Night Flight on IFC: Episode 4!

By on May 11, 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!

Tune in once again each weekend 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 fourth “Night Flight Highlights” episode (“NY Punk & Spaceman”) 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 The Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy & Lou, 1971-1973

The Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy & Lou 1971-1973 — now streaming on our Night Flight Plus channel — is a fascinating documentary about the intertwining careers of David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop.

The tale begins with Bowie on the verge of his “Ziggy Stardust” era, so there are vintage performances by the original Spiders from Mars lineup — Mick Ronson on guitar, Woody Woodmansey on drums, and Trevor Bolder on bass — including scenes from the infamous farewell show at the Hammersmith Odeon (captured on film by D.A. Pennebaker).

There’s also plenty of footage featuring Reed from his Andy Warhol years, and Iggy during his time with the Stooges.

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Lou Reed was a maverick performer and songwriter whose unflinching depictions of life’s dark side influenced a countless number of bands. Night Flight’s Video Profile of Reed catches a true original at an interesting point in his career. Watch it now on Night Flight Plus.

Reed was going through a sort of identity shift in ‘84 — the profile is dated from ‘83, but based on the songs that are mentioned, our guess is that this Night Flight aired sometime in ’84 — having discarded his bisexual druggie image of a decade earlier and easing himself into something decidedly more mainstream and accessible.

During the Night Flight presentation, he’s surprisingly mild-mannered in comparison to some of the hostile interviews he gave during the ‘70s.

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Reed had actually considered retiring from music after five intense years as leader of the Velvet Underground; his tired mental state had been evident on Lou Reed, his half-hearted first solo album. Bowie’s support and Ronson’s musical talents helped give Reed the sort of commercial success he’d never had before.

Transformer would eventually be certified gold in France and Australia, and platinum in the United Kingdom. Reed even started wearing makeup and nail polish, a likely offshoot of Bowie’s own theatrics.

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There’s a poignant moment in this Night Flight Interview episode where Reed talks about his future.

He admits that rock works best with simple, upbeat lyrics, and that his more complex ideas might work better in fiction; if he can find the discipline, he says, he’d like to branch out and write short stories and perhaps a novel.

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Night Flight’s fearless leader Stuart Shapiro released the film theatrically in 1975, under his International Harmony label, and changed the name of the film from The Secret World War to J-Men Forever. It didn’t really attract its core stoner audience until several years later, when Shapiro bought the film for the “Night Flight” TV show and it began airing regularly on the USA cable network.

Soon, word of mouth began spreading between the Night Flight fan base (“puff, puff, pass…”) and Shapiro began hearing from fans of the show who told him they were making sure they had always had a video tape ready in their VCRs, on Fridays and Saturday nights, in case the film aired again, but they didn’t have to worry: J-Men Forever aired frequently on “Night Flight” and built a huge cult following through repetition.

Stoners watching “Night Flight” at home in the wee hours embraced it as kind of a late night “chronic high comedy,” a fact not lost on Proctor and Bergman either. After all, the J-Men’s motto was “U Cannibus Smokem,” adorning a stoned eagle.

Buy J-Men Forever

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The comedic screenwriters who wrote Tunnel Vision — Michael Mislove, a founding member of the improvisational comedy troupe The Ace Trucking Company (which also featured Fred Willard), and co-director Neal Israel — relied on the then-popular omnibus-style comedy anthology format to lampoon where they believed television would be heading in the not too distant future (the first movie poster also featured a tagline calling it “The funniest film of 1985″).

Neal Israel:TunnelVision is really cable. No holds barred television. Some of these shows we did as parodies actually became real shows later… even the style of newscasting that we did, the parody of real news, that’s the kind of news that Jon Stewart and people were doing decades later.”

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You have to remember as you’re watching Tunnel Vision — and at 70 minutes, it’s barely long enough to be called a feature film — that everything onscreen is taking place not too long after the American public had been able to watch the televised Watergate hearings on TV, and at the time the country was still reeling from Nixon’s resignation after the revelation of his involvement in the scandal, not to mention we were also trying to heal after our government’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Buy “Tunnel Vision”

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When Bowie came to New York in 1971 and signed with RCA, he was brought to a party where he encountered Reed.

Bowie was awestruck, and Reed was savvy enough to understand that the young Brit could be useful to him. It was during this initial conversation that Bowie suggested he produce Reed’s next album, which turned out be the highly regarded Transformer.

As The Sacred Triangle points out, it was Ronson who dominated that production. Ronson played piano on “Perfect Day,” sang background vocals, provided string arrangements for most of the songs, and as he humorously explains in the movie, kept Reed’s guitar in tune.

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On January 9, 1997, the day after his 50th birthday, David Bowie performed at a memorable sold out concert at Madison Square Garden — with proceeds from ticket sales going to the charity Save the Children.

A few days later, Marc Scarpa, C|NET’s New York Bureau chief at the time, interviewed Bowie, and he shares with Night Flight some of his memories about it. Watch the complete interview now on Night Flight Plus!.

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2016’s Iconic isn’t a true music documentary, we’re sure you’ll agree — the hour-long program is comprised entirely of three filmed interviews with David Bowie, captured during different points in his celebrated career —but even if you’ve seen all or even portions of these interviews before, we think you’ll still enjoy seeing the unedited full-length versions where Bowie is free to speak his mind instead of being forced to speak in soundbites. Watch Iconic now on our Night Flight Plus channel.

Buy David Bowie: Iconic

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Scarpa: “He has a lot to say and in fact had pioneered many concepts in the ’70s with Brian Eno revolving around organic computer and collaborative music making – all pre-web. Bowie was keenly aware of the impact of this not so new communications revolution that was afforded to us all via the internet and feared greatly that if governed or controlled would wind up being a matter of the have and have-nots in terms of access.”

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Brian Eno 1971-1977: The Man Who Fell To Earth — now streaming on our Night Flight Plus channel — documents six key years in the revered sonic innovator and rock renaissance man’s celebrated career, from his early days in art school, to joining Roxy Music and appearing on their first two albums, through his remarkably inventive solo recording career which ends in 1977 with Before and After Science, the last of four albums to feature his lead vocals, and just prior to becoming a recording studio wizard, leading to his work with David Bowie on the so-called Berlin Trilogy and his full immersion into an exploration of ambient music before the end of the decade.

Eno makes only a brief appearance in the film (in two soundbite excerpts from a 2008 BBC Arena interview), but there’s enough engaging detailed discussion here from all involved that you get the complete story (and then some).

The documentary also features several of Eno’s instrumental tracks snippets playing over archival footage from avant-garde and experimental films, like Pruitt-Igoe sequence from Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi, clips from Andrei Tarkovsky films and more.

Buy Brian Eno – 1971–1977: The Man Who Fell to Earth

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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.