What Happened to the Morbid Hipster?

mondo_balordoI’m still taken aback when people act surprised when they find out that Johnny Ramone was a Republican. Make no mistake; John “Johnny Ramone” Cummings, the down-strumming, ax-slingin’ guitarist for what many consider either the first or the most influential punk rock band of all time, was an unabashed Nixon and Reagan supporter, a staunch proponent of the death penalty (“they should put it on TV for everyone to see”) and a practicing Catholic, and he wore “Kill a Commie for mommy” and “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out” t-shirts under his black leather motorcycle jacket; all while playing the often copied guitar riffs that appear on every Ramones album and were played at every Ramones gig. He even admitted he played his guitar as if it were a Commie blasting machine gun.

People are even more surprised to learn what Johnny Ramone’s OTHER obsessions were; baseball cards, comic books, horror movies and serial killers. Okay, they’ll concede that, between going to church, attempting to outlaw abortion and finding ways to screw poor people, all while hypocritically preaching about family values and the need to quell inner city crime, members of the GOP CAN be fans of baseball cards, comic books and horror movies… but serial killers?! What would Sean Hannity think? Or Pat Buchanan? How does one allegedly support God, mom, apple pie and family values while obsessively reading about the exploits of Ed Gein and John Wayne Gacy?

When Johnny Ramone started the Ramones, he said very plainly that the group’s formula was to write two minute songs with loud, buzz-saw guitars, catchy pop melodies and “sick” – as in morbid, twisted, weird, unusual, dark, disturbing – topics. And did they accomplish this task? Let’s see: “Glad to See You Go” is about Charles Manson; “Chainsaw” is about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; “Today Your Love/Tomorrow the World” is about a Nazi fighter pilot “fighting for the fatherland”; “Loudmouth” is about beating up an annoying girlfriend; “53rd and 3rd” is about a young punk who makes money by sucking the cocks of middle aged businessmen on skid row (presumably Dee Dee wrote from an autobiographical perspective, but I’m guessing the part where he kills the guy is made up); “We’re a Happy Family” is about a family where “daddy’s telling lies/ baby’s eating flies/ mommy’s on pills/ baby’s got the chills… no Christmas cards to send/ daddy likes men”; “Warthog” is about “drugged out visions of Commies and queers”; “Pinhead” is about Todd Browning’s 1932 grotesque horror classic Freaks; and songs such as “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”, “Teenage Lobotomy”, “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”, “Go Mental”, “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Cretin Hop” sorta speak for themselves.

On top of that, before punk was dwarfed by Clash-inspired Marxist populism, Crass-inspired anarcho-leftism or Dead Kennedys-inspired generic liberalism and anti-capitalism, other punk bands were also into being “sick.” The Sex Pistols sang about a psycho fan of theirs who had an abortion in “Bodies” (some say “Bodies” has an anti-abortion message couched in its cuss-word filled lyrics; certainly “a gurgling, bloody mess” is something people see often in the back rooms of Planned Parenthood Clinics), not to mention calling the New York Dolls “poor little faggots” in “New York”; the Dead Boys sang about serial killer David Berkowitz in “Son of Sam”; the Vibrators sang about some kind of twisted love affair in “Nazi Baby”; Eater angrily tells some offensive bitch to get raped in the confusingly titled “Get Raped”; the Adverts sang about a guy who wakes up from eye transplant surgery to find that he’s had his eyes replaced with those of murderer Gary Gilmore in the cleverly titled – not to mention super catchy! – “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes”; and, of course, songs like “Orgasm Addict” by the Buzzcocks and “Bring on the Nubiles” by the Stranglers speak for themselves as well.

Oh, and if you’re a punk neophyte, google the lyrics to either “Bullet”, “Attitude”, “Last Caress” or “Skulls” by the Misfits. They sure as hell ain’t about saving the planet!

And JUST to belabor the point by using too many examples – because using too many examples is fun! – the Mentally Ill from Chicago have songs with titles like “Gacy’s Place”, “Stalag 13” and “Tumor Boy”, Legionnaire’s Disease from Houston have a song called “Rather See You Dead” that goes “rather see you dead/with a bullet in your head” and both the Child Molesters and the Hollywood Squares, who are both from Los Angeles, have a song about the Hillside Strangler; the former call theirs “(I’m the) Hillside Strangler”, and the latter use the shorter title “Hillside Strangler.”

All of these examples of early punk rock are part of a greater culture of morbidity, that seems to have all but been lost in the last, I dunno… ten, fifteen, twenty years? A quarter century? There are still bands who keep things twisted and weird, such as Rectal Hygienics, but they either get criticized for their “misogynistic” lyrics like in this article asking “Why Are Misogynist Lyrics ‘Entertainment’ in the Current Year?” or ignored entirely for deeply silly crap like War on Women, none of whose members, I’m thinking, have ever heard of Jim Goad.

Speaking of Jim Goad, I asked Dan, the owner of the PATAC record label, if I could use a song by one of his bands on the Sounds of Marshabaloosh segment on the Savage Hippie podcast and if he’d heard of Jim Goad. Not only had he NOT heard of Jim Goad, he explicitly said that he didn’t want any of the stuff from his label – the same label that put out an album by Anal Cunt, known for their racist humor, rape and Holocaust jokes and regular use of racial slurs – played on the evil, racist Savage Hippie podcast that’s hosted by two Jews and a Shiksa. His label also has bands with names like Fistula and Panzer Bastard and often uses blasphemous, horrific and grotesque imagery on their album covers, flyers and press releases. In other words, covering your album with inverted crosses and images of ripped out organs is acceptable, but advocating for immigration reform to keep a certain religion, known for its hatred of gays and women and whose name translates to “submission” and which has been the source of 30,000+ terror attacks since 9/11, out of the United States to keep its citizens safe, is backwards, wrong headed and racist. Did I mention that it’s also racist?

Anyway, when all four issues of Jim Goad’s ANSWER Me! zine were reprinted by Nine-Banded Books, Goad said that the new volume is bound to cause a stir considering the reaction it received a quarter of a century ago. I believe this is wishful thinking. When the Goads’ (Jim and Debbie, that is) zine made them the “top dogs of the zine world”, as he said on the Savage Hippie Podcast several months ago, hipsters, weirdos and freaks were cooler, more open minded and more into morbid and bizarre culture, and only the earliest strains of stifling and sensitive political correctness and cultural Marxism began to poke their ugly heads into the underground world. The people who will see and read the ANSWER Me! volume released in 2017 are already his fans from Takimag, The Redneck Manifesto and Shit Magnet and are primarily on the nu-right/AltRight, and there’s a good chance it won’t see the inside of a “hip”, independent book store.

However, back, during the golden era of the slacker, hidden away in small, “alternative” book stores, cult video stores and even dinky, independent record stores, were groups of people whose interests included, but were not limited to, anything that was bizarre, weird, excessively ugly or just downright unusual. These underground hipster freaks enjoyed watching cult films by Russ Meyer, Ray Dennis Steckler, Al Adamson, Barry Mahon and Herschell Gordon Lewis; they enjoyed watching Faces of Death videos and mondo films which showed primitive African tribes spearing elephants to death and Chinese villagers eating snakes; they read RE/Search magazine, the ANSWER Me! zine and anything put out by Feral House books to learn about bizarre cults with weird rituals or to look at disturbing pictures of botched surgeries and gawk at autopsies and body modifications; they read pieces by Ted Kaczynski and about various mass murderers, serial killers, cannibals and other assorted human detritus; they searched local comic shops for rare issues of the 1980s Japanese comic Rapeman; and, like me, they took their girlfriends to see Cannibal Holocaust, which has animal killing, rape and torture in it, only to have said girlfriend say, “did they at least EAT the turtle after killing it?”

And they enjoyed all of these odd pleasures without feeling guilty about or having to rationalize them. I still cringe when I remember reading about modern day film students looking at Russ Meyer films through a feminist lens. WHAT FEMINIST LENS?! Meyer was a tit-obsessed pig who filled his movies with sex and violence; sometimes the chicks got beaten up, and sometimes the chicks did the beating. And when the chicks did the beating, the guys who watched the movies still beat off to them because the chicks’ tits were huge.

And don’t you DARE consider certain customs practiced by certain tribes in far away lands to be primitive or backward, you racist bastard!

Oh well, just like punk rock, weirdo culture as a whole has all but been ruined because of the SJWs’ need to reassess everything from a politically correct, cultural Marxist angle. Nothing can just be enjoyed at face value anymore. Unfortunately these new school kids, who are obsessed with self-righteousness and virtue signalling, won’t be able to watch footage of primitive tribes spearing elephants to death, listen to songs with the word “faggot” in the lyrics or read about Nazi cults run by Jews who think Hitler is Jesus without thinking, “am I going to get yelled at for this?”. Sucks to be them.

Is the Clash Just Skrewdriver in Disguise?

Being on the right and being into punk rock… but those things can’t POSSIBLY go together? Or so I’ve been told by a handful of people who recently called me a poser, saying I remind them of Ian Rubbish, the singer for a made up band called the Bizzaros (not, of course, to be confused with the Bizarros from Cleveland), that was featured on a Saturday Night Live skit and whose Johnny Rotten-esque singer – played by Fred Armison – praises, rather than denounces, Margaret Thatcher.

Well, yeah, England COULD use another Margaret Thatcher no matter how many songs the Exploited wrote in which they call her a cunt. But, what’s interesting, aside from how people found it hilarious to compare me to this Ian Rubbish character, is that people said I CLEARLY missed the message of punk as espoused by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, the Lennon/McCartney figures of the Clash (well except that Mick Jones is a guitarist, but that’s besides the point).  THE CLASH?! REALLY?! Clearly YOU, Mr./Mrs. Know-Nothing-About-Punk-Rock, missed the message of punk as espoused by THESE songs:

“Well there goes a girl and a half/she’s got me going up and down” – “Peaches” by the Stranglers

“I don’t really wanna dance/Girl, I just wanna get in your pants” – “I Need Lunch” by the Dead Boys

“You’re wild, and I’m wild about you” – “Wild About You” by the Saints

“I got a new rose, I got it good/I always knew that I always would” – “New Rose” by the Damned

“Gonna smile, I’m gonna laugh/you’re gonna get a blood bath” – “Glad to See You Go” by the Ramones.

“Why don’t you get raped?” – “Get Raped” by Eater (my last ex REALLY liked Eater by the way.)

“You tried it out for once/find it all right for kicks/and now you find out that it’s a habit that sticks/you’re an orgasm addict” – “Orgasm Addict” by the Buzzcocks

So there you have it. Punk rock stands for girls and a half who make you “go up and down”, while wanting to get in a girl’s pants, who you are wild about and who might be your new rose, all while laughing before giving someone a blood bath or telling a girl to get raped; oh, and of course jerking off.

How did you people, who know so much about punk rock, miss THOSE messages?!

But what’s really ironic is that these people, who claim that I missed “what punk’s about” because I don’t follow whatever Marxist/leftist nonsense that the Clash espouses – and which Kathy Schaidle, the adorable punk rocker turned Takimag columnist who told me to check out the Forgotten Rebels, called “gay” on the Savage Hippie podcast – apparently missed what it’s about as well. At least according to the anarchist band Crass, who spits on the Clash, their phony labor-leftist pose and their being signed to CBS-fucking-records for crying out loud.

They said that we were trash,
Well the name is Crass, not Clash.
They can stuff their punk credentials
Cause it’s them that take the cash.
They won’t change nothing with their fashionable talk,
All their RAR (rock against racism) badges and their protest walk,
Thousands of white men standing in a park,
Objecting to racism’s like a candle in the dark.
Black man’s got his problems and his way to deal with it,
So don’t fool yourself you’re helping with your white liberal shit.
If you care to take a closer look at the way things really stand,
You’d see we’re all just niggers to the rulers of this land.

Oo, almost got a Jim Goad vibe going there… err, maybe not…

Of course, I think Crass and the Clash are both retarded.

But THEN, I read the lyrics to the Clash song “Safe European Home”, and I had a “what the fuck is THIS shit?” moment! I’m nearly getting a boner at telling the modern day, Clinton supporting, corporate leftists that their “anti-racist, left-wing” proletariat heroes are pretty much about as racist as Skrewdriver. Don’t believe me? Okay, let’s see…

Well, I just got back an I wish I never leave now
(Where’d ya’ go?)
Who that Martian arrival at the airport, yeah?
(Where’d ya’ go?)
How many local dollars for a local anesthetic?
(Where’d ya’ go?)
The Johnny on the corner wasn’t very sympathetic
(Where’d ya’ go?)

translation: I just arrived in Jamaica, and I REALLY feel like an outsider. None of these guys even want to sell any drugs to me!

I went to the place where every white face
Is an invitation to robbery
An’ sitting here in my safe European home
Don’t wanna go back there again

translation: I’m white, Jamaicans will rob me, this place is scary and I want to leave.

Wasn’t I lucky, wouldn’t it be lovely?
(Where’d ya’ go?)
Send us all cards and have a lay in on Sunday
(Where’d ya’ go?)
I was there for two weeks, so how come I never tell now?
(Where’d ya’ go?)
That natty dread drinks at the Sheraton Hotel, yeah?
(Where’d ya’ go?)

translation: I’ve been here for two weeks, and this place still sucks.

They got the sun and they got the palm trees
(Where’d ya’ go?)
They got the weed and they got the taxis
(Where’d ya’ go?)
Whoa, “The Harder They Come” and the home of ol’ Bluebeat
(Where’d ya’ go?)
I’d stay and be a tourist but I can’t take the gun play
(Where’d ya’?)

translation: I thought I would like this place because of the sun, palm trees, weed, taxis, The Harder They Come and bluebeat, but I’m a white guy who can’t handle all of the crime in this country.

Okay, that’s not as bad as Skrewdriver and their, “they come here to this country from the jungles and the trees”, but it’s still not the leftist, politically correct, “power to the people” crap that people typically associate with the Clash. I mean, the group is blatantly saying, “Jamaica is a shithole, and as a white person,  I probably don’t belong there.” Hey, don’t yell at me! I didn’t write it! I prefer non-racist bands who talk about banging broads and killing people.

Of course, knowing punk fans, they’ll probably rationalize it and say that I’m totally mistaken and misread the lyrics. OR, maybe I can get the leftists at Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll to denounce the Clash the way they did with the Anti-Nowhere League for THIS song:

 

Musical Genres Are the Stupidest Thing Ever: Punk Rock Part 1

sex_pistolsIn 2016, telling someone you listen to punk or punk rock is pretty much about as vague as saying you listen to rock.  Punk has been around now for 40 years… or is it 50 years… or 60?  What is or what counts as punk rock?  Is punk rock just defined by bands with stupid, obnoxious names, who play two to three minute rock songs that consist of a few chords and are played at a fast tempo?  Is punk about having a “don’t give a fuck” attitude?  Is punk the musical front for a leftist/anarchist revolution?

Who are the punk bands bands?  Are the Stooges punk?  The Ramones?  Black Flag? Nirvana?  Green Day?  Sonic Youth?  Napalm Death?  Nausea?  Dropdead?  Richard Hell and the Voidoids?  Cockney Rejects?  Pissed Jeans?  Halo of Flies?  Butthole Surfers?  X-Ray Spex?  Devo?  Oingo Boingo?  Cro-Mags?  Dinosaur Jr.?  Nobunny?  Discharge?

To the average interloper, this may seem like a complete waste of time and trivial garbage.  But, it’s worth noting that, as much as genre distinctions are dumb, even John Derbyshire notes that there is some interest in exploring how there’s very little cultural cohesion, even under what allegedly seems to be the same cultural umbrella; in this case, punk rock.

If I’m not mistaken, the term punk rock was first used to describe the debut album by the Deviants, Ptooff! from 1967.  The Deviants were a group of quasi-anarchists from the bohemian Ladbroke Grove district of London and were led by counter cultural mouthpiece Mick Farren.  Musically the album is a solid mix of Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd and Zappa-style wankery along with social satire.  The term “punk” was used literally to imply “no good jerk” or “asshole.”

The term was used again to describe the self titled debut by the Stooges; as in “the music of punks cruising for burgers.”  Iggy Pop wasn’t too happy about this classification because it implied that he’s dumb, something that tends to happen when your album consists of three-chord garage rock songs with titles like “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “No Fun”, and has minimalist lines like “1969, okay/all across the USA/another year for me and you/another with nothing to do/last year I was 21/I didn’t have a lot of fun/now I’m gonna be 22/I say ‘oh my’ and ‘boo hoo.'”

The term came up a third time when Jac Holzman of Elektra records and future Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye assembled the Nuggets box set.  They used the term to describe the music of mid-1960s garage rock groups like the Sonics, the Monks, the Seeds, the Count Five, the Zakary Thaks, the Blues Magoos and the 13th Floor Elevators.

By 1974, the term was being used by journalists rather liberally, but without attaching it to any particular sound.  That year a journalist asked Aerosmith if they were “punk rock.”  Were they?  Personally speaking “Rats in the Cellar” tears it up as much as any Ramones, Sex Pistols or Damned song.  But, “punk rock” didn’t exist as such when Aerosmith came out, so they were relegated to “hard rock.”

