Day two of the Primer Nats and even more after parties, but for us there could be only one destination: The grand opening of Dan Collin’s new shop, Old Gold Garage. Conveniently located right there in Ventura, the shop is much more than just that, as it also features a store, a showroom, and on this day rockabilly bands playing on a trailer and a portable BBQ set up that easily fed every hungry SOB that showed up! Of course we are talking about Dan Collins here, who does nothing half assed. Just look at his artwork, his tattoos and of course his customs… it stands to reason that Old Gold would be a first class operation. I don’t wanna do TMZ’s job for them, but I gotta report that this lil’ shindig was truly a kustom kulture who’s who if there ever was one. Rather than run a list that would shame other events, let’s just focus on this picture, shall we? I pointed out to Dan that having tattoo legend and Beatniks Car Club founder Jack Rudy show up at your place is kinda like having ol’ Jesus himself come off the cross to give you his blessing, and he didn’t disagree… and yes that’s Verne of the Burbank Choppers iconic ’34 that Jack is sitting on. I think that perfectly sums up the quality of rides and those that built ‘em in attendance, sometimes you just gotta love living in California.
Based entirely on the insistence of Piero (aka Evel) of Mad Fabricators Society fame, I made my (somewhat) dramatic return the So. Cal's biggest traditional Rod & Kustom show, the Primer Nationals. We got a late start and missed a lot of the first days action, but this show is all about the entire weekend, not just what happens at the Ventura Fairgrounds… case in point, the awesome BBQ at Kiwi Kev’s house/garage/museum and the DicE Magazine party that was at a bar that I couldn’t find again if I tried, which is all part of the fun of course. I do remember meeting the swell kids from Australia that do Deadbeat magazine that night, and as is the case with virtually everyone I’ve ever met from down under, we got along famously. And speaking of our host Piero, yes the picture is of his recently completed hot rod the Live Wire – a showstopper in any decade. Thank you for lighting a fire under my ass pal, it was a blast.
Pittsburgh PA, Day 7: Exhausted (read: hung over) from last nights debauchery, my last day in the ‘Burg consisted of trying to wake up, and making sure that I caught my plane back to Cali… not necessarily in that order. The other all important thing was getting in that last meal-you-can-only-get-in-Pittsburgh, and when you’re staying in Swissvale, that can only mean one place: The Triangle baby! They have two sizes there, The Destroyer (enough for a few people) and The Battleship (feeds a small army) plus all the ice-cold Iron City beer you can pound down while you eat your sandwich, one that would throw any native Californian into a state of disbelief. Here we see Beato and Spahr heroically taking one for the team shortly before my rendezvous with Southwest airlines. Rest assured, I’ll be dreaming about this place until my next trip home. See yunz later, I’ll be home in Oakland for about 12 hours before heading off to Ventura for The Primer Nationals…
Pittsburgh PA, Day 6: My last day in Da Burg started by wrapping things up in Herminie before heading back to the big city with my boy Spahr, who has been my main hometown host since the early 90’s. There was a quick trip to see Bill Boichel and a mandatory stop at Primanti Bros. for a quick bite before hitting The Tiki Lounge, where Spahr DJ’s every Wednesday night. This place has been open for a few years now, and I gotta say it is quite spectacular. If it was located in the Bay Area, or anywhere in California for that matter, there would be lines around the block to get in anytime it was open. But this is Pittsburgh, PA we are talking about here, so the only way to guarantee a good crowd anywhere at anytime is that ol’ Pixburgh stand by: metal night.
We let everyone I hadn’t seen yet know I’d be there, but the actual turn out was way beyond any expectation I had, the biggest surprise being artist and former Half Life singer Jeff Lamm driving in the whole way from Ohio, where he is now a proud member of the Akron Police Dept. Then guitarist Vince Curtis stopped in after practicing with a new band he’s doing with ‘Burg legend Sam Matthews (Whereabouts, Radio Hanoi, 96 Tears, The Bats, Bbronk, etc.) so it ended up being a mini Half Life reunion, the first time we’ve all been together since 2003. Our not-so-little drummer boy Damon was out on the road with his band Don Caballero, but the evening was beefed up by the presence of both our former roadies, Dan Allen and Brian Corley. So 5 out of the 6 of us that did the seemingly endless 1987 US tour together all in one place wasn’t too shabby if I say so myself. Of course if it wasn’t for meeting Tim Yohannan on that tour, I might never have moved to San Francisco in the first place, which brings this little tale full circle, ‘cause I’m heading back tomorrow. Bottoms up!
