmick than playing it straight.
It reminds me of seeing another Clarence … Clarence Giddens … back in 1993 at a restaurant / bar in Virginia Beach. Giddens was a terrific blues guitarist and singer that opened for a singer known as “Black Elvis.” Of course, “Black Elvis” was Giddens in an Elvis suit and I have to say as an Elvis impersonator, he was damn good. But it also filled me with regret because Giddens had the chops to be a major blues talent, but found bigger paychecks going down the Elvis tribute trail. Granted both Reid and Giddens had their reasons for going down the more lucrative path as Blowfly and Black Elvis, but it’s a sad commentary about how we … as audiences … myself included … are more suckers for a gimmick than the real deal.
A classic episode of “Geraldo” from the early 1990s featuring everyone’s favorite self-mutilating, poop-eating rock singer G.G. Allin. The episode is about “obscene art” and Geraldo Rivera is in classic form, condemning extreme art while also giving his audience multiple tastes of such art in a way that pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable within the realms of early 1990s broadcast TV. It’s the classic “This is sick, folks. Take a look at how sick this stuff is! Don’t you agree? Let’s get a close-up folks, in case you don’t understand how sick this is” approach. OK, not work safe, but a fine example of pre-internet shock value … allowing an audience an acceptable way to engage in hideous behavior by keeping their hands clean by tsk-tsking the dirt off their hands.