the covers themselves — snippet from 9 Oct show

Happy Wednesday, readers. Today’s post simply offers the musical accompaniment to Sunday’s post on punk covers, and includes a few of my favorite covers by boy bands, including The Specials, Devo, Elvis Costello, The English Beat, The Clash, and another ruckusly-inclined band to wrap things up.

More news about the book is coming soon. Until then, please stand up and pogo around the office to this musical selection. Enjoy!

spirit of ’77, Oct 2 show

Ah, yes, I’m a tad late getting this segment together. A bit of The Specials, UB40, OMD, The Clash, and a couple other tracks–maybe 25 min. in length or so.  A bit mellow for ’77, but I’ll turn up the volume in today’s show, which is going to be focused on punk covers. It’s wobc.org, or 91.5 on your FM dial in Lorain County, 5-6pm, EDT.

post punk gems, v. 41 — The Specials’ “Ghost Town”

Happy weekend, people. It’s turned bitter-ish up north, and I expect that the bustling sidewalks of the past few months will thin considerably as the days get shorter, colder, and icier. How fortuitous, then, that 33 1/3 years ago, The Specials released “Ghost Town,” which was still all the rage on the radio when I had a home stay in Coventry (home base of The Specials) in July 1982.

A trip to Jamaica inspired the narrative and, of course, the de-industrialization of English metropoles was also on their minds. As Lynal Golding told the NME, “Kingston is a real ghost town. The place is a complete wreck … It was the first time I’d been to Jamaica in 20 years and it was frightening … people begging for a dollar, people begging you for the shoes on your feet.”

The 12″ single, I figure, was backed with “Why” and the sweet adagio swing of “Friday Night / Saturday Morning.” (You can find more recent live performances of this track, but I’m fond of the low-fi herein.)

The book’s available at most big online stores, but if you’re interested in the book (and its politics), please consider buying from somewhere other than amazon, including your local bookshop, whose hip cashiers may even be inspired by your fine tastes to order a couple of extra copies for the shop. I’m sure amazon is full of lovely people and all, but if half of what Hightower writes here is 25% true, it’s a bit of a mess.

25 Sept — Spirit of ’77 show (most of it, anyway)

‘allo, music mavens! Here’s the audio part of most of last Thursday’s show. It starts off well before ’77 with The Fabulous Counts, and includes tracks by Iggy Pop (from ’77), Game Theory, Costello, Guided by Voices, English Beat, Big Star, The Fastbacks, and The Corin Tucker Band. A bit more ‘merican than I usually do, but I think it’s a decent set.

I’m spinning discs every Th. for an hour, 5-6pm, EDT, @ wobc.org this fall. Send me requests via @stealingclash or, if you’d like, give the station a call — 440.775.8139.

#Replacements on my mind // the once bashful Tommy Stinson

Happy Sunday, reading people. Twitter’s abuzz with the enthusiasm over last night’s show by The Replacements – their first in 23 years in their hometown of Minneapolis. (Check out this lovely review, by Andrea Swensson, and don’t miss the fabulous photos beneath by Nate Ryan/MPR– here’s a teaser.)

tommy

I picked up Tim based on a single review, and then converted dozens of friends to its virtues, with little proselytizing. In the summer of 1987, we drove through the valley heat into SF for their performance at Fillmore and, just before the end (spring 1990, I figure) at the campus gym at UC Santa Barbara. They were great, drunk, and ever-satisfying, and in the pic for Musician magazine, taken from the back of the stage, you can see my head just beyond Paul’s knee.

My favorite memory, though, of Mats live was at Slim’s in SF, when the Tommy-led Bash & Pop appeared in 1994 (or so). I figured the name “Bash & Pop” echoed the punk ethos of getting our noise on the radio. While their debut LP, Friday Night is Killing Me, was uneven, there were a handful of gems there, and how I wish I could find that damn CD. (Timmay, do you still have it?)

Upon taking the stage, though, I realized that echo was rather distant. Rather than the “I-don’t-give-a-toss” indifference Johnny Rotten perverted from Iggy Pop, T. Stinson entered the limelight as a frontman reluctantly: much more bashful than bashing, and we were old enough in mid-twenties to appreciate the desire for affection–“never disappointed by a show of hands,” in the words of Game Theory, and why should they be? “Never Aim to Please” was a song inspired by the past, but was fully reckoned with on stage. Fun times.

Holy cow, is that a non-punk fade-out at the cadence. Maturity, like death & taxes, is inevitable, to some degree.

I’m on the radio for the first time in six years Thursdays this fall, 1700-1800, EDT, @ http://www.wobc.org/, with my show, “The Spirit of ’77.” There’ll be some punk, and oodles of fun (and errors, I’m sure. Bear with me.) I’ll check @stealingclash this week if you have any requests. Have a fantastically rockin’ week!

musicians are workers, too // the pleasure of yearning

Happy Sunday, folks! One of the real joys of writing about The Clash is catching up with the great characters who played key roles in their success back in the day. Yesterday I had a delightful conversation with Howie Klein, former head of 415 Records out of SF circa ’79, when The Clash first made it to the west coast, and eventual head of Reprise Records. (He’s a political blogger now @ http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/.)  It’s possible, I suppose, if I had written about KISS, for example, people in KISS-de-camp might now be just as generous with their time, but I’d like to think The Clash’s politics (and aesthetics)–and Strummer’s delight in talking with all sorts of folks deep into the night–has something to do with my comrades’ generosity of time and spirit.

simmonsSpeaking of KISS: Gene Simmons is making a splash these days with his “rock is dead” pronouncement in Esquire. Simmons is good businessman, probably always has been, and he’s after something big here, which I hope is not lost in the “poptimistic” backlash: back in the day, musicians with label support could hone their craft in no small part because they didn’t need day jobs. They had oodles of free time. They wrote songs, and neither tweets nor blogs–which are both cool, don’t get me wrong, but the structures of time and days, then and now, are remarkably different. This moment is still unfolding, so it’s perhaps too early to proclaim death and all–but things have certainly shifted, and it might not be premature to mourn the loss of yearning in fandom.

I wish I had seen this brilliant piece by Simon Reynolds a few years back, as I would have cited it in the afterword of Stealing, where I make a similar argument about analog fandom. Reynolds’ requiem for the British music weeklies during the punk and new wave years is equal parts eloquent and forceful, and absolutely right on regarding anticipation and pleasure back in the day. As that so-called hero of new wave (!) Tom Petty noted, “the waiting is the hardest part”–and yet the consummation of literary and musical desire was ever so sweet. A long-form journalism piece worthy of an extended period of your attention.

Have a delightful week!

punk purity and punk hybridity

Good morning, Clash-o-philes, and other readers, and a special welcome to folks tuning in this week from Indonesia, Poland, Israel and Italy.

beauty

It’s been ages since I read academic writing, even in its most accessible form, but I’m quite enjoying PFMB by Barry Shank. So far, it’s smart, well-written, and it’s clarified anew for me why my affinities in punk lean toward the east side of the Atlantic. (I’ll get after the argument once I’ve read a bit more.) After a brief bit on the virtues of Bad Brains, he notes how, in American punk circa 1980, “masculine competitiveness … turned inward as the form of authenticity” and, in turn, “demanded an ever greater purity from each person” (p. 6).

That ideal of purity, then, made demands on taste, corporeality, consumption, and the rest. Sure, the straight-edge scene had its virtues and included female-bodied folk, but US hardcore punk largely purified itself as a white masculine domain, free of the influence of black musical forebears (and black fans, female fans, and black female fans, too). The Clash, at Mick Jones’ behest through Sandinista! and Combat Rock, and with Big Audio Dynamite, found a hybrid route that was much more open-ended, and much more akin to the indie Americana scene emerging alongside (and then eclipsing) American hardcore. As Shank notes, “Where hardcore’s authenticity retained a vigorous individualism … indie instilled incompleteness, contradiction, and an insatiable hunger for constantly deferred meaning” (p. 7). Thank goodness for that–even it did mean some really terrible hat choices.

Have a great week, and tune into @stealingclash for more info on the October 2014 release of Stealing All Transmissions.