PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

This Week On The AIR

1-23-air-logoNext week marks two years since the debut of “OnTheAIRadio,” which evolved (or devolved) into the internet radio station we now know as The AIR. The station has changed quite a bit since then. Originally I was simply one of three or five contributing programmers, supplying shows to the station that grew out of the ashes of Voice of Appalachia radio.

However, as the original owner became tied up on other projects, ownership was transferred to a trio of us programmers, and as the other two members of the trio became tied up with other projects, The AIR became a solo act, and I quickly jettisoned “On” and “adio” and reverted back to my original suggestion for the station’s name.

We beefed up our musical offerings and added cool talk shows like Life Speaks To Michele Zirkle, The Third Shift, and The Real with Mark Wolfe. Last year we welcomed The (BS) Crazy Show and the all-night marathons of The Swing Shift (very popular in Europe!) to the station, and our international listenership soared to new heights, just shy of what we’d need to ever monetize it.

Tuesday, to mark the anniversary of our humble beginnings (and not because your PopCulteer had to spend a big chunk of Monday at the DMV), The AIR will re-present the first episode of Radio Free Charleston volume 4, which kicked off this new destined-for-obscurity internet radio powerhouse. Trust me, we have a really good reason for doing this a week early.

rfc-ai-logo-0022You can tune in at the website, or right here on this embedded radio player:

You can hear the rebroadcast of the debut episode of RFCv4 Tuesday at 10 AM and 11 PM on The AIR, and you can read the production notes and playlist HERE.

At 3 PM you can hear the first two episodes of The Swing Shift. My Swing Music program is not celebrating an anniversary any time soon, but I was stuck at the DMV when I should have been recording a new show, so I figured let’s just go back to those humble beginnings too.

Wednesday you can definitely expect a new episode of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle at 1:30 PM, with a replay at 7 PM. At 3 PM there is a remote possibility of a new episode of Curtain Call, hosted by Mel Larch, but Mel has a lot going on this week too, so we may go with reruns for that as well.

1-23-beatles-showThe project that Mel is working is the “With A Little Help From Our Friends” Beatles Marathon Concert that Rubber Soul will put on a week from Friday.

Next week PopCult and The AIR will bombard you with information and plugs for this concert, and that’s why we’re marking our anniversary a week early. Next week expect Beatle-centric episodes of Radio Free Charleston, Curtain Call, Beatles Blast (of course) and maybe even The Swing Shift, if I can pull it off. All that Beatle-ing is why we’re marking our second anniversary a week early.  Well, that and the whole DMV thing.

You can find out more about the Rubber Soul Beatles concert in THIS POST and buy tickets in advance HERE.

Thursday expect a new RFC International, and I believe we have new episodes of Radio Coolsville and Big Electric Cat lined up for Friday. Meanwhile, you can keep track of our schedule with this handy embedded schedule…

Monday Morning Art: Thinking

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This week’s Monday Morning Art gives you a double shot of digital paintings I did of someone else’s art. Normally I don’t like to base my art on a work created by someone else, but when you’re standing next to a small-scale artist’s study of one of the most famous sculptures of all time, “The Thinker,” by Auguste Rodin, you can’t help but be a bit inspired.

Both of my original photos were taken at The Art Institute of Chicago last December, where I was probably standing way the heck too close to Rodin’s work. The lighting, combined with my inexperience with my then-new camera phone, gave me images that were far from ideal journalistically, but filled with opportunity artistically.

Above you see a digital painting done in sloppy oils over a shot that was nearly in focus. I liked the fact that the sculpture was still recognizable. I also liked the overall composition with the paintings arranged on the wall behind it.

Below you see digital painting over a very dark close up, as I held my phone above the sculpture and shot down. On this one I used thick digital paints to mimic the weird lighting effects and evoke the texture of the original sculpture.

With both images, click to see a bigger version. I don’t really consider this week’s entry my own art. It’s more a couple of variations on Rodin’s work, by a lesser hand.  The Rodin exhibit at the Art Institute runs through March 24, if you are so inclined to go look at the work of this genius in person.

Below the bottom image, you’ll find an embedded play for The AIR. We’ll post updates on this week’s programs tomorrow.

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Sunday Evening Video: The Television Wheel

tvw-001Tonight PopCult’s Sunday Evening Video takes you back to an undeservedly overlooked comedy gem. In 1995, fresh after leaving Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel Hodgeson (seen right) created a project known as “The Television Wheel.”

Originally funded by HBO, the premium cable network passed on the special after filming the pilot, and it wound up shown one time only on Comedy Central a couple of years later. Hosted by Hodgeson, with a cast of comedians and puppets, The Television Wheel could have been one of the coolest comedy shows in the history of TV if it had been picked up as a series.

For The Television Wheel Hodgeson conceived a sketch show packed with short blackout skits that all took place around a single stationary camera. The stage was a huge rotating monstrosity that moved from one scene to the next, twirling around the camera and allowing the cast and crew to work on scene changes out of view. The Television Wheel made judicious use of real-time camera tricks like mask framing and forced perspective to create vastly different scenarios with its limited space. The show was not really designed for a live audience, since all the action was directed at the camera, and all an audience could do is watch what was going on “backstage.” At the taping the small audience followed the action on big screen TVs situated around the room.

tv-wheel-2Aside from a large cast of hilarious puppets, The Television Wheel had a cast that included Hodgeson, Morwenna Banks, Steve Bannos, David Cross, Paul Feig, Doug Benson, Melissa Samuels, Andy Kindler and Fred Stoller. In the clip above you’ll see the show, preceded by a 12-minute documentary feature that gives the full history of the creation of the show, which was originally called “The X-Box.”

It’s almost criminal that this project never made it beyond the one episode. It was conceived as a commercial-free half hour, so when Comedy Central aired it, they included the documentary to pad it out to an hour, and put all the commercials in the documentary half, so that the actually “Wheel” would run uninterrupted. The Television Wheel was really the first new take on “live” comedy on television since the days of Ernie Kovacs.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 123

rfc-123This week we venture once again back to March, 2011, as Radio Free Charleston was on a roll with a weekly run of terrific shows. This episode featured the first non-FestivALL solo appearance by Andy Park on the show, and the first-ever performance we filmed by an early line-up of QiET.

We also present the second song that we’d recorded with Roger Simms performing in the back of a pick-up truck on Capitol Street, and we have a short film by MURFMEEF and remastered CGI animation by Frank Panucci.

Host segments for this show were shot at Gallery 1031, and my performance in this show was pretty sub-par, as I managed to get the name of the gallery wrong at one point, and nearly mangle Deron Sodaro’s name, even though I knew him for almost twenty years at that point. Still, I got to wear my Green Lantern shirt to give the show its title before Big Bang Theory forever ruined wearing DC Comics shirts in public.

Next week we’ll continue our trek through March, 2011 with a show that features music from Electro Biscuit, Slate Dump and Red Audio.

All Hail Dr. Demento!

demento-001The PopCulteer
January 19, 2018

Today your PopCulteer pays tribute to one of the most influential figures in his life, one Barry Hansen, better known as “Dr. Demento.” He is the epitome of a cult figure in this country.

Since 1974 he’s hosted a weekly radio show devoted to the occasionally-abandoned art of novelty records, and he’s been a starmaker in the worlds of comedic music and audio bizarreness. The Dr. Demento Show holds a place in pop culture’s humor wing alongside Mad Magazine and The National Lampoon. Seriously, folks, this guy is why I do what I do on The AIR and with Radio Free Charleston. He was my inspiration and deserves all the credit…or blame, depending on your point of view.

demento-002His biggest discovery was Weird Al Yankovic, who famously slipped him a cassette of one of his original songs when Hansen visited his high school back in the mid-1970s, but he was also responsible for bringing Barnes and Barnes, Richard Cheese, Judy Tenuta, Emo Philips and others into the mainstream.

Hansen not only discovered these artists, but in many cases he nurtured and encouraged them.

Just last week a punk rock tribute to Dr. Demento was released by Demented Punk Records. The project itself was the brainchild of John Cafiero, of Osaka Popstar, a life-long Demento fan who is also a producer and manager. The record consists of punk rock covers of classic novelty tunes that have been played on The Dr. Demento Show. The album includes new recordings by “Weird Al” Yankovic, the Misfits, the B-52’s Fred Schneider, William Shatner, the late Adam West, Los Straitjackets and more

It’s a match made in heaven, as Demento was an early champion of punk rock, playing tracks by The Ramones, The Dickies, The Sex Pistols, Ian Dury and others back before punk entered into the mainstream. Among the songs on Dr. Demento: Covered In Punk are such Dr. Demento Show favorites as “Shaving Cream,” “Surfin’ Bird,” “The Monster Mash,” “Lydia, The Tattooed Lady,” “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama” and Yankovic’s “Eat It.”

