2 PAISLEY-KILLERS FROM THE MORLOCKS

In the limited universe of 1980s garage-revival bands who’re any good, THE MORLOCKS are the ones that stand mophead-&-slumped shoulders above the rest, on this single EP’s merits alone. “Emerge” is a total monster, a record that pre-dated the hallowed early 90s let-it-rip garage punk by almost a full decade. It’s the razor’s edge of that overloaded, screaming 60s punk made famous on “Back From The Grave”, updated for 1985 stylings by a gaggle of cretinous San Diegans who absolutely lived 1965 in every way, shape and form. Most of the time bands that dress the part just blow. The Morlocks did not. “Emerge” is easily their high-water mark, and it’s a stone drag that the only other full-length LP they put out was a live record. We hate live records! (Though rumor has it that it was a fake live record – it sounded like dog dribblings nonetheless). I also don’t care much for the GRAVEDIGGER 5, the loins from which the Morlocks sprang. But that’s me. This guy Leighton, the lead Morlock, with bangs obscuring just about everything save his chin, was quite a mod/punk scene hero among the mod/punks I met around & after this time. I heard lots of Leighton drug and Leighton drinking stories — in fact, the San Francisco house I moved into in 1989 was said to have been recently vacated by The Morlocks, who did in fact move to SF after this record to do more drugs and toughen their sound, as if that was possible. They died there as well — figuratively — and I never found out if Leighton was truly shagging birds in what later became my bedroom.

“Emerge” has some covers of 60s punk staples that stack up extremely well against the originals, and given that the originals — MURPHY AND THE MOB‘s “Born Loser”, THE ESQUIRES‘ “Judgement Day”, “By My Side” by (I forget) — are some of the most ferocious rock firebreathers ever, that’s not half bad. But it’s an original howler called “In The Cellar” that made this band’s rep in 2 minutes flat — an overmodulated, fuzz-filled catastrophe that goes way, way beyond “in the red” and into something very deep crimson. It’s really ugly, and I mean that as the highest of praise. If you crossed some of the Japanese fuzz/noise bands of relatively recent vintage with, say, THE SONICS, you might get a sense of how boss this is. Hopefully someone will get busy and put this 8-song 12″EP onto a CD, and dig up any other hot Morlocks tracks that never made it out during this era. Hey, how about you?

PS – I know they’re actually still playing music under this name, but I’m a curmudgeon. What they did 22 years ago is just enough for me.

Play or Download THE MORLOCKS – “In The Cellar” (from the “Emerge” 12″EP)
Play or Download THE MORLOCKS – “By My Side” (from the “Emerge” 12″EP)

ONE OPEN QUESTION. I’m going to start a series of posts. This is the first one.

They will be comprised of a very simple question, presented openly, to a band/artist/writer or others that I deem worthy. These questions will not be accusatory or fun-poking. They are honest inquiries.

DROP THE FLAG!!!

1. An open question to the members of the band, Vietnam. Why did you chose the word “Vietnam” as a band moniker?

Managers: Can’t Live With Them…But Can You Live Without Them?

You can’t throw a rock in any metropolis on Earth without hitting someone claiming to be a manager. Where musicians go, managers follow. It’s as accepted and expected in the entertainment industry as an out-of-control cocaine habit or a failure to pay taxes. When you tell people you’re a musician, one of the first things they’re going to ask you is: Do you have a manager? However, those in the throws of the music business know to ask an even more accurate question: Do you have a good manager?

"What’s the difference?" you may ask. Isn’t any manager better than no manager at all? While it would seem that the answer to that question is unequivocally, "Yes", in reality it’s a bit like asking, "Isn’t having a herpes-ridden prostitute for a girlfriend better than being single?" In truth, bad representation is far worse than a lack of representation. While, it’s a fact, that there are things your band will probably never achieve without the aid of a manager, agent, entertainment attorney, etc., bad representation can stagnate a career…stop it dead in its hurling climb to the ranks of superstardom or even worse…undo some of the hard work the band has already done.

Sad but true, a bad manager can take a perfectly good band and turn them into a thing so foul that old gypsy women covering their faces with rags will spit and give your band the evil eye as you pass. Ok, that may be a bit dramatic, but seriously…all your band really has is its name and its reputation, so why would take a chance on either of those by putting the whole of your band into the hands of someone that you’re not 100% sure has your best interests at stake?

The following are a few tips that will help you to decipher whether or not your manager can take you to the top or turn your band into a flop:

1.) The Drummer’s Girlfriend Is Not A Manager—Sure, she may get names for your mailing list, invite her girl’s beach volleyball team to all of your gigs and post your latest pictures on your website photo gallery, but she’s not really your manager. She’s a helper, she can be the president of your fan club, the head of your street team and the world’s sexiest roadie but she probably doesn’t know how to put together a press package and make the calls that will get you into an A&R rep’s office for a meeting. This also applies to: boyfriends, wives, husbands, booty calls, one night stands, moms, dads, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, nieces, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren, pets and the homeless guy who roots through your trash at midnight. These people may all be well-meaning and you can accept their aid in dozens of ways (it takes a village to build a popular unsigned band) but don’t give them the label or the powers of a manager.

