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The Gun Club, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Joe Strummer on ‘Art Fein’s Poker Party’


Art Fein, Bull Moose Jackson and Paul Body, 1985 (via Another Fein Mess)
 
You know what they say: “Ain’t no YouTube rabbit hole like an Art Fein’s Poker Party YouTube rabbit hole, ‘cause an Art Fein’s Poker Party YouTube rabbit hole goes deep into the bowels of the internet for a very great distance.” It is whispered in some corners of the web that there are as many episodes of Art Fein’s Poker Party as there are stars in the universe.

Fein, the onetime manager of the Cramps and author of The L.A. Musical History Tour, hosted a freewheeling talk show on public access during the eighties, nineties and nothings. Art Fein’s Poker Party was broadcast from sea to shining sea; John Peel watched it. The show presented its guests—Arthur Lee, Nick Lowe, Brian Wilson, Al Kooper, Peter Buck, Randy California, Willy DeVille, Tav Falco, Dion, Pearl Harbour, Willie Dixon, Chris Spedding, P. F. Sloan, Peter Case, Ike Turner, Mojo Nixon, Carlos Guitarlos, Jerry Cole, Peter Holsapple, Dr. Demento, Dwight Yoakam, Brendan Mullen, Harvey Sid Fisher, Steve Allen, et al.—as you might have encountered them over a meal or a drink, telling jokes, obsessing over favorite records, trying to one-up each other’s road stories. They sang and played real pretty sometimes, too.

Below are clips from appearances by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Joe Strummer. Art Fein, please upload the Arthur Lee episode of Poker Party to your luminiferous YouTube account.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Paul Body:
 

 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.24.2018
08:28 am
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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…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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11.06.2015
02:12 pm
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The Birth, The Death, the Ghost: Revisiting The Gun Club’s ‘Death Party’ EP
02.18.2015
03:01 pm
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In the pre-Internet days, record collecting was more than merely a hobby, it was almost like… a way of life. For many, many years I’d spend the weekends stomping a track around all the good record and book stores in lower Manhattan, and then after that I did the same thing in Los Angeles. Before our current Age of (Consumer) Enlightenment, back when you couldn’t just dial up eBay or Amazon or Gemm and find anything you wanted, record collecting was like big game hunting or something. Even living in a major city, it might take a while—years even—to find a particularly scarce record.

The first time I visited Los Angeles, in 1991, I had just three “holy grail” records left on my list, items that I had coveted for years, but was never able to find in NYC. They were: the original soundtrack of Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the three-record set of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner’s “2000 Year Old Man” albums and the Gun Club’s Death Party EP. Believe it or not, I found all of them in one store on the second or third day I spent in LA. Major score. (The insanely great record stores of Los Angeles were a key reason I moved here, I think.)

Death Party is one of the great genius records to come out of the LA punk scene and because it was just an EP and not an album, they (Chris Stein’s Animal Records label, distributed via Chrysalis) probably didn’t press up that many of them. Not only was it hard to find, pretty much right when it came out, it wasn’t even released on CD until 2004 and it’s remained relatively obscure.
 

 
Death Party was sandwiched between long-players Miami and The Las Vegas Story, and was recorded with a short-lived incarnation of the Gun Club. Joining Jeffrey Lee Pierce were guitarist Jim Duckworth (Tav Falco’s Panther Burns), drummer Dee Pop (Bush Tetras), Jimmy Joe Uliana on bass and Pierce’s then girlfriend Linda “Texacala” Jones on backing vocals. I’ve read reviews that describe Death Party as having a Neil Young and Crazy Horse vibe and I think that’s kinda, sorta accurate. AllMusic described the EP’s music as “powerful, dark rock of disillusionment, drug abuse, and warped sexuality.”

Although hardly forgotten, The Gun Club were one of the best American bands of the 1980s and it’s a cryin’ shame that Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s music isn’t better known today. In my world he’s a musical icon. An authentic white American bluesman isn’t something anyone expected to emerge from the Los Angeles punk scene, but that’s what happened. Since a strong plurality of DM’s readers were born after the Gun Club’s brief brush with popularity, I thought I’d highlight Death Party‘s five amazing songs.

The seldom-seen promo video for “The House On Highland Ave”:

 
More “powerful, dark rock of disillusionment, drug abuse, and warped sexuality” after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.18.2015
03:01 pm
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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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The Breaking Hands: Nick Cave & Debbie Harry cover The Gun Club
03.20.2012
05:10 pm
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A new Jeffrey Lee Pierce/Gun Club tribute album, The Journey Is Long features a collaboration between Nick Cave and Debbie Harry on one of The Gun Club’s best loved numbers, “The Breaking Hands.” The album also features Mick Harvey, Cave, Lydia Lunch, Warren Ellis, and Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan performing unrecorded Pierce songs. The Journey Is Long comes out on April 9, 2012.

I interviewed The Gun Club’s Kid Congo Powers (who was also in Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, of course) at SXSW, expect that coming up in the next day or two.
 

 
Here’s the original Gun Club version from the classic Mother Juno album:
 

 
Via The Quietus

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.20.2012
05:10 pm
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Wonderful punk and post-punk era photographs by David Arnoff


Stiv Bators, 1980
 
David Arnoff‘s post-punk era photography appeared in the NME, Melody Maker, Trouser Press, N.Y. Rocker and many other publications. The Cleveland-born, but London-based photographer and disc jockey’s work captures iconic bad boys and girls, relaxed and at their most playful. Arnoff is currently readying his photographs for a book and is looking for a publisher. I asked him a few questions over email:

Tara: Tell me about the Stiv Bators shot.

David Arnoff: I was hanging around with Stiv and his post-Dead Boys band in their hotel—pretty sure it was the Sunset Marquis—and we decided to do some shots of him on his own. He’d been messing about with a new air pistol, so we brought that along and just stepped out into the hall, after which it occured to him to maybe go back in the room and put some shoes on, but I said not to bother.  We started out doing some rather silly and predictable 007-type poses before he chose to just sit on the floor and look disturbed. I always thought the stripey socks made him look even more so.


Nick Cave, 1983
 
Tara: You worked with Nick Cave several times. He seems like a guy very concerned about his image, yet playful, too. What’s he like as a subject or collaborator?

David Arnoff: Nick is very easy and unaffected to work with. That shot with Harpo is the result of what started out as another cancelled session at the Tropicana Motel. He apologized for being up all night and indicated all the empty bottles on the TV as evidence, but was perfectly happy for me to carry on regardless even though he was not looking his best. The only downside was he was trying in vain to play “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” not really knowing the chords and the guitar was painfully out of tune.  Not an enjoyable aural experience. He was quite happy with the photos though.


Jeffrey Lee Pierce, 1983
 
Tara: Maybe it was the era, but several of the people you shot were junkies. Any “colorful” anecdotes about the likes of Cave, Jeffery Lee Pierce, Nico or Johnny Thunders?

David Arnoff: Far be it for me to say whether or not any of these people were actually junkies, but it’s funny you should mention Nick and Jeffrey together because I did squeeze all three of us into my little Volvo p1800 to go score on the street—Normandy, I think, around 3rd or somewhere. We then went back to my place in Hollywood, where Jeffrey became convinced they’d been ripped off. But Nick seemed more than happy with his purchase. Afterwards we went to that lesbian-run Mexican place near the Starwood. Nick tried to remember what he’d had previously and proceeded to attempt to describe what he wanted it to the baffled staff. I think they just gave up and sold him a burrito.

More with David Arnoff and his photographs after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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09.06.2011
01:03 pm
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The Gun Club’s ‘Fire Spirit’: My Encounter With Jeffrey Lee Pierce
06.29.2011
02:15 pm
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Note: I was looking through some past DM posts and wanted to republish this one on The Gun Club, written by Bradley Novicoff, one of our original contributors.—Tara

Fresh to YouTube, a wonderful clip of the Dangerous Minds-beloved band, The Gun Club, performing Fire Of Love‘s “Fire Spirit.”  For ‘84, the footage looks surprisingly clear.  So, for that matter, does Jeffrey Lee Pierce.  Oh, Jeffery Lee, even though you were on the verge of kicking my ass one night,* you are sorely missed!

*At Hollywood’s Cathay de Grande, The Gun Club on stage.  An ENORMOUS, anonymously sent wad of spit and snot dropped from that club’s notoriously low, downstairs ceiling and landed right on Jeffrey Lee’s upper lip.  It seriously looked like a small jellyfish clinging to his face.

As his tongue tip made contact with the gob, Jeffrey Lee started glaring at who he assumed to be “the spitter”—me, standing on a chair not 3 feet away from him.

For a second there, it looked like he was gonna lunge at me (and, yes, he was by that point quite drunk), but Jeffrey Lee, pro that he was, didn’t stop the song.  In fact, if I remember correctly, he finished up most of it with the gob still clinging to his face!

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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06.29.2011
02:15 pm
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