Friday, July 11, 2014

The Rack Jobbers (Robt. Williams title = 12-Inch Plastic Peons Push Vapid Vinyl Thrills Whilst Farting Jive & Junk Food)

Work is a lot like love. People who look for jobs never get them. People who never look or don’t want them in the first place always get hired. I got a job as a rack jobber and I wasn’t even looking for one.

It was 1978 and I was sitting around my friend Donnie Albinoff’s cozy apartment. Cozy because between a plush sofa Donnie laid back on and the easy chair I sat on were book cases filled with tons of albums from every music scene and every era, so many that there was even a steamer trunk packed to the gills with albums.

We were tapping our feet like a pair of spastics to Donnie’s latest catch, “Eternally Yours” by The Saints, “Know Your Product” blasting through his speakers with the buzzsaw guitar ripping our ear drums out and a knife edge horn section ripping out punk rock soul.

“Fuck, this is great. Did you say this is so new it’s not even in the stores yet?” I sipped a beer he handed me.
“Yeah, and I also got this great Sham 69 album, too. We got a shipment from Sire today”, Donnie sipped his beer and got ready to light a roach. He showed me the roach and I did the “No thanks” wave.

“You’ve got the greatest job, getting all these cool new records even before the stores get them”, I gushed while Donnie sucked some weed smoke into his hipster lungs. Donnie paused for a moment and gave me a blank stare.

“You know, Sevrin”, Donnie talked while a gusher of lung clouds flew out. “You’re always making noises about needing a job to pay for rent and records and shit. Why don’t you come down to Spin Central and join the team? They’re always looking for new guys. I think I can get you in as long as you’re willing to work and you don’t make me look stupid. It pays okay and you get a discount on all the records you want”.

I mulled the offer over while The Saints were blasting in my face. “Okay!” I swigged my beer and tapped my feet harder.
“Good. I’ll put in a word for you tomorrow and with their okay you can come down later in the week and fill out a bunch of paperwork”.
“Great. Put on that Sham 69 album nobody’s heard yet”.

WEEK ONE: Spin Central One-Stop Distributors was a record distribution center in the Pico-Union district – corner of Venice Boulevard and Normandie Avenue. There was a cemetery around the block with a crematorium you could smell as you walked down the street towards work. It was a good appetite killer if you were too short to buy lunch.

My boss was Stan, heavy set in a dress shirt with slacks who was balding but wore the rest of his long hair in a pony tail. I never saw him smile. He seemed conflicted between looking hip and acting overly serious. It was a serious conflict for him. The only bands he swore by were Gentle Giant, The Dixie Dregs and PFM.

“Sevrin!” Stan barked. “Go to the loading dock with the dolly and pick up the new product and replace the pallet, let’s see, replace that Steely Dan with the new product. Take Freddy with you. Go now!”
Freddy was a morbidly obese man with short hair, a peach fuzz moustache and stained clothes who didn’t even look like he cared about music.
“Are you sure the boss asked for me?” He whined quietly.
“Yes, let’s get going! The truck’s here!” I insisted. Freddy trailed reluctantly behind me.

Freddy threw several boxes angrily while I held the dolly and held my breath. The burning dead were really pumping it out today. Freddy cursed under his breath, sweating through his Hagar executive shirt, pit stains spreading like a busted levee.
“Sevrin, I’m thinking of having Chinese for lunch. Are you in, man?”

I raced into the warehouse with the dolly, escaping the corpse stench.
“Cigarette break. Back in five!”
Freddy wandered off to smoke, leaving me alone to move the gigantic stack of Steely Dan albums off the pallet. The really big sellers were usually displayed in stacks on the pallets while the medium sellers or loss leaders were stocked in much smaller numbers on the shelves. It was my turn to grunt and sweat. Finally I got around to tearing the cardboard boxes open and loading the new albums on the pallet. Expecting the new Dead Boys album I was crushed to see hundreds upon thousands of Linda Ronstadt albums.

“LINDA RONSTADT LIVING IN THE USA”. Linda Ronstadt was rocking a secretary bob clad in satin shorts and roller skates singing the oldies. Boxes and boxes of Linda Ronstadt in roller skates. I felt my back almost going out humping all this vinyl product out. Freddy’s five minutes were way past over but he was still out somewhere.

I ran back out to get more product to stack on the pallets and instead of feasting my eyes on the new Captain Beefheart masterpiece I ripped open the boxes to find copies of “BOZ SCAGGS SILK DEGREES” to stack. A million seller in 1976, people still clamored for more Boz Scaggs two years later. I had to take a back break before my back broke.

“Are you having fun yet?” Donnie walked by, joking in his deadpan voice.

WEEK TWO: After buying records for five years at Morty’s Records it was wild to see the man himself, Morty Simon plucking albums from the racks to sell at his store. His face was set with steely determination picking out which albums he would retail that week. He pulled two copies out of the four Ramones albums we had in stock.

While he pulled a few copies of the new Kraftwerk album – too cool to be stacked on pallets, I made a fool out of myself and approached Morty.

“Hey Morty, how’s it going, man? It’s Andy, I come into your store all the time to buy your stuff. What’s happening?”
“Yeah”, Morty mumbled, just looking through me. What a dick.

When I ran into Donnie I said, “Hey, that guy from Morty’s Records just snubbed me. What a dick!”
“He doesn’t talk to anybody”.
“That’s a hell of a sales approach”.
“I’m getting Mexican for lunch. I keep smelling enchiladas”.

WEEK THREE: One night after work I was back sitting and drinking at Donnie’s apartment. “So, how’s Freddy working out in the warehouse?” Donnie sipped his beer.
“Oh, that fat fuck’s useless. He takes a lot of long cigarette breaks whenever shit gets too busy”.
Donnie chortled. “He doesn’t even smoke that much. He just camps out in the john either taking long, smelly shits or he’s busy playing with his tiny needle dick”.

“Stan really stuck it to me”.
“Freddy really hates you, too. He told me, ‘I hate Sevrin. He’s always shuffling his feet’”.
“He said that? Are you kidding? What’s wrong with shuffling your feet?”
“Nothing, he’s a big, fat idiot. I had to kick him out of here once when he came over. Check this out, as soon as I left the room to take a piss he made a pass at Dora”. Dora was Donnie’s girlfriend. “He actually said, ‘What are you doing with a loser like Albinoff’?”
“Shit! In your own house”, I popped open another beer.
“On my property!” Donnie yelled, fired up a bomber and I gave the “No thanks” wave again.

WEEK FOUR: Stan ordered me to sit in a little room upstairs with a turntable on a desk, a relief to be off my feet from stocking records on pallets and on increasingly shrinking space on the racks.

Stan raced in with a stack of Al Dimeola and Neil Diamond records almost spilling over on the floor.
“Okay, Sevrin, I’ve gotta special job for you”, he dropped the stack of heavy albums on the floor. “I want you to slit open every album, take out each disc and put each one on the turntable. You see those magic markers next to the turntable?”
“Oh!” I pulled one out of the box. “Yeah, sure!”

“Play the record on the turntable and take one of these markers and very carefully black out the Columbia Records emblem that’s circled around the label. Can you do that? Let me see you do that with this Al Dimeola album!”
I spun the disc and very simply took the marker and dragged it around the circular Columbia Records emblem on the label.

“Great! Perfect! We have an important shipment going out to Bangkok tomorrow. Get going. Oh, and keep the door locked!”
Stan slammed the door shut and I got busy, wondering when my employee discount would kick in so I could buy the new Johnny Thunders album. Otherwise I’d have to go to Morty’s Records.

I spun disc after disc on the turntable studiously blacking out the Columbia Records logo ring on each disc, just thinking about all those Neil Diamond albums being sold in Thailand. I was known around the warehouse as being pretty quiet, quiet enough not to squeal that Spin Central was selling albums on the black market in Bangkok and all points East. Well, it was alright. I was getting off on the fumes from the magic marker.

WEEK FIVE: I was back in the Private Room. There were no magic markers on the desk but a pair of headphones and a stack of Waylon Jennings albums.
“Okay, Sevrin, we’ve been getting a lot of complaints about this inferior RCA Records product. I want you to open all these Waylon Jennings albums and play the first track and let me know how many of them skip and how many pop. Leave the albums in three stacks: The Ones That Skip, The Ones That Pop, And The Perfectly Good Ones”.
“Okay, no problem”.
“And keep the door locked!” He slammed the door shut.

I pulled the first disc out of the cover and immediately noticed how thin and light the vinyl felt in my hand. The disc even felt kind of hollow. I put on the first disc and adjusted my headphones.
Waylon sang:
“I've always been crazy and the trouble that it's put me through, I’ve been busted INTENTIONALLY HURT ANYONE One foot over the line I SHOULDN’T COMPLAIN Going insane”. Whoah. I tossed that one in The Skip Stack.

I pulled out the next disc and it was warped to hell. It felt more flaccid than a flat tire. I didn’t even bother playing that one. I simply threw it into The Skip Stack.

I put the next disc on, and listened intently: “I’ve always been crazy and the trouble INTENTIONALLY HURT ANYONE One foot COMPLAIN insane”. I threw that one in the ever-growing Skip Stack. Jesus, all this vinyl sucks. It feels cheap and it doesn’t play for shit.

I took my headphones off for a second and heard a bunch of yelling downstairs. I opened the door and looked down the stairs over the warehouse and saw a seeping flood of water coming from the bathroom.

Stan was yelling at Donnie.
“YOU’RE FIRED, YOU SON OF A BITCH! GET YOUR SHIT AND GET OUT OF HERE!!!!”
“FUCK YOU! I’M NOT A FUCKING JANITOR, ASSHOLE!” Donnie yelled back. “I DON’T CLEAN TOILETS!”
“YOU’LL DO WHAT I TELL YOU TO DO IF YOU WANT A JOB HERE!”
“YOU CAN’T FIRE ME!!! I QUIT!!! YOU CAN STICK THIS JOB AND THIS JOHNNY BRUSH UP YOUR ASS, MAN!” Donnie stormed off.

I walked back into The Private Room and locked the door. I thought about all those albums maybe making their way to Bangkok. I opened up the rest of the Waylon Jennings albums, put two in The Pop Stack, three in The Skip Stack and the rest in The Perfectly Good Ones stack.

I quietly left the job after two weeks’ notice and three weeks later got a job at an adult book store in Silver Lake. I used my stock clerk experience from Spin Central to score a gig selling dildos and butyl nitrate poppers to terrified stockbrokers. Weeks later I moved over to the Rexall Drugs on Hollywood & Highland, across the street from Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It’s all show business!

c 1978, “I’ve Always Been Crazy”, written by Waylon Jennings. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Little Johnny Jewel (Parts 1 & 2)

Everybody wants their stuff and they want it now. "We want the world and we want it now", Jim Morrison bleated almost fifty years ago and nothing has changed. If you want a song or an entire record you can get it a matter of seconds, movies, books, you name it. But it wasn't always that way.

In 1975 glam was going through its last gasp - you knew it was over when The Edgar Winter Group threw on the spackle and platform boots. Punk rock crawled its way through just like the freaks crawled under the circus wagon in the thunder storm with knives in their mouths, ready to gut Venus and Hercules.

I followed the glam scene closely in Rock Scene Magazine and there were gurgles about punk bands in New York like The Ramones, The Fast, Patti Smith, The Mumps, The Stilettos and Television. Television was the most interesting looking as they were the very antithesis of glam: short hair, no makeup, torn clothes and crappy pawn shop guitars. One particular photo by Christopher Makos of Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell made them look like Richard Speck and Charles Starkweather formed their own noise band. The only nod to glam was Richard Lloyd, who sported platinum blonde hair like Debbie Harry.

Rock Scene Magazine printed a little caption announcing an exciting new single by Television called "Little Johnny Jewel (Parts 1 & 2)" on Ork Records. It only cost $3.00 and could be purchased post paid from a P. Laughner in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the most eagerly anticipated single of its time. Yeah, back in the day we had no downloads. We had to send money across the country for a 45 RPM single. There was a quite a wait (more on that in a second) but the wait was worth it.

After sitting out for an eternity waiting for the single to arrive I received an interim postcard from Peter Laughner, the front of the postcard advertising Television with his band Rocket From The Tombs (who would later split into The Dead Boys and Pere Ubu). On the other side of the postcard was an apology from Peter Laughner for the delay.

"Dear Avram*- As regards TV all orders were forwarded to New York City as the response was fantastic they had to do a third pressing of the record to meet demands - please be patient and thank for your support.
Peter Laughner
P.S. As further correspondence should be directed to me at the above address (Cleveland Heights, Ohio)".

Well, I eventually got my single and it was so bizarre, not what I expected, it wasn't rock but it was definitely a very New York record. What does that mean? Well, I see the Museum of Modern Art when I hear the single, I hear some jazz club like The Five Spot. I feel beatnik frequencies ripping into my head, ESP-DISK nightmares, even some of The Godz and Silver Apples in their sound. Very New York.

"Little Johnny Jewel (Parts 1 & 2)" sounds like a dark, dark, dark beatnik coffee house, seductive in its intimacy. You can smell the burning candles - the record sounds ascetic for its time, avoiding the decadence of Queen or The Tubes or any other overproduced glam rock of the time.

Part 1 begins with Fred Smith playing a very simple bass line over and over while the guitars make twittering and plucking noises, like they're waking up and then Billy Ficca's drums kick in, not playing a simple 4/4 punk beat, but shock horrors (!!!) it's a disco beat.
As soon as the drums simmer a cool disco beat the guitars wail a remedial, almost naive fanfare. Tom Verlaine sings a very cool, laid back vocal like Lou Reed in "Here She Comes Now".

What's so remarkable about the recording is that it's a veritable textbook in dynamics, drums exploding one moment then simmering, guitars howling and then whispering, emitting moods of slacker cool and boiling tension equally. I like the part where Tom whispers like a hypnotist, "And he ran down to the airport...the rush, the roar...and he crouched down behind a fence...with a chest full of lights..." The guitars go impressionist, playing sparse but bright notes like winking airport lights, quiet hypnotic guitars and the drums sending us out of Part 1.

Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, the hypnotic part building up into a noisy palette of sounds, guitar picks banging against necks like Jackson Pollock splatters of paint, and then explodes into a perverse flamenco guitar solo punctuated by a high shrieking note. All the guitars eschewed the big fuzz Marshall stack arena sound, Richard Lloyd strumming simply behind Verlaine's freedom guitar playing.

The second side ends with Verlaine returning to the main theme, crooning cooly, "Oh Little Johnny Jewel...he's so cool...but if you see him looking lost...you ain't gotta come on so boss!
And you know that he's paid...you know that he's paid the price...all you gotta do for that guy...is wink your eye". Mysterious lyrics, mysterious music. Entranced by TV.

Rock groups weren't supposed to be mysterious or quietly sly, music was by and large loud and brash. Television made people nervous because they weren't a quick study. Personally I thought "Little Johnny Jewel" was a far more auspicious debut than Patti Smith's "Piss Factory" which had a corny Broadway musical jive to it. It could've been a show stopper in a musical like "Rent". But I digress.

Television released a single which sold out several times over and captured the mystery of New York. It was executed so well even the band had trouble living up to their promise with subsequent recordings. It wasn't punk rock but it wasn't average Joe rock, either. It was lightning in a bottle set to music. What a great five minutes it was.

*****************************

* I used to use my Hebrew name in correspondence, in this case being Avram, Abram also known as Abraham before God anointed him as Father of the Jews. In other words, as Sun Ra once said, "I have many names, names of mystery, names of splendor".

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fifty Years in Los Angeles

This is the year and that was the year and it all comes down to half a century of living in Los Angeles, mostly Hollywood. No, it doesn't all seem like yesterday; in fact it feels like several lifetimes ago. The Twentieth Century didn't fuck around, what with every decade feeling like another life spent.

How did I even get here? I was just a European boy living the Yankee life in Rhode Island and liking it. I was living in Kennedy Country (New England) and our man John F. Kennedy was in The White House. Everything seemed cool. My father was in the electronic designing department at Brown University in 1963. A few months later Kennedy was toast and so was New England for us.

My father joined the New Frontier headed towards outer space and the psychedelic landscape of Hollywood. He got a job offer from Aerospace in Redondo Beach. Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Long Beach and all points south turned Southern California into a veritable Boomtown for Aerospace workers. My father heard the siren call to Boomtown USA, not mere gold but better, designing spacecraft, missiles and rocket appendages. Welcome to Los Angeles.

Sixties: My first home in Los Angeles was around West Hollywood in the Fairfax District...it was insane, we were sandwiched in between CBS Studios with its ever watching eye, the Silent Theatre and the enormous Pan Pacific Auditorium...we'd have dinner at Canter's and I'd stare at the freaks with their long hair and beads...my Mom said, "Andy, don't stare"...people were getting pissed...I remember watching the Watts riots on TV and my parents said "Stay home today"...

Two years later we moved to Beverly Hills...I went to a modern Hebrew school where half the kids looked like they came from mixed marriages but I didn't care.... they were building Century City down the street and LBJ was going to speak at the Century Plaza Hotel with kids marching down Olympic Boulevard, protesting the Vietnam War...we were too broke to do anything big on Saturday night my dad took us out for a ride (families used to do that sort of thing) down Sunset Boulevard which was crowded as hell, especially since there were so many paddy wagons pulled up in front of Pandora's Box on the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights.

Seventies: My teenage years were spent in endless nights at Rodney's English Disco and watching countless glitter bands at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium...glam rock seemed like it would never die, it just got bigger and crazier and I got into the scene, platforms and velvet flares...Westside days spent going to summer school at University High and Rhino Records in Westwood...taking endless jazz music courses, harmony theory and the whole damn Big Band thing at the Dick Grove School of Music in North Hollywood...

Then driving down to gay discos like The Other Side in West Hollywood...Santa Monica Boulevard haunts like a weird old dream even to this day...and then there were punk rock memories at The Masque, playing there and even living there with Spazz Attack and Brendan Mullen, moving to punk palace The Canterbury, big mistake but so what?

Eighties: Disappointed by the decay of Hollywood punk and shitty new wave I retreated into endless movie shows at The Beverly Center, sitting in my car in the darkness of the Centinela Drive-In with the Studio Drive-in across the street, right by LAX so during the film you'd watch the jet planes swooping down for a landing...

I lived across the street from A&M Records on la Brea Avenue in a trashy courtyard next door to a massage parlor..one rainy night I found a hundred dollar bill by the parking lot...bought a leather-bound saxophone case with it...Rajis was the rockin' club by the end of the decade and I watched The Nymphs, Haunted Garage and Pygmy Love Circus, the greatest club ever...I started my own band Trash Can School and we recorded at Radio Tokyo in Venice for about three years (1988-1990)...it was epic.

Nineties: My band played with some amazing bands at The Shamrock and Jabber Jaw, I'll never forget them...I lived at The Gramercy Apartments in Koreatown, apartments that recalled every noir film you've ever seen...Elisha Cook Jr. must have drifted through the walls several times...after I broke the band up I moved to the Miracle Mile and went to every lowbrow art show at Luz De Jesus on Melrose Avenue, there was Pablo and Pizz and Robt. Williams and XNO and Billy Shire, Golden Apple Comics representing, too...

Then there was Johnny Legend and Eric Caidin putting on sleazy movie shows at the Florentine Gardens on Sundays...I married Rebecca and we created fashions for The Fetish Ball and every other kinky fetish event in town... we also had a band called Cockfight and made a funny video with Ron Jeremy, it was clean, it's cool.

Y2K: Rebecca and I worked morning, noon and night...dealing with bullshitting imagineers who knew nothing about art, smarmy stylists who knew nothing about fashion and a lot of TV people who wanted to interview us and show our clothes....then there were the Comic-Con assholes who knew nothing about anything and the money slowed down so I worked at Dodger Stadium for awhile in the executive office designing their merchandise catalog...the palm trees circled around Dodger Stadium looked like a dreadlocked tribe of dinosaurs looming over the city...bored with that I drifted into a 15-year career with Los Angeles County....played my last show ever at Headline Records on Melrose Avenue...LA, always LA.

Teens: So fifty years later I still eat at Canter's and haunt the streets of West Hollywood. Now I'm a writer, writing, always writing...tell the story even if no one wants to listen, read the words of God even if no one believes anymore...making clothes for myself and other people, hitting the Garment District in the early morning...although there were a few detours here and there in New York and Europe I always returned to Los Angeles like an old habit I couldn't shake off..I'm still in Hollywood...still making noise, still making trouble...take my advice, don't forget to go to the beach.

\

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cruel Story of Youth

I didn't count on thinking too much about the past because it's something I don't normally do. Silly fool, I believe in looking forward, always now and forever, but the past comes back when you least expect it, like it or not. Case in point: a single I recorded in 1977 just recently turned up on a punk rock CD compilation for the first time.

It was the first band I ever played in, it was called Max Lazer and the single was "Street Queen", released on Siamese Records. Max Lazer was a singer-songwriter who looked like Thor minus the muscles and he had shiny platinum blonde hair that drove the girls all wild. He had a glam rock image but was more of a metal-punk sounding guy. Siamese Records up to that point was known only for putting out Iggy & The Stooges' bootlegs of "Raw Power" outtakes.

Anyway, the CD featuring "Street Queen" is called "Godfathers of LA Punk" (ouch!) and also has tracks from The Controllers and yup, some Iggy & The Stooges tracks. The entire album could be bought here: Godfathers of LA Punk, or better yet, just buy the download of "Street Queen" HERE. I didn't play on the other Max Lazer track so you're on your own there. I don't think we were very punk rock, in fact the most apt description of our sound would be glam-period Mott The Hoople. If you liked "All The Way From Memphis" or "Golden Age of Rock & Roll" then you would have liked us.

The funny thing about Max Lazer was that I remember playing a show with him at Baces Hall in Los Feliz around the spring of 1977. I caught the punk rock fever the previous summer when I went to London and saw The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Buzzcocks, so when I did the gig I wore a ripped wife beater with Polaroid photos safety pinned all over them. No big whoop in jaded 2014 but it seemed like a big deal back then, especially to one person in particular.

Brendan Mullen, punk rock impresario and author of several punk history books, confessed to me a year after my show that he was in the audience that night and said I was the very first punk he saw when he came to Hollywood. Too much! He also thought it was awesome when I occasionally broke into extended free jazz sax breaks on some of the more sludgy metal songs. There were a lot of people at the show that night so I'm sure he was there. As Lou Reed once sang "those were different times".

"Different times" which people still miss! Rebecca has a friend who scouts for anything designed by the SEX label from 1976 aka Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Maclaren's store in Chelsea. I wrote a blog about it called The Rubber And Leather T Chronicles (http://blackhairedboy.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-rubber-and-leather-t-chronicles.html).

I recently unearthed some pics of myself rocking the leather and silver rubber tees I bought from that store way back when. Just a few of them are posted here for your entertainment, and no, neither one is for sale. Well, the rubber tee decomposed two years after I bought it, anyway. The leather one's still around here somewhere.

Here are some of the pictures, and it's funny. I had so many taken during the late Seventies and then for some weird reason I became very camera shy in the Eighties and didn't have any pictures taken of me until 1988 when it was time for my band Trash Can School to get publicity shots taken. That's when I broke out the eye shadow and eye liner, etc - but that's an entirely different story.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Je Ne Sais Quoi

One of the bigger trends in internet culture of late is a style of writing called “flash fiction”. Just like flash mobs they are meant to be quick and annoying. Flash fiction, for those who haven’t experienced it yet, is a short story presented in a tightly-enforced limit of words, i.e. tell your story in 500 words or less.

Parameters this small hamper any chance of a story being told with any semblance of depth or perception. The effect is not unlike eavesdropping on half a conversation between two people above the roar of a truck growling nearby. Something’s going to get lost in translation and they’re already speaking fucking English.

I attribute the phenomenon of flash fiction on the public’s decreasing attention span via fast paced technology. As a result, people get their sensation immediately without any regard for the other elements that make a story so memorable, like location, mood, emotion, or even plot buildup. In a weird way there are no spoilers in flash fiction; the story IS the climax.

So, like a curious monkey who wanted to know just what these matches do when you scratch them I started hanging out at a crime flash fiction page called Shotgun Honey (www.shotgunhoney.net). Some of the writing was good, a lot of it was bad, predictable “Breaking Bad”/Tarantino rip-off shit, but the challenge was there: submissions had to be 700 words or less. Good luck.

I came up with a new story which I ended up posting myself, “The Pickpocket In The Slam Pit” (http://blackhairedboy.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-pickpocket-in-slam-pit.html). I would have loved to have it posted on Shotgun Honey, but the word count was double the amount allowed by the website. But I tried to make it work, how I tried:

When I saw the 1,340 word count I started thinking about what could be eliminated in order to keep the story intelligible after all the cuts. Since the count was nearly double the stringent 700 word limit I would need to cut out half the story!

For starters I would have to eliminate any extraneous characters from the story:
1. The bouncer – does Stew Rat, the main character, really need to be patted down at the punk club? Why don’t we just assume punks are allowed into a gig without being frisked. Umm, sure!
2. The first three guys that get their wallets lifted. We don’t need to know what they looked like or what their wallets looked like. Too much detail!
3. The band playing on stage (Crank Call) while Stew Rat slithers his way around the mosh pit. Does anyone really care what the names of their songs were? All punk bands sound alike!
4. The big bruiser who’s about to bust Stew Rat for his crimes. WTF? He’s not the main character, who gives a shit about him?

Okay, we’re now down to about 950 words. Only 250 words to go before my story can be published (IF they like it). I have to kill some more unimportant details:
1. Stew Rat’s spotty skin, freckles and mangy demeanor. How does that help the story? All punks look alike!
2. The name of the club, the town it’s in and general atmosphere of the evening. Gah! So much folderol. We want to get in on the action and WE WANT IT NOW!!!

Okay, so I killed the atmosphere, mood, characters, humor and half the plot of the story. All that’s left is the death of Stew Rat, and I’m still down to 800 words. Damn, double damn. My story’s still too long for Shotgun Honey. I suck, just like Herman Melville. Damn our words!

I don’t mean to pick on Shotgun Honey, in all fairness there are dozens of flash writing websites like them – ReadWave comes to mind - that require brevity for the attention challenged, but expecting any fiction that’s got a tale to tell in 700 words or less is going to be nothing less than awful.

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of early Seventies music, esp. from Europe where music became even more avant-garde than all the Mod and Psych experiments that preceded it. Here’s my ten favorite tracks from the past month:
1. Apache Drop Out – Edgar Broughton Band. The band that named this blog covered not one but two great songs in one fell swoop: Captain Beefheart’s “Drop Out Boogie” and Jorgen Ingemann’s “Apache”, both done really well. This was a big deal on FM radio when I was a kid.
2. Black Sheep Of The Family – Quatermass. Another great Harvest Records band (along with Broughton), this power trio minus guitar was very similar to The Nice. It’s a short, tight rocking song with great some great organ playing that alternates from atonal blasts with funky blues runs. And the pterodactyl album cover is a classic.
3. The Devil’s Answer- Atomic Rooster. Atomic Rooster featured the late Vincent Crane, the great keyboardist from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Although they were a primarily metal sounding band this song has some great jazz-blues grooves going on.
4. Kill Your Sons – Lou Reed. Although “Sally Can’t Dance” sold millions for Lou the critics really laid into it. This track sounds pretty great, with even wilder lyrics about Reed’s early years committed to Creedmor Psychiatric Hospital. Genius.
5. Hamburger Breath Stinkfinger – Arthur Lee. From his post-Love album “Vindicator” dedicated to MackDonald’s, “The Home of the Golden Tombstone”. More than a few feminist feathers were ruffled with the refrain, “Oh what a dish, she smelled just like a fish”.
6. I Hate Everybody – Johnny Winter. From his great “Second Winter” album, this swing blues track some terrific guitar playing from the man and is further enhanced by his brother Edgar swinging amazingly wild on both organ and saxophone. Another track on the album has Johnny playing mandolin to Edgar’s harpsichord. Blues with an imagination.
7. Willie The Pimp – Juicy Lucy. Juicy Lucy, to be frank, was a pretty awful band – The Misunderstood, their predecessor, were brilliant – but they weren’t a follow up, they were more of a follow-down. On the other hand their cover of Frank Zappa’s Willie The Pimp may be the wildest cover of a Zappa song ever recorded. This was also a huge staple of FM radio back in the day and rightfully so. A whole album of Zappa covers would have melted skulls!
8. Mussolini- The God Bullies. Okay, so I’m throwing in some other decades in here. The God Bullies always made me laugh, sounding like a combination of a wicked goth guitar player with an insane drama student. This song ends with the tribal chant, “GEORGE BUSH, GEORGE BUSH, GEORGE BUSH”. From the Dope, Guns, and Golfing In The Streets album. One of the few Amphetamine Reptile bands I didn’t do a show with, and it’s too bad. They were great.
9. Night of The Hunter – Kim Fowley. Fowley spent so much time making fun of Steppenwolf he actually exceeded them in raunch with songs like Animal Man and this demented rocker. The lyrics are absolutely amazing: “It’s a rainy night in California, my boots are soaking wet…my guitar’s full of diamonds, my house is made of stone”…howling guitars and wailing organs with exploding drums. THAT’S how you make a rock & roll record.
10. The Blues Ain’t Nothin’ – The Charlatans. Although The Charlatans were the greatest American band that never was they’re definitely due some serious reexamining. This track would definitely fit in on Iggy Pop’s “Kill City” album with its spidery honky tonk piano and unleashed saxophones screeching the drug addict blues.

And that’s my Top 10 for this season. I’m sure I’ll find some more great buried treasures the next time I make a list. Happy listening>>>

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