Friday, December 2, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 033: Gotta Dance!

1:00 et subseq.: Words/phrases Rob uses to describe “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” during this episode:Sui generis,” “lollapalooza, “Crazytown.”

1:25 Welcome Jeff Wikstrom: Here’s a link to HMOTD 010: Rock Throw, WV, which, as Rob mentions, was a very strong episode of the podcast about two weak episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. We also cover a few of the very same issues: race in America for one, as well as musical genres drenched in ignominy (country music in the case of HMOTD 010, and disco here).

3:13 Xanadu: This is another piece of music (and, honestly, of filmmaking) that was just huge and simply omnipresent when I was 5 years old. My cousins and other relatives who were teenage girls in 1979 and 1980 worshipped the holy trinity of Travolta/Newton-John films: Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and Xanadu. All three soundtracks were in heavy rotation when we’d visit their houses, and posters of all three were everywhere. But for the rockists in the audience, let’s not neglect to note the presence of Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra in Xanadu (not to mention Gene Kelly, Cliff Richard, and San Francisco weirdo-rock outfit The Tubes). Xanadu the movie definitely exists on that very late-’70s Axis of Camp that contains The Apple and Can’t Stop The Music, among others.

3:50 et subseq.: Words/phrases Jeff uses to describe “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” during this episode: “Uncanny,” “Lynchian,” “Howard Hesseman’s Crazyman Theatre.” [Jeff: Also “borderline surreal,” though really I think only the climactic Jennifer scene could be called that without hyperbole.]

5:19 “These are the EIGHTIES!” Positively chilling.

5:41 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Okay, confession time: I have never read Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. No excuse, of course, it’s in the public domain. I know we’re all familiar with fantastic Victorian literature around these parts, and modern reinterpretations of same, but I also need to confess that I’d never read Bram Stoker’s Dracula before Ken Hite’s fantastic RPG supplement Dracula Unredacted for his Dracula Dossier setting for vampire-espionage game Night’s Black Agents. So I’m not new to modern reinterpretations of treasured classics of Weird Literature, is all I’m saying.

7:10: “He’s like an old guy who time-traveled from the 1920s, but also likes Rescue Rangers.” Last episode’s guest host Mandy Leetch meant this with all respect and love for you, Jeff. But it is a very… specific characterization. And hey, it led to good podcast content!

[Jeff: I like things besides Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers! I like Star Trek! And Lois Lane! And They Might Be Giants!]

8:15 “We’re still waiting for that check, Shout! Factory.” Aw, we’re just joshing, we love you guys too much, we don’t need a check.

9:45 Mary Frann: Here’s another confession: I have probably watched far more episodes of Newhart than The Bob Newhart Show. There was just something watching about Newhart as a kid in the 1980s; its humor felt a little gentler and dryer than a lot of the other first-run sitcoms out there at the time. Until it became the literal Larry, Darryl and Darryl Show, anyway; fun IMDB trivia, by the way: our friend Tracey Walter from Repo Man and “The Contest Nobody Could Win” was originally going to play Larry; virtual doppelganger William Sanderson ended up with the role. Obviously a lot of the gentleness and warmth I mentioned is down to Bob Newhart’s sensibilities, but he was helped immensely by the performances of both Tom Poston and Mary Frann. Mary Frann sadly passed away back in 1998.

[Rob: Jaime Weinman apparently disagrees with Mike about Mary Frann’s “gentleness and warmth”; in his write-up of “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” he says: “the late Mary Frann, who had previously appeared as an attractive woman who turns out to be an evil bitch on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, here returns to the MTM lot to play an attractive woman who turns out to be an evil bitch. In case you're wondering why she always seemed miscast as the loving wife on Newhart.”]

10:15 “It’s because she’s the devil.” Again, stunned I didn’t get all the Faust references in this episode. So, the idea of redheaded women being witches or agents of the devil goes back to the Middle Ages (fittingly, considering all the Arthuriana in this episode) but is also tied up in all kinds of real persecution, including anti-Semitism during the Spanish Inquisition (which ties in with the belief that Judas Iscariot was a redhead) and, of course, modern anti-”ginga” prejudice. Me, I go with Tom Robbins’s assertion that redheads are either funny or dangerous, neither of which is a sign of a pact with the devil necessarily.

