THE CRAMPS RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS TELL-TALE HEARTS SAN DIEGO 1984
I have no idea how many shows I’ve seen and played in my now 30 plus years of involvement in the Indie, Punk, Metal, Noise, Art, Experimental…Rock…let’s just say MUSIC world. I’m sure I’ve seen thousands and of those thousands many were excellent bills made up of great players and performers giving it their all. I am happy to have had the privilege of sharing these experiences with a huge cast of human beings of every shape, size, look, and disposition imaginable.
Having said that, I can tell you it really means something when a memory of one of these shows keeps bobbing up to the surface of my sea of recollections.
This show is one of those shows.
It doesn’t hurt this memory’s buoyancy one bit that I happened to have a teenage heart beating in my chest at the time I encountered this night of music. My own wide-eyed, hormonally turbulent state was only one factor that made this one stick out though. Just as important was the dumb luck of being in the right place at the right time. I mean just look at the line-up! It’s enough to make any self-respecting music freak start tinkering in the garage on a time machine.
Keep in mind this diverse line-up wasn’t happening on the Monster Energy Drink Stage at some alternative rock festival. This was a Punk Show on a Friday night inside the dingy Adams Ave.Theater in the old Normal Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Back before the place was the fabric store it is today it was the main Punk venue in town and held maybe three or four hundred people. On the night of this show the place was at capacity.
The opening band The Tell-Tale Hearts were one of the best, and probably the most popular band in San Diego’s big, very vital Garage/Psych/Mod scene. That scene operated like a parallel underground universe to the Punk/Hardcore scene I was enmeshed in. These twoworlds very rarely crossed over, come to think of it, I can’t recall one other show where they did.
I had a lot of exposure to this alternate paisley reality because my girlfriend at the time, the very cute, very stylish, Marta Brandes, was the little sister of The Tell-Tale Heart’s frontman and Psych-scene king Ray Brandes. Through Marta, Ray, and their middle sister Claudia, I got the best intro I could hope for into that world.
They were the coolest. All of them had impeccable 60’s punk style and possessed a deep, scholarly knowledge of even the most obscure corners the genre. I liked that stuff a lot too. The 13th Floor Elevators, The Pretty Things, Mouse and The Traps, Nuggets, all of it was and is awesome. The Tell-Tale Hearts themselves were a pitch-perfect distillation of all those influences. They had the gear, they had the look, they had the sound, and most importantly they had attitude and could really play.
I saw them a lot and went with Marta to a bunch of other Garage/Psych shows as well. I found going to these shows provided a welcome respite from the tiresome brutality that often accompanied the Punk shows I went to every weekend. Plus there were a lot more girls at the Psych gigs, the bands were often pretty good, and everyone looked cool. The rare fight that might go down at one of these shows would be between two skinny dudes with bowl cuts and Beatle boots punching each other over a girl who looked like Twiggy. Nothing to get worked up about.
I sometimes wonder why I didn’t hang up my leather jacket, grow my hair out, buy some peg-leg pants and wrap-around shades. I mean why not?
Looking back I think the reason I couldn’t make the leap into that scene had a lot to do with the revival aspect it was all predicated on. The whole thing was about the past. The Mods and the Garage Rockers were all about clothes from the past, guitars from the past, bands from the past, and records with covers and a production style that looked and sounded old.
Sure it sounded and looked good but ultimately it rang hollow and failed to inspire any deep passion in me. Whatever danger, dumbness, and bad art came along with the Punk scene, at least it was about now and now happened to be where I was living at the time. If a Punk band borrowed from the past or from another genre you could be sure they’d update the sound and put a new spin on it. I liked this about Punk.
There may have been a much greater chance you’d get your nose, or even your neck, broken at a Punk show but at least you had the consolation that you might have your mind blown as well, this made it worth the trouble for me. Not to mention, as much as it could be about style and affectation, Punk also offered a moshpit of competing political, social, and spiritual philosophies to go along with the spikes and hair dye. I don’t think same could be said for any other youth subculture flourishing at the time with the exception of Hip Hop, a scene I followed but which only existed on vinyl for me, experientially speaking.
The middle act this night The Red Hot Chili Peppers had only been together for about a year before this show but they came down from L.A. with a reputation that already preceded them. They’re such mega-pop cultural fixtures today it’s probably hard for anyone younger than I am to imagine them as a brand new band on the scene but that’s exactly what they were and I gotta tell ya, not to get too poetic, they kicked serious ass.
The idea of blending Punk Rock energy with a surrealistic, fun, funky bottom end was not a new one. The Big Boys from Austin, TX. had been doing just that for years and Gang of Four had preceded them by a few years more doing thier own funky, punky thing albeit with a colder, arty, political tinge to it. I loved both those bands, especially The Big Boys, who were one of the best live bands going at the time.
The Chili Peppers took that flag and raised it that much higher and waved it that much harder. Seeing Flea cut loose for the first time was madness. There were a few virtuoso punk musicians, Bad Brains come to mind, but it was and still is rare to see someone come so complete with crazy athleticism, enthusiasm, and world class skills. Flea was the complete package and the rest of the band was good enough to share the stage with him which is saying something.
I remember talking to Flea before the show, he had a tattoo (ONE tattoo) on his shoulder that was a perfect portrait of Jimi Hendrix and I asked him who did it, he looked at me with a shitty expression and said “Bob Roberts” then he walked away. “…typical L.A. rockstar douche-bag bullsh-t…” I thought to myself. I didn’t know how right I was about the rockstar part. As for the douche-bag part, his performance that night pretty much made up for the crappy ‘tude he’d flung my way.
The Cramps were the headliners. I’d seen them before and I saw them several times after this show and every time I did they were nothing less than brilliant. Their performance this night however is the one that moved me most profoundly and it is the one that defines them in my mind as one of the best live groups I’ve ever witnessed.
First of all they looked amazing. They were grown-ups. They looked just like they sounded: loud, wiry, thumpy, and creepy. They were the very definition and embodiment of visionary Punk Rock cool.
Lux wore painted-on black leather pants that rode so low on his hips they couldn’t have stayed up had they been any less tight. He was corpse-pale, super tall and skinny with no shirt and his black bird’s nest of a pompadour piled high on his head. On his feet he wore sparkly black drag queen stilettos. You tell me what kind of style that is…I call it bad ass.
Poison Ivy was her usual gorgeous, icy, mysterious, totally unapproachable stage-self. Big red hair, tight sparkly gogo shorts, caked on foundation, blood red lips, vintage guitar. The rest of the band held up their end with her and Lux both musically and stylistically. They were killer.
The thing I remember most about their set in addition to the tense, pounding, pumping and plodding dark-heart sound of their psychedelic, swamp-rock classics was the look of it all happening under hot white lights. You might imagine a band like them playing with a lot of dark lighting and colored filters but I don’t remember anything but bright whites. This just made it all so much more visceral and immediate. You could see every drop of sweat glinting and glistening on Lux’s bare chest as he writhed, stuttered, and howled.
Poison Ivy, on the other hand, didn’t sweat at all.
Toward the end of the set, after something was thrown at Ivy from the tightly packed, sweaty, dance floor, Lux jumped into the crowd to exact punishment on the evil doers. I remember fists flying as the stage hands tried to reel in the mic and Lux along with it from out of the whirlpool of mayhem on the dance floor. As all this went down the band didn’t miss a note or skip a beat. They just kept on pulsing and pounding and the crowd kept churning.
I’ll never forget the look of utter disinterest and detachment on Ivy’s face as she kept the groove going while watching like a cat as her life-partner-in-crime did battle with the leather jacketed San Diego drunk-punk thugs. Talk about cool. If Poison Ivy’s countenance had been any cooler we all would’ve been seeing our own breath!
By the time Lux was finished giving as good as he’d gotten he landed back on stage as the song was still creeping and crawling along with a merciless thump, thump. After the microphone rematerialized in his hand, he went straight back to singing like a man possessed as one perfect dark rivulet of blood ran down his white face from a gash hidden in the blackness above his hairline.
..I, I’m a HUMAN FLY…uh, and uh DON’T know WHY…I’ve got 96 tears in 96 EYES…
That’s the image forever etched in my hard drive: one perfect crimson line with a shiny bead of blood on the end, running down Lux’s pale sweaty brow, glistening under the hot white lights, while the band played on…
When I look up “Rock-n-Roll” in the encyclopedia of my mind’s eye I’m glad to say that’s the image I think I’ll always see.
R.I.P. Lux Interior and Hillel Slovak
Cramps, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tell-Tale Hearts flyer from the web.
hola rockeros ~
Ty Segall “Thank God For Sinners”
what an AMAZING VIDDY…
it’s squick-tastic! and almost makes up for thee rockinismo not bein’ able to afford to go to the SF gig tonite.
hola rockeros ~ happy new year. check this out!
Ancient Egyptian music notation -
From a set of 6 parchments described by German musicologist Hans Hickmann in his 1956 book Musicologie Pharaonique, or Music under the Pharaohs, as dating from the 5th to 7th centuries C.E. Colors are presumed to indicate pitch and size to indicate duration. Writings on the parchment are in Coptic with indications like “Spiritual Harmony” and “Holy Hymn Singer”. This manuscript had a profound influence on Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh’s music notation and paintings when he discovered a reproduction in Vogue magazine in 1952.
Note: I wasn’t able to locate these manuscripts and couldn’t find any reference to them online, but they are presumably in NY’s Metropolitan Museum collections. This image comes from Theresa Sauer’s book Notations 21, Mark Batty Publisher, USA, 2009.
hola rockeros ~ Tim Flannery is giggin’ at Glen Park Tavern tonight. FREE. all ages. 8pm. 2816 Diamond St SF
It’s a pretty safe bet that of the 30 men who hold down jobs as third-base coaches for major league baseball teams, Tim Flannery is the only one whose off-season includes more thoughts about chord changes than roster changes. Not that Flannery doesn’t love his job as third-base coach for the San Francisco Giants. The longtime and popular Padres infielder remains grateful that he got a second chance to coach in pro ball after the Padres fired him as their third-base coach back in 2002. But the lifelong musician also embraces the baseball off-season as a chance to explore his musical side. He released a new CD, “Travelin’ Shoes” — his 10th — on Oct. 30, and is playing a few more shows before reporting to spring training in early February.
- About Tim Flannery From NCTimes.com
hola rockeros ~ hey Yay Area rockeros!
rock poster artist CHUCK SPERRY will be in person at this amazing lecture series presentation on sunday, in the mission. it’ll be cool.
I’ll be speaking at The Free University of San Francisco on Sunday, November 18 - 3PM. I’ll be showing my work from the last 15+ years in a power-point presentation —- with background in the SF Poster Tradition —- covering the Big Five poster artists and much more. This is the same lecture I gave in Argentina - heard here in SF for the first time. Also - I’ll be releasing and signing my new book HIGH VOLUME after the lecture.
when: November 18th
ART, FILM And PHOTOGRAPHY
11AM Brett Amory “Twenty Four In San Francisco”
1PM 1PM Christopher Bannister “Return of the Superheroes: Contemporary Action Movies and Society
3PM: Chuck Sperry “High Volume: The Art of Chuck Sperry”
FREE UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO
Viracocha, 998 VALENCIA STREET, San Francisco, CA
about the book:
Over 60 posters from the career of rock poster legend Chuck Sperry, plus a lengthy interview with the artist. Includes studio shots and a short Sperry bio.
the Free Universityplace has more cool stuff going on, next month.
here are a couple upcoming dates to check out:
FILM and PUNK
1PM Joe Donahue “Passolini and Kurasawa”
3PM V. Vale “RE/Search”
HISTORY AND BEAT
1PM Alan Kaufman “Jack Kerouac and Hubert Selby Jr.: The Road To Night”
3PM Jack Boulware “Gimme Something Better: The History of Bay Area Punk”
hola rockeros ~ Norton Records was devastated by the superstorm. HELP THE LOUD SOUND REBOUND! they need you. yeah, it’s as bad as it looks in the picture.
For the first time in Norton’s history, we are asking for your help. It has been entirely against our policy and nature to ask anyone for anything, in the entire history of our magazine and label. It hurts us to even suggest that any of you who have supported the label and our artists by purchasing Norton records over the years, to support us over and above with a donation. But it has indeed come to this.
Nearly all of the Norton Records stock – our label’s LPs, CDs, 45s, picture sleeves, CD booklets, record labels and more, as well as the stock on other labels we distribute including Relic, Crypt and Stompin’ merchandise plus mail order-only stock the entire Kicks Books and Kicks Magazine stock was destroyed.
…Every penny of what you donate will go into remanufacturing record jackets and sleeves for the vinyl that we salvage. No donation money will go into our day to day expenses so long as we can go forward on a minimal budget. If we get to the point where we cannot meet our monthly budget, we will ask again. But now, all donations go into getting the Norton label records back out to the public.
hola rockeros ~
What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding - Adrian Demain Solo Ukulele
a lovely shout-out to rockero Trish, in tribute to Nick Curran.
A message from Bruce
The election is coming up on all of us and we all have strong feelings about it. I’ve been getting asked a lot about where I stand, so for those who are interested, here goes.
This presidential election is different than the last one because President Obama has a four year record to run on. Last time around, he carried with him a tremendous amount of hope and expectations. Unfortunately, due to the economic chaos the previous administration left him with, and the extraordinary intensity of the opposition, it turned into a really rough ride. But through grit, determination, and focus, the President has been able to do a great many things that many of us deeply support.
Domestically, that record includes working to increase and expand employment for all, protecting our all important social safety net, passing guaranteed health care for most of our citizens, with important new protections for all of the insured, rescuing the auto industry and so many of the American jobs that go with it, protecting and enhancing the rights of women, and bringing us closer to full acceptance of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
In foreign affairs, that record includes following through on the removal of troops from the misguided and deceptive war in Iraq, and vigorously pursuing our real foreign enemies, especially the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Right now the opposition’s resort to voter suppression in so many states is not receiving as much attention as it deserves. I believe that all of us, of whatever views, should be opposing these anti-voter, anti-citizen efforts.
Right now, for the President to be effective in his next term he needs our increased support and he needs support in the Congress, where some sterling candidates, such as current Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, challenger Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, and so many others, are fighting to make their constructive voices heard.
Right now, there is an ever increasing division of wealth in this country, with the benefits going more and more to the 1 percent. For me, President Obama is our best choice to begin to reverse this harmful development.
Right now, there is a fight going on to help make this a fairer and more equitable nation. For me, President Obama is our best choice to get us and keep us moving in the right direction.
Right now, we need a President who has a vision that includes all of our citizens, not just some, whether they are our devastated poor, our pressured middle class, and yes, the wealthy too; whether they are male or female, black, white, brown, or yellow, straight or gay, civilian or military.
Right now, there is a choice going on in America, and I’m happy that we live in a country where we all participate in that process. For me, President Obama is our best choice because he has a vision of the United States as a place where we are all in this together. We’re still living through very hard times but justice, equality and real freedom are not always a tide rushing in. They are more often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day. I believe President Obama feels these days in his bones and has the strength to live them with us and to lead us to a country “…where no one crowds you and no one goes it alone.”
That’s why I plan to be in Ohio and Iowa supporting the re-election of President Obama to lead our country for the next four years.
October 17, 2012