The Queen of Soul Conquers Europe: Aretha Franklin in Amsterdam, 1968

In May of 1968 Aretha Franklin was at the top of her form. It was only a year since she had switched record com­pa­nies and explod­ed into fame with a string of top-ten hits that have since become clas­sics. Her third album with Atlantic Records, Lady Soul, had just come out and Franklin was on her first-ever tour of Europe. On the sec­ond night she per­formed at Ams­ter­dam’s his­toric Con­cert­ge­bouw, or “con­cert build­ing,” and for­tu­nate­ly for us a cam­era crew was there to record the show.

The result­ing 42-minute film is a remark­able doc­u­ment of one of pop music’s most impor­tant artists per­form­ing in her prime before a wild­ly enthu­si­as­tic audi­ence. The film opens with an awk­ward back­stage inter­view, but the real excite­ment begins at the 6:30 mark, when Franklin and her back­ing singers hit the stage to thun­der­ous applause and launch into an rhythm and blues arrange­ment of the Rolling Stones’ “Sat­is­fac­tion.” The audi­ence rush­es the stage and begins pelt­ing Franklin and the oth­er singers with flow­ers. The musi­cians man­age to fin­ish the song, but before the con­cert can con­tin­ue the mas­ter of cer­e­monies has to come back out and demand that every­one take their seats. Here’s the set list:

  1. Sat­is­fac­tion
  2. Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream
  3. Soul Ser­e­nade
  4. Groovin’
  5. A Nat­ur­al Woman
  6. Come Back Baby
  7. Dr. Feel­go­od
  8. Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet, Sweet Baby)
  9. Good To Me As I Am To You
  10. I Nev­er Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
  11. Chain of Fools
  12. Respect

Although the con­cert was billed as “Aretha Franklin with the Sweet Inspi­ra­tions,” Franklin’s back­ing singers in the film are her sis­ter Car­olyn Franklin, Char­nissa Jones and Wyline Ivey. It’s a fast-mov­ing, ener­getic per­for­mance. Franklin’s voice is strong and beau­ti­ful, straight through to the tri­umphant show-clos­er, “Respect.”

Jim Henson’s Animated Film, Limbo, the Organized Mind, Presented by Johnny Carson (1974)

Not hav­ing grown up dur­ing the Mup­pets’ first and high­est wave of pop­u­lar­i­ty, I’ve always won­dered how some­thing like The Mup­pet Show could pos­si­bly have attained such main­stream cul­tur­al pri­ma­cy. A friend of mine who did spend his child­hood watch­ing pup­peteer Jim Hen­son’s array of crea­tures do their thing on nation­al tele­vi­sion offers a sim­ple expla­na­tion: “It was the sev­en­ties.” Though Hen­son began his pup­petry career twen­ty years before The Mup­pet Show’s 1974 pilot episode, his dis­tinc­tive­ly earnest yet pre­scient­ly post-psy­che­del­ic vision seemed made for that decade. Amer­i­ca respond­ed by ele­vat­ing his work into the zeit­geist, and not just the stuff prop­er­ly involv­ing Mup­pets. Above, you can watch a 1974 clip from The Tonight Show fea­tur­ing a short per­for­mance from Hen­son and fel­low Mup­peteer Dave Goelz called Lim­bo, the Orga­nized Mind.

Hen­son and Goelz treat John­ny Car­son and the Tonight Show audi­ence to a jour­ney through the brain, as an abstract­ed, hand-oper­at­ed face nar­rates the pas­sage through organ­ic struc­tures like his medul­la oblon­ga­ta, and cere­brum, and the seats of things less defin­able, like thoughts of his fam­i­ly, thoughts of his ene­mies, his “extra-spe­cial sec­tion of good thoughts,” his evil thoughts, and his fears. The score comes from elec­tron­ic com­po­si­tion pio­neer Ray­mond Scott, whose 1964 album Sooth­ing Sounds for Baby has won great respect among enthu­si­asts of ambi­ent music. Watch­ing Lim­bo, the Orga­nized Mind in 2012 brings one obvi­ous lament to mind: why don’t they make such delight­ful­ly eccen­tric and artis­tic tele­vi­sion any­more? But of course they do make it, in stranger and less pre­dictable ways than even Hen­son did, but main­ly in the count­less frag­ment­ed, com­par­a­tive­ly mar­gin­al venues of mod­ern media. Lim­bo aired on a show that half the peo­ple you knew would have seen. It was the sev­en­ties.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Jim Henson’s Vio­lent Wilkins Cof­fee Com­mer­cials (1957–1961)

Jim Henson’s Zany 1963 Robot Film Uncov­ered by AT&T: Watch Online

Jim Hen­son’s Short, Oscar-Nom­i­nat­ed Film (1965)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Three Public Service Announcements by Frank Zappa: Vote, Brush Your Teeth, and Don’t Do Speed

By the 1980s, Frank Zap­pa was enter­ing the third decade of his musi­cal career. An icon of the avant-garde music scene, Zap­pa had cul­tur­al cap­i­tal to spend. And spend he did. On one occa­sion in 1986, Zap­pa appeared on CNN’s Cross­fire, where he sparred with con­ser­v­a­tives look­ing to cen­sor rock lyrics. On oth­er occa­sions, he record­ed pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments (PSAs) that encour­aged a younger gen­er­a­tion to make bet­ter life deci­sions. The PSAs dealt with the mun­dane and the dead­ly seri­ous, and things that fell some­where in between. But they were always pre­sent­ed in Zap­pa’s own dis­tinc­tive way.

Above we start you off with Zap­pa’s “Reg­is­ter to Vote” PSAs from 1984. It’s worth recall­ing that the ’84 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion pit­ted the incum­bent Ronald Rea­gan against Wal­ter Mon­dale. That’s fol­lowed by Zap­pa (now reborn as “The Den­tal Floss Tycoon”) record­ing PSAs for the Amer­i­can Den­tal Asso­ci­a­tion in 1981. And final­ly we head back to the late 1960s, when Zap­pa cut announce­ments for The Do It Now Foun­da­tion, an orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to high­light­ing the dan­gers of amphet­a­mine abuse. At its height, the cam­paign aired on 1,500 radio sta­tions across the US and beyond.

Brush Your Teeth

Don’t Do Speed

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The Famous Intro to 20th Century Fox Films … As It Ought to Be

The world be an infi­nite­ly more cheer­ful place if every 20th Cen­tu­ry Fox Film start­ed like this, would­n’t it?

Find us on Face­book and Twit­ter, and don’t for­get to check out our col­lec­tion of 500 Free Online Movies.

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Steven Pinker Explains the Neuroscience of Swearing (NSFW)

Steven Pinker is an exper­i­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist and one of the world’s fore­most writ­ers on lan­guage, mind, and human nature. Cur­rent­ly at Har­vard, Pinker has also taught at Stan­ford and MIT, and his research on visu­al cog­ni­tion and the psy­chol­o­gy of lan­guage has won prizes from the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences, the Roy­al Insti­tu­tion of Great Britain, the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Soci­ety, and the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion.

This video (find part 1 above, part 2 below, and the tran­script here) is tak­en from a talk giv­en on Sep­tem­ber 10, 2008 at War­wick­’s Book­store in La Jol­la, Cal­i­for­nia. Here, we find Pinker talk­ing about his then new book, The Stuff of Thought: Lan­guage as a Win­dow into Human Nature, and doing what he does best: com­bin­ing psy­chol­o­gy and neu­ro­science with lin­guis­tics. The result is as enter­tain­ing (and not safe for work) as it is insight­ful.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Stephen Fry, Lan­guage Enthu­si­ast, Defends The “Unnec­es­sary” Art Of Swear­ing

George Car­lin Per­forms His “Sev­en Dirty Words” Rou­tine: His­toric and Com­plete­ly NSFW

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

‘The Character of Physical Law’: Richard Feynman’s Legendary Course Presented at Cornell, 1964

Lec­ture One, The Law of Grav­i­ta­tion:

“Nature,” said physi­cist Richard Feyn­man, “uses only the longest threads to weave her pat­terns, so that each small piece of her fab­ric reveals the orga­ni­za­tion of the entire tapes­try.”

With those words Feyn­man end­ed the first of his famous 1964 Mes­sen­ger Lec­tures at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, a talk enti­tled “The Law of Grav­i­ta­tion, an Exam­ple of Phys­i­cal Law.” (See above.) The lec­tures were intend­ed by Feyn­man as an intro­duc­tion, not to the fun­da­men­tal laws of nature, but to the very nature of such laws. The lec­tures were lat­er tran­scribed and col­lect­ed in The Char­ac­ter of Phys­i­cal Law, one of Feyn­man’s most wide­ly read books. In the intro­duc­tion to the Mod­ern Library edi­tion, writer James Gle­ick gives a brief assess­ment of the charis­mat­ic man at the lectern:

Feyn­man, then forty-six years old, did the­o­ret­i­cal physics as spec­tac­u­lar­ly as any­one alive. He was due to win the Nobel Prize the next year for his ground­break­ing work in the 1940s in quan­tum elec­tro­dy­nam­ics, a the­o­ry that tied togeth­er in an exper­i­men­tal­ly per­fect pack­age all the var­ied phe­nom­e­na at work in light, radio, mag­net­ism, and elec­tric­i­ty. He had tak­en the cen­tu­ry’s ear­ly, half-made con­cep­tions of waves and par­ti­cles and shaped them into tools that ordi­nary physi­cists could use and under­stand. This was eso­teric science–more so in the decades that followed–and Feyn­man was not a house­hold name out­side physics, but with­in his field he had devel­oped an astound­ing stature. He had a mys­tique that came in part from sheer prag­mat­ic brilliance–in any group of sci­en­tists he could cre­ate a dra­mat­ic impres­sion by slash­ing his way through a dif­fi­cult problem–and in part, too, from his per­son­al style–rough-hewn, Amer­i­can, seem­ing­ly uncul­ti­vat­ed.

All sev­en of Feyn­man’s lec­tures were record­ed by the British Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion and pre­sent­ed as part of BBC Two’s “Fur­ther Edu­ca­tion Scheme.” In 2009 Bill Gates bought the rights to the videos and made them avail­able to the pub­lic on Microsoft­’s Project Tuva Web site.

Since then the series has become avail­able on YouTube for eas­i­er view­ing. As you scroll down the page you can access the videos which, “more than any oth­er record­ed image or doc­u­ment,” writes physi­cist Lawrence Krauss in Quan­tum Man: Richard Feyn­man’s Life in Sci­ence, “cap­ture the real Feyn­man, play­ful, bril­liant, excit­ed, charis­mat­ic, ener­getic, and no non­sense.”

You can find the remain­ing video lec­tures below:

Lec­ture Two, The Rela­tion of Math­e­mat­ics to Physics:

Lec­ture Three, The Great Con­ser­va­tion Prin­ci­ples:

Lec­ture Four, Sym­me­try in Phys­i­cal Law:

Lec­ture Five, The Dis­tinc­tion of Past and Future:

Lec­ture Six, Prob­a­bil­i­ty and Uncertainty–The Quan­tum Mechan­i­cal View of Nature:

Lec­ture Sev­en, Seek­ing New Laws:

You can find this course indexed in our list of Free Online Physics Cours­es, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mod­ern Physics: A Free 6‑Course Intro­duc­tion by Stanford’s Leonard Susskind

The Feyn­man Lec­tures on Physics, The Most Pop­u­lar Physics Book Ever Writ­ten, Is Now Com­plete­ly Online

Quan­tum Physics Made Rel­a­tive­ly Sim­ple: A Free Mini Course from Nobel Prize-Win­ning Physi­cist Hans Bethe

2009 Kate Bush Documentary Dubs Her “Queen of British Pop”

Find­ing this short doc­u­men­tary on “Queen of British Pop” Kate Bush was a treat for me, I must con­fess, not least because of the always enter­tain­ing pres­ence of John Lydon (John­ny Rot­ten from the Sex Pis­tols). Hav­ing nur­tured a deep love for Bush’s music in my youth as a sort of guilty plea­sure, it’s only in my adult­hood that I decid­ed it’s ok to say, dammit, I think Kate Bush is just absolute­ly bril­liant and I don’t care who knows it. It’s prob­a­bly the case that with age, all guilty plea­sures just become plea­sures (or should, any­way). Alright, she may have sin­gle-hand­ed­ly inspired every melo­dra­mat­ic 80s teenag­er in a the­ater club to put on gauzy, home­made dress­es and twirl around war­bling and swoon­ing, but what, I ask, is wrong with that? There are worse things birthed by pop trends, that’s for sure, and it’s arguable, real­ly, how much of Bush’s music can be called “pop,” any­way, since she includes so many British and inter­na­tion­al folk influ­ences in her reper­toire.  And yes, it’s true, some peo­ple, like Lydon’s moth­er (whom he quotes above), think her singing sounds less pop star and more like “a bag of cats”–a reac­tion that seems to thrill him–but she cer­tain­ly made an impres­sion on David Gilmour, who passed her demo on to EMI and helped launch her career. In addi­tion to Lydon, Kate Bush: Queen of British Pop includes inter­views with Lily Allen, her ear­ly pro­duc­ers, and her broth­er, John Carder Bush, dis­cussing her song­writ­ing process as a young teenag­er.

It wasn’t long after her ear­li­est writ­ing efforts that Bush was signed to EMI at the age of 16 and set about record­ing her first album The Kick Inside. While she’s typ­i­cal­ly remem­bered for hits from her 1985 Hounds of Love—includ­ing “Cloud­bust­ing” and “Run­ning up that Hill” (and their incor­po­ra­tion into sev­er­al dance­floor hits of the 90s)—Bush’s first sin­gle “Wuther­ing Heights,” released when she was just nine­teen, hit num­ber one on the UK and Aus­tralian charts in 1978. Bush insist­ed that this be the first sin­gle from her album, despite the fact that, well, it’s an incred­i­bly bizarre song for a pop release, in its arrange­ment and its sub­ject matter—Emily Bronte’s 1847 goth­ic nov­el. But it works in a way that only Bush could get away with (cov­ers of the song are gen­er­al­ly ris­i­ble and uncon­vinc­ing). She some­how man­ages to per­fect­ly encap­su­late the novel’s chill and its poignan­cy, alter­nate­ly plead­ing and threat­en­ing in the voice of Cathy’s ghost, implor­ing the haunt­ed Heath­cliff to let her in again. (For a tru­ly haunt­ing expe­ri­ence, see this video of the track slowed down to an ethe­re­al 36-minute crawl). No one else could pull off this almost-pre­ten­tious bal­ance between the sub­lime and the ridicu­lous, com­bined with her inter­pre­tive dance and rolling eyes, with­out get­ting labeled as some sort of a nov­el­ty act, but as Lydon puts it, her “shrieks and war­bles are beau­ty beyond belief” to many ears, and she was tak­en seri­ous­ly and award­ed an icon­ic sta­tus. Or, in anoth­er one of Lydon’s lit­tle gems: “Kate Bush and her grand piano… that’s like John Wayne and his sad­dle.” I already warned you I’m a fan. You may just hear a bag of cats.

After the release of The Kick Inside, Bush embarked on her first and only tour in 1979. The video below is a per­for­mance of “Wuther­ing Heights” from a Ger­man appear­ance:

For a vari­ety of rea­sons, she would nev­er tour again and only per­form live spo­rad­i­cal­ly. This is in part due to her desire to con­trol every part of her career, from writ­ing and pro­duc­ing, to per­form­ing and pro­mo­tion. In “Queen of British Pop,” her broth­er describes her frus­tra­tion with the world of talk shows and mag­a­zine inter­views, which tend­ed to triv­i­al­ize her music and ask con­de­scend­ing ques­tions about her love life and hair styling. Any pop sen­sa­tion should expect this, I sup­pose, but Bush resent­ed the way she was objec­ti­fied by her label and the press. She con­sid­ered her­self a seri­ous artist and set out to prove it by focus­ing exclu­sive­ly on her work, not her­self, as the prod­uct, a deci­sion that earned her a rep­u­ta­tion (not entire­ly unde­served) as a “weirdo recluse,” but also enabled her to retain com­plete cre­ative con­trol, make a series of remark­ably eclec­tic and per­son­al records, and become a pio­neer and a pos­i­tive fig­ure for dozens of female artists after her. She did make the occa­sion­al for­ay onto tele­vi­sion and film after her retreat from the lime­light. A mem­o­rable exam­ple is this sil­ly duet with Rowan Atkin­son (in char­ac­ter as a sleazy Amer­i­can lounge singer) for a 1986 Com­ic Relief con­cert.

Bush won high praise from crit­ics and peers last year for her return to “sub­lime and ridicu­lous” ter­ri­to­ry with lat­est album 50 Words for Snow. A 1993 doc­u­men­tary called “This Wom­an’s Work,” avail­able free here, presents a longer explo­ration of her work, with sev­er­al inter­views with Bush.

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

This is What Oliver Sacks Learned on LSD and Amphetamines

In this week’s issue of the New York­er, neu­rol­o­gist and writer Oliv­er Sacks has an arti­cle titled “Altered States.” Sub­ti­tled “Self-exper­i­ments in chem­istry,” it cov­ers, to be blunter, what Sacks expe­ri­enced and learned — or failed to learn, sub­stance depend­ing — when he began doing drugs.

His desire to con­duct these self-exper­i­ments flared up in his thir­ties, when, among oth­er sud­den jolts of curios­i­ty, he felt a sus­pi­cion that he had nev­er real­ly seen the col­or indi­go. “One sun­ny Sat­ur­day in 1964, I devel­oped a phar­ma­co­log­ic launch­pad con­sist­ing of a base of amphet­a­mine (for gen­er­al arousal), LSD (for hal­lu­cino­genic inten­si­ty), and a touch of cannabis (for a lit­tle added delir­i­um). About twen­ty min­utes after tak­ing this, I faced a white wall and exclaimed, ‘I want to see indi­go now — now!’ ” The result­ing expe­ri­ence, and sure­ly many oth­ers besides, should appear in detail in Sacks’ upcom­ing book Hal­lu­ci­na­tions. While you need to sub­scribe to the mag­a­zine to read the New York­er piece, any­one can watch the video above, which spends a few min­utes with Sacks talk­ing about what drugs taught him about the brain.

Every sub­ject Sacks writes about seems to start with his inter­est in our unusu­al sen­so­ry expe­ri­ences and end in the organ­ic work­ings of our brains. His body of work com­pris­es books on migraine, encephali­tis, visu­al agnosia, deaf­ness, autism, col­or blind­ness, and var­i­ous oth­er per­cep­tu­al impair­ments. Think­ing back to his self-induced hal­lu­ci­na­tions, he remem­bers feel­ing that “the drugs might sen­si­tize me to expe­ri­ences of a sort my patients could have,” mak­ing him more empa­thet­ic to what they were going through. On the oth­er hand, he says, some drugs “gave me some very direct knowl­edge of what phys­i­ol­o­gists would call the reward sys­tems of the brain,” pro­duc­ing “intense plea­sure, some­times plea­sure of an almost orgas­mic degree, with no par­tic­u­lar con­tent,” the kind that made him fear he would become one of those famous lab rats with an elec­trode con­nect­ed to its brain’s plea­sure cen­ter, push­ing and push­ing the lever to stim­u­late that cen­ter to the very end. But he stepped back, observed, wrote, and avoid­ed that fate, or at least its equiv­a­lent in the human domain, liv­ing to tell the tale more elo­quent­ly than most any writer around.

(See also: more from Oliv­er Sacks on the New York­er’s Out Loud pod­cast.)

Relat­ed con­tent:

Oliv­er Sacks Talks Music with Jon Stew­art

Oliv­er Sacks on the iPod

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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