- If the phone don’t ring, it’s me not calling you up.
- I still miss you baby, but my aim’s getting better.
- You’re the reason our kids are so ugly.
- If you can’t live without me why aren’t you dead yet?
- She got the ring and I got the finger.
- If I can’t be number one in your life then number two on you.
- If I had shot you when I wanted to, I’d be out by now.
- I gave her my heart and a diamond and she clubbed me with a spade.
- I don’t know whether to kill myself or go bowling.
- At the gas station of love I got the self-service pump.
- Get off the table, Mabel (the $2 is for the beer)
- Walk out slowly backwards so I’ll think you’re walking in.
- My give-a-damn’s busted!
- If I were in your shoes, I’d walk right back to me.
- Tequila makes her clothes fall off.
- (Pardon me) I’ve got someone to kill.
- Since you left me Ruth I’ve been so ruthless.
- My wife ran off with my best friend and I sure do miss him.
- I’m so miserable without you it’s like having you here.
- She’s acting single and I’m drinking doubles.
- I would have wrote you a letter but I couldn’t spell YUCK.
- Velcro arms, Teflon heart.
- Drop kick me Jesus through the goalposts of life.
- Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed.
- Thanks to the cathouse I’m in the doghouse with you.
- I ain’t never gone to bed with an ugly woman but I sure woke up with a few.
- Get your tongue out of my mouth, I’m kissing you goodbye.
- Did I shave my legs for this?
- I wouldn’t take her to a dog fight cause I’m afraid she’d win.
- I went back to my fourth wife for the third time and gave her a second chance to make a first class fool out of me.
Some 20 years ago, my friends Julie, Mandy, Alison and I scaled three flights up Sydney’s Kinselas nightclub to witness the platinum-bouffanted, leggy septuagenarian guitar goddesses, the Del Rubio Triplets in action.
Their insanely campy, goofy and sugar-coated rendition of Devo’s Whip It! was just one of the drawcards, along with a rolled gold repertoire of 1,000+ songs that included The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ and The Pet Shop Boys’ ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’.
We bathed in the aura of their sublime sequinned splendour that evening while simultaneously getting rinsed on a heady cocktail of high-octane anticipation mixed with unbridled exuberance at the prospect of seeing the triplets up close and personal for the first (and as it turned out only) time.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more curious act than the Del Rubio Triplets, so it’s not exactly surprising that their unique brand of sass actually masked a veritable mass of contradictions.
Eadie, Elena and Mildred Boyd, born just 15 minutes apart on August 23 1921 in the Panama Canal zone, remained inseparable throughout their lives and never married. A friend called them ‘completely dysfunctional without each other’. In fact, according to Milly, they would tell would-be suitors “First comes God, second comes our sisters, third comes our music. You’ll have to wait in line!”. Evidently the queue never progressed much, if at all.
In their youth, the Del Rubio’s found a modicum of fame via Bob Hope and his 1950s nightclub circuit, and were renowned for their flashy low-cut, thigh-high costumes. Yet they eschewed a crack at real celebrity, the glittering lifestyle of the entertainment world and all its rich trappings for a quiet life away from the glare of stardom in a three bedroom mobile home in San Pedro that they shared for decades until Eadie’s death in 1996.
They also never made much of a fuss of the fact that their great uncle was American president Woodrow Wilson, and their low-key off-stage demeanour only hinted at their devout Catholicism.
Yet for all the conservatism, when they were rediscovered in the mid 1980s by Grammy Award winning songwriter Allee ‘Neutron Dance’ Willis, they opted for low-cut leotards, miniskirts, gaudy blue eye shadow and go-go boots in appearances on everything from Married … With Children, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Night Court, The Golden Girls and a McDonald’s television commercial.
Their Sydney performance was riotous fun and our locust-like descent on the merchandising stand after the show was testament to it. So by the time Eadie, Elena and Mildred emerged from behind the curtains and we found ourselves chatting with them, we were all precariously close to synchronised spontaneous combustion.
But there was more high drama to come. In all the excitement I momentarily lost my balance and nearly crash-landed onto a guitar which had been left lying on the floor behind us. One of the finest moments of my life unfolded then and there; a night which might otherwise have unravelled in the most horrific way. Somehow I managed to execute a commando roll away from the instrument mid flight and I will go to my grave thanking the Flying Spaghetti Monster for it, given that those guitars were their very first; three identical Martin models presented to the girls by their beloved father in their childhood, which the Del Rubio’s continued to play throughout their 50+ year career until their very last performance.
I put the trip into the triplets that night. I’m just mightily relieved they didn’t have to rename their act, 3 gals, 2 guitars, 1 birthday, on my account.
In the suburban wasteland of my youth, the scorching sun bleached dog poo to a whiter shade of pale on bitumen of black lava and mournful sounds of punters losing their crumpled notes at the nearby racecourse wafted pointlessly across west-facing shopfronts with half closed blinds, as if the windows’ eyes were cast downward in shame.
Amidst this soulless, stultifying stillness stood the preposterous oasis that was the Grotta Capri restaurant.
I hated growing up in Kensington as passionately as I loved the Grotta Capri, often wondering how a suburb as unprepossessing as mine could be worthy of such grandeur. It was as if a meteorite with a Rococo pop sensibility had crash landed on Planet Banality; a folly of shell-studded stalactites, fish tanks, Tyrrhenian trompe l’oeil awash with blue light and, in its early days at least, waterways complete with sound effects running beneath illuminated Perspex underfoot.
That it was a restaurant was largely peripheral to proceedings. The plastic sleeve was the tastiest thing on the menu and most of what got served up looked like crumbed cocker spaniel anyway.
Of far greater note were the cocktails. For reasons which remained unclear, there was an over-reliance on Advocaat in most of the recipes, making for a frothy tipple that just about scrambled itself on the way down. Quite handy then that the accompanying mermaid and dolphin-themed plastic swizzle sticks, glowing like uranium under the black light, could be used to fish out the coagulated egg swinging from your epiglottis like Miley Cyrus.
If that didn’t make for enough high weirdness, the tables were occupied by SP bookies with bad rugs and polyester slacks that crackled with static, accompanied by their dubious, er, business associates from the neighbouring racetrack – the sort of people who put the ‘colourful’ into ‘racing identity’.
The Grotta Capri played host to both the famous and infamous, featured in the Australian film favourite Muriel’s Wedding and television series Underbelly, and it was with utter delight that as an adult I also got to accompany Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for dinner when they were on tour, not so much for the name-dropportunity but to witness how comprehensively perplexed and uncomfortable they appeared to be amongst all that hideous fabulousness.
I shed a salty tear or two in 2010 when the Grotta Capri closed after 60 years. While Giovanni Battista’s ode to the life aquatic might have been made out of chicken wire and cement, it played a distinguished role for me in nourishing the vivid imagination of a small child in what was otherwise a vapid suburban commuter belt of antimatter.
I’m just sorry Douglas Adams never made it to the Grotta Capri because if nothing else, its Advocaat-crash cocktails would have given the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster a run for its money any old day.
(Ps. So long and thanks for all the Fishermen’s Baskets)
Kickstarter funding succeeded well ahead of its December deadline for the creation of the world’s largest jock strap, which only goes to prove that what constitutes creativity is also in the eye of the beholder.
With over $1 billion in pledges under its belt since 2009 and with its current poster girl, The Veronica Mars Movie raising $2 million in the first 24 hours of its appeal, Kickstarter is now a serious crowdfunding business model and something of a juggernaut.
But I prefer to think of it as a Petri dish of quixotic artistic lunacy where a meeting of creative nutjobs and their zealots’ wallets can mosh with their sweaty dosh.
Scratch the surface and you’ll realise that some of the weirdest creative pursuits that got the thumbs up from the rabble start to make Kickstarter feel more like the Colosseum …. if Derek Zoolander was Nero and the whole spectacle was being broadcast by Public Access TV with a pilled-up Liza Minnelli doing presenter duties.
For your edification, I present five perplexing if not utterly dubious concepts that got the green light (or perhaps not).
1. Giant inflatable of Lionel Richie’s head (funded)
Created specifically for Bestival, a four day music festival in the Isle of Wight, the sculpture garnered double its appeal from 211 backers and came to fruition in October last year, as such ‘head-lining’ the event.
2. Tentacle Bento – a rape-based card game (funded)
At last, an intuitive card game that lets you become a tentacle monster which rapes an assembly of school girls specifically lined up for that purpose. Suspended in May last year but not before it made three times as much money as it needed, with over 600 backers. Kickstarter’s reason for suspending it? The campaign was ‘too sexy’.
3. Bring your dick to the table! (not funded)
Intended as a ‘fun reminder’ that women are equal when negotiating at the boardroom table, the perpetrator clearly has a serious case of penis envy. Her manifesto? ‘If all it takes is a dick, then here is mine. Now, let’s get down to business!’
4. Drop a baby grand onto a pyramid of champagne glasses (funded)
And why the hell not?
And my personal favourite?
5. Kickstarter fund to buy Kickstarter (not funded)
Aiming to raise the $19 million it was valued at by worthofweb.com at the time the appeal was submitted by comedian and rabble-rouser Eric Moneypenny, Kickstarter rejected it on the basis that they don’t do ‘fund my life’ projects. Moneypenny insisted he was just following a dream and takes issue with Kickstarter being the judge and jury of his.
And as he points out, ” It’s not like there was nothing in this for them. Kickstarter makes a profit off of every successful Kickstarter, so Kickstarter would’ve made even extra money from my purchase.”
The fact that a $10,000 pledge only got you a pizza party with ‘new Kickstarter CEO Eric Moneypenny’, probably didn’t help much.
For more crazy Kickstarters and a double dose of ‘arse gratia artis’ try:
As the commercial juggernaut that is Valentine’s Day hurtles towards us like space debris, it is with wistful yearning that I recall the most romantic of gifts, a memory now receding in the rear view mirror of my mind’s eye.
The gift that aroused the greatest frisson of excitement in me cost all but nothing in dollar terms yet displayed more meaning and beauty than just about anything else I received.
It could also have the same intoxicating effect on any other day of the year too.
That American poet, film critic and essayist Geoffrey O’Brien referred to this highly visible pastime of 1980s youth culture as ‘the most widely practiced art form in America’ is all the more appealing given so many were creating for so few; in fact for the most part, for an audience of just one person.
Behold, the humble yet glorious romantic pursuit that was the mixtape.
There was no greater labour of love than a compilation of songs conceived for a party of one. Sometimes the selections were overt in intent. Other times, particularly amongst shy types, oblique and tentative layers of meaning might unfold.
Each was unique but all of course reflected the compiler’s musical tastes and their considered selection could become an artistic statement in its own right. To that end, the mixtape required a theme or mood to evoke an experience shared, a simmering feeling, an unexpressed emotion. It was never just a random selection of songs thrown together.
And the ordering was just as important. Would it be a musical journey with each track acting as a layer in the aural brick road? Or a surprise package with alternating genres and tempos that delivered a mercurial experience as you seesawed your way through the audio hurdy gurdy?
As Nick Hornby wrote in the mid-90s classic, High Fidelity: “Making a tape is like writing a letter … a good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with ‘Got to Get You Off My Mind’ but then realised that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music with black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and … oh, there are loads of rules.”
Yes Mr Hornby, there were loads of rules and not just creative ones. Like ensuring the last track on Side A wasn’t cut off. Better still that you’d mathematically engineered the playlist to leave as little blank tape at the end as possible so as not to interrupt the flow when it automatically switched to track one on Side B.
Likewise it was imperative to have the precision of an orchestral conductor with the Pause button so there were no audible clicks between songs. And then there was the cassette case artwork and liner notes to consider, a whole other artistic pursuit in itself.
I made quite a few mixtapes of my own in the 80s and as they used to say at the Streets’ factory, you never share ice cream with someone you don’t like. Similarly, you never made a mixtape for someone you didn’t like.
Whether they were for friends or more, I still thought of them as a romantic exercise in musical self-expression and shared experience that spoke of great affection and appreciation for the recipient.
And if you happened to be creating a mixtape for someone you fancied, were falling for or were actually in love with, they could be all-consuming, ambitious projects of epic, heroic, Herculean proportions.
Sure, CD compilations and MP3 playlists became faster and more convenient methods by which to deliver the goods but like the romance of rail travel in the 1920s, a mixtape was as much about the journey as it was the destination.
Which is why I fully appreciated the magnitude of the gesture when I was on the receiving end. More so, the singular sensation when receiving a mixtape from someone I was enamored of, which could set off an involuntary flush of pink to the cheeks and a palpable 128 beats per minute from beneath my shirt.
And that was before I even hit Play.
Postscript: For those desperate to relive the halcyon days via a 3D printer and flash drive try MakerBot Mixtape. A quick look at MakerBot Mixtape
The late American rock critic Lester Bangs described the Wiggins sisters’ one and only album, Philosophy of the World as ‘a landmark in rock and roll history’, Frank Zappa apparently declared them ‘better than the Beatles’ and Kurt Cobain put the album at number five in his all-time Top 50, well ahead of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and REM’s Green.
It’s true that people tend to be passionate about The Shaggs … one way or another. In the opposing corner of the ring, Rolling Stone magazine described The Shaggs as sounding like ‘lobotomised Von Trapp Family Singers’, The New Yorker as ‘hauntingly bad’ and another reviewer was sufficiently traumatised by the listening experience to state he’d ” walk across the desert while eating charcoal briquettes soaked in Tabasco for forty days and forty nights not to ever have to listen to anything Shaggs-related ever again.’
The fact that this seemingly inconsequential curio of an album could engender such extreme reactions is one of the many delicious aspects of The Shaggs’ enduring appeal.
Their story features some archetypal themes, including a domineering father from Freemont, New Hampshire, hell-bent on realising the American dream of his daughters’ fame as a three-piece band, foretold by his mother in a palm reading. In the relentless pursuit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Austin Wiggin hauled them out of school and made them practice endlessly until they were, by his reckoning at least, match fit to record an album..
As weirdestbandintheworld.com notes, at first listen, Philosophy of the World seems like an absolute mess; the drums are arrhythmic and out of sync; the guitars are often out of tune; the sisters’ harmonies are childlike and spookily dissonant. The lyrics make Rebecca Black’s “Friday” sound like Emily Dickinson; songs are about such profound topics as Dot’s pet cat (“My Pal Foot Foot”) and how awesome the Wiggin parents are (“Who Are Parents”), although they do also try to get deep on the title track: “The skinny people want what the fat people’s got/And the fat people want what the skinny people’s got/You can’t please anybody in this world.”
But, as many musicians and critics have pointed out, there’s a consistency to The Shaggs’ music that suggests they actually knew exactly what they were doing. During the recording sessions (at which the engineers would have to mute the control room so the Wiggins couldn’t hear the howling laughter), Austin would often stop the girls midway through a take because “they made a mistake” The engineers were shocked, considering what they heard sounded like nothing but mistakes.
Either way, The Shaggs sounded unlike any other band on the planet but there’s nothing to suggest it was a contrivance on their part. They were just being who they were (and for the most part that meant supremely untalented), but as Bangs pointed out, the beauty of it was that ‘they wrung out every ounce of whatever talent they did have.’
Whether you consider them banal or brilliant, more idiot than savant, gratingly simplistic or intensely complex, syncopated or constipated, The Shaggs certainly put the sing into singular.
Walter Van Beirendonck, the unlikely 90’s fashion guru who looks like a cross between a Hell’s Angel and the Jolly Green Giant, captured my imagination when at one of his collection’s showings in Paris the front row seats normally reserved for celebrities and editors were occupied by stuffed bears, relegating the fashionistas to the back row behind the toys.
It was Walt’s ‘fuck you’ to the fashion establishment at a time when it was bookended by haute couture’s firmly entrenched elitism and the ‘flavour of the month’ sombre deconstructivism of the Japanese school led by Commes des Garcons’ Rei Kawakubo.
Van Beirendonck burst on to the scene with cult clubwear label, Wild & Lethal Trash (W<, pronounced Walt); a riotous mashup of sci-fi, neon, ethnic, holographic, hi-tech, in-your-face, fetish, cartoony clothing which at first glance appeared to be no more than a visual cocktail of corrosive fun cooked up by a caustic adolescent mainlining raspberry cordial.
But on closer inspection W<’s work reveals deeper layers of meaning on everything from the environment and safe sex to the class system and the media, delivering a hearty meal that includes an amuse bouche of provocation, entree of social commentary and main course which carves up fashion snobbery (in fact Van Beirendonck was the very first designer to stream his shows live for all to see and put his collections online for all to access). That he completes his fashion feast with a dessert hit of psychopathic optimism and unbridled joie de vivre is the icing on the cake indeed.
Van Beirendonck is probably best known for his superhero outfits for U2’s 1997 PopMart tour, but he’s also designed costumes for the Paris Opera Ballet, collaborated with Bang and Olufsen, Coca Cola and, somewhat ironically, even Commes des Garcons.
But his footprint extends far beyond the Northern Hemisphere, with Australia’s own connection to Van Beirendonck running threefold; a collaboration with Australian industrial designer Marc Newson in 1998, a t-shirt project for electronica outfit The Avalanches in 2002 and until October this year, the staging of ‘Dream the World Awake’ at RMIT University’s Design Hub in Melbourne, the first major retrospective of his work outside Europe.
Perhaps it’s because Australia is still a relatively young, irreverent and essentially optimistic country that we find we have so much in common with Walter and his ethos.
I’m just hoping we can further lure him into our clutches with an Antipodean diffusion label collaboration called W<zing Matilda.
When your mayor is a former punk bass player, chooses to protest the incarceration of Russia’s Pussy Riot by riding on top of a van wearing a pink dress and balaclava and calls those in France protesting the gay marriage bill ‘assholes’, you can only hope that Iceland’s Jon Gnarr is also running a finishing school for would-be politicians.
While Gnarr’s roots may be in comedy as he rightly points out, ‘Just because something is funny doesn’t mean it also can’t be serious’ and his bio serves up exactly that as a veritable gumbo of travails and triumphs.
Misdiagnosed with severe mental retardation at the age of five and treated in a psych ward in his formative years, Jon determined at the age of 11 that school was of absolutely no consequence to his intended future as a circus clown or pirate and essentially went on strike, refusing to learn anything further.
By 13 he’d joined Reykjavik’s punk scene, graduated to vocals and playing bass with The Dripping Noses, and along the way becoming pretty tight with members of Bjork’s early band The Sugarcubes.
By the 90s he’d swung into comedy radio, tv and film writing, a stint as creative director at Icelandic ad agency EnnEmm and then starred as a bad-tempered Marxist in his hit television series Night Shift, Day Shift and the final installment Prison Shift. Having had the rare privilege of watching all three series I can vouch for it being some of the best television comedy I’ve ever seen.
Gnarr’s foray into politics in 2009 was driven in equal parts by satire and an unsettled country upended by a financial crisis, political cronyism and four old parties that had dominated Iceland’s political scene since the 1930s but no-one was more surprised than Jon when Gnarrs’ Best Party won comprehensively on what was essentially a comedy ticket.
The Best Party’s election campaign included:
- To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you’re poor or there’s something wrong with you.
- We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
- Cancel all debts.
- Take those responsible for the economic collapse to court: Felt we had to include this.
- Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It’s as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something. We’re going to change that!
Upon being elected, Gnarr announced that he would not enter a coalition government with anyone who had not watched the HBO series ‘The Wire’, he posted a video holiday greeting wearing a Darth Vader outfit and regularly posts memes to his official Facebook page.
Two words Jon …. Totally Gnarrly.
IMDB chooses to mock Jan Terri as ‘the endearingly bad Italian-American singer/songwriter; plain, dumpy with a gratingly nasal off-key voice, uproariously awful songs and astonishingly low rent music videos’.
Yet I consider Jan Terri a rock goddess of singular persuasion and much prefer the description afforded her by the Dangerous Minds website; that of ‘legendary outsider’.
I first crossed paths with Jan some fifteen years ago when music industry notable Matthew Donlevy shared her seminal ‘Journey to Mars’ video with me. I was smitten from word go. Jan was intense, confident and brimming with chutzpah. As Matthew said, “I liked her glamour and how serious she was with her act. I believed what she believed.”
Janice Spagnolia was born in 1959 in Chicago, graduated from Columbia College with a degree but ended up a limousine driver while simultaneously blending her kick-arse songwriting skills with a performance style that is best described as ‘having an argument with your own song’. Because stylistically Jan’s dogged musical approach could be said to put the Terri into terrier.
Back in the 90’s before viral meant anything other than medical, Jan’s music gained an underground cult following amongst the music industry, with Marilyn Manson taking a particular shine towards her, so much so that he booked her for a birthday gig as well as an opening act for a number of his Chicago shows in the late 90’s.
But after an appearance on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in 2000 Jan Terri all but disappeared off the scene, purportedly to look after an ailing mother. That is, until Dangerous Minds reported in 2011 that Jan had recorded a new holiday ditty called ‘Excuse My Christmas’ which inexplicably starts with Jan yelling ‘Where’s my Fatino Lamp?’.
So where is she now? As it turns out I’ve chanced upon her recently launched Kickstarter funding effort to complete ‘No Rules’, which is to be her final album. Jan’s scraped together enough cash to record its first single, called Skyrockets, which is already on high rotation in my head thanks to some compelling lyrics such as ‘Skyrocket to hell, for taking my love for granted’. Positively anthemic stuff in my books.
Jan’s Kickstarter fund has a short window of only 30 days, closing on November 8. Her target is $4,000. So far she’s received $130. I’ll be kicking the tin myself and encourage you too, given she’s prepared to accept donations of just $1 or more.
Jan Terri is one unique package and a beacon of individuality. Jan’s more introspective lyrics sometimes feel like a distant relation of the Wiggins sisters. And like The Shaggs, Jan has played by her own set of rules in the most compelling fashion.
That is a splendidly noble pursuit, one that I find thoroughly inspiring and which I believe warrants more of our interest, attention and concern than Miley Cyrus ever did.