Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One Spring Morning Off Spring Street #20

"The point is that rock 'n' roll, as I see it, is the ultimate populist art form, democracy in action, because it's true: anybody can do it. Learn three chords on a guitar and you've got it. Don't worry whether you can 'sing' or not. Can Neil Young 'sing'? Lou Reed? Bob Dylan? ... For performing rock 'n' roll, or punk rock, or call it any damn thing you please, there's only one thing you need: NERVE. Rock 'n' roll is an attitude .... Rock is for everybody, it should be so implicitly anti-elitist that the question of whether somebody's qualified to perform it should never even arise."

OK, I'll admit it, I was totally, vehemently against punk rock, glam rock, noise rock, rock 'n' roll for everybody, for any fool who could pick up a guitar and start strumming nondirectionally wildly and with his or her stacks and stacks of Marshall (Brit) amps to the ceilings of these dumps--why when the Ramones played CBGB's in the early seventies they were surrounded by walls of Marshall amps and in that tight little dump of a hellhole. Who could tell how much music these goony dudes knew; spoiled white brats, most of them I had contact with; no, I didn't think of myself as a spoiled white brat--my brother wasn't Joey Ramone; my friends weren't the sons of very successful opera singers; but then, hell, my friends were spoiled brats, too; middle-class whiteys mostly. Oh my friends were certainly more advanced in their music than any of these off-the-wall punkers, though NOW, now that I'm going back and reliving these hours and hours and days and days and months and months but only a few short years, I see what it was and understand it what they were tryin' to do--punkers were the new generation of antiauthoritarians same as my generation's characters, the Forgotten Generation, were the new generation of antiauthoritarians after the Beatniks had started nonconformity and made it a cool way of life, and a lot of us were rebels without causes but the real world kind unlike the Hollywood version of Rebel Without a Cause, which by the bye was a damn fine book by a damn fine psychiatrist of my generation's day, Robert Lindner, who said once, “It is a characteristic of all movements and crusades that the psychopathic element rises to the top," and that certainly was true of the rock music world back then--and the punks especially--yes, they were all spoiled brats and as such, yes, they were rebels without causes (politics didn't seem to phase them much; they hated hippies and peaceniks except Woodstock was important to them--and after Woodstock was when punk rock and glitter rock and the NY Dolls came on the scene and, yes, the psychopathic element was rising to the top of rock--the NERVE of them--ugh, though the problem is, psychopaths have causes so these rebels needed to find their causes--R.D. Laing said you had to take these people back into the forest from which they emerged to face a treeless world--no place to hide except in their subconsciousness--repression leading to expression and that's where we let our causes spill out, in our music, in our lyrics, and I say "our" because we were all in the same boat no matter the genre of music, writing, or art we were promoting, and life is a constant self-promotion if you want to be a STAR type. [Robert Lindner also wrote another great book, The Fifty-Minute Hour--wonderful stuff; the Oliver Sachs of my forgotten generation.]

From the movie Rebel Without a Cause I fell in mad Hollywood-fantasy love with Natalie Wood--the actress playing the original study in the Lindner book--and to love Natalie Wood, you had to don solid black leather: leather pants if you could stand them, motorcycle jacket, and motorcycle boots--the right kind, with the brass ring sewn into the inside sides of those boots, where they rode up against the tailpipe of the cycles in those days, the hotter than flaming hell tailpipe that ran just inside your feet on both sides of the motor could burn through leather. But I hated motorcycles. I was on one once, with the anarchist and nutjob chicken-farmer's son, Pedro Parker, on his beauty of an Indian when they were still making Indians in the good ole USA and F Harley hogs, Indians were slick like braves and warriors and chiefs--and I climbed on the back of Pedro Parker's Indian back in 19 and 60 something and I was brave as hell because Pedro Parker without a doubt was a psycho-early-hippy-nutjob, a Beatnik believer who also played the bongos loudly and badly and loved motorcycles and believed they should only be driven at their highest speeds no matter the road or sidewalk Pedro felt like wheeling down and also at the riskiest in terms of sharp turns and popping wheelies and shit, which old Pedro did 'em all that day, outeviling Evel Knievel, so when that ride was over and I was off that god-damn machine beast, that was it for me and motorcycles--I've not been on another one since--just like I've never been kayaking in the Hudson River either like a good friend of mine did every day of his life rain, shine, storm or drang; that was his out-of-body experience, he said, and he faithfully kayaked out into the Hudson every early morning or sometimes he'd wait until late afternoon and sometimes he be out there after midnight, kayaking down the Hudson and out into the wilds of New York City Harbor, kayaking out and around the Statue of Liberty and then back up to the pier that Spring Street ran into at the Westside Highway (the old Robert Moses eyesore that was still up and functioning when I moved into that area in the spring of '77). The Kayaker offered to take me out several times and one time one of the bimbo-blonde girls we all had spry old times with, a fiesty girl from Cleveland who was really not a bimbo but a painter of miniatures, though she was a blonde and she acted like a bimbo, especially when she was drunk and vulnerable, so this blonde "bimbo" went out with the Kayaker one afternoon and she was drunk and stoned and high as several Jawgah pines and they were gone maybe 20 minutes when we looked up and saw the Kayaker coming back up Spring toward the Ear Inn with the blonde over his shoulder, passed out, and when we took her and sat her down in the Ear and slapped her back into reality, she started babbling about how she truly believed she had drowned during the kayak trip. It took us an hour and several cups of black coffee to finally pull her out of that imaginary water and convince her she hadn't drowned. "Oh good," she said, on realizing she was back to "normal" again, "now could I have a drink so I can start living again?--drowning is like putting too much water in your Jack Daniels--it's death by dilution."

Death by dilution. I liked that. Maybe I could work that into my suddenly having to go back and appreciate or criticize this punk rock, this Iggy Pop, this Motley Crue, this Detroit-source of true New Wave it was called, MC5, Ted Nugent, and I was on Spring Street the year Iggy Pop came to New York, after the Dolls, after the Velvet Underground, and while Richard Hell and the Voidoids were around, the Sex Pistols were reaming each other in London getting ready to "cum" to America to find instant stardom, and Blondie was the head attraction at CBGB's, taking over CBGB's from the Ramones, Television, all those bands that Hilly Michaels, that was the old reprobate's name, a cool old music-freak really, liked and allowed to play at CBGB's. And all these bands were looking for instant stardom; they were. Their spoiled brat existences and their spoiled brat ideals demanded INSTANT action, INSTANT success, INSTANT songs, INSTANT recordings, INSTANT music, INSTANT record contract, INSTANT stardom.

And really there was no such thing as INSTANT anything--the worst coffee ever invented by human-animal hybrids was instant coffee. The worst instant coffee I ever had was D'Agostina's, the NYC grocery store chain--they're long gone from the scene, brand of instant coffee (it orginally was called "powdered" coffee)--God it was awful; like drinking diluted mud. Rumor had it that over in the big coffee mills in New Jersey, Savarin was right over the Hudson from the Manhattan Westside and the old Maxwell House plant was once directly across from where we were on Spring Street, when they scraped out the burnt beans from bottoms of the big roasters as they cleaned the roasters down before the next roasting they ground them up and packaged them as "instant coffee" under the D'Agostina brand.

None of those early rock bands had instant success. Some of them were publicized enough, like Elvis, that they certainly got tons of attention but even Elvis wasn't an INSTANT success--young dudes like him spent many years in-training at local dances, auditorium shows out in the sticks of Texas and Louisiana, like the Louisiana Hayride and shows like that gave new talent a chance to catch on with crowds, and this was especially true with the early blues-oriented rockers, like Elvis was when he started; Elvis's early stage shows were one blues right after another, done Elvis's own way until Colonel "the Commercializer" Parker got hold of him and said, "Elvis, sonny boy, I'm gonna make a white N-worder out of you, boy; I'm gonna have ever 12 and 13 year-old-girls's panties sopping wet for you, boy, 'fore it's over; I mean, hoo-boy, it's so them little virgin gals don't have to slobber over them big-dick N-worder boys like that Lil' Richard or Chuck Berry or Ike Turner--why them's jist N-worder-boys and there ain't no white, good Christian parents gonna allow their little 12 and 13-year-old daughters to start dancing and actin' like N-worder girls, shakin' their nasty little booties all high up in the air--that's why you gotta stop shakin' yore ass like one them big buck N-worders, like that Howlin' ever seen that crazy M-F-er?" Hell yes Elvis had seen the Howlin' Wolf. Bobby Bland, too. And B.B. King was in Memphis then; shit Memphis is where it was happening in rock and roll, blues, and even in jazz--Phineas Newborn was playing the piano in his parlor and you could hear him playing jazz all up and down the street he lived on in Memphis--and Elvis being a privileged little white boy--I know, I did the same thing--could walk on down Beale Street as a white kid and he could stand around those Beale Street clubs and though he wasn't allowed inside, he could dig 'em from outside and then start meetin' some of the guys on the street or back in the alley, hanging with them, showing appreciation for their music--hell yeah, Elvis knew who Howlin' Wolf was, Jimmy Reed was, Big Bill Broonzy was, Arthur "Big Boy"Crudup, J.B. Lenoir...and oh when I remember J.B. Lenoir--oh what a wonderful music-blues-inventer J.B. was, "Daddy you got a son just crazy 'bout the way he do" and from J.B. we got "The Voodoo Boogie" and shit that was wonderful music and Elvis heard all that music and the music coming out of New Orleans, too. And, hell yeah, you dig deep enough into these punkers and new waver's backgrounds and you're gonna find an appreciation for the music I'm talkin' about. Jesus Christ my guitar-playing friend grew up with all these Brooklyn and Queens and Bronx mostly Jewish boyz, like Matty Quick, Chris Stein, Matty's pal Rick, and a dude famous around town who I was in a band with, a wild-ass blues guitar-player, and these dudes all acted alike and they had friends called "Maxey" or "Slick" or "Izzy" and these guys knew every lyric and every arrangement of every rock and roll tune ever and all the blues records ever and these guys all wondered at Chuck Berry's fabulous way of playing a guitar or they recognized the tight unity of Muddy Waters's bands, how a band didn't have to depend on virtuosic instrument playing to move an audience, just jump it hard, just keep the god-damn feet pattin' and the ladies's hips shakin' and their shoulders slumpin' and gettin' ready for the jerk, and the watusi, and then the twist came along and with the twist disco. Even Blondie made a disco hit, "Heart of Glass"--but then I am dumb to Blondie, even though like I've been rambling on about, I was in the midst of Blondie and I went with Jesus Christ one afternoon to Chrysalis Records with a demo tape he'd first delivered over to Chris and Debbie's pad on the Bowery, over there somewhere, and Chris, who may not have listened to it or not, told Jesus to take it over to Chrysalis and see Marty or Maxy another Jewish kid from Brooklyn, I assumed, and I went with J.C. over there and they took his tape and he never heard from them again; never saw the tape again either.

for The Daily Growler

Chris Stein as a serious kid.
Dick Hell and the Voids. It's CBGB's time.
Joey's girl; yep, that's Robin Rothman--at CBGB's? Looks like it. Dear Robin.

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