Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Coachmen [Thurston Moore's Pre-Sonic Youth Band, 1980], by Elodie Lauten

Text by Elodie Lauten © FFanzeen fanzine, 1980
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

This review was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #5, dated August/September 1980, page 30. It was written by award-winning Poet/Postminimalist Musician/Scenester Elodie Lauten.

I’ve never seen the Coachmen live; hell, haven’t seen Sonic Youth (d. 2011), the band Thurston Moore is infamous for, but I did get to sort of hang out with him and then-partner Kim Gordon when I worked as the floor manager for the cable access show Videowave in the ‘80s (see clip at bottom). They seemed a bit distant, but pleasant.

As for the Parisian-born Elodie Lauten (d. 2014), well… we didn’t have a great relationship, honestly.  After this piece, she wrote one more for FFanzeen on, I believe, Chubby Checker that was so stream of consciousness, it was unreadable, not even as poetry. Yes, I was a Neanderthal when it came to stuff like that, and could not appreciate it back in the early ‘80s. Perhaps I would now, if I read it again. When I asked her to rewrite it and why, I became an enemy of the/her state, as it were, and she would bad-mouth me in public, as I was told by someone who had talked to her (honestly don’t remember who, though). I was a punk, and I wasn’t hurt by it, but all these years later, I wish I would have handled it a bit better from my end. She was quite accomplished in the Arts, and it is worth checking out her Website (HERE).

Anything in [brackets and italicized] is written by me, in 2015. – RBF, 2015

John [J.D. King]
When started in rock’n’roll: 1977.
Foods: Nova [lox] and cream cheese on bagel (tomato and onions).
Drugs: Beer and vodka.
Instrument: Fender Guitar.
Favorite song: “Gee Whiz” and “The Hustle.”
Politics: Left.
TV program: “Leave It to Beaver” and “Dick Van Dyke.”
Job: Watchman.
Ideal job: Talent scout.
Favorite type of girl/guy: Smart, non-vindictive.

Bob [Pullin]
When started in rock’n’roll: Year and a half ago.
Favorite idol: Tibor Gergely [Hungarian-American artist of children’s picture books].
Drugs: Alka-Seltzer Plus.
Instrument: Telecaster bass.
Favorite song: “Marquee Moon,”
Politics: Not very.
Religion: Not very.
Job: Illustrator / art supply sales.
Ideal job: Children’s book illustrator.

Thurston [Moore]
When started in rock’n’roll: 7/25/58.
Favorite Idol: John Garfield.
Foods: Coffee rolls.
Drugs: 3-D.
Instrument: Fender Guitar.
Favorite song: “Stir It Up.”
Politics: Spartan.
Religion: Roman Catholic.
TV program: “Little Johnny Jewel.”
Job: Masterdisk.                                                   
Ideal job: Bank robber.
Favorite type of girl/guy: Movie stars.
Describe yourself: “New York Rules.”

Dave [Keay]
When started in rock’n’roll: Beatles.
Favorite Idol: Martin Scorsese.
Foods: Burger King.
Drugs: Alcohol.
Instrument: Ludwig drums.
Favorite song: “Sister Ray.”
Religion: Catholic.
Best friend: Fear.
TV program: “Rockers ’80.”
Job: Book store.                                                    
Favorite type of girl/guy: American.
Describe yourself: American.

FFanzeen: I compare you to the Beach Boys – the part that the vocals play in the Beach Boys is done in your band by guitars. What do you think of that idea?
Coachmen: That’s nice, thanks; the Beach Boys are favorites.

FFanzeen: So, what are your songs about? Reality? Fantasy?
Coachmen: We’d like to do more love songs. They’re kind of tough to do. Smoky Robinson does them – soul; music is all about love. Lately, most love songs seem rather cynical.

FFanzeen: Are you a democratic band?
Coachmen: Yeah. We improvise and feel around and figure out our own parts to an arrangement. It’s all pretty constant and open as far as change and progression go.

FFanzeen: You seem a very New York group. Are you stars?
Coachmen: Well, New York is home. We’re not stars, really.

FFanzeen: Such a casual image. Are you anti-stars?
Coachmen: No.

FFanzeen: What’s a good description for the Coachmen?
Coachmen: Well, we’ve always been a garage band. Experimental. The intent is music to dance to, so… some of us are still a bit shy…


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Shitty Is Gone, by Dava She Wolf, of Star and Dagger

Text © Dava She Wolf, 2010; introduction by Robert Barry Francos
Originally printed in
POPULAR 1 magazine, in Spain
Reprinted with the kind permission of Donna and
Popular 1
Photos © Robert Barry Francos

UPDATED (Originally published on March 5, 2010)

This is the first guest article this blog has ever presented, and when you read this you will know why. It's just too good to be seen only in a magazine from Spain (no disrepect to
Popular 1 intended).

Dava She Wolf was the singer / guitarist in a powerful New York metal-based band, the She Wolves, and is now the guitarist of Star and Dagger. In an earlier incarnation, to which she refers to in the article, she was known as Honey 1%er, a vocalist in the Cycle Sluts From Hell, and wrote what is arguably their most famous number, "I Wish You Were a Beer." Plus, she is as sweet as she is certainly fierce. I am also proud to call her my friend.

As I nod my head in respect, adminration, and affection, I am proud to present her view of life in lower Manhattan in the '80s.

I feel like a ghost.

The New York Shitty I used to know is presently unrecognizable. Most of the original rockers, skinheads, punks and junkies have faded away. Now it’s investment bankers, stylists, trustafarians and hipsters.

All the great clubs and bars, one of a kind record shops, and cheap second hand stores are a dim memory.

Old New York Shitty never had retail chains. I remember when the first Gap landed where the St. Mark’s Cinema used to be. What an affront! Everyone was outraged and bricks were thrown.

Familiar haunts are now Duane Reades, Pottery Barns and slick lobby entrances of overpriced high-rises, where cookie cutter units house cookie cutter people. Mundane crap obliterates sacred spaces where miscreants, fiends and freaks could congregate when New York Shitty was xxxtra special.

Naturally, I don’t miss any of the bad shit, like no heat in the winter, no air-conditioning in the summer, the guns in my face, the knife to my throat, bruises from the occasional bar room brawl, the garden variety muggings on the way home from work, having all my shit stolen. I don’t miss any of that.

I began bartending just so I could live in whatever Lower East Side
shit hole I could afford. I wanted to sleep late, have a good time all the time and escape the norm; not sure want the norm was, but I wanted to escape it. I worked at many different places which, sadly, no longer exist. Places where I saw some strange, incredible shit. Some incredible shit that can’t be written about, I prefer to live out my natural life span.

But some dives, less famous than CBGB, are worth mentioning. New York will never see the likes of them again, no matter how bad the economy craps out.


Sorry if a few details are flawed, it was an agonizingly long time ago, spent mostly under a haze of whatever was being offered.
A few names are dropped. Some are dead, some alive.


My first bartending job was at an after hours club called Berlin, on 21st Street. It had relocated from its Broadway location and it might have been in another spot before that. Berlin was hands down the most freaky, surreal, scary, bizarre bartending gig I have ever had. And that’s saying a lot.
Shit and Corruption were Alive and Well in New York Shitty, which meant if the bagman didn’t get paid, law enforcement would descend to raid the place and arrest all us low-level urchins and misfits just trying to eke out a living to make the rent on our respective, crumbling, pre-war hellholes. These raids were dramatic: bright lights, shoving, screaming, and everyone running like cockroaches for an exit, while guns were being drawn and drugs were being dropped. Good times!

Our clientele consisted of other club workers getting off of work, badasses, musicians, artists, addicts, ne’er-do-wells, tranny-hookers and irregular folks in pursuit of a perpetual narcotic-induced faux sense of well-being. Berlin was a huge loft, painted all black on a derelict floor in a non-descript office building. There was a front bar attached to a back bar, actually an island, which was divided by a wall. The front bar looked out on an elevated DJ booth and a dance floor used for dancing and other activities.

On a good night you could catch a famous celebrity doing very bad things and on a great night you were invited to do very bad things with them. One of my favorite directors, Martin Scorsese, filmed some scenes for his movie After Hours at the club in an attempt to capture the indescribable insanity and ridiculous absurdity that was Berlin. Ha! Forget it. The cinematic version was outlandishly overdone and nowhere near the real thing. Sorry Marty.

After work I’d stash my spoils and head over to another after-hours club for a drink and more what not. In normal person time this would be around 7 a.m. Usually I ended up at the Nursery, or Brownies - “home of the losing slot machine” - on Avenue A and 11th Street. By afternoon if I finally had enough, I’d go home, get a grip and start all over again.

Before starting my glamorous shift at Berlin it was ritual to
fuel up across the street at Danceteria. Easy to do, thanks to something called “club courtesy”. You give me drinks, I give you drinks, and you always tip the bartender. It's pretty hilarious that the word “courtesy” could come into play at either Berlin or Danceteria, but there you have it.

Danceteria was a Mecca for all who were cutting edge and trendy. There were several floors with elevators. In case you got bored on one floor you could go to another and dance, or eat, or drink, and you could hang out on the roof if the weather was nice. Lots of options for the jaded and easily disinterested. The staff there even had their own lingo. If something was very cool they’d say it was either Fierce or Ruling, sometimes both. “Your hair is really Ruling tonight” “The way you threw that drink in her face was so
fucking Fierce”, etc.

All the girls that operated the elevators and tended bar at Danceteria were Fierce and Ruling. Despite all efforts I could not score a gig there. I had Fierce down, but was not yet Ruling. Still, it was a fascinating place where one could behold a pudgy, though no less self–absorbed Madonna, monopolizing the dance floor.
Always one to push an envelope, it is alleged the Material Girl was beaten over the head with a shoe (I’m guessing a Doc Marten) after pissing off a certain Fierce and Ruling bartendress, notorious for not taking shit from anyone, which includes Madonna. Legend has it that Madge was abusing her free drink privileges, repeatedly shuttling cocktails to an elite herd of mystery drinkers without ever leaving a dime and paying only lip service - which culminated in an immediate Zen response. If accurate, this story is of historical significance, because it details the only comeuppance Madonna has ever received in her entire life.
The World

The World was a huge old venue (a former Polish or Ukrainian chapel, I think) on East 3rd Street and Ave C. I can vaguely remember a motif of ornate wrought iron in garish surroundings. I got to bartend here, on and off. My bar-back would later go on to become the ill-famed club kid Michael Alig (Party Monster).
Long after we’d worked together I watched his rise, decked out in
over-the-top drag, on television and in the papers - and then watched his tragic fall exploited throughout the media. It was utterly shocking. When he had bar-backed for me, which was often at many different clubs, he was a hard-working, totally sweet kid. I don’t know what happened in the time that lapsed but I was sad to see his fate take such a wrong turn.

The World was run by legendary club impresario, Arthur Weinstein, and his partners. Arthur was responsible directly, and sometimes indirectly, for the success of some of Manhattan’s best clubs: Hurrah’s, The Jefferson, The Continental, The Milkbar, The Limelight… I can’t remember them all. I found him intimidating, but loved working for him. He was sharply dressed, fond of sarcasm, and had a genius for ambience and lighting, transforming any space into a destination where everyone felt important. Even if they sucked. Someone should make a movie about Arthur Weinstein.

Parts of Talking Heads video: “Burning Down The House,” featuring the ubiquitous comedian/performance artist/actor Rockets Redglare, were shot at The World. Rockets, a gargantuan persona in myth and in girth, was a real character who is remembered for some very infamous things, none of which will be mentioned here. Even though we were probably about the same age, he looked like a big goofy kid, sporting eyeglasses with retro frames, like the ones in news clips from the Kennedy assassination. Rockets made many cameos in several movies. But that pales compared to the amount of cameos he’s made at every bar I’ve ever worked at, especially at The Aztec Lounge during “Happy Hour” (if you want to call it that). Rockets would belly up to the bar as if he was the only customer, since usually he was, and regale me with fantastic Tales of Bullshit and Real Shit while sucking down vodka cranberries faster than I could pour them. Had I not been going toe to toe with him I probably could remember one or two of his incredible stories.

The Aztec Lounge

The Aztec was on 9th Street, between 1st and A, and it was truly a dump. At the time, I was very down and out, but had a nice friend there who hooked me up as my survival depended on it. I started out with day shifts, which were very depressing. At first my only “regular” was this old guy with real bad shakes, always buttoned up in his dirty, worn out, tweed coat. He’d always show up right after I opened. He reminded me of Ray Milland in Lost Weekend, only way older and way, way worse, and he’d only order Blackberry Brandy. I never charged him cause it was the crappy Mr. Boston kind and nobody else drank that shit anyway. Plus it was obvious he was flat broke. I figured he must have been a regular from when it was still The Park Inn, before it became a skinhead romper room. Poor fellow.

A little later, after noontime, all the snotty little squatter kids would show up: aspiring shit-starters and budding skinhead ‘tweens and teens that had no money, and no place to go if it was cold out.

At the time there was thriving hardcore scene. The energy around that part of the East Village was nothing at all like it is now. It was like a powder keg could explode at any minute. Lots of beefing going around over dumb shit, but when you have nothing, dumb shit is important. Sleeping in squats or in the park was not easy and these kids had steam to blow off. Of course they couldn’t drink at my bar. There was no quicker way to get arrested and lose the liquor license than to serve a minor a drink, unlike when I was their age and going to bars and clubs. Back then all you needed was some bullshit I.D. from Times Square and an attitude. Haha. Those were amazing times.

So I had to listen to these youngsters whine, complain and threaten me until their will was completely broken and they finally just gave up. Still they’d come in every day to drink from “the bottomless soda mug”. They were a tough bunch; some were miniature motherfuckers, really, and I’d get to listen to their assorted little stories while I wiped their falafel debris or greasy pizza mess off my bar.
Until “Happy Hour” arrived, I was less like a bartender and more like a warden at a juvenile detention hall.

Once in a while I’d have to bust open a bathroom door to throw out the occasional junkie trying to shoot up. The kids loved that.

One cool thing about those days was that I could bring my dog to work with me. He was a stray named Jack, and was part coyote. He was very protective, but he and the kids got along well and kept each other occupied. It worked out pretty good until one smartass decapitated his Snoopy squeaky toy. Back then I was so fucking broke that even an idiotic rubber squeaky toy was a luxury item. Plus this was a really disrespectful act so I threw all them rotten kids out and 86’d them for a few days. That showed ‘em. They promised to behave again after that and everything was fine, more or less. I always knew I didn’t want kids but my time at Aztec sealed the deal.

Another good thing about having the day shift was that I could play whatever music I wanted. I had cassette tapes that made up a well rounded mix of new stuff from bands that I knew, like Sea Hags and Jane’s Addiction (I had gotten hold of their first demo, which was excellent), the usual ‘70s stuff, predictable punk standards, hardcore for the kids, and a smattering of Sinatra for the few old timers that were left. I liked to keep everyone happy.

After a spell, I had a somewhat disheveled but animated little following and my numbers increased, so I was rewarded with some coveted evening shifts. All the patrons at my bar were awesome. It should have been great, but I didn’t share the same musical tastes as the management. I was making more money but I was also subjected to long, insufferable nights of Pet Shop Boys, Simple Minds, Malcolm McLaren, Bananarama, and other sonic atrocities that made me want to put a staple gun to my ears. It was the final straw.
The Lismar Lounge

Several blocks south and one block east of The Aztec was the Lismar Lounge. I liked going there because they played music that I loved, and there was a pool table. They even had a downstairs area where bands played; to call it a stage would be pushing it. Although owned by a miserable, crooked, Chinese slumlord, Lismar was now being run by a very magnetic guy, Glen Benson, who I knew from Danceteria. Glen was an absolute sweetheart and had all sorts of people flocking to him, including myself. I had no idea how radically my life would change thanks to Glen. He was sweet enough to throw me a bone with some bartending shifts and for that I was grateful, and then things just snowballed from there.

Lismar had a highly charged atmosphere, different than all the other East Village dives. It was an exciting place, full of gorgeous women and cute guys in bands who were always drunk, mostly on themselves. Turns out, this little scum hole would go on to establish an entirely new era in the New York rock scene. Bands like White Zombie, Circus of Power, Warrior Soul, Raging Slab, The Throbs, Cycle Sluts from Hell, and others were all spawned at Lismar Lounge. Joey Ramone frequented the place, and impromptu performances by Joe Walsh and Jane’s Addiction just added to the bar’s status. There were also performances by great local bands like The Skulls, Freaks, and a particularly disgusting shit-drenched spectacle by G.G. Allin. It wasn’t long before every A&R guy in the city was drinking at Lismar, looking for the “next big thing.” If you were hanging out regularly at Lismar and your band didn’t get signed, it must really have sucked.

Glen was dynamic at turning an average night into an event. He came up with something called Cycle Slut Thursdays. All the girls who bartended there were now dubbed Cycle Sluts, and someone eventually tagged on the “From Hell”, probably Glen. We put on a little show during one of those Thursday nights. One thing led to another and then my life changed dramatically.
The next six years would provide a folly of a different sort.

A lot can be said for being in the right place at the right time.

Those places and those times are gone for good.

Friday, January 15, 2016

DVD Documentary Review: Song of the South – Duane Allman & the Rise of the Allman Brothers Band

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2016
Images from the Internet

Song of the South: Duane Allman and the Rise of the Allman Brothers Band
Written and directed by Tom O’Dell
Narrated by Thomas Arnold
Sexy Intellectual Films / Prism Films / Chrome Dreams Media
131 minutes, 2013

Before watching this documentary, here is just about everything I know about the Allman Brothers Band: formed by Duane Allman on guitar at the start, he died young in a motorcycle accident; his brother Gregg, also in the band, married Cher, fathering Elijah Blue and the union ended in a messy and public divorce; and the last is the omnipresent WOLDies die-hard “Ramblin’ Man,” ironically the band’s biggest and lasting hit that was released after Duane’s demise. But you see, that’s what’s great about this British series, at over 2 hours long, you can learn a lot in relatively a short amount of time.

Of course, this documentary is not only about the Allman Bros, per se – at least not the first the first hour – but rather about the rise of Duane Allman from just a minnow in Daytona Beach, FL (remember, Tom Petty is also from F-L-A, as Freddie Cannon once sang). Though only living to 24 years until wasting his life away in a motorcycle accident, he is given the credit for practically single-handedly creating Southern Blues Rock, and highly influencing the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Talking Heads. Okay, I’m kidding about the last one.

While long guitar virtuoso freeform guitar has never been my cuppa, I know how to respect the talent, and I have no argument with someone towards the end of this documentary commenting that Duane Allman deserves to be up there with the likes of Hendrix and, well, pick a Yardbirds guitarist. His influence is felt in what has become known as Southern Rock, but I would also argue that there are probably a lot of post psychedelic blues-based bands that learned a lick or two from ol’ Duane.

While there is some detail in the second half about the Allman Brothers Band [ABB], I was more intrigued by the earlier period of Duane’s life, during the 1960s, flittering around in bands like his first in 1961, the Uniques, the Escorts, and the Allmen (or, sometimes, All-Men), where he grew his musical chops. The music of choice for Duane was the Blues, as the number of blues clips shown in the documentary attest to his influences. For the acid (nascent Southern) rockers of his 20s and especially the guitarists, Blues was the backbone as much as rock and roll. Yes, there was quite  a bit of country mixed in there, especially with pre-ABB superstars like the ‘Dead (who combined all those sounds into what would be called “Americana”), but artificial substances would affect nearly all the musicians at the end of the ’60 and into the ‘70s. I give you Janis, for example. Duane and his band the Hour Glass moved to the West Coast pre-ABB at the hippie high-point (pun intended); there are a couple of albums released by that collective, influenced by the counter-culture.

The Hour Glass was especially interesting to me, because they sound more Left Coast than Southern Bayou, leaning towards Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears (though an overhanded producer is credited with that horn sound more than the band themselves). While brass and rock’n’roll has always been a bit on an oxymoron to me, the clips they play here didn’t sound too bad. Well, no worse than the two bands I mentioned, anyway.

After an attraction to Taj Mahal’s sound, Duane learned slide guitar, and then moved on to the infamous Muscle Shoals Studio in the Deep South, where he honed his talent further by backing up numerous soul and blues musicians. For the Allman fan, I’m not stating anything new, and for those who are Allman-curious, there is a whole lot more detail I’m not giving way.

I found it interesting that not only was blues an influence to the band, and especially Duane, but that he also had a later dedication to jazz, which was introduced to him by ABB drummer Jaimone Johanson. That helps explain some of the wild Miles and Coltrane flairs he had on incredibly long jams (their double-sided At the Fillmore LP had on average two songs per side, definitely giving the Dead a run for their money).

One moment I had joy with was the discussion of how Duane influenced Derek and the Dominoes when he briefly toured with them, taking “Layla” – one of the early ‘70s best rock period songs – from a ballad to what it became (of course, Clapton would have a hit with it again decades later in its slowed down, acoustic version). Again, not old news, but it’s always a joy to hear that song, even for a snippet.

The Chrome Dream formula is followed to a tee, with short, under 30-second clips of songs (both live and played over purchased b-roll, such has having images of cars and roads for “Midnight Rider,” the ABB’s first hit), talking head interviews with musicians and recording studio engineers who were there, and biographers and music historians who talk about second-hand stories and the band’s influence – as usual, no voices of women anywhere; not even wives are mentioned, let alone talking. Of course, Southern Rock is not exactly known for being a bastion for women musicians, but good ol’ boy drinkin’ and carousin’ – and a wonderful narration by Thomas Arnold.  There is also a 1970 radio interview with Duane heard in snippets full of musician-talk soundbites like “man” and “cat”; it’s the only time we hear his voice when he’s not singing. The one thing I would change if I could, given what it is, is I would put the person identification sporadically throughout, rather than only the first time the person talking is shown. Perhaps this is an assumption that the audience would know who they are? This is a minor pet peeve of mine. In fact, there is more, detailed information I would have liked to hear about, such as Duane’s OD in October 1970, which is only briefly touched on in one of the extras.

The one oddity I found is that nearly everyone on here, while discussing the importance of the other members, such as Gregg and Dickie Betts, and how they were as talented in some ways as Duane in their own rights, the consensus seems to be after Duane died, the ABB when downhill afterwards. I find this weird because, as I said, the one song that is the most identifiable with the band, Betts’ “Ramblin’ Man,” was recorded after Duane’s motorcycle accident.  The song is not mentioned here, even when talking about the “decline” of the band after Duane’s death.

There are two extras, not counting the text of the contributors’ bios. The first is the 8-minute “Willie Perkins: Life Amongst the Brothers.” He was the road manager for the band, and is represented throughout the main documentary. This is more an extended scenes that anything else; this is not meant in any demeaning way, as he tells some interesting tidbits about the man. The same is true for the second short, the X-minute “Recording the Allmans: The Albert Brothers and Criteria Studios.”

As a music historian myself, it’s always good and interesting to fill in some of the gaps of my knowledge base (hey, punk is mentioned once at the one hour-19 minute mark!). I’ll probably never purposefully purchase an ABB slide, as I don’t have one in my collection now, but I do feel more informed about the topic. That’s one of the things Chrome Dream and Prism Films is best at, yawl.

Bonus, non-disk video: