Author Archives: Rod Miller

About Rod Miller

Who are you? Who who, who who. Husband and father, son, grandson. Graduate, employee, friend, colleague. Writer, editor, proofreader, artist. Thinker, planner, builder. Also a minister. What are the odds? Still letting go of the 20th century.

The Return of Bryan White-Duke

Sometimes stars are born, not made. Bryan White-Duke was a born performer, appearing on the stage before he could walk and charming London audiences as a child actor, singer, and musician. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not cut his teeth on American blues or R&B, nor British skiffle or cabaret (though all those would be assimilated in his career eventually.) Instead, his earliest fascination was Brecht and Weill, a drama/music combination that still resonates in his work. After learning saxophone as a teenager and studying acting and mime, Bryan began exploring pop music. While White-Duke’s earliest singles betray a passion for, if not a mastery of, the studio, his style was far-reaching, encompassing folk and psychedelia, story-telling and straight pop. It wouldn’t be long before Swinging London led him to more direct, immediate expression of his music. Early albums still showed a classic theatrical influence and unconventional song structure, but Bryan’s breakthrough set, The Life and Times of Bennie Baal and the Hornets of Hell, was a hard-rocking affair with a three-piece band—Con Krimson on guitar, Robert D. Lover on bass, and Downey Michaelmas on drums—joined by White-Duke on rhythm, sax and keys. The album could have been recorded live in the studio and the band often performed it live in sequence. White-Duke practically invented rock theatre with the album, tour, and movie of Baal, introducing ranks of dancers, mimes, puppeteers, and extravagant sets, playing the role for over two years before closing the show down and moving on. He explained that he didn’t want the transformation to Baal to be permanent; he feared the public would believe he and the band were incapable of achieving any new or different sound. His next project, adapting and scoring ‘On the Beach,’ did have a similar sound, if only because he was still working with the Hornets. Many fans regret his decision to break up that band, but acknowledge that the old must pass to make room for the new.

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The new in this case saw Bryan release his favorites from his peers on ‘Snapshots,’ an album of covers recorded with the Hornets during soundchecks from the Baal tours. He followed this with collaborations with Joe Taft, Jewell Masen, Cary Page, Win Stone and others, both on their albums and his own. He wrote and produced Mitt der Hipple’s only hit and returned to touring with ‘On the Beach,’ but became enraptured with Philly soul during his stay in the U.S. and returned to Europe to work with Baron Ein. The five years away from the music stage yielded three albums, a stay with the RSC (including a turn as Oberon), film roles for Olivier and Terry Gilliam, and the birth of a new persona. Developing from his glam roots and recent immersion in soul, Bryan became the Dancemaster, releasing a string of modern, techno-dance informed discs that returned him to the top of the record charts and made him relevant to a generation raised on punk and disco. With a recommendation from the Mannish Boys, Bryan tapped Timmie Joe Bright for ‘Clubland’; Carl Silke was chosen for its sequel, ‘Blue Mood.’

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During this period Bryan introduced Virtual Bryan on the Web. Always on the crest of technology, White-Duke has maintained a web presence and participated in innovations for over 25 years. Through Virtual Bryan Web users could create custom concerts and souvenirs, conduct interviews, and access exclusive content online. As an artist who has always had vast reserves of material to share, Bryan has thrived with the virtual archive provided by the Web.

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Embracing new technology and formats included working with a new band. As hip hop pushed traditional dance music off the airwaves, Bryan returned to an organic band, modeled after the Hornets and using some of the players he had worked with long before alongside Jewell Masen. Shun and Nosy Slate and Rebel Graves joined Bryan in Big Engine for three loud, modern albums before he turned in a new direction. Despite the changes in format and technology Bryan has kept a close relationship with his fanbase, an ironic intimacy for an artist known for his facades. Some observers believe this virtual closeness has led to Bryan’s least-affected work, as recent releases dismiss the masks and let the performer appear as himself. His latest work, usually multi-format and alt-content loaded, have presented no discernible persona.

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Those personas, however, are a trademark part of White-Duke’s career, and luckily for the quanta program he has been a frequent contributor. His quantaparts are numerous and popular, from the first, the Silver Age Image II, capable of creating anything imaginable in sound or vision, to the glam-derived Space Driver, the techno Savaj, the current/classic incarnation the Morphing Man, and many others.

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 Discography

World of Bryan White-Duke

Silent Turning

Starship Troopers

Peachey Keen-O

The Life and Times of Bennie Baal and the Hornets of Hell

Gilgameshugginah

Snapshots

Time of My Life 64-67

On the Beach

Bryan Live

4000 Miles East of Detroit

Locus Pocus

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Less

‘Icons’

Proscenium

Hostel

Beneath the Bed

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Madeleine D (soundtrack)

Ode to Shakira

Bealz

Clubland

Golden Age

Bennie Baal (Soundtrack)

Pride and Precocity

Blue Mood

Minotaur

Always on My Time

Light and Loud

Live Loud London

Big Engine

ImagesBryan

Big Engine 2

Formal Feedback

Lama at Leisure

Beyond

Terracyte

Passage

Heretic

Cosmos

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Dr. Amwerth and the Quantas

I’ve told you about the Elgim and alluded to how Dr. Amwerth was involved with them. Everyone has wondered how Sam maintained Bop City’s record of safety, the perfect weather, even the seemingly impossible activities within the park. The answer is an interplay of Amwerth’s quantum research and the abilities and technology of the Elgim. While Amwerth had been quite successful with Quantum, the Elgim controlled and manipulated matter and energy with greater precision because for them it was organic and innate. The five represented the five ways their race manifested these abilities:
Lyno, the guitarist who assumed the Terran name Teddy Bulloch, possessed photo-manipulative powers.
Atomo, bassist Cal Moor, controlled the physical world: strength, endurance, resilience, speed, etc.
Xemo, guitarist Zachary Strother, manipulated the environment: temperature, the elements, gravity, pressure, magnetism, etc. Spiro, keyboardist Abe Hanks, was a telepsychic. Bongo, drummer Woody Thomas, manipulated soundwaves.

Elgim as band Because of the Elgims’ prominence in and around Memphis, Amwerth had an abundance of their genetic material with which to work. But the doctor did not work exclusively in combinations of the Elgims’ DNA. Instead, he had a nearly unlimited palette because Sam had requested a way to present the most authentic recreations possible of music’s greatest artists and performers. Amwerth drew on the genetic databank he (and, inadvertently, Sam) had collected to create the quanta-rockers, super-powered rock-and-rollers who provided security for the park as well as the most eerily accurate impersonations imaginable.
After only two seasons, Sam called his quanta rockers together to announce they no longer needed to worry about providing security. There were no loss-prevention issues, no health or safety concerns. The Elgim themselves (and later a handful of quantas like the Dude and the Bard) monitored and rectified all dangerous situations: no cars went out of control, no one stole, no one ran a traffic light. No one was hurt or died of preventable causes within Bop. It rained daily for 45 minutes; a minor inconvenience, and in the middle of the night. It provided a brief celebration for some.
Relieved of the security concerns, the quantas were repurposed. Sam conceived the Fight SeenTM: quantas would stage battles among themselves or with the new quanta-villains he charged Amwerth to create. It was an immediate hit with crowds, as they responded to the conflict the Park had removed.
An unintended consequence of this new direction was the rise of meta-villains Sam had not commissioned. None was foolish enough to attack Bop City, where it was understood that kind of random activity would not be permitted, but it did force Sam to turn his attention beyond the Park. He instructed Amwerth to create quantas specifically to address these threats, which led to another, much more dire development.
The doctor began creating ‘extra-Park’ quantas, beginning with the 4th Power, the Rebels, and the Answer. Basing them in London, they appeared to be beyond Sam’s influence. Luckily, the Mystery Tramp had been created the previous year and had been providing all quantas, both new and pre-existing, with the story of Amwerth’s larger plans. This had led to three camps of quantas: those loyal to Sam and willing to defy Amwerth; those who followed Amwerth and the direction he provided, including those farmed out beyond Bop, to the government and elsewhere; and a group who became increasingly independent, many of whom joined Billy Blue in a loose affiliation that would be quite important on the day of the Great Change.

Billy Blue

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Inside the Park

When Sam Bop opened his Theme Park That is a City in 1959, he knew it would a success, believing in his heart that the music he loved would prove just as important and endearing to his guests. His success confounded his critics from the beginning and continues today as Bop City thrives, adding attractions and entire themes to meet the changes in American music.

We always want to help our visitors realize they are a part of the Bop City family, so we want to share some behind-the-scenes announcements. You all remember our mistress of ceremonies from last Hallowe’en, Honey Sunshine; today we are happy to announce she has joined our staff as Director of Internal Operations. As DIO Honey will be in charge of customer relations, concessions, media–pretty much running the Park! Her demonstrated devotion to the Park’s mission made her the perfect match for the job and we couldn’t be happier!

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With Honey Sunshine’s recent promotion, many guests have expressed an interest in the rest of the Park’s staff. Naturally, most of our personnel have been with us quite a while, usually moving up the ranks. Some names may be familiar to you. The offices and departments they head were usually named by Sam and reflect his playful nature.

In the Park itself, our accommodations and hospitality adviser (A-HA) is Teppa Hennesie, hailing from Michigan and a newer employee. Our media coordination viceroy (MCV) is Kirt Keves, a California transplant. Another Midwesterner, Boris K. Mirkan, is Exalted Propaganda/Media Director (EPMD), and our human resources director, or Exalted Minister of Fairness (EMF) is Larry “Red” Gagne, from sunny Virginia Beach.

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We have two remote executives: Josh Monroe, director of our Cultural Board of Great Britain (CBGB), and Glen Eagere, director of our Office of Multinational Fellowship and Universal Goodwill (OMFUG), who operate from Liverpool and Toronto respectively and represent Bop City to the English-speaking world (the Australian office, Advocacy for Bringing Bop to Australia (ABBA), is seeking a director.)

The more technical departments have their own directors. The Never-ending Research to Better Quantas (NRBQ), or simply the quanta program, has had an illustrious chain of directors: Amwerth, Raley, Roont.

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Presently the office is held by Dr. Terri Fic, who came to Bop City from New England to chair this challenging program. At the other end of the technological spectrum—and from the other coast—is Sam Lee, director of Scientific and Technological Progress (STP), who oversees all the technical needs of the Park other than the quanta program. With Bop’s long-standing involvement with media, it makes sense that several departments have been created to serve the burgeoning needs. Jeff Ocee and Het Adare work hand in hand as directors of Entertainment and Lifestyle-Origination and Entertainment and Lifestyle-Production (ELO and ELP) to bring the numerous Bop productions to light.

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Needless to say, music is the most demanding aspect of running Bop City and the Park is gifted with hundreds of brilliant staff. Heading the main Auditorium for Broadcast and Cinema (ABC) is Michelle Lafayette, and the STARR (STudio And Recording Research) Labs are overseen by Tomar Zibor. The most sweeping of the artistic administrations, though, must be the Office of Musical Development (OMD), headed by none other than the Red Marvel’s original, Jeremy O’Rock, stepping into an official role with the Park while maintaining Rocko’s Records.

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None of this addresses the unofficial leaders within the Park: the mascots of specific themes, guides and personalities who add so much to the fabric of the Park. To learn about them and feel the spirit the Park carries one must visit in person, stroll through the alleys, relax in the bandstands, rub shoulders with the musicians, artists, fans, freaks, and followers who swarm to the Land of the Beat and the Home of the Rave.

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