May 31, 2009

The Glorious Sounds of Retro!

It was awesome when Jessica Rabbit sang it; it's awesome now:

Also, I've been thinking about what makes a RetroHead and these mindthoughts have been leading me back down the road of childhood movies from my past. Think about it: In the late '80s/early '90s there were quite a few retro-set movies (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, A League of Their Own, The Rocketeer, Dick Tracy, and many more) and I was absolutely in love with nearly all of them. Formative years + Retro-style movies = Giant RetroHeaded Chica. Could this be why Mind Grapes resists the Retro? Did she miss out on the great Retro Revival of the George H.W. Bush years???

More to come...

cinema antiqua est caritas OR my (insane?) theology of old movies

We don't do it much anymore, since the Spirit of Vatican II swept in with a Spirit of Protestant Bland, but Catholics used to light candles for the souls of the dead, prayers in the form of flames offered for our loved ones suffering in Purgatory. Pay your dollar, light your candle, say a prayer of intercession to Our Lady (or St. fill-in-the-blank) and ask for your granny's sweet release to the Beatific Vision. It was a beautiful sight, all golden-glowed, a statue of Mary ringed with flowers and a host of candles burning round her feet, a wax halo, a symbol of piety and love.

Boy, I'm sure glad Fr. Hippy Dave got rid of all those gaudy side altars so he could put up a few more groovy felt banners! Thanks Father! No need to light candles anymore. Why, Bishop Feelgood said so!


To light the flame these days, is to queue up the flicker of ancient cinema, oldie-moldy black and white stuffs that shine like silver or mercury, and as you light your way toward a retrovision, you will see the faces of the dead or dying and unknowingly offer a prayer for their souls. Yes, I am on drugs, why do you ask? It doesn't matter that I'm telling you this while in a state of Pepsi One induced ecstasy (and yes Virginia, caffeine is a drug), what matters is that you listen to my new evangelization and open your hearts to love. Old movies are love. Love poured out for Carole Landis, poor creature, dead by her own wretched hand, but does she know the joy she brings us now? Every second of her screen time is a second chance for her soul, a chance for a new generation to witness her beauty, her simmering talent, to get a little jolt of everyday happy, we watch her smile and BOOM! a spark of love is jettisoned into cosmic space, into the metaphysical heavens, possibly into Purgatory if her sad, depressed soul made it there in the last throes of her life before she faced the unyielding judgement which comes with suicide, maybe she called out for mercy before the death knell struck, who knows, but maybe she can hear our cinematic joys now as we watch her glide along the sidewalk of a 20th Century Fox backlot stage, and maybe she'll get one step closer to the love of the universe...

May 29, 2009

Retro Hottie of the Week

I've read that it helps blog traffic to put up hot pictures of chicks (Rule #5, to be exact), so I am putting that strategy to work. Since it's Retroville around here, I figured my hot chicks should be oldies (but goodies).

First up: Yvonne De Carlo! (this ain't your parents' Lily Munster, yo)

Here with her two-time costar Burt Lancaster (a retro hottie himself):

May 22, 2009


Do I really need to remind you that everything was better back in the day? Exhibit A: Movie Posters. This French poster for the 1951 Audrey Totter movie FBI Girl is simply coo-el. Retro-Vision: Accept no substitutes.

May 20, 2009

The Derelict Goes to Dark Street: "Pickup On South Street" (1953)

Weekly Wednesday Noir. Trying to make this a regular feature. And what better way to inaugurate the affair than with a Sam Fuller flick. His best, perhaps?

May 19, 2009

Video Madness!

The Glorious Sounds of Retro!

You've probably never heard The Doors classic quite like this!

Julie London would like you to light her fire, baby!

I believe this is what they call pop music for adults. Suggestive but never skanky. Sexy but never crude. Fun but sophisticated in a frivolous sort of way. Ladies just don't sing with this kind of confident, sultry sound anymore. Julie London isn't showing off her vocal range or bouncing all over the place in some misguided attempt at "artistry." She's simply singing this song with a healthy dose of romantic sex and it's hottness on a stick. Hotter even than Jim Morrison's flamboyant psychedelic version. Also, it's kooky as hell to hear this song done in a fluty, lounge style.

Looking for a definition of "cool" that doesn't involve a rock or rap beat? This song is a good place to start.

May 18, 2009

How to Watch Old Movies, Part 1

First, you shouldn't expect too much. It's the fundamental problem of recommendation: Expectations. Read this book; watch this film; listen to this song. The instant someone recommends something to you is the instant you start raising your expectations too high. Hey, it happens to me too. So the first rule of watching old movies is: Don't expect too much.

"Then why bother?" you ask. "If I'm not supposed to expect too much, why should I even care, why should I even try if it's probably not going to be all that great?" Valid. But stupid. Any idiot knows that the unexpected gem is the rarest of them all. Confucius say.

In other words, old movies are worth watching precisely because they're nothing special. They're as ordinary as your grandmother. They're as unremarkable as a pleasant day in May. Too many movies today are the big thrill, the shock and awe of cgi and spectacle. I like spectacle, but today's brand is so big and loud and flashy, that it's nice to just relax on the couch with a quiet vision, a simple black and white world. So when you sit down to watch some B-movie from 1945 or a strange, crackling talky from the early 30s, don't think you're sitting down to One of the Greatest Movies Ever Made. It may, in fact, turn out to be the greatest thing you've ever seen, but don't force it, don't expect it. Don't expect anything. Just let the silvery alchemy of an old movie work its own magic; watch it like you would any other television distraction. If you sit down to see a magic show, chances are you'll be looking too hard and see the strings attached. Watch with a distracted eye, and if the magic really is there, you'll fall under its spell, no fear.

May 7, 2009

Garage Rock City: The Small Faces for breakfast

I really should be writing this late night, 1 a.m., drinking diet Pepsi from a coffee cup, but instead it's early morning -- 9 a.m. -- and I'm eating my toast with butter in bed, computer and internet open: my morning paper. Flashes of blue light and faint yellow streak out from the blinds and cut possibilities across my wall. I'm sure I'll end up doing nothing today. These are the kinds of mornings where I wish I smoked and this was all a French New Wave film.

The Small Faces are like early Milos Forman. Rough edges, the blues influence giving everything a faint whiff of disappointment, the reality of empty sexual escapades, dorks trying to act cool in the midst of crowded mod dance hops. Of course, the Small Faces have a little grittier, streets-of-London knife fight sound, the kind that rumbles with Teddy Boys on a rainy English night and the losers in a Forman film would probably wet themselves if they ever had a run-in like that. Is it just me or did Led Zeppelin (or more precisely, Robert Plant) totally rip off Steve Marriott? I mean, what else is the vocal on "You Need Loving" but a stripped-down version of Plant's "Whole Lotta Love" sonic wail? And lo and behold, it is!

I can't find anything better to listen to this morning than "What'cha Gonna Do About It." The first Small Faces album is a bouncing, fuzz-headed, coffee and cigs, organ jump-up rock masterpiece. Is it too much to say masterpiece? I'm feeling pepped-up this morning, so I'm gonna say, "No." I can't help feeling pepped, the organ sound right now is too groovy for me to be feeling anything less than positively head-bopping. The Small Faces are one of those British Invasion mod bands, like The Who or The Yardbirds, and like all good rock bands in the mid-60s they eventually went all hippie dippie in the late 60s, turning psychedelic slop man, but shit if they don't rock the streets with this their first full-length album, a self-titled dance party disc released in May of 1966.

This is early garage rock, so it's still got the sweetness of the mid-60s sticking to it all smiley innocence. It's rhythm and blues, but the teenager kind, energetic and a little awkward, the perfect music for dancing after school at the local basement club. The Small Faces are actually grungier than the Who, the guitar's more razor-tinged, feedback's just a little too far over the distorted side, the organ is sorta outta control in it's straight-up blues attitude, the singing is breathier, more desperate and throat-stretched. The drums aren't Keith Moon crazy-genius, but they come awfully close (Kenney Jones would eventually join the Who on drums after Keith Moon's death, so there you go).

These guys are underrated, as if you didn't know. I just found out about them two weeks ago and I still can't get enough. Laying in bed for two hours typing up this junk for you all, watching the sun turn to a strong, driving spring rain, getting kinda bummed 'cause my prediction of doing nothing today is coming true before your very eyes, I still don't care 'cause I've got the Small Faces to cover my mind.

Just dig that crazy organ sound! It's "Own Up Time," kiddies!

What'cha gonna do about it? Plug your head phones into your ears and sing "Sha La La La Lee"!

May 4, 2009

Video Madness!

1994, when TV channels were more creative and fun!

Nick at Nite: "Good TV for the TV Generation"

Mind Control! It's the absolute ultimate!

I'm not suggesting that there's some grand conspiracy of mind control going on out there. MTV is not conspiring with Dancing with the Stars and People Magazine and the Atlantic Monthly to warp your brain and turn you into some media munching brainless zombie head. Rolling Stone magazine isn't teaming up with Sony entertainment to bring you into mental pop culture slavery. Oh, wait.....

The problem for all you kiddies out there (and those adults who can't seem to leave off pop culture and go read William F Buckley like they should) is that you're surrounded by a wall of media that is so thick and impenetrable that you can't break out unless you WILLFULLY and DELIBERATELY free yourself from the morass. All the media outlets in our culture right now are selling harsh, mindless, sometimes anti-human product -- it's a wall of ugly, loud, hysterical noise, filled with propaganda-like slogans ("yes we can," "you are the change you've been waiting for," "change," "hope," blah, blah), straight-up propaganda and hero-worship (all the fawning, empty praise of Obama as the "cool, hip" president with "swagga"), and mediocrity passing itself off as genius.

And that's why I say: Don't be a slave to the age!

By opting out of media slavery, by going Retro, you will break out of the thick wall of shit that comes at you everyday from the media.

I know a lot of people under 30 who think that Retro means liking the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Well.... okay, I guess it's a start. And yeah, you won't find a bigger Beatles fan than me. But I was fanatical about rock music from the 60s and 70s when I was in high school. It was my first taste of Retro, but it was just the jumping off point. I've since moved on to hardcore, pure, straight-up Retro in the form of, "If it ain't in black and white it ain't nothing," kinda way. My motto is: The older the better.

But hippie rock is still the opening gate to Retro for a lot of kids these days because the 60s are still perceived as "cool" -- it's a safe way to go Retro without fully throwing off the current culture or standing too far outside the mainstream of today. It's so freaking "cool" that it's not even really Retro because it's still a part of our larger, mass-produced culture (in other words, the Boomers still run things, so their culture is still omnipresent). I don't have a problem with getting started Retro by going the safe, acceptable route of digging 60s hippie culture. But it can't end there, or else you're just a slave to the age like everybody else, only you're also an annoying git who thinks he's not a slave 'cause he digs Bob Dylan and shit.

See, the current slave masters of the culture let you go just ever so slightly retro (whether it's Beatles music or the new Johnny Cash revival courtesy of that "Walk the Line" movie or whatever) in order to let you think you're an "independent thinker" and "rebel" and "highly individual individual"; you're not of course, but the culture makers want you to think you are. But if you're a young person looking to go Retro and you jump from Jimi Hendrix to Jimmy Durante, then suddenly, you've jumped too far. The flux capacitor doesn't even go back to 1955 anymore, it stops strictly at '67 if it stops at all. See, Jimmy Durante is corny and OLD, not old-cool, but old-weird, old-cheesy, old-stupid, old-old.

But it's the Jimmy Durante-loving RetroHead that I'm crusading for! If you can break out of the media barrage and start diggin on older stuff (truly older stuff, the kind of stuff that never gets advertised or promoted by mainstream media conglomerates), then you'll start to remake your world. Suddenly, your idea of physical beauty will change. Example: I love old movies, so I'm constantly exposing myself to images of men and women from past decades who look different from the media creations of today. I used to fawn all over women's magazines when I was in middle school and my early days of high school. Now I pass by those women's magazines in the grocery store and I feel like barfing. Those chicks look scary! Too skinny, too skanky, too vapid and gross. It's because my idea of glamorous movie star beauty has changed. Now I realize that women can look sexy and beautiful and high fashion without looking like trashy whores. I've seen Rita Hayworth, in other words. And she wasn't airbrushed.

Same thing with music. I can hardly stand to listen to some of the singers on American Idol. Not because they sing bad music (often the show does theme nights with pretty good selections, like last week's Rat Pack night). It's because their style of singing is more like yelling loud and long and the mellismas are coming on so fast and furious I wonder if any of them can actually hold one note for more than half a second. I never would think this kind of singing was annoying if I hadn't been listening to Doris Day and Bing Crosby and Julie London and Bobby Darin for the better part of fifteen years and hearing what good singing sounds like.

Maybe it's not some grand conspiracy on the part of Viacom and Time Warner and Sony and whomever, but what ends up happening when we restrict ourselves to a daily blast of their current pop culture (and don't temper it with a concentrated gulp of Retro) is we end up getting mind controlled, yo. Our perception of "good" and "beautiful" and "true" gets determined by the opinion and media makers of the current age and we seem powerless to even realize we're being mind controlled. Like I says, the only way out is Retro.

How to be a good wife and mother (and piss off a feminist!) OR Things I learned from Betty Crocker, circa 1969

I'm not much of a cook. I can't sew. I can bake a little thanks to my mother, she of the famous pies and cakes (well, famous in our circle of family and friends anyway!). I'm a freaking amazing house cleaner, owing partly to my upbringing where we were forced every Saturday to clean the house, and partly to the fact that I've done some house cleaning as an adult to bring in some extra income. I am a helluva house cleaner, let me tell you.