Archive | April, 2007

It’s Raining Go-Go-Golden Boys

21 Apr

There is this song that I’ve lived with and loved since I was a teen. It’s a good song – a really, really good song, in fact. But in the intervening years (and given my obsessive traits), it’s kinda . . . taken over. First it felt like gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe, the kind I just couldn’t seem to wipe off. Then it grew into a creepy ritual lovespell, one that subtly encouraged me to behave in ways I’d never ever, if left alone. More recently it’s felt more like a nasty case of syphilis, warping all rational thought and leaving behind blistering sores that I just can’t scratch enough. And it’s still with me today. It’s called “Golden Boys”, and I gotta cut it loose.

What I know: “Golden Boys” is variously credited to Darby Crash/Pat Smear, Pat Smear alone, and Bell/Crash/Ferris/Smear depending on who’s covering it. It most certainly began life in the dying days of THE GERMS, and Darby most certainly penned the lyrics. Whether or not THE GERMS ever worked up a nascent version of it remains unclear. I sure as hell haven’t ever heard of or found reference to it, and lemme tell ya: I’ve looked. VAGINA DENTATA, who featured Pat fresh out of TWISTED ROOTS, definitely waxed the first version, probably in late ’83/early ’84. Beyond that . . . well, only Pat himself knows the full details, and he’s too busy pushing Hagstrom Guitars to bother with this story. What follows is, most definitely, a rundown of all known versions of the song. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you: this shit will take over if you’re not careful.

1) Vagina Dentata, “Golden Boys” (Flipside Vinyl Fanzine Vol. II Comp., Flipside/Gasatanka Records, 1984) – Now, there are other recorded versions of this great song sans the long intro, but this is, hands down, the best. Those big, wild drums . . . that pummeling bass . . . those psychotic leads . . . and oh wow what a lead singer Michelle Bell (a.k.a. Gerber) could be when she cut loose, as she does with freakin’ abandon here. I wonder what happened to her . . .

2) Pat Ruthensmear, “Golden Boys” (Ruthensmear, SST Records, 1987) – I remember listening to this when it first came out and thinking, man, this is the polar opposite of what Pat did with the GERMS. But that wiggy contrariness (traceable at least back to his tenure with TWISTED ROOTS) is a big part his appeal. The over-the-top glam/pomp rock thing seemed to make a lot of sense in LA during the second half of the 80’s, and here, everything’s coming up roses. Pat belts it out like a lisping Mick Ronson, and like Mick, he plays most of the instruments too.  And when he sings “Golden Boys” in place of where Darby shoulda been, well, ya can’t help but tear up.

3) Gary Celebrity, “Golden Boys” (Diary of a Monster, Triple X Records, 1992) – Kinda perfunctory in execution but Gary’s entitled to do it anyway he wants, seeing as he drummed on the VAGINA DENTATA original. Gary sometimes sang this with his great ‘n’ garish 80’s teenbeat combo CELEBRITY SKIN, who I promise to gush about in a separate post soon. Oh and PAT plays gtr on this too, making this almost an electric DEATH FOLK outtake, if that means anything to ya.

4) The Dickies, “Golden Boys” (Idjit Savant, Triple X Records, 1995) – Leave it to the DICKIES to really bring out the melody in a song. Secretly, the late 80’s/early 90’s line-up of the DICKIES is my favorite. They weren’t so young (and certainly not so clean) anymore – but their sound was expanding in all manner of goofy, orchestralpop ways, and their lyrics were getting weirder by the hour – giving them an even more SPARKS-ian glow than ever before. “Boys” is rendered in straightahead DICKIES style, but they spruce it up with an extra bridge that stamps it as their own.

5) Pavement, “Golden Boys/Serpentine Pad” (Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition, Matador Records, 2006) – Never thought I’d be putting a PaveFUCKINGment song on my blog, but live long enough and Plop! There it goes. This mid 90’s outtake of theirs isn’t the worst version of the song I’ve heard (that would be the live version PAVEMENT did of this song available on their Stuff Up the Cracks boot, which I’ll spare you today), and their choice to take some artistic licence with it ain’t such a bad idea either. It’s that “Cut Your Hair” guy’s voice – in all it’s lifesucking faux-lazyass, uh, “glory” – that really gets me shifting in my seat. I know these guys are revered as some kinda 90’s indie/emo supermen, but dude – in my universe, PAVEMENT will always be the musical equivalent to tepid, stewed okra. Uhggh.

6) NoFX, “Golden Boys” (Never Trust a Hippy, Fat Wreck Chords, 2006) – Sadly, what new pop/punk/HC stuff suceeds in doing for me is only to make me miss the darker/wilder/hairier forms of early 80’s HC that much more. And I admit I have never listened to these guys or ridden a snowboard before, so I’m really not qualified to say much. This ain’t exactly horrible, although kinda redundant after some of the above (see THE DICKIES version). But hey: singer Fat Mike did have the sense to put out the great DESCENDENTS Cool To Be You CD a few years back, so maybe I’m missing out on something special here?

7) Apartment 3-G, “Golden Boys” (Strange Notes comp., Bitzcore, 1994) – If you’re a POISON IDEA spin-off band – and APARTMENT 3-G most definitely are – you got a lifetime free subscription to rock the fuck out of ANY Crash/Pat tune you see fit to.

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NeareSST Relatives

14 Apr

sstsign.jpg

    (Or, Those Who Were Spared The Great SST Backlash By Mere Inches)

I make no apologies: SST Records captivate me like no other music label has, or ever likely will. They unveiled all that early, gnarly, genre-breaking/defining stuff – BLACK FLAG, MINUTEMEN, SACCHARINE TRUST – which blew budding eardrums (like mine!) at the dawn of the 80’s throughout the South Bay and beyond. Reemerging after a couple years mired in legal hell, they then proceeded to release record after record that trashed every preconceived notion held by the then-100,000 strong bonehead HxCx army (BLACK FLAG’s My War side II is the pivotal moment in all this, but do check out most any mid/late 80’s SST record by SAINT VITUS/SACCHARINE TRUST/SWA/SLOVENLY et. al. to have that fuck-you-punker-I’ll-play-what-I-damn-well-please! point rammed into your brain). Hands down, the collective SST roster represent the pinnacle of 80’s independent music. And I’m gonna be the first to say: don’t be quick to write off their 90’s/2000s stuff! There’s more than a bundleful of great (though often unfashionable) music tucked away in there – see SORT OF QUARTET, FATSO JETSON, the 90’s LEAVING TRAINS recs and FASTGATO for proof.

That said . . . this post isn’t exactly about SST. It’s about stuff that didn’t actually end up on SST/New Alliance in the 80’s and 90’s, but sonically speaking, damn well should have.

1. REIGN OF TERROR “Don’t Blame Me” (7 “ 45 on R.O.T. Records, 1983) This band’s molten metal/punk onslaught sound reminds me of nothing so much the great OVERKILL Triumph of the Will LP on SST proper, recorded around the same time, probably in the very same neck of SoCal. But all the info I’ve got on this one comes from the liners of Bloodstains Across California comp. LP, so I’ll quote ‘em here:

Ed Danky was the guitar player in WURM before Chuck Dukowski hooked up with Gregg (sic) Ginn and launched BLACK FLAG. The original WURM never had any recordings, but Ed put this band together not long before Chuck reformed WURM. It’s on ROT Records, but the address is the same one that SST used, so maybe Chuck lied.

Given the ugly legal battles pinning SST to the wall in ’83, I’m betting Chuck did.

2. ACROSS THE RIVER“N.O.” (unreleased demo, 1986) Truly, the beginning of everything bearing the Desert Rock toetag. ACROSS THE RIVER were from the low desert, and were Mario Lalli (YAWNING MAN, FATSO JETSON, SORT OF QUARTET, TEN EAST etc.), Scott Reeder (THE OBSESSED, KYUSS, NEBULA etc.) and Alfredo Hernandez (KYUSS, YAWNING MAN, VIC DU MONTE’S PERSONA NON GRATA, etc.). They were young and totally hot n nasty in a bitchen BLACK OAK ARKANSAS meets midperiod BLACK FLAG kinda way. Sadly, they were too early for all them just-post-hardcore kids to fully grok. Plans for a release on SST (working title: Live At County Line) never came to pass; but the RIVER still impressed the hell out of guys like Joe Carducci when holding down the opening slot for (I’m guessing here) BLACK FLAG INSTRUMENTAL sets. These guys are a big part of the lifeblood of pretty much all heavy rock n roll over the past 15 years. And one day, the RIVER demos will flood into cyber space, and every stoner rock jaw on this dying planet will drop a good 3 inches.

3. MAGNOLIA THUNDERPUSSY“Circle” (from the Starin’ Down the Sun CD on Mar Vista Records, 2004) This 1985 demo finally saw the light of day in 2004, after years of banishment in the land of 3rd gen. cassette-tape dupes played only on boomboxes of guys like SPAIN’s Josh Haden and the CHILI PEPPERS’ Flea. While it also caught the ear of Greg Ginn in the mid 80’s, the band broke up before anything was released. A real shame, too – since it rocks in real heartfelt, idiosyncratic fashion (though with more than one cut sounding as if written Under the Influence of the Meat Puppets). I can totally imagine these guys opening for, say, TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG and blowing them deadheads off the muthafuckin’ stage (no offense, Tom).

Now: when is somebody gonna let us finally hear the demos made by THUNDERPUSSY’s west LA pals EQUIDEMIUS, which (according to Joe Carducci) are just as righteous?

4. VELVET MONKEYS“Rock Party” (from the Houseparty CD on God Bless Records, 1998) Here’s a leftfield one: I stumbled across this thing is a CD bargain bin in Soho a while back, buying it cause it was recorded in ’85 and I half-dug the band they eventually morphed into (GUMBALL; saw em play a big WFMU benefit show at the Ritz in NYC once). And whaddaya know but there seems to be SST connections here as well. I can’t vouch for the veracity of any claims made here (the VM guy is a professional comedian), but I’ll shut-up and jumpcut to the important bit in the liners:

Michael Wittaker, aka “Spaceman” from SST Records had become a huge fan and put together a deluxe US tour to be capped off with a studio session for a new release on SST. The tour started off great, the VM’s double billed with Half Japanese, but as the weeks went by one calamity followed another. In the middle of a cornfield in Kansas at a place called the Outhouse the VM’s were billed with SST head honcho Greg Ginn’s power trio GONE. It was a particularly dry season and the only weed to be found was horrible headache inducing rag weed growing in the corn field. The VM’s discovered that GONE were in possession of some fine hashish and quickly put together a plan of action. A huge bag full of the offending hemp was tarted up to look like the real deal deal and a trade was completed. The VM’s van pulled away to the hacking coughs of a disgruntled GONE. Soon after, all label support ceased and the VM’s ‘Houseparty’ LP was shelved.

Donno how you feel about such things, but I’d say Greg’s decision here was based on some MIGHTY SOUND logic.

5. SPOT REMOVAL“Jigs: Durham/Smartly/Banish” (from SPOT’s Nae Plumb Nor Square CD on No Auditions, 2005) In the late 70’s, Spot was known primarily for his radical roller skating maneuvers in & around Hermosa Beach, CA. In the 80’s he led a nutso music project called ARTLESS ENTANGLEMENTS who had a couple indecipherably cryptic tracks on two seminal New Alliance/SST comps (Cracks in the Sidewalk and Chunks). And oh yeah: he was also the house producer in the early SST days, producing damn near EVERYTHING worth hearing on the label, up through like ’85 or so. This track is by an early 90’s band of his that specialized in a particularly twisted form of Celtic music. Here, Spot’s playing in a relatively-straightforward Dave Swarbrick style – though usually he sounds more like Martin Carthy wearing, like, pink tights and a Groucho Marx disguise. Bonus: Dave Cameron (ex-SWA and OCTOBER FACTION) is drumming here, so you know it’s charter-member SST.

Hot tip: anything you can scrape up by this Spot fella will make you sit up, bark 3 times, and crack a really, really wide smile. Start your search engines, gentlemen!

6. FISHCAMP“The Pac-Man Song” (downloaded from Phil Van Duyne’s FISHCAMP website) Anybody ever see these guys play? This is apparently what some of the SWA guys (ok, Dukowski and Van Duyne) did with ex-LAWNDALE drummer Dave Childs to pass time in Torrance after Merrill split to make commercials in Hollywood. They only released one song proper (on the TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA CD comp.) but threw up a few more tunes on their website for the 3 or so of us who care. And they sound AOK to my ears. Call me a new waver but ain’t this one kinda aping DEVO’s “Come Back Jonee”?!? Either way, with Dukowski on board, the whole thing is bumped up a big notch in the bitchen rockiness dept. Listening to this, I can totally imagine sitting on a folding chair in somebody’s driveway in Lawndale on a hot, smoggy August afternoon, sippin’ a cool bottle of Michelob, watching these aging geezers heave/ho their overweight asses through a fuck-me-if-this-ain’t-great set of ornery, jammin’ rockaction. Yeah!

7. VIDA“Cosmic Slop” (from The Dewey Bushmole Sessions, downloaded from the VIDA live internet archive) The UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS not withstanding, this is the most direct descendent of any of these post-SST supergroups (they featured Tom Troccoli, George Hurley, Dez Cadena and for a time Rob Holzman fr christsakes!), but boy did they pay for that connection. Sure, people came – but they came wanting . . . I dunno . . . “Thirsty and Miserable” or some such nonsense. What they got was just great, hard-hitting twin gtr bluesrock, with maybe a bit of mid-70’s ZAPPA thrown in somewheres (thankfully, minus the stand-up routines). But with Fireman Hurley aboard, their stuff had a whirlwind, hoppin’ modern edge to it as well. They put out a good self-titled CD, but I prefer their later, looser stuff – like this one, thankfully preserved in cyberspace by Mr. Tom Troccoli. Me, I can totally connect the dots: from hard bluesrock guys like JOHNNY WINTER, to FLAG, to this sound, and then on to wildass bluesy stoner stuff like Mario Lalli’s FATSO JETSON. I’m confident that, with time, you can too. And fuck you all but I’ve always reckoned Dez to have a wonderful, soulful voice – in all it’s occasionally cracking, out-of-tune glory. You can feel the notes/words he sings, and that’s all I ever ask of my singers. I really hope he returns from sidemanning to playing his kind of music again, and soon.

8. CARNAGE ASADA“Drive-By Sunday Afternoon” (from the Permanent Trails CD on Travisty Records, 1999) These animals gigged alot in the 90’s with the likes of SORT OF QUARTET and the reformed SACCHARINE TRUST. They whipped asses wherever they blew with a seriously heavy, charred noise that grooved through tortuous inner landscapes and burned through the void of outerspace, simultaneously. Layer on the deadeyed, underclass tales of violence and sickness, courtesy of Mr. George Murillo . . . and the end result is kinda like Hall of the Mountain Grill-era HAWKWIND backing a black Henry Rollins, circa Family Man at a modern-day Circus Maximus. SST? Well, Dave Markey (SIN 34, PAINTED WILLIE, We Got Power Films) drums, Dez Cadena plays some interstellar licks here and there, and Dave Travis (a guy who put together a bunch of wild SST happenings in unlikely locations in/around LA in the mid 80’s) churns the downtuned bass vibeology. The whole CD is great if grim & grimey, in an I-just-got-outta-countyjail-and-wanna-OD kinda way. More folks (outside these guy’s NA biddies) ought to’ve heard it, but by this date, good rock shit was routinely flying waaaay beneath the radar of contempo “indie” consciousness. Ah well. But a decade earlier . . . this woulda stood tall as prime SST agitprop, hairtriggered to explode in the face of every Springsteen/REM-worshipping critic littering the land. This is classic stuff. Now who’s gonna sell me their non-LP 7” 45?

BTW: do check out David Markey & Heavy Friends Vol. 1 internet comp. for a great collection of obscure stuff (inc. CHOP, RAYMOND PETTIBON’S SUPER SESSION, and THE POST TOASTIES) that I could’ve easily chosen to blabber about in this here post.

9. MECOLODIACS“Musicmind” (from their Glamjazz CD, Hazlewood Records, 1998) Post-UNIVERSAL CONGRESS OF, which was of course post-SACCHARINE TRUST, which meant nothing short of total Baiza 6-string bliss. The MECOS were basically a striped-down, looser & grittier version of UCO. This broadened their appeal beyond typical jazzbo audiences to ensnare both unrepentant rocker dudes (me) as well as alot of them funky whiteboy DJ types you’d see roaming LA record stores in the 90’s. I saw em rip it up in a downtown LA artloft in ’96 – it was sooo cool. Seeing Baiza – wearing a big wide grin – combining those angular/oddball gtr runs of his with these totally earthy/primeval groovechords, all atop a hard hitting rhythm section (Rafa Gorodetsky & Wayne Griffin) . . . man, the whole place was bumpin’. Never will forget that.