new york city - The I-94 Bar

Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders (Chip Baker Films/Jungle Records)

looking for johnnySeems not so long ago (and in fact, it was the late 1980s) that the shadow of a still breathing, although not always fully-functioning, Johnny Thunders was almost everywhere you looked. His records filled the racks and every second person in a band wanted to look like, if not be, JT. As in buying the T-shirt with no need to tap a vein.

It was P.I. (Pre-Internet) so we didn’t have the same visual options that YouTube and Torrenting now offer, but you had to wonder how someone whose wasted pictures and sound defined the term “fucked-up” so convincingly could continue to make music.

Of course, way down in Australia we got our answer when an at least partially cleaned-up Johnny toured, with the ever-present legend Jerry Nolan on drums and a real live Sex Pistol, Glen Matlock, on bass. That had to be the year I was overseas, but by all reliable reports The Man and His Band were both lucid and great.

His music tends to be overshadowed by the fact that Thunders was a hardcore junkie for the second tw-thirds of his career, at first by choice and then, over the years, by necessity. You might argue that he also milked that reputation for all it was worth, to the point that it was a marketing tool as much as a cross to bear.

A Call to You b/w Won't Say it to My Face - The Art Gray Noizz Quintet (Robellion)

art gray noizeThe last time I saw Stuart Gray was in Adelaide in 1990, at a grotty pub on Brighton Road which is now another craft-beer haven for the smug and pointless, and Bloodloss were playing what would be their last Adelaide gig, and the final with that line-up. They'd been hanging out with Stuart, and he'd been persuading Renestair EJ and Martin Bland to join his band Lubricated Goat.

It was quite an evening, somewhat bereft of punters, and The Goat promised, at the very least, overseas adventures. And, possibly, more punters. Frankly, it was a better opportunity for them than slugging out the gigs and LPs of great music to an uncaring town, so Ren and Martin left...

I'd seen Stu in several bands by that stage; The Bad Poets and The Brats, notably. Each time Stu joined an existing band, he'd lifted them mightily. Eventually, he left for Melbourne and Sydney, as all ambitious Adelaide artists did. I expect you know the rest; he was with Tex Perkins' outfit Salamander Jim and there was a stint with the Beasts of Bourbon.

Butterflyin’ - New York Dolls (Easy Action)

butterflyinRiddle me this, Batman: In these digital times, why put out a CD of a live recording in a box set and split it over two discs? A strange attempt to mimick the vinyl exprience of flipping an LP over after it hits the run-out groove? Yes, Barflies, these are some of the weighty societal issues we trouble ourselves with at the I-94 Bar. Let’s back the truck up a bit here…

“Butterflyin’” is an upgraded version of a Dolls boot that’s been doing the rounds since Steve Jones was old enough to do time in an adult detention facility. Not that he’s the only one who swiped something from the Dolls’ output. It’s taken from a 1974 WLIR radio broadcast. An additional six live tracks, from another undated radio show, are the icing on the cake. More about them later. 

Dion Lunadon - Dion Lunadon (Agitated Records)

dion lunadon LPIf you hear a noisier, more brutal yet musical album this year, call your lawyer and sue Mitsubishi for opening a car plant in your backyard. 

Dion Lunadon used to be Dion Palmer, bassist for New Zealand-via-The-Lower-East-Side rockers The D4 back in the 1990s. He’s been living in New York City for the last 10 years, playing bass for abrasive noise merchants, A Place To Bury Strangers (APTBS). This eponymous LP is his first solo venture. 

There are elements of Kraut rock, hard rock, noise rock, psychedelic rock and almost everything that can be appended to rock on this record. It’s full of ideas to the point of near overload. Apparently written as a cathartic release after rigorous touring with APTBS, it reeks of grime, sweat , post-road angst and not a little desperation.

Inside The Flesh Hotel - Beechwood (Alive Natural Sounds)

flesh hotelPull up a chair, crack a beer and let’s have a bet. Bukowski would. There are short odds on offer, my friend, that Beechwood is your new favourite band - even if you haven’t heard them yet. 

Bukowzki was from the other side of the USA,  as this trio from Brooklyn, NYC, the buzz on whom is substantial but not undeserved. It’s picked up momentum to move past a dull roar, even in these times of fragmented public communication. A recent European tour left the French, in particular, in raptures. See herefor proof. 

You ever read Bukowski? Full of extremes, for sure, but also littered with patches of light and shade. Much like the sound of Beechwood. It isn’t easily categorised; there are so many stylistic threads coming together that you’ll die trying. A sometimes languid flow of vaguely ‘60s pop and psych elements runs right through it. Concise songs full of variety but somehow linked together. 

Live at Tully Hall – Lou Reed (Easy Action)

tully hallLou Reed’s much-maligned early ‘70s live backing band, The Tots, cop a bad wra

Maybe it’s because they weren’t the Velvets or the “Rock and Roll Animal” monster. No crime in that. Maybe it was the bass player’s white suits - like an early ‘70s version of double denim.

They were a bar band from Yonkers. They weren’t the best band to back Uncle Lou. Not by a long-shot. But they had a go.

After messing around with members of Yes and well-credentialed session guys in England to record his first two solo albums, Reed was ready to promote "Transformer". This was his "comeback" show in New York City. He'd emerged from a lay-off, much of which was spent working as a typist in the family business,

Witht the benefit of hindsight, The Tots were like a suit he bought off the rack. Not the most elegant fit, but they did the job for a year - until he wore them out/got bored and sacked them.

Our shout! Why The Fleshtones and Peter Zaremba still drink for free after all these years...

Fleshtones photo cred JacopoBenessi
Meet Keith Streng, Ken Fox, Peter Zaremba and Bill Milhizer.  Jacopo Benessi photo. 

Here’s another plea for justice and a call for long overdue respect. Add another name to the list of bands whose “failure” (such a harsh word when applied without context) to break into the mainstream is not just unfathomable but criminal. Ladies and gentlemen, I speak of The Fleshtones, stars of stage and screen and bearers of a vibrant new record, “The Band Drinks For Free”, on Yep Roc.

The Official Biography lists it as Album Number 21 (including live releases) and says the band is in its 40th year,  but let’s dispense with the figures and deal only in facts. The first one is: If you’re not listening to The Fleshtones, you’re a loser.  The second is: It’s never too late to shed your loser status.

The Fleshtones emerged from a basement in New York City’s Queens borough and onto a stage at CBGB in 1976. Largely written out of histories of the Lower East Side scene despite being fixtures at places like CBs, Max’s Kansas City, The Pyramid, Danceteria and Club 57, they went through a trailer-load of trials and tribulations (labels going broke, line-ups in flux, drugs and drink) to “almost make it” in spectacular style.

Owners launch campaign to save Manitoba's from closure

manitobasbarfront

New York City landmark Manitoba’s – and it is The World’s Greatest Bar (believe us, we’ve personally checked out a few) - has launched a crowdsourcing campaign to avoid closure in the wake of a legal dispute.    

Owners Handsome Dick Manitoba (of the Dictators) and Zoe Hansen (his better half) say their iconic watering hole has no choice but to settle with a litigant or shut its doors.

Songs From The Land of Nod - Beechwood (Alive Natural Sound)

songs from the land of nodThey don’t have Real Rock and Roll bands in New York City any more, do they? Don’t kid yourself, kid. They might be hard to find but they’re still there, their beating hearts buried under 50 feet of radio-friendly dross and cultural fragmentation.

No, Virginia, there’s no CBGBs. They made a shitty telemovie about it and moved the awning to an airport bar, somewhere. It was a shadow of what it was, even when I got there in the mid-‘80s. There’s no Max’s, either. Times Square is more family friendly than a Disney dance party. Even The Continental is just a dive bar now, more famous for (literally) banning a figure of speech than the Joey Ramone parties it used to host in the ‘80s.

Gentrification has a lot of downsides and one is squeezing cultural outsiders to the extreme margins. Art mostly doesn’t pay the rent, pegged or non existent. The NY rock “scene” is in Brooklyn these days, by all accounts. It has been for quite some time but it’s mostly disposable pop. Thank fuck, then, for Beechwood.

They Fought The Law and The Law Wasn't On The Guest List

beechwood isaOne of our favourite new bands created a stir at their album launch in New York City this week.

Psych--glam-punks Beechwood played Berlin on Avenue A in Manhattan last Saturday to christen the "Songs From The Land of Nod" long-player...only find there were 14 undercover police in the audience.

According to their label Alive Natural Sound, they arrested drummer Isa Tineo: "What major felony had been committed to warrant such manpower? It was for jumping the subway turnstile in 2014 and not paying the $100 ticket."

The incident follows the arrest of two band members for playing a rowdy street party in Manhattan in 2016.  At least 14 extra payers through the door should off-set the fine. Word is the cops let him finish the gig - and liked it. But 14 to arrest one person? That's rock and roll in The Big Apple these days.