Tag Archives: NWCZ Radio

Streetlight Harmonies

Brent Wilson

“The main thing was all the girls used to come to the best group. And we were the best group … they used to come and crowd and load up our corner.” The Drifters’ Charlie Thomas on the motivation for starting a vocal group, then he pauses and looks off-screen and says, “Excuse me wife, those were my younger days.” This is just one of the many evocative scenes in the new independent documentary, Streetlight Harmonies. Director, Brent Wilson talked to Norman B about the making of a film which surprisingly, is the first to seriously explore the origins of Doo-Wop. The music is so very familiar, yet few people know the artists. Streetlight Harmonies traces the history of the genre from its street-corner origins through to 60s girl groups and beyond. The film is masterfully put together featuring interviews with Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, “Little” Anthony Gourdine, Lance Bass, and the Crystals’ La La Brooks, among others, as well as restored archival footage. The documentary also touches on the problems the vocal harmony groups faced performing in the segregated South, an issue so pertinent today. During our conversation with Brent Wilson, you’ll hear clips from Streetlight Harmonies and the director’s high regard for the artists and enthusiasm for their influential music.

Show #379

A Deadly Virus & A Disturbing Truth

                           

New York Times-bestselling author Robin Cook wrote Pandemic, his medical-thriller more than two years before Covid-19. The pulse-pounding story begins when an unidentified, healthy, well-dressed woman is struck down by a sudden respiratory illness on the subway as opportunist thieves snatch her phone and backpack. By the time she’s rushed to hospital, she’s dead. Ending up on forensic pathologist Dr. Jack Stapleton’s autopsy table as the potential victim of a contagion, reveals surprising findings. Fearing what could be the first in a severe outbreak of a deadly virus similar to the 1918 influenza pandemic, Jack works in overdrive for a diagnosis and to identify the woman. A task made more urgent when two other victims succumb to a similar rapid death. But nothing makes sense until his investigation leads him into the fascinating realm of CRISPR/CAS9, gene-editing biotechnology that’s captured the imagination of the medical community. . . and the attention of its most unethical members. Cook’s critical opinion of the greed dominating the business of the medical professions and the sad politics of health care in the United States makes this so pertinent now, as we live through a real pandemic.

For too long the Religious Right has masqueraded as a social movement preoccupied with a number of cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In her deeply reported investigation, Katherine Stewart reveals a disturbing truth: this is a political movement that seeks to gain power and to impose its vision on all of society. America’s religious nationalists aren’t just fighting a culture war, they are waging a political war on the norms and institutions of American democracy. Stewart pulls back the curtain on the inner workings and leading personalities of a movement that has turned religion into a tool for domination. She exposes a dense network of think tanks, advocacy groups, and pastoral organizations embedded in a rapidly expanding community of international alliances and united not by any central command but by a shared, anti-democratic vision and a common will to power. She follows the money that fuels this movement, tracing much of it to a cadre of super-wealthy, ultraconservative donors and family foundations. She shows that today’s Christian nationalism is the fruit of a longstanding anti-democratic, reactionary strain of American thought that draws on some of the most troubling episodes in America’s past. It forms common cause with a globe-spanning movement that seeks to destroy liberal democracy and replace it with nationalist, theocratic and autocratic forms of government around the world. Religious nationalism is far more organized and better funded than most people realize. It seeks to control all aspects of government and society. Its successes have been stunning, and its influence now extends to every aspect of American life, from the White House to state capitols, from our schools to our hospitals. The Power Worshippers is a brilliantly reported book of warning and a wake-up call. Stewart’s probing examination demands that Christian nationalism be taken seriously as a significant threat to the American republic and our democratic freedoms.

Show #378

Bad Books, Bad Movies, & Polite Behavior

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Since its publication in 1966, Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls has reigned as one of the most influential and beloved pieces of commercial fiction. Selling over thirty-one million copies worldwide, it revolutionized overnight the way books got sold, thanks to the tireless and canny self-promoting Susann. It also generated endless speculation about the author’s real-life models for its larger-than-life characters. Turned in 1967 into an international box-office sensation and morphing into a much-beloved cult film, its influence endures today in everything from films and TV shows to fashion and cosmetics tributes and tie-ins. Susann’s compulsive readable exposé of three female friends finding success in New York City and Hollywood was a scandalous eye-opener for its candid treatment of sex, naked ambition, ageism, and pill-popping, and the big-screen version was one of the most-seen and talked-about movies of the time. Stephen Rebello’s new book, Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! Deep Inside Valley Of The Dolls, The Most Beloved Bad Book & Movie Of All Time dishes the dirt on that hugely successful book and movie and uncovers how the movie has become a cherished widely imitated camp classic. 

Continuing on from over-the-top performances we asked film and media critic, Bob Ross to share his idea of best bad movies. He focuses in on the decade, ’79 – ’89 and suggests bad movies can also have great soundtracks, like Rock & Roll High School featuring The Ramones. Bob also warns that his list of bad movies should be watched alone for fear of ridicule by those with a more sophisticated taste.  

From bad books and movies, we turn to bad behavior. Vulgar, rude, obnoxious, unrefined are just some of the epithets used to describe the current President. Polite behavior seems to have escaped his daily routine. If it were possible, we believe he could learn a lot from Galateo: Or, The Rules of Polite Behavior. Although written in Renaissance Italy, it’s just as fresh and pertinent today. Editor and translator, Matthew Rusnak offers a droll take on academia, explaining how the author, Giovanni Della Casa, gives instructions for civilized behavior, which includes making sure nothing falls out of your nose when passing someone a drink.

Show #376

Black Says

In a recent edition of Life Elsewhere Music we invited Josh Idehen and Tom Leaper of Benin City to talk about their new, timely single, Hold Them Close. A song, written over a year ago, that urges us all to remember to care about each other, even in these trying times of Covid-19. Josh Idehen wasted little time in expressing his displeasure of our so-called leaders in the UK and the US on how they have handled the pandemic and ongoing racial problems. Josh, along with being a talented musician, is also an acclaimed poet and spoken word artist was motivated to speak at an event in London, after the tragic murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. We have included the audio from the video of Josh Idehen reciting Black Says in the latest volume of Life Elsewhere Music. The powerful words of Josh Idehen’s Black Says can be heard at the end of this volume. Please listen carefully.

We begin with Know Like Dat by East Man. The cut is from Prole Art Threat the new LP by producer Anthony Hart, aka East Man. On this long-player, Anthony brings together talented MC’s from all over London. And, the title, Prole Art Threat is a big nod of respect to the late, Mark E Smith of The Fall. Next up I Left You a track from the debut EP y? by Julia Sophie from Oxford who says, I Left You” is a song about struggling with love and life, being torn in all kinds of directions, choosing how to live and who to live for”. We admit to being fascinated by covers, so the EP Reestablishing Connection from Sega Bodega demanded our attention. Teardrop originally by Massive Attack was selected as reworked by Sega Bodega & Lafewndah. Salvador Navarrete is Glaswegian producer, singer, songwriter, and label head aka Sega Bodega. He shares that all profits will be donated to the AIM COVID-19 Crisis Fund, providing vital support to contractors and freelance workers in the independent music industry. Next, it’s off to Reykjavic, Iceland the home of Katrín Helga Andrésdóttir – also known as Special K with Dinner For 1 from her EP, Lunatic Thirst. Followed by Alpha Steppa out of London featuring Eva Keyes with Fever and Fever Dub, from a superb compilation, Raise The Ark on Steppas Records. We stay in London to hear from Joel Baker with, London She’s Just Not You a cut from Bran Flakes Vol 1.5. Originally from Nottingham, Joel has made an LP you need to check out. Su Lee has a fascinating charm which she happily demonstrates in what appear to be her home-made videos. She also makes enjoyable “indie pop on speed” she insists. The delightful, Go My Way is from her EP The Rough. Barry Snaith is a big fan of this show as we are of him. In his guise as TIJ (The Inconsistent Jukebox), Mr. Snaith has produced a new LP. Gig Economy demonstrating his excellent taste and talent, you’ll hear Left Me In A Dream. Mark Gardener & 2 Square are next with Chained. Gardener is best known as a songwriter, lead vocalist, and guitarist with Ride and 2 Square is Stephan Haeri of Telepopmusik out of France. From rural England comes Archie Stagers with Beneath The Surface, who sent a sound file to us with this message: “I’ve really been enjoying your isolation mixes so far and wanted to submit a song of my own”. We discovered Archie Stagers runs a small indie label, Crafting Room Records – a not for profit label for passionate musicians, based in Wiltshire. From rural UK go over to Nashville to hear from Sophia Boro with And He Said To Me from her debut EP due out later this year. We close the show with the eloquent Josh Idehen and Black Says.

Thank you for listening

The Food Of Dictators. The Music Of Love.

        

Imagine you have the task of cooking meals for a dictator? What was Pol Pot eating while two million Cambodians were dying of hunger? Did Idi Amin really eat human flesh? And why was Fidel Castro obsessed with one particular cow? Traveling across four continents, from the ruins of Iraq to the savannahs of Kenya, award-winning journalist, Witold Szabłowski tracked down the personal chefs of five dictators known for the oppression and massacre of their own citizens—Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Uganda’s Idi Amin, Albania’s Enver Hoxha, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and Cambodia’s Pol Pot. Witold listened to their stories over sweet-and-sour soup, goat-meat pilaf, bottles of rum, and games of gin rummy. Witold Szabłowski joins Norman B to talk about his remarkable book, How To Feed A Dictator – Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Enver Hoxha, Fidel Castro, And Pol Pot Through The Eyes Of Their Cooks.

Over the last few years, London-based musician and spoken word artist, Josh Idehen has made frequent appearances on Life Elsewhere. First representing his band Hugh and their sublime music, then, more recently as part of Benin City, a three-piece with Tom Leaper and Shanaz Dorsett. “The name Benin City was chosen” says Josh, “because I grew up there, even though I was born in London and we are two-thirds black and two-thirds gay, so it seemed to fit.” It’s the slightly irreverent attitude that comes to the fore in their music. Benin City doesn’t shy away from expressing their opinions, yet they cleverly manage to concoct catchy popish sounds to do it. Their latest single, Hold Them Close was written over a year ago, long before Covid-19. While in isolation, they determined the sentiment of the song was exactly what everyone needed – Hold Them Close. In our conversation, as is typical when talking with Josh, we quickly diverted off into a tangent about politics and the responsibility of governments in the UK and the US. In listing major concerns, Josh touches on a topic not well known outside of the UK, the Windrush scandal a 2018 British political issue concerning people mostly from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands who were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in at least 83 cases, wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office. Our conversation with Josh Idehen and Tom Leaper was recorded via Zoom and will be available soon. 

Show #374

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