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Lee Ving of Fear—now in bobblehead form
05.24.2016
09:50 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Punk

Tags:
Throbbleheads
Lee Ving


 
Fear singer/honcho Lee Ving is a divisive figure who’s been called a LOT of things ending in “-head.” The unabashedly juvenile and boneheaded misanthropy in Fear’s lyrics makes him a hero to anti-PC reactionaries (he’s called himself an “equal opportunity offender” in interviews, which right there is a huge dog whistle), and a juvenile misanthropic bonehead to everyone else. He’s basically a loudmouth who unabashedly speaks his mind, a quality considered highly praiseworthy by people who happen to think like him. I can think of another figure who appeals to reactionaries for “speaking exactly what’s on his mind.” I’ll shut up now.

But whatever you can say about Ving’s assholiness, his band left a pretty remarkably big musical stain on Hardcore. In their 39 year history (of the original band only Ving remains) they released only two truly significant albums—1982’s The Record and 1985’s More Beer. Since then their output has been paltry, sporadic, and lacking in fire. It’s clear the band exhausted its trove of ideas early; their last album, 2012’s The Fear Record, is merely a re-recording of their debut. But that debut was sufficiently loaded with classics that it practically constitutes a best-of in its own right. That, and the publicity generated by their infamously chaotic Saturday Night Live appearance (the were invited by John Belushi) made the utterly misanthropic and hostile Fear, for better or for worse, the band civilians thought of when they thought of Hardcore at all, which let’s face it, didn’t do punk a whole lot of favors in the public relations department. As with all things Ving, your mileage may vary.

So whether you think he’s a savior or a destroyer, it’s fairly inarguable that he genuinely deserves the honor of his own bobblehead figure. Ving lately joins DEVO, Descendents, Mike Watt, Wendy O. Williams, and GG Allin, among other underground heroes, in Aggronautix’s “Throbblehead” line of punk rock bobbleheads. He’s the 30th punk icon so honored, and his edition of figures is limited to 1000, numbered. And it looks a damn shot cuddlier than the real-life model. If these don’t sell, maybe Aggronautix can lop off the middle finger, scrub the Fear logos, and try to pass these off as Joe Strummer.
 

 

 
Pre-orders are happening now at Aggronautix’s web site. The figures are expected to ship this summer.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Of punk rockers, Bad Brains, CBGB & ‘Quincy’: Charming local news segment on hardcore, 1982
05.23.2016
10:36 am

Topics:
Punk
Television

Tags:
Bad Brains
CBGB


 
This is another one of those fun, seen-in-retrospect “time capsules” about how allegedly scary punk rock was supposed to be, whilst presenting footage of kids who seem anything but scary. Misfits? Sure. Scary? No.

The time was pinpointed by one of the people interviewed as either 1982 or 1983. The segment was from something called called “2 on the Town” and I’m gonna guess that this was something seen on the local CBS affiliate in New York at the time. Dig the “Let’s Get Physical” location of the host wraparound. Instead of using an actual hardcore punk soundtrack, for some (bad) reason, they decided to cut it to David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” and “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors. Despite this, there’s a choice clip of the Bad Brains and a look at the sort of explosive melee they inspired. We also see a bit of the infamous “punk” episode of Quincy followed by some disgruntled teenage commentary about it.

There’s even an interview with a cool mom!

See it after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Hilariously angry NYC news editorial tells the ‘scummy’ Sex Pistols where to get off
05.19.2016
04:30 pm

Topics:
Media
Music
Punk

Tags:
Sex Pistols
WPIX


 
I grew up in the suburbs of NYC, so I remember the news coverage of WPIX channel 11 from the late 1970s and early 1980s quite well. For one thing, WPIX had the best sports roundup, hosted by the acerbic Jerry Gerard.

This fantastic clip dates from May 18, 1977, and made an appearance on WPIX’s own Facebook presence yesterday, which proves that they have a sense of humor. In the clip anchorwoman Pat Harper (I remember her) throws it to a lady named Doris Lilly (don’t remember her), who apparently was “previewing” an appearance by the Sex Pistols, to take place at the Elgin Theater, that never ended up happening.
 

 
Did the Sex Pistols have a gig scheduled for the Elgin in late May 1977? Lilly says “later this month.” Please do weigh in if you happen to remember this.

The Elgin Theater was on the intersection of 19th Street and Eighth Ave., and later became the Joyce Theater, a notable center for dance. Interestingly, the Elgin was located just a couple blocks south of the Hotel Chelsea, the site of the final days of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen.

It’s well known that the classic lineup never did play New York City—in that sense, Lilly, who passed away in 1991, must have died a happy woman. The Sex Pistols would have to wait until 1996 before playing their first Manhattan show.

In any case, Lilly wants you to know that she’s had it up to here with these scummy punks and .... just watch it, it’s great.
 

 
h/t: Ned Raggett

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Stranglers’ 1979 cricket match against the UK music press, featuring Lemmy and a bag of drugs


 
On September 16, 1979, the Stranglers held a cricket match to promote their new album The Raven and raise money for Capital Radio’s charity Help A London Child. They assembled a black-clad group of punk and reggae musicians to face a team made up of their usual adversaries and objects of abuse: rock journalists. Earlier that year, JJ Burnel had gaffer-taped writer Philippe Manoeuvre to the Eiffel Tower (Burnel: “it was only about 300 feet up”) and left him there, with his pants pooled around his ankles. “He wasn’t best pleased,” Jet Black remembers.

Cricket is played by teams of eleven, but the Stranglers were only four. To fill themselves out to the Stranglers XI for the charity match, the band recruited members of Motörhead, the Damned, X-Ray Spex, Flying Lizards, Steel Pulse, and other bands—a lot of people, according to their opponents in the Music Press XI, who claimed they saw a few supernumerary players on the field. Even Eddy Grant was on the massive team of rockers (“as many as 40 [...] at any one time,” the NME reported) that assembled at Paddington Recreation Ground on that storied day.
 

via Aural Sculptors
 
Lemmy showed up with a note from his doctor excusing him from the match because of a wart on his foot, but he lent his team moral and chemical support, while Kate Bush cancelled, according to Hugh Cornwell’s account in The Stranglers: Song by Song:

That was a fantastic event. [The Stranglers’ publicist] Alan Edwards came up with the idea of playing against the music press and managed to secure Brondesbury cricket ground in north London. Our team were dressed head to toe in black and wore black pads, black gloves and black caps. We even used black bats.

Kate Bush was going to play but pulled out. Lemmy turned up but had injured himself and had a sick note from his doctor, which was quite funny. He said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll be watching on the boundary. If anyone needs a pick-up, my friend has a bag of whizz!’

Jet played and maybe John did. Some of the Finchley Boys played and a couple of members of the Damned. It just so happened that a friend of our dealer at the time had been a Hampshire [C]olt and was a demon fast bowler in his youth, so we got him out of retirement.

We batted first, with Jet and one of the large Finchley Boys opening the batting. We were all out quite cheaply, but managed to secure a tie because when the other team batted we kept sneaking on extra fielders to stop the run flow.

The opposition started complaining, but it was all for charity, so it got a bit ridiculous. The funniest point was when Richard Williams, who was editor of Melody Maker, came out to bat. He was brimming with confidence and had very expensive new equipment and strode out looking very professional. But our dealer clean bowled him almost immediately and Richard became very upset.

 

via Aural Sculptors
 
The blog Aural Sculptors has three press clippings about the match, and all of them contradict Cornwell on its outcome (“a fairly comprehensive drubbing,” the NME reported; “the Stranglers [...] spent a lot of their time lying down and threatening to take the bus home”), but at least Record Mirror corroborates Lemmy’s “bag of whizz”:

The Motorhead bit of the team had to keep vanishing behind bushes and under trucks. I really couldn’t figure out if this was for Lemmy to rest or to have some more talcum on his feet which he kept whipping out from the little paper bag. At least [I think] it was talcum, you never can tell with these rowdier boys.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Expat punks Round Eye totally nail American right wing authoritarianism and paranoia in ‘Billy’
05.18.2016
11:29 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Round Eye


 
In 2010, a mononymous musician going by the handle “Chachy” needed a change. His Florida-based prog-punk band Libyan Hit Squad had finished half an album with Black Flag’s Greg Ginn, but he was enduring a serious employment drought and mourning the suicide of his band’s drummer. Attracted to the rather incredible post-punk scene happening in Beijing, he severed his lease and some personal ties and made his way to China. There, he joined up with another American expat, a Southern Rock drummer named Jimmy Jack, with whom he formed a freakish art-punk band with the pre-emptively othering name Round Eye, whose first release was a 2013 split LP with Libyan Hit Squad, a bridge between Chachy’s past and future titled Full Circle. In 2015, an eponymous LP followed.

Based in Shanghai, Round Eye are set to release a new LP this summer—one which happens to feature the final recordings by ex-Stooges saxophonist Steve Mackay—and they’ve made a brutal video for their single “Billy,” a caustic indictment of American police culture’s pathologies that in its anti-authoritarian ethos recalls the finest and most scathing moments from the heyday of ‘80s I-hate-Reagan hardcore. While China is hardly an apt place from which to lob brickbats against abuse of power, Round Eye’s critique is nonetheless dead-on in its depiction of the US right wing’s paranoid fantasies about Muslims, gays, the urban underclass, and non-white people.
 

 
Chachy was kind enough, despite a 12-hour time difference, to answer some questions via online chat.

Dangerous Minds: So you moved to China and formed a new band, and obviously you’ve been following the news from home. You clearly agree with a growing number of Americans that police culture is getting out of control.

Chachy: It’s insane. You know, it’s even more striking and vibrantly illustrated to us how bad things are when we tour the US now having our lives anchored in China, seeing our home as visitors.

Dangerous Minds: Could you talk some about the inspiration for the song and video? There are clear references to specific incidents…

Chachy: When I lived in the States, I was so used to the chaos of being inundated by everything that was happening socially. It’s a common topic right? No one is surprised by racism, bigots, over saturation of pop culture and violence in America. It just is. The Wild West with iPhones and Facebook. DE-evolution has truly arrived. But now, being away from American culture for so long things look sharper and more potent.

Our only news of the west comes from the sensational news headlines and articles on the Internet and whatever the Chinese media platforms will allow to enter the mainland. It’s almost like a perpetual stream of very bad and horrible news.  It’s funny, Chinese media is using what’s happening with Trump and America as an example of why Democracy doesn’t work. Trayvon Martin and the countless other victims of cop insanity, the Klan, the Muslim stigma, LGBT discrimination, all flowing from what seems like one place and then I turn off the computer.

I try to think “it’s the just the news and what they want to show”; surely things can’t be that bad in the States can they? But then we go on tour in the U.S. for something like 60 dates in the deep south and I’m quickly shown that yes, indeed, things are on a very dark path. Shanghai, 24 million people and I’ve never, not once, ever experienced fear in the streets. No guns in China. Then we go play a gig in podunk Florida and 30 minutes after we leave the bar four people are shot and killed over a drunken brawl in the very bar we were at. I kept the news article on that particular incident. I simply couldn’t believe it.
 

 
Dangerous Minds: Yeah, the cherry-picked news info may have a propaganda agenda, but it DOES underscore a valid point: The encroachment of authoritarianism here is really fucking alarming, and it’s accelerating after 30-35 years of steady growth. I trust you’ve been following the presidential elections. What do American expats think about the rise of Trump? And what do the Chinese people think of it, is there a broad consensus?

Chachy: Shanghai’s expat community is very very mixed.  People from all over the globe. In fact I don’t have that many American friends here. They’re from Russia, South Africa, England, Oz, Tazzy, France, etc. etc. etc., so I get a good earful of global opinions on how America is presenting itself and trust me, it’s universally laughed at. They laugh at the fact that it’s gotten this far, and trust me, I laughed with them. It’s all “can you believe this is really happening.” I remember a time only a few months ago when most of my expat/Chinese friends weren’t aware of who Trump was; this is when the astonishment sets in—now everyone knows who he is. Everyone sees the social nightmare he’s dredged up and they start to realize that what was once an American issue is now getting dangerously close to becoming an international one. Not laughing as much anymore.
 

 
Dangerous Minds: So this begs to be said—China is arguably kind of a HUGE glass house from which to be throwing anti-authority stones. How does Round Eye reconcile that stance with living in such a rigidly policed nation?

Chachy: Yeah, totally understand. China is indeed an extremely authoritarian place. There is no freedom of speech here and we’ve felt the influence of the Ministry of Culture quite swiftly when we had a tour cancelled and banned due to ‘unharmonious’ art for a flyer [NSFW-ish image at link]. But when it comes to these sorts of issues with China we feel that we’re in more of a position to support rather than to lead. We’re not Chinese. It’s not our place to criticize Chinese policy within its barriers but it is totally our responsibility and right to criticize American policy. I admire the hell out of the Chinese bands like SMZB, PK14, and Pangu who take a very very real risk in voicing their indignations.  I mean Pangu have been living in exile for nearly a decade because of their support for Taiwanese independence and their seditious content in their music.

But that being said, the line between what is allowed to be criticized and what is not, what is allowed to be played and what is not, who is allowed to perform and who is not, is a VERY blurred one but it’s generally always understood that Big Brother is definitely watching. With “Billy” we were a bit concerned with how the Chinese government could react to this. There isn’t any criticism of Chinese matters, but the very nature of this video and song go very much against Chinese political ideals. The fact that we’re directly addressing problems within our own government could be seen as an ‘unharmonious’ incentive for Chinese citizens to do the same themselves.  We haven’t released this video in China yet, but we may very shortly, and what follows, no one really knows. We’re a bit nervous to be perfectly honest.
 
Watch the video for “Billy” after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Watch the Buzzcocks’ farewell concert before they split in 1981

0_1buzz3spjh.jpg
 
The story of the Buzzcocks begins with an ad on a college notice board in 1975. The ad was placed by a young musician named Howard Trafford at the Bolton Institute of Technology. Trafford was looking for like-minded musicians to form a band. A student called Peter McNeish replied and the band that was to become the Buzzcocks was born.

McNeish changed his name to Pete Shelley. Trafford changed his to Howard Devoto. A drummer and bass player were recruited and the foursome played their first gig in February 1976.

They had ideas, they had a sense of what they wanted to do, but it didn’t really all gel until Shelley and Devoto traveled to London to see the Sex Pistols play. This was the kind of music they wanted to play—fast, furious, with purpose and edge. Being enterprising young lads, they booked the Pistols to play a gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester—the venue Bob Dylan played in 1965 when he went electric and was called a “Judas.”

The Sex Pistols first appearance at the Lesser Free Trade Hall was in June 1976. It’s been well documented and fair to say it was one of those gigs that changed musical history.  Among the 35-40 people in attendance that night were Mark E. Smith who would form The Fall, Steven Patrick Morrissey who would go on to form The Smiths, Ian Curtis who became the lead singer of Joy Division, Paul Morley who would write for the NME before becoming involved with record label ZTT and the Art of Noise, and er…Mick Hucknall….which proves that not all revolutionary events end in change.
 
01_buzpost.jpg
He was there: Pete Shelley showing the poster for the Sex Pistols second appearance at the Lesser Free Trade Hall with support from the Buzzcocks.
 
The Buzzcocks were supposed to support the Pistols that night—but Shelley and Devoto couldn’t rally any musicians together. This led to a more professional attitude and a new more permanent line-up. Steve Diggle joined on bass guitarist with John Maher on drums. When the Pistols returned in July, the Buzzcocks did support them this time. The Buzzcocks name came from a magazine headline—a review of the Rock Follies TV show—containing the words “buzz” and “cock.” You can see how this Sex Pistols-inspired name appealed to a group of young guys.

