Night Flight on IFC: Episode 11!

By on October 19, 2018

“Night Flight” was the most radically fun, nostalgically cranium-bursting cable TV program of all time, originally airing in the ’80s (and syndicated shows aired during the ’90s) during the wee hours on Fridays and Saturdays on the USA Network. Now we’re back on the IFC channel — and we’re now on at a new time, 1am east coast/10pm west coast, but as always be sure to check your local listings for time/TV channel location.

Tune in once again each weekend (check your local listings for the right time) to see a mash-ups of clips from rock movies and documentaries, concert films, experimental short films, weirdo kaiju monster flicks, computer art films, campy ’50s sci-fi serials, banned cartoons, and loads of music videos that MTV wouldn’t dare show.

We’ve had an online presence for a few years now with Night Flight Plus, our streaming subscription “channel,” which is where you can find all the above and more, supplemented by full-length streaming titles we’ve added from our content partners, including fellow cultural insurrectionists MVD Video.

Tune in to see why VH1 called us “the single greatest rock omnibus program ever aired” and Brooklyn Vegan named us “the most consistently weird and awesome thing on cable television in the ’80s.”

Read more below about our eleventh “Night Flight Highlights” episode (“Virtuoso Frontmen”) on IFC — the cable network describes these episodes as “A fever dream of classic clips including iconic rock stars, animation, and heavy metal music, a trip back to the boundary-pushing music and videos of the 1980s” — and be sure to sign up for Night Flight Plus to watch more classic episodes of the original ’80s, available on Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.

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Buy Frank Zappa: The Freak Out List

We thought we’d give Night Flight’s blog readers another look at The Freak Out List, and this previously-posted blog penned by Frank Zappa fanatic and Night Flight contributor Tom Brown.

This documentary film, which explores Zappa’s musical roots, is available now for our subscribers on Night Flight Plus!

Tom Brown writes:

Let’s start back at the beginning. I realize you may have been too young to freak out in the Sixties, but I suggest you may want to give it a try presently, and there’s no better soundtrack for that than the Mothers of Invention’s album Freak Out, which was released in 1966.

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The term “freak out” more or less was used as a new term for “party.” Freaking out meant you embraced an outsider’s stance, and you could express it by wearing outrageous clothing or wearing your hair long.

The album is credited in some circles with being the first double album, as well as the first concept album.

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Found within said album are 179 names that are credited with being an influence on Frank and the Mothers, ranging from various blues musicians, composers, writers, actors, artists, friends and/or acquaintances, TV personalities and everything in-between, including his ex-wife.

The Freak Out List also contains the names of Molly Bee, Bill Stulla (Engineer Bill, red light, green light), Jeepers, Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless), Fred C. Dobbs and others you’d never expect to see on a list like this.

It would be ridiculous to think that all 179 names are covered in this documentary, but the major musical influences are definitely represented.

From the classical world you will find Edgard Varese, Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg.

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The blues domain is thoroughly epitomized by Sonny Boy Williamson, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Little Walter, Guitar Slim, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Guitar Watson and others.

If you know anything at all about Frank Zappa, you know there has to be a discussion about R&B and doo-wop artists, and many are mentioned during this film.

We can’t leave out the jazz artists that are mentioned either, even though Frank always postulated that jazz was not dead, it just smelled funny.

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Interestingly no one can quite come up with an explanation how Zappa could love composers such as Schoenberg, Stravinsky, or Varese and have the same amount of adoration for the doo-wop genre.

In the documentary, the great George Duke — yet another of Frank’s converts — offers his opinion that Frank was a true musical genius and ahead of his time, putting it this way, simply:

“Hey, Frank loved music and to him it was all the same. He loved doo-wop, and when I first got in the band he had me playing triplets, and at first it irritated me. I was jazz guy, and this was the last thing I wanted to do.” (Insert ice pick in the forehead here.)

What it all boils down to here in this documentary is that Frank Zappa had perhaps the most eclectic tastes of any musician in rock or pop music. Even if you are unable to recognize his influences, if you’ve ever heard one of his albums or were lucky to have attended a live show of Zappa’s when he was alive, believe me, they’re all there on display.

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Buy: Queen: The Complete Review

From the back of the DVD:

It’s close to 20 years since the tragic death of Freddy Mercury [Note: November 24, 1991, and this DVD set came out in 2009; it’s now closer to twenty-seven years], meaning that Queen (at least the version that mattered) have been absent longer than they ever existed as the quite extraordinary group made so much incredible music between 1973 and 1991.

This 2 DVD set looks again at every album and standout track Queen ever recorded, and in doing so tells their fascinating story via their musical output.

Featuring their contributions from friends and close colleagues of Queen, and with comment and critic from some of the finest rock journalists in the world, plus much rare and classic footage — including seldom-seen photographs from private collections, a host of other features, and a multitude of “extras,” this package will prove a delight to the millions of fans who to this day worship one of the very few rock groups to have earned the accolade of “truly great band.”

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Here’s an excerpt from our blog post “Queen: Under Review 1980-1991″: Happy Birthday to Brian May, who proved “The Show Must Go On” (July 19, 2017):

By now it was apparent from Freddie Mercury‘s gaunt appearance that Queen’s lead singer was very ill, and music critics began writing that it seemed that he was dying from AIDS, which Mercury flatly denied.

He said simply that he was merely “exhausted” and he declined to participate in interviews, which created even more mystery about what was actually wrong.

Back in 1987, it turned out that Mercury had in fact been diagnosed as being HIV positive, but he didn’t take his illness public, and the band soldiered on, and they’d begun to work on tracks for their next album, Innuendo, which was ultimately released at the beginning of 1991.

In February that year, Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance, joining the other bandmembers onstage to accept the Brit Award, for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, which would turn out to be his last public appearance.

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Their album Innuendo was released in early 1991, with the title track soaring to #1 on the UK charts. Later in the year, “The Show Must Go On” — said to have been recorded by Mercury who could barely walk at the time — which was released just prior the the band’s second compendium of hits, Greatest Hits II, which arrived in October of 1991.

Greatest Hits II sold briskly — it ended up becoming the eighth best-selling album of all time in the UK, selling some 16 million copies worldwide — but Freddie Mercury was so ill that on November 23, 1991, he finally allowed a prepared statement that he made on his deathbed which confirmed that he, indeed, did have full-blown and deadly AIDS.

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Mercury died — officially of bronchial pneumonia, brought on as a complication of AIDS — within 24 hours of the release of that statement, on November 24, 1991, bringing to an end the original lineup of Queen.

Some of Mercury’s last moments in front of a camera were later captured in the These Are the Days of Our Lives video, from the band’s Innuendo album, which had been shot in May of ’91 (it proved to be his final work with Queen).

The single, so heavily loaded with nostalgic reference for the time when all of the band were thriving as a healthy complete unit, brought to an end the band that had conquered all of the world with their dominance.

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Tony Palmer’s ambitious All You Need Is Love: The Story of Popular Music — the compelling 17-part docu-series, originally broadcast on the BBC during prime-time on Saturday nights, between February 12 -June 4, 1977 — has been available, as of 2008, as a five-disc DVD set.

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Buy “All You Need Is Love”

Here’s an excerpt from our blog post “All You Need is Love: The Story of Popular Music”: Tony Palmer’s 17-part UK TV docu-series (May 22, 2018):

All You Need is Love — patterned on the popular historical British TV series like Alistair Cooke’s America (1972-1973) — begins with the music first made in West Africa before tracing how it evolved down through time as popular music, through Ragtime, Jazz, Delta Blues, Vaudeville, Music Hall, Tin Pan Alley, Musicals, Swing, R&B, Country, Folk and finally Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Here are the titles of the last five episodes — “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll!,” “Mighty Good”: The Beatles,” “All Along the Watchtower: Sour Rock,” “Whatever Gets Your Through the Night: Glitter Rock,” and “Imagine: New Directions.”

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Much like watching original USA network broadcasts of “Night Flight” episodes from 1981-1988 (not to mention our syndicated early ’90s-era episodes), watching all seventeen episodes of All You Need Is Love in the year 2018 is a little like looking at an anthropological artifact trapped in amber, unchanged and frozen in time.

Much of what is included in the series — all 14 hours and 45 minutes of it, in 50-minute episodes — remains unchanged, of course, covering the first 75 years of popular music.

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About Night Flight

Voice of a generation that spoke from 11PM-7AM EST Friday and Saturday on USA Network in the '80s. Back to enlighten and inspire 24/7.