Friday, October 31, 2008

Andre Williams-- Bacon Fat and other delights....

On Nov 1st Zephyr Andre Williams will be 72 years old. Or 74, or 76, or maybe 70.
Math isn't Andre's best subject. The first time I heard him was on an R&B station out of Miami when a DJ named Butterball who would come on at midnight played "Cadillac Jack" every night for a week. I bought the single, on Chess which I loved, along with it's b-side "Girdle Up". Later as I got caught the dreaded disease called record collecting I became familiar with his earlier sides on Detroit's legendary Fortune label-- "Bacon Fat", "Greasy Chicken", "Pass The Biscuits", "Andre Is M-M-Movin'", "Jailbait", "Going Down To Tia Juana" and the rest. These were life defining records, the reason why a person spends their life digging through piles of dusty old records at flea markets, junk stores, and yard sales, loses their eye sight reading auction lists. They were rock'n'roll in it's purest, greasiest, and most unadulterated form. Everything about them was perfect from the sly lyrics to the distorted guitars, the primal slop beat, the guttural saxophones. Andre became an obsession and not a week went by when I didn't spin one of his records on my radio show. In the late 80's I met Andre for the first time, this was in Miami where he had holed up briefly. He was drunk and not in the best shape. I attempted to interview him for Kicks magazine, he spent most of the evening passing out in his rum and coke.  I didn't see Andre again until the late 90's when courtesy of the folks at Norton Records Andre staged one of the greatest comebacks in history.
     History, Andre's got one, to say the least. Born in Bessemer, Alabama, probably in 1936 his family relocated to Chicago. His mother past away when he was six leaving the kids to live under a stairwell until they were taken in by various aunties. By age sixteen Andre was in Detroit where he joined his cousin Little Eddie Hurt's vocal group the 5 Dollars who had cut such classics as "So Strange" and "Doctor Baby" for the incredible Fortune label, perhaps the most unique of all the "indies". Soon Andre was leading his own group-- the Don Juans and was given top billing, his first Fortune release, or more aptly escape, was called "Put A Chain On It", then recording the aforementioned classics records, they were too raw for the top forty, soon they were too raw for the record business in general and as the fifties became the sixties Andre was on the move.      The sixties saw Andre hustling back and forth from Chicago where he scored big hits with the 5 Du-tones "Shake A Tail Feather" (a tune that would go on to be recorded by Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner and Hanson) and "Twine Time" by Alvin Cash and the Crawlers, back to Detroit where he cut some sides with the Contours for Motown (Andre would be hired and fired by Berry Gordy over twenty times), to Houston where he produced sides by Bobby Bland at Duke. He still recorded under his own name, now adapting a boog-a-loo style best exemplified by "Pearl Time" on Sport and "Sweet Little Pussycat" on Wingate. After a brief stint and some minor hits at Chess (see above) Andre hit a dry streak, broken only by Bull & the Matadors' "Funky Judge", a minor hit covered in the 70's by the J. Geils Band. By the 1980's Andre was living on the streets of Chicago, smoking crack and living the life of a derelict. I think it was George Paulus of St. George Records who first brought Andre back into the studio to cut a CD (Norton issued a much different version of the sessions on the LP Greasy) backed by a band that featured the Pretty Things' Dick Taylor on guitar and the Eldorados on backing vocals. Andre came to New York in 1997 to promote Greasy a trip that would do Homer's Ulysses proud (he would return home many years later, after many adventures and many countries, circumcised). In what would become one of the most unlikely comebacks of the century, Andre would tour the world, using various back up groups and sometimes pick up bands, building an audience amongst hepsters who hadn't been born when "Bacon Fat" was released. This is about the time me and Andre became reacquainted. It started with Andre recording a station ID for my radio show ("anything with an antenna is important"). I began booking Andre to play in New York at the Lakeside Lounge (it started as a Camel cigarette sponsored one nighter, he ended up playing a dozen shows including a New Year's Eve blow out that was probably the only time I really had fun on a NYE). We also booked him into the Circle Bar in New Orleans (we had a great backing band for one of those shows with Mr. Quintron on organ and the Royal Pendletons' Mike Hurt on guitar). Hanging out with Andre was always a blast. Once at the Lakeside he invited his new wife (a Jewish, New York lawyer, hence the circumcision, he never bothered to divorce the first wife in Chicago) and her old aunties. Andre decided he was going to do the whole set without cursing. It got off to an auspicious start with the opening number "Pussy Stank" when on the P in "pussy", Andre's dentures came flying out of his mouth, ever the pro he caught 'em on a bounce and had 'em back in his kisser in time to come back in on the "stank".      Once in New Orleans, at Mardis Gras time the 9th Ward Marching Band decided to make Andre it's grand marshall. I was up on the balcony over the bar when they came marching down St. Charles Ave, Andre seated on a float like a Sultan. The entire marching band, bass drums, tubas, everything, took a right turn and marched into the bar, still playing (the Circle Bar is tiny, like a half of a subway car with a 10' x 10' room off to the side). When I got downstairs they whole band was inside, still playing, marching lockstep as Andre was carried in over their heads. I've never seen him happier.      On the day George W. Bush was elected (or whatever that was) Andre and I flew from New Orleans to New York City. First we had to stop at a liquor store to get a bottle of rum to stop his DT's (it was 8:30 am). When we got to the airport Andre dropped the bottle, leaving a pile of broken glass and Bacardi all over the floor. The bar was closed. Andre soon found the woman with the keys to the bar and sweet talked her into selling him a new bottle. On the flight 'Dre soon had made friends with everyone else on the flight. It was the only time I've ever flown that I would describe as fun. He predicted Bush would steal the election, predicted 9/11 and the war in Iraq, and predicted the financial meltdown-- eight years before it happened. This guy doesn't miss a trick. Our fellow passengers were bemused but time has proved Andre a keen observer of things and the way they work.      For the last twelve years Andre's toured the world, gotten involved with countless women, many a third his age or less, recorded for a bewildering variety of labels including Norton (Bait & Switch is my favorite of all his post-comeback discs, Robert Quine plays on two tracks, it was one of his proudest moments), In The Red. Bloodshot, St. George, and others I can't remember. He's also seen his sixties sides re-issued by Night Train (Rib Tips and Pig Snouts is a must), and many bootlegs of his Fortune sides (the offspring of Jack and Devora Brown, known as the "Wig Brothers" because of their ill fitting hair pieces, being too stupid to do the job themselves and unwilling to lease the stuff to those more competent than them, although before she died Devora issued an LP of Andre's stuff-- Jailbait that featured some great unreleased stuff like "Is It True" and "Tossin' & Turnin' and Burnin' All Up Inside"), leaving the field wide open to bootleggers.      The past few years have been rough for Andre. His wife (the real one) passed on and he's been in and out of public housing and cheap flop houses. He had to quit drinking due to some serious health problems. Yet good things are happening too. Tricia Todd's documentary-- Agile, Hostile, Mobile: A Year With Andre Williams played at SXSW to great acclaim and should have a distribution deal soon. The trailer can be seen here. You can't keep a guy like Andre Williams down for long. At 72, despite the hard miles he's put on his body, he's still better looking (and better dressed) than Bill Wyman. I hope he lives to be a hundred. Friendship with Andre isn't always easy (or cheap) but I'm honored to know the guy.  Captions for the above photos from the top: top) Fortune Records poster that's a bit too big for my scanner. 2nd down) Note from Andre for you handwriting analysis freaks. middle) Outside the Lakeside Lounge, summer 2000 (left to right): Hal Wilner, Anita Pallenberg, Andre Williams. 2nd from bottom) Andre steals a kiss from the late Bill Pietsch. bottom)  Andre with the 5 Dollars, 1956.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ron Asheton- R.I.P.

It's Tues. Morning, Jan. 6th, 10 AM NYC time. I just got word from my friend Michelle in Michigan that the great Ron Asheton passed away. Age 60. I'm in total shock. I'm reposting my Oct. Stooges posting because it's got some rare photos and rare tunes. One thing I mixed up back in Oct.  In the bottom photo it's Bill Cheetam on the far left, Zeke Zettner second from left.  Give a listen to the two takes of Jr. Kimbrough's You Better Run posted below.  Pull out the Funhouse box.  He changed the world with three chords and a maltese cross.  R.I.P.      Halloween marks the forty first anniversary of the first Stooges show. As unlikely as it would have sounded at the time of their first show, they're still out there and despite a 29 year sabbatical, still the best rock'n'roll band on the road.
     Rock'n'roll re-unions, at best are disappointing (the Velvet Underground), and usually just plain suck (the Byrds, New York Dolls), but the Stooges are always the exception to the rule, Hell, I've seen 'em three times since they've reformed and they were no less than great each time. Who would have imagined it? Hearing them on TV commercials doesn't bother me, I don't begrudge 'em a cent, hell Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Jimmy Reed all did commercials. Good enough for Jimmy Reed, good enough for anybody.  I even like the Stooges last LP The Weirdness which nobody likes, but nobody ever likes their albums until they're twenty years old. There's not much left to say about the Stooges, but here's some rare sounds and pics for you. First off are two takes of Junior Kimbrough's "You Better Run" recorded for a tribute to Junior Kimbrough LP (which I've never seen, was it even released?). First one is here and the second take is here. Iggy really sounds like he's having fun, especially on the spoken part which he copies from Kimbrough's original verbatim.
     If you missed the Funhouse Sessions seven CD box you really missed something great. I bought three copies but gave two of 'em away. From the first session for that classic disc here's the very first take of "Down On The Street" and here's the first take of" Funhouse". There's more than twenty takes of some tunes, even two takes of "LA Blues". How did they decide which one was the keeper? Even the studio chatter is interesting.  The box is worth killing for in my opinion. It's nice to have the whole mess on the hard drive so the various takes show up when I leave the box on shuffle. I'm constantly getting up to check the computer screen-- "Loose take 17", gotta remember that one", then I forget which take it was and what was different it. The weird thing about the box is that since Ron overdubbed a second guitar part on the first three tunes, we never actually here the issued versions of "Down On The Street", "Loose" and "TV Eye". The issued takes are present but without the overdubs.
More Stooges tidbits-- The first LP has been re-issued with the John Cale mix thrown in as bonus tracks. Iggy's mix is better but it's fun to hear. I'll post some of those tunes some day. Speaking of mixes, Sundazed has re-issued the 45 version of "Search & Destroy" b/w "Penetration" which is still the best mix. I hated Iggy's remix of Raw Power (at least one band member whom I leave nameless agrees with me), all he did was remove the effects from Williamson's guitar and make his own voice louder (and let the fades play through to the endings). I thought the one thing Bowie got right were the vocals and guitars, all Raw Power needed was for the bass and drums to be turned up. So you still need your old vinyl copy. The bass and drums are audible on the WABX tapes but the sound quality on those bootlegs are so lousy I can't recommend 'em.  
Paul Trynka's bio Iggy: Open Up and Bleed (Broadway Books, 2007) is a hoot and well worth reading. Much better than Joe Ambrose's awful bio (the first edition of which was pulled from the market due to plagiarism, he literally stole about 1/3rd of it from Please Kill Me, uncredited). Ambrose hates Funhouse, so why bother writing an Iggy bio? He's practically illiterate, did none of his own research and has awful taste in music. It may be the lamest book ever published about a major musical figure, and that's saying something. Trynka's book however is extremely well researched and full of fun gossip, my favorite parts are Iggy's crazy sabbatical in Haiti, and the entire story of the recording of New Values (Williamson producing at gunpoint!).
The video clip of course is from the tv show Midsummer's Night Rock which aired in 1970. I saw it then, at age 11, and it was a galvanizing, life changing moment. It took a couple of years to track down their first two  LP's (which I eventually got for .39 cents in a department store bargin bin along with the first Mc5 album) but from
that first glimpse of them on TV I knew the Stooges were what rock'n'roll was all about.
The two above photos show the Stooges in odd line ups. The top photo is the Stooges in '71 with James Williamson (center) and Jimmy Recca (second from left) added to the band on guitar and bass respectively. Recca would later play with Ron Asheton in a band called New Order (not the English disco group). Williamson (who came into the Stooges from a band called the Chosen Few with a detour to reform school in between) would make a power play and force Asheton to bass when they reformed the band in '72. The bottom photo shows the group in late 1970 with members of the road crew, the late Zeke Zetner and Bill Cheetam in the line up. I'm not sure which one played guitar and which one played bass but Zetner is on the far left, Cheetam second from left. Since my wife got the photo framed before I could make a copy I re-shot it through the frame. We have another photo from the same session that's not framed that I may post some day. Since we seem to have the only copies of these photos that exist if you use them without permission I'll know where you stole 'em from.
Back in the early 70's in wasn't so much that the Stooges were unknown so much as they were utterly hated. If you met another Stooges fan back then chances are you'd be friends for life. Most of my oldest friends were people I bonded with over the Stooges.

Halloween part one

Halloween, like everything else in this city used to be a lot more fun. There were always parties, like the one I saw Steven Kramer (the first artist to show at the Fun Gallery and later a member of the Contortions) fall off a window ledge while doing the old soft shoe-- he landed on the roof of an abandoned building several stories below having shattered both legs and his face. There were great gigs-- usually Iggy or the Cramps played (one year they did a double bill together at the old Academy Of Music, in the same building that housed Julians Pool Hall, now torn down to make way for NYU dorms that look like they were designed in post-WWII Eastern Bloc style) Take the Halloween parade for example. When it started out it was just a bunch of crazy drag queens on acid. It had no set route, it would wind through the through the streets of the West Village, stopping at bars and bodegas for booze, going every which way until the paraders were to drunk to walk and then kind of peter out. Now it's run by the city, a million mall refugees from the suburbs show up pushing their $2500 baby strollers violently through the crowd, yelling into their cell phones trying to find each other. The parade itself goes straight up Sixth Ave. and is full of smarmy politicians smiling their greasy smiles (there's an election coming up!) and the streets are full of cops just waiting to bust heads. Pop open a beer can and you're hauled off to the pokey. Not much fun at all, just another reason to stay in an watch TV. I stopped going out on Halloween in the early 90's, usually leaving town for New Orleans where they still knew how to throw a good party-- but we know what happened to New Orleans.
Having spent a good portion of my life hanging out on the stoops of New York City I still find it a thrill to own my very own stoop. And despite it all, I still love the idea of Halloween. So my wife decided to combine the two, and now for the sixth year we will spend Halloween sitting on our stoop as I watch my wife and friends give out ridiculously overstuffed bags of Halloween treats. The above photos are from last year.
Halloween past has also produced some great records. Good rock'n'roll thrives on novelty, and Halloween being an ancient pagan ceremony probably has the same roots as rock'n'roll so they go great together. Here's a few favorite Halloween discs for your pleasure.
First some great guitar instrumentals with a Halloween theme:
the Ventures- The Bat (notice the similarity to the Frantics' Werewolf)
on the R&B side, here's an odd one-- Bill Dogget's Monster Bash
Now here's Bo Diddley's rarest single, and the only one I don't own an original copy of (anyone got a 45 or 78 to sell or trade):
like all of Bo's Checker sides, it's great. On the rockabilly shelf, I've always loved this one by Jackie Morningstar-- Rockin' In The Graveyard
and also this here one- Rod Willis' The Cat.
Good one, no?
Brian Walker's Trick Or Treat is a peculiar disc, he truly sounds insane. Speaking of insane, it wouldn't be Halloween without Hasil Adkins, here's his version of Haunted House.
Another guy who like the Haze, I had out to my old WFMU radio show was Jack Starr who not only cut great rockabilly and garage records but made his own horror movies, now sadly lost. Here's one that has aspects of all three--Halloween Party.
Some more great records-- Freddie & the Hitchhikers-- Sinners is one of that rare genre, rockabilly records with theramin on them. Another must for your Halloween bash is Gary Warren's classic Werewolf. A good doo-wop side is the Symbols- Do The Zombie.
Must not forget Screamin' Jay Hawkins. This one has one of the best lyrics of all time-- "I long so much to be/the way I was before I was me". It's called I Hear Voices.
One last record, a bit corny but not without charm-- Casper & the Ghosts' Rockin' Round The Tombstone.
I guess the above photos need some captions so I'll put 'em here. Top- Screamin' Jay Hawkins, not sure who took this one. 2nd from top: Cute kids from down the block. 3rd down: Danny Fields and Legs McNeil man the treats basket. 4th down: Legs compares costumes with Space Kid. Bottom: Tyke with Slut costume and friends.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

TV Movie alert!

I wanted to mention some stuff I overlooked on my Oct. 1st posting about Turner Classic Movies. Set your timers, tonight TCM is showing a Tod Browning double feature (see older posts: Oct 1st for a nice snapshot of Browning and pals). Midnight tonight (or 12 AM Monday EST) is The Blackbird (1926)with Lon Chaney, which I've never seen. Following that at 1:30 AM Monday is The Unknown (1927) with Chaney and Joan Crawford in one of her first roles. Like many of Browning's best films it's set in a carnival side show and is both twisted and beautiful. Chaney plays an armless knife thrower. It's one of my favorites. If you're still up at 2:30 AM you can catch Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1932) a beautiful, atmospheric vampire flick that's not quite as good as Nosferatu but well worth watching. Two Boris Karloff vehicles follow that with  Roy Williams Nell's The Black Room (1935) at 3:45 and Nick Grinde's Before I Hang  (1940) at 5 AM.  The latter is  particularly good. That's five in a row!   Nice work who ever is programming this trash. It's a great way to get in the Halloween spirit. Tivo (or DVR or whatever the hell your cable company calls it) really does make life easier. 
I'll be posting some Halloween theme rock'n'roll and R&B tunes this week so be sure and check back.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hound's Quiz #1

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bill Wyman- Still Ugly at 72...

 Bill Wyman is 72 years old today. He doesn't look a day over 70. He left the Rolling Stones in 1992, which seems like last week but it was sixteen years ago.
Bill Wyman has always fascinated me, like a circus freak or car wreck. I got the first Stones LP for Christmas in 1964 and I couldn't believe somebody so ugly could be in show biz. I still can't. I promptly drew a goatee on him in red ink (pictured above, scanned from the same Stones LP I've been playing for forty-four years).
Born William Perks he took the name Wyman from an airforce buddy. He got his job in the Stones because he owned two Vox Ac-30 amplifiers. They're great sounding amps and I wish Keith would take that stupid pile of Boogies he plays with and drop them off a pier go back to the AC-30's. Wyman was 27 years old when he joined the Stones (replacing Dick Taylor who'd go on to play guitar in the Pretty Things). He was married and had a son named Stephen. Keith and Brian immediately hated him and nicknamed him Ernie, which was also their all purpose nickname for any type of square. More has been written about the Stones than anyone could possibly need to know. If you're not sick of the subject some of the more readable books are Stanley Booth's True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Phledge's Nakering With The Stones, and Robert Greenfield's STP (Stones Touring Party). Also worth a glance is Wyman's own Stone Alone as well as his giant coffee table volume Rolling With The Stones (nice photos and ephemera). In Stone Alone (which ends in '69 with Brian Jones' death) Wyman tallies up the number of women each Stone fucks at the end of each section. Charlie, the faithful husband ends the book with zero. There is talk of a book to be called The Keith Richards Story As Told By Me by Nick Tosches which is great even though it hasn't been written yet. Nick never lets facts get in the way of a good story. Wyman was a lecherous old coot even at age 27. If he couldn't find a girl for the night he'd practically have a nervous breakdown. One might even feel sorry for him, it's doubtful that from the moment he joined the Stones that he had sex with a woman who wouldn't have preferred to be with Mick, Keith or Brian. Bill Wyman's greatest contribution to the early Stones was not only his amps but his over sized bladder. It was his inability to stop pissing that led them to be arrested for pissing against a gas station wall (they'd been denied use of the bathroom because of their appearance), giving manager Andrew Loog Oldham one of his best publicity coupes-- "We can piss anywhere we want man"! Here are some rare tracks from those early years. First is a version of Bo Diddley's "Crackin' Up" recorded live in the studio (circa '63) for the BBC (they'd never record a studio version). Wyman can be heard singing back up, off key. Here's another great early track--the soundtrack to a Rice Krispies cereal commercial (!). The Senders used to cover this one. I like the above video footage, the b&w clip is from the 1964 NME Poll Winners concert where the Stones upstaged the Beatles, the color footage is from the Ed Sullivan Show in '67. I'm not crazy about the song "Ruby Tuesday" (I like the UK version of Between The Buttons better which has "Please Go Home" in its place) but the line up is interesting-- Keith at the piano, Brian on recorder and Bill playing a bowed cello. As Bill Cosby says, always room for cello. Wyman soon figured out that the real money in music was in songwriting but Mick and Keith had little use for Bill's originals, with the exception of Satanic Majesties Request which features Bill's tune In Another Land which he not only wrote but sang lead on. It was even issued as a single. Here's another version without the overdubs (here). SMR also featured one of Bill's coolest bass riffs-- "2000 Light Years From Home" which they'd revive in '89 to show off their lazer light show. Here's a rough studio track without the overdubs (here). Speaking of Satanic Majesties I'm including my favorite track on the album "Citadel"simply because I'm always shocked at how few people know it. The Nuggets sound starts here. By the late sixties Bill had given up attempting to contribute ideas to the Stones recordings. "They're Mick and Keith's songs, I've given up making suggestions" he was quoted. Keith would end up playing bass on many tracks including "Sympathy For The Devil", "Stray Cat Blues", and many others. Wyman would eventually sue Mick and Keith claiming authorship of "Jumpin' Jack Flash", it was settled out of court. In the movie Rock'n'Roll Circus they made him dress like a clown, complete with big, red rubber nose. He would eventually record two rather mediocre solo discs-- Monkey Grip Glue ('72) and Stone Alone ('80) justifying Mick and Keith's opinion that Bill's songs weren't very good. Wyman would go from looking like a lecherous old man to looking like Lily Tomlin to looking like Roy Orbison's grandmother. Luckily he knew better than to call attention to himself onstage, becoming known as "old Stone face". In a major judgement lapse he took to playing one of those head stock-less basses, the uncoolest instrument ever seen onstage with the Stones. His hands were too small to fit around the neck of a Fender Precision bass. In 1983 he began dating thirteen year old Mandy Smith, they married in 1989 and divorced within two years. Wyman's son Stephen briefly dated Mandy's mother, had they been married Stephen Wyman would have become his own father-in-law. All of the Stones were obliged to attend the wedding (Bill wasn't invited to Mick or Keith's weddings) and the wedding pix are hilarious and quite embarrassing. Wyman quit the Rolling Stones in 1992 figuring he only had a few years left and didn't want to spend them on the road. Bad move. According to Charlie Watts they didn't start making the big money until '93's Steel Wheels tour. With no songwriting credits to speak of and their recording royalties filtered through Allen Klein (who owns all the masters and publishing to their pre-Sticky Fingers material, the Stones were never signed directly to Decca but to Oldham's independent production company, Oldham sold out to Klein '68) Wyman never got really rich. He says these days he must tour to make ends meet, his band the Rhythm Kings and his Stones' theme restaurant Sticky Fingers being his main sources of income. Divorces, U.K. taxes and high living have taken a huge chunk of his earnings. Daryl Jones has been in the Stones for sixteen years and I wouldn't know him if he sat next to me on the subway. Charlie wanted him in the band because he played with Miles Davis. He doesn't play the parts the way they were on the record, but he does a better job of it than that coctail lounge pianist they've been dragging around for decades-- Chuck Levall (whom they got from the Allman Brothers). When Wyman quit they should have brought back Dick Taylor, he's still best looking of the Stones bass players.

Rudy Ray Moore 1927-1981

Rudy Ray Moore died yesterday. He produced and starred in such films as Dolemite, The Human Tornado and Petey Wheatstraw. His entire filmography is here. He also cut dozens of comedy LP's and some great R&B 45's. The bests of his R&B sides were compiled by Norton Records in 2000. Since I bought the double disc vinyl instead of the CD and my turntable lacks USB plugs I can't post any tunes, you're gonna have to buy this one, it's worth it.
I met Rudy twice, the first time (pictured above) we shared a table at the WFMU Record Fair and he kicked off his 1996 presidential campaign by appearing on my radio show (bad move). He hustled for every penny, signing everything he sold from back scratchers to CD's. The second time, Camel cigarettes paid him to appear at the Lakeside Lounge Christmas Party in 2000. It's now illegal to take cigarette company money for such things. Nice law, Bloomberg, you twerp. Rudy put on a great show despite the fact that his brain was starting to go.
What struck me most about Moore was how little like his Dolemite persona he was in real life. He was a strict Muslim and didn't drink, smoke or dope. He was very serious, taciturn, and business like. I wonder if he felt silly dying from nuthin'? I've also included a handwriting sample for those of you into handwriting analysis.
Goodbye Rudy, there's a sharp dresser in heaven tonight.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Readin' & Rockin'- Literate Books For Illiterate People

 With the exceptions of the Fleshtones (1976- present), Wild Jimmy Spruill's Hell Raisers (1955- 1996) and possibly the Jive 5 (1959- 2006) the Senders where the longest running real rock'n'roll band in NYC history, I think they lasted for twenty five years (1976-2001).
And they were one of the best. I've probably seen the Senders five hundred + times. I never saw them do a bad show. What brings me to such a non-topical subject is something that arrived in the mail last week courtesy of Legs McNeil. It was a proof (in English) of a book which has so far only been published in French Au-dela' de l'Avenue D. New York City 1972-1982 (Broche' 2007) by Philippe Marcade (or Flipper as he's known to New Yorkers) the Senders lead singer and one of those guys who has always been at the very center of New York City rock'n'roll.
The Senders began in 1976 with Flipper starting out behind the drums and Johnny Thunders' occasionally filling in on guitar (seen in the above video clip). In their earliest incarnation they were kind of a New York version of Dr. Feelgood, covering classic R&B and R&R tunes in a greasy, bar band style. Dressed in sharkskin suits with pointy boots, pinstriped sock and greasy pompadours, they cut a striking figure. And one that stood out among the then fashionable spiky hair/bondage pants combo that took over New York in the wake of the Sex Pistols.
     After many personal changes and Philippe stepping out front as lead singer and harmonica player they settled into what became the classic Senders line up with Wild Bill Thompson on guitar, Steve Shevlin on bass and Little Moe Trucks on drums. This group cut a 45 that they issued themselves ("The Living End" b/w "No More Foolin'", 1977) and a seven song EP on Max's Kansas City's own label issued in '79. Since I don't have a turntable w/a USB port plug I can't post them. Later, after a brief break up they would reform and record two full LP's Return To Sender (Skydog, 1998) which unfortunately Thompson only plays on half of, and Goodbye Cruel World (Action, 1999), their best and most representative waxing. Here's "Takin' That Train" from Back To Sender recorded with a later line up with Simon Charbonet on second guitar (Simon's another one of those great, unheralded NY rock'n'roll institutions whose ship will probably come in the day after he dies) and Chris Cush on bass. For a decade the Senders played every Monday night at the Continental on 3rd Ave between St. Marks and 9th St, before that it was called Jack The Ribber and Screamin' Jay Hawkins played every Monday, and before that it was a very scary drag bar called Frida's Disco whose doorway always seemed to have a large, black, drag queen with an askew blond wig and a head to toe five o'clock shadow draped over a bar stool blocking the way. I never ventured into Fridas.  But Monday at the Continental was always fun. In those days I bike messengered from 2-9:30 PM, I'd go home and shower and head out to see the Senders. It was a great place to meet girls, usually skinny one with too much mascara, straight blond or black hair, black cotton tights and spike heeled shoes. They were always crazy and I still walk around the block to avoid some of those one night stands (nowadays they're often pushing baby strollers on their way to AA meetings). The Senders' brought 'em out-- rockers, hipsters, strippers, nut cases, anybody with the vaguest notion of cool would end up at the Continental on Monday nights from '83-'93.
Here's a few of my Senders' favorites from that era: their version of Howlin' Wolf's "Do The Do", their rendition of Glen Glenn's "One Cup Of Coffee (and A Cigarette)"
and best of all, their spidery take on Sin Alley fave "Crazy Date".
Beyond Avenue D. (the English title) brought back a flood of memories. Opening with Flipper facing a prison sentence in Arizona, 1972 the book takes in the rock'n'roll scene in New York, Boston, Paris and Amsterdam in what in retrospective was a sort of golden decade ('72-'82), and a partial list of names encountered-- Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, Sable Starr, Dee Dee Ramone, Nancy Spungeon, Cookie Mueller, Nan Goldin, Willy DeVille, et al gives you a pretty good idea of the type of wild and woolly times recalled (ie sex, drugs, and drugs). Of course it's also a very sad book since most of the characters died, but I did laugh out loud a few dozen times. Whether he's a fly on the wall, or at the eye of the hurricane (c.f. the Ramones first NYC show was at Phillipe's birthday party in an Elizabeth St. loft around the corner from CBGB), Flipper has an extremely funny way at looking at the world, bemused, honest, perceptive, discerning, clever but never bitter or jaded. He never became a big star, but he's cool enough to know that stardom wouldn't have brought him the things he really wanted-- like the freedom to play rock'n'roll Senders style. I hope this book is published in English, its author instinctively grasps more about NYC rock'n'roll life than a hundred Clinton van Heylins with all his didactic horse poop could ever fathom.
Every week when I'm in New York City I get on my bicycle and go to St. Marks Books and buy something. I do this in hopes the place will always be there. I can usually get the book cheaper by waiting for the Strand to get it (always half price!) or buying a discounted copy on Amazon, delivered to my front door, but St. Marks Books has been in NYC even longer than me, and since I long ago bonded with one of the owners, a guy named Terry, over a love of old rock'n'roll it would traumatize me if the place, like so many other staples of my NYC life was suddenly gone. On a recent weekly trip over there I spotted a book I didn't even know existed, paid full price, and proceeded to read it twice in a row.
The tome in question is Josh Alan Friedman's Tell The Truth Until They Bleed (Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock'n'Roll) (Backbeat Books, 2008). A hell of a title to live up to, but it does that and more. This volume, made up of fifteen short pieces not only tells the truth, but is funny, unflinching, and most of all literate. Opening with a long, very telling interview with Jerry Lieber (of Lieber-Stoller fame) which will tell you much about the music business that has never been printed (the only subject he really won't broach is the Mafia who used Morris Levy (Roulette Record, owner of Birdland, etc.) and George Goldner (owner of End, Gone, Gee, Rama, Tico and many other labels, Lieber & Stoller's partner in Red Bird records)as a wedge into the record biz, that's a shame for any book on early New York rock'n'roll that doesn't mention Corky Vastola is only telling part of the story. There's a long, extremely fine hagiography for songwriter Doc Pomus (who was cutting rock'n'roll records while Elvis was still at Humes High, unfortunately teenage girls preferred their singing idols wiggle their hips, not fall off their crutches). As an aside here's some of Doc's early 50's rock'n'roll classics: "Work Little Carrie" ( Derby, dig Mickey Baker's guitar playing!), "Bye Baby Bye" (issued as Doc Palmer on Dawn), guess what this one's about-- "My Good Pot" (Savoy), and finally a live one w/Mickey Baker and King Curtis circa '55-- "My Gal's A Jockey/Bye Bye Baby". Now here is a bizarre one by Doc and Phil Spector issued under the name of Harvey & Doc & the Dwellers-- "Oh Baby"  (Annette, 1962).  The funniest part of the Pomus chapter is when wheelchair bound Pomus' van driver disappears leaving him stranded stage side at a Bruce Springsteen concert: "Man this stinks," Doc said. I never saw him so pained to leave a show, as Springsteen, a great crowd pleaser kept pouring it on. Make 'em bleed indeed! Pomus, who story is told in more detail in Alex Halberstat's Lonely Avene: The Unlikely Life & Times Of Doc Pomus (DeCapo, 2007) emerges as the book's hero and conscious (and provided the title). Friedman spares no one, not even himself. In the book's funniest chapter "Mr. Nobody" he recalls the trials and tribulations of being Ronnie Spector's boyfriend in the mid-1980's. I quote: "I am what some in the business refer to as a "ponce". That is, I'm the emasculated man behind a famous female, from whom I derive my sense of self-worth, and from whose stardom I live through". Honest enough for you? This is a must read.
I possess (on the hardrive of this very computer) another, as yet unpublished, book by Mr. Friedman, called I think Black Cracker which concerns being the last of two white students left at a pre-integration Long Island high school. It's a hoot, I'm tellin' you.  I hope there is at least publisher left with enough balls to put it out. It's a masterpiece.  
The above photo is me and Philippe Marcade at the Please Kill Me book release party, 1996.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nico- Last Of The Ice Cold Inamortas*

Had she lived, Nico (Christa Pafgen, my typer won't put the umlaut over the a in her last name) would be 70 years old today (Thurs, Oct. 16 no matter what the above post time says). Her history in a coconut shell: She born in Cologne, Germany, in 1938, her father was killed by a French sniper fighting for the fatherland. Her mother moved her to the country were she stayed until her early teens, her family owned the brewery the Obergarige Hausbrauerei which produced the Paffgen brand of beer. She quickly grew to her full adult height of six feet tall. She has alternately claimed her father to be a Turk, Sufi mystic, and the disinherited black sheep of the family. Only the last claim seems to be true. She also claimed to have been raped by an American soldier in the final days of WWII. Her mother Grete, a Catholic was only 5'3". When the war ended the two of them lived in a small apartment in Cologne and her ambitious mother pushed her already peculiar daughter into a career in modeling.
She modeled in Berlin, Milan and Paris (where she sired a child, son Ari, with actor Alain Delon, who would never recognize the brat as his progeny). Next our heroine ('s bad pun week here at Houndblog) shows up renamed Nico in Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) and a flick called Striptease (credited as Krista Nico, she also sings the theme song in Ye-Ye girl French). Nico turns up in London in 1965 and becomes Brian Jones' occasional girlfriend ("He was scared of her", according to Ricard Watts' Nico: Life & Lies of An Icon (Virgin Books, 1993) as well as cutting a 45 for Andrew Loog Oldman's Immediate label (produced by Jimmy Page) called "I'm Not Saying". The same year she moved to New York City, fucked Bob Dylan (who wrote "I'll Keep It With Mine" for her), met Andy Warhol and became one of Andy's "superstars" appearing in Warhol flix like The Velvet Underground & Nico, I A Man and Imitation Of Christ. Warhol hooked her up with the Velvet Underground, and she sang (or is that chanteused?) three songs on their classic debut -- "Femme Fatale", "I'll Be Your Mirror" and the incredible "All Tomorrow's Parties" (here in an alternate mix from that rare acetate of the first LP, someday I'll post the alternate takes of "Heroin", "Waitin' For The Man", "Venus In Fur" and "European Son"). She also consummated affairs with Lou Reed and John Cale. By early '67 the Velvets fired her after she stopped a rehearsal dead with the proclamation "I can no longer sleep with Jews...".
Her solo career really begins with the Verve LP Chelsea Girls (1968), the Velvet Underground backing her on the track "It Was Pleasure Then" as well as writing half the album. She began appearing in the Cafe part of the Dom on St. Marks Place while the Velvets headlined upstairs in the big room, backed by Jackson Browne who provides three tunes for Chelsea Girls, including the first recording of soon to be soft-rock standard "These Days". Chelsea Girls is a great album marred only by some cornball string arrangements on a few tunes. I believe it was in 1967 that she accompanied Warhol, the Velvets and the entire Exploding Plastic Inevitable entourage to L.A. and had an affair with Jim Morrison (retardedly re-imagined in Oliver Stone's goofy cartoon The Doors). The real scene, played out in a rented castle was much more interesting than the movie. Danny Fields (then the Doors P.R. man) introduced them, knowing a good potentially volatile situation when he saw one. See pages 29-30 in Mcain & McNeil's Please Kill Me (Grove, 1996) for details.
Back in New York she acquired a harmonium and began writing songs. Somewhere in there, Nico shows up in Ann Arbor briefly to become young Iggy Pop's girlfriend, moving into Stooge Manor. I'm sure she loved Ron Asheton's collection.
The above footage is from Evening Of Light, an art film by Francois Demenil in which Nico and the Stooges stumble around in an Ann Arbor corn field. She knits a sweater for the Ig while the Stooges record their first LP in New York City with John Cale producing. Iggy-- "She taught me about good French champagne and good German wines". In 1968 Nico recorded her masterpiece The Marble Index (Elektra, issued 1969) her first album of original material. With stunning medieval arrangements by John Cale, The Marble Index is a haunting, icy, homage to alienation and there is nothing quite like it in any musical genre. This album is so far beyond cool I only play it during blizzards. Here is my favorite track: "Frozen Warnings". She went on to record two more classic LP's with John Cale-- Desert Shore (Elektra,1971) and The End (Island, 1974). The End features her notorious version of "Das Lied Der Deutschen" aka "Deutchland Uber Alles", the Narzi anthem. It didn't get much airplay. I would love to have been a fly on the wall at the weekly sales and marketing meeting when they issued that one. Did Island Records think she was going to compete with Led Zeppelin and Allman Brothers as the latest teen sensation? I've met Chris Blackwell twice but both times I was stoned and forgot to ask (that's Jamaica for you). Island dropped her when she told a Melody Maker interviewer "I don't like black people....". She had to flee New York City after a violent incident with one of Jimi Hendrix's girlfriends whom she was convinced was a Black Panther Party member.
The next twelve years for Nico are a descent into heroin hell as she attempted to eck out a living touring and recording for nickle and dime indie labels, a period documented in James Young's classic book Nico: The End (Overlook Press, 1993), and Susanne Ofteringer's documentary Nico Icon (man, that one needs a laugh track!) A tough enough life for a healthy 20 year old, it could not have been any easier for a 40+ strung out mom.
I only met her once, I think it was in 1980 or '81. My friend, the late Bradley Field (drummer for Teenage Jesus & the Jerks and the craziest person I ever met who could dress them self) was asked to babysit her for a few hours at the Chelsea Hotel then walk her to the gig at the Squat Theater a few doors west where she was appearing. I'm not sure why she needed a sitter. I came along out of curiosity and to get my copy of Marble Index autographed. It was a very easy job, she was very high and quite friendly in a taciturn sort of way. We watched Cecil B. DeMille's Sign Of The Cross on a little black and white TV. She snored loudly through much of it, waking up to laugh in her booming she-baritone when I let out a beer belch as the Christians were being fed to the lions. When it ended she proclaimed it one of her favorite movies. I agree it was (is) a masterpiece. The only other things I think she said were to ask if we had Iggy's phone number and just before showtime proclaimed "It is time to go" as if we were all about to jump off a cliff together.
After a season in hell in pre- "Cool Britannia" Manchester Nico eventually moved to Majorca, Spain where in 1988 she fell off of her bicycle and died.
I asked Danny Fields, a close friend of hers what his best and/or worst memory of Nico was and he replied:
I have no really "bad" memories of Nico. She was/is immune to moral (and to mortal) classification. Still, my terrible, horrible and continually tragic recollection of her is of a goddess consumed all those dreadful years by the poison heroin. She endured a very long, very slow living-death, and it was in fact merciful to learn that she had finally died. I'm aware how cruel it is to say "finally", but there it is.
In every other way she was a joy and a terror simultaneously, which I adored. I remember once being with her on a quiet street near Gramercy Park, when she stepped off the sidewalk into a narrow space between two parked cars, unbuttoned her pants and announced, "I must pee, you know". She was squatting there when a patrolman walked by, glaring disapprovingly, then tapped my elbow and muttered, "Hey, mister, your friend ain't no lady," before moving along.
* I'll save you a trip to the dictionary. Inamorta: a woman who is loved or in love. Funk & Wagnel's Standard Desk Dictionary Vol. 1

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

All Aboard--- the Night Train!

The October full moon, some times a "harvest moon" (a full moon right after the fall equinox, we'll see one in 2010) or the "hunter's moon" has always made me a bit nuts. I can feel it pulling on my skull. When I was young it usually led to crazy alcohol benders, now, in my old age it just causes terrible insomnia. So I didn't sleep last night, just puttered around and listened to records.  I was filing records and came across several versions of "Night Train" then got all obsessed and started pulling out different versions of "Night Train" (sometimes spelled "Nite Train").  Like "Louie Louie" or "Route 66", "Night Train" seems almost impossible to fuck up. I don't think I've heard a version I couldn't stand, and there's at least a dozen versions that, as Phil Schaap would say enter "the pantheon of sides".
The first recording of "Night Train" was (still is, come to think of it) by Jimmy Forrest on Chicago's United label (on beautiful clear red wax) in March of 1952 and had a twenty week chart run where it eventually hit #1 R&B.  Jimmy Forrest a seasoned jazz tenor saxophonist had played in Andy Kirk's Clouds Of Joy and Jay McShann's band (where Charlie Parker got his first national exposure) before replacing Ben Webster in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  The Ellington band had been playing "Night Train" which was in reality written by the great alto sax man Johnny Hodges under the title of "That's The Blues, Old Man" also using the famous riff as a vamp in the "Deep South Suite". Ellington version here.
When Forrest left Ellington he took "Night Train" with him, claiming composers credit. I assume the title is a tribute to the fortified wine favored by skid row bums.
That must've burned Hodges' ass as it became a very valuable copyright with dozens of cover versions recorded over the coming decades, the most famous being James Brown's 1962 smash on the King label (the above version is from the 1965 T.A.M.I. Show) and here's one from the Live At the Apollo LP.
With it's infamous bump and grind beat, "Night Train" became a  sort of national anthem for strippers right up until Motley Crue ruined music in strip clubs for ever.
According to Nick Tosches' The Devil & Sonny Liston (Little, Brown 2000) Liston used to train to a tape that played "Night Train" over and over again. In the U.K. Nick's book is called Night Train, the American publisher changed the title over here because Martin Amis had a novel of the same title hitting the marketplace as the same time as Nick's. I can just imagine Liston, perpetual scowl on his face pounding away on the speed bag to it.
Even groups I usually hate have recorded killer versions of "Night Train". Here's a truly perverse rendition by the 4 Lovers (who would change their name and mine gold as the neo-castrato 4 Seasons).  Here's a version with lyrics sung by feral child  Wynonie Harris. Now compare that to this blazing gonzo guitar freak out courtesy of Travis Wammack . He was seventeen when that was cut (in 1966, best vintage of the entire '60's for recordings). Here's one from the Viscounts (of "Harlem Nocturne" fame).  They really sound like they're playing at a strip club near the airport. Now here is a version that smells like chitterlings with a side of grits and red gravy courtesy of Brother Jack McDuff and King Curtis (Marc Ribot told me when playing with McDuff he showed up late for rehearsal once and McDuff pulled a knife on him, Curtis was stabbed to death on the stoop of his Upper West Side brownstone by a wino in 1971).  Another unique and classic version is this junkie vs. speed freak drum duet from Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. Rich might've been technically the better musician but I prefer Krupa's thudding tom toms any day. Is that Jethro Tull on the flute? To quote Rich at a later date "there's no sound in flutes"!
  Even the clean cut Duane Eddy sounds greasy playing "Night Train".  Eddy drew his backing bands from the formidable ranks of Kip Tyler's group The Flips (including at various times Steve Douglas or Jim Horn on sax, Sandy Nelson, Jimmy Troxel on drums, Bruce Johnston and Larry Knetchel at the piano, Mike Deasy on guitar, Kim Fowley was their roadie for a while) who were managed by Phil Spector's soon to be institutionalized sister Shirley.  As an side dish here's both sides of their best single: Rumble Rock  and it's flip side: She's My Witch  (Ebb. 1958), one of my all time favorite discs. I wish Kip Tyler would give me (or somebody) an interview, there's a great story there waiting to be told.
I think I ran off the track (ouch! sorry....). Yup, "Night Train", great song.
Addendum To Yesterday's Post: In response to Tom Sutpen's comment (see comments below) here is the Louis Prima/Sam Butera version of Night Train.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What Went Wrong?

I posted this as a sidebar but here it is again. If you want to pinpoint the moment that caused the collapse of the house of cards that was our banking system (March 28, 2004) check out this video footage courtesy of the New York Times.  That's Paulson himself, now head of the SEC (then running Goldman-Sachs) calling for the deregulation that led to these idiots taking on thirty times the debt they'd previously be able to take on legally.
All based on a rigged computer model of risk assessment. 
Why is he still in charge? Why hasn't he been strung up? "If anything goes wrong it's going to be an awfully big mess", no shit.  Notice the nervous laughter in the background. Now we're supposed to pay for it.  A tax revolt seems like a good idea about right now.....
I'm back to Canada for Canadian Thanksgiving, I'll be posting when I get back.

Monday, October 6, 2008


With Lou Reed at the Bottom Line, '84 one of his last shows w/Lou
Checking out the box of 45's, Hangover Hop, '92, Brownies.
Me, Jeremy Tepper and Quine, Hangover Hop, '92. (photos by Michael Macioce) It's very hard to write about Robert Quine. Quine, (nobody, not even his wife or mother called him by his first name) was the best and most original guitar player of his generation, and the best player in New York City since Mickey Baker (one of his heroes). Quine was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1942, and discovered rock'n'roll in the mid-50's, catching the Caps' (of Red Headed Flea) fame at the Fair Lawn Bowling Lanes in 1956. He saw Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly in '57. He bought the Johnny Burnette Trio LP when it came out in '58 (I have his copy now, one of my most treasured possessions). He soon got a guitar and learned to play listening to I'm Jimmy Reed, Rockin' With Reed, and lots of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley records. He joined a band called the Counterpoints (with the sax player from the Caps) in which he played bass. A tape exists but Quine refused to ever play it for me because the sax player didn't show that night. He refused to do the dance steps, or modulate the key during the cover of Duane Eddy's "Rebel Rouser"-- a man of principles even then. His family was rather wealthy and owned a factory that manufactured some sort of industrial parts. I forgot what they were exactly. His uncle was the philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine.
He went to college, and then law school in St. Louis, where he led a mixed race group called the Garbage Vendors, playing guitar and rack harp like Jimmy Reed. He also had a blues radio show on the college station, his theme song was John Lee Hooker's "Hoogie Oogie". While at school the CIA attempted to recruit him into "the company". After law school (he took a law degree, passed the bar in California and New York but never practiced law) Quine moved to San Francisco where he attempted to join or form a band, however his short hair and straight appearance worked against him. He did see and tape the Velvet Underground in both St. Louis and Frisco and the best parts of those tapes where issued in 2003 by Polydor as a three cd box called The Quine Tapes. He first met Lou Reed in Frisco at the Matrix Club, bonding over their mutual admiration of Roger McGuin's guitar playing. Quine moved to Brooklyn in 1973 and friends attempted to get him a job playing with Art Garfunkel who punched Quine in the snout when Quine exclaimed "I thought Simon & Garfunkel were for people too dumb for Bob Dylan". He moved to Manhattan, and settled in a tiny apartment on St. Marks Place, downstairs from former Modern Lovers drummer and Viet Nam vet Bob Turner. He worked writing articles for a law journal and briefly at the bookstore Cinemabelia where he first met Richard Meyers nee' Hell. I think those were the only two real jobs he ever had. It was Hell who had been an original member of Television and the Heartbreakers who gave Quine his first national exposure, building his band The Voidoids around Quine. Here's a live version of "You Gotta Lose" (Hell was a better speller than the rest of the Heartbreakers who issued their first single "Born To Lose" as "Born Too Loose"). Notice Quine's solo quotes the solo on Jack Scott's "Baby She's Gone". Here's their version of CCR's "Walk On The Water". He stayed with the Voidoids for two albums (although the recent re-issue of Destiny Street has Quine's guitar parts erased and re-recorded by Marc Ribot and Bill Frissell) and a non-LP 45 (this is the b-side) and two European tours and when the band dissolved he was hired by Lou Reed on the recommendation of Reed's then wife and manager Sylvia. Quine gives a hilarious recalling of Reed checking out his playing at CBGB in Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me (Grove, 1996), Reed threatened to punch him in the face. Quine played with Reed on his best solo albums The Blue Mask and Live In Italy (where they played while being teargassed), most of his guitar parts on Legendary Hearts where mixed so low as to be inaudible. After Reed fired him he did session work with Marianne Faithful, Lydia Lunch (Queen Of Siam, her best) Tom Waits (Swordfish Trombone where Keith Richards' overdubbed parts play off of Quine's basic tracks), Mathew Sweet, John Zorn and many others. He produced Teenage Jesus & the Jerks first recordings. Quine recorded two duet albums, the first and best Escape with Jody Harris (of the Contortions and Raybeats) takes all its song titles from Three Stooges movies. The second, with Fred Maher- Basic is a collection of basic rhythm tracks with no solos. Quine loved weird chords and odd voicings, and this record is better for practicing guitar to than listening. I first met Quine the day I moved to New York City, May 1977. I was staying in a loft in a basement on Warren St. (pre-Tribeca) called The Home For Teenage Dirt. It's inhabitants were Lydia Lunch, Miriam Linna, the utterly crazed Bradley Field, Phast Phreddie Paterson (visiting from L .A.) and Todd Abramson (owner of Maxwells, he had arrived about an hour before me). It was also the Cramps rehearsal space. Jody Harris was the only other resident on the block and the Contortions, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, the Erasers, and other bands practiced at his place. I went outside to have a cigarette and Quine came walking down the street with Lester Bangs and Richard Hell, both whom I already knew a bit via phone. It took about four years of bumping into each other over the oldies and rockabilly bins at record stores but eventually (I think around '83) we exchanged cassette tapes from our 45 collections and soon we were fast friends, we talked on the phone nearly every day and made a ritual of Saturday dinner in Chinatown which lasted for decades (except when he was mad at me, he could freak out over the slightest thing, although he'd always eventually apologize and give me some treasure from his record collection as penance). He was one of the funniest motherfuckers I've ever met. He loved to use the word "little" as a term of condensation i.e. "I saw your little friend at the guitar store today....". He would make a noise from the back of his throat like a chipmunk being stepped on that always drew strange looks from women. He was heavily into handwriting analysis and could spot a nut, liar, or thief via their penmanship. I always showed him handwriting samples from whatever girl I was dating, and he was always dead on even if he had never met them. The few times I ignored his warnings I would live to regret it. We turned each other onto a lot of great music, the one he kept coming back to was Robert Wilson & the Groovers' "Cranberry Blues" because it reminded him of Thanksgiving 1957 when all cranberries were recalled for some reason. I didn't know much about jazz and he turned me onto Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Lester Young, and Miles Davis among others. He made me a 120 minute cassette of electric Miles circa 1972-4 (Get Up With It, Pangea, Agartha, the rare 45 "Molester") that I played for exclusively for two winters running. I remember the day that the U.K. Ace label released the six CD Little Richard: The Specialty Sessions box set. I'd just put in seven hours on the street as a bike messenger and just wanted to take a bath and pass out, but Quine showed up at my door with a copy of the box for me and a bottle of Jim Beam Green Label. We listened to the whole box and drank the whole bottle. Later we went out to cop and ended up with fentanyl (remember Tango & Cash anybody?) instead of what we really wanted and both almost died. My super found him on the sidewalk on East 11th St. and put him in a cab, his downstairs neighbor found him in the door way and dragged him upstairs and got him into his apartment. New York used to be more fun. I introduced him to Billy Miller at Norton Records and he got to play on Andre Williams' Bait & Switch LP, as a Fortune Records nut it was one of his proudest moments. Billy told me when Quine took a mandolin like solo Andre yelled "Go Italian"! He also appeared as a hustler in the 1992 film White Trash and can be seen in several live Lou Reed video releases, as well as playing himself in a 1980 film called Blank Generation starring Hell. I don't remember the exact date but it was August of 2003 around 6:15 PM when I got a call from Quine. "Alice is dead". I packed enough drugs to sedate a herd of camels and headed to his loft in Soho (where he'd moved a decade earlier, he still hadn't unpacked his records). His beloved wife Alice Sherman was dead on the floor, laid out in front of the bathroom door, she'd died in the shower, her heart gave out from a combination of overwork, anti-depressants and xanax. Quine was in shock. We were told we needed to find a doctor to sign the death certificate and it being a Friday in New York City in August every doctor was in the Hamptons so we had to wait six hours for the city Medical Examiner to officially declare her deceased, then another ten hours for the meat wagon to take her body to the morgue. As the sun rose I took him to where me and my wife were living in the West Village, an open space with a sleeping loft and no walls. Quine was shattered, although since he asked if he could raid my wife's vitamins I assumed he wouldn't kill himself, at least not then. He stayed five or six days and despite the trauma had my wife in stitches when he wasn't crying his eyes out. Quine's last ten months saw him sink into a black depression. Without Alice he could not fend for himself. He didn't know how to use a computer, pay his mortgage, health insurance, electric bills. His benders got worse and the come downs unbearable. Man, he was a mess. We had a Thanksgiving dinner that year at my house for twenty people and he passed out in his food twice. In early 2004 one of his neighbors hired him to record a soundtrack to a film (which I've never seen and don't even know the title of), these were his last recordings and reflect his tortured state of mind. Here are four excerpts: film music 1 film music 6 film music 7 film music 9 In May of 2004 he took his own life. I believe it was an assisted suicide. There was at least one person who stood to benefit from Quine's death and my guess is that is who administered the hot shot (thus canceling out a $20,000 debt; moral: no kindness goes unpunished). For those who knew Quine my suspicions are directed at the one he always referred to as "pizza face". He never learned to use a syringe and was way too much of a wimp to shoot himself up. There were fifty empty glassine dope bags and a note in his handwriting that said "Robert Quine: 1942-2004". His recently amended will was missing. Also fifty bags won't fit in one shot, it probably took two or three, he definitely had help. Had there been no one around to shoot him up, he would still be alive today. I truly believe that. The week before he died he had been on a coke bender and the come down from that made his depression even worse, the person who helped him knew this, but he also knew Quine wanted his $20,000 back and there was no way he was going to pay it. Quine didn't live to see the release of the un-issued Link Wray Cadence LP, the alternate takes of the Buddy Holly Decca sessions, the Miles Davis' On The Corner box set, and the alternate takes from the first Velvet Underground LP, things that would have made him very happy. I've never really talked about Quine since his death, at the memorial I tried to be as vague as possible. Now I've said my piece on the subject I'll try and hold my tongue (and typing fingers) for good.

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra
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