This week we go back to January, 2011, and begin a run of episodes of Radio Free Charleston that may be a little bittersweet. This episode and the next two all prominently feature the music of Mark Scarpelli, the beloved, musican, composer and music educator who passed away earlier this year.
This week we have Mark’s Beatles tribute band, Rubber Soul, as they prepare for a performance of The White Album at The Alban Arts Center, which was a benefit for The Ronald McDonald House.
This edition of the show was a “fly on the wall” preview, showing rehearsals for that benefit show, recorded just days before this show premiered, which was just days before the concert itself.
Mark was always very generous in letting me come in and record his musical projects “in progress” so I could get them posted here in time to promote the actual events.
You’ll get to see three complete songs in this episode of RFC: “Back in the USSR,” with lead vocals by Chris Conard; “Dear Prudence,” sung by Michelle Melton; and “Yer Blues,” sung by Joey Collier. You’ll also see snippets of other White Album classics, with vocal turns by Rubber Soul’s leader, Mark Scarpelli, guitarist, Greg Hunt, and drummer, Brian Holstine.
Other featured instrumentalists seen in the show are Jamie Skeen on bass, Alasha Al-Qudwah on viola, Jeremy Severn on Trumpet and Kathy Coyle on woodwinds.
Because of the nature of how we filmed the band, the audio isn’t up to our usual standards. I felt it was a decent trade-off so that we could get it online quick enough to help promote what turned out to be a sold-out show.
Mel Larch dances it up bigtime as the ladies take over Friday afternoon on The AIR. The AIR is PopCult’s sister radio station. You can hear our shows on The AIR website, or just click on the embedded player found elsewhere on this page.
At 2 PM, Mel Larch uncorks a new MIRRORBALL! The AIR’s showcase of classic Disco music shines it’s sparkly spotlight on classic Disco tracks featurng female vocalists. It’s “Ladies Night,” only without that particular song, which of course, was sung by dudes. A special side note this week is the very Disco-sounding opening track by an artist who isn’t usually associated with Disco music.
Mel wanted to pay tribute to Olivia Newton John, who died earlier this week, and she found just the right song for the job.
For one hour you can go back to the Golden Age of Disco, with women leading the charge.
Check out the playlist…
Oliva Newton John “Xanadu”
Yvonne Elliman “If I Can’t Have You”
Diana Ross “Love Hangover”
Donna Summer “Rumor Has It”
Esther Phillips “What A Difference A Day Makes”
Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive”
Gladys Knight & The Pips “Come Back and Finish What You Started”
Tina Charles “I Love To Love”
Odyssey “Native New Yorker”
Frantique “Strut Your Funky Stuff”
Blondie “Call Me”
5000 Volts “I’m On Fire”
Vicki Sue Robinson “Turn The Beat Around”
Baccara “Sorry I’m A Lady”
Labelle “Lady Marmalade”
You can hear MIRRORBALL every Friday at 2 PM, with replays Sunday at 11 PM, Monday at 9 AM, and Tuesday at 1 PM exclusively on The AIR.
At 3 PM, we’ll be replaying Sydney Fileen’s a classic episode of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. You can find the playlist and background info HERE.
Sydney’s Big Electric Cat is produced at Haversham Recording Institute in London, and can be heard every Friday at 3 PM, with replays Saturday afternoon, Monday at 7 AM, Tuesday at 8 PM, Wednesday at Noon and Thursday at 10 AM, exclusively on The AIR.
Friday at 9 PM you can tune in for a three hours of classic stand-up on The Comedy Vault, with George Carlin, Robin Williams and Eddie Griffin.
I’ve never specifically said how old I am in this blog.
It’s not like I’ve tried to hide it. I write about TV shows I watched and toys I had in the 1960s all the time. And I think I wrote about how my earliest memory is the mailman coming to the door crying, asking if he could come in and watch some of the coverage of Kennedy’s assassination, but I’ve never come right out and said how old I am.
Tomorrow I turn 60 years old.
How the hell did that happen?
I mean, I don’t feel 60. I haven’t checked lately, but I don’t think I look 60. I sure as hell don’t act 60.
But chronologically I have became a pop culture journalist who’s reached an age that pop culture tends to consider well past relevance.
It must be some kind of aberration. Or maybe this happens to everybody. Maybe nobody ever really feels old unless they’re sick or something.
“Hey check out this Talking GI Joe, it’s really cool! Why is that light so bright?”
I’m not tempted to do anything that “old people” normally do, at least not knowingly. I still collect toys, read comics, watch cartoons listen to music and subscribe to more streaming services than I can watch. I don’t sit around and watch Matlock. I don’t vote for Republicans. There are no goddamned kids in my yard to yell at.
I have to admit to being a bit puzzled by all this. It seems really weird to me to have vivid memories of breaking my collarbone while playing Batman fifty-six years ago. It’s hard to wrap my brain around the fact that I have favorite comic book artists who died of old age after I was a fan for more than fifty years. It’s really bizarre having friends who are full-grown adults who have parents that were born after I started buying LPs.
I’ve been thinking about what I was going to write in this space for almost three months. About a month ago my first wife died. We split up thirty-six years ago, and that is pretty much an entire lifetime. Kathy’s death put me in a very reflective mood as I relived our time together (a topic for a future column) and then relived the turns my life took afterward.
Many people can’t imagine me being with anybody besides my Melanie. It’s hard for me to do that too. She is my very reason for being and I would be miserable without her. We’ve been together more than half my life and it’s easy to feel like my life really began when we met.
But it didn’t, exactly. See, being a comic book fan for my entire life, I do have a story to tell for this post. I have a “secret origin.”
I’ve written about how, all my life I’ve been the person saying “Check this out, it’s really cool.” And a lot of folks know me as a strong advocate of local artists and musicians. Now I’m going to pull back the veil a bit and give you some insight about what motivates me to be this way.
Let me take you back to 1986. My disastrous first marriage was all over except for the signing of papers. I was an emotional wreck, but I put on a brave face and threw myself into my work.
My work at that time was as the de-facto publisher, editor, proofreader, gofer and head of publicity for CODA, a comic book written and drawn by my brother, Frank, with a back-up strip by me.
CODA was my main focus. I pretty much felt like a failure in life, and saw this comic book as my path to redemption. Foremost among my jobs was getting promotion for CODA. I managed to convince Jennifer Bundy to interview Frank for The Charleston Daily Mail. I bought ads in The Comics Buyers Guide and sent review copies to other fan publications.
And I hung out a lot at Greg Miller’s Comic World, on Charleston’s West Side. This was the comic book shop in Charleston and it gave me the chance to network with other area fans.
One day I walked into Comic World and recognized a low-level reporter for a local TV station berating Greg. He was promising extravagant TV coverage of Greg’s store, if only Greg would supply him with some free comics. He was especially keen on getting free Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics to do a feature on the “black and white comics boom.”
I stayed out of the conversation and looked through the new comics until Greg just ended the conversation and said he had to get back to work, but he’d consider the idea.
The local TV reporter turned and started to walk out, and remember now, I was totally emotionally invested in making CODA a success, so I stopped him, held up a copy of CODA #1 and said, “Hey, you know…there’s a black and white comic book published out of South Charleston, and I bet your viewers would love to know about it!”
He turned, looked at me, scowled and said, “Nobody cares about that SHIT!” Then he walked out.
I was stunned, but was resigned to living the life of the rejected at that point. Greg was much angrier about it than I was and did his best to make me feel better. It just sort of stung that somebody in a position to help a local creator could be so unneccesarily cruel. I have to admit, it left a scar.
I drove home, and my Mom said that somebody called about the comic while I was out. I returned the call and it was a writer for Amazing Heroes Magazine. He’d seen CODA and was writing the semi-annual preview issue and wanted to know what we had coming up in future issues.
I was excited, but still down a bit, and he could tell. He asked what was going on, fearful that the book was not going to make it to its second issue, and I told him what had just happened.
He was stunned, but then he told me that he was trying to break into comics himself, and was used to particularly cruel rejections. And then he said, “You can either be the kind of person who builds people up, or you can be the kind of bastard who tears people down.”
So, with that pep talk, from Mark Waid by the way, I decided that I was never going to stomp on anybody’s dreams. I was going to be a person who supported artists, and musicians and encouraged people to create.
I was never going to be an asshole, like that TV reporter was to me.
Three years after that, I wound up on the radio, and I created Radio Free Charleston and have been supporting the local scene for over thirty years now. It’s why I still cover local stuff here in PopCult. It’s why I reach out to indie comic book creators and unsigned musicians from other cities.
Basically, living by the mantra “don’t be an asshole” has worked out pretty well for me. When I was put in a position to write a review of something that very TV reporter was involved with, I gave him decent notices. The temptation was definitely there to get even after all these years, but I didn’t want to sink to his level.
A couple of weeks ago Brian Diller, who was one of the major forces in the Charleston music scene back when I started RFC, wrote a wonderful and thoughtful post about me and my contributions to the local music scene on Facebook. I have to admit it caught me off guard and it came at a time when I really needed a shot in the arm. It’s been a bit of a cruel summer with my Myasthenia Gravis flaring up, technical issues here at the blog, weird power outages, ex-wives passing away and a car that seems to want to have its address changed to my mechanic’s place.
It was nice to be reminded why I do what I do. That a couple of hundred people “liked” that post, and a few dozen commented or shared it really warmed my aging heart (which has checked out quite well, by the way).
It’s really nice to be appreciated.
Instead of a grand adventure for my birthday (or a party, I absolutely hate being the center of attention at parties), Mel and I are going to have a quiet day, hang out together, eat cake and ice cream and pizza and just relax and watch Matlock.
No, wait, NOT MATLOCK! WE ARE DEFINITELY NOT WATCHING MATLOCK!
That is this week’s PopCulteer. Thanks for reading and remember to check back for our regular features and fresh content every day, for the next sixty years or more.
Your PopCulteer has been slow posting photos from this year’s Kentuckiana GI Joe & Toy Expo , and I apologize for that. Today we’re going to bring you another small batch of images from the show, and there will be at least one more photo essay next week. You can see our first photo essay HERE and our video with another photo essay HERE.
Sadly, a technical glitch (a bad SD Card this time) wiped out the last twenty photos I took, which included close-ups of Super Joe Unlimited prototypes and much of the custom figures, but I’ll be havesting images from the video for our next photo essay, so all is not lost.
This is part three of what we saw. PopCult will have at least one more 2022 Kentuckianua GI Joe & Toy Expo photo essay next week.
There were plenty of more recent GI Joe toys on hand.
And there were also tons of rare, boxed sets from the glory days of the 12″ action figures.
This vendor had tons of vintage goodness.
And there were lots of non-GI Joe figures at the show, too.
You can’t go wrong with Golden Age comics and monsters!
A very cool lucite-encased diorama, one of the few custom contest photos that survived the SD card going bad.
Chuck Chiriaco with his incredible custom figure, Bakshassa. We first saw this guy and met Chuck at ToyLanta, and this figure still blows our mind.
Chuck’s entry into the custom figure contest was a mystical Rasputin, who was floating over a vanquished foe. Sadly our SD card died before he had the completed scene assembled, but Rasputin is pretty darn cool by himself.
Okay, it’s time once again for your guide to things you can do in and around Charleston, Huntington and other places nearby during this happy August week in our latest edition of STUFF TO DO. I’ll not be indulging in any of these due to certain milestone commitments, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out.
Live Music is back at Taylor Books. There is no cover charge, and shows start at 7:30 PM. Friday it’s Chet Lowther. Saturday sees That High Country Revival at Charleston’s Bookstore/coffeehouse/art gallery institution.
Saturday night at 7 PM The Alban Arts Center celebrates the 35th anniversary of the release of the movie Monster Squad, with two of the film’s stars. Full details can be found HERE.
Please remember that the pandemic is not over yet. Many people who have very good reasons are still wearing masks, and many of us, understandably, are still nervous about being in crowds, masked or not. Be kind and understanding while you’re out.
If you’re up for going out, here are some suggestions for Thursday through Saturday…
The ultimate nemesis for your action figures is here.
Just imagine, you’ve got your vintage U.S.S. Flagg GI Joe aircrat carrier set up, with the Real American Hero forces assembled on deck…and then you hear a screeching voice demanding to speak to Admiral Keel Haul while yelling “I pay all your salaries!”
With a newly-launched Kickstarter campaign, Namespace LLC is daring to introduce Karen into the world of 3 3/4″ action figures. This beastly, entitled apparition is perfectly-scaled to terrorize your 1980s GI Joes, classic Kenner Star Wars figures, and any ReAction figures from recent years.
Also available is Karen’s favorite object of abuse, Joe the Manager.
Namespace LLC is using Kickstarter to bring positive change and a playful humor to the collectible toy market with their 1:18th scale Karen and Joe the Manager figures.
This might be a horror beyond belief, but why should action figures be spared the wrath of the entitled and privileged tantrum tornado?
Let’s go to the press release:
Bringing together global expertise in product design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution, the team’s Kickstarter campaign aims to transform the iconic and recognizable characters of the entitled Karen and overworked Joe the Manager into fun and inspiring collectible toys.
“We’re looking for fun even in uncertain times like these,” said Matt Jacquot, Sales Manager at Namespace, “and with these two characters, we want to encourage positive change and even foster a little more tolerance.”
The 3.75 inch action figures are based on the modern cultural phenomenon of the vocal, privileged Karen and her customer service counterpart, Joe the Manager. The funding campaign has begun and will run for 30 days to secure the funding for production. Namespace has chosen this route to reduce customer risk and to introduce Karen and Joe to the largest possible audience.
With founding members from the US, UK, China, France, Spain and India, the team chose freelance Ukrainian designer and illustrator Denys Samboval to work on the project and help bring Karen and Joe to life.
“I take inspiration from the everyday,” Denys said, “and we’ve all seen Karens or Joes in the news or in our daily lives, so this project was easy to relate to.”
The company has already invested in the design and prototyping of the figures in preparing for market, and the Kickstarter campaign for Karen and Joe the Manager action figures is available HERE.
With her “Live, Laugh, Love” designer shirt and permanent suspicious scowl face, Karen is all too familiar to everyone, and may even be too frightening for kids or sensitive adult collectors.
Poor beleagured Joe sports a nametag and a facemask and let’s face it…he isn’t getting paid enough to put up with this crap.
You could just get Karen, and put her up against Darth Vader or Destro. Or you could just get Joe and rescue him from the constant abuse of Karen. Maybe let him hang out Shipwreck or Han Solo. Or you could get the pair of them and have them locked in their eternal struggle.
Each figure is available on Classic-style or modern backing cards. There are some ambitious stretch goals, which, if unlocked, will add trading cards, pogs and accessories for both figures. If they do super-well, an “Adventures of Karen” comic book could be included.
This is a fun Kickstarter campaign with reasonable reward levels (comparable to a regularly-priced 1/18th scale action figure) and a definite topical bent. It might fun to get a Karen just so you can shoot cellphone video of her making a fuss and embarrassing herself with your other action figures.
(Editorial note: Karen insists that she isn’t embarrassing herself, I’m embarrassing myself. Now she’s throwing stuff on the floor so I have to wrap this up.)
You can support the Karen (and Joe the Manager) Kickstarter campaign at THIS LINK.
It’s Tuesday on The AIR and you know what that means. For the first time since May we a new episode of The Swing Shift, plus we have a new Radio Free Charleston too. You simply have to point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay here and listen to the cool embedded player elsewhere on this page.
You humble blogger and radio has has found his Swing again after taking three months off to deal with a combination of medical fatigue and an abundance of paying freelance gigs. Hopefully we’ll have several weeks of uninterrupted new episodes of The Swing Shift.
But first, it’s one more hybrid edition of Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday. This week we open with two full hours of local and independent music, and then we hit you with one hour of classic Radio Free Charleston from January, 2019.
Our first hour, opens with new music from ALI3N SUP3R J3SUS, who are also making their RFC debut. You’ll also hear cool new music from Three’s Company Blues, Adrian Belew, Bane Star, The Magnetic Fields and more. We also have a set of covers of songs from the 1980s, as The Joe Policastro Trio, The Anchoress, Close The Hatch, Mother’s Nature Blues, Luna Park and All Torches Lit share their renditions of songs originally released by A-ha, New Order, Depeche Mode, Stevie Nicks and Til Tuesday.
The third hour of our show re-presents a cool episode of Radio Free Charleston from January, 2019, when your humble host devoted a large chunk of the show to local instrumental music.
Check out the playlist below to see all the goodies we have in store (live links will take you to the artist’s pages where possible)…
You can hear this episode of Radio Free Charleston Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM on The AIR, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 9 AM, Saturday at Noon and Midnight, and Monday at 11 AM, exclusively on The AIR. Now you can also hear a different episode of RFC every weekday at 5 PM, and we bring you a marathon all night long Saturday night/Sunday morning.
I’m also going to embed a low-fi, mono version of this show right in this post, right here so you can listen on demand.
Then at 1 PM we have an encore of MIRRORBALL, and that’s followed by a classic episode of Ska Madness at 2 PM.
At 3 PM a new hour of The Swing Shift arrives after a three-month absence with a show that’s a random grab-bag of Swing music from the last century.
We bring you everything from an original member of the Stiff Records roster to a former Beatle, a pioneer of Punk Swing and some classic Big Band Orchestras. By the way, it swings. Check out the playlist…
The Swing Shift 129
Mickey Jupp “I’d Love To Boogie”
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne “After While”
Bob Crosby “In A Minor Mood”
Ringo Starr & Trombone Shorty “Coming Undone”
Wolfgang Parker “Minnie The Moocher”
Tyler Pedersen “Chasin'”
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “The Fixer”
Dominique Magloire “Swing Brother, Swing”
Louis Prima “Jump, Jive ‘N’ Wail”
Megan and her Goody Goodies “Blues My Naughy Sweetie Gives to Me”
Echoes of Wing “Orient Express”
Squirrel Nut Zippers “Beasts of Burgandy”
The Speakeasies “Bright Lights Late Night Lights”
New Project Orchestra “Don’t Be That Way”
Bill Elliot Swing Orchestra “Bill’s Bounce”
You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 8 AM and 6 PM, Thursday at 2 PM and Saturday afternoon, only on The AIR . You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.
As finished, it’s meant to look like weeds and water as seen at a riverbank as the sun sets.
In reality, it’s something very different. What I did was take a digital photo from 2008, print it out as a negative image on thick paper, and paint over it with acrylics and ink. I changed the colors, rotated it and turned it into the scene you see above. I deliberately wanted to make it look like something as far removed from the original photo as possible.
So what was it originally?
As you can see to the right, it’s a close-up of the windshield of a car I totaled in December, 2008. I took the photo in the junkyard when I cleaned it out, and on that very cold day it was covered with frost. I actually used the original photo as Monday Morning Art back then.
But now it’s a happier and almost calming, but not quite pastoral, scene. So I guess I took a sad photo and made it better.
Meanwhile, Monday at 2 PM on The AIR, we bring you a new episode of Psychedelic Shack, followed at 3 PM by a recent edition of Herman Linte’s weekly showcase of the Progressive Rock of the past half-century, Prognosis. You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on the embedded radio player elsewhere on this page.
PsychedelicShack can be heard every Monday at 2 PM, with replays Tuesday at 9 AM, Wednesday at 10 PM, Friday at 1 PM, and Saturday at 9 AM. Classic episodes can be heard Sunday at 9 AM as part of our Sunday Haversham Recording Institute collection. This week’s show is new, but as I write this I don’t have a playlist or even a clue what Nigel Pye has in store for his loyal mind-expanded listeners.
You can hear Prognosis on The AIR Monday at 3 PM, with replays Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 10 AM. You can hear two classic episodes of the show Sunday at 2 PM.
Tonight at 8 PM you can hear an hour of brilliant stand-up from Eddie Griffin on The Comedy Vault. Wednesday evening at 10 PM, we’ll have another new episode of The Comedy Vault.
Then, at 9 PM we bring you an overnight marathon of Prognosis, wherein Herman Linte makes sure that you all get your recommended daily amout of Robert Fripp.
Above you see our video wrap-up of the 2022 Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo from last weekend. Set to YouTube-friendly background music, you’ll see the people, the toys, the custom figures and dioramas and more, just like last year.
This year I just turned Mel loose with the camera and instructions to shoot short clips of anything that looked really cool. I used almost everything she caught on video in this 14-minute clip.
You’ll get to see lots of collectors buying lots of cool toys and having a blast doing it.
We had a great time and I want to thank Steve Stovall and the Kentuckiana crew for putting on such a wonderful show.
Because we’re still dealing with graphic limitations here at PopCult, I’m including some still photos below. There should be a couple more photo essays coming you way soon, including a look at the new Super Joe Unlimited figures which will be coming soon!
I call ths one “Still Life With Choppers and Space Capsules.”
Every time I tried to get a photo of the booth for the charity cosplay group, The Finest, the guy manning the booth ran out of the shot. I think he might be related to Mel.
It’s Christmas in August as we go back to December, 2010 for what became a last-minute holiday episode of Radio Free Charleston.
This was almost the year without an RFC Christmas show, but after a production schedule bedeviled by weather woes and other intrusions of life, I decided to call an audible. The original plan was that this episode of the show would feature songs from two local favorites, plus a song or two from the CYAC production of the original rock opera, “Mary.” with everything being tied together with host segments shot the Monday before Christmas while caroling with Dan and Penny Kehde and the gang from CYAC.
The taping for the other songs didn’t happen (through no fault of the artists) and I was left with the possibility of skipping the holiday show in 2010 when it occurred to me that I could record some of the Christmas carols, toss in some of the tunes from “Mary” and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. You can read the full story HERE.