Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

I'm going to take advantage of this extra day and post some videos. It's customary here at Dirt City Chronicles for videos to accompany most articles, a tradition that I've sadly neglected this month. February has been all about California, and to be honest the focus of this blog will probably shift more in that direction as the days go by.

I'm posting a couple of videos from Fresno's Sparklejet,  do yourself a favor and check them out on YouTube, they perform The Who's Tommy, in its entirety. Live at The Starline, Fresno, January 2004. "Complete with 20-piece Keith Moon style drum set, 3-foot gong, 2 fully functional pinball machines, guitar and bass turned up as loud as they will go, and not a high-hat in sight"

I've lived in two places during my lifetime, New Mexico and California.... I celebrate both.  Harry Vanda and George Young (the two Aussies that formed Flash in the Pan) said it best "Up above the sunny skies in south California, There's a wounded rocket flying high, heading homeward.... It came from a hollow, under a hill, And soon there'll be nobody left to kill, In California." Rest assured when that nuke hits, the surf will be fucking awesome!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Been There, Done That

Over the weekend, I noticed that a Facebook friend of a Facebook friend had posted a comment stating that vinyl sales had eclipsed compact disc sales. That didn't hardly seem possible, this called for an investigation. I researched at least a half dozen sources on the subject and all offered up different sales numbers and market shares. 

The bottom line being that the CD remains comfortably in front of all other formats, including digital downloads (album sales only) Digital downloads  totally dominate the singles market. (CD singles never caught on and vinyl singles went out the early 1980's)

Nielsen Company & Billboard, both reported that during 2010 (in the U.S.) 443 million albums were sold.  By comparison, 2.8 million vinyl albums were sold in the U.S. during 2010.  For 2011, overall album sales were down in all formats.  Since 2007 (when they accounted for 95% of albums sold) CD sales have been locked in a downward spiral.

Vinyl sales are but a drop in the bucket, but  aficionados can take heart knowing that percentage wise, vinyl sales are skyrocketing  and cd sales are tanking.  But at least, vinyl's future as a viable music format is assured for years to come (if only as a novelty item)

I was once a vinyl junkie, more from a lack of options than a love for the format. My vinyl collection once numbered over a thousand  lps.  Although, by the mid-80's I had jettisoned all my vinyl. I sold off the best part of my collection, but  In most cases, I simply abandoned large portions in whatever apartment I was vacating at the time.

It seems that in order to amass and maintain a substantial collection of vinyl records, one needs to have a permanent address.  An unstable or dysfunctional lifestyle does bode well for vinyl collections. Nevertheless, I still have a tiny collection of vinyl.

With the exception of  two long players, they're all recordings by Albuquerque bands from 1995 or 1996 (the year I bought them) Being highly suspicious of the stylus on my turntable (I can't remember if it was the same one I used during an ill conceived attempt at scratching) I've never played any of the records that I still own.

Here's a listing and description of my entire vinyl record collection starting with the albums. What amazes me is how much effort and creativity went into the packaging.  At some point I need to play, record, convert them to digital and then compress the shit out of them into mp3's that I can post. Stranger things have happened, just don't ask me to catalog my cd collection, I have over a thousand of those.

Flash and the Pan, Ensign Records 1979  (British import) Flash and the Pan was an Australian new wave studio project made up of ex-Easybeats, Harry Vanda and George Young (older brother of ACDC's Angus Young) This was the first of several albums the duo would release.  They were a huge success in Australia and England on the strength of the single "Walking in the Rain."  

I originally bought the album in 1978, after hearing it played in store at Recycled Records in San Francisco. I found this copy at Bow Wow records in Albuquerque, plucked from the used record rack for $3.  At the time (1996) the album was out of print in vinyl, cassette and not yet been released on compact disc. 

I immediately recognized it as the U.K. import,  as the cover featured a posh woman wearing a sleep mask while holding a crow. The U.S. cover had  a group of  Aussies  dressed identically in blues jeans & white tees, all wearing sunglasses and sunbathing while frisbees hovered  around them. In the background a mushroom cloud billows skyward.

I bought the only other album I own on the same day, Trotsky Icepick's El Kabong,  released in 1989 on SST Records. The band's name alludes to the weapon used to murder Leon Trotsky (an ice axe) The indie band formed in Los Angeles as Poison Summer, which was also the title of their first album.

They had a plan (flawed to say the least) to give each of their albums the same title while changing the name of band with each new release. It goes without saying, that by the third album, SST told them to cut that shit out.  Staying true to their method of madness, they continued to change the band's name  for each performance.

Finally, they settled on Trotsky Icepick after guitarist Vitus Mataré screamed "Thanks for the trotsky icepick dude!" at an errant sound man who neglected to adjust the feedback levels on stage.  Having survived with their hearing intact Trotsky Icepick went on the release several more albums before disbanding around 1996.

I'll confess that I only bought the album because of the band's name.  Leon Trotsky getting iced by an ice pick has always fascinated me and "Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?, He got an ice pick, That made his ears burn." is one of the best lines, in one of the best songs, by one of the best bands from the first punk wave, No More Heroes by The Stranglers.

The rest of my meager collection includes "Spork" by Flake (pre-Flake Music, Shins) released as a 10" on Science Project (SCIPRO 004) in 1995. Mint condition, It could be worth a small fortune and it would probably be worth more if James Mercer hadn't tanked The Shins with his impulsive line-up changes.

The late great Bring Back Dad's  single  Al Capone/Upset,  recorded by Ryan Martino (above the Walgreens at Central and 4th in 1994) Bring Back Dad included, Marshall Nall, Scott Parsons and Joe Anderson.  Released by Science Project (what a great fucking label that was!) on green vinyl, SCIPRO 001.

Psychodrama's single, titled Vivid and featuring  Headache/Tamara  on the PKR label, 1995.  Lisa, Gel and Laura before they became The Eyeliners. Cover layout by Scott Parsons (Bring Back Dad)  Self recorded, self released.

The Drags clock in with a pair, the first features three tracks, Anxiety / Flying Saucer Rock and Roll / Elongated Man, released on Seattle's Empty Records label in 1995.   The other is a single,  Well Worth Talking About / Roslyn, and yes, that is the Pretty Things' Rosalyn, stylishly misspelled. Released on Rat City Records from Seattle also in 1995. 

Dishwasher (music to wash dishes by, Vol. I)  is a nifty compilation put out by 702 Records of Reno, Nv. It revolves around the concept, that in order to play music, some musicians must do whatever it takes. This includes washing dishes.

Four tracks by four bands from across the U.S. The Queers from New Hampshire- Born to Wash Dishes, our own Scared of Chaka- Dish Militia, San Francisco's The Hi-Fives- Secret Sodas and Ten Four from Portland- Pete's Theme. There is nothing not to like about this effort, including the highly entertaining and extensive album notes. It comes complete with a booklet, illustrations and pearl diving war stories.

Scared of Chaka's Dameon Wagoner tells of his experience washing dishes at an Albuquerque Greek restaurant. Where he showed up for work one day, only to find out that he had been fired. When they asked him to train the new guy, he handed him his apron. That was all the training required.

Albuquerque punkabilly icons, The Jonny Cats' four song ep,  Burns Rubber. The sides are labeled Front end (Pinky Black / Comfort) and Rear end (White Trash / Whiskey Woman) recorded and produced by Ryan Martino (above the Walgreens at Central and 4th) 1994, American Low Fidelity Recordings (that's a great name for a label!) Nice sleeve art, the long list of thank yous, reads like a who's who of Albuquerque rock music circa '94.

A 7" split from Scared of Chaka and Word Salad on Science Project (SCIPRO 002) pressed on blue vinyl. Creative sleeve art, four songs- Scared of Chaka (no gainers / instro 2), Word Salad (glamour shot cop / do not submit to surgery)

The Honeys (Pie / July 4) and Blastoff (rz / hot rod) in cherry red vinyl , two songs apiece on Pocket Protector Records. Also from 702 records, a 7" split with Scared of Chaka and The Gain (Simi Valley, Ca.) inner sleeves includes extensive notes, 702 catalog listings and photos.

Last, but not least. Been There Done That, a compilation ep from Science Project (SCIPRO 003) pressed on crystal clear vinyl (now that's rare!) Four Albuquerque bands playing a mixed assortment of cover songs. Scared of Chaka- Land of the Lost (Sid & Marty Kroft), Bring Back Dad - Cars (Gary Numan), Treadmill- Shock the Monkey (Peter Gabriel) and Flake- Your Love (The Outfield).

"The first time we saw Treadmill perform Shock the Monkey live, we knew it had to be recorded, cleverly packaged and sold." from the corporate offices of Science Project. signed: Joe Anderson, bartender

Monday, February 27, 2012

Saving Worth Wagers

From John Jeremiah Sullivan's collection of essays "Pulphead" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux  2011) here's another cautionary tale about the dangers of ungrounded equipment. Sullivan is being hailed as "the new Tom Wolfe, David Foster Wallace or Hunter S. Thompson, or some combination of all three." Amazon describes "Pulphead" as being "filled with hunks of other people's sometimes misshapen humanity." 

John, is a contributing writer to The New York Times magazine, a contributing editor for Harper's Magazine and The Paris Review. He is the son of the longtime Louisville Courier-Journal sportswriter, the late Mike Sullivan. Pulphead is the second book he's had published, preceded by Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportwriter's Son. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004)

This post is based on John's essay in "Pulphead" that detailed his musician brother's near death electrocution from a microphone. Worth (Ellsworth) Wagers is actually John's stepbrother, John's mother having married Worth's father Lee. Worth was a guitarist and vocalist with a mid-90's Chicago rock band called The Moviegoers. (named after a Walker Percy novel) A band he formed with Liam Davis in 1988.

The Moviegoers were moderately successful, releasing two ep's and touring Europe in 1992.  Their first album "As You Were" came out in 1993, and was well received. They were in the process of planning a second album at the time of Worth's accident. On April 21st. 1995 the band stopped at Mike Sullivan's home in Lexington, Kentucky. They were scheduled to open for The Reverend Horton Heat in Memphis three days later.

The band chose to take advantage of the down time to rehearse in Mike's garage. As they set up the equipment, Liam Davis reminded Worth Wagers to wear his Chuck Taylors.  The rubber soles of those iconic high tops would serve as an insulator, sparing Worth from the full electrical force. That fateful reminder would save Worth from instant death.

As the band counted down for their first number, Worth while holding his guitar, put his mouth to the microphone. Instantly volts of electricity jolted his body. The guitar strings and frets seared his hand.  He fell straight back having received a massive electrical shock.

Worth's vital signs were weak. As Liam Davis checked his pulse, Worth stopped breathing. Lacking any CPR training the band members stood by, watching in horror as he lay dying.  A policeman was the first on the scene, he immediately started administering CPR.

Worth had essentially flat lined, the first responders worked feverishly to regain a pulse. Ironically they zapped him with 200 joules of electric shock to restart his heart. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital he would flat line five more times. 
                                                                        Worth Wagers

Eventually his heart resumed beating, but he needed help from a breathing machine to stay alive. A brain scan showed that he was in near vegetative state. Then, with all hope exhausted, Worth stunned everyone by pulling out of the coma and regaining his motor skills.

Both John and his father, without knowing that the other was doing so, kept detailed notes on Worth's progress. John's notes would form the basis of the Pulphead essay. John's narrative is riveting and insightful as he details Worth's return from the dead. A few his observations are heartbreaking, others funny and some are so strange that they defy explanation.

The process of Worth's brain healing itself, offered John a rare window to the basic human kernel... the command center. The electric shock had scrambled Worth's thought process, now he struggled to make sense of everything he had ever known.

Eventually Worth made a total recovery. He rejoined the band and they recorded that second album "Twin Pop" His experience was made into an episode of Rescue 911, hosted by none other than William Shatner. "My brother played himself in the dramatization, which was amusing for him, since he has no memory whatsoever of the real event."  John Jeremiah Sullivan

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kalifornien über Chaos

Chapter One:  Give me Anarchy or give me Luxury! 

 "We're white punks on dope, Mom & Dad live in Hollywood" Fee Waybill tried to warn us about the phenomena of restless, rich white punks spoiling for trouble. "Hang myself when I get enough rope, Can't clean up, though I know I should" The Tubes were on to something with "White Punks on Dope", their "absurd anthem of wretched excess"  

"I go crazy 'cause my folks are so fucking rich" The San Fernando Valley, like most things around Los Angeles was built on a grand illusion. Home for the affluent or a place where everyday life could play out like a scene from "The Slums of Beverly Hills." Single parents with their kids in tow, dodging landlords and bill collectors. "Have to score when I get that rich white punk itch."

Contrary to the myth not everyone in the Valley was rich.  However, the offspring of hourly wage workers from split homes, did come into contact with the uber rich. "Spent my cash on every high I could find" Pulled from one school or another, private or public, a generation was growing up without proper supervision.  "Wasted time in every school in L.A."  It was a ticking time bomb, not that anyone took the time to notice.

All that was needed was an idea or a fad to draw all these wayward teens together. The first seeds were planted in 1976. Black Flag is credited with starting the hardcore punk movement. Formed by guitarist Greg Ginn in Hermosa Beach, Black Flag caught the attention of the Valley's white kids. The band's (actually the entire hardcore scene) message was one of anti-authoritarian, non- conformist self reliance.

It resonated loudly through the Valley, there was now something to believe in. The L.A. hardcore scene stayed clear of the stereotypical punk attire, favoring instead a dressed down look. "We looked like the kid who worked at the gas station or sub shop" one hardcore punk follower proudly explained. (Henry Rollins would often perform wearing baggy shorts and nothing else)

In 1981, having gone through several lead singers, Black Flag brought in Henry Rollins. This totally changed the group's dynamic, or as Greg Ginn explained: "We couldn't do songs with a sense of humor anymore." Initially bands in the hardcore scene had a goofy DIY punk ethic, intense but fun. However by 1981, the Straight Edge movement and radical offshoots such as Elgin James and Friends Stand United (FSU, which can also mean Fuck Shit Up!) had the potential to harsh any high.

In 1982, 23 year old Joseph Gamsky or Joe Hunt as he came to call himself, was busy recruiting the sons of rich Los Angeles families into an investment group he called The Billionaire Boys Club (The BBC) While it wasn't a gang, it was easy to see how one could mistake them for one. And, they would prove to be as ruthless and murderous as most gang bangers.

Unlike the other rich kids who traveled in the same orbit, Joe Hunt wasn't into rebellion. A natural grifter, he had a knack for enticing investors into his fraudulent commodities investment firm. Hunt  was running a classic Ponzi scheme, siphoning off investor's money to splurge on club members. Joe Hunt wasn't about dressing down, he carefully cultivated a sharp appearance in order to lure in new members.

In this manner he managed to attract in a few wealthy sons of the "elite" including Reza Eslaminia. Reza's father was an Iranian who had fled the Shah's regime. According to Reza he was worth 35 million dollars. Ron Levin was one of those land sharks that Los Angeles is known for. A veteran con artist he wasted little time in swindling $4 million from The BBC. Levin then turned up missing in 1984, presumably murdered by Joe Hunt and BBC security director/thug Jim Pittman.

Now short on funds and unable to gain access to Ron Levin's accounts. Hunt and The BBC hatched another plan that they hoped would land them a chunk of cash.  The plot involved kidnapping and then torturing Reza Eslaminia's father Hedayat in order to extort his millions. However, the plan went awry when while transporting the elder Eslaminia to a safe house, he was either murdered or accidentally killed. Overcome with guilt (and looking to cover his ass) Dean Karny, Joe's best friend and BBC co-founder  turned state's evidence.

Under the strain Joe Hunt's strongest criminal trait, his  suggestive powers proved insufficient to maintain loyalty. Investigators quickly closed in and arrested everyone involved with The BBC. Ultimately, Joe Hunt was convicted of killing Ron Levin (it was rumored that he was still alive and several sighting were reported as late as 1988) Jim Pittman was never convicted of Levin's murder, but he did plead to being an accessory after the fact. Reza Eslaminia and Arben Dosti were first convicted of killing Hedayat Eslaminia and then had their convictions overturned.

Acting as his own defense, Joe Hunt was acquitted in Hedayat Eslaminia's death, although he did receive life in prison without possibility of parole for Ron Levin's murder. In 1987, NBC broadcast a miniseries based on The BBC with brat packer Judd Nelson playing Joe Hunt. (Ron Silver played Ron Levin) While on trial for murdering their parents, Erik and Lyle Menendez claimed that they got the idea to commit murder after watching the NBC miniseries.

 Chapter Two: Lost in the City of Angels

 As seedy and unsavory as the Joe Hunt episode was for the good people of the San Fernando Valley, worse was yet to come. The Valley's less affluent neighbors were starting to influence the throngs of impressionable local teens. This was most felt in the music, which was hardcore punk, the seedy ville over the hill (Hollywood) became the gathering spot. Robo, Black Flag's original drummer described the new scene "The Hollywood punk was a totally different animal, into drugs and getting drunk, liking the Sex Pistols."

The Valley punks went for the classic punk look, studs, black leather, chains and mohawks. They were hard wired for violence, all they needed was a leader. Richard Yapelli Jr. grew up in Sun Valley near the foothills of Northern Los Angeles County. Unlike their neighbors to the south, this was a mostly Hispanic, blue collar area. Soon enough, Yapelli was banging with the local  Chicanos (he was the first non-Hispanic initiated into Sol Trese, the area's dominant gang)

Yapelli's legit street cred would serve him well once he gravitated towards the rich white kids of the Valley. Around 1981, taking his cue from Henry Rollin's bellicose act with Black Flag. Yapelli reinvented himself as a hardcore punk front man. He formed Fight for Freedom, a hardcore band that made no bones about its Nazi beliefs. He became known as Ranger, a violent manipulator who was equal parts Charles Manson and SS Stormtrooper.

Ranger was joined by a host of anonymous musicians.  Their identities didn't really matter, in fact, the music itself didn't matter. It was just the means to and end. A student of the Third Reich and military tactics, Ranger wasted no time in forming an inner circle of like minded teenagers. He even authored a four part code that they adhered to: 1. be yourself  2. live your own life  3. fuck social values   4. fight for freedom. 

It didn't take long for legit club owners to ban FFF from their clubs. The Cathay de Grande in Hollywood was one of the few where they were allowed to perform. The band would close out their show with "March of 42" an upbeat little ditty that jacks the melody of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" Ranger starts out "Across the pages of history, Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!" the song would signal the start of an orgy of violence and property damage. "Where were you in '42, when there was no place for Jews."

Ranger would goad them on, a  warrior of the wasteland, the new Lord Humungus, the ayatollah of rock-and-rollah. The music was the dog's ass, a wretched piece of shit. Ranger sang with an affected British accent that would suddenly vanish halfway through most songs. The guitarist sounded like he would rather be playing in a Sunset Strip glam metal band, it was fucking horrendous. Fight for Freedom recorded one album, "Ganglife" (cassette only release) A vile and repulsive document that abides by part three of the code: fuck social values.

Ranger would roll into the Cathay with a core group of 30+ (well over 100 on weekends) You could always expect the true believers to liven things up. Any poser punks that didn't abandon the mosh pit, were quickly beaten straight to the nearest emergency room. The concerned parents of all those kids getting stitched and patched up at the hospitals, were up in arms.  Ranger and FFF now had the full attention of Los Angeles law enforcement. Not that the hyper violent punks gave it much thought.

FFF (the gang) took on the persona of Ranger, which meant they were intelligent, complex and full of contradictions.  The group that preached white supremacy was allied with the Chicano gangs that Ranger had grown up with. They were also the sworn enemies of other Chicano and hardcore punk gangs (primarily the Burbank Punx Organization or BPO) Whatever their motivation, they continued to cut a swath through jocks, metal heads, mods, surfers, homosexuals (real or suspected)

By 1983, the band was banned from every venue in Los Angeles county.  Police gang units were getting wise to their ways, so Ranger came up with  a plan to throw off their detractors. It was a brilliant move, that was akin to the Gestapo switching uniforms with the KGB.  The punk look was replaced by military flat tops, Dickie khakis, creeper tennis shoes, heavy black brogues, flannel plaids and white tees. By design it was a deceptively clean cut look.

North Hollywood Hs. was the command center, with Ranger holding court at a donut shop across the street. There FFF gathered for marching orders and instructions. The white kids had affected the posture and mannerisms of East L.A. cholos. They called one another by Chicano gang names, Spanish slang and phrases were sprinkled into their conversations. It wasn't done to mock or emulate Hispanics, but rather it was meant to confound and piss off authority figures.

The police were caught flatfooted, they didn't know what to make out of this. These kids were flying in the face of all conventional thinking. In Randall Sullivan's "Leader of the Pack" (published by Rolling Stone Magazine in 1985) he states that most white police officers were deeply offended by this turn of events. Their delicate sensibilities took yet another hit when FFF graffiti started popping up all over Encino, Sherman Oaks, Woodland Hills and other exclusive communities.

Hugh Hudson's 1989 film "Lost Angels" alludes to Fight for Freedom. The movie is best known for starring Adam Horovitz (Ad Roc of the Beastie Boys) it also featured Amy Locane, Donald Sutherland and included early acting roles by Pauly Shore and Dave Herman (Mad Tv, Office Space) Although the screenplay is obviously based on Randall Sullivan's "Leader of the Pack"  Sullivan receives no screenwriting credits.

Horovitz is Tim "Chino" Doolan, a teenager from the San Fernando Valley splitting time between his divorced parent's homes.(Mark Miller) He has come under the influence of his brother Andy "Natas" Doolan (no doubt based on Ranger) and joined a gang very similar to Fight for Freedom. Chino meets up with Cheryl (Amy Locane) a Valley girl slumming it with the losers and they wind up trashing a car.

For this he gets sent to a private psychiatric hospital, where he meets Dr. Charles Loftis (Donald Sutherland) "Let's start with why you think it's better to be Latino" Dr. Loftis asks Chino during their first session. Meanwhile, Natas is embroiled in a gang war with 10th. St., a carefully coiffed Chicano gang, armed with 24" police issue Mag-lights, that they use to smash the teeth out of some white boy skulls. The two gangs do battle, but find themselves at an impasse.

After getting kicked out of his father's house, Natas is distraught "Talk to me Dad, you fucking polar bear"  He helps Chino break out of the treatment center and together they drive to a Chicano neighborhood where a street fiesta is taking place. Natas gives Chino a gun and tells him that they have to hit 10th. St. hard. Chino can't go through with it, Natas is furious and forces Chino out of the truck to fend for himself. Chino then comes to his senses, to the tune of "Many Rivers to Cross"

Chapter Three: And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Mangled Youth

In parking lots across Van Nuys and Burbank,  FFF went to war against neighboring jocks. They wrecked the football teams from Notre Dame hs.and Grant hs. Without even throwing a punch, they forced the North Hollywood hs. football squad to back down. Then when a new group calling themselves New Regime, formed and recruited elite jocks from across the Valley, FFF beat them down so badly, that they disbanded on the spot.

As one former FFF member said "After a while, people just accepted that we were unbeatable." Some like the pesky BPO and The Suicidal Cycos, begged to differ. Suicidal was a gang that had formed from the legion of fans that followed the hardcore band Suicidal Tendencies. Dressed in their trademark blue bandanas (pulled down low) and long tailed white shirts (buttoned at the very top) they affected a hybrid surfer/cholo posture. The two gangs were polar opposites.

The Venice boys were blue collar, street wise and crazy as fuck. They took their cue from Mike Muir "Cyco Miko" the lead singer for Suicidal Tendencies. Muir (unlike Ranger) was actually interested in making music, he steered the band away from the gang troubles.  Throughout 1983 and 1984, the two groups clashed. Ranger stood like Leonidas surrounded by the Spartiates with Ventura Blvd their Pass of Thermopylae. Clash after bloody clash, FFF came out on top. 

It had always been said by cynical observers that "the police won't do shit until some rich white boy gets killed."  Mark Miller was their guy and his much publicized death turned the tables on FFF. For a few years, Miller had bounced between his feuding divorced parents. They both lived in the same neighborhood and Mark's dad was always around threatening violence against his ex-wife. Growing up in Studio City, he had gravitated towards FFF after they clobbered a moto-cross gang that was terrorizing him.

Ever grateful, Mark worked his way up the ranks, earning himself the gang name Stocko. He was down for whatever, during fights Mark was beastly with a taste for violence and mayhem. He hid that side of his personality from his parents. Mark had a natural charm around women including his mother, who was too busy trying to make ends meet to keep track of his comings and goings. A gifted athlete, Mark earned athletic honors at every school he attended. His father enrolled him at Montclair Prep ($7,000 a semester), because they had the best football program.

When not on the gridiron, Mark was part of Ranger's inner circle. A point man who enforced any breaches in territory claimed by FFF.  This included Hot Trax, a teen nightclub on Van Nuys Blvd. On Aug. 15th 1985, Miller and a group of FFF, decked out in punk regalia (an intimidation ploy) showed up at the club. An altercation soon developed with two young Asians from Canoga Park, Tony Nguyen and Chris Comete.  It appeared that Comete, had either stroked Mark Miller's girlfriend's purple spiked hair or made a rude remark about it.

In an instant, Nguyen and Comete were jumped by the FFF and beaten until bouncers waded in to break up the fight. Though badly mauled, Comete had enough bravado left to call out the FFF and threaten to shoot Miller in the head. A rematch was set for Aug. 17th., true to their word both parties showed up at Hot Trax to settle business.  According to eyewitness accounts, Nguyen and Comete were attacked with clubs and knives. A charge that prosecutors said was false, since no such weapons were found at the scene.

One FFF member struck Comete in the face, the sixteen year old pulled a .38 caliber handgun from his waistband and aimed it at his assailant, it misfired. Comete then discharged three more rounds, intended as warning shots, except one struck Mark Miller who had turned to run away in the back of the head. When the San Fernando Valley Daily News broke the story, it posted a picture of Mark in his prom tux and another picture of a puddle of blood with the letters FFF smeared in blood on the pavement.

At first police thought it was an FFF hit, but Mark's gangs ties soon came to light. It became apparent that the bloody letters were meant as a tribute and a warning.  Chris Comete was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter after a juvenile court judge rejected his claim that the shooting was in self-defense. A parade of Mark's FFF associates took the stand and claimed that the shooting was unprovoked. Comete's attorney would argue that "someone unlawfully removed the weapons before police arrived, to cover for Mark."

As predicted, the police finally sprung into action to eradicate the FFF once and for all. As police are so apt to do, they started to methodically identify all members of Fight for Freedom. The group was designated as a gang and every associate was now a known gang member. It made all the difference in the world, now whenever the punks were brought in, they came under the jurisdiction of the Valley Probation Officer Tom Le Valley.

During the period before and after Mark Miller's death, the gang was leaderless. Richard Yapelli had turned 19, as an adult his days of running the streets without serious repercussions were over. In June of 1985, Yapelli was arrested after he brandished a gun and punched a woman in the face when he was refused admission to a private party. He was promptly arrested and brought up on weapons charges. As law enforcement started to crackdown on Fight for Freedom, he was sitting in jail.

Ranger went to trial later that summer, meek and clean cut, he was flanked by his parents. The outcome of the case is unknown, nor is it that important. The rock had been flipped over and all the creepers were starting to scatter. Richard Yapelli soon faded back into the foothills that he came from. The core members of FFF drifted away, some turned in their college applications and went off to school with some bitchin' war stories to tell their frat brothers at UCSB.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Miss Alans

"I rarely find myself dreaming of Fresno"

In the heart of the San Joaquin Valley a sound was born in the unlikely agricultural hub of  Central California.  In the 1990's a handful of Fresno-based bands emerged.  Adhering  to a shared vision of dreampop and shoegazer glory,  they developed a sound greater than the sum of their influences.

If you're thinking "Bullshit! I never heard of them" trust me, I feel your pain. Failure to  launch is a term that Duke City bands know all too well. Fresno's shoegazers also found themselves strapped to a rocket with nowhere to go.  The Miss Alans..misfired, Sparklejet.. sputtered, Supreme Love Gods..unloved, The Sleepover Disaster.. missed their wake-up call.

Trying to describe the "Fresno Sound" is like trying to describe the sound of the wind. Simply put, it was the music of hazily low-key psychedelic dreampoppers. "A bracing swarm of guitars and off-kilter expressiveness."  A trippy sound that often seemed to wobble like warped vinyl.   "Come as you are" was the order of the day. 

Fresno musicians have been quoted as saying that "Fresno is cultural wasteland" musicians have often said the same about 'Burque. In either case there's an element of truth." Fresno was once ranked dead last in a study of the smartest cities in the United States. I couldn't tell you where Albuquerque placed, but I bet it wasn't much higher up the list

The best description I've ever heard about Fresno and some of its denizens came from an unexpected source, a former Lobo basketball player. Back in the mid-1980's (during the Gary Colson era) UNM traveled to Fresno for game against the Bulldogs. Boyd Grant was the head coach then and the game took place at a dingy arena that reeked of cow piss and sweat, the locals fondly called it Grant's Tomb. 

Needless to say, it went badly for the Lobos. Upon arriving back in Albuquerque the aforementioned Lobo player was asked about his impression of Fresno (I'm thinking it was Kelvin Scarborough) "All their fans had bloodshot eyes and were drinking whiskey from hip flasks" he reported "They were mean, they threw hot pennies and called us every dirty word in the book" 

"I shall hate those Miss Alans!" Mrs. Honeychurch cried  "I hate their 'if'-ing and 'but'-ing" ...

The Miss Alans hailed from Fresno, Ca. but they were of a gentler nature. The band members met  while attending Fresno St. Univ. in 1987.  Along the way, they defied all odds (in Manny's case... death defying odds) The Miss Alans were: Scott Oliver- vocals/r. guitar, Manny Diez- lead guitar, Ron Woods-drums, Jay Fung-bass, the band maintained the same line-up throughout its lifetime.

The name is derived from E.M. Forster's 1908 comic novel "A Room With a View." In that classic novela,  the Miss Alans were two proper and genteel spinster sisters "who stood for good breeding, but had chosen independence."  They're not the main characters in the book, yet they buzz around the storyline like hummingbirds. E.M. Forster's themes of  passive aggressiveness, loneliness, undirected resentment, the pursuit of virtue and self imposed isolation, are also common to those found in the band's lyrics. 

The Miss Alans' music inhabits a place between stark reality and an unseen cosmic dreamworld. The lyrics are cryptic three word lines, strung together by Scott like free form poetry, It's sub genius pop theory, delivered on a platform of ethereal dream pop. At times converging with disquieting moments of truth, that tend to sabotage the illusory happiness of the listener.  

The unambiguous guitar driven music is anchored by  Scott Oliver's muted, wavery vocals. In the proper context, Scott's wavering warble works to perfection. Otherwise, it could be as grating as fingernails on chalkboard. The band's saving grace was Manny Diez's luminous guitar riffs, which more than made up for any of the band's perceived flaws. 

A tinge of country/folk rock influence can be heard through the mix of Scott's peculiar vocals and Manny Diez's shimmering guitar, it betrays the band's roots. Naturally, like so many pop/rock bands of the mid to late 1980's, The Miss Alans took their cue from Michael Stipe and any number of Athens,Ga. bands from that era.  

Scott Oliver elaborates on the band's most obvious influence "I've always thought that R.E.M. is a band that reminds me of our band a bit." R.E.M.'s influence went beyond just music "because, they say, this is where we're from" there's a sense of hometown pride "We don't mind telling people where we're from, we like living here." 

"So for it is time, making the way, stealing from caring"

Starting in 1987, The Miss Alans released several singles and ep's in vinyl or cassette form, but it wasn't until 1990 that their first official album came out.  "Smack the Horse" was recorded at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles in 1989. Produced by Iain O'Higgins it was released on Genius Records (a subsidiary of Rough Trade Records) 

Besides being dedicated to their hometown, they also thank "everyone responsible for keeping Manny alive after the accident." While recording "Smack the Horse", guitarist Manny Diez was involved in a horrendous motorcycle accident. Rushed to an emergency room he was given little hope of survival. He received his last rites as family and band mates gathered around him.

"Shiny Unfeeling" the opening track on "Smack the Horse" which I always thought was about a heroin overdose, could in fact chronicle Manny's near death experience. "They're coming to feel you and see you"  with its sweet harmonies and guitar accents, it glides beautifully  "His hand to hold, the fathers in line, the choirboys sing, they're coming to save you" The overall effect is picturesque and dreamy.

Scott Oliver repeats the refrain "I hope I don't die" while Manny counters with a chorus of "his life, your life, my life... look away now" Death steals all that we care for, "There's a place, lurking beneath"  Manny is loved by many... they refuse to give him up. "cause Jesus I see you, running backward through my arms" Scott & Manny come together for the final chorus "his life... your life... my life, look away now.... I hope I don't die." The result is hypnotic dreampop.

Despite the obvious drug reference "Smack the Horse" doesn't appear to be about drugs. (not in the overt manner of say... Royal Trux) Though, the album is wistful and narcotic, an aural opiate mainlined directly to the brain. "Smack the Horse" sank into a sea of apathy upon its release, the result of Rough Trade's distribution wing going bankrupt. As small consolation, it was rated the 86th. best album of the 1990's by 

 In the Days When We Were Supercharged

The Miss Alan's second album "All Hail Discordia" which was recorded and mixed live in 1991, shows the band flexing its collective muscle. Stripped of his usual forced affectations, Scott Oliver comes off sounding natural and relaxed. Manny Diez, fully recovered from his accident, pulls out all the stops. Putting on an amazing display of string bending swirlies, swerving sweeps, slowdive slashes and titanic thrusts. All played with the becalming effect of a mother's finger to her lips.

The jangle pop and dreamy psychedelia of the first album, was mostly missing from these live takes. "All Hail Dischordia" is controlled chaos, a swirl of distorted guitar, feedback and fetching melodies atop an insistent pulse.  Anyone who bought the album thinking it had anything to do with zen for roundeyes was sure to be disappointed. The album was not an overt or dogmatic attempt to push the Principia Discordia and the philosophy of discordianism.

No longer associated with Rough Trade, The Miss Alans released "All Hail Dischordia" as an indie on Duck Butter Music. There would be a three year gap between albums for the band. In 1994 they signed with Zoo Entertainment ( a subsidiary of BMG) Zoo was home to  Matthew Sweet, Tool, The Pooh Sticks as well as an assortment of indie and hard rock bands. Unfortunately for The Miss Alans, Zoo Entertainment was having financial difficulties. 

Within two years Zoo would merge into Volcano Entertainment, which would be bought out by parent company Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) The band took advantage of the major label perks, selecting Tracy Chisholm to produce. Recorded in 1994, "Blusher" was their first fully realized album, a true indie rock masterpiece. Medialoper ranked it at # 70 in its top albums of the 1990's list. 

A cohesive and exquisitely crafted album, "Blusher" was sterling proof of the band's continued growth as a unit. Scott Oliver had found his voice as a singer, utilizing a thin whispery tone to full effect.  Manny Diez stalked each song like a sleek panther, deftly pouncing in with layers of reverb and delay. His playing oozes with subtle guitar effects, it cascades and reverberates, breathing life and volume into every song.

"Blusher" is what fans of indie rock absolutely dream of, "a cathedral of cosmic cacophony." Spectacular dreampop, slightly off kilter ghostly dissonance and dreamy yet intense starburst soundscapes. It was perfect in every way, but nobody was buying it. The Miss Alans would soon find themselves parting ways with Zoo Entertainment and going the indie route again. 

Loud is the New Quiet

The Miss Alans recorded "Big Sun" a four-song vinyl 10-inch on Mach Records (1995) and then signed with indie label, World Domination.  In 1996 with Tracy Chisholm back at the helm, they recorded "Ledger" After almost ten years the band's rope  was almost played out.   As a result, "Ledger" though immensely enjoyable and blessed with all the band's familiar trademarks, is dark and subdued.

The album's first track "Broke" opens with Scott Oliver singing "It's over, in the morning, I look at you, it's all out, the fallout... it comes right through." Scott's vocal range (quite limited to begin with) is worn down to a hoarse, raspy whisper. It makes some of the songs (Candy Apple) almost painful to listen to. Manny however, shines as usual. His playing is sparse and vibrato tinged, purposefully accented with spacey languid riffing. "Ledger" was a mature effort, befitting of a band that had played together as a unit for almost ten years. 

The Miss Alans were a favorite of indie film directors as well. Three of their songs found their way onto the soundtracks of independent films: Sparkler Queen (Ledger) was featured in the final sequence of Chutney Popcorn. Sheen (also from Ledger) was included in Mira Nair's The Namesake and Crushed Impalas (All Hail Dischordia) was hand picked by Hal Hartley (Ned Rifle) for the soundtrack of Flirt.

Super 5 Thor  was a short-lived studio project, that included Scott Oliver, Manny Diez and Ron Woods. Super 5 Thor released two albums "Ford" 1995 and "Gazelle" 1997  before disbanding. The band's sole live performance was on the radio for KCRW's Brave New World, hosted by Tricia Halloran.   The entire project was totally experimental, with  the musicians using a number of different effects, instruments  and equipment (such as a Leslie rotating speaker) 

In all actuality Super 5 Thor's music wasn't that different from the Miss Alan's.  By 2000, The band had disbanded, with most of the band members having fled Fresno long before that.  They all returned for a reunion show in their hometown, on Dec. 26th. 2010 at Audie's Olympic. Video evidence shows the band picking up where they left off, without missing a beat.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dirt City Babylon

Dirt City Chronicles is rounding the corner and heading towards the anniversary of its second year on the web. That's right! two years of clockin' suckas and spinnin' logic. That may not seem like a long period of time, but from a writer's perspective it is.

That's two years of fleshing out small scraps of information in order to write something comprehensive and informative. It's not always easy, part of what drove me to start this blog was the fact that there is an amazing dearth of biographical info on local bands and musicians.

My thinking was that I could either do the research myself or just make most of it up. What I came up with was a hybrid that is mostly truth and partly fiction (thank you! Kris Kristofferson) The crux of the problem is that when they're not making music, local bands are dull as dishwater.
Since the beginning, rock music has revolved around those musicians that appear larger than life. Elvis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, even cult musicians like Alex Chilton, Nick Drake, Syd Barrett radiated like supergiants. 

Albuquerque bands have lagged behind in this department. Outside of The Saddlesores, The Ant Farmers, Bring Back Dad and The Shins (The Raggies down in Las Cruces have it) none have exuded that rockstar aura. It's something that one can only obtain by living hard and partying harder. 

David Lee Roth once complained that after Eddie & Alex Van Halen got married all they wanted to do was stay home with their wives. I agree, that's not rock and roll, that's fucking domestication. The best rockers are the party animals, unfortunately they're also the ones that die off.

I'll use Sublime as an example (I just wrote about them so it's still fresh on my mind) In 1995 they were signed to co-headline the inaugural Vans Warped Tour (on the strength of their hit "Date Rape") The band's over the top behavior and drug use soon caused friction with tour organizers.

The tension was ratcheted up by drummer Bud Gaugh's numerous arrests for marijuana possession (I guess he was the designated stash holder) But, what finally got them booted from the tour was when their ever present Dalmatian (all those mutts are evil) Lou Dog went nuts and bit several concert goers.

Bud Gaugh later summarized: "Basically our daily regimen was wake up, drink, drink more, play and drink a lot more. We'd call people names, nobody got our sense of humor"  (hate is so misunderstood as a comedy medium) Gaugh went on, "Then we brought the dog out and he bit a few skaters and that was the last straw."

That's fucked up, but it also makes writing about Sublime, a whole lot easier than say Soular. Which I assume was a nice band made up of some nice musicians, and that's fine unless you're trying to write about them. Rock & Roll Babylon hypes itself, it also makes the writer's job easier.

My objective is to give each and every local band, the rockstar treatment, and why not? We may never meet Mick, Keith or Iggy, but we damn well may run into Kenta, Carl Petersen or Pablo Novelas. Let's give them a Rolling Stone style profile (or at the very least the Crawdaddy version) They deserve it.

When America was still made-up of regional markets (back in the mid-1960's)  local rock bands could become big stars in their small ponds. Why was that?.. well.. mostly because, the local media treated them like stars and in doing so, the band, their fans and everyone involved would start buying into it. The Shadows of Knight were on the same level as The Rolling Stones in Chicago. Kenny & The Kasuals created a Beatles like hysteria in Dallas,Tx.

In San Jose, Ca.(a city with a much neglected rock & roll past) The Count Five were our own personal Yardbirds. Rock radio is on its last legs, but the genesis of this once formidable format can be traced to San Jose's KLOK-AM. Working with a signal of 10,000 watts daytime and 5,000 watts night time, KLOK blanketed the Bay Area. (In 1969 they jacked up the power to 50,000 watts)

For a short period of time (1965-66) the station introduced a radical format that featured a heavy rotation of 60's garage punk and psychedelic rock bands. For all intents and purposes, KLOK was the very first "Rocker." It wouldn't last, by 1967 they were spinning oldies and today the station uses a "World Ethnic" format dominated by Hindi language programming (In the 1980's it was a Spanish language station) 

I'm cognizant of the fact that it's them up there on the stage and not me, though it does look easy from where I stand. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that all musicians be over the top, that would be wrong. What I am saying is that they are more interesting when they are.

It's a fact of life that some play the game and some observe the game, but it's the real sons of bitches that write about it. I might have nicked that from Ring Lardner, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter Thompson, Lester Bangs or some other self destructive scribe. 

In closing, I say... Long Live Rock, be it dead or alive. I love rock and roll and I would put another dime in the jukebox if I could find one.  The less I drink, the more I write. Think I'll mozy on down to the micro-brew pub and have me a room temperature lager, you can join me if you like.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Death by Misadventure- Brad Nowell

"Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach...."

The path to the pinnacle of rock & roll is lined with tombstones and hypodermic needles. Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain were troubled by the idea of fading away and being forgotten in death. Kurt went so far as to close his infamous suicide note with a line that was borrowed in part from Neil Young "I don't have the passion anymore and so remember it's better to burn out than to fade away

Both men resigned themselves to early (though avoidable) deaths. A myriad of behavioral disorders ultimately helped their prophecies come to pass. Staley and Cobain unlike Brad Nowell didn't just get a small taste of success, they fucking feasted on it. Both rose to heights of fame and fortune that neither could have ever imagined. In the end, the level of success achieved, validated their self destructive ambitions.  

They felt used up and spit out by the very system that had made them rich beyond their wildest dreams. Success brought demands, spoon feeding the fans was a task neither one cared for.  Was it sour grapes from malcontents who refused to grow the fuck up, or did fame hound them to their deaths?  Rock stardom may have been the worse thing that could possibly happen to either one.    

"Speaking from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee"

Brad Nowell didn't choose the time of his death or leave a carefully drafted suicide note. It's almost certain that dying was the last thing he expected to happen to him. The month of May in the year of 1996, was to be special. After several  years of grinding it out playing backyard gigs & clubs, Sublime had signed with MCA and their debut album was set to drop.

For Brad & the band it was a moment of triumph, one that would help them forget the hard days and trying times. Nowell had battled addiction almost from the Sublime's inception. At times, stooping so low as to steal and pawn the band's equipment for drug money just before a show. Nodding out on stage, or stopping in the middle of a set for a fix was not uncommon for Brad.

Neither Nowell, the band or their hardcore loyal fans could ignore the elephant in the room. Many of the band's song lyrics dealt with addiction and Brad's struggles. It was sadly the common denominator that connected the band with many of their fans. For them to overcome all that and have an impact on the national music scene was almost unthinkable... yet here they were. 

"I won't flake or perpetrate - I won't front no funky ho"

Then, just a week after his marriage to Troy Dendekker (they already had an infant son), in the midst of a five day tour of Northern California (the first leg of a tour that included stops on the East Coast & Europe) Nowell was found dead of a heroin overdose in San Francisco. Bradley's life was over.... but strangely enough, his impact was just starting to be felt. 

"It mediates reggae, folk and punk, makes them all constituent parts that serve a great songwriter's vision. It might seem a daring experiment if it hadn't so effortlessly sprung from a Long Beach surf scene that featured acoustic jams on the beach that naturally flowed from Wailers to Descendents classics, from ego less poise to omnivorous id-explosions"  RJ Smith Spin Magazine 1996

Long Beach has a storied but mostly overlooked music legacy "The greatest bands I'd ever heard came from here" is how Sublime founding member & bassist Eric Wilson describes the scene. "A lot of really great bands couldn't stay together long enough."  It was a long shot that three childhood friends, Brad Nowell, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh would buck those odds. 

"I don't get angry when my mom smokes pot, hits that bottle and goes right to the rock"

Sublime started coming together in 1988. Brad, home on a break from UC-Santa Cruz, started jamming with Wilson and Gaugh. The band grew from there, until according to Bud Gaugh "We were, like... the band that everybody in the scene would show up for." Nowell transferred to Cal St.- Long Beach to be closer to home, although he dropped out just short of earning his degree.

The band's first break came when Michael "Miguel" Happoldt (he would later become their manager) a music student at Cal St.-Dominguez Hills, offered to let the band record at the school's studio.  They would sneak onto the campus at midnight and record until seven in the morning, departing before any staffers arrived. This unconventional approach resulted in their first release,  "Jah Won't Pay the Bills" distributed by the band on cassette in 1991.

Wary of their rowdy reputation and Long Beach roots, most concert promoters turned the band away. To alleviate this problem, Nowell and Wilson created their own record label, Skunk Records. By billing themselves as "Skunk Records recording artists" music venues began to open their doors to the band. As a result Sublime's early recordings and demos tapes soon found their way into local record stores.

"Mucho gusto me llamo Bradley"

It was roots music, an eclectic fusion of punk and ska, interspersed with Spanish lyrics that instantly made Sublime unique. Bradley Nowell could channel all the dysfunctional, mind fucking problems faced by the homeboys and turn them into songs that celebrated SoCal culture. (in all its obnoxious, macho, violence prone glory)  Just like Brian Wilson,  Nowell had a knack for creating music that was uniquely Californian. 

Even surrounded by all that California surf and sun, it's hard to maintain a sunny disposition. How else do you explain the prevalent use of heroin in the south land. It was a culture that creeped north over the border and into every nook and cranny of Los Angeles. Bradley feared heroin and stayed away from that scene. But now, with the band picking up steam he felt compelled to use.  

Bradley's father, Jim talked about what fueled his son's impulse to use heroin "His excuse for taking the heroin was that he felt like he had to be larger than life. He was leading the band, leading his fans, and he had to put on this persona. He had heard a lot of musicians say that they were taking heroin to be more creative."  

"Waking up to an alarm, stickin needles in your arm"

For Sublime heroin addiction was the cross they had to bear.  They seemed destined for the same fate as all "those great Long Beach bands" that Eric Wilson spoke of. Then in 1992, more by chance than design, Tazy Phillips (an associate of the band) dropped off a copy of Sublime's debut album "40 Oz. to Freedom" at KROQ-FM in Los Angeles. Tazy asked the program director to consider adding "Date Rape" to the station's playlist. 

Recorded in 1990, "40 Oz. to Freedom" had been largely ignored and received little promotional push. "Date Rape" a ridiculous tune that made no effort at political correctness "Come on baby, don't be afraid.... if it wasn't for date rape, I'd never get laid." made it onto the KROQ rotation and became the station's most requested song. The uncouth but catchy song pissed all over a very sensitive subject, nonetheless it pushed "40 Oz. to Freedom" straight up the alternative charts.

"Robbin' the Hood" the 1994 follow-up was recorded under austere conditions in a "earthquake damaged house-cum tweaker pad with pirated electricity" The second album was far different from the first, it showed Bradley with a softer edge, crooning like a rude boy (it includes a duet with Gwen Stefani) "Robbin' the Hood" while melodically upbeat, offered an unblinking peek into the dark and seedy side of the addiction gripping the band.  

"Take me to that amigo town, where I can score some of that Heroin brown"

Bradley Nowell, was unashamed of his addiction, he approached it like everything else. He read books about addicts, he studied the process, he emulated William Burroughs as "someone who knew how to hold his drugs." He sneered at the mention of Shannon Hoon's name (Blind Melon's doomed lead singer) calling him stupid and weak.

Nowell looked down on non-users who tried to get him to quit "You guys don't understand because, you don't do heroin." Bradley equated the rush of a heroin high with the same rush he felt when surfing, they were one and the same. His addiction was a badge of honor, a rite of passage, if afforded him membership to an elite and ultra hip society.

In the midst of all that, MCA records (a label with a long history of fucking over musicians) came calling. In February of 1996, Sublime arrived at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in Austin, Tx. to work with Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers. On the surface it seemed like an odd pairing. The Butthole Surfers were no strangers to heroin culture and Austin had long nurtured a chiva cult of its own.

"Leaving without making a sound"

On the other hand, that may have been why MCA sent them to Texas. Nonetheless, Paul Leary helped produce a masterful, major label debut for the band. MCA had hit the fucking mother lode.  Originally titled "Killin' It" the album went into the can and Sublime set out on a major promotional tour. Starting with a five date romp through Northern California. 

During a stay in San Francisco, Bud Gaugh retreated to Bradley's hotel room to shoot up. He passed out and when he came to, he found Bradley Nowell collapsed across the bed, with his knees still on the floor. Unable to wake him, he called Eric Wilson who found a green froth around Nowell's mouth, he had overdosed on heroin. An ambulance was called, but Brad had been dead for several hours. 

Gaugh would later reflect "I thought, that was probably supposed to be me" The dream was over, the prophet of Long Beach had been called back home. Bradley Nowell was cremated and his ashes scattered at his favorite surfing spot. A headstone was erected at Westminster Memorial as a tribute to his fans. It now remains adorned with flowers and 40 oz. bottles.

"I don't practice Santeria I ain't got no crystal ball"

"Killin' It" now bearing an eponymous title was released on July 30th, 1996. In 1997 it entered the Top 20, it would go on to sell over six million copies. "What I Got" shot to #1 on the rock charts and the hits kept coming, "Santeria", "Wrong Way" and "Doin' Time" soon followed. The band's videos (interspersed with live concert footage of Brad) were in heavy rotation on MTV. Disbanded for nearly a year,  Sublime was declared the most successful American rock act of 1997.

As the Long Beach Dub All Stars, Wilson & Gaugh continued to perform Sublime's music for a few years after Brad's death. But, for all intents and purposes Sublime died with Bradley Nowell.  Brad with the consent of Wilson & Gaugh had registered the name "Sublime" under his name before his death. Jim Nowell stated "It was Brad's expressed intention that no one use the name in any group that did not include him." 

This recently led to a round of court action as Jim tried to stop Eric Wilson & Bud Gaugh from performing as "Sublime with Rome" (Ramirez)  Wilson & Gaugh got an injunction that allowed them to continue for now. Afterwards Bud issued this statement: 

"It's unfortunate that The Estate would take a position against us. Eric, Brad and I started this band when we were kids. We were the ones that spent years paying dues playing hole-in-the-wall clubs. We were the ones lugging around our gear in a broken down van. We were the ones that spent years writing, recording and rehearsing. WE. Not anyone else. Sublime is a band -- our band. *Bud Gaugh has since disassociated himself from "Sublime with Rome" for personal reasons.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

That Dirt City Sound Episode 24

That Dirt City Sound Episode 24 (a.k.a All's fair in Love or War) features tracks from the 2007 Pin-Up Calendar Companion Cd "New Mexico Rocks" compilation album, de*tach records compilation (2004) and The Jenny Clinkscales Band's 1998 "Mind if We Join You?"

I recently came across a stash of twenty or so unopened compact discs by local bands. They've been sitting in my closet for almost three years, it's time that they saw the light of day.