Wednesday Surprise: Back From the Dead Edition

When was it…August, September when we last spoke? I could check but I like the rhetorical much better. A lot has happened in these computer-less, winter months. But let me begin by saying I have missed putting up music, making mixes, and simply writing to all of you. While it may not have been good for my mental health to not have an outlet for my brain-musings, it has given me time to re-visit some things that I hadn’t even realized I had left by the wayside. My abilities at clearing a crossword have returned as has my love of taking long, aimless walks (learned, as with many other things, by the great Henry Miller). The biggest one, though, is a return to enjoying a book.

Nick Kent enjoying his gas station glasses and shitty digestion system after partying for so many years.

The first was Nick Kent‘s autobiography, “Apathy for the Devil: a 70s Memoir”. It was, of course, well-written and included all the hubbub that goes with being a famous rock journalist in the 70s. (The most interesting thing I learned was Morrissey’s “Reader Meet Author” (from the 1995 album Southpaw Grammar) was written about Kent.)

After that I delved into “Twenty Thousand Roads: the Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music”. The depth and breadth of David Meyer’s research and execution was dumbfounding. So many things learned about someone I never really cared for (I bought it from Amazon somehow mistaking it for Graham Nash…luckily I hadn’t yet heard Gram’s quote, “Gram as in measurement, not cracker,” beforehand) in a genre I never really cared for (country/country rock)…I can only sit back and say that my mind was not as open as I had thought it was, which, I believe, is usually the case with anyone. The closing of the book, telling the famous tale of his death and subsequent theft and burning of his body, was perfectly done. It was one of those books that only disappoint when it is over.

At work I spotted a little gem entitled “Rip it Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984” by Simon Reynolds. While covering everyone from Public Image LTD to Siouxie and the Banshees, Suicide to A Certain Ratio, and New Order to the Talking Heads, it was the information on Magazine and the Buzzcocks that really drew me in. Now I know the Buzzcocks fairly well but was retarded to the fact of the early Magazine records. I had only heard the later stuff and had written them off because: a) It’s bad, and b) I had no idea that Howard Devoto, of Magazine, was the original singer for the Buzzcocks. He left the band after their first EP, Spiral Scratch, beacuse he thought they were getting “too poppy.” Before punk even came into fruition Devoto went ahead and took it past what hadn’t even been done yet and made some wonderful records with Magazine, most notably Real Life (1978), Secondhand Delight (1979), and The

Cosy Fanni Tutti lookin' hubba hubba.

Correct Use of Soap (1980). Yes, I learned about bands I’ve never followed, like Throbbing Gristle, The Minutemen (who I am now a big fan of, especially after seeing the documentary We Jam Econo, one of the best music biopics I have ever seen…enough to get this stubborn bastard on the Minutemen bandwagon), Scritti Polliti, and many others, and I am grateful for said knowledge.

I won’t bore you with the Millers I revisited, or the Moravias, or other literature (I did need a break from the music, after all). My wonderful sister got me a gift card to Amazon for Christmas,as she usually does, and, as always I love it. I hunted down a few good music biographies, and have been pouring over them like gravy.

The first one was “Billy Joel: a Biography”. You can laugh. After all it was delivered to my work (record store) and upon my glee at opening the package others asked what

Drunk Billy Joel in a whirlwind after reading the aforementioned shitty biography.

was so great. Needless to say, not the most popular artist in that environment and I don’t expect him to be. It was my discovery one bored Saturday afternoon of “Captain Jack” that I realized that he was more than dad-rock, at least to me. I’ve been a fan ever since. This book, however, would make the devout fan into a doubter. Mark Bego, the author, uses the most cliche phrases to, I guess, dumb it down to the usual VH1 subscriber that it felt more like reading the Red Eye (those in Chicago will be familiar with its banal, LOL-style journalism) than an adult, 400+ page book. Before it was burned in the alley behind my apartment (true story) I learned two things:

  • A fourteen year old Billy played piano on the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack
  • The only time his father hit him was when Billy morphed a Beethoven piece he was practicing into more of a Be Bop rhythm. His father, a staunch lover of classical music, heard this and charged into the room and slapped the shit out of him.

I am now on the hunt for a well-written biography of the Piano Man, if anyone knows of one. Luckily the burning of the book cleansed any biography-induced hatred of the Innocent Man. (See what I did there?)

My next book was “Midnight Baby”, the autobiography of Dory Previn, Grammy

Dory Previn looking her best. And by that I mean the most badass NASCAR driver you will EVER encounter.

Award winning lyricist and later singer-songwriter in the 70s. It focused on her childhood, truly a traumatic one and beautifully written in her fragmented, poetic, run-on style that only a crazy person could execute perfectly. Her abusive father entered her into talent contests from a young age so as to win the prize (it was the Depression, after all, and a gold watch is enticing to a struggling family in NY state). Later on he became more physically abusive (so many sad episodes but the one that broke me was after he found out his wife, Flo, was pregnant again he went into a rage and threw Dory’s kitten down the stairs,breaking all of its legs, and leaving it to die.) After the second child was born Dory and her mother and the newborn were locked in the dining room and refused the ability to leave for four months. According to Dory she has no more memories until leaving the homestead at the age 18, some eight years later.

(I had planned on placing the actual video right here but WordPress has changed their format and it costs $60 to stream video…so here is a link. What’s up now, moneybags?)

Now, thanks to the Best Show Podcast, I am reading When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin. Though I am only about 40 pages in already I have amassed tidbits that I had no idea about:

  • John Bonham, aka “Bonzo”, was reluctant to join up with what was at the time the New Yardbirds due to his regular pay with playing with Tim Rose (whom you can find on one of the Grating Hits mixes…SCHWING!).
  • Keith Moon came up with the name Led Zeppelin after turning down the job and saying, “It’s gonna sink like a lead zeppelin.”

I am not going to go into too many details as you should simply read the book. However I thought it interesting that Jimmy Page had originally asked Terry Reid to be the singer and he declined citing that his solo career was beginning to take off. He suggested one Robert Plant and, of course, with the addition of John Paul Jones the rest is history.

I had already chosen the album to share this week therefore that is the reason I thought that factoid a bit odd. It is none other than Terry Reid’s Bang Bang You’re Terry Reid (available below). There are parallels in Reid’s and Plant’s vocal stylings and range, but it is well-known that no one can match Plant’s sexuality.

Here.

As a bonus, and a thank you to all who returned after my foray into the wilderness, here is the discography of solo Robert Rental. As a godhead of the DIY electronic/post-punk scene of late 70s/early 80s England he usually teamed up with pal Thomas Leer under the name The Normal (not this one). Rental, real name Robert Donnachie, died in 2000 from lung cancer. This shit is impossible to find physically so let this tide you over until you run across the Paralysis 7″ at some old scenster’s garage sale.

Here.

BONUS BONUS

Who doesn’t like prank calls? When I first got my poopy paws on this machine (by the way, not mine, but borrowed from my DJ mate and partner in crime, Jobe) I was just in the mood for some classic prank calling. This filled the bill. No one got hurt and no one got angry, which makes the hilarity even moreso.

I’m sure you have seen the Family Feud before, right? (If not, leave now.) You are then familiar with the term, “We asked 100 people…,” but who are those 100 people? Fuck if I know. This guy doesn’t know, either, but will make people believe that they actually are one of the 100.

Yes, this is what the 99% do for fun.

Here.

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