Some folks no longer with us.
I meant to comment on Harlan Ellison’s passing. A writer who influenced so many people, and probably as much for his never dull, frequently entertaining personality displayed in many public appearances. I was more of a fan in my teen years than when older, but I always enjoyed his comments and just knowing that he was out there.
And, of course, he wrote one of Star Trek‘s greatest episodes:
Also, Steve Ditko. When I was a whippersnapper, I found a torn copy of Doctor Strange Classics in a comic shop, getting it from a reject bunch for something like four-for-a-dollar along with a beat-up Silver Age Tales to Astonish. Ditko’s surrealist, psychedelic art was mind-boggling, and led me to further joy reading his original Spider-Man stories in Marvel Tales.
Here’s a book-themed (and groovy) look at the weird wonder of the art of Ditko:
And . . . Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries. The voice of otherworldly nineties Celtic pop music, and a band that was one of the best things about the nineties:
Rest in peace.
There was a musical variety show for hipsters called NIGHT MUSIC somewhere around ’89 through ’90. I can’t remember if this was syndicated or if it was an NBC show that was on after SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (which I rarely watched after 1991). Anyhow, at this point when alternative rock music was still not heard much on the radio and the mainstream explosion of Nirvana was still a ways off on the horizon, there were some rock groups that fit pretty well into a line-up that included jazz players, old blues musicians, and artsy experimentalists. The never mainstream Pere Ubu was at their most mainstream right then, and showed up in an episode that I missed at the time. This is a pretty catchy song for such a weird band, and they perform it well. The singer’s stomping of invisible, imaginary bugs is a hoot.
To the best of my knowledge, Guadalcanal Diary never showed up on NIGHT MUSIC, but they should have. By the late ’80s there were a number of alternative jangle bands like The Katydids, Let’s Active, and the sometimes philosophical Guadalcanal Diary, named for some reason after the movie and novel that documented one of the U.S. Marine Corps’ key moments in WWII. All of these bands were at least as good as R.E.M., with mostly better vocalists, and without the self-pity tendencies that sometimes brought down The Smiths. Some people claim that this song was borrowed heavily in another song by country mega-band Alabama, but I haven’t explored that and have no opinion.
OK, I really like the Professionals now that I’m hearing even more of them, so that’s a good excuse for an obvious transition to another Professionals song. It’s another silly early ’80s video, but this one is a little more creative. Also, note that this is an earlier line-up of the band as a three-piece with a different bassist. Paul Cook and Steve Jones are terribly underrated:
From the three pieces of a triptych is a short step to a song titled “1 2 3.” This is the Professionals, an underrated and short-lived band started by Steve Jones and Paul Cook, the original two Sex Pistols. The Professionals were at least the equal of their old band, and some of their material was used in the movie Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. In this video, enjoy Steve Jones’ (1) hair and (2) the epic battle with microphone stands.
Bach’s St. Matthew Passion thematically flows right along to the best Medieval prog rock song ever, and perhaps the only Medieval prog rock song ever. This is “Triptych” by Roxy Music, and it’s truly extraordinary that something like this ever came out of popular music: