PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The Eyes Have It, And Other Stuff

The PopCulteer
May 31, 2019

After our long post about professional wrestling, which went live in the wee hours of this morning, your PopCulteer is pretty much exhausted. Add to that the fact that he has to write this ahead of time because Friday is the day of his annual dilated eye exam, and you’ll just have to pardon me if today’s column is just a tad skimpy.

The Teal Ribbon

June is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month, and that means I trot out the teal ribbon and talk about my illness again. It starts tomorrow, folks.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with MG, and you can read all about it by going to the search window at the right of this text, and entering “Myasthenia Gravis.” In short, it’s an auto-immune disorder that makes my muscles unresponsive to the nerves signals which are meant to trigger them.

I am still doing very well managing my disease, and am very lucky to have an extremely mild case. Sometimes my fingers get weak, and sometimes my eyes get weak (and I get double vision). I had adjusted to having paralyzed hands and crossed eyes, so the real challenge has been adjusting to the meds to give me back the use of my fingers and lessen the double vision.

In fact, it was eighteen months of one of those medicines (Prednisone) that caused me to experience rapidly-growing cataracts, which is one big reason I have my eye exam today. Two years ago I had cataract surgery and toric implants, so my vision is better than it ever has been in my life.

It’s just that my eyes don’t point in the same direction all the time.

I have other fun things happen. Some of the meds aggravate my dyslexia, which is my excuse for all the typos you might find here in PopCult. They also make me require sleep, so it’s much harder to get out and shoot video of local bands, or even attend late-night shows. I miss that, but having good health makes it a decent trade-off.

Aside from that, I’m doing great. Please make yourself aware of Myasthenia Gravis, and if you know somebody who does have MG, please treat them with kindness and respect.

Update on My Autopsy

I wrote about the local movie, My Autopsy, a couple of weeks ago. With just over ten days left, their Kickstarter campaign to help finish production on the film is still in need of contributions.  Check out my original article HERE, and follow the widget below to find out more…

Today on The AIR

Check out what’s on The AIR, as Friday  sees new episodes of Radio Free Charleston International and Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Friday mornings now kick off with a 7 AM replay of the week’s new episode of Prognosis, followed by Word Association with Lee & Rudy at 9 AM and The BS Crazy Show at 9:30. This one-hour combo of Word Association and The BS Crazy Show will repeat at 9 PM, for those of you who don’t want to listen to these NSFW programs at work.

At 10 AM The AIR will broadcast The Best of The Real with Mark Wolfe. At 11 AM we’ll bring you a replay of this week’s Beatles Blast, followed by an hour of The AIR Music Mix.

Then at 1 PM we will debut the week’s new edition of Radio Free Charleston International. This week it’s a mixtape presentation of what your PopCulteer has been listening to for the last few weeks. You think I’m kidding? Check out this playlist…

RFC International 066

Jon Anderson “Ramalama”
Adrian Belew “Take Five Deep Breaths”
Harry Nilsson “Coconut”
Chess At Breakfast “The Senate Needs A Nightcap”
Dizzy Mystics “Jaunter”
David Byrne “Lazy”
Norah Jones “It Was You”
Eveline’s Dust “Rain Over Gentle Travellers”
Ringo Starr “Without Understanding”
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band “Blinded By The Light”
Camel “Lady Fantasy”
John Wetton “Be Careful What You Wish For”
The Wrong Object “Mr. Green Genes/King Kong”
Claypool Lennon Delirium “Blood and Rockets”
Greenslade “Sundance”
The Beat “Dangerous”
Gryphon “Haddock’s Eyes”
Fantasy “Widow”

Radio Free Charleston International is the show where I play whatever I want, and you can hear RFC International Friday at 1 PM, with replays Friday at  10 PM, Saturday afternoon, Sundat at 1 AM and 2 PM and Tuesday at 11 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

At 3 PM Sydney’s Big Electric Cat presents a special salute to Duran Duran, with two solid hours of early music by the band, dating back to their New Wave Music roots. It’s two full hours of some of the biggest hits of the MTV era. Just check the playlist:

Big Electric Cat 045

Duran Duran Special

“The Relfex”
“Is There Something I Should Know”
“Rio”
“Planet Earth”
“Lonely In Your Nightmare”
“Notorious”
“New Moon On Monday”
“A View To A Kill”
“Careless Memories”
“My Own Way”
“Cracks In The Pavement”
“Friends Of Mine”
“The Edge Of America”
“Tiger Tiger”
“Hungry Like The Wolf”
“Night Boat”
“Union Of The Snake”
“New Religion”
“Last Chance On The Stairway”
“Vertigo (Do The Demolition)”
“Hold Back The Rain”
“Of Crime And Passion”
“Anyone Out There”
“Skin Trade”
“Shadows On Your Side”
“Girls On Film”
“Save A Prayer”

Sydney’s Big Electric Cat is produced at Haversham Recording Institute in London, and can be heard every Friday at 3 PM, with replays Saturday afternoon, Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM and Thursday at Noon, exclusively on The AIR. Every Monday at 3 PM, we bring you four classic episodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, just so you can be all New Wave-y when you get home from work.

That is it for this week’s PopCulteer. Please check PopCult for all our regular features this weekend, as your humble correspondent spends a day or three in a dark room waiting for his irises to start working again.

 

Last weekend there was a seismic shift on the professional wrestling landscape. Double or Nothing was the debut pay per view from All Elite Wrestling, a new company formed by a group of maverick wrestlers and financed by the billionaire Khan family, who also own the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and London’s Fulham Football Club.

For the first time since WWE purchased WCW, back in 2001, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment has real competition. This can only be good for fans of professional wrestling.

McMahon has a reputation as a mad genius, who took a dying, regionalized industry and turned it into a huge pop culture phenomenon, making billions of dollars in the process. Starting the in 1980s McMahon systematically bought out all the smaller regional wrestling federations and took his company, which had been based in the Northeast, national. Along the way he created Wrestlemania and a large roster of colorful wrestlers who became household names, something which hadn’t happened since the early days of television in the 1950s and early 1960s.

His success drew the attention of another mad genius, Ted Turner, who decided to buy one of McMahon’s last surviving competitors, Jim Crockett Promotions, and rename it “World Championship Wrestling,” after his long-running wrestling program on his Superstation, WTBS. McMahon launched Monday Night RAW in January, 1993 on the USA Network, bringing wrestling back to prime time for the first time in a long time, and within a couple of years, Turner, who had been hiring away McMahon’s top stars with insanely lucrative contracts, decided to go head-to-head with RAW by programming WCW Nitro in the same timeslot on TNT.

Books have been written about the ensuing “Monday Night Wars,” and more will be written in the future, but the gist is this: Nitro eventually surpassed RAW in the ratings, beating them for 83 consecutive weeks, before the tide turned and RAW became the dominant show behind new stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, HHH, The Undertaker and the whole “Attitude Era.” It’s looked on as the golden age of RAW by many fans, and was reportedly the most successful period of the company in terms of ticket sales and merchandise. Truth be told, the battle between what was then the WWF and WCW got more people interested in wrestling than ever before.

At the end of the battle, WCW was undone by inept management, with its demise hastened by the merger of Ted Turner’s Turner Communications with Time Warner. As Turner’s power diminished in the new, larger corporation, the pride factor that drove Turner to take on McMahon became a non-issue. When Time Warner merged with AOL, bean counters started counting all the beans, and discovered that WCW was hemmoraging money due to those insanely lucrative contracts I mentioned earlier. Wrestlers were being paid tens of millions of dollars to sit at home, while Nitro was sinking in the ratings because none of their storylines made any sense, and the company was now being run by people who didn’t understand the basics of professional wrestling.

Vince McMahon (right) won the Monday Night War, not because he was a mad genius, but because the other mad genius got tired, sold his business, and quit. WCW had unwittingly done McMahon the biggest favor in the world by hiring away his aging talents, and making the rest of their acquired roster look horrible with lousy booking. McMahon was forced to build up new stars and lucked into a run of really compelling storylines that attracted more fans than ever.

On May 10, 1999, RAW achieved it’s highest-rating ever, as it drew close to ten milion viewers over the course of the show.

In 2001, Time Warner decided to cut their losses (which were over a hundred million dollars a year by that point) and cancelled the WCW programming on the Turner networks, and also sold WCW and it’s tape library, some wrestlers contracts and intellectual property to Vince McMahon.

Almost immediately, the quality of WWE (then WWF, I’ll get to that later) programming began to decline. Many of the talents in the ring and behind the scenes who contributed to WCW’s downfall were brought in to work at WWE. Storylines stagnated, stopped making sense, and in far to many cases were simply dropped with no resolution. Vince McMahon was busy taking a victory lap, and the WWE shows fell into a formula, one that was providing diminishing returns.

It is to McMahon’s credit that, during an eighteen-year period when ratings for his flagship show have posted year-to-year declines every single year, he managed to take his company public, make billions of dollars, and expand it even further with its own streaming service. The man and his family are wealthier than ever. This is the “genius” part of the “mad genius” on display.

For the “mad” part of that, we have plenty of evidence too. For instance, a completely unnecessary legal battle with the World Wildlife Fund ended badly as McMahon was forced to rebrand the “World Wrestling Federation” as “World Wrestling Entertainment,” when he refused to share the initials and lost a court battle over them. Further evidence of McMahon’s madness can be seen every week on RAW and Smackdown! Live, as the shows no longer make any sense.

WWE currently has the largest and most talented roster of wrestlers ever assembled in history, and they can’t get people to keep watching their flagships shows because the storylines are stupid and nonsensical. A recent example is the lead-up to their Money In The Bank Pay Per View. This event happens every year. Six to eight talented wrestlers compete in a brutal ladder match for a chance to capture a briefcase that holds a contract which can be cashed in at any time in the following year for a shot at the main championship title.