All but one of the 19 tunes on Dr. Demento: Covered In Punk, were recorded especially for the set. Only a never-released Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ version of “Science Fiction/Double Feature” from The Rocky Horror Show already existed. On the record, Dr. Demento provides newly-recorded commentary between songs, so that it recreates the experience of listening to The Dr. Demento Show.

demento-004The standout tracks are Adam West’s cover of the Phil Harris classic “The Thing,” and Yankovic’s first-ever studio recording of a non-parody cover, The Ramone’s “Beat On The Brat.”

The coolest part of this news is that Dr. Demento is still at hosting a subscription streaming version of his radio show. As broadcast radio became more and more corporate and sterile, Demento’s show had a harder time keeping affiliates. He ended the broadcast version of the program in 2010, but the show was reborn as a weekly streaming program that is both commercial-free and censorship-free. Hansen is now free to play material unbleeped. His show usually runs more than two hours now, and incorporates many elements of his old locally-broadcast four-hour show that his syndicators made him leave out of the two-hour national broadcast. More details and links can be found a few paragraphs below.

Personally, finding Dr. Demento on the airwaves when I was a kid was a bit of an epiphany. Even though we barely heard him in Charleston (in fact, I don’t know if any Charleston stations ever carried his show at all), I was able to pick up distant radio signals from Parkersburg and other cities. Finding his show was a rare treat back in those days. I was a huge comedy nerd, with little interest in music, but after hearing Frank Zappa on Dr. Demento back in 1975, I bought my first rock album, Zappa’s Apostrophe. This might be why I’ve always had an affinity for weirder music, like Zappa, DEVO, The Aquabats and others.

Listeners of The AIR also hear Dr. Demento’s influence not only on my announcing and presentation of music, but also on The Bat (poop) Crazy Show, which I’ve described as “Dr. Demento on acid, with Tourette’s Syndrome.” You can hear thirty minutes of The BS Crazy Show every weeknight at 6:30 PM, while every Saturday at 7 PM we offer up three new half-hour episodes.

demento-003Better than that though, is the fact that you can listen to the genuine Dr. Demento Show at his website, with a new show every Saturday. There are subscription fees that give you unlimited access to his archives, or you can purchase each show the week it airs. You can’t download it because of the intricacies of music licensing (a world of which I am all too aware), so you have to clear two hours or more to listen when you pay your four bucks (or two if you want a lower-res version that sounds like AM radio). There is also a Dr. Demento Store where you can purchase all kinds of recordings and other goodies.

So run out and buy or download Dr. Demento: Covered In Punk. It’s got a cover illustration by Drew Friedman (see it at the top of this post) and you’ll love it…or something’s seriously wrong with you.

PopCult Notes:

Last week in this space I ran a satirical piece in which I took a typical hysterical story about Charleston’s homeless problem, only I replaced the “transient homeless” with the West Virginia State Legislature. A couple of readers took me to task for not going far enough to suggest that Charleston might have to raise the user fee again to deal with the satirical issue.

Satire or not, I didn’t want to give them any ideas.

As always, we wrap up The PopCulteer for Friday, and remind you to check back every day, even on weekends, for all our regular features. We are getting back in the groove, so expect more reviews of toys, comics, books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and all kinds of other pop culture in the coming weeks. Next we’re going to look at some of the early news coming out in advance of next month’s International Toy Fair in New York.

air-logo-b-0001And don’t forget to tune in, turn on and drop out with The AIR, our sister internet radio station. This is where you can hear Radio Free Charleston, The Swing Shift, The BS Crazy Show and all kinds of other great programs. Check out the widget…

…and check out the schedule…

Spike TV Gets Spiked

spike-logoLet it be noted that, on this day, January 18, 2018, Spike TV, the cable station touted as “The First Channel For Men,” has gone the way of the dodo. Spike TV, which hardly anybody has watched in years, is now “The Paramount Network.”

This is all part of their parent company, Viacom, and a new effort to re-brand their cable channels, with a focus on six core channels, one of which The Paramount Network is now considered to be. The other five “main” Viacom channels are  BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and MTV. Charleston area Suddenlink customers may recognize these as the channels that they couldn’t watch for over two years as the cable company was too cheap to continue to pay to carry them.

paramount-network-logo_highresThis wave of Viacom rebrandings cast a bit of a pall over the “non-main” channels that the company owns, like VH1, Logo, TV Land, five additional MTV channels, three additional Nickelodeon channels, six additional BET channels and CMT.

It is believed that sometime in the next year, Viacom will simply shut down some of their underperforming channels, which is becoming a fairly common practice these days.

Comcast/NBC/Universal suddenly shut down the Chiller channel on the last day of last year, and earlier last year they pulled the plug on Universal HD, The Esquire Channel and Cloo.

It’s becoming increasingly expensive to maintain multiple cable channels since most barely register on the ratings barometer. The idea of offering a huge suite of channels has hit the point of diminishing returns, and Viacom has turned many of its lesser channels into dumping grounds for cheap reruns that they own outright so that they can keep costs to a minimum.

And that’s why they’ve changed Spike TV to The Paramount Network. The channel has a huge footprint, being available in over 93 million households, but they had no notable breakout programming. Even with the new direction, they’re sort of limping out of the gate, with almost the same schedule as Spike TV until later in the spring when they debut a couple of mini-series that were originally developed for TV Land.

heathers-2-600x338Those shows, an anthology based on the movie “Heathers” and “American Woman,” a sitcom starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, who used to be famous. Later in the year they’ll offer “Yellowstone,” a western starring Kevin Costner, but that doesn’t start until June.

Aside from a documentary about Dr. Martin Luther King, their sole new offering this month will be a mini-series about the Waco seige that starts January 24. “Waco” has the added distinction of being produced by a company that will not be mentioned, as the network will erase the involvement of The Weinstein Company from the credits. The Weinstein Company will also be scrubbed from the credits of “Yellowstone.”

That’s not a terribly impressive start for a new network. They announced this change a year ago, and you’d think they’d have put a little more effort into making a clean break from their old identity and pull off a big relaunch. They still have “Lip Sync Battle,” a show that I have managed to avoid being exposed to completely, and they carry Belator, a third-rate UFC-style combat sport. There are more reality shows left over from Spike TV, but I never watch that sort of thing.

However, it only takes one hit show to put a newly-rebranded network on the map. Many cable channels have found themselves reborn after abandoning their original mission. AMC used to be a classic movie channel, but after they added commercials and started airing original shows, they became a powerhouse with “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” building a solid audience.

ren__stimpy_adult_party_cartoon_title-cardSpike TV itself was a re-branding of The Nashville Network. The dumped their rural focus and went mainstream, cementing that with the temporary acquisition of “WWE RAW” from the USA Network. When WWE took their programming back to USA, Spike TV never quite rebounded, and began a prolonged period of floundering in the ratings.

Aside from WWE stuff, the only really notable thing on the channel was the short-lived reunion of animator John Kricfalusi with his creations, Ren and Stimpy in the controversial “Ren and Stimpy’s Adult Party Cartoon.”

The missed opportunity with this rebranding is that the 100-year-old Paramount brand is closely associated with the Star Trek franchise, but the rights to the Star Trek television series are tied up by other cable channels, so Paramount will have to make do without the most recognizable “name” franchise.

So goodbye, Spike TV. Hello, The Paramount Network. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Mistress Rhonda Has Left Us

rhonda-01There are some things I don’t enjoy writing about in PopCult.

Last week, Rhonda Baffes, the proprietor and programmer for Bizarre TV passed away after a hard-fought and lengthy battle with cancer. I’d interviewed Rhonda for PopCult almost three years ago, and was a big fan of her work, and I also became an online friend.

Rhonda had a dream of sharing her tastes in film with an ever-growing circle of friends. Bizarre TV had thousands of viewers, or “lurkers,” who loved her mix of cult films with independent shorts, ancient commercials, music videos and vintage “snipes,” the little interstitial films they showed in movie theaters and drive-ins (like the “Let’s All Go To The Lobby” clip).

