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The bizarre lost art-punk of Inflatable Boy Clams


 
It’s really easy to get me to wax rhapsodic about my years in college radio, and I enthusiastically recommend the experience to anyone who has the chance to get involved. Being 18 in the ‘80s with access to a massive record library full of choice obscurities, and immersion in a milieu that encouraged discovery and exchange was probably the single best possible place I could have spent my formative years as a lover of weirdomusic. There are lots of brilliant things I unearthed or got tipped-off to back then that have stuck with me forever, but the recording I want to talk about today is a self-titled 2X7” by Inflatable Boy Clams, a wonderful but largely lost all-female art-punk band hailing from early-80s San Francisco.
 

 
I can’t remember exactly who hipped me to them. It might have even been the DJ who was training me to take an airshift, but whoever it was, he noticed the acutely weird stack of records I was previewing—I was growing interested in art-noise and outsider music at a time when the left of the dial was chiefly populated with legions of REM and Replacements me-toos, thankfully WRUW had and has a much more diverse ethos—and did a “Hey, if you’re into THAT stuff, you should check THIS out!” and handed me that Boy Clams EP. I fell instantly in love with “Skeletons,” a genuinely creepy bit of minimalist freak-funk that came off like an anxiety-disordered attempt to play a Tuxedomoon song, with sparse bass, sax, and keyboard lines undulating over barely-extant drums, and vocals that sounded like a little kid trying to sing like the Residents.
 

 

 
I have literally never seen another copy of that record in real life. It got one pressing on Subterranean Records, and that was that, certainly no CD reissue. When copies turn up for sale online, the asking price typically hovers around or above $50, a price I balk at for double ALBUMS, let alone double seven-inchers. (Someone please wake me when the goddamn vinyl bubble bursts.) But a fan site has kept the band’s memory alive, and thanks to the marvelous reissue label Superior Viaduct, I will have my hands on the record soon! They’re releasing it anew in January, in its original 2X7” form, from the original master tapes, and for a good bit less than $50.

Eventually, I would learn that Inflatable Boy Clams was formed by ex-members of the fantastic New/No Wavers Pink Section (also being reissued by S.V., it merits mentioning), and that “Skeletons” was a Halloween staple on Rodney Bingenheimer’s radio show, but at the time, I was just mesmerized by the Boy Clams’ strange dirge/spoken-word piece “I’m Sorry,” a twisted and hilarious recitation of half-assed apologies for treating friends really shabbily.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Violent hippies, punk rock and Patty Hearst: Four movies by Raymond Pettibon
12.04.2014
08:52 am

Topics:
Art
Movies
Punk

Tags:
Raymond Pettibon


 
The SST catalog used to advertise four home videos directed by in-house artist Raymond Pettibon, whose name is now arguably more famous than that of his brother, Black Flag guitarist and SST honcho Greg Ginn. The original VHS tapes are all impossibly scarce, and the DVDs are pricey. Fortunately, you can now watch all four movies for free through the good offices of YouTube user Pat Maher, who has posted them with Pettibon’s blessing.

Actually, “home movies” might be a better term than home videos: it looks like Pettibon shot these no-budget, feature-length films on camcorder at his place. For the most part, the playful, amateurish, often ridiculous videos focus on (big surprise, Pettibon fans) the violent side of the hippie era. The cast consists largely of musicians from SST bands and other figures from the LA punk/art scene. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore play members of the Weather Underground in The Whole World Is Watching: Weatherman ‘69; Judgement Day Theater: The Book of Manson stars Redd Kross shredder Robert Hecker as Charlie; and Citizen Tania, with Pat Smear and Dez Cadena, dramatizes the Patty Hearst/Symbionese Liberation Army story. The exception to the hippie violence theme is Sir Drone, in which Mikes Watt and Kelley reenact the birth of SoCal punk. Dave Markey, the director of Desperate Teenage Lovedolls and 1991: The Year Punk Broke, worked on each video in some capacity.

Say goodbye to six hours of your leisure time!
 
The films of Raymond Pettibon, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Bob Dylan records with members of the Sex Pistols and Clash, 1987
12.03.2014
07:10 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Bob Dylan
Paul Simonon
Steve Jones


 
Bob Dylan played with just about everybody on his 1988 album Down in the Groove: Sly and Robbie, Eric Clapton, Ron Wood, Mark Knopfler, most of the Grateful Dead, and, yes, Kip Winger all appear on this record. Why, your dear old dad probably blew a little harp on it, too. The album is not one of Dylan’s best, but its cover of Arthur Alexander’s first single, “Sally Sue Brown,” is notable because it features Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols on guitar and Paul Simonon of the Clash on bass.

If you’re expecting rebel rock on the order of “God Save the Queen” or “The Guns of Brixton,” you will certainly be disappointed—let’s call this version of “Sally Sue Brown” a historical curiosity. Jones described the session to Dylan biographer Howard Sounes in Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan:

Why Bob chose to contact Steve Jones remains a mystery to everybody, including Jones himself, who had never met or even spoken to Bob before. “He called me up and said can I put a band together to do some sessions in the studio? I said, Yeah. Paul Simonon was in town at the time, from The Clash. So was the guitar player I was working with [and] a drummer from Pat Benatar’s band.” They met at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. “It was a strange, fucking surreal day.” Bob had a long list of songs and, without preamble, began working through them. The band had to keep up as best they could, but were unable to get a very satisfactory take on anything because Bob would move so rapidly on to the next number. “It was like that all night, basically just fucking about,” says Jones. The only track to make the album was “Sally Sue Brown.”

According to the exhaustive Dylan “session chronology” at punkhart.com, the band recorded six songs on that night in March of ‘87: in addition to “Sally Sue Brown,” they played “Wood In Steel,” “Heaven,” “Shake Your Money,” “Chain Gang” and “If You Need Me.” So far as I know, none of the five unreleased songs has yet surfaced on any medium, bootleg or legit.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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‘Devotees’: Beautiful mutants create insane DEVO tribute album, 1979
12.02.2014
08:18 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Punk

Tags:
DEVO
KROQ


The cover for the first DEVO album was “inspired” by the logo of golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez

The enduring vogue for tribute compilations can probably be traced back to an origin in the late ‘80s, when the Johnny Cash tribute ‘Til Things Are Brighter and the Neil Young tribute The Bridge both earned critical raves and much college radio spinnage. But though the concept didn’t catch real fire until almost the turn of the ‘90s, it had been around. Witness 1979’s Devotees Album, the DEVO tribute album produced by L.A.‘s legendary radio station KROQ.
 

 
The album differs substantially from most tribute comps, which are typically heavily curated affairs, like the popular and long-running “Red Hot and [whatever]” series. The aforementioned Johnny Cash trib was assembled as a labor of love by members of the Fall and the Mekons, years before Cash’s resurgence in popularity. But this DEVO tribute is basically a collection of fan art! KROQ invited listeners to submit DEVO covers, and the selections that made it to the comp were determined in a contest. So instead of marquee names, you have a lot of genuine weirdo shit, crafted by creative obsessives, few of whom were ever heard from again. As such, it’s a mixed bag, ranging from shitty-but-endearing efforts you maybe never need to hear more than once in a blue moon, to totally brilliant mix-tape staples.
 

 
Another effect of its mob-sourced curation is that there are repeaters, which is usually a tribute comp no-no: the album contains three versions each of fan favorites “Mongoloid” and “Jocko Homo.” Amusingly, two of the “Jocko Homos” included music played on touch tone telephones. The first was “Jocko Bozo,” a clown-themed sendup by the Firemen. Some YouTube smartass dubbed that cut over some actual DEVO live footage, and I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that, but you can watch it here. The second was by the Touch Tone Tuners, who, true to their name, played ALL their track’s music on a phone. Embeddable media for that one seems nonexistent, but the ever-helpful WFMU has an MP3 of it online.

Another big winner is the Bakersfield Boogie Boys’ version of “Okie from Muskogee,” the presence of which is a bit of a headscratcher—did DEVO ever do that song? I can find no evidence that they did, but that hardly matters, as this track was so well received that Rhino gave that band an EP all their own, which is so ridiculously DEVO-ish in its robotic affect and squared-off synth textures, I’m sure someone out there thought the BBBs were actually just DEVO playing a prank.
 

 
Finding the LP in its entirety online is difficult, or I’d have just streamed the whole damn thing for you. It’s never come out on CD, which is amazing, not just because it’s DEVO-related, but because the original LP was released by the reissue-happy Rhino Records. Fortunately, re-sale prices for the LP on Amazon and Discogs are perfectly reasonable. But despite the paucity of sharable tracks, there is an illuminating contrast yet to draw—two versions of “Mongoloid,” one a fairly straight, if silly, take, and the next a disturbingly lysergic “Revolution #9”-ish mishmash, redolent of dorm room delirium tremens.
 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Another year, another awesome Descendents Christmas sweater
11.26.2014
05:40 am

Topics:
Fashion
Music
Punk

Tags:
Descendents


 
SoCal punk heroes the Descendents have turned their Christmas sweaters into an annual tradition—here’s a gander at last year’s edition. This year, instead of emphasizing the noggin of Milo, from their 1982 album Milo Goes to College, they’ve gone in a different direction .... oh, who are we kidding, Milo’s gonna be on all the Descendents Christmas sweaters, okay?

The sweater costs $64.99 and comes in sizes ranging from XS to 2XL.
 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The Jam deliver two scorching songs on ABC’s ‘Fridays,’ 1980
11.24.2014
06:05 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk
Television

Tags:
The Jam
Fridays


 
From 1980 to 1982 ABC ran a live comedy show on Friday nights at 11:30 pm—live, just like Saturday Night Live; it had the appropriate (and similar) name of Fridays. As Dennis Perrin, author of Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue, the Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous, observed at the comedy blog Splitsider, Fridays was “the SNL ripoff that nearly surpassed the original,” given that the mix of comedy and pop music performances owed a hell of a lot to Saturday Night Live. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the very first sketch of the very first episode tried to defuse that issue by joking about it: “Backstage, the producers remind the cast that the show will not be a clone of Saturday Night Live and the cast (dressed as SNL recurring characters) take off their costumes.”

Fridays two-year run was marked by some controversies. In an early episode, a sketch about a zombie diner cost them some much-needed affiliates. The most famous Fridays episode is likely the February 20, 1981, episode, for an incident involving Andy Kaufman, who was hosting that night. During a sketch about two couples at a restaurant who keep sneaking off to the bathroom to smoke pot, Kaufman seemed to break character, saying, “I can’t play stoned,” and there was an altercation with Michael Richards, who was also in the sketch. It turned out that the whole apparently authentic breakdown had been orchestrated by Kaufman and Richards and a couple others on the Fridays staff.

According to Perrin, for many years a DVD edition of Fridays was blocked by Larry David, but finally a 4-disc set was released in 2013. 
 

The cast of Fridays. Standing at upper right is Larry David; seated at lower left is Michael Richards.
 
Fridays benefited from SNL’s rocky 1980-1981 season, the one with Charles Rocket and Gilbert Gottfried and headed by Jean Doumanian. Suddenly the ripoff didn’t seem so derivative anymore. As Splitsider’s Perrin wrote, “If SNL was classic rock, then Fridays was decidedly punk.”

Ah, punk! That’s right, I remember now, punk rock on the tee-vee. SNL may have had Fear and Patti Smith and Elvis Costello, but only Fridays could boast an appearance by the Jam. Here we have Paul Weller and Co. playing “Start!” off of Sound Affects (1980) and “Private Hell” off of 1979’s Setting Sons.
 

 
After the jump, the Jam play “Private Hell”.....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Patti Smith interviews David Lynch
11.22.2014
07:30 am

Topics:
Movies
Punk
Television

Tags:
Patti Smith
David Lynch

psdl123.jpg
 
Though I’m sure your thoughts are probably on higher things than mine, I couldn’t help but consider the benefits of hair dye while watching this interview between Patti Smith and David Lynch. Is there a point when life can be enhanced by a teeny drop of Nice ‘n’ Easy? I was a tad surprised this question wasn’t raised during the interview, however, Ms. Smith and Mr. Lynch did share their thoughts about singer Bobby Vinton and the film Blue Velvet, the series Twin Peaks (which Smith claims “reconnected [her] to the world and art”) and the feminist band Pussy Riot, of which Ms. Smith says:

These girls did something absolutely original. As even a mother or a grandmother, they are in my prayers.

The interview is taken from the “Encounters” strand of BBC’s “flagship” news and current affairs program Newsnight,  in which two notable people interview each other about issues relating to their work. If you’re a fan of either Ms. Smith or Mr. Lynch, you will surely enjoy this.
 

 
H/T NME

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Punish or be damned: LA punk legends The Screamers live at the Whisky A Go Go, 1979
11.20.2014
07:48 am

Topics:
Punk

Tags:
Screamers


Gary Panter’s iconic Screamers logo
 
High-quality recordings of the Screamers, the legendary LA synthpunk band fronted by the late Tomata du Plenty, have always been elusive—the band’s entire audio legacy consists of demos and live recordings. So this crisp, color, clear-sounding video of the Screamers’ May 1979 engagement at the Whisky a Go Go is a real treat.
 

 
By this point in the Screamers’ career, the band was working with director Rene Daalder, who shot the Whisky shows. Part of the reason the Screamers never recorded an album is that Daalder convinced the band to forget about the LP format and make a “video record” instead. Of course, they never got around to doing that, either. Drummer K.K. Barrett, keyboardist Paul Roessler (the brother of Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler) and Daalder provide a bit of context in the L.A. punk oral history We Got the Neutron Bomb:

K.K. BARRETT: Following a nine-month hiatus the Screamers returned to the Whisky in May ‘79 for six sold-out shows over three nights. We augmented the regular lineup, which now included Paul Roessler on keyboards, with two violinists and a backup singer named Sheila Edwards, sometimes known as Sheila Drusela.

PAUL ROESSLER: [The Screamers] thought they’d never really be able to capture the experience of the Screamers just with recordings. They wanted to do film and video years before MTV. They hooked up with Rene Daalder, but in the process it broke up the group, after he tried to turn it into something that was no longer a rock band.

RENE DAALDER: We were assembling a sort of repertory company that would become the cast for the movie Mensch, which would take place in a Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-like German expressionist setting. Musically it was going to be a reinterpretation of the original Screamers material. The cast would be the Screamers, Penelope Houston of the Avengers, and many other stalwarts of the punk scene, as well as Beck’s grandfather, Fluxus artist Al Hansen. As we were waiting for everything to come together I directed a bunch of videos art-directed with great economic resourcefulness by K.K. We didn’t have the financing for the movie, so we were reduced to shooting scenes on and off. It seemed high time to do some live shows again after a nine-month hiatus.

 

 

Tomata and Sheila kiss during “I Wanna Hurt”
 
The Screamers gradually disintegrated over the next few years while Daalder directed du Plenty in the ill-fated movie Population: 1, not a project beloved of the surviving Screamers (Roessler: “It’s retarded”).
 

“I Wanna Hurt”
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Joan Jett and The Jam’s Paul Weller talk New Wave on ‘The Tomorrow Show,’ 1977


 
In October of 1977, Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show hosted one of US media’s early attempts at a thoughtful discussion of the then-new phenomena of punk and New Wave. Disappointingly, but still understandably, the discussion mostly features establishment figures, whose basic understanding of what was actually even happening varied wildly. Legendary concert promoter Bill Graham, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn’t get it at all. He’s here representing the old guard, and all his knowledge of the new noise appears to derive from sensationalistic rumor, though at least he admits to limited first-hand knowledge. (At one point he talks about bands burning Stars of David and wearing KKK uniforms. Wuuuuuuuut?) Also unsurprisingly, LA Times music writer Robert Hilburn offers some of the most thoughtful and informed comments. The Runaways’ producer Kim Fowley is obviously approaching the discussion from a knowledgeable position, but he clowns around and snarks incessantly—he claims to see the trend-orientation of the discussion as a farce that diverts attention from the artistry of the bands and their music, but he’s hardly one to talk about that, now, is he? Though his remarks are often too insidery to actually be informative to the civilians watching this, at least he knows what makes for good TV.

B+ for effort, seriously, but it’s all pretty dry and speculative until the real marquee names arrive. You can see the beginnings of the discussion on YouTube in three parts (1) (2) (3), but it was really only once the RunawaysJoan Jett and the Jam’s Paul Weller joined the conversation that things got significantly more interesting and relevant. It’s one thing to hear oldsters blather on about music they’d never even heard (to his credit, Snyder came around to a deeper understanding of the stuff), and another to hear about the music from the people making it. And amusingly, after Jett and Weller started talking, everyone else’s comments improved. It’s a good deal harder to throw around bullshit about swastikas and self-mutilation when you’re talking face-to-face with thoughtful artists who defy the stereotypes you’ve been fed. Watch it here, it’s good stuff.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Clash manager Bernie Rhodes seeks young ‘Reb Rockers’ through his very ugly website
11.18.2014
06:52 am

Topics:
Punk

Tags:
the Clash
Bernie Rhodes


Bernie Rhodes, Clash manager
 
If you’re a Clash fan who has 20 minutes to kill, check out the website of their former manager, Bernie Rhodes. It promises “Punk, pop philosophy, interesting stories, rare music and debate,” and delivers post-Situationist rants about the economic crisis, revisionist accounts of the punk years (“Many years ago under similar circumstances, I formed the Sex Pistols/Clash etc”), and a seriously busted web design that is a joy to behold. I think the reason the average page uses about thirty different fonts in about forty different colors is that it’s supposed to approximate Jamie Reid’s ransom-note typography, but what do I know? Rhodes says the site’s design is old-fashioned punk social realism: “So if it doesn’t flicker*flash*fast*, following the latest glitzy graphics, it’s as real life!” Wake up and smell the sans serif, you glitz-guzzling poseur!
 

 
In the “Did You Know” section, you’ll find a full-throated defense of the Clash’s almost universally despised final album, Cut the Crap:

1985’s “Cut The Crap” was the final album The Clash released. At the time the album received harsh reviews and the album sold less than expected. The original reviews are still remembered, and since relatively few people have actually heard the album, “Cut The Crap” has been unjustly neglected. This is, in fact, a solid punk masterpiece. It is what it was intended to be: an all-out return to the punk ethic that the band had recently been straying from. They perform with a raw aggression tempered with progressive musical growth; this is definitely a great band at work. The songs are all brilliant, addressing the political issues of the day exclusively (almost; a few copies of this have included their raucous, dirty cover of ‘Louie Louie’).

On the homepage, there’s a short URL reproduced as a graphic, so you have to type it into your browser.
 

 
This takes you to the single video YouTube user “Frank Fresh” has uploaded, a totally blown-out recording of the Clash’s “This Is England” overlaid with samples of Joe Strummer praising Rhodes. “I think it was good luck to meet Bernie, the best bit of luck I ever had,” Strummer says; this particular sample is repeated twice, in case you missed the point. Mr. Fresh uploaded this video yesterday (November 17).
 

A not-quite-subliminal message flashes toward the end of the video’s montage of council estates, Clash photos, pirate ships, motorcycles, and English celebrities:
 

 
Ouch. But the real scoop is that Rhodes is (I think) scouting fresh new talent! Alas, I am too old to take advantage of this exciting offer, but younger Dangerous Minds readers who have hot demo tapes and experienced lawyers on retainer might want to join Rhodes’ “Young Rockers Club.” He doesn’t promise fame or fortune, but how could he possibly pay worse than Spotify? If that’s even what this means?
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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