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Posts Tagged ‘rock n roll’

Been meaning to do a portrait of Little Richard, since hearing about his death. Earlier last month, one of the founders of a musical genre we all know as Rock n’ Roll passed away on May 9, 2020. He was was 87 years old.

Rock and Roll would not exist if it wasn’t for both black and white musicians, both coming from poor backgrounds. It was created by combining country, bluegrass, swing, and blues. Thus creating America’s most famous bi-racial child. We often hear about Elvis. Don’t get me wrong – watching early footage of Elvis before the ’70s, you can see Elvis’ natural charisma shining through. Elvis had that superstar quality. But there were others in the early Rock and Roll game. One of best from that era was Little Richard.

Heavily influenced by Esquerita, Little Richard was one of the first crossover artists with  integrated audiences during the segregation era. Despite many venues having segregated entrances – i.e., separate entrances and seating for white attendees, and for black attendees. His songs topped the charts in both the U.S, and the U.K. Later on many of those same songs were covered by white performers. Among his peers were Buddy Holly, Bill HaleyJerry Lee Lewisthe Everly BrothersGene Vincent , Eddie Cochran and yes, even Elvis Presley himself.

My mother would occasionally tell me what a huge fan my aunt was back in Liverpool, England. Needless to say, my mother NOT being a rock and roll fan, was annoyed by my aunt constantly playing “Lucille.” In my mother’s defense, her tastes were more aligned with Roy Orbison, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. My mother accidentally got caught up in music history, when she was dragged by her friends to see a certain band called The Beatles. That’s another post altogether.

Speaking of which, Little Richard’s influence was felt by such acts like The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. Little Richard himself had a ’60s comeback after having a turn at evangelism. (Little Richard would also flip flop on sexuality) He would go back and forth from music to religion, then back again. During 1964, Little Richard hired a then unknown musician named Jimi Hendrix to play in Little Richard’s backup band, World Famous Upsetters. Unfortunately, Little Richard and Hendrix clashed a bit, over matters like lateness, wardrobe, Hendrix’s stage antics, and money. It worked out for Hendrix in the end, as he later became one of the most famous guitarists of all time.

Little Richard kept on performing throughout the ’70s, up until his final concert in 2014. He also made appearances on talk shows, award ceremonies, and film. In the end, he was acknowledged as The Innovator, The Originator, and The Architect of Rock and Roll.

Wrapping up this blog post, here’s an illustration I did earlier tonight. Done in pen, ink, watercolor and shimmer watercolor. Although the scan never picks up on the shimmer. Here’s Little Richard during his iconic heyday during the 1950’s.

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Little Richard. Illustration by Michele Witchipoo. June 2020. Pen, ink, watercolor, shimmer watercolor. 

One of my own heroes, filmmaker John Waters, discusses meeting Little Richard:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/nov/28/john-waters-met-little-richard

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/john-waters-little-richard-996961/

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Feeling a bit nostalgic lately. Probably due to avoiding the current news.

Not the world’s biggest KISS fan, but during their heyday, they had their moments.

During 1993 or 94, my Halloween costume was of Gene Simmons as a ’90s Raver. This was way before ‘mash-ups’ were popular.

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Halloween costume from either 1993 or ’94. Gene Simmons from KISS dressed as a ’90’s Raver. Before the concept of ‘mash-ups’ were popular. 

Introducing the Psycho Bunny sketch of the week. Psycho Bunny meets KISS.

psychobunnykiss

Psycho Bunny meets KISS. Particularly Gene Simmons. Based on the comic written and drawn by Michele Witchipoo on WitchesBrewPress. Feb. 2017

Okay, here comes the usual plugs. There’s two Facebook pages, one for Psycho Bunny, the other for WitchesBrewPress (illustration work). Please like one or both pages. Gracias.  You can always buy a comic off the WitchesBrewPress website. Every week they’ll be a new Psycho Bunny sketch, so keep tuning back in.

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Continuing where I left off yesterday, (Yesterday’s blog post) now I’m going into music pins, buttons and badges of the 1980s.

My button collection started during my preteen years. It was around sometime during the early ’80’s, and I had just discovered rock music. The closest supplier of these badges was a local head shop called Yogi Lala, located in Astoria, Queens. For a small shop it was jammed packed full of juvenile delinquent merchandise. All sorts of hippie accouterments, silver biker jewelry, patches, drug paraphernalia, and hard rock band tee shirts. If you wanted the back of your jean jacket painted with a rendition of a particular Black Sabbath album cover, this was the place. For good measure, Yogi Lala mixed the sex, drugs and rock n roll wares with some 14k gold trinkets.

There was certainly a variety of genres covered within the rock music merch this place sold. Not only did they have your average classic rock groups like The Who, Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, etc., but they also had the burn out Hard Rock stuff, Heavy Metal, and the newer New Wave and some Punk rock stuff. Mostly the more famous, or should I stay infamous bands like The Sex Pistols.

If you couldn’t find what you were looking for in Yogi’s, you could always walk further down Steinway Street, which to this day is one of Astoria’s main shopping areas, and check out Jolly Joint. The Jolly Joint’s store was a bit more spread out. It was a head shop as well, with a tiny more emphasis on the music. Jolly Joint was pretty successful in its day, with a second shop on Main Street, located in Flushing, Queens.

Jolly Joint is no more. Yogi Lala is still around, but they mostly sell gold jewelry now.

Anyway, I would start to buy these small music pins from these kind of stores. The pins would be proudly arranged with style and care on my jacket before heading off to my crappy junior high. The other kids would make fun of me listening to rock music, but I paid them no mind. I loved The Go-Go’s, Joan Jett, Soft Cell, Human League and David Bowie.

Metal David Bowie pin from the 1980s. Let’s Dance era. Most likely brought at Yogi Lala during 1983. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

I was very fascinated with the whole New Wave and Punk subculture, even back in junior high, although my tastes at the time were more mainstream. Guess this is when I started observing different types of counter cultures.

Assortment of Culture Club pins from the 1980s. Check out the “Boy George for President” button. Maybe since it’s election year in 2012, should I start wearing this again? Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

Then came Culture Club. I loved Boy George so much, I even tried to dress like him. If you look in the photo, you can see a button that says “Boy George For President.” As I type this, it’s election year of 2012. Perhaps I should start wearing this one again?

Anyway, my attempts of emulating the Boy just resulted in more verbal abuse from my classmates. The comments got more ignorant too. My favorite one? “Are you a fag lover?”

Since I hated my junior high so much, I swore I would never continue getting my education alongside these ignorant f-heads. So I applied for a whole bunch of the NYC ‘magnet’ schools. To both my surprise and relief, I got immediately accepted into the High School of Art and Design. From there I met more like-minded peers. One of these kids would take me to my first ‘underground’ club, despite the underage factor. It was the original Danceteria, and I loved every second of it. Another girl took me to my first excursion into Greenwich Village. It was up and down 8th street to be exact. Eighth street at the time was the main shopping strip of the village area, full of record stores, imported shoe shops, clothing stores, etc. Located towards more going 6th avenue was The Postermat. That was my new found base for my button fix.

During my freshman year, my tastes in music was leaning towards mainstream rock, top-40, new wave and imported UK pop bands. I was still big into Culture Club then. For a brief time though, I was listening to the newer metal bands like Motley Crue and Twisted Sister.

Dee Snider, lead singer of Twisted Sister. 1980s pin. Possibly gotten from a button trade. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

Sometimes us A&D students would trade with one another. I traded something for the U2 band shot, as seen in the middle of the pic below. I think a friend gave me the Cyndi Lauper and Prince pins. A loner guy mysteriously gave me the Billy Idol one. I forgot where the Frankie Goes To Hollywood button came from. Check out the photo below. I’m surprised I still even have these.

Various 1980s music buttons. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

Needless to say this phase didn’t last long. I discovered Siouxsie and The Banshees. Right there everything changed. Went to Astor Place for a major haircut, dying my hair much to my father’s chagrin. My wardrobe completely changed. I discovered Bleecker Bob’s, purchasing a second hand pair of combat boots. Boy, did those boots piss my mom off.

Most importantly, my music tastes had changed. I embraced the classic 80s Goth and Post-Punk bands. I liked much of the seminal ’77 Punk stuff, like The Ramones, for example. Although I never got into the Hardcore or crossover genres that much. As you can guess, my button collection reflected this. Instead of Culture Club and U2, I had bands such as The Damned, Bauhaus, and Sisters of Mercy. Most of the classic 80s Goth bands found a spot on my schoolbag. Only I wasn’t going to school as much. I had also discovered playing hooky. That particular discovery is something I still regret to this very day. I’m making up for lost time now, but there’s still a ping of regret somewhere.

Unfortunately, most of my button collection from that particular time is gone. Don’t know where they went. Perhaps they’re in a draw somewhere at my parents’ house, but at this point I’m not going to bother looking. It’s the past after all.

I did find this, however. An X-Ray Specs pin, which I think I might’ve gotten from the original Manic Panic shop in St. Mark’s Place. Was it that, or was it the pin that said “Oh bondage up yours!” I think it was the latter. That particular pin was stolen by none other than this kid Mike Waste. He stole from almost everyone. Not only did he steal that pin, he also stole my Cure shirt and something else. A total creep who told tall tales. He had ratty hair extensions that clung for dear life from the brim of his cap. Yet I heard about the early Industrial bands through him. I always knew he lifted from me. I suppose twenty years later I’m kinda sorta getting my revenge by calling him out on a public blog.

Here’s the X-Ray Specs pin that escaped Mike Waste’s grimey paws:

X-Ray Specs badge. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

Now that I’ve blogged about these pins, perhaps its time to finally get rid of them. After all, they served their purpose. Maybe sell them on eBay or something. Besides, I’ve got my memories. You can never take that away.

However, if all else fails, you can tell people this:

Where’s the beef? Button from mid-1980s television commercial ad. The slogan was part of the Wendy’s burger campaign during 1983-84. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

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