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High school kids win spot on 1981 LP with their wonderfully shambolic cover of ‘Highway to Hell’
10:46 am


Brown Bags to Stardom

Angus Young
The obscure 1981 compilation album Brown Bags to Stardom was the result of a contest established the previous year by Honolulu radio station KIKI. 200+ Hawaiian high school acts competed for a spot on the LP, with nineteen ending up on the record. The highlights of Brown Bags to Stardom are the ramshackle contributions from teen rock bands Black Rose, and Brain Damage (Ha! Love the name!). “Rockin’ Roller” by Black Rose could pass for an AC/DC song—bonus points for the defiant lyrics about the contest—and is the vocalist a girl or just a very young boy? Brain Damage’s entry is an AC/DC song, a snotty, perfectly chaotic version of “Highway to Hell.” Sooooo great. 
Brown Bags to Stardom
Those are KIKI DJs—not very mature-looking teens—on the cover.

I first got wind of these winning tracks via WFMU’s Beware of the Blog. In his post, DJ Tony Coulter nailed it when he referred to Brain Damage’s AC/DC cover as “wonderfully shambolic.”
More after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Unseen video of the Micronotz, Kansas punk comrades of William S. Burroughs, a DM premiere

Randy “Biscuit” Turner’s cover art for the Micronotz’ third LP, The Beast That Devoured Itself
Last year, I posted about the Micronotz (originally named “The Mortal Micronotz”), a punk band from Lawrence, Kansas that released four albums and a live EP between 1982 and 1986, all out of print for yonks. Hoboken’s Bar/None Records has just digitally reissued the band’s entire catalog, and to celebrate, we’ve got previously unseen video of the Micronotz playing at Minneapolis’ First Avenue 31 years ago, to the day!

As you may know, William S. Burroughs was a punk sympathizer. He sent the Sex Pistols a telegram as a gesture of solidarity in ‘77, and when he moved to Lawrence in ‘81, he gave the local teenage punk band a song lyric he’d written. This nursery rhyme about a woman eating her children became “Old Lady Sloan,” a thrash tune on the debut The Mortal Micronotz. Years later, the author contributed to a Micronotz tribute album, doing his own interpretation of “Old Lady Sloan.”

The Micronotz’ early records have the anger and momentum of punk, and the melodies and chords are continuous with garage rock tradition (i.e., not Flipper). They played with everybody, or everybody who came reasonably close to Lawrence: X, REM, Minor Threat, Hüsker Dü, Suicidal Tendencies, TSOL, et al. They even opened for SPK at the mindhurting Lawrence show captured on The Last Attempt at Paradise. American Hardcore (the book) likens them to the ‘Mats:

TAD KEPLEY (Anarchist activist): The Micronotz from Lawrence were one of the original American Hardcore bands. They started playing in 1980, and broke up in 1986 after an album on Homestead. They never got the recognition they deserved. They were along the lines of the Replacements — and were equally as popular in the Midwest. They played Minneapolis all the time at First Ave/Seventh Street Entry, and they played Oz in Chicago. The first Micronotz record and EP could easily fall under Hardcore — the other bands back then certainly considered them to be Hardcore.

More Micronotz after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Siouxsie and the runaway Banshees
10:48 am


The Cure
Siouxsie and the Banshees

If you ever want to know practically everything there is to know about the first four years of Siouxsie and the Banshees, then you need to get your hands on a copy of the Siouxsie and the Banshees Scrapbook 1976-1980. I can’t tell you who compiled it because that information is lost in the rock ‘n’ roll black hole, but this fanzine/scrapbook released in 1984 includes early band history, discography, a list of all known bootlegs, photos and lots and lots of press clippings. It’s a truly work of DIY fanzine art. You would think if someone had taken an effort to compile this amount of information they would at least want to put their name or names on it. According to the back cover, “they” also compiled Volume 2 1981-1984 and similar scrapbooks on The Damned, The Cure and The Stranglers.
Scrap Book Page
The pre-Internet care that they took compiling the “Bootleg Recordings Known to Exist” section alone is impressive: Three pages of carefully cataloged bootleg information.
My favorite tale from the Siouxsie and the Banshees Scrapbook comes from a press clipping of an article that was published in Sounds on September 15, 1979. The setting was Aberdeen. The story starts with this…. “The geezer standing next to me in the urinal said, ‘Hey, have you hear the rumour? Two of the Banshees have run off. They’re not going to play. The bouncers are expecting a riot.’”

On September 7, 1979, the very day their second album Join Hands was released Siouxsie and the Banshees were scheduled to play a show with the Cure opening for them. Before the show, at an in store record signing, the Banshees got into some sort of argument which caused guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris to storm off and quit. In typical punk form, when Siouxsie and Steve Severin went onstage that night to announce their bandmates disappearance—and therefore cancellation of their performance—Siouxsie encouraged the crowd to beat the shit out of the missing band members if found. The Cure came back on and played a few more songs before they invited some “special guests” to the stage. Siouxsie and Severin entered and together with the Cure, they played the Banshees’ rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Before the song started Siouxsie announced:

“I hope you realize these guys know nothing about the ‘Lord’s Prayer’…It’ll probably be all the better for that. John and Kenny were doing it for the money and you can’t do a good ‘Lord’s Prayer’ with that attitude.”

She’s probably right about that.

More after the jump…

Posted by Izzi Krombholz | Leave a comment
‘You Are What You Eat’: Bonkers hippie-era relic featuring Tiny Tim

Given how widely-beloved disjointed counterculture films like 200 Motels and Head are, it’s kind of surprising that Peter Yarrow’s insane You Are What You Eat has remained so tenaciously underground.

Yarrow was the “Peter” in Peter, Paul & Mary, one of the most massively successful exponents of the folk scene that appeared poised to take over ‘60s pop music before Beatlemania came along—their 1980s PBS concert still gets rerun during pledge drives, so reliably does it haul in that fat boomer cash—and in 1968 Yarrow used some of his money and pull to finance a montage film of flower children freaking out to a lot of badass music. It was directed by one Barry Feinstein, who’d also worked on that year’s Monterey Pop documentary, ostensibly to document the fragmentation and identity crisis of the American youth movement post-Summer of Love. It’s hard to tell if that was what was intended, because complete versions of the film don’t seem to exist, and even complete versions would surely be as messy and disjointed. From a 2007 entry on WFMU’s Beware of the Blog:

Contradictions abound in regards to who and what are contained in the film. This stems from very few complete prints having survived. Many have claimed that Frank Zappa, Improv maven Del Close, nor Harper’s Bizarre are[n’t] even in the film and that the assertions and apocryphal. Others can describe these scenes with precise detail. All three are listed in the closing credits. The film’s “official” VHS release of the mid-nineties disappeared into obscurity almost immediately. That release, however, was still missing several minutes. The soundtrack LP also omits the sounds of several performances that appeared in the picture. All of these factors have contributed to speculation. The only known complete print of YAWYE has been doing the tour of the Cinematheque circuit for the past couple of years and has is housed in Berkeley, California. Columbia’s soundtrack LP was re-issued on CD in 1997, but only in Japan (naturally). The album remains generally elusive in North America.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
That time Ween opened for Fugazi at City Gardens
08:58 am


City Gardens

If you’ve read “Understanding Trump” by the cognitive scientist George Lakoff, you might recognize aspects of “strict father morality” in Fugazi’s code. It was funny, escaping the hierarchies of home and school to attend a Fugazi show as a teenager: You didn’t know which songs they were going to play, but you could be sure they would deliver a stern talking-to about your behavior before the night was over. That was a new development in rock and roll; I doubt Gene Vincent’s audience would have stood still for such a lecture, even if Gene had been the guy to give it.

Don’t get me wrong, they were great. But the values we associate with Fugazi—discipline, hard work, sobriety, authority, frugality, self-reliance—are traditionally paternal.

That’s why it’s such fun to imagine Ween, the crowned and conquering child of 90s rock, opening for them at Trenton, New Jersey’s City Gardens on March 19, 1991. Then a crazed, wasted suburban duo backed by a tape deck, Ween was still pretty loose back then, and at least as irresponsible as the Butthole Surfers: On that year’s The Pod, they encouraged their fans to believe Scotchgard™ was an excellent high. It’s almost impossible to imagine them lecturing a crowd about stage-diving. All they demanded of their fans was to keep bringing them home-cooked food.

Apparently, the show is briefly discussed in the City Gardens oral history No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes. I had clean forgotten about it until last weekend, when, strangely enough, my copy of Flipside #84, in which I first read about this legendary bill, turned up during a long and fruitless search for my Pure Guava T-shirt. In Flipside reporter Ted Cogswell’s hard-hitting interview with Ween, conducted in January ‘93, Gener and Deaner cleared up some important points: if Pure Guava were a drug, it would be “love boat”; no, they had never really huffed Scotchgard™ (“Sorry kids”); and yes, they really had opened for Fugazi. All typos have been preserved out of respect for the indomitable fanzine spirit:

Ted: Wasn’t there an infamous show at City Gardens (in Trenton, NJ) once when you opened for Fugazi?
Gene: They hated us.
Ted: I heard that you guys just started, like, playing one note over and over again, and were staring into space,...
Dean: No, those are just rumors. We played that Ozzy Osbourne-Lita Ford duet, “When I Close My Eyes Forever”, They hated that. Then we did “Where Do The Children Play” by Cat Stevens.
Gene: And they hated that. It’s not a problem now anymore though, because people are starting to like our shows, so we can’t do “Where Do the Children Play”. We save that for, like, when we’re about ready to get shot.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Can’s mind-boggling 1972 ‘Free Concert’
01:34 pm



I’ve seldom seen concert footage that was as inherently interesting as this 51-minute documentation of Can’s legendary “Free Concert,” recorded in Cologne’s Sporthalle on February 3, 1972. The show was filmed by Martin Schäfer, Robby Müller and Egon Mann for director Peter Przygodda, who is primarily known as the editor on many of Wim Wenders’ movies, including Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas, Alice in the Cities, and The American Friend. Similarly, Müller was Wenders’ main cinematographer and also shot several of Jim Jarmusch’s movies, including Dead Man, Down By Law, and Mystery Train.

The circumstances of this Cologne show were unusual. Rather improbably for such an experimental band, Can actually scored a chart success in Germany with “Spoon,” which would later be tacked onto the end of Ege Bamyasi. For reasons I don’t fully understand, the success of that song, which had been used in a German crime TV show called Das Messer (The Knife), led to this free concert, which was attended by approximately 10,000 people. In his 2006 book on Can, German writer Robert von Zahn explains that the concert did much to improve relations between the “communes” and “rock music,” whatever that means.

Note that the movie is not simply a concert film, it is a blend of a concert film and a documentary, with footage of Can during the Tago Mago sessions and in an airport, doing a soundcheck before the show, etc.

The resultant show was an odd mix of uncompromising music-for-music’s-sake and a well-nigh circus-esque determination to entertain. Right off the bat Can breaks into the hit, “Spoon,” and proves they’re not fucking around by expanding it from its tidy three-minute length on record into a full-blown 18-minute jam. The concert starts out with a juggler named Fred Ray joining Can on the stage; at the end of the show, during “Full Moon on the Highway,” Ray returns and does a bunch of impressive things with three brightly colored umbrellas.

After “Bring Me Coffee or Tea” about halfway through, a troupe of acrobats called Oberforstbach comes out and does their thing while Paul Joho plays the saw. (I know, right?) And of course Damo himself was not exactly boring to watch in his own right.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts killing it live back in 1981
09:34 am


Joan Jett

The queen of zero fucks, Joan Jett.
Rock and roll queen Joan Jett was only 23-years-old when she tore up the stage with the Blackhearts for New York radio station WLIR’s “Party in the Park.” And as you might imagine Jett’s set was the real deal—full of feedback, cans of Budweiser on amps and enthusiastic fist-pumping fans.

The band rips through five songs in the footage from Jett’s solo album 1980’s Bad Reputation and from 1981’s I Love Rock ‘n Roll—“Bad Reputation,” Jett’s cover of “Crimson and Clover,” by Tommy James and the Shondells,” the Gary Glitter cover made famous by Jett “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” “Summertime Blues” (which according to Blackheart bassist Gary Ryan who announced to the crowd this would be the first time Jett & the Blackhearts would perform the 1958 Eddie Cochran cover live), and of course “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” You’ll also see the cherub-faced Jett cursing and goofing around in bed while shooting TV promos with WLIR DJ John DeBella who helped champion I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll. Other bands on the “Party in the Park” bill included Rick Derringer, Todd Rundgren, Long Island band The Good Rats and the titanic Blue Öyster Cult. I’ve posted the footage of Jett’s amped up performance below as well as a promo from WLIR that includes footage of Derringer, Rundgren and The Good Rats but sadly, not BÖC.

The videos after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Massive trove of over 300 boomboxes for sale—only $14,000
09:08 am


boom box

Boomboxes are kind of an of-a-certain-age thing, but if you were sentient in between the mid ‘70s and early ’90s, they were as common as stereo consoles and component systems. “Portable,” technically, inasmuch as they took batteries and weren’t literally furniture, they were huge, cumbersome radio/cassette deck combos with large stereo speakers. The classic stereotypes associated with the things were mulletted suburban rock ‘n’ roll scumbags tailgating with boomboxes in the trunks of their cars playing music at hateful and disruptive volumes, either oblivious to or give-a-fuckless about the public nuisance they were creating, or soul/disco/hip-hop fans with massive afros, strutting down crowded city streets with boomboxes on their shoulders playing music at hateful and disruptive volumes, either oblivious to or give-a-fuckless about the public nuisance they were creating. Their total ubiquity in breakdance culture (owing to their portability, naturally) led to the unfortunate and highly problematic nickname “ghettoblasters.”

By the late ’80s, a boombox could have as many features as a stereo component system—sophisticated EQs, detatchable speakers, dual cassette decks for dubbing (HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC, YOU GUYS), even remotes. By the early ‘90s, when the boxy metal units were phased out in favor of less distinctive (and way less awesome) rounded black plastic ones with CD players, they often even replaced consoles as home stereos of choice for many listeners as cassettes grew in popularity over vinyl. And those feature-loaded boxy metal ones are the models that have, in the internet era of ever-increasing granularity in collecting, developed a cult.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
A whole bunch of Dischord albums are now available on Bandcamp
03:13 pm



The Washington, D.C., record label Dischord, co-owned by Jeff Nelson and Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, is routinely held up as the shining example of an independent record company that maintains its integrity in the face of unrelenting corporate pressures.

It seems that Dischord is still seeking to forge its own path—rather than sign contracts with Spotify, it has recently made a relationship with Bandcamp, a website popular among D.I.Y. musicians that makes self-distribution of music much easier. A healthy chunk of the Dischord catalog has just surfaced on, which means the fans of Government Issue, Void, Rites of Spring, Dag Nasty, and Nation of Ulysses can now stream their albums without paying Spotify for the privilege.

Furthermore, it’s easy to purchase digital copies of many Dischord albums at a pretty reasonable price (usually $8). I’ve seen it said that “every” Dischord album is now on Bandcamp, but I couldn’t find any albums by Jawbox or Lungfish or Shudder to Think or the Make-Up. In any case it’s a lot of albums, more than 100 albums for sure.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Lord of the Strings: Guitar wizard Harvey Thomas and his Infernal Music Machines
01:20 pm


Harvey Thomas

Thanks to Timothy L. Olsen for this wonderful remembrance of guitar-making legend Harvey Thomas.

Remember what the term “Japanese guitar” used to mean, back when Beatniks roamed the earth and Elvis was still kinda nasty?

The Beatles hadn’t landed and I was in the third grade when my big brother Jim brought home a brand new Japanese guitar. Loosely modeled after a classic, it was already caving in from the load of its steel strings. You don’t see them like this anymore, man. Painted-on binding, decal rosette, door skin luan plywood, basswood (or worse) neck, nice sharp ends on those rough brass frets. I was totally fascinated.

But the word fascination found new meaning a year later when my even bigger brother Dick came home from college with what might as well have been the Messiah Stradivarius. It was a very plain, small-bodied New York-era Epiphone archtop with a badly repaired crack running the full length of the soundboard, and he had bought it cheap in a pawn shop. The hand of mortal man never created such perfection. This was a gift from the angels! Oh, the lovely dissonances that it spoke as I whanged it with a juice glass slide! When Dick was begged, he would strum “Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?

The tenor of my lutherie career was set then and there, as I rushed headlong into the construction of a series of rash and ignorant experiments. The first one to produce a musical note involved bolting the neck of a smashed Gene Autry guitar to a hunk of plywood. By now I was in the 5th grade and the Baby Boom generation was wild about electric guitars thanks to the Mop Tops and other invading Anglos. I made a major life decision to build an electric bass from scratch.

I designed an instrument based on my limited available technology and even more limited engineering savvy, featuring a body made of a sandwich of miscellaneous plywood slabs and a neck which instead of fitting into a slot, surrounded the body like a clothespin. I got the neck fretted, having marked the fret locations on a piece of paper at a music store, then transferring the marks to the oak fretboard, resplendent with 3/4” dowel fret markers.

There I am, a fat fifth grader with my plywood guitar and very big dreams. Harvey to the left, and Harvey’s guitars, including the famous Maltese Cross model, hung along the ceiling. That’s my big sister Ruth on the right in the racing stripe jacket, looking at the Hanged Man dummy.

I got hung up trying to find a pickup. Remember, this was before the Summer of Love. The man at the music store didn’t have access to anything other than those chrome DeArmonds that were used for electrifying archtops. I was persistent and doubtless pitiable. Finally the music store man, against his better judgement it seemed, relented:

“Listen, kid. There’s a guy out in Midway that makes guitars. He’ll have what you need. But I’m warning you, he’s a real character, and I won’t promise that he’ll sell you a pickup. He might like you or he might not.”

Now I had to convince my mom to drive me 25 miles to Midway to see a guy who might or might not like me, and might or might not help me. The thought of not going never occurred to me. A man who makes guitars. This was about the most wonderful thought that had yet crossed my young mind. It is still a pretty thrilling idea, come to think of it. A man who makes guitars!

It took a while to talk her into it, but eventually mom and I were heading north on Highway 99 in the ‘49 Chevy. Midway isn’t really a place, it’s just mid way between Seattle and Tacoma. And this wasn’t really even in Midway. We found the cross street, and turned onto a small road. About a block later a wooden sign with the stenciled word “Thomas” pointed down a pair of ruts bumping off through deep puddles, apparently to nowhere. We followed obediently.

On the right, a heap of rusted and crumpled metal that may once have been a pickup truck of ‘30s vintage held a large sign saying “Bargain. Needs Paint.” We arrived at a modern, low slung, one story house, what you call a “rambler.” It seemed strangely out of place in the swampy, scrub-tree setting. The iron gate held signs warning of dire consequences to trespassers, and to those who dared to block the driveway. A woman looking something like Loretta Lynn told us that Mr. Thomas was out on an errand, but that we could wait in the living room.
Wild tales and even wilder guitars after the jump

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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