It's Fun to Be Clean

The Human Beinz It's Fun to Be Clean (Capitol, 1968)

The year 2005 was a miserably filthy year. The post-911, fear-induced unity that seemed to keep us Americans blind to all that was going on around us started to crumble. For some reason, we discovered that things were not going as good in Iraq as Bush and his men (and woman) have been telling us. A couple of hurricanes proved how much compassion there is in conservatism and how secure the homeland is from the elements. The housing market came crashing down. More good jobs were lost to Asia and replaced by promising gigs such as Walmart greeter, coffee jock, and sales rep. Retail sales sagged and wages stagnated. People's credit started to get cut off and the option of bankruptcy as a reasonable out when faced with the loss of a house due to some medical emergency disappeared. Suddenly, it seemed that the Republican Party was as corrupt as a political party could get and that the Democrats were toothless and irrelevant (but haven't both been the case for years?). Surrounding us are "families of prayer," intent on realizing their Christian taliban state.

We hit the end of the year and we find out we are being spied on by our own government, not just the NSA spying on supposed terrorists (after sifting through millions of our emails and phone calls to find out who the so-called terrorists are) but the Pentagon, once again, infiltrating that hotbed of insurrectionary violence and pants-pissing dangerous people known as the Quakers, for legally protesting against the war. And now it looks like these elections in Iraq are a sham - well, at least a good part of the armed Iraqi population thinks so, the ones afraid of the Shia death squads (reported as militia) roaming cities and taking out Sunni young men. Just writing all that, I feel like a need a shower. But instead I will listen to a song.

The Human Beinz released It's Fun to Be Clean as a b-side to Turn on Your Love Light, and It's Fun... is just as good advise now as it was in 1968. After a fanfare, these squeaky clean lads advise us to stick with the crowd, be quiet, never make a fuss, and scrub, scrub, scrub. Clean shaven and lint free, that's what America needs to be. So join me as we march into 2006 by turning off your brain and getting back into that patriotic, know-nothing, genuflecting, well groomed Fourth R....errr....American spirit! You can start by listening to The Human Beinz play It's Fun to Be Clean. And have a Happy New Year!


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.


Live Izumiya

Shigeru Izumiya Live Izumiya 2LP (For Life, 1975)

Every record fiend has one thing he/she asks the universe for: Please, just give me one good song! You buy a record because the cover jumps out at you. You have no idea what it is, who the people are on it, sometimes you don't even know what the words on the jacket say, but you do know you want one good song. It doesn't matter if every other song on the record sucks, one good song will make it worth the money/effort/time. It is a modest request. Please, one good song.

I picked up this Shigeru Izumiya double album because the jacket said, "Buy Me." Other than the front cover, everything else is in Japanese. I have no idea what the songs are called or who plays on this. But I still bought it (hell, it was a couple bucks so what's the risk?). I brought it home and dropped needle and I heard folk rock. I went track by track. Folk, folk rock, boogie, blues jam, folk rock, etc. I finally get to side three and I find the one good song.

I have no idea what the song is called. I do know that there is a drum that sounds like a tabla and a guitar starts off sounding like a sitar (or a sitar winds up sounding like a slide guitar). The Indian influence doesn't tilt this into psych, but it does push the song into something a bit different than straight up folk rock. This wasn't immediate. It is a grower. The more I play it, the more I like it. Let it hang around awhile and give it some plays if it doesn't grab you at first.

From what I can figure out, there are two Shigeru Izumiyas. This one is a folk singer and activist. The other is an experimental musician and horror film maker. And there is my knowledge of this musician and his record.


Yuletide Greeting V

Don El Douglas Christmas Night (Vio-Len, ???)

And I leave you to your Christmas with this obscurity. Written by Don El Douglas, Christmas Night is the B-side of a red vinyl Christmas 7" put out by the Vio-Len label out of Salt Lake City. The a-side is a Christmas poem which isn't worth posting. The vocals on both cuts are handled by Tom Pyke. The organ is played by Lowell Hicks. I have no date of release on this. I really like it because, like the Three Suns, it sounds like it comes from a much different time. Enjoy and have a good holiday!


Yuletide Greetings IV

Lowell Fulson The Original Lonesome Christmas Pt 1 (Hollywood, 1950)

And now for the great Lowell Fulson. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fulson moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with his brother Martin, after serving in WWII. By late 1946, the Fulson brothers started releasing a flood of blues singles on labels such as Big Town & Trilon. A couple years later, Lowell was putting out records on Trilon, as well as Downbeat, Down Town, Swing Time, and Aladdin. It is around 1949, Fulson started to mold the bluesy R&B style that he is known for. A hundred of 45s later (or so it seems) and ten years later Fulson recorded for Kent. The result was Tramp, the dance floor classic, later reworked by Otis Redding.

Fulson adds to the long healthy tradition of Christmas blues songs with his 1950 classic The Original Lonesome Christmas. It is one of my favorites.


Yuletide Greetings III

Pervert Productions XXX-Mas LP (Pervert Productions, 1976)

A couple months ago, I was digging through a box of records at my favorite record store when I found this one. I knew it had to be good as it was in a plain white sleeve with "XXX-MAS" stamped on it in red. There was no one in the store so I told the store owner to put it on. He dropped the needle on the first cut and proceeded to laugh our asses off. Granted this is juvenile, silly, moronic, and maybe even offensive, and to that I say, "So?" Christmas time is supposed to be a time of cheer and if a pisstake on the holiday isn't cheerful, I don't know what is. I'll take this record over a forced family experience any holiday.

Other than the label crediting Pervert Productions there is no hint who this is. I don't know where it was made but I am betting somewhere in California. The only reason you have a date here is the year is mentioned in one of the skits.

Mike Guis d. 2005

And now some sad news. Sacramento's punk world has lost another member. Mike Guis died near his home in the Sacto's suburb of Rancho Cordova, after being hit by a car, while riding his bike. Mike was a fantastic drummer who made the most incredible noise out of drum sets that were often held together with only duct tape. To watch him drum was as close to watching a live version of the muppet Animal. However, Mike wasn't just all flailing and hyper-energy. Every band he was a part of was taken up a few notches by his talent, instinct, and energy. I played with Mike in the Pope Smashers for a year and, while I often had difficulties with him and ultimately was "vibed" out of the band, he was undoubtedly a great musician.

Mike is best known for drumming for two bands. He was pretty much the leader of the Pope Smashers, a legend in Sacramento, little known elsewhere. He was part of the Yah Mos in their "golden" period, drumming on Off Your Parents 7" and the Undefeated LP. He was also was an original member of !!! and can be heard on their first 7". He left the band after disagreements over the band's musical direction. Other bands he played in were HIV+ and Buttplug.

My sympathies to Mike's friends and fellow Pope Smashers.


Yuletide Greeting II

Harry Kari & His Six Saki Sippers The Night Before Christmas b/w Oh! Oh! Don't Ever Go (Capitol, 1953)

Welcome to the world of comic Harry Stewart. Stewart, a Norwegian-American born in Tacoma, Washington, is best known for his character Yogi Yorgesson, a Swiss-Hindu mystic. In performance as Yogi, Stewart wore a pair of Swede boots, a lion cloth, a lumberjack shirt, and a turban, while he sang songs and pretended to meditate and predict the future (whah???). In the same spirit of ethnic humor, Stewart razzed (or insulted) Germans (Klaus Hammerschmidt), rural white Americans (Claude Hopper), and, here, the Japanese.

In 1953, ethnic humor was still acceptable in the American mainstream. While all ethnicities were fair game no one took it harder than the Germans and the Japanese. Being on the losing end of World War II, many felt it was their patriotic duty to make fun of the "Krauts" and the "Japs." Characters like Hogan's Heroes' Sgt. Schultz and Col. Klink were pretty common. And it wasn't rare to see some Catskill comic pull out his bucked-tooth Oriental gag. In this uhhh "comic" stew stepped Harry Stewart.

Harry Kari came into being in 1953 when Stewart recorded and released the single Yes Sir, That's My Baby b/w Yokohama Nights. On both songs, Stewart adopts an "Oriental" accented voice and sings about his little won ton and riding around in rickshaws. It should not be a surprise that Stewart gets his ethnicities mixed up, attributing things Chinese to the Japanese.

I first heard Yes Sir... when I was about 5 or 6. It was in my parents record collection and when I was a teen it made into mine. By the time I owned it, I had figured out that the record was from a different time. While there were comics still trucking in ethnic stereotypes, the funnymen I listened to (George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Cheech & Chong) mostly made fun of their own and their parodies of others were more in the spirit of understanding how people viewed each other rather than "Hey he speak funny." Still, Yes Sir... was (and is) one of the records I whip out when I am playing "You gotta hear this one." So when I found Harry Kari's Christmas single (which I didn't know existed until I found it), I felt a twinge of guilty pleasure or at least surprise that there was more than one Harry Kari records.

The Night Before Christmas b/w Oh! Oh! Don't Ever Go are in the same spirit of buck-toothed stereotyping that you get with Yes Sir... b/w Yokohama Mama. For some reason, these do not appear on any collections on Stewart's songs.

So here you go: This is part of what Christmas looked like in 1953. It may seem a long way off from what is acceptable today...that is until you remember that this kind of ethnic stereotyping has made its way back into America's comic repertoire (just listen to radio's Don & Mike Show or catch an episode of the Simpsons or South Park). Is it right? Is it wrong? Does it matter if it is done smart or dumb? I'll let you argue over that. What I do know is that it is. Here is a part of Americana that many would rather you not know exist.


Yuletide Greetings

V/Vm & Friends Turkey 7" (V/Vm Test, 1998)

I knew nothing about V/Vm until I found three of their 7"s for 50 cents each in a clearance bin in a Denver record store. It was in the middle of a road trip so I didn't get to hear them until I got home, but when I got a chance to drop the needle on the record I was very pleased with what I found. And what did I find? The Pig , Stuffing, and Turkey 7" eps. All released for the holiday season, the Christmas 7"s are outrageous, funny, smart, and listenable. Unlike many of thier "noise" and experimental contemporaries, V/Vm have a sense of humor. They might play rough (earning them a few scoldings by The Wire) but they play smart and they play smart ass, and that is fine with me. Their friends also share those traits. That said, I am proud to present to you as the first of five Christmas music posts V/Vm & Friends.


I’m Down

The Better Beatles I’m Down b/w Penny Lane 45 (Woodgrain. 1982)

I’ve never been to Liverpool so I can’t say if Omaha is the Better Liverpool, but I do know that for pure minimalist angst, The Better Beatles are the better.

Some time around 1980, The Better Beatles released just one record, this special two song synth punk classic. The Better Beatles do, surprise!, Beatles songs, I’m Down and Penny Lane. Both versions are great.

I’m Down actually sounds like a song about being down. The instrumentation is spare - just a bass, synth, drums and vocals. The drums are out front, driving the song with a strong, straight forward beat. The bass burbles in back and the synth plays a very simple riff. The vocals are nice and flat. There is nothing fancy here and that is what makes the song work.

The Better Beatles’ take on Penny Lane is not only good, it got me to actually appreciate the old saw and that is tough to do. Penny Lane is one of those tunes that has been killed by classic rock radio and every rock intellectual, pseudo rock intellectual, rock pseudo intellectual, pseudo rock pseudo intellectual, and creep who insists that the Sixties were the be all and end all of life as we know it. So to say that the Better Beatles resurrected and saved a song that reminds me of every lame fuck baby boom asshole, stuck on a past that is mostly nostalgia, well, that is big props to the Nebraskans.

Plenty of people - a lot of them punk rock intellectuals - go on and on about how punk saved us from a life of being bored by the Sixties. Records such as the Better Beatles one and only are a perfect example of why punk killed hippie. Unfortunately, punk often seems to be in the same endless repeat that plagued hippie. Hopefully the coming years will bring us the Better Ramones.

Addendum I: Was told "The Better Beatles was Jay Rosen's high school band. He was later in Bay Area folk nutsos The Muskrats, has been the Legendary Stardust Cowboy's guitar player for many years and played bass in the Rock n Roll Adventure Kids for a while last year. He lives in Oakland, super nice guy!"

Addendum II: Back in November Jay Hinman of Agony Shorthand came up with his Top Ten remakes of songs and threw this one up there, plugging Crud Crud in the process. As a result I got a flood of requests to repost this one. So here ya go. Fresh meat next time.

(Originally posted 5.19.05, resurrected by request.)

Radio On!

In case you don't know, I do a radio show on station KDVS every Tuesday night at 11 pm PST. The shows are achived on the web up to a week after the first broadcast, so if you missed it you can point & click and hear it on an MP3. Last night I played songs by The Whizz Kidds, Telephone, X , Mecki Mark Men, The Hospitals, Wha Ha Ha, Wild Kingdom, Ethno Chip, Moondog, Karel Fialka, Sara Goes Pop, Aphrodite´s Child, & Hali Gali Halid.


Mysteries of the Orient

Four Thai Songs

A few years ago, a friend of mine saw a box of records through the window of a dusty shop. The place didn't sell records, but had them left over from a juke box they sold. He asked if he could dig through the boxes. It was mostly country western and bad pop. Among the dreck he found about five mystery records. They were mystery records because at the time he did not know what script the words on the record label were written in. He paid the guy one dollar for the records, went home and listened to them. A few weeks later he paid me a visit and brought the records.

By the time I got to hear them, he had figured out that they were from Thailand. However neither one of us know Thai. We did go out for Thai food that night and were going to bring the records along but when we got to the restaurant, we discovered we forgot the records. So the mystery records remained a mystery.

When he got home, he went back to the shop where he found them. He asked if he could look at the records, hoping he would find more Thai mystery 45s. The person in the store told him to come back tomorrow and talk to the owner. He returned the next day and got a come back next week. Weeks past and he still could not get to the records. He gave up, so I started bugging the place. "No. Talk to owner. He be back soon." When? "I don't know. Tomorrow. Try then." And so it went. It has been three years since my friend found the records and three years since we have traded the duty of getting back at those boxes. It has also been three years since the owner has shown up at the store, or so it seems.

The delight of Thai pop is nothing new (but neither is all the other stuff that appears here). There are now a handful of good comps of Thai songs from the 60s and few of them have info on the artists who appear on them. Many don't have song titles. Consider this post in the spirit of the mystery track. These come from a cassette of the Thai songs that my friend found. Thanks friend!


Richard Pryor 1940 - 2005

Richard Pryor 1940 - 2005

Richard Pryor died today of a heart attack. I am away from home so I don't have anything to post by him. I'll just point out the obvious instead: The guy was a genius. He was one of the greats of comedy, as ground breaking as Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, and Mort Saul. Pryor influenced pretty much every comedian worth hearing, that followed him. I am sure that there will be thousands of tributes to him in the next week or so. Pretty much all of them will state the same thing. Pryor suffered from MS in his last years. Hopefully he rests peacefully now.


Slow Death

The Leather Nun Slow Death 12" (Criminal Damage, 1984)

My first encounter with The Leather Nun (or Lädernunnan as they are known in their homeland) came when I bought the Primemover/FFA 7". I was so unimpressed that I ignored their output for years and never bothered to find out what came before that record. Then one day, a friend of mine pulled out the Slow Death reissue. "No! Not The Leather Nun!" I pleaded. But he assured me all was fine: I needed to hear this. He dropped the needle and he was right. I searched for the record. The two 7"s that make up the record were impossible to find and by the time I stumbled upon any Leather Nun records, I had forgotten what the damn record was my friend played me!

Then a couple years ago, another friend put a couple Leather Nun songs on a CDr he made me. "No! Not The Leather Nun!" I cried once more. "This is the good stuff," he promised. And it was. The search was on once again, but this time I had a title: Slow Death. Original released in 1979 on Industrial Records, the Slow Death 7" debuted the Swedish band, The Leather Nun. They say they were the first band since Abba to break out of Sweden. Maybe so. Throw this pup on your turntable and you will think that if they weren't the second Swedish rock and roll band to climb out of the north, they were the best...at least for one record.

Slow Death starts out with the song No Rules, a distorted, primal, Stoogoid/Raw Power-style riff that immediately plunges into a sub-Motorhead punked up swamp. Fuzzed vocals emerge, English painted with some evil, thuggish accent. Behind the fuzz and dumb riffage (and that is smart dumb, not dumb dumb) are some odd vocal loops or something I can't quite figure out. But it works.

Second song is the title cut, a slow, sparse crawl about someone dying slowly from burns that cover 90% of their body - fun stuff that owes a lot to Suicide's Frankie Teardrop as well as Pere Ubu's Heart of Darkness. Not quite as good as either of those two doom classics, Slow Death is still a pretty sweet song.

Ensam I Natt originally appeared as just a sliver of time on the Slow Death 7". Here, on the reissue, you get the whole show. A busy bass line starts it up and then once again we plunge into fuzz filled dumbness. Ensam is easily one of the 100 best punk songs ever made. It is primitive, it is brutal, and it is immediate. Perfect.

Death Threats closes the side. It is a combination of bass/drum loop, a band saw loop, and a drill, then a telephone ring. The vocals come in, sounding as if they were recorded in a room lined with cotton balls. The guitar arrives late, perhaps because it is being played under water. And the solo is taken up by a very loud typewriter. A drill/saw crescendo ends the song. The first time I heard to Death Threats, I was only half listening so I didn't pick up on the instrumentation until the end of the song. Upon second listening, I heard the saw, drill, etc. What I am getting at is that, hardware aside, there is a song here and it is a good one.

Side two was originally released in 1980 and is a long live version of Slow Death, featuring Genesis P-Oridge on violin and Monte Cazazza on synthesizer. Like the studio version, it creeps in. It is slow and sparse. The vocals are more distant, but that is fine. The synth and violin combine and sound, at times, like a wah-wah guitar. About the two minute mark the guitar comes in with a slashing ka-kunnnnnnnng. It takes up the melody but doesn't overpower. Past three minutes, I start looking at my watch. At five minutes, I fall back into the song, the length actually making this version better. The guitar starts what turns out to be a long, fragmented wah wah solo. Guitarist Bengt Aronsson is no Ron Ashton. And he couldn't tune Grady Runyon's gee-tar either. My man Bengt comes from the Scott Soriano School of Wah Wah Soling. The Soriano School involves mating simple phrases with complete nonsense. It involves dumb fingers - not smart dumb, this time it is dumb dumb. However, as moronic as Bengt's sub-soling is, the man nails it. A hot-shit solo would ruin the song, it would bring it crashing down in pretension. This is pretty much all of what is needed and it aces the song.

I am not a Leather Nun fan. They released far too much crap to get my endorsement. That said, I do very much recommend this 12". It is as pure and primal as loud art punk gets and well worth a hundred listens.

(Originally ran as Crud Crud 4.9.2005 without the music.)


The Witch

The Rattles The Witch b/w Geraldine 45 (Decca Yugoslavia, 1970)

Who are the Rattles? Glad you asked. The Rattles were only the top German rock’n roll band through the 1960s. The band started in Hamburg, Germany in 1960...before the arrival of the Beatles. They were the first German band to play the Star Club. They had a string of hits in Germany. They starred in their own movie. By the Seventies, they had evolved from a beat group to something that sounds like pre-glitter/glam rock. In 1970, they scored their first international hit with The Witch. The Rattles have quite a history but until a Dutch record fiend sent me this gem, I had no idea they even existed.

Empire is a funny thing. Powerful countries cruise the world over, conquer and plunder, and never look back. No one can argue that during the 20th Century and into the 21st that, because of empire, the most pervasive culture in the world is American. Our media - from television to music - rules. Go to nearly any country and you will find the cultural stamp of the United States. However, come to the United States and its a chore to find any culture not stamped American. Even Germans playing American rock’n roll get ignored simply because they are foreign.

I am not making a judgment here. I refuse to run down American culture - there is plenty of it that I love. I also refuse to make the claim that American culture rules the world because it is superior. I understand that power has privilege and part of that privilege is shoving one’s culture down whomever’s throat one feels like. I realize that pushing one’s culture on to others is a way to socialize the conquered and control them. I also know that there are plenty of people worldwide who spend a lot of money acquiring things American. There are also many people who are not American - the Germans and the Japanese, for instance - who make a lot of money from this arrangement.

As far as music goes, the effect tends to be negative. First, native music tend to get run down in the march of McBritney. Young people abandon folk music for whatever is hot in America. The result are Thai boy bands, Colombian Madonas, and Shakira. Before the rise of MTV and hardcore punk, many people tried to blend their native music with rock’n roll. Listen to Brazil’s Os Mutantes or Turkey’s Erkin Koray for examples of this mix. Nowadays, non-Anglo/American rock’n roll tends to be pretty nondescript whether it be disco pop, speed metal, or emo.

But what of these sound-a-like rock’n roll performers? Other than Shakira - whose success in the US is the result of a Pepsi ad - can you name me one international rock star? Okay, Bjork. Keep going. Abba, yes. After that the names get smaller and smaller and smaller. Sure, I know Trio and I know Kraftwerk and I know Franciouse Hardy and I know Sepultura. I also know that the more names you throw at me the more obscure they will be. The further back in time you go, the greater the chance my reply will be, “Huh?” There has been thousands of great international rock’n roll bands, bands who were big in their native country, but, because imperialism dictates that the Empire’s stars shine brightest, we are more familiar with the Starlight Vocal Band than we are Serge Gainsbourg...or the Rattles.

The Rattles’ 1970 international hit, The Witch, is one of glitter/glam rock’s classics. It starts off with a killer, clean guitar strumming a Bo Diddley riff and then a massive wah-wah kicks in and dominates the rest of the song with its accented blasts. The vocals sound very much like Sweet. The chorus is followed by a string section, timpani, and insane witch cackle building to a climax and then the Bo Diddley guitar starts up clean again. Repeat for two and a half minutes and then fade.

The flip, Geraldine, begins with one of the punchiest, funkiest drum breaks ever put on record. Piano and guitar trade riffs in a way that brings to mind T-Rex and the Konspiracy-era Kinks. There is a great horn/keyboard riff that sounds a bit Baroque. For about three minutes the song grooves.

The Rattles play two dynamic rock’n roll classics as good as anything that we think of as oldies. Other than the Germans and a handful of other Euros, who knows that?

It’s the scourge of empire, I tell you!

(If the references in the above read a bit dated that is because I wrote it in 2002.)


Funky Mud / Electrode

Jan Davis Funky Mud (Triad, 196?)
B.B. Cunningham, Jr. Electrode (Cover, 1959)

Here are two somewhat obscure instrumentals by a couple lesser known guitarist.

Jan Davis is one of the many studio guitarist who haunted Los Angeles in the 1960s. He was involved in the surf music scene, creating many a cool instrumental (Watusi Zombie, Boss Machine, The Time Funnel) but never scoring a hit. He also played in Kim Flowley's studio group, B. Bumble and the Stingers. Later he dedicated himself to flamenco and classical. After the World Trade Center attack, he penned a tribute to its victims.

B.B Cunningham, Jr. comes from a Memphis musical family. His father, Buddy Blake Cunningham (AKA Buddy Blake) was an early Sun Records artist and founder of Cover Records. B.B. Jr.'s brother is Bill Cunningham, who was to chart with the great Memphis pop band, the Box Tops. In 1959, B.B. Jr. had a minor hit with Trip to Bandstand, a novelty song with a talk-over about going to American Bandstand and meeting Dick Clark. And then settled into running his dad's label, before forming the legendary Memphis garage punk band The Hombres.

Both of these cuts are B-sides. Jan Davis's single front an instrumental version of Janis Joplin's Piece of My Heart. B.B., Jr's plug is the novelty song, Trip to Bandstand, a talk over that has B.B and his girl meeting Dick Clark. Both dwarf their A-sides.


Whack the Dolphin

The Irritators Whack the Dolphin 7" (Robey, 1981)

When I stumbled on this a couple weeks ago for $2, I did not hessitate to buy it (yeah, like I have any impulse control regarding records!). The packaging alone was a hook. The sleeve is made of green & yellow vinyl and has a flap. The images are silk screened. The record also comes from a time and place I tend to trust: 1981 Los Angeles County. And at least one song title was intriguing (that being Whack the Dolphin. I have been through enough records to dread what the name of the flipside promised: Voodoo Boogie).

I had a feeling that Whack the Dolphin was slang for male masturbation and I was right. Throughout the song a woman chants "Whack the Dolphin." A male voice sings "When I walk down the street / you make want to beat my meat," "When we go golfing / You make me want to whack my dolphin," and "You make it big / My one-eyed pig." That would be fine and almost normal (I mean, he does use the term "one-eyed pig") IF this thing didn't start off with a baby's cry and then had some children pleading "Please don't whack the dolphin!" toward the song's end!

What makes this even stranger is that the label indicates that Whack the Dolphin is the A-side AND states how much time both the intro and end fade take. These folks intended for this to be played on commercial radio, with a dejay talking over the intro! "It's 9:15 in the A.M. here in bee-u-tee-ful Chatsworth, California. It's going to be a nice day today. 98 will be the high and the skies in the valley are clear. And don't forget the Chatworth's Senior Gleaner's annual bingo fiesta tonight at the Chatsworth Grange. Why don't you join me in getting ready for some bingo fun by Whacking your Dolphin with local artists, The Irritators!" I mean that might run in modern day Santa Clarita Valley, HQ of America's porn industry, but in 1981?

The music is the herky jerky, violent, no wave-style, post-punk funk that started turning up around 1979. It has a nice primitive drive and the male vocals are out of the Black Randy school of funk. The instrumental flipside, Voodoo Boogie sounds like some bad fusion of the Talking Heads and Herbie Hancock's Rocket, sans scratching (and, no, I won't post it).

Of the band, I know nothing.


Who Willl Bang Ole Lulu?

Jim MacLean d. 2005

Wednesday morning at got a call at work from Ed Hunter. Ed was pretty broken up. "Jim MacLean is dead," he told me. Over Thanksgiving Day weekend, Jim took his life.

For a lot of people in the Sacramento punk scene, Jim is an important guy. He was one of the fathers of the what would be called Sacto Punk. With his brother Hal and buddy Keith, Jim formed Sewer Trout, a band that had a huge influence on Sacramento punk bands. Some folks know Sewer Trout as one of the original Gilman bands. We knew them as THE local band that kept punk and DIY alive and listenable in the late 80s. They directly influenced the Horny Mormons, Pounded Clown, Nar, the Sea Pigs, the Bananas, Los Huevos, and the Yah-Mos. When Hal asked me to help put out a Sewer Trout anthology CD, I was eager to do so.

I am not going to front and write that Jim and I were close buddies. My friendship with Jim wasn't very deep. We bullshitted at shows and parties. I watched his bands and listened to his music. Early in Los Huevos's existence, Jim set us up with a show in Corvallis, Oregon, where he was living and playing in the bands Lazyboy and Elmer. We played with Elmer that night and I was blown away by one of the very, very few bands that were able to pull of a punk / country fusion. Their covers of classic country tunes were flawless. A few years later in Portland, Jim helped us through van troubles by introducing us to the Bridgeport Brewery and then heading up to Olympia with us, where he helped in irritating an asshole named Larry Livermore. When Los Huevos crossed the US in the late 90s, one of the high points was showing up to a basement show in Bloomington, Indiana and finding Jim and his band Elmer there.

So this goes out to Jim MacLean, one of the important people in the history of Sacramento punk rock and a good guy. My sympathies to his friends and family and most of all his brother Hal.

For a picture of Jim see this taken by Icki. Dave "Smith" and others on Jim.

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