Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Belated Deathday

Today while listening to an April 15 edition of WFMU's Three Chord Monte program, DJ Joe Belock mentioned that not only was it tax day but also the 7th anniversary of Joey Ramone's death. Seven years!

Joey Ramone - seven feet tall, skinny, ugly, coke bottle glasses - was, and still is, one of the most instantly recognisable and arguably most important figures in rock & roll. Many of my peers may scoff at remarks like this because they think the last good rock record was J Geils or Bob Seger, and the youngsters just consider him an old dead guy, but were it not for Joey Ramone you probably wouldn't be listening to whatever you listen to today, unless its Jay-Z or Mariah Carey in which case who gives a shit about you & your shitty musical opinions anyway.

In 1976 Creem Magazine started reporting on The Ramones (Rolling Stone was too "hip" to cover them - yeah, & today's issues are like a 21st century Tiger Beat). Growing up I thought the new stuff was always - always - worth listening to (how else did we get to Beatles & Stones?), and since a lot of the Creem journalists had New York ties in one way or another, The Ramones & the burgeoning downtown NY punk scene was getting a lot of coverage, way before any punk rock records were released. I was listening to Bowie and Roxy Music at the time so I couldn't for the life of me imagine what The Ramones sounded like, their name was like they were a Latino band - like Santana or something. I had heard Patti Smith in '75 but was disappointed because I thought it was just not polished enough or rockin' enough - that's fair, but at the time I didn't quite understand the scene. So on my 23rd birthday I dropped my ex-wife at her grandparents and went round the corner to the local Harmony House stockists & took a chance on the first Ramones lp, hoping it wasn't another Patti Smith art-fest (although I bought that one the previous year, too). I was used to taking chances -I bought Roxy Music because Melody Maker said 'brilliant!'- and everything in Creem pointed to this being a safe bet.

As soon as that needle hit the grooves everything changed, and forever after (the Pistols took it a step further the following year, but thankfully that was the nature of the scene). Buzzsaw guitars, solid four-four drums, and Joey's voice was a mixture of British pop and New York pizza parlor. They came informed by 50's rock'n'roll. The British Invasion. Girl Groups. Brill Building. Phil Spector. They had a great sense of humor: "beat on the brat with a baseball bat", "now I wanna sniff some glue", "I don't wanna walk around with you so why you wanna walk around with me" - hyuk, it was like Mad Magazine came to life! Alfred E. Newman backed by The Who!

I talked two friends into seeing The Ramones first ever Detroit show in September 1976. We went to the 10:30 late show, and people were exiting the venue from the early show, obviously very excited about what they had just witnessed, yelling & screaming, echoing Dee Dee Ramone's shouted-out "one-two-three-four!" intros. My friends and I looked at each other in disbelief - the streets were filled with people, happy people. We were definitely going to see something big. We were well oiled by showtime. They hit the stage & never stopped. I remember standing in front of the stage & singing along to every song (I had been listening to the album pretty much non-stop for the past three months - everything else seemed so old fashioned) Fifteen or sixteen songs in about 30 minutes. And it was such an energetic and powerful show that I certainly did not feel short changed by the length of the set. And besides shortly thereafter I had read that's all they knew how to play. Perfect!

There are two Ramones dvds that are must-haves: "End Of The Century" which tells the entire story better than anything I could ever hint at, and "It's Alive!" which is three hours plus of 20-some years of live performances.

The Ramones were the tightest band ever, there was no fat - no guitar solos, no drum solos, no song over three minutes (most of 'em clocking in at just two), and they were true rock'n'roll fans, you could tell. Reports many years later from different cities echoed the same thing, that after they hit town a definite local scene had started where previously there was none. Detroit was probably no exception, except that they never know how to sustain & grow. Maybe Detroit WAS the exception: Bookie's, the only punk club in town, didn't open until two years later.

The Ramones lasted more than twenty years and their vision was singular. Their sound got bigger, and faster, unbelievable as that may seem. And they were pretty much great for most of that time. They became massive world-wide, and that's without radio airplay (TV picked up "Blitzkrieg Bop" for commercials long after their demise). Joey died from lymphatic cancer in 2001. Bassist Dee Dee Ramone died two months after they were inducted into the Rock&Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002, and guitarist Johnny Ramone went after him in 2004, also a cancer victim, the same day the Ramones museum opened in Berlin (still the only one to this day). Only Dee Dee's death was drug related. Drummer Tommy Ramone is the sole remaining member, and ironically he left the band after the first three albums.

In addition, it was also 37 years ago that I participated in my first major anti-war protest march. It was April 30, 1971, the march on the Warren Tank Plant. The first car that picked me up hitchiking to the rally died en route; the second was involved in an accident, totalling the car.

Gabba Gabba Hey!

Monday, April 28, 2008


My hot water heater died this weekend. It had been ill for apparently quite some time. I knew it hadn't been well, but just how poorly it was doing was a mystery to me - until Saturday.

Water had been leaking from what I call "the workshop" (may as well been called "the boudoir" or maybe "conjunction junction") out to the main play area. Which meant it passed under a wall, which has visible moisture, luckily at this point only visible from the workshop, or back, side. Imagine the sinking feeling in my gut when my every squishy step produced water gushing from the sides of my plimsoles. This scene is not what I planned for this weekend. Not even close.

And even though I very much enjoy making purchases (ask anyone), I didn't want to buy a new hot water heater nor a wet/dry vac. (I did get a new shirt & some socks. It was like an aspirin.) So I've been sucking the water out of the carpet. Actually that is the wet/dry vac's job.

This disaster brought about a bittersweet discovery. I came across a forgotten box of shotglasses, about a hundred in all, that I had stored guess where, in the workshop, against guess what, "the wall". The box was a soft, wet, green furry delight. The inside, which contained individually wrapped shotglasses from Grayling to Greece, was equally wet & green. I spent quite some time unwrapping them, and soaking them in cool (dead h.w.h, remember?) soapy water & rinsing them off. I'll give them a nice hot bath within the next day or so. I have to find a new storage place for them.

So late Saturday night, as I occasionally do, I stuck on some headphones to spin a few discs before bedtime (the brand new Breeders is very good - maybe their best since their first, "Pod". Very un-rock, and literally no "Cannonball"-type hits that I can surmise). All the while my mind is dwelling on the whole thing ahead of me. The cleaning, the possibilities of mildew & stink, water damage. I couldn't take it anymore. One last spin before signing off:

Von Sudenfed "Flooded"
A few sputtering thoughts:

This past weekend saw not only water soaked carpeting but this year's Coachella Music Fest in Indio, California. Usually known for its eclectic and artistically-forward lineups, someone must've hired their freshman-term campus-awed nephew to cast his vote on pick-the-talent day: mid-afternoon who-gives-a-shit timeslot for the mighty Verve, but HEADLINING SET BY JACK JOHNSON??!!!?? I'm guessing too many bong-hits for new intern and Uncle Chairman-of-the-Board's chip-off-the-ol'-block Justin. Or Jason, or whatever his wonder bread name is.

I hate the show "Brothers & Sisters" and every single cast member on it. And now with Danny Glover in a guest-starring role I have to turn the volume up full blast to hear him deliver his I-can't-speak-past-this-whisper lines. My wife said something about he had a throat problem. I googled "why does danny glover whisper" and after three pages nothing sympathetic came up. So what's his problem, speak up fer Chrissakes.

Lewis Black is funny, but not as a comedy show host. "The Root Of All Evil" casts him as moderator of a debate on who is the evilest between two questionable entities, argued by two third-rate comics. The episode I saw was "Dick Cheney v. Paris Hilton" with Patton Oswalt (the other fat guy from King Of Queens) and Greg Geraldo (some other unfunny loser) and the funniest part was the beginning of the show when Lewis Black was explaining who they were. After that it was all downhill - more like free-falling. I erased the other episodes I DVR'd.

That's it; back to swabbing the deck.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Show & Tell

I was behind a shiny new jeep today at a red light. I noticed the driver fidgeting, endlessly. As I continued to watch him (how could I not - he was in front of me), I was getting more & more pissed, like what is your problem, just sit still. It was like he dropped a french fry between his legs, or lost the hot ash off his cigarette or something. Anyway, then I noticed the tell-tale verification that he was an asshole:

Backwards baseball cap

Ooohh, I hate that look almost as much as the askew tilted sideways baseball cap. Who was this jeepster - Vanilla Ice? K-Fed? Doug from King Of Queens? I don't know, but I now wanted to ram his jeep. Then I saw, just before he took off from the light, a "Survivor" sticker on his back window. I know you can probably get these anywhere. Maybe he belongs to a fantasy survivor tribe, I don't know. Anyway, I swear the sticker said "Road To Nana". Maybe it was some other word, but I think it was "nana". This added to my agitation with this guy. Did he survive a Thanksgiving day road trip to Grandma's house? Over the river & through the woods, only to find Jeff Probst there to tell him he was voted off the dinner table.

Well, OK, on to something else.

I was informed by reader fat'n'sassy that Al Wilson died. He sang "Show & Tell" - an r&b slow-boiler from the early 70's. He also sang "The Snake", about a woman who digs a snake so much, because he's so beautiful etc, etc, that she takes him home with her but is shocked when he bites her. His reply "You knew I was a snake when you agreed to take me in". Let that be a lesson to you, ladies. Show & tell indeed!

Another Al Wilson has been dead for decades. He nickname was "Blind Owl" and he played guitar & harmonica for Canned Heat, a 60's west coast blues combo. He was unique in that his compositions and interpretations of blues classics were always like blues from Mars. F'rinstance, take the perennial chestnut "On The Road Again". He put a droning tabla just under the melody all through the thing. More Delhi than Delta, if you get my meaning. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. He toyed with time signatures and unusual chords and keys, but his music was always informed by the blues, usually from the 30's or 40's rather than the electric big city type. Most of his stuff went unnoticed due to its non-commercial nature. Some of it did filter through, like his other hit contribution "Going Up The Country". which featured flutes in the hook.

So now The Snake & The Blind Owl will be face-to-face. Can both survive in harmony?

Or will one be voted off on the road to Nana?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I hate politics, I hate the discussion of politics, I hate the politics of politics. But my man Michael Musto (whatever, homophobes) has a post on his often hilarious, occasionally brilliant blog that you should check out. It really hit home for me and you should just read it. And then check out his regular column (la dolce musto) on a regular basis because he is a scream. But be forwarned and I hate that I even have to say that but he does fly the rainbow flag, except he's from New York so it's frequently caked with puke & whatnot. But he's just a real hoot.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Savage Beast Has Been Soothed

Record Store Day 2008 was a success. For me, anyway. I stocked up on a lot of jazz nuggets that I didn't have. However, that Roy Wood album wasn't in stock, but orderable, so that'll be coming in shortly. No luck with the Ray Charles or Sinatra ('sokay, I have them on vinyl, they'll be digital soon) & I forgot to look for the Ike & Tina Turner album. But good luck & viya con dios to all disc shop proprietors world-wide!
Some unexpected benefits: I got two free sampler CDs of stuff I may or may not like. I also got a one year free subscription to Paste magazine. What I didn't like was that this independent record store had signs and posters plastered all over the place from the local adult-oriented rock station. That would mean U2, REM, Coldplay, Rilo Kiley, Ben Harper, Feist ... need I go on? I think their slogan is The Castration of the American Soundtrack.
But anyway I escaped with a bundle of stuff at much less than a bundle's worth of cost. And I feel good about it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's not only the eve of Hitler's birthday

If you're reading this before April 19, then you know what you should be doing: you should get your comfy shoes on & flex your wallet or chequebook (that was fun) and get ready-steady-go for record store day!

If it's after April 19, then the following applies:

Wasn't that fun?!? Whad'ya get? Really?? That's great!!

or maybe this:

What??!!!?? Didn't I tell you this was a necessary get-involved event? Well, when the day comes where you'll only be able to get Clay Aiken & Miley Cyrus versions of the current day's hits, and you can only get them on QVC, well, I told you so!!!

Anyway, I'm ready! I'm going for that recently re-released and remastered Roy Wood Boulders album. And maybe some killer Reggae comps (nothing past 1982 or so; after that dancehall took over & you might as well listen to hip-hop). Also looking for Sinatra's suicide-inducer "She Shot Me Down", Maybe a nice clean copy of The Kinks "Lola..." on CD, maybe some Lee Hazelwood or some French Ye-Ye girl pop from the '60's. And I'm always looking for "Twist With Ray Charles", which was originally called something else but they changed the title to cash in on the twist craze only thing is I don't know what it was called first. And Ike & Tina's "Come Together" album. And maybe the first two volumes of the complete Motown singles box sets which means you get all the odd & rare stuff, too. See, I'm ready!!!

But seriously, like I said before, the record emporium owners need people to support them. They provide such a necessary service. Don't let mass anonymous consumerism render them obsolete like home delivery dairy, honest-to-goodness pizzaria pizza, Saturday afternoon horror movie TV shows and, of course, hashish (damn that ultra-affordable and ultra-available crack!).

Next week, I'll bore you with what I got. I expect you to do the same.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Who Took My Ensure?

This past weekend I saw the Scorsese/Stones film "Shine A Light", in Imax. I suggest if you're gonna see it, partake in The Imax Experience.

I was prepared to not like this, because I hate Mick Jagger & obviously his grizzly puss is gonna be all over that thing. But I was interested in seeing what Marty did with them.

And now I tell you: Go see this film.

I haven't associated The Rolling Stones with rock & roll for years. They're just ... there. Bowie, glam & the promise of new sensations in the 70's rendered them old hat by 1972, but they had a second wind in 1978 due to the worldwide punk insurgence. They were forced to do something since truth be told most of that delinquent snotty mess was their fault to begin with. So as a result we got the brilliant "Some Girls" album, then it was back to being shite.

Anyway, "Shine A Light". Here are some observations:

- Mick Jagger can not dance. Typical white guy, but he can move his hips because he's had fantastic (one would assume) sex. He can march, or flail his arms randomly and point to anything & anyone that may or may not be there. But make no mistake, he is in control. And this digital sound must really be something, because I finally heard many lyrics that I misheard for decades, or maybe he just changed them because he's old & forgot 'em.

- Ron Wood & Keith Richard suck as individual guitarists, but in tandem they are passable. Maybe they just don't give a shit anymore. I seem to recall they used to be pretty good, especially Woody (go back and listen to old Faces albums), and even though Keith could always coast because he had another guitarist to cover for him, he seemed quite capable of lifting a decent Chuck Berry riff or two. But after you've ripped off Chuck Berry for forty-five years, you'd think someone of his stature could add something more. But I still love him, crazy ass motherf@%ker.

- At close to 70 years of age Charlie Watts apparently counts to four better than anyone else, but that's really about the extent of it. No tricky beats or contapuctal grooves here. And it's nothing to do with his age, he's always been this way. (Oh, hi Ringo!) His classic scene: at the end of "All Down The Line" (the first real rockin' moment of the film), the camera zeroes in on him and he's visually winded, huffing and puffing& rolling his eyes, you can imagine him thinking, "shit, that was a workout. I need a break". It's a great moment on film, I just can't put it across on this blog.

- Hillary Clinton's mother thinks she herself is Mick Jagger. The Stones wait around for her to materialize for a meet-and-greet since this show was a benefit for some Clinton-backed organization. Is this why Mick had no problem dropping the occasional "f" bomb during the show? Take that, late-coming mama!

- Christina Aguilera can unarguably carry a tune, has nice pins, knows how to work a stage, but has no idea how to sing a rock'n'roll song. All things that can also be accomplished by Clay Aiken (not quite sure about his legs tho). But he didn't get to do a duet with ol' Jags on "Live With Me". It was creepy watching rubberlips grind his junk into Aggie's ass. Eww, she could be his grandaughter!

- Jack White realizes his place in the rock'n'roll hierarchy, bless his Poletown heart. He conveyed the appropriate balance of awe, respect and step-up-to-the-plate-ability. His duet with Mick on "Loving Cup" was exceptional, & I usually pass that song over. But now I'll give it another chance, ditto Jack, whom I've been down on for the past couple years.

- Buddy Guy got rave reviews in all the press I had read for his duet with Mick on "Champagne & Reefer", but in all honesty he really did next-to-nothing special. I was looking for some badass guitar strangling, but he let me down in that department. And Keith Richard made this grand gesture of giving him his guitar after the song as an offering for his greatness, with an unusually clear and audible "it's yours, man", probably re-recorded during post-production. Did you get that money shot, camera three?

So I bitch about The Stones and their lack of musical greatness, which is unfair because rock'n'roll is not about expertise and perfection. But when you lump those four geezers together, add a hired hand bassist, a horn section led by the capable lips of tenor man Bobby Keyes, keyboard whiz Chuck Leavell and a trio of backup singers (including a guy who hits the notes Mick can't - oh hi, Elvis!) what you get is a fairly entertaining show that you could safely call professional rock & roll.

Ultimately, job well done, because I was entertained by the film, & I could've done with another half hour or so - not that it was short, I was just that into it (that there Imax stuff sure is groovy). And the sound is really nice. And the picture is very clear. There's one great shot of Keith strumming away with a pretty much spent fag in his mouth, and he just spits it out. You can clearly see a shower of sparks spray all over the place. And one of the best shots, provided it wasn't staged, happens at the end of the encore, when Keith gets down on his knees, back to the crowd, & kinda props himself up on his guitar visibly exhausted (unless, like I said, it was staged for dramatic effect) and takes what seems like his last breath; he's down there for quite a long time before finally getting up smiling back at the crowd & walking off.

So if you wanna pick up any cds by them, stick to the anything made prior to and including "Some Girls" (except "Goats Head Soup and "Its Only Rock & Roll", both grossly misguided and uninspired.). Those might convince you of the "world's greatest rock & roll band" moniker.

And you might as well pick them up on April 19, International Record Store Day (

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I Wanna Hold Your Head

Today's photo reflects a project 18 months in the making. It's a topiary of The Beatles, grown and manicured in their hometown of Liverpool.

Notice anything different? Check the drummer.
Def Leppard's drummer Rick Something-or-other lost an arm, as did the drummer for The Barbarians, Moulty (just one name, sorry). But this is a bit different. Ringo Starr's bush has literally lost its head.

And you thought he was in trouble when they wanted to chop off his finger in "Help!". He woulda been just like those other two pounders mentioned above.

Seems ol' Ring made a comment recently to the effect that there was nothing he missed about his old stomping grounds, and had no interest in moving back there. Of course the press jumped on that like wiggers on Pam Anderson.

I personally see no problem with his statement. For the most part I don't miss the places I've lived. Sometimes I'll wax nostalgic, but it's usually related to specific times and instances. And let's face it, I ain't no Beatle. Those memories are pretty mundane. And I never want to move back. To any of them. Ever.

Of course he was sort-of forced to explain. He said for one thing, the place he lived in didn't even have an indoor toilet. 'Nuff said. Who wants to take a shit outside?

Yeah, it's just like Lennon's "bigger than Christ" statement, which was taken out of context, purposely. That resulted in the big Beatle record & ephemera burning across America. And when the hubbub settled down, all those idiots had to replace their albums. Ka-ching! Face it, the media are scum. Just ask Princes William & Harry.

I don't think Ringo's being ungrateful, he's just digs Cali too much. Truthfully, the only people that want to be in Liverpool are tourists who want to see the Cavern Club or those old houses in which The Beatles lived (but not shat, apparently) before the money rolled in. Trust me, if your from the states, there isn't anything you'd see that's romantic about those old places. You'd be all like, "eeewwww, they lived there? Where'd they shit?". Poverty in England means poverty. Make no mistake.

Fact: The Beatles were bigger than Christ. Everyone'd rather go see them in concert than sit at mass for an hour. And sad but true, the people nowadays that would fit into that spot that Lennon occupied are a lot less worthy. And fact: Liverpool ain't Beverly Hills. It may be cleaned up now but that's only because they're pushing the "European Capital Of Culture" thing. And that is because of Ringo Starr. So shut the f$@c k up.

So whaddaya think happened to the bush head? You can't sell it on Ebay. May as well shove it up your ass.

Then you can shit it out outside.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My Eighties Ain't Your Eighties

I am tired of people going on ad nauseum about the eighties. That was the worst decade for music that I can remember. But that's not to say the decade was without its redeeming qualities.

As 1979 rolled into 1980, the last informed music trend of the 70s was dying - the Two-Tone ska revival that came out of the UK; as usual the states took literally years to catch up and wound up behind. And now, we have a number of really bad US ska bands, mostly from the west coast which tells you something (wuzzup No Doubt!). Bands in checkered kitchen trousers leaping about like imbeciles. And they all play very fast & have removed any hint of rhythm which the original version of ska was absolutely drenched in. These clowns exist solely because of the Two-Tone scene (which was pretty cool, actually, done with a huge nod to the past while bringing a new twist to the picture), but these bands are unaware that Two-Tone was merely reviving mid-60s west indian dance music.

Anyway, that was 79/80. Aside from asymmetrical hairdos, synths, crap like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran and jazz oxfords, the 80s had another big cult. The former '77 punks started unhooking their safety pins and sewing up their ripped clothes and pushed black music (including street level disco) to the forefront. It started happening first in the UK, but for once New York was right there in the action, shoulder-to-shoulder. Blondie went hip-hop. Talking Heads went afrobeat. And then there were James White & The Blacks (junkie no-wavers that played atonal James Brown riffs. Brilliant.) New York Rocker put Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads on the cover with Grandmaster Flash, cradling a huge boombox. The Clash went all rhythmic. New post-punk 12" dance singles replaced 7 inch punk picture sleeves. Our attention span went from a minute 40 seconds to 6, 7, 8 minutes, with a bonus beats track as well. The 12 inch 45 rpm single that was once thought of as a waste of vinyl in the Studio 54 disco era was now a must-have. Even more so than albums. Black ghetto clubs in New York were being name checked on post-punk singles world-wide. Something different was happening, again, & it was big fun.

I was lucky enough to have a young black co-worker who was deeply into the forward faction of the scene at the time. She lent me a huge stack of albums & 12 inch singles so I could get caught up. From that point on, my rock records collected dust in the corner. She also directed me toward Detroit's absolute best dj who was hidden away on the crappiest black station in town (WGPR, the radio equivalent of a local access cable station). Working his outer space funk magic on the overnight shift was The Electrifying Mojo. Not too long after I caught wind of him he began taking the city by storm. He played -gasp- white music on what was exclusively an urban format. And I don't mean he played The Beatles. He played - KRAFTWERK! Yes, the German computer geeks! And he actually turned them into a black act if you know what I mean. he did the same thing to The B52S. They too became a black radio staple in Detroit. And Was Not Was. He would spin the instrumental versions of 12 inch dance singles rather than the short vocal versions. It was months before I knew that Run-DMC was a vocal rapping duo. So now white kids were watching local dance show "The Scene", on WGPR's low budget TV affiliate. The call to arms was "are you ready to throw down?" and whether you were ready or not, your reply was "yes - we - are!" They played the best music, mixed by the biggest & most important djs (read: Carl Craig, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson - sound familiar?) back then of course the main man was Prince, who brought along The Time who, in my opinion, were much badder than Prince. They rocked plus they had soul & attitude in spades, pardon the expression. Just as I do not know any songs on the chart today, I pretty much knew no pop oriented music back then because I was listening exclusively to urban music. It was great back then and still stands out today. THAT was the music of the 80s.

Most of my record shopping in the 80s was done in little record shops in downtown Detroit or in the lower east side ghetto. And the interesting thing was you could pick up French or German imports in these shops! Sometimes the versions Mojo would play weren't released stateside, and you had to have the versions he played, so the shops would stock the imports. And in a lot of instances the only places you could get these were in the ghetto.

Then MTV came & ruined it all. I shoulda known that was gonna mean trouble. All it did was create mooks and wiggers (wuzzup, Fred Durst & Kid Rock). The benefit was that some of these urban acts started getting wider exposure & started making a few bucks. But the sounds stayed real enough that it was quite awhile before I started looking for the underground again. The downside? Prince & Madonna & Michael Jackson and their uber-star bullshit that continues to this day with a whole new batch of clowns, from Britney to Bono (yeah, I said it).

Oh well, there was always reggae. But even that started to suck in the 80s, and it was all because of the glossy video age and its promise of fame and fortune. Jah had no choice except to kill off Bob Marley & Peter Tosh before things got bad (after all, Tosh had already hooked up with The Stones). The exceptions were roots acts like Yellowman & Eek-a-Mouse, who continued to keep it real. But that's another story.

Don't say damn, say whoa.