Sunday, January 29, 2012


I don't know what happened with Blogger lately, but they seem to have changed their interface and have made it more cumbersome, less user-friendly (why is it that any changes made to an online company make it less user-friendly?), and just more difficult to read and navigate. Absolutely horrible!

Blogger - change back to your previous, sane layout! This makes me want to stop using Blogger altogether!

Acton Town/Party Talk at the Beauty Bar, Las Vegas Saturday Jan 28

Even though I am now starting to play out in Las Vegas, it still takes a lot for me to check out new bands in the city, even on weekend nights. But, I finally got off my butt and went down to the Beauty Bar for this Saturday night free show. I have been meaning to check out Acton Town since becoming Facebook friends with the guitarist's father, John Fallon, who was in the 80's mod/psych/garage band the Steppes. I still find it odd that we both ended up in Vegas but never knew each other.

Anyway, this evening at the Beauty Bar was some kind of multi-media event with bands, DJs, fashion show and gawd knows what else. A ton of people came out for this and it was one of the more crowded shows I've been to in a long time. The live music was all provided by young bands (I think all of the musicians were under 21), but they were all influenced by early punk, mod & garage groups, which makes me feel better about the future of live music.

I arrived in time to see a couple of songs by Party Talk - not the best name for a band - who are a 3 piece that sounded to me like a more garagey take on "Boys Don't Cry"-era Cure. I always dug that sound and the sharp, piercing guitar, strong rhythm section, good vocals and rockin' tunes certainly made me want to see and hear more from these cats.


In between bands the awful DJ played some horrendous, mindless techno crap with soul-shatteringly loud bass, making it impossible to relax and positively impossible to carry on a conversation. Maybe I'm just too old, but I still want to hear music when I go to a club - not just a pulsing bass with nothing notable or memorable going along with it. OK, that's my old man rant...

In any case, Acton Town came up next and immediately stood out as a stylish trio of neo-mods with songs combining punk, mod & garage - not unlike bands did in the late 70's/early 80's. Unfortunately, the set was marred by a terrible mix - the Beauty Bar is not known for great sound - with Anthony Vitiello's bass overpowering and drowning out everything else. Thankfully, he is a good player and had a cool fuzz-driven tone, but it would have been nice to hear the rest of the band! Drummer Ron Paul Gavino & guitarist Cromm Fallon looked sharp in their suits, shared vocal duties and pummeled their respective instruments with tons of energy and precision, and despite the muddy mix you could tell that there were gems waiting to be heard in there. I will definitely make the effort to see them at a venue with better sound.

Again, it's good to know that at least some of the youth of Las Vegas are working to make a better music scene, despite the lack of venues that cater to all-age shows. Checks these cats out whenever ya can!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lexicon Devil – The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs – Brendan Mullen, Done Bolles & Adam Parfrey

I hesitated to even read this book for a long time because I was never all that interested in the cult of Darby. To me, he was that obnoxious drunk guy that kept asking for beer or a Bowie button or some such nonsense. I could never understand how anyone could be won over by his juvenile tactics – though, obviously, many people were. I was extremely surprised to actually read his lyrics, which are quite good, because in person he came off as a stoned, brainless, child-like idiot. As entertainingly anarchic as the Germs were live, they were not a quality band in any sense of the word – other than they were so bad that they helped to destroy the concepts of what a band could & should be. But, after reading Alice Bag’s fine book on the LA punk scene, I got nostalgic for the time (though I was never heavily into the scene) and thought I would see what these cats had to say.

Apparently, the initial idea was for Germs drummer Don Bolles to write the book, but, as anyone who knows Don would realize, that is probably unrealistic for someone with his amount of ADD (and I say that as someone who likes Don personally quite a bit). Brendan came in to rescue the book and publisher Parfrey flushed it out a bit.

Whether due to his contributions to the book or not, Bolles actually comes off as one of the more likeable and brighter members of this contingent. Everyone continually talks of Darby’s intelligence but he gives no sign of it in his words or actions here (other than, as I said, in his above-average lyrics). Lorna Doom is mostly just mentioned in passing and Pat Smear seems to be Crash’s accomplice in obnoxious antics. Again, in comparison to Alice Bag’s book, where she came off as a smart, engaging person who would be cool to hang out with, no one in this story is compelling in any way, and I am glad that I never did fall in with that crowd.

Considering the cast of characters, it is surprising that the Germs ever got it together enough to even play live shows (though these were hardly “together” in any normal sense of the word), much less to record. So, their short career and early demise were to be expected. I do find it funny that one of the issues leading to their breakup was that the gay lead singer thought that the straight drummer wearing a dress was so offensive that it warranted kicking him out of the band (or at least was indicative of the differences in direction and attitude). Don started playing guitar in drag in Vox Pop, which Darby considered to be a joke band, though I think it a much better - and far more entertaining - group than the Germs ever were. But, the Germs were never able to properly replace Don and fell apart and Crash’s attempts at a post-Germs band apparently were even more dismal (I never saw the Darby Crash Band myself, but even the group members say that it is better off forgotten).

Of course, Darby then committed suicide (some say in a weird homage to Bowie’s song “Five Years”) and created his bizarre legend and left as his legacy the jock/homophobic/brainless hardcore scene. Odd coming from a gay, supposedly intelligent young poet, but I guess you don’t always get to pick what comes in your wake.

While this does seem to be a pretty truthful story of the LA punk/hardcore scene, there is little that is fun or entertaining here, so it is not a light-hearted read or a tale that would make much of anyone wish that they were there. But if you are interested in learning how the LA punk scene (or the part of it that begat hardcore) started, this seems like a good place.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mott the Hoople - Under Review (DVD)

This DVD is simply an overview of Mott's career as told by rock writers and fans (including some famous, such as Mick Jones of the Clash) as well as a bit of commentary and even tour footage by later keyboardist Morgan Fisher. There are short pieces of later interviews with a couple of the band members, including Ian, from some previous TV show, but nothing done specifically for this DVD. As such, there is not much here that any fan does not already know. There are other Mott DVDs out there that I have yet to see and I knew that this did not get very good reviews, but it was cheap - and rightfully so. I don't think that this would make a fan out of anyone who wasn't already and this won't tell any fan anything new. There are some nice snippets of live shows, but all too short. Hopefully, someone else has done this band up right and has included band interviews and video footage of full songs. Pass on this one unless ya see if super cheap.

Friday, January 20, 2012

another talent gone - RIP Etta

Legendary blues singer Etta James dies in Calif.

Shillaly Brothers - Too Drunk To Fight

I became friends with Shillaly Brothers lead singer, John Duffy, back when we played with Jeff Dahl for a while in the early-to-med '00's (with great drummer, Dave Nazworthy). John had been an LA stalwart for many a years by then and had plenty of r'n'r tales of everything from seeing Mott the Hoople to drug-addled debauchery with Dahl's Powertrip. These days he has toned down his act a bit and the Shillaly Brothers perform a terrific take on traditional Irish music (Duffy was always proud of his heritage).

The group uses acoustic instruments - mandolin, bouzouki, tin whistle, ukulele, acordian, banjo, etc - to create an atmosphere of an Irish pub, regardless of where you are when you hear it! Duffy has an excellently gruff, Shawn MacGowan-esque voice, which is complimented by harmonies from the rest of the combo (Chad Carter, Rex Bailey and Fred Studler - all multi-instrumentalists) and Bailey has a sweet tone to his singing when he takes the lead on "Orders".

This takes me back to times that I spent drinking in pubs in the 80's when Irish friends of mine would perform with one eye out for immigration. Really great stuff! The Shillaly Brothers are up for a much deserved Academy Award for their song "Pop" from the film, White Irish Drinkers - wish them luck and check out their Facebook page!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Johnny Otis of 'Willie and the Hand Jive' dies

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

this should be interesting

Johnny Ramone's autobiography to be released

Monday, January 16, 2012

Violence Girl - Alice Bag

When I first moved to LA in 1979, the Bags were one of the great punk bands on the scene and I especially enjoyed the way they mixed 60's garage with modern punk. Of course, having two dynamic and alluring women in the group (Alice and bassist Patricia) certainly was a plus, as well - and another example of the sexual diversity of the early LA punk scene.

I have not followed Alice's career closely since the demise of the Bags (though I saw a show here or there of bands such as the Castration Squad and Cambridge Apostles back in the 80's), but this book reveals that she is an intelligent, well-rounded person and a fine writer. She is close to my age, so I can relate to many of her pop culture references, though her tales of growing up as a daughter of Mexican immigrants in LA are quite enlightening for this Mid-Western white boy. Her family was dysfunctional, but they encouraged her in her quest for knowledge as well as her talent for singing. Self-image problems plagued her as a youth (apparently she was overweight - or at least thought that she was, as none of the pictures included show this, other than as a young child) and, along with her lack of fluency in English, contributed to her feelings of isolation. She became infatuated with rock'n'roll music (along with the traditional tunes that were played in her home growing up) and found her place with like-minded music junkies and even met future band members while stalking stars such as Elton John (her major crush as a teen).

This morphed into the early punk scene as many of these fellow fans, who were already interested in the more avant garde, glam bands, discovered the NYC and British punk bands and decided to try this on their own. The Bags had a number of false starts and a number of early members but gained popularity and momentum despite these set backs and became one of the more well-known groups of the time. Unfortunately, they never landed a real record deal and few recordings were ever attempted before they fizzled due to personality clashes and frustration at not reaching the next level.

Alice wisely distanced herself from the more self-destructive tendencies of the movement and, while remaining involved in a lesser sense (as a side-person in groups rather than the lead singer), she found steady employment, went back to school and eventually became a teacher.

I find that the book gives a fine, first-person account of the LA punk scene and many of the characters that it was composed of. Alice writing style is very personal and truly conveys a sense of the times - the good, the bad, the fun, the pain, the insanity and everything else that made up this wild period. She really is a fairly exceptional writer and this is a quite impressive effort. Get it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Sick Rose - No Need For Speed

Luca Re’s Sick Rose has been rocking and rolling for a number of decades now, with many different permutations and with a number of different styles. Luca has a wide range of tastes in music – all of it damn good – though has always had a foot in the garage world, whether he was playing straight classic 60’s garage, as he did when the band started in the mid-80’s, harder punk’n’roll or his current obsession, power pop. Re consistently has fine taste, great songwriting and a rockin’ voice. His singing has only improved over the years and he sounds better than ever now.

This disc combines all that is good in power pop – especially the “power”! Edgy, ringing guitars, hard-hitting drums, drivin’ bass and Luca’s catchy melodies and cool lyrics riding over the top of it all. These tunes will stick with you long after the CD is over. It’s hard to pick out a specific highlight, cuz it’s all good, but the single/video “Before You Go” is pretty exceptional (the video is included on the disc)!

Luca is aided and abetted by: Diego Mese: Guitars, Valter Bruno: Bass, Alberto Fratucelli: Drums, backing Vocals and the fab Giorgio Cappellaro (ex-Mouseblasters): Guitars, backing Vocals. I’ve known these cats for decades and consider them to be good friends, but that said, I highly recommend this to anyone who loves fantastic, melodic rock’n’roll!

You'll find the Sick Rose Facebook page here and their official website here.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Cheetah Chrome – A Dead Boy’s Tale from the Front Lines of Punk Rock

Cheetah is certainly no literary genius, but his writing is much better than you would expect from someone who is known as a drug addled punk rocker with asshole-ish tendencies. In fact, he claims that, as a youth, he was in classes for “gifted” children – that is, until he became fascinated with drugs and alcohol and dropped out. Due to these proclivities he admits that his stories may not be completely accurate, chronological or necessarily even coherent, but he does do a good job of detailing his r’n’r life.

Growing up, he learned to love music at an early age and despite his fuck-ups, his mother encouraged his guitar playing. Due to the immense amount of amazing music that came out during his coming-of-age (he is only a couple of years older than I am, so he immersed himself in the great 60’s & 70’s r’n’r and got to see, and even meet, many of the greats), Cheetah learned from a variety of musical styles. As with most teenage guitar players, he jammed with his friends, joined a few bands, but then eventually became involved with the legendary Rocket From the Tombs from which Pere Ubu and Chrome’s Dead Boys sprung.

Of course, these are the tales that everyone wants to hear and he doesn’t let people down – the Boys were the evil punk-rock cretins that everyone thought they were – lots of sex, drugs, vandalism and pillaging. These cats were all quite young still, but weren’t afraid to act even more juvenile than they were – plenty of stories and mooning, pissing in hotel ice machines, drunken brawls, destruction, naked adventuring and much more.

He has very kind words to say about Genya Ravan and her production of Young, Loud & Snotty, which is good to hear, and she was instrumental in helping him clean up (his first time). Unfortunately, he doesn’t care for much else that he has released and has had all kinds of bad luck with bands, fights, lawsuits, health issues, etc. His story is not a particularly happy one, mostly of his own doing (his addictions), but also many things out of his control conspired against him. He did eventually marry a good woman and have a son, both of which have helped him to emerge a happier, more centered person.

All too many r’n’r bios these days have a very depressing side as people let the “drugs” in “sex, drugs and r’n’r” take over their lives and ruin their careers. But Cheetah does his best to remain positive and his story is captivating – you really find it hard to believe that he is still alive and by his own account, he probably shouldn’t be – and told in a conversational tone. No guarantee that you will come away from this liking any of the characters (including Cheetah), but it is a good, honest tale of the early days of punk rock. Certainly worth getting!

best of luck Tony Iommi - get well!

Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi diagnosed with cancer