While I’m in Pittsburgh, I wanted to post something relevant, but sadly no footage of The Cardboards, Dress Up As Natives or The Five has been uncovered. So I decided to go with this old chestnut: The Dickies cover of Black Sabbath's “Paranoid.”
In 1980 on one of my very first trips to Jim’s Records in Bloomfield with Jason Pettigrew and whoever he could talk into to driving us, I picked up a used copy of The Incredible Shrinking Dickies on banana yellow vinyl for $3. Back then, Jim’s was a goddamned treasure trove of used punk records, and if you went with 15 or 20 dollars, you would leave with a whole bag of pure punk rock dynamite that would cost a fortune today... if you could even find them. I’m not sure why The Dickies LP jumped out at me, but when I got it home, I was sure glad I bought it. A few years earlier when I was in 8th grade, Black Sabbath were my favorite band, and I’ll never forget being blown away by the Dickies version of “Paranoid.” How could they play that fast? Of course soon I would be hearing bands like Adrenalin O.D. and The Neos and realizing that this isn’t really all that fast, but it is still one of the all-time greats.
Pittsburgh PA, Day 5: I moved to the Bay Area (first San Francisco, and then Alameda before finally settling in Oakland) exactly twenty years ago this month. So when I visit Pennsylvania, my time is always split between seeing my family in rural Westmorland County, and my friends in Pittsburgh. Depending on what was going on, there could be a real “tug of war” for my time, and I generally leave the Commonwealth more exhausted than when I arrived. In short, “going home” isn’t ever really a vacation, but more of a mad scramble to try and get it all in. But I think my infamous Aunt Toots has figured out a sure-fire way to keep me at her place: have her dogs sit on me.
When her beloved dog Maggie died awhile back, she and my Uncle Sam decided to get a pair Beagle puppies named Sally and Annie to go with their birds, four cats, and I’m not sure what else… chickens I think. Upon arriving at their place, the dogs make less of a fuss than you might think, but they are clever because within a few minutes, you find yourself in the position you see me in here – trapped under a whole lotta beagle, in this case Annie. Obviously I eventually managed to free myself (or I wouldn’t be typing this now) but I think it took a few people to get me out from under there. I guess I should mention at this juncture that I’ve never owned a dog or spent any time at all around them really, which only added to my Aunts amusement I’m sure. I’ll admit that they are sweet, but for the time being, I’m sticking with my rats.
Pittsburgh PA, Day 4: At some point today when I was going through boxes of old stuff and enjoying a delicious ice cold Straub, my mom asked me if I wanted the “old bottles” that my Grandfather had put on top of his gun cabinet sometime before he died in 1970. Let me tell you friends, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw the two collectable bottles of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky that had been quietly sitting there for 38 years! Now anyone who knows me at all (or has been reading this blog for that matter) knows that Dickel is my brand, but I swear I had no idea that it was my late Grandfather Anthony LaVella’s as well! More than a mere coincidence, it was like getting a great gift from beyond the grave, and the fact that the bottles commemorated the distilleries re-opening in 1964, which just so happens to be the year of my birth, was downright eerie. I gotta remember to get back home more often…
Pittsburgh PA, Day 3: One of the best days of any given year is the day I get to spend with my Godson Anthony. I was there on August 9th 1994 when he was born, and I got to hold him when he 20 minutes old. For a guy with no kids of his own, that was a really big deal for me, and luckily we took a shine to each other right from the get go. When he was younger, “Michael-Anthony day” often consisted of doing things like building a dam on the creek that runs near my Mom’s house in Herminie, and in later years evolved into taking him to see Lords of Dogtown and whatnot. But this year will certainly go down as the most memorable day yet, as it marked my return to riding dirt bikes after (gasp!) 28 years.
From 1978 through 1982 I pretty much lived on a dirt bike, weather permitting. It was nothing for me and my friends to ride for 12 straight hours on a summer day, but when I moved to Pittsburgh in January of 1983, we sold my 1979 Honda XR 185 and that was pretty much the end of that. Punk rock and publishing have kept me pretty busy in the almost three decades since, but I was more than ready to hit the trails once again… or so I thought. The recently purchased Hondas were up for anything, but was I? Beato warned me that it isn’t exactly like riding a bicycle, that is you can forget plenty, and considering that we were riding on the slate dumps high above Adamsburg PA, easily break your neck. I have to admit that my confidence was a bit shaken when I saw that first massive hill climb, pile of rocks and/or tree stump on the narrow paths, and the ever present cliffs that one false move would have you flying right off of.
Look carefully at the ground in the picture of Anthony above. In Pennsylvania, at least where we grew up, you don’t ride on dirt but on the massive mountains of slate that were left behind after the coalmines closed down two generations ago. So for the first half hour or so, all I did was eat Anthony’s dust as I worked to regain my self-assurance, but sure enough it all came back. I forgot that riding a motorcycle at high speeds through the woods or over piles of slate is a very Zen-like experience, you have to just trust your abilities and know that the bike can do anything, you just have to handle it right… and be in the right gear of course. Yep, I’m happy to report that within an hour your boy MLV was hitting the jumps and hill climbs like no time had past at all. I don’t know if it was muscle memory, the aforementioned Zen thing, or the very real fear of looking uncool in front of my Godson, but it all came back, and I had one of the best times I’ve had in years.
About the only other thing I forgot about was the ever-present jagger bushes (ouch!) but I never laid it down once, and I would ride everyday if I could, but unfortunately I’ve yet to see a slate dump in Oakland. I’m already looking forward to next year…
Pittsburgh PA, Day 2: For my cousin Beato and his family, it’s another wildly successful garlic party in the record books. This annual backyard bash of his is getting so big that we’ll soon have to think of Greensburg PA as “Lil’ Gilroy.” Besides the normal cast of characters made up of our family and his golf buddies (one of whom brought no less than 6 boxes of premium cigars – thanks pal!) my sister and her family drove up from Florida and like the saying goes, a great time was had by all. It’s hard to pick out just one memorable moment, but in the context of Gearhead, the car that Maurice Zaffina of Zaffina’s Distributing in Scottsdale PA showed up in has to be the highlite. This rollin’ can of Stroh’s was something to behold, right down to the beer tap hood ornament. Gives the term “Shotgun!” a whole new meaning! Next year I’ll drag race him in my Dickelmobile, personal fortune pending.
Pittsburgh PA, Day 1: Like the Bay Area, Pittsburgh is a place that is always full or surprises. Sure I did the first 23 years of my life there, but there’s still always something new to see, or perhaps more importantly, somewhere new to eat. Case in point, when I saw the episode of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives where Guy heads to Blawnox, PA to a place called The Starlite Lounge that I had never heard of, I immediately knew I had to check it out for myself. I wrangled Spahr and Frankie the Wop, my two pals in Da Burg who are up for absolute anything, to take me out there, and I’m really glad I did. Who knew that the owner, the charismatic man simply known as Moondog, would not only hang with us, but also personally cook us up a batch of his trademark pierogies? In a classic case of “it’s a small world” it ends up that we had people in common, had been to a bunch of the same shows an ‘nat, and generally where like twin brothers from different mothers. The huge and intimidating Breakfast Burger and aforementioned pierogies really got my system prepared for my cousin Beato’s annual garlic festival that is coming up tomorrow. More later, indigestion permitting.
Well folks, I’m off to that mythical, magical land of my birth (Pittsburgh, PA) for the next week, and since these trips always stir up a lot of nostalgia in me, here is a commercial from my youth that I’m sure many of you will remember, or at least wish that you did! I never did get these dolls, because whenever I could string a few bucks together I would always buy a Kiss LP instead, 'cause it was always all about the music for me. Of course now based on 2008 EBay prices, I definitely made the wrong choice, but then why have these “twelve and a half inch figures” if they didn’t have a soundtrack to rock out to? I'm always a dollar short, in that way some things never change…
Pretty much all through the 70’s, the first thing I did when I got home from school was turn on The Mike Douglas show. Sometimes the rewards for such loyalty were huge: John Lennon, Edgar Winter, Ted Nugent, Kiss, etc., while other times you got Starbuck or Nick Gilder. But what a treat the folks who tuned in on this day got! Not only did you see The Raspberries performing their smash hit “Go All The Way,” you got to see them interact with none other than Billie Jean King and Joe Namath, and lucky for us someone had the presence of mind to tape it.
This song was really a hot topic of debate back in the day, in fact I remember that my neighbor Ken Soles insisted that the lyrics were “Oh my God Susie’s screwing me, with a hole in her stocking and a hole in her knee” while the actual words are “Before her love I was cruel and mean, I had a hole in the place where my heart should have been.” Oh well, chalk that up to a horny pre-teen imagination – at least he got the word “hole” right. Enjoy.
I’ve been listening to The Raspberries quite a bit lately, especially the genius Fresh Raspberries LP from 1972, so I was stoked when I found this sticker of their Barris-built “Raspberries Rolls” when I was cleaning up the office this weekend. According to the back, an "A & E Rolls Royce kit was used for a grille, front and rear fenders, and all lights.” It goes on to say that “the interior is covered with berry-red acrilan fur and has a quadrasonic music system.” Most intriguing though, it that it says that it is now available as a Revell model (!?) Does anyone have one of those? Also, I can’t help but wonder where the car is today… I mean, I’d like to think that it’s still Eric Carmen’s daily driver, but that’s probably not the case. That’s a bummer, but at least the music they made never was.
Labels: Top 5
OK, I guess technically these London lads were Power Pop, but with those haircuts, skinny ties and tight trousers, we’re going to take some liberties here and lump ‘em under the “New Wave” banner – Hey, if Seymour Stein can do that, so can I. Catchy as hell and memorable as well, it’s the jam of the week… the week it was released in 1979 or any.
Another fantastic Pride of the Champ show is in the record books, and if you live in Northern California and missed it – shame on you! Of course if you were at The Saints 10 Year Anniversary picnic in Marin you have a good excuse… fact is, we all would have loved to make both events, and next year we’ll all do our best to make sure these shows don’t happen on top of each other. That aside, we still had a great time and the winner of the first ever Gearhead “Punk Rod” award was none other than Nick of The Koffins CC. At only 26, Pocket Nick totally embodies the spirit of what this whole thing is a about – a young guy taking 5 years to build his ride from scratch, and what a ride his ’31 Model A pick up is! I didn’t know it at the time, but it was also Rolfe’s choice for Best of Show in the “lowbrow” section at the Cow Palace show back in January, so I guess we're in good company. See you all next year…
For the first time ever, Gearhead Magazine will be giving out a prestigious “Punk Rod” award to some lucky builder at this years Pride of the Champ show tomorrow (August 9th) in Antioch California. Designed by long time friend o’ Gearhead Bill Silveira, this trophy perfectly captures the spirit of the award, which is that something beautiful and functional can be made of rust! For more details about the show, which promises to be even greater than last years, visit Blazen 7’s My Space page, and we'll see you all there… who knows, you just might be driving home with this lil’ gem, you lucky bastard.
1) Times Square (1980)
What’s not to love? Two young runaway girls form a band and take on the establishment, all with the help of mister Rocky Horror himself, Tim Curry! Back in the day, this soundtrack was considered a MUST OWN, with songs by The Ramones, Pretenders, Talking Heads, XTC, The Ruts, The Cure, Gary Numan, Patti Smith and Roxy Music…plus a few that Robert Stigwood, still hot from producing Saturday Night Fever, snuck onto the double LP. I had the 8 track and let it play for days on end...
2) Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981)
I actually feel bad for those who have never seen this cult classic, that stars Diane Lane and Laura Dern as vaguely punk chicks who form a group and steal songs from a band that just happens to be made up of Cook and Jones from the Sex Pistols and Paul Simonon from the Clash! The Tubes and Black Randy also appear in this nearly forgotten masterpiece… so start counting down the days until September 16th when Rhino Home Video is finally releasing this gem. Whew!
3) Breaking Glass (1980)
Hazel O’Conner plays Kate, a gal that won’t let anything stop her from achieving pop stardom, not even a full-blown (and extremely real looking) skinhead riot! Blink and you’ll miss a genius cameo by The Damned’s Rat Scabies.
4) Out of the Blue (1980)
Dennis Hopper of all people directed this film about a young Elvis and punk rock obsessed girl who is messed up by her truck-driving father (also played by Hopper) who years earlier wiped out a busload of kids (in Halloween costumes no less) and is now getting out of prison. Worth seeing just for the fact that genius Canadian pop-punk band The Pointed Sticks do several songs (sorta) live.
5) Fear No Evil (1981)
If you’re wondering what this typical “introverted high school student finds out he’s the Antichrist” B-grade horror flick has to do with punk rock, just check out the soundtrack. It’s probably the best one ever assembled for any movie.
One can only wonder what beer-drenched, punk rock, lucha libre, hot rod mayhem will occur at this years Pride of the Champ car show... I guess you'll all just have to come on out to the Antioch Fairgrounds this Saturday (August 9th) and see for yourselves.