Saturday, July 11, 2020

Ed Wood, Jr. - Killer in Drag


My pal, Bob, is the executor of Ed Wood's estate and gifted us this short novel the last time we saw him - thanks, Bob! Again, it has taken me a while to get to it, but finally got some space'n'time.

Ed, of course, is known for his low-budget film classic, Plan 9 From Outer Space, but he wrote several novels and short stories, as well, often with characters in drag, as he enjoyed dressing up himself. His writing might be slightly a step up from his film directing, but is it is also somewhat amateurish and at times, clumsy, but with some style and fun, pop culture nods. And, I must say, once he got the story off the ground, the writing is fairly compelling, even if some of the plot twists are a bit far-fetched.

Here, the main character is Glen/Glendora (I'm not sure if his Glen or Glendora film came before or after this), a gentlemen who transformed into a head-turning woman (perhaps Ed wished that he was that fetching when he dressed up?) who just happened to be a mob hit-person! Ironically, he gets framed for a murder he didn't commit and has to go on the run, with multiple mishaps following him as he goes, including police shake-downs, hookers with a heart of gold and an old-school carnival! The story of short and moves quickly and is over almost before you know it.

Fans of Wood should look this up for a fun little romp thru his creatively wacky mind!

The Velvet Underground - The Quine Tapes

I've been a VU fan ever since fellow Gizmos, Kenne Highland, told me that I played just like Lou Reed (due to crappy equipment and little talent, my attempts at sounding like Jimi Hendrix came out like Lou! Which is not meant as an offense to him!) and gave me their first couple of albums. While I have been augmenting my collection ever since, some of the many new-ish releases have escaped me due to their price tag, but I finally laid down the shekels for this after discovering it while researching the Live 1969 album. Robert Quine, who later would play with Reed, among others after debuting with the Voidoids, was a VU fanatic who just happened to have some decent recording equipment and the band had no issues with fans taping them, hence this box set! While the fidelity can vary a bit, possibly due to the venue's sound systems, or Quine working with his machine, overall the sound is pretty damn solid and the performances always differ and are pretty damn terrific.

This is the last Lou Reed-fronted version of the combo, with Sterling and Mo joined by Doug Yule (who would later lead a faux-VU, which is not that far-fetched as his voice sounds amazingly like Lou's) and while the songs' tempos may be somewhat sedate, the playing is exciting and original and nothing is played quite the same way twice. Although hampered by relatively simple techniques, each member manages to create a beautiful sonic landscape within the boundaries of the songs. Of course, the early material will have a different feel without Cale and Nico, but Lou and Sterling's interactions are always wonderful to hear, while Mo adds just the right rhythmic touches - sometimes more advanced than the recordings, sometimes even simpler - and Yule adds either bass solos ("Ride Into the Sun") or fine organ washes, even in unexpected places like "Black Angels' Death Song".

We start in San Francisco in 1969 with a take on "Waiting For the Man" with extended sections and a rave up ending, a kinda standard rock'n'roll number in "It's Just Too Much" and the fabulously hypnotic "What Goes On" with its extended keyboard solo. Side 2 gives us a stompin' "I Can't Stand It" with an excellently fuzzed out, extended Lou solo followed by a mid-tempo fave of mine, "Some Kinda Love" - love the lyrics! - then a positively frantic "Foggy Notion" with more terrifically ragged solo work (maybe Sterling on this one?). I never really cared for the corny novelty of Mo's "After Hours" or "I'm Sticking With You", although I could imagine that some audience members would enjoy this break from the intensity of the rest of the set. Side three of the first set is a free-form workout on "Sister Ray" that includes instrumental bits of "I Know I'm Losing You", of all things - every version on this set is extremely different and highly interesting - while side 4 gives us a pretty straight forward "Sunday Morning" and an unreleased VU number, "Follow the Leader", that Reed eventually cut on his own in 1976, although I don't remember it off the top of my head, as this version is a bit meandering.

Opening the second set is a Lou-sung "Femme Fatale" that is followed by an intense "White Light / White Heat" with Lou and company performing a truly fantastic, elongated, freak-out lead section and then "Venus in Furs", which works really well despite the lack of Cale's viola. A potent "Heroin" portends the dreamy, mesmerizing "New Age" (with Doug Yule giving a long bass solo) and then another two (!!) album sides are given over to another take on "Sister Ray", with lots of strong dynamics and improvisation. They producers do a good job of the splice and the second part starts right on beat in a logical place and is filled with some terrific drum dynamics'n'accents and some wild bursts of noize guitar.

"Black Angel's Death Song" trades Yule's organ for Cale's viola, and this, along with the variations the other musicians play, give the song a very different feel - fascinatingly unique. A later VU number, the mid-tempo, kinda soft-rock "Over You" has some variations, but works well as this was the line up that initially recorded it, and "I'm Waiting For the Man" is again slower and extended with a long guitar workout. The anthemic "Rock'n'Roll" is always a joy, even if I miss the harmony guitar licks from the later versions, and "Ride Into the Sun" is another lengthy jam, with almost "Ocean"-esque keyboard/drum/rhythm swells backing up the solos. Two more sides make up the last take of "Sister Ray" which closes out the set, with Lou given introductions to the characters while expanding on the lyrical as well as musical themes with some incredible, fuzzed-out guitar and effortlessly becomes a medley with the then-brand-new "Foggy Notion".

Obviously, this type of bootleg live set is not the best starting place for a novice, but for fans, this is pretty damn essential, taking up where Live 1969 leaves off. Great stuff!

Lunar Notes - Zoot Horn Rollo's Captain Beefheart Experience - Bill Harkleroad

Bill Harkleroad, christened Zoot Horn Rollo by the good Captain, played in the Magic Band for a number of years and appears on classics such as Trout Mask Replica, Spotlight Kid and Clearspot, and toured with the group, made TV appearances and was as close of a confident as Beefheart had in any of his bands. As with John "Drumbo" French, this book highlights his time with the group but unlike Drumbo's 800 page missive, Harkleroad presents a concise 100+ pages, which means a lot less details, but less repetition, as well. Another apparent homemade, small press release, an editor might have helped in places (there are some typos, for instance), but overall this is a good, informative read.

After reading Drumbo's detailed book, there not a lot of new information here, but we get Bill's point of view on everything, of course, and one of the more interesting things that he mentions - interesting to me as a guitarist, anyway - is when he is talking about guitar overdubs on Clear Spot - first time they did this and something that French doesn't discuss as he wasn't on the album. But, they overdubbed multiple guitars - electric and acoustic - and even mandolin and Rickenbacker 12 string! Wildly different from the earlier records where the instrumental tracks were mostly done live with only a few overdubs of other sounds - sax, theremin, percussion, etc.

He gives a brief overview of his thoughts on the songs that he recorded but then life with the Captain became a bit too much and he left and went on to form Mallard with a couple of the other members (the entire band bailed on Van Vliet just before a tour, apparently, and he found a group of "normal" musicians and formed more of a "rock" band), who did a couple of albums before disintegrating due to the usual lack of funds and "musical differences".

Disillusioned, Bill played in a cover band for a while and ended up dropping out of performing and became a guitar teacher working at a music store, which is where he leaves off in the book. Happy, and glad that he has left behind a body of work that people care about, but content to be away from that world.

As daunting as it was, I did like the details in Drumbo's tome, and this one could use a bit more info, but it's worth looking into as a fan.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

recommended gigs

*DUE TO THE SURGE IN COVID CASES, SOME SHOWS ARE BEING CANCELLED - CHECK WITH THE CLUBS BEFORE GOING OUT AND MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A MASK!*

Thursday July 9 - ZZ Twist (ZZ Top cover band) LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Friday July 24 - Jerk! LIVE at the Huntridge Tavern

X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescents - The Anthology

As with most of Britain's early punk bands that received any press and distribution in the States, I bought this LP when it first came out and loved their wild, sax-dominated, consumer-centric punk rock'n'roll. Poly Strene's day-glo concept and wildly shrieking (in a good way) vocals captured me immediately and this album is still as strong as ever more than 40 years later, with lyrics at least as relevant and a sound that is still cutting edge.

Although this release diminished the value of my copies (I had more than one by this time, not that I had any plans to sell them!) of the original LP, I still sought out this 2001 2-CD set for its boatload of extras - demos, live cuts and even reunion songs - along with the fact that I didn't have to wear out the vinyl any longer!

With her original whoop'n'squeal introducing "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!", the sax squalls and the high energy punk'n'roll band blasting behind her, Poly and company set the punk scene on fire and became instant idols. Along with tunes like "I Am A Cliche" (she was anything but) and "I Am A Poseur" (again, not a true description of herself) critiquing the scene and the majority of the others tunes dissecting the commercial world in a fun'n'funny way, she rose to fame and became a spokesperson for the new genre. This led to innumerable difficulties and an untimely and all-too-soon demise of the group, but for a short period, they were as exciting and new-sounding as they come.

After Bondage's battle cry, there's the frantic "Cliche", the fantastically melodic buzzsaw stomp of "The Day the World Turned Day-Glo" (the sax takes most of the leads on the album and is particularly excellent on this one, with harmonies and squawks alternating throughout), the anti-anthem sing-along "Poseur", "Identity" is a minor-key, bouncy riffer, "Let's Submerge" is almost Pistols-like with a damn catchy "going down-own-own-own-own" chorus and they practically do an electronic, new-wave number is the slow, hypnotic title cut.

I don't believe that the original album had the fairly nondescript "Age" on it, but "Obsessed With You" is another great, frenzied piece of punk rock'n'roll, while "Genetic Engineering" is memorable as hell, as is "I Live Off Of You" ("really gotta be exploited by somebody") and "Art-I-Ficial" continues is the same hip, happenin' punk rock vein with more great lyrics, although few can top "I Can't Do Anything" and it's line "Freddy tried to strangle me with my plastic popper beads, but I hit him back with my pet rat" and "Plastic Bag" with "I dreamt that I was Hitler, the ruler of the sea, the ruler of the universe,  the ruler of the supermarket", but "Highly Inflammable", again, I don't think was on the American version, possibly with good reason, but "Warrior In Woolworths" was a terrific closer with the the great chant "he's a rebel on the underground".

Amazing songwriting throughout, with solid playing by everyone and the saxophone really bringing a new flair to the instrumental segments while Poly's stridently melodic vocals and creative lyrics soar over the top. Poly had a flair for hooks, and this phenomenal record is jam-packed with sing-along classics.

The extras here include a rough mix of "Prefabricated Icon" (instrumentally, with gleefully blatant steals from "You Only Live Twice"), vocal-less backing tracks of "I Can't Do Anything" and "Warrior in Woolworths" that are not all that enthralling, followed by much more interesting rough mixes of "Genetic Engineering" (sounds like different vocal track), "Art-I-Ficial", "I Live Off You", "Obsessed With you", "Let's Submerge", "Identity", and "The Day The World Turned Day-Glo" that show that the songs were completely formulated before the album and while the differences are not exceptional, these are fun variations.

When I first got this, I was probably most excited for the Live at the Roxy cuts, but unfortunately, for the most part these are not all that exceptional. While the opening "Bondage" is pretty good (other than the flubbed beginning - drumsticks dropped and guitar unplugged), "Identity" starts to slip a bit, although it's still pretty rockin', "Let's Submerge" gets a little wonky but "Plastic Bag" loses it completely and falls apart almost immediately and everything ends up wildly out-of-tune - this is kinda painful, frankly and a real mess, I'm sad to say. They pull things together more for "I Live Off You" and an ultra-frantic "I'm a Cliche" but go wildly out of tune again for "I Can't Do Anything" (bad monitors or just instruments going out and no time to fix them?) but another "Bondage" (a different show?) is pretty solid, other than Poly's voice cracking. I have read rave reviews of their live shows and I'm sure this was great to experience in person, but the recordings are not something that you really wanna listen to very often, I'm afraid. The last few tunes are 1995 "reunion" songs (only a couple of the original members were represented), but the songs are pretty solid through'n'through - "Cigarettes", "Junk Food Junkie", "Peace Meal" - with Poly's vocals sounding exceptionally strong, although the tunes are a bit more new wave than punk rock. Still worthwhile additions to their heritage, though.

The album is absolutely essential, but the extras here are really just for the fanatics, but it's a fun anthology of a fantastic group.

Dayglo - The Poly Styrene Story by Celeste Bell and Zoe Howe

Poly Styrene was, of course, the multi-racial, female singer for the highly influential and unique punk rock'n'roll band, X-Ray Spex, formed at the beginning of the British punk scene. Celeste Bell is her daughter and Zoe Howe is a writer who had worked with Poly previously. Here, they tell her tale with excerpts from her diary, interviews, tons of original memorabilia, as well as her friends'n'peers, along with some of those who she influenced.

Although still a young teen when she formed the band, Poly had already been out'n'about on her own, seeing the country, living with hippies, taking various dead-end jobs, starting her own used clothing stall and fashion line (using the names Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex before they were used for music), acting, recording a pop-reggae tune and living with a man twice her age who ended up being her manager.

Of course, once the band started, things moved fast - gigs, recordings, a hit single, TV appearances, and a fantastic album that holds up to this day, in every way. She perpetrated an entire concept - lyrically, musically and visually - much more so that most of the other groups of the time. The authors do get into the aspects of feminism (there are interviews with later Riot Grrrls and Poly's influence on them) and race and the changes that punk was supposed to help bring about - like the hippies before them - that we are still fighting for.

Unfortunately for Poly, the band, and the fans, Poly started exhibiting signs of mental illness before the album had even been completed - she was later diagnosed as bipolar - and she had several stints in a sanitarium. Between this - besides the strain of her departures, the group lost and/or were forced to cancel many gigs and tours at the last second - and her own changing musical tastes, the band broke up just as it was peaking and Poly started a quieter solo career before marrying and having a little girl. Of course, her life was still not quiet or complete and she joined the Hare Krishnas, got a divorce, occasionally would do some music and would have manic episodes on a regular basis. After a successful one-off X-Ray Spex  reunion, she was diagnosed with cancer, did one last album, and passed away in 2011.

Told with love and respect, but without holding back in describing the bad times, the story is at once compelling, inspirational and quite sad. It is very possible that without her illness, Poly would not have been nearly as creative'n'original as she was, but do to it, she was rarely truly happy. Another story of some of the best art coming from the most tortured people.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Cows - Sorry in Pig Minor

I am pretty much completely ignorant of (the) Cows, a noise band from Minneapolis, but my pal Rob just gifted me this CD, their final release from 1998, appropriately on Amphetamine Reptile Records. The band is described as noise punk, but has plenty of other influences, from free jazz to No Wave to rap to funk to grunge as well as the kitchen sink and the rest of the appliances. It all makes for an odd, but not unenjoyable listening experience.

I dig the opening monologue of a suicidal man saved by a cockroach, backed by a hip, repetitive groove that suddenly bursts into an explosive shriek of feedback'n'voice, "No, I'm Not Coming Out" is kinda a mix of a No Wave/jazzy backing, Dylan-esque singing and little kids backing vocals, all topped with wild, distorted guitar, "Finished Again" has a similar instro feel but with pulsating feedback flourishes, "Dear Dad" is a mellower, jazz-noize instrumental, "Eureka! Funday!" is based on tribal drums, in a Fall-ish fashion, with positively melodic vocals over the dynamics, while "Death in the Tallweeds" is practically funk/punk in a Red Hot Chili Peppers manner.

Kinda reminiscent of James Chance in a No Wave/Funk kinda way is "El Shiksa" while "Life After Beth" is essentially a noize/rap number (at least in my twisted mind), then "Saliva of the Fittest" is sorta high-energy tribal/punk (strangely, with hints of Kiss at the end), "Felon of Troy" reminds me a bit of the horn-centric noisier aspects of Union Carbide Productions in an aggressive jazz setting and it all winds down with "Say Uncle", which is similar to what Nirvana would sound like as a noize band. (There is a "hidden track", but it's pretty much just a novelty and not really worth the wait, in my opinion!)

Neat stuff, not sure how often I'll replay it, but dig the concepts for sure and will certainly give it more spins to really delve into it.

RIP Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone, Influential Creator of Music for Modern Cinema, Dies at 91 
---

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Quintron at the Chamberlin - Erotomania

This CD was gifted to us as a quarantine present by our pals, Clay and Denise, and it actually got misplaced for a while, which is why I am just getting to it. Although I have heard his name, I was not familiar with Quintron's work. A one-man-band based in New Orleans, he is primarily a keyboardist but has created several of his own musical instruments, including his own Drum Buddy, which accompanies him in his shows. His wife sometimes makes an appearance as a puppeteer at his gigs, and his organ is set up within the chassis of a car, so he does his best to keep things entertaining while presenting mostly instrumental music.

This November 2019 6-song release is kinda Exotica, kinda Tiki, kinda lounge, kinda early 60's insto, kinda whatever he feels like throwing in. "Bohemian Caverns" is about as Les Baxter as you can get these days, with a slow, groovin' beat and cascading keyboard lines, which kinda blends into the Samba-esque "Panacea" and then "Dixie Disaster" appears with Dixieland Jazz contours, complete with fake oboes - "faux-boes"? - but what sounds like a legit banjo and trumpet, sending you on a trip to N'Awlins, despite the Covid shutdown! There's some wacky tape (or whatever) manipulation and then back to the laissez le bon temps rouler! "Sonny's Speedboat" is more exotica with some weird'n'wild sound effects throughout along with some hep dynamics, "Firestorm" continues in the same vein and it all closes with the happy-go-lucky sounding "Birthday In Tunisia", with hints of the trad happy birthday tune twisted with some nice embellishments.

Fun, laid-back insto sounds for your next Tiki / cocktail party! Thanks D and C!

recommended gigs

*DUE TO THE SURGE IN COVID CASES, SOME SHOWS ARE BEING CANCELLED - CHECK WITH THE CLUBS BEFORE GOING OUT AND MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A MASK!*

Thursday July 2 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at Founders

Friday July 3 - Shanda and the Howlers LIVE at the Sand Dollar
Friday July 3 - Thee Hypnotiques LIVE at the Usual Place

Thursday July 9 - ZZ Twist (ZZ Top cover band) LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Friday July 24 - Jerk! LIVE at the Huntridge Tavern

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Captain Beefheart - Under Review (documentary)

Finally had a chance to check out this 2006 documentary as I am going through yet another Beefheart phase (just finished Drumbo's book and have been listening to pretty much everything repeatedly) and thought it was pretty damn hip. While there were no real revelations in here, it does give a good overview of the man's life/career with lots of interviews with band members, some live footage (mostly from TV appearances), promo films and more. It was kind of distracting that it seemed like each band member was told to give their interviews in a "wacky" setting - Drumbo pretends to talk on a phone strung from a tree, someone on a roof, someone in a recording booth, etc. But, the info that they gave was informative and cool, with some examples of their playing styles and plenty of anecdotes.

The doc covers everything, including the albums that most people ignore, such as Bluejeans and Moonbeams and Unconditionally Guaranteed, but they are part of his legacy, even if they are not as "artistic" as some of the others. He truly has left behind quite a varied bit of work. The team cuts off when Vliet quits music to concentrate on his artwork and they don't really talk about that much, if at all.

Well done, with lots of hip footage and good interviews - any fans should definitely dig it and non-fans may see what the fuss is all about!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Lydia Lunch - Queen Of Siam

Prior to this 1980 debut album, Lunch was best known for leading NYC's No Wave band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and prior to that, being the inspiration for the Dead Boys "I Need Lunch". She has since become a multi-decade acclaimed artist who is still working to this day and has inspired many individuals and groups throughout the years.

While at the time I was not a big fan of the Jerks, this album's different facets clicked with me when I got it - probably a couple of years after it's release. While still maintaining plenty of dissonant noise, here Lunch also toyed with lounge jazz, beatnik poetry and even a hip cover of the Classics IV hit, "Spooky". Working with other new wave/no waves New Yorkers like Robert Quine, Jack Ruby and Pat Irwin, among others, she sets up a strong initial release. I just received the CD of this record, which has odd, unflattering woodcut interpretations of the vinyl's front and back cover photos, for some reason. Otherwise, it does appear to be the same release.

While not having a technically "good" voice, Lunch can be expressive, bored, sexy and even melodic - sometimes within the same song! Opening with "Mechanical Flattery", there is a sparse, disjointed backing with bored-sounding vocals and "Gloomy Sunday" does its best to depict the title in a melancholy, jazzy (and more  musical) way, again with almost spoken vocals, while "Tied and Twist" sounds like a contorted nursery rhyme. After these peculiar, almost fragmentary pieces, the 60's hit "Spooky" is positively melodic and is actually a fairly accurate recreation of the original, with unusual vocals, of course. Side one of the vinyl ended with a Lounge Lizards-like "Los Banditos" with Lydia's voice practically a whisper and mixed low in the instrumentation so it's pretty much impossible to tell if there is a story being told here, but it's a very hip track, regardless.

Flip over the LP and we are treated to a fave of mine, "Atomic Bongos" with an upbeat, circular, percussive, repetitive riff with hip noize/jazz melodies layered and Lunch's depiction of a NYC beach blanket bingo party! Probably my absolute fave is the dynamic, film noir jazz of "Lady Scarface", where Lydia plays a seductress stalking an underage boy after being stood up - this is fun, sexy and swinging! More noir-ish jazz (again, reminding me a bit of the Lounge Lizards if they were playing something from West Side Story) in the groovin' instrumental, "A Cruise to the Moon" followed by the macabre carnival music of "Carnival Fat Man", where Lunch asks the musical question "who's the fat man?". "Knives in the Brain" is basically a recital of pained poetry backed by more hip jazz and the proceedings come to a close with a short snippet in "Blood of Tin".

While I love crazed caterwauling No Wave noize fests, I really enjoy this record for its more musical jazz treatments and Lunch's tempered, temptress-y vocalizing. Great stuff!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic by John "Drumbo" French


Despite being a big Frank Zappa fan in the late 60's and throughout the 70's, it took me until the 80's to really discover Captain Beefheart and I have just delved into his music compulsively over the last decade or so. This book has been a bit elusive due to the price but my wonderful wife bought it for me for Christmas. The enormity of the tome - well over 800 pages - caused me to put it aside while I tackled a few other assorted gifts, but I have finally found the time for this.

While French speaks from his personal point of view, he also interviews damn near everyone involved with the Captain (those who consented to interviews, of course) and does his best to give a unbiased overview of the man, the band and the music. The members tended to come from the outskirts of LA, where Vliet (the Captain) and Zappa grew up, and the outsider-ness adds a certain aura to the characters. But, they were close enough to LA to be influenced by the new sounds of the 60's and to look for outlets for their music. The Magic Band went through numerous personnel changes even before French joined as an impressionable teen who had played'n'sang with local blues/garage bands before entering the world of Magic. This book gives a bit of an insight as to why there was so much turnover and the reasons for some of Vliet's difficulties. While French did imbibe in some illicit substances himself - this was the 60's, of course - he is pretty much anti-drug, due to his own experiences (which seem to be fairly extensive, ironically enough) as well as the issues that his friends, including Beefheart, had due to ingesting illegalities. French also seems to have no patience with the trappings of the psychedelic era in general and comes off fairly straight-laced considering the music he was making.

Although he appears to have had a real affection and friendship with Vliet at the time, in hindsight French is quite critical of the man and notes his various idiosyncrasies, anxieties and paranoias, which caused rifts in the band, cost them some important gigs, made them lose members, and caused innumerable problems during rehearsals and recording sessions, among other things. Of course, the rehearsal sessions for Trout Mask Replica are legendary - stuck in a house in the Los Angeles Valley, with no money, few friends and even little food, the band was literally tortured by Vliet and they now consider him to have behaved like a cruel cult leader. It's sounds maddening and frustrating, but they did end up producing a truly unique piece of art which, while not financially rewarding (I can't imagine that they could possibly have thought that it would be), is now considered a true classic.

French does repeat himself at times, either forgetting that he had mentioned something in a previous chapter or just reminding the reader. He also occasionally seems to forget to finish his thought, but with all of the detail that he goes into here, that's forgivable. Along with some spelling, typing, structural errors, maybe an editor might have been a good idea?

Despite everything that he went through, he can still appreciate Vliet's talents (although he has no reluctance with explaining his weaknesses) and he doesn't think much of many of their peers, other than an appreciation for Frank Zappa. I do find it amusing that he doesn't see how people can find Trout Mask Replica as insane as, say, Wildman Fisher - I think they are both works of mad geniuses, although in quite different ways.

Due to the overlap, French does give a lot of info about Zappa along with Van Vliet, from his own standpoint, from interviews with members of Zappa's band as well as the Magic Band and from quotes from Zappa's autobiography. He does compare and contrast the way the band members are treated (in Zappa's favor) but funnily enough, he never ends up working with Frank. He does leave and then return to Beefheart numerous times - just when I think that he would never go back, he does again and again just because he never accomplishes anything else serious in his life.

He finds religion, as many lost souls from the 60's did, and, just when you think that there is no chance that he would return to Beefheart, he does yet once more, but this time on guitar, an instrument that he barely played! But he ended up playing both slide and "regular" guitar on one of my fave albums, Doc at the Radar Station. He leaves again, for the final time finally, and dives head first into religion, deliverance religion to be precise, and literally has his demons exorcised! He becomes a stay-at-home father and leaves us there.

Post scripts include a detailed examination of each song that he recorded with Beefheart (at one point listing at least 6 different parts within 60 seconds of a song that sounds like pure cacophony to most people) , which results in a bit more repetition, and also some ramblings, as if he was simply talking into a tape recorder while listening to the recordings, which is certainly possible. I find it super humorous that he complains that Vliet did not have a sense of timing and didn't know when to come in properly with his vocals - as if anyone could tell in the midst of this cacophony! I'm not even sure what French is basing that on since he says that Beefheart did not practice with the band so how would he know what Vliet meant to do?!

There's a fair amount of French simply complaining about nearly everything, but he does have some insight into his own foibles as well as those of the others in the cast of characters. Of course, as with any biography, this is subjective, but he really does try to get other points of view from the people who were there, which means that this is a pretty damn informative, if daunting, tome. I can't imagine that anyone who wasn't a fan would slog through all of this, but for those that are fanatics, it is a good read and he does his best to keep things moving.

Rema Rema - Fond Reflections

I have been a huge fan of 4AD noise band Rema Rema since I first encountered their EP in the early 80's and was super psyched to hear about this expanded package. Two CD's featuring the aforementioned EP along with early demos, several extra songs and a great booklet with a brief history (and photos) of the group by their drummer, Max.

The demo CD starts things off with different takes on "Feedback Song" (a truly apt title) and their theme song, "Rema Rema" - the slow, plodding thump of "Feedback Song" is extended with swells of chaos wafting over the rhythm until we get into the positively raucously rockin' "Rema Rema" with its shouted/chanted/singalong vocals and insistent, incessant beat. There are a few differences here'n'there from the EP versions, but essentially, these songs were fully formed by the time of these early recordings. Some sharp, biting guitar opens "Gallery/Oh Rock'n'Roll" before the ferocious bass comes in and demolishes the whole concept and drives it into a primitive frenzy with multiple starts'n' stops and swirling, single note guitar lines fighting with raw chords and shouted, repetitive lyrics. A Vox Jaguar organ was found and pieced together enough to give "Lost My Way" a bit of a 60's feel, but only a bit, as there is plenty of jaggedness to it, as well, and the repeated, hypnotic refrain of "lost my way" becomes downright psychedelic. In "Short Stories", bright, chiming guitars interact with the loping bassline and the Mo Tucker-esque beat but in "International Scale", fuzz'n'distortion dominate both the guitar'n'bass while beautiful feedback layers on top and the drums are a simple pulse behind the vocals in an insanely catchy manner.  Slow'n'brooding, "Fond Affections" has a basic hum of a note/chord and spurts of synth noise in an almost Bauhuas-ish fashion followed by another new-to-me number, "Why Ask Why", that has an unusual staccato bass line, pulsing drums and waves upon waves of distortion'n'feedback that threatens to engulf the entire song, which is quite a treat! The ironically titled "Instrumental" (it's not) does have a lengthy introduction filled with their usual clamorous elements before the chanted "you hit me right between the eyes" comes in over the cacophony before they close with the echoed oscillation of "Entry" with synth blurps'n'slides and shrieking guitar wails and call'n'answer vocals - the only time they use this effect, I believe - and more changes than any other number.

The second CD has the full, Wheel in the Roses EP along with another take on "Entry" and two extra songs, "No Applause" (self fulfilling prophecy, maybe?) and "MurderMuzic". The organ comes out again for "No Applause" but moves in'n'out of waves of dissonance and throbbing backwards masking creating a percussive effect along with the simple drum work while vocals are shouted over it all and "MurderMuzik" is awash in feedback'n'guitar riffs that shifts back'n'forth from a frantic beat to sparse ambiance, without changing the insistent singing or that layers of noise, to great effect.

This is a truly exceptional release - one of my favorites in a long time - highly recommended for fans of 4AD-style noize!

recommended gigs

*DUE TO THE SURGE IN COVID CASES, SOME SHOWS ARE BEING CANCELLED - CHECK WITH THE CLUBS BEFORE GOING OUT AND MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A MASK!*


Thursday June 25 - The New Waves live stream tonight at 7:00 Pacific Time

Friday June 26 - Soldiers of Destruction LIVE at the Double Down

Sunday June 28 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Tuesday June 30 - Johnny Zig and the Force LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Wednesday July 1 - Franks'n'Deans Weenie Roast LIVE at the Double Down with Critical Miss

Thursday July 2 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at Founders

Friday July 3 - Shanda and the Howlers LIVE at the Sand Dollar
Friday July 3 - Thee Hypnotiques LIVE at the Usual Place
Friday July 3 - Stagnetti's Cock, the Dead Dolls LIVE at the Double Down

Friday July 24 - Jerk! LIVE at the Huntridge Tavern

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Robert Bell - Devil You Know (Book)

This is my forward to Rob's book of lyrics that has just been released - you can get it directly from Rob - contact him at either his Facebook page, The Psyatics or the Unwieldies.


Rob Bell and I met at the debut gig of his band, the Psyatics, and since then our combos have played together numerous times and, in fact, I am now play guitar in his group, so I suppose you could say that I dig his work. With the tumultuous din and crash’n’bash caused by the music, it is sometimes difficult to understand Rob’s lyrics in a live setting and even on record his rockingly raucous yelps’n’slurs’n’howls’n’croons can make deciphering the code a demanding challenge. I believe it was due to the Yeller Bellies fine recordings (his previous band) that I was able to discern his turn of phrase and his penchant for telling a tale in a two-to-three minute format. I have always said that the Psyatics should include lyrics with their releases but that is not very cost effective so instead, Rob has decided to publish some of his faves in book form for those who are literarily inclined.

 Compiled here are his personal selections with many taken from the Psyatics as well as the Yeller Bellies, Seminiferous (previous to the YB’s), a smattering of brand new scribblings and some that just never found a home. Intelligent, incredibly humorous, absolutely sacrilegious, sexy, dark (a cornucopia of combinations of film noir and EC Comics), incisive, tender, personal and sometimes truly uncomfortable, his words may not be pretty or put you at ease, but whoever said that poetry should do that?

 I especially appreciate Rob’s notes he has added after each of the lyrics, explaining a bit about his thought process or at least his state of mind at the time of writing and occasionally reassuring you that he is not the man in the narrative. There are clever similes’n’metaphors, religious imagery galore, crime tales, hedonism, individualism, a bit of politics, relationship twists’n’turns and lots more but you should discover these for yourself. Dive in and be certain to purchase the albums to have the compendium soundtracks!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

recommended gigs

Friday June 19 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at the Double Down
Friday June 19 - Lachy Doley live stream at 4:00pm Pacific Time

Saturday June 20 - Water Landing and Jerk LIVE at the Double Down
Saturday June 20 - the Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Thursday June 25 - The New Waves live stream tonight at 7:00 Pacific Time

Sunday June 28 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Tuesday June 30 - Johnny Zig and the Force LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Wednesday July 1 - Franks'n'Deans Weenie Roast LIVE at the Double Down with Critical Miss

Friday July 3 - Shanda and the Howlers LIVE at the Sand Dollar
Friday July 3 - Thee Hypnotiques LIVE at the Usual Place

Friday July 24 - Jerk! LIVE at the Huntridge Tavern

Sunday, June 14, 2020

RIP Bobby Lewis


Bobby Lewis, ‘Tossin’ and Turnin” Singer, Dead at 95
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RIP Marc Zermati of Skydog Records






Skydog Records' Marc Zermati passed away yesterday, June 13. With essential releases from the likes of the Flamin' Groovies, Iggy Pop, the MC5 and innumerable others, this man and his label made a major contribution to rock'n'roll as we know it. Very sad to hear of his early demise.

Johnny Winter - Winter Essentials 1960-1967 Volume One

As the title says, this is early Johnny Winter - previous to his days of a blues-based, long-haired rock'n'roller. There is literally no information included on this hep set, so there is no indication of the time periods of the different songs or who else, other than Johnny, appears on any of the cuts. A lot of it sounds like pre-Beatles rock'n'roll, some of it pretty damn similar to what Dr. John (then Mac Rebennack) was doing out in New Orleans around the same time. Even in this period, he was influenced by R'n'B and the Blues, but there are some hints of Link Wray, Surf, Doo-Wop, Chuck Berry and any number of other coolness.

