Radio Days

20Nov11

[FR : Mon parcours musical, à travers les émissions de radio qui m’ont formé, et celles que j’ai créées moi-même par la suite. Écouter : KALX WMBR]

Sorting through endless boxes of crap after the third move in 4 years, I decided it was time to trash the many hundreds of audio cassettes I had been dragging around for 2 decades. A friend told me: “If you haven’t seen it in a year, you don’t need it.” I don’t think I had listened to a cassette since 1999. It was just dead weight.

Starting in the 70s, I had taped all my favorite albums and made many dozens of compilation tapes with favorite punk and 60s music. I would listen to them at home, in the car or on band tour in the van. There was also a bunch of tapes I’d saved with radio shows I’d hosted.

But let me tell a little story.

I grew up in suburban New Jersey in the 1960’s. It turned out to be a great time to be born, but a lousy location. My favorite toy was my battery-powered transistor radio. I listened to the Top 40 AM radio stations in New York and Philadelphia. My earliest memory is listening to the Supremes on a car radio. Another great memory is me and my friends singing along with Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” on the jukebox in our school cafeteria in 1972.

Check out the audio on this page, in particular 1964-1968. This is exactly what I listened to constantly on WABC, 770 AM, New York. Since these links are “airchecks”, they do not contain the full length of each song: they are edited to mainly show what the DJs used to say, introducing the songs, talking over the beginning and end of songs, doing hokey commercials, being stupid, taking phone calls on the air, etc. I thought they were so cool! Maybe one day I could be a DJ.

I recommend that you listen to this one because it is not edited like the others, many songs are full-length. It’s a show from 1967, with DJ “Cousin Brucie”. According to the site, it was also broadcast to American soldiers in Viet Nam, and pointedly includes Victor Lundberg’s “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son”.

Top 40 was literally (after taking bribery and manipulation into account) a list of the top-selling 40 singles for the week, in the country or in a particular market. They would be broadcast all day and night on these stations. But that was not a problem: in the 60s, it was all incredibly great. In my neighborhood chain store, they had 40 wooden bins for the 40 hit 45s, arranged in order. I would save my allowance money and buy my favorites.

In the 70s, pop music changed for the worse. And simultaneously, I started to become aware that I did not need to listen to the crap that was being fed to me on commercial radio, as I had done happily for years. I was looking for something else, but didn’t really find it. I started listening to electric blues (John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Lowell Fulsom…), in particular on the University of Pennsylvania college radio station in Philadelphia, WXPN. I dug the first George Thorogood album too. When he played in Philadelphia, I made it in the door of the club by wearing a big hat and a heavy coat with a collar that went up to my nose, since I was way under age. There was a teeny punk scene in Philadelphia at that time, but I was unaware of it.

I left suburban New Jersey for Boston in September 1978 to attend MIT. Soon after arriving, hanging out in my dormitory, and with my habit of listening to WXPN, I decided to see what the college radio station of my own school was playing. It changed my life.

WTBS (soon to sell that name to Ted Turner for $50,000 and be renamed WMBR) was (arguably) the best college radio station in town, and maybe in the US. It was a crossroads for the burgeoning punk scene in Boston. Numerous punk shows featured all the latest records and tapes by local bands as well as national and international acts. Don’t forget that, at that time, these records were extremely difficult to obtain. Newbury Comics, a little comic book shop opened by an MIT dropout, had innovated by placing a cardboard box of punk 45s for sale next to the cash register. It soon turned into 2 boxes, and then more.

I listened constantly to WTBS, as well as the other college stations in Boston. I started going out to shows, motivated by the “concert report” on the radio. Blaine, my neighbor in the dorms, taught me to play guitar (in 5 minutes). I practiced along with the first Ramones album for a few weeks (top tip: turn the “balance” knob to cut out the original guitar or bass), and then started a band. I began DJing at WMBR about a year later. Newcomers had to start on the 7am shift playing 60s music (Top 40 as well as garage, although I snuck in some other stuff). The show was called Sleepwalk, and it was the first show of the broadcast day: we turned on the transmitter. The Pebbles series had recently started appearing, sparking renewed interest on the part of punks for our garage predecessors. Nuggets was still available for cheap in cut-out bins. The Lyres, who played their first show in January 1979, were one of the first current-day bands to get into this style.

MIT students were few and far between at the station (most DJs were community members with much more musical and radio experience than the students; also, the average MIT student did not care about music or any other cultural or social notion), but it was station policy to favor students by putting them in positions of responsibility. This enabled me to make a rapid climb up the station hierarchy and after a while I was Program Director, in charge of choosing what shows went on the air. My friend Mick was Station Manager. As reckless youth will do, I threw numerous “boring” shows off the air and put on a wide variety of additional punk shows in their place, as well as 60s shows, an anarchist political show, etc.

