Tuesday, 17 September 2013

11 September 2013 Dr Sketchy Set List

/ Cult movie actress / burlesk artist / convicted felon / naive outsider painter / gangster's moll ... the fabulous Liz Renay (1926 - 2007) /

For this Dr Sketchy, Frankie Von Flirter and Violet Strangelove performed and modeled, and the cadaverously elegant Dusty Limits injected a bit of Weimar Republic decadence into proceedings as emcee.

As usual, when the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was dark, candle-lit and gradually filling-up I cast a pagan and taboo spell with some ethereal Mondo Tiki tropical lounge music (the operatic ululations of Peruvian high priestess Yma Sumac, Les Baxter, Martin Denny), gradually cranking up the tempo (and lowering the tone) with bump-and-grind titty shakers and greasy rhythm and blues.  

At Dr Sketchy I also aim for a touch of Continental sophistication, and love to drop in some foreign language exotica. On this night the musical globe-trotting encompassed Japanese (Eartha Kitt’s ultra-kitsch Japanese language version of Rosemary Clooney’s "Come-On-A My House" from her essential 1965 Eartha Kitt in Person at The Plaza live album; a Little Richard cover by the Japanese Elvis, Masaaki Hirao) and even more French chansons than usual, via Brigitte Bardot, Anouk Aimee, Juliette Greco and gravel-voiced German diva Hildegard Knef crooning en francais.

Elsewhere, I also amused myself by weaving in some conceptual / thematic musical connections. For example, I paid tribute to two of my favourite filmmakers: John Waters (by playing a track each by two of his wonderful character actress stalwarts Edith Massey and Mink Stole) and David Lynch (a song from his ghostly angel-voiced chanteuse Julee Cruise; Milt Bruckner’s sleazy instrumental “The Beast” featured in Lynch’s 2001 film Mulholland Drive).  Later on I offered a musical valentine to the divine Jayne Mansfield (my patron saint) by playing “I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield” by Japanese girl band The 5,6,7,8s followed by “That Makes It!” by Mansfield herself (she coos this song in the 1966 B-movie The Las Vegas Hillbillys).

/ "Oooh baby that makes it!" I've almost certainly posted this clip from The Las Vegas Hillbillys already but hell - it's a rancid classick! /

/ The regal Queen Mutha of Rock'n'Roll Little Richard in the 1960s /

I also worked in a topical honour to the perennially fierce Bronze Liberace Little Richard (the king and queen of rock’n’roll) by playing Masaaki Hirao’s Japanese language interpretation of “Lucille” (it rocks!) followed by perhaps the Georgia Peach’s own definitive statement, “The Girl Can’t Help It.” As you've probably already heard, Little Richard announced his retirement last week and reportedly intends to spend his remaining days praying and designing clothes. I revere Little Richard as one of rock’s true pioneering wild men (and someone who injected an unapologetic queer sensibility into rock’s DNA). But when I saw him headline at the 2013 Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender (you can read my account here) it was a mesmerising but messy and bittersweet car crash of a concert. 80-year old Little Richard (wheelchair-bound and visibly and audibly ailing) was clearly a performer in decline. For me, this announcement is therefore a relief. His legacy is certainly secure. Let’s hope Little Richard is able to enjoy a serene and well-deserved retirement. 

/ Masaaki Hirao: The face of Japanese Rockabilly /

Back to Masaaki Hirao: I recently acquired an Ace compilation CD of his material called Nippon Rock’n’Roll: The Birth of Japanese Rokabirii 1958 – 1960, containing what the liner notes accurately describe as “raw late 50s live and studio rockers from Japan’s answer to Elvis.” Backed by his crack band All Stars Wagon, Hirao certainly tears through desperate and genuinely tough cover versions of rock’n’roll standards like “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Little Darling” and “Jenny Jenny” with verve, style and conviction (usually with the verses in Japanese and the choruses in English), while on heartbreak ballads his teen idol voice soars and throbs sweetly. I live for shit like this! The liner notes give a concise and fascinating social history of the rise and rise of the rockabilly (or rokabirii as it's called in Japanese) subculture in late 1950s Japan.  (I've learned some useful phrases: for example, rokabirii buumu means “rockabilly boom”; rokabirii zoku means “rockabilly tribe”). The Japanese variation of rockabilly was inevitably distinctive due to both social and musical factors, shaped by its own unique challenges. How, for example, to rebel in a tradition-steeped, conformist culture with a great emphasis on respecting your elders? In terms of roots, Japan obviously had no black American Rhythm & Blues tradition to draw on – but it did have jazz, and a surprising amount of Country and Western bands clad in cowboy garb that had formed to entertain American GIs during the post-WWII occupation, ready to be pressed into action as rock’n’roll combos once popular tastes changed. Wanda Jackson’s “Fujiyama Mama” had been a surprise Japanese hit in 1957 (surely Japanese audiences would have found that song tasteless?); American juvenile delinquent films like Blackboard Jungle and Rebel without a Cause caused a sensation amongst the teen-aged Japanese rokabirii zoku – all paving the way for Masaaki Hirao’s emergence as the face of Japanese rokabirii (and a very pretty face at that). Anyway, I can’t recommend the CD highly enough. Read more about it and listen to some snatches of it on the Ace website. 

Further reading: An attendee of this Dr Sketchy posted this lovely blog about the night. Check it out - it incorporates some great photos of Frankie Von Flirter and a scantily-clad Violet Strangelove (Minnie Mouse has never looked kinkier!). For regular injections of NSFW kitsch, homoerotica and vintage sleaze, follow me on tumblr

Jungle Madness - Martin Denny
Tuma (Earthquake) - Yma Sumac
Misirlou - Martin Denny
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Lust - Les Baxter with Bas Sheva
Kizmiaz - The Cramps
Mamma's Place - Bing Day
Egg Man - Edith Massey
Sometimes I Wish I Had a Gun - Mink Stole
Drive-In - The Jaguars
One Monkey Don't Stop No Show - Big Maybelle
Little Queenie - The Bill Black Combo
Where's My Money? Willie Jones
Night Walk - The Swingers
Eight Ball - The Hustlers
I Can't Sleep - Tini Williams and The Skyliners
Wiped Out - The Escorts
I Love the Life I Live - Esquerita
Treat Me Right - Mae West
Night Scene - The Rumblers
Mambo Baby - Ruth Brown
She Wants to Mambo - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
Bombora - The Original Surfaris
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Little Miss Understood - Connie Stevens
Je Me Donne a Qui Me Plait - Brigitte Bardot
Accentuate the Positive - The Bill Black Combo
Come-On-A My House - Eartha Kitt (in Japanese)
La Java Partout - Juliette Greco
La fille de Hambourg - Hildegard Knef
Hand Clapping Time - The Fabulous Raiders
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Welfare Cheese - Emanuel Laskey
Tina's Dilemma - Ike and Tina Turner
Boss - The Rumblers
No Good Lover - Mickey and Sylvia
Lola - Anouk Aimee
Lazy - The Nuns
You're My Thrill (instrumental) - Chet Baker
Up in Flames - Julee Cruise
The Beast - Milt Buckner
Bachelor in Paradise - Ann-Margret
Angel Face - Billy Fury
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Dragon Walk - The Noble Men
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Cooler Weather (Is A-Comin') - Eddie Weldon
The Big Bounce - Shirley Caddell

Sunday, 8 September 2013

6 September 2013 Lobotomy Room Set List

/ Pure distilled essence of Lobotomy Room in human form: cult film actress, burlesque icon and convicted felon Liz Renay (1926 - 2007) /

/ Flyer by Joe Pop: Divine as unrepentant bad girl and career criminal Dawn Davenport in the John Waters classick Female Trouble (1974)  /

From the Facebook events page:

Luxuriate in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll ... at the fifth ever LOBOTOMY ROOM!
A Mondo Trasho evening of Bad Music for Bad People! Rockabilly Psychosis! Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk Cretin Hops! Kitsch! Exotica! Curiosities and other Weird Shit! 
Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs The Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell (Dr Sketchy London’s resident DJ). Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock!

With special musical guests the ferocious early Sixties-style Beat band JANEY and THE RAVEMEN (line-up including ex-members of The Kaisers and The Rapiers, and fronted by alluring beehive-with-a-voice rhythm & blue angel Janey). With their raucous Joe Meek-drenched sound, these winkle pinkered Beat merchants will rock you back to 1964 and make you dance your ass off in the process, you krazy kittens!
And admission is gratuit! (That’s French for FREE!)

For this Lobotomy Room (the fifth!), Janey and The Ravemen and support band The Teamsters jet propelled everyone back to Hamburg’s gritty early 1960s neon-lit Star-Club with their frantic, twang-y amphetamine-induced rhythm-and-Beat hullabaloo. And the audience reacted by contorting themselves into a twisting frenzy! How could they not? Resistance was futile!

/ Beauty and The Beat: Janey and her Ravemen  /

/ Beehive-with-a-voice: First Lady of Beat, Janey /

Like any club promoter would say, the night would have been improved by a few more people (the usually thronging Curtain Road was weirdly deserted that night. I usually do Lobotomy Rooms at Paper Dress Vintage on a Saturday night; maybe Fridays are a bit more low-key? Due to the early start, I was anticipating after work drinkers!). And I needed a group of drunk girls dancing to make things properly ignite, and the drunk girls I can usually rely on were seemingly disoriented and confused or at least MIA this Lobotomy Room. Ah, well. The loyal hip elite in attendance certainly embraced the spirit of things, so I can’t truly complain.

With two bands on the bill this time, my DJ’ing set was shorter than usual. I mostly alternated between sleazy, grinding titty shaking instrumentals and raw 1950s and 60s rhythm and blues. Obscure foreign language cover versions (a Singaporean girl group rampage through Millie’s “My Boy Lollipop”? Johnny Hallyday’s franglais attack on Lulu’s “Shout”? Why not?!), a desperate Ike and Tina Turner wig-out and at least one song by white lipsticked and bullet bra’d atomic-era sex kitten Ann-Margret are compulsory for any Lobotomy Room. (BTW: Janey and The Ravemen earn extra hipness points by covering Ann-Margret’s “I Just Don’t Understand” on their debut CD Stay Away from Boys – so it all comes full circle!).

Now look at the pictures. With your eyes ...

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Lobotomy Room 6 Sept 13 012

/ Janey and I /

Lobotomy Room 6 Sept 13 013

/ They look like trouble, but they're OK really. L-R: Simon (seated under the vintage hair dryer), DJ, artist and club promoter Joe Pop (who designed this Lobotomy Room flyer) and James /

Lobotomy Room 6 Sept 13 016

/ Bad boys for life: Christopher and Pal /

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/ The Teamsters /

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/ Janey and Johnny of The Ravemen /

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/ Author, man-about-town and all-round silver fox Jonathan Kemp and Joe Pop /

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/ Janey and The Ravemen in action /

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/ Twisting frenzy!/

Lobotomy Room 6 Sept 13 025

/ Artistically blurred twisting frenzy! (My geriatric digital camera can't cope with available light) /


/ This stylish, bearded and enigmatic heartthrob had a few admirers! And one of 'em (a friend who shall remain nameless) took this grainy surreptitious photo with his phone /

Further reading: see more photos from the night on my flickr page. For regular updates of raunch, homoerotica, kitsch and vintage sleaze, follow me on tumblrRead about earlier Lobotomy Rooms here, herehere and here.

Slow Walk - Sil Austin
Boots - Nero and The Gladiators
One Monkey Don't Stop No Show - Big Maybelle
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
You're Humbuggin' Me - Lefty Frizzell
Scorpion - The Carnations
The Ballad of Thunder Road - Robert Mitchum
Sweet Little Pussycat - Andre Williams
Sick and Tired - Lula Reed
Snow Surfin' Matador - Mickey and Ludella
Bombora - The Original Surfaris
Hoy Hoy - The Collins Kids
Vesuvius - The Revels
Beat Generation - Mamie Van Doren
Beaver Shot - The Hollywood Hurricanes
Rawhide - Link Wray
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
Khrushchev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Intoxica - The Centurions
The Mexican - The Fentones
Makin' Out - Jody Reynolds
Lover Boy - Gene Wyatt
Love Potion # 9 - Nancy Sit
Don't Be Cruel - The Bill Black Combo
Peter Gunn Twist - The Jesters
Comin' Home, Baby - The Delmonas
Where's My Money? - Willie Jones
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Welfare Cheese - Emanuel Laskey
Tina's Dilemma - Ike and Tina Turner
Margaya - The Fender Four
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
Teenage Lobotomy - The Ramones
Ring of Fire - Earls of Suave
Shout - Johnny Hallyday
My Boy Lollipop - Sakura and The Quests
Last Call for Whiskey - Choker Campbell

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Anna Sten: A Noble Failure

/ Exquisite Russian actress Anna Sten (1908-1993) in the film Nana (1934) /
"Prior to the advent of Dietrich, studios had been scrambling for a Garbo in their backlot. Now they wanted a Dietrich as well. Browless, languid, chain-smoking creatures poured into Hollywood from every corner of the globe. If they weren't born with a foreign accent, they quickly acquired one. They appeared through screens of cigarette smoke and vanished into them as quickly as they arrived … Hollywood talent scouts rummaged through Europe, returning with waves of exotics in their tow. In the search for substitutes many talented actresses were sacrificed."
From the book Marlene Dietrich by John Kobal (1968)
"Accents have always had it tough in Tinseltown. For every Garbo and Dietrich there are dozens of Franciska Gaals from The Buccaneer and from Hungary. That faraway quality in their voices sent them far away after casting directors ran out of foreign outposts in which to station them. (Samuel) Goldwyn tried hard with Anna Sten, or Anna Stench, as she was known to his stockholders. He spent a fortune promoting Sten, but in glamorizing her he buried her natural beauty under doll-like make-up. She’s remembered as a famous flop, Goldwyn’s very own Edsel.”
From the book Flesh and Fantasy by Penny Stallings (1978)

In an ideal world, Sten would be remembered as a radiant, sensitive, fragile and intense actress who was unlucky to be constantly unfavorably compared to Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich (who could measure up to them?). John Kobal would recall how Sten “… spoke in a series of semicolons and dashes, pauses that reflected the Russian soul of this half-Swedish actress who was the method in the eye of the method.” Her key Hollywood vehicles Nana (1934), We Live Again (1934) and The Wedding Night (1935) were all commercial failures, but they’re interesting failures and worth catching.

Above: Sten crooning the sultry torch song "That's Love" in Nana. It's fascinating to see how she's been painstakingly coached to mimic Marlene Dietrich (the world-weary half-spoken delivery, taking insolent drags from the smoldering cigarette) - and yet her own charisma shines through.

Update: tragically, the beautiful clip above has since been deleted! Try watching it here.