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Frankie Teardrop City: D Generation’s Jesse Malin remembers Suicide’s Alan Vega
03:03 pm


Alan Vega
D Generation

The author and one of his biggest heros

A guest post from D Generation’s Jesse Malin on Alan Vega

I first heard Suicide on a cassette tape I came across at the False Prophets’ studio on Avenue B, a cool old thrift store turned punk rock rehearsal spot and teenage crash pad. It was live tape that I believe belonged to the Prophets’ bass player, Steve Wishnia.  It was on a label called ROIR that only put out cassettes, if can you imagine that, but they had a very cool thing going on, like the first Bad Brains LP, Johnny Thunders’ Stations of the Cross and the infamous New York Thrash tape.

The name Suicide always intrigued me but the raw electronic minimalism went way over my teenage hardcore head.  Where were the guitars?  Where were the drums?  At that age, I needed things to be a certain way.  Looking back, I guess I wasn’t ready for it.  Truthfully, it kinda scared me a bit.  Then I saw a copy of the New York Rocker with a cover shot of Alan Vega and Johnny Thunders looking cool and dangerous, hanging out on the floor, smoking and drinking in some downtown loft.  Alan looked like Johnny’s more together older brother, but still badass as fuck. That photo spread would revisit my mind in the mid 1980s when I was looking for something outside of the hardcore scene to stimulate me again as a listener and as a musician.  The scene I was in was becoming way too macho—and way too metal—for me. 

The conformity level had risen to such heights that it was contradicting everything we originally stood for… so I began listening to Billy Bragg, The Replacements, Graham Parker & The Rumor, and many other troubadours fueled by anger and song.  I saw the Bob Dylan film Don’t Look Back at midnight at the St. Marks Cinema and began to see that my precious punk rock had existed way before and worked on many levels… not just “Loud Fast Rules” (Hey, I was still in my teens).

One day I came upon a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, and, even though I always had mad respect for him as an artist and live performer, I was not a real fan until I sat down with Nebraska by myself and read along with the lyric sheet.  It felt like it was the middle of the night and he was sitting there right with me telling these hauntingly honest stories with dead-eyed conviction.  How could this this huge rock star be so connected to the human struggle and the working class on such a street level while still giving us a glimmer of hope?

By this time, Born in the USA was out and I got a lot of shit from my punk rock friends thinking that it was all some patriotic, macho Rambo crap.  I had to argue to get them to read the lyrics where, in almost half the songs on album, the main characters all ended up in jail.  So I was a new fan, and so was most of the world in that summer of 1985.  Hopefully some of the masses got the message through the FM dial: Use the system to fuck the system, or as least hold up the mirror up to it…like Dylan, the Beatles and the Clash had also done.

As a kid I always wanted to know all the crazy backstories about the records and artists I liked.  I read tons of music mags, trying to get all the info I could. One day I came across an interview where Springsteen talked about Suicide and how their first record, especially a song “Frankie Teardrop,” influenced Nebraska in a big way (check out the screams on “State Trooper”).

I had recently broken up my first band Heart Attack and formed a group called HOPE.  We were playing at a place called the Cat Club one night when an old school record guy named Marty Thau approached us.  He said he was interested in taking us into the studio to record a record, and that he had worked with the the Ramones, NY Dolls, and was currently working with Suicide.  Next thing we know, we had a gig opening for Suicide at a jam packed sold out CBGBs on a boiling August night.  We played our songwriter-esque rock set and went out into the crowd to watch Suicide.  It was the loudest, most intense thing I had ever seen (and I had been to a few Motorhead shows). 

Suddenly the CBGBs that we were so familiar with became a very different place that night.  Alan was screaming like he was going to have a breakdown.  It was scary as anything and full of anger, but yet there was something very romantic and classic about it, in a 1950s way, while still sounding like it was from another planet.  The levels got louder and louder and pulse was so intense, made by only two people (Alan and his counterpart Martin Rev), without even trying. 

Then, all at once, it ended abruptly with Alan smashing the microphone several times into his face and then slamming it down on to the floor.  After the show, Alan collapsed down on a broken wooden bench behind a sheet in our dressing room, sweating and breathing like he just came out of a heavyweight brawl, but dressed like an Elvis apparition passing through the Bowery.  He didn’t say a word, just slowly nodded his head at us kids.

About a year or two later, my friends and I find ourselves out every Sunday night at a New York City nightclub in a big old church called Limelight.  It was the height of the hair band days and, even though we hated 99.9% of the music, we went there to chase the girls (which there plenty of). Sometimes, feeling a bit self-conscious about how lame we were hanging out in this scene, we would hide in the dark sidelines and drink up the courage to yack to as many big-haired, sleazed-up ladies as we could.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘A Short Movie About Suicide’
09:14 am


Alan Vega
Martin Rev

November 1970 poster for a series of Suicide shows at “A Project of Living Artists” on 729 Broadway

The news of the death of Alan Vega of Suicide came down over the weekend. As all such deaths do, it has given rise to an outpouring of heartfelt reminiscences, providing an occasion to reflect on what a blazing, contradictory, committed, special band Suicide was. Famously early in defining the possibilities of the term “punk music” (via 1970 gig ads, one example of which is above), Suicide became one of those rare bands you absolutely had to have a reaction to, as they perhaps learned to their chagrin when they accepted an offer by the Clash to open for the London-based punk band in Britain in 1978. Many of the punks in the audience despised Suicide, leading to an incident in Glasgow in which an audience member threw an axe at Vega’s head.

Living up to its name, “A Short Film About Suicide” (2007) lasts roughly 15 minutes. It mostly consists of Vega talking, which is an unimpeachable strategy. The movie opens with Vega recalling the September 3, 1969, gig at the Pavilion on 42nd St. when the Stooges opened for the MC5 and Iggy (and, improbably, Johann Sebastian Bach) changed Vega’s life forever. The movie features Vega and Martin Rev, of course, plus Chris Stein of Blondie, Mick Jones of the Clash, and others. Howard Thompson tells of hearing Suicide’s incredible first album for the first time (mistakenly playing side B first) and then realizing that he absolutely had to put it out in the U.K.

If “A Short Film About Suicide” lasted 5 hours, no part of it would be boring.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Ghost Rider’: Amazing new video surfaces of Suicide, live in 1980
06:21 pm


Alan Vega
Merrill Aldighieri

This newly re-mastered and edited video by Merrill Aldighieri captures Suicide performing “Ghost Rider” in 1980.  It is some of the best footage you’ll ever see of the legendary rock pioneers.  Alan Vega shines in an atypically subdued but still pretty intense performance. Edgar Allan Presley.

As the resident video jockey at New York City rock club Hurrah, Aldighieri documented some of the best live performances by cutting edge bands of the early 80s including
Gang Of Four, Magazine, Bush Tetras and Suicide. In this edit,  Aldighieri has incorporated the older footage with new imagery filmed at a retrospective of Alan Vega’s paintings and sculptures in Lyon, France that took place in 2009.

Merrill Aldighieri’s website ARTCLIPS is a marvelous compendium of digitally re-mastered Hurrah concert videos made between 1980-1981 among many other delightful things. Visit it.

Merrill is a friend and shot footage of my band at Hurrah in 1980. I asked her for a comment about Alan Vega and this is what she wrote:

The night I met Alan, Oct. 1, 1980 on stage at Hurrah, I was terrified by his unbridled passion. It took all my courage not to turn away. The next time I met him was in his loft downdown. We talked for hours. He did not shy away from anything. His life was an unsolved mystery and you were invited to be a witness, a participant. Humility and talent in equal generous doses. I guess that’s why he was such a good collaborator. He was very proud and in wonderment at the joy of being a father too. He did not hold back.

Legendary punk rocker and Dangerous Minds’ contributor Howie Pyro knew Alan quite well and describes him as…

a man so ahead of his time he left us all in the dust. One of the first times I ever went out to a club in 1976 I saw Suicide open for Blondie & was not prepared for the onslaught of volume, sound, blood, real violence, art, and true rock n roll but with NO guitars or drums!! It blew my mind & I grew up a lot that night…had I known I would be recording with “that guy” 20 years later I’d have (happily) fainted…

Ironically, a man in a band called Suicide approached this mortal coil with the kind of no bullshit intensity that makes life way too interesting to abandon.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Kill the f*ckers: ‘White Man,’ Suicide’s BRUTAL sonic attack on white supremacy
10:17 am


Alan Vega
Martin Rev

Alan Vega, 70s, photo by Paul Zone

I plan to stand behind my front door clutching a baseball bat for the duration of this year’s Republican National Convention, but if I were headed to one of the “First Amendment zones” in Cleveland next month, I would carry a ghetto blaster that played nothing but Suicide’s “White Man.”

Born Boruch Alan Bermowitz in 1938 and married to a Holocaust survivor during the sixties, Alan Vega knows whereof he sings on “White Man,” an obscure late-period Suicide track that deserves a wider hearing. While Vega denounces the legacy of white supremacy in the barest language there is, Martin Rev’s music—drums, a single guitar chord through a tremolo effect and a three-note bassline, punctuated by keyboard noises—corresponds to an inner state between trance and fury.

So far, “White Man” has only been officially released on the DVD One Day + Live at La Loco / Paris, a pro-shot live show from January 2005 supplemented with interviews. (A used copy from Amazon will set you back about $5.) Though Suicide has been playing the song since ‘98 (according to this fan’s timeline), they left it off their last album to date, 2002’s merciless post-9/11 nightmare American Supreme.

It just so happens there’s video of Suicide playing “White Man” in Manhattan right after the 2004 RNC. The performance falls flat, but Vega’s ad-libbed tirade is much clearer than on the Paris tape:

White man
Goin’ ‘round the world
Killin’ everybody with a different color skin
Yeah, it’s the American race
Yeah, kill the fuckers

White man
You’re a fucking diseased fucker
You’re a fucking cancer
White man

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Suicide: The band that will always sound like the future
09:09 am


Alan Vega
Martin Rev

I was late to the party, but I think many of us were late to that party. Suicide had been playing for about a decade before we started really noticing what was going on—and what we were missing.

When Suicide played in England during the 1970s they were pelted with bottles. The punk audience was horrified by this intense, strange band. This wasn’t punk. This wasn’t New Wave. It wasn’t. This was a glimpse of the future.

I never heard Suicide on the radio. Not once. Or in the record shops that blasted out The Clash, the Banshees or PiL. Or even in the clubs. When I first heard “Ghost Rider”—a long long time after its release—it was a visceral thrill. Mesmeric, powerful, unforgettable.

In fact Alan Vega best described the effect of hearing Suicide from his own experience of hearing Martin Rev. In an interview Vega said that he had never wanted to be on stage. He was a sculptor, an artist, not a performer. He liked playing around with tape machines and noise, sure. He liked listening to the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, of course. But the thought of being a musical artist—the thought of performing on stage, I mean—scared him shitless.

Then one night Vega was standing at the side of a stage watching Martin Rev playing jazz funk fusion. Something happened. The sounds cut through him. He was no longer just a spectator. He was possessed. Vega started hitting a tambourine. With every beat he was getting ever nearer ever closer to being onstage. He was no longer scared. He felt alive. That’s almost how it felt the first time I heard “Ghost Rider.” It’s a powerful song.

But back to that night when Vega started slamming a tambourine: Martin Rev turned to him and said “We’re going to do something together.” They would commit Suicide.
The group started out in 1970 as three piece band. The guitarist “who was like a free-sound guitarist and also a visual artist” soon left to make films. As Vega and Rev told Igloo Mag in 2008:

Martin Rev: We knew we weren’t going to keep a band together for that long based on what we did, the amount of space we might have for rehearsal, which was always limited, and the amount of money we had for equipment and the amount we gigs we had. We were starting from scratch.

Alan Vega: We started out with a ten dollar Japanese keyboard that Marty found somewhere. We could hardly get any sound out of it so we started introducing, was it an Electro Harmonix thing like bass boosters and treble boosters?

Martin Rev: Yeah.

Alan Vega: This keyboard would be lined up with five or six of these things and that would jack up the sound because we almost couldn’t get any sound out of this thing. That in a way created the sound. As Marty was saying, it was out of a necessity thing. We had to jack up that keyboard, man, and out came this incredible rush of sound that no one has ever heard before or afterwards. The sound was created just out of necessity and we ran with it, man. It’s also more than that. I mean, Marty and I, we were both hearing electronics. In the late 60s I was already fooling around with just noise, just radio static and shit. It’s our musical taste. We like to hear noise, you know?

They spent years of gigging. Working on their own distinct sound. A psychotic, yelping Gene Vincent vocal over a mix of repetitive pounding synthesiser beats, white noise and menacing throbbing, pulsating psychobilly.

In 1977, Suicide released their eponymous debut album. It took seven years of trial and error to create the songs, then just four short days to record. As Martin Rev told the Guardian last year “We started like sculptors”:

“With a big piece of stone, pure clay, pure sound, big lumps of sound. We started from scratch, and then out of that we carved out the songs. After a year or two, we were playing the earliest, “Ghost Rider,” “Cheree” and “Rocket USA.” Also, when I was finally able to get a rhythm machine, that changed things a lot. I was able to delineate songs more clearly. The first year or two was a pure wall of sound.”

Hard to believe now, but this stunning debut record failed to chart in either the US or the UK. Both countries were too hung up on punk and disco and new wave. Some critics loved the album (as did Bruce Springsteen who made a hit of “Dream Baby Dream” and film-maker Rainer Werner Fassbinder), but others were literally terrified by their sound.

In the end Vega and Rev won.

Since those heady days Vega has most recently come through a heart attack and a stroke. He still performs with Rev and still produces artwork—last year he exhibited a series of new and old paintings at the Armory Show in New York.

Rev is “always looking for the next cool instrument or pedal. I’m not using software, live, so not everything works for me; I don’t need everything.”

“You bring your life with you….The way you are in the present, what you’ve learned, what you know.”

Killer videos to live for from Suicide, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Saturn Drive’: When Alan Vega met Ministry, 1983
02:03 pm


Alan Vega
Al Jourgensen

Saturn Strip, Suicide frontman Alan Vega’s third solo album and his first for a major label (Elektra), kicks off with the single “Saturn Drive,” a six-minute hybrid of early Ministry synth and sequencer sounds and Vega’s futuristic rockabilly. Co-written by Vega and Alain Jourgensen, the single was recorded with the whole With Sympathy team: Jourgensen plays keyboards, his original Ministry partner Stephen George drums, and Ian Taylor and (former Psychedelic Fur) Vince Ely are credited with producing the song’s basic tracks. Vega’s staunch supporter Ric Ocasek, who produced Saturn Strip (as well as the second, third and fourth Suicide albums), also appears on the song playing guitar and keyboards.

Vega’s lyrics to this time-traveling sci-fi epic aren’t easy to find online, so I’ve transcribed them for you from my tear-stained copy of Cripple Nation:

Wild stormy Monday
A gray rain came
Touchin’ Infinity’s prison
The creature made a war
Take the plane to Saturn
Celebrate their comin’
Lord knows Mr. Cheyenne
It’s a crucified photo
Of the wrong century

High price soldiers
Knockin’ down Eternity
Soda city delusions
Snake knows for sure
Winning by confusion
It’s a losin’ game
Saturn’s rings of reason
So’s a lonely street
Profits by the billions
Got the mornin’ line

Momma’s future children
Buy a bad machine
The computer knows nothin’
It’s feelin’ sympathy
What price glory
It’s too much infinity
Take the plane to Saturn
Follow the Indian
Lookin’ for that comet
Feel that fantasy
Huh oh yea fantasy

The creature’s nothin’
Just a stain on a wall
Death Row gets a window
Here comes Eternity
A million candelabras
Ya gotta have a scheme
Dr. Doom got a lash
It’s a time machine
That comet got religion
Snake eyes
Layin’ on the shore
It’s a losin’ game
It’s lonely streets
I got that mornin’ line
Yea what price glory
There’s too much infinity
Take the plane to Saturn
Lord knows Mr. Cheyenne
It’s a crucified photo
Of the wrong century
Yea, it’s the wrong one
The wrong one

I had really hoped Jourgensen’s memoir would shed some light on how this collaboration came to be, but I found no mention of Vega. Maybe Al will reveal all in one of the upcoming sequels?

I realize the fruits of this collaboration might not be to everyone’s tastes. But look at it this way: if Vega and Jourgensen hadn’t worked together on “Saturn Drive,” Vega never would have delivered this completely insane performance of the song on Spanish TV, which must be seen to be believed.

Click here for Vega and Marc Hurtado’s 2010 remake of the song, “Saturn Drive Duplex.”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground’: The best book yet on the dawn of punk rock

Early band shot of Blondie

In the now long line of endless punk rock history cash-in books being pumped out from every corner of the world it’s shocking to find the one book that’s not like the others. Paul Zone’s Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground published by Glitterati Inc. is a coffee table book brimming with amazing, unseen photos and the life story of Paul and his brothers Miki Zone and Mandy Zone and their bands The Fast and later, Man 2 Man. What makes this book different is its author and the time frame it takes place in.

There was a short moment when everything was happening at once, no one knew or cared and the only band that had an audience or a record deal was the New York Dolls. As early as 1974 Patti Smith was playing, as was Television, Wayne County, Suicide and Blondie. The Ramones were starting to play at CBGB (opening for a drag show that starred Tomata du Plenty later of Screamers fame), KISS was pretty much in this same scene playing to about five people with many bands like The Planets And Paul’s brothers The Fast were playing alongside of them. At one point, sub-culturally speaking, all the cards were thrown up in the air and no one knew where they were going to land. It was a very small group of friends almost all of whom would, in a few short years, become icons of pop culture,
Johnny Thunders, early 70’s

At the time, Paul Zone was very young. Too young to be in a band, but not too young to see a band or be snuck into the back room at Max’s Kansas City. And not too young to document this exciting time in his life by photographing everything. There are very few photos of this period when punk rock was actually occurring in the midst of the glitter rock scene. When the up and down escalators of rock ‘n’ roll infinity met and EVERYONE was hungry on the way up AND on the way down. There was change in the air, excitement and confusion.

Seeing Alan Vega of Suicide performing in a loft in 1973 with a huge blonde wig and a gold painted face is unbelievable. The years the photos in the book span are 1971 to 1978. Most are snapshots of friends hanging out when everyone was still on the starting line. The Fast were one of the more popular of these bands who let their new friends Blondie and The Ramones open for them in small New York clubs.

Early photos of The Fast show them amazingly in full glitter regalia with KISS-like make up (Miki Zone has a heart painted over one eye, etc.) but this was before KISS! There are a few photos of icons of the time like Alice Cooper (watching cartoons in his hotel room), Marc Bolan, The Stooges, etc. (a good one of KISS with about three people in the audience, as mentioned above). Most are of friends just hanging out, having a ball, not knowing or caring about the future and without that dividing line in music history called “punk rock.” It is truly a treasure to see something this rare, and even better, 99% of these photos have never been seen before.
Wayne County long before becoming Jayne County

By 1976 Paul Zone was old enough to join his brothers and became the lead singer of the version of The Fast that made records. Sadly due to poor management decisions The Fast got left behind that first punk wave and watched as almost all of their buddies become some of the most famous faces in music history. How amazing that all of these people were friends just hanging out, broke and creative going to see each other play, talking shit and influencing each other in ways they didn’t even realize?
Joey Ramone eating dessert at Paul Zone’s parents house at 5 am

Linda Ramone, future design icon Anna Sui, Nick Berlin and me, Howie Pyro (The Blessed) at Coney Island 1978

After a few years of struggling, The Fast trimmed down to just brothers Miki and Paul Zone and some early electronic equipment. They finally let go of the name The Fast and became Man to Man, one of the first Hi-NRG electro dance music groups, recording with the likes of Bobby Orlando and Man Parrish. They had huge hits worldwide and here in dance clubs like “Male Stripper” and “Energy Is Eurobeat,”
Suicide’s Alan Vega, early 70’s

This book is three quarters a photo book and one quarter autobiography, cutting to the point and perfect for this modern, short attention span world. It is packed with so much amazing first hand information in such a short amount of text that no one will be disappointed. Playground was co-written by Jake Austen of Roctober Magazine, with a foreword by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie. The book is available here
If you are in the Los Angeles area this Saturday, June 28th, there will be a book release party and photo exhibit (with many of these photos printed HUGE) at Lethal Amounts Gallery at 8 pm.

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
‘23 Minutes Over Brussels’: The legendarily confrontational Suicide concert, 1978
10:17 pm


Alan Vega
Martin Rev


—Alan Vega

“23 Minutes Over Brussels” is a recording of an incendiary performance given by Suicide in Brussels, Belgium on June 16th, 1978. Martin Rev and Alan Vega were opening for Elvis Costello and the audience, let’s just say, didn’t like them very much. In fact, they hated their fucking guts and let them know it in no uncertain terms, including booing loudly, snatching the microphone from Vega’s hands and even breaking his nose!

Suicide hated them back and the result was performance art meets a full-scale riot, perhaps the most legendarily confrontational ur-punk moment this side of Iggy and The Stooges’ Metallic K.O. After Suicide escaped with their lives, Elvis Costello and The Attractions came onstage, but Costello was furious at how the crowd had treated Suicide and played an extremely short set that was also short on pleasantries. The crowd went nuts when they refused to return for an encore and the riot cops were called in armed with teargas.

All in a day’s work for Suicide. When the band toured with The Clash that same year, Vega was physically attacked several times:

“I got my nose busted in Crawley… In Glasgow someone threw an axe by my head! In Plymouth The Nazis got me in the dressing room.”

The Brussels set was recorded on cassette tape by a friend of the duo and it was released as a legit bootleg (with a Berlin show from same tour) and as a flexi-disc. Eventually it got released on CD as a bonus track. Vega and Rev once referred to their music as “punk, funk and sewer music.”

Below, Suicide on Paul Tschinkel’s legendary InnerTube cable access program doing “Ghost Rider” in 1978:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Suicide’s Alan Vega interviewed by Gregg Foreman on ‘The Pharmacy’
03:30 pm


Alan Vega
Gregg Foreman

It’s a brand new year and here’s a brand new feature for you, our dear Dangerous Minds readers…

Gregg Foreman’s radio program, The Pharmacy, is a music / talk show playing heavy soul, raw funk, 60′s psych, girl groups, Krautrock. French yé-yé, Hammond organ rituals, post-punk transmissions and “ghost on the highway” testimonials and interviews with the most interesting artists and music makers of our times…

There will be new episodes of The Pharmacy posted weekly on Dangerous Minds.

Gregg Foreman is a musician and DJ who has played for the likes of Pink Mountaintops, The Delta 72, The Black Ryder, The Meek and more. Since, 2012, Gregg has been the musical director of Cat Power’s band. He started dj’ing 60s Soul and Mod 45’s in 1995 and has spun around the world. Gregg currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and divides his time between playing live music, producing records and dj’ing various clubs and parties from LA to Australia.

Gregg’s got amazing taste in music and access to some amazing people. Since this is the first time we’re featuring The Pharmacy on Dangerous Minds, I thought these three shows featuring an interview with Suicide’s Alan Vega would be of particular interest to our readers and a great way to kick things off.

Take it away Gregg…

The Pharmacy Radio - Ep 2 w/ Alan Vega of Suicide by Mrpharmacist on Mixcloud

You can download this show here.

The Pharmacy Radio Ep 3 - Alan Vega Pt 2 ... by Mrpharmacist on Mixcloud

You can download this show here.

The Pharmacy Ep 4 - Primal Scream and Alan Vega . . by Mrpharmacist on Mixcloud

You can download this show here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Elvis from Hell: Alan Vega’s rarely seen ‘Video Babe’
03:41 pm


Alan Vega

Alan Vega’s Elvis fetish is in full effect in the rarely seen “Video Babe” from 1983.

While Vega does Elvis, Martin Rev does a killer Nancy Sinatra.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Suicide’s Alan Vega discusses songwriting, art and life

Suicide’s Alan Vega interviewed for Tony Oursler’s Synesthesia Project.

The Synesthesia Project was a series of filmed interviews shot between 1997 and 2001 by artist Tony Oursler. Among the musicians featured were John Cage, Thurston Moore, Lydia Lunch and David Byrne.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment