Archive for the ‘Rockbrat Remembers:’ Category

kevin13I only recently heard about the sad passing in January this year of Ohio’s Kevin Junior (real name Kevin Bain Gerber). According to Billboard magazine, singer-songwriter Kevin Junior—who spent his most prolific and fruitful years in Chicago—died at age 46. The story says “the cause of death is not clear,” but as Gossip Wolf reported in 2011, he’d suffered from the life threatening heart disease endocarditis, which required open-heart surgery. He moved back to his native Akron, Ohio, a couple years ago, putting together a new version of his band Chamber Strings. Junior’s troubles over the years with heroin were well-documented, and this addiction impeded his music from ever reaching the audience it deserved. As Ray Borchers wrote in the Chicago reader, “ Junior’s sartorial sensibility and roosterlike hairdo telegraphed the kinship he felt with Johnny Thunders, and he eventually worked closely with Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks. He first led a trashy glam band called Mystery Girls, which morphed into the Rosehips; then he blossomed as a pop auteur with Chamber Strings in the mid-90s. The group made two terrific albums of delicate, soul-streaked orchestral pop, but not long after the 2002 release of the second, Month of Sundays, Junior’s life disintegrated. He spent much of the rest of his years fighting drug addiction and health problems, trying to get back on his feet. “ I first became aware of Kevin Junior’s band The Rosehips via a newsletter from either Jeff Dahl or Nikki Sudden. He played a style of rock n roll I always dug. Stones swagger, Thunders styled, the Jacobites, blue eyed soul, Nikki Sudden, blues, early 70s outlaw country- here was a guy who could also write memorable rock with a truck load of melody, hook, harmony and chorus’.  Hell, he even looked like Ron Wood or Thunders. The Chambers Strings album, ‘Gospel Morning’, was just about pop perfection. Not dissimilar in many ways to the musical hooks that the Jayhawks were scoring big with around the mid to late 90s.  Nikki Sudden released an album in 1999 called ‘Red Brocade’, an album I licenced and subsequently released into Australia on my old label Vicious Kitten Records. The album was recorded in Chicago and was very much the result of a musical collaboration between Kevin Junior and Sudden. I exchanged some emails with Kevin around this time and told him how much I dug Month Of Sundays. I still love a tune like ‘Dead Man’s Poise’.  Kevin was complimentary of both Vicious Kitten fanzine and also what Vicious Kitten records was trying to achieve. In 2001, the second Chamber Strings album, ‘Month of Sundays’ was released, and was critically well received. Blue eyed soul, pure pop, strikingly original. 15 years later this album shows what a high calibre song writer Kevin Junior was. I had lost track of Kevin Junior until around 2007, when I read he was back making music. I didn’t know about his 5 years of heroin hell, which explained why he dropped off the radar. In January, 2007, Journalist Bob Mehr wrote an eye opening article about Junior’s descent into heroin and homelessness in an extremely articulate article in The Chicago Reader that I implore you to read. There is also an insightful interview with Kevin from 2010 on  Sugar Buzz magazine that is also worth reading.   I would rather not think about his drug issues. Rather, he should be remembered and celebrated for his music – superbly crafted rock ‘n’ roll that will endure. If you are not aware of any of Kevin Junior’s music, start with either of the Chamber Strings’ albums, ‘Gospel Mornings’ or ‘Month Of Sundays.  Kevin Junior was born on December 26, 1969 – and passed away January 16, 2016. He is survived by his mother, Gloria Gerber; father, Roger Gerber; and sister Kimberly Edgemon. Rest In Peace.

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220px-RenegadePickerLife is indeed, uncertain. I only blogged a couple of weeks ago about the greatness of Steve Young, and then I read on the weekend that he passed away last Thursday. His music maintains a quality, a richness, and a humility that you would expect from someone of his vintage and era in country music. It’s a realness that is hard to find nowadays. He never rose to the heights of his outlaw country peers, but in my mind, he was every bit as good as Kristofferson, Guy Clarke and the like. According to the press blurb, “Singer-songwriter Steve Young, who was best known for writing the song Seven Bridges Road, died on Thursday, March 17 at the age of 73.  Young was born in Newnan, GA and grew up in states across the south. Throughout his youth, he was influenced by the southern sounds of blues, country, folk and gospel and incorporated it into his first songs which he wrote in his late teens. Returning to Alabama, he started to make a name for himself in the local music scene before moving to the west coast in 1964. Steve initially worked with the likes of Van Dyke Parks and Stephen Stills before joining the early psychedelic country band Stone Country. In 1969, he released his first solo album, Rock, Salt and Nails which included contributions by the likes of Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons and Bernie Leadon. Over his career, Young recorded twelve solo albums but it was his actual songs for which he became most famous. Seven Bridges Road, from Rock, Salt and Nails and the title song from his 1972 album, has been recorded by a long list of artists, most notably by the Eagles on their 1980 live album. Young said that he started writing the song in the mid-60’s and it evolved over several years. Others who have recorded the song include Eddy Arnold, Joan Baez, Tracy Nelson, Ian Matthews, whose version the Eagles based their track, Dolly Parton and Alan Jackson.  Young’s Lonesome, On’ry and Mean was used as the title song for Waylon Jenning’s 1973 album while Hank Williams, Jr. recorded his Montgomery in the Rain. Young, himself, also charted with the album Renegade Picker (1976 / #48 Country Albums) and the single It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way (1984 / #84 Country). Steve’s son, Jubal Lee Young, posted the following on Facebook: “Turn supernatural, take me to stars and let me play. I want to be free, Alabama highway.” My father, Steve Young, passed peacefully tonight in Nashville. While it is a sad occasion, he was also the last person who could be content to be trapped in a broken mind and body. He was far too independent and adventurous. I celebrate his freedom, as well, and I am grateful for the time we had. A true original. Scroll below for the article I wrote a couple of weeks back, and if you haven’t seen it already, go and watch Steve in ‘Heartworn Highways’. RIP – the great Steve Young.

I’d like to think that I’ve always been into cool rock n roll. Yet its admission time. There was a slight blip on the radar there in the late 80s where I slipped up and was buying LP’s by (gulp) Poison, Warrant, White Lion, and others of the so called ‘big haired variety’. There, I’ve admitted it. Good to get that off my chest.  Hindsight is indeed – a wonderful thing. With the benefit of hindsight, we would not have done certain things right ? With the benefit of hindsight, and indeed being a little more discerning  or judicious, there is no way I would have been into any number of, what is now termed as ‘hair’ bands. So how did it happen? It was the time right? These bands were massive, and like a flash flood, it was easy to get swept along. Before I knew it, I was swept along. Interestingly, I was never, ever into Bon Jovi.

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Pucker up. No its not Carlotta. CC of Poison looking every bit the drag queen….

The other day I was watching the four part documentary about Heavy Metal called ‘Heavy’, and it raised some interesting points about the late 80’s LA sunset strip period and the big haired metal excess. In the documentary, Dee Snider, accurately I think, blamed bands like Mr Big, Extreme and the like for going ‘unplugged’. Combined with the power ballad, (which all labels insisted on releasing as the 2nd single, after the hard-rocking anthem first single. This was a successful formula, yet by the early 1990s audiences lost interest in this approach) this sounded the death knell for the genre that was best defined by bands like Priest in say 80-82, although if you look at stuff like Mr Big, someone had lost the blue print to how it was originally meant to be. By the way, if you haven’t seen the series, it’s on You Tube so check it out.

So now I’ve fessed up , let’s examine this a bit more.  Mr Rockbrat and I always loved shock rock, and certain bands who had a glam lineage: ie: The Dolls, Ki$$, Sweet, T-Rex etc were cool – but these late 80’s Sunset strip dudes took it to a whole new level. But it wasn’t just Poison and Warrant. It was bands like the god awful Roxus, Winger, and any number of bands with the big hair. So how does it happen? In 1985, (pre Bon-Jovi ‘Slippery When Wet’ mind you, which is, as I’ve often stated, the line in the sand for the whole sugary hair metal thing), I knew what was cool – it was stuff like Dio, Scorpions, (pre Hysteria) Leppard, Boss, Maiden, Ozzy, Keel, Priest, Motley Shout/1st album etc, and then two or three years later, I am buying and listening to rubbish like the W bands – Winger, White Lion, Warrant, the nauseous late 80’s version of Whitesnake with all their posing, and the extremely hard to listen to Vinnie Vincent Invasion etc. Being blues/Zep influenced, I suppose Great White were the obvious exception and I must admit to liking Frisco’s Vain,  although when I saw them live they were as limp wristed as the hand shake I got from the band’s main man Davy Vain.

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Roxus: Australia’s answer to Bon Jovi? Not quite. Cliches aplenty and zero originality

I quickly figured out how lame it was though. Live, witnessing both Poison and Warrant was observably underwhelming. Lamentably, yes, I saw them both live. Molly’s mates Roxus were typically, capital L for lame (and who the hell are you Juno Roxas to flame Dave Evans? Your band  were nothing more than a pre-fabricated boy band with long hair and volume. You friend, paid no dues and were gifted with these international supports), yet people could see through the facade from a bunch of try hards without decent material, which is why Roxas never became Australia’s version of Bon Jovi. Fact. BB Steal were a way better band)  A truly forgettable evening of sufferance with light weight, thin sounding, shallow, low calorie hair rock of the worst kind. Is it still too late to ask for a refund? With interest ? Thankfully, I saw how banal these bands were – and I’d moved back to the Australian hard rock/indie guitar rock scene (Hitmen, Tribesmen, Dubrovniks) which was way more comfortable and without the pompous carry-ons of wannabe’s like Juno Roxas. This territory was real, and very familiar.

I knew what was cool, and in 2016, where lately I am spending time listening to all the legitimacy/realism of artists like Gary Moore, Gwyn Ashton, Rory Gallagher, James Gang and Steve Earle – it’s like this blip on the rock radar never occurred. But deep in the back of my mind – I know it did. Fashionably robed in attire of the time including black Faberges and white denim jacket, exist it did. At least I had the sense to never wear tassels. Thank God.

Retrospectively, the English ‘hair’ bands of the late 80s, (and I hate using that capture all tag), were WAY better than the collective LA Sunset strip shooting match (and that includes Guns N Roses, a band who audaciously aped Hanoi Rocks and Rose Tattoo and weren’t fit to string Pete Wells’ guitar. The only one worth his salt in that line up being Izzy Stradlin). You know why? Cos bands like the Quireboys and the Dogs D’Amour and even Thunder were rooted in the best of the UK early to mid-70s fare – T Rex, Faces, Bad Company, Mott The Hoople etc. I loved the Quireboys and Dogs. Yet I should have stopped there.

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Cowboy Col looking out at Hollywood 1993. Where did all the hair bands go?

I look back on that whole LA late 80s thing with a kind of voyeuristic curiosity. By 1991, the Sunset Strip was bursting at the seams with hedonistic, homogenised copy-cat bands who all looked and sounded the same. The scene was littered with hordes of B and C grade bands whose presence only necessitated a faster death to the whole scene. The genre lost mainstream interest in the late 1980s as the excesses of hair / glam metal created a backlash against the genre. It was fat, boring, stale and needed a quick death, which as has been well documented, grunge took care of. Penelope Spheeris‘ film Decline Of the Western Civilisation accurately captured the scene in all its overblown ugliness. I remember seeing this film in 1989 and walking out void of feeling thinking, “what a bunch of poseur wankers”, and shaking my head at the whole emptiness/shallowness of the LA scene. The music had become lame. The bands lame, the guys looked like women. It was all too much. Mediocrity like Nadir D’ Priest was given a voice, believed his own hype and genuinely thought he was a star. Musically limited bands like Motley Crue were bestowed upon them the status of Gods. (let’s call a spade a spade, with the exception of say ‘New Tattoo’ and ‘Hooligan’s Holiday’, Motley have been musically redundant since Dr Feelgood. Think about that.

It’s hard to register why major labels were still releasing product by these hair bands in 92 and 93. You think bands like the aforementioned W bands or Poison etc were lame? Have a look at the LAMER bands that rode on their sequined coat tails. Remember bands like the irritating Trixter, Roxy Blue, Baton Rouge, Bangalore Choir, Baton Rouge, Steelheart, Banshee, Casanova etc. The horse had bolted, but nobody bothered to tell these jokers. Death came swiftly not long after…..It needed to be killed off.

It’s not surprising that the one band to emerge from the 1980s heavy metal period as the perennial did not come from the hair metal genre – and that includes Bon Jovi. It was Metallica. Now a universally known word, a brand name as common as Coca Cola. Scores of kids in the late 80s turned off the glam stuff and headed to Metallica territory cos it was real. It was authentic, and they could relate to it – as opposed to a man wearing lipstick and mascara and cowboy boots, prancing and pouting and telling you to party hard dude.

So there you have it.  Here is another article penned about Poison in Sydney 1989. Makes you wonder how many kids will look back in twenty years’ time and kick themselves for being into the retarded dork band that is Seven Seconds of Summer.  Cut your losses now kids. Who will save rock n roll ? Nobody. The old girl has seen better days. Largely, it’s just going through the motions.

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The Gun Club – live review Sydney 1983 (with Spencer Jones. Click here to enlarge

On the eve of their 1983 Australian tour, before leaving from the UK, Jim Duckworth and Terry Graham refused to get on the plane. As is now commonly known,  without a guitarist or a drummer, Jeffrey Lee Pierce had the supporting act (The Johnny’s) drummer (Billy Pommer Jr) and guitarist, Spencer Jones fill in for the tour. With all the recent talk of Spencer Jones’ ill health, I thought it worthwhile to remind readers of how significant a contribution Jones has made to Australian rock n roll over several decades now. Like many others of his era – he is rock n roll – pure and simple. No pretensions. It must be 20 years now since Jeffrey Lee Pierce passed away – yet his legacy has only grown. For the uninitiated, Jeffrey Lee Pierce arose from the punk scene in Los Angeles as the singer and guitarist with The Gun Club. Their fusing of the blues with a furious punk spirit was considered by many to be revolutionary, and their first three releases Fire of Love (1981), Miami (1982) and the Death Party EP (1983) and considered classics, a blue print for artists like The White Stripes.

Anyway, today I was thumbing through an old issue of On The Street (Sydney street press) from 1983 and I found this live review of The Gun Club in Sydney from that tour. Makes interesting reading, with a young Celibate Rifles in support. Enjoy.

century-bar-sydney.jpgI was somewhat disappointed to read about the imminent closure of Sydney’s Bar Century, (although when I used to drink there it was known as the Century Tavern), which is located on the corner of George and Liverpool Street. On a personal level, this was my favourite watering hole in the city, and I have many fond memories of drinking there from the late 1980s onwards. It was a veritable oasis, up the flight of stairs and an escape from the rush of George Street below. On a hot summers day, there was nothing better than to sit on a stool, breeze coming in from the large open windows above the awnings, and to look down at the rush of the city below over bar-century-nsw-7672.jpga couple of frosty schooners of Tooheys (Old or New). And as the building was originally owned by Tooheys (know your history), this was only right and just. Like many others, this was my choice of venue for a couple of beers prior to venturing out to see a band. Far too many nights in here to recall them all, yet I do remember sharing many beers here with both Rockbrat and Gig lizard, as this is where we met at agreed times. I remember feeding plenty of coins into the jukebox too for that matter. I remember walking up to Springfields from here with Giglizard, or to the Lansdowne or even up Parramatta Road (the Giglizard didn’t mind a walk). In latter years the place was given a makeover, and looked far more cleaner and appealing (see image), than the less gentrified, (some would say dirty) appearance it had when I was a regular there. Yet that was its charm. I didn’t have to sit in some yuppie bar and pay for overpriced beers. I felt comfortable here, it was all accepting, and was unpretentious. After a hard day’s record shopping I would find myself in here, looking through the records I bought over a glass of beer, or reading through the current issue of On The Street. I also recall when the (now defunct) monorail would glide on by. Even though I was a long standing member of the City of Sydney RSL Club (just over the road), when I had to make a choice I always came to the Century for a whistle wetter.  Many punters who attended gigs  at The Metro up the road on George Street would drink before and after.

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Saloon Bar in the Century circa 1941. Image (c) Archives Program, ANU

 

 

 

So why the closure ? The closure follows a recent report from the City of Sydney which found that late night foot traffic in Sydney’s CBD and a number of its surrounding precincts have continued to decline over the last few years, resulting in lower levels of anti-social behaviour, but also fewer paying punters through the doors. The report suggests that the introduction of the city’s lockout laws in February 2014 may have helped to reduce levels of anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related violence. The lockout laws were announced in late January 2014 and rushed through parliament following the death of Sydney teenager Daniel Christie, with the aim to reducing the level of alcohol-fuelled violence across the city’s nightclub hotspots. This legislation requires bottle shops to close their doors at 10pm and prevents patrons from entering a venue for the first time after 1.30am. The lockout laws also prevent pubs and clubs from serving alcohol to patrons after 3am. The lockout laws have no doubt contributed to a drop in night-time trade, hastening the Century’s demise. However, from what I understand, another reason the George Street located venue (which has been in the same location since 1940), is to close is due to an untenable rent increase. Bar Century’s art deco home is slated to be given a refit that is a first for Sydney (not my words), combining a nightclub with “virtual gaming” (Virtual Gaming? Is that someone pretending to play pinball?) on a floor above, and as part of the same gaming venue, an 80-person capsule hotel is proposed for the outgoing World Square Backpacker hostel (which was located on the upper floor). And did anyone not notice the NSW State Government’s hypocrisy by allowing venues in Pyrmont (including the Casino) to be excluded from the lock out laws cos they are not in the CBD’s so called zoning area?

Although the venue is not being sold, it may as well be. 75 years as a licenced pub and now a virtual gaming lounge ? If it was a lame horse you would put it out of its misery. Successive NSW Government’s have continued to sell off Sydney city’s architectural heritage time and time again, and there are far too many examples of  Government selling off prime parcels of land to foreign (Chinese in the main) developers and landowners who demolish long standing buildings in the CBD to erect more characterless apartment blocks, with complete disregard to either historic or heritage value. No historic value you say? The Century was originally known as Askeys and then as Caseys until March 1940, when the hotel was purchased by Tooth & Company) in July 1923. On completion of rebuilding in January 1941 340190the hotel was a six storeyed brick structure, with a malthoid roof and a fully tiled ground floor exterior. The architectural style is known as P. & O. Ship Style because of its similarities to ocean liner forms. I recently bought Ian Collis’ book called ‘Old Sydney’, and it is filled with images of the Sydney’s cityscape and old buildings in times past.  The irony that I have to walk down these old streets via the pages of a book is not lost on me, and it is nothing short of an indictment upon successive NSW Government’s. The Century closes for good on 20 February 2016. Now back to the book. Close your eyes and picture yourself at the Century over the last 75 years. Can someone please pour me a Club Lager ?

I have a bit of a soft spot for the US outfit Cobra, and there albums (particularly First Strike) are excellent slices of commercial heavy rock. Some years back, whilst rifling through one of those great Japanese ‘heavy metal album covers’ books, I was checking out Cobra, and got into the Cobra albums. Front man Jimi Jamison rose to prominence though post Cobra, in Survivor, joining in 84, a couple of years after their massive hit’ Eye Of The Eye Tiger’.  Jamison’s voice is strong and distinctive, well suited to commercial hard rock. His most recent solo album is excellent. Sadly, Jamison passed away a few days ago, 31 August, aged 63 from a massive heart attack. A couple of weeks back I was only listening to an old interview Jamison did with Ron Keel. Two weeks later he’s gone. If you are not familiar with the man or his music, I suggest you go to Ron Keel’s excellent radio show and listen to this week’s episode, which pays tribute to the late great Jimi Jamison.  
 

 

joan Jett Australia 1995Found this tour advert in an old magazine tonight (anyone remember the short-lived Rebel Razor ?) and I thought it was time to reminisce a little. Joanie had last toured Australia back in 1982, and although she remained productive, there was no big hit here to warrant a further tour downunder (ala I Love Rock n Roll and Crimson and Clover back in the day). So it was with some surprise that a tour – co-headlining with Divinyls, was announced for the winter of 1995. I cannot believe that this tour was nearly two decades back. Where the hell are the years going ? We have written a lot about Joan Jett over the years, so I will not repeat myself – just go grab a beer, put on your copy of Pure and Simple and get in the mood. Anyway, we saw a few shows on this tour, including one at Revesby – long time Rockbrat co-hort Giglizard reviewed the show for Vicious Kitten fanzine at the time, and stated that it was the nearest he’d been to a religious experience (the tour was dubbed ‘an evening mass’). and you know what ? Gig Lizard called it right, once again. 1995 was a weird time for rock n roll. I know, apart from underground rock – there was nothing of interest for me in the mainstream – apart from checking out the the dreamy Merril Bainbridge. Jett/Divinyls did some odd venues on this tour – Barooga (?), Manly Leagues Club in Brookvale, and St George’s Basin to name a few. Maybe the Sussex Inlet region was home to a horde of riot grrrls, who knows ? A couple of memories of this tour stand-out: Getting to meet Joan at the Coogee Bay Hotel post-gig was pretty special.This was not planned – I had spent the Blackheart set gulping brew and taking pix with my old Canon SLR, when a few minutes after their set, I spy Joan and minder (Kenny L I presume) saunter past and made a bee-line after her. Glad I did, cos the opportunity of meeting her again at other shows, here and in the USA, never materialised. I also got a whole bunch of Runaways stuff signed by her during this tour – they come with me to the grave. Another memory is of just how potent Joan and the Blackhearts were – night after night – leaving the Divinyls (whom I dig, big time) to come up short most gigs. Seeing Joan up close, belting out “I Wanna Be Your Dog” will also live with me – man it was good, and freakin’ loud too. I reckon – apart from the classic Blackheart line-up of Byrd, Ryan, Crystal – this is her most solid outfit. Guitarist Tony Bruno is tres cool, and gave the band great balance. Anyway, a great tour – from a true rock n roll original. you shoulda been there kids.