Retroactively the Velvet Underground, Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls, Modern Lovers and Dictators were labeled as punk, but because they came out before 1976, they’re “proto-punk” or something.  Uncovered recordings by the Electric Eels, Mirrors, Rocket from the Tombs (all from Cleveland), Death (the black guys from Detroit, not the death metal band), the Gizmos and Simply Saucer reveal more music that roughly fits the “punk” category as already defined by the other bands; well, except for the MC5, whose classic debut, Kick Out the Jams, sounds more like the heavy acid fuzz of Blue Cheer, but that’s another story.

Mainstream critics say that “punk rock” truly “started” in 1976 when the Ramones released their self-titled debut.  Did it, though?  By that point the Sex Pistols were already eight months into their existence, and the Saints had been together in some way, shape or form since 1973.  In 1976, if you exclude Patti Smith and Blondie, the Ramones were the only band that really sounded like a punk band as it was later defined.

However, in 1976, there weren’t any other bands out besides the Ramones, so labels threw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and AC/DC into the punk genre.

ac-dc-its-a-long-way-to-the-top-single-cover

The term “punk” was also used to describe an early Suicide gig, even though Suicide is an electronic duo.  “Punk” soon began to describe a scene when John Holmstrom, Eddie “Legs” McNeil and Gedd Dunn, three pussy chasing, drug using, degenerates, started the magazine Punk in 1975 after listening to Go Girl Crazy by the Dictators that Summer for the same reason most people started magazines at the time; free gigs, free booze and free records.  Back then the world wasn’t saturated with people who cheaply assemble xeroxed zines in order to receive gimmedats.  And, while Go Girl Crazy! is considered an early punk classic, it’s actually more of an early mix of punk and metal and has lots of crazy leads from soon to be Manowar guitarist Ross the Boss, along with humor to boot.  I can’t imagine a band today getting away with releasing songs with titles like “Back to Africa” and “Master Race Rock.”  Google the lyrics before you throw a fit.

Of course Punk magazine was hardly a “zine.”  It was printed on glossy stock and mass produced, not photocopied and sold to a few record stores who were in the know.  You know what was though?

 

heavy_metal_digest_iggyMeanwhile, in London, the Sex Pistols had garnered enough of a following of their weirdo, freak fans, who whore bondage gear, swastikas, torn clothes and spiky hair, that people felt a movement was in progress.  When they first formed, the only bands on the local club scene were called “pub rock”, which was more or less a cross of rockabilly and 70s boogie rock – Kilburn and the Highroads, Dr. Feelgood, Ducks Deluxe, Bazooka Joe, the 101ers (who featured Joe Strummer when he was in rockabilly mode) and Eddie and the Hot Rods – essentially revivalist music, and the Sex Pistols wanted none of it.  Their first show was supporting Bazooka Joe, who featured Adam Ant on bass.  When the music started to go in the Pistols’ direction, a few “pub rock” bands, mainly the Stranglers and the Vibrators, sped up and toughened up their songs and became “punk.”  In punk’s first few months of coverage by the underground press, Eddie and the Hot Rods were included under the punk umbrella as well before being unceremoniously jettisoned.

In New York in 1975, there was something resembling a cohesive underground music scene as well.  There was of course the Ramones, the Heartbreakers – featuring former New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan and former Television bassist Richard Hell; NOT the Tom Petty band – Television, Patti Smith, Blondie, Wayne County and the Back Street Boys, Talking Heads, Suicide, the Miamis, the Mumps, the Shirts, the Tuff Darts, Mink Deville, Sun, Steel Tips and Sic Fucks among others.  By 1976, there would be Richard Hell and the Voidoids (after Hell left the Heartbreakers) and the Dead Boys.

The Ramones were of course the big boys on the scene and signed with Seimore Stein’s Sire label in the Fall of 1975, releasing Ramones in April of 1976.  To the mid ’70s rock crowd, who were used to longer songs by well trained “musos”, the album was really left field.  The group performed 14 basic songs in under a half hour with barely a guitar solo on any of them.  The lyrics are about beating up annoying kids and similarly annoying girlfriends, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, sniffing glue and Nazis.  And the album cover photo has the guys on the front looking less like a band and more like a group of derelicts who’ll mug you outside the liquor store… in an era of arty prog rock with elaborate cover paintings of fantasy landscapes, who wouldn’t listen to that?  In hindsight, it seems as the though Ramones, with its all down strummed bar chords and similar sounding two minute songs, had less of an impact on the groups that immediately followed and more of a direct influence on the hardcore punk and thrash metal bands of the next generation.  Although Ramones songs still had the 1-4-5, Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran style riffs that other punk bands used and plenty of oldies-style pop melody, there was a stridently, aggressive, militantly metal approach to Johnny Ramone’s playing; he even admitted that he copped his entire guitar style from the “da-da-da” approach of “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin.

It’s almost ironic then that this 28 year old Republican was a direct influence on a bunch of antisocial 15-18 year olds of the soon to exist American hardcore punk scene, but that’s another story for another post.  Since there wasn’t a wide circuit of underground venues for the Ramones to play, for their first tour, they were forced to bring their loud, fast and primitive sound to the audiences of bands like Boston and Blue Oyster Cult.  Needless to say the crowd reaction in most cases wasn’t great.  However, when they played London on July 3rd and 4th of that year, the who’s who of the punk scene attended their gigs.  They were originally set to play before their Sire label mates, the Flamin’ Groovies, who first decided it would be best if the Ramones headlined, then changed their minds at the last minute.  Needless to say, the Ramones performed in front of 3,000 people at the Roundhouse, and the Flamin’ Groovies performed in front of a nearly empty house.  For the historically obsessed, the Stranglers opened the gig.

