Sunday, December 23, 2012

Only In Texas

Earning the rent selling books at the dayjob, as the frantic fuss out their last minute Xmas gifts. Just as I rounded the corner from straightening the sports section, this big cowboy - hat, boots, the whole nine - comes storming out of the religious section. He spots my work badge dangling from my neck.

"Ah'm lookin' for Willie Nelson's book!"

"Well, sir," I smiled, "I realize Willie's a religious figure in Texas. But you won't find his book there!" We laughed as I led him to the music section....

Only in my home state....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Diggin' Up The Bones Of Strummer And Jones

To accompany that bit of verbal nostalgia below, here's some of the best live footage of prime Clash I've seen. A legendary gig at a Manchester fun fair (as they call carnivals in the UK), it was filmed for Tony Wilson's So It Goes series, which ended up being where many of UK Punk Mk. I's greats would make their television debuts (including a pre-record contract Sex Pistols, notoriously debuting "Anarchy In The UK" days after it was written). This is not too dissimilar from the Clash that I remember seeing, barring their having morphed into amphetamine rockabilly musicians by then, at least visually. Enjoy!

REPOST: Joe Strummer Is Still Dead, And I Don’t Feel So Good Either....

Ten years' gone, and it's harder to believe all the time. Here's what I had to say about Joe Strummer on the second anniversary of his death in 2004, at my old MySpace blog. (Wow! Remember THAT?!)

 It was two years ago today that I awoke in a world where Joe Strummer no longer lived. I don't like that idea. The way I found out was bad enough: The clock radio going off, on the horrid Top 40 station which was the only thing I could pick up on the poxy device. The idiot deejay went on to prove how little he knew or cared about Joe or the Clash in the manner in which he delivered the news: "The band pretty much died with the punk movement in the late '70s….Here's 'Rock the Casbah'!"

I bawled. I bawled like I've bawled for few. This was no stupid rock star death: A man walks his dogs, sits by his fire, then succumbs to a heart ailment few have and which is never discovered until it kills you. But Joe Strummer was no stupid rock star, nor was he merely a rock star. The Clash were just like that. They went well beyond entertainment, and once you heard them, you expected all the other music you listened to, to live up to that standard, to actually Say Something. Otherwise, it was (as an obituary that ran in the NME put it) just "pathetic, patronizing noise."

I'm lucky enough to have seen the Clash when I was young. Very young – I was 14, and it was London Calling time. And that night had a major impact. That night was what made a musician out of me. Everything else paled next to this band onstage. There was so much passion, so much conviction pouring off that stage. And I'd dare say 75% of that came from Joe Strummer. In a band that had not one frontman, but three, Joe was still the most riveting. This was a man bursting to explode out of his own skin, wanting to reach every last person in the theater that night, wanting to physically grab them, and scream, spittle flicking from his mouth, 'WAKE THE FUCK UP!! CAN'T YOU SEE WHAT'S GOING ON OUT THERE?!! THIS WORLD HAS GONE FUCKING MAD!!! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?!!"

That was it. I was a punk rocker. I was a rock 'n' roll musician. I wanted to play guitar with as much beautiful ferocity as Mick Jones, look as cool and move with as much animalistically sexual grace as Paul Simonon, and attack with as much heart and passion as Joe Strummer. I basically wanted to be the Clash. I wanted to reach hearts and minds like the Clash did, disseminate all the essential information about Life And How It Works like the Clash did, be as important as the Clash were. And still are. I still do.

They just don't make bands like that anymore. They don't make men like Joe Strummer anymore. I will never forget reading a Rolling Stone profile of the Clash around the time I saw that show. It began with Strummer smoking and swearing at the management of the theater they were playing in San Francisco, insistent that the first ten rows of seats be removed.

"We can't do that! People have bought tickets for those seats!"

Strummer insisted that anyone there to see the Clash wanted to dance, and wouldn't want to be seated. "Don't you see? Our audience will RIP those fucking seats out!" Then he said if anyone complained, he'd personally reach in his pocket and refund them, and said he would get on his hands and knees with a screwdriver himself and remove those seats if he had to.

That anecdote says almost everything you need to know about Joe Strummer. Would Nikki fucking Sixx do this? Would he be so committed? Would Fred fucking Durst? I don't think so.

If Napalm Stars have a 116th of the impact or importance of the Clash, I would be a very happy man. The Clash are still reaching hearts and minds to this day, although I sometimes wonder on what level: I know young Clash fans who voted for Bush and said they'd go to fight in Iraq. If Strummer were alive to hear such a contradictory thought stream coming out of such supposed fans, I know he'd be giving these kids a death stare and asking, "Have you been fucking listening to anything I've sung?"

I could go on a lot longer. Instead, let me leave you with the words to a song I wrote days after Joe's death, about the power he and the Clash had on lives like mine. It's called "(I Come From) A Place Like Any Other."

I knew what I wanted
But I didn't know how
To make a noise that made some sense somehow
I heard somebody singing
It made all the difference
He showed me where all the answers were hidden
And when the world said no
Rock 'n' roll said yes
And when the world said go
Rock said, "Go west, young man!"
Go west, young man….
I come from a place like any other

I wrote endless poison
About my lack of power
Practiced all my moves in front of the mirror
I bought my first Fender
Used off some beggar
And went off in search of the perfect error
I want to hear that sound
Burns louder than a guitar army
I want a life that burns
Burns louder than a guitar army
A guitar army….
I come from a place like any other

I want a life that burns
I want a life that burns right now
I want a life that burns
I want a life that burns right now
Now and forever….
I come from a place like any other
I come from a place like any other

Friday, December 21, 2012

Best Of 2012, Part 1: Personal Bests

'Tis December, when us cultural commentators (even those, like me, whose opinions  no one really gives two shits about - I'm not delusional about how small my audience is: I look at Google Stats!) turn to summing things up in some sort of list. Which is really a load of masturbation. Who honestly cares what ANYONE thinks was the best record of the year was? I mean, really? It's all a matter of opinion, anyway. No one's an authority....

Still, taking some stock is good for the soul. And it keeps me occupied. I think the best action for me would be to post a list of the good things that happened in my personal life this year. Count your blessings and all that, right?

So, what made the busted ankle, living in vermin-infested motels, barely eating, and fleeing Denver by the skin of my teeth worthwhile? How about:

  • Playing Music Again

(l-r) Tim Napalm and Dave Mansfield, Colorado Springs, Sept. 2012 (pic: Leslie Stoneburner)

2012: The year I was able to finally buy an amp and return to rock 'n' roll trench warfare.  I found myself in Dave Mansfield's Roxy Suicide, playing lead guitar to some smashingly glamtastic punk rock thoroughly steeped in Ramones/Dolls/Cramps seasoning. In the process, we played some storming dates, including some shows opening for Wednesday 13 and those power pop sleaze-rockers supreme The Biters. And I have to say: Dave's a fine songwriter and front-man who really knows how to work a stage and a crowd, while Mike and Olivia were as tight and powerful a rhythm section as I've ever had the pleasure to work with. I also took on a pair of unusual solo dates playing birthday parties, including a set of '80s new wave covers suitably retooled for my punk rock approach, and another set of Hormones/Napalm Stars hits rendered by just me, my Les Paul, and my Fender Super Champ as if I thought I was Billy Bragg or something. 

But the best thing to come from returning to rock 'n' roll was....

  • The Alice Bag Gig 
(l-r) Me and Alice Bag, Wax Trax Records, Denver, CO., July 2012 (pic: Mike Carr)
A seminal punk rock performer you have immense respect for writes you at Facebook and asks if you'll play guitar for her. Do you take the gig? Wow, how silly are you? Alice was on the latest leg of the indie tour she's undertaken to promote her excellent book, Violence Girl, pulling into the local indie punk rock record shop and reading select passages, then performing a corresponding song with a local guitar player of her choosing. In this case, it was Denver's Wax Trax Records and me. This was an honor and a real pleasure. Alice is a real sweetheart and a powerful performer, her voice having lost nothing over the years. We enjoyed such a great personal and musical chemistry, we agreed we need to work together again. So, be looking for a duet or  two in the future. One of the greatest musical experiences of my life, seriously.

Besides, it meant I got to play "Babylonian Gorgon" with the original artist:

  • Moving Back To Austin - Swore I wouldn't live here again, after the hash I made of things the last time I was here. But this is turning out to be the wisest move I've made in awhile. The community really stepped in and helped me in getting back on my feet, and my transition back has been smooth. If things can just keep on their current track, all will be fine.

          Besides, had I not moved here, I might never have had the following opportunity....

  • Meeting Johnny Rotten  

Yup. It Happened! (pic: Chip Crowley)
NEVER thought I'd see this day! Yes, I had a very pleasant telephone interview with this major hero of mine in 1996, for The Austin Chronicle.  And I went to PiL's Fun Fun Fun Fest gig merely thinking I was seeing Lydon's fine new reincarnation of PiL, and seeing my old friend (and Napalm Stars producer) Tony Barber, ex-Buzzcocks bassist and now-Pil bass tech. I did not realize I would be led to John Lydon's backstage tent! Nor that I would have a very pleasant, wide-ranging, 2-hour conversation that ran all over the map. He bade me a warm farewell at the end. I genuinely felt I'd made a new friend. Not anything I expected from the evening, or from Johnny Rotten. Very pleasant, indeed.

Well, time to get on with my Mayan doomsday. I have a job to go to, apocalypse be damned! Stay tuned as I try to think of the best CDs, books, movies, etc., that I enjoyed this year. Ta!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

*Cough!* *Cough!* Wow, It's Dusty and Cobwebby Around Here, Isn't It...?

Tim and his blog are back! Shut up!
*scratches his head, rubs his eyes, takes another sip of coffee* Man, how could this joint get into such a state of neglect and disrepair...?

Yep, here I am. I found my keys, after months of drama, and I'm here to clean up the blog, splash a new coat of paint up, and let you know I can really shake 'em down. I report to you from the lushly appointed New Napalm HQ  in the beautiful, newly gentrified east side of Austin, TX.

My crack tech team has refurbished the Napalm Tech Center (i.e. - built me a screamin' new computer). Which means I can now blog away rudderless, seat belt unbuckled and crash bag disconnected. So, we's freewheelin' now, chillens!

I really have no topic of conversation today. (Like that ever stopped me before!) But I should wish a pair of belated happy birthdays to a pair of historic figures, the first one being my mother. The second being Little Richard. If I have to explain Mr. Penniman to you, you're beyond hope or help. Thanks for saving us all from a lifetime of Patti Page, Richard....

Friday, November 2, 2012

Yep, I'm back in Austin....

I know. It kinda caught me by surprise, too. But it's okay. I'm already doing better.

Things fell apart dramatically and rapidly in Denver. I love the town, really. But I found myself instantly one step from living on the streets, with no options, almost overnight. And no real security network to fall on.

After searching out other options, it was apparent I needed to come home. And Austin is home: It was apparent, the way old friends and the old school music community here have been so embracing and welcoming and helpful.

Right off, I landed a house-sitting gig, and an apartment to follow in a few days from this posting. And the old boys have come through with (non-music) gigs to keep me in cash until I get a permanent job. Once all those details are settled, I can get back to playing music and writing and all the other stuff I occupy my spare time with.

Meantime, I'm doing well. Better than I have in ages, in fact. And it's getting better all the time. I'm home. I wish I'd been more appreciative of that fact when I left in 2009....

Friday, August 3, 2012

Not a corndog pic. Much uglier than that....

Goddammit! And here I was, enjoying a months'-long, Palin-free news section! What the hell?

This loudmouth, TOO?! And here I was thinking the American press was finally tired of documenting every hot breath this blowhard exhales! What's going on?

Honestly, I could give two wet shits what a crappy, Christian-run fast food chain thinks, re: gay marriage. Chik-Fil-A is about as tasty as raw cardboard on a bun, anyway. Mind you, if it was In & Out Burger or Viva Burrito making such statements? I'd be pissed - I'd hate to have to avoid such levels of tastiness because it didn't jibe with my politics, dammit!

But, really! Why did the press have to go digging under whatever rock this torturous trio's been hiding under? Do they really need the oxygen of publicity even more?!

As for intolerant Christians, I say, "Let 'em eat Chik-Fil-A." It just proves even their tastebuds are wrong....

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Okay, We Can't Seem To Find A Mitt Romney Corn Dog Pic....

...but would you settle for him chowing down on a fried pork chop?

Remember, kids: Friends don't let friends vote for Mormon Republican millionaires who help pioneer outsourcing. Thank you.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Out Of Traction, Back In Action....

I'm rather fond of that photo up there. That's Yerz Truly in 1995, onstage with The Hormones at The Green Onion in San Antonio, TX. Over my shoulder: My trusty Les Paul Jr. that I wish I'd never lost to the pawn shop in 1999. To my right: Ron Williams, my musical soul mate, with whom I wish I was still making music. In this photo, we are busily christening the stage at The Green Onion, the Sons Of Hercules' club, the first band to take it.

There was a time when this was a regular occurrence in my life. I lived to make music. I haven't been able to in a long time. And that is now changing.

Two years ago, after interviewing Iggy And The Stooges guitarist James Williamson for Guitar World magazine, I was able to purchase the first guitar I've owned since I lost all my gear to the economic collapse in 2008. Last weekend, I finally finished paying off the first amp I've owned since then.

I have the bare bones now: A guitar, an amp, and a tuner. I can return to what I do best.

Quietly, over the past year, I've met musicians I feel would make a fine new lineup of The Hormones here in Denver. Once I can hash out a rehearsal schedule that can synch with everyone's lives, we'll get to work. I've also joined Dave Mansfield's new band The Roxy Suicide, strictly as their guitarist. So, for the first time in my musical life, I'll be pulling double duty.

This moment means a lot to me. I've honestly felt lost, not being able to make music for so long. And if you look at the last decade, I've been kept off the stage and out of the studio for most of it, due to personal circumstances. I've now got an overload of songs to bring to life, and to bring to the public.

So, yeah. Part of the pledge I made earlier this year -   1) Return to music with a new Hormones lineup; and 2) finally finish and publish my novel  - is coming to pass. Now I have to tend to the other part of that pledge.

Meantime, I'm talking to a label or two. You should be seeing Hormones music, new and old, before the year is out. Meantime, I've set up a Hormones page at Facebook, under construction as I try to piece the band's history together. Please feel free to add it to keep apprised of news as we kick this corpse back to life. You should also add The Roxy Suicide's Facebook page, to keep abreast of that band's movements.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have songs to write. Thanks for reading this.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

To Hype A Good Buddy's New Radio Venture....

Rev. Norb demonstrates his amazing shadow puppet prowess.
My Irregulars! I interrupt my unemployment to bring you excellent news for all who mourn the death of "RADIO NAPALM!" Punk Boss Radio LIVES! Rejoice! And it's all due to my longest-lived friend in the entire punk community! The man New Bomb Turk Eric Davidson expertly proclaimed was the other side of a coin I had no idea I was part of! A man who proclaimed in a nationally-published Boris The Sprinkler tour diary that I was possibly more manic than he and needed to lay off the Dr. Pepper! A man who made it into both The Encyclopedia Of Punk and herr Davidson's We Never Learn, even if I didn't! We ("we," of course, meaning "I") are referring to the one and only REV. NORB!

Not Rev. Norb, but an incredible simulation!

*ahem!* Anyway...Norbie has begun a new weekly podcast series at the almighty GaragePunk Hideout called "Bubblegum Fuzz." As should be indicated by the title, the one-hour, downloadable show is hairline-deep in the sorta garage/punk/power-pop gunk that's been the righteous Rev's cup-o-meat as long as I've known him. (No, don't ask either of us how long that's been! We choose not to remind ourselves and each other of our geezerhood....) I mean, dig the playlists! Von Zippers? Dwarves? Little Killers? Monkees? Paul Revere And The Raiders? The Ruts? The A-Bones? Slickee Boys? Plastic Bertrand? Len Price 3? How can ya go wrong?

All this and Norbie's patented graphic touch, too? How can you go wrong?

Factor in Norb's patented motormouth baritone backtrack sections (that voice was MEANT for radio!), and you have one hell of an entertaining listen! Seriously: "Bubblegum Fuzz" is very much irritating my jones to return to radio! (WHICH WILL NOT HAPPEN! At least, not this year.) So, whaddaya waitin' for?! Traipse over to Norb's GaragePunk Hideout blog and commence to clicking and downloading! It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on in 2012! Over and out....

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A James Williamson guitar lesson!

Oh, you kids don't know how good you have it! In my day, I had to stand over a turntable (that thing we used to listen to music on - yeah, kinda the iPod of our time! Pay attention!) and play Raw Power at half-speed, guitar in hand, to try and figure out the savage six-string stranglin's James Williamson was emanating. But thanks to a School Of Rock in Michigan (home state of Iggy And The Stooges, obviously), you can now learn directly from the master himself how to properly  bash out "Search And Destroy!" (And I emphasize "properly": Turns out there have been certain nuances I've gotten wrong this whole time....) So, whaddaya waitin' for? Grab your Les Paul, set the amp controls to "stun," and watch Straight James give you the straight dope on "Search And Destroy!"

Saturday, February 11, 2012

And in more fun news, happy birthday to Gene Vincent!

I fully realize I've already posted all over my Facebook wall about today being the birthday of the one Fifties rock 'n' roll pioneer who was likely the degenerate thug rock's detractors claimed all rock 'n' roll musicians were in the day. (Dammit, I really need to think twice about FB posting material that might be better for a blog.) But Eugene Vincent Craddock deserves celebration. He was primal, lusty, lowdown, and could still sing like an angel when needed. Elvis Presley's drummer, DJ Fontana (who was a Blue Cap for six months when Presley was drafted into the Army), verified that Gene and his Blue Caps were the pre-Keith Moon definition of rock 'n' roll hellraising on the road, to the point where he had to quit the band! And Gene's music? It had more thump, sex, swagger, and menace than anyone this side of Elvis. Case in point? Click below....

"Be Bop A Lula," the record that started it all. It confused Gladys Presley to the point she called her boy Elvis on the road to congratulate him on his new hit, "Be Bop A Lula!" What you just saw is Gene and the Blue Caps' immortal performance of it in the best Fifties rock 'n' roll film bar none, Frank Tashlin's The Girl Can't Help It, also featuring Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Jayne Mansfield's million watt sexuality. Does it get any better?

Unlike Elvis and many other contemporaries, Gene suffered a leg injury in the service which prevented him from indulging the hip-thrusting gyrations other early rockers employed. Once he got to England, UK rock impresario Jack Goode draped him in black leather and chains and urged him to limp even more pronouncedly, turning him into some Shakespearean villain of rock. It drove the English and Europeans wild. Dig Gene in Belgium in the early '60s, predicting punk rock with a crazed performance of "Long Tall Sally," complete with a crutch-hurling entrance that's just pure rock 'n' roll attitude!

I only just discovered today, however, that Gene made contemporary, small label records during his '60s commercial twilight that were as vital and rocking as any he cut in the Capitol Records Tower in his heyday. Such as this garage punk (!) screamer, "Bird-Doggin'," featuring Gene backed by The Wrecking Crew getting low-down and dirty. Glen Campbell, of all people, even turns in some crazed, fuzz-drenched lead guitar!

I was even hipped to Gene having done some credible Byrds-influenced folk rock in this period, none of which is embarrassing. Think about that: Under the radar, Gene Vincent was still contemporary and vital. The only other peers of his doing strong, modern work at that time were the Everly Brothers and Dion. Elvis was losing his touch in Hollywood, wondering what the hell had happened. And Gene just rocked on....

Happy birthday, Gene. You really were the Living End....

Okay, it's ALMOST a corn dog pic....

...and given how he's currently the most vehemently anti-gay presidential candidate running at the moment, I'm sure none of us would be surprised if photos surface with something more fleshy entering Rick Santorum's gob than this ice cream cone. And the clown cars continue unloading these over-sized goofs....

Monday, February 6, 2012

Okay, so it isn't a corndog pic....

...but the idea of these assholes being shipwrecked is kinda appealing, isn't it?

I know this was already posted at my Facebook wall, but isn't this as good an opportunity as any to note I have a new "Letter From America" post at Louder Than War? Follow the bouncing links for the latest sarcasm about American politics, as well as some praise for The Jim Jones Revue and OFF! See you there!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Year-End Inventory III: Books I Dug

Alice Bag greets you from the cover of Slash,  May 1978.
Greetings, my Irregulars, from Your Irregular-In-Chief. It's a chilly, sunny Sunday afternoon in Denver. I'm in my friend's apartment, X live bootlegs on the hi-fi, a glass of cool, fresh water at my hand. My leg is healing nice-like, the advent of an ACE bandage doing wonders in my recovery and mobility. The leg's still tender and I have to be careful with it. But the pain's more like a dull ache now, rather than the skull-piercing shredding of my nerve endings it has been, which has made me a prisoner of a bed or couch for a few weeks now. That feels like a massive improvement. So, back to work for real, tomorrow.

I come to you today realizing I'd promised a reading wrap-up for last year. I do have to say that, due to funds, etc., that 2011 was not a year I either purchased or read much that was new. For the most part, I caught up on oldies I'd yet to read from either other pals' collections (such as Charlie Solus' vast James Ellroy archives) or things I found in thrift stores or used book stores for cheap. In the case of Ellroy, I had to marvel at his crisp, clean language, the brutal honesty, the ability to use real life events as a literary springboard, and his amazing ability to capture marginal life in mid-century Los Angeles (as well as pulling back the rocks and exposing the worms and snakes crawling beneath the city's showbiz surface). What strikes me as Ellroy's peak, American Tabloid, goes well-beyond the L.A. city limits to encompass the whole of America in the '60s, which is a rather daunting task. Still, he accomplishes that with ease, and the rest of his oeuvre definitely places him as the latest in a long line of great poets of Los Angeles' underside: Raymond Chandler, Charles Bukowski, even John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Bless him for that.

Then there are my other newfound discoveries: Alex Cox's X Films: True Confessions Of A Radical Filmmaker (Soft Skull Press, Berkeley, CA, 2008), which not only offers frequently hilarious behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of Repo Man, Sid And Nancy, and various other Cox films that aren't as well-known, but also serves as a primer in how to be an independent artist in an increasingly corporate world, with all the joy, rewards, and ugliness therein; Mark Evanier's Kirby: King Of Comics (Abrams, New York, NY, 2008), a huge, lavish, hardbound celebration of the man who was arguably the greatest comic book artist ever, Jack Kirby; Billy F. Gibbons' Rock & Roll Gearhead (with Tom Vickers, 2008; softcover edition from Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2011), loads of hilarious philosophy and autobiography around the edges of beautiful photographs of the vast twin guitar and custom car archives of the ZZ Top guitarist – eye candy deluxe(!); and John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy Of Dunces (Grove Press, New York, NY, 1980), possibly the funniest novel I've ever read, and certainly the best I've read set in New Orleans or in the early '60s. How this has never been made into an equally epic and hilarious film is beyond me; Jack Black would certainly make a great Ignatius J. Reilly....

Of the few new titles that jumped into my shopping bag last year, my favorite was Alice Bag's Violence Girl (381 pages, $17.95 softcover, Feral House, Port Townshend, WA 2011, Subtitled East L.A. Rage To Hollywood Stage: A Chicana Punk Story, this should clue you in to what's great about it: It's not just another punk book. True, Alice Bag is as iconic figure as Darby Crash or anyone from that Masque scene. She was of that original generation of fierce punk rock women (Patti Smith, Penelope Houston, Joan Jett, Exene, The Slits, Poly Styrene) who made questions of gender irrelevant and inspired with their brilliance, their ferocity, and their righteousness. But there's a lot more to this book.

Like I said, this isn't merely an L.A. punk history. This is Alice Bag's story. So we get taken back to that environment which spawned Alice: From her parents' origins in Mexico to the Los Angeles barrios where she was raised. We see that Alice was given an odd mixture of love and abuse, mostly due to her father. He would tell young Alicia she was exceptional, that she could do anything, and nurtured her artistry...then lash out in drunken rage at her mother in the next breath. She was equally shaped by weight issues and her own ethnicity, until a mix of the Chicano and glam rock movements in the early '70s helped her burst whatever shell was there and gave her pride and determination. Then came punk and the formation of The Bags. And Alice Bag emerged a sexy, rampaging, intelligent force.

L.A. critic Ken Tucker tries to turn the town onto The Bags...and then undersells their 45?!

Fortunately for her, despite some inclinations in that direction, Alice only dipped into the debauchery and self-destruction inherent in punk rock Los Angeles. Moving back into her parents' home midway through might have helped, giving her some literal and philosophical distance from the damage that was developing among her peers. And even after The Bags' imminent death, Alice kept creating, either musically or in other areas, and eventually graduated college and became a school teacher. As a teacher, she remained an activist, centering on educating and encouraging the underprivileged, even spending time teaching in Nicaragua in the mid-'80s. She continued following and acting on her principles and beliefs, and has benefited for that.

Amazing, what can be done with some photo booth strips and a Bic pen....

Like the Alex Cox book I mentioned earlier, Violence Girl should serve as an inspiration to the young artist and rebel: For once, the heroine doesn't self-destruct. Alice Bag stayed on the course, rose above, and keeps doing what she set out to do. Punk rock doesn't have to kill. Nor does environment. Yes, there are happy endings in punk rock – and life – sometimes....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Putting the "limp" in Olympics

Greetings, my Irregulars. I know it seems I've pulled another of my frequent disappearances. For good reason, this time around.

I've been forced by circumstances to lay a little low. Over two weeks ago, as I was walking to work at the temp service I'd been toiling at since I was suspended at my fund-raising job in late October, I slipped on some black ice and injured my right leg somehow. Not sure how, as I'm one of the mass of Americans with no health insurance. So no, I haven't seen a doctor.

Hence, since I had to move out of where I'd been living two days later, I've spent the last two weeks at first at one friend's house, then another, where I've finally settled 'til I've found a new place. I've no internet service there, and my cellphone is off for non-payment. I've essentially been isolated, in a lot of pain, my injured leg elevated and on ice, playing lots of guitar and writing a new song or two, and watching loads of cool and weird films provided by my buddy Tom. We're talking Russ Meyer homages, '60s Italian westerns, James Bond parodies, even the occasional rock documentary. (Thanks all that great eye candy, Tom. Your gift is a true sanity saver. BTW, Dear Reader: You should really check out his Denver Eye blog, at this link.)

Am I any better? Not sure. I'm just trying to get back into the world, on my way back to work at my old fund-raising job, as funds are low. I've been checking in daily, the last few days, at a coffee house along the bus route, to take advantage of the free wi-fi. But yes, I've found myself limping home and spending hours on ice to bring the swelling back down. I think I'm getting better. But this sure isn't healing as quickly as I'd like.

I know I promised to write about books and other eye candy I dug this past year. That'll have to wait for the next installment – an update was necessary this time around. Meantime, enjoy your non-crippled legs. I certainly look forward to the day I'm not channeling my late, arthritic grandpappy. (I mean, shitfire! How am I supposed to execute those flying scissorkicks when I'm hobbling around like this?! Although the introduction of the ACE bandage to my life has been quite revolutionary, I must say.) Be there. Aloha.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Year-End Inventory II: The Music

"Personally, I like the Bern Elliot and The Fenmen reissue!"

This is always the time of year your fave-rave cultural journalists love to compile Top Ten Lists of the stuff they got sent for free that they feel was important. I never enjoyed doing those lists - how egotistical can you get, making such grand pronouncements? Fact is, taste is individual, the brain is an imperfect memory bank, and something's gonna get left out that'll offend someone or other. Then again, most of my actions offend someone or other, it seems. So, what the eff...?

So, despite having retired from the rock critic fray in 1998 and only occasionally writing about music for pay in the years since, I know there's scores of people out there who still look at me as being a (*gulp*) "rock journalist." Not that they likely care what my opinions are on anything....

Still, for some odd reason, I can't resist doing a recap for the past year in culture. Guess I crave punishment, for some weird crime I'm unaware of....

Record Of The Year 2011: This had to have been the oddest musical year in my memory. I don't know about your memory. But I think we have official evidence of the destruction of the music business by the Oughts' technological revolution now being complete. I no longer have any accurate compass on new music, new bands, etc., etc. Now that music has been fully democratized and placed in the hands of The People by technology, it's harder to find the cream on the surface for the flood of people starting bands and releasing every note they play on MP3, etc. And my tastes are no longer in synch with Da Yoof, so I don't really know or get what people with a lot of facial hair like.

Yeah, I guess I'm officially old.

I do know that what filtered through to me last year were a number of strong releases from veteran bands, some of which I wrote about in this blog (Gang Of Four, Michael Monroe), some of which I didn't (Motorhead, UK Subs). But two records (yes, I still call 'em that, whether the source is digital or not) stand out in my mind from this past year: The New York Dolls' Dancing In High Heels Backwards (which I wrote about here) and one I didn't write about and should have, The First Four EPs by OFF!

That Dolls record, like everything the reformed New York Dolls have done, has been rather controversial. Some people are just never going to get over the absence of Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, and Arthur Kane. And many expressed to me that Dancing.... sounded less like the Dolls to them than the previous pair of studio albums by the reunion lineup. That actually might be one of the strengths of Dancing....: It broke from the sound of the last two albums, and even broke from Dolls tradition with its strange, almost avant garde production. Less reliant on raunchy guitars and more on atmosphere and songs, this also may have hewed closer to the Dolls' classic spirit than anything they'd done since their heyday. Why? Because it's almost surely the Dolls' tribute to their girl group roots, right down to the faithful cover of Patti LaBelle and The Bluebells' "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman." It's a solid album through-and-through, and one of the two new discs I reached for the most this past year.

OFF!'s Steven McDonald (l) and Keith Morris (r) sandwiching yours' truly, Denver, CO., Oct., 2011 (pic: Adams Pinkston)

The other release, by OFF!, is both a throwback and a shockingly vital, brand new blast. Fronted by punk rock force-of-nature Keith Morris (do I have to tell you he was in Circle Jerks and Black Flag?!) and featuring members of Redd Kross (Steven McDonald), Burning Brides (Dimitri Coats), and Rocket From The Crypt (Mario Rubalcaba), this is hardcore punk as it was originally intended: A solid blast of intensity. This isn't about speed or politics (except in the most personal, real-life terms possible). This is about raw power, anger, and sheer release. Keith's performance, on this record and live, is especially potent. He's unleashing something, and you can't help but pay attention to this unfiltered torrent of emotion and spleen. This band could be a one-band revolution all in themselves. Bless 'em.

Coming soon: My picks in books, movies, etc. Enjoy!