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Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Legend of Arthur J. and The Gold Cups

Describing a punk band from the deep, dark past has always been hard work but when there's precious little documentation on the band then it's well near impossible. I played in a first wave Hollywood punk band (1977-1978) called Arthur J. and The Gold Cups and although we played with every huge band of the era (Avengers, X, Germs, etc.) we never recorded, so there's almost nothing to go by, but that's never stopped me before.

Arthur J. and The Gold Cups was named after two Hollywood coffee shops that catered to gays; Arthur J.'s was on the corner of Santa Monica and Highland - it's now a strip mall. The Gold Cup was on the corner of Hollywood and Las Palmas and it's now a trendy tourist trap tattoo parlor. Both establishments provided late night hustlers and Quaaludes.

One block away from the The Gold Cup was a tiny alley off Cherokee Avenue with a huge steel doorway that took you down to a basement that held several rehearsal rooms; a long, cavernous room with a stage; and tons more space for anyone to do whatever they liked. This was The Masque, leased and operated by Brendan Mullen, founder and drummer of Arthur J. and The Gold Cups.

In Charles Martin Sharp's brilliant book on the Los Angeles avant garde music scene, "Improvisation, Identity and Tradition: Experimental Music Communities in Los Angeles", he described The Gold Cups as "attracting and bringing together people who were already interested in experimental aesthetics by merely advertising for members at The Masque".

In Mullen's book "We Got The Neutron Bomb" I am quoted as saying, "When I saw the bulletin at The Masque for Arthur J. and The Gold Cups, everything that was listed in that ad was right up my alley. I said 'this is the band of my dreams' cause it mentioned Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, James Brown, The Soft Machine, T. Rex, The NY Dolls, and The Sex Pistols all in the same band. I couldn't believe it. This in some bombed-out punk basement? A pretty sick concept. Then I found out it was Brendan and Spazz (Attack, Gold Cups vocalist) and Geza (X, Gold Cups guitarist) and a bunch of other people who worked at The Masque who jammed there all the time for fun, so I rushed home to get my horn".

When The Gold Cups first performed it was on a Sunday night at The Masque. I passed on playing the first show because rehearsals were a shambling mess with no direction all, and I lived to regret not playing that night because the band was simply amazing. On stage there were three Deadbeats (Geza, Pat & Scott), The Moreland Brothers from The Skulls, Hal & Kelly (Weirdos roadies), and Brendan on drums.

Center stage on vocals was Spazz Attack, so named for simulating a full blown twitching and drooling seizure and performing eye-popping back flips - he always landed on his feet, brilliant. In addition to being a brilliant acrobat Spazz also designed his own punk-bondage fashions. He had a crazy habit of dyeing his hair - two, sometimes even thrice a week. Ouch! He's notorious for his strait jacket seizure in Devo's classic "Satisfaction" video. It's right after Booji Boy sticks a knife into a toaster.

The band sounded like they were combining The Standells with John Coltrane's "Ascension", furthering the punk big band sound with a dense wall of sound: two guitars, two keyboards, a horn section and drums that played whatever the fuck it wanted to. The band always returned to Earth by drifting into The Soft Machine's "We Did It Again", which sounded more like "You Really Got Me" than the hoary psych classic, but that's the point. Musical anarchy made reality, and not just sloganeering about anarchy from the musically structured punk bands.

Although they only played for half an hour it was the greatest drag noise band of all time, Brendan, Geza and Scott wearing makeup and dresses serving up some Albert Ayler realness. I couldn't kick myself hard enough for boguing out on this awesome punk display!

I finally pulled the stick out of my ass and returned to the band a week later and toughed out the rehearsals - try getting nine mentally disturbed musicians to show up to rehearsal at the same time. Mission impossible! We ended up learning a few ridiculous covers, like The Beach Boys' awful "Long Tall Texan", the Cal Worthington used car ads commercial jingle, The Challengers' surf classic "Out of Limits" and we also did "Miserlou" (aka the Pulp Fiction theme song). "We Did It Again" always got played every six minutes.

I wore a mask on stage every time in honor of the now departed Marc Moreland, who wore a mask that fateful night on stage, to maintain the tradition of masked musicians. This not only got me attention when we played but I even scored a pic in Slash Magazine when our show got reviewed. Unfortunately nobody knew it was me on stage. I was always in disguise!

Reviews for the band were always hateful - the LA Times said our "joke wore thin" and even Slash Magazine said we were "annoying". I've met both reviewers in person since those reviews and I assure you these are the two most pompous, humorless people I've ever met, so the reviews weren't terribly shocking.

Since Brendan promoted the band he'd package three-day weekend shows at The Whisky A Go Go with us playing every night and a revolving door of punk bands supporting us. We played with The Avengers, X, The Alleycats, The Dils, Negative Trend, Black Randy & The Metro Squad, The Plugz and The Germs.

The band had one particular fan at the time: running down to LA after his band's legendary show at Winterland in 1978, Malcolm Maclaren saw the band perform at The Whisky and enjoying our penchant for shambling punk covers, he returned to England to produce "The Great Rock 'N Roll Swindle" featuring, you name it, shambling punk covers of songs like "My Way" and "You Need Hands". Oh well, it was cool seeing him laugh his ass off at our show.

With the band's advancing notoriety new members joined: Paul Roessler (Screamers, Nina Hagen) on keyboards, Hector Penalosa of The Zeros on bass, Steve Berlin of The Blasters on sax, Jeff Jourard of The Motels (!) on guitar, KIra Roessler of Black Flag on bass. It was a busy rehearsal studio.

The usual humbug broke the band up: a side project called Hal Negro & The Satintones featuring half the band doing awful lounge music covers, combined with a more polished and ordinary set of covers (Love Potion Number Nine, Let's Get Together from the movie The Trouble With Angels). The drag and the noise disappeared, no fun. Plus some of the members took the band way too seriously.

Geza left to pursue his own band Geza X & The Mommy Men and became one of the foremost producers in the industry, Spazz joined Toni Basil's dance troupe, Pat Delaney became a college professor and Brendan wrote several successful rock biographies. Everyone left and did better, anyway, even me.

Slash Magazine ultimately delivered the best eulogy for The Gold Cups. It went something like this: "One of the most lunatic outfits to hit the scene, but unfortunately one of the flakiest. Made up of various outcasts from other bands, The Gold Cups also featured some inspired fringe cult figures. In limbo at the present, but if everyone involved (all 250 of them) ever learns to show up at rehearsals at the same time their long promised comeback may add a welcome touch of madness to concert nights. Probably forever unrecordable".

To read more about Spazz, Geza and Brendan pick up "We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk" by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen, available on Three Rivers Press.

"Improvisation, Identity and Tradition: Experimental Music Communities in Los Angeles" by Charles Martin Sharp can be read via Google Books.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Them Changes

Here we are at the end of 2013, which marks the end of the my seventh year writing “Out Demons Out”, and while it’s been nothing but fun it’s also been a lot of work. In light of that, I have decided to make the following changes effective next year, 2014 to my blog:

1. Serialized novels will no longer be available on Out Demons Out. This month I will post the last two chapters of Every Bitch For Himself online and then the rest of it will be available when the book is published in October of next year. The decision is based as a preventative measure against online plagiarism.

2. Out Demons Out will go bi-weekly. After seven years the task of coming up with fresh new content every week has been exhausting. Writing a new blog every two weeks will allow me more time to do a better job at writing. Besides, a week off will allow me time to finish my current novel.

What else is new? I've been listening to Junior Wells as well as his great guitarist, Earl Hooker (see above). Some people call them blues legends but it sounds pretty rock & roll to me. Call it what you will, there's some great stuff by them you ought to check out.

Before I go I just wanted to post a video of Kid Koala performing a live version of “Drunk Trumpet”. What makes this video so significant is that Drunk Trumpet is a track with some pretty involved scratching, braking and other finger-spinning turntable tricks, so it’s to Kid Koala’s credit that he flawlessly replicates the track perfectly in a live concert environment. If you liked this also check out his version of "Moon River" on You Tube. Check this out and enjoy!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Hanukkah Story

Since Hanukkah is falling abnormally early this year, on Thanksgiving even! I've decided to write a small tale for the holiday. Here it is:

It was December 1968 and I was a mere stripling of 12 years. It was a cold winter by Los Angeles standards and the holidays were approaching, Christmas and Hanukkah. Usually around Hanukkah we would visit a childless elderly couple, The Pollaks.

Although they were the happiest and warmest elderly people I have ever known, the Pollaks met under less than romantic circumstances. Henry Pollak was a concentration camp survivor who saw his wife and four daughters killed by the Nazis. Agnes Pollak also suffered through seeing her husband and children murdered in the camps. Survivors both, they shared their experiences and mourned together and eventually married. When my father came by to visit he would reflect his experiences with them. Most of his family was wiped out as well.

One night when we visited the Pollaks, they left the living room and my brother changed the channel on the TV from a wrestling show to a World War II war show ("Combat"). There was a scene when army tanks rolled into a small village and as we were watching it my father and the Pollaks came back into the room.

The normally mellow Mr. Pollak dropped his customary friendly tone and shouted at my brother, "CHANGE THE CHANNEL! CHANGE IT RIGHT NOW!"
"Put something nicer on. Take it off", my dad said.
A little freaked out by the reaction, my brother quickly turned the TV knob to the next station, taking us back to two wrestlers beating the crap out of each other and drop kicking each other in the face.
"HAHAHAHA, oh that's funny!" The Pollaks laughed hysterically.


A week later we had assembly in the gym at school and there was a projector in the back. Nobody knew what they were going to watch. Sometimes we saw films like the instructional CPR training movie but this time no one knew.

The school principal, Rabbi Goldstein didn't help with his obscure introduction. Walking up to the microphone stand he simply said. "You are going to see a film about your future and your parent's future and your friend's future".

With the lights turned off, the film started and we watched a black and white film of concentration camps....Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka....a voice narrated over the footage of genocide.

"During the Nazi purge of World War II, Nazi Germany exterminated millions of Jews, young and old alike..."
-An emaciated Jewish boy with a shaved head and haunting eyes stares at the camera.
"...Man, woman and child, the Nazi death camps showed no mercy to anyone, slaughtering people by the hundreds whether by bullet or by gas chamber..."
-Piles of dead, emaciated, naked Jewish bodies are pushed into a huge, bottomless ditch by a tractor.
"...The Nazis showed no mercy to the Jews of Europe, even making lamp shades made from human skin..."
-Skeletal Jews are being gently carried out of the concentration camp gates by American soldiers, liberating them.

"With the end of the Jewish nightmare comes a new paradise, the State of Israel..."
-The film is now in color and shows olive groves around a sunny desert. The sky is a clear blue.
"A Jewish state brimming with industry and promise, one can live here safe from threats of genocide..."
-Fifties era Israel shows Israelis farming and laughing, enjoying their jobs on a Kibbutz.
"Women participate in the Israeli army or they work on a Kibbutz. A Kibbutz! A cooperative farm where man, woman and child enjoy the fruits of The Holy Land..."
-Footage of dark women in fatigues with rifles drilling, date trees in a static desert surrounding them.
"This is The New Holy Land, Jerusalem of Gold!"

The film ended with a rising crescendo of music to stir the soul and the lights turned on. The principal returned to the mike.
"After you graduate Hebrew school, I want you to consider Israel as your new homeland and work on a kibbutz. It would be a life-changing experience. Talk it over with your parents tonight!"

Returning to our regular classes, I wondered why I would give up a city that housed the Whiskey A Go Go, the Santa Monica Pier and Irwindale Raceway for a farm in the desert. I didn't even like looking at short-haired girls in shorts juggling rifles.


My school would often employ Israelis newly arrived to the States as teachers. Many of them did not have teaching credentials at all, but as long as they could speak Hebrew they had a job. The worst teacher and class I ever had was the one called Jewish History. Jewish History consisted of a Six-Day War veteran named Mister Gur newly emigrated to the US teaching us what he did during the Six-Day War. He was a red-haired man with a handlebar moustache and thick horn-rimmed glasses. He spoke with a lisp and never bathed. Every day he wore the same white dress shirt open down his chest so you could see his chest hairs.

Class consisted of him pulling down a yellowed map of Israel in front of the blackboard and using a wooden pointer to show each little town where there was war action. He spoke very slowly and knew very little English. If you knew Hebrew you had a fighting chance of understanding him.

"Tho, we went to....Haifa and got our orderth to go the Gatha Thtrip, and blah blah blah..."
I started daydreaming.
"Hmmmm..." I thought. "If The Beatles put out a white album cover and The Rolling Stones also put out a white album cover does this mean EVERYBODY'S going to put out white album covers? That's so dull-"
"THEVRIN!!!! Are you paying attention? What did I jutht thay?"
"Um...." think fast. "You surrounded the Egyptians and they all surrendered!"
Everybody laughed. Mister Gur's face turned red.
"Go to the printhipal's offith!!!!!"

Great, now I have to tell the Zionist principal I didn't pay attention listening to a bunch of war stories.


Most Gentiles don't really know what Hanukkah means, but most Jews, especially American ones don't really know what Hanukkah means, either.

Hanukkah is a holiday about the empowerment of the Jews who fought back against the Greeks when they took over the Second Temple and outlawed Judaism. A family of rebels named The Maccabees fought against them and emerged victorious. Hanukkah is a holiday celebrating Jewish strength over adversity and not one of sorrow or persecution.


Today marks the Centennial birthday of my Uncle Alex who I wrote about in my story "Hungarian Kitchen Fight Club" (August 11, 2007). A remarkable man who began as a mechanic in my grandfather's machine shop, he survived The Holocaust and moved to the United States where he repaired motorcycles, maintaining a highly loyal clientele among countless biker clubs across the greater New England Area. When I asked him if he was offended by their swastikas, he'd just smile and say, "They don't really understand what the hell it means".

Although he worked long hours in his garage he still managed to find time to put on tefillin and pray in the morning. Happy birthday, Uncle Alex, 100 years old today.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tom of Finland Does WeHo, Again

I can't think of a more fitting location for a Tom of Finland art exhibit than the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MOCA) in West Hollywood. West Hollywood, known around town as the abbreviated WeHo, is the Christopher Street of Los Angeles where gays, lesbians and like-minded folk can co-exist freely without societal constraints and pressure. Being a big Tom of Finland fan, I attended the newly opened show that he shared with beefcake king Bob Mizer.

For those not familiar with Tom of Finland, my best description of him would be to call him the gay Bill Ward. His erotic illustrations of sexually virile men is comparable to Ward's depiction of his sexually aroused vixens: both are depicted as enormously attractive individuals with grotesquely enormous genitalia sending them in a constant state of sexual ardor.

A Tom of Finland male proudly and even defiantly wears only the most fetishistic clothes: Navy uniforms, cowboy clothes, motorcycle leathers, police uniforms and denim trousers so tight they almost seem painted on. Bulging, nay, practically fighting its way out of every pair of trousers are biologically impossible swollen pair of testes and endlessly long penises in the history of art. Interestingly enough, the comparison to Ward continues in the way Tom shades his figures in the same style as Ward.

Tom's depiction of sexual situations always maintain a bizarrely cheerful air about them, even when men are being tied up or gang-banged. There's never a display of brutality or even aggression a la John Willie in his erotica. It's as if Tom of Finland's pictures are having a party and it's freaking everybody out!

