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The Illuminati of rock and roll: Remembering Pat Fear, a real-life Robert Anton Wilson character

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It was recently the birthday of one of my lifelong best friends, Bill Bartell (1961-2013)

Bill aka “Pat Fear” was a walking, talking anomaly, a living Robert Anton Wilson conspiracy theory, a wisecracking character out of a Firesign Theatre sketch, a Discordian trickster imp of the perverse. His credit card even said “The Illuminati” under his name (for real, I swear!). Bill also went by the names “Kixx”; “Sitting Bill”; “Pat ‘Slowhand’ Fear”; “Billy Jo Gun Rack,” etc., etc., and these are just the ones that he used on records! I can’t even imagine the secret pseudonyms he used “off stage.” I also can’t actually believe that he is not still alive. It seems like some kind of shitty cosmic joke. The world that doesn’t get to know Bill is a sad world.

Bill did so much for our culture, mostly by ridiculing it. He was a super mega ultra fan of so many disconnected things. He lived to tear down so many idols. His band White Flag was formed originally solely just to piss off Black Flag (one of his favorite bands). Bill pissed many people off, which was his life’s mission or so it seemed.
 
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He was just SO good at it!
 
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Bill’s side project, but really his life’s work as it was so open-ended was a grouping called Tater Totz. This project dealt with Bill’s obsessions. As it grew, many people from his obsessions wound up on Tater Totz records. Who? Man, so many! Always Redd Kross of course, but also members of the Runaways, Germs/Nirvana, Partridge Family, Sonic Youth, Lovedolls, Tesco Vee, El Vez, The Zeros, The Posies, Jimmy McNichol (!!??!!), Hole, Sator, Starz, Zeros, Melvins, Shonen Knife, Go-Go’s, Adolescents, Pandoras, Roman Coppola, Circle Jerks, Frightwig, Chemical People, Sin 34/Painted Willie, myself and just about everyone else who came into Bill’s orbit. The main focus of Tater Totz was Bill’s Yoko Ono obsession, followed closely by his interest in Os Mutantes, the Beatles, Blue Oyster Cult, even a mashup of John Lennon and Queen. Their greatest moment, in my opinion, was when they showed up at a Beatlefest convention and did all Yoko Ono songs, driving the Beatle nerds to violence and riot! They literally chased them out of the building and down the street like the villagers did to poor Frankenstein’s monster! Part of this is on YouTube and can be seen here on Dangerous Minds (link at bottom of this post). Bill, of course, immediately put it out as a double seven-inch bootleg EP called Live Hate at Beatlefest, one of the best titles ever, obviously.
 
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Bill Bartell also single-handedly turned the entire world onto Os Mutantes, a bizarre Brazilian band from the 60s whose first LP his sister, an exchange student there, brought back to him in the Sixties. Bill went around throughout the 80s with a Walkman with Os Mutantes on it and plopped the headphones on to everyone he met.

This is in fact, how I met him.
 
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He also did this to his buddy Kurt Cobain who, when he got famous, and toured in Brazil, went on the news and asked where Os Mutantes were, and said that his friend Bill who “has a mustache” told him about them. He then held up a drawing he did of Bill. This, from the then biggest rock star in the world! Os Mutantes, who had broken up for decades have publicly stated that their resurgence was totally due to Bill and they came from Brazil on their own dime to play at his memorial in LA.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Howie Pyro
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09.13.2017
11:06 am
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Spastic Ono Band: Redd Kross’ Beatles/Yoko freak-out DID NOT AMUSE Beatlefest attendees, 1988
05.17.2017
10:10 am
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When the recent Redd Kross tour passed through my town, a friend asked me if I was going. I couldn’t go (to my regret—everyone who went RAVED about it), but I joked that I’d make a point of attending if it were a Tater Totz show, and my pal had no goddamn clue what I was talking about.

SO:

For a few years around the turn of the ‘90s, Redd Kross’ principals Jeff and Steve McDonald, along with White Flag’s Pat Fear and a large rotating pool of heavy friends, formed the Tater Totz, a half-reverent, half-goofy take on the catalog of The Beatles, Yoko Ono, and a few assorted others. Redd Kross had long been famed for irreverent cover songs, but Tater Totz went completely around the bend, tackling unlikely candidates for tribute like Ono’s “Telephone Piece” from the album Fly, a song that consists of 35 seconds of a phone ringing and Ono saying “Hello, this is Yoko”; mashing up “Give Peace a Chance” with Queen’s “We Will Rock You”; recruiting The Partridge Family‘s former child actor Danny Bonaduce to sing “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” They made THREE ALBUMS of stuff like this, all while concurrently still functioning as Redd Kross, and releasing their major label debut Third Eye.
 

 
The first album, Alien Sleestacks From Brazil (Unfinished Music Volume 3), features the Queen mashup and the Bonaduce guest vocal, plus a great version of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Let’s Get Together” from The Parent Trap, and a take on Gilberto Gil’s Brazilian classic “Bat Macumba” that more closely resembles’ Os Mutantes’ version than the original. It was released on Giant Records (an indie, not the Warners subsidiary of the same name) in 1988.

As completely awesome and bonkers as Alien Sleestacks is, the 1990 sophomore LP Mono! Stereo: Sgt. Shonen’s Exploding Plastic Eastman Band Request is the one to have if you can only have one. The cover art is a wonderful send-up of the Beatles’ HELP! but with four Yokos in place of John, Paul, George and Ringo, and it features a cover of David Essex’s “Rock On” that destroys the Michael Damian hit version released the year before, another “Tomorrow Never Knows” sung by the Three O’Clock’s Michael Quercio, “Rain” sung by Shonen Knife, and “Instant Karma” sung by the Runaways’ Cherie Curie (which I prefer over the original, there I said it). The album also contains plenty of Ono material, and far from making cheap fun, it seems to take her work’s aesthetic merits as given, but it never becomes so serious that they don’t mash up the “Instant Karma” single’s flip side “Who Has Seen the Wind” with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
 

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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05.17.2017
10:10 am
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Melvins and Redd Kross mashed up in real life and in handy T-shirt form
01.05.2016
10:11 am
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Like time itself, the procession of Melvins bass players marches ever onward. That sludgy parade has included luminaries like ur-Melvin and eventual Mudhoney founder Matt Lukin; Lori Black, the daughter of the ridiculously famous 1930s child actress Shirley Temple; Cows’ Kevin Rutmanis; Joe Preston of doom pioneers Earth, who went on post-Melvins to form the wonderful ambient/drone project Thrones; erstwhile Alchemy Records honcho Mark Deutrom; Mr. Bungle’s Trevor Dunn; Karp/Big Business bassist Jared Warren; and, most recently, Butthole Surfer Jeff Pinkus.

My pals and I have long had a running joke—and we surely can’t be the only ones—that this tendency will reach its apotheosis once Minute/hose bass legend Mike Watt becomes a Melvin, but in a way, something close enough has actually happened. It was announced last month that the latest Melvin will be Steve McDonald of Redd Kross, the early L.A. hardcore band featured in Desperate Teenage Lovedolls and Lovedolls Superstar when they themselves were still actual teenagers, making themselves notorious with a gleeful take on hardcore that pushed towards manic power-pop, and a penchant for hilariously nailing near-heretical cover songs. In the mid-‘80s, they made a dramatic turn towards full-blown psychedelia, releasing the unspeakably brilliant Neurotica, an album that would leave a large stain on the grunge movement that was soon to come. McDonald resurfaced in the 21st Century as a member of the hardcore alter-kaker supergroup OFF! with members of Circle Jerks and Hot Snakes, and with Redd Kross again, on the 2012 LP Researching the Blues. He’s reportedly already recorded a Melvins EP called War Pussy, and will perform on this year’s sure-to-be-completely-sick tour with Japanese spazzcore gods Melt Banana and Napalm. Fucking. Death.
 


 
To celebrate this unholy union, Melvins have released a Neurotica mash-up T-shirt, designed by illustrator and onetime Polvo drummer Brian Walsby, who in 2014 gifted the world with a wonderful Melvins/Forever Changes shirt. Preorders are currently ongoing, and quantities are limited to 500 standard Ts and 500 raglan sleeve baseball shirts.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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01.05.2016
10:11 am
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‘Gila Monster Jamboree’: Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets and Perry Farrell live in the Mojave Desert, 1985
10.06.2015
09:01 am
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Sonic Youth’s West Coast debut took place at the Gila Monster Jamboree, one of three not-totally-legal shows Desolation Center put on in Southern California during the mid-‘80s. If you wanted to attend, you had to buy a ticket, sign a release form, and then make your way to a remote rock in the Mojave Desert. Run by Stuart Swezey of the great AMOK bookstore and press, Desolation Center specialized in setting up wild shows at nontraditional venues, as the ‘90s Sonic Youth biography Confusion Is Next explains:

Previous Desolation Center events had included a boat cruise around San Pedro Harbor featuring the Minutemen, and a Mojave Desert show starring the coruscating German band Einstürzende Neubauten and high-gauge explosives. The Sunday-night bill pitted Sonic Youth against the Meat Puppets, an acid-punk trio from Phoenix, Arizona, signed to SST; Redd Kross, a seventies-inspired punk band led by teenage brothers; and Psi-Com, a [sic] unfortunate group headed by one Perry Farrell—later front man for the infinitely more successful Jane’s Addiction.

A map to a halfway point, Victorville, was provided with each ticket; exact directions to the festival site were given verbally from there. Despite a rash of free LSD and a late-night slot that forced Sonic Youth into the chilly desert air, the show was an unqualified success. Regardless of the prevailing hippie aesthetic (which the members of Sonic Youth found nothing if not anachronistic), Sonic Youth for the first time met their true contemporaries face-to-face: postpunk musicians who regarded rock and punk with equal doses of admiration and derision.

 

Directions to Gila Monster Jamboree (larger image here)
 
A more recent Sonic Youth bio, Psychic Confusion, includes eyewitness detail from Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert and Meat Puppet Curt Kirkwood:

“We went to this weird goth guy’s house the day before, to check out the drum kit I’d be borrowing,” remembers Bob. “The place was full of wild reptiles. He was the singer of Psi-Com; years later, I would realize he was Perry Farrell, of Jane’s Addiction.”

“Gila Monster was a pirate thing,” explains Kirkwood, “the kind of thing Meat Puppets used to play in Arizona, where people would bring kegs. But Stuart did it on a much larger scale.” The generator and crappy PA system were set up at Skull Rock, a knoll deep in the Mojave Desert, eight miles from Joshua Tree.

~snip

“It was well lit, because it was full moon,” remembers Kirkwood. “Clear viewing, you can go hiking around, you don’t need a flashlight or nothin’. It’s real nice. You were surrounded by the desert, you kinda had to sneak in. There was slippery stuff going on all around; there were 500 people there, and I think a lot of them were on LSD. There was this bizarre feeling of paranoia. Loads of people were just sitting there going, ‘woooah, woooah’, tripping in the desert, all these punk rockers from LA. It was a pretty SST-heavy affair. Like I said, we’re all friends, Redd Kross, Sonic Youth, all the attendant freaks from SST. It wasn’t real loud, it was pleasant.”

 

Sonic Youth in Southern California, 1985
 
I’ve yet to come across any recordings of Redd Kross at Gila Monster Jamboree, and while audio of Psi Com’s bad night (according to Perry Farrell: The Saga of a Hypester, after their set ended, the frontman hid behind a rock and sobbed) certainly exists, all the links I’ve found are dead. However, you can hear all of the Meat Puppets’ performance, comprising most of their not-yet-released masterpiece Up on the Sun, in glorious FLAC or just-fine MP3 at the Meat Puppets Live Repository.   
 

A ticket to Gila Monster Jamboree
 
And here’s Sonic Youth, two months before the release of Bad Moon Rising, busting a gut for “Brother James” under the desert stars. We learn from Lee Ranaldo’s liner notes for the VHS of Sonic Youth’s set, released in 1992, that a crew from Flipside Magazine shot the video, and that the Meat Puppets were the last band to go on, playing “on into the night as the desert cold set in, under a big ring around the moon.” If you’ve ever wondered how Sonic Youth pulled off “Death Valley ‘69” without Lydia Lunch, wonder no more.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.06.2015
09:01 am
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