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!