The Anti-Remake Remake?

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Warhol, Wrestling, Muppets

This review was originally published a few years ago in The Classical Mess, a newsletter I was doing on Substack until I discovered they were giving money to very bad people.

Debbie Harry has always seemed remarkably well-adjusted considering her global renown. This image is not shattered by her 2019 memoir Face It. Harry unfolds the road map of her life and nothing, it seems, has driven her off sanity’s edge. Not sour business or lost love or discovering that world famous drummer Buddy Rich was one of the two 40-something creeps who followed her home at the age of 12 after making their intentions clear at a nearby lobster shack.

Harry writes about that mortifying episode and several other very traumatic incidents like they’re just wacky family stories to be told after a few drinks around the holidays. Is she too well-adjusted? Millions of people cope this way — downplaying visceral horror with a laugh or wry comment. Maybe she is truly unaffected. Either way, it doesn’t prevent Harry from coming across as a relatable, endearing human in Face It. Often it feels like the only thing separating us from her is we don’t own paintings of ourselves by Andy Warhol.

What are Face It’s revelations for the casual Deb head? Harry “made it” once with David Johansen back in the day. She admits she “was never a Muppet fan” and only went on “The Muppet Show” because Dizzy Gillespie had been a guest (Harry offers praise for Jim Henson, though, whom she labels “a big pervert, in the best possible way”). Also, Debbie Harry once enjoyed an Edgar Winter concert.

Then you have this fascinating aside about Lydia Lunch, that high priestess of the underground, and her devotion to Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Lunch, Harry, and Harry’s longtime beau Chris Stein were all wrestling fans and used to attend matches together. “Lydia Lunch was hot for Bret big time,” Harry writes, noting that “heads turned [and] eyes stared” when Lunch began screaming in her “earth-shatteringly loud” voice for Bret when he was on the card. I wonder if Bret Hart ever heard Teenage Jesus.

The back half of Face It starts to feel like a sprint to cram in every notable event from Harry’s life during the 21st Century. Now maybe you understand why Richard Hell halted his life story I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp around 1984. Harry’s work is more humane, though, and more human, so we bounce along, happily adjusting.

Gord

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about legendary Canadian punk band Teenage Head is the guitar playing of Gord Lewis. I love to hear him blaring like a siren during the opening moments of “Tearin’ Me Apart.” I love the romantic growl of his power chords across their debut LP. Everybody in Teenage Head played their asses off and the material couldn’t be written any better, but there was crazy magic in Gord’s style.

It was very upsetting to learn this week not just that Lewis had died but that he was apparently murdered by his own son Jonathan. Sounds like those in the know assumed something like this was going to happen. Gord’s brother Brian has spoken of mounting tensions between the father and son in recent weeks and that they were both “dealing with their own demons.”

Rest in peace, Gord. Thanks for the music. I crank the Head your honor.

“Faerie Tale Theatre,” Reviewed

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Here Now The News

I wrote a book detailing the history of the Ghostbusters movies (all of them, even the ones they didn’t make). It’s called A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever and it’ll be published this November by Lyons Press. Click here to preorder it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I thought I knew everything about this franchise…then I started work on this book. I think you’re gonna love it.

Before A Convenient Parallel Dimension, I was working on a book about the Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy. You know, the album it took them 15 years to record and release. I am pleased to report that Backbeat Books has asked me to complete the Chinese Democracy book for 2025. What can I say? Take me down to Paradise City.

I’m going to blog here again on a weekly basis and that includes some posts that will only be available to JG2LAND PREMIUM subscribers. For just $2 a month (or more, if you want) you can enjoy access to it all. The first premium post went up yesterday. It’s a review of Two of a Kind, a 1983 John Travolta / Olivia Newton-John comedy no one really remembers. Click here to sign up and check it out.

Remember, when you become a JG2LAND PREMIUM subscriber, you’re not just supporting me, you’re supporting my beautiful wife, my beautiful children, and our beautiful guinea pigs.

Thank you for all your love and support. Now let’s try to relax before Rob Zombie’s Munsters comes out and the discourse becomes unbearable.

Danny And Sandy Control The Universe

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Who Ya Gonna Call? This Book!

This November, Lyons Press (a division of Rowman & Littlefield) will publish A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever, a comprehensive history of the Ghostbusters film franchise authored by me, James Greene, Jr. Please scroll past the beautiful cover to learn more.

I spent four years researching this book, digging through vast library archives to paint as accurate a picture possible of the Ghostbusters films they made, the Ghostbusters films they didn’t make, and all the talent involved. I also conducted scores of firsthand interviews and curated a nice selection of pictures for the middle section.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I thought I knew quite a bit about Ghostbusters before I started A Convenient Parallel Dimension but oh was I wrong. It is my sincere hope that this proves to be the case for many readers. I also hope people who don’t know anything at all about Ghostbusters pick this up and say, “Hey, I like learning about these wacky ghost movies!”

Don’t want to say anything else as the manuscript is still being copyedited but I can’t wait for everyone to check it out. Ask your local independent book store to put A Convenient Parallel Dimension on their list today!

Talking About Heads

This article debuted in January on The Classical Mess, a newsletter I was creating on Substack until I found out they were doing bad stuff.

The offstage rancor between David Byrne and the rest of Talking Heads has become just as legendary and captivating as their music. I cannot tell you what reverberates through my mind more often — the brilliant quirk of “Once in a Lifetime” or bassist Tina Weymouth pushing the rumor that lead singer Byrne once killed a child “using voodoo.” Drummer Chris Frantz, also Weymouth’s husband of many decades, doesn’t address witchcraft in his 2020 memoir Remain in Love but he does swat at Byrne more often than he praises him. Reading between the lines, I see a guy who is hurting for a warmth and a friendship from Byrne that will never come. Maybe his wife hasn’t told him about the voodoo yet.

It’s probably disheartening to have such a fruitful creative connection with a person who simultaneously cannot or refuses to connect on a more human level. The flip side of Frantz’s Talking Heads coin is the cosmic bond he’s shared with Weymouth, a union that has clearly helped him cope with whatever traumas life has delivered. Weymouth and Frantz don’t need Byrne, personally or professionally. When this wife and husband debuted their side project Tom Tom Club in 1982 it actually eclipsed Talking Heads in popularity (Tom Tom’s upbeat single “Genius of Love” earned gold sales and a Rich Little parody, two things Talking Heads had yet to achieve).

Crusty “Saturday Night Live” heads like myself might be wondering if Remain in Love mentions early ‘80s cast member Charles Rocket at all. Yes, Frantz talks about Rocket, whom he knew during his college years at RISD. There’s a palpable affection when the author writes about his late friend Charlie and the performances he gave as singer for a group called the Fabulous Motels. The Motels did a spoof of “Sweet Soul Music” where the refrain was “Do you like big men, y’all? Big strong men, y’all?”

Rocket’s music career extended to include a guest shot on Mesopotamia by the B-52’s. Frantz briefly touches on this release in the text but only to imply that David Byrne’s production made it one of that group’s worst performing discs. No shot at Byrne is too obscure or petty. Frantz even takes a swipe at some drawings a young David made that Byrne’s parents had hanging up in their home. I’m sorry he hurt you, Chris.

Byrne will most likely do his best to ignore the fact that Remain in Love even exists. I think he should film himself reading the entire book in real time and release it as his next art installation. That would be fascinating. Would he agree that it was a mistake to end his relationship with Twyla Tharp?

Chuck Off

This article debuted last year on The Classical Mess, a newsletter I was creating on Substack until I found out they were doing bad stuff.

Chucky get iPad? No, Chucky is iPad. That’s the long and short of the 2019 Child’s Play reboot, a movie that drags the homicidal moppet into the 21st Century by turning him into a Siri-style smart device. It’s a keen and plausible route. Less plausible is the new Chucky’s visage — more Willem Dafoe than Cabbage Patch. Would consumers really go apeshit for a toy that looks like it’ll bust you in the stones even before it turns evil?

Well, Child’s Play is also a film that tries to pass off Vancouver for Chicago and winds up with something resembling Dayton. Any true Chuck head will tell you the problem here is that no one from the original Child’s Play films was involved with this remake. And yet the god Mark Hamill still agreed to speak the new Chucky’s voice.

Hamill excels at sounding diabolical (he’s been voicing the Joker for 30 years) but Chucky 2.0 doesn’t call for that. This isn’t the spirit of a convicted killer trapped in molded plastic, it’s a corrupt operating system that can’t grasp why you should never rip out a cat’s stomach. So Hamill’s “doll” has a measured cadence with just a trace of emotion, remaining placid even as the gruesome stakes are raised. That’s nothing like original Chucky, who carries on like Nicholson after a snootful of downstairs coke.

There are plot threads that don’t go anywhere in Child’s Play and a handful of character moments that fail to ring true, but nobody was expecting Scorsese level craftsmanship from the eighth Chucky movie. We came to see a toy kill people with drones and self-driving cars. In that sense, Child’s Play delivers, fully realizing the violent techno-terror haunting luddites in their sleep.

Only time will tell how heavily Willem Dafoe factors into the inevitable AI uprising. My guess is not very heavily at all but he’s surprised us before.

Another Age?

This article debuted last year on The Classical Mess, a newsletter I was creating on Substack until I found out they were doing bad stuff.

Anyone with a heart and a brain can tell you America is a land of disillusion, a land of embitterment, a land of anguish. There are systematic problems we refuse to address, even when the fix is simple, because we’re indoctrinated to be racist, selfish, and lazy. So the American experience involves grim acceptance. We try to ease our hopelessness with irony. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

You can hear all this on the 1969 Phil Ochs LP Rehearsals For Retirement, the acclaimed folk singer’s response to the dark tumult we stumbled through in 1968. The revolution was over, Ochs felt, a point driven home by the picture of his own grave on Retirement’s cover. Here’s a man resigned to an acrid fate of racial injustice, state violence, foreign wars, and toxic masculinity. Ochs doesn’t let that destroy his beautiful, compelling voice, though, and he hasn’t given up entirely.

“So I pledge allegiance against the flag and the fall for which it stands,” he declares amidst the simmer of “Another Age.” “I’ll raze it if I can.”

Phil Ochs had already drifted away from pure folk by this point. In fact, Rehearsals For Retirement was his third foray into standard pop and rock arrangements with producer Larry Marks (better known as the original singer of the “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” theme). What the pair accomplish on Retirement is masterful, from the delicate piano lilt of “The Doll House” to the hammy brass that accents “The World Began in Eden and Ended in Los Angeles.” There simply isn’t a false move.

Unfortunately, a fourth collaboration between Ochs and Marks wasn’t in the cards. Rehearsals For Retirement tanked and Ochs moved on to the bizarre final stage of his career. He began emulating the rock n’ roll stars of the 1950s in an attempt to, as he put it, “[get] Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara.” Fans felt bemused or betrayed by the singer’s glitzier attire and Buddy Holly throwbacks. Ochs watched his career evaporate as personal problems seized his life. He hanged himself in April 1976.

The tragedy of this concluding chapter makes Rehearsals For Retirement’s emotionally raw title track all the more heartbreaking. “The days grow longer for smaller prizes, I feel a stranger to all surprises,” Ochs quietly laments. “You can have them, I don’t want them…I wear a different kind of garment in my rehearsals for retirement.”

It’s a true indictment of our nation that the social and political themes of Rehearsals For Retirement continue to be relevant 50 years after its release. Maybe in 100 years we’ll have evolved. I’m not holding my breath.