Highs and lows… that was the life of Esther Phillips. She caught the attention of R&B ‘godfather’ Johnny Otis at just 14 years old, at a talent show at his LA club in 1949. A string of big hits followed. But just a few years later, “Little Esther” was addicted to drugs, bouncing between her father’s Texas home and the hospital.
Then in 1962 Kenny Rogers re-discovered her singing at a club in Houston and immediately signed her to the Lenox label. Her cover of the Beatles’ ‘And I Love Him’ hit big on the R&B charts, and the Beatles flew her to the UK for her first overseas shows. But her renaissance ended when she checked into rehab with a heroin addiction.
Oh gawd… you’re gonna need sunglasses for this one. This sounds almost just like that slinky synth jam by Italian pornstar Ilona Staller I posted a few weeks back… only she was singing about bedtime entertainment. These guys are serenading cocaine. Already lined up ‘On Mirror’ perhaps?
Ladies and gentlemen, the disastrous rock’n’roller in whose image Bowie created Ziggy Stardust. Initially a sort of Elvis rockabilly knock-off, his brain in later years took a dive into the deep end of the pool, swimming as it was in a cocktail of speed, LSD and alcohol.
He touched bottom at a large concert in London in the mid 60s, when he began preaching to the audience, claiming to be the prophet Matthew. His band left him and he embarked on an on-again, off-again solo career. He spent the last years of his life (and happiest, he once said) working as an airplane mechanic in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Saw this Rolling Stones doc this week at a schoolroom-style showhouse that opened up last year on South 3rd in Williamsburg, just off Bedford. It’s called the Spectacle Theater. It’s BYOB and has room for an audience of 25, plus folding chairs—and there’s space up front for those who want to sit on the carpet. Real homey.
There was a nice introduction by a fellow who teaches film at The New School, David Meyer. (He also has a book out about Gram Parsons, which I’d like to check out). He told us the Stones suppressed this film as soon as it came out, showing as it did the debaucherous spectacle that was their 1972 Exile on Main Street tour. It wasn’t as lurid as I’d expected—but the Stones are almost invariably shirtless, pulling shirts (and pants) off the groupies in their bus, smoking weed (and other things) and there’s a needle scene too.
Completely unexpected, however, was the film credit to Robert Frank (yes, that Robert Frank) who filmed the whole thing, along with a team of kids armed with cameras and mics. The shots are spectacularly bad, frequently washed out, but musically there are some truly electric scenes. Go about six minutes in on this clip and you’ll see Stevie Wonder launch the Stones into ‘Satisfaction.’ A great moment in rock’n’roll.
As if performing in Revolutionary War garb and tri-cornered hats weren’t hip enough for the 60s, these bad boys wrote an anti-drug anthem to go along with the getups. Trapped in the wrong times, clearly.
Girl, you thought you found the answer on that magic carpet ride last night But when you wake up in the mornin’ the world still gets you uptight Well, there’s nothin’ that you ain’t tried To fill the emptiness inside But when you come back down, girl Still ain’t feelin’ right
Chorus: (And don’t it seem like) Kicks just keep gettin’ harder to find And all your kicks ain’t bringin’ you peace of mind Before you find out it’s too late, girl You better get straight
If you watch long enough, you’ll be rewarded with a view of a guy on the sidelines doing a paint-by-number of “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” God knows how I got onto this video…