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Time Takes Three Places At Once

22 May

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What I was doing

13 YEARS AGO: Freezing my ass off on a stool behind the counter at the Record Recycler (4659 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA – RIP), cleaning a stack of tepid, late-disco LPs by hand, listening to a beat up copy of MICK RONSON’s Slaughter on 10th Avenue LP over the soundsystem. Dweeb nonpersonality cum popstar BECK is also there as a customer, checking out the used rock section.

At some point, BECK tentatively approaches the counter, and asks: ”Um – do you have a bathroom here?” I say: ”yeah – in the back, through that door” and point to the back office door. BECK hesitates for a moment, frozen, zero expression, staring at the counter. “Just, back through that door there?” Me: ”Yep. Just back through that door.”

BECK stands there for what feels like an extremely long while – considering his options, I suppose. But now I’m getting uncomfortable. I don’t precisely know what he more he wants me to do – help him, maybe? So I say: ”you want me to show you where it is?” BECK, visibly relieved, says: ”Yes!” I show him the way, thankfully without further incident. He emerges intact 5 minutes later.

BECK then stares at the counter and asks if the MICK RONSON record I’m listening to is for sale. Shit. ”Well, it’s pretty beat. You could find a nicer copy pretty easily. This is just sort of an in-store play copy. You know, to listen to in the store and stuff.” Which is followed by another one of these interminably long, coldsweat silences. And I, in a vulnerable moment of either Honest Abe free market wheelin’ and dealin’, or awkward tongue-tied cowardice, end up selling him the LP for one lousy dollar. My wife STILL won’t let me live this down.

19 YEARS AGO: Getting off work at Either/Or Bookstore (124 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, CA – RIP), heading to my older brother’s apartment in South Torrance. Upon arrival, I find not only my brother but his galpal tripping ha-a-a-rd on some righteous LSD blotter, blasting METALLICA’s Master of Puppets cassette, watching David Lynch’s Eraserhead on mute. Niiice. As one might guess, the anxiety-provoking audiovisual input is bumming everyone out pretty majorly. This, in turn, bums me out royally – hey he’s my brother, after all.

With a bit of cheerleading, I pry em loose of that reality and herd everyone into my pickup. We then drive up to my pad – the smallest studio apartment in the whole of North Redondo. Somewhere en route the vibe brightens up considerably, but unfortunate things like ”dude the police are everywhere” are still voiced. Once safely inside my pad, my guests plant themselves on the shag carpet and enter into a deep state of relaxation whilst paging through ROBERT WILLIAMS’ low brow art books and listening to ENO’s Music For Airports to take the edge off. No further worries are verbalized. The next day my brother phones and says ”that art shit totally saved me from the hairy precipice of insanity.”

25 YEARS AGO: Arriving at a winter junior high school dance at the Margate Intermediate School (2161 Via Olivera, Palos Verdes Estates, CA – RIP) auditorium. I am late, the place is packed, and the cover band is crucifying something I’d identify years later as a truncated version of KID CREOLE & THE COCONUTS’ ”Stool Pigeon”. I keep my head down and tell myself I don’t really want to be there, this is stupid, all the girls at this school are fake, stuck-up preppies, just boring etc. etc. etc.

I go stand against the wall next to L., an awkward fella who always arrived extra-early to these things wearing an unfashionable satin jacket. He never seemed to dance much. After a stomach- knotting length of time, the cover band’s singer lets rip his last ”Ah-cha! Cha! Cha!” and the song mercifully ends. Dancers slow and begin to return to their chosen wall-space.

At this point S. slowly approaches me, smiling in her friendly though slightly conspiratorial way. Out of pure fear-of-girls (particularly preppy ones like S.) I avoid eye contact at first. But then, realizing it’s not so hard, I return her smile. The band lurches into their manic and hurried take on THE ROMANTICS ”What I Like About You” and S. pops the question: ”wanna dance?” I nod and say yes yes yes. We get out there and dance the Belinda Carlisle wildly together, I have a ball and my whole freakin’ world loosens up one incredibly important notch. After the song ends, S. confides: ”I like dancing with you – you don’t make me look like an idiot.” It makes my entire week.

*originally posted on a now defunct LiveJournal

Comp Time

19 Apr

Been off work for a bit, sick as a dog – only just now pulling out of it. As a way of testing how together I’m actually feeling, I wrote reviews of a few new-ish compilation CDs that I’ve been digging on lately. I’m happy to see they all came out relatively coherent, but if you feel any of em still smack of fever dream, do let me know and I’ll rethink my plan to return to work tomorrow.

kidcreoleot_goingplac_101b1. VARIOUS ARTISTSGoing Places: The August Darnell Years 1976 – 1983 (Strut Records, 2008) – Yes I realize this blog may paint me as some sort of hairy heavyweight doom rocker type. But really I’m nothing but an ass shakin’ pansy who loves disco and glittering lights as much as I do WINO’s new solo CD. Recently blogged about this man’s moustache, but dammit if his music ain’t worth some attention too. There was a time a decade or so ago when I was searching hi/lo for every August Darnell (aka KID CREOLE) project I could find – boy, were there alot of em. This one documents his early days with glistening examples from all his greatest achievements: DR. BUZZARD’S ORIGINAL SAVANNAH BAND, GICHY DAN’S BEACHWOOD NO. 9 (where’s that long promised reissue?), DON ARMANDO’S SECOND AVE. RHUMBA BAND, THE AURAL EXCITERS, CRISTINA, and of course KID CREOLE & THE COCONUTS. Along the way James Chance, Pat Place, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and Walter Steding all lob in choice bits of skronky noise, Sue Who and Taana Gardner out-Brooklyn Rosie Perez in the whiny sass department, and Cory Daye and Lourdes Cotto earn my votes as Ruling Disco Diva Queens forevermore. What can never be denied was the KID’s talent for penning great lyrics that were goofily silly as often as they were pointedly biting. And only Arthur Russell ever thought to confuse the dance by inserting so many loopy sonic non sequiturs into the basic 4-4 disco formula. If this don’t make you wanna hustle, I don’t know what will.

zzthankyoufriendsthea_101b2. VARIOUS ARTISTSThank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story (Ace Records, 2008) – Only ever been to Memphis once, and all I really remember was checking out Beale Street with this attractive Spanish gal from the youth hostel who was unavailable since she was “getting over Cristóbal”. Baaah. But I do remember listening to ALEX CHILTON’s Lost Decade cassette – which corralled stray cuts by Alex with forgotten tracks by outsider Memphians Alex had produced in the 70’s – over and over on my shitty car stereo down highways/byways all over the city and beyond in the beautiful Tennessee countryside. That comp made a great case for the true genius of Alex laying well outside the confines of his more renowned contribution to BIG STAR. It remains for me the best way to get acquainted to this gentleman’s singular talent and the unique social landscape that nourished it.

But along comes this Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story compilation that expands exponentially on the original Lost Decade concept, busting beyond Alex to sample much of what came out of Memphis’ Ardent Studios dating back to 1960. What’s trippy is how a studio sitting smack dab in this Southern cradle of country, rock’n’roll, and soul produced so much English sounding pop/rock throughout it’s heyday. At times it’s positively uncanny: THE AVENGERS sound like an early Joe Meek production, SID SELVIDGE like a haunting PROCOL HARUM outtake, and more than one of these bands like something Keith Relf coulda fronted and pretended were THE YARDBIRDS. The second disc is made up of lots of BIG STAR alt versions that don’t really sound too alt to me; anybody else wanna admit to thinking BS are just a tad overrated? Me I’m more interested in odd, peripheral acts like ROCK CITY, THE HOT DOGS, and Tulsa’s amazing CARGOE, who even Jody Stephens conceded could best BIG STAR live. But taken in total this smashes all preconceived notions about Memphis and its musical legacy, which I guess means somebody put this set together right.

featurebold_beginnings_cd_coverimg_3. VARIOUS ARTISTSBold Beginnings: An Incomplete Collection of Louisville Punk 1978 – 1983 (Noise Pollution, 2007) And here I thought the Louisville underground began and ended with Tara Key’s ANTIETAM . . . this collection proves just how wrong I was. Starting with the dissonant, minor key howls/wails of NO FUN, you get to pay witness to everybody from THE ENDTABLES (sizable midwestern chunkstyle riffs fronted by a neat David Thomas clone) to the BABYLON DANCE BAND (totally cool, post-punk WIRE bass churn) to THE MONSTERS (FLIPPEResque 1/2 speed noise nod) and on to MALIGNANT GROWTH (fullblown MINOR THREAT-aware HC punk). The CRIME-like BLINDER gets points for Best Song Title (“This Isn’t My Mother’s Car”), YOUR FOOD and awesome named SKULL OF GLEE allow arty dudes to herk and jerk with the best of em, and THE DICKBRAINS take limey worship to new, uncharted Appalachian heights. Only STRICT-9 are a bit forgettable but HEY petty quibbles don’t matter, since soooo much of this is top rank stuff. You only wish your shitty city had this much crazy punker madness still to exhume.

Moustache Rock

28 Mar

(I first slapped this up on the internet in ’04 with kind input from Ally on her then-current, fashionable SCRUGLET webzine. Sadly, SCRUGLET has long since gone the way of the pulltop aluminum beverage can. But as I’ve now regrown my moustache, it’s hightime this piece got another airing.)

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As a courtesy to others, leave your Frank Zappas and Geddy Lees at home with the sitter. Please check all Freddy Mercurys, Phil Lynotts and whoever else you might have brought with you at the door. You are now taking a seat at . . .

THE REAL MOUSTACHE ROCK ROUND TABLE!!!

Introductions from left to right:

1) daveballDAVE BALL of SOFT CELL. Not in the history of mankind has DAVE BALL’s visage been given billing over that of singer MARC ALMOND – until now, that is. And that’s because New Romantics (circa 1981) didn’t know what the fuck to make of this heavy-set bruiser with a moustache. His anachronistic look brings to mind that of SPARKS’ RON MAEL, but it also gets me thinking English seaside holidaymaker – which makes sense, since DAVE’s from Blackpool. Hopefully, focusing in on his looks for this brief moment will also lead you reconsider this man’s uncanny knack of crafting anxious, desperate melodies & beats that sound the way drinking 6 consecutive shots of espresso alone in your shitty studio apartment feels.

2) sparksRON MAEL of SPARKS. RON’s moustache transcends mere fashion trend – it’s an integral part of what it means to be SPARKS, not to mention a potent musical force in and of itself. Take a listen to SPARKS’ Kimono My House LP again, and listen closely this time; you can actually hear RON’s moustache throwing in it’s 2 cents on damn near every cut. And it’s no coincidence that every change in SPARKS’ musical attack over the years (from dadapop to glamrock to powerpop to synthpop to . . .) has been heralded in by yes! you guessed it! a subtle moustache alteration. Just who or what is calling the shots here? Those of you who feel up to the task can explore Ron’s face in more detail here.

tav3) TAV FALCO of THE PANTHER BURNS. If you’re someone who doesn’t have alot of patience for things deemed “rootsy”, but always suspected things were waaaay cooler in them olden days than anyone’s grandparents are letting on – well then, TAV’s your man. TAV has an innate ability to recontextualize forgotten American musics in such a highly personalized and assbackwards sort of way that you, the listener, begin to truly understand the dark places in which our collective heritage first squirmed. In the 1990’s, he also focused his attention on tracing American musical forms back to their festering European origins, and reportedly spent a fair amount of time doing the tango in dimly-lit, turn-of-the-century Parisian brothels. Which makes his ghostly moustache all the more apropos.

kidcongo14) KID CONGO POWERS of THE GUN CLUB. I couldn’t really find a pic that does justice to this man’s upper lip, which is a shame. It’s often groomed in the Errol Flynn mold, but on the KID’s face it takes on a kind of seedy urban jaundice that speaks of acts of profound indiscretion. Those unfamiliar with his music should note he’s also played guitar in THE CRAMPS and NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS among many others – bands who have seen fit to infuse near lethal doses of drama and excitement into our milktoast world over the past quarter century. Plus, he bought a BURUNDI BLACK 12″ in the Hollywood record store I once managed and seemed really sweet, so he earns an honorary seat at the Real Moustache Rock Round Table.

deville5) WILLY DeVILLE of MINK DEVILLE. I can’t pretend to have followed much of what this man has recorded over the past 30 years. But I’d follow a moustache like this on the street in a New York minute. Perfectly sculpted, nicely thinned, trimmed to a point; in 1977, this sort of attention to personal grooming was a challenge to uptight, heterosexual American men everywhere. While WILLY was hardly the first to bring back the Errol Flynn, he was probably the first to plaster it on the face of downtown NYC punk rock clubland culture. A bold move, MR. DEVILLE. Bravo.

ritamitsouko6) FREDRIC CHICHIN of LES RITA MITSOUKO. The somewhat unexpected runway appearance of early 80s inspired fashion in this new millennium might’ve suggested all sorts of colorfully futurist possibilities, but make no mistake about it: this corporate visitation is a hesitant (read: unwilling) nod to those asymmetrically times, at best. The dearth of wacky retro 80’s gear for large size women in your local mall speaks reams of the dominance of hardbody culture over the past 20 years, and lost are the devil-may-care juxtapositions that made 80’s fashion so exciting. Which brings us to FREDRIC CHICHIN: one half of LES RITA MITSOUKO (hands down the best 80’s French new wave duo ever), and a fashion icon unto himself. Everything this man wore – be it hair, fur, silk, skin, metal, paint or plastic – he wore like a freakin’ demon. And it goes without saying that his long, beautifully manicured moustache has much to do with the ease with which he pulled it all off. If you need more visual stimulation do check out the 100+ photos of FREDRIC here.

kidcreole17) KID CREOLE of KID CREOLE & THE COCONUTS. If you ever attended a high school grad night or New Year’s Eve party in the 1980’s, no doubt you were suckered into shuffling around the dancefloor to something by this man. However embarrassing those memories may be, I’d wholeheartedly suggest you re-explore the first couple KID CREOLE LPs, as well as everything he did with his earlier 70’s/40’s disco acts (DR. BUZZARD’S ORIGINAL SAVANNAH BAND and GICHY DAN’S BEACHWOOD #9). Those records are stylistically clever, suavely over-the-top romps through a goofy, colorful terrain few but KID have ever sought fit to explore. And the sight of him here on this page – wearing that Cab Calloway moustache & zoot suit – still makes me giggle in a really good way.

lee8) LEE HAZLEWOOD. The twisted granddaddy of em all, LEE was first to take the flying leap and slide a big ol’ droopy moustache under the radar of the fashion police. On one hand, this was a not-so-subtle insult, a middle finger of sorts aimed at record company stiffs in suits and ties everywhere. But on another level, it was pure genius: the appropriation of something as sick as a goddamn Fuller Brush moustache under the rubric of cool! And make no mistake about it, he did make it cool. Holy fuckin’ A, man – this is the moustache of my worst/best nightmares.