Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen Take Phone Calls on New York Cable TV (1978)

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Sid Vicious, I pic­ture a young Gary Old­man. The Sex Pis­tols bassist cer­tain­ly made an out­sized cul­tur­al mark in his 21 short years, and Old­man’s per­for­mance in the Alex Cox-direct­ed Sid and Nan­cy has become, for those too young or dis­tant to catch the band at the time, the author­i­ta­tive­ly vivid depic­tion of him. Though argu­ments rou­tine­ly erupt about the license Cox may have tak­en with the facts of Vicious’ life and death, you need only watch a clip of the gen­uine arti­cle to under­stand how expert­ly Old­man cap­tured his dis­tinc­tive kind of surly vital­i­ty. I rec­om­mend the above late-sev­en­ties broad­cast from The Efrom Allen Show on New York cable tele­vi­sion (part one, part two, part three), which finds the shirt­less Vicious sit­ting on a pan­el with his girl­friend Nan­cy Spun­gen (the tit­u­lar Nan­cy of the film), Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys, and Cyn­thia Ross of the B Girls. “THAT’S SID VICIOUS ON YOUR SCREENS, FOLKS,” scrolling text tells the view­ers. “IS SID VICIOUS? WHO CARES? CALL 473‑5386 TO SPEAK TO THE PUNK OF YOUR CHOICE.”

And call they do. Vicious responds with the same oscil­la­tion between artic­u­la­cy and inar­tic­u­la­cy you may recall from Old­man’s por­tray­al, and Spun­gen seems to pos­sess the same behav­ioral­ly con­cealed core of intel­li­gence that Chloe Webb gave her in the movie. She takes up the role of his defend­er when, lit cig­a­rette in hand, she unhesi­tat­ing­ly shoots down a caller who asks the faint­ly zoned-out punk icon why he’s “so deriv­a­tive”: “He’s as orig­i­nal as you get! He’s not deriv­a­tive of any­thing!” As the show goes on, this proves not to be the only accu­sa­tion of its kind. Oth­er calls include inquiries about post-Pis­tols projects, a sug­ges­tion to col­lab­o­rate with Ron Wood (of all peo­ple), and prompts for pre­dic­tions about the direc­tion of punk rock. “How should I know?” Vicious blurts. “I live my life day by day. I don’t plan years ahead.” Indeed, he did­n’t need to. The pro­gram aired on Sep­tem­ber 18, 1978, eight months after the Sex Pis­tols dis­solved. Less than a month lat­er, Spun­gen would be gone, and less than five months lat­er, so too would he.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Acoustic His­to­ry of Punk Rock Sheds Light on NYC’s Low­er East Side (NSFW)

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of CBGB, the Ear­ly Home of Punk and New Wave

The Talk­ing Heads Play CBGB, the New York Club that Shaped Their Sound (1975)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Montreux Jazz Festival, 1985: The Concert Film

In the 1980s, Ste­vie Ray Vaugh­an tore through the inter­na­tion­al music scene like a Texas tor­na­do. His amaz­ing­ly flu­id and dex­ter­ous gui­tar play­ing on a series of plat­inum albums estab­lished Vaugh­an as a house­hold name and helped spark a blues revival. But in the sum­mer of 1990 a heli­copter he was rid­ing on crashed into a hill in Wis­con­sin, and the whirl­wind had passed.

