Monday, January 28, 2013

Iggy's Video Debut? Whatever, Wears Rational Tee and Whiteface in Nico Vid

Ig in whiteface and tee. Video debut?

Ig without whiteface in tee
You know the story about Iggy Pop and Nico and alla that, recounted so well in his book I Need More. Check out the video he made with her in a southeastern Michigan corn field, him in mime makeup and his now-classic Rational tee, sans the ‘s’. And no, you can’t package and sell cred, no matter how hard you try. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dick Wagner's Own Tommy John Surgery, Comeback Player of the Year

Lou, busy being upstaged by Wagner
In January 2012 I flew to Phoenix to meet with Dick Wagner, the man who schooled a legion of guitarists with his licks on a massive piece of frettery, the intro to “Sweet Jane” on Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal lp. Over and over, a teenaged me listened to Dick dueling with Steve Hunter before they kicked into the verse, Lou walking onstage to what was probably studio-added applause.  
Four years before my trip to Phoenix, Dick had suffered a stroke and a heart attack that left him a teetering man who looked much older than his 68 years. I was interviewing him for my book, Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Five Decades of Rock ‘n Roll in America’s Loudest City, which will begin hitting stores in May.
He was clearly struggling as we sat and talked, sometimes drifting off to a light sleep, other times trying to find words for experiences he knew so well, but could just not communicate. I felt badly for him, as it was clear he was a kind man who wanted to be part of this book and was frustrated by his frail condition. I wondered how long he would hang on as I helped him to his car that day.
He hung on and then some, today making appearances for his book, Not Only Women Bleed: Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician and playing the guitar as well as he ever did. He’s like the Tommy John of rock, given that it was a diagnosis and the proper treatment that brought him back.
ABC last week did an excellent feature on Dick’s comeback, certainly worth checking out. He's touring in Europe and scheduled to be in his home region of the Midwest in June after doing some recording in Texas in February. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Excellent Look in 1975 at Detroit’s Dying Concert Scene

 I was looking at this story and photo of the Cobo Hall marquee from 1975. Damn, that’s an impressive roster of bands coming down the line in November. I saw the Roxy Music show, Styx and Angel the unlikely openers. The story laments the passing of an era, one in which out of town bands dwarfed the locals, a switch from the previous decade, when visitors would be blown off the stage by Detroit’s wrecking crews. Cream? Fuck ‘em, we’ve got the MC5. Alice Cooper? Got so into the Detroit bands it was seeing on its never ending early tours that the band moved to a house on Brown Road in Pontiac and wrote Love It To Death and some songs for Killer.
This story ran as the Michigan Palace was about to close and Ford Auditorium, which had hosted everyone from the Stooges to Deep Purple in the preceding few years, was also on the way out.
The biggest things with a Detroit name attached were Bob Seger and Ted Nugent, who were both in the process of being all sold out. There was no more seedy, hungry, lean bands making music because it felt good. That would have to wait for another five years, when punk rock hit the city. Along the way, The Romantics put some power in pop and came out with a couple Detroit-vibed singles, “Little White Lies” and  “Tell it To Carrie.” The band’s debut album hit #61 on the charts in 1980. It was Detroit’s success story.
But back to the 1975 story; It’s a well-written, well reported story by Frank Bach, who was also vocalist in The Up, one more Detroit band of the Grande Ballroom era.  While the story is brief, it describes the last leg of concert rock in Detroit, before megacorporations took over the radio and the booking. And the Ann Arbor Sun? The paper founded in 1967 by John Sinclair had another year left. Everything has a beginning and an end.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In Cleveland, The Land of Sowell, a Letter to a Street Criminal

 In the book, Nobody’s Women: The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Serial Killer, I write extensively of the pervasive influence of crack in the inner-city in which Sowell murdered and stashed 11 women in and around his home on Imperial Avenue.
From Nobody’s Women:
Crack is heavily addictive because of the speed with which is reaches the brain. Although people who snort cocaine get high, it takes some time for the drug to hit the pleasure center, as it’s absorbed through the nasal membranes. The lungs, however, have a ready connection to the bloodstream. The rush creates the motivation to repeat the ingestion. Over and over.
“It’s like once you smoke it, it’s like a big rush, and it doesn’t last but five seconds,” says Dawnetta Cassidy, who hung out in the Imperial neighborhood over the years. “And that’s why everybody likes it. It’s the drug that makes you run back and forth. You just don’t get up and leave. You gotta have the next hit.”
The Imperial neighborhood was riddled with the drug in 1990, when Sowell was sent to prison, but it was an epidemic by the time he was released, in 2005.
But in 1985, after his discharge from the Marines, Sowell, who loved his booze and weed, would find almost everyone he ran into smoking crack on these streets. It was an amazing change for him; the very Euclid Avenue that he used to walk to school on was now a hotbed of drug sellers. And with those vendors came women willing to do anything to obtain crack.
Here is a 2007 letter written by Cleveland City Councilman Michael Polensek to a teenaged Arsenio Winston, who had recently been busted for selling crack in Polensek’s district at a location about 9 miles from Sowell's home.  
The letter reads, in part:
       As Councilman representing Cleveland's 11th Ward, I have been notified once again that you have been arrested for dealing drugs in my ward, this time at the Convenient Food Mart located at 18506 St Clair Avenue in the parking lot. 
      Mr. Winston, you have to be "dumber than mud." Don't you know that one of your so-called "friends" from the "8th-Avenue gang" ratted your "ass" out that you were dealing drugs from the parking lot? They cut a deal. So much for your wonderful pals, you idiot. I am so glad that you are now 18 years of age, because now you are an adult and can no longer hide behind the juvenile court system, Mr. Quarterback, loser. Remember when you told me to "kiss your black ass" at R.J. Taylor Playground and that you were going to be an NFL Quarterback? Well, the NFL, despite perceptions, is "not for losers!"
       In closing, I told you just recently to stay out of my neighborhood, you crack dealing piece of trash. Yet, you keep coming back because you think you are a big man. Well, real men go to school or to work every day and take care of their family, and not through illegal drug activity. You are a "thug" and you know what? There are only two places you will end up at the rate you are going — that is, prison or the nearest funeral home. Quite frankly, I don't care which one you get to first as long as your dumb stupid ass is out of my neighborhood.
       Have a wonderful life, Arsenio. I'm sure you have made your mother real proud. Remember when I spoke to her one of the other times that you were arrested for assaulting a police officer on East 185th Street? Only a moron would do that. Your fate is totally in your hands; which, is a scary thought.
      It is a scary thought. Winston was arrested several more times over the next two years, including a robbery charge, kidnapping and another trafficking rap. He’s now 24 years old and in prison, serving 8 years.  In 2008, while he racked up the charges, he was in and out of jail until a judge finally realized that Winston was truly a menace to society.
This is a case of how system works effectively. Polensek’s letter of course had no effect. But it’s sure nice in the rear view mirror to see a common sense, frustrated response such as Polensek's to Winston's pending frittered future. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Box Tops in East Lansing, Michigan, 1968

The Box Tops at Grandmothers, East Lansing, Mich. 1968. Recognize these autographs? I was 10 years old and have no idea what I was doing at a matinee show at this place. What I remember: They did “The Letter” and “Cry Like a Baby.” Keyboardist Rick Allen was really drunk that day and sat at a table after the show near the front of the place. Tom Boggs was the drummer, and he was kind enough to personalize the autograph. Gary was Gary Talley, the guitarist. And there's the signature of Alex Chilton, 17 years old. He would turn 18 in December, and I’m sure this was either fall or summer. I missed getting the autograph of Bill Cunningham for some reason.
I was what was referred to painfully at my elementary school as a “prof’s kid,” or the offspring of a professor at Michigan State University. I say painfully because our folks were consumed with work, which gave us free reign to run around the town and wreak havoc, which had few bounds even for 10 year olds. We egged houses, toilet papered yards, stole shit, had dirt clod fights and were chased by the cops a lot. We also hung around the university kids, copped their tossed skin mags from Dumpsters and went to the cool records stores in East Lansing. In addition to catching the Box Tops, I also recall seeing Frank Zappa and the Mothers play in an open area on campus, and an MC5 soundcheck at a little building in a park called Valley Court. It was good to love rock and roll as a pre adolescent, setting the stage for mayhem inside.