A small story about why you should be there and why I have to be there!
Hello again Shark Forum. Haven't had a chance to write on here for a while as it basically slipped and slipped even further away from my mind. Also, I think for the most part, SF is about the visual art world and not so much the sonic one. Sharkboy has always insisted that ain't true and says it's because Rizzo and I are too lazy to write anything. There's a bit of truth there as well. It's also a lot more fun to piss off Sharkboy than to please him. That's another good reason not to write. I think the best reason to write, though, is when there's an event or show worth something to me and that I think would be a shame to miss. I was lucky enough to find out that guitarist and songwriter Richard Lloyd was going to play the Abbey Pub on May 9th by Sean Duffy, who books the club and asked if I'd open the show. It didn't take my band and me long to say yes.
Lloyd, historically speaking, was a part of that small club of guitarists from NYC that emerged in the punk scene. He and Tom Verlaine lead the group Television. The other two I'd like to include in this club but am not going to write about at this time are from the band Richard Hell and the Voidoids. They are my pal, Ivan Julian, who'll have a record out in Spain in a month or so, and the late great and very funny to hang with Bob Quine, who chose to join his wife Alice in heaven, rather than to wait for a tedium of years to pass before he could reunite with his soul mate. Hope it worked, Bob. As an opening act, NTO only plays on shows that they would want to attend and in clubs in this town that I can stand being in. This date fits the bill BIGTIME! The other reasons are out of friendship or to fulfill some personal moment and loop the present with the past. In this case it's the latter. BINGO, AGAIN!
I've only seen Richard Lloyd play once before. It was I believe in 1976 in a rock club in Wheeling, Illinois called Haymakers. For this moment in time to make any sense at all I think I'll need to paint a picture of the music scene in Chi-town in those days. First off, I was 16 years old, with fake ID's, a black suit and red shirt. These were my stage clothes.
As of '75, I'd joined a band whose leader idolized the band Cheap Trick and was made to shit-can all my old glitter stuff I'd bought in dollar stores in the girls section. It cost a lot of dough to go from a three dollar whore to a continental type. My Broadway and Lawrence shopping days were over. I had just enough for one black suit that was turning grey at a rapid rate.
Chicago at that time was a 2nd city in the true sense of the word. Most of the bands that played rock were cover bands, mostly because you could get a lot more work. There was a lot of feathered hair and platform shoes a la Creem Magazine. The drinking age was 19 and driver's licenses didn't have pictures on them so it was a breeze to get one from your girlfriend's older brother and begin hitting the clubs and drinking your brains out 'til your tongue turned black. All girls were on the pill. Fucking was like shaking hands. Bigger and louder was better. We all wanted Marshall stacks and multitudes of watts. At my age however, we settled for what we could afford and usually made our own speaker cabinets that were way too big and filled with 8 to 10 Radio Shack speakers. These were heavy as hell and some of the worst sounding and loudest things you can imagine. Not in some cool Blue Cheer way. More like a thousand am radios with broken speakers playing all at once. This may sound cool in some performance art kind of way to some of you. Put that out of your mind. It was bad!
Some time around '75 or so, a very thin magazine called Rock Scene started publishing pictures of bands out of New York that looked really different from the sort of rock star/tranny look we were all used to seeing in those kind of rags. These were pictures of bands we'd never heard of and who didn't have any records out. They dressed in do-it-yourself kind of clothes, their haircuts looked crooked and they were playing in clubs and not theatres and arenas. The pictures were in black and white as the only thing I can remember being in color in this magazine was the cover. The captions in this magazine were more like what someone would write in a photo album. They told you very little. Stuff like, "Dee Dee counts off the song." Occasionally there'd be a quote from one of the performers, usually from the stage saying how they hated some famous band which didn't bug me because most of the bands they hated, I hated too. But I'll bet it bugged some of the guys I knew.
In Illinois in those days, the best rock clubs were scattered across the suburbs. Chicago was mostly blues clubs and lounges. One thing that was alike in both city and country here in IL was that no one who had a record out in rock played in clubs. If you came through town, had a record out but weren't popular yet, you were opening for a more successful band at the Aragon or the Auditorium. Bands with records did not play clubs, period! No one here could figure out why these bands were getting press out of New York from playing in a fucking club! All the clubs we played in were for the most part run by mob guys at the time and were a bridge to more club gigs, only. Certainly not record contracts or magazines. This made most of the musicians in town hate these new bands before they'd ever heard them. A true 2nd city moment.
I don't think it was a New York thing in the end really after all. I once asked David Johansen to paint a sort of picture of what the scene was like in NYC when the Dolls started out. He told me there was no scene and no clubs to play in. The village was a bunch of closed up venues and dying folk clubs. No rock and roll. They used to go into bars and tell the owners how popular they were and how they were going to make a bunch of money for them: in other words lie there asses off and then paste flyers around trying to get somebody to show up. Think it probably was like that for those early bands in the mid-70's as well. Find a couple of joints that could stand them and just keep going back.
So it was doubly surprising when I heard that Television was coming to play Chicago and even more surprising that they were going to play a club, let alone a club in Wheeling, Illinois! I remember it as being on a week night as well. I was intrigued. Most of the older bar musicians I spoke to about going to the show were either blowing it off, "Fuck those New York fags!" or were going to go just to jeer at them, "Fuck you! New York fags!"
You have to understand the way that punk was written about in '75. They made it sound like guys were picking up instruments one week and forming bands the next. Kind of like the way they wrote about the beat writers. Both were lies of course. That's why Capote put down Kerouac I think. I'm sure he never read his stuff. Just the way the press wrote about stream of consciousness writing and all that bullshit. "That's not writing...that's typing." I'll bet he was just offended by the idea of it. Punk turned out to be more of a return to the rawness of earlier American bands that had sort of disappeared as the technology of the recording studio began to become more complex a process. Back was the style of capturing the moment as opposed to manufacturing one that had become the norm of the mid-70's. That, and distaste for corporate intervention. What musician couldn't hang with that?
Sadly the legacy of great art is usually the folklore that gets turned to fact. That's why musicians get into drugs, writers drink like Hemingway. "Dylan and Reed didn't have great voices so you don't need one." (The reality is Dylan has never sung a sour note in his life and Reed can phrase a line as badass as Sinatra.) Maybe that's why the 2nd wave of any supposed style or scene seems to be a second-rate version of the first. It's the hype and not the truth that gets past on. It takes a while longer for the truth to out itself, if ever.
Anyway, walked into the club in Wheeling. It was half full, mostly with curious rockers looking to find some gimmick that might stick. Some new flashy deal they could cop. Something cheap they could laugh about. An emperor with no clothes. First off, no big amps! No semi outside full of equipment. No double stacks. No giant drum set with a gong in the back. No swastikas. No groupies. No Hollywood. The band came out unceremoniously and began to play. The guitars began to twist around themselves like they were daring each other into someplace uncharted. Notes colliding into each other until you couldn't tell Verlaine from Lloyd, Strat from Jazzmaster, bass from drums, light from shadow... They were looking for the moment. What moment? Where you disappear. Where sound happens before you can think it. Where thought gives up and commits suicide to make room for the stream of the moment. They were trying to catch that thing you can't chase. That thing that once you've stumbled upon it, your life as a musician never is the same. It's hard to explain.
Maybe the best way is an example:
As a kid I idolized a lot of different musicians, but I worshipped only one. Jimi Hendrix. I can honestly tell you that I have never learned to try and play a Hendrix lick in my life. I knew it would never come out right. There was something more happening there. I couldn't understand it, but I knew it was there and it was his and his only. I didn't want to play like him. I wanted to feel like him. There's a moment on the Monterey Pop Festival record at the beginning of "Like A Rolling Stone" where he says, "I'd like to bore you for about 6 or 7 minutes" and then this thing happens in his hands that well, just happens. It came through him without warning and he laughs, like a spectator to it. I recently found my original album of that performance. It's beat up all over but you can see the line in the grooves as plain as day were I played that 3 second moment over and over again. That's what I wanted. To float. To be reborn in music. What makes a person want that? Is it knowing it's there? It might even be part self-loathing. To create a new world. Hendrix dressed like an Indian warrior from Mars and wrote about spaceships. Spent his whole life leaving his past behind rather than looking for it. Was it being a black man in America that put him on the search for new worlds? Is that why so many geniuses in music of the last century happen to be black? Is it my own self loathing of the awkward Greek boy that makes me...? Now I remember why I hate writing for Shark Forum! Back to Television at Haymakers circa 70-something: All of a sudden that transcendent moment began to happen on stage, and all the musician jaded or not, could not deny it. We all knew it. We all applauded. Some excitedly...others reluctantly. But you couldn't deny it. It happened and was happening and the words rock or punk or punk rock went out the window with the window where they belonged.
Since then, Lloyd has become famous for his work as guest artist, most widely known on Mathew Sweet's "Girlfriend" record as well as some really great solo albums over the years with his bands Rockets From The Tombs and the trio he'll be coming to town with, The Sufi Monkeys. He ain't lost his edge either folks! If anything it's just gotten sharper so be prepared for one badass night! He's also become a guitar teacher over the years and after looking at a lesson on intervals that Guitar World put up on youtube I think I might have to grab a lesson as well! We'll be opening the show and like our headliner, have been on the road for a while too so both bands are well oiled for action! Fair price as well. Hope you can make it. That's all I really wanted to say when I started this. SHEESH!