Catch A Wave?
No, West Coast NEW WAVE!
CREEM'S Punk Guides Stagger On....
by Jack Basher
For the so-called New Wave to evolve into something more than a pathetic little trickle-commercially- there will have to be a major shift- and I mean major-in the taste of the American public. lt'll mean bye-bye to long, tasty, self-indulgent licks, bye- bye to the whole concept of guitar- worship, bye-bye to complex chord progressions and instrumental virtuosity as we know it. bye-bye to fancy production techniques. Unlikely? Well, it has happened before, and it may be happening again.
Speaking 22 years ago, Frank Sinatra more recently one of Elvis' more misty-eyed eulogizers - had this to say about the King; "Rock 'n' roll is phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons, and by means of imbecilic reiteration and sly, lewd: in plain fact, dirty lyrics ... it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth."
Well, sideburns are definitely o-u-t. but you can read this type of review of any given punk rock show on the West Coast in the San Francisco Chronicle or the LA. Times. What Sinatra was doing was judging the new wave of 1956, a wave that eventually swept all that came before it into culture's garbage bin, by the standards of the time. Elvis and his successors - the Stones, Beatles, Airplane, Kiss - set up new standards. And today, Sinatroid critics and rock hacks are seeking to judge "punk rock" or "New Wave" or whatever the Industry and Media wants to label it, by those standards.
You cannot compare these bands to Aerosmith, Humble Pie and the Grateful Dead. Punk rock wants to bury those bands, not by mutating them and doing their thing better than the originals, but by bringing in a whole New Order. Some cad it junk, like Sinatra did 2O years ago. We'll see, Robert Duncan, well see.
Out here in the land of crunchy granola, surf 'n' sun and Jerry Garcia riffs-up-the-ass, that which is called New Wave is basically a second generation phenomena. The night after the NBC-TV report on the London punk rockers, the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco drew up plans to raise the ceilings to accommodate the pogo- dancers. Within a week after the show, the scene's coif and couture had been radically altered and at least one band began singing in an English accent.
The bands were bored with the accountant-and-lawyer-dominated Music Biz take-over of the Youth Culture. And anyway, how the fuck do you compete with Peter Frampton and Wings on their terms? No way- so just change the whole ball game. The Dils' Tony Nineteen (he's 20 but he used to be 19) doesn't say he sings better than Freddie Mercury. "I think Freddie Mercury is a pompous toad. We don't say we're better than them on their terms-we don't emulate them; we want to destroy them. Tastes are changing."
Patti Smith inspired the first set of bands-the Nuns, Crime, the Motels -and the Ramones helped gel a viable scene and inspired still another generation of bands. Many bands who claim the Ramones as their progenitors agree with the Weirdos: "After we heard the first Ramones album, I thought that if they can do it, anybody can do it."
(picture of Joan Jett)
So who's 'punk" and who's just a re-hashed '70s bar band or a left-over glitter band? Well, there are a bunch of critena and a band's gotta fit into all of them to be genuine punk. One's personal appearance, one's on-stage stance, one's lyrics and the way one plays one's instruments are the determinants. We've compiled a list of the mostly unrecorded California punk bands. The concept is beginning to catch on, and if it takes on the Coast, watch out America.
* * *Even this band, the best of the actual LA. stuff, isn't really from LA. Formerly Seattle's notorious Tupperwares, the Screamers consist of vocalist Tomata du Plenty (who has a presence not unlike a freaked out Mickey Roony). synthesizer player Gear and K.K., "someone who likes to hit things," as they describe their drummer, all spineheads. As you might guess from their instrumental line-up, the Screamers are not just another guitar band. Combining influences from such diverse figures as the Bay City Rollers, Denny Martin and Eno, the Screamers are at once radically avant garde and ... fun, "We're not trying to play music- we're trying to play an anxious sound." Actually, what they're best known for is their look-sturdily-molded spiney hairdos, which they confided are coated in Vaseline so as to collect a potent dose of L.A.'s fine airborne pollutants.