Lots of neat rockers here, from the opening instro guitar work out, "Ice Cube", to the N'Awlins-y "School Day Blues", the doo-wop-ish "You Know I Love You", "Oh, My Darling" and "One Night of Love" (not certain if it's him on the sorta lightweight vocals, although it could be), the wildly rollickin' instrumentals "Geisha Rock" and "Creepy" (he could already play a helluva mean guitar), the sing-along upbeat R'n'B of "Hey Hey Hey Hey", "That What Love Does" is similar to Lazy Lester's "Sugar Coated Love" and "Shed So Many Tears" is a nice R'n'B ballad with more swingin' git-work.

Of course, he had to ride on the Twist wagon with the frantic, sax-fueled "Voo Doo Twist"(great sax/guitar trade-offs here), and he goes full-on bluesman with the Jimmy Reed-styled "Ease My Pain", but doesn't fare as well with a goofy instro take on "By The Light of the Silvery Moon", but then does a speed-freak take on Bo Diddley's "Road Runner" followed by a super-groovy dance number with "The Guy You Left Behind" and a nice slow blues instrumental in "Five After", an early rock'n'roll vocal number with "Stay By My Side", while "Broke and Lonely" sounds like a take-off of Ray Charles (certainly not a bad thing, although I'm spacing on what song specifically this was "influenced" by), there's another slow blues with "Crying in my Heart" and a swingin', tremelo'd Link Wray-like blues instrumental, "Crazy Baby", for the closer.

Don't pick this up if you're looking for another Still Alive and Well or even The Progressive Blues Experiment, but if you're interested in the man's roots, this is a hip'n'fun comp.

Friday, June 12, 2020

RIP Denny O'Neil


Legendary Batman writer, Denny O'Neil dies at age 81 
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Thursday, June 11, 2020

recommended gigs and live streams

Thursday June 11 - TV Party Tonight at the Double Down showing "They Live"

Saturday June 13 - Fuckface and Suburban Resistance LIVE at the Double Down

Friday June 19 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at the Double Down
Friday June 19 - Lachy Doley live stream at 4:00pm Pacific Time

Saturday June 20 - Water Landing and Jerk LIVE at the Double Down

Sunday June 28 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Tuesday June 30 - Johnny Zig and the Force LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Friday July 3 - Shanda and the Howlers LIVE at the Sand Dollar
Friday July 3 - Thee Hypnotiques LIVE at the Usual Place

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

RIP Bonnie Pointer


Bonnie Pointer of the Pointer Sisters Dies at 69 
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The Pointer Sisters were fantastic and I still listen to them regularly. Sad to hear of her untimely death.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Long Live All Jaffee!


Mad magazine legend Al Jaffee retires at age 99 after a record-breaking career 
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Thursday, June 04, 2020

recommended live gigs and live streams

Thursday June 4 - Brandon Madejek LIVE at Evel Pie

Friday June 5 - Johnny Zig and the Force LIVE at the re-opened Double Down
Friday June 5 - the Hypnotiques LIVE at the Usual Place

Friday June 5 - Jr Brown live Stream 6:00 pm Pacific time
Friday June 5 - Trevor Johnson at Tommy Bahamas w Junior Brantley 5-8pm

Sunday June 6 - Monk and the Po Boys at Saddle'n'Spurs

Saturday June 13 - Fuckface and Suburban Resistance LIVE at the Double Down

Friday June 19 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at the Double Down

Sunday June 28 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Tuesday June 30 - Johnny Zig and the Force LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Friday July 3 - Shanda and the Howlers at the Sand Dollar

RIP Steve Priest of Sweet


While I'm not finding anything yet in the news media, Andy Scott's official Sweet Facebook page has confirmed his passing. I loved the Sweet since I first heard "Little Willy" and really dug their high-energy, hard-rockin' pop madness like "Ballroom Blitz", "Fox on the Run" and the related albums. Priest was an important piece of the puzzle - a terrific bassist and amazing backing singer. Sad to hear of his passing.

The UK Mirror has confirmed. (Thanks to John Armstrong for finding this link)
Funny that the Mirror says that "Blockbuster" was their biggest hit - I don't think that one even charted in the States, unlike some of the others.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Radio Birdman - Descent into the Maelstrom (documentary)

Truth be told, although I appreciate all of their influences and understand their importance, I have never been a big Radio Birdman fan. Their debut Sire Records album, Radios Appear, had the right idea but, for me, the production was flat and unexciting. I know from personal experience how hard it is to try to translate the live experience to vinyl, so I can't fault them, but the record just never did anything for me and since I could never see them live, I never became a convert.

This documentary, though, has some fairly incredible 70's live footage that is truly incendiary'n'explosive and I realize how many of their songs have been brought to life by other groups with rawer and more powerful recordings.

The story of the band is fairly wild, as well, with Deniz Tek immigrating from Ann Arbor, Michigan (where he witnessed the likes of the MC5 in person) and guitarist Chris coming from Canada and joining forces with like-minded Australians to form a Detroit-styled r'n'r band in the pre-punk mid-1970's, when the Australian music scene was pretty bland, by all accounts.

As it happens in bands, members came'n'went at various times but the documentary does its best to speak with everyone involved, including road crew and fans, to give a pretty well rounded picture. Despite not conforming to the styles of the day, the group developed a fanatical following who adopted their logo proudly and who packed houses wherever they went. They had difficulties recording - although they seemed to like their initial sessions - but did do a couple of releases with a small indie Aussie label before getting signed to Sire. They went to England to start a tour that was supposed to move on to America, but the band broke up and dissolved before they could capitalize on their momentum.

With 6 members of the band that recorded (along with other ex-members and future members), there are a lot of personalities involved and clashes were bound to happen, but Tek, particularly, seems to be a catalyst for a lot of the issues while also remaining the main creative force. He does not come off exceptionally well, overall, and is not all that empathetic to the others' feelings and affairs. Of course, the dissent does make for good filmmaking and the story is enthralling.

Definitely worth checking out and will make a fan out of the unconverted! Dig it!

Betty Davis - They Say I'm Different (documentary)


I am a huge fan of Betty Davis' style of hard funk, and while I have only discovered her over the last few years, I have become pretty fascinated with her and her fantastic music. A lovely, sexy woman who began writing her own music at the age of 12 and had written hit songs for others while still a teen, she also was a model, was friends with Jimi Hendrix and married Miles Davis - and was a major muse for his more radical music, as well.

While I've learned some background on her from the great booklets included in her reissue CDs, I was hoping for more pertinent info in this doc. Unfortunately, while obviously done with the best intentions and with real love for Betty, there is not a whole lot of new discoveries here. The creators even found Betty - who kinda vanished after her musical career stalled after 3 albums - but she is obviously reluctant to espouse upon those times in great deal and will not really say why she disappeared.

But there are interviews with her core band members (not really any of the more famous people who appeared on her albums like Bootsy Collins or Patti LaBelle, unfortunately) and old friends, but even they can't really shed a lot of light. Also unfortunately, there is very, very limited live footage or her performances - in fact, there only seems to be a few seconds from one show that is shown over and over - I would love to see more.

Again, I believe that this was done with the best intentions, but there's just not much here. Disappointing, really....

Thursday, May 28, 2020

recommended live streams & gigs!

Friday May 29 - 16 Again Livestream 8:00 pm
Friday May 29 - Le Beat Bespoke DJ Festival - 12:00 pm
Friday May 29 - Jesika Von Rabbit live stream for CoachellaValley.com

Wednesday Jun 3 - Franks'n'Deans Weenie Roast at the Double Down

Friday June 5 - Johnny Zig and the Force LIVE at the re-opened Double Down
Friday June 5 - the Hypnotiques LIVE at the Usual Place

Friday June 5 - Jr Brown live Stream 6:00 pm Pacific time

Saturday June 13 - Fuckface and Suburban Resistance LIVE at the Double Down


The Graham Bond Organization - The Sound of 65 and There's a Bond Between Us

The Graham Bond ORGANization is today best known for their astounding rhythm section of Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, who, of course, went on to fame'n'fortune with Cream. Here the group, led by keyboardist/singer Bond (who ironically looks a bit like a 007 villain - actually the guru from Get Smart - certainly not like a 60's pop star) along with Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax and John McLaughlin (who did plenty of incredible work with the likes of Miles Davis as well as his own Mahavishnu Orchestra) on guitar - actually, he was part of the band for a while but I don't believe that he appears of these recordings. The band concentrates on a mix of blues, R'n'B, soul and jazz in their own swingin' way, with excellent musicianship all around. Bond's vocals are a bit thin at times, but Bruce sings lead on a few numbers and while he isn't as strong as he became in Cream, he still has a special voice. Bruce's songwriting - collaborating with his then-girlfriend - also isn't up to his later work (and the lyrics are fairly forgettable), but they are good, bluesy tunes.

With songs ranging from classic blues like "Hootchie Kootchie Man" to the slow'n'sultry "Baby Make Love To Me" (one of Bruce's numbers) to the "Glendora"-ish "Neighbor Neighbor" to the prison work song-like "Early in the Morning" (which is really effective with Bruce again taking lead vocals) to the non-Spanish sounding "Spanish Blues" (much more mid-Eastern in tone), "Oh Baby" is a nicely dynamic jazz/blues with great Baker percussion (it's really a vehicle for him to solo in), although Bond's weak vocals mar it a bit and side one of the album closes with "Little Girl", a fun groover.

Funny, for me, with the sax replacing the guitar and the keys taking prominence, songs like "I Want You" are like movie soundtrack versions of R'n'B, but good ones. "Wade in the Water" has kinda everything but the kitchen sink thrown in - bits of classical, bits of Ray Charles, some excellent organ playing and interaction with the sax and hip, jazzy dynamics. "Got My Mojo Workin'" was getting overworked even by this time but their take, without guitar, and led by the organ'n'sax is distinctively their own. Bruce's harmonica-led "Train Time" would become a staple of Cream's live shows and is essentially intact here, "Baby Be Good to Me" is a jump'n'jive number of Bruce's, "Half a Man" is a hip slow blues and the closure is, strangely enough, a cover of Debbie Reynolds maudlin soundtrack number, "Tammy", which personally, does not work at all, especially with Bond's crackin' voice.

Funnily, the next album opens with another soundtrack tune, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", but this is much more successful as a swingin' upbeat, jazzy number with some wailin' sax and wild keys. Bruce takes lead for his jazzy "Hear Me Calling Your Name", "The Night Time is the Right Time" is kinda in a Ray Charles style with more soarin' sax, "Walkin' in the Park" has a nice, upbeat groove, "Last Night" is a solid cover by Stax's Mar-Keys, similar to Booker T and the MG's, natch, then they give a quiet, soul/lounge-jazz ballad in "Baby Can It Be True", they do their interpretation of "What'd I Say", sax takes center stage naturally for "Dick's Instrumental", they do a unique take on the hip hit from '58, "Don't Let Go" and the Chuck Willis' CC Rider-ish "Keep A'Drivin'", "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" is their own and not any other song by the same name and is another jazz/loungey tune, and they close out with another Ginger Baker tour-de-force, the mid-Eastern influenced "Camels and Elephants".

Certainly not rock'n'roll and not exactly blues, R'n'B or jazz, but a bit of an amalgamation of them all with some terrific musicianship, although I think they could have gone further is Bond's voice was a bit stronger. Still, hep stuff, for sure!

Dictators Forever, Forever Dictators


Dictators re-assemble 
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With Albert Bouchard from BOC on drums! Wow!

I assume that politics will not be discussed...