Friday, 26 February 2010

Antenna - The Rockumentary

Well, I can only say that I am very excited about the prospect of this coming out later this year. When I first saw this clip, I was stunned to see, first up, the impossibly young looking (sadly now late) Andy Hyrka, on whose "Live From Studio B" cable show I played a couple of times, and who also shot an apparently lost music video for my first band. Following in quick succession are Ron Easley, Barking Dog, Ross Johnson, The Country Rockers, GG Allin, The Grifters, Barry Bob (!) articulate as ever, Greg Cartwright (I assume this is The Oblivians), and Panther Burns. Also check out a segment with Antenna bouncer Mark Kallaher, a.k.a. Angerhead, actually a really lovely guy.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Walk, don't run

Despite the fact that they were, in theory, my "golden years," there's not much I really miss about the late 1970s or early 1980s, apart from some of the music and a lot of the people, and the fact that the world was a lot more easy-going about its definition of fun, in certain respects. Here's one example which I can't imagine being allowed in 2010, more's the pity for the institutionalized of the world. If it didn't exist, you'd be hard-pressed to make it up. The Cramps, live at the Napa State Hospital, California, 1978. "We're The Cramps, and we're from New York City. And we drove 3,000 miles to play for you people. Somebody told me you people are crazy, but I'm not so sure about that. You seem to be alright." Music therapy incarnate.

Scenes from London life

No, thanks

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Speaking of Robert Palmer...

Recently I added some songs from a 1989 session by Hot Joe, at my music site. The session actually comprised 14 songs all recorded in one night at the old Easley studios on Marion in Memphis in the summer of 1989. Most of these were instrumentals, of the kind that only Hot Joe could really pull off, but I have only shared tracks on which I sang, because it seems disingenuous to do otherwise. However, the other tracks include a fine take of Linda Heck singing her song "Look Out for Love," and some blistering playing from the band, which was Jim Duckworth (guitar), Jim Spake (soprano, tenor, and baritone sax), John McClure (bass), Ross Johnson (drums), Doug Garrison (drums and percussion), and the late Robert Palmer (clarinet). Listening to these tracks again brought back memories of what an adventure it always was to play with Bob Palmer (he was always "Bob" to us). His unusual take on sound and form introduced an element of risk which kept Hot Joe from sounding too slick, but he could also be surprisingly smooth (check out the solo on my version of "Look Out for Love."). Bob introduced me to the term "skronk," which was my inspiration for the short-lived Skronkadelic project. It was also through Bob that I first learned of the Master Musicians of Jajouka, whom I finally had the pleasure of seeing last year at Ornette Coleman's Meltdown. This recording comes from a concert organized by Bob's daughter Augusta as a tribute to her dad, to benefit the Master Musicians of Jajouka, and features Robert Poss from Band of Susans, giving a personal history of guitar playing and then showing what he's really made of, which is pure awesomeness. I think a lot of bands, whether they knew it or not at the time (or since), drew inspiration from these guys, who were championed by both Bob and John Peel, of both of whose knowledge and wisdom we are now sadly deprived.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sunday morning energizer

Thanks to Bob Collum for pointing this one out. Linda Heck and The Train Wreck opened for NRBQ at The Antenna in 1987, and I think Linda still has her denim jacket which they all signed. I was a fan but had never seen them live. I remember standing out in front of the stage thinking that they were almost impossibly good. It all seemed to flow from them effortlessly, and they had tremendous energy, despite the fact that it was incredibly hot and Big Al seemed to be suffering, even with his own personal fan right next to his head. Terry Adams was all arms and legs, Tom Ardolino beat the drums mercilessly, Al and Joey were perhaps the most extreme physical mismatch in musical history, and they were nothing short of astonishing.

Friday, 19 February 2010


I never got a chance to see The Minutemen, but I did see Firehose at the legendary Antenna Club, in 1987. It's nice to revisit, through this video, the shambolic spontaneous musicality and mutual respect which seems to have characterized the whole SST band phenomenon. The Minutemen herein succeed in performing Meat Puppets material at an even lower standard than the originators, which in itself must have been a conscious affectionate tribute, perverse as that may sound in this era of over-polished, over-sentimentalized shit-schlock. I love how D. Boon remonstrates with the bouncer for manhandling an enthusiastic stage invader, having just crushed a large proportion of the audience with his not inconsiderable mass.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


I have spent a few hours digging out and converting old cassette tapes to mp3, which is proving easier and a lot more fun than I had expected. I have converted my largely dormant MySpace site to a MySpace Music site, where some of the results are now available for streaming. I have started with some unreleased Grundies tracks from the 1992 session we did at Easley - McCain studios, which yielded the single "You Look Good"/"San Antonio." The five tracks are:

Lawman (Eddie Bond, arranged by The Grundies)

Trey Harrison - guitar, vocals
Jeff Green - bass, vocals
Bob Fordyce - drums, vocals
James Enck - tenor sax, vocals

I Found My Love in Memphis (George Clappes, arranged by The Grundies)

Trey Harrison - vocals
Jeff Green - bass
Bob Fordyce - drums
James Enck - guitar

Cowboy Song (Red Harrison, The Grundies)

Trey Harrison - guitar, vocals
Jeff Green - guitar
Bob Fordyce - drums
James Enck - bass

(This song was actually written by Trey's then-toddler son, Red)

Fire in the Driveway (slow version) (The Grundies)

Trey Harrison - guitar, vocals
Jeff Green - bass, vocals
Bob Fordyce - drums
James Enck - guitar

Buddy Up (The Grundies)

Trey Harrison - guitar, vocals
Jeff Green - bass
Bob Fordyce - drums
James Enck - tenor sax, guitar

(This recording reflects the way we used to play this live - two instrumental fragments up front, followed by "Buddy Up," a song we wrote in Jeff's living room in about 20 minutes, as I recall.)

I have also added some other stuff, including the "Elephant Man" hardcore mini-opera I recorded in 1988, and the exit theme from the Roy Barnes 1993 film "Doom House," which I think was the only part of the soundtrack we recorded which ended up in the film. The players are Bob Fordyce (drums), Fields Trimble (bass), Jack Adcock (harmonica) and James Enck (guitar). I will be adding and shuffling stuff as I come across it, but I expect the Grundies material will remain.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Alex Chilton 1985

I met Alex Chilton in 1980 or thereabouts, in the home of my friend Gretchen Gassner in Memphis. We crossed paths sporadically in the years that followed, but I always thought we had a pretty good rapport, and it was always a pleasure to run into him at gigs or Piggly Wiggly, which may be the last time I saw him. I've always been perplexed when I come across someone in Memphis with nothing good to say about him (there are a few), because he was always kind and pleasant to me, and we always had interesting conversations. So as far as I am concerned, Alex Chilton is officially alright by me.

A serious can of whoopass

As if I needed to tell you, the internet is an amazing and profound serendipity machine. A couple of days ago I was friended (funny, we used to say "befriended") on Facebook by a young Memphibian named Frank Bruno, who, as it turns out, is a collector with more than a passing interest in the records put out by Style Wooten, including "I Found My Love in Memphis" by George Clappes.

Today he has kindly shared with me, and allowed me to share with you, a couple of super images. First the exalted disk itself, a copy of which lurks somewhere in my parents' closet in Memphis.

I Found My Love in Memphis

Secondly, and more interestingly, he has stumbled across an ad from a country music magazine of the time, in which Style Wooten shows us what he had to offer, including "pressing of 1000 records on 'Well Known Country Label' with 'Credit Plan' available." I wonder if they offered a layaway plan? Maybe that's where the cache of records I discovered in 1990 came from. Pure Memphis history at its best. Thanks for sharing, Frank!

Style Wooten ad

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Scenes from London life

Picadilly Circus, 1948, taken from a Viewmaster disk.

Picadilly Circus, 1948

Love Offering

Life was never really the same for me after I discovered the Meat Puppets via their now-legendary second album, later championed by Kurt Cobain in the "Nirvana Unplugged" session. There was something about the sound of that record that I found irresistible - probably the fact that it was rough and sounded like it could spin out of control at any moment, but simultaneously it contained some fascinating songs and stunning guitar work. It's one of those records that still sounds fresh when I listen to it today.

After my first exposure, I then went back to their first album, which made me even more intrigued by them. This album couldn't have been more different from its successor. The lyrics were entirely unintelligible, the recording live and low-fi, the playing and singing pretty much completely unhinged throughout. Did they intend to sound this ragged? Was it the best they could achieve under the circumstances? Did they even care?

I saw them twice at a later stage in their career (I think after the Mirage and Huevos albums), both times at The Antenna Club. They were older and tighter, but still highly erratic, launching into covers that they didn't really know how to play, and Curt Kirkwood was prone to making the odd mocking comment about his brother Cris, and refusing to play large sections of the set list which Derrick Bostrom (the only member who seemed interested in playing a structured show) called out. I loved every minute of it. It was liberating to see a band, not "taking it to the edge," but willingly throwing themselves off into the abyss, seemingly unafraid of looking or sounding stupid, but capable of immense beauty at times.

Today I stumbled across this two-part ABC profile of the band (Part 1 and Part 2), which is great, if you like them. Also of interest is this amazing archive of live bootlegs. My personal favorite is this 1983 version of "Plateau," which, though recorded in Phoenix, reminds me very much of an average night at The Antenna Club of the time - a grumpy club-owner, some audience hostility, some political incorrectness, and a heckler who (it sounds like) douses Curt Kirkwood with a drink during the song. He recovers admirably, and the band finishes triumphant. Curt: "Meat Puppets rule the universe." Cris: "We all rule the universe."

A parallel universe

Whenever I visited the old Pat's Pizza on Summer, near the equally strange and otherworldly Alamo Plaza Hotel, I had a feeling I have seldom felt anywhere else, of entering a world where time had utterly stopped, unbeknownst to everyone else. The pizza was remarkably good, as I recall, and I think I even had a steak there once, the thought of which now fills me with thoughts of imminent mortality. The jukeboxes were full of amazing records, the furniture and light fixtures the stuff of dreams, and I once remember sitting at a table next to a window with a curtain, which, when parted, revealed a dark, windowless room full of old car tires. Mr. Pat, as many have noted, including in the comments to this video, wore an obvious toupee and smoked constantly. He often placed the cigarette hand against his face, and over time the smoke had given this side of his toupee a yellow tinge. I don't think I knew until watching this film that Pat's wife was called Lois, because everyone always called her "Ms. Pat." The remarkable film is made even more extraordinary by the appearance of the late Lee Baker.

So nice

Psychedelic bossa nova

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Cooler than the average bear

I find these guys very uplifting. One of my local friends was a bass teacher to the bassist. Small world.

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Open Road London (1927)

So much is recognizable, and so much entirely transformed.