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Sunday, November 3, 2013


richard hell and the voidoids

This is my night for a spontaneous punk concert. It started by seeing a couple of Richard Hell videos on YouTube a few days ago by chance, or subliminal marketing suggestion, whichever, I don't care. I remembered I had not played any Richard Hell music in several years. I found a cd recorded in a London club in 77 and at CBGBs in NY in 78. What a great choice it was to satisfy a yearning I'm feeling to give some attention to my favorite period in rock that I never hear enough of. I don't play it much, because I don't play any music or radio except sometimes to hear 5-minute headlines. I have no choice but to listen when some music is on that I like, the only kind I have in the house. It takes me over right away. It's immediate with punk. So many good bands. Twenty five years later punk was mainstream and already had its history, the early punk bands a bunch of old guys now. The Richard Hell shows were uncompromising punk, raw, straight-ahead pedal to the metal, smoking tires down the drag strip out of control, forgot the parachute, no problem. I sat through both shows on the one cd, sound just below icepick in the ear volume, nobody home. By the time it was over, I was talking to myself about doing this more often. Instead of paying so much attention to what politicians are doing, when I know that no matter what it is, it is against me and all the other working people, and there's nothing I can do about it, it's a game for players, I'm not a player, I'll listen to more punk.
richard hell, elvis costello, bob quine at cbgb's 1978
Punk is my favorite form of rock. I've loved it all from beginning to present. The Sixties sounds coming on were exciting, one album at a time, Pink Floyd, Big Brother and Holding Company, The Who, the Beatles and the Stones leading the way as the yin and yang, the good guys and the bad boys of rock. And out by himself, Bob Dylan went to Nashville. The great guitarists like Jimmy Page, Hendrix, Clapton, went far beyond anything the next generation could carry further or even match. By then, rock was virtuoso guitar, Carlos Santana, big arena rock, football stadium rock. Audiences got too big all wanting to see the Stones, what could the next generation do? Next generation went to hundreds of overnight bands cutting loose, back to three chords, no lead guitar with pretty solos, faster beat, down and dirty, the style being street kids. Initially, punk was making music the way you wanted to make music, whatever that was. Siouxsie and the Banshees had a very different sound from Generation X, the Damned, the Clash, the Sex Pistols. In a way, it was like expressionist painting, putting a band together and make rock outrageous and new. Patti Smith was the beginning of my ear leaning into punk. In New York they were calling it New Wave as if London had the copyright on punk. Nonetheless, the punk was happening at CBGBs, the Cramps, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, Lydia Lunch, and a very long list of bands never heard of again. Some took the downbound train of heroin and had to leave that world or die.
I decided this evening I will make it a point to give myself at least a weekly sit down with an album of some hard rocking punk that I love, but don't listen to. If I put something on once a week and sit and enjoy it all the way through like watching a movie, I believe I'll have more delight in my life. I have a 3-cd set of the Clash playing live on Broadway. They did not want to play in a big arena in New York, but too many people wanted to see them for a smaller place. They chose to play three shows at a smaller place. The move in punk was away from big into small. Places to hear punk amounted to cinderblock boxes painted black on the inside with a kinda stage. They were not dangerous places to go into, but they looked like it. How it came about, who knows? But it happened  in the big cities all over the world at once, like it was in place ready to go, and not many of the young ones playing with a new sound were aware of others searching too. It was like when abstract expressionism was the apex of the art world, pure art, several young artists in New York were making hard-edged, even comic strip characters, and using advertising art, which then became Pop Art. At the same time came minimalism, the yin to abstract expressionism's maximalist yang. Soft-edged Sixties guitar solo arena rock was followed by a sharp-edged fast beat that was about pushing the sound, driving it forward.

joy division
new order

The Richard Hell shows were exciting. They charged me up. I remembered I have a dvd of a big outdoor concert by New Order, recorded June, 2002. New Order is Joy Division minus vocalist Ian Curtis. Ian offed himself the day before their American tour was scheduled to begin. The guys in the band were distraught, of course. They decided not to be defeated. They did the tour and established themselves as New Order same tour. In this dvd concert, they mixed Joy Division titles with New Order titles. One of my favorite songs in rock is in the concert, Transmission. I remember the first time I heard it. It caught my attention like little else. Found the LP as soon thereafter as I could. They did Joy Division's She's Lost Control and Love Will Tear Us Apart. At the end of Close Range, I clapped. I maintain at this time of my life the same as I did in the 1970s, a rock concert is a new form of theater. It doesn't invalidate the old forms of theater, but rock concerts are such exciting theater, I hold with it as valid theater. The Ramones is the only band I can think of with absolutely no theatrical presence on stage, but for their loud blur. I'm not asking for glam-rock, but still, a little stage performance to go with it is what rock is about. I don't like to criticize rockers for their style, but Joey wears me out with boredom looking at him. I don't mean to take anything away from the Ramones, but I can predict they will not be a show in my at-home concert series. Only because they bore me. And I don't have any of their albums. An hour, or however long, of a loud blur is cool as an idea, but I have a hard time sitting through more than one Ramones tune at a time. That don't slow me down none. It's no different than playing Fifties music and leaving out the Four Seasons. There is so much more. Next show: The Clash.  



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