"'Certain people that are friends of mine think that me being in a band is like, "Oh, you're regressing to your adolescence, why don't you grow up?" Lester said, 'What they don't realize is that this goddamn band is the most responsibility I've ever had in my life to date!'" p 181, Let It Blurt, by Jim DeRogatis.
I swear to god I never heard Matty Quick and Birdland practicing...never. They seemed to practice in the afternoons, like 1 to 4, when I was in the Ear Inn or rehearsing myself usually over at Jesus Christ's apartment over the Emerald Pub on Spring Street, entrance on Renwick Street, a street on which I would later live, in a loft building on the living room couch of my old friend the first bartender at the Ear, the very first, and my pal, who by then had hooked up with the chick Mike Roddy had once offered me, he'd used her as a model for a piece of billboard art he'd put up in L.A., right in the middle of Hollywood, because as he said she had hypnotic lips and reminded him of the old actress Jean Harlow--and this blondie chick had just broken up with her arteest husband, one of Cristo's adorational dickboys, though hubbie was a star on his own and had shown all over Europe where she said he was famous and living in sin with a hot Japanese babe art-follower, like Yoko Ono, who I hated and used to see when she was still married to a munchies-riddled-starving-artist of no fame except he got to marry and bang young Yoko who was the daughter of a Japanese rich man who probably got his wealth from WWII and being there when Douglas McArthur put his New Japan into motion in the late forties when all our industry went over there and put that Japanese Humpty Dumpty back together again, including Bausch & Lomb and General Motors (oh, yeah, it was a General Motors dude who set up the Japanese car industry), and on and on into the complete reconstruction of Japan's industry to the point at one point their economy soared way up past ours, the German economy, too, same thing, and I'd see Yoko all over the place on the Lower East Side, with her "Smiley" stickers and her daisy stickees, her art, phony dilettante and art whore--oh how did I get started on a Yoko Ono tirade?--it is so easy to go off the deep end when you're dealing with trying to relate to the artists of your generation or the next generation, Lester Bangs's generation, a deep end that ended me up on my bartender friend and this blondie chick's living room couch for several months until I traipsed off down to Warren Street to live in a space above a fellow musicians closet--like a crawlspace--and my life began to evaporate from the world of the Ear Inn and I was literally homeless for a spell starting in 1980 when my landlord of the loft just off Spring Street on Greenwich Street that adjoined Matty Quick's apartment decided he could get more rent than I could pay so he bought me out and I was homeless.
Jim DeRogatis calls Matty's place a "loft" in his biog of Lester Bangs, but it wasn't a loft; my place was a geniune loft, a floor of an old warehouse that had been renovated into a living space, an old butter and egg warehouse; no Matty's wasn't a loft, it was an apartment, a second-floor walk up; mine was a second-floor walk up, too; my fire escape and Matty's fire escape, like I've said, were side by side and level with each other. "Fine day, Matty my man," I'd say when I'd see him coolin' out on his fire escape, "Dandy of a day," he might say, or he might say, "Fuck you, Wolf Man, fuck you and all you're kind," "No problem Mr. Zip, no problem, so how 'bout a slug of Murphy's Irish Whiskey?" "No problem, Mr. Wolf, no problem."
I'd see Matty Quick and his Birdland gang come bouncing into the Ear all hopped up and talking big shot-like all through the fall and winter of '78. Mitch and David were kind'a quite but not Matty. Sometimes Lester Bangs would be with them but most times he wasn't. "Lester likes Hell's Bells. That's where all his crowd hangs. Says the Ear's too mundane and therefore shitty," Matty told me the first time I saw them without Lester.
"Hey, man," Matty (I called him "Mateo") hollered at me one day, "we gotta a gig in Jersey tomorrow night if you wanna come I'll put you on the list--maybe Rick would give you a ride..." "Shit, Rick, that bastard, he'd charge me taxi rates...." "You're too hard on him, man." "Yeah, I know, it ain't easy keepin' juice in that Jew canoe...." "Who you callin' a Jew?" Matty quipped.
Hey, they were all Jews; most everyone of them were Jews; Jesus Christ was a Jew; Little Richie Rich was a Jew; God, like Belushi surrounded by Gays on the Flaming Queen, I was surround by Jews, Jewish musicians, Jewish record company execs, Jewish artists, Jewish intellectuals, Jewish women, and I was having affairs with three or four Jewish babes at that time; and Rick, David, Mitch, Joey Ramone, Chris Stein, Jesus they were all Jews--Jews! Let's see in my band, Twinkies was half-black--but, Jesus, I forgot, his papa, a famous jazz bass player who drank himself into oblivion, was a Jew--so, hell, even Twinkies was half-Jewish--though a Jewish father doesn't count does it--Twinkies's mother wasn't Jewish so I guess I could put him on the Gentile side, though blacks aren't Gentiles are they? Shows you how dumb I am to this religious crap; to racial crap, too; there's only one race to me: and all human beings act the same fucking ways, they're all animals, fucking animals, as Jung tried to teach us--but fuck Jung, he was a soothsayer, right, not a real scientist, which is bullshit, he was an empiricist and all empiricists are scientists, just like all musicians are scientists.
I've already said all these Jewish kids looked alike...and Robin Rothman looked like them all too--she looked like Joey Ramone in the face--it was their faces, though they were all thin as hell, too--and when Matty and them played they all did that Ramones split thing, you know, like they did these half-splits when they weren't jumpin' around all over the god-damn place.
What a time to live in New York City. The seventies were the best. Cheap rents, lofts just coming available and becoming artist havens, tons of cheap bars and cheap diners and cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurants where you could eat damn splendidly for under ten bucks. Hamburgers were like still less than two bucks; and you could get a hell of a big breakfast at the Square Diner for $3.95 and all the refill coffees you wanted. And when we really wanted to feast we went to the West Side Cafe, Mexican food cooked by a Dominican family--and oooh, for $5.00 you could get tacos, enchilladas, black beans, tortillas, and a bottle of Mexican beer (I loved Superior in those days)...and then there was the Four Roses Bar and the Canal Street Bar, both on Canal, the Four Roses down around 6th Avenue and the Canal Street Bar up the other direction just east off Broadway. At the Four Roses you could get a $1.50 cocktail and then go in the tiny restroom and do a couple'a dimes'a coke from the bathroom dealer who was always in there. I never pissed in that restroom; I mean there might be 5 cokeheads at a time in that little restroom. I remember one of the bartendresses was named Helen of Troy...Troy, New York, that is. And at the Canal Street Bar as long as you didn't mind passed-out winos laying all over the floor and falling off the stools and mumbling F-ing winospeak at you you could get a Remy Martin cognac and a baloney and Swiss cheese sandwich for $1.80--80 cents for the Remy, a buck for the sandwich. Jesus Christ and I used to faithfully visit the Canal Street Bar especially after gigs, and by the time Matty Quick and Birdland were getting gigs (Matty wasn't Birdland's first drummer I learned later) so were the Fabulous Swilltones--the fall of 78 we were playing a lot both as the Fabulous Swilltones but also as a no-name blues band, just me and Jesus and the Rye Farmer from Queens who we called Cadillac Slim because he weighed over 400 pounds, and still does--he's still a close musician friend as I type this, a man who I swear knows everything there is to know about American blues and guitars and basses, a guy who has a video of him playing Lefty Frizzell's old acoustic guitar he used on stage all of his career; which a friend of the Rye Farmer's eventually sold to good ole Merle Haggard for 200 grand and Merle supposedly played it on an album he recently made. Of all the hillbilly guys, I always couldn't keep from liking Merle Haggard, a stone pothead, by the bye, even worse than Willie Nelson--whose bus's interior is green from the pot smoke--as is Merle's Hagmobile. There's just something about Merle's love of where the music he sings came from that appeals to me--Merle comes through old Ernest Tubb, the Texas Troubadour, or Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, some of whom Merle used on his tribute to Bob Wills album--and I grew up in Dallas influenced by the same hillbillies, Western Swing it was called, and guys like Spade Cooley took it out to Hollywood and that sent old Bob Wills out to Hollywood and that's when old Merle Haggard over in Tularosa or wherever he's from got into the picture, outside Bakersfield, the Tex-Pat-Texas city sittin' on the San Andreas Fault out in the middle of one of those California nowheres, just up north up on top the mountains from where old Lester Bangs came from, California son of Dust Bowl refugee parents, his mother, I believe from New Mexico originally. I'm talkin' parallel lines again. Not parallelisms, that's linguistics and I'm so linguistically dumb--no I'm talking Debbie Harry's Euclidian use of the parallel lines--running along side by side but never connecting--and that's what this episodic unraveling is trying to show, how musicians, artists, opera singers, writers, all that creative gaggle are all on the same lines going in the same directions, headed for the same results, or headed off into a wild, gone off "orbiting like Sputnik," as Matty Quick put it. Episodes of parallels. [Like the woman trumpet player from the other coast commented yesterday or whenever in the past it was--she let loose the fact that Matty Quick's birthday was the 23rd of August, on the cusp, still a Leo, not quite a Virgin--coincident: Matty's birthday is the 23rd of August, my father's birthday was the 24th of August (my mother's birthday, too), and Lester Bangs's father was born on August 25th--and I can add now that my birthday is August 24th (same as my mother and dad's)--but the real parallel line here is that I, my father, and Lester's father were born on the same almost summer's days just a few miles from Dallas, Texas--Matty, I'm sure wasn't born in Texas; Brooklyn, Texas. Ah wilderness! Yeah?]
And I'm still praising the seventies, rolling on, and now talkin' about good times--and S-E-X. Wow. If you couldn't get laid in those days whether you were a straight dude or a gay dude, a straight chick or a Lesbian chick, there must have been something warped about you or else you were practicing abstinence. In the Ear Inn, let's see, I'm remembering, who of the Ear regular babes didn't I have affairs with, can't recall any, most of my Ear-girl affairs were one-nighters, some of them weeks at a time, but only one of them continuous, and that was my problem during the seventies, first I was married and then I was hooked up--one woman who was just over here a minute ago and is still seeing me after all those years--we hate each other now but in those days we were quite the couple, though I asked her the other day if she remembered Lester Bangs and she didn't though she certainly remembers Matty and David and Mitch and she remembers going out and hearing the Rattlers one night years after this time had passed--she hated all our bands--she was black, so, yeah, she was very efficient at the put-down of white guys playing black music, which we all were, I never denied that, nor did Matty, nor did Lester Bangs, though Lester tended to side with the white punker racists a la Detroit whiteys and then the CBGB's whiteys, like Lou Reed, the Dolls, and Blondie and the Sick Fucks and the Sex Pistols--and at our gigs, we never got any blacks..., but the seventies were great for blacks and whites gettin' together--I dated several black women and there was nothing to it and boy was New York City great in those days or have I already said that?
I could harp on how great New York City was in those days for a post or two--I mean, we'd just gotten over the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War was finally brought to a crashing halt, the hippy movement was petering out, the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground we're petering out and we thought we were headed for a liberal-progressive paradise in this country until the old-fashioned has-beeners stuck us with Ronnie Raygun, that's Ronald "McDonald" Reagan for you folks who weren't even born yet then. When Raygun was elected president by the anti-hippy-anti-peace Yahoos, 50% of the country has been Yahoos since the beginning of this farce country, all changed--but at the time I'm writing about, Raygun wasn't president yet, Jimmeh Cah-ter was president and what a flop job he did; really fucked up in our toe-to-toe with Iran back in those days--the same political numbskulls are still around today--Cheney, Rumsfeld, Roger Ailes, the right-wing-asskissing Supreme Court under William "John Bircher" Remquist, an Arizona fool molded in the image of the great right-wing trumpeter and weird-bird-Jew-boy Barry Goldwasser (Barry used to dress up in an authentic Native American costume and do war dances all around--what an asshole!)--but we ignored all of that; we did; when you were a musician hustling to play in clubs at least every night of the week if you were gonna make any kind of money without having to get a day gig--you didn't have time for politics; politicians and cops and lawmakers have always come down hard on musicians from the days of minstrelsy on down to John Lennon and recently poor old Cat Stevens who went Muslim on us and now is considered a "terrerist" by the Baby Bush Gang and not allowed in this country anymore. Funny huh? Yeah, the powers that be hate musicians--I mean, look what musicians have suffered in the history of New York City clubs--the cabaret license you had to have at one time; the law that said clubs that had bands with drums in them were considered dance clubs and therefore had to pay huge cabaret license fees and fines if they weren't complied to. That's the stupid law that put my old hangout Tramps out of business--Tramps was fined 100,000 bucks by the city of New York for not having a cabaret license--and they were the first club to pay that fine off--but it ruined them--a guy named Michael owned Tramps--and Tramps lost their Irving Place digs and moved over to West 24th and tried to become a combo-rock-and-blues club--Ray Charles played in Tramps and it cost 75 bucks to get in--and Ray packed Tramps for two straight nights--but Tramps still went out of business for good not long after that.
The eighties contained the handwriting on the wall for us--especially 1982--that's the year all the fun stopped; that's the year AIDS showed its ugly head and all our gay friends started suddenly getting sick at their stomachs and going to the emergency wards where they were told, "Sorry, Pal, you got AIDS and there's nothing we can do for you except take all your worth with experimental treatments that won't do anything anyway...." and after the AIDS hit town, that was it for free love, that was it for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll Lester Bangs-style--in fact, 1982 will be the year One Spring Morning Off Spring Street will come to an end in. The characters in this long episodal post by 1982 were scattered by the winds of change all over the place, and the Ear Inn bar and restaurant area were sold to three ex-bartenders who took it over and tried to run it in the old Ear Inn way but NOT either; I mean the new owners the new crowd--oohhh, it was too hip, neo-all-me-first-hip, you know, like wild-eyed girls from Jersey in little black dresses who talked about books after they read the NYTimes Review of Books that past Sunday, quoting full passages out of some reviewers reviews, and they knew nothing about music either except, "Ohhhh Bruce Springsteen is so cool." "Where the hell you from, baby, New Jersey?" "Yes, what's wrong with that?" "What's wrong with that? You're a Jersey girl, like Debbie Harry, you're trying to run your parallel line next to mine and it just doesn't juxtapose--in fact, it clashes--Bruce Springsteen by the way, dear, makes me puke."
But in 1978 tumbling into 1979 things were still unregulated, tied up but by desire but not laws, and yes we fought the law--and the law wasn't winning--until Lester Bangs teamed up with Matty Quick, Mitch Leigh, and David Merrill and Lester really believed in himself as a band leader-musician-singer-writer-songwriter-poet-critic.
From Jim DeRogatis's book, Let It Blurt, a few lines about Lester as an entertainer: "Though he often performed while drunk or tripping on Romilar, Lester attacked his bandmates for indulging before shows. Once he yelled at Quick for giving Leigh some speed, then turned to the drummer and asked if he could borrow a Quaalude. 'Here he was cruising one end of the ozone while I was cruising the other, and he was criticizing me,' Quick said. 'He was sort of a lonely guy, but at the time I had a good thing going with lots of young girls. Lester used to say that I was a chauvinist. "What, 'cause I'm having sex, you fucking asshole? Go get laid, Lester!" I used to give it to him pretty good. I'd be orbiting around the whole band like Sputnik, and he'd be like the planet earth.'" [page 181-182, Let It Blurt, Broadway Books, 2000.]
"Yeah, man, the gig went great over in Hoboken." "Oh, wow, Matty, Hoboken! The Redhead's maybe?" The Redhead's was a music bar that started on the Hoboken strip during the 70s; Maxwell's was over there, too. A lot of Jersey clubs were run by Mafia-types and sometimes they wouldn't pay you--with a what the hell you gonna do about it attitude, dig? Some Mafia-types if they liked your personality, fuck your band, they might help ya out--like they helped out Frankie Blue Eyes and Antonio Benedetti when they were peddlin' their wares in those olden-day Jersey nightclubs. "Where ya playin' next? Like when are you gonna be in NYC?" "I think we're gonna open for the Ramones at the Palladium." Jesus, opening for the Ramones at the Palladium and the Palladium was the big keiko-muckity-muck club in NYC in them thar days, on 14th Street, right by Luchow's Restaurant in the old Jefferson Theater--wasn't it?--my recollections are getting foggy--that's too far back for my computerless brain.
Son of a bitch, to be continued as is always being continued and I thought this would finish it, but NO--shit, like rock 'n' roll won't die neither will this--shit!
for The Daily Growler
While writing this, thegrowlingwolf was listening to an old album from his past, when he was a jerky kid piano player on the motel circuit from Midland, Texas, out to Barstow, California (can you imagine him playing jazz in a Barstow beer joint?), a great piece of American jazz performance art: JOHN HANDY Recorded Live at The Monterey Jazz Festival recorded at the Monterey Jazz Fest, September 1965, yep, the big one, with Michael White on violin, Jerry Hahn on guitar, Don Thompson on bass, Terry Clarke on drums, with the exquisite John Handy on alto--in that hippy Charles Lloyd way--God, what gorgeous music--and this CD has tacked on a never-released drivin' motherfucker recorded live at the Village Gate in 1967 with Bobby Hutcherson, Pat Martino, Albert Stinson, and Doug Sides joinin' John in a wonderful 30-minute romp through a pallette of passionate and swinging colors--oh how did we let the joy of jazz fade away and out of our lives?
Here's the original album (photo deleted). John Handy was born in Dallas, Texas--he's on one of those parallel lines the Wolf Man has been harping at for 25 episodes now.