The best and most legendary punk show on WMBR was (and remains today) the Late Risers Club. It’s the show I heard when I first arrived at MIT. I was never a permanent DJ on that show, although I did a couple of fill-ins. I founded my own weekly show called No Fun, with my friend Don, based on the concept of only playing “old-school punk”: records from before 1980 (including 60s garage punk). This concept was ahead of its time, as it was only 1982! I also filled in on Media Blitz, which featured California bands, and Who Are the Mystery Girls, which normally featured Sheena and Spencer, two charming and unpredictable hostesses who could play or do anything. We took over the venerable Night Owl show and turned it into an all-request punk program.

College radio stations and shows like this were instrumental in the rise of punk music in the US in those pre-Internet days, keeping people informed about new music, local bands, upcoming concerts, etc. I was proud of that, and still am. DJs would compete with each other to stay on top of the latest music by reading zines, and would order records by mail from far-flung labels and bands to play on the air. (The dearth of college radio in France was surely an impediment to the rise of punk in that country.) When I moved to San Francisco, I formed Disorder Records, a not-for-profit mail-order business which lasted a few years. With the help of Frank, Kenny, Max and some other friends, we drank beer every week in my living room and sent great records to people from Nebraska to Singapore who had no other way to obtain them. (Customers: if I still owe you money, let me know.)

While making my own mail-order purchases in the 80s to get records I was passionate about, I would not have believed that one day you would be able to listen to any song you wanted instantly and for free by clicking a button, record stores would be closing, and yet the Misfits records I was getting for $3 would sell for hundreds of dollars on EBay. While playing “Whole Wide World” on WMBR in 1981, I would not have believed that 30 years later I would “Friend” Wreckless Eric on Facebook (and be accepted, yay!)

A little anecdote… One of the jazz hosts I threw off the air at WMBR was Melanie Berzon. She went on to a long and successful career on other public radio stations. Years later, after moving to San Francisco, I participated in the Maximum Rock n Roll radio show on KPFA in Berkeley and did many shows along with Tim and the Gang. However, Maximum Rock n Roll was eventually thrown off the air by the KPFA Program Director…Melanie Berzon. Years later, I was at the dentist in San Francisco. He gave me some headphones to listen to music, to make my visit more pleasant. It was tuned to KCSM, a jazz station in San Mateo. Melanie Berzon was doing a show and it was time for the pledge drive, so when the dentist finished, I borrowed his phone and called in a pledge. I wonder if she recognized my name.

After almost five years at MIT, I managed to graduate despite myself and moved to San Francisco in 1983. I started volunteering at KALX, a community radio station in Berkeley. I met a lot of good friends there, including Dr. Frank, already legendary for his brilliant radio show, and soon to start the Mr. T Experience. I worked my way up the ladder at KALX as well, and did about 10 years of shows before retiring. The KALX format included the requirement to play current music (as you can see, hardcore was in the air) and a variety of styles. It’s remarkable to see the quantity and variety of great new stuff that was coming out in the mid 80’s. Frankly, when was the last time the likes of the Dead Kennedys (1981) or Minutemen (1985) were seen in the “new record bin”?

A peculiar aspect of the KALX shows is that radio station policy required DJs to play a certain proportion of “current black music”. I don’t want to reopen that can of worms, but while I genuinely liked the songs I played in this context, they don’t always fit with the rest of the program. They have been removed for your listening pleasure.

So back to the cassettes. Before throwing them out, I copied some to the computer. Here they are:

listen to KALX archives 1985-1987

listen to WMBR archives 1980-1982

There are also some recordings of other peoples’ shows.

I apologize in advance for my lousy attempts at humor, my stilted mic breaks, my bad engineering, etc. On the WMBR shows in particular, I talk too much, a direct repercussion of being weaned on WABC. The 1985 Punk Awards can be best understood as my version of the 1967 WABC Top 100 with Dan Ingram (listen). As time went on, I learned to shut up and play the music. Hope you enjoy these shows despite everything.

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(aka Rock ‘n’ Roll Meeting Place/Stay Free/Fifi’s Bar)

Photos updated August 2016.

Go to the Shimo-kitazawa station.
(You may need to change trains/lines. Just keep asking people.)
(The fares are complicated. If you don’t understand them, just buy a cheap ticket; you can pay the difference when you exit.)

 

 

Go to the South exit of the station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the bottom of the exit stairs, turn left and go through the tunnel. Keep walking straight after the tunnel.

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At the supermarket, turn right.

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At the second corner, turn left.

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There is a Chinese restaurant on the ground floor.

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Go up the exterior staircase to the 4th floor.

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Now have a drink. The walk takes about 4 minutes total, starting from the station. The bar is open most nights starting at about 8pm (20h) and closes when everyone leaves.


In the 80’s and 90’s in San Francisco, I copied a ton of my favorite films (mostly exploitation) to video cassette. The list, below, does not constitute “my favorites”, but most of them are really good.

Dans les années 80-90 à San Francisco, j’ai copié une tonne de mes films préférés (la plupart dans les genres d’exploitation) sur K7 vidéo. La liste, en bas, ne constitue pas “mes favoris”, mais ils sont généralement très bien.

2000 Maniacs
All You Need Is Cash (The Rutles)
The Ambushers
Astro Zombies
At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul
Bad (Andy Warhol)
Bad Taste
Beneath The Valley of the Ultra-Vixens
Beyond The Valley of the Dolls
The Big Bird Cage (tape unplayable)
Black Devil Doll from Hell
Black Lizard
The Black Magic with Buddha
Black Sunday
Blade Runner
Blast-Off Girls
Blood Diner
Blood Orgy of the She Devils
Bloodsucking Freaks
Bloodthirsty Butchers (tape unplayable)
Blue Sunshine
Brain Dead
Bunny Yeager’s Nude Las Vegas
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Clubfoot Orchestra)
Carnival of Souls
Chained For Life
Change Heat
Color Me Blood Red
The Curse of Her Flesh
Darktown Strutters
Deadbeat at Dawn
Deadly Weapons
Death Race 2000
Desperate Living
Disco Godfather
Dolemite
Dr. Butcher, M.D.
Dracula (Andy Warhol)
Evil Dead 2
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Female Trouble
Forbidden Zone
The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow
Girl Gang
The Gore Gore Girls
The Gruesome Twosome
High School Confidential
The Honeymoon Killers
The Horror at Party Beach
The Human Tornado
I Drink Your Blood
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies
Infra-Man
Jabberwalk
Just for the Hell of It
The Karen Carpenter Story (CBS)
The Legend of Dolomite
Leningrad Cowboys Go America
Let My Puppets Come
Lorna
Love and Leather Pants
The Mack
Mad Monster Party
Mantis in Lace (tape unplayable)
Meet The Feebles!
The Monster and the Stripper
Motor Psycho
Ms. 45
Mudhoney
Multiple Maniacs
Night of the Living Dead
Nosferatu (Clubfoot Orchestra)
Petey Wheatstraw
Pink Flamingos
Plan Nine from Outer Space
Reefer Madness
Reform School Girls
Repo Man
Richard Kern Shorts
Rock & Rule
Rock ‘N’ Roll High School
Rude! (Rudy Ray Moore)
The Sadist
She Devils On Wheels
Soul Vengeance
Spider Baby
The Stuff
Super Soul Brother
Superfly
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
Supervixens
Switchblade Sisters
Three the Hard Way
The Thrill Killers
Touch of Her Flesh
Trader Hornee
Twisted Brain
Up In Smoke
The Vampire Lovers
Vixen
White Lightnin’ Road
Wild Guitar
The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield
Wild Zero
The Wizard of Gore


Propos recueillis par Mark Adolf et Jon von Zelowitz, 03.12.2007, Paris.

[EN : Sorry kids, no English translation! Tina is the queen of SF garage music. That’s all you need to know.]

Tes débuts dans la musique ?

Le premier groupe n’est pas The Trashwomen, c’était moi avec Bret des Flakes et ma copine Laura Gregory et un autre type Jim et j’ai joué l’orgue, c’était les Cryptics. Nous avons répété chez moi et c’était de la merde, reprises garage rock qui s’appelle “Mr. Creeper” et d’autres conneries dans le genre…

Vous avez joué où ?

Nul part, on nous a programmé mais nous ne sommes pas venus, nous avions le trac ! En même temps il y a Mike Lucas qui sortait avec Elka, elle jouait dans Eight Ball Scratch. Juste avant le réveillon 91, le groupe a splitté, et Mike a dit “je veux un groupe surf exclusivement filles qui s’appelle les Trashwomen”, une idée de génie. C’est lui qui a choisi les morceaux, Danielle et moi avions aucune idée comment les jouer, il y avait Christina aussi la femme de Maz qui a joué la 2ème guitare pour le premier show. Nous avons répété pendant 3 semaines, et ensuite nous avons joué sur scène, nous étions bourrées et nous avons dit “let’s do it again”. Nous avons joué le set une deuxième fois. Mike Lucas, c’était plus ou moins son idée. Elka jouait avec Eight Ball Scratch, un peu surf et rockabilly garage. Nous avons porté des bikinis sur scène, mais il y a Christina qui a dit “mais NON, je ne veux pas porter ça sur scène” et j’ai dit “peut-être c’est pas un groupe pour toi” (rire) Elle s’est barrée… (rire)

Qui a composé les morceaux ?

C’est Elka, en générale, qui faisait tout.

Les paroles aussi ?
Oui. L’enregistrement du premier disque on a fait en 6 heures dans un studio de répét. Quelques morceaux sont pas en version finale et merdique mais nous avons changé les paroles de Let’s Go un morceau de Eddie Corbett [ndlr : ?] Et nous avons chanté nos propres paroles. Elka a écrit les autres morceaux.

Comment t’a appris jouer la batterie ?

Russell, et Elka m’a fait apprendre beaucoup aussi, elle joue n’importe quel instrument, mais pour moi c’était un déclic, facile, “je peux faire ça !!!”

Parfois t’es chanteuse, ça te manque d’avoir un instrument ?

Effectivement j’en ai marre, quand je rentre je lance un groupe où je joue la basse, j’ai envie que tout le monde chante, être chanteuse est boring.

T’as une belle voix.

J’ai toujours envie de chanter, mais j’ai envie de changer aussi.

Pour créer un bon groupe, quels sont les composants nécessaires ?

Il y en a deux. J’ai un groupe Special Ed avec mon X Chris, et Marie des Bananas, un super party band, des morceaux de rockab, nous changeons d’instrument, il y a des compos, il chante, je joue la basse, on change, etc., le public s éclat, j’aime ce genre de musique. Des jeunes viennent nous voir, c’est super. J’aime Top 10 aussi parce que j’adore le power pop, c’est bien d’avoir les bon musiciens mais avec Top 10 tout le monde est super zicos, je les adore mais le mieux est de “rock out” tu peux pas le simuler.

Niveau personnalité aussi faut que tout le monde soit en accord. C’est difficile s’il y a qqn qui n’est pas vraiment dans le délire du groupe, on est toujours obligé d’être sur la pointe des pieds.

Dans les Trashwomen c’est un groupe où les personnalités ont bien mélangés ?

Au début oui mais après c’est devenu bizarre. Moi et Danielle ont eu une dispute avec Elka au sujet du pognon, c’était idiot, bizarre, les groupes de filles sont spéciales. Elles ont des disputes sur n’importe quoi.

C’est ça qui a fait rompre le groupe ?

Oui, les histoires de pognon

Records, touring, quoi ?

Whatever, c’était pour n’importe quoi. Maintenant on est plus vieux et plus sage

T’as des bons souvenirs des tournées, etc. ?

Nous n’avons pas beaucoup tourné. Nous avons commencé en 91 et nous avons splitté en 95.  Une tournée en Europe et une au Japon. Chacune payé par un mec.

En Europe, c’est Tilo, de Pin Up Records ?

Oui.

Quels sont les aspects agréables de tourner ? Rencontrer des garçons ?

Hi hi hi, je pense qu’à cette époque, j’avais 20 ans, jamais visité en Europe, je n’ai jamais prévu d’y aller avec un groupe, visiter plein de pays, etc., c’était super.

Tu te souviens du concert au Slow Club à Paris ?

J’ai toujours les photos, on s’est bien marré.

Meilleur histoire de groupie ?

Hi hi, pas beaucoup d’histoires de groupies avec les Trashwomen. Au Japon on avait un type, vieux, gros, blouson avec un tigre brodé sur le dos, tu vois le genre, mais avec les groupes de filles il n’y a jamais des tonnes de mecs, massages de pieds gratos, etc. désolé. Les concerts en Europe, l’assistance était que des mecs. Surtout en Allemagne. À Hambourg, que des “dudes”.

La différence entre les mecs français et allemand ?

En France je me souviens des mecs qui restaient faire la fête avec nous toute la nuit.
Elka était célibataire, je venais de commencer une relation avec Russell et Danielle avec Darin. Tout le monde était libre, j’ai dit après que nous étions bien conne, nous aurions pu se faire taper plein de fois hi hi hi.

Et les concerts à SF ?

Toujours on avait un mec idiot [mark : ça veut dire pas toujours le même c.a.d.] qui est monté sur scène danser en slip. Juste un péquenaud, tu vois, qui prend son pied comme ça.

C’était la fête, un bon milieu à cette époque, un brassage de rockabs, punks, garage rockers, etc., cool.

On vous a harcelé parfois ?

Parfois, il y a des mecs qui sont obsédé par les groupes de filles “girl band geeks”. Bobbyteens aussi.

Je pense qu’il y a 2 espèces, groupies et girl band geeks.

Nous avons joué avec les Devil Dogs, ils étaient très chaud pour nous taper toutes.

Les Mummies et Devil Dogs était “rivals” d’où le morceau “Maraconda’s a Friend of Mine”, nous avons bien foutu de leurs gueules [ndlr : we were total assholes to them].

J’adorais ce groupe, en vérité les Devil Dogs sont de bons amis et je reste en contact avec eux. Ils étaient effectivement nos groupies, ils se sont exprimé genre “Trashwomen wear high heels, miam miam”.

Meilleur affiche ?

Bobbyteens Dictators, pas besoin de réfléchir.

Le pire, une fois à Coney Island High à New York, c’était atroce, j’ai perdu ma voix, c’était mon anniversaire, Joey Ramone, et Handsome Dick Manitoba dans l’assistance. J’étais dégouté.

C’est les Prissteens qui ont fait la première partie et ils ont monopolisé la conversation avec Joey, j’étais énervé, finalement je l’ai laissé tomber. Lisa a demandé de prendre une photo ensemble et il a dit simplement “non”, le con, et j’ai pensé, “je ne veux pas avoir un mauvais souvenir de lui” et je me suis barré

Les Dictators sont des vrais personnages. Ross the Boss a son dicton “if you wanna play with the big guys you gotta get good equipment,” nous racontons cela toujours parce que nos matos sont toujours minables.

Ton affiche de rêve ?

Ramones, Rocket to Russia époque, avec AC/DC, Bon Scott époque. T’as vu le vidéo Rock Goes to College ? Live, sur une petite scène, très vieux.

Les Trashwomen sont réunis pour un seul concert ?

C’était formidable. Je pense que nous allons refaire ça cet été. Mais je n’ai pas envie de faire ça tout le temps. Nous avons déjà disputé sur les tenues de scène figure toi, Danielle et moi, nous avons fait la gueule sans parler pendant 2 jours. J’ai envie d’organiser une soirée au Purple Onion à SF comme à l’époque, il y a 10 ans, avec Count Backwurds, Phantom Surfers…

C’était blindé, tout le monde chantait les paroles, je n’avais pas envie que ça termine.

Un public jeune ?

Mixte, jeunes garage venu de LA, les vieux, etc.

Et ailleurs ?

Nous avons déjà plein d’invitations de jouer, même en Italie. On va voir…

T’as vu les Trashmen sur scène ?

Oui, à Las Vegas Grind en 1999. C’était super. Il y a mon ami Travis qui a envie d’organiser un concert Trashmen/Trashwomen. Ça me branche de faire un truc décalé comme ça.

Dans l’interview, nous revenons toujours à l’époque début années 90 à SF. Pourquoi cette période était aussi exceptionnelle et wild ?

Tout le monde était jeune, c’était rigolo, la bande d’amis bien “nerdy” [ndlr : coincé/ringard/obsédé/collectionneur] qui aiment beaucoup rock n roll, sixties, pas vraiment mods, même si Russell est venu de la scène mods, les gars Mummies & Phantom Surfers. Tout le monde concentré sur le “fun”, véritable punk d-i-y spirit, qui aime tellement le rock n roll, une scène assez limitée, attitude je m’en fous…

Il s’agissait du premier groupe pour la plupart des gens ?

Oui, comme moi. C’est marrant aujourd’hui de voir les groupes avec les jeunes, 20 ans, les Traditional Fools, super, Rock n Roll Adventure Kids, Fee Fi Fo Fums, etc. Parfois je pense “been there done that, vous êtes très nineties les enfants,” mais je ne veux pas être vache, c’est génial que les jeunes d’aujourd’hui sont sur le coup.

Qu’est-ce que t’as comme bagnole ?

73 Olds 442, elle bouge, je vais faire faire la peinture bientôt, ça sera monstrueux. C’est l’ancienne voiture de mon père. Il avait tout une série d’Olds 442. Je me souviens de rouler dans la voiture, mon père au volant, cheveux gominés, il fume, c’est l’hiver, vitre baissée, moi à l’arrière, et ma mère “ferme la vitre, elle attrapera un rhume,” “ta gueule, je fume”.

Il y a un poste ?

Oui, mais il est mort, je vais le remplacer pareil. C’est mon esprit, j’aime bien garder tout en état d’origine. Si je rajoute un lecteur CD il sera dans la boîte à gants pour le cacher. La voiture fait un bel bruit très fort, il y a “dual exhausts,” terrible !

T’écoute quoi au volant ?

Hard rock 70’s ! AC/DC, etc. La voiture est de l’époque, ça sent bien ! Cheap Trick !

Pourquoi t’as déménage de San Francisco à Oakland ?

Je sortais avec Russell et j’ai emménagé chez lui. Nous étions en couple pendant longtemps et lors de notre séparation c’était impossible de trouver un logement à SF, trop de concurrence.

[Iwan passe en bagnole]

Il cherche toujours une place de stationnement.

Quelle est la meilleure ville du monde pour faire la fête ?

Mexico ! [ndlr : Mexico City in English] Deadly Weapons y ont joué, mais aussi la première tournée des Glamour Pussies. Le concert le plus fou que j’ai joué. J’ai toujours des cicatrices sur les bras. Tigger portait quasiment rien, elle a provoqué le public, c’était que des mecs, ils avaient de mal à l’encaisser, tous en érection, nous sommes en sous-vêtements, elle est très forte, elle a hissé un type et l’a foutu sur sol, violent ! Il est devenu énervé et ils ont commencé à lutter sur scène. Il a essayé de déchirer ses vêtements à elle. Je suis en train de jouer la batterie, je sens de l’humidité sur mon bras. Je regarde, c’est du sang qui coule partout, on a jeté des bouteilles sur nous ! Nous avons continué à jouer. Mike a hurlé “il faut arrêter MAINTENANT !” et l’ingénieur de son est venu enlever les micros, la soirée est terminée ! On aurait pensé un concert des Dwarves !

Deadly Weapons ont quoi comme disque ?

2 45-t, un album et un split 45 avec un morceau des Replacements “Don’t Ask Why”. Et c’était prévu d’être sur une compil JFA mais elle n’a jamais sortie, le morceau “We Know You Suck”, j’adore le morceau.

Parle-moi de Tina and the Total Babes.

Nous avons joué l’année passée pour la première fois, à NY. Non, d’être précis, nous avons joué une fois au début, on a engagé les Bobbyteens à l’origine pour jouer à Minneapolis, mais on a eu un problème de planning. J’ai discuté avec Travis, il a dit “faut juste rassembler un orchestre et apprendre un set de reprises”. Nous avons fait ça pour rigoler, c’est bien passé. Après, il a dit “je compose un tas de morceaux et nous allons faire un album, file-moi des paroles”. Nous avons fait l’album mais nous n’avons plus jamais joué. Puis nous avons joué à NY avec Terry des Nice Boys et Exploding Hearts, tout un orchestre super-zicos. Nous n’avons jamais joué ensemble, j’arrive à NY et dans la salle de répét il y a Josie Cotton et Nikki Corvette, et je suis censé de répéter devant elles ! J’ai pété les plombs ! Finalement nous avons bien joué sur scène, c’était AWESOME.

J’ai envie d’enregistrer un autre album. Et le mec des Yum Yums a envie de nous faire jouer en Norvège. Apparemment c’est super là-bas, une bonne scène, sans oublier les Vikings, leur groupe avec Steve Baise [ndlr : ou, en français, Mr. Fuck!] des Devil Dogs.

(Histoire des Clorox Girls, un groupe de l’Oregon…) Une fois on n’avait pas assez de pognon pour payer les groupes, on les a payés en jean ! Ça m’arrangerait, j’aurais bien être payé en fringues !

À propos les fringues, t’as lancé une boutique à Oakland qui combine brocante et coiffeur.

Oui, avec mon ami Seth de Gravy Train nous avons lancé “Down at Lulu’s” il y a un an. On y vend des fringues, des disques, des conneries. Aussi il y a des chaises de coiffure à l’arrière.

Vous vendez 60’s ?

60’s, 70’s fringues, début 80’s.

Vente sur Internet aussi, ou juste dans la boutique ?

Que sur place, nous sommes “old school”. C’est fait exprès, mais aussi question d’être faignante. J’ai beaucoup vendu à l’époque sur EBay mais j’en ai marre. Je n’ai plus la patience. J’avais un véritable sac Gucci des années 60, ça se vend cher sur EBay, finalement c’est fait volé à la boutique ! J’achète des fringues chez les gens, une fois chez une nana avec des jeans patte d’éléph, trucs Luis Vuitton, je étais franc avec elle, j’ai dit “tu peux vendre cela plus cher sur EBay”. J’ai donné mon dernier prix point barre. Et je ne vends pas cher, j’ai envie que ça tourne [ndlr : que les articles ne restent pas trop longtemps à la boutique], et j’ai un coin soldes aussi.

Des disques neufs ?

Pas beaucoup, sauf Norton, sinon, beaucoup d’occase, les groupes de punk locaux.

Est-ce que les disquaires à San Francisco arrivent à faire la concurrence à Amoeba ? Certains ont fermé.

C’est pas évident. Recycled Records est toujours là à Haight & Masonic, mais le mec est propriétaire des murs aussi. Il est là depuis la nuit de temps, rien n’a changé. En revanche, tu vas à Portland, c’est génial. Plein de disquaires, tout le monde jeune, comme nous, la vie n’y coute pas cher, facile à monter un entreprise, vendre des disques, moi ça me plairait bien, vendre de la camelote, mais je suis l’esclave de la coiffure. C’est dur, toucher les gens toute la journée. Les amis, les gens cool, les gens avec confiance en moi, c’est super, on se marre bien. Je fais mon métier depuis un bon moment, j’ai l’œil. Après, il y a les gens coincés qui arrivent, avec les cheveux jusqu’au cul, “tu peux couper juste quelques centimètres” et après en larmes “t’as trop coupé” et je dis “tu veux que j’arrête alors” ? Si je travaillerais pour qqn d’autre je pourrais l’envoyer chier. Malheureusement c’est mon propre entreprise. Aujourd’hui, tu déconnes, il y a un blog critique sur l’Internet toute suite. Je lui ai dit “c’est gratos, désolé, on a eu une rupture de communication” et pourtant la connasse s’est plainte sur l’ordinateur. Tout le monde l’a vu.

Quelle est la meilleure ville du monde pour shopping ?

Le Sud en général, surtout Memphis et environs. Les thrift stores y sont terribles. J’y suis allé pendant Goner Fest. Il y a un Amvets (Thrift Store) sur Elvis Presley Boulevard qui a la surface de 2 hypermarchés, incroyable, tu remplis ton chariot. La vie cout pas cher, c’est super. Je jouerais gratos, juste pour y aller, manger, visiter Graceland, faire la fête jusqu’à l’aube, c’est les vrais cambroussards.

Quelle est la différence principale entre les français et les américains ?

Les français sont un peu réservés, le public aux concerts est un peu plus relax. Les groupes en France sont super, et tout le monde a un super look, est très beau. Les américains viennent ici, ils ont l’air un peu rude, “fuck yeah”.

Quelques groupes à connaître à SF ?

The Flakes of course, les Traditional Fools, garage, Rock n Roll Adventure Kids, super, The Pets, meilleur groupe de SF maintenant, les Hormones, un couple français, formidable, une nana et son mec Pascal, un peu genre Gun Club/Gories.

Les salles ?

À Oakland il y a Stork Club, mais ils ont changé de programmateur, c’est moins bien. The Knockout à SF est bien. Il y a toujours El Rio.


[FR: Pierre Okley, un des rares artistes français qui travaillait dans le style “pin-up”.]

I have often wondered whether great pin-up artists existed in France. Answer: They did, but they were rare. One was Pierre-Laurent Brenot (1). There is a large-format book of his work, published by Éditions Hoëbeke. Other important references are Alain Aslan and his brother Michel Gourdon (2). Bernard Charoy’s work included cover illustrations for Paris Flirt magazine. Jean-Gabriel Domergue (3) claimed to be the inventor of the pin-up. Nowadays, and in a more contemporary style, Fred Beltran and Serge Birault are doing some fine work.

Then, at the MIAM tiki expo in 2005, I was gawking at some luscious paintings when I realized that I was standing next to their creator, Pierre Okley. (No, French artists are not all named Pierre!)

He was a charming guy with a million stories to tell. Self-taught, his first big break came in 1952 when he won a poster contest for Byrrh (a sort of flavored wine). He began signing his work “Okley” in deference to his parents (M. and Mme Gilardeau), who disapproved of his work.

He loved painting beautiful women, and found his niche. A poster for the Paris nightclub “La Nouvelle Eve” in 1956 was the turning point in his career. He continued along those lines, doing pin-up style advertising art for big clients, including le Casino de Paris and les Folies Bergère, as well as for products like soda, swimsuits and nylons, and objects like record jackets, calendars and film posters (4). This is very similar to Gil Elvgren’s career path.

Another parallel with Elvgren is Okley’s technique of taking photos and using them as references while working.

Okley also created “fine art”, which is visually comparable to his other works, but lacks the product tie-ins. His style is classic pin-up, notable for his technique and sensitivity, evolving with the times, and informed by the other artists in his field.

He does not have any retrospective book published, but it’s surely just a matter of time. Pierre Okley passed away in 2007.

(1) Brenot was born in the French town of “Loches”, slang for “tits”.
(2) Thanks to José for this tip!
(3) Thanks to Sunny for this tip!
(4) Including “Les Vierges”, a film by Jean-Pierre Mocky.


[FR : Richard Meltzer, un critique rock légendaire (selon lui).]

When people talk about “alternative” American rock ‘n’ roll writers, they invariably cite the “triumvirate”: Lester Bangs, Nick Tosches and… Richard Meltzer.

I recently finished a grueling task: reading a 600-page anthology of works by rocker number 3 on the list, entitled “A Whore Just Like the Rest.” Naturally, the back cover features glowing praise from Tosches and Bangs. I still have trouble believing that I made it through the first 250 pages, and the following 350 were nothing to write home about either.

I feel sorry for the employees who had to typeset and proofread his endless, badly-structured, run-on sentences, brimming with intentional misspellings, italics, and random noises. But the content is another story.

Meltzer started his career in the early 70’s by leveraging his college thesis, a sort of intellectualization of rock ‘n’ roll, apparently a somewhat novel approach at the time. He decided, for some reason, that the life of a “rock writer” was for him, and began spewing out articles at a remarkable rate for various undemanding publications. His style was inconsistent, or even random, as if he was trying to make his writing conspicuous by deviating from established standards (such as talking about the subject, using sentences, and seeking to effectively communicate his ideas to the reader). The reality is that his ideas were limited, and his leitmotif was, in brief, “everything is a bunch of shit, everyone (but me) is a moron.”

A perfect example is in the introduction to a chapter that takes place after he has moved to LA. He gets to write a column for the LA Reader. What does he write? As he says: “anti-LA sermons and diatribes.” True to form, all he can do is to criticize the city has moved to. He “hates everything.” Why doesn’t he move somewhere else and shut up?

His ambition to be published in the Village Voice finally made him crack. True to form, he was incredibly motivated by this opportunity, which brought him prestige and standing; however, he did nothing but talk about what a shitty newspaper it is, and what idiots all the other staff members are. When the editor told him that he was “finally ready” to be in the Voice, Meltzer depicts it as an imposition, and makes it look like his arm was twisted, when it was actually his immense ego that relished the boost of being in a “name” publication.

Ironically, this is when Meltzer’s writing gets better, or at least readable. Happily, he stops playing useless games with form and begins expressing himself in full sentences and with a richer vocabulary.

Around that time, Meltzer started Vom, a minor LA punk band. The band is not bad, but not particularly good either. I had always thought they were intentionally creating a parody of a punk band, but Meltzer makes it clear that he took it seriously. He reprints his lyrics in the book and deems them “genius”; I don’t think he is being ironic.

Meltzer seems to think that he’s another Bukowski, even talking about his “typer”. Don’t worry, I’ve read plenty of Bukowski, who often refers disparagingly to writers of Meltzer’s caliber and pretentions.

Meltzer professes to love rock n roll, but spends all his airtime putting down and denouncing it. This is in comparison to Lester Bangs, who loves rock n roll and spends his time telling you why, even when he criticizes something: Iggy, Lou, and on and on, transmitting his excitement, writing with style and passion, and engaging the reader. Meltzer has little to no respect for Bangs, repeatedly portraying him as a stupid drugged-out hick (“but my close friend”), while saying nothing about his writing style and emphasizing that “I invented dada journalism”.

Meltzer cites “my friend Nick Tosches” constantly, never criticizes him, and finally has learned nothing at all from his mentor, at least in terms of writing. Given Meltzer’s vicious criticism of the late lamented Lester, I can only imagine what he will write about Tosches once the latter is dead.

Other notable themes you will miss by not reading the book include:
“Blue Öyster Cult cheated me.”
“My friend Darby Crash.”
“I wrote for Rolling Stone but never read it.”
“Christgau and Marcus impeded my gaining wider recognition.”

We have all met this kind of person: nothing but a blowhard, talking endlessly about himself and his genius. He is sure that he possesses a unique and perfect understanding of everything, coupled with an incomparable, brilliant style that he invented. Nonsense! Don’t bother with the book, and avoid him at parties.


[FR : Pour écrire des polars authentiques, il vaut mieux être un criminel et passer des années en prison.]

I noticed a common thread in the crime fiction I enjoy: writers who actually spent time being criminals.

What’s the advantage? The books written by these ex-cons draw heavily on their life experiences to provide a realism that can’t be improvised. When I read, for example, Elmore Leonard (a writer “well-regarded for his gritty crime fiction”) there is something that does not ring true. (I have read “52 Pickup” and “Get Shorty”.) Honestly, Leonard is a dilettante compared to the career criminals listed below. His books read like fiction, or, at worst, like a TV show script.

It comes down to authenticity. A review of the film “Slumdog Millionaire” made a brilliant distinction. Rather than calling the film “authentic”, it specified that the film “gives the impression of authenticity”. This is the key. Most people who watch that film have never spent time in a Bombay shantytown; they can only interpret the film’s content in terms of their preconceptions.

The same applies to crime fiction. Like the preponderance of readers, I have never spent years in prison for a felony, yet I seek a certain sensation of veracity in the books I read, in the situations, plots, characters, language and atmosphere. I find it in these books.

I will spotlight four writers who did time as unintended preparation for their career in literature. (As an extra bonus, some of them have documented their lives with an autobiography.)

Edward Bunker
On the cover of his autobiography, he appears to be at the wheel of a 1963 Ford Falcon (just like me), so I already feel a certain closeness. Bunker spent most of his youth in jail (including San Quentin) and the rest of it committing crimes. In jail, he read voraciously (just like Malcolm X) and resolved to become a writer. He succeeded, in spades. After several failed attempts, “No Beast So Fierce” was published, launching his career. His writing style reminds me of Bukowski, crude and terse.

Iceberg Slim
A career criminal, he retired and wrote his autobiography, titled “Pimp”, followed by a bunch of novels and short stories of varying quality. All of them are filled with intense cultural tidbits. Published by Holloway House (like Goines), Slim’s books became best-sellers to a largely-black readership in the 60s.

Donald Goines
After a life of crime, he settled down to write novels. Although he has no autobiography, this article claims that “Whoreson” is semi-autobiographical. His books are fast reads, of varying quality.

Chester Himes
Less of a career criminal than the others listed here, he still spent years in the pen, and began writing while incarcerated. He stands out from Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines for his more prominent and direct criticism of racism and American society, more akin to Bunker in this way. I prefer his extremely entertaining series of novels featuring Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones. I have not read his 2 autobiographies.

Malcom Braly
Braly had spent nearly half his life incarcerated when he was released at the age of 40. He had written 3 novels while in stir. As the story goes, prison officials threatened to revoke his parole when they learned he was writing On the Yard. It’s a good read, notable in this domain for having less concentration on the violence and sickness of life in prison and more concern for the humanity and the souls of the inmates.

Some writers who did not make the short list:

I left out Jim Thompson, as he was not a major jailbird despite having served time. His boring autobiography is covered in a separate blog post.

I left out the Marquis de Sade, who, indeed, wrote a lot while in jail. He has no autobiography, but I will mention “Le Valet de Sade” (“De Sade’s Valet”) by Nikolaj Frobenius, a modern work of fiction that I enjoyed.

I left out Howard Marks, a major Welsh drug smuggler from the 70s (his autobiography “Mr. Nice” is soon to be a major motion picture), because he never wrote crime fiction.

I left out Sonny Barger (founding member of Oakland Hell’s Angels) because I haven’t read his stuff yet.

I left out Malcolm X, because he (unfortunately) never wrote crime fiction either, but “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (actually ghost-written by Alex Haley) is superb, highly recommended, and entirely comparable to some of Iceberg Slim’s best fiction.

I left out Jack Black, who (very unfortunately) did not write crime fiction. I recommend his autobiography.