The Cramps Play a Mental Health Hospital in Napa, California in 1978: The Punkest of Punk Concerts

“We’re The Cramps, and we’re from New York City, and we drove 3,000 miles to play for you peo­ple.” So begins one of the odd­est but also the punk­est of punk rock con­certs in his­to­ry, as The Cramps play for a crowd at a state men­tal hos­pi­tal in Napa, Cal­i­for­nia. The date was June 13, 1978, a time when Napa was more known for the hos­pi­tal than for its bur­geon­ing wine indus­try.

Lead vocal­ist Lux Inte­ri­or made this intro­duc­tion after the first num­ber, “Mys­tery Plane.” The band played on a patio, sev­er­al steps above the court­yard at the insti­tu­tion, while the band’s friends hung out with the 100 or so patients in atten­dance.

“And some­body told me you peo­ple are crazy, but I’m not so sure about that,” Lux con­tin­ues in the video. “You seem to be all right to me.” Indeed, most every­body seems to be hav­ing a hell of a time, some danc­ing as if they’re at a sock hop, oth­ers just com­plete­ly thrash­ing about.

This wasn’t the first band to have played at the insti­tu­tion, as the hospital’s Bart Swain, who invit­ed The Cramps to Napa, often brought in musi­cians to expand the patients’ hori­zons. But on that night a video cam­era was also brought along to record the set. (Swain wor­ried about pre­serv­ing the anonymi­ty of the res­i­dents.)

Anoth­er band on the bill, The Mutants, did­n’t get video­taped, pos­si­bly because the sun had gone down around this time. Either way, it is a very rare slice of punk his­to­ry, with few com­par­isons apart from the Sex Pis­tols play­ing Chelms­ford prison and when a lit­tle known thrash met­al band called Gob­stop­per played a Christ­mas par­ty at a home for devel­op­men­tal­ly dis­abled kids and adults.

Accord­ing to this arti­cle on the event, Napa State still stands but the chances of such a con­cert hap­pen­ing again are slim. The major­i­ty of its ten­ants are now both vio­lent offend­ers and men­tal­ly unsta­ble, too dan­ger­ous a venue for any­body to play, no mat­ter how punk.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

When the Sex Pis­tols Played at the Chelms­ford Top Secu­ri­ty Prison: Hear Vin­tage Tracks from the 1976 Gig

75 Post-Punk and Hard­core Con­certs from the 1980s Have Been Dig­i­tized & Put Online: Fugazi, GWAR, Lemon­heads, Dain Bra­m­age (with Dave Grohl) & More

The Sex Pis­tols Do Dal­las: A Strange Con­cert from the Strangest Tour in His­to­ry (Jan­u­ary 10, 1978)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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Eno: The New “Generative Documentary” on Brian Eno That’s Never the Same Movie Twice

Bri­an Eno once wrote that “it’s pos­si­ble that our grand­chil­dren will look at us in won­der and say, ‘You mean you used to lis­ten to to exact­ly the same thing over and over again?’ ” That spec­u­la­tion comes from an essay on what he calls “gen­er­a­tive music,” which is auto­mat­i­cal­ly pro­duced by dig­i­tal sys­tems in accor­dance with human-set rules and pref­er­ences: “like live music, it is always dif­fer­ent. Like record­ed music, it is free of time-and-place lim­i­ta­tions.” These words were first pub­lished near­ly 30 years ago, in his book A Year with Swollen Appen­dices. Today, he has at least one grand­child, whose hand­writ­ing fig­ures in one of the music videos from his lat­est solo album. That par­tic­u­lar work may be non-gen­er­a­tive, but his inter­est in the con­cept of the gen­er­a­tive in art endures.

This year, Eno even stars in a gen­er­a­tive doc­u­men­tary about his life as an artist, music pro­duc­er, and “son­ic land­scap­er” direct­ed by Gary Hus­twit, best known for Hel­veti­ca and oth­er non-fic­tion films on design. The New York Times’ Rob Tan­nen­baum writes that Eno “is unlike any oth­er por­trait of a musi­cian. It’s not even a por­trait, because it isn’t fixed or sta­t­ic. Instead, Hus­twit used a pro­pri­etary soft­ware pro­gram that recon­fig­ures the length, struc­ture and con­tents of the movie.” This suit­ed both Eno’s pro­fes­sion­al phi­los­o­phy and his antipa­thy to the con­ven­tion­al doc­u­men­tary form. “Our lives are sto­ries we write and rewrite,” Tan­nen­baum quotes him as writ­ing in an e‑mail. ‘There is no sin­gle reli­able nar­ra­tive of a life.”

In fact, there are about 52 quin­til­lion dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tives, to go by the esti­mate of pos­si­ble per­mu­ta­tions of Eno Hus­twit has giv­en in inter­views. “We could make a 10-hour series about Bri­an, and we still wouldn’t be scratch­ing the sur­face of every­thing he’s done,” he told The Verge. “I just added a bunch of footage this past week that’s going into the Film Forum week two runs, which has nev­er been in the sys­tem before.” Not only do “we get to keep dig­ging into the footage and bring­ing new things into it, but we also get to keep chang­ing the soft­ware. And I don’t know, in a year from now, what the film will look like or what the stream­ing ver­sions of it will be.”

What Eno did­n’t have to clar­i­fy in 1996, but Hus­twit has to clar­i­fy in 2024, is that this kind of gen­er­a­tive film isn’t gen­er­at­ed by arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. Empha­siz­ing that “the data set is all our mate­r­i­al,” includ­ing 30 hours of inter­views and 500 hours of con­ven­tion­al­ly shot film, Hus­twit frames his enter­prise’s cus­tom soft­ware, acronymi­cal­ly called Brain One, “as more like gar­den­ing.” That metaphor could have come straight from Eno him­self, who’s spo­ken about “chang­ing the idea of the com­pos­er from some­body who stood at the top of a process and dic­tat­ed pre­cise­ly how it was car­ried out, to some­body who stood at the bot­tom of a process who care­ful­ly plant­ed some rather well-select­ed seeds.” Even­tu­al­ly, “you stop think­ing of your­self as me, the con­troller, you the audi­ence, and you start think­ing of all of us as the audi­ence, all of us as peo­ple enjoy­ing the gar­den togeth­er.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Eno: A 1973 Mini-Doc Shows Bri­an Eno at the Begin­ning of His Solo Career

Watch Bri­an Eno’s “Video Paint­ings,” Where 1980s TV Tech­nol­o­gy Meets Visu­al Art

Bri­an Eno on Cre­at­ing Music and Art As Imag­i­nary Land­scapes (1989)

How David Byrne and Bri­an Eno Make Music Togeth­er: A Short Doc­u­men­tary

Watch Anoth­er Green World, a Hyp­not­ic Por­trait of Bri­an Eno (2010)

Watch Bri­an Eno’s Exper­i­men­tal Film “The Ship,” Made with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Jimi Hendrix Unplugged: Two Great Recordings of Hendrix Playing Acoustic Guitar

As a young gui­tar play­er, per­haps no one inspired me as much as Jimi Hen­drix, though I nev­er dreamed I’d attain even a frac­tion of his skill. But what attract­ed me to him was his near-total lack of formality—he didn’t read music, wasn’t trained in any clas­si­cal sense, played an upside-down right-hand­ed gui­tar as a lefty, and ful­ly engaged his head and heart in every note, nev­er paus­ing for an instant (so it seemed) to sec­ond-guess whether it was the right one. I knew his raw emo­tive play­ing was firm­ly root­ed in the Delta blues, but it wasn’t until lat­er in my musi­cal jour­ney that I dis­cov­ered his return to more tra­di­tion­al form after he dis­band­ed The Expe­ri­ence and formed Band of Gyp­sys with Bil­ly Cox and Bud­dy Miles. While most of the record­ings he made with them didn’t see offi­cial release, they’ve appeared since his death in com­pi­la­tion after boxset after com­pi­la­tion, includ­ing one of the most beloved of Hendrix’s blues songs, “Hear My Train A Comin’.”

Orig­i­nal­ly titled “Get My Heart Back Togeth­er” when he played it at Wood­stock in 1969, the song is pure roots, with lyrics that bespeak of both Hendrix’s lone­li­ness and his play­ful dreams of great­ness. (“I’m gonna buy this town / And put it all in my shoe.”) Sev­er­al ver­sions of the song float around on var­i­ous posthu­mous releases—both live and as stu­dio out­takes (includ­ing two dif­fer­ent takes on the excel­lent 1994 Blues).

But we have the rare treat, above, of see­ing Hen­drix play the song on a twelve-string acoustic gui­tar, Lead Belly’s instru­ment of choice. The footage comes from the 1973 doc­u­men­tary film Jimi Hen­drix (which you can watch on YouTube for $2.99). Hen­drix first plays the intro, seat­ed alone in an all-white stu­dio, play­ing folk-style with the fin­gers of his left hand. It is, of course, flaw­less, yet still he stops and asks the film­mak­ers for a redo. “I was scared to death,” he says, betray­ing the shy­ness and self-doubt that lurked beneath his mind-blow­ing abil­i­ty and flam­boy­ant per­sona. His play­ing is no less per­fect when he picks up the tune again and plays it through.

Solo acoustic record­ings of Hendrix—film and audio—are incred­i­bly rare. If like me you’re a fan of Hen­drix, acoustic blues, or both, this video will make you hunger for more Jimi unplugged. While Hen­drix did more than any­one before him to turn gui­tar amps into instru­ments with his squalls of elec­tric feed­back and dis­tort­ed wah-wah squeals, when you strip his play­ing down to basics, he’s still pret­ty much as good as it gets.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jimi Hen­drix Plays “Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band” Days After the Song Was Released (1967)

Jimi Hen­drix Opens for The Mon­kees on a 1967 Tour; Then After 8 Shows, Flips Off the Crowd and Quits

Behold Moe­bius’ Many Psy­che­del­ic Illus­tra­tions of Jimi Hen­drix

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Andy Warhol Hosts Frank Zappa on His Cable TV Show, and Later Recalls, “I Hated Him More Than Ever” After the Show

Had Andy Warhol lived to see the internet–especially social networking–he would have loved it, though it may not have loved him. Though Warhol did see the very begin­nings of the PC rev­o­lu­tion, and made com­put­er art near the end of his life on a Com­modore Ami­ga 1000, he was most­ly enam­ored, unsur­pris­ing­ly, of TV. “I love tele­vi­sion,” he once remarked, “It is the medi­um I’d most like to shine in. I’m real­ly jeal­ous of every­body who’s got their own show on tele­vi­sion. I want a show of my own.”

Warhol real­ized his dream in 1979, though in a venue that may not have lived up to his fan­tasies: a New York pub­lic-access chan­nel called Man­hat­tan Cable, “which showed local sports match­es and agreed to sell 30-minute slots to Warhol for around $75 a pop,” notes The Tele­graph. Warhol made a total of 42 episodes of his odd inter­view show. The pop art impre­sario “wasn’t exact­ly a nat­ur­al… when it came to the del­i­cate art of chat-show host­ing,” but “he didn’t let that stop him.” By 1983, one might have thought he’d have got­ten the hang of it, yet he seems espe­cial­ly awk­ward when cranky prog genius Frank Zap­pa appeared on his show that year.

Luck­i­ly for Warhol, he is joined by Zap­pa fan Richard Berlin, who serves as a buffer between the two super­stars. (Berlin is prob­a­bly the son of William Ran­dolph Hearst’s hand­picked suc­ces­sor, whose daugh­ter, Brigid, was one of Warhol’s film stars.) At least in the excerpt above, Berlin does all of the work while Warhol looks on, seem­ing­ly stu­pe­fied. But the truth is that Warhol hat­ed Zap­pa, and after the inter­view, he wrote in his Diaries, “I hat­ed Zap­pa even more than when it start­ed.” Part of what the show’s osten­si­ble host found so objec­tion­able was Zappa’s ego­ma­ni­a­cal per­son­al­i­ty. Though Warhol, like Zap­pa, con­trolled his own small inde­pen­dent empire, in tem­pera­ment, the two couldn’t have been more dif­fer­ent.

But there was also some per­son­al his­to­ry between them that went back to the ear­li­est days of the Vel­vet Under­ground. “I remem­ber,” Warhol goes on, “when he was so mean to us when the Moth­ers of Inven­tion played with the Vel­vet Underground—I think both at the trip, in L.A., and at the Fill­more in San Fran­cis­co. I hat­ed him then and I still don’t like him.” Zap­pa wasn’t sim­ply rude, how­ev­er; at a 1967 show in New York, he turned his tal­ent for ridicule into what Kalei­do­scope mag­a­zine writer Chris Dar­row called “one of the great­est pieces of rock’n roll the­ater that I have ever seen.”

The open­ing night was very crowd­ed and Zap­pa and mem­bers of the Moth­ers of Inven­tion showed up to show their sup­port. (…) Nico’s deliv­ery of her mate­r­i­al was very flat, dead­pan, and expres­sion­less, and she played as though all of her songs were dirges. She seemed as though she was try­ing to res­ur­rect the ennui and deca­dence of Weimar, pre-Hitler Ger­many. Her icy, Nordic image also added to the detach­ment of her deliv­ery. (…) The audi­ence was on her side, as she was in her ele­ment and the Warhol con­tin­gent was very promi­nent that night. How­ev­er, what hap­pened next is what sticks in my mind the most from that night. In between sets, Frank Zap­pa got up from his seat and walked up on the stage and sat behind the key­board of Nico’s B‑3 organ. He pro­ceed­ed to place his hands indis­crim­i­nate­ly on the key­board in a total, aton­al fash­ion and screamed at the top of his lungs, doing a car­i­ca­ture of Nico’s set, the one he had just seen. The words to his impromp­tu song were the names of veg­eta­bles like broc­coli, cab­bage, aspara­gus… This “song” kept going for about a minute or so and then sud­den­ly stopped. He walked off the stage and the show moved on.

What Warhol took per­son­al­ly may have just been the irre­press­ible out­growth of Zappa’s dis­dain for vir­tu­al­ly every­thing, which he express­es to Berlin in the inter­view. Orig­i­nal Moth­ers of Inven­tion drum­mer Jim­my Carl Black spec­u­lat­ed that he may have hat­ed the Vel­vet Under­ground because “they were junkies and Frank just couldn’t tol­er­ate any kind of drugs.” The two bands were also, briefly, com­peti­tors at MGM.

But per­haps Zap­pa just couldn’t tol­er­ate any­one else tak­ing the spot­light, espe­cial­ly a tal­ent­ed female per­former. Warhol remem­bers Zap­pa’s response to a com­pli­ment about his daugh­ter, Moon. “Lis­ten,” he sup­pos­ed­ly told Warhol, “I cre­at­ed her. I invent­ed her.… She’s noth­ing. It’s all me.” In con­trast to the “pecu­liar” reply, Warhol writes “if it were my daugh­ter I would be say­ing ‘Gee, she’s so smart,’ but he’s tak­ing all the cred­it.” Zap­pa may have been a musi­cal genius with a spe­cial entre­pre­neur­ial flair and inci­sive crit­i­cal wit, but the “sex­ist auto­crat… with a scabrous atti­tude,” as Car­lo Wolff describes him, “was not a like­able man.” Cer­tain­ly the mild-man­nered Warhol didn’t think so.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Andy Warhol Dig­i­tal­ly Paints Deb­bie Har­ry with the Ami­ga 1000 Com­put­er (1985)

Frank Zappa’s 1980s Appear­ances on The David Let­ter­man Show

When Andy Warhol Guest-Starred on The Love Boat (1985)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Watch Tom Waits For No One, the Pioneering Animated Music Video from 1979

Tom Waits For No One, above, is sure­ly the only film in his­to­ry to have won an Oscar for Sci­en­tif­ic and Tech­ni­cal Achieve­ment for its cre­ator and a first place award at the Hol­ly­wood Erot­ic Film and Video Fes­ti­val.

Direc­tor John Lamb and his part­ner, Bruce Lyon also deserve recog­ni­tion for their taste in source mate­r­i­al. Singer Tom Waits’ “The One That Got Away” is about as cool as it gets, and the ani­mat­ed Waits is a dead ringer for his then-28-year-old coun­ter­part, with eyes and chop­pers slight­ly exag­ger­at­ed for max­i­mum effect.

The short was con­ceived as a demo mod­el. Lyon and Lamb hoped to con­vince Ralph Bak­shi, direc­tor of the fea­ture-length, X‑rated, car­toon adap­ta­tion of R Crumb’s Fritz the Cat, to use their new­ly patent­ed “pen­cil pre­view” tech­nique on an upcom­ing project. The result is def­i­nite­ly more provoca­tive than the non-nar­ra­tive bounc­ing ball videos devel­op­ers would use to show off fledg­ling CGI tech­niques a decade or so lat­er.

A por­tion of raw footage shows Waits and exot­ic dancer Don­na Gordon—who had pre­vi­ous­ly appeared in John Cas­savetes’ The Killing of a Chi­nese Book­ie—slink­ing around a large­ly bare sound­stage. The crew amassed 13 hours of video that were whit­tled down to 5,500 Roto­scoped frames. These were indi­vid­u­al­ly re-drawn, inked, and hand-paint­ed onto cel­lu­loid acetate.

Gor­don, whose ani­mat­ed look appears to have exert­ed quite an influ­ence on the fol­low­ing decade’s car­toon femme fatale, Jes­si­ca Rab­bit, rec­ol­lect­ed that her co-star was “very nice, shy and qui­et” and that he smelled strong­ly of cig­a­rettes and booze.

Just as Gordon’s fan­ta­sy strip­per elud­ed the ani­mat­ed Waits, this inno­v­a­tive film failed to find dis­tri­b­u­tion, and with­out com­mer­cial release, it sank into obscu­ri­ty.

(I invite Waits fans to join me in imag­in­ing an alter­nate uni­verse, in which it becomes the great­est Sat­ur­day morn­ing car­toon ever, pro­vid­ing morn­ing-after com­fort to a very par­tic­u­lar breed of hun­gover ear­ly-80s nighthawks.)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Fan-Made Film Recon­structs an Entire Tom Waits Con­cert from His “Glit­ter and Doom Tour” (2008)

Tom Waits’ Many Appear­ances on David Let­ter­man, From 1983 to 2015

Tom Waits Names 14 of His Favorite Art Films

Tom Waits Makes a List of His Top 20 Favorite Albums of All Time

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

The Internet Archive Rescues MTV News’ Web Site, Making 460,000+ of Its Pages Searchable Again

Image via Inter­net Archive

Last month, MTV News’ web site went miss­ing. Or at least almost all of it did, includ­ing an archive of sto­ries going back to 1997. To some of us, and espe­cial­ly to those of us old enough to have grown up watch­ing MTV on actu­al tele­vi­sion, that won’t sound like an espe­cial­ly long time. But if you remem­ber the hit sin­gles of that year — “Bare­ly Breath­ing,” “Semi-Charmed Life,” “MMM­Bop,” the Princess Diana-memo­ri­al­iz­ing “Can­dle in the Wind” — you’ll start to feel a bit more his­tor­i­cal dis­tance. And if you con­sid­er all that’s hap­pened in not just music but enter­tain­ment in gen­er­al over the past 27 years, cov­er­age of that peri­od of great change in pop­u­lar cul­ture and tech­nol­o­gy will seem invalu­able.

It will thus come as a relief to hear that, despite Para­mount Glob­al’s cor­po­rate deci­sion to purge MTV News’ online con­tent (as well as that of Com­e­dy Cen­tral, TVLand and CMT), much of the site has been res­ur­rect­ed on the Inter­net Archive, which now offers “a search­able index of 460,575 web pages pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished at”

So reports Vari­ety’s Todd Span­gler, not­ing that the con­tent “is not the full com­ple­ment of what was pub­lished over the span of more than two decades. In addi­tion, some images in the archived pages of MTV News on the ser­vice are unavail­able. But the new col­lec­tion at least ensures, for the time being, that much of MTV News’ arti­cles remain acces­si­ble in some form.”

MTV News itself shut down in May of last year. It had begun in 1987 as a seg­ment called “This Week in Rock” anchored by a print jour­nal­ist named Kurt Loder. “I was work­ing at Rolling Stone and every­body that wrote about rock music, as it was called at the time, had a very down point of view about MTV,” Loder recalls in an inter­view with that mag­a­zine. But choos­ing to throw him­self into this new form of info­tain­ment gave him the chance to get to know the likes of Madon­na, Prince, and Nir­vana (the death of whose singer Kurt Cobain became one of his career-defin­ing sto­ries). “You could just fly off any­where you want­ed and do all this stuff,” Loder says. “It was a great time. I’m not sure it’ll ever be back, but some­thing else will.” What­ev­er it is, may the Inter­net Archive be here to pre­serve it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch the First Two Hours of MTV’s Inau­gur­al Broad­cast (August 1, 1981)

All the Music Played on MTV’s 120 Min­utes: A 2,500-Video Youtube Playlist

The Com­plete Col­lec­tion Of MTV’s Head­bangers Ball: Watch 1,215 Videos from the Hey­day of Met­al Videos

Enter “The Mag­a­zine Rack,” the Inter­net Archive’s Col­lec­tion of 34,000 Dig­i­tized Mag­a­zines

Watch John­ny Cash’s Poignant Final Inter­view & His Last Per­for­mance: “Death, Where Is Thy Sting?” (2003)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Martin Mull (RIP) Satirically Interviews a Young Tom Waits on Fernwood 2 Night (1977)

These days, ref­er­ences to sev­en­ties tele­vi­sion increas­ing­ly require prefa­to­ry expla­na­tion. Who under the age of 60 recalls, for exam­ple, the cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non that was Mary Hart­man, Mary Hart­man, an absur­dist satire so faith­ful to the soap-opera form it par­o­died that it aired every week­night, putting out 325 episodes between ear­ly 1976 and mid-1977? And even for those who do remem­ber the show, it would sure­ly require a stretch of the mem­o­ry to sum­mon to mind its minor char­ac­ter Garth Gim­ble, an abu­sive hus­band who meets his gris­ly fate on the sharp end of an alu­minum Christ­mas tree. (We’ll set the ques­tion of how many remem­ber alu­minum Christ­mas trees aside for the hol­i­day sea­son.)

Garth Gim­ble was the break­out role for a musi­cal come­di­an turned actor called Mar­tin Mull, who died last week at the age of 80. Trib­utes have men­tioned the char­ac­ters he played on shows from Roseanne and Sab­ri­na the Teenage Witch to Arrest­ed Devel­op­ment and Veep.

But to those who were watch­ing TV in the sum­mer of 1977, Mull has always been — and will always be — not Garth Gim­ble but his twin broth­er Barth, host of a low-bud­get late-night talk show in the small town of Fer­n­wood, Ohio, the set­ting of Mary Hart­man, Mary Hart­man. Fer­n­wood-2-Night pre­miered as a tem­po­rary replace­ment for that show (and thus as yet anoth­er expan­sion of the tele­vi­su­al uni­verse cre­at­ed by mega-pro­duc­er Nor­man Lear), but it soon took on a coun­ter­cul­tur­al life of its own.

The fic­tion­al talk-show form of Fer­n­wood-2-Night was ahead of its time; more dar­ing still was its occa­sion­al arrange­ment of real-life guests. That ros­ter includ­ed a young Tom Waits, him­self a liv­ing embod­i­ment of the blurred line between real­i­ty and fic­tion. As the show’s announc­er Jer­ry Hub­bard, Fred Willard puts all of his dis­tinc­tive deliv­ery into declar­ing Waits “very famous for Fer­n­wood.” Mull plays Gim­ble as the kind of man on which the appeal of Waits’ art is whol­ly lost: “I know he sells a lot of albums, and he makes about half a mil­lion big ones in one year,” he says by way of intro­duc­tion. “In my book, that spells tal­ent.”

Nat­u­ral­ly, Gim­ble is game to set the liquor-swig­ging singer up for an old groan­er by remark­ing on the strange­ness of talk­ing to a guest with a bot­tle in front of him. “Well, I’d rather have a bot­tle in front of me than a frontal lobot­o­my,” Waits growls in com­pli­ance. This comes after his per­for­mance of the song “The Piano Has Been Drink­ing (Not Me) (An Evening with Pete King)” from his then-most recent album Small Change. It’s safe to say that many view­ers on Fer­n­wood-2-Night’s wave­length became fans of Waits as soon as they heard it. Near­ly half a cen­tu­ry lat­er, they no doubt still remem­ber his appear­ance fond­ly — at least as fond­ly as they remem­ber the Won­derblender.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch Tom Waits’ Clas­sic Appear­ance on Aus­tralian TV, 1979

Watch Tom Waits For No One, the Pio­neer­ing Ani­mat­ed Music Video from 1979

Tom Waits Shows Us How Not to Get a Date on Valentine’s Day

Tom Waits’ Many Appear­ances on David Let­ter­man, From 1983 to 2015

RIP Nor­man Lear: Watch Full Episodes of His Dar­ing 70s Sit­coms, Includ­ing All in the Fam­i­ly, Maude, The Jef­fer­sons, and More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Watch a Japanese Artisan Hand-Craft a Cello in 6 Months

Cel­lists unwill­ing to set­tle for any but the finest instru­ment must, soon­er or lat­er, make a pil­grim­age to Cre­mona — or rather, to the Cre­monas. One is, of course, the city in Lom­bardy that was home to numer­ous pio­neer­ing mas­ter luthiers, up to and includ­ing Anto­nio Stradi­vari. The oth­er, less­er known Cre­mona is a work­shop in Hiraka­ta, an exurb of Osa­ka. There, a mas­ter luthi­er named Takao Iwai plies his trade, which you can see on detailed dis­play in the ProcessX video above. In just under half an hour, it com­press­es his painstak­ing six-month process of mak­ing a cel­lo whol­ly by hand.

The name of Iwai’s shop evokes a rich his­to­ry of stringed instru­ment-mak­ing, but it also pays trib­ute to the place where he honed his own skills. He did so under the luthi­er Gio Bat­ta Moras­si, described in a trib­ute after his death in 2018 as hav­ing “made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the revival of Cremona’s mod­ern vio­lin-mak­ing,” and indeed hav­ing become “the god­fa­ther of the mod­ern Ital­ian Cre­mona school.”

He seemed to have wel­comed stu­dents no mat­ter their land of ori­gin — France, Chi­na, Rus­sia, and of course Japan — and through them “intro­duced the art of Ital­ian vio­lin mak­ing to the world and raised the lev­el of inter­na­tion­al vio­lin mak­ing.”

Iwai is hard­ly the first ded­i­cat­ed Japan­ese crafts­man we’ve fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, nor even the first ded­i­cat­ed to a Euro­pean art form: take the sculp­tor Etsuro Sotoo, whose decades of work on Sagra­da Família has earned him a rep­u­ta­tion in his home­land as “the Japan­ese Gaudí.” After his time in Italy, Iwai chose to return to Japan, bring­ing his mas­tery of a for­eign craft into a native cul­ture high­ly con­ducive to its prac­tice, where tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese instru­ments have long been made with the very same sense of detail and tech­nique. If you’d like to wit­ness that as well while you’re in Osa­ka, do pay a vis­it to Tsu­ruya Gak­ki in the port town of Sakai; maybe you’ll even get to see a shamisen being made.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How to Build a Cus­tom Hand­craft­ed Acoustic Gui­tar from Start to Fin­ish: The Process Revealed in a Fas­ci­nat­ing Doc­u­men­tary

Watch a Japan­ese Arti­san Make a Noh Mask, Cre­at­ing an Aston­ish­ing Char­ac­ter From a Sin­gle Block of Wood

Watch the Mak­ing of a Hand-Craft­ed Vio­lin, from Start to Fin­ish, in a Beau­ti­ful­ly Shot Doc­u­men­tary

The Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery: A Kyoto Wood­work­er Shows How Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Cre­at­ed Wood Struc­tures With­out Nails or Glue

Japan­ese Musi­cians Turn Obso­lete Machines Into Musi­cal Instru­ments: Cath­ode Ray Tube TVs, Over­head Pro­jec­tors, Reel-to-Reel Tape Machines & More

20 Mes­mer­iz­ing Videos of Japan­ese Arti­sans Cre­at­ing Tra­di­tion­al Hand­i­crafts

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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