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Martha Stewart’s idea of a ‘punk rock party’ is the least punk rock thing that ever happened


 
So look: I’m a slacker to the bone, purest Generation X, product release 1970. When I was paying the most attention to pop culture—the early 1990s—Richard Linklater and Douglas Coupland were new figures to the cultural discourse, OK Soda was available in stores, Ethan Hawke was starring in Reality Bites, and Steve Albini was writing about fucked-up record deals in an issue of the Baffler with the words “Alternative to What?” on the cover. The point in me telling you all this is that (a) I’m comfortable with the term “sellout,” and (b) I’ll never not worry, at least a little, about something crossing over too much.

With these thoughts in mind, we turn to Alexandra Churchill’s recent article on Martha Stewart Living about “throwing a punk rock-inspired party,” which, I swear to god, I think may represent a new signpost in the debate about corporate cooptation of rock music, just like, say, Bob Dylan’s Victoria Secret ad. It may be the least punk thing has ever happened, right alongside the 2013 Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which took punk as its theme to honor the Institute’s exhibit “Punk: From Chaos to Couture” (if you haven’t seen the pictures in that link, you really need to click on it).
 

 
The pictures in the Martha Stewart Living article are utterly astonishing in their entitled, privileged cluelessness. Since punks are doomy and scary, they recommend serving “Spinach Ricotta Skulls” on a coffin-shaped platter, which obviously seems a lot more “goth” than “punk.” Their vision of “punk-inspired garlands” involve the use of safety pins—yes, MSL, you got that one right—and “plaid fabric,” which ends up evoking a Burberry’s catalog a lot more than it does the Bromley Contingent.
 

 
To be fair—which I’m doing despite myself—the text isn’t quite as bad as the imagery. Churchill at least has the wit to name-check “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “London Calling.” Honestly, if the phrase “ransom note” had even been mentioned as a possible design motif, I’d've let them off the hook completely. Apparently that did not occur to anyone. Instead they went with coffins and fondant with sheet music on it (?).
 

 
Even the one picture on the page that is within shouting distance of punk rock—the cover of the Police’s second album, Reggatta de Blanc—has this as its photo credit: “PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART.” Fuck the man!
 

 
I draw two lessons from all of this. The first is that the appeal of punk rock may be far stronger than anyone imagined. Punk rock—even the words “punk rock”—might be a toothless gesture in the direction of something angry and oppositional, but the root idea of it still has impressive staying power, to the point that someone at Martha Stewart Living wants to take some of it over and make it theirs, make it represent them. The second lesson is that there is still something profoundly scary about the anger and nihilism inherent in punk, to the point that Martha Stewart Living has to repress all traces of it and pretend that it’s a neutral style choice like the Pre-Raphaelites or Art Deco. Of course, it isn’t, and that very un-neutrality may mean that we’re heading for another 1977 moment in our culture sometime soon.

Here, MSL’s Erin Furey—almost an apt name, there—teaches you how to make Punk-Rock Inspired Pumpkins, or, er, “Studly Punk-ins,” at the end of which she hilariously throws down a “sign of the horns” hand gesture because it’s so punk rock!
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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JJ Burnel: Stranglers bassist, karate master
10.24.2014
07:41 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Sports

Tags:
The Stranglers
karate


If you find yourself in this situation, RUN.

Add this to the list of reasons to be very, very nice to Stranglers bassist and singer Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel, if you should ever meet him: he can kill you with his bare hands.

Burnel has, let’s say, a heavy reputation. According to the Guardian, the Stranglers’ authorized biography devotes no fewer than 20 pages to the subject “Burnel, violence.” The Stranglers’ former singer and guitarist, Hugh Cornwell, writes that he and Burnel fell out when the bassist attacked him backstage after a show in Italy, and that the incident was a factor in Cornwell’s decision to quit the band in 1990. Burnel had famously beaten up punk journalist Jon Savage in 1977 for giving No More Heroes a bad review in Sounds, and decades later, in an interview with Strangled, he was unrepentant about that encounter:

“I tracked him down one night to the Red Cow,” JJ explained. “And I punched his lights out right there in front of Jake Riviera, Andrew Lauder – our A&R guy, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe – all these people saw what I did. So yeah, we made a lot of enemies, bless ‘em, and these people got in a lot of influential positions within the music industry and literature… Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill… But we weren’t gonna suck up to these c*nts.”

 

Has anyone heard from the magazine editor who misspelled JJ’s last name recently?
 
Burnel, now 62, started training in martial arts at the age of 19. Since 1991, he has been the branch chief and chief instructor of the Shidokan GB organization. He is a sixth dan black belt, and as a teacher he has attained the formal title of Renshi. (I am just a flabby nerd from the suburbs and I do not pretend to know what these ranks and titles mean, but they scare the shit out of me.) According to the Shidokan GB website, London residents can train with Burnel at Slim Jims in Broadgate on Tuesday evenings. There are a few clips of Burnel in competition at the 1:40 mark in the segment below, from the ITV series After They Were Famous.

When most musicians say they have “chops”... oh, never mind.
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The amazing old Paramount Records ads that inspired R. Crumb


 
The story of Paramount Records is a fascinating one—the beginning is set about 100 years ago, in a Wisconsin furniture company that began pressing records in hopes that’d help them sell record players, which in their early years were indeed whoppin’ big ol’ pieces of furniture. The middle sees that furniture company curating and releasing a jaw-dropping and still legendary catalogue of classic early jazz and Delta blues 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The end of the story sees the closing of the company and disgruntled employees flinging those now priceless shellac records into the Milwaukee River and melting down the metal masters for scrap. The whole story can be found in greater detail online, or in the books Paramount’s Rise and Fall and Do Not Sell At Any Price.

What concerns us here are the label’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency. The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb. Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.

Here are a few of those ads. Where the ad copy is adequately readable, I encourage you to give it a look, because some of this stuff is priceless—I’m wondering how many old blues songs weren’t about wangs and adultery. Bear in mind, please, that the ads I chose to post here weren’t necessarily selected for resemblance to Crumb’s work. Some I simply felt like sharing because they were just too much!
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Ridonkulous ‘Beat Club’ showcase featuring Captain Beefheart, MC5, Alice Cooper, NY Dolls and more!


 
Beat Club was the German TV show dedicated to rock performance that later became Musikladen (Music Store), a show we’ve featured here at DM many times. I don’t know exactly what kind of acid they put into the performers’ (or the producers’) drinks, but this compilation, known as “The Crazy World” (and originally released on a Laserdisc) is totally out-o-sight and generally kicks ass. Enhancing all the rockin’ are a lot of groove-tastic green screen effects. The visuals on this show were almost as mind-bending as the audio.
 

The Three Faces of Vliet
 
The music is tuneful and heavy, all around. I’d scarcely heard any Flo & Eddie, but they hang right in there with the rest of them. I was prepared not to dig the Slade number much, but it rocked. Everything on this compilation rocks, even the otherwise sprightly number by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

They really don’t show music like this on TV anymore, like ever. I’m not sure people can even make music like this any more, maybe the iPhones are slowly sucking it out of us. Hmmm. I’m open to hypotheses.
 

Track listing:
Alice Cooper: “I’m Eighteen”
Alice Cooper: “Public Animal #9”
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: “I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby”
Phlorescent Leech and Eddie: “Feel Older Now”
MC5: “Kick Out The Jams”
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: “Fire”
Slade: “Goz I Luv You”
New York Dolls: “Lookin’ For A Kiss”
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band: “I’m The Urban Spaceman”

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Like Punk Never Happened’: Remembering Smash Hits, the ‘totally 80s’ pop magazine

Culture Club cover of Smash Hits July 19, 1984
Culture Club on the cover of Smash Hits, July 19, 1984
 
Music magazine Smash Hits started out in 1978 and was a mecca for pop fans. It had a strong rotation of writers back in its heyday such as Dave Rimmer (author of the 1985 book, Like Punk Never Happened), Mark Ellen (MOJO), Steve Beebee (Kerrang!) and Neil Tennant of The Pet Shop Boys. Regular content included interviews and pictorials but Smash Hits also published some fun features like “Bitz” (a smattering of industry information like fan club addresses and such), and was filled with pages of lyrics to the current top 20 songs (you know, so you didn’t have to keep trying to write them down on your own). There was always a centerfold spread, and in addition to the magazines eye-catching covers they also ran a special “back cover” with glossy photos of hot at-the-time artists like Limahl the spiky-haired vocalist for Kajagoogoo or the Thompson Twins.
 
Limahl of Kajagoogoo Smash Hits May 24th, 1984
Limahl of Kajagoogoo, May 24th, 1984

In 2009, Smash Hits superfan Brian McCloskey, an 80’s kid who had hung on to his copies of Smash Hits since youth, decided to rescue his collection from his parents’ attic at his childhood home in Derry, Ireland. McCloskey had the magazines shipped all the way to his home in California, tracked down copies he was missing in his collection from the magazines inception, then took on the painstaking process of scanning and uploading every page of every issue he had to his blog, Like Punk Never Happened. McCloskey’s collection of Smash Hits represents every issue of the magazine from 1979 to 1985.
 
Big Country Smash Hits April 14th, 1983
Big Country, April 14th, 1983

As I can’t help but admire his dedication to this pop-culture gem, I contacted McCloskey to learn more about his recollections from the early days of Smash Hits.

Smash Hits took music very seriously, but they didn’t take musicians seriously. A very sensible distinction. I think that people have either forgotten or didn’t realize to begin with that Smash Hits was quite a serious magazine. During their peak years they would receive thousands of letters - handwritten letters! You could read great interviews with real artist like Paul Weller or Ian Dury. After the magazine’s redesign at the end of 1981, the snark really took over. I’m glad that the my archive has reminded, or opened people’s minds to the early days of Smash Hits.

Gary Numan Smash Hits September 1983
Gary Numan, September 1983

Smash Hits continued to publish issues well after its official decline in the early 90’s, then ceased its print run in February of 2006. McCloskey updates his site with new vintage issues every two week and hopes to continue posting issues beyond 1985 with the help of fellow fans. I highly recommend you get comfortable, set your Pandora station to “80’s Pop,” then head over to McCloskey’s blog and lose yourself for a few hours. A number of images published during the years 1982-1984 from Smash Hits follow.
 
The Belle Stars Smash Hits February 3, 1983
The Belle Stars, February 3, 1983

Cyndi Lauper and Thomas Dolby lyric sheets from Smash Hits March 29th, 1984
Cyndi Lauper and Thomas Dolby lyric sheet, March 29th, 1984

Scritti Politti Smash Hits June 7th, 1983
Scritti Politti lyric sheet, June 7th, 1984

Thompson Twins Smash Hits November 24th, 1983
Thompson Twins, November 24th, 1983

Billy Idol Smash Hits July 19, 1984
Billy Idol, July 19, 1984

Adam Ant Smash Hits December/January 1982
Adam Ant lyric sheet, December/January 1982

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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Gidget Goes to Hell: Meet enigmatic punk/New Wave legends Suburban Lawns
10.23.2014
08:34 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Suburban Lawns
Su Tissue


Su Tissue on the cover of Slash Magazine, 1979
 
They don’t make them like this anymore. One of the great Californian punk/new wave bands, Suburban Lawns was formed by singers, multi-instrumentalists and CalArts students Su Tissue and Vex Billingsgate in 1978. Joining with drummer Chuck Roast and guitarists Frankie Ennui and John Gleur—in Long Beach, of all places—they called themselves the Fabulons and Art Attack before choosing the name Suburban Lawns.

