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‘The Last Blast’: Big Black’s glorious ‘final’ show, 1987
01.26.2015
09:18 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Big Black
Sub Pop
Bruce Pavitt


 
By early 1987 legendary Chicago indie titans Big Black had put out one full-length album, Atomizer, and had another about to come out, Songs About Fucking (ask for it by name!), but then they called it quits. Their final show was in Seattle in August—August 11 to be exact—and Albini made sure it would be an event. According to Larry Reid, who would later become the curator of the Fantagraphics Bookstore,
 

Steve Albini contacted me in 1987 and asked me to produce Big Black’s final show. The abandoned Georgetown Steamplant with its antiquated industrial aesthetic provided the perfect venue—ironically, this steam powered electrical generating plant was then totally without electrical service, so we had to employ portable generators for power.

-snip-

The show opened with ex-Blackout Roland Barker and friends creating an industrial soundtrack up in the catwalks of the enormous facility. Georgetown’s resident-poet Jesse Bernstein performed a provocative and wildly entertaining reading, then Big Black let loose with a ferocious set of their greatest hits, ending with a cacophonous finale of smashed instruments and explosives.

 
Soundgarden‘s Kim Thayil, Mudhoney/Green River‘s Mark Arm, and Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain were all in attendance, while Sub Pop’s Bruce Pavitt was on the stage itself. As Reid astutely points out, “In hindsight, this show marked a metaphorical passing-of-the-torch to Seattle as the center of the country’s counterculture.” (You can see Cobain at the 31:14 mark in the video, as the band sets up to do “Dead Billy.”)
 

 
As the audience filed in, they were treated to the synthy stylings of Roland Barker and James Husted. There was no opener unless you count the angry poetic stylings of Steven “Jesse” Bernstein, a William Burroughs collaborator who sadly committed suicide four years later.

Pavitt has always called this his favorite show. The subject came up recently in an interview he did with the Guardian (to promote his latest book, Sub Pop USA: The Subterraneanan Pop Music Anthology, 1980–1988, which I highly recommend) when they asked him to isolate his favorite Big Black show:
 

It would have to be their quote-unquote final show—I think they might have played another one afterwards, but it was billed as Big Black’s final show. It was set in a steam plant in Seattle. They completely destroyed their instruments on stage. Completely over the top. One of the most insane shows I’ve ever seen. Just going for it. And of course lighting off a box of firecrackers at the end.

 
 

 
Here’s what Pavitt wrote at the time, in the September 1987 issue of Sub Pop. I love this bit of writing so much, it’s got the very recognizable (to me) GenX tone of fandom, to take a left turn and filter one’s adoration in a deadpan cloud of non-sequitur.
 

my favorite show ever
I cut my hand. I cut my hand trying to grab a piece of broken guitar. The strings of my hand cut into my hand and my hand bled on the stage. BIG BLACK was on the stage. BIG BLACK is God. BIG BLACK destroyed everything. I wanted a piece of BIG BLACK. Now my hand hurts. Because somebody tugged and sliced a guitar string into my hand. Now they have a big piece of BIG BLACK and I don’t. I now have a band-aid on my palm. It’s hard to write with a hole in your hand. Goodbye BIG BLACK.

 
According to Janice Headley, this video was mixed by Albini himself, which may explain why it sounds so good. It’s made the rounds for years under the title “The Last Blast.” Pedants will note that this ended up not being Big Black’s final show, but not by much—in 2006 they played four songs at Touch & Go’s 25th anniversary (but not “Kerosene”!) Anyway, here it is, firecrackers and all.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Records Collecting Dust’: New doc on collecting vinyl with Jello Biafra and other fanatatics


 
As record collecting’s resurgence continues to grow, so does the sub-industry of proffering opinions about the phenomenon. Annual pro- and anti-Record Store Day think pieces seem to proliferate at a faster pace than vinyl sales themselves, the photo book Dust & Grooves is slated for a third printing this summer, and documentary films on the vinyl collecting hobby are growing in number, as well. That micro-genre’s 21st Century godfather is 2000’s Vinyl, noteworthy for predating the vinyl renaissance by several years, also noteworthy for painting a dismal picture of record collectors as sad old men who, having failed to connect with human beings in their pitiable lives, turn to hoarding media to fill an emotional gap or grasp at a sense of purpose. I frankly and flatly reject the implication that a love of collecting music lumps one in with doleful and socially isolated alterkakers who need suicide watch more than they need turntables. In mitigation, Atom Egoyan and Harvey Pekar are among the collectors interviewed, and that’s damn cool. Watch it here, if you like.

A more recent offering, 2008’s I Need That Record! offers a view of the obsession from a different sociological perspective, looking at the thinning of ranks in indie record stores (that retail niche has obviously rebounded since), seeking input from indie-famous crate diggers like Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore, with a helping of righteous corporation-slapping from Noam Chomsky. And it offers a much more upbeat view of the collector.

And there is a new contender: Riot House has released musician Jason Blackmore’s (Sirhan Sirhan, Molly McGuire) hour-long Records Collecting Dust, which asks a laundry list of punk and indie luminaries questions like “what was the first record you bought?” “What was the last record you bought?” “If there was a gun to your head and you had to pare your collection down to five albums, what would they be?” It’s a really fun watch, and not just for the trainspotting. It’s a gas to see Keith Morris extol the virtues of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to see Jello Biafra wax rhapsodic about Space Ritual, Mike Watt raving about American Woman, and David Yow talking about baffling his teacher and fellow schoolkids when he brought the Beatles’ trippy, bluesy b-side “For You Blue” to show and tell. One truly wonderful sequence joins Rocket From the Crypt/Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes guitarist John “Speedo” Reis in showing off his favorite children’s LPs on a toy turntable, and there’s even a segment with Dangerous Minds’ own Howie Pyro. I always enjoy tales of musical discovery, all the more so when they’re told by people who’ve made the music that warped me, and Records Collecting Dust is FULL of that, plus live performances by Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine, the Locust, and Big Business.
 

 
Though enjoyable, the film has its imperfections. It suffers from an abiding and ultimately irritating L.A.-centrism. I’d love to hear more tales of life-changing finds from people who hail from more culturally isolated areas, and so couldn’t just go to someplace like Wherehouse or Licorice Pizza whenever they felt like it, and had to really work for their scores. One other thing screamed out at me, though it’s not a flaw in the film as such, but more a consequence of the hobby’s demographic: the levels of vinyl-stockpiling depicted seem overwhelmingly to be a male phenomenon, so out of 36 interviewees listed in the credits, exactly two women appear, namely former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler, and Frontier Records’ Lisa Fancher. Roessler makes one of the funniest observations in the whole doc when she describes how record stores magically cause men to shop in a manner stereotypically associated with women.

Another of the film’s truly brilliant moments is this fabulous sermon from Jello Biafra, which I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing in its entirety, because I 100% agree with every damn word of it:

I think part of the magic that vinyl, and records, and blundering into cool music you never knew existed still holds for me. I’m still a fan, and keep in mind “fan” comes from the word “fanatic.” I love to keep exploring, and even though I’ve got way too many records, I never buy one unless I intend to listen to it when I get home—I don’t always have time to listen to ‘em all now, but that’s the idea. I don’t buy it to scam or speculate, I buy it to listen to it. And there, that way, I never run out of cool music to listen to. I have no patience for these people who say “Oh, the whole scene died when Darby Crash died,” or “yeah, there’s no good bands anymore.” WROOOOOONG. Good sounds are where you find it so start looking, OK? Don’t be afraid to blunder into something cool. You never know what it might do to your life, or even your own music, or your band may finally start sounding different from all the other bands you like.

Records Collecting Dust began screening in California this month. Remaining showings though March are listed on its web page . If you’re on the fence about checking it out, perhaps these trailers will help nudge you one way or the other.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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The Marvelous Mage of Manhattan TV: Joe Franklin R.I.P.

image
Photo by Jim Herrington.
 
Joe Franklin died on Saturday. He was 88. The cause was prostate cancer. The world has lost one of TV’s weirdest and most wonderful wizards of the airwaves.
 
Joe Franklin was to late night cable TV in New York City what Papaya King was to hot dogs: Manhattan through and through. I watched his show religiously during the late 70’s/early 80’s. After a few shots of Jack Daniels and half a dozen lines of Peruvian flake, there was nothing more mesmerizing than the loopy surrealism of Joe Franklin. His stream of consciousness raps, fractured and deliriously deft, coupled with his vast knowledge of TV, music and movie trivia, was like listening to the Akashic Record of 20th century pop culture being transmitted through an Elf on meth. Franklin was a character in a David Lynch movie before David Lynch had even made a movie. He was a trip. And most of us punk rockers and downtown artists loved him.

My show was often like a zoo,” Franklin said in 2002. “I’d mix Margaret Mead with the man who whistled through his nose, or Richard Nixon with the tap-dancing dentist.

Here’s a wonderful clip from 1988 of Joey and Marky Ramone on The Joe Franklin Show. As you will see, Joey is somewhat in awe of the genius of Joe. And they respected him too much to correct his pronunciation of their name as The Raaaymones.

I gotta give props to Joe’s sidekick, bug-eyed deejay Paul Cavalconte, for being ultra-hip, despite The Smiths question.

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Public Image Twitter Fight: Keith Levene is MAD AS HELL AND HE’S NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!


 
Keith Levene, the groundbreaking post-punk guitarist best known as an original member of the Clash and for his work on the first three Public Image Limited albums, seems to be a bit heated up these days. This morning, the following screed appeared on his Facebook page, and was copied to his Twitter feed:

It has been brought to my attention that various parties involved in the first go of the Commercial Zone project have been having their say anywhere they can and popping up messages that r absolute bollocks! I won’t stand for this anymore and I’m going to address this now just for me and anyone who’s interested in the truth. All these people Wobble, Jones (NOT YOU BARRY :-), Anthony Keidis, Bob Miller and of course John fukin Lydon - AND THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS. I say fuck the lot of you and tell me…what the fuk did i do that was so bad aside from greatly enhancing your situation. Everyone’s lives who I encountered in a professional sense were improved after they worked with me. I kept silent for more than 30 years. No more. My contributions have been erased by you and these lies that I absconded with the CZ tapes, was horrible, was fired from the Chili Peppers when I was never hired (show me the fucking contract if I was hired), and so on and so forth. ITs obviously not going to stop. Lies in books, lies in press and its so obvious none of you have anything new to offer. Fukin grow up, embrace your limitations and stop trying to erase my contribution to your lives for one not to mention the history of music.. IM MAD AS HELL AND IM NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE. Oh and Anthony Kiedis. What the fuk is wrong with you? If you’ve got something to say…stop hiding behind your book agents, fakes names on message boards, your friends who are journalists, and so on. You know where you can find me. In the studio of course (unlike you) working on my next project. And do yourself a favour…get CZ essentials and then you have another 20 years to plagiarise me at www.teenageguitarist76.com WANKERS!

Much of that explains itself, but the apparent falling-out with PIL bassist Jah Wobble is a bummer. (About Anthony Kiedis, well, I guess that’s maybe a shame, too…) It apparently stems from a recent Guardian interview in which Wobble off-handedly mentioned that Levene was “a horrible junkie in the PIL days”. The interview, which by the way is definitely worth a read, now runs with a disclaimer:
 

 
The reason I find that falling-out to be such a shame is that Levene contributed guitar to the 2011 Wobble/Julie “Lonelady” Campbell album Psychic Life, then did two wonderful collaborative releases, EP and Yin & Yang, with Wobble in 2012. Now, these releases weren’t ever going to blow minds and change lives like Metal Box or anything, but still, this was good new music from the people who made friggin’ Metal Box, so I had hoped there’d be more to come from the two. Actually, I still hope there’ll be more to come from them.

It’s honestly baffling why Levene should be dwelling on negatives. He’s been extremely active lately, penning a memoir of his early years in music, Meeting Joe: Joe Strummer, the Clash and Me, and successfully crowdfunding the album Commercial Zone 2014, a long-in-the-works completion/ expansion of what would have been PIL’s fourth album, which was released in two different versions in the ‘80s: by Levene as Commercial Zone, and by PIL as This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get. Levene’s version was legally suppressed after its first issue (haha see what I did there), so it’s a bit of a rarity, but it has die-hard adherents among those who find the PIL version to be kind of hacky, pandering crap (myself included—those horn sections are ear-stabbingly painful). The Quietus gave the album a very positive review, and Levene posted works in progress from the sessions on his YouTube channel. Here’s a bit called “Area 52”:
 

 
Check out these audience-cam videos of Metal Box In Dub, a band comprised of Levene, Wobble and singer/actor Nathan Maverick, who plays Johnny Rotten in a Sex Pistols cover band. They did several shows in 2012, performing early PIL material.
 

 

 
Many thanks to Shawn Swagerty and his unstoppable nose for news.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Keith Levene of PIL on why he quit the Clash
Anarchy on American Bandstand: When Public Image Ltd. met Dick Clark, 1980
Raw footage of John Lydon and Keith Levene at MTV interview, 1982

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Decorate your ENTIRE home with Lemmy Kilmister housewares
01.23.2015
11:55 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Lemmy
Motörhead
home decorating


Get yer Lemmy duvet here.
 
I’m simply posting this because… you can really do this. The idea of furnishing your entire living space head to toe in Lemmy-themed housewares seems absurd, yes, but dammit… it can be done!

I never thought in a million years I’d be able to purchase a Lemmy duvet cover, a Lemmy wall clock, Lemmy accent pillows or even a Lemmy shower curtain. But thanks to the Internet and sites like Society6, you and I can do just that.

I’ve provided links below each image in case you’ve gotta own it.


Get it here.
 

Get it here.
 

Get it here.
 

Get it here.
 

Get it here
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Snatch and the Poontangs: Johnny and Shuggie Otis’ filthy, hilarious blues/soul party record
01.23.2015
07:32 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Sex

Tags:
Shuggie Otis
Johnny Otis


 
In 1969, an eponymous LP appeared by “Snatch and the Poontangs,” first as a self-release (catalog number SNATCH 101), and later on Kent Records. Given the band’s name and its unabashedly profane and oversexed lyrical content, there was no chance of airplay for the record even in as indulgent a period as the late 1960s. The band was doomed to obscurity until it came to light that Snatch and the Poontangs were in fact the great R&B producer/bandleader/impressario Johnny Otis (credited as “The Hawk”), his gifted guitarist son Shuggie Otis (“Prince Wunnerful”), and vocalist Delmar Evans (“The Mouth”), which made the album a collectible. The misapprehension that R. Crumb drew the cover surely moved a few copies, too, but he did not. The artwork is by Johnny Otis himself.

As bluesy rock of the period goes, the album (there’s a 7” single as well, but it may be a later release, I can’t find information on its provenance anywhere) is fairly unremarkable—buying it because you like Shuggie Otis’ Inspiration Information might be ill-advised, though talented, he was still only 16 when this stuff was recorded—but the outrageous lyrics do the heavy lifting of making the record totally worth it. Check out “Hey Shine,” a ribald re-working of Otis’ classic “Willie and the Hand Jive.” Do I even still need to tell you it’s NSFW at this point?
 

 
The album opens with a lengthy version of the classic “Signifyin’ Monkey,” an American adaptation of an African trickster story. The trio had already recorded it a year earlier for the Johnny Otis album Cold Shot!, and a version would be released by Rudy Ray “Dolemite” Moore only one year later, on his second LP.
 

 
And the audacious album-closer “Two Girls in Love (With Each Other)” is little more than Shuggie meandering on guitar and organ (heh) while two women moan orgasmically.
 

 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Lou Reed’s collaboration with KISS
01.23.2015
06:04 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed
KISS


 
Decades before Loutallica, there was KISS’s Music from “The Elder,” “the best concept album ever” (Julian Cope). There are a lot of strange things about Music from “The Elder”: recorded with an orchestra and a choir, collecting triumphant songs that sound more like the Who than KISS, the album is the soundtrack to an imaginary movie. Also, three of its songs boast lyrics by Lou Reed.

KISS recorded Elder with big-time 70s rock producer Bob Ezrin, who had produced a number of superb Alice Cooper records, along with KISS’s own Destroyer, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and Reed’s Berlin. (It’s always fun to compare the strings on Reed’s “Sad Song” with those on Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”) In the words of the “official authorized biography” KISS: Behind the Mask:

In a last-ditch effort to regain their popularity and break new artistic ground, KISS reunited with Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin for 1981’s Music from “The Elder.” The concept, initiated by Gene Simmons, centered upon a young boy’s rite of passage, a heroic life’s journey through personal discovery, doubt, and ultimate self-realization.

 

 
At some point during the lengthy sessions for Elder, a phone call was placed to the King of New York. This upbeat quote from Paul Stanley doesn’t make it sound like Lou’s contribution to the project was, shall we say, labor-intensive:

Lou was so into our “Elder” project, that when we called and explained it over the phone to him, he said, “I’ll get back to you in an hour”. And he called back an hour later with good basic lyrics to “Mr Blackwell”, “World Without Heroes”, and a lot of other stuff that hasn’t been used yet.

I think the finest of the album’s three Lou songs is “Dark Light,” which wound up on the B-side of the first single, but then I’m partial to Ace Frehley. The A-side of the first single was reserved for “A World Without Heroes.” Now, if Lou Reed spent more than ten minutes writing this turkey, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Below, KISS humiliate themselves on the ABC cult comedy series Fridays.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The Meat Puppets’ hilarious cover of ‘Everybody’s Talkin’
01.22.2015
08:25 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Harry Nilsson
Meat Puppets
Fred Neil


 
When the Meat Puppets released their first, eponymous album on CD, they generously included, as often happened during that era, a bunch of bonus tracks, such as, ahem, “Meat Puppets,” which had appeared on the 1981 Light Bulb “emergency cassette” compilation, and “H-Elenore,” which came from the Keats Rides a Harley comp from Happy Squid Records that also featured a track from Gun Club.

Tucked in there without much fanfare was a rendition of Fred Neil’s song, which he first recorded in 1966, of “Everybody’s Talkin’.” The song became far more famous after the release of Midnight Cowboy, which included a cover of the song that helped put Harry Nilsson on the map. That version was a palpable hit, and if you think you can hum the song from memory, it’s probably Nilsson’s version that you know.
 

 
The provenance of the Meat Puppets’ cover of “Everybody’s Talkin’” is unknown, at least by me, but I do know they sometimes played it at concerts during the 1980s. To be candid, they pretty much dismantle the fucker—I suspect satirical intent. You be the judge.

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Terrible heavy metal t-shirts
01.22.2015
07:24 am

Topics:
Amusing
Fashion
Music

Tags:
heavy metal
t-shirts


 
So we’re clear up front, obviously not ALL heavy metal t-shirts are terrible—you can have my 1997 Keelhaul shirt when you can steal it off my rigid corpse. And of course, over-the-top offensiveness is half or more of the point with a lot of the more brutal bands. But as with many things, a hell of a lot of these ARE just objectively, completely shitty, and the Metal is Awful Tumblr is dedicated to collecting photos of the very worst.

Metal has so many terrible aspects, but the worst is the fucking shirts.

This is where we revel in that awful truth.

We reserve the right to comment on any awful metal shite anywhere, anytime. But mostly just terrible shirts.

And Trey Azagthoth. That guy is an idiot.

 

One of Odin’s ethical axioms is apparently “blow up planet Harrelson.”
 

Morrissey has shirts that are more metal than Diabolos Rising‘s.
 

The front of this VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC shirt is kinda crap, too. I’ve never been sure if this band was a goof, or if they were legitimately trying SO HARD to be “extreme” they ended up hilarious by accident. The name stands for “Vaginal Penetration Of An Amelus With A Musty Carrot.” An amelus is a baby born with no limbs. Draw your own conclusions.
 
More ridiculous tees after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Neil Young and Crazy Horse had a song called ‘Born to Run,’ too
01.22.2015
06:45 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Neil Young and Crazy Horse


 
Just as Pere Ubu had their own song called “Like A Rolling Stone” (really) and Bob Dylan and the Band named one of their compositions “Strawberry Fields Forever” (not really, sorry), there is an original number by Neil Young and Crazy Horse called “Born to Run.” Much more than the Springsteen song of the same name, it resembles “Cinnamon Girl”—same Old Black, same drop-D tuning, same frets. I can’t figure out why it’s never been released; fellow devotees of Young’s electric guitar work will love it.

According to Jimmy McDonough’s Shakey, Young taught his “Born to Run” to Crazy Horse in the spring of ‘75, several months before the Boss’s single or album came out. Young and the Horse recorded it during the sessions for their 1975 masterpiece Zuma, but left it off the album. Over a decade later, Young exhumed the song while recording Freedom, and then he and Crazy Horse revisited it during the sessions for 1990’s Ragged Glory. This last version of the song, which still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear it, has surfaced on bootlegs (notably the Archives Be Damned set). The audio quality is far from pristine, but it is a killer performance. Of course, you’re welcome to wait for its official debut on Neil’s Archives Vol. 8, due to drop at any moment.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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