Friday, January 20, 2023

Study: An Open Letter to C.P. Snow About “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution”

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2023
Images from the Internet

This is a paper I presented for my Master’s in Media Ecology at New York University, for the class Communications Revolution and Culture in America II, led by Neil Postman and assisted by Janet Sternberg. The footnotes will be in brackets where applicable. Information about CP Snow and his treatise can be found HERE, thanks to Wikipedia. 

An Open Letter to C.P. Snow About The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution

“Closing the gap between our cultures is necessary in the most abstract intellectual sense, as well as in the most practical.” – C.P. Snow, The Two Cultures

Mr. Snow:

Having read your 1959 Rede lecture, I would like to share some of my thoughts on your theory of the existence of two distinct cultures among scholars and examine how that theory relates to the present time [1990s].

I acknowledge the fact that your lecture presented a viewpoint regarding the intellectual community of England at the time. I will explore your ideas in relation to the contemporary American intelligentsia.

You state that you believe the “intellectual life of … Western society … is split into two polar groups” [C.P. Snow (1959). The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press; p. 3], with one pole representing scientists (i.e., physical) and those in literary studies at the other [Ibid., p. 4]. You add that not only are these groups polarized, but “the separation between scientists and non-scientists is much less bridgeable among the young than even thirty years ago” [Ibid., p. 17]. Although that may have ben the situation in the United Kingdom up to the late 1950s, it appears to have become less true over the years in the United States.

You posit that the separation between science and literary studies, which arises in part through education, is less severe in the States [Ibid., pp. 16-17], and that the American system in “hoping to take the problems in hand within 10 years” [Ibid., p. 18]. This trend in American education in the late 1950s may explain the reduced polarity of these two intellectual changes within the American scientific and literary cultures, as I will discuss below.

Your belief that the “industrial society of electronics, atomic energy, automation … will change the world much more” [Ibid., p. 18], appears to have been prophetic. Due in part to an occurrence that seems to be a by-product of the atomic age, one outgrowth that I believe has helped fade the self-imposed line of segregation between science and literature is a genre of publication known as science fiction.

As the power, possibilities, and potential harm of the atomic age have become known over the decades following the end of World War II, the imagination of both scientists and non-scientists alike have been captured by the phenomenon of fission. Writers such as Arthur Clarke and Theodore Sturgeon turn to science for their source of inspiration and use technical scientific information and phraseology to help spread this technological information to both poles. Despite the definite “pop culture” of the genre, scientists were intrigued by the information and the forum in which it was presented, and the literary community learned the metaphors and processes of the scientific rationale. The scientist was also exposed to a form of writing that was fictional, yet presented a literary world with which they could make some association.

One of the leaders of the field of science fiction, for example, was Isaac Asimov. As you point out yourself [Ibid., p. 1], Asimov was trained in both the scientific and literary realms, capable of moving freely between the two. He wrote fiction and nonfiction, and analyses of both science (i.e., physical and social) and classic fiction (e.g., Shakespeare) – as well as writing original fiction. With credibility in both cultures, he could be a bridge that was needed to reach both shores.

As this fiction began to be accepted by both cultures, the influence became as a pebble in a pond, rippling outward and affecting society as a whole, thereby connecting the cultures on some levels.

In the early 1960s, the space program captured the imagination of both poles in America. This science fiction-made-real had both non-scientists and scientists alike observing the technological advancement, helping to further disseminate technological language to the lay scientist and literary audience.

Through the late 1960s, collegiate curriculum underwent a drastic change. Previously, educational systems in the United Kingdom had “set ourselves the task of producing a tiny elite … educated in one academic skill” [Ibid, p. 19]. This was also true for the United States. As riots over the Vietnam War and the narrow choice of subjects allowed in core programs exploded on campus after campus in America, the narrow views presented to the students were broken down, and the choice of topics available became more flexible. This situation helped open a door to educational elasticity.

With this opening up within some of the divisions of culture, each of these previously polarized groups began taking ventures into the other’s area of expertise.

Social scientists were among the first to venture out by publishing mostly nonfictional works that were read by both cultures, including Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985). The physical scientists tended to write more fiction, such as physician Robin Cook’s Coma (1977) and scientist Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain (1969). All these excursions were being accepted and read by both sides of the intelligentsia.

It does appear that even at present, literary-based thinkers still use science fiction as an outlet for technological meanderings. A reason for this occurrence may be referenced to the comment in which you suggest that you believe writers must learn and develop their craft, whereas scientific learning is more innate, coming naturally [Ibid., pp. 10-11].

A further step along the path of joining the two intellectual cultures you posit in Western society has been the spread of the global-village mentality. As non-Western cultures influence the West, they bring other philosophies and ways of study with them, sometimes subtly changing the overall method a society uses to view itself and others, thus generating new ideologies. Innovative ideas have merged into the Western mindset, helping to further melt the barriers that were once a solid element in the West.

Therefore, I believe that in the United States, whereas there may be some separation between the cultures of the intellectual communities, the black and white borders you fear becoming further stratified have changed and continue to gray under the very Second Law of Thermodynamics, with which you referred [Ibid., p. 15].

C.P. Snow's full lecture in PDF form can be found HERE

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Documentary Review: Falling Higher: The Story of Ampage

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2023
Images from the Internet

Falling Higher: The Story of Ampage

Directed by Colin J. Felger
Force Field Studios; Freestyle Digital Media
76 minutes, 2023
www.ForceFieldStuidos.com
www.facebook.com/FallingHigherFilm
Soundtrack link HERE

The Sunset Strip in California is known for a lot of things, from the stars that line the streets with entertainers’ names, druggies, hippies, and a film concerning a riot there (1967)  During the 1980s, what was most prominent for the Strip was glam hair metal bands, such as Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P, the L.A. Guns, and Ampage.

During this time, I was listening to the First Wave of punk, British punk, hardcore, and was getting into the garage revival in New York. Hair bands relied on long guitar solos, which were anathema to me, but they were still omnipresent thanks to the likes of MTV, and local stations like V66, V68, etc. But of all the bands mentioned about the Sunset Strip above, I did not know of Ampage. This documentary mainly focuses on the lead singer and driving force of the band, Mark Mason (commonly known as Mase). I may not be the only one who is unaware, as there is not even a Wikipedia page for the band or Mason (this needs to be corrected). That is just one of the reasons why I feel that this film is important, as a testament to the band’s trajectory.

Like many bands, the core is the lead singer and songwriter, in this case Mase, and whomever is playing behind him may change, but it Is technically the same band. It is rare for find a band that has been playing (on and off) for forty years and keeping the same members (the only one I can think of off the top of my head is ? and the Mysterians).

Over the years, the whole sound of the band has been morphing as well, starting off as hair metal (without the screeching), and eventually turning into a rock band over the course of their nine albums. The history of the band, and especially Mase, ranges from drug and alcohol-fuel debauchery, to married life on a ranch. I also found it fascinating that Mase is a major triathlon athlete and has competed nationally in his middle age.

The film is narrated by actor Jake Busey (recently in 2019’s Ghost in the Graveyard), as Mase was friends with his dad, actor Gary, who sang on one of their records. Also shown in archival footage, is Jeff Conaway (Grease; “Taxi”; d. 2011), who went on tour with the band as a co-singer.

Among those also interviewed, we are presented with Bill Stokem (bassist since 2016), Mark Pearce (guitarist since 2016), Jason Fish (drummer since 2017), Happenin’ Harry (1988 road manager), Mark London (drummer, 1986-88), Punky Peru (drummer in 1981), Loren Molinare (guitarist 1997, and in the punk band the Dogs), Frank Scimeca (bassist for 5 years), Billy Vaughn (bassist 1986-88), Rick Allen (Def Leopard drummer in archival footage), Cameron Cutler (president, Higher Source Records), and family members. One person absent is the original drummer, Mike Kroeger, who passed away from Leukemia in 2016, for whom there is a touching section dedicated to him in the film.

While I still do not think I would go out and buy their music, I find their later years’ material more appealing. There are lots of archival clips of them throughout the entire career of the band. Wisely, they had someone videotape (obviously VHS of some form by the visual noise factor), giving a more complete picture of what it was like to record and tour with the band, and I enjoyed watching them being interviewed on several radio shows (visual, not just the sound).

The clips of them playing music on the stage, or just on the soundtrack, is often short, making it a little harder to get a greater picture of their sound (obviously, this was dedicated to their fans who could sing along with them, word for word, as is stated in the documentary), but with that much of a catalog, if they played whole songs, this would be hours long. Luckily, if you are interested, there is a link to buy the soundtrack above.

I must say, as they are presented in the video, Mase and the various members of the band seem to get along (though some had left to form other groups), and they come across as amenable. No trash talking, though Mase has a self-depreciation moment.

Many band documentaries have a similar pattern, including this one, of the group starting out, getting big, becoming small, being a cult idol, and striving to achieve fame again into middle age. And yet, each band’s story is different, as well.

One thing I noticed, that has nothin’ to do with nothin’, is the tee-shirts worn. Two people wear Soundgarden and Misfits tees, for example, where Mase seems to wear the band’s Ampage shirt frequently.

The story of the rise and fall to/from fame, and the desire to get it back reminded me of the also single-named band from Canada, Anvil, who similarly had a documentary made of their story. 

This release will be available to rent and own via global digital HD Internet and satellite platforms on January 24, 2023, through Freestyle Digital Media.



Thursday, January 5, 2023

THE FUZZTONES Interview: Leave Your Mind at Home (1985)

© Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1985/2023
Images from the Internet unless indicated
www.facebook.com/The-Fuzztones-275731423470

While hardcore was digging its claws into a Third Wave of Punk in the early 1980s, there was a concurrent movement of proto-punk influenced sounds called the garage revival that was also exploding. While hardcore became a Next Big Thing, the garage and psychedelic strands kind of petered out by the late ‘80s, and disappeared into the newer grunge sound out of Seattle. While it was in its prime, one of the major players in the New York garage/= scene was The Fuzztones.

This was originally published in FFanzeen No. 13, dated 1985. – RBF, 2023

The Fuzztones: Leave Your Mind at Home (1985)

It’s hard to classify The Fuzztones into a niche. Yes, I know that statement is a cliché, but for this band, it fits. The elements of the recipe that makes up The Fuzzone sound is a bizarre mixture of their tastes. Foremost is garage, with a wild psychedelic sound following close behind. Then there’s the tabs of surf, bubblegum, British Invasion, heavy metal (just a smidgen, really), and tied together with a string of humor.

I caught up with the band at soundcheck time at the Peppermint Lounge, the first weekend of December of 1984. Even there, with no one else around but girlfriends, friends, members of another fun band, The Cheepskates (and nice guys, too) who were opening for them, and Pep staff, and The Fuzztones, who were dressed mostly in black and surrounded by Vox equipment.

Though the whole band was present (including Elan Portnoy (lead guitar), Ira Elliot (drums), and they’re all neat guys, I decided to pick out lead singer Rudi Protrudi, and keyboardist and sometimes vocalist (not enough, though) Deb O’Nair to speak for this piece because (a) they formed the band, (b) they are the so-called leaders of the band, and (c) transcribing a tape with more than one voice of the same sex can drive one crazy!

So there we huddled in the lower dungeons of the dressing room, and began by talking about their previous band, Tina Peel. An argument can be started on why so many questions about this previous incarnation, as The Fuzztones are what’s now and Tina Peel is what’s was, but it’s time all the questions about TP were asked and done with.

So armed with a bunch of written questions by Nancy Foster (aka Nancy Neon) as well as a number of my own, I set out into the beginning…

Tina Peel at CBGB
(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

FFanzeen: You’re both from Pennsylvania?
Deb O’Nair: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

FFanzeen: When did you move up here?
Rudi Protrudi: ’76? No. ’79? I don’t remember.
Deb: Six years ago. Almost seven years ago.

FFanzeen: How did Tina Peel form?
Deb: Out of sheer frustration and boredom in Harrisburg.
Rudi: Harrisburg is, like, the most boring place you could ever imagine. And at that time there wasn’t even anything resembling rock’n’roll, let alone what we were doing. I mean, there wasn’t even any bands covering Bad Company. There was nothing.
Deb: Everything there was very disco-funk. The Commodores. And there was an off-shoot of all those people who were into, like, Pure Prairie League and The Eagles. There was no real rock’n’roll except for the occasional oldies nights.
Rudi: We were into the ’76 punk scene in New York. We used to come up in a car [170 miles between Harrisburg and CBGBs – RBF, 2023] and get totally fucked up out of our minds. We’d just run straight into CBGB’s and just tear it up all night. CBGB’s was really wild. You would never know that by going there now. We would never have any inkling of what an incredible rock’n’roll club it was. We must have seen every band that was cool.
Deb: We just wanted so bad to be part of that. My God!

FFanzeen: Was that before they move the stage (from the left side to the right)?
Rudi: I’d been there before that. But by the time we were really hanging out…we were coming up here about once a month. We’d just hang out and I got to know the people up here. I played with the Dead Boys at that time. I was this close to being their bass player before they got Jeff (Magnum). And when I got this close, I realized I just had to come up here. So we moved the whole band up here and played together for 4 years – before it slowly choked to death, I guess.
Deb: We were so excited in Pennsylvania; we had this band together that was unlike anything anyone there had ever encountered. We fashioned ourselves after, like, The Ramones, The Archies, some surf, and The Sex Pistols.
Rudi: Just kind of a conglomeration. It was kind of a statement people never really understood. Especially in New York, people never really understood what Tina Peel was about. Most of the people didn’t even understand the name. They’d always come up to Deb and say, “Are you Tina?” and “Are you related to David Peel?” And if they couldn’t get the name, they’d never understand the meaning behind the band. The last thing we put out, after we broke up, was a cassette of, like, X-rated songs [Extra KicksRBF, 1985] that immediately the press said, “Oh, this is about the singer’s organs!” It was just a compilation of stuff that we hadn’t released that happened to be dirty. We thought it would be funny. But no one ever understood the whole meaning behind the songs and why we did it. It was a statement as much about, basically, how everyone was cool. In New York, everybody was cool, so they had a leather jacket and a spike haircut. In Pennsylvania, everybody wore flannel shirts and had hair down to their asses. And they were really cool. Our thing was that we could take a punk beat, put in a bubblegum melody, sing about sex in three-part harmony, and have as much to do with The Archies as we did The Sex Pistols. We thought it was just a tongue-in-cheek way to tell everybody, “Nothing is cool! Everything is cool!”

FFanzeen: You put (a cover of) the Miamis’ “Wang It” 
Rudi: Yeah. I saw them do that when they opened for the Dolls at Max’s. And a couple of years later I ran into Jimmy (Wynbrandt) and asked him if I could have it. I went over to his house and he showed it to me, and I taught it to the band.
Deb: The whole thing is that we were very much like the Sic F*cks. But in a very homogenized pop way. All between-the-lines.
Rudi: See, another thing was that it was also about outrageousness. When someone looks like Sid Vicious and yells, “Chop, chop/Chop up your mother,” that pretty much what’s expected out of someone that looks like that. But when you Look like the Bay City Rollers and sing “Penis Between Us,” that’s outrage. And if you want to talk about real outrage, when we did “Exceptionto the Ruler” at Hurrahs, people really took offense. You can hear one guy on the tape, he came on stage to beat me up. What people don’t realize is that “Exception to the Ruler” was also a statement. It was written as an anti-macho rock star song. There were songs like “Big Ten Inch” by Aerosmith or “Squeeze My Lemon” by Led Zeppelin. Rock stars were always singing about how their cocks were so big. So, I thought, wouldn’t it be funny to write a song about a singer having a small one? And, of course, no one would ever do that because wouldn’t that blow their image? So I did. To add insult to injury, I put it to the tune of “Peter Gunn,” which I thought Was really clever. No one ever got any of this stuff. Eventually, the main reason we broke up was that it was so frustrating. The whole idea was we were supposed to have so much fun with it and everyone took it so seriously.

FFanzeen: The whole underground scene started as a backlash to the corporate seriousness of the established music situation.
Rudi: We had a hard time with that, too, because we got a manager and he tried to make us professional. And the more professional he made us, the less fun it was. That’s the whole reason we formed The Fuzztones, because we were no longer having fun with Tina Peel. The Fuzztones became sort of a side project. We started the band in 1980, and me and Deb were getting really tired of all the crap we were going through. People tried to make us into a New Wave band.
Deb: At the same time, we saw too many commercial bands getting too close to what we were doing in Tina Peel, and we thought, let’s stop because we don’t want to get commercial.

FFanzeen: The Fast?
Deb: Not the Fast. The Fast weren’t very much like us at all.
Rudi: Bands like the B-52s, and later on Toni Basil. Man, those people ripped us off left and right. We were before any of them. You listen to their music and, like, they were so close to us, except they didn’t sing about penises and blowing up poodles in microwaves [“Fifi Goes Pop, my favorite TP song” – RBF 1985/2023]. They sang about stuff that could go on the radio. Up until the time when we got a manager, we weren’t thinking of a record contract. We were just thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to get out and do this outrageous stuff. That’s why we got the Fuzztones together. And if you listen to the things we did release, it’s pretty evident that we were ‘60s inspired. Even “Fabian Lips” in ’76, when (Tina Peel) put that out. 
Deb: In ’76, we did a 4-song EP in Harrisburg, that had “Fabian Lips” on it, that was psychedelic.
Rudi: That was very psychedelic. Even back then we were doing it. Even the covers we covered: “Too Much to Dream (Electric Prunes), “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” (Standells), “Hard Times” by the Centuries. We still do some of these songs in this band. We just like good rock’n’roll.

FFanzeen: You do mostly ‘60s-oriented stuff, but Rudi, I know that you really like some ‘50s stuff, like Jerry Lee Lewis.
Rudi: I like to do what I’m good at. It has to do with personality and taste. The rest of the band has pretty much of a varied taste. We all have one thing in common, and that’s the garage sound that we all like; love.
Deb: That’s true. Michael (Jay) is really into English R’n’B. He loves people like The Pretty Things. And Elan’s (Portnoy) really into Link Wray (d. 2005) and Dick Dale (d. 2019). Ira’s (Elliot)

Into the Beatles. I really dig the surf stuff and lots of ‘60s stuff. But this is one thing we have in common that works with all our musical styles. It makes us really unique. Because of all our styles, we don’t sound like we’re straight out of a garage single released in ’66. Some of our stuff does, but some of our stuff doesn’t, like “Ward 81” on the Rebel King compilation [on Sounds Interesting Records – RBF, 1985].
Rudi: I think that even when we do ‘60s covers, that we add something to them that’s different. And there’s a lot of press people who don’t feel that way. But there are a lot of people who are, like, 19 and 20, who weren’t around back then, and they don’t know what it really sounded like. I was there. And bands didn’t look like us or sound like us in the ‘60s. If anyone tells you they did, well, take it from me ‘cause I was playing back then and they didn’t.
Deb: Rudi had garage bands together when he was 15.
Rudi: In fact, I wrote “Penis Between Us” when I was 15. I have tapes of my first band, Rigor Mortis, doing it. “Fabian Lips” Was a different song when I was 15, when I wrote it. And a song we do now called “Brand New Man in a Brand New Suit” used to be a song from Rigor Mortis called “Crotch Rot.” And so it all turns around. And it all comes back because it’s rock’n’roll and rock’n’roll won’t die. There’s always gonna be hardcore fanatics, like us. It doesn’t matter if we were playing psychedelic/garage or bubblegum pop in Tina Peel, it’s still rock’n’roll. We’ll always be playing that, no matter what’s in style.

FFanzeen: Even the newer covers you did were by ‘60s garage-oriented bands, like the (Afrika) Korps and the Slickee Boys.
Rudi: Well, it’s rock’n’roll. We did “Jailbait Janet
 (the Afrika Korps), “Gotta Tell Me Why” , “Heart On” (both by the Slickee Boys), and we did another that I don’t remember. We were inspired a lot by the Slickee Boys back then.
Deb: They’ve got quite a track record. Ken (Kim Kane, rhythm guitar of Slickee Boys – RBF, 1985) put out our first records on Daicoit Records. One side of the record is one label, Limp Records, and the other is Daicoit.
Rudi: That must be a first. I never heard of anybody else doing that.
Deb: They were a big influence on us. They’re real die-hards.

Fuzztones, Rudi, Irving Plaza
(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

FFanzeen: At what point did Tina Peel become The Fuzztones?
Rudi: At the same time Tina Peel was together in 1980, The Fuzztones formed. Originally it was just a fun project. It was all the same time as Tina Peel. We used to open for Tina Peel as The Fuzztones. Originally, we were called The Fabulous Fuzztones, ‘cause it was just a joke. But the thing is, we had so much fun with it, there was no reason to do Tina Peel anymore. As Deb and I got serious, the other guys weren’t. “Oh, who wants to do ‘60s stuff? We want to play in a band that does new music with synthesizers.” We kicked them all out. We must have gone through a million people before we got the guys we’re playing with now.
Deb: We did play a gig down in Washington D.C. doing Fuzztones material as Tina Peel ‘cause we weren’t that well known down there. But as The Fuzztones, the first time we ever played was at small Club 57 (on St. Mark’s Place). We had a party there. That was before the Cavern. Then we played the first psychedelic weekend at the Cavern. We played CB’s a couple of times.
Rudi: We spent the first two years of The Fuzztones playing little clubs and getting no money and no recognition whatsoever. No one wanted to hear about what we were doing. Then, after the Cavern, people started listening a little. But what really seemed to open people up was the Pep has a psychedelic show here. They had The Slickees, The Vipers, The Chesterfield Kings,, and Plan 9. Then people realized that there was something going on and they would listen to us. We were together longer than all of the bands that were in that thing, and no one heard of us, still. We went through paying our dues.

FFanzeen: How did you find the other Fuzztones?
Deb: Elan and Michael came from a band called The Monitors. They did a lot of R’n’B. They had seen us at the Cavern and remembered us. Then they saw an ad we put in The (Village) Voice, and Michael came to an audition.
Rudi: We thought he was really weird. This guy came down and he was dressed like a Flamin’ Groovie. Only weirder. He had a mod hat on. He was wearing a mod three-piece suit and granny-glasses. He looked like a Byrd. I couldn’t believe it. We started playing and he really fit. At that time, I had already broken up The Fuzztones after two years of total frustration. It wasn’t fun, we weren’t getting any money. We made about six bucks every time we played. I hung it up and I got into what I thought was going to be a rockabilly band, The Drive-Ins – ‘cause I used to see them and they were rockabilly, and then when I joined them, they started playing bullshit – which is how I met Ira, our current drummer. All of a sudden, Michael got a hold of us and The Fuzztones sounded greet. I had thought that maybe I should get another guitar player and he brought Elan down. It was like a dream come true. What I always wanted The Fuzztones to sound like. Meanwhile, I had made a commitment to the Drive-Ins. So, the Fuzztones perfumed and I continued to play with The Drive-Ins. Me and Ira got pretty tight. I love the way he plays the drums. I stole him from The Drive-Ins; broke that band up. They made a pitiful attempt to get back together without us, but that was it – so we broke up The Drive-Ins and now we’re The Fuzztones.

FFanzeen: How much influence did Music Machine have on you?
Rudi: Not nearly as much as you would think, just because I wear a black glove. Visually, I thought they were just the coolest looking band I’ve ever seen. Except possibly the Dolls.
Deb: They had a bigger effect on me. It’s just my style of playing. A lot of that stuff is similar to what I’m used to playing.
Rudi: Oh, they’re starting the guitar soundcheck. Talk to you later. [He leaves]

Fuzztones, Deb O'Nail, Irving Plaza
(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

FFanzeen: Nancy wanted to know, where do you get your mini-skirts?
Deb: That’s my secret. I do a lot of thrift shopping out of town, and then I just convert them. Sew them to fit me.

FFanzeen: What are some of your pre-Tina Peel bands?
Deb: Not too many. The original Tina Peel, I joined when I just turned 19. I sang lead in a band when I was 16 that did, like, David Bowie (d. 2016) covers, along with Lou Reed (d. 2013) and Roxy Music, too. Just a bunch of high school kids. I can’t even remember what the name was. Then I sang lead for another band when I got out of high school. We did a lot of Patti Smith and Who. We played only two gigs, so we never really had a name. We played a wedding and a show in a huge warehouse that someone rented out for a party. That’s pretty much it.
Deb: Will you be doing more singing in The Fuzztones?
Deb: Yeah, we’re looking for some songs for me right now. Our material is kind of heavy. And I don’t have a raspy voice. I sang lead in a country band, The Dognapers. But it wasn’t strict country; it was old country swing, like Patsy Cline (d. 1963) and Hank Williams (d. 1953). I love old country music. I was brought up in the sticks. I’m looking forward to singing. I always wanted to sing in the band.

FFanzeen: Who are some of your other influences?
Deb: Nancy Sinatra in her (The)Wild Angels (1966) period, definitely. Cher. I’m thinking of dying my hair black. I think it’s time to make the change. A lot of guys influenced me. I was brought up with all men around me. The very first rock’n’roll record song I ever heard was a 45 called “Bop-a-Lina” (Ronnie Self). When I was a kid I was into Alice Cooper. I do like a lot of gore and shock.

FFanzeen: I really like the way you dress now, but I also really liked the dots and stripes of Tina Peel, which was sort of gore and shock.
Deb: We were into, like, Op-art. We wanted to come across as some crazed ‘60s Op-art freak-out show.

FFanzeen: And now you dress basically in black.
Deb: Yeah, I’m trying to get away from that. I’d like to combine some black with something triptych. Triptych and tripped out.

FFanzeen: Whom do you consider the coolest dressers of the ‘60s?
Deb: Nancy Sinatra, definitely. I think Cher. I dug the way Cher could be so casual in corduroys and go-go boots. Her beginning period was very cool. Sean Bonniwell (of the Music Machine). That’s why I’m into black now.

FFanzeen: But no leather glove
Deb: No leather glove. Just cool medallions.

FFanzeen: Do you ever get any mash notes?
Deb: No. One time I got a really cool little poem from some guy. He actually jumped up on the stage and put a little poem on my organ. And it had something to do with “flowers and love” and “sending me on to future highs, and “pushing too hard.” He had all these different short things in it. That’s the closest I’ve gotten, as far as mash notes go. Oh, they’re calling me for my soundcheck.

[After the soundcheck with Rudi]

FFanzeen: When you put out Extra Kicks, was it sold, or just given to critics?
Rudi: Actually, we did it as a Christmas present for our friends.

FFanzeen: Why did you spell the name as Teen Appeal on it?
Rudi: This guy, a fan, gave us 300 tee-shirts with it spelled that way. And I thought, since the band has already broken up and we already have these tee-shirts to promote the Extra Kicks cassette, why not spell it that way? Maybe people would get it then. We sold it through the mail. It got reviewed in about four or five places. I don’t have any more. Actually, if The Fuzztones get really big and there was some interest in Tina Peel, I’d like to put out an album. Midnight Records, who put out our new album (Leave Your Mind at Home), I’m going to try and see if I can get them to release a Tina Peel album. We have enough material, and no one’s ever going to hear it because you can’t get the 45s anymore. I’m proud of it. I thought we were one of the most clever bands that ever was. And definitely one of the most hated. You have to be doing something right to be that hated.


FFanzeen: You do all the band’s art. Which do you prefer, music or art?
Rudi: Music, probably. I had always anticipated an art career. I went to art school. I got into a band at the same time and had to stop art school in the middle because we got six hours of homework a night, and I couldn’t do it because I spent all night working with the band. I didn’t do my homework, so they kicked me out of art school. The York Academy of Art, in York, Pennsylvania. I’ll go back. I never dropped it. I do the art for the band and for other people. I’m doing the Garage Sale cassette cover for Jeff Tamarkin (for ROIR Tapes).

FFanzeen: Do you do all the jacket designs?
Rudi: I do most of them. One of our roadies does some. I did the ones with the drums. That’s my logo. He’s more into EC Comics. He likes dripping skulls and maggoty brains. You’d be surprised how many people are coming to shows that I see walking around in our   jackets. I see logos and I didn’t do them. They do their own.

FFanzeen: What about your heavy metal band, Vulcan Death Grip? Are you still doing that?
Rudi: Yeah. That’s me, Ira, Ann Magnuson, and Randy Pratt [bassist of Cactus – RBF, 2023]. Randy used to be our bass player in the early days, then he went into heavy metal. Ann was actually on the Extra Kicks tapes. She and Wendy Wild [of Pulsallama, and The Mad Violets; d. 1996 – RBF, 2023] sang back-up on “Exception to the Ruler.” We’ve worked out this thing that is a parody of heavy metal. It’s just for fun – and a lot of money. We usually make more than The Fuzztones. But it’s just for fun and we’ll continue doing it as long as it doesn’t interfere with this band.

Fuzztones, Irving Plaza
(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

FFanzeen: It’s real hard to categorize The Fuzztones. Where do you think you fit in?
Rudi: I think we have a ‘50s rock’n’roll attitude, a ‘60s garage band influence in dress and in general minimalism; we use entirely authentic instrument because I think the coolest guitar sound is a Vox or a riff through an old Fender or an old Vox. And then from the ‘70s, really trashing rock’n’roll bands like the Dolls, Stooges, and the MC5, and that’s where our energy comes from. And all this comes out in our music. Music is always going to be an extension of what you are, unless you’re some plastic jerk like in a techno-synth band and you’re just doing it for a living.

FFanzeen: What about a Fuzztones tour?
Rudi: We’re working on a tour of California and possibly England. This is it for me. This is the last band I’ll ever form, ‘cause this is the music I want to play. After that, like, maybe I’ll move to New Orleans and play Blues in somebody else’s band or something, ‘cause I’m into that, too. This is my dream come true, what I’ve been waiting for since I was 15 and Rigor Mortis was playing. I’m really proud of it. I think I’m playing with the best rock’n’roll musicians in New York. Everybody’s like a gang, sticking together and hanging tough. We still have a long way to go.

Some of what Rudi said at the end, about The Fuzztones being his last band, has somewhat held true, though I’m willing to guess not how he imagined it back then. In 1987, Deb would acrimoniously leave the band, and Rudi would move first to Los Angeles and then to Germany to reform the band as its only original member. The Fuzztones still record from there, its latest being the ironically named NYC in 2020, and keeps a wide fan base as one of the few remaining garage revival bands of notoriety.

 




Thursday, December 15, 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist: NSFW Edition – December 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist: NSFW Edition – December 2022

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2022
Images from the Internet

This edition of the playlist are songs that really should not be played in front of general co-workers, little ones, or most relatives due to content and language. I am interested in listening to the obscure music arena than prattling on about it, despite my brief comments These will be of a multitude of genres, from punk to folk, to just out there.

The songs are listed alphabetical by first letter of the artist or group (with a single exception here), and not listed in a “ratings” order. Art is subjective, so I hope you like these as much as I enjoy them.

Note: There is no advertising on this page, so I will not be making anything off the work of others.

California Speedbag
“Shitlist”
Smog Veil Records

For some reason, I just fell in love with this I kilt my wife song, rough as it is. It came off an anthology album from Cleveland called Pie & Ears, Vol 1. I know nothing about the band. While many of the songs on this list are funny, this one is dead serious, and that’s part of what I like about it.


The Clap
“Disco Jesus”
Kleen Kut Records
As both an atheist and a person who abhors disco, I love this single. It is both joyous and mocking at the same time. How can you not love lyrics like, “You oughta see him do The Hustle / Upon that funky cross.” This won’t make me a believer in either disco or Jesus, but I’ll sing along: “Dance, dance, disco Jesus!”



Eddy Gorodetsky and Tom Couch
“Wop Muzik”
415 Records
“Pop Muzik” by M is a gawdawful song, but was a massive hit at the time, This punkish spoof actually comes quite close to the original, but is hilarious. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a deeply Italian neighborhood? The flip side, “Reasons to be Hungry,” a parody of Ian Dury’s “Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3,” is also worth a listen.


Garfunkel and Oats
“The Loophole”
Garfunkel and Oats

This duo is made up of actors/musicians/comedians Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome. Their songs can be political or social criticisms, or about their own personal experiences with sex. What is noticeable right off the bat is that their tunes are wordy, and often sung fast by both of them at the same time. This particular song is both funny and poignant, especially in this current religiously-charged social and political moment in history.


Jimi LaLumia and the Psychotic Frogs
 “Eleanor Rigby”
Death Records
Yes, this was a real group who would occasionally play at Max’s Kansas City. The punk take-off of the Beatles ditty takes a dark song and makes it even darker. A thing of beauty, Jimi’s deep and raspy voice fits the new lyrics, as did John Lennon’s overproduced vocals on the original. The flip side of this single is a great cover of Wayne/Jayne County’s “Fucked by the Devil.”


Rachel Bloom
“Fuck Me Ray Bradbury”
Rachel Does Stuff

Rachel Bloom, who has a perfect voice for this kind of material, rose to fame and won an Emmy for the television series, ”My Crazy Ex Girlfriend.” But this was the one that set off her career, full of bold ideas and no gatekeeping. She sort of carried on where Sarah Silverman left off.


Sic F*cks
“Chop Up Your Mother”
Sozyamuda Records
This is fun punk rock, with Russell Wolinsky fronting, and the F*ckettes behind him, who are none other than scene darlings and sisters Tish and Snooky Bellomo, who run the Manic Panic hair products empire. I have seen the band a number of times, and you can too in digital form by watching the slasher flick Alone in the Dark, from 1982, where the group performs this song and “Rock or Die.”


The Swinging Erudites
“Walk With an Erection”
Dimensional Records
At the lead of this group that spoofs the Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian” is Johnny Angel Wendell, a Boston rocker who also headed the bands Thrills and the Blackjacks. I saw Thrills play CBGB (and drove him and late lead singer Barb Kitson to where they were staying afterwards), and Wendell performing a solo “punk Sinatra” shtick that was hilarious at The Rat in Boston. A man of many talents. Also check out the Erudites’ “Living on My Hair,” an excellent take-off of Bon Jovi.


Wayne County and the Electric Chairs
“Fuck Off”
Safari Records
Infamously now Jayne County, this was a relatively big hit for her. Most of her music is blues rock based with a total punk attitude, with other songs including “Man Enough to Be a Woman” and “You Make Me Cream in My Jeans.” Her contribution to the first wave of punk down at Max’s Kansas City has yet to be reckoned with by many. Perhaps a street sign on Park Avenue similar to the Ramones outside CBGB?


Mike Brown and the Sneakies
“Fuck You”
M Records

This is going to have to remain as an Honorable Mention because I could not find a video for it. It is a break-up song that is both full of angst and the release from it. If you can find it on another non-video platform, it’s worth the search.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Review: Wendy O. Williams: Live and Fucking Loud in London!

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2022
|Images from the Internet, unless indicated

Wendy O. Williams: Live and Fucking Loud in London!
Directed by Rod Swenson

Trilion Pictures; Sledgehammer Entertainment; MVD Entertainment Group
55 minutes, 1985 / 2022
www.mvdvisual.com

Back in the late 1970s, I saw this relatively new band a couple of times at CBGB, led by Wendy O. Williams (a.k.a. W.O.W.) called the Plasmatics. They were wild, including sawing a guitar in half with a chainsaw while still plugged in (noise reminiscent of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music).

Back then, Williams (d. 1998) was known for a lack of clothing that might make Iggy blush, stage presence, and a voice so gravelly you could use it to cover a country road. The Plasmatics were getting quite a name for themselves, and not just from blowing up a car during a show on a Manhattan pier. They broke up in 1983 (they reformed for a moment from 1987 to 1988).

Plasmatics at CBGB (pic by Robert Barry Francos)

After the first demise of the Plasmatics, Williams went on her own journey, including acting (e.g., 1986’s Reform School Girls), and forming a new band – guitar: Michael Ray (who also worked with the Plasmatics); bass: Greg Smith; drums: T.C. Tolliver, including all doing backing vocal duties as well – and toured extensively.

The part of the tour that is represented on this DVD was shot during October 1985, at the Camden Palace in London. Hot off a Grammy nominated album (produced by Gene Simmons of KISS), she moved out of the punk world and into metal, including speed metal on Kommander of Kaos, the album she was promoting on this journey through Europe. This particular show was originally broadcast overseas on Sky TV (I believe it was titled Bump and Grind), and fell into obscurity for years.

At this stage of her career – some might call this her “pinnacle” – she was in top form, both musically and working the stage. Geologist and Plasmatics’ guitarist Richie Stotts may have been gone, but the power trio backing her up were dedicated and in fine form keeping up with her Tasmanian Devil stage antics. To be honest, through the growl in her voice and the speed of the songs, I cannot tell most of the lyrics, but I do not care, it is the performance that matters.

The video was directed by Rod Swanson, which should be no surprise as he managed her career from the beginning, meeting when she was still doing porn (e.g., Debbie Does Hollywood) and live sex shows (fortunately, she got outta da biz before AIDS hit hard). Rather than criticize her, I think this was an important step for her getting used to being mostly unclad on stage when singing. As she once said, “It was just like working in a doughnut shop, except you didn't wear a paper hat”.

Anyway, back to the DVD, the show begins with the blistering guitarwork of bare-chested Ray, and of course it only builds once Williams hits the stage with “Gone Wild.” But it is the second song, “Pedal to the Metal,” where her inner Ramones comes in (right down to DeeDee’s count-off at one point), Williams just blisters. By the third song, she is in total sweat from dancing around on the stage. Considering she was in her late 30s by this point, she goes full tilt out.

The song “You’ll Succeed” sounds more like “You’ll Suck Seed,” reminding me of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers’ “Born to Lose”/”Born Too Loose” double entendre. “Party Tonight” is a killer tune as well.

“Jammin’” is just what it says: Williams goes backstage to wipe off and remove more clothes, and the band jams for longer than I was interested. As talented as this trio is, and they truly are, like most jamming, it is a “show” with little melody but lots of note fingering. This is the main reason I like the simplicity of the Ramones rather than hair bands.

By the time she gets to “Jailbait,” she is joined by the Lemmy (d. 2016) and Wurzel (d. 2011) from Motörhead for just this song (and if you are in NYC, be sure to check out the Motörhead cover band, Motörbrained).

Amusingly, the camera keeps going back to a guy in the front of the audience who has a huge green mohawk and heavily studded leather jacket who seems to watch the show stoically (though occasionally doing a head bop), not even joining in for the chant-along of “Bump and Grind.” Also, during this song, Williams goes back to form and sledgehammers a television. Like comedian Gallagher (d. 2022) and his watermelon, well, you just have to come to expect that. But Ray playing while sitting on Williams’ shoulders is a nice touch.

Pyrotechnics are used intermittently throughout the show, though not to KISS level, but more appropriate to the venue. It’s all fun, and it smokes up the stage for “Fuck That Booty,” which I thought was the weakest song of the show, though Ray gets to show off once again.

During the last song, “Fuck’n’Roll,” a killer number, I thought about the difference between Plasmatics Williams and this show: for this, she uses way less props, even with the TV smashing. I remember her holding up signs. And while she is still sensual as hell, she no longer rubs her crotch often nor goes topless with electrical tape Xs over her nipples. But it is good to see her chainsaw a guitar again, as she finishes off the show. I always wondered what guitar mavens like Binky Phillips and Tom Guerra thought about that practice. One other difference is that Wendy seems even more comfortable and confident as a singer on stage.

The DVD’s visuals and sound are crisp and clear, most likely shot on the superior European PAL technology. This is a hard rockiin’ set with some punk elements, but Ray’s guitar makes it solid hair metal with a hard edge. Miss ya, Wendy O.

Set List:
Gone Wild
Pedal to the Metal
You’ll Succeed
No Class
Party (Tonight)
Jammin’
Hoy Hey (Live to Rock)
Jailbait
Ain’t None of Your Business
Bump and Grind
Fuck That Booty
Fuck’n’Roll