post-punk gems, v. 51 — Big in Japan

Well, it’s a wrap, 2014. Thank you, readers, for checking in from around the globe–rocknrollers from 67 countries spent a few minutes or more here at stealing all transmissions, and for that I’m especially grateful.

Like the best of punk tracks, though, I want to keep today’s entry short, sharp, and sweet. Today’s subject, Big in Japan, included at various times provocateur Bill Drummond (later of KLF, and he once set 1M pounds afire), Jayne Casey, and the terribly shy Holly Johnson, who went onto sing lead for Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Big in Japan — Jayne, Kevin Ward, Holly Johnson (in tie), , Bill Drummond (front), Ian Broudie and Phil Allen (Kevin Cummings, photographer, 1977; used without permission)

Big in Japan hailed from Merseyside alongside Echo & the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, & OMD, and focused on the slash-y minimalist guitar work that resonates in some of the most brilliant tracks of the punk era, and “the minimum” was a big theme for Big in Japan: they only produced seven tracks, including “Suicide a Go Go” (1978):

And that folks is a wrap. Thanks for tuning into Radio K-SAT in 2014, and look forward to producing more dispatches for your edification in the coming year. Cheers!

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solstice mix — for your edification

Happy subdued Sunday, readers. I don’t know if our shared musical aesthetic means we might share a bit of post-holiday blues, too, but I am definitely having difficulty jump-starting this Sunday. If I can lug me arse over to the telly to check out the EPL goals of the week highlights, I’ll consider it a job well done.

In the meantime, here’s a little bit of mix work to celebrate the solstice. All but one of the 19 tracks or so are under 3 minutes. Most are under 2. I figure for the shortest day of the year, let’s celebrate some of our favorite short songs in the punk & post-punk vein.

Cheers!

“sacred cows make the best hamburgers” // notes on poptimism

So I thought this item was up on Sunday, but apparently not. It’s been a great week for me, with esteemed kudos for Stealing All Transmissions coming from unexpected places (here and here), which has left me nearly speechless. I did want to offer a few words, though, and pick up the theme of poptimism/rockism (see here, pt. 1 and here).

I am happy for the most part with the poptimistic turn of music criticism, and I’m fine with the attack on specious hierarchies–good stuff. Still, with the “everything-is-awesome” ethos of poptimism (okay, I know it’s not quite fair, but bear with me), we don’t have the type of rockist criticism that created the sacred cows of the rock pantheon, including Elvis, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. The kind of sacred cows that Abbie Hoffman once noted, make the best hamburgers.

Now, the best practitioners of punk passed their O(edipus) levels, and set their sights on more trenchant issues, but even Sleater-Kinney, on their fifth LP, were taking the piss out of Led Zeppelin IV’s best-known track (“You always play the same old song / play another song”).

(And, if you want a less pitchy version, here ya go.)

There’s also Talking Heads’ “Heaven,” which takes on the Zep tune, for it “plays all night long.” And my hometown favorites, Pavement (Stockton in the house!), who find the “elegant bastards” of The Stone Temple Pilots to be stone-deaf and tedious.

Ah, the good old days … have a delightful holiday from work, lovely readers, especially if it’s the equivalent of a paid holiday!

(post-) punk gems, v. 50 — (The) Plastics

Happy hump-day readers! The high-profile anniversary this time around is the UK release of London Calling (35 years awesome this week), and I’m pleased that the good folks at Louder Than War decided to share a section of Stealing All Transmissions that celebrates that delightful twin-platter of vinyl. Also: check out the formidable list of fine books from 2014 noted at Counterfire.

Lost in the wide consensus about the awesomeness of those four sides of vinyl is the 35th anniversary of the emergence of The Plastics, from Tokyo, and their debut single, “Copy.” As George Gimarc notes in his amazing, amazing Punk Diary, “What if Devo had grown up in Tokyo instead of Akron? What would they sound like?”

They honed their sound, though, and came back the following year with the more melodic “Top Secret Man,” which is a gem worth celebrating over and over.

A contemporary band calling themselves “The Plastics” has no relation to this landmark combo, who cast a long shadow on Nippon Pop bands such as Polysics, Pizzicato Five, and Stereo Total, and the latter’s cover of “I Love You, Oh No” was eventually used to sell Dell computers. How fitting.

 

 

sells like teen spirit // a selection from *Stealing*

Happy Sunday, readers! As implied in the title, today’s entry hews close to vulgarly commercial, but maybe to your advantage, so here goes.

On the my-loss-your-gain side of the coin: my publisher’s running a big sacoverle in the US — half off all stuff through December (pmpress.org, coupon “holiday”). There’s many gems to be had and it’s all for a good cause: your waxing rhapsodically about our youth and music with greater accuracy.

I’m sharing a two-page spread from the book today, which you can rotate counter-clockwise in your browser. (I tried to fix this myself, to no avail.) It covers the rise of excitement at CBGB about The Ramones and others, and the engagement of key journalists to aid the renaissance of rock, rebellion, and fun. And, of course, there’s the great confluence of forces on April 23, 1976, and the formation of The Clash shortly thereafter.

It is also the 35th anniversary of the release of London Calling in the UK, which highlights one of the funnier moments of the era. In the UK, LC was released in the 70s. In the US, LC came out the following month, and eventually was named the best album of the 80s.

stealing — pp 36-37

Do keep your wits about you during the upcoming office party, eh?

(post) punk gems, v. 49 — 999

So today I’ve got September 1979 on me brain again, and 999 in particular. Their drummer Pablo LaBrittain apparently was one of the many drummers that came through the ranks of London SS (proto-Clash combo), and the band was called 48 Hours ever so briefly–or until The Clash released their debut LP, which of course included the track “48 Hours.” So 999 takes the UK’s version of 911 as their moniker, released their own first single, and signed with United Artists shortly after. “Nasty Nasty” (1977) poses the seminal punk question: “What the hell is wrong with you?,” for which I’m still trying to come up with a sufficient answer.

Two years, two labels, and six singles later, they offer up the considerably mellower “Found Out Too Late.”

And wow: here’s lead singer Nick Cash and comrades banging out the same tune on their acoustic axes. Whatta treat!

Thanks for checking out today’s post. If you’re looking for info on Stealing (holiday sale happening now) the folks at The Big Takeover described it in these terms: “Doane’s history stands apart … arresting and vital.” Check it out!

not fade away // notes on the social construction of youth

Keeping moderately good time, in my Beat concert-tee. 5 Dec 14.
Keeping moderately good time, in my Beat concert-tee. 5 Dec 14.

‘Allo, readers! Thanks so much to all of you who came out for Friday’s reading and shindig. I had a blast, and I hope you did, too. I wrote last week about my youthful notions of what adulthood might look like, which of course were based in reality but lost amid the cultural upheaval of digital life. After Friday’s reading, when I thumped along on my bass for three songs, and took the mic for another with The Crooked Beat, my one-off Clash cover band, it was only the second time in the past 25 years that I’ve performed musically in public. (The night I sang Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots Are Made for Walkin'” at a piano bar in Hell’s Kitchen to a roomful of gay men, well that’s a tale for another day …)

So yes, being well north of 40 years of age, and doing the punk thing of starting a band before I knew how to play (I’m in month 10 of my bass lessons), it was a great rush, and a blast to keep time with a bunch of capable musicians.

This Thursday, from 5-6pm EST, on wobc.org (livestream), is my last radio show for the fall, and I’ll be spinning discs in tribute to the upcoming winter solstice. I’m hoping to cram the hour with no fewer than 30 of my favorite short and sharp punk and post-punk tunes. Please tune in, and be safe out there.