Pop Pic: Muhammad Ali


Coming up: "Cafe Exil - New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980" - sounds that inspired, and were inspired by, Bowie, Eno and Iggy

This is another of those great Ace Records sets co-compiled by British music writer/musician Bob Stanley. If you haven't read his excellent book on the history of pop, check it out.

Details on this new album from Stanley's co-compiler, Jason Wood:

When David Bowie and Iggy Pop escaped LA to go Interrailing in the mid-70s, they heard a new European music that was largely devoid of Anglo-American rock influence: the German motorik sound, flashes of jazz, experimentation and electronica. In West Berlin, one of their favourite haunts was Kreuzberg’s Cafe Exil, a smoky hang-out for beats and intellectuals. This is its imaginary soundtrack.

I imagine like many an Ace compilation, the impetus for “Cafe Exil” came from a record-playing session. One Sunday afternoon Bob and I were pleasantly pulling out LPs. Everything we played had a mildly electronic and European feel, perhaps as an antidote to the dreaded and then still looming Brexit. The majority of records we spun were fairly extensive in length, largely instrumental and hailed from the mid to late 1970s, with a few just edging into the following decade. Over subsequent conversations, we began to imagine ourselves going back in time and enjoying a pan-European sojourn, soaking up the sounds and cultures of the rapidly shifting time.

David Bowie, of course, had done something similar, becoming a kind of cultural antenna as he sought to expand his horizons and open himself up to new influences. Though he had flown for the majority of his 1973 Ziggy Stardust tour schedule, after completing concerts in Japan, Bowie convinced his record label that he would require safe passage back to England by sea and land. Initially travelling from Yokohama to Nakhodka aboard the SS Felix Dzerzhinsky, Bowie travelled onwards with childhood friend and back-up singer Geoff MacCormack via the Trans-Siberian railway from Vladivostok to Moscow. The trip concluded with a stopover in Moscow, the witnessing of the May Day parade and a visit to the Kremlin and the GUM department store. A second Russian train trip occurred in April 1976 during the tour to promote Bowie’s “Station To Station”, this time in the company of his formidable assistant Coco Schwab, photographer Andrew Kent and Iggy Pop. Bowie and Iggy relocated to Berlin following the recording of Iggy’s “The Idiot”, abandoning bad finances, the trappings of Bowie’s stratospheric stardom, failing marriage and perilous cocaine addiction for an apartment in the relatively working-class Schöneberg district in West Berlin, which was then home to many of the city’s gay clubs. Living in Berlin from 1976-1979, Bowie was attracted both by the emerging Kosmische music and the cheap living and anonymity it afforded him.

So what then are some more of the actual parameters for the songs you are about to listen to? In attempting to conjure the musical mood in the period referred to above we wanted to try and imagine some of the sounds and musical textures that fed into them and then expanded out of them. To do this we set ourselves a timeframe of 1972-1980. We were originally going to choose only instrumental tracks with a strong electronic element but then took various deviations and detours as we tried to imagine ourselves speeding through strange European cities and landscapes, meeting in cafes and soaking up new sounds and visions. We wanted to try and capture a mood and tone rather than something entirely concrete (or concrète), so have drawn upon motorik, library music, progressive rock, Italian folk fusion and more. There is a balance that leans quite naturally towards German artists and the inclusion of a track by Eno that acknowledges both his role as a sonic alchemist and his ability to act as a conduit and conductor for all music that is dictated by mood but not constrained by boundaries. The whole exercise came together quite seamlessly, really, the only thing that Bob and I still haven’t agreed on is which of us is David and which of us is Iggy.

Track list: 

  1. Way Star - Rubba
  2. Pony - Annette Peacock
  3. Tommy - Focus
  4. A Morning Excuse - Amon Düül II
  5. Octave Doctors - Steve Hillage
  6. Jennifer - Faust
  7. Feuerland - Michael Rother
  8. Eileen - Streetmark
  9. L'Eroe Di Plastica - Toni Esposito
  10. No One Receiving - Brian Eno
  11. Hüter Der Schwelle - Popol Vuh
  12. Penny Hitch - Soft Machine
  13. Don't You Know - Jan Hammer Group
  14. Canoe - Piero Umiliani
  15. Troupeau Bleu - Cortex
  16. Sowiesoso - Cluster 

Comics out today: The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus

A big new book collects Jack Kirby's complete Eternals run and then some. You can order it at Amazon here.

Details from Marvel:

When Jack Kirby returned to Marvel in the 1970s, scores of amazing concepts would spring forth from his limitless imagination - and THE ETERNALS was his mind-blowing masterpiece! Kirby unveiled a secret history of humanity, races known as Eternals and Deviants, and a host of towering Celestials come to bear judgment on the Earth! It was a jaw-dropping saga that could have only come from the King of comics. And after Kirby's tenure ended, creators including Peter B. Gillis, Sal Buscema, Walter Simonson, Roy Thomas and Mark Texeira continued to weave stories within the epic mythology that he created! Now, thrill to the complete classic saga of the Eternals!

