Monday, December 29, 2014

Psychobabble’s 2015 Wish List

Four years ago, I posted my 2011 wish list here on Psychobabble. A couple of these indulgent dreams came true, such as the long-awaited release of Island of Lost Souls on DVD and the even longer awaited release of the deleted scenes from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. That the majority of those wishes I made in 2010 did not come to pass has done nothing to kill my lovely, lovely dreams for 2015. Here are some things I’m hoping will exist next year, some far-fetched, some within the realm of possibility. 

1. E.C. Horror Comics Reprints by a Publisher Other than Dark Horse

OK, so it is cool that the intermittent anthologizing of E.C.’s infamous horror comics of the fifties has not croaked despite "The E.C. Archives" changing publishers several times, but what began with a fairly acceptable level of digital meddling by Gemstone Publishing in 2006 has gotten way out of hand in the hands of Dark Horse. Carlos Badilla has recolored these classic comics with a heavy hand that leaves them unacceptably modern and soulless. I would love to see a company like IDW, which does not screw with original coloring whatsoever and even prints on textural, comic-style stock (as opposed to Dark Horse’s glossy pages), tear the property out of Dark Horse’s greasy hooves. As Dark Horse has more E.C. anthologies on tap for 2015, I understand that this is one of the most unlikely wishes on this list, but it’s no more out there than my wish to breathe underwater, which I’m also hoping will come true next year. Keep your webbed fingers crossed.

2. Beatles Singles Box

From the far-fetched wish to the inevitable one, Capitol/UMe has been giving us so much superior-quality Beatles long-playing vinyl over the past couple of years that I’d wager the probability of them rereleasing the short-playing records is pretty probable. The original picture sleeves and a neat classic 45s carry-case are givens. The only stumbling box might be a relative lack of interest in singles, but if R.E.M. and The Turtles can get the singles box treatment, I don’t see how the most popular group in the galaxy would get passed up. I do think we’ll have to wait until after Capitol/UMe reissues The Beatles’ U.S. albums on vinyl (likely with the original bad echo and bad duophonic mixes the recent CD box lacked), but can that be far away?

3. Rolling Stones in Mono

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ten Terrifying Monster Toys That Time Forgot!

The holidays are a time when the little ones rub the sleep from their eyes before the crack of dawn to scamper down the stairs to see what goodies Santa left under the tree. Is it a train for Johnny? Or maybe a dolly for Suzy? Or maybe it’s a galactic monstrosity so intent on ripping Johnny’s throat out that it has an extra mouth inside of its mouth. Or perhaps it’s a gelatinous millipede Suzy can create in her very own mad laboratory. Along with the usual Star Wars and Batman merchandise, terrifying toys that appealed to my love of monsters terrorized my own childhood. Here are ten of the most terrifying.

1. Mego Mad Monsters (1973)

We begin our discussion of monster toys as all discussions of monsters must begin: with Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy. In 1973, Mego, the company that totally dominated the pre-Star Wars toy market, built on the success of its superhero figures with ones celebrating Universal’s classic monsters. And these were not just any monsters; they were “mad”, possibly because they looked kind of crappy, at least compared to the similar dolls Remco would produce seven years later. While Remco’s line would be nicely molded to capture the visages of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaneys Sr. and Jr., Mego’s line was a bit generic. Dracula wore an outfit that looked more befitting Mayor McCheese than the Prince of Darkness, and the Frankenstein Monster looked a bit like he had gas. The Wolfman was pretty cool though, with its wolfier head than that of the Chaney-style werewolf. The only other creature in the line was a fairly convincing Mummy. Mego’s creeps got a really cool accessory with the Mad Monster Castle Playset, sort of a big version of Remco’s little carrying case (more on that to come). This one had a working drawbridge and gruesome interior artwork depicting decapitated heads in mayonnaise jars. A fresh generation of serial killers followed.

