Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Down the Dusty Trail, Part 2
Recent electronic dustbin allocations, nimble fingers doing the walking and credit card doing the tawkin':
Sure memory ain’t nothing but a disconcerting shifting of sands, and drug intake and liquor swallowin’ (whether past or present) just abets the mess, but in my ever swirling mind’s eye I see a Dion ‘n’ Little Kings performance at the second version of the Met Café in Providence sometime in the mid-90’s as one of my personal live music bellwethers. Dion, accompanied by collaborator singer/guitarist Scott Kempner (Dictators/Del Lords), bassist Mike Mesaros (Smithereens), and drummer Frank Funaro (Del-Lords), simply laid down a pristine set of straightforward rock with not even a nod to oldieville, straddling his guitar with all the aplomb of a cocksure teen and singing with unfettered old school finery. Live in New York (Ace) captures the same band at the Mercury Lounge on April 26, 1996 tossing away one minor cool daddy nod to the farback 50’s (“Drip Drop”), but mostly gliding away, hammering out a batch of DiMucci/Kempner compositions and absolutely breaking away with a neatly honed version of the Dictators’ “Stay With Me”, and just killing it with one of Dion’s last period (and mostly overlooked) masterpieces “King of the New York Streets.”
Did you ever hear about the three Hackney brothers , David on guitar, Bobby on bass, and Dennis on drums, coming up with a raw and uncalculated back alley version of punk, funk, and guitar rock somewhere in the midst of Michigan in the mid-70’s? No? Don’t worry, no one else did either, until a few months back, when demo tapes that their band recorded in Detroit in 1975, a band with the you-couldn’t-call-it moniker of Death, where unearthed and subsequently released on Drag City as …For the Whole World to See. Songs like “Rock N Roll Victim,” “Where Do We Go from here???,” and “Politicians In My Eyes,” veer from predictable power trio rock into virtual punk anthems, speedy urban screeds befitting the standard turmoil of the times, emanating from the strangest of sources, true soul brothers delving into the sound and fury of the MC5. The 7-song collection isn't great or revelatory, but it is undeniably passionate and legitimately off the beaten path.
I always go where life guide and messianic guru Nick Tosches tells me to go, so I’ve already explored the addled rockabilly shenanigans of Hasil Adkins, savant, chicken lover, and primitive master. His (heh-heh) softer side gets revealed on Moon Over Madison (Norton) a collection of high and lonesome and fervently fetched home recordings recorded from 1956-63 in Madison, West Virginia and released in 1990. Adkins is the realest of deals, crickets in his gullet, moonshine in his eyes, a Flannery O’Connor character with a banged up guitar and his own churning, burning vision—“Lonely Wind/Help Me,” “Lonely Graveyard,” “A Fool In This game,” “I’m Alone,” or “Lonely is My Name”—you oughta get the picture. Springsteen himself would have had to jump ass first into a fetid swamp, ate a minced garden snake with rice and okra, and sniffed Roy Orbison’s boots to even get a mile close to the all-out heart-beating profundity of “My Home Town.”
I’ve been reading about The Monks, and their 1966 cult classic Black Monk Time since I was an eager beaver watching Leave It To Beaver. The newly released version, on Light In the Attic Records, replete with a live cut and a few single releases actually lives up to the years of hype. Cardboard rhythms,kindergarten organ, mucho fuzzarama, an electrified banjo, frat rock vocals, caught in the netherworld between psychedelia and party rock, these five ex-GI’s transformed from the Torquays to the Monks while in Germany, shaving circles on their heads and donning monk’s robes and purty much doing exactly what Frank Zappa was doing , sans the parodistic intentions and inside hipster jokes. There might not be another better spoken intro in the history of rockarama than Gary Burger’s in “Black Monk Time,” and it’s easy to make the case that either “Love Can Tame the Wild,” or “Pretty Susanne” woulda sounded fairly indelible bouncing out of the thickly textured AM radio of its time period.
Whatever happened to humor and rock and roll? Why is it that so many New York bands, namely The New York Dolls, The Ramones, and, yup, The Dictators understood how to utilize that element of rock? The Dictators' Every Day is Saturday (Norton), released in 2007, is an all out hilarious (and a bang-bang, clackety-clack, up-yers, rip-roarin') collection of demos laid down mostly from 1973-78, with a few thrown in from 1996-02. I’m an unadorned worshipper, even stupidly proud to have been suckered punched (to my knees!) by an idiot fellow gigster during a show I excitedly took my then 14-year-old step son to a few years ago, and I found myself slipping back to the unbridled languor of adolescence, laughing out loud while fist-thrusting in my car, wholly buried beneath the rocking waves of joviality and insolence as I sped through my own burg singing along to “Weekend,” “Baby Lets Twist,” or “What’s Up With That.” Maniboa/Shernoff/Kempner and Ross the Boss remain all-time heroes of mine, the true sons of Creem Magazine and Richard Meltzer, funny manchildren and master race rockers, and when I say my prayers at night I ask the Great Whosit to just let them make another record, faster and louder.