Friday, November 15, 2013

Clarence Is A Punk Rocker (Part 1 of 5)

I don't know if it'll make any change, but I figured it's time for me to start posting some music stuff again.

Last time around, I offered up 25 vintage 1980’s rap classics. This time I’ll throw out a five part-series of one of my favorite genres: the widely encompassing label known as punk. For what it’s worth, I love punk rock in all its form, really good and totally crappy.

If, as Harlan Howard surmised, country music is simply “three chords and the truth,” punk rock might be two chords and a sneer. Punk, after all, was and is much more about the attitude than the musicality. (“When I saw the Pistols, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t alone in the fact that I couldn’t play too well.” – Joe Strummer) In most cases in rock history, style over substance has made for utterly shite tunes . . . Somehow in this case that ridiculous formula worked masterfully in many cases, with the dirty little secret being that a lot of these guys were/became pretty damn skilled.

Here’s a layman’s recipe for punk rock music. Chuck in equal parts:

Driving guitars
Vitriolic disdain
Defiantly simplistic lyrics
Defiantly simplistic chords
Atonal singing
Nothing pretty at all costs
Short songs, some times startlingly so
A horribly menacing sound
Content that equates a middle finger or two
Your natural accent . . . or a bizarrely affected accent
Social message
Or antisocial message
Or anarchic message
Or peaceful message
Or no message
Or whatever the hell you want

Mix together and remember one thing more than the rest:

If it’s worth playing, it’s worth playing loud

The first segment of this playlist series is punk’s heyday, the 1970’s. I have intentionally left out three of the stalwarts of the genre, as they deserve individual playlists of their own. You’ll know of whom I speak right away.

1-2-3-4 . . .

1. The Adverts, “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” 
Gary Gilmore was one of the most interesting murderers of all time, immortalized by Tommy Lee Jones, Norman Mailer, and The Adverts. Gilmore donated his eyes to science. Some poor sucker got them. Yikes.

2. Tom Robinson Band, “2-4-6-8 Motorway” 
Dave likes songs that count or say the days of the week (a la “Police on My Back”), and this one does the evens and odds for him. Enjoy, D. Pave.

3. Sham 69, “If the Kids Are United” 
Punk anthem. Shouted, not sung.

4. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” 
This song was known for a couple of things – Feargal Sharkey and his mates were 19-year-olds from Northern Ireland who shot to fame and never really matched it, and famed British DJ John Peel fell head over heels in love with this tune like none before or since. Hype aside, it’s pretty damn good.

5. Richard Hell and the Voidoids, “Blank Generation” 
While Billy Idol’s Generation X would see their name plagiarized by lazy twentysomethings in flannel resembling Rob and me in the 1990’s, the blank generation was its punk predecessor. Other than Jello Biafra, John Doe, and Death, Richard Hell is arguably the best punk name.

6. The Only Ones, “Another Girl, Another Planet” 
Covered by The Replacements (sloppily) and Blink 182 (crappily), the original one-hitter is one of the great songs of the era.

7. The Damned, “New Rose” 
The Damned did everything first and got nearly zero credit, aside from Bob Marley’s song “Punky Reggae Party.” Damned if you do...

8. The Modern Lovers, “Pablo Picasso” 
So good, so punk attitude. You know Jonathan Richman from There’s Something About Mary, but long before, he explained the quintessential difference between guys like you and guys like Pablo Picasso. He never got called asshole.  Not like you.

9. Wreckless Eric, “Whole Wide World” 
A little-seen film (that I heartily enjoy) called Stranger Than Fiction resuscitated this tune a few years back, but it’s another off-kilter song worth hearing or trying to play.

10. X-Ray Spex, “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” 
If you think the title or the shouted lyrics are punk, they pale in comparison to whatever the hell that ridiculous instrumentation that comes in about the :20 mark. (Bad sax?) Random Idiots-esque, and somehow they made it popular.

11. Alternative TV, “Action Time Vision”
Lousy band name, lousy song name, but a rock song worth turning up.

12. Blondie, “Hanging on the Telephone”
Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Co. went fairly pop before too long, but this is by far my favorite of their early efforts. And she was super-hot, for those that have only seen the latter-day beefy Blondie.

13. The Jam, “Eton Rifles”
Beyond the Pistols and The Clash, you’d probably list The Jam as the next most prolific punk-origined band. Either “In the City” or this one as top early number.

14. Magazine, “Shot By Both Sides”
Good and sinister. Lively punk.

15. Television, “Marquee Moon” 
Not terribly punk – the weak singing excepted, but it’s good guitar rock by rebellious bastards with some random cross to bear. Two chords, my ass, I can’t play it.

16. The Ruts, “Babylon’s Burning”
With anxiety. Appropriately wicked.

17. Stiff Little Fingers, “Alternative Ulster” 
Made me consult an atlas. And write “Alternative Norfolk,” which never made the charts.

18. The Members, “The Sounds of the Suburbs” 
The ultimate pain-in-the-ass middle class kid’s rejection of his surroundings. This is the sound.

19. 999, “Homicide” 
In punk songwriting, a one-word chorus is just fine, if that word is “homicide.”

20. The Skids, “The Saints Are Coming”
Given a rebirth by Green Day and Bono on MNF when the Superdome reopened after Katrina, the original featured later Big Countryman Stuart Adamson. Good shit.

. . . and now my 5 favorite punk songs of the 1970’s (not performed by The Clash, Ramones, or Sex Pistols)

21. The Buzzcocks, “Ever Fallen In Love” 
Part of what's great about punk rock – just when you start to have it pegged, you’re wrong. Frenzied, guitar driven lover’s lament. The answer is yes.

22. Dead Kennedys, “California Über Alles” 
Easily one of my favorite punk acts for its humor-drenched fantastic rock songs. This should be the Cali state song.

23. Wire, “Mannequin”
This is a real rock song, and a great one, while . . .

24. Wire, “I Am the Fly”
. . . this is one of the most menacing songs ever recorded. It exists basically to torment, and is therefore exquisite. The repetition, aggravating sounds, and degenerate lyrics make it almost the perfect punk song. Second only to . . .

25. Black Flag, “Wasted”
Pre-Henry Rollins. 52 seconds. Simple. Rocking. So great. This should be the first song every fledgling band learns. And it won’t take long. Did I mention 52 seconds?

Enjoy.  More to come.


rob said...

spotify playlist?

Mark said...

If my bosses had any idea what I do/say while my phone is muted during conference calls I'd most certainly be unemployed.

rob said...

clarence, with respect to your question about the tribe in last night's thread, i think we'll scuffle a bit in the non-con schedule as long as brandon britt is out, but there's reason for more than the usual futile optimism if prewitt plays as well as his first three collegiate starts indicate he might (14.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 56% shooting). with britt back, they go legitimately 9 deep ('legitimate' in this case meaning that their talent is competitive in the caa).

towson looks to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league, but the tribe will be in the mix with britt, assuming they stay healthy.

as always, take tribe optimism with a grain of salt. but i think there's at least some reason for it.

zman said...

WFMU was playing their top 25 (or whatever number) songs about murder in honor of Halloween and the DJ explained the story behind Gary Gilmore's Eyes. I hadn't heard it previously. It would suck to be the recipient of said eyes but it makes for a cool song -- viewing the world through the eyes of a killer, literally.

Squeaky said...

Clarence, great list. Glad to see Wire on there. Saw them last year and they maybe older than the hills but put on a great show.

And I remember listing to "New Rose" on the bus to school in 6th grade thanks to my cousins who were 10+ years older than me. I think I still have the Peel Session EP, or my older brother has it, bastard.

Squeaky said...

And I'll leave this hear for you Wilco fans:

Patrick Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick Smith said...

I made a playlist for "Punk Rock Day" at Camden Yards a couple years back. Somehow, the O's didn't take me up on it.

zman said...

In other somewhat related news, I learned that the Meat Puppets had a show in Teaneck a few weeks ago. About 30 people attended. It was very loud. How did I miss out on this?

Mark said...

Rumors circulating the Florida QB Tyler Murphy (who started the season as the backup and last season as the third stringer) won't play against South Carolina due to a shoulder injury. If true that means Skyler Morninwheg (yes, Marty's kid) will start tomorrow. At South Carolina. In a night game.

Can this season just fucking end before somebody dies?

Clarence said...

Mark, I recommend listening to some punk rock right away.

And drinking. None of this straight edge crap.

Mark said...

I was never into punk growing up. I didn't have anyone in my sphere of influence who listened to it and my personal leanings were always toward hip hop. However, one of my best friends moved down from Long Island early in my senior year of high school and he and his two older brothers were/are huge punk fans. They exposed me to tons if different acts and expanded my musical horizons significantly while also allowing me to attend punk shows with a formidable group.

The lesson: Friends are good to have.

Squeaky said...

So this SF BatKid thing is pretty amazing.

Mark said...

For all the non twitter using GTBers. Take a minute:

Mark said...

It is Squeaky. Heartwarming, and I barely have a heart to warm.

rob said...

"mark's heart grew three sizes that day"

the batkid thing makes me think that not all people are raging assholes. the woman who blasted her horn at me in traffic when i slowed down so as not to run into the guy who cut me off, well, she makes me reconsider that position.

Mark said...

Not all, Rob. Just most. Myself included.

rob said...

the atlantic is on the 'eat the whole apple' bandwagon.

Mark said...

Wagner playing at St. John's. Get some, Marls.

Dave said...

nice list clarence, i only know half of those, so i've got some listening to do . . .

i do love counting, so i'm listening to the tom robinson band right now . . .

Mark said...

TJ's live tweeting his Seattle adventures. Not exactly the Batkid but worth a look nonetheless.

rob said...

i enjoy the chemistry between jalen rose and bill simmons. yeah, that's right.

Shlara said...

Jalen's podcasts on Grantland are really good

Mark said...

They are an unlikely but enjoyable tandem. Though I could do without Jalen's constant need to sing EVERYTHING.

TR said...

Wasted is great tune. Never knew it before today.

Bill and Jalen have grown on me in a huge way. They have really good chemistry. Got be crazy for Simmons, who was in college when the Fab Five blew up college b-ball in the early 90's. Now he's rolling with Jalen, who you can tell is a very respected dude by his NBA peers for being such a college trend-setter and having a solid career.

rob said...

i think jalen also genuinely respects simmons' knowledge of the league. it's a really good mix of insider/player and fan perspective.

Mark said...

Local Catholic high school, Melbourne Central Catholic,is playing a state playoff football game tonight. Currently in the 6th OT.

TR said...

HBO showing an impressive documentary highlighting the Ward-Gatti trilogy. Jim Lampley cried on camera, saying Round 9 of fight 1 was the greatest thing he's ever seen.