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.
Some of the material at Sheffield Tape Archive comes from the collection of the late Sheffield music journalist Martin Lilleker, who suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease before his death in 2016. Taylor donates the proceeds from Lilleker’s tapes to charity.
Here’s Jarvis Cocker playing guitar in ‘82 in one of Taylor’s groups, Heroes of the Beach. They’re doing an original number called, ah, “Psycho Killer” (so named “because it had a bassline similar to the Talking Heads song,” Taylor explains):
Listen to some Gun Club. Crass and Clock DVA, after the jump…
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…
Gun Club live at the Hacienda, Manchester, England 1983.
Jeffrey Lee Pierce vocals, Jim Duckworth guitar ,
Patricia Morrison bass, Dee Pop drums
Fire of Love
Run Through The Jungle
Cool Drink of Water Blues
Disco Inferno Mix
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.
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:
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!
While I never came down with Idol fever (I do, though, still dream of being a contestant—c’mon, Simon, that was, like, Sex Beat?), my hat’s off to the incredibly brave people who, in sheer defiance of Muslim law, try out for and compete in Afghan Star. After watching the below trailer for the upcoming documentary on the show, I’m not sure what, if anything, the final prize amounts to. I’m not sure it matters. After 30 years of the Taliban—and despite numerous death threats—these kids simply want to sing.