22 Jan 2024 05:00

E169: Penelope Spheeris on filming punk and heavy metal + Wayne's World

In this episode we welcome the legendary Penelope Spheeris and invite her to talk us through her extraordinary life and brilliant career. Barney wastes little time in asking the Louisiana-born filmmaker about the shocking traumas of her childhood and teenage years. We hear about her alcoholic mother's multiple marriages and the family's move to Southern California that led to Penelope putting herself through film school before graduating from UCLA. Along with the Saturday Night Live shorts she made with actor/comic Albert Brooks, Penelope talks about the pioneering Rock 'n' Reel production company that made '70s videos for everyone from Funkadelic to Fleetwood Mac. We also learn about her conversion to punk rock via Brendan Mullen's Masque club, where she shot SoCal hardcore bands like X, Fear, the Germs and Black Flag, the footage winding up in 1981's thrilling Decline of Western Civilization. From the first Decline we jump forward seven years to Decline II — and to a discussion of the '80s glam-metal scene that exploded on West Hollywood's Sunset Strip via bands such as W.A.S.P. and Poison. In addition we hear clips from Mat Snow's 1989 audio interview with all-girl quartet Vixen, sparking a discussion of rampant misogyny on the big-hair metal scene. With Decline II: The Metal Years being our guest's de facto passport to directing 1992's enormo-grossing Wayne's World, we ask Spheeris to recall her not-altogether- felicitous experience of working on the hit Saturday Night Live spinoff with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. We also consider how the week's featured writer "Metal Mike" Saunders bridged the gulf between metal and punk, tracing his maverick career from a 1971 Creem review of Sir Lord Baltimore's Kingdom Come to the 1978 formation of SoCal hardcore band Angry Samoans. After Mark offers quotes from recently-added library pieces about electro-pop duo Erasure, rapper Schoolly D and, yes, Penelope Spheeris, Jasper closes out the episode with remarks on articles about El Paso's At the Drive-In and David Bowie. Many thanks to special guest Penelope Spheeris. Visit her website at penelopespheeris.com. Pieces discussed: The Decline of Western Civilization, Penelope Spheeris: The "Mad Surgeon" of Film, Vixen audio, Sir Lord Baltimore, A Brief Survey of the State of Metal Music Today, Metal Mike Saunders, Angry Samoans, Annie Nightingale, Erasure, Penelope Spheeris interviewed by Richard Harrington, Schoolly D, At the Drive-In and David Bowie.


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