James Chance/White purveying his single-minded skronky musical melting pot of funky, free jazz, punk and disco—an unholy No Wave gumbo that sounds like James Brown meets Ornette Coleman—in these four numbers taped in front of a French audience in 1980.
“I Feel Good,” “King Heroin,” “Put Me Back In My Cage,” and “Contort Yourself.”
Some of the best James Chance footage I’ve ever seen. Courtesy of the Bedazzled blog.
Don’t you love it when wonderful people find each other? Bub’s dude said “They telepathically shared meditation techniques”. Of course they did.
Of all the proto-punk auteurs and of all the famous Internet cats, there is no more potent combination that that of Jonathan Richman and Lil Bub.
There will be an impulse by many to infantilize this moment in glorious Internet cat/music history, the famously earnest Richman, Lil Bub with her adorable physical anomalies. But I maintain this is no less than a beacon! A sign that there is goodness in this world, and that we’re just beginning to live.
My favorite aspect of vintage smut is its ability to explode any notion of a time of “orthodox” sexuality. These, for example, hearken back to a simpler time, when men were men—except when they weren’t.
The Cramps perform some toonz and Lux and Ivy discuss photography, cars and gardening in this nifty concert/interview made for Croatian TV in 1998.
I have always argued that if it were not for rock ‘n’ roll many of its practitioners would have gone insane or ended up in jail. In the case of Lux and Ivy, it seems to have been the glue that kept them happily together for 37 years. You can see it and feel it in this clip - a love supreme.
Known as Pequeno Pecker, Raul Usieto Aquilue is part of Barcelona’s vibrant indie rock and electro-pop scene. I’m new to his music, but on the basis of this video, I’m rather certain that of all the hula hooping, ukelele playing, cross dressing rockers out there, Pecker has gotta be King.
Pecker’s got a groovy looking Spanish website. Check out his tune “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
Pecker covering The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.
Detail from Robert Crumb’s poster for ‘Louie Bluie’
Before I even knew who R. Crumb was, I was obsessed with Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel Ghost World (I know, I know, I’m in my 20s, give me a break). As per a lot of weirdo girls my age, I read the book and watched the movie religiously, eventually looking into director Terry Zwigoff’s more famous work, his documentary Crumb, which was buttressed again by my interest in comics, and my love of Zwigoff’s tone.
The root of Crumb and Zwigoff’s friendship was actually their shared love of Americana and roots music—Zwigoff played in Crumb’s string band, R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders—so it makes sense that Zwigoff’s first project was a documentary on Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, country blues fiddler, folk artist and expert story-teller.
The movie is an absolute gem, and Armstrong’s story and music, along with Zwigoff’s genuine love of the music, really shines through.
Gary Stewart had a voice that could make angels weep. It was filled with loneliness, heartbreak and obsession. His trembling vibrato and world-weary raggedness spoke of the darker secrets that lurked inside the man’s heart. Gary was spooked by a lot in life and tried to deal with it in the ways that many of us do: drugs and alcohol. When his wife of 43 years, Mary Lou, died of pneumonia in 2003, Stewart’s shaky connection with mortality unraveled entirely and he ended it all with a gunshot to the head. In the 59 years he lived, Stewart left a legacy of some of the finest, purest and realest country songs ever written. Heartfelt, but free of cornball sentiment, his sad tunes are the very definition of “tears in your beer” country. And the cat could rock. His upbeat numbers are stripped-down, no frills, dance floor fillers that honky tonk with the best of Buck Owens, Joe Ely, Steve Earle and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
I discovered Gary Stewart right around the time punk was starting to break. His 1975 album Out Of Hand appealed to me in the same ways that The Clash and The Ramones eventually did. Stewart made songs that were free of artifice and posturing. His writing was to the point and primal. There was no gloss. His distaste for the slickness of Nashville and the Hee Haw attitude of a lot of country stars made him an outsider in the staid and predictable country music industry and therefore considered “difficult.”
Stewart didn’t like being confined to a particular kind of music. He may have played country and western music but he had a rocker’s sensibility and wasn’t afraid to create music that at times was so emotionally stark and intense that the major labels didn’t know what to do with it. Fortunately, RCA records managed to release a bunch of Stewart’s albums without fucking with him too much. They are among the greatest records, of any genre, to be put to vinyl. The first thing I did when my band was signed to RCA was to demand free copies of all of Stewart’s RCA recordings. They were the best thing I ever got from the label.
There’s very little video of Stewart on YouTube that gives you a real sense of the artist. Most of the stuff is either poorly shot amateur footage or prettified crap from various mainstream country network shows. Stewart shined in dives. Here’s a couple of clips that I feel capture some of the soulfulness of the man.
This first video is from the early ‘80s and features Stewart in a TV studio in Hazard, Kentucky singing “Silver Cloud,” a song he wrote in a graveyard in Dallas (McDonough says Atlanta).
The second video is from some TV show broadcast in the late ‘70s. Gary’s voice is tentative at first but grows stronger as the song progresses. It’s hard to tell if he’s uncomfortable in a TV studio or just in the grip of the deep lament that is “In Some Room Above The Street,” a song that compresses what seems a lifetime of longing into a few heartbreaking verses. This feels like country noir, something Jim Thompson might have written if he’d had a heart.
If you’re interested in exploring more of Stewart’s musical legacy here’s a good place to start.