Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year-end inventory

No, I don't share the sentiments of the above photograph, humorous as it may be. Believe it or not.

Yes, today, the last day of 2011, finds me low on cash, moving out and into temporary digs on the couch circuit again, and hobbling around from what I guess is a torn calf muscle after slipping on some black ice two mornings ago. (I don't know for sure - I'm yet another of the millions of Americans who can't afford health insurance.)

Yes, this is the year I had to leave Los Angeles (hmmm...where have I heard that before?), and discovered after arriving in Denver that my so-called relationship was a sham.

Yes, a few days ago, I did announce at the "RADIO NAPALM" Facebook group that I finally decided the show was over, that I no longer had the time nor energy to produce it, and that I had tendered my resignation to Woody Radio.

I could list endless negatives for 2011. In fact, the last few years have not been great ones.

But, I actually think this was a better year than most.

Denver has turned out to be one of the best places I've lived. My health has certainly improved since leaving the poisoned Los Angeles air. I also find this place friendlier and more affordable than any place where I've lived in awhile.

I latched onto a job that has paid me and treated me better than any I've held in ages. (Yes, I was suspended briefly, and forced to work low-paying temp jobs to keep money coming in, however scant the pay was. But I return to the real job on Monday.)

I gained the focus, perspective, and inner peace to realize that I needed to strip my life down and concentrate this next year on two goals: 1) Returning to music with a new Hormones lineup; and 2) finally finishing and publishing my novel.

Hence, you won't see a lot of rock journalism in the next year from me. Radio is out of the question, too. Not sure how often I'll blog.

But I like the idea of working hard the next couple of months, finishing getting the musical equipment I need, and beginning the assembly of a new Hormones in maybe February or March.

I like the idea of finding a small place of my own around that same time.

I like the idea of the novel being done, and beginning a new literary life to parallel my musical one.

Those are the two things I do best: Write and rock. I don't enjoy working as a rock journalist, and haven't for years. Yes, I'm good at it. That doesn't mean it doesn't wreak havoc on me and my psyche.

Yes, I'm good at radio. I don't like how it takes over my life, and sucks away energy I could spend earning a living and playing rock 'n' roll.

No, 2011 was a good year. At least, it was on a personal level. I learned many a valuable lesson, and didn't have to pay too dearly for the education. I can see things are actually on an upward trajectory.

So, onward! All of you readers: Live. Love. Create. Don't get ground down by life's cruelties. The only way we change this world is by changing our personal worlds, and living as if the change has already happened.

See you in the New Year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Real Life Record Reviews: Michael Monroe and Suzi Quatro

MICHAEL MONROE – Sensory Overdrive (Spinefarm/Universal)

As someone who championed and worked within the genre for a long time, I've got to admit: I've veered quite far from the whole glam-punk thing for some time now. Admittedly, I still always have time for the two bands who created the music to begin with, being the New York Dolls and Iggy And The Stooges, of course. But it should be fairly obvious those bands were the last gasp of Sixties garage rock, given a coat of lipstick for 1970s consumption. However, when it comes to things I still love that followed in those bands' wake – Hanoi Rocks, D Generation, Backyard Babies, The Wildhearts, etc. - I haven't listened in a long time. My tastes have just gone towards rawer, bluesier, garage-ier sounds in recent times, for whatever reason.

Then something comes tripping over the transom like former Hanoi Rocks singer Michael Monroe's latest, Sensory Overdrive, and it can't be denied. After spending most of the last decade trying to give Hanoi Rocks another run with guitarist Andy McCoy and a cast of ringers, Monroe has opted to lay his most famous band to rest again and resume his solo career. For that task, he's assembled an all-star cast: Former Hanoi Rocks Mk. I bassist Sami Yaffa, guitarist Steve Conte (Yaffa's colleague in the reunited New York Dolls up until the past year), Wildhearts mainman Ginger on guitar (since replaced by Backyard Babies/Hellacopters firebrand Dregen), and one-time Danzig drummer Karl Rockfist. It's as potent and powerful an outfit as Monroe has enjoyed fronting since Demolition 23, the back to-punk-rock-basics band he and Yaffa used to destroy NYC stages in the early '90s.

And the album this band has cooked up? A granite-hard riff machine thickly coated in syrup and Pop Rocks. If, as Monroe proudly proclaims on the 2nd track, “You can't take '78 out of the boy,” then Monroe's version of 1978 owes more to The Boys or Generation X than to Sham 69. In a better world, this is what radio would sound like: Like a new, angry Cheap Trick record, shiny and loud and crunchy.

Truth be told, I suspect this has to do with Ginger's presence. This music has all the hallmarks of a Wildhearts record: Big, tough riffs owing as much to '80s metal as to '70s punk, bubblegum hooks the size of skyscrapers, brutal guitar tones mixed into a hypergloss production sheen. It could be The Wildhearts with Monroe's trademark vocals on top, in fact. So it'll be interesting to hear how the follow-up will sound with Dregen now filling Ginger's shoes.

Ginger or not, be damned, though. The fact is, it's not like this is exactly a watershed year for great rock 'n' roll records. Sensory Overdrive is an exception. It's been in steady rotation at Napalm HQ since its European release earlier this year (it only got the US nod in August, if I'm not mistaken), so the review is overdue. But I like it. You should, too.

SUZI QUATRO - “Strict Machine” (track from new LP, In The Spotlight)

Haven't had a chance to hear the complete LP from Detroit's favorite daughter Suzi Quatro, who taught Joan Jett everything she knows the same as Johnny Thunders taught me. But judging by this Goldfrapp cover given the video treatment by ex-Runaway Vicki Blue, Suzi may be onto something. Sexy and slinky as hell, with a burbling, distorted electro-bass groove, this is a highly effective update of the classic Quatro sound heard on '70s UK hits like “Can The Can” (actually quoted here). I seem to recall ZZ Top giving their own sound a similar sharp electro update in the '80s to great success. This is certainly the best usage of such production on a rock 'n' roll record since those ZZ Top records. Perhaps this can similarly propel Ms. Quatro into full comeback mode. All I know is, this rocks....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wow! You mean I have a blog?

Coulda fooled me, as often as I've been posting lately. I can see it's been over a month, and that was to hip y'all to my new status as Louder Than War's American correspondent. (Yet another writerly duty I've neglected - sorry, John!)

Honestly, my hands have been way too full to blog/write/create as much as I'd like. I've been working hard for awhile, lately at an exceedingly blue collar temporary job, to keep a cash flow going and keep the rent and bills on time and to not be dependent on anyone, as I've unfortunately been for the last three years. Also, to accumulate the gear I need to get back to playing music and to start up my next Hormones lineup.

This means time has been at a premium, and I can't be as multi-media as I'd like. Much as I joke that anything Henry Rollins can do, I can do? I now see that I can't. My limitations are that Henry is lucky enough to be paid good money to be a media pundit/voice over artist/sometime actor, so he can afford to publish one book per year and do a radio show, etc., etc. I've never seen such success in my own endeavors. American minds might see that as me being a failure, or not being as talented. This isn't the case. It's just the way it is.

I'm not complaining. Just seeing things for what they are. It means I have to concentrate on keeping employed and keeping a cash flow going, modest as it may be. Then I'm able to do all the artistic stuff as I have time and energy in between.

But there is much to write about. I still have albums released this year by Motorhead, UK Subs, and Michael Monroe to write about, as well as recent memoirs from Alice Bag and Carl Barat. And then there's always the world situation, as always. And whatever else fits in as I sip my two cups of coffee to face my day, of course.

Speaking of which, Cup Number Two is just about drained. Thanks for indulging me. Be seeing you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Check out my new blog at Louder Than War!

I've just begun a new assignment for my UK colleague John Robb's Louder Than War website, as its American correspondent. I will periodically post a blog there called "Letter From America," where I'll be writing about US musical, political, and cultural matters from my peculiar perspective. I began with some thoughts about Occupy Wall Street, and the response less than eight hours later is already great! Check out the first post by clicking here. Please let me know what you think, and please help get the word out. Thank you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy birthday, Jerry Lee Lewis! But since you guys don't look at my blog unless I post GOP corndog pics....

Of COURSE, it's really Rick Perry eating a corndog on the campaign trail in front of a reproduction of a certain Michelangelo painting! NO, it's not what we're all thinking it is! That's it, Republican assholes! Keep giving me hilariously smutty pics to post! It's the only thing that seems to drag in readers by the truckload, as they seem to prefer dick jokes to rock 'n' roll.... *rolls eyes* (Thanks, Donna Dougherty, for sending this one my way.)

Meantime, now that I have your attention, it was 76 years ago today that the earth split open in Ferriday, Louisiana, and spit forth Jerry Lee Lewis. Yes, I honestly believe the Killer is that much a force of nature: The very wild-eyed, elemental spirit of rock 'n' roll itself made flesh, here to lead your children into a life of sin and whiskey. You can see it right here in his first network TV appearance, promoting his breakthrough hit, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," on The Steve Allen Show in 1957. And adult America thought that greasy hillbilly named Presley was bad enough, fucking his guitar and mic stand on TV....

Now fast-forward from a savage young Jerry Lee to a few years' older Jerry Lee. His career has been ruined by the UK press discovering he's married to his 13-year-old cousin. And now he's back on English TV, at a time that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are selling music he helped pioneer back to American children. And he's out for blood. England doesn't know what demon's been unleashed in their midst. Same fuckin' song, too....

And this, my friends, is what they call rock 'n' roll. Accept no substitutes. Happy birthday, Jerry Lee Lewis. Long may you rage.

Timbo's TeeVee Party, 1st Edition

Greetings, Irregulars! I've certainly been feeling irregular this week. Really in a funk more lowdown than a James Brown outtake. Can't figure out why, unless it's just triggered by the allergy attack that's been attacking me this week, as well. But, suffice to say that this week, I can't be satisfied (to get quite Muddy Waters about it). And I can't seem to shake it, despite life being better than I can remember it being in about 3 or 4 years: A job that's working out nicely, my first apartment in Denver (and hopefully, my last), a new laptop, new musical prospects on the horizon, and "RADIO NAPALM" about to be removed from the mothballs. Now if only I could get laid....

*ahem* Moving on from that bit of TMI....

Maybe a little TV watching is in order? First up are two clips I already posted at my Facebook wall. Why not begin with The Avengers? One of my favorite West Coast bands of the late '70s, I've often said these guys and The Weirdos were the cream of the California crop, punk rock-wise. Solid songs, great image and sound, and a really charismatic front-person in Penelope Houston. Here, we catch The Avengers at L.A. punk rock ground zero The Masque, days before they opened for the Sex Pistols' last stand at SF's Winterland, ripping the room apart with their classic "We Are The Ones":

Next, we have that *ahem* master thespian, William Shatner. He's been working on an LP of space-themed heavy metal hits (including, reportedly, Hawkwind's "Silver Machine," with Wayne Kramer on guitar; yes, the sound you just heard was Lemmy's moles falling off his face and running for the hills). And now I shall present a work-in-progress clip of Capt. Kirk attempting Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," made even funnier by the fact that we don't hear the instrumental track being pumped into Bill's headphones!

And just to recover, here's part one of 7 of a documentary easily findable on YouTube on one of my favorite characters from UK punk's classic era, John Cooper Clarke. Looking for all the world like a praying mantis in Bob Dylan's 1966 wardrobe, he was a poet who opened shows for the likes of the Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks, ranting his hilarious and witty verse at a Ramones tempo. At the time of this Channel 4 documentary, "Ten Years In An Open Neck Shirt," Clarke was enjoying some forward momentum with a "ranting poetry" scene he'd clearly inspired, touring rock clubs with skinhead bards who'd clearly heard him like Attila The Stockbroker, as well as with fellow traveller/dub poet Lynton Kwesi Johnston. Start with this, and work your way through all 7 parts at YouTube. It's a fun look at life on the road, and Clarke's poetry is always amusing!

And before I go, I must thank two longtime fixtures of my blog roll for their recent props paid. First to my old pal and colleague Chris Stigliano, both for writing some kind words about A HEARTFUL OF NAPALM and including it in his own blogroll at his fine BLOG TO COMM, an internet continuation of his longtime underground rantzine Black To Comm (where some of my earliest writings were published). Then, not least at all, to Jim Marshall and his always amazing THE HOUND BLOG, where all manner of rock's past glories get re-aired and appreciated. It's good to know scribes I respect are tuning in, and even directing some traffic my way. Bless you both, and thank you.

I must be off. Thanks for tuning in.

Friday, September 23, 2011

So, does this mean the Lord is soft? Or hard?

Found on the Facebook wall of Billy Bonito, formerly Hopeless and singer of The Black Halos, now leading The Bonitos. Much obliged, pal.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

At long last: The tale of the Loudly Masturbating Neighbor!

Not an actual photo of the Loudly Masturbating Neighbor, but an artist's depiction.
It all began the day I arrived in Denver, back in mid-March of this year. Charlie had picked me up from the bus station about a quarter to seven in the AM. After a hearty breakfast at the Denver Diner on Colfax ("Mike Ness apparently likes to have a grilled cheese here when Social Distortion is in town...."), we obviously ended up at Charlie's - me, my filthy and travel-racked body, and my three suitcases. As we rounded Charlie's building's staircase and headed to his apartment, he paused at the door next to his, turned, and whispered conspiratorially as he pointed at the door: "Really loud masturbator." I, of course, had to laugh like a 14-year-old jackass, stifling it so as not to wake his neighbors.

Later, after doing some errands, Charlie and I were passing this guy's door. The neighbor stood before it, smoking and looking much like the comic book shop guy from The Simpsons, minus the ponytail and plus small wire-rimmed glasses. "Great weekend to get fucked-up, eh guys?" he chortled.

Great. Not only is he a really loud masturbator, he's an overgrown frat boy. Swell.

The next morning, as I stumbled into the bathroom for the morning whizz, I got 120 dBs of what Charlie was joking about: Chucklehead's shower going across the wall, and some serious solo porno moaning. "Oooohhhh!...Oooohhh!...OOOOHHHHHH! GODDAMMIT! FUCK!"

It happened like clockwork, every AM. Sometimes, Charlie's hot blonde neighbor on the other side would be getting it from some piece of bar trash she'd picked up the night before. So it was like she was filling in the gaps in the Loudly Masturbating Neighbor's presentation. And we were getting it in stereo. Now if only the Loudly Masturbating Neighbor could hook up with this chick, and then he'd have a reason to moan.

Eventually, it got to be so comical, I had to start tweeting about this guy's exploits, quite naturally. I didn't expect it to be such a hit, though. This guy started getting an international following, due to my own internet presence. Facebook friends would write, wanting photos of the guy, telling me they "missed the jack-off guy." Some guy in the UK told me his band wrote a song about him. (I ended up deleting that guy - he turned out to be as big an overgrown frat dude as the LMN.) His new fan club thrilled as I reported my discovery that the only music he seemed to own was Rush and '70s white jumpsuit Elvis Presley. And yes, he'd pump the hydrant and porno moan as he listened to "Fly By Night," at top volume on a Friday night.

After about a month, I was coming home from work one night. There he stood at the top of the steps, the LMN, smoking as he did the day I first showed up. "Oh, hey!" he blurted, drunkenly. "We haven't met! I'm Todd!" We shook hands. Thankfully, his wasn't sticky, rashy, or growing hair in the palm.

I told Charlie that Todd had introduced himself. Charlie looked at me, slack-jawed. "We've been neighbors for years, and he's never once introduced himself to me! He must like you!"

That scared me.

As the weather warmed, I'd leave Charlie's front door open as I tapped away at his computer, seeking much-needed ventilation as I either wrote or searched out a job. The LMN would take to drunkenly stumbling in, uninvited. Every time, the conversation was the same: "Oh, hey! We haven't met yet! I'm Todd!" "Yes, Todd. We met a few weeks ago. Could you please not ash on the carpet, dude?"

As the weeks unfolded, it came to pass that masturbating wasn't all the LMN did loudly. He watched sports loudly. He talked on his cellphone loudly. He ate loudly. (Yes, I could hear that, too.) This was just one loud wrecking machine of a guy.

Eventually, the LMN dropped in, informed me he was moving out. "I'm getting a better place than this dump!  By the way, we haven't met yet! I'm Todd!"

And hence, he was gone. A week later, I moved out of Charlie's apartment and into my current digs in Westminster. The neighbors here don't masturbate loudly. In fact, I don't know what these people do. I kinda like that....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

REPOST: Something I rarely talk about....

TIM SEZ: Repost from my old MySpace blog from three years back. Ike fizzled before he got to Austin, obviously. In the time since I posted this, my friend's death score was settled in the springtime, with Bin Laden's capture and execution. (And no, I don't buy any conspiracy theories on this subject. Nor do I buy conspiracy theories, period. Please save it all for your next Alex Jones fan club meeting, thank you.) Yet there are still troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And why...?

I repost this every year, so we don't forget, so some semblance of truth remains out there...and for my late friend Johnny you will read about here. He is a real hero. I miss him every day.

Something I rarely talk about
Current mood:  contemplative
Category: Life
It looks pretty certain the day after my birthday, I'm riding out a hurricane. Odd, for the Austin area. Where I grew up, it was more common: I'd been through three by the time I was a teenager, the last one having been Allen back in 1980 (I think it was). Not a big deal, really. By the time Ike hits here, he's gonna be a lotta wind and rain, really.

But, come on, Ike: Could your timing be any worse?

It's kinda par for the course, right now. Something about this decade and my birthday has meant disaster for me. There was the girlfriend who decided to break up with me the week of my birthday, just because that would sting the most, I'm sure. Then, there was the birthday on which Johnny Cash had the misfortune of dying. That really sucked.

But I think the coldest was the group of middle eastern gentlemen who thought it would be really cool to fly a couple of airplanes into the World Trade Center the day before my birthday in 2001.

I slept through it. I was homeless at the time and staying with a friend on 7th and Ave. B, probably three or four miles from the Twin Towers. She was out of town, and I was house-sitting, soon to move in with my friend Sami Yaffa and his girl Karmen. I was working at the time as a professional dog walker, and I got up at 11 AM. It was supposed to be just another day: I was thinking about coffee, looking over the schedule, wondering who the first dog of the day would be, etc., etc. I turned on Howard Stern's show, as was my wont back then (until he said something completely insulting about John Lee Hooker on the day Hook died, and I swore I'd never listen to the tasteless bastard again). And judging by the hysteria I was hearing, it was the end of the world.

I called my boss to find out what was going on. That was when I found out the towers had been hit.

From there, people were calling in left and right, canceling walks; most of our customer base worked in the financial district, so they were now gonna be home. I was getting all kinds of bits and pieces from there: The doorman at the building on Irving Place where a few of my dogs lived reported looking up and seeing the first jet flying so close to the ground, he could see its' markings. My friend Mark who lived two blocks away calling me up and telling me he was on the phone, talking to his mother, looking out his panoramic view of the southern end of Manhattan...and seeing that same jet fly right past his building, shaking him and the whole building. And getting a front row seat at watching it crash straight into Tower Number One.

These calls were going on for three hours. I couldn't sit down to eat. Finally, about 2 PM, I was able to leave the apartment and walk down to Ave. A, in search of breakfast. Every joint in the neighborhood was crammed to the rafters, it seemed. There were hand-written signs in the windows, advising that the Red Cross needed blood, go to this hospital or that one, go to Bellvue, go someplace, we need blood. The air smelled awful, like burning tires or hair, but worse. It would be that way for months. And can you imagine what it does to a mind, knowing that what you're breathing might be friends of yours'?

I finally squeezed into Sidewalk Cafe, ran into friends I knew from the local rock circuit. The waitresses and bartenders looked like they were gonna have coronaries. My waitress confided in me that they were severely understaffed, especially with the crush they were experiencing, and people due to work that day who lived out in Brooklyn or wherever were calling in because the subways were now shut down and they couldn't make it in. She looked like she was about to cry. Seconds later, some jerk at the table next to me started cursing her out about how long it was taking for him to get his eggs. I slammed my fist on his table and shocked him: "DUDE, DO YOU GET IT? CAN YOU LOOK AROUND YOU? DO YOU SEE HOW OVERWORKED THESE PEOPLE ARE RIGHT NOW? CAN YOU TURN AROUND AND SEE THE COLUMN OF SMOKE WHERE THE WORLD TRADE CENTER USED TO BE? CAN YOU FOR ONCE IN YOUR GAWDFERSAKEN EXISTENCE STOP THINKING ABOUT YOURSELF AND TRY TO PUT YOURSELF IN THE SHOES OF THE PEOPLE WORKING HERE AND THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU?"

"What are you getting mad at me for?" he whined. "It's not my fault they don't have enough people working. I'm hungry." I just stared at him.

I decided to wander a bit after eating and having coffee. People were then walking up from around the disaster site, walking because the subways were shut down, and no cabs can be found. They were covered in soot, looking like some ancient Jack Kirby panel out of a '60s Marvel comic. I ran into Jesse Malin, on his way to buy a protein bar and a newspaper. We started talking about The Strokes' debut album, which had just been released a few days before. (Or maybe that was only in the UK? Well, copies were obviously getting around on import.) And I remember at the time thinking, "Why are we talking about The Strokes in the middle of this?!"

My cellphone rang. It was my mother. She'd been trying to reach me for hours. The satellite dishes for the cellphone companies were based at the Twin Towers. Finally, a provisionary satellite path was opened, and she could know I was alive. The family were scared shitless: They had no idea of the geography of Manhattan, and for all they knew, I could be dead.

I went back to the apartment and finally turned on the news. For hours, my eyes were raped with endless repeats of the footage of those planes crashing into those towers. It was relentless. I finally had to turn it off and order pay-per-view porn. After all, what's amoral here: Being bombarded with footage of the WTC being penetrated hard and fast by terrorist-commandeered planes? Or being bombarded with footage of Jenna Jameson getting penetrated hard and fast from various angles?

The days and weeks after were like nothing I'd ever experienced. I remember having to wear a filter mask as I did the dogwalks for a long time, and suffering massive headaches from the air quality. For awhile, you would be forced to present ID at two different checkpoints to MPs if you lived in the East Village, just to get to and from your apartment. Armed personnel carriers would be going up and down Houston St. The middle eastern guys who ran the deli downstairs looked at me with pleading, fearful eyes that told me they were already getting harassed for the color of their skins and their accents. Probably by the same louts I heard that Friday up and down Avenue B, drunkenly chanting, "U! S! A! U! S! A!" I feared those clowns more than I did potential terrorists.

I can remember my mother and I talking, and she kept telling me, "We all understand. We all are with you. We're all going through this together." And I had to tell her that no, there was no way she could understand unless she was here. She got to watch this from the safety of her living room. This wasn't TV for me or anyone else in NYC. This was our life. And it wasn't fun, and I hoped that she (and everyone else who didn't live here) never had to find out what I was going through.

The worst was finding out how one of my dearest friends was affected by this: Johnny Heffernan was one of my local brothers in rock. His band The Bullys was one of Napalm Stars' brother bands. Johnny was frequently there when I needed him, whether I needed to borrow an amp, or whether I was having to fend off an obnoxious and violent stage invader. I considered him one of my best friends. He was to have left on my birthday to go on tour with The Toilet Boys, doing their lighting.

Johnny was also a NYC fire fighter.

He was not supposed to be on duty on Sept. 11, 2001. It was supposed to be his day off. He was working instead, trying to get in overtime before he left on the road, to support his wife and young stepdaughter. His company was among the first to respond when Tower Number One was hit. From what I remember, most (if not all) of his company was buried when the tower collapsed. Johnny's bandmates, family, friends, we all held hope that he was still alive. They pulled Johnny's crushed body out one month later.

We all know who killed my friend, as well as the many others who died that day. America invaded Afghanistan shortly after, gunning for Osama Bin Laden. Over time, our leaders began telling us Iraq had some connection with the WTC attacks, that they had weapons of mass destruction, that Saddaam Hussein had something to do with this. This, of course, turned out not to be the case. We are still at war in Iraq. Osama Bin Laden, the man who commanded the men who killed my friend and all those others, remains free.

Happy birthday.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Real Life Book Reviews 3: Byron Coley 'C'est La Guerre'

Man o' the hour Byron Coley: He always stays in focus as everyone around him gets blurry.
When word reached me of the publication of Byron Coley's C'est La Guerre: Early Writings 1978-1983 (145 pages, L'Oie de Cravan, Montreal, 2011, French and English, introduction by Mike Watt), I was hoppin' all over this joint like a goddamned chimpanzee on meth-spiked Skittles. Which is a badly Coleyesque way of saying, "I dug the idea immensely."

This is par for the course for me. As a young rock journalist in the '80s, my initial fanzine writings were very much cut-rate Coley, the way 1960s American garage rock was bargain basement Rolling Stones-n-Yardbirds-isms filtered through a heavy hand on the fuzzbox. Coley was very encouraging of me at the time, until my obnoxious pestering ways forced a final "fuck off." Which I needed. I'd have never developed my own voice without this scission.

It was hard not to be under that guy's sway, so strong was his voice and so prominent was his presence in the mid- to late-'80s fanzine (and pro-zine) world. Across his co-editorship of the 'zine of the day, Forced Exposure, and into far-ranging freelancing spread across publications as august as The Village Voice and the inaugural Spin (or even as odd as teen music mag Smash Hits!), Coley displayed uncanny musical taste (the more obscure, the better, in his mind) in a fast-n- flashy style that was equal parts Richard Meltzer's dadaist syntax and grammar games and wiseguy humor, as well as Lester Bangs' keen analytic and contextual mind. And he'd just as likely tell you a tall tale to get you to the truth. (I cherish a memory of a Spin Underground piece introduced with a dialogue between Byron and his dog, where the dog mocked Coley's musical taste as Byron "rubbed warm peanut oil" into the dog's coat, as a way of introducing America to the avant swamp-Stooge-isms of Australia's The Scientists.) Along the way, he introduced many of us young'uns to the joys of Sonic Youth, prime-era SST Records, Einsturzende Neubauten, Australian garage punk, Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave, and The Flesh Eaters. (Truly, no one wrote better about that band or leader Chris D.'s poetic songwriting genius.)

Still, Coley had to journey from somewhere to get there. And that's the subject of this very-limited-edition anthology: Byron's baby steps, journalistically-speaking. Interspersed with hilariously autobiographical correspondence with pal Angela Jaeger, just to give these reprints some personal historical context, are Byron's earliest print forays for New York Rocker, Take It!, LA Reader and LA Weekly. You get a hilarious Devo tour diary from '78, brilliantly insightful criticism of the Minutemen ("Guitar Warrior, Dennis Boon, shakes his (not inconsiderable) booty like a cement mixer full of bowling balls, his guitar spewing gas like a pint-size St. Helens..."), Husker Du, Suicide, The Germs and Lydia Lunch. There's also potent slaughter and butchery of sacred cows ranging from the "definitive" Jim Morrison bio No One Gets Out Of Here Alive ("Anyhoo, if you ever find yourself taking a college course called, 'Jim Morrison: Many of the Facts,' this will probably be the text book...") and David Bowie. In fact, no one wrote (rightly or wrongly) with more venom and bile about Bowie:

If you're gonna be a style proselytizer, wouldn't it be sensible to at least pick/choose a good style to promote? Yeah, it would. But Bowie's so feeble-minded and has so little conviction in his beliefs that he's always prepared to hop on the next bandwagon that promises to have an extensive dress code. You can call that progress and exploration if you will, but I'll call it the vacillation of a man who has no center. Davie's a swirling black hole that you've deigned to place near the center of the musical universe and his voracious appetite's already sucked much light outta the sky. "His master's voice" robbed Iggy of his juice much more efficiently than years of heroin addiction could; Lou Reed's official break with the legacy of the Velvets (Transformer) was so effectively nambified that it's taken him over a decade to even begin shaking off its cutesy-pie dynamics; and what about Hunt Sales?

Wrapped in a block-printed raw cardboard cover and limited to a 750 copy first edition (apparently a second edition is imminent, so huge has been the demand), this is as much a fine art object as a book. This is underlined by the inclusion of some crude Coley drawings, collages, and visual poems. Which likely emphasizes why Byron ultimately limited his pro-'zine presence: He's as much artist and poet as rock critic. He'd probably rather be listening to his extensive jazz record collection than writing about rock bands (although he continues with publications like The Wire and the recently-ceased Arthur, in addition to self-publishing poetry chapbooks, and doing record projects and running a record/bookstore with long-time pal Thurston Moore). Even 30-some-odd years later, this early work shines and thrills, and excellently foreshadows what Byron did in his heyday. You couldn't find a finer read if you tried. Good shit, dad. Good shit....

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Well, now it's all too clear....

As this college-era photo proves, Rick Perry is really Neidermeyer from Animal House.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Soundtrack To Your Daily Life (Part One In A Series)

The Damned, 1977: "Wot? Scrapin' yer bristles to our noise?!  Ya daft cunt!"
I've long felt the best drugs are straight black coffee and rock 'n' roll. Honestly, both are cheaper than that nasty mess you kids are buying on the street. And they work far better for fuel for your daily endeavors, too. So, as a public service, I thought I'd begin a series of soundtrack suggestions for your daily activities. You'll be thanking me later....

Kickstarting your brain and drinking black coffee: Motorhead "Leaving Here" 45 or Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll Trio
Morning men's rituals: The Damned - Damned Damned Damned LP (especially Side Two, with "New Rose" and "So Messed Up")
Cleaning house: UK Subs - Endangered Species LP
Writing a blog post: D.O.A. - "Rent A Riot"

Okay, now enjoy your day! More suggestions to come. (And maybe you have a few of your own? Leave 'em in comments here.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bob Mould's Book: Where's The Bangers-And-Mash Recipe?

Bob Mould: "Recipes, Stegall?! And you wonder why I never return your calls or emails anymore?! Forget having coffee again, boyo!"

When Bob Mould announced in his always readable Boblog a couple years back that he was co-authoring his memoirs with fine rock journalist Michael Azzerad (author of authoritative histories of Nirvana [Come As You Are] and '80s indie rock [Our Band Could Be Your Life]), you could practically hear the hosannas arise across his fan base. Those of us who'd regularly read his blog before he ceased posting shortly after that announcement knew the guy could write (as if years of great song lyrics didn't already prove this). So much so, in fact, it's puzzling as to why he even needed Azzerad's assistance. (It turns out it was more for organizational and editorial aid, all done in perfectly 21st Century fashion via Skype.)

Whatever the case, there's no serious gripes about the finished results since its publication this past June. See A Little Light: The Trail Of Rage And Melody (403 pages, Little, Brown and Company, New York, Boston, London, 2011) is definitely not easy to put down – I actually gave it two consecutive read-throughs across two weeks. Ultimately, my conclusion is Bob and Michael gave us three books in one, all equally fascinating.

The first book would be a musical journey/work memoir that's most detailed in accounting his pre-Husker Du days and in recounting Sugar and his solo work. Mould seems as pained as he is proud of Husker Du, the Minneapolitan buzzpunk trio which first introduced him to the world (and made the '80s far more bearable for those of us not inclined towards Pat Benatar or Ratt). As deeply as he goes into the making of that music, he simultaneously seems to be in a rush to get the Huskers' tale over with. Perhaps Mould is still uncomfortable with how that band played out? It reads that way, despite the big revelations along the way: 1) Zen Arcade means more to his fans than it does to Mould (!!); 2) bassist Greg Norton began to feel surplus to requirements to Mould following Husker Du's signing to Warner Bros. in the mid-'80s; 3) the tipping point, in Mould's mind, where his working, creative and personal relationships with drummer/co-songwriter Grant Hart soured (as early as Flip Your Wig's pre-production, when Hart brought later solo masterpiece “2541” to the band and Mould suggested it needed work); and 4) that the events leading to the band's demise may not have been as has been reported all these years. (Mould's previously untold account of the band's final meeting in Grant's parents' kitchen is as woeful and Spinal Tap as the Husker Du story can get.) There's also enough gear porn to keep a guitarsexual like me orgasming for days.

The next book-within-the-book concerns the dysfunctional household in which he grew up, and how it's colored his life and his relationships. The tale's about as harrowing as they come, being set in a small town in upstate New York and a household regularly fogged with the stench his alcoholic father exhaled every weekend. Those fumes are not something that clears out when you move out of such a home. Bob initially dealt with the odor by drowning it in both the usual substance abuse and a furious creative workload. It wasn't enough to drown out the howl which would damage much in his life, be it romantic relationships or those with band mates. How he turned down that horrid noise is the subject of the 3rd book-within-the-book: His sexuality.

Mould's homosexuality was one of the worst-kept secrets in '80s/'90s punk rock. Hence, it was odd when he felt the need to “out” himself to author Dennis Cooper in Spin Magazine as Mould was promoting Sugar's 2nd LP in the mid-'90s. It's interesting to read Bob characterizing the '80s punk scene as having an unspoken “don't ask don't tell” policy. (Perhaps I have no perspective on this, considering Austin' scene embraced flamboyantly gay personalities like Randy “Biscuit” Turner and Gary Floyd. Homosexuality was just another thread in Austin's funky, freaky punk scene, so no one really thought about it.) To read Mould's account, he identified with neither his own sexuality nor gay culture through much of his youth, despite realizing his tendencies at a very early age. (There's a lot of warm humor in Bob's confession that barber shops remain a turn-on to this day!) It took that public closet exit in Spin (despite it's having unpleasant side effects, anyway) before he was comfortable enough to begin an exploration of What It Is To Be Gay. Mould finally took the plunge during his late-'90s/early-'00s seasons in NYC and DC. Thence came his exploration of electro-dance music/culture, it's incorporation into his own music (alongside the formation of the popular gay dance party he DJs, Blowoff), and ultimately embracing/being embraced into the masculine gay subculture of the bears.

Most surprising is Bob's briefly-touched-upon return to Catholicism in the mid-'00s, as well as a seemingly out-of-nowhere chapter on his one day job of the last 30 years: Scriptwriter for the WCW in 1999! Anyone who knows Bob knows he's been a long-time, highly educated pro-wrestling junkie; he even contributed some authoritative writings to some punk-and-wrestling fanzines in the '80s. But there Bob Mould was for eight months, four years on from Sugar's demise, devising plot lines for the likes of Hulk Hogan and the gang! He was also a strong internal advocate for a younger breed of wrestler he felt would be the WCW's future. The saga is brief and but one chapter, but it's as hilariously out-of-context with the book as it was with Bob's life (despite his wrestling fandom). It would have been great to see Bob expand this into an entire book on its own.

All in all, See A Little Light is a joy. It's a hope-filled, down-to-earth ode to pop songcraft, punk rock, self-discovery and redemption. It's the marvelous story of the maturation of one America's finest and most idiosyncratic artists, one who deservedly engenders much respect and affection. Definitely up there with Keith Richards' book in a season of rock memoirs, although an entirely different beast. All it needs is for Bob to include a better bangers-and-mash recipe in the paperback edition!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Anatomy Of A Cover Version: Special Elvis Presley Memorial Edition

It was today in 1977 that my ultimate rock 'n' roll hero whose name is not either Johnny Thunders or Iggy Pop, Elvis Presley, checked out of this sphere. (Naturally, supposed Elvis fan Michelle Bachmann wished Elvis a Happy Birthday today. *rolls eyes* Thanks for the tip-off, Wes Bingham.) Everytime I declare my love for Presley, a fleet of assholes roll-up and try to call shit on me, in some of misguided political or punk correctness. I'm not indulging the arguments this year - I like Elvis, and I like how he kicked the door open for rock 'n' roll into the mainstream by energizing a mix of black rhythms and country melodies with a shot of aggressive sexuality. The world has never been the same. It's not my fault if you can't see that. End of discussion.

Anyway, today we look at one of my fave records of his, "(Now And Then, There's) A Fool Such As I." Cut in a Nashville megasession when on leave from the Army, so RCA could have product to release while Elvis was away doing his patriotic duty, the track originated as a Hank Snow country hit earlier in the '50s:

Presley did what he did best: He gave it a big beat and pumped up the sexuality, making it hit and swing harder. Great Scotty Moore guitar work, too:

As a bonus, I include a rare live take from Elvis. Between receiving his draft notice in late '57 and the filming of his 1968 comeback special, Presley only played before live audiences three times - all charity performances in 1961. This is not actual footage, but a montage set to audio I've certainly never heard before from the third of those shows, in Honolulu on the eve of filming "Blue Hawaii." The surprisingly clear fidelity displays the man still in possession of his raw performance gifts: He's powerful and sweaty, even playful. ("You taught me how/To milk a cow!") Clearly, he's The Hillbilly Cat of old, even as Col. Parker attempts to smother his creativity in a sea of vapid musical travelogue films. Presley really shoulda put his foot down and performed more back then.....

Enjoy. And if you don't, I don't wanna hear it. Thank you. Off to work now. 'Bye!

Hmmm...Really, Rick Perry?!

*smirks* Wow, what can I say about this snap of Rick Perry? That the former Aggie cheerleader may be more dangerous than we think? That speech he made on Saturday announcing his candidacy certainly set him apart from his GOP adversaries in the Presidential stakes. He sounded like Bush minus the grammatical errors and mispronunciations, and was throwing huge chunks of red meat to those lions at that conservative rally. Quoting Margaret Thatcher also indicates something sinister about this guy. I still say he's a jackass, though....

Thanks to Tom Lundin at The Denver Eye for forwarding this photo. And check out his blog - it's reet!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The results are in: My readers are, overwhelmingly, anti-GOP perverts!

Good morning (he says blearily, over the second cup of coffee). Still working on the review of Bob Mould's book - hope to have that up tomorrow. Meantime, I did some checking up on the stats for this blog. The post that's received the most all-time hits was Saturday's entry with the Michelle Bachmann corndog blowjob pic - 328 hits! And it seems I have a very international audience, with readers in the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Russia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Denmark.

So, what does it all mean? Apparently, my readership cuts across various cultural strata and nation boundaries. And you're a diverse bunch that hates Republicans and likes dick jokes! I'll see what I can do to please you....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ohhhh, this is too good! (Part 2)

Well, I didn't realize when I posted that way too easy Michelle Bachmann pic this morning that it would be part of a series....

Oh, my. Just keep handing me the jokes. This is (as Jeff Tartakov put it) "would be First Lady Marcus" displaying his *ahem* technique. Considering this "de-gaying" crusader is likely the next overly vocal homophobe due a savage outing, this pic's an even bigger gift that the first one!

Keep it coming, GOP!

Ohhhh, this is too good!

Ohhh, Michelle Bachmann! You really shouldn't have! Giving me such prime comedy material, and all of it aged 14 and entering junior high! Oh, how I am struggling not to sink to the humor level this begs for! I knew that when I started seeing the level of clowns the GOP would be putting up against Obama in the 2012 race, the jokes would all start writing themselves. But this is TOO easy, TOO hilarious!

We're all thinking the same cheap shots, which Mrs. Bachmann just handed us on a silver tray. I say let's just keep thinking them. ;-)

Thank you for making this day so hilarious, Mrs. Bachmann. Keep it comin', girl.....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Anatomy Of A Cover Version

Last night, whilst stumbling around half-asleep on the internets, I made a curious/fun discovery about a record I've loved for years. Sometime in the early '80s, The Saints, one of my favorite Australian punk bands of the day, issued a tough little record called "Gypsy Woman" that I absolutely adore.

It wasn't until the last few years that I realized the track was a cover version of a song now considered an Aussie '60s garage punk classic. The band was called The Allusions, and "Gypsy Woman" was a big local hit for them in their native Sydney in 1966.

Now here's where it really gets fun for me: I discovered last night that "Gypsy Woman" didn't even originate with The Allusions! Seems the cat who originally made the track famous, earlier in the '60s, was none other than my favorite underrated '50s rocker, Ricky Nelson!

Nice, tough James Burton guitar break, eh? It gets even better than that: Look at the writer's credits, you'll see the tune was penned for Ricky by his bassist Joe Osborn and Dorsey Burnette. Yup, brother of (and band member in the Rock 'n' Roll Trio with) Johnny Burnette. And remember: Those two penned many of Ricky's toughest hits, such as "Believe What You Say" and "It's Late."

Yeah, maybe I'm a total nerd for getting so excited about this stuff. But I live for this kinda detective work, and love sharing it with you.

The second cup of coffee is just about done. Tune in soon: I'll be writing about Bob Mould's book. Cheers!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Denver Scene Report (one of a series)

The Dirty Lookers: Somewhere, the front cover for the first New York Dolls album beams proudly. *smiles*
I've been a Denver-ite (Denverian?) for four months now. As of two weeks ago, I've moved into my first apartment here, and began training at job I feel optimistic I can hang onto awhile. It looks like I won't struggling so much. (That is, unless the House Republicans wake up a week from this coming Monday and realize, "Oh, shit! Guess the President WAS right about raising the debt ceiling and all that, huh?" But it's too soon after breakfast to be thinking about potential disasters, isn't it...?)

*AHEM!* Anyways, I've firmly fallen in love with my new adopted town, and am setting roots apace. I've even been enjoying some tentative explorations into my town's sounds. Denver is hardly Austin in the '90s (nor Denver in the '90s, for that matter), nor is it even NYC in the late '90s/'00s. But no place is, including Austin and NYC. But I am finding some crackin' rock 'n' roll here, though. One fragment of which actually rehearses right outside my bedroom door.

The Dirty Lookers comprises four long-time vets of Denver's punk scene (Pam Puente [who, full-disclosure, is my housemate], Sara Fischer, Gerry Feit, and Chris Kieft), crankin' out a juicy, bluesy New York Dolls-moving-into-the-garage punk rock grind. Puente knows how to weave a three-chord ode to waking hungover and stinkin' of cigs and sex, and has a whiskey-and-tobacco-stained wail that would have done Kat Arthur proud in Legal Weapon's heyday, or even Lynne Von in Da Willys/Trick Babies. If you're wondering where The Dirty Lookers are coming from, covers of Blondie and Irma Thomas should tell you a lot. (Even "Cry On" author Allen Toussaint has given The Dirty Lookers' version his stamp of approval.)

The rest of the world gets to meet The Dirty Lookers next week, when they release their eight-song mini-LP Audio Voyeur, followed shortly by their maiden tour of the east coast and midwest. Whatever Denver readers I may have can check the band out tomorrow, July 31, when they throw a free record release party at longtime Denver record store institution Wax Trax. Meantime, enjoy this clip of The Dirty Lookers ripping through Pam's "I did WHAT?!" anthem, "Whiskey, She's A Liar." Ciao!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Message To Our Leaders

Just fucking do it. Get it done. Time is wasting.

To the members of Congress: This game of 'tis-'t'ain't you're playing over the budget is complete and utter bullshit. You are holding our future as a nation hostage. Threatening to allow default is fucking criminal. If this happens, I suggest we, the American people, start a drive to have each and every one of you removed from office and vote in high fiber people who can do the job right and not put our future on the line.

To President Obama: You're not going to get any cooperation from these smug bastards. Just issue an executive order to raise the debt ceiling. Just do it. It's in your power. Then you guys can hammer out a budget. If you get threats of impeachment? So what? America will not begrudge you trying to save our skins. Trust me.

I'm so over this tug-of-war. I think we all are. This is what happens when we place our votes in the hands of politicians, rather than human beings. Maybe I'm being simplistic. But it sure seems simple to me. *shakes head* Silly earthlings....

P.S. - R.I.P., Amy Winehouse. You were the one pop singer out there who could actually sing, actually had good songs. So sad to see such talent go.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How To Name Your Band In Three Easy Lessons

Okay, enough is enough! It was bad enough I lived through the '90s, which gave the world really crappy one-word band names like Tool and Helmet. It got to the point where a friend and I would sit around making up fake grunge band names, like Godpussy. (Actually, that one is pretty good, come to think of it.)

But every time I turn around lately, some young indie band comes along giving their band a really annoying name. Like Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. Or the one I saw this evening, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.


Okay, looks like I have to take you titbabies by the hand and SHOW YOU HOW TO NAME YOUR SHITTY LITTLE BANDS! Just so I can stop sounding and feeling like the cranky old guy yelling at you to get off my lawn. It won't make your music any better, nor will it make you cool or worth a damn. On second thought, maybe that's why your band sucks: BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT A CONSTITUTES A GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL BAND NAME!!!

  • STEP ONE: NO SENTENCES - I'm sorry, but writing a book when you're trying to name your band is instant loserville. It didn't work in the '80s for Hornets Attack Victor Mature, Fishing With Elvis, or Duck Duck Goose. It really isn't working for you. You suck. And you will never be the exception to this rule.
  • STEP TWO: DEFINITIVE ARTICLES ARE YOUR FRIENDS - There's this word. It's called "the." Learn it, use it. Put it at the start of your band's name. You will thank me later. Oh, and always make sure it's capitalized.
  • STEP THREE: PLURALIZE - Dear Snake Rattle Rattle Snake: Your band would rock 100 times harder if you were The Rattlesnakes. Ask The Ramones, The New York Dolls, The Yardbirds, and so many others. Yes, there have been exceptions, like The Who, Buzzcocks, Big Black, Sonic Youth, etc. But remember, you suck. You're amateurs. I'm having to show you how it's done, because I've left you alone for this long, and look at the mess you've made. Trust me: The Rattlesnakes. Get Cape Wear Cape Fly? Either become The Capes or The Flies. Actually, I'd go with The Flies, even though two older bands cooler than you'll ever be used that in the '60s and then the '80s, respectively.
 Okay, I'm done. No, you don't need to thank me. Just please stop giving your bands such shitty names! Enough, already! And while you're at it, maybe buy a Ramones record or two? Those '70s folk albums you're basing your careers on sucked back then. Thank you

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

'80s Indie Crunch, part two

Let's continue on with my very personal series on The Other '80s, the one which you'll never see anthologized in '80s necrophilia shows like "I Love The '80s." (See Part One here.) This is about an '80s that spoke more to alienated American kids who wouldn't be caught dead with an alligator on their chest. Who'd rather be in a sweaty, dark club on a Friday night slamdancing with 50-200 of their closest friends as they damaged their hearing, rather than seeing what wacky hijinks Uncle Jesse and the Olsson Twins were getting up to. Who were sure Ronald Reagan and Wall Street greed culture were destroying America, but were powerless to do anything about it except shout out loud, and maybe buy a Dead Kennedys record.  It's a time that is not too different from the one we inhabit, which means we could use music and philosophy this loud, this abrasive, this independent, this different, wrapped in a lifestyle that emphasized breaking off and living in a self-sufficient, economical, ethical, and community-minded fashion.

That way of life was termed, in their unique parlance, "jamming econo" by one of its foremost practitioners, San Pedro's Minutemen. Much has been made about how these guys lived up to their name in song lengths. But they really cut across the prevalent hardcore grain: Going funky when they could have thrashed, and having jazz-worthy chops. And as lefty as they were, their's was more the populist politics of someone like Jim Hightower rather than Crass-style anarchism. And it got couched in George Hurley's explosive drums, a bottom-end from Mike Watt's "thud-staff" that is everything Flea wishes he were, and the passionate bark and nagging-itch, trebly guitar of this bouncing, 200 lb. ball of energy named D. Boone. The Minutemen knew what was up, they knew how we were living, as opposed to the images on TV of how we were living. They knew "This Ain't No Picnic."

Also on Greg Ginn's SST Records was the band who inspired the Minutemen to record a competitive double LP, Double Nickles On The Dime. That band was Minneapolis' Husker Du. Once they matured into their post-Zen Arcade work, they'd gone beyond the ringing metallic thrash that made their initial name into a burly and loud classic pop sound that leader Bob Mould would spend an entire solo career refining and expanding (including a highly successful [if brief] foray into leading a second band, Sugar). The first indication any of us had of how the Huskers were changing and developing was a pre-Zen Arcade 45 of their cover of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High", where they now sounded like a far more brutal and dangerous Buzzcocks. This clip, despite the rather low fidelity, really shows what a breathtaking, surging and dynamic arrangement Husker Du gave the song. Note how adeptly it whips the slam pit into fits and starts, too.

SST also, for a time, hosted a band who really rewrote the standard guitar vocabulary, Sonic Youth. This might partly have to do with guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore having served in the avant-rock ensemble of of composer Glenn Branca, who composed around masses of alternately-tuned electric guitars played really loud. Or blame it on the fact that Sonic Youth initially could only afford cheap guitars that only worked if they weren't tuned in standard fashion, and then had a drumstick jammed under the strings and got struck by screwdrivers. They found a beauty and a whole new way to write songs working in this fashion, resulting in music that could chime as well as scream and cry. There was certainly a time I thought they were the new Velvet Underground, and it thrills me they exist to this day as a prime example that you can thrive in a long-term fashion as a totally outside, self-contained art enclave.

Time to wrap this up and get on with my day. More to come, obviously. So long, and be inspired!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

It's July 4th, a day to wave flags, eat hot dogs, and set off decorative explosive devices. (And hopefully not lose a finger in the process.) Me? Not sure how I'm celebrating - I'm kinda hard to reach, with my phone being off over a week and me unable to get it turned back on until tomorrow.

I do know I'm always of two minds about my country. I've never been a blind patriot - we tend to be a big bully, at home and abroad, and not mindful of the little guy. That disappoints me. We also are seriously damaged as a republic and in serious need of mending, and no two people can agree on HOW it should be done. Which bodes ill for us all. This may be an eternal problem, however: Witness Husker Du's 30-year-old protest classic "In A Free Land," here taken at a slower, more classic punk rock pace than the more hardcore version on their 2nd 45. Still, Bob Mould's guitar and words ring harshly in indicting our system: "Why bother spending time/Reading up on things/Everyone's an authority/In a free land." Sadly, this still holds true, Bob....

Still, America is a great country that's offered a lot to this world culturally. Dave Alvin knew this well when he penned "American Music" for his then-band, The Blasters. I still can't figure out why he didn't include punk rock in the roll call of great musics America has given the world. And I could add a shitload of great artists (Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, etc., etc.), poets (Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, etc.), and authors (Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Jack Kerouac, etc.):

Ultimately, I can think of no better celebration of the American spirit than the moment Jimi Hendrix took the stage at Woodstock and played the national anthem. Here he was, a man whose country had long crushed his people, and he rose above that and became an artist of unparalleled vision and force. Then he applied that force to a song written by a pair of slave owners, which had become his nation's rallying cry. And as he played the national anthem in the midst of a brutal war we had no reason to be in, this former US Army veteran added a crying, wailing tone to "The Star Spangled Banner," as well as all the rockets redglare and bombs bursting in air we'd sung about all these years. It's hard to ever sing this, after hearing how Jimi did it:

There you have it, Irregulars. My feelings about this country I love, yet weep for, expressed the best way I know how: Through song. Maybe I'll finally write my own American musical epic today. Who knows? I suggest you celebrate in the way you see fit. And let's report back in a few days. Be good out there!