Oil of Dog
Gary Storm
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Talking to The Ramones, in a small room in a small club.  As before, I was unable to discern the individual voices from the cassette tape, so the members of the band are not individually identified.

Tour Manager of the Ramones:       We’ve got time for one question.

Gary:       Alright.

TM:       One serious question . . . then we gotta go.  Make it quick.

Linda Stein:       You’re never gonna get a serious answer, you realize.

Ramones:       We gotta blow.

R:       Yeah, hahahaha.

G:       That’s sorta what I figured, so . . . . .

Voice:       Give ‘em your hottest one right now.

R:       I mean, look at this man here, is he gonna give you a serious answer?

R:       (Looking at my notes over my shoulder as I crumble to powdery pieces) “Anger”, “violence”, “revenge”, “death”???

G:       Alright, urrmmm . . . . . airight . . . . .

R:       “Death”????

G:       Alright, okay, here’s, here’s     

R:       “Cover art, John Holmstrom of Punk.”

G:       Yeah, I-I met him when I was in . . . . .  Okay, what I wanted to know was, umm, . . . . . a-alright, historically speaking, you’re, you are . . . . . th-the punk rock group, the group that sort of got everybody excited about it, or name, y’know, the group after which it was all named . . . . .   

R:       Yes, right.

R:       That’s right, that’s very true.

R:       Yes. Yes.

G:       . . . . .  in America.  Now, you even sort of influenced the Sex Pistols.

R:       (much scorn)  Even sort of, yeah.

Linda Stein:       (much scorn)  Yeah, sort of.

R:       Yeah, yeah.

G:       So, umm . . . . .    

R:       Could be.

G:       . . . . . what’s that like?  What’s it like to be th-the leaders of a-a-a movement, y’know?

TM:       Good question.

R:       Uhhhh.

R:       Won-wonderful, exhilarating, a really rewarding experience.  (Everyone laughs.)

G       :I can tell, hahahaha.  Is-is that true or is that just hype?  Do you feel like that’s true?

R:       Hype.

Stein:       There’s no such thing as hype.

R:       Pure hype.

R:       Hype.

R:       Hype.  Hype.

R:       It’s all pure hype.

R:       We’re all hype.

R:       Everything’s hype.

G:       Is it real?

R:       Hhhhooww, how would you feel:  It, y’know, what’s the difference?

G:       That’s what I’d like to know.

TM:       I asked them that question before they went on and they couldn’t answer it then either.

R:       What’s it matter?  What’s it matter?  It’s fine if, ah, y’know, as long as, if we do good, y’know . . . . 

TM:       You guys are leaders in your field, why don’t you admit it?

Stein:       Fellas, we’ll lead on back to the, urn . . . .  Holiday Inn, we’re ready, let’s go.


        The great nightmare of the children of 1984 and Brave New World is that in the 1980’s Big Business and its good friends the Government and the Military will try to establish total control over the population.  A cretinous puppet will be elected President.  Many citizens will resist.  The major battle fronts will be Energy and Ecology and Economic Theory.

        For a while, I thought this would establish the nature of cool for the 80’s.  I figured the cool of the upcoming decade will have to be rational because the enemies are completely insane.  Few people will argue that the business world has renounced common sense for profit.  So cool must love being alive fiercely and must defend that love.  Cool, I theorized, will cross all age lines, it will no longer involve mostly the young, because Moms and Dads will find that their happy little homes have dioxin in the water and radiation in the air.

        Moreover, I imagined a cool that would be a complete reversal of earlier cools.  The battle against the killers will require sophisticated knowledge that can only come after many years of study.  Cool will have to be more than rational, it must be intellectual.  I reasoned it will require great knowledge of science and industry and engineering and economics and environment and communications to be cool in the face of insane facts and lying statistics.  In yet another reversal of the old forms, I imagined cool will be sober because the politicians and the businessmen are the only ones who profit from the drugs; besides they themselves are wasted on their Valiums and booze.  Cool will not be pastoral like the hippies in their communes; the poison will follow those who try to escape into the wilderness.  The goal, I concluded, will be to break down the giant corporations into smaller entities, to jail politicians and businessmen who profit from them, to nationalize certain industries, and to make the arms manufacturers into non-profit corporations.

        But this is not cool.  This may be the ideal.  But it will not be the cool.  Because cool renounces all that ever caused the Fear and Sadness.  Cool knows that the Fear can never be met on its own terms, it can never be debated or improved by science.  The only way to combat the death is by being alive, bagging it all.  Cool is also resignation in a peculiar way; it is ennui, boredom, nausea with the world.  It is freedom in the face of oppression, the world will be saved only if all men become free, only if they all seek the greatest living joy, freedom in orgasm, alive in the putrid boredom.  Cool is not what to do about the situation.  There may be nothing that can save the world.  Cool is what to do in the situation.

        I am angry at all the stupid idiots who run the world.  I get headaches all the time.  That is why I am not cool.  I can’t give up.
Hi, Gary.  How are ya?


I haven’t talked to you in a while.

How’s yer back?

Oh, so-so.  The pain hasn’t woken me up for a few nights, anyway.

Ya gotta do those exercises.

Well,  . . . . . you know . . . . .  There’s one part of me that’s workin’ okay, though.  Ya know what I mean?  . . . . .  Huh?


Aw, you know.

Look, I’m busy.

Gare, you don’t mind if I kid around a little, do you, I don’t want to make you mad.

I’m not mad.

You want to hear something?


You know.


You know.


You know.

Look, I don’t like these games.

I just want to kid around, Gare, I don’t want to make you mad.

I’m not mad.

You’re such a nice guy, Gary, you’ve always been so nice to me.

‘Preciate that.

So do I.  You’ve really been nice to me . . . . .  At least, it’s quiet around here now.  My relations have gone back to Florida.  I’ll miss them though.

Why don’t you go too?

Got these two to take care of . . . . what can ya do?

Did you want them to stay?

No, they love it down there.  Why stay in this rotten weather and snow and crap?  They love it in Florida . . . . . . . . . .  Just called to say Hi mostly.  Take care of yourself.  G’bye, Gare.
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        It is a timeless water. The sound of Edgar Froese’s electronic composition “Aqua” washes all of Buffalo and I read

tell me all about
Anna Livia!  I want to hear all
About Anna Livia. Well, you know Anna Livia? Yes, of course,
we all know Anna Livia.  Tell me all.  Tell me now.*

And I do.  A morning of Finnegans Wake drops on the ears of Buffalo.  James Joyce was my main man for me both in undergraduate and in graduate school.  I think I have read every word he wrote, letters, poems, books, journals, notebooks, everything I could get my hands on.  I love reading this music of words.  Perhaps I will tell the tale of stem or stone again soon.

* James Joyce.  Finnegans Wake.  New York:  Viking Press, 1939.
It was in a high school art class that I was first introduced to rock music.  The teacher let the students bring their own records while we created art.  Some crazy kid came in with THE FUGS.

My baby ain’t got no money
but her snatch it tastes like honey
Because she takes that Coca-Cola douche.*

Who would think these guys were experts on William Blake and that Ed Sanders was a classicist and that he and Tuli Kupferberg are still among America’s most important living poets?  We sure didn’t know that when we got in trouble for singing:

My baby done left me
She done went to the drivein movies
with somebody else
And I feel like homemade SHIT.**

My listeners are enjoying Ed Sanders’ rap about “. . . . . wadding her sweater up under her ass just in case, y’know, she wants to go all the way . . . . .”

After the prom
And ain’t got no scum bag
Saran Wrap
Saran Wrap***

Fugs.  “Coca-Cola Douche.”  © 1965, United International Copyright Representations, Ltd., from Virgin Fugs, ESP-Disk, ESP 1038.

** Fugs.  “My Baby Done Left Me.”  © 1965, United International Copyright Representations, Ltd. (ASCAP), from Fugs First Album, ESP-Disk, ESP 1018.

*** Fugs.  “Saran Wrap.”  © 1970, Heavy Metal Music, Inc., from Golden Filth, Reprise, RS 6396.
Talking with Jack Goldstein about his sound effects records:

Jack:       I mean, the thing about sound is that, ah, ah, the sound is grounded into the present and, urn, it’s the thing tha-tha-tha-that defines objects to me in the world that they’re alive in some way.  Um, if I was to pound my fist on the table and you couldn’t hear my doing it, that’s like an activity that really isn’t taking place.  But if you can hear me doing it, I give presence to it, I give life to it.  So sound by its very nature is something tha-tha-that I feel is-is, uh, very much about life because I ca-I cannot think of life in any way without thinking about sounds.

Postcard issued by Hallwalls to publicize Jack Goldstein's appearance on my show.

Figure 28:  Postcard issued by Hallwalls to publicize Jack Goldstein's appearance on my show.
        We have just aired a sound effect record by Jack Goldstein called “The Murder.”  It is a splicing of trite B-movie and television suspense music culled from a sound library.  It begins with two heartbeat pulses on the tympani. The pulses repeat many times.  Then a tense high note is sustained for a long time by the flute and violins, the second violins enter a half-step lower, the violas and cellos fill out the lower notes of a very dissonant chord.  Discordant and random arpeggios on the piano.  It goes on like this.  The exact music must have been used a thousand times in cheap murder mysteries.  Sometimes dreamy – pulsing plodding sneaking passages – never tuneful, never pleasingly harmonic.  The squealing violins are severed by two mighty blows by the percussion section!!!!  Death.

Gary:       Now, you call this “The Murder.”  “How come?” would be one way of phrasing the question.  Or another way of phrasing the question is “How did these sounds come to be associated with murder?”

Jack Goldstein:       Well, once again I-da-I-th-me, ah, those things are really culturally defined for us, ah, because of television and the movies.  That’s the kind of music that has been used to set up the scene for those kind of things to take place in.  And really what I’m doing is using that music for it to become that thing.  That it’s not so much about the actors having to be there, as that the music is really what sets up the situation for those actors to act it out in the first place.  And I think that if you played that music in any situation, it would be very ominous.

G:       Mm hmm.

J:       And so it’s almost like the music comes before the actual act of-of, ah, those actors doing that thing to create a murder.  So I’m using music to create a picture in your head and once again a distance has been created because you are creating it in your head, in your mind.

G:       Mm hmm.

J:       Not in terms of your body.  So you can play with the image.  Like what that murder is to me may be very different to you because when the symbols cut in at the end, that could b-I-I always envision that somebody with an axe has just chopped somebody’s head off.

G:       I thought it was with a knife, hahahahahaha.
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The best music I ever heard for cruisin’ this great land of ours was VIVALDI’s “Concerto No. 6 in A Minor for two violins, strings and continuo.”  When I hear this I’m sailing in the sky, I can look down on thousands of miles of silver highways, zooming in on the hero and his girl in their top-down convertible, her scarf blowing in the sunshine as they head for new adventures and old gas stations.  It is so American.  With Vivaldi you can just cruise.

        I thought the 1980’s might bring a new age of activism and anger, a new surge in the fight for equal rights and justice.  I hoped people would turn against the real enemies, the people in business and government.  But with the crises in Iran and Afghanistan, I see even among people I thought more sensitive, a great deal of frustration and anger which is finding release in stupid racism, chauvinism, and mindless patriotism.

        I see no cause in these crises to be patriotic. I see no reason to stand behind the policies of any particular madman.  Carter was insane for allowing the Shah to enter the U.S.A.  The militants in Iran were insane for taking the Embassy and hostages in response.  The Ayatollah was insane for condoning the take-over.  The American oil companies are insane for supporting the Shah and exploiting the rumors of an oil shortage.  Henry Kissinger is murderously insane in all circumstances.  The American Congress is insane for trotting along after these madmen.  The American military is insane for trying to exploit the crises to increase its budget and reinstate the draft.  The Republican party is insane because it will use these problems to make a cretin like Ronald Reagan seem like a viable alternative.  The Soviet Union is insane for taking advantage of the confusion to invade Afghanistan.  The Soviet military is insane for using gas and chemical warfare.  All the participants are insane for allowing themselves to get into problems that have no apparent peaceful solution.  All the participants are insanely satanically proud.

        I’m not proud.  All this makes me hardly proud to be a human being, much less an American citizen.  I keep thinking of how fearful I was of war as a child and how frightened children must be now.  I hate everyone involved.  And I am in their hands.  There is no right or moral act for an individual in this crisis.  It is even impossible to not participate, to renounce involvement.  It is even impossible to go someplace else.  There is no place else.  An individual has no virtuous choice in this situation.

        There is no appropriate mode of conduct.

        It is difficult for me to understand the life of the improvised jazz solo.  How it is at once orgasmic, created in the eternal present, thrown into the cosmos never to be repeated, never again the same.  And yet through recorded technology, it becomes immortal.  It is cherished by fans, hummed like a written composition, learned note for note by aspiring youths.  Some solos are even put to words and sung by skat singers.  Lester Young was the father of skat.  Robert Creeley talks about this tradition.

Gary:       Oh, by the way, I-I gotta, lemmie do an I.D., ‘cause it’s da law.  You’re with WBFO in Buffalo, I’m Gary Storm and I’m here with Bob Creeley and we’re just playin’ records and listening to them and enjoying them.

Robert Creeley:       In a moment, we’re gonna jump with Symphony Sid.  This is, ah – Symphony Sid is, y’know, people from New York probably know, was like an incredible legend, had a great great jazz show.

G:       Mmmm.

C:       Absolutely fantastic.  As they say (in the liner notes to the record), it was New York’s top disc jockey on WJZ, now WABC.  And Lester Young (wrote this song), y’know (Symphony Sid’s real name was), Sid Torin.  [Reading from the liner notes]  “Lester Young’s celebration of Mr. Torin was done when Sid was the only force in New York’s, et cetera, et cetera . . . . .” and I’m gonna play King Pleasure, I th-, y’know . . . . .

G:       What made Symphony Sid so special?

C:       Well, you could hear him in New Hampshire, hahahaha, for one thing. You could probably hear him South, North, East and West.  He was just playing . . . . . Birdland, had a, was like a curious offshoot of his extraord- . . . . .  He-just, he just was the, ah, . . . . . yeah, he didn’t talk about it, he just kept playing and playing and playing.  He was an all-night incredible, ah, live music show, just like this very night.

G:       Uh huh, right.

C:       And um, he was just, he was fantastic, he, ah . . . . . he was, like, y’know, um, Wolfman Jack or something in L.A. was to rock, for a weird way, and for a time, he was, like, the top disc jockey of that whole possibility, and his, ah, . . . . . you never felt that he was trying to, ah, I mean, you know, I was a humble listener of the forties.  But, I mean, truly I got him in Littleton, New Hampshire, which is . . . . .  

G:       Really?

C:       Yeah, like, when the airwaves were right and . . . . .

G:       Oh, wow!

C:       . . . . . all other things were the case.  This is, ah, King Pleasure [reading again from the liner notes] “Clarence Beeks gave himself the name King Pleasure because he felt it symbolized his chosen role of spreading joy.”

G:       Spreading joy.

C:       Great name.  He’s . . . . .  “In music, he took the form of setting the original songs and improvisations of jazz soloists into words.”  So he was like the initial person of a great tradition.  On this particular scene he’s, um, see now he’s singing . . . . . he’s singing with curious people.

We listen to Ed Lewis, trumpet; Charlie Fergusson, tenor sax; Ed Swanson, piano; Peck Morrison, bass; Herbie LaBell, drums; and King Pleasure singing, “We’re Gonna Jump with Symphony Sid.”  These are some of Lester Young’s lyrics as near as I can make out, though the swing of the music completely rearranges the accents from the way they read on the page:

Jumping with my boy Sid in the city
Jumping with my boy Sid in the city
Mr. President of the DJ Committee
We’re gonna be up all night gettin’ witty
We want you to spin sounds by the witty
From down in the land that’s really pretty

Make everything go real. crazy over J-Z
Make everything go real crazy over J-Z
Play anything cool for me and my baby
We don’t wanna think, we’re listening to lazy
It’s got to be pressed for cheering all the day, see
The dial is all set, right clll-ose to eighty
Let her roll

It is heartening that both Van Morrison and Joe Jackson had as much trouble as I did discerning the words.

        There are certain women who have come to town to play music.  I interview them or I go backstage to hang out and chat.  And they entrance me.  I look upon them from a distance, I do not know what to say.  But I know what my eyes say.  They say I understand you, I know what you’re saying in your songs, I know how you feel.  You and I could talk, if only you’d give me a chance we could be close friends.  I understand you.  And I see the cold look in their eyes.  They do not speak but I know what their eyes say.  You do not understand me at all, who do you think you are kidding?  I do not need anyone who worships me, I need someone who understands me, not my songs.  Don’t you dare come close.  And so I stay away.  I have been humiliated and shunned too many times to risk the pain anymore.

        There are girls who follow me, who write to me and bring me gifts.  They listen to me on the radio every night.  They follow my moods and pick up clues from the silly things I say.  They think they know me.  Their eyes say I understand you, if only you would give me a chance.  My eyes – they say nothing.  I cannot even bear to look.  They know nothing about me, I will never permit it, never ever.  I cannot possibly be the person to whom they bring these gifts and write these letters.  But I cannot be cruel, I cannot tell them to go away.  I have been humiliated too many times to inflict humiliation upon others.

BRYAN BOWERS.  Autoharp virtuoso.  This is a kind of music I love, ringing, many overtones, resounding, shining, archetypal singable old folk melodies.  Actually, this is a tune Bryan Bowers wrote, “Rights of Man.”  When I was in elementary school, we had a music class once a week and sometimes the teacher, Mrs. Bradbury, would play autoharp as we sang.  I thought it was the most mystical instrument, watching her strum its whispering ring.  Sometimes one of us would be permitted to play. Press the “D,” now the “F-sharp”, that’s it.  But Bryan Bowers magnifies the magic, turning this little box of strings into an orchestra.

 “I love what I do so much, I’d be reluctant to compromise.  It’s a privilege.  Not many deejays can do the things they love instead of the things that are commercially successful.”


        With that kind of integrity, Storm might have to starve to death in commercial radio.  “No one would pay me to do this,” he acknowledges cheerfully.*

*  Patricia Ward Biederman.  “Storm’s Music Soothes Lonely Night.”  Courier Express, January 14, 1977, Vol. CXLII, No. 178, page. 10.

        I obtain an album by a group called Moondog from Oklahoma.  I give them an Honorable Mention in my playlist.  They are the ones I played on my show who have an amusing song about listening to the Grateful Dead.  They send me a letter:

 How’s it going in Buffalo?  We at the Moondog house would like to thank you for your help. A s a Direct result of your playlist, we have been picked up by WBAI in New York City and WCUW in Worcester, Mass.  Both have written requesting albums and sent play sheets.

        Talking to Stiv Bators, the lead singer of The Dead Boys.  Despite all the wild stories I’ve heard about him, always spitting at the audience, continually dropping his pants, the time he beat up DEVO, he was a nice guy and a great talker.  Anyone who sees him perform knows one of his heroes must be Iggy Pop.

Stiv:       Ah, . . . . .  It was like, ah, I think in seventy, I ran away from home, I was living up in Cincinnati, I mean, ah, Detroit, yeah.  And we went to Cincinnati, we hitch-hiked down there, and, ah, . . . . . ah, Iggy, no one ever heard of him, or [Alice] Cooper, none of that, it was like Mott the Hoople’s first tour through the country, and all that.  So I was hangin’ out, and I was tellin’ people that, ah, if, I-I just was telling ‘em, trying to explain Iggy to them, nobody would believe the things he’d do on stage.  No one did that then, y’know.  I said to this kid had a picnic basket, I says, “If you, ah, give him that jar of peanut butter, he’d rub it all over himself,” “Naaaah” – y’know.  So, anyway, Iggy come out and we got lost in, ah, watching him, he dove on our shoulders and we were holding him up and this kid taps me on the shoulder, and, ah, he had the jar of peanut butter, so I grab it and I hit Iggy in the leg, he looks down, his eyes got like, like saucers, y’know, really big, an’ just dipped his fist into this jar of peanut butter and rubbed it all over his stomach, was throwin’ it at people, and then, ah, like he dove back on stage and broke it over the bass player’s head, or somethin’ like that, I forget what happened . . . . . got really lost.  But later on through the pi-, ah, through the scaffolding, he looked over at me and said, ah, when he was ge-going down, he just . . . . . like just that quick glance thing, like, ah, “Thanks, good idea,” or something like that, can’t remember, I-I . . . . .

Gary:       Have ya-have ya met him or talked to him since then?

S:       Naw, like, ah, I been into running, like, president of the Iggy Pop Fan Club, was hanging out with him, especially on this tour.  So Iggy called the apartment, I’m staying with some stripper up in New York, and I had to fly to Chicago to do promo on the album, and Iggy called the apartment when he was in New York, he wanted me to come up and see him, but I wasn’t there, so . . . . . it’s like everywhere I play, we just come back from Philly and they just went there.  We-we checked out an hour before they checked in.  It’s things like that, keep missing them.  Like, he wants to meet me and talk, but . . . . .

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Jeez, this guy plays a million forgotten instruments:  dulcimer, concert zither, Northumbrian small-pipes, bandura, prima balalaika, second balalaika, bouzouki, as well as guitar, sax, clarinet, penny whistle and he sings pretty darn great too.  His name is KEN BLOOM on Flying Fish records.  These lovely folk melodies, all flavors and sizes just like his instruments.  This is a chant called “The Eagle and the Owl.”

        A letter postmarked December 8, 1976 with the word “Private” clearly emblazoned in the corner.

Dear Mr. Storm,

        For the past few weeks I have been waking up early.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy hearing your voice.  It makes me feel like starting my day.

        Today I discovered you were going to read the Wizard of Oz until completed.  Please Don’t Do It!  Read it to your friends or something else.  I can’t bear to hear you read but I love it when you speak.

        This is not meant to be a joke although, I admit, this letter appears to be a prank.

        I like your voice so much that I set my radio to turn on even when I don’t need to get up.



This does not dissuade me from reading the original Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and the response is wonderful.  Moms and kids call and write.  The reading lasts for about two weeks.

Jack Goldstein talking about his sound effects records:       The record is something that is very mechanical and-and the-th-the content within each record is something that is very spontaneous and organic.  And by channeling that into a record I can treat that thing as an object because it’s like the two worlds merging.  And I-I associate those two worlds with my body and my mind.  I would say that th-the-the that the physical properties of the record itself, like the form of the record is my body, and the sound that takes place on that record is my mind.  So I see that as a metaphor for myself in the world.  The merging of the mechanical with the organic.


        Early in his career, Gregory Bateson conducted an anthropological and sociological study of the people of Bali.  I have been reading about it in his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind.  He states, “Schizmogenic sequences were not found in Bali.”

        This means they do not fight or engage in war.  He says that their interactions are not climactic; they do not engage in activities which rise to a peak of intensity and come to a distinct conclusion.  They are not – in a word – orgasmic.  They do not need the fulfillment of winning a quarrel, their music and drama is characterized by a constant plateau of intensity rather than a series of climaxes.  They live in an economy of plenty: warm climate, abundant food, total leisure, physical pleasure.  They are created fulfilled.  They need no cloture, no tidy ending, no final resolution.  Anyone who demands a great deal of attention is distasteful.  A punk or a beatnik or a hippie or a television detective would not go over very well in Bali.*

        It is very difficult for me to relate to these ideas, there is nothing in the American lifestyle with which they compare.  Obviously, there is no empirical cool.  Until the people of Bali are hit by sludge and radioactivity they will not need to walk that walk.  There is no need.  They are so cool already they don’t even know it.

*  Gregory Bateson.  Steps to an Ecology of Mind.  New York:  Ballentine Books, 1972, pages 112-115.
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PALESTRINA, born about 1525.  A motet for full choir called “Canite tuba” – “Sound the Trumpets.”  It’s short but by the end you are transposed to higher realms of consciousness.

        On my Truly Classic Album Hour, I feature Contact High by The Godz.  The record sounds like they dragged some kids off the street and gave them instruments and told them to make up songs in the studio.  Which is in fact almost the case.  Here are some of the liner notes:

         This is the Godz Truth:  Two sides of eight original tunes by four New Yorkers, who don’t give a good God-damn whether you dig it or not.  They are human, alive and hot in the blood, creating their own song, forging their own sound with a beat like an elephant’s heart.  They are that way because they hold honesty dear, and have no need for arrogance.

        By name The Godz are blond Jay Dillon, 24, a psaltry player by choice and a graphic designer by trade; Larry Kessler, 25, a sometime craps dealer, dishwasher and itinerant record salesman.  Record salesmen also are Jim McCarthy, 22; guitarist, harmonica and plastic flute player, and drummer Paul Thorton, 26, who never played that instrument before this date.  To all of them, musical instruments are but so many vehicles by which they express all they can not consciously define in any other way.*

        This album was released in 1966 and The Godz recorded three more albums on the ESP Record label.  ESP was one of the greatest record companies of all time.  It went out of business because it was financially dishonest, but it was one of the few labels in which the recording artists had complete control over the final product.  Albert Ayler, The Fugs, Paul Bley, Gato Barbieri, Sun Ra, Marion Brown, Pharoah Sanders, Bill Horwitz, Gunter Hampel, Pearls Before Swine, Buzzy Linhart, Lou Killen all released their earliest records on this label.

        It is now October of 1975.  There is nothing in the music business to compare to ESP.  The huge record companies completely control the market, pouring out tons of bilge and sludge and drek, miserable boring ponderously dull offensive worthless hunks of vinyl.  No one has the courage of ESP.  There is no room for sloppiness, ugliness, and simple idiocy on records anymore.  Elton John splurts one hit after another.  All the songs on the radio are overproduced and sweet with musicianship that is very competent and very unexciting.  Good musicians have ruined music.

        The Godz do a tune called “White Cat Heat” in which they all yowl like cats and bang their instruments.  At this moment The Eagles have a gooey tuneless song I’m supposed to be interested in playing.  I tell my listeners that this boring music will last only two more years, I give it two more years.  Then something monstrous and wonderful will happen.

        No record company has ever appeared more crazy than ESP releasing the outest jazz and the wierdest folk and the nastiest rock.  No other label has ever gone quite as far as ESP.

*  Marc Crawford - Transmondo.  Liner notes, © on The Godz, Contact High, ESP-Disk, ESP 1036.

        Postmarked December 11, 1976, the mysterious writer says they didn’t want me to read the Wizard of Oz for fear of having already missed some of the story.

         By this time, you are probably thinking something about me.  Perhaps you think I’m crazy for writing.  Maybe I am.

        You know what I like about your show – besides your voice – I like the fact that you vary the types of music you play.  That shows you are a sensible person.  I like the way you talk to your audience.  (Please don’t become inhibited because I write this.)  It’s as though we are right there with you.

        I think the reason why I write to you is because I have often had to do things like this to prevent my life from becoming too boring.

        I would be slightly embarrassed if you ever found out who I really am, although I assure you I don’t know you and I’m not playing a trick on you.  In fact I wouldn’t know you if I passed you on the street.

        I may be doing this because I’m lonely, though I do have good friends.

. . .

        If I were you reading this, I’d be thinking God!  What an asshole this person is.  I don’t blame you for thinking this but please understand that I have to get this insanity out of my system, and anonymously in the only way I can do it.

        I once had a psychotherapist and he kept insisting that I was normal like everyone else – but heck!  I feel crazy.  Maybe being normal feels crazy.

        If you are still reading this letter – thanks.  Ever since I came to Buffalo 2½ years ago I’ve been mentally unbalanced.  You see, I’m from a very small city – led a very sheltered life there – came here and Whamm-o!!!  I haven’t been the same since . . . . .   

 The letter is signed simply “to.”   They ask me to acknowledge the letter by playing some Joni Mitchell.  I play the songs.  I do not think the person is an asshole.  These letters sound like something I would write.  I wonder if Dear Anne and Dear Abby ever feel too close to those who seek their help.

        As a music director and a record collector, I come to love certain labels. You can always depend on certain record companies to give you good music. When I was in high school, there was no label more punky psychotic and psychedelic than International Artists from Texas. They gave the world Bubble Puppy, Red Crayola, and my favorite punk group of all time The Thirteenth Floor Elevators.  (Remember “You’re Gonna Miss Me”?)

        Tower Records beat in our heads with The Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells, and Freddie and The Dreamers.  Tower was also the label that brought you the soundtracks to the immortal American International films like Wild in the Streets and Riot on Sunset Strip.

        There are some vinyl junkies in this area who are collecting Harvest Records, always appealingly off the beaten tracks with artists like Pink Floyd, Forest, Quartermass, Battered Ornaments, The Panama Limited Jug Band, Roy Harper, Tom Robinson.

        Another couple of collectors I know are racing one another to the completion of the entire Sire catalog.  The president of Sire, Seymour Stein, has our eternal admiration for signing sickies like The Deviants, Twink, Peter Kelly, Focus, Renaissance, Talking Heads and, of course, The Ramones.

        Island Records and its sister label Antilles blessed the world with Traffic, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Bob Marley, Sparks, Toots and The Maytals, Eddie and The Hot Rods, the revival of Marianne Faithful.

        When I search used record bins, I always pick up anything on the ABC Probe label because they had the sense to release Frummox, Rare Bird, Saint Steven, and the first album by Soft Machine.

        Today of all the super giant murder death record corporations, Warner Brothers has by far the best A & R department and the worst promotion department, which means they put out a lot of fantastic albums that no one ever gets to hear, like Ry Cooder, DEVO, The Roches, Emmylou Harris, Danny O’Keefe, Roy Wood and on and on and on.

        I admire the consistent good taste of Chrysalis and Polydor, the former with Richard and Linda Thompson, Blondie, Rory Gallagher, Jethro Tull, Steeleye Span, Pere Ubu; the latter The Jam, Peter Hammill, Robert Fripp, U.K., Phil Manzanera’s 801, and the incredible 999.

        Virgin Records seemed to come from outer space with its releases by the European geniuses of progressive rock.  It was on this label that the world at large first heard Gong, Henry Cow, Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield, Hatfield and North, Kew Rhone, and a cosmic sweep of others.

        Now there are literally hundreds of new wave labels with thousands of fabulous new wave punk powerpop nowave whatever groups.  The first of these was probably Bezerkely (“Home of the Hits”) with its crazy promotion campaign.  They nudged the world with Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, Greg Kihn, The Rubinoos, The Tyla Gang, and the rebirth of Earthquake.

        In England, Stiff Records copied and perfected the Bezerkely style and to this day is releasing some of the freshest and most fascinating rock in the world (despite their wretched exploitation of collectors by releasing several versions and pressings of the same song).  Elvis Costello, The Damned, Nick Lowe, Ian Dury, Rachel Sweet, Lene Lovich, Jona Lewie, and dozens of others emerged on Stiff (“The World’s Most Flexible Label,” “Today’s Sound Today.”).

        There are more fantastic new wave records on little labels than anybody knows.  Rough Trade is an enraged British label releasing a host of politically-oriented avant garde bands like Essential Logic, The Young Marble Giants, This Heat, The Monochrome Set, and Spizzenergi.

        I immediately grab records by Chiswick, Small Wonder, The Label, Bomp, Radar, and the many small labels distributed by a company called Faulty Products.

        As I look over this list I remember a number of other companies worthy of mention like:

        Tomato with Clifton Chenier, Philip Glass, Townes Van Zandt, all beautifully packaged.

        Mango, the fine reggae label.

        Ze with James White the Blacks, Lydia Lunch, The Contortions, and Cristina.

        IRS gives us Wazmo Nariz, Oingo Boingo, and Klark Kent.

        Verge, will forever be collectable as the first label of The Mothers of Invention.

        And yipes!  How could I forget all the crazed records on the Rhino label by Dr. Demento, Wildman Fischer, The Winos, and Barnes and Barnes.

        And what about Ralph, the label of The Residents.

        And the wildest of them all:  ESP.

        And I haven’t even mentioned the dozens of determined little folk and blues labels like Flying Fish.

        And their is Rounder (not so little anymore).

        Kicking Mule, founded by Stephan Grossman, devoted exclusively to guitar music, most of the albums come with tablatures for those who want to learn to play the tunes.

        Green Linnet (Irish folk music)

        Alligator Records with Koko Taylor, Son Seals, Albert Collins.

        Cowboy Carl – this guy specializes in releasing ancient rockabilly gems.

