lovehate: Pete Frame's Ink Links and Monetizing Music

Okay, right off, if you don't know who Pete Frame is, let me drop some science on you (I feel so lame saying that!)

I first discovered Pete Frame through my love of 70's progressive rock. Frame became known for laying out elaborate family trees of musicians and bands to throughout different lineups and generations. 60's and 70's music was almost incestuous in nature. The concept of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon as it relates to film, could almost be distilled down to the Two or Three Degrees of Bill Bruford or John Wetton when it comes to progressive rock. But Frame laid out every type of pop music: folk, rock, funk, metal, etc..

The great thing about rock family trees is they told a story. If you had a favorite guitar player or drummer and wanted to find out where they came from, you could go to a family tree and track their career back to bands you'd never heard of before. Such a journey opened up the possibilities to music you never knew existed but were willing to take a chance on buying a cassette or album due to the tenuous links set out before you on paper. The ink link had become a recommendation engine that was based on career tracking of musicians.

I'll never forget when the first Asia album came out and the geek in me fell hypnotized to the Roger Dean fantasy dragon on the cover and hearing about this supergroup of musicians I had never heard of before. I had no older siblings and never was initiated into much of the music of the early 70s. My formative years were spent listening to AM radio and top 40 hits. But when that Asia album broke, and it was the biggest selling album of 1982, I fell in love with it and started to research this supergroup's origins. With no world wide web or older siblings to turn to, I happened upon Pete Frame's book of Rock Family Trees.

I learned that Asia was comprised of Steve Howe from Yes, Carl Palmer from Emerson Lake and Palmer, Geoff Downes from the Buggles [remember Video Killed the Radio Star?] and John Wetton from almost every other 70's group combined. I also learned that Yes had a ridiculous amount of lineup changes from the early to late 70s which included Bill Bruford who went on to play drums for King Crimson with John Wetton. Geoff Downes was in the Buggles with Trevor Horn (who would soon produce Frankie Goes to Hollywood), but before that they joined Steve Howe in Yes for a single album. Carl Palmer had played with crazy psychedelic outfits like The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster before joining Emerson Lake and Palmer. ELP's Greg Lake came originally from King Crimson which, after he left, counted John Wetton and Bill Bruford among its members (this surrounding a short stint Bruford did with Genesis). Lake ended up touring with Asia on a Japanese tour in 1983 for an ailing Wetton. Wetton also played with Roxy Music and Uriah Heep. Keith Emerson played with a band called The Nice before ELP and The Nice's Davy O'List joined a band called Refugee with Patrick Moraz (who also played with Yes for an album). Rick Wakeman of Yes also played with The Strawbs, and Alan White, who took over on drums for Bill Bruford, played with John Lennon, Eric Clapton and friends in the Plastic Ono Band.

Before wikipedia or the worldwide web, I had an incredible two page resource that distilled down the stories of dozens of musicians into a digestible format. I went on a spending spree buying up all the used albums I could find. Pete Frame had unwittingly become the Digg of the early 80s. If music companies want a tool that would be great to take digital music into the future, they should join together to allow users to generate their own family trees. One could track their favorite band back through time, or sideways through side projects to discover new artists. I suppose one of the biggest problems with modern music is that we'd have to eliminate the "feat." appearances from many modern recordings lest the connections become too unwieldy. And I also fear that most teenagers today have lost the ability and desire to commit to a band's infrastructure, much less an entire CD or discography. And I know that iTunes has a Genius and Amazon has a "people who've bought this have also bought" section at the bottom of every page, but these systems don't tell a story. They don't give a musician's evolution. I would always prefer discovering something on my own (or at least have the illusion of it) than buying related goods just because other people have.

Wherefore art thou Pete Frame. Music needs you again.

lovehate: Nick Carter - Killmaster

If you are a regular reader of lovehatethings, the blog, or the lovehate podcasts, you know that eclectic nostalgia is often the order of the day. Sometime in the late 80s I got hooked on a series of pulp espionage books called the Killmaster series, all written under the pseudonym of Nick Carter who was also the main character and, thus, also the Killmaster. Nick Carter (not the Backstreet Boy) actually evolved from a serial detective character starting in the late 19th century.

"Nick Carter first appeared in a dime novel entitled The Old Detective's Pupil; or, The Mysterious Crime of Madison Square on September 18, 1886. This novel was written by John R. Coryell from a story by Ormond G. Smith, the son of one of the founders of Street & Smith. In 1915, Nick Carter Weekly became Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine. In the 1930s, due to the success of The Shadow and Doc Savage, Street & Smith revised Nick Carter as a hero pulp that ran from 1933 to 1936. Novels featuring Carter continued to appear through the 1950s, by which time there was also a popular radio show, Nick Carter, Master Detective, which aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System network from 1943 to 1955."

I, however, was not a fan of Nick Carter the Detective. Instead, I became a fan of Nick Carter, secret agent N3 of AXE (not the body spray, but an underground US government agency). Reborn through the explosion of Fleming's Bond books and films in the 60s, the 261 Killmaster novels ran from Run Spy Run in 1964 to Dragon Slay in 1990. With most plots inspired by Cold War paranoia, Carter took on the Soviets, the Chinese, and any other maniacal mastermind who was a threat to the United States. The stories always involved plenty of violence, mostly perpetrated by Carter himself, using his three main weapons: "Wilhelmina, is a stripped down German Luger. The knife, Hugo, is a pearl handled stiletto. The blade retracts into the handle, and the whole thing is worn on a special sheath on the wrist, designed to release the knife into the user's hand with a simple muscle contraction. The third member of the triad, Pierre, the poison gas bomb, is a small egg shaped device, normally carried as a "third testicle" at his scrotum. Activated with a simple twist, it would, within seconds, kill anybody, or anything, that breathed its odorless and colourless gas." Oh yeah! Good times! Testicular gas bomb!

Oh, and by the way, there was also plenty of gratuitous sex with foreign and friendly agents alike, that was all characterized by writing better suited for Penthouse Forum than a fine piece of literature like Killmaster.

I happened upon a few of the books by accident in used book stores because, as the cover price was so cheap due to quality and age, and used book stores often based prices on a small percentage of the cover price for pulp fiction, I could buy scads of them each month for only a few dollars. They were a hell of a lot cheaper than comic books once The Dark Knight blew the lid off that era and everything went "arty". Almost as soon as I'd given up ever finding more of them in my local bookstores, eBay came on the scene, and I could buy boxes of 50 titles for $20. That's some low-budget entertainment! Considering it only takes a few hours to get through a Killmaster offering, I found myself bringing them on planes and for short hotel stays. I could get through an entire novel with time to spare during a flight to Vegas.

I'm certainly not claiming that the Killmaster series should be placed in Eliot's Canon, but there is something to be said for the guilty pleasure read. It's why, as much as might like to snicker and look down on adults who read Harry Potter or Twilight novels, I do have to pull back and admit some perspective is necessary. The Reader Response theory approach to writing was never so evident with a revisiting of retro pulp novels. Why should I like them? Why do I like them? What do I bring to the reading experience that allows me to generate meaning from the hackneyed plotlines and one-dimensional characters? I suppose once cheap, available, action-spy-sex romp is put to the side and all you're left with is the text - who could pass up a testicular gas bomb named Pierre? Wait a sec! Pee... Air... Oh Killmaster, you slay me.

lovehate: How Patrick Swayze Cost Me My Job

I don't think it's uncommon for many teenagers to grow up thinking that a job in a music or video store as being somewhat cool. You get to surround yourself with pop culture all day, every day, and (at least when I was growing up) had the ability to exercise that music snobbery so effectively portrayed by the clerks in High Fidelity or Empire Records.

And for a period of time, I had the opportunity to work in a video store when I was around 18 years old and going to university. While I enjoyed the job immensely, and planned on staying there for a period of time, I never thought that Patrick Swayze would cost me my job.

In as much as the part-time staff at a video store is made up of students trying to make supplemental education money, and the full-time staff (save the occasional owner/operator) is someone who is there as a way station, the average employee really lives by the basic tenet of: do as little as you can while still pulling in the minimum wage salary that's keeping you out of a fast food kitchen. From this general rule comes a couple of key realities: 1) anyone who shows any initiative whatsoever is a likely candidate for assistant manager, and 2) 15 to 18 year-old guys only show initiative for one thing, and it's not organizing a VHS inventory "fun day".

And so it came to pass that I was working in a video where the two "adult" managers had decided that the two "assistant" managers would be teenage girls. Now, let it be clear that I never coveted the job or begrudged the young women forced to oversee the occasional evening shift of the general ne'er-do-wells. I was quite happy slumming at the register, restocking the shelves or feasting on a slice of greasy pizza for dinner on the picnic table out back.

The one thing that did absolutely drive me insane however, was that both of the assistant manager were absolutely in LOVE with all things Dirty Dancing. When they worked the film played non-stop, sometimes for eight hours a shift. Maybe Bill Medley had the time of his life recording soundtrack fodder for the trite piece of cinematic drivel that was Dirty Dancing. But I wanted to sharpen a pencil and jam it in my ear after the third hour. I worked there for a year and the film never changed. Dirty Dancing from shift beginning to shift end whenever the young women were "managing". If enough of us ganged up and whined enough, we could arrange the occasional showing of Adventures in Babysitting when they went off on break... not much better I know, but a far cry from Swayze and Baby.

I soon learned that Swayze was the real culprit. For soon after the onslaught began Patrick Swayze pictures and posters started going up in the break room and magazines with his picture were left conspicuously under the register. I, through a complete lack of tactless honesty, had let it be known of my distaste for the film and everything to do with it. I could, therefore, never get away with destroying the store's dozens of copies or mangling the posters.

I would have to assert my revenge in another way.

You're probably wondering, at this point, how Swayze actually cost my job.

There was an unwritten rule in the store that once someone put a tape in, it would be allowed to finish. The tape choice was also decided by store rank. While I never was around long enough to hold such a position, the only time I had say over which tape was in the machine was 8:30am Sunday morning. The overnight guy was cashing out and I manned the front counter alone for half an hour before the "assistant managers" came in to help with the ongoing build of the post-church crowd that crescendoed around noon. One of those mornings I scoured the store, not only for something that I could live with, and was rated PG or lower, but something that disgust and revolt any of the Dirty Devotees.

I settled on a concert film. I settled on Pink Floyd at Pompeii.

For six glorious months of Sunday mornings I cranked the volume to eleven and freaked out many a church-goer and their children to the demonic strains of One Of These Days I'm Going To Cut You Into Little Pieces and Careful With That Axe Eugene. The psychedelic volcanoes exploding over the Italian ruins were enough send many a customer away from whichever section was nearby. I have to give credit to my assistant managers as they clearly hated my weekly selection, but respected the unwritten law. Although I knew I was in for three straight showings of DD when Floyd was done, Pompeii gave me a sense of poetic justice.

And we all were quite willing to grin and bear it until one Sunday morning the "adult" manager came in early and saw David Gilmour playing an acoustic guitar while a dog howled accompaniment in a studio clip. Said manager decreed that Pink Floyd at Pompeii was not an appropriate film to be shown at nine o'clock on a Sunday morning. 

I calmly retorted that "Dirty Dancing was not an appropriate film to be shown to anyone with an I.Q. above 50, yet I was forced to watch it three times a shift."  

He replied, "No one's making you watch it. You should be working anyway."

I tried to argue that my productivity suffered at having to be lulled into a soma-like trance by the horrible sappy music and hackneyed storyline.

He stammered that I should really consider if I truly wanted to be a proud family member of the store's staff.

Turns out... "no".

If it wasn't for Patrick Swayze's hunky good looks to all the teenage girls, I could've been king of the video store... not the most impressive title for sure, but how many kings do you know?

thinglets: 10 Obscure Prog Rock LPs Crated Downstairs

Felt nostalgic yet again and flipped through a crate of old vinyl in the basement. I was such a HUGE prog rock fan in high school and university that I would buy almost anything tied to prog family trees. Considering some of the branches that one could reach to through Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, and Emerson Lake and Palmer, it really wasn't too difficult to get sucked in. Here are some of the more "obscure" prog albums I own, although depending on where your from, they may have been your "local" prog band. I almost ALWAYS bought used. Enjoy!

Mainhorse - Mainhorse

Tai Phong - Tai Phong

Pallas - The Sentinel

Grobschnitt - Jumbo

Lucifer's Friend - Banquet

Triumvirat - Illusions on a Double Dimple

Omega - Live at the Kisstadion

Camel - I Can See Your House From Here

Nektar - Recycled

Van Der Graaf Generator - H to He Who Am The Only One

thinglets: Eleven Freakiest General Mills Cereal Characters

(In no specific order - thanks to Topher's Cereal Character Guide for pics and info)

The Lucky Charms Leprechaun

Not because he looked any freakier than any other leprechaun, but more the pervy way he was after MY Lucky Charms all the time.

Okay, all the Monster Cereals by General Mills were infinitely cool and hold a nostalgic place in my memory. I even set up a Facebook page in their honor. And while they were all creepy, Frankenberry was the most freaky. Frankenstein's monster had nothing on the pink, doughy-looking, metamorphosis that was Frankenberry.

Sir Grapefellow and Baron Von Redberry
Let's celebrate WWI flying aces with crazy fruit cereal. If I don't like the cereal, will they be strafing my front lawn?

Crazy Cow
This bi-polar buck-toothed freakshow would turn your milk chocolate or strawberry depending on which side it/they were facing - Sybil anyone? 

Colonel Corn Burst and Hattie the Alligator
What demented mind put this pair together? You've got a crudely-drawn alligator that's about to turn its head and swallow a microscopic adventurer. Either of these characters would be freaky enough in their own right. Together they're a total "corny" burst.

Cheeri O'Leary and Joe Idea
A demented beauty pageant tart and a boy who looks like he's got a John Merrick thing going on... yeah, that'll sell me Cheerios!

Mr. Wonderfull
From Mr. Wonderfull's Surprize Cereal, not only did he preach the doctrine of incorrect spelling, but here's a perv that needs be put into a registry before he moves into your neighborhood.

Magic Hat
Cool beer. Psychotropic-induced cereal character. Don't take the brown acid folks.

thinglets: Electra Woman and Dyna Girl meet Leonardo Da Vinci

A wicked retro trip back to Saturday morning in the 70s. The Krofft Supershow had a host of cheesy parts that made up the epic entertainment experience, but perhaps the cheesiest was Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. And as the post title indicates, in this clip they follow the Sorcerer who's bent on traveling through time to steal the Mona Lisa from Leonardo Da Vinci.

Start digging on the wrist communicators - you KNOW you want one!