Isabella Ibarra at the Southeast Career Technical Academy deserves a big round of applause for these excellent compilations she put together featuring the patrons of the Stratus Dance Club in the San Diego area (actually Spring Valley) in 1986 and 1987 dancing their asses off.
This was East County, and Stratus was an all-ages club that catered heavily to the new romantic and goth crowds—these videos are all labeled “The Metro Beat and Club Sanctuary Nights” which was surely a regular rendezvous for the new wavers in the area. Jane’s Addiction actually played Stratus right during this period, in the spring of 1987.
Back in the Canterbury Apartments days of Los Angeles’ punk scene Alice Bag, of the Bags, met neighbor Shannon Wilhelm whom she eventually ended up living with. After the end of the Bags—and more or less the end of the seedy Canterbury Apartments—Alice Bag was recruited to play bass for a new band called Castration Squad.
This early deathrock band was made up of Shannon Wilhelm (vocals), Mary Bat-Thing (vocals), Tiffany Kennedy (keyboards), Alice Bag (bass), Tracy Lea (guitar) and Elissa Bello (drums). The fairly unknown band was comprised of some quite legendary female rockers. All female bands were still quite a novelty at this time so it’s noteworthy that not only this was a proto deathrock band but also that there were six women in it. Mary Bat-Thing was known as “Dinah Cancer” as part of 45 Grave; Elissa Bello joined after a brief stint in the Go-Go’s and Tracy Lea was in Redd Kross. Lesbian folksinger Phranc (who’d been in Nervous Gender) also played with the group.
We’re a little short on details, but on Saturday afternoon the Chicago-based archival record label known as Numero Group—you’ve seen their box sets at the record store, you know you have—put up a cryptic tweet that seems to suggest that a Hüsker Dü reissue product is on the way. The tweet consisted entirely of the words “Seven years in the making. It begins.” along with a photo of a demo tape with an early, soon-to-be-abandoned Hüsker Dü logo on it.
For Record Store Day 2013, Numero Group put out four early songs by Hüsker Dü—actually a reworking of the band’s first single, “Amusement/Statues.” That first 7-inch had been conceived as a four-song 10-inch release but the eventual product had only the two songs; “Writer’s Cramp” and “Let’s Go Die” had to be left off. The Numero Group package combined all four songs as originally imagined, albeit on two 7-inches. Here’s an AV Club writeup of that release announcement.
The photo in Numero Group’s message is of a cassette, on the cover of which handwritten text “MAC-BRUCE DEMO TAPE” can be discerned. It seems likely that the cassette contains the Bill Bruce demos, which Hüsker Dü recorded in May 1979. The demos consist of six songs, including “Do the Bee” and “MTC.” That session appeared on the 2010 Personal Choice release The Truth Hurts along with the Northern Lights demos from Winter 1979 and sessions with Colin Mansfield.
A huge tip of my hat goes out to the excellent Boston-based music and culture blog Vanyaland and their equally excellent editor-in chief Michael Marotta for posting this previously unseen footage of The Police performing at legendary Boston club “The Rat” (or the Rathskeller if you prefer) back in 1978. The footage was captured during the band’s four-night stand at the Rat in October just before Halloween.
The legendary ‘Rathskeller.’
During the club’s heyday it played host to pretty much every band you’ve ever loved like Mission of Burma, Thin Lizzy, the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Talking Heads and the subjects of this post, The Police are just a few off the top of my head. Local rock and roll radio station WBCN (where yours truly got her start as an engineer and producer during the late 80s) was championing the single “Roxanne” from the band’s 1978 debut Outlandos d’Amour which was also rotating heavily on college radio airwaves. According to Jan Cocker who shot the footage, nobody—not the band themselves—has ever seen it. Until now.
It’s rare that I’m so flummoxed in determining whether I love or hate a thing, but here it is: The Smithsfits.
I also rarely go in for “mash-ups” unless they are particularly well done or so transgressively stupid that they cause me to laugh. The Smithsfits, as the name indicates, a mash-up of The Smiths and the Misfits, is fairly well done and it’s definitely stupid... but I just can’t decide if this is awesome or if it totally sucks.
Five of the songs on the band’s Soundcloud are Misfits songs done in the style of The Smiths and two of them are Smiths songs done in the style of the Misfits. I’ll give them points for mixing it up a bit. The singer does a fairly decent Morrissey impression. His Morrissey is better than his Danzig.
My unclear opinions aside, this is bound to appeal to some of our readers…
Many of my dearest friends happen to be professional musicians. Perhaps this is because it’s a talent I respect so much and yet possess so little of myself. But this also means that all my life I’ve been put in the position of having a friend send me “my new album” and there is always that moment right before I press play when I imagine what I would say to them if I just don’t like it.
I’ve been good friends with actress/singer Ann Magnuson for half my life. We met when I—a massive fan of her group Bongwater—proposed that I do a video for their song “The Power of Pussy” sometime back in 1991. I’ve seen Ann do her various extravaganzas live probably more than any other performer and have always considered her to be a major, major talent (even if Hollywood has never known quite what to do with her). She can act, sing, write songs, curate museum exhibits and she paints fabulous fake Basquiats. She’s an energetic all-around talent who excels in the DIY arena with a Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney-style “let’s put on a show” plucky work ethic. And her work is uncommonly smart and sophisticated.
Allow me to preface the following remarks by letting the reader know that as someone who reads, writes and edits the work of others all the live long day, I can’t listen to radio, TV or music with lyrics (let alone your podcast, random pesky Facebook “friend” who I have never met) during the workday, or else it’s impossible for me to do what I need to do. My wife works from home, too and she won’t have it. So we listen to classical music during the day around the house if we listen to anything at all.
When Ann Magnuson sent me her new Dream Girl CD in the post over the summer, I was pretty confident that it would be something that I would really love, so I immediately popped it on the stereo. The first number, “We’re All Mad” was lovely, a shimmering, gossamer—and eerie—folk song with classic Disney soundtrack dramatics. But the second song, “Be A Satyr,” a rambling drum-led beatnik sex rant reminiscent of “Help I’m a Rock” by the Mothers of Invention (and about as long) tested my patience to the point where I hit eject before the track was over, prompting my wife to remark tartly “Thank you.”
About a week went by. I tried listening to Dream Girl again, but I skipped around, failing to connect with any of it. Then one morning, I grabbed the CD to listen to in the car on the way to the gym. Now I go to the gym pretty early. The sun’s not shining and there are few other cars on the road at that hour. In that context, or enclosed environment, I was completely blown away by the brilliance of the exact same album that had annoyed me as I listened to it casually, with my iPad in hand, surfing Amazon and laying on the couch a few days before.
Now I think Dream Girl is one of the very best things I’ve heard so far in 2016. I listened to it nonstop for two months—for eight solid weeks, every single day—driving to the gym and back in the predawn hours and—this is the important part—giving it my undivided attention.
And that’s my message for you, the reader, who hopefully will take advantage of listening to Dream Girl in its entirety after (after!) you read the following interview with its multitalented creator. You cannot listen to this album casually and “get” it. Like a Firesign Theatre album, there are (apparently) hidden things, jokey multiple meanings and clever punning going on all over the place. It’s musical, but Ann’s vocals are as much spoken word as they are strictly singing. I’ll say it again: You have to pay attention to it, there is no other way to appreciate what she’s doing here.
And if you’re thinking this all sounds intriguing—or if you don’t believe my rave-review-but-with-a-twist approach here—for the next week we’ll be hosting a streaming file of the entire Dream Girl album. DO give it your full attention, it’s massively rewarding I think—and hope—you’ll agree. Try to listen in your car if you can. At least take a break and listen on headphones with your eyes closed and your head down on your desk (put down that mouse!) and dig Ann Magnuson’s dreamy and surreal theater of the mind. Buy the Dream Girl CD here.
I asked Ann Magnuson a few questions over email…
Richard Metzger: When you sent me the CD in the summer you wrote that it was a “return to your Bongwater days” but Dream Girl is super slick, whereas Bongwater was sort of shambolic psychedelia. What did you mean by that?
Ann Magnuson: I was referring more to the lyrical content, as opposed to the musical styles; a return to surreal storytelling via spoken word using my dreams, different voices, characters, sexual personae… and creating much of it through improvisation. But there are a couple of songs that are not unlike the folksy stuff I did on the BW records.
It’s wild that you say Dream Girl is “super slick” because it’s actually pretty stripped down, in terms of instrumentation, except for maybe “Cat in the Sun.” The Millionaire (from Combustible Edison) provided orchestrations on that. I told him to go full on sunshine-pop psychedelic with it and add a massive sprinkling of Yardley folk-hippie chick “Come With The Gentle People” Renaissance Faerie Dust. You, know, wooden wind chimes and flutes; lounging around in Mexican caftans at Nepenthe in Big Sur?
Like with Bongwater, I used my dream journals and a lot of improvisation with this new CD. Mostly, I just had fun in the studio rather than go in with too many preconceived ideas and arrangements. In that way I feel like Dream Girl has helped me get back in touch with my own voice as well as a sense of playfulness. In that way, the entire project was “shambolic.” I think we get pretty psychedelic in a lot of it, just in a very different way than Bongwater did. It’s a gentler trip. Although “Ayahuasca, The Movie” gets pretty wild!
Did “Cat in the Sun” start out as something you would sing to your own cat?
Ann Magnuson: Kind of. That one initially started out as a declaration, “Cat in the sun!” You know, like “Land, Ho!” or “Thar she blows!” Then it became more musical. And yes, I would sing it to our cat.
I’ve sung it to our cat. She liked it. I think she even got the “Band on the Run” joke.
Ann Magnuson: I am constantly making up songs and singing them around the house. 90% of them just disappear into the ether. But “Cat in the Sun” survived. So did “Be a Satyr.”
Dream Girl is the single most Firesign Theatre-esque thing I’ve ever heard that’s not actually the Firesign Theatre themselves—you’re a one-woman version of them—and I mean that as the highest possible compliment. It’s super smart, funny, nuanced and even though it’s primarily a spoken word collection, it still bears repeated listenings due to its innate musicality and to hear all of the “dog whistles” contained therein. I really think this “theater of the mind” format suits you.
Ann Magnuson: Thank you! I definitely take that as a compliment! I never owned any Firesign Theatre records myself but the older hippie dudes I hung out in high school with played Firesign Theatre records all the time. I heard that stuff at nearly every party we had back in the early 70s (usually when everyone was extremely toasted or peaking on something we shouldn’t have been frying our teenage brains on.) Yes, I love the “theater of the mind” format very much! That’s what I wanted to get back in touch with—simple, albeit “trippy”—storytelling; stories that were like little movies where the listener creates the visuals inside their head.
Didn’t we all grow up doing that while listening to music on headphones (or often with the transistor radio) before the tyranny of the image? (Which is now literally in everyone’s face thanks to cellphones.) One of the earliest memories I have is of a radio show that was actually piped in over the public address system in our grade school—in fact I think it was broadcast to all of the grade schools in West Virginia—back in the early Sixties. I think it was called “Talking Pictures.” The radio host would narrate a story and play a piece of classical music and we would all lay our heads down on our desks and just listen. Then, after it was done, our teacher gave us art supplies and we were instructed to draw or paint pictures, interpreting what we’d just heard. The one I remember the most clearly is Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.” Can you imagine any school—let alone one in West Virginia—doing that today!? I think it only lasted a couple of years. My mom narrated some of them since she was involved in the local radio station as well as community theater. I got exposed to a lot of radio and theater growing up and so this concept of the “theater of the mind” goes waaaaay back!
And yes, I love the ‘dog whistles’. I intentionally sprinkled in some specifically for the Bongwater fans; David Bowie’s toy xylophone being just one example.
Bauhaus, David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Ann Magnuson (as vampire Bowie’s soon-to-be victim) in the opening moments of Tony Scott’s ‘The Hunger’—the single best beginning to a film in all of cinema history???
There’s another self-referential one related to Bowie, too, when the drummer does the thing from “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” You know, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you what it was like to meet, work with, and even make out with him, which is weird considering how long we go back and what a major Bowie freak I am. So I guess I’ll just ask you that now…
I’m glad you noticed that drum bit! Joe Berardi really created a great percussive soundscape for that track.
The whole experience of doing The Hunger was a somewhat dissociative. There were issues with British Actor’s Equity about bringing over an American to do that role. (There was dialogue in my scenes that later got cut out in favor of the prescient MTV-style editing director Tony Scott was fond of.) I got the part after auditioning but it became an off and on again ordeal. Finally it was definitely off, as they ‘had’ to hire a Brit. Then, suddenly, at the last minute, it was back on! They flew me to London first class—on Pan Am no less—which was quite a treat as I’d only previously flown to Europe on the cheapo flying-bus airline Capitol (remember them?). Then I was there on the set standing next to Catherine Deneuve and Bowie and…. it was truly an out of body experience.
The cover of ‘Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead: Color the Ace of Spades’ coloring book by Feral House.
We can now thank the fantastic publisher of fringy Feral House for two more things—a pair of new coloring books based on the dearly departed Lemmy Kilmister and the Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie.
The cover of ‘David Bowie: Color the Starman’ coloring book by Feral House.
Of the things you get to color in the Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead: Color the Ace of Spades book are images of Lem as a metal version of Jesus’ crucifiction into the famous “Warpig” logo and shooting you the bird (because, Lemmy) as well as works by Joe Petangno, the artist behind the cover of Motörhead’s 1986 album Orgasmatron. Bowie’s book, David Bowie: Color the Starman includes artistic contributinons by filmaker and artist Mica O’Herlihy, illustrator Tony Millionaire, Plastic Crimewave (aka Chicago-based music historian and doer of many cool things, Steve Krakow), and underground comic hero Mike Diana.
I’m sure one or both of these coloring books are somehow going to find their way to a large number of our Dangerous Minds readers immediately. I’m also pretty sure either of these books would make a great gift for your Bowie and Lemmy-loving pals. I’ve posted images from inside the pages of both books below which are available now via Feral House for $15.95.
And as if this news isn’t cool enough Feral House is also running a coloring contest that kindly requests that you send a finished photo of your favorite images from either coloring book to them via firstname.lastname@example.org. Your handiwork will then be featured on Feral’s social media and you’ll be entered to win a copy of two of Feral’s upcoming coloring books for 2017—Muhammad Ali—The Greatest Coloring Book of All Time and one that you’ll only really need a purple crayon for, Prince—The Coloring Book.
Bebe Buell might have first been brought to your attention as a Playboy model or girlfriend to several major rockstars—Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Todd Rundgren, Jimmy Page, Stiv Bators and Steven Tyler—but don’t call her a groupie. (She prefers “muse” or “rock girlfriend,”) Anyway, that was then, and this is now. Buell doesn’t like to dwell on the past. In fact, this in coming year alone she has a lot planned. Having moved to Nashville after a trip in 2012 to sing on an Eddy Arnold tribute record, Bebe Buell uprooted her New York life and chose the southern comforts. “I fell into some kind of magical vortex that I think happens to some people when they come to Nashville. I don’t think you choose Nashville, I think Nashville chooses you,” says Buell.
Buell published her memoir, the New York Times bestseller, Rebel Heart, in 2002, co-written with Victor Bockis. “I can’t even read that book anymore. So much of life has changed since that book was written.” Now, Bebe Buell has three books in the works. “I’m compiling a coffee table photo book which will span my entire life from birth until now. It will have all never-before-seen photos. I’m actually doing the follow up to Rebel Heart which is Rebel Soul and I’ll pick up where Rebel Heart left off. I’ve been diligently working on that for almost three years now. And, I’m also doing a beauty book. People always ask me what my tips and my secrets are so I decided I’m going to do that. It’s going to be very spiritual, it’s going to talk about your inner state of mind and how where you’re at artistically and spiritually emanates in your physical being.”
Photo by Lynn Goldsmith, courtesy Bebe Buell
Bebe Buell first moved to New York after high school, where she worked as a model. She posed for Playboy as “Miss November” of 1974. “If people knew what it was like to do a Playboy shoot it’s very professional. It’s like doing a modelling job except there’s no clothes. You’re there to make a nice photo. I had no idea the backlash I was going to get. But that changed—look what happened in the 90s. Everyone did Playboy including Cindy Crawford. And now fashion magazines have more nudity in them than Playboy.”
She was always drawn to music and quickly found her way to Max’s Kansas City and CBGB. Buell is still close friends with Patti Smith and Debbie Harry whom she met early on, “They’re my girlfriends, these are people I’ve known since I was a young, young girl. I knew Patti when she was a poet, I knew her before she ever started singing. As far as Debbie, she was always a singer. I probably should have gotten started sooner than I did. But I had that modelling thing that Patti and Debbie didn’t have which gave me a lot of security financially. It gave me the ability to be independent. But as soon as I felt that I could, I was in it. By ’78, ’79, I was tinkering. By ’80 I had formed my first band the B-Sides. And by ’81 my first record was out. I got to work pretty quick.”
After the B-Sides, Buell formed the Gargoyles and then the Bebe Buell band. Now, she’s working on a brand new band and show called Bebe Buell and the Rebel Souls which includes Bebe’s husband, Jim Walters (Das Damen) on guitar and Mindy Wright on drums. Their debut show, called “Baring It All” will take place October 27th at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. “It’s a two hour show, you will travel through my entire life. We’ll start from the very first record I put out, Covers Girl, and we will play songs and travel through my entire catalog in the first hour. The last hour of the show will be all of my new songs, all the stuff I’ve written since I’ve been in Nashville.”
If having three books in the works and a new band isn’t enough, Buell also has a movie in the works as well as hosting a TV show. The movie is set in and will be created in Nashville. She has written it, cast it and will star in it as well as co-direct. “It’s my love letter to Nashville.” The TV show she’s hosting is called Routes of Rock in which Buell will guide viewers through legendary locations where famous bands were created, albums were made and rock n’ roll history was born. How she has time for all of it, I do not know. “I’m not afraid of hard work, never have been.”
Buell with Elvis Costello
In Rebel Heart, Buell speaks of her relationship with Elvis Costello and how in love she was with him. Their relationship did not end well. After reading the book, I had to know if they two of them had ever made up.
“You know, I thought we had. Around 2012, when Linda (Ramone) threw the Commando book release party for Johnny Ramone at CBGB, he came to that party and we hugged and he told me everything was okay. I thought we had sort of made amends. But then his book came out and I read his paragraph that he [added] in there and I thought, good lord, what’s wrong with him? There’s two sides to every story. I don’t feel defined by him. There was a time when I did, and I loved him so much it was embarrassing. I was also in my twenties, I’ve grown up a lot. As far as I was concerned, I thought we had made amends. I hope that he has found the happiness that he deserves. I want him to be happy. When I look at the relationship I have with my daughter’s father, I don’t care if Elvis Costello likes me or not. Nick Lowe said the best thing, ‘I don’t what he’s so upset about, all she ever did was talk about how wonderful he was and what a great lover he was.’ You live and you learn and you grow up. And I have such a beautiful relationship with Steven (Tyler), that’s the man I created a child with. Steven’s been in my life for 43 years. I figure that’s what’s important, family.”
To read an extended interview with Bebe Buell, visit Women in Rock.
After the jump, Bebe Buell on ‘The Joe Franklin Show’ in 1981…
Recently I’ve been listening to Four Columns by Screature a lot. The album came out last year, a joint release on the band’s Ethel Scull label and Sacto’s worthy Ss Records, and this recommendation to fellow lovers of bad and wicked sounds is overdue.
The band calls what it does “dark psych,” which is their prerogative, of course, but my ravaged ears and withering style detectors pick up a mainly goth vibe. Similarities to Bauhaus and Siouxsie aside, to me, that designation means: As I am entering the club and walking across the dance floor to the bar, the band on stage is not concerned with making me feel relaxed, sexy, confident, warm, righteous, angry, hungry or sad. They make with the fear. In fact, before even reaching the bar, I have to stop in the middle of the dance floor to use my inhaler and call my mother, and after the show, I am hesitant to approach the merch table lest the band steal my breath again. Panic is the idea.
So while the unhurried drums (Miranda Vera), hypnotic organ figures (Sarah Scherer) and reverb-laden guitar (Christopher Orr) are all integral to and necessary conditions of the Screature sound, what keeps me coming back to Four Columns is Liz Mahoney and the way she sings as if she has very bad news to deliver. You know the famous California vocal mannerism, where every sentence ends in a question mark, because, like, the pitch goes up at the end? Because “it’s all good”? Mahoney don’t play that, and she inverts the upward inflection to great effect. Her voice is smokier on this album than it was on Screature’s 2013 debut, so there’s a hint of that nice Richard Butler texture happening, too.
I’m not saying you and your friends should spend the night in a graveyard listening to Screature and drinking Boone’s Farm. I never said that. I’m just saying we’re all going to die someday.
Aggronautix, the company that makes those cool “throbbleheads,” has teamed up with Emoji Fame and GG Allin’s brother, Merle, to create just what the Internet needed: GG Allin emojis.
GG Allin, the deceased shit-flinging “Rock and Roll Terrorist,” known for his transgressive live act, lives on digitally in a full set of cutesy cartoon images you can use to spice up your texts. You’ll be GG LOL’n in no time with these scumfuc smileys.
Emoji Fame, the go-to company specializing in making emoji sets for musicians, has thus far primarily developed artist emojis for hip-hop and EDM acts. GG’s set is one of the first punk rock emoji sets available.
“Love him or hate him, GG Allin is an icon. The process of distilling GG into emojis was equal parts revolting and exhilarating, which I think is a good way to sum up his persona. The emojis we created for him reflect that duality,” said Gavin Rhodes, Cofounder of Emoji Fame.
“It was fun to think back and develop the imagery relating to GG and his legacy,” said Merle Allin. “These emojis are for you sick fucks who want to keep GG and his scumfuc tradition alive… Keep spreading the disease.”
In other GG goes digital news this week, the GG Allin book My Prison Walls is now available digitally for Kindle via Amazon.