Jul 29
Our Lips are Sealed
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So last night Rach and I saw the Flaming Lips at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. What a show!

We got there early and nabbed a spot near the stage, in the centre. Even before the support band had started Lips frontman and funmeister Wayne Coyne – resplendent in grey suit and trademark loosened bow tie – could not resist appearing briefly to fire some streamers into the audience. As the support act played Wayne again popped onto the edge of the stage, looking every bit the mad scientist among the smoke and flashing lights.

Now, I’ve been to quite a few big rock shows over the years, and I have never – ever – seen a member of the headline act carry his own equipment on stage, until last night. Lips’ guitarist/keyboardist/drummer and all round musical genius, Steven Drozd, is obviously a hands-on kinda guy, because as soon as the support band wrapped up Steven appeared, lugging his large, orange keyboard rig. Wayne also was busy making sure his many stage props were in working order.

The impression you get from the Flaming Lips is that they are certainly not your typical “big rock act”. And that there’s nothing more natural in the world than to carry your own gear onto the stage, plug it in, test it out, and say “hi” to the audience. It was a delight to watch.

For those who are aware of the Lips’ live performances, you’ll know that at the start of the show Wayne rolls across the audience in a large clear plastic bubble. We were lucky enough to be right underneath as he passed overhead, doing our bit to transport his capsule across the crowd.

Meanwhile the sides of the stage filled with lucky punters dressed as white bunnies and green frogs, who danced around for the duration of the show. An 8-foot high inflatable caterpillar and yellow sun-like blob also made appearances and wobbled away to the beat. And although I didn’t see it, Rach tells me that at one point Wayne was on the shoulders of a large brown bear.

It would be hard not to enjoy a show like the Flaming Lips put on last night. Not only was the music uplifting and joyful, but they are a rockin’ band too – the lighter moments mixed in with some fine guitar crunch. The audience participation continued throughout, with almost every song a sing-along and the crowd showered continuously with streamers, confetti and oversized balloons.

Wayne chattered away between songs, acting as emcee and coordinating all extra-musical activity. This guy is certainly one of a kind, as are the band as a whole. It will be a sad day indeed when these guys stop making music.

Jul 26
Lazy Sunday Afternoon
icon4 Jul 26th, 2009 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac | icon3Comments Off

I love Sundays. Mainly because the Sunday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald is delivered – occasionally to somewhere in the vicinity of our house, having been fired from a large catapult located at the SMH printing plant 70 km away in Chullora.

The first thing I look at in Sunday’s paper – after discarding the TV Guide and Domayne catalogue – is the “S” liftout. This is the section that takes us “behind celebrity lines”.

Today there is a special feature on Hollywood babe Katherine Heigl (great surname for crosswords, will have to remember that one). We learn that she is in fact much more down to earth than would be expected. Fancy that! She is also “disarmingly honest”. What tosh.

Turn the page and here’s an informative piece about Aussie model Annalise Braakensiek, who has just released a range of “eco” lingerie, made from Earth-friendly products including “organic bamboo”. Shouldn’t this be in the business section? Anyway, we get a pic of Annalise showing off one of her new bras, complete with provocatively raised arm and sultry stare. In the accompanying story poor Annalise despairs about having to attend modelling shoots where “I was wearing these beautiful garments but they only go up to a maximum D cup, and I’m an E cup. It was so frustrating”. I can imagine.

Next is the regular column “Date with Kate”, where somebody called Kate Waterhouse (anybody know who this person is?) has lunch with somebody equally as pointless. Today it’s Sophie Lavers, recently crowned as the somewhat oxymoronic “Miss World Australia”. The photo of the two dining out is uncaptioned, so it remains a mystery which is which. Perhaps we are just supposed to know, darlink. Among the startling revelations from the beauty queen are that her boyfriend of two years is named “Jack Pembroke-Birss” (sounds like an Austrian ski resort) and her biggest indulgence is … chocolate!

Then comes a few pages of tripe entitled “Party Animal”, in which A-list socialite and grade-A dumb mole Amy Cooper reviews the previous week’s party scene. Essentially, we get to track where Gracie Otto was 24/7 since last Sunday.

Ah, here it is!! My favourite piece of printed matter for the whole week (excluding the daily KenKen puzzle). It’s “Urban Style” by uber-wanker Fernando Frisoni. Let me explain this to you. Fernando ventures out into the mean streets of Sydney (e.g., Paddington … ooh! aah!) and finds stylish locals wandering aimlessly about. He then photographs them, dissects their fashion sense and asks a few probing questions.

Bullshit. What really happens is this. A selection of models are paid to be photographed in some non-descript Sydney street (probably in Strathfield) while wearing the most ridiculous clothes imaginable, by whichever local rag-merchants have slipped Fernando a bag of cash in the previous week. Names are then invented for these non-people, usually outlandish and double-barrelled, like “Sabrina von Film-Noir”. (I made that one up.) Some pretentious twaddle is written to accompany the picture, such as:

Sabrina von Film-Noir in Kings Cross wears skirt by sass&bide, top by Felix of Milan, retro sunglasses from a market in Caracas, and scarf from her grandmother’s wardrobe.
What music are you listening to right now? I’m really digging early Kraftwerk at the moment.

Well, after all that – and having done the two Sunday KenKens – I’m too tired to read the rest of the paper, which is pretty much all rubbish anyhow. It will sit in our retro ’70s magazine rack until Tuesday night, when it will be taken out to the recycle bin, perhaps to be later fashioned into one of Annalise Braakensiek’s eco-bras. Maybe I’ve got time for a snooze before tea.

Jul 20

Along with 3.7 million others on Sunday night I sat gob-smacked as 38 year old mother of three Julie Goodwin was handed the title of Australia’s first “Master Chef”. The show’s producers must have a very low opinion of their audience if they think we could not perceive the blatant favouritism shown toward the eventual winner.

In the week leading up to the finale Julie presented undercooked, sloppy, and at times downright awful dishes. Her ridiculous “puddle pie” will hopefully never be seen again. The judges could barely move the goal posts fast enough to keep up with Julie’s wayward cooking output and to ensure that she remained in the competition.

The finale continued in the same vein. Julie prepared what were variations on a familiar theme: roasted meat, simple and tasty, yet poorly presented and lacking inspiration. This is essentially the same home-style cuisine which impressed the judges at her initial audition.

Meanwhile, the other finalist, Poh Ling Yeow, presented meticulously prepared and visually stunning dishes with a startling array of accompaniments and sauces. Throughout the competition she demonstrated a creativity, intuition and artistry that set her apart from the other contestants. This originality would be her downfall.

As the finale proceeded it was clear that the fix was in. So much screen time was given to Julie as to make it appear a one horse race. On several occasions the judges stopped by her bench with helpful suggestions – sorbet too grainy, pastry too thick – whereas Poh received little assistance. When it came time for tasting, the judges lapped up Julie’s simple, dinner table fare, while Poh’s innovative dishes were greeted with raised eyebrows. With hindsight, the result was a fait accompli.

The reasons for this are clear enough. Ultimately it is the goal of a television show to make money, through advertising and the sale of related merchandise. From early on it was apparent that Julie’s story – her “journey”, in reality TV lingo – was the most marketable. And unlike other reality shows that are audience judged, the winner of MasterChef was determined solely by the show’s presenters, with the producers standing in the wings. Julie had the prize handed to her on a plate, no pun intended.

What is most preposterous is that no head chef or restaurateur in their right mind would want Julie in their kitchen. She trembled and sweated her way through every cooking challenge, rarely completing the assigned task and often presenting dishes clearly below the standards expected, not qualities suited to the frenetic bustle of a commercial kitchen.

Perhaps Julie has shown that she can cook Sunday dinner for a family of five, but she is certainly no Master Chef.

Jul 14

Does the name Leif Garrett ring a bell? It might if you were around during the late ’70s, and were witness to the phenomenal rise and sudden fall of one of America’s forgotten child stars.

Leif was a cute kid who used his Norwegian-American good looks to full effect, first as a child actor in a string of American TV shows, then as a moderately successful recording artist. Like many Australians, my first glimpse of sixteen year old Leif was on Countdown in 1978, as I watched – with a strange mixture of loathing and envy – the video clip for his first single, a soulless, colour-by-numbers re-make of the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA”. (If that’s young Leif doing the falsetto in the chorus then I’ll eat my surfboard.) Nevertheless, it climbed all the way to #2 on the Aussie charts and was the 12th highest selling single in Australia for 1978. Here it is:

Garrett’s musical career continued in this same vein – insipid cover versions of hits from the ’50s and ’60s, along with a brief disco phase  - for a few more years, until eventually he was let down by his failing looks and inability to mime his way through his many TV appearances. Here’s Leif in 1979, during his boy-man transitional phase, performing “Moonlight Dancin’”:

Garrett’s star rose again briefly in the early ’80s, with a minor role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. This is actually a very watchable film, and featured early performances by a number of up-and-coming “Brat Pack” stars – Estevez, Lowe, Cruise, Dillon, Macchio, Swayze et al.

But this would be Garrett’s swan song. Like many other child stars of the ’70s, personal troubles ruined his career. The spectre of drug and alcohol dependence loomed over poor Leif from a young age. His best friend was left a paraplegic as a result of a car accident in which Garrett was driving while intoxicated. By 1990 the phone had stopped ringing. Attempts to break back into the music industry in the late ’90s stalled almost immediately.

Amazingly, the rise of reality television and a misty-eyed nostalgia for all things retro have led to a resurgence of interest in former stars such as Leif Garrett. He has appeared in recent years on Fear Factor and Ty Murray’s Bull Riding Challenge, as well as other shows in the “Where are they now?” mold. But the monkey is still firmly on his back, with recent arrests for possession of cocaine and heroin resulting in a short jail term. Here’s one of Leif’s more recent publicity photos, courtesy of the LAPD.

Jul 1

Following on from yesterday’s post, long-time listener, first-time caller Vern has fond memories of Macca and Jacko’s duet “Say Say Say” which appeared on McCartney’s Pipes of Peace album in 1983. The promotional film for the song was an epic affair in the mold of Jackson’s “Thriller” video in that it begins with a brief acted segment providing a back story for the song itself. Here it is:

Not wishing to speak ill of the dead, but when you put Linda McCartney in between Paul and Michael you’d have to admit she is only a mildly talented woman. And that’s being generous. Nevertheless she gives it her all as ever.

As someone who has been a longtime follower of the Beatles and their respective solo careers, I can say that this is not my favourite McCartney period. (But I do agree with Vern that this is a catchy tune!) It seems as the ’80s progressed Paul became more and more irrelevant as his style of melodic pop gradually fell from fashion. Around this time he seemed determined to prove himself as a kind of all-round entertainer. (Witness the song and dance routines in the above clip.) He wrote and produced an animated film for children (Rupert and the Frog Song), also writing a theme tune (“We All Stand Together”) and contributing some of the voices. He wrote and starred in an awful feature film (Give My Regards to Broad Street) in which he committed the ultimate sin of re-making some of his own Beatles songs, and then spent a year of his life trying to flog this particularly dead horse. As it turned out, “Say Say Say” would be his last US #1.

Paul also caught on early to the idea of the 12-inch single. I have before me the 12″ of “Say Say Say” – not only do you get a version of the title track re-mixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez, but there is an instrumental remix too. Woo-hoo! The B-side track “Ode to a Koala Bear” is not only taxonomically incorrect (it’s not a bear, it’s a marsupial) but one of Paul’s more forgettable tunes. Next time you’re around Vern, we’ll give it a spin together.

Macca and Jacko living together in perfect harmony…