Category Archives: Music

Pendergrass at Live Aid: Tragedy, Revival and Philly


News of the death of Teddy Pendergrass found many of us posting videos of the singer at his prime, teasing live crowds with “Love TKO” and “Close the Door” as he sauntered the stage in his revealing custom white tank-top in ’79 and ’80.

This clip of singing-songwriter duo Ashford & Simpson bringing Pendergrass to the stage at the 1985 Live Aid concert for Ethiopian famine relief at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium brought chills back then and still does. Three years earlier, the brakes failed on the Rolls Royce that Pendergrass was driving through Philly’s northwest Germantown district, leading to an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. So in visual contrast to his heyday, Pendergrass comes on at Live Aid in a motorized wheelchair, the body he used to evoke such sensualized instincts in his audience now almost a heartbreaking redundancy.

Ashford & Simpson–who met at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church in the mid-’60s–had made their songwriting careers specializing in both ecstatic love songs and grandiose, gospel-tinged tunes like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The duo wrote the last as Diana Ross’s first solo single in 1969 as a strikingly plaintive plea for fellowship in contrast to, for example, the Temptations’ more confrontational “Ball of Confusion” during that year of Nixon, Manson, My Lai and Altamont. Sixteen years later, “Reach Out and Touch” seemed fitting again as cracks of compassion like Live Aid started showing through the Reagan/Thatcher/Gecko era of greed-is-good.

A&S reintroduce Pendergrass to his city in near church-meeting style, from Nick’s heartfelt build-up intro to the duo’s welcoming of the singer with upraised arms. By the time of his accident, Pendergrass had left Gamble & Huff’s CBS-subsidized Philadelphia International Records label–which had just been taken over by EMI–to record with Asylum. A bit of stretch, but maybe we can see this clip as A&S redelivering Pendergrass back to the City of Bro Love and the world.

Another reading: Pendergrass re-emerged in ’85 in this context of an elongated, natural-and-man-made crisis in continental Africa. News of his demise in ’10 came in against the heartbreaking background of an instant though similarly devastating natural crisis for the African-descended people of Haiti–another time for the world to reach out.

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“This night is tragic…”, His & Hers

Director Adam Smith got out the body cam again to shoot the new Madness video, Dust Devil. It’s an obvious happier-ending companion to both The Streets’ “Blinded By the Lights” and “Too Much Brandy”, as Smith further develops his unique Tragic Night genre. Are there any American examples of this?

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Advertising in Israel: Sure, why not, YES!

Time Jerusalem blogger Tim McGirk’s notice
of McCann Erickson Israel’s irreverent use of the spectre of Iranian
president Ahmadinejad in a commercial for that country’s YES satellite
TV company led me to the massive and fascinating YouTube channel for Tel Aviv agency Mizbala, run by confessed “shameless copywriter” Dori.

It seems to feature the whole of McCann’s series of spots for YES, many of which seem to feature a hilarious Busby Berkeley-ish song-and-dance number extolling the virtues of YES programming.
Orthodox Jews singing “YMCA”? YES!
Full Metal Jacket the Musical? YES!
Chapelle-ishly edgy intersection of slavery & hip-hop imagery? YES! YES! YES!

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The other Dirty South

UK-based social network site Bebo is packed with pages by kids repping (or claiming to rep) South London gangs, providing an interesting insight into the multiracial (AfrCarib, S. Asian, white) gangsta scene in the capitol (made up of apparently over 160 crewz). Gun & knife attacks are now running sky-high

Start here, and click on the Similar Stuff icons on the top of the page, and you’ll get the general picture. Among other observations:

  • Brixton (Brixx) is at war with Peckham (Pexx, Pecknarm, etc.)
  • These guys can make names like Woolwich Rd., Ladbroke Grove, Walthamstow, and Camberwell sound hard
  • Lots of international Blood/Crip infiltration, BUT where else but in London can there sprout a Yellow Brick Massive, or the impetus to make a gang color out of…yes…BEIGE??

Check out part of Ross Kemp’s chat w/some S. London boyz, and as a bonus, his exploration of London’s Tamil gang scene. Chili powder!

“IF WE SEE A NEEK SLIPPIN ITS HEAT-DEM-TIME.”

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Cover this!

Ziggy vs. Reality

Ziggy vs. Reality

Designer Khoi Vin at Subtraction shows how rock stars’ album art gets shittier as they get older. Good thesis that bears out on the examples he shows.

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The more things change…


Left: currently rising Philly-raised pop-soul star Kevin Michael.
Right: LA-born ’70s-era R&B shooting-star/one-hit wonder Johnny “Shuggie” Otis Jr.

Two guys with first names for last names, both hitting during their early 20s—Shuggie (son of Greek-American R&B bandleader Johnny Otis) with “Inspiration Information” and “Strawberry Letter 23” and Kev with the Wyclef-featuring “It Don’t Make Any Difference—and both with orbital afro styles.

Big up!

Judging from this, it seems Kev gets it in general, especially as seen by his number 12 pick.

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Re-appreciating Nervous Gender

Nervous Gender ’83 L-R Bruce Moreland (RIP), Sven, Michael Ochoa, Gerardo Velasquez (RIP), Edward Stapleton

“Monsters” by Nervous Gender, from their album, Music From Hell.

Along with fellow synth-punks the Screamers, Nervous Gender were one of the most underrated, perverse and impacting bands in L.A.’s late-’70s/early-’80s punk/industrial/wave scene. Started in 1978 and led by Edward Stapleton Michael Ochoa and Gerardo Velasquez, NG featured many of the city’s punk luminaries in its lineup and as guests, including Bruce & Marc Moreland (Wall of Voodoo), Alice Bag, Dinah Cancer (45 Grave), Don Bolles (Germs, 45 Grave), Paul Roessler (Screamers, Nina Hagen, 45 Grave), Phranc (Catholic Discipline), and at one point an 8-year-old German drummer named Sven.

Noise, rhythms and harsh erotica pretty much sums it up…Gerardo died in ’92, but the band reunited to play a show in L.A. which I would have liked to have seen…After missing them for most of the time I knew of them as a teen growing up in LA, I saw them open for Psychic TV at the Roxy in Hollywood while I was visiting during my freshman year in college ’86.

I’m pretty sure, though not certain, that this was one of the many bands in which my friend and teen music collaborator Brad Laner (a natural musical genius, that guy) played during the early ’80s. He definitely loved them, and they were definitely one of the influences of Earth Dies Burning, the post-synthpunk band we were in.

Enjoy!

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