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

That first Consumers gig, the one at the cowboy bar

I wish like hell I could remember the name of the cowboy bar where I booked the Consumers first show. I can see it pretty extraordinarily clearly in my mind's eye, I can see that one guy's body flying though the air as I stood by the front door, I can see him landing against that pickup truck's rear wheel with his neck all crumpled in and under, and I can seem him laying there twitching. I just can't remember the name of the damn place.

It was over on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Camelback Road, and it had a little parking lot in the front, but you entered from the rear. Which was not to say that it was anything like a gay cowboy bar — my bet is there wasn't any such a thing in all of Arizona in them days, buckaroo, and you probably would've got your ass whipped (the old-fashioned regulation way) for even just suggesting any such a thang. But one of the things that intrigues me is that it was sometime in the most ridiculously hot part of the summer of 1977 that we did this, and it was six months or so later that the Sex Pistols tour of the US visited such spots as Randy's Rodeo in San Antonio, and the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas. I think the point is that we just knew. The information was in the music and the culture and the moment. We knew that we wanted it to be more confrontation than concert. We just couldn't know how it would play out.

October 26, 1977 — the day after the Zoo show

"No further ado: What's Happening In Phoenix. Well, uh, you know . . . not much. Patti Smith was at the Celebrity Theatre last November and managed to alienate the 51 per cent of the audience who came to see the opening act, Bruce Springsteen's buddy, Southside Johnny . . . Lou Reed was here not long after and threatened to hit someone in the first row with his mike stand . . . Iggy was scheduled to be here November 11 or 12 or 13 (I forget which) with a Mr. D. Bowie playing keyboards in his band but apparently no one in town took up the option, so . . .

Yeah, well, have to admit it; until the aforementioned Evening At The Zoo [which was actually the second Consumers show], Phoenix New Wave fanatics have had to make the considerable journey overland to Los Angeles if they wanted to be the latest with the greatest or something similar. The opportunities have been great, though were one willing and able to make the trip. I personally know a person who saw The Damned's now-historic, near-legendary appearance there (it gets closer to being mythic every day) as well as The Jam, (an interesting English trio who wear suits and ties and reportedly like the Queen) DEVO, The Weirdos, Blondie, The Avengers, all sorts of interesting people.

But then again I'm supposed to be telling you reasons why you should want to stay in Phoenix so that you can pick up this paper so that the advertisers will know you're there so that the fine folks who run this thing will see fit to pay me twice as much next time so's I can . . . Anyway, suddenly there are all kinds of reasons for you to do all of the above — Phoenix is on the verge of, on the very brink of having a burgeoning New Wave scene of its very own — and you'll have to admit that would make things much easier than going to LA, not to mention New York or London.

Certainly the stellar attraction of Phoenix' New Wave . . . uh, scene? Community? Eruption? (I keep thinking of all the Neat comparisons I could be drawing between "Arizona's Ocean, Big Surf" and the local New Wave) . . . stellar attractions around here are The Consumers. I guess the way most of us became aware of their existence was through the posters they so thoughtfully plastered through much of the known city. Apparently they're diligent little devils — the posters all seem to have different embellishments and alterations.

". . . Song titles are extremely important since I don't have thge space to type out the lyrics and I don't really know them anyway and even though I could hum some of the songs for you now, you couldn't hear them anyway, so, as I pointed out only moments ago, titles are extremely important. Included in The Consumers semi-vast repertoire are such gems as "Media Ogre" (Clue! Say it six times fast), "Anti Anti Anti," "Concerned Citizen," and "Chuck Ives." Plus lots more. While I hate to show favoritism in situations like these, it should be pointed out that The Consumers far outstrip The Liars when it comes to song quantity. When it comes to quality . . . well, if you'd only been there last night, you could have judged for yourself. If you'd only been there...

All of which is not to say that The Liars's songs have deficient titles or anything. How're ya gonna top "Just Like Your Mom," "Bionic Girl" or "Enema Gift"? Nope can't say The Liars are lacking when it comes to song titles — nor names neither. Sacreligious as it may seem, the bassist repeatedly assured me that his name is Don Bolles, that Bill Close is the drummer and that the guy on guitar and vocals is John E. Precious. . .

While I'm at it, The Consumers are aka Billy Rocket, guitars; Spiro "Lowball" Keats, vocals and stuff; Tom Tomm, drums; Bill Fold, bass; and Pam Simp, guitars. . . and as to Browbeat, once again, it supposedly is out but I don't know anybody who's got one or knows where to get one or anything about it, so that pretty much wraps that up. Oh yeah. The bassist for The Liars — I'm not going to name him again — you know what it is and I don't want to get blamed for it; direct all complaints in his direction — said to be sure and mention that they don't want nothin' to do with the New Wave. "We're Permanent Wave," says he.

excerpt from New Times, October 26, 1977

(We actually picked up copies of this after we left the Zoo, as it had just hit the street that very night.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tales of Topographic Posters

Gosh, kids, it occurs to me — here's a way to help you understand.

See that Consumers poster up top? The one that we posted up everywhere, all over Phoenix and Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona? Where it was all so clean and pristine that it would stick out like a sore throbbing fuckin' thumb, because there was nothing going on that wasn't so mainstream that it would ever occur to anyone to put a flyer on a telephone pole near a record store, much less on a record store window? Because it wouldn't have looked right. Because record store windows had posters, official posters, from official promoters, who let you know when the big Peter Frampton/Ted Nugent/Rick Derringer concert extravaganaza was due to hover over town and then move on....what the hell was a flyer? Only losers would make up their own flyers, right? And they'd at least try and make it look decent. Or if not decent, then at least as much like the cover of a Yes album as possible, depending on if they had a sister who could draw stuff with her set of pastels....


So a guy doing research on punk in Phoenix announces that I "claim that he and David Wiley from the Consumers created the world's first xerox-copied punk fanzine called Browbeat in June 1977."

Uh, no.

First of all, ahem (meaningful, throat-clearing pause): I don't "claim" nothin', ese. I am a lifelong, dyed-in-the-wool, old-school reporter type, and back in the days when there used to be journalism, they used to take us way deep back into the interior under-bowels of the Temple Of Truth and make us swear a deadly irrevocable oath to tell the truth, such as it was. And fool that I was, I believed it, and have practiced it like a religion. Or a bad habit.

But that's kind of beside the point. Browbeat was, to my knowledge, the first xerox-punk fanzine in the United States. It was David and me and Greg (whose last name I just cannot remember, and haven't for a million years, though I can describe his face and glasses and crummy slump-block apartment over on 48th and McDowell. And Sharon Ehle too. Debbie Dub/Durham was gonna be a part of it, but I think she was out of town that spring and summer.) We were totally ripping off (that's Seventies Amer-Arizonian argot for "inspired by") Sniffin' Glue from England. We had copies of those in hand, probably from even their first issue, maybe. (Which is extraordinary, of course, because who knows how many copies they ever xeroxed, but this whole thing was extraordinary.) And when I say "we," I mean David. Because hip as I was — and let's face it — I wasn't hip like that. Not, surely, definitely, totally, when it came to English stuff. I was kind of pointedly and aggressively and intentionally and actively unhip in that direction. Because from that direction, as far as I had been concerned for years and years and years, had plodded forth the dreaded Progressive Rock: Genesis. Gong. Gentle Giant. Geez!

Anyway, so as far as I'm concerned, Sniffin' Glue was the first and foremost. There were all manner of somewhat sort of similar things, sci-fi fanzines and such. John Holmstrom had definitely done Punk in New York, and we'd seen it, but Punk didn't really make us very nuts, frankly. (Sorry, Legs.) (Hey, man, you owe me money.) Sniffin' Glue did — it even made me nuts, and I was a big ol' anglophobic Anglophobe. There was, or would soon enough be, the amazing and often brilliant Slash from Los Angeles, and the often amazing and sometimes brilliant and generally ultra-thorough Search & Destroy from San Francisco. There was, eventually, New York Rocker (Hey, Andy — where ya't?). And before that, in the present tense, and much more importantly, at least in this moment, there was Rock Scene. From New York. Which was clearly some kind of hilarious clip-job scam, cooked up by Richard Robinson and/or Lisa Robinson, who were a couple or a former couple, and rock writers and/or former rock writers, or a couple of former whatevers from New York City, which was millions of miles away, which was no closer than London and only a little farther away than LA. Rock Scene was devoted, primarily, to Kiss and to Aerosmith and to Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin press conferences and flash-photo after-parties with shrimp and champagne and former New York Dolls and photo opportunities. Rock Scene was one big fat skinny photo opportunity clip-job, but you could buy it on the newsstands of Phoenix, Arizona as readily than you could get Rolling Stone (which was becoming ever more useless) and more certainly than Creem, which might show up at the Circle K some months and some months it might not. (Later in life I'd learn the ways of mobbed-up magazine distribution, and the steady appearance of Rock Scene versus Creem would crystal-clear sense. But Rock Scene, in its ridiculous and obvious lame-nosity, kept showing crappy pictures, usually shot by Leee Black Childers, of Patti Smith and The Ramones and Richard Hell and, soon enough, Rat Scabies and Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer and Dee Generate. You didn't feel like they were getting their share of shrimp and champagne, but what the hell? You were in Phoenix, and they weren't sharing any with you, either.

I sympathize with the post-post-post-post-punk historians' dilemma. They don't seem to get it, and you can't blame 'em.

BUT: HOWEVER: TOO DAMN BAD: TOUGH SHIT: It's the historian's dilemma. And dharma duty. And privilege. You gotta make it pop up 3-D. Gotta bring it back alive ("It's ALIVE!!!) They, you, we live in a different world. They were born into a different world. They teach their kids Clash songs, for God's sake, just like creepy baby-boomers taught their kids Beatle songs, because its, like...whoa! ....eternally true and good and righteous and all, man. Because it's the verities. When the Clash started putting their own kids singing Clash songs on Clash records, they were suggesting, ironically and childishly, that it was all history now, ancient history, that it had gone archaic and folkloric and ancient and anachronistic. With the smell of mildew, with moths and maggots and decrepitude. They felt old. They wondered: What Next? Where do we go from here? How do we go out of here?

I guess it's not possible for These Darn Wet-Behind-The-Ears Whippersnapper Punk Kid Historians to even imagine how different that world was. They think, inevitably, swear to God, in terms of "the punk scene." Because there certainly became a punk scene in Phoenix, but by then it was dead. (Sort of, except for the ones who were inventing it, risking it, playing really bad guitar but feeling it.) (They played really bad guitar, by the way.) (Not the Consumers, who were never less than astonishingly, fiercely, ferociously great.) It was punk, certainly. Made by people who by then knew how to dress punk, and play punk music, and be punk. It was dead by then. It may have even been more actual fun then, and fun is never to be dismissed. Never.

But danger is different. It wasn't the same. Nothing ever is, is it?

Browbeat grew out of boredom. Browbeat was something that occurred just in case The Consumers didn't. There was a Consumers flier, a full-page, in every copy of Browbeat (I don't remember how many copies we printed but it was something like 200, 250, 300 — it wouldn't have been anywhere near as many as 500, and I was paying the xerox bill, 'cause I had a job) (what did xeroxes cost in 1977? Can the contemporary historian comprehend a world with no Kinko's? I can't imagine I had more than like $50 bucks in all of life to piss away — and we knew we were pissing it away — but there was no gig listed on the flier. We'd done the fliers (and put them up all over town, all over Phoenix and Tempe and Scottsdale, at a time when there literally weren't fliers up for anything, nothing, nuthin', whether rock'n'roll or rodeo or Park'N'Swap) just to create a what would now be called a buzz, but would then have been considered a problem. Or litter.

Actually, this is where a Phoenix punk rock historian might actually catch a clue. Last time I was in what we might dignify up by calling "downtown Phoenix," (which is now an active lie and an oxymoron in the same moment) they had created these airtight little poster kiosk things. They were these Pillars Of Salt/Plexiglass Officially-Approved Things with tight little tough little locking mechanisms on 'em. If you were a proper Patron Of The Arts, with a proper Poster Of The Arts, and the Proper Permission Of The Kiosk Commissariat Of The Arts Commission, well, then, presumably somebody from the City Of Phoenix, way down the kachina-pole, probably A City Of Phoenix Mexican Employee, had been entrusted with las llaves. So you could put up a poster. Not you, loser, yourself, actually, but the properly-employed C.O.P. Mexican Poster Kiosk Commission Sub-Commissar Employee.

In fact, this is where a contemporary Phoenix Punk Historian could maybe dig around a bit and discover themselves tumbling down the good ol' fresh new ancient archaic rabbit-hole. Apparently — and maybe I'll go back and check — a couple years ago there was a move on to save or preserve good ol' Patriot Park, in (ahem) downtown Phoenix, as a bit of free space, as a bit of (and there's a funny-ass word in the context of "downtown" Phoenix: Heritage) as a bit of "heritage." (Here's another knee-slapper; what's left of the Dresden-esque bombsite that once was a place, the part that's not called "Heritage Square," spent much of the last decade being declared "Copper Square," but that's basically over now, done, finis, kaputt, and they've decided to rename it: it's now the All-New "Downtown Phoenix!" ) And it's funny, but I can't help but think of Patriot Park, as many times as I ended up skating across and through there on my way with mi vatos en route to this or that parking garage (which even then was pretty much what was even then left of "downtown," and which even now may be the last best hope for "Phoenix," once and former city/place, as a sort of paved-over skatepark . . well, anyway, I can't help but think about Patriot Park, that proudly-mounted jackalope-abortion trophy, that un-echoing abomination created as a proudly prominent non-place to replace what had once been a place, and the fact that Paul Cutler, genius guitar-deconstructing dude, co-creator of The Consumers (he'd hate that, probably; 'cause it's s'posed to be ":Consumers," if we keep the properly rigorous rigid rigor in place), Mr. I'll Personally Bring Dada to Phoenix Personally Myself, created an event, a "situation," a "happening" (oooh! he'd totally hate that one!), a "protest," a "performance art piece" there, there, there, there in the the most perfectly formed piece of what was left of Phoenix and what was to be, prophetically, all that Phoenix could ever, was ever going to become. Patriot Park.

Me, I thought he was just being a pretentious arty-ass pain-in-the-ass weirdo.

He who laughs last, laughs best. Or loudest. Or most cynically. He who locates the least park-like park in the center of Phoenix-Dresden wins the bowling trophy.

(Meanwhile, so little is left of downtown Phoenix's bombsite that there has actually been a movement to "save" Patriot's Square Park.) (Swear to God.) ( It failed, of course.) (It will now be part of something called the CityScape Development Project.) (Or, as we used to call it, Phoenix.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

KDIL Blues Licks

But wait! Hold everything! Stop the presses! Hold the phone!

How could I have forgotten? There's no question that David and Greg (I'm'na remember Greg's last name before we're done; not Greg Jones of the Consumers, though) and me created Browbeat in direct imitation/competition with Sniffin' Glue... but first, way before us and, really, more important, if only because it was first and even less anchored to any apparent existing reality, was KDIL Blues Licks.

I first spotted it on the floor near the door of the used record store. This, this method, this system, this way, was to become the time-honored method of xerox-fanzines, was to become the folkloric way, but as far as Phoenix, Arizona goes, this was the time we ought to honor. These were the trailblazing pioneers. KDIL Blues Licks! Man, was that thing ugly!

Man, was it ever ugly and stupid-looking! (As powerful and trouble-making and epoch-stirring as it was, there ought to have been a nice 8 1/2 x 11 inch dent in the concrete floor. There may well be. I wouldn't bet against it.) It looked like they couldn't even figure out how to work the xerox machine. It looked like they didn't have a clue about what they were doing. It didn't look sexy and slick and psychedelic and smooth and special and sharp and sensational and tasteful and ironic and hip — everything was getting really hip right about then, and this just looked lame. It was SO lame!

It was laying there, in a small crummy pile too small and crummy to be declared a stack, by the glass door of wee tiny li'l Bullfrog Records at Seventh Avenue and Camelback . . . let's see — Northeast corner, next to the little parking lot, a minuscule storefront barnacled onto what was probably a drugstore or a print shop or something every bit as useful and proper. (The cowboy bar where I booked the Consumers to play their very first show ever was catty-corner across the street, rear entry, gravel parking lot to help facilitate the spills'n'thrills that made cowboy bars such a gravel-grinding-in-your face drunken parking lot experience more nights than not. Peel out, dude!

Bullfrog Records was owned and operated by Butch, this genial lank-haired hippie guy with coke-bottle wire-frame glasses. It wasn't just a Used Records store (in fact, that side of things is probably defined by my own broke-ass sensibility), it was mainly an "import store." Which, in those days, meant mostly horrifying British prog-rock bullshit and a schmattering of German prog-rock Stierscheiz, which is them frontier days were pretty much impossible to find, and certainly in Phoenix F. Arizona. Bill Drummond (who enters our story right about NOW) had done a Drummond-esque mural on the slumpblock wall by the parking lot, and then it had spilled over onto the glass window front of the joint. I don't remember what it was, but it probably had to do with bullfrogs and, possibly, canals, and, knowing Drummond, outer space.
If you weren't careful, you'd probably run into Drummond at Bullfrog, and he'd probably be fondling Gong records about pothead pixies and their flying UFO teacups or some such post-hippe twaddle, and if you made the mistake of saying "Uh, hi....", the next thing you knew, Bill was rattling away in his Buzz-Click Robot voice about all kinds of stuff.

(A complete and entire generation away, the Beastie Boys would create a magazine of their own ('cause they had crashed and destroyed so many SPIN parties before they got famous that while we loved 'em and all, we may have loved 'em too well, and weren't willing to devote each and every issue to 'em, much to their dismay and disdain and all... ), so they started their own, Grand Royal, which was kind of genius, which was more than kind of genius, and within the pages of what I think was like their second issue (nationally distributed! probably internationally too!) they defined and defiled and designated and delineated the term for the hairdo that Bill Drummond (the Phoenix one, not the KLF one — he came later) and Peter Gabrield were rockin' : The Mullet.)

Drummond was practically always there, in his drippy prog-rock mullet, and his white-on-white outfits, with maybe a few colorful Jackson Pollock drips in all the beaming colors Jackson Pollock would have avoided like the colorful plague, and with his ever-present, ever-active, ever-busy sketchbook, and his little Rapidograph pens, which he continually and obsessively sketched in all the while he continually and obsessively talked to you, and when he was done sketching and you looked — well, you had apparently not been standing around in the cramped quarters of a used record store on Seventh Ave and Camelback in Phoenix, but had been chillin' in the aft-deck of some StarTrek space-lounge, and you were looking bullfroggy and bug-eyed and mullet-ified, like everbody else.

Drummond hadn't done the hippie-esque mural on the front windows at Oasis Records, halfway down the block, opposite side of the street, towards Central Avenue — "It's all San Andreas' fault," it said, and there was a cosmic hippie dude with headphones being all psychedelic and stuff — but he was pretty much always there too, because it was where also where KCAC was. KCAC was, however briefly, the most extraordinary thing in Phoenix in some ways — certainly if you weren't into the part of Phoenix that was cowboys and rodeo belt buckles and and Buck Owens' KNIX. (And unless you consider the absurdly tiny R&B station KCAC replaced, serving all seventeen black folks in Phoenix, and Johnny D and me.) KCAC had been this secret little AM station somewhere around the middle of the transistor dial, and it had been assembled and created and imagined by a visionary. And because KCAC was so genuinely glorious, well, it defined the very empty airspace where KDIL belonged. Which had so little to do with being glorious.

And KDIL Blues Licks....(because hardly anybody ever could catch KDIL on the air, which includes the FCC, and the FBI, who didn't have much else to do in Phoenix, given the distinct lack of Communists)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Debbie Dub, Al Simon, Clear Bob, Charlie Monoxide, Sharon Ehle

Debbie Dub was there. (I think she was supposed to contribute to Browbeat, but it didn't happen. She did contribute to Slash, though the current archive doesn't mention her. (Let's see, I remember for a fact she did a review of Althea and Donna's "Uptown Top Ranking," among other things... somebody'll eventually find that issue somewhere, and post it on the internet, and there she'll be...though my memory is she did stuff for a couple few issues. Hey, Debbie, you were always a great gal, and I hope you're alive and well and glorious.

Al Simon was there. Al was a genuinely great guy, really a special person, and he was absolutely part of it all. Genial as hell, a good photographer who often did something great, and just one of those people who everybody actually likes. Which was a big deal, really, because we weren't actually going out of our way, most of us, to be very damn likeable. Plus, notably, he was black, one of 17 or so black folks in Phoenix (well, one of about six or seven who lived north of Indian School Road and south of Sunnyslope, definitely. Al was totally there, and I hope he's still here. Totally.

Hey, and I just heard from Clear Bob! Dang!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Letter From Mikey

This one, I think, I'll hold off on until I speak to Mikey, and see if he cares to have his letter to me about Wiley, circa about '83, printed. More later, maybe. Depends, I guess.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Birthplace of Punk

Sort of.

Kind of.

If you squint hard, you can see it, there amongst the images of Dresden, Arizona, before the dreadful bombing.

And look! Good news! A billboard for up-and-coming Lite Rock radio station KBBC! On June 13, 1976, their Number One hit was "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band! Though it would soon be toppled by Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way," which would hold the Number One slot until it was finally knocked down to Number Two by "Don't Stop (Thinkin' About Tomorrow" by Fleetwood Mac in August 1977; the two songs would remain Number One and Two in Phoenix until early February 1997, when they each fell into the bottom of the Top Ten.

But there 'tis. (Oh, and the sign next to the KBBC billboard says "Arizona Awning," not "Yawning.")

What Paul Was Playing

Ha! Too hilarious!

I'd never have guessed, nor remembered, nor remember-guessed, nor speculated, or nothin' . . .

But tonight, I went over and looked at that photo from the rehearsal — hey! that was my house! Man, what a great place that was! No wonder it got torn down! It's Phoenix, after all, and there are laws! No great houses that aren't brand new, and certainly not right there at the corner of Thomas and Central, right across from the Bob's Big Boy (oops, that's long gone too) and right by Park Central (Hey, is that still there? Don't they know about the law?) — anyway, as I was looking at it, looking at the fret-markers on the neck trying to figure out what it was, since the headstock just out of the frame just where the logo would be, I looked down at the reflection of the neck just below and realized . . . well, hell! Of course! Now I remember! Jesus! And I guess, knowing Paul, that there was at least some element of irony to his choice of ax, to his pick of plank to spank. At least I'm sure at the time he would have suggested so, though I wonder . . . about when he first got his hands on it, when he first hit some Westside music store . . . maybe saw it on sale at Skaggs Music Center. I'll have to ask him.

Friday, May 9, 2008

What The Hell Was That Mexican Restaurant On South Central Called?

I'm attempting  (elsewhere) to write about that amazing Mexican restaurant on South Central Avenue,  just after you went down and through and  up out of the underpass downtown – or hey, la otra vez  if you lived in South Phoenix — where  Wiley and Sharon and I always used to go eat at on Fridays, on paydays.  (Dude, we were broke, and probably we bought David's dinner too. ) It's long since been torn down —   it's Phoenix, after all —  ripped up, stomped on and scattered to the winds of what's left of downtown and the desert, but I'll be damned if I can remember the name, although I can still remember the sopa albondigas con arroz and the machaca and the chile verde.   And those exotic Bohemia beers.   (Dan?   Got any ideas?)  (It definitely wasn't the Mantiki. . . nor Woody's Macayo, (or even Woody's Quien Sabe, or Woody's El Nido), or the Roach, La Cucaracha, on Seventh Street and Indian School, or the TeePee Taproom, or Los Compadres or El Tango on Northern and 19th, (which I later learned was owned by my pal Ted Tang's family, of Tang's Grocery, hence El Tango.....) or Jordan's or Filiberto's.  Or even the Ladmo Drive-In on Bethany, where I bet you could probably have gotten fried burritos or something before they threw in the towel.  (Or the tie-painted t-shirt, in this case.) 

Wait..... wait.... I think, maybe.... I think it was La PiƱata....?  I think.  Maybe.  I think.  Maybe.  Maybe.  Or maybe El Molino.  Something like that, anyway