2. The Game of Jaws (1975)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review: The Criterion Edition of 'Safe'

The late eighties/early nineties was a boom time for young visionary directors, but your Steven Soderbergs and your Quentin Tarantinos and even your Lars Von Triers had nothing on Todd Haynes. His first film starred a Barbie and Ken doll as Karen and Richard Carpenter. Despite the silly premise and the offensive blandness of The Carpenters’ music, Superstar not only wasn’t a joke but it was legitimately disturbing, depressing, and moving. His second film, Poison, fell in line with his AIDS-awareness activism but did so with fearless originality, interpreting the writings of Jean Genet as a shuffled up portmanteau of horror, documentary, and prison mini-movies. Haynes’s activism became a lightning rod for some viewers, particularly those in the LGBT community, when he made his next and biggest budget (still under a million dollars) film to date. Because Safe dealt with disease, and featured implicit and explicit references to AIDS, other activists felt Haynes was selling out by making his main character a woman and her illness something other than AIDS.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: 'Terry O’Neill’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Album'

Terry O’Neill photographed some of the most monumental movers and shakers of the twentieth century: JFK, Churchill, Mandella, Blair. That’s very nice for him, but what about the people who made us move and shake? Well, stand back, because this cat has shot The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Ray Davies, Led Zeppelin, Elvises Presley and Costello, Chuck Berry, Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Springsteen, Bowie… I think you get the picture. You can get a slew of them in a new A (for AC/DC) to Z (for Zeppelin) collection of his most iconic and rarest pictures called Terry O’Neill’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Album.

That title is actually slightly misleading because quite a few of the stars between its covers have nothing to do with rocking or rolling (there’s a big spread on Sinatra, who hated the genre). Don’t get too hung up on that because there’s plenty that fits the bill from O’Neill’s earliest swinging snaps of the Fabs, The Dave Clark Five, The Animals, and some very, very young Stones through relatively recent artists such as Blur and Amy Winehouse. She’s the most recent one in the lot because O’Neill admits in his introduction that no one since her has had enough star power to ensnare his interest (I see what he means).

The interesting thing about O’Neill’s work is the way it often subverts our expectations. He’s the one who shot that famous picture of Ozzy in which the evil one looks like he just paid his one hundred bucks at Glamour Shots. He made Liza Minnelli look like Jagger. He made ol’ Lucifer Lips look like a cuddly bear all wrapped up in his fur-lined anorak. Ringo appears to be the lead Beatles as he leaps over the rest of the band in an extraordinary action shot I’d never seen before. He filmed hellion Marc Bolan in a very moving embrace with his infant son.

At other times, O’Neill captured the artists just as we expect them to be, whether it’s Sir Elton posing in his giant wardrobe of outrageous gear or Alice Cooper subverting that Bolan shot hilariously by applying fright makeup to a sleeping baby. Really, there is no unifying style or approach to perceive among the mass of photos in Terry O’Neill’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Album. Color or black and white, candid or staged, funny or po-faced, action-packed or serene, bizarrely normal or normally bizarre, the photos in this big, big, big book really have one thing in common: big, big, big music stardom.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: 'Rock Covers'

I used to keep a copy of Michael Ochs’s 1000 Record Covers on my desk. It was a handy reference for cool album art and fit perfectly next to my little dictionary and thesaurus. One thing the 5.5-inch x 7.5-inch book did not do was provide an accurate representation of the scale and detail of those covers. That kind of thing may have cut the mustard during the CD age when we forgot what we were missing, but vinyl has now made a resounding comeback (do I need to refer you to the wild hype surrounding the release of the Beatles in Mono vinyl box a few months ago?). That means the 1-foot-square sleeve has too. For a better idea of how it feels to actually hold a copy of Here's Little Richard or Pet Sounds or Atom Heart Mother or Marquee Moon or Goo or The White Stripes in your hand, dig Busch, Kirby, and Wiedemann's Rock Covers. Like 1000 Record Covers, it is published by Taschen, but it probably won't fit on your desk. Just a half-inch shorter on both sides than your average LP jacket, Rock Covers is surely intended to provide an authentic experience even though every one of its artworks is not presented at full-page size. The editors also fill in a lot of Ochs's blind spots, giving much more space to punk, college, and alternative albums than Ochs did. Not only do we get some classic Vaughan Oliver sleeves but we get a short interview with the man himself, as well as others such as Henry Diltz and Black Crowe Chris Robinson.

That this is a great art book is a given since it contains so much great art. It does lose a few points for authenticity when compared to Ochs's book because everything in it is so straight-out-of-shrink-wrap clean. Ochs did not whitewash what goes down in a real record collection. You could tell his records were used, abused, bruised, deeply loved, and regularly rotated. I also like how he'd juxtapose sleeves that shared some sort of aesthetic trait. Busch, Kirby, and Wiedemann go for straight alphabetical order. Still, if it's between tiny, damaged images and great, big, unblemished ones, I admit size matters. Rock Covers comes out on top.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Warner Issue Replacement Discs to Reinstate Missing Footage from "Batman: The Complete Television Series"

My recent review of Warner Bros. Batman: The Complete Television Series was mostly glowing, though I did mention issues with a couple of episodes that are missing brief shots. On Tuesday, Warner Bros. addressed these minor issues with the following statement announcing a disc replacement program (interestingly, the bonus discs will also include a little new bonus content):

"Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will provide fans with replacement discs and digital repairs to the few minor technical issues identified in its recent release of Batman: The Complete Television Series.

Amounting to less than five minutes of footage within the 50-plus hours of entertainment, the issues encompass one 60-second dropped scene in the episode entitled "Marsha's Scheme of Diamonds"; a brief piece of rarely-heard William Dozier narration that originally opened the pilot episode, "Hi Diddle Riddle"; and an assembly of villain tags from the end of assorted episodes.

"The restoration process of this footage - spanning 48 years and two major studios - has been a super heroic task, and we deeply regret even the smallest of glitches occurring in that process," said Rosemary Markson, Senior Vice President, TV Brand Management & Retail Marketing, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. "We recognize our obligation to the fans of this landmark series, and we have worked diligently to identify all issues and provide resolutions as quickly as possible."

To resolve these issues for consumers purchasing Batman: The Complete Television Series, WBHE will make available complete replacement discs for the discs that originally included the episodes "Marsha's Scheme of Diamonds" and "Hi Diddle Riddle." The villain tags will be re-issued as an assembled string on one of the aforementioned discs and, as an added bonus, WBHE has acquired rights and legal clearances to both a Bat-vehicle teaser that originally aired as part of the second season-opening "Shoot A Crooked Arrow" episode, and one of the original promotional tags that aired on the original showing of the "The Duo Defy" episode. Additionally, all fixes will be made to all Digital HD versions of Batman: The Complete Television Series.

To obtain the replacement discs, consumers who have purchased Batman: The Complete Television Series are directed to

Worldwide demand for the Limited Edition box set of Batman: The Complete Television Series has been tremendous, resulting in widespread retailer sellouts and rapidly dwindling inventories heading into the holiday season. To fulfill consumer interest, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced a new streamlined Blu-ray™ box set that includes all 120 episodes and matching enhanced content from the limited edition set, but without the added premium items or Digital HD copy. Purchasers of this set will also need to utilize the customer service website to obtain replacement discs."

Review: 'Alice’s Wonderland: A Visual Journey through Lewis Carroll's Mad, Mad World'

In the introduction to her own Alice’s Wonderland: A Visual Journey through Lewis Carroll's Mad, Mad World, Catherine Nichols writes that Lewis Carroll’s Alice books are “the most widely quoted texts after Shakespeare and The Bible.” I was taken aback by that bold declaration at first. Then I considered a pop culture wonderland in which John Lennon declares himself the walrus, Batman battles a Mad Hatter, and Grace Slick tells us to go ask Alice, and needed no more convincing. That little girl who took a confounding, shape-shifting romp through a rather unpleasant fantasyland has been climbing through our collective consciousness for 149 years now. One year before that, Carroll presented Alice’s Adventures under Ground to its inspiration, Alice Liddell, as a personal gift, so this year actually marks her 150th birthday.

Naturally, Nichols’ discusses the fateful boat trip in which the artist formerly known as Charles Dodgson helped a restless girl pass the time with fantastical stories in which she played the lead role, but by page 22 of Alice’s Wonderland, we’ve pretty much passed the origin tales and moved on to the book’s main focuses: lavish images and how Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass have endured for a century and a half despite being a pair of books pretty resistant to satisfying adaptation. Nichols touches on the pantomimes and stage plays (one being a musical in which Meryl Streep played a 17-year old Alice!) and TV shows and animated, live-action, and pornographic films that attempted to bring Carroll’s world to life. She also gets into the curiouser and curiouser board games, video games, theme restaurants and theme park rides, tattoos, and toys that have taken Alice further and further from her literary roots.

If the text seems to sprint by a bit, the images will stop to you in your tracks. John Tenniel’s original artwork has inspired countless other artists, some of whom illustrated future editions of Carroll’s books (Peter Blake! Salvador Dalí!  Max Ernst! Ralph Steadman! Yow!), and others who used it as inspiration for fashion, fine art, head posters, comic books, and amusement park rides. You may end up looking like a Wonderland resident because the variety of Wondernalia vividly presented throughout Alice’s Wonderland will pop your eyes out.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Farewell, Ian McLagan

He pounded the keys with some of the best British bands in Rock & Roll history. Ian McLagan's career began when he replaced original Small Face Jimmy Winston, and continued barreling ahead when that band lost its "Small" and gained Rod Stewart. His bluesy yet joyful playing also gave a boost to Rod's excellent early solo albums. After Faces broke up and guitarist Ronnie Wood joined The Rolling Stones, Ian could often be found doing what he did best on stage (and on occasion in the studio) with the biggest Rock & Roll band in the world, even if he was doing his work outside the spotlight.

McLagan's story doesn't end with his four highest profile gigs. Dylan, Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Nick Lowe, and Frank Black are a few of the other incredible artists who've benefited from Ian McLagan's assistance. So did the former Kim Moon when she fled an unstable and dangerous home life with Keith Moon and found a calmer one with a guy who played in some of Rock's wildest acts.

Of course, we should not mistakenly cast Ian as some sort of perpetual sideman. He also had a long-running solo career since 1979's Troublemaker, right up to United States released just this past.

Tragically, Kim McLagan died in a car accident in 2006. Eight years later, Ian has followed her at the age of 69 after suffering a fatal stroke. We fans can still find a lot of joy in the amazing work he left behind, such as the intro of "Too Bad". Damn!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hear The Who Sing "A Quick One While He's Away" Live This Past November 30

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey promised to pull some odds and sods out of their hats for The Who's fiftieth anniversary/fiftieth farewell tour. So far, the setlists have still been pretty light on sixties rarities with the exceptions of "I Can See for Miles" (only a rarity on stage since it's one of their hugest hits) and "A Quick One While He's Away". That latter addition is the one that made me gasp, so I immediately went seeking it, and indeed, found the performance from their November 30 gig at Glasgow's SSE Hydro. It's a very impressive version of one of my favorite Who nuggets, and you can hear it below. Worth noting is that they do the whole song, complete with the full "Ivor the Engine Driver" section The Who usually halved in performances past.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: Siouxsie and the Banshees Reissues

Five years ago, Universal Music Company was still doing right by one of its coolest properties, reissuing Siouxsie and the Banshees’ original albums since 2007 with remastered sound, bonus tracks, and nice digipak packaging. The pop-breakthrough Tinderbox had come out in 2009, and the transitional covers album Through the Looking Glass was next. Then the reissue campaign stopped. Banshee Steve Severin, who’d been involved in these reissues, claimed that UMC lost interest because there weren’t enough bonus tracks to accompany his band’s final four albums to justify reissue. The claim seemed like a sketchy excuse, but whatever. The bottom line was that we would not be getting remasters of Through the Looking Glass, Peepshow, Superstition, and The Rapture.
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