Rock & Rule (1983)

The war was over.
The only survivors were street animals: dogs, cats and rats. From them, a new race of mutants evolved.
That was a long time ago…
Mok, a legendary super-rocker, has retired to Ohmtown. There, his computers work at deciphering an ancient code which would unlock a doorway between this world and another dimension.
Obsessed with his dark experiment, Mok himself searches for the last crucial component…
a very special voice.

Somewhere deep in the bowels of my garage are a couple of old paper boxes filled with old VHS tapes. There’s some pretty good stuff in there – content, in the parlance of our times. The Star Wars trilogy in its original form. The Rocky Horror Picture Show cassette that I had to special order and cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 bucks in eighties money – the equivalent to the GNP of a small island nation these days. (For comparison, the Blu-ray of RHPS is currently twelve bucks on Amazon.) I had Purple Rain. Altered States. The Transformers (animated). Some old wrestling tapes. Good stuff all around. Good times.

And then there were the recordable tapes. The extended plays. Three or four movies recorded off TV or cable. Among them is a tape I borrowed from a friend sometime in the late eighties. It’s currently 2021, and I have yet to return the tape. Sorry about that Scott. Get in touch and I’ll send it back. This particular tape contained Rock & Rule, The Kentucky Fried Movie and another flick whose title escapes me.

Now, The Kentucky Fried Movie is a great relic of seventies weirdness and as such would never play today, but the star of the tape is one of 1983’s finest productions, the aforementioned Rock & Rule. Birthed by Nelvana studios, the same company that created the Boba Fett segment in the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), as well as Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears cartoons. Rock & Rule is a bona fide stoner classic.

The animation is crude by today’s standards, but it is glorious. According to Wikipedia, Spin magazine once called Rock & Rule, “the greatest oddball sci-fi musical ever committed to animation cels.” It’s kind of hard to disagree.

The story is fine and dandy, but the primary selling point of Rock & Rule is the music. A duet with Robin Zander and Debbie Harry? Sign me up, buttercup. Lou Reed and Iggy Pop trading off vocals for Mok Swagger, the primary antagonist of the film? You had me at hello. Fun and completely useless trivia: Debbie Harry reworked Angel’s Song from Rock & Rule into Maybe For Sure for her Def, Dumb & Blonde solo album some six years later. Both versions of the song are pretty sweet.

As with nearly all post-apocalyptic films involving anthropomorphic rats and dogs, I strongly recommend you have some edibles on hand before viewing.

Grateful Dead – August 21st, 1993 – Autzen Stadium

In the early-nineties, I had a brief career as a concert security guard. Brief in the sense that it lasted all of two shows – the Grateful Dead and Neil Young. You can learn a lot about society at a Grateful Dead show. At least you used to be able to, what with Jerry Garcia being dead and all.

As an aside, Jerry Garcia died on my oldest daughter’s second birthday. I was blissfully unaware of this knowledge until I stopped to make a phone call in downtown Portland and a hippy came by channeling Paul Revere on his bicycle, loudly proclaiming, “Jerry got his miracle today.”

That moment still holds a spot in my all-time top ten moments of weirdness in my life. Right up there with the time the Dalai Lama waved to me, or the time the one-armed man from Twin Peaks rode past me on a bicycle.

How I came to be at this show was, well . . . the nineties.

I was in my early-twenties at the time, and still had a raging case of insomnia that wouldn’t go away fully for another twenty years. I spent a great deal of time going to shows and staying up till the wee hours of the morning playing chess with a buddy of mine, Christian Steve. As his name suggested, Steve was a devout Christian. As I was not, we had fun debating religion deep into the night. Good chess player.

Steve was associated with a group of freaks that orbited around a local indie band called The Clergy. Like a lot of bands The Clergy had a lot of hangers on, extended family and general riffraff. Unlike most bands they were all batshit-crazy Christians. I don’t mean that disparagingly either, they were all pretty cool people. Cool people that happened to be batshit crazy.

One of their flock was affiliated with a local concert security crew that staffed shows throughout the northwest. As I had nothing better to do, I got myself drafted.

Next thing I knew, I was on a yellow school bus filled with a strange blend of ex-jocks and Christian punks heading down to Eugene to take part in the spectacle.

At the time, I absolutely despised the Grateful Dead. I was a young punk rocker and blindly rejected anything and everything related to hippy culture. I signed up for duty mostly in the hopes of scoring psychedelics and tripping my balls off in one of the camps.

We arrived in Eugene in the late afternoon, met up as a group and received our assignments. The football players got the forward-facing positions – admission, stage barrier, etc. The delicate flowers such as myself got the cushy gigs.

My beat? The misting tents. I was there to keep the peace and ensure there were no shenanigans. Mostly, I just watched the Deadheads frolic in the mist with slack-jawed amusement. Every so often I had to tell someone to put their clothes back on.

The position of the misting tents provided me with an unobstructed view of the stage. I got to see both the Grateful Dead and the Indigo Girls sound check – which was a pretty cool experience – as well as the actual show. Does that count as seeing them twice?

When the show was over, I made like a sailor on shore leave and went AWOL. I left in search of adventure and mind-altering apothecaries. I found little of either, eventually calling a friend of mine to come and fetch me. A few weeks later, I was back on duty for the Neil Young/Pearl Jam/Blind Melon show. This time, I was dropped off nearly a mile away from the venue and tasked with directing traffic. It was during that experience – braising in the swelter that Portland passes off as summer – that caused me to rethink my career options and return to civilian life.

I eventually made my peace with the Dead. Having toddlers come out and wiggle dance every time Tennessee Jed comes on tends to do that to you. The process was a bit like the reconditioning in A Clockwork Orange just with a lot less fuss.

Setlist:

Here Comes Sunshine
Walkin’ Blues
Lazy River Road
Queen Jane Approximately
Bird Song 
The Promised Land
China Cat Sunflower 
I Know You Rider
Way To Go Home
Truckin’ 
Good Morning Little School Girl
Smokestack Lightning
Drums 
Space 
The Last Time
Standing On The Moon 
One More Saturday Night

Encore
I Fought The Law

The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976)

The Great Texas Dynamite Chase premiered on August 18th, 1976. As I was still a month shy of my fifth birthday, I was hardly considered a member of the target audience. Our paths crossed a number of years later when it eventually made its way to HBO. I still wasn’t old enough to be in the target audience, but there we were.

That I watched it on HBO makes this a pre-divorce flick. If you’re a child of divorce – which an astonishingly large chunk of seventies kids are – you tend to have a bifurcated view of childhood: pre-divorce and post. We had HBO before the divorce. Afterwards we didn’t have squat. I wouldn’t see cable again until my mid-twenties.

I have a lot of affection for this movie. Some of my earliest memories are of staying up late as a kid so I could watch it. Like much of my pre-teen viewing habits, I’m not sure what kind of parents let their kids stay up late and watch Roger Corman flicks, but that’s a story for my psychiatrist. The seventies were a different kind of beast. The lack of supervision was both liberating and appalling.

I would camp out in the basement of our house in east Anchorage, fighting the urge to fall asleep. It was seventies cozy with a pillow and blanket, parked out on the shag in front of a vintage wood-paneled television that held the approximate dimensions of a modern-day Prius. It was an old school Zenith, with both the power and channel knobs broken off so you had to use an old pair of needle-nose pliers to get it to work.

I used to play Pong on that bad boy.

Poorly.

First world problems.

Honesty, I’d pretty much forgotten all about The Great Texas Dynamite Chase a long time ago. All I had were a few vague recollections of two women on a mission to relieve banks of their money and the liberal usage of dynamite. That was it. I didn’t even remember its name.

And then it showed up on one of the streamers a few months back.

Reunited and it felt so good.

I watched it a couple of days later on a lazy Sunday morning while my kids were downstairs playing video games.

I planned for nostalgia, fond memories and innocent recollections of a simpler time. And The Great Texas Dynamite Chase brought back all of those things and more.

So much more.

What I had apparently forgotten about over the years was the amazing quantity of breasts featured throughout the movie. A mammary army, bouncing across the screen to and fro in all of their seventies glory. I was forced to reconsider the roots of my pre-adolescent fascination with this film.

I love the anti-hero. I will forever root for rebels without a cause and cheer on all manner of skullduggery. I always have and I always will. The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is fully-loaded on all fronts. But two plus two still equals four. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that all that rampant nudity probably had something to do with movie’s appeal to my ten-year-old self.

Imagine going back and watching E.T. after a few decades had gone by and realizing you forgot all about that scene with that cocaine-fueled knife fight at the topless bar and you’ll have a general idea of how much this realization threw me off.

The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is pure seventies cheese and I adore it so. It is a prime example of one of my favorite seventies tropes – the glorious moral bankruptcy of it all. One minute you’re working a shift at the local five and dime, the next you’re on a crime spree with total strangers. The seventies were not a formal affair; morals and sex came casually.

Let your freak flag fly.

“Look at mother nature on the run in the nineteen seventies…” – Neil Young