Had Rhonda not fallen ill, she planned to branch out and start making short films in collaboration with some of the artists whose work she’d showcased on her channel. She got to be Facebook buddies with Lee Harrah, and we’d tried to arrange for her to make a trip to ShockaCon, but it was not to be.

Rhonda overcame a lot of adversity in her life. A single mother, she lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, and had to start life all over over again in Alabama. Our hearts go out to her teenage son, who meant the world to her. It’s heartbreaking that, after rebuilding her life and pursuing her dream with Bizarre TV, she was stricken with cancer.

Bizarre TV was more than just a Roku channel. Rhonda created a community, one that shared a special worldview with an appreciation of horror, exploitation, and cult independent movies. She was key in encouraging the current revival of horror-movie hosts. Rhonda touched so many lives, and her loss is profound.

bizarre-001I first discovered Bizarre TV on Thanksgiving night, 2014, and quickly found the online community that Rhonda had started just a few months earlier. It was a world populated with kindred spirits, people who enjoyed the labors of filmmakers who may have had more heart than budget or talent, but still managed to create unique artistic statements (sometimes unintentionally).

Rhonda branched out over the years. I suppose it’s okay now to talk about Bizarre TV Underground, a channel for which you paid a one-time fee of twenty bucks for a lifetime subscription. BTU was a “gray” channel, where Rhonda would play movies that she might have not exactly nailed down all the broadcast rights to, but since it was a channel for a small, closed group of friends, there was plenty of “fair use” legal wiggle room.

byuWe operated under “Fight Club” rules. You just watched BTU, and didn’t talk about it outside of the closed Facebook group. It was on BTU that I was exposed to the work of a lot of independent filmmakers whose work I have since purchased on DVD and Blu Ray and have recommended in this blog.

Like Bizarre TV, Bizarre TV Underground was programmed with Rhonda’s one-of-a-kind wit, taste and cleverness.

Rhonda even briefly experimented with offering a Bizarre Sexploitation channel plus some special bonus channels for her subscribers, but eventually she had to give those up, because it was costing her so much money in server fees. Rhonda never attempted to make a penny with Bizarre TV. Even when it was one of the top free channels on Roku she never tried to run paid commercials or cash in on it. The one-time subscriber fee for BTU just barely covered her expenses for a month or two. Bizarre TV, BTU and the Lurker Community  was Rhonda’s labor of love.

Last year a couple of BTU subscribers looking to curry favor with a horror convention caused Rhonda a tremendous amount of grief by reporting the channel for showing movie trailers without permission. I hope those people are aware of the harm they did to a woman who was struggling with what became terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with potential legal trouble, Rhonda pulled the plug on BTU, leaving it up with a scroll promising to return. Rhonda was ever-hopeful that she would be able to resume programming her channels. It was a great joy in her life, and It’s a real shame that at her lowest point, two really horrible people conspired to rob her of that small bit of happiness.

rhonda-002It was inspiring to see the Bizarre TV communities rally around Rhonda during her illness and during that incident. People across the country came to know Rhonda as a friend, and we came to know each other as fellow Lurkers in Rhonda’s Bizarre TV world. We loved the movies she showed, and we loved her wicked sense of humor. She was our Mistress of the Macabre.

Rhonda had fought hard. She’d started chemotherapy more than a year ago, and last summer had her stomach removed. She’d rallied a bit and had Bizarre TV running with fresh programming until October, her favorite month, when she discovered that a new cancer had developed and was spreading rapidly. About a week into October, Rhonda put Bizarre TV on autopilot, and the station has been running the same six movies, twice a day, since.

I don’t know for sure what the future holds for Bizarre TV. I know that at one point last year, she’d almost finalized a deal for a partner to come in and convert Bizarre TV to an all-horror-host channel that would potentially include commercials. I believe that her illness kept that deal from happening.

If Bizarre TV does continue, it will never be the same without Rhonda. My best guess is that eventually Bizarre TV, as the bills stop being paid for server space and Roku access, will simply disappear, like an abandoned space station falling out of orbit and becoming a shooting star.

That might just be the way Rhonda would like to be remembered. Especially if that space station hits the ground, and an astronaut’s hand crawls out and starts killing people.

Rest in peace, Rhonda. We are going to miss you greatly. Thanks for letting us lurk.

Radio Notes From The Underground

air-logo-1-8-18Get ready for a barrage of new programming to keep you warm on The AIR this week. In case you forgot, that’s PopCult’s internet radio station. Check it out at the website, or listen in on this cool embedded player…

Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, your PopCulteer hosts the local music showcase, Radio Free Charleston. This week’s show Digs into the RFC Archives to bring you all the music from the legendary 5th Anniversary episode of the Radio Free Charleston video show.

Mostly shot over a single weekend in early July, 2011, this show brings you exclusive live performances from Mother Nang, Jeff Ellis with Sasha Colette, Andy Park and the Kountry Katz, HARRAH, Holy Cow, Linework, Remains Unnamed, The Stacee Lawson Band and more. Save for two songs, these are performances that you can only hear on Radio Free Charleston.

We always do our best to serve the local music scene here in Charleston, and Radio Free Charleston is the only radio show dedicated to all local music that has nearly thirty years under its belt. You can hear replays of this week’s episode Thursday at 3 PM, Friday at 8 PM and Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight.

Tuesday at 3 PM stick around for a new edition of The Swing Shift, where your RFC hosts shifts gears and brings you the best Swing Music of the last century. This week’s show includes the following music:

tss-logo-1-2-18 The Swing Shift 037

Dirty Romance Novels  “I Love You More Each Time We Dance”
Rhydian and the Residuals  “With A Wink And A Smile”
Maureen and the Mercury 5  “Gimme Mo”
Ray Charles  “I’ve Got A Woman”
Benny Goodman  “Airmail Special”
Jools Holland  “Tuxedo Junction”
Sugarpie and the Candymen  “You Give Love A Bad Name”
Krystal Jyl and the Jacks  “Walkin’ With An Apostrophe”
Teddy Wilson  “Wham (Re-Bop-Boom-Bam)
Lillian Briggs  “Follow The Leader”
Wolfgang Parker  “Sing Baby Swing”
Torello’s Jive Bugs  “Wakin’ Up Baby”
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies  “I Love American Music”
Lily Wilde and her Jumpin’ Jubiliee Orchestra  “Jumpin’ Jack”
Jack’s Cats  “The Little Man Who Wasn’t There”
Swing Rocket  “Swinging On Nothing”
Atomic Fireballs  “Hit By A Brick”

You can hear a replay of The Swing Shift Thursday at 7 AM and Saturday at 10 AM, plus we have all-night marathons of past episodes Thursday and Sunday at Midnight.

Wednesday sees new episodes of Life Speaks To Michele Zirkle at 1:30 PM and 7 PM, Beatles Blast at 2 PM and Curtain Call, with Mel Larch at 3 PM. 5 PM will see a new installment of The AIR Audio Playhouse.

Thursday brings you a new edition of Radio Free Charleston International at 3 PM, plus a new-to-The-AIR episode of The Real with Mark Wolfe at 10 PM, and a new collection from The Comedy Vault at 11 PM.

Friday begins with morning replays of our talk shows, and then sees new episodes of Radio Coolsville at 2 PM and Sydney’s Big Electric Cat at 3 PM. This week Sydney Fileen presents a two-hour career retrospective of Talking Heads. Friday at 9 PM tune in for an hour of The Third Shift with Jay and Jarod.

If space permits, we will remind you of some of these shows during the rest of the week, but PopCult is going to be filled with lots of new articles for the time being, as we have tons of stuff going on, so be sure to keep up to date with The AIR on this handy embedded schedule…

Monday Morning Art: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

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We kick off this holiday-shortened week with a digital painting inspired by a Beatles song. What you see at the top of this post is “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” my take on the third song on side one of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Coincidentally, the song was inspired by a piece of art itself. One day a very young Julian Lennon brought home a drawing of a classmate from school, and when his father asked what it was, he replied, “That’s Lucy in the sky with Diamonds.” John Lennon then was inspired to write the song, and that piece of artwork is now in the collection of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.  This piece of artwork, as seen above, is digital, and you can see a bigger version by clicking on it.

