|Oil of Dog
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Letter from a Listener:
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|The reading of Decameron continues to go poorly. I mispronounce names, I learn to my great chagrin while I am reading on the air that I have no feel for the stories. I just ain’t that medieval. After a few weeks the Friday morning readings are quietly discontinued, one of my greatest humiliations on Oil of Dog.||
Here’s DICK ROBERTSON again with a song copyrighted just 16 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – “We Did It Before, We Can do It Again.” The song – say the liner notes – reflects a sudden surge of patriotism and racism that obliterated any trace of isolationism in the U.S.A.
As I write this, those Americans are being held hostage by the Iranian students in the Embassy in Tehran. On television, I watch waves of racist patriotism sweep the nation. I wish invaders from another planet would attack.
One of the greatest single entities in the universe – and this includes quasars and subatomic particles, as well as the wonders of nature and the works of man – is Dave Edmunds. As a producer and performer he has provided me and my listeners with a wondrous collection of rock’n’roll perfection. Scott Field and I interviewed him in his hotel room. Dave was so shy as he sat there in his leather jacket that he trembled from head to toe. As he placed a shaky cigarette to his lips I started to go to pieces myself. With quivering hands, we clutched microphones intimidating the hell out of one another. And had a wonderful talk.
It was only natural to ask someone you admire about his heroes.
Gary: You, ah . . . . . you met, um . . . . . two people I-I read that I would assume w-were important influences for you: Brian Wilson, oh, umm, and Phil Spector.
Dave: No, not him.
G: Oh, you didn’t meet him.
G: See, I read things that aren’t even true. That’s why you have to . . . . .
D: It was about to happen once, I was home sitting around waitin’ to go but didn’t.
G: You did meet Brian Wilson, though?
G: Are there, is . . . . . is that a story? Er, how did that, did anything happen?
D: Well, it was the Flaming Groovies, eh, they’d been . . . . . to his house before. And, ah . . . . . they met him one or two times, y’know, when I was in L.A. the first time, it was, ah, recording with Bruce Johnson. And, ummm . . . . . they just said, “C’mon, let’s go,” and I, “C’mon, let’s go down to Brian’s.” Well, I didn’t believe them really . . . . .
G: Uh huh.
D: Sure enough, we just turned up to the gate, press the [intercom button], “Who is it?” “Flaming Groovies”, gates open, run in . . . . . great! They did alright.
G: Did he know yer . . . . . did he know yer material?
D: I haven’t the faintest idea.
D: Very strange person to communicate with. I remember we had, ah . . . . . the Groovies were taking along a copy of (Subtle as a) Flying Mallet, and he put it on, ahh, or someone put on “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and he just kept playing it . . . . . eight, ten times over and over again. He didn’t say anything, very, hahaha, very strange.
Figure 34: Dave Edmunds: “I hate interviews. Especially with hippies.” (Photo by Zowie.)
“Hi, Gary!” they will say and I will look into a face I have never seen. Every day this happens. Someone will come up to me and start talking and I won’t know if they are someone I know or someone I’ve never met in my life. I am just one of those people who can’t remember faces and names. I am too humiliated to say “Do I know you?” I fake it. I talk pleasantly. I lose my cool. I just can’t keep track of it all. They act insulted. “Don’t you remember me?” Don’t they know? NO NO NO I CAN’T REMEMBER ALL THESE PEOPLE.
A listener will call while I’m on another line. As I put them on hold I accidentally cut them off. They do not call back. I learn later they were hurt and angry at me all night.
Someone sends a cassette of a number of comedy routines.
We believe that the quality of our work is good and that an audience of listeners sensitive to this kind of statement, would find them amusing. Unfortunately, we do not know how to reach this audience. Our work could remain forever in the basement collecting dust.
I don’t know, the routines were alright, I guess, but I just didn’t want to deal with these somehow. So I didn’t. They kept sending me letters and making phone calls. I was busy, I was tired, my love life sucked, I had too much to listen to anyway, I am afraid of people, my feet hurt, I was broke, I have no taste, I’m not very bright, how can I make such judgments, shit. One of my worst humiliations. Another listener let down.
Letter from a Listener:
Letter from a Listener:
Gary isn’t just a radio disc jockey, he’s a part of the lives of many out here who are doing our jobs, raising our kids, getting off on Kauphy Klatches, movies and the New York Times. He’s the only link a lot of us have left with the other side; a reminder that it all really exists and will be there when the time comes to get back to it. I’ve even mused about what I’d do without Gary Storm.
On behalf of all of us who don’t have time between bowls of cornflakes and kissing off the kids to school
SAVE Gary Storm.
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It is Valentine’s Day. I am doing dedications. Sultry woman’s voice dedicates Roland Kirk’s “Bright Moments” to Leslie. Happy male named “Guess Who” sends Paul “Gotta Have Your Love” by J. Geils.
Ah! I am blessed! I put Love into the world!
Sergeant York (1941).
GJJP: You mean to say that you and seven others captured all that bunch?
AY: (Terrible Southern accent) Yes, sir. We’d kinda like to get rid of ‘em.
GJJP: Well!! Good Lord!! I guess we can give you some help!
(Happy music as the rumor spreads.)
Voices of Soldiers: Hey, Sarge! York by himself captured 132 Germans!!! . . . . .** Screenplay by Abem Finkel, Harry Chandler, Howard Koch, John Houston, from 50 Years of Film, Side 3, Warner 3XX2737, S 40584.
DAZZLING DAVID BLOOM’S AMAZING HISTORY OF OPERA AS PERFORMED ON THE OIL OF DOG PRESENTATION “WAGNER’S RING OF THE NIEBELUNG FOR PUNKS”
Gary: Okay. Um, also if you people out in th-or y’know, i-if what I’m saying makes no sense like or if what David says is-is hard or doesn’t make sense, y’know, call up and say “We don’t know what yer talking about . . . . .”
David Bloom: “You don’t make any sense.”
G: “. . . . . you don’t make any sense.” – because by golly we just might not make any sense.
D: Hahaha. It could happen any minute.
G: Hahaha. Okay, so what we’re presenting here is an opera, and, um, we thought we’d start with What Is An Opera? Why-don’t you, why-don’t-you talk while I get m’notes?
D: Okay, I’ll do that. What, ah, i-it should be stated right at the beginning that what we’re presenting isn’t an opera. Gary says it’s an opera; in certain ways, it’s an opera, but in the most important ways, it’s an anti-opera. Ah, a good thing to do is the history of opera. It-starts, it started out in the Renaissance, ah, when a bunch of people got together and were concerned because the beautiful Greek tragedy that-that they sort of knew about (they were a bunch of intellectuals with a lot of money to spare) . . . . . the Greek tragedy wasn’t getting its due. They suspected – not unrightfully – tha-that the Greek tragedy had been performed with music, but they didn’t have any music to perform with it. What they thought they would do is have everybody sing their lines, and there would be a little instrumental music in the background to keep everybody together and on pitch, and-and that way the special mysterious and religious quality of the Greek drama would just like come through. But . . . . . what happened was they got together, a few operas of this sort were written, they were tragedies, they were solemn and very stern, and they weren’t very entertaining. And the people that were hired to sing in them got sick of it, they wanted to show off the quality of their voices. So they said, “Every once in a while . . . . .”
G: That was those-those prima donnas, those prima donnas.
D: Yeah. They, we . . . . . just hopeless. So the composers gave them a tune. They said, “Okay, here’s a little tune, you can sing this and then go back into the action and perform the play.” Ah, that wasn’t the end of it. They were not satisfied with having a tune, they wanted a special tune with a lot of decorative little things, so that instead of going like: [David plays a simple three note descending line on the piano.], they would go: [He plays the same figure with appoggiaturas on the notes.] . . . . . and . . . . . and before you knew it, they we-, the-they were getting high notes that sounded terrifying to the ear, and little runs and trills . . . . .
G: [Screeches into the microphone (terrifying the ear).]
D: Yeah, right. And-and the baroque opera was born in which there was almost no action, but just like little set-pieces, concert arias where the singer would-show, would show him or herself off for all they were worth. And nothing would really happen. The scenery was fantastic, they would have like four hundred foot deep stages and stuff and lights and, y’know, thunder machines, gods coming out of the sky . . . . .
G: So-so we usually think of opera as a story that, ah, you sing all the way through, but it-it really didn’t start out that way quite.
D: Well, yes, I-yes, they sang during the intermediate parts.
G: Uh huh.
D: But it was all very plain and simple. So an-and it wasn’t like tuneful. It was sort of to get you from one tune to the next. [His voice fades away.]
G: Uh huh.
D: How do you feel about these [microphone] levels?
G: Yeah, I’m-I’m trying to set them up here ‘cause, hahaha . . . . .
D: Okay, hahahaha.
G: I’m trying to figure out which mike is which, to tell the truth.
D: Ah hah.
G: I’ve got it now, though.
G: Okay. I’m engineering, so it-th, that’s one technical problem right there, I have a feeling. Okay. So continue.
D: So. Okay. Th-we were about there were three people in competition over who was to have control over these-these musical plays.
G: You mean, who was to be the greatest one in the world?
D: No. No, jus-jus-, like, who was gonna run them.
G: Oh, you mean among those people performing it?
D: Performing and producing and creating.
G: I see, okay.
D: The writer of the work was into having his play understood, and if-if-the, if the singer was to sing in this ornamental and crazy manner, and, y’know, spending two or three minutes on a single syllable, no one could understand what she was talking about. So wh-what his-his vision was to simplify the orchestration so that the words could be understood the play would move faster and he would get all the applause.
G: I see.
G: The singers – diametrically opposed. Jus-, in the first place, opera singers aren’t very graceful. They’re not good at moving around the stage.
G: And they’re also not known for being real modest people, usually. Or easy to get along with.
D: No. So what they wanted was to stand there and show how wonderful they are and they don’t care what happens. They’ll just hold that note until everybody faints and the glasses shatter and everything like that.
G: They could really shatter glasses with their voices???
D: Still can.
D: Yeah. Beverly Sills does it in the Boston production of “Barber of Seville” in the singing lesson scene. Her music teacher, her fake music teacher is-is teaching her this aria . . . . .
G: Uh huh.
D: And she actually shatters a glass in every performance.
G: Oh, my god. Beverly Sills. Right. She-she’s an actual living soprano who’d greater than almost any soprano around.
D: And she comes from Brooklyn.
G: Brook – Brooklyn, Noo Yoke. Yeah? Okay.
D: Okay. So there’s the singer in conflict with the writer. Finally there’s the composer. And the composer has this cosmic weird idea that-that has nothing to do with anything else and he can’t understand why anybody is fighting and all he wants to do is make music and he doesn’t care what happens as long as he gets to hear it.
D: This is back in about 1775.
G: Mm hmm.
D: There was a lot of things going on and the-the upshot was that Mozart came along. And Mozart was fantastic. He was such a great composer that he could make, like, the prettiest tunes in the world with the most difficult passages for the singers to show themselves off and the play would still move on as fast as possible and horrify everybody if it was horrifying and make everybody laugh if it was funny.
G: Good old Wagner, I mean, good old Mozart, right?
D: Yeah, but he was one of a kind. They couldn’t carry on that way. Hahaha.
G: Yeah, wel-, how old was Mozart when he died? He was, like, thirty . . . . .
G: Thirty-six when he died. Isn’t that amazing? An-and h-he turned the whole course of music around, not to mention just opera. He was really a . . . . . So wh-at about when did he die?
D: Ah, 1791? 1793?
D: Something like that.
G: Yeah, okay.
D: When he died, anyway, there we-there just was nothing left. There was a bunch of Italian opera composers an-t-. Opera had become really popular in Italy like everybody would go and every small town and every large town in Italy had an opera house and was the art of the people. People got really excited. They would go to see the first night and-and they would sing all of the arias in the street the next day.
G: Oh, yeah?
D: Yeah. They-an, they would, they would have fights over the better singers, who-was, who’s the best singer. There would be street fights.
G: Oh, wow. That’s, ah, similar to the rock scene today.
D: It’s a lot similar. In the spot of the composer, like, Wagner, you have somebody like Frank Zappa who just can’t make anybody understand him.
G: Oh, but who can’t do anything except fabulousness too.
D: Yeah. Yeah.
G: Right. Hahaha.
D: It’s that’s-that’s the parallel. Hahaha.
G: All arou- . . . . . In fact, there’s another all-around genius. I guess. Well, we’ll get to that later.
D: So, anyway, what happened was after Mozart things went into a kind of decay, there’s a lot of-of good things that justified the excitement of the people of Italy and the people of Germany and the people of France, especially Paris. But by and large, the-the-the needs of the singers got bigger and bigger – their voices got bigger, as a matter of fact – they began doing things that they had never done before like singing with a very heavy vibrato and trying out new techniques of various kinds.
G: When you say that the singers are bigger tha-tha-that’s one thing that perhaps ought to be pointed out. Often times the stereotype of a singer is-a, is a person who is extremely like o-obese almost. Right?
G: A fat person. And the reason that they had to be fat or at least large was to have a resonant body that would project their voice tremendous distances.
G: An-and make it powerful enough to do things like shatter glasses.
D: You need a lot of chest.
G: Exactly. A-lot-of, a lot of air to-to, a lot of air inside of you and space to resonate that beautiful voice.
D: The voice is artificial. It puts a lot of people off.
G: Mm hmm.
D: ‘Cause . . . . .
D: . . . . . they-don’t, they don’t sound like normal. The, ah . . . . . you know, the reason tha-that the contemporary singing style began? I just read about it.
G: You mean, like [Gary smacks his head against the microphone] . . . . . Ouch. You, like, you mean the sweet folk song type style or-the, or-the . . . . .
D: Yeah. Crooning.
G: Doris Day or . . . . .
D: Begun, well, wh-yeah, crooning. Becau- . . . . . the folk song style on the other hand, y’know, goes back years. It’s because of amplification. Once there were microphones, there was no need to-to, like, force things out with your diaphragm and gigantic chest.
D: You just croon along and, y’know, and everybody would hear everything that you had to say . . . . .
G: Right into the microphone. Has-it, has the microphone had any effect on opera today?
D: Yeah. It’s had some bad effects because inferior singers . . . . . Hahaha, inferior singers use microphones in the theatre. It’s frowned on in the critical world. Nobody likes it ‘cause it’s artificial.
G: Oh, dear. Well, we’re old-fashioned here.
D: And natural.
D: We’re listening to a live performance [of Wagner’s Ring]. But anyway, back to the point.
G: The point.
D: Wagner could not stand what opera was like at the time he began to compose opera. There-there had to be a ballet in the second act no matter what. There had to be so many numbers – set-pieces – in which the action came to a dead halt so that each singing star of which, y’know, might be five or seven different singers ha-had five or ten minutes to show themselves off to the utmost.
G: So-so the form had . . . . .
D: The plots were dumb anyway!
G: The form had become very rigid and-and the plots were just a drag.
D: So he decided to write an anti-opera in wh-in which it wouldn’t be like that. And he began doing it and kept on doing it for the next forty years.
G: That’s why you say then that this isn’t really an opera.
D: Because it really isn’t an opera.
G :It was a reaction against what was thought of as opera at the time.
D: It’s an opera in the way that Uncle Meat [by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention] is rock’n’roll.
G: Mm hmm. I see. Okay. That’s a good analogy. Or I guess in the sense that Tommy [by the Who] is an opera. The original one.
G: Right. Okay. Umm . . . . . Well, that’s pretty good. What else do you have to say about it? Do-y-or are ya gonna talk about wh-th-changes he made later?
D: Ahh. Yeah, I-I was, I, yeah, I-was, I was gonna sort of gonna go into that later. I’ve got, oh, I-can, I can do my example of how the contemporary opera . . . . .
G: Oh, yeah, do that, that’s really wonderful.
D: . . . . . of-of Wagner’s time wa-was interested in prettiness and was not interested in expressing anything. I’m going to play two different things on the Yamaha. The first is an excerpt from a contemporary opera of-of-of contemporary wi-with Wagner written by a guy named Meyerber. And . . . . . and he was the lion of Paris. Every time he wrote an opera for the Paris Opera they th-it-wo-it would be a fabulous hit. This one is called Le Prophete and a the very end of it the hero or villain – Jean of Leyden – who’s-who’s sort of a Protestant prophet and his mother who have just made up after having cursed each other throughout the last five hours – are being burned down in their house. They’re – the stage is surrounded in flames.
G: A rather tragic moment, hahaha.
D: Yeah. An-and it’s the climax of the opera too. It’s about to end. An-and this is wha-what the orchestra and all the singers do: [He plays a positively prancing waltzing three-four melody in a major key somewhat reminiscent of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush” with little trills.] . . . . . which is you know such a cute tune.
G: Hahahaha. “I’m dying!” Haha. “I’m dying!”
D: Now. When Wagner – the-first, the first murder that takes place, and the only one that takes place in the opera that we’re gonna hear tonight [The Rhinegold], ah . . . . . this-this giant kills his brother by stabbing him several times or beating him over the head or something, what is it?
G: Fasolt and Fafner. I-th, I think he beats him to death sorta . . . . .
D: Yeah, well, it sounds rather different and graphic: [He plays discordant notes stumbling down into a series of totally dissonant crashes: Pow pow pow pow pow pow pow!!! Pow!!! Pow!!!]
D: And keep in mind that’s a completely illegal chord. Hahaha. It was, just, wasn’t allowed to make noises like that.
G: Illegal chord – th-th-that means, that, ah, it was a departure from the kinds of sounds that Bach and Mozart were making.
G: Yeah. Okay. Wow! So, um, th-the music actually-actually i-is meant to evoke an image th-an-an image of action an-i . . . . .
D: Uh huh.
G: . . . . . and colors and things like that in your mind. The music is more than just music, just a tune
D: Yeah. It’s abstract, but it’s not abstract.
G: Mmm hmm. Okay.
D: It’s really telling you what’s going on. We’ll get into that more later. Why don’t you go on with the myth itself.
G: Oh! Alright! What I would like . . . . . Alright! What I’ll do . . . . .
D: Time is marching on.
G: Let’s see. Right, time is marching on . . . . . umm, what I want to do. Let me say this: that Wagner, ah, was born in 1813 and died in 1883. I just wanna say that because . . . . .
D: Oh! I’m so glad!
I am writing this letter to beg you on bended knee not to do away with the last hour of Gary Storm’s infamous Oil of Dog Radio Program. I am a working class phenotype whose day begins at 6:00 a.m. The very first thing that I do upon awakening is to turn on the radio and tune into Mr. Storm’s wonderful program. As I shower, shave, dress, eat and prepare for work the melodious refrains emanating from the radio stimulate the corpus of my being. I dash out to the car, start it and immediately click on the radio so as not to miss a single note. Driving to my first stop (as I drive for a living) and looking out at the hectic world, the music he plays causes me to feel totally detached from that mess. I feel light and buoyant as if my spirit had been lifted above the problems of everyday existence by the music. It is probably as close to a so-called religious experience as I believe I have ever come. Gary Storm is nothing less than a musical Genius extraordinaire. Who else would have the testicularity to play, in the same hour, an album containing a biographical account of the life of the Russian composer, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and follow it moments later with an obscure but humorously satirical piece such as “Stairway to Gilligan’s Island?”
The company for which I work has four warehouses, each situated in different areas of Buffalo and its suburbs. The majority of the employees are young musically oriented persons. In the morning, all of the radios at these warehouses are tuned into Oil of Dog. Normally, the first topic of conversation with my friends is over a piece of music, never before heard by us, and muse speculatively over that piece. Since most of us arise at 6:00 a.m. and work begins at 9:00 a.m. removing the last hour of the program would deny us the joy of experiencing this worthwhile pleasure.
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As a finale to my famous war set, THE FIRESIGN THEATRE sings “Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition.” Bitter realities blithely proclaimed.
Among all those who wrote regarding my show being cut by an hour, there was only one negative response:
I’m telling you this because I would favor a move to bring “Morning Edition” to the 7 – 9 AM time slot.
MICHAEL MCCLURE – CONTINUED
In my conversation with Michael McClure, I described how, when I was teaching Freshman poetry writing, I would have my students read McClure’s “GRAHR MANTRA” out loud as a group, shouting and roaring:
Blue Black Winged
Space Rainow GRAHR
G: As I said before, the machine [ ] I bamboozled us: Um, I, ah, I saw your lecture the other night, the second one of your four lectures, and, ah, you talk about looking for the origin of poetry, where it comes from and you speak of a biological basis of poetry th-sorta – that is puzzling in itself. And beyond that, ah, you say-the-its-orig-talk about physical, genetic, pre-anagogic origins. And-and I asked you before the machine bamboozled us, Why does this matter? Why do you care where poetry comes from?
M: I’m going to state something here that I try to never say in the po-i-in the lectures – I try to keep the lectures absolutely positive. I was explaining this to somebody in New York City yesterday. I told them the subject matter of the lectures and they said Could you tell us in a couple sentences.
M: I said Well, I’ll try. And I did try, and I gave it some thought and so forth. And then I said Well, you know if – this is – the reason I – it’s co-complicated to answer you in that in the lectures I-I constantly give examples in both science and poet-, in both biology and poetry and I try not to say anything negative. But let me say something negative since I don’t say it in the lectures. Its-it’s-it’s implied in the lectures. What I would say negative is that what people are told is poetry, what they avert, what they avoid, what they move away from, what bores them and what they find un-understandable or, or contemptible or silly or stupid is not poetry. It’s a social device, it’s a social artifact that’s being foisted as poetry. What truly is poetry is-is like science or is like exercise, or-or is like drugs. It’s something that is stimulating to the intellectivity and to the consciousness, and-and-and moves you toward your own liberation. As you spoke about with a class reading the “[Grahr Mantra]” poems and breaking through and having the excitement in that; I mean, that that’s what poetry is. And that is like action painting. It’s-it’s action poetry; it comes out of the body. I mean, we only thrill and enjoy either with-an with our intellective body or-our, or our athletic mind. I mean, that that’s what, that’s what moves us and thrills us and these . . . . .
G: Intellective body . . . . .
M: . . . . . and these piddling things that are called poetry that people are given in classes or have foisted on them by strange people who claim to be lovers of poetry is what drives people away from it. I’m trying to put poetry back where it belongs as-the, as the co-partner of-of experience and-of, and of the biological sciences. I saw that poetry grows out of the body the way that abstract expressionist painting grew out of Jackson Pollack’s body – real poetry grew out of the body of the poet. I don’t care whether it’s Shelley or Charles Olson or Jim Morrison.
G: A poet can’t help it in a sense.
G: Or is it that the people can’t help it, the people are poets or . . . . . .
M: Well, I-I-I-I can’t give you a generality about that. I can only say that it-it’s time for us now that we’re in the 80’s now-that-there’s, a, now that there’s a recognizable Phili-, now that w-we’re coming again to the recognizable Philistinism, ‘cause the 80’s are certainly going to be like the 50’s, and we’re going to be dealing with-with recognizably Philistine individuals and forces again. I mean, it’s going to give the artist some strength again: “I’m above thee”.
M: . . . . . to say Hey I’m an artist and they-they are not – it’s going to be okay.
G: Uh huh.
M: It’s-it’s good again to call attention to what poetry really is: that poetry is not a second hand experience that someone gets by mooning, by reading a lot of translations of Rilke which may be quite beautiful a-and powerful and – I mean, you can read Rilke in German and it’s quite beautiful and powerful often. But you can get these sort of soft core translations of Rilke in English and then people read them and moon around and think how soft and beautiful it is and isn’t it sad and wonderful . . . . .
G: Are you . . . . .
M: . . . . . and then they write imitations of translations of poetry so that people, many people writing poetry and foisting poetry off on you have never had the experience of poetry. Have never had the experience of Robert Creeley’s poetry; have never had the experience of Gary Snyder’s poetry. Have never had the experience of Charles Olson’s poetry; have never heard –many people writing what they call poetry have never had the experience of poetry and the experience of poetry is a body experience. Whether it’s the athletic mind or-or what it is.
G: Body. That’s of course, probably almost anyone listening to this would find that a difficult idea to understand. It’s easy to say, like, well, rock’n’roll is a body experience, like, ah [the dancing and the vibrations of huge sound systems.
M: That’s what] poetry should be like too. That’s what real poetry will [be like.]
G: Words ca- an-and you’re saying words can do that.
M: Oh, absolutely. It’s not in the same manner that rock’n’roll does it. Rock’n’roll does it with-with a specific repetitive beat and an enormous number of decibels; but I mean, I don’t care – there are a very few of the most courageous rock’n’roll fanatics who care to exist in the state of rock’n’roll consciousness for 24 hours a day. I mean, they are very interested in other states of consciousness too. And poetry is a state of consciousness that is as real as the state of consciousness of rock’n’roll. But-but you have to have access to the experience and the experience has been hidden by various social factors. I mean, people are telling you to look at, ah, silly stuff that is not poetry. You’ve been conditioned to look away from poetry before you’ve ever had a chance to look at poetry. I would recommend going to a poetry reading by say, by-by Bob Creeley.
G: Or Michael McClure.
N: Or by Michael McClure, sure.
G: And when-is-your, when is your next reading in this town?
M: I’m reading on Thursday at the, ah, Poetry Room in-wha-what is that, 420 Capen Hall – is that what we said?
G: I wro-I actually wrote it down. Here. Um. [Shuffling of papers.] Naturally, I can’t find it right away.
M: Here it is. 420 Capen Hall at the new campus. Now, this doesn’t mean you’re gonna come out-if somebody comes out to hear it, it doesn’t mean they’re going to come out and get a big rock’n’roll experience. I mean, they come out and they might get th-the, y’know, somebody comes out to hear this that hasn’t heard poetry they might get an initial experience of poetry; they’d begin to get the first sense of it.
* Michael McClure. “GRAHR MANTRA,” from Star. New York: Grove Press, 1964, p. 83.
Billy Sheehan of Talas (one of the greatest bass players on any planet at any time in the history of the universe): Nobody. I listen to Gary Storm occasionally because he offers such a wide range of music and it doesn’t steer me like the format stations.*
* Anthony Billoni. “The Bill Sheehan Interview.” Rockers, June 28, 1979, Vol. I, No. 3, page 24.
Image under construction.
A 1965 British comedy record: PETER COOK Presents the Misty Mr. Whisty.
I’ve always fancied becoming a tadpole expert. It’s a wonderful life if you become an experti tadpolius as they’re known in the trade . . . . .*
In his depiction of a timid pantywaste, Peter Cook goes on to describe how his pet tadpoles expired as a consequence of an erotic dream involving a beautiful woman in gossamer trench coat. The humor is self-effacing, surreal, dignified, dimwitted, and absurdist in a way that is totally British and utterly non-American.
* © 1965, no pub., from Peter Cook Presents the Misty Mr. Whisty, Decca Records, LK 4722.
Scott Field: I guess on your last tour you were, ah, with Bad Company, right?
Dave Edmunds: Mm hmm.
S: Playing sort of large places, y’know. How-how did that feel like after seven years absence and going out before these tremendous crowds?D: I thought I’d lose my nerve and jump on a plane, y’know, after the first gig or before it, hahahaha. But no, it-it’s great, umm, mainly because the band, eh, they’re so good. Nick (Lowe) is so good on bass, and the drummer, eh, Terry (Williams) – fabulous drummer. Billy Bremner is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard. And I just felt confident being . . . . . y’know, I’d never played in a band with musicians that I counted on before.
A letter from a listener:
A letter from a listener:
While I am in favor of improving the morning news, I feel that it would be an injustice to Professor Storm and the audience that he has earned from 4-plus years of dedicated service. Indeed, Gary Storm furnished listeners with the News; news of our culture in the words and melodies of the songs he so expertly chooses to play. More valuable than an earful of current events, the Oil of Dog show opens our hearts to the emotions expressed by others like us, and our minds to the possibilities of creating a future – better than the present.
Wow! Listen to those girls scream. Here they are, THE KINKS banging away at “Milk Cow Blues.” Back in those days, I was writhing in steamy pulsations listening to Mahler. Somebody once told me The Kinks were really the first heavy metal band. Ol’ Dave Davies slapping that guitar, mean little punk. I can’t believe they’re playing “The Batman Theme.” What are those girls screaming for? I only know the inebriated Ray Davies of today, what a hero and prophet he is. “Tired of Waiting for You,” and “Celluloid Heroes” are among the greatest songs of all time. Now I’m screaming too. When I sink into intellectualizing about rock’n’roll – which should never be done without infantile supervision – I have trouble relating to the legend of The Kinks. I think this is because they never really went through a psychedelic phase. Ray Davies never really tried to leave the planet behind. He is a nostalgist. He seems to want to go back to the golden age, before the fall, before The Modern World, before the End of the World was a reality, magical centuries gone by.
A letter from a listener:
A letter from a listener:
I work the third shift and as a result have been a regular listener for some time and am constantly amazed at the originality and freshness of the music played on Mr. Storm’s show. I’ve often said that anyone who is a serious student of music should be required to listen to “Oil of Dog” and have repeatedly recommended this show to friends and relatives.
Buffalo needs more programs that dare to present the material that is offered on “Oil of Dog” and I don’t only mean rock and roll or controversial songs. A case in point is the opera “The Ring of the Nibelung” that Mr. Storm played about a year ago for an entire week in such a way that someone such as I, who knows nothing about opera, could understand and enjoy it.
His show has introduced new thoughts and ideas of new material as well as allowing his audience to experience the vast library of recordings at your station by his request programming. I might add that there are quite a few old songs that I have requested as I am 38 years old, with three teenagers, who has been listening to music on Buffalo radio for a good many years, and I still get a kick out of rock & roll.
Figure 36: “This girl will die of a heart attack if you take Gary Storm’s show off between 7 – 8. Do you want that responsibility??”
“Keep Gary Storm on the air.”(Photo of photo by Zowie.)
Praise of this sort always makes me feel foolish. I’m afraid of creating an image to which I cannot possibly compare. I don’t want to let any one down.
The Program Director says Well, I guess you have an audience. We’ll probably move your show back to an earlier time and give you your hour back in January.
In December, we have a membership week. I am too depressed to care and on the first three nights I raise very little money. But on the fourth night, John Farrell, the greatest all-night DJ in Buffalo, shows up and says, “Gare, I’m a little worried about your show. We’ve got to prove something with this membership drive.” We are joined by Steve Rosenthall, world-class saxophonist and one of the few jazz programmers who plays real jazz and not jazzack; and Mark Henning, brilliant mordant veteran Buffalo rock’n’roll DJ. For four flaming hours we engage in fierce fund-raising. “If you think Oil of Dog should get its hour back then express your support by becoming a member.” Between 3:00 and 7:00 a.m. we raise $800, more than half the usual 24 hour total for WBFO. The day-timers are shocked.
Now my show has a mandate I say to the program director. He says Well, I guess it does. Things will change in February he tells me.
I become very impatient. The program director says I have to understand that a major policy change – cutting of sacred jazz hours and extending progressive hours – takes a lot of thought and time. Be patient he says. Things will change in March he tells me.
I am angry. “Be sensitive” he says. I think of all those letters and all the money people pledged. He ignores them and I wonder who is insensitive. He says The large contributions and letters are only part of the picture. No one really comes out and says it but I think another big part of the picture is the old stupid jazz versus other kinds of music polarity that has put me at odds with the rest of the station. The jazz nits are protecting precious jazz territory. Things will change in April he tells me.
Meanwhile, the only station in town that even pretends to be progressive – WBUF, that dipshit AOR station I worked at for one night – changes its call letters to WFXZ (“Foxy Radio”, heh, heh, heh.) – and moves to mellow rock. Now more than before I am IT as far as progressive radio is concerned in Buffalo. Moreover, that same month the other public station in town, WEBR, begins programming jazz all night. There is no longer any reason for WBFO to broadcast jazz after midnight.
At about the same time, dramatic changes happen to WBFO. After a decade of negotiations and a contorted series of encounters with the government bureaucrats who work in an insane asylum somewhere in Albany, WBFO installs a new transmitter and blasts its power from 780 measly watts to a throbbing 24,000 watts. Moreover, we get a new General Manager. He asks me, “Are you the only progressive radio in this area?” “Yes, I’m IT.” “Well” he says, “you should be on at an earlier hour so more people can hear you.” This guy has been here two weeks and he figures out the need for my show the other nits at this place have overlooked for five years. Things will change in May says the Program Director.
I don’t care anymore. This whole mess is a measure of their appreciation for what I do. I want to quit. I wish someone would start a real progressive station.
I hear rumors.
All programming decisions are of necessity without heart. This is not to suggest they are based in reason or sense or fact. The good is ignored and the bad emphasized to conform to the whims of the decision makers. I’m sure this is true in almost any bureaucracy. I would never want to be a Program Director.
Of course, it is possible I am not being fair here. I see my show as the vortex of a very complicated situation. The program director is crammed between his belief in the need for a morning news magazine show, the territorial imperatives of the jazz programmers, the clear mandate and support for my show, the station’s financial and managerial difficulties, personality clashes, and on and on endlessly. It is a situation with many egocentric vortices, all with reasons and rights. I know the issue is not entirely one-sided. But I still hate everyone involved and think they are stupid idiots and I will die believing am the only one who is right.
WBFO has financial troubles (or so the General Manager tells me). My room-mate Rich shakes his head. “How can they be so unyielding and so unsuccessful at the same time?”
A VISIT TO PUNK MAGAZINE
It was February of 1978 when I made that sad trip to New York City on behalf of WBFO, visiting record companies, checking out the New York scene, fleeing my Buffalo troubles. In an isolated expression of generosity, the radio station paid all my traveling expenses about $150. I spent my days journeying from one big record company to another trying to convince them to provide us with better service. I walked cold from the street in my jeans, scruffy beard, and blue and orange parka into the elegant carpeted offices and spoke to people who were at best polite. They gave me albums, shuffled through my playlists and copies of articles about my show, and listened to my rap about our forthcoming power increase.
The woman from CBS watched me with indulgent eyes from across her desk.
The girl who assisted the head of promotion from Epic was speedy and gave me a Crawler picture disc.
The woman in charge of college promotion for Arista was arrogant and contemptuous, she humiliated me.
The man from Virgin was mysterious artsy and stingy.
The head of national promotion for RCA told me he started with Elektra and hated nothing more than having to promote Iggy and The Stooges. Now with RCA he found himself still promoting Iggy Pop. “You cannot afford to be ignorant of commercial realities,” he told me. “I used to be idealistic about music like you but 1 learned the hard way there are other things more important. I am a member of the counter culture who has moved to the other side of the counter.
I sat in the office of the national promoter for Atlantic Records as she screamed into the phone, “John, baby, I want you to get on this record now! . . . . . Are you gonna give us airplay or am I gonna have to fly down there and bash in your brains?!! . . . . . Huh? . . . . . Next week? . . . . . Now, John, I don’t want you letting me down, honey.” She picked up another call, “What the hell do you mean you’re not on Ray Charles??!!!!!! Billy, baby, where the hell do you keep your ears?!?1?!?” I bugged out my eyes. “Are you talking to radio stations???” “Oh, my goodness! Why didn’t you say you are from an FM station? I’m in charge of Top-40 AM promotion!” She introduced me to the head of FM promotion, “Here, take Mr. Storm and settle him down before he dies of a heart attack from watching me make hits!”
The people from Elektra/Asylum refused to see me.
So did the people from Warner.
As I sat in the office of John B. from RSO, he answered the phone, “No, John B. isn’t in right now, call back tomorrow.”
At night I wandered the Village and got a little drunk. One night I went to CBGB’s and saw a pop group wearing high heeled sneakers called the Squirrels and also the psycho-billy pioneers, the Cramps, who closed their set with an extended version of “Surfin’ Bird” as the lead singer crawled across the tables smashing drinks. The guy sitting next to me was so exicited he pounded the table and spilled my drink. I didn't have enough money for another.
At Max’s Kansas City, I saw The Fast perform a new song for the first time while giggly chubby girls sang along with the words. “How can you sing a song you’ve never heard before?” I asked them. “We just like it a lot.”
And it was at Max’s that I witnessed one of the most astonishing shows of my life: a group called Skafish. They say Skafish is physically both male and female. He is an almost horrifying sight with his hooked beak of a nose, and the woman’s tube top he wears shaking his jelly belly, singing enraged sentimental songs about the cruelty of his classmates and love he cannot have.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I saw my first Rembrandt and at the Museum of Modern Art, I dreamed for an hour in the temple of Monet’s “Water Lilies.”
I drifted up and down Manhattan and the sleek beautiful women and elegant men were striding out of black shining towers into taxi cabs and expensive shops. In my stringy hair and bushy beard and college-kid coat, I felt poor and ugly. There is no greater argument for being a capitalist pig than the wealthy parts of Manhattan. I wanted to be beautiful and elegant too.
I roamed the stacks of boarded-up shops and abandoned buildings and menacing warehouses in the heart of the Bowery. There is no greater argument for being a capitalist pig than the ugly parts of Manhattan. I stumbled into an ancient office building and rode a clanky elevator to the third floor. A short walk down the hall into a cluttered dingy office, the international headquarters of Punk Magazine. Sitting behind a desk in short shaggy blond hair – “You must be John Holmstrom” – the editor and chief artist. How wide-eyed and soft-spoken he seemed, a lot like his self-portraits of a humble lanky kid in a jean jacket with his hands in his pockets and floppy tennis shoes. But this was the same genius who drew incredibly detailed cartoons of flabby hookers and urban rockers and puking winos and murdered corpses and Nazi troopers stomping the shit outta helpless hippies. Slouched in a chair in front of the desk was the same leather jacket and square jaw and sandpaper complexion I had seen in so many demented adventures. “I’d know you anywhere, Legs McNeil. You look just like the way John Holmstrom draws you.” “Wow, do you really think so?” said John. “That’s neat!”
Punk Magazine first appeared, I believe, in January, 1976. I do not know how it affected the rest of the world, but when I discovered it around the time of its fifth issue later that same year, it became for me the source of archetypal images of punk. At first glance, it seemed to be just another underground comic book. But it was totally different from hippie comics like Zap and the sado-masochistic porn science fiction of Heavy Metal. In Punk there were no images from outer space nor from the inner space of drug experiences. In the eleventh issue, there was one abstract psychedelic drawing but it seemed an editorial mistake, it was so uncharacteristic of the street images and fantasies of the rock’n’roll underground that were the trademark of Punk. Most of the photographs were simply of kids in jeans and t-shirts and leather or denim coats standing in bars or bare rooms or in front of battered buildings, sometimes holding a guitar. Most of the artwork dealt with everyday urban life: street bums, laundromats, television, cars, bars, newsstands, the most ordinary matters.
In the first issue was a short strip about a guy named Joe who’s turd climbs out of the sewers and hitch-hikes home demanding to be raised as Joe’s own child. “Hey, you mudder!” grins the turd.FN1 There were almost no highly advanced intergalactic creatures. When they did travel to outer space, it was to Planet X “where the inhabitants subsist on static electricity (from broken TV sets) and a strange orange powder mined deep below the planet’s surface.”FN2 The orange powder turns out to be the breakfast drink, Tang, and when two kids from Planet X travel to Earth, they overdose from an injection of uncut Tang they grab from a supermarket.
The interviews – many of which were conducted by Holmstrom – were masterpieces. He took great care to interject his own state of mind, telling the reader his thoughts while talking to people like Lou Reed, David Johanson, and Robert Gordon. They were written out by hand and illuminated much like a Medieval manuscript with a curious blend of photographs and Holmstrom’s brilliant cartoons.
Figure 37: One of John Holmstrom’s beautiful illuminated pages.FN3 (Photo by Zowie.)
Legs McNeil also created fantastic interviews like the one with Sluggo from the comic strip Nancy:
Sluggo: Well, I was fu-, I was going out with Nancy just after we reached puberty, which is a lot younger in cartoon world. Anyway, I was humping Nancy and I then met Lucy (from Peanuts).
Legs: She was your first wife.
Sluggo: Yeah . . . . . So anyway, Nancy found out and tried to have me thrown out of the strip.FN4
He also talked to Hitler (who is now an elevator operator in Hell), Boris and Natasha, and made a trip to Gilligan’s Island where he got it on with an extremely horny Ginger. The magazine attracted several other brilliant artists like Steve Taylor, Robert Romanoli, Bruce Carleton, and photographer Chris Stein (you remember him as a member of Blondie).
Punk featured lots of picture spreads and articles about The Ramones and Debbie Harry and Patti Smith and The New York Dolls and The Sex Pistols. But this was very different from any other rock fanzine because it did not possess an aura of elitism. This was not a profitable creation by “rock journalists” who were privy to the secret backstage world of rock stardom. Heck, no. In reading Punk, I got the feeling that all the bands and all the fans and all the street people in its pages were all friends.
New York City is a gigantic place. There are thousands and thousands of different scenes. You can join the S & M scene in the abandoned trailers, the Soho “art space” scene, the New York bluegrass scene, the opera scene. There are enough people in that town to support any scene that comes along. Punk Magazine offered images of a scene that centered around probably no more than a few hundred people who lived near and played music in a broken down little club called CBGB’s. John Holmstrom created a magazine devoted to a kind of music he liked, and a scene that seemed to express his view of the world. It turns out that some of the friends he cartooned went on to become big stars like The Ramones and Blondie and Patti Smith. Eventually, he and Legs McNeil would also become stars of sorts. But Punk Magazine was a creation of friends for friends in a particular scene that turned out to be the vanguard of American pop culture in the late seventies. Retrospectively, this was a magazine for The Modern World, more timely than Time, more alive than Life, more human than People. It concentrated on the ordinary and vulgar with unsentimental objectivity and great humor.
Perhaps the greatest masterpiece created by Punk were the two special “film features.” These were stories that took an entire issue and were comprised of photographs with cartoon special effects. The characters were always played by members of the New York punk scene. In the first of these, The Legend of Nick Detroit, special agent Detroit (played by Richard Hell) sets out to destroy a ruthless band of Nazi lesbian feminists who plan to dominate the world.FN5 But the real gem was the second, Mutant Monster Beach Party.FN6 This is the love story of a beach bunny (Debbie Harry) who must take little blue pills to keep from becoming a fat wretched hag, and her heroic surf bum (Joey Ramone). Adventure begins when a mutant monster created by mad scientist Dr. Andy (Warhol) eats the leader (Peter Wolf of Blue Oyster Cult) of the Bothersome Bikers Association and leads the gang on a rampage along the beach. When Debbie is captured, Joey saves her by challenging the monster to a drinking contest. The mutant monster turns into Peter Frampton when he is tricked into eating Debbie’s little blue pills. You really have to see these fabulous montages of photographs and cartoons to appreciate the humor. What fun they must have had making these “movies.”
When I entered the office of Punk, the staff was in an uproar. A few days earlier a magazine named Punk Rock appeared on the streets with this editorial:
Ha, ha, ha . . . . . you spoiled rotten brats! So, you think you’re “PUNKS”, do you? Well, you can take all this “New Wave” crapola and SHOVE IT! That’s right! SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASSES! You are now a punk with $1.50 less in your pocket. Now you can’t buy DRUGS with your father’s hard earned dough for another day . . . . . and WE go out and eat and smoke stinky cigars!
And Oh yes, all you little girly punkers . . . . . Why doncha come up here and DO SOME STUFF. . . . Huh? And as for our competition, you DUMB ASS, J.H., who’s no doubt reading this right now . . . . . you’re mag stinks and that’s why it don’t sell.
THANXS A WHOLE LOT, you all, and go out and punk til your eyes fall out!
Punk Rock was edited by someone that John and Legs seemed to know named “Handsome Jeff Goodman.” But it was published by Countrywide Publications, a big company specializing in fly-by-night magazines. In fact, throughout the issue in question were ads for Beatles magazines, Son of Sam Caught – an “official report,” Elvis Presley fanzines, Official UFO, and Ancient Astronauts. There were many articles and full color photographs indicating it had lots of financial backing.
The real Punk office was very threatened because this imitator was financed by a large organization that could give it national distribution. John and Legs felt this kind of direct competition might do them in. They were all yelling. “I think we should just go and fuckin’ beat the shit outta that asshole!” said Legs, acting more like his comicbook self than even his comicbook self. “I’d do it, I got some friends . . . . .” “Oh, great!” said John, “and they sue our asses off and then where’d we be? No, we gotta be cool. I checked a long time ago when I copyrighted the nameof the magazine. No one else can use Punk.” “There was another Punk Magazine in Buffalo once a few years ago,” I told them. “It was published by Billy Altman who now writes for Creem.” “Yeah, I heard about that, but they went out of business, didn’t they?” “Yeah.” “Hey, who is this guy???” said Legs, glaring at my long hair and scruffy beard and wire-rimmed glasses. “He’s from a radio station in Buffalo, didn’t ya hear?” said John. “You mean,” snarled Legs, “you’re from a radio station and you didn’t even bring a tape recorder????” “No, Legs, he’s just here on P.R.” “Yeah,” I said, “I’m a fan.”
Meanwhile, Roberta Bayley walked into the office. She is to photography for me what Holmstrom is to cartoons, a creator of punk archetypes. It was she who photographed the cover of the first Ramones album, an image which was almost as important in 1976 as was the cover of Meet the Beatles in 1964. That photograph of four leather jacketed guys in torn jeans leaning against a trashy alley wall was to be mimicked and mocked hundreds of times in the years to follow. It was different because these guys just didn’t look like 1976 rock stars. They didn’t have carefully casual jeans and fringe jackets or shaped heads and macho hairy chests and leather. They were ragged and they didn’t have tons of equipment, they were not carefully posed in a studio. No sexy nudes. No bulging pants. It was more like a stark shot of four dishwashers who had just gotten off work. Roberta Bayley was photography editor for Punk. I remember her as pretty with long black straight hair and a bulky navy-blue trench coat.
“And I’d like to know,” hissed Legs, “how this guy gets stuff in his shitty magazine that is done by our supposed friends.” A long discussion ensued in which it was intimated that there were spies in the ranks giving photos to enemy agents. “Look, I don’t know anything about it,” protested Roberta. “You think these artists are so rich they can turn down money? Man, I’ve had a bad day, I’m exhausted, why don’t you leave me alone.” “Look, our fucking magazine is being attacked!!!!!” shouted Legs. “Leave me alone, Legs!!!” and she started crying softly. At this, the brutal and blunt Legs McNeil, punk in residence, sunk back into his chair, muttered, softened, stared in space, “Look, I’m just upset.”
I, meanwhile, sat stunned in the midst of this drama I had no business witnessing. I felt foolish and out of place and old-fashioned near these bright modern angry people. “I’m Sorry, Roberta, I just get upset.” She sniffed, “It’s okay, Legs.” “Look,” said John, still wise behind his desk, “We’ve got to be cool. We can’t let these assholes get to us. They don’t have a legal leg to stand on. I think we gotta keep cool.” “We can declare war on them,” said Legs, brightening. “Yeah! War! We’ll declare war on phony imitators. Like they do in commercials the way they talk about ‘other leading brands.’ Yeah! That way, we don’t have to mention them.” “Yeah, Legs! Good! We’ll declare war!!” After a few parting words, telling them to keep us the wonderful work, I disappeared from their minds and into the elevator and out into the New York sleet.
Figure 38: Punk Magazine declaring war.FN8 (Photo by Zowie.)
And when I returned to Buffalo, I found the next issue of Punk did indeed declare war. A cartoon of soldiers – one’of whom looked suspiciously like Legs – bayonetting button-downs and strafing a hippy reading a “punk rock magazine” declared “Help Punk Magazine win the war against sleazy publishers who are trying to rip us with shoddy inferior imitations.” In the next issue, John decided to actually specify the enemy and wrote this editorial:
. . . . . We at Punk urge you, our fans and readers, to ignore this shoddy imitation. If you have money to buy Punk magazines – buy the original. Support the underground. We at Punk are devoted to the only magazine we publish – Punk. We do not dilute our interests and yours in Punk and its medium by putting out a multitude of titles, one shot magazines, superficial imitations, and quick-fad jobs. The publishers and editors of “Punk Rock” also publish and edit “Acid Rock,” “Super Rock,” “Jazz Rock,” “Rock,” “UFO,” “Gasm,” “Son of Sam” Magazine, “Farrah Fawcett” Picture Magazine, and many others, including Detective and Porn Magazines.
If you want to know what’s going on – the real thing – we are not jealous of our honestly acquired position or of other worthwhile publications devoted to modern music and its extensions, of which there are many. Some of them are Slash, Bomp, (Los Angeles), Search and Destroy (San Francisco), Zig-Zag, Ripped & Torn, (London), Thrills, No, New York Rocker (N.Y.C). There are many others. As long as the underground is there, it’s honest – these magazines, for the most part, are put out by people who believe in what they write. They don’t write for money. They’re not “covering the latest youth fad.” If you want these magazines, write to Punk. Better yet – start your own.FN9
In the end John and Legs and Roberta and all the brilliant people at Punk had nothing to worry about. Punk Rock went under after another couple of issues. But it was never really an imitation in the first place. It was never part of the original intimate New York scene that centered around CBGB’s and bands like Television, Blondie, The Ramones, Richard Hell, Talking Heads and the handful of kids around 1976 who knew they had found something new. Punk Rock had no friends there. It could not compare to Holmstrom’s and Bayley’s superb artwork and that of the other fine artists they attracted. And it was humorless while the true Punk was nothing if it was not funny. Punk Rock was just another pulp fanzine. Punk was the archetype and icon of its time. Now it is gone. Where are we now?
FN1 John Holmstrom. “Joe,” Punk Magazine, January 1976, Vol. I. No. 1, page 13.FN2 Legs McNeil, John Holmstrom, Mary Harron. “The Tang Connection,” Punk Magazine, 1977, Vol. I. No. 10, pages 20-24.
FN3 John Holmstrom. “The Punks Have It Out with the Notorious David Johansen Former Wimp Singer for the New York Dolls,” Punk Magazine, April 1976, Vol. I. No. 3, page 8.
FN4 Legs McNeil. “Sluggo: The Brat from “Nancy” Spills His Guts!” Punk Magazine, January 1976, Vol. I. No. 1, page 11.
FN5 See generally, "The Legend of Nick Detroit.” Punk Magazine, October 1976, Vol. I. No. 6.
FN6 See generally, "Mutant Monster Beach Party.” Punk Magazine, July/August 1978, Vol. I. No. 15.
FN7 No author, “Editorial,” Punk Rock, February 1978, Vol. 2, No. 1, page 4.
FN8 John Holmstrom. “War,” Punk Magazine, January 1978, Vol. 1, No. 12, page 9.FN9 John Holmstrom. “Death to the Enemy,” Punk Magazine, May/June 1978, Vol. 1, No. 14, page 3.
“Could you play ‘Misty’ by Erroll Garner for me?” says the voice of a woman. Oh boy! I think. At last! Maybe I’ll be stalked by a psychopathic murderer! “Sure, if we have it.” But the station doesn’t own a copy of “Misty” by Erroll Garner, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Ray Stevens, Johnny Mathis or anyone.
I tell my listeners “I have been waiting for this request for four years and I miss my big chance. Oh, well. Ah! Joe College strikes out again. Someday I’ll tell you why I don’t eat fish. At least no one is going to make me run ads for the U.S. Army. You’re with WUSA, Buffalo.”
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Gary: Rock’n’roll, I . . . . . I d’know . . . . . rock’n’roll is-is your thing and-and you haven’t done any jazz I s’pose?
Dave Edmunds: No.
G: . . . . . and when you’ve looked at classical music, you’ve looked at it as something that can be adapted to rock. (Referring to the incredible electric-guitar version of “Sabre Dance” by Aram Khachaturian that Dave Edmunds recorded when he was in Love Sculpture.) Do you have li- . . . . . something you say about rock, or ideas about it or what it’s all about?
D: . . . . . ummm . . . . . a good pisser, a good laugh, get drunk, and play some music, that’s, y’know, I can’t get arty about it at all . . . . .
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The ringing sad chords of WOODY HARRIS’s “Beauleau Abby.” I love this feeling of sitting inside a resplendent acoustic guitar. This is one of those songs that can go with any set. It can introduce a dog biter snort eater death wipeout murder rocker or a blues improvisation or it can close off a Bach Cantata or a medley of British Invasion tunes.
A HISTORY OF WIZARD RADIO
As I was writing the following Agonized History, the owner of WZIR was quoted in the newspaper blaming the failure of the station on “too broad a spectrum of music.” In other words – it was G. Storm’s fault. You see, I was the music director, of WZIR. The owner’s accusation angers me a great deal. I know the exact extent of my complicity. I know I made mistakes. I cannot be methodical here, I am too full of pain, but I want to dish out some hint of my side of this wretched story. The owner will not have the last word.
A HISTORY OF WIZARD RADIO
It is July, 1981.
Today is the day we met the new consultant. Ah!
Tears in my eyes. Oil of Dog is dead.
A HISTORY OF WIZARD RADIO
John Farrell tells me in strictest confidence that it’s really going to happen. Bob Allen has become involved in a new progressive radio station and I am the obvious candidate for all night man. Bob Allen has a long controversial history in the Buffalo radio market. He was one of the founders of WBUF when it was a truly exciting progressive station. He is a true idealist and has earned the scorn that the dreary world always heaps upon a dreamer. But he has the persistence to make dreams come true. Bob takes me out to dinner.
The station will be modeled after WMMS in Cleveland, one of the only commercially successful quasi-progressive formats in the country. We will be aiming for the 18 to 34 age market. Yes, all kinds of music will be played. Yes, Gary, you can still call your show Oil of Dog, yes, you can keep the theme song by Kim Fowley. You know I play dirty records sometimes. That’s okay as long as you don’t make a big deal out of it. You know I might throw on a cantata by Bach or a symphony by Bruchner. Great, this station has one of the largest classical libraries in the region. We’ll let you be music director. We’ll put you in charge of building a large library of all kinds of music, not just rock. We’ll even pay you to do it. And I can do anything I want on my show. Anything except take up a whole week with Wagner. If you want to spread the Wagner over several weeks, that’s fine. But not all at once, that would alienate too many people for too long a time. Other than that: anything. Anything? Anything. But it’ll be a commercial station. Yes, we are commercial but that means money for people who work for us. Did WBFO pay you very much money? That means I’ll have to do commercials. Yes. But you won’t have to make concessions in the music you play and they will at the most take up eight minutes out of each hour, but during your shift all night there will probably be many fewer commercials. And I can play any records I want to play.
I think about my show. And I think about WBFO. They are two separate things. The station I work at is in many ways completely removed from my show. Oil of Dog is great pleasure and goodness to me. But what has been my relationship to non-commercial public radio in Buffalo WBFO? They have refused to offer any regular financial compensation; I found all my underwriters myself, in effect I pay myself. They do not publicize my show, they do not seem proud of it. They have never acknowledged the uniqueness of my show in the Buffalo market. I think they could have made my show important and prominent in Buffalo but they were too full of jazz and too snooty to rock. They cut off the hour of my show. They could have done much more to protect the fine record library from theft. They have never even thought of asking me why I would do a show at such horrible hours for such little pay. In short, Oil of Dog has thrived in a perplexing situation of hostility and indifference. Besides, if this new station does get off the ground, it will be almost impossible for me, in non-commercial radio, to obtain records from promoters.
Yes, Bob, if this new station is all you say it is, if you will let me do all that I now do on my show, if you pay me and give me money for a car, if I can help build the record library, if it really is the dream come true even though it is commercial – then Yes. Yes! YES!!!
|Watching and hearing a truly great musician like Bobby Previte, the drummer of Pull to Open (and also my band Extra Cheese), or the bass player of Talas, Billy Sheehan, is inspiring in much the same way as the awesome beauty constructed within the rigid framework of a sonnet or concerto grosso. It is an expression of freedom within inflexible boundaries. Human beings are limited by physiology and the capacity of the mind and the laws of nature. We play upon musical instruments which by their physical form speak a restricted language of melody harmony rhythm timbre duration pitch volume. But the virtuosity of a limited creature on a limited instrument can be the most profound of human experiences. Perhaps it is silly to wax so sentimentally about a guy who bangs away at Ludwig drums or a guy who lays out lines on a souped up Fender Stratocaster Bass. Yet few would minimize the profundity and transcendent qualities of Heifitz on his Stradavarius or Eric Dolphy on the bass clarinet. Within confinement are realized freedom and truth. Great musicians are inspiring precisely because they are imperfect beings playing finite creations. Because they have done the impossible, soared higher, roared faster, sung sweeter, filled the world with sounds more pure intricate unearthly than the laws of physics would allow. Genius should not make us feel envy. It should make us so free we say “Yes, I will do that too.”|
MICHAEL MCCLURE – CONTINUED
Michael McClure: Five.
G: Five years. Was it that long ago? And you read the “Graarh Mantra,” haha.
M: Mm hm.
G: Now, tha-those were poems that-I, that I taught my students when I was teaching literature and I would have the whole class roaring and grahring and, y’know, all the classes up and down the hall would close their doors and-and, y’know, it was a very untypical . . . . .
G: [What amazed me in the reading is that you almost whispered the] “grahrs.”
M: Oh, yeah, I was reading an interview that I made that year when-I, when-I, ah, I was at Brockport five years ago too and I gave an-an interview for a video station down there and I just looked at a, ah, tape, at a, ah, typescript of the video tape and in it I told them what happened and how I originally read that poem that you heard me read loudly – oh, no, you didn’t hear me read loud . . . . .
G: No, I heard you go (almost apologetic timidity)
G: “. . . . . grahr”.
M: Well, I-I read it to, ah, four lions at one point in the San Francisco Zoo and that required me to read it very very loudly.
G: There’s a film of that right?
M: This is, that’s right. It’s an NET film.
G: Yeah, it’s famous.
M: And you see me yelling at the top of my lungs the grahrs and the lions are roaring back. Then I made a tape of that, uh, reading. And I decided to make fifty copies of the tape and I took it up to what was then the Tape Music Center in San Francisco and I forgot to, ah, turn off the speaker as I duplicated the tape so I duplicated it – did five copies at a time.
M: So I heard the tape full blast ten times in a row as I made the fifty copies. And I walked outside on to the street and it was starting to rain and I looked up at the sky and the sky looked down at me and it went GRRRAAAARRRRHH.
G: Hahaha.M: After that I never really felt obliged to read them particularly loudly if I didn’t want to.
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