As original member and guitarist for The New York Dolls, Sylvain Sylvain inspired countless kids in bedrooms around the world to pick up their guitars, dab on a bit of rouge, and start a band. The Dolls’ influence on rock and roll is well documented and will continue as long as there’s a need for loud, campy rock and roll--and that need never goes away.
But Sylvain also inspired my all-time favorite rock show heckle; one that I use to this day, regardless of the artist or situation. Like the Dolls themselves, it is equally specific to the moment it was first uttered and evergreen.
It was at The Cactus Club in Milwaukee where my new bandmate and pal Mick was reunited with his band Men From Mars to open for Sylvain. I was late because I couldn’t find my way to the club and passed my turn several times before catching a glimpse of the front door and swinging a hard left on a wet road. I made it in to catch the end of Mick’s set and caught up on beers and chit-chat with Mick. Then it got loud.
Sylvain’s band kicked in hard. I can’t remember what song they opened with but I am pretty sure it was a Dolls’ tune. You know, to get the crowd ready to roll. They were pretty tight but swinging and Sylvain sounded good. He worked up a sweat quickly and eventually wandered into the crowd, guitar in hand so we could all get hot, hot, hot together. This was a few months after September 11, 2001 and we were all looking for an opportunity or reason to find some community. As a New Yorker, Sylvain obviously had some very close and personal feelings about what had happened in New York and what was happening in America as a response. He lit into a rant…a preach for loving each other and not giving in to prejudice or paranoia. He was hitting a high when the heckle rang out like a shot:
Play “Trash,” hippy!
It was incredibly offensive and incredibly hilarious, the perfect interruption for an emotional moment as only a Midwesterner can deliver. Sylvain laughed and nodded his head as if to say, “Yeah, yeah. Ok.” and we were back to rocking and sweating.
Sylvain died today after a two and a half year battle with cancer. Of the original line-up, only David Johansen remains. We have the records, we have the songs, but we’ll never get to hear Sylvain play “Trash” again. That’s a real drag.
You can never go home again. Yeah, it’s a cliche and painfully overused but it’s overused because it’s also painfully true. You can wander the streets of your neighborhood but they’re slightly different, like in a dream. Old haunts are under different names, old friends are…older. So, no. You can’t go home again, but one of the magics of music is you can return to familiar feelings. Neurons deep within the folds and creases of your brain can fire again. You can’t go back, but you can imagine what it would be like if you could. That’s how I feel when I hear the jangle and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub.
Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows BBC Session
My introduction to the Fannies was like so many bands and artists in my youth: via mixtape. Jake had slipped in an alternate take of “Everything Flows” onto a yellow Maxell cassette. The loud guitars layered with pristine harmonies seeped perfectly into a brain already prepped by an obsession with The Stone Roses.
We get older every year
But you don’t change
Or I don’t notice you’re changing
Nearly thirty years on, Teenage Fanclub is still chugging. Their long Scottish locks are shorn and their skin isn’t as smooth, but whose is? The raucous youths who stormed Reading in 1992 are now more mature, more refined, more…still. And maybe that allows more space for the songs themselves. Maybe I’m just getting older too.
Teenage Fanclub - Reading Festival 1992
The new single, “Home” is classic latter-day TFC. It’s pretty and touching and nostalgic without being morose. Give a listen and feel at home again, if only for four minutes.
It’s day-whatever in the never ending 2020 election and despite the long, drawn out process, there aren’t really any surprises. Sure, expectations weren’t met as far as a blue wave sweeping across the Senate and state houses, but those expectations were more wishes and dreams than realistic results. We are, after all, in a country where a lunatic has maintained a 40+ percent approval rating. In the end, the characters are playing their parts as we would expect, as in a trite sitcom, which is maybe all we are anyways.
Sitcoms have a formula and one of the truest components of that formula is the Golden Moment (known in the biz as the “moment of shit,”) where all the loose ends are bound up and the lessons of the day are learned. Here we are as a nation at our moment of shit and I have to wonder what lessons have we learned?
First: A Beginning
There’s been a bit of chatter out there about Abraham Lincoln and his first inaugural address. The south had seceded and Lincoln wanted to cool shit down and speak directly to those people who’d left the Union. Lincoln knew that the cost of a civil war would be terrible (though ultimately a cost we’d have to carry) and tried to plead with the south to reconsider:
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Lincoln was an optimist. He believed in the human spirit and that deep, deep down we are good people, bonded more by what we have in common than divided by our differences.
Couple that with Donald Trump’s first (and only) inaugural address where he painted a bloody picture of American carnage and unending grievances. Almost from the beginning, Trump drew battle lines and called on his followers to remember whose side they’re on:
The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now. Because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.
It’s true that America’s working families were not in on many of the triumphs; they had been left to flounder as billionaire’s raked in more. But that was directly due to Republican tax policy and corporate pandering. Four years later, billionaires have billions more and you got a $1200 check. Did that feel like your moment?
Now: An Ending
It’s the Friday after the election and we’re still waiting for the race to officially be called even though we all know Biden has won. And I do mean we all know. Donald Trump doesn’t want to face it, but he knows it’s over. He knows Biden got more votes and his only play now is to simply deny. Donald Trump has lived a lifetime of denial; of his responsibilities to his wives and children, to his creditors and business partners, to his patriotic duty to pay his fair share toward what Makes America Great, and to the reality that every fraud eventually gets caught.
SAD Donald Trump has spent the last several days trying to undermine faith in our most sacred system by undermining the integrity of our votes. We are nothing if we lose faith that we, the people are in charge. Rather than admit that Joe Biden had the better campaign and vision to garner more votes (by 4 million and counting), Donald Trump is trying to tear down the whole system around him. By doing so, he’s further boxing himself in. How can he admit defeat and follow the tradition at the heart of our nearly 245 years of self-rule and peaceful transition of power by conceding?
Four years ago, Hillary Clinton did it. Her first words were for her country:
Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.
Sure, she was disappointed and probably shocked and had a couple not-so-subtle jabs in the full text of the speech, but she’s a patriot and wished for the best for America. Right up to the end, she saw the promise and the possibility for America:
Finally, I am so grateful for our country and for all it has given to me. I count my blessings every single day that I am an American. And I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.
Can you imagine any of that coming from Donald Trump? If this week is any indication, we’re in for two and half months of his undermining bullshit. I doubt he’ll concede at all or even show up to participate in the peaceful transfer of power at Biden’s inauguration. We’re likely to have two and a half more months of the oil barrel of lies we got last night. The vote is not rigged, you fucking lost. As we were told in the aftermath of 2016: Get over it.
It’s the day after and where are the good people? We should be cleaning up balloons and confetti and gobbling Excedrin like candies to relieve jubilant hangovers, but we’re waiting. We’re waiting to see if predominantly black voters can save us from the hypocrisy and greed of predominantly white voters. More pointedly, white male voters. It turns out that America is still sick from its original sin and I am not sure if there even is a cure.
Despite what is looking more and more like a win for Biden-Harris, It shouldn’t have ever been in question. That is, if we’re really that Shining City on the Hill. Exit polls are bearing out what the early polls showed re: Trump’s base of support. White males support Trump in large numbers, this despite an economy tanked by Trump’s bungling of a national health crisis, scattered civil unrest brought on by systematic police brutality, and four years of continued ugliness. Somewhere upwards of 60% of white American males looked at the mess Trump has created the last four years and decided they’d like more.
There was a lot of hope this week that Florida (and Texas!) would be bellwethers of America’s disgust with Trumpism. Serious people who sniff out the political winds really thought we’d see an acceleration of the purpling of these states–not driven by demographics, but by decency! White males instead created bulwarks and stopped the march in its place. While there are some real questions to ask about Biden’s under-performing among Hispanic/Latinos, the fact of the matter is that white males like Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans who enable Trumpism.
Posts like this are usually met with a chorus of “not all Trump supporters are racist!” I guess. But one thing is as clear today as it was in 2016: Trump supporters are not as disgusted by racism and race-baiting as good people should be. That’s been true for generations in America and it’s true today.
As I wrote yesterday, every election is an inflection point. It’s our opportunity to right the ship and put us on the path to achieving that “more perfect union.” That very idea is at the core of American Exceptionalism. As a patriot, I love America but have to admit I hate Americans. There is nothing exceptional about people facing permanent and inevitable demographic changes clinging to the scraps they have while the 1% clears the table. That’s begging and it’s demeaning. And I guess that breeds cruelty, but it’s maddening to see the ire misdirected year after year. We have a lot to clean up still and I’m just not sure we’re up to the job.
Well, this is it, folks. Election Day 2020 is upon us and while it’s certainly not the end of the Trump nightmare–we have at least until January 21 for him to blow up the whole shithouse–it is the beginning of the end…one way or another. The big question before us these next few days and weeks is what exactly is coming to an end?
Will voters take back control of their government and toss out a serial liar and fraud, or will we enter a period of accelerated disintegration? What does The End look like?
Before we get to the end, I’m not even sure when it started. Was it Bush v. Gore some 20 years ago when the United States Supreme Court stepped in to stop a recount that Al Gore was winning to hand the election to a dim-witted son of a President? Was it before that when right-wing radio rose up to scream in the faces of delivery guys and salesmen stuck in rush hour traffic and mourning the loss of the Shining City on a Hill first promised, then condemned with the election of a Clinton?
Or was it in an earlier, darker time when the whisper of a “silent majority” who valued law & order over justice was waiting in the wings standing back and standing by for the order to attack? And attack they did, with billy clubs, tear gas, mandatory minimums and a gerrymandering scheme to make LBJ blush.
Who knows? All elections are an inflection point and this year is no different, except it’s not governing philosophies that are at odds, but the entire concept of a free and fair election. Will this be the end of four years of rampant grift, fraud and cruelty or the end of American-style republican (small “R”) democracy? Will the whole experiment blow up in our faces as an abject failure? The next few weeks will tell us.
This year is another clear test of character, represented on either side by everything that’s at stake. In one corner we have a flawed, but capable and decent man who has adjusted his messaging (and more importantly, his policy) to recognize the changing times we’re in. Joe Biden has been in the game a long time, which means he not only knows how to win but he knows how to govern. He knows politics is about compromise–not giving up what you believe in, but listening to others and finding the space to move closer.
In the other corner we have Donald Trump. A compulsive liar and cheat who is considered a joke by everyone who actually knows him and his brand of “business.” The saddest part of this whole thing is that he’s duped a good 40% of this country into thinking he’s anything more than a clown with bad intent. He’s not even a good conman, yet here we are. We’ve been talked into a lemon, will we now double-down on the extended warranty?
We opened the National Affairs Desk in 2006 with a short piece on how straight shootin’ George W. Bush couldn’t hit the truth if it was the side of a barn. It seems quaint now, but the Valerie Plame story was heating up the charts back then. It was a real scandal (no, really) when the White House played fast and loose with classified information and the identity of covert officers whose husbands had the gall to submit intelligence that undermined the main argument for a war of choice.
“Ah, but that’s just how hardball is played!” you might say. But it’s not baseball we’re playing here, gang. It is a much more lethal game played by sharp-teethed reptiles like Mitch McConnell who will rip your fingers off like a snapping turtle. Yes, a Snapping Turtle.
One defining chapter was when Cocaine Mitch blocked the hearing for Merrick Garland, holding an open court seat for almost a year hoping his bet on the worst person in America winning the 2016 election would pay off. He hit the trifecta and handed the court to Donald Fucking Trump to shape for a generation. That turtle bites.
So, this is it. This is when we’ll find out if “America [is] just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.” Hunter S. Thompson thought so, but he was one for hyperbole employed with dramatic flare. The question remains: how uncomfortable are you, really? Are you the salesman or the mark? Today’s vote will tell the world once and for all.
Today marks the release of The Stooges Live at Goose Lake 1970, a release so unlikely it kinda boggles the mind. Not only are there very few live recordings of The Stooges, but this particular recording of this particular performance is so drenched in legend that to even suggest there was a clean documentation of it sounds like a tall tale.
I’ve been very lucky to be friends with and play in a bunch of bands with Joshua Rogers. We met in the early 90s and quickly established a musical kinship that took us through dalliances with glam, mod, garage rock, Americana and beyond. Early on we dubbed him “Gadget,” not just for his love of technology but for his impeccable timing as a drummer. It’s almost as if he were designed to be a drummer–programmed, as such.
If you knew Joshua well in those days you also knew his dad in some way. Jim Cassily loved Josh’s musical projects and loved facilitating them however he could. In addition to being a king storyteller, Jim was an inventor with a specific interest in how rhythm has residual benefits relating to motor skills, balance and lots of other stuff I don’t understand. The Interactive Metronome became a key piece of his technological legacy, something Joshua knew well as his dad would have him clap along with a metronome as part of his learning the drums.
And the stories he would tell…Our early bands spent time recording with Josh’s dad and that meant hours of exposure to the various tales he would weave throughout the process of setting up for a recording session. I was a natural skeptic in my youth and basically considered “adults” to be full of shit. Especially Boomers who took any opportunity to tell us how much better everything was in their day, so I was probably more dismissive to his storytelling than I had any right to be.
“Dad was such a legendary bullshitter that it was hard to sort of keep the stories straight,” Josh joked in a recent call where we caught up on this crazy adventure.
As a kid it was sometimes hard for Josh to discern fact from his dad’s colorful fiction. “Friends laughed at me because I told them he was a member of the Oak Ridge Boys.” This bit of fantasy was likely the result of Josh’s conflating some joke Jim may have told him about having sung with the Oak Ridge Boys and the fact that he could sing in the same register to hit the most famous part of their most famous hit, “Elvira.” When you’re a kid sometimes you miss the nuances of a joke.
There were also brushes with fame that would sometimes get jumbled up in the telling or retelling. “I thought he had dated Janis Joplin, but mom says no. He–like everyone else–thought she was scuzzy. He did work with her though, but I’m not sure to what capacity. And he did date Debbie Harry.”
“Mom jokes that he chose her over Debbie Harry. That’s what he would tell her.”
“Eventually, I started to take dad’s stories with a big hunk of salt.”
The Stooges’ performance at Goose Lake was pure rock and roll myth. It was the last show with the original line-up. Bassist Dave Alexander was summarily fired from the band by Iggy immediately after leaving the stage because he was so stoned or scared or whatever that he couldn’t play. At least, that’s how the story went.
But at what point does a story become history? Sometimes it’s just when it’s been told enough times by enough people and sometimes it’s when there’s some corroborating evidence. Such is the tale of how a box of tapes in a farmhouse basement in Michigan made its way to Nashville, via Chicago.
I don’t spend a lot of time on negativity anymore, and that includes writing negative reviews. I mean, really…we’re surrounded by a shitstorm of Trumpist negativity and we are a music site of, by and for fans. So it pains me to write this:
This new Son Volt video is laughably bad. Jay and crew playing in front of a green screen while stock footage of the Great Depression is the No Depression version of phoning it in. And seriously, we can’t have that. This is a crucial time in the history of this country and we need Jay’s voice. It’s important. No half-measures, man. I am onboard with the sentiment, but you must try harder!
I don’t know where she is or where she’s going, but Sharon Van Etten is a boss. How do I know? She walks with great authority. And you can’t be a boss without some authority. New single, “No One’s Easy To Love” is a clear statement of authority in relationships. Not that Sharon has all the answers--that’s not what authority or expertise imply. It’s that she has the experience and insight to speak to the complications that make up our closest connections.
I mean, the title itself is an authoritative statement. No one is easy to love. Humans have faults and flaws and they’re unique to each of us, which means they can be baffling to others. I have a very annoying habit of identifying and highlighting vocal inflections and regional accents. For example, many of my in-laws pronounce words that start with “un” as a prefix as “on.” They say things like “ONusual” or “ONcomfortable.” I notice it every single time. How annoying of me. I am not easy to love. And neither are you. The boss said so.
Somewhere deep within the GLONO archives are boxes and boxes of VHS tapes. Throughout much of our teens and all of our 20s, Jake had a video camera and for long periods during those years, he seemed to video everything. Sometimes it was events in our lives, like graduations or birthday parties. Sometimes it was us being creative by making music videos of ourselves singing to The Charlatans. Sometimes--and this was a LOT of the time--it was just us sitting around his mom’s house or driving our friend Pat’s convertible (called The Soft Machine, natch) around our home town. Once, we climbed the fence surrounding an abandoned drive-in movie theater and Jake climbed to the very top of the giant outdoor screen. We did this a lot. We were bored in the midwest and a little infatuated with ourselves. It was cool and unique. It was before we all had a camera in our pockets. It was before selfie culture.
I think David Berman also has a bunch of these boxes in his basement. I think this video might be from one of the boxes way in the back. The tape holding the top closed is getting brittle and has pulled up a little from the surface of the two flaps holding the box closed. I wonder if he ever makes stop-action videos with his old Star Wars figures? We should compare notes.
Directed by Joshua Erkman. From First Taste, due August 2 on Drag City.
Ty Segall wants your shit and he is willing to murder you for it. We live in a sick society and are being programmed on a daily basis to feed our sickness. Never one for subtlety, Ty Segall goes on a real-life, one-man Grand Theft Auto joyride of destruction to accumulate as much bling as he can so he can take home the big prize. “What’s the big prize,” you say? More shit.
He can’t help it, we can’t help it. We’ve literally elected a golden calf to lead our country with game-show rules. Virtual-reality is higher definition than reality-reality. We’re starving while drowning in bits and bites.