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Heart Attack & Vine

15 May

This blog thing is a real trip sometimes.

The letter reproduced here was once sent out into the world by me as part of my search into the hydra-headed serpent known as Hollywood punk rock, apparently back in Jan. 1987. Now I don’t actually remember sending it, or if I ever received a response at the time. But inexplicably it’s returned, boomerang-like. And I’m staring at the damn thing again. WTF?

Well, ya see: the recipient Jon, aka JB – he discovered this blog early on. There’s a comment from him on my very first post. He recently let me know I’d queried him by mail about a handfull of p-rock records, 21+ years ago as a dorky 16 yr. old. And a couple weeks back JB “kindly” forwarded this scan to chez PS Recon. Fucking hell, man! What comes around sure as shit goes around. Especially within the claustrophobic, skinnyhead world of California punk rock record collecting.

Which is all to let you know I’m back again to sling around more ill-thought out opinions about all your Hollywood punk heroes. Read the first or second posts in this series if you must, and then: 1-2-3-4 let’s g-g-g-go . . .

1. Best RIK L RIK-led effort: Garbage Hearts – The Lost EP (2007) Yes heavy drug use clipped RIK’s artistic fingernails to the bloody quick, but dammit if he didn’t record a dimebag full of minor-key, SLEEPERS-inspired glamour punk gems, some of which dated from up near his death in 2000. Shit I actually had a difficult time picking a favorite RIK moment. This man’s F-WORD album is generally considered the first Hollywood punk LP to see the light of day. His “Outback” cut – as heard on my first punker purchase ever (Rodney On The Roq, Vol. I) – was also the very first song I ever taught myself on bass gtr. And his cuts on the Beach Blvd comp. impressed the hell outta me – at least until I heard the earlier, NEGATIVE TREND EP versions.

But ultimately, this long-lost EP of early 90’s NEW CHRISTS-like material may be his very best. Certainly, it’s some of his most coherent, and I love the way his baritone soars over the din. Check it out if you haven’t – and long may the kids remember RIK’s barefoot croon.

2. Best BLACK RANDY & THE METROSQUAD effort: Pass the Dust, I Think I’m Bowie LP (Dangerhouse Records, ’79) – Talk about sidespilting – these cads still slay me 6 ways to Sunday. Any JAMES CHANCE/WHITE comparisons will definitely hold water. But remember: unlike James, Randy wasn’t actually musical, just an irresponsible prankster dead-set on exposing some of the sillier/staider aspects of “the scene” at the time. There’s room in my heart for such types, fr sure – even when they’re trying to pants me.

Hey, where’s that tweaked live snippet of “Ziggy Stardust” that graced the original Dangerhouse LP? It didn’t seem to make the cut on the Sympathy For The Record Industry reissue CD. Copyright complications perhaps? C’MON Long Gone John, this was fucking BLACK RANDY – he coulda punked out the Thin White Duke in no time flat.

3. Best FEAR effort: Saturday Night Live ’81 – As huge as they were around LA in the early 80’s with young, suburban cropped-hair dudes, FEAR (not unlike, say, the ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE) always hit me as ersatz HC punk, a patent-leather version of the real deal. Which isn’t to say they weren’t good – they were, and I do like alot of tunes on the first Slash LP, despite the thin/compressed production. But it’s why I’ve chosen this SNL clip: FEAR always seemed to have their sights set mainly on that other, film-industry Hollywood, and Lee hits ya best when he’s on camera. Look hard, and you’ll spot Ian Mackaye in the audience! (BTW: the first single is probably their best studio moment, but I never did turn up that rarity . . .)

4. Best ANGRY SAMOANS effort: Queer Pills 7″ 45 (Homophobic Records, ’81) Another band of far-from-authentically hardcore types who the HB strut contingent went absolutely gaga over. Had these kinda older, wordy fanzine scribes been anywhere else in the US, no doubt they’d have put out records that sounded like THE GIZMOS or THE SCREAMIN’ MEE-MEES or something. But they came to fruition in SoCal in the early 80’s where BLACK FLAG and THE CIRCLE JERKS were calling the shots; hence, the violent brevity of their cool, bonehead tuneage. This release of Back From Samoa demos came out under the QUEER PILLS moniker in hopes of throwing off the scent of LA DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, who’d they’d already alienated every which way but loose. It didn’t work and also meant that most of these 45s didn’t sell at the time, only to flood into record stores in the late 80’s. The record collector geek in me thanks the gods for this small karmic retribution.

5. Best GERMS effort: (GI) LP (Slash Records, ’79) Will anyone ever come up with a record this transcendent in the name of punkrock again? I don’t fucking think so. Yeah I’ve always kinda felt this record belongs nestled up against, say, yr COIL and POPOL VUH discs. Even now, listening to it transports me someplace far outside my body, where gtrs ring out hidden universal keys and a wordless growl makes the most complete sense in all the world. That these speed-fueled, teenage crybabies came up with something so timeless blows away all known laws of physics. I, for one, don’t like to imagine what Darby would’ve come up with had he’d hung around this Earth any longer – blowhard new wave? New-Ro balladeering? Cause he wasn’t never no kinda singer, nohow. What Darby was, was a truly potent wizard of cosmic proportions.

Much thanks to JB for his lifelong hoarding tendencies

Hollywood Holiday

23 Apr

So I’m back to continue with my Hollywood punker round-up, first corralled in this here post. Regarding the pics above: one of these women sang “Adult Books”, the other married yours truly. Betcha can’t guess who’s who!

1. Best GUN CLUB effort: Lucky Jim (Triple X Records, ’94). I have soft spots in my heart for every GUN CLUB record . . . except the first. This isn’t because that one’s not worthy – it is, really – but it got played to death in my household when I was a very young teen. And as they say: ya can’t go home again.

These days, I’m most taken by the later stuff. It still boggles my mind that Jeffrey – the man with Thee Lonesomeist voice in all post-punk rock – developed an individualistic and inspirational take on blues-rock gtr playing. And if you’re one of those jokers who says his playing sounded like Stevie Ray or Eric Clapton . . . well, listen closer, pal. Jeffrey always integrated lotsa folk-blues influences into his gtr sound (see his Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee solo outing for the evidence) and he never over-played (shades of Paul Kossoff!), though he damn well had the finger agility if he’d wanted to. A man cut down in his prime, fr sure.

2. Best DILS effort: Made In Canada double 7″ (Rogelletti Records, ’79). The strength of the DILS lay in biting, finite songcraft, and their best 3-minutes was “Sound of the Rain”, included herein. Yeah you could slag em off as mere CLASH rip-offs, but in LA ca. ’79, rockin’ political pop of this caliber was kinda unheard of. And holyhell man, no American city at the time had cops more worthy of TOTAL ANNIHILATION than the fucking scum pigs down in LA. Sing it with em:

I don’t
listen to the cops I wish they all were dead
listen to the planes flying overhead
listen to the sound of the loss and gain
I just listen . . . to the sound of the rain

3. Best WEIRDOS effort: Destroy All Music 45 (Dangerhouse, ’77). You might not guess it, but WEIRDOS singer John Denny is a really sweet and thoughtful guy. He used to shop in our record store in Hollywood, often making clever comments about music and once bringing this huge, dead spider up to the till (“son, I don’t think this is for sale”). He always made a point to acknowledge me, the lowly sales clerk, like the actual human being I was. I owe him some thanks for this.

Now the WEIRDOS Destroy 7″ is merely the first of a great career of bludgeon rock – one that even extended into a 90’s Flea-on-bass period! But it’s this rec that contains one of the very best chooglin’ punk anthems of all time: “Life of Crime”. God, I can almost feel the bottles breaking on my sweaty, 3am forehead during that one. Awesome.

4. Best ALEX GIBSON effort: Bpeople LP (Faulty Products, ’81). Who’s Alex, you ask? Well he was apparently in a group called THE LITTLE CRIPPLES with a young, pre-SWANS Michael Gira; he founded LA’s noir rock-experimentalists BPEOPLE; and he continued his identifiably-Alexian aesthetic through a bitchen solo EP, then in ever-so-slightly watered down New Romantic form in his band PASSIONNEL, and again solo on the soundtrack to Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia flick. Everything he did had an arcane sadness/darkness to it that places it squarely in THE TOILING MIDGETS and RIK L RIK orbit (it’s no wonder Alex played a bit of bass on that great SLEEPERS LP from ’81). The self-titled BPEOPLE LP is less experimental than their early 45/compilation cuts, and slathers the JOY DIVISION gloom on thick and impenetrable. But: there’s a solid rockin’ core buried underneath it all that’ll keep it from ever being mistaken for BAUHAUS. It’s what all so-called goth should really be aspiring to.

Hey: where’s the retrospective CD that Warning Label Records promised us a couple years back?

5. Best X effort: Under The Big Black Sun LP (Electra Records, ’83). Well their best moment certainly wasn’t the X concert my mom took me to in ’85 at Irvine Meadows, cause all I really remember was John Doe kicking hard at some manic stage dancer to get him the hell off the stage. Openers CHANNEL 3, then deep into their bighair “Last Night I Drank…” phase, left the bigger impression – but that’s a different story. So anyway . . . completely buggering all the nonsense that their individual members have talked/written/produced since: all of the first four X LPs are uniformly great, as is the first KNITTERS LP. I couldn’t really pick just one, so I let my wife choose, as even Chris D. once seemingly mistook her for Exene. Again, this is another story.

The Wrong Way to Hollywood

4 Apr

punkermoog

I’m too young and too suburban to’ve had any first-hand contact with that original, legendary late-70’s Hollywood punk rock stuff. And like many of you, when I finally did discover it’s joys/wonders . . . man, it was the 80’s. The Masque-heyday looooong over, and seemingly (at that point, anyway) sealed forevermore in a back-alley Hollywood grave. But that didn’t stop me from seeking out all I could from that original ’77-’79 crew, no siree. Nor from following alot of what flowed from them open Blvd. wounds throughout the Reagan-and-beyond eras. So: I’m gonna give you my two cents regarding the music of the Hollywood punker set. My tastes may not be yours, but they are informed by a 1/4 century of serious, retrospective consideration of such things.

1. Best PLUGZ effort: Better Luck LP (Fatima Records, ’81). Honest to god I’ve never understood folks that think their first LP is better. Yeah, the 1st is the more, uh, “punk” . . . but fuck me if this ain’t the richer slice of Hollywood dive bar rockin’. The songs are unforgettable, the stratocaster jangle/snare pop is all their own, and Steve Berlin’s sax makes this near enuf the missing link between THE FLESH EATERS A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die and LOS LOBOS How Will the Wolf Survive? LPs. Plus Gary Panter’s cover art is just the best. If THE CRUZADOS had sounded half this good, maybe Tito Larriva would now be a household name.

2. Best LEGAL WEAPON effort: Your Weapon LP (Arsenal Records, ’82). Fuck Death of Innocence – that ADOLESCENT rhythm section ain’t got nuthin on this line-up. Future SEA HAG Adam Maples drumming is way inspired, Brian H.’s gtr was improving by leaps and bounds, and GOD what a voice Kat Arthur had – she was Texacala Jones by way of Stevie Nicks (this is not an insult!). Kat always sounded older and more world-weary than any of her contemporaries – see her vocal on the great “Caught in the Reign”. The moment this rec captures is so comfortable in it’s incorporation of the then-emerging LA hard/glam rock thang into Hollywood punk, it just kills me. And really, later L.W. stuff isn’t as bad as you punkers might wanna believe – though I admit the material wasn’t ever anywhere near up to this level again.

3. Best FLESH EATERS effort: Hard Road to Follow LP (Upsetter Records, ’83). Here’s what I wrote about em a few years ago:

Tattered, worse-for-wear Hollywood outcasts sputter though split lips and lost dreams on this, the last “real” FLESH EATERS LP. This has that drunk-long-after-everybody-else-has-sobered-up relationship to things that less articulate guys like the LEAVING TRAINS would decide to build careers around a bit later. Singer & lyricist Chris D. disowned this record for years after, and no wonder: it’s a depressingly dark journey through a claustrophobic wasteland of alcohol-fueled romantic despair and eerie paranoia. But the FLESH EATERS’ Alice Cooperish hard rock was loosening up in all manner of cool ways at this point. You get more guitar breaks (matched, it would seem, by a 3-fold increase in the number of words Chris would cram into each song), the addition of cowgirl Jill Jordan’s attractively off-key whine (what ever happened to her?), and a cool cover of Al Green’s “Rhymes” pointing to roads eventually explored in full by D.’s DIVINE HORSEMEN. At the time, a lot of knownothings asked why they had persevered after Slash had ditched em earlier that year. I, for one, am glad they did.

I still stand by that, although the Atavistic CD reissue (with crucial bonus tracks) is the way to go for maximum brain burn.

4. Best WALL OF VOODOO effort: Seven Days in Sammystown LP (I.R.S. Records, ’85). I’m gonna get heretical on your ass and claim this rec, their 1st with Andy Prieboy singing, edges out all other competition. I love the early records too, but a) this was their most consistent collection of songs, b) Andy’s hypomanic warble beats Stan’s nasally croonspeak everyday of the year, and c) here, Marc Moreland’s gtr is flying it’s V straight to my newwavey hearty-heart. Hell, this band always revolved around Marc’s inspiration anyway; check out his later bitchen work with PRETTY & TWISTED, DEPARTMENT OF CROOKS, and MARC MORELAND’S MESS for further proof of that man’s unheralded genius. And for those that are interested, Andy’s included lots of barely-veiled, embarrassingly funny stories from this period in his great novel The Psycho-Ex Game, co-written with Merrill Markoe.

5. Best ALLEY CATS effort – “Nothing Means Nothing Anymore” 7-inch 45 (Dangerhouse Records, ’78). Sometimes trad wisdom gets it right. I’ve repeatedly tried to “rediscover” their later, heroin-informed LPs that came out on those bogue major-label funded imprints. But I always come back to this, their very first waxing. What an amazing, laughing-hyena singer Mr. Randy Stodola once was! He was a South Bay dude just like Mike Watt of THE MINUTEMEN. But unlike THE MINUTEMEN, THE ALLEY CATS regularly passed as Hollywood cats. How’d that work?!? Whatever, this song is a barn-burner of apocalyptic proportions, and one that has helped me get through a number of heavy, near-total meltdowns. Now I’m gonna go make nothing mean nothing again tonite, once more.

———

So what, you wanted me to blab about THE DILS, THE GUN CLUB, THE WEIRDOS, the almighty GERMS and the too-sexy Mr. ALEX GIBSON of BPEOPLE? Yeah I’ll gets there when I gets there, bub. Gimme time.

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