        Blue Goose Records; Yazoo Records, Philo (elegant folk music); Folkways, Folk Legacy (with Gordon Bok and Bill Stains); Sierra Briar Records; Topic Records (British folk music); Delmark (Otis Rush, Fast Fingers Dawkins, ‘nuff said!); and Stash (devoted exclusively to old songs about sex and drugs).

        When I remember that all these records are available (some more than others), I am not so angry at the record companies for refusing to release good music as I am at the radio stations for refusing to expose it.
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Lovely unique finger picker on the Kicking Mule Record label.  DUCK BAKER.  He plays a nylon string guitar, unusual for most finger pickers who like that steel string ring.  Here’s an engaging medley:  “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” followed by “America” – good for opening or closing any set of songs.

All-out war erupts in El Salvador.

Big businessmen breathe a sigh of relief.

Gary is enlisted.

Learns how to use a gun in boot camp.

Becomes an assassin.

Image under construction.


        When Dick Gregory or Richard Pryor or Franklin Ajaye talk about black people, they call them niggers.  But white people cannot get away with using that word on the public airwaves.  President Reagan would be criticized for using that word, and not because he is a racist (which he is), but because he is white.  The word nigger is fascinating and peculiar.  It has vacillated throughout history between being a common neutral term for a group of people to a demeaning cruel and racist expression.  Consider how the word was used by Mark Twain; it was an unremarkable part of the vernacular of a particular culture at a particular time in history.  In contrast, consider how the word was used when Army troops confronted the National Guard in front of n Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

        Today, in the late 1970s, for non-blacks, nigger has become a tabu word.  Black people use it in friendly ways to talk about one another, but an outsider can’t use it in speaking about blacks without, even unintentionally, causing offense.  It is an inside word.  In a friendly situation, a non-black can call anyone who is black any other name – man baby dude motherfucker boy bro cat – but not nigger.

        Part of the phenomenon of this word is that it is common for cults and ethnic groups to adopt for affectionate use expressions which were originally directed against them by bigots.  Certainly this is how the beats, beatniks, hippies, freaks, and punks found their collective monikers. And even the names of artistic movements – cubism, pop art, minimalism – were originally coined by scornful art critics.

        But the tabus that seem to inhere indelibly to ostensibly offensive language are, in truth, malleable and inconsistent.  The tabu word nigger has been co-opted just as have all other words in the cool lingo. Non-blacks don’t use this word for blacks, but they do call themselves niggers. A great little book by Jay Farber awakened all students to the fact that they are niggers.*  Any group that is subject to arbitrary bigotry and oppression has adopted the moniker.  Women are niggers.  Gays are niggers.  Patti Smith anthemizes it her thrilling song “Rock’n’Roll Nigger”:

Baby was a black sheep
Baby was a whore
Baby got big and baby gets bigger
Baby gets something
Baby gets more
Baby baby baby was a rock’n’roll nigger

Look around you
All around you
Riding on a copper wave
Do you like the world around you?
Are you ready to behave?

Outside of society
The way for me
Outside of society
That’s where I wanna be**

And Lou Reed bitterly satirizes such sentiments:

I wanna be black
I wanna be a Panther
And have a girl friend named Samantha
And have a stable of foxy whores
Woo woo I wanna be black

Oh, I don’t wanna be
a fucked up middle class college student no more***

Why are people who are not black singing about wanting to be black?  The answer lies in cool.

*  Jerry Farber.  The Student as Nigger.  New York:  Pocket Books, 1972.

**  Patti Smith.  “Rock’n’Roll Nigger,” © 1978, Patti Smith, from Easter, Arista, AB 4171.

***  Lou Reed.  “I Wanna Be Black,” © 1978, Metal Machine Music, (BMI), from Street Hassle, Arista, AB 4169.

        Just after the release of the great-from-beginning-to-end album, Pure Pop for Now People, Scott Field and I interviewed Nick Lowe.

Gary:       You’re about to be a star it looks like.

Nick Lowe:       Hahaha.

G:       It looks like after years of, like, being in a cult group, and being a cult figure in a cult group, you’re about to explode.  How’s that feel?

L:       (Long pause. He mumbles.)

G:       Well, that’s what people say.  I-b-I believe everything I read.  Hahahaha.

L:       Oh, yeah?  (Long pause.)  It, um . . . . . it doesn’t feel like anything actually.

G:       Yeah?

L:       No. It doesn’t . . . . . ah . . . . .  

G:       You’ve never, you’ve never had your eyes on being a st-, like a big star or anything like that?

L:       No, definitely not.  I don’t want to be a big star because if you do that, y-you become somebody else’s property.  I like being in the background, I like it, y’know, because it gives me the opportunity to do whatever I want.  Y’know, I don’t want to churn out my next album, y’know, I don’t want it to be the same as-as, um, this one, y’know.  I don’t want to do this, I might do a jazz album next or a folk album, or I might do a psychedelic album, y’know, one track on each, y’know, on both sides.
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