January 17, 2018

Die Vegas

I have told this story before, but here I am telling it again, on Medium as posting here is increasingly unpredictable if not untenable.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:56 PM

January 11, 2018

Clearer than the Teardrop in My Eye...

Are they really shouting "oi" during "You're the Only One"? It sounds like it. Though it's meant to be an acoustic song, dragging out an acoustic guitar is often impractical and I used to do it this way, turning the volume on the guitar to around 4 till the heavy rock kicks in. (I still do it this way.)

In my experience, the crowd response to such quiet interludes (and to any kind of dynamic pacing, really) can go either way, that is, they dig it for its own sake or they're put off by any hint of "diversity". Slow, acoustic, quiet, etc: not "punk". And ya gotta be: "punk." Maybe the punk can be restored by chanting "oi oi oi" during it, which is always worth a try. (And, as I've said before, the first solo acoustic tunes to appear on an MTX record -- "Even Hitler..." and "Will You Still Love Me?" -- were greeted with shock, horror, and cries of "sell out" in some quarters: "like Dylan goes electric in reverse," as one pretty famous guy once put it.)
Among those not super concerned with punk policing, though, this song has always been rather beloved, often requested, quoted in yearbooks, etc.

There was one show (at Coney Island High in New York, I think, '96-ish) where this great big fat drunk galunk in the crowd had been throwing his weight around, so to speak, for most of the set, knocking over the littler people and just basically being an obnoxious jerk while stopping just short of doing anything so particularly egregious as to get himself kicked out. This was a common thing at such shows and still can be even now that everyone's all old. By the time it came to "You're the Only One", though, he finally went too far and trampled his way to the front of the stage, knocking over the mic and interrupting the song. Well, it's a short song, and it didn't seem worth resuming it, so I said something like "well, anyway.." and got ready to move on to the next song. Then I got to see a 280 pound guy beat up and stomped into the ground by around a dozen little girls, who then insisted the song be played from the beginning. Now that's my kinda security detail. I love my people: you can only push them so far.

About "I Fell for You," I've recently revealed minor secrets in a previous post:

Anyhow this is the thirteenth and fourteenth out of sixteen songs on that set. I'll post penultimate one next week, God willing.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:36 PM

January 06, 2018

Addendum to that Clash Story

A guy who had seen a 1980 show in NYC commented on the original essay posted on Medium.

Here is the one and only unique thing I remember that everybody else seems to have forgotten or not noticed. During opening act Mikey Dread’s last number four guys wearing bandannas across their faces came out and danced behind Mikey. It was the Clash!

You can read my response if you like at the link above but basically this jogged my memory because I was at one of the San Francisco dates on that subsequent tour, and I definitely remember that skankin bandana routine.

This is that show.

And quoting myself:

It simply blows my mind to learn that it was only five months after that epic first time at Kezar. I suppose the months really count when you’re fifteen, but so so so much had changed in my world between those two shows and if I hadn’t looked it up I’d have sworn it was much much later. The shows were very different too, this one being in a proper theater rather than a jerry-rigged roller derby venue. I’m sure that’s one reason the sound was so awful.

I managed to see the Clash twice more, once at the Oakland Coliseum opening for the Who on the “It’s Hard” tour (which I wrote about briefly here) and finally on the ill-fated Cut the Crap tour, which was operatically tragic and which I may type up at some point in the future.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:17 PM

January 05, 2018

Donald Trump, Judy Blume, and Me

Pawing through the archives, I came across this old post documenting my unlikely participation in a star-studded televised awards show banquet. The most significant part was meeting the delightful Judy Blume for the first time (and our risqué banter that nowadays would probably get either or both of us twitch-hunted and fired if either of us had proper jobs.)

But it also contains a Trump anecdote, the only one I've got.

He was a fellow nominee and also a presenter with his co-author of some book on finance or real estate or somesuch. As I recall it, the story was that he was upset about his table location, and he expressed his dissatisfaction by refusing to read his part of the contrived dialogue on the teleprompter, leaving the co-presenter, who could barely speak English, to try to read both parts. To surreal effect. Trump just stood there with his arms folded, surveying the crowd imperiously. At the time, I thought he resembled Mussolini, and I drunkenly muttered "Mussolini" to Judy Blume, who squeezed my arm and whispered something I cannot at the moment recall because I don't want it read into the record at any future trial that may materialize. The awkwardness was interminable, all the way up till it was terminated, amidst a whole lot of "rhubarbing" from the assembly, by Anderson Cooper rushing in and saying "let's give 'em a big hand" and moving things along.

I was going to say I'd forgotten said anecdote till pawing through its archive reminded me, but that's not really true. It was firmly in my memory. The thing I'd managed to forget was that the Mussolini of the Quill Awards and the current President of the United States are the same guy; I simply didn't connect the two till I thought about it. But, they obviously are. The same guy, I mean.

As a final note, I got ridiculously drunk on the banquet wine that night and we're all lucky nothing bad happened.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:14 PM

January 04, 2018

My Dad, the Clash, and Me

In October of 1979, this guy Mike and I made a pilgrimage to see the Clash at Kezar Pavilion in Golden Gate Park. I had just turned fifteen, and I had thought of myself as “punk,” sort of, for at least a couple of years, though I had rarely left my room during that time. I was always more of a Ramones guy than a Clash guy, but I had followed the Clash’s career from the comfort of my bedroom with considerable interest. They were “the only band that matters,” the “darlings of the punk rock scene” according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the nightly news, and Time Magazine. “The best live band in the history of mankind,” a college radio DJ had said. I had to check this out. Getting to San Francisco would take some doing. But we bought our eight dollar advance tickets at the record store, told our parents some story, and took the bus (a twenty mile, two hour journey) with no plan of how to get back afterwards.

We got off the final bus at the end of Haight and rushed past the McDonalds to the venue. The place was crawling with hippies, a familiar sight. Besides the hippies there were: New York Dolls types with long scarves and make-up. Guys in pin-laden leather jackets, mullet hair-dos, loosely-knotted ties over T-shirts, and bleached blonde girlfriends wearing vinyl or what looked like trash bags. Here, a pocket of people who might have stepped off the set of a John Waters film; there, the cast of The Rocky Horror Show. Lots of thrift-store sports jackets, Beatle boots, wrap-around sunglasses. And a large number of rather similar guys, each of whom appeared to think he was “the Fonz.” Seriously. There was some kind of Gary Marshall/Mel’s Drive-in/Laverne and Shirley trip going on at the Clash show. A punk rock sock hop — this is what we fought the revolution for?

Evidently. The first band, The Rubber City Rebels, was basically two Fonzies, a Potsie, and a Squiggy. You could smell the Brylcreem from across the room. I enjoyed them anyway.

Next up, the Dead Kennedys: no Fonzies there. They had this quite popular song, “California uber Alles,” a zany, Mad Magazine-style satire which used Nazi imagery to portray Governor Jerry Brown as a mellow, crunchy granola Hitler. The crowd got into the spirit of the thing, doing a Hogan’s Heroes salute-‘n’-goosestep sort of dance. The band dropped it down, and the singer, one Jello Biafra, delivered a stern lecture: “you people,” he said bitterly, “are exactly what this song is fighting about.” Hell yeah. Wait, hang on: was he saying there really were a bunch of ominously laid-back Zen fascists at Kezar Pavilion who have come for our uncool niece? Was he serious? (Turns out, he kind of was…) He jumped into the crowd. His clothes were ripped to shreds, and he finished the set naked. An important message, and an unforgettable performance.

The Cramps sounded sludgy and burbling just like their records, but I was getting impatient. They were great, but there was only one band that mattered, and it wasn’t them.

Then, at last, the “darlings of punk” were upon us.

Now, the Mick Jones on the poster in my room looked a lot like Keith Richard. In Creem magazine they had to label pictures of him as Mick Jones (Clash) to distinguish him from Mick Jones (Foreigner/Spooky Tooth) because of their broadly similar hairstyles. Subsequently, though, the Clash had entered their Gene Vincent phase and Mick was suddenly all Sun Studios and greased back, so the first thing I thought when I saw him was: Woah! Sit on it, Malph!

“This ain’t no Lou Reed show,” said Joe Strummer, helpfully. Later on, he announced that he wasn’t Freddy Mercury, either. Well, obviously: Freddy Mercury would have done “Be Bop a Lula” slightly differently I’m sure. Then, he assured us he was also not Paul Anka. Perhaps his true identity would soon be revealed by a simple process of elimination.

The subsequent stage banter was notable for making even less sense than that of Biafra. It was kind of like street poetry. “We just flew in! Gotta make some change! These problems over here — ya hear the knock knock knockin’…” Stuff like that. Hard to follow, but somehow, one felt, it must refer on some level to some unspecified yet vastly important thing.

And what did it sound like when the important talking stopped? It is hard to describe. Imagine around a dozen simultaneous waves of piercing feedback, like sirens, echoing painfully through a high school gymnasium. For about an hour. I’ve read that this particular show was notable for featuring a slew of as yet unreleased London Calling songs, but I can’t fathom how anyone could have grasped that. In fact, the challenge was always to figure out which song they might have been playing underneath all the feedback at any given point. “Guns on the Roof,” or “Clash City Rockers”? Hard to say. Definitely one of the “Can’t Explain” tunes. Hey, I think I just lip-read “the bells of Gary Glitter!” “Clash City Rockers” it is! In other words: it sounded like the greatest band in the history of mankind, the only one that mattered. And I am totally serious about that. Best show ever.

Now it turns out my dad had figured out our Clash plan. He was waiting for us outside in the rain afterward, which was a good thing because the buses had stopped running and, as I’ve mentioned, we hadn’t thought to come up with a getting home plan. Mike and I sheepishly climbed into his pick-up.
Not only had he come to pick us up, but he had actually entered the venue to lurk in the back, taking in the whole show. (A fact he was later to mention frequently when “young people” were around: “ever tell you about the time I saw the Clash and the Cramps at Kezar, must have been, oh, ’79…” Kind of like what I’m doing now, really.)

Anyway, my dad had liked the Clash. “They were like the fifties, when I was a kid,” he said. Tell me about it, Fonz, I thought. “But what,” he asked, “does that angry naked guy have against John and Bobby Kennedy, Jerry Brown, and clothing?” He revered the Kennedys, and had gone to high school with Jerry Brown. And he always wore clothes. Always. “Are they Republicans?”

“Maybe” I said. “They’re on Dr. Demento.”

My dad shook his head. Being on Dr. Demento didn’t cut much ice with him when it came to naked Republican anti-Jerry Brown JFK-haters.

As we got on the highway, he looked at my armful of “concert stuff”: my bootlegged “Give ’em Enough Rope” shirt and poster, DKs pin, a Maoist flier, Baader-Meinhoff handbill, and The Revolutionary Worker. “Communists traditionally have focused their recruitment efforts on young, bright, alienated loners” he said, more to himself than anybody.

The road curved ahead in the rain like a glowing, shiny question mark.


[I am often asked to tell this story, and I don’t always do it well off the cuff, but this essay does it fairly well, so when I stumbled on the .doc file it seemed like posting it was the thing to do, if only so I can link to it when the subject comes up. A much less wordy version of it was published in the August 2006 issue of SPIN. Crossposted on Medium, with a couple of images, as well.]

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:30 PM

Yet More Minor Secrets of "...and I Will Be with You" Revealed!

Here's yet another song from that 11/13/98 show, making twelve out of fifteen songs now posted.

I already did a "minor secrets of" write-up about "... and I Will Be with You" when I recently posted the music video and I don't have too much to add in way of minor secrets, except:

This was one of the few songs from that era that came "music first," that is, we had the basic guitar figure and structure and were fooling around with it for a stretch before I decided it what it was going to be about and stuck in lyrics to that effect. Usually I come up with the song (and the music and lyrics develop together "organically" on the couch) and present it to the band, saying, okay guys, do your worst. Before the lyric-sticking happened, we had been playing it at sound checks, and the title we knew it by was "A Rat on a Bun" -- sung like a-rat, a-on, a bun -- because the T shirt I was wearing when I introduced it had that phrase and a picture of a girl with a rat in a hot dog bun. (Don't ask, no idea.) The name stuck. So that's why the set lists of that era always list the song as "RAT." If you were wondering about that, now you know.

When Chris Appelgren and I did the layout of the lyric sheet for Revenge Is Sweet, we did it in prose form rather than as verse, as though each song were a chapter of a little novel that happened to rhyme and scan, and I always got a kick of how that looked with the bridge here: Going all the way, kid. No need to fake it. Half-drunk. Half-naked. Half-awake'll make it all right.

And you know, this album is a bit novel-y as much as it's anything. Eat your heart out, Mr. Bukowski.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:27 PM

December 29, 2017

An Exciting Gay Adventure for Getaway People

In psychological terms, it will be easy enough to trace back to this habit of mind a certain poverty in our basic religious sense—a lack of pietas, a shrivelled sense of creaturely awe before the numinous. Given that situation, it will seem natural (though infinitely sad) that we should maul the holy liturgy so rudely, that our new churches should be built smart and heartless, that we should chatter so brightly and forget silence, that we should carry on in general as though the following of Christ crucified had been restyled into an exciting gay adventure for getaway people.

This 1966 essay was described by the person who shared it with me as "incredibly prescient," and I suppose it is, save in one respect: it failed to predict that the exciting gay adventure for getaway people would prove, in the end, to be so impressively boring.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:58 PM

Minor Secrets of "Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba" Revealed!

Signature tune, I suppose, and all that that entails.

The amp going out in the middle of the song was a fairly typical mid-tour event. Those amplifiers, God love 'em, were exceedingly fragile and not necessarily soldered together all that robustly in the factory... who'd have imagined they'd rattle around in the backs of vans for hours every day for eight weeks at a time several times a year and run at full heat every single night? I can still hear the "tic tic tic tic" sound of the (never-used) reverb doo-dad as the background soundtrack on the road, till it finally rattled itself loose and went silent. It usually wasn't too long thereafter that other things rattled themselves off as well. Eventually a Fonz-like punch in the side of the face wasn't enough to make them behave when they gave out during a set. After which, we'd just stop at a local music store, buy a new used one, and carry the dead one around, sometimes bringing it out to stack up and look cool on stage. That's how KISS started out I think. (The going rate for those was $400 each.) Anyway, that's why I have so many of them now.

Maybe that's what we did on the way from Seattle to wherever after this show, but I'm not sure; it looks like that one had a few good punches left in it.

Anyway, in this case the punch worked and the crowd luckily was able to fill in for the missing sound by screaming away. A better showman might have stuck around to milk the join-together-with-the-band drama instead of scurrying away to attend to the punching, but you know, there were lots of songs left and we weren't getting any younger. As for the song itself, I've written a bit about it recently when posting other vids of it, here and here.

In "primordial" form this one pre-dates most of the Love Is Dead songs. It was not-yet-finished but buzzing in my head during the lengthy, procrastinatory lag between the recording and release of ...and the Women Who Love Them. I'd considered trying to throw together a quickie acoustic version to stick on one of the formats as a hidden track, in fact (because it seemed likely that that release was to be the MTX's last hurrah: and it would have been fitting.) In the event it was saved for the band's subsequent incarnation. I'm not sure it was ever really "finished." People who have followed some of my recent and not so recent complaints about rhymes and such will notice that this breaks most of my dumb little rules repeatedly and flagrantly. I was only just realizing I had an effective lyric-writing rulebook, but it wasn't like I was unaware of it at the time either. Maybe I could have done it better, but it just seemed okay the way it was somehow. And it is, after all, a slightly rueful celebration of imperfection so...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:36 PM

December 28, 2017

The Red Room Riddle

I was raised Catholic, but it was a hippie-dippie California kind of Free to Be You and Me Public Television Catholicism without much content, so I first heard about the Slaughter of the Innocents from this Scott Corbett book, quite a good ghost story in fact.

(If you would like to see a depiction of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents from a 10th Century illuminated manuscript, go here.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:55 PM

You Hit Me with a Tree

Here's another (the only other) song from that found tape that also had the Munsters Theme on it, "Just Your Way of Saying No," one of Jon's best tunes. '85 or '86. We played it too fast, like everything else and like everybody else, but there's a good bit of rock and roll in there nonetheless, thank God.

I think you can see my terrible old Yamaha combo amp propped up on a chair in the back there. That thing really sounded awful. I wonder what happened to it.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:39 AM

December 27, 2017

In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum (et Deus erat Verbum)

I am unable to post pictures to this blog at present, but you're interested in seeing an early 15th Century manuscript illuminated to depict John the Apostle and Evangelist at the moment of receiving the Revelation you can view it here.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:46 PM

December 26, 2017

Boxing Day

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:09 PM

St. Stephen

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:07 PM

December 25, 2017

1 Manger Square, Bethlehem

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:14 PM

Almost Nearly There

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:58 AM

December 24, 2017

Cat Creche Crash

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:57 PM

December 23, 2017

Ding Dong Merrily

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:34 PM

Victoria

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:01 PM

Mylène Demongeot 1968

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:40 AM

Munsters Theme

My buddy Will found this on a VHS tape (all it had on it was two MTX songs from this same performance and the Quincy punk episode.) If it's not obvious, the method of transfer was his taking a cell phone video of the TV. This had to be 1985 or 1986, probably before Everyone's Entitled... was recorded, and it's the only document that I've seen of our Munsters theme cover, which we used to play in all our sets in the beginning. No idea where this is from, but it kind of looks like a campus room of some kind.

This "move," mining your childhood for bits of pop and trash culture to recapitulate semi-ironically, is something we used to do all the time and it has had a long history in punk rock and alterna-culture generally. You know the kind of thing I mean: you take a Brady Bunch song, or a song from or about the Partridge Family, feed it through your own machine and make it your own. (Well, "your own," except that, everyone else is doing that too.) I probably learned it from the Dickies. I can tell you that for 13 year old me there was nothing in the world more amazing, more brilliant, more perfect, more meaningful, or more transcendent, than the bare fact of the existence of a recording of a punk band playing the Banana Splits theme. (I've kind of, you know, gotten used to the idea by now.)

But what I was thinking was, what's the contemporary equivalent? I doubt very many people under 35 are familiar with the Munsters or the Banana Splits, and like so much of what amused us to death back then it's completely incomprehensible to them now: but they must be aware of SOMETHING. What stuff from twenty years ago do "the kids" mine for semi-ironic thrills in 2017? i.e., what would the 2017 version of the 1985 Mr T Experience present a warped re-capitulation of from the year 1997 that would be suited to this use? Well, the answer is, there isn't one, so: nothing. Rock and roll as "the now sound" is gone, for good, probably. But if there were? Some video game thing I'd expect. Is there still "trash culture," and if so what is it?

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:21 AM