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‘Ahead of punk, ahead of their time’: The resurrection of a band called Death
06.25.2013
03:10 pm
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(Resurrecting this post from the DM archives. A Band Called Death is released tomorrow by Drafthouse Films)  
 
Imagine it’s 1975 and you’re a young Black man obsessed with the music of The Who, Alice Cooper, David Bowie and The Beatles. You form a band that plays loud, fast, rock ‘n’ roll in a city where grooving to the Motown sound of Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and Gladys Knight is more than a past time, it’s a religion. What was Detroit to make of a kid with an Afro and a jones for Frank Zappa and T. Rex?

To the distress of your bewildered friends and Christian family, imagine calling your band Death and recording songs like “Rock and Roll Victim” and “Freaking Out.” Imagine that when the opportunity for success comes knocking at your door you sweetly tell it to “fuck off,” unwilling to pay the price of changing who are in order to make money being who you are not. Imagine all of that and you’ve put yourself into the world of David Hackney and his brothers Dannis and Bobby, three young cats who together formed one of rock’s most visionary and unique rock groups.

The idea for Death leaped from David Hackney’s imagination like a wild living thing that couldn’t be suppressed. It was a beast in search of its roar. This eruption had been a long time coming. Ever since he was a kid watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, David knew that there was something inside him that was restless and pressing its way toward the light of day. In time, he found the tools needed to excavate and give expression to this force, this beast - they’d been there all along: guitars and drums. The Beatles had pointed the way. The Who and Hendrix provided the maps. Ziggy Stardust drove the bus.


 
David’s brothers were quick to pick up on his calling. They shared his passion for rock ‘n’ roll and had faith in their brother’s vision of a Black trio that smashed musical stereotypes and re-invented itself in the style of trailblazers like Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Lee and Sly Stone. Death’s hard-edged, politically-charged rock ‘n’ roll had more in common with Detroit rockers like Iggy Pop, The MC5 and Bob Seger than the commercial soul coming out on Berry Gordy’s multi-million dollar record label. The cost that Death paid for being provocative and original was high. A record deal from Clive Davis was offered with the stipulation that the band change its name. David was unyielding. The name meant something too deep to fuck with. Where others saw darkness, he saw light. For the young songwriter and guitarist, Death symbolized transition and re-birth. It was more than just a name, it was a point of view. And it was precious to him. No, the name would never change.

Death stuck to their guns, recorded their music and eventually disbanded. David died of lung cancer in 2000. Dannis and Bobby formed reggae bands. It appeared that Death had died. But David’s longview in which death is just a process of passing through different dimensions became prophetic when The New York Times’ Mike Rubin wrote a piece on the long lost band in 2010. What had been an underground secret was now exposed to millions of people, with an enthusiastic endorsement from Detroit brethren Jack White:

“The first time the stereo played ‘Politicians in My Eyes,’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. When I was told the history of the band and what year they recorded this music, it just didn’t make sense. Ahead of punk, and ahead of their time.”

There was an immediate demand for the music of Death. Bobby and Dannis started considering what they once thought might be impossible: Death’s resurrection. David would like that. With the help of their spiritual brother, Bobbie Duncan, the brothers made David’s vision come to life again. Death was reborn.


 
Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett’s film A Band Called Death brings us close into the lives of the Hackney brothers, their family and friends. It takes us to Detroit, where Death found its sound in the grind and clang of industry. And it takes us into the spirituality of the band. The offspring of a Christian minister, the brothers found in rock ‘n’ roll a way to amplify their sense of the cosmic. With the coming of the hippie scene and psychedelics, they went further into the mysteries of being and found in their music a means to celebrate the dawning of the Aquarian Age. But into the mix of flower child trippiness, Death brought a blast of apocalyptic Motor City badassness that kept the psychedelic spaceship from tipping too far into the paisley zone. Their heads may have been drifting through the music of the spheres, but their feet were firmly planted on the cracked concrete of their Detroit garage.

A Band Called Death inspires as it illuminates the path the brothers took while riding out their dream with only their passion and positive vibes to carry them through. It’s a lovely film and deservedly won the Audience Award at this year’s SXSW.

Back in March, I spent a couple of hours with Death, shooting the shit and sharing war stories. I filmed the following video after seeing the band the night before. I was pumped up. The band were absolutely phenomenal live, my concerns about David’s absence were supplanted by the belief that his brothers more than ably channeled his energy.

Death lives. Feel the vibe.
 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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06.25.2013
03:10 pm
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Sharpies: The mulleted rocker kids of 70s Australia
06.24.2013
10:04 am
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Just when I think I’ve carefully cataloged all the rock ‘n’ roll subcultures in my nerdy little brain, I hear about a group of kids that did something totally recognizable, yet completely regional, and realize I’m just a provincial American. The “sharpies” of Australia (not to be confused with anti-racist skinheads called “sharps”) were a bit like English skinheads. They were regional groups of generally working class kids, dressing up to signify their solidarity with the movement or even membership in a specific sharpie gang. The similarities mostly stop right there.
 
sharpies
 
First of all, the fashion, while reminiscent of traditional skins, has a few notes out of left field. For one, they usually had mullets. (As some one who comes from a mulleted people, you cannot imagine my delight when the hairstyle is embraced abroad.) It was sort of skinhead in the front, glam rocker in the back, often with big, traditional-style tattoos as accent. The girls (called “brush”) favored the sorts of pleated skirts or mini-skirts associated with skinhead girls, sometimes with cartoonishly high wedged heels, but the boys didn’t always go for tight jeans, often choosing to combine their bright cardigans with sailor pants and Cuban heels.

I actually stumbled on sharpies by way of the band, Coloured Balls, and their awesome album, Ball Power, (reissued on Sing Sing Records). Considered the ultimate sharpie band, at first glance I thought they were skins, and one or two tracks actually sound very Oi! Fascinatingly, they formed in 1972, before Cock Sparrer, Sham 69 or The Business were known entities. Although sharpies often co-existed with skinheads (and probably shared barbers), musically, they were further apart.
 

 
In lieu of ska, rocksteady, reggae, or soul, these kids created an esoteric pastiche of rock ‘n’ roll. Coloured Balls, for example, is really hard to pin down. Sometimes it’s a bit acid rock, sometimes very white-boy blues, sometimes it almost feels like Oi!, or glam, or power pop. The band certainly didn’t feel constrained by genre, something I’m sure was a testament to diverse sharpie tastes. Singer Lobby Loyde remembers very vividly playing to sharpie kids well before Coloured Balls existed, and well before he had adopted a sharpie aesthetic.

“When the Purple Hearts first came down to Melbourne in 1967, we were a long-haired blues band. We started playing at the circle ballroom in Preston and I started noticing these strange people. I’d never seen anything like them and their distinct style! They had short hair and wore baggy trousers and cardigans; the girls wore knee-length pleated skirts, twin sets and pearls.”

And then there’s the distinctive dancing, which I have to admit, has an elegance that skanking doesn’t quite achieve.
 

 
Like skinheads, sharpies were largely disaffected youth, and gang violence was heavily associated with the lifestyle, much to the chagrin of Lobby Loyde, who said in retrospect.

“Coloured Balls were the greatest bunch of hippies that ever crawled. They were really gentle guys, but on stage we let it go and spat out all the venom we had… that was our release.”

While it’s unclear exactly how much fighting actually went on (as opposed to just plain moral panic), there was tension between sharpies and Australian mods (Since many early sharpies were actually British transplants, and former skinheads themselves, it makes sense that the beef would travel). The violence and the emergence of disco are largely credited with the fade of the sharpies, but they remain a fascinating moment of youth culture history. Below you can see an amalgam of sharpies at an outdoor music festival in 1974. Coloured Balls is playing one of their more acid rock numbers.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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06.24.2013
10:04 am
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The question he really seems to want to ask of Billy Idol: ‘Aren’t you just a prat?’
06.22.2013
08:15 pm
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It’s more than a little obvious from this 1985 clip from The Old Grey Whistle Test that interviewer Andy Kershaw hasn’t got much time for Billy Idol.

Kershaw refers to the “Sneer of the Year” as “show business” and wonders what the 12-year-old Idol would have thought of his current musical output. At moments Kershaw seems desperate to ask Idol straight up “Aren’t you just a prat?”

Kershaw’s contempt is barely concealed, but Idol takes it all in good grace. I must admit I have always been surprised that the bargain bin star of British punk pock became so successful in the States during the 1980s. It is perhaps a small reflection of what the country was like under Ronald Reagan’s leadership. Or cocaine. (At approx the 7:35 mark Idol talks about how drug dealers named narcotics after him in New York.)
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Andy Kershaw: The Rolling Stone’s Guide to painting & Decorating

H/T Carl Richard Aylott and Francis Wheen

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.22.2013
08:15 pm
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Girls Aloud: Insanely HUGE compilation of female-fronted punk bands 1977-1989
06.21.2013
01:25 pm
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Behold an absolutely monstrous compilation of female fronted punk bands from all over the world from the mid to late ‘70s to the mid 80s (and a little beyond). Some of the artists you’ve heard of (Blondie, Crass, The Avengers, Josie Cotton, Kleenex, Honey Bane, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Rezillos, Slits, Malaria!, etc.) but others, trust me on this, there’s just no way you could have heard of all of them. The fellow who compiled this beast is a master. An expert’s expert! A maven’s maven!

This gargantuan set represents a deep education in an exciting, but for the most part never really respected sub-genre of punk. It would be overstating the case to say it has aspirations of being a Harry Smith-type collection of punk and obscure hardcore bands, but some of this stuff I don’t think I’d ever come across if given two lifetimes. Apparently some of these songs come from cassettes, probably copied one at a time. Obviously plenty of the tracks were taken from vinyl 45 RPM records. And the stuff from the Eastern Bloc countries…. I mean, where did he get this stuff?

What a maniac! It must have been really hard to collect all of these songs, even in this day and age. Without a deep knowledge of the subject, it would be difficult to even search for some of these records on Google. Like I say, it’s damned impressive.

From the Kangknave blog (where you will find all of the download the links and a track listing):

This is a pretty insane project put together by my pal Vince B. from San Francisco a few years back. As the title indicates, this is a homemade 12 x CD-R (!) compilation of punk bands fronted by female vocalists from 1977 to 1989. More like a giant mixtape than a compilation, as he only made 36 copies which he sent to friends and people who submitted material. You may notice that some of the bands didn’t have a steady female vocalist (The Lewd, etc.) but he still included songs that were sung by another member of the band. This is as international as it gets, with stuff ranging from world famous Blondie or Crass to the most obscure Eastern European cassette compilation veterans. The boxset came packaged in a hand-numbered fancy translucent lunchbox enclosing all 12 CD-Rs, a stack of full-colored cards featuring comprehensive tracklist and artwork/info, as well as a manga pin-up figure! Talk about a labor of love.

 

 
Above, Slovenian punk rockers, Tožibabe
 

 
East LA’s The Brat do “High School” in 1981.

Via Boing Boing

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.21.2013
01:25 pm
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THE NATURE OF YOUR OPPRESSION IS THE AESTHETIC OF OUR ANGER: The Art of Crass
06.18.2013
01:18 pm
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I’m not sure what to make of seeing a young person with the Crass logo painted on the back of their leather jacket. I mean these days. What does it mean to them?

Of course I knew what it meant and what it stood for back in the day. I lived in south London squats in 1983 and 84 and many of my er, squatmates were classic scruffy cliched Crass punks. As a result, I regularly went to see anarcho punk gigs at places like The Ambulance Station on the Old Kent Road. Poison Girls. Chumbawamba. Flux of Pink Indians. Annie Anxiety. Flowers in the Dustbin. Rubella Ballet. I saw a lot of Crass-associated punk bands back then. (When Chumbawamba released “Everything You Know Is Wrong” in 2004, I was chuffed to bits.)

I even saw one of the final Crass gigs, a miner’s strike benefit at the Islington Bingo Hall. Between bands they let me show a little video that I’d cobbled together from particularly gruesome WWII footage set to a soundtrack of Frank Sinatra’s “Polka-dots and Moonbeams.” Although I personally was not a Crass punk per se, I definitely had a foot in that tribe and Crass had a major effect on me and the way I see the world to this very day. Something that I am very grateful for.

When the band was actually together, the idea of what Crass offered was greater than the sum of its parts as well as something, frankly, that was significantly based more on the militant anarchist-vegan-anti-vivisection-pacifist-anti-religious pro-environmental stances they took, than the music itself. Crass were many things—many important things—to many people, but listenable wasn’t really one of them (I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s amusing to think about how many of the Crass punk anarchist squatter types who I knew in Brixton were also into early UB40. Not shitting you. That’s what they listened to, not Stations of The Crass!)

A big part of the appeal, like I say, were the ideas, the leafleting and sloganeering, but there was also Gee Vaucher’s brilliant graphic art and and Dave King’s iconic logo that went along with the Crass mystique. This is what their tribe rallied around. It wasn’t about them as people—most fans probably had no idea what they looked like (I didn’t) and they quite literally shunned the spotlight, performing in near darkness—it was about the fact that because of Crass’s orbit and the gravitational pull of their example and lifestyle that you could meet other people who thought they same way that you did. That aspect of Crass fandom was the glue that held that entire scene together, that you could, as Timothy Leary once said, “Find the Others.”

I think this is why young people today still want to wear the Crass logo across their backs. It may seem somewhat anachronistic—like hippie tie-die does—but the romantic notion of what that scene was all about, is, what I think, motivates kids to sport that symbol in 2013. It will never happen again quite like that, but its a testament to how influential Crass truly were that kids who weren’t even born then continue to be interested in the ideas they espoused, some of which have wormed their way far further into the culture than could have been imagined 30 years ago. Widespread veganism is merely one of the triumphs of Crass that can be seen in today’s landscape and you’d better believe they had a lot to do with it. The concept of veganism seemed so far out in the early 1980s in a way that is almost impossible to convey to someone who wasn’t around back then. People were offended by the very concept of it! Although I was already pretty much already a vegan by 1983, I had never in my life met, until falling into the anarcho punk circles orbiting around Crass’s sun, other people who had the same diet. That was a big deal with me.

Which brings me to the second installment of MOCAtv‘s “The Art of Punk” video series and its exploration of the art and iconography of Crass:

We head up to the Anarchist Book Fair in San Francisco to meet up with Gee Vaucher, and founding Crass member, writer, and activist, Penny Rimbaud. We discuss the art and the lifestyle stemming from the infamous Dial House, where they have lived, worked, and created their own brand of anarchistic beauty, for more than 3 decades. We have a sit down with artist Scott Campbell, at his own New York tattoo shop, and talk about how the art of Crass, and one single t-shirt created a fork in his own road of life. Owen Thornton talks some shit. Finally we hang out with British graphic designer Dave King - the creator of the infamous snake and cross symbol, and discuss post war England, hippies, punk, graphic design, and more, that led him to the creation of the symbol made legendary by Crass.

Next up in this series, The Dead Kennedys. Directed by Bryan Ray Turcotte and Bo Bushnell.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.18.2013
01:18 pm
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Video(s) Of The Year: Hunx & His Punx’s incredible ‘Street Punk Trilogy’
06.18.2013
09:59 am
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I just had a HOLY SHIT moment! I’ll be damned if I see a better music video than this all year. It has everything: love, loss, anger, regret, redemption, destruction. Pimples being squeezed. 30 second thrash pop. Sets to make John Waters proud.

SF heroes Hunx And His Punx, aka the gorgeous Seth Bogart and his (mostly) all girl backing group, return with a new record in July called Street Punk, and to whet our salivating appetites to the point of drowning, have dropped a new clip featuring not one, not two, but THREE tracks squeezed into one 5 minute video. So, technically, it can’t actually be called a music video, singular, which excludes it from end-of-the-year polls. That makes it even better.

But it doesn’t matter what those poll-building squares decide anyway, man, we finally have the queer-punk Star Wars. Street Punk Trilogy defines a generation; like Lord Of The RIngs before it, it manages to convey that universal mystery of the human condition, while making bold statements about life in the late-capitalist, early 21st Century.

OK, full disclosure: one of the highlights of my performing career so far has been warming up for Hunx & His Punx last year in Manchester (pics cos it happened) so of course I am biased. They are super-nice people, and, most importantly, they are brilliant. So really, it doesn’t matter what I say or how much hyperbole I lay out, this video is still ace, and I dare any of you to watch it and not lol at least once.

Help some Punx get viral people, give this a whirl:

Hunx & His Punx “Street Punk Trilogy”

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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06.18.2013
09:59 am
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Siouxsie Sioux performs ‘Christine’ two nights ago in London
06.17.2013
07:18 pm
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Siouxsie Sioux performing “Christine” June 15 at this year’s Yoko Ono-hosted Meltdown Festival at Royal Festival Hall.

Drummer Robert Brian is filling the huge shoes of Siouxsie’s ex-husband and longtime Banshee, Budgie.

The audio/video ain’t great, but I’m of the school that prefers lo-fi Siouxsie Sioux to none-at-all.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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06.17.2013
07:18 pm
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The Art of Punk: Watch great new doc on Black Flag and Raymond Pettibon’s iconic collaboration
06.11.2013
01:30 pm
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Bryan Ray Turcotte, author the classic chronicle of punk rock handbills and posters, Fucked Up + Photocopied, has one of the largest private collections of punk rock-related ephemera in the world—he’s a one-man Smithsonian Institute of the counterculture, truly a maven’s maven.

When I got advance notice that one of the world’s most prominent archivists and historians on the matter of punk rock’s graphic design had made (with Bo Bushnell) a film about Black Flag and Raymond Pettibon , I was expecting something pretty great and… it’s excellent!

It went live this morning. I got the link a little while ago and promptly sat down and watched the whole thing:

On the first episode of “The Art of Punk” we dissect the art of the legendary Black Flag. From the iconic four bars symbols, to the many coveted and collected gig flyers, singles, and band t-shirts, all depicting the distinctive Indian ink drawn image and text by artist Raymond Pettibon. We start off in Los Angeles talking to two founding members, singer Keith Morris and bass player Chuck Dukowski, about what the scene was like in 1976 - setting the stage for the band’s formation, as well as the bands name, and the creation of the iconic four bars symbol. Raymond Pettibon talks with us from his New York art studio. Back in LA we meet with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, about how the art, the music, and that early LA scene impacted his own life and career. To wrap it all up we sit and talk at length, with Henry Rollins, at MOCA Grand Ave in Los Angeles, about all of the above and more.

What’s so compelling about this piece is how filmmakers Turcotte and Bushnell tell you a story that you haven’t already heard a gazillion times before by focusing in on the graphics and how important an iconic logo was back then for outsider kids to rally around, wear on their chests or have etched into their flesh.

In the film, Flea makes, I thought, an especially valuable contribution, because he was young enough then (like Rollins himself was, of course) to have been in the audience and he speaks to how seeing a group like Black Flag could change your direction in life. From what I have heard from a number of people, Flea’s supposed to have an absolutely first rate modern art collection. He’s really inspired when he speaks here.

A production of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. New MOCAtv  episodes exploring the visual identities of Dead Kennedys and Crass will debut soon at the MOCAtv YouTube channel
 

Above, Flea in his Pettibon-festooned bathroom
 

 
Thank you Tim NoPlace!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.11.2013
01:30 pm
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Just a great photo of Sid Vicious going to see a David Bowie concert in 1973
06.03.2013
10:24 am
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He certainly knew how to play-up to the camera. A young Sid Vicious on his way to a David Bowie concert in London, 1973.

Mark Dery’s new Kindle e-book, All the Young Dudes: Why Glam Rock Matters, the first to published as part of Boing Boing’s new digital imprint, tells his story of “growing up Bowie” in San Diego.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

‘Bury me with my boots on’: Sid Vicious’s Death Wish

H/T Louder Than War, via Mannequinfemme

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.03.2013
10:24 am
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Shut yer fucking mouth: Punk started in New York!
05.31.2013
05:05 am
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In the ongoing debate (which shoulda been settled years ago) of whether 70s punk started in New York or London, I think Joe Strummer in this performance is sending the message that it started with four guys from Queens, New York. I know in the big scheme of things this ain’t a whole lotta much of nuthin’. But for some of us old punkers, it is a bone of contention. And punk is all about contention
 

 
And this should shut the mouth of the idiots who continue to claim punk originated in England.
 

 
Case fucking closed. The Ramones started it. The Clash took the energy and ran with it. The Pistols pissed it away.

Posted by Marc Campbell
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05.31.2013
05:05 am
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