Like I said, this show happens every year. They know this and have plenty of time to develop stories for the wrestlers involved. However this year they didn’t even bother to hold any qualifying matches, which are a popular feature of the shows leading up to the match. They just named random wrestlers. Then in the weeks after naming them, they had two wrestlers face challenges for their spot. There was no logic to this. Making matters worse, at the actual match, one competitor was incapacitated beforehand, while the other seven wrestlers worked their asses off, and just as Ali, a young crowd favorite, was about to get the briefcase, Brock Lesnar, a crossover WWE/UFC star of some magnitude, runs in, knocks Ali off the ladder, and seizes the Money In The Bank contract.

He did that even though he wasn’t in the match. Also, fans have been sick of Lesnar for two or three years, at least, and wish he would go away.

You can only do that Lucy Van Pelt booking thing so many times before people just lose interest and quit watching. And that’s what has been happening. WWE is losing audience to videogames, Netflix, news programming, and ironically to their own WWE Network, a streaming service that gives viewers access to thousands of hours of classic wrestling programs, including the episodes of RAW and Nitro that, combined, originally drew five times as many viewers as RAW does now. I know people who, every Monday night, sit down with the WWE Network and watch the episode of RAW that aired twenty years earlier, instead of watching the new, live show.

It’s not just fans who are frustrated with WWE’s booking. The talent is getting fed up, and with AEW now in place, complete with a weekly TV show on TNT beginning this fall, WWE is not in a good place. When faced with competition from WCW, McMahon lost his top wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Lex Luger. This time he’s not losing wrestlers who have already peaked. He losing guys who could sell out arenas for years to come.

Dean Ambrose (who is now using the name “Jon Moxley,” which was the name he used when he wrestled locally for IWA East Coast), turned down a contract extension worth millions so that he could go elsewhere. His character had been so badly written for the past several years that he’d already decided not to renew his contract last July. As Deam Ambrose, Moxley was one of the top stars in WWE. A member of The Shield Faction, along with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins (seen right), he was a top merchandise-seller for the company and was so popular with fans that they didn’t respond when WWE tried to turn him into a bad guy. He was extremely unhappy, to the point of feeling sick and depressed when it was time to go to do the television shows.

He’s detailed all this in an interview with former WWE Superstar and current AEW top dog, Chris Jericho on Jericho’s podcast (which you can listen to below this paragraph). Moxley gives several examples of how he had to fight to not do or say stupid things on the air, and how he usually lost those battles. It became so bad that he had to walk away, despite the fact that his wife, Renee Young, is one of the lead announcers on RAW.

Moxley’s story is typical of the frustration many WWE Superstars are facing, as they have to fight harder backstage to get to do good material, and usually wind up tapping out to Vince and getting stuck with drivel. Now when their contracts are up they can walk out the door, and then you get this…

There is a problem at the top in WWE. Vince McMahon, at the age of 73, remains convinced that he knows what his audience wants better than they do. The fact that RAW has lost more than six million viewers over the last 18 years should be enough to convince him that he might not be the arbitor of taste that he thinks he is, but he just looks at the billions of dollars that he’s made over that time and convinces himself that it’s all because he’s smart, and not lucky. It’s easy to make money when you own a monopoly.

WWE has people who can produce compelling, high-quality professional wrestling TV shows. The weekly hour of NXT, which is WWE’s “third brand,” is the most-watched show on WWE Network. 205 Live, which was unwatchably bad while McMahon was running the show, has been thriving under the creative direction of HHH (who also handles NXT), and is more entertaining that RAW or Smackdown now.

HHH (real name, Paul Levesque, seen right) is married to McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, and still wrestles on occasion, even though he’s pushing 50. He was the top heel of the Attitude era, knows and respects the business, and most importantly, knows when something looks idiotic on TV. It’s past the time to hand him the reigns of RAW and Smackdown and let Vince concentrate on his revival of the XFL.

It’s not that McMahon is elderly or demented that makes it time for him to step aside. He’s simply a spent creative force who’s surrounded himself with far too many writers who try to stay on his good side rather than pitch sound ideas. If your job is to make the one billionaire who signs your checks happy, instead of making the most viewers happy, you’re not going to produce quality work. That gets even worse if that billionaire is somebody who reportedly spends a good chunk of his day laughing at his own farts.

There is no reason why, with the talent they have assembled, WWE cannot produce the best wrestling shows in the world week-in-week-out.

Writing a weekly wrestling show is not unlike writing a daily soap opera (another fading art form). I watched Guiding Light on CBS for close to thirty years. I saw the ups and downs as the producers changed writing teams and the show hit new highs and creative low points. Many times the actors had a better grasp of their characters than the latest team of writers did. Sometimes they’d get so upset at the quality of the writing that they’d quit, rather than do material that didn’t ring true.

Right now WWE is at a creative low point. The writers don’t understand the characters that they’re writing. They’re cranking out five hours of television on a weekly basis with no off season and no reruns. 52 weeks a year they have to produce these TV shows. Many of the wrestlers are unhappy, and now with AEW, they have someplace to go where they have a chance to make just as much money doing what they love and still be on national television each week.

For me, as a fan who just started watching a bit more than twenty years ago, it’s an interesting time. I still watch RAW and Smackdown each week. However, I find that the big attraction for me is that, at some point during the shows, I will be lulled into a deep, relaxing sleep. I’ll usually dose off during the first hour, and wake up refreshed about sixty minutes later. Then I’ll go online to read a recap and discover that I slept through something really, really dumb.

When I first started watching wrestling it was primarily so I’d know who the wrestlers were because I was writing a monthly action figure column for Toy Trader Magazine. I tuned in to Nitro one week and found it to be really bad, but the next week I watched RAW, and got hooked. The first episode I watched was when Mankind won the WWF Championship. I got so hooked that I started reading the “dirt sheets,” which at the time were mainly two weekly newsletters, one published by Dave Meltzer and one by Wade Keller. I also went to the occasional live event, but found that I prefer watching WWE on TV, and watching local shows like IWA East Coast or ASW in person.

I have to say, watching WWE crash and burn is fascinating. I’m reading the websites for the dirt sheets again for the first time in more than ten years. What’s happening backstage at WWE these days is so much more compelling than what they put on TV. Due to new television deals that start this fall, WWE is going to make more money over the next five years than they ever have before, but if they don’t make a major change they won’t be able to keep their gigantic TV deals in place when it comes time to renew those deals. While it’s cool to read about the behind-the-scenes mess, I’d rather have cool shows to watch that keep me awake.

It may take the success of AEW to make WWE change their creative process.Sort of like the rivalry with WCW propelled MCMahon to new heights back in the 1990s

AEW is basically the Khan family’s money bankrolling a group of former-WWE stars who teamed up with hot independent wrestlers. Last year, Cody Runnels (left), formerly known as “Cody Rhodes” in WWE, and the son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, and brother of Goldust, teamed up with The Young Bucks, a tag team that was huge in Japan, and highly-sought-after by WWE, and produced an independent show in Chicago called “All In.”

They sold out a 12,000-seat arena in record time and snagged a PPV deal. The success of that show proved that there were fans who were hungry for an alternative to WWE.

Tony Khan (right) is a longtime wrestling fan from a very weatlhy family, and teamed up with this crew to form the nucleus of All Elite Wrestling. Former WWE Superstar Chris Jericho was brought on board to lend the company instant credibility, and they hired longtime WWE announcer, Jim Ross, as a creative consultant and lead voice for their broadcasts.

Jim Ross was criminally underused in WWE in recent years, having been bumped off the main broadcasts and given a “Legends” contract. He’s not the only very experienced backstage hire that AEW has scored at the expense of WWE. From agents like Billy Gunn and Dean Malenko to referee Earl Hebner, AEW is stacking the deck with people who know exactly what it takes to produced weekly wrestling shows on television.

Add to that AEW’s stated goal of making their show more sports-like, where wins and losses matter, and not wasting time on stupid backstage skits, and AEW stands a good chance of recapturing some of the millions of viewers that McMahon has driven off over the last eighteen years of his “We beat WCW!” victory lap.

Best of all, with there being no chance of WWE being driven completely out of business any time soon, they’ll be forced to react and improve their shows to retain a significant portion of their market share. They have had a virtual monopoly on Professional Wrestling for nearly two decades now, and finally having serious competition might finally force them to do their best, instead of just running on automatic.

It could turn out to be a “win-win” for fans of professional wrestling.

New Prognosis On The AIR Thursday!

Herman Linte returns with a new episode of our Progressive Rock showcase, Prognosis Thursday at 3 PM on  The AIR. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Our Thursday morning  line up sees this week’s Psychedelic Shack replayed at 9 AM, followed by a replay of the previous week’s edition of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat at 10 AM and Radio Free Charleston International at Noon. Then at 2 PM we replay this week’s new Radio Free Charleston, before kicking into a brand-new Prognosis at 3 PM.

This week Herman Linte presents two hours of great progressive rock on Prognosis at 3 PM, with a new show featuring a small number of very long songs from the likes of Gong, Big Big Train, David Gilmour, Alan Parsons Project, Jon Anderson and more. Then at 5 PM, starting this week, we follow that with a classic episode of Prognosis, giving you four solid hours of challenging and progressive music.