This con­cert film cap­tures Vaugh­an in full force. It was made on July 15, 1985, dur­ing Vaugh­an’s sec­ond appear­ance at the Mon­treux Jazz Fes­ti­val. His first, in 1982, had seemed like a dis­as­ter at the time. Vaugh­an and his band Dou­ble Trou­ble had nev­er made a record and were vir­tu­al­ly unknown out­side of Texas in 1982, and their per­for­mance at Mon­treux was met by boo­ing from some mem­bers of the audi­ence. Vaugh­an was shak­en. He had nev­er been booed before. But the 1982 Mon­treux per­for­mance turned out to be the most impor­tant of Vaugh­an’s career, as Chris Gill explains in Gui­tar World:

David Bowie was in the audi­ence, and he made a point of meet­ing Vaugh­an and his man­ag­er in the after-hours lounge. John Paul Ham­mond, the son of record pro­duc­er John Ham­mond, also saw the show and asked for a tape of the per­for­mance to give to his father. Jack­son Browne caught the band’s per­for­mance in the after-hours lounge, and he sat in with the group until ear­ly the next morn­ing. With­in the next few months, Browne invit­ed Vaugh­an and Dou­ble Trou­ble to his L.A. stu­dio to record a demo, Bowie asked Ste­vie to appear on his next album [Let’s Dance], and John Ham­mond, who helped devel­op the careers of Bob Dylan and Bruce Spring­steen, helped the band sign a deal with Epic Records and offered to pro­duce their debut album. The rest, as the cliché goes, is his­to­ry.

So the 1985 Mon­treux appear­ance was some­thing of a tri­umphal return for Vaugh­an. There was no boo­ing this time. Vaugh­an had a pair of plat­inum albums under his belt, and he and Dou­ble Trou­ble were tour­ing Europe to pro­mote their third album, Soul to Soul. In the film, Vaugh­an and the band are intro­duced by fes­ti­val founder Claude Nobs, who gave them their big shot in 1982. The trio of Vaugh­an on gui­tar and vocals, Tom­my Shan­non on bass, and Chris Lay­ton on drums had just been expand­ed to include Reese Wynans on key­boards. They play 13 songs, includ­ing three with Texas blues­man John­ny Copeland, who joins them on “Cold Shot,” “Tin Pan Alley” and “Look at Lit­tle Sis­ter,” in which Copeland and Vaugh­an trade blis­ter­ing gui­tar solos. Anoth­er song, Copeland’s “Don’t Stop By the Creek, Son,” was appar­ent­ly per­formed that night but cut from the film. The rest of the con­cert appears to be intact. Here’s the set list:

  1. Scut­tle Buttin’
  2. Say What!
  3. Ain’t Gone “N’ Give Up on Love
  4. Pride and Joy
  5. Mary Had a Lit­tle Lamb
  6. Cold Shot
  7. Tin Pan Alley
  8. Look at Lit­tle Sis­ter
  9. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
  10. Texas Flood
  11. Life With­out You
  12. Gone Home
  13. Could­n’t Stand the Weath­er

Relat­ed con­tent:

‘Elec­tric Church’: The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence Live in Stock­holm, 1969

Bono and Glen Hansard Busking in Dublin on Christmas Eve

It has become some­thing of a new Irish tra­di­tion. For the fourth year run­ning, Bono, Glen Hansard  and friends took to the streets of Dublin — to  Grafton Street, to be pre­cise — to spread hol­i­day cheer and raise mon­ey for char­i­ty. Last year, the group per­formed a rous­ing ver­sion of the Mic Christo­pher song “Hey­day” and “Christ­mas (Baby Please Come Home).” This year, they added “Silent Night” and a ren­di­tion of U2’s “Desire” to the mix.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil Young Busk­ing in Glas­gow, 1976: The Sto­ry Behind the Footage

The Won­drous Night When Glen Hansard Met Van Mor­ri­son

Bono Tells UPenn Grad­u­ates “Pick a Fight, Get in It” (2004)

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Lenny Bruce Riffs and Rants on Injustice and Hypocrisy in One of His Final Performances (NSFW)

