Apr 142015
 

strychnine1

As a buzz went through social media and the Philadelphia rock scene in the days leading up to The Sonics’ Sunday night appearance at the TLA, I found myself feeling shamefully out of step. It seemed all of my friends would be there, all of my friends, that is, beside my quartet of fellow rock ‘n roll curmudgeons. I wanted to post some holier-than-thou thought on the matter, but that wouldn’t have been cool, not even by my standards. I wanted to pick up the phone and bitch to my friend Anthony, but he was out of town on business. Bitching to Larry wouldn’t have gone any further than, “Most of that Nuggets shit sucks.” Mark wouldn’t have cared quite enough for a satisfying bitch session, and beside, I had another cruel rock observation cued up to share with him. Sam was probably half interested in the show, having played in bands that cut their teeth on that Nuggets shit.

I dig that Nuggets shit, but for all their bit-chomping energy, The Sonics’ comic-book kee-ray-zee lyrics were always a distraction. Rock’s long tradition of Creature Double Feature insanity has never appealed to me. I’m more interested in rock’s true loons, the ones who shine a light on the human condition. Even “Strychnine,” the one song by The Sonics that can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up rings a bit hollow if I stop to consider the lyrics. You can see why there are only 4 guys on earth I can trust with these feelings. CONTINUED AT PHAWKER

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Feb 052013
 

Reg Presley, singer for The Troggs, has died at 71. The band had a handful of excellent garage-rock classics, but they will forever be known for their version of “Wild Thing,” a song so simple and direct that just about any band has covered it at one time or another. However, no one has come close to matching The Troggs’ hit version, not even Jimi Hendrix, who felt compelled to light his guitar on fire to try in effort to keep pace with Presley and his mates’ incendiary performance. If a singer ever owned a song it was Reg Presley owning “Wild Thing.” Not even Brian Jones-era Mick Jagger could have out-snarled and out-leered his way through that song.

There would be no Stooges’ “No Fun” without Presley and his mates’ take on “Wild Thing.” What kind of world would we be living in without “No Fun”? I shudder the thought. There’s only one thing left to say…after the jump!

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Jun 222012
 

Do the math. New York rock ‘n roll primitives The Fleshtones have been in existence since 1976! Although I knew they dated back to the late-’70s and Marty Thau‘s old Red Star Records label, I didn’t have them pegged back quite so far as 1976 and the legendary New York punk scene of CBGBs, Max’s Kansas City, etc. To me they were pioneers of the second wave of garage rock that would blossom in ’80s underground rock circles. When I first saw the band at a small club in Chicago in 1981 or ’82, it was the closest I would get to stumbling across an actual Yardbirds- or Animals-inspired American ’60s band off the Nuggets compilation. They were sweaty, in-my-face exciting that night as singer Peter Zaremba swiveled his hips and swung his young Mick Jagger-style forelock over the crowd. Skinny guitarist Keith Streng rode his twangy chords and guitar riffs for all they were worth. He wore a turtleneck under a wide-collared shirt with a medallion to boot! Drummer Bill Milhizer and founding bassist Marek Pakulski laid it all out, implying nothing, avoiding anything remotely tasteful or subtle in their rhythms. Townsman Slim Jade wrote about our youthful attempts at defining ourselves through rock ‘n roll styles the other day. The Fleshtones really spoke to my initial efforts at becoming a new version of myself freshman year in a city far from home. My friend and I managed to get backstage after the show. We partied with the band. They seemed much cooler than us, but they were incredibly approachable. Shoot! Maybe, I thought, it wasn’t that far of a stretch to get a few notches cooler.

I saw The Fleshtones another 4 or 5 times through the ’80s, then lost touch with their activities. They were always a guiding light for me and my friends and our own band. It was always cool to know they were keeping things going as my friends and I kept our humble vision alive. Rock ‘n roll offers so many opportunities for community. That’s not to be missed or overlooked, no matter how frustrating any number of larger scenes may be. In chatting with Peter Zaremba the other day it was clear he and his mates are keeping things in perspective, doing what can and what needs to be done. Playing their patented brand of Super Rock. Taking it to The People in small clubs as they have always done.

The Fleshtones play Philadelphia’s North Star Bar this Saturday, June 23, with Steve Wynn and Miracle 3 (also interviewed here in the Halls of Rock), our old Philly music scene friend Palmyra Delran, and Sweden’s Stupidity. Tickets are available here.

Rock Town Hall: We interviewed Lenny Kaye just last year, but I did not know about your 2011 album with him, Brooklyn Sound Solution. The album sounds cool. How did he come to work with you?

Peter Zaremba: We’ve been admirers of Lenny’s since before Nuggets. He put together a compilation of Eddie Cochran stuff in the early ’70s that my friends and I thought was fantastic. When the Fleshtones finally got together, the first ‘cover’ we ever learned was “Nervous Breakdown” from that LP. Fast forward, we got word through mutual friend Phast Phreddie Patterson that Lenny really dug the band and would love to record with us—do some stuff that he couldn’t do with Patty. Of course we said yes!

RTH: Your “Super-Rock” sound and show can’t miss live. What does it take to capture it on record?

PZ: When you find that out, tell me. We’ll make a million bucks! Actually, it seems we look at our recordings a bit different than our “shows.” The show has the visual element, kinda like a “distraction” as used by a slight of hand artist or magician. You can get away with a lot when there’s so much going on. Now a record, you just sit and listen to. We’ve grown up listening to records and realize you have all sorts of opportunities to create whatever sounds you want. It’s a different thing entirely.

RTH: Did you fit in as you came about during the golden age of the CBGBs punk scene? In retrospect you seemed to be kind of “retro before your time.”

PZ: We really didn’t fit in, but I think we were more a taste of what was to come than a lot of what was considered “cool” at CBGBs at the time. However, we did fit in with the Blondie bunch, and oddly enough Suicide recognized us for what we were—distilled rock and roll, just like they were. The Johnny Rotten poses got old—quick.

RTH: Did that matter to your peers, critics, the scene?

PZ: Except for what I just said, I guess it did matter. We are pretty much written out of the history of that era.

RTH: How did your old MTV gig come about, as host of The Cutting Edge? How open was the network to your style and vision?

PZ: We were signed to IRS Records, who produced the show for MTV. We had appeared on the show already a few times and when the host decided to go to Fiji on an art grant (who wouldn’t!?!), they offered me the job. I took it. At first MTV didn’t care what we did, but when we became the highest rated “special” on the network, they really changed their minds! They wanted their hour back, and then tried to copy our formula with 120 Minutes. People are forever telling me how much they loved my show 120 Minutes! Anyway, we were the orphans of the network, even with our high ratings. I never get any acknowledgment from MTV, or invited to any of their anniversaries or events. It’s as if we never existed.

RTH: Have you ever done another solo record or offshoot record beside your old Love Delegation album? How did that come about?

PZ: No, The TWO Love Delegation LPs were enough to cure me, although I wouldn’t mind doing some sort of solo LP that would be 100% different from what we do in the Fleshtones. That takes money! How did the Love Delegation come about? Are we writing a book here? Lets just say that the Fleshtones were between labels at the time, we were in the middle of the Pyramid Club scene, with all of that incredible talent, energy and crazy ideas, and I had piles of material that I wanted to use.

RTH: The Fleshtones have endured for more than 35 years, doing your own thing, your own way. Is there an old record or artist the band taps into to help keep the faith?

PZ: At this point, we are our own inspiration, and for others!

RTH: Have you ever been tempted to veer off into some new direction? Have you or Keith had to put aside any stylistic urges for the good of the band? For instance, is there a closet prog rocker in the band?

PZ: I hope there isn’t a closet prog rocker in the band. You’d think I’d know if there was by now, but you never know! We love basic rock and roll. There’s a lot you can do with that. No big changes.

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Sep 092011
 

As our recent playoff series to determine, once and for all, the Best Song on the Original Nuggets got underway and Townsfolk began debating the essential “Nuggetness” of the entrants, I thought to myself, Wouldn’t it be funny if, like Woody Allen pulling Marshall McLuhan out from behind a wall to correct a pontificating moviegoer in Annie Hall, I could pull Lenny Kaye out to set us straight on our interpretations of the Nuggets collection he compiled for Elektra Records under the direction of Jac Holzman? Of course the regulars at Rock Town Hall are not the type to pontificate unduly, right? We keep it all in perspective, but still, Lenny Kaye had struck me as a sort of godfather to our shenanigans. He’d get where we’re coming from.

In short time he wrote me back, saying he’d be happy to chat. “Sounds like fun,” he wrote. “Went to the link, seems everybody has different ideas on what actually is Nuggets…” I was psyched.

A week later we were on the phone, waiting for the near-hurricane that swept through the northeast to hit. Lenny was as cool and friendly as his work and stage demeanor would suggest. His enthusiasm for his work in compiling this landmark collection of oddball psych-pop singles 40 years ago was impressive. Nuggets wasn’t some youthful fling for Lenny Kaye; the experience was clearly a springboard to and, to this day, a guiding light in his work with Patti Smith and beyond.

On our best days, as I see it, much of what we work to culture and share in the Halls of Rock is our initial, personal sense of love for music and the role it’s played in our lives. I couldn’t help thinking, while talking to Lenny Kaye, of my initial experiences with Nuggets in my late teens, how the album helped validate my childhood take on music and give me and my like-minded rock friends a toehold in developing our musical identities. My childhood friend and musical partner in crime Townsman andyr and I knew the significance of his old Disco Teen ’66 hits collection, which we used to analyze as yon’ teens. By freshman year in college, however, a thousand miles away from my blood brother, that album meant nothing to the new rock nerds I was befriending. Nuggets spoke to all of us, regardless of shared experiences and regional differences. The hyper kid from North Jersey, the wiseass from the suburbs of Chicago, and the long, lanky, laconic kid from Colorado all found this collection as stimulating and inspiring as I did. It was a happening.

As for my silly Annie Hall fantasy, fear not: Lenny’s not the type to put down any of us. I hope you’ll enjoy this chat at least half as much as I did. Read on!

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Sep 032011
 

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In Mr. Moderator reveals the identity of yesterday’s Mystery Date, a coming interview with a Very Special Person in our recent Nuggets showdown, the most annoying thing David Bowie’s ever done to him, and the most heinous prison experience that can never be shown on film!

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[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]

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Aug 302011
 

With the Nuggets Divisional Playoff Series completed, only 2 songs remain to determine—once and for all—the Best Song on the Original Nuggets Compilation. The Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” outlasted a fierce field on Side 1 and then beat The Nazz’s Side 4 winner, “Open My Eyes” to progress to this round. Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction,” won Side 3 before readily dashing the dreams of enthusiastic supporters of Side 2’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators.

Two songs remain. This Friday, September 2, 2011, only one song will be deemed—once and for all—the Best Song on the Original Nuggets Compilation. For the sake of rock history, please make your vote count!

Once and for all: What's the Best Song on the original Nuggets compilation, "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" or "Psychotic Reaction"?

  • "Psychotic Reaction" (Count Five) (66%, 31 Votes)
  • "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" (The Electric Prunes) (34%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 47

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Aug 272011
 

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In your host, Mr. Moderator, shares some reflections from The Road, including the trouble with hearing acoustic bass solos on jazz albums and other hazards of middle age.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]

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