Bogner La Grange: “A how-how-how” in a box

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 3:46 pm by George Smith

Small pleasures.

Yeah, and I do do ZZ Top. Binders Full of Women is a humorous rip of something off early LP ZZ.


The Blues Have Got Me By the Throat

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Phlogiston, Sludge in the Seventies at 12:52 pm by George Smith

Consider it a 15-minute radio show.

Photographic proof of why she lost: At home cavorting with suck-up multi-millionaire classic rock celebrities. Left to right: Jimmy Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi, HRC, Sir Paul McCartney.

Featuring the inimical Blind Poison Castorseed.


Play It Again Records closes — knew it well

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 1:42 pm by George Smith

Over 30 years ago I don’t think there was a day I wasn’t at Play It Again Records on the south side of Bethlehem.

When I was at Lehigh, it was a 5 minute walk from the chemistry building, easy to hit at lunch and the end of the day.

Play It Again was the only retail business that would carry Chainsaw fanzine, which was a diy punk rock pub put together by my ex-wife and myself. And it wouldn’t have carried Chainsaw if I hadn’t cajoled the owner, Joe Hanna, a man of open mind, into selling indie vinyl after I got tired of having to buy mail order. Plus it sold my record and our only Chainsaw cassette, “Annoy Your Neighbors With This Tape.”

A few years later, the store was also a hub for the community summer staff for WLVR, Lehigh’s college radio station.

It was a great place, indelibly part of the history, the good part, of the Lehigh Valley.

Hanna was actually the singer in a band we put together in the 80s, Senseless Hate, too. We rehearsed in the store — the original place at 333 S. New St. before it moved up the block to the place pictured. There were a few amusing if pointless shows, one song which made it to a punk rock omnibus.

From a recent Morning Call piece on the closing:

The space at 129 W. Fourth St. remained, at least Wednesday, equal parts retail store and dream dorm room. Wrestling figures, quirky posters and untold bric-a-brac share the business with rows and rows of records and CDs. The cassette stock has dwindled, but there are some of those, too, and CD-display stands.

Hanna, of Salisbury Township, will still own the building. He said he’s closing because he got an offer he couldn’t refuse from a restaurateur, John Okumus, looking to open a [pizza restaurant] there.

Hanna plans to remain open until Aug. 10, a few days before Okumus gets the key…

[When] Hanna started out, buying music to play at home was the only alternative to sitting by the radio waiting for your favorite song to come on.

“If you wanted to hear your song when you wanted to hear it, you pretty much had to buy the record,” Hanna said. “That was it.”

Buy the record. How quaint.

The business had been stable, I was informed, but the restaurant offer was a very good one. The south side of Bethlehem has been transformed. It went from a long time as a slum off Lehigh to being nice retail and entertainment real estate. Plus, 35 years is a fine run, all things considered.


Rock ‘n’ Roll

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 10:14 pm by George Smith

Dr. Feelgood live at the Kursaal in Southend, ’75. Part of a show that was shot for television, this is the best sounding and looking snip I’ve seen –a great stark and taut version of “Back in the Night” from Malpractice.

In the US, the Feelgoods were bottled by the rock critics. The most
insulting review was published in the infamous “red book” — Rolling Stone’s first album guide, featuring this nose-gold bit of descriptionr:

“Their LPs sound like sparse backing for a lead musician who never appears.”

And in a completely different vein, an old Chely Wright video hit creatively re-using the main riff from “The Joker”:

Wonder if she’s changed the lyrics? Anyway you sing it, it would still sound great.


Rock ‘n’ Roll for Friday: Overture to US of Fail

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 9:55 am by George Smith

Overture to the United States of Fail

In .wav format, so it’s a longer download than your average tune. In Cinerama.

Logo by friend and co-conspirator Shmokin’ Mark Smollin who came up with a bunch for me to look at yestiddy. Thanks!


Samuel L. Jackson Stomp

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 11:46 am by George Smith

Good news, lads! Good news! This here’s one damn fine movie.

Over the Memorial Day weekend past, DD jammed with a friend. Inevitably, “Black Cat Moan” was performed.

And that jogged the memory that your host had a recording in the can, made after the release of the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle, Black Snake Moan.

The movie so delighted I made one of the posters for it into desktop wallpaper.

The song produced was the “Samuel L. Jackson Stomp,” based to a large degree on the old Beck, Bogert & Appice version of “Black Cat Moan.”

Anyway, here it is, a rhythm & blooz rock groove.


Sludge in the Seventies: A list

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 11:08 am by George Smith

Recently, hard rock fan/colleague Chuck Eddy noted in an Internet music chat that he still had an old list of DD’s listener’s choices from 1990 or so. Which was about the time I put it together and sent it to him as a list of titles to check on for his subsequent 1991 book, Stairway to Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe.


In the acknowledgements, Chuck wrote: “[DD] mailed me an immeasurably helpful three-page shopping list of obscure metal albums recommended for inclusion, a few of which I actually tracked down (usually at Wazoo Records in Ann Arbor …); [he] also taped me a pile of good out-of-print stuff…”

Chuck’s wife scanned the old typewritten pages and he sent them over. I don’t remember what was taped. And I can just barely recall using a typewriter.

What I do still know was that these records often made up the meat of a radio show I had at Lehigh University’s WLVR called “Sludge in the Seventies.” It went into action whenever the community staff took over, always in the summer and on holidays when Lehigh students were away.

If you like lists of obscure hard rock bands, almost all failed, from the Seventies and Eighties, the artists who now make up the ground gravel on the long road of classic rock, this is one that might float your boat.

We old duffers still enthusiastically discuss the stuff at one of the links in my blogroll. As the younger fans look on in bemusement.



Raw Power: A look at now and then

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 1:57 pm by George Smith

As promised, DD picked up a copy of the Legacy Columbia reissue of Iggy & the Stooges’ Raw Power.

The attraction was new live material from a 1973 show and a restoration/revitalization of the old David Bowie mix everyone respected. But which was shelved in favor of an inferior product a few years ago thanks to the overenthusiasms of Iggy Pop.

DD ripped “Search and Destroy” from the new and old editions for examination in an audio program.

Here’s a ‘small’ snapshot of new “Search & Destroy”:

Here’s a snapshot of ‘old’ “Search & Destroy,” from the old out-of-print CD, and the first edition of Raw Power for the digital age.

Visually, there’s not a lot of difference. The Legacy edition is fit to the digital dynamic range slightly better than the old version. This makes it noticeably louder when comparing the two back-to-back, but not radically so.

It’s not brickwalled which is the practice for almost all current pop and rock releases — done to make them smash out of everything, from earbuds to home speakers. A variation on that ruined the remaster Iggy Pop did for Raw Power.

However, DD’s guessing the new edition was expanded and hard limited very slightly. This is a procedure in which the original is goosed a bit to give it a tad more zing and run up against just enough digital walling to keep dynamic peaks in bounds, but not so much that it’s noticeably squared and sawn off.

This means conservative judgment was used and it sounds very good.

But if you have the original, you can still just resort to turning it up for the same effect. (I did.) The dynamics are still all there. But there was never a lot of fine detail in the original vinyl recording, so to have kept it true to that didn’t take much effort. (The effort was in resisting the urge to ruin it. That test was failed once.)

Some notes on the bonus CD

The booklet shows a poster for the ‘Georgia Peaches’ Stooges show at Richards bar in Atlanta in 1973, near the end of the band’s run. It lists Hydra as the opening act.

Hydra was a typical southern rock band on the hard side of the genre. They were signed to Capricorn within a year.

Hydra made three albums, none of which are even remotely up to anything done by the Stooges.

At the time, they were probably deluded enough to think they were good in this context. If you listen to the recording, you’ll hear Iggy go off on some ‘little cracker boy.’ No southern rock bands delivered anywhere near the ferocity of the Stooges. There were disadvantages to growing up below the Mason-Dixon line.

At the beginning of the live material James Williamson’s guitar cuts in and out jaggedly, although he’s also in the room mix from stage volume blowing into the vocal mikes. But that’s really here nor there when it comes to Stooges live recordings. If you listen closely, at some point you’ll hear him kick in an octafuzz on one of his solos. If you’re good, you’ll hear that.

‘Georgia Peaches’ is the best live recording of Ron Asheton on bass. And there is lots of barroom piano from Scott Thurston which gives the band a somewhat different texture than on Raw Power.

For “Gimme Danger,” the piano goes away for a lot and Williamson’s guitar finally arrives in full glory. It is a great rendition. But “Search & Destroy” does not benefit from Scott Thurston’s rollicking piano.

Mix-wise Ron Asheton’s bass is in the same sonic range as Williamson’s rhythm, so they panned the latter to one side, Asheton to the other.

“I Need Somebody” is sinister, crunching and bluesy. And I won’t spoil the dirty poem that introduces it.

The crowd sounds about a dozen strong, including one girl totally infatuated with Iggy.

“Cock in My Pocket” delivers what you wanted. A good filthy song, now famous, one of the Stooges’ rampaging but more conventional numbers, worked off a classic rock n’ roll guitar figure.

“Doojiman,” a studio outtake from Raw Power is included. It features good jungle rhythms and chopping axe work by Williamson. Iggy’s vocal would have made people laugh had it been on the original album. Which was probably not the desired effect and why it was omitted.

Come to think of it, Columbia was probably appalled by “Doojiman.” As if they weren’t already unenthusiastic enough about the Stooges in ’73.

If one wonders why a fair-to-great live recording of the Stooges never aired, Iggy’s stage delivery quickly sets the listener right. It would have been unthinkable for any label to submit it to FM.


Jesus Loves the Stooges

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 9:12 am by George Smith

Today marks the ‘release’ of Columbia’s Legacy edition of Raw Power by Iggy & the Stooges.

Undated and remarkable, Raw Power marked one of the more memorable instances of my mother shrieking at me over rock ‘n’ roll in the bedroom. Mixed by David Bowie, it came out of the cheap stereo shrill, glassy and dangerous. No other band had a guitar sound like the Stooges on Raw Power. Credit it to James Williamson, who piped his axe into a Vox AC-30 .

The only photos on the album were of Williamson in front of Marshall stacks — which still throws everyone off because it’s difficult to get into the area of Raw Power tone with that rig.

Never duplicated by any other hard rock band, it’s a benchmark, belonging exclusively to the Raw Power-era Stooges.

Iggy Pop’s remaster of the album sits in my stacks. He screwed it up terribly, rendering it unlistenable if you loved the original. Done only for the sake of correcting what he idiosyncratically thought was David Bowie’s bad mix. The original CD issue was then allowed to go out of print in the US. It suffered only from not having the volume it could have had for the digital format — something that afflicted every CD from that time when passed through an analog-analog-to-digital conversion. It was a ‘fault’ remedied simply by turning up the volume on the stereo even louder. Louder, got that?

Ten years ago I wrote a long piece on Rhino Handmade’s Stooges Funhouse box for the Village Voice.

Funhouse is the record for you today if you like repetition.

In terms of career, Raw Power was the top of the mountain. What made Iggy Pop, and what still does, is “Search & Destroy,” a number that’s the apotheosis of deadly hard rock.

Here’s a reprint of the old Voice piece, originally entitled “Net-surfin’ Cheetahs with Hearts Full of Outtakes.”

My first reaction when I heard about Rhino Handmade’s seven-CD box set of the Stooges’ Complete Funhouse Sessions was that it had to be a product dreamed up by lunatics for lunatics. Take after take after mind-rotting take (19 in all!) of “Loose,” among other eternal Iggy relics, available only to a subset of obsessed Netizens with their browsers set to secure encrypted transmission and $120 in the electronic billfold.

But after more examination, it appeared such a well-developed travesty, I had to laugh in appreciation! After all, this is the same Iggy Pop who says in the liner notes to the remastered Raw Power—in the part entitled “Stooges in the Funhouse”—that his band’s real 1970 audience was “high-school drop-outs, troubled drug kids.” A “constituency” —such an elegant weasel word for “penniless losers”—Elektra Records couldn’t and didn’t want to market to.

Yep, there’s an annoying poetry in the high-grade-steel fact that the Stooges could travel in the space of three decades from music for bottom-out-of-sighters —motorcycle gangsters, their floozies, and lovers of skank weed and roller derby, an audience of such presumed shallow pocket that advertisers ignored them — to an item at the pinnacle of weird-computer-snob-driven e-commerce: a domain reserved for those who dump hundreds of dollars a week on the Internet, and a creature never imagined on the broken-glass-littered stages of Michigan or in the dark of Don Galluci’s California studio.

Part of the credit, I reckon, must go to Rock Critic Received Wisdoms 101. It’s gotten so it is almost impossible to turn around without reading how some band of people not alive in 1970 have made a record that sounds like the Stooges. If it sounds like bad altie hard rock that you should buy anyway because bad altie hard rock is better than whoever is the current favorite critics’ scapegoat, it will be claimed to sound like the Stooges. And if it doesn’t sound like anything, if it is so glum and nondescript that all that can be determined from it is that people are playing guitars, beating a drum, and shouting loudly, it will be said — by some fanzine editor or David Fricke, somewhere, indeed, many times — to sound like the Stooges.

Pure gold: This is the kind of indirect, relentless hagiography that no amount of cash money can buy. And since it appears, to me, anyway, to have been going on more or less for at least a decade, it has generated a kind of kook Stooges fetish, one visible symptom of which is the Funhouse Sessions.

Stooges kooks, presumably those at which this box set is aimed, seem to have some parallel characteristics with the woozy fans of Star Trek,who can often be found at conventions paying stupid sums of money for trash: crumpled scripts or prosaic items supposedly clutched at one time or another by their heroes.

The Stooges lasted three albums, the third of which was almost accidental. The original Trek lasted three seasons, the third of which occurred only after fans conducted a campaign to admonish the network for canceling it after two. Most of the Stooges went nowhere after the end, until VH-1 dug a couple of them up as elder statesmen last year. Most of the original Trek actors went nowhere until conventioneering and movies rescued them a couple decades later. Bill Shatner wore a Nazi uniform in “Patterns of Force”; Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton wore a Nazi uniform. Shatner made TJ Hooker; Iggy, at times, seems to have made as many unlistenable albums as there are unwatchable episodes of TJ Hooker. Trek was kept alive by a media mania that gathered steam in fringe sci-fi magazines, where Gene Roddenberry was given God-like status. From the standpoint of rock journalism, Stooge devotion is functionally indistinguishable.

It only stands to reason, then, that Stooges worship will mirror some of the weirder excrescences seen in the Star Trek universe. To wit:

Like the production of Star Trek genre science fiction novels in which the same Trek plots are recycled again and again, with only the book covers, names of characters, times, and places subject to change, the endless recycling of wretched Stooges demo tapes released as historical CDs will continue and perhaps even accelerate. Some possible titles: Iggy’s Piles Opened Up and Bled for You, Pumping for Jim,and The Ignoble Prizes: Achtung mit Asheton,the latter of which Iggy could claim is a tape of the concert at The Joint in the Woods, where he goaded Ron Asheton into dressing in full SS regalia and introduced the show in Deutsch. (See Iggy’s bio I Need More for the provenance.)

Star Trek has “KS” literature — samizdat fiction about forbidden love between Kirk and Spock. Stooges worship will spawn “Jim Bowie” Net fiction, centering on imagined romantic relationships between Iggy and David Bowie.

Inevitably, Stooges conventions will appear. Horrified by his experience with dotcom stalker nerds who bought The Complete Funhouse Sessionsat an early assembly, Jim Osterberg will write another book, published only in Europe, entitled I Am Not Iggy. As the conventions gather interest, old Stooges, A&R types, engineers, and hangers-on associated with the Stooges will realize there is money to be made in speaking at such affairs. James Williamson will be the first to capitalize, giving a $5000 lecture about how his hand was broken in a fight with a roadie for Alice Cooper and what it meant for his professional career. Scott Thurston will speak about how he’s tired of being ragged on by nincompoop Tom Petty fans for being an ex-Stooge. Eventually, Iggy will recant his previous book, and receive a handsome publishing contract for two more: tentatively entitled Stooges Memories and I AM Still Iggy.

In 2050, a rock documentary will be made for the independent-film circuit. Entitled Jesus Loves the Stooges, it will be a history of the band framed around the recent discovery in a desert shack in Arizona of about 12 unlabeled tapes of undocumented Stooges rehearsal material of good quality. The documentary will show various rock critics, archivists, academicians, and label execs arguing acrimoniously about the nature of the tapes and expounding theories about how the sessions could have escaped scrutiny for so long. Carbon dating will indicate the tapes were created in the ’70s. At the end of the film, the tapes will turn out to be the work of Josefus, an obscure Stooges-like Texas band that never made it out of Houston in 1970 — part of an elaborate hoax conceived by a sophisticated con man who accepted a $300,000 check from a record company for them, and subsequently fled the country.

An anonymous seller on a Net auction site will receive a $40,000 bid for the reputed SS colonel’s uniform worn by Ron Asheton at The Joint in the Woods. Three weeks later, another anonymous seller will post a message saying the first uniform was a fake, and that he has the real one. . . .

As for Stooges bootlegs, my titles had a better sense of humor:

More Power, You Don’t Want My Name … You Want My Action, Heavy Liquid, Live in Detroit, Telluric Chaos, etc.



Survived the Road to Ruin

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 4:26 pm by George Smith

Cherie Currie’s “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway” is a series of close escapes.

I remember it as an autobiography aimed at teenagers, originally published in 1989. Back then, it was also a string of short-of-death misadventures, collisions with drugs, alcohol and unpleasant sex without a suitable ending.

As the basis for the indie movie, “The Runaways,” it’s received a radical face-lift, one without which the movie would have probably been either undoable or unwatchable.

Currie was a striking young girl when she was picked by manager Kim Fowley to front the Runaways. And the best parts of this life story have to do with her time in the band and its successes rather than failures.

The book also serves as something of a cathartic score settler. A lot of people get theirs.

And that’s the good thing about being given the opportunity to write. The long arm of the word can reach out and collar those who may have thought they were beyond a good rattling.

There’s Runaways guitarist Lita Ford, portrayed as a humorless ranting bully, ever more angry at the difference between her looks and Currie’s, the latter always getting the lion’s share of the photography. There’s an awkward moment where Currie attributes this to Ford’s love of cheeseburgers and beer while on the road.

Best seat in the house?

A lot didn’t make it to the movie.

There are two totally skin-crawling episodes of violence and rape and one slimy adventure in which Currie is inveigled into going back to an English pop star’s apartment by manager Fowley after an important gig.

It’s a jump-on-the-grenade-for-the-team moment and readers can guess what’s involved. It’s white satin sheets and that time of the month and if you have the book, you’ll feel uncomfortable and splashed with a bit of collateral filth. No punches are pulled in this one.

The pop star in question sounds suspiciously like Cliff Richard, who had the hit “Devil Woman” in the US in ’76 which puts things in the right time frame, although I may be guessing wrong.

Returning to Fowley, he’s again the villain set in cartoonishly bad incident after incident, with one chapter devoted to a sex education tutorial for the band, conducted in a seedy motel room.

This part contains the most arresting if vulgar line in the book:

He looked like he was trying to crawl right up inside of her.

Now you don’t see that everyday in something from HarperCollins.

Remember what I said about much of the book not being doable in the movie? And many reviewers commented on the daring kiss scene between Currie and Jett in the film — something not in this book.

While not elegant in the slightest, a literary cup of tea, or even among the best biographies in the world, it’s a vivid, entertaining and brutally honest read. One imagines that consultations, careful wording and much negotiation have made it almost lawsuit proof. Plus it has a happy ending: Currie has a new lease on life and the opportunity to build on whatever the book and movie may send her way, something that just wasn’t there when the first edition was published.

Until Joan Jett does the same, this is the you-are-there history of the Runaways in print.

Currie will be at Vroman’s in Pasadena tomorrow, Perhaps more on it over the weekend.

As for the soundtrack CD to The Runaways, it’s a good introductory to the band for complete novices, an idealized musical anthology. Four Runaways tunes out of seven were redone for the movie.

Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart sub vocals for Currie and Joan Jett on “Cherry Bomb,” “California Paradise,” “Queens of Noise” and “Dead End Justice.” The songs don’t suffer for it. Inspirational singing was never part of the appeal of the Runaways.

In “Neon Angel,” Currie said Fowley put it this way while in session for the debut LP:

Don’t think that because we’re in the studio you have to start trying to sing in tune or anything … This isn’t high art. You aren’t a fucking opera singer or some dog shit like that.

The songs only needed to project “rock and roll authority.” And they did.

Still do. “Dead End Justice,” in particular, sounds even more slamming done in 2010. It’s a killing riff. If you don’t hear it, you’re not much for raw rock ‘n’ roll.

One of those homemade fan videos with the CD cut glued on to a couple photos is here on YouTube. It probably won’t last long.

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