Minstrels Anonymous on Bandcamp

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fifty Years in Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, June 20, 2014

Cruel Story of Youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Je Ne Sais Quoi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, by the way...for those of you who want to spy, I mean follow me on Twitter, here I am...https://twitter.com/AndyAndySeven. There are about a hundred guys on Facebook named Andy Seven. I'm not any of them so don't waste your time.