Surfpunks, a 1981 Dutch made-for-TV documentary vacillates wildly from rapturous to heartbreaking. Aside from footage of well-known bands like (a very young) Suicidal Tendencies, there’s deeper cuts, like a bit on little-known experimental family band, Unit 3 with Venus (their shrieking eight-year-old daughter on vocals). It’s also a really personal look at the tragedy and destitution of the scene.
The main reason for watching, however, is a brutally naked interview with Casey “Cola” Hopkins, who offers extensive details of her suicide pact gone awry with Darby Crash. Hopkins, of course, survived, only to be maligned by her peers and bounced in and out of mental institutions over the next few years. Accounts of Hopkins vary, but it’s fairly agreed upon that the primarily female, fanatical Germs’ followers, known as “Circle One,” disliked and mistrusted her. It’s difficult to figure out who’s reliable in a cultish environment of young drug addicts, but from the footage, one thing seems certain: Casey’s a depressed, lonely young woman, and it’s hard not to have some sympathy for her.
On a lighter note, you can see footage of the self-described “all-American Jewish Lesbian folk singer,” Phranc, performing startlingly earnest protest songs. Taking (understandable) issue with the petulant punk trend of sporting (supposedly de-signified) swastikas, she manages to make her legitimate anger stand out from a scene hallmarked by chaos and screaming, with sincere, literal lyrics and an acoustic guitar. Phranc even plays us out, with a sly but optimistic anti-suicide song.
The whole thing is great, and aside from a few spots of Dutch narration, you get to hear the snotty California accents of the young early 1980s punks.
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:
Patti Smith’s advice to the young (and not-so-young) artists:
“Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned about doing good work. Protect your work and if you build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency. Life is like a roller coaster ride, it is never going to be perfect. It is going to have perfect moments and rough spots, but it’s all worth it”
From the left: Chrissie Hynde, Deborah Harry, Viv Albertine, Siouxsie Sioux, front: Poly Styrene, Pauline Black
Here’s an excellent mix consisting of female fronted punk and post punk bands via Suicide Watch:
01. The Avengers- I Believe In Me
02. Destroy All Monsters- You’re Gonna Die
03. X Ray Spex- I Am A Poseur
04. Siouxise & The Banshees- Jigsaw Feeling
05. Judy Nylon- Jailhouse Rock
06. Bush Tetras- Cowboys In Africa
07. Au Pairs- We’re So Cool
08. Delta 5- Now That You’ve Gone
09. Girls At Our Best- Warm Girls
10. Pylon- Cool
11. Suburban Lawns- Janitor
12. The Pretenders- Precious
13. Patti Smith Band- Ask the Angels
14. The Maps- I’m Talking To You
15. The Bags- Survive
16. 45 Grave- Evil
17. The Plasmatics- Butcher Baby
18. X- I’m Coming Over
19. The Mo Dettes- White Mice
20. Bow Wow Wow- c30 c60 c90 Go
21. ESG- You’re No Good
22. Shonen Knife- A Day of the Factory
23. Essential Logic- Aerosol Burns
24. Lora Logic- Brute Fury
25. Young Marble Giants- Brand New Life
26. Liliput- Die Matrosen
27. The Raincoats- No Side To Fall In
28. Lizzy Mercier Descloux- Wawa
29. Teenage Jesus & The Jerks- Orphans
30. Sonic Youth- Making The Nature Scene
31. The Slits- I Heard It Through the Grapevine
32. Blondie- Out In The Streets
Covergirl are part of a new wave of politically-minded, queer/gay/femme/whatever-core bands that are popping up all over the UK (and the world, in fact) and sowing the seeds of a new, healthy, d.i.y. underground scene.
Covergirl take their musical cues in part from post-punk and post-disco, mixing up raw guitars and wailing synths with insistent, driving rhythms. Their outlook comes from Riot Grrrl, punk 7"s and zine-culture, but by way of the no-budget-yet-glamorous catwalking of RuPaul and the queens of Paris Is Burning. Their name, in fact, comes from a RuPaul song, but don’t let that fool you. The band has more in common with the ripped-up-punk-drag of RuPaul 25 years ago than it does with today’s polished TV host.
I was lucky enough to catch Covergirl live in London a few months ago (when they bizarrely asked Joyce D’Vision to open for them) and can report back that they are blinding. Now Dangerous Minds is lucky enough to get a world exclusive from the band, the premiere of their new video “Ice Father Nation”. On top of which, I sent Covergirl’s co-leader Andrew Milk some questions to get his head around for our readers:
Describe Covergirl to me in a dozen words or less:
A post-punk-party band. Serious about having fun.
What was the inspiration to form the band and when did you start?
I think we started in 2010, I guess spurred on by our other bands having recently broken up or being on hiatus at the time and wanting to do something new.
Can you tell me a bit more about Tuff Enuff, the label this is coming out on?
‘Tuff Enuff Records’ has appeared out of the Riots Not Diets collective in Brighton. Our friend Toby runs it and puts on awesome gigs/film screenings and more! ‘Ice Father Nation’ is taken from their first ever release, “Why Diet When You Can Riot”, a compilation 12”. I’m sure they have plans to release more. their website says ‘descended from Irrk’ - which is a legendary, but little known queer/feminist record label some amazing people ran in the early/mid-Noughties. Serious pedigree!
Who else is featured on the release?
Halo Halo, Ste McCabe, Skinny Girl Diet - so many amazing bands, you can check them all out on the bandcamp page.
I’ve heard a lot about Power Lunches, the venue featured in the video - can you tell me more about it?
It’s an independent venue in East London, run by a pal of ours. She’s a musician and wanted a space that worked as an affordable practice room/gig venue where you could get great and healthy food instead of the usual things you’d eat as a cash strapped musician (crisps and a Tesco sandwich.) A pretty specific dream, but what’s the point of putting the hard slog in if it’s not for something you’d really want for yourself? it’s a cafe/bar upstairs and an ‘intimate’ sweat box of a venue downstairs. Lots of bands and promoters have got behind it which is great. it’s our home away from home.
And how is the East London scene in general at the moment? How are the Olympics going down there?
The Olympics are weirdly not affecting us that much, it does feel a little quiet but i think that always happens this time of year, people stay out, drinking in parks, not putting on or going to gigs. Also i think the same amount of people left London as have come in… So if you’re not in the vicinity of the Olympic Village or whatever, it’s pretty empty. The weirdest thing is being able to see this nuclear glow covering Stratford from the balcony of my flat.
Andrew also runs the rather fine Milk Records, who have released music by Woolf, Trash Kit, Ultimate Thrush and the mighty Divorce. You can check Milk Records here, but in the meantime, here’s the video for Covergirl’s “Ice Father Nation”:
Last Friday I posted the new video from the band SSION called “My Love Grows in The Dark.” If you haven’t watched it yet, then go and do so right now. It’s a little bizarre and rather brilliant. The album that song is taken from, Bent, was available as a free download release for one month only last year, and it was one of my favorites. This year too in fact, as it is being given a physical re-release soon by the Dovecote label.
SSION, which has existed in various forms over the years, is essentially the brainchild of Cody Critcheloe. Cody is a visual artist and video director by day (he has directed clips for Peaches and Santigold) but by night he transforms into a gender-and-preconception bending performer whose live shows have been picking up a lot of acclaim. I spoke to Cody a short while back about SSION, and his decision to release such an excellent album for free. Here’s a little taster:
Bent is a great pop album. In fact, I’d say it is surprisingly great for a free download release. How did the idea to release it for free first come about?
I have always worked outside of labels, and the way it goes I’ll put out a record every four years. I’ll take a while to develop it and work out what I wanna do with it. At the time there’s wasn’t anyone anxious to put it out, so it seemed like the right thing to do. I thought if a label really wants to be a part of this they’ll figure out a way to go about this, because SSION is such a different kind of project. It seemed like a big FU to put it out and let people get it and listen to it, and I like the idea of people being able to get it, so people who aren’t even your fans can still get into it.
What has your fans’ reaction been to the download release?
It’s crazy ‘cos I think in the long term it’s gonna pay off. The shows we’ve played in New York have all been really amazing, and everyone knows the words to the songs already. It’s been instant, like this has already had an effect, an effect outside of any label being behind it to pump it up or publicize it. Everything that has happened to SSION is because of people who are genuinely interested and really into the music. I love the fact that there’s gonna be a physical release ‘cos I put a lot of work into the art work, but I could also take it or leave it. If it doesn’t work out I can still have a life. I still somehow survive off doing these things and other projects. I’m just into it as a very punk way of going about things.
But what about an effect on sales?
The thing about it is, the last record we had you can find it online for free, so why not make it available for everyone? And it’s crazy too because our other records are on iTunes and we still make money of them every month, even though people could easily get them for free.
New York-based Graphic designer Mike Joyce made a whole slew of super-cleanversions of old punk, post-punk, hardcore and indie flyers which he appropriately titles “Swissted.” The concept comes from “his love of punk rock and Swiss modernism, two movements that have absolutely nothing to do with one another.”
There’s a line by Neil Innes, which Richard likes to quote:
There are no coincidences, but sometimes the pattern
It’s from “Keynsham” by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, who were on here recently, and well, there’s just something in the air as here’s another fine documentary from Jonathan Ross, this one from 1988, when he interviewed the “Pope of Trash”, the “Anal Anarchist”, the “Ayatollah of Crud”, the fabulous Mr. John Waters.
Shown as part of Ross’s series The Incredibly Strange Film Show, and recorded not long after Waters’ co-conspirator Divine died, this superb documentary contains one of the best and most revealing interviews Waters has ever given.
Starting with the opening of Hairspray in Baltimore 1988, with interviews from key Dreamlanders, a chewy selection choice clips, background skinny and some fabulous archive.
And what can we learn from this all? As Waters explains, without Divine there would be no John Waters’ films, for Divine represented the rebel who could win. Nice, but that’s a line which is also true of Mr Waters - for he is the rebel who won.
I first met Peter Boyd Maclean about twenty years ago, when he was about 12, or so it seemed, as he was precociously young and at the same time incredibly wise, and most annoyingly Talented with a capital ‘T’. He had arrived from the ether to work at the Beeb as a top director / producer, having made a splash on that TV earthquake known as Network 7. He was funny, witty and always made work fun. I recall at the time Peter had just “Shot the shit” out of some island to placate his over-zealous exec, who repeatedly demanded “Pictures! Coverage! More pictures! More coverage!” every 10 minutes by ‘phone, fax and pigeon post. Since then m’colleague, has gone on to greater achievements and awards and hairstyles of interesting description.
He also made this rather super documentary on Punk, 1-2 FU with Jonathan Ross taking a personal odyssey through the music of his youth. It’s quirky, orignal, and has an impressive line-up of the punk bands who most effected the TV showman, including Steven Severin, Ari Up, The Damned, Adam Ant, etc. Like the best of Peter’s work, F-U 12 takes an original approach to a subject, rather than the usually biblical reverence of “In the beginning was Punk and the Punk was with…” etc. Of particular note here, is Jonathan’s bus tour of London’s punk clubs, and his rendition (as in torture) of “Anarchy in the U.K.”
Now here’s more of the same from the official blurb:
Jonathan Ross presents the ‘Memoirs of a Middle-Aged Punk’ in this authored documentary charting the rise and demise of the most nihilistic movement in the history of British music.
Jonathan delivers a fast and furious rant confessing his passion for punk and the lasting effect it’s had on everything, from music and fashion to art and television.
As a forty-something whose life has been defined by punk and all the anarchy it stood for, Jonathan sets out to discover if punk really changed the world or was it all overblown hype?
To fully explore the legacy of punk, Jonathan gets a Mohican and grabs Captain Sensible to join him as he transports an open-top bus full of punks on a tour around London’s most notorious punk hotspots.
Finally, it’s Jonathan Ross as you’ve never seen him before when he fulfils his ultimate punk fantasy performing with Vic Reeves as The Fat Punks for one night only.
There have been few films as truthful about the state of MerryEngland as Derek Jarman’s Jubilee. Here is a world bought by bankers, sold by politicians, all with public money. A world where everything has its price, and liberty is defined by our Right to Shop. A world best described in the film by the wonderful creation, Borgia Ginz:
“You wanna know my story babe. It’s easy. This is the generation that grew up and forgot to lead their lives. They were so busy watching my endless movie. It’s power babe, power. I don’t create it, I own it. I sucked and sucked and I sucked. The media became their only reality and I owned their world of flickering shadows. BBC. TUC. ITV. ABC. ATV. MGM. KGB. C of E. You name it, I bought them all and rearranged the alphabet. Without me, they don’t exist.”
After its release in 1978, Jubilee was denounced by some of the people who should have supported it, but were horrified by its nihilism. Jarman explained his motivation to the Guardian‘s Nicholas de Jongh:
“We have now seen all established authority, all political systems, fail to provide any solution - they no longer ring true.”
As true today, as it was then.
Here is Jordan as Amyl Nitrite, giving it laldy with her rendition of “Rule Britannia”.
My Dangerous Mind compatriot Brad Laner posted a link to this wonderful documentary about Rough Trade Records awhile ago. Unfortunately, Laner’s link to the documentary no longer exists. Ah, but luckily, a really fine quality version was recently uploaded to the Web and I just had to share.
Brad’s description of Do It Yourself: The Story Of Rough Trade as “a fascinating glimpse into the history of the seminal indie label/empire” is exactly what it is.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Rough Trade because they released one of my very first 45 rpm records.
I find it difficult to watch Adam Curtis‘s various acclaimed documentaries without thinking: how much has he taken from Bruce Conner?
Indeed without Conner, would Curtis have developed his magpie, collagist-style of documentary making?
I doubt it, but you (and Curtis) may disagree.
The late Bruce Conner is the real talent here - an artist and film-maker whose work devised new ways of working and presciently anticipated techniques which are now ubiquitously found on the web, television and film-making.
Conner was “a heroic oppositional artist, whose career went against the staid and artificially created stasis of the art world”. Which is academic poohbah for saying Conner kept to his own vision: a Beat life, which channeled his energies into art - with a hint of Dada, Surrealism and Duchamp.
Conner was cantankerous and one-of-a-kind. He would wear an American flag pin. When asked why, he said, “I’m not going to let those bastards take it away from me.”
He kicked against fame and celebrity, seeing art as something separate from individual who created it.
“I’ve always been uneasy about being identified with the art I’ve made. Art takes on a power all its own and it’s frightening to have things floating around the world with my name on them that people are free to interpret and use however they choose.”
Born in McPherson, Kansas, Conner attended Witchita University, before receiving his degree in Fine Art from Nebraska University. At university he met and married Jean Sandstedt in 1957. He won a scholarship to art school in Brooklyn, but quickly moved to University of Colorado, where he spent one semester studying art. The couple then moved to San Francisco and became part of the Beat scene. Here Conner began to produce sculptures and ready-mades that critiqued the consumerist society of late 1950’s. His work anticipated Pop Art, but Conner never focussed solely on one discipline, refusing to be pigeon-holed, and quickly moved on to to film-making.
Having been advised to make films by Stan Brakhage, Conner made A MOVIE in 1958, by editing together found footage from newsreels- B-movies, porn reels and short films. This single film changed the whole language of cinema and underground film-making with its collagist technique and editing.
The Conners moved to Mexico (“it was cheap”), where he discovered magic mushrooms and formed a life-long friendship with a still to be turned-on, Timothy Leary. When the money ran out, they returned to San Francisco and the life of film-maker and artist.
In 1961, Conner made COSMIC RAY, a 4-minute film of 2,000 images (A-bombs, Mickey Mouse, nudes, fireworks) to Ray Charles’ song “What I Say”. With a grant from the Ford Foundation, Conner produced a series of films that were “precursors, for better or worse, of the pop video and MTV,” as his obituary reported:
EASTER MORNING RAGA (1966) was designed to be run forward or backward at any speed, or even in a loop to a background of sitar music. Breakaway (1966) showed a dancer, Antonia Christina Basilotta, in rapid rhythmic montage. REPORT (1967) dwells on the assassination of John F Kennedy. The found footage exists of repetitions, jump cuts and broken images of the motorcade, and disintegrates at the crucial moment while we hear a frenzied television commentator saying that “something has happened”. The fatal gun shots are intercut with other shots: TV commercials, clips from James Whale’s Frankenstein and Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front. The film has both a kinetic and emotional effect.
REPORT “perfectly captures Conner’s anger over the commercialization of Kennedy’s death” while also examining the media’s mythic construction of JFK and Jackie — a hunger for images that “guaranteed that they would be transformed into idols, myths, Gods.”
Conner’s work is almost a visual counterpart to J G Ballard’s writing, using the same cultural references that inspired Ballard’s books - Kennedy, Monroe, the atom bomb. His film CROSSROADS presented the 1952 atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll in extreme slow motion from twenty-seven different angles.
His editing techniques influenced Dennis Hopper in making Easy Rider, and said:
“much of the editing of Easy Rider came directly from watching Bruce’s films”
The pair became friends and Hopper famously photographed Conner alongside Toni Basil, Teri Garr and Ann Mitchell.
Always moving, always progressing, having “no half way house in which to rest”, Conner became part of the San Francisco Punk scene, after Toni Basil told Conner to go check out the band Devo in 1977. He became so inspired when he saw the band at the Mabuhay Gardens that he started going there four night a week, taking photographs of Punk bands, which eventually led to his job as staff photographer with Search ‘n’ Destroy magazine. It was a career change that came at some personal cost.
“I lost a lot of brain cells at the Mabuhay. What are you gonna do listening to hours of incomprehensible rock’n’roll but drink? I became an alcoholic, and it took me a few years to deal with that.”
Conner continued with his art work and films, even making short films for Devo, David Byrne and Brian Eno. In his later years, Conner returned to the many themes of his early life and work, but still kept himself once removed from greater success and fame. He died in 2008.
Towards the end of his life he withdrew his films from circulation, as he was “disgusted” when he saw badly pixelated films bootlegged and uploaded on YouTube. Conner was prescriptive in how his work should be displayed and screened. All of which is frustrating for those who want to see Conner’s films outside of the gallery, museum or film festival, and especially now, when so much of his originality and vision as a film-maker and artist has been copied by others.
‘Mea Culpa’ - David Byrne and Brian Eno. Directed by Bruce Conner