Sunday, January 27, 2008


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


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 about " 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 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.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Probe is Turning On the People's M.O. is basically the "dig it or don't" type of posting. Title and artist, that's it. Sometimes the year, writing credits or catalog #s are included, but no bios, profiles or backstories, and rarely photos. It's there and it's rare, if you need further reason to download, do a little legwork. (In a way, it gives a little respect to the site visitors.) But, even a little legwork couldn't help me find more information on his latest post, "Riot" by Jeri Jorden. A web search turned up squat (only a mention on WFMU playlists and a small crappy scan of a Jorden LP). So, all I gots me is a hunch, far fetched at best.
Jorden seems to have a strong accent and a few of the lines sound like they could be in French, and given the vintage of the song (I'm guessing late sixties), it could be that the riots she sings of were the uprisings of May 1968 in Paris. That's a guess, I could be wrong about the language. And she is singing "Stop the Riots", a decidely unhip sentiment given that the record sounds, well, not like an unhip record. Come to think of it, Jorden sounds more like a Dutch name. My theory is full of holes.
Musically speaking, her singing is rather sedate, but that's not what prompted me to download it (and my guess is that it's not the reason it was posted). It's the incredibly abrasive saxaphones that got me. Seriously, it sounds like their reeds are made out of sandpaper. One sax wails ala Lara Logic (X Ray Spex' "Oh Bondage Up Yours"), while the other one just-fucking-blows. It sounds like someone was handed a baritone saxaphone and told "just do that fog horn thing you always do to annoy us..." On top of that, the guitarist, buried in the mix, is quietly manic.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Here's a whole mess of mp3s, of every flavor. You should really be bookmarking these hosting sites because they're the ones in the trenches:
First off: Emy Jackson and the Smashmen. Really, no cooler name exists. Because of that, all objectivity goes out the window. It doesn't hurt that Jackson is Japanese and sings in English, and the guitarist sounds like he just got his first surf record the day before (not to mention his first whammy bar). Oh, and the way she sings "why" sounds certifiably tortured. All this and a bare production render it a must-right-click-now-Batman classic.
Next up, Roy Head and the Traits' "Treat Her Right" which some of you aging hipsters may remember from Johnny Thunders' cover of it on "Copy Cats" about 15 or 20 years ago. I played the shit out of Thunders' version because I could never find the original and I knew I remembered hearing it out of the radio on my Dad's workbench when I was growing up. (Al Hirt's "Java" was another long sought workbench record). I finally happened upon it at The A Side, the companion site to The B Side (host of the outasight Willie Mitchell cuts posted on Monday). The introduction to the post pretty much sums it up: "This song just kills me. Two minutes and five seconds of in your face Texas swagger that just doesn't let up. How cool is Roy Head, man?"
Here, here!
The big news around Bacon St. is that Reverend Frost, of Spread the Good Word, is posting again. He is, of course, the person who unleashed Al Garcia and the Rhythym Kings "Exotic" on this dry sod, making him feel drunk again, if only for 2:14. Now, after an absense that he seemed apologetic for (despite the fact that he was homeless!) he returns with more of the twisted fare that made him a saint in these parts. The latest: Buck Griffin, a hill-a-rocka-billy that you and I would have never heard about otherwise, despite the fact that he's in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Next up, some equal time for the soccer kids of trash, Tiny Masters of Today, a 13 year-old brother and 11 year-old sister duo who have become the darlings of...well, they have a Blues Explosion drummer, a Moldy Peach, two Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, and a B52 on their debut, so you figure out who-dragged-who. David Bowie called them "genius" but also said that they sounded like a mix of Suicide and the Shags, which isn't at all accurate. What they do sound like is a couple of kids that were mentored by a member of the Blues Explosion (drummer Russel Simmins, who produced them). That said, any kids who write a song called "Stickin' It to the Man" before they've reached junior high, they're the Sound of Young America that I want to hear.
Which reminds me...I sure wish Bowie would keep his stink off of other people. He's been doing it for years. Shit, he's the one who dragged the synth-weakened Iggy Pop onto the Dinah Shore show, and that was thirty years ago. (Memo to Thin White Parasite: I have a long memory when it comes to rock crimes.) Then, he trampled the Pope of Out-There, dishonoring the Legendary Stardust Cowboy by covering one of his songs as a ballad. Blasphemy! Quickly, cleanse yourself of the thought!:

Monday, January 14, 2008


Why: Produced a whole mess of awesome 70's soul for Hi Records (Al Green's hits for starters). A really great profile and follow-up at The "B" Side. A couple instrumental cuts (a good groove + a good mix = aauughh):
Willie Mitchell - Monkey Jump mp3 at The "B" Side
Willie Mitchell - Woodchopper's Ball mp3 at The "B" Side

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Where to start with this clip? It's the Maytals, in a studio scene from "The Harder They Come," one of the reasons I first fell in love with early reggae vocal groups. It was right before the big push to make Toots Hibbert the central focus of the group, which was probably justified because his throaty rasp became one of the most recognizable and enduring reggae voices in the ensuing decades. The clip's also a particulary good example of the gospel and soul influences that often found their way into early reggae vocal groups.
For me though, the real draw of this clip is a punk rock-esque moment, one that gives me goosebumps everytime I see it. It comes at about 1:52 in the clip where Jimmy Cliff , as the central character Ivan (in the yellow hat), has that "aha!" moment. The epiphany that launched hundreds of reggae (and early punk) careers, the DIY baptism, where the light bulb goes off. The "I can do that!" moment, without which, we'd all still be listening to Perry Como. (To see that captured on film was worth breaking my "no YouTube" policy.)
And, yes Virgina, there are mp3s. Download "Pressure Drop" if you want the soundtrack to what this oaf calls dancing (it does happen).