Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Applying for Jobs by Computer or by Mobile.

Text (c) Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2017
Image from the Internet

It is bound to come, where applying for jobs by cell phone will be the common procedure. The level of technology at present day, however, makes that possible, but is it the most efficient?

Of course, the biggest attraction to using the mobile over the desktop or laptop is ease, and yes, being able to blast out your information to a large number of companies covers more ground. Having your resume and/or cover letter in your email and forwarding it is a snap. Even with that, there are more functional and possibly successful ways to proceed in your job applications.

When you send your resume and cover letter to a prospective employer, the email will indicate that it was sent from a mobile device. This tells the Hiring Manager some assumptive information. For example, it says that you are sending out resumes that are not directed to the company’s individual needs, but as a “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey,” cover-all template.  They want to know you are willing to put in the work and research before you apply, and that you are self-motivated and proactive. If you want to stand out, it is better to individualize your resume and cover letter rather than sending a come one-come all version.

This is especially true for cover letters. Some people will type in a version of a cover letter into the actual email, but this is not as efficient in attracting positive attention as attaching a document that is easy to print out.

A proper cover letter should be dated, addressed to the company connected to the advertisement even if you have to look up the actual physical address in a search engine, and mention the position exactly as it is mentioned in the ad, including competition number if one is attached. Sending out a cover letter that is undated and unaddressed does not garner as much attention as one that is directed to the person and company requesting your information.

Many companies also have online applications, where the person looking for a job needs to attach a resume after you create a sign-in with that website. These cannot be sent from an email as of yet, so there is still a need for the physical presence rather than just a click on a phone.

Microsoft Word or other word processing software are not easily navigated on a mobile device, so it is better at this stage of the technology development to actually work on the application on a desktop or laptop.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

CHEAP PERFUME Fills the Air [1980]

Text by Marc Silver / FFanzeen fanzine, 1980
Introduction by Robert Barry Francos © FFanzeen blog, 2017
Images from the Internet

Cheap Perfume were a rockin’, all-woman band that was underrated in the New York Scene, and deserved better. I had the opportunity to see them a couple of times in 1977-78, and was happy to give them their due by publishing this piece. They have reformed a number of times, sometimes with the lead singer who had moved to the other coast, other times with the rest of the band filling in vocally.

Please note that this has nothing to do with the Colorado-based band with the same name, which was formed in 2015.

This interview was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #5, dated August/September 1980. It was written/conducted by Marc Silver. I have lost track of Marc, so if anyone knows his whereabouts, please let him know about this!

Cheap Perfume occupies the niche of the top-drawing all-female band in New York. Their music is self-described as “power-pop with a rock’n’roll edge.” Performances are vibrant and chock-full of ass-kicking rock’n’roll. The majority of their material is original, but their unique covers range from the Beatles’ “Boys” to a version of the Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” complete with choreographed dancing in the aisles.

Brenda, the drummer, had recently crushed her ankle and was partying the time away in the dismal dungeons of the Metropolitan Hospital. Also present for the interview at the hospital were L. and Nancy Street, lead singer and rhythm guitarist, respectively. Sue Sheen [Palermo], bassist, and Bunny LeDesma, lead guitarist, were AWOL.

Brenda [Martinez-White]: In the beginning I created the Earth and the heavenly bodies. No, at the start it was Zoey, Susan and me. But I didn’t consider that the band.
Nancy Street: I noticed an ad in The [Village] Voice for a female vocalist and I said to myself, “I know just the girl,” meaning L. She auditioned and I tagged along.
L [Lynn Odell]: It was a package deal.

FFanzeen: When did Bunny join?
Brenda: Eight months ago.

FFanzeen: After Zoey left?
Brenda: Yes

FFanzeen: Did your material change much?
L: The material changed drastically. Most of the songs up to that point had been written by Zoey and her boyfriend, so we had to give those songs up.

FFanzeen: Who’s doing the writing now?
Nancy: Susan and I, and we’ve got friends who give us songs.

FFanzeen: How would you describe your music?
Brenda: It’s hard.
L: It’s pop. It’s definitely pop. It’s not punk. It’s not heavy metal. Pop pretty well rounds it off. It’s under the genre of New Wave, but certainly not punk.
Nancy: Power pop, with a standard rock’n’roll edge.

FFanzeen: Who are the major influences in your songwriting?
Brenda: Mostly guys.

FFanzeen: I’ll ask you about that later.
Nancy: I’m influenced by the Beatles and the Who. Susan is influenced by…God knows…Frank Zappa, Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson, Southside Johnny, Greg Kihn…
L: Uncle Floyd.

FFanzeen: On stage, Bunny for example, is styled after Keith Richards.
Nancy: Very Stones.
Brenda: Very stoned!

