Friday, July 13, 2018

Everybody's Boring But Pearl Harbour (Part 1)

The singer known as Pearl Harbour was born in 1955 to an American soldier and a Filipino mother, and was raised in Germany with four older brothers. At the age of 17, she moved to San Francisco with ambitions of becoming a country singer. At 18, she joined a dance troupe called the Wood Nymphs. In 1976, Pearl became a dancer for The Tubes (after beating a hundred other performers in a talent contest). She then joined a Tubes-related cabaret act called Leila And The Snakes. "We did four sets a night: punk, cocktail hour, comedy, skits, tap dancing, twirling hula hoops while singing. It was kind of like being in a play. Interesting and fun for awhile, but you got tired of it.... Then I wanted to branch out into rock and roll." Leila And The Snakes released a 1978 single called "Rock & Roll Weirdos".  Pearl, John Hanes (drums) and Hilary Hanes (bass) split from the Snakes, added guitarist Peter Bilt, and formed Pearl Harbor and the Explosions. Their debut single Drivin' was a local hit in SF for 415 Records, and was re-released by Warner Bros. A self-titled album followed.

The Explosions imploded after two world tours. "I wanted the show to be more wild rock & roll. They were more interested in jazz, funk, and rhythm & blues and a little bit straighter kind of show," Pearl recalled in an interview. (The Explosions did perform the Sparkletones' classic Black Slacks and Pearl's rockabilly tune Nerves.) The Explosions' drummer and bassist John and Hilary Hanes (aka the Stench brothers) joined Damon Edge and Helios Creed in Chrome. Pearl moved to London, where she knew members of the punk and pub rock scenes. Pearl had a contract with Warners for a solo album. She wrote songs with guitarist Nigel Dixon (from British rockabilly band Whirlwind) and pianist Geraint "Otis" Watkins. Micky Gallagher from Ian Dury's Blockheads was the producer. Musicians who participated in the sessions included Paul Simonon and his brother Nick, Mick Jones, Topper Headon, Wilko Johnson, Steve New, Steve Goulding, and BJ Cole. Pearl's first single was a cover of Fujiyama Mama (first recorded by Anisteen Allen, then made famous by Pearl's rockabilly role model Wanda Jackson), with Pearl's original composition Nerves on the flipside.

The music on Pearl's debut solo albumDon't Follow Me, I'm Lost Too (1980), ranged from rockabilly to country (Losing To You), girl groups (Everybody's Boring But My Baby), New Orleans R&B (Let's Go Upstairs), and the autobiographical Filipino Baby. The LP was a showcase for Pearl's eclectic taste, her sense of humor, and the expressive range of her voice. According to her website, Pearl didn't think it suited the spirit of the punk era to print the all-star guest list on the album cover

Pearl and Paul Simonon married in 1982. There are live videos from this period of Pearl singing Fujiyama Mama with the Clash, and Pearl and Wilko Johnson joining the Stray Cats onstage at Montreux for Be Bop A Lula. Wilko produced Pearl's next single, a cover of Voodoo Voodoo (first recorded by LaVern Baker). Pearl's next album was recorded at Abbey Road. Nigel Dixon, Otis Watkins and BJ Cole were back, along with members of Tenpole Tudor. Warners didn't pick it up, but Pearls Galore (1983) was released in Japan, on Epic/Sony.

Another album (also called Pearls Galore) was recorded with producer Richard Gottehrer and a Japanese punk band called The Mods. Nigel Dixon and Chris Spedding also contributed guitar work. This LP was released by in Europe by Island Records in 1984. Some of the songs from the previous album were rerecorded, along with a new version of Nerves and covers of the Rocky Fellers' Killer Joe and the Buddy Knox hit Hula Love. Gottehrer had produced the Go-Go's, Blondie, and other New Wave artists, but his songwriting and production credits go back to the girl group era. He seemed to be a perfect match for Pearl (who had been singing the Shangri-Las' song Out In The Streets since she was in Leila And The Snakes), but the album and its singles didn't chart. Pearl made several tours of Japan with The Mods between 1983 and 1985. After her marriage ended in 1987, she moved back to SF. Her former writing partner Nigel Dixon joined her ex-husband Paul Simonon in the short-lived band Havana 3 A.M. Nigel Dixon died in 1993. Pearl is alive and well (and still gorgeous), and she occasionally performs in LA and SF.

First photo of Pearl (with Leila And The Snakes) by Chester Simpson.  Third photo by Richard McCaffree (from the 1980 book X-Capees).  Second and fourth photo (with The Mods) appeared on Pearl Harbour's Instagram. Pearl noted that she lived for three years in the storage shed seen in the second photo. Interview quotes from Mary Campbell, "Singer Pearl Harbour has curious past, bright future." (AP)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Imaginary Fall Compilations

If you're a Fall fanatic, you've probably had dreams about Mark E. Smith. If you are addicted to record collecting, you may have dreamed of records (and record stores) that don't exist. JC's long-running blog The Vinyl Villain has a wonderful feature called "Imaginary Compilation Albums" which invites mere pseud blog eds to create a ten song set representing the best of an artist's work.

Four decades of The Fall is impossible to summarize in ten songs, so I made one set for each decade.  The first was written shortly after the release of The Fall's final album, New Facts Emerge, and covers 2007-2017. Those who like to cite The Fallen and Mark's "granny on bongos" comment forget that for nine years (2008-2016) there were no changes in The Fall's lineup.
I still miss the jumper clown.

My second Imaginary Compilation Album (ICA) focused on 1997-2006, a period that began with Julia Nagle on keyboards and which saw Elena Poulou join in 2002 (as keyboard player, Fall manager, and third wife of MES). 

I highly recommend this compilation of Slugbucket's favorite 21st Century Fall songs, choosing highlights from The Unutterable through New Facts Emerge.  Quality control lapsed a bit during those years, but as Slugbucket says, there were "at least 3 or 4 excellent songs on (almost) every studio album." Slugbucket has curated many excellent psych, punk and folk comps at his blog, Nothing's Going To Happen.

My third Fall ICA covered 1987-1996.  1987 was the year of The Fall's first hits ("There's A Ghost In My House" and "Hit The North").  Brix left The Fall, returned, and left again during this decade.  Founding member Martin Bramah also rejoined The Fall and quit again during this period. (Not all of The Fallen were pushed.)

The final Fall ICA -- hot off the pink press -- features the first decade (1977 through 1986).  An extraordinary number of LP's and singles came out during this period: sometimes two albums per year, plus brilliant non-LP singles ranging from "Totally Wired" to "Cruiser's Creek".  The four decades of Fall singles have been collected into a box set of 7 CD's, a fitting monument to the man and his group.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Subterranean Miscellanea: Arkansaw Man

Patrick LoVullo and Stephen Clarke (trombonist unknown). Photo: Jeanne Hansen
Arkansaw Man was a trio that was part of the SF scene at Club Foot and The Sound Of Music clubs. Arkansaw Man's discography is limited to a single on Subterranean Records; an EP on Club Foot founder Richard Kelly's Modern Masters label; and two compilation tracks (one of which I can't find: an Epitapes cassette called The Beauty Of The Warning).

Arkansaw Man was led by guitarist Stephen Bartholomew Clarke.  He and bassist Patrick LoVullo also played trumpet. Arkansaw Man drummer Glenn Sorvisto had played in Houston punk band The Hates. In the 90's he was part of the Oakland improv scene and drummed for a trio called Happy New Year. Sorvisto died in 2012.

According to Tom Mallon's recording discography, Stephen Clarke played on a 1983 demo by The American Music Club.  Clarke was later in the groups Servants Of The Public Wheel, Critical Chip, Pluto, and Can vocalist Malcolm Mooney's Tenth Planet. Here is a video of Clarke and other Pluto members performing with Malcolm Mooney in 2010.

Clarke has released two albums of solo acoustic guitar: 2005's Roots N Hubris and 2012's Tomorrow's Train. He has a Youtube channel with videos of several unreleased Arkansaw Man songs that were recorded with Mallon in 1983.

Ten years ago, a Table Of The Elements offshoot label called Radium reissued Arkansaw Man's 1982 EP. From the sleeve notes: "With a brilliant economy of means and a sparseness reminiscent of dub, the band got an amazing jump start on the whole post-Slint, post-Gastr, post-Rock thing." On the EP's first track, "The Ballroom Song", members of the Club Foot Orchestra and a SF quintet called The Varve guest on saxes, trombone, and clarinet.  
LoVullo, Clarke, and Sorvisto (photo by Jeanne Hansen)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Subterranean Miscellanea: Wounds

Paul Casteel
Wounds (sometimes spelled Woundz) formed after Paul Casteel and Chris Coon split from the early SF punk band (Impatient) Youth.  Paul played bass in (Impatient) Youth, but became the singer for Wounds.  Chris Coon (drums) also played briefly with SF trio No Alternative. Wounds self-released a 12" EP in 1981 (with now famous producer David Kahne). Wounds also appeared on Let Them Eat Jellybeans, the Eastern Front live LP, and Subterranean's Red Spot comp. 
Another SF band called Tanks made a 1981 single "Bongo Congo" b/w "March Of The Slugs". The b-side was cowritten by Casteel and Wounds flautist Susy Delkman. Casteel and Tanks guitarist Susan Miller were also on the Bruce Lose single. Susan Miller later played with Bad Posture and Frightwig. Tanks' bassist and drummer joined Pop-O-Pies -- more Subterranean connections!

Black Athletes
(photo by Jennifer Patterson)
Paul Casteel later formed SF bands Black Athlete (who appeared on Thrasher Magazine's first Skate Rock tape), House Of Wheels (Skate Rock #6), and Touch Me Hooker (with Jimmy from Crucifix). Casteel was one of the first skaters on Jak's Team (along with Johnathan Henrickson from the Toiling Midgets). In 2007, Casteel sang with No Politics at a benefit for Mabuhay Gardens' owner Ness Aquino. No Politics was a one-off SF "supergroup" that included East Bay Ray (DK's), Steve DePace (Negative Trend, Flipper), Dave Chavez (Sick Pleasure, Code Of Honor, Verbal Abuse), and Bruno de Smartass (Red Asphalt, Sluglords, Bad Posture, Flipper). In 2008, Casteel sang with the reunited Negative Trend (DePace, Craig Gray, and Paul Hood). 
In the late 1970's -- while Casteel and Chris Coon were in (Impatient) Youth -- Negative Trend and The Sleepers spawned Flipper and the Toiling Midgets. Steve DePace and Will Shatter (both of Negative Trend) formed Flipper with Ricky Williams (Sleepers) and Ted Falconi (whose band SST made a 1978 EP produced by Tommy Tadlock!) Flipper soon replaced Ricky Williams with Bruce Loose. Tim Mooney (Sleepers) and Craig Gray (Negative Trend) formed Toiling Midgets with Paul Hood and Johnathan Henrickson, and Ricky Williams joined as singer.

Anyway, back to Wounds...  Wounds was Casteel (vocals), Chris Coon (drums), Susy Deikman (flute), Anthony Fisher (guitar), and Jay Lehman (bass). The four song self-titled EP is my rip, and I added the tracks from Red Spot and Eastern Front, plus the Black Athletes song from Thrasher's Skate Rock tape. The latter four songs were recorded by Tom Mallon (bassist in Toiling Midgets, American Music Club and the final lineup of Negative Trend). Tom Mallon recorded many SF punk records for Subterranean and other labels). He died in 2014. You can peruse Mallon's incredible list of recording credits here (which include the first Wounds demo, possibly the source of the Red Spot songs).
Wounds (photo by Chester Simpson)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

I'm Excited pt. 2: New Music from Old Favorites

At the end of July, The Special Pillow will release a new album called Sleeping Weird. Listen to the new song "Hudson River Dreamboat" here. It features Steven Levi on cornet and Sue Garner (Fish & Roses, The Scene Is Now) on sax.  

Special Pillow singer/songwriter Dan Cuddy was a member of Hypnolovewheel, and singer/violinist Katie Gentile was in the band Run On. The Special Pillow's guitarist Peter Stuart was in NYC garage rock bands The Tryfles and The Headless Horsemen, and has played with Richard Lloyd. Eric Cohen recently replaced Hypnolovewheel's Peter Walsh as The Special Pillow's drummer. Cohen played with Fly Ashtray and pHoaming Edison. There's a lot of NYC and Hoboken talent in The Special Pillow.

Here is one of my favorite Special Pillow songs, "You Can Do It (Just Don't Do It Wrong)".

Hypnolovewheel was a band I loved dearly, and I was very happy when Hypnolovewheel guitarist Stephen Hunking reunited with Dan Cuddy a few years ago in the XL Kings. I plan to post some Hypnolovewheel soon.

Meanwhile, new albums are coming this month from Carla Bozulich, and from Thalia Zedek's trio E. Listen to E and buy the records here. Listen to (and read about, and order) Quieter by Carla Bozulich here.

A new album by Pete Donnelly of The Figgs called Phases of the Moon is out now. Listen to his original songs and his covers of Erik Satie, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, and Oscar Pettiford. You can buy it from CD Baby or from Pete's website.  Mike Gent of The Figgs has a jangly new digital single called "Buck/Stipe" on Bandcamp.

Tropical Fuck Storm (with Gareth and Fiona from The Drones) have just released their debut album A Laughing Death In Meatspace, and you can listen to it here. It's kinda expensive to buy if you don't live in Australia, but Juno has the Tropical Fuck Storm singles (each of which has a non-LP b-side with TFS covering a different Australian band).

Last but not least, Swervedriver has almost finished their next album! You can help fund it on Pledge Music.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Rose By Any Other Name

A misleading band name if ever there was one. One might readily assume that (like other groups named after organs of the reproductive system) the listener would be assaulted by gratuitously shocking punk rock. A glance at song titles like "Penguins Addicted to Molasses" and "Abstract Salamander Dilemma" would suggest surrealism or psychedelia. One might also imagine that records with "Live" appended to the band name would be concert recordings. None of these assumptions proves to be true.

Instead we find an upbeat Farfisa-driven garage rock band, led by singer Mike Pocius and guitarist Mickey Crnich (the primary songwriters). Pocius was also a visual artist who created the record sleeves. They were early to the garage rock revival: back in 1978, their contemporaries were the Hypstrz, the Slickee Boys, Plan 9 and DMZ.

The group had their own label, Disturbing Records (sometimes listed as Disturbing Records And Filmworks). They released records by fellow Chicago bands ranging from ska to synth pop, including this one with a young Al Jourgensen and this one by Nicholas Tremulis, who signed to Island Records in 1985, and who joined the short-lived Fauntleroys in 2014 with Alejandro Escovedo, Ivan Julian, and Linda Pitmon. The Fauntleroys' record Below The Pink Pony is well worth hearing.

Pocius and Crnich (with longtime drummer Al Scum) released five singles (1978-1984) and five albums (1984-1995). They returned for two more CD's of new material in 2001 and 2004. Many of the record covers included the statements, "Remember to have fun" and "We encourage home taping!"

Chicago label Pravda released a compilation album called A Decade Of Fun which includes single tracks on one side and unreleased songs on the other. Disturbing Records issued two anthologies of the band, Secret History (1997) and Apocalyptic Garage Rock (2012). None of these comps includes all of the tracks on the five singles.  

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Subterranean Singles: Third Part Of Three

Will Shatter
(photo by Bruce Conner)
Imagine if Dangerhouse, Slash, and LAFMS had all been one label.  Throw in Happy Squid and Independent Project.  That is essentially what Subterranean Records was for San Francisco in the 1980's and early 90's. 

The definitive history of the SF scene in the 80's is yet to be written. Gimme Something Better is an excellent book, but it's both too much and not enough. By covering two decades, it moves quickly "from the Fab Mab to Gilman Street" and I'd love to read more about the former and less about the latter. If someone like Joe Carducci, Jon Savage or V.Vale would excavate Steve Tupper's Subterranean warehouse and catalog its contents -- that's a book I'd pay good money to read.
Monte Cazazza

In 1982, Subterranean went big with the album Generic Flipper. Flipper was a band that both made money and cost money for the label. Read this MRR interview for details. Another big release from '82 was the Chrome Box.  The duo of Damon Edge and Helios Creed added the rhythm section of John and Hilary Stench (aka John and Hilary Hanes), who were former members of SF's Pearl Harbor And The Explosions.  After Damon split for Europe, Helios released two solo albums on Subterranean. Damon Edge died in 1995. Helios Creed is touring in 2018 with a new lineup of Chrome.

Mike Fox
(photo by Jeanne Hansen)
Subterranean co-founder Mike Fox formed Code Of Honor with members of Sick Pleasure and Society Dog. Code Of Honor made a split LP with Sick Pleasure, and an LP of its own, Beware The Savage Jaw. The nihilistic Sick Pleasure was the flip side of Code Of Honor's worldview, but shared the same rhythm section and guitarist (Fox). Code Of Honor singer Johnithin Christ died in 2009. Sick Pleasure frontman Nicki Sicki is still singing for Texas hardcore band Verbal Abuse.

Tana Emmolo-Smith
(photo by Jim Jocoy)
Monte Cazazza and members of Factrix participated on Tana Emmolo-Smith's "Prescient Dreams" (which features excerpts from the diaries of Exene's late sister Mirielle Cervenka). Joseph T. Jacobs of Factrix performed the b-side, "Zanoni".  (Jacobs also played in Bay Of Pigs. Cazazza cowrote the b-side of The Leather Nun's "Prime Mover" single.) 

Monte Cazazza has recently performed as part of a theremin duo with Mary St. Meri (singer of The Housecoat Project, and mother of two with Bruce Lose of Flipper.) The 1978 debut EP by Negative Trend (with Will Shatter and Steve DePace of Flipper) was reissued in 1983 on Subterranean.

Patrick Miller aka Minimal Man
Minimal Man (aka Patrick Miller) was an early Deaf Club performer, and collaborated with members of Tuxedomoon and Factrix. Subterranean put out the debut Minimal Man album and a single before Miller followed the members of Tuxedomoon by relocating from San Francisco to Belgium. Patrick Miller died in 2003. 

Stephen of Arkansaw Man
(photo by Jeanne Hansen)
Arkansaw Man was a trio that released one single on Subterranean and an EP on Modern Masters, a label run by Richard Kelly. Kelly (who studied with John Cage) co-founded the Club Foot in San Francisco, and produced several early Subterranean releases. Richard Kelly died in 1983, but his brainchild lives on in the music of The Club Foot Orchestra.

Richard Kelly
Club Foot co-founder

After 1983, Subterranean's catalog was all albums (with the exception of two oddities from 1985 and 1987 and a 1990 Flipper single.) Subterranean released LP's by Frightwig, Pop-O-Pies, Longshoremen, Polkacide, Any Three Initials, Controlled Bleeding, Psyclones, Caroliner, and The Housecoat Project. The label got into folk music with The Muskrats, The Terminators of Endearment, Penelope Houston, and Kathleen Yearwood. They reissued records from Japan (Angel'in Heavy Syrup) Switzerland (The Monsters), and England (Low Flying Aircraft) as well as the Dry Lungs series of noise compilationsThe label has essentially been dormant since the late 1990's. 

Z'ev in performance

I can't forget to mention Stefan Weisser (aka Z'ev and Uns).  His discography on Subterranean includes an EP (SUB 14), an LP (SUB 30), a cassette box set (SUB 29) and an appearance on the Live At Target compilation. He was also part of the 1980's SF group Rhythm & Noise with Naut Humon and Diamanda Galas. Weisser performed with Glenn Branca, Keiji Haino, KK Null, Stephen O'Malley, Psychic TV, Lydia Lunch, Boyd Rice, Faust, Chris Watson (Cabaret Voltaire) and many others. Stefan Weisser died in December 2017.