COME TO THE DEATH PARTY, YOU AIN’T GOT NOTHING TO LOSE

The most underrated GUN CLUB record in my book, and until the past few years one of the hardest to find, is the five-song 1983 “DEATH PARTY” EP. This record came after what many, including me, believe to be a very mediocre album, 1982’s “Miami”, which is a classic, textbook sophomore slump. After “FIRE OF LOVE”, one of the greatest debuts of all time and one of the finest American rock records of any era, expectations were through the roof that these Los Angelinos could turn in another ten songs of hopped-up punk rock bluesarama hellfire, but they didn’t even come close, opting instead to let the folks from BLONDIE (!) put their record out, and allowing them to water down the sound and fury considerably. That’s why a year later, when “Death Party” came out, it must’ve been a total slap in the face to hear the snarling, fire-and-brimstone backwater blues of the band back in place again. The EP itself came packaged in one of those thin 12” picture sleeves popular at the time, and I never remember seeing it around. I always thought it was an “import”, and until Sympathy put it out on CD with a bunch of extra live tracks in 2004, my copy was one of the only ones I’d ever seen.

Here’s the hellish title track, easily the best thing the band ever did outside of the ten masterpieces on “FIRE OF LOVE”.

Play or Download THE GUN CLUB – “Death Party”

The subject of a Just Farr A Laugh outtake…

Long ago, Jeff and I recorded several calls to tanning salons in which we tried to coerce the recipients into allowing our 18-month-old daughter into a tanning bed.

…but this is another reason that I’ll be living in the middle of nowhere by my 40th birthday. (a good stretch from now, thank you)

Thanks, Bob Mehr.

Latest on my girl Ophelia (for non-regional readers)

The Ford’s are Tennessee’s Kennedy’s…sort of. Or not at all. You get the pic.

Ophelia has hit bottom and crashed through. She’s no longer all that read-able. First, there was the aborted rescue mission. Now (or yesterday), there appeared this odd little space-filler. I didn’t see a tipping per-diem.

Kincade –Mo’Reen

Kincade –Mo’Reen/You Turned My World Around –Penny Farthing Pen 835 (1974 UK)
There’s a strange story going on here…. John Carter (Carter/ lewis, Ivy League, First Class etc…) and some session guys recorded and then had a continental hit using the name Kincade with Dreams Are Ten A Penny in 1972.Only there was no band…so the label got a guy called John Knowles to front the release, but he was soon replaced by members from Octopus to mime the song on TV. Things then start to get complicated as John Knowles reappeared releasing singles under the name John Kincade while John Carter continued putting out singles as Kincade with both acts being on Penny Farthing!

Anyhow Mo’Reen is a strange beast indeed with a cool mix of acoustic guitar, handclaps and its nasal vocal performance. The arrangement and production is remarkable throughout with its out there Roy Wood/T. Rex string part and bizarre orchestration; the sound really sucks you in. I would like to know more about the lineup here –There’s a compilation CD of Kincade stuff released, can anyone share the information perhaps contained in the liner notes?

Click on title for soundclip of Mo’ Reen

MR. BROOKS!!! BUG!!!!

 Good gravy, has it been four days? My 200 readers must be fuming. No concrete reason for me to be here, really, other than apologizing for poor content as of late, those impulsive attacks on the idiots and assholes that raise my ire and transform my writing into child’s play. I know better than that.

 This weekend: Skipped town with Candace at the last minute. Hiking, fishing, and much work completed. More on this later – it will take a day or so for the pertinent post to surface (WORTH IT…..STICK AROUND!!!)

 David Dunlap Jr. would like credit for introducing me to Grandma’s Boy, and he can have it. “I like a movie that knows what it is.”

 Thursday night, I’ll be interviewing Jim Dandy Mangrum of Black Oak Arkansas re: the Rhino Handmade Reissue of 1973’s Raunch ‘N’ Roll, an album that was absorbed disc 1 to disc 2, point A to point Z, during the drive back to Memphis on the less-than-scenic HWY 51. Once completed and published, I will post a link to the interview (Memphis Flyer).

 Until I return, here’s Jeffrey Jensen ghost-writing record reviews as RTX/Royal Trux’s Jennifer Herrema. Amazingly, these may have surfaced in a book. Brilliant stuff.

 

1.      Glen Fry-Strange Weather   MCA 1993 Throughout my career much has been made of my association and usage of illegal drugs. This largely exaggerated reputation has preceded and effected the critical reaction to every single step of my musical development. It used to really bother me but now I’ve just learned to live with it. One thing that practically no one knows is that years after my rehabilitation I encountered a drug that had a vastly more profound effect on my approach of music. PCP. In 1998 I was rummaging through a box of cassettes in the glove compartment of my stepfather’s Pontiac Fiero. I found the Glen Fry record Strange Weather on a factory cassette and thought I’d put it on for a lark. When I opened up the J-card (to read the lyrics) all of this white powder spilled out. I thought it was coke. It wasn’t coke. Right as the dust kicked in, the tune Part of Me, Part of You was reaching its climax. Previously, I’d thought all of that nonsense about being able to “find god through rock” was just empty promises from dried up hippies. I immediately had an amazing series of hallucinations all involving Danny Devito, Rhea Pearlman and this talking caterpillar (no shit). Words cannot describe, but this odyssey was PERFECTLY choreographed to these recordings. It was god!! I just sat there listening to this tape over and over again in the front seat of the Fiero until I finally came down.  Say what you will about Disraeli Gears, but I consider this cassette the ultimate “Drug Record” and challenge anyone to prove me wrong.
 

2.      Jerry Lewis-Just Sings   Decca 1957 A lot of people consider Bob Dylan to be the absolute being and most important voice of American music. Other critics bow to different totems (see Robert Christgau’s essay about James Brown, Fela, and Billy Ocean as the essential African triumvirate) For me; the only man that I can put equal to god (musically speaking) is Jerry Lewis.
 

3.      Jonny Lang- Brakin’ Me [Cassette Single] Interscope (2000) Blues is a weird genre for me. It’s so varied that I have a hard time figuring out what’s good. In the 90’s a lot of my contemporaries (Jon Spencer, Ian Sevonius etc…) were looking to older black men for inspiration in “finding the blues.” That route seemed so obvious to me. John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson never spoke to me. It was all too old…too black. I looked elsewhere and found a strain of blues I consider far more soulful and pure: “NAMBLA Blues.” Picking between the giants of this genre (Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Chris Duarte, Ralph Macchio and J. Evan Bonifant-who portrayed Buster Blues in Blues Brothers 2000) is like picking between siblings. But I would nominate this blues cassette-single as a great place to start.
 

4.      Joe Pesci- Vincent Laguardia Gambini Sings Just for You 1998  Sony Being an east-coast girl, it’s been very hard for me to relate to the “mellow vibes” of California. A lot of critics have pointed to Springsteen, Sinatra or Grandmaster Flash to musically convey the grit and intensity that is the east-coast urban experience. Whenever anyone asks me what it’s really like to live in a big cold city near the Atlantic, I invariably dub him or her a cassette copy of this record. It has ballads, rock anthems and even hip-hop. It’s perfect.
 

5.      Iggy Pop-Brick by Brick  1990 Virgin Most of the readers of this book are probably more than familiar with (maybe even sick of) the work of Iggy Pop. Called by many the Godfather of Punk for good reason…he makes musical offers that you can’t refuse. 1996’s Naughty Little Doggie taught us that this 71-year old bad boy could still deliver the bare-knuckled hard rock that made him famous. The brilliant Avenue B from 1999 displayed a more introspective Croce-esque (though shirtless and clean shaven) singer-songwriter. All are classics, but I really prefer his older stuff. That’s why I always find myself reaching for my Brick by Brick cassette (one of his first and best), which contains the infectious track, “Butt Town.”
 

