DJ Lou Reed, at WPIX-FM, January 1979

Good morning rude girls, rude boys!

I’m sticking with the general theme of the past few months of Sundays, where I elaborate a theme from my book — which, as folks on twitter may know, just received a silver Independent Publisher Book Award in the popular culture category. Thanks to many of you for helping get the word out.

November 1978 (Arista) -- artwork credited to Nazario.
November 1978 (Arista) — artwork credited to Nazario.

I’m keepin’ today’s spot from ch. 5 short and sweet–WPIX-FM’s “Radio Radio” show on Sundays included spots with dozens of (often NYC-based) musicians in the role of DJ, and Lou Reed made a couple of appearances during the “Joe from Chicago” era. It proved to be a transitional era for Reed: he and his long-time partner Rachel split, and soon thereafter he married Sylvia Morales. On January 28, fairly fresh off the release of Live Take No Prisoners, Reed and his entourage crashed the party, and played a bunch of fun tunes from 1954 to 1962, including:

And, his own one-off novelty hit from 1964 with The Primitives, in which you may be able to glean a germ of the punk sensibility of humor and anti-virtuosity:

And here’s a little ramble from Reed, once John Cale arrived in the studio that evening.

Have a rock-steady week!

Coda: I went for a quick drive after this post and, after a listen to Velvet Underground’s eponymous third LP (March 1969), felt compelled to add a few more thoughts about Mr. Reed.

Of their LPs, I dig Velvet Underground the most, in part because Reed’s growing influence in the band means good things for pop, as early as “Candy Says,” the opening track. With the Beatles-inspired turn to pop as serious art, Reed tarries in affirmative pop forms (with lyrics of existential dread), and draws upon his affinity for doo-wop to mix in the signature “doo-doo-wa” that closes the track.

For a host of good reasons, including Reed’s a-tuneful approach to singing, and the beautiful darkness-in-plain-sight of tracks such as “Some Kinda Love,” The Velvet Underground represents the logical bridge between Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” (1958) and The Sex Pistols’ decimation of “Johnny B. Goode” (1979).

 

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punk’s greatest night — april 23, 1976

Writers quibble over year-zero of punk: ’76, because that’s when things started rolling, or ’77, because that’s when key platters of vinyl by The Clash, the Pistols, Blondie, Television, and so many others hit the shops. The hardcore look back to Iggy and the Stooges, of course, or even Velvet Underground at Cafe Wha? way back when.

The night noted above, though, has got a decent claim to the most important weekend in punk history, in terms of guts, glory, and serendipity. On both sides of the Atlantic, the eponymous Ramones’ LP hit the shelves and, as Generation X’s Tony James noted, “The Ramones were the single most important group that changed punk rock.”

In London’s Nashville Room, The Sex Pistols opened for the 101’ers, and Mick Jones accompanied Bernie Rhodes to check out the 101’ers’ lead singer, Joe Strummer. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, the crowd at CBGB was treated to the debut documentary of the punk scene: The Blank Generation, by Ivan Kral, then with Patti Smith’s group, served as the opening act for Johnny Thunders’ The Heartbreakers, just before Richard Hell set out on his own with his band, the Voidoids. 

Kral’s film was a truly DIY affair, as you can see here. I do, of course, shine a bit more light in my book on one of the most important nights in the history of rocknroll. I’ll give the coda over to Richard Hell. Cheers!

the punk stance — pigeon-toed singers, unite!

Good day, readers! I’m diggin’ in deep again today into bits from chapter 4 of my book on The Clash breaking America, going back 38 years and few weeks, to a March 11 gig of The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, The Slits — and get this — “Late Night Kung Fu Films.” Awesome! So rock writer extraordinaire Nick Kent was on-hand, and noted for NME:

“Strummer’s stance sums up this band at is best, really: it’s all to do with real ‘punk’ credentials–a Billy the Kid sense of tough tempered with an innate sense of humanity …”

Kent proceeds to discredit Johnny Rotten and his “clownish co-conspirators,” but my

The transcendent pose (Chris Walter, 1972).
The transcendent pose (Chris Walter, 1972).

interest here is in Strummer’s stance–i.e., the way he and other punks actually stood onstage. Now, we don’t actually have pix of Billy the Kid’s shooting stance for reference, alas, and since it’s a blog post, I’m not aiming for an exhaustive sample here, but the punk stance was fundamentally different than the classic rock stance, as embodied by The Who’s Roger Daltrey, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, and Paul McCartney.

Daltrey and Plant, of course, didn’t pick up the guitar (as a rule, in Daltrey’s case), and were free to move about however they saw fit. One of their favorite poses, though was the transcendent pose: feet apart, leaning back (which just happened to emphasize the elasticity of their jeans in particular places), with chin tilted towards the sky.

The voice (and the hammer) of the gods (photographer unknown).
The voice (and the hammer) of the gods (photographer unknown).

And it’s not just the singer’s inclinations, of course: these singers had to do something to rival the impressive solos turned in by their virtuosic band mates. It also had to do with art, which allegedly transcends the street and the marketplace. The rock gods and the hippies favored leaning back, and swaying from side to side (see Janis Joplin, and even Patti Smith to a certain extent).

Wings, taking it easy (photographer unknown).
Wings, taking it easy (photographer unknown).

In his tenure with Wings, McCartney rarely struck the transcendent pose, but rarely performed with true urgency, either, and even found it appropriate to take up a chair during certain interludes.

Rotten leans in (1977, AP Photo/Virgin Records).
Rotten leans in (1977, AP Photo/Virgin Records).

Punks, of course, especially in the early days, didn’t take it easy at all. Johnny Rotten appeared a true original in this way, but his pose here recalls teen idols leaning out over the audience–but this time, of course, it’s to egg on their disdain, rather than to solicit affection.

 

No Beatles, Stones, or transcendent poses, in 1977 (photographer unknown).
No Beatles, Stones, or transcendent poses, in 1977 (photographer unknown).

The Clash struck intricate poses, more pigeon-toed than bow-legged in the beginning, as if the urgency of the message and their affection for their fans drew them right to the lip of the stage. (Strummer recedes here, to honor Mick’s take at the mic.)

 

Get the balance right (1977).
Get the balance right (1977).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pigeon-toed pose, of course, owes a-plenty to Elvis Costello, and the cover image for his first LP (before we got to see him reproduce this pose–and the accompanying dance steps–live and on MtV).

Siouxsie and the Banshees, 1977 (photog unknown).
Siouxsie and the Banshees, 1977 (photog unknown).

I’ll leave you with two more images: Siouxsie in stark black-and-white, from 1977, Paul Weller with The Jam in 1978 — not quite pigeon-toed, I suppose, but the mic placement, the urgency of the music, and the crowd had him up on his toes, channeling anger as an energy.

Send along your favorites if you’ve got ’em.

The Jam in Boston, 1978(Jeff Albertson/CORBIS).
The Jam in Boston, 1978(Jeff Albertson/CORBIS).

 

What a difference a year makes: ’76 to ’77

Good morning, K-SAT readers. It’s month 3 on the calendar, so I’m mining chapter 3 of Stealing All Transmissions for a couple more gems that I hope you’ll fancy. In “1977: Clamor, Exposure, and Camaraderie,” I move through ’76 and the formation of The Clash into 1977, and map what’s happening in the new periodicals popping up in New York, including Punk and New York Rocker.

Short, sharp, and not too sweet. Brevity and vinyl rule! (April 1977) Photo by Kate Simon.

Robert Christgau reported that he and Richard Goldstein picked up The Clash’s debut on import vinyl at Bleecker Bob’s, put it on the turntable, and the response? “‘This is fucking great!'” There is, of course, so much that is great about their eponymous debut (I love using the word “eponymous”), and I think about Simonon having just learned his parts, and the joy and the frustration and the catharsis in “Janie Jones,” the (ironic) contempt of “Hate and War,” and the beautiful treble-y-ness of it all. I also think about the question of duration. You’ve got 14 tracks here: four are up-and-done in under two minutes; five more take but 30 seconds more.

At the time, Christgau and his comrades at the Village Voice loved popular music, but they also liked to celebrate newcomers, too, as reflected in the Pazz and Jop polls of 1976 and 1977:

1976

  1. Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life (Tamla)
  2. Graham Parker & the Rumour: Heat Treatment (Mercury)
  3. Jackson Browne: The Pretender (Asylum)
  4. Graham Parker & the Rumour: Howlin’ Wind (Mercury)
  5. Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Kate & Anna McGarrigle (Warner Bros.)
  6. Steely Dan: The Royal Scam (ABC)
  7. Joni Mitchell: Hejira (Asylum)
  8. Ramones: Ramones (Sire)
  9. Rod Stewart: A Night on the Town (Warner Bros.)
  10. Blue Oyster Cult: Agents of Fortune (Columbia)

1977

  1. Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (Warner Bros.)
  2. Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (Columbia)
  3. Television: Marquee Moon (Elektra)
  4. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Warner Bros.)
  5. Steely Dan: Aja(ABC)
  6. Ramones: Rocket to Russia (Sire)
  7. Talking Heads: Talking Heads: 77 (Sire)
  8. Randy Newman: Little Criminals (Warner Bros.)
  9. Garland Jeffreys: Ghost Writer (A&M)
  10. Cheap Trick: In Color (Epic)

Now there’s a more scientific way to do this, of course, but let’s just look at the #1s here: Stevie Wonder’s Songs:  17 tracks, 85 minutes, and The Pistols’ Bollocks: 11 tracks, 34 minutes. Certainly Graham Parker and The Ramones heralded a shift in median song duration, but wow: what a difference a year makes.

The Clash doesn’t make the list, I believe, because the folks at the Voice, including Christgau, discovered the album in early 1978. (He would later claim it as his favorite Clash LP, and even his favorite punk LP, if I recall correctly.)

Ramones_-_Leave_Home_cover
The name of this band is … Ramones. Image by Moshe Brakha.

You can find the full polls here and here. And, if you’re paying close attention, you’ll see that the LPs included here by the band “Ramones” did not include a definite article. Like “Talking Heads.” Now, you might find the occasional book that identifies (correctly) “CBGB” rather than “CBGBs,” but I’ve never seen a book refer to this band as “Ramones,” without the “the.” The iconic t-shirt, of course, notes “Ramones,” but all the writers got it wrong. Pretty wild.

post-punk gems, v. 38 — The Saints: not beaten to the punch

On today’s dispatch from Radio K-SAT, I’m thinking about the 35th anniversary of Sid V.’s arrest for the murder of Nancy Spungen and, on a brighter note, “This Perfect Day,” the first charting single by The Saints, out of Brisbane, Australia. Their debut single, “I’m Stranded,” is recognized as the first punk single to be released outside of the US, beating The Clash and The Pistols vinyl debuts.

The original Saints’ line-up didn’t last long, however, with bassist Kym Bradshaw jumping ship for The Lurkers in fall 1978 and, in turn, worked through a couple variations of the pop-punk aesthetic, with horns and a starker R&B influence. The turn proved sustainable, and The Saints’ most recent release, *King of the Sun,* just came out this past spring on the continent. Here’s the LP’s title track, with Bailey’s trademark vocals.

I appreciate your checking in today, and hope to see you again on Sunday. Enjoy the week!

post-punk gems, v. 37 — Dalek I Love You

Welcome back to Radio K-SAT, where on Wednesdays I track down lost gems from the punk and post-punk era. Many of these underheralded tunes come from bands whose members you know from their associations with other bands — you might recognize the lead singer of Graduate, who later formed a band called Tears for Fears, which you may be familiar with (smile).

Dalek, I Love You was the brainchild of young gents out of Thingwall, and included (eventually) Alan Gill (of Big in Japan & Teardrop Explodes fame) and Andy McCluskey (who’s still kicking around with a unit called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark). The moniker represented an amalgam of Dalek, the Doctor Who cyborgs, and Darling, I Love You. It’s a unit that takes the notion of Bernard Sumner (of Joy Division and New Order fame), upon seeing the Sex Pistols for the first time, to its next extension: “I saw the Sex Pistols. They were terrible. I thought they were great. I wanted to get up and be terrible too.” It’s a raucous, synthetic aesthetic, and on “You Really Got Me” (a Kinks’ tune, yes), from May 1980, they drain it dry of the Van-Halen-infused virility from just a couple years before.

I would argue it even heralds the lounge-act qualities that David Lee Roth would embrace following his departure from Van Halen–which, as readers of *Stealing All Transmissions* know, was a key band in my youth, since they seemed to be the mirror image of The Clash, and represented all that was wrong with popular music. So, when Aztec Camera’s cover of “Jump” hit the radio in the US, it was the object of much DJ ridicule on the classic rock stations, but I savored every bar of it, even though Roddy Frame’s hair was only slightly less ridiculous than DL Roth’s mane at that point.

I dig the tuning of the lead guitar on this track, along with the sensitive piano comping during the chorus. Fun stuff!

I appreciate your checking in today, and hope to see you again on Sunday. Enjoy the week!

reprise — sucking in the 70s

Happy day, reader! I hope you’ve had a delightful weekend.

After kicking out a lengthy jam to the tune of 1100 words last weekend, I want to keep things shorter and sweeter this time ’round. Thank you for the nice feedback on that post, and one reader was kind enough to refer me to this NPR interview with Michael Walker on his new book, What You Want Is In The Limo: On The Road With Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, And The Who In 1973, The Year The Sixties Died And The Modern Rock Star Was Born.

What You Want Is in the Limo

Now a punk might argue that the title is as insufferably long as a John Bonham drum solo, but that could have been an editor’s decision, and shouldn’t detract from Walker’s argument, which ties the aesthetics to the economies of scale in rock: the excess in length of songs and solos was replicated in the length of limos, jets, tours, and lines of groupies backstage (and the lines of coke that awaited them). It was, he suggests, a thorough negation of the peace and love extolled in the sixties. (I will take issue with his claim that Alice Cooper’s “Elected” is “as far away from peace, love and understanding as you can possibly get in a single song.” To that end, I’ll take Nirvana’s effort to get away, any day:

 You can read an excerpt of the book here

The comments below the NPR piece are quite telling: it’s mostly boys of course, and fanatics defend Led Zep against claims of being aesthetically adrift after Houses of the Holy, extol the virtues of Presence (don’t know that I’ve ever listened to it), and celebrate various moments on Physical Graffiti (which seems reasonable). I am, of course, privy to one reader’s theological claim: “The Clash, Ramones and Sex Pistols are proof that God loved us once.” Amen.

Thanks for tuning in to radio K-SAT! Have a delightful week.