Neon Boys s/t
Neon Boys s/t 7" (bootleg, 2001)
Thank the lord for the bootlegger! The uber-fan dedicated to letting the world obtain what was once unobtainable is the nearly forgotten hero of the record freak (see Clinton Heylin’s excellent book Bootleg for more info).
Some of the best work by my favorite bands have appeared only on bootlegs. Roxy Music’s Foolproof album was taken from tapes recorded on Roxy's 1975 tour. Some of the recordings wound up on the okay official live album, Viva. The songs that didn’t make Viva were shelved. Someone found the tapes and pressed them to vinyl. The result is an album with three times the energy of Viva. One listen to Foolproof and any notion of Roxy being some fey, skinny tie, art house band is demolished. Left to the record companies, Foolproof would have never been. The suits were too worried that the recording were "too rough" for the general public.
And then there are the legendary recordings of one-off bands, studio projects, or the roots of some band. Usually these are aborted sessions or demos that got forgotten when the band died. The sounds of the Million Dollar Quartet - the one-off recording session of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, & Roy Orbison - first were heard by fans thanks to some bootlegger. The many of the demos of the legendary Cleveland proto-punk band, the Electric Eels were first heard on booted vinyl. And if it wasn't for the bootlegger, the infamous synth-punk pioneers, the Screamers would have been remembered mute to most. This three song Neon Boys e.p. is one of those lost recordings.
Read about the history of punk - especially the New York scene - and you will come upon the name, the Neon Boys. Formed in fall of 1972, the Neon Boys were Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine, and Billy Ficca's first attempt at a band together. In April 1973, they recorded 6 songs and then broke up because they couldn't find a second guitarist. A year would pass before Television was formed with Richard Lloyd filling the second guitar slot.
After Richard Hell got thrown out of the band, Television would record a lot of stuff; however nothing that has made it to vinyl represents what the band sounded like before it became Tom Verlaine's art project. That is, nothing except for three Neon Boys' songs.
That’s All I Know (Right Now), Love Comes in Spurts, and High Heeled Wheels were 3 of 6 songs record in April 1973. They lack the noodley guitar work and sonic texturing of the Television the world knows. Instead, the Neon Boys play a loud punk rock that draws equally from the Fugs, the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, and Exile-era Rolling Stones. The guitar is edgy and sharp. Hell's vocals are, well, Richard Hell.
The band stumbles into That's All I Know like they were the Fugs, off tempo but in a weirdo garage groove. The band actually sounds like they are having fun - fun not being a word regularly associated with Tom Verlaine, perhaps the most unfun man in rock and roll.
Love Comes in Spurts might be the same one that wound up on Hell's Blank Generation LP but it ain't the same version. The Neon Boys can barely play it, the song takes on the sleaziness that the title suggests (I remember first hearing Love... on Blank Generation when I was a teen and being bummed that the song was no where near as lewd as the title hinted at). Verlaine's mutated Keith Richards soloing compliments Hell's leer. This is good.
The band does the Fugs-stumble once again when it falls into High Heeled Wheels. Hell's moronic bass playing is as primitive as it is funky. The guitars jangle and play off notes. The result is something that, if tightened up - a lot - would sound okay on Exile on Main Street.
When I first listened to this record, the first think I thunk was "This is punk." And if I am to use the Lester Bangs definition of punk, one that defines punk as raw rock and roll + defiance, than the Neon Boys are punks. They fit nicely as the missing link between the Velvets and the Twinkeyz.
The Neon Boys have good songs but, by chance or by choice, play them without too much care. They sound like they come from a garage rather than an art studio. And, since this was essentially the Richard Hell-era Television we read about as New York legends, the fact that the band influenced everyone from the Ramones to the Talking Heads is pretty easy to understand.
However, before I heard this stiff I had no idea what a band like the Ramones would see in Television. I certainly didn't hear why punk historians made a big deal about Television. To me, Television - Tom Verlaine's Television - was noodly art rock, good but not full on agression or edgy fun. Thanks to the bootlegger, I know more Television than that.
I think two of the tracks are now available on the new richard hell compilation "spurts"
the 3 verlaine tracks are currently unavailable anywhere