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
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.
[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 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.
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.
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.”