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Paging Dr. Rick

13 Feb

This evening I’m tucking into a somewhat queasy-making care package, lovingly curated by a man not unfamiliar with the nauseating end of 20th century cultural production, Dr. Rick. It’s two DVD-Rs, one long CD-R, and a cryptic Chinese fortune sans cookie asserting “society prepares the crime; the criminal commits it.” Perhaps, but let me be the judge of that. The evidence is as follows:

PANAMA RED DVD (1976) Z-budget snoozer about a Venice Beach dumbshit who is faced with the herculean task of peddling 500 kg. of primo pot in a matter of days. Over the course of 80 minutes, we’re privy to scenes of hairy guys with names like Bobo and Cheech breaking down “keys” into “lids”; our limpdick hero urging his very pregnant wife to have sex, thus eliciting her very uncomfortable response (“please, be careful”); and a surprise meeting with none other than MOTHERS OF INVENTION drummer Jimmy Carl Black, sneaking a toke away from the watchful eye of ol’ Frank Zappa. I’ll conceed the soundtrack by Jim Wingert is amusing in a 70’s softrock-cum-pornofunk sorta way. But the cliches-up-the-butt dialogue, dead end plot, and acting bested by the cast in Dave Markey’s Desperate Teenage Lovedolls are unforgivable. And for a movie about weed, this flick was oddly devoid of I Love You, Alice B. Tolkas-like barbiturate dislocation. The way these dudes treat their product, they might as well be pushing girlscout cookies! I’m now trying to remember how much a lid of pot actually was . . . an old hippie once told me “it’s all the dope that’ll fit in the lid of a coffeecan!” but I suspect she was pulling my leg.

SWAP MEET DVD (1979) Juvenile comedy that follows a rivalry between two groups of car-crazy flea market dealers. Much of this was filmed at The Roadium real life swap in Torrance, CA – hence you’re privy to the most location shots of the South Bay this side of the original Gone In 60 Seconds car chase. The soundtrack by somebody called HEMLOCK delivers over the top whiteboy disco with a giddiness that speaks of too much cocaine use. Yet while the director might’ve been going for some kind teen romp ala Porky’s, the cornball jokes, fake east coast accents, and hokey dialogue conspire to make it more like an R-rated episode of Krofft Superstars’ Wonderbug. So despite Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman popping up in early career roles, this movie is thin stuff indeed. Heck, the Germans felt they had to crib imagery from Over The Edge for the DVD reissue to lure hapless Bavarians into buying the thing. Certainly, Swap Meet coulda done with a little of that Matt Dillon teen angst – or better still, a cameo by actual SoCal swap meet rat, Don Bolles.

VARIOUS ARTISTSTake It Easy 2 CD (1970-1979) If ever I wanted some thinly produced, bottom-rung jazz/soft pop topped with flat vocals and sappy lyrics, I’ve now got a grip of it, and all in one place. Given the dodgy aesthetic sense of this bunch, highlights are necessarily gonna be relative. But I reckon they include: MILL SUPPLY’s sturdy “Ezmerelda” which sounds like it coulda been a hit for THE LOOKING GLASS; ERASMO CARLOS’ samba pop “Sorrisa Della” which is truly sublime, thus begging the question as to why it was included here at all; JIM SULLIVAN’s countripolitan “UFO” which contains the immortal refrain checkin’ out the show with a glassy eye/ lookin’ at the sun dancing through the sky/ here he comes, by UFO; and of course MERRELL FANKHAUSER’s joyous “I Saw Your Photograph” which I just might have introduced to Dr Rick back in the 90’s. To think that, in some small way, I might be responsible for all this!

But the lowpoints, oh man, are they ever legion. SHADE go crazy with the fusionoid chord changes on “Recently” cluttering up an otherwise “Midnight at the Oasis”-like travesty. The SHAMROCK cut sounds like the tax-loss it was no doubt meant to be. LO BORGES’ Spanish-language pop tinkle may or may not be ripping off TODD RUNDGREN’s “Hello, It’s Me”. And folks like the warbly HOWDY MOON and the creepy NICK DE CARO just need to be smacked really, really hard. Yes there is a real people charm to much of this, but when it all shakes down, shit will be shit – and this be some stinky doody.

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Society might well have prepared these particular musical/visual crimes, but anyone fool enough to commit them does indeed deserve banishment from our collective entertainment libraries. Still, I can’t not be happy that the perverse among us have sought to dig it all back up, shoving it in our faces once more. Cheers, Dr. Rick!

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