Monday, March 28, 2005
House on the Rock
If you're ever in Wisconsin, you must visit House on the Rock. Built by Alex Jordan, a budding architect who Frank Lloyd Wright dismissed with the declaration, “I wouldn’t hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop”, House on the Rock is a sprawling monument of obsessive collections and shambolic claustrophobic architecture built upon a 60-foot chimney of rock.
I have been putting off this entry for weeks now.
There is so much to describe about this place, it’s quite impossible to put it into words.
|One of the main attractions is ‘The Infinity Room’, which is a ridiculous tapered glass structure that juts out from the rock and dangles precariously 50 feet over the forest. The structure is very frightening, especially when every heavy footfall from fat tourists makes the ramshackle structure shake.|
After crawling through the low ceilinged, carpeted corridors dimly lit by Tiffany lamps, you eventually come out to the real attraction- the automated music machines. There are about 20-30 of these marvels, some with such stunning craftsmanship featuring whole doll orchestras banging out the Bolero and the Hungarian Rhapsody.
|Since these machines were built in the 1940’s, they are in various states of disrepair. A lot of sour notes are squeezed out, the music phases in and out of time, the dead drum heads sound like suitcases. Sometimes most of the music is pre-recorded and piped in with just one lonely out of tune automated instrument trying to keep up. It is truly a sonic feast, especially when more than one machine is struggling to fart out a song.|
Here are four field recording mp3s from these great machines. The House on the Rock giftshop sells CD's of the music, but it is very sterile, very in-tune, not very interesting.
House on the Rock Automated Music 1
House on the Rock Automated Music 2
House on the Rock Automated Music 3
House on the Rock Automated Music 4
|Further into the labyrinth, you enter the carousel room, home of the largest carousel in the world which features 239 grotesque carousel beasts rotating at a ridiculously fast speed. There is a cacophony of piped in music accompanied by a rolling thunderous white noise produced by cherubs suspended from the ceiling banging away on dead tympani drums. Hundreds of topless winged mannequin angels rotate overhead on what seem to be medieval torture devices.|
Read more about House on the Rock
See more pictures of House on the Rock
House on the Rock website
WFMU's "Beware of the Blog" posted a brief entry on The House on the Rock and reader/listener Todd D. wrote in with this great explaination and description:
Hi from Madison, Wisc. Alex Jordan is a fascinating character - even more so when you dig beneath the official local tourist lore. He built the House on the Rock as a personal Bali Hai/ Space Age bachelor pad/ Shangri-La. He brought underage girls from Spring Green to party and parlayed money made from patents on inventions into hanging out with movie stars and politicians, blackmailing them with compromising photographs, using that money to become a slumlord in Madison to make money to buy tons and tons of weird crap (a suit of armor for an elephant, a carousel horseman of the apocalypse with a bouquet of heads on the saddle, the world's largest collection of angel wings, etc.).
Don't miss the scenic overlook under the House on the Rock that sits across the valley from eternity needle thing. Coolest smoke spot in south central Wisconsin. THE best thing about the House though is seeing the tourists go from enthused in the first half hour, to confused midway through the seemingly endless maze of bizarre crap, to totally annoyed by the end of the four hours it takes to go through the menagerie. Everyone leaves pissed off.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
The Johnny & Louise Show
|A lathe cut record of seemingly very drunk people attempting to stage a radio variety show. This excerpt features some warbly singing, some very out of tune accordian and violin and a botched joke.|
Handwritten label on record, smudged and faded, reads: Johnny and Louise, Lake Street, Chicago
The Johnny & Louise Show!
Monday, March 21, 2005
Friday, March 18, 2005
|I first learned of Molly Picon when I came across an old 78 with the song "Busy Busy". It was a quirky Yiddish song sung in english by a heavily-accented elfin voice. It immediately became one of my favorite records, a song I put on every mix tape I made.|
This was the days before internet and I was dying to know who the hell this sexy voice belonged to. A couple years later, while digging through the basement of the Ark thrift store I miraculously pulled out a Molly Picon LP collecting all of her old 78's! And what a cover! (left)
Here is Molly Picon's Bio overview from the Jewish Women's Archive:
"For over seventy years, Molly Picon, star of Yiddish theater and film, delighted audiences with her comic song and dance performances. While her career began in vaudeville and flourished in the Second Avenue theaters of New York's Lower East Side, Picon later performed on stage and in Yiddish and Hollywood films for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences around the world. Her engaging persona and powerful performances helped keep Yiddish culture alive by bringing it out of the shtetl and into mainstream American culture. Although Picon always played assertive characters on stage, for many years she struggled to be taken seriously as an independent woman and actress. Ultimately, however, she emerged as an icon for second generation American Jews and helped her audiences appreciate their immigrant past and forge new American Jewish identities."
|Molly Picon - Busy Busy|
Molly Picon - Yom Pom Pom
Molly Picon Bio (with pics & short quicktime video)
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
|Baby Sex is one of The Residents' first albums, only released on 1/4" tape, and dismissed by The Residents as embarassingly bad and completely irrelevent.|
Baby Sex was the last of the pre-Santa Dog tapes. The title came from the cover, which was lifted from a pornographic ad from Denmark. Many of the tracks, such as "Eloise" have appeared again on other recordings.
The Residents - Baby Sex Mp3
plus! Here are two Renaldo & the Loaf tracks:
Renaldo & the Loaf - Leary Looks from Fathers Books Mp3
Renaldo & the Loaf - Then At Iona Lanthem Mp3
Thursday, March 10, 2005
|Les Georges Leningrad from Montreal play a mutant-retard dance punk. Their first album is much more interesting and primitive than their second polished offering. They took the retard out.|
Les Georges Leningrad - Georges V // Sponsorships // Soopa Doopa
Live set - Michael Goodstein's show on WFMU (real audio)
|PaperRad are a bunch of hippies from Providence who make the ugliest art imaginable (a compliment!). Watch their Gumby flash animations.|
PaperRad Gumby Life is a Mister E // Graffitti Bridge // X Maz
Visit thePaperRad website for some eye fatigue. They also put out a print version of their pop art brut scrawlings called Paper Rodeo.
see also: Fort Thunder- the trash heap commune that spawned Lightning Bolt and art darlings Forcefield.
|Jyrk.com - A couple good flash animations on this Portland, Oregon site which elaborates the Providence aesthetic. They also have releases by Xiu Xiu & Yellow Swans among others.|
Total Shutdown Flash Animation // Neon Hunk Flash Animation
see also: Total Shutdown // Neon Hunk
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Teddy & the Frat Girls AKA Sheer Smegma
A truly odd record from the early eighties. Complete desperate brain damage from these four Floridians who call themselves Cookie Mold, Fish, Spam Ax & Joesaphine Dupont. Originally released as a 7" under the name Sheer Smegma in 1981, Alternative Tentacles rereleased it as a 12" EP under the name Teddy & the Frat Girls. It's an odd headscratcher of a record in AT's catolog...sadly now deleted.
This was one of the first weird records I bought when I was 15. With the lyrics printed on the back of the sleeve, I could not pass this up:
Alophen Baby (memorized after all these years!)
some people like ass
some people like tit
but nothing gets me going
like liquid shit
my shit floats
it floats right to the top
I wanna shit my life away
I never wanna stop
My hearts a toilet brush,
I cant wait until I flush
You think I'm kidding?
well, I'm no phony
I like what's in my ass
to ooze out bologna
doesn't matter what I eat
I'm not that picky
just as long as when I shit
it's gooey soft & icky!
When I got home and put the record on, I was floored by the alien sound. Imagine a lesbian Shaggs playing one chord while a weasel screaches as it's head is bashed in with a club while being used as a drum...and a really odd backwoods accent for no explainable reason.
The only thing I know about this band, from what someone told me years ago, is that they were a bunch of junkies and the singer briefly dated Mark Mothersbaugh. Don 't know if this is true. Please fill me in if you know any info.
Teddy & the Frat Girls - Alophen Baby Mp3
Teddy & the Frat Girls - I Wanna Be a Man Mp3
Teddy & the Frat Girls - The Egg Man Don't Cometh Mp3
|Soft Pink Truth recently released an album of electro covers which features Teddy & the Frat Girls' "I Owe it to the Girls" among songs by Nervous Gender, Rudimentary Peni and Crass.|