Paul Tschinkel’s Inner Tube may have been low rent, but it was one of the grooviest TV rock shows in the history of the medium. The show ran on Manhattan cable from 1974 to 1984. With a shoestring budget, Paul managed to capture the raw energy of what is arguably the last great era in rock and roll. He filmed seminal performances from musicians like Klaus Nomi, Lydia Lunch, DNA, The Contortions, Johnny Thunders, The Blessed, The Cramps and many many more members of New York City’s punk and no wave scene.
Here’s some very cool footage from Inner Tube of The Cramps performing “Beautiful Gardens” at the Mudd Club in 1981. Who needed the Internet when TV was this good.
Oh my, oh me
What in the world’s come over me?
I’m seeing things that I should never see!
Spiders in my eyelids and ghosts in the cheese!
What in the world’s come over me?
I’ve lost touch with reality!
The video features the second best lineup of The Cramps (my personal favorite was with Bryan Gregory on guitar): Lux Interior, Ivy Rorschach, Kid Congo and Nick Knox. While versions of this video have floated around the ‘net, this is by far the best looking and sounding. It’s from the source. Many thanks to Paul Tschinkel.
They had a couple of people there passing around ideas. The first one was these leather outfits that were monochrome — someone in solid red, someone in solid yellow. They had fringe on them. They were awful. We nixed that one. Then they had these guys trying to convince us of this New Romantic look, which was Adam Ant and Spandau Ballet. That was the better of the two choices.
Village person David Hodo in 1978
Village person David Hodo in 1981
And so with the marketing angle determined, the Village People released the LP mega-turd, Renaissance, which noted music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine described as “simply an embarrassment that never should have seen the light of day.”
Hodo had turned in his signature hardhat for a doublet, lip gloss, blush, and (at least five) beauty marks.
Despite the deceptive packaging, Renaissance has nothing musically to do with the New Romantic movement. The music barely even qualifies as new wave. Most of the tracks are simply bad 80’s MOR rock and bargain basement Kool and the Gang-ish r&b. That is, with one notable exception, which Hodo himself provides vocals for: the improbable final track on the album, “Food Fight,” a fake-punk masterpiece easily as good as anything Plastic Bertrand or Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias ever laid down.
“Food Fight” is an anomaly in the Village People’s oeuvre: a first and last attempt to cash in on the punk audience from a band clearly grasping at straws, willing to try absolutely anything to stay relevant.
Musically, one can hear the best elements of DEVO, as well as The Dickies, and Hodo’s nerdcore vocals sound remarkably like Weird Al.
“Food fight” plays out like the music you’d hear in an early 80’s teenage T & A movie where there’d be some marginally “punk” band playing on the beach in wrap-around sunglasses and clam-diggers, while a bunch of girls in string bikinis did robot dances in the sand. Yes, it’s that good. The subject matter would seem to indicate the Village People’s new target demographic was middle school children.
Hodo himself hates the song, calling it “some of the worst” music the group ever recorded. It’s a shame, because had the Village People followed Renaissance with an album full of songs in the “Food Fight” vein, they easily could have been the greatestfake punk band of all time.
The Village People’s fake punk student rebellion anthem, “Food Fight”:
Three aspiring musicians: Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were looking for a place “where nothing was happening” for their band Television to play. If nothing was happening then the bar owner had nothing to lose. One day, down in the Bowery, Verlaine and Lloyd spotted a place initialed CBGB-OMFUG. They sidled across, went inside and talked to the owner a former singer and musician Hilly Krystal. As Lloyd recalled in Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s essential oral history of punk Please Kill Me, Hilly wanted to know what kinda music they played. They answered with a question:
‘Well, what does ‘CBGB-OMFUG’ stand for?’
He said, ‘Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers.’
So we said, ‘Oh yeah, we play a little of that, a little rock, a little country, a little blues, a little bluegrass…’
And Hilly said, ‘Oh, okay, maybe…’
In fact, the only real stipulation for appearing at CBGB’s was to play new music, and although Suicide and Wayne County had already appeared at CBGB’s (after the demise of the Mercer Arts Center), it was not until Television, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Dead Boys started taking up residency that CBGB’s changed from something where nothing happened to somewhere it all happened.
If you were disappointed by the shitty CBGB’s movie made a couple of years back starring Alan Rickman, then you will get a better sense of the energy, talent and musical revolution that took place at CBGB’s in the mid-1970s with this hour-long TV documentary Blitzkrieg Bop . Focussing on The Ramones, Blondie and the The Dead Boys, Blitzkrieg Bop mixes live performance with short interview clips and a racy newscast voiceover. It’s recommended viewing.
Richard Stanley’s one of the most fascinating human beings I’ve ever met. He’s a divinely demented film maker, necromancer, and pop culture provocateur with a rock & roll heart that beats time to a cosmic rhythm machine redeemed from some post-apocalyptic pawn shop located at the outer edges of absolute reality. He’s got the widescreen stare of a gunslinger in a spaghetti western and more than a few metaphorical bullet holes in his serape. Stanley’s been through some tribulation, the kind that can pulverize a man’s soul into a million little shards of crystallized dogshit. In the mid-90s, while still only in his twenties, this precocious and audacious filmmaker was given the opportunity to make a movie based on his visionary adaption of H. G. Well’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. What followed was a classic example of a young director’s rebel spirit bumping up against old school Hollywood politics and power games. Stanley was not only fucked over by the heads of New Line Cinema, he was also mentally brutalized by the epically malevolent ego of Val Kilmer who he had cast, along with Marlon Brando, in a leading role. Only days after the start of filming, Stanley was fired and banished from the set of his ambitious and potentially ground-breaking movie.
The whole sordid saga of Richard Stanley’s cinematic trial by fire has been documented in the riveting Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. Directed by David Gregory and released by Severin Films, Lost Soul shares much of the same dark humor, heartbreak and intrigue of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ill-fated Dune project, as seen in that recent documentary. Stanley, like Jodorowsky, saw his concept appropriated by Hollywood and twisted into something that was to his original vision what rape is to love.
Lost Soul is as entertaining as it is sad and infuriating. Watching studio heads blathering idiotically about a film they didn’t understand and hearing the crew and cast’s disgusted take on Kilmer’s ego-driven subversion of Stanley’s efforts to make the movie his way is a far more dramatic and engaging experience than the Hollywood bomb that was ultimately released.
Eventually, Stanley’s project was handed over to the long past-his-prime director, John Frankenheimer, a hired gun with a dictatorial attitude and almost zero interest in Stanley’s vision for the film. With nothing at stake, Frankenheimer essentially took the money and ran. The film he delivered to the studio was cinematic road kill, dead on arrival. The Island of Dr. Moreau debuted in 1996 to critical jeers and promptly crashed and burned at the box office. I actually went to see it the day it opened in New York City, mostly because of the presence of Brando and David Thewlis in the film. Overall, I hated the movie but loved Brando’s over-the-top, don’t-give-a-fuck performance. You could tell he was intent on enjoying himself despite appearing in what he clearly thought was a steaming pile of shit. I think Brando was also slyly editorializing about the way Stanley’s ideas had been altered and corrupted. He liked Stanley and in my opinion was demonstrating solidarity with the young director who had been exiled from his own film. As far as Kilmer goes, that motherfucker had blown his cred ever since appearing as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s hate letter to rock and roll The Doors. Frankenheimer made no attempt to reel in Kilmer’s narcissism and the end result ain’t pretty. Kilmer spends most of his screen time doing a silly imitation of Brando which is both unfunny and insulting. I’m sure Brando didn’t even notice.
I met with Richard Stanley after a screening of Lost Soul during last year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin. A commanding figure with a delicate grace about him, Stanley was easy to talk to and extremely open about the passion and pain involved in creating a work of art that, had it been realized true to his vision, could have been a glorious thing.
Photo of Richard Stanley by Mirgun Akyavas.
I’m not easily impressed by most human beings these days. Few walk it like they talk it and fewer still are genuinely fearless in pursuit of their dreams, willing to take risks that could end disastrously or triumphantly or a little of both. Richard Stanley is truly an artist/warrior and he’s in the midst of a remarkable and well-deserved return to the public eye. Last week, he was the subject of an Entertainment Weekly cover story (good for you EW). The wheel of karma is spinning back in Stanley’s direction and it’s good.
In the few short hours that I spent talking with and videotaping Richard I felt like I was with a dear old friend. Before he left Austin, we met on the patio of the Alamo Drafthouse where I gave him a copy of Geoff Dyer’s book on Tarkovsky, Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room and a small bag of medicinal herb from Northern California. These were not rare or expensive gifts, they were very modest. But Richard responded as though I’d given him precious feathers of an ancient mythological bird. His reaction was so heartfelt, so sweet and unfettered, that I was somewhat taken aback as he tilted his head down and gave me a huge kiss on the cheek. This was a kiss I would have expected from my born again mother after telling her I had gotten engaged to Jesus. Richard clearly liked my gifts. “Shall we smoke it” he asked, referring to the packet of herb in his hand, all the while grinning hugely. In that moment, I saw the face of a man whose spirit is impossible to contain, who will live to his fullest no matter what gets in his way. And that’s the ultimate “fuck you” to the assholes who tried to take him down. I love it when the truly hep cat gets the last laugh.
I started the camera rolling and let Richard do his thing. His life story is quite marvelous and he’s practically breathless in the telling of it. Among many things, he touches upon his early videos for Fields of the Nephilim, Public Image Limited, his feature-length cult classics Hardware and Dust Devil, Lemmy and Iggy, fighting with rebels in Afghanistan, his abiding love for Fairuza Balk and his home in southern France where he has a magical relationship to the mysterious Château de Montségur.
Before Steve Strange became known as a club host at Blitz and a New Romantic pop star with Visage, he was in a punk band with Chrissie Hynde called The Moors Murderers. It’s fair to say, there was a tacit understanding with some elements of punk that to cause offense was an acceptable way to achieve notoriety. Having a band called The Moors Murderers was certain to bring considerable opprobrium and cause offense to the Great British public as the band’s name referred to the notorious serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley who had raped and murdered five children in Manchester, England, between 1963 and 1965, burying their bodies on Saddleworth Moor. To this day the body of one victim Keith Bennett has never been recovered.
Brady and Hindley were a dark stain on the colorful psychedelia of the swinging sixties. Their evil deeds had a troubling influence on many writers and artists, perhaps most notably Morrissey who used the brutal killings as material for songs and may have even named his band after the Brady/Hindley associates and in-laws David and Maureen Smith—or as they were called by the press at the time, “the Smiths.”
Steve Strange’s involvement with punk came when he saw the Sex Pistols perform at the Castle Cinema in Caerphilly, Wales, in December 1976. The gig changed the teenager’s life and he became friends with the band’s bass player Glen Matlock. Strange was then known by his real name Steven John Harrington, and inspired by the Pistols he started booking punk bands to play gigs at his home town. He then moved to London and became part of the revenue of punks that orbited around Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s shop SEX on the King’s Road. Here he met the iconic Soo Catwoman, who first suggested forming a punk band called The Moors Murderers. As Soo later recalled:
“The Moors Murderers thing was a big joke to be honest. I was joking about getting a band together called the Moors Murderers and doing sleazy love songs, I had no idea he [Steve Strange] would actually go out and do it. …”
Strange certainly ran with the idea and approached Chrissie Hynde telling her about the band and singing her the song “Free Hindley.”
They say it started in 64
Myra Hindley was nothing more
Than a woman who fell for a man
Why shouldn’t she be free
Brady was her lover
Who told her what to do
Psychopathic killer-nothing new
Free Hindley Free
What she did was for love
The torture scenes the boys and girls
Hindley knew but couldn’t say
She was trapped by her love
What mother in her right mind
Would allow a girl at the age of nine
Be out on her own
Don’t blame Hindley
Brady was her lover
Who told her what to do
Psychopathic killer-nothing new
Why shouldn’t she be free?
Free Hindley Free
Strange claimed to be part of a band called the Moors Murderers in order to do a photo shoot for German magazine Bravo. Catwoman says she was also present but left the shoot. Steve Strange may have played a gig with The Photons under the Moors Murderers monicker supporting The Slits at an NSPCC benefit concert at Ari Up’s school in Holland Park circa Christmas 1977.
At The Slits gig was musician and producer Dave Goodman, who had worked with the Pistols and Eater:
There was a support band who I assumed were friends of the Slits. They had this singer dressed in black leather calling himself ‘Steve Strange’. I also remember at least one female musician, who turned out to be Chrissie Hynde. They had a certain ‘first gig’ quality about them, their sound being somewhat chaotic and the lyrics virtually unintelligible.
I couldn’t believe it when they announced themselves as ‘The Moors Murderers’. It really was controversial. I had lived through that gruesome event and the darkness it brought to my childhood still felt gloomy. To protect me, my mum would remove any ‘Moors Murderers’ tabloid sensationalism from the papers, after first reading it herself.
After the show Steve Strange came up to me at the mixing desk and confirmed the band’s name. I’d heard right - it was as I thought. We got talking. It turned out that they had this song called ‘Free Hindley’. They had just performed it, but I hadn’t noticed. He had my interest - what was his motive behind it? Steve explained. He felt that it was hypocritical of the government to automatically consider other child murderers for parole after a certain length of time, while ignoring Hindley. Being a high profile case, I believe he felt they were just pandering to public demand. We also discussed change and to what level people can achieve it.
Strange told Goodman that he wanted to record a single “Free Hindley,” but Goodman suggested “two main things to Steve”:
1. To show he is not condoning murderers he should create a balance. Why not record the Ten Commandments to music for the B-side? You know, get out of it in the studio and really get into it man! He liked the idea.
2. Talk to Lord Longford, he’s been visiting Hindley in prison and is campaigning for her release. He liked that idea as well.
Strange arranged a hasty press shoot where the members of The Moors Murderers kept their anonymity by covering their heads with pillow cases. According to Goodman three of the group in the photo are “Strange, Chrissie Hynde and Nick Holmes (Eater’s roadie who is believed to have played guitar on ‘Free Hindley’).” The fourth maybe Mal Hart, who played bass on the track.
Understandably, a band associating itself with the country’s most reviled child killers soon saw them damned by the press. On January 8th, 1978, the Sunday Mirror published an article on The Moors Murderers asking “Why Must They Be So Cruel?”
As Strange was mainly unknown, The Moors Murderers was labeled as Chrissie Hynde’s band, much to her chagrin, as she became the focus of the media’s ire.
In mid-January Sounds music paper ran an article on The Moors Murderers—now apparently three members, again with their heads covered though this time with black bin bags. The band played the Sounds journalist four of their tracks “Free Hindley,” “Caviar and Chips,” “Mary Bell” (about the child murderess) and “The Streets of the East End.”
According to Andrew Gallix, following the Sounds “showcase”
...the band played the Roxy on 13 January 1978, supporting Open Sore. Steve Strange was on vocals (calling himself Steve Brady) and Hynde was on guitar. Bob Kylie (Open Sore): “They were terrible! Absolutely dreadful!” On 28 January 1978, Strange told Sounds that he had left the band.
Whether “Free Hindley” was ever released as a single is debatable, but it was available on cassette as David Goodman recalls:
I remember hearing an acetate of the two recordings ‘Free Hindley’ and ‘The Ten Commandments’, possibly played to me by Nick Holmes the drummer. Not long after that, I saw an ad in the back of Melody Maker or NME for the sale of some ‘Moors Murderers’ acetates and cassettes @ £10 each I believe. I seem to remember Malcolm McLaren bringing that ad to my attention. Anyway, I didn’t buy one, I’d heard it once and that was enough.
Years later, when entering a record store in San Francisco, I saw a sign offering thousands of dollars for one. That was the only time I wished I’d grabbed one when I had the chance.
Chrissie Hynde went on to form the Pretenders in 1978, while Steve Strange eventually achieved success with electronic band Visage.
Below Chrissie Hynde talks about her involvement with The Moors Murderers.
London 1977: By day Phil Munnoch was a mild-mannered copywriter working for an ad agency in the heart of the city. He was neat, he was clean, he looked smart in his collar and tie, sharp pressed trousers and bright, shiny shoes. But Phil had a secret that he kept from his colleagues. At the end of each working day, like some postmodern superhero Phil would change out of his work clothes into tight fitting bondage trousers, studded dog collar and badge-covered plastic jacket to become his punk alter ego Captain Zip.
Captain Zip hung out with the other punks who idly wandered up and down the King’s Road every evening. He enjoyed the freedom, the camaraderie, the sense of adventure and the sound of punk music blaring out of shop radios. Zip was older than these young punk rock fans and was wise enough to know he was a part of something very, very important.
Being part of the gang allowed Munnoch access to film his friends and acquaintances and between 1978 and 1981, in the guise of Captain Zip, Munnoch documented the street life of punks on the King’s Road. In the 1980s, Munnoch collected the first eight of these Super-8 home movies together to make the short documentary film Death Is Their Destiny that captured the subculture of punks in London.
Background on Phil Munnoch and Captain Zip plus interviews, after the jump…
In 1981 (it may have been 1980, different uploads of the video sport different dates), many among suburban Washington, D.C.‘s population of normals were introduced to Bad Brains—arguably the inventors of hardcore, definitely a crucial musical incendiary device—via the agency of that aggressively bland franchised newsmagazine program PM Magazine. History and the internet do not yield for me the name of the announcer for that segment, but man oh man, was he ever a DICK.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, lower the volume and meet the Bad Brains. Not what you’d call the crowning achievement of modern culture, but definitely a part of it. A loud part of it.
For starters, chump, we do not lower the volume when Bad Brains are playing “Attitude.” Second, they are absolutely goddamn contenders for crowning achievement of modern culture. And lastly… well, OK, I certainly can’t argue with “loud.” The clueless announcer—who puts me in the mind of the guy Patton Oswalt made notorious in his bit about local news movie reviewers (and this would be roughly the same part of the country)—goes on to disparage the band’s dancing fans and to amusingly refer to their music as “a genuine social phenomenon called ‘Punk New Wave Rock and Roll.’”
Despite the awkward frisson of the segment being voiced by the whitest man ever to live, there’s great interview footage with the band, and stellar performance clips with some jaw-dropping acrobatics from singer H.R. Here’s the best looking and sounding upload of the segment I could find. That weird glitch around 02:12 is in all of them, so I couldn’t tell you what you missed, but it doesn’t seem like any significant meaning was lost.
We’ve surely all been there. Enjoying a concert when the asshole right in front of you holds up his/her phone to shoot video, forcing you to watch the event that you’re actually at in miniature on a video screen. Don’t even get me going on the motherfuckers who do that shit with tablets. As a frequent concertgoer, I find that to be among the most annoying of the new etiquette breaches that the smartphone era has ushered in, but—leave it to the old-school—Marky Ramone has the solution! It’s the Cell Phone Swatter, patent and trademark pending, I assume. He’s made a hilarious PSA for it, and for good measure, he gets in a plug for his recent autobiography Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone. It’s short, so I won’t describe/spoil it except to say I don’t think I would go around gluing shit to my vintage Ramones 7"s. Marky’s probably got extras, though.
I’m in my mid ‘40s, and I’ve lived my entire life in Cleveland, OH. Go ahead and fire up your jokes, I’ve heard ‘em all, and frankly, if you still think it’s a punchline, I’m perfectly happy for you to keep your uninformed pierogi-hole on lockdown and stay far the hell away so as not to pollute my zen (OR: if you want to check it out with an open mind, I know a ton of very cool people who’d be glad to point you in all the right directions). I’ve traveled plenty, though obviously one can never travel enough, and I’ve had opportunities to live elsewhere, but so far I’ve taken none of them. Part of that was because until a few years ago I had enviable job security in an industry I loved, and I still have a crazy low cost of living, but the REAL magnet that’s kept me here? The music scene is and always has been beyond utterly fucking brilliant. I have never wanted for gifted mutants to rock with, and while everybody steeped in punk and New Wave lore knows what a musical atom bomb Northeast Ohio was in the ‘70s, and while the success of the Black Keys, indie champs Cloud Nothings, and garage/soul shit-fucker-upper Obnox are attracting attention here nowadays, the rarely-told stories of the ‘80s, ‘90s and oughts scenes are doozies, as well. Almost every time I’ve pondered a move, it’s been a band that’s kept me around, even though nary a one of ‘em has ever made a dent, and I while I abidingly love a lot of other cities, I’ve yet to seriously regret sticking it out here. A close-knit music scene teeming with talent is just that strong an attractor for me.
Recently, the excellent archival record label Soul Jazz have, as part of their ongoing PUNK 45 series, released two excellent compilations documenting the ‘70s/early ‘80s roots of that music scene, one each for Cleveland and Akron, both with extremely generous liner notes. They cover all the stuff I missed out on by being not being born 10 years earlier, but obviously these bands still weigh heavily on the region’s underground musical legacy. Both are assembled from early, independently-released 7"s, and both accordingly feature some previously compiled material AND some serious treasures.
The Akron comp, Burn Rubber City, Burn!, has the early DEVO single “Mechanical Man” and the rarity “Auto Modown,” the Waitresses’ early single “The Comb,” and Tin Huey’s awesome “Squirm You Worm.” (Versions embedded in this post may not be the same as what’s actually on the comp; they were the versions I could find online. )
Peter Solowka was the founding guitarist for the wonderful UK pop band the Wedding Present, and played with them on their first batch of releases up to and including 1991’s mindblowing and essential Seamonsters, after which he was shown the door. But during his tenure in that band, he was a mover behind one of the band’s more off-the-map projects—a series of Peel Sessions wherein TWP devoted themselves to interpretations of Ukrainian folk songs. That was a short lived phase for the Wedding Present, but it became Solowka’s career. Upon being jettisoned from TWP, he was able to devote his attention to a side project that grew from that Weddoes diversion, the Ukrainians. That band name is about as exactly-what-it-says-on-the-box as band names come: they play traditional Ukrainian folk music amped up with post-punk textures and aesthetic strategies.
The band’s somewhat narrow concept has proved remarkably durable—they’ve existed for 25 years now, and have not only been recording and releasing music fairly steadily, they are touring the UK in support of a new LP in May. But the works I’m keen to share today are two EPs, released ten years apart, that pay tribute to the music of the Smiths and the Sex Pistols. The Smiths covers EP, 1992’s Pisni iz The Smiths, is great fun while being reverently respectful to the source material. This doesn’t feel cheeky, just really robust. Even the originally dismal “Meat is Murder” kicks ass. Savour the flavour: