Night Flight on IFC: Episode 18!

By on December 7, 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 eighteenth “Night Flight Highlights” half-hour episode (“Fame!”) 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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Director Amy Berg’s 2015 documentary Janis: Little Girl Blue — narrated by musician Chan Marshall (Cat Power), whose raspy Southern drawl adds an authenticity to the reading of Joplin’s achingly intimate letters — traces the trajectory of Joplin’s evolution into a star from letters that Joplin wrote over the years to her friends, family, lovers and collaborators.

Berg — who had the full co-operation of the singer’s estate, including her younger siblings Laura and Michael, who each provide revealing insights straight to camera — reveals Joplin to be much different than we know her to be through critical rock writer’s perspectives.

We see how Joplin — who loved to dress up both onstage and off in feathers, furs and velvet, wearing numerous necklaces and headdresses — broke new ground and inspired the generation of singer’s and songwriters coming up behind her, informing their knowledge of the blues.

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Her personal life, however, is mostly what we’ve focused on, considering how it has been flayed open for inspection due to her publicly turbulent love affairs and drug and alcohol addictions, which all played a part in her heartbreaking early death — in 1970, at the age of 27 — from a drug overdose.

Berg has uncovered a wealth of accumulated material to draw on for her documentary, including TV show interviews, San Francisco in the Haight-Ashbury era, on tour around the world including London’s normally sedate Albert Hall erupting with dancing in the aisles.

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Much of this rare footage shows us that — despite her conservative upbringing at the family home in the industrial wasteland of Port Arthur, Texas — she was able to follow her own liberal values in the wake of performing at Woodstock in 1969 (Joplin also performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in ’67).

We see how she was ostracized at school (for her views and looks) which may have been one reason she turned to her on-off drug habit for comfort to escape the pain at home.

We see how men and women drift in and out of her life, including a fellow free-spirt named David Niehaus, whom she meets in Brazil but who later moved on, depriving her of what could have been a mutually beneficial relationship and the influential Peggy Casserta, who encourages her substance habit.

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Publicist-turned-biographer Myra Friedman — who worked for Joplin’s manager, the formidable Albert Grossman — is the author the Janis Joplin biography Buried Alive.

Friedman’s biography likely remains the definitive work on Joplin, as the ones which have followed its publication crib liberally from it as a source for their own writings.

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Upon its publication, Friedman’s book drew anger from the rock community for the way it focused on Janis Joplin’s drug use/abuse, which of course led to disastrous results, but she also points out that her death should rightly be considered a wake-up call to the generation of musicians who were following the same paths in life.

Friedman’s Buried Alive is notable for its brutal honesty, but it may have been the first book about Janis Joplin to reveal that the “real” Joplin was not the boozy, blowsy, whorish good-time mam that was being portrayed by the media.

Joplin — who some may be surprised to learn had surprisingly conservative points of view about politics and culture — simply wanted to be loved and accepted so very, very badly that she was willing to put on an act, notably how she appeared when she was being her alter-ego “Pearl,” to receive the attention she craved.

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Also featured on tonight’s “Night Flight Highlights” is footage of the Doors’ Jim Morrison, looking stoned immaculate and barely able to string words together to form complete sentences.

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

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Read 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.

Buy “All You Need Is Love”

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Here’s an excerpt from Reba Merrill’s “Waiting For Whitney“:

“It seems to me I had been waiting for Whitney Houston for quite a while. I was to interview her for the film Waiting to Exhale and she did not show up, not only for me, but for any of the international interviews.”

“I had seen her interview with Diane Sawyer where Whitney made it clear that she was not on crack. I had watched, sadly, as she shrunk right before our eyes during TV appearances so when I did the interview I did not know what to expect and possibly, I knew, she might even lie to me.”

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“I did get to sit down with Whitney for the film The Preacher’s Wife, co-starring Denzel Washington. I was not surprised when I got a call in my New York hotel room that my interview time had been changed from tomorrow to “can you get here fast?”

“My interviews played in over sixty countries and it seemed like the studio felt that she was going to bail and unfortunately, she did. In fact, my interview was the only one done for the international marketplace as she was a no show the next day for international press.”

“My first question was “How has success changed you?'”

“She told me ‘Success doesn’t change you — fame does. You’ve got a whole world of people calling your name and you really don’t know them.'”

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Night Flight’s “Visions of Platinum” — which originally aired on June 12, 1985, and you can now watch steaming in its entirety on Night Flight Plus — was a very special “Visions” episode as it featured Night Flight’s brief interview with the famed producer Nile Rodgers.

We took a look at a few of 1985’s top-selling platinum artists and bands, including David Bowie, whose 1983 album Let’s Dance was co-produced by Rodgers.

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It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Grammy-winning composer, producer, arranger and guitarist — who has been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame — has been one of the most influential and important figures in pop music since the late ’70s.

Nile Rodgers has produced so many platinum-selling artists in his more than 200 production credits (and counting!) that listing them is like looking at a veritable Who’s Who of ’70s and ’80s pop culture icons.

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In addition to Bowie, Nile Rodgers has also worked with and/or produced (in no particular order):

Michael Jackson, Prince, Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Debbie Harry, David Lee Roth, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Robert Plant, Depeche Mode, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Grace Jones, Steve Winwood, INXS, The B52s, Philip Bailey, Thompson TwinsRod Stewart, Bryan Ferry, Al Jarreau, Cyndi Lauper, Howard Jones, David Sanborn, Britney Spears, Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera and many, many more.

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Some of the biggest hits he’s at least partly responsible for — including Chic’s “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out,” among hundreds of others — have sold upwards of a combined 100 million copies.

After his group Chic disbanded in 1983, Rodgers focused for a time on his own solo career, but ultimately he ended up spending more time in the studio working with other top acts of the day, including David Bowie.

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Let’s Dance, Bowie’s fifteenth studio album, released on April 14, 1983, would feature three of his most enduring hit singles: the title track, “Let’s Dance” (a massive #1 hit in the UK, U.S. and several other counties), “Modern Love,” and “China Girl,” which Bowie had originally co-written for Iggy Pop‘s 1977 album The Idiot.

Rodgers — who talks a bit about “China Girl” in this excerpted interview for “Visions of Platinum” — originally thought the song was about drugs, specifically “speedballing.”

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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.