Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Los Angeles Post-Punk, Vol. 4


Featured acts: 

Abecedarians, Angel Of The Odd, Autumnfair, Christian Death, Eddie & The Subtitles, Ethyl Meatplow, Fender Buddies, Gothic Hut, Grey Obscurity, Information   , League of Nations, Los Illegals, Marina Swingers, Marnie, Newsbreak, Noble Gas, Nocturnal Education, Nu Beams, Opus, Peter and Mary Saving Grace, Pompeii 99, Psi Com, Red Wedding, Slow Children, Standard Of Living, Steaming Coils, Tex & The Horseheads, The Cramps, The Fibonaccis, The Nerves, The Rotters, The Runaways, The Salvation Army, The Untouchables, Vidiots, What Is This, Wog.

The Marina Swingers, I'm a Swinger 12" (L.A.X., 1979)
Disk 1
1 Marina Swingers  — Little Swine (1979) 2:57
2 Eddie & The Subtitles  — Magic (1981) 3:53
3 Red Wedding  — Drums (1982) 3:47
4 Opus  — Get Procedures (1979) 3:01
5 Nu Beams  — Oh Chico (1981) 3:18
6 Standard Of Living  — Dancing In The Street (1982) 5:15
7 The Cramps  — Surfin' Bird (1989) 5:08
8 League of Nations  — Fade (1984) 4:13
9 Ethyl Meatplow  — Car (1990) 2:25
10 Peter and Mary Saving Grace  — Queen of the Night (1980) 5:46
12 Angel Of The Odd  — Infinite Tunnels (1989) 5:47
13 Marnie  — Shanghai My Heart (1988) 5:41
14 Autumnfair  — Arterial (1986) 3:09
15 Pompeii 99  — Ignorance is the Control (1982) 4:35
16 Eddie & The Subtitles  — Zombie Drug Killers (1981) 1:20
17 Tex & The Horseheads  — The Slip (1985) 1:35
18 Information     — I Know (1985) 3:35
19 The Untouchables  — Lovers Again (1985) 3:27
20 The Rotters  — Sit On My Face Stevie Nix (1979) 2:27
21 Red Wedding  — Goddess No More (1984) 2:43
22 Vidiots  — Laurie's Lament (1981) 1:41
23 Slow Children  — Spring in Fialta (1981) 3:24

Steaming Coils, Breaded (Nate Starkman & Son, 1991 [recorded 1987])


24 Christian Death  — Romeo's Distress (1982) 3:15
25 Grey Obscurity  — Tell Me A Story (1983) 3:43
26 Eddie & The Subtitles  — Dave Dacron (1981) 4:14
27 Tex & The Horseheads  — Bartender Sam (1985) 2:59
28 Wog  — Businessmen In Love (1988) 3:25
29 Nocturnal Education  — Alive in You (1986) 3:54
30 Standard Of Living  — Don't Worry (1982) 2:33
31 The Salvation Army  — Happen Happened (1981) 3:02
32 Angel of the Odd  — Darker Side (1985) 4:25
33 Newsbreak  — Hidden Eyes (1983) 3:14
34 Noble Gas  — Possibly Maybe (1982) 4:31
35 Information     — Inside Your Mind (1985) 4:38
36 The Fibonaccis  — Tumor (1983) 3:26
37 Abecedarians  — They Said Tomorrow (1988) 5:06
38 The Nerves  — Hanging On The Telephone (1976) 2:05
39 The Runaways  — I Love Playin' With Fire (1977) 3:18
40 What Is This  — Days Of Reflection (1984) 3:42
41 Los Illegals  — Guinea Pigs (1983) 4:45
42 Gothic Hut  — C-14 (1982) 3:40
43 Fender Buddies  — Furry Friend (1980) 1:33
44 Psi Com  — Ho Ka Hey (1985) 4:07
45 Steaming Coils  — Harry Languid (1987) 1:09
46 Marina Swingers  — I'm A Swinger (1979) 3:28

I've had a few backchannel exchanges with a music publisher and photographer about the ethical nature of this project. I'm really just trying to create interest in this period of music, and with luck some of the bands might find renewed interest and income through more conventional, commercial channels. If you are an artist whose tracks appear here and would like it removed, please write to me and I'll remove it immediately.

This set starts with a true rarity from the Marina Swingers, who have since reformed and are distributing new tracks on their MySpace page. Another rarity, from a band that also only ever released a single, is from the proto-grunge Opus, about whom nobody seems to know anything except that they had an exception cover design for their single. The Rotters, pretty much a "punk" band with (I think) fake English accents, show up with a single that was banned from KROQ for understandable reasons.

There's some relatively lo-fi New Wave here in the form of Grey Obscurity, Newsbreak, Wog, Nocturnal Education, and Information as well as some more polished work by Slow Children (who had a few hits in their day) and League of Nations, and a haunting track by Autumnfair, yet another offshoot of Savage Republic, and from whom a CD comp of their work (no LP was released) is commercially available.



In the LA post-punk retro category are the Cramps (with a track they probably recorded in New York), Tex & The Horseheads -- one of my favorite recent discoveries, whose lead singer Texacala is a total original (Google her images since I'm no longer posting photos here) -- and Eddie and the Subtitles. Actually, this last band's first album jumps from proto-hardcore to Orbison-esque crooning to Wire-esque art punk to rockabilly to some things completely undefinable from track to track. This was one of Rikk Agnew's favorite bands back in the day, which is excuse enough to include three tracks of theirs.

On the more purely avant-garde side are a very quiet, beautiful track from Marnie Weber (a little late in the chronology), some interesting nonsense from Peter and Mary Saving Grace, about whom I can discover nothing (except that they might be from San Francisco), a noisy track from Standard of Living along with a hypnotic cover, Fender Buddies (the only track of theirs I could locate),  Vidiots (who have also revived and have a MySpace page), and yet another little gem from Steaming Coils. Angel of the Odd was a strange band led, in their later years, by the late performance poet Cecilia± — yet another woman (along with the smattering from the last set) who crossed over from performance to quasi-pop music.

Red Wedding was brought to my attention by members of Outer Circle and Dogma Probe. Their first EP was recorded over a single weekend with one vocal take, but I think it sounds great, while their second one is more polished  and atmospheric but less quirky. Michael and Spider from this band, known as the "first openly gay punk band" in Los Angeles, are still making music through a variety of projects.

Gothic Hut was the musical project of Posh Boy graphic artist Kevin J. Walker. I haven't yet heard the two LPs that followed their debut, which resembles more the music of pre-punk art bands from the U.K. and Germany, but they're on the way. Ethyl Meatplow was a band known for their "sexually explicit, burlesque-inspired"live performances that turned off Kim Gordon, and had a minor hit in 1993 with "Ripened Peach," which is worth checking out on YouTube.

Bands you've seen before include Nu Beams, The Child Molesters, Pompeii 99, Christian Death (the Rikk Agnew version, whose work is sublime on this track), and Abecedarians with a track that didn't appear on either of their EPs. I've included one of the Fibonaccis more mischievous tracks which perhaps sounds more like what they were known for, quirky, polished lounge music (just verging on novelty act).

The band What Is This? was closely related to the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in the day and swapped a lot of members before settling down (I think Flea might have even played for them). This is an unbelievably gorgeous track. The Untouchables were the first Los Angeles ska band (after the Boxcars, who appear in an earlier set) and set off something of a mod revival here. Los Illegals are, along with the Plugz and the Brat, the best known Chicano punk bands from this period, led by muralist Willie Heron who might be better known for being a part of the artist collective ASCO (recent retrospective at LACMA).

Noble Gas is an act I discovered while reading blog comments for the band Android (who appears earlier) who shared studio space with them back in the day. Just as I was reading their website I got friended by Mike "Molecular Persuader" Lutgen, one half of band (his wife Lily "Thetaloops" the other), who have since moved on to New Jersey. Mike digitized one of the tracks from their first published cassette "Invaders from Earth," which I'd love to hear in its entirety.

Lastly are the bands most of you have heard of. Psi Com was Perry Farrell's first band before Jane's Addiction, while "Hanging on the Telephone" was the hit song by Blondie, here performed by the band that wrote the track. I love this Runaways song so tossed it in here since I doubt there are any more "arty" tracks by them available. The Salvation Army is an early version of The Three O'Clock, a band usually associated with the Paisley Underground (their singer, Michael Quercio, coined the term) but whose dedication to that very British form of mod-pop I think borders on pathological (which means, good).

I don't know how much longer I can leave this material up before I get into serious trouble, so please download soon! I hope to have one final volume in about a month, so stay tuned.

15 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for posting these! It's great to hear so many songs I'd lost one way or another - ruined 45s, breakups, and so on. Added bonus of so many things I missed the first time around!

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  2. While I don't want to dismiss your music publisher correspondent's concerns out of hand, I don't see anything particularly unethical about this project. It's not like you're posting whole in-print CDs or something--most of this material, I'm going to guess, wouldn't otherwise be seeing the light of day.

    I wrote a bit about music blogs & their cultural function recently for the Brooklyn Rail, here:

    http://www.brooklynrail.org/2012/03/music/vanishing-point-will-the-riaa-and-mpaa-wipe-international-music-off-the-globe

    Portia Sedon, who is a cultural anthropology academic here in New York, wrote quite a bit about ethics and music blogging recently for Norient, here:

    http://norient.com/academic/mp3-blogging-ethnography/

    I hope you don't run into any hot water doing this blog ... whatever happens, thanks for all of thought and labor you've so far put into it.

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    1. @Gary,

      Thank you for the links. I commend you for writing in plain English in your Brooklyn Rail piece as opposed to the tortured idiom used by Portia Seddon. She would do well to revisit her illustrious fictional namesake's language skills. Ms. Seddon would also do well to give attributions to the fascinating illustrations she has included. After all, she has provided a bibliography and listed her sources for interviews conducted.

      In specific reference to your writing on the Megaupload (MU) takedown, I'd like to add some further squeals to the cacophony of noise.

      The internet has not proven a stable medium for storage and preservation of information. I can cite 3 examples of the mass loss of data :

      1. Hotmail unilaterally deciding that "sent" messages constituted trash to be eliminated and then reducing online storage. This was before the advent of google mail and the subsequent storage hyperinflation.

      2. Geocities, after having been bought out by Yahoo at a huge price (in stock) then being folded by its new masters a few years later.

      3. Yahoo, again, collapsing their online photo archive.

      Then there are (legitimate) digital distributors falling by the wayside every month, especially because niche musical genres do not pay the bills.

      I quote the above as it is reasonable to infer that Kim Dotcom and his ilk have not prospered on the backs of Portia Seddon's students doing extensive research.
      That conclusion is implicit in your article,

      Furthermore, the jackboots you hear thundering towards the far flung server farms may just as commonly be those of the local bailiff seeking payment for last month's peta watt hour electricity bill.

      So it behooves any blogger or archivist to have a back up plan. And to mind what company they associate with online!

      It is ironic that you've chosen as your lead innocent, someone from Bandung, Indonesia, albeit an expat, but most certainly an holier than thou one. He's what referred to as collector scum, hoovering up, so smart at buying up an old collection for preservation, self appointing himself as guardian/gatekeeper. So Henk is giving away the music on his blog but resents :

      ... one foreigner living not that far from Bandung who has been buying thousands of cassettes of traditional Sundanese music and shipping them off to his homeland.

      Someone actually encouraging the local paid music industry! I expect the comeback is that the vast majority of cassette product in Indonesia and South Africa (2 of the referenced ethnic markets in the 2 citations) is pirated.

      Implicit in this is that the locals have no sense of monetary value in their music. What naïveté!

      Indonesia was ground zero for online fraud in music sales, locals using stolen credit card numbers to order compact discs from overseas. Ask any indie label about this, they were the ones who suffered the charge-backs from the credit card companies.

      As a parting shot, I find it strange those rounding on google for digitizing out of print books seem to be in the same camp as those supporting free music blogs, no matter that innocents like bstefans ingenuously post sound files of in print copyrights without either permission or attribution of ownership. Maybe it is just my being tone deaf.

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    2. Robbie, I agree that the Internet is not a stable place for archiving and that all of us do need to keep this in mind.

      That said, what if the DOJ decided to launch a freeze similar to that on Megaupload on Bank of America?

      Yes, I agree that Henk comes down too hard on other collectors with agendas different from his own and that Portia is writing for an academically trained audience, who have different expectations and reading habits than the audience for the Brooklyn Rail.

      But both of them (like bstefans, with this blog) are working (successfully, I'd say, and without remuneration) to broaden and enrich our knowledge & experience of expressive culture, which is something for which I have unwavering respect.

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    3. ... both of them (like bstefans, with this blog) are working (successfully, I'd say, and without remuneration) to broaden and enrich our knowledge & experience of expressive culture, which is something for which I have unwavering respect.

      Yes, I agree! I donate money to music blogs I admire when they pass the hat to pay for their share of the peta watt hours expended to spread their message(s).

      But if I see a failing, erratum or omission I am going to point it out, especially to those I respect. Comment sections of blogs can in themselves serve as virtual seminars on the subject matter at hand.

      I mentioned specifically Portia Seddon's omission of attributions for the illustrations she used in her paper.

      A couple come backs :

      ... what if the DOJ decided to launch a freeze similar to that on Megaupload on Bank of America?

      Many people believe they should! There's very much a precedent : the 1991 takedown of BCCI.

      Portia is writing for an academically trained audience, who have different expectations and reading habits than the audience for the Brooklyn Rail.

      Weak. I believe I qualify as academically trained and I appreciate fine writing. But you're right, my expectations are on the low side and my reading habits rather atrophied since my days of ploughing through Either/Or.

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    4. Mea culpa!

      I have now been informed that Portia Seddon is entirely innocent of the charge(s) of non attribution laid by me, the images in question having been added to her article by her (blog) editor.

      I apologise unreservedly to her.

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  4. Although I appreciate bstefans' wanting to spare my blushes by not outing me as the music publisher (sic) I can handle any heat generated in the industrial kitchen of online copyright.

    I had 2 major concerns : the first that a few of these tracks being posted are in print and that the owners of same are relatively easy to locate and seek permission from. I had suggested replacing the best selling single download from one group with another recording from their extensive canon.

    I suggested additional out of print recordings by different groups whose recordings I own and I am delighted to see 2 included in the latest compilation, along with a third that was first released on my label.

    The second concern was one of attribution and this remains an issue where bstefans' and my position remain far apart and has resulted in his petulantly saying he would remove recordings by one particular group when I had not requested he do so.

    The last words from him to me were :

    I'll take down the (group's) songs from my site tomorrow.

    But he seems to have changed his mind.

    There is a continuing issue here : the original contract for those recordings states that I am to credit the recordings' producer by name in any promotional endeavor. So I asked bstefans if he would provide a courtesy credit. He responded :

    Anyone who wants to know more about the (group) based on the music they've heard on my site, they can easily find out on Google, including who produced the track.

    I objected, as well, to our controlled graphical elements being used without attribution, i.e, without the photographer being credited or noting the provenance of the graphics, viz. "courtesy of Posh Boy Records".

    Though I do wear the music publisher hat, I never approached this casus wearing such. This was my wearing record mogul garb. It is also where there are general principles involved, specifically, that of using best efforts to attribute, rather than just cut and paste from the web and further muddy these artefacts' provenance.

    So bstefans, does it really hurt to add an asterisk here and there and provide a courtesy credit?

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  5. Our exchanges have made me rethink the project. When I'm don't with the volumes I'm going to rewrite the texts, which I was planning to do anyway, and systematically link out to sites of those bands who have either reformed or are distributing their tracks through a website. As you can see in this most recent post, I've started to do that. It would be impossible for me to contact every band that I've posted, I'd need a paid assistant, and since this is just a fan site with no commercial interest, I hope that any writer or musician or producer would accept that it's done with the intention of creating an interest in this period of music, knowing they could have the track removed with no controversy or heartache.

    As for crediting producers, you didn't mention to me that there was a contractual obligation to credit (this particular person) on the tracks here. While I'm not sure that this site counts as "promotional material" or that Posh Boy would be obliged by law to have this producer appear here, I'll certainly do that, but can it be in the prose description rather than as an asterisk attached to the track? I thought you wanted me to list every producer of these tracks which would really take me a long time. Discogs is a great site for researching producers, band members, etc. and lists out to other material that they've created, and that is what I meant by having the material available on the internet, and in much more useful form than can appear here.

    The photographer who wrote to me about the images wrote that "we" were going to enact some sort of Twitter/Facebook campaign to out me as a "copyright infringer" stating that "the punk community [is] onto [me]" etc. blasting his/her emails to several addresses. While I made a mistake posting the photographs, the "heat" of the emails I received suggested to me that no matter what I did, I'd be backed into a corner and subjected to lecturing about how photographers were being ripped off, the history dishonored, etc. This project has nothing to do with the "punk community" outside of a few tracks I've included that are associated with punk like from Geza X (the posting of that photo in particular seemed most egregious). If anything, I hope it brings attention to less celebrated acts who someday might have their own books of photographs like those we have for the punk community. In any case, any images that appear here in the future will have their complete attributions and permissions where needed.

    Thanks!

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    1. I for one miss the pictures, they gave a "feel" as to what the music was about that is lacking from a straight text posting. And I truly appreciate being reminded of music lost to my youth and music I wished I'd been exposed to back then.

      Not having been privy to any of the correspondence here, I just want to mention that I find it hugely amusing that some self-important yobbo has decided he can speak for the punk community about ripping photos off.

      I was there, I lived through it, and punk was ALL ABOUT ripping things off. From flat out stealing to repurposing to using for irony, commentary, humour, "fair use", unfair use, the whole gamut.

      But I guess we are not dealing with the punks themselves here, are we, just people who take their pictures. So sad.

      To quote the great Internet meme:

      Haters Gonna Hate.

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  6. As for the tracks I was going to remove, I would have but that would have involved finding replacement tracks from different bands (each one of the "disks" is the exact same length give or take 30 seconds), and since you actually didn't ask for them to be removed, I left them. I would have really missed them, especially "While We Can," which is gorgeous.

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  7. Brian,

    I asked you to credit 1 producer. He needs to be credited for all 3 of the recordings you're using produced by him. And needs to be, not because of a 1981 agreement but because I requested it.

    I have referred in general for the need for greater attribution in the world at large but I have not made any requests regarding any recordings other than my own. It is not my job to speak for others.

    The photographer who gave you grief even admitted that she had no skin in the game, none of her photographs having been used.

    So no one (as far as I know) told you to take down their work.
    Simply 2 people advised you in different ways to make an effort to attribute, give credit. For our artwork, we wanted a simple "courtesy of Posh Boy Records" credit. There was a James Stark photo of the Screamers. Did you contact him to confirm the appropriate credit (this is because a historical photo credit may no longer be current)?

    This project has nothing to do with the punk community outside of a few tracks I've included that are associated with punk like from Geza X ...

    You're splitting hairs here, Brian and this defensive posture is unworthy of you. I can cite plenty of artists included who self identified as punk, suffice to say there was a musical continuum between many different styles and a group could veer between various ones, even within a song, let alone a career.

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  8. Can we do this by back channel? I'm not trying to argue with you, clearly there have been misunderstandings that are being interpreted as hostility or a "defensive posture." I really don't think we need a flame war.

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  9. @Q T Boguss

    If you contact me directly, I'll put you in touch with the punkette who kvetched.

    As I was copied on the correspondence, let me quote directly from her own throbbing lips :

    "I stand with ... fellow photographers whose missing credits HARM their archive(s) and OUR history"

    So I think it is a little unfair to characterize her as someone who "decided (s)he can speak for the punk community about ripping photos off".

    Brian's work is a lot more than being about punk in any sense of the word.

    "... punk was ALL ABOUT ripping things off. From flat out stealing to repurposing to using for irony, commentary, humour, "fair use", unfair use, the whole gamut"


    Though I did buy myself some black leatherette trousers in London circa. 1979 as a nod to fashion, I don't think anyone ever mistook me for being a punk. So I can only claim to have been a witness and enabler. If the above statement reflects what the Zeitgeist meant for you, fine. It didn't for me, then or now.

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  10. Delighted to be among those bands on this comp. Peter And Mary Saving Grace . Drummer.

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