I just got back to NYC and even though it ain’t what is used to be it’s always a relief to be home.
Five days back in Florida where I spent the greater part of my youth and I feel like somebody took a vacuum cleaner and stuck it in my ear and sucked out that dried up little peanut looking thing that now sits where there was once part of a brain. Since I can’t seem to finish anything I start today, I’ll just do what I’ve been doing since I got home last night, spinning 45’s. Somehow these little buggers always cheer me up, they’re my favorite type of record, and the perfect delivery system for rock’n’roll. Here’s five great 45’s, in fact, five of my absolute favorites.
First one is Tommy Jim Beam & his 4/5th’s; if that isn’t the coolest band name ever, it’ll do ’til the coolest gets here. They were out of Fort Worth, Texas (despite the Tulsa and Nashville label info) and issued this disc on their own 100 Proof label. I’m gonna post both sides of this baby, the a-side (which I favor) is a spooky ballad called Bayou and it never fails to put chills up my spine. It’s probably the best white disc ever to feature bongo drums. The b-side is a feral rocker: My Little Jewel which gets extra points for mentioning Dragnet. I believe it was released in 1958.
Next in the stack is from the great Fortune label from Detroit, Michigan. Fortune might just be the greatest label of all time, it’s roster included John Lee Hooker, Nolan Strong & the Diablos, Dr. Ross, Andre Williams, Johnny Powers, Nathaniel Mayer, and this guy, Eddie Kirkland who began his career as John Lee Hooker’s sidekick. He is often billed as Eddie Kirk for reasons known only to him. He’s still alive and has made many great records, and is often seen beneath the ultimate sartorial touch– a turban. He cut this canticle thrice, first on Volt as The Hawg (Pts 1 and 2), then this version retitled The Grunt, he re-cut it a third time for King as Hog Killin’ Time. The year of our Lord, 1966.
Plop goes the automatic changer and the next disc that hits the turntable is Bop Cat Stomp on the Folk-Star label, a subsidiary of Eddie Shuler’s Goldband Records from Lake Charles, Louisiana. The titled might make you think it’s a rockabilly platter, but it’s not, it’s a wild R&B instrumental rocker. The artist is King Charles and his Orchestra (the orchestra being guitarist Left Handed Charlie wailing away, a sax, piano, a bass player and drummer). If they still made records like this the world would be a much better place.
Since the subject sort of came up anyways, I must say rockabilly and Goldband Records are two things that go together well as exemplified by this beat up old slice of polystyrene. Ray Vict and his Bop Rockers– We Gonna Bop Stop Rock. I think this band’s gimmick was they tuned their instruments after the song, not before it like normal people do. Have you ever heard anything like this before? Or since? I think this one is from ’58 also.
Now we set the Wayback machine for Chicago, 1966 and bingo, we land on Baby Huey & the Babysitters’ Monkey Man on the Satellite label (not the Satellite label from Memphis that became Stax). Baby Huey & the Babysitters where hugely popular on the frat circuit around Illinois, and the rotund Baby Huey has received much posthumous acclaim for the LP- The Baby Huey Story: Living Legend, produced by Curtis Mayfield, it’s something of a funk classic. I prefer this earlier and cruder sounding disc. Baby Huey (James Ramsey) was only 26 when his heart gave out in 1970.
So keep your box sets, wax cylinders, and digital downloads, I’ll take the little ones with the big holes every time. Maybe I’ll do this (post five 45’s) once a month, or once a week. Or never again.
I’m away for a week and won’t be posting so here’s a long one for you, it runs 1:17 hrs. It’s put together from footage shot in the early 70’s around Memphis and New Orleans by the photographer William Eggleston, one of the greatest and most famous photographers alive.
If you’re in NYC you can catch the retrospective at the Whitney (which ends Jan 25th so hurry), where this is also showing. Otherwse, turn to full screen and sit back. It’s mostly drunken, quaaluded out, late night debauchery you could find anywhere in the south around that time. It reminds me a lot of growning up in Florida. Although I’ve never seen anyone bite the head off of a chicken as seen here. And Eggleston doesn’t know any paint huffers.
You’ll also spot some (in)famous faces like bluesman Furry Lewis, Jim Dickinson, Jerry McGill (I think the only Sun Recording artist to go into bank robbery as a career, he made this great record with Jim Dickinson in ’66, the last good Sun 45), Johnny Woods, Stanley Booth, Dewey Phillips, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, et al, all make cameos. It’s fun and haunting and sometimes a bit unwatchable, but always riveting.
It was edited together by Robert Gordon, author of It Came From Memphis (Pocket Books, 1995) and Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life Of Muddy Waters (Little, Brown, 2002), both excellent.
I’ll be back around the end of the month and hopefully have something to say.
Nothing to say today, but I love this clip of Lightnin’ Hopkins from some European TV show circa 1962. If you look close at the end you can see him spit out his fasle choppers.
Nick Tosches has something to say, check out his take on things here.
Live with Little Walter on harmonica.
Hound Dog Taylor with the House Rockers.
Here’s some nice footage of Hound Dog Taylor, and that’s Little Walter, near the end of his life (he was only thirty two when he died) on harp. The second clip I just added thanks to who ever left the comment. The photo is H.D.’s six fingered left paw, no he didn’t use the extra pinkie to play slide, it was just there because God thought it looked cool. Although he died back in ’75, Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers were probably the last really great blues band. Blues has become one of the most offensive marketing tools in history and by this point just the word gives me a headache, it brings to mind bands like best exemplified by Blue Hammer, the jock blues band in Terry Zwigoff’s film (taken from Dan Clowes’ comic book) Ghost World (2001), white guys in thrift store suits and silly hats, and idiot guitar solo worship. Or as my old pal Ike Turner said–“Who want to hear white guys imitating what the blues used to be”? But Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers were kinda like the punk rock of the blues, primitive, noisy and proudly showing off the chops they didn’t have. They’re a good place to plant the tombstone for blues, and a great band whose music hasn’t dated at all– sloppy, drunk and derivative (those are compliments), their sound makes me miss drinking. Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, born in either 1915 or 1917 in Natchez, Mississippi had been kicking around for years, cutting the odd 45 for Chess, Bea & Baby, Alley and other small labels before Bruce Iglauer started Alligator Records in Chicago to record him and his House Rockers (Brewer Phillips- guitar and Ted Harvey- drums), releasing three albums: Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers (which can be found here) Natural Boogie, Beware Of Dog (here), and later two more LP’s of outtakes and live recordings-Genuine House Rockin’ Music (here) and Release The Hound (look here, downloaders), all great, all sounding pretty much the same. They would be the only good records Alligator ever released as Alligator soon pioneered the beer commercial sound that we think of today as blues. Death to digital reverb. As Hound Dog said of himself, “When I die they’re gonna say–he couldn’t play shit, but it sure sounded good”. Calling him derivative is besides the point, all blues (in fact all pop music) is derivative. Hound Dog Taylor based his sound on Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” riff, of course Elmore James got it from Robert Johnson, who got it from Kokomo Arnold, who got it from somebody else, it hardly matters who. On his earlier sides he comes off as just another enjoyable but fairly generic Elmore imitator (c.f. his version of Watch Out with Big Walter Horton on harp, issued by Chess in ’67), but with the House Rockers’ rhythm section he found a way to put his own personal stamp on the old riff, which is really what it’s all about. Here’s some highlights: Kitchen Sink Boogie, My Baby’s Comin’ Home, Roll Your Moneymaker, The Sun Is Shining, Dust My Broom and Brewer Phillips’, who played the bass parts and lead guitar simultaneously, is showcased on this whacked out version of What’d I Say. They could even take a goofy tune like “She’ll Be Comin’ Around The Mountain” and make it rock and roll (I’d like to have heard ’em tackle “The Ink Dinky Spider”). It’s obvious from these recordings that these guys were pretty drunk for most of their sessions and gigs. Now let’s face it music was better when it worked on the alcohol standard (i.e., musicians were paid in booze and just enough money to buy a new set of strings). Perhaps a return to such practices would improve the dire state of modern music, if not the lifestyles of the rich and useless. I don’t know if any amount of booze could help Coldplay but they sure couldn’t get any worse. And I doubt if Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers would have sounded any better sober. The richer the artist the worse the music. Something to think about….
I really miss Dee Dee Ramone. Of all the Ramones, Dee Dee is the one I knew best. We hung out on and off for around 25 years. It was always a pleasure to run into Dee Dee, he always had a funny story, a strange antidote, bizarre things always happened to Dee Dee. In a way he sought them out, but in another way he was just a magnet for nuts and weirdos. Dee Dee was a doer, and not in a small way. Whatever Dee Dee did, he did a lot of, good or bad. When he decided he was going to be a writer he knocked off three books in less than five years, and all three are great: Poison Heart: Surviving The Ramones (with Veronica Kofman) (Firefly, 1997, this has also been published as Lobotomy), Chelsea Horror Hotel (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2001), and Legend Of A Rock Star: The Last Testament Of Dee Dee Ramone (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002). When he got into painting he churned out hundreds of paintings (with help from wife Barbara and Paul Kostabi) we bought the one pictured above. He wrote thousands of songs. When he decided to move out of New York City, he moved dozens of times, first to Argentina, then Amsterdam, then a small town in the Netherlands, then back to New York, then upstate New York, then L.A., with Ann Arbor thrown in somewhere. He got a dog, an Airedale, it died. He got another dog, also an Airedale, it died, he got another. He couldn’t figure out why they kept dying. If Joey had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Dee Dee had CCD (Compulsive Compulsive Disorder, a condition I just made up).
When I went into the bar biz, Dee Dee really wanted me to do well so he offered to play (for free!) every Tuesday night. But since he’d long since stopped drinking he couldn’t wait until show time and would just show up and start playing, sometimes before the audience even got there. If showtime was 9:30 he’d want to go on at eight, and sometimes did. He got Joey onstage with him, two weeks in a row, the first time they’d performed together since he’d left the Ramones eight years earlier, but everyone missed it because Dee Dee was insistent on going on so early! I don’t even have a photo. When his novel Chelsea Horror Hotel came out he demanded that the book release party be held at the Lakeside (where the above photo was taken) instead of Barnes and Noble or someplace that would help sell the book. It was the last time I saw him. He sat an autographed books until he got bored, then plugged in his guitar, a rhythm section appeared and he played for an hour. He also gave me a tape of this song, I think it eventually was issued on a small label in Europe, he wanted it to be included if a film was ever made from the book that my wife co-wrote: Please Kill Me (by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil, Grove Press, 1996) in which Dee Dee plays a major (and hilarious) role. Hopefully such a movie will never be made. It’s amazing that he was writing great tunes right up to the end of his life, he never lost his touch. We had a strange conversation that day, he was very bummed out by Joey’s death and said something that would later haunt me. He had been clean for years and somebody at the bar offered him some dope, he declined but said, “If I ever kill myself that’s how I’m going to do it, I’ll shoot up ten bags”. Five months later he was dead from an overdose, ten bags in the cooker. I’m sure he killed himself.
Of course there was the crazy Dee Dee also, as detailed in the aforementioned PKM, and also in his own books. Chelsea Horror Hotel is an interesting look inside Dee Dee’s mind. It starts off like a very well written horror story, then takes a left turn into insanity, much like Dee Dee himself. I only saw the crazy side of Dee Dee occasionally. I saw much more of his good side.
He’s often compared to a puppy, and that carried over to his loyal side. One story I want to share is that of a guy named Phillip Smith, a rather sleazy, low end drug dealer. Phil had lots of money and lots of coke and therefore lots of friends. Phil contracted AIDS around ’90-’91 and went into Cabrini Hospital to die. It was ugly, and Phil’s friends soon abandoned him, stealing everything in his apartment, etc. Except Dee Dee. Dee Dee was at the hospital almost every day for months. He gave Phil sponge baths, sang to him, brought him food and magazines and tapes. He never abandoned the guy, he was there until the bitter end. By the final days even Phil’s family and girlfriend had stopped coming to the hospital but Dee Dee was loyal and stayed with Phil to the bitter end. My respect for Dee Dee jumped immeasurably. I could understand Dee Dee’s freak outs and paranoia better after that, Dee Dee was willing to give a lot of himself to people and couldn’t understand why they always let him down. It made him crazy.
Or crazier. The only time he ever got mad at me was when he asked me to manage him and I turned him down. He already had a publishing deal and didn’t want a big record deal (and couldn’t have gotten one if he did) and there was little for a manager to do except babysit and/or keep him on the road touring, something he’d long burned out on after years of touring the world as a Ramone. I felt bad turning him down but as I explained he didn’t need to give up 20% of his earnings to somebody who could do little to help him, I suggested he hire a good road manager to babysit. He was mad for a couple of days then forgot about it, but I felt like I let him down. I still feel guilty.
One other thing I’d like to add is that by no means was Dee Dee dumb. The press, especially the British press loved to play up Dee Dee as idiot savant but it was an act. His thick Queen accent might have made him sound goofy but he mostly played dumb as a defense mechanism. It gave him a way to feel people out, to see if they’d try and put one over on him, but believe me, uneducated- yes, dumb, no way, Dee Dee didn’t miss a trick.
I miss running into Dee Dee on the street and hearing his latest crazy story. Or the phone calls (sometimes accidental because for years me and Joey Ramone had similar phone numbers, I was 777-9408 and Joey was 777-6881, so Dee Dee would call me by mistake and often babble for minutes before I could get a word in edgewise:
Dee Dee– “Joey, I have to talk to you, things are not right, this is fucked, we have to talk…
Me–“Dee Dee, it’s Jim, not Joey, you dialed the wrong number”.
Dee Dee– “Jim Marshall? Sorry…” (phone hangs up).
(phone rings again)
Dee Dee- “Joey, this is Dee Dee…
Me– “Dee Dee, you did it again, it’s Jim”.
Dee Dee– “Sorry, you got any pot”?
Me– “Yeah, come on over and we’ll smoke a bomber…”
This is Chester. Cute little duffer, no? He showed up at our front door one day with a note taped to him that said: “I like magazines, loud noises, teeth, and stories about monkeys”. The note also claimed he was from Pluto. We found a small, abandoned space ship a few blocks from our house. I know this sounds crazy, and after years of being told you are crazy you do start to wonder about yourself, but my wife agrees, this little critter seems to be trying to communicate with us. Sort of by telepathy. His favorite TV shows are Orangutan Island, Charlie Brown specials and the Teletubbies. Here’s a few of his favorite records: the Ran-dells- Martian Hop, Little Ernest Tucker – Gonna Get Me A Satellite, Ray Sawyer- Rockin’ Satellite, Nervous Norvus- The Fang, Bob & Jerry- Ghost Satellite , Bill Thomas- The Sputnik Story, the Equadors- Sputnik Dance ,the Roulettes- Venus Rock, Roosevelt Sykes- Satellite Baby ,Speedy West- Spacemen In Orbit ,the Medallions- Rocket Ship,Big Charles Green- Gonna Rock On The Moon Tonight, Charlie Ryan- Hot Rod Rocket , the Thunderbirds- Flyin’ Saucers Rock’n’Roll, Joe Tate & his Hi-Fives- Satellite Rock , the Dovers- The Invasion , Jimmy Bryant & Speedy West- Stratosphere Boogie, the Jive 5- People From Another World , Terry Dunavan- Rock It On Mars , the Atlantics- War Of The Worlds , the Vigilantes- War Of The Satellites , the Fallouts- Satellite, Joe Meek and the Blue Men- Orbit Around The Moon , the Tornados- Life On Venus.
I’d say he has pretty good taste in records, given his chartreuse Mohawk hair-do, you’d expect him to be into GBH or something. I wonder what the critter is trying to tell us?
Redd Foxx. born John Elroy Sanford on Dec. 9, 1922, was as a funny motherfucker. These videos are compiled from his best LP– You Better Wash Your Ass which was
recorded live at the Apollo at the height of his Sanford & Son fame in the early 70’s.
He was raised in St. Louis and later Chicago where he attented DuSable High School where most of Sun Ra’s Arkestra (John Gilmore, Pat Patrick, Marshall Allen) amongst others went.
He never graduated. He hit New York in the late 40’s and got a job washing dishes. The other dishwasher at the joint was Malcom Little, later Malcom X. Redd was known as Chicago Red, Malcom as Detroit Red. As recounted in his autobiography (The Autobiography Of Malcom X, co-written by Alex Haley, I can’t find my copy but it’s easy to find so you don’t need the publishing info) they had some wild times together.
Foxx made his name first on the chitlin’ circuit, recorded dozens of LP’s for the Dootone label in L.A., and became a huge draw in Vegas where stars like Frank Sinatra and Elvis showed up nightly to catch his act and be insulted. He even cut some decent R&B discs, here’s one from Savoy cut in ’48– Let’s Wiggle A Little Woogie, and here’s one from his own Foxx label from the 80’s — Pussy Footin’. Not great but not bad at all, certainly better than anything that’s hit the top ten this century. His sound didn’t change much in forty years. Redd Foxx was the only entertainer invited to Elvis’ wedding. Later Elvis gave him a watch worth $100,00 (in 1968 dollars), it was later sold at auction by the IRS. In the early 70’s Foxx found mainstream fame on TV as Fred G. Sanford in Sanford and Son, a remake of a British show called Steptoe and Son. Fred G. Sanford was the name of his late real life brother. My favorite episode is when Fred and son Lionel (Demond Wilson) find the Blind Mellow Jelly 78’s and donate them to the library, then steal them back when they find a record collector willing to pay $20 a pop for ’em. On Sanford and Son he hired many of his chitlin’ circuit pals like Lawanda Page as Aunt Esther, Whitman Mayo as Grady, Slappy White as Melvin, Leroy “Sloppy” Daniels as Leroy, not to mention Stymie from the Little Rascals (Mathew Beard) who appeared in a couple of episodes as Otis Littlejohn.
Foxx also made a memorable film appearance in Ossie Davis’ Cotton Comes To Harlem which was based on the Chester Himes novel (with the classic evil cop duo Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, all of Himes’ books are worth reading, but the Grave Digger/Coffin Ed series are essential).
I saw Redd Foxx perform several times (and I hate stand up comedy) and he was one of the greatest performers I’ve ever witnessed.
He was brutal on anyone who caught his attention, especially hecklers. The last time I saw him he walked out onstage with a breast shaped pitcher full of some sort of alcohol and quipped– “I got this from Betty Ford”. Then he looked at a guy at a front table (this was at the Desert Inn in Vegas) and said– “Last thing I seen that ugly had a string hangin’ out of it”. Well, it when he said it, it was funny. Anyway, if the three clips above don’t make you laugh, have somebody take your pulse, you’re probably dead.
Addendum: Great interview with Iggy on the subject of Ron Asheton can be heard here.
Very sad, I’m not sure I ever heard Iggy cry before.
(I actually wrote this on Jan. 6th, then Ron Asheton died, which took up three blogs, then the Mickey Baker idea came to me so I shelved it. I’ve since reread it and decided since it’s virtually impossible to find Up & Down I’d might as well post it, so as Bo Diddley’s said– “Here ‘Tis“):
“Shit and death are everywhere...”– Bukowski
Bill Landis, founder of Sleazoid Express died a few days ago, 49 years old, dropped dead of a heart attack. His two books– Sleazoid Express (co-written with Michelle Clifford, Fireside, 2002) and the biography of Kenneth Anger, Anger:The Unauthorized Biography (Harper-Collins, 1995), are excellent bathroom reading (i.e., they’ll make you shit, as Jerry Lewis would say).
Some background: Horace Parlan, born 1931 in Pittsburgh suffered polio as a child which affected the use of his fingers, but like Django, he did not let this stand in his way and he developed into an excellent pianist in the style known as “hard bop” (jazz critics are great for coming up with silly sub-classifications of music, in fact they invented the idea– remember “anti-jazz” the etymological forerunner of “grindcore”?). Parlan is best known as the pianist in Charles Mingus’ band during it’s heyday: 1957-9. He then moved on to record as a leader for a series of eight excellent Blue Note LP’s (compiled by Mosaic Records for the Complete Horace Parlan on Blue Note box set, now out of print). Parlan later worked with Lou Donaldson for a bit, joined Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s band (1963-66), played with Jackie McClean (seen in the clip above, Parlan is barley visible on the piano). Horace relocated to Sweden in the sixties, later he teamed up with free jazz blower Archie Shepp for a series of duet LP’s, none of which I’ve ever heard. Then, he seems to have disappeared from the jazz world although he is still alive, possibly still in Sweden. I imagine him like a missing character out of A.B. Spellman’s Four Lives In The Be-Bop Business (Pantheon Books, 1966) scraping by in a piano bar somewhere, playing for tips to middle age, square head, drunks who have no idea of his accomplishments.
Which brings us to Up & Down. Parlan’s playing is nothing fancy, he was no Bud Powell, but his simple, rhythmic style had a lot of soul, he was an effective soloist and he as sympathetic an accompanist as can be heard, good thing, since the real stars of Up & Down are not leader Parlan but guitarist Grant Green and Booker Ervin on the tenor sax, the rest of the band on this session are George Tucker on bass and Al Harewood on drums.
The record opens with Booker Ervin’s “The Book’s Beat” an extended jam on which both Green and Ervin’s solos set the bar high, they’re both at the peak of their powers here, and both would go on to become giants in their field. I’m especially fond of Green but that’s another post, another day, when I get back to my specialty: dead guys with sad stories. But any of his early Blue Notes are worth owning, especially the ones with Sonny Clark. “Up And Down” is the only Parlan original on the set while George Tucker contributes “Fugee” and Green is credited with “The Other Part Of Town” (my favorite track, I think he means the part of town you go to to cop dope). The disc is rounded off with a sublime rendition of the linguistic genius Babs Gonzales’ “Lonely One” (try and find a copy of his autobiography: i, paid my dues good Times..no Bread A Story Of Jazz…And Some Of It’s Followers, Shyster Agents, Hustlers, Pimps and Prostitutes Expubidence Pub. Corp, 1967 and those aren’t typos) and closes with Tommy Turrentine’s “Light Blue“.
The only thing more boring than writing about music is reading about it, although it can be fun to read about the characters who make those funny noises we love so much, I (and you) don’t need someone to describe or analyze what you are hearing, you have ears, you can hear without somebody telling you what key or tempo the tune is in. On my copy the liner notes are in Japanese which is fine with me.
The older I get, the better jazz sounds to me. There is something very special about that golden era of Blue Note records (from the early 50’s to the mid 60’s) from the warm clarity of Van Gelder’s New Jersey studio to hep album covers. Blue Note was a class label. Maybe not $200 worth of special, but roll a spliff or pop the cork on some champagne (or whatever you do to unwind) and give old Horace a spin. It defines the word “vibe” in a way mere words never could. This is what great jazz is all about to my slowly deteriorating mind. These are sounds to dream to, pass out to, and Horace Parlan’s Up & Down is a late night, dreamy classic.
Thanks to anonymous for cleaning up this rare photo of the Stooges. I think we own the only copy that exists, but since it’s framed I had to re-shoot it through the frame to post it, it looks a lot better now. That’s Bill Cheetam on the left, Zeke Zettner second from left, they were roadies who were briefly promoted into the guitar and bass slot for a few months in late 1970, they were replaced by James Williamson and Jimmy Recca before the band dissolved in ’71 (a photo of that line up can be found on the Halloween 2 and Ron Asheton RIP postings). When the Stooges reformed in ’72 to record Raw Power, Ron Asheton was moved to bass. A piano player was added after Raw Power (first Bob Scheff, late of the Prime Movers, then Scott Thurston who went on to play with Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and played guitar on Iggy’s New Values LP).
If people got paid to be cool Danny Fields would be richer than Bill Gates. Danny Fields is the man who discovered the Stooges, the MC5, Ramones, and much, much, more. This was originally written in response to something that ran in a U.K. newspaper whose writer in his obit of Ron Asheton criticised Ron for collecting Nazi memorabilia (nobody ever bothers Chris Stein of Blondie about his collection….). Also they ran a second piece about Kathy Asheton, Ron’s sister having to have police posted outside Ron’s house to keep the scavengers away, so that is what he is referring to. It ran as a comment on a bulletin board which didn’t accept photos so that’s what he’s writing about in the first paragraph. The photo of Danny and Ron was taken at Max’s Kansas City in 1973 (I have other photos that Danny took that night where you can see Nitebob stage side but can’t seem to find ’em at the moment). Thanks for letting me run this, Danny, you’re a prince.
The footage is from the Goosecreek Rock Fest, 1970, Dave Alexander’s last gig, I added it Sunday, Jan. 11th. I’d have posted it sooner if I’d had known about it (it’s from French Youtube).
I wanted to put in a picture of me and Ron at Max’s Kansas City, in New York, in 1973, but this space won’t allow me to, and so I lost everything I just wrote. He’s wearing an Eisenkreuze First Class, and I had a pack of Marlboros in my pocket. I ask you now which was more cool.
Anyhow, Ron was so sweet, and this stuff is all so tacky.
Yes, the press likes a fight among survivors when people die who were not quite headline-makers during their lifetimes, although Ron himself made headlines indeed in all those who loved rock and roll in its last golden age. He INVENTED the sound of rock and roll as we now know it. People who were appalled in 1968, if they are still alive, now accept the mighty contribution made by Ron Asheton and the Stooges as part of their lives. Some variation of what these guys invented is in just about every tv commercial now on the air; a weird kind of vindication, I know, but it usually takes “the world” a good 30 or 40 years to recognize something revolutionary as something that is acceptable, even quotidien.
We all knew the music these guys made was EXTREMELY advanced for its time; that includes many of my colleagues back in 1968, at Elektra Records, to which I signed the band (after a phone chat with the company’s president, Jac Holzman, about 18 hours after the first time I ever saw them).
Remember that putatively Platonic (literally, first said by Plato) thing that went: When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake? Well, the origin of that opinion is often argued, but the truth of it is not, ever. And the “Psychedelic Stooges” certainly changed the mode of the music; the Ramones, for example, who changed it again later on in the very same evolutionary process, met each other because they were the only guys in the neighborhood who liked the Stooges albums, and so they gathered in Joey’s mother’s art gallery’s basement to listen to it. It was the anthem of outcasts, that music, just as “I Wanna Be Your Dog” became the anthem of the so-called punk (I prefer to think of it as simply modern, the “p” word [punk, not psychedelic, but maybe both] is rather overexposed and simultaneously misunderstood. Modern will do, because the music is STILL ahead of OUR time, not to mention how despised it was 40 years ago. Today, anybody auditioning for a place in a band where a guitarist or bassist is needed, must own his or her take on “Dog.” It was the first song the Sex Pistols learned and played in public, and so on and so on.
By the way, please all be assured that Ron’s fascination with Nazi memorabilia made him a Nazi about as much as seeing yet another version of “Dracula” will make you into a vampire, and do give that canard a rest. I wish y’all could have seen some of those leather trenchcoats he had, you’d be eating your hearts out, whatever your religion or politics–with which Ron’s great taste had nothing, as far as I could tell, to do.
Nevertheless, that sound it is the preferred vehicle for tv commercials (meaning that all songs should really be under thirty seconds long, but we needn’t go into my quirkier opinions at this point..
Whatever, I am so proud of that band, of knowing those guys, of giving them a leg up (as if someone else would not have the next week or month), of being able to hug them all lo these many years later (one would prefer NOT to show pictures of THAT) but I can post the one where we were all younger and cuter if someone tells me how.) And so proud of that music; it will always be great. I thought Bach must have sounded like that to listeners in the 18th century, but let me outta here.
This squalid quibbling about loading his guitars and Nazi medals into a truck is so beneath everything that matters. I’m sure Ron would have preferred a puzzling and clever murder, something like Colonel Mustard in the Library; though I’m not implying that he would have welcomed being murdered, or of finding the Colonel and sending him to the gallows. Still, I’m sure he would have preferred something like THAT to something like THIS. He had you know, besides the grace and talent of an angel, a super sense of humor. His loss is so sad, for art and for humanity. May he astonish the angels as he astonished us.
What a beautiful guy.
Peace and/or butchery, whatever,