Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Weekly BOMP!: The Voxx Rebellion


By now it’s an old story: It’s 1979, the last few spurts of punk drizzle into either the testosterone jockstrap of hardcore, or the twinky commercialism of “new wave.” And to make matters worse, not even the Real Kids can save power pop. Underground R’n’R looks to the past again for inspiration & direction, to what is still a largely bypassed trip, it looks to 60s punk.

Greg Shaw temporarily folded both Bomp Magazine and the BOMP! label in 1979. He then launched the Voxx imprint to “offer a home to bands working in a purist '60s garage/punk/psych tradition.” At least that’s the story (never mind that Bomp continued releasing classics like Stiv Bators’ "Disconnected" and the Taxi Boys mini-LP). So you can credit Voxx for getting the drop on 80s garage revivalism. At first business was slow, with only a few bands answering the call. Still, the label probably reached its zenith with its first few releases, namely two by San Diego’s Crawdaddys, their 1979 LP “Crawdaddy Express,” a veritable slab of ’64 time-traveled to the Year of the Voxx, and their 1980 EP “5 x 4.” Mike Stax, also of the Tell-Tale Hearts, and editor/publisher of Ugly Things magazine, in a short piece on Voxx included in the book Bomp: Saving the World One Record at a Time, tells of hearing these records on John Peel’s show as a lad, then writing a fan letter to Crawdaddys leader Ron Silva. Silva replied by inviting Stax to come to San Diego from England to play bass for his band. Stax hopped the next plane and the rest is garage revival history. Here’s a couple of cuts from “5 x 4”.

Mono Man

If the Crawdaddys took the purist’s approach, Voxx stalwarts DMZ, fronted by Jeff “Mono Man” Connolly, who would go on to lead one of the greatest of 80s garage bands the Lyres, hammered out a crazed hybrid sound, at times made of equal parts Sonics, Stooges, and 13th Floor Elevators. Shaw helped DMZ get signed to Sire records for their eponymous debut, which kicks ass despite a few flaws like closely mic’d, clicky drums, but which flopped on the sales. Shortly after Sire dropped them, Voxx released some truer sounding DMZ tracks, originally recorded in 1977, on the “Relics” LP. Here’s “Do Not Enter” plus their version of the Standells’ “Barracuda.”

Paula Pierce & the rest of the Pandoras

Low-budget recording and packaging was a major part of the Voxx ethos, and Shaw booked cheap studio time at a place called Silvery Moon, in Los Angeles, the city which, with the Cavern Club as its live showcase, functioned as the scene’s ground zero. Unfortunately, it being the 80s and all, the studio featured modern equipment more suited to recording Hollywood hair metal than 60s punk. One of the cuter bands on Voxx, the Pandoras, who came out swinging on their debut LP “It’s About Time,” from 1984, got the Silvery Moon treatment. Then, as if too much of the studio’s effects rubbed off on them, the Pandoras evolved from 60s punk purists to a hair metal band themselves. By ’89 they looked and sounded more like Poison. Leader Paula Pierce died suddenly from some type of brainurism in 1991, aged 31. Here’s their version of the Invictas “Do the Hump,” plus one Paula Pierce original, both from “It’s About Time.” Don’t they sound like nice girls?

So, yes, today’s post offers but a small sampling from the Voxx roster. There were lots more bands, like The Gravedigger V, The Tell-Tale Hearts, The Miracle Workers, The Eyes of Mind, and The Things, to name a few. Also excluded from this post are the great & influential Battle of the Garages comps, just because I don’t own any, and the Acid Visions comp, which, actually, I do have, so maybe down the line I’ll add a couple of tracks from that as an update to this post.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Washing Down the Holidays with Colorado Cool-Aid

Malcom Yelvington & Band, sometime in the mid 1950s.

Portrait of Red Sovine by Jesse Weidel

Neighbor there's no need to let any holiday give you the blues, whether you're talkin' about Christmas, Hannukka, Kwaanzaa, or the passage of our new compromised health care reform bill. Why, all you gotta do is blow off all any and all of it that doesn't involve bright shiny lights, time off from work and school, and all the free grub you can eat. Then skip out to your local non-Judeo-Christian ethnic restaurant and order up some Aloo Vindaloo, extra spicy. And be sure to wash it all down with a couple of nice, cold cans of Colorado Cool-Aid. Which brings us to the real point of today's post, which is to give you, dear reader, a special holiday gift. Introducing Gemini Spacecraft's Washing Down the Holidays with Colorado Cool-Aid playlist. Just download and play. Not a single Christmas song in the lot. And don't say we never give ya nothin'. Happy Holidays.


1. Lester Roadhog Moran - Intro + Liza Jane
2. Donny Young - Shakin' the Blues
3. T. Texas Tyler - Texas Boogie Woogie
4. Red Sovine - Colorado Cool-Aid
5. Lester Roadhog Moran - Monologue
6. Wanda Jackson - Swinging Doors
7. Delmore Brothers - Hillbilly Boogie
8. Guy Drake - Welfare Cadillac
9. Lester Roadhog Moran - Monologue
10. Malcom Yelvington - Yakety Yak
11. Tommy Blake - F-Oldin Money
12. Glen Glenn - One Cup of Coffee
13. Eddie Bond - Boo Bop Da Caa Caa
14. George Jones - Sparkling Brown Eyes
15. Lester Roadhog Moran - Monologue

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Andy Shernoff Solo

One test of a good song is if it plays well as an acoustic number, or so says Dictators songwriter & mastermind Andy Shernoff. And play ‘em acoustic is exactly what Shernoff did for about an hour last night at the Lakeside Lounge, in New York City, in the final installment of the amazing Monday happy hour thing he’s been doing there for the past few weeks. And play ‘em ain’t all he did. He told a few too--stories, anecdotes, and jokes to introduce the numbers, revealing something new about each song. For example, writer Richard “Jimmy Borneo” Meltzer apparently loved party gags, and would sometimes place a cup of his own piss among a soiree’s snacks & hordy-orvys, and the death of Joey Ramone, for whom Shernoff wrote the great “Stop Thinking About It,” was even sadder than you know.

Something about the interplay of these stories and songs lent extra impact to the proceedings, producing some rare effect that these two elements working separately would never hit. The more he talked and played the more exhilarating and trance-like the set became. When introducing “New York, New York,” a song about a city that no longer exists, Shernoff remarked that “Now New York is one big mall filled with hillbillies.” How ironic to hear him play the song, moments later, and stare through the Lakeside’s window at the street outside, watching the passersby, the bourgeois bohemians and neat bankers who now roam Avenue B. Occasionally these passersby would glance inside at the oddity onstage. What did they see? Just some guy strumming an acoustic guitar?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Arrival to the GS Bookshelf: Folk Photography by Luc Sante

Luc Sante, author of that great history of vice on the Bowery, Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, apparently collects early 20th Century picture postcards. From his collection of more than 2500 cards he assembled his latest book Folk Photography, The American Real-Photo Postcard 1905-1930 (Yeti/VerseChorus, 2009).

Clare County voted to go dry.

Sante distinguishes Real-Photo Postcards from the more widespread photo-litho cards of the day, as the former were printed in darkrooms, on photo paper, and in limited runs. They originally appeared as a result of several key convergences. In 1905 the postal service inaugurated the penny postcard rate, and then Rural Free Delivery the following year. At about the same time photography became more accessible to the layman thanks largely to the advent of simpler developing processes and cheap cameras. Before long every lonesome whistle-stop in Prairieville had its local photog, ready and able, for a fee, to document people and events in sepia tone to show to the folks back home.

A scene from the Mexican border war.

This plain-faced popular form, which Sante reminds us was an essential means of communication during its day, was derided by the guardians of more self-consciously arty-farty photography of the time. Alfred Stieglitz considered the subjects of most photo postcards too banal, and their execution too amateurish. However, in his accompanying treatise, Sante argues for the democratic quality of the real-photo postcard. Borrowing crit-speak from Barthe’s Camera Obscura, he insists that the best RPPCs qualify as art, as they possess both studium and punctum. That is, they both capture something essential about their time and place, the studium, while also “puncturing” the viewer with their emotional power.