Night Flight on IFC: Episode 13!

By on November 2, 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 thirteenth “Night Flight Highlights” half-hour episode (“The Who & The Damned”) 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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The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead — now streaming on our Night Flight Plus channel — is an authorized biographical look back at one of England’s pioneering punk bands, beloved by fans (like the filmmaker Wes Orshoski) but — unlike the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Ramones, to name a few — they’ve been largely forgotten by the mainstream punk press who have managed to re-write history and ignored the fact that the Damned were there from the very start.

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The Damned — Brian James (guitar), Captain Sensible (bass), Rat Scabies (drums) and Dave Vanian (vocals) — formed the band in early 1976, and it was this original lineup who were the first to release a single in England (the ferocious “New Rose” on Stiff Records, produced by Nick Lowe and released on October 22, 1976), the first to release an album (their self-titled Damned, Damned, Damned, also produced by Lowe and issued by Stiff on February 18, 1977 (Brian James’ 22nd birthday), and they were the first to tour the U.S. (April 1977).

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They were also the first to disband (Feburary ’78) and to reform (April ’79). The Damned had briefly called it quits after sophomore album, Music for Pleasure (1977) was panned by the critics, but when they reformed, they soldiered on bravely without their original songwriter and guitarist, Brian James, releasing at least one certified masterpiece, 1979’s Machine Gun Etiquette.

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Shifting gears to add new members and along the way in the 1980s, they began to incorporate elements of goth rock, new wave and psychedelia while scoring nine Top 40 UK singles and releasing a series of fine albums — The Black Album (1980), Strawberries (1982), Phantasmagoria (1985) and Anything (1986) (those last two did not feature Captain Sensible, who had left the band in ’84).

In 1988, James and Sensible rejoined to play what was said to be The Damned’s final live show (released as their live album Final Damnation in 1989), and they reformed again, briefly, for a follow-up tour in 1991, before the band members decided they couldn’t continue on with the original lineup.

Buy The Damned: Don’t You Wish You Were Dead

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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.

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.

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Buy “All You Need Is Love”

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.”

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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The Who, The Mods and the Quadrophenia Connection — now streaming over on Night Flight Plus — is an in-depth look at the Who’s epic double-album Quadrophenia, one of the pinnacles of classic rock, which was released in October of 1973.

“For those who were there,” narrator Thomas Arnold says during the film’s intro, “it was a love letter to a time of rebellion and passion, music and belonging. For those who were discovering it for the first time, it was a glimpse of a way of life that had long since disappeared.”

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This 2009 UK documentary — clocking in at just over two hours — uses archival film footage from the early mod/rocker movements as shown on ’60s British TV news reports, and rarely-seen concert performance and interview footage of the Who (as well as clips of the Kinks, Gerry and the Pacemakers and others), plus excerpts from Franc Roddam’s 1979 film Quadrophenia and much, much more.

It’s all set to a backbeat of tunes by the Who — including “My Generation”, “Anyway, Anywhere, Anyhow,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “The Real Me,” “Sea and Sand,” “Cut My Hair,” “I’m One,” “Bell Boy,” “5:15″ and “Love Reign O’er Me” — plus vintage tracks by Georgie Fame, Booker T and the MGs, the Jam , the Chords and a whole lot more.

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There’s no participation here from the band themselves, but context and consideration is provided by: Richard Barnes (Pete Townsend’s friend and the band’s “Mr. Fixit” throughout their career); engineer Ron Nevison; mod experts Paolo Hewitt and Terry Rawlins; the owner of Acid Jazz records, DJ and broadcaster, Eddie Piller; members of Mod revivalists the Chords and the Purple Hearts; Who biographer and 1960s expert Alan Clayson; and a host of others.

Buy The Who, The Mods and The Quadrophenia Connection

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Best of New Wave Theatre” show that was previously released on VHS in two volumes by Rhino Video. This is the very same show, hand-picked and re-edited in 1986 by David Jove, the man who created “New Wave Theatre.” Discover what you might have missed when “New Wave Theatre” aired the first time on “Night Flight” and for more of the story, read on!

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Thirty-five years have passed since the first 30-minute episode of “New Wave Theatre” aired on a Sunday night @ 10pm, on the upstart L.A. public access TV station KSCI, on UHF channel 18 — a station dedicated to only broadcasting “positive” news and programming — and also the Theta Cable network, on channel 3.

In less than a year’s time, Stuart Shapiro — Night Flight’s creator and executive producer — would pick up “New Wave Theatre” and begin airing it during the last half-hour of his “Night Flight” cable TV show, which was then being broadcast nationally on the USA cable network, one of the first national cable television channels.

“Glad to get this jewel on our launch of NF Plus as a prime example of what our fans will get access to on our membership channel on nightlfightplus.com,” says Shapiro today from Night Flight’s NY headquarters.

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Today, Shapiro remembers meeting with David Jove in Night Flight’s New York offices, who he says was a “whirlwind of creative anarchy, a raging genius, and politically very irreverent.”

“In the early days,” remembers Shapiro, “USA had only one satellite, and there were no time shifts — if ‘Night Flight’ aired in New York at 11pm, that means it also aired live in the whole country at that same time, so it was on in L.A. at eight o’clock.”

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USA aired a mix of movies on the weekends, whatever low-budget films and shorts they could manage they could afford, but after a few months, they gave “Night Flight” a treasure late-night slot on Friday and Saturday nights in four hour sets, starting from 11pm EST and going til 3am, then repeating again once it aired, making for eight full hours of original Night Flight programming awesomeness every weekend, a glorious amalgamation of music videos, short films, cartoons, interviews, concerts, and cult movies — and the cutting-edge, truly original “New Wave Theatre.”

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It’s possible that you may not have seen a single episode of the short-lived “New Wave Theatre” – new shows aired for just two years, between January 1981 and March 1983, until “best of” episodes began airing years later — and there’s also a good chance you may not have even heard of it. If so, that just means you’re in for a real treat, especially if you’re nostalgic for public access insanity.

“New Wave Theatre” was part performance art and theatre (frequently offering up Dadaist comedy sketches and bits by Robert Hull, who appeared on the show as a huckster named “Chris Genkel”) and part experimental video TV playground (Jove liked experimenting with chroma key special effects, quick edits, roving hand-held camerawork, and inserted stock footage (Hiroshima, outer space, etc.), as well as providing an unrehearsed and often unforgettable independent music showcase for early ’80s Los Angeles-based punk, hardcore, and art rock bands, in addition to all kinds of uncategorizable acts, all of them about as far as you could get from the corporate rock that flourished in the 80s.

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Notable mostly L.A.-based bands who appeared on the show included mostly left coast bands you may remember — like X, the Blasters, the Circle Jerks, the Angry Samoans, Johanna Went, Dead Kennedys, 45 Grave, Fear, Suburban Lawns, the Surf Punks and The Plugz — but sometimes there were relatively unknown individuals and ensembles of one type or another that you may have forgotten about or never even knew existed in the first place (unless you were deep into the L.A. music scene at the time), like Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, Wet Picnic, Killer Pussy, Sexsick and Mnemonic Devices, to name just a few.

Buy a vintage VHS copy of The Best of New Wave Theatre

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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.