Tom's artwork graced the covers of a digest-sized magazine for men called "Physique Pictorial" which also employed the brilliant paintings of George Quaintance, another artist who depicted homosexuality as an erotic happyland Utopia, as well. Another regular to the gay digest was popular beefcake photographer Bob Mizer, co-billed with Tom at MOCA.

How can I describe Bob Mizer? If the straights had Bunny Yeager then the gays had Bob Mizer. It is estimated that Mizer shot over a million beefcake shots in his legendary career. Mizer's photography is as meat and potatoes man love as it gets, with a few twists along the way: one naked model is dressed like an Aztec god, another in Superman drag, and of course the mandatory cowboys, sailors and motorcycle boys. Guaranteed crowd pleasers, of course.

To see more of Mizer's work, check out the massive collection "Bob's World", available from Taschen Books. I liked his fantasy photography more than his more static shots, but then again he knew his audience and they wanted, well, you know. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the show, which opened on November 2, 2013 and will run until January 26, 2014.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Birthday Grace Slick

For this year's annual tribute to Scorpio birthdays I'd like to talk about the brilliant tornado that is Grace Slick, just turned 74 years old on October 30th this past week. A fearless, foolish, frequently outrageous artist always willing to take risks and in the process influence tens of thousands of female rock singers during and after her fame, she is a rock icon like no other.

There has never been a female artist as irrepressible as Grace Slick prior to her arrival on the music scene. In the mid-Sixties female artists were delicate, controlled, and easily led; but with genius, beauty and style Grace Slick arrived and changed the way women performed and appeared in the public eye. Artists like Patti Smith, Courtney Love and an endless conveyor belt of Diva of the Weeks owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Grace's first band was in 1964 with her husband Jerry Slick (her name was originally Grace Wing) and his brother Darby named The Great Society. In 1966 they recorded what was to be her most memorable songs, "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit". One year later she left the band to replace Signe Anderson in Jefferson Airplane. With her pin-up model looks and intense beatnik style the Jefferson Airplane acquired a distinctive image to compliment their excellent musicianship.

Grace Slick's intense vocals in Jefferson Airplane were virtually unheard of in rock music up to that point and were the most intense female vocals heard at the time. Beginning with "Surrealistic Pillow" Grace forged a new sound in rock, combining beat poetry with vocals that effortlessly blended jazz ala Carmen McRae with then-popular folk rock melodiousness.

While Paul Kantner and Marty Balin wrote excellent folk tunes and Jorma Kaukonen wrote tough blues songs, a Grace Slick song promised a sophisticated, jazzy melody with a powder keg of lyrics about to explode. Her songs were works to be reckoned with.

Whether it was singing about a boy with arrested development in "Lather" or a filthy, polluted planet on "Eskimo Blue Day", no other female vocalist tore away at pompous masculine pride with feminist rage as she did with songs like "Two Heads", "Greasy Heart" or "Hey Frederick". And just as you're about to dismiss her as a bull-busting bitch she slips in a song as cool and surrealistic as "reJoyce", a gorgeous jazz piece based on the writings of James Joyce. Very, very bohemian.

Grace kept up with her male peers like Jim Morrison in the outrage department, too: performing in blackface on The Smothers Brothers Show, naming her publicly born-out-of-wedlock daughter "god", flashing her breasts onstage so many times it became shock-less, acts simultaneously outrageous and feminist setting new standards.

She can be forgiven her many excesses, alcoholism, fighting with countless boyfriends and policemen, and the crass, milquetoast New Wave band Starship whom boiled down their name from Kantner's original combo "Jefferson Starship". She can even be forgiven for making certain remarks that were bound to offend just about anyone with a pair of ears, but like all outlaws she probably wouldn't give a shit, anyway. That's punk as fuck.

Nice behavior or not, there's the records, some of the most unforgettable I've ever heard. It's amazing that nearly forty five years after the release of her records Grace Slick's lyrics and vocals can still send chills through me. And look beautiful doing it, too.

Suggested Reading:

Somebody To Love? A Rock and Roll Memoir
Grace Slick (with Andrea Cragan)
Warner Books

The Jefferson Airplane and the San Francisco Sound
Ralph J. Gleason
Ballantine Books

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Needles and Thread and The Whole Damn Thing

Well, Autumn's here and a young man's fancy turns to tops, warmer, stretchy tops. Pictured above is a quick black and blue top I made with a low scoop neck and chunky cuffs, just the way I like it. The quasi-femininity of the pattern is offset by a more masculine color palette. The end result is a top that surfs between both genders but in the long run exudes a mod look that's appealing for both boys and girls alike.
Another project that's been floating my boat are shoe bags, and lots of them. Disgusted with clunky shoe boxes that allow cockroaches to move into and better than those shoe trees with their tiny pockets that won't accommodate your chunkier boots, your best bet is to simply sew a few awesome shoe bags. I like really radiant material that gleams as much as the boots inside.
Pictured are three bags in particular: the glam bag with black stars is the bag I keep my Fluevog Prince George high heels in; the blue op art bag keeps my Doc Martens Langston petrol patent boots, and the gold paisley bag holds my gorgeous H by Hudson Alaska boots. Let them wear boots, but cover them in fabrics as exciting as the kinky kicks themselves!
One of the more peculiar pleasures to be had driving around West Los Angeles is the bizarre double-billboard spectacle on the corner of Santa Monica and Sepulveda Blvds. monopolized by the now deceased clothes designer Bijan Pakzad, known more commonly as simply "Bijan". A Persian emigre who became the toast of Eighties Beverly Hills, his entire style was one of obscene opulence - my first exposure to him was three-page ads in Vanity Fair every month (!) espousing The Bijan Philosophy. Some of his remarks were lame ("There's no sight more beautiful than a pregnant woman") while others were kind of funny ("Wisdom's a gift but you'd trade it for youth").
He drove around in a bright yellow Rolls Royce, yes the big vintage ones and even designed a Limited Edition Bugatti, also bright yellow. Yes, Bijan had made it into fashion history, even garnering a mention in none other than the movie American Psycho - "Not the Bijan!" Patrick Bateman firmly commands Sabrina the hooker.
Bijan was the ultimate Beverly Hills Persian made good and lived large, well, up until 2011, when he suffered a fatal stroke. But even his tragic passing could not forestall the continuous flow of billboards showing his deliriously happy smiling face. After his passing the billboard on the western side of SM and Sepulveda announced "The Legend...BIJAN!" with Mr. Pakzad smiling from the beyond, letting us know he's still keeping tabs on things in West LA. Now the billboard on the eastern side announced, "The Legacy...BIJAN!" with his young heir Nicolas cracking a similar goofy smile.
Several months passed by and Nicolas seemed rather shy by posting new billboards that displayed the luxe line that captivated Beverly Hills. No pictures of Dad or himself, at all. Will this be the new standard? No more smiley faces? Could this be the future of Bijan???
Hell, no! Two months passed by and the new billboards are out with the newer, au courant Bijan smiling reassuringly at us from both billboards, proclaiming, "BIJAN...Designer For Men!" Hope has returned to the Westside. Take that, Ralph Lauren!
If there's anything more exciting than fashion magazines it's stumbling upon some great books about fashion, and I've recently had the pleasure of enjoying two great ones.
The first book is "Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped And Smoothed" by tailor extraordinaire Richard Anderson. Bespoke is one of the best books written about menswear and is absolutely mandatory reading for anyone involved in the craft of tailoring at all.
Anderson goes into great instructional detail all through the book on how to best fit a suit or pants on someone with an uneven body - like 99% of us out there. He explains how to even out a higher shoulder or a lower leg and make everything perfectly fitted. There's a wealth of information in his book that you'll find indispensable, complete with an excellent glossary of tailoring terms. There's also a fairly amusing back story on Abercrombie & Fitch that has to be read to be believed!
The other gem is "Couture Hats" by Louis Bou. Couture Hats has page after page of avant garde hats that stand somewhere between the corner of Alexander McQueen and Paco Rabanne. Even if you're not crazy about hats in general this is still an excellent standalone fashion photography book.
Part of the enjoyment of Couture Hats is picking your favorite designer. My favorite milliner is Stephen Jones for his broad scope of versatility. His designs run the gamut from classic Forties Black Widow noir chapeaux to demented Mardi Gras nightmare chapeaus and beyond.
Both books are available wherever good books are sold and Couture Hats is available on Kindle, too. Both books are highly recommended by me, the man in the polka dot top and silver biker jeans. Aloha.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The International Morphine Variations

I have a tendency to connect certain areas to events in my life, so whenever I'm in the Miracle Mile District I think of Morphine. This is due to the unforgettable show they played at the El Rey Theater on Wilshire Blvd.

Supporting their "Like Swimming" album (1995), it was one of their last L.A. performances before band leader Mark Sandman's untimely death. The show was a colossal feast of wild and raucous sounds, hitting every nerve in my body and reminding me why music changed my life forever.

A power trio consisting of an explosive drummer, a fiery baritone saxophonist who literally doubled on tenor sax a la Roland Kirk and a cool singer who looked more like Richard Hell than Hell himself and played a grungy slide bass. Morphine's eccentric musicianship perfectly suited a bizarre repertoire of dark but highly melodic blues songs.

Their sound had a simultaneously urban and rural style that I found uncanny, the slide bass dredging images of murky Southern swamps and the growly sax bursting out cinematic scenes of psychotic detectives shooting guns at brick-lined housing projects.

When I had my band Cockfight I tried to get my bassist to play with a slide in tribute to Mr. Sandman, but the resident jughead couldn't appreciate the concept and refused. Opting instead for a lousy chorus pedal - how Goth - I unplugged it and told him to expand his horizons.

Anyway, posted here for your entertainment are a few covers of Morphine songs from various bands. Whether you like the way they're covered or not doesn't matter; the point is that Mark Sandman wrote a lot of songs that people to this day love listening and playing, the mark of a truly great artist.

Night Shark are a Morphine tribute band from Amsterdam, Holland and play a pretty faithful version of "Thursday" complete with slide bass and growly bari sax. Good work.

Indie & The Jones do a damned wicked hard rock cover of "Honey White" with a wah-wah pedal guitar doing all the sax lines. The harmonies on the chorus sound surprisingly cool and add to the song. I think they added a good spin to the original. Very acid rock and audacious enough to be fun.

Then we have a Morphine cover band from Bulgaria (!) doing "Super Sex" and playing it with an almost wholesome Gerry & The Pacemakers luvvability. Dig those mad Bulgar boho chicks mouthing the lyrics to Super Sex. Weird! As weird as that scary Italian cover of Sonic Youth's "Starpower" that sounded just like Journey!

The last video on this blog comes from post-Morphine band Twinemen featuring Dana Colley and Billy Conway playing with bassist/singer Laurie Sargeant. "Spinner" is a great song and compliments Mark Sandman's oeuvre just fine. Long live the Sandman.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cleaner Than A Broke Dick Dog

Miles Davis, in his autobiography refers several times to anyone with badass-cum-suave style as someone who's "cleaner than a broke dick dog". While most jazz musicians of the Fifties and Sixties had crazy cool style a few really stand out for me, the reason being that in addition to being terrific players they had wicked sartorial style going on that complemented their music. While everyone knows Miles was legendary for being a fashion plate with his beautifully tailored Italian suits there were some other guys that were equally as slick.

One jazz icon who instantly comes to mind for his great fashion style is legendary pianist Hampton Hawes. A bebop and post-bop artist with male model looks, Hawes was always pictured wearing the smartest tailored suits and striking the most smoldering looks at the camera.

There was always something haunting about Hawes and his troubled life which he documented in his memoir, "Raise Up Off Me", co-written with jazz writer Gary Giddins. In addition to being one of the sharpest dressed musicians in jazz he bears the distinction of having his prison term pardoned by President John F. Kennedy in his last year as President. Legendary stuff.

Another legendary player who filled out his threads with crazy cool was pianist Horace Silver, one of MIles' favorite pianists. Silver is best known for his immortal recording "Song For My Father", one of the ten most popular jazz compositions of all time. A funky blues-style player who could finesse any style of music, Silver's image is that of a hipster with neatly processed hair wildly tousled as he intensely attacks his keyboard. With his clothes still neatly pressed! That's crazy cool.

Like Hawes, many of Silver's albums shows him resplendent in a beautifully tailored suit and tie, bespoke probably - the fit's just too good. Nowadays Silver dresses more casually but still looks neat as a pin. As I get older, I find this look much more admirable than the" heroin-chic I just fell out of bed" type look. It gives me hope. Despair doesn't win the day anymore.

Illinois Jacquet was arguably the founding father of R&B saxophone, born from his wildly honking tenor sax solo on Lionel Hampton's record "Flying Home". Jacquet, who shares the same birthday as me (10/31, different year) always counterbalanced his raw, abrasive saxophone playing with the some of the sharpest suits worn in jazz.

Like Horace Silver he also had smooth hair - his mother was Native American - and also was a pioneer for being the first jazz musician to be artist-in-residence at Harvard University in 1983. He also jammed saxes with President Bill Clinton at his inaugural ball at the White House in 1993. Now that's crazy cool.

While I don't seriously expect every musician to bust out a Brooks Brothers suit and Florsheim shoes to rock the room the point I'm really trying to make is that fashion and a clear sense of personal style can be the greatest compliment to whatever music you choose to play. Because long after the music's over everyone will remember the way you looked, and you only have one chance to make it count.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Even Angels Crash And Burn

Once upon a time Andy Warhol adopted the idea of creating a studio star system for his Factory, and among his new stars was a drag queen triumvirate: the exotic and funny Holly Woodlawn, multi-talented rebel Jackie Curtis, and a mysterious, quiet beauty named Candy Darling.

Candy was the most haunting of the three because she looked like a modern Carole Lombard and spoke in a measured Jackie Kennedy whisper. She was more beautiful than Edie Sedgewick or most of the scenester girls in New York, and unlike most drag queens wasn't even terribly sexual. She was primarily asexual and her biggest passion was to be worshiped from afar.

Her live-in boyfriend/companion Jeremiah Newton produced the documentary "Beautiful Darling" and appears through most of the film, not only because he was Candy's confidant but also because he was the recipient of Candy's personal articles from her mother who didn't wish to keep them after her death.

A few photos of the young James Slattery (future Candy) are shown and it's pretty obvious he was good looking even as a boy. Raised in a working-class conservative home that had no sympathy for homosexuality, Slattery briefly took cosmetology classes to perfect his drag look. A role in a an off-Broadway show written by Jackie Curtis caught the eye of Taylor Mead, which brought Andy Warhol's attention, and the rest is history.

Sandwiched in between archival footage are passages from Candy's diaries, ineffectively read by Chloe Sevigny as they are read too expressively. A real Candy voice would be completely deadpan, no matter what her feelings called for. Candy's deadpan humor was just as lethal as her looks.

Beautiful Darling could have also benefited from more film footage from her Warhol pictures, of which there wasn't enough, and the footage of her from the Santa Claus slasher pic "Silent Night Deadly Night" would have been nice, too. While I liked the documentary I didn't think it really went in deeply enough, other than the surprising dirt on his working relationship with Tennessee Williams during the production of his play "Small Craft Warnings".

The film ends with a wretched cover of Lou Reed's "Candy Says", a song as beautiful and haunting as its subject. But any Candy Darling doc is better than none at all, and if there's an immortal blonde as haunting as Candy its' the equally under- documented Veronica Lake. Some blondes just can't catch a break.


If the lush piano introduction to Quicksilver Messenger Service's "Shady Grove" took your breath away then you've just heard the genius of Nicky Hopkins.
If the hard severity of the piano driving The Rolling Stones' "We Love You" gave you the chills and followed up the jail door clang brilliantly You've just heard the genius of Nicky Hopkins.
If the elegant tinkling of piano floating above the thrashing of a Who record, eg. "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" or "A Legal Matter" you've just heard the genius of Nicky Hopkins.

Unimpeachably the most criminally overlooked genius of iconic Sixties and Seventies rock records is mild-mannered keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, who not only played on countless classic records, some credited and just as many without credit (especially The Kinks and Rolling Stones). To say he was a musician of merit on par with Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, or a Mick Jagger would not be an exaggeration. In fact, by virtue of the fact that he created all his arrangements himself and set the mood for a sweeping variety of musical moods is remarkable. It could even be said that many of the songs he played on would never have turned out as effectively had it not been for his amazing piano parts.

Julian Dawson's bio "And On Piano, Nicky Hopkins" is an exhaustive task as it goes into exhausting detail about Hopkins beginnings playing with Screaming Lord Sutch and Cyril Davies, the Davies connection opening up doors with what would become the biggest rock stars of the next fifteen years. His book is indispensable not just about his subject but for anyone who's interested at all in the British rock explosion of the Sixties.

The cover to this book is very telling: Hopkins on stage with a popular dynamic group sitting in a very dark corner of the stage but virtually unseen. It sets the tone for the whole book.

To read just a few of the recordings he played on is staggering: the clanging jail doors of "Jailhouse Rock" and quaintly melodic accompaniment to the raunchy "All Shook Up" with The Jeff Beck Group (Beck comes off as a painful prima donna, too); the lovely childlike lines that open "She's A Rainbow", the spidery blues lines on "Sympathy For The Devil"; the creepy barroom intro to The Kinks' "Death Of A Clown"; the chilly upper register tinkling of The Beatles' "Birthday" and Jackie Lomax's "Sour Milk Sea", and that's just his English work in brief.

Ray Davies also comes off as a Dickensian villain repeatedly using Hopkins for classic Kinks albums like "Village Green Preservation Society" and "Something Else" with no credit given on the liners but somehow justifying it by saying, "A session player is hired as a worker and doesn't qualify for an album credit". Um yeah, Ray, but this guy wasn't given piano parts - he wrote all his own parts, big difference. That's total genius.

A visit to San Francisco gave Hopkins a major boost in his rep by bands begging him to play with them, resulting in him leaving his mark on immortal SF albums like The Steve Miller Band, Jefferson Airplane's classic "Volunteers" and a residency with Quicksilver Messenger Service. Some even claim his presence elevated Quicksilver who needed a melodic base to counterbalance their previously incessant jamming.

Hopkins unfortunately hit the skids touring with The Rolling Stones on their notorious "Cocksucker Blues" tour where he bought the whole Elegantly Wasted aesthetic and began drinking heavily and developing a heroin habit, not unlike the kind Bobby Keys also fell for in his bio. (By the way, The Stones tried hooking a young Ry Cooder into their satanic dope circus and he very promptly blew them off, claiming The Glimmer Twins to be "sinister and reptilian". Hah!)

Hopkins later cleaned up his habit and embraced Scientology as well as played on Beatles solo albums, and also like Bobby Keys was the victim of many bad scenes with the not so saintly Yoko Ono. Hopkins' biggest clients towards the end of his career included his piano performance on Joe Cocker's schmaltz classic "You Are So Beautiful", touring with Leo Sayer and even a stint with Julio Iglesias (!). And you thought you resume was killer.

Julian Dawson should be applauded for taking such an exhaustive subject as Hopkins especially in light of the fact that his subject was a man who was so ubiquitous in rock and yet unheralded, ridiculously so. Thirty years on, the myopic Rock & Rock Hall of Fame still has not awarded this great man a spot in their not-so-hallowed halls.

Details in the Hopkins biography I didn't know:
1. Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane of The Small Faces played on Bill Wyman's track "In Another Land" on the Satanic Majesties Request album.
2. Clem Cattini played substitute drums for The Kinks and The Who when Mick Avory and Keith Moon fell ill.
3. John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin composed and conducted the string arrangement on The Rolling Stones' "She's A Rainbow".

Friday, August 30, 2013

"Every Good Boy Dies First" - the Electric Crime Novel is Out Now!!!!

"I can tell Electric Stories
Electric Stories that will surely blow your mind
People find that I can tell
Electric Stories very well"

-Electric Stories, The Four Seasons

"Every Good Boy Dies First", the bi-weekly serial run on my blog Out Demons Out has finally been published in compiled, full-length form for your reading enjoyment. The tale of a young musician's dream of playing in a band only to watch it degenerate into a nightmare of greed, power, and deception, just like any sleazy non-artistic corporation. It's the bitter pill no one wants to swallow: rock bands don't have more fun, and here are the reasons why.

"Every Good Boy Dies First" is the story of Griff (Sam Fuller's generic name for every hero featured in his films from Forty Guns to The Naked Kiss), Hollywood trumpet player who falls under the spell of both free jazz and punk rock and staking an original sound as well as a name for himself with his band Garbage Truck.

While Griff trudges around Hollywood setting up Garbage Truck shows his former music teacher, now homeless and destitute hovers around the old music haunts like a ghost. My novel basically sets the tone of story by presenting two different ends of the musical spectrum: a hip, promising young jazz player playing punk rock and creating new, exciting sounds; and the old guard, a failed big band jazzer, rotting on the streets of Hollywood after spending his life making traditional music. Did the ends justify the means?

The questions all through the book becomes: how far is Griff from becoming just like his teacher, Jeffrey Chandler, roaming from apartment building to apartment building like a vagabond, trying to keep hi home life together while maintaining his artistic muse? Will he eventually end up homeless like his sensei? Griff has to keep his head together while dealing with clueless radio DJs, parasitic fanzine writers and devious scenesters. All to a breakneck hardcore beat.

Garbage Truck play the hot clubs all over town but feel a degree of peer pressure to play a more accessible, alternative-friendly sound just to go with the flow. Because our story takes place during the grunge-fueled Nineties, the boys in the band plot to wrest Griff's ownership of the band and forego a less cacophonic punk for a more sludgy stoner metal sound. Griff's vision of exploring new sounds is viewed as a commercial threat to the more careerist rockers in the band.

Egging his band to foil Griff is an arrogant booking agent, played by Moish Wilson of Varmint Booking as well as shallow all-girl band Kitten Claws. While Griff feels the pressure to cave in to commercial vapidity - remember when Punk bands went New Wave in 1979? - he holds on strong to his creative muse, finally giving into a climax of extreme violence.

Because "Every Good Boy Dies First" is a punk rock noir novel first and foremost, there's a dead body in there somewhere, there always has to be, a sadistic nightclub bouncer with the IQ of a sack of rotting meat. When Griff discovers the stiff's carcass in a parking lot in the dead of night it's similar to Antonioni's Blow Up, a murder no one wants to believe, much less care about.

There are a couple of people who have groused about my novel being too depressing. I don't get this remark at all. I didn't set out to write a trite load of shit like Almost Famous or Rock 'N Roll High School. If the world of rock is so sweet and jam-packed with fun why do so many bands break up? Very few rock fiction novels ever delve into the struggle, bitterness and futility of playing music. "Every Good Boy Dies First" completely demolishes the false premise that every show's a party. If only they were!

The cover art was designed by Rebecca Seven, who's designed albums and tees for The Red Hot Chili Peppers, L7, Faith No More, and Frightwig, she was featured in the anthology of female lowbrow artists, "Vicious, Delicious, and Ambitious".

"Every Good Boy Dies First" is first and foremost a story about artistic freedom and the battle to defend it even in a forum as self-deceptive as the alternative music scene. Dressed in noir clothes, you'll feel the throbbing feedback guitars humming through your brain and smell the beer and blood-stained walls closing in on you because Griff plays trumpet like Gabriel, summoning up doomsday with every blast. Read and believe!

Links to get "Every Good Boy Dies First":

Amazon Kindle



Sony Reader



Sold at Punk Rock prices - $2.99!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Self-Portraits and Soda Water

Somehow somewhere someone thinks that posting pictures of themselves holding a cell phone into a mirror shooting a pic of themselves with bottles of cleaning fluid and dirty towels is a great idea of a self-portrait. Thank you, Instagram. Somehow the owners of Flickr aren’t losing sleep. Believe it.

If you want to take a good picture of yourself invest in a damn tripod and then learn how to use the timer on your camera, yes those funny things that Canon and Nikon make. You can’t make phone calls on them. Sorry. Once you hit that button for the 10 second timer get in the shot and pose.

Let’s talk about posing. I know you think you look awesome from every angle, otherwise why are you posting pictures of yourself on Instagram? Unfortunately, and even movie stars know this, is everyone has a good side and a bad side, or rather, one side of the coin looks like a head and the other side looks like a donkey’s tail. Check your face from both sides and then decide which one looks the least ghastly. It won’t take very long.

Your face isn’t the whole story, thank God, you need to pose your body, too. You can’t just stand there like a slab of Grade A Sirloin, even Michelangelo’s David struck a pose. You need to learn how to pose, let’s start with your legs. One leg should be in front of the other or spread apart if you’re standing. Put your hands on your hips or have them hang on your belt buckle, or even go for the proud farmer pose with your hands holding your jacket lapels. It worked for Jefferson Airplane!

Getting back to the face, always leave your mouth slightly open so people can see your lips. Keeping your maw closed gives you a dumb, surly expression on your face. (Great advice from Vicki Berndt when she shot my album cover).

Another disgusting habit people have is overdressing for a picture. The world doesn’t need to see your entire wardrobe in one shot. It’ll look outdated in two years, anyway. Avoid wearing a coat even if you’re posing in a Canadian park in December. And keep your accessories down to one per wrist and a small necklace if you have to. There once was a recording artist on IRS Records in the Eighties who thought it was New Wave to wear ten watches on his wrist, and needless to say he never sold any records and got dropped. All because he wore ten watches in his photos.

Thick, stocky, sturdy, and/or husky people should never be shot from the ground up or they’ll look like a human balloon. In fact, our heavier neighbors should be shot from the waist up. Which brings me to another subject: unless your taste in footwear is impeccable and your pants are from a high-end designer nobody needs to see you from top to bottom. Editing your photos is your best option, or more bluntly, check your ego at the door.

So if you’re going to thrill us with more hot, smoky photos of yourself on Facebook please follow some of my advice so you won’t look like a trailer park Dita Von Teese. There’s already too many of them on television, and TV’s losing money every day.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Preparing For The Prog Rock Revival

Some people have to brace themselves for a tornado while some people have to brace themselves for a hurricane, but if there’s one thing people haven’t braced themselves for is an impending prog rock revival. Prog, short for Progressive Rock, also known as Art Rock was a curious music form popularized from the Psychedelic Rock days of 1967 until Punk stamped it out into the ground in 1977. What makes it curious is that unlike most rock it showcased classical music forms with lyrics that owed much of its imagery from science fiction and fantasy tales. While it lacked a worldly universal appeal it captured the hearts and souls of record buyers for its 10 years during its powerful reign.

Why am I making a case for Prog Rock making a major comeback? Well, all the earmarks of its influence are rolling right back to us again:
1. The popularity of The Hobbit films and Lord of The Rings series being bigger than ever, Tolkien exerted a considerable influence on British prog.
2. The tripling if not quintupling in numbers of people attending fantasy shindigs like Renaissance Faire, recalling records by Jethro Tull, Genesis, among others.
3. Cosplay is bigger than ever, and that totally works the whole fantasy aspect of bad prog music. It would be nice to see someone cosplay that nutty Peter Gabriel flowerpot man.

Prog Rock, according to the BBC special “Prog Rock Britannia” started with Procol Harum’s single “Whiter Shade of Pale”, which in their words referenced “Percy Sledge and Johann Sebastian Bach in the same song”. While I agree with that statement, I think Procol Harum were a little too eclectic and wider in scope than the average prog band – they could swing the blues better than a lot of other bands, what with Robin Trower on guitar and Gary Brooker’s very soulful vocals. The first blatantly prog band was probably The Nice, Keith Emerson’s power trio who shed their guitar player after their first album.

Well, what if you hate prog rock for its precious lyrics, fussy instrumentation and overt snobbery? Are there any songs a prog hater can enjoy without falling into the pit of pretension? I’m glad you asked. Believe it or not, there are a few numbers you can enjoy without sitting through a ten-minute suite of stuffy classical melodies. Submitted for your review are my personal recommendations. You can thank me later:

1. America (The Nice) – Notorious for Keith Emerson’s burning the American flag on stage during this number, it’s still the most simultaneously explosive yet jubilant instrumental I’ve ever heard. Emerson’s organ playing is positively breathtaking, melodic and funky at the same time. Equally of note is his amazing cover of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk”. By the way, the kids that were offended by the onstage flag burning probably missed the intro to America featuring a dirge played to the sounds of slaves being whipped.

2. Silver Machine (Hawkwind) – Lemmy played prog in this acid nightmare side show, how bad is that? Hawkwind were at their best when they kept their songs short, like on tunes like “Quark, Strangeness And Charm” or “The Right Stuff”. Anyway, The Sex Pistols rocked this great song on their last tour, so whatever goes around comes around.

3. Selene (Gong) – French acid gypsies led by ex-Soft Machine Daevid Allen. Their mythology was more cartoon than Middle Earth and served equal doses of sex and humor, which many prog bands severely lacked (paging Gentle Giant).

4. 21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson) – The greatest prog track of all time, devastating upon its release, sounding like John Lennon howling over a Black Sabbath dirge describing a doomsday that quickly degenerates into the most demonic, whirlwind cop show instrumental ever played. Robert Fripp and Greg Lake became stars and Ian McDonald made the poor decision to disappear into Foreigner. Nevertheless, an essential record.

5. Piece Of Mind (Curved Air) – Another wild dirge with Sonja Kristina singing in a haunting falsetto that oddly works well, transitioning into a jazzy tune changing on the down beat, winding over into a kinetic Greek dance kaleiodoscoping with color and then slowing down to a synthesizer lullaby. Has to be heard to be believed.

6. Play In Time (Jethro Tull) – By the time Jethro Tull hit the scene shortly after their appearance on The Rolling Stones’ “Rock & Roll Circus” they incorporated many influences in their music, but this foray in noise/music concrete screaming above Ian Anderson’s wistful flute was probably the most radical thing they ever played, and it’s over in three minutes, too.

7. Knife Edge (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) – ELP made a few silly records but Knife Edge from their first album is a tense piece of work with another Greg Lake vocal, singing: “Tread the road cross the abyss, take a look down at the madness On the streets of the city only spectres still have pity Patient queues for the gallows, sing the praises of the hallowed Our machines feed the furnace, if they take us they will burn us”. Harlan Ellison couldn’t have said it better!

8. Killer (Van Der Graaf Generator) – Peter Hammill’s dramatic David Bowie-like vocals about a shark are so suave it’s an instant classic. The great demented David Jackson saxophone break in the middle when the band goes kabloeey is something for the ears to behold, I mean this is why records were invented in the first place. Hammill’s brilliant lyrics make the correlation between a deadly shark and a malevolent outcast.

Bands that aren’t prog: The Moody Blues (too pop), The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (much too much R&B and blues, but try Kingdom Come), Kraftwerk (too electro), again not Procol Harum, Pink Floyd (lyrics too contemporary and music not classical sounding enough), Soft Machine (same reason as Pink Floyd), and nobody’s talking, but The Stranglers allegedly started out as a prog band before they jumped on the punk bandwagon. Dave Greenfield’s keyboard playing certainly bears this out.

So, that’s my Prog Blog. I know, I didn’t mention Yes or Rick Wakeman - the less said the better, although the intro to "Roundabout" was sampled at the beginning of a Germs single back in 1978. Actually, Roundabout's the only decent song in their rep, and Rick Wakeman’s soundtrack to Ken Russell’s movie “Crimes Of Passion” was very good, so there’s a positive in everything. So, button up your overcoat, get plenty of supplies and water, shutter your windows, because prog rock is coming back. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The World Isn't Coming To An End Just Because You Want It To

This will probably go down in Los Angeles history as one of the worst summers ever. Here we are in early August, and while the rest of the country is sweltering and sweating here in LA every morning has been cloudy, gloomy and downright cold. If it ever gets warm at all it doesn’t last long, and there’s always a glacial wind to cut down on the warmth. In other words, it’s Springtime In July and Springtime In August. Who knows what’s going to happen in September?

Because of this shit weather the general disposition of LA natives is pissy and angry – an equally shit economy and a rapidly decaying grasp of patience/attention span doesn’t help, either. People are angrier than ever.

Negativity seems to work for a lot of people. There’s no concept of perhaps making the most of a bad situation, and Heaven help you if you try to say something positive or you’ll get shot down, so I won’t. I’ll just post this great video from Supergrass.

Supergrass are not only one of the best bands to come out of England in the past 20 years, I think they’re heirs to the throne once inhabited by The Kinks, The Who and The Small Faces. Their output of perfectly crafted British pop songs is considerable, the first three albums in particular, I Should Coco, In It For The Money, and Supergrass, are flawless, brilliant rock albums and have more balls and spirit than the rest of their overrated contemporaries. Plus they look totally cool!

If Supergrass doesn’t cheer you up then check out this amazing video from Mississippi Fred McDowell. Not only is this song amazing, but the video of “Shake ‘Em On Down” is ultra-cool, giving us an uninterrupted look at his flashy fingerwork across the fretboard. If this isn’t one of the best guitar lessons you’ve ever seen, then you’re not a serious player. Really.

I wonder what guys like Son House would say to these spoiled brats crying about not making their first million or realizing their projected plans for world domination? Idiots like Kanye West could learn a lot from House’s “Death Letter Blues”. Maybe not. Kanye West is retarded, and his fans are even more retarded than him. Look at me, I’m starting to sound pretty angry myself. Maybe I ought to listen to some Les Paul and Mary Ford.

Now that’s better. Les Paul and Mary Ford played music for the sheer love of it, just like Memphis Minnie and Howlin’ Wolf. Maybe if I post their insanely sunny take on that hoary old Gay ‘90s standard “In The Good Old Summertime” that motherfucking sun will finally show its face. Or maybe El Sol is busy nursing his big hole, like the ones in everybody’s empty skull these days.

Painting: Ol' Black and Blue Eyes Is Back by Rebecca Seven

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tokyo Gore Police (Japan, 2008)

If the Chinese dazzled us with creepy psychic horror films like The Ring and The Eye, then Japan responded with insane, erotic fetish, over-the-top gore with humor to spare movies. The most sensational output comes from a genius make-up and special effects artist, Yoshihiro Nishimura. Nishimura references Salvador Dali as one of his biggest influences in the way he depicts distorted body parts in surreal settings. His sci-fi/horror classic, “Tokyo Gore Police” has enough erotica and surrealism to make Dali beam with pride. It serves up outrage the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the college revival house theater days of Jodorowsky, Makavejev, and crazy Fernando Arrabal.

Tokyo Gore Police is the story of Ruka (Eihi Shiina), a police officer for the Tokyo Police Corporation, a now-privatized police force who excels as an Engineer Hunter. Engineers are serial killers who have the ability to make their severed body parts morph into deadly weapons, whether it’s a chainsaw or a sawed-off shotgun, all courtesy of a mysterious stranger dressed in black named The Keyman (Itsuji Itao). It’s up to Ruka to find The Keyman and stop him from his evil task. Unfortunately, Ruka is a flawed person herself, a cutter who inherited her bad habit from her mother to punish herself from not preventing the murder of her father.

Just like Jodorowsky, though, the plot is almost secondary to the Garden of Surreal & Erotic Outrage breaking up the plot from time to time. In between action scenes you’ll be treated to:
1. Blood showering out of a severed limb like a wedding reception fountain.
2. Chainsaws flying straight into a man’s mouth and ripping open his head.
3. Commercials hawking cool cutters for teenage schoolgirls with cute colors and promising it makes “blood taste better”!
4. Punk kids on the subway chuffing down live earthworms and night crawlers. Yum!
5. Amputee leather slaves walking on prosthetic legs made of samurai swords.
6. The Keyman’s severed upper head grows two gun barrels that shoot out bloody ginsu knives.

Ruka’s colleague, Officer Barabara-Man (Jiji Bu), decides to let off steam by going to a kinky S&M club that specializes in back room sex with mutant girls, like a Snail Girl and a Girl with Crocodile Jaws Snapping Between Her Legs. Whoa! He picks Door Number 2 and gets the girl with the croc jaws who bites off his dick, which naturally provokes another Wedding Fountain of Blood. He gets the Engineer Key and needless to say, his empty crotch morphs into humongous red cock cannon! He takes his Gigantor cock cannon and goes berserk at police headquarters, firing deadly cannonballs at his fellow officers.

Ruka finally corners the Keyman in his crummy apartment, and instead of killing her confesses that he’s the son of the Police-sanctioned hit of her father, executed at an anti-police privatization rally. His father also killed by the now-privatized Police Corporation, he devoted his life as a genetic scientist by injecting himself with the DNA of psychotic killers like Ed Gein and Charles Manson, all bottled up and labeled in his laboratory. That’s right, another Mad Scientist movie! To Ruka’s horror she’s trapped by him with an Engineer key installed in her against her will.

In the meantime the Tokyo Police Corporation has gone completely batshit crazy and begin arbitrarily torturing and murdering citizens en masse, so Ruka hits the streets with her newly acquired Engineer mutation, one crocodile arm which rips the face off a policeman’s head. Now that Ruka knows who the fascist madman behind her father’s murder is she has a final showdown with him using her best samurai sword skills and that badass crocodile arm.

Tokyo Gore Police ends with the Tokyo Police Corporation no longer privatized, with the slogan in big screaming letters: MORE GORE COMING SOON! Love it or hate it, Tokyo Gore Police is punk as fuck and makes no apologies about itself. It’s easily the only movie that can kick any video game’s ass with a cock cannon around the block!

Also recommended: THE MACHINE GIRL, almost as demented as Tokyo Gore Police and well worth your time.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Then Play On" - Fleetwood Mac (1969)

There has never been a blues album like Fleetwood Mac’s “Then Play On” as it effortlessly transcends the blues genre while committing to its cardinal rules at the same time. It would be the last album group figurehead Peter Green would record with the band amidst a firestorm of controversy in the British music scene. The third album by the band and released in 1969, it was also their breakaway from Blue Horizon Records and the beginning of a very unique genre that wasn’t and still isn’t so easily defined.

The original Fleetwood Mac sound was that of a scruffy garage band bashing out classic Elmore James-styled 12-bar blues with a lethal dose of fuzz on the guitars courtesy of Green and Jeremy Spencer, whose incendiary slide guitar style hinted at more of an abrasive acid rock sound than simply adhering to trad blues conventions. Mick Fleetwood’s explosive drum attack was also more hard rock than South Side shuffle. All that would change by the time of “Then Play On”.

The band changed its approach to a dark, somber surf guitar sound with lyrics that progressed from standard blues issues to a more existential angst, questioning a man’s existence as well as his role in God’s creation. It is almost the blues equivalent to Syd Barrett’s album “The Madcap Laughs” in its vision of despair and loneliness, however, there were signposts up ahead that hinted at this new direction in sound.

Several tracks from past albums hinted at this new departure for them; on the first album there was the spare, bleak cover of Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound On My Trail”, Peter Green singing along to a very quiet piano; there was also “The World Keep On Turning”, Green singing alone to his acoustic guitar: “Nobody saw me crying, nobody knows the way I feel, the way I love that woman, it’s bound to get me killed”, and of course on the second album “Mr. Wonderful” there was “Black Magic Woman” and another quietly sad number with surf guitars, “Man of the World”: “I guess I‘ve got everything I need, I wouldn’t ask for more, And there’s no one I’d rather be, but I just wish I’d never been born”. Not exactly boogie time.

The darkest number in Fleetwood Mac's set up to that point was a live cover of Blue Horizon label mate Duster Bennett’s “Jumping At Shadows”: “Everyone points their hand at me, I know I’m just a picture of what I used to be, I’ve been jumping at shadows, thinking about my life”.

In “Man of the World”, the BBC documentary on Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Mick Fleetwood recall the turning point for the band when they arrived in Germany while on tour and were met by an attractive German jet-set couple who whisked Green and third guitarist Danny Kirwan from the airport to their chateau for an acid-drenched party that marked the two guitarists for life. Fleetwood and Spencer agreed that Green & KIrwan were never the same again.

The original plan for “Then Play On” was to make it a loose jam session as an antidote to the Top 40 singles success of “Albatross”, “Man of the World” and “Black Magic Woman”. The album does indeed have a schizoid relationship between bracing, fiery guitar jams, impeccably played like “Searching For Madge”, “Fighting For Madge” and the more cerebral “Underway” and “My Dream”.

On the other hand there are the dark, moody compositions like “Closing My Eyes”: “Someday I’ll die, and then I’ll be with you/ So I’m closing my eyes to hear the people laugh”, or “Show Biz Blues” with the immortal lines, “Tell me anybody now do you really give a damn for me”. The lightest point on the record for Green is his ode to masturbation, “Rattlesnake Shake”.

Danny Kirwan begins to shine on this album with full-bodied melodic compositions that lighten the mood somewhat, the Everly Brothers-influenced “Like Crying”, the Buddy Holly-sounding “Although The Sun Is Shining” and the pre-Santana influence “Coming Your Way”. His songwriting became even more refined and melodic on the more rocking albums “Kiln House” and “Bare Trees”.

But it’s still the rapidly diminishing shadow of Peter Green that dominates “Then Play On” with “Oh Well”: “Don’t ask me what I think of you/I might not give the answer that you want me to”, or the defeatist sound of “Before The Beginning”: “I’ve got to find a place to sing my words, Is there nobody listening to my song?” Green followed up “Then Play On” with his darkest and most legendary composition, “The Green Manalishi”. Following the release of the single he left the band, dabbled in several religions, released an album titled “End of the Game” and began a downward spiral which sent him in and out of several mental institutions. Although Green eventually bounced back – he still seems a little odd in his documentary – Kirwan never fully recovered from his breakdown and has been homeless for years.

What makes “Then Play On” (taken from the William Shakespeare line, “If music be the food of love then play on”) a legendary work of rock music is the way it stays within blues constraints yet takes it to a place that goes beyond sex, drugs, love, liquor or anything materialistic: it’s the blues of a mere mortal on God’s earth and the utter feeling of powerlessness. The musical palette the band creates on this album completely sets a tone of darkness and isolation that evokes feelings of sadness that the blues are meant to express. And that’s why “Then Play On” is one of the most timeless blues albums ever recorded.

Next month Rhino Records will be releasing an extended version of “Then Play On” with “The Green Manalishi” and its B-side, “World In Harmony”, among other extra tracks.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Werk! Werk! Werk!

“My week beats your year” – Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music

If there’s no rest for the wicked then we have been very, very wicked. There was the assignment to do linens embroidered with Gary Baseman images for his upcoming show, “The Door Is Always Open”, which is now showing at The Skirball Museum in Bel-Air. The show replicates Baseman’s surreal vision of a middle-class Jewish household and all the century-old traditions and customs twisted through his surreal vision. Rebecca skillfully reproduced all of Gary’s characters and idiosyncratic lettering and embroidered them to his specifications.

We created chair slipcovers, a dining room tablecloth and a bedspread with Gary’s many images embroidered them. In addition to sewing the fabrics I also had to digitally edit the images prior to embroidery. Placement on the linens had to be done with absolute precision, otherwise the desired effect would be lost. The results turned out very well and Gary’s opening was a big hit. Also on display was Rebecca’s tapestry she created for Gary’s “La Noche De La Fusion” Culver City show in 2009.

After the job we wanted to take a break but the phone rang with an assignment to fabricate 350 waiter outfits for Napster co-founder Sean Parker’s wedding in Big Sur, California. The outfits ran a large variety of sizes which had to fit the staff that couldn’t be present at our studio for a fitting, so in some ways we were flying blind. Any alterations had to be done at the wedding site before the ceremony.

The outfits involved quite a lot of detail, and most of the outfits once brought up state fit pretty well. The wait staff outfits involved a lot of pleating which I handled pretty well after the first 200. Just kidding, the costumes were designed by Doug Hall who did wardrobe for the movie “Sling Blade”, and any comments, any direction came directly from New Zealand where she operates.

During that job Rebecca got a call from Nick Cannon’s costumer requesting a James Brown-style Uncle Sam outfit he can wear for the season premiere of “America’s Got Talent”. This entailed a star spangled tail coat and long striped slacks as well as a big cray cray top hat. A lot of time management came into play for this one, i.e. we were up all night cutting and sewing this whole extravaganza. Once completed it was given to Mr. Cannon who didn’t want to take it off and spent the whole day dancing around the set with it on posing for pictures.

After the Napster wedding job was over I stopped to scratch my ass when the phone rang and we got the assignment to make a C3PO outfit for film star Alexis Denisof, who was going to wear it when he ran for the fund-raising Course of the Force, held at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. Course of the Force is a multi-day benefit in support of the Make-A-Wish foundation and begins at Skywalker Ranch and ends at Comic-Con in San Diego, California. Jeeeezus!

The C3PO outfit involved a lot of gold spandex with a few mixed-media items. Alexis chose to wear runner shorts to keep his lower extremities family friendly. Several vents were built into the outfit so he wouldn’t suffer heat prostration in the dead of summer. I thought the outfit turned out brilliantly and the photos of the event looked terrific. Alexis looks happy just like Nick, just like Gary, and baby that’s where it’s at. Keep the customer satisfied – Paul Simon said it and he probably got it from The Bible. Or Mr. Blackwell.


I'd like to say a few words about Lorna Knight's book "The Dressmaker's Technique Bible: A Complete Guide to Fashion Sewing". It is absolutely indispensable! Yes it's a $30 sewing book, but it's the best sewing book you'll probably ever own. Every component used in the craft of clothesmaking is explained in simple detail, from the design of each outfit to fitting weird body parts (pear shaped bodies, big bootays, big hips, yow) to the essential art of finishing, etc. Every page is jam-packed with helpful illustrations and broken down point by point that even a little greeen man from outer space could follow. If you were previously too scared to sew this is your life preserver.