Thursday, February 4, 2016

Animal Flesh (Hot Wire MY HEART Chapter Two)

Annabelle Blesch was a former parochial school student who moved into the Mission District as soon as she graduated high school. Undecided about whether she wanted to go to college or not, she promised her parents she would consider going to a good art school if they let her get her own apartment near the school of her choice. She never enrolled. She kept the apartment.

In the meantime she made a new set of friends and went to punk shows with them, dyed her hair platinum blonde, and dove into the whole DIY punk lifestyle. Her pale white skin made her look ghostlike. She painted her lips and fingernails and toenails cherry red, the brightest color she could find in the beauty shops. She wanted to date artists. She wanted to date musicians. She ended up with Dante Sterno.

Nobody wants to hang out with a girl named Annabelle Blesch so she changed her name to Animal Flesh. It was neatly shortened to simply Animal, which suited her just fine. Animal stretched out on the Murphy bed they had which lay not too far from the bay window overlooking the street. She had her sketch pad out and was studiously sketching the bum across the street rummaging through a trio of dented garbage cans.

Her tabby cat jumped on the bed and almost toppled over her plastic box of colored pencils.
“Not now, Sketchy! I’m working!” she pushed the cat away by the butt, and Sketchy protested with a growled meow.

Animal was getting some good shading on the bum’s piss stained jeans when she heard the door at the bottom of the stairs slam.
“HELLO?” she bellowed.
“It’s just me!” Dante hollered, his voice rising up the stairs as he walked up and into the bedroom.

“Home already?” she asked, still concentrating on her candid model across the street.
“Fuck it”, Dante grunted. Animal stopped what she was doing and spun around to look at Dante. She frowned at his roughed up, disheveled appearance.

“What the hell happened to you?”
“What the hell happened to me? The Working Class is what happened to me, those sons of bitches. They jumped me right after their set!”
Animal cackled. “You got accosted by those well-bred rich kids? Ho!”
“It’s not funny, you bitch”.
“Was there shin-kicking and a Lacrosse at dawn challenge?”

Dante threw his leather jacket on the bed, which Sketchy turned into a cat bed.
“I was so embarrassed. The girls had to step in and break things up”.
Animal cackled even more. “What did you expect? Their flunky fans aren’t going to stand for yearbook photos of them holding corsages in their powder blue prom suits”.
“It’s my job to deliver the truth! It’s punk rock”.

Animal blew a farting raspberry, turned back to the window and continued her sketching.
“What are you doing?” Dante asked.
“I’m sketching the bum across the street. He’s studying every piece of crap like a gold prospector”, she rubbed her eraser over a flubbed line. “What an asshole!”

“That man’s the real working class”, Dante puffed out his chest.
“That asshole never worked a day in his life. That’s why he’s shopping through everybody’s trash”.

Dante walked out to the kitchen. “I’m getting a beer. Do you want one?”
“Nnnnnope! That guy’s got a trail of piss going from his waist down to the cuff of his leg. How’d he piss all over his waist?” she mused.

Dante took a pull of his beer and collapsed on the bed next to Animal. He leaned over and kissed her pretty blonde hair. “Let’s fuck”, he said.
“No, not now. I’m getting some good shadows and light. This one’s going to be good”, she ran her light pink tongue over her bright red lips, concentrating on the sad tableau outside.

Sketchy jumped up to the bay window and looked out over the street like a gargoyle. Animal pushed him aside lightly with her pencil so he wouldn’t block her view. The cat meowed in protest. Dante jumped off the bed and scanned his records, trying to decide if he was going to listen to The Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys or The Residents.

The following morning, Dante took Animal out to breakfast at Sun Song Cafe, their favorite coffee shop on 16th and Valencia, run by a Chinese family who made the best bacon, eggs and toast specials for under $3.00. After 12 noon they served dim sum for the rest of the day.

Animal guzzled coffee and dipped her bacon piece into her maple syrup and crunched it while running a commentary about the stupid girls who worked at her art supply store.
“Dumb bitches wouldn’t know the difference between poster board and foam board, Jesus, how did they get hired anyway they must have blown Kenny the manager who doesn’t know shit about fauvism or post-modern and –“
Dante nervously drummed on the table with his fork and spoon, his eyes darting around, noticing a few scenesters sitting in a booth by the corner.

It was Megan Trouble and Careless Carlos, popular punks on the scene, both looking disheveled and eating murky oatmeal. Dante’s hearing was directed towards their table as Animal prattled on. He leaned slightly towards the direction of their booth, listening carefully.

“…had to be at least ten in there…it was hard to tell with the red light bulb and nothing else for light…”
“…I know…Can you believe how big his package was? He could choke a horse with it…”
“…I thought she was so political…but look at her…putting out like some Tijuana whore…damn…”
Dante’s eyes lit up over that last one. He fidgeted like crazy.

“So, GULP, this dumb cunt started shading shit with a pastel and said, look, it’s just as good as crayons, BURP! Crayons, shit, what a dumb bitch!”
Dante got up from the table.
“Look, baby, I see some people I know from last night at the show. I’ll be back in a minute!”
Animal frowned. “It’s just that dumb fag Carlos and that skanky Megan. So what?”
“Gimme a minute. I’ll be back, have some more coffee!”

Dante approached the booth, prompting Megan and Careless Carlos to immediately shut up.
“Hey guys, what’s going on? Didn’t see you at The Mab last night”.
Megan eyed him skeptically, tossing her dark, curly hair.
“YEAH, SO?” Careless yowled, the pock marks popping on his jowly face.
“I was invited to this party but I couldn’t make it. Fuck!” Dante used his imagination. “Heard it was down around Guerrero and there was a room just for –“

“Don’t tell him anything, Careless!” Megan sneered. “He’s the snitch who writes for that shitty fanzine!”
“Fuck off, snitch!” Carlos’ weak little mouth twisted in a passive-aggressive way.
“Now, listen, guys, if you don’t tell me about this killer party I missed then I’ll have to tell the cops about a few underage punk girls that had to blow a certain punk singer who was hung like –“

The pair got up, shoving their way past Dante to pay the old Chinese cashier by the front door. Dante ran over to his table.
“What was that all about?” Animal complained. “Sit down and finish your breakfast”.
“QUICK!” Dante jumped up and down like a small child. “GIVE ME TWENTY BUCKS!!!”

“Fuck, Dante!” Animal pulled out two tens from her purse. “You’d better pay me back before Friday. And you’d better pay for this, too. You promised!”

Dante scooped the bills from the table and ran out the door after Megan and Careless.
“What’s he doing now?” Animal asked herself, watching Dante stop the sleazy pair by the front window.
With the sounds of dishes and silverware clanging in her ears, she watched Dante pull out the two bills (previously hers) and hand them over to them. Everyone smiled and suddenly looked very chatty through the coffee shop window.

Animal groaned. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. That bastard’s buying shitty gossip with MY MONEY! I worked for that dough – he’s so dead!!!”
Animal felt like tearing her hair out when she saw Dante light Megan’s cigarette for her like a French gigolo. Then Careless Carlos took his two hands and used them to measure something long and big. They all laughed uproariously.

“Yeah”, Animal growled. “Laugh now, asshole, bruise later. You son of a bitch!”
A waitress walked up to her table. “More coffee?”
“Yeah, thanks!” Animal tapped her foot angrily, losing her impatience as the minutes ticked by.

A minute ticked by and finally they waved goodbye to each other like old, beloved friends. Dante entered the coffee shop, his phony smile melting into a stony stare.

“Greatest twenty dollars I ever spent!” he growled.
“MY twenty dollars, Dickhead!” Animal hissed.
“And worth every penny!”
“You’d better pay me back –“
“With interest”, he growled. She didn’t believe him for a minute. “Check, please!”


Dante pondered the time he would have to spend waiting for the next issue of Ripoff to reach press, like four weeks since the new one just came out. He thought he was going to burst if he didn’t spit out the new item he just heard from Megan Trouble and her whiny sidekick. Unable to hold it in much longer, he finally grabbed their battered electric typewriter from the closet and plugged it in. The Smith-Corona was fished out of a trash can six months ago and rarely used, chiefly because several of the keys didn’t work.

Dante began pounding away at the keys like a maniac. The time was five pm. Animal would soon be home from her job at Easels Anonymous.


“Your intre id unk gadfly was at a arty on Guerrero Street thrown by that band known for their shocking songs about heroin and Genet…not only were they cooking u but there was a tiny little Friendship Room where about a dozen o ular and not-so- o ular scenesters got nude and lewd with each other…It was anarchy in the nude cave! Clothes off and laying Twister with each other’s hot & tots… Anna Darkness from The Broken Toys was doing the twist with a anting female fan while taking it from Jimmy Na alm of The Tor edoes…

“That roto-feminist unkette Donna Fillmore of Lady Cyborg barked like a dog while Fill Flames s anked her as she took all ten inches of well-endowed…

“…the dirtiest orgy SF punk ever witnessed”, Careless Carlos laughed. “People getting sweaty and slimy with each other on that banged up queen-sized mattress picked up from God knows where! And oh my God, some of those boys were SO gifted! Who knew???”

“Shut up, Carlos!” Megan whined. “These chicks were dishing out pussy like it was their last fuck on Earth, dyking out and throwing their bullshit feminist attitudes out the window once they saw all those thick cocks shooting off in their faces”.

Carless jumped back in. “That room smelled like a high school locker room with the oldest tuna casserole on the stove. It was so smelly I had to run out periodically to keep from chucking. Are you going to print I was there?”

“That Jimmy Napalm, he had the sweetest basket! I couldn’t get him out of my mouth”.

“All your favorite unk heroes and zeroes were there gro ing and blowing and banging u a storm, changing ositions and artners faster than you can count. I’ll bet there’ll be some good hardcore coming out of this jam session. You heard it here first from your man Dante Sterno”.

Two hours later Animal read Dante’s copy, slowly lowered the paper and frowned.
“This is the filthiest thing I’ve ever read. This is the filthiest thing you’ve ever written. You can’t have this published. Don’t do it”.
“BUT THE PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW!” Dante jumped up proudly.

“Warren will publish this in a fucking flash. Think of how many copies we can sell. We can get some of these people to pose naked and shit!”
“Stupid, these guys are going to come banging on our door looking for your ass to kick and I’m going to have to cover for you again”.
Dante just scoffed. Animal threw the article down to the floor.

“Is this the shit my twenty bucks paid for?”
Dante just stared down at the article lying on the floor.
“I paid for your death warrant? These kids are going to come by looking for your neck to break. You’re not publishing that shit!”
“Yes, I am”.
“No, you’re not”.

“Yes, I am”, Dante said, picking up his article from the floor.
“Fuck you, Dante! I’m going for a walk”.

Animal grabbed her coat and purse, storming down the staircase and slammed the door as hard as she could. Once she reached the sidewalk, she felt like flipping a coin. Tails she’d go to a coffee shop, heads she’d give Jimmy Napalm from The Torpedoes a call.

Apologies to Charlotte Free for using her images.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Now Playing ABSOLUTELY FREE on You Tube - Pyromaniacs On Parade

Lately in my sojourns on You Tube I've noticed a few horror-based thrillers that all employ the device of the house fire trauma. This is not an easy trick to pull off, as in they all seem to have the house still standing after the fire and in pretty good shape. The films listed below aren't particularly good, but they're swell trash worth at least one view and definitely chuckle worthy, so let's get started:

Picture Mommy Dead (1966): A teen variant on the old William Castle movies, where the halfway sane person gets bullied into believing they're still crazy and going crazier by the minute (see Strait-Jacket or The Night Walker). Is it as good as Castle? No, but it's still pretty camp.

Susan Shelley (Susan Gordon) returns to the home where she witnessed her mother's fiery death three years earlier, an experience that drove her to madness to a convent-based sanitarium. While she was committed in the institution her father (a buttoned-up Don Ameche) ran off with the governess (Martha Hyer) and married her.

Ameche went bankrupt spending all of his wife's money and has to sell out most of the property at home. Unfortunately he cannot sell the home, as Susan is the legal heir to the property. These details are explained laughably by a highly abrasive Wendell Corey, who speaks in a sort of crotchety William S. Burroughs-style voice.

Susan also happens to know where the late Mrs. Shelley's extremely expensive necklace is hidden, as selling would mean paying off Papa Ameche's extremely sizable debt, but Susan's shock from the fire blacked out her memory of the necklace's whereabouts.

Most of the film is spent with Hyer and brother-in-law Anthony (a hammy Maxwell Reed) scheming on ways to drive poor Susan into mental infirmity so they can have her locked away again and take over the family fortune. There are many scenes involving falcons, phoenixes, and other aviary imagery.

Mommy Dead isn't a great horror film but it's a decent time waster and a genuine oddity. The role of Mommy is played by a silent Zsa Zsa Gabor, who hasn't got any dialogue to utter. It's also funny her hair's dyed red to obviously symbolize fire. And when was the last time you saw a movie featuring the Mattel Scoo-Ba-Doo beatnik doll?

How Awful About Allan (1970): Curtis Harrington directed this Henry Farrell adaptation from his novel. If the name Henry Farrell sounds familiar to you, it should. He's the writer of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, and the next two films with Mr. Harrington, What's The Matter With Helen? and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?

How Awful About Allan, starring Anthony Perkins, is not as good as any of the films listed above. It's a TV movie and looks it, plus the story isn't terribly involving. It starts with a house fire which killed Allan's father and disfigured his sister, played by Julie Harris. Allan loses most of his eyesight in the fire, with his sanity gone as well, leaving him institutionalized.

Out of the institution and back at home, Perkins is perpetually angry about his blindness, cussing and yelling at Harris in every other scene. It doesn't help that Harris rented out a room to a boarder which Perkins swears is stalking him, a bizarre claim given that Perkins can barely see.

The standout scene in the film is when Perkins loses his shit and steals his sister's car, tearing down the main road, careening wildly all over the place, uprooting trees and knocking over mailboxes with a completely perplexed look on his face. Pretty funny stuff!

It's nice to know that Harrington eventually made better films with Farrell after this one because this film was a hard one to get through. Joan Hackett is the only saving grace in this one. Not one of Perkins' better crazy guy roles!

Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story (2011): No, not another horror thriller, but a film which can be seen in its entirety on You Tube. Directed by Robert Bralver as a labor of love, the film charts the short life of the man behind the legendary band Morphine. Being a major Morphine fan I couldn't wait to see this film.

To those not familiar with the sound of Morphine, they were a three-piece consisting of baritone & tenor saxophones played in tandem, a slide two-string bass guitar and drums. Somehow it worked on a Tom Waits "Swordfishtrombones" level. In fact, it helps a lot to listen to latter day Waits to figure out what Morphine were up to.

Bralver's documentary goes into Sandman's childhood with his troubled siblings, nomadic post-teen years, and going up to his early days playing in Treat Her Right. Both ex-girlfriends and former band mates are interviewed with somewhat less than saintly accounts of the occasionally arrogant musician.

But let's be honest, you're watching it for the great Morphine music and his great singing and playing, which he delivers in spades. The film spends a little too much time recalling his last days playing at an Italian mountainside festival where the air might have been too thin to allow proper breathing for him. A lot of detail is paid to this sad episode.

Again, this is a film that deserves a quick view but isn't terribly gripping, partially hindered by the film's wobbly time line. During the first half of the film it's difficult to figure out what time period people are discussing, because it goes from Treat Her Right days back to his childhood and back again. It can get pretty confusing. Tighter editing and sequencing would have helped.

Still and all, it's pretty great that a Mark Sandman documentary exists, and there are parts that get pretty exciting, but I wonder if that's just something a CD would have accomplished, and a lot quicker, too.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hot Wire My Heart

Dante got off the street car when it reached the North Beach tourist trap, cough cough, club district. His stomach had trouble adjusting to riding up hills and then dropping down them, no matter how long he haunted the streets of San Francisco. Scaling heights and then down again made him nervous.

Dante Sterno was torn in his feelings towards North Beach; he hated the gaudy night clubs with their blinding neon signs like The Roaring 20's, Big Al's with its ugly Al Capone image looking down, The Condor trumpeting the ancient Carol Doda taking it off for the 3,000th time. On the other hand he never got tired of wasting time at City Lights Book Store, and then there was the Filipino restaurant turned punk club the Mabuhay Gardens.


It was the start of 1978 and punk rock was in the air. San Fran rose to the challenge with bands like The Nuns, Crime, The Avengers and The Mutants, and you could feel the excitement on the streets. Your heels would shoot off sparks on the sidewalks, the electricity was so palpable. Dante was twenty four years old and his youthful ignorance was his ace in the hole.


He zipped up his leather jacket and walked into the damp foggy air, the moisture visible in the night air like a million fireflies just drifting, illuminated by the lights shining from all the strip clubs down the street. He could feel his chestnut brown hair dampening and cursed quietly to himself. In just a few minutes he'll get to the club.


Dante weaved through the crowds on the sidewalk, tourists, Chinese women, Berkeley hippies reeking of pot and patchouli, curiosity seekers all rushing towards him as he threaded through to the club.

Tonight was a special deal: the newest issue of Ripoff was getting passed around Mabuhay and he wanted to get his personal copy. His column The Agony Anarchy Column was going to be read by everyone and he was going to get free drinks, smokes and drugs. He was rough and ready.


Dante was feeling mighty chuffed about himself. He wasn't just any run of the mill fanzine writer; he had his own column. No, he wasn't just another typewriter jockey banging out reviews about some dumb fucking rent party on Valencia. He had his own column, a really important one for the zine that everyone in SF read religiously. It made him feel like a big wheel.


His pulse raced faced faster as he got closer and closer to the bamboo draped restaurant. He saw a few punks milling around the sidewalk in front, boys and girls alike swathed in Ramones-style regalia of leather jacket, jeans, tees and high-topped tennies. Some sipped from cans of Royal Crown Cola with bourbon poured in.

There were also several guys dressed in the British style with torn tees held together by safety pins, forked-up hair wearing dog collars and expensive bondage pants they must have mail ordered from the back of the NME or something.

Dante nodded at them like he was The Badass King. It was a futile effort. The punks barely acknowledged him. The doorman apprised Dante and quickly said, "Three fifty admission".
"Three fifty?" Dante howled. "What a ripoff!"

A bookish looking man with a thick thatch of hair standing up high like Eraserhead raced to the door.
"RIPOFF! That's the magic word! You get in free!"

"Warren!" Dante yelled at the man, Warren Arrest, editor of Ripoff Magazine. "Did I really say the magic word?"
"Fuck, no. You're on the guest list, you idiot!" He nudged the door man, who stamped Dante's right hand.

"If you're drinking, pull out your ID", the doorman bawled. Dante complied, but not without the doorman staring at the ID and then back at its owner, studying both like a forensic scientist. After a long beat he relented. "Well, OKAY!"

Dante and Warren strolled through restaurant tables and chairs towards the open dance floor with punks furiously pogoing and jumping about.

"Well, looky here! Right on stage, Fuck Face! The very subjects of your latest column, The Working Class, right on stage", Warren smirked sadistically. "Wonder if they've seen the latest Ripoff Magazine?"
"You didn't show it to them, did you?"
"No, but it's a small scene and word gets around".

The Working Class were a punk rock power trio that played songs about the evils of American Capitalism and the virtues of Communism. They played songs like "Comrade Rocker" and "Rich People Are Wrong". The only good song they had was "Trotsky In Tijuana" because it made him chuckle.

The band was fronted by two absolutely humorless brothers who originally hailed from the highly prosperous suburbs of Del Mar, California, a factoid that Dante was more than helpful to point out in his column. So helpful was he that he managed to contact their former high school and get yearbook photos of them playing badminton, playing golf at their father's country club and going to the prom in their brand new Corvettes.

The Working Class was ripping it up on stage to their new hit "Steal From The Rich And Give To The Poor", banging their guitars like demons while the drummer was doing overtime on the cymbals like a maniac. The kids were going berserk to the ricocheting beat.

"Cracked the piggy bank and robbed the store
We steal from the rich and give to the poor
The people make do but fat cats always want more
We steal from the rich and give to the poor".

The guitars looked like they were thrown out the window of a pawn shop and sounded just as bad. The band wore tee shirts with crudely drawn hammer and sickles on them. Many thought they were one of the worst bands in town.

The guitars never played in sync with the drums, so when the guitar and bass would go into a tempo change, the drummer was still playing the previous part of the song. It was the musical equivalent to a poorly dubbed foreign film where the actor's lips would move and the dialogue would follow a beat after.

Dante looked around the room and the usual suspects were there: scenesters like Keith Crime, the world's biggest Crime fan, a very thin guy with razor sharp cheekbones who resembled a young Richard Widmark; Raggedy Ann, dressed like the children's doll complete with red spotted cheeks, but punked-up with red dreadlocks and ripped up false eyelashes, with her best friend, Just Plain Sally. Just Plain Sally was pretty boring but she was Raggedy's ride to all the shows because Raggedy was too scared to take the BART. Just Plain Sally was a skinny Patti Smith-looking girl who never smiled and stared at you vacantly with her big brown eyes.

They all worked at Ripoff Magazine, either writing the "copy" (Keith Crime and Warren) or stapling the xeroxed behemoth (Raggedy Ann and Just Plain Sally). There were a lot of other club goers, some already with staked out personalities and some as yet undecided what they were. The undecided were dressed kind-of punk but still had hippie hair or they had short punk hair, but wore tie dyed tees or Mill Valley peasant dresses.

The Working Class finally finished their brief set and began packing up their gear and amplifiers. Dirk Dirksen walked out of his office and stared at the crowd milling around the club as the PA blasted out The Damned's first album.

"Heya, Bud!" Raggedy Ann smiled. "How long have you been here?"
"I just came in", Dante shrugged his shoulders. "Is Animal here?"
"I didn't see her. Did you see her, Sally?"

Dante coughed falsely and said, "I'm getting a beer. You guy's coming?"
Sally stared at Dante, then said, "No".

Warren hawked the zine by the bar, a stack tucked under his arm. Boys and girls, mostly girls, were handing him a dollar a copy of the zine. They were going fast, and while the bartender was fixing drinks for the scenesters they were poring through the zine looking at the pictures.

"I'll have a Budweiser. Hey, Warren, where's my copy? I want to see my column".
People were chuckling over the pictures of their punk heroes in their upper class high school yearbook photos.
"Look, ohmygod, is that Biff in a shiny new Vette holding a corsage? Shit, that's too funny!"
"Jesus, what a bunch of spoiled brats!"

"Thanks, Warren", Dante took his copy in his left hand and grabbed his Budweiser in his right. He spotted a short, cute punk girl with a big rack chuckling over his column. "Yup, that's me, Dante Sterno, read all about it, The Working Class' high school pictures".

He walked towards the wall and watched the stage. The Working Class' drummer was gone and the two brothers, Biff and Jimmy, leaped off the stage towards Dante. Dante fidgeted nervously.

"Hey, you little puke, we want to have a word with you", Biff bounded first to the scene. "You think you're pretty fucking funny, do you? Did you have fun posting our school pictures in your shitty rag?"
"Yeah, man!" Jimmy spat, grabbing Dante by the neck, placing him in a head lock (which he probably learned in wrestling class at high school).

"This is what we think of funny guys, asshole!" Biff yanked Dante's beer from his right hand and poured it over his head while Jimmy tightened his choke hold on Dante.
"Yeah, man!" Jimmy spat as Dante tried wriggling free from his grasp, his face getting more and more purple.

"Hey! Let go of him, you assholes!" Raggedy Ann yelled at the two Commie Rockers with Just Plain Sally adding, "Yeah! Let go!"
Embarassed at being caught, the two prom kings turned Communist pitchmen let go of their prey.

"Watch it, you prick!" Biff jabbed a finger in Dante's face before he turned on his heel to leave.
"Yeah, man!" Jimmy spat and stormed away.
"Attacking a reporter!" Dante gasped hoarsely, trying to get his breath back. "I report the news! The people have a right to know!"

Raggedy Ann handed a few cocktail napkins to Dante so he could dry his wet hair.
"Hypocrites! They're totally Commies", Dante bitched bitterly. "They don't want The Fifth Estate to furnish The People with the truth, just like their boyfriend Castro!"

"Who's Castro?" Just Plain Sally stared. "Isn't that a street?"
"I'll tell you about it later, Sally", Raggedy Ann helped Dante up to his feet. "Crime's coming up next, the club's starting to fill up. Is that Jennifer Miro standing in the corner? She's so cool. Jesus".

Dante coughed from the beer trickling down his hair and into his nostrils. He wanted to shake his head like a wet dog, but he was all out of humor. He wanted to go home and hoped Animal would be there to keep him warm. His night was filled with cold beer and cold weather.

in reality, he stayed for the first three Crime songs and then went home, walking by the bar where Warren Arrest was still yelling, "RIPOFF MAGAZINE, ALL THE SHIT THAT'S FIT TO PRINT AND ALL THE SHIT THAT'S FIT TO STINK!"

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Without Schmaltz

I've heard more than a few people complain about Christmas music and how vapid and horrible they find it. Some people hate really religious numbers like "O Holy Night" and others hate pop tunes like "Silver Bells" or that thing about chestnuts roasting. I agree about the overwhelming sentimentality, however there are a few tunes that bring up images of Christmas without broaching upon issues of religion or spending money on presents.

A pretty good example is The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, which sounds very Christmas-like, songs like "I Know There's An Answer" or "God Only Knows". You could play Pet Sounds all through Xmas and still get the holiday spirit. And old JC or Saint Nick get no mention anywhere in the lyrics.

At any rate, here are a few of my personal selections of music that could convey the Christmas spirit but don't get enough play.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Ode To Joy) - Wendy Carlos

Taken from the Clockwork Orange soundtrack album, this particular track definitely conjures images of wintertime solstice and Christmas joy, courtesy of the great mind of Ludwig Van Beethoven. I'm not sure the extremely violent footage from the movie accurately conveys that Christmas spirit, but enjoy the music anyway.

By the way, I remember The Beatles singing Beethoven's Song of Joy in the movie Help! to calm down a wild lion from tearing Ringo apart in a German cellar. Great movie!

On The Rolling Sea When Jesus Speak To Me - Van Dyke Parks

While not a Christmas song at all, but still an inspirational tune written by Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence, Van Dyke Parks' arrangement is one of the most surreal ever recorded. Parks bangs gospel piano sounding more like a roadhouse saloon, all Elmer Gantry grooves galore while a robust choir sunnily chant the lyrics, the volume of their voices going from fortissimo to pianissimo and then back again, the timbre shifting up and down like the waves of the sea. Salvation Army horns blast away with a strong Charles Ives southern gothic flair, and the whole thing is alternately exhilarating and horrifying.

I remember hearing this first on the Warner Brothers Records compilation "Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies" in 1970 and never forgot it, so hearing it again on You Tube is nothing short of great!

The Man With All The Toys - The Beach Boys

The standout track on The Beach Boys' Christmas album is this merry song about Santa Claus, a very perky little number with a light wintry guitar sound. It's funny how they have Santa Claus on the brain, what with this tune and Little Saint Nick also praising the great toy giver.

Jingle Jangle Jump - Dexter Gordon

A pretty jazzy tune about Christmas for hipsters sung by Gladys Bentley and featuring the great tenor sax playing of bebop icon Dexter Gordon. Bentley's definitely no Dinah Washington, but that's okay, this one's strictly for Gordon fans. Another cool Christmas song played by a legendary jazz giant is It's Christmas Time by The Qualities featuring Sun Ra.

Other songs I could mention is Slade's million-selling "Merry Christmas Everybody", Roy Wood's Wizzard's goofy "I Wish It Was Christmas Every Day", and Jethro Tull's dour message tune Christmas Song. No matter what the genre of music there's no shortage of Christmas music that's bound to be halfway fun to listen to without resorting to depressing maudlinity. Yeth!


Another tiny pleasure is this brilliant Mad Magazine beatnik takeoff on The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Wally Wood. Mad Magazine, beatniks, and Wally Wood; it doesn't get much better than this:

Friday, December 18, 2015

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Chaos

Normally this time every year I work busily away at an office job, enjoying all the free cookies, candies and cakes my generous co-workers have to offer. Unfortunately this year has been such a shitty wash employment-wise that I've decided to do something I've never done this time of year: I've become a professional runner.

In the past I've been a runner for wardrobe houses and special effects arts teams, but this time I'm a runner for an agency that caters to upper level boutiques across the Westside - mostly Beverly Hills 90210, with clients ranging from movie stars to foreign royalty (a Russian Princess, for instance).

It's an easy job and I get to drive around Bel Air a lot, it's kind of nice, blah blah blah. But then again it is Christmas season and people are more than a little out of their heads with holiday hysteria. One of the perks of the job is getting to watch how terrible people are at driving. The more lousy the driver the more indignant they are at their fellow drivers not giving them the right of way.

The Von Bondies - It Came From Japan

On a good day people get the Christmas spirit and tip - it's not required - it actually happens so seldomly that when I get something it always comes as a pleasant surprise. Wish I had a few more pleasant surprises this holiday season.

I have noticed that people in general are much more courteous to me in my delivery boy drag, opening doors and letting me use their restrooms at the drop of a hat. Try dressing like Ziggy Stardust and find out how nice people can be...not!

Christmas is a nice, pretty holiday, but watching people (mostly men) losing their shit over small stuff like somebody not driving fast enough or passing them on the freeway is pretty fuggin' crazy. Some Xmas spirit!

You can almost hear the All-American Consumer quietly screaming in his head, "IF I DON'T BUY SOMETHING SOON I'M GOING TO KILL SOMEBODY!" Pushing others aside, elbowing them out of the way violently, ready to bite anyone getting too close to any salable item needed or not.

Hopefully I'll score a nice clerical job next year so I can go back to being a runner on weekends only. And I could sell a few more books, too. Just got another royalty check, which is always encouraging.

Tyrades - Let Down

Since next year marks a special milestone in my life (guess) I'll be releasing not one, not two, but three books. One will be a children's book that even adults will like, because the best kid's entertainment should be smart and not talk down to kids; the second book will be a pretty comprehensive collection of my short works, which I'm pretty excited about; and, the third book will be yet another punk rock crime novel. Why not? The boy can't help it.

The Hentchmen - Yesterday's Trash