Thursday, March 24, 2005

Secret Saucer Symphonies: Unidentified Flying Discs

(The girlfriend of Donald Woods departs earth)

The myriad conspiracy theories of suppressed information regarding an alleged 1947 flying saucer crash in Roswell, New Mexico are common knowledge. But how many intrepid ufologists are aware of the alien abduction rumors surrounding an obscure, dirge-like rock 'n roll record in mid-1950s Los Angeles?

Music producer Max Feirtag had only earthlings on his mind when he founded California-based Flip Records in 1955. Releasing an impressive 10-year string of 45 RPM discs, Feirtag's roster included the oddly anachronistic Death Of An Angel. Performed by R&B artists Donald Woods & The Vel-Aires, Death Of An Angel dealt with the demise of a teenage girl. Recorded as a droning, funereal lamentation (with melodramatic weeping and the lead vocalist's expressed desire to join his consort: "I want to be beside her, but I'm afraid to die"), the song was considered controversial because of its end-of-life/would-be-suicide theme. Deemed unsuitable for commerical airplay in the hackneyed halcyon of Father Knows Best mid-'50s sentiments, the record was pulled from radio station playlists.


My baby's gone
And left me left me all alone
My baby's gone
And she left me all alone
So alone, I want my baby home

I still remember
The day she went away
That was the day
My angel me left me to stay
Oh, no, no, I want my baby home

I know that she is gone

That was a death
Of an angel, don't know
Why, oh, why
I want to be beside her
But I'm afraid to die
Oh, oh, oh I want my baby back home
I want my baby home
I know that she is gone
But still I want her home

Don't leave me

[weeping to FADE]

As if the banishment of Death Of An Angel from the airwaves was not enough of a blow to the record's commerical prospects, the song became an all-pervasive pariah when the Flip disc was flipped over. The B-side was a tune with the seemingly existential title of The Man From Utopia. In actuality the song was a tongue-in-cheek nod to a service employee at Utopia Cleaners on 97th Street in the Watts District of Los Angeles. A rumor evolved that The Man From Utopia was about a space alien who had kidnapped and murdered the girlfriend from Death Of An Angel. Listeners backed their claim with the "evidence" that the name of the girlfriend had been revealed in the lyrics "Mary Lou, big fool" in The Man From Utopia. Further it was asserted that the alien assault theory derived from Death Of An Angel was based on a true event.

Despite the late 1955 re-release of Death Of An Angel on the Tiger Era label (Tiger Era #5065), complete with disclaimers regarding an alien abducition theme, the song had been dealt a mortal blow. A plethora of science fiction films, such as Invaders From Mars, It Came From Outer Space, Target Earth, and The Man From Planet X, which had melded synonymously with the political paranoia of McCarthyist madness, reinforced listeners' pulp fiction rumor mill. Death Of An Angel vanished into the dusty, back-shelf realm of junk shops. Subsequent releases by Donald Woods & The Vel-Aires, with titles such as Stay With Me (Flip #309), and Heaven In My Arms (Flip #312), served only to further the belief that Death Of An Angel was a tale of murder and marauding Martians.

Londis Carpenter, an amateur entomologist from Cass County, Michigan, posted an internet article on June 6, 2004, in which he states that he is certain that he remembers hearing two very different reasons why Death Of An Angel was pulled from the airwaves back in the 1950s. "The story I remember hearing is that this song was about a girl who was killed in an airplane crash. The airplane had allegedly collided with a UFO, causing both air vehicles to crash. It was rumored that the Catholic Church had succeeded in having the song banned because the church insisted that angels couldn’t die, making the song blasphemous."

(An apostolic catholic Martian with a fetish for Gidget look-alikes)

Had Death Of An Angel beem released in 1970, with more lavish instrumentation (and perhaps an even more over-the-top display of despair), it might have been a top 40 hit, as was DOA (Dead On Arrival), a blatantly morose song by Fort Worth, Texas-based metal rockers Bloodrock. A grand guignol gore-fest in which the lead vocalist portrays the youthful, dying victim of a plane crash, the song proved successful enough to spur the band on to two LP releases and a bit of cult status.

In the course of the storyline of DOA, the listener is told "We were flying along and hit something in the air." Rumors abounded that the airborne mystery object was a ufo. What had worked against Death Of An Angel in 1955 proved the sales point for 1970's DOA. Despite the fact that the DOA
plot line could be linked directly to the real-life mid-air collision of two college sports team planes, a determined public preferred the spacecraft theory.


Laying here looking at the ceiling
Someone lays a sheet across my chest
Something warm is flowing down my fingers
Pain is flowing all through my back

I try to move my arms and there's no feeling
And when I look I see there's nothing there
The face beside me stopped it totally bleeding
The girl I knew has such a distant stare

I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air
I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air

Then I looked straight at the attendant
His face is pale as it can be
He bends and whispers something softly
He says there's no chance for me

I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air
I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air

Life is flowing out my body
Pain is flowing out with my blood
The sheets are red and moist where I'm lying
God in Heaven, teach me how to die

I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air
I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air

(wailing ambulance siren surrealistically slows to a stop as the vocalist dies)

Despite the legends that have been grafted onto songs such as Death Of An Angel and DOA, there have been scores of legitimate flying saucer rock songs, albeit most of them in the vein of fluffy humor. Two of the most notable ditties, Mopity Mope, a 1961 Philadelphia Doo Wop knock-off, by the Bosstones, about a space visitor who lands on earth to dance at a record hop, and The Martian Hop, a 1963 novelty tune by New Jersey duo the Ran-Dells, scored popularly on top 40 music charts but failed to incite rumors of impending alien invasion. Perhaps if the dance-crazed denizens from darkened space had disintegrated a few bobby-soxers doing the Mashed Potato we could establish a connection to Donald Woods' long-lost Mary Lou, but for now any spaced-out speculations surrounding Death Of An Angel and DOA will remain just stories from the stars.


ANCIENT BROTHERHOOD -- UFOs in the Rain Forest
ARTHUR & FRIENDS -- UFO Song: The Buster
BOSSTONES -- Mopity Mope
BOX TOPS -- Flying Saucers Rock & Roll
BRAGG, BILLY, & WILCO -- My Flying Saucer
BRAVE COMBO -- Flying Saucers
BUCHANAN & GOODMAN -- Flying Saucer Rock 'N Roll
CHOCOLATE WEASEL -- Flying Saucers
CROSSTOPS -- U.F.O. & the Trucker
DOGBOWL -- Flying Saucer Over Mongolia
DR. JOHN -- Spaceship Relationship
11th HOUR BAND -- UFO Alert
ELIN -- UFO Beobachtungen
ERIC’S TRIP -- Spaceship Opening
FAIR, JAD, & YO LA TENGO -- Texas Man Abducted by Aliens for Outer Space Joy Ride
FLECK, BELA, & THE FLECKTONES -- UFO Tofu/Flying Saucer Dudes
FLYING SAUCER ATTACK -- Flying Saucer Attack
GOODMAN, DICKIE -- Flying Saucer Goes West
GROOVY GHOULIES -- 50,000 Spaceships
HICKS, BILL -- Flying Saucer Tour
HOUSEY DOINGZ -- Flying Saucer
HUSKER DU -- Books About UFOs
INTRUMENTAL WISH -- Flying Saucer Attack
J CHURCH -- UFOs Will Crash
JFA -- Turkey in the UFO
KYUSS -- Spaceship Landing
LaBEEF, SLEEPY -- Flying Saucers Rock & Roll
LAWRENCE, SID -- The Answer to the Flying Saucers
LENNON, SEAN -- Spaceship
LITTLE WALTER -- Flying Saucer
MARKETTS -- Out of Limits
MELLOTONES -- Flying Saucers
MISSILES -- The Space Ship
MORONICS -- Flying Saucers
NIXON, MOJO -- UFOs, Big Rigs and Barbecues
PARKER, GRAHAM, & THE RUMOURS -- Waiting for the UFOs
PINK FLOYD -- Saucerful of Secrets, A
PUMPKIN UGLIES -- Flying Saucers of Rock & Roll
RAN-DELLS -- Martian Hop
REZILLOS -- Flying Saucer Attack
RILEY, BILLY -- Flying Saucer Rock and Roll
ROBERTS, JR., AL -- UFO Rock and Roll
SOLID SENDERS -- Flying Saucer
SPOOZYS -- Cone Shape U.F.O./ Invasion of the Flying Saucer/ Russian UFO
SPOT 1019 -- UFOs Are Real
STRAYCATS -- Flying Saucers Rock & Roll
SUBURBAN LAWNS -- Flying Saucer Safari
SUGARSMACK -- Bring on the UFOs
TECHNOMAJIKAL -- UFO Attack (Ambient Version)
TELESCOPES -- Spaceships
TORIES -- Spaceships in the Sky
TURNER, JESSIE LEE -- Little Space Girl, The
UFO OR DIE -- UFO or Die
VENTURES -- War of the Satellites
WILLIAMS BROTHERS -- Flying Saucer Blues
WOOLEY, SHEB -- Purple People Eater

Moon Songs:

ACEN -- TRIP II THE MOON (Kaleidoscopiklimax)
ALIEN SEX FIEND -- Trip to the Moon
BARNES & BATNES -- Don't You Wanna Go to the Moon?
BIG DIPPER -- Lunar Module
CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN -- The Day that Lassie Went to the Moon
DUMP -- Living on the Moon
GERBER, TONY -- The Lunar Crossing
GREATER JAMAICA -- Moon Invaders
HYPNOTIC BASS -- Trip to the Moon
KALEIDOSCOPES -- Moon Inhabitants
KING, JONATHAN -- Everyone's Gone to the Moon
LOVE & ROCKETS -- Holiday on the Moon
MARTIN, TRADE -- We'll Be Dancing On The Moon
McAULIFFE, MARIA -- Lunar Patio
McGEAR, MIKE -- The Man Who Found God on the Moon
MUIR, JOHN -- The Moon Men
NORTH, ALEX -- Trip to the Moon
ORANGE GOBLIN -- Lunarville 7, Airlock 3/ You’ll Never Get to the Moon in That
PAMELA, LUCIA -- Walking on the Moon
PHANTOM ROCKERS -- Trip to the Moon
POLICE -- Walking on the Moon
ROXETTE -- The First Girl on the Moon
SANDERS, FELICIA -- Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)
SAVAGE GARDEN -- To Moon and Back
T-BONES -- Everyone's Gone to the Moon
VAUGHAN, SARAH -- Destination Moon
XTC -- Bike Ride to the Moon

Fancydancing Leaves No Reservations About Native American Cinema

(Clockwise L to R: Gene Tagaban, Sherman Alexie, Michelle St. John, Evan Adams)

"The only thing more pathetic than Indians on TV is Indians watching Indians on TV." Wry wisdom from Thomas Builds-the-Fire, a pivotal character in the 1998 Miramax movie Smoke Signals.

So, what happens when a Native American poet becomes a film director and creates a story about Indians that will inevitably be viewed on TV by Indians? In the capable hands of writer Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, the product is profound, not pathetic.

In the Indie film feature The Business Of Fancydancing, Alexie's 2002 directorial debut, he thoughtfully probes the complex social structure of interpersonal relationships within the community of the Spokane (Washington) Reservation.

Fancydancing focuses upon the spiritual awakening of Seymour Polatkin (Evan Adams), a young, bisexual, Native American poet. Seymour has successfully assimilated into urban white culture as a token Native American pandering to the cliché guilt of his white-liberal readership.

When Seymour returns to the "rez" for the funeral of his friend, Mouse (Swil Kanim), a suicide victim, he is forced to confront his own lost heritage. Reconnecting with his childhood companion Aristotle Joseph (Gene Tagaban), and former girlfriend Agnes (Michelle St. John), a half-Indian/half-Jewish teacher, Seymour questions his cynicism and lack of allegiance to his roots.

Accenting Seymour's struggle with acculturation and tugging on his conscience is his white lover Steven (Kevin Phillip), who proclaims "I'm your tribe now." The relationship proves the victor as Seymour's struggle between two worlds ends, albeit insightfully, with his departure from the reservation.

The Business of Fancydancing is fashioned after director Alexie's first book of poems and short stories and remains true to its context of non-linear narrative. Lead character Seymour's writings are used as voice-overs and even appear as text on the screen, artfully blending the drama and romantic comedy of the storyline.

Fancydancing dares to look beyond the usual cavalcade of cultural stereotypes. The film neither exalts nor trashes Native American history, such as the Indian-U.S. government clash at Wounded Knee and the subsequent plight of imprisoned Indian martyr, Leonard Peltier.

Alexie chooses to step into a more intimate and dimensional portrayal of the Native American as an individual struggling with questions of personal identity. The end result is a richness and depth that has previously eluded the silver screen depiction of Indians.

In keeping with the honesty of tensions that do still exist between Native Americans and whites, there is a flashback of brutality wherein Aristotle Joseph coerces Mouse into joining him in an assault upon a stranded white motorist. However, the scene is used as much for imagery and character establishment as it is for sensationalist reaction.

Removed from the Caucasian romanticizing of films such as Dances With Wolves, or the hideous abomination of old John Wayne western epics in which Indians were portrayed as mentally deficient savages, The Business of Fancydancing stands as a testament to Native American selfhood.

So, when the Indians of Fancydancing eventually appear on HBO or the Independent Film Channel, the only thing that will be pathetic is the clueless attitude of any viewer who is still hankering for the lawn-jockey days of John Wayne's cowboys versus the Italian "Indians".

(Ari's review of Seymour's poetry is decidedly unfavorable)

Tanita Tikaram: Ancient Heart/Holographic Voice

("My eyes are just holograms...")

Vocalist Tanita Tikaram was born in Munster, Germany on August 12, 1969, in-between the last polarized throes of the Flower Power era, three days after the horrific August 9th murder of actress Sharon Tate by members of Charles Manson's Sphan Ranch commune, and three days before the legendary August 15th Woodstock Music Festival in Bethel, New York. Perhaps the timing of this soul's arrival marks a potential turning point in the creative consciousness of humanity. Certainly that would seem evident upon listening to the sumptuous, self-penned poetics inherent in Tikaram's 18-year, 8-album musical spanse.

Tikaram's ethnicity, maternally Malaysian and paternally Fijian/East-Indian, has contributed to the rich, wide-ranging stylization of her works. From the somber origins of Twist In My Sobriety (the soundtrack to a masterful, award-winning, sepia-toned video featuring compelling vignettes of impoverished Native Americans), the premiere track from her multi-million-selling 1988 CD debut Ancient Heart, to the eclectic variances of Finnish and Latin-inspired melody on 1998's Cappuccino Songs LP (with a darkened, eerily atmospheric cover of ABBA's The Day Before You Came), Tikaram's caramel-coated voice traverses cultural boundaries effortlessly.

(stirring imagery from the 1988 video Twist In My Sobriety)

All God's children need travelling shoes
Drive your problems from here
All good people read good books
Now your conscience is clear
I hear you talk girl
Now your conscience is clear

In the morning I wipe my brow
Wipe the miles away
I like to think I can be so willed
And never do what you say
I'll never hear you
And never do what you say

Look my eyes are just holograms
Look your love has drawn red from my hands
From my hands you know you'll never be
More than twist in my sobriety
More than twist in my sobriety
More than twist in my sobriety

We just poked a little pie
For the fun people had at night
Late at night don't need hostility
The timid smile and pause to free

I don't care about their different thoughts
Different thoughts are good for me
Up in arms and chaste and whole
All God's children took their toll

Look my eyes are just holograms
Look your love has drawn red from my hands
From my hands you know you'll never be
More than twist in my sobriety
More than twist in my sobriety
More than twist in my sobriety

Cup of tea, take time to think, yea
Time to risk a life, a life, a life
Sweet and handsome
Soft and porky
You pig out 'til you've seen the light
Pig out 'til you've seen the light

Half the people read the papers
Read them good and well
Pretty people, nervous people
People have got to sell
News you have to sell

Look my eyes are just holograms
Look your love has drawn red from my hands
From my hands you know you'll never be
More than twist in my sobriety
More than twist in my sobriety
More than twist in my sobriety

The brooding, melancholy infused in Tikaram's earlier works was hardly the stuff of pop teenage angst. Moreover it evolved from an innate, ongoing seriousness and a sense of alienation brought on by the sudden advent of worldwide fame at age 18. "When I was still a teenager, I made a debut album that sold almost 4 million copies, visited city after city, staying in top hotels, performing and promoting my songs in over two dozen countries. It sounds glamorous - and in many ways it was - but I was lonely, all my friends were at college and not part of my universe. It was very hard to relate to what was happening. It was almost like I was sleepwalking through it all."

Outside the realm of musicianship, Tikaram has indugled her interest in acting and film, appearing in director Monika Treut's Taboo Parlour, a segement of the 1994 Lizze Borden-helmed drama Erotique (a fictional, pre-Vagina Monologues quadrant of feminist vignettes about sexuality). The much-lauded original version of Twist In My Sobriety has been recently featured in the 2001 Bruce Willis Crime/Comedy Bandits, and Tikaram was also the title track vocalist for the 1997 french feature-film drama Marion.

The interim between the 1998 release of Cappuccino Songs and Tikaram's spirng, 2005 LP Sentimental, has seen collaborative work with other musicians such as Ashley Beadle, Asian Dub Foundation, and Moodswings. Previously, during a quasi-sabbatical after the release of her third album in 1992, Tikaram had collaborated with the Bronte Brothers on their album The Way Through The Woods, and soloist Christie Hennessy on his LP Lord Of Your Eyes. "I want to discover new things, music I wasn't brought up with. In Paris I hear a lot more world music. On Radio Nostalgie in Paris they play an English record followed by a French one, and I do like French pop. I also love Abba and Fleetwood Mac. I listen to everything - to things I don't understand, like Chab Khaled and Paolo Conte because I think their music is sexy. I have a very dark voice so I am always trying to find ways to lighten things up."

Sentimental is Tanita’s sixth studio album and features 10 new songs and a unique vocal collaboration with Nick Lowe who sings on two of the tracks. “I wanted to get back to things I had forgotten, fundamental ideas about keeping things simple and interesting and looking at how the voice sits with other instruments”, says Tanita, “Ideas I felt I lost but which maybe I just knew naturally when I was seventeen." The track listing includes ‘ Play Me Again’ and ‘My Love',‘Don’t Let The Cold’, ‘Every Day Is New’, and the concluding track, ‘Heart In Winter’.

In the fickle, pop perceptions of consumerism, Tikaram faded away in 1998. With the release of Sentimental it is Tanita's opportunity to reincarnate before the public eye. It is a different day, an impatient, tense, superficial age, but Tikaram sounds and appears to be up to the stuff of successful reinvention and her optimism reflects her eagerness to take on the challenge. "They (the cuts on Sentimental) are very human songs I hope. I like to think that by the end of a track a listener can imagine me winking at them, smiling.” The 18-year-old who began with a hit song wrapped around cross-cultural visions of indigenous suffering has returned at the ageless age of 35 to pluck the chords of full-gamut human emotion.


ANCIENT HEART (1988)Reprise 25839
Good Tradition|2:49
Cathedral Song|2:51
Sighing Innocents|3:31
I Love You|2:45
World Outside Your Window|4:52
For All These Years|4:52
Twist in My Sobriety|4:50
Poor Cow|1:5
He Likes the Sun|5:26
Valentine Heart|4:04
Preyed Upon|5:03

THE SWEET KEEPER (1990)Reprise 26091
Once and Not Speak|4:44
Thursday's Child|3:
It All Came Back Today|6:00
We Almost Got It Together|4:01
Consider the Rain|5:15
Sunset's Arrived|5:06
Little Sister Leaving Town|3:57
I Owe All to You|4:30
Love Story|3:17
Harm in Your Hands|6:28

EVERYBODY'S ANGEL (1991) Reprise 26486
Only the Ones We Love|2:53
Deliver Me|3:58
This Story in Me|3:14
To Wish This|4:20
Mud In Any Water|3:46
Never Known|2:44
This Stranger|3:12
Swear By Me|3:23
Hot Pork Sandwiches|3:52
Me in Mind|3:25
Sometime With Me|2:54
I Love the Heaven's Solo|2:51
I'm Going Home|3:42

You Make the Whole World Cry|3:37
I Grant You|2:31
Heal You|4:26
To Drink the Rainbow|3:19
Out on the Town|3:16
Hot Stones|2:59
Men & Women|3:08
Any Reason|3:36
Love Don't Need No Tyranny|4:59
Way That I Want You, The|3:44

2 METER SISSIES, VOL. 1 (Various Artists) (1991)Varagram VCD 474722
Track: Little Sister Leaving Town|3:48

LOVERS IN THE CITY (1995) EastWest 5409-8804
I Might Be Crying
Feeding The Witches
Happy Taxi
My Love Tonight
Lovers In The City
Yodelling Song
Wonderful Shadow
Women Who Cheat On The World
Leaving The Party

THE BEST OF TANITA TIKARAM (1996) EastWest 0630151062
Twist in my sobriety
Cathedral song
world outside the window
Good tradition
Love don’t need no tyranny
Little sister leaving town
Only the ones we love
You make the whole world cry
Wonderful shadow
Men and women
I might be crying
Happy taxi
My love tonight
Lovers in the city
And I think of you - e penso a te
Twist in my sobriety (tikaramp radio)

THE CAPPUCINO SONGS (Mother) 1998 537 227 -2 MUMC 9801
Stop Listening
Light up the world
Amore Si
Back in your arms
The cappuccino song
I don't wanna lose at love
The day before you came
If I Ever
I like this
I knew you

SENTIMENTAL (April 20, 2005)
Something new
Play me again
My Love
Don't shake me up
Everyday is new
Love is just his world
Don't let the cold
Got to give you up
Heart in winter