Greetings, fine readers! Right ’round 35 years ago today, the offspring of punk were charting a host of compelling directions. Sure, the loud-fast-snotty aesthetic was still the rage among the most full of rage, but the bloom was also on the New Romantics, by way of Orange Juice (among others). Against the gloom of the eyeliner and trenchcoat contingent, Edwyn Collins and crew charted a pop-friendly course, with cheery, cheeky lyrics, reverby rhythm guitar, and cymbal crashes of ebullience.
“Blue Boy,” their second single, came out in August 1980 on Postcard Records (think Josef K, too), and sustained one of the real trademarks of new wave commodities: the secret message in the run-off groove: side A asked, “When is an artist at his most dangerous?” Side B answered, “When he’s drawing a gun.”
Lots and lots of anniversaries today, as you twitter-ing will know: TH’s *Little Creatures,* the debut LP by a band called Duran Duran (whatever happened to them, anyway?), and I’m sure there were a couple more, too.
Talking Heads, though, and the whole aura around their artiness, began to wear on Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth: hence the birth of Tom Tom Club, and their first single, released 34 years ago this week: “Wordy Rappinghood.”
The impulse behind the side project had everything to do with, well, David Byrne, and New York in general, according to Chris Frantz, who’s one of the real gentlemen of the music industry:
“We wanted to make a real musical anti-snob record because we’re fed up to here with all the seriousness which surrounds Talking Heads. It’s as if just by being in TH you’re expected to think very heavily about everything … We were consciously trying to get away from … being influenced by heavy philosophies and drugs and … nihilistic attitudes … it’s the only kind of emotion they can get behind in New York.”
They did, of course, draw heavily on the hip-hop aesthetic shaping New York at the time. Sessions took place in the Caribbean, and the duo were joined by Monte Brown, Steven Stanley, Adrian Belew (one of the happiest performers I’ve ever seen), and Tina’s three sisters. Their LP from much later, *Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom,* has to be one of the most underrated LPs of the late 80s. Cheers!
Happy Wednesday, folks! I’m quite enjoying We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk, which along with Please Kill Me and John Robb’s Punk Rock, comprise a solid trio of punk oral histories. The book’s title is lifted from a song by The Weirdos, who were at it in early ’77, and solidified their reputation at an Orpheum show in a matter of months as the premier LA punk band du jour.
I dig the traces of surf guitar bubbling up in the mix, and the drum style that heralds the use of Burundi drums by so many UK bands in the early 80s. Oddly enough, the aforementioned show coincided with The Damned’s first visit to LA for a string of shows at the Whiskey opening for Television. Now, of course, I have less than half the story, but apparently Tom Verlaine kicked them off the bill, and they were stranded in LA without funds. But yes: a name familiar to anyone living in LA in the 80s: Rodney Bingenheimer was there at the beginning.
Yes, yes. I’m a wee bit behind, in part because I’m preparing for my gig on Thursday, which you can watch live streaming, apparently — http://rockhall.com/event/Doane/ . The event’s all ready fully booked, so I hope I respond well to the pressure. I’m sure it will be a gas. The talk is called, “Hitsville, USA: How The Clash Broke America and Gave Our Adolescence a Whole Lotta Love,” and will include a review of:
how I was inspired by the Boy Scouts of America to become an aficionado of punk
the audio territory staked out by WNEW-FM, WPLJ-FM, and WPIX-FM circa 1979
punk aesthetics, blackness, and whiteness, and why The Clash were so damned awesome.
I’ll also talk about some of the holdings at the rock hall archive, and reprise some of the book’s themes on analog and digital music fandom. Here’s a pic of me as a Boy Scout (as if Monday mornings weren’t plenty difficult already):
Also: I just found this great article on WBCN, who were big Clash advocates back in the day (Oedipus, especially). I can hardly wait to track that book down, too.
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.
‘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.
Holy cow, mornings arrive early some days. It’s nice to be writing (typing), though, even if only for a few minutes. Once again I’ve been turning the pages of George Gimarc’s *Punk Diary* and finding so many gems on youtube — it’s a fanciful combination, and one that can take you straight-away down the rabbit hole of the world wide web.
Rip Rig & Panic hailed from Bristol in the early 80s, and ripped their name from a Roland Kirk tune from 1965. Neneh Cherry was on the mic, and her father — the great trumpeter Don Cherry — added his signature sound to a few tunes. Former members of The Pop Group were in the line-up, too.
“Go! Go! Go! This Is It” (1981) was their first single, and it’s a fine reminder of how wide open the “genres” of punk and post-punk were circa Sandinista, Remain in Light, etc.
The opening bit is not terribly inviting, but it settles into a delectable groove and then–bam, it’s done, and you’re left wanting a bit more. It’s one of the charms of those sub-three-minute heroes, from back in the day.