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Punk ain’t cheap: One of Dee Dee Ramone’s bass guitars sells for $37,995
07.06.2015
09:54 am

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Heroes
Punk

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Dee Dee Ramone and his Fender Precision bass
Dee Dee Ramone and one of his Fender Precision basses
 
According to the folks at musical gear auction site Reverb, some posh punk has paid $37,995 to become the proud owner of one of Dee Dee Ramone’s personal bass guitars (like the one pictured with Dee Dee above).
 
One of Dee Dee Ramone's Fender Precision bass guitars
Dee Dee Ramone’s Fender Precision bass guitar that just sold for $37,995
 
Dee Dee Ramone's Fender Precision bass guitar case
Dee Dee Ramone’s hard shell Fender bass case that sold along with his Fender Precision
 
According to the listing, the Fender ‘75 precision bass (with black pickguard pictured above) has been hanging out in a private collection since the 80’s, gifted to its owner by the Ramones themselves. The bass is said to still be in playable condition and even came in the original case (with a Ramones stencil on the back). Also included was a letter from Monte Melnick, the band’s former road manager, validating the instrument’s authenticity. Dee Dee played the Fender Precision for most of his too-short career and used them pretty much exclusively from 1974-1988, favoring the model with the black pickguard from 1975-1977.
 
Dee Dee and his Fender Precision bass
 
Another of Dee Dee’s Fender Precision basses (the all-white one you can see Dee Dee playing in the video below when the Ramones performed on the Old Grey Whistle Test on February 26, 1985), sold at a 2014 auction for a cool $37,694.48.
 

The Ramones perform “Wart Hog” (with Dee Dee on lead vocals) and “Chasing the Night” (from 1984’s Too Tough to Die) on The Old Grey Whistle Test, 1985

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The entire print run of classic punk Slash magazine is now online
07.06.2015
06:13 am

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Media
Music
Punk

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I have excellent news for the world. Ryan Richardson, one of the United States’ foremost collectors, archivists, and dealers of punk rock records and ephemera has given us a most welcomed gift.

Richardson has uploaded the entire print run of the classic L.A. punk magazine, Slash, to his website Circulationzero.com.

A true Internet saint, Richardson has previously blessed us with free online archives of Star magazine, Rock Scene magazine, and Fanzinefaves.com, a repository of various early punk zines. Richardson also hosts the exhaustive punk info blog Break My Face.

Unlike crucial, pioneering magazines such as Touch and Go and We Got Power!, which have recently gotten deluxe anthology treatments, Slash magazine has remained hidden from public view since its demise in 1980, save for the surviving copies in the hands of primordial punks and collectors with the scratch to afford valuable originals on eBay.

Richardson has collected the entire print run of 29 issues from 1977 to 1980.

The importance of Slash to the L.A. punk scene, and really to the worldwide punk scene in general, cannot be overstated.  The writing of Claude “Kickboy Face” Bessy, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, and Chris D. helped to define the attitude and outlook of the nascent subculture, while the imagery of illustrators Gary Panter and Mark Vallen established punk as an art movement working outside of—but in conjunction with—the music scene. Photographers like Ed Colver and Jenny Lens provided essential documentation of the era, making names for themselves producing some of the most important rock photography ever captured.
 

 
The layout design, graphics, and writing put Slash spiky-head-and-shoulders above most any other punk fanzine before or since. And in terms of being a historical record of a cultural time and place, this print run is priceless. We hope you have several hours to kill. You can download the entire archive right here or from Circulationzero.com.

The zip-file download of the complete run is free, but Richardson asks that those taking advantage make a charitable donation to Electronic Frontier Foundation, Doctors Without Borders or Austin Pets Alive. He has provided donation links on Circulationzero.com.

While you’re waiting on this large file to download, here’s a gallery of covers and pages included in the archive:
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘Punk Elegies’: Riveting late 70’s punk memoir set in the City of Angel Dust
07.01.2015
12:52 pm

Topics:
Books
Punk

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MacDonell's Punk Elegies Cover Art a Go-Go
 
Memoir is a smooth sounding word that can often deliver either salacious insight or NPR-friendly whisper-soft introspection. In the hands of a writer like Allan MacDonell, you will get something that flirts with both approaches and yet ultimately is something entirely its own creation. Hence, you get a gem like Punk Elegies in your hot little hands. MacDonell, whose resume boasts writing for the seminal early punk zine, Slash to being a renaissance man/editor at Hustler, an experience that he documented in his excellent 2006 book, Prisoner of X: 20 Years in the Hole at Hustler.

While a number of books and films have been made about various players and aspects of the late 1970’s west coast punk scene, Punk Elegies stands out from the herd. There’s the obvious draw of having the writer/narrator being someone who was there and survived to tell the tale. That’s a given, but MacDonell’s approach, always intelligent, solidly articulate and ballsy enough to paint himself in the most unflattering colors, is the true sturm und drang to snag you and keep it fresh in your mind long after you finished the last page. Klaus Kinski once said that “Virtues can be faked. Depravity is real.” Mercifully for the author, MacDonell’s journey never quite gets to red-level-Kinski’s, but the quote still fits. Nobody comes off worse than the man himself.
 
Darby Crash on Slash cover
 
Punk Elegies also features key peeks into the short-lived but still legendary punk scene in Los Angeles in the late 1970’s. Artists ranging from X to The Screamers to The Go-Go’s to Black Randy & the Metrosquad and more all pop up throughout the tome. All of this adds up to a beautifully written book that is one part punk culture and all parts gut-throat memoir. Allan MacDonell was nice enough to agree to some questions regarding Punk Elegies.

How was it revisiting this part of your life for Punk Elegies? Was it pure reflection or part-exorcism?

First off, there’s not a lot of purity in anything I’ve done, but reflection is one of my great gifts, like it is with any self-loving, self-lacerating narcissist. Long stretches of pond-staring went into mapping out Punk Elegies. I tried to clarify, for myself, what I’d been up to with all this baffling behavior. Unfortunately, none of my demons were exorcised. They’ve all made themselves more at home.

What does LA feel like for you now? Is it still a vibrant hub of artists and misfits or more like a city of ghosts?

For me, L.A. now feels like it’s being overrun by a massive influx of real-estate refugees from Manhattan and Brooklyn. The hilarious rise in cost of housing, the absence of available parking, the increasingly ill-mannered gamesmanship on the locked traffic grid, these are a few surface indications of a deep metaphysical congestion in this city that has choked off the ghosts. I still like it here. They haven’t squeezed me out yet.

Have you gotten any feedback from anyone who was in your inner circle during the time period of Punk Elegies?

Most of the feedback I’ve received has come in the form of silence. Germs drummer Don Bolles, who plays a role in Punk Elegies, gave the book a video endorsement. I only had to pressure Don slightly. The original keyboard player for the Screamers left a nine-paragraph elegy of his own in the comments of a Punk Elegies playlist I put together for Decibel.

Are you still in touch with your first wife, Tommie, who is hugely prominent figure throughout the book?

I’m still in touch with practically no one who is depicted in this book. Inspirational kitten memes tell me there’s no point in wishing things were different, but sometimes I do.
 
Black Randy
 
There are a lot of great stories about Black Randy in Punk Elegies. It’s a safe statement to say that there really was no one like him back then or even now. In a just world, he would have all the cult appeal and fandom of, say Sid Vicious or Darby Crash. What is your take now on the legacy of Randy?

I do presume to speak through Black Randy a lot in Punk Elegies, but I wish he were around to answer this one himself. Somehow, I suspect he would object to being grouped with Sid Vicious and Darby Crash. I’m pretty sure he and Darby liked one another—Darby sang in the Metro Squad chorus at one of Randy’s live shows. But Randy operated in a separate category that included him and almost no one else. He had an acute disdain for herd mentality and smug groupthink and Halloween rebels and for self-proclaimed mavericks living out on the copy-and-paste cutting edge. In the decades since he’s been gone, it seems that fewer and fewer of these teachings of Randy are being passed down and honored. In that sense, it’s like his entire legacy is a vanishing ideal.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
‘Cha Cha’: Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich star in ‘lost’ punk film, 1979
06.17.2015
08:20 am

Topics:
A girl's best friend is her guitar
Movies
Music
Punk

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Thanks to digital media the line between “rare” and “forget it” has become more like a chasm. The meaning of rarity has changed—it’s kind of funny to see something on YouTube marked “rare” —um, if it’s on YouTube for the whole world to watch at a click I’m not sure how it qualifies as “rare” anymore. It’s similar, though not precisely equivalent, for online marketplaces like discogs.com—if you can find an item with a simple search and buy it with a click, it’s far from inaccessible. It may be priced out of a given coveter’s reach in accordance with its scarcity, but that’s a far cry from having to crate-dig at record conventions in the forlorn hope that the Holy Grail just jumps in your hands someday.

But as if to thumb its nose at the age of ETEWAF, the 1979 Dutch film Cha Cha is practically impossible to see in its entirety. I’ve located exactly one NTSC VHS copy on GEMM, and I’m unaware of a US DVD (the Dutch have been more accommodating on that front). It’s on YouTube—in 15 parts!—but the first part has been yanked on copyright grounds, and 3 & 11 are just straight up missing. I suppose it’s cool that at least some of it can be seen.

The film stars Dutch rocker Herman Brood, who was quite well-known in Europe, but his biggest impact in the US was a lone Top-40 single that peaked at #35 in the autumn of 1979.
 

No photo, like me in my senior yearbook.

Brood was kind of the Amy Winehouse of his time, renowned as much for his unabashed drug abuse as for his music, and his addiction issues are likely to have led to his 2001 suicide. In Cha Cha, for which he has a writing credit, he plays a character with parallels to his own life—“Herman” in the film is a bank robber who decides to go legit, and his dubious “straight” career choice is singing in a New Wave band. In real life, Brood served time for dealing LSD before forming Herman Brood & His Wild Romance in 1976. From the ever-useful Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars:

One of Holland’s most outlandish musicians, Herman Brood was a drug-dealer turned rock phenomenon who found success with a variety of acts—his main priority being to stay in the papers as long as possible. And this didn’t stop at his death…

A distinctive art-school figure with his shock of black hair, pianist Brood joined the Moans, later to become rock-revival act Long Tall Ernie & the Shakers, before going on to sing with no lesser musicians than Van Morrison and John Mayall, until his dealing in LSD led to his imprisonment in 1968. Once back in the outside world, Brood’s subequent projects put him in the esteemed company of a post-Focus Jan Akkerman, and new-wave femme fatales Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich, with whom he starred in the 1979 movie Cha Cha. His main band were The Wild Romance, who found some commercial success, although even this was hampered by the singer’s wayward behavior with narcotics and prostitutes.

 

 
Brood was romantically involved with Hagen for a spell, And Hagen’s contemporary “Herrmann hieß er” (from Unbehagen) was an addiction song that was almost certainly about Brood. Cha Cha even featured a Hagen/Brood wedding scene. That never did happen in reality, though evidently it was a plan at one point. From the May 14, 1979 entry in Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter’s Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982:

Lene Lovich & Nina Hagen are reportedly in Amsterdam filming a movie in the making called Cha Cha with Dutch rock star Herman Brood. The film is about a bank robber who wants to go straight, and sees the easy path to that end is becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star. East Germany’s Nina Hagen shocked music fans with an announcement that she was not only leaving her band to go solo, but was also planning to marry Herman Brood.

 

 

 
While finding the film itself is a vexing matter, the soundtrack album is far more accessible. It’s quite good, full of spiky uptempo punk and post-punk, and in fact, it’s how I found out the film existed—I found the soundtrack LP for $5 (thank you, Hausfrau), and figured that was a reasonable price for a comp of Brood, Hagen, and Lovich tracks, peppered with a ton of Dutch and German bands I’d never heard of. Just be careful—Brood had a 1978 LP also called Cha Cha, which has no track overlap with the soundtrack album, and nothing in common with the film but the title.

Enjoy the trailer for the film, and if you should endeavor to procure a copy, happy hunting!
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Three nuns, one punk and an attempted exorcism
06.12.2015
07:46 am

Topics:
Amusing
Belief
Punk

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Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me. ~ Matthew 16:23

Here’s a short clip of three nuns attempting to pray the SATAN punk away. Anyway, the guy’s a good sport and just goes along with it. It’s sort of a dawwwwwww moment if you ask me.

 
via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Record exec’s letter to a punk fan about why he passed on the Clash
06.12.2015
07:31 am

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Music
Punk

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Last year Paul Dougherty posted this treasure on his blog When p**k was a work in progress, where it then went unaccountably ignored. The setup is that in 1977, as a punk fan annoyed that the Clash’s first (and, at that point, only) album hadn’t yet found distribution in the United States, Dougherty wrote Epic Records a letter to express his annoyance. Remarkably, Epic wrote back—and the letter Dougherty received is a fascinating document of a tumultuous moment in the history of rock music.

Bruce Harris was the name of the thoughtful A&R representative from Epic Records, and his letter is a nearly perfect blend of punk idolatry and corporate wariness. Harris has appeared on DM before—he was the executive who signed the Nails in 1984, and as it happens, that band’s lead singer and main songwriter, Marc Campbell, has been one of the most stimulating Dangerous Minds contributors for many years. In 2011 Campbell wrote about the perils for musicians of getting involved in the music business, noting in a postscript that “My experience at RCA would have been far worse had it not been for the comradeship of two people who did love rock and roll: Bruce Harris (R.I.P.) and Gregg Geller.”
 

Epic Records A&R team, 1979. Bruce Harris is at left, wearing the hat. (As is true for most of the images on this page, click the picture to see a larger version.)
 
What’s fascinating about Harris’ letter to Dougherty, which is dated November 29, 1977, is that it shows a true appreciation of the singular talents of the Clash while also recognizing the limitations that would hold the band back, primarily the shoddy production of the first album compared to the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. I don’t think anyone is crazy about the production on that album—Allmusic, in a 5-star review, treats the “poor sound quality” as an asset, and Robert Christgau, in the middle of calling the album his new favorite punk LP from the U.K., noted at the time that it was “apparently tuneless and notoriously underproduced.”

One gainsays Harris’ expertise in handicapping the likely future success of bands in the American marketplace at one’s peril, but what’s hilarious about his missive is the extent to which he may have gotten it wrong. When he lists a bunch of bands that he loves but can’t sell in the U.S., consisting entirely of Blondie, the Clash, the Adverts, and the Vibrators, that list (and the mindset willing to back it) would instantly have made Harris the greatest A&R man of the era. Harris wasn’t in the business of distributing records that would still be viable assets in the year 2000, although ... he kind of was.

Harris wanted to usher in the new era of punk the “right” way, and that and his cautious responsibility to safeguard Epic’s assets may have caused him to miss an opportunity. The under- or non-produced quality of the Clash’s first album, after all, is precisely what Allmusic and Christgau liked so much about it, and that’s a perspective we in the year 2015 share—it’s Harris’ concern to keep the “Fleetwood Mac” quotient low on the Clash’s second album that seems dated to us. When Harris calls the move of championing imperfect production as aesthetically valid as “a genuine copout,” he’s missing the impulse that led to musical movements as disparate as grunge, lo-fi, hardcore, and crunk. Of course the Clash and the Vibrators and so forth had the better of that argument, in the long run. That doesn’t magically remove the obstacles Harris would have faced in selling the Clash to Iowa, but it does generate some pretty profound ironies.

OK—enough of my yakkin’. Here’s the letter, transcription is below.
 

 

 
This was written in late 1977. The Clash’s first album, of course, was released in the U.K. in 1977 by CBS, and it wouldn’t get a U.S. release until two years later, by Bruce Harris’ employer, Epic. CBS and Epic released Give ‘Em Enough Rope as well as all of the Clash’s remaining studio albums in the U.S., so he was right to guess that “the Clash’s next album will be more right for us and we will be releasing it here.”

Here’s a list of the Epic Records roster in 1979, with the Clash included:
 

 
The Vibrators’ first album, Pure Mania, received a U.S. release by Columbia in 1977, but given the date of this letter, it’s not likely that a vague reference to “next year” refers to that; either the album was already out or he knew its release date perfectly well. Meanwhile, neither Epic nor CBS had anything to do with the U.S. release of the Vibrators’ second album, V2.

Harris was quite right about Blue Sky releasing Johansen’s first album, and nobody gives a flying fuck about Masterswitch. (Okay, okay: According to Discogs, Epic did put out one single solitary 7-inch in 1978.) He was also astute in surmising that Talking Heads would be arguably new wave’s greatest crossover success.
 

November 29, 1977

Dear Paul:

Now that you’ve explained to me how the net works, let me tell you a little about how the mummy crumbles.

Unfortunately, A&R decisions are not based entirely on taste and musical preference. Hard to believe as you may find this, I personally am an avid Clash fan. My responsibility is not, however, to release records I like but rather records which I feel will bring profit into this company. (You may dismiss this kind of view as immoral or whatever but I would consider myself immoral to accept payment from CBS and not fulfill that obligation to the best of my ability. It would be easy for me to sit here and say I like  the Clash, I like the Vibrators, I like the Adverts, I like Blondie, but that’s no accomplishment. Your presumption that releasing a Clash record would change the complexion of the American music marketplace, FM radio, press, etc. is a false one. From my experience in the music business, it seems clear to me that the Clash’s album would fail miserably from that point of view.

Also, it is important to note that the Clash’s album for all its quality (which is evident in the overwhelming lyrics, the blistering music and the feverish performance) is not at all matched by the level of production which is an enormous drawback. The band’s live performance is many times better than what is on this record and one has to question the artistic integrity of creating an inferior sounding album. It’s not a valid artistic judgement to say that the production is deliberately shoddy because this is new wave and new wave music doesn’t follow the same rules as other music, etc. This is a genuine copout. The Sex Pistols album, for instance, is produced properly and as a result sounds really strong and captures the band’s power. I believe the Clash can make better records than their first album and those are the records we should choose to bring to the American marketplace.

I have a very deep interest in making punk rock happen in the U.S. but I believe that only the finest quality product (like the Sex Pistols album) can achieve that end.

The failing does not lie with record companies. Your comments about radio are certainly right but if you take the thought one step further, I think you will see that it’s radio that’s blocking the progress here not record manufacturers. Sire Records is releasing a number of new wave albums, none of which have gotten much airplay or sold any records as a result. Personally I expect that this is partially due to the low quality of much of this product. On the other hand, like any new movement, punk will take time.  Maybe its the Talking Heads second album that will happen, and maybe the Dead Boys will get a little better at what they are doing.

I believe the Clash are better than anyone in the field except the Sex Pistols and I have been very involved in guiding the production of their second album. I don’t want them to sound like Fleetwood Mac—I want them to sound like the Clash that they are and not an amateur act.

Your interest is marvelous and though we disagree, I really was glad to hear your voice rise up from the street telling me where to go. Hopefully, the Clash’s next album will be more right for us and we will be releasing it here. Meanwhile, you will be happy to know that it appears that Columbia Records will release the Vibrators album next year, our Blue Sky label will be releasing David Johansen’s solo album and Epic will release an album by a new group from England called Masterswitch. Inorder for the new wave to become a permanent one, it has to get rolling right.

Best regards,
Bruce Harris

 
The source for the internal Epic Records images (not including the letter) is this marvelous PDF file.
 
Thank you Annie Zaleski!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
We need some discipline in here: Throbbing Gristle live in San Francisco, 1981
06.10.2015
01:27 pm

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Music
Punk

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It’s astonishing how much Throbbing Gristle can claim credit for. Apart from having pioneered and named the industrial music movement, their fingerprints are all over EDM, and there’s hardly a subgenre of noise music that doesn’t owe them a tribute. Really, TG were basically industrial and noise’s Beatles, Stones, and Who all in one, and in their five years of existence (the first time, that is—they reunited in the oughts for another go-‘round to collect their overdue accolades and disturb the peace anew) they explored musics and aesthetic strategies so extreme as to make punk look like a conservative movement.
 

 
In May of 1981, before they ended their first incarnation to split into Psychic TV and Chris & Cosey, Throbbing Gristle played a final and brutal show at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. There was a Raymond Pettibon flier, and SF’s notorious sludge progenitors Flipper were the openers. A good deal of documentia survives of the show— it was videotaped by Target Video, the audio was released on the LP Mission of Dead Souls, and the complete video was included in the 7-DVD set TGV.

The Target footage, in two parts below, includes work like the excellent “Guts on the Floor” and “Vision and Voice,” neither of which turn up elsewhere in TG’s discography. The second half features 20 Jazz Funk Greats’ “Persuasion,” and the intense piece that became a sort of signature for the band, “Discipline.” That song is loosely structured, and largely consists of noise improvised over a electronic pulse that mimics a martial rhythm, while singer Genesis P-Orridge chants “We need some discipline in here.” Some recorded versions of the song have lasted nearly a half hour. This one is about twelve minutes, but it’s truncated to three minutes on Mission. The last video is a marvelous impressionistic black and white Super-8 film set to “Vision and Voice,” created by artist/publisher Michael Sumner.
 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Filthy lucre ain’t nothin’ new: there are Sex Pistols credit cards now.
06.09.2015
08:45 am

Topics:
Class War
Punk

Tags:


 
As if the punk-is-dead crowd needed any further ammo, Virgin Money (yes, it’s a thing, and yes, it’s an offshoot of the record label/airline/cell phone provider/whatever) is issuing Sex Pistols credit cards. Because nothing says “ANARCHY” like a line of credit from MasterCard.

Quoted in The Mirror, Virgin Money exec Michael Greene had this to offer, evidently in total seriousness:

For a long time now, UK banks have all been the same.

In launching these cards, we wanted to celebrate Virgin’s heritage and difference.

The Sex Pistols challenged convention and the established ways of thinking, just as we are doing today in our quest to shake up UK banking.

Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson added:

The Sex Pistols are an iconic band and an important part of Virgin’s history. Virgin Money is a bank that can be proud of its past and I love the fact that the team have chosen to celebrate it in this way.

Even after nearly 40 years, the Sex Pistols power to provoke is undimmed.

 

 
Of course, given the band’s history it’s easy to argue that there’s nothing inappropriate about this at all, and that furthermore a credit card that has the word “bollocks” on it is, in a way, actually kinda punk as fuck. I’m unable to find any information on how much the surviving band members themselves make from this.

Here’s Branson, in what amounts to a hagiographic infomercial for the cards:
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The singer of Negative Approach is a social media genius
06.05.2015
05:47 am

Topics:
Media
Music
Punk

Tags:


@RealJohnBrannon on Instagram: “check it out happy new year”
 
I’m sure many DM readers already know that John Brannon of Negative Approach, Laughing Hyenas, and Easy Action is one of the American nation’s greatest hardcore singers. That’s why I’m so excited to tell you about his contributions to social media.
 

@RealJohnBrannon on Instagram: “check it out im not ‘happy’”
 
In his 53 years between heaven and earth, Brannon has mastered the art of the non sequitur. Part life coach, part Eastern mystic, the hardcore frontman’s every utterance shatters received ideas and emancipates fettered minds. Somehow, Brannon always seems to know just what you need to hear to move your life forwards, and you’ll find more wisdom in his oracular words than in any newspaper’s astrology or advice column. As the man himself says:
 

 
Courtney Love can keep Tony Robbins; I’ll stick with Brannon. I’ve never been quite the same since I heard his introduction to one song Easy Action played at a show about ten years ago. Though I can no longer remember which song it was, I’ll never forget how he set it up. Staring at something no one else could see—something that made him very, very angry—Brannon growled into the mike:

IT’S NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST ANYMORE!

If you follow @RealJohnBrannon on Twitter or Instagram, you can have a revelatory, life-changing experience like mine every few minutes. Check it out:
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
So get over to Twitter. What are you waiting for? Your life begins today!

Thanks to my friend Lars Panquin.

Negative Approach live on Detroit public access, 1982

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
A young Jim Jarmusch reports on Cleveland’s foremost post-punk heroes, Pere Ubu, 1977
05.27.2015
10:10 am

Topics:
Movies
Music
Punk

Tags:


 
In the early 1970s, Akron native Jim Jarmusch, born in 1953, transferred from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University to Columbia University, receiving his diploma in 1975. He took full advantage of the opportunitis Columbia afforded him, editing The Columbia Review and moving to Paris for a stretch, which is where his lifelong love of film was born. After his return to NYC, Jarmusch enrolled in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and also hung out at CBGB’s a lot.

At some point he had the bright idea to return to the big midwestern metropolis from his home state of Ohio—that is, Cleveland—and report on some of the major rock doings going down in that city. In the 7th issue of N.Y. Rocker, which came out in the spring of 1977 (May-June), there appears a lengthy interview with Pere Ubu’s resident genius David Thomas with the byline “Jim Jarmusch.” As I read through it, it took an effort of will not to call to mind the wintry, winsome, and downtrodden feel of the Cleveland section of Jarmusch’s 1984 breakthrough (I would also say masterpiece) Stranger Than Paradise.

I’m currently a resident of Cleveland, having moved here from NYC (reverse trajectory to Jarmusch’s, hmmm) in 2013. I put on Pere Ubu’s 1978 12-inch Datapanik in the Year Zero, which I purchased in Cleveland last year, before writing this post. I’ve met people in the current incarnation of Pere Ubu and visited the Agora, where Ubu played in December 1976, but much more to the point, Jarmusch’s interview with Thomas resonates in a far more general way with me, now that I live here (and like it). On the second page of the interview is a blurry, wintry snapshot of Cleveland’s most prominent building, the Terminal Tower, with a raised drawbridge in the foreground, and you know, that picture now has a homey familiarity for me.

One portion of the interview was conducted at Tommy’s Restaurant on Coventry Road, and that restaurant is still there and thriving. The first part of the interview was conducted at the Pirate’s Cove in the Flats district of Cleveland, which is no more; Cobra Verde frontman and Cleveland Plain Dealer writer John Petkovic described it as a venue that “will go down in Cleveland rock lore as the host of shows by the Dead Boys, DEVO and Pere Ubu—back when the Flats was a rough-and-tumble working-class drinking spot.”

In the interview, Jarmusch and Thomas (winkingly identified as “Crocus Behemoth” throughout) discuss the finer points of Laverne and Shirley, the appeal of Nero Wolfe and Raymond Chandler, and the “repulsive” nature of poetry. At one point Thomas/“Behemoth” appears to set up Pere Ubu as a kind of Beach Boys for the industrial midwest:
 

A lot of our songs are about driving. Like “Street Waves” is like, you know, in California they got the surf, and in Cleveland, in the summer, if you work real hard at it, there’s a surf that comes down the streets. And if you work real hard, you can ride that surf. And in Cleveland, that’s real bizarre. You get out on West 25th and Detroit and ride the surf and its real good. Really good. That’s our big summertime thing—you get out there in a car with a radio in it, “a car that can get me around,” and you know, we dress in our swimming trunks and just surf down the streets…...

-snip-

We’re not innocent, like the Beach Boys are innocent, cuz nobody can be innocent anymore. But we know what innocence is, and we know we have to try to get back there, even if it is tinged with reality.

 
In the third and final part of the interview, Jarmusch and Thomas are cruising around the city in a 1966 Dodge Dart. They have the AM radio station CKLW on, which is cycling through some recent hits, to which Thomas reacts. When Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night” comes on, it spurs Thomas to a mini-manifesto of sorts:
 

This is one of my big faves, too. I like all kinds of shit. I think ABBA’s real superb. I like all kinds of crap. Like, I consider Pere Ubu to be a pop band. Like, we don’t really do long songs. Pop is an art—to do something really new with pop is an art.

 
Read the original article after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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