This week’s sports this lovely playlist:

Prognosis 045

Big Big Train “Ariel”
Gong “Forever Reoccuring”
Regal Worm “The Dreaded Lurg”
The Skys “Dead End”
Alan Parsons Project “Soiree Fantastique”
Jordan Rudess “Wired For Madness Part 1”
Inventions “Logica”
Dvid Gilmour “The Great Gig In The Sky (Live)”
World Trade “Wheels of Life”
Jon Anderson “1,000 Hands (Come Up)”

Prognosis can be heard every Thursday at 3 PM, with replays Friday at 7 AM, Saturday at 8 AM, Tuesday at 8 PM and Wednesday at 10 PM, exclusively on The AIR. Also tune in Monday at 11 PM for a weekly eight-hour marathon of the best of Prognosis.

Our Thursday evenings continues to let our listeners play catch-up with the week’s new episodes of The Swing Shift, Curtain Call, Beatles Blast and Psychedelic Shack, beginning at 7 PM. At 11 PM we bring you an hour of comedy, then we kick into the all-night marathon of The Swing Shift.

Wednesday afternoon on The AIR, you can tune in to new episodes of Beatles Blast and Curtain Call.  You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

At 2 PM on Beatles Blast, yours truly hosts the first of a ten-part look at rare and unreleased music by The Beatles. For most of the summer, Beatles Blast will follow this format and bring you The Lost Beatles Project. This will be a treat for the die-hard fans as we mine the best of the recently-released archive projects by the band, and mix in rare releases and wild remixes from their band and solo years. We won’t be posting playlists for these shows because the whole point is that each of these programs will be a revelatory surprise.

Beatles Blast can be heard every Wednesday at 2 PM, with replays Thursday at 9 PM, Friday at 11 AM, Sunday at 5 PM and Tuesdays at 9 AM, exclusively on The AIR.

At 3 PM Mel Larch presents a new hour of great musical theater on Curtain Call.  This week Mel goes for the offbeat and slightly weird as she presents some strange songs from strange musicals you may never have heard of before, plus some ancient classics and even a song from Kinky Boots, song in Swedish.

Check out the playlist:

Curtain Call 063

“Forever” From We Are The Tigers
“Yeah, Yeah (in Swedish)” from the Kinky Boots Swedish cast album
“Falling For The Boy” from Bubble Boy
“The Prophecy” from Fly By Night
“Talk Like A Pirate” from How I Became A Pirate
“Chin Up Ladies” from Milk and Honey
“Why Do I Love You” from Tell Me More
“These Charming People” from Tip Toes
“The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals” title song
“Spend Per Head” Ushers: The Front Of The House Musical
“Nothing” from A Chorus Line
“Two Nobodies From New York” from [title of show]
“Think Of Meryl Streep” from Fame

After the new hour of Curtain Call, stick around for two additional episodes from the Curtain Call archives. Curtain Call can be heard Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM and Saturday at 6 PM. An all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight, and an additional marathon can be heard Sunday evenings from 6 PM to midnight..

For the first time since early April, we have an all-new-programming Tuesday on The AIR as we deliver new episodes of Radio Free Charleston, Psychedelic Shack and The Swing Shift to our loyal listeners. Why don’t you become one and tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

It all kicks off at 10 AM (with a replay at 10 PM– all times EDT) with a brand-new edition of Radio Free Charleston. Now in its thirtieth year, RFC continues to bring you more local music than any other source. This week we open with new music from The Heavy Editors and Kevin Scarbrough, and you can read my reviews of their new albums, plus find info on how to get your own copies, HERE.

We also bring you our usual mix of new and classic local music, plus we take a deep dive into the RFC Archives for songs from The Laser Beams, Mother Nang, Jeff Ellis and Rasta Rafiki. Every episode of RFC this year will contain some goodies from our vaults as we celebrate 30 years of bringing local music to the masses.

Check out the playlist:

RFCv4110

The Heavy Editors “The City At Night”
Kevin Scarbrough “Yellow To Brown (Fair Warning)”
Beneath “The Departure/Welcome Home (Speak, PtI & II)”
John Lancaster “When Shadows Grow Teeth”
Beggars Clan “Maiden Voyage”
Marcie Bullock “Can’t Undo”
Qiet “I Want It All”
The Laser Beams “Eden By The Fire Escape”
Jeff Ellis “Something The Matter”
Rasta Fafiki “In The Dub”
Mother Nang “Fuggin”

Following the 10 AM debut of this episode, you can stick around and listen to three previously-aired shows, for a four-hour local music fix.

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight and Sunday at 1 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

At 2 PM on Psychedelic Shack Nigel Pye checks in from Haversham Recording Institute with a 60-minute mixtape of groovy Psychedelic Rock. This is the first new episode of Psychedelic Shack in almost two months, and Nigel’s very happy to provide us with a playlist, which he had forgotten to do for some time. Groove on this line-up:

Psychedelic Shack 019

Eyes of Blue “Merry Go Round”
The Doors “Been Down So Long”
Simon & Garfunkel “Cecilia”
The Who “Magic Bus”
The Head Shop “I Feel Love Comin’ On”
Harry Nilsson “Jump Into The Fire”
The Rolling Stones “Sing This Song All Together”
The Monkees “Saturday’s Child”
The Blues Magoos “Gloria”
The Beach Boys “Wild Honey”
The Turtles “Eleanore”
Barry McGuire “Eve of Destruction”

Psychedelic Shack can be heard Tuesday’s at 2 PM, with replays Wednesday at 11 AM, Thursday at 5 PM and Saturday at 7 AM as well as the following Tuesday at 9 AM.

At 3 PM your PopCulteer returns to host a new hour of The Swing Shift as we continue to bring you the best Swing Music of the last century. This week we open up with a classic from Mr. Frank Sinatra, and keep the Swing machine running with a mix of music from the 1930s to this year. We even toss a Beatle into the mix this week.

Dig the running order, Clyde:

The Swing Shift 071

Frank Sinatra “Without A Song”
Ringo Starr “Night At Day”
Susan Arioli “Lover Come Back To Me”
The Monkey Swngers “A Swing Lullaby”
Jack’s Cats “When You’re Bad You’re Good”
Squirrel Nut Zippers “Axman Jazz (Don’t Scare Me)”
Swing Ninjas “My Belle”
Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive “You Run Your Mouth (And I’ll Run My Business)”
Swing Shift Big Band “Blue Five Jine”
Jennifer Wharton “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise”
Lionel Hampton “China Stomp”
Lady J and her Bada Bing Band “Flying High”
Royal Crown Revue “Come Back To Sorrento”
Brian Setzer Orchestra “Rock This Town”

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM, Thursday at 7 PM and Saturday at 9 AM, only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Remember, you can tune in to The AIR at all hours of the day and night for a variety and quality of programming that you will not find anywhere else. Check PopCult regularly for details on our new episodes.

 

 

Monday Morning Art: The Madding Crowd

 

After a couple of weeks of posting real physical artworks (at least partly) we find ourselves back in digital mode today with a digital painting inspired by the crowd waiting to hit up the TKIS booth in Times Square to see what Broadway shows they can get into cheap. The booth is right by Father Duffy’s steps, and as you can see, even on a drizzly day, there’s a whole bunch of people there.

This painting was inspired by a photo I took and posted to Facebook, but when painting the final image I made a lot of minor compositional changes, turning the heads of some figures, moving some around, changing the color balance and better defining the background buildings, along with a few other subtle touches.

You can do things like that when you’re painting on a new layer over the original photo. You can see that original photo at right.

While this was digital work and not physical work, it took longer than my recent forays into “real” art to bring it to its finished stage. I hope you enjoy it. As always, click the images to see a bigger version.

Meanwhile, Monday on The AIR, this week we depart from what has become our norm to bring you 24 hours of Radio Free Charleston, mixed with Radio Free Charleston International. It starts at 7 AM Monday, and runs until 7 AM Tuesday.

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

 

Sunday Evening Video: Toys

I’ve always felt that one of the best ways to honor our fallen veterans is to do everything possible to avoid sending even more young people to their deaths. Our video tonight is an anti-war cartoon from the National Film Board of Canada that uses stop-motion animation and GI Joes to send an anti-war message. From 1966, Toys is a classic by animator Grant Munro that takes a dark look into the war toys often given to children at Christmas time. Starting off as harmless objects, the toys quickly take on the gestures of real soldiers, mimicking the actions and penalties of a real war. This critical commentary on war and glamorized violence creates a real and frightening battle.

Now, to be honest, it’s not really the anti-war message or loose connection to Memorial Day that earned this film a spot in PopCult.  It’s the beautiful, pristine footage of so many terrific vintage toys. Of course, my ulterior motive in presenting this film is that it’s really, really cool to see GI Joe animated so well. I’m a long-time GI Joe collector (even though I concentrate on the Adventure Team era rather than the military stuff), and this is just really cool to watch. There are toys being used and abused in this film that would be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars today. In addition to seeing almost the full range of GI Joe product available in Canada in 1966, we also get to see some other cool toy planes and tanks, and even some vintage Barbie and Ken dolls.

I mean, you could see this as an anti-war film, or you could see it as a cautionary tale about giving children bad LSD. Etither way, just look at those cool toys!

The RFC Flashback: Episode 186

This week we go back to June, 2013 for a show that was loaded with then-new music from two RFC veterans, QIET and Mother Nang, plus we took an animated look at the newly-erected East End Main Street Streetworks project street signs. The show kicks off with a look at the locally-written play,  “The Princess of Rome, Ohio,” which ran in June and July, 2013 at The Alban Arts Center in St. Albans.

This show featured two songs by QieT and one by Mother Nang, and included two guests running camera three on our music shoots, Steven Allen Adams and Flare Baroshi.  Music mixes were by James Vernon Brown and Andrea Anderson, so we actually had three people who were musical guests on previous shows helping out behind the scenes.  You can find the original production notes HERE.

Two Great Albums By Former West Virginians

The PopCulteer
May 24, 2019

This week your PopCulteer has two treats to share with you. We have reviews of two great new albums by expatriate local musicans. Both are offically released today, and we’ll tell you how you can get copies below.

I played a track from Kevin Scarbrough’s new album, Rock The Patriarch, on this week’s episode of Radio Free Charleston, and next week we’ll kick off the show with a track from the new album by The Heavy Editors, The City At Night. The Heavy Editors features singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Vallina, who aging local scenesters may remember from the bands Blind Blue Leper Society and Feast of Stephen.

A quick note about my local music reviews: I will gladly review any new album or single release by any local musician. All I ask is that you get in touch with me in advance through the message button over at the Radio Free Charleston Facebook page, or leave a comment here on the blog and I’ll get back to you via email. There have been so many great new CDs released this year, and I would be glad to review them, but past incidents have persuaded me to only review CDs by artists who want them reviewed.

So you gotta let me know, folks.

So let’s jump into the reviews, shall we?

Kevin Scarbrough
Rock The Patriarch
Available frm Bandcamp

As I knew from Kevin’s previous album, Birthright, he is one talented musician. On his new album, Kevin plays all the instruments, save for a guest stint by Aaron Fisher on drums on one song, and this new collection of songs is pretty amazing. Since we last heard from Kevin, he has left the area with his family, and is now living in Texas, but much of this album was recorded before he left, when he resided in Charleston.

Stylistically, Rock The Patriarch straddles the worlds of Classic Rock, Alternative Rock and 1970s Art Rock. More than anything it sounds like a lost album by a group like Crack The Sky or City Boy, and coming from me, that is high praise. Lyrically the songs are contemporary, exploring themes like social media, the water crisis, bullying, aging and writer’s block. The songs are clever without being obnoxiously so, and my only gripe is that there’s not a lyric sheet to make it easier to follow along.

The opening track, “Algorithm Rock” is a driving, almost New Wave, tune with killer guitar lines. “Yellow To Brown (Fair Warning)” is a slightly funky groove with Zappa-esque vocal arrangements and a hook that will stick with you. “Salamander Man” is another great rock tune that I believe is about a totally new mythological creature, and not the guy in the unitard from the Filthy Frank YouTube videos. It’s a great track, and you’ll hear it next week on RFC.

Kevin starts off with an almost Ramones-like tack with “Middle School,” which is also a nice shot of nostalgia-wallowing, lyrically. The song becomes wonderfully complex with the middle eight, and ends with a killer hook. The next track, “Another One On The Egress,” sounds like a collision between Crosby, Stills Nash and Young with Pink Floyd, only better.

The mood changes with “Unsatisfied Animal,” which really sounds so much like Crack The Sky that I’d almost nominate Kevin to join the band. The production on this track is just perfect, from the vocal arrangement to the final mix. “White Paper, Black Pen,” is a great slow groove about how hard it is to write a song. “Impetus Worm” is a great New Wave-ish tune with hints of DEVO in the chorus.

The final track, “End of the Day” sounds like classic Progressive Rock, with a complex arrangement and lush harmonies. “O for Operative” is a great lazid-back collection of conspiracy theories set to music. It wraps up the album on a high note.

While I have mentioned a lot of other artists in this review, I don’t mean to suggest that Kevin is imitating anyone. He has developed his own style and has grown considerably as a writer and musician since Birthright, but as a reviewer, it’s my job to suggest what his music reminds me of, and with the first-rate musicianship throughout, plus the tight harmonies on the vocals, Keven just happens to remind me of a lot of my favorite music.

Rock The Patriarch is impeccably-crafted, highly-intelligent rock music, and you should give it a listen. You can buy it at his Bandcamp page. Also of note to local folks, the album cover is by Chris Woodall, and the back cover features an illustration by Mark Wolfe, both of them bastians of the Charleston art scene.

The Heavy Editors
The City At Night
Available From Bandcamp

As I write this, The City At Night has just gone live on the band’s Bandcamp page. The City At Night is pure power-pop gold. The Heavy Editors are my old buddy, Joe Vallina on guitar and vocals, along with Wally Bird on drums and John Rapoza playing bass.

Filled with crunchy guitar licks, clever lyrics and delicious backing harmonies, The City At Night is great modern rock for a post-rock world. This is the type of music you wish would take the world by storm and save us from the over-produced, artificially-created dreck that dominates the charts these days.

The album kicks off with “Meltdown,” an upbeat New Wave-inlected tune about anxiety. This song would not be out of place on an album by the legendary cult band, The Shoes. Next up we have a new recording of “How The West Was Won,” which was a standout track on their debut EP a couple of years ago. “Slaves” is a pean to being a cog in the labor machine.

The title track, “The City At Night,” is a moody bit of musique-noir that paints a vivid musical picture without being too specific. It’s a pretty deep tune. Following that up is the fun and bright, “To the Phonomatic,” that is just perfect ear candy. “Faces on the Clock” has a bit of an Americana feel among its laid-back groove.

A song I recognize from one of Joe’s solo releases, “On TV,” is a fun, upbeat tune, presented in a more polished version here. “Alien Lover” is a great little rocker that was released as a single last year. It’s another fun, short tune with a great hook. The next track, “Within Reach,” slows things down a bit with a more reflective tone and a nice, relaxed groove.

The album ends with “Time,” a great, poppy song that manages to remind me of The Monkees, XTC, Weezer and The Who, all at the same time.

The City At Night is a cool collection of short, punchy and excellently-crafted blasts of pure power pop, with a little punk thrown in for good measure. It’s available now at The Heavy Editors’ Bandcamp page.

And that is this week’s PopCulteer. Feel free to check back for all our regular features and hopefully your guide to all-new musical programs next week on The AIR

SpongeBob Mania Runs Wild!

The PopCult Toybox

It’s hard to believe, but SpongeBob Squarepants has been around for twenty years. That’s two decades, with over 250 half-hour shows (and counting) plus two movies (with a third on the way) and 86 issues of a comic book. Even with the passing of the show’s creator, Steven Hillenburg, last year, the SpongeBob juggernaut continues.

Millions of fans tune in to enjoy the exploits of our fry cook hero, SpongeBob Squrepants, and the folks who live under the sea in the town of Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob Squarepants is a classic animated cartoon, created by cartoonists instead of “writers,” just like the beloved Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons of the Golden age of animation.

Nickleodeon is celebrating the beloved sponge and his Bikini Bottom pals with a series of special programming events all summer long. We’ll tell you more about those as their airdates approach. Nickelodeon has also teamed up with Alpha Products to produce some terrific collectibles and toys, and we’re going to look at a few of those today, and a few more in the coming weeks.

First, we have the SpongeBob Squarepants Mini-plush. These are cute soft six-inch plush figues of SpongeBob and his friends. They’re available at Target for under eight bucks (and at Hot Topic for a bit more) and they’re great little souvenirs of the show. These are on-model representations, so they look as close as possible to the characters as shown on the cartoon. Just look at ’em.

The small size makes them appropriate as office decorations, and they’re soft enough for kids to find them quite cuddly. You can find a couple of different versions of SpongeBob himself, plus his pals Sandy, Patrick, Squidward, and even the evil Plankton. These are cool, fun items, and they won’t break your budget.

Next up is the incredibly fun and ridiculous SpongeHeads. These are inflatable headgear shaped like your favorite SpongeBob Squarepants characters. When inflated they measure over 20 inches, and then you put them on your head., like in the photo below.

You can become the human host for SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward or Plankton, and reenact your favorite scenes from the show. My suggestion is that you get these to wear to work, but when people ask you about them, act like you have no idea what they’re talking about.

Made to fit most kid and adult heads, SpongeHeads can be found at Target and Amazon now, and should cost just under thirteen bucks. It’s a small price to be for the absolute finest in inflatable cartoon haberdashery.

Our last entry today is a pretty spectacular series of collectibles. Masterpiece Memes are eight-inch tall collectible vinyl figures that depict some of the images from SpongeBob Squarepants that have gained notoriety and infamy on the internet.

Figures include Mocking SpongeBob (left), Imaginaaation SpongeBob, Surprised Patrick, Spongegar (below) and Handsome Squidward. The detail is amazing on these, with first-rate sculpting and paint detail that you don’t usually see in the mass market.

These are terrific as office decor, home accents or just really cool vinyl toys to put on a shelf and admire. What makes these stand out among things like Funko Pops is that they are ON MODEL. That means they look exactly like the SpongeBob cartoon. Funko Pops are cute, but they don’t really look great when they try to adapt animated cartoons into their house style of super-cuteness with no pupils. Those are making cartoons of cartoons, and they lose a lot of the charm of the original cartoons.

Masterpiece Memes don’t fall into that trap. These figures not only look exactly like the cartoons, they’re also more than twice as tall as most Funko Pops. They’re much better for die-hard fans of the show. You can find them for just under twenty bucks at Target and Amazon.

That’s not all of the SpongeBob goodies coming your way this year. In a couple of weeks PopCult will undertake our first unboxing video as we crack open some SpongeBob Slimeez Figures. These are cool three-inch blindbox figures that come in a plastic crate filled with Nickelodeon Slime. You’ll get one of six figures (including a rare golden SpongeBob as seen at right), and you can load each one with slime that will ooze through them, popping out in all sorts of fun orifices. There are six different figures available now at Target stores, and seven more will be due out in the Fall.

For under seven bucks you’ll get a collectible figure, 2 ounces of Nickelodeon Slime and a collectible cube. It’s the ultimate blind package experience for fans of SpongeBob, and you’ll get to see Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch (who also happens to be our resident SpongeBob expert) open some of these sometime in the next week or two.

As Plankton might say, 2019 will be the year of TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION for SpongeBob Squarepants and his crew.