Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tina Delgado Is Alive!


"TINA DELGADO IS ALIVE, ALIVE, ALIVE!" screamed an echo-chambered woman from the clock radio in the afternoon in the bachelor’s apartment. Crash Walker, aka Harold Szymczyk, spasmodically kicked his legs up in the air like some epileptic frog, then his arms reached up, and finally he lifted his head up but his eyes were still shut tight. He was holding on for dear life to his sleepy state, but time was running out.

"That’s right groovy guys and boss bunnies it's time for the Tina Delgado contest I’ll take the seventh caller and if you can tell me who the groovy singer in Herman’s Hermits is you’ll get two tickets to their outtasite show at the Carousel in Riverside this Saturday night. Don’t delay call today! Can you dig it, baby? Now here’s Paul Revere & The Raiders “Steppin’ Out”, and if you’re steppin’ out today you won’t need an umbrella, yeah…” A trebly screech burned into Szymczyk's ears, and he swiveled around to punch the alarm clock off.

He crawled from the bed to the bathroom, shed a tear for Lord Nelson and the entire Swiss Navy, then pelted his face with ice cold water and gagged a few times. Not only was he a bad early riser but a terrible riser, period. It was already three PM in the afternoon. Throwing on a striped t-shirt, some jeans and zip-up ankle boots, he picked up his phone and called his answering service.

"Hi", he mumbled, "Any messages for Crash Walker? No? How about Harold Szymzcyk, then? Nothing? Well, there's always dinner time, isn't there? Yeah, it's a date, call you later, babe".

Fluffing up his dyed black hair in the mirror and putting on his darkest sunglasses, he paused to analyze his face. He was twenty-nine, crawling towards his thirties - the death knell, and the television jobs were coming slowly and reluctantly, and everybody knew once you did television it was well near impossible getting movie work. All his claims to his friends about how he was going to get the Oscar by the time he was twenty-two was the stuff of much hilarity and derision. It was a recurring joke for awhile and he regretted opening his mouth with such a cocky threat. Appraising his face, there were not enough lines for him to freak out about just yet, but he felt himself getting tired more often than usual, cause for concern.

He climbed into his quickly dying Chevy Corvair and drove up to the Sunset Strip, pulling into the parking space between Pandora’s Box and Schwab’s Drug Store on Crescent Heights. Crash Walker ambled into the drug store with its endless counters of cosmetics, tobacco products, and medicines towards the smoke-filled coffee shop area in the back.

He approached the booth by the window with the rowdy guys loafing and barking like a human dog pack.

“There he is, the return of The Prodigal Son!” a dog-faced actor roared with pastrami and egg flying out of his mouth, punctuated by a guzzle of lukewarm coffee.
“Crash Walker! Get your unemployed ass over here!” a middle-aged man with a Julius Caesar hairstyle named Tony commanded. A young man with messy red hair and the tightest t-shirt worn in Hollywood merely gaped at Walker.

“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, no applause until the end of the third act, thank you, then I will take standing ovations but money is preferred”, Walker bowed.
“Sit down, Barrymore”, a fat waitress pushed a menu at him, “I take tips, not curtain calls”.
“Everybody’s a comedian”, Walker grumbled, sitting down.
“It gets funnier – wait’ll you eat the food”, she returned.
“Oh, and speaking of money”, the dog-faced actor, Albert, pulled a check out of his jacket, “Here’s your check I picked up at the agency”.
Walker spied the check closely. “God damn it! They misspelled my name again”.
“Yeah, how about that, somebody misspelled Szymzcyk, who woulda believed that?”
“Why can’t they just write it out to Crash Walker?”
The red-hired guy continued staring at Walker and finally asked Tony, “Crash Walker? Where’d he get a name like that?”
“He got his name from Henry Willson, the agent”.
“That’s not all I got from him”, Walker quipped, putting away his check.
“Just think, Walker, you could have been the next Rock, the next Tab, the next Troy, the next-“
“Not very likely. I tried to hide behind Natalie Wood, but that damn Raymond Burr followed me around like a shark”. Everybody laughed.
“So, Crash, you cheap polack”, Albert whined, “Mister Rich Actor, how about kicking in for the feed today?”
Walker ignored him, reading the menu like it was the newest edition of The Hollywood Reporter.
“Rich guy, ready to buy stereo albums instead of mono”.
Walker answered, “I’m still making payments on my black and white TV, I’ll be damned if I can afford a color TV until 1999”.
A fat guy with a crew cut walked by their table, and sneered. “Hey, Walker, still doing that stupid western?”
“Still doing that dumb war show?” Walker snapped back. The fat flat top waddled away.
“Look at that fat fuck, the war’s been over for over twenty years and they’re still doing fucking World War II shows. Jesus”.
“Well, shit, baby, Japs gotta eat, too y’know”, Tony joked. Everybody chuckled. “Crash, ahem, Har-old, ahem, Crash, meet Hollywood’s newest stunt man, Billy Bell”. He gently shoved the red-haired guy.
“Billy Bell? Sounds like a fuckin’ drum beat”, Crash quipped. “Stunt man, huh?”
“Yeah”, Bell said, “I worked carnivals with my dad for years but there wasn’t much money in it”.
“Well, welcome to Hollywood, there’s not much money here either”.
“If he’s gonna fall off buildings and trains maybe his name should be Crash instead”.
“Yeah, I’ll hook you up on a date with Henry Willson. He’ll come up with some cute little handle for you”.
“Are you gonna order or are you gonna show off?” the waitress whipped out her pen and pad, ready to take his order.
“I’m gonna leave, Love Handles. Be gentle with my pals, okay?” Walker got up and dashed away.

“Stunt man”, Walker mumbled under his breath, leaving Schwab’s, “Carnivals, war shows. Jesus Christ”. He walked up Sunset Boulevard past the Rocky and Bullwinkle sign and saw two young guys with hair down to their hips in striped pants selling papers. “Hippies, jeez”.
He walked two blocks down to the Orange Julius on the corner, and took a seat. The old bastard behind the counter pulled out a Variety Magazine in front of Walker.
“Orange Julius, sir?”
Walker gave him a look, which prompted the old codger to pour two fingers of scotch into two Orange Julius cups, handing one over to him.
“Now you’re talking. Shit, look at this: ‘Roadblock, the hit prime-time police show has been renewed for another season’. Jesus, I hate that sanctimonious son of a bitch Bill Flagg. Do people really watch that shit?”
The guy behind the counter took a slug of laced Orange Julius. “There’s a lot of scared grannies out there.”
Walker put down the Variety. “What do you think, Pops, what would you rather watch, a war show or a Cowboys and Indians show?”
“Are you kidding? I saw enough action in the war, I don’t need to turn on a TV and see more. Never get tired of the shoot-em-ups, though.”
“Yeah, I’ll be working for a long time, I guess”, Crash Walker mused, staring down the endless Hollywood street, “Folks’ll never get tired of a good cowboy show”.

"That’s was Billy Stewart singing ‘Summertime’, next up is ‘Tijuana Taxi’ by The Tijuana Brass, and we got some groovy Animals coming up in the next Boss Thirty, don’t go away now, you won’t wanna miss The Real Don Steele, 93 KHJ, this is your home for The Beatles”.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rock & Roll Confidential, Part 2


The Blue Star (2200 E. 15th St.) = I got the invite on the Garage Punk Hideout that there was a big garage blow-out show, and when free barbecue was thrown into the mix I was there with bells on. The fact that The Blue Star was located in truck & train nightmare Vernon, California didn't even scare me. This is what happened:

The Blue Star looks like an abandoned Norm's with a rockin' juke box. Drinks are $6 but all they served was beer and wine, no hard-ons, booo. I walked out to a patio with a tiny stage in the corner that had cheap Walgreens Xmas lights strewn about the stage for lighting. You can barely see how ugly the bands are on stage, so maybe it's a public service.

The barbecue pit was in the back with a cool Flintstones-type boulder bar with all the fixings. While The Teutonics (From Germany, natch) played "Dont'cha Just Know It" I noticed the patio was covered in corrugated iron with a barbed wire topping. There was a good turn-out by the time The Jinxes played their spazzed-out Dickies meets Supernova mishigas as I looked up at the star constellation above me in the cold winter sky.

The bottom line is that come summer time this will be a shreddin' scene, but until then you won't find many takers that'll sit out in the cold night air no matter how hot the band. And get some stage lights - at a $10 door cover plus $6 for supermarket booze you can afford to buy some fluorescent tubes or something. I wanna catch all the pimples the garage bands are sportin'!

Timewarp Music (12255 Venice Blvd.) =
On one of my many treks into Culver City I checked out the majesty that is Timewarp Music. There were surf-era guitars, Ringo Starr drum sets, vintage tweed amplifiers and bulbous Elvis-Fifties microphones laid out all over the store. The showroom was cooler than the club next door! I imagine Westside kids coming in and buying all their gear so they can form a surf combo and play the beach down the street.

Club Good Hurt (12249 Venice Blvd.) =
Advance reports of Club Good Hurt conjured visions of foxy nurses in PVC uniforms with nurse caps, tongue depressors, stethoscopes bouncing off bobbing breasts, but alas, no such luck, just two barmaids wearing tiny dresses with a medical cross stitched on. Club Good Hurt has a gimmick but doesn't really run with it much: a 1940's neon drugstore sign hangs over the bar, and that's about it. What did you expect? Mar Vista will never be a hot bed of rock 'n roll, anyway.

The bar itself was lacking, too. I had the most watered down Cosmopolitan ever. Not only couldn't I taste the vodka, I couldn't even taste the cranberry juice. That's bad, seriously bad, especially at $12 (and an expected tip). The band that played, yes, it's a nightclub, was kinda bad psychedelic, but the kids liked them. They had a squirrely synthesizer yammering through their set with a silly fog machine blasting everyone in the face. Nurse! Nurse!

I'm giving Good Hurt three stars because if I was 21 and in a band I'd probably play here and I think it has the potential to be a cool venue. Just don't drink the water, I mean booze. Doctor Andy's prescription: flask it.

Rock City News (7030 DeLongpre Ave.) =
Everything old is new again. Before you get a chance to wax nostalgic over The Pixies they're back on the road touring again. Well, Warrant's back too and Rock City News is there reporting every rawkin' head bang they make. If Axl Rose is making a personal appearance at Pink Dot, Rock City News is there. If Dave Mustaine from Megadeath has more catty remarks to make about Metallica, Rock City News is there. If Faster Pussycat plans another rent-paying comeback, Rock City News is there.

Rock City News, in business for twenty-five years and keeping the heavy metal Strip scene flag flying are still going strong, yes on a monthly basis as opposed to their once weekly output, helmed by the fearless Reuben Blue. In fact, their 25th Anniversary party will be at FM Station on August 22nd. An AC-DC cover band will be on board, and so will Hardly Dangerous, whoa! I thought they were dead. Rock City News is the nightmare that keeps coming back, just like The Pixies.

Studio Instrument Rentals (6465 W. Sunset Blvd.) = Everybody knows about the legendary SIR studios. I once came here for an audition. It was for some psychobilly band. The guitar player was a giant from Germany who would argue with you about everything, even when he agreed with you. Crabby Kraut, may a team of hobbits pee poison in his stein.

The rooms themselves are pretty spacious and clean as rehearsal studios go. Some of the rooms have stages in them so you can point at your invisible audience as you're rockin' out. I'll bet when the big guns like Kiss or The Motels rehearse there they point at that invisible audience from the stage. That's lame enough to be funny.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pebbles For Rebels


In 1972 glam rock was at its peak, but there was a sleeping giant in the process of being woken up by several critics from Creem and Rolling Stone Magazines (Ben Edmonds, Lester Bangs, Lenny Kaye, etc.), and the sleeping giant was termed punk rock, which is now garage rock. “Punk rock” was coined by them but made flesh by a compilation released by Elektra Records called “Nuggets”. “Nuggets” lumped old AM radio classics recorded by garage bands like The Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night”, “Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five, “Dirty Water” by The Standells, etc. In the coming years other record companies created their own psychedelic (aka “psych”) garage compilations. During the 1980’s the most popular series was released by another former rock writer Greg Shaw, now indie record mogul of Bomp Records (named after his fanzine). He issued a series of compilations that completely expanded on “Nuggets” and beyond, and named it “Pebbles”. Each volume of “Pebbles” concentrated on a different region in the USA and even expanded to international bands, as well.

The best volumes are the ones from Southern California and the International one, too. "Pebbles So Cal vol.1" is amazing, starting with Terry Randall's "S.O.S." a great number about the Sunset Strip riots, recalling Suicide of all people, with the vocalist almost whispering Police Dept. cliches over a hypnotic blues riff, "Up against the wall...let's see some I.D.", organs beeping telegraph message noises.
The Starfires' "I Never Loved Her" is a weird, chilling number that contrasts between a hardened punk bragging to his pals about dumping some loser gal after banging her, then the chorus drops into a soft, Zombies-like confessional of hidden manly fears. The guitars contrasts the protagonist's moods brilliantly.
The Human Society's "Knock Knock" is a masterpiece, slow, swirling guitars unwinding a ringing in the lead vocalist's psychotic cerebellum, lyrics spitting out a Jim Thompson-style dementia that's gripping in it's candor. And to think Donovan was mumbling about bananas while this sludge was being recorded!

"Pebbles So Cal vol.2" is equally as spazzed out, though; "Lost Innocence" by The Buddhas rocks like a wrench. "I'm Not Alone" by The David has a loping Doors-type sound with it's stately organ parts and thespian vocalizing. "Ain't It Hard" by The Gypsy Trips features a simple piano figure that rolls around in circles while backwards guitar tracks unwind in your ears, driving you crazy with its freak-out grooviness.

"Pebbles The World" is the international edition and has some excellent gems that'll make you shake like a wild pony. It opens with The Bunnys from Japan doing an insane instrumental where the guitarist violates his tremolo bar like crazy ("Moanin'"). "Dis-Nous Dylan" by The Five Gentlemen from France is a weird, slow tribute to the famous protest singer, weird because its so trance-like. Lebanon's The Cedars have a great song "Hide If You Want To Hide" with a very pronounced Middle Eastern melody that still sounds like a great Hollies-type number. John Wooley from Belgium has a driving number called "Look And You Will Find" that has a fairly cliched rock guitar line but the beat is so hypnotic and the recording is so well done you'll like it, anyway. The show-stopper on the record, however, is France's Evariste, with the absolutely insane "Connais-Tu L'Animal Que Inventa Le Calcul Integar?" (Don't ask!) It's a sort-of Wild Man Fischer au Francais, the singer howling, spitting, screaming and shitting all over himself. This one's so demented it literally stops everyone in their tracks from doing what it is they're doing, and asking "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?" Well, it's rock & roll, natch!

"Essential Pebbles vol.1" is a best-of compilation and well worth your attention. Classic Tracks include Canada's Haunted doing "1-2-5" ("My name's Mary Jane, I live down the lane"), T.C. Atlantic doing the haunting "Faces", and the folksy "I Ain't Dead Yet" from The Breakers. The Sinners keep it French for "Sinnerisme" where they remarks on the dark beauty of a girl's eyes. But I really like The Roosters, one of the great forgotten bands, with their sublime "You Gotta Run", 12-string guitars ringing, beautiful harmonies and reedy Beatles-like harmonica.

"Essential Pebbles vol.2 " has The Chimes doing the wild "#38" with tremolos guitar busting through the speakers like a freight train. The Yo Yos' "Crack In My Wall" has a severe Animals vibe going for it, all Eric Burdon drama like an old British Angry Young Man movie.

Much has been said about garage rock, but in discovering the hidden gems of the genre one finds unknown tracks that open up vistas of sound that are exciting and almost surprising in their obscurity because they still sound new and relevant today. While latter day compilations lie Rhino's "Where The Action Is" fill a void in unsung chapters in Sixties rock it's recommended that you look into Greg Shaw's "Pebbles" series (*and the great UK psych series "Rubble") to discover even more untold gems in the vast fabric of wild and wooly Sixties rock.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Naughtiest of The Noughties


I heard this past decade referred to as the Noughties, a prefect term in more ways than one. This is what happened in the second half of an awful year:

July:
A week after Independence Day Rebecca went on tour with KISS so I was home alone. Tried to make the most of it by going to The Clayton Brothers show at Bergamot Station, not bad, the Santa Monica Library for some intense summer reading, and drinks, lots of drinks. Went to The Coach & Horses on a Sunday night and some girl was lying on the sidewalk in a cocktail dress crying her head off. Got some good eating done, though: Brasa Brasil, Rainbow Bar & Grill, and Louise's Trattoria, just to name a few.

August:
Went to The Blue Star to see some crunky punk bands blast some rockin' shit at their bitchen patio. Rebecca's back for a little while so I took her drinking at The Whisper Lounge. Got Rebecca a tattoo for her birthday, and she chose a cartoon spool from Hot Stuff Comics for her right arm. It sure was cool to see Ace Farren Ford again. Went to Gene Simmons' 60th birthday party at Lucky Strike bowling alley, and I hurt Gene's feelings because I didn't say hi to him. The birthday wishers line for him was pretty long, though.

September:
Got my star tattoo sleeve done by Ace at Purple Panther Tattoo. Every time I look at it I get a big smile on my face. While Los Angeles was on fire I sunbathed up on the rooftop. A week later I drove up to San Francisco: I loved the patio at Zeitgeist, a cool bar in the Mission District. Bought tons of great leather while we were up there. I got a great pair of pants out of it. The ceiling to Rebecca's work room caved in with water.

October:
Brendan Mullen died this month; we were in a band (Arthur J. and the Gold Cups) together, I lived at the Masque (his club), and he interviewed me for his two books. His life partner said he lived a healthy life (AHEM) so his death came as a big surprise, yeah, him and Brittany Murphy. Had a power outage that lasted all night, but we made the most of it by listening to mp3 music. After finding out that a cool Sharon Leong painting was still for sale I bought it from a gallery in Monterey Park. Rebecca performed at Lucha Va Voom for the first time in two years, so I went to see her.

November:
Missed the Julie Newmar tribute at The Paley Center because I was sick as a dog. Went to Lisa Petrucci's art show at Luz De Jesus and it was fun seeing her and Mike Vraney again. Went to Longo Toyota to have my car serviced and they had me there all day (8 am-3 pm) and didn't even finish the job. Never again! Went back up to San Francisco and got a great pair of John Fluevog supervlogs, straight from Haight Street.

December:
Registered with the YMCA and now I go there every week, working out all my anger from the bureau rats at work. I love it! Went to the Viper Room to see Schwarzenator, an Arnold Schwarzenegger tribute band that plays death metal (what else?). Changed the locks to our place after we fired our speed freak employee, ugh. Celebrated Golden Apple Comic's 30th Anniversary in the rain, and I miss Bill Lebowitz. More than fuckin' Brendan Mullen.