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.)


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.


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.

(post) punk gems, v. 35 — The Raincoats

Happy Wednesday, blog-o-crats! There’s lots of fun under the sun in Clash-land, with the box set, the revival of the Strummer mural in the East Village, and Misters S., H., and J. making the rounds reminding folks of the glory days of rock fandom.

I’m sympathetic to folks who want this depiction of Mr. Strummer to be a tad more handsome, but I’m simply delighted to see that it’s back. And hey: to those folks who are frustrated: grab some spray cans and DIY!

Briefly, today, the loosest of Strummer & Co. connections: I’m digging this mid-career track by The Raincoats, who were DIY exemplars: Palmolive left The Slits, got together a quartet of gals and released “Fairytale in the Supermarket” on Rough Trade back in May 1979. The sleeve, label, etc., appeared hand-printed–in true DIY style. Their debut LP came out in December 1979 (available here in lo-fi), Palmolive left shortly thereafter and, after 1981’s Odyshape (LP), they released on cassette, a la The Replacements’ The Shit Hits the Fans, The Kitchen Tapes, from a performance at the Kitchen in New York City. Richard Dudanski of 101ers’ fame and Clash comrade Derek Goddard provide percussion.

As you may recall, Kurt Cobain took a keen interest in The Raincoats and helped get DGC to re-release key bits of their catalog years later. As Cobain noted, “When I listen to The Raincoats I feel as if I’m a stowaway in an attic, violating and in the dark. Rather than listening to them I feel like I’m listening in on them. We’re together in the same old house and I have to be completely still or they will hear me spying from above and, if I get caught – everything will be ruined because it’s their thing.”

The influence, of course, can be felt throughout the Nirvana catalog–which expands next week with the anniversary release of In Utero, in $125 and $22 packages. Krist and Dave provide a preview here.

Thoughts on mini-Sound System on Sunday. See you then!

(post) punk gems, v. 34 — Medium Medium

Thanks for tuning your browser’s dial to radio-K-SAT on this fine, fine day. I figure V. Putin must have received an advance copy of *Sound System,* tuned into “Spanish Bombs” and “Charlie Don’t Surf,” and called up that punchy Kid Obama to talk him down. Let’s hope this works.

Certainly the best thing to come from Stealing All Transmissions is the opportunity to hear key players’ first-hand accounts of making music (and selling music) back in the day. I’ve recently gained the acquaintance of a long-standing member of one of my favorite bands from yesteryears, and perhaps we’ll do a short interview and the highlights will end up here. I’m not saying anything just yet, but Medium Medium, a quintet out of Nottingham, is considered to be a big debtor to this band’s sound.

This catchy ditty, with the characteristically British, semi-anemic saxophone intro, came out in February 1981, and doesn’t technically qualify as underheralded, since it reached #48 on the US disco charts–punk, on the disco charts? Why not?

Medium medium didn’t last much longer, alas, but they’re around again now — see http://www.mediummedium.com/ — and most of the band still has fabulous hair.

Do let me know if you’ve picked up *Sound System*–I figure the $40 boxset in the US (see here–is this available in the UK?) would be a fine, fine gift for any aspiring teenager music fan. That’s less per LP side than we paid when The Clash’s debut came out. Nice work, gents.

(post) punk gems, v. 33 (1/3) — Skafish

Thanks for checking things out here at stealingalltransmissions. I’m hoping my book sales may spike once again with next week’s release of The Clash’s *Sound System* (yeah!)–not for the money (which I like as much as anyone), but the glory.

Back in 1976 (or so), Jim Skafish gathered a sextet of friends to form Skafish, which makes an early appearance opening up for Sha Na Na–a show that is written up in the pages of Billboard magazine.

Their first single, “Disgracing the Family Name,” helps the band land a gig on a UK tour with The Police, XTC (when they still toured), English Beat, UB40, and Steel Pulse. In the pages of Sounds, “Disgracing” is characterized as having a “wheezing, tinny organ sound, bobbysox girlie chorus … all the devices we’ve come to associate with every new arty US band from Devo to the B-52’s, but somehow it works, building up to a dense, handclapping little epic of garage rock.” 

Skafish is also the featured act at Hurrah on December 5 when Sid Vicious, recently out on bail following his arrest for the murder of Nancy Spungen, attacks their drummer, Todd Smith, kid brother of Patti Smith. Vicious had made a move on Todd’s girlfriend and, upon Todd’s intervening, Vicious brandished a Heineken and opened up a wound that required five stiches to close. Vicious was remanded to Riker’s Island and, upon his February release, overdosed and died. Mercy.

Okay–the office awaits. Do tune in on Sunday for another installment of The Clash feature in Punk from ’79.

Coda: I came across this item on YT: aesthetic perfection!


(post)punk gems v. 30 — Pearl Harbor and the Explosions

Happy Wednesday and all, and I’m hoping there’s enough caffeine in the cupboards to jump-start this day on a good foot.

(Hello, Pearl. Some photo rights reserved somewhere.)

I’m staying close to Clash-de-camp this morning, with Pearl Harbor and the Explosions on the wheels of silicone. Lead singer Pearly Gates came out of the San Francisco scene, changed her surname (not imagining potential problems with google searches, of course), and got the band’s first single, “Drivin’ ” out in 1980. In that moment, the world was apparently paying attention to the SF post-punkers, and the track cracked the US top 40.

She eventually made the acquaintance of Paul Simonon, got married, hired Paul’s younger brother to play in her rockabilly-revival outfit on *Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost Too* (Warner, 1981). Amid the original compositions was “Do Your Homework,” a playful ditty in which Ms. H. schools her lover on the ABCs.

The grouches at Trouser Press didn’t offer much regard for the LPs, which is their prerogative, I suppose. The latter track certainly heralded this fun ditty by The Pipettes from a few years back.

Okay, espresso time! Enjoy!

#postpunk gems, v. 29 — Huang Chung — yes that Wang Chung

So it’s a stiff coffee, and good morning to you, as I gather a bit o’ momentum to get the day started.

In the late spring of 1980, I was living in the San Joaquin Valley, playing 2nd-string right field for my little league team, and listening to Cheap Trick and, well, not much more. With summer commencing, I had no idea who Joy Division or Ian Curtis was and, like most Americans, I wouldn’t learn about Huang Chung before 1984 and the incredibly, well, suggestive “Dance Hall Days.” (Not even Prince was sly enough to get such a narrative on the pop charts.)

And that was part of the beauty of pop back in the day. It wasn’t easy to gather the backstory on a whole host of bands, and they would emerge on MtV for 15 minutes (or more), and then seemingly fade away. Little did I know the Huang Chung — which translates as “yellow bell” in Mandarin — had other singles in their catalog.

The other rumor going ’round was that “Wang” was the sound of the downward strum of the guitar, and “chung” was the upward strum — with no fingers on the frets, of course. With “Isn’t It About Time We Were on TV?,” Huang Chung blends elements of The Police and Frank Zappa, and the band behind Jack Hues keeps it tight. Back in the day, Sounds imagines the track to be a “jazzy version of XTC.”

That third week of June was a big one for post-punk: “Love Will Tear Us Apart” starts climbing the charts at that point, and The Clash’s “Train in Vain,” backed with “Bank Robber” (nice double-A side!), makes its way into continental record shops. Stateside, Bad Brains releases their first single, “Pay to Cum” b/w “Stay Close to Me.” Good times, good times.

#postpunk gems, v. 28 — The Rezillos

Happy mittwoch, readers!

It’s rare that a band circa ’77 gets its start with a cover of a Fleetwood Mac tune, but bless The Rezillos, who made a few waves back in the day with “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight.” The band hails from lovely Edinburgh, and a reconstituted line-up just toured the US for the first time in 2012. Perhaps the American scene in the late 70s had its share of artifice with The B-52s, most notably, and listeners couldn’t get their minds around the tongue-in-pierced-cheek-glam element of The Rezillos. Too bad for us, really, when you consider the virtues of musical warnings about a “Flying Saucers Attack” (which apparently did reach the nethers of the UK singles chart).

Here they are performing on RockPop (?) to a well quaaluded audience, it seems.

Have a rockin’ good week as we say goodbye to July!