Friday, October 30, 2009


James Brown's incredible megalomaniac post-arrest TV appearance-- "I smell good...." He's gotta be drunk.... Weddings are great to get drunk at....
Russians get mean when they are drunk, which is often, this guy picks (and loses) a fight with a tree.
I love this one from bonehead Hank Jr., skip ahead to 1:18 for the fun.... The Possum's been known to take a nip now and then... The Killer looks like he took piano lessons from Chico Marx on this one...a bit long but still entertaining.
Suggested soundtrack, 78's from guys named Jimmy:
Jimmy Liggins & his 3-D Music-- Drunk (Specialty)
Jimmy Myers & his Happy Highway Gang- Drunk Man Wiggle (Fortune)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Follow Ups To Past Posts...

A Good Spot For A Gratuitous Photo Of Jane Birkin Who Is Not Mentioned In This Posting
Some follow ups to past Houndblog postings: Last December was a posting about Sun Ra's rock'n'roll output, well my pals over at Norton Records have just released three volumes of the stuff, most of not on the Evidence Saturn 45's box. The first is Rocket Ship Rock which features the most incredible Yochanan, including his masterpiece Hot Skillet Mama b/w Muck Muck as well as the previously unheard Rocket Ship Rock and more. Also represented are Lacy Gibson's insane verion of I Am Gonna Unmask The Batman, and Ebah's un-issued rendition of the same, and the ultra rare Pink Clouds disc Space Stroll by Don Dean. The second two volumes Interplanetary Melodies (Doo Wop From Saturn Beyond Vol. 1) and The Second Stop Os Jupiter (Doo Wop From Saturn and Beyond Vol. 2) have classics by the Cosmic Rays and Juanita Rogers, and lots of recently unearthed (or un-Saturned) rehearsal tapes from the Nu Sounds, the Qualities, Crystals (Sun Ra does Don & Dewey!) and Sunny his bad self with Stuff Like That and Tony's Wife. Great liner notes by Miriam Linna and Michael D. Anderson make these essential.
Andre Williams was the subject of a posting last Nov. and earlier this month, his first novel (!)
Sweets and Other Stories (Kicks Books) is out, I just read it, and it's a doozie. If you like Donald Goines, Iceberg Slim, Robert Deane Pharr, Herbert Simmons and that sort of ultra realistic ghetto fiction, than this is for you. He'll be doing a reading from it in Chicago on November 14th, at Phyllis Musical Inn, 1800 West Division St., 8 PM. While on the subject of Mr. Rhythm, his version of the Stones "The Spider & The Fly", issued by Norton as part of their ongoing Stones' cover 45's series is one of his best recordings in years. My other favorites in the series are the Church Keys' "Who Driving Your Plane" (best Stones b-side ever), and the Dirt Bombs' No Expectations. The entire series is worth owning.
While you're over at the Norton site the two volumes of early Kim Fowley productions-- One Man's Garbage (Lost Treasures From The Vaults 1959-69) Vol. 1 and ...Is Another Man's Gold (Lost Treasures From The Vaults 1959-69) are indispensable, containing, just as described some of the best and worst from the king of the Hollywood hustlers. Great notes by the man himself (as a non-drug user, he has an incredible memory, the Library Of Congress should sit him down like they did Jelly Roll Morton to get an entire oral history of the L.A. scene from Kip Tyler & the Flips to Hanson, since Fowley saw it all). Both discs come in deluxe fold-out sleeves. It's nice to have some actual new records to play around the house again.
In May, I wrote about John Gilmore's eye popping Laid Bare, well Gilmore has a new novel out, his second-- Crazy Streak (Scapegoat Publishing). It's sort of a white trash take on the Lolita theme set in the part of Southern California that sees more trailers than limos, and Gilmore captures that world with an unflinching eye. Gilmore is his own genre, and this book is well worth searching out.
Last April I wrote about William Lindsay Gresham, his classic noir novel Nightmare Alley is being re-issued in the spring with a forward by, but of course, Nick Tosches. There's also a musical with book and songs by Jonathan Brielle, directed by Gilbert Cates that will open at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. on April 13 and run until May 23 (my birthday). I'd like to see
an amusement park ride based on Nightmare Alley myself. And perhaps a movie version of Monster Midway. There's other doings in the world of Gresham but I'm not sure if I can divulge the info yet or not, keep an eye on this space.
Bill Wyman turned 73 last week, he's still on tour and he's still ugly.
With the demise of The Wire and The Shield (best cop shows ever), TV's been pretty lame as of late, the best show on right now is in an awful time slot (Sunday at Midnight, AMC) and not available on In Demand, but Breaking Bad, the best TV drama about Meth chefs ever, is worth setting your Tivo/DVR/whatever your cable company calls it. It's nice to see Bob Odenkirk revive the character he played on the Larry Sanders Show-- Stevie the agent, this time as a sleazy drug lawyer, also named Stevie.
I love reference books, especially slang dictionaries, and Stephen Calt, whose previous books were biographies of Charlie Patton and Skip James (both great and both sadly out of print, the latter is one of the most telling books ever written about "the blues" and it's not a pretty picture) has put together Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary (University Of Illinois Press, 2009). If you need to know what "Polack town","bug juice", and to "dust one's broom" mean, this is the book to find it in.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gillian's Found Photo #27

Now that's what they used to call "a tall drink of water". The Fang's contribution this week looks like it was taken in New York's Times Square, sometime in the fifties, although it's hard to pinpoint an exact year. At first glance I got very excited, I thought it might be taken in front of Hubert's Museum, a famous freakshow/peep show/sleazpit that stood on 42nd St. between Broadway and Eighth Ave. (Diane Arbus hung around there and took some of her most famous freak images in the place, some of her pics turned up at an estate auction a few years back and are the subject of the book Hubert's Freaks by Gregory Gibson). Alas, it doesn't look like the front of Hubert's (which later became Peepland) to me, it's too narrow. Can anyone identify the theater and /or the tall guy? Not that I'm having any luck at all in gathering information this way ....still, it's a great photo. Take a look at the white gal in the far right side of the frame and the look on her face, priceless!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Hound's Mystery Disc #2- The Spark Plugs

Our blogeration today concerns just one tune, which is fairly well known among record folks as Chicken by the Spark Plugs. It was re-issued a few year back on Norton (with the Condas' The Bird as the b-side, a tune that had never been released until the aforementioned Norton 45, it came to me via a listener to my old WFMU radio show who sent me a cassette of his dad's band which consisted of two songs the Condas recorded and made a few acetates of). Chicken was also covered by the Cramps I believe. The problem is there is no record called The Chicken by the Spark Plugs, at least that I know of. It was never issued on 45, only on the above pictured LP on the budget Sutton label, and according to the label, the tune is called Painless Thoughts, although none of the tunes on the disc's label appear to match up to their titles. There are ten songs on the album, most of which are fairly dreary ballads or mid tempo pop rockers that sound like Troy Shondell on a bad day. Then there's the tune in question-- Chicken aka The Chicken aka Painless Thoughts, a fervent Freddie Cannon style rocker with a blaring saxophone section and a rabid guitar solo that sounds like it could be the ill fated Kenny Paulson, star of Cannon's Tallahassie Lassie and one time Dale Hawkins sideman. So who were the Spark Plugs and where were they from? Was The Chicken ever issued on a 45? And what of Sutton Records? Sutton never listed an address on their label but it seems like most of their releases where pressed in the sixties, other LP's on the label I've seen are easy listening drek (the Hi-Los, Francis Bey Orchestra, Victor Herbert) or jazz, some of it featuring fairly well known performers such as Lionel Hampton At The Vibes, Duke Ellington meets Leonard Feather, Django Reinhardt and his Guitar, which seem to contain material leased from other labels. A good one to keep an eye out for is Harry "The Hepster" Gibson's-- Rockin' Rhythm LP which has some of his best stuff on it. I've only seen two other rock'n'roll albums on the label-- The Sentinals- Vegas Au-Go Go, which is a live, fairly mild garage thing if I remember correctly, and the Surf Teens- Surf Mania, which I've never heard. My guess is that Sutton was owned by a either a company that pressed records; a la Golden Crest whose story is told in John Broven's wondrous new book Record Makers and Breakers: Voices Of The Independent Rock'n'Roll Pioneers (University Of Illinois Press, 2009) or a one stop distributor. Where did Sutton lease the Spark Plugs masters from? The cover photo shows a distinctly pre-Beatles looking quartet in matching velvet collar suits and huge pompadours. And what of the non-matchng song titles? One is called He's My Blue Guy, hard to believe these greaseballs would be singing about a guy? The lyrics to the tune that matches up to the track listed concern a girl with Lonely Eyes which is probably the real title. The one that's listed as Rap A Way seems to be a tune called Sugar Doll, something of a Buddy Knox style pop rockabilly. The tantalizingly titled Spark Plugs is an instrumental that's actually pretty rockin', easily the second best tune on the LP, it features a pounding piano player and honking sax solo. The label has no songwriting or publishing credits listed, nor does the cover. There had to be at least five members of the band: piano/sax/guitar/bass/drums (although Chicken seems to have at least two saxophones), yet the cover photo shows only four Spark Plugs. There are a lot of questions about this group, this record, and this label. Does anyone out there have any of the answers?
For the record, our last mystery disc-- Blowin Through Yokahma Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 (Munro) is still
a mystery.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)

Starring Sal Mineo and Juliet Prowse, Joseph Cates' Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965) is one of he creepiest and most peculiar movies ever made. A rumination on voyeurism, repressed homosexuality, and fetishism (among other things), it's one of Sal Mineo's most ambitious and telling roles. It includes some truly sleazy, atmospheric location shots of 42nd Street in it's transitional state from the Great White Way into the sleaze pit it would become by the early 70's. Today the Duece looks like a mall in Peoria. Who Killed Teddy Bear was written by Arnold Drake who wrote and produced The Flesh Eaters (1964). Who Killed Teddy Bear is available as a U.K. only DVD (so if your machine only plays USA region DVD's you're shit out of luck), you can always go to TCM's website and suggest it (you need to register first). Meanwhile these clips will give you an idea about what an incredible and twisted endeavor this specimen of cinema, Who Killed Teddy Bear, is.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TCM Alert- Pretty Poison starring Tuesday Weld

Tuesday Weld shot by Dennis Hopper from the passenger seat.
Set your Tivo (or as my cable company calls it DVR) for Friday night, 2:15 AM (actually, Saturday morning), Turner Classic Movies are running Noel Black's classic Pretty Poison starring Tuesday Weld in one of her best roles, also starring Anthony Perkins as an oddly Anthony Perkins like cretin. If you have never seen it, you will thank me. It's also a good excuse to run gratuitous photos of Tuesday Weld, one of my all time favorites. I blogged a little bit about her last December (here). Her complete filmography can be found here. She's in an amazing amount of fine films, some of my favorites are Thief (1981, with James Caan), Once Upon A Time In America (1984), The Cincinnati Kid (1965, with Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson and Ann Margret), Rock, Rock, Rock (1956, with Alan Freed and the Johnny Burnette Trio), and keep an eye out for her on various episodes of the Ozzie and Harriet Show, Naked City, 77 Sunset Strip and of course the Dobie Gillis Show.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jackie and The Starlites

New York Times clipping concerning the Starlites murder case, 1961.
Jackie and the Starlites-- Cry Baby Killers Their all time classic-- Valarie, Jackie didn't get top billing until the 2nd pressing. Another good 'un, their third for Fury. A new label, and still cryin' their hearts out.
The crying record was a great tradition in the golden age of rhythm and blues, perhaps kicked off by the Griffin Brothers' Weepin' & Cryin Blues with vocal by the Tommy Brown (Dot), which went to #1 R&B in December of '51 (a great interview with Tommy Brown by Dick Blackburn and Angel Baby can be found here). Brown's tune, a yammering lament of sniveling majesty, allowed him to leave the Griffin Brothers and kick off a solo career that carries on to this day. Of course Johnnie Ray was tearing up the pop charts sobbin' all over the place around the same time (see my post on Johnnie Ray here), and there were plenty of other similar discs (the Diablos' I Want To Know on Fortune and Roy Brown's Laughin' But Cryin' on King, being my favorites). The early pinnacle of the style may have very well been the Dominoes doom laden snuff ballad The Bells (Federal, #3 R&B , January 1953) on which Clyde McPhatter seems to be wrenching up his entire digestive system all over the studio floor.
Fast forward to September of 1960. New York City was in the midst of a doo wop revival.
What rockabilly is to Memphis and the rolling second line beat of Fats Domino is to New Orleans, vocal group harmony is to New York City. It's still not unusual on a winter's night to find a bunch of winos gathered around a flaming garbage can harmonizing on Life Is A But A Dream or That's My Desire (Hispanics call it "throwin' doo-wops"). Just the other day four guys came strolling through the E train, baseball caps out to collect change while they belted out At My Front Door, too bad most of the riders were wearing Ipods and couldn't hear 'em, they were pretty good. In September of 1960, one of the greatest, and certainly the most over the top of all doo wop crying records - Valerie b/w Way Up In The Sky (Fury) by the Starlites was unleashed on the world. While Valerie didn't make the national charts, it was a good size hit in New York and other east coast cities, and it obviously made a big impression on those who heard it as it would eventually be covered by Frank Zappa & the Mothers, played on the radio by Lou Reed (when he guest DJ's on WPIX-FM in 1979), and became the favorite record of punk haberdasher Malcom McClaren who had it on the jukebox at Let It Rock (the King's Row shop that eventually became Sex, the store where the Sex Pistols were formed). Lead singer Jackie Rue's (nee' LaRue, formerly of the 5 Wings) tortured vocal delivery, in which he breaks down into a hysterical, wailing, sobbing, grieving, fit, delivers the ultimate in teenage pathos. When they appeared at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia later that year, Jackie and the Starlites went from being the opening act on the first night to headliners by the second, elevated to the top billed over such hard workin', crowd pleasing, hit makers as Ike & Tina Turner and James Brown & his Famous Flames. It has been said that Jackie and the Starlites were the only act James Brown ever refused to follow.
Fury Records was run by Harlem record store owner/producer/hustler Bobby Robinson (who also ran Fire, Red Robin, Enjoy, Everlast and a few other labels, why isn't he in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame? Oh, right, it's run by morons...), a guy who produced more good records than any other New Yorker, including classics by Wilbert Harrison, Lee Dorsey, Elmore James, Lightnin' Hopkins, Tarheel Slim, Wild Jimmy Spruill and dozens of fine vocal groups (the Rainbows, the Teenchords, the Kodaks, the Channels, the Charts, et al). The Starlites, re-christened Jackie and the Starlites as Valerie picked up momentum, recorded three more singles for Fury-- Ain't Cha Ever Comin' Home b/w Silver Lining, I Found Out Too Late b/w I'm Comin' Home, both pretty much in the style of Valerie, and their final disc under Robinson's tutelage, which may be the most unhinged of all-- They Laughed At Me b/w You Put One Over On Me. They Laughed At Me, issued as Fire & Fury 1000, was released as Robinson was experiencing financial difficulties (both labels would go into receivership soon after They Laughed At Me was released) and is extremely rare. But oh, what a majestic and unique performance. This time, Jackie Rue laughs his way through his tale of rejection, cackling like a constipated hyena on methadrine, Jackie sounds like his esophagus is turning inside out. It ranks close to the top of the pantheon of sides as Phil Schaap might say if we were talkin' jazz. There is no other record quite like it, and I think we can safely say at this point in time, there never will be*.
After Fury went bust, Jackie and the Starlites signed with Hull where they cut a few more discs in the same style, the best being I Cried My Heart Out, then were moved to Hull subsidiary Mascot for a few attempts to merge their unique style with the Latin-esqe
sound that the Drifters were milking all the way to the bank around the same time. None of these discs sold squat and by 1963 they had disbanded.
Our story does not end here however. On Monday, May 29, 1961-- UPI (United Press International), a now nearly defunct press wire service, sent out a story headlined Rock 'N Roll Stars Held For Murder, dateline New York: Two singers identified as J. Carl Moody and Henry John Hicks had stabbed one Emil Markussen, age 73, in the hallway of his apartment building on the upper West Side, killing him. It was a mugging gone wrong. The story identifies both as members of the "Starlights" (sic) and names their hits Valerie and Ain't She Come Home (sic). Hicks is quoted as saying that the Doctor made a feeble attempt to fight back-- "Then I had to kill him" he told the cops. Moody and Hicks were not on Valerie, the line up on the Starlites recording debut was Jackie Rue --lead singer, Alton Jones-- tenor, George Lassu-- second tenor, John Felix-- baritone and Billy Montgomery-- bass. Vocal groups, however, are like baseball teams, with members coming and going with bewildering regularity, so perhaps Moody and Hicks are on some of the Jackie and the Starlites recordings, if they are, I don't know which ones. There was no follow up story from UPI and I don't know what happened in court, or what ever became of the two. No doubt they did some time, New York was sending perps to the electric chair until 1963-- they may have even been executed. Now they really had something to cry about. Lead singer, the caterwauling Jackie Rue is said to have died of a heroin overdose sometime in the late 60's.
In 1991 Relic Records issued the first ever LP of Jackie and the Starlites material, it is well worth searching out, even buying, Norton Records mail order carries it. Rockabilly Ranch blog, has a Jackie and the Starlites versus the Bop-Chords on the ultra cheesy Collectibles label available for free download here. It is missing They Laughed At Me however. Much thanks to Jeff Roth for help with research.
* The laughing record itself has a long history, going back to the 1920's when Okeh had a hit with the Okeh Laughing Record, which consisted of three minutes of somebody chuckling, but They Laughed At Me takes the concept to a whole new level.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Stooges- 1971

Recently un-earthed photo of Stooges Turns out it's not from a U.K. gig at Wakefield Workingman's Club, just some U.S. club w/a Union Jack hanging behind the stage. 1970. Pic by Natalie Schlossman
The Stooges 1971: Ron Asheton, Jimmy Recca, James Williamson, Scott Asheton, Iggy Pop The Stooges Ask The Musical Question: Who Stole James' Trousers?
The first time I met Lenny Kaye, in early '77, the subject of the Stooges came up and he told me--"they were at their peak around '71, when Ron and James were both playing guitar, if they'd recorded that line up, they'd have really kicked ass". I've been dreaming about hearing that line up ever sine. I didn't get a chance to see the Stooges until late '73 when I ran away from home and hitch hiked to Atlanta and caught four sets over two nights at a club called Richards, still one of the best rock'n'roll shows I've ever seen by white people. Anyway, one of the Richards shows was recorded and will be released by Sony next year as part of a deluxe Raw Power box set. But right here and now, thirty eight years later, the Easy Action label has issued a 4 CD box set-- The Stooges- You Want My Action (1971 Missing Link), taken from audience recorded cassettes, you get two shows from the Electric Circus in New York, one from the Factory in St. Louis (in much better sound quality than the nearly unlistenable bootleg that's been around for years, miscredited as from the Kiel Auditorium), one from the Vanity Ballroom in Detroit (the first show of the tour). They've also thrown in a final show of the tour when Ron, Scott and Jimmy Recca played a contract fulfilling show without Iggy and James Williamson. The set list is roughly the same each night--- I Got A Right, You Don't Want My Name, Fresh Rag, Dead Body/Who Do You Love (the Bo Diddley tune, radically re-worked), Big Time Bum, and Do You Want My Love. The first Electric Circus show also includes Iggy crooning Shadow Of Your Smile. Except for I Got A Right, none of these songs were ever recorded in the studio (although I do remember in Lester Bangs Stooges cover story in Creem, Feb. 74, he made reference to Fresh Rag being recorded while a record company executive's wife was around and she took offence to the tune), if it was recorded in the studio my guess is it would have been done around the time of I Got A Right and Gimme Some Skin. Keep in mind that the original recording of Raw Power was rejected by Tony DeFries, their manager at the time and re-recorded. Where are the original Raw Power tapes today?
Anyway, You Want My Action is a real labor of love and well worth the sixty bucks, there are plenty of rare photos, a booklet, and it's not in a goddamn jewel box (I hate those fucking things), it's a classy package, unfortunately it's not available on vinyl (my only complaint). While you're a it check out some of their other releases, some of them look pretty cool-- a Velvet Underground 45 RPM box set, a live Sonic's Rendezvous Band set, lots of rare T. Rex, etc.
While on the subject, Robert Matheu's The Stooges: The Authorized and Illustrated Story (Abrams, 2009) is finally out, a big coffee table size mother of a book, chock full of rare photos, many of which have never been published before. At the risk of repeating myself, Paul Trynka's Iggy Pop bio-- Open Up And Bleed (Broadway Books, 2008) is finally the biography worthy of its subject. If you haven't read it yet, you're in for a treat. Also not to be missed is this recent interview with Iggy and James Williamson from the Detroit Metro Times. Now billed as Iggy and the Stooges, the name they adopted in '72, they have shows booked for 2010, the line-up now being: Iggy, Scott Asheton, Mike Watt, Scotty MacKay and (drum roll....) James Williamson who took an early retirement from his executive job at Sony. The later four put in some rehearsal time last summer and Iggy joined the rest of the band in L.A. in September for more practice. The set list will focus on Raw Power-era material. I guess I'll have to leave the house again. Only the Stooges get me out the door these days.
I've been spending a lot of time listening to the interview tapes done by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil for Please Kill Me (Grove Press, 1996), the book contain probably less than two percent of the material they collected, and needless to say, I've been going through the interviews with Ron, Scott, and Kathy Asheton, as well as Bill Cheetham (haven't gotten around to Danny Fields or Iggy yet) carefully taking notes (I didn't even take notes in college). Maybe I'll try and come up with some highlights to post soon...or dare I say it, a whole book of outtakes?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gillian's Found Photo #26

The Fang's been a busy girl of late, but she's more than made up for her absence from this blog with this week's found photo. This wedding shot, which appears to be taken at a wedding reception on the roof of an Esso gas station has always been a favorite of mine. Notice how much the groom looks like Peetie Wheatstraw (William Bunch), the Devil's Son In Law and 30's blues star. Ain't love grand?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lester Bangs

Lester At CBGB, June '77
First 45, with Quine on guitar.

Notice the autograph-- Lester hated the Cramps.
I first met Lester Bangs via the telephone. I was a bored teenager. Growing up in South Florida in the early 70's, there weren't many people who liked the Stooges and the Velvet Underground. I read Creem and Rock Scene and zines like Who Put The Bomp, Back Door Man, Denim Delinquent, The Rock Marketplace, Gulcher, Punk (the original Punk from Buffalo which predated the New York mag by two years). I used to call the Creem offices in Michigan around midnight every couple of weeks. Lester was always there, usually speeding away, editing and writing. Sometimes he was drunk, or high on cough syrup. I remember him playing me a test pressing of Patti Smith's Horses over the phone in its entirety.
On my first trip to New York City, the spring of '77, I'd just turned eighteen and I was staying at a loft down on Warren Street (The Home For Teenage Dirt said the sign in the window) which was inhabited by Miriam Linna (a pen pal from Ohio who had moved to New York City earlier and extended an invitation to crash with her if I ever managed to make it north, today she runs the Norton Records empire with her husband Billy Miller, both play in the A-Bones, currently touring Europe), Lydia Lunch and the late Bradly Field (who would become the drummer for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and the Cramps' road manager). The block was empty, there was no such thing as Tribeca back then. The only other inhabitant of the block was Jody Harris of the Contortions who had a loft in the next building and it was used as a rehearsal space for many bands including the Contortions, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and Lester Bangs' first band. It was also the only place to take a shower.
After arriving, I met Lydia and Todd Abramson (now owner of Maxwells and Tel*Star Records, he was fifteen at the time and also on his first trip to NYC), the others were still at work when I arrived. After about an hour I went outside to look around, took a seat on the stoop and lit a cigarette. Who came walking down the street but Richard Hell, Robert Quine and Lester Bangs. I introduced myself and presented them all with copies of my fanzine-- New Order (Hell shared the cover with Patti Smith, I'd done a phone interview with him). Later that night, after catching two sets each by the Cramps and the Ramones at CBGB, Bradly dragged me to 24 hour bar on 9th St. between First Ave and Ave. A called the Kiwi Club. Lester was there, we were all already plastered but we got considerably drunker, staying long after sunrise. So began my short friendship with Lester Bangs.
That Sunday night Lester's band played at CBGB on a bill with Alex Chilton (The Ramones/Cramps double bill was Friday and Saturday). Lester's band that night were the guys who played on his first single-- Let It Blurt b/w Live (Spy), Bob Quine and Jody Harris on guitars, David Hofstra on bass and J.D. Daughtery on drums. I only remember that they covered the Doors' Five To One, The Stooges' TV Eye, and that when Lester introduced an original called I Sold My Body and Bradly Field yelled "By the pound"! There were at least fifteen people in the audience.
A few days later, me and Phast Phreddie Patterson (in from L.A. and also staying on Warren St.) went to Lester's apartment on Sixth Ave just above 14th St. to interview him for our respective fanzines (Phreddie edited a great mag called Back Door Man , my mag was a pale imitation of his). Lester was very funny and within a few days he presented us each with long contributions to our respective zines-- Back Door Man ran theirs which was called Back Door Men and Women In Bondage and was mostly a long fantasy about biting Cherrie Currie's nipples off, mine was called Nude Oders and has never been published since New Order folded after issue #2 and I lent the manuscript to John Mortland when he was compiling articles for Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, he promised to give it back after he xeroxed it, that was in 1984 and I'm still waiting for him to return it.
Shortly after that '77 visit, I moved to New York, and after a season spent couch surfing settled into a tiny $175 a month studio apartment on E. 1oth Street between 1st and 2nd. It was ground level and in the front of the building, so anyone who cared could tell if I was home or not by simply looking in the window. Since Lester often got drunk and lost his keys, he was a frequent overnight visitor, I couldn't pretend I wasn't home like most of his friends had learned to do in those situations. Even sober, Lester could wreck your house in minutes, but drunk, forget it, by morning every book and record in the place would be out of their jacket and on the floor. The entire tube of toothpaste would be coating the bathroom, toilet paper all over the place. It would take days to get the place back into a reasonable order. The first time he came over he gave me "the Sister Ray test". That is, when ever Lester went to somebody's house, he'd take out their copy of White Light/White Heat (I don't think Lester knew anyone except his girlfriend who didn't own a copy of WL/WH) and check the grooves to see how worn out Sister Ray was. Mine had been played to death. He explained that everyone owned a copy of WL/WH because it was cool to own it, but very few people actually listened to it. He told me that I was okay, I'd actually played Sister Ray enough times to call myself a real Velvet Underground fan.
Too bad he didn't live long enough to hear the Sweet Sister Ray bootleg.
Lester was not a good drunk, so I often saw him at his absolute worst. He could also be a great guy, he could be very generous and thoughtful. After Country: America's Biggest Music came out, Lester knew I loved the book and made it a point to take me to Nick Tosches' place and introduce me to him, a rather fateful introduction since I would later meet my wife through Nick. When I became the music editor of a rag called the East Village Eye, Lester volunteered to write a column (for free yet!)-- the Scorn Pages. Unfortunately the idiot editor-- Leonard Abrams decided he didn't want a column by Lester Bangs and cut Lester's first contribution down to one paragraph and ran it on the letters page ("I invented punk...."). I was very embarrassed by Abrams rejection of Lester's offer, but Lester was quite understanding and didn't blame me. Needless to say, I quit as music editor, although I wrote a column in the Eye for many years (often sharing a page with Cookie Mueller who wrote the health column!).
Lester could also be an asshole and Lester's final years were tough ones for him. He had burned himself out as a rock writer but couldn't seem sell (or even write) anything else. He was always broke and his phone was shut off a few times. A soft touch, I paid his phone bill off at least three times in his final year.
When it came to finding things to write about, it didn't help that after the initial break through, punk became new wave which was just as lame as the shit it was supposed to replace. Even Iggy and Lou Reed were churning out awful records. I think by the end he was coming around to my (and Quine's) way of thinking-- that is, who cares about this new crap, there's tons of old records to be found that we never heard, who could give a fuck about the Gang Of Four after hearing Hasil Adkins' She Said or Esquerita's Rockin' The Joint?
Lester couldn't get a decent book deal although he churned out proposals weekly. When he did get a deal, to write a bio of Blondie, the publishers fucked it up, removing all the quotation marks among other bad editing decisions, when they were through with it, it was barely readable, but desperate for cash he helped Paul Nelson write a book on Rod Stewart for the same idiots**.
Lester always had girl problems, and for a guy so unforgiving in others (he hated anyone who he suspected "wanted to be a rock star", which of course is what everyone including himself really wanted to be), he was surprisingly thin skinned. When an escort service that a friend of his worked for informed him that none of the girls were willing to service him anymore he was quite hurt. When I suggested he pay more attention to his personal hygiene (bathing was not one of his pleasures), he got quite upset. His apartment was the filthiest place I'd seen since leaving the Florida trailer camps of my youth, although oddly enough when he finally cleaned the place up a bit, he died soon after. Perhaps the germs were keeping him alive. Deep down, I think he had a misogynist streak in him that surfaced after the fourth drink. I've seen him be brutal to women he'd had one night stands with. In print he called himself a "feminist"and made a big deal such things, but in real life he was about as sensitive as Led Zeppelin's road crew.
Post-Creem Lester was really floundering about for things to write about. His main outlet at the time was the Village Voice. His best piece for the Voice was about Otis Rush's Cobra sides which had just been re-issued by Flyright. The worst was a big story about racism in punk rock, of which there was very little. One of those he accused of being a racist was Miriam Linna (because of a photo I ran in New Order of Miriam and a pal in front of some weird Nazi headquarters. It was obvious the photo was a goof, like trying to get close enough to a bear without getting bit by it). In reality, Lester was pissed at Miriam because Kicks mag (which she and Billy edited, still the greatest fanzine of all time) had rejected an article he wrote about No Wave. No way in hell is Miriam any sort of racist and Lester knew it (if you don't believe me ask Andre Williams, Rudy Ray Moore, the Mighty Hannibal, or any of the other black artists she's helped over the years). Lester later confessed to me that he thought it was the worst article he ever wrote and regretted the whole thing, but since the piece not only ran on the cover of the Voice (which everyone read back then), it was reprinted in Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung and Miriam's had to live with this accusation for all these years. He also accused Punk's Legs McNeil and John Holmstron of racism because at a party at Lester's place they didn't like the Otis Redding record he was playing (one of them referred to it as "disco shit"). I know them both, again, I've never heard a racist murmur from either. Keep in mind, Lester was known for throwing around what is today called "the N word". The most famous photo of Lester is Kate Simon's portrait of him wearing a shirt that read: "Last Of The White Niggers". I saw the way black people looked at him when he wore that shirt, and I'm amazed he wasn't murdered. If I was black, I'd have thrown him a beating. I was at the party in question and one thing Lester left out was when Lester tried to get James Wolcott to get up and dance. Wolcott sniffed his nose at the turntable and quipped, "I don't like black music". That doesn't make him a racist, but the way he said it left little doubt in my mind that he thought it was the sound of a lower breed of human. But Lester was a bit of a coward in that way, he'd have never attacked James Wolcott, who could have torn Lester a new asshole in the press, so he picked on Miriam, who had no way of fighting back, even though she was innocent of Lester's ridiculous charge. Enough on that subject, I've kept my mouth shut for over thirty years and I'll keep it shut now that I've said what I have to say. No offence to Wolcott who I don't even know (that party was the only time I ever remember meeting him). That's just how I remember it.
Getting back to Lester .....
After Let It Blurt, he kept making music, forming the group Birdland with Mickey Leigh (Joey Ramone's brother), and they played around for a year or two. Lester wasn't much of a rock'n'roll front man but he wrote good songs. He was extremely hurt when they threw him out of the group and changed their name to the Rattlers. He went to Austin, Texas for a bit (he even considered moving there) and came back with a country tinged record he recorded down there with a group called the Delinquents-- Jook Savages On The Brazos. I think it's a pretty good record, the ominous Kill Him Again and the Birdland leftover I'm In Love With My Walls
are at least as good as, say, the Germs or the Sniveling Shits, and the two hillbilly tunes-- I Just Want To Be A Movie Star and Life Is Not Worth Living (But Suicide's A Waste Of Time) are hilarious, I'd say these four tracks were the best music Lester ever made.
He claimed that Porter Wagner loved them. There's one cover on the LP-- a version of Dale Hawkins' Grandma's House to which he added some new lyrics: "Old Black Joe lived all alone/never saw him at the store/burned him 'til he was just bones/and burned him just a little more", giving the song an entirely different feeling from the original, to say the least.
These days Lester Bangs is something of a star. Jim Derogtis' biography Let It Blurt will tell you all the facts, but it's missing something, it doesn't really capture Lester's sense of humor, reading it, I learned a lot of things I didn't know about Lester, but it just doesn't seem all that much like the Lester I knew. The one who broke my copy of the second Band album when I put it on one morning when we both woke up with bad hangovers. The two volumes of his writing-- Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung and Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste (awful title, no?) are certainly worth reading, between them there's probably 85% of his best writing, but why didn't they just release Lester's own version of P.R. & C.D. that he had edited for a German publisher? The former contains the two things he told me he wished he'd never written (the Racism in Punk piece and his description of Lou Reed's transsexual friend from his third Creem Lou Reed interview). Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of Lester in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous was so ridiculous I'm at a loss for words. It's much like the concert scenes in said flick, can you imagine a 70's rock concert without a cloud of pot smoke hovering over the audience? Hoffman's Lester was like the concert hall without the pot smoke. Sanitized and smoke free, for the good little 21st century consumer fascists. Lester as the conscience of the record industry? If it wasn't so stupid, I'd bitch slap Cameron Crowe (who only got work because he liked the worst shit like the Eagles and never wrote a bad word about anyone).
The last time I saw Lester I was selling promo LP's out on Astor Place, he bought two copies of Metal Machine Music from me and we made plans to get together and play records later that week. He had borrowed a pile of records and books and I wanted to get them back.* Two days later he was dead, the autopsy said he overdosed on Darvon, which I didn't think was possible.
I've eaten bottles of that shit and barely gotten a buzz. Lester had awful taste in drugs.
He had a strange knot on his head and he thought the cough syrup was making it go away. In reality it was making it bigger.
I have pretty much refused to talk about Lester since he died (although I was interviewed by Derogtis, I don't think he used anything I said), his legacy now in the hands of a strange combination of those he loved the most and those he despised the most. Now I've said my piece and I'll keep my trap shut. It's been almost thirty years now, and I still miss the big goofball.
On the other hand, I can't imagine Lester in the modern world. I remember the night Reagan was elected, we watched Andy Griffith in Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, and I predicted it was the beginning of the end for America. I think I was right. The national 21 year old drinking age did more to kill rock'n'roll than anything else. Bangs died before MTV, Giuliani, Bush-Cheney, yuppies, cellphones, blackberries, and the Internet. Lester didn't even like electric typewriters, I just don't think Twitter would have done much for him. Lester died because rock'n'roll was the only thing that kept him alive, and when it died so did Lester Bangs. When Quine was alive we often would often ask each other-- "What do you think Lester would have thought of that"?
Now Lester and Quine can look down on me and ask each other, why is that idiot still alive?
Addendum: Some interesting downloads of Lester jamming with the late Peter Laughner (Rocket From The Tombs/Pere Ubu) can be found here.
* I never got my books and records back, although I've replaced 'em all except the dust jacket for Persecuted Prophets (a book about snake handling Pentecostal cults in Kentucky). However, Quine gave me Lester's bound edition of all the Creem mags he edited (in an Easy Rider binder) and a big bag of cassettes, Lester doing interviews, recording phone conversations, jamming with ZZ Top, etc. Unfortunately the bag smelled like Lester's apartment so I sealed it up in a plastic bag and ten years later when I opened it, it still stunk like hell. So this little dweeb named Rob O'Conner who did a one shot Lester zine called Throat Culture offered to transfer them to a master reel and give them back. Or give me a smell free copy, or something like that.
Needless to say I never heard from him again. Some day Rob O'Conner will turn a corner and find me there waiting for him....hope you have dental insurance Rob.
** Addendum #2: I think I'm the only person who read Rock Gommarah, the book he co-authored with Michael Ochs that never came out, that liked it. I remember the highlights being an interview with Sherrif Tex Davis who managed Gene Vincent and some funny interviews with Hank Ballard. Where is that manuscript today? If no publisher wants it can't it just be put online as a pdf. file?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shindig '66

This was sent in by a reader purporting to be Larry Williams, actually it's Billy Preston, thanks for those who wrote in w/the correction. Notice the Byrds stage right (David Crosby w/cape covering his girth). Still, it's pretty cool even if it ain't rock'n'roll's favorite pimp.... Been sick, and traveling so pardon the lack of writing lately, I'll get back to it soon as I recharge my batteries a bit....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Andre Williams- Man Of Letters

Andre Williams (right) chats up Anita Pallenberg (center), Hal Wilner (left) looks away. Lakeside Lounge, Summer 2001. Check this out, Andre Williams first book-- Sweets and other stories, a novella and a couple of short pieces with a foward by Nitro Nick Tosches, available from Kicks Books. This is a must have.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Howlin' Wolf unseen footage....

I noticed there's some new Howlin' Wolf clips up on Youtube that I don't think are in the documentary, these things have a tendency to disappear fast (like the Bo Diddley and Rosco Gordon clips I posted a couple of weeks ago, both have been pulled, btw I forgot to thank Dave The Spazz for the tip on the Bo clip) so don't wait. Here they are: I never saw this one before, from U.K. TV circa mid-1960's, the Howlin' Wolf w/Hubert Sumlin and Willie Dixon. from the same show another one I've never seen, maybe the only footage of the Wolf in color, this was shot near the end of his life, notice the bandage on his right arm, probably from his kidney dialysis....
Also, Wolf fans should check out the Mojo Repair Shop, pronto. And while I'm at it, there's some great Stones rehearsal footage up on Never Get Out Of The Boat.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Brigitte Bardot

I missed Brigitte Bardot's birthday last Monday (September 28), so happy birthday, Bebe. She was born in 1934, made 48 films and retired to become a full time animal rights activist (give dogs the vote, I say....). She may very well have been the most photogenic woman in history. She also made dozens of records, including some with Serge Gainsborough. She has survived three suicide attempts. In recent years she's become something of a national embarrassment for the French (when I was in Paris in 2008 I didn't see one photo of her on sale anywhere) and has been convicted of "race hatred" and castrating a neighbors donkey. Most likely her beauty drove her crazy. Imagine, if everywhere you went everyone stared at you, all the time. It would not be much fun after a few hours, never mind decades. Here is a small sampling from my collection of Bebe photos.

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra
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