An obscure 90’s oddity, Birthday Boy‘s aesthetic resembles something of a “Lo-Fi Leisure Suit Larry.” The song, “Right Back Where I Started” chronicles the love life of the character Michael from the show, “Melrose Place.” If fact, those who remember the show can probably recognize the chronologically accurate storyline and the women being referenced in the lyrics.
Originally released on cassette in 1996, this is one the most unusual recordings from a highly experimental era of indie alternative music.
The 1989 movie “Shag” was one of those likely forgettable films that always seemed to be on HBO when I was a kid in middle school sitting around waiting for my mom to drive me to basketball practice. Despite being a bit of a throwaway “chick flick”(a phrase I find to be kind of cringeworthy after seeing it used on so many girls’ dating profiles,) I always had a weird appreciation for it. It’s kind of an obscure gem illustrating the beauty and innocence of 1960s Southern teen culture. In many ways my nostalgia for nostalgic films of this era is a longing to recapture my own innocence from this time period(late 80’s-early 90s.)
I haven’t seen Shag in a long time, perhaps over 20 years. A couple of years ago I saw it and Half Priced Books in the used dvd section for 5 dollars but ended up not buying it. Apparently I really missed an opportunity. The “Shag” dvd seems to be quite rare now. Copies of it range from 40 to 80 dollars, quite a lot to cough up for a movie that I recall as being fairly mediocre. Still, the chance to see Phoebe Cates and Bridget Fonda in their prime within the context of an early 1960’s, southern belle/Jackie Onassis aesthetic might be worth the trip down memory lane.
Shag had a decent soundtrack as well, which was available on vinyl.
Mondo Freudo(1966) is another great “fake” documentary from the Mondo series of the mid to late 60’s. Mondo Mod is of course my favorite, followed by Mondo Bizarro. I’ve been trying to get my hands on a copy of Mondo Teeno for years. Unfortunately I’ve only found one guy on the entire internet that claims to be selling a copy…and he doesn’t respond to emails and hasn’t updated his site for years.
Anyway, though Mondo Freudo and the others aren’t authentic documentaries, they do a fair job of portraying the 1960s Southern California youth culture in their own way, just through the footage and the entertaining narration which accompanies it.
Here’s a great sequence of a portion of the Sunset Strip as it was in 1966. Take me there.
There’s seemingly a never end of obscure and cleverly themed 60’s bands. Add another to the list with “The Monks.” They were a band formed by two American servicemen who were originally stationed and then remained in West Germany in the mid 60’s. They sported monk haircuts and typically wore nooses as neckties. One of the most experimental and creative bands of the era, The Monks continue to influence avante garde musicians 50 years later.
I picked up a couple of vintage Italian Bontempi organs/synths recently, mainly because I liked the design and aesthetic of them (as a brand, Bontempi was not known for having a great sound.) Their advertising was beautiful though and captures a sort of innocence which resonates with the childhood I experienced. I obtained the Bontempi Memoplay (pictured above) which is a pretty limited but unique, “programmable” synth from the late 70s / early 80s. It only has one sound, but it’s a decent one in my opinion.
The other Bontempi organ I got my hands on is the Mod 109. This was basically a really hip and modern looking organ,(mine is orange in color) but in reality it’s just a standard reed organ which produces a sound similar to an accordion.
For an example of one the better organs Bontempi produced,(which I was not fortunate enough to be able to find) check out the awesome 1979 Bontempi commercial below. It exemplifies a childhood ambiance and European cultural era that my mind/alter ego fights to recapture every day.
Cool your jets and enjoy the afternoon with this swingin’ summertime, 60’s style pop jam. Turn up the dial on your Nobility pocket transistor radio and head to the beach just one last time before summer’s over, and it’s time to blow this popsicle stand. Fickle fadsters come and go, but a few of us stay until the bitter end.
Zeta One – Dreamsnake II, a solo project of one the all time ginchiest gals of the Whittier, CA area (miss Dawn Aquarius) is now out. When I say out I mean like way out…of this galaxy even. Dawn has always been one of those creative creatures that’s simply terrific at everything she gets her palpable paws into and always has been. She is one of the most authentic and talented artists in the world. If you don’t believe me, let me clue you in on her cosmic comic book, Acid Ankh, already a classic. Dreamsnake II is a groovy blend of mod, psychedelia, 70’s synth and noise. You’ll be slated for Zetaville with the first track, “Dreams of Creation.” It only gets more happenin’ from there, with hypnotic jams like Spectrum 5 …and my personal fave “Zephyrus,” which swings like sixteen.
Dreamsnake II appears in the form of a Limited edition cassette. Only 100 are available. Who knows how many even remain now? They come with black and green screen prints on yellow stock, with art by Max Clotfelter . The release is through Eidertown Records, in Seattle, WA.
“What was the name of that movie we watched where the teenagers go around and do bad things and stuff that baby carriage in the trash can?” an ex girlfriend from years ago called me up to ask. She was talking about “Just For the Hell of It,” the 1968 Herschell Gordon Lewis I made her reluctantly sit through one time. For some reason it stuck out to her, and she wanted to show it to some dude she was hanging out with.
The movie itself is an interesting piece of art, basically it features scene after scene of teenagers terrorizing people just for kicks. There is a plot of course, but I’m not here to talk about the film, really. I just wanted to mention that the intro/theme song is yet another underrated classic among forgotten movies.
It’s Destruction performed by Tary Rebenar, a late 60’s early 70’s folksinger. He apparently later died of AIDS in 1989, which he was said to have contracted from a blood transfusion he received for a prior surgery for skin cancer. In the early 70’s he released an LP called Just a Dream Ago, which is hard to find.
From that photo, he resembles the actor credited as “Steve White,” who appears in several of Lewis’ movies, usually in a musical capacity. I once thought they might be the same person, but after some research I realized Steve White is a different obscure and talented musician from that scene, who saw some success in a band called “Food” which released an album on Capitol Records called Forever is a Dream. It is very difficult to keep a lot of these things straight the way so many of these bands and actors in this era went under multiple aliases. Aside from legends like Ray Sager, most of these types seem to have disappeared without leaving much of a trace of information available.
1910 Fruitgum Company had a number of popular songs in the 1960s, my favorite being “Goody Goody Gumdrops”(my heart is doin’ flip flops!) One of their jams was “Simon Says.” It had a similar feel to the other bubblegum type stuff they put out. The band’s name fits their music perfectly as their songs all sound like extended commercial jingles. “Simon Says” reminds me a little of the theme song for the 1970s Scooby Doo cartoon.