Easily one of my top ten favorite bands of all time, The Flesh Eaters remain somewhat of an enigma. Existing on and off for over 30 years, you’d think that this notorious LA band would be a household name by now, but that’s sadly not the case. I remember being shocked when AFI frontman Davey Havok told me that he’d never heard them (check the interview with him in Gearhead #12, it’s in there) but then again, that’s why I’m doing this ongoing series: to hip you to the good stuff.
Forever fronted by Chris Desjardins (that’s Chris D. to you punk!) their early and most famous line-up included John Doe and D.J. Bonebrake of X, Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman of The Blasters, and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. I really can’t imagine living in a world where this bands first four LP’s –No Questions Asked (1980) A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die (1981) Forever Came Today (1982) and A Hard Road To Follow (1983)– didn’t exist, because like a handful of other bands that sprang up out of the same well (The Gun Club, the aforementioned X, and early Wall of Voodoo) they never get stale.
This video is for the song “The Wedding Dice” from the Forever Came Today LP, which features the later (and less punk rock star studded) line-up of Don Kirk on guitar, Robyn Jameson on bass and drummer Chris Wahl. Less star power yes, but no less great. When I think about this so-called kustom kulture world that we live in, it’s hard to deny the role that Chris D. and The Flesh Eaters played in getting us to here. From hot rods and Harley’s, to hair grease and flaming dice tattoos, these guys were living it before a lot of you were even a gleam in your daddy’s eye. Respect.
OK, I’ll be the first to admit that me and Greta tend to overdo it a bit in the gift-giving department each Yuletide season, but what better way to show someone that you love them then by paying close attention to every hint (some subtle, some not so much) that they drop throughout the year, then getting them everything they want… and more!
I seriously didn’t think that 2007 could be topped, but the proof was right there in this Christmas morning pudding: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. box set (41 discs!) and the Honey West Complete Series DVD’s, a pristine 1963 Mr. Gasser model kit, an original Nauga monster (in my favorite color no less), a limited edition Tim Biskup Yeti vinyl figure, the “Green Siamese” Circus Punk by KOA, a set of mint-in-box Nancy and Sluggo dolls (and a musical Sluggo mug from 1968), a great old hillbilly bobblehead, a whole set of the rare Spanish Munsters “squeaky dolls”, vintage Dr. Doolittle and Korg 70,000 B.C. metal lunchboxes, copies of the hard to find Chrysler dealer in-house publication Bin & Bench, a copy of the October 1964 edition of Life magazine with the huge “Big Daddy” Roth feature, Best in Show: The Films of Christopher Guest book, a Charlie The Tuna shaped transistor radio, some crazy circa-1960’s crying Indian and Eskimo dolls (that I collect on the rare occasion that I can find them) and (not pictured) a print of Emory Douglas’ iconic “All Power to the People” Black Panther Party print (and hand carved wooden fist thrown in for good measure) and… some pajamas! Do I have the world’s greatest girlfriend or what?
Punk rock? The letter “E”? Gotta be Eddie and the Hot Rods kiddies. Formed in 1973, they, along with UK contemporaries like Dr. Feelgood and The Hammersmith Gorillas, were so-called “Pub Rock” bands whose working class image and “rough around the edges” sound served them well during the punk explosion of 1976, where they were propelled into the media spotlight. Their first two LP’s, Teenage Depression (1976) and Life on the Line (1977) are must-owns in my book, especially if you like your punk rock on the rock and roll side.
Arguably their most famous song, "Do Anything You Wanna Do" hit the UK Top 10 in August of 1977, a month where the US charts were dominated by the likes of Barry Manilow, Shawn Cassidy and Andy Gibb. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in many ways they are way ahead of us over there, and here’s some more proof of that from 31 years ago. What a hook!
Several people have emailed in asking if the copies of the Cole Foster book that are sold at the Gearhead Magazine website really are signed by Cole. Yes, yes they are. Whenever I get a new batch in, I make the 90 minute drive down to Salinas with Sharpie in hand, say “Hiya doll” to Susan, pet their pug Sophie, have Cole sign the books, then head back to Oakland. Why? Because I have to do something to give my poor ol’ website an edge over Amazon.com who sell the book a little cheaper. Cheaper yeah, but signed by me and Cole, no way. So there you go non-believers, and if you don’t have a copy yet, for the love o’ everything sacred, click here and get one… damn!
OK, enough with the preachin’ and back to the teachin’. Dow Jones and the Industrials were a relatively short lived punk band from West Lafayette, Indiana, which is about an hour outside Indianapolis, best known for being the home of Purdue University. They existed in that brilliant post punk, pre-hardcore era of the late 70’s and (very) early 80’s that produced some of the greatest “no rules/anything goes” music ever created. With a very limited discography that consists of only one EP, and split LP with The Gizmos and one compilation track, not too much has been written about these guys, but I bet it’s pretty easy to fill in the blanks… they met at college, saw Devo, and, well… here are the brilliant results. “Can’t Stand the Midwest” is one of the greatest punk songs you’ve probably never heard, until now that is…
Back in the mid-80s, when my life consisted mainly of passing time between Half Life gigs, I remember an ongoing argument that my tight knit gang of Pittsburgh punkers and I often had. One day our friend (and loyal roadie) Brian Corley brought up the short-lived 1970’s TV show Dusty’s Trail by way of asking us if we remembered it. I did, somewhat vaguely I’ll admit, but once he went on to (accurately) describe it as “Gilligan’s Island set in the old west” our little group was instantly split between the two of us and those who thought that he was totally making it up, and for whatever reason, I was in on the joke. Looking back on those pre-internet, “all the information in the known universe is just one click away “days of yore, it does sound like the set up for an elaborate gag. I mean, why would you try to recreate the wackiness of the world's most famous "crew of castaways" 100 years earlier, substituting a lost wagon train for a remote South Pacific island? But unfortunately for us, back in 1973 that’s exactly what Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz did. Jump to the present, where I recently had the misfortune of having one of the Dusty’s Trail discs somehow work it’s way to the top of my Netflix cue, and I’m here to tell ya, he and his son Elroy really should have left well enough alone.
It’s bad enough that the cast is a carbon copy of the Gilligan’s crew, from the bumbling Dusty (played by an obviously stoned Bob Denver, Mr. Gilligan himself) to Forrest Tucker as the “wagon master” who essentially takes on the Skipper’s role. But it doesn’t stop there, you have the rich couple, the smart guy, and of course the two girls, one glamorous and one a plain but loveable brunette no less. But where it really stinks up the joint is within it’s so-mundane-they-actually-insult-you “plots” – if you dare to call them that. During the course of the 4 episodes I somehow forced myself to sit through, they pull out every tired television gag humanly conceivable, from the old “hypnosis gone wrong” to a (Gasp!) escaped gorilla, which, remember that this is set on an abandoned trail in the unsettled west of the mid-19th century now, they don’t even attempt to explain how it got there, much less the fresh bananas that they have at their disposal to feed it. You know me friends, I generally like the TV shows of my youth, and I do have a pretty high threshold for sit-com silliness, from Petticoat Junction right up through the last season of the Partridge Family, but this flat out sucks, there’s really no other way to put it. I’ve read reviews online where retailers try and put a positive spin on this turkey, using phrases like “mirth and merriment ensue” but trust me, Dusty’s Trail is to be avoided at all costs.
The gods of punk (Joey Ramone? Joe Strummer? Jeff Lamm?) have spoken, and so it shall be done: Punk Rock History Lesson is now weekly (and alphabetical) so let us proceed then to the letter C. While visions of posting videos by Chelsea, The Count Bishops or The Cortinas danced in my head, I’ve spend too much time with Roger Miret this year not to have found a renewed appreciation for The Clash. Sure, they achieved a level of success that most punk bands (actually most bands in general) can only dream of, but we can’t let that blind us to the fact that were great. Undeniably great.
As a young punk rocker in 1980, I was blown away the first time I saw the movie Rude Boy. Not by the flimsy plot of course, which follows sex shop worker Roy Gange as he ascends to the lofty rank of Clash roadie, but for the performances of The Clash themselves. Almost 30 years later, all I can say is, “Thank God someone was filming that!” No performance was more memorable of course than the one of the band performing “White Riot” at the now legendary Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park in 1978, where they are joined onstage by Sham 69 front man Jimmy Pursey. This is still awe-inspiring, and way too great to be ignored. My apologies to The Cortinas… maybe next time boys.
Part of the reason why it took me awhile to get this new “weekly educational series” going was that I wasn’t sure how to approach it. SO MUCH material to cover, but also so little time, but I think doing it alphabetically is the answer, at least for the time being. Which brings up the letter B, and since we started off in the UK in 1977, that leads us directly to The Buzzcocks of course. I’m sure that by now many of you have seen the promo clip for “What Do I Get?” so I’m avoiding that (although it’s sparse set design and deadpan delivery was often copied by other bands, as you’ll see in upcoming weeks) and going for the less often seen but equally great “Why She's a Girl from the Chainstore” video. If I had to pick between this ageless bands two principle songwriters, I tend to go with Steve Diggle over Pete Shelly most of the time. As a younger man, Steve certainly came across as the more “punk” of the two, I mean, just look at how angry he is delivering these lyrics whilst walking through a department store! It’s like he only had one speed: ON, which endeared him to me quite a bit. I only caught them live once, at the now extinct I-Beam in SF back in 1989, when they first reformed and played only the classic material. They totally lived up to any hype that surrounded them, and were as good as The Clash, Devo, Gang of Four, or any other band I had caught earlier that decade. Enjoy!