March 25, 2007


People who like to pretend they're into jazz - but don't have the time to, like, listen to any of it - will invariably namecheck Billie Holiday or Chet Baker. Similarly, with Country & Western Hank Williams will always pop up. Mention say, George Jones, and big question marks will fly in the air (although the person in question might be familiar with the "lawnmower incident", which is fast becoming more famous than the man's music). In punk, of course, the most name-checked band by people eager to score cool points and unhindered by any knowledge, is the Clash. Rock critics, too, have adopted them as the "good guys" they could hang their Rock-&-Roll-will-save-your-soul theories on. The one big punk band however, that many actual music lovers (and musicians) will mention as their favourite, is the Damned. They were around from the start and put out the first punk record, but the lack of any revolutionary manifesto or brooding good looks rendered them useless to the music press. (I think it was Greil Marcus who even branded them "punk frauds"!) In fact the Damned's careless, even silly, attitude was way more "punk" than the self-conscious image building of their rivals. Also, they rocked! "New Rose" still sends shivers down my spine every time the cymbals get LOUD towards the end. They even split up, got back together and managed to be better than before, branching out into pop and psychedelia without losing their edge. The first Damned song I heard was their version of Grace Slick's "White Rabbit", on the (Dutch-only? Can you help me out, Jeroen?) Buy Chiswick Records comp. Brilliant and nothing like I'd imagined a punk band to sound like. Why, it's got - gasp - guitar solos! The liner notes exclaimed: "Is Captain Sensible the first guitar hero of the 80's?" Well, as we know history turned out a little different: Captain Sensible became the first punk novelty artist of the 80's. When he was riding high on the success of "Happy Talk", the Capt. paid my hometown a visit, appearing in the dreadful popular radio show Los Vast that was being broadcast from the local youth center. I was heavily into the Damned's Black Album at the time (the album everybody should be talking about instead of London Calling), so I had to check it out. I remember DJ Jan Rietman (fellow Dutchmen will now go YECHHH! in unison) announcing him in his typical "I'm interested in shouting alright, I think shouting is wonderful" way, and mentioning he actually knew the Captain from way back. Not being familiar with Mr. Rietman's musical past (Long Tall Ernie & the Shakers!), this news totally mystified me. (Now, with the benefits of Google, I've found out he produced the Captain Sensible/ Softies "Jet Boy Jet Girl" record back in 1978!) Anyway, the Captain did his old hit, his new hit ("Wot!"), and was out of there. I cycled through the surrounding streets for a while to catch a glimpse of him, but to no avail. As to his guitar hero aspirations, well, that can best be summed up by an exchange he had with Damned producer Roger Armstrong:

Captain: "Roger, why doesn't everybody recognize me for the guitar hero that I am?"

Roger: "Well, maybe it's because you're playing in your underwear most of the time."

It's a miracle the Damned have managed to be one of the most successful and long-lasting punk bands with this built-in self-sabotage mechanism. For instance, they could have had the great Shel Talmy to produce their second LP; he did the "Stretcher Case" limited edition giveaway single, but then who did they get to produce the LP? Pink Floyd's Nick Mason! Motorhead's Lemmy very briefly filled the Damned's bass guitar seat, just long enough to play bass on "Ballroom Blitz", but in the end he bet his money on his own band. "Looking For Another", one of the best - and rockingest - songs from the early second Damned incarnation, only ever saw the light of day on the obscure Moonlight Tapes comp LP (under the pseudonym of School Bullies, although the band is easily recognizable on the Sgt. Pepper-style cover). The Damned got more er... sensible later on, forging a goth-pop-lite style that provided them with a steady career from the mid-80's on, but it's the 1976-1982 years that people will remember them for. Well, if they have the time to listen to it.

P.S.: For our Dutch readers; while Googling I found a pretty cool picture of Long Tall Ernie & Shakers-era Jan Rietman standing in front of the 100 Club (!) around 1973:

March 18, 2007


When I was 16-17, I knew what pretty much every important hardcore punk record of the time sounded like; not because I bought all the records (at the time American imports cost twice as much as "regular" LPs - which meant four times as much as most Dutch punk records!), but because of that beautiful thing called Pirate Radio. The guys and gals spinning records on Amsterdam pirate stations like Got and Staatsradio were older than me, (probably) on the dole and squatting, so they were relatively rich and they'd scoop up every US release that hit the stores. I'd be standing by every week, listening through the static, quickly turning the tape on or off (of course always missing the first - and last - seconds of a song). The number of bands I first heard this way is uncountable - Angry Samoans, Scream, Code Of Honor, Poison Idea, Bad Brains, SS Decontrol, Flipper - well, you get the idea. DJ Toek, formerly from Limburg punk band the Spoilers, would mix all kinds of weird sounds and sped-up voices into the music; I remember buying the first Chaos UK LP and being very disappointed when those sounds weren't on the actual record! Another LP I bought after hearing it on Radio Got (well, I found it in the cut-out bins) was the great Tales Of Terror record. Not hardcore, but a unique mixture of Black Flag aggression, Replacements sloppyness ("Hound Dog" could've been a Stink! outtake) and dollops of rockabilly and gothic, this record always reminds me of Johan van Leeuwen, who loved it and on whose radio show I heard it. Johan wasn't on the dole; he was one of the few punks who had a full-time job (as a printer) apart from doing the radio show, running a mailorder and putting out his long-running Nieuwe Koekrand 'zine. He was the first Amsterdam Punk I got to know personally; when I put out my first tape I took some copies to his (and girlfriend Charlotte's) place for his Konkurrent mailorder. I was 15 and my parents wouldn't allow me to go to A'dam on my own, so there we were, my dad and me, sipping tea at Koekrand HQ! Johan was 23, which to me seemed impossibly old at the time. I got to know him pretty well the following years, as I'd started doing my own zine and going to gigs in Amsterdam (without my dad). Although Johan was in the middle of it all, he always seemed to stay the bemused outsider, level-headed and immune for silly fads (remember the handkerchiefs?); maybe that had something to do with him being from the east (Drenthe). His 'zine was pretty much the glue keeping the Dutch punk scene together until the late 80's, when the issues stopped coming and I lost track of him.
In 1997 I met Johan again at some outdoor festival where my band was playing; he was with his 5-year old son (I guess he wouldn't let him go on his own either...) . He'd started Nieuwe Koekrand up again (wanted to make it to issue 100!) and looked pretty happy although there was a big scar on his head, which he waved away saying "Oh, I had a brain tumor, but it's O.K. now!" Since then we wrote eachother a couple of times. When my son was born, I got a great letter from him about the joys and tribulations of parenthood. He'd also included a book he wrote on the 80's punk scene, apologizing about the errors; another couple of operations had left his brain scrambled. About half a year after this letter I received the news that Johan had died. I guess that's about 4 years ago now. As the obituary read: Nieuwe Koekrand will never see its 100th issue... This is for you, Johan:

Hound Dog
Death Ryder

March 07, 2007


For a short while, I went to school by bike instead of by bus; I could keep the money I saved, which went directly into punk vinyl of course. This short while actually lasted exactly one month: April 1983. As of yet, scientists all over the world have been unable to come up with an explanation why this month has been the wettest month by far in the whole 20th century. Every day, I'd enter the class room soaking wet. On the first of May I bought another month ticket for the bus. But the cycling had paid off; the great Bullshit Detector compilation was among the records I got. Compiled in 1980 from tapes sent to Crass by budding hopefuls, one might expect this to be some sort of Anarcho Punk Parade. Well, o.k., there are a couple of Crass wannabees; Sinyx have the Penny Rimbaud marching band rhythm down pat, while Counter Attack seem to have put more hours into designing their intricate logo than actually practicing. But there's also a lot of stuff on here that's more in the Messthetics/ Fuck Off records vein, and since that particular subgenre is undergoing some sort of revival I thought it might be fun to check this out again. Opening track "Jazz on a summer's day" features punk poet Andy T alternately blowing into a flute and shouting stuff like "do it!", backed by a jazz record played at varying speeds (very beatnik...). Then there's some tracks with people drumming on chairs, playing beat-up acoustic guitars or a harmonica, reciting lyrics that sound like they're written by a 4-year-old... It's the complete lack of any kind of quality control that made this LP sound so fresh, especially since these tracks are sandwiched in between "regular" (albeit lo-fi) punk stuff. It's as if they just grabbed whatever tapes were lying on top of the stack. Although about 80% of the songs are about war (of course), there's also a number of tracks in the Desperate Bicycles "we are you" anti-rock star vein, most notably Clockwork Criminals' er... "We are you", which I remember was a great song to cycle really fast to (hearing it inside my head, as the walkman wasn't invented yet). Bullshit Detector's motto seemed to be "dare to be bad", and some of it is really bad. Back then, playing it gave me a great feeling of freedom, of anything goes; I thought it would be easy to pick a bunch of tracks to post, but on hearing it back 20+ years later I found most tracks to be merely... irritating! That's how it goes, I guess. Well, whatever, here's some of the least irritating tracks:

Clockwork Criminals - We Are You
Sinyx - Mark Of The Beast
Reputations In Jeopardy - Girls Love Popstars
Amebix - University Challenged
Icon - Cancer
Frenzy Battalion - Thalidomide
The Sucks - 3

March 01, 2007


Without Name
Like Dying
Nothing Is Sacred
I Don't Need It

My post (see last week) on the Communion LP had me thinking about the media attention it got when it was released back in '85. Punk mags all over the world like MaxR&R were raving, but did it get any good reviews in the Dutch music press? It got no reviews at all! Guess they were too busy hyping the utterly boring "garage rock" of Claw Boys Claw. September '85 was when Husker Du first set foot on our shores; did anyone do the obvious thing and book FO to play with them? No, they got two joke bands to support HuDu at their Amsterdam gig. There was a complete ignorance of what was going on over here, I think even The Ex didn't get a serious write-up until around 1989, at the time of their first American tour. Not that it was a big inconvenience or anything, it just made us stop caring and look across the borders. Now you know why this blog is in English!

P.S.: O.K., Claw Boys Claw turned into a pretty good band later on (about a 100 years later).