ONE McGARRETT
Not much use against a Chinese agent packing heat. Look elsewhere.
 TWO McGARRETTS
We're getting warm. Not a bad read, but not worth a full APB.
THREE McGARRETTS
The Big Kahuna!
The Free World is safe with this sort of inspired writing.


BOOK ME DANNO
Rock 'n' Roll in Print and on DVD

UNBELIEVABLY BAD Issue 5
The zine that manages to be something to everyone without pissing everybody off (well, just a little sometimes) and you just know that I'm going to say that the Russell Hopkinson Radio Birdman tour diary is worth the price of admission. Plenty of Rusty-ic insights (as someone else observed) that adroitly capture the highs and occasional lows of being on the road with one of rock and roll's most idiosyncratic crews. My tip is that things will get sticky in part two (which covers Europe) with everybody exhibiting cabin fever by then, but who knows. It's a great story, well told.

Is it just me or is this issue going further out on a hardcore/thrash/metal limb? A lot of those contents I don't care for much but it's so well done I'm reading it from cover to cover regardless. One thing to immerse yourself in is the Trent Ruanne (The Mummies) interview - part two of the one that started last issue. This guy has one of the driest senses of humour to ever come across in print. His wit adds to the sense of godhead The Mummies deservedly have to this day.

Don't think I've met Julian Culpan (except under another name online) but I'd buy him a beer for his Lobby Loyde interview. Jules obviously has a sense of Lobby's importance and knows his shit. As for Lobby - you wind him up and let him go in an interview. This is a classic. Editor Danger Coolidge also knows his shit and part two of his Massasppeal interview with Brett Curotta brings things up to date. From this, I can't help feeling Curotta feels a bit boxed in between the diehard fans' demand for the old material and his intention to keep the band moving forward (which is something of a classic dilemