Saturday, July 29, 2017

Golly ned but it sure seems like just yesterday that this whole idea of punk rock, no matter what usage or permutation of the term you were talking about, began to penetrate my ever-sagging midgie mental state during them years o' me as an un-cured teenage blubberfarm. I'm sure you too remember those days well---I sure do bein' so anxious and easily swayed by articles in CREEM (which was perhaps the BIGGEST pusher of the p-rock idiom in Ameriga until the thing got bigger 'n usual and then it was nothing but STADIUM ROCK much to my dismay)---finding out about new bands and new movements and discovering all of those things from the sixties that I missed out on really put a thrill in my mid-teen mind, and frankly if it weren't for the likes of people like Richard Meltzer, Lester Bangs and all of those bands that they were pecking away about where would """""I""""" be today? Probably doin' the exact same thing I'm doin' now only not wastin' so much time gabbin' about groups, comics and moom pitchers you people could care less about! Feh!

And yeah, somehow the concept of punk as the vindication of mid-sixties mid-Amerigan teendom really appealed to me and m embryonic-beyond-belief sense of wonder. To me punk was the Shadows of Knight and Seeds as well as the Stranglers and Stooges, a huge counterattack against the ongoing rape of the teenage mind takin' 'em for for the pack of fools that they most certainly weren't, or at least weren't until the advent of Tuinols. Punk was fun and invigorating and assertive and other strangely positive enough things to rectify one's life and although it was brushed off by many as a weird aberration in the history of a movement that gave us James Taylor and Carole King and, according to the likes of Andy Secher, totally rootless the negativity that was blindly directed at all manifestations of the form (sheesh, the guys I knew even hated Ian Gomm!) that only made the sound more appealing as only a rejected and oft-loathed creature like I was and most certainly will remain can tell ya!

A local FM disc jockey who has finally retired from the airwaves was once asked about his views via punk rock and he said he despised it. It reminded him of the early Who which undoubtedly proves why the station never played "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" but blasted "Who Are You" continually.

I remember asking a certain former BTC conspirator who was well-versed in various musical mores about punk rock and he told me to avoid it all with a flaming passion. The same fellow later advised me against buying the recently-reissued KICK OUT THE JAMS which only goes to prove something to you, only I can't exactly figure out what it is lo these many years later.

Considering that early August marks the Big Fortieth Anniversary of the second (and unfortunately last) Mont de Marsan Punk Rock Festival I thought that a post devoted to not only that particular festival but French punk in particular would be appropriate. After all the French had always been known for their general lack of rockist ideals (why just ask Robert Christgau!) even though they were the nation that spawned Marc Zermati and Skydog Records as well as Patrick Eudeline, Yves Adrien, Rotomagus, Marie et les Garcons, Little Bob Story and other acts that I'm sure the likes of Christgau would find consequential to the growth and development of a high energy punk rock climate. But eh, we always knew better (didn't we always?), or at least I did after seeing (in high stool history class no less!) that snap of Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye receiving some award from a Frenchman for RADIO ETHIOPIA...the French always knew more about rock 'n roll than Christgau did and if only someone had thought enough to translate Eudeline and Adrien into English just so's their verbiage of value could have reached more rock-starved peons such as yourself maybe we wouldn't have had to kid ourselves that THE CHRISTGAU CONSUMER GUIDE was actually worth the time and effort to peruse.

But really, French punk was a beautiful entity all to itself. Part late-sixties US garage band drill and part mid-seventies English hard blooze with a whole slew of points in-between, the music was perfect for rock 'n roll reactionaries whose idea of punk was a buncha wired kids in that garage at the end of the lane cranking out a sound that was mostly atonal but had that feral quality that was sorely missing from most of the music being heard them days. Of course once the Sex Pistols' aura permeated everything in its path things changed, but even then there was a unique approach and attempt at a new INTERNATIONAL YOUTH LANGUAGE that transcended mere gab being made. Perhaps this really was the last attempt to keep it from all tumbling into the abyss, but they did give it more'n the ol' college try if I do say so myself and maybe for that we should be thankful.

And now, a REVIEW OF A BOOK entitled LE MASSACRE DES BEBES SKAI---PUNK ROCK FESTIVAL; MONT DE MARSAN 1976 & 1977 by Thierry Saltet (Julie Editions, 2012)

It's all in French but considering how many consider English nothing but sloppy French maybe I can make it out just a little. I guess that the two Mont de Marson punk fests were famous enough in France at least to rate a book, and this one seems like it would be the kind of read that really laid down the line as to what was goin' on at the fest, the ins and outs of the entire shebang detailing things we never knew about given the various backstage hubbub 'n all. It sure LOOKS good that's for sure, what with the great snaps and fliers present not to mention that author Saltet got his info from some of the better (Jonh Ingham in MELODY MAKER) and worse (Caroline Coon in MELODY MAKER!) extant.

Before we go on any further maybe I should mention how organically together (man!) the concept and portrayal of punk rock was. Many have mentioned how the definition of punk rock was different in 1971 (when CREEM would use the term to describe the likes of Ten Years After and Ashton Gardner and Dyke along with the Seeds and Stooges) and 1975 and 1977, but somehow the news really didn't hit the likes of Zermati who actually presented a wide array of acts that coalesced loosely under the punk banner. Well, not that loose (after all there weren't any of those neo-punk prog "Zeuhl" acts around that's for sure!) but having a "Big Tent" appreciation of the punk term really fitted in with my own understanding of just how deep and of what kind of width the entire underground had absorbed. Even if it did come to the point where NONE of the people I knew could handle Nick Lowe because he was a punk even though they liked "So It Goes" until they found out he was one!

Interesting shards can be discerned. F'r example the boss-beyond-belief rhythm and blues act Roogalator were supposed to play the '76 fest but didn't because an electric piano was not provided, while a cloudburst actually cut the second fest short thus denying attendees the opportunity of seeing a few acts (and I don't know which understanding of French ain't that spiffy!). Bits and pieces I never knew about (such as that the Pink Fairies who appeared here were actually made up of Twink, Duncan Sanderson and a pickup guitarist) are also present, but what I was rather interested in were some of the "also ran" types who appeared, those acts that most of us never heard of before and more likely never heard of again which naturally got my mind in an uproar over the possibility of discovering a new lost seventies wonder.

Now some of these flash inna panners did release material which I have fortunately had the opportunity to review for all of our further rock edjamacation, but acts such as Passion Force, an all-black power trio who came, played a blazing set of punk-funk (long before that concept was officially coined!) and scooted back into obscurity are the thing that make me want to uncover even more and more of the gritty underbelly of underground rockism that was permeating the scene at the time. Like ever-decaying film, these memories and sounds must be preserved lest the vanish like some long-gone D. W. Griffith feature that we sure read a lot about, but never will be able to see.

Also interesting is some of the things that were presented as fact to a punk-starved populace but were somehow twisted about in the process. Take this one flier for the '77 shows presented by some Spanish punk fans who make a whole load of errors (which I somehow think were intentional but who knows) regarding a variety of subjects. Hokay, we all know that the Tyla Gang were not from Holland nor the Police from Belgium (the promoters of the '76 shows listed the [Hammersmith] Gorillas as being Scot!) but why were they leading unsuspecting attendees into thinking that Lou Reed was actually part of the fest even though he was playing the day after and the audience was just expected to hang around for that 'un. And I dunno who gave 'em the idea that the TROGGS were to play the fest since I hard nada about that until chancing upon this particular poster! Must have been wishful thinking or better yet a pure lie conjured up to get more Spaniards heading up north. Well, the year before promised the appearance of a band called "Mirrors" who were not our Cleveland faves but a makeshift operation featuring Richard Hell along with Nick Lowe and Ducks Deluxe's Tim Roper and I wonder just how much credibility one coulda put into a pairing such as that ever making it to a stage!

While someone's doin' translations on those Eudeline and Adrien articles howzbout workin' this one over??? Your punk rock public demands such a task because hey, we all know that Ann Powers never cut the mustard when it came to detailing the true nitty gritty and fun side of rock 'n roll music!
And now for the records! All of them have something to do with either French punk rock, rock acts that appeared at Mont de Marsan or something vaguely related to either one. Whatever, these platters prove that the French rock scene, especially that of the underground rock 'n roll variety, wasn't as staid and as restrained and as boring as some neer do wells would lead you to believe. Read on, and if smart SAVE THEM SHEKELS!!! Because you will need these to cop all of the booty that's been mentioned and like, better now'n when you're deaf!

IL BARRITZ LP (Atlantic France)

I always wondered what the story was behind this Anglo-Irish-French group who recorded this album with Phil May producing and a whole load of Pretty Things helping out (though not pictured on the back cover...that was the performing group that got the entire reverse to themselves) with the kicker being that these guys were up and operating in France which is probably the only nation that released this '76 platter given its outright obscurity. I guess some old UGLY THINGS has the whole story but I'm too lazy to comb through my collection and find out right now. As far as a relic of punkisms gone by IL BARRITZ really don't measure up to what was expected of the mooment at the time---nice if slightly commercial hard rock is what'cher in store for, but I gotta say that I'll bet that more'n a few bands of the day who sounded like this got tagged as punk rock so why quibble? If you find a copy for fifty cents in your local flea market bin you're probably hallucinating.
Shakin' Street-AXE KILLER WARRIOR'S SET 2-CD box set (Axe Killer France)

It mighta seemed strange to some that Shakin' Street played both Mont de Marsan fests considerin' just how much this act hovered around the heavy metal hive in order to get their honey. But hey, if yer once again usin' the '71 punk definition o' the term, these guys (and gal) were just as much of a buncha punks as Hot Scott Fisher said Budgie were, and in no way did Shakin' Street ever cower in the macho metal (or femme approximation) as many of the losers of the eighties who might have made metal a household word but paled in all-out intensity when lined up against a whole load of hardcore punk blare that was stealin' thunder like anything back then.
This package has everything (including a booklet in French) which details the group's history from the early days up through their two studio albums and live effort which you know was all good because the heavy metal pansies of the eighties ignored it like the plague while slurping up to comparatively dull acts like Ratt and Wasp! Both studio efforts are great high energy excursions that, like Motorhead, owed more to a punkian past than the dolts at HIT PARADER would ever 'fess up to, and like who could ignore the fact that a post-Dictators/pre-Manowar Ross the Boss is up front and center for a number of lead lines that would make Ted Nugent wet his loincloth. The live set, while not up to KICK OUT THE JAMS/METALLIC KO standards, still delivers some hot and straightforward music that I know woulda made the supposed HM dopers wail like babes just like they did upon hearing Von Lmo (a true story!). It's too bad the Shakin' Street are pretty much a forgotten footnote in a book where comparative comatic (made that word, 'eh?) acts in the faux metal category are considered "hard and heavy" man!

The bonus tracks which close the disque out (featuring spacial guests Buck Dharma and Jimmy Page) sound closer to the metal than punk taproot what with their standard riffs and without anything to make it burst out into pure sound as energy. Still you gotta wonder that since both Blue Oyster Cult and Led Zeppelin have on occasion been lumped into a punk continuum maybe everyone was in on the p-rock game and wittingly knew it when laying down these tracks, right? Nawwww.....
Little Bob Story-OFF THE RAILS----LIVE '78 CD (Ace/Chiswick, England)

Only in France could a short goofy looking wop-a-dago kid achieve fame and fortune as the frontman for a hot high energy rock 'n roll band like this! I never really cozied up to these guys after hearing their Chiswick EP a good thirtysome years back, but nowadays Little Bob Story sound like the perfect blues/punk/high energy band that shoulda ruled my growing up existence had only someone nudged me in the right direction (like told me this music even existed!). Bob moans with a great hoarse voice sounding like the high school geek gone good while the band cooks like a combo Dr. Feelgood meets MC5, and if this stuff was verboten amongst the FM-bred Pantsiosites of the late-seventies then you KNOW why that generation better get ready for a toasty afterlife in Lawrence Welk Hell!
Maniacs-SO FAR...SO LOUD CD (Overground England)

This is English punk rock (of the punkiest kinda mind ya) right around the time it was starting to become pUnk yet wasn't whatcha'd call an embarrassment next to what it would become by the time 198X crept into existence. For a group that never really went anywhere this is some pretty solid hard-knuckled music they got here (which is probably why they never did go anywhere), and a whole lot better in approach/anger/energy than some of the lower-rung acts that were comin' outta Blighty at the time. It's too bad that these guys petered out the way they did (being in existence for the lesser part of a year) because who knows, maybe they coulda gotten somewhere and made one of those albums that really fit into the moods and modes of the day, at least the kind of moods and modes that affected disenfranchised suburban slobs like ourselves!
Various Artists-LES PLUS GRANDE SUCCES DU PUNK CD (Skydog France)

Given that more'n a few of the acts that appeared on this platter also appeared at the Fest I felt that it was my sworn doody to latch up their recordings if only to re-create at least in my mind the energy and might that used to be punk rock. And with the infamous SKYDOG COMMANDO platter unfortunately out of reach (back then I didn't think I'd like it...can you believe that???) I've gotten hold of this Cee-Dee which has a good portion of just that on hand plus other French faves to make this an especially adorable package.

Once again this platter contains more of that rough and rumble punk before it lost its original THRUST meaning and became just another prop for armchair radicals worldwide, with roots still heavily into the usual Dolls/Stooges/Velvets-sorta drive that made these bands so delectable in the first place. Personal faves include Little Bob Story's Dr. Feelgood swipe, the Lou's dyke rock, Taxi Girl's art takes via Roxy and Terry Riley and Kalfon Rock Chaud's Dollsalike rave which makes me wonder why everybody out there in French punk land (and beyond) seemed to hate 'em! Also hot are Gazoline, Electric Callas and Marie et les Garcons who prove that even people who look as wimpoid as every other Velvets homage band on the planet can do it right for once (witness Les Scooters' "Hygiene", a "Sweet Jane" re-do that sounds unlike every other weep take of the toon recorded these past thirtysome years!).

As I said there were a number of acts at Mont de Marsan that weren't exactly whatcha'd call punk rock in the strictest 1977 sense, but they mighta fit in using the early-seventies NME/CREEM definition of the term. Spain's Brakaman were too loose an aggregation to even fit into these criteria but hey, I can see how they coulda scored a spot at the '77 fest even if they were probably gonna get about as much respect there as I would at Jay Hinman's birthday party. Brackaman played whatcha'd call a more or less toned down glam rock that, although nothing bad, just doesn't hit the same strata that those English groups that used to appear on Bell Records did. But wait...right when you're about to write these guys off they come up with a pretty good rocker that sounds as good as those early glitter-unto-punk mainland Euro singles that you occasionally see posted on the Purepop web site. Not bad at all guys, and hey next to the likes of some of those atrocities committed in the name of underground rock purity back in the eighties you definitely were punks, that's for sure!
Various Artists-DANGER: LA FRANCE A PEUR! LP (Danger Records, France)

Now none of the acts that appear on this recent collection of rare French punkers popped up at the Fest, and most all of this is whatcha'd call punk of the '77 variety having been influenced more by then-recent English doings than earlier sound extrapolations. However, the punk that does make its presence known is of a pretty spiffy quality since it more or less was laid down long before the music got mooshed over by the various kling ons that toilet paper could never remove. Highlight of the set is the first cut on side two, "Strike Up" by the band of the same name who best represent the mid-seventies spirit with their sound that was highly evocative of the early Stooges run through the entire gamut of late-sixties/early seventies grit rock stylings. I sure could use an entire platter from them THAT'S for sure!
The Pink Fairies-NAKED RADIO CD + DVD (Gonzo Multimedia, England)

Mind you, this is not the version of the Fairies that played the '76 Fest which as I told ya was naught but a quickie put-together. This is more or less the latest in the continuing line of Pink Fairies revival acts centering around originals Sanderson and Hunter with longtime hanger-on and guitar hero in his own right Andy Colquhoun and that same gal who was also in the Deviants the day Mick Farren gave an audience a show they'll never forget. Of course it's good in that straightforward Ladbroke Groove sorta way that still retains that post-sixties jaded feeling that made those early Fairies records pretty hotcha even this far down the line. Cover features some of the best schizo/kultural rock references seen in a while what with the hippie and punk stormfronts colliding into something that sure sounds pleasurable in a way that you never could get outta the rest of 'em hippie punks.
And where does that leave the rest of the French punk acts from European Son and Metal Urbain on down? Don't ask me...still have a lot to hear while I still have ears and I sure would like to give some of the more obscure aggregations out there a spin before I check out into used record bin purgatory. Any help would be appreciated, but certainly not expected.

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