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

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Big Black
Sub Pop
Bruce Pavitt


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

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

-snip-

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
More after the jump…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘They tried to make us look like the Clash!’ Van Halen’s rejected first album cover
01.19.2015
03:08 pm

Topics:
Advertising
Music
Punk

Tags:
The Clash
Van Halen


 
Here’s a wonderful story reported by Greg Renoff over at Ultimate Classic Rock. Today we think of Van Halen and the Clash as occupying very distinct places in the hard rock firmament. Influenced by Jamaican reggae, the Clash is all about anger, political resistance, and liberation, while super-noodly arena-rock heroes Van Halen boogies to a decidedly sexier party backbeat. But that wasn’t so clear to the executives trying to figure out how to position Eddie, David Lee and the gang. At the time of Van Halen’s self-titled first album in February 1978, one of the most visible bands in the world was the Clash, whose own self-titled first album had been shaking things up for almost a year. 

It wasn’t like Van Halen was unfamiliar with punk and its cousin, new wave—on the contrary. Punk had long since hit the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and Van Halen had been in lineups at the Whisky à Go Go nightclub with bands like the Mumps, the Dogs, and the Motels. In a meeting with Warner Bros., the first stab at the album cover was presented—and it was a disaster. Not only had the designers misunderstood the band’s name to be Vanhalen, but the downbeat photo—Michael Anthony looks like he’s just eaten a bad Quaalude or something—placed Alex Van Halen in the foreground while natural ham David Lee Roth is practically snoozing in the background.
 

 
It didn’t take long for manager Marshall Berle and the band to reject the cover. As Eddie would later tell Guitar World, “They tried to make us look like the Clash. We said, ‘Fuck this shit!’”

After absorbing Van Halen’s criticisms of the preliminary cover art, Warner Bros. hired photographer Elliot Gilbert to shoot the band onstage at the Whisky, which made for a completely different impression. Eddie is waving his famous Frankenstrat around like he’s Nigel Tufnel or somebody. Add Dave Bhang’s silver, winged VH logo and you had a glitzy, balls-out look that was perfect for the new cocks on the walk. Eddie later said that after the band saw the logo, they “made [Warner Bros.] put it on the album so that it would be clear that we had nothing to do with the punk movement. It was our way of saying ‘Hey we’re just a fucking rock and roll band, don’t try and slot us with the Sex Pistols thing just because it’s becoming popular.’”

Here’s Van Halen on the Clash’s turf, London, at the Hammersmith Odeon on June 1, 1978, playing one of the best tracks off the debut, “Little Dreamer”:
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Black Flag producer SPOT’s photos of L.A.
01.06.2015
06:43 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Music
Punk

Tags:
photography
SST
SPOT


 
To the extent that he’s known at all, SPOT is known for his time as the in-house producer for SST records in the 1980’s. His were the hands on the board for unimpeachable classics like Meat Puppets II, What Makes a Man Start Fires?, Zen Arcade, Milo Goes to College, and the first four Black Flag albums. He eventually retired from producing (and really, not even he could have saved What The…) to focus on performing music.

But all that time, he had another, lesser-known talent as well—as a photographer. The new book Sounds of Two Eyes Opening collects SPOT’s photos of L.A., spanning from the surf/beach scene of the ‘60s to the punk/skate scene of the ‘80s, and he is (was?) a very fine shooter, with a solid eye for composition. From the publisher’s hype-sheet:

Spanning the late 1960s through the early 1980s, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening offers an amazing portrait of Southern California coastal life: surfing, bikinis, roller skating and skate boarding’s fledgling days are set in contrast to iconic shots of all the key denizens of hardcore punk rock as it is being invented; candid shots of Black Flag, The Germs, Minutemen abut those of everyday punks, fans, cops, clubs and now-shuttered rehearsal spaces.

 

 

 
Some editions of the book come with an Ed Templeton-designed picture 7” featuring SPOT’s song “Too Wise to Crack.” I scoured the web in vain for a streamable version to play for you, but I turned up squat. I quite like it though, it’s a loose, free, and economical piece of music with spoken vocals that recalls moments from Funambulist, Worldbroken-era Saccharine Trust, or Keith Morris’ Midget Handjob project—and what an idiot I was to search for videos of that band.

Sinecure Books were kind enough to share these images from Sounds of Two Eyes Opening. Enjoy.
 

 

 

 

 
Fun on wheels after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Previously unseen footage of the Clash on New Year’s Day, 1977
01.03.2015
09:57 am

Topics:
Movies
Music
Punk

Tags:
The Clash


 
On the liner notes of their first LP Two Sevens Clash, roots reggae band Culture claimed that Marcus Garvey had prophesied that the date July 7, 1977, “when the two sevens clash,” would herald great conflagration. Whether Garvey said it or not (some hold that Culture just made the story up), it’s safe to say that 1977 was a year of great chaos. As the Clash sang around that time, “Danger stranger / You better paint your face / No Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones / In 1977.” The tumult of that year is amply demonstrated in 1977, a documentary by Julien Temple, director of The Great Rock’n'Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury, built around never-before-seen footage he shot of the Clash’s early gig at the Roxy on January 1, 1977, a gig that more or less ushered in both the Roxy and the Clash as punk fixtures, although the band ended up lasting a lot longer than the venue.
 

 
Temple’s documentary is a marvelous hodgepodge of footage covering U.K. anarchy in all its forms as the nation ushered in a tense new year. In the first few moments a fellow introduces a TV program in which every single member of the studio audience is named “Smith” by more or less declaring that the economic outlook in 1977 was likely to be lousy. Meanwhile, some other guy, on location at Stonehenge, welcomes in ‘77 by chugging some “champers.” The found footage of random British TV, which has nothing to do with the Clash, the Roxy, or punk, is every bit as fantastic as anything else in the movie.

As January 1, 1977, neared, the newspapers were full of “shocking” stories about punk, particularly the newly famous Sex Pistols. The Pistols and the as-yet-little-known Clash as well as Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers were in the midst of the Anarchy Tour, which was most notable for venues pulling out and cancelling gigs for fear of mayhem and adverse publicity. As Jon Savage wrote in England’s Dreaming, The Clash “were the true victors of the Anarchy Tour: benefiting from the publicity but not embroiled in controversy, they were the group to watch. To celebrate, Strummer specially customized a white shirt with a massive ‘1977’ on the front.”
 

 
The Roxy had recently been a “cheesy” gay club, to use Temple’s word, called Shaggarama. For the first three months of 1977, before the punk crowd moved on, the list of musical performers who played the Roxy is a veritable Who’s Who of Punk: The Buzzcocks, the Damned, Siouxsie & The Banshees, the Jam, the Stranglers, Sham 69, the Only Ones, Wire, the Adverts, X-Ray Spex, the Slits, XTC, and many more; even the Police played there. As Temple says, “With hindsight, the Roxy has taken on the aura of being vital to the early days of Punk, which may be an exaggeration. ... in fact the Punk crowd soon lost interest in it and moved on. The Roxy got worse and worse and lasted about 100 days.”
 

 
The Clash, having successfully introduced themselves in the Anarchy Tour, understood that they were on the precipice of something big. Their regular drummer, Terry Chimes (Strummer nicknamed him “Tory Crimes”) had gotten tired of the heavy-handed management style of Bernard Rhodes and opted out of the show. The Clash auditioned roughly 20 drummers in Camden Town, finally settling on Rob Harper, who was reportedly “scarred for life by the experience.” At the Roxy gig, they sang a new song, “I’m So Bored with the USA,” which wouldn’t see a studio recording until March.

As you watch the documentary, it becomes clear that Temple’s footage of that important New Year’s Day gig doesn’t really stand up on its own—you can find better Clash footage out there—which partially explains the strategy of buttressing it with huge chunks of highly resonant footage of U.K. during 1977. You see the Clash prepping for the show, you see lots of Malcolm McLaren and Johnny Rotten; Margaret Thatcher gets in there as well, of course. You see riots and reggae and regular Britons being staunch. It’s a great strategy, and the result is a terrifically diverting 75 minutes of punked-out bliss.

Be sure to watch it soon—this premiered on BBC Four just two days ago, and now it’s on YouTube—there’s no telling how long it will stay there.
 

 
via Include Me Out
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Postcards of D.C. punk rockers and their cars circa 1994
01.02.2015
08:29 am

Topics:
Art
Music
Punk

Tags:
cars
Washington D.C.
Cynthia Connolly

Post Card Cover
 
I was just home for the holidays at a New Year’s Eve get together when an old friend showed me these neat post card sets of D.C. musicians with their cars that he got as a gift earlier in the day. I think they’re completely out of print, and the mutual friend that gave them must have bought them years ago, but I thought they were worth sharing nonetheless. 

Made by Cynthia Connolly, D.C. punk veteran, longtime Dischord Records employee and co-creator of 1988’s Banned in DC , a photographic history of the early DC punk scene, the postcards capture the rides of choice for D.C. luminaries Ted Leo, Jenny Toomey, Ian MacKaye and Allison Wolfe among many others.

From Cynthia Connolly’s website:

“Musicians from DC and their Cars” (or later renamed “favorite mode of transport”) was first created for the Chicago based and nationally distributed ‘zine, “Speed Kills” in about 1994. I wanted to contribute to my favorite ‘zine at the time, called Speed Kills, of which its’ topics usually covered indie and punk music and old cars. I owned a 1963 Ford Falcon, and at the time, my musician friends were all buying old cars. I then decided to create a photographic body of work that included the obvious: musicians from DC who owned old cars. I showed the original exhibit of about 13 images in Sidney, Australia in December 1995 and also at the Washington Project for the Arts in 1996. When I exhibited my show in Sidney, I created a small postcard packet of Silver Gelatin photographs in a set made to be used as postcards. I liked the idea so much, that when I returned from Austrailia, I worked with a printer in North Carolina, using non bleached recycled paper, and newly introduced soy ink, to create ecologically sound postcards in an edition of 1500. As the tour with Pat continued, I created in all, four sets with seven images each, all of which sold out.

You can take a look at the whole collection here.

The captions below are Connolly’s.
 
TED LEO
Ted Leo of The Sin-Eaters with his 1965 Chevy Nova
 
Kathi Wilcox
Kathi Wilcox of Bikini Kill w/ her 1965 Plymouth Valiant, WDC
 
GUY Fugazi
Guy Picciotto of Fugazi w/ his 1976 Chrysler Cordoba
 
More rockers and their wheels after the jump…

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Some holiday cheer from Suicide
12.24.2014
09:41 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Punk

Tags:
Suicide
ZE Records


 
Thanks to the oft-repeated (but totally incorrect) factoid holding that the rate of people opting to end their own lives spikes during the winter holidays, many of us associate Christmas with suicide, but I don’t think this is what anyone has in mind: the assaultive, proto punk, electronics-and-misanthropy duo Suicide released not one, but two Christmas songs. Sort of. We’ll sort out the messy details in a bit.
 

 
In 1981, the great no-wave label ZE Records—home to the eardrum-hurty likes of Lydia Lunch and Arto Lindsay—decided that the label would release A Christmas Record, a compilation of original Christmas music by its deeply underground artists. It seems, and was, pretty ridiculous, but that album yielded an actual enduring holiday season classic in the Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping.” Other artists who contributed were Material with Nona Hendryx, Cristina, and Was (Not Was). It was and remains deeply regrettable that Lydia Lunch contributed no Christmas song, but there was one by the equally malevolent Suicide, and another by that band’s singer Alan Vega. (Here’s the “sort of” alluded to above: both the Suicide track and the Vega “solo” track bear the songwriting credits and synthesizers of Suicide’s other half, Martin Rev. So I completely don’t get how the Vega song isn’t a Suicide song in reality if not in name. If it waddles and quacks…)

Here’s the Suicide cut, “Dear Lord.” It’s pretty messed up. I especially dig the chimes.
 

 
Vega’s “solo” track, “No More Christmas Blues,” featured the same music bed, with somewhat different dithering, moaned lyrics. When A Christmas Record was re-pressed in 1982, this was left off in favor of James White’s “Christmas With Satan,” but it was restored to the 2004 CD reissue, Xmas Record Reloaded.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Punk rock is coming for your children! Arrogant talk show host blows an easy one


 
The alarmist punk-rock-is-coming-for-your-children episode of everywhere’s local talk show was practically a genre unto itself around 1980. They typically followed a template: a safe, comfortable, grinning suburbanite moderator projects his or her values onto a movement s/he doesn’t understand at all, and expects a handful of alienated, hobo-looking kids that the producer dug up somewhere to represent punk as a whole, as though a couple of random petulant runaways should shoulder the responsibility of justifying the existence of a broad international musical and cultural movement. On better shows, they found bright kids, and the hosts at least made an effort at understanding the new weirdness, instead of just hectoring their guests about their negativity, as though all art was invalid unless it existed solely to entertain them personally.

This is not one of the better shows.
 

 
Stanley Siegel was an interviewer of some repute, who fancied himself audacious and uncompromising, but was often really just kind of a showboating dick. In one infamous episode, Siegel physically restrained Timothy Leary before sandbagging him with a surprise phone call from Art Linkletter, who blamed LSD, and by extension, Leary, for his daughter’s suicide. So yeah, THAT kind of showboating dick. On his obligatory punk rock scold show (IS IT A DEATH TRIP OR A RITE OF PASSAGE?), he managed to book credible guests and proceeded to treat them with amazing condescension. In addition to the usual few aimless kids, Siegel landed Penelope Spheeris, director of the canonical L.A. punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, and artist Gary Panter, whose logo for the band Screamers is such an elemental piece of punk art that it’s probably much better-remembered than the band itself. He’d become even better known as a cartoonist for RAW and as the set designer for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

Spheeris, right out of the gate, is just not having any of Siegel. At first it seems like she’s trying a little too hard to affect disaffection, but soon enough, what looked at first like brazen posturing (“I’d like to be a hooker?” Really?) becomes more than justified by Siegel’s smug, curt patronization. Real quote: “This woman actually produced and directed a film!” Spheeris would go on to make the cult classic Suburbia and the mainstream classic Wayne’s World, and is still directing. Not sure Siegel’s career was quite so storied, but whatever. It’s all pretty eminently watchable.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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