Since people love to compare the Ramones with the Sex Pistols, the Pistols’ songs are all longer and slower than those of the Ramones. Johnny Rotten might have had the more brash, snotty and typically “punk” voice with his “nyeah-nyeah”, overly anunciated sing-shouting, but Steve Jones was a much better guitarist than Johnny Ramone, Paul Cook is a tight and solid drummer and, for cryin’ out loud, Glenn Matlock tried to teach the rest of the Pistols Beatles chords; Sid Vicious was a talentless joke and was rarely even plugged in when he played live, but hey! Listen to anything by the Pistols and tell me they’re not a tight, hard rock band. And no, the band never sang about being on the dole and they weren’t “assembled” like a boy band; they were an organic band who wrote and performed their own songs. If you’re looking for “assembled”, that would be “jail bait rockers” the Runaways. Malcolm Mclaren seemed too stupid to ever manipulate people the way Kim Fowley did.

Thanks to the Pistols and, spefically Johnny Rotten’s spiky hair, torn up t-shirts and blazers, safety pins and snotty delivery, by late 1976 the 100 Club became punk central and London now had a number bands that mimicked the Pistols in either look or sound.  The Clash copied the sound of the Ramones, threw in some Who riffs and spewed Marxist drivel.  The Damned played fun party songs about well… I still have no idea what “Neat Neat Neat” is about!  Summer of 1976 in England was considered the “Summer of hate” by some.

Manchester featured the Buzzcocks, Slaughter and the Dogs and the Drones, and the Saints were imported from Brisbane Australia after their self-released, debut single “(I’m) Stranded”(b/w “No Time”) caught the ears of EMI.  While merely a curiosity in the States, in the U.K., punk “went viral” in December of 1976 when the Pistols appeared on the Today Show with Bill Grundy, and guitarist Steve Jones cussed out the talk show host for his gross, drunken behavior.  Next day the Pistols were public enemy number one, and all but three of the group’s nineteen U.K. dates with the Clash, the Damned and Heartbreakers were cancelled.

As for independent labels vs. major labels, my thoughts on this are as follows: as mentioned before, the Saints put out their first single themselves, and it lead to a deal with EMI.  In the States, the dinky Ork label released the Richard and the Voidoids EP Another World and Devo released their first single “Jocko Homo” (b/w “Mongoloid”) on their own Booji Boy label, so I’m still stumped as to why the Buzzcocks get all this credit for spearheading “D.I.Y.” with their first release, the Spiral Scratch EP; especially since they soon signed a major label deal and other bands had already released their own singles or had been on independent labels.  Hell, in the States the art-pop performance group the Residents had always released their albums in limited runs on their tiny Ralph label.  It’s also worth noting that, while technically the Ramones were a major label band, that’s only because Sire was bought by Warner Bros. almost immediately after they signed the deal.  Prior to that Sire was actually a pretty small label that handled garage and bubble gum music.

By 1977 “punk rock” was being marketed by bands, labels and ‘zines such as Sniffin’ Glue as the new genre/movement that the kids were into.  The Ramones toured as support for the Talking Heads, who Johnny Ramone hated because he thought they were wimps.  The Dead Boys toured the States and the U.K. with the Damned, the Clash toured with Richard Hell and the Voidoids and the Stranglers with the Dictators.   And sooo many excellent records were released in punk’s halcyon days.  Here are a bunch you should buy or steal:

Leave Home – Ramones
Rocket to Russia – Ramones
Road to Ruin – Ramones
Never Mind the Bollocks… Here’s the Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols
Damned Damned Damned – The Damned
Music for Pleasure – The Damned
Machine Gun Etiquette – The Damned
Rattus Norvegicus – The Stranglers
No More Heroes – The Stranglers
Black and White – The Stranglers
The Raven – The Stranglers
L.A.M.F. – The Heartbreakers
So Alone – Johnny Thunders
Young, Loud and Snotty – Dead Boys
We Have Come for Your Children – Dead Boys
Pure Mania – The Vibrators
V2 – The Vibrators
Manifest Destiny – The Dictators
Bloodbrothers – The Dictators
Marque Moon – Television
Adventure – Television
Pink Flag – Wire
Chairs Missing – Wire
154 – Wire
Blank Generation – Richard Hell and the Voidoids
Talking Heads ’77 – Talking Heads
More Songs About Buildings and Food – Talking Heads
Fear of Music – Talking Heads
The Modern Dance – Pere Ubu
Dub Housing – Pere Ubu
(I’m) Stranded – The Saints
Eternally Yours – The Saints
Prehistoric Sounds – The Saints
Radios Appear – Radio Birdman
Aspirations – X (Australian band)
The Clash – The Clash
London Calling – The Clash
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! – Devo
Duty Now for the Future – Devo
All Skrewed Up – Skrewdriver
Another Music in a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks
Love Bites – Buzzcocks
Singles Going Steady – Buzzcocks
A Different Kind of Tension – Buzzcocks
Live at the Witch Trials – The Fall
Dragnet – The Fall
Real Life – Magazine
Public Image/First Issue – Public Image Ltd.
The Scream – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Cut – The Slits
Do It Dog Style – Slaughter and the Dogs
Germfree Adolescents – X-Ray Spex
Can’t Stand the Rezillos – The Rezillos
Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts – The Adverts
Tell Us the Truth – Sham 69
The Feeding of the 5000 – Crass
Another Kind of Blues – U.K. Subs
The Undertones – The Undertones
Inflammable Material – Stiff Little Fingers
999 – 999
Separates – 999

A cursory listen will reveal that “punk” was pretty darn diverse, and while some might take exception with me throwing the Talking Heads or Television into the list because they’re “art rock” or Public Image Ltd., Magazine and the Fall because they’re “post-punk”, I feel the Fall are sufficiently punky, especially since I’m including Wire and Pere Ubu, who are in the same “art-garage” wheelhouse, and I focused on the “punk era”, which falls between 1977-1979, not the strict “punk genre.”  Also what if a band like the Slits started as a punk band, but became “post punk”?  It’s clear that some bands thought of punk as a throwback to 50s rock ‘n’ roll with edgier lyrics, some thought of it as a springboard into the future and some didn’t consider themselves punk at all, but had no problem scoring points with the spiky hair set.  Some bands, such as the Saints and the Clash could be classified as punk on their first albums, but then moved onto something else entirely and began to establish new audiences and/or lose their old ones.  I also deliberately excluded the second Clash album, Give ’em Enough Rope, from the list because, frankly, it sucks.

As mentioned, while punk seemed to make a splash in England, it didn’t mean shit to the average American, who would rather buy albums by Pink Floyd, Foreigner, the Bee Gees or Fleetwood Mac.  Independent labels, major labels?  It really didn’t mean much to the average music consumer in the late 70s, and later the Damned bitched that they didn’t make a single cent off of their first album, which came out through the tiny Stiff label.

By 1979, it became clear that punk was going NOWHERE as far as the record buying public was concerned.  The only hits that came out of it were mainstream crossovers like the Patti Smith/Bruce Springsteen duet “Because the Night” and pop/disco hits by Blondie.  The college art crowd dug the polyrhythms and African inspired, new wave funk of later Talking Heads albums like Remain in Light, while Devo scored a hit with “Whip It.”  The only other thing that came out of punk was mainstream power-pop.  To the average American, the Cars and the Police were punk bands.

The Sex Pistols U.S. tour in early 1978, where they only toured the South until they hit San Francisco, made some good copy, but it caused the average American, who tuned into Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, to think that punk was nothing more than a sick joke imported from the U.K., a second British invasion, but one where they wanted to send the invaders back.  It also didn’t help that, after seven concerts, the Sex Pistols broke up, causing labels to lose interest in promoting American punk bands.  The Ramones were kept on Sire until 1992 more or less as a tax write off.

By 1979, as far as American labels were concerned, the punk rock “movement” that they helped foster in the traditional way was dead.  Of course, what’s dead in the mainstream grows and festers in the underground.

 

 

Did Reagan and Thatcher Really Keep Punk Alive?

reagan_punk_flyerIn the opening scene of the the 2006 documentary, American Hardcore, which was adapted from Steven Blush’s 1999 tome, middle-aged, bald Vic Bondie from Chicago based hardcore punk band, Articles of Faith says something to the effect of, “Reagan was saying it’s morning in America.  It’s fucking MIDNIGHT, MAN!”  This was his way of saying that, in November 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected President of these here United States, EVERYTHING changed!

It was like Germany 1933 all over again.  Only THIS TIME, there would be REAL opposition to the Nazis in the form of a bunch of 15 – 18 year old kids with crew cuts, combat boots, black denim and cutoff band t-shirts idiotically slamming into one another while a band of middling talent provided the loud, fast, aggressive soundtrack.  Sure a few casualties were rounded up in the form of split heads and severed ears – Jack Grisham of T.S.O.L. admits to slicing kids’ ears off with the spur of his engineer boot – but this was the sound of the YOUTH, a true left-wing opposition to the rising tide of Reaganite fascism.

This of course paralleled the opposition to the equally fascist government of Margaret Thatcher in England, where much more fashion conscious, mohawk wearing punks like the Exploited didn’t waste a moment to call Margaret Thatcher a “cunt.”

By the mid-80s, metal bands like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth heard the rallying cry of the punks and joined along.  Now the anti-oppressive, anti-fascist message would have better distortion, longer songs and more guitar solos!

By the end of the 80s, the U.S. elected a moderate, slightly less fascist President in George Bush, and, in 1992, fascism was finally crushed – at least, until 2000 – when MTV rocked the vote and President Clinton was elected.  The remaining hardcore punk bands, those that hadn’t broken up, were forced to scratch their heads about what they could possibly sing about.  They had the duel challenge that their righteous, anti-fascist message was now being sold to MILLIONS of people thanks to commie, rap rockers Rage Against the Machine and the fact that, well, Clinton wasn’t a Republican.

So, THANK GOD, that, in 2000, George W. Bush was elected and the bands could get righteous again.

I got the inspiration for this piece when I read Gavin McInnes’ article about how comedians hate Donald Trump and, without him, they’d have a dearth of things to mock, as if the dysfunction of their own lives isn’t good enough.  This same line of reasoning has been parroted about punk rock and, especially its louder, faster offshoot hardcore punk; the 70s might have had some problems, but with the election of Ronald Reagan, now they REALLY had something to complain about, or as the Dead Kennedys sang, “We’ve got a bigger problem now.”

That’s of course if you think music, and punk rock especially, is something more than just a form of entertainment, a loud, fun, raucous way to “get the lead out.”  And unfortunately, for a bunch of free-loading, smelly Anarcho/crust punks, this is the case.

Although there were precursors to punk, bands such as the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, the MC5, the New York Dolls and the Modern Lovers, the general rule of thumb is that the first modern sounding punk rock album was the self titled debut from the Ramones, released in April of 1976.  Johnny Ramone was a Republican who felt that his often copied, down-strumming, “da-da-da” approach was meant to mimic the shooting of an AK-47.  A hippie he was not.

With the exception of maybe the MC5, who largely disavowed their pro-Maoist views, left-wing style revolution was never the first thing on the minds of any of these bands.  Punk, in general, was predicated upon bands who made their stake at being fuck-ups with catchy songs.

By 1977, the major labels gambled on these lovable miscreants and officially called their music “punk rock.”  These new rock groups had funny, sometimes indecent names like the Sex Pistols, the Dead Boys, the Dictators, the Saints, the Clash, the Damned, the Ruts, the Boomtown Rats, the Buzzcocks, the Heartbreakers (not the Tom Petty band!!!), the Vibrators, the Stranglers, the Adverts, the Rezillos, X-Ray Spex, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Slits and Richard Hell and the Voidoids.

They wrote fuck-up songs for fuck-up kids about fuck-up topics, or, as Johnny Ramone said, “we just want to write about sick topics.”  Punks sang about serial killers, Nazis, rapists, horror movies, beating people up, boredom, juvenile delinquency and, well, being a fuck-up, while bashing out wonderfully juvenile, short and catchy songs that hearkened back to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, albeit with much louder distortion and snottier vocals.  They also wore funny clothes, making “anti-fashion” statements with torn t-shirts, spiky hair, safety pins, smeared makeup, leather jackets and even swastikas.  Many disguised their attempts at obnoxiousness as “artistic statements.”  Some on the mainstream saw them as a threat; many more saw them as just the new thing the kids are into.

Occasionally a band like the Clash would sing about being on the dole, working in a factory or rioting against “the man.”  Occasionally a group of so-called Anarchists such as Crass would try to make you feel bad for everything you enjoy.  Leather jacket?  That’s made out of an animal!  And soon a movement based upon their principles emerged, saying that punk could no longer be about having fun being a fuck-up. NOW punk had to have a message!

Meanwhile, in the United States, by 1979, major labels like Sire (actually Sire was a much smaller label, but it was bought by Warner Bros., bumping it up to major status) had grown tired of their fuck-up bands.  The Ramones, the Dead Boys and Richard Hell and Voidoids weren’t selling millions of their fuck-up records to millions of fuck-up kids like they had hoped.  Instead, the majority of Americans prefered Animals by Pink Floyd, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac or the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

So, the fuck-up bands either had to break up or change their approach for commercial appeal, giving us the closest to punk crossover hits with the Patti Smith/Bruce Springsteen duet “Because the Night”, catchy as hell pop songs by Blondie and “Whip It” by Devo.  Meanwhile, the underground was bubbling with activity and new labels such as Slash and Dangerhouse emerged with new fuck-up bands with names like the Weirdos, the Germs, X, the Bags, the Deadbeats, the Controllers and the Dils.

But, just being a fuck-up with really great songs wasn’t good enough.  The Dead Kennedys formed in 1978 in San Francisco and their singer, agent provocateur Jello Biafra had a real message to sell to the kids.  Punk rock wasn’t about fun!  We have to change the world, man!  We have to take the world back from its evil obsession with capitalism.

The irony is that the first Dead Kennedys album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, released in 1980, primarily attacked limousine liberals like Jane Fonda (“Kill the Poor”), rich black people who claim they have a connection with ghetto black people (“Holiday in Cambodia”), shady landlords (“Let’s Lynch the Landlord”) and ultra-liberal San Francisco governor Jerry Brown (“California Uber Alles”).

With the exception of maybe “Chemical Warfare” and “When You Get Drafted”, one could make an argument that Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was just politically ambiguous satire with no leftist agenda.  Hell the track “Holiday in Cambodia” has the line “bragging that you know how the niggers feel cold/and the slums got so much soul” before bashing Pol Pot, the Communist dictator of Cambodia.  The track “I Kill Children” is just supposed to be shock punk with no message and “Your Emotions” is just Jello telling some broad, “your emotions make you a monster.”

The point?

By 1980, with the death of major label interest in “punk rock” and the rise of “new wave” and “power pop” or the so called skinny tie bands, a younger, angrier, MUCH more antisocial wave of punks hit the scene.  Anorexic, heroin addicted, twenty-something art school types, who spiked their hair up and wore torn blazers with safety pins, were replaced by line-backer sized, beer guzzling, suburban surf jocks, who shaved their heads and wore black jeans with chains for belts and engineer boots.  Safe pogoing (jumping up and down to the beat) was replaced by vicious slam dancing (or the mosh pit, if you will), and hardcore punk was born.

Does any of that sound like the beginnings of a leftist political movement?  None of the music on any of the records by Black Flag, Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, the Misfits, Fear or Bad Brains had a single mention of Ronald Reagan.  Personal turmoil, angst, self-hatred, hatred for society and, in the case of the Misfits, horror movies, were typical themes.

Were there leftist bands?  Sure.  Following the election of Reagan, the Dead Kennedys sang several songs about “cowboy Ronnie forking out his tongue at human rights”, D.O.A. sang “Fucked Up Ronnie”, D.R.I. did “Reaganomics” and Suicidal Tendencies even sang “I Shot the Devil”  about shooting the man, a rather tasteful statement considering the recent attempt on his life (to be fair, the song also talks about shooting Anwar Sadat and John Lennon).  Other bands, with names like Reagan Youth, Corrosion of Conformity, Millions of Dead Cops, the Dicks and the Crucifucks, sang more generic leftist lyrics, typically bashing war, politicians, cops, Christians, teachers, jocks and heavy metal bands; basically anyone that didn’t adhere to their narrow minded view of life.

As a side note, I talked with Paul Bakija of Reagan Youth at a gig they did in Cleveland, and you best believe he collected a princely sum for selling their song “Degenerated” to a Hollywood studio to use in the 1994 comedy film Airheads, starring Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler as members of a goofy punk metal kinda band called the Loan Rangers.

But, it was mainly Tim Yohannan, an ex-Yippie, who was essentially the Saul Alinsky of the punk scene, that tried to fashion hardcore punk into some sort of left wing opposition movement.  His magazine, the ultra popular, Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll deliberately bashed any bands who didn’t adhere to a strident leftist way of life and, as the 80s progressed, punk rules got more stringent;  being “true” and not being a “sellout” or a “poser” became more difficult with each passing generation, to the point where you have bands today who have the strictest of attitudes of what constitutes “punk.”  Punk isn’t about music, man!  It’s a way of life!  I actually got yelled at by some punks for listening to Bad Brains because, in the 80s, they referred to openly gay bands like the Big Boys and the Dicks as “bloodclot faggots.”  “You just think it’s about if you like the music and don’t care at all what they stand for?”  I’m not kidding.

By 1986, there was both a political and musical backlash; political in the form of New York Hardcore bands like Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags and Murphy’s Law, who blatantly supported Ronald Reagan and musical as hardcore bands moved away from their core sound and tried other approaches.  Black Flag became sludgier and helped invent grunge, the Meat Puppets became a sort of country punk hybrid, Husker Du turned into a melodic rock band, the Replacements became the Tom Petty of the underground. Early bands like Misfits, Minor Threat and Negative Approach broke up so that their singers could form more expansive, experimental bands.

How much of this had anything to do with Ronald Reagan?  I’d say none of it, but I’d be lying, because, in Reagan America, that awful, fascist place where people were oppressed, these bands had the freedom, the wherewithal, the extra capital from lower taxes and the chutzpah to launch their own labels, their own scene and their own little world apart from the major label and corporate/liberal media.  To be fair, labels like SST and Alternative Tentacles were started in 1978 and 1979 respectively, but, at very least, Reagan didn’t prevent these labels from functioning.  They were examples of capitalism at its finest.

The irony is that, in 1986, the Dead Kennedys’ career wasn’t killed by Ronald Reagan and his “oppressive”, right wing regime, but by Tipper Gore, wife of Al “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore, a Democrat, who felt that the insert for their 1985 Frankenchrist LP, the H.R. Giger painting, Landscape XX, a supposed metaphor for corporate America’s alleged fucking of its workers, was obscene.  In other words, it was the leftist liberal Democrat who killed the art.

CBGB (2013)

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Complete and utter shit.  I had already read the reviews and seen the trailer so I wasn’t surprised that this movie was going to suck.  I just watched it to see how bad it stunk and I was not  disappointed.  It did not even come close to rising above the absolute wretchedness which I had expected.  What’s sad is that CHEETAH CHROME WAS INVOLVED!!!  It’s mind boggling to me that a former participant on the CBGB scene could be involved in such a piss poor travesty and allow himself to be portrayed as a complete buffoon.  Chrome is a smart dude!  He’s well spoken and reads a lot and certainly must have been aware of how the actor portrayed him as a completely moronic thug.

But let me start from the beginning.  I wasn’t there.  I didn’t witness the first ever Ramones performance where each member played a different song, angrily stormed offstage and came back to play “Blitzkrieg Bop”; one of those legendary performances where the people in attendance had no idea that they were witnessing history being made.  But I’ve read Please Kill Me along with a ton of other literature on this topic and I’ve seen plenty of live footage from the era and, for chrissakes, I listen to all of these bands!!!

CBGB the movie is total VH1-style, biopic nonsense.  A few key scenes were underlined and recreated as stylistically bankrupt as possible (unless you consider crude comic book panel transitions a “style”).  But what do you expect from a film made by the same guy who directed Houseguest? A clever, post-modern docu-drama in the style of 24 Hour Party People?!!!!!

Like I said, I read Please Kill Me so I knew exactly what scenes they were recreating; the aforementioned inauspicious inaugural Ramones performance, Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys receiving oral sex onstage, Legs McNeil, John Holmstrom and Mary Harron interviewing Lou Reed for the first issue of Punk and Johnny Blitz’s stabbing among others.

And there you have it; the key stories behind the CBGB club excepting early performances from a bunch of other bands that were left out for practical reasons (I understand there might not have been room for Devo, the Cramps, the Misfits or the Damned but where the hell are Johnny Thunders and Heartbreakers or the Dictators in all of this?)… but the execution is a complete and utter joke.  The only one that actually, kind of works is the Talking Heads one.  They actually do look like the early Talking Heads but that only lasts for a couple minutes.  The Ramones in the movie are completely laughable.  Joey, who most considered typically cool, sounds like Woody Allen!!!  He sounds like a neurotic, New York Jew and not like a too-cool-for-school rock ‘n’ roll guy.  Apparently Linda Ramone, wife to deceased Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, approved one Ramones song to be in the movie but… instead, for some reason, they use a Joey Ramone solo recording.

The rest of the performances stink; actors that kinda sorta resemble Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, the Dead Boys (pre-Jeff Magnum who, for some reason, never appears in the movie(?!)), Television (with a pudgie Richard Hell(?!)) and the Police (who inexplicably “save” the club at the end (?!)) poorly mime to studio recordings of some of the greatest songs ever written.  The movie is also full of blatant, easily avoidable mistakes; there were stickers all over the wall for bands who hadn’t even played there yet, Patti Smith performs “Because the Night” two years before it even came out and basically the Dead Boys’ entire story arc is a complete insult to the group, which I’ll save for the next paragraph.

I’m surprised Cheetah Chrome says anything positive about the movie since the Dead Boys are treated like Hilly Kristal’s big mistake.  The movie only shows the Dead Boys’ public persona as a group of Midwest, white trash thugs where, in actuality, they were smart, charming and polite people!  The actor who plays Stiv looks like Parry Farrel and does a bunch of stupid, overly-exaggerated “punk” poses and the Cheetah character keeps making nimrod, little kid, “nyeah, nyeah” faces while looking completely incapable of holding a guitar.  If you watch any Dead Boys TV performances, it’s obvious they’re tight musicians who have quite a bit of charisma onstage.  None of this is shown in the movie.

They do show the onstage blowjob and Cheetah Chrome shows Young, Loud and Snotty producer Genya Raven his pubes.  This is important stuff, ya know.  And they do show people shooting dope in the CBGB bathroom and guys giving each other head, which did happen, I guess.  And they do show some dramatic scenes between Hilly (Allen Rickman) and his daughter Lisa (Ashley Greene) and how Hilly can’t handle money and was involved with some shady bikers and some other vaguely historical shit or something.  But who cares?  There is so much awesome early footage available of every single one of these performers on youtube that the only reason to watch this is to see how much of it they get wrong.  Oh and the guy who played Iggy Pop is too tall.

But, if you want to see for yourself, here it is on youtube.  Save yourself a trip to the theater or DVD rental and watch it here while you can: