Saturday, January 23, 2010

Just You and Me Punk Rock Girl

Today my lady and I went to the Eastern State Penitentiary in the northwestern region of Philadelphia, PA known as Fairmount. We both enjoy our fair share of history lessons, along with ghost stories, tales of old time criminals, and of course arts and music. ESP quickly presented itself as a rich provider of these elements from the moment we walked up on the joint's thirty foot castle walls.

Entering through the one and only entrance (with the exception of a small escape tunnel that was dug by inmates in 1945) we began our scheduled tour. There were long eerie cells blocks all radiating outward from a central lookout hub, as well as paint chipped ceilings, rusted nineteenth century plumbing, and the expected remnants of an aged prison.

There are ghost stories about this place available, a peek into Al Capone's cell, and countless other attractive features included in the tours of ESP. Of all the stories they tell, they leave out one story I really like. It's the story of the video for the most commercially successful song by Philly fun punk pioneers The Dead Milkmen. The song is one we all know and love: "Punk Rock Girl" off of the Milkmen's 1988 album Beelzebubba .

The iconic video for this song was clearly filmed on location at the Eastern State Penitentiary. The prison was abandoned from 1971 -1994, so the filming of the video took place during a time when the prison was even more run down than what we experienced today. The most noticeable difference being the now cleared courtyards and hallways that were then filled with tall trees and plant life. I kept an eye out for other recognizable areas of the prison that I remember from the video and noticed quite a lot - including the "Worship Room" that is punk rock girl's "parents' house" in the music video.

All in all it was an amazing experience and my only regret is not checking it out sooner. My lady and I went to a pizzeria afterwards but didn't order hot tea and I didn't get her a fudge banana swirl, but she DID leave with a pretty sweet souvenir featuring "Pep" the prison dog, and a great memory of a really amazing place.

Wire 70's 45 releases

The London, England group Wire put out some of the greatest looking and greatest sounding post-punk singles of the late seventies. Almost all of these early singles were released on the Harvest label, with the exception of the 154 single for "Our Swimmer" which came out on Rough Trade at the very end of the seventies.

Mannequin Harvest [1978]

Dot Dash Harvest [1978]

I am The Fly Harvest [1978]

Outdoor Miner Harvest [1978]

A Question of Degree Harvest [1979]

Map Ref. 41ºN 93ºW Harvest [1979]

Our Swimmer Rough Trade [1979]

Live footage of one of my all time favorite performances of one of my all time favorite Wire songs "Map Ref. 41ºN 93ºW". [TV Allamande 1979]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

The Smiths [Live]

Dream Academy [cover]

Dreamy Academy [cover/instumental]
from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is...A LOVE STORY

You've heard the rumors, now come get the facts...

[01.31.10] - [02.22.10]
6pm -8pm opening reception

A split exhibition
Daniel Albrigo / Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

Renwick gallery nyc
Renwick Gallery
45 Renwick Street
New York, NY 10013

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express [2009]

Kraftwerk's 1974 masterpiece Autobahn made some serious noise in the experimental electronic music scene of the early 1970's. The album was a bold transition from their earlier Krautrock dabblings found in Kraftwerk 1, Kraftwerk 2, and the aptly titled Ralf und Florian release but it wasn't the first time that its type of music was achieved, nor was it the first time a concept of it's kind appeared in music. It was however, certainly different to see a full group of German men in a band sans rock instruments (but rather homemade electronic gear) doing so well.

My favorite Kraftwerk records remain
Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express, and The Man Machine. There is a European utilitarian feel to the latter two, but they soon moved on to embrace the futuristic theme that many other bands of the time would also attempt. Some of the group's work into the 80's and beyond became unbearable (the popular competitive sound of other cringe-worthy 80's groups could take the blame for this too). Following some mediocre Kraftwerk releases came the expected remixing and repackaging of their mid-period hits.

My friend recently pointed out the new cover art on the most recent [2009] pressing of
Trans-Europe Express. I'm sure there is an explanation for the decision to put out a version of the album that looks like this, but I think it's pretty bad. Is this just an unsuccessful minimalist piece by former Kraftwerker/group artist Emil Schult, or a modern-day outsider's interpretation of the epic album? It just plain lacks - Not just the new school image of the TEE, but the separation of the double line Title/Artist found on almost all previous versions. Most notably, the division of "Trans-Europe Express" and "Kraftwerk" found in the updated cover's layout seems eerily symbolic.

Capitol UK LP [1977]

Capitol US LP [1977]

EMI Capitol DE 7" [1977]

Mute/Kling Klang UK & US LP [2009]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Death Has Formed. Farewell Jay Reatard [1980-2010]

Jay Reatard Live @ Bowery Ballroom NYC - [04.21.08] - photo by Chris von Beidel

I don't want to speculate too much without the facts, but the indisputable truth is that today is a really sad day. Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. a.k.a "Jay Reatard", the Memphis neo-garage whirlwind guitarist and songwriter was found dead in his bed in his Memphis home at 3:30 a.m. He came on the scene as an underground indie sensation and seemed to produce more records than any attentive fan could scramble to keep up with. Not only is the count of his solo releases massive, but his work with other projects and contributions to other groups over the past decade or so are in great and impressive numbers as well.

If you were there to notice, Jay not only made a visible transformation over the years, but he also seemed to dig himself deeper into a pit of self-destruction that became evident in his live performances, lyrical subject matter, and blatant disregard for his surroundings. We can leave it at that. The hype that came with the Jay Reatard explosion of the past few years was enough to turn me off for awhile, but I never forgot and never will.

Jay Reatard - "Death is Forming" - Blood Visions - [2006] In The Red Recordings

Alone in a room
Needless I sit
I close my eyes
and try to forget
Death is calling
get in line

Death is forming
Forming death
Death is calling
Death is forming
Forming death
Death is calling
Get in line

Alone in a room
Needless I sit
I close my eyes
and try to forget
Death is calling
get in line

Death is forming
Forming death
Death is forming
Death is forming
Forming death
Death is calling
Get in line

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Get PSYCHED on Roky Erickson: Then, Now, and Forever

Roky Erickson and his band The 13th Floor Elevators were truly one of the founders of psychedelic rock as we know it. Before they came on the scene and actually coined the term "psychedelic rock", there were only a handful of psych-surf and pre british invasion bands, avant garde early psych electronic composers, and the occasional free jazz session musician who weren't even grouped as psychedelic until much later. To give you an idea of how early this all occurred, Thirteen Floor Elevators considered themselves "Psychedelic Rock" before The Beatles released Revolver, before Pink Floyd did a single light show, before the Byrds released "Eight Miles High", before "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys was cut, before Blonde on Blonde by Dylan hit the stands, before Shadows of Knight got trippy with the release of Back Door Men, before Blues Magoos's "Psychedelic Lollipop" stole airwaves, before Electric Prunes had "Too Much To Dream" , and before the 3-Day Trips festival (that marked the start of the SF psych movement) even started. The boys were truly on to something. Unfortunately, after a stoned run-in with the police, Erickson landed himself in some trouble. He thought it would be a good idea to plead insanity to a marijuana possession charge and bought himself a ticket to hell - in the form of several years of hospitalization which included damaging experimental therapy for what they then thought was schizophrenia.

Above is one of my prized possessions. It's an original stereo copy of The Elevators's second album Easter Everywhere on the International Artists label. Although mono copies yield a higher return on the secondary market, the fact that experimental stereo tracking rock albums was young in the mid sixties makes this record remarkably interesting. One amazing example can be found with the lead guitar on the final verse of "Slip Inside This House". With the proper equipment and settings, the aforementioned riff sounds three-dimensional and huge.

"You're Gonna Miss Me" - 13th Floor Elevators [Live 1966]

A brief timeline of Roky's psychedelic life so far*

[07.15.47] Roger "Roky" Kynard Erickson is born in Austin Texas
[05.1964] quits high school and joins garage rock band The Spades
[1965] starts a band quickly named 13th Floor Elevators (drummer James Walton brainstormed idea "Elevators" and jug player/"manager" Tommy Hall's wife Clementine came up with the rest.
[01.66] "Psychedelic Rock" is written on members of the Elevators's business cards. This is the first known use of the term.
[02.10.66] The Austin Statesman local Texas newspaper reviews an Elevators gig: Unique Elevators shine as "Psychedelic Rock" This is the first documented public mention of the term "Psychedelic Rock" 11/30/66 Psychedelic Sounds of 13th Floor Elevators is released
[02.22.69] Roky is arrested for possession of a "marijuana cigarette" this ends the Elevators.
[03.12.69] Roky is court ordered to Austin State Hospital for examination
[03.13.69] Dr. Erwin Toboada diagnosis Roky: "Schizophrenia acute, undifferentiated"
[05.23.69] Roky outwits personnel at Austin State Hospital and escapes.
[07.15.69] Roky is arrested in Austin and returned to Austin State Hospital
[07.29.69] Austin State Hospital discharges and transfers Roky to Rusk State Hospital.
[10.08.69] Roky is ruled "insane" by the 147th Judicial District, court of Travis County Texas.
[11.28.69] Austin District Court rules Roky sane and he is released from Rusk State hospital. At some point shortly thereafter Roky is readmitted to the same hospital where he undergoes years of electroconvulsive therapy and treatment with Thorazine - a drug that causes a "chemical lobotomy" and has turned cases of permanent brain damage.
[07.07.72] J. Grady Baskin M.D. of Rusk State Hospital states: "Recommended dismissal from hospital" but Dr. J.A. Hunter states: "Patient was thought to be floridly psychotic at the time of his admission here - psychosis on a toxic basis, due to multiple drug abuse. After admission he had a number of frequent visitors, including his mother , his attorney, and his girlfriend, along with members of his musical group. Following these visits his psychosis became much worse and we began to suspect his visitors were smuggling drugs to him... Erickson is legally sane , but I feel he still requires hospitalization for the welfare and protection of himself and others".
[03.1975] Roky claims he is a notarized alien from Mars and that his songs are ESP transmissions from his home planet. He starts a band called "Bleib Alien"
[1979] "Bleib Alein" is renamed "Roky Erickson and the Aliens"

People who were close with Roky claim that he was never the same after his hospitalizations, and although many blamed his drug abuse on his damaged mental condition, there is speculation surrounding what really happened to the genius behind the music. He has continued to make was he calls "Horror Rock", another genre that still exists today that he helped popularize.

Above is a hand silk screened poster for the Roky events. This is an edition of 110.

I was lucky enough to snag tickets for Roky's show at Southpaw in Park Slope Brooklyn on New Years Day (01.01.10) and his show the next night (01.02.10) in Hoboken at Maxwell's...

The night in Brooklyn was ridiculous. It was three great friends of mine and me along with a small crew of friends from New York who met up earlier and rolled up in time to catch all three bands. I can't make up my mind about the opening band, The Back C.C.'s. They were really tight surfy garage fuzz with lo-fi fuzz vocals. I thought they were talented, but boring. I heard reviews throughout the night from friends such as "sounded like one big song" and "would have been good fifty years ago but long forgotten now". They were decent, but nothing else really. The Fleshtones were a different story. I've never been a huge fan of theirs, but I thoroughly appreciate their unique sound and their ability to maintain their originality over the past thirty-three years. Any band of animated white men who claim to be garage rock yet get filed with the likes of James Brown and other soul/freakbeat acts is ok in my book. (Ironic that the band named themselves after the long discontinued Crayola Crayon color, huh?!) I mean it was weird to see dudes that are old enough to be childhood friends of my father 's parading around in loud, tight paisley silk shirts, but that was quickly forgotten once their antics kicked in. That along with my hysterical visions of these men taking their sweethearts to their Pocono Mountain retreats to show off some killer ski stunts that the 90's weren't ready for came to an end once their performance really kicked in. Let's just say that their band practices must be a spectacle and that this was the first human guitar solo pyramid I've seen carried out successfully by men over fifty...ok, I'll admit it was the first one I've ever seen. But it was unreal.

Roky playing 01.01.10 at Southpaw in Park Slope Brooklyn. Photo by Fran Mark.

After we all had a few minutes to recover from the Fleshtones, Roky took the stage slowly and was assisted by band members once he approached his mic. His over-sized work shirt, gnarly hair and beard spoke loudly yet he had not even said a word. Actually he would go on to not say a single word the entire set. People cheered and called out their favorite hits and he just turned his back nervously and nodded to his band. Once the drummer clicked off, Roky let out howling authentic vocals and stared out into the crowd. It didn't help that our friend Peter, the second tallest guy in the entire bar (which was packed with a sold out crowd) was standing next to me up front near stage right. We laughed at the fact that Roky appeared to make several rounds of eye contact with us, making the experience that much creepier.

Roky played out of a smaller amp that although seemingly achieved the best tone of all three string players, was turned down too low as a handicap to his slightly sloppy strumming. The lead guitarist was sensational, not only nailing the roots of all the songs, but even improving on the solos and really getting into the bends and hammer-ons of the more intense breakdowns. The lead guitarist's tone wasn't as good as Roky's, but I'm not complaining. The guy ripped. The drummer kept the beat and did his job but did little to impress me, and the bassist, oh the bassist. This guy was a clown. I felt bad for him at one point but then he was quickly demoted back into the "why did THAT GUY get to play with Roky" category. The dumb things he said on the mic embarrassed me for him and really took away from the show. Plus he looked like a misplaced late nineties Andy Dick impersonator and that really does nothing for me. His playing was sub-par and he didn't seem to remember a lot of the timing and counts on the back up vocals he attempted. In all fairness, I'd say Roky was stoked with the lead guitarist and drummer and just oblivious to the tool clowning the bass.

The guys played through over a dozen songs, including a version of 13th Floor Elevators "You're Gonna Miss Me" with Fleshtones Front man Peter Zaremba on harmonica. When I first saw him hop back on stage I was like... "oh man... not again..." but he impressed all with his amazing rendition on harmonica. The show was surreal to say the least and Roky belted out each line of lyrics like he really meant it.

The crowd cheered for an encore, but Southpaw closed the curtains and threw on their house system (which seemed to be blaring amazing garage and soul for a lot of the night).

The next night I rolled up to Maxwell's with my friend Matt and our respective girlfriends. The place packed in pretty tightly for the opening act "Love City" and then really tightly once "Love City" left the stage. They were decent, but again I'm gonna be real about this and just put it out there that beyond what seems to be some sort of quiet rock band/venue nepotism lies many-a-band dying to get on a bill with Roky. Just food for thought. Regardless, the crowd squeezed and released as if it were breathing huge, anxious breaths of air. Luckily my lady and I got a spot near some old Elevator fans and had the luxury of hearing about their personal wishes for the show they would see in the relatively short future on the stage just right in front of their faces.

The crowd erupted and parted for Roky (when he entered through the venue entrance and trudged through to the stage). Hipster dorks and overzealous hippies alike praised his entrance. The hippies knew his deal and gave him space. The hipsters flashed cameras in his face and reached out to touch him and annoy him, unbeknownst to and or disrespectful of his condition. It set me off right away but once he took the stage and started shredding with the guys I was happy again.

The lead guitarist rocked harder than he did in Brooklyn, the drummer hit a little harder than he did in Brooklyn, and the bassist annoyed me a little harder than he did in Brooklyn. Luckily the crowd noticed and heckled the bassist until he basically "zipped it". It was the fact that the bassist was talking about Roky the way my mom talks about my hearing-impaired grandfather - she acts like he's not there. It was insulting enough to the crowd that someone spoke up. I was thankful because if I had to hear him introduce Roky one more time, I was going to say something. It just got old and annoying. Not to mention he was worse on his back ups and bass lines, and made more stupid faces and comical contributions to an event that was supposed to be DEVOID OF HUMOR. Well, at least for the most part.

Anyway, Roky tore it up again, but I noticed he was really, really nervous for this show. He wasn't committing to the final notes or chords on each song and would turn and face the drummer to hide his fear and insecurity during the end of each song. in his defense, the crowd was loud and demanding, the space was small, it was late and freezing outside, and they played a huge set. His vocals were dead on for most songs and his guitar playing overall was pretty good. They played some really amazing cover songs really well, and I was overall very pleased with the night. When they closed with "Don't Slander Me" and left the stage, I swear I saw tears in Roky's eyes. I really hope they were out of happiness because the man has really left a great mark on my soul, and I know I speak on many other's behalf.

Thanks Roky, for taking one for the team and doing things that directly and indirectly caused not only psych to live on in many forms, but for punk rock, grunge, and alternative to have an influential history that predates the rock of the seventies. You are one of the most important musicians of our time.

Roky Erickson - Maxwell's Hoboken, NJ 01.02.10 Set List
(all songs credited to Roky Erickson and The Aliens unless noted otherwise)

1) Cold Night For Alligators
2) Creature with the Atom Brain
3) The Wind and More
4) Bloody Hammer
5) The Beast (Roky Erickson & Evil Hook Wildlife E.T.)
6) Stand For the Fire Demon
7) Night of The Vampire
8) Don't Shake Me Lucifer
9) I Walked with a Zombie
10) Oh! My Soul (Little Richard cover!)
11) I'm a Gonna Love You Too (Buddy Holly cover!)
12) Splash 1 (13th Floor Elevators)
13) You're Gonna Miss Me (13th Floor Elevators)
14) Red Temple Prayer / Two Headed Dog (Roky Erickson & Bleib Alien)
15) Don't Slander Me (Roky Erickson)

Roky Erickson Interview and live Cold Night For Alligators by Roky Erickson and The Aliens.
Thanks to WhollyGhost for this edit. These are some clips from a VHS that was in circulation a few years back. It also includes other interested local access cable show clips, live Aliens clips, interviews and more. There is a currently a DVD compilation of much of this footage available on the secondary market.

*Please note that these facts and figures have been taken from various REAL printed resources including interviews with Roky and other band members, news paper clippings, and archived billboard charts. These are not heresy and some dates and facts vary from the entries and websites found online. I did my best to only post what I was confidant in being 100% correct regardless of what seems to be popularly believed online today.