Sunday, November 23, 2008

DJ'S CHOICE: GO-TO GLAM


A while back, I found myself in my hallway, sheltered by walls on all sides. I was doing something I hoped no one would see. Well into my middle age, head down with a concerned look on my face, I was playing air guitar. It stuck me as odd, to feel embarrassed about it. After all, I only date ladies who are air guitarists. Which reminds me: before I die, I will date a girl who plays air guitar to Suzi Quatro.
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Suzi Quatro was from Detroit, but found fame in the UK at the peak of the Glam years. That was a weird period over there. You could transverse, from art farts Roxy Music, through Bowie, elbow T-Rex out of the way, have a beer with Mott the Hoople and then get after-hours-stupid with Slade. Shit, I just described a night at the Pink Panther. Which is totally apropos.
NOTE: Not "rough and notorious", more like "drunk and horny"
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Pink Panther was a bar that I used to frequent and DJ'd at on a fairly regular basis. I ususally DJ'd with a partner, which made it more like a private record party (that is, with free beer and a captive audience). I had a bunch of partners during the Panther's heyday, but most often it would be my friend, Julie D.
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Julie was a perfect DJ parner, she knew music (we met when she was working at a record store) and loved to mix it up as much as I did, This led to some wacky sets, and it wasn't unusual to play Can, George Jones, Alice Cooper and X-Ray Spex in the same night. "48 Crash" by Suzi Quatro was one of the many songs played with regularity (often followed by Sweet's "Hellraiser", or one of Slade's foot-stompers).
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Taken out of a glam context, these types of songs were perfect what-the-fuck segues and almost always stoked a few people who'd forgotten about them (this was way past the glam era). These days, whenever I hear classic glam it takes me back to the Panther, and the beer soaked nights spinning with my pal Julie. So, this one is for Julie.
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Sunday, November 9, 2008

ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES


"This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you."
~ Barack Obama, November 4, 2008..
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During the last days of the presidential campaign, I was on the way home from my nightly swim when I ran into my neighbor Patty, a semi-retired oceanographer, on her way home from her nightly run feeding the stray cats up the block. After commenting on her Obama badge, we began talking about the election and our hopes that things would change, that the pendulum would swing towards making things better for all Americans, with an eye on global repercussions of our foreign policy..

After a couple minutes, another neighbor walked up. Matt is a Marine and member of a bomb disposal unit with two tours of Iraq under his belt. During the course of the campaign he had switched his allegiance and was to vote for a Democratic president for the first time. He opined that, with where the country had gone in the past eight years and where he saw it headed if McCain would be elected, he could not vote along party lines with so much at stake.
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At this point in our street corner conversation, the sun was down, I'm still dripping wet and getting butt-ass cold. Right when we were getting ready to part ways, Willie, another neighbor from across the alley walked up. He was on his way home from work, as a cobbler & shoe shine man. He's a fixture in Ocean Beach, and has been here since I was a little kid. A few years ago, some racists burned his shoe shine stand to the ground (he's African-American) and some locals rebuilt a better one for him the very next day. His take was that it was much more than the last eight years. He had been waiting a long time for this, and while not going into detail, I knew from past conversations with him, that stealth racism was something that troubled him deeply. He doesn't bring it up much now that he's given up drinking (under doctor's orders), but when I used to run into him on his way home from the VFW bar, he'd let it spill.
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After a few more minutes, the four of us went our separate ways. The three of them had each made two new friends, we all felt a sense of community and hope, and I went home shivering, feeling warmer then I had in quite a while.
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Though more detached, I've experienced that same sense of community the last few days while visiting mp3 blogs. t's been really interesting to see the comments and song selections posted in reaction to election. Rather than just download songs, you really ought to check out the hosting blogs and take in what they're saying; from "Dream Come True", on Crying All the Way to the Chip Shop, a blog from a Brit expatriot, to the succinct "Fuck Yes!!", posted on the largely punk rock blog, Last Days of Man on Earth.
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Bob & Marcia - Young Gifted and Black mp3
The Impressions - We're a Winner mp3 at Crying All the Way to the Chip Shop

Thursday, November 6, 2008

OBAMA LOVE FEST CONTINUES


I'm still high on the election, so here's two Obama links. One is a post about a Kenyan/American group, Extra Golden, and an mp3 of their song "Obama". Its got a mellow African vibe, and you kinda start to get all cozy and adult-like. That is, until about the sixth minute when you realize it's crept into an awesome guitar freak-out. A free mp3, interview and story at npr.org.
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The other link is to photographer Scout Tufankian's site, with photos from the entire span of the Obama presidential campaign. A ca-ca load of really cool photos of appearances, private moments, and behind the scenes type stuff; mixed in are street shots of supporters, crowds and scenes of rallies. Some of my favorites are the ones in the Secret Service chapter; they're all "Men In Black" looking.
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On a sidenote, I'd be remiss if I didn't add that I think Scout Tufankjian is the coolest name ever (espescially for a woman).
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Extra Golden - Obama mp3, interview and story at NPR.org

Sunday, October 19, 2008

SHAKE YOUR SHOULDERS, EVERYTHING IS FINE


Sometimes an record can be like an old friend. You become attached to it, lugging it from one apartment to another, never far from the top of the recent plays. Alton Ellis' "Sings Rock and Soul" is, for me, one such record. I don't remember when I bought it, but I do remember having it in 1982. Like a snapshot, I remember my friend Mark (AKA Dr. Marvelous, his self-given beach nickname) visiting me when I lived in San Francisco, reading the title "Alton Ellis Sings Rock and Sooouull!", with an emphasis on "soul" that I've murmured to myself just about every time I've played it ever since.
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Just a couple years ago, another friend, Ruth (who was also living in San Francisco back when I was), was visiting from her new home in Australia. I hadn't seen her in years and, because our decades-long friendship was dominated by a common love of music, I asked her what she wanted to hear. To my surprise, of all the music that we had shared over the years, she asked to hear, you guessed it, "Alton Ellis Sings Rock and Sooouull!"
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Alton Ellis passed away recently, and as this particular record has been with me for a long time and been the soundtrack for many memorable moments, I could not let the sad event pass without recommending that you begin your relationship with Alton Ellis and his music. The record referenced above, though not rock nor straight soul, represents the transition of ska into reggae, and is considered by many the start of rock steady. The song "Get Ready" (often referred to as "Rocksteady") gave the genre its name.
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Ellis' voice is soulfully smooth and comes through remarkably clear, considering that the overall recordings are primitively produced, charateristic of the era. To put it succinctly, Ellis had some of the best pipes in reggae, and even a crappy mix couldn't fuck 'em up.
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Alton Ellis on MySpace (samples of his music, no downloads)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

...FIVE TIMES!


In 1986, I learned more about James Chance in one short moment than I had after listening to his music, or reading about him in articles written during (and about) the early No Wave scene. It was at a small performance space in lower Manhattan, a word-of-mouth show in a tiny room, with no bar or club-like trappings. During one of his patently manic sax solos, the microphone stand was knocked to the ground. Most performers, even the most humble, might shoot a dirty look at the person who knocked it over. Some would keep playing and wait for someone else to upright the stand. At the very least, they might pick it up themselves. Not James Chance. He got down and continued the solo, lying on his side. On the floor.
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It wasn't at all a daring or dangerous move, nor was it something that required talent. What it did require was a different way of of reacting, without a predisposition to do what was reasonable or expected. Click...Now I get James Chance.
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If you know me, you know I'm always partial to a good larynx shredding. So, while the whole of the Contortion's first album Buy is worthy, you really, really, need to download "Contort Yourself" for your morning pilates.
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Thank you Swan Fungus

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NORMAN WHITFIELD 1942 - 2008


Norman Whitfield died last week. He wrote (or co-wrote) many of the definitive late 60's/early 70's songs for Motown, so his name should be recognizable to anyone record-geek enough to actually peruse songwriting credits. Among them, "War" (which has to be the most powerful anti-war song to ever chart; #1 in 1971), "Ain't to Proud to Beg", "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "Ball of Confusion", "Cloud Nine", "I know I'm Losing You" and roughly 300+ other songs (see the massive listing at the Songwriters Hall of Fame).
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As with any good song, the proof is in the pudding: how do the cover versions stack up? For "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" I'm including a link to the Slits decidely sparse version, and for "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" I had to include a link to the Pioneers version, my favorite, over even the Temps original. I tried to find D.O.A.'s cover of War (the only version that comes close to updating the intensity of the Edwin Starr original) to no avail (but turn up Starr's version and see if it doesn't still hit you in the gut). "Paint the White House Black" is a 1993 post-Motown song, co-written by Whitfield, George Clinton and about a half dozen others.
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This is just a sampling. For more Whitfield songs, check out the sites hosting these MP3s. And you should really read his bio/obit at the Guardian, to throw everything into context. (Thanks to Ted for the suggestion. I owe you again Snail!)
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Saturday, September 6, 2008

STAY CLASSY SAN DIEGO


Looking back at 1977, it still amazes me how much happened, how fast it happened and how it changed the game forever. It was pivotal year, no doubt about it, and it wasn't just in terms of how the whole punk rock/DIY revolution changed the way the music business operated. It was the movement that defined who the tools and non-tools of the music industry were.

The Zeros, a band always included in the '77-'78 roll call of original Southern California punk bands, weren't tools. There were unbeholden to the music industry, which wasn't unusual at the time. What set the Zeros apart is that they were never really beholden to punk rock either. Though they didn't reject the punk tag, they were a rock n' roll band, pure and simple. From their first record in 1977 all the way through to their last recording in 1999. Like Sweden's Nomads (who did a remarkably loud-yet-faithful cover of the Zeros' "Wimp"), they had their own sound and their own disarming look. No spiked hair, no torn clothes, no studs.

Through different eras of the band, you only had to look at the covers they did to get an indication of what wound their watches: Bo Diddley, Mitch Ryder, Bobby Freeman, the Sonics, the New York Dolls, the Seeds, and the Standells. And every cover they played had the distinctive Zeros sound, somewhere between Johnny Thunders and the Ramones.

Their first 45, "Don't Push Me Around" b/w "Wimp" seems, lyrically, to be the stuff of JD's in training. Keep in mind, these guys were kids, between 16 and 19, when they began recording. They were documenting their own still-evolving attitude, and I-could-give-a-fuck swagger.
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Their earliest hometown appearance came on a local San Diego morning talk show, Sun Up (they were actually from Chula Vista, which is about 8 miles south). View the clip and take a look at the faces, the knock-kneed stances, feet practically glued to the floor; these are clearly kids. And this was just a scant few months after their first L.A. appearance, sandwiched between two other debuting bands, the Germs and the Weirdos.
The clip is from the fall of 1977, and they're lip-syncing both sides of their 45. It was just days before their first San Diego appearance, what would be the first San Diego punk rock show, with the Dils and the Hitmakers (the latter, a band that featured two ex-Dils and future Crawdaddy/Nashville Rambler Ron Silva). Things would progress quickly in the ensuing months, with regular gigs in L.A. and quick trips to San Francisco (Lead singer/guitarist Javier Escovedo would later write "I was the only one who could drive and had to motor my station wagon from Chula Vista up to The City, play the show, then drive right back so Robert, Baba and Hector could attend school the next day".)
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Their sound started to coalesce and by the time of their second 45, they had fully developed what would be the two sides of the band (on this record literally). While the B-side, "Beat Your Heart Out" showed their pop-influenced love song side, "Wild Weekend," the A-side, continued the theme of youthful defiance, with a stepped up pace and, lyrically, a line-drawing of the age card that ranks up there with the Who's "My Generation". The scene is set, on a Friday night, with the parents gone, a six pack of beer, and a girl:
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Baby, baby, I can't let go,
We got the Seeds on the stereo,
If they walked in now,
Man, I'd get get hung,
but I don't care,
Fuck them, I'm young,

It gonna be a wild weekend,
and I just know it,
I'm feelin' crazy,
and I gotta show it.

It's 1:33 of unadulterated rock n' roll bliss, ending with a twelve second guitar solo straight out of the Johnny Thunders songbook. "Wild Weekend" was on my top ten list in Substitute (my short lived fanzine) in 1978 and it still ranks up there as one of my favorite songs of any era, thirty years later.

The Zeros on Sun Up: "Don't Push Me Around" and "Wimp" (and short interview) video here(Some faulty video until :28, but the clip is 7:14 long)

The Zeros - Wild Weekend and Beat Your Heart Out MP3s at Last Days of Man on Earth (Dig around on the Last Days site; there's a lot of good stuff)

The Zeros bio (by Javier Escovedo 1991) at the Mod Pop Punk Archives

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ISAAC HAYES 1942 - 2008 (SAMMY DAVIS JR IS A PUNK)


Given that Isacc Hayes' "Shaft" is such an universal icon of 70's cinematic soul, it's kind of a drag that fewer people are familiar with his ability to radically interpret already familiar songs, as he did with Burt Bacharach's "Walk On By." He turned a great pop song (a hit for Dionne Warwick) into a twelve minute opus of late night lovin'. The damn song builds up, slows down, builds again, climaxes, and ends with a spare drum beat that allows you to catch your breath. How did he hear that? Amazing.

"I felt what I had to say musically could not be said in two minutes and thirty seconds, ... So I did my thing. If it was a hit, great. But I just did what I wanted creatively.”

He also did a nine minute version of "Close to You" (a hit for the Carpenters), another late night lovin' reinvention.
Isaac Hayes - Walk On By mp3 at Louder Soft
Isaac Hayes - Theme From Shaft mp3, Close to You mp3 and three others at the Vinyl District
Theme From Shaft - Eight covers and variations at Moistworks (including a version by Sammy Davis Jr that just makes you want to slap him.)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

HERE COME DA FUZZ


While the definitive version of "Train Kept A Rollin" is open for debate, the distortion-laden version by Johnny Burnette and the Rock n' Roll Trio [sic] has gotta be the most groundbreaking. It's a general consensus that it was the first rock n' roll record with fuzz on it. What's more significant is that it set the template for just about all future interpretations.

Almost without exception, subsequent rock n' roll versions of the song all ape the Trio's treatment, itself a cover of the original by Tiny Bradshaw. But the treatment and the fuzz was all theirs. Just whose fuzz in particular, though, remains a question.

In this corner, we have the accident, according to guitarist Paul Burlison, "Just before a show, the leather strap on my blond fender amp broke, and the amp fell to the floor. When I plugged the guitar in, it had a real fuzzy sound. I looked in the back of the amp, and one of the tubes was barely sticking in the prongs -- It was acting like rheostat. The guitar sounded pretty good, so I left the tube the way it was. From then on, whenever I wanted to get that sound, I'd just reach back there and loosen the tube. It sounded real funky."

In the other corner, we've got studio whiz Grady Martin. WFMU's Beware of the Blog cites session player Martin as the guitarist. I thought that possibly a slip-up, because it also says Martin invented the fuzz guitar sound in 1960, four years after the Trio cut "Train Kept A Rollin'" and "Honey Hush", another fuzzed-out rocker. (See Country Fuzz Spectacular link below for more on Martin and other country fuzzers.)

In the process of fact checking online, I found the writing of a true fuzz-orgin fiend, and it opened up a real can of worms. It's a lengthy dissertation on the origin of the fuzz on "Train Kept A Rollin'." When I say lengthy, I mean that I spent over a half hour on a single page. It comes up with some hard-to-ague points about said fuzz, including an argument that it probably wasn't fuzz at all.

Though the still-debated fuzz was a big part of what made the Trio's version memorable, it was the overall treatment and sound, and Burnette's manic, panting, vocals, that made it theirs and a Rockabilly milestone.
I'd like to believe Burlison's version, if only to contemplate the possible power of a mistake. Either way, the lineage of the song is something remarkable and comforting. Whether a dropped amp or a song three ex-boxers made their own, I marvel at how it fed through the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, and on through Aerosmith, and continues today in the bedrooms of future shredders with big dreams.

Johnny Burnette & the Rock n' Roll Trio - Rockabilly Boogie (streaming) at Walk Between the Lines

Did Paul Burlison or Grady Martin play guitar for Johnny Burnette & The Rock'n'Roll Trio? Long-ass dissertation by Victor Gordon & Peter Dijkema at the Rockabilly Guitar Page

NOTE: These next three links were added 11/30/10, for reference (see comment from Paul Burlison's son in "Comments" below.)
Howlin' Wolf - I'm the Wolf mp3 at hic1.kazserv.com/~khabs(?)
Jackie Brenston - Rocket 88 mp3 at NYNetResources
Marty Robbins - Don't Worry (w/Grady Martin) mp3 at Beware of the Blog

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NYUK NYUK 101


These may very well be elementary for some, but for any of those who may not have these, do yourself a favor and get them now. All of them (and don't dismiss "We Will Fall" until you listen to it at 3 in the morning). I don't know...I'm so out of touch, I really have no idea if anyone other than Stooges fiends listen to the Stooges (or are even cognisant of them) these days. Even if you do have these, there's also a thing from Legs McNeil's book Please Kill Me about the Stooges era romancin' of Iggy Pop and Nico.
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All this and and the original stereo and mono mixes of "Search and Destroy"! Yowza, no? From the Stooges third Raw Power, these are significant because the album was remixed for the CD reissue, and now lacks the bite. There's also a lofi demo version for afore mentioned fiends.
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As good (and essential) as this stuff is, this isn't even the Stooges finest hour. That, of course, would be their second LP, Funhouse. Sadly, no live mp3 freebies to be found. (Hey, come on...they'll pop up sooner or later). As a consolation, see the link to Lester Bang's 1970 review below.
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The Stooges - 1969 mp3 and the rest of the first album at This Recording (Scroll to the end of the post for the mp3s)
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Lester Bang's legendary long-ass review of Fun House, originally published in Creem, in 1970. This is how engrossing rock journalism can be. Read all of it, and then take your latest issue of Spin or Rolling Stone to the recycling bin. (You should just burn Blender.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

THIS SHOULD KEEP YOU BUSY


Right now is a really good time to be into African music. As Captain Planet (on Soul Sides) puts it, there is a "vast, continent-wide vinyl archeology [sic] dig that seems to be taking place." DJs, collectors and music scholars have fanned out, on vast record hunting missions, to find remaining copies of rare African afrobeat, funk, juju and highlife records, before they're gone for good. With varying motives, whether it's to discover, preserve, flaunt, profit or make people dance, the core they share is an obsession with the music. And there is an urgency. Until recent years, the relatively low global demand for African music placed so little value on the physical product, that the vinyl copies were being thrown out, treated as junk, and in some cases burned for fuel.

Where to start? Compilations seem to be coming out as fast as they can be packaged, usually accompanied by informative liner notes and exotic promo photos. And the fact there there's so much excellent music that has heretofore been unavailable on CD, the quality of the music has not yet suffered from the pace. As the compilations are released, scattered MP3's invariably show up on music blogs, as is the case with four cuts recently posted on SoulSides (downloading all four is highly recommended).

Voodoo Funk is a mind-blowing blog by Frank Gossner, a German DJ who retired from club life, moved to Africa, and devoted himself full-time to finding and preserving the endangered grooves of impossibly rare afrobeat and funk sides. His travels are chronicled and finds posted, some with the wonderfully primitive sleeves that scream other-worldly-ness. Much of the music is not available on CD, or on vinyl outside of Africa. Even without the music being posted, it's a fascinating read as he describes the lengths he will go, and the dangers of traveling long distances to remote areas with would-be hosts knowing full well that he's carrying a decent sized chunk of change. Take Me There Fast, a documentary about his mission, is a work in progress by Leigh Iacobucci, and the trailer can be found here.
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As rare as some African vinyl can be, some music never even gets pressed. Where financial constraints prevented the jump to record stardom, easily duplicated cassette tapes filled the void. That's where Awesome Tapes From Africa comes in. Just as the name implies, the blog hosts samples of tapes that are, by and large, awesome. Host Thursdayborn spent a year in Ghana, and has another blog documenting the Hiplife movement, a indigenized national music mixing contemporary hip hop and Ghanaian influences.
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If the unfamiliarity of African music puts you off, don't let it. It's high time to get down. .
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

BACON STREET FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS


The pixels from the last post weren't even dry when I got the call from my neighborhood record store (Cow) that the Flat Duo Jets' "Two Headed Cow" (the album I wrote about) had come in. I had enough time driving today to listen to it 1 1/2 times and the whole thing is great. You forget that you're hearing only vocals, guitar and drums. Having been recorded live, the sound can get a little muddy, but turn it up and you are there. Hopefully, at some time, you've experienced an evening in a room dank in a rock n' roll stench. Maybe a little drunk or hazy from the late hour, in a room where everybody is moving; everybody is dancing, laughing, fighting or trying to get laid. And the rock n' roll is blasting, creating a silent movie atmoshphere at a loud volume. That's where this album puts you.

To top things off, today the mail brought a copy of Mike McCarthy's "Teenage Tupelo", a low budget rock n' roll sexploitation movie I've tried to track down for over ten years. More about that after a viewing. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek (Chapters 1-6).

"Daaannng," you say, "how much more culture can fit into one post?" How about spoken word, Trastos style? Here's a link to 70's drag racing radio commercials, in mp3 format:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

THIS IS WHAT SWEAT, ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTE SMOKE SOUNDS LIKE.


The first time I heard the Flat Duo Jets was in the late 80's and it was, unbelievable as it sounds now, on MTV. It was a segment on singer-guitarist Dexter Romweber, filmed in the shack he lived in behind his family's house, in Carrboro, North Carolina. He was just a kid, about 19, and had a remarkable reverence for early rock n' roll, specifically citing Elvis, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Little Richard and Gene Vincent ("there ain't gonna be a wildest [sic] rocker ever again"...). The end of the segment showed a short clip of the Flat Duo Jets performing in front of the shack. The one thing that was striking about the footage is that they seemed like the real thing, nothing forced and not posing. Primitive rock n' roll without a spec of show biz. Very few bands were playing this sort of stuff at the time and it was a full-on aberration on MTV.
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I had one of their early records, Go Go Harlem Baby, which I played the shit out of, but lost track of at some point (I used to lose a lot of records.) A while back, I bought a used copy of Lucky Eye, their last album. It wasn't nearly as raw as I had remembered them sounding and I was kinda disappointed. Then I saw who produced it, Chris Stamey, an 80's indie pop guy who I've always considered a little too tame for my tastes. Case closed, Lucky Eye was put in the "will not coddle (even though they no longer exist), sell when needed" stack.
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Yesterday I ran into a post on The Devil Has the Best Tuna about a soundtrack for Two Headed Cow, a documentary about the Flat Duo Jets, and was stoked to find out that there was an accompanying soundtrack with all early stuff, and just as raw as I had remembered them. Here's three songs on one blog and another at a second blog, all four no-brainers. This is the best new (to me) rock n' roll I've heard in a long time, stripped bare and absolutely pure. It's not indie, punk rock, psychobilly, no wave or any other hyphenated crap category. It really does seem like the sound of sweat, alcohol and cigarette smoke.
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(Alternative link for the same three songs at Oregon Live)
Video clip here

Sunday, June 15, 2008

THIS ONE'S FOR YOU SNAIL


Sometimes it just depends on how you hear a song. What some see as a schlocky cover (and might not even make it through the first listening), others might see as an whacked-out extension of one of the simplest rock riffs of all time. And more than likely anybody who makes it past the thought of a sax player covering Led Zeppelin is listening out of curiosity or knows the name King Curtis. In either case, his reworking of "Whole Lotta Love" is one that begs for repeated "what's going on here?" type listenings.
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I could have easily been in the schlock-seeing category of listeners had not been for my younger brother Ted, AKA Snail (a nickname with absolutely no relevance to anything, other than being spouted out once by one of my high school friends. In fact, though I address him as Snail only in affection, I've no idea whether he hates it or not). So far on this blog, I've resisted bringing up the profound experience of growing up with my brothers, two absolute rock n' roll hearts, in the same bedroom. It's a subject that goes so deep that, once tapped, would probably read like a biography. Suffice it to say that it not only shaped my taste in music, it shaped my life; and that's not an understatement. Everything musical moment in my life has stemmed from the stereo wars and record collecting of our teens. I bring this up now only because it was a King Curtis tape from Ted that first made me think of Curtis as something other than a hired gun. I was cognizant of his work, but owned none of his solo work.
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As it is Father's Day, and Ted's birthday was earlier in the week, I will allow myself a slight digression, if only to publicly recognize the influence of both of my brothers, and my unwavering awe at Ted's skills as a Dad. Without an ounce of corn, I gotta say, I love you bro.
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About the song, though it starts out as a relatively faithful cover, with Curtis's sax replacing the vocals, at 1:15 it turns into a fuzzed out, horn-heavy, 70's movie chase scene freak-out, replete with a Latin tinged rhythm section. You are definitely rewarded for listening to the whole song and, by the time it ends, disappointed the overload doesn't last longer.
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Monday, June 2, 2008

BO DIDDLEY 1928 - 2008


THE BEAT IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE BEAT. Eric Bacher said that, at Che Underground. BLOODY HELL, I'M REALLY SAD. Rev Frost of Spread the Good Word said that. Both kept it short, even in the full text of their comments, and for good reason. You get past the simplifications, and it's hard to stop. Especially for someone like Bo Diddley. Both Bacher and Frost were incredibly economic in their words, but both summed it up.
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If the average person knows anything about Bo Diddley, they know the beat. And they probably know about the rectangular guitar. And maybe about Jerome and the Duchess. But Bo Diddley was much more than the Originator of the beat.

Who else would release, as the A-side of their first 45, a self-titled song? What other early rocker recorded their own music, in their own studio? (C'mon, I mean, how DIY can you get?) And who, before Bo Diddley, had a rock n' roll band that included a woman? And to top all this off, he literally invented his own style of rock n' roll?!! And we haven't even started tabulating the songs yet. (Fuck, do not get me started.)
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ADDED 6/5: 15 more Bo Diddley mp3's at Probe is Turning on the People
Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley mp3 and seven others, with bio, at Spread the Good Word
Bo Diddley - Diddy Wah Diddy mp3 (and Bo's Bounce) at Diddy Wah

Friday, May 30, 2008

ORCHESTRA BAOBAB SLAYS URSULA 1000


Browing music blogs recently, I ran into a remix of the Yardbirds' "For Your Love" by Ursula 1000, a name I was not wholly unfamiliar with, having seen it many times in techo and dance blogs and such. I'm semi-open-minded and always game for something challenging, so I thought I'd give it a listen. The verdict: It flat-out sucked. I needed to get my palate cleansed, but quick.
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When something like this happens, I skulk not in my little rock n' roll safe harbor. I forge ahead to another challenging, yet more reliable, destination. The old fart hitching post: world music..

On the night of my unfortunate introduction to the pile of shit that is Ursula 1000, I found my palate cleanser in Orchestra Baobab, an outfit from Senegal. Very smooth.
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Orchestra Baobab - Nijaay and Werente Serigne mp3s at Some Velvet Blog
The Yardbirds "For Your Love" remix by Ursula 1000 mp3 at Welcome to the Dance Club (You've been warned)

JIMMY MCGRIFF 1936 - 2008


Jimmy McGriff died last weekend. It is not neccesarily cold to note that McGriff's passing presents an excellent opportunity for jazz neophytes to educate themselves about his music, and the whole Hammond B3 organ thing in general, via mp3 blogs. I don't know much about jazz, but I do know McGriff and Jimmy Smith (the other Jimmy), were like Hammond gods. And I've liked just about everything I've heard, from either of them (and I'm always reminded of why the mods thought they were such hot shit). Get into the Hammond groove, baby!
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Jimmy McGiff - A Thing to Come By (Pts 1 & 2) and Fat Cakes mp3s at Funky 16 Corners
Jimmy McGriff - Groove Grease and two others at the Leather Canary
Jimmy McGriff - Dig On It mp3 and two others at Some Velvet Blog

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

OFF THE LEASH


Every town with a relatively healthy scene, has had, at one time or another, their own Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers disciples, right? And not all Thunders; a little heavy on the Heartbreakers. Somewhere between punk rock and the Stones; guitar heavy and a little sloppy. Sometimes it may not have even been intentional. The Rockin' Dogs may not have been into the Heartbreakers, but they sure sounded like them. Even the lead and background vocals sound like the Thunders/Lure of yore.

Listen to the guitar, particularly from the 1:00 mark on. [Mp3 link below] The fills (by Dave Ellison?) sound like Thunders, James Burton and CCR-era John Fogerty mashed together. I saw them a few times and they were (pardon the term) awesome. Both guitarists, Dave Ellison and Sam Wilson, were well versed in rock n' roll licks, from all eras, and they weren't afraid of being a little sloppy. I never thought that I'd hear them again. Thanks to Che Underground, I now know that they were pretty much as I remembered, sloppy and rocking out.

Che Underground is a blog about the San Diego's scene within a scene of the 80's, primarily bands associated with the Che Cafe (a venue at UCSD). Hosted by Matthew Rothenberg (former member of Noise 292 and 3 Guys Called Jesus), posters include Ellison, Tom Ward (Gravedigger V, Nashville Ramblers, etc), Bart Mendoza (Manual Scan, the Shambles), Ray Brandes (Telltale Hearts, Town Criers), Dave Klowden....basically a who's who of SD 80's bands. There's a lot of lost music being digitized and posted by Matthew, so stop by and give him an "atta boy".
Rockin' Dogs thread at Che Underground
Che Underground home page

NEW STEREOLAB


Okay, so Stereolab isn't just for eggheads, but I can't think of anyone I know who likes Stereolab who isn't smart. Me? I'm on the fence about them. I guess that means I'm not entirely smart enough. One of my favorite comments about them came from a workmate who asked me to turn down the "Chinese water torture" (and he's pretty smart...go figure!). Anyways, when you want to hear something Stereolab-ish, there's very few bands that will fill that role. (Okay, so I'm generalizing again, but you get the picture.) And for that reason, it seems that those who like Stereolab, really like Stereolab. That's the reason for this post. It's a cut from their next album, which is still a couple months out. So, sink your teeth into this eggheads!
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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU!


Dear Teenagers,
These songs are by the Foxboro Hot Tubs. The Foxboro Hot Tubs might sound a little familiar because the five man band includes all three members of Green Day, that band you thought were "punk rock". They sound a little different though, because in this side project, they play music that is not unlike the ditties your grandparents use to listen to. And the bands back then had funny names too, just like your punk rock favorites. Crazy names like the Who, the Kinks, the Monkees and the Byrds; even the Chocolate Watch Band!
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Imagine all the fun the Foxboro Hot Tubs had making music for old farts! And playing mysteriouso too, since there aren't credits on their crazy CD cover (that looks like a record cover!). You know what you should do? (Look at me when I'm talking to you!) You should put off getting that next funny haircut, put the tough guy routine on hold, and ask your grandparents to play you some of the music from the 60's. You might find a thread that leads you right back to these nuts!
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Bonus trivia to dazzle your punk rock friends with!: Green Day didn't always wear make-up!
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TESTIFY!


Fuck yeah! Pardon my French, it's just my real world way of saying "hallelujah!” Rev. Tom Frost from Spread the Good Word has done it again. The guy from South of Hell has a knack for posting really great stuff that either I've never gotten to, or am woefully ignorant of. Most of it is roots music, be it surf, rockabilly, R & B, country, or rock n' roll, and just about everything he posts is worth a listen.
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I confess. I'm a gospel nincompoop. If you too are lacking in the gospel category, there can't be a better place to start than with the Blind Boys of Alabama. Believe it.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CALL IT BLUE-EYED SOUL AT YOUR PERIL


It is soul or it is not. No qualifiers, Righteous Brothers. This kid has it and, at 23, has a lot of singing ahead of him.
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4/23/08: Another mp3 and lengthy bio at The B Side:
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MORE NEW SOUL BLOOD:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

CURTIS MAYFIELD & THE HEAVY


I'm as guilty of it as anybody: the practice of describing a band as "(band name) meets (band name)", usually referencing bands with disparate sounds. Descriptions like that are rarely accurate to anyone but the person doing the describing. But, more often than not, I fall for them. So when visiting Some Velvet Blog, I read "damn hot engaging musical intersection where Muddy Waters meets Prince, where big Zep beats meet The Stooges, where Sly and The Family meet the Son of Superfly," I'm slobbering before I've finished reading the sentence. I'm off to the races. So it's no surprise that I missed the last key reference: Superfly. (As in "Superfly," the song by Curtis Mayfield, from the soundtrack to the film of the same name.)
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So, I'm already downloading and wondering why the guy didn't reference Curtis Mayfield. I'm thinking, "Prince? Stooges? Okay, it's bombastic like Led Zep, but that's not Prince I'm hearing"; finally settling on Mayfield's "Freddy's Dead" as the missing ingredient. When I returned to the blog to see if the mp3 was still live, and reread the text, boy, did I feel like a dip. All that aside, "Coleen," followed by "Freddy's Dead" passed the CD Mix Challenge. And the Heavy are throwing a lot in there.
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The Heavy - Coleen mp3 and That Kind of Man video at Some Velvet Blog
Curtis Mayfield - Freddy's Dead mp3 (and others) at the Leather Canary
The Heavy - That Kind of Man mp3 at Anyone's Guess
The Heavy at MySpace
Curtis Mayfield profile at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Monday, February 25, 2008

YEAH, YOU'RE WHAT, 25?...FIVE WHAT??


V.U. fiends have been going ape in the past couple of weeks over a previously unreleased live recording of the band. The only available live recording available from 1967, it contains an unreleased song, "I'm Not a Young Man Anymore," not available anywhere else, and the debut live performance of "Sister Ray", (known in these parts as "Nico's Piss Break"). The sound's not bad, particularly for a bootleg of a show that old. If you're a Velvets freak, you're not even reading this; you've already skipped out to download and dissect it. Me, I don't need everything. I'll just listen to "I'm Not a Young Man Anymore" and try not think too hard about about the incredibly insightful lyrics.
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

IT'S OKAY, MY BROTHER FOUND ME ANOTHER COPY.


I know, I know. A lot of these posts end up being more about my musical experiences than the nuts-and-bolts artist profile type post. A big reason for that is that when I think of music I know, it invariably takes me back to different significant moments when the music in question was either the soundtrack of, or related to, a particular event or discussion. In this case, the memory machine stopped on the day David Fwelling dropped my copy of Ginger Baker's Stratavarious in 12th grade. I was bummed, really bummed.
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Ginger Baker was the former drummer of Blind Faith and Cream, and was the Gene Krupa of that era. While Keith Moon, John Bonham and other drummers were better known, Baker was a drummer's drummer. That's why I'd loaned the album to Fwelling. He was a drummer, and Baker was one of his idols.
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As luck would have it, when Fwelling was returning the LP, in the last seconds of his possesion, the record slipped out and fell to the ground, breaking out a big hunk. Had this been just an ordinary Ginger Baker solo album, it would have been no big deal. But it wasn't. Ginger Baker recorded Stratavarious with Fela Ransome-Kuti, who was, unbeknownst to me at the time, somewhat of a deity in Nigeria, far and away the most popular afrobeat musician of his time (and an enemy of the government). At the time Stratavarious represented my only link to the exotic ethnic sounds of other lands, period.
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My brothers and I had already gone back as far as Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Muddy Waters, and Howling Wolf in our exploration of American roots, so we were already on our way to geekdom. But Fela's music was the tip of a different iceberg, this one fucking huge. It was our first glimpse into music that wasn't directly related to rock and roll. And the album wasn't easily replaced. I'd bought it a couple years earlier and it had long since disappeared from record stores. (This was before record stores had "International Music" sections.) So I did what any budding music geek would do. I lugged my broken record back home where the three cuts still playable were preserved, sandwiched between sentries Bad Company and the Beach Boys in my third of the collective record collection. (Ten years later my brother found another copy and gave it to me as an present, unconnected to any holiday or event.)

So what about Fela? He spent some time in the US in the late 60's, where he was inspired by the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement. Soon after, he was deported and returned to Nigeria, bringing with him a new direction. He created his own compound that included a commune, a disco and a recording studio, took 27 wives and proclaimed his independence from the Nigerian state, which ultimately landed him on the government's shit list. A flagrant pothead, in 1974 Nigerian police planted a joint in his home to have an excuse to drag his ass in for a time-out. He ate the joint, thereby destroying the evidence. As if a scene from a Pink Panther movie, they brought him in anyway, to wait for the joint to pass. In the interim, he acquired a stool from another inmate, presented the joint-free duty, and was later released. Thumbing his nose at the authorities, he wrote a song about the incident, naming it, poignantly, "Expensive Shit."
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Dig it: Six cuts of Fela at Passion of the Weiss. Considering that his songs typically hover in the ten minute range, that's a load of excellent music. You might also want to check out the article from the NY Times (linked below) by John Barton, a former Times Lagos correspondent and friend of Fela's. Amongst other revelations is that Idi Amin was one of his early idols.
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How Fela Landed Me In Jail by John Barton at the New York Times

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

THIS WILL NOT BE MY LAST CHESS RECORDS POST.


There's far too much in the history of Chess Records to even entertain the thought of writing a short blurb worthy. In a nutshell, they just plain kicked ass. They've got to be in the top three rock n' roll related labels of all time. Like Sun and Stax, their roster was stellar and crossed multiple genres. Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and John Lee Hooker, just to name a few. But you knew that (you'd better have).
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One of the most under-appreciated Chess alum is singer, writer and bass player, Willie Dixon. His contribution to rock n' roll, and Chicago blues, cannot be overstated. Beyond backing practically all of his big name labelmates, the songs Dixon wrote transcended Chess and have been played by every single rock band that ever existed (times infinity).
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This one, a duet with Koko Taylor, gives me goosebumps. It starts out slow, with an sparse, eery introduction. The arrangement and instrumentation just drip despair. Then, Dixon's low bellow slowly trods to a pause, just before Taylor's first verse. When she starts to wail (at 1:15 in the song), you will be committed. This is not an ordinary blues song.
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Wille Dixon and Koko Taylor - Insane Asylum mp3 and 20+ other songs about mental instability at Beware of the Blog

Saturday, February 2, 2008

DON'T PUT THAT MOP AWAY JUST YET.


I know what you're thinking: I've heard that song a zillion times. How can someone top all of the other versions, including those made by every goddamn blues musician that ever dusted a stage? Good question, thank you very much for asking. It's a rare occasion when a woman sacrifices her larynx, and that's just what Joyce Harris does with the song that you thought you'd heard enough of. I am certain that, with pipes like hers, no man would stand a chance in a domestic dispute.
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Kudos to Locust St for writing "The track opens with a summoning, a howled note Harris holds until she shreds her voice to pieces." Voice shredding has always been one of my favorite things to listen to, particularly because it can elevate a blues standard to a beer-spilling, living room trashing, turntable pipe bomb.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

WE'RE GOING TO TAKE A SHORT BREAK WHILE WE MOP UP GARY'S VOCAL CHORDS.


Frank Gutch gave me my first fix. He was the owner of Scratching the Surface, a record store that opened just as us knucklehead kids were getting our punk rock wings. Frank was slightly older than us and a long time record store employee cum music geek (and I mean that in a most complimentary tone). No ego whatsoever, he was council to those of us that were, in a matter of speaking, outgrowing Creem magazine. He was into all sorts of music and seemed to have a special fondness for overlooked bands (Big Star, the Flamin' Groovies, etc.). And he was a stealth ring leader as well, offering, by way of encouragement, a sort of DIY transfusion. Having just opened his own record store, he was the bearer of the "yeah, you should do it" attitude that was the catalyst that prompted not only the first punk show in San Diego, but the first punk zine as well.

The zine I speak of was Substitute, a thin (16 pages) fanzine I put out with my friend Jaccqui Ramirez. Frank, writing as Izen Timothy Zorr, was given a column to write about whatever he wanted, and in magazine that was very "now", he chose to write about the Northwest sound of the mid-late sixties. The Northwest sound, the garage era in particular, was one he championed all the time, even naming his column "Boss Hoss" after the song by the Sonics.

All sorts of people contributed to early punk scenes, and while some contributions are apparent (and recognized), others are not. Amongst all the other ways Frank contributed to the early San Diego scene (and there's many more than listed), it was he who pushed the Wailers and the Sonics, absolute demi-gods of the Northwest sound, on us unsuspecting punk rock wannabees. And that is a long-winded way of saying, whenever I hear the Sonics, I think of Frank.
Which brings us to "Psycho." Listen to the whole thing or, better yet, consider it essential and download it. But do listen to the whole thing, particularly the fade out. See if you don't go running for a mop.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I KNOW JUST WHAT YOU KIDS NEED.


Though an introduction to the Monks may seem a little elementary to some, it may be a good time to reflect as, alas, Monk Time may be over (in a live sense anyway). Banjo thrasher Dave Day died on January 10, after touring as recently as last fall with the band.

The piece below is old, from 2000. I was asked to write for Woodstock.com about "..music the kids like, you know, like Limp Bizkit" (this was just after the third Woodstock festival in 1999, in which Limp Bizkit were featured). My sensibilities trashed, it left no question about what to turn in as my first paid piece ever: the profile below of the Monks. The writing's pretty bad, but it was written with the expectation of being rejected (which, surprisingly, it wasn't). I haven't changed a word.

Originally posted Woodstock.com on March 20, 2000:

Drawing disbelieving stares walking down the street. Attacked on stage. Simultaneously loved and hated. Playing short stripped down songs with few lyrics and no solos delivered raw, frantic, and venomous. It was punk rock, but it wasn't the Sex Pistols in 1977. Served up in 1965, in Germany by five Americans, it was the Monks.

Starting innocently enough as a few servicemen playing music for kicks, they evolved into punk rock pioneers without even knowing it. While stationed in Germany in 1964, Gary Burger, Larry Clark, Dave Day, Roger Johnston and Eddie Shaw began playing together as the Torquays. When their commitment to the Army was over, they were convinced that there were enough venues in Germany for them to continue playing there. They were one of a hoard of bands playing the same small clubs and beer halls. But playing Stones and Beatles covers (among others) started to wear thin. Something had to change. .

A combination of unrelated variables often breeds something unique. They knew little German, so they cut lyrics to a minimum. Having met not in a club, but in the Army, they all had different musical tastes. A new sound was in order. They substituted a six-string banjo (with makeshift pickups) for one of the guitars. To sound more primitive, they stripped the drummer of his cymbals, now relegated to use only for accents. Feedback was tossed in. They concentrated less on melodies and more on the beat.

They were realistic enough to realize that life was more than love songs. They wrote a few sets worth of their own, with titles such as "Shut Up" and "I Hate You". After discarding Fried Potatoes and Molten Lead as names, they agreed upon the Monks. A Monk look was in order, so they shaved the top of their heads and wore all black, with ropes around their necks.

So they went about, playing clubs almost exclusively in Germany, with only a few dates outside the country (in Sweden). They were aggressive onstage. They caused unrest in the audience, sometimes inciting verbal and onstage attacks from both Germans and American GIs serving overseas.

They were signed to Polydor and released "Black Monk Time" (and the single "Complication" b/w Oh, How To Do Now") in 1966. Twelve demented originals, and no covers, it was the bulk of their material. Spit, rather than served, it was very unlike the hit records of the time. They continued to tour, now almost nightly, for a year and half. They were the Monks 24 hours a day. They released two more singles and bowed to pressures to conform to the mainstream, in Shaw's words "to join the rest of the human race". In 1967, before a planned tour of Hong Kong, Tokyo and other cities in the Far East, the touring took its toll. Band conflicts and infighting convinced them to throw in the towel. It was a couple of explosive years, one classic album, and then a burn out.

As rare it is, "Black Monk Time" on vinyl is now very sought after by record collectors. It was re-released in 1997, by Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin, on their Infinite Zero label. In late 1999, before a euphoric new fan base, the Monks reformed for two gigs, at Cavestomp, in New York City. (2000)

NOTE: As of 1/2007 Black Monk Time is out of print as a domestic release and is available only as an import. It can be found through a link on The Monks Official Website.