Why have I become so obsessed of late with this video of the Dead Kennedys doing their punk classic California Über Alles? Is it that the first images we see are those of 4 geeky dudes in a recording studio who haven’t pierced themselves, colored their hair, or otherwise taken on a punk demeanor? Is it the green rubber gloves that front man Jello Biafra wears in various live clips? Or is it simply the line “It’s the suede-denim secret police/they have come for your uncool niece,” which is the kind of rhyme my daughter became famous for making when she was about 3 years old?
First, see the video:
Part of the reason this video works so well (for me – maybe not so well for you!) is the excellent studio audio, which provides the structure and muscle over which a series of film clips of the band playing the song at various live and studio venues are overlaid. This is not the first time I’ve encountered this editing technique: there is a well-known Led Zeppelin video of The Immigrant Song, which used bits of concert footage that could not be synced up with an audio recording. Obviously, it works much better to have a seamless audio recording of a song underpinning video/film of varying quality than to have a single seamless video/film running over a mishmash of audio takes of varying quality.
In the mid-1980s I had urges to see the Dead Kennedys but never sought them out and didn’t have my finger on the pulse of the local music scene (because I wasn’t making use of the Boston Phoenix enough, I guess), but all these years later I wish I had seen them. Even if the band mates put aside their differences and were willing to do a tour, I can’t imagine Jello coming at his audience these days with the same vigor he displayed all those decades ago.
When I was a bored adolescent getting dragged off to the Jersey Shore and Myrtle Beach on family vacations, what I came to love most wasn’t riding the waves and eating the ice cream cones, but finally having the access to cable television. Most families in my neighborhood already had cable by then, but my Dad refused to allow it, regarding it as a hippie plot to penetrate the minds of his Catholic children with liberal ideas and lots of bare flesh.
One day in Myrtle Beach, I must have had to use the bathroom and went into the hotel room while my parents hung out by the pool. Now was my chance! The hotel room had all kinds of naughty channels, things like MTV. I turned the TV on and soon was watching a video of this skinny and odd-looking musician doing a song that had never come out of the speakers of my parents’ car radio.
This is not the official video of "I’m Bored" that was in heavy rotation for those couple of weeks of our spring vacation in 1979, but it still takes me back to the eye-open hotel room experience. All these years later, what I find most striking is just how much Britt Daniel of Spoon has an Iggy thing going when he loses the falsetto and allows his voice to drop several octaves.
I know that soon there will be large numbers of people clamoring for examples of Britt sounding like Iggy. Stay tuned for that.
In the next five-to-ten years, I expect the letters of the Roman alphabet to form their own association, with annual awards in a variety of categories (best letter in a supporting role, e.g.), and while the letter S will have huge popular support (so curvaceous!), I’ll be lurking in the background, lobbying hard on behalf of X.
There are so many reasons to love the letter X, beginning with its shape. I happen to like symmetrical letters, and one that has two firmly planted legs, two victoriously outstretched arms, and virtually no tummy flab strikes me as a letter that is very fit. Also, without X our language would be lacking in key words, such as “Sox” and “Pixies”.
X is such as great letter that an L.A. punk group used it as its band name. The heyday of “X” (the band) might have been in the 1980s, but I can assure you, from having seen them just four nights ago, that the band still exudes authentic punk nearly 40 years after it was formed, despite the wrinkles and increased BMI. Of course, it never hurts to be playing at a superb venue, which The Sinclair (in Cambridge, MA) certain is: intelligently designed, with the bar (mostly) separated from the music, no damnable posts to interfere with sight lines (take that, Paradise!), and excellent sound all around make this my favorite small venue in the Boston/Cambridge knot of human activity.
It occurred to me, when I saw the show listed months back, that seeing aging punk rockers in a small venue that might not entirely sell out (unclear if it was) would be just too depressing (for aging fans, including me, and for the band itself), but after being steeped in all the great energy, excellent vocals and harmonies, and guitarist Jesse Dayton’s expert performance sitting in for Billy Zoom (get well soon!), I can assert that the experience was the very opposite of depressing. I walked out of the show thinking that this band isn’t so very old after all (and maybe neither am I).
Among the very few things I remember from my first year of college was a flyer for the punk band Einstein’s Riceboys, which was posted on the campus of St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where I was badly botching my freshman year. (When I think about what a lost year that was, I wonder why it never occurred to me to take a year off after high school. Wait – that did occur to me! So why didn’t it occur to me to listen to myself?)
Einstein’s Riceboys more likely came to the town of Clarkson, NY, some ten miles away, rather than to Canton, the bleak little dot on the frozen landscape where I was sentenced to a year of utter apathy.
The poster I recall was of the Riceboys’ headshots, cut and pasted (that is, cut crudely with scissors and physically pasted, not Photoshopped) onto the bodies of contortionists, then photocopied onto colored paper and stapled onto telephone poles around town. This was 1982 or 1983, when, if you had access to a computer, it was very likely introducing you to the concept of losing all your data.
What you see above is the cover of the band's first album, "Milk of Amnesia"; this is yet another example of Punk Rock's knack for producing more hilarious band names and album and song titles than any other genre of music. I probably never actually saw the Riceboys, although from what I've read the singer was also the drummer, and I definitely did see, in the basement of one of St. Lawrence's many beer-steeped fraternity houses, a loud punk band whose blond haired drummer "sang" all the "songs." (This is enough for me to claim that I might have actually seen the Wisconsonian punksters).
I'd love to know where Einstein's Riceboys played that year to ascertain if it's even possible that I attended the show. You can find Milk of Amnesia and some good Riceboys imagery at a blog called "Cheap Rewards" (and yes, I did ask Mike, the blogger, if he has a copy of the flyer, but, alas, he doesn't). I managed to download the whole second LP, Civil Rice, at the site mkepunk.com (with MKE being an abbreviation of the city of Milwaukee, I believe).
But what's more important to me than the music itself is finding that darned flyer. The time may come when I attempt to contact one of Einstein's famed Riceboys in order to see if any of those flyers withstood the test of time.
Trumpian Tweetage Haiku Continuum
Promote the Fake Book
Mentally Deranged Author
Now that collusion
With Russia: a total hoax
Kim Jong Un, I too
Have a nuclear button.
And my button works.
Tax cut/Reform bill
Massive Alaska Drilling
Sanctions on North Korea
World wants Peace, not Death
Women I don't know. FAKE NEWS!
Army Navy Game
He's bad on Crime, Life, Border.
Vets. Guns. VOTE ROY MOORE!
Time Magazine Called
Prob'ly "Person of the Year"
I took a pass. Thanks!
The Christmas Story
Mother, Father, Baby Son
Jesus Christ. Bahrain.
Matt Lauer just fired
When will top executives
Be fired for Fake News?
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