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‘Ghost on the Highway’: A Portrait of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club


 
Ghost on the Highway: A Portrait of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club, directors Andrew Powell and Kurt Voss’s 2006 documentary about the legendary Los Angeles-born punk blues singer has no footage of Gun Club actually playing music, in fact it has no actual Gun Club music in it whatsoever and precious little footage of its subject.

One can surmise that Pierce’s family decided not to participate with Powell and Voss’s movie bio and the filmmakers were left to put together this “feature-length” documentary with just talking head interviews with former Gun Club members Kid Congo Powers, Ward Dotson, Terry Graham, Jim Duckworth and Dee Pop along with Henry Rollins, Lemmy, John Doe and Pleasant Gehman. Because that’s all it is, basically. Under different circumstances, it would have no doubt been a better film.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I’ve watched this 75-minute old movie twice and if you are a fan of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club, this modest film is a must. Obviously there is a lot of “myth” that’s grown around the person of Jeffrey Lee, who died at the age of 37 from a brain haemorrhage in 1996 and although this is more of an “oral history” than a documentary per se, it gets to the heart of the truth about the real Jeffrey Lee Pierce, who by turns is described as brilliant, tortured, loveable but mostly just as a complete and utter asshole and colossal, detestable fuckup junkie and drunk.

Although little of what the viewer learns about the life and times of Jeffrey Lee Pierce in Ghost on the Highway is particularly, er, complimentary, it didn’t really change my feelings about the man one iota. Anyone who knows anything about him knows where the story arc trends after the commercial break in this low budget Behind the Music, so it comes as zero surprise how many people thought the guy was a punk. Clearly he was an asshole, but he was also a great artist who made transcendent music. I only ever saw him from standing in the audience, so he gets a pass from me.
 

 
After the jump, a ‘Mother Juno’-era Gun Club set shot in Los Angeles in 1988…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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11.06.2015
02:12 pm
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Psychotic Reaction: The *third* best live footage of The Cramps you’ll ever see!
12.16.2014
08:35 am
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Earlier this year I posted what I described as the “second best” Cramps footage out there and owing to the reaction, I think that many of our readers agreed with that assessment. The #1 best Cramps footage is them playing at the mental hospital, of course, but that Mudd Club gig that I called to your attention is fucking primo Cramps.

And so is this, what I reckon is the third best Cramps show to be found on the Internet and so far it’s had fewer than 250 views!

This absolutely stunning Cramps show was taped at the fabled City Gardens in Trenton, NJ on November 3, 1982—a smoking hot Kid Congo Powers era set that’s pretty high quality (sound and vision) for something of this vintage that was probably taped on VHS.

Dig the shamanic trickster god (and “most exalted potentate of love”) Lux Interior in the prime of his performing career backed by Poison Ivy, Kid Congo Powers and stickman Nick Knox. The Cramps were always a truly great live band, but at this point (around the time of their classic live Smell of Female EP recorded at the Peppermint Lounge) it still wasn’t completely clear how much of their act was “showbiz” and how much of it was them just being completely insane evil people on bad acid.

No band will ever have an “edge” quite like The Cramps ever again. It’s just a fact. Sorry young people!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.16.2014
08:35 am
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Come to the Death Party: The Gun Club live, 1984


 

“In the still of the night I walk with the Beast,
In the heat of the night I sleep with the Beast…”

On November 13, 1984, The Gun Club were shot live onstage in Madrid for the legendary Spanish television series La Edad de Oro. The set featured stellar performances of “Sex Beat,” “The Lie,” “Bad America,” “Death Party,” “Walking With the Beast,” a cover of CCR’s “Run Through the Jungle” and several other Gun Club classics. That entire show is embedded at the end of this post in a YouTube playlist.

I saw them play at The Electric Ballroom in London just three weeks before it was shot and I’ve always thought of this gig as one of the very best shows I’ve ever attended: It was actually my 19th birthday. There was only one person in the joint that night more fucked up than I was, and that honor would have to go to Mr. Jeffrey Lee Pierce hisself who managed to get completely shit-faced at the bar while the opening act, The Scientists, played their set. During the show JLP fell off the stage and landed on me. Neither of us felt any pain, I can assure you of that.

Watching this Madrid show today, it jibes pretty well with my memory of the London show. Jeffrey Lee is even wearing the same outfit. Holy shit were they amazing during this line-up. Who can deny that they were one of the greatest rock and roll outfits, ever? I mean, if you don’t like The Gun Club, you’re just… stupid.

In “The Blonde Ambition, Blind Drunk Visions & Beautiful Soul Of Jeffrey Lee Pierce,” British music journalist Kris Needs writes in tribute to the man he asked to be his son’s godfather (although I can’t much think of a worse choice for that role than JLP!)

There was something prime ally soul-grabbing about Jeffrey, their leader, singer, guitarist and songwriter. When you listened to Howlin’ Wolf, John Coltrane or Robert Johnson, you knew dark forces are at play. Jeffrey certainly did. He’d managed to plug into the dark main artery of the blues itself - riddled with demons but one of the ultimate examples of the kind of brilliant artist who could annoy people intensely with his over-the-top behaviour while also being one of the most endearing people you could wish to encounter. It’s so frustrating that he basically drank and drugged himself to death and, thanks to his erratic behaviour, managed to make a mess of everything from relationships [inter-band, record company and personal] to sometimes the music itself, although that was often the better for it.

Sometime in the mid-90s, at the Spaceland club in Silverlake—I think it was during the epic Destroy All Monsters reunion show there—I saw Pierce in the crowd. He was dressed neatly, sporting glasses, a waistcoat and a bolo tie and didn’t appear to be fucked up at all. He did however seem somehow very timid to me. I don’t really know how to explain it, but being such a huge fan of his, you know I kind of kept an eye on what he was up to. He didn’t say much to anyone, but he wore a look of apprehension on his face, like someone who wanted to kick his ass might be showing up, that kind of expression. In any case, considering how bloated the guy was by his mid 20s, and that Pierce was HIV positive, had cirrhosis of the liver and chronic hepatitis, he looked almost healthy. Nevertheless he was dead a few months later at the age of 37.

Aside from homegrown Spanish performers (including Pedro Almodóvar’s glam-rock parody group Almodóvar & McNamara) La Edad de Oro broadcast some incredible (sometimes complete) live concerts from Lou Reed, The Smiths, John Cale, Culture Club, Marc Almond, Violent Femmes, Grupo Sportivo, Psychedelic Furs, Nick Cave, Dream Syndicate, Aztec Camera, Paul Collins’ Beat, The Durutti Column, Tom Verlaine, Elliott Murphy, Alan Vega, Cabaret Voltaire, John Foxx, Echo & The Bunnymen, Killing Joke, Divine, Spear of Destiny, Johnny Thunders, Tuxedomoon (twice!), The Residents, China Crisis, Lords Of The New Church and Mari Wilson. The series was cancelled abruptly after a quite incredible 90-minute show with Psychic TV that was seen as an outrageous affront to the sensibilities of a Catholic country (and was).

Eventually many of these shows escaped from the vaults (in perfect digital quality, struck from the master tapes) and ended up on various torrent trackers as “The Stolen Files.” They are totally worth looking for!

Here’s the entire Gun Club set from La Edad de Oro in a YouTube playlist:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.05.2014
07:30 pm
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Bad Music for Bad People: The second best Cramps footage you’ll ever see!
01.28.2014
03:41 pm
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This might not be the very best footage of The Cramps you’ll ever see—that designation would probably be bestowed upon the infamous video shot at the Napa, CA mental hospital in 1978—but it’s most probably the second best. Oh yes…

This is The Cramps—Lux, Ivy, Nick Knox and Kid Congo Powers—caught live at the Mudd Club in NYC, at their prime, in 1981. The source for this was a broadcast of Paul Tschinkel’s Inner-Tube and it was apparently taped off the air. Recently it turned up on the Dime a Dozen torrent tracker and then on YouTube. I’ve owned—for about 25 years—a really good low generation dub of the final three songs, so to see the entire set is pretty glorious.

A few years ago, Paul Tschinkel teased the Internet by releasing a little bit of what he’s got and here’s what I wrote:

Since I was only ever able to catch a few of them on TV (I moved to NYC the year it went off the air), I was always on the look-out for bootlegs of a cable access program called Paul Tschinkel’s Inner-Tube, perhaps THE greatest (I can’t imagine what would compare to it) underground video archive of late 70, early 80s punk, post-punk, No Wave and New Wave music that exists.

The Gun Club, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, The Cramps, Blondie, Talking Heads, James Chance and the Contortions, Johnny Thunders, Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, The Dead Boys, The Ramones, Siouxsie and The Banshees… the list of bands seen on Inner-Tube goes on and on and on. Shows often shot in color, with two cameras and sound board audio. Performances taped at CBGB, Mudd Club, Danceteria, Max’s Kansas City, Irving Plaza and usually the camera was right up front.

Inner-Tube ran for ten years on Manhattan Cable (meaning that you could only watch it if you lived in Manhattan, the outer boroughs didn’t get it, TV Party, Midnight Blue or The Robin Byrd Show, either). Seriously, it was the best of the best. Unbelievable shit.

I’ve been waiting in vain for years, hoping for a proper DVD release of the “best of” Inner-Tube, but the rights issues would probably make that a nightmare. Now it looks like Tschinkel is starting to put some on YouTube. This should be encouraged!

I wrote that two years ago. Since then Paul has released precious little of his treasure trove on YouTube. Hopefully he’ll note the interest in this Cramps post and give us some more? Pretty please???

The sole downside of this amazing video is that Poison Ivy spends much of the time behind a big pillar, hidden from the camera. You do see her, but not as much as you might want to.

Set list:
“Don’t Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk”
“New Kind Of Kick”
“The Green Fuz”
“Can’t Find My Mind”
“Goo Goo Muck”
“Natives Are Restless”
“TV Set”
“Sunglasses After Dark”
“Voodoo Idol”
“Human Fly”
“I Was A Teenage Werewolf”
“Beautiful Gardens”

If this doesn’t get you off, then you don’t like rock and roll… and get the fuck off this blog.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.28.2014
03:41 pm
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Kid Congo Powers on life with The Cramps, The Gun Club and Nick Cave on ‘The Pharmacy’


 
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…

Legendary guitarist Kid Congo Powers is this week’s special guest. Kid has played with The Gun Club, The Cramps, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and his own group, The Pink Monkey Birds (touring the US in February, don’t miss them!)

Listen in on the conversation as Kid discusses how Poison Ivy once asked him if he was willing to sacrifice a finger to be in The Cramps… How playing with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds inspired him to quit drinking…. and how he learned to play the blues from Jeffery Lee Pierce.
 

 
Mr. Pharmacy 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 Foreman 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.
 
Setlist:

Mr.Pharmacist - The Fall
Shot Down - The Sonics
Bert’s Apple Crumble - The Quik
Rx Intro Part One - Blind Man Can See It - James Brown
Kid Congo Interview Part One
New Kind of Kick - The Cramps
Jaguar Shake - Les Jaguars
Akula Owu Onyeara - The Funkees
I Heard it Through the Grapevine - The Slits
Rx Intro Part 2 - Sliced Tomatoes - Just Brothers
Kid Congo Part Two
Preaching the Blues - The Gun Club
The Brother’s Gonna Work it Out - Willie Hutch
Stand Up and Be Counted - The Equals
Caress - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Kid Congo Interview Part Three
Deanna - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Rx Intro Part - Jumping Jack Flash - Ananda Shankar
Kid Congo Interview Part Four
Bo Bo Boogaloo - Kid Congo + The Pink Monkey Birds
Liberation Conversation - Marlena Shaw
Justine - Don & Dewey
Oh Oh Mojo - Volcanoes
Rx Outro - Big City - Spacemen 3
Mr.Pharmacist - The Fall

 
You can download the entire the show here.
 

“Haunted Head” by Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds. Directed by Rob Parrish.

Posted by Tara McGinley
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01.23.2014
01:56 pm
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Kid Congo Powers returns to the Psychedelic Jungle
03.25.2012
10:29 pm
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As journeyman guitarist, Kid Congo Powers has played alongside of three of the most outrageous and notorious front-men of the post-punk era: The Cramps’ Lux Interior, Nick Cave, and of course, his longtime collaborator in The Gun Club, Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Two of these men are dead, the third is very lucky he isn’t… Kid Congo Powers has also added his Satanic magic to the mix collaborating with Jim Thirlwell, Lydia lunch, Die Haut, Annie Anxiety, Julee Cruise, and The Swan’s Michael Gira.

Currently living in Washington DC, Kid’s writing a memoir of growing up in Los Angeles and the early years of that city’s nascent punk scene. The gunslinger guitarist claims he gets more done in the staid, uptight District of Columbia simply because there’s not a lot to do there.

Dangerous Minds caught up with Kid Congo Powers after he and his crack band, the Pink Monkey Birds (named after a line in David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” song) played a right rave up on the stage at Waterloo Records’ parking lot in Austin, TX during the SXSW festival. The Pink Monkey Birds sound is a spicy gumbo of 60’s Chicano rock, Booker T. and the M.G.s, bad LSD trips and seedy psychedelic go-go romps. They even threw in a couple of Cramps and Gun Club favorites.

As the bandleader, Kid is an engaging and charismatic front-man. The Pink Monkey Birds are Kiki Solis on bass; Ron Miller on drums; and Jesse Roberts on second guitar. Their latest album is called Gorilla Rose. If they come to your town, GO SEE ‘EM, they put on a fine show.

New York Night Train’s exhaustive Kid Congo Powers feature with in-depth accounts of life on the road with The Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and The Gun Club.
 

 
“Catsuit Fruit”:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.25.2012
10:29 pm
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