The partisan animosity within The Ramones is arguably the most fascinating political subtext in punk history. Most famous is the story that “The KKK Took My Baby Away” was left-wing Joey’s kiss-off song to right-wing Johnny, who had recently taken up with Joey’s girlfriend. Joey’s brother disputes this interpretation, maintaining that the song actually referenced an ill-fated romance between Joey and a black woman, but the lyrics indicate a clear streak of a bleeding heart, regardless. There is also Johnny’s famous acceptance speech at the band’s induction into the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame, where he proclaimed “God bless President Bush, and God bless America” during that oh-so-embarrassing post-9/11 era of G.W love. There were other internecine jabs and some of them were in public.
The clip below is from one of The Ramones’ memorable appearances on The Howard Stern Show—this segment from 1990 probably didn’t help ameliorate the animosity between Joey and Johnny. The sketch features Billy West—best known as the voices of Ren of Ren and Stimpy and Fry from Futurama—as an oblivious President Bush. With surprisingly good comedic timing, Joey and Marky set up West to portray Bush as cavalier and avoidant, preferring golf to the responsibilities of the presidency (sound familiar?).
One can presume from Johnny’s political record (and his lack of participation) that he was not amused by such irreverent humor at the expense of our then commander-in chief.
The story goes that in 1978, the Cramps made a video, filmed by Alex de Laszlo, for their song “Human Fly,” that featured singer Lux Interior (RIP 2009) in a classic movie-monster transformation scene—but it seemed like nobody saw it, or could even prove it existed. A close perusal of Thomas Owen Sheridan’s collection of contemporary zine articles about the band—itself a rare Cramps collectible—yielded exactly one reference to its existence.
In May, The Cramps made their first tentative steps into the world of promotional video. A friend who was studying at film school suggested his services and a short three-minute film, based on the song ‘Human Fly’ was produced. The film was made for under $200 and featured Lux painfully transforming into a fly. This artefact is now so rare that even Lux and Ivy do not have a copy of the film.
In 2011, an amazing blog post by Kogar Theswingingape proffered actual screen caps and a scene-by-scene breakdown, but the video itself wasn’t posted.
The film opens with a countdown and a placard with: Vengeance Productions Presents a Film by Alex de Laszlo. It immediately cuts to a shot of Ivy walking down the street, transistor radio glued to her ear (The Way I Walk is playing), blowing bubbles and holding a glass bottle coke. Cut to a somber looking Lux in a smoking jacket sitting on what appears to be a leopard print sofa. He’s prepping a huge hypodermic needle by lighting a match and holding it under the needle.
Lux then gathers up some flesh from around his throat and slowly injects himself.
The result is immediate; he begins a transformation!
Well, it seems that a couple of months ago, the actual film, AT LONG LAST, after decades of existing as little more than a tantalizing rumor, finally and with little fanfare found its way to YouTube. It’s amazing that this sine qua non of Cramps ephemera has been online for months with such a paltry view-count. Let’s ramp those numbers up a bit, shall we?
This post is dedicated to the memory of “Brother Ed” Wille, who probably had this on an 8MM reel or something. Many thanks to Shawn Swagerty for alerting me to this find.
Always defying both cultural and counter-cultural conventions, San Francisco’s Flipper were one of the more sonically caustic bands of the early ‘80s West Coast punk scene. Mostly on the pop consciousness radar for being “on Kurt Cobain’s T-shirt,” Flipper is the dirging sound of boredom, depression, and nihilism—ugly music for people with ugly feelings, and their long-lasting influence reaches throughout punk, grunge, sludge, and noise rock.
Infamous band/famous T-shirt.
Some internet saint has uploaded an entire unreleased Flipper studio session from 1982. This recording would have come between their Generic Flipper and Gone Fishin’ records. Indeed, many of the songs on this were re-recorded for Gone Fishin’.
Luckily, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor, either. He has some hilarious stories, and it’s a joy to hear his voice perk up when he tells them. For example, there was the time he crawled under the stage at a Dead Kennedys show and yelled through a hidden, plugged-in microphone, “I might be ‘too drunk to fuck,’ but I can sure lick some pussy!” He also mentioned a scrapped plan to issue a still-unreleased studio album from the mid-‘80s under the title Flipper’s Greatest Misses, with artwork depicting a dartboard decorated by errantly thrown syringes instead of darts. “Will would have thought it was hilarious,” he maintained.
Loose is referring to bassist/vocalist Will Shatter who died in 1987 of a heroin overdose.
The album remains unreleased to this day, but has appeared as a bootleg CD entitled The Light, The Sound, The Rhythm, The Noise, and—at least for now—you can hear it, in its entirety, on You Tube. It’s absolutely incredible, and if you’re a fan or even have a casual interest in the band , you need to hear this right now.
In Your Arms
You Naught Me
Survivors of the Plague
In Life, My Friends
One by One
Now is the Time
On & On
In the Garden
First the Heart
I Want to Talk
The Light, the Sound, the Rhythm, the Noise
Birthday boy Joey towers center, mother Charlotte Lesher is on the right.
Geraldo Rivera is an idiot, and The Geraldo Rivera Show was Oprah on crack, minus the nuance, double the audience manipulation. But—and this is a big “but” here—there is some quality entertainment to be had in the trashy daytime TV of yesteryear. There was the trend of the day, of course—drumming up the public panic on Satanism, but Geraldo also liked to run features on famous people’s moms—a surprisingly interesting subject, especially when guests actually seemed to get along with their parents.
The clip here is from an episode titled “Heavy Metal Moms”—I can’t pinpoint the date, but the density of hair bands should tip you off. Apparently Geraldo wasn’t clear on the genre of Heavy Metal, because the line-up included Steve West of Danger Danger, Joe Leste of Bang Tango, Kristy Majors of Pretty Boy Floyd, and Mark Craney of Jethro Tull and… Joey Ramone (plus all their moms)! I gotta’ say, Jeffrey Ross Hyman (Joey’s real name) and his darling mother Charlotte Lesher are really sweet together—she’s incredibly supportive, even singing a little of “Beat on the Brat” and “I Wanna Be Sedated!” Joey’s sister-in-law also pops up in the crowd. What a happy family!
Socialist post-punk dance-floor agitators, Delta 5 were closely aligned with the Gang of Four, another Leeds-based group who mixed music and left wing politics. Formed in 1979 by vocalist/guitarist Julz Sale, fretless bassist Ros Allen, and second bassist Bethan Peters, who then added guitarist Alan Briggs and drummer Kelvin Knight. Their thumpy, double bass guitar-led funk attack, slashing guitars and flat, bored female vocals made them sound like a tighter version of the Slits mixed with the Gang of Four’s razor-sharp guitar lines. Both Delta 5 and the Gang of Four were associated with the Rock Against Racism movement. Delta 5, with three women in the group, also played several benefits to fight the Corrie Bill, an anti-abortion statute.
In late 1970s, the racist British Movement, a National Front offshoot that was unashamedly Nazi organized in Leeds and enlisted some local yobs to form skinhead groups to harass the “Communist” bands and to counter RAR. The concerts they organized were called Rock Against Communism (The notorious oi band Screwdriver sprang from this mucky milieu). One night Delta 5 member Ros Allen was recognized in a pub by eight British Movement members who called her a “Communist witch.” The members of the group were followed outside and beaten. Vocalist/bassist Bethan Peters told Greil Marcus in 1980 that the sight of skinheads doing “Sieg heil” salutes was common at their gigs and how she once grabbed one of them and repeatedly smashed his head into the stage.
Delta 5 did not last that long, just one album and some singles before they split in 1982. Their reputation was obscure for several decades, but in 2006, the Kill Rock Stars label released some early Delta 5 material called Singles & Sessions 1979-81, which saw renewed interest in the group.
Their best song (in my opinion): “Mind Your Own Business” performed at the Hurrah nightclub in New York City, 1980. The full set is available on DVD.
This week, Drag City is releasing a rad book of American punk rock ephemera entitled, White Glove Test: Louisville Punk Flyers, 1978-1994. This 288-page hardback is jam-packed with what David Grubbs (Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Gastr del Sol) calls “teenage folk art.” The book documents a bygone era—pre-Photoshop and before the rise of the Web—when flyers were hand-assembled and often the only means bands had to promote their shows.
“Ephemera—the most beautiful kind of refuse. Created in a moment without thought of legacy, but standing as a pure record of time, place, and without any Rashomon spin or Zapruder eye. When we were stenciling, chopping, and recombining days before a show, I barely had a thought about anyone not standing on Bardstown Road or near Iroquois Park ever giving these broadsheets another glance. There was a need to leave a breadcrumb trail for the freaks. The newspaper of record saw us as a fringe element not worthy of bulletins. It was the only way to broadcast—to cast broadly. Now they have gained an emotional sheen. The punk rock mayfly (genus Ephemera) is gone, but any of these posters is a microchip bursting with memories.” (Tara Key, a member of a number of Louisville outfits, including No Fun, now considered the scene’s first punk band)
There are over 700 flyers in White Glove Test; here are some of our favorites:
Brooklyn-based artist Kelsey Henderson paints stunning portraits in oil, recently turning to punks and more explicitly counterculture fashion plates for her subjects. The louche bodies that illuminate her canvases sometimes pose coyly for observers, but some paintings feel more like amateur photography—perhaps impromptu snapshots from a punk show. Henderson sometimes even stages the images on mock-smut magazine covers, adding a cheeky layer of niche consumerism to the viewing. From her artist’s statement:
At first seemingly influenced by fashion photography and photorealism, Kelsey Henderson’s work is a brutally honest study in perception and attraction. Her painting style is comprised of seemingly invisible layers which connect to her subjects like skin. Lying at the heart of her work, the emphasis on the skin enables the artist to continue exploring the idea of the Platonic Crush, an attraction to beauty devoid of sex, ignoring gender and embracing physical and emotional flaws. Using a desaturated palette, these excruciatingly pale portraits become almost translucent; the artist’s perception on and through the subjects’ skin. Bruises, scars, veins and tendons shine through, not as imperfections, but emblems of beauty.
In art of the less “fine” variety, Henderson also designs and sells patches and pins of S and M and fetish imagery.
The trouble with getting famous when you’re young and cherubic is that you’re forced to grow up in public—a public that still wants you to be the nerd from The Breakfast Club, no less, when you’re Brat packer Anthony Michael Hall. Hall attempted to buck typecasting with his role in the 1986 stinker, Out of Bounds, a “gritty” film directed by no other than Richard Tuggle—who wrote the actually gritty Clint Eastwood film Escape from Alcatraz. Trouble is, Anthony Michael Hall isn’t Clint Eastwood or even in the remote vicinity, and his role as an Iowa farm boy searching for the LA drug kingpin that murdered his brother is not his finest moment.
It is so bad. Between stilted dialogue and Anthony Michael Hall’s attempt to pull off a tough-guy act, we’re talking hilarious 80’s cable TV B-movie fare here. The soundtrack however, is from Stewart Copeland of The Police, and it is surprisingly good, if a little schizophrenic! With music from Copeland and Adam Ant, Night Ranger, Belinda Carlisle, The Smiths, The Cult, The Lords of the New Church(!), Sammy Hagar, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, who actually had a cameo in the film—you can see the performance below. Don’t get me wrong—the hamfisted inclusion of some good music for cool cred does not save this bomb, but maybe they’re enough to make it a cult classic?
Like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis before them, two members of Lodi, New Jersey’s Misfits changed their tune and got right with Jesus. In the late 80s, exchanging devilocks for golden curls and “Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?” for “In God We Trust,” they renounced sin and turned to praise metal.
Immediately after the Misfits’ breakup, Glenn Danzig fucked off to form Samhain with Lyle Preslar and Brian Baker of Minor Threat. Punk stardom, and the royalties from posthumous Misfits releases, were his; metal stardom would soon follow. But it was “oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again” for Misfits bassist Jerry Only (né Gerard Caiafa) and his brother, guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (né Paul Caiafa), who found themselves in a less enviable position. Only had financed the Misfits’ seven-year career by working at the Caiafa family machine shop, and this perhaps took on the appearance of a shit deal during the lean years after the breakup.
The cassette cover of Kryst the Conqueror’s Deliver Us from Evil EP
Now wise to Satan’s snares, the brothers vowed nevermore to be the devil’s plaything and evermore to be his scourge. To that end, they formed a Christian metal band c. 1987 called Kryst the Conqueror, recruiting Yngwie Malmsteen’s singer, Jeff Scott Soto, and a drummer credited as “The Murp” on Kryst’s lone release. Soto, who was Journey’s lead singer from 2006 to 2007, once looked like this:
Rechristening himself Mocavius Kryst (“Mo the Great” for short), Jerry Only spearheaded a viking-themed heavy metal act with Doyle called Kryst the Conqueror. Joined by fellow Lodian Jim Murray on drums, Kryst the Conqueror embraced a galloping power metal sound a la Helloween or Manowar. The overt Christian themes were difficult to ignore, however, not only in the band’s name but on their singular release, 1990’s self-pressed Deliver Us from Evil EP, which boasts songs such as “In God We Trust” and “Trial of the Soul.” There were also “Mo the Great’s” various fan club writings at the time. To wit: “In the final days of the second millennium, I, Mocavius Kryst, and my men now swear this pact with God. For it is by His command that I now open the gates, unleashing the fury of His vengeance… behold the power of truth for it burns its light up the sword of my brother.” “We don’t want people to come out and say, ‘They were great, but they’re into that devil shit,’” Only explained to Yeszista. “That’s not it, all of our songs are about going out and chasing the son of a bitch. That’s what it’s all about… if I made Kryst with a ‘C,’ people are gonna say, ‘He’s making fun of God.’ We’ve come in His name to do the job.”
Former cohorts would question the validity of the Caiafas’ sudden conversion to ultrapiousness (“They’re about as born again as Anton LaVey,” Bobby Steele snorted to MRR in 1992). Further doubts surrounded Jerry’s proclamation that Kryst the Conqueror was on par with Led Zeppelin and that the band’s music would sustain for a minimum of three decades. When push came to shove, “unleashing the fury” ultimately proved somewhat tricky for Kryst: The band never managed to employ a full-time singer as Jeff Scott Soto, the vocalist who sang on Deliver Us from Evil, was under contract to Swedish guitar sensation Yngwie Malmsteen at the time and could not commit fully to another project. In fact, Soto couldn’t even legally be credited in Deliver Us from Evil‘s liner notes—the vocalist listed on the sleeve is, in fact, Kryst the Conqueror.
Kryst the Conqueror has not been heard from since Jerry “Mocavius” Only won the right to the Misfits’ name in 1995. The new Misfits promptly hit the road, introducing the world to Republican singer Michale Graves, who is best remembered today as a vocal supporter of President George W. Bush. Hail Satan?