I sort of know a lot about the Beatles, but aside from the fact that I am a Beatles geek extraordinaire, I had another reason for creating this particular piece. I’ve been hearing this song a lot lately. On February 2, Mark Scarpelli and his excellent Beatles tribute band, Rubber Soul, will perform a marathon of over 200 Beatles songs in a 14-hour concert as a benefit for Fund For The Arts.

26167075_10154999191095925_2972438973863527932_n-1200 songs is a heck of a lot for one band to perform, so Mark is calling this show, “With A Little Help From Our Friends” as an all-star lineup of top local talent will all chip in and take over singing or playing for a song or two (or more) so that the band does not drop dead of exhaustion at the end of the night.

Joining Rubber Soul for this lengthy expedition through the Beatles’ songbook will be Larry Groce, Ron Sowell, Julie Adams, Ryan Kennedy, Ryan Hardiman, Spencer Elliott, John Inghram, Jonathan Tucker, Casey Litz from The Company Stores, Phil Washington, Kim Javins and many, many more.

Among the “many, many more” joining in will be Gazette-Mail mainstay, “One-Month-At-A-Time” Bill Lynch. There’s another notable name joining the line up: My beautiful wife, Melanie Larch, will be singing lead on “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” and as such she has been listening to the song quite a bit of late. The song got into my head, and I turned it into the piece you see at the head of this post.

Proceeds from The Marathon Concert will benefit Fund For The Arts, and the show kicks off at noon on Friday, February 2, at the Captiol Theater, 123 Summers Street, in Charleston. There is a $25 pre-sale available at Showclix, and I believe the ticket will allow you to come and go, just in case fourteen hours of Beatles is a bit too much for you to take in one sitting.

You can be sure that I’ll be telling you much more about this show as the date approaches. Beatles fans might also want to check out a show I host each Wednesday at 2 PM on The AIR. Beatles Blast presents an hour of Beatle-centric content each week. Recent episodes have brought a collage of interviews with the Fab Four, a look at the Beatles’ Blues influences, their Christmas records, sound-alike bands and more. You never know exactly what the show will be, but it will always be about the Beatles. You can tune in to The AIR website, or listen on this embedded player that I tend to pepper all over this blog…

PopCult Note: There is another reason I posted a piece of art inspired by something my lovely wife is doing today. Twenty-eight years ago on this day, I first met Melanie Larch at The Charleston Playhouse, during a a CD release party for Stark Raven. To keep this story small-worldy, at least two members of Stark Raven are performing along with Melanie on February 2.

Sunday Evening Video: Inside “The Prisoner”

the_prisoner_roverWe are in the golden anniversary year of the legendary and awesome British cult TV series, The Prisoner. Patrick McGoohan’s brilliant creation debuted on British and Canadian television in 1967, and was broadcast in America on CBS beginning in June, 1968.

This week Sunday Evening Video brings you a documentary about a show that your PopCulteer first saw as a young child, and one that stuck with him for the rest of his life. The intrigue, twists, turns, and action instilled a healthy dose of skepticism, cynicism and optimism in me that is hard to explain to the uninitiated.

The Prisoner‘s mark on pop culture extends to comic books (Jack Kirby’s never-published mid-1970s adaptation will finally see print this year. See a smaple at the bottom of this post), television (The Simpsons, along with many other shows have paid tribute, and McGoohan himself reprised his role, sort of, in episodes of Columbo) and music (Iron Maiden and XTC, among many other bands have written songs about the show, and Dhani Harrison’s group, thenewno2, is named after the show’s ever-changing authority figure character). Along the way the series had a poorly-received mini-series remake in 2009 on AMC and a somewhat better-received comic book sequel in 1988 by Dean Motter and Mark Askwith.

prisoner_smThe Prisoner only ran 17 episodes before its magnificently confusing conclusion, but the series still endures half a century later. That should be a testament to just exactly how special this program was. In the UK, a deluxe Blu Ray release came out last year to commemorate the anniversary. In America, a 2009 set, with beautiful transfers and plenty of bonus material is currently out of print and selling for big money on Amazon and eBay. Here’s hoping that the current US rights holders plan to release a more affordable set in time for the 50th anniversary of the American debut of the classic show.

In the meantime, enjoy the documentary. If you know The Prisoner, you’ll like the memories, and if you don’t, it’s a good introduction.

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