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CPO Punky: Don Rickles meets The Dickies, 1978
09.11.2014
06:58 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Television

Tags:
Don Rickles
The Dickies


 
In March 1978, the Dickies made a guest appearance on Don Rickles’ sitcom CPO Sharkey. It was the band’s TV debut and the nation’s first glimpse of the Los Angeles punk scene; it was also an audition for A&M Records’ UK president Derek Green, who was a member of the live studio audience in beautiful downtown Burbank, California. Guitarist Stan Lee recalls how it came to pass in the oral history We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk:

Our only goal was to make a single. John Hewlett came to one of our early shows and told me he thought we were the best band he’d ever seen. I laughed, but then he told me he managed Sparks. I really liked the Kimono My House LP. I thought, “Well, what did you have in mind?” He asked if we had a manager. It didn’t hurt that he was short, British, and charming. He had an instant plan to take us in the studio to cut some tracks for a single on a label he was starting. Soon we were recording at Brothers Studio (the Beach Boys haunt in Santa Monica with Earl Mankey). When we were done he looked at me and said, “This is far bigger than I had imagined. . . I’m gonna take this tape to England and get you a major deal.” I thought, “Okay, what can it hurt?” Island Records was interested, and he had an appointment with Derek Green, president of A&M Records U.K., who’d just kicked the Sex Pistols off the label and was looking for another punk band, preferably one that wouldn’t throw up on them. After hearing the tape, he flew to L.A. with John to see if we were for real and to meet us.

[...] Meanwhile a local TV writer who saw us at the Whisky wrote us into an episode of CPO Sharkey, a nationally syndicated sitcom starring Don Rickles. The timing was perfect. The plane landed at 7 p.m. Hewlett ushered Mr. Green over to NBC by eight o’clock and into the live audience just in time for the taping of the show. Afterward we met, but the checkbook didn’t come out yet. He wanted to see the band live doing a full-length show with a real club audience. We set up a showcase at the Whisky. He showed up with Jerry Moss (the M in A&M). I put them in a booth and told them in my most puffed-up posture, “You have no business in the record business if you don’t sign this band.”

 

Sharkey and Pruitt meet the doorman at the Pits
 
In the episode, punks beat up two of Sharkey’s men (Skolnick and Kowalski) for talking to a 17-year-old girl named Quinine at a punk club called the Pits. When Chief Robinson explains punk rock to Sharkey, you get to hear how the new form was understood by people of showbiz in 1978:

ROBINSON: Well, it’s a new thing in music. It’s a bunch of kids rebelling against rules, authority and styles. You know, they’re against everything!
SHARKEY: What are they, commies?
ROBINSON: No, they wear crazy clothes and makeup. I read where some of the girls hang things like razor blades from their earrings.
SHARKEY: No kidding! Hey, a guy could whisper in a broad’s ear and wind up with a nose job! Sounds wild!

 

Punks pogo at The Pits
 
The seamen visit The Pits, where the Dickies mime an abbreviated version of “Hideous” and an instrumental “I’m OK, You’re OK” before more violence erupts. The rest of the episode concerns Quinine’s desire to pogo with Sharkey, and Sharkey’s desire to soothe her worried mother (played by Charlotte Rae of The Facts of Life).
 

The Dickies play “Hideous” on CPO Sharkey, 1978
 
Watch the full episode, “Punk Rock Sharkey,” here.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The Clash’s forgotten years, 1984-1986
09.10.2014
07:35 am

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Music
Punk

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The Clash


The Clash busking in York, 1985
 
In its official version, the story of The Clash ends with the firing of lead guitarist Mick Jones in 1983. Though founding members Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon subsequently led a five-piece version of the group until the first months of 1986, it is not a polite thing to mention at parties. The 384-page coffee-table book The Clash
devotes less than a single page to the final two and a half years of the band’s career, and the 1985 album Cut The Crap has been left out of every Clash box set to date. In the words of Rolling Stone, “It doesn’t count, and the whole thing has basically been erased from history. The Clash as we know them ended at the 1983 US Festival.” The new Clash met the same fate as the new Coke.

While no one would dispute that it was a poor choice to fire Mick Jones, the Clash did a few things worth remembering between 1984 and 1986. Determined to make a radical break with stardom, they went on a busking tour of the U.K. that included a stop in the parking lot of an Alarm show, where the headliners reportedly came out to watch. Strummer never sounded so fired up in interviews as he did in 1984, and rock critic Greil Marcus reported that, despite the new Clash’s shortcomings, he’d “never seen Strummer more exhilarated, or more convincing” than at a January 1984 show in California.
 

Strummer and Simonon interview, 1984 (part two)
 
Danny Garcia’s documentary The Rise and Fall Of The Clash, a whodunit about the breakup, is the first movie to shed light on this bizarre period. Based on interviews with original members Mick Jones and Terry Chimes, late-period members Pete Howard, Nick Sheppard, and Vince White, comrades Pearl Harbor, Viv Albertine, and Vic Godard, and others from the band’s circle, the movie largely focuses on the role of manager Bernie Rhodes.
 

The Rise and Fall of The Clash trailer
 
Evaluations of Rhodes’ actual contribution to the band vary widely, but most parties agree that Strummer trusted the manager while Jones did not. The Clash fired Rhodes in 1978—they were managed by big-timers Blackhill Enterprises during the recording of London Calling and Sandinista!—but they hired Rhodes back in 1981. “Joe wanted Bernie back because there was no excitement in the situation with Blackhill and Joe needed to have someone like Bernie around to give him confidence,” Simonon says in the coffee-table book.

The documentary makes it clear that Rhodes exploited Strummer and Simonon’s resentment of Jones’s “rock star” behavior (dating models, showing up late, etc.) to force Jones out and seize control of the band. This part of the story reveals unfathomable dimensions of weirdness. For instance, according to Jones, in the days before he was fired, the band gathered in Rehearsal Rehearsals to write new material. There, Jones says, ruthless manager Rhodes had the Clash working on the follow-up to the platinum-selling Combat Rock, an album of. . . New Orleans jazz?
 

 
More ‘Crap’ Clash after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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‘The Ian MacKaye’: DC eatery ‘ironically’ names burger after noted vegan
09.05.2014
10:27 am

Topics:
Food
Punk

Tags:
Ian MacKaye


 
Satellite Room in Washington, DC has a new menu of burgers that have been named after notable local musical heros. They’ve got burgers named after Henry Rollins, Donald Byrd, Joan Jett, GoGo great Chuck Brown, Dave Grohl and Big Tony. There’s even a plain burger on a bun in honor of Kenny G.

That’s funny, but why did they have to go and name a six-ounce burger topped with chicken liver after noted vegan, Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye?

Via the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide blog:

“I’ve never been to [Satellite Room] (in fact, never really heard of it) and wasn’t aware that there was a sandwich bearing my name being offered until yesterday,” MacKaye wrote in an e-mail. “I would hope that regardless if it bears my name or someone else’s, that they have at least one vegan option!”

What a juvenile way to drum up publicity. Annoying enough that it would cause me to avoid this place (and I’m not a vegan).
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Before The Dead Boys were the Dead Boys, they were the oh so glamorous ‘Frankenstein’


 
The line from Rocket From the Tombs to punk rock is one of the shortest and straightest that can be drawn. RFTT were a boisterously aggressive, unruly, and weird band of Velvet Underground devotees that appeared in the early ‘70s. When they broke up in 1975, their singer and guitarist formed the long running art-punk ensemble Pere Ubu (who, by the way, have a wonderful new LP coming out this month), and the drummer and other guitarist teamed up with a scrawny sparkplug of an Iggy-inspired frontman called Stiv Bators to form the raunchy, scummy, guttural ur-punks the Dead Boys.

But tellings of that well-known history typically omit an amusing detour. Before they moved to NYC, changed their name to the Dead Boys, and went down in history, Bators and company briefly took the form of the glammy, fuzzed out Frankenstein. Almost nothing survives of them, but what does found its way to an EP back in the mid-‘90s. Eve of the Dead Boys contains early recordings of three songs that would end up on the Dead Boys’ immortal debut Young Loud and Snotty. A short and illuminating piece by Jack Rabid on AllMusic sheds some light on the recording’s history:

The great Tim Sommer once played a tape of Cleveland quintet Frankenstein (who would later become the Dead Boys) on his WNYU “Noise the Show” punk radio show in 1981. It was three fascinating songs they recorded two years later when the same five members moved to New York for the first Dead Boys’ LP, Young Loud and Snotty. It was super raw, supremely garagey, and great. I always wondered if I would ever hear it again. Years later, it’s a great little artifact, with liner notes from Dead Boys’ bassist, Jeff Magnum. This live-to-two-track document, recorded in the loft of the legendary Rocket From the Tombs, the pre-Pere Ubu group they also had roots in, and remixed for release, is slightly submerged, but the performance is delightfully dirty and the playing crackles like a big, burning log. Best of all, since these versions of “Sonic Reducer,” “High Tension Wire,” and “Down in Flames” weren’t altered after the group moved to New York and got into the brand-new, thriving punk scene, this wild, wild, wild sound proves they were not bandwagon-jumpers. Instead, like Pere Ubu, they were true mid-‘70s “bad old days” pre-punk rock revolutionaries, the genuine heirs to MC5, Stooges, and tough ‘60s garage.

Despite the audio fidelity, the three songs on the EP seriously rip. Compare the early version of “High Tension Wire” to the canonical LP version:
 

”Hight Tension Wire” by Frankenstein

”Hight Tension Wire” by the Dead Boys

If you’d like an astonishing look at a seriously glammed-out Dead Boys, these photos of Frankenstein were posted on the Cash From Chaos Tumblr over the weekend. Bators’ stockings-as-pants move surely raised some audience hackles, to whatever degree an audience was actually present.
 

 

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Young, loud, certainly snotty: the Dead Boys in 1977
Stiv Bators, pop crooner
Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome’s ‘Sonic Reducer’ guitar lesson

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Rondos, the punk band that made Crass ‘look like a vaudeville show’
09.03.2014
07:00 am

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Music
Punk

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Crass
Rondos


The Rondos’ Red Attack LP
 
“The Rondos were Maoists—bloody heavy,” Crass guitarist Phil Free remembers in George Berger’s The Story of Crass. “Jesus, they were frightening! Serious! They made us look like a vaudeville show! They’re probably still doing time for something!”

Contemporaries and comrades of The Ex, the Rondos (1978-1980) were a Rotterdam punk band that ran a record label (King Kong) and print shop from their communal habitation, Huize Schoonderloo. With the bands Rode Wig, Tändstickor Shocks, and Sovjets, they formed Rotterdam’s “Red Rock” collective.

According to Berger, Crass dates the beginning of the violence that beset shows throughout their career to a September 1979 gig at Conway Hall in London. There, they played with the Rondos and Poison Girls in aid of “Persons Unknown,” a group of anarchists facing conspiracy charges. The book does not explicitly state what the Rondos are supposed to have done at the benefit, but it implies that members of Crass believe the Rondos provoked right-wing skinheads in the audience. (Crass avoided taking sides in skirmishes between punk factions: “left wing, right wing, you can stuff the lot.”)
 

Poster from issue #4 of the Rondos’ fanzine Raket, published September 1979

However, Berger also quotes an eyewitness account by self-identified anti-fascist Martin Lux, who says he was on security that night and mentions no such provocation. Rather, in Lux’s account, a mob of fascists came out to bash heads, not to see the bands: “Around forty plus British Movement skinheads had barged in and were gathered inside the main entrance exuding menace[...] The organisation of the gig had collapsed, Nazis ruled the roost. The only thing holding them back from rampage was that they were waiting for Crass to come on for the finale, then they’d rush and take the stage.” Lux says that he met outside with SWP members he knew from “many a past expedition against the Master Race,” and agreed to their proposal: he’d “keep the lid on it for a couple of hours” while they rounded up an anti-fascist crew to whup Nazis.

The memoir of Crass drummer Penny Rimbaud, Shibboleth: My Revolting Life, gives yet another account of the Rashomon-like event:

[A]ll hell broke loose when we attempted to play a benefit for Persons Unknown at the Conway Hall, London. Sharing the bill with the Rondos, a Dutch band who we had thought were anarchists, but turned out to be hard-line Maoists, the gig had its tensions from the start.

“We are not in favor of patronising the Right,” they had declared on hearing about the skinhead faction of our following. “If there is trouble, we will reciprocate.”

By then, I was pretty certain that if there wasn’t trouble, the Rondos would create it, but I needn’t have worried, there was plenty of it without their help.

Throughout the evening rumours were flying that out of the audience of over seven hundred people, fifty or so skinheads planned to storm the stage during Crass’ performance. It was a rumour we’d heard many times before, one that I felt was not based on any tangible reality, but created out of a sad need for vicarious thrills. Of course some skinheads purported to support the British Movement, but then the Queen purported to support egalitarianism. Very few skinheads were convinced fascists, and even if they were, so what? They were the ones who could have most benefited from what we had to say.

Shortly before we were due to go on, a commotion broke out at the door. We were under attack, not from the British Movement, but from the Red Brigade, Trotskyists who, in their crusade for peoples’ power, had taken it upon themselves to rid the hall of ‘Nazi scum’. Anyone with hair shorter than half an inch, plus a scattering of those unfortunate enough to be wearing a hat that disguised their allegiance, were regarded as fair game. The resultant carnage was ugly, unnecessary and utterly indefensible. The Rondos were nowhere to be seen throughout.

A couple of days later, the ‘Guardian’ ran a report on the evening, claiming that the gig had been broken up by the British Movement who ‘stormed the door with broken bottles and cries of “red bastards”’, a report that created a reputation for violence that became the bane of our life on the road.

Despite several letters to the editor of the ‘Guardian’, in which I demanded that the truth be told, no correction was ever published. The delicate balance that we had been able to maintain between the opposing political camps had been irrevocably destroyed. From then on, believing that we had set them up for a beating, Crass and its followers became targets for repeated British Movement attacks. In one unthinking report, the ‘thinking man’s paper’ had wrecked any possibility of success for our commitment to open dialogue.

Finally, there’s the Rondos’ own account of the show, from the biography section of the band’s website. It’s the only version of the story that includes vegan spring rolls:

The day of the concert arrived, a benefit concert for anarchist prisoners in England. Crass practised the transitions between the songs, which they played without pausing, like they did on their records. We hung around in their delightful garden. Steve Ignorant, Crass’ brilliant singer, polished everyone’s Dr. Martens boots. He asked how we could remain so calm just before a performance. We smiled, because we didn’t understand the question. He told us he kept running to the toilet with nerves all day. We raised our eyebrows. That afternoon we arrived at the Conway Hall in Crass’ van. The place was swarming with skinheads. The fascist National Front had just held a big meeting. In the Conway Hall, of all places.

The atmosphere in the venue just before that night’s performance was vicious. Fights broke out near the toilets in the corridor between different groups of skinheads supporting different football clubs. They marched ostentatiously into the room, with bloody hands and faces. They raised their arms in the Nazi salute. The Rondos played. Apart from the odd broken string the gig went perfect. We got good reactions. Poison Girls played. There was a lot of Hex-like behaviour from female fans. Their vocals were rather theatrical, but still it was a great show, supported noisily by a gang of West Ham skins thrashing the balcony.

Then all hell broke loose. It all happened very fast. People were getting punched and kicked. Panic broke out. The audience scattered. We lifted small skinheads on to the stage so they wouldn’t get trampled. They cried with shock and fear and were barely eleven or twelve years old. People were lying on the floor. The police arrived and cleared the room. The skins were told to hand in their shoelaces. Peace returned and staff scrubbed the floor and mopped up the blood. Apparently, members of the Anti Nazi League and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) had clashed with skinheads of the British Movement and the National Front, who had stayed behind in pubs around the Conway Hall after the NF meeting to come to Crass’ gig that evening. A Jewish activist from the SWP walked up to the stage and pointed his finger at Crass. Your fault!

We grabbed our things and got in the van. We were packed together and very quiet. We went by a Chinese take-away for some vegan spring rolls. At Crass’ place a discussion ensued. The tone was friendly, but still. Shouldn’t you protect yourself from this kind of violence? They frequently wrestled with these problems. Crass had become a target for skinheads who were attracted to their furious music, militant appearance and swastika-like symbols, but who rejected anarchist and pacifist ideas. Crass refused to employ bouncers or let the venue hire them, even though that was a common thing in London in those days. It was a question of principles but should the audience be put through all this? You do invite them to come to your gigs, after all. Is it fair to deliver them unprotected to hordes of skinheads, fascist or not, while you are safely on the stage? It was fair, said Crass, for that was simply the situation in London at that time and they didn’t want to be ‘anti’. Crass said we didn’t understand, coming from the peaceful Netherlands. Crass’ pacifist anarchism, although admirable, opposed The Rondos’ more militant attitude.

We said goodbye the next day. We agreed to do more concerts in England together, organize a common tour of the Netherlands and there were plans to record an LP with Crass’ help. We’d talk about it all later. In the meantime the newspapers in England were full of the Conway Hall battle. The only venue, by the way, that had offered the National Front a space to meet, from the fundamental conviction that everyone has the right of assembly.

Here’s some surprisingly good-looking footage of the band performing three songs. If you like this stuff, there is a box set. A Black & White Statement: The Story of the Rondos contains the Rondos’ complete discography, a live show, a photo book, a comic book, a lyric book, and the band’s autobiography.
 

Rondos perform “I Got No Time” and “System”
 

Rondos perform “Russians Are Coming”
 
Hear the Rondos play a 1978 set of fifteen covers, including the Suicide Commandos’ “Burn It Down.”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The Ramones on the Jerry Lewis Telethon
08.29.2014
05:57 pm

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Music
Punk
Television

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The Ramones


 
Well here’s something kind of strange and wonderful: The Ramones playing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in September of 1989. The choice of songs couldn’t be more appropriate: “I Believe In Miracles” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.” This was C.J.‘s debut gig with the band and it must have been a particularly surreal initiation for the newly adopted Ramone.

This was aired on WWOR-TV in New York City.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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The Suicide Commandos make a music video in front of their own burning house, 1977
08.27.2014
08:58 am

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Music
Punk

Tags:
Suicide Commandos
Minneapolis


 
DEVO fans take note: Chuck Statler, the director of the spuds’ “The Truth about De-Evolution,” “Come Back Jonee” and “Satisfaction” videos, also made this 1977 video for the Suicide Commandos’ “Burn It Down.” It’s a simple song with a memorable message, namely that you should set fire to anything you don’t like.

The video, Statler’s second, captured the band playing “Burn It Down” on the street as the condemned house where they lived and practiced burned to the ground behind them. (Statler hired drunks from a Twin Cities unemployment line to bowl in DEVO’s “Come Back Jonee” video, and he seems to have used a similar casting technique for the beginning and end of this one, in which local folks wearing fire helmets take turns slurring the band’s name.)
 

The Suicide Commandos “Burn It Down”
 
Now legendary, the Suicide Commandos were a Minneapolis power trio comprising singer and guitarist Chris Osgood (also Bob Mould’s guitar teacher), bassist Steve Almaas and drummer Dave Ahl. Their debut album, The Suicide Commandos Make a Record, was the second and final release on Mercury Records’ Midwestern punk imprint, Blank Records, which perished because its roster was too good for this wicked world. Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance had been the first Blank release, and the Bizarros’ debut LP was to have been the third.
 

 
“Chuck Statler made the video of our house which got condemned because it had no heat or running water,” Osgood told Minnesota Public Radio in 2012. Band members would walk down the street from “Utopia House” to a tennis club to shower. “It was October of ‘77 when Utopia House got burned down, and we knew that it was going to be demolished, or going to be burned [and used as] fire department practice. So I wrote ‘Burn It Down’ so that that could happen, and we had the idea of playing in front of our house as it burned down, ‘cause Chuck Statler had made a little musical movie with a band called DEVO from Akron, and there you go.”

The Suicide Commandos Commit Suicide Dance Concert, the Suicide Commandos’ equivalent of The Last Waltz, was the first LP released by Minneapolis’s Twin/Tone label. Improbably, their music was actually used for a Target commercial in 2004.
 

 
Hüsker Dü fans take note: here’s one of the Commandos’ best songs, “Complicated Fun,” from the Twin/Tone compilation Big Hits of Mid-America Volume III. Hear anything familiar?

The Suicide Commandos “Complicated Fun”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Anarchy in Paris: Métal Urbain, classic French punk rock group
08.26.2014
09:39 pm

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Music
Punk

Tags:
France
Métal Urbain


 
Métal Urbain were Francophone contemporaries of the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Formed in 1976 by Clode Panik, Hermann Schwartz, Pat Luger and Eric Debris, the French punk rock group’s harsh and noisy sound replaced the rhythm section with a synthesizer and drum machine. Sonically, they came across as aggressive—if not more so—as their English or American counterparts with the exception of maybe Suicide or The Screamers. Lead singer Clode Panik sounds a bit like a French version of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith.

The group’s second single, “Paris Maquis” was Rough Trade’s very first record release and John Peel showed his support on his BBC 1 Radio show, going so far as to record a “Peel Session” with them. Sadly they never really made it and broke up in 1979 as there was no appreciable French punk scene to begin with and the media in their home country just couldn’t be bothered with them. Métal Urbain’s distinctively raw guitar sound is said to have had an influence on Big Black’s Steve Albini and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Métal Urbain reformed in 2003 and toured the US. The New York-based Acute label compiled Anarchy in Paris! that year gathering up their complete output during the life of the band with a few outtakes and alternate versions. In 2006, Jello Biafra produced their album, J’irai chier dans ton vomi, in San Francisco. An EP followed in 2008.

Below, Métal Urbain lip-synching “Paris Maquis” on French TV in 1978:

 
More Métal Urbain after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Satan’s Stomp: The Flesh Eaters’ ‘A Minute To Pray, A Second to Die’
08.25.2014
05:06 pm

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Music
Punk

Tags:
The Flesh Eaters
Chris D.


 
The Flesh Eaters’ A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die album was one of the musical highlights of 1981—and certainly of the entire Los Angeles punk era—but outside of Southern California, or major cities, it wasn’t an easy record to find out about, let alone stumble across.

For A Minute To Pray, head Flesh Eater Chris Desjardins, aka Chris D., an aspiring filmmaker and writer for Slash magazine, assembled a “super group” from the LA punk scene: Dave Alvin (Blasters) on guitar, John Doe (X) on bass, Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) on sax, with Bill Bateman (Blasters) on drums and DJ Bonebrake (X) on the marimba. The group, unshackled from their “day job” bands, writes noted music maven Byron Coley in his liner notes, “all played like fucking maniacs.” (Coley also calls A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die “the best rock record ever recorded.” Whether or not this is objectively true, I’ll leave for you to decide, but hey, just having Byron Coley declare your record “the best” ever recorded is one hell of a compliment, isn’t it? The man is known for having exceptionally good taste.)

There is a dark, disturbing voodoo underpinning the album’s vision. Chris D.‘s lyrics were unique; he means to make you uncomfortable producing highly literate, yet grotesque noir poetry that went light years beyond anything Lou Reed would ever have had the guts to write about. Gothic, decadent, but in the sense of a completely bonkers, high IQ serial killer cooking up his heroin in a spoonful of absinthe. Jim Thompson meets Baudelaire at a bloody crime scene on Dia de los Muertos.


The Flesh Eaters, 1981. Photo by David Arnoff
 
Describing music in words (especially something this far out on a limb, esthetically speaking) is tricky sometimes, like asking a painter to make a sketch of a novel, but suffice to say that what we have here is a sonic maelstrom of fear and loathing, a ragged, jagged seedy sounding… I mean, the opening song sounds like a steampunk version of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band fronted by an erudite Darby Crash. The squealing, skronky sax and pounding percussion—that marimba!!!—are striking indeed, as are the lunging, tug of war bluesy tribal rhythms. And that voice. If the lyrical preoccupations weren’t already scary enough, the spitting, crazed delivery of them will send chills down your spine. Rock scribe Richard Meltzer memorably described Desjardins’ voice as “a fully realized blabbermouth lockjaw of the soul, which you gotta admit is kinda neat.” Yeah!

Recently the ace archival label Superior Viaduct put out the first vinyl pressing of A Minute to Pray since 1981 and a newly remastered CD. I had not actually listened to the album since it came out and when the CD arrived in the post, I played it immediately. And then I played it again. And again. And again. I think I played it seven or eight times in a row that day. The next day a friend of mine came over and within about five seconds of hearing the opening whispers of “Digging My Grave”—I didn’t mention what it was—he exclaimed “I fucking love this album. I haven’t heard it… well, since I moved to LA. Saw ‘em live then, too!”

Lucky bastard. I caught up with Chris D. via email:

Missing children. Dogs licking up blood. Violent death. These were fairly novel things to sing about 33 years ago—and still are!—but your vocal delivery—so unhinged—is what sealed A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die as an authentic—albeit mutant—blues. The music is powerful and sleazy, but you just sound fucking insane. My first question is ‘so what sort of a fella were you back then, Chris?’

Well, I wasn’t crazy although I sometimes felt on the verge. I was a nice guy trying to exorcise demons, mostly relating to my love life. Much of the imagery was from films (the “dogs are licking up blood” and “squeeze out your milk on the baby’s grave” in the “Pray Til You Sweat” song were images from Eisenstein’s unfinished documentary, Que Viva Mexico.) Other lyrical influences are too numerous to mention, particularly from film, though literary giants like Poe, French symbolists like Lautreamont, Huysman, Baudelaire and pulp fiction maestros like Jim Thompson and James Cain were inspirations. There were televangelists on a local LA station that held up on camera the Minute to Pray LP cover along with some Ozzy Osbourne albums, using them as examples of satanic rock. Minute to Pray was never meant to be satanic. In fact, it was a symbolic exorcism.

How did the “supergroup” form and under what circumstances?

I got the brainstorm that it would be great to put these musician friends of mine, friends who had similar musical tastes to me, all into one group where we would try to synthesize a variety of both ethnic folk music traditions (African rhythms and chant melodies) with American pop/folk genres like 1950s/1960s swamp blues, instrumental rock & soul and late 1970s punk. Fortunately everyone brought their unique brand of aesthetics to the table, and everything blended seamlessly into an amazing hybrid.

What were rehearsals like?

A lot of fun, but very efficient because everyone intuitively knew what they needed to do to make their parts fit. I think we only rehearsed 8 or 9 times before we started recording. And we recorded everything, including the overdubs, in one night (some of the first take rough vocals were kept, though I don’t remember which ones). Mixing took about a week.

You played just a handful of gigs with the A Minute to Pray line-up, for the obvious reason that everyone else had their own bands. Was there anything particularly memorable about those shows?

They were all exhilarating. Not to disrespect any of the other great musicians I’ve played with, but it was phenomenal as these guys each brought something unique to the table, and there was a synchronicity to it all that we really didn’t have to work at. We were all on the same wavelength. My only lament is it is very difficult getting everyone together for reunion shows. We did 3 in California and 1 in the UK in 2006 – The first time since 1981. We’ve been talking about trying to do a few shows on the west coast in January 2015, so hopefully those will happen. On a side note, my ex-wife and co-lead vocalist in my other band Divine Horsemen, Julie Christensen, and I have been talking about possibly doing some Divine Horsemen reunion shows as well.

A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die is a seminal album, but not one that a whole lot of people have actually heard. It was never all that easy to hear back in the day—I for instance, taped it from a friend’s record—so for many people, this new re-release from Superior Viaduct will be their introduction to this 33-year-old album. Aren’t many more people likely to hear A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die in 2014 than heard it when it first came out?

That was always the case with records released by Ruby Records (Slash Records “budget” subsidiary). A Minute to Pray has actually been reissued on CD twice by Slash in the early-to-mid 1990s and then twice again by Rhino/WEA in the early 2000s, but then you would never know it because they did virtually no promotion (especially Rhino/WEA) and I don’t think they sold very well. The fans, they search that stuff out. But finding a new audience, it’s been hard. Superior Viaduct is doing a superior job (sub-licensing from Rhino) – this is the first time it’s been reissued on vinyl and the first time the CD actually has liner notes.  They also have a genuinely great publicist working the release, and hopefully this will also be the case with the follow-up LP Forever Came Today by the Flesh Eaters from 1982, when it is reissued by them on vinyl, and out on CD for first time ever, early in 2015. That one is, I think, just as good as A Minute to Pray and much less well-known. So I’m hopeful a younger audience will rediscover both!

The vision on A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die is a dark one, but it was recorded a lifetime ago. How do you relate to those lyrical preoccupations today?

A lot of those preoccupations are still the same but I’ve achieved some transcendence and letting go of anger that I did not have back in 1981. Still the last year has not been a happy one and coincidentally, for the same time period, I’ve had writer’s block, which is devastating when writing is one of the ways I exorcise the demons. Between 2009 - 2013 I published 5 novels, 1 short story collection and a huge non-fiction volume Gun and Sword about Japanese yakuza films. But since around this time last year – as far as writing – nada. I’ve actually tried to write some song lyrics in the last couple of months but feel just so-so about the results.

I recently heard a hipster DJ—someone with very carefully sculpted sideburns and facial hair, you know the type—mash-up “Cyrano De Berger’s Back” with “Tenth Ave. Freeze Out.” Care to comment on this?

I didn’t even know what “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” was until I looked it up on YouTube! Not a Springsteen fan so I think I’ll let it go at that.

I can’t let you go without asking what are some of your favorite things that would go into an updated “Chris D.’s Video Guide” feature?

Oh, jeez, there is so much stuff. For folks inclined towards a really detailed answer, they can pick up my anthology book, also titled A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die [Highly recommended—RM] , off Amazon which not only has all my lyrics and poetry but also a listing (in the last 5 or 6 pages) of somewhere between 400-500 movie titles, with release dates and directors, that are recommended. As far as watching stuff at home lately,  I’ve recently revisited some noir like Out of the Past, On Dangerous Ground, They Live by Night, David Lynch films Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Mulholland Drive, Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and A Quiet Place in the Country, Friedkin’s Sorcerer, any samurai films directed by Hideo Gosha. Some stuff I caught in the theaters in the last few years that made an impression: Rust and Bone, A Place Beyond the Pines, Drive, Only God Forgives, Out of the Furnace, Cold in July and The Rover.

Chris D.‘s novels, Dragon Wheel Splendor and Other Love Stories of Violence and Dread, No Evil Star, Shallow Water: A Southern Gothic Noir Western and Mother’s Worry, along with his Japanese gangster encyclopedia Gun and Sword, are all available from Amazon.
 

 
The A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die line-up (Chris D., John Doe, Dave Alvin, Bill Bateman, Steve Berlin, D.J. Bonebrake) live at The Whisky a Go Go in 1981. The Gun Club (Chrs D. co-produced their Fire of Love album) were the opening act that night:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Vintage MTV: ‘Punks and Poseurs: A Journey Through the Los Angeles Underground’
08.21.2014
09:29 am

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture
Punk
Television

Tags:
MTV
The Dickies
GBH


This kid.

Knowing firsthand that MTV didn’t always totally suck asswater really dates you. When I have occasion to mention how, once upon a time, that justly-reviled network actually played some seriously cool shit, I half wonder if I’m coming off like my grandma used to when she talked about the Great Depression. But it’s true, even before long-running bones thrown to the weirdos like 120 Minutes and Headbanger’s Ball found their footing, MTV broadcast stuff like IRS’ The Cutting Edge and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes, which often rivaled even the USA Network’s mighty Night Flight for genuinely informative freak-scene value.

One jaw-droppingly excellent MTV show was the one-off special Punks and Poseurs: A Journey Through the Los Angeles Underground. A big mover behind its production was Charles M. Young, who, as sad fate would have it, passed away this week after a standoff with a brain tumor. He’s the guy at the beginning of the video, speaking with early VJ Alan Hunter, and while he looks for all the world like an unreconstructed Little River Band fan, don’t be faked out by appearances. Young was one of the first mainstream music journalists to take punk’s aesthetic merit as a given, and for that, we owe him a debt of gratitude. May he rest in peace.

At its core, “Punks and Poseurs” is a narration-free concert film, but it’s cut with terrific interview footage that explores the changing nature of punk, from insider and outsider perspectives. There’s a lot of great footage with writer/performers Pleasant Gehman and Iris Berry, torpedoing the influx into the music scene of neophyte phonies who just didn’t get it, explaining title of the program. (After this first aired in 1985, a bunch of the new waver/Durannie chicks at my high school—which is to say all the girls who were trying their suburban Ohio best to look like Gehman and Berry—started calling everyone “poseurs,” which was pretty funny.) There’s also a hilarious interview with employees at a store called “Poseur,” which sold punk fashions and accessories—people had to get that shit somewhere before Hot Topic forever banished punk to the mall, no?  Also keep an eye out for the kid giving a primer on how to fashion liberty spikes with Knox gelatine.

The performance footage mostly focuses on excellent, high-energy sets by The Dickies and GBH —the latter of whom were quite radical by MTV’s regular programming standards (and British, contra the program’s subtitle, but the concert took place in L.A., so whatever, I guess). There’s also an early glimpse of the excellent and still active Italian hardcore band Raw Power. I harbor serious doubts they’ve ever been spotted on that network again.
 

 
Many thanks to upstanding journalist and total fucking poseur Mr. Erick Bradshaw for this find.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Way USA’: Sleazy punk comedy travelogue is the greatest cult video you’ve probably never seen
The time Ian McKellen jammed with the Fleshtones on MTV in 1987
Debbie Harry, Ramones, Nick Rhodes, Courtney Love and more on MTV’s ‘Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes’

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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