Wednesday, July 20, 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist – July 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist – July 2022

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

Podcast radio is the big thing, I know that. But I am more interested in listening to the obscure music arena than prattling on about it, despite my brief comments. So, here is my limited monthly column of some shamefully cult releases, 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 alphabetical by first letter of the artist or group, and not listed in a “ratings” order. Art is subjective, so I hope you like these as much as I enjoy them.

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

 The Allen Ward Trio
“I Need a Friend”
This folk group came to me at a used furniture/record shop in Kingston, Ontario. Though this Canadian release is obscure, it seems to have a strong cult following. The entire album is an interesting mix of folk classics with some unique arrangements without losing its folk sensibilities, and some new material, such as this one.

 The Cynics
“Girl, You’re On My Mind”
Covering a Mystic Eyes/Bernie Kugel penned song, this garage-tinged group of rockers from the Pittsburgh area add some fuel to their sound here. An extremely fun live band, they are still active so see ‘em if they come to your town.


Harry Chapin
This is the song that hooked me onto Harry Chapin, who I saw live a half dozen times, even singing on stage with him one night. This is not just a tune, this is a sociological study of Charles Whitman, the first mass sniper shooter in Texas in the 1960s, that includes criticisms of loneliness, insanity, and mass media manipulation. All these years later, I am always struck by its strength and perception.


Haysi Fantayzee
“Shiny Shiny”
With a fashion sense that was allegedly lifted by Boy George, this British threesome never clicked in the US, despite a couple of hits on their own turf. While not a style that enraptured me, generally, this song reached me in places Culture Club never did.


Lenny Kaye Connection
“I've Got a Right”
This song was originally geared towards the Ronnie Reagan period of introducing the Silent Majority into the government, but with the fruition of that movement, the song has now become more relevant than ever. Lenny is better known for his early single, “Crazy Like a Fox” (as Link Cromwell), but his solo period while Patti raised her kids produced an excellent album on which this is the opening cut.


Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra (featuring JC Higginbotham)
“St. Louis Blues”
There are so many versions of this 1929 standard, even by Armstrong, but I grew up hearing this raver on a Swing compilation owned by my mother. The exchange between brass mavens Armstrong and Higginbotham is jaw-dropping considering the notes they reached in their prime.


Mystic Eyes
“My Time to Leave”
Hailing from Buffalo, this group presents a pop garage sound that mixed Jonathan Richman with the Invictas. This may be a break-up song, but the upbeat rhythms and smart lyrics are exceptionally catchy.


Nervus Rex
“Don’t Look”
This was a major label release that didn’t really go anywhere, sadly. I was the first person to interview the band who played at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City.


Rachel Lynch and the Daydrinkers
I first heard this song on the soundtrack of a film adaptation of Lady Usher,
 based on EA Poe’s story. It very quickly grew on me.


Ronnie and the Jitters
“She’s Not the Girl For Me/Rockaway”
Infamously, they played the last weekend that Max’s Kansas City was open. I co-interviewed  the band with Stacy Mantel, who introduced me to their rockabilly infused rock. A band that should have made it. All really nice guys, by the way.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Documentary Review: Nightclubbing: The Birth of Punk Rock in NYC

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

Nightclubbing: The Birth of Punk Rock in NYC
Directed by Danny Garcia

Chip Baker Films; Dudeski; MVD Entertainment
80 minutes, 2022

From 1975 through its closing in 1981, I was frequently a denizen of Max’s Kansas City, a club that had been open much longer than I had been attending, and was about a block north of the northeast end of Union Square Park, right on Park Avenue. The reason for my being there was not for the imbibition of alcohol, drugs or bathroom sex (all of which was concurrent with the scene), but I was there to hear the music.

Over the years, I attended a multitude of shows, supporting the venue in that way. The Heartbreakers, Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys, the Fast; heck, we interviewed thefreakin’ Ramones in the upstairs dressing room the night before they left for their first tour of the U.K. in July 1976.

Relatively early, after 10 PM, I would drive to the venue, usually finding a spot around the corner, being post-neighborhood suppers and pre-show times. I’d wait for my companions in front of the downstairs restaurant bay window, with a sill that had a 3-inch round sticker that read “Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys” stuck to it for years.

I honestly don’t remember ever eating in the downstairs restaurant, nor managing to be cool enough to get into the infamous back room, but one of my writers, Nancy Neon, interviewed the Heartbreakers’ Walter Lure there the night they closed the back room down. 

Then came the walk up the long and broad staircase, manned at the top by the person taking the admission fee. Often, this was the patron saint of the club and booker, Peter Crowley. Occasionally, he would just let me in.

When walking into the main room, you were facing the middle of the bar, the walls surrounded by artfully placed photos of some of the larger names to come to the site, taken by the leading photographers of the scene.

To the right was a huge bay window overlooking Park Avenue (funny, I don’t remember ever seeing it in the daylight) and immediately to the right were the bathrooms, which had some quite raucous and humorous graffiti, such as intimations to DeeDee Ramone’s appendage offering.

Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys
(photo by Robert Barry Francos)

Entering the staging area, the DJ booth was to the left, and if you were lucky, it was a night when Wayne/Jayne County was spinning. In front was a row of dining booth, and then there were the long, vertical communal tables where you sat near whomever you sat nearby. The view of the stage was clear wherever you were. These tables were up against the stage, so there was usually no dancing (much to the chagrin and annoyance of Eddie and the Hot Rods, the night I saw them, with the Fast opening). Because we got there early, we would sit in the middle to get a great view, and order some fries and a beer. I don’t believe I ever had any of their infamous chick peas (I’m not a fan).

At the time I was attending Max’s, there were two venues that “invented punk rock,” both in rivalries, but they often had the top bands playing at both (e.g., the Ramones). They honestly (in my opinion) both deserve the title of birth of punk, though the other site gets more credit, and I believe that is because of a well-timed, on-air tee shirt worn by a member of Gun N’ Roses. However, Max’s was there first, open for proto bands like the New York Dolls, the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground, who were creating a scene half a decade before the other place.

The Fast (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

That is where Danny Garcia comes in. The man has a history of documentaries about nascent punk, such as Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders (2014), Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid and Nancy (2016), and STIV: No Compromise, No Regrets (2019), the latter about the lead singer of the Dead Boys.  

By this point, Garcia knows all the key players and assembles them to do this film version of an oral history that absorbs the viewer right from the start. The documentary begins with quick, unidentified clips of musicians and artists making comments, but this is the prologue. I recognized 90 percent of them.

Donna Destri (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

After respectfully setting up the idea that this was about Max’s and not CBGB, the history of Max’s early days is given, during its Andy Warhol phase and after, when the artistic elite – such as musicians, painters, and writers – all packed that small room, much to the delight of each other. Many a major record deal was signed in that hallowed spot. Musician Elliot Murphy makes a wise analogy connecting Max’s back room with the infamous Algonquin Round Table. This is off to an excellent start.

There are plenty of early clips of artists on the Max’s stage, focusing on the big ones like Alice Cooper, the Stooges, the VU, the New York Dolls, and even Sid Vicious (though that was later), who was both a regular there in his later days, and even played on its stage a number of times. Due to the age and technology, many of these clips are shown as B-roll over contemporary interviews with the likes of Cooper, or music bytes.

The Heroes/Heartbreakers (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

While there are other sources for the early days of Max’s (such as the book High on Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max’s Kansas City by Yvonne Sewalll-Ruskin), this documentary is all truly fascinating; for me, however, the story ramps up for the second phase of Max’s, when the original owner Micky Ruskin gave way to different ownership by Tommy Dean, and then Crowley came on the scene to turn a restaurant that played music occasionally to a venue known mostly for the bands that would play there. At this point, there is a bit of a screed again CBGB (“…where the style of dress is different, and the attitude is different, and the presentation is different.”); CBs definitely finds its way into this story, but the primary focus is on Max’s.

Along with the obvious historical timelines, etc., part of what makes this documentary so compelling to me is the numerous side stories, such as DeeDee’s girlfriend trying to dismember the member mentioned above, or the fight between Jayne County and a very belligerent and drunk Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators, and the schism it caused in the scene at the time. The almost Comix style animation used to highlight this little groundbreaking bout that would synergize the two clubs is spot on.

The Senders (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

The interviews are a large part of the story, but it does not feel overwhelming. There are a lot of talking over the live performances and still photos, and even, as mentioned above, the occasional animation. This keeps the focus on the oral history, without becoming tedious.

As with most documentaries that are heavy with interviews, there is a level of participation needed from the audience as to who the main characters are, even with the briefest of information given about them (name, name of band, for example). This is no issue with people like Cooper, or Billy Idol, HR (Bad Brains), Neon Leon, or even probably the amazing Lenny Kaye. But I wonder how the novice to the scene would know about some really important personalities, such as the lovely Singer/scenestress Donna Destri or Leee Black Childers (heck, I can’t even begin to list his accomplishments, they are so deep and varied to especially Max’s).

Eddie and the Hot Rods (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

There are dozens of people who are crucial to the music scene, presented in both contemporary and archival footage, including (but not only) Jesse Malin, Jimmy Zero (Dead Boys), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol Band), Harley Flanagan, Mickey Leigh, Penny Arcade, and arguably one of the biggest Max’s supporters over the decades and interesting musician in his own right, Jimi Lalumia. Archival footage includes some that have passed on too soon, like Leee Black Childers (d. 2014), Sylvain Sylvain (d. 2021), and Alan Vega (d. 2016), among others.

Presented is also some clips from live shows, such as Alice Cooper, the Testors, Ruby and the Rednecks, the Stooges, and a very fuzzy Sid Viscous. For those interested, and it should be anyone reading this, both the Stooges and Vicious footage are newly found and this is its premiere. I like that they mixed some bands that are unknown to the mainstream, along with some of the bigger names.

Ronnie and the Jitters (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

Overall, this is a riveting revival for Max’s (though the brief uptown Max’s revival is wisely ignored), and this is a bit rambling over the history in a way that keeps the interest rather than getting bogged down in logistics and historical timelines. And if one if into punk of that period, whether you were there or not, it is worth a watch. Maybe take some notes.

Meanwhile, the film will be opening up this summer teamed along with another new Garcia documentary, Sid: The Final Curtain, about Sid's adventures in New York between leaving the Pistols and his ridiculously unnecessary death. Sid has long been a topic of interest to Garcia; however, I am hoping at some point he will direct his skills towards a study on Jayne County, the Person Zero (along with Suicide’s Alan Vega) who – this film acknowledges in its opening – kick-started the whole New York City punk rock scene.



Tuesday, July 5, 2022

JEFF SALEN of Tuff Darts: Not Too Tuff (1982)

© Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1982/2022
Images from the Internet unless indicated

Jeff Salen is on the far right, next to Robert Gordon

Excuse me, but Jeff Salen was robbed. You ask, who is Jeff Salen? Well, that just proves the point. Jeff was the brainchild of a group called Tuff Darts that was thisclose to breaking. Then, just as the labels started to come sniffing, the lead singer, Robert Gordon, took a powder to go his own separate rockabilly way as a solo act and joined forces on occasion with Link Wray along the way. For a long time, Gordon refused to even acknowledge his stint in the band, but the cuts from the Live at CBGB’s album of Tuff Darts with Robert Gordon, “It’s All for the Love of Rock’n’roll” and “Slash,” are arguably the best cuts on the collection. The former was written by fellow bandmember Jeff Salen. When Gordon left, Jeff tried to reform the band with another singer, Tommy Frenzy, and even recorded the Tuff Darts! album, for Sire Records. It was a failure, basically because, in my opinion, lead singer Frenzy could not fit the image of the band. He tried nobly but the songs felt false under his tutelage. Decent singer, wrong band for him.

But Jeff’s contribution to the scene goes beyond the music, he was also a driving force in the style of the time, going in the opposite direction of the Richard Hell minimalism and instead he went for flamboyance, like the Byrds and Bowie. This is actually not very surprising, considering he worked for such flashy fashion icons as MainMan/Bowie and Wayne/Jayne County.

During his tenue with Tuff Darts, Jeff sidelined as a studio musician for the band Sparks in their heyday.

After the Tuff Darts broke apart, Jeff started working with the American Passions, which also crashed and burned. Between bands, jeff opened his own high-fashion clothing store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near the Beacon Theater. It was here I caught up with the man.

This interview was published in FFanzeen, No 9, dated 1982.

Jeff at far left

Jeff Salen: Not So Tuff

Back in 1975, when I started going to CBGB, Max’s, and others, I slowly but surely became aware of the name of Jeff Salen. At that time, it was of his work in one of the better-known underground bands, Tuff Darts. But he began way before that.

Many years ago, Jeff worked as a studio musician for the ill-fated MainMan operation, David Bowie’s organization. When that ended in the early 1970s, he worked his way up to Tuff Darts. All was going well with the world until the lead singer, Robert Gordon, left. The band floundered and, despite a LP released on Sire (Tuff Darts!), the band slowly but surely dissolved. The public was just too used to Robert.

A few years ago, he became involved with a band from Washington, DC, called the American Passions, but again, that just didn’t work out.

While all this trial and error with the Passions went on, he worked in a clothing store on the Upper East Side, a perfect setting for him since he was always engrossed in fashion, feeling that fashion is an integral part of rock’n’roll. This led him to owning his own clothing store extraordinaire, called simply Jeffries, at 50 West 72 Street, in New York City.

Time passed, and now Jeff is ready to put another band together, for as fashion is a part of rock’n’roll, rock’n’roll is also connected to fashion. He’s halfway there.

FFanzeen: So, tell me about your pre-MainMan days.
Jeff Salen: I started out in a group called Butch, with Tommy Ramone. We used to play the Mercer Arts Center, and one of the bands that played there was Queen Elizabeth, which was Wayne County and the Miamis, put together with Dale Powers. Tommy and Jimmy Wynbrandt.
[both were in the Miamis – RBF, 2022]. So, they broke up and we broke up. Wayne got signed to MainMan, which was Bowie’s production company. They had all these artists [e.g., Cherry Vanilla, John Cougar (Mellencamp), Cindy Bullens, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople – RBF, 2022]. I got signed by MainMan to back up all these people, to be a guitarist for them. So, I was in the Back Street Boys for Wayne County for a long time – for about two years. We were, like, the No. 2 band under the Dolls at the 82 Club. The 82 Club was a good scene. We had a good time. Bowie had a good time. And then something happened with Bowie. He had a lawsuit or something with MainMan - with Tony DeFries – and that was the end of MainMan. And so we got off the gravy train and we broke up. Then I joined Tuff Darts, which was John DeSalvo of Jim Morrison’s band. That got pretty popular and I was pretty popular at that time from the Back Street Boys. We played and we were pretty good. You’d have bills like the Ramones, Tuff Darts, and Blondie. Blondie was third billed, believe it or not. That was, like, at rehearsal studios. There’s a studio called Performance Studios, which the Ramones owned. Everyone used to play there because there were no venues; there was no places for a band to play, except for CBGB’s. I don’t think Max’s even had bands then. Max’s had bands, but they were, like, Kinky Friedman. They were like the Lone Star is now. Tuff Darts took off; all the bands took off, and there got to be more clubs.

FFanzeen: Was Robert Gordon in Tuff Darts when it formed?
Jeff: Yeah. Tuff Darts played only with Robert Gordon in the beginning. There was this guy, Richie Rich, who played rhythm guitar, but they threw him out before I was in the band. That was it. Then we auditioned singers and Robert pushed his way into the audition. We had a whole bunch of people in line, and he said, “I’m the guy,” and he pushed his way right into it. He sang like Paul Rodgers
[of the band Free – RBF, 1982] then. And that was what was happening at the time. It was very Bad Company-oriented. We were really knocked out with Robert. We stayed with him for about three years. We built things up pretty good and then he got a deal and he went.

FFanzeen: How did you get approached to do the Live at CBGB’s album?
Jeff: It all had to do with Hilly (Kristal; d. 2007). He picked all the best bands. The only band that had a record deal then was the Ramones. Everybody else didn’t. Everybody except Talking Heads, who backed out of [the live album] at the last minute. But they’re on the back cover. I think that’s pretty funny. The front cover looks like a pizza. It’s, like, one of the worst covers of all time. It looks like a bunch of hippies, ya know? But I can’t bad-mouth Hilly. I have to watch my Ps and Qs. It was a nice scene, though; I was pretty happy. And, you know, if you played CBGB’s you couldn’t play Max’s. Our album (on Sire) came out in early ’79-late ’78. And then I did this thing with Lisa Burns, Sal Maida from Sparks
[and Milk and Cookies – RBF, 1981]. Bobby Butani from Tuff Darts, and David Bowler from the Marbles.

FFanzeen: After Robert left, why did you have so much trouble keeping a lead singer?
Jeff: We didn’t know what to do. Ian Hunter set us up with this guy, Kelvin Coney, from England. He was okay, but nobody liked him. He got disgusted and he wanted to get paid, like, to stay in this country, and we didn’t have any money to pay him. Actually, he was causing turmoil between Ian and us. So he went. We tried a bunch of kids from New York, like one gig apiece. Then we got Tommy Frenzy, ‘cause Tommy was a fan. He was the guitar player in a band called Frenzy up in Westchester. They used to do our songs. When they would play CBGB’s, I would jam with them. He was a nice guy and he was into what we were doing, so we figured he would be cooperative. He was pretty cool. I liked what he did, but the critics, like, tore him apart. I wanna go on record, I thought the record was pretty good.
Cream’s Mitch Comb says that I’m really good when left to my own devices, but he didn’t like the John DeSalvo songs. The sexist songs. But it’s all fine; it’s a joke. Actually, that’s what got us attention. My songs are just love songs, very standard fare, but they’re not things that would draw attention in a jaded music scene here in New York. John’s were the one’s that got attention, like, “I’d rather slash my wrists and cut my throat (then have to spend the night with you)” [“Slash”]. I think it’s a great song. The critics ripped it apart and they ripped Tommy apart, and I don’t know why. He did it pretty close to how Robert did it. He did his best.

FFanzeen: I think that was part of the complaint, that he was imitating Robert rather than being original.
Jeff: What else could he have done in that situation?

FFanzeen: Created his own style, like Ultravox did after John Foxx left. .
Jeff: Yeah, Midge Ure in Ultravox
 did that. I’m glad they could do that. I saw them down at Irving Plaza and I was glad they could do that. Maybe that’s what Tommy should have done, but he decided what he wanted to do. We were just happy doing the record. I was just working on my guitar parts and trying to keep the band together. That sort of thing.

FFanzeen: When you were at MainMan, did you record anything?
Jeff: Yeah, we did recordings with Michael Tschudin producing, who used to run the Mercer Arts Center. When people read this article, somebody will remember these names. He’s a cool guy. I wonder what ever happened to him. We did nice little recordings with him; we did a movie. It was a movie with me kissing Cherry Vanilla, or something. And we did a show called
Wayne County at the Trucks. You know what the “trucks” are? It’s like a gay thing. All the boys are at the trucks, you know, fist-fucking. Anyway, we did this movie and we rented out the Westbeth Theater, which I’ll come back to later, ‘cause it’s interesting, I think. That was MainMan. They spent, like, you know, $50,000 on this show and filmed it for a movie, with other footage, too, with Bowie and Mick Ronson (d. 1993), and all the MainMan artists: Iggy, Cherry – mainly Cherry Vanilla – and Wayne County, because they were New Yorkers. People came. Everyone thought Wayne and the Back Street Boys would get a record deal from this. This was, like, when Alice Cooper was happening. I played guitar. I was just into being popular.

FFanzeen: Fame. The star-trip.
Jeff: I liked it. They had little ushers who wore cock-and-balls shoes. That was fabulous. Papier Mache cock-and-balls shoes.

FFanzeen: You were going to say about the Maspeth Theater –.
Jeff: Westbeth Theater. Maspeth is in Queens, where I went to Junior High School. Okay, what was I gonna say? The Westbeth Theater pops up all the time because Bobby, from Tuff Darts, did a play. He did some recordings with some guys who worked at Westbeth who were directors there. The guitarist – the other guitarist, Bobby Butani – and I did a couple of gigs with him in a group called the Passions. Maybe people will think that it’s a continuity. Maybe they think I’ve been working on this band for a long time
[giggles]. It’s not true! I just joined this band [American Passions – RBF, 2022] a couple of months ago.

FFanzeen: How did you come to join the American Passions?
Jeff: Jonathan Blank is a lawyer for a lot of musicians, like Richard Lloyd, the Rockats, Lisa Burns. Anyway, he’s the lawyer for the manager of the group. He’s not my lawyer now, but at the time he was. Now I’ve got Blondie’s lawyer, the Cars’ lawyer. I’ve moved up in the world a bit. I had come back from LA and I called up like everybody I knew in New York, and said, “What’s happening? Who should I play with? What should I do?” And he told me about this wonderful band in Washington D.C., that were about to be signed, and they just needed a lead guitarist. I said, “I’m not interested because I’m a songwriter, I’m not a lead guitarist.” He said, “Well, go down there anyway, maybe they’ll do one of your songs.” So I went down and I joined the band, primarily because the singer (Steve Avery), like, really loved my songs and was willing to do my songs. And now, it’s, like, half-and-half between Steve Avery and me. We’re even trying to write together with some success.

FFanzeen: Sparks –
Jeff: Sparks is great. Sparks is the most fun I’ve had.

FFanzeen: How did you get involved with them?
Jeff: We had just finished working on the
Live at CBGB’s album and the guys from Sparks came to see us. At this time, everyone was comin’ to see us. Mick Jagger came to see us, Ian Hunter, Bowie (d. 2016) – in fact, a great many people – notable people – told us that Robert (Gordon) was more trouble than he was worth; that we would be better off without him, believe it or not. I never thought that. When it came time for Robert to leave, I tried to pull a Henry Kissinger and tried to beg him, please don’t go, stick around. But he thought he was prostituting himself. Tuff Darts was more like John and my band. It was John’s band when he did his songs and my band when we did mine. The other guys were pretty passive. Bobby came more to the front towards the end, but basically it was pretty much playing rhythms and keeping things going in the background. Robert Gordon didn’t have much of a personality in Tuff Darts. Maybe he has one now. I don’t know – I don’t think so. You can print that, I don’t care [giggles].

FFanzeen: Do you ever talk to him?
Jeff: Yeah, we’re amicable.

FFanzeen: The reason I ask is because he practically denies those days even existed.
Jeff: He’s not as reasonable about it as we are. Put it this way: I thought it was a bad time to leave a band. You work together a certain amount of time and you’re accomplishing something – we were supposedly doing very well. At that point, (Amos Poe’s)
The Blank Generation movie came out. It just looked like everything was going great. A lot of major labels were interested in us, not just Sire. It was kind of a crummy time to leave a band. Couldn’t he have waited until at least the rest of us had gotten something? I remember he thought he was prostituting himself and he wanted to do something else. Other people had gotten involved with him, and everything seemed to have been falling into place when he left. We just kept trying other singers. We didn’t know what else to do. Did I handle that diplomatically? I hope so. I don’t have anything against Robert; I don’t have any great love for him, but I don’t – he’s a professional. He did what he thought was good for him. I picked up the pieces and did what I could with them; I think he’d acknowledge that. And he’s not doin’ so hot either. Like I said, at the time, a lot of people told us that if he wanted to leave, let him leave. Aside from artistic or aesthetic reasons, I thought it would be bad for him to leave because people had associate him with our songs already. With my songs and John’s songs. I tried desperately to get him not to leave. He didn’t want to know. His management didn’t help. Everybody always thinks they know best. At some point, I’d like to be a producer so I can be the one who knows best.

FFanzeen: Sparks –
Jeff: Okay, Sparks was produced by Rupert Holmes, who did Sailor, Barbra Streisand, and John Miles (d. 2021). Anyway, I remember they called me up – they had Joseph Fluries called me up, who worked for them, and he said, would I be interested in joining Sparks. I said, well, I’m in a group that I really think is gonna break big – this is Tuff Darts with Robert – so I said I would love to come down and talk about it. I’d play on the album, but I wouldn’t join the group. He said come to the Carnegie Deli that night, ‘cause they were staying at the Warwick Hotel, and they were sitting in the back – in the very back. My girlfriend at the time wasn’t into Sparks. I was into the MC5. And Motown; I was really into Motown at that time. I wanted to be black, like Eric Burdon. So, we went to the Carnegie and they said they liked the way I played guitar and would I like to play on the album. They were going to do the album in New York. Sal Maida recommended me. This guy Sal is always doin’ me favors. Sal had been with Roxy Music and Sparks at one point, I think
[he was in the band, including on the 1978 album Big Beat, and with the band in the 1977 film Rollercoaster – RBF, 2022]. So I said, sure, I’d love to do it and we talked about the money and that sort of thing. Then we rehearsed for two weeks. They already had a title for the album, Big Beat, so we concentrated on that. Hilly Michaels was the drummer, who later became Ian Hunter’s drummer, because I played on the Sparks album. Anyway, we rehearsed. I’m trying to find a good story outta this. I don’t think there is in this one. We rehearsed, I did the record, had a good time doin’ it, got paid, and declined to tour [missing out on the Rollercoaster appearance – RBF, 1982]. If I would have toured, there would never have been a Tuff Darts album. [Big Beat] was the most fun album I ever worked on. I had a ball working that record.

FFanzeen: Why was it so much fun?
Jeff: First of all, they’re really easy to work with, Ron and Russell (Mael). I have no idea why they have such a difficult time in this business. They can’t get a record company to push their records. They always get shafted. I don’t know what the fuck it is. They’re just wonderful to work with. They’re so loose, they’re so much fun. Very talented. I think they’re great lyricists. I’m just really into what they do. Everything they did was clever and it was so challenging for me to find intelligent guitar parts, ‘cause they just wanted loud guitar, you know, which is sorta my trademark, but there is a sensitive side to me and I try to be in tune with what I’m doing. There was no pressure because it wasn’t my band; I didn’t have any worries. I just showed up at rehearsals, showed up at sessions, and when I left I had a clear head. I had no concerns. Tuff Darts was so mind-boggling with concerns. Not in the beginning, because I was oblivious. I didn’t care. I was still into being just popular and being creative and just living out my Ronnie Wood/Keith Richards fantasy. Towards the end, trying to save it and everything, that took years out of my life. Not just mine, everybody’s. The whole band tried. Bobby tried hard. We kept trying to do things. If I have any success with this, I’m gonna try and do something with Bobby, like produce him or something.

FFanzeen: Is Bobby in a band now?
Jeff: It’s hard to find sympathetic musicians. There are a lot of musicians like Lydia Lunch – that sort of thing – like, what can you do? I can’t play that stuff. Bobby can’t play that stuff. I like avant-garde things. I like innovative bands. I like, you know, John Lydon’s band (PiL). I love all those English bands like Spandau Ballet and Ultravox.
 They all sound like King Crimson to me, with a disco beat, but – I like the way they look, you know.

FFanzeen: I always picture you on stage in vests and three-piece suits. Are you still into that?
Jeff: In Tuff Darts, but not anymore. I like layers. I’ve always been into fashion. I’m not a superficial person, but I like the trappings of
things. We’ve got a whole bunch of pirate clothes now.

FFanzeen: Oh, no! Adam and the Ants strikes again!
Jeff: Actually we got them before Adam and the Ants came to town. We were already into it from reading about it before, and we know some people who work for Ian’s, the clothing store (in New York). They go to England all the time and they told us what was happening. They usually keep me in good clothes. I’m like a mannequin for them, sometimes. We wore a lot of that stuff when the American Passions played Bonds. (Fashion) is what I got off on when I first got into music. I liked the way the Stooges dressed; I like the way they looked. I liked the whole bit. It was, like, you didn’t have to be that handsome – naturally handsome – you didn’t have to be George Hamilton or some shithead like that, but you could still be cool. I think that’s a big part of rock’n’roll. You didn’t have to be perfect – you could be Keith Richards or Mick Jagger, who are not perfect looking but are really cool. Brian Jones (d. 1969) was prettier than most girls, though. You didn’t have to be so manly with this macho-silly thing. I picked up on that and that stayed with me. I like fashion. I think fashion is very important in music.

I lost track of Jeff Salen after this. I do know that in 2002, the Tuff Darts reformed (sans Butani and, of course, Gordon) for the CD release of Tuff Darts!, going on to record the 2007 album You Can’t Keep a Good Band Down. His presence as a rock’n’roll icon was still underappreciated and underserved by the scene, however, when he passed away from a heart attack on January 26. 2008.

Since his passing, as Wikipedia announced, “Tuff Darts have been performing since 2011 with a reformed lineup in and around New York City.”