Sunday, September 14, 2008


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.)

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