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Soundtrack to Watergate Vol. 2: Pirates, Angels, Dinosaurs, Gas Masks — and Ziggy Again

If Donald Trump gets impeached he’ll leave office to strains of excess and decadence — think of the Jonas Brothers copping to “dancing on top of cars and stumbling out of bars” in “Sucker,” Ariana Grande cavorting amid waterfalls of champagne in “7 Rings,” and Lil Nas X’s genre whiplashing as he makes off with the loot in “Old Town Road,” to name just a very few.

The only time an impeachment forced a U.S. commander in chief from office was after the Watergate scandal, which can be dated roughly from the Watergate burglary in June 1972 until Richard Nixon resigned his office, a little more than two years later.

The ads in our second installment of “Soundtrack to Watergate” are all full-pagers — and mostly right-hand pages at that, because advertisers pay a premium to snag eyeballs on the side of a spread that readers see for a few extra nanoseconds as they flip through a periodical. Back in 1972, the Watergate scandal was simply a police blotter report that Republicans were dismissing as a “third-rate burglary,” even though the perps had ties directly to the White House. A number of the ads here feature a logo with the stars of the American flag replaced by the number 18, signifying the voting age, which had recently been reduced from 21, along with the exhortation “Use the Power — VOTE.”

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Nixon, a buttoned-down Quaker who was the antithesis of the counterculture that most of the albums trumpeted, would win in a landslide in November, which relieved his innate paranoia for a few months until the drip-by-drip revelations of his administration’s SOP corruption, self-dealing, and obstruction of justice became a deluge that even his staunchest supporters could no longer explain away.

We have to admit there’s a lot of music below that, almost half a century on, we had never heard before, even though the record companies back in the day thought they were worth an expensive ad buy. So we’ve plunged down a number of streaming-service rabbit holes to bring ourselves up to speed on the flea-market vinyl below.

Much of the archive scanning work here was done while listening to the Latin-infused rock of Macondo, who, according to various record-collecting sites, were an East L.A. group discovered by Sergio Mendes in the early ’70s. Any album with a T-Rex on the cover deserves a listen, and we were not disappointed by Albert Hernandez’s fire-breathing guitar licks and Fred Ramirez’s rollercoaster organ riffs, especially on “Cayuco.”

Jefferson Airplane recorded their seventh studio album using the time-honored tradition of avoiding personality clashes after years of creative intensity by recording a number of the tracks in separate sessions and then getting the band back together in the final mix. Perhaps the pirate in the ad was drooling over the cigars printed on the album sleeve.

Looking Glass gave the world “Brandy” — “a fine girl” who served whiskey and wine and whose eyes “could steal a sailor from the sea.” Not, however, the one seaman she really wanted, because, “Lord, he was an honest man / and Brandy does her best to understand” when he —most probably in a pillow-talk whisper — informs her, “my life, my love and my lady is the sea / It is, yes it is.” $4.49 for the 8-Track at Sam Goody.

Despite the innocent-looking cherub hawking their new album, Black Oak Arkansas was upfront about delivering “more raunchy rock from the good ol’ country boys.” With songs of nightriders in trucks and on horseback, you might get the impression that these southern boys were into raising some serious hell.

Jack Nitzsche worked with everyone from Phil Spector to Neil Young to the Stones. He also did the soundtrack to the film Performance, which featured Mick Jagger and James Fox as, respectively, a rocker and a gangster who eventually meet on a higher plane. Perhaps writing the choral arrangement for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” prepared Nitzsche for his collaboration with another breed of “long-haired friends,” when he recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in an ancient London church with the sonorous name “St. Giles Cripplegate.”

Tina Turner leaps across the ad for Feel Good, and with the exception of a cover of Lennon and McCartney’s “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” she also wrote all of the songs for her and then husband Ike’s 17th (!) studio album.

The Hollies had a top-ten hit with “Long Cool Woman,” which pulled their album Distant Light to No. 21 on Billboard magazine’s charts. For fans of the Hipgnosis design studio, the gatefold album cover — featuring Boschlike grotesqueries in the depths of a bucolic pond — made the $3.77 tab go down easier.

According to Billboard, covering the 1972 release of Phoenix, “Grand Funk have by now attained an almost permanent place in rock’s hierarchy. They have legions of devoted, ready followers at every performance and lining up to buy their every album.” However, as the website superseventies.com notes, Lester Bangs, reviewing the album in Rolling Stone, was having none of it: “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with mediocrity or cliché — could you or I have written ‘Sugar, Sugar’? — but when mediocrity loses all its flair, all its panache, becomes this bland and this pompous at the same time . . . it’s time for some Chuck Berry.”

Herbie Mann’s flute (and David “Fathead” Newman’s sax) cover much musical terrain here, beginning with the traditional spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and concluding with a rock standard for the ages, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The ad’s illustration reinforces aspirations both high and low.

Take your pick that fall of 1972: Roberta Flack and Quincy Jones in September, The Fifth Dimension hitting the stage near Thanksgiving, with Bowie, Elton, America (of “A Horse With No Name” fame), and other chart toppers in between. Top ticket price was $8.50 for Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey), who once told the Hollywood Reporter, “I can hit notes a bank could not cash.”

According to the ad copy, Bonnie Raitt was a balladeering belter who’d been described as “earthy and innocent, winsome and whiskey-headed.” When asked for her own opinion, Raitt told the ad agency that her “batting average for the summer is something over .250.” Considering that this propulsive collection of rocking blues filigreed with New Orleans brass accents landed on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, we’d say she was swinging an even hotter bat back then.

Tim Buckley (1947–1975), whose music ranged from jazz to all manner of rock into funk, poses with a gas mask in the full-page ad for Greetings from L.A. A postcard of the City of Angels blanketed in smog on the album cover gives an idea of the down and dirty tunes on the vinyl.

Prog rock was ascendant in the early 70s, and it doesn’t get much more proggy than Curved Air’s synthesizer solos accompanying the Renaissance-festival-like vocals of lead singer Sonja Kristina on Phatasmagoria’s “Marie Antoinette.” The ad copy beneath the undulating logo reads “The one group that might be too good for America.” Indeed, these folky Brits hit No. 20 in the UK, but Phantasmagoria didn’t chart in the states.

Spokane, Washington, native Danny O’Keefe, on the other hand, hit it big with his single “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” which pulled his LP, O’Keefe, up to No. 87 on the album charts. The single has long since been etched into the pop pantheon, having been covered by artists from Waylon Jennings to Mel Torme to the King himself, Elvis Presley. The world-weariness of one particular verse has resonated with different singers; the original, “Ya know my heart keeps tellin’ me / ‘You’re not a kid at thirty-three’ / Ya play around, ya lose your wife / Ya play too long, you lose your life,’ “ gains a decade in Charlie Rich’s telling, the country maestro figuring he’s finally grown up at age 43.

If you had dreams of stardom back in ’72 you could’ve done worse than to head over to the former Fillmore East on Second Avenue and audition for . . . well, since they were seeking not just your standard-issue actors, jugglers, and fire-eaters but also “Dancing Bears,” “Aging Astronauts,” and “Animal Tamers and Big Namers,” we’re just sorry we weren’t around to see what kind of show they were putting together.

If hard rock was your jam, then Ramatam fit the bill. The band featured some established heavyweights, such as drummer Mitch Mitchell, late of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and former Iron Butterfly guitarist Mike Pinera. The quintet also featured a rarity for that time — a hard-rocking female guitarist. April Lawton (1948–2006) was a Long Island native who some hailed as the female Hendrix, but although Ramatam’s second album sported the enticing, semi-eponymous title In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns, the band never caught the whirlwind.

If it was sun you were seeking, you could at least get it on vinyl in a two-record set capturing the “Mar y Sol” festival, held earlier that year in Puerto Rico. The eclectic gang had all been there, ranging from B.B. King, the Allman Brothers, Dr. John, and J. Geils to the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

And speaking of the prog gods, ELP was also promoting their own album at the time, Trilogy, which featured, among other virtuosic instrumentals, the trio’s take on an American classic, Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown.” The album hit No. 5 on the Billboard charts, though Voice music critic Robert Christgau bluntly disagreed: “The pomposities of Tarkus and the monstrosities of the Moussorgsky homage clinch it — these guys are as stupid as their most pretentious fans. Really, anybody who buys a record that divides a . . . composition called ‘The Endless Enigma’ into two discrete parts deserves it. C-”

And if you didn’t get enough of the J. Geils Band on the “Sea and Sun” discs, you could buy their live album Full House, which featured a winking Queen to let you know the hand was actually only a three-of-a-kind. More important, the title implied that they could sell out any venue they played.

Geils and crew were indeed bringing their boisterous rock to ever larger audiences, but they still didn’t have the drawing power of Alice Cooper, who was headlining a show at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City. The concert was a big deal — Cooper flaunted his sexuality in a solo ad as the big day drew near — but the venue’s greatest claim to fame came on April 18, 1946, when the home team, the Jersey City Giants, a farm club of the New York Giants across the river, hosted the Montreal Royals. The Royals trounced the Giants 14 to 1, but anyone who was there was undoubtedly impressed with the debut of the Brooklyn Dodger’s farm team’s second baseman, Jackie Robinson, who had four hits in five trips to the plate, including a three-run homer.

Another megastar coming to town was less abrasive than Alice Cooper: John Denver was promoting his album (and single) Rocky Mountain High. Carnegie Hall had probably never felt vaster.

Then again, in the same week, that storied music venue would also host Ziggy Stardust. And he’d come all the way from Mars.

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ASSEMBLE YOUR CRÜE

Going to see Alice Cooper in Atlantic City when you’re ten-years-old, we can attest, kind of messes up your idea of what a concert should be for the rest of your life. Basically anything that doesn’t involve wild stage theatrics, varied pyrotechnics, giant animatronic Frankensteins, live boa constrictors, and blood raining down over the first few rows seems downright dull. What we’re saying is, expect a show from “The Godfather of Shock Rock” (who claims to have gotten his wholesome-sounding name from a Quija board) when he plays MSG tonight with Mötley Crüe, possibly the hairiest and most umlaut-happy of the hair metal sect. See Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, and the original Crüe play their (alleged) last show in New York. If the Final Tour really is as final as it claims, this is sure to be one for the history books…or Necronomicon, same dif.

Tue., Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m., 2014

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A Band Called Death: A Beautiful Story of Life, Love and Family

By 1975, many acts had walked through the doors of Don Davis’s Groovesville Productions offices in Detroit. None of them were quite like this, a band of three related-by-blood African-American brothers who played louder, faster, and weirder than anything anyone in the city that gave birth to Motown had ever seen. They were called Death, and they were—as the New York Times article that more or less announced them to the world more than 30 years after they’d played their last note together put it—punk before punk was punk.

A band of black brothers inventing punk in Detroit only to be discovered three decades after the fact? It sounds, as Henry Rollins says in the opening of a new film about the band’s moving, hard-to-believe journey, “like a movie.” And so it is. A Band Called Death (Drafthouse Films), out this week, is a beautiful tale of life, love, music, and family, of things not working out but also working out just as predicted.

In it, the brothers Hackney—David, Dannis, and Bobby—watch the Beatles on TV, and become enthralled. They start making music, first naturally mimicking the Motown sound swirling all around them in a band called Rock Fire Funk Express. But the Who hit town and split their minds wide open, especially brother David’s, the guitarist, lyricist, and chief architect of the band’s sound and aesthetic. Now he wants to play chords like Pete Townshend, and solo like Jimi Hendrix.

The three practice in an upstairs room of the house from 3 to 6 p.m. every day on equipment they are only able to afford after a settlement from their mother’s car accident. No one—neighbors, family, friends—appreciates the racket, this “white boy music” coming from the house. But the more everyone complains, the more steadfast the brothers become. They channel the anger into the songs.

Sons of a preacher, they walk the word. One of the biggest tenets in the Hackney house is to always have your brother’s back. And so Bobby and Dannis abide by David’s weird vision for their band, even though they don’t fully understand it.

The Hackney patriarch dies, bringing the family closer. David emerges with a epiphany: The band will be called Death.

Everyone who hears them is either floored or flummoxed, and the rejection letters start coming from major label executives—either of the “we don’t get it” or the “we get it, but the name’s gotta change” variety. One of the biggest names in the latter camp was Clive Davis, who offered the group a $20,000 contract (quite a sum in 1970s Detroit) to lose the name and sign on the dotted line.

David did what many over the years have no doubt wanted to but didn’t have the courage: He told Clive to go to hell.

Dannis and Bobby, though angry, were Hackneys. They had their brother’s back.

If you’ve read the Times article you know what happens next. If you haven’t, giving away the twists and turns the band’s story takes would be a disservice. A Band Called Death directors Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino string the story along nicely through interviews with Dannis and Bobby and the extended Hackney family. David, now deceased, is represented through audiotapes and handwritten diaries, his vision of Death scrapbooked together by his widow, surviving brothers, and nephews. He’d always predicted Death wouldn’t get the recognition they were due until after he was gone, and A Band Called Death is a worthy vehicle for showing how that recognition came to be.

The movie packs quite an emotional and bittersweet wallop along the way, as Dannis and Bobby start to see their dead brother’s vision for Death understood by more and more people the world over.

Along the way, new fans and converts—Questlove, Alice Cooper, Rollins, Kid Rock, Joey Ramone’s brother Mickey Leigh, Elijah Wood (because of course)—attempt to properly contextualize the band, etching out where it belongs historically and describing, as best they can, this most visceral, hair-blown-back wild ride that is the sound of Death. “One day people are going to come looking for this music,” David told his brothers long after the group broke up. A Band Called Death spells out—yells out—why that is.

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ROCK 101

Are you a punk-rocking, forward thinking student with a fascist principal on your back? Well, you can sulk your way through detention, eventually acclimating to the oppressive society of which your school is a microcosm, or you can call the Ramones and blow stuff up. In Rock ’n’ Roll High School (1979), P.J. Soles takes the second route, and it definitely makes for a better movie. As Riff Randell, the biggest Ramones fan at Vince Lombardi High School, she invites Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky (Tommy had left the previous year) to become honorary students and aid the class in the fight for their right to rock. The cult musical by Allan Arkush features all the loud and fast Ramones tunes you’d expect, but also songs from Brian Eno, the MC5, the Velvet Underground, and Alice Cooper, among others. Tonight, Bill Pearis of Brooklyn Vegan hosts a screening with live DJs, trivia, giveaways, and drink specials.

Thu., May 23, 8 p.m., 2013

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Alice Cooper’s Best Songs … According To Alice Cooper

To wrap up his day, guest editor Alice Cooper is sending you off into the frightening night with a list of his favorite songs. His own.

Thanks for everything today, Alice! Don’t worry about the blood stains you left in the office. We’ll have an intern clean them up.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

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Poison

School’s Out

Former Lee Warmer

Welcome To My Nightmare

Ballad Of Dwight Frye

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Go To Hell

Be My Lover

I Am Made Of You

Something To Remember Me By

I’m Eighteen

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Bands Carrying On The Proud Alice Cooper Shock-Rock Tradition … According To Alice Cooper

Today we’re handing the keys to the blog to spook rock pioneer Alice Cooper. Here he talks about a few music artists doing him proud.

By Alice Cooper
See Also:
Ten Creepy Movies That Scare the Hell Out of Alice Cooper
The 25 Creepiest Heavy Metal Album Covers

By Alice Cooper

Rob Zombie
You have to start with Rob Zombie. Rob Zombie’s like my little brother. Live, he’s fantastic. if you’re gonna go see an extravaganza, sort of like a media blitz on your brain, it’s Rob Zombie. He knows his stuff when it comes to all things dark and scary. But he’s got a great sense of humor about it. We went on tour together, and we watched the same movies. He and I (along with Tim Burton) agree, most horror movies are comedies. They’re so over-the-top if you’re not laughing there’s something wrong with you.

Gwar
Gwar! Love Gwar. Gwar is just so over-the-top ridiculous that they’re wonderful. I mean, what band has their own factory where they build their own costumes? You’ve gotta give it to them for taking it to the ultimate limit. They are really out there


Black Veil Brides

There’s one young band out there that’s doing something right: Black Veil Brides. They’re sort of like M&oumltley Cr&uumle/Alice Cooper junior. But they’re a pretty good idea of style and look and everything, sort of like the brand new Sunset Strip. Iif Motley Crue had children, it would be these guys. Sleek, very made-up, very rock ‘n’ roll dark, scary creepy. A good rock ‘n’ roll band. A good, snotty rock ‘n’ roll band.

Marilyn Manson
Marilyn! Marilyn Manson. Marilyn Manson has a built-in creepiness to him that you can’t deny. He’s a modern day modern-day monster, like me and Rob Zombie. We’re sort of the new monsters. Marilyn’s got a pretty good touch for the whole thing.

Trent Reznor
Trent’s great because he’s carrying it, but at the same time he’s kind of futuristically scary, kind of hi-tech scary. In a strange way, anybody you can’t really pin down what they’re doing, that’s always interesting to me. Trent Reznor falls into that category.


 

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Ten Creepy Movies That Scare the Hell Out of Alice Cooper

Suspiria
Suspiria

Today we’re handing the keys to the blog to spook rock pioneer Alice Cooper. Here he talks his favorite creepy movies of all time.

By Alice Cooper
I’ve seen nearly every creepy movie ever made. These stand out.

See Also:

Five Free Full-Length Troma Musicals To Watch This Halloween
The 25 Creepiest Heavy Metal Album Covers

Salem’s Lot

Salem’s Lot! It was directed by Tobe Hooper and it was one of the great vampire movies of all time. I mean, it was truly scary. Barlow, the main vampire, one of the scariest vampire I’ve ever seen. Even to this day. Salem’s Lot. Not the Rob Lowe version, it’s gotta be the one that was from … 1978, I think it was. Really good. And the music is amazing in that movie!

Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls was a black-and-white movie that’s just one of those nightmarish films that stays with you for some reason. There was no lead actor in it. It was about a girl who was going through her life, and she’s dead but she doesn’t know it. There’s a scene where they’re in a ballroom, all these dead people dancing — when I was a kid it was the creepiest movie of all time. It was a real nightmarish movie.

Suspiria

Dario Argento’s Suspiria is definitely one of the great creepy movies of all time.

Feast I, II, and III

If you’re just right down into pure gore, then I think you’ve gotta go with the Feast series. It was three movies: Feast I, Feast II (Sloppy Seconds), and Feast III (The Happy Finish). It’s just they’re so over-the-top that it’s unbelievable. When you think you’ve seen the grossest thing, there’s something else coming.

The Haunting

The Haunting! The original Haunting, though, not the one with Catherine Zeta-Jones, the one with Julie Harris. One of those scary movies where you never see the monster, but that’s what’s so terrifying about it. It’s really well-shot too!

Contemporary Movies

Most of the scary movies I like are old, because I think, with CGI and green screen, today’s movies feel a bit like cheating. Back when they were making really scary movies is when they didn’t have the advantage of green screen. And that’s what I kind of liked about those movies — they really had to prey on your imagination. But as far as new movies? I like …

30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night. What a great idea: you’re in an Alaskan town where there’s no sun gonna come up for 30 days and you’ve got a shipload of Russian vampires. That’s a really, really interesting movie. And the vampires are not elegant. They’re just animals. Instead of biting you on the neck, they just rip your arm off. And they’re quick! You can’t run from ’em.

Silent Hill

I thought Silent Hill was really original. It didn’t remind me of any other horror movie. That’s what I liked about it; it was truly an original idea. This place this girl ends up is just nightmare, you know. It’s something you could ever describe. I appreciate a movie that’s not stereotypical. And speaking of…

Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods! Truly different! I didn’t know what to expect, and three quarters through the movie I’m going “What is going on in this movie?” I could not figure it out. I loved it. I thought it was great. It’s a good one because it’s a total surprise. Because, at first glance, there’s not much to it. “Oh, it’s just a bunch of kids … in a cabin … in the woods. I wonder if they’re gonna get killed one by one.” But it has a total twist to it.

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Iron Maiden+Alice Cooper

Never ones to look back with anger, heavy-metal icons Iron Maiden are restaging aspects of the 1988 tour that supported their gold-selling Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, meaning Bic-ready headbangers like “The Evil That Men Do” and “Can I Play With Madness?” from their mid-’80s albums and a gnarlier than usual appearance by their zombie mascot Eddie. Shock-rock opener Alice Cooper might not be indulging a specific nostalgia trip, but he has an oeuvre of hits, which he’ll bring to life using all sorts of evil implements, including swords and—if we’re lucky—a guillotine.

Wed., June 27, 7:30 p.m., 2012

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UNHOLY NIGHT

If Baby Jesus had been born a turkey, and if cult drag star Dina Martina were that Baby Jesus’s mother, the world would be a different place. Maybe a better one. On the posters for her new show, An Early Hoarfrost, Martina is depicted as such, her blue painted eyes looking up to the heavens, with a bundled body of poultry on her lap. The Seattle-based performer, who has worked with artists as varied as Modest Mouse and the Village People, brings her new musical revue to New York for three shows, where you can catch such beloved Christmas tunes as Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Sleigh” and Alice Cooper’s “Mrs. Claus She Bleeds.”

First Monday, Tuesday, Sunday of every month, 9:30 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 28, 9:30 p.m.; Tue., Nov. 29, 9:30 p.m. Starts: Nov. 7. Continues through Nov. 29, 2011

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PARTY ON, WAYNE!

Of all the films that were inspired by an SNL skit, which was the highest-grossing at the box office? Here’s a hint: Schwing! Yes, Wayne’s World raked in $183 million worldwide. The 1992 film’s metal-head geeks Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar were heroes to the slacker generation. They taught us that it was OK to still live at home as adults and play air guitar on public-access cable television, and that even if you were kind of a loser, all your wildest dreams (like meeting Alice Cooper backstage and having a “total babe” fall in love with you) could still come true. Tonight’s screening is almost the final film in L Mag‘s SummerScreen series (next week’s screening of Clueless is the last). Food and drink will be for sale, and be sure to enter the raffle to win an iPad2.

Wed., Aug. 17, 2011