The band formed a record label, New Hormones, to release their first EP (the third ever punk single in the UK) “Spiral Scratch.” Unexpectedly, Devoto quit the band. Shelley took over lead vocals and shared songwriting duties with Steve Diggle—who had moved from bass to guitar while Stephen Garvey eventually joined as new bass player.

Over the next four years, the Buzzcocks produced a selection of powerful, memorable and infectious songs (“What Do I Get?” “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t've),” “Harmony In My Head” and “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” to name but four) that were sharp and clever and often lyrically as good as songs written by Ray Davies for the Kinks but with a more frenetic beat.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Pink Punk: Listen to the bizarre anti-punk rock anthem from… the Pink Panther!?!
05.06.2016
02:59 pm

Topics:
Animation
Punk

Tags:
The Pink Panther


 
In the late 1970s, quite a few performers of a certain age glommed on to the disco craze and came out with four on the floor-flavored albums of their own (thinking of you, Ethel Merman and Fred Astaire). Later on, of course, a similar thing happened to rap, as Rodney Dangerfield might be the first to tell us. (And no, Rodney’s rap got no respect and deserved none.)

You don’t think of that happening to punk—it’s difficult to imagine Ethyl Merman covering “Belsen Was Gas” in a green mohawk—but occasionally you’d get weird things like 1980’s Chipmunk Punk, which, as my colleague Ron Kretsch pointed out, covered in squeaky fashion such “punk” legends as Billy Joel, Tom Petty, and Linda Ronstadt.

In the same vein was Pink Panther Punk, which came out in 1981 and which (seriously, guys?) ALSO featured a cover of a Billy Joel song. (Chipmunk Punk at least had the good sense to cover one of Joel’s harder cuts, “You May Be Right”; for reasons that will become obvious in due course, Pink Panther Punk selected a song of Joel’s with a far more ambiguous relationship to the punk movement, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”)
 

 
Not only was Pink Panther Punk a bizarre idea from the bottom up—why do a punk tribute album for an animated character who almost never spoke? The Panther’s fans had no real idea what he sounded like, after all. But even more palpable was the barely suppressed rage directed at the punk movement. The Pink Panther is pretty much synonymous with Henry Mancini as well as the hard bebop that appeared in many of the Pink Panther shorts, both of which decidedly represented the old guard music-wise compared to the new and vital movement ushered in by the Ramones and Sex Pistols.

The hostility towards punk evinced on Pink Panther Punk is evident mainly in the sheer ignorance of punk on the part of those responsible for the album. The album cover depicts a montage of the Panther playing such essential punk instruments as the saxophone and the synthesizer. The closest the album comes to covering a punk classic is Blondie’s “Call Me”—Blondie may have been regulars at CBGB but that song has little to do with punk rock.

In addition to “Call Me,” the album features covers of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” and the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes.”  We’ve already mentioned Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” which is, it’s fair to say, Joel’s more traditionally oriented “response” to the lively brew of new music forms percolating in the mid- to late 1970s, including punk.

The clincher is the first song on the second side, which was called “It’s Punk!” The song introduces a “band” that is rather lazily called the Pink Punks—the song was obviously conceived as something like a Mad Magazine style treatment of what was obviously a fad. The song itself has nothing to do with punk, and indeed would not be out of place on, say, the Grease soundtrack.

All the songs that weren’t covers were written by John Braden, whose other credits include Stories from The Dukes of Hazzard and Strawberry Shortcake’s Touch Your Toes, Touch Your Nose Fun & Exercise Album.

If you are unsure of how much of a fan Braden was of punk music, just read the lyrics to “It’s Punk!”:

Why do all the people point at us and stare?
At our motorcycle jackets and the crazy clothes we wear?
Maybe it’s our makeup or our green and purple hair
I’m sure they have their reasons, but frankly we don’t care!
Well it’s true that we look ragged, in a state of disrepair
But let us turn you on to a secret that we share
It’s all a great big act that we put on for you squares
Because while you’re working 9 to 5, we’ll be millionaires!

Punk—it’s junk, it’s punk, it’s bunk
It rocks, it socks, it mocks, it shocks
It’s old, it’s cold, it’s old, it’s gold
It yells, it smells, it smells, it sells

It’s punk!

It’s slick, it’s trick, it’s thick, it’s sick
It’s chic, it’s meek, it’s freak, it’s weak
It’s fright, it’s smike, it’s dyke, it’s like
It’s through, it’s new, it’s residue

It’s punk!

How can you like it if you’ve never tried it?
Who cares if you like it as long as you buy it?

It’s sold, it smells, it’s gold, it sells
It’s punk!

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
No Wave: DNA and the Contortions play a benefit for X Magazine, 1978
05.06.2016
09:20 am

Topics:
Art
Movies
Music
Punk

Tags:
DNA
no wave
Contortions


 
The NYC arts publication X Magazine, published by the artists’ group Collaborative Projects (a/k/a Colab), held a fundraising show on March 11, 1978. Three dollars got you an evening of quality no wave: DNA, the Contortions, Boris Policeband, the Erasers, Theoretical Girls and Terminal all played, and miraculously, Colab members Coleen Fitzgibbon and Alan Moore captured moments of the first three of these acts’ performances on black and white Super 8 film. Additionally, there is a remarkably clear soundtrack.
 

DNA
 
The Punk Art Catalogue at 98 Bowery reproduces covers and images from X Magazine and describes the relationship between the no wavers and Colab:

Colab was a non-profit organization explicitly created by young downtown artists involved with film, video, photography and other media to take advantage of newly available government grants. The kinship between the artists of Colab and the rock musicians at CBGB reflected a tight-knit scene where many of the participants lived in the same downtown tenements and lofts. All shared similar aesthetic interests as well as a grassroots approach to promotion and distribution rooted in the perception that the established galleries and record labels largely ignored young artists and musicians.

X was published by the artists themselves who were free to do whatever they wanted on their assigned pages. Some contributors focused on the new music scene, while others favored the same kind of provocative content and populist politics found in the music. The connection between X and Punk Rock was most overt at the X Magazine Benefit when the Contortions, DNA, the Erasers and other rock groups with strong links to the visual arts contributed their talents to help raise money to print the magazine’s second issue.

 

Brian Eno at a Contortions show
 
Incidentally, according to Alec Foege’s now ancient Sonic Youth biography, this was the show that “sold Thurston on the merits of [no wave] music”:

I thought it was amazing. Theoretical Girls was just off the wall. And DNA was the fucking ugliest band in the world.

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
1970s glam rockers Cuddly Toys cover ‘Madman’ a song written by David Bowie & Marc Bolan
05.04.2016
09:39 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music
Punk

Tags:
David Bowie
Marc Bolan
1970s
Cuddly Toys


The Japanese 7” for Cuddly Toys’ cover of ‘Madman.’ A song written by David Bowie and Marc Bolan.
 

We always had ideas above our station, and wanted to be a bit more interesting than the rest of the punk groups who only wanted to sing about being poor and ugly, even though we were poor and ugly.

—Faebhean Kwest, Cuddly Toys guitarist

I know that many of you die-hard glam rockers out there will probably already own the stellar album Guillotine Theatre by Cuddly Toys (which was originally released in Japan in 1979 then remixed and released in the UK a year later). However, if you do not, then I’d highly advise you that you add this fantastic record to your collection as soon as possible.

Originally known by the not-so-catchy name of “Raped”—the title of their first EP was also a cringer called Pretty Paedophiles, yikes!—the band’s guitarist Faebhean Kwest, claims that he was once asked by Malcolm McLaren to audition for the Sex Pistols, but turned the offer down. Early in 1979, the band changed their name to the less aggressive sounding Cuddly Toys at the suggestion of none other than legendary Radio One DJ, John Peel. Influenced by bands like Richard Hell and the Voidoids and (naturally) the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, the Toys boys were soon rubbing shoulders with many of their idols like Sid Vicious and Generation X.

Shortly before Marc Bolan’s untimely death in 1977, he co-wrote the song, “Madman” with David Bowie. Recordings and rough demos of the sessions in which “Madman” was birthed exist. The Cuddly Toys covered the song and released the track as their very first single. To help promote the song Cuddly Toys played a gig at The Music Machine in London. According to an interview with the band, the show was attended by a few famous admirers such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Paul McCartney—not too shabby of a start for the up-and-coming glam rockers who would call it quits in the early 80s.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The single greatest Public Image Ltd. bootleg, ever: The original band, live in New York, 1980


 
In the 80s and 90s heyday of the “VHS tape trading underground”—from whence oozed choice fare like Jeff Krulik and John Heyn’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” Todd Haynes‘ unorthodox Karen Carpenter bio Superstar and Apocalypse Pooh—the territory was covered in every major city and college town by a small cast of characters—often marginally employed losers who gained a certain amount of notoriety and geek pecking order prestige by the scarcity of their video treasure chests.

These social outcasts and otaku misfits usually kept tight reins on what they had. The less uptight of these guys would trade a full two hour tape for another full two hour tape, whereas others would demand two tapes for every one they traded you. Many were real pricks and would only trade for something they wanted, not something that you wanted. (The sort who might say “Sorry man, but rules are rules.” You know the type.) In this way, back then bootleggers and tape traders were the clutch point between collectors and what they coveted most. It wasn’t unusual for bootleg VHS tapes to sell for $50. “Deals” would be brokered between two assholes, one with a pristine 2nd generation of the demented TV movie Bad Ronald, the other frantically bargaining with him because, of course, acquiring a copy of a shitty movie like Bad Ronald was a matter of extreme importance. With Bittorrent, and before that eBay, this vibrant—albeit somewhat stunted and idiotic—fanboy culture eventually evaporated.

I cannot tell you how many of these dumb “negotiations” I was involved in myself, often with some pretty petty Gollum-like characters. Luckily I had several good “trading cards” in my hand to play, so I always got what I wanted. Three “top traders” that I will admit to back then were Robert Frank’s rarely seen Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues that I got via a guy I worked with who had himself transferred the film to tape under Robert Frank’s personal supervision; another was the oddball black and white latenight TV commercial for Captain Beefheart’s Lick My Decals Off, Baby album (dubbed by me from an ancient 2” videotape master possessed by an MTV producer who told me to make a copy for myself) and a sharp, first generation dub of an off air recording of Public Image Limited on American Bandstand.

I bring up the PiL clip in particular just to mention that the version that was used on a well-circulated bootleg PiL DVD anthology—one which Amazon used to sell like it was a legit release—that came out about 15 years ago was a grandchild (at least) of my Bandstand clip. I could tell this—definitively—because of the split-second of what preceded it, an outtake of the same Cramps set that was shot for Urgh! A Music War. The clip had been trading around for maybe fifteen years at that point and now it had come full circle. (As for Cocksucker Blues, if you see a brief videotape warble just as the title card fades out...)
 

 
But that’s how those things used to get around. They were quite literally copied one at a time and spread from hand to hand. Which brings me to the topic of this post, another PiL performance—unquestionably the greatest live PiL performance on video—director/editor Paul Dougherty‘s short document of PiL performing at the Great Gildersleeves, a low rent heavy metal bar in NYC, on April 22, 1980 that was bootlegged on this very same DVD. When I bought my copy—at the Pasadena Flea Market—as I scanned the contents and saw that this was on it, I thought I’d hit bootleg PiL paydirt. Sadly it was poor quality.

Now I know Paul. I actually met him at a screening of the PiL Tape, his video for Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop” and his classic clip for Pulsallama’s “The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body” when he was showing them at the ICA in London. Many times over the years I’ve asked him for a copy of the PiL Tape—he knows that I’m a complete PiL freak—and every time he just firmly said “No.”

He gave an interview to the The Filth and the Fury fanzine about the so-called PiL Tape in 1999:

Have you any idea how the bootleg videos of your film surfaced? The amazing thing is that until a couple of years ago no one even knew PiL had played the gig, let alone knew that it was filmed!

Paul Dougherty: I have a strong hunch how it leaked but I’m not certain. Because I know all too well how easy it is to copy videos, I was able to keep it bottled up for over 15 years.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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