Did you ever see The Decline of Western Civilization documentary? The first one?
Pretty uneven, isn’t it? And by god, there’s a lot of indifferent stuff in there. The Germs are horrible, but rather wonderful. Fear are also quite nasty, and funny, and wonderful. The rest … well, it’s kind of interesting. But Decline (Mk I) is not a film I readily return to.
Even so, because it captures a scene in a scattergun style, it’s significant. By no means was that every significant band. By no means known to man, woman or beast.
But when it first came out here in Australia (1984, I think) it made and confirmed a huge impact. The wave of US hardcore and secondary punk was finally breaking into our homes (well, not if you listened to mainstream radio and watched TV, granted. I mean, us in the alternative scene.
You remember that…) and gentle young souls with spiky hair, the right jeans and Doc Martens and leather motorcycle jackets with UK punk band names and patches all over them? (I was always reminded of my school exercise books when I was about 13; I figured I’d done that already, I didn’t need a jacket that reminded me of school.) When, in 1983, we tried to explain to these gentle souls that, you know, it was the American punk bands which were amazing, they were aggressively dismissive.
This autobiography by American pop-cum-punk-rock guitarist Frank Secich is a charmer. It’s big on warmth and doesn’t dish the dirt.
Its vignettes sometimes run to less than two pages apiece and are served canape style rather than in large chunks. Its 200 or so pages won’t suck up more than a few days for most people to consume.
Polite charm and gentle humour shine through.
You’d never guess its author spent two years touring with one of America’s most notorious punk bands.
Frank Secich cut his musical teeth in a bunch of Mid-western garage and teen hop bands in the ‘60s, almost cracked the big time with major label signings Blue Ash and was a sideman on bass for the latter-day Dead Boys, with his good mate Stiv Bators.
Secich worked with Stiv in his time as a solo artist for Bomp Records, retired and went on to a second career with Club Wow (with Jimmy Zero) and garage rockers Deadbeat Poets. He’s paid his own dues and those of several other people.
He was a BBC DJ. On the back cover there are heartfelt quotes about him from musicians as diverse as Jack White, Johnny Marr, Elton John, Robert Plant, Nick Cave and Elvis Costello.
His name was John Peel.
Here’s a comment about him from Carlton Sandercock, who runs Easy Action Records in the UK:
“John Peel was quite possibly THE most important person on the radio anywhere ever ... to find a DJ that championed new bands, unsigned bands, punk bands, bands of every genre…and encouraged growth when he was employed by one of the biggest corporations in UK is staggering to say the very least … I never met him but did have him stamping on the floor trying to get me, Annie Nightingale and Nikki Sudden to shut up…
This book completely beggars belief. Top marks and way, way beyond. It’s also utterly brilliant as well as being compelling reading. It’ll have you ranging your emotions from laughter to sorrow and is so well researched (Nina doesn’t bother much with academic references as her books come mostly from her own interviews and experience) and put together … words completely fail me.
If you’ve read any of Antonia’s other books (on the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders and The Only Ones) and enjoyed her style and intelligence … The Prettiest Star is so far ahead that it may as well be the best fiction you’ve ever read, except it’s all true.
I can’t believe that you’ll recall Brett Smiley. He had one hit, “Va Va Va Voom”, in the UK in 1974, at the height of that bizarre post-6ts glam and pop period where decent songs were generally in short supply in the charts. Oh dear, much like now? Really? I’m shocked.
It’s that time of year again, when that fat prick comes scrambling down the chimney armed with a sawn-off and robs you off all your money so’s he can spend it on whores and drugs.
How fair is the world? That’s what I was going to spend it on.
This being the I-94 Barr site, where rock is from Detroit, synths are for Germans and the volume is at 11, you will all have friends who love rock’n’roll. So the bookstores around the world are ready for you this Krimbo, usually armed with tomes the size of one of Mose’s tablets on That Notorious Stone or That Bland Beatle or worse, Someone Who Was Someone Maybe Once (and Just Can’t Get Over It) Volume 3.
If there was a formula for a famous rock musician, it sorta goes like this: “An outsider kid, akin to the Holden Caulfield character with a copy of "Catcher in the Rye" in his hip pocket. With either a military father, or better still a clergyman.
“He moves around a lot, from town to town, because of his father’s occupation. He buys vinyl and buys even more vinyl. He purchases a guitar, learns a few chords and then finds other folk who fit into the formula of rock musician. He forms a band and writes an amazingly significant song, or songs, and for one week is the spokesman of a generation, appearing in Melody Maker or Rolling Stone.”
Of course if fate does not serve him well, the prospective rock musician just ends up in his 40’s as the geek who's brought into the local pub by his mates because he’s the one who’ll get all the music triva questions right.
But if this formula was applied to a music geek who can write - and I mean really can write - they travel the world and theur byline appewars in some of the most important rock magazines on the planet.
Welcome to the world of Sydney-raised Andrew Mueller.