Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Consumers R Us

Punk was invented in Phoenix.
Phoenix, Arizona.
I was there, so I know.
You weren't there, so shut up and listen.

Phoenix: Worst Place in the World! And Now It's Official!

It's official now!
Phoenix is The Worst Place in the World!
I was there just not so long ago, and I can confirm it.
In fact, it's the model city meant to be The Worst Place In The World.
On purpose.

And back when punk was created there, that's why it was created there.
That's why it was essential. That's why it had to happen.
That's why it had to happen there.

Before the Beginning, or After the Fact?

Where to begin? Back before the beginning, or as things blew up?
Or, in traditional movie-novel-comic book mode, at the height of the action, as Arizona cowboys and Arizona bikers and Arizona punks come together happily so as to crash bar stools over and against and across one another in order to see who could kill who the quickest?

Or maybe I should go geezerly, gingerly, Grandpa telling a tale.....

We Existed

Yeah, I like that Gramps approach . . . you dang little whippersnappers today, you poor sad little piss-ant bendable pose-punks, why, we used to have to trudge ten miles through the blazing asphalt, past cacti and car-lots and cement-plaza'd Civic Centers, and driving along long empty realms of desert landscaping, Desert Tan-painted slump block liquor stores and dry-cleaners and convenience stores named after kachinas or totem poles or teepees, just to . . . what? To prove that we existed? To prove that we were punk before anybody even vaguely normal knew what punk was? To prove, I think, that we existed.

Be A Roper, Not A Doper

But wait!

Any good ol' tale-telling Grampa ought to at least promise lots of thrills and chills up front, if only to entice the easily-distracted kiddies.

So, let's see here...

Seems to me you ought to get thrilling tales of death and drugs and degradation and depravity and decadence and dope and dopes and dopey deeds. Well, kids, this tale's gonna be loaded!

And lots and lots of colorful characters! More colorful characters than a comicbook superhero's Amazing Origin Special Double Issue ought to have, if there was any modesty whatsoever.)

Plus, action and violence and crime and ridiculously ferocious music played by heroic idiot-savants and genius-knuckleheads and, hey! — by Jim the Drummer too.

Why, you'll learn why Don Bolles may be the scariest, dare-iest, most git-yer-ass-whupped-on-the-street most dangerous punk name ever! And you'll meet, gosh darn it, those wild and wooly Western characters, those fabled Cactusheads who came roaring into punk-rock Hollywood and scared everybody they didn't screw over, and screwed everybody they didn't entirely scare , and pretty much punched each other into oblivion, and then slept on your couch and ate up all your yogurt . . . And then you'll meet the Liars and the Exterminators and Mighty Sphincter and Victory Acres and The Feederz and the Junior Chemists and the Meat Puppets and the Advo-Cats and Jody Foster's Army and the Serfers and Green On Red, and ever so many less. You'll ponder the odd and curious fact that Arizona's punk clubs seemed to give birth to themselves in former cheesy wrestling arenas. You may even meet Tito Montez, and Ralph Thiessen, of Thiessen Motors, and Jack Ross of Jack Ross Lincoln/Mercury, and his wife, Aquanetta, famous (somewhat) (well, semi-famous) (well, locally) movie star! From Hollywood and everything! You'll encounter Lou Grubb, of Lou Grubb Chevrolet! With his parts department on roller skates. With luck, you'll hear about when there was bullfighting on TV in Phoenix, and topless Swedish movies appeared after midnight, and when you could do actual do stuff downtown without even being arrested! It was wild!!!

Gosh, kids, you're gonna encounter just how dead-seriously fuckin' dangerous punk really and truly-ruly was, at least if you did it out in the bum-fuck boondocks, the hinterlands, the interlands, the Netherworld, the Sticks, took it out of Manhattan and London and Hollywood, out of places where everybody already knew all about goofy bohemian youth-movement beatnik theater-majors, and into a town where pretty much every second or third pickup truck had it a Waylon Jennings silk-screened back window panel see-thru sunshade and a bumper sticker that fondly suggested that you "Be A Roper, Not A Doper." You'll get to see some serious ass-kickin', kids, just like in the movies and the comic books and everything. It's gonna make a lot of what you've seen of punk-rock violence seem, well, kinda sad and silly and low-operatic at the very same time.

And you're gonna get to hear some astonishingly great music. You're gonna get to hear a brief crummy record, never actually paid for, recorded in one 8-hour go, music that never managed to get it onto any of the groovy vinyl singles that punk revived, or even any of the ultra-obvious punk complilation albums, that only just barely limped its way onto an limited edition (through lack of funds) indie-label CD somwhere in the late '90s before going immediately out of print. And in hearing it, you're going to get to decide entirely for yourself whether you agree with the tiny but increasingly unanimous groundswell from those rare overly-obsessive few who've ever heard it, that this, these songs, these recordings, this stuff, this music, this maybe head-butting for its place among the greatest punk rock records ever. Ever. Flip a fuckin' coin, dude.

Well, Gramps is here to tell you that the record, swell as it is — and it is — is only a small, fierce early afternoon shadow at your foot, a light whispering breeze, compared to what the damn band was like, what the shows were like, what the world was like once you turned it upside down. The World Turned Upside Down.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Iggy, Captain Beefheart, Captain Beyond, Dr. John, and The Eagles

OK, I kind of like this drooling, doddering Grampa schtick.

But in truth, what it mainly reminds me of is the last time I saw David Wiley. Maybe, probably, it was the last time. My old friend. Seems like it. I'd have to think about it some more. No doubt I will. No doubt I will.

Because I drove him down to LA in my white '79 Chevy pickup truck with the out-of-date Arizona license plates, drove him down from him hanging around the Bay Area (with just a brief stop for me to visit an incarcerated prisoner just outside San Luis Obispo) so's David and what was left of The Consumers could get back together and do a glorious
Reunion Show of . . . Hey! The Consumers!


I'm guessing you haven't heard about this one, eh? The Glorious Reunion Show?

I don't think I'll tell the whole thing right here, right now. I think I'll feint at it, sketch in some parts, leave some uninked and blank.

I will say that on the night of the glorious reunion show, Wiley came onstage wearing a sort of embarassing-ass toga-thing, and carrying a wooden staff, swear to God, with dumb-ass grey stuff in his hair and eyebrows both, that theatrical crap meant to portray him as an old, old, old man. (Meant to portray him, frankly, as the Town Manager/Narrator Dude in a midwestern production of "Our Town," frankly. As far as I was concerned, definitely, and Mikey and Paul's opinions were somewhat less considerate. He told me backstage about it –– no, actually, he'd mentioned it somewhat on the drive down, when he was conscious, somewhere along the way, but I'd kind of shined it on. But backstage, once again, he told me it was based on some Korean performer he'd caught sometime recently, somebody he'd heard and then gone to see, him and all Korean folk, and how the guy had been a master stage artiste and all, and so forth.

Now, this is David and me. This is me and him, him and me.

This is David and me, for what felt like a hundred years. As at those ages, a few quick years feels like a decade or two. I left home at sixteen and worked in factories with Mexicans and Okies and me for like 36 months, maybe. At that age, it was a great deal like a three-decade stretch of hard time. But see, David and I had known each other since, lo, the early Seventies. And we'd been buddys, as we'd say in Arizona, or as I would say, as he pretty damn certainly would not have, ever since we met. Because here's the deal: (And it's the deal that seals the Daisy-Seal-A-Meal of the Consumers, and of punk in Phoenix, and of punk anywhere, any time, really, in that rare scarce moment when it's punk, anyway, which necessarily includes now, which must necessarily include now, no matter how absurdly fuckin' lame Now currently is.) (In fact, highly dependent upon how absurdly lame Now currently works out to be.) (That may be the crux of it there.) (Have I mentioned, by the way, that in Phoenix, there was a perfect and near-permanent rivalry between KRIZ and KRUX?) (Well, stay tuned, Good Guys and Bad Gals!)

There were like only a few people in Phoenix. There were only like a few people in Phoenix. It was huge, it was massive -- it was about one-tenth, maybe one-eleventh the size it is now, by the way, thirty years later -- but there were astonishingly few people who could find one another, who could locate one another, who could verify one another's existence. Who could saddle some Lost Dutchman's Miner desert-rat mule and a pick-ass expedition off to find one another, unless they hungtogether at Beeline Dragway (BRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrring YERRRRRR CAMERA! or Manzanita Speedway).... It was only rarely ever hardly never that you met somebody in Phoenix that had the least little clue. And hey! Guess what! It's worse now!

(I made my living as a writer from the time I was like 19 or so. In Phoenix fuckin' Arizona, swear to fuckin' God. And for all the years that I lived there, for years and years and years following, nobody could ever figure out what the hell I did for a living. I'd be a party, say, and as they do, somebody say, So what do you do?, and I'd say, Well, I'm a writer.

And they'd say, "Cool! Awright! No shit! What do you ride? Horses or motorcycles?"

(It only happened twenty times, maybe, or eighty or something, but every time it happened, they pretty much always said Horses before the mentioned Motorcycles. I guess horses seemed more likely, or maybe it was my cowboy boots. Must've been the cowboy boots. )

Well, anyway, Wiley and I knew each other from way back, years and years and years and years. Or at least a couple of years. I'll have to accurately recollect, but not right now, not just now. Wiley was your dead-nuts-typical 70s record store dude; import buyer division, with an academic minor in avant-garde jazz'n'classical. Me, I made much of my writerly living off a monthly music publication I'd extravagantly written myself into running on the editorial side, and thus I'd inherited David Wiley from Craig Maier, the sweet-natured graphic designer guy who was the de facto publisher of the thing, and who'd latched onto me as needily as I'd latched onto him.

Wiley, who I'd definitely absolutely run across in several different record stores, and no doubt at certain odd and particularly unlikely "concerts," (Was it Iggy & the Stooges opening for Dr. John?) (Was it The Eagles opening for King Crimson?) (Was it -- it may well have been -- that beyond ultra-amazing show, that show that lives tonight in my mind and heart and ears and eyes and probably half a dozen other sensory receptors -- that show where Little Feat, one of the ten greatest rock bands in history, probably, the Little Feat of "Dixie Chicken," did their full show, ridiculously brilliant, and then Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, the Captain Beefheart of "Clear Spot," came out and nearly erased all trace of Little Feat.) (I'm pretty sure it wasn't the show where Captain Beyond opened for Canned Heat who opened for hometown heroes Alice Cooper at Manzanita Speedway, the half-mile low-budget chickenwire dirt track where I spent lots of teenage Saturday nights watching limited modifieds and late model stock cars smack each other around the Trophy Dash, where I learned to use masking tape and pearl-paint and copper underlay from Corky, King of Trick Painters.

(More to follow, obviously.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Two photos fall out of an envelope

Ok, so out of the blue, just a few moments ago, while looking for something else entirely, I found two photos of the Consumers. One of David, the other of Paul and Greg. I'll post them, sure, certainly, definitely, but not right now. First I want to sketch them in.

They were stuck in an envelope originally sent from "Radio Ethiopia," Patti Smith's communique/marching orders-issuing fan club ("Box 188, Mantua NJ") as sent to Browbeat ("109 W. Merrill, Phoenix, Arizona"), our xerox punk fanzine, dated 1977. (Stamps cost thirteen cents back then, by the way.) I mean, it's weird that I even still have this stuff at all, and even weirder that I'd have it with me here in Paris. Weird. Ultra-weird. Beyond ultra-weird.

(I think Patti Smith's mom was addressing the envelopes, because her handwriting is a lot nicer than Patti's. Patti, meanwhile, was declaring herself "R.E.F.M.," which stood for Radio Ethiopia Field Marshall, swear to God. She was sending us missives and manifestos and such so we could print them — verbatim, from Yahweh to Her to Us; Tinkers to Evers to Chance, in the second issue of Browbeat. We just haven't gotten around to putting out a second issue of Browbeat yet.)

Okay, but the photos...! One's at a gig, one's at a band practice. The band practice one is less mythic maybe, but it says a lot. I can guess the date, sort of, because Greg hasn't cut his hair yet. So it's gotta be late '76 or early '77. It's not like he's got particularly long hair or anything, just suburban Phoenix Arizona hair from the mid-70s. He's