Monday, June 27, 2011

Blogocalypse Neu

The Beast is going to be taking a hiatus this week for a couple weeks. In the meantime, here's a smattering of interesting links from the blogsphere:

Sun Ra in Egypt (The Revivalist)

Halftime Report: 10 Strong 2011 Jazz Releases (Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches)

Bang on a Can 2011 Recap (Brooklyn Vegan)

Mike Watt: The AD Interview (Aquarium Drunkard)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


(For Part I of this ongoing masterpiece, go here.)

PART II: 1999-1992

79. Garbage – “Special” (3/20/1999)
Can't take my eyes of Shirley M. stalking the stage in those wicked looking domanitrix boots!
For a show with notoriously shitty sound, the force of this performance is quite exceptional.

78. Alanis Morrissette - "Thank U" (10/24/1998)
Rather than doing her usual knock-kneed, damaged-marionette "dancing," the artist simply stands and emotes. One of the few instances when a singer overcomes a bad sound mix through sheer will.

77. Metallica w/ Marianne Faithful – “The Memory Remains” (12/06/1997)
Dear Lars: you're a motormouth asshole. Dear James: you're a full-of-yourself hillbilly. But bringing out Rolling Stones paramour Marianne Faithful to back this turgid wallower about faded celebrity? Inspired. I'm sure you would agree.

76. Bjork – “Bachelorette” (10/18/1997)
Originally written for Bernardo Bertolucci, this track from Homogenic comes equipped with Icelandic sweep and full orchestra. Bjork wears a green satin dress, the hem of which she clutches in her left hand, revealing blue jeans underneath. Maybe she's thinking about swans...

75. Beck – “Devil’s Haircut” (1/11/1997)
Beck's great geek-gang touring band of 1996-98 freaks out the New York sophisticazzi.
"What the hell is going on out there in California?"

74. Rage Against the Machine – “Bulls on Parade” (4/13/1996)
The host was Steve "Flat Tax" Forbes, the vole-faced Republican Presidential Candidate. The musical guests were, again, some freaky-deaky and deadly serious Los Angelenos whose album titled Evil Empire dropped at #1 that week. Who do you think won?

73. Smashing Pumpkins – “Zero” (11/11/1995)
Ah, this was the apex for the Pumpkins, right after the release of Mellon Collie brought 72-track proggy rock back to life. They were never as great as they were during this period.

72. Rod Stewart – “Leave Virginia Alone” (5/13/1995)
Rod had already been on SNL once before in 1981, with a sloppy duet with Tina Tuner that was fun and then a solo take on "Young Turks" that was just plain embarrassing. Rod returned to success with this Tom Petty-penned trifle and turned out one of his effortless-pro performances. A true master of the mike stand when he wants to be. He even has a chance to run over behind host David Duchovny and give a cheeky wave. Ah Rod, ya rascal.

71. The Tragically Hip – “Grace, Too” (3/25/1995)
Thank God for Dan Aykroyd! He brought his favorite band of Canadian cult heroes down from Kingston (Ontario, not Jamaica). Lead singer Gordon Downie has a sonorous yawp and a disturbing, crash test-dummy stage presence, and this road-hardened bar band just builds this song with an almost unbearable intensity.

70. The Beastie Boys – “Ricky’s Theme/Heart Attack Man” (12/10/1994)
Where the boys reminded folks: Yes, we are real musicians. They lead with Money Mark's funky electric piano, which sparks off a great chill-out jam from Ill Communication. Then they switch drummers and instruments and pound out a quick blast of D.C.-style hardcore, with Ad Rock unhooking his guitar and slamming it into the stage. Beautiful.

69. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers w/ Dave Grohl – “Honey Bee” (11/19/1994)
In the documentary Runnin' Down a Dream, Dave Grohl reflects on how awesome it was to play this broiling, dirty rocker just months after the suicide of Kurt Cobain. Can't you tell?

68. Snoop Doggy Dogg – “Gin & Juice” (3/19/1994)
Quite honestly, it took us a looong time to cozy up to Snoop's top-down mellow grooves. His lazy Dean Martin-style stage presence on this episode was off-putting -- not so crazy a notion after Cypress Hill and Public Enemy's antics. I didn't yet realize the guy had been stoned on garbage bags of weed since he was four. Watched it again and changed our minds.

67. Counting Crows – “Round Here” (1/15/1994)
Terrific, Springsteenesque ballad gets a terrific, passionate read from a band who nobody knew -- and who nobody had been annoyed by yet. This version is also enjoyably different from the studio version, with Adam Durtiz (wearing a Cracker t-shirt) changing his phrasing and even the tune's "Bob Dylan" to "Alex Chilton." Man, talk about wearing your indie-cred on your sleeve...

66. Tony! Toni! Tone! – “If I Had No Loot” (12/19/1993)
Now we know him as Raphael Saadiq, crooner of penthouse-sophisticate retro soul, but back then he was Raphael Wiggins and there were three of him. The wacky band behind this thumping dance-floor fave includes a tiny sprite-like violin player who dresses like one of Prince's band members. Could this be an 18-year-old Lili Haydn?

65. Cypress Hill – “Insane in the Brain” (10/02/1993)
The second song they performed is more famous in an Elvis Costello kind of way: lighting up a joint onstage before the camera cut to commercial. But we prefer the first song, live or not. B-Real's floppy-dick watch cap and landscaping-tool voice are, as always, highlights.

64. Paul Simon & Willie Nelson – “Graceland” (5/15/1993)
This duet appearance was to promote Uncle Willie's star-studded, Daniel Lanois-produced comeback album, of which this is the first track. Willie makes the already-classic song his own and Paul stands and watches happily. Warm, informal, and off-the-cuff -- something SNL was really hurting for during this period.

63. Soul Asylum - "Black Gold" (3/20/1993)
For those of us music nerds clustered around the TV in frozen-ass Minneapolis, this was like winning the Super Bowl. We knew how hard and how long these guys had worked for this -- we had seen them do it. They were like the New Orleans Saints in this respect. Then, everyone turned on them.

62. Mary J. Blige – “Reminisce” (3/13/1993)
This was not the older, wiser Mary J. but the younger, fiercer, crazier Mary J. -- and wearing a coat of leather garbage bags to boot! D-I-V-A.

61. Annie Lennox – “Why” (4/18/1992)
Arguably the most arresting performance in SNL's history. No one really knew what to expect from this ex-Eurythmic when she went solo. Then she appeared in a men's tuxedo like a Weimar cabaret androgyne and didn't so much sing this heartbreaker as method-act it, saluting like a Titanic sailor ("This boat is sinking, this boat is sinking..."), grimacing like a kabuki princess ("I can still read what you're thinking") and then ending with a seething, whispered "You don't know how I feel!" The crowd was speechless before giving her a deserved ovation.

60. Nirvana – “Territorial Pissings” (1/11/1992)
They came, they saw, they played "Teen Spirit" and then this song, after which they trashed the stage. Cobain dyed his hair with red Kool-Aid. Seattle had arrived.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Jazz Could Save Amy Winehouse

Can we be so bold as to state that the career of the greatest white R&B singer of her generation is now effectively dead? Saturday night in Belgrade was supposed to be the reboot -- "Miss Amy 2.0: Bigger, Better, Soberer" -- for a 12-date Comeback Tour of sorts playing a few European festivals. Yet "Wino" showed up for the umpteenth time either drunk or high (or both), greeting the crowd with "Hello, Athens!!"; she was summarily booed off the stage by the unforgiving Serbs after a disastrous 90-minute set of forgotten lyrics, frequent absences and flubbed cues. Meanwhile, Adele and a thankfully not-murdered Joss Stone have taken her melanin-challenged Brit soul sista mantle and run with it.

Watching endless YouTube vids of Winehouse's half-assed performances, we remembered a short interview she did on Late Night...with Jools Holland in 2006. Sandwiched between an indifferent read of "Rehab" and a scorching take on "My Tears Dry On Their Own," she speaks warmly of jazz vocalist Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan -- one of her greatest vocal influences as a child -- before launching (with Holland on keys) into an all-too-brief duet on Vaughan's definitive 1946 recording of the standard "Tenderly":

Her vocals are so warm and charming and she injects a great bluesy feel into her lines. This short etude seems to be one of the few times Winehouse is fully relaxed and content when she is performing. She essentially singing the music of her girlhood and one does not need to know too much about the healing psychiatric effects of nostalgia, particularly where music is concerned. (Our ongoing series "M¡PUNK" is devoted entirely to this concept.)

It's not hard to see what attracted the young Jewish chick from Southgate to Vaughan: besides the latter's impeccable phrasing and crystalline voice, her many nicknames -- "Sailor" for her frequent swearing, "Sassy" for her diva-like command of a studio session -- attest to a fully liberated woman (and a black woman in pre-Civil Rights America at that) who completely owns herself. Vaughan was for Winehouse what Siouxsie Sioux was to a whole generation of ice-queen goth chicks.

Up to this point, the only thing jazz-related about Winheouse's career has been her emulation if Billie Holiday: holding her lines just behind the beat and rampant drug addiction fueled by destructive relationships. (Then again, Lady Day never made an internet video as disturbing as this one.) But imagine Winehouse suddenly switching to jazz singing for her next album -- and not even a rote collection of covers but something akin to Mark Ronson's brilliant updating of Retro Motown for her Back to Black album. (Indeed, it's been rumored that Winehouse is conceiving of a jazz-flavored album and plans on enlisting drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson of the Roots as a collaborator.) Maybe her and Jools can just sit down in an empty studio at a piano with a bunch of candles and just play. I know I would listen to it. And Winehouse could bring whatever star wattage she has left to the moldy ol' world of jazz. After recording a duet with her this year, Tony Bennett told The Guardian: "Of all the contemporary artists I've known, she has the most natural jazz voice." If her fans know she loves this music, they will investigate too. If you think about it, both the music and the singer could save each other.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Bruce Springsteen
Royal Poinciana Chapel
Palm Beach, Florida

Saturday, June 18, 2011

“M¡PUNK”: A Nostalgic Stumble Through the Music of 1979-1981

When the Going Gets Tough, the Famous Get Weird

“Coming Up” Paul McCartney
Label: Columbia. Single released: April 11, 1980. Songwriter: Paul McCartney. Producer: Paul McCartney. Highest Chart Position: #1. Album: McCartney II.

"Emotional Rescue” The Rolling Stones
Label: Elektra. Single released: June 20, 1980. Songwriters: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards. Producer: The Glimmer Twins. Highest Chart Position: #3. Album: Emotional Rescue.

These two oldies acts were at their creative nadir during this time period. The masterpiece of 1973’s Band on the Run faded in the rear-view mirror, McCartney had recorded four dull albums in a row with his ad-hoc group Wings: Venus and Mars, Wings at the Speed of Sound, London Town and Back to the Egg – the latter being so collossally forgettable that effectively killed off Wings as a viable band. Then there was that embarrassing pot bust in Japan. So what did Macca do? He returned to his home studio in Scotland all by his lonesome and played with his gizmos, making a sequel of sorts to his very first solo album McCartney that he recorded under similar circumstances ten years before.

But McCartney II was a sequel in numerals only. Where the first record had a charmingly informal, backporch kind of feel to it (Paul’s smiling bearded face on the cover), the second seemed to bring out all of the weirdness in this most cloying and eager-to-please ex-Beatle (his face on the cover looked pained and confused). When the album was reissued in its deluxe edition (a.k.a., “Ripe for Rediscovery”) this week, Pitchfork’s Joe Tangari wrote that McCII “is likely to be jarring for an unsuspecting McCartney or Beatles fan. It's largely experimental, devoting most of its songs to eccentric synth-pop that's just as weird as anything from the early days of new wave, and not all of it is compelling.” We second that one. Jump immediately to the irritating second track “Temporary Secretary” and see how long it takes for you to climb up on your roof with a telescopic rifle and a rubber pig mask.

If one goes back to the iconic Sgt. Pepper’s cover from 1967, you’ll notice that in the top row, wedged between Lenny Bruce and W.C. Fields, is the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who is known for his avant-garde experiments with electronic music. McCartney had absorbed the music of Stockhausen, John Cage and Luciano Berio when he studied at Guildhall School in London in the mid-1960s and had been making informal forays into loops, musique concrète and tape-splicing, which he referred to as “electronic symphonies.” (The trippy “Tomorrow Never Knows” on Revolver, with its creepy mutant-seagull cries – actually reversed tapes of McCartney laughing – was a result of this experimentation.) The short-lived Zapple Records was supposed to be the Beatles’ outlet for this kind of incessant noodling, with both Lennon and Harrison recording their own side projects of f---ed up sound collages and electronic squiggles. (One wonders what Ringo’s experimental album would have sounded like.) McCartney even arranged to record a spoken-word record with writer William S. Burroughs, whose “cut-up technique” of writing was the literary equivalent of tape-splicing.

McCartney II, therefore, is held tight to music snobs’ breasts as a cause célèbre in favor of McCarntey’s unacknowledged freaky side, something he would unfurl more prominently in the 1990s with his work with Super Furry Animals and Martin Glover of Killing Joke and The Orb. Like Neil Young’s Trans, the record can also be seen as a hippie’s contention with future shock. In fact, the very first song Sir Paul laid down was “Check My Machine,” a bizarre cut-and-splice trifle somewhat similar to the “Let It Be” B-side “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number).” He did this with no mixing console, preferring to plug the microphones directly into a Studer 16-track machine. When he recorded “Coming Up,” he recorded his voice though a filter and a vari-speed pitch shifter, then laid down a munchkin-like chorus with himself and his wife Linda. The result was the oddest single McCartney had ever released as a part of his “regular” ouerve.

“Coming Up” looked backwards and forwards simultaneously, taking in the chilly alientation of New Wave while keeping a danceable motorik beat somewhere between Kraftwerk and Disco. The song is somewhat sped up in all respects, like a time-lapse robot march, Sir Paul’s vocals compressed into a squeaky alien falsetto (“We can make it…stick with meeee!”), and a metrically-timed guitar part “that could have been lifted from a Talking Heads song” (Tangari’s words). In the single’s groundbreaking video, McCartney even takes the Hitler-mustachioed guise of Ron Mael of the electronic dance duo Sparks. It was also very silly and a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. That is, before the single was replaced on the American Top 40 by a live version B-side recorded in Glasgow in December ’79. While undeniably funky, it sounds more like a mid-70s Wings: McCartney’s stand-up comic persona and scratchy voice, changing the chorus to “Strummin’ On” and then that horrendous keyboard noise at the end that sounds like someone grinding his teeth into the microphone. It jumped to Number One in the U.S., effectively killing off radio play of its weirder brother. It didn’t float by unnoticed: John Lennon, who had spent most of the ‘70s in an infantile tit-for-tat with his old bandmate, so loved the strangeness of the studio version that he later cited it as his reason for getting back into the recording racket. One can even hear echoes of the song in “Walking on Thin Ice,” the last song Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded before his untimely death nearly eight months to the day that “Coming Up” was released.

The Stones, too, were “down in the hole” in 1980. They were two years after Some Girls and still had yet to release their last great album Tattoo You. The same month that the live “Coming Up” hit Number One, the Stones released one of their most forgettable albums on the same day they released one of their best singles. Emotional Rescue the LP was a pale knock-off of Some Girls and "Emotional Rescue" the single a retread of the Discoisms of “Miss You.” The U.K. press pilloried the album (“devoid of passion, bloated with clumsy posing and artifice”) and making it caused a growing rift between the trend-conscious Jagger and die-hard rocker Keith Richards – then coming off years of dope sickness – that would fester for the next decade or so. (“My finger was on the trigger,” Keef would later say of these sessions. “My reactions were certainly quicker, and my anger too.”) At the press interviews for the album in New York, Jagger nastily responded to a question of Richards’ involvement in producing with “You’ve got to be joking.” Richards, of course, didn’t help his case by swigging JD and snorting Peruvian flake while fielding questions.

But “Emotional Rescue” was the single that the Glimmer Twins could agree on. Its stripped-down minimalist-funk feel -- Stones biographer Stephen Davis called it “a rub-a-dub reggae disco format previously unknown to mankind” -- was the antethesis to the overproduced records of the time. It's simply Ian Stewart's sparse electric piano, Rod Wood's Larry Grahamish bass line, and the incomparable Charlie Watts' tightfisted restraint. Its spareness -- and strangeness -- reminds me of Prince’s “When Doves Cry," Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” or even Kelis’ “Milkshake.” Then there’s Jagger being the anti-Jagger: instead of his usual snarling or growling he puts the clamps on his voice; like McCartney, squeezing it into an odd falsetto. This combined with the unsettling theromographic images from the song's music video, which look like infrared photos of people being tortured, gives the sense that the Stones are hiding out in public and waiting impatiently for some kind of inspiration. "Rescue," indeed!

Of Jagger’s improvised aromatheraphy-tape talking at the end (“your kniiiiight in shiiiinging aaarmooouur…”), well, nobody’s perfect.

[FYI: For Part I of this ongoing series, go here.]

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Twitter + Improvised Music = ♥?

If there is to be a brave new world, our generation is going to have the hardest time living in it.
Chancellor Gorkon, Star Trek VI

The Beast made up for missing the Michael Formanek Quartet at the Blue Whale a couple of weeks ago by getting back into the “live music” swing o’ things. (Ironically, tasking the “L.A. New Music Dictionary” turned us into a near-hermit without us realizing it.) While not up yet for another L.A. Relay, we caught three different shows last week: The Brad Dutz Quartet/Kaoru/Alex Cline/G.E. Stinson bakeoff on Sunday, Elliott Sharp & Motoko Honda butting tricked-out instruments on Thursday, and the debut of The Decisive Instant mini-orchestra (with more musicians than we could name) last night. The main thread running though all of this was, of course, the freeness of the improvised moment, and it put a reluctant Beast in an unfamiliar mindset: that Twitter and jazz improvisation go together better than we might admit.

Although the Beast is not a Tweet Twit per se, we’ve been twittering one way or another since 1989, when we started throwing scraps of notes and thoughts and other brain effluvia into an old shoebox. (This seemingly futile practice was inspired by reading an interview with Woody Allen.) We have been taking notes at live performances in L.A. for close to 15 years. Twittering for the Beast is simply taking notes on what might make it to the finish line in some (hopefully) published and award-winning article/short story/essay/evil ad campaign. Now, that shabby little Mead pocket notepad in your back pocket has simply gotten a massive upgrade in both sleekness and cost; the shoe box is now the entire planet. Now, a book critic can tweet a Q&A with a famous author while it’s happening. Now, a fashion critic can tweet reactions to every dress on the red carpet as they float by. Now, a restaurant critic can tweet her reaction to every individual morsel of food as she digests it. Now, a music “critic” (a four-letter word for the Beast) can tweet every thought and reaction in untrammeled “Live At 5!” fashion. To a journalist, our notes have now graduated to actual “finished” text. We thought, “God, that’s so annoying”; now, we’re not so sure.

We’re not gonna get into the whole unresolved “how can you actually enjoy or even absorb the music if you’re taking fucking notes?” (Short answer: you develop your own shorthand) A lot of the more old-school live music reviewers I’ve seen in the audience sit intently with hands folded over their chins, watching very carefully and take no notes except for in their minds. Maybe that’s what we don’t like about the Big T: It invades the sancrosanct mind.

Yet why not an in-the-moment style for an-in-the-moment music? Why not go deeper into previously unwritten or unrecorded moments? What follows are our recorded reactions to the three shows we watched as they happened, in breezy, 147-character-or-less tweet style:

BRAD DUTZ QUARTET (Eagle Rock Cultural Center, 6/05/2011):

#st song: “biff the salesman” – bdutz known for his zappaesk song titles!

bd seems to be playing a marimba-based set of chamber suites – “this is weird, wild stuff, ed”

dutz hits shifty mysterious chimes on marimba over the slooooboe and cello. Soundd like: “cat paws slinking across a listing ocean liner.”

2econd song: “spies vs. actors who play spies (wilderness survival challenge)” (smiley emoticon)!!!

dutz sits on one of those peruvian cajon (“box”) box drums and also fuggles several frame drums. so many toys to play w!!

cellist chris votek, who also wrote this song, turns cello into a funk-pluck bass…say boosty, say bootsy

mre awesome song titles: “the intricacy of prairie life”; “the lack o quality programmming.”

“if i only had a brain” yes the one from oz! sounds out of place after the multiculti weirdness. oboist paul sherman looks like he’s about to burst out lauighing.

Guy next to us: “expect anything from a brad duz set!”


kaoru is a quiet & unassuming woman who sings modern takes on japenese folk lullabis. she rarely performs so this s/b a treet

alex c working from skeletal drum set up incl large bass drum flipped sidewys & chassis of variouys sized gongs behind him

for 1nce he is standing and not completely engulfed by his traps!

sitting behind a desk of electronic gadgetry & singing into a table mike, karoru resembles a librarian givig avant-garde testimony

stinson has at least 20 stompboxes set up on tables & roates his instruments frequrntly!

ac begins with wind-chime texturs w/no pulse or beat; kaoru chants & manipulates w/ electronics; ge’s guitar turns itall into a wind tunnel

ge messes aronud w toy piano; ac hits bass drum and then immediately claps off sound with little hand cymbals, wow!

ge straps on 2neked guitar; switches to a japanese instrument that looks like portable keyboard worn by 80s bands. wtf? it also has strings!

3io ascends 2 rolling thunder: turgid, tribal alien drumbeat over ge’s melted-guitar wash and karou’s conjured monk chants in japanese and english

kaoru multirakcs her voice and then sings back over the mix

ac lays 7 cymbals on bass drum and hits them with brushes, they bobble like metallic lyly pads

what if ge’s stompboxes become selfaware start to communicate with each other and revolt?

karou reminds me of bjork and yoko ono – latter inevitable comparison I guess as we are not well schooledon japense vocalists. must investuiagete!

FIERCE final section!! escalating hysteria on all instruments. a hellish doomladen ecstasy. a slow industrialized leekage.

MOTOKO HONDA/ELLIOTT SHARP (The Blue Whale, 6/09/2011):

Motoko & Elliott
[Photo by Peak]

see ge again at the bar in his bono galsses wolfing down tuna sliders. confirms the weird isntument he played as a “taishogoto.” thxs, uncle g!

esharp, whom we have seen play a variey of guitars, has constucte dhis own for this evening’s jounrney

it looks like an ouija board crossbread with a lute…

or that awesome google icon that popped up this morning where you could play/record your own songs. motoko’s piano is festooned with orange clamps

esharp plays first set & brings th pain with hits n pops all over the isntument (like kaki king he uses the body as much as the strings)

esharp really gets into the crystalline multitracked les paul frippery; strange, as this is les pauls’ birthday


im sorry, what was i saying?

orange clamps revealed: hold harp strings btwn lid and piano. honda plucks and warps with her e-pad. our friend joey is blown away

esharp & honda go 2&fro w/ disconcerting pulses and makes us worry about things like “ss our oven on?”

THE DECISIVE INSTANT (The Blue Whale, 6/12/2011):

have nvr seen jeff schwartz or charles sharp (whom i interviewed back in febraury) play!

young scholars of jazz as much as players and itll b interesting to see how they ‘shed it

i am NOT a jazz critic. i describe whats happening onstage but I don’t attempt to explain/editorialize. oops, 1st set starting…

“worthy constituents”: csharp begins as conductor. 12 p band sounds like rush hour if all the drivers had insttuments

Charles Sharp (no relation to Elliott)
conducts The Decisive Instant
[photo by David Adler]

interesting klezmer-inlfected clarinet by alicia byer

“taylorism.” jschwartz plops his upright bass front&center and digs into it arco-style. epic piece ends on a membrane-like breathing drone

coming back from men’s room, we first think someone is leading the band in frank zappa’s the blue light.

an older gneltemen in a flowerprint shirt sings it like a cheesy love song over a collpasping & ornery group-skronk

It’s not he blue light, it’s the dangerous kitchen! “Who the fuck wants to clean it?!”

The older gentlemen is billy harrington, who was a former zappa keyboard tech. apropos!

opposing forces in this tune: a simple 4/4 beat fighting to get past a cacapohy of shit. la in a nutshell.

my hand is getting tired

@The Beast
"decisive instant"...twitter...hmmm

the kitchen appears to be closed

[We apologize profusely to trumpeter/composer Bruce Friedman, who led the band in the 2nd set in a variation on his ongoing and fascinating O.P.T.I.O.N.S. project. We were so hungry we had to go grab some grub nearby and when we returned the set was pretty much over. Sigh. Next time, sir!]

Monday, June 6, 2011


Thanks to all of you who responded to our first installment of what’s shaping to be a massive project that the Beast will probably finish ten years after we’re dead. (If you missed Part 1, or the definition of "snerd," check it out here.) Thank you for your inordinate patience -- and enjoy!


Bag, Alice. Self-described “Chicana Punk” (real name: Alicia Armandariz Velasquez) from the Hollenbeck section of East Los Angeles. As lead vocalist for the Bags, Velasquez’s dark-complexioned good looks (think Poly Styrene with smeared harem-scarem chola makeup and pink thrift-store tutu) and suggestive onstage presence made for an anarchic live show that was banned in most established L.A. clubs. (She did, however, have a drink named after her at the Whisky: pineapple juice, lime and vodka with a splash of rum). The Bags, whose name derived from a short-lived practice of wearing paper grocery sacks over their heads, made their debut at THE MASQUE on September 10, 1977 and lasted only two years and three singles, owing in part to Velasquez's tumultuous relationships with sometime drummer Nickey Beat and bassist Patricia Morrison (“Pat Bag”). All were involved in legendary “Trashing the Troubadour” brawl on February 5, 1978 when Beat and and gutter poet TOM WAITS, who apparently tried to pick up on Velasquez, and got in a knock-down, drag-out—with Beat trying to pry Waits’ prodigious jaw apart with both hands a la King Kong. The Bags’ legendary spastic performances of “Prowlers in the Night” and “Gluttony” in PENELOPE SPHEERIS’s documentary THE DECLINE OF THE WESTERN CIVILIZATION were filmed when band was already breaking up. Although many of their songs were penned by future rock critic CRAIG LEE, Velasquez is considered “the inventor of the west coast hardcore sound” and is hugely influential for her cultural and sexual politics and frenzied vocal style, which borrowed from Bubblegum Pop, Glam Rock, Jazz, Blues, Soul and the cancion ranchera music of her immigrant parents. (At a 2008 exhibition at the Claremont Museum of Art, Armandariz performed punk versions of mariachi tunes.) Currently maintains two blogs Violence Girl and Diary of a Bad Housewife (Tags: “anti-consumerism,” “corporate greed,” “activism,” “travel”) and recently published a memoir Violence Girl: East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage in 2011. Now a wife and mother of two, Velasquez lives in Sedona, Arizona and listens to Lady Gaga.

Baiza, Joe. Self-taught, Wilmington-born guitarist of Mexican origin was one of the earliest members of the nascent L.A. improvised music scene and another musician like NELS CLINE or LYNN JOHNSTON who passed back and forth between the worlds of punk and jazz. His two flagship bands UNIVERSAL CONGRESS OF and the ahead-of-their-time noiseniks SACCHARINE TRUST (1981-1986, reformed 1996) were jammy before BLACK FLAG discovered the Grateful Dead. Baiza has given as much as HENRY ROLLINS to his musical cause in relation to dealing with violent audience elements, including losing partial use of his guitar hand in a brutal baseball-bat attack in 1996. Famously referred to as “truly one of the great guitarists to come out of the so-called punk rock scene of Southern California” by no less than EUGENE CHADBORNE. Baiza subbed for Nels Cline on MIKE WATT’s 1997 Contemplating the Engine Room tour. Recently formed the New Orleans-funk inspired band The Cardovas with trumpeter DAN CLUCAS.

Joe Baiza at the Schindler House, 1998

Barton, Chris. Tall, rail-thin, self-proclaimed “ginger” resident jazz columnist for the Los Angeles Times tasked with reversing years of institutional neglect and often outright hostility (represented in his ancestors Albert Goldberg, LEONARD FEATHER, and DON HECKMAN) towards the twisted 21st-century Cusinartistry that passes for jazz in some his usual haunts like The Blue Whale, REDCAT, and the ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL. Memorable for his recent enough-already column over the dead-horse topic of Wynton Marsailis’s concept of jazz versus everyone else’s: “In the end, the war is ultimately pointless because there's room for both sides. Of course the roots of jazz are vital and demand attention from anyone who would play or listen to it. It's hard to imagine many of the gifted if cutting-edge artists in jazz being any less appreciative of past masters than, say, upstart indie rock artists who learn from and expand upon decades-old records in their collection...Like all broad, nebulous genre labels, the boundaries are in the eye of the beholder.” Claro.

Rule Beasley

Beasley, Rule. Former Santa Monica College music teacher known for influencing future free-thinkers like NELS CLINE, STEUART LIEBIG and JESSE SHARPS back in the 70s when SMC was called 'Pico Tech.' The Louisiana-born, Julliard-educated Beasley, who plays bassoon as well as piano and is fluent in classical as well as jazz forms, taught 20th-Century Harmony & Theory, Diatonic & Chromatic scales, and Orchestration & Arranging. His Facbeook page is a series of long and loving testaments from his previous students. His son is the Grammy-nominated, Tam O'Shantered pianist John "The Beas" Beasley.

The Being. Culter-than-cult, Z-grade horror movie from 1983 starring a Match Game panel from hell (Martin Landau, Ruth Buzzi, Kinky Friedman, Jose Ferrer) is more notable for being a fine case study of the types of jobs serious L.A. musicians have to take in a Company Town (see also: industrial videos, aromatherapy tapes, porno films). The soundtrack was composed by ex-Mother of Invention keyboardist DON PRESTON (who even released a 2001 CD of all of his grindhouse soundtrack compositions, from Blood Diner and The Blob to, ahem, Pucker up and Bark like a Dog) and included a young ALEX CLINE, who has a memorable story about the film: "The lead actor, who went by the name 'Rexx Coltrane,' had an entirely inappropriate-sounding voice. So they brought in this unknown kid to overdub his lines, and this kid winds up doing this near-genius improvisation where he played all of the characters in the scene like they were having this hilarious conversation. And this goes on for like twenty minutes! Don said it was the most amazing performance by an actor he's ever seen. Turns out they recorded all of this. Don told me if we could somehow track down that tape that it would be worth a lot, because the kid's name was Robert Downey, Jr."

Berardi, Joe. Self-effacing, dome-pated percussionist with a distinct junkyard style and go-to sideman for many outlanders like KRAIG GRADY, LYDIA LUNCH, BRAD DUTZ, STEUART LIEBIG, JAMES GRIGSBY, MOTOKO HONDA, Wall of Voodoo frontman STANARD RIDGEWAY and...Megan Mullally. Berardi is known for numerous bands that atom-smash different genres into a near uncategorizeable mix: THE FIBONACCIS (“elevator music from hell”), NON CREDO with vocalist KIRA VOLLMAN ("organicore"), DOUBLE NAUGHT SPYCAR ("perverted soundtracks to nonexistent noir films") and ONIBABA with VINNY GOLIA and Daren Burns ("post-millennial fusion"). Like fellow percussionists ALEX CLINE and DANNY FRANKEL, Berardi favors a jerry-rigged drum setup of metal/found objects: outmoded keyboards, wood blocks, pots and pans, metal mixing bowls, Lincoln Logs, children’s toys and things not normally associated with percussion. Also one of the pioneers of “sample" drumming – improvising with samples on the spot, much the same way jazz musicians improvise – now practiced by everyone from the tUnE-yArDs to SCOTT AMENDOLA. For years, Berardi was the drummer for early MTV stars WALL OF VOODOO (“Mexican Radio”) and was responsible for coining the band’s name (a joking reference to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound). Not to be confused with the pro bowler Joseph Berardi.

Berman, Warren. Bespectacled, longtime (un)official photographer of L.A.’s jazz scene of the 1970s though now. Famous for his droopy handlebar moustache, floppy-brimmed sun hats and for mysteriously being in several places at once despite lugging several cameras a la Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now. Like Hopper, is is a repository of hipster slang from the ‘Nam era. Part of a grand L.A. tradition of jazz photogs like WILLIAM CLAXTON and MARK WEBER.

Kim Richmond
[photo by Warren Berman]

Berne, Tim. Mop-haired alto saxophonist from Syracuse, NY emerged from the New York Downtown LOFT JAZZ/NO WAVE millieu in the late 1970s (he worked alongside JOHN ZORN at Soho Music Gallery) and immediately set about ruffling feathers with his decided noncommercialism in an already-noncommerical market (his epic pieces lasting for 30 minutes or more), starting not one but two indie record labels (Empire and SCREWGUN) and his pervasive sense of humor ("playing" a water bottle onstage) in a deadly serious profession. (He was named “Dr. Dirt” by some of the older NY musicians for his propensity for wearing the same shirt for weeks.) Berne is notable for bypassing his dismissive Gotham compatriots to reach out to Left Coast players like JOHN CARTER, VINNY GOLIA, NELS and ALEX CLINE, JOHN RAPSON and ROBERTO MIGUEL MIRANDA for his debut albums The Five-Year Plan and 7x. (Both were reissued as a box set in 1998). “These L.A. guys were much more supportive," Berne later told an interviewer. "I was less scared. These guys were much more accepting.” (It wasn’t all roses: the racially sensitive Carter was so offended by Berne's choice of logo for Empire Records – a gorilla mask – that he vowed never to work with him again.) Currently part of noise terrorists bb&c (a.k.a., "The Sons of Champignon") with Nels Cline and punk-influenced drummer Jim Black, whose debut album The Veil drops this week.

Noize Bois: Tim Berne (L) and Nels Cline in Melborne, 2009
[photo by Laki Sideris]

Black Flag. Vaunted hardcore-punk forefathers from Hermosa Beach first assembled in 1976 (original name: Panic) by guitarist GREG GINN and later forearmed by timid choirboy/literatus HENRY ROLLINS, both who claimed fandom of L.A. free jazzmeisters like ORNETTE COLEMAN and ERIC DOLPHY. (Ginn was a haunt of Hermosa's legendary-yet-faded LIGHTHOUSE jazz club.) Although what would be birthed in its wake would be a million similar-sounding bands (as well as the nasty afterbirth of American History X-style white supremacist hardcore), BF was actually more complex and innovative right off the bat. Bohemians disguised as punk nihilists, they used elements of metal (Ginn was influenced by the doom-laden chords of Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi), classical music, free jazz and later elements of funk and spoken- word. Band’s name, famous logo, flyers and album art were conceived by Ginn’s bro Raymond (nee PETTIBON), who explained: “If a white flag means surrender, than a black flag means anarchy.” (Pettibon was responsible for the shocking, LAPD-baiting cover art of BF’s 1985 single “Police Story.") Numerous singers before Rollins included KEITH MORRIS (later of scum-punk combo CIRCLE JERKS) and a pre-RED KROSS Dez CADENA, whose father Ozzie was a legendary SoCal jazz promoter. Outsiders even from an L.A. punk perspective, Flag were refused a slot at the Hollywood punk club THE MASQUE because “it wasn’t cool to live in Hermosa Beach.” Similar to HORACE TAPSCOTT'S arts organization UGMAA, Black Flag set about creating its own infrastructure from, well, nothing, including a record label (SST), a communal performance space (THE CHURCH), cornerstone clubs (THE FLEETWOOD, THE CUCKOO’S NEST) and a mail-order service. Their early records -- particularly their volatile 1981 debut Damaged -- inadvertently pioneered cruddy, lo-fi recording aesthetic, more akin to field recordings or the live tapes made by Tapscott's PAN AFRIKAN PEOPLE'S ARKESTRA. Subject of harrowing 1994 book by Rollins called Get in the Van, which revealed a chaotic, violent and rootless touring experience that would make most jazz musicians blanch. Despite the band's second incarnation as a jam band with 'tude, with improvisation later leaking into their live sets, BF unwittingly became favorites beer-guzzling frat boys, with songs like “Six Pack” and “T.V. Party” emanating from Greek Row houses all though the mid-80s. (Covering "Louie, Louie" at epic length probably didn’t help.)

Black Jazz. Also known as “Blackjazz.” Short-lived, Afrocentric, L.A.-based record label whose mystique has grown exponentially due to to the fact that little of its 21-album catalogue still exists. (Outside of Brian Wilson’s SMiLE or Jandek’s career, it may/may not be the most brilliantly conceived marketing gimmick in music history.) Founded in 1971 by pianist Gene Russell and partner Dick Shory, Black Jazz nevertheless caught the urbanized funk/soul jazz zeitgeist of the West Coast by recording many L.A.-based musicians who couldn’t get arrested anywhere else: bassist HENRY FRANKLIN, pianist Walter Bishop, Jr., guitarist Calvin “Ajafika” Keys (who later played for MC Hammer), Chester Thompson and husband and wife team Doug and Jean Carne. Black Jazz came out swinging in August of ’71 with four albums and a bold mission statement: “a new jazz label to be owned operated and aimed a blacks” and that “only black artists will appear on the label.” Russell even announced plans for a national promotional tour and a label-sponsored jazz festival in L.A. BJ recordings featured then-vanguard quadraphonic sound and the instruments of the shag rug and hanging terrarium era (Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond B-3 organ, African percussion). In 1976, the death of both Russell and its distributor Ovation killed the label, but thanks to the rare-groove snerd obsession of the Nineties, Black Jazz -- along with other indies like Ak-Ba, Tribe and Strata-East -- found a new audience clamoring for its time-specific, non-mainstream classics now available as imports that cost up to $50: Doug Carne’s Infant Eyes, Bishop’s Keeper of my Soul, Russell’s New Directions, Franklin’s The Skipper at Home (with its famous Great Day in Harlem-inspired album cover), and Keys’ Shaw-neeg. Bizarre footnote: BJ’s catalog was purchased in the early 1990s by Red Beans and Rice Records owner James Hardge and reissued on CD – or so it was claimed. (Universal Music also released a few ‘Best of” comps in the early 2000s). After numerous complaints that customers never received their orders, the website shut down in January 2009, briefly reemerging as an MP3 site before retreating back into the mysterious mists from whence it came.

Black Music Infinity. Racially mixed, improvisational “supergroup” (1969-1975) started at POMONA COLLEGE by HORACE TAPSCOTT acolyte STANLEY CROUCH, who had taken a teaching position there. Actually more of a rehearsal band, BMI included at various times bassists Earle Henderson (who played with ALBERT AYLER) and MARK DRESSER, saxophonists ARTHUR BLYTHE and Charles Tyler, flautist JAMES NEWTON, clarinetist DAVID MURRAY, cornetist BOBBY BRADFORD, cellist WALTER SAVAGE, pianist DIAMANDA GALAS and trumpeters KYLO TURNER, WALTER LOWE and Butch MORRIS. BMI rehearsed in drummer Crouch's living room and played frequently at The Smudge Pot in Claremont and RUDOLPH'S FINE ARTS CENTER in L.A. It is possible live recordings of this group still exist, but since the combative, prone-to-fistfights Crouch has since all but disavowed his free jazz years, no one has the balls to ask him.

Black Randy. Prankster alter ego of one John “Jackie” Morris, who led various bands, most famously the vulgar goons calling themselves the Elite Metrosquad, before his death in 1988 of AIDS. (They make a cameo in the 1981 PUNKSPLOITATION flick, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains.) Called “one of the most unforgettable parties of all time” by none other than MASQUE chieftain BRENDAN MULLEN, the band’s rotating roster of backup singers (dubbed “The Blackettes”) was a flow chart of future L.A. punk dignitaries: Jan Paul Beahm (a.k.a., DARBY CRASH) EXENE CERVENKA, TOMATTA DU PLENTY, ALICE BAG, LORNA DOOM, Jane Wiedlin and Belinda Carlisle. Notable for gross-out song titles like "Sperm Bank Baby," “Loner with a Boner," “Let’s Do Something on Sharon Tate’s Grave,” “I Want to Jam with the Son of Sam” and “Kiss Me Where It Stinks” – even more so for their made-to-offend lyrical content, including the classic first DANGERHOUSE single “Trouble at the Cup” (“School and factories make me sick / I’d rather just stand here and sell my dick”). Despite its revolving-door lineup, the Metrosquad’s other stalwart was keyboardist and musical director David Brown, who acted as the perpetually harassed Mark Linn-Baker to Morris’ Bronson Pinchot. (At a two-day MASQUE benefit in February 1978, when audience members were invited onstage to pick up instruments, Brown wouldn’t speak to Morris for months.) But Brown’s complicated arrangements (someone called the band “The Mothers of Invention of punk”) and Randy’s “white nigger’ persona (he was allegedly “raised by black people in Long Beach”) were meant to be an ironic commentary on Funk and Soul music of the 60s and ‘70s – indeed the Metrosquad covered, unfortunately, “Say It Out Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud” and “Theme from Shaft” at their shows. This, mixed with elements of avant-garde jazz, made them contemporaries of James Brown-aping NYC NO WAVE combo James Chance and The Contortions. Pudgy and chipmunk incised, the sexually confused Morris had a genuine love of underground black culture like Rudy Ray Moore (whom he called “the black Russ Meyer”), pimp-turned-writer Iceberg Slim, Blaxploitation films and, oddly, cannibal dictator Idi Amin’s appropriating of American pimp culture. Morris claimed to have traveled to New York in 1971, where he witnessed (and claimed to have recorded) early shows by the New York Dolls, the Ramones and the Stillettos (later named Blondie). Although he posited punk rock as “urban folk music,” Morris was perhaps better known for his “horrifying” pranks involving feces: Most famously, he claimed to have taken a shit in William Randolph Hearst’s soup when he worked on a kitchen staff. Such shenanigans made Morris the unwitting antecedent to the whole Jerky Boys/Crank Yankers/Jackass ethos, a debt paid heed when Jackass co-star Chris Pontius portrayed Randy (in trademark devil’s horns cowl) in the 2007 GERMS biopic What We Do Is Secret. Also an equally unwitting influence on Scum Rock (G.G. Allin), Porn Punk (The Mentors, who once opened for the Metrosquad), Shock Rock (Butthole Surfers) and other sub-subcategories. (X’s John Doe also called him “a precursor to punk rap.”) Has the distinction of being the only artist on the short-lived DANGERHOUSE Records roster who recorded a full-length only LP, Pass the Dust, I Think I'm Bowie -- later reissued in the early 90’s by Sympathy for the Record Industry and dropped just as quickly. Long Beach psych-rockers Crystal Antlers cover Black Randy's “I Slept in an Arcade” on the 2011 compilation Beat L.A.

Carla Bley plays

Bley, Carla and Paul. The Mike Nichols and Elaine May of 1960s Causcasian Brainiac jazz, the Bleys were a (brief) husband-and-wife piano team of super-quirky, super-smart, super-modernistic mein and pioneering indie spirit. Blonde and Oakland-born, Carla was a sex symbol for collegiate snerds who loved her ice-queen looks, kabuki hairstyles and trademark tobacco pipe as much as her unusualist arrangements and wacky, genre-mixing collaborations. She is most noted for her gonzo opus Escalator Over the Hill (1968-71), a stunningly ambitious three-record “jazz opera” that led one reviewer to marvel that Bley “composes from a musical background so diverse and with a musical community so close to lunacy that her music remains tousled and untamed.” The Montreal-born Paul made his recording debut in 1953 as a conductor for CHARLES MINGUS’ orchestra and later led a now-mythic quintet that included ORNETTE COLEMAN, DON CHERRY, CHARLIE HADEN and BILLY HIGGINS at Culver City’s HILLCREST CLUB in 1958. Shows from October/November of that year were captured on tape and finally re-released in all its messy glory in 2007 as an import credited to 'The Ornette Coleman Quintet.' (The glory must have been lost on the prickly Bley, who has vowed never again to play Los Angeles.) Both Bleys later cemented their iconoclastic, pre-DIY status with their involvement in the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra in New York, an influential free-jazz cooperative, and the founding of their own labels, Carla’s WATT and XtraWATT and Paul’s Improvising Artists.

Paul Bley

BLOC. Mid-1980s L.A. quintet notable for being the launchpad for guitarist NELS CLINE, contrabassist STEUART LIEBIG and drummer Chris Mancinelli. Liebig originally started Bloc with drummer Mancinelli and recruited Cline by describing “a pop group that was going to be a cross between Peter Gabriel, King Sunny Ade and Lakeslide.” Trio later recruited second guitarist Nicholas Kirgo and vocalist Camille Henry. Despite being, in Cline’s words “the perfect dysfunctional family” (Henry refused to sing any lyrics about sex), the group stayed together for eight years, never once playing outside of L.A. “because everyone had jobs and no one had cars that would work.” Band nevertheless became a local favorite at places like MADAME WONG’S and CLUB LINGERIE and found itself in a bidding scuffle between established labels. A&M Records won out and proceeded to spend lavishly and brainlessly on demos and a music video, which won ‘Best Video by an Unsigned Band’ on MTV’s Basement Tapes. (Trivia tidbit: video was shot by Ken Andrews of L.A. alt-rockers Failure.) Band was effectively dropped by A&M a month after the release of their 1991 debut In the Free Zone; its producer Tony Peluso, whose credits included guitarist for The Carpenters and fizzy Latin pop, produced Zone like the 1980s never ended. They had. Album is now a snerd collector’s item in the same vein as Y Kant Tori Read or Ethel Merman: Disco.

the blue whale. Intimate, minimalist, Liebskindish art space located in unobtrusive corner of Little Tokyo’s Weller Court (it’s next to the Orochon Ramen shop) and the second establishment to open (see also: 2ND STREET JAZZ) in that re-hipped area that has devoted itself to being a “musician’s spot” – i.e., as many in the audience as are onstage. Posed between being a best-kept secret (the basement elevator doesn’t even list its name; the cover change hovers around a reasonable $10 and there are no food and drink minimums) and the current epicenter for local improvised music and other “weird jazz” purveyors from the city and elsewhere: Elliott Sharp, ROVA Saxophone Quartet, LARRY KARUSH, TIM BERNE, DWIGHT TRIBLE, Michael Formanek, MIGUEL ATWOOD-FERGUSON, SCOTT AMENDOLA, KNEEBODY, VINNY GOLIA, Gary Fukushima, Chris Dundas to name just a few. Opened December 10, 2009 by Korea-by-way-of-Kentucky jazz fan Joon Lee (also a jazz singer, Lee moved to L.A. in 1997 after studying architecure in Brooklyn). Notable for its sleek dark wood interior and slideable cube-shaped ottomans – Lee has called this shiftable ethos “improvising” – that seem to encourage creativity in every corner. (Musicians perform under a poem titled "Listening” that’s printed on the ceiling; the house drum kit was inherited from the shuttered Valley jazz club Spazio.) Recently scored the coup by joined decidedly larger venues like New York’s Lincoln Center and Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center in an NPR Live broadcast with pianist BILLY CHILDS on New Year’s Eve. Unforgiving policy, however, on making noise: Giggling Japanese youth often stumble in tipsily and are summarily shushed by the concentrating crowd. Vaguely intimidating bouncer Big John (a bouncer for a jazz club? Awesome!) is actually a pussycat. Recently recognized by Downbeat as one of “The 150 Great Jazz Rooms" in the world. Not to be confused with the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, which is called “the blue whale” in derisive nickname only.

Interior of the blue whale

Blythe, Arthur. Watershed alto saxophonist whose playing is one of those rare and magical synergies between the past history of jazz and its very modern incarnations. Born in the Central/Alameda section of Los Angeles during the glory days of CENTRAL AVENUE, Blythe started playing with an R&B band in San Diego before moving back to Los Angeles in 1960 and later joined up with pianist HORACE TAPSCOTT to help co-found the arts co-op UGMAA (pronounced “ugh-mah”) and its flagship band The ARK. Growing up in the ashes of mid-60s Watts and its culture of police harassment, Blythe was so fervent a student of Black Awareness that the group’s pianist LINDA HILL jokingly dubbed him “Black Arthur”; he’s even listed as such on the classic The Giant Is Awakened (1969), his recording debut. In 1974, frustrated with the limited possiblities in Los Angeles, Blythe and some of his Ark compatriots resettled in New York just as the Soho LOFT JAZZ scene was spitting off sparks. Unfortunately, Blythe drowned in the hype unloaded by a clueless Columbia Records, who was trying to sell an unclassifiable jazz artist in the frothy, pukka-shelled days of Herbie Mann, Maynard Ferguson and Tom Scott’s L.A. Express. (Or maybe it was just the Carter Administration’s fault.) Despite being paired with strings and dipshit funk arrangements, Blythe managed a streak of superlative, late-70s modern jazz LPs with a hard-bop sheen and a free-jazz spirit: The Grip, Metamorphosis, Bush Baby, In the Tradition and Lenox Avenue Breakdown (1979), the latter recorded with guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer and old BLACK MUSIC INFINITY pal James Newton and featuring the now-famous “saxo-brownstone” cover by artist Mark Hess. Blythe even popped up as a character in Rafi Zabor's award-winning 1998 novel The Bear Comes Home.

Bolles, Don. Scrawny, asthmatic, puckish, outre personality and self-proclaimed “world’s oldest punk rocker” who along with guitarist PAT SMEAR and bassist Lorna Doom is one of the surviving members of the GERMS and later goth-rockers 45 Grave. Fondly referred to as “Cactus Head” for hailing from Arizona, Bolles (né James Gionelli) had the distinction of being the “most consistent drummer” of a wildly inconsistent (and, in some Snerd circles, overpraised) band; the Horatio Alger-like legend has it he drove all the way from the Grand Canyon State to L.A. to join the Germs after hearing their first single “Forming” – and by golly did just that after a endless series of temp timekeepers who included Donna Rhia, Cliff Hanger, DJ Bonebrake and Nickey Beat. Although Bolles claimed he had been playing drums two weeks before he joined the Germs, he reportedly brought his influences of German Krautrock (particularly, Kraftwerk and Faust), avant-garde classical music and indie-fringe freakage like Half-Japanese, Van Der Graaf Generator, early Devo and The Residents and obscurantist novelty records from Nervous Norvus and Tangela Tricoli. (Bolles was also an acolyte of fringe experimental composer/cult leader BOYD RICE.) Equally unlikely drumming influences included Prog-rockers Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson) and Aynsley Dunbar (Frank Zappa, Lou Reed). Cross-dressing, joke-cabaret side project Vox Pop reportedly got him kicked out of the Germs for a spell. (“People did not wanna go see someone being like Flipper-meets-the-Runaways-and-Faust,” Bolles later noted.) Still haunts L.A. in fuzzy Mad Hatter hat and welders' goggles as a club DJ, pirate radio gadfly, cult-TV host, author (of Germs memoir Lexicon Devil), label head (Bolles’ Mad Deadly Records put out those Celebrities…at their Worst CDs) and sometime performer, including his memorable appearance at the 2009 memorial to zonked proto-punk SKY SAXON. Also pops up in the news, as when he was arrested in 2007 in Orange County for a very un-punk possession of, um, soap. (Even better, he was on his way to an AA meeting.) A Situationist at heart, Bolles was the instigator of notorious, grisly spectacle at THE MASQUE on April 8, 1978 when he invited the extreme German performance art troupe of Hermann Nitsch – along with members of the L.A. FREE MUSIC SOCIETY – to eviscerate cow carcasses and “reanimate” dead sheep, thus being one of the conduits between the tape-loop frippery of the LAFMS and the L.A. punk underground (not to mention anticipating the recent museum corpse-exhibit vogue). Recently indulged his inner Stockhausen with solo electronic noise project, Kitten Sparkles. Famously spit on by resident KROQ elf Rodney Binghenheimer. Played as a gawky, arty teen by Noah Segan in the Germs biopic What We Do Is Secret. Trashed the Germs film script as “terrible” but nevertheless performed with reconstituted lineup featuring Doom, Smear and hunky ex-E.R. actor Shane West standing in – to the horror of many – for Darby Crash.

The man who put out BOMP!: Greg Shaw

BOMP! Pioneering D.I.Y. media empire (salad days: 1970-79) fostered by Prince Valiant-coiffured impresario Greg Shaw, who with his ageless looks and fanboy passion was sort of the underground doppelganger to Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner. (L.A. gadfly Kim Fowley once dubbed Shaw “the H.G. Wells of rock & roll.”) Fiercely independent and mimeograph-obsessed, Shaw had already published around 200 ‘zines by the time he graduated high school and had the distinction of starting what’s considered the first music ‘zine of the West Coast, Mojo Navigator, which looked like a trippy church bulletin. This later led to Who Put the Bomp? (original price: 35 cents), which Shaw envisioned as a West Coast convergence between fussy jazz rag DOWNBEAT and Paul Williams’ more cerebral Crawdaddy! A precursor to SLASH and ARTHUR and Spin magazines and about 50,000 blogs, the rag's title came from “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp Bomp)?”, a 1961 novelty song written by Brill Building scribes Barry Mann and Gerry Goffin. (It was also paraphrased as Who Took the Bomp? by the indie band Le Tigre for a concert DVD.) At first a platform for Shaw’s Anglophilism, a trait he shared with fellow faun Rodney Binghenheimer, the magazine featured lovingly shabby reportage by lovably shabby Nixon-era rock writers (Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, Richard Meltzer) on lovingly shabby garage groups like The Seeds, The Standells and The Troggs. The zine would inadvertently turn its eye to the L.A. punk scene and fidgety Power Pop. (Shaw allegedly coined the term "Powerpop" as "a hybrid style with the power and guts of punk, but drawing on a pop song tradition with wider popular appeal" in a 1978 cover story.) In 1974, Shaw, who also managed psych-garage group the Flamin’ Groovies, launched the Bomp! imprimatur as a record label, with the Groovies’ “You Tore Me Down” (later covered by Yo La Tengo) as the first single. (The red-and-yellow label was Shaw’s ode to his idol Phil Spector’s Philles Records). Bomp! went on to release material by Iggy Pop (his first solo album Kill City – “when nobody else would touch him”), The Modern Lovers, The Weirdos, The Romantics, Devo (their second 45, “Satisfaction”), The Heartbreakers, Spacemen 3, The Dead Boys, The Warlocks, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Plimsouls, The Romantics, Black Lips, The Germs, The Zeros and the Pebbles series of 60s garage-punk compilations. Shaw died from heart failure at the age of 55 on October 19, 2004. His legacy is currently overseen by ex-wife Suzy Shaw, who heads the BOMP! mail-order service out of the indie hotspot of Burbank, California. Subject of two anthologies – BOMP! Saving the World One Record at a Time and Bomp 2: Born in the Garage – that preserve Shaw's stacks-combing esoterica in all of its mimeographed-and-stapled glory. You can see a late-period Shaw wax rhapsodic in Ondie Timoner’s 2004 documentary DIG!

“Bone Music.” Creepy, Tim Burtonish term employed by musician/poet TOM WAITS to describe the second act of his career, where he employed a spooky mélange of junkyard instruments to make a thoroughly influential (in that no else dared replicate it) sound. Practice is actually is part of an L.A. tradition of "junk art" -- New York artist Peter Plagens called it "the first home-grown California art" -- that include Italian immigrant Simon Rodia’s 30-year dumpster diving spree to produce the WATTS TOWERS, the complex assemblage techniques of JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Ed Keinholz, MIKE KELLEY and Betye Saar, ART PUNK’s obsession with homemade costumes and the L.A. FREE MUSIC SOCIETY's bizarre Salvation-Army of instruments and outmoded electronics, HARRY PARTCH, CHRIS MARTINEZ and JUNO LEWIS’ hand-built instruments, JOE BERARDI, DANNY FRANKEL and ALEX CLINE’s jerry-rigged percussion traps, the found-sound collages of lo-fi auteurs ARIEL PINK, LATIN PLAYBOYS, Beck HANSEN and BRAINFEEDER glitch-producer TEEBS, and Bugs Bunny playing a cow skeleton as a xylophone.

D. Boon

Boon, D. Hulking, sacrosanct Everyman songwriter/guitarist (born Dennes Dale Boon) from the salt-misted maw of San Pedro who co-led hallowed ART PUNK trio The MINUTEMEN with bassist MIKE WATT and drummer GEORGE HURLEY from 1980 until his intolerable death in a van accident two days before Christmas 1985. (While touring as an opening act for R.E.M., Boon was sick and lying down in the back with no seat belt while the driver fell asleep at the wheel – a scenario immediately corroborated by a thousand indie punk bands in the 1980s.) Born in 1958, the same year ORNETTE COLEMAN (whose music the MM was most often compared to) was playing Culver City’s HILLCREST CLUB, Boon was the son a Navy veteran who raised his son on a strong diet of country music and bunked his family in an old WW II army barracks (immortalized in the song “Storming Tarragon”), Boon grew into an arty kid who published his own ‘zine (Prole), drew politically astute cartoons and booked music for the local Star Theater. Eventually screwing up enough courage to step on a stage himself, the self-described “average joe” originally essayed ‘70s classic rock with the cover bands Starstruck and Bright Orange Band before meeting up with Watt to form The Reactionaries with Hurley and vocalist Martin Tamburavich. Although short lived, the band managed to catch the attention of SST Records kingpin GREG GINN who would go on to release the Minutemen’s first singles. (Boon also befriended guitarist JOE BAIZA, who lived downstairs from his apartment.) Although shy and soft-spoken (except for his frequent arguments with Watt about Reagan and the Contras), the 220-pound Boon cut a somewhat menacing-proletariat figure onstage in Mohawk, mechanic’s overalls and work boots, quivering and pogoing, seemingly proud of his purported status as an “anti-frontman” and attendant “nonchalant attitude to personal grooming.” Boon dubbed the MM’s brief, strident, metrically complex songs lyrical song “speils,” which like Bob Dylan combined the sexual with the political (“I try to talk to girls and I keep thinking of WW III”) with dispatches from his life as a wage slave. (“This Ain’t No Picnic” came from a racist coworker deriding the soul music Boon listened to.) That said, Boon also had a sense of humor, taking his stage name in part from E. Bloom, guitarist for Blue Oyster Cult. His minimalist, cheese-grater guitar style (invariably referred to by Snerd music writers as “jagged” or “angular”) was influenced by British art punkers Wire and the axe-men of James Brown’s late-60s/early 70s bands, who used the guitar more as a rhythmic or percussive device. Boon, almost from the moment of his cruel-fate death, has since been elevated to the status of, in writer David Rees’ words, “the patron saint of American punk rock” and was recently voted to the #89 position as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time.” Boon’s D.I.Y. flag continues to be carried by Mike Watt, who has since dedicated every one of his solo albums to  his friend's memory. The song “The Boilerman,” from 1998’s Contemplating the Engine Room is specifically about Boon. (NELS CLINE plays Boon’s old Telecaster guitar on the track.) He is buried in San Pedro’s Green Hills Memorial Park, across from where he and Watt first met.

Bozulich, Carla. Scary-talented – and often just plain scary – boho Ariel/vocalist/guitarist and L.A. fringecore mainstay since the 1980s. In the grand tradition of Exene Cervenka or Patti Smith, Bozulich is an octo-threat as a poet, journalist, graphic designer, curator, songwriter and anything else she decides to put her hands on. Came to prominence with the priclessly monikered ETHYL MEATPLOW and later the much-loved, much-missed GERALDINE FIBBERS, where she met her longtime paramour NELS CLINE. (They've recorded together under the name SCARNELLA, an amalgam of both their names.) When Jeff Tweedy, leader of critically aclaimed alt-rockers Wilco, wanted to hire Cline as the group's lead guitarist, Bozulich famously told him: "If you don't want Nels for Nels, then you're a fucking idiot." Later made many snerd love lists for her 2003 reinterpretation of Willie Nelson's prairie-noir classic Red-Headed Stranger for the Alt-Country generation. Favors 1940's-style thick-strapped high heels and vintage clothing, often resembling a USO hostess with an axe to grind. Currently records under the name Evangelista.

Carla Bozulich onstage in 2007
[photo by Peak]

Bradford, Bobby. Beloved, worshipped, Missississippi-born cornetist/composer most known for playing with ORNETTE COLEMAN, whom he met at a wedding when both lived in Texas, during the unfortunate period (1961-63) when Coleman refused to play live or record. (Bob later made up for it in 1972 by appearing on Coleman's rad Science Fiction sessions.) The calm, teacherly guru is considered the epicenter of L.A free jazz movement, the only surviving member of the "Texas Trifecta" -- Lone Star State transplants like himself, JOHN CARTER and HORACE TAPSCOTT -- who opted to stay in Los Angeles after Coleman decamped for New York. With clarinetist Carter, Bradford formed arguably his most fruitful partnership, one that lasted more than twenty years and was practically ignored for about as long. (DAVID MURRAY's 1992 concept record Death of a Sideman, featuring all compositions by Bradford, was inspired by Carter, who had died of cancer the previous year.) Thankfully, this year the complete sessions for REVELATION RECORDS from their groundbreaking NEW ART JAZZ ENSEMBLE were lavishly and lovingly released as a 3-CD set by reissue label Mosaic Select to much snerd genuflecting. In the mid-1970s, when the avant-garde jazz scene in L.A. was on life support, Bradford kept it breathing by opening a bare-bones STOREFRONT performance space in Pasadena with the appropriately endangered name LITTLE BIG HORN. The master continues to expound his wisdom as a teacher at both Pomona and Pasadena City Colleges and, as leader of the cheekily named "MO'-TET," continues to twist eardrums at criminally infrequent gigs at LACMA and Café 322 in Sierra Madre.

Robert Lee Bradford, early 1970s
[photo by Mark Weber]

Brainfeeder. Proudly outsider record label founded in 2008 by local rapper/producer FLYING LOTUS that is currently the nexus for the druggy, experimental psychedelic electro-jazz-hop zeitgeist also referred to somewhat cryptically and inadequately as “Beat Music” or even IBM (“Intelligent Beat Music”). Sort of a musical chimera between Leimert Park spirit jazz of HORACE TAPSCOTT, the verbose wordplay of PROJECT BLOWED, the laptop-electronica of DUBLAB, and the space-intelligentsia rap of KOOL KEITH. Its roster of youthful alchemists includes jazz violinist MIGUEL ATWOOD-FERGUSON, late pianist AUSTIN PERALTA, the bassist THUNDERCAT, DJs DAEDELUS and THE GASLAMP KILLER and rapper RAS G.

Brainfreeze. Seminal 2006 meeting of the minds at the El Rey Theater between Palo Alto cut-and-paste wiz DJ SHADOW and Cut Chemist of L.A. psych-rappers DILATED PEOPLES, actually a recreation of a similar show staged in San Francisco in 1999. A modern version of the famous Wardell Gray-Dexter Gordon CENTRAL AVENUE-era jazz duet “The Chase” with much more drugs (or, drugs of a fiercer quality) and 67 different rare-groove samples. The subject of many "I was there!" fish stories.

Braxton, Anthony. Pipe-smoking, Chicago-born hellion know for his difficult scores (which often look like the doodles of deranged children) and the numerous, Quixotic-like indignities he experienced early in his esteemed career -- most of them in Los Angeles. In the early-70's, Braxton’s avant-quartet CIRCLE played three dates at SoCal jazz impresario Howard Rumsey’s Concerts by the Sea in Redondo Beach to twenty people. (Rumsey reportedly told him: "Anthony, I like you, you’re a very nice man, I really respect you but I hate your music. I really don’t want to hear it. I’ll just pay you for the week not to play.") When Circle played a gig at SHELLY'S MANHOLE the next year, the L.A. Times critic LEONARD FEATHER wrote a notoriously vicious review that praised every member of the group except Braxton. After the performance at the Manhole, the band broke up, stranding Braxton and Holland in L.A.-- an affront for which many snerds will never forgive Feather (or L.A.). Nevertheless, Braxton's hella-liberating music -- imagine JOHN CAGE conducting a battle between John Phillip Sousa and Junior "Shotgun" Walker -- was followed obsessively by many younger L.A. improvisers. Saxophonist VINNY GOLIA studied with him in Greenwich Village (for $5 a lesson!) before moving west and even later appropriated his pipe-smoking affectation. Trombonist JOHN RAPSON studied with Braxton at Wesleyan University and later recorded an album with him and BOBBY BRADFORD. Later in the decade, Braxton was invited to play the influential Sunday Concert series at Culver City's CENTURY CITY PLAYHOUSE and to share the bill at the 1982 debut of Golia's LARGE ENSEMBLE at UCLA's Schonenberg Hall. Now in the Reappraisals Department, with many CD reissues -- including the mammoth 8-CD The Complete Arista Recordings -- helping the rest of us to keep up with what we missed the first time around.

Browne, Samuel R. Influential, impeccably credentialed music director for Thomas Jefferson High School (or “JEFF") from 1936 ro 1961 and the first African-American teacher hired by L.A. Unified. Like fellow jazz educators LLOYD REECE, Alma Hightower and Merle Johnston, the USC-educated Browne's rigorous and pioneering tutelage produced entire generations of free-thinking players, who respectfully dubbed him "Count Browne." (Browne was, in turn, the student of the flamboyant William Wilkins, whose school of music was one of the most renowned in Afro L.A.) Among his extended flock were HORACE TAPSCOTT, Ernie Royal, Dexter Gordon (whom Browne frequently put in detention just to make him practice his scales), Chico Hamilton, Lammar Wright, Jackie Kelson, Art Farmer, SONNY CRISS, Frank Morgan, Bill Douglass and Vi Redd. Browne's Harmony, Counterpoint, Music-Reading and Solfeggio classes were the Harvard of public-school music education: He bought in local luminaries like Nat "King" Cole, Stan Kenton, Shelly Manne, William Grant Still and Lionel Hampton for recitals and Master Class talks. Tall and soft-spoken, Browne created a model for jazz educators that remains to this day: He would often visit his students' homes to see that they "were taking care of business" and prepare his band to arrange and compose like they were musical shock troops ("You have to be much better than the guys that go to Hollywood High.").

Sam Browne conducts the Jeff band in Bungalow #11, circa 1940

Bullocks. Conspicuous consumption landmark located at 7th & Hill Streets in downtown is famous in L.A. jazz lore a the brief place of employment for ORNETTE COLEMAN and BOBBY BRADFORD in the early 1950s. (Contrary to many reported accounts, Coleman and Bradford did NOT work at the more famous Bullocks Wilshire in Mid-City.) Makes for interesting snerd daydream of two great, unacknowledged artists having to schlep on the loading dock while wearing the store’s trademark blue aprons, which makes one's own deadening and humiliating day job seem quietly heroic and a mere sidetrack to eventual greatness.

Burk, Greg. Fireplug dean of L.A. unexplainable-music writers. Scribing since 1988 for the LA Weekly and now the website MetalJazz (where you can sample his voluminous archives), Burk, along with KIRK SILSBEE and CHRIS BARTON, continues to play a crucial role in keeping L.A.’s alt-jazz underground in print -- and therefore, alive. Born in Rockwell City, Iowa in 1950, "Burkola" threw his hat in with the '77 L.A. punk gaggle with his band Dred Scott; since then he has been source of innumerable great quotes ("There are no styles anymore, only music") and sensualist, you-are-there live reviews rendered in a sort of muscular Maileresque brio -- only with more self-control. Although his expertise also extends to Heavy Metal, Electronica and Dub, Burk wrote several articles, particularly "The World's Most Dangerous Musicians" (LA Weekly, 7/1/99), that hipped many to a scene that most found too amorphous to even describe, much less even connect the dots that there was any “scene” at all. Appears as a talking head in numerous headbanging documentaries including Satan's Top Forty (2001) and VH1's Heavy: The Story of Metal (2006), where his name was mispelled as 'Greg Burke.' Most recently, Burk wrote the press release for The Veil, the debut album from the raw-noize trio of NELS CLINE, TIM BERNE and Jim Black. Not to be confused with the jazz pianist Greg Burk, who looks nothing like him.

Busdriver (right) with partner-in-crime Nocando

Busdriver. Prickly, prolific, genre-restless rapper (born Regan Jon Farquhar) from the Koreatown section of Mid-City L.A. who specializes, like ACEYALONE, DADDY KEV and Abstract Rude, in the sort of intricate, mathy, word-salad, psychedelia and jazz-influenced hip hop associated with the PROJECT BLOWED collective, of which he was a junior member. (The Village Voice called it “inkblot integer-hop.”) The protypical urbane “brainy” rapper in that he samples CNN and often wears Harry Potter glasses, Farquhar came from a somewhat starred background—his father Ralph penned the screenplay for the 1985 rapsloitation classic Krush Groove and his mother is a choreographer and actress; he went to a countercultural school in the rich-hippie mecca of Sedona, AZ and the American University in Paris for a year in college. Rapping since age 9 (even learning to rhyme over a bluegrass band), Farquhar released his first album at 13 called first group was called 4/29 (named after the 1992 L.A. uprising date, as of its members was Korean) and became a hangabout during the tail end of the GOOD LIFE CAFE open-mic scene. Has name-checked myriad influences from Woody Guthrie and Built To Spill to Public Enemy, bebop jazz, punk rock and jazz singers Jon Hendricks, Eddie Jefferson and King Pleasure – not to mention to local gods like the WATTS PROPHETS, HORACE TAPSCOTT and BILLY HIGGINS. (He practiced his flow and rhyme by rapping over a jazz station.) His output has been equally eclectic, including remixing Radiohead, recording for punk imprint Epitaph, starting the “experimental pop punk” band Physical Forms with Jeff Bryton of avant-rockers the Mae Shi, collaborating with laptop artist DAEDELUS and releasing a spilt EP with Bay Area experimentalists DEERHOOF. Has pared down his “word spew” on latest albums like Roiadkillovercoat and Jhelli Beam (which opens with the line “How exactly did conscious rap fail us?”), but has kept up with his mock-serious proclamations about his “love for Neil Diamond,” exploring the “promotional potential of suicide bombing” or that his own musical universe “looks like L.A. but smells like Pittsburgh.” Has has found himself in the strange position (for a hip-hopper) of being a cranky elder to newer generations of b-boyz, such as his comments on South L.A. shock rapper Tyler, the Creator: “To a lot of people who don’t know rappers or skate dudes, it comes off as shocking…but it doesn’t matter because they’re just another rap group.”