The Wizard of Oz as a Parable on Populism, Part 1

Several years ago I had an extended piece on this website about the various interpretations of The Wizard of Oz and I’ll be revisiting those topics throughout the year (and beyond). Not only is this year is the 75th anniversary of the release of the MGM classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939), but also the 50th anniversary of Henry Littlefield’s article suggesting that The Wizard of Oz was a “Parable on Populism,” a rural political movement in the late-19th century. in the Spring, 1964, issue of American Quarterly, Littlefield, a high school history teacher in upstate New York, asserted that L. Frank Baum had written The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) as a political allegory in which the characters represented various aspects of the 1896 election, when the Populist movement mounted a serious challenge to the two major parties in American politics. Over the years Littlefield’s interpretation of The Wizard of Oz has drawn considerable comment, much of which has centered on whether or not L. Frank Baum intentionally wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as some sort of political commentary, and this meme has now taken on a life of its own.
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The Mystery Lights on Dig the Now Sound

Dig the Now Sound (Thursdays at 10:00 pm eastern on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio) plays standout recent garage/psych. The featured track this week is “Before My Own” by The Mystery Lights, a garage/blues/psych band based in Brooklyn. Earlier this month they released a self-titled EP and now they’re working on a full-length they hope to release in May or June. I recently corresponded with Mike Brandon, guitarist/vocalist for the Mystery Lights.

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Pussy Riot Update

Pussy Riot is again in the news and the Free Music Archive is once again featuring the Turn Me On, Dead Man compilation Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel? A Tribute to Pussy Riot. This compilation, which was originally released on December 23, 2013, collects songs recorded by fellow musicians in support of Pussy Riot during their incarceration. These songs are cover versions of Pussy Riot songs, expressions of solidarity, and calls for their release. All of the songs on Who Breaks a Butterfly upon a Wheel? were contributed by the artists under an Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivs Creative Commons license.
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The Omecs on Dig the Now Sound

Dig the Now Sound (Thursdays at 10:00 pm eastern on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio) plays standout recent garage/psych. The featured track this week is “My Mask” by The Omecs, a garage/psych band from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Normally for these posts I email back and forth over a couple of days but I’ve been corresponding with the Omecs for several months now since I first found them on Bandcamp. Their lineup has changed a little since then, but unchanged are the two principal members Luke Bonczyk on vocals and guitar and Mike McFarlane on drums. The Omecs have a great raw sounding garage groove, and I included their track “Can’t Get a Ride” on the Turn Me On, Dead Man mix of the best tracks of 2013.
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Dark Side of the Rainbow

This year is the 75th anniversary of the release of the MGM classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939). A few years ago I had a number of Wizard of Oz-related articles and I’ll be revisiting those topics throughout the year (and beyond). I though a good place to start would be the rumored connection between The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. If you properly synchronize the film and the album, as the rumor goes, a number of coincidental events occur. So many, in fact, that a large audience is convinced that Pink Floyd intentionally created Dark Side of the Moon as an alternative soundtrack to the film. Just to cite a few examples, side one of the LP is the same length as the first black-and-white segment of the movie; “The Great Gig in the Sky” begins as the tornado approaches Dorothy’s farm, builds as the storm worsens, and slows when Dorothy is knocked unconscious; “Brain Damage” plays as the Scarecrow sings “If I Only Had a Brain”; and the album concludes with the sound of a heartbeat as Dorothy puts her hand on the Tin Woodsman’s chest. Over time the “Dark Size of Oz” or “Dark Side of the Rainbow”, as it is sometimes called, has taken on a life of its own and references to it pop up fairly frequently.
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Crisis Warning on Dig the Now Sound

Dig the Now Sound (Thursdays at 10:00 pm eastern on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio) plays standout recent garage/punk/psych. The featured track this week is “I Don’t Wanna Go” by Crisis Warning, based in Brighton, England, from their 2013 EP Technical Difficulties. Though Crisis Warning draws on a variety of influences, their most obvious point of reference is 1977-era punk. Reaching back 37 years (Jesus, has it been that long?) is extraordinary given that all of Crisis Warning’s members are 16 and 17 years old. They play like the seasoned band they are, though. A quick glance at their Facebook, tumblr and Twitter pages reveal them to be a hardworking band that’s already had a number of noteworthy gigs. I recently corresponded with guitarist Jack Goring (I think). Or it might have been bassist Scott Holder–the name on the email account is Jack Holder, and he signed his emails “Jack”. On drums is Arthur James, and Oshen Dee is the vocalist.
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The Best Tracks of 2013

Following up on my previous post where listed the best LPs, EPs & 7″ releases of 2013, here is a Mixcloud compilation of my favorite tracks released in 2013. As I said last year, there is an ever-growing wave of excellent garage and psychedelic releases. I would go so far as to say we are living in a golden age. Bandcamp in particular has made it easy for bands to release their own material in a way that is relatively easy for fans to find. I just hope this run of great material continues. The tracks are roughly in order of preference with the obvious #1 being “Cannonball” by the People’s Temple. Just a great, great track.
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The Turn Me On, Dead Man Best of 2013

The past year was an interesting one for Turn Me On, Dead Man. The most notable events were the release of two Creative Commons compilations: Conspiracy A-Go-Go, a collection of tracks referencing the JFK assassination released as the 50th anniversary of that event was approaching, and Who Break a Butterfly upon a Wheel?: A Tribute to Pussy Riot. I also interviewed several bands, most by email, a few on the phone and in person. I hope to be able to continue along those lines in 2014.

I don’t listen to everything that comes out. When I made my Best of 2012 list last year I missed a couple of great releases–I would have picked Whatever Forever by The Migs as my favorite EP and Private Airplane by Connections would have been near the top of my LPs list. My apologies for missing those and I’ll probably make similar late discoveries in the coming year. Still, I listen to my share, and the Turn Me On, Dead Man Best of 2013 list is what it is: a list of my favorite LPs, EPs & 7″s that were released in 2013.
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