Greg Shaw: A Hero for Zeros

by admin  25th Aug 2016 Comments [324]

 

By Mike Stax

 

Greg Shaw (1949-2004) should need no introduction here. After rolling out one of the seminal rock fanzines, Who Put the Bomp (and its late ‘60s predecessor Mojo Navigator), he founded Bomp Records in 1974, one of the most respected independent labels of the era, releasing records by the likes of the Flamin’ Groovies, Devo, the Weirdos, DMZ, Iggy & the Stooges, and a band from Chula Vista, California called the Zeros.

Part of Southern California’s first wave of punk rock bands, the Zeros released two singles on Shaw’s label: “Wimp” b/w “Don’t Push Me Around” in 1977, and “Beat Your Heart Out” b/w “Wild Weekend.” Both are widely regarded as among the best American punk singles of the late ‘70s. The Zeros’ place in rock ‘n’ roll history was already etched in stone by the time the original band broke up around 1981.

So ten years later, having recently releasing an LP anthology of the band’s recordings, Shaw was surprised to receive a letter from some high-powered Beverly Hills attorneys threatening legal action because the name “Zeros” infringed on the “statutory and common law rights” of their clients, a new band of apparently uninformed LA metal douche-bags who were calling themselves… the Zeros.

Greg was never one to concern himself with legal niceties so he took to his typewriter and bashed out a response in short order. It’s classic Greg Shaw.

“Our Zeros record is a repackage of classic late ‘70s tracks by one of the founder bands of the LA music scene, active 1977-81,” he helpfully pointed out. “The band you represent, on the other hand, are upstarts of recent years, whose use of the name is possible only by the forbearance of those who bear the rights of original usage. Moreover, your lot are well known as low-brow glam metal posers, whose music in no way resembles that of the original Zeros, and the packaging of the respective albums bears this out.”

After some more bon mots, Shaw concludes: “I really wouldn’t worry about it, guys. Our record sold about 600 copies. Your Beverly Hills lifestyles are not threatened.”

He signed off: “Yours for rock & roll.”

The original Zeros—Javier Escovedo, Robert Lopez, Hector Penalosa and Baba Chenelle—continue to be musically active in various forms. Escovedo recently released a new album, Kicked Out of Eden. Lopez is world famous as El Vez. Penalosa plays with the Baja Bugs. And various configurations of ex-members still play occasionally as the Zeros.

On the other hand, the “low-brow glam metal posers,” to the best of my knowledge, were never heard from again—at least not in that form.  •

Both letters are reproduced here for your pleasure by permission of Suzy Shaw at Bomp Records.

Zeros_letter_Page_1

Zeros_letter_Page_2


Screaming Lord Sutch: An interview with a raving loony

by admin  17th Aug 2016 Comments [391]

by Mike Stax

 

When David Sutch took his own life in June 1999 the world of rock ’n’ roll lost one of its wildest and most unforgettable characters. As Screaming Lord Sutch, his colorful, larger than life personality was a fixture of the British political landscape, but for rock’n’roll fans he will be remembered for his amazing recorded legacy: the mad rock and horror sides he cut with Joe Meek, the demented mid-‘60s gems like “Train Kept A-Rollin’” and “All Black and Hairy,” the proto-psychedelic “The Cheat,” the hard rockin’ Heavy Friends… For someone with no discernible music talent he sure made a lot of great records. And if you make great records you live forever.

In April 1993 I interviewed Lord Sutch by telephone for a two-part feature in the Union Jack newspaper. It was a memorable chat. Sutch was a charming, down-to-earth man, with an in-built, infectious sense of humor. Within a few minutes it was obvious my carefully prepared list of questions was out the window. Sutch talked a mile a minute, determined to cover all the highlights of his career, specifically: precise election results and of course the name of every single one of the famous players who’d passed through the ranks of the Savages (“my musicians,” as he called them). Between our chuckling, I made intermittent attempts to direct the flow of conversation, but there was little point, Sutch was on a roll, dashing down tangential side alleys and free-associating memories as the whim took him. Who was I to stop him in his tracks to clarify the smaller facts? It was all entertaining stuff – just let the tape roll.

Caveat emptor: As anyone who has read his autobiography, Life as Sutch, can tell you, historical accuracy wasn’t Sutch’s strong suit, entertaining people was. Some of Sutch’s tales involve a certain degree of exaggeration or misconception. All quite innocent, but bear it in mind as you read.

• • •

(more…)


Cleaning Up the Puke Stain: A Response to Rolling Stone’s Punk Top 40 List

by admin  20th Apr 2016 Comments [382]

By Doug Sheppard

 

Given the sheer volume of stupidity on the Internet, most of it should be taken with a grain of salt. And then there’s Rolling Stone’s “40 Greatest Punk Albums of All Time.”

Sure, you could laugh it off as the product of a magazine that’s had a tenuous relationship with real rock ’n’ roll—hence punk—throughout its history. Or you could just give Rolling Stone a pass based on the presence of David Fricke, whose command of music history and excellent writing are unparalleled. Or maybe the magazine could be excused based on its stellar political coverage—such as the 2008 exposé on John McCain and many insightful Matt Taibbi commentaries.

At least that was my first reaction. But it soon became apparent that the punk top 40 was more like your best friend puking on your carpet during a party: Sure, it’s funny when you’re all carousing, but by the next day there’s a smelly stain there. You gently admonish him in a text to get it off your chest and, ideally, he apologizes for taking too many Jägermeister shots.

Rolling Stone definitely left a puke stain with this one. Putting aside the complaints about what specifically is or isn’t on the list, the main issue is that most of the titles aren’t even punk. It’s the kind of rundown one would expect from a music theory professor, or perhaps on a “punk” compilation CD sold at Starbucks, but that bears little resemblance to the form.

Punk’s DIY ethos inspired many musical genres—everything from punk offshoots to postpunk to power pop to modern strains of metal. Punk itself, however, can be defined as modern rock ’n’ roll: fast, driving, angst-ridden rebellion with blazing guitar. The kind of music that makes you want to jump around the room, strain your veins singing along, clench your fist, grit your teeth and break shit up.

Or “Smash It Up,” as the Damned once famously sang. Rolling Stone did at least get that right: the Damned “just didn’t have that one perfect LP statement.” They had two: Damned Damned Damned and Machine Gun Etiquette.

Actually, like many other great bands, the Damned didn’t make the Rolling Stone list, which was apparently compiled by eight people—including Fricke, who I’m guessing had minimal input. In any event, lest it become a template for an impressionable teenager just discovering punk, I present a response in the form of a real Punk Rock Top 40—with emphasis on the rock. Yeah, it’s only my opinion, and I’m not so pretentious to call it definitive. But you know how musical opinions are: You’re always right and everyone else is an idiot.

The 40 are ranked in order, though after about 20 or so it got tougher to distinguish. Following my list, I commented on Rolling Stone’s choices, which should also explain most of my exclusions.

 stooges funhouse

1. THE STOOGES – Fun House (1970)

The album that laid the groundwork for everything that followed, particularly in the guitar sound and the vocal delivery. Miles Davis called them “the real shit.” Still sounds like rebellion 46 years later.

 

2. THE MC5 – High Time (1971)

Inspired the Stooges with their streetwise fusion of the British Invasion, R&B, blues and free jazz, and politically-charged lyrics that struck like lightning bolts. They fought the law and the law initially won, but their impact is still being felt today.

 

3. THE BUZZCOCKS – Singles Going Steady (1979)

Punk energy, pop hooks, teen angst and intelligence on one brilliant comp of eight of the greatest singles ever made.

 vibrators-puremania

4. THE VIBRATORS – Pure Mania (1977)

Glam band reinvents itself as punk and produces an unrelentingly catchy, energetic album with S&M lurking beneath the surface.

 

5. RADIO BIRDMAN – Radios Appear (worldwide version) (1978)

Featuring a Michigan transplant on guitar, these Aussies wore their Detroit high-energy rock ’n’ roll influences on their sleeves and combined them with the right dose of the 1960s, indigenous Australian rock, and Blue Öyster Cult. “New Race” alone leaves almost all competition in the dust.

 

6. THE DAMNED – Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)

Damned Damned Damned was power and rebellion; Machine Gun Etiquette is power, rebellion, pop hooks, experimentation and advanced lyrical themes in one terrific package.

  (more…)