2.) Treasure Your Fans But Don’t Let Them Manage You—This should be a given but you’d be surprised how many over-eager, slightly-obsessed fans move from semi-stalker to mega-manager in a few simple weeks. I cannot stress how simply wrong this entire concept is for two dozen major reasons the most important of which is: fans need to be kept at a distance. There is a reason why that same person comes to all of your shows no matter how many you play, gets there early, sits up front seemingly paralyzed starring at you enraptured. Either they’re in love with someone in the band or they’re insane. These may be reasons to get a restraining order but certainly not reasons to make someone your manager. A band’s manager knows every secret of each musician, every person in each member’s personal life, where you keep your money, where you live, and who’s in your fan/contact database. This is not information that you want someone who has 450 cut-out pictures of you on their bedroom ceiling having at his/her disposal. Enough said?

3.) Don’t Sign A Contract Unless It’s Worth It—Manager’s like control. That why they choose to be managers and not people who macramé wall hangings with the mane hair of ponies. Thus, most managers will try and evoke you into signing a contract. In the entertainment industry, contracts are like marriage certificates…before you sign one be sure your band wants to be tied to the same person for long time (a year, two years, five years, etc.) because they’re much easier to get into than to get out of. For example, if you sign a contract with an efficient, but somewhat green manager, who is helping all he/she can to get you everything possible from what little resources he/she has and then Gwen Stefani’s management team approaches you after a big gig and wants to put you on tour with John Mayer. Do you think if you tell them, "We love to take your tour but we’re under contract with someone else for the next five years, can you hit us up then?" the offer will still stand? Not so much. So, if you must sign contracts, keep them short and make sure they give you room to act, think, play and communicate with others without getting clearance from your band warden (manager). And make it includes an exit clause. Read up on it.

4.) Sometimes Bigger Is Not Better—Although it’s a huge ego stroke to brag to all of the other musicians backstage at the Whiskey A Go-Go that your manager works with Grammy award-winners and stadium sell-outs, sometimes an unsigned band can get lost in a huge management firm. While Mr. Big Stud Manager is busy picking out Madonna’s dress for the American Music Awards, he may forget to ask Quincy Jones to attend your bass player’s birthday gig at Billy-Bob Wang’s Tofu BBQ Shack. The problem with huge managers is that their focus often goes the acts that are making them 15% of 100 million dollars a year. Your 15% of $45.75 a year after expenses is probably not his highest priority now or ever, and what good are his super amazing industry contacts if he never remembers to invite them to your gigs?

Having a manager is great but only if they provide more benefit to the band than the sum total of your band members and band helpers can do for yourselves. If you find someone who can open doors, take your music places it cannot go on its on and has your best intentions at heart, then grab that contract, sign it and enjoy the benefits. If not, you may find yourself: conned, stalked, ignored and/or legally bound to someone that puts their own agenda (well-meaning or otherwise) and their own ego above what’s right for you band. And whatever you do, don’t sit around waiting for Mr./Ms. Right to wisk your band off its feet and carry it off on his/her white horse to the Fairyland where everyone gets a record deal. You, as its members, know more than anyone, how to do what’s right for your band and nothing will attract the perfect manager faster than seeing musicians who are out there, doing their thing, and making headway in a very difficult business with a great attitude and terrific music.

 

Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 2,400 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides. For more info: http://www.sheena-metal.com.

HAND GRENADES – AMERICA’S MOST AUTHENTIC BRITS YET

This 45 from a late 70s New York group called the HAND GRENADES has been fooling “punters” for years who mistook it for a British DIY record from the same era, myself included. When I found out these dudes were from “the Apple” I was incredulous. I guess I still am. But here you go – a really great, lost-to-time stark and strange inepto-garage record from a band who have very pleasing elements of the Swell Maps, Wire and Steve Treatment. Enjoy!

Play or Download HAND GRENADES – “Demo To London” (A-side)
Play or Download HAND GRENADES – “Coma Dos” (B-side)

Another Interval, At Last

Tomorrow morning I’ll head off to the station and get on a train to Amersfoort, in Holland, where I’ll transfer to another train and wind up in Utrecht. Not exactly my top pick for a holiday spot, but it has several advantages. First, a couple of friends from the States I haven’t seen in years have done a house-exchange with some people in the suburbs there, and they were nice enough to buy me a ticket to come join them. Second, it’s the time of the annual Early Music Festival in Utrecht, and, although I don’t have a press pass (boy, is it hard to sell stories like this!) there are plenty of free fringe activities with some younger groups, and that should be fun. Third, we’ll go to Amsterdam for a couple of days and I get to show my friends around a place I actually do know something about (I’ve only been to Utrecht twice and didn’t leave the station the second time, because the nightclub Jon Dee Graham was playing in was actually inside the station). And fourth, it’s demonstrably Not Berlin. This will be my first trip out of the city limits since March.

I’m going to try to blog from the festival, and I’ll be taking the camera along, although I won’t post any photos until I get back here on Wednesday. Okay, maybe Thursday. Meanwhile, if anyone knows anything to do in Utrecht between concerts or knows any good restaurants there, let me know!

They say that “busy” is “good”

Well, I don’t, as Bleachy would say, “feel so good.”

On that note, look forward to major updates/news on Earles and Jensen Present: Just Farr A Laugh Vol. 1 and 2!!

This feature turned out nice. I wrote the entries for Courtney Love and Paul Stanley.

I reviewed the new Liars album in the September issue of Spin. For readers that are not writers, I want to stress how hard it is to compose a decent 90-word review, if “decent” is in fact what I managed. It’s an art I have yet to master.

Zingara –Girl Girl Girl

Zingara –Girl Girl Girl/ Give It All Up Boy –Pink Elephant 22.698.G (1973 NL)

Girl Girl Girl is another heavy Glam Cruncher from The Netherlands. Zingara came from Coevorden and the line-up originally featured 4 members from Hartung Sound. After their first single (Mary Lee/This world – Pink Elephant 22.635-H) Richard Hartung left the band and the remainder of the group issued this single before splitting up for good. Although the tune itself holds few surprises, it’s a good foot-stomping performance with a suitably Neanderthal attitude.

Click on title for a soundclip of Girl Girl Girl

THE VIRGIN PRUNES – YES, THOSE VIRGIN PRUNES

Maybe it’s old hat to you, but I just heard this 1981 EP from arty, goth, big-haired doomkings THE VIRGIN PRUNES this month, and I gotta say, one song in particular just knocked my friggin’ socks off. That would be “Twenty Tens (I’ve Been Smoking All Night Long)”, the lead song of their debut EP, the rest of which is just abominable. A stuttered, totally wacked-out PUBLIC IMAGE-esque dance macabre, with this whomping bassline & creepy-crawl guitar that’s near-perfect. I remember these guys found a home in the hearts of some hardcore punk heavyweights back in the day – Jimmy Johnson at Forced Exposure & Tesco Vee of Touch and Go fanzine – and now I know why. It certainly can’t be for the other stuff. The haircuts maybe.

WHITE PRIDE – “ILLEGAL ALIENS”

I can dimly recall the kerfuffle this particular fake-o xenophobic stomper generated back in the early 80s, thus proving how successfully the joke was employed. WHITE PRIDE – now there’s a name to get the typewriters tapping – were roundly criticized for the “Peace My Ass” EP in the pages of Maximum Rock N Roll and virtutally everywhere else, and taken literally, that’s understandable. My take is that the knuckle-draggers responsible for this, who included amongtheir number Mike Doskocil (later of DRUNKS WITH GUNS), probably were very anti-PC before their time, and chose to “make mirth” with the concept by going ridiculously over the top, all the better to stir up the hysteria of the anti-Reagan left so stridently strident at the time. A bonus is that the song itself is funny – at least to a humorless reactionary like myself. It’s also a meatheaded punk/metal romp somewhat reminiscient of POISON IDEA as they slowed down, with barked, eye-bulging vocals that are a gutbuster in & of themselves.

Then again – covering myself here – if it was serious? Well, it’s just too stupid for words, as are most current commentaries of the subject. As a supporter of “the money machine”, I say: Tear down the walls, baby! Let ’em in!

Play or Download WHITE PRIDE – “Illegal Aliens” (from 45)

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon by Crystal Zevon (Ecco)

A cult artist dies, after experiencing a burst of increased celebrity as a direct result of calculatedly marketing his own impending demise. Old fans are reminded of how much they always dug his work, and a few new ones arrive to explore the back catalog. Then comes the book, an oral history compiled by a long-suffering, long-forgiving former wife, the result of a promise to the dying man. And for Warren Zevon’s fans, be they diehard or more casual, everything changes forever. For in addition to his undeniable gifts as a wordsmith and piano fighter, the delicate character studies and the self-mythologies, the werewolves and the pot roasts and the neo-noir visions of Los Angeles, it turns out Warren Zevon was something of a monster. And his shenanigans—born of cruelty, drug abuse, family skeletons, egomania and OCD—are revealed here through the words of those who loved and suffered alongside him, coloring the music with broad strokes of memorable misbehavior and strangeness. The result is a big, messy, sad and rather moving piece of mass biography in which the various players move in and out of Zevon’s orbit and reflect upon their mutual impact. Perhaps inevitably, given the damage done, this is less of a creative biography than a psycho-chemical one, and at times it is relentlessly dark and repetitious. But anyone who finds Zevon of interest as an artist will appreciate the guts and care Crystal Zevon exhibits in assembling these tales, and it’s a must for fans of rock and roll horror stories. (Who could have imagined that this thoughtful, intellectual fellow who hobnobbed with Stravinsky as a teen would personally surpass the excesses of any half dozen cock rock idols? Only everyone, it seems, who ever met the man.)