Mike Nesmith: 1942-2021

In September, 1965, the call went out. Television producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schnieder were looking for four young, male, hip, musician/singer/actor-types to be part of a wacky TV show inspired by The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. Hundreds auditioned and eventually four were picked.

The Monkees are here, mayhem will surely follow.

Micky Dolenz had acted on television as a boy, under the name Mickey Braddock, in the short-lived TV series Circus Boy. (Short-lived in that it only lasted two seasons, but it churned out 49 episodes. Breaking Bad lasted five seasons amassing 62 episodes, only 13 more than Circus Boy. Times have certainly changed.) British actor/singer Davy Jones had gained popularity for his portrayal of the Artful Dodger in the stage musical Olivier! and made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, sharing the evening’s bill with the aforementioned Beatles. Peter Tork, a Folk musician who could play several instruments, was recommended by his friend Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) after Stills’ failed his audition. And then there was Mike Nesmith, the tall Texan in the wool hat, which he wore to keep his hair out of his eyes when riding his motorcycle. (A helmet would have done the same thing and would have been more protective.)

The members had been selected and The Monkees were born.

Into the studio, both television and recording, the boys were whisked to make history.

The Monkees TV series was also short-lived. It lasted only two seasons and aired 58 shows. (58?! Jeepers! Breaking Bad, you are such a slacker!) The show was also awarded two Emmys. It may have only lasted two seasons, but its impact is still felt today.

And there was the music.

The “Pre-Fab Four” often get dismissed because they didn’t play their instruments on their records. They didn’t write their own songs. But, so what? Elvis Presley didn’t write his own songs. The Beach Boys almost exclusively used session musicians on their albums. Besides, Nesmith did get one of his songs (Papa Gene’s Blue) and another he co-wrote with Gerry Goffin and Carole King (Sweet Young Thing) on the band’s 1966 self-titled debut album. Mike went on to write more songs as time passed. In fact, some of his compositions are among my favorite of The Monkees’ catalog.

Mike Nesmith died last Friday at the age of 78.

He and Micky Dolenz (the now sole surviving member of the band) had just finished their 2021 Farewell Tour in mid-November and had plans to appear together on a cruise next year. That may be why Mike’s death came as such a shock. He was just touring, wasn’t he?!

I know Mike Nesmith was more than his participation with The Monkees. He worked in television, film, and video production. He was executive producer of the cult classic Repo Man (1984). He pioneered music video production and his long-form music video Elephant Parts won the first ever Grammy for Video of the Year. He was also a pioneer in country rock with his second musical outfit First National Band.

But I will always remember him as the coolest member of The Monkees. I will always remember him as Wool Hat.

A short list of Monkees songs sung by Mike Nesmith, some of which he also wrote:

Me And Magdalena from Good Times (2016)

Tapioca Tundra from The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (1968)

The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Nesmith vocals) from Headquarters (1967 – 1995 CD reissue bonus track)

Papa Gene’s Blues from The Monkees (1966)

What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round? from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (1967)

You Just May Be The One from Headquarters (1967)

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

You Know What’s A Really Good Movie About An Old Transylvanian Vampire Who Moves To England?

Well, the first 20 minutes or so are really good, then it gets rather stagey.

It’s the movie that saved the floundering Universal Studios. It’s the movie the made a Hungarian actor, who was having difficulty grasping English, a star. It’s the movie that kicked off the Golden Age of Horror films.

Of course, I’m referring to Tod Browning’s 1931 horror classic Dracula.

It wasn’t long after films began to talk when Dracula went into production. There’s plenty of talk and sound effects in the movie, but very little music. In silent films, music was used to help set the tone, mood, and emotional content of the scenes. Music was part of the storytelling. However, as I understand it, in the early days of talkies musical scores were ditched in many films, because producers thought music would be a distraction. It more likely had something to do with the Great Depression and attempting to keep costs down.

So, Dracula does not use a score to enhance the mood and emotions of the story. The film does open with some tone setting music from Tchaikovsky” Swan Lake and closes with a brief bit of music, but for the rest of the film the background is filled with silence. That really works for me in this and in that other horror classic Universal would release later that same year: Frankenstein. To me the background silence of these two monster movies adds to their atmosphere of horror. It’s eerie. And, in the scene in which Dracula (Bela Lugosi) creeps toward a sleeping Lucy Weston (Frances Dade) for a late night nibble, it is so much more chilling in the silence. In 1998, composer Philip Glass put a score to the film. I found his score distracting.

Enjoy the silence.

The story begins with a young and ambitious Mr. Renfield, who has traveled to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula in order to finalize the purchase of an old, broken down abbey in the English countryside. Renfield, played brilliantly by Dwight Frye, is unfazed by the dire warnings of the local villagers to not go to Castle Dracula. But go to the castle he does.

He is unceremoniously dropped off at Borgo Pass where he is to be met by a carriage from Dracula’s castle. The carriage is there and has a mysterious and silent driver, who is the Count himself. (I guess he was trying to cut costs on staff. It was the Great Depression, after all.) It took years me to catch onto to the fact that Lugosi played the driver. I guess I’m slow.

Once Renfield arrives at his destination after a harrowing carriage ride, he cautiously enters the run down castle and we get to see a wonderful set. The high ceiling, soaring columns and archways with moonlight streaming in from the glassless windows dwarf the tiny figure of Mr. Renfield. Then we meet him – Count Dracula. There on the steps, he greets the young businessman and leads him to an upper floor of the castle.

Did he just walk through that spiderweb?! And the web is unaffected?!

A more pleasant and inviting room is reached and the business is commenced. Some wine and food are provided to Renfield, but the host refrains from drinking. “I never drink… wine.” (I love that line.)

Heh heeh heeeh heeeeeh.

Without giving away too much, Renfield is… recruited into Dracula’s service and the pair make their way to England aboard a ship called the Vesta. When the ship arrives, the crew is found dead, but Renfield is still alive, but quite out of his mind, providing the creepiest moment of the entire film.

From there the film begins to feel like a stage play. There’s a lot of standing and talking. The camera stays locked in place for most of the film, but there is a wonderful crane shot taking us through the courtyard of the Seward sanatorium, passing patients enjoying a sunny day, and moving into the cell that houses the disturbed Renfield. In the scene, a guard has taken away the spider the poor wretch had intended to eat. But other than that there isn’t much happening with the camera.

But, it was 1931 and the film does create a mood of horror, a creepiness. And it set the standard for the horror films that followed.

The not-so-thrilling climax has Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) and Jonathan Harker (David Manners) chasing after Dracula to rescue Harker’s fiance Mina Seward (Helen Chandler) and to destroy the vile evil vampire once and for all. The destruction of Dracula takes place off camera, we just hear his gasps as Van Helsing drives a wooden stake through his heart. And while that is happening, we watch Harker run around searching for the missing damsel.

“Now, now, Renfield!”

You are probably aware there was a Spanish version made by Universal at the same time the English version was being made. The Spanish version would film at night, using the same sets. And they would watch the dailies of the English version and they would do what they could to improve the scenes. And the Spanish version is a livelier production. Many think the Spanish version is superior. And it is in many ways, but its casting isn’t nearly as good.

One of the casting shortcomings of the Spanish version is the part of Renfield. In the English version, Dwight Frye is brilliant. His Renfield is fantastic. His subdued yet menacing laugh is incredible. I don’t know how he came up with it, but it is so unnerving. In the Spanish version, Pablo Alvarez Rubio decided to portrait his Renfield as way over the top crazy. It’s humorous and entertaining, but Frye’s Renfield feels crazier by not going so big.

And Frye nearly steals the show, but…

Bela Lugosi is perfect as Dracula. He wasn’t the first choice, though. That was Lon Chaney, but Chaney died before production began. Universal still didn’t want Lugosi, who was playing the roll on stage and he was a big hit. They were looking for someone else. Someone more recognizable than Lugosi. However, eventually the studio relented to Lugosi’s constant campaigning and gave him the part. (The fact that Bela agreed to play the role at a much lower rate than Chaney would have been paid also helped.) And as I said, Lugosi was perfect. He set the template and every vampire in film ever since has been compared to his Dracula. In the Spanish version, Carlos Villairas’s Dracula just doesn’t come close.

I’ve heard the reason Dracula was so stagey and not as dynamic as later horror films may have been that the director wasn’t really interested in the production. It was said that Tod Browning had checked out. That seems possible to me. I mean, when it came to filming the climax, I can imagine the actor David Manners asking the director what he was to do in the scene. Browning may have responded, “Oh, I don’t know. Run around and call out Mina a bunch of times.”

And he did. He ran around calling out his fiance’s name. Over and over. Over and over. So many times. How many times?

20. I counted.

The film may be 90 years old and more like the stage play it was based on, it’s still a classic. And I love it.

Happy Halloween!

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

Schoolhouse Rock Rocked (Mostly)

ABC Television

Back in the early days of my childhood, it could not be overemphasized how important Saturday morning television programming was to us kids. Each year, sometime in late summer, the networks would run their prime-time specials previewing their Saturday morning line-ups for that fall. Those programs built excitement for the upcoming season and they softened the blow of the impending school year. Here’s NBC’s 1974 preview show.

Much of the programming seems awfully silly to me now, but when I was a kid I was enthralled. I know I’m gonna sound like an old man here, but kids today are missing out on the excitement of anticipation for the Saturday morning cartoon shows. See? I sound like an old man.

In 1973, ABC debuted a series of interstitial cartoons meant to educate as well as entertain. It was Schoolhouse Rock! And we kids loved them. (Well, most of them.) They were three minute long cartoons, played during ad breaks or between shows, featuring songs that taught about math, history, grammar, science, etc. They were the brainchild of ad man David McCall. McCall noticed his son was having trouble with math, and yet knew all the words to the pop songs of the day. McCall thought that maybe school lessons set to catchy tunes might help his and other kids learn.

In 1971, McCall recruited Bob Dorough, a musician and songwriter, to write a math lesson song, which became Three Is A Magic Number. Tom Yohe, who worked with McCall at the same ad agency, drew up some illustrations to go along with the song. Next thing you know, they were creating a whole series of songs to animate and put on television.

Some of the episodes haven’t aged very well (Elbow Room especially, despite still having a good tune), but most still pack a delightful punch.

And now a break from the blog for a brief rant…

There he is! Little Twelvetoes!

Schoolhouse Rock! also taught me the concept of overkill. As I recall, certain episodes became very popular indeed and started getting played with much higher frequency. One in particular.

Each time I would see the Schoolhouse Rock! intro, I would plead for one of the less frequently played, but much liked by me, installments:

“Little Twelvetoes! Little Twelvetoes! Little Twelvetoes!” I would repeat as I waited to see which would play.

(I liked Little Twelvetoes. It had a mysterious and somewhat creepy vibe. Sort of an early X-Files thing.)

But, no. It would be Conjunction Junction. Again!

Again?! Sigh.

Or, maybe, Figure Eight.

Both were excellent, but they were seriously overplayed.

Rant over. Now back to the blog.

So, what were my favorites? I thought you would never ask.

As I look through the list on Wikipedia, I’m noticing how many I really like that were written, many of which were also performed, by Lynn Ahrens. In no particular order, some of my faves by Ahrens include: A Noun Is A Person Place Or Thing, Interjections!, No More Kings, Interplanet Janet, Fireworks (sung by Grady Tate), and The Preamble.

There’s one that was written by George Newall and sung by Blossom Dearie that I would put in my top three: Unpack Your Adjectives.

I love the art style of I Got Six.

But, it was Bob Dorough who has the most episodes to his credit and the most of my favorites. I’ve already mentioned the first of all the Schoolhouse Rock! cartoons, Three Is A Magic Number and that mysterious alien Little Twelvetoes. Add to those the following (unless otherwise noted all of these were sung by Dorough): My Hero Zero, I Got Six (sung by Grady Tate), Figure Eight (sung by Blossom Dearie), Ready Or Not Here I Come, Sufferin’ Till Suffrage (sung by Essra Mohawk), and the bestest of them all – Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here.

Tom Yohe’s simple illustration style was excellent. I especially like his work on I Got Six. The sketchy yet disciplined linework over a white background and limited use of color is brilliant. There may be some eyebrow raising moments in there, what with the harem and the “prince” character and all, but it was 1973 and people were still learning. Heck, we’re still learning today.

How’s that spelled?

The initial run of Schoolhouse Rock! was from 1973 until 1984. The series returned to Saturday mornings in 1994 with a selection of the originals and eight new episodes, including one called Walkin’ On Wall Street. That one has an amusing typo that slipped by everyone. There’s a shot featuring a newsstand. Look at the picture. Can you spot the error?

In 1993, the series was taken to the stage with the production called Schoolhouse Rock Live! Then in 1996, a tribute album featuring ’90s’ alternative artists’ covers titled Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks. And in 2009, Schoolhouse Rock! released several new episodes direct to DVD covering topics related to the environment called Schoolhouse Rock! Earth.

But my heart belongs to the Schoolhouse Rock! that ruled the 1970s.

“Darn! That’s the end.”

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

Uri Geller To The Rescue!

I’m a skeptic. That means if you want me to accept that someone has supernatural powers I will need some pretty darn good evidence. I need more than just someone’s word or the demonstration of a few parlor tricks. I will need to be convinced the person with special, super-human powers isn’t cheating.

This doesn’t mean I can’t suspend my disbelief and accept that there are such gifted (or cursed) characters in fiction. When I watch movies and television or read novels and comic books, I can accept that Mr. Fantastic can stretch, that Dorothy is in the Land of Oz, that Storm can control the weather, that Mr. Spock can mind-meld, and that Harry Potter is a wizard. It’s fiction. It’s fantasy. And in comic books, if it can be drawn, it can be done.

In the real world, though, it’s a different story.

Uri Geller

Enter Uri Geller. In the 1970s, this young man from Israel caught the world’s attention by bending spoons. He claimed he did it with his mind. However, his hands always seemed to be involved. Hmm. I wonder if maybe he was physically bending those spoons in secret and then using sleight of hand to make it appear as though the utensils were being bent by his mind. Sleight of hand or superpowers? Which seems more likely?

James Randi

In 1973, Geller appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny had started his show biz career as a magician, so he had some insights that the average person who was convinced by Geller didn’t. (By the way, some of those convinced people included scientists.) Johnny had his doubts about young Geller and he enlisted James “The Amazing” Randi to help with an upcoming appearance by the spoon bender. Johnny wanted to put in some controls to prevent Geller from cheating. If that was what he was doing, he wouldn’t be able to do his tricks.

Neither Geller nor any of his people were allowed to bring props or to have any contact with those provided by the show. The “psychic” phenom would be presented with the items when he walked onto the set. Not a moment earlier.

With controls, failure.

Geller failed. In front of millions of viewers.

He excused his failure on not feeling strong and he suggested that Johnny was putting undue pressure on him. You can watch the infamous appearance with Johnny and get some more insights on Geller’s “abilities” from James Randi here.

One would think such a public failure would have ended Geller’s popularity, but no. His appearance on the Tonight Show only led to his getting more bookings. He was soon appearing on The Merv Griffin Show and he was definitely feeling strong. From what I’ve heard (I haven’t seen the appearance), no controls were put in place and his powers were in full force.

Huh. Imagine that.

Without controls, success.

Sadly, 27 years after Geller’s failure on the Tonight Show, the middle-aged “psychic” phenom returned as a guest of Carson’s replacement, Jay Leno. And, much like most of Geller’s other showcases of his abilities, no controls were in place. Geller reached into his old bag of tricks, the same half a dozen or so, and his powers were once again in full force.

Huh. Imagine that.

(Did you know Johnny wanted David Letterman for his replacement?)

Enter Marvel Comics. In 1976, Stan Lee knew a good gimmick when he saw one and he called in writer/editor Marv Wolfman. “Marv! I want you to write that amazing young man who bends things into one of our comic books!” Wolfman wrote Geller a guest appearance in Daredevil #133 (May, 1976). Not as a mildly interesting fellow who bends keys, reproduces drawings by others without having seen them, and restarts stopped watches, no, no, no, Geller has abilities in the story that put all those tricks to shame.

In the comic, Geller can communicate telepathically with Mind-Wave, the villain of the issue. He can psychically locate the evil-doer. And he can bend metal pipes. With his mind. And there’s none of that rubbing with a finger and repeating, “Bend! Bend! Bend!” theatricality.

Comic book Geller bending a metal pipe.

I think I can safely say Uri Geller has never bent a metal pipe in his life. Certainly not with his mind.

In the section of the comic book normally set aside for letters to the editor, Marv Wolfman wrote the story behind the Geller appearance. Yeah, he was skeptical at first, people often are, but a couple bent keys and a reproduced drawing later and Marv was convinced. It’s disappointing, but most people don’t know what to look for when a trickster is at work.

Meh.

In more recent years, Uri Geller has winkingly come clean about not really having super-powers. Besides, just how super of a power is bending spoons anyway?

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

A Pedant Nitpicks One of Television’s Greatest Moments

Was it a comedy/drama or was it a drama/comedy? (I’ve given my take on that question in a previous blog you can check out here.) Whatever the answer, none can deny it was one of American television’s greatest shows. I’m talking about M*A*S*H (1972-1983) the groundbreaking series set in a mobile army surgical hospital in South Korea during the Korean War (1950-1953).

One of the most popular characters of the series was Lt. Col. Henry Blake, the somewhat bumbling, frequently befuddled commanding officer of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit. He was played by McLean Stevenson, who at some point in the show’s third season (1974/75) wanted out. He wanted to pursue more lucrative offers, one of which was NBC dangling the possible replacing of Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show when Johnny retired. Of course, McLean would have to leave CBS and M*A*S*H to come to NBC and star in a show tailored just for him for that offer to come true.

Johnny didn’t retire until 1992 and none of the shows Stevenson starred in lasted very long. Was it one of the worst career blunders in television history? Maybe. I’ll let others debate over that.

Stevenson was able to convince the producers to let him leave the popular series. In fact, he was given a season finale send off that has gone down in television history. The episode is called Abyssinia, Henry. The entire episode was built upon the excitement of Henry being able to go home, to get away from the war, to be with his wife and kids again, to pick up the pieces of his life.

A hilarious drunken party was held. Memories were shared. Henry got himself a spiffy new suit. He may have crossed the line with his goodbye to Maj. Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit), a character who was still in her “Hot Lips” phase. I mean that kiss might not fly today. And there was that touching moment when he stopped himself from climbing on the helicopter to come back and give his company clerk “Radar” O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff) a personal goodbye.

Then back on the chopper and off for home.

However, and this is a spoiler if you’ve never watched the show or know nothing about it – where have you been?! – Lt. Col. Henry Blake never made it home.

This is where the episode became cemented in television history.

The producers had decided that Henry should die. It was their way of reminding the audience that war is hell. It’s senseless. And people die needlessly. This was a message the producers stressed when answering angry letters written by fans who were so upset by the death of such a beloved character.

Larry Gelbart, who was one of the main creative forces behind the show, directed this episode. He kept the tragic ending from the cast and crew during the rehearsals and filming. He didn’t want the actors knowing of Henry’s death as that knowledge might change their performances. They were all fine actors, but knowing the story would have such a sad ending might have taken some of the joy away from the meat of the show.

When it came to time to do the last scene, Gelbart called the main cast together and gave them the final part of the script. The cast members were stunned. The scene was shot. It was set in the operating room, just the same as when the episode opened. This time, however, instead of entering to tell Col. Blake that he had earned his points and was being discharged, Radar came in with a much, much different message:

“I have a message. Lt. Col. Henry Blake’s plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors.”

He turned to leave as the camera panned across the stunned silence of the OR. A scalpel is dropped which momentarily breaks the silence while at the same time it accentuates it.

Damn. When TV is done right, it is so good.

Packing Pea… Oh, wait! I was going to nitpick this scene, wasn’t I? I almost forgot.

Look, it boils down to three words: “It spun in.”

It’s a phrase that has not sat well with me for a long time. I mean, it is a telegram message, presumably from Army Command, that Radar reads to the hospital staff, right? Written by some clerk to inform Col. Blake’s former command of his death. Why describe how the plane crashed? Why say, “It spun in?” Saying the plane was shot down and there were no survivors would suffice. It would have been efficient. It would have been more military.

I just don’t think someone would take the time to paint a picture. His plane was shot down. No one survived. Why say any more?

It’s that line that takes me out of the scene. Admittedly, it doesn’t take me out by much, but I hear the voice of the show’s writers in those three words. And it has bugged me.

That’s the thing about nits, they bug you until you pick them.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

An Unsatisfied Top Ten List

Writer’s note: Pulled from my personal blog at Dimland.com comes this tribute to a band that could get you to cry by the power of their songs. I have revised it a bit.

da7754-20160323-replacements
Photo credit: Greg Helgeson

It was eleven years ago, while listening to the Stuck in the 80s podcast (which is still going strong), I was inspired to rise to a challenge that wasn’t really offered. At that time, the show was hosted by Steve Spears and Sean Daly, today Daly is gone having been replaced by Brad Williams. Spears is still the anchor of the program.

On one show Sean treated listeners to a top ten list of the saddest and most emotionally charged songs of the 1980s, according to him anyway. At least, that’s what I remember the list as being.

I won’t go into my assessment of Sean’s list. To be honest, I can’t remember it, but I do remember that almost half of the list consisted of songs by or featuring Phil Collins. It sometimes seemed the hosts thought that Phil Collins was the only musical artist of that decade. To be fair, Collins was all over the radio in the ’80s. Sean’s list inspired me to do a list of my own. My list will feature incredible emotionally charged songs by just one artist – The Replacements.

And you thought I was going to say The Smiths.

The Replacements were led by one of the 1980s’ (and all time, for that matter) finest songwriters, Paul Westerberg. Paul’s lyrics could be funny, they were often irreverent, and sometimes gut-wrenching. He certainly wore his heart on his sleeve. A fact he acknowledges on his first official solo album 14 Songs on the track First Glimmer.

Maybe these songs aren’t all sad, per se, but they are powerful, poignant works of musical art.

And none of them feature Phil Collins.

(The song titles link to the songs on YouTube.)

10) Johnny’s Gonna Die

From their debut album Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981). This is a song about knowing your hero is a flawed human being destined for disaster. In this case, it’s about one of Westerberg’s music heroes, Johnny Thunders. Paul called it, Johnny died of a drug overdose in 1991.

“Johnny wants something what he ain’t got”

9) Answering Machine

From their last independent label album Let It Be (1984). This is a song of the frustrations of attempting to achieve true connections to another person.

“How do I say ‘I’m lonely’ to/ An answering machine?”

8) Sixteen Blue

Also from Let It Be. I think every high school age boy should thank Paul for understanding and getting it right. This song can be considered the boys’ version of Janis Ian’s At Seventeen.

“I don’t understand/ Tell my friends I’m doin’ fine”

7) The Ledge

From Pleased To Meet Me (1987). I love the sound of the guitars on this song. A song about a young man, standing on the ledge of a tall building, finally getting the attention he’s craved all his life, but only when he’s decided to kill himself. And, at the end of the song… he jumps.

“I’m the boy they can’t ignore/ For the first time in my life, I’m sure”

6) Skyway

Also from Pleased To Meet Me. A song about a love that seems as though it will never be fulfilled, fate keeps him away from the object of his desire.

“There wasn’t a damn thing I could do or say/ Up in the skyway”

5) Sadly Beautiful

From their last album All Shook Down (1990). This could be considered Westerberg’s unofficial first solo album, had the label not insisted on releasing it as a Replacements’ album.

For me, the song voices the deeply felt regret that life goes by so fast and the joy of having lived at all. In every way, this song lives up to its title.

“Had no chance at all to let you know/ You left me sadly, beautiful”

4) Within Your Reach

From Hootenanny (1983). The line I site says it better than anything I could write here.

“Live without your touch/ If I die within your reach”

3) Achin’ To Be

From Don’t Tell A Soul (1989). Here we have the frustration of wanting to be loved and truly understood, and trying so hard, but still failing.

“If no one’s on your canvas/ Well, I’m achin’ to be”

2) Here Comes A Regular

From their first major label album Tim (1985). Anyone who has spent an appreciable amount of time drowning their sorrows at the local watering hole will feel a chord struck with this song.

“All I know is I’m sick of everything that my money can buy/ A fool will waste his life, God rest his guts”

1) Unsatisfied

Another from Let It Be. This is an anthem for anyone who has ever been mad as hell, and I guess that would be everyone.

“Look me in the eye/ Then tell me/ That I’m satisfied/ Are you satisfied?”

See? No Phil Collins required.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

Modernized Archie Has A Great Cover

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In 2015, Archie Comics got a modernizing make-over. The stories brought in line with the times having more sophisticated storylines and characterizations. The books took on a greater emotional impact, while still providing some laughs.

Along with modernized stories and characters came modernized art. It had been changing for some time, but for decades Archie Comics had a look. A singular look. A style that rarely deviated no matter who was drawing. The characters each had to be drawn a specific way.

From title to title the look did not vary. Except in gradual ways. The very early Archie books of the 1940s differed in their look from those of the ’50s and ’60s, but within each time period, across titles, there was a specific look.

This was part of the reason Archie never interested me when I was a kid. I liked the way Marvel Comics and DC Comics allowed artists to express their individual styles. There may have been trends that gave a commonality to the various titles, but still artists’ individuality shone through. Besides, I liked reading about superheroes, I wasn’t interested in a bunch teenage kids. Unless they had super powers.

Eventually, Archie Comics allowed for individual artists’ styles to be employed in their titles. And that certainly can be seen in this month’s great cover (Archie #4 – January, 2016). The artist is Annie Wu. The Grand Comics Database lists her as doing the pencils and the inks. There is no information as to who colored the cover. That’s a shame because the coloring is a large part of what makes this a cover great. I would like to give that artist credit. Kudos, whoever you are.

There’s a fashion sketch art quality to the line work and the color. It’s not as cartoony as one thinks of when thinking of Archie, Betty, Jughead, Veronica, and the gang from Riverdale. These kids are real, well, as real as can be in comic book form. But the drawing isn’t photo-realistic. There’s a naturalness to the simplicity of Wu’s linework.

The coloring is great. I like the layered, marker-like coloring of Veronica’s purple pants. Please make note of that hint of blue sky in the breaks of clouds. Terrific touch. And that tree is wonderful. No black lines to define it. Just flat blocks of color, with some gradation, to give it a natural feel.

I like the angle, too.

There are a few variant covers for this issue. But I prefer this one.

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

“Two Down, Four To Go”

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The world received the sad news of the death of actor/writer/filmmaker/historian Terry Jones a couple days ago, so I decided to interrupt my January hiatus (unannounced, sorry about that) to throw in my few cents worth.

It was sometime in 1974, when PBS television stations across America began playing a very strange, very British sketch comedy program. A story a friend of mine tells of his first encounter with the show is of his father gathering the family around the TV console to watch a new (to America) comedy show from England. The company his father worked for at the time was sponsoring the show, so he figured the family ought to check it out. 30 minutes later there were two adults baffled by what they just witnessed and three kids, my friend and his sisters, completely on board. It was silly, irreverent, and the parents didn’t get it. What’s not to love?

My early recollection of the program was that sometimes women’s boobs could be seen. Even at that tender age, I must have been about ten, I took great interest in those bumps on women’s chests. Any show that would put boobs on display and was silly and funny just had to go onto my regular television viewing list.

I didn’t get everything at first. It was very British and that meant certain references wouldn’t be understood by Americans, especially American kids. However, over the years more and more of the brilliance of the show became apparent to me. The troupe of actors/writers and one cartoonist were educated, intellectual (the cartoonist maybe not so much of an intellectual, but he’s a cartoonist, what are ya gonna do?), and more than willing to attack every convention and institution, all while being completely silly and ofttimes in drag.

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The troupe was Graham Chapman (who died in 1989), John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. They all came from other British TV comedy shows, through which some met and worked together. Eventually everything led to the six of them getting a comedy sketch show of their own. It was called Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974). The men would write and perform on what would become the greatest TV comedy sketch program of all time. (Hyperbole!)

Embarrassing fact: When I first started watching the show, I thought John Cleese was Monty Python. He seemed to have the most authority. And he was the tallest. “I’m six foot five!” What else was I gonna think?

spam_waitressEach member of the troupe could play the everyman (or woman) and the voice of authority. They could be the gentleman and the creep. Jones played the everyman (or woman) and creeps very well. He was Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson and the man with three buttocks. He was the flasher who was fully clothed under that trench coat, but he had the look of a masher and a sign which read “Boo!” hanging around his neck. He was the completely innocent fellow wanting to to go for a swim at the beach, but couldn’t find anywhere to get undressed, until he ended up on a stage with an appreciative audience. “It’s a man’s life taking your clothes off in public.”

In their film Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life (1983), he was Mr. Creosote, a man so large and with an appetite so voracious he literally ate until he exploded. He was Prince Herbert in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), who just wanted… to… sing… “Stop that! Stop that!” Also in Holy Grail, he was Sir Bedevere the Wise, the knight who knew the best way to determine whether or not a woman was a witch. And he was Brian’s mother in Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979). “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

a75ea56f7f2f49d5baadda5d348909f8--fairy-dust-fantasy-artJones not only performed and wrote for Python, he also stepped behind the camera to co-direct with Terry Gilliam the Holy Grail and direct Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. Later and apart from Python, Terry Jones would write and host several history documentaries for British television. And he was the author of many books. I especially loved his idea of a children’s book. He produced one called Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book. A book he wrote and Brian Froud beautifully illustrated detailing the various kinds of fairies with examples “pressed” between the pages. Brilliant.

The man did a lot of work. What a legacy.

In 2015, Terry found out he had a form of dementia that would cause him to almost completely lose the ability to communicate. He wouldn’t be able to speak. For a man for whom language and words were so important to his life’s work this must have been especially horrible. My father-in-law suffered from the same illness. It became more and more difficult for him to get the words he had in his head to come out of his mouth. However, Dad’s dementia wasn’t able to get as advanced as Terry’s. My father-in-law would lose his life to lymphoma before he completely lost his words.

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Dementia finally shut Mr. Jones down this past Tuesday. He will be remembered and missed for a long, long time.

Oh! And before you get upset about the insensitive nature of the headline for this blog, you should know I am quoting from a tweet released by fellow Python John Cleese.

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Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

My Awesome ’80s Mix Tape

Writer’s note: Pulled from the archives of my personal blog at dimland.com, this is my write-up about a series of mixed tapes I made containing what I thought was totally awesome music from the 1980s. I’ve made a few revisions to the original. It should go without saying – this collection is not available in stores, or anywhere else for that matter.

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Awesome? Really?

Remember mix tapes? Sure you do, cassette tape technology isn’t completely dead yet. Like so many of us who grew up through the ’70s and ’80s, I made quite a few mix tapes.

I started making mix tapes while in my second year of art school (1984/85). A fellow student introduced me to the concept of taking blank cassette tapes and filling them with your favorite songs. “What?! You mean to tell me that I can record a variety of songs, songs I like, on a blank cassette, so that I can listen to a variety of artists of my choosing? With no commercials? Why, that would be like having the radio station I’ve always wanted!”

Over the next decade plus, I would make dozens and dozens of mix tapes.

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No. Not this one either.

Sometime in the mid ’90s, I began seeing ads for compilation CD sets filled with the awesome music of the ’80s. Ads like this one and this one. Now don’t get me wrong, not all the songs were awful, but awesome? Weeellll, I didn’t think so.

You see, while in art school, my musical tastes took a decided turn away from the mainstream. I turned toward what has since been categorized as alternative. I found myself getting into punk, post-punk, Goth, industrial, etc. The sort of music that wasn’t getting played on the radio and nowhere to be found on the charts. The collections I was seeing advertised weren’t even close to being awesome. Sure, there would be Whip It by Devo and Burning Down The House by Talking Heads, but those decent tunes would be offset by Kim Carnes, Loverboy, Bananarama, Toni Basil…

Awesome? Hardly!

“How lame!” I thought to myself and got to work creating a four volume set of mix tapes that I would call Awesome ’80s.

I limited myself to one song per artist. However, if a performer was part of a band and also released solo material in the ’80s, one song could be included from each (e.g. Peter Murphy and Bauhaus). Or if one band became another band and both released music in that decade (e.g. XTC and The Dukes of Stratosphear). A few songs may be considered mainstream, but they are still good enough to be included.

Nearly all of these songs can be found on Spotify or iTunes. Others can be found on YouTube, however there are a few songs by local (Minneapolis) bands that I just can’t find on the internets. Sorry.

I will list each volume’s song list without further comment. Rest assured, though, each song is great and worthy of a listen. Worthy of a thousand listens!

Volume I

Eighties – Killing Joke
I Will Dare – The Replacements
To Hell with Poverty – Gang of Four
Death of the European – The Three Johns
In Between Days – The Cure
Spinning Round – Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
Apeman Hop – Ramones
This Damn Nation – The Godfathers
She’s In Parties – Bauhaus
Alice’s House – The Psychedelic Furs
Rise – Public Image Ltd.
One Day in Your Life – 54-40
Give Me Back My Man – The B-52’s
Uncertain Smile – The The
Come To Milton Keyes – The Style Council
Into My Hands – The Church
So. Central Rain – REM
Smooth Operator – Sade
Respectable Street – XTC
Like Wow, Wipe Out – Hoodoo Gurus
How Soon Is Now – The Smiths
Cities in Dust – Siouxsie & the Banshees
Ahead – Wire
Through Being Cool – Devo
Vamos – Pixies
Newest Industry – Husker Du
Jordan, MN – Big Black
Envoye – The Young Gods
Those Who Move – Naked Raygun
No Time to Cry – Sisters of Mercy

Volume II

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads
Telephone Operator – Pete Shelley
Driving the Dynamite Truck – Breaking Circus
The High Road – The Feelies
Rescue – Echo & the Bunnymen
Mandinka – Sinead O’Connor
Swamp Thing – The Chameleons UK
Ceremony – New Order
Never Before, Never Again – The dB’s
Wild Blue Yonder – The Screaming Blue Messiahs
Message of Love – The Pretenders
Precious – The Jam
Cruiser’s Creek – The Fall
Marlene on the Wall – Suzanne Vega
Ivo – Cocteau Twins
Another Bubble – Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians
A Song from Under the Floorboards – Magazine
Big Decision – That Petrol Emotion
Marimba Jive – Red Guitars
A Pagan Place – The Waterboys
Say Goodbye – Hunters & Collectors
Love is the Law – The Suburbs
Snake Dance – The March Violets
Emmarita – The Whole Lotta Loves
Let’s Get Married – The Celibate Rifles
Here Comes the Rain – The Cult
Independence Day – Urban Guerrillas

Volume III

Final Solution – Peter Murphy
Canary in a Coalmine – The Police
24 – Game Theory
Scorpio Rising – 10,000 Maniacs
Free Yourself – The Untouchables
True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Garbageman – The Cramps
Let’s See the Sun – The Fleshtones
We’re So Cool – Au Pairs
Nothing Means Nothing Anymore – The Alley Cats
Games Without Frontiers – Peter Gabriel
E = mc2  – Big Audio Dynamite
What Do You Know? – Buzzcocks
Here Comes the Rain Again – Eurythmics
Gone Daddy Gone – The Violent Femmes
Units – Man-Sized Action
Beatle Boots – Love Tractor
Above It Now – Figures
Motorcrash – The Sugarcubes
Go! – Tones on Tail
Everything Counts – Depeche Mode
Sour Grapes – The Descendents
Police on My Back – The Clash
Shut Out the Light – Steve Diggle
Insanely Jealous – The Soft Boys
Cloudbusting – Kate Bush

Volume IV

Well, Well, Well – The Woodentops
The Metro – Berlin
Jean’s Not Happening – The Pale Fountains
Carpathia Girl – Laughing Stock
Party at Ground Zero – Fishbone
Sensoria – Cabaret Voltaire
Ball of Confusion – Love & Rockets
Let My Love Open the Door – Pete Townshend
Love Kills – Joe Strummer
Levitation – The Mighty Mofos
Certain Things are Likely – KTP
Poplife – Prince & the Revolution
Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie
World Destruction – Time Zone
Nemesis – Shreikback
(Kind of) True – Golden Palominos
Date with a Vampyre – The Screaming Tribesmen
Some Candy Talking – The Jesus & Mary Chain
Just for the Moment – Get Smart
TV Party! – Black Flag

That’s more than a hundred crazy good kick ass songs! The 1980s did have some awesome music!

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

My Thumb Was Always Way Up

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Dave Letterman’s stock answer whenever questioned about why there were two guest chairs on the Late Night set was always – “Siskel and Ebert.” It got a laugh every time and, for the most part, was exactly right. Rarely did Dave ever have more than one guest on the set at one time (the infamous Lawler/Kaufman appearance and Penn & Teller notwithstanding), but Siskel and Ebert always showed up as a pair.

In the decade of the 1980s, there were two television shows that I rarely missed: The aforementioned Late Night with David Letterman and At The Movies with Siskel & Ebert. I looked forward to each Saturday afternoon to find out which new movies might be worth seeing. And Siskel and Ebert were my go-to guys.

250px-Sneak-previewsMy earliest recollection of their movie review show goes back to about 1980, maybe 1981, when they were still on PBS and the show was called Sneak Previews. I believe it was my sister who introduced me to the show and there is one particular episode, or I should say review, that comes to mind.

They were reviewing the Wings (that’s Paul McCartney’s band from the days after The Beatles broke up, kids, and The Beatles were a fairly popular rock band in the 1960s) concert film: Rockshow (1980). These two old farts (Gene was 36 at the time and Roger was 38) wanted more than just a concert film. They wanted to know the inner workings of the band. How was it to mount a major concert tour, what was it like for Paul having his wife in the band, and what did the other band members think about being on the same stage as rock legend Linda… er… Paul McCartney? None of these questions was answered by the straight forward concert movie. It was all about the Rockshow.

Gene and Roger both liked the music, but were disappointed by the documentary. They both voted no. That’s right – no. This was early enough along that they hadn’t yet developed the famous “thumbs up/thumbs down” system.

My sister was appalled at their verdict. “You know, Wings fans might just want to experience the concert, you jerks!”

I gotta agree with my sister. I mean at the time I really had to agree with her, if I knew what was good for me. But she did have a point. Wings couldn’t go to every city. A concert film was the next best thing to getting to see the band live.

Despite my sister’s reaction, I kept tuning in each week. Their popularity grew and grew and soon they left the confines of Public Television for the greener (read: more money) pastures of syndicated television. And I followed right along.

primary_siskel-thumb-490x370-14981What was it about these two fellows that was so compelling to watch? Sure, there was their mutual love of movies, but I also think it was the competition between the two and the sometimes barely concealed contempt for each other. Each man absolutely felt he was the better critic and the audience could sense that. And they both strongly believed in giving the other the needle. They would often exchange sharp zingers on the other’s intelligence, artistic savvy, and worth as a human being. Well, that last one might be an exaggeration. But they could really dig into each other. There are outtakes of them getting quite snarly with each other. Insults, name-calling, and swearing were plentiful.

There was a real sense of tension to the show. And I think that brought something exciting to their reviews. Something worth tuning into week after week.

And yet, at the same time, they had a great deal of respect for each other. When they were in strong agreement on a film, they would cheer each other on.

All this was evident when watching the show.

When Gene took ill some months before his death (February 20, 1999), he would still appear on the show as often as his health would allow. He would wear a hair piece on the side of his head to hide the scarring from his surgeries. I recall one show he did from his hospital room via satellite. Such was his love of and dedication to movies.

roeperWhen he died, Roger carried on with a rotating roster of other noted film critics, before settling on Richard Roeper as Gene’s permanent replacement. Gone was Siskel and Ebert. It was now Ebert and Roeper. And it just wasn’t the same. How could it be?

Richard was a good film critic and he and Roger did develop a certain chemistry, but it just couldn’t match what had gone before. There would be disagreements between the two, sometimes heated ones, but Roeper tended to be much more deferential toward Roger, the legend of movie criticism. Gene was Roger’s equal. Richard was Roger’s student.

Then Roger had his health problems that kept him away from the show more and more, until he lost his ability to speak. Roeper soldiered on with a rotating roster of film critics and then he left the show. The show limped on with other hosts, but without the thumbs up/thumbs down. There was a format change to make the review program more like Entertainment Tonight. I was appalled. It didn’t last long after that.

06APPRAISAL-articleLargeRoger Ebert returned to PBS in January, 2011 with Ebert Presents: At The Movies. He didn’t host the show, but he would contribute a film review that either used a computerized voice or it was read by someone else. The show came to an end in December, 2011. Essentially ending movie criticism on television.

Roger died April 4, 2013.

Thanks to YouTube, we can relive many of those great shows Gene and Roger gave us. We can thrill to their excitement over a great work of art and we can chuckle nervously as they apply the needle to each other. Check ’em out.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.