Sunday, September 25, 2022

Documentary Review: Anvil! The Story of Anvil! Restored and Returning Again!

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

Anvil! The Story of Anvil! Restored and Returning Again
Directed by Sacha Gervasi

Utopia; Portobello Electric; Abramorama
80 minutes, 2008 / 2022 (to purchase recordings and merch)

I will be honest with you: when the film was first released in 2008 or 2009, I didn’t see it. I was in the process of moving to Canada by sheer coincidence, as the band is from Ontario, so my time was otherwise occupied dealing with packing and governmental hoo-haa. It is worth noting, even with me not seeing it then, the film is tied for 6th place as one of the highest rated documentaries of all time on Rotten Tomatoes.

Anyway, 13 years after its initial release to great fanfare and attendance, the film is now being rereleased (as Anvil), and I have the good fortune to get the chance to review it. To be further honest, I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool metal fan. There are metal bands I like (The Dictators, for example), and certainly a lot of Canadian Bands of the late ‘70s (Teenage Head, The Diodes, Forgotten Rebels, etc.), but it is interesting how this is kind of a mix-up of both those styles.

For a while in the late ‘70s to early ‘80s, Anvil was at the top of their game, being highly influential on a number of bands at the time due to their 1982 album Metal on Metal (which I have never heard to-date), such as Lemmy (d. 2015) of Motörhead, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Slayer, Anthrax, and even Metallica, all of whom are represented in the documentary. And how did a band that went up to almost famous be so influential? Think of the Beach Boys’ original Smile album, and how it had an effect on the likes of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s or, to some extent, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends.

While there are other members of the band who are represented here, the main focus is on vocalist/guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer/painter Robb Reiner, who have been friends since childhood. They struck it to the “almost” dial of fame, ending up being a cult band (you know the expression: “A musician’s musician”).

The film is broken up in to a number of unofficial chapters. For example, there are many short interviews with some of the (2008 and still, now) top in their field metal musicians, many of whom I have mentioned above.

Despite all the mishigas, here is a certain level of joy that permeates the film, thanks to the director, Sacha Gervasi, who is not only friends with the principals, but was also the band’s roadie during their heyday. We see Lips and Robb in their relatively lower middle class day jobs that they seem to be happy with, and their spouses who put up with them. For me, one of my favorite things is that while Gervasi present Top-Level musicians that are fans of Anvil, they also show the joy of Lips and Robb as they meet other musicians, such as Carmine Appise, Tommy Aldridge, and a very somber Michael Schenker (who comes across as confused as to who Lips is), sometimes chasing after them to say hello at stadium-level gigs. It’s quite touching.

The documentary really picks up with Lips and Reiner (along with another version of a cobbled together band…let’s face it, no matter who backs them up, Anvil is Lips and Reiner) when the film starts in the second act, as Anvil begins a month-long tour of Europe, set up by their tour manager, Tiziana Arrigoni, that does not quiiiiite go as expected. Right from the start, they are unable to board the train to take them to their second gig, and they have to find other means. This is just the start of an almost This is Spinal Tap-esque (1984) level of a state of confusion and roadblocks. The big festivals go somewhat smoothly, but when they play smaller clubs and travel from one to another, that where the issues arise, as they do with any touring band at the club level (I recommend Henry Rollins’ 1994 book, Get in the Van for a view of touring life).

In the next larger section of the film, while in their 50s, Lips and Robb decided to record their 13th album, appropriately titled This is Thirteen (2007; currently, they have 19). Hoping for lightening to strike twice, they hire the same well-known producer of the Metal on Metal album from decades before, British Chris Tsangarides (d. 2018), a Grammy winner who has worked with the likes of Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, and Yngwie Malmsteen). The issue is raising the thousands of dollars it would cost, and the flights.

As much as this is a story of a band on the roller coaster ride of fame, it is also about different types of family: for example, it focuses in on relations and spouses and how they deal with being married to someone who has a laser vision dream outside the family; the other is the brotherhood of Robb and Lips, two nice Jewish boys who have known each other since they were mid-teens, and yet get along better than those other two nice Jewish boys from Queens, Simon & Garfunkel. Sometime they fight like, well, other families, but they both know that their entire dreams and lives are dependent on each other, and it runs deeper than an argument (even when it comes to fisticuffs, as Robb explains about a necklace his father gave him).

I can understand why this film is so beloved. It is both moving and jaw dropping when it comes to the level of angst they go through just in the day-to-day to try and see the fruition of their dreams. This makes it very heartening to the spirit of the viewer.

On September 27, 2022, the film will be rereleased to 200 theaters in North America, included limited extended runs. If you manage to catch it, there will be an added 18-minue filmed interview with Lips, Robb and the director, Gervasi. Also on that date, it will be available for digital pre-order on iTunes and Vudu.

IMBD Listing HERE 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist: Other Music Edition – September 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist: Other Music Edition – September 2022

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

This edition of the playlist are songs that tend to be considered Other Music, as they don’t necessarily fit comfortably in a category. Most of these artists have the delusion that what they are doing is mainstream and palpable to the general public, but it’s more a cult following that is interested. This is different from just odd stuff like Barnes and Barnes “Fish Heads,’ the Residents’ “Satisfaction,” or Christopher Milk’s “Locomotion” in that these three, for example, were purposefully made to be odd, whereas Other Music is more organic to the artist’s style. What I find surprising is how many of the tunes below are actually on major labels, perhaps as loss leaders? Despite my brief comments, I am interested in listening to the obscure music arena than prattling on about it

The songs are listed alphabetically by first letter of the artist or group and not 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.


Edith Massey
“Big Girls Don’t Cry” / “Punks Get Off the Grass”
Egg Records
The “Egg Lady” from John Waters’ Pink Flamingos was as bad a singer as she was an actor, but man, she had personality. She was celebrated and integrated into the punk scene down at Max’s, so this single, both sides of which are on this video, makes so much sense. The cover of the Four Seasons’ classic is straight out of the Heartbreakers’ playbook, and the flip reminds me of Cherry Vanilla’s “The Punk,” but from an older perspective. Both songs are ridiculous and fun.

Gloria Balsam
Richmond Records
Gloria worked for Richmond Records back in the 1980s, and had the chance to record this. She is a comedian, but did this straight. I loved it from the first time I heard it, and it has a strong cult following, but it can also clear a room as she reaches for those high notes. I never tire of this.

John Trubee
“A Blind Man’s Penis”
The Only Label in the World
In the back of a country magazine in the ‘80s, Trubee had an advert that stated he would put anyone’s original poems or lyrics to music. Someone sent in a ditty called “Stevie Wonder’s Penis.” Wisely, the name was the only thing Trubee changed, and was born a psychedelic punk country song that was pure gold.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
Mercury Records
I still remember hearing this 45 for the first time at a friend’s house when we were in high school in the early 1970s. I couldn’t quite grasp what I liked about it, having been mostly a folkie before then, but its energy and off-beat drumming/trumpet just kept it getting weirder and weirder. Now I find the song kind of relaxing, in an odd way, as I came to appreciate its punk sensibilities.

Mrs. Miller
“Green Tambourine”
Capitol Records
Mrs. Miller’s high, vibrato voice first came to notice in the film The Cool Ones (1967), where she sang the standard, “It’s Magic.” This is the number she is most known for, but her cover of the Lemon Pipers is mind-boggling. She seems to be playing over the actual tracks for the original song, and she definitely gives it her all.

Sam Chalpin
“Leader of the Pack”
Atco Records
This elder cantor is the father of Ed, who first recorded Jimi Hendrix. I worked for Ed for a brief time at his studio.  Sam believed he was a better singer than anyone on the Top 10 at the time, so Ed had him sing along to some background tracks and created pure magic. Sam’s version of “Satisfaction” is better known, but I’ve always like this one better.

The Shaggs
“My Pal Foot Foot”
Light in the Attic
This quad of sisters are, without question, the queens of Other Music. No sense of rhythm, melody or lyric form, they coalesce into something new and different, that is both disturbing and enjoyable at the same time. Their album, Philosophy of the World, is packed solid with attitude and being off-key.

Tiny Tim, Gary Lawrence and His Sizzling Syncopators
“Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”
Sure, Tiny Tim is widely known for his falsetto renderings of standards like “Tip Toe Through the Tulip,” which made him famous, but his later, modernization as it were, was equally bizarre in another direction, such as this Rod Stewart cover. It was for an MTV promo and is an attempt at “straight” radio.

Wild Man Fischer
“Merry Go Round”
Bizarre Records/Reprise Records
Larry Fischer was a street guy who found his way into Frank Zappa’s prevue, and Frank took him under his wing to record him. Whether Zappa was serious or messing around with the guy, Larry took it very sincerely, leading to a rift between Fischer and the Zappa empire to this day. But the music is bubbly if crackling, and the songs total nonsense. But that is what is the charm.

Monday, September 5, 2022

King of Skeptics: An Interview with JONATHAN KING (1981)

© Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1981/2022
Images from the Internet unless indicated

One afternoon while sitting and chatting in her Times Square office with former National Publicity Director for Sire Records Janis Schacht, about life and the Ramones, she suggested I might be interested in interviewing a local-based, London-bred acerbic talk radio host, Jonathan King. This is the same, Jonathan King, it turns out, who had the hit in the 1960s with “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon,” a treacly yet enjoyable pop number. Sure, why not?

It seems his career had actually been much more expansive than I had imagined. When I told her I was impressed, she looked at me hard and explained that King did not like people who just liked him solely based on the criteria that they like his music. I decided to take a more offensive tone rather than defensive or placating one when we talked.

I grabbed video editor Alan Abramowitz. As it turns out, having Alan along worked out well, because it seemed Alan, being young and blond, was just Jonathan’s type. Alan, being the straight blade innocent that he was, had no idea of Jonathan’s flirtation, especially before and after the interview proper. It was quite amusing to watch the dynamics of the situation. It also put Jonathan in a playful enough mood to have fun during the interview.

Yes, I am totally aware of what Jonathan King has been accused and do not condone it, though he insists on his innocence. However, this interview took place decades before his arrest, and concerns interesting aspects of the music industry, so I believe it has merit in publication

This interview was published in FFanzeen, No 7, dated 1981.

King of Skeptics: An Interview with Jonathan King

I wanna catch phrase
I wanna start a craze
I wanna gimmick
I wanna hit
I’m just a poor boy
With a song and a smile
And not just another
Shallow entertainer
– Neil Innes (d. 2019)

 There is no doubt that Jonathan King knows what he wants and, more importantly, knows how to get it. His past is a perfect example of that. While at Cambridge, he had his first hit record, “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon,” in 1965. Since then, under a variety of names, he has had hit after hit on the charts in England – if not as an artist, then as a producer, having introduced such groups as 10cc, Genesis, the Bay City Rollers, and the original theater production of The Rocky Horror Show.

Despite all his success in England, King has never “made it” here in America, but he is determined to break this market. Since coming over last year, he was offered the temporary job as DJ on WMCA-AM, a talk-oriented show featuring guests and call-ins. And from this stepping stone, he hopes to take over the musical direction of a FM station and create a monster success. And if anyone can do it, as past experience has shown, Jonathan King can.

But the question is, is King part of the solution or the problem? His idea of a New Wave station utilizes a commercial format, playing the same records over and over, much as Top-40 stations do now. Whether this is good or bad is a debatable point – but most likely it is commercially viable.

The following interview took place at the old UK Records headquarters in midtown Manhattan in December 1980. Though the interview spanned a mere half-hour, more was said than during an average hour-long discussion. King knows his mind and speaks it very quickly, often embroidering his points considerably.

Jonathan King [glancing at the cover of an issue of FFanzeen] “Rock and roll with integrity?” But I have no integrity whatsoever. What am I doing in this place? I would be in the “no integrity section”
FFanzeen: Okay, I’ll be in the back.
King: I’d prefer the front cover, please. I’m prettier than all these people

FFanzeen: Not Ronnie Spector.
King: Ronnie Spector. Oh, well. Anyway, yes, right.
[FF stammers over question, King turns to Alan] He can’t ask the questions cos he’s gazing at me with such love and admiration, never having met anyone so intellectually and physically beautiful in his life before; his eyes are gazing at me.

FFanzeen: I still prefer Ronnie Spector.
King: Don’t worry. Phil Spector felt the same way.

FFanzeen: “Una Paloma Blanca” is really a miserable song.
King: Awful

FFanzeen: But it was a big hit for you in England. Did you record it simply because you knew you’d make a lot of money from it?
King: No, it’s really hard to explain – or it should be hard to explain. There are creative buzzes of various kinds, and I get a great buzz creating something which is commercial and appeals to a lot of people, and which people like. Therefore, I got a great creative buzz out of making a record which had come up and flopped in England, improved it commercially, and producing a final product which was a large hit. One of the biggest hits of the year in Britain. I do get great enjoyment. You don’t have to only get enjoyment in the music business by creating something marvelous. You can get it from promoting something, from marketing something, from selling something, in various different ways, and it gave me a great creative buzz to make a hit record out of “Una Paloma Blanca,” although I never liked it myself as a piece of product.

FFanzeen: What’s the story on Blue Swede and your “Hooked on a Feeling.” 
King: Well, “Hooked on a Feeling” was a record I did like. I had a hit with it in England and around Europe and, as you know, Blue Swede did steal it, made an almost identical copy [you remember: “Oogha-chaga, oogha-chaga in 1974 – RBF, 1981], and had a Number One here in America, simply because my record was not promoted and marketed here. [My version] came out on London Records which, then, was virtually the equivalent of a morgue, as far as records were concerned, went on to remain the same, unfortunately, and therefore killed a number of my acts and bands. But I think it got lost for that one reason. The Blue Swede record came out on Capitol, which was run by Al Coury (d. 2013), who now runs RSO Records and got that complete marketing and promotion treatment. In a way, it was flashing to me, because it showed me that I did make the right record in the first place; it just got lost.

FFanzeen: A lot of your songs can be considered “novelty records.” Don’t you ever want to be taken seriously?
King: I never want to be taken seriously. I never take anyone else seriously, either. There’s no point in taking anything seriously, when we can all be wiped out by a meteor landing on the Earth three seconds after somebody has read this article. So, I don’t believe in taking things seriously at all. I believe in having a lot of fun. I’ve done certain things that one could take seriously if one wanted to, ranging from discovering Genesis, or The Rocky Horror Show, or 10cc, or any of the other more creative bands I’ve discovered, to some of my more creative recordings, like “Hooked on a Feeling” or “Satisfactionby Bubblerock, which is one of my better records. No, I don’t expect people to sit down and start essays in The New York Times about the brilliance of my musical metabolism; I don’t want that at all. I just want people to buy my records in bulk, have fun, like the bands I find, like the artists I discover – and I don’t take life seriously at any time. The moment you start doing that, you’re open for unhappiness.

FFanzeen: Why don’t you perform live?
King: I performed live sporadically, until I had my first hit [“Everyone’s Gone to the Moon – RBF, 1981], and I never really liked it. I felt uneasy on stage. I’m not a performer. My greatest talent in the music industry is probably as a producer. I know how to find, discover, nurture and create hit records, bands, and acts probably better than anyone else in the world. And, he said modestly, I really like doing that. Now, I had my first hit, and I had to make a decision: do I want to become a performer? Now, all performers are cunts. I have a little sign hung above my bed saying, “All Artists are Cunts.” In fact, I had dinner with Rod Steward and Britt Eklund, and spent the entire meal saying how all artists were cunts. It took Rod the whole meal to realize that all the analogies I was illustrating this argument with were coming from the way he was treating Mercury/Phonogram. He finally discovered that I was basically insulting him – during the sweet course. Rod, being a Scotsman, is shrewd enough to realize he’s better off if he has his meal first, before he leaves. He got up, stormed out of the restaurant and didn’t speak to me for a year. Well, Britt and I had a good giggle about his uptightness. I put in a few good insults at her as well. I said to her, “Oh, Britt, isn’t it wonderful? You’re so lucky. What a coincidence that every man in your life has had so much money.” That made Rod giggle. Anyway, all artists being cunts, I decided I wasn’t going to be an artist. I was already a cunt. I didn’t want to make myself more of one. To be a good performer, and to be an artist, you really have to have an inflated opinion of yourself. You have to project over-the-top mannerisms, style, gestures, and everything. I could have done it. I could have learned to do it. If I’d wanted to be a rock star, in the mid-‘60s, I could have slaved away at the boards. I have enough imagination to create an incredible stage show. Genesis has a lot to thank me for their stage ideas. I’m sure I could have become a rock star. How boring. Can you imagine being a rock star? Can you imagine anything more tedious and stupid? Far more nicer for me, who has had the chance to be a rock star, many times over, and every time to have rejected it. Isn’t that much cooler? Elvis Costello can’t claim that.

FFanzeen: Have you produced or recorded anything lately?
King: Not much. Towards the end of 1979, as a favor to a very dear friend of mine, Sir Edward Lewis (d. 1980), who is the chairman/founder of Decca-London Records, I have gone back to Decca as sort of the boss, to revive this dead corpse of a record company, which I did. And we got a lot of records back on the chart. I had “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues on the charts for the third time in the Top 10, and a variety of other hits on Decca. And, in fact, again, by the end of the year. Decca was again one of the most successful companies in Britain. The reason for this is because Sir Edward was selling the record company to Polygram, who did in fact buy it, and he wanted to sell them something that was a positive, active, successful entity, as opposed to a flop. It worked very well. He sold the company, and the new company immediately approached me and asked if I would be interested in running Phonogram/Mercury and Decca. A lot of other record companies in Britain asked if I would be interested in running their companies in England, and even in America. Sums of money were mentioned, ranging to the top offer of $750,000 a year. And I looked at myself in the mirror – especially parts of my anatomy, the most interesting little bits I can observe – and I said, “Jonathan, do you really want to be a record executive? Here you are, just into your early thirties. I don’t want to do something that will keep me going for another ten years, wearing suits and ties. I would prefer to relax. Fortunately, I have earned enough money through the bands that I’ve been associated with over the years to be able to do whatever I want. What would I like to do?” And I decided I would like to come to America and live in my apartment/office, which I’ve had for ten years now in New York, and do two things: one, cover the presidential election, because presidential politics in America fascinates me, as do politics in England – I find them very interesting, and two, broaden my perspective out of just the music world, but also break into the American market because, as you know, in England, I am a fairly well-known personality from fifteen years of doing a variety of things. In America, apart from “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon” fifteen years ago when I was a little seventeen-year-old teenybopper, nobody knows me and remembers me, right? So, it’s a whole new virgin market and a difficult market to break. And I’ve decided I’d try and do that, so I came over here to do weekly reports on the election, called “The King of New York,” which goes out Saturday afternoons on the BBC in Britain, and has about six or seven million listeners. I still do that column. Then, while I was here, I was offered a guest slot on WMCA-AM, “New York’s finest news and conversation station,” and they got good reactions, phones went, letters poured in, so they asked if I would do the 10 to 12 morning show on a regular basis for a while, and I thought about it and decided, yes, why not? Because my other ambition has been, for a while, to try and shake the bland, boring, tedious American radio station back into shape again. And I think I’m probably the only person who can do it, cos I’m young enough to know what the (new) music’s about, yet old enough to have had the experience and success in the industry to have built up a good reputation, so people don’t look at me as a lunatic. So, bearing that in mind, I’m still trying to do that. I’ve got three FM stations on the boil at the moment. I’m trying desperately to get one of them to allow me to move in and program a New Wave radio station for young people who like to hear that new sound younger bands are making; people like the Police, B-52s, Elvis Costello (and) a variety of artists that are around. Playing that all the time, instead of what I call “Dinosaur Rock,” which WPLJ or WNEW play, or disco, which is fine if you’re into disco, but not at all fine if you’re not, or any other music formats around you which are very limited or specialist. My thinking is that the 1980s AM radio is going to become more and more talk-oriented. And FM radio is going to widen out and appeal to a broader spectrum of the community. How nobody has ever done this before I really cannot understand. It’s such a yawning gap in the marketplace, you would think anybody with any brains would cater to that area, right?

FFanzeen: WPIX did that for a little while.
King: No, they didn’t, you see. This is one of the two reasons why there is no New Wave radio in New York,: one is because New Wave radio is thought to appeal to the twelve to twenty-five-year-olds who, according to demographics, no longer have much buying power apart from pimple creams, right? I happen to think that’s wrong. I happen to think that, a) the audience has more buying power than people think, and b) New Wave radio would not only appeal to that segment of the community, but would also appeal to a lot of people in their late twenties and early thirties. And I think a lot of parents whose kids would be setting their dial to a New Wave station would like what they heard and leave it turned to that. So, that’s one point. The second, WPIX sort of tried a New Wave format, but when I say sort of, it was a disaster. I listened to it quite regularly. They would play any new record that came out, especially if it was on a little label. Now, I know the music business. If a record is on a little label, it’s got a fair chance of being a real piece of shit, because if it’s not good enough for the big labels and has to crawl out of a little label, it usually is bad. And indeed, much of the records WPIX used to play were ghastly. Now, they had the advantage that one record in twenty was great, and you wouldn’t hear it anywhere else, but the other nineteen were such rubbish, it was presented in a neo-mid’60s progressive laid-back amateur fashion. So, what happens? Nobody listens. You see a tiny little minority listenership, but the figures dropped way down, because it was presented so badly. They said it was New Wave – it wasn’t New Wave radio. It was just amateur mess radio; you cannot run a radio station like that. And so, everybody thought as you do [do I? – RBF, 1981] that WPIX was New Wave radio, it didn’t work, therefore New Wave radio doesn’t work. They’re thinking wrong. New Wave can work marvelously, but only if the very best is played. If it’s presented well, if certain things are encouraged, and if people put their money where their mouth is and back the people they really believe in. You see, it’s easy to play PIX format: play everything, and then be able to say, “We were the first to play ‘Money’ by the Flying Lizards. Admittedly, we only played it once every five days because we play so many records, but we were the first.” Well, that’s bullshit. You don’t do things like that. There’s only a handful of good records at any given time. You play that handful and they’re damned good records, you break new bands, new artists. I can program a New Wave station with about forty or fifty record companies didn’t know ought to be singles, great New Wave singles, marvelous oldies by people like the Sex Pistols and the Boomtown Rats [oldies? – RBF, 1981] that never saw the light of day, and it would be a hell of a good radio station, and it wouldn’t be a mess. WPIX was a mess.

FFanzeen: By doing that, wouldn’t you be guilty of doing the same thing that WPLJ is doing, just programming the same things over and over?
King: Well, PLJ programs that same thing over and over, but they program Dinosaur Rock over and over again. They would put in a Police track or B-52s or something – Talking Heads – to keep people happy. But ninety percent of their format is Zeppelin, Sabbath, and all the various Pink Floyds, all people who are considerably older than I am, and the same old music churns out – and when you hear “Stairway to Heaven” every three minutes, you think, “God, here it goes again, I can’t believe it.” PLJ, ABC and the NBCs are Top 40 formatted. Okay, what I would be doing, in a way, is Top 40 New Wave format. But that’s different because Top 40 doesn’t exist anymore. Top 40 used to be marvelous in the mid-‘60s. Now we’re split into specialist groups so, as a result, there are records that will be major big hit records that we may not want to hear. I think a tight-formatted New Wave station playing new records, bands that are not heard anywhere else in the city, and repeating them a lot so you can hear them enough to really get into them, would do enormously well. But you need that control. There’s no point in saying that people who want the sort of PIX format back are basically the failed rock musicians who, with their second-rate band, knew they had a vague chance of having their record played somewhere at some time cos PIX had such an open format with nobody listening as a result. But they would play anyone, so Fred Nerle and the Scroggs from down in Greenwich Village would be sure that their second-rate piece of rubbish will b played on WPIX, so they could champion PIX. The listeners didn’t champion it. The listeners thought it was a pain in the ass. The protest that was made when it came off was like somebody making a slight fart in Staten Island. I mean, it really had no impact when it left the scene because, although it was doing some good things, it was a mess But to run a good New Wave station you’ve got to find somebody who actually knows what he’s talking about from a New Wave level, cos you can’t go by any of the sales. Any little individual group can hike the sales in one shop by getting their mother, father, and friends to go in and buy it. There is no way they can find out. The phone would be ringing by friends of a band calling in. The only way you can virtually guarantee success if the guy picking the music has hellishly good ears. Now, according to the latest ratings, my ears are worth $750,000 a year. That’s what the record companies are prepared to pay me for the use of my ears in running their companies. With these kinds of ears, you know you’ve got something that is pretty invaluable, and with a little bit of luck, somebody in the radio world is going to pick up on that idea and say, “Hey!” Plus, when the ratings come up on my WMCA show and they see that I’ve slaughtered all the opposition on AM, they will be very keen to get me on FM.

FFanzeen: Your born name is Kenneth, but you record as Jonathan and use many other pseudonyms. Why?
King: Well, there was a very good reason for that. I decided that if I put out three records by Jonathan King, people would listen to all three, decide with was the best, play it, and I would have one hit, even if all three were potential hits. If I put out three records under different names and nobody knew they were me, and people thought the records were better than any other around, they’d play all three and I’d have three simultaneous hits, make much more money, and be all over the charts. So, that was the reason I did it, and it works. Three times in 1971, I had three simultaneous Top 30 records under various different names, so it was a great way of doing things. I reached the point where, in 1972, any new artist at all who came out, people thought it was Jonathan King. You couldn’t be an artist without people saying, “Are you really Jonathan King? When I launched 10cc, one of the great problems we had to overcome was getting people to realize that 10cc were actually a real bunch of four individual musicians, and not me under another name. Especially since I thought up the name, and it was a very “Jonathan King” sort of name.

FFanzeen: Do you have any new artists, like New Wave artists, that you are getting ready to produce, or that you want to produce?
King: No, I don’t really want to get into the production end of the music thing just yet at all. I mean, the basic situation is I want to make myself known in America, and I’m going about it on a certain route. And the route I’m using at the moment is talk radio, with TV appearances, which are being booked up because of the talk radio success, and so on. Now, it may well be that the next stage, hopefully, is that I will succeed in getting an FM radio station, and if I do, then I will turn it into a success. I’ve told everyone that I guarantee that within six months, it’ll be the Number One station in the country. And I have no doubt that I would be. People were saying the same thing about the disco format when WKTU started up, and it did, indeed, go on to do exactly that, because the time was right, or “The Tide is High,” as Blondie would say.

FFanzeen: Would you like to go into a bit of detail about the format of your AM radio show?
King: The talk show is very simple, basically. It runs the gamut between serious things like heroin addiction, abortion, capital punishment, and so on, and the lighter subjects like heroin addiction, abortion, and capital punishment. I interviewed Dusty Springfield (d. 1999), and I was hoping Bowie (d. 2016) was going to come on, but he never did. John Lennon was due on the week after his death (1980). Unfortunately, he had to cancel. It ranges from one end of the scale to another. The only common denominator is if it bores me, I stop the discussion. And if it bores me, it will probably bore the listeners. I’m finding we’ve been getting the most enormous amount of young listeners now, a really large amount of college kids and teenagers. How, I don’t know, since most of them are at school or at college when the show is on. We have phone calls; we have interviews on every topic under the sun. I mention things that have happened in the world and my thoughts on them, and usually send them off a bit with a light ribbing. It’s all good fun. Like yesterday, the whole show was devoted to a discussion on the lack of New Wave radio on FM. And I must say that I’ve had letters since, cos I thought we really shouldn’t get into the topic because it was a talk show, and essentially listened to by people who don’t want to listen to music. That was yesterday, and this morning I had three letters which said, “Please don’t say that, we all love music and we love good talk, and the reason we’re listening to you on WMCA is because it’s impossible to hear good music on the radio at the moment. And rather than listen to crap, we’re listening to good talk, and we would love a good New Wave station,” which is a marvelous thing. I really do believe that that is true. I think the ‘80s will see a lot of people listening to a variety of things. Given my own choice, I would listen to some personalities on talk radio and then switch to a good music radio station to hear music. And I wouldn’t stay on one or the other all the time. I’d bounce.

FFanzeen: You’ve said that people are like sheep, and you don’t like people who immediately like you without knowing anything about you.
King: Right, That’s why I’ve never gone out of my way to get fans.

FFanzeen: Yet you produce this pabulum-type of music to suit that very group. Isn’t that contradictory?
King: No. As I’ve said, it gives me a creative buzz to be able to sell things to large quantities of people. If the people want to be stupid enough to like me as a person rather than the records, then that’s their fault. There’s nothing against people liking the record. Because they have different tastes than me does not make them inferior human beings. I consider them inferior as human beings when they’re foolish enough to like somebody they’ve never met, and never spoken to, and don’t know anything about, just on the basis of the music that they like. I mean, if you were to tell me that you think Paul McCartney is a fantastic guy, although you never met him, because he makes such nice records, I’d say you were an idiot. And likewise, anyone who would say the same about Jonathan King. And even when somebody meets me, they would realize that, as anybody with sense does, that there is no black and white. Nobody’s perfect, and that I’m part good and part bad.

FFanzeen: You’ve said that you like everything that you’ve done so far. At the same time, you refer to yourself as cynical.
King: I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t think I’ve done anything of great earth-shattering depth. I mean, even if I’d written plays to the worth of William Shakespeare, or novels to the worth of Charles Dickens, and I was satisfied with my artistic abilities, I still wouldn’t fool myself. I’m cynical. They say, “The cynic is the true lover of humanity.” Somebody else said, and I think it was Oscar Wilde, “A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” My answer is that everything has a price and nothing has any value. Which, I think, is the true cynical answer to give. We’re here, and we won’t be here tomorrow. There’s no point in overdramatizing everything. My interpretation of a cynic is one who sees life as it is, not as they would like it to be, or as others would like it to be, but as, in reality, it is. That applies to people who believe in extremely weird things like God, or the Devil, or any kind of various lifestyles other people follow. I would use the word cynic without any of the derogatory implications it has. To me, basically, I’m cynical. A total cynic. I’m probably the most cynical person you would ever meet. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being cynical. To me, being cynical is being sensible.

FFanzeen: What you’ve said is almost word for word the opposite of what Cervantes said [in Man of La Mancha], that the maddest thing you can do is see life as it is, and not as it should be.
King: But then, there aren’t many windmills around here.

Having met and talked with Jonathan King, I liked him. Yes, he was cynical and used his opinion like a straight-razor, but he was also straightforward and direct, and firmly believed in his convictions. I also think that his convictions were (and are) what was wrong with the music industry: namely the bottom line is more important than the value of the music. His total lack of regard for independent music was shocking to me, but then again, considering his “place” in the history of the music industry, it is hardly surprising. Did there really need to be a disco version of “Una Paloma Blanca”? Did there really need to be an “oogha-chaga” version of “Hooked on a Feeling”?

Another statement he made I find questionable is that only the best New Wave music would be played. And just what is the totally subjective “best”? And who would be the person or persons who would decide that? Gatekeeping theory states that one or few choose what the majority will know, but a subtext is the question of whether the chooser would be an independent thinker or a cog in the machine. The fin de sicle has shown, I believe, that independent thought in the music industry – especially radio broadcast such as it is in the age of the Internet – is dead. Demographics numbers and polls speak louder than even program directors. The disk jockey has been reduced to mere personality and no longer has a say in the output. These days, you’d have a better chance of finding a religious station than any kind of new music on-air.

Monday, August 15, 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist – August 2022

 RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist – August 2022

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

Here is my limited monthly column of some relatively cult music, be it due to initial limited release, or just having fallen out of the mainstream eye. These will be of a multitude of genres, from punk to folk, to just out there.

The songs are listed alphabetically by first letter of the artist or group, and not 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.

“No Nostalgia”
Knitting Factory
What is noteworthy about this ensemble, of course, is the harmony that brings out the rhythms as well. Even the solos are interesting if occasionally breathy. I like this live rendition as much as the original studio recording.

Cherie and Marie Currie
“Since You’ve Been Gone”
Capitol  Records / Renaissance Records
After leaving The Runaways (who I saw her play with at CBGB), lead vocalist Cherie went on to her own solo career, highlighted by this gem featuring her twin sister. Though they look alike, it’s easy to tell which is which by the way they dance. Cherie has some very distinctive splits. This song actually charted in the US Top 100, but faded as fast as it came.

Chris Stamey
“Summer Sun”
Ork Records
Known for his work with Alex Chilton and the dBs, this solo release (produced by Chilton) is a sublime slice of love on a hot afternoon in a pop format. Stamey’s voice is perfect for what he is trying to say. I’m surprised this did not become bigger. I once spent a fun afternoon hanging out with Stamey and Chilton while they were being interviewed for another fanzine. 

Cycle Sluts From Hell
“I Wish You Were a Beer”
Epic Records
A tongue-in-cheek metal cult classic, this is off the band’s only album. It’s co-writer, Honey 1%-er, would go on to the She Wolves as Donna She Wolf, and then Star & Dagger. I interviewed her more than once. The song is wild, ridiculous, and incredibly catchy. The whole “Singing in the Rain” part is a distraction, but the rest is gawdy good.

The Diodes
“Tired of Waking Up Tired”
Bongo Beat Records
This group is part of the Toronto First Wave punk movement, and occasionally still tour. Their other songs include the hook-laden “Child Star” about the death of Anissa Jones, and a cover of the Cyrcle’s “Red Rubber Ball.” But this live version of their song is, for me, my fave version.

John Watts
SoReal Records
The story I heard is that the song was originally supposed to be “You Asshole,” but Watt’s daughter suggested the change to make it more marketable. I agree. John is the lead of the British group Fischer-Z, as well as having a solo career. I had the opportunity to introduce him at a General Semantics conference where he performed. John’s voice is deep, and the regret of the song permeates the message.

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
“The New Teller”
Beserkley Records
Yes, I know Richman is an indie artist icon, and many of his songs, such as “Roadrunner” and “Abominable Snowman in the Market” are must haves. His appearance in the film There’s Something About Mary (1998) solidified his role as cult. I’ve seen him live at last four times since 1977 through 2018. However, this song is different as it wasn’t on any of his releases, but rather a compilation album called Beserkley Chartbusters Vol. 1. It remains my fave of his songs.

Psycotic Pineapple
“Hang on for Your Life”
Richmond Records
A song about driving that you should never listen to while driving, because odds are you’ll be speeding by the end. The vocals are unique and the song is hilarious. But it should be noted that all their songs off their album are worth a listen, such as “I Wanna Wanna Wanna Wanna Get Rid of You,” “I Forgot Who I Forgot Who I Was,” and the deadpan “Headcheese,” which is another favorite. The whole LP is spectacular in their quirky way.

Rachel Harrington
“Summer’s Gone”
Skinny Dennis Records
Americana music, a branch of Bluegrass, can be perky as hell, or hauntingly beautiful in gothic tones and themes. This falls into the latter. The banjo is striking in its slow pace as the ballad tells the story of the rains after the harvest, and a mystery of a family. It has stuck with me from the first time I heard it.

“Change Gotta Come”
Dolphin Records
Hailing from the DC area, this is a pop rock band with some punk attitude. The chorus is catchy as fire, amid the topic of the possibility of the end of the world. Note that, in my opinion, the video is too much, so you may want to forward to the actual song at 1:30. And maybe you will be able to answer the question, “Whatever happened to the Love Generation”?

Friday, August 5, 2022


© Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1977/2022
Images from the Internet unless indicated

There have been very few interviews where the people involved have just annoyed me right off. One was the great guitarist Chris Spedding  (although I was just an observer; he was obnoxious to both the interviewer and about the topic, rock’n’roll); another was Teenage Jesus and the Jerks.

I had never heard of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks until I saw an ad that they were playing at Max’s on a Monday night. I said to myself, what a great name for a band, I gotta interview these guys.

Going upstairs to the dressing rooms, I found the band, passed out copies of FFanzeen No. 1 to them, and asked for the interview. I did not yet know anyone playing in the band at that time. If I had been a bit more of a scene-hanger-outer, I probably would have known of the exploits of Lydia Lunch, another of the Max’s groupie collection (e.g., Nancy Spungen). I later heard the stories of her famous taxi ride with the Dead Boys, who named at least two of their songs after her (“Caught With the Meat In Your Mouth,” and “I Need Lunch”). I was obliviously innocent.

As well, I had no idea who James Siegfried was – who would later turn up variously as James Chance (of the Contortions) and James Black (and the Whites) – or the late Bradley Field (who worked at the Strand Bookstore). Bass playing Reck, from what I gather, was recently from Japan and was not well versed in English. At least, that was the impression that was presented to me.

In an interview for Playboy, if I remember correctly, Marlon Brando once said that the reason he hated doing magazine interviews was because in print, you can’t tell when someone is joking. I fully understood that statement, especially after interviewing this band. The reader cannot tell the contemptuous tone to which the band answered my admittedly unprepared questions (remember, I hadn’t seen them, nor heard of any of them, having gone in totally blind). In hindsight, I should have interviewed them afterwards.

As the interview – if you want to call it that – proceeded, I was getting more and more put off, to the point that a “whatever” feeling finally took hold of me. It was published in FFanzeen No. 2, dated October 31, 1977.

Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

At first, I was seriously thinking of not printing this interview with this bunch of poseurs, but the way I figure it, because a group grabs me the wrong way is no reason to deny you, the reader, the pleasure of learning to feel the same.

It is not that this band is obnoxious, but that it is bullshit obnoxiousness. Their “attitude” is their gimmick. People like to be assaulted, as long as they know there is no physical threat (i.e., fans of Ruby and the Rednecks).

Oh, yeah, if you read FFanzeen No.1, you may have remembered I mentioned that some of the Cramps interview was drowned out by people telling dead baby jokes. Well folks, these are those people (along with Jim Marshall, editor of New Order fanzine).

The band consists of lead singer / guitarist Lydia Lunch (Teenage Jesus), saxophonist (?) James Siegfried, bassist Reck (who quietly sat tuning his bass during the whole interview), and drummer Bradley Field (not present at the time). Also in the room were two of their female roadies who got into the action.

You will note, towards the end, I more or less gave up and let them go on by themselves. This interview took place in the Max’s Kansas City dressing room on August 8, 1977.

(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

Roadie 1: Ask them what they think about God?
FFanzeen: What do you think about God?
Lydia Lunch: My father, you mean?

FFanzeen: I take it you’re Teenage Jesus.
Lydia: You take it. And you know what you can do with it.

FFanzeen: How long have you been together?
Lydia: Two and a half months.

FFanzeen: You’ve been gaining a lot of popularity ...
Lydia: Who wants popularity? I don’t care if we have popularity. We want unpopularity.
James Siegfried: We were really mad that people liked us. We wanted them to hate us.
Lydia: They don’t have the right idea if they’re outright fans. I don’t care if they don’t like us as long as they don’t like us for the right reasons. I’d rather have them hate us for the right reasons than to like us for the wrong reasons.

FFanzeen: Why do you want to be hated?
Lydia: I don’t want to be hated, but I don’t want mindless assholes to like us so we can have a KISS army, a Teenage Jesus army, no. We’re annoying. We have annoying sounds. If you like to be annoyed, you should love us. Otherwise stay home and listen to Dictators’ records. Because everything is so boring.
James: We make that normal stuff obsolete.
Lydia: We don’t play chords. I never played guitar before but I wrote all the music and all the words, except for the two that (Siegfried) wrote.

FFanzeen: What type material do you do?
Lydia: Factory, mechanical, and military.

FFanzeen: What’s the purpose of getting a group together if you ...
Lydia: Because I was bored with all the other bands. We have to entertain ourselves.

FFanzeen: Does that include the Cramps?
Lydia: Don’t bring band politics into this interview.

FFanzeen: What do you consider the ultimate goals of the group?
Lydia: The ultimate goal of the group is to annoy. We just want to show the other bands how bad they are. New Wave is dead wave. There’s no such thing because all the New Wave bands are re-hashed Who. We have one influence: I live in front of a factory. That’s the only influence.
James: Wait until you hear the music.
Roadie 1: Their music is comparable to riding the IRT.
Roadie 2: During rush hour. It smells the same.
Lydia: It’s smell for the ear. It’s stench for the ears.

FFanzeen: If you have no influences and you don’t listen to any of the new bands, what do you listen to?
Lydia: Nothing. I don’t even have a stereo or a record player. I don’t have a TV, and I hate bands and I hate music.

FFanzeen: And what do you do to amuse yourself?
Lydia: I play with myself. I have my band to be amused by, (and) the asinine audiences who’ll sit there and applaud for anybody. How are you amused?
James: He amuses himself by asking dumb questions.
Roadie 2: Why did you start your magazine?

FFanzeen: Well ...
Lydia: We really don’t care. Just ask your questions and get out. [laughs] [breaks character – RBF, 2022] Who’s the grouchiest band you know?

FFanzeen: What songs do you perform?
Lydia: [Back into character – RBF, 2022] You want the titles? Forget it. You can listen to it when we play. We don’t even announce the songs. If you want titles, forget it. Wait until our album comes out.
Roadie 1: I want to turn your brain to mush so it will be soft enough to touch.
Lydia: That’s not one of our songs.

FFanzeen: If you come out with an album, are you going to listen to it yourself?
Lydia: That’s the only thing I’d listen to.

Roadie 2: Ask her some of the questions you asked the Cramps. [Looking through FFanzeen No. 1] “What’s your favorite song in the set?”
Lydia: No comment. They’re all my favorite.

Roadie 2: “Is there such a thing as punk rock?”
Lydia: I guess. That’s what my mother listens to.
Roadie 1: Don’t they play that on WABC or something?

[ffoto by Robert Barry Francos]

Roadie 2: “How was the group formed?”
Lydia: I said, “Do you play anything” to (Reck) the bass player at CBGB. He couldn’t speak English. I knew Bradley, and he never played drums so I just got him in the band. I won’t mention how we got (Siegfried).

Roadie 2: “How did it pass that there would be no bass?”
FFanzeen: That one won’t work. You can ask some of the other questions, from the other interviews.
Lydia: Why don’t you (roadies) ask questions. You probably think of better ones than he does.

Roadie 1: Does your feet smell?
Roadie 2: OK. “How do you like playing CBGB” [from the Tom Petty interview – ed., 1977]?
Lydia: We hated it. We hated playing Max’s. We hated playing out. We like rehearsing.

Roadie 2: “Do you like playing the Bottom Line?”
Lydia: We loved it only we never played there.

Roadie 2: “Are you on tour now?”
Lydia: Yes, we are. We’re touring all the local washrooms.

Roadie 2: “What was it like playing with the Runaways?”
Lydia: Playing with the Runaways is equitable to playing with dead babies, only not as much fun.

Roadie 2: “How did you meet the Heartbreakers?”
Lydia: We never have and never wanted to. Why don’t you ask us what we think of certain bands in particular?

Roadie 2: OK. What do you think of the Dead Boys?
Lydia: They’re dead.

Roadie 2: What do you think of ... .
Roadie 1: The Erasers?
Lydia: Erase the Erasers. That’s what I say to all bands.

Roadie 2: OK, I like this one: “What single?”
Lydia: We’re going to do a single at the end of the month for Ork Records
[this record was not released on Ork’s imprint – RBF, 2022]. Who cares. Big deal. We’re gonna get ripped off like Richard Hell and Television, and all the others who did singles for Terry Ork and didn’t get a penny.

Roadie 2: “What is your ultimate goal?”
Lydia: To die. To live and die.

Roadie 2: “Do you see yourself branching out into other media, like television?”
Lydia: I’m gonna be a movie star. Or an attraction. I already am.

Roadie 2: “Do you have any hobbies?”
Lydia: No.

Roadie 1: Don’t you basket weave?
Lydia: I used to. Don’t you want to know how old we are?

FFanzeen: No. I don’t think it matters.
Lydia: I think it matters.

FFanzeen: Alright, how old are you?
Lydia: Eighteen. The bass player’s nineteen. The rest I guess it doesn’t matter.
James: I’m twelve.

FFanzeen: You don’t want a following, but do you have one?
Lydia: Yes.

FFanzeen: What kind of people ... er ... follow you?
Lydia: Scary ones. Only in the dark. Usually big and black.

FFanzeen: Where are you from originally?
Lydia: Why do you ask these questions?
Roadie 1: Originally she was from her mother.
Lydia: That’s unoriginal.
Roadie 1: Originally she was from her father. They had a weird family.
Lydia: You might as well let the tape run out since we don’t have anything else to say.

While the band would be at the forefront of the whole No Wave movement, it was doomed to fail because there was nothing to determine what was interesting. Very little of it was, though the sub-scene would later transform into the industrial / noise movement. Reck would eventually go back to Japan, and form the punk band, Friction.

Lydia, of course would re-emerge in various incarnations in multimedia, including music (with the likes of Beirut Slump, Eight-Eyed Spy, Queen of Siam, Devil Dogs, 13.13, Honeymoon in Red, Stinkfist, The Drowning of Lucy Hamilton, Shotgun Wedding, and Lydia Lunch Retrovirus), a written word performance artist (sometimes in cahoots with X’s Exene Cervenka), and acting in a number of independent films (often by director/writer Richard Kern), many of which helped spearhead the whole transgressive DIY movement. So, in a way, she did get her wish and become a movie star.

Later on in the 1980s, she would turn up on Alan Abramowitz’s cable access music/interview program, Videowave, on which I worked as a crew member. When she walked in with her manager, she made a snarky remark, and the manager said she should cool it. I think the manager knew how low-budget we were and how hard we were trying. After that, Lydia was pleasant to everyone. I’m not sure which of the two sides was the honest one, but it was easier to deal with her in this private incarnation than her public one.

Currently she has a podcast, co-hosted with experimental bassist Tim Dahl (the band Child Abuse, among others), called “The Lydian Spin.” 

Lydia has a very large and strong following, and people who really like her personally, but for me the turning point of the FFanzeen interview that pissed me off more than anything else was when Lydia says, laughing, “Who’s the grouchiest band you know?” On some level, I could have respected the group if the band had truly believed what they were saying, but to put me through all that and then for it to actually be bullshit posturing, well, that puts it into another territory.