Beyond the 500 – Episode 9

Beyond the 500

This week’s 500 began with a snippet of “Running with the Devil,” so my mood was improved immediately. (Thanks, gracious editor K?). Let’s get started.

  1. Buddy Holly and the Crickets – The ‘Chirping’ Crickets

Kyle does a great job of explaining how talented and influential Buddy Holly was and still is. He helped bring rock ‘n roll to the masses while writing exquisite pop songs. On this record, there are at least four classics with “Oh Boy!,” “Not Fade Away,” “Maybe Baby” and “That’ll Be the Day.” They do all sound like they are from the 1950s as Bennett notes, but they do not sound dated.

Holly is from Lubbock, Texas which by all accounts is not the most glamorous place to have grown up. Smack dab in the middle of West Texas, the hub city still managed to produce some amazing musicians. The Flatlanders were a legendary early 1970s country band that were almost a myth for two decades before being rediscovered in the 1990s when their aptly titled album More a Legend than a Band was re-released. The three members, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock, all have had much success as solo artists as well. Terry Allen is a super eccentric artist who also put out one of the best country albums ever in Lubbock (on Everything) in 1979. Other Lubbock musicians include pedal-steel player Lloyd Maines, his daughter Natalie of the Dixie Chicks, blues guitarist Delbert McClinton and the Godfather of West Texas music Tommy Hancock.

Returning to Buddy, my favorite nugget about him has to do with the song “Buddy Holly’s Brille” by the German punk band Die Ärzte. On the 1986 album Im Schatten der Ärzte they posed the question of where Holly’s glasses are today and that if you could find them would you have magical music powers. Here is the band performing the song live in 1987.

And we also can’t forget Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” which you can listen to here. It’s a great video.

Finally, The Buddy Holly Story movie from 1978 is a definite must watch, but I still think it is weird that Gary Busey plays Buddy Holly. Yes, that Gary Busey.

  1. U2 – Boy

U2’s debut album is one of my favorites from the 1980s. The opening sound on “I Will Follow” puts Edge’s guitar sound right at the forefront. Growing up, a lot of bands played U2 songs, and the guitar parts never seemed too difficult for them. Nonetheless, when you hear that sound, you immediately know it is the Edge and U2. Bono is also pretty cool. As BGS’s own Brad Blackburn remarked on Twitter: “angry Bono is the best Bono.” The overall sound on the album is a little thin, but the songs come through. “I Will Follow,” “Out of Control,” “Stories for Boys,” “A Day without Me” and “The Electric Co.” are still some of my favorites from the Dublin band. Listening to what Kyle and Bennett said about it not really grabbing them compared to the band’s later work made me recognize that this record might be specially tied to a time in my life for me. Indeed, I have been thinking about my first high school girlfriend while typing this.

  1. Van Halen –Van Halen

Man, this album is so powerful, and I discovered it when I was around 13 or so. “Running with the Devil” has to be the best opening song on a hard rock album of all time. I played this album a lot on my 1980s Walkman. This band was the quintessential Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll band. David Lee Roth was the perfect tight jeans, über-sexed, long haired front man. Classically-trained Eddie Van Halen is an amazing guitar player, who was also a perfect Rock Star. “Running with the Devil” grabs you by the throat from the opening note, but then track two is the epic guitar solo “Eruption.” As Kyle and Bennett note, they put all their cards in early on this album. And the millions of guitar players who have tried to recreate “Eruption” can testify to this. I like this album. Drop the needle on side one and see if you can resist it.

  1. Minutemen – Doubles Nickels on The Dime

Around 1985, my tennis coach made me a hardcore mixtape. It included the Circle Jerks, the Dead Kennedys, Romeo Void, and “This Ain’t No Picnic” from Minutemen. But I never listened to the band beyond that one amazing song. About five years ago, I heard it mentioned somewhere and decided to get a copy. I was blown away. I was sad that I had missed out on it all those years, but it reminds me of how I view music and art in general. Once it is created, it is floating out there in the ether waiting to be accessed. Yes, I try to keep up with the latest releases, but I feel no guilt in having missed out on something. It is always there, especially in a time of digital music, and it was still able to move me 25 years after it was originally released in 1984.

Kyle does a good job of explaining the double album, Hüsker Dü connection. Basically, the Minutemen weren’t going to be outdone by the boys from Minneapolis who were coming out with their double album Zen Arcade. I am happy this got a positive review on The 500. Hearing Bennett and Kyle discover albums like this is why I started listening and why I am now writing my reactions every week.

The singer D. Boone died too early in a 1987 van crash, but they left a mark on the world of music. You should check out the documentary on the band, We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, which is available in full on youtube.

Finally, I’ll close by simply saying that I am a Tom Watts1 Waits agnostic, which confuses people to no end. I do like his debut album Closing Time, but I most love him in the Jim Jarmusch movies Mystery Train and Coffee and Cigarettes. I recognize it’s a me and not Tom problem. Back off, folks!

What’s currently on my iPhone: The re-mastered re-release of the self-titled debut from Clap Your Hand Say Yeah, Restless from Terranova and Lifestyles of the Laptop Café from The Other People Place.

Listening note: I am a DJ for the Clemson college radio station WSBF. Every Tuesday, including today, I am spinning my favorite 1980s college rock songs from 3-5 pm ET. It is only for the next two weeks, but if you would like an archive link, let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Tune in online @ WSBF.

  1. what Kyle said more than once on the podcast

Hailing from Parts Unknown by way of Germany and South Carolina, Harris King came to BGS packing a koffer full of knowledge. With a double doctorate in Good Tunes Studies, a Master's in Baking, and various certifications in breaking hearts and spitting truth, Harris is both invaluable and beloved. He is not to be trifled with.

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4 comments on “Beyond the 500 – Episode 9
  1. Ah, the minutemen. So glad they are in the 500, and that you, Harris, saw the need to provide a spiel (big part of the minutemen lexicon).

    So here’s mine.

    One day somewhere around ’81 or ’82, I headed to Dancing Waters, a club in San Pedro, for a benefit concert featuring The Blasters (another favorite of mine then and now, though mostly today via Dave Alvin, great American songwriter and guitar master). There were other bands on the bill, lost in the sands of time to me now, except one–Pedro’s own minutemen. Had never heard of them, and when they played, as Lou Reed’s Little Janie said when she was just five years old, I couldn’t believe what I heard (and saw) at all. Three guys creating an intoxicating hybrid punk/funk/free jazz brew, each song lasting less than–wait for it–a minute. The singer/guitar player was HUGE, and jumped around the stage, creating small earthquakes, and you wondered when he was going to take out the drum kit (he didn’t). The Blasters set that followed, while fine, paled in comparison. WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?

    I found out, and started following them. Literally, almost, as I went to every minutemen gig I could. Examples:

    Joy at Sea was a cruise around LA Harbor with bands: Lawndale, The Meat Puppets and the minutemen. There was no dressing room, so the band members were just wandering around the ship among their 225 fans; eventually, each group would make their way to the small stage at the back of the top deck and do their set. I was heading up the stairs and there’s Watt, sitting on the steps; we exchange “hey man” nods as I passed. I wondered what people at Seaport Village — a tourist-y harbor-side shopping/dining area we passed several times — made of the ruckus we were raising. A guy filmed it, and you can find some of the songs on YouTube; here’s History Lesson – Part II: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fpPzAL13r4. Mr. narrator, this is Bob Dylan to me!

    The minutemen did a mostly acoustic gig at the Kerckhoff Coffee House on the campus of UCLA. This was a tiny venue, and a unique (in my experience) opportunity to see them with the volume turned down (but not the intensity). At this time, my friends and I were very into taping gigs on our Sony TC-D5M semi-pro cassette decks (hey, here’s one for sale on ebay for $579: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/111646726998?lpid=82&chn=ps, wonder what I could get for mine?), and we were keen to capture it. We got there and set up as stealthily as possible–but man, it’s a COFFEE SHOP, not a dive bar, small as mentioned and ridiculously brightly lit by rock club standards. We were found out. But, the sound guy saw we weren’t fooling around and had good gear (my friend Mark had some Sennheiser mics that used to belong to the Grateful Dead’s legendary soundman, Bear, in real life known as Owsley Stanley, who’s skill as a chemist provided most of the LSD that fueled the Merry Pranksters, the Dead, and the Acid Tests). “You guys can record, the only requirement is you have to get a copy back to the band.” No problem! It was a great show, as usual, with George Hurley playing bongos, Watt playing upright bass for part of it and bass guitar through a small, too-loud, heavily distorted small amp, and d. boon playing on-fire acoustic guitar.

    A few weeks later, they played Club Lingerie in Hollywood. I showed up with a tape, determined to fulfill my part of the bargain. Before the gig, who’s wandering through the crowd, handing out fliers for an upcoming benefit gig (they did A LOT of benefits)? Why, it’s d. boon! I stopped him and offered the tape with a brief explanation. “Oh thanks, that’s great! I’m Denis!” and sticks out his big paw to shake hands. Denis, eh? I just knew him as d. up to that point. We exchanged a few more words and he was off again, handing out more fliers.

    McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica is legendary for their intimate concerts held in the tiny back room, lined with stringed instruments (all for sale) of every description. Richard Thompson was playing their one night, a request was called out. Thompson: “Oh, to play that, I’d need a mandolin. I don’t suppose there’s one about?” (Yes, there were, but he carried on with his set list anyway). The night I saw the minutemen was a double-bill: jazz combo Old and New Dreams, consisting of Ornette Coleman alums Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Ed Blackwell and Charlie Hayden was the opening act! During their set, George Hurley sat at the side of the stage, fixed on Blackwell’s every move. Hurley’s drumming always impressed me as very jazz-influenced, just sped up; this reinforced that. When the minutemen came on, Charlie Hayden joined them, saying “Now I can tell everyone I’ve played with the minutemen!” You can find a terrible-looking but somewhat better sounding video of them doing “Little Man With A Gun In His Hand” — and jamming on it for over 10 minutes! Jazz, baby, via the ten minutemen.

    Double Nickels is a magnum opus, and I’ve played my vinyl copy so many times. The music can be complex, simple, beautiful, jarring, rhythmically complex, and often all in the same, short song. The lyrics were as direct and abbreviated as the music–efficiency, get it out now, jam econo.

    How many people who recognize the theme for “Jackass” is a song about a sad encounter with poverty in Mexico? Another gem on Nickles.

    Over time, they evolved and refined their sound, but retained their identity. They made fun of their longer songs and more-produced sound via the album title “Project Mersh”, but also addressed their still-standing outsider status with “Three Way Tie (For Last)”.

    I wish they’d had more time to evolve further, and that I’d had another chance (or two, or a hundred) to jump up and down and sweat along with d. boon.

    • Argh, forgot the link to the McCabe’s cut. Oh, and Hayden is spelled Haden.

    • Harris King says:

      Thanks for all of this, Lonnie! I am big fan of the culture of music, and what you describe above is something that cannot replicated as it was tied to an amazing time and place. I am glad you were there to see it, and I am glad so much of it has been saved through written and spoken accounts, as well through snippets of video that now can be found on youtube. I look forward to going through the links you posted this weekend. Do you still have the tapes you made?!

      • Thanks for the prompt–your post was my Proustian madeleine. Not that it took much–not many days go by I don’t think of d. boon and the ‘men, and I’m always glad to see how busy and respected Watt is. As he should be. I wish Hurley played more, ’cause he’s just a monster on the skins. So athletic, so precise.

        Yes, I have all those tapes. A lot sound like crap, but there are a few I’ve digitized–that UCLA show being one (not the best sound either, but just such a one-off). I don’t remember any other shows where they did Hank’s “Hey, Good Lookin'”!

        One of the best sounding and all around good-timey shows was another benefit at Club 88 in West LA by Tom Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs (yes, there really was a Top Jimmy, the guy Van Halen had a song about). The Blasters and X helped, with Exene being the MC, John Doe and Phil Alvin singing (there was one song the each sang, in a different style), Dave Alvin playing guitar, DJ Bonebrake drumming, and Steve Berlin blowing the baritone sax. Ray Manzarek played organ and sang “Hootchie Cootchie Man”, and played organ on “Roadhouse Blues”, which Top Jimmy could wail authoritatively on.

        Good times.

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