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.