Aggronautix, the company that makes those cool “throbbleheads,” has teamed up with Emoji Fame and GG Allin’s brother, Merle, to create just what the Internet needed: GG Allin emojis.
GG Allin, the deceased shit-flinging “Rock and Roll Terrorist,” known for his transgressive live act, lives on digitally in a full set of cutesy cartoon images you can use to spice up your texts. You’ll be GG LOL’n in no time with these scumfuc smileys.
Emoji Fame, the go-to company specializing in making emoji sets for musicians, has thus far primarily developed artist emojis for hip-hop and EDM acts. GG’s set is one of the first punk rock emoji sets available.
“Love him or hate him, GG Allin is an icon. The process of distilling GG into emojis was equal parts revolting and exhilarating, which I think is a good way to sum up his persona. The emojis we created for him reflect that duality,” said Gavin Rhodes, Cofounder of Emoji Fame.
“It was fun to think back and develop the imagery relating to GG and his legacy,” said Merle Allin. “These emojis are for you sick fucks who want to keep GG and his scumfuc tradition alive… Keep spreading the disease.”
In other GG goes digital news this week, the GG Allin book My Prison Walls is now available digitally for Kindle via Amazon.
Keiichi Tanaami was a part of the Neo-Dada movement that was born in Tokyo, a force in art spurned forward by the vitriolic anger that was postwar Japan at the beginning of the 1960s. The goal of the painters and other creative artists that were a part of the Neo-Dada Organization (as they were called) was to create works that were “suspended between art and guerrilla warfare.” Tanaami himself was a survivor of the U.S air raids during WWII that targeted Tokyo starting in 1942 which took the lives of more than 100,000 civilians (although some estimates place the number closer to 200,000) and had been deeply affected by the war. One of the horrors that Tanaami recalls during the air raids is the vision of his father’s pet goldfish deformed body still swimming around it its bowl when his family returned from a bomb shelter after his neighborhood had been destroyed. It was this and other unspeakable sights that according to Tanaami robbed him of his childhood.
‘No More War,’ 1967.
Thankfully Tanaami would find a way to channel his grief, anger and loss into a remarkable career as one of the Japan’s most loved “pop” artists despite the fact that his own mother and the vast majority of his family were emphatically opposed to his choice of professions after discovering his passion for art during high school. Tanaami quickly found work as an artist in print media and doing commissions while still in college which would lead to a gig with the pioneering group JAAC (Japan Advertising Artists Club). The pop art influence in Tanaami’s work is vividly aparent and much of his early work centers around pop-flavored eroticism. In 1975 he got another big break after becoming the first art director for the Japanese version of Playboy magazine, called Monthly Playboy. During a trip to Playboy’s New York offices (and according to Tanaami’s extensive bio on his website) the magazine’s editor (or Hugh Hefner I’m assuming) took Tanaami to Andy Warhol’s mythical studio, the Factory. As if this wasn’t transformative enough for Tanaami his path would also cross with underground comix icon R. Crumb along the way, yet another event that helped shape Tanaami’s ever evolving visionary style.
By the time the 80s rolled around Tanaami, though still working, had developed a penchant for boozing around the clock. A lifestyle that landed the artist in a hospital bed for four months where the combination of medication used to help aid his recovery caused intense hallucinations from which he recovered, armed with an arsenal of boundary-pushing subject matter on which to draw from.
Now a triumphant eighty years old, Tanaami’s compelling work is routinely shown at museums across the world and has been the subject of a few books that celebrate various eras in his life that have included collage work and impressive sculptural interpetations of his paintings such as Keiichi Tanaami: Spiral and Keiichi Tanaami: Killer Joe’s Early Times 1965-73. Some of our more astute, artistically-inclined Dangerous Minds readers may also recognize Tanaami’s artwork from the covers of albums by Super Furry Animals and Jefferson Airplane. I’ve included Tanaami’s album art as well as a large selection of his hyper-colorful psychedelic works some of which are slightly NSFW.
During exactly none of the at least 20 Jesus Lizard shows I saw over the course of the ‘90s did I ever imagine that their frontman/moaner/howler-monkey-in-chief David Yow would have a career afterlife as Jimmy the simpleton janitor. But life’s weird.
Since the Jesus Lizard’s demise and in between its occasional reactivations (and a sojourn as a member of Qui), Yow has shifted direction to graphic arts and acting. He’s published books and appeared in films and music videos (someone please remake Corrupt and cast Yow in either lead role already please and thank you), and his latest project combines acting with that version of “singing” that’s his and his alone. He’s a guest vocalist for two songs on the new Dumb Numbers album, Dumb Numbers II, and the star of their new video.
Dumb Numbers is a recording project of Australian (now Los Angelean) filmmaker Adam Harding, who uses a Delaney-and-Bonnie-ish heavy friends approach to music making, recruiting his many, many collaborators from the ranks of the musicians with whom he’s made connections as a videographer. This includes not only Yow, but members of Sebadoh, Cows, Warpaint, Melvins, Dinosaur Jr., Best Coast, and Einstürzende Neubauten. Harding neatly avoids a too-many-cooks scenario, and the music coheres really well. It’s difficult to pigeonhole his sound, though certainly ‘90s underground rock figures heavily in the mix. Stoner rock, doom, post-metal, and shoegaze are all clear influences, but Harding goes in more for hooks and pop structures than those genres, occupying the huge sonic space of a band like Isis while avoiding the ponderousness that can sometimes submerge that sort of music.
Which brings us back to Jimmy the janitor. David Yow starred as the character in 2012 for a Harding-directed video by the band Useless Children. The following year, Yow would direct the first Dumb Numbers video, “Redrum,” from the band’s eponymous debut album. And now, Yow has, as mentioned above, joined Dumb Numbers as a guest vocalist on two songs from the band’s second album, and in the new video, released just yesterday, “Unbury the Hatchet.” It follows Jimmy through his surreal daylong failed attempt to go to work—with a wonderful derail to a veterinary clinic waiting room populated with grown men in animal costumes.
Yow and Harding were kind enough to take some time to talk with Dangerous Minds about the video and their collaboration.
DM: OK, I know both of you have directed videos before, which one of you directed “Unbury the Hatchet?”
Adam Harding: I did, I directed, shot and edited it. I had directed a video for a band in Melbourne called Useless Children back in 2012. That was the first thing that David and I ever worked on together, and we just had such a blast making that video, and it was the first appearance of the character “Jimmy.” Jimmy is based on a real person. When I lived in Australia I worked at a printing factory, and Jimmy was the janitor there. He was a simple fellow, and he wasn’t the best janitor in the world but he was a really lovely guy. He didn’t talk much but we bonded over music—I had a boombox and he would kind of get into whatever music I was playing. This was in the mid-‘90s. I played the first Folk Implosion record a lot, and he would dance with his broom and shake his butt. He’d headbang to Sepultura.
David Yow: [laughing] How old was Jimmy?
Harding: He would have been in his early to mid-50s then. So this character is based on Jimmy, and we did this Useless Children video with David doing the character. And over the last four years, often David would do something Jimmy-like to make us laugh, so we had a long time to come up with ideas for Jimmy. It was really really fun to be able to do that finally.
DM: OK, so David, this is obviously not someone you’ve had an opportunity to meet, so how did you develop the character, and what does performing the character mean to you?
Yow: Adam has explained to me about Jimmy. When we shot the Useless Children video, I had done some acting job earlier that day where I’d put grey in my temples, and we just kept that in there, and that became part of it to me. Also he wears a coverall uniform with a badge with his name on it, and just putting on the coverall was helpful in becoming someone else. Adam had described that Jimmy was affable, a really nice guy, not a bad bone in his body, very simple. He doesn’t worry about too much. He might be sort of mentally retarded, and with both of these videos we’ve done, he doesn’t say a word except to talk to his mother in the morning, and you don’t hear him. I’ve been doing a lot of acting in the last few years, and it was really easy to slip into that simple place where Jimmy lives.
Harding: And you put the coveralls on and your belly comes out.
Yow: I’m fat now!
Harding and Yow in “Unbury the Hatchet”
DM: Is the narrative based on anything about the actual Jimmy? Where did that come from?
Harding: It really wasn’t. I can’t remember which ideas came first. At all. I wanted my buddy Bobb from Best Coast to be in it, and he has this kind of bunny-tough persona he does, he has this old dirty bunny costume that he wears when he does solo shows. I wanted Bobb to be in the video, and from there came the gorilla costume, trying to incorporate those. I knew I wanted Jimmy to be going to work and never getting there.
Yow: And just so you and the rest of the world know, the Gorilla is Matt Cronk from Qui.
Though the man himself doesn’t remember much of it, heavy Alice fans of my acquaintance adore his new wave period. It’s been some years since I worked in a record store, but I bet you can still pick up most of these albums for a song: Flush the Fashion, where AC out-Numans Numan on “Clones”; Special Forces, the one with the manic cover of Love’s “7 And 7 Is”; Zipper Catches Skin, where Alice’s dead dog comes back to life to save him from getting run over by a truck; and the no-shit start-to-finish masterpiece DaDa, which reunited the singer with writing partner Dick Wagner and producer Bob Ezrin.
To promote the French leg of the Special Forces tour, Alice and band filmed this hourlong TV special in France. Roughly the first two-thirds consists of promo films they made on the cheap in the Republic’s wrecking yards, escalators, Métro stations and meat lockers. Then, after a gag “interview” by a really familiar French journalist named “Vincent Furnier,” there follows a TV studio recreation of the Alice Cooper live experience as it was in 1982.
To be sure, these are not the definitive versions of classics like “Generation Landslide” and “Eighteen.” However, I think this video for “Clones,” filmed in front of a heap of junked cars with the band holding a bedsheet and AC wrapped in duct tape, lays waste to the official one they made with a smoke machine, a wardrobe and a second camera. And director Agnès Delarive’s sequencing and setting of “Cold Ethyl” and “Only Women Bleed” is inspired.
Skeleton Alice and his ‘82 band mime “Model Citizen” in a Métro station
If you’re wondering why Alice looks like a moldering cadaver in this footage, check out Supermensch, the documentary about the improbable life of manager Shep Gordon that’s still streaming on Netflix. There (unless it’s Super Duper Alice Cooper I’m thinking of), Alice is pretty open about the cubic miles of freebase smoke he was sucking down during the early ‘80s. (No fool, Gordon stuck to slam-dancing with Mr. Greenjeans, as I’m sure he affirms in his new memoir, They Call Me Supermensch. “Let’s burn another one soon, Shep,” Willie Nelson says in his blurb.)
