Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Music Reviews: January 2021

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2021
Images from the Internet

Music Reviews: January 2021
Note that these reviews are alphabetical, not listed in a “ratings” order.


Ben Sutin Quartet
Hard Bop Hanukkah: Live @ Rockwood Music Hall

Hard bop, a subgenre of bop jazz, was fomented by the likes of Miles Davis and Coltrane. It is wild and a bit musically asymmetrical, relying more on sharps/flats and a tempo of its own and often changing nature. The opening of the six cuts, “Have a Little Dreidel,” shows exactly what is expected right off the – er – spin. Ben Sutin, who leads the Quartet, is the arranger and violinist, who tends to play at the high end of the instrument. He is met evenly by Sam Javitch’s piano. They are backed by Cole Davis on bass and Evan Sherman’s drums. But it is the violin and piano that are out front on this live recording in one of my favorite spaces to hear non-punk/rock music in New York, Rockwood Music Hall, down on the LES of NYC. The third song, “Neroit Dolkim,” has the bones of Klezmer (which I thoroughly enjoy). Sutin’s modified V-necked electric violin gives him access to the very high ends of the strings, while Javitch uses his piano for both melody and part of the rhythm section simultaneously. “Sevivon, Sov, Sov, Sov” (translated as “Dreidel, Spin, Spin, Spin), the longest cut on the release, gives the rhythm section a chance to solo in smatterings. This may sound blasphemous, but parts of “Maoz Tzur” (or “Ma’oz Tzur” aka “Strong Rock”), from the 13th Century, sounds like it could be off Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas album (I am saying that in a positive way, as that is the only Xmas record I can tolerate). The musicianship is superb, as would have to be to play in this style, and the Quartet go full force. As with many jazz styles, the songs are all instrumentals, and tend to average around 6 minutes, but they do both swing and bop. Might be good to get this now and have it ready for the next time Hanukkah rolls around.

Mission Two Entertainment
The Cro-Mags are to hardcore what the Ramones were to the first wave of punk. These New Yorkers blazed a trail that was picked up by a disenfranchised youth into a movement of fury, anger, and moshing. In fact, Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan was the first mosher I ever saw when he was still with the Stimulators in the early 1980s, at a Siouxsie and the Banshees show at Irving Plaza. The Cro-Mags called it quit for a few decades, and now have come back with the second release this year, in this six-song opus that lasts, yep, 20 minutes and 20 seconds. Needless to say, it covers the topics of the year, including COVID-19 and street rioting. Starting off strong, the band wails with “Quarantine,” which leads pretty strongly with Garry “G-Man” Sullivan on bass, and Rocky George on Greg Ginn/J. Mascis-ish lead shred guitar (note that George used to be with Suicidal Tendencies). As with the rest of the songs – “2020,” “Life on Earth,” “Violence and Destruction,” “Chaos in the Streets,” and the instrumental “Confusion,” there is an atonal element that pounds and works, even with the chant-worthy choruses such as with “Life on Earth.” There’s even a bit of New Agey reverb used on occasion, such as the beginning of “Violence and Destruction,” before it descends into hardcore madness.  Despite the screechy, amazing guitarwork by George, parring with Gabby Abularach on rhythm, the songs are more rhythm focused on top of almost No Wave-inspired hardcore with Flanagan (bass) giving some thrash metal growl lyrics. Honestly, without a lyric sheet, I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but the songs stand up, especially “Chaos in the Street,” which is more traditional hardcore, and is by far my fave here. It concludes with a bit of just a part of an in-studio freestyle jam. The Cro-Mags have not lost their edge and deserve a listen.


Jordan Rabinowitz
A Couple Songs
For years, Rochester, NY native/Washington, DC-based Rabinowitz has bounced around the music scene playing bass with other groups before settling down and working on his own material. He has now released a five song EP (available on YouTube HERE).  His songs feel like light, singer-songwriter style, but actually are kind of dark, talking about break-ups, love ending, and leaving. Jordan’s voice is pleasant without being same-old-same-old, with a hint of pitchiness that works for him. Note that the songs are fully backed by a band in which sometimes the feel of the song gets a bit mired in a way that would not happen if he were a solo-performer, but that’s the nature of the beast in today’s studio-produced world. It’s a good listen, though, and for a debut record, the songs are well written and performed.


It’s Alright But It’s Never Enough
Mark Rockower Music
Great name for the band; fortunate that the center of it has this appellation. Mark Rockower is on vox, guitar and synthesizer (and songwriting), Derek Hughes plays bass, backed mostly by Jax Bowers on drums. But essentially, this is a two-man outfit, even recording it in Hughes studio (garage? basement?). This harmonious (i.e., overdubs of Rockower’s vocals) almost pop rock has all the hallmark sounds of a demo. Now, to be fair, a demo sound is so much more preferred by us aficionados than the cold, overproduced music mostly found on the radio today. It reminds me of the likes of The Nerves (who originally sang “Hanging on the Telephone”). The amateurishness (of the sound, not the playing ability) is refreshing and enjoyable, starting right off with the upbeat “American Dope.” Each song going forward is a bit different, but the overdubbing is pretty consistent, though I believe it should be used more sparingly, such as on choruses; overdubbing vocals also make it harder to hear the lyrics. “The Other Side” sounds a bit more garage from the late ‘60s, or possibly less formulaic than the early ‘80s. As the CD plays on, it definitely grew on me more. Sure, “Simple Minds” is a bit of filler, but they make up for it with the very next up-beat poppy number, “Lunar Star.” For a miss, like “Vacation Girl,” a synth noise mess, there are others that are worth the listen, like (again) the following cut, “Driving Force” and the title number, which closes out the 10-song disc. Basically, the entire zeitgeist is about American culture in the here and now, which makes it an interesting timepiece. I definitely liked it more on the second listen.  Weirdly, the biggest mistake is not printing the name of the band or CD on the disc proper, rather than just an image. Good way to get the disc lost.


Brothers Vol 1
Melodicrock Records
TASTE is a “legendary” rock group from Down Under which originally formed in the 1970s, but I am not sure I have ever heard of them before, as this kind of ‘70s rock (they are often compared to the likes of Queen and 10cc) that never held my attention. But this is a new 5-song EP. It starts off with a kiss-off to a “horrible year” with “2020’s Gone.” It’s a power ballad celebrating the coming of a new year and hopefully new – err – hope. The production level is high, but it has a catchy and flamboyant chorus. Its follow-up “Hello Hello” is almost more rock power pop, which feels stuck in the ‘70s reminding me more of REO Speedwagon than Queen. Lots of harmonies, especially on the choruses. Ken Murdoch’s vocals are not traditionally rock tenor-and-above rock screeching, but rather it’s quite pleasant. He is well backed by Joey Armenta on guitar, Michael Tortoni on bass, and Damian Corniola on drums. “(We All) Stand Up” is a ballad paced bit of a corny and cliché rock with lyrics that are a bit insipid; what would at one time may be called “filler.” It’s follow-ups are live (or live in studio) versions of their previous songs, “Rock is Dead”  and “I Don’t Wanna Be Like You,” which are a bit better as rockers with the band getting to exercise a bit more of its instrumental prowess (including an extended drum solo on “Rock,” and clocking in at over six minutes). “I Don’t,” which is more guitar-focused, has an Aerosmith feel during their prime. Note that all proceeds go to benefit Beyond Blue, to help those affected by anxiety, depression, and suicide. A noble cause, indeed.


Friday, January 15, 2021

WALTER LURE On the Gross State of the Art, Part III (1980 Interview)

Text by Nancy Foster / FFanzeen, 2021
Introduction by Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2021
Images from the Internet

WALTER LURE On the Gross State of the Art, Part III

“Uncle” Walter Lure left us suddenly on August 22, 2020. The man was a New York legendary musician and guitarist/songwriter, as well as stockbroker with an advanced Chemistry degree. He made his claim to fame with bands such as The Demons, The Blessed, The Heroes, The Waldos, but especially as Johnny Thunders’ foil in the revamped (i.e., post-Richard Hell) version of The Heartbreakers. This band released two astonishingly influential albums during their tenure, L.A.M.F. and Live at Max’s. Heck, he even had a call out at the end of Eater’s 1977 single, Thinkin’of the USA.” 

Superfan Nancy Foster did an extensive interview with Walter just as they were closing Max’s Kansas City’s back room, locking it for good as she and Walter left, on December 10, 1980. It was printed in two parts in FFanzeen #7 and #8 in 1981, subsequently reprinted in this blog (Part I HERE and Part II HERE). It was so in-depth that sections of the 50 typed pages had to be cut out for length, and it was still quite large.

In honor of Walter’s passing, here are the parts of the interview that were edited out of the original two pieces, and has never been published before this. – RBF, 2021

FFanzeen: [Referring to Lennon’s assassination two days earlier] It’s been like a wake here. They’ve been playing “Imagine” and stuff like that. I’m going oo-we-oo! It’s getting to be too much.
Walter Lure: Yeah, they’re going to overdose everybody on it. Still, it’s incredible. I didn’t realize that I like the guy that much. I wasn’t all that hot about The Beatles. Well, in the beginning, I was. The Stones were always my favorite. So, I’d play the Stones against the Beatles. I still respect them for what they did – even later on. Now that he’s gone, you realize the incredible effect that he had on the whole generation. Without him, none of us would be where we are today.

FF: He was like my number one hero when I was 13, but you don’t see me lining up down at the Dakota.
Walter: That’s like another weird thing. People just go there and they stand there – the power of the guy. There’s nothing happening – no services or people to see or talk to; they’re all just standing there drawn like a magnet to this weird moment.

FF: And some people just want to be on the news. The newscaster says, “All these people are mourning!” and then you see all these kids smiling and waving at the cameras.
Walter: Yeah. They bring their radios and start hopping around and get in the paper: “Hey, mom!”

FF: Also to pick up and console girls.
Walter: Shocking! Shocking!

* * *


Walter: [About fanzines] …Cheap magazines. We used to see billions of them in England. There were some in New York, but not that many, I guess.

FF: I’ve been doing New Age [Nancy’s then-fanzine started while she lived in Greensboro] for five years. It started out as a Lou Reed fanzine and evolved into something else.
Walter: North Carolina?! What happens in North Carolina? Are there punk groups down there?

FF: Not that much: Most groups are cover bands because there isn’t that much of a market for punk or places for the groups to play.
Walter: Do bands get places to play?

FF: Yeah, but most kids still seem to like hard rock more than rock’n’roll.
Walter: They’d rather hear, like, Kansas or Foreigner. That’s always the case for places outside New York, LA, and maybe Chicago.

FF: Greensboro is a large secondary market and we get all the hoopla bands like the ones you named, but nothing like The Heartbreakers, obviously.
Walter: What about the groups from Georgia, like the B-52s?

FF: No, there aren’t that many good clubs to play in North Carolina. We’re trying to build it up. I put on shows last winter and lost a lot of money.
Walter: In theaters? How many people did the place hold?

FF: About 500, but only a handful of people showed up. Things didn’t start opening up until this summer.
Walter: What bands did you put on?

FF: The dBs. Then there was this band called The Leeches that I managed. I sang “Chinese Rocks” with them.
Walter: [cracking up with laughter] You sang “Chinese Rocks”?! What a nutcase!

FF: I’m going to do it with [Greensboro band] Butchwax and change it to “Flintstone Rocks” on December 20. I’m changing all the people to Flintstones characters. Inspired by who, I wonder.
Walter: New Wave needs a small club to start booking groups, advertise, and become something regular. 

FF: It’s fun, though. When I did it, it was more like having a party.
Walter: Not that many people into it down there?

FF: No, unfortunately.
Walter: Outside of the major cities, it takes years to catch on.

FF: It’s not a media-oriented city. Greensboro’s idea of punk is something like the B-52s.
Walter: At least that’s new. I even like them a little bit.

FF: Yeah, but the kids have a few groups that they think are cool. I always had a grudge against the B-52s because they were always the group that the pseudo–New Wave fans cited when the said [mocking a big, moronic jerk] “Oh! I’m really into New Wave!” Yet I have to admit that some of the songs are fun.
Walter: I didn’t like the first album that much, but I liked “Rock Lobster.” The rest of it didn’t do much for me. They used to be funny live. The girls are real cool. I like the girls. They’re funny. They go, “Oo-oo-oo” – little bean heads. They look like pinheads.

* * * 

FF: I hear that [drummer Jerry Nolan, died January 14, 1992 – Ed.] totally retired from rock’n’roll. He’s very bitter.
Walter: I don’t blame him.

FF: Did he leave The Rockats or did he get sacked?
Walter: He split them, actually.

FF: That’s really stupid – just as they’re signing an eight-album deal.
Walter: I know. That’s typical of Jerry. Every band that he’s been in, he splits when they’re just about to make it or when something good is happening. The only band that he actually split when they were dying was the [New York] Dolls. The going started getting rough for the Dolls. They couldn’t get any more gigs. They weren’t as popular anymore. Jerry just decided to split. Every album that Jerry’s ever made or been on, as soon as it comes out, he says the album sucks. It should’ve been remixed, and that it’s terrible. He’s got this thing that no matter what he does, he fucks himself up. With the Rockats, he splits just before they are going to get their album deal and he knew it was going to happen, because they all had these important gigs lined up with the record company people coming down. He splits saying that the band is not professional enough. Like, he’s the most unprofessional person. He’s, like, 34 years old, has been in about eight bands, and doesn’t have a dime in his pocket. And he says that he’s too good for The Rockats?! BuddyBowser said the other day that he’s starting a band with Jerry [Jerry Nolan and the Profilers – Ed.], but I don’t know if that’s true or not. Jerry doesn’t go anywhere. He just sort of hangs out. Yet, he’s probably the best drummer I’ve ever played with. He’s a natural.

* * *


FF: Like [comedian] Dave Street said, [Blondie] didn’t sell out, they bought in! I really respect Clem Burke for producing that great, young group called The Colors.  They are really fun. I like them. They are perfect pop.
Walter: Yeah, they’re real pop. The one kid looks like he’s a double of Brian Jones. The bass player is from Australia.

FF: Robert Vickers. He’s a really good songwriter, too.
Walter: Yeah, he is.

FF: They might be like a hardcore Bay City Rollers.
Walter: Yeah, exactly! They remind me of the Bay City Rollers or something like that. They all look a lot younger than they are, apparently. They’re all real cute and have that poppy look. They might make it.

FF: What was the first guitar that you had?
Walter: Apart from these beginning things that we used to rent called Ks, the first one I got was a Hagstrom. My brother [Richie Lurie – Ed.] started playing guitar the same time that I did. He’d go take the lessons and come home and teach me what he learned. We started out together. But he used to go to school and I was out of school. I used to stay home all night and play all the time. I learned quicker because I was older and had a bigger brain. Then he got a Telecaster, which was a better guitar than the Hagstrom. The Hagstrom was cool, but it was gross, too. You would put it into an amplifier and it would just feed back. The strings are about two inches away from the fret board. You needed a sledgehammer to make it ring out. It’s good for the muscles in your hand. It builds them up. He got his Telecaster and I used to like that. That was nice. Then I got a Gibson SG when I was in college for a couple of hundred bucks. That was good. Then I got a Les Paul.

FF: Is the one you play now your most favorite guitar in the whole wide world?
Walter: The best Les Paul I had was Custom and it was red. It was cherry red like my brother’s is now. I traded that to the other guitar player in The Demons for the one I now have, the brown one. That’s the guitar that I like to play the most because I’m most used to it. I have another one. It’s an old Gibson. It’s sort of like Johnny’s old one, but it’s a bit different. It’s a Junior, I think. It’s a different year and it only has one cutaway instead of two. The old Gibson has these fat, black pickups that gets the greatest sound. That’s what Johnny had. It gets this great cutting sound. The trouble is that the neck isn’t as easy to play. So, I haven’t really played it that much onstage. I used it once with The Blessed and once with The Heartbreakers at the Village Gate [in 1977 – Ed.]. I haven’t played it onstage since. I will, sooner or later, I suppose.

FF: Do you ever play acoustic guitar?
Walter: I play it at home, but never onstage. It’s good to write songs on because you don’t’ have to worry about plugging it into an amp.

* * *

FF: When did you start giving guitar lessons?
Walter: A few kids would come over every now and then. I’d teach them a few things and they’d be too fucked-up or not have any money or guitar. There’s this one girl I’m giving lessons to now. Well, I’ve given her one lesson in the last month. She didn’t have a guitar. So, I gave her the first lesson and said that there’s no sense in taking more lessons until you have a guitar to practice with. So, I took her to 48th Street and picked out a good guitar and she practiced for a week or so. She was supposed to come over for a second lesson on the fifth, but she got lost. I’ll give sessions to anyone who wants them.

FF: How much does it cost?
Walter: I’m charging $10 an hour, which is actually cheap. When I was taking piano and guitar lessons years ago, people charged me $10 and then raised it to $15. I’ve only given one lesson so far.

* * *


FF: Have you heard those Clause Bolling things, like “Jazz Suite for Flute and Piano”? That’s really beautiful.

Walter: I’ve heard of him, but I’m not really familiar with it. I like Jean-Pierre Rampal. I like Tchaikovsky’s symphonies a lot and his ballets; and Schubert.


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Italians and Mob Memories of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Italians and Mob Memories of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2021
Images from the Internet

If one grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY, in the 1960s and 1970s, it did not matter what nationality you were, you knew someone who was associated with the Italian mob directly or indirectly, and it was like a spinal form that hovered over the neighborhood, being the nerve center that permeated the very air.

The neighborhood joke was that the mob kept the locality safe, and they only killed each other, so that made the area pretty safe. Without glorifying it in any way, there was a certain level of truth to that. Crime such as burglaries or street robberies were exceedingly low at that period.

The part of Bensonhurst I grew up in was a pretty even mix of Italian and Jewish, and a smattering of Irish – although the further north you went, the higher the percentage of Italians – and an extremely limited number of Asian and African-American. Of the latter two, I only knew of two families of each. The two Asian families owned the competing Chinese restaurants (no take-out joints at that time, which would come in the 1980s) along 86 Street, between 20 Avenue and Bay Parkway. There were two pizza parlors (Neil’s, on 20 Avenue just north of 86 Street, and Lenny’s, on 86 Street just west of 20 Avenue, the latter of which was made famous in the opening credits for Saturday Night Fever) and two Kosher Delis (Hy Tulip, directly across the street from Lenny’s, and another one on 86 Street, just east of Bay Parkway, which we referred to as “The other side of Bay Parkway”; this is where the opening credits from “Welcome Back Kotter” was shot). The lone Italian restaurant was the Villa Borghese, on the corners of Bath Avenue and 20 Avenue.

Of course, there were other pizza parlors in the area, such as the Pizza Den on 18 Avenue, between 86 Street and New Utrecht Avenue, which was in the background in a scene from Steven Segal and Jerry Orbach’s Out for Justice (1991; my dad took some pix of the filming), and one on 18 Avenue and 86 Street.

The “American” style restaurants were essentially diners, as The Richelieu on 86 Street, east of 2 Avenue and The New Dyker, next to the Pizza Den. These were all within walking distance of my abode. One of them, however, the Vegas Diner on 86 Street and 16 Avenue (closed in 2017, and is now the Golden Palace Chinese Restaurant), was known to be “connected” to the mob and one of their hangouts, but we always felt safe eating there among the wiseguys.

Being non-Italian, I still had indirect connections. For example, there were two related families in my building whose dads worked regular jobs, but according to my parents, were connected to the mob. I never saw any indication of this other than these families wore some pretty fancy church-going clothes. I did not get along with them thanks to their obnoxious and rude daughters (who were a couple of years younger than me) on both sides.

It was all around. For example, the guy who had a limp and ran the local newspaper concession below the 20 Avenue B Line (changed to the D Line since 2001), had a side business of “taking numbers” for the local mob. What this entailed (or maybe still does) is basically illegal gambling. The bettor would pick a number, and if that number showed up in a specific place in the daily newspaper, you’d win; it’s sort of alike an early, bootleg version of the Lotto. On occasion (i.e., every few months), my dad would give it a try, but I don’t remember him ever winning anything.

My first employer, Alex, from where I delivered fruit by bicycle from his shop when I was between 13 through 16 years old, sold cigarettes for the mob, including to my mother. More amusing stories about Alex the Fruit Man are HERE.  On the way to work, there were usually a guy or two sitting outside an apartment building on 20 Avenue, across from Neil’s Pizza (now called La Bella’s Pizza). They kept an eye on the area, would be the people to talk to if you has issues (such as being robbed), and possibly also taking numbers.


While I was an usher at the Marboro Theater on 69 Street and Bay Parkway (since torn down and a CVS Pharmacy in its place), at least three of the ushers either were connected, or related to members. When I was transferred to the Alpine Theater on 69 Street and Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, again, some of the ushers were connected by family to the Family. As far as I know, there were no external crimes at either theater while I was employed there (I am pretty sure some of the ushers and cashiers did have a thing with ticket swapping, and I know one of the managers definitely did).

When I worked as the typesetter for a Third Avenue Bay Ridge weekly newspaper called The Weekly (affectionately known to the workers as “The Eekl,” as the “W” and “Y” were missing from the sign out front) during the late 1970s, there was someone there whom I will refer to as Mr. M (as I don’t remember his name) who proudly claimed to be part of the Omerta. I was wondering why someone with those connections would be working for a small, community newspaper. I also didn’t question it, but we got along congenially. When a co-worker got mad at me when I insisted that Brian from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) was not Jesus as the character of Jesus appears in the film, he threatened to take me outside. Mr. M asked me if he wanted me to “take care of him.” I said no for a few reasons, such as I knew it would blow over and it did, and second, I did not want to be owing Mr. M a favor. One time, Mr. M invited me over for dinner to meet his wife and toddler child. I accepted the invite, but was unnerved by the loaded handgun on the nightstand. I thought to myself, “Really? With a small child running around?” I never mentioned it to him, never went back, and lost touch after I left the job shortly after that (but not because of that incident; I got a better job as a typesetter for First Boston, a major corporation located in the World Trade Center; now neither the occupation, the company, nor the WTC exists).


81 Street and 18 Avenue

I only know of two “hits” that occurred in the area around me, one being in front of a dry cleaner on Bath Avenue (technically, that’s the neighborhood of Bath Beach, but often it was combined with Bensonhurst), and the other some smart ass goombah shot by the front entrance of his apartment on 81 Street, just off 18 Avenue (across from Milestone Park, about two avenue blocks away from me) by his girlfriend’s father from Staten Island. I saw the blood stains on the street of the latter when I passed it the next day.


Through all these encounters, I never once felt personally threatened by the presence of the mob, though many of the bullies I have encountered in my life were the Tony Manero types who had connected family and had the cocky “do you know who my dad/uncle is?” attitude and ego.

All that being said, if you grew up in my neighborhood at the time I matured…well, aged into adulthood, there was a little bit of Italiano that crept into your life, your personality, and very being. I have been told that when I read Spanish aloud, I do it with an Italian accent.


True digression story: I was visiting my Aunt Elsie and Uncle Al in Lauderhill, FL, in the early 1980s. Elsie asked me to go to the strip mall across from her condo and order a large pie from a shop called “New York Pizza.” I went in and ordered it. The guy behind the counter took out the pie dough that’s 12 inches across. I said, “No, a large pizza,” as a large in Bensonhurst is 18 inches. He responded, “This is a large pizza,” in an accent familiar to me. So, I replied, “No, cougino, not molto poco, I want molto grosso, capisce? Then he said something to me in Italian, to which I responded, quite truthfully as I only know a few phrases, “Non capisce Italiano.” He squinted his eyes and said, “Where ya from?” I said, “20th and 81st.” No avenue, no street, just the numbers. He smiled and said, “I’m from 78th and 18th,” just a few blocks away. While we talked about the neighborhood, he took two 12-inch pies and melded them together so it took the shape of a race track, and made that into my pie. He broke two boxes so it would fit, and taped it up, charging me for one. That piasan was a mensch.


Once was Alex's Fruit Stand

Over time, the neighborhood changed. Many locals thought it was a bad thing, but I believe it was for the better. As my generation moved out to the suburbs or Staten Island, it created a void that was filled by especially Russians and Chinese, but there is also Mexicans, Polish, Kosovo Albanians, and so many others. Ethnic shops and restaurants now abound. As the storefront of American and International Foods, where Alex’s fruit shop once sat, states, “Foods from Israel, Turkey, Italia, Spain, Bulgaria, Egypt, Russia & Europe.” Diversity is good. Whether the mob still has influence on the area, I have no idea. Perhaps they either share the space or have been replaced by the Tong and Russian mobs, I could not tell you as I have not lived there for a while.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

FFuture FFile reprinted from FFanzeen Magazine, Part 1 [1981-83]

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2021
Images from the Internet, unless indicated

One of the reasons I started my print fanzine in 1977, was to help publicize the unknown bands that I was going to see in the clubs that did not get enough notice. In the early 1980s, I started a column called “FFuture FFile,” which were short blurbs about new and up-and-comers, so the musicians could use it for publicity. They were written by different authors. Below, I have reprinted the musicians or bands in alphabetical order (rather than chronologically, and by first name if a single artist), who wrote it, and in which year/issue, the piece was published. Even though they had varying levels of success, they all deserved some notice. On occasion, I will add an update at the end of the particular pieces. Where I can, I will attach a photo and/or video.

Photo (c) RBF
Boy’s Life
By Robert Barry Francos
Issue 8; 1981
When they first started playing out in February 1980, Boy’s Life were too young to be patrons in most of the bars they played. They named themselves after the offical Boy Scout magazine, and used to appear on stage in Scout uniforms. Well, they’ve matured over the almost two yeas and no long wear uniforms, but their initial excitement is still present. This Boston-based (Malden, actually) band didn’t make much of a mark in New York until they opened for Stiff Little Fingers at the Peppermint Lounge. At first, the audience wasn’t impressed with these young guys and showed them such by (quite tackily) throwing cherries at them. But by the time Robert Weiner (drums), Joe McCormack (bass), Neal Sugarman (sax), and John Surette (lead singer and guitar) were ending their act, the audience gave them a rousing cheer – in fact, to bring them back for an encore. They surprised all. While up in Boston this last Memorial Day, I got a chance to see Boy’s Life at the Rat, in their natural habitat (i.e., Boston) and quite honestly, New York has no idea how exciting this band can be. We’ve never seen them at their best, even when they opened for Echo & the Bunnymen at the Ritz in October. Their influences are obvious: Clash, Jam and Pistols; and not obvious: Beatles, Who, and Kinks. With a few independent records to their name, they have been listed as one of the top unsigned bands in the country by a number of top music mags. Boy’s Life is constantly growing, and their popularity increases as well. Their latest single, “Two Doors Down” and “I Found Her” is now available.
[John Surette has been in bands such as the Deniros and the Ex-Girlfriends, and appears in on-stage rock operas in the Boston area. – RBF, 2021]

Photo (c) RBF
The Corpsicles
By Julia Masi
Issue 9; 1982
Over the oversized graphic of a menacing-looking popsicle, the Corpsicles – Philip Freeze, vocals and guitar; Luke Warm, bass, and Mike Leary, drums – knock out a sound that they call “straight-drivin’-through-New York stuff.” They’re reminiscent of the Ramones and the Heartbreakers at their best, with the essence of hardcore and a strong aura of originality that lets their tongue-in-cheek style put them in a class all their own. Right now, Philip writes all the songs, like “Sex with You,” “Poison Blood,” “Confusion,” and “Don’t Judge Me,” and dedicates them to the depressed, the mentally ill, and vampires. “The whole Corpsicles idea,” Philip explains, “is that you have to be an individual. And people that are individuals are sort of repressed. I like people that are off the wall. It’s good to be a little mentally ill.” He describes the band as a sort of free arrangement. I like to get out there and give it all I have. It’s this expression; if everyone expresses themselves to the fullest, it’s just this energy. As long as I see progress, I’m happy. You really have to stick it out. I just want to have a good time playing. We try. We like a lot of different types of music. But this what we do.” And they do it well.

The Cosmopolitans
By Stacy Mantel and Alan Abramowitz
Issue 7; 1981
“A lot of music that people are dancing to is depressing. Today, people are in a horrible depression,” says Jamie Sims, vocalist and songwriter for the Cosmopolitans. And her prescription for rock’n’roll health is to “present an idea of a party rather than a serious thing.” They proved this with their single “How to Keep Your Husband Happy” b/w “Wild Moose Party,” on Shake Records. A hit with Vassar coeds among others, “Husband Happy” epitomizes this sentiment; that parody, fun, and rock’n’roll can co-exist. Jamie got the idea from an early ‘60s Debbie Drake record that Nel Moore (co-lead vocalist, who doubles on metal pot and baton) gave her, which lists ways to keep the hubby hooked. “I didn’t make them up, they’re real,” says Jamie. “It was so ridiculous. I had to do something.” The Cosmopolitans are Jamie and Nel, lead vocals; David Itch, guitar; Evan “Funk” Davies on drums (and host of WNYU’s New Afternoon show); and Fran Kowalski on keyboards. Jamie and Nel had a modest start in rock’n’roll as go-go girls for the dBs and the Fleshtones, and they plan to give dancing lessons at upcoming gigs. However, it may be difficult to dance instead of watching two girls in pink fringy min-skirts bopping about, but Jamie isn’t really bothered: “I just pretend it’s a party, and not everyone’s gonna dance.” So be prepared to learn the Frug, Jerk, Fly, et. al.

The Donny Fury Band
By Stacy Mantel
Issue 7; 1981
The Donny Fury Band is a lively mix of crazies who also happen to have fun with electronic guitars and such. If, perchance, you are able to catch the multi-colored, leather-clad quartet at the local haunt, you will be entertained in a fashion not unknown to us. The group tries its best to bring audience participation to a peak; Donny offers the mic to a frenetic-looking individual right near the stage or dives in and hunts for one of the congregation. “We do whatever strikes our fancy,” Donny states. DFB includes one Cee Cee on vocals (who also manages CBGBs); Donny Fury (who also has his own recording studio where they produced their single, “Plastic Man” b/w “Wild West”) is the guitarist; along with Pat Dime on drums and Jeff Hosang on bass. They create a sound which Cee Cee describes as “very pop and vocal-oriented with importance place on harmonies. “We’re not just a band to listen to, we’re a visual stage show, as well.” One of their songs features Donny on slide guitar, using a vibrator; and when that isn’t available, he’ll use a big, bright banana, instead. Did I hear someone whisper “phallic”?

Fats Deacon and the Dumbwaiters
By Stacy Mantel
Issue 7; 1981
“Rock’n’roll got so far away, it was hard to communicate with it,” says Fats Deacon, front man and keyboardist for Fats Deacon and the Dumbwaiters, one of the more thrilling rock’n’roll bands to hit the scene in years. “Everything’s been done (in music) so now everyone just wants to enjoy it.” There’s something real and human about the gimmickless Dumbwaiters. Their songs are about kids in the streets and real-life melodrama/mediocrity. Their single, “Two by Four” b/w “American Boy,” on Songshop Records, is a prime example of Deacon’s desire to “touch the audience and relate to them.” Fats, who describes his music as “American,” says “We’re a mixture between Meat Loaf and Little Richard; very powered rock’n’roll, but not shallow.” He claims that rock’n’roll got away from the audiences, and that synthesizers took the human feel out of it. As well as “cleaning up” rock’n’roll by singing songs about reality vs. fantasy, the group features Addle Murray on tenor sax. Her horn blows everyone away. Ex-MC5 and Gang War member Wayne Kramer returns on guitar, with Denny Reynolds on bass and Joey Bones on drums. Fats, whose influences include Jerry Lee Lewis, Sly and the Family Stone, and Springsteen, could comment for hours on the history of rock’n’roll’s racial segregation, and will fascinate anyone who inquires with this talented musician. If you wander into a club one night and hear them, you will probably be hooked.

Fred’s Band
By Lisle McKenty
Issue 7; 1981
After many tries, Columbia University has finally produced a band with more than just pretensions to rock’n’roll. It’s Fred’s Band, the “rockingest, boppingest hep cats,” claims one of their fans. Unlike various predecessors, this band has, and is, fun. Fred’s Band is led by Maximilian Dietshe on lead guitar, in fierce competition with rhythm guitarist Danny Ferrira. The vocals are handled with care and cunning by Steve Szilagyi, who double-threats on bass. This trio is backed-up by drummer Bob Wolf. Or maybe it’s them who back him up. Their tunes run half original and half covers. Their covers – from “Blue Suede Shoes” to some risky Beatles, all come off, well, sincerely. No matter how many times you heard them before, they’ll move your feet. But they are hardly a cover band. Their original tunes are well-crafted and show their idiom inside-out. In particular, “Lanky Frankie” and “Rockabilly Girlfriend” stand out. Fred’s Band is a rockabilly dance band, something you – and they – can never forget.
[At some point after this, Lisle was married for a while to Danny. – RBF, 2021]

Photo (c) RBF
Jo Marshall
By Robert Barry Francos
Issue 8; 1981
“Whaddya say we go down to CBGBs and catch the act tonight?”
“Whoz playin’?”
“Jo Marshall.”
“Never heard of ‘im. Who is he?”
“Not ‘he,” schmuck, she.”
She!? I don’t know…she’s got a guy’s name.”
“A guy she sure ain’t. Trust me on that.”
“Cute, huh?”
“Oh, yeah. Nice bod and weird eyes. Nice-weird.”
“Yeah, and I bet she can’t sing worth a shit and no one notices ‘cause of her looks.”
“Bullshit. And I can prove it: look-it, first time she went into a studio, a fan of hers did backup. You know who that was? Joey Ramone. Yeah, and Elvis wrote a song called ‘Mighty Man’ for her.”
“Didn’t he die?”
“No, asshole. I mean Costello.”
“So did I.”
“Anyways, she went over to England and did some recording at Nick Lowe’s studio. Hey, and are you ready for this; she uses a steel-petal guitar in her band. Only it don’t sound nothing like some shit-kicker band. They really do some great kickass rock’n’roll. There’s Ed Bierley on petal-steel, Jerry Mitnick on bass, Carl Nelchloss on lead guitar and David Rosenberg on drums, and they’re great. Songs are great, too. My fave’s ‘Stop Looking at Her.’”
“Whadda we waitin’ for?”
[I had heard that Jo passed away, but have not found any information on it online. – RBF, 2021]