Leona Anderson’s “Music To Suffer By”

A human being, while undoubtedly a wonderful construction, lacks a certain structural element: a built-in music-playing system with unlimited playlists. Back in the 1950s and 60s, far-sighted producers tried very hard to provide a solution to this inconvenience.

Anyone who has ever been interested in record collecting and the wondrous world of obscure vinyl is surely familiar with precisely targeted vintage music made for practical purposes: Music to Lure Pigeons By, Music to Massage Your Mate By (exceptional cover and booklet!), Music for Cooking With Gas, Music for Morticians or Songs for Pizza Lovers. Among these many treasures of the Space Age, there’s a very special gem: Leona Anderson’s 1957 Music To Suffer By.

A former silent movie actress (who appeared in a number of films alongside Stan Laurel, Charlie Chaplin and her brother, “Bronco Billy” Anderson), Leona Anderson (1885-1973) did everything in her power to prove that her sobriquet, “The World’s Most Horrible Singer”, was absolutely well-deserved.

After years spent on desperate and futile attempts to learn proper opera techniques, Leona decided to make her apparent lack of talent her greatest selling point. Combining her vast knowledge of the opera –a lifelong passion– with her undisputed charm and a knack for comedy, “The Worst Opera Singer” shared her talents with viewers of the Ernie Kovacs television show, and eventually released the one-of-a-kind Music To Suffer By. The record consisted not only of delightfully slaughtered standards like “Habanera” from Carmen, but also original compositions, such as the haunting “Rats In My Room”, and “Limburger Lover”… quite possibly the only Limburger cheese-themed love song ever made.

The record’s presentation reveals Leona’s high musical literacy and a sense of humor and class, elevating her mock-opera collection above mere parody. Rather too sophisticated for outsider music, Music To Suffer By is oddly enchanting largely because of Leona’s self-awareness. She knew she wasn’t capable of ever learning how to sing properly, hence she put all of her efforts in creating this wonderfully bizarre gem of a record. It’s a perverse pleasure to suffer by.

The legendary collectible, previously available only on vinyl, has since been remastered and re-released in CD format by the infallible Trunk Records. An assortment of Leona’s mp3s can also be found on WFMU.

Other poised, yet off-kilter singers worth enduring:

“The funkiest UFO in the galaxy is about to land in Chocolate City.”

News vis M. S. le Despencer, thanks!

Best lead to a new article EVER, right?

Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open its doors at in 2015, has acquired Parliament’s Funkadelic Mothership (the second incarnation, that is — the first having long-since departed for other galaxies).

The legendary stage prop will serve as a crucial building block of the museum’s permanent display permanent music exhibition. Via Funk Music News:

When the band lowered the Mothership from the rafters of the Capital Centre in Landover in 1977, the response was rapturous. Not only was it instantly stunning — it felt like a cosmic metaphor for the sense of possibility that followed the civil rights movement.

That symbolism isn’t lost on the Smithsonian.

“With large iconic objects like this, we can tap into . . . themes of movement and liberation that are a constant in African-American culture,” says Dwandalyn R. Reece, curator of music and performing arts for the museum. “The Mothership as this mode of transport really fits into this musical trope in African American culture about travel and transit.”

It will be exhibited alongside other artifacts from American music history — Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, James Brown’s stage costumes, Lena Horne’s evening gowns. But it will be the only spaceship.

YES!! “Free your mind and come fly with me… it’s hip! On the Mothership. Swing down, sweet chariot, stop, and let me ride…”

Ken Russell’s “The Boy Friend” FINALLY Gets Proper DVD Release!

A dear and lovely chum from New York, singer Robert Conroy, has just alerted us to some splendid news! The Boy Friend (1971), one of Ken Russell’s most elegantly outrageous gems, was recently released to DVD as part of the Warner Archive Collection. It’s a remastered disc of the 136-minute UK version, and it’s… oh, if you haven’t seen it before, just watch a wee bit, see what you think:

Some background info, courtesy of the YouTube clip:

Working at the height of his formidable powers, Ken Russell braids a whole new layer of story onto the hit stage musical that made Julie Andrews a star and opens it up to some astonishing flights of fancy. Wrapping a narrative frame around the original – a seaside theatrical company mounts a production of the ’20s musical spoof The Boy Friend – allows Russell, in turn, to explore and parody the conventions of ’30s musicals with elaborate fantasy sequences, slapstick, and sentiment. RESTORED DIRECTOR’S CUT/ROADSHOW presentation with Intermission and Entr’Acte, as Ken Russell intended the film to be seen. SPECIAL FEATURES: vintage “behind the scenes” making-of featurette about the film and theatrical trailer.

With Antonia Ellis! Twiggy! Tommy Tune! An uncredited appearance by Glenda Jackson! And… Mister Boogalow?! (Aka Vladek Sheybal, a tragically under-appreciated gem of screen and stage.)

As Robert puts it, The Boy Friend “looks like how Bowie’s Aladdin Sane or Roxy Music’s debut LP sounds!” Swoon…

Buy it here.

Hush: “Twin”

Still from this short by G7D.

The UK-based, world-traveling artist Hush has returned to LA with his show “Twin”, opening tomorrow (Saturday) at New Image Art. Hush’s work explores and pushes the porous boundaries between graffiti, street art, tagging, anime and pop art.

From his bio:

Hush’s work has been described as a sensory assault of shape, color, and character. Inspired by the portrayal of the female form in art, the artist builds up and tears down layers of paint and images as he works, “letting the canvas and marks take their own path.” The result is an enigmatic synthesis of anime, pop-infused imagery and graffiti that exposes the conflict between power and decay, innocence and sexuality, and the fusion of Eastern and Western culture. Hush continues to evolve his style with this latest batch of pieces, which merges his early anime and pop-art influenced graffiti technique with an exploration of Romanesque iconographic imagery.

Via My Love For You, via Siege.

‘Together I’ 2011

Super Cat World VS High Voltage Prairie Dogs Group Audio Harassment

A little light Rapture music:

Yours truly has NO idea why this video hasn’t gone insanely viral. Then again, yours truly is tripping balls on painkillers at the moment.

Double prairie-dog dare ya to watch the entire thing.

[Edited to add: holy FUCK, THIS ENTIRE CHANNEL IS NUTS.]

Making Time

Philip Andelman’s meditation on the manufacturing process of the hourglass. Designed by Marc Newson’s for Ikepod, it is made from borosilicate glass and filled with millions of stainless steel “nanoballs”. Adnelman filmed this at the Glaskeller factory in Basel, Switzerland and the entire process is fascinating — a hypnotic sequence of whirling machinery and fire set to Philip Glass’s “Opening”. It’s so fascinating, in fact, that I almost wish there was some exposition if only to explain just how they measure out the aforementioned nanoballs so that each glass accurately metes out its allotted dosage of time.

Via Bioephemera : Brainiac

Feather And Claw

I’m a big fan of Dan Hillier’s stunningly detailed ink drawings digitally altered engravings. His early work featured figures whose appendages had mutated and mysteriously taken upon animal qualities. This new series takes that one step further, the flora and fauna having completely taken over, wearing only the blank, human shells that remain.

Casualties Of War

A disturbing collection of green, plastic Army Men in distinctly nontraditional poses, “Casualties of War” from the art collective Dorothy, aims to shed light on some of the awful challenges that face soldiers returning from war. It was specifically inspired by a story on one battalion:

The hell of war comes home. In July 2009 Colorado Springs Gazette published a two-part series entitled “Casualties of War”. The articles focused on a single battalion based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, who since returning from duty in Iraq had been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, drunk driving, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides. Returning soldiers were committing murder at a rate 20 times greater than other young American males. A separate investigation into the high suicide rate among veterans published in the New York Times in October 2010 revealed that three times as many California veterans and active service members were dying soon after returning home than those being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We hear little about the personal hell soldiers live through after returning home.

There was also a Frontline episode, “The Wounded Platoon”, which investigates the tragedy surrounding the 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry from Fort Carson, for those who are interested. Dorothy’s project is, perhaps, a bit heavy handed in its execution, but it nevertheless draws attention to an all too real and unspoken problem.

BTC: “Don’t Do It In The Park”

Via The Daily What.

Wow. This single comment says it all, really:

THIS is what I love about portable technology. Because everyone has that story of “You just had to be there, man.” Now we can. Thank you.

Word of warning if you’re at work: make sure you’re on headphones! Word of warning if the prospect of a spectacularly juvenile 5.5-minute rant from a cranky, (possibly ex-military) piggy park ranger does not sound amusing to you: you will want to watch Kitty the Malay Eagle Owl instead.

Duchamp-Inspired Urinal Dress by The Rodnik Band

Photos from Not Just A Label. Link via Aja de Coudreaux.

Just what you’ve always wanted: a sequined urinal dress fashioned after Duchamp’s Fountain.

It’ll set you back a mere $2,592.00 (before shipping). The ultimate pomo Lemon Party ensemble, brought to us by The Rodnik Band‘s Philip Colbert, the same sparkly Pop Art piss-taker who has gifted our world with the Warholian soup can frock, the Mondrian Twin Set, and the Lichensteinian Brush Strokes dress, among other pieces.

R. Kelly approved, I. P. Freeley sanctioned, and so meta-ironic, it’ll make ya shit.