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I Was So Heavy Man, I Lived On The Strand

30 Jan

Great new interview with Keith Morris reminiscing about his earliest Hermosa Beach stirrings is now up over at the Easy Reader, done by The Godfather Of Wildass 70’s South Bay Rock N Roll himself, Mr Don Waller. Keith: “it was taking Ted Nugent and Black Sabbath and ZZ Top, speeding it up, and taking it to the next step” – exactly.

Photo of Keith, ca. 1980 courtesy of Jennifer L7 Finch

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Kickin’ ‘n’ Stickin’

26 Nov

Have now made it through all 402 pages of the new BLACK FLAG biography written by Londoner Stevie Chick, entitled Spray Paint The Walls. I had high hopes for this, oh did I ever. The short intro piece – describing the author’s vain attempt to locate hallowed South Bay punk places of yore in the new millennium – had me grinning wide. The self-effacing tone of it was most welcome; here, a Brit was attempting pilgrimages I’d made 20+ years ago, and coming up nearly as empty! But once the book got rolling proper . . . well, let’s just say I was underwhelmed.

For starters, there’s Chick’s lazy decision to begin by contextualizing this story within wider, modern myths: “California has always been the stuff of dreams . . .” Maybe, but however you slice it, Hollywood ain’t the appropriate starting place for a book about gangly, ham radio weirdo Greg Ginn. Then: there’s those irksome place/name/factual errors strewn willy nilly throughout. Oh so you so used to hang out in “Huntingdon” Beach, did you? And THE MISFITS are from the west coast, you say? Yeah sure . . .

Chick has a tendency to pad the book out with tiresome, often superfluous details, slowing everything down and adding an unnecessary 100 pages or so to an already-long book. There’s a lengthy, yawn inducing bit on the post-FLAG career of Rollins, not particularly interesting info about dozens of SST artists with only vague connections to the larger story, and sorta patronizing, Wikipedia-like descriptions about everyone from MINOR THREAT to THE GREATFUL DEAD sprinkled throughout. Stevie, I agree that not all Deadheads are gonna know who BF roadie Tom Troccoli is – but that all FLAG wavers are gonna know who Jerry G. was? I guarantee.

Such things I can forgive, had the author more fully acknowledged his cultural distance from his chosen subject. Chick’s more of a “lyric” guy – as opposed to an “instrument” guy – which bothers me. Clearly he’s read and loved Joe Carducci’s writing about the rock core in FLAG, and he’s definitely written alot about FLAG’s music here too. But the endless attempts to read deeper meaning into Ginn’s lyrics seem misdirected to me. I’ve come to believe it was the incredible musical power of the band that still means much in 2009, and I don’t always get a sense that Chick has digested the full significance of the 100 or so changes Ginn led his FLAG through during their time. Certainly, I don’t always agree or relate to his assessments of the relative merits of various FLAG recordings.

What is impressive is the extensive collection of interviews Chick has amassed here. No he didn’t get Ginn or Rollins on board, but dammit if the lengthy words by Dukowski, Keith Morris, Ron Reyes, and Kira aren’t all amazingly insightful – while contributions by more peripheral guys like THE LAST’s Joe Nolte, REDD KROSS’ McDonald brothers, Mugger, and the aforemention Tom Troccoli are equally eye opening and vital to fleshing out this often very private, suburban picture. Had he decided to pattern this book on Brendan Mullen’s Lexicon Devil or We Got the Neutron Bomb, as straight oral history – this woulda been un-putdownable, as the story itself is a great one. But since Chick’s writing is merely journeyman, his book provided few real revelations for me. Which is ironic, since every BLACK FLAG record has continually blown my mind all down the line.

Open 24 Hours

7 Nov

WGP524A

Beneath nobby knees, stripey socks, and the formidable hit of a dozen cups of acidic coffee, lay the baddest 5-piece band ever to stalk the Earth. The flipside of their TV Party 45 EP (SST Records, 1982) proves it once and for all:

Thanks to Glen E. Friedman and We Got Power for the image

Black Flag live at Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach

7 Jul

First published in The Easy Reader newspaper ca. 1979, proving without a doubt that the suburbs weren’t anything close to the idyllic havens our parents always professed them to be. And truly, this was the beginning of everything that would come to blow my everlovin’ mind as an adolescent and teenager. A great South Bay elder punker named Steve Vargas (he’s the one wearing shades up front on the right) showed me this photo back in the 80’s when I was 15, pointing out Ron Reyes and Dez Cadena wrestling on the ground, maintaining that BLACK FLAG was always at their best with Keith singing. I still believe him to this day.

Relatin’ Dudes to SST

4 Oct

Man oh man oh man did I ever hoot outloud when Donut Duck over at the SST Records-loving blog, The Blasting Concept, published this post about an unknown mid-80’s bass & drums duo who once called themselves THE CHASTITY TWINS. While these CHASTITY boys never left the garage, a pantload of SST Records sure as hell found their way into their bedrooms. The TWINS not only worked up a bunch of instrumental MINUTEMEN tunage, but they also tried their hand at BLACK FLAG, GONE, and frickin’ PAINTED WILLIE songs too. Nuts! The bassist goes for it like only a teen who’d recently fallen under the gargantuan spell of Watt’s Thud Staff could’ve. And all in gloriously muddy, lo-fi cassette deck fidelity – though this kinda microsubcultural homage couldn’t possibly exist any other way. Download their entire Dudes Jammin’ ’86 spiel tape here.

Blasting Minds

19 Jul

So you wanna talk about redefining rock LPs of the 1980’s? Ya just gotta include THE BLASTING CONCEPT VOLUME II in there, chief. Anyone who hoped those “difficult” mid-period BLACK FLAG and SACCHARINE TRUST records were just a fluke couldn’t deny that, by 1985, SST Records had undergone a complete and total aesthetic overhaul. The HC punk had become heavy, found hippie, turned jazzy, gone fishin’ and then . . . well, kids everywhere were shaking their heads in utter disbelief. This just wasn’t what they wanted their oh-so precious punk rock to sound like. Ever.

THE BLASTING CONCEPT VOLUME II encapsulated those revelatory changes, and suggested a dozen more. It was a bold, powerful, collective artistic statement that directly challenged unexamined musical prejudices throughout punk & underground scenes at the time. While the first BLASTING compilation merely corralled previously released material on a handy 12″, most of this stuff never turned up anywhere else, making it primary SST documentation. Yes it’s got the most boring cover in SST’s early annals; but do check out the original, unused Pettibon artwork in the backpages of Joe Carducci’s Rock & the Pop Narcotic – a very different graphic representation to ponder when cracking an ear to this aural wonder. Blow by blow, it’s

SAINT VITUS: “Look Behind You” – One of my fave early VITUS cuts. Carducci makes mention of a creeping paranoia floating around SST back then, and VITUS pins it here with a singularly leaden, dull blade. Ouch. This version beats the slightly later, Wino-led version what with more inspired vocals by Scott Reagers and superior drumming from Armando.

DC3: “Theme From an Imaginary Western” – Dez the crooner, won’t you take the mic? Oh my god, how I love this. It’s hard, heavy, and poignant – brings tears to my eyes. And these eyes don’t cry easily.

SWA: “Mystery Girl” – Not my fave SWA song, as it’s got one of them distended, disjointed riffs that clutter up their early LPs. But Merrill sounds E. Bloomin’ hot and raring to go-go-go, like he’s about to whip his dick out in front of whatever loser audience ain’t gonna be able to handle SWA this week. You might, but me? I don’t ever fast-forward past this one.

BLACK FLAG: “I Can See You” – One of the more off-kilter melodies Ginn came up with in FLAG, and when he solos I start feeling a bit woozy. But lyrically it fits the rec perfectly, as if Ginn’s responding to the VITUS track above. Who says he didn’t grow eyes in the back of his head?

GONE: “Watch the ‘Tractor” – One of GONE’s defining moments: pure metallic punk/prog mayhem bliss. A buddy of mine always maintained GONE was responsible for the very best in-store performance ever in the greater Washington DC area, which is totally believable if they sounded anything like this.

WÜRM: “Death Ride” – I am one yahoo who actually digs Simon Smallwood’s vocals and the BLUE CHEER bronco these guys saddled on their Feast LP. WÜRM were far too early in the scheme of Heavy Revival to be considered anything more than a joke. But like VOX POP, they helped reintroduce OTT metal to punkers in LA, back when you were still making excuses for owning Haysi Fantayzee records.

OVERKILL: “Over the Edge” – OVERKILL put out the best SST LP most of you never bothered with, and this singularly-great MÖTÖRHEAD bomb is an outtake from that crucial rec. Merrill’s vocals are buried which makes him sound even more feral, and drummer Kurt Markham positively murders. I can’t not bang my head hard when this one comes on.

SACCHARINE TRUST: “Emotions and Anatomy” – A short outtake from their Worldbroken live record, so it’s got Mike Watt playing bass. At the time, this kinda deep searching, exploratory sound got me thinking there were absolutely no more limits to just how far out underground rock could be taken. You younger free-rock types oughta all come pay your respects.

PAINTED WILLIE: “The Big Time” – Not a bad bit of REDD KROSS-like sneer from guys who struggled to find their voice after the brilliance of their initial Ragged Army 7″ 45. Most of their records suffer from shitty production, but as I always empathized with punkers who tried rocking it hard and heavy, no doubt I’d have paid to see em do it live if I could.

ANGST: “Just Me” – Depressive folk rock that nicely illustrates the strengths of this Bay-area band. Again I’ll maintain that this is entirely in keeping with the vibe (if not the sound) of primo SLEEPERS/NEGATIVE TREND material.

MEAT PUPPETS: “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” – I prefer the PUPS covers of “Child of the Moon” and “No Quarter” but they’re all zigzagging stripes off the very same three-legged zebra. I always laugh when Curt maintains she don’t love you anymore/ she likes my love better.

MINUTEMEN: “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love” – Here you probably figured Merrill Ward or Henry Rollins would be the first to come out of the closet with a love for VAN HALEN. Nope: it was Boon who was the real Diamond Dave aficionado all along. I love that, in true MINUTEMEN fashion, they’ve parred this back to only the 3rd verse and the hey hey heys.

HÜSKER DÜ: “Erase Today” – a great New Day Rising-era outtake. This doesn’t actually sound like much else here, but that just illustrates how distinctive these guys’ sound actually was. I’m not a huge HD fan, but this is a classic midwestern barnburner anyway you wanna cut it.

OCTOBER FACTION: “I Was Grotesque” – Lifted from the their less-than successful second LP, wherein Dukowski, Ginn, Baiza, Stevenson et al tried to FACTIONalize within the unnatural confines of the studio. They couldn’t pull it off and I admit it: I sometimes skip past this one. But I’ll always admire their impulse to take the music one step beyond.

TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG: “Todo Para Mi” – A far from ideal cut to end things on, given the quality of all that came before. Me I woulda chose Tom’s cover of ANDY & THE RATTLESNAKES “Patience” which ended his own DOG LP from this same year. But really, what better man to bring down these BLASTING curtains than the hippiest, deadheadiest SST roadie of them all? Anybody who couldn’t deal would’ve given up loooong before this track; those who stayed to appreciate it no doubt went on to form all my favorite bands over the next couple decades.

——–

Paging Greg Ginn: re-release this lost treasure! It’s one that’ll blow minds, forevermore.

Hate is the Message

26 Apr

Hate Rock

Yeah I’ve struggled through days of pain, and shared in days of sorrow. I’ve worked through days of tense confusion, and weathered days of heavy thunder. But the sweetest, the longest lasting, the most un-for-fucking-get-able of days have been my days of white hot, burning HATE. Come on now, spell it with me: H-A-T-E. Hating me, hating you, hating us, hating them. Hating it fucking all. And while I’m betting you, too, have your very own personal ritual . . . for me, when I’m really feeling the hate, so to speak – well, I open an armfull of chilled Foster’s in tall cans, shut the curtains tight, turn down the lights, roll my eyes waaaay back and slowly take in the following tunes:

BOYD RICE w/ JOEL HAERTLING“Hatesville” (from The Way I Feel, Caciocavallo, 2000) – Boyd’s no ho-dad when it comes to hate – he’s a charter member of Hatred Anonymous. And I do not care if this man is a saint or sinner, Nazi or Nationalist. What I do care about is that he’s frequently and inexplicably great at pulling together sonic material + words that reverberate with my darker thoughts, feelings, & unconscious wishes. Here though, he’s spelling it out in a way we can all understand.

FOETUS/THE MELVINS“Mine is No Disgrace” (from The Crybaby, Ipecac Recordings, 1999) – Don’t even try and convince me Jim Thirwell is a waste of time. Sure he likes to over-arrange his stuff, and I do understand his copious use of BOMBAST is not everyone’s cup o’ tea . . . but pushing buttons is his modus operandi. And by accepting that, you’re half-way into a Foetal position, so to speak. I love the refrain included herein (“I feel like I could rape a nun, and it’s always the first kiss that gets you drunk/ so I keep a habit on her face, while I listen to that YES song, ‘Yours is No Disgrace’ . . .”), and love more that Buzzo & co. are backing him here with real live heavyasswoopin rocknrolla . . .

ADAM PARFREY“Kill Your Sons” (from A Sordid Evening of Sonic Sorrows, Man’s Ruin Records, 1997) – I realize you’re now wondering: does this Mrowster guy sit around pumping his fist to those later 80’s SKREWDRIVER records? And I gotta say no, no, and more no – that Ian Stuart guy was too predictably boring/shmaltzy with all his Blood & Honour crap for a perverse, self-deprecating mofo like myself to take seriously. Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed sharing a pint with the man if only to lob backhanded insults at him . . . anyway Adam P., the distasteful cad behind Feral House Press, once sculpted a couple of irresponsible CDs with the POISON IDEA boyz that, when taken together, act as a sort of hate rock concept suite. This Lou Reed cover is my pick of their foul spawn, but I coulda lots of picked others . . .

GLYN STYLER/LYDIA LUNCH“Casket Built For Two” (from The Desperate Ones EP, Truckstop Records, 1998) – That point where obsessive love finally empties out into a tranquil lagoon of eternal murderous suffocation. Either one of these characters (Glyn or Lydia) harbors enough hatred to fuel a mid-size midwestern town, but together? Brother, the party is ON! I will stand by Lydia’s first dozen or so releases til I die, and once pontificated long and strong about Glyn on a now-defunct website of mine. But really, the whole world oughta be swooning to this beautifully over-wrought epitaph on a nightly basis. God, how much better I’m feeling already!

BLACK FLAG“Scream” (My War, SST Records, 1984) Just the ultimate in primeval scream therapy. Overdubbing multiple Rollinses was one of more effective studio tricks Ginn ever came up with. As a shitty no-talent 16 yr old bassist/keyboardist, I once convinced the ZEPP-loving buddies in my high school band (we called ourselves HAMMER, THUMP & WEDGE) that I’d written this. I didn’t let on and we jammed for weeks around this riff, while I imagined elaborate revenge scenarios and gruesome fantasies of self-serving mayhem aimed at all those who wronged me in my life. “Yeah I blow my cool, I blow my cool all over the place . . .”