COLLECTING: ETERNALS (1976) #1-19, ETERNALS ANNUAL (1977) #1; ETERNALS (1985) #1-12; ETERNALS: THE HEROD FACTOR (1991) #1; NEW ETERNALS: APOCALYPSE NOW (2000) #1; IRON MAN ANNUAL (1971) #6; AVENGERS (1963) #246-248; material from WHAT IF? (1977) #23-30

Pop Pic: Aaron Spelling and Carolyn Jones


Wondering how to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" this season? Buy a damn Blu-ray!

In this ever-complex era of watching TV it's become a challenge watching shows you always watch during the holiday season. That's why you see tons of stories online about how to watch 50-plus year-old TV specials, such as the perennial favorite "A Charlie Brown Christmas." 

This year it'll be broadcast on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET on PBS and PBS KIDS and it will stream starting Dec. 4 on Apple TV+, which also will make it available to non-subscribers from Dec. 11-13.

Alternatively, you can free yourself from this annual stress by just buying the damned thing. It's available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon and, I'm sure, elsewhere, too. You also probably have it on a taped-from-TV VHS somewhere in your house, too, but that could just be me...

And, before you ask, you also can get the animated Grinch special (not that cringey Jim Carrey thing) on disc, too. 

Two new Christmas offerings from Bear Family Records

German-based Bear Family Records is one of the world's best reissue labels. For decades now, they've issued both single CDs and expensive, behemoth box sets specializing, mostly, in vintage U.S. country, pop and rock'n'roll. And, over the past few years, they've been issuing great Christmas compilations featuring tunes culled from those larger collections.

I've been keeping up with these releases and plan on getting both of these, too. If they're anything like their predecessors, the sound and liner notes are great (and in English) and the price is right (cheap). Groovy cover art, too.

Check 'em out. Click the links to order from Amazon. The details on each release come from the label.

Headin' For The Christmas Ball: 31 Swing And R&B Christmas Crooners

Nostalgic Christmas with 31 Lindy Hop-Jitterbug-Boogie-Jive and Easy Listening rarities of the years 1940-1967!

Among them the title song Christmas Ball, as well as the B-side of the rare 1951 Coral single of the Georgie Auld Orchestra with the great singer Bill Darnel, never before on CD!

Knuckles O'Toole & The Brigadiers' version of Jingle Bells is also included, as well as New Year's goose bumps classic Auld Lang Syne in the worn version by Guy Lombardo, and the famous version of the classic Sleigh Ride in the interpretation of orchestra leader Leroy Anderson, also known from the movie 'Polar Express'!

Besides The Andrews Sisters there are more ladies with their great voices, above all the stunning Dinah Washington, the crooner lady Dorothy Collins and last but not least Kay Martin, who makes it quite slippery and erotic.

They are joined by Jerry Lewis, Cary Grant and Mickey Rooney, three movie stars from Hollywood's golden era with their really rare recordings!

With this compilation we want to give more exuberance to the celebration of love, although some of the songs are nostalgic and dreamy and you might even feel transported back to your own childhood. This Christmas disc invites you to the Christmas ball, to dancing, to swinging, to contemplation and cheerfulness among family members, friends, like-minded people and guests. This music brings glamour into every hut, with all the candles, lights and crackling stoves, while outside it is snowing and stormy... Of course, the CD also comes with liner notes for each song, rare photos and many illustrations in the 24-page booklet!

Track Listing:

  1. Georgie Auld & His Orchestra feat. Bill Darnell - Christmas Ball
  2. Louis Prima & His Orchestra - Shake Hands With Santa Claus
  3. Bill Bronson s Overtones with The Tommy Ferguson Trio - Christmas Is On Its Way
  4. Roy Milton & His Solid Senders - Christmas Time Blues
  5. Jo Stafford - Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  6. Knuckles O'Toole & The Brigadiers - Jingle Bells
  7. The Andrews Sisters - Jing-A-Ling, Jing-A-Ling
  8. Benny Goodman & His Orchestra feat. Peggy Lee - Winter Weather
  9. Georgie Auld & His Orchestra feat. Bill Darnell - It Ain't Snowin' Outside
  10. Leroy Anderson & His ''Pops'' Concert Orchestra - Sleigh Ride
  11. Art Mooney & His Orchestra - The Christmas Choo Choo Train
  12. Lawrence Welk's Little Band feat. Janet, Brian, Cubby & The Lennon Sisters - Outer Space Santa
  13. Barry Gordon - Zoomah, The Santa Claus From Mars
  14. Fred Waring & The Pennsylvanians with The Glee Club - Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  15. Dorothy Collins - Mister Santa
  16. Cary Grant - Christmas Lullaby
  17. Mickey Rooney - Susie, The Snow Girl
  18. Kay Martin & Her Body Guards - Come On Santa, Let's Have A Ball
  19. Kay Martin & Her Body Guards - Santa's Doing The Horizontal Twist
  20. Dinah Washington - Ole! Santa
  21. Ramsey Lewis Trio - Christmas Blues
  22. Dave King & The Keynotes - Hotta Chocolata
  23. Tina Robin - Winter Wonderland Cha Cha
  24. The Enchanters - Mambo, Santa, Mambo
  25. The Surfers - Here Comes Santa Claus In A Red Canoe
  26. Louis Armstrong - Christmas In New Orleans
  27. Noël Chiboust Et Son Orchestre, feat. Django Reinhardt - Noël Blues
  28. Jerry Lewis - I've Had A Very Merry Christmas
  29. Johnny Otis & His Orchestra - Happy New Year, Baby
  30. Ramsey Lewis Trio - What Are You Doing New Years Eve
  31. Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians - Auld Lang Syne

A great compilation of traditional country music, western swing and hillbilly.

26 songs selected by Nico Feuerbach and commented with great expertise and profound humour by Roland Heinrich.

Three tracks are released here on CD for the first time!

Bear Family also brings good cheer and will make your Christmas especially ''merry'' with an particularly compiled seasonal country CD. Bear Family's little sleigh stopper is not your average middle-of-the road cash in: Bear Family's 'Christmas On The Range' brings you vintage country music, western swing, and hillbilly from the 1940s and '50s. The stories are heartfelt and funny with just the right dose of Christmas corniness. The CD showcases well-known artists like Bill Monroe and Kitty Wells alongside obscurer colleagues such as Billy Briggs and Ray Salter & the Twin City Playboys. Also, three of the tracks included have never been available on CD.

This compilation helps you burn the extra cookie with hot dance tunes like The North Pole Boogie and the all-time great We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo by Terry Fell. Bob Wills is presented in a pensive and patriotic mood with his World War II classic Empty Chair at the Christmas Table, whereas Brenda Lee roars determined that she is going to lasso Santa Claus! If you party too hard around Mardi Gras you might end up with a New Baby for Christmas - George Jones will let you in on the whole story. Traditional country music always loved to exploit special occasions by tackling any imaginable topic, no matter how trivial or exotic. This CD brings you great novelties, great tear jerkers, and great dance music. It also brings great joy!

Track List:
  1. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - When It's Christmas On The Range
  2. Wilf Carter (Montana Slim) - Jolly Old St. Nicholas
  3. Gene Autry - Here Comes Santa Claus
  4. Bill Monroe - Christmas Time's A-Coming
  5. The Louvin Brothers - It's Christmas Time
  6. Ray Salter & The Twin City Playboys - Christmas Decoration
  7. Little Jimmy Dickens - No Place Like Home On Christmas
  8. Tex Ritter - Christmas Carols By The Old Corral
  9. George Morgan - Blue Snowfall
  10. Ernest Tubb - White Christmas
  11. Cliff Bruner & His Texas Wanderers - Snowflakes
  12. Eddy Arnold - Christmas Can't Be Far Away
  13. Kitty Wells - Christmas Ain't Like Christmas Anymore
  14. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - Empty Chair At The Christmas Table
  15. Jim Reeves - Blue Christmas
  16. Brenda Lee - I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus
  17. Billy Briggs - North Pole Boogie
  18. Red Foley - Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  19. George Jones - New Baby For Christmas
  20. Wilf Carter - The Night Before Christmas In Texas, That Is
  21. Nelson Young - Home At Christmas
  22. Skeeter Davis - Santa Claus Is Coming
  23. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - Santa's On His Way
  24. The Prairie Ramblers - Cowboy Santa Claus
  25. Terry Fell - We Wanna See Santa Do The Mambo
  26. Ray Salter & The Twin City Playboys - I Wish Every Day Was Christmas

Cool new comics covers this week

And we're back! Let's start with a gallery of magazine covers from December 1970

I'm so happy to be back to publishing Pop Culture Safari after nearly a year on hiatus.  Anything interesting happen while I was out? 

Well, screw all that. 

We're gonna be nostalgic, while also highlighting cool stuff going on right now in the world of pop culture. We're gonna keep things light and have fun. 

And we're gonna be patient with and kind to one another, too. Because why take a tough situation and make it worse? 

For starters, here's a selection of magazine covers you might've seen had you wandered into a newsstand 50 years ago this month. And what better to put up top than a nostalgia-themed cover to Newsweek?

Stay tuned for a lot more. Looking forward to your emails and comments.

Happy 2020 and so long, Pop Culture Safari (for now)!

Dear fans and followers of Pop Culture Safari,

The beginning of a new year is a good time to make a change, so I wanted to let you know that I've decided to put this blog on hiatus for much (maybe all) of 2020, as I wrap up a long-in-the-works writing project.

I figure I will be back, so please stay tuned for updates here and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Also, if you're a Beatles fan, please check out my other blog, The Glass Onion Beatles Journal. I will continue posting there regularly, as it's related to the project I mentioned above (hint, hint, hint).

I'm leaving up all my thousands of posts here for browsing, so there's plenty to keep you busy if you like.

Wishing you a great new year! I hope to see you near the end of it or soon after!

-- John F.