A four bedroom home located in View Park, California that was once owned by none other than Ike and Tina Turner is for sale. It was last sold in 1977 to a woman named Amanda Pittman. According to Pittman, she kept some of the Turner’s furnishings intact and well, as you can plainly see… she didn’t really update it at all. It’s a 1970s time capsule to say the very least. In fact, some of the scenes from What’s Love Got to Do With It—a movie based on Tina Turner’s life—was filmed in the house.
Pittman recalls that Ike Turner had the sofas custom-made, but they were upholstered in a red, possibly velvet material that she disliked, so she had them redone in beige. (Owners are still determining whether or not the furniture is up for sale, says listing agent Ken Conant.)
That’s a deal breaker!
The home is listed at 999k. You can see more photos here.
For some the question is Prog Rock—who’s to blame? But that’s more than a tad unfair. For at its heart Progressive Rock was about great musicianship—virtuoso players who played their instruments more like classical musicians than buskers. It may have been indulgent with endless noodling guitar solos, bass solos and eighteen-minute-long drum solos—but this should not detract from the high quality of musicianship which at the very least deserves tribute.
Most musical genres are born out the cross pollination of different musical styles. Usually there are one or two pioneers who can be credited with starting the whole thing off. In the case of Prog Rock that honor goes to one (not so very well known) Scot by the name of Billy Ritchie and his band 1-2-3.
Ritchie was born and raised in the small village of Forth—nestling midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Born the year of the D-Day landings, Ritchie started off his musical career playing harmonica as a boy. Coming from a working class family meant that owning a musical instrument was not one of life’s necessities. His talent as keyboard player may never have flourished had it not been for a neighbor throwing out an old piano. The piano was reclaimed and given a new home. Though in disrepair, Ritchie quickly taught himself to become a wizard on the ivories.
The facility with which he learned to play the piano made Ritchie think he was just an okay player. He didn’t fully appreciate his staggering musical talent as a pianist until he joined a band. While his fellow bandmates found it difficult to pick up on one of the more tricksy rock ‘n’ roll tracks—Ritchie could master the song—any song—after just one hearing.
He also had a great ability to improvise variations on any song—reinventing it as something altogether new. His talent for arrangement was to play a key part in the development of the Prog Rock gestalt. Another key was his choice of Hohner Clavinet as his preferred instrument. In the years of guitar bands no one played the organ and no one took the instrument seriously, but Billy Ritchie’s chosen keyboard (he later changed it to the Hammond organ) was another key influence in shaping the Prog Rock sound.
Ritchie played with various bands eventually joining The Satellites in the early 1960s. He then joined up with another group—The Premiers who become the Prog Rock pioneers 1-2-3 around 1966—and were later renamed Clouds in 1968.
In 2011, Prog Archives interviewed the band about their earliest beginnings:
When, where and by whom was Clouds started ? Did any of you, past and present Clouds members, play in any other bands before joining up in Clouds? Why did you choose that name?
In 1964, Ian (Ellis) and Harry (Hughes) were playing together in a group called ‘The Premiers.’ The line-up of the band was two guitars, bass, drums (Harry), and vocalist (Ian). The band decided to recruit an organist, and Billy (Ritchie) joined (1965). Billy had been playing in a band called ‘The Satellites.’ The organ was so obviously the leading instrument, it changed the dynamic of the band, the lead guitarist left, the band fragmented, leaving just Ian, Billy, and Harry, and we decided to start a new band together.
We wanted to do something different, and as there were only three of us, we decided to call the band 1-2-3, it seemed a hip name, and something different, like the band itself. It was only much later (the winter of 1967) that we became Clouds. The name was chosen by our new manager, Terry Ellis. He felt we needed a fresh start and a new name. We never liked the name, we preferred 1-2-3.
Usually keyboard players are situated to the side and back when a band perform live, but Ritchie rejected this formation. He wanted to play up front, center stage under the spotlight. He was also one of the first—if not the very first—to play keys standing up. Sure Jerry Lee Lewis played standing up but he alternated between standing and sitting and occasionally even jumping on the piano. Ritchie didn’t.
Back to the interview:
Not many people know this, but Clouds was one of the first bands who combined rock and classic music. If not the first band, that is. Other bands like The Nice, Genesis, Procol Harum, Yes and ELP followed suit. How did you get this idea and how did this idea really take off in Clouds?
1-2-3 was the earliest band to play that form of music. It was only later that this style became part of what would be called progressive rock. We were certainly the only band around the Marquee and London scene playing that form of music, though experimentation was beginning to take place in other ways. Cream, and Pink Floyd, are the other names that spring to mind, though all three of us were trying new music from different directions. It just so happens that our music seemed to find a branch of its own in progressive channels. The basic idea was rewritten versions of pop music songs, and it all sprang from Billy, who had a very radical approach to the arrangements. He took the view that anything was possible, and there were no barriers. The blueprint he used was the exact model that Yes used a year or so later.
Ritchie was taking songs by other artists—sometimes songs that had as yet not been recorded—and turned them into something different—something exciting. He took Paul Simon’s “America” before it was recorded in 1968 and rearranged it onto a jazz—rock—proto-Prog song. He did the same with David Bowie’s “I Dig Everything.”
More on the birth of Prog Rock with Billy Ritchie and 1-2-3, after the jump…
A team of researchers from the United Kingdom and Spain has demonstrated that spiders are capable of tuning their webs for the purpose of receiving information about the local environment, including the presence of prey and potential mates.
Similar to the strings of a finely tuned instrument, every strand of spider silk conveys vibrations across a wide range of frequencies over the span of a web. Spiders require a system like this to detect the presence of prey and mates, as their visual acuity is very low.
The general phenomenon has been understood by scientists for some time; what wasn’t clear were the precise characteristics of these vibrations or (more to the point) whether spiders exercised control over the practice. Researchers from Oxford University and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid have released a study, available in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, that looks into the material properties of spider webs and the way that vibrations propagate through the silken strands. The team has shown that spiders do in fact tune their webs to transmit specific messages. The paper’s title is “Tuning the Instrument: Sonic Properties in the Spider’s Web.”
The researchers used lasers to measure the tiny vibrations, isolating three particular features that allow spiders to turn their webs into data transmitters: web tension, silk stiffness, and overall web architecture. It turns out that spiders are capable of manipulating all three of these characteristics.
Spiders “tune” the waves that emanate from the web by adjusting the web’s tension and the stiffness of the web’s outer rim and spokes, also known as the dragline. In fact, spider webs are so customizable, the researchers hypothesize that some properties of silk evolved for this very purpose. Quoting from the paper’s abstract:
[W]e propose that dragline silk supercontraction may have evolved as a control mechanism for these multifunctional fibres. The various degrees of active influence on web engineering reveals the extraordinary ability of spiders to shape the physical properties of their self-made materials and architectures to affect biological functionality, balancing trade-offs between structural and sensory functions.
Unsurprisingly, the cunning evolved knowledge that a spider uses to construct its web far exceeds a simple “hope for the best“ model. Spiders actually tweak their webs to ensure the propagation of specific vibrations. The primary purpose of a web is to trap prey, but the structure of the web is optimized to capture important information about the area. Spiders constructing and then fine-tune their webs to act as a multi-function device.
In the early 1990’s a 22-year old surfer kid from Newport Beach hit the L.A. music scene and turned it inside out. Rex Kingsley Thompson (nickname: “Tatarex”) was a thin, cool, attractive, 6’4” tall creation that looked like he had just arrived in a time machine. His band The Summer Hits released a handful of singles between 1992-1996 and were played on BBC Radio 1 by legendary deejay John Peel. Then like a flash, Rex left southern California for Europe without a penny in his pocket where he spent twelve years exploring chic, tropical islands and castles with beautiful women of royalty. Last week the news of Rex’s passing at the age of 47 hit the internet and saddened thousands of friends and followers who recount his super unconventional lifestyle and profound cult-like influence on people everywhere he went.
Known around skateboard parks for always drinking pink lemonade, Tatarex was also somewhat of a local at “The Wedge” in Orange County, a surfing spot just off the end of the Balboa Peninsula popular for its big waves and laid-back lifestyle. As a mohawked youth back in Glendora, Rex had originally intended to be a tennis player but once he hit his 20’s and left home he began shifting his focus towards other interests such as fashion, the beach, music, and recreational drug use. “He walked around like he was this psychedelic blue blood sometimes. You know what I mean? Because he was always asking everybody about their fashion, and clothes, and hygiene, and appearance. He didn’t judge you he would just kind of point people in the direction of the finer things in life. Not just expensive things, but the things that make you live free and think that you can really enjoy life” says longtime friend Brent Rademaker.
Rex drove around in a Volkswagon bus he called “Peanut” searching local vintage stores for groovy clothes and groovy records. Brent recalls the modes of communication before cell phones existed: “He worked at the Newport Classic Inn, I’d call him there. The only way to get in touch with him would be to call him at work. He’d answer the phone ‘Good afternoon the Newport Classic Inn Hotel this is Rex speaking’ It was kind of like the thing in Quadrophenia when the Ace Face gets outed as a bellboy. I even went down there and Rex is dressed in a button-down shirt with a tie. Darren and I came from Florida and Rex really lived all things west coast and lived all things southern California. He made us honorary Californians and he didn’t treat us as outsiders.”
The Summer Hits, mid-‘90s collage courtesy of Brent Rademaker
With no prior musical experience or training, Rex picked up a left-handed bass and taught himself to play. After his first band fell apart (a C86 influenced local group called Speed Racer) Rex formed The Summer Hits by recruiting friends Darren Rademaker and Josh Schwartz (of the lo-fi “indie rock” band Further). They released a handful of 7"s on labels such as Small-Fi, Volvolo, Silver Girl, and 1000 Guitar Mania. Rex’s unique singing voice on the 8-track recordings was nearly drowned out by a wall of fuzz and feedback, with lyrics that reflected all of his most favorite things: summer, the beach, drugs, listening to music, girls, runnin’ from the fuzz, and retreating into the desert night.
In 1997 the year following the band’s split, Brent issued The Summer Hits compilation CD on his own label Xmas Records. “I took every dime I had to put that Beaches and Canyons CD together. I found all the comp tracks and all the singles and all the tapes and I took them down to Capitol (Records) tower and mastered them. The guy looked at me like I was insane when it came on. You know? And I’m like ‘Can you add even more fuzz?’ and he’s like ‘What?! I can’t clean these up,’ I said ‘I don’t want you to clean them up, I want you to make them dirtier.’”
Besides being the life of the party and a psychedelic social butterfly, Rex Thompson had been making amazing mixtapes which were then duplicated and passed down by friends and friends of friends. The more tapes Rex made the deeper the tracks got and the more extensive his handwritten linear notes became. One tape of Rex’s in particular titled Find the Sun really stood out amongst his circle of friends and focused on recordings from 1966-1973 by groups all over the world experimenting with the “west coast sound.” Rex’s personal description of the tape was “Magic hippie vibes for lost cosmic children with countrified brains.” Brent recalls, “It had a great title and it was full of obscure, beautiful, beautiful groups. One day Chris Gunst, Josh Schwartz, and I were listening to that tape and one of us just said ‘We can make a group that sounds like this.’ Slowly our clothes started changing, next thing Chris was wearing cowboy western shirts.” L.A. supergroup Beachwood Sparks was formed, they had a successful career on Sub Pop Records and were later featured on the soundtrack to the 2010 cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. “We wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for that tape and Rex’s influence.”
“Find the Sun” mixtape linear notes courtesy of Maura Klosterman
“Another thing that speaks so highly of Rex, the linear notes on his tapes are so in depth. And I’m not saying that the pre-internet world didn’t learn or share knowledge or do research. But at what he had at his disposal he really went in depth and he knew what he was talking about when he was talking about country rock, psych, folk, west coast garage, fuzz. Whatever it was, he knew it.”
David Bowie’s chance meeting with a faded rock star who thought he was Jesus Christ was the first of the building blocks that led to Ziggy Stardust.
Bowie was a teenage Mod fronting his band the Lower Third when he regularly bumped into Vince Taylor at the La Gioconda club in London. Taylor was an “American” rocker who had been a major star in France. By the time Bowie met him, Taylor was a washed-up acid casualty who had fried his brain after ingesting waaaaaay too much LSD.
Taylor was born Brian Maurice Holden in Isleworth, England in 1939. He was youngest of five children. In 1946, the family emigrated to New Jersey, where Taylor grew up on a diet of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent. When his sister Sheila dated Joe Barbera—one half of animation team Hannah-Barbera—the family moved to California.
Like millions of other young American teenagers, Taylor wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll idol. His singing was so-so but he could do a good Elvis impersonation. Barbera offered to manage him. Through Barbera’s contacts Taylor got his first nightclub bookings singing rock standards with a band. He later joked he was only ever chosen to be the singer because of his teen heartthrob looks.
While rock ‘n’ roll was ripping the joint in America, Taylor was surprised to find that back in his birth country the biggest star was a toothsome all-round entertainer called Tommy Steele. With his boy-next-door looks and wholesome cheeky chappy banter, Steele was loved by both the moms and daughters across the land. Taylor figured if this was English rock ‘n’ roll, then he would clean-up with his Elvis routine.
(Sidebar: While Taylor clearly pinched Presley’s act, Elvis later pinched Taylor’s black leather look for his 1968 comeback show.)
When Joe Barbera traveled to London on business—he took Taylor with him. This was when Brian Holden adopted the name “Vince Taylor.” “Vince” from Elvis Presley’s character “Vince Everett” in Jailhouse Rock. “Taylor” from actor Robert Taylor.
Taylor adapted his stage act from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. He added a biker boy image—black leather jacket, pants, gloves, and winklepickers. He wore makeup and mascara. What he lacked for in voice, he made up in performance. Taylor was a wild man. Utterly unrestrained. His body jerked as if he’d been hit by 100,000 volts of electricity. He wiggled his hips and thrust his pelvis at the hormonal teenyboppers who screamed his name. He was sex on legs. Vulgar. Nasty. Every parent’s nightmare, every teenage girl’s pinup.
His early shows in England during the late fifties-early sixties brought him a record deal. He cut a few disc and wrote the classic song “Brand New Cadillac” (later recorded by the Clash). Taylor garnered mega column inches in the music press. But when he should have been heading to the top, Taylor sabotaged his own career by failing to turn-up for gigs. The reason? His jealousy.
Before a gig he would phone his girlfriend to check up on what she was doing. If she didn’t answer the phone—off Taylor would pop to hunt down his girl and the man he imagined she was with. This meant his backing band the Playboys often performed the gig without their iconic front man. This unreliability damaged Taylor’s reputation in England. The Playboys split-up and reformed around the band’s one consistent member—the drummer.
To make money to pay his debts, Taylor took a gig in Paris in 1961. He was bottom of the bill. Top of the bill was Wee Willie Harris (later immortalized in “Reasons to Be Cheerful—Part Three” by Ian Dury). Taylor was pissed with the billing. He decided to show the promoters who was King. During rehearsal for the show, Taylor gave one of his greatest most violent most outrageous performances. He was a rock ‘n’ roll animal. The promoters saw their error and gave Taylor top billing.
This gig made Taylor an overnight star in France.
More on the rock-n-roll ‘Naz(arene) with God-given ass,’ after the jump…
In the mid-70s I started a reggae band called The Ravers. I was living in Boulder, Colorado and had recently discovered The Wailers, Toots and The Maytals, The Mighty Diamonds, Burning Spear and the rest of the great groups coming out of Jamaica. For me, rock and roll had died along with Hendrix, Morrison and Brian Jones. There was some light in the darkness radiating from David Bowie, Roxy Music, T Rex and Sparks but reggae gave me what I had been missing: short energetic songs with great hooks and messages of rebellion. For a year or so, The Ravers played a handful of clubs to small audiences who couldn’t quite wrap their heads around an all-white reggae band that played with a more aggressive attitude than our Jamaican idols. The original material was more profane than sacred with a rocksteady rhythm that didn’t swing as much as lurch. I didn’t know it at the time but the reggae experiment was just a launching pad for something that was a better fit for me as a songwriter and front man.
In 1976 I had my musical “come to Jesus” moment. The Ramones’ debut album had just been released and as soon as the vinyl landed on my turntable and the band came roaring through the speakers, my life’s calling shifted gears and I decided to start a loud, insane rock band. I called my bandmates and scheduled a meeting. That night I played The Ramones for David, Artie, Jon and whoever our drummer was at the time. These guys were terrific musicians who were listening to shit like Steely Dan and The Grateful Dead. Hearing The Ramones made them visibly uncomfortable. They didn’t get it. They thought I’d lost my mind. But I played the album again. And then again. And suddenly smiles were breaking out on their faces and they were beginning to pick up on the musical intelligence underneath the goofy lyrics. The relentless guitar surging over a skin tight rhythm section was superficially simple but actually very hard to execute. This was a different kind of virtuosity, one that was just as exacting as any flashy soloing of the bands that my group admired. I picked up the tonearm and we picked up our guitars and started playing our first Ramones-inspired riffs. Within a week we went from being a bad reggae band to being a pretty good garage band. We didn’t call it punk until someone else did.
Playing our brand of fast and loud rock and roll went over like the proverbial turd in a punchbowl in hippie dippy Boulder. Which just made me more determined. We played country bars and Italian restaurants. I’d take my clothes off and leap into the audience. Half the set was made up on the spot. I’d turn to the band and scream “give me an E” and we’d start vamping. I ran my vocals through an Echoplex and would holler gibberish. We developed a small group of dedicated fans. Weirdos and outcasts. One of whom, Eric, later changed his name to Jello Biafra.
The author in the throes of rock and roll dementia. Photo: Patty Heffley.
When The Ramones came to Denver, Colorado in 1977 to play a tiny club with the totally misleading name Ebbets Field, The Ravers were hired to be their opening act. Being the only punk band in the Rocky Mountain region had its upside. I was going to meet The Ramones. I was excited. On the other hand, I was also scared shitless of being crushed by the band we were opening for.
The night of the gig we were onstage covering songs by The Dictators, The Stooges, Tuff Darts and some 60s garage rockers as well as our original material. The venue was tiny with steeply raked bleacher seating. The front row was about three feet from the stage. The Ravers were playing “California Sun” (which The Ramones had covered) when The Ramones entered the room and walked right in front of the stage carrying guitar cases and staring at the ground. I swear Johnny was smirking. We probably looked like rubes. In that moment, I felt like one.
After our set we went to the dressing room we were sharing with The Ramones. The vibe was deeply uncomfortable. Nobody talked. I tried. The Ramones, with the exception of a Ritalin-deprived Dee Dee, were tight-lipped and sulking. The only thing anybody said for the half hour I was with the band was when Johnny started talking about an upcoming CBGB gig with The Cramps. He thought they sucked. Big time. He couldn’t wait to annihilate them. You could tell he knew what the rest of the world would eventually find out: That the Ramones were pound for pound the greatest rock band to walk the earth. Johnny was a competitor. All or nothing.
Two girlfriends were traveling with the band. One sat silently reading a novelization of Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS while the other was reading an Eerie comic book. Both wore leather mini-skirts with fishnet stockings and the same motorcycle jackets as the band. The whole thing was like a movie. That’s when it hit me. The Ramones were actors. This was theater. And it was perfect. Seamless.
The Ramones’ performance that night in Denver in front of about 50 people had for those of us who were there much the same impact that The Sex Pistols had in Manchester in June of 1976 when they played to 29 people, most of whom went on to form groups of their own like Joy Division, Siouxsie And The Banshees and The Buzzcocks. From the moment they hit the stage and struck their first chord, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy were sublimely intense… and loud. Far and away the loudest band I’d ever heard. It was like an airplane landing in the room. But despite the massive wall of sound there were nuances in the music that came through. The Ramones could start and stop on a dime, commanded deft time changes, condensing and sculpting pure energy into a barrage of electricity that was surgical in its precision. The music was haiku simple but like haiku it contained enormity. I hate to say it for fear of sounding pretentious but The Ramones were avant-garde, revolutionary, modernists. They took traditional rock and roll forms and compressed and distilled them to their very essence. What Warhol was doing in the visual arts, The Ramones were doing in music: returning the marvelous to the familiar. Rock music had become dull, bloated and unnecessary. It was competing with itself. The Ramones threw themselves against the barricades and a surge of fresh air entered the sphere of rock and roll and for those of us who consider the music as vital as blood, this was deliverance.
The Ramones may have been loud, bratty provocateurs but they were also spiritual. Their songs were mantras, chants that summoned the dormant gods of rock and roll and transformed audiences. Whether you’re a Deadhead, a metalhead or jazzbo, you’ve been there—in that moment when time stops and the skies open up. The Ramones were the answer to their own question: What is rock and roll?
Eric—Jello—had come to the gig posing as my roadie so he could get into the 21 and over show. In a photo snapped that night, Eric had to hand his beer off to Joey so there would be no evidence of underage drinking.
Out come these four, kinda degenerate looking guys in leather jackets—which is something you didn’t see very often then. One chord on Johnny’s guitar, and we knew it was going to be louder than anyone of us were prepared for. We braced ourselves and instead of being goofy, the Ramones were one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life.
We were three feet from the stage and forced to sit down, of course. Not only were they really, really good, but half the fun was turning around and watching the Ebbets Field, country-rock glitterati, the guys with the neatly trimmed beards, Kenny Loggins-feathered hair and corduroy jackets, with patches on the elbows, as well as the cocaine cowboys and their women, with their 1920s suits with flowers, because that’s what Joni Mitchell was wearing at the time—they looked horrified. They had nowhere to go. Because Ebbets Field was so small, you couldn’t go hang out in the lobby because there wasn’t one. They just had to endure the Ramones
Jello pretty much nails it. The Ramones rearranged our rock and roll DNA that night and we would never be the same. Almost 40 years later my sense memory of that night makes the hair on my body go erect. And at 65 years old any erection is a good thing.
Phil Gammage was also there that night. Phil went on to form Certain General in 1980, a highly regarded post-punk band that played every reputable rock venue in NYC and Europe. In 1977 he was living in Boulder and going to the University iof Colorado. One of a handful of outlaws at that respectable school. Here’s what Phil has to say about the Ebbets Field show:
Ebetts Field was a small club in downtown Denver that featured a variety of jazz, rock, blues, and country national touring music acts. Bands not big time enough to play the area’s theaters or arenas. I had already gone there a few times before when I drove down from Boulder that early spring weeknight to see The Ravers and The Ramones play.
The Ramones had so much discipline in their playing. There were no loose ends, no extra chords or stray drum beats. No slow songs, no long songs. No meandering jams. No prog rock style music frills. No encore. No rapping with the audience between songs. Their musical ideas were revolutionary. That night no one else within a thousand miles of Denver was playing music like that. I was hearing and seeing something very ground breaking and I knew it. Somehow, out of my curiosity I had found my way to be in that club that night to experience The Ramones, and I felt I was one of the ‘chosen few’ to be lucky enough to be there.
It would be the only time I would ever see The Ramones play live. I had numerous chances later, but there was something just so right and so perfect about that night in Denver. I didn’t want to mess with that mojo.
I kept The Ravers on my radar during the next few weeks. I wanted to see them play again, wanted to check out their scene. They were all a few years older than me, but they seemed like good people and approachable. Then one afternoon I picked up The Daily Camera newspaper and in the arts section was shocked to read the headline “The Ravers Say Goodbye to Boulder.” My fave local band was leaving town for good and heading to New York.
But that’s another story…
Another University of Colorado student Chris Murdock was at Ebbets Field that night. Chris too was moved by rock’s higher powers and went from observer to participant in the punk explosion when he formed legendary Colorado rockers The DefeX. The DefeX, like The Ravers, made the pilgrimage to CBGB. The acid test for any young band was whether they were gutsy enough to expose themselves to NYC’s 1970s trial by fire. The DefeX were for real. Chris sent me these previously unpublished photos from The Ramones Ebbets gig. The sparse audience really does have that deer in the headlights look. Maybe it was shock and awe.
Steve Knutson was also at the show. Steve formed one of the first punk bands in Colorado, The Front. He also worked at legendary Denver record store Wax Trax (yes that Wax Trax). This is such a cool anecdote. “After school.”
After school me and a friend picked up The Ramones at the airport, and drove them straight to Wax Trax. They loved the store and bought quite a few records. Johnny’s girlfriend was wearing a raincoat and I think nothing else. He kept asking her to cover up in the car. They wanted us to help them buy pot but we had no idea how to facilitate that. My memory is that Johnny played through double Marshall stacks at max volume. It was incredible. But I couldn’t sleep afterwards for a few days out of excitement and my ears were ringing really badly. Unforgettable.
Photo: Steve Knutson.
Miracles actually occurred that night. From Andy Snow:
I was at that show too with Phil Gammage, and yes, it was loud and completely rugged. After I left I realized my kidney stones had miraculously been sonicated!
Andy’s kidney stones.
I don’t write reviews. I tell you what I like and hope I do it convincingly enough that you’ll go out of your way to check out whatever I’m writing about. There will be plenty written about The Ramones 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. As someone who was there in the beginning of what was to become known as punk rock, it is impossible for me to be objective about the scene and how it altered my life. Writing about The Ramones dispassionately would be like dropping acid and Thorazine at the same time. What’s the point? There’s only been a handful of rock writers who write like the music feels. I believe the subject of the writer is always the writer no matter what the subject is. And when it comes to rock and roll, there is no topic more likely to be encrusted with a writer’s literary love juice. The Ramones debut album is second only to Love’s Forever Changes when it comes to albums that have never sounded less exciting to me than the first day I heard them. And both albums have been released in the same week in state of the art analog remasters. Vinyl is the new black.
So what do we have here? Three CDs, a book and a vinyl record. The CDs consist of a stereo remaster of the album and live sets from L.A. club the Roxy in 1976. Really good stuff.
But, for me, the heart and the soul of the package: a newly re-mixed and mastered mono version on 180 gram vinyl. This splendid mono release was produced by the album’s original producer Craig Leon at Abbey Road studios. Mixed from the original analog master tape, the record has a presence, a melt-your-faceness that will hit you like a tuning fork struck by the hand of God.
The Ramones with Rob Freeman and Craig Leon at the board mixing The Ramones first album in 1976.
In an email exchange, Craig described the process of remastering the stereo and remixing the album to his original mono specs:
The stereo version is a remastering of the original two track mix that we did on the last day in Plaza Sound. When we mastered the 1976 album this was altered to try and get as much level as I could on the vinyl and to apply compression simulating the “secret weapon” compressor that only the EMI studio at Abbey Road had at that time. I used it on the remastering this time rather than duplicate the one I used on the original vinyl. The compressor is an EMI modified Altec 124. It gives an incredible “in your face” presence and is easily recognizable as one of the main sounds of the Beatles recordings. George Martin and the engineers used it on almost everything the Beatles did. Wonder how Paul’s bass sounded so punchy and huge…that’s it. The whole mix is run through that. The mono is a remix recreated from my original notes and referenced against early monitor mixes that I did in ‘76. On the early monitor mixes the placement is virtually mono. The overall mix is done partially through an EMI TG12345 (great model number for this record!) console, API modules and the EMI Altec compressor. At that time the band and I wanted to go for two releases… a stereo that was extreme and attention getting but also showed the triangular approach to how the band would be set up live. Bass on one side drums in the middle guitar on the other. And a large impact mono. Like the dual versions of albums from the 60s. Of course this was deemed to be impractical because mono was “dead” in 1976. No one had mono players any more (at least in the U.S.). I find that as the years went on and different remasterings were done, the intention of the original album got diluted quite a bit. I’m really thrilled that Warner Music with a great push from Mickey Leigh and Dave Frey, gave me the opportunity to restore our intentions on this set.
There have been a handful of critics who have described the mono remix and master to be “non-essential.” These numbnuts have clearly not listened to the mono mix on vinyl. My bet is they’re listening to digital files through some shitty computer speakers. Listening to The Ramones mono version on vinyl is like placing your head against the band’s collective chest: You can hear the heartbeat of the music. And it pounds! My stereo system is comprised of a Thorens turntable, a solid vintage Technics receiver and Klipsch Heresy speakers. Play the record through a decent analog set up and you too will discover just how absolutely essential this slab of vinyl is. It holds it own against any of the recently released Beatles’ mono masters, and they are absolutely exquisite sounding.
The Ramones never referred to themselves as punks. They were a rock band with a unique vision who considered themselves to be part of a long tradition going back to Eddie Cochran through The Who, The Stones, The Stooges, David Bowie and every great rock band that kept it simple and pure. It’s a shame that Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy didn’t live to see their music mixed and mastered in a studio where The Beatles made their greatest albums. The Ramones wanted to be rock stars. And they were. No band has deserved it more.
The Ravers left for New York City a few months after opening for The Ramones. We had to get to Manhattan and see what was going on. We changed our name to The Nails. We played CBGB, Max’s, Danceteria, Pep Lounge etc. We got a major label deal and made records. I’d occasionally run into Joey Ramone at one of the rock clubs in the city. We were both drinking heavily in those years and the conversions were drunken and brief. I would bring up the Denver gig and he’d nod and mumble something. For me, that gig was monumental. For Joey, not so much.
This tall lanky guy that nervously hid behind his hair and slumped against the world like a drunken saint was not what you’d call heroic. But Joey was a hero to me. He and his band represented everything I expect from and respect about rock and roll: The Ramones stayed true to their vision, they didn’t sell out, they kept doing what they did best against the massive complacency of a music industry that was too small to contain them, but arrogant enough to dismiss them. It took Rolling Stone magazine 40 years to put them on a cover. 40 years for the band to earn a gold record. Punks might wail “who gives a shit?” Well, I can tell you the Ramones gave a shit. The Ramones wrote hits that never became hits. Dozens of them. Anybody who tells you they started a band just for the “art” of it is full of shit. Tommy may have initially conceived of The Ramones as a pop art concept (a latter day Warhol/Velvet Underground iteration) but the rest of the band were in it for keeps. The Ramones were conceptual as all get out, and smarter than most people realized, but three quarters of the band wanted to be part of the rock and roll pantheon along with Marc Bolan, John Lennon and Sky Saxon. And now they finally are. But they’re fucking dead. And that’s the sad part.
Tommy was the first to leave the band and the last to leave the planet. His vision of a one-off gutter version of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable ended up touring and recording for 20 years. He created a beautifully brutal monster.
Needless to say, I can’t share an analog version of the mono record with DM readers. Just go out and buy it. It’s worth every penny. And if you don’t have an analog stereo system at home, then this album is a good reason to get one.
Craig Leon and everybody involved in the making of The Ramones 40th Anniversary edition deserve all the love that rock fans can bestow upon them. And Rhino gets a shout out for being smart enough to put the mono remix on vinyl. What a gift.
I know people like to watch. Here’s what I consider to be the only live footage of The Ramones that comes close to communicating how powerful they were in the flesh. The Ramones live at The Rainbow, December 31, 1977. Play it fucking loud!!!