post-punk gems, v. 79 — Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel”

Come aboard the way-back time machine, where it’s the summer of ’76, and NYC proto-hipsters are abuzz about 7″ of vinyl just released on Ork Records. A la John Coltrane’s Ascension LP, Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel,” their debut single, unfolds over 7 plus minutes, so it’s split down the middle (or so). It offers a whole new guitar vocabulary in the timbres and phrasing, with echoes of the Velvets and the Byrds, and heralds the craft of the axe-folk of Talking Heads, Wire, and Gang of Four. Robert Christgau was on-board from the get-go, regarding “LJJ” as “dynamic and spooky … its dissolute aura is difficult to shake off.”

“Jewel,” too, served as a jewel-of-a-connection between New York and London early on. It made its way across the Atlantic and into the hands of Rat Scabies, who had a failed try-out with The Clash and eventually became the drummer of The Damned. “The first thing we heard from New York was the Television single, ‘Little Johnny Jewel.’ I remember listening to it and being blown away.” (Stealing, p. 47)

Just as so many of us did through the 1980s, Scabies constructed his fandom from bits and pieces, with the whole remaining ever elusive. “No one had seen the Heartbreakers live, but we thought they looked great. We had seen pictures of Television, Richard Hell and Blondie but nobody had heard anything. Because Danny Fields was involved with the MC5 we knew [The Ramones] had to be the right kind of thing.” The right kind of thing, indeed.

Enjoy, and rock on!

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punk celluloid on my mind — Clash, Blank Generation and more

Happy 2015, K-SAT readers, and thanks for tuning in. Let me do a quick 2014 wrap, and then offer a few words about punk film stuff, brand spankin’ new and old.

2014 was a lovely year, with accolades for Stealing All Transmissions coming in from London, Boston, Los AngelesChicago (and elsewhere). C’mon New York, c’mon Rolling Stone: I’m thinking of you Kory Grow! Sure, I suppose some of my comments about the current state of “the Stone” in Stealing were sub-flattering, but I assure you it’s business, not personal.

There’s much fun to be had with Julien Temple’s The Clash: New Year’s Day ’77. Mr. T. stays true to form to his collage aesthetic, with juxtapositions of clips from a variety of sources to take stock and make sense of more-Moderate-than-Great Britain 38 years ago. It’s a solid companion piece to his London: The Modern Babylon, which streamed on Netflix briefly, and now is unavailable. Modern capitalism can be so baffling–and I’ll get a more in-depth review of this gem soon.

With the new year commencing, I am going to switch things up a bit on my Sunday posts: drawing on the depthless resources of youtube, to begin, I’m going to dedicate Sundays in January to an elaboration of stuff reviewed in chapter 1, February for chapter 2, etc. I will, of course, provide enough framing for folks who haven’t read Stealing. Here goes …

April 23, 1976, is a watershed day in punk lore. On the east side of the Atlantic, proto-Clash members attend a Pistols-101ers gig to size up Joe Strummer, and Vivien Westwood decks a concert-goer and the dust-up gets a big write-up in Melody Maker. On the west side of the pond, folks in NYC celebrate the release of the Ramones’ debut album and the weekend premiere of *The Blank Generation,* Ivan Kral’s home-movie project featuring footage of Television (here), Blondie, Talking Heads, The Ramones, and a dozen or so other acts making rock’n’roll fun again at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City.

As you can see, it’s truly a DIY affair, with Kral with a light in one hand and his Bolex in the other, crawling around the stage (and staging some footage in the Village) to capture the gorgeousness of Tom Verlaine, Debbie Harry, Wayne County, among others.

Wayne County, of course, had close ties to the Playhouse of the Ridiculous, which thrived on provocation, genre-bending staging, and gender-bending themes. Patti Smith was there, and so was Candy Darling and other Warhol doyen. As Penny Arcade recalled in Please Kill Me: “Anybody could be in … the Ridiculous Theater. It was all street stars. Homosexuals, heterosexuals, lesbians – it didn’t matter, nobody cared about those things. It was all outsiders.”

John Vaccaro is not a name well-known in punk history, but like Chrissie Hynde, Mark Mothersbaugh, and a host of others, he made his way from Ohio and made his mark on the Lower East Side, by directing a host of beautifully trashy plays for the Playhouse. Vaccaro wanted performers, not actors, and as he quotes himself here, was fond of aphorisms such as, “Most people lie in their beds. I like the truth in mine.” I don’t know much about the genesis of this clip, but it certainly speaks of the fun history you can produce in the digital age. Definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

Have a great week!

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?

new version of Stealing — images wanted!

Image

Happy Sunday — The announcement’s out for the much expanded version of Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash,* which has much more on the New York punk scene and on the London Calling LP. I still need your help with the images, though. I can’t afford Bob Gruen, alas, and I hope the #Clash nutters among you might have photos of the band, concert posters, etc., that you can send to me in digital format (jpg, if posibble) by 5/31. If your image is selected, I”ll send you a signed copy of the book upon its fall release. All correspondence to djaphasia [at] gmail cot com, or simply reply to this post. Please share this note as you see fit. Many thanks!