Hammer of the Gods

Rick James: The King of Punk / Funk

Somewhere around late 1980-81, can't recall exactly when but, I do remember it being unseasonably warm, I'm negotiating and pleading with my parents to allow me to attend what was being billed as "The Punk/Funk Festival: Featuring Rick James & the Stone City Band. This would eventually be a pivotal point in my life, not only would this be my first concert experience, it would be the first time I was excused from going to church, on a Sunday unaccompanied by one of my parents or older siblings. Report cards had just come out and I had straight A's, my folks conceded and on that one early Sunday afternoon, my mother dropped me off at Frank D. Lawrence stadium in lovely Porstmouth, VA. My life was forever changed.

The bill was rock solid, if memory serves me well it was, in this order, the Fatback Band, the GAP Band, Cameo, and Rick James and the Stone City Band ( Prince was on the tour early on, but dropped, for either stealing Rick James stage moves or upstaging Rick James....the debate rages on). All of the "warm up" bands were kicking serious butt, I could not stop jumping up and down , partially because I could not see, other part is the funk had gotten hold of me! I'm having the time of my life, but everyone around me (complete strangers), was telling me to conserve my energy, it's going to be a long day. Sometime later in the evening, the sun is going down, the stage darkens and breaking the ensuing darkness are two larger than life "joints" smoking onstage. the band begins to play, pounding out this serious riff and the backup singers chanting "we want Rick,... to funk us up"! The audience joins in with this chant and after a few minutes, Rick James appears onstage, between the now exploding joints as the band launch's into "Fire It Up".

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Peter Hook: Joy Division/New Order

Confession: I was a fan of New Order before I had even heard Joy Division. During the early to mid '80's there was a radio program on the Chesapeake Public Schools administered station, WFOS. Sadly, I can't recall the title of the program nor the DJ, but the show would come on Saturday afternoons for only an hour and the majority of what they played was English post-punk and the two artist that dominated the playlist were the Cure and New Order.

On one particular Saturday, when the DJ announced the anniversary of Ian Curtis' death and played Joy Division's " Love Will Tear Us Apart" back to back with New Order's "Ceremony", there I sat in my youthful ignorance, thinking, "wow, these bands sound a helluva-lot alike". It wasn't till a little later when I did a bit of research on Joy Division, did I realize the connection with New Order.  In my defense, a lot New Order that was played on this program tended to be more of the synth-oriented dance music fare.  I sought out more Joy Division and was immediately drawn to Peter Hook's often high on the neck melodic bass lines. It was pretty much the bass that drove JD songs along, the guitars were more of a jagged, angular rhythmic stab while the bass, and sometimes synths provided the melodic hooks (yes, pun intended) to the songs. Hooky has said that he developed his style of playing high on the neck to composite for the shoddy speakers he was using in Joy Division early days. He cited it was the only way he could be heard over Bernard Sumner's guitar.

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DESCENDENTS/ALL: Bass Master General

 

It was the winter of "83/84, I had recently taken up residency at the "Punk Rock Chicken Farm" on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp, own and operated by Andre Cinceros (Front Line). Shortly after moving in, we were going through each others record collection, I picked up a album of his with a caricature of a nerdy guy on the front, it was titled Milo Goes To College by the DESCENDENTS. I commented that I had not heard it, Andre looked at me with his lip curled up, much like Elvis Presley, and asked (as he would pretty much on a daily basis during the time I lived with him), "What are you, fuckin' retarded!?"

 

 

From the very first moment of dropping the needle on that record, I was hooked. The hard driving bass line that introduces the album is but a hint of the power and craftiness that defined the DESCENDENTS songwriting approach. It was fast and aggressive, but in contrast of most hardcore, rather melodic and out right catchy. In the book, American Hardcore, author Steven Blush remarked that it's "cheeky love songs disguised as hardcore blast became the most aped formula in rock." This was the classic record by the original line up consisting of Milo Aukerman: vocals, Bill Stevenson: drums, Frank Navetta: guitar and Tony Lombardo: bass. But as the title alluded to, Milo was off to college and Bill joined Black Flag.  This was the first and last full length (22:10) album by this line up.

 

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Mike Watt" "Go Out & Start Your Own Band!"

Sometime in 1983, as I was perusing through the somewhat limited" Punk/New Wave" section of the Record Bar in Tower Mall ( that's ol 'school P'Town). I came across an album called "The Blasting Concept: An SST Compilation". This record changed the way I looked at punk rock and music in general at the time.There was only one band featured that I was already familar with and that was Black Flag. I recognized other names from fanzines and such, but had never heard the music. While I absolutely loved every single 27 minutes of this record, it the the first 4 minutes that blew the grey matter out the tiny holes in my skull. Those first 4 songs, the first 4 minutes or so belonged to the Minutemen.

Minutemen, D. Boon, George Hurly and Mike Watt, three dudes from San Pedro, CA with an attitude, a true punk attitude of DIY , "jamming econo"and making a truly original sound within the confines of rock and roll. Unfortunately the Minutemen ended when D.Boon was killed in a van accident on December 22,1985.Easily, I could go on all day about the Minutemen, but for now I will focus on Watt....Mike Watt, the bass player.

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Would A Beatles Fan Take Offense.....

...to my posting of a "Wings" era photo and...

...and a cover of  The Beatles / McCartney song,"Helter Skelter" performed by the Afghan Whigs, in honor of Paul McCartney's Birthday?

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Adam "MCA" Yauch: Say Hello to Heaven

 

It has been over 2 weeks since the passing of Adam Yauch, but the news of his death has sent me back to revisiting some old Beastie Boys record. They still make me smile. A lot has been said about this beautiful, talented human being is the past few days. I just want to add of all the good he did for his fellow human being, MCA was a MONSTER on bass!! R.I.P.

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