Monday, May 29, 2006

Hey what about punk music?!

Now to our story. Jim Haas sent out a CD of punk music and called for comment. I am finally posting that comment more than a year later. Jim is working on a response as I write this, and we will post that when we get it. I sort of took the opportunity to wax poetic about things I like… Jim told me his intention in the Punk Favoritos CD was to just share his enjoyment of the types of things he had discovered for the first time through throught eMusic. An accompanying podcast or two is in the works for this. I have discovered these things eat up my server space and that I have to remove one before I post another.

Listen to the accompanying podcast, while you can. Available during July.
[NOTE: For now, Podcasts will post and then remove in 1 month. If you access this page one month after publication, the podcast link will have expired .. sorry. ]

Jim Haas sent out a haunting punk compilation for comment. My world blew up settled, blew up, settled, and on Memorial Day weekend I got around to considering the gauntlet he’d thrown down ... Before another Memorial Day came by I thought I should go to post….Like the Great Books Societies of doomed industrial towns in 1960s we are to gather together, now, in the post industrial twilight and grok [online] on this punk mix .. including.. X, Iggy, The Dammed, Angry Samoans, and Bad Brains. It’s daunting too, for he calls for true-felt comment. What can I say? Well, the Dammed can go to hell. And I applaud the Iggster. But what else? Punk and me – a history, follows.

Punk to me will always be the Lucky Cue, 1965. Of Main Street Racine. That pin ball and pool parlor palace of our homed factory town. Black leather jackets, Beatle boots, attitude of indifference .. a version of the Road to Perdition .. if I don’t like you I will beat you up ... CYO dance, or no CYO dance ... that’s punk to me. Once I sent Jim a link to a Journal Times Remembrance page on old Main St... Kresge’s, soda fountains and such ... he returned a weird reminisce of drug dealers and fist fights. That’s punk! That is revolutionary memory. Still for me “Es la Cue!”

Maybe I am a bit more in favor of Garage music, than Punk music. Truth to be told. Dont hate me. Would not be too weird, because Dave and Carol and Bill and Bobs Henken and LaFrance and I invented Garage together. From first principles, in 1967. With Garage magazine. That was about “chamber thoughts” “because of darkness and you have to someplace and silent and Poe.” Garage and punk now dance the tango.

Guess we are all of good will, and it is okay to digress, but I must say I think the numbers on Punkitos Favoritos lean toward the dark hurting mean in punk. Kill your parents, and while you are at it, leave me alone. There’s a thin line between dissonance and discord. Maybe its dissonance that is rubbing me wrongfully. Attitude and distance are sure a part of the thing called punk – Jim, we used to have this discussion over Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane as the foci -- but I’d forward an alternative slate of punksters for my ideal punky party.

Recall The Cue: You walk in there and the juke box is playing. Two long rows of greenfelt tables, pinball machines up front, more tables and a mezzanine level in the back. And the juke box is playing 96 Tears, Sometimes Good Guys Dont Wear White, You Gonna Miss Me, and Pushing Too Hard, by Question Mark and the Mysterians, the Standells, the 13th Floor Elevators, and the Seeds, respectively. You eye the tables and the crowd. [Truth to tell you could very well hear I’m Your Puppet, Tell it Like it Is or Walk Like a Man [not the Four Season thing], just as well as the afforested punky epics.] Vacuums abhor. Clearly the Seeds’ Pushing Too Hard and The Leaves’ Hey Joe have a punkishness to them, but are harbingers not of punk as much as the San Francisco sound. Were the Yardbirds on the Lucky Cue juke box? – Where is that Time Machine when you need it? Things go in different directions, but for moments they adhere.

I think Satisfaction was a gigantic song in this regard and set the tone for this punk era to come. That buzzy fender came up through Link Wray, one of Muddy Waters guitar players, maybe Duane Eddy too. But the singer had the chant: Micky Jagger there talked to my teenage angst .. yours too … god I was so psyched to see him sing that song on TV, and ran out and tried to buy the same type of slacks her wore ... and I think this is what these other punk bands have been after later. Damn the fact that finally they are not singing to teenagers. But rather the Valhalla strain in the misfit.

[When I saw the Stones at the carcass scented International Amphitheatre for an unheard of $30, they were actually kind of small, at least from where I was sitting. This was inflection point for me, though it was years later when it hit home. I digress beyond acceptable digression.]

The sound of punk was guitars, but organs were still in competition, and the sound was variations on blues.. definitely bluse for white kids – morphed into other resonances- ones that saw a James Dean movie and then had a point of reference to the world. [Did you know that, when Iggy first left Detroit, he played drums for Johnny young?] Look at the record covers! Four or five guys set on being unglad. What a job! In music terms, certainly an abstraction of Chuck Berry and Leadbelly is going on. Finally so abstract that the roots are cut. Ever toward abstraction greater. Iggy outlines this strange abstraction in a hilarious interview once on Boston TV. The Kinks have spoken to this: They’re pivotal punk presages were failed Broonzy rips. [They also tore up their speakers in Link Wray manner.

Songs on my fist punky podcast would include:

Rumble – by Link Wray
The Train kept a Rollin – by Johnny Burnette[?]
Little Girl – by Syndicate of Sound
You Really Got Me – by the Kinks
Anything – by Eddie Cochran
Louie, Louie – by Lance Davenport and the Voyagers
Wild Thing – by the Troggs
Surfer Bird – The Trashmen
Gloria – by the Shadows of Knight
I’m a Man – by the Yardbirds
Dirty Water – by the Standelles
Cant Explain – by the Who
Satisfaction – by the Ruttle Stones
I Heard Her Call My Name – by the Velvet Underground
96 Tears – by Question Mark and the Mysterians
No Fun – by the Stooges
I’m 18 – Alice Cooper

If you think back to the general time…none of this mattered much. The music enumerated above transmogrified into heavy metal. But Cream magazine talked up the Detroit sound [Would it be unfair to say that Leonard Bangs invented punk?], which sounded a lot like punk, and we were hot on it. Milwaukee could only have been degrees different than Detroit. And we went to New York. And saw the Dolls – much different than they ever appeared on record. I guess the Dolls are classified as glam. We saw Suicide, who was into the audience confrontation thing that made punk punk, and Dave, who was punk before and after there was punk, didnt demur from screaming straight back madly in Suicide’s face when confronted. I arrgh, therefore I am. So we were there, although Punk happened after Dave and I left New York [hightailing it].

In our last days in New York, Mindy Silver told me that Iggy’s Raw Power was a good record. She’d heard it somewhere. It got reviewed favorably too. I bought it – once I got to Boston - and thought I’d found the motherlode again. Is Raw Power punk? What me worry? It’s got killer chords and it sounds like pain. Iggy’s late spring 1973 appearances in New York where he [shirtless torso ever] threw himself at Max’s on broken glass actually pretty much defined punk. But before all that, Dave and me went down to Bleeker St. and bought a used copy of “Nuggets” [with the Leaves, the Standelles, the Amboy Dukes, the Remains, the Barbarians ...] from Lenny Kaye, working the counter who later played with Patti Smith. It was all coming together. The vision of the punk thing. But I was ready to say farewell fond somewhere short of the bloody shards of glass version.

Forward faster.
Ever toward abstraction greater.
Fast forward to 1970s.
And I am in Boston.

In Boston where they were playing the demo of the Modern Lovers produced by John Cale doing Road Runner. Still looking for the next big thing. But the Modern Lovers had broken up. A fellow that called himself Oedipus had a radio spot and he played punk stuff on a show called the Demimonde. Which let one keep up with New York stuff, which had not been happening when Dave and I lived there [at that time CBGB’s was a bluegrass club!] and the fair amount of Boston stuff happening.

I was aware through the Village Voice that Patti Smith had put out a single [Piss Factory backed with Hey Joe or Vice Versa]. This was not available in stores. This was a major coup to get via mail. On the same day that Richard Nixon resigned. And that Jeff and Jim Mazik appeared from the MidWest. If feeling that the record you buy is especially yours is part of the art of collecting, and other people will think you are cool, this day just about beat them all.

Anyway, it was easy enough in those days to bop down to Kenmore Square near Fenway Park and go to the Ratskellar. It had been there from the 60s, and helped launch The Lost, The Barbarians, The Remains .. the precursors to the Bosstown sound. In 1975 you could see DMZ [with David Robinson formerly of the Modern Lovers, and later of the Cars], The Real Kids, The Nervous Eaters, Willie Loco, the Sex-Execs. It was fun! Get there around 12.00 and they’d let you in for $1. You could ask girls to dance and they might say yes. All based on Chuck Berry. Less fun: The light never worked in the men’s room.

The New York bands started coming in. This I recall less vividly. But I think I saw Television, The Ramones and The Talking Heads for that end-of-evening rate.

Let me digress a bit more. We saw Iggy in the very late 70s or early 80s here in Boston. And he was interviewed on TV the same evening. He is not shy of claiming to papa the whole deluge that followed, and although you can see his debt to Jaegger and Morrsion (and, in turn, James Brown and Frank Sinatra), he had fair claim as father of punk. He’s described this elsewhere. From his point of view, he took Louie, Louie, and abstracted it ... distilled in three large resonating chords all the feel of all the great European classic music masters, and simplified it to the point where anyone could play it. He is clear on this.

As long as the three-chord thing was clear all could jump on. Picked up on this. They say the Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records, but that everyone who bought one started a band. Just as Loaded influenced us [Jim Mazik, John Ruetz, Bob Stepien, Paul DeMark, Mike Brusha, Jim Haas] in Wisconsin to make our own music together, so too did the punk stuff of the 70s cause me to play with people out here. The group was nameless but it was called the Jack Vaughan Experience. Three chords, no problem. Loud, in the lofts still available in commercial zones in those days, that was no problem too. That was into the 80s. Noise ruled.

But in a period of months – say Apr 1977 to Aug 1977 – the punks became insufferable, for me anyway. I know now that harder drugs got deeper into the whole scene. And with it, junk attitude. At the time the most annoying thing was that you could no longer ask girls to dance with any success. Attitude won there too. They never fixed the light in the men’s room. The bands started to sound the same. Worst: the $1 late entrance fee was moving up. I did not let this bring me down. I discovered that you could see actual Chicago blues men [at 11.30, for $1] across the river at Speakeasy Pete’s in Cambridge’s Central Square. By actual I mean Walter Horton, Jimmie Rodgers, Otis Rush. They had the 3-chord thing down. Had the angst too, though they called it blues. And, since I was imagining then myself living to 40 or 42, their sound also seemed authentic for a mature person to sing. Do the Rolling Stones look silly today? I suppose we all have our own opinions on that. I know whereof I stand.

So blues won out. Paul DeMark came into town with Slim in Nov 1977. And blues was my main bag for ten year after.

Songs on my second punky podcast would include:
Gimmie Shelter – the rolling stones
Anything – by The Modern Lovers
Raw Power – by Iggy
I’m a Human Being – by The Dolls
Piss Factory – by Patti Smith
Talk to Lorreta – by the Nervous Eaters
Hit her wid an axe – by Willie Loco Alexander
I was a Catholic Boy - by Jim Carroll
Rockaway Beach – by the Ramones
Anarchy in the UK – by the sex pistols
Whats so funny about peace love and understanding – by Elvis Costello
You Cant Put Your Arms Around a Memory – Johnny Thunders

Punk ended for me with its West Coast swing. You’ll notice there is nothing west coast about my late punk period. Dont know why that is. Except that I was on the East Coast. I didnt like X, and dont like them on Punkitos Favoritos, but I liked Dave Alvin, who played with X. I drew the line with the Dead Kennedys – who are not represented on Punkitos Favoritos. Dead Kennedys like sad movies make me cry. A lot of these punks have been my neighbors, and robbed my sleep, and then disappeared, I would guess, to take on new lives as stock brokers or realtors. In the mean time I had to deal with their mess [which included the entrails of inhumanely gutted animals – they got even with their parents on my account]. Painting with a broad brush here. So sue me. And they watched Nazi movies. Remember the Gun Club? I’ve learned from Jake their music is not so bad. There fans were shits. It is a short walk over an even shorter gang plank. Nothing I learned came cheap in this regard. [If you say ‘you are like Double-C Fields, and you are blaming the messenger for the message,” I can only say I am a human being, and not a Logic Engine.”]

The acoustic punks known as the Pogues grabbed me and shook me later on. I suppose Los Lobos could have been punks if they had less musical talent. Should mention the Boggs and Rube Wadell too. And I really like the White Stripes. As you know. Souxizz and the Banshees, the Ramones, the Shadow of Knights .. it’s all good...where would you put the Cryan Shames doing Bo Diddley’s Cadillac? Less than punk, perhaps. Probably many other that I cant remember in one swell foop.

What this all turned into later was hell bent thrust toward what the Yardbirds and their buds would call a RaveUp. Well a rave up is good but compared to what? If not in comparison, it is bad blather say I. A rave up where the glass is overfull, and there is no room for dynamics or melody to add, is not good. En mi opinion I must say again. Jim, you saw this when you came into my kitchen a year or two ago. I am playing Brian Ferry doing Fred Astaire era music for you and it hit you. “You like melody” you said. The chasm. Yeah or something close to it. Dissonance will dissipate if you let assonance die. Punks have to stand up if just briefly in mainstream culture, not cut and run.

There’s 7 mile drive, and, in the South, there’s the Case works. The best music would mesh those two extremes, again, in my opinion. Hard to say but: Drugs helped punk to be sufferable to many more than we might want to infer. Again, drugs had a very negative effect on this whole trend.

Cant speak for you, Jim. We have had a jolly near-lifetime in friendly arguments on music. The moral of the story is I jumped off the punk bandwagon, but once was on it. And wanted to point out my favorite thangs. Thangs flower, and flower, but the first bloom is good to remember.

K. I turn for your response. I have reprogrammed the Comment box below and it should now allow you to comment without having to sign up for Blogger. It also auto-gens an e-mail that I can forward to group. Some of you may have a lot of words, and for all I know the Commenter wont take more than X words. So e-mail me and I can post stuff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An absolutely fascinating rumination on so many things---musical, our shared history (the jukebox at the Lucky Cue), NY, Boston, garage bands....on and on...great reading. I couldn't remember half of this without your help. Like you Jack, I too like melody. Even soft acoustic stuff. 50s jazz, singing. I can't make great melody myself but i appreciate it. I still will play Raw Power, liked Patti Smith's last one (much melody on that one). I'll listen to modern stuff if my music director puts it in front of me--Arcade Fire, Iron and WIne, etc. All fine. I still like some modern Leonard Cohen. Country, ALt Country, Doug Sahm..mix tape sensibility. Not very coherent at this moment but very much appreciated all the ramblings and thought you put into this, certainly opened my ears and hearth to many kinds of music and I owe you an eternal debt...same with Jim H. Love to all, Jeff

Featured Post

Apollo 8, 1968 and me

MOON ALCHEMY - When the Apollo 8 astronauts were circling the moon on Christmas Eve 1968 I was probably having a little Christmas nuzzl...