6.      Ned’s Atomic Dustbin- One More No More (Live) Gig Records 2001 It’s well known that “The Trux” loved all of the rave bands that came out of Britain in the early 90’s. Ned’s was our favorite. This was a long-awaited live reunion album from 2001. They hand in serviceable renditions of “Stuck” and “Happy” as well as other classics. As an update, the album title proved to be false advertising — Ned’s Atomic Dustbin played many subsequent reunion shows after this one. I should know…I attended every one.
 

7.      Ryan Adams-Heartbreaker  Bloodshot 2000 In one review, a critic called one of my performances “postured,” “affected,” and “lacking any soul whatsoever.” I was so naïve I didn’t really know anything about those terms. I set out to find the true masters of these musical forms.  That’s how I discovered Ryan Adams.
 

8.      The Jewish- Fantasy Stalker (unreleased) 2006 This is by far the most important band of the new millennium. The Jewish, (whose recordings can only currently be heard on MySpace) are fronted by visionaries Jeffrey Jensen and Douglas Pressman AKA the Lennon and McCartney of my generation. I’m going to see that their first recordings are released on Drag City, even if I have to physically threaten Dan Koretsky (sic?).
 

9.      Guadalcanal Diary, Let’s Active, Fetchin’ Bones, Drivin’ n’ Cryin’,  Scruffy The Cat, The BoDeans, the Del Fuegos, Los Lobos I Love mediocre college rock from the mid-80’s! I’m not too cool to admit that I used to mousse my hair and wear bolo ties with my paisley shirts. If I ran across a time machine, this is the era I would travel back to. Any one of these bands will change your life.
 

10.  The Velvet Underground- The Velvet Underground and Nico  Verve 1967 What more can be said about this seminal cassette that hasn’t already been covered ad nauseam in the pages of every pretentious/expensive magazine, rock history book and unnecessary compendium of record reviews? I can’t say. I’ve honestly never heard it. Seriously. My stepsister taped over it with The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Uplift Mofo Party Plan, which is a pretty cool tape.
 

 

 

 

 

BRAIN-ERASING DUB, ROUND TWO

I know we must’ve converted at least a few doubting thomases last time we posted some of the greatest dubs of all time, so let’s give it another shot & see if we can haul in a few more true believers. Last time we gave you masterpieces from AUGUSTUS PABLO, GLEN BROWN & KING TUBBY and the IMPACT-ALL-STARS, and if you’re so inclined, they’re still available right here. This time I’d like to introduce you to a long scorcher from the late 70s, New York-based WACKIES collective, a group headed up by one Lloyd Barnes and a rotating cast of heavies. These guys recorded their dub 45s and 12” under a multitude of different names, includes BULLWACKIES’ ALL-STARS, WACKIES RHYTHM FORCE, and the plain-simple WACKIES. This one is the title track from a CD called “Nature’s Dub”, and it’s a total firebreather. Get the whole CD if you dig what you hear.

The second selection this day is from another madman/genius producer, JOE GIBBS. Gibbs worked his magic on a number of hit records from the sixties to the eighties, and he was there at the creation & blossoming of Jamaican dub in the mid 1970s. This track is taken from an outstanding collection called “No Bones For The Dogs – Dubs From The Mighty Two 1974-79” that needs to be on your must-buy list ASAP. Get your groove on in the name of the most high, seen?

Play or Download WACKIES – “Nature’s Dub”
Play or Download JOE GIBBS AND THE PROFESSIONALS – “I Am Not Ashamed (version)”

Reading Mr. Mamet

David Mamet’s latest collection of essays, Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of the Movie Business, zeroes in on the subject of moviemaking — Hollywood moviemaking, in particular — and, as is his way, manages to make the reader feel a) pretty damn smart for understanding what’s being set at our feet, b) dimwitted for sometimes not knowing what the hell he’s talking about, or c) both a) and b) at the same time.

Reading Mr. Mamet is not unlike drinking a dose of cherry-flavored cough syrup: you don’t necessarily enjoy it at the time you’re downing it, you wonder where they picked these particular cherries, but afterwards, if its desired effect is successful, you’re glad you took the measures.
(I speak here of Mamet’s prose writing, not his playwriting. In that respect, I have nothing bad to say about the man who wrote Glengarry Glen Ross, nor, with few reservations, about the man who wrote the screenplays for The Verdict and the Untouchables, and who wrote and directed House of Games and State and Main. This hereby ends the world’s longest mea culpa.)

That being said, the sections of the book devoted to “The Screenplay” and “Technique” prove invaluable reading for any writer. “Storytelling: Some Technical Advice” begins: “Storytelling is like sex. We all do it naturally. Some of us are better at it than others.” Mamet goes on to say that all successful stories utilize the same form: “Once upon a time, and then one day, and just when everything was going so well, when just at the last minute, and they all lived happily ever after. Period.”

He misses the boat, however, with the book’s appendix, which consists of over 30 pages listing the films referenced throughout the book. Rather than enticing us with descriptions of the movies that are salient and incisive, after providing the year the film was made, the principal actors, the director and writer, he boils the plot lines down to their bare bones (sans any marrow whatsoever) and presents capsule reviews that make Leonard Maltin sound like Shakespeare. (For example, his entry for Taxi Driver: “Isolated in New York City, a Vietnam vet takes it upon himself to violently liberate an adolescent prostitute from her pimp.”)

If his goal was to demonstrate how the plots of even classic films can be reduced to a single sentence, he succeeds. But in doing so he also shows why so much of what comes out of pitch-happy Hollywood these days is devoid of mystery, poetry, character, or any trace of art.

Rescue Co. No.1 –It’s Only Words

Rescue Co. No.1 –It’s Only Words/Look Out –Jam 45 (1973 UK)

Some may call it madness… I accept that this record collecting lark is a tad obsessive, but it’s not harming anyone… although my carbon footprint has enlarged considerably driving a 200 mile round trip from London to the Reading Record Fair onto the one in Stratford Upon Avon (Billy Shake?) and back again. The results? Well 7 singles for £9 including this one.

Rescue Co. No. 1 were a vehicle for the songwriting partnership of Arnold/Martin/Morrow and they released a slew of singles on Pye, Rak, DJM and Jam (including the brilliant I Want To Save You). It’s Only Words is harder hitting and heavier than most of their other more pop orientated releases and has a real ‘67 Freakbeat feel to it. The track holds back from an all out attack on the senses, but the tension builds and the Spooky Hammond at the end is a nice touch adding to the overall atmosphere.

Click on title for It’s Only Words

Requiem For Mickey D

Saturday night I was invited to dinner at the dancer’s house, way down in Tempelhof, and after the thunderstorms cleared, I started walking. It’s only about three miles, and economics dictated shank’s mare. This meant walking over to Friedrichstr. and then walking the entire length of the street, which is usually fascinating, because after Checkpoint Charlie it turns into a fairly tawdry, largely Turkish/Arab neighborhood, a part of Berlin the tourists don’t see. That culminates in a really seedy housing project at Hallesches Tor, after which you cross over onto Mehringdamm, and into the old Kreuzberg 61.

Anyway, I’d no sooner started out than I got a rude shock. The McDonald’s on Friedrichstr. was gone. A sign for some GastroImmo firm announced it was for rent.

Although I’d never patronized the place, the McDonald’s was a landmark. Visitors coming to my place via the U-Bahn would always get the same instructions: “Okay, take the U-Bahn to Oranienburger Tor station” — and then I’d have to spell Oranienburger, of course, down to the last letter, as if there were lots of similar stations on the line — “and walk in the direction the train was moving and go up the stairs. Okay, now, look left and you’ll see a McDonald’s, so you know you’re in the right place. But you walk right, towards the pizza place…”

That pizza place had been a Burger King, locked in the usual corporate war against McDonald’s, but it probably lost the battle because the word got out that its upstairs bathrooms were ideal places to shoot up, and the local junkies took full advantage. (This came to light, pardon the pun, when it was announced that they’d installed black light in the bathrooms, which supposedly made it very difficult to shoot up. Why this was supposed to be so I can’t say.) Then it was dozens of other things before falling into the hands of the pizza guys. But McDonald’s was always buzzing. It always is in Europe: no other symbol of what makes American pop culture so desirable seems to come close. Maybe if someone would take the time and trouble to learn how to make a good hamburger on this continent this wouldn’t be the case.

(Oh, and this is the place to mention that the place with the great hamburgers I wrote about some time ago, Hazelwood, on Choriner Str., has lost the chef who designed the menu, taken a swift turn towards the Deutsch, and is no longer hamburger heaven in Berlin. The chef says she’s going to have another project soon, and meanwhile your indefatigable BerlinBites team is investigating several rumors of better burgers. Stay tuned.)

The thing I noticed about McDonald’s is that it’s a status symbol for teenagers. A Big Mac is a good deal more expensive than a Döner Kebap (€3.70 versus around €2), and that, along with your fashionable clothing, helps identify you and your posse as the cool kids you are. In Europe, that’s who McDonald’s seemed to be marketing to, too: in America, it seems to be younger kids, but here, the promotions were all about hit CD compilations and iTunes downloads.

So, is this changing? Or is all the construction in the immediate vicinity driving customers away? Why did McDonald’s close at what would seem to me to be a perfect location — especially given that it had traffic all the time? Did one too many Germans see Supersize Me? Do they even supersize in German McDonald’s?

I mean, other than having a familiar place vanish, it’s no big deal for me: I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s since the ’70s, when one opened up on Market Street in San Francisco, the first non-freestanding McDonald’s in America. At the time, I was writing for a brand new magazine called Mother Jones, whose offices were immediately above, and whose elevator was one of the slowest I’ve encountered outside the Communist world. (Soviet elevators are a whole ‘nother tirade.) The exhaust from the McDonald’s fries leaked into the vestibule, where you waited and waited for the elevator to make its mammoth three-story descent, and a certain amount of the grill odor did, too. It was like standing in the middle of a Big Mac and fries, and, like the doughnut bakery that vented directly into two (unusable) rooms in an apartment I rented in college, the smell permeated my memory to such an extent that I can taste McDonald’s fries (or doughnuts) just by closing my eyes and concentrating for a couple of seconds. Plus, of course, until I moved here, there were always much better burgers to be had when I wanted them.

This leaves the pizza place, Dada Falafel (run by Iraqi refugees from Saddam), and, of course, the great YumMee bánh mi sandwich joint (now serving pho!) as the only fast-food alternatives in that vicinity. But it doesn’t make the mystery of why McDonald’s would vanish overnight from such a plum location any clearer.

STICK YOUR HANDS INTO MY PINK LUNCHBOX

Yeah, “that’s what she said”, right brother? So sayeth JOHNNY HASH on this absolutely immortal 1993 single that came out on IN THE RED, and is still vinyl-only unless you search high & low for a Japanese CD that had a bunch of old singles from the label. I love the stupid-sloppy slide guitar, the drawly vocals, the “breakdown” guitar solo, and the general garbage-blues piss take of this whole thing. One critic of low renown called it:

Drunken, animalistic slide guitar blues, backed with precision cardboard-box drumming and barked vocals. A gnarly, no-fidelity blues trash masterpiece that still makes me weep with desire for the LP that never came from these guys.

It’s genius. In fact the 45 was actually called “Blues Is Depressing” , but I feel like it’s a joyous, rapturous celebration of life the way these yokels play it. Let me know if you agree.

Play or Download JOHNNY HASH – “Pink Lunchbox”