Don't Blame Me
Reign of Terror Don't Blame Me b/w Big Things 45 (R.O.T., 1983)
Reign of Terror's great self-released single was their one and only. That they were one and done isn't surprising. As good as this single is, when this thing came out, it confused people. In the UK it would have been lumped in with New Wave of British Heavy Metal and might have garnered them a small following. In America, It was too metal to be punk and too punk to be metal. Slower riff oriented tunes like "Big Things" were out of place in both hardcore land and in the burgeoning speed metal scene. However this single was championed by the folks at SST Records, who sent to people as a promo with stuff on their label. I was doing a teen punk zine at the time and got it in a package that - if I remember right - included the Stains great LP and Husker Du's Metal Circus. Reign of Terror fit right in. As time went on, the song "Don't Blame Me" was thought good enough by at least one punk collector/bootlegger to put on the Bloodstains Across California LP. I don't believe "Big Things" has been comped anywhere.
Russian Roulette J'ai Tout Oublie b/w Fuckin' Car 45 (Ere Force, 1984)
Picked this one up in Brussels a few years back, at some combo book and record store. It was one of those places that had probably been around for years and had no real passion any more for what they were selling. As a result, everything was pretty much semi-organized and priced uniform. So all the 7"s were 1 euro no matter what and at 1 euro a pop, you can create a nice pile of records to bring home. Russian Roulette was in that pile.
I have no idea who Russian Roulette were or if they made any more records. The label is from France so I assume they were French. The A side of this record is forgettable and they stuck the winner on the B, so I doubt they made another good record. The song "Fuckin' Car" is approached like it was a novelty, something worthy only as a flipside. Bah. It is one of the best punk rock "Surfin Bird" rip-offs I've heard. And it is pretty damn addictive.
Johnny Runs for Paregoric
Exploding Seagulls Johnny Runs for Paregoric 7" (Fried Egg, 1980)
I am not sure if the punkalectuals would let the Exploding Seagulls into their classroom. I don't know if they would even be allowed in the "special" class, along with those DIY nerds. The Exploding Seagulls (like the very very great Avant Gardner [post pending]) might be a little too coy, a little too tongue in cheek, hell, a little too cheeky. But I like them. This was made in 1980 in Bristol and was released on Fried Egg Records, which is not only one of my favorite label names but they have one of my favorite label art. The band is credited as the band, however Tony Orrell played drums. Since his name is mentioned separately, perhaps he is a stand in. Ken Wheeler produced. I tell you all this because that is all I know about the Exploding Seagulls.
I do, however, know a little bit about paregoric. Paregoric is a tincture made with camphor, aromatic oils, and opium. It is not quite as string as morphine, however both the camphor and the oils are said to enhance the effect of the opium. It has been called a "modern day" laudanum. Laudanum was very popular with the Romantic Poets, but is no longer being produced. Neither is paregoric. However, fifty years ago paregoric was a very popular flu remedy. Little Johnny has the sniffles? Give him a slug of paregoric and he'll be dreaming good dreams for the night. He might ask for a taste in the morning but that's all right. And if you run out, send Johnny out to get some more.
One of the cool things about writing about and playing obscure music on the radio is every once in a while, one of the people that I write up or play contacts me. Way back in July, I did an entry on the Exploding Seagulls. Today I got an email from Richard Bolton, bassist and vocalist of the Exploding Seagulls. Richard writes:
Thanks so much for your appreciation of the seagulls record on crud crud - which I came upon by chance when I was trying to pin down when something happened and the only reference point was the release of that single. And you're right - the punkalectuals wouldn't let the Exploding Seagulls into their classroom - we were obscure, idiosyncratic, idiotic and we had quite a good time! I would point to sugarshack records website which describes the seagulls thusly - 'Berserk art-college kids from Southampton, they became Peel favourites before fragmenting in a welter of sexual and musical differences. The guitarist hooked up with a couple of Art Objects and became the Blue Aeroplanes.'
For my sins i was responsible for bringing 'Johnny' into the world, or rather, reviving him, for the first line, 'Johnny runs for Paregoric' was found by my sister in a Victorian book - all i did was mash it up with 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' and, as you point out - stuck tongue firmly in cheek.
The band, initially was me on bass and vocals, Julian Chadwick on keyboards and shopping trolley (doubled as keyboard stand and transport) and Nick Jacobs on guitar and vocals. the 'Tony Orrell' you see credited was indeed a stand in drummer as George Martin wasn't sure that Ringo would be up to it. We sort of ballooned later with girlfriends joining as singers... we went through a couple of drummers until we found one who could drum..
Fried Egg was the home of Bristol weirdscapes and Ken Wheeler the house engineer at Sound Conception studios in Bristol.
We played some memorable gigs, john peel played our record(s) ..... what more can you want. Nick peeled off to join the Blue Aeroplanes, Julian went to live in New Zealand, I got hacked off and divorced and suddenly the Seagulls had exploded...... although not necessarily in that order.
I've kept on playing music in a number of different milieu - from rock to theatre to writing an oratorio and am just kicking off with a new band called 'throne above the stars' which is an attempt to recapture the bright elusive butterfly of psychedelia, chloroform it and pin it to the backside of the grinning donkey of rock.....
Great website - I'm going to try to listen to the show via the magic of the internet.
Regards... and thanks again.
Richard (The Former Republic of Fred) Bolton
(Johnny.... originally posted 7/15/05; Richard's letter posted 8/30/09)
Jim Carroll 1949 - 2009
Lots of famous people have died this year. To me most of them are just names, pictures in the paper or on the screen, people with whom I have no personal connection and who had no real impact on my life. In the world of celebrity, Jim Carroll wasn't one. He was a poet, a writer, and a singer but his fame was minor. More Americans can identify the "Informercial King" Billy Mays in a couple seconds than know who Carroll was. Bring up his most famous song "People Who Died" or the movie adaptation of The Basketball Diaries and you will have to drop is name before people think "Oh yeah." For me, Jim Carroll was more than a footnote. He actually had a pretty big influence on my life.
I first heard of Jim Carroll via KDVS, the local college radio station. Like many stations playing underground and punk music, they had "People who Died" in heavy rotation. Though the song might be a bit overplayed now, back then it was super cool. I rushed out to the nearest Tower Records and stole me a copy. Though by the time Catholic Boy was released, I was pretty much a cropped top, combat boots & chains wearin', hardcore punk, there was enough toughness and romance to Carroll's voice to make me a fan. And the lyrics were a bit more than lyrics. Of course, they were. They were poetry set to music, not that I knew that then. To me they just seemed a bit deeper than "I've heard it before/I just want to shut you up" (no dismisal of that classic Black Flag line). And the music was good. Edgy enough to excite me, but a bit cooler to put on when trying to put the make on my punk friends' sisters.
Shortly after the release of Catholic Boy, Bantam Book put out a pocket sized paperback edition of Carroll's memoirs The Basketball Diaries, which was previously only available as a small press edition, which even then was fetching collector's prices. I got my cheapie and read it in a week...and then reread it and reread it until the cover fell off. Though I had already made my way through the books that teenagers and those in their early twenties gravitate to (On the Road, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Naked Lunch [didn't understand a fucking thing!], etc.), Carroll's book hit me. I was a confused fucked up kid. Carroll was writing about a confused fucked up kid, but it was more than that. Carroll had a deceptively simple writing style, one that not only turned me on to his work, but made me think, "I can do that." I filled up volumes of notebooks with the adventures of my friends and I, tales of punk shows we went to, lists of the slang we used, things like that. Where those journals are now, I have no idea. They probably got lost in a move or thrown out by a shitty girlfriend. I have no idea. But those things started me writing and they were inspired by The Basketball Diaries.
A few years later, he came to the West Coast to promote The Book of Nods. I went down to San Francisco to see him read, and went back down there every time he passed through. None of his other books, hit me like the Diaries and none of his records are nearly as good as Catholic Boy but those two things made enough of an impact on me that I've followed what he's done since.
I listened to Catholic Boy tonight, after I read that Jim Carroll died. It is just as good of a record as it was when it was released. To pick out a favorite song or the best tune is impossible for me to do. I'll leave you with a couple and encourage you to track down the record, if you don't have it already.
Thanks Jim Carroll for turning me on to some great shit.