[Rob: I want to make a quip about Lucille Ball’s investigation by HUAC during the Red Scare (red head, witch hunt, get it?), but I can’t quite get there from here…]

10:55 Citizen Kane reference tally: Jeff’s been on twice, and I could have sworn he’s made Citizen Kane references in each episode, but upon relistening to HMOTD 010 I find this is just a confabulation. Maybe I’m just conflating this with every Orson Welles conversation I’ve ever had with Jeff. FYI, Jeff is the guy who made Orson Welles the (literal) Big Bad of one of my most memorable role-playing experiences, his surreal Trollbabe game called AIRPORTATION, where we all played expat Americans abroad when America just vanished off the face of the Earth. The tagline was: “Somewhere in the Twentieth Century: America sunk. The Soviets are taking over. Magic is real, and all Americans were magi. You're the last Americans.” In the game, Orson Welles was (again, weirdly fittingly for this episode) a Galactus figure who wanted to consume all wprld culture. And Walt Disney (also obviously evil) had a moonbase. Anyway, there’s not much left of AIRPORTATION on the web, but here’s Rob’s character writeup, which I still think is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing Rob’s ever done.

[Edit: Jeff was kind enough to resurrect his old AIRPORTATION writings and put them up on his blog. "America has disappeared." Unbearably poignant to re-read in 2016.]

12:40 The construction of Rip Tide: My theory about Johnny’s id using the bits from all of the music industry folks he’d run into over the course of the ‘70s didn’t go over well, and I can understand that. I said on Twitter the day the episode dropped that I didn’t “embrace the mystery,” that I didn’t find the episode as Weird as Rob and Jeff, which is weird in and of itself given my Nowhere Band-style hauntological shenanigans.

13:27 Rip Tide’s hair dye: As funny as the hair dye is in and of itself (I’m smiling just thinking about it), I feel like it definitely puts a point on an unspoken dimension of Johnny’s masquerade as Rip Tide, and something we didn’t talk in the episode (other than the Dick Clark reference): how old Johnny is and the idea that maybe Rip Tide is also a product of a possible Johnny Fever midlife crisis?

17:20 “A lot of people are going to suffer.” The fact that Johnny finally commits to Gotta Dance! because the cast and crew will be out of a job is an inspiring bit of solidarity (keep this in mind, though, as we discuss “I Am Woman” in two weeks)! Johnny’s moral center is stable, but he’s always tempted by the easy way out, as Rob mentions in connection to “Goodbye Johnny” and “Most Improved Station.” Here we get an entire hour of Johnny doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, and then being confused about how he ended up doing the wrong thing in the first place. Comparisons to the other JC’s forty days in the desert/the last bit of The Last Temptation of Christ will have to wait until Season 4’s “Jennifer and Johnny’s Charity.”

17:58 Avis, We Try Harder: The story of the Hertz vs. Avis rental car ad wars is actually super interesting.

19:14 “He is Sailor Ned.” Finally we’ve gotten to hear the confirmation that Venus was also a local kid’s show host! I’ve had some interesting discussions on the “franchised” shows of the UHF era, Bozo the Clown and Romper Room, on Facebook where everyone who grew up in different cities has different memories and everyone is throwing around the Mandela Effect.

[Rob: One bit that got cut for time was some reminiscing about the kiddie show hosts of our youth: Jeff and Mike’s Captain Bob, my Commander Tom. I was floored when Mike told us that Bozo the Clown was a franchise rather than a person; this led to a little riff about the bloody aftermath of the Bozo Wars.]

19:35 et subseq. The Silver Surfer/Galactus/Darkseid: Some slight errata on Norrin Radd: in the original storyline, the Silver Surfer saved his home planet Zenn-La by agreeing to wield the power cosmic in Galactus’s service. Later stories made the face of Zenn-La’s survival a bit more confused.

But let’s talk about the iconography of the Silver Surfer and him as a literal herald of the counterculture 1960s! First of all, shit, he’s a surfer. Surfing hit the mainstream of American culture in the 1960s, between the Beach Boys, Endless Summer, and of course, Hawaiian and tiki culture as we’ve talked about before. Of course, Jack Kirby’s increasingly idiosyncratic “cosmic” style found its origins in Marvel books like Fantastic Four, and the eventual New Gods work (there’s your Darkseid connection). The Silver Surfer became a symbol for the 1960s counterculture, a young man with a secret sensitive heart drafted into a destructive war and taken far away from his home.

The Silver Surfer was also personally tempted by the literal Mephisto of the Marvel Universe to return to Zenn-La after earning his release from Galactus’s service. So, really, Faustian bargains all around.

Also, I like how this segment ended up devolving into me being the devil on Jeff’s shoulder and Rob being the angel when it comes to Jeff’s theorizing. And then Jeff flips it around with the devilish statement, “You invited me on knowing who I am.” Heh.

[Jeff: I am pretty sure, listening to it, that I cribbed much of this description of Darkseid from the relevant episode of Journey Into Misery about him. Or maybe that should be Him with a capital H? Also, I admit I assumed this whole bit was going to end up on the cutting room floor.]

[Mike: Never, Jeff. This was good stuff. And thank you for choosing an image from the 1985 Ambush Bug limited series.]

24:44 A. Merritt [Jeff: I suppose this is as good a place as any to point to the existence of Appendix N, part of the Tome Show network. It’s a podcast I co-host about a particular subset of 20th-century fantasy fiction. Merritt is all but forgotten nowadays, but back in his heyday he was as well-regarded as ERB, REH, or HPL. His fiction often had at its core a male protagonist conflicted between a virtuous female love interest and another, darker woman, prone to flip between sympathetic and antihero and usually influenced by an older and male wicked-vizier type. See the Moon Pool or Dwellers in the Mirage for typical examples.]

25:20 Seeking Bailey’s approval: Jeff’s thesis on Rip Tide being Johnny’s side that desperately wants to be liked is incredibly interesting. Of course, as we’ve said, he does end up turning off everyone as a result, but I think what it says about Johnny is that his normal persona is just too… boring to make an impact. I mean, aside from when Johnny’s on the air, he’s low-key, snarky, and quite possibly blunted on some form of chemical depressants. Rip is up, peppy, not snarky but unctuous and of course, possibly tweaked on some form of chemical stimulants.

26:15 et subseq. Arthuriana: Something I don’t talk a lot about on the podcast is how I was trained as a medievalist (four years of undergrad and one disastrous year of Master’s work). I was attracted to medieval literature for precisely the kind of stuff Jeff calls out in his excellent five-part series, Arthur Dies at the End. The surreality, the explicitly allegorical and psychological landscapes, the sheer wingnuttery of it all to modern eyes. Growing up Catholic, I knew all the touchstones of medieval Christian literature and culture, but in the re-telling they were all so… weirdly mutated from the catechism I knew… it was fascinating.

[Jeff: For all your comedic-retelling-of-medieval-romances needs, visit scenic! You can also buy the ebook or print version on Amazon but it’s not necessary. The specific story of Sir Percival that I cited in this podcast is in Malory’s Book XIV, which I titled “Twist Ending,” but for what it’s worth the best story in Arthur Dies at the End for my money is the one where Sir Bors deals with the analogous challenge without restorting to mutilation. Read it in Book XV, “Sir Bors is Pretty Okay!”]

30:20 “Yeah, but you would be working alone.” Hilarious. The Big Guy saying “all eight of us” made me of course think of the famous Monty Python mountaineering sketch.

37:08 Grant Morrison’s Batman R.I.P. [Rob: If you hadn’t already guessed, my impatience with Mike & Jeff’s Galactus conversation had nothing to do with being too cool for comics. It’s just that I’ve always been a DC guy. (Don’t @ me about the movies. Someday they’ll make a good Superman movie; that’ll be my “Cubs win the World Series.”)]

37:35 Sympathy for the Devil cover: [Rob: This unfortunate piece of audio is, Youtube tells me, by the Slovenian avant-garde group Laibach, either from 1988 or 1992. I just asked the internet for a disco version of “Sympathy for the Devil” and this came up. I know Mike was tickled by the idea of me playing disco DJ as I edited this episode. The truth is, I really didn’t mind! Xanadu, Disco Inferno, and Le Freak are all solid, solid songs, which I’ve had stuck in my head all week. But this? This is kind of garbage.

The ironic thing is that, what with the insistent percussion, the repetitive melody, and the woo woos, the Stones’ original version of “Sympathy for the Devil” is halfway to being a disco song already. (Again, don’t @ me.)]

39:19 “How’s Bailey? How’s Bailey?” Are y’all excited for the new season of Twin Peaks?

40:25 Taxi, Andy Kaufman: Latka Gravas has his own Wikipedia page, so you can see all his alter egos in one place. Also, I want to link again to last episode’s guest host Mandy Leetch’s examination of Andy Kaufman’s psychology. It’s a really eye-opening piece of writing.

[Edit: Late-breaking edit to include this positively surreal video from The Merv Griffin Show from 1982 with a) Andy Kaufman as special guest, b) Orson Himself as guest host, c) the very recently and dearly departed Ron Glass as befuddled guest on the couch and apparently d) Ben Stein and Ashford & Simpson as the other guests not seen in this video. Thanks to Jesse Walker on Twitter for linking this. It has haunted my last 24 hours. Esteemed Kaufman scholar Mandy Leetch, however, thinks differently.]

42:35 “Droid synthemusic”: I will go out on a limb and say the pat ending of “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” is a little annoying. At the same time, I can see why it went over really well with the crowd and with rock and roll fans. Also, it would be a crime not to show you a gif of the kid nodding sagely; it really is perfectly cheesy. I note with interest that Johnny has shed his deviish red for angelic sparkling white in this final scene. This episode is like the Divine Comedy in miniature!

46:40 Disco Demolition Night: Hopefully you’ve had a chance to read our Monday Post. Here’s the ESPN piece on the event reported by Jeremy Schaap. In 1978, Steve Dahl moved from WDAI which had gone disco (and how weird is Dahl’s confession to dragging a needle across the record, exactly what Johnny did in “Pilot Part 1” to destroy the old Beautiful Music WKRP?) to WLUP where he had an early example of the “morning zoo” format and incessantly railed against the disco that had displaced him and taken his job. Economic anxiety again. And for all Dahl’s macho militaristic posturing in this period, it heartens me somewhat to see that in 1979 he had a decided physical resemblance to diminutive warbly songsmith Paul Williams.

51:10 How offensive a word "sucks" was. Like many other possibly problematic phrasings (“lame” and “dumb,” for starters), “sucks” gradually lost its obvious prejudicial meaning through use by populations with little to no knowledge of the original sexual meaning. Of course I can’t help but think of Milhouse’s mom here.

52:40 Chic and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Chic are still on the ballot this year. Hollywood Steve Huey of the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast made an excellent case for Chic on their recent 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ballot episode.

53:40 Sasha Frere-Jones: There were a lot of butthurt white hipsters when this article came out almost a decade ago (Christ), but I will point out something that Frere-Jones underplayed, which is that when it comes specifically to Arcade Fire, keyboardist, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist Régine Chassagne is of Haitian origin and there are definite “world music” influences throughout Arcade Fire’s corpus. But then Arcade Fire does absolute classist horseshit like this, and I hate them all over again.

55:28 Tony Manero, macho, and political liberation: Anyone see this fantastic Chilean movie called Tony Manero, about a middle aged man in Pinochet’s Chile finding hope in the liberatory promise of disco music?

56:15 Elijah Wald: [Rob: Here’s the book I mention: How the Beatles Destroyed Rock & Roll. As I say, that title is intentionally provocative and a bit misleading. The book is primarily a history of American popular music before the Beatles, but one that refuses to segregate disposable teenybopper music from the stuff that’s retroactively been declared “serious” or “important.”]

I really enjoyed Wald’s book on The Dozens (now titled Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Mama: The Dozens, Snaps, and the Deep Roots of Rap). Definitely check it out. And here’s a link to that story on Rolling Stones and race and the (sadly behind a paywall) Slate series on rock and race. [Rob: The guy writing that Slate series has a book out, which also looks good.]

1:03:13 Soul Train: The opening credits to this particular episode are from January 1977, a little before my time, but I definitely did watch Soul Train on rare occasions in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. In Boston I remember it being on in the early afternoon on Saturdays, and I’d usually be over at my grandparents' on those days, eating lots of pasta and chicken cutlets but mostly generally left alone with the giant console TV from the 1960s, watching Saturday morning cartoons, candlepin bowling, and yes, sometimes even Soul Train before we left East Boston. We’ve linked to this before, but please check out the Soul Train documentary VH1 showed a few years ago; it’s on YouTube. It’s an essential piece of American cultural history.

1:04:45: Gotta Dance: I have been told by my wife Jenny Anckorn (wife and podcast partner, sure) that it was criminal of the three of us not to mention the obvious Gene Kelly/Singin' in the Rain reference inherent in the title of the show Gotta Dance!

[Edit: More listener feedback, here in the form of a letter from a concerned listener who is in NO WAY my wife Jenny Anckorn.]

1:05:02 Dance Fever, Solid Gold: Now Dance Fever and Solid Gold, those were appointment television. If the early afternoons belonged to Don Cornelius, Saturday nights belonged to the dual syndicated titans of Marilyn McCoo and Deney Terrio! I’ve found two gems on YouTube from this era: this compilation of early ‘80s Solid Gold segments that gives you a really, really good sense of what the show was all about, and a 1979 episode of Dance Fever, which, wow. I said on my Facebook when I found this, “It pains me that you millennials do not remember a time when a celebrity dog could be a guest judge on an amateur disco competition TV show. Nor watch Deney Terrio do amateur stage magic to M's ‘Pop Muzik.’ It PAINS me.” Still does.

Also, minor erratum: the MTV dance show from the early ‘90s was Club MTV.

1:07:00 Transformers were too cool: Jeff and I had a brief pre-show conversation about the class identity implications of playing with Transformers, Gobots, and M.A.S.K. that was dead fascinating to me, a bit of which slipped out here near the end of the podcast. Jeff needs to be more than an occasional podcast guest. Make your own podcast, Jeff, soon. For all of us.

[Jeff: It’s harder to do than it looks! I envy and admire y’all’s ability to make stuff happen, podcast-wise.  Also, I technically do have my own podcast, vide supra Appendix N, but I don’t have anywhere near the level of ownership of it that my co-host does. I’m basically a guest there, too; I just show up and insert a few witty remarks.  Also also, there’s a bit in this podcast at about this point where I mention the X-Men seemingly apropros of nothing; that’s a reference to an earlier and excised bit of conversation wherein I identified specifically Transformers, MTV, and the X-Men as brands and media properties I didn’t think were ‘for’ loser-nerds like me.  Things worked out for young Jeff, though! Nowadays I can read all the X-Men comics I want.]

1:07:55 Deadhead cool kids/New Jack Swing cool kids: Hey, Rob’s high school isn’t the only example of basketball-playing Deadheads; there’s always the legendary Bill Walton. Also, sorry if my Degrassi jibe was a bridge too far, Rob. At least I didn’t say “Wheels, Ontario.” As far as the cool kids on my Catholic high school are concerned, this was smack dab in the New Jack Swing era, and that was the stuff they loved. Meanwhile, I was growing my mullet and evolving from G’n’R and Metallica in junior high, through R.E.M. and Neil Young my freshman and sophomore year, to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and the rest starting in ‘91.

1:09:00 “All that new stuff sucks.” Finally, an excuse for The Kids in the Hall Doors sketch!

1:11:45 “I should listen to, uh, The Whole Shebang.” [Jeff: That was a private message for Mike! Also, if my dog hadn’t suddenly appeared, I’d have added a comment that if you were willing to let me back an unprecedented third time, I’d love to discuss the third and fourth episodes of the fourth season. Not that I’m hinting. I mean, hints are subtle.]

1 comment:

  1. Holy guacamole, have you seen this? This was 1982!