Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Music History

Michael Azerrad, Rolling Stone: "...admired by everyone from Springsteen to the Sex Pistols [The Sonics] - cut loose with bloodcurdling screams, Neanderthal drumming and heavily distorted guitar..."

Andy Parypa, 1984 Seattle Times: "If our records sound distorted, it's because they are. My Brother (Larry, guitar) was always fooling around with the amps. They were always overdriven. Or he was disconnecting the speakers and poking a hole in them with an ice pick. That's how we ended up sounding like a train wreck"

It's common when you're young to want to be someone else when you grow up. Having no knowledge of the limits of your own capabilities you often imagine yourself being Luke Skywalker or something. Then you get a little older and read the story about Robert Plant, some groupie and a Mudshark in Seattle's Edgewater Inn and your fantasy life grows up a little and you start wanting to be a rock star. Then you get older and get to know who you are and the finite range of what you can and can't be. Also you start admiring a different kind of achievements.

The point is that Seattle is always at the center of music history and that I generally read a lot of Skippystalin, but I almost never wish I was him, but that changed for a brief moment last Friday night. Some might ask "why would anyone wish they were Skippy even for a second?" And that's a fair question. I certainly don't think my liver or penis could withstand the kind of unrestrained decades of warfare that his are thoroughly accustomed to by now. And I also wouldn't want to have to go through this last election an admirer of McCain. That would have to have been a fairly brutal disappointment. The thing that got me wishing I could be Skippy just for an evening was when I walked home from seeing The Sonics-- not the losing basketball team bought by Oklahoma city, the founding fathers of Punk Rock from Tacoma. I saw them play at the Paramount and knew that, when I got home, If I was Skippy, I could do this bit of music history justice, but being me, I can't.

Everyone with any kind of culture has read Skippy's take on Elvis and The Stones. But it's his pieces on lesser known characters (lesser known to me anyway) like Johnny Johnson, Phil Spector, or Sammy Davis Jr. that really make you realize that he has done his share of homework in music. He did it in his teens, then he did my share and moved on to a couple of other peoples'. If I had that background, I would have done something with Friday night to give all of you a clue what it meant. But sadly, this is all you get. It sucks to be you.

I used to think it was pretty cool that the week of my 15th birthday Nirvana was opening for the Butthole Surfers at Union Station That was my first year of going to lots of shows. I got my first hit of acid at that show, given to me by a total stranger. If you've never taken drugs handed to you anonymously during the costume contest of a Butthole Surfers halloween show, you really don't know what living is. That was pretty cool, and it was another great halloween show, but this tops it in some ways. Although the girl dressed up as an asshole was something I'll never forget. I would love to see a picture of that. The point is, now I have a pretty good idea of what cool is and what it isn't, so my take on just how cool Friday night was is better than most peoples'.

I will say this, having warned you of just how much I wish I had the kind of preparation Skippy has when he goes to write about music. If you go to That Link, it takes you to one of those myspace pages that play music automatically. I hate this "feature" most of the time. But this page has 4 out of 5 of their most essential tracks. You might listen to "Strychnine", my favorite, and think "Oh come on Luke! there's lots of bands with that kind of sound." I'd love to hear you name one that sounded like that in 19 fuckin 65! Cause that's when that album was on the market. "The Witch" was beaten on the Northwest regional charts only narrowly by Petula Clark's "Downtown" and made it as far as #22 in some other part of the country. These guys invented punk rock by accident and then proceeded to do it better than anybody who has tried to do it on purpose, but only for a couple of years, then they flamed out. So they played their first show in 35 years, last year in goddamn Brooklyn NY. I was pissed. Then they played London. Finally they got back here and I couldn't keep myself away. I almost didn't go. They are too goddamn old to be doing that kind of shit. I'm too fucking old and I wasn't born for another 8 years when they first recorded those songs and were in their 20's. Gerrie Roslie was unable to speak for days after recording their cover of Little Richard's "Keep a Knockin", and last Friday night, he let the base player sing it. Their new base player did a competent job, but the Sonics' version will make your head spin around and make you wonder if you're posessed. When the other guy started singing, I was like "of course Roslie's not going to try that, he's as old as Keith Richards." But then he did Psycho and Strychnine and rocked the paramount.

Another reason I almost didn't go is that living in Seattle has spoiled me. My idea of a real show is in a bar at most 40 feet from the band with a crowd milling around. You can walk to a show like that from any of the places I've lived here and you can walk past several others on your way. I walked past 2 live shows on my way home from the Sonics and was handed a PBR in honor of halloween by a local do-gooder. I drank it to make sure there were no roofies in it and it was okay.

Now most people don't walk as far as I decided to go last night, because they don't understand how amazing it is walking in Seattle. I have enough experience of other places to understand that it never really rains here and never gets genuinely cold. It's impossible to take the weather here seriously after a couple of years in Chicago, and a couple in a job that keeps you outside a lot, including one winter in Korea, you realize that the weather here isn't meant to be taken seriously. It's here to entertain you. And it was beautiful that friday night I'm glad I went. Even though a great big theater is a major drawback to me, it was a great show, a great walk home, a great free beer handed to me on the walk home. A decent buzz on the walk home. I really will miss this city if I have to leave for my next job.

This guy's take is interesting, I don't think I agree about the Beattles, or that opening act, I found them pretty decent, but a good take.

The Costumes! I almost forgot the costumes. My favorite was someone dressed as Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction with adrenaline syringe protruding from the chest.

My favorite Halloween costume of all time was a woman with dark hair who painted on a five-o'clock shadow put a belt around her neck and a dildo in front of her pants with glue coming out of it and said she was Michael Hutchence. Number 2 would be the woman at the Butts show in 88 who dressed as a butthole. Someday, pictures of that will appear on the internets, and that will be a happy day!


Nora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nora said...

You really, really, REALLY need to write more, Mr. B. Color me thoroughly entertained.