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Amazing early punk document: Johnny and the Dicks live in, um, ‘concert’?
07:16 am


Johnny and the Dicks

In the almost pathologically defiant, rules-free autonomous zone that was the early Cleveland punk scene, John Morton was probably the single most antagonistic figure. In 1972, when the term “punk rock” was only being used in Creem and Who Put the Bomp?, and only to describe ‘60s garage bands, Morton’s band the electric eels—always lowercase, in homage to e e cummings—were making noisy, primitive, highly charged, confrontational rock music, with shows so violent they only managed to book five gigs in their three-year run, but they’d serve as key musical and personal inspiration to the people who’d go on to form the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu.

In between the eels and his artier noise-punk band X__X (we’ve told you about them before), Morton joined with guitar deconstructionist Andrew Klimeyk, future Bush Tetras Cynthia Sley and Laura Kennedy (RIP 2011), future Psychotronic publisher Michael Weldon, and a few others to form an ultimate in anti-rock bands, Johnny and the Dicks. The group was succinctly described by Jon Savage in Punk: An Aesthetic: “No instruments, no rehearsals, no music, no noise.”

This, it turned out, was meant quite literally. Johnny and the Dicks were a “band” that made no actual music, preferring performance art stunts like Mortons “Tool Jazz,” a “song” wherein he sawed 2x4s in half lengthwise while the rest of the members sat at a table eating cake. Other performances saw the band simply posing with instruments, or miming songs by other Cleveland bands.

The band released an “album,” but true to their conception, the sleeve did not contain a record.

Morton described the band and its “art terror” ethos to MAXIMUMROCKNROLL in 2011:

I loved being an artist, but it didn’t fulfill the exhilaration of performance, so I decided I would form a band that didn’t play music, but did “art!” Visual art songs like making polyester resin sculpture, posing for photos (one of the dicks was a professional photographer) and lip-syncing to the tape of a song I performed with The Styrenes. We did release a self-titled album that didn’t contain a record, each one unique with a smattering of polyester resin on it. Michele, (Wife # 1) was a Dick, along with my friend and Mirrors drummer, Michael Weldon, future Bush Tetras, Laura Kennedy and Cynthia Sley, Andrew Klimek and his sister, Karen K. Karen Karen, and photographer/artist Charles Gilchrist. Oh yeah, and a guy named Paul Paternoster. In retrospect, these people following me into the void was pretty amazing.

Art Terrorism was a purposeful quantification or updating of the Dadaist agit-prop nihilist/annihilation twisty band thing. When conceptual art was just beginning, there were two strata, in both divisions, the “Object” was deemed un-important simply the by-product of the more golden idea. (down with the Mona Lisa! It’s just some very old canvas with some fucking paint on it. Fuckin’ lumpen objet d’art worshippers!), The path I chose (also known as “The wrong path”) was based on the Dada/absurdist sensibility that the object is not important and neither is the idea, The successful branch Conceptualists were the effete [pseudo] intellectuals making cherished “golden and geniused” and oh so collectable ideas. Conceptual artists, reading Wittgenstein (which they had no fathom of) and drawing fucking numbers on the wall AND FUCKING SELLING the fucking photographs of the fucking numbers (photographs, which, by the way ARE objects.)



Johnny and the Dicks lashed out only very briefly in 1978 before Morton and Klimeyk split off to form X__X, and Kennedy and Sley moved on to the Bush Tetras (BTW, if you don’t know them, start with “Too Many Creeps,” it’s a no-wave/dancepunk classic), but one of their three performances was extremely well documented.

In 1978, SPACES was an insidery, guerrilla alt-art space, located on an empty floor in the building above a McDonalds in Cleveland’s theater district, at the time a rather bleak place apart from the actual theaters. (SPACES grew as an entity, and still exists today as an upstanding, grant-funded citizen of the arts scene.) One of Johnny and the Dicks’ performances took place there, but with a wrinkle—the band was in a different room from the audience, who took in the show via closed-circuit television.

As it happens, that feed was recorded by SPACES founder James Rosenberger, and with some audience shots and other footage of the set, it found its way to YouTube earlier this year. After viewing it, Morton told DM in an email exchange, “We performed it around the corner from the audience. They could hear the live action, but had to watch it on a monitor. I got to say, I was impressed by the video. It was a lot more complex and angry and chaotic then I remembered.”

Here there be nudity and bad words, so please proceed with discretion.

Many thanks to Paul Weaver for bringing this to our attention.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
David Lee Roth awesomely botches a TV interview with a rambling story about the Screamers

In 1985, a possibly (probably?—it was the ‘80s) high David Lee Roth misunderstood a question, blowing two and a half minutes of his network TV airtime on a rambling story about a cult LA punk singer. The Nielsen families may have had no idea what he was talking about, but for fans of the seminal LA synth-punk band, the Screamers, it was an unexpected treat.

David Lee Roth appeared on Late Night With David Letterman on January 2, 1985, promoting his then upcoming solo EP, Crazy From the Heat

During the course of the segment, Letterman asks Roth standard scripted questions which are typically revealed to the guests by show staff during a pre-interview. Early in the conversation, Roth expounds on directing videos, his system and code for identifying the most fuckable groupies (“red right, red t-shirt, out of sight, six feet back”), and the future of Van Halen (at this point he believed he’d be going back into the studio to record a follow-up to 1984.)

Things get interesting when Letterman asks about a “club” Roth belongs to. Letterman is prompting Roth to open up about “the Jungle Studs,” a group of adventurers Roth hung around with in the 80’s, making extreme sport-style expeditions to places like Nepal and the Amazon. Diamond Dave epically misses the prompt and instead launches into a story about an after-hours LA bar and an artist named “Ta-mata.”

Roth is probably referencing Zero One Gallery, an after-hours bar and art-space on Melrose, which was considered by glitterati of the day to be LA’s lowbrow answer to Warhol’s Factory.

He’s also unquestionably talking about Tomata du Plenty, lead singer of massively influential LA punk band, the Screamers

Despite remaining unsigned and never recording a proper album, the Screamers were one of the top-drawing LA club acts between 1977 and 1981. Unfortunately breaking up just before the dawn of MTV, the band was determined to record their first album as a video-only release. Sadly they dissolved before seeing that project through to fruition.

Tomata du Plenty’s post-Screamers art career began in 1983 with a one-man exhibition of watercolor portraits at the Zero One Gallery, and apparently—as evidenced in this interview—David Lee Roth was a massive fan.

Sadly, Tomata died of cancer in 2000 at the age of 52.
It’s fascinating to watch David Lee Roth blow (cocaine pun intended) over two and a half minutes of his network television screentime on a rambling anecdote about the Screamers frontman hanging art in a bar, and if you’re a fan of the Screamers (which you should be), then it’s an interesting bit of punk art history related to their brilliant lead singer.

Here’s an excerpt of Roth’s interview on Letterman:

And here’s “Ta-mata” before he was one of David Lee Roth’s favorite artists, performing live with the Screamers:

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘It’s Called Anarchy Arsehole’: The art of the punk black leather jacket
11:51 am


Vivienne Westwood
leather jackets

When a chubby Marlon Brando roared into town on a motorbike in The Wild One he popularized the black leather jacket as a fashionable symbol of rebellion. Leather jackets may have been worn by bikers for protection, but they were quickly adopted by rock musicians (from Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, The Beatles to Elvis) as an endorsement of their outsider status.

While fashions changed in the 1960s to soft denim and psychedelic colors, the black leather jacket never lost its iconic status as edgy, radical and subversive. The black leather jacket of the revolutionary students in Paris in 1968, became the fashionable uniform of the chaotic Baader-Meinhof, before returning to its spiritual home in the form of the matching outfits of proto-punk rockers The Ramones.

Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy made the black leather jacket de rigueur for punks, and soon became the latest fashion sold by a canny Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in their London boutique SEX. 

Teenagers across the UK bought cheap black leather or faux leather jackets and decorated them with the names of their favorite bands, political slogans, or mini manifestoes written in White Out, paint, or nail polish. There was a naif art to such DIY accessorizing, a uniqueness that encapsulated the essence of punk (its ability to offend) and the character of the jacket’s owner.

This small selection of photographs captures some of the early DIY punk leather jackets from the mid-1970s to the later more fashion conscious dress code of the 1980s and 1990s. Nowadays a punk leather jacket with studs and badges will set you back $200 on eBay.
More black leather jackets, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘What is Punk?’: Children’s book answers that question with clay figures of Iggy Pop and the Clash
06:41 am


What Is Punk
Anny Yi
Eric Morse

Last year, DM told you about a marvelous children’s book called What Every Child Needs To Know About Punk Rock. In that post I mused a bit at how odd it was, given that punk has been identifiably a thing for roughly 40 years, that there weren’t more books explaining that musical/cultural/fashion phenomenon to kids—there are, after all, members of early punk bands who now have grandchildren, and there’ve long been punk band onesies for the offspring (sorry) of the conspicuously hip.

Well, it looks like something IS stirring in those waters after all, because now there’s the wonderful What Is Punk? published by Akashic, the imprint owned by former Soulside/GVSB bassist Johnny Temple. Akashic became widely known among normals a few years back for the amazing kid lit parody Go the Fuck to Sleep, and have been in the pages of DM before for their publication of The Jesus Lizard Book and David Yow’s Copycat. While What Every Child Needs To Know About Punk Rock was co-written by a child development specialist and focused on DIY culture and rebellion against capitalist norms, “What is Punk?” is a different beast altogether, a whimsical primer on that movement’s early history written in verse by Eric Morse, a writer and publicist who in the oughts founded Trampoline House magazine.

Once upon a time,
there was a deafening roar,
that awakened the people,
like never before.

With their eyes open wide
they shouted in fear,
“What new sound is this?”
and covered their ears.


More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Punks battle skinheads in the brilliantly demented ‘Green Room’
10:11 am


Green Room

Green Room is to cinema what hardcore is to rock and roll: brutal, blunt and exhilarating. With its explosive mix of anarchic punks, neo-Nazi skinheads, pitbulls, machetes and shotguns, director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) has made a gory thriller that has the impact of a jack boot kick to the face. Artfully constructed and highly entertaining, Green Room was one of the most exciting features screened at this year’s Fantastic Fest. It’s got A-list actors, including a sinister turn by Patrick Stewart, and enough Hollywood sheen that it may be that rare “cult” flick that forces its way into your local cineplex, where it will be about as welcome as a Skrewdriver cover band at a Bar Mitzvah.

Green Room‘s plot is crazily clever: Ain’t Rights, a young punk band from the Washington D.C. area who proudly channel their Dischord Records’ influences, land a last minute gig during a tour of the Pacific Northwest (somewhere near Portland). Booked into a rural music venue that turns out to be a gathering place for white supremacist headbangers, Ain’t Rights find themselves confronting the mosh pit from Hell. Far from the security of the suburbs where Hot Topics sell Doc Martens to fifth generation punks, Ain’t Rights are hurled into a dark reality where Ed Gein has traded in his plaid cap for a pair of red bootlaces and suspenders. Performing Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” before a mob of Hitler-worshiping fuckwads is a heroically dumb move for our band of young anarchists, but it’s just the beginning in an ever-escalating nightmare involving murder, thrash metal, heroin and a violent gang of skinheads led by the epically skin-headed Patrick Stewart.

While the movie avoids getting too deep into the sociopolitical aspects of its story, the similarities between the Aryan Youth Movement and Patrick Stewart look-a-like Tom Metzger can’t be an accident. I’m rather certain director Saulnier’s choice of location, Portland, wasn’t arbitrary. The hipster capitol was at one time a headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan and until recently the home of Volksfront , a particularly nasty group of numbskull Nazis. The Green Room doesn’t shove any of this down the viewer’s throat, it doesn’t preach. It makes its points by bringing us into its world without having to describe it.

Whether or not you give a shit about its cultural resonance, Green Room succeeds in its mission to pin your ass to the theater seat. It combines the tightly crafted action chops of John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 with some of the psychotic mayhem of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hill’s Have Eyes.  But instead of mutant cave dwellers and Leatherface, we’ve got goose-stepping skins with boxcutters and shotguns: The Rocking Dead.

For those viewers who know more than a little bit about punk culture, Green Room works so well, despite its off-the-wallness, because it feels authentic. It gets the details right. Jeremy Saulnier knows the punk scene and the vibe of his subjects because he was one of them, as evidenced by a savvy soundtrack that perfectly weds music to action. Napalm Death, Bad Brains, Misfits, Minor Threat and Slayer create the background roar to a movie that is disturbing, funny and supremely badass. I only wish that Saulnier had thrown The Damned’s “Smash It Up” into the mix.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Sweet old-school pins featuring PiL, DEVO, Iggy Pop (and MORE!) from 70s and 80s
07:56 am


Elvis Costello
vintage pins

Vintage 70s Devo flicker/flasher pin
Vintage 70s DEVO flicker/flasher pin
Of the many random things I remember about my youth, one of them was the excitement of visiting the merch table at a live show. Honestly, I’ve never really grown out of that pursuit, and seldom leave a gig empty-handed.

Like a lot of 70s and 80s kids, I was a HUGE fan of covering my trashy Levis or Baracuta jacket with badges, pins and patches. So I nearly lost my mind when I happened upon the vintage 70s DEVO “Flicker” pin (sometimes called a ” flasher” pin), above.
Nixon campaign flicker/flasher pin, late 1960s
Nixon campaign flicker/flasher pin, late 1960s
Flicker pins were big during the 60s - for instance, politicians running for office used flicker pins (see our pal, Tricky Dick above) to display not only an image of themselves, but also their message. Because when you tilt the pin, the image changes. So naturally, curiosity got the better of me and off I went in search of pins and badges from 40 years ago. Because, why not? And my search unearthed some pretty cool and fairly rare old-school swag.
Elvis Costello vintage mirror badge, 70s
Elvis Costello mirror badge, late 70s, early 80s
Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop New Values  mirror badge style tour pin, 1979
In addition to the flicker pins, mirror badges were sort of like the crowning jewel when it came to pins (much like the enamel “clubman” style pins you probably remember ogling at Tower Records, or Spencer’s Gifts at the mall that put a giant hole in your clothes). Mirror badges were usually large and actually had a piece of glass placed on top of the image which made them rather heavy.

Vintage mirror badges are really hard to come by these days and believe it or not, sell for a good bit of cash. As do any vintage flicker pins or promotional buttons/badges/pins that were sold at live shows. Would you pay $54 bucks for a vintage 70s promotional flicker pin that was sold at a performance Alice Cooper did in Las Vegas at the Aladdin Hotel when he recorded his 1977 live album The Alice Cooper Show?
Alice Cooper 1977 promotional flicker/flasher pin
Alice Cooper 1977 promotional flicker/flasher pin
I know I’m not alone when I say, yes. Yes, I probably would. In case that seventeen-year-old kid inside you just said yes, too, pretty much everything in this post is out there somewhere for sale. Tons of images follow. I also included some vintage enamel clubman pins because I couldn’t help myself.
Public Image mirror badge, early 80s
Public Image mirror badge, late 70s, early 80s
Lene Lovich mirror badge, 80s
Lene Lovich mirror badge, 80s
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Joy Division: The Documentary
07:12 am


Joy Division
Ian Curtis

It hardly seems like thirty-five years since Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide and brought to an end one of the most promising bands since The Beatles. Though perhaps not unexpected, Curtis’ suicide came at a crucial moment for Joy Division on the eve of a major US tour. Guitarist Bernard Sumner later said that if Curtis had decided on killing himself, then there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent him from doing so. Indeed, Curtis often confided in his wife Deborah that he had no desire to live past his twenties. It was a romantic notion of the artist as tortured poet. Deborah thought Ian was just going through a phase that he would eventually grow out of. However, when she discovered some of Ian’s early teenage poems she understood that the singer was darkly troubled.

As TV presenter and record company supremo Tony Wilson once remarked, punk rock said “Fuck off,” Joy Division said, “We’re fucked.” The idea of being fucked came in part from Curtis’ own sense of alienation and the environment in which he, and his fellow bandmates Sumner, Peter Hook (bass) and Stephen Morris (drums) grew up—a dilapidated industrial wasteland being slowly bulldozed to make way for high rise buildings and shopping centers.
This was Britain in the seventies: a twice bankrupted country, deprived inner cities with no amenities, where buildings were collapsing, services defunct, unemployment and poverty rife. This is all too easy to list, but take one example of what conditions were like—this was a country where a vast number of homes did not have indoor toilets. The demand for change was not just inspired by a sense of political or social justice but by the arrival of American television programs—detective shows like Cannon, Columbo, Ironside, and kids shows like The Monkees and even The Banana Splits—which presented an alternate technicolor world where people had spacious apartments with central heating, air conditioning, hot and cold running water, matching curtains, scatter cushions and an affluent lifestyle. Joy Division’s hometown of Manchester—like Glasgow or Newcastle or Liverpool or Leeds or Birmingham—was Dickensian in comparison, and the lack of shared communal, creative experiences led many to focus inwards.

When punk arrived in the form of a Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester in 1976, Curtis and co. saw a way out. Joy Division: The Documentary tells the story of Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris from their beginnings as a punk-inspired band Warsaw to recording their seminal and generation defining records Unknown Pleasures and Closer. It’s a story of how lasting success is created by the disparate involvement of managers, producers, designers, club owners, friends, but most importantly talent.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
London punks mouth off five years after ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’
09:54 am


Sex Pistols

“I’ll be looking like this until I’m 22 and then I’ll take up motherhood. I’ll be looking just the same this time next year. This time in five years? I’ll be dead.” 
In December 1981, The Face magazine ran a spread called “Punk Rock: 5 Years On.” What they did was send photographer Virginia Turbett out into the field and photograph/interview any punks she came across. The magazine didn’t specify how to date those “5 years” precisely but it does happen that “Anarchy in the U.K.” was released in late November of 1976, so we can make it that.

It’s interesting to see the relatively uniform roster of bands most of these young punks name: Crass, Exploited, the Psychedelic Furs, plus a few that are mostly forgotten today: Anti Pasti, Theatre of Hate, and Vice Squad. Below are the results of Turbett’s investigations. Clicking on any image in this post will spawn a larger version.

“I wouldn’t class myself as a punk, I’m just an individual. I don’t like being put into categories.”

“Now there’s some great new bands: Exploited, Anti Pasti, Vice Squad, Theatre of Hate, Crass, the Subs. I liked the music at the beginning, but I didn’t start dressing up punk until after the Pistols split up.”
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Berned in D.C.’: Images of Bernie Sanders with hilarious fake punk rock quotes
06:32 am


Bernie Sanders

We’re overly fond of goofy single-purpose Facebook pages here at DM, and lately we’ve been loving “Berned in D.C.” It seems to be less than a week old, and its premise is super simple: images of the surprisingly popular candidate for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination are paired with Maximumrocknroll-ishly purist “quotations” about underground punk. Given that Sanders and independent punk share an ideology that rejects corporate power, this actually works really well.


What the American people are angry about is they understand that they did not cause this recession.

Teachers did not cause this recession. Firefighters and police officers who are being attacked daily by governors all over this country did not cause this recession. Construction workers did not cause this recession.

This recession was caused by a few so-called punk and hardcore bands who charged obscene door cover and priced their merch like it was goddamned Prada.

There’ plenty more below, and more still on the Berned in D.C. Facebook page.


More hardcore Bernie after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Malcolm McLaren demonstrates how to make subversive trousers

An exhibit called “Eyes for Blowing Up Bridges: Joining the dots from the Situationist International to Malcolm McLaren” opened this past weekend at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, UK. Endeavoring to do exactly what the subtitle says, the exhibit features, among many other artifacts, porn novels by the Situationist-affiliated novelist Alexander Trocchi, radical tracts published by the UK anarchist group King Mob, and the punk music and fashion instigator’s student artwork, notes and sketches, all to underscore the influence that the Situationists’ critique of Capitalism’s insidious effect on everyday life had on McLaren’s cultural-prankster sensibilities at the time of his seismic impact on early UK punk.

Presenting rarely exhibited material – including cut-ups, film, video, sound and slide, as well as self-published books, pamphlets, anarchist propaganda, punk ephemera and graphics – the exhibition examines the creative interplay between William Burroughs, Guy Debord, Asger Jorn, Alexander Trocchi and King Mob, and their collective influence on Malcolm McLaren in his endeavours to disrupt the cultural and social status quo from the 1960s to his premature death in 2010.

Having repudiated painting as a bourgeois form of expression like Asger Jorn before him, McLaren’s lifelong work was inspired by such Situationist techniques as détournement (the juxtaposition of pre-existing elements), Burroughs’ ‘cut-ups’, and Debord’s emphasis on the staging of situations “that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics and art”. Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges will present representations of the “defiguration” paintings exhibited by Jorn in the early 1960s, alongside the détourned comic strips of the Situationist International’s literature and Debord’s cinematic masterpiece, The Society Of The Spectacle.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, curator Paul Gorman has shared a wonderful rarely seen clip from a French TV special called “Being Malcolm.” It was released by McLaren’s estate via Dazed Digital, and in it McLaren discusses the inspiration for bondage pants and work-safely demonstrates the utility of a zippered split crotch.


Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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