FFanzeen: Do any of the rest of you ever mimic your rock heroes?
Nancy: I do try to do the Pete Townshend windmills.
L: And it looks ridiculous.
Nancy: But I try. I don’t do it very often and I’m not very good at it. But after a few vodkas…

FFanzeen: What would it take to get you to slide across the stage on your knees?
Nancy: I’d pass out before then. But really, I don’t try to emulate anyone.
Brenda: I have my own style.
L: Nobody plays like her.
Brenda: [to L.] And who do you try to sing like?
L: Well, my major influences are from acting. I’m very theatrical on stage. I move around a lot. I don’t just stand there and turn around in circles, like Debbie Harry.
Nancy: It particularly bothers me when you see a band who are obviously on a Who trip or a Beatles trip. There’s a band in the New York area where the lead singer is doing all the Roger Daltry moves, the lead guitarist is doing all the Pete Townsend moves, and the drummer thinks he’s Keith Moon. It’s disgusting. It’s stupid; I resent it. It’s one thing to have influences, but it’s another to have it completely take over your performance.

FFanzeen: This is the definition of a cover band. Have you played outside of New York?
L: We played DC twice; Upstate at Hamilton College [Clinton, NY].

FFanzeen: What were the audiences like?
L: In Washington, they’re pretty civil. They’re a little too civil. They’re boring.
Brenda: They don’t get into it heavily.
L: Upstate, forget it. We had to beat them back with hammers. It was like they had never heard music before.
Nancy: We played the Hot Club in Philly. They loved us. We beat them off with sticks.
L: They were all lesbians. We had to barricade the dressing room.
Brenda: We played a prison once, in Danbury, Connecticut.
L: They weren't wild about us. We were girls, and that they were into, not the music.
Nancy: It was a white collar prison; tax evaders.
L: Where Nixon should be.

FFanzeen: What makes you different from other all-girl bands?
L: Most of them don’t get any further than forming a band. There are a few that you hear about once or twice and then they’re gone.
Brenda: Do you know how hard it is to keep girls together?

FFanzeen: I know how hard it is to keep them apart.
Nancy: Cheap Perfume is very significant to each of us. It is the first and only band any of us have ever been in.

FFanzeen: On stage, it looks as though there’s no jealousy over the spotlight.
Brenda: We’re pretty good about that.

FFanzeen: But I have seen you run into each other on the way into the spotlight.
L: Well, Bunny needs a pair of glasses.
Brenda: We should hold a benefit for Bunny’s glasses.
L: She’s walked into my mic stand three times.
Brenda: But she never misses a cute guy.

FFanzeen: Being an all-girl band might be thought of as a gimmick, but it’s obvious that you’re serious about yourself as musicians. How do people seem to react to you?
Nancy: In the beginning it was a good gimmick and we never had any trouble getting gigs.
Brenda: People still come up to me and say, “You know, you’re pretty good for girls.”
L: At first they were right, because nobody had come anywhere near mastering their instruments. And now, although we don’t have it by the tail…
Brenda: – We have it by the asshole –
L: …We do pretty well.
Nancy: I’d like to think that the timing is right for an all-girl band. It’s more than accepted. Chrissie Hynde is the rhythm guitar player for the Pretenders. Girls are becoming more than just the lead singer.
Brenda: Nancy Wilson of Heart is a fuckin’ hot lead guitar player.
Nancy: I think that the lack of female musicians is a problem from our teen-age. It wasn’t accepted for little 13 year olds to be picking up an electric guitar.

FFanzeen: There were no role models.
Nancy: I think that now there will be a greater mix in the near future. There will be more groups like the Nervus Rex and Talking Heads.

FFanzeen: Unisex bands.
L: I’d like to think that we’re responsible for a lot of girls getting musically involved in the New York scene.

FFanzeen: Almost all of your songs are about guys and are sexually suggestive. Despite your musical social ability, it wouldn’t be outlandish to call this an exploitation or even a gimmick since you’re an all-girl band.
L: Most rock’n’roll songs are about guys, girls…

FFanzeen: Cars, money…
L: Sex, drugs. That’s all. They’re standard themes.

FFanzeen: I don’t buy that. All your songs are about guys, not any of those other subjects.
Nancy: They’re really not. Only one: “Tommy.”

FFanzeen: What about “Overnight Angel,” “Boys,” “Back Alley Lovin’,” “Todd’s Song,” and especially “Too Bad”?
L: “Too Bad”? No, you misinterpreted the song. It’s not about a guy, it's about missing a chance, about being in a situation where you know if you did it right, you could have it. Anything – a guy, a girl, money – anything. But you blow it for one reason or another.
* * *
Anyway, Cheap Perfume is a hot act with many surprises. They’re tight and fast and they’ll leave ya beggin’ for more. They’re avoiding recording until they get the right producer. Definitely a professional move.

As soon as Brenda is out of the hospital, Cheap Perfume will be gigging up and down the East Coast under the guidance of Spotlight Enterprise. I’m looking forward to it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pigshit: DWIGHT TWILLEY [1985]

By Gary Pig Gold / FFanzeen, 1985
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2017
Images from the Internet

This article/interview was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #5, dated 1985, by music Renaissance man, Gary Pig Gold.

If you grew up in the early punk movement anywhere around the Toronto / Mississauga / Hamilton (Ontario) hub, you knew who Gary Pig Gold was / is, and his fanzine, The Pig Paper. Gary is not only a writer, but also produces records and was/is a musician in such bands as The Loved Ones, Ghost Rockets, Dave Rave Conspiracy and most recently The Next Big Thing alongside his old pal from The Cheepskates, Shane Faubert. I have the pleasure to call him my friend, even though we don’t get the chance to hang out much lately, being 2000 miles apart.

Through the later years of FFanzeen, Gary had his own column called "Pigshit," which also ran in many other zines worldwide and still appears monthly online. I've long-stated that Gary is one of the better writers of rock history, especially about his own favorites such as the Beach boys, the Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Elvis. His work at this moment appears alongside an all-star cast of musicians and movers in Harvey Kubernik's massive 1967: A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love book from Sterling Publishing. Definitely check out more of his writing at - Robert Barry Francos, 2017.

As much as we’d love to forever blot it from our ears, there was music being produced, released and even broadcast during the post-Creedence, pre-Ramones wasteland known today as the mid-1970s. Like many other now forms of pure pop, I filled those dreaded years backtracking thru pop’s past via the neighbourhood Kmart cut-out bins, and today sport an entire bedroom covered in milk crates full of albums ($1.90 or less!) with holes drilled thru the covers to show for my efforts… (Well, it was either that or spend circa ’71-’75 watching “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” and lining up for Who tickets…)

But suddenly one day, a song appeared which effectively jolted me out of my Delete Zone exile and hinted that perhaps, just perhaps, there was still intelligent life left in the music bizness: a hook-studded gem, which effortlessly rode up the charts atop a bedtrack cocky enough to spare it from a fate worse than Manilow (sorry ABBA). The song in question? “I’m On Fire,” by someone – or something- called The Dwight Twilley Band. Sure, I was a fan of the Hollies-Revisited strains of (The) Raspberries, not to mention the bozo-rock of the N.Y. Dolls, but Twilley’s ditty made an impression for reasons other than nostalgia or camp: it was the first evidence in godknowshowlong of that elusive creature known as The Perfect Hit Single. Imagine my jubilation when, after rushing to my local disc shop for the first time since the Raiders broke up, I discovered an entire album of Twilley in the racks – his classic debut LP Sincerely. Listening to this stunner today is akin to takin’ a crash-course in trends-to-come: the cheesy electropop of “Could Be Love,” the Edmunds-as-Spector lush of “You Were So Warm,” the mop-topped Rutle-rock of “Three Persons.” Even the suede-o crockabilly of “TV.” Could it be at all possible that the likes of Martin Rushent [d. 2011 – RBF], Nick Lowe, Dougie Fieger [of The Knack, d. 2010 - RBF] and Brian Setzer never heard and duly absorbed this record prior to launching their own assaults upon the Top 40? I sincerely doubt it.

Several years and one New Wave later (Dec. ’79 to be exact), I found myself in Southern California for my first of several hunts for the ghost of Brian Wilson. It was then and there that I chanced upon a surprise Twilley gig at the scenic Golden Bear club in scenic Huntington Beach (where, speaking of the ‘60s, Peter Tork was once employed as a dishwasher). By this point, Dwight had already lost one record company (Shelter, due to bankruptcy), one record contract (with Arista, due to the lackluster sales of his smash second album, Twilley Don’t Mind), and even one-half of his band (when his long-time cohort, Phil Seymour, buggered off for a short-lived career as Orange County’s answer to Shaun Cassidy). Not surprisingly, the show that night was a slick, bitter affair – it seemed Twilley spent most of his set screaming at the soundman for “more fuckin’ Elvis Sun Sessions reverb on my fuckin’ mike.” Afterwards, I crawled back to my motel room mightily disillusioned as Dwight spent the next several years slowly burying himself beneath the scrap heap of Next-Big-Things-From-L.A. alongside the likes of The Loved Ones (thanks for the plug, Robert Barry! – GPG 1985), 20/20 and The Plimsouls (whilst nurturing a quite unhealthy SCUBA diver fetish).

I was probably as shocked as Mr. Twilley himself when last summer, he released a bitchin’ new platter entitled Jungle, which came complete with a single smasheroo of even ultra-“I’m On Fire” proportions (the lethally-catchy “Girls”). And once again, as if on some sort of cosmic cue, I found myself in scenic Vancouver stumbling one night upon, in the far-from scenic Nite Lites club, another surprise Dwight Twilley gig! Bluffing myself onto the guest list as West Coast stringer for FFanzeen (“FFanzeen?” “Oh, yeah, it’s a very big mag back East – sorta like Circus…”) and bluffing my mini-recorder past the bouncer in true Rock ‘n’ Roll High School style (…“It’s a hearing aid, okay?”), I sat thru one of the most sweaty sets of sounds since Destroy All Monsters opened for The Young Fresh Fellows – with just the right amount of reverb on the mike! Afterwards, what else could I do but BS my way backstage (“FFanzeen?” “Yeah – it’s gonna take up where Trouser Press left off…”) to interview The Man Himself.

Dwight Twilley? Can I have a few words?
Oh… just a couple, okay? We’re on our way back to the room to watch some old Elvis videos…

I last saw you perform five years ago in California, and the improvement since then seems practically incomprehensible!
Well, we’re touring more nowadays, and I’ve got a better band nowadays. Plus, back then, I could never get enough reverb on the mike.

Yes, I know. Also, “Girls” I think is your strongest song in ages. However… I can’t help but detect the ghost of Brian Wilson running through it.
Oh? How’s that?

The riff in “Girls” sounds exactly like the riff in “Dance, Dance, Dance”!
Yeah? Well, I think The Beach Boys suck!

Hmm… Who do you think you’ve been influenced by?

Uh-huh. And who else?
Scotty and Bill.

Elvis’ guitarist and bass player?
You bet.

Who else besides Elvis do you admire musically?
(Extended silent pause)

I see.
What magazine’d you say this was for?

(Blank stare)

It’s sort of like the vintage old New York Rocker was back in its heyday. You remember New York Rocker, don’t you?

Anyways… Whatever became of your old partner, Phil Seymour?
Not a hell of a lot! (Laughs) I think the only time he works now is when I let him sing a spot or two on my records. Phil missed his calling, you see, when ABC refused to cast him alongside Parker Stevenson in “The Hardy Boys” TV series. I’m afraid it’s been all downhill for ol’ Phil ever since.

Your band seems to be getting along real fine without him.
Yeah… but something’s lacking in our rhythm section, I think.

Who would be your ideal drummer then?
D.J. Fontana.

Elvis’ drummer.
You bet.

Not to change the subject any, but who would you consider to be your idea girl?
Hmm… Probably a cross between Natalie Wood and Ann-Margret. [PIGOSSIP #1: Dwight is actually married to none other than Susie Cowsill – she of “Indian Lake” and “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” fame – GPG, 1985]

How about your favorite food?
Hey! What is this? I thought you were from Fan Scene [sic – 1985], not Tiger Beat! Uhh… favorite food… Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. And cheeseburgers – double cheeseburgers – on the road.

What’s the one song you’re most proud of?
Oh… “Don’t Be Cruel.”

No, no… I mean of your own!
Well, that’s a pretty tough one… I’d like to think Scuba Divers is my strongest album overall, as well as being my all-time poorest seller (smirk). You see, each of my records has its own set of circumstances and stories… and lawsuits… and nervous disorders… behind it. I mean, if it’s true that artistes create best under bleak and difficult conditions, then I should’ve had fifty Number One albums out by now! But, uhh, if I had to pick one single favorite song, I guess it would have to be “10,000 American Scuba Divers Dancin’.” How about you?

Without a doubt, my favorite would still have to be “I’m On Fire.”
What? You mean you don’t like Elvis?!!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

DAVE STREET’s in the Wild [1981]

Text by Nancy Foster / FFanzeen fanzine, 1981
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen blog, 2017
Images from the Internet

This interview was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #7, dated 1981. It was written by a Nancy Foster, whose Facebook page is kurrently Kandy Kabot.

Dave Street is an odd duck, and I say that with affection. Sure he was a New York-based punk rock stand-up comic back in the day, but he was also a fan and hung out with some of the illuminous stars in the scene. When this interview occurred, it was while he was working at Natasha’s Clothing Store on St. Mark’s Place when it was still cool. This is an insider’s story about hanging out on the scene.

In the period after the interview, he would go on to appear on Uncle Floyd and The Joe Franklin Show and write songs with Bobby Steele and the Undead which still continues. Lately, he works on environmental projects, and is in the process of making a horror film titled Monster Bizzness. Along with other not-for-profit causes such as programs for teenagers in homeless shelters and detention centers, he still writes and performs at various events. – RBF, 2017

FFanzeen: What was the most memorable thing about your writing period?
Dave Street: Trying to get paid as a freelance writer. That is why I ended up working in the store [Natasha; 1 St. Mark’s Place, NYC – RBF, 1981]. You don’t get paid when you write freelance. Also, interviewing Frank Zappa and trying to avoid the Editor-in- Chief…

FFanzeen: After that, you didn’t really want to be connected with writing anymore – you wanted to be involved with something else, like acting?
Dave: I had a punk acting company. We were called Robot Factory. That was before I was funny. That was when I was still negative and violent. We used to go onstage and give people cancer.

FFanzeen: Where did you do your act?
Dave: Our big thing was that we went onstage before the Dead Boys and the Cramps in Hollywood, on the closing night of the Masque (Club).

FFanzeen: When did you first start doing comedy? Did you tell jokes in school? Were you like a class clown?
Dave: No, actually, I’ve led a very painful life, to the point where I was either going to hang it up, literally, or start laughing at myself. I was forced to become a comedian just to be able to deal with my own miserable existence. Sniff, sniff, whine, whine.

FFanzeen: Oh, that’s one of those lines like, “Live been asexual for 5 years!”
Dave: I have. No, that really is the truth. At different points I have hated myself, my parents, my family, my employers and everybody else in the world. Not wanting to be a hateful person, the only alternative I had to hating was laughing. This is a very sombre conversation.

FFanzeen: Who are some of your favorite comedians?
Dave: Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory, Groucho Marx. I’m sure I forgot a few of them, but those are my main ones. Bob Newhart. Yeah, those are my main comical influences. I listened to a lot of old stand-up comedy albums from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

FFanzeen: Do you listen to comedy albums more than you listen to rock’n’roll?
Dave: Now I do, but I used to always listen to rock’n’roll. I’ve only started listening to comedy albums over the last year. It took me about half a year just to get a collection. One thing that is interesting about collecting comedy records is that the comedy records that you can learn much from, like the most radical comedians who are the most against the system, their records cost more than anybody else’s to buy.

FFanzeen: Like who, for instance?
Dave: Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce – their albums cost about $30. But you find a Marx Brothers album and it’ll cost you about $5.

FFanzeen: Do you think that Lenny Bruce was killed? Some people think he was given a hot shot.
Dave: Yeah, they killed him because he was a junkie.

FFanzeen: You get any ideas for routines from living with your boss?
Dave: I sure do! It is a super real reality. What could be the epitome of the worst possible working relationship than living with your boss?! Especially if you want to do something else with your life. It’s depressing and depression makes me funny. Of course, if I wasn’t depressed all the time, I wouldn’t have to be funny. This not just living with my boss; it’s living with and simultaneously trying to avoid…

FFanzeen: When and where was the first time you did your comedy act?
Dave: Before I did my comedy act, I did a one-man show last Fall at Hurrah’s called I am the Center of the Universe. This was an extension of what I had done with the punk acting company. It was like a violent confrontation of self and the whole “Me! Me! Me!” ego of the 70s.

FFanzeen: Did you abuse the audience?
Dave: Yeah. A writer from the New York Post asked me, wouldn’t everybody else and I be happier if I made people laugh with the same energy instead of trying to project my own unhappiness onto the audience and trying to make them as unhappy as I was? …Anyway, I started to think about it and started writing stand-up routines. A month later, I did my first gig at 5 AM at Studio Zero.

FFanzeen: What was the audience’s reaction when you first started this?
Dave: It was like, “Who do you think you are?!” The audience reaction was like one big beer bottle thrown at me.

FFanzeen: Does that mean they like you?
Dave: That means I got a reaction from them anyway, which is better than having them walk away. No one walked away, but a lot of people were antagonized. A lot of people didn’t think what I was saying was funny. They thought it was insulting. A lot of people who share the same pain as I do wanted to laugh at it. But there are others that don’t want to be reminded of it at all. So when I make jokes about it, their attitude is, “I don’t want to hear about that!” The funny thing is that they have that attitude until they meet me. People who threw bottles at me would come in the store with a friend and say, “Hey! I’m the guy who threw the beer bottle at you last week.” And I’d say, “Gee! Thanks! Why’d you do that.” And they’d say that they didn’t agree with what I was saying, but added, “Now that I know you, I’m doing to laugh and I’m going to beat up anyone who does throw a beer bottle!” Note the fact that they still might not agree with me, but the fact that they don’t agree with me has nothing to do with it anymore because they know who I am!

FFanzeen: So, what does that have to do with anything? That you should make friends with the audience so you won’t get killed?
Dave: It shows that the solution is to perform less and throw more parties. I should throw a party before every performance so that everyone knows me. Then, by the time I go on, the whole audience will like me.

FFanzeen: Who was the comedian who opened for the Rockats at the Rock Lounge?
Dave: I don’t talk about other comedians. It is against my principles to talk about anybody who is not helping my career. The only comedian who is helping my career is Tessie Chua, whose movie I am in. I’ve done a film called The Scary Truth About Roaches and Landlords [could not find any reference to the film – RBF 2017], in which I play a deranged tenant, in case you haven’t seen it. It was at the Mudd Club [d. 1983 – RBF, 2017]. Steve Mass [Mudd Club’s owner – RBF, 1981] plays the landlord. He’s one of the main characters. In my scene, I play off Steve Mass. I, of course, have always had a lot of arrogance towards the very premise of the Mudd Club’s existence, so I had a lot of fun working with Steve. I felt a lot of natural hostility in a friendly way [hunh? – NF, 1981] that kind of made it work.

FFanzeen: A love/hate relationship?
Dave: Yeah, it’s like knowing I belong there, but being opposed to being there ideologically [hunh? – NF, 1981]. I am opposed to the fact that there’s someone at the door telling people that they can’t come in [I agreed then and now – RBF, 2017].

FFanzeen: That’s not happening now. They are courting the non-hipsters now, dahling.
Dave: They didn’t let me in last week. I work so hard – 10 hours of the day, every day of the week – and I’m usually too tired to go out at night. But I went there after not being out for about four months, and the doorman didn’t believe that I was Dave Street; so, he didn’t let me in – not because he didn’t know who Dave Street was, but because he thought I was using Dave Street’s name to try and get into the Mudd Club free.

FFanzeen: You should have said you were Gloria Vanderbilt! Oh, I heard that you had a little confrontation with Deborah Harry at the Mudd Club.
Dave: I wish I had. I don’t think I have achieved that world importance yet.

FFanzeen: Tell me about the David Johansen film, Thau in Love [never officially released – RBF, 2017].
Dave: I’m in two brief shots. I might be on the screen two minutes if I’m lucky. But I had a lot of fun working with David. I think David is brilliant at setting up the premise of action – the way he assembled people and set up situations really make it work well.

FFanzeen: Did he write the script, or is he just directing?
Dave: Yeah, he wrote it. I don’t know about other people’s roles, but my script was somewhat improvised – not the storyline, but the actual verbal interaction was partially ad-libbed. I’m in a short shot where I play myself. I come into Marty Thau’s [Red Star Records – RBF, 1981; d. 2014 – RBF, 2017] office. I tell him obnoxious jokes and he blows smoke in my face. In the next scene, I’m a go-go boy.

FFanzeen: What do you wear as a go-go boy?
Dave: I just dressed as a regular person. I just danced funny. As a result of that, I’m working on a whole routine about dancing funny, and I’m in Clem Burke’s video of the Colors, doing the same thing.

FFanzeen: So, you’re broadening your career options? How did you get connected with Johansen?
Dave: He called me up at the store. I do an impersonation of David, too. I do a “Pray-Tell Records” ad which pokes fun at the commercialization of New Wave songs: “Twelve of the greatest unoriginal New Wave hits!” I do David Jo’s grandson doing, “Punky But Weak” [mocking a soulful yet spiritually wracked voice]: “I got a black eye that somebody gave me / When I got into a fight and nobody would save me / I’m punky, punky but weak…” I do that in the film, too, but I might be cut. One never knows what’s going to happen in the editing room. We all know the politics of film are often more important than the actual performances. You can do a great performance and the editor might not like you for personal reasons.

FFanzeen: Do you do spoofs on other rock’n’roll people?
Dave: I do funny marriages. Like if Rachel Sweet married Nick Lowe, she’d be Rachel Sweet’n Lowe. In which case, the FCC would probably find out that listening to her music causes cancer and all her records would have to be taken off the shelves. If Bette Midler married Eddie Money, she’d be Bette Money, but don’t bet your life and never bet more than you can avoid paying back. If Cherry Vanilla married Iggy Pop, she’d be Cherry Pop.

FFanzeen: Yum-yum.
Dave: Fizz, fizz. We completed that routine, anyway.

FFanzeen: Would you ever be part of a comedy duo?
Dave: Occasionally I do do things like that with other people that I can play off of; I’m working on a film script right now with some young people, including Rip Torn’s daughter, Angelica Torn [known as Angelica Page after 2010 – RBF, 2017], and her boyfriend, Joe Witty. It’s going to be a rock’n’roll East Side Kids sort of comedy. It should be about a one hour video.

FFanzeen: When did you get connected with the local rock’n’roll scene?
Dave: I was still living in New Jersey in 1975 [as he does now – RBF, 2017], but I was coming to see the Ramones from the first week they played [1974 – RBF, 2017]. I was hanging out in the scene from the very beginning. I was coming to see the Dolls in the glitter days. I was going to see the Mothers [of Invention] when they were cool, back in 1965. I’m 30 years old and I’ve been coming to New York City since I was 14, seeing these 35 year old guys hanging out in rock’n’roll clubs talking to pretty girls and I said, now I know what I want to do when I’m 35! I don’t want to be a doctor, I don’t want to be a lawyer; I want to hang out in rock’n’roll clubs and talk to pretty girls!

FFanzeen: Do you get a lot of disco-babies coming into the store?
Dave: I sell the exact same clothes to disco people as I sell to punks. Disco people say, “I want these clothes so nobody will say, I’m punk,” and the punks say, “I want these clothes so nobody will say I’m disco.”

FFanzeen: What do you like to do for fun when you’re away from the store?
Dave: I’m not allowed to have fun.

FFanzeen: What about when the two go-go girls came in the store and raped you?
Dave: They broke my year-long asexuality. I said I had sex with them; I didn’t say I had fun with them. I felt an obligation to give in, but I didn’t feel any obligation to have fun. When I get drunk and insult people at the Mudd Club is the only time I ever have fun.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

QUESTION MARK Answers [1981]

Text by Cary Baker / FFanzeen, 1981
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2017
Images from the Internet, unless indicated

At Cavestomp! 2002 - Pic (c) RB Francos
This article was originally published in FFanzeen, issue #8, dated 1981. It was written by writer-turned-press agent extraordinaire Cary Baker.

There is no denying that “96 Tears,” ? and the Mysterians biggest hit from 1966, has one of the most infectious organ lines in rock’n’roll. I had the good fortune to see the band play in 2002 at CBGBs during “Cavestomp!,” a garage revival showcase series they were headlining. Between songs, he used the term “bay-behhh” a lot, as in “Hello, bay-behhhs. Great to be here, bay-behhh!” Needless to say, they were amazing. – RBF, 2017

Of all rock’n’roll’s “one-hit wonders,” perhaps the least is known of the arcane man by the name of Question Mark (hereafter referred to as “?”) who, with the equally-inscrutable Mysterians, created the Vox-riffing masterpiece of pop ephemera known as “96 Tears.”

The song, innocent as it was when ? wrote “Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying,” has enjoyed a phenomenal revival, thanks more than partially to Garland Jeffreys (who returned it to the Hot 100 this year) and to “Joe “King” Carrasco, whose Mex-merizing version was a live showstopper on last year’s Son of Stiff tour.

Now ? is back with four all-new Mysterians, touring at the peak of commotion brought on by Jeffreys’ cover. And without dispelling too much self-perpetuated “mystery” at the center of his non-myth, ? would like to make a few things crystal clear. Well, translucent, anyway:

Mystery No. 1: While certain rock texts espouse that ? is the nom de disque of Rudy Martinez, the mystery man himself insists it has been legally changed to, well, Question Mark. Asked to see an ID to that effect, he replies that he’s been refused one because no one believes him. Especially the immigration authorities, who deny him passports to the UK. “After all,” he reasons, “anyone can make anything up.”

Mystery No. 2: ? & the Mysterians are not from Brownsville, El Paso, or Austin, but rather from Flint, Michigan. “Outside of town and in the country,” specifically. The other original members (Bobby Bladerrama, guitar; Frank Rodrigues, keyboard; Eddie Serrato, drums [d. 2011]; Frank Lugo, bass guitar; Robert Martinez and Larry Brojas) were from Texas, he explains. Asked if ? himself, of obvious Hispanic descent, was born in Flint, he shrugs, “I won’t say.”

Mystery No. 3: After “96 Tears” topped the charts (the week of October 29, 1966, between “Reach Out” and “Last Train to Clarksville”), ? rebounded with “I Need Somebody” (peaking at No. 22), “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” (No. 36), and “Do Something to Me” (which, karma aside, reached its apex at No. 96). Then, one would have thought, according to all logic, that ? would take the hint and disband the Mysterians. Therein lay Mystery No. 3. Fact is, there has never been a time that ? was without some version of the Mysterians. What’s more, he recorded (though not released) an album every year since 1969. “It was continuous,” he says. “Whoever came in, he was the new Mysterian. But every time I had a new group and it looked right to go on the road, someone would mess it up. I do have albums worth of material for each year.”

Mystery No. 4: A major record trade magazine recently reported that the original Cameo single of “96 Tears” was cut in a garage. Not only is that incorrect, but ? never sought coverage in the magazine. “I just called to see how Garland Jeffreys’ version was doing,” he says. “We were going to play in New York so I thought I’d drop in on ABKCO Records, who took over Cameo.”
* * *
The ? of today is of indeterminate years (“I never tell my age”) and sports a hirsute mane of shoulder-length black hair. Constant are the dark, convex shades that became his trademark a decade before there was a Ramones.

Coming to terms with the New Wave aided his renewed popularity. ? is proud to say that, “Elvis Costello bought an original copy of the 96 Tears album for $250.”

He likes much of what he’s heard, he claims, but doesn’t have a lot of time to spend listening to anyone. “I have heard Kraftwerk,” he says. “They play music with no drummer, no guitarist, no bass player, and no keyboard. Just four guys, and each has an electronic pad. If music goes in that direction, I can’t appreciate it. I wrote a song called, ‘He Plays Guitar.’ In ten thousand years, people are going to ask, ‘What’s a guitar?’ Just get a group of guys up there playing guitar, bass and drums.”

And you didn’t believe he was from within earshot of Detroit?

Central to the ? sound – then and now – is the organ. One hears a lot these days about the Farfisa, the matter-of-fact keyboard that spans an entire four octaves. Vox is the Farfisa’s close cousin, and served the original Mysterians well. “Now the guitar’s more out front,” ? says, “and we’re using a Hammond B-3 instead of a Vox. If I could find one, I’d love to have it because that’s the sound that happened then and can happen now. In Boston, we played with some new group and they had a real Vox. I almost walked out with it.” In an affected tough-kid Mexican inflection, he recapitulates his reaction: “Hey, we need that Vox, you know?!

? has another taboo topic besides his age and birthplace: he refuses to interpret the vision behind his lyrics.

“They’re personal. I write for everybody. I figure everybody has the right to fantasize and put in their own possibilities. As soon as an artist says this song’s about so-and-so, that spoils the mystery.”

Why the recurring theme of mystery in his personal? ? won’t say.

“I didn’t just happen to say, ‘Do this.’ It evolved. See, I’ve been in show business since I was five. I was always dancing, always onstage with lights.

“My parents bought me a tape recorder. They would’ve bought me a piano if I’d wanted. I came from a family of ten, so it wasn’t easy. Anyway, I just sat down in a room and sang whatever was in my head and ‘96’ was one of those songs, instrumental arrangements and all.”

But, ?, is it not correct that Sir Doug’s “She’s About a Mover,” and Sam the Sham’s “Wooly Bully” preceded “96 Tears?”

“Yes, they came out first. But I had “96” conceptualized before they came out. As I said, my parents said they’d finance a piano if I wanted it, but I took a look at all those keys and thought, ‘It’d take forever to play this thing. And I have so much music in my head. I can sing it, but I have to find someone who can play what I hear.’”

? consulted the father of a neighborhood record store clerk who attempted to teach him to read music. “He tried to teach me the ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb” bit, but I didn’t have the time,” ? says, “So, he played ’96 Tears’ and for the first time, I heard the music I’d been hearing in my head, thanks to his old man.

“Right away, I started tracking radio stations, writing down how many times they played each song. People thought I was crazy, but I just had to do it. I mean, one day, I was going to be on the radio,” he says.

“96 Tears” was taped in a friend’s living room on a two-track perched outside on a patio. It was March, and the friend’s storm windows were still in.

“Not very acoustical,” he concedes.

The session cost $50. The organist came up with the two-chord run that set the tenor. “And I told him, ‘Hey, I’ve heard that before.’ Then it dawned on me. I wrote that. The old man at the music shop played it for me.”

“’96 Tears’ hit the top of the pops, while follow-ups were no more household than the Seeds’ “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” or the Shadows of Knight’s “Willie Jean.” The band embarked on a Dick Clark tour and played Chicago’s Aragon in 1967 with the Four Seasons and Mitch Ryder. A version of “Do Something to Me” (“a year before Tommy James & the Shondells made it a hit”) made No. 5 in Louisiana and Hawaii, and No. 1 in their native Flint.

“If we’d stuck with original material, I’m convinced people would have related better,” he feels. Instead, producers kept feeding them outside contributions.

The eventual demise was far more external than choice of material. The Cameo label, whose president was Neil Bogart (later of Buddah, Casablanca and Boardwalk), collapsed. And since ? was on the road nearly perpetually, he didn’t hear the news until after the Cameo office phone had been disconnected.

Unreleased albums and countless personnel changes ensued. Finally, when the original organist found he couldn’t get along with the new members, the Mysterians took on a new, low-profile visage “with the guitar more out-front.”

There were plans to tour this year, as with every year prior. And then, suddenly, “96 Tears” was on the radio again, and ? was blown out of the water.

“I’ve never heard of Garland Jeffreys. And a friend called and said she’d heard my song on the radio. So I called the radio station and they played it for me. Then, in Columbus, Ohio, someone that called a radio station wanted to know, ‘Where’s the original Question Mark?’ I guess someone from Flint had a sister in Columbus. The DJ said, ‘If you know where he is, call us. If you have an original copy of the record, we’ll pay you $200.’ It just created a whole new interest.

“I like the Jeffreys version. He really listened to the bass line,” ? adds.

In concert, the new Mysterians have a Detroit sound and have the tendency to illuminate a ‘70s influence more than a ‘60s or and ‘80s one. Mitch Ryder’s current band comes to mind, as do the Rockats. And to the letdown of many, ? saves “96 Tears” until the tail end of the second set.

* * *
Mystery No. 5: This tour has been said to be a cash-in on the Tex-Mex craze with no more artistic merit than the return of, say, the Grass Roots or Crazy Elephant.

“I never get sick of doing my songs,” ? says. “One thing about a good song is that you can do it anytime. The band (conducting their soundcheck as we spoke) is playing, ‘Do Something to Me,’ which I recorded in ’68. It still sounds good to me. It doesn’t have to have a time period. If I’d done something disco, someone would have said, ‘Well, that’s good but it’s disco,’ and they wouldn’t appreciate it five years from now.

“That’s the one thing about an original: you can do it any time. The songs relate to any time anyone wants them to.

A later version remake: