Saturday, October 15, 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist – October 2022

RBF’s Eclectic Excitement Playlist – October 2022

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

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

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

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

Babes in Toyland
“Bruise Violet”
Part of Seattle’s Riot Girrrl scene, they were overshadowed (as was everyone else) by Hole, though I thought this group was more interesting. The song is about the Kat Bjelland (vox) and Courtney Love rivalry. I always felt the Riot Girrrl movement was more interesting than the testosterone-fueled concurrent grunge sound. I’m glad I was able to see them live at CBGB.

Get Wet
“Morton Street”
Boardwalk / Columbia Records
Sherri Beachfront has an amazingly powerful voice, and for a brief moment of time, it was recognized on a major scale, with a relative hit single of “Lonely” and a cover of “Where the Boys Are.” The music is pure pop with Zecca’s keyboard soaring. I interviewed them at the time, just as their album was released. There is a lot of good music with a bend toward the theatrical on the album, but this song always felt the strongest, if not mainstream radio friendly. This is the live version from a show at the Ritz where I was also in attendance.

HER and Kings County
“My Backyard”
Mixing country, rock and a tad of rap, HER hails from Brooklyn, but has since moved to Nashville to be closer to the source. She has a good voice for both country and rock, and has a new album. Not to be confused with current rapper H.E.R.

Lizzie Borden and the Axes
“Out of Touch”
Never Found Guilty Records
I first heard this Boston pop ditty on a local indie music channel (“V66”) in BossTown. They were pretty popular on their own turf, but I find this very infectious melody keep popping up in my head all these years later.

The Pandoras
“Stop Pretending”
Rhino Records
The band is better known for “Hot Generation,” but I like this cold-hearted attack so much more. They were commonly crossing over between garage and rock, until the death of lead singer Paula Peirce. Although they were a California band, I saw them play once at Irving Plaza, in New York.

Patsy Montana and the Prairie Ramblers
“I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”
Melotone Records
It’s funny that this should be here, because at one time this was such a major hit, it is the very first record disc (78) by a woman to ever to sell a million copies, way back in 1935. It’s definitely the yodel that makes the song, but I love the lyrics, as well as Patsy’s voice. Lyrically, a sweet other-side to Doris Day’s “Button’s and Bows.”

The Planet Smashers
Stomp Records
I actually know very little about this ska punk band from Montreal, but their intensity is striking, and the social statement of the song also attracts me. Should be right up there with The Specials, rather than the more amusing-toned Madness. The drive in this song is what helps propel the message.

The Slickee Boys
“Ya Gotta Tell Me Why”
Dacoit Records
Man, not only were the Slickee Boys a great band out of the DC area, like the Fleshtones, they were even more so live. Luckily, I saw them more than once at CBGB. They are better known for “Heart On” and their cover of “Glendora,” but the beat and excitement of this song keep me coming back.

The Speedies
“Let Me Take Your Photo”
Golden Disc Records
Like the Jag’s “Back of My Hand,” there was a time when this power pop song was all over the clubs. Not surprising, though, because it has an extremely catchy chorus. Happily, I saw them open for The Tourists (who would change their name to the Eurythmics) at the Bottom Line, in New York.

The Vipers
“Cheated and Lied”
Passport Records / Jem Records
When the garage revival was at its height during the early-to-mid-‘80s, one of the regulars on the scene were this garage pop band, led by Jon Weiss, who later helped organize the CaveStomp! series of shows. I interviewed them when their Outta the Nest LP was released. Their “Nothing’s From Today” is better known, but I like this one even more.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The Rat-Taled Dream

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

A Rat-Taled Dream
In the dream, it is the present time, and despite the fact that the club The Rathskeller (aka The Rat) in Boston is long gone, I went to see a show with Kandy Kabot, who lived in the city for a number of years. I had been to the club numerous times between 1980 and 1985, so I was a bit familiar with it. However, the map does not match the territory in my dream.

As we approached the club, the front of it was lined with people waiting to get in, and there were windows on the front that went longer than the club’s entrance could fit in reality. We looked inside and there was a big room with marble floors, as people lined up.

Inside, at the head of the line, was a fortune teller reading tarots, who had to be paid in order to get into the club, above the cost to get in. I am not a believer in mysticism, especially having dated the assistant of a professional psychic during the early 1980s, so I was trying to figure another way into the club. When I got back to the glass doors, Kandy was gone, I looked in and she was on line to the fortune teller.

The Secret Service
(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

Somehow, I got into the place in a roundabout way, avoiding the seer and, for the moment, since the doorman was not there, I got in without paying. I went backstage and ran into the opening group (didn’t catch the name), which were a bunch of young guys who were in good spirits and friendly, and I hung out with them for a while, getting along well. They reminded me of the Long Island band The Secret Service, who I had seen at The Dive Bar in New York City in real life in the 1990s.

Naturally, I had my camera with me, but questioned whether it would work since I have not used it in a long time, and was unsure of the batteries.

I heard someone speaking behind me, and it was well known Boston musician Al Quint who I do not know personally, but with whom I am Facebook friends. In dream logic, however, I had seen him play before, in the 1980s. I turned around and said hello, and he said, “I know you! You took that picture of me onstage that I really liked.” I was impressed he remembered me.

The Dogmatics at The Rat
(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

We walked down a long corridor together and talked generally, until we got to the main room, where he took off to get ready. And instead of the lovely dive bar that the Rat actually was, in the midst of the dream, it was a large room with rows of folding chairs with a dais in front with four or five tables. The place was crowded, and in about the fourth row sat the opening band, who called me, saying they had saved me a seat. As I shuffled through the row to their enthusiastic waving me over, I woke up.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

HELEN WHEELS: The Interview (1983)

 © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1983/2022
Images from the Internet unless indicated

I have told this story before: before I even knew who punk/metal vocalist and songwriter Helen Wheels was, she made a deep impression on me. Though unidentified, she turns up at the CBGB bar in the 1978 film, Punking Out, where she mentions that she is never bored, as she fidgets around; the full 25-minute film is linked HERE; Helen’s comment is at about 22 minutes. Her strong personality and sharpness shook me up for some reason, and made me look at my own life.

Born Helen Robbins, it was the Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba who gave her the “Wheels” to her name. But her larger claim to fame was as a songwriter who penned some songs for Blue Oyster Cult, including the B-side of “Don’t Fear the Reaper," “Tattoo Vampire.”

The petite and muscular Helen formed the Helen Wheels Band, and I knew I had to interview her. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Helen Wheels being not bored in Punking Out

Helen Wheels: The Interview (1983)

Helen Wheels’ stage persona may appear to be a frightening one. She licks knives and sticks them into the stage reasonably close to the audience, and shoots a pistol – point blank – into the crowd. With blanks, of course.

Her prior two bands, made up of biker types, added to this mounting paranoia. In these two previous forms, Helen’s music was not overly appealing to me. True, she wrote some cuts for Blue Oyster Cult’s infamous Agents of Fortune album (the only one I like, actually), the music she performed was heavy metalish, which was not the kind I wanted to hear.

So, with some reluctance, I went to see a Helen Wheels Band show (honestly, she was playing with a band I wanted to see) and I liked what I saw. Then her six-song EP, Post Modern Living (on Real American Records) came out and I was a bit more impressed, but the funk strumming was a bit tough for me to take at times. Despite all this, I found myself going to more of her shows at varied locations, from CBGB to the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Before I realized it, I was entrapped by the powerhouse. Her music is more down-to-earth rock’n’roll than previous incarnations, and I’ve come to love the record. What’s more, but don’t tell anyone, Helen Wheels is a pussycat. Her values are vastly different than my own liberal ones, and there are beliefs she holds true that never entered my ken. She’s open and has an infectious personality that’ll knock you on your ass.

There are a lot of things I could have asked Helen about, from her connection to BOC to her stance on UFO culture and her own abductions, to her tattoos, but I decided against that for being too obvious. So, when I interviewed her at the Brooklyn Zoo (March 26, opening for Iggy Pop), I walked in with only one question on my mind.

FFanzeen: In the movie Punking Out, there’s a shot of you at the bar of CBGB, saying that you’ve never been bored in your whole life.

Helen Wheels: Yep, it’s true. I’m still never bored. I’m so busy all the time doing stuff, and if I don’t have something else to do. I just go over and pump some iron.

FFanzeen: How long have you been doing that?
Helen: Kinda in a less serious way, for a couple of years, but quite seriously for three months. At least four days a week. I find it’s something that’s making me extremely happy, as well as strong. I mean, I can bench press 130 pounds now, which is quite a bit more than I weigh. I guess it stimulates the blood, but just being strong, you have a new kind of confidence. I mean, I was always strong and I always carry a big knife, but now, sometimes I don’t even carry my knife. It makes you feel pretty cocky and good. It’s my latest favorite thing to do – when I get sick of making phone calls and booking the band, and making posters and all that other stuff, and I still work on the wardrobe, making new costumes. Plus, the way I keep from being bored is that I haven’t had a television in 12 years, so that really helps. I think television is a negative kind of thing – video games – kind of programming things. And I think it gets people kind of depressed and down, so I read a lot, and pumping iron is the best thing for me lately. It makes me feel really cheerful. It must stimulate certain hormones or something, because I get really high off it. The same kind you get off singing, from the oxygen. I really enjoy it.

FFanzeen: Before you were doing it seriously, you were always in good shape; muscular.
Helen: Yeah, for years I’ve always had a set of dumbbells around and I would lift, here and there. I always enjoyed doing any kinds of test of strength: arm wrestling (for example). But I find it’s also amazing because it’s the only way I’ve ever heard of to actually get a perfect body.

FFanzeen: So you do more exercise than just lifting weights.
Helen: I do chinning, I have a trapeze. I hang upside down, do sit-ups hanging upside down, and I have a bench. I also have, like, leg presses, and extensions.

FFanzeen: You have all this where you live?
Helen: Yeah, I’ve got a home gym. I even got a little trampoline to run on.

FFanzeen: Isn’t it better to work out with a coach present?
Helen: Yeah, my boyfriend’s my coach. He’s great. He did a lot of weight lifting when he was younger, and now we work out together. The main thing is to keep good form, whatever you do, because you can hurt yourself pretty badly.

FFanzeen: Are you going to start competing?
Helen: I was fantasizing about competing in this contest in Queens, but I might wait until there’s one in Manhattan, ‘cause I really don’t want to take the subway out in my little posing suit. Actually, I have to get a posing suit. I don’t have anything quite small enough.

(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

FFanzeen: You could always use your leather bikini (that she uses on stage).
[laughs] Some of those girls really don’t have too much on. I’ve recently become friends with the middleweight Miss America, Leslie Barber, who is absolutely incredible. She’s my height and she has, like, fourteen-inch biceps. She’s great.

FFanzeen: Have you ever been interviewed by any bodybuilding magazines?
Helen: Yes. As a matter of fact, a magazine called
Lady Athlete photographed me at the Ritz on Monday. They’re doing a big piece on me. They did “before” pictures, where I’d only been working out for a couple of weeks. They may be here tonight also, with the editor of Body and Power, which is the biggest bodybuilding magazine. The writers have taken a lot of interest in me, because they feel I might be good for the sport, in a sense. Women’s bodybuilding is a very young, fledgling sport, and people have a lot of misconceptions about it. Like at the competitions, there might be 300 men and eight women.

FFanzeen: What kind of misconceptions?
Helen: Oh, you know, that the women are gonna end up being, like 230-pound bull-dykes after six weeks. It doesn’t happen, because women don’t have testosterone. They have different hormones, so the main thing that most women will get first is that they’ll lose their body fat, which will make them happy. And then they’ll get definition. And they’ll get strength.. If you have a bad back, it helps your posture a lot, as long as you watch your form.

FFanzeen: Maybe I should try it.
Helen: A lot of people I know are, just because they see what it’s doing for me. I think it’s real positive in the same way that I feel, like, with our rock’n’roll: we’re really trying to show a strong, healthy, American image. Strong is the right word, rather than the kind of degenerate, debilitated Communist-junkie thing that is really what the media is putting out. You know, I won’t name names, but they really love the bands where there’s drug addicts, and stuff, because those people are so easy to manipulate. Put them in the big-time, tell them what to do, how to act, what to wear; you can’t put this song on the record, you put this one on. I firmly believe there’s a
major conspiracy going on in this country, and the way it affects rock’n’roll is that they choose the patsies, rather than strong artist who want to control their own image and their own music. They can’t control us. To me, the bodybuilding fits in perfectly with what I’m trying to say with my music, which is, “look to yourself. Be strong yourself, because we’re the only ones who can turn this country around.” I firmly believe we’re the only country – unless there are some other free countries that have a Constitution (and) a Bill of Rights – that encourages creativity and invention, instead of squashing it. I mean, there is no rock’n’roll in Russia, there’s no rock’n’roll in Poland. They only give you disco, because disco is for mechanized minds that don’t think. I mean, those beats-per-minute puts part of your brain to sleep. It’s a serious thing. People don’t realize the seriousness of media control. And, of course, punks, and all the people, they get their images from the media, so the media even twists around the strong and good ones. I really try to speak in no uncertain terms about what I want and what I feel; what I want to bring to people from my music, aside that it’s fun, kick-ass energy. That’s the top thing. That’s what rock’n’roll is, is freedom. I want it back the way it was – 1776.

FFanzeen: Do you feel Reagan is trying to ruin that with his cutting the budget in the arts areas?
Helen: I think Reagan is a pawn. He’s not in the Council of Foreign Relations, which is unusual for a president, but everyone who advises him, is. He’s not that evil, but he’s not in control, either.

FFanzeen: What is the fascination you have for motorcycles?
Helen: Speed; throbbing energy – I only like American motorcycles.

FFanzeen: Harleys, of course.
Helen: Harleys. I like Indians. They’re hard to come by. I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was fifteen, and that’s more than half my life. Motorcycles (are) the same thing as rock’n’roll. They’re about freedom. The people that are riding – some of them are outlaws and some of them wanna just get there and ride, ride, ride. They just wanna be out and be free. It’s just “headin’ down the highway / Looking for adventure.” It is ultimate. I mean, I like the real hardcore, outlaw bikers. I think those people are kinda like, you know, the last cowboys. And by outlaw, that doesn’t mean killing people, that means making your own laws. Living your own life, having your own values. I don’t give a shit what the world thinks of me anymore. I’ve been suppressed. I’ve been put down, and I’ve been really maligned in some press. I’ve been censored off of national TV and radio for speaking out against drugs, and of being basically clean-cut, and a kick-ass, biker-rock’n’roller. And I fuckin’ resent it, because look who they put up there. Anybody who shoots dope gets first crack at it, and so many fans have died since I started rock’n’rolling, and so many of them are like the people who come here in the audience. You have a responsibility, as a person on stage, to put out a positive message, to say something uplifting, something that’s good for people. Not just that it’s all immaterial, that you have no future. That’s something that the Brits did when they said that punk started in England. We all know that they copied the Ramones. Punk started in 1976 on the Bowery at CBGB’s, which is where the punks adopted the motorcycle jackets as their symbol of freedom, ‘cause it was a biker bar.

FFanzeen: Actually, it was ’75.
Helen: ’75 was the beginning, ‘cause ’76, it was kind of like the christening. And you had the real American bands, like the Dictators.

FFanzeen: Great band!
Helen: Fantastic band. And they got shut down. I resent it, ‘cause they were one of the greatest bands. The Ramones, bands like that, that were very patriotic. I mean, if you look at a Ramones logo, it’s a presidential seal: Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and whoever they have now

FFanzeen: Ritchie.
Helen: Then they bring over the British disco shit and all that, and mixing it up with the rock’n’roll. And then they’re calling
that New Wave.

FFanzeen: Don’t you feel that it is also from American groups, like Devo?
Helen: Yeah, but to me, that was more like “thin-tie, wimp rock.” Yeah, that was the same kind of thing that the press did. They picked up those bands, and called those bands the New Wave, and they left out the Dictators; the Ramones, who should have had a No. 1 hit a
long time ago. They’re doing all right, but they’re not having the success they should have. Look at some of the big Brit bands. They aren’t very talented, and any kids who were hanging out in the early days, I mean, those were not the bands they went to see. They were the thin-tie ones with the least energy and the most, like, disco mixing, which is what they went to for big money; and to me, that was a real sick perversion of the whole thing … it has no place in what I want to say. It goes back to what I was saying about having responsibility. I see junkies up on stage, and the audience thinks they’re the greatest fuckin’ thing they’ve come across since the Sex Pistols, or whatever shit they got last from the media, and then they think, “Oh, man, it’s so hip. Let’s try shooting dope. Let’s check it out. That’s what our rock’n’roll heroes are doing.” Right from Keith Richards on down. And the media loves it. Then I go to the shows and the kids that were alive and wonderful – full of energy – they’re, like, nodded out on the tables. And then, one by one, like Jessie Blue [not to be confused with the bland “Oranje Guice” singer, Jessi Blue – RBF, 2022], they die. By accident, you know? “We didn’t shoot junk all the time, just now and then.” Jessie Blue was a friend of mine and she was a real talented girl. She had a lot of heart and soul. She was in the Slander Band. She was just “foolin’ around,” you know. She was in Punking Out with me. And she died from it. So many of them died from it. If they don’t die, they’re like the living dead. And that’s worse, ‘cause then they’re just a patsy of the powers-that-be, that don’t want people like me around to say, “Take your vitamins, lift weights, and be strong, and you can control your own life, and bring the country back to health with you.”

FFanzeen: Was there ever a time when you were into drugs?
Helen: I’ve taken drugs, sure, but I really cleaned up my act. The older I got, the smarter I got. I found out that I wanted to live. I still go 100 miles an hour on a motorcycle once in a while; 110.

FFanzeen: [Faking shock:] But isn’t that illegal?
Helen: Well, the laws – you know, you do it late at night when there’s no one else on the road so it’s not a danger to them. I think everybody has the potential to be their own person. Everyone has the potential for the kind of health and happiness and freedom that I’m talking about, in this country, anyway. It’s only because of the twisted media image that so many people are down on themselves; sad, can’t find a place in life. That’s what [the media] want. They’re trying to beat down the strongest ones. I always come back. I always come back stronger, too. And that’s what I hope to encourage other people to do, to fight for whatever the fuck you wanna do. If you want to be an accountant, man, fight to be that accountant. Be the best one that there is. But if you want to be something that’s impossible to get at, like the president, or a total outlaw, or a rock’n’roll star, just follow your heart. That’s what “Break the Chains” is about, it’s about personal freedom. Following your intuition and your heart. To be whatever you want to be. I was just a kid who dreamed. There’s not too many people up there giving you a positive word. There’s all this negativity coming down. They have to fantasize because the reality is made so miserable for them. I see a lot of people now; they just want to escape. But I figure the real thing to do is just make it better so you can be in reality and feel good.

FFanzeen: How do you propose to do that?
Helen: I think I’m already doing it through the best methods I can. If people will get our record and check out some of the political inserts and some of the information there, pass the information along, and just become more well-informed about the fact that there is a media conspiracy in this country. Bankers own Marshall Amps, own ABC’s studios, own Hollywood, own all the newspaper chains, own just about everything except fanzines. Which are pure. Just the way, like, a lot of the new bands are real and pure, and that’s why I love them. I’ve had interviews for big papers where they said, “This part is too hot. Take it out. Leave in this nice part here. Leave in this stupid part here, this joke here.” Then fuck the whole thing, ‘cause if I can’t say something that means something to me, then why say anything at all? … Along with the real punk bands, and the real New Wave bands in the late ‘70s, was this immense network of fanzines crossing the country. There’s still quite a few of them. We got a list of 3000 of them with our record. Maybe 50 went out of business within that time, but a couple of new ones started. And to me, that’s where I find out about the censored bands, the local bands, the real stuff going on. They don’t wanna give me big money for stuff yet, but they’re gonna have to pretty soon, ‘cause I won’t shut up and I won’t disappear. Not unless they actually try to assassinate me or something, which they won’t do because I’m too strong. I won’t stand for it.
[Laughs] It’s not just me. There are a lot of people coming up now that just aren’t going to disappear, that are positive. And I think it’s really going to start turning the tide, because people, even if their minds say, “Yeah, let’s shoot junk because so-and-so there is so cool, and this-and-that. Let’s snort speed and do all this stuff,” their inside animal, their intuition does not want that, even if their minds want to do it. If someone starts speaking to their inside animal – this is like, magic stuff, and it’s saying, “Be strong, be healthy. Be who you want to be. Really realize your fuckin’ dreams.” The animal says, “Do that, do that. Try it.” ‘Cause I find the more I follow my intuition, the happier I feel. Our record is being played in 40 states now, just by our independent efforts. Features all across the country. It’s being played in Buenos Aries, London – I think it’s tremendously exciting that this can be done independently. Independent records are really the healthiest thing in the whole industry. It’s the same as the fanzines; it’s made of the people.

FFanzeen: So, you would say your record was a success.
Helen: Absolutely. I think it was an artistic success because we put out the image, and the music, and the songs that we chose. We did it at an ultra-budget price with real good technology. We had wonderful people working on it. It’s getting played on some 150,000-watt stations, which compares with the Pat Benatar sound, or whatever shlock they get paid to play. I think the fact that it’s getting played in 40 states, is a tremendous success for us. And now, a year after its release, it’s still being picked up as a new add by maybe 5-10 stations a week that we know of. We haven’t made a fortune out of it, but we sold out the first pressing, and we’re pretty well into the second pressing now. I hope I’m not naive and that it hasn’t peaked yet. The way I look at it, it’s going to bring us a lot of success. As an independent, it’s gotten good out there. We got fantastic reviews cross-country. In fact, we’ve got response from radio stations that said they weren’t even going to listen to the record because they thought the reviews were all hype, ‘cause nobody had an EP with six great songs on it. Then they write us these letters: “Fuckin’-A. I didn’t believe the reviews ‘cause they seemed like a hype, but the record is great and we’re playing all six cuts.” We did a taped interview by [scene photographer and writer] Mariah Aguiar (d. 2005) that has been on 30 radio stations across the country, and we have a request for that quite regularly. In fact, I’m going to do a syndication radio show that’ll be on about 15 radio stations on the East Coast in April. It’s a new show, coming out of New Brunswick, New Jersey. And the college stations, where they are not programmed to play only this and only that, we’ve had tremendous success because … they
like it. And that’s the young people. That’s fine with me. I hope we hit all the people. I think we got a real good start. I think we’re doing real well. I’m hoping to win the lottery so I can make another record. [Laughs] I’m ready. Joe Bouchard (bassist for Blue Oyster Cult) wants to produce it again. The same engineer (Corky Stasiak) wants to do it. They’re really tremendously excited that what could have been a dinky project has won them a tremendous amount of acclaim, too. It was Joe’s first outing as a producer, and he’s getting all kinds of kudos, so he’s ready for the next one.

FFanzeen: How is this band different from your previous two?
Helen: Well, I always like to think that as I progressed as a singer and a writer, my musicians have just gotten better and better. I think that this band [Jack Rigg, guitar, who currently works with Bouchard as writer and composer; Orville Davis, bass, has gone country; Paul Garisto, drums, is a session/touring musician including with the Psychedelic Furs and Iggy Pop – RBF, 1983/2022] has the most variety, musically. It’s not all, like 4/4, heavy metal or something. I think everybody feels a real freedom with their creativity. We’ll write a lot of songs and boot out most of them and just keep what seems kind of golden and special to us. Songs that we all like. I really don’t think we have any boring songs. And I certainly never get bored on stage. I think it’s the best band by far that I’ve ever had. I love the rhythms. There are so much more unusual rhythms, and it’s challenged me to write in many new ways. Like, now I’m writing a lot more as we’re writing the music, rather than writing a poem and setting it to music. It’s more of a give and take product. I think I’m doing my best writing now than I ever did in my life.

FFanzeen: Do you think that you’re playing with guns and knives on stage promotes violence?
Helen: No. Certainly no more than television does. I think a lot less. What it does is promote an image that people are little bit afraid of, which is the armed and dangerous woman. I think it’s an important cultural image to put out, and that’s one reason to do it, because of the “weaker sex” bullshit. … When people are hassling everyone else on the street, as I pass by, they say, “DT ticket,” which means, “Don’t Touch.” That means you don’t fuck around with this person because this person knows themselves, and looks a little weird. See, I don’t believe in gun control, because the way that things have gotten, all the bad guys have guns. They buy a Saturday night special for $25. Why shouldn’t I have a gun to protect my house? I don’t think it invites trouble. The same as bodybuilding. I think it gives a different image of womanhood for the ‘80s, that a woman is not passive. People don’t think of women as fighting back. If they did, they wouldn’t fuck around with them so much. Nobody fuckin’ touches me.

(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

FFanzeen: Are you trained in any of the martial arts?
Helen: No, but I wouldn’t mind being. It’s not something I would put out of my mind. Bodybuilding is one way of making myself strong and I might be interested in doing that. … Although the ultimate defense is a .45. It’s the same as pressing 125-plus pounds. When I can press 180 pounds, then if a 180-pound man starts to attack me, I’d be able to pick him up and throw him against the wall, and break his head. That’s what I see is a great use for that. When you can do pushups on your fingertips, you can put your finger right through somebody’s throat, or you pump out their eyeball, they won’t bother you. If you’re strong enough to rip their nose off their face, that’s great. To me, it’s holy. It’s kind of an art, to make yourself strong and whole. I am very spiritual. To me, I’m one with nature. That’s
my goddess. And nature demands me to be the strongest, most intelligent, most creative being that I could possibly be. To do the most with my life. To me, that’s living an entirely spiritual life. Just to be the fullest human being that I could be. If I’m not writing songs, I’m managing the band, or working and doing something for bucks, or sewing my costume. I believe in doing everything related to my life. I’m a great cook, you know? I enjoy every aspect of living. I really try to. Even if you feel shitty, there’s something good you can get out of it. Read a book or something. It’s just a matter of keeping your mind alive. And not being discouraged by all the shit that’s in the world. I can’t stress the media conspiracy enough, because they want to put us down. They really want powerless people. The same thing with gun control. That’s the second amendment. There must be an armed militia of the people to keep the Constitution in line for when all these scumbags in Washington are changing the immigration laws and doing all this stuff that is destroying our country. We must have an armed populace that has the brains – and they don’t get the brains from eating Wonder Bread – that can take care of themselves. What they’re doing with all this shitty food to these kids now is terrifying, because we’re getting a new generation of nutrition. That’s something people should be immensely aware of, just taking care of their bodies and their minds. Plus, it’s like a suicide country, if you just let it tumble down the way it’s going.

FFanzeen: How do you think we can change that?
Helen: By becoming more well-informed, by watching our own personal health and strength, by finding out what we are guaranteed in our freedoms and making sure we get those guarantees. That’s what this country is built on, is the Constitution/Bill of Rights. And that’s what gives us the right to rock’n’roll. The right to express ourselves and to speak out about what we really believe in. From the selfish standpoint of an artist, I would do anything to protect the freedoms of this country, because they would have killed me in Russia. They would have put me in jail 15 years ago, just for being an outlaw, let alone singing rock’n’roll. Because I won’t be told what to do. I really believe in that for everyone: self-determination. And I think that people are hungry for a positive, American message. I’m fuckin’ sick of the British Invasion, which never ended since the Beatles, and then try to pummulgate it into everyone’s minds here that the Brit bands are the good bands, because they’re the ones in the media. They’re the ones getting $3,000 when we get $300 or something. People say, “Why don’t you go over to England and make it big over there, and then come back?” That’s the last resort, because I’m American and I’d really like to make it in my own country first. I wouldn’t mind doing well over there, too, because fans are fans. They have to clear the songs with the BBC, you know. I mean, it’s not a Communist country, but there’s a lot of political repression there. And to me, most of them are neo-disco (and) it’s all this synthesizer hype bands – and it’s all phony. And I really resent it that our media and our people are slobbering over all the English stuff. There’s thousands of great American bands here that are not getting a chance.

FFanzeen: You can hardly get a gig at a major club in New York on a weekend unless you open for a British band.
Helen: I’ve got everything going against me: I’m a chick, I’m white, I’m real American. I’m not a commie, I’m not gay, I play rock’n’roll – they don’t want me, but I’m not going away. … But I try to keep a positive thing going. Most of the people that are rockin’, they just wanna rock, and bless them. May nature bless them and let them rock. It’s the healthiest thing they can do.

When it came time to publish the article in its original form, I told Helen I was going to make it into the two-page center. She hand-created a beautiful piece of illustration as a border, after I gave her the dimensions, which I used, of course. It was not boring.

Looking back in hindsight from 2022, I wonder what Helen would make of the modern, Internet-informed, COVID-infested, anti-vaccination, White Nationalist groups, “fake news,” post-Trump, and post-1/6 insurrection America. Unfortunately, we will never know.

In 1996, Helen moved to Ithaca, New York, and after a stint as a trainer and opening up her own small press imprint, she became a member of the band Skeleton Crew and was recording a new album (Helen Wheels and the Skeleton Crew).

Helen went into Ithaca Hospital for some corrective back surgery, having hurt it over a decade before, caught an infection, and passed away on January 27, 2000, at the age of 50. Maybe her goddess was lovingly trying to protect her from learning about 9/11, nearly two years later..