Sunday, May 15, 2011

Song of the Day: FIGURES OF LIGHT "It's Lame"

Yesterday I was out driving around, checking out the radio... WNUR had a snoozer of a Northwestern U. baseball game on but WLUW had guest DJ Miss Alex White of White Mystery spinning some of her own 45s on the Minimal Beat show. Everything she played sounded good... the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" sounded heavier than ever to me and I'm guessing it was because of the vintage mix and mastering job on the old-and-scratchy 45 she brought in. I guess I've really only heard it on CD, or on FM radio via CD. She also played Status Quo "Pictures Of Matchstick Men," which always sounds good, a little more so when it's not by Camper Van Beethoven... a newer band from Calgary, Canada called Myelin Sheaths that sounded pretty cavernous... a song called "Pepperoni Eyes" by that band Personal & the Pizzas (I chuckled)... but the real head-turner was a skeletal yet blasting mid-set garage punk number with a distinct psychedelic edge, sounding surely pre-1980 and maybe even pre-1970, just two chords with some sort of dubbed-out pause after each chorus, minimal backing, and the singer snarling about how "Your life, it's just a dream, about as real as a bowl of steam!" He says that in two different verses! When I got home I ran to the stereo and tuned in the station, just in time for Miss Alex to back-announce what she'd played, and learned that the band in question was called Figures of Light, which led me to the internet and the further knowledge that not only had the song in question, "It's Lame," been released on a 45 way back in 1972, but that the singer I had just heard snarling those words had gone on to be my film professor at the University of Nebraska some 25 years later! Go get 'em Wheeler! He was certainly one of the more mind-blowing professors I encountered at UNL, and, because he was a still a bit of an old-school self-promoter, I knew he used to hang out at The Factory, was good friends with Gerard Malanga, and had made a ton of independent films. And yet, somehow, I had not been aware of his proto punk musical endeavors. Seems the band was formed in 1970 to accompany a Rutgers University multimedia happening in which they drove a motorcycle onto the stage and destroyed 15 television sets (or was it 27?). I wonder if any future Plasmatics were in the audience...

UPDATE: Download an archive of this radio show here!


Alex said...

Glad this song made an impact for you! I love Figures of Light, and the whole set list is here:

Guest DJ Alex White of White Mystery on the Minimal Beat


Pictures Of Matchstickmen / Status Quo / Single
White Mystery / Power Glove / Single
The Beatles / Paperback Writer / Single
International Noise Conspiracy / Smash It Up / Single
Shadows Of Night / Gloria / 45 Single
Myelin Sheaths / Do The Mental Twist / Single
Bobby Fuller / I Fought The Law / Single
The Outer Minds / Until Your Dead / Single
The Electric Bunnies / Eskimo / Single
Frank & Moon Zappa / Valley Girl / Single
Mickey / She's So Crazy / Single
The Troggs / Give It To Me / Single
Les Bellas / Electrified / Single
Personal And The Pizzas / Pepperoni Eyes / Raw Pie
Figures Of Light / It's Lame / Single
Happy Supply / Camera Song / Single
The Night Beats / They Came Through The Window / Single
Mr Airplane Man / Johnny Johnny / Single
Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy / Pop-Stall
The Ponys / Double Vision / Turn Lights Out
The Outsiders / Time Won't Let Me / Single
White Mystery / Pumpkin Creme

Anonymous said...

It's Lame was reissued by Norton Records in 2006. It is included on Figures of Light's album SMASH HITS issued by Norton in 2008. Hey Figures of Light - time for some new stuff.

Anonymous said...

Definitely time for some new stuff!!

Figures of Light is an American proto-punk band formed in 1970 by Wheeler Winston Dixon and Michael Downey. Their latest project, the CD "Drop Dead," was recorded in Brooklyn, New York at Mitro's Studios, June, 2011, and produced by Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs, featuring nineteen new tracks from the group. It will be released on Norton Records in November, 2011.

They will also appear live with The Sonics, The A-Bones and others as part of the Norton Records 25th Anniversary All Star Spectacular at The Bell House, November 10-13, 2011.

Read Jackie Roman's photo essay on the session at:

Blog Archive