A former Doors roadie named E.J. Emmons produced their first two self-released singles, “Gidget Goes to Hell” and “Janitor,” as well as their classic self-titled album on IRS. It is an outrage against common sense, basic decency and public opinion that this stone masterpiece has languished out of print for decades. The band’s final EP, Baby, also enriches collectors’ hoards.
 

 
I don’t have any evidence that Ray Manzarek ever said “Su Tissue was a shaman,” but if he didn’t say it, I bet he wished he had. For my money, she is the single most fascinating and enigmatic figure of the West Coast punk scene, Darby Crash be damned. Tissue released a solo album of piano recordings called Salon de Musique in 1984, after Suburban Lawns broke up, but her trail runs cold following an appearance in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. (Demme and Jack Cummins had co-directed a video for “Gidget Goes to Hell” that Saturday Night Live aired in 1980.) Wherever she is, I hope she’s enjoying her studiously showbiz-free life.

There’s not a lot of the group represented on YouTube. Here’s the gorgeous video for “Janitor,” directed by Denise Gallant, a video graphics pioneer who invented an analog video synthesizer in the 1970s. It may not seem like it now, but when this came out, it was positively high tech-looking!
 

 
More Suburban Lawns after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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In My Time of Buying: Pricey Led Zeppelin scarves designed by Paul Smith
10.23.2014
06:06 am

Topics:
Fashion
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin
Paul Smith

dddldzepsmith.jpg
 
In the 1970s nearly every glam rock band or teeny-bopper pop star had a tacky range of merchandise for sale that usually included a white silk scarf with the name of the band emblazoned on it, such as “Slade” or “David Cassidy” or “The Osmonds,” “Sweet” or the “Bay City Rollers” which fans would hold aloft with religious devotion during concerts. Now this idea of a fan scarf has been taken one step further in an unusual collaboration between Led Zeppelin and British fashion designer Paul Smith.

The talented Mr. Smith has produced a series of six “exceptional limited edition” scarves to coincide with the release of Led Zeppelin’s nine remastered albums. Six scarves are now available: five depicting the covers to the first five Led Zeppelin albums, and a sixth featuring the band.

The design of the artwork for the first three releases – “Led Zeppelin”, “Led Zeppelin II” and “Led Zeppelin III” – has been reinterpreted on three different scarves each measuring 1.5 metres by 1.5 metres. Translating the intricacy of the renowned imagery onto fabric proved a challenging task but, by taking a different approach to each scarf, Paul Smith has come up with three truly unique items.

A photographic weaving technique has been employed for the largely monochromatic “Led Zeppelin”, with the red detail being added using a fine fil coupe yarn. The eight colours of the “Led Zeppelin II” artwork demanded an alternative approach and four different quality yarns were combined to reflect the richness of the colourful design. The psychedelia of “Led Zeppelin III” is depicted with a combination of boucle and merino wool to exquisite effect.

(The spinning volvolle from inside the Led Zeppelin III album cover probably would have made for the best textile design, but what do I know?)
 
gggledzpsmithggg.jpg
 
bbb3lzpsmith.jpg
 
Further designs for Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy, which “have been jacquard woven onto two further scarves and a brand new spectacular design has been created for the sixth scarf,” are also available.

The scarves come in limited editions of 50, and cost $665 (£395) each, which is slightly over the current exchange rate of $632.

You’d have to be as rich as Jimmy Page is to afford these things! I suppose once these babies sell out the next stage may be a cheaper mass produced version for the less well heeled Zeppelin fan? No?

Who would have thunk that the lowly fan scarf would one day become an expensive high fashion statement?

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The kid from the ‘Balloon Boy’ hoax made a metal video. And, surprise! (not really) it’s awful

Heene Boyz Finger it Out album cover
The Fingered it Out album cover
 
Or should I say kids, because young Falcon Heene (the boy who never was flying over Colorado in a balloon back in 2009) has put together a metal band with his brothers Ryo and Bradford called Heene Boyz. As you might have already guessed, the young lads are being managed by the man very same man who orchestrated the whole balloon fiasco (with the help of his wife Mayumi), their father Richard Heene.

Falcon Heene, now eleven is the trio’s vocalist and brothers Ryo (age thirteen on drums), and Bradford (age fifteen on guitar) are currently trying to bill themselves as the “youngest metal band in the world,” a distinction that the Heene Boyz technically share with Brooklyn middle-schoolers Unlocking the Truth who are all now between the ages of twelve and thirteen, as well as Japanese band Baby Metal who are all about fourteen now. But I digress.
 
Balloon Boy Hoax headline
 
Their big song is called “Balloon Boy No Hoax.” A title that sounds exactly like it was written by an eleven-year-old whose name will always be synonymous with “Balloon Boy.” Remarkably, as the snappy title implies, the lyrics to the song attempt to denounce the fact that “Balloongate 2009” was a hoax in the first place. The boys even take a lyrical swipe at journalist Wolf Blitzer (“Who the hell is Wolf?”). Blitzer was the lucky journo who got to interview the family during a night when he was guest-hosting for Larry King on October 15th, 2009, the same day the hoax went down. When Blitzer asked Richard Heene to clarify what his son was doing hiding in the attic of the family’s garage, he obliged and asked Falcon (who was only six at the time) to respond. The kindergartner answered “You guys said we did this for the show.” (At that point, Richard Heene put on his best dog and pony show in an attempt to deflect Blitzer’s repeated requests to get Falcon to repeat the massive VERBAL BOMB he had just dropped. Heene got all defensive and the rest is history. Both parents spent a short time in jail and Richard Heene’s probation period ended last year.
 
Heene Boyz Balloon Boy No Hoax video
 
So without further adieu, here’s “Balloon Boy No Hoax” from the album Fingered it Out. And yeah, they made a video for the title track and it’s even worse than the song.

Yeah Mr. Heene, your kids are going to turn out just fine.
 

 
 
Via Metal Sucks

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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The roots of San Francisco punk: The Deaf Club, 1978-1980
10.22.2014
11:38 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Dead Kennedys
Tuxedomoon
The Deaf Club


 
When punk hit San Francisco in the late 1970s, it needed a venue. Typically, the S.F. venues generally gave punk the cold shoulder, so a more creative solution proved necessary. Robert Hanrahan, manager of The Offs, was able to take over what had actually been a club for the deaf that had existed in that location (16th and Valencia) since the 1930s and turned it into a vital, scorching venue for bands like Dead Kennedys, D.O.A., The Subhumans, Tuxedomoon, X, Flipper, and The Germs. It didn’t last long, but while it was open it provided the Bay Area punk scene with its first legendary venue. It opened on December 9, 1978 and closed in the mid- to late 1980. As Jello Biafra himself said, “The magic of the Deaf Club was its intimate sweaty atmosphere, kind of like a great big house party.”
 

 
Robert Hanrahan remembered finding the place: “I bought a burrito at La Cumbre and noticed a sign on the fire escape across the street. It said ‘Hall for Rent.’ I went up the flights of stairs and saw two guys watching TV with the sound off. After a very short while, I realized we weren’t going to communicate, so I wrote on a piece of paper that I wanted to rent the place. Bill—I never knew his last name—was a mustachioed, lascivious, cigar-chewing character who apparently was in charge. He wrote ‘OK & $250,’ so I wrote ‘OK.’”

On Found S.F., there is an invaluable page describing some of the history of the Deaf Club. The first show featured The Offs, The Mutants, and On the Rag. The show was “dark & very crowded.” Sensing a fracas, the cops showed up but didn’t stick around. My favorite bit from account of the first night: “Lots of hand signals between old & young club members.”
 

 
A possibly unique aspect of the club was the constant presence of actual deaf people in the hall, who didn’t know what to make of their unruly musical cohorts—but counterintuitively, they did seem to enjoy the music. Indeed, punk music might be tailor-made for deaf people to enjoy, because of the constant frenetic thudding of the 4/4 beat that can be sensed as vibrations. As Penelope Houston of The Avengers said, “It was kind of amazing. I think they were dancing to the vibrations. The deaf people were amused that all these punks wanted to come in and rent their room and have these shows.” According to artist Winston Smith, “They put their hands on the table and they could hear the music. It was music they could appreciate because it was so loud.”
 

 
Nothing was easy for a venue like the Deaf Club, whose main strategy for staying open was to keep a low profile. Essentially it was scarcely known outside the punk community. The cops, however, frequently instigated temporary closures due to complaints about the noise from neighbors. The Chicano community in the vicinity “resented what they considered a “punk invasion” of their territory — like one night 3 young machos gangbusted up the stairs & immediately started slugging men & women alike until they were finally forced out by sheer numbers of a surprised/rallied crowd just drinking & dancing.”

In 1980 Gammon Records released Can You Hear Me? Music from the Deaf Club, a compilation featuring many of the club’s mainstays, including the Offs, the Mutants, Pink Section, Dead Kennedys, and so forth. In 2004 the Dead Kennedys released Live at the Deaf Club. Interesting aspects of the show include the purportedly “disco version” of “Kill the Poor” as well as their closing covers—the Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas.”
 
Some terrific full-length concerts from the Deaf Club after the jump…...
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Troma classics ‘Surf Nazis Must Die’ and ‘Street Trash’ soundtracks released on vinyl
10.22.2014
10:53 am

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
soundtracks
Troma

Surf Nazis Must Die album cover
 
Troma fans, B movie freaks and 80’s kids rejoice! The first physical release for the soundtracks of two 1987 cult films, Surf Nazis Must Die and Street Trash are now available to spin on your very own turntable. Neither synthed-out soundtrack has ever been available before, unless of course you’re the proud owner of a beat-up bootlegged cassette you’ve been holding onto since high school.

The first pressing for Surf Nazis (composed by Jon McCallum who also did the soundtrack for the equally excellent Miami Connection), was limited to 1000 copies. 800 were pressed on standard black 180 gram vinyl and another 200 blue and red “Blood in the Water” colored variations were distributed at random by Strange Disc Records, in a gorgeous old-school gatefold for which McCallum also did the stunning cover art for. If you are a lover of movie soundtracks and vinyl, this one can still be had for the low price of $20 over at Strange Disc’s online store. 400 copies of a cassette version of the soundtrack were also released exclusively on Cassette Store Day this year (September 27th), and are available now for seven bucks over at one of my favorite record labels, Light in the Attic.
 
Street Trash album cover
 
The movie soundtrack for the greatest movie Troma ever made, the gloriously gross Street Trash also saw the light of day for the first time last month, and the pressing will not disappoint the movies die-hard fans. Composed by Rick Ulfik, the album is being distributed by Lunaris Records for a mere $20 bucks and is available in standard black, opaque yellow, and a color called “Toilet Blue” in honor of the infamous Street Trash toilet melt-down scene. The release includes liner notes from Ulfik, the single “We Do Things My Way” written by producer Tony Camillo (who’s worked with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Parliament) and is performed by actor Tony Darrow (who Martin Scorsese cast in Goodfellas after seeing his performance in Street Trash). It’s also available on cassette for eight bucks. Squeee! If you are a vinyl addict like me, you may want to sit down while viewing the following images and the video trailer heralding the Surf Nazis release.
 
Surf Nazis Must Die Blood in the Water colored vinyl
 
Surf Nazis Must Die cassette
 
Street Trash
Street Trash “toilet blue” vinyl
 

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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