Life in a Blender are an extremely cool band that could best be described as Camper Van Beethoven and Tom Waits getting Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers really, really drunk … though even that doesn’t do them justice. They may be quirky, but while I realize the adjective “quirky” can be a negative these days, trust me when I say they are quirky in the BEST way. They’re terrific musicians with unconventional skewed lyrics and I’m not quite sure my lame analogy above even remotely does them justice. The best thing I can say about them is that they are true originals and their style is next-to-impossible to copy or duplicate. My biggest surprise is that they’ve been around since the 1990s and I haven’t heard of them until this past week. In any case, you’re encouraged to check them out … specifically on Dave’s Strange Radio, where they have been generously thrown into rotation.
And now for something a little less serious … but no less awesome. Bob Log III is a one-man punk blues extravaganza. During performances, he wears a human cannonball suit with a helmet wired to a telephone receiver, which frees his hands to play guitar and his feet to play drums. When he’s feeling especially frisky, he invites female audience members to sit on each of his legs while he plays. While the above clip is a pretty cool animated video someone made for Bob’s song “My S–t is Perfect,” there’s an example of Bob in action is below:
Tom Waits is a fan and said: “”And then there’s this guy named Bob Log, you ever heard of him? He’s this little kid — nobody ever knows how old he is — wears a motorcycle helmet and he has a microphone inside of it and he puts the glass over the front so you can’t see his face, and plays slide guitar. It’s just the loudest strangest stuff you’ve ever heard. You don’t understand one word he’s saying. I like people who glue macaroni on to a piece of cardboard and paint it gold. That’s what I aspire to basically.”
Battling it out are Tom Waits and the Ramones, doing separate versions of Waits’ “I Don’t Want to Grow Up.” First up is Waits’ folk-from-hell original single from his classic 1992 album “Bone Machine.” After that, you can watch the Ramones do their own take, which achieved greater commercial success in 1996 (from their last studio album “Adios Amigos”). I don’t know folks … they’re both pretty great.
Another legendary song from Tom Waits’ essential 1976 album “Small Change.”
Memorably used over the opening credits of Nicolas Roeg’s 1980 bad date-film classic “Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession,” one of the most graphic and despairing looks at a toxic relationship ever put on film. Trust me when I say “Bad Timing” makes “Fatal Attraction” look like “When Harry Met Sally.” An executive for Rank Films, the UK studio that financed “Bad Timing,” called the film “a sick film made by sick people for sick people.” And it’s available to watch on Netlifx Instant to view with your honey … that is, if you and your honey are mentally unstable and/or are pill / booze addicts. Thanks champagne!
It’s hard to pick what the best Tom Waits song of all time is. However, “Tom Traubert’s Blues” is the greatest in my opinion. A beautiful and sad variation on the Australian folk song “Waltzing Matilda,” “Tom Traubert’s Blues” is about the ravages of alcoholism. According to Bones Howe, Waits’ producer, the inspiration for the song came from a time when Waits “went down and hung around on skid row in L.A. because he wanted to get stimulated for writing this material. He called me up and said, ‘I went down to skid row … I bought a pint of rye. In a brown paper bag.’ I said, ‘Oh really?.’ ‘Yeah – hunkered down, drank the pint of rye, went home, threw up, and wrote ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’ […] every guy down there… everyone I spoke to, a woman put him there.”
According to Waits, he used the melody from “Waltzing Matilda” because “”when you’re ‘waltzing matilda’, you’re on the road. You’re not with your girlfriend, you’re on the bum. For me, I was in Europe for the first time, and I felt like a soldier far away from home and drunk on the corner with no money, lost.”
The song was used brilliantly in the film “Basquiat” when Jean Michel-Basquiat learns that his mentor Andy Warhol has passed away.
One of the best films about an artist’s life I’ve ever seen, as well as being one of the coolest films I’ve ever seen about any subject, “Basquiat” is a biopic chronicling the fast times and short life of legendary 1980s postmodernist/neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat created some brilliant (and highly commercial) art and also ran with a lot of famous people (Andy Warhol, Madonna, Keith Haring) back in the day. However, personal demons and drug abuse wound up getting the better of him and Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988.
Jeffrey Wright does a terrific job in the lead role as Basquiat and leads an all-star cast that includes David Bowie as Andy Warhol, Gary Oldman playing a character based on director/artist Julian Schnabel, Michael Wincott as critic Rene Ricard, Dennis Hopper as art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, and Christopher Walken, Courtney Love, Claire Forlani, Benicio Del Toro, Tatum O’Neal in supporting roles.
“Basquiat” also boasts one of the coolest soundtracks of any film, featuring the Pogues, Public Image Ltd., Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Charlie Parker, Melle Mel, the Modern Lovers, and Peggy Lee among others.
This was director Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut, a career that has led to great films such as “Before Night Falls,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and “Lou Reed’s Berlin.”
My favorite film of 1993 (aside from Tony Scott’s Quentin Tarantino-scripted “True Romance), was Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts.” “Short Cuts” is a devastating 3 hour-plus epic about the damaged lives of multiple souls in the “City of Angels,” circa 1993. The movie complies several short stories by Raymond Carver and intersects the stories, so that the characters of each story interact with each other at various times for various reasons. It shows the randomness of life and how all of our actions (no matter how small) can have an impact on the world around us. Seeing it during a not-so-great point in my life, the film hit me like a brick to the face and I was shaken for days. This is not to say the film lacks humor. The movie is oftentimes hysterically funny, albeit in a very dark way. It also features brilliant performances by a diverse, all-star cast, including Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Penn, Fred Ward, Tom Waits, Anne Archer, Madeline Stowe, Jack Lemmon, Andie McDowell, Lily Tomlin, Lili Taylor, Frances McDormand, Buck Henry, Annie Ross, Lori Singer, Matthew Modine, Julianne Moore, and several others.
“Short Cuts” was Altman’s ultra-ambitious follow-up to his 1992 comeback film “The Player.” However, unlike “The Player,” “Short Cuts” didn’t fare too well at the box office. Despite this, “Short Cuts” was on many Top 10 lists and Altman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director. While I enjoy “The Player,” “Short Cuts” is a far better film and its influence has grown tremendously over the years and its format about multiple characters/stories intersecting has resulted in some great films (P.T. Anderson’s “Magnolia”) and not-so-great (Paul Haggis’s “Crash”). An underrated masterpiece and my all-time favorite Robert Altman film.
The Ramones had their last hit in 1996 with a garage punk cover of Tom Waits’s “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” Tom Waits returned the favor with a smokin’ cover of “The Return of Jackie and Judy” released on a Ramones tribute album. I’ve never heard Waits having this much fun and it’s great to hear him cut loose like this.