Category: 70’s punk

The Heartbreakers “Chinese Rocks/Born to Lose”…

The Heartbreakers “Chinese Rocks/Born to Lose” 1977. 12″ single, UK release. Today, July 15th, is Heartbreakers (and New York Dolls) singer, guitarist, songwriter Johnny Thunders’ birthday (b. John Genzale 1952, d. 1991). Last year we bought this original photo of Thunders by Milwaukee photographer Stanley Ryan Jones at his “The God-Almighty Stanley Ryan Jones $ell$ Out” retrospective. 

Jones was one of the few photographers documenting the punk and new wave scene in Milwaukee in the 70′s and 80′s. Sadly most of his work was destroyed in a fire. When we got the photograph of Johnny Thunders signed, we asked Jones to tell us a bit about the picture. It was a show at The Starship (I think, or it was The Palms) and clearly Thunders was stoned out of his mind, about to smoke his cigarette wrong-way-around. Thunders was also not happy about getting his picture taken and was a real asshole about it. What I love about this photo is that his expression – dark circles under eyes and cheeks – clearly tells you everything about Thunders’ mindset (or lack thereof) and health but also you can feel and even smell the “artist lounge” at the club: the gross 70′s plaid couch that reeks of stale smoke through the glossy paper.

Chinese Rocks” and “Born to Lose” are two of my favorite Heartbreakers songs. Both tracks appeared on their only LP L.A.M.F.  “Born to Lose” is by Thunders but “Chinese Rocks” was written by Richard Hell and the Ramones’ Dee Dee Ramone (though there is some dispute about Hell’s contribution to the track; Dee Dee probably is responsible for most, if not all, of the song). 

Dead Boys “Sonic Reducer” 1977, 12″ single. To…

Dead Boys “Sonic Reducer” 1977, 12″ single. Today, June 4th, is the anniversary of Dead Boys singer Stiv Bators’ death (b. Steven Bator, 1949), killed after getting hit by a car in Paris in 1980. (His ashes were scattered over Jim Morrison’s grave.) “Sonic Reducer” is one of the best early punk anthems ever. First written by Cheetah Chrome and David Thomas while they were in Rocket From the Tombs around ‘74-’75, Dead Boys reworked the track – with some lyrical change by Bators – and included it on their amazing debut Young, Loud and Snotty. The B-side of this 12″ has the cover “Little Girl,” performed live, originally by Syndicate of Sound (garagey psychedelic rock) from 1966 as well as “Down in Flames” written by Stiv Bators and Cheetah Chrome that also appears on Young, Loud and Snotty

Chelsea “No Escape” 1980. Released as Alternat…

Chelsea “No Escape” 1980. Released as Alternative Hits in the UK, No Escape is a comp of early punk singles dating from ‘77 through ‘80 (plus the track “Come On”). Chelsea may be best known for initial line-up’s sowing the seeds of Generation X and providing William Broad aka Billy Idol his first band (he played guitar for the first iteration of Chelsea, leaving in ‘76 along with Tony James and John Towe who were also in London SS with The Clash’s Mick Jones). They don’t play on this album – in fact keeping track of the various members in the late 70′s and 80′s is pretty much impossible (even Sting was in Chelsea at one point!); singer/frontman Gene October has been the only member to remain throughout the 40+ years of the band’s career. That said, the songs on No Escape are consistently punked-up pub rock: proudly loud and working class with oi attitude. Tracks like “Urban Kids” and “Right to Work” give a unflinchingly stark view of the struggles of British youth during the age of British conservatism and Margaret Thatcher. It’s not sophisticated or particularly innovative – think more Ramones simplicity than Clash creativity. No Escape is a good snapshot into early populist punk.

The Damned “Music for Pleasure” 1977, Stiff Re…

The Damned “Music for Pleasure” 1977, Stiff Records. Today, April 24th, is Damned bassist (on this record) Captain Sensible’s 65th birthday (b. Raymond Burns, 1954). Music for Pleasure is the band’s second studio LP, released the same year as their amazing debut Damned Damned Damned. Unfortunately it suffered the typical sophomore slump and was generally critically and commercially panned, failing to break the the top 100 on the UK album charts and resulted in them being dropped by Stiff and briefly breaking up. The Damned also never performed tracks from Music for Pleasure in concert after the album’s initial promotion. It’s really not that bad but it’s also not particularly noteworthy. It is pretty low-key punk, basically mildly energetic pub rock with notes of the darker goth to come (like “Your Eyes”) but overall it does lack the punk urgency of their debut (with some exceptions like the excellent “Creep (You Can’t Fool Me)”) – which of course leads to the inevitable negative comparisons. Part of the problem was likely the response by original Damned fans, punks who liked the stripped-down, fuck-you sound which is missing because of, quite frankly, more sophisticated production (via producer Nick Mason of Pink Floyd). While saxophone certainly wasn’t absent in the early punk UK scene (ie Lora Logic of X-Ray Spex), the appearance of it here, on the track “You Know” (performed by free jazz/bebop saxophonist Lol Coxhill) may have been a bit bizarre at the time.   

I only have one Captain Sensible story which I’ve written about before but in case you missed it, here it is: We went to The Damned show at The Rave in Milwaukee in either ‘98 or ‘99. Captain Sensible was walking around the venue pre-performance so we decided to talk to him, but Joe didn’t want to have a typical fan-musician encounter so instead opted to ask how tall he was (both men are on the tall side). A bit taken aback, Captain Sensible said “Blimey!” and having no idea who was taller, they stood back-to-back. It was Captain Sensible, by a bit. BLIMEY!

The Lurkers “Fulham Fallout” 1978. Beggars Ban…

The Lurkers “Fulham Fallout” 1978. Beggars Banquet Records. Fulham Fallout is classic 70′s punk, the debut album from English rockers The Lurkers (who have been dubbed, mostly accurately, “The British Ramones”) and it hit #57 on the UK album charts. It’s such great British punk! Snotty, upbeat, punchy, catchy, full of 3-chord hooks, and, like The Ramones, simple, straightforward rock-n-roll: no pretension, no politics. Also like The Ramones, the songs do start to kind of sound alike after awhile, though The Lurkers mix things up occasionally with the inclusion of the harmonica and glockenspiel (not instruments known for their prevalence in the punk canon) and a cover of Phil Spector’s and The Crystals’ 1963 “Then He Kissed Me,” though The Lurkers cheekily rename it “Then I Kicked Her” and speed it up, a lot. My favorite tracks on Fulham Fallout are “I Don’t Need to Tell Her,” “Shadow” (that single released in 1977 was Beggars Banquet first ever release and influential John Peel named it his #11 song of ‘77) the hyper-beat and aptly titled “Go, Go, Go,” “Self Destruct” (“self-destruct! gonna get fucked!”) and the album closer “Be My Prisoner” that’s intro’d with a great drum solo. They only slow down a little, once, on “Gerald” (this one has the aforementioned harmonica) and it’s probably the most complex songs on the album but also my least favorite.

Dead Boys “Night of the Living Dead Boys” 1981…

Dead Boys “Night of the Living Dead Boys” 1981, recorded in 1979 at CBGB. Bomp! Records. Today, February 18th, is Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome’s birthday (b. Eugene Richard O’Connor, 1955). Classic, early American punk, this LP features live renditions of Dead Boys songs from their classic debut album Young Loud and Snotty like “All This and More,” “Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth,” “What Love Is,” “Ain’t Nothin’ to Do,” “I Need Lunch” and the punk classic “Sonic Reducer.” From their second – and final – studio album We Have Come for Your Children included on Night of the Living Dead Boys are “3rd Generation Nation,” the cover of Rolling Stones’ “Tell Me,” “Catholic Boy,” “I Won’t Look Back,” “Ain’t it Fun” and “Son of Sam.” Also appearing is one song that does not appear on either of their albums, the lead track “Detention Home.” I don’t generally have high expectations of most live albums, especially ones from the 70′s at crappy punk bars. Night of the Living Dead Boys is surprisingly high quality for its time and venue with Stiv Bators’ dark slinky style easily shimmering through, Cheetah Chrome’s and Jimmy Zero’s guitars appropriately either murky or cutting depending on the song but always loud and the rhythm section of Johnny Blitz on drums and Jeff Magnum on bass driving (also loud!).   

Also: anytime I ever write about Dead Boys, I have to post about the time that Cheetah and Johnny went on the Young Loud and Snotty 40th anniversary tour and we got to meet them (and get our album signed) at our favorite local record shop before the concert. Here’s me and the guys in 2017.

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Richard Hell + The Voidoids (Part III) “Don’t …

Richard Hell + The Voidoids (Part III) “Don’t Die” and “Time” b/w The Neon Boys “That’s All I Know (Right Now)” and “Love Comes in Spurts.” 1980. Shake Records. “Time” appears on Hell’s 1982 LP Destiny Street and has a great guitar solo by Robert Quine, though the version on this 7″ is much less produced than the one on the LP with a more jangly-guitar sound. “Don’t Die” is messy and feels unresolved, like it’s missing something. The track does not appear on any albums except for a 2002 retrospective comp. 

The Neon Boys tracks are from much earlier, back when Tom Verlaine and Hell were still together (along with drummer Billy Ficca) but before Television formed (adding Richard Lloyd on guitar into the mix). The classic early punk track “Love Comes in Spurts” was recorded by the Neon Boys in ‘73 (probably “That’s All I Know (Right Now)” was as well). The tracks are raucous and raw, more garage rock than punk but with a definite snotty attitude. It’s especially interesting to hear the earliest version of “Love Hurts” – the guitar and brightness have a more 60′s psychedelic flavor than the more well-known later version of the song that appears on Blank Generation

Buzzcocks “Love Bites” 1978. As the punk/power…

Buzzcocks “Love Bites” 1978. As the punk/power pop world knows, Buzzcocks’ vocalist and lead guitarist Pete Shelley died last week on December 6th. Love Bites was Buzzcocks’ second studio LP and the first to feature Shelley as lead vocalist after co-founder Howard Devoto’s departure from the band. The album, which reached #13 on the UK charts, also has several of my favorite Buzzcocks tracks, including “Ever Fallen in Love” (#12 on the UK singles chart and ranked the #1 single in ‘78 by  NME), the propulsive “Operators Manual,” the punky “Just Lust,” “Sixteen Again,” the soaring, anthemic “Walking Distance,” the lovelorn (yet still upbeat!) “Nothing Left,” and the epic instrumental “Late for the Train.” Shelley wrote all of those, with the exception of “Walking Distance” which was written by bassist Steve Garvey; also “Late for the Train” is credited to all the members of Buzzcocks). 

Allmusic says about Love Bites, “More musically accomplished, more obsessively self-questioning, and with equally energetic yet sometimes gloomy performances, Love Bites finds the Buzzcocks coming into their own. With Devoto and his influence now fully worked out of the band’s system, Shelley is the clearly predominant voice, with the exception of Diggle’s first lead vocal on an album track, the semi-acoustic, perversely sprightly “Love is Lies.” Though the song received even further acclaim on Singles Going Steady, “Ever Fallen in Love,” for many the band’s signature song, appears here. With its note-perfect blend of romance gone wrong, a weirdly catchy, treated lead guitar line, and Shelley’s wounded singing deserves its instant classic status, but it’s only one of many highlights. The opening “Real World” is one of the band’s strongest: a chunky, forceful yet crisp band performance leads into a strong Shelley lyric about unrequited love and life. “Nostalgia”’s strikingly mature, inventive lyrics about where one’s life can lead, and the sometimes charging, sometimes quietly tense, heartbroken “Nothing Left” are two other standouts. The group’s well-seasoned abilities, the members’ increasing reach and Martin Rushent’s excellent production make Love Bites shine. The Garvey/Maher rhythm section is especially fine; Maher’s fills and similar small but significant touches take the music to an even higher level. His undisputed highlight is the terribly underrated concluding instrumental “Late for the Train.” Originally done for a John Peel radio session and rerecorded with even more a dramatic sweep here, it gives the group’s motorik/Krautrock new power. Not far behind it is “E.S.P.,” a strong rock burn that only fades out at the end very slowly and subtly.”

We had the opportunity to see Buzzcocks play live almost 20 years ago when I was writing concert reviews for Milwaukee’s local paper Shepherd Express. They were touring for the album Modern and we caught them at The Rave in November ‘99. I remember them rocking hard and Shelley’s distinctively snotty vocals still having their cutting, wry humorous edge. He will truly be missed by the music world. 

Dead Boys “We Have Come For Your Children” 197…

Dead Boys “We Have Come For Your Children” 1978. Today, October 22nd, would have been Dead Boys singer Stiv Bator’s 69th birthday (b. Steven John Bator 1949, d. 1990 after being hit by a car in Paris, his ashes purportedly scattered on Jim Morrison’s grave). We Have Come For Your Children was Dead Boys’ second and final studio album; they broke up in ‘79 (though briefly reunited in ‘86 and then again a few times after Bators’ death). It’s great punk rock, super-dark courtesy of Bators’ unparalleled sneer. I love “3rd Generation Nation,” the melodically upbeat “I Won’t Look Back,” the epic – at least by punk  standards – “Son of Sam,” their cover of Rolling Stones’ “Tell Me” (which was the Stones first Top 40 hit in the US), “Big City” (written by Kim Fowley, infamous manager of The Runaways), and the masterpiece “Ain’t It Fun” which Cheetah Chrome’s Rocket From the Tombs also recorded (as did Guns N’Roses). But especially fun is the Ramones-esque titled “(I Don’t Wanna Be No) Catholic Boy” which is made even better with the “Ramone Catholic Choir” singing backup vocals; that would be Joey and Dee Dee Ramone. Perfection. 

Ramones “Ramones” 1976. Today, October 8th, wo…

Ramones “Ramones” 1976. Today, October 8th, would have been Johnny Ramone’s 70th birthday (b. John William Cummings, 1948, d. 2004). Today is also C.J. Ramone’s birthday (b. Christopher Ward, 1965) who replaced Dee Dee on bass in 1989. Ramones was the band’s debut album and is considered one of the great punk rock – all rock – classics, introducing the super up-tempo punk rhythm, short and snappy songs based on 50′s/60′s pop melodies delivered with a snotty adolescent attitude, basic simplistic chord structures…even the album cover – all have been imitated by countless punks, metalheads, alt-rockers, post-punks and pop rockers for 40+ years since its release. It barely made a commercial dent at the time of its release, not even cracking the top 100 on the album charts in the US (this was during the height of bloated, self-absorbed arena and prog rock which the Ramones heartily rebelled against) but posthumously can be credited for just about all of the “alternative” music that followed it. 

Ramones did release a couple of singles from the LP in ‘76, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (which gave us the endearing and enduring “Hey Ho! Let’s Go!” anthem) and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” I’m fairly certain neither single charted at the time. Besides those two songs, the whole album really is a stream of classic tracks back-to-back. I’m particularly fond of “Beat on the Brat,” “Judy Is a Punk” and first songs of many more over the years that gave insight into what the Ramones wanted to do: “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and what they didn’t want to do: “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement” and “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You.” 

Approximately a million people have written/said about a million things about Ramones and it’s been included on almost as many best-of lists, but of note is The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame around the time of the Ramones’ induction in 2002: “The Ramones got back to basics: simple, speedy, stripped-down rock and roll songs. Voice, guitar, bass, drums. No makeup, no egos, no light shows, no nonsense. And though the subject matter was sometimes dark, emanating from a sullen adolescent basement of the mind, the group also brought cartoonish fun and high-energy excitement back to rock and roll.” Allmusic states in its 5 star review, “Ramones is all about speed, hooks, stupidity, and simplicity. The songs are imaginative reductions of early rock & roll, girl group pop, and surf rock. Not only is the music boiled down to its essentials, but the Ramones offer a twisted, comical take on pop culture with their lyrics…”