Sunday, October 12, 2008

WAYNE KRAMER'S GANG WAR FEATURING JOHNNY THUNDERS 7-inch EP (song titles: "New York City", "I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys"/"Endless Party", "Just Because I'm White") (Venus Records)

Another one from the trough, this time featuring the short-lived team up of MC5 stalwart Wayne Kramer fresh outta the slammer with the always charming Johnny Thunders neatly in tow. By this time in their chequered careers they were playing the New York punk rock scene right at the exact same nanosecond when the seventies energy of groups like the Heartbreakers was slowly transforming into the eighties miasma of Madonna. A good bunch Gang War were as well, since not only were two of the uncrowned kings of post-garage/pre-punk standard bearing present and accounted for, but the rest of the group was fleshed out by a number of ex-Rationals which in fact made these guys pretty much a Detroit first generation band stuck smack dab inna middle of New York second generation rock & roll!

A lotta people dribbled shorts upon hearing about the formation of this band including not only myself but THE NEW YORK ROCKER, though even with all of the excitement and notoriety such a concept as Gang War would obviously ooze Johnny went back to his old habits and the band broke up faster than you can say "methadone clinic". Naturally the two former pals fumbled throughout the decade in a variety of groups both stellar and feh, but at the time Gang War seemed like perhaps the ultimo p-rock supergroup who just happened to pop up at one of the best times for rock music ever, or at least it seemed that way in my fevered little brain.

It sure was warm 'n toasty listening to this extended play of iffy legality again. Be forewarned, this is not the Zodiac Records release of demos nor is it the album-length bootleg that was flying around a good two decades back. Ss far as I can tell, this was released by the old Venus Records mailorder biz (or at least their name and address are on the sleeve), they being an organization that was noted for delivering the rarities back in the eighties at least until Midnight and Disques Du Monde sorta vamoosed 'em outta business. It's also on blue vinyl which is really awe-inspiring in case you were one of those guys who was dazzled by such wonderments back when the late-seventies colored vinyl craze came into being. (As for me, I coulda cared less but at least it got some of those great Stiff singles into the local shops and at prices I could afford.) But be forewarned...this EP does not contain any of the aforementioned demos but are tracks taken from a live recording from a Max's Kansas City gig which as usual captures all of that En Why See ambience you get from a lotta these Max's and CBGB live tapes that have been floating around ever since day numero uno!

Overall the performance is more Heartbreakers than MC5 but that's naturally OK considering this gig took place at Max's and not the Grande Ballroom. The sound quality is typical seventies-era portable cassette which doesn't bother me any, although I'm sure that a release of these tracks, or hopefully the entire gig on digital, would improve on the typical shortcomings as those bootleg Cee-Dees are wont to do. Song selection again reflects more of a Thunders bent with the Dolls' "Endless Party", the Stones' "I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys" and Thunders' own "New York City" which rock on with the usual New York gutter abandon as is befitting such a fine upstanding young man as Thunders. Also appearing is that raucous rhythm and bloozer "Just Because I'm White (Why Do You Treat Me Like a N----r)" which got Mister Thunders into a little bit of hot water at the time but not as much as he woulda gotten into had he performed this particular ditty these overly conscious days! And people think I'm tasteless! (Oh yeah, Thunders was a gem, a humanitarian and one of the all around good people while I'm not fit to wipe his butt...I keep forgetting that!) And tasteless Gang War may be, but they sure knew how to deliver on a good rockin' promise unlike most musical acts are these very restrained, fear-inducing days.

One listen'll prove that Cherry Vanilla was wrong when she sang "New York City is a state of mind" was way more'n that especially if you were observing a thriving local music scene that was giving us no wave, avant garde fusion rock, post-Velvets innovation and Zantees-styled rockabilly. And one spin of Gang War will prove to you that not only were the punk rock underground seventies perhaps the most fertile time for rock & roll to flourish and develop, but that if you didn't have hate in your heart and Gang War on your turntable then you were NOWHERE. It's so slice-of-New York too that, if you listen even not-so-closely, you'll get to hear the famous yodelling music fan once again add his vocalese to the proceedings just like he did on a bunch of Suicide recordings that I wrote about a few months ago! Wonder where this chap is today anyway? I mean, if her were still around I'll bet he'd sure add a lot more fun to a typical amerindie gig than the actual music itself!


Woody said...

Good lord, I forgot all about this thing. I never picked up a copy because Venus Records (the store) always wanted to charge waaaay too much money for it.

Doc Lehman said...

This is a great blog! Wish I would have found it a long time ago.

planckzoo said...

I Saw Gangwar at the Oxford Ale House in New Haven. They came on real late, they got "lost" somewhere between NYC and New Haven. Johnny was a mess, but at least I got to see the band. I've heard audio of the show, and my memory was correct,it wasn't a great show at all.
It was still great to see and other Gang War shows I have heard have been much better.