Lucretia Reflects: An interview with Patricia Morrison, the Gothmother of Punk
11:23 am

Patricia Morrison could very well be considered the gothmother—she’s certainly one of them—of punk. Growing up in Los Angeles, Morrison—at the tender age of fourteen—started playing bass in The Bags. She was in the best incarnation of Gun Club—along with Kid Congo Powers and the mercurial junkie bluesman Jeffrey Lee Pierce—and this was followed by a fabled stint in The Sisters of Mercy (that ended in court and a non-disclosure agreement between Morrison and Sisters frontman Andrew Eldritch). In 1994 she released a solo album Reflect on This and in 1996 Morrison joined The Damned, marrying the group’s lead singer, Dave Vanian the following year. Her iconic long black hair, dramatic makeup and frilly antique dresses set the precedent for the classic goth look—that is the elegant sophisticated, goth look, not the goofy Hot Topic mall goth look. She is like a dark unicorn that has been in the coolest bands. 

Morrison is now retired as a musician and lives in England with her husband and their daughter, Emily. The following interview was conducted via email

Dangerous Minds: How did you get your start playing music?

Patricia Morrison: I always loved music, was music mad in school with my friends and spent many an hour in my room pretending to be in a band. David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Queen, etc. Many of the LA punks who I became friends with later listened to the same bands in the 70’s. I also liked country music as my mother listened to it and I grew up with hearing it on the radio in the kitchen on a daily basis. When punk came along it opened up opportunities with like minded people deciding to give it a go and I was one of those people. I found two other girls (most boys wouldn’t consider playing with girls back then unless they were the singer or on keyboards), and we started playing with cheap drug store bought instruments. It was all so exciting between ‘being in a band’ and going to see concerts of old and new bands.

As “Pat Bag” in 1977 courtesy of Alice Bag Flickr archive

Dangerous Minds: Who was your earliest influence in music and fashion?

Patricia Morrison: Music: The Sixties, 1967-69 in particular. I still listen to and love music from that time. Fashion is harder as there were not that many people creating the style I became known for and in LA that was especially true. Back then it was all blue-eyed blonde beauty that was celebrated. My pale and pasty look was not yet appreciated! Film stars I suppose. I loved the glamor, and transferred it to punk as quite a few of us did.

Dangerous Minds: How did you develop your personal style?

Patricia Morrison: Thrift shops and just wearing what I liked. There was an amazing dress shop in Pasadena called Lila’s and a dress there was a massive 10 or 15 dollars but they were gorgeous. Dresses with unusual designs and fabrics from the 1930’s onwards. We also found warehouses in downtown LA that had old stock and it was a goldmine to us. I just wore what I liked. There were no rules or directives. I refused to cut my hair and some people had a go at me for that but I ignored them. Now punk has a defined look but then it was individual. People took cues from the NY and London punk scenes but LA had a strangeness they didn’t and that I loved.

The Bags play Portland in 1979

Dangerous Minds: Early on you played with the Bags and Legal Weapon. What was it like playing with other female musicians versus joining the all-male bands you played with after?

Patricia Morrison: Any females I have played with have been strong characters and in some ways more single-minded than the men. Also, back then you had to try harder if you were a girl. As I started playing with women first, it never seemed odd or different to me—it was down to the individual’s personality so not much difference looking back on it. Male and female, we all had the same problems, issues, camaraderie and egos.

Dangerous Minds: Who was your favorite band in the late 70s/early 80s to play shows with (as peers)?

Patricia Morrison: In the punk days there were so many! New bands popped up each week. The biggest band in the beginning was The Weirdos.The LA scene seemed to mix and match and sooner or later you played with everyone. LA had a friendly rivalry with San Francisco playing with bands up there as well. There were some great bands whose music still holds up today.

Much more after the jump…

Posted by Izzi Krombholz
11:23 am
‘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…

Posted by Richard Metzger
02:12 pm
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
07:30 pm