We can remem­ber Lenny Bruce as a mas­ter­ful social crit­ic or as one of the edgi­est, most orig­i­nal come­di­ans of the late-50s/ear­ly 60s. Or both, since both sides of him were always present in the live per­for­mances pre­served on film and tape. Born Leonard Alfred Schnei­der in Long Island, Bruce came from a show­biz fam­i­ly, in a way; his moth­er was a per­former and a sup­port­er of his stage ambi­tions. But, after his dis­charge from the Navy (for a per­for­mance in drag, among oth­er things), his New York act evolved quick­ly from celebri­ty impres­sions and bur­lesque to a more per­son­al­ized and bit­ing satire that cut through the gen­teel silences around racism, reli­gious intol­er­ance, drugs, pol­i­tics, sex­u­al­i­ty, and Jew­ish­ness in Amer­i­ca. Sprin­kled lib­er­al­ly with Yid­dishisms, hip beat expres­sions, and top­i­cal riffs, Bruce’s jazz-inflect­ed act could swing wild­ly from gid­dy falset­to exu­ber­ance to heart­break­ing down­beat lament in a mat­ter of min­utes. Per­haps nowhere is this high­wire act bet­ter doc­u­ment­ed than in the record­ing of his 1961 per­for­mance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, which he gave at mid­night in a bliz­zard to a devot­ed audi­ence of near­ly 3,000.

The Carnegie Hall con­cert marked the height of his career, after which his sad decline began. Lat­er that year, he was arrest­ed in San Fran­cis­co for obscen­i­ty. He was acquit­ted, but this began the years-long bat­tle in courts, includ­ing two Supreme Court appeals, on sim­i­lar charges (dra­ma­tized in the excel­lent biopic Lenny, with Dustin Hoff­man as Bruce). The legal bat­tles bank­rupt­ed Bruce, and exhaust­ed and demor­al­ized him; he stood as a defend­er of the right to free expres­sion and the need for peo­ple like him, whether just “enter­tain­ers” or seri­ous satirists, to hold pow­er to account and mock its thread­bare con­tra­dic­tions, but he so pro­found­ly rubbed the legal sys­tem the wrong way that he didn’t stand a chance.

By 1966, Bruce could not gig out­side San Fran­cis­co. One of his final per­for­mances (above) before his death from over­dose sees him rehears­ing his legal bat­tles. He is embit­tered, angry, some might say obsessed, some might say right­eous, but he’s still in top form, even if there may be more of Bruce the crit­ic than Bruce the enter­tain­er here. Lenny Bruce has been mourned and cel­e­brat­ed by comedic giants like George Car­lin, Richard Pry­or, and Bill Hicks and musi­cians like Nico, Dylan, and R.E.M. But it some­times seems that his name gets more press than his work. So, get to know Lenny Bruce. Watch the per­for­mance above, but also lis­ten to the bril­liant Carnegie Hall con­cert (avail­able in 7 parts on YouTube). And thank him every time a com­ic gets away with cross­ing social bound­aries with impuni­ty. He wore the sys­tem down so that the Car­lins and Pry­ors could break it wide open.

Josh Jones is a writer and schol­ar cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing a dis­ser­ta­tion on land­scape, lit­er­a­ture, and labor.

Watch Portrait of an Artist: Jackson Pollock, the 1987 Documentary Narrated by Melvyn Bragg

Jack­son Pol­lock paint­ed with the kind of vis­cer­al imme­di­a­cy that frees you from hav­ing to know much about his ideas, his meth­ods, or his life. But spend enough time gaz­ing at his can­vas­es and you’ll sure­ly start to get curi­ous. If you’ve seen Melvyn Bragg talk to Fran­cis Bacon in stu­dio, gallery, café, and bar on the South Bank Show’s pro­file of the painter, you know how expert­ly he can open up an artist’s world. Two years after that Inter­na­tion­al Emmy-win­ning pro­gram, the broad­cast­er, writer, and House of Lords Mem­ber applied his tal­ents to a per­haps even less under­stood painter in Por­trait of an Artist: Jack­son Pol­lock. Where Bragg appeared as a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry pres­ence in The South Bank Show — to the extent, at one drink-sod­den point, of get­ting tip­sy him­self — here he sticks to nar­ra­tion. His rel­e­ga­tion to the sound­track per­haps reflects a cer­tain cul­tur­al dis­tance: to an Amer­i­can, Bragg seems about as Eng­lish a host as they come, and to the rest of the world, Pol­lock seems about as Amer­i­can a painter as they come — in his work as well as his life.

The Library Media Project describes Pol­lock as a “ ‘cow­boy’ from Wyoming” instru­men­tal in forg­ing the Amer­i­can art move­ment, Abstract Expres­sion­ism. They describe his life in the small­est nut­shell: “His famous ‘drip’ paint­ings earned him both noto­ri­ety and abuse and the pres­sures of new-found celebri­ty com­pound­ed his life­long strug­gle with alco­holism, a fight he lost when he died in a car crash at the age of 44,” In its 50 Bragg-nar­rat­ed min­utes, Por­trait of an Artist: Jack­son Pol­lock goes into far greater detail, using exist­ing radio con­ver­sa­tions with Pol­lock, pho­tog­ra­ph­er Hans Namuth’s film of Pol­lock at work, and inter­views with crit­ics, cura­tors, Pol­lock­’s col­leagues, his friends, his wid­ow, and his mis­tress. Where a biopic like Ed Har­ris’ Pol­lock plunges straight into the artist’s brash con­duct and volatile mix­ture of work and life, this doc­u­men­tary steps slight­ly back, exam­in­ing Pol­lock­’s paint­ings and the Hem­ing­wayesque exis­tence that gave rise to them in a cool­er — not to say more Eng­lish — light. Make them a dou­ble fea­ture, if you can.

Por­trait of an Artist: Jack­son Pol­lock will be added to the Doc­u­men­tary sec­tion of our col­lec­tion of 500 Free Movies Online.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Jack­son Pol­lock: Lights, Cam­era, Paint! (1951)

MoMA Puts Pol­lock, Rothko & de Koon­ing on Your iPad

Fran­cis Bacon on the South Bank Show: A Sin­gu­lar Pro­file of the Sin­gu­lar Painter

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Jim Henson Teaches You How to Make Puppets in Vintage Primer From 1969

Give Jim Hen­son 15 min­utes of your time, and the father of the Mup­pets will teach you how to make your own pup­pets, using noth­ing oth­er than house­hold items – socks, pota­toes, tacks, ten­nis balls, rub­ber bands, wood­en spoons, and the rest. This primer orig­i­nal­ly aired on Iowa Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion back in 1969, not long before Hen­son joined a fledg­ling TV pro­duc­tion, Sesame Street, where he helped cre­ate the most famous pup­pets of our gen­er­a­tion: Oscar, Ernie, Ker­mit, Bert, Cook­ie Mon­ster, Big Bird and the rest. Though record­ed 40+ years ago, the advice is sim­ple and time­less. When you’re done watch­ing this old favorite of ours, you can go deep­er into Jim Hen­son’s imag­i­nary world with these var­ied clips.

Jim Henson’s Orig­i­nal, Spunky Pitch for The Mup­pet Show (1975)

Watch 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 Ani­mat­ed Film, Lim­bo, the Orga­nized Mind, Pre­sent­ed by John­ny Car­son (1974)

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Richard Ford Reads Raymond Carver’s ‘The Student’s Wife’; One of 14 Podcasts of Famous Writers Reading a Favorite Story

The Guardian recent­ly asked a group of dis­tin­guished authors to read one of their favorite short sto­ries. The result­ing pod­cast series began appear­ing on the news­pa­per’s Web site last Fri­day and will con­tin­ue through the 4th of Jan­u­ary. A few of the writ­ers chose wide­ly rec­og­nized mas­ter­pieces. Many select­ed more obscure works. So far, there are pod­casts of Zadie Smith read­ing “Umber­to Buti” by Giuseppe Pon­tig­gia, Ruth Ren­dell read­ing “Canon Alber­ic’s Scrap­book” by M.R. James, Simon Cal­low Read­ing “The Christ­mas Tree” by Charles Dick­ens, and Nadine Gordimer read­ing “The Cen­taur” by José Sara­m­a­go.

The Amer­i­can writer Richard Ford (The Sports­writer, Inde­pen­dence Day, Rock Springs) chose to read “The Stu­den­t’s Wife” by his late friend Ray­mond Carv­er. The sto­ry was first pub­lished in Amer­i­ca in 1976, in Carver’s debut short sto­ry col­lec­tion, Will You Please Be Qui­et, Please. It exem­pli­fies Carver’s direct, eco­nom­i­cal style. But don’t make the mis­take of call­ing Carv­er a “min­i­mal­ist” around Ford. He describes the sto­ry, and the rich­ness of Carver’s writ­ing, in The Guardian:

Its ver­bal resources are spare, direct, rarely poly­syl­lab­ic, restrained, intense, nev­er melo­dra­mat­ic, and real-sound­ing while being obvi­ous­ly lit­er­ary in intent. (You always know, plea­sur­ably, that you’re read­ing a made short sto­ry.) These affect­ing qual­i­ties led some dun­der­heads to call his sto­ries “min­i­mal­ist”, which they are most assured­ly not, inas­much as they’re full-to-the-brim with the stuff of human inti­ma­cy, of long­ing, of bare­ly unearth­able humour, of exquis­ite nuance, of pathos, of unlooked-for dred, and often of love–expressed in words and ges­tures not fre­quent­ly asso­ci­at­ed with love. More than they are min­i­mal, they are replete with the renew­ings and the fresh aware­ness­es we go to great lit­er­a­ture to find.

You can lis­ten to Ford’s read­ing of “The Stu­den­t’s Wife” below, and fol­low the rest of the sto­ries as they appear through Jan. 4, along with intro­duc­tions by the authors who select­ed them, at The Guardian.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New Yorker’s Fic­tion Pod­cast: Where Great Writ­ers Read Sto­ries by Great Writ­ers

The First Live Performance of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)

It’s over 20 years ago now that Nirvana’s video for “Smells like Teen Spir­it” debuted on MTV’s 120 Min­utes and, for bet­ter or worse, inau­gu­rat­ed the grunge era. The video arrived as a shock and a thrill to a gen­er­a­tion too young to remem­ber punk and sick of the steady stream of cheesy cor­po­rate dance music and hair met­al that char­ac­ter­ized the late-80s. For every­one out­side the small Seat­tle scene that nur­tured them and the tape-trad­ing kids in the know, the band seemed to arrive out of nowhere as a total angst-rid­den pack­age, and the MTV video, by first-time direc­tor Samuel Bay­er, seemed brac­ing­ly anar­chic and raw at the time.

But a look at the first live per­for­mance of “Teen Spir­it” (above) makes it seem pret­ty tame by com­par­i­son. The video’s a lit­tle grainy and low-res, which suits the song just fine. Live, “Teen Spir­it’s” dis­turb­ing under­tones are more pro­nounced, its qui­et-loud dynam­ics more force­ful, and the ener­gy of the crowd is real, not the thrash­ing around of a bunch of teenage extras. Not a cheer­leader in sight, but I think this would have grabbed me more than the pep ral­ly-riot-themed MTV video did when it debuted a few months lat­er. Despite their anti-cor­po­rate stance, Nir­vana was a casu­al­ty of their own suc­cess, eat­en up by the machin­ery they despised. Their best moments are still the unscript­ed and unpre­dictable. For con­trast, zip back to 1991 and watch the MTV video below. Also don’t miss Nirvana’s Home Videos: An Inti­mate Look at the Band’s Life Away From the Spot­light (1988).

Josh Jones is a writer and schol­ar cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing a dis­ser­ta­tion on land­scape, lit­er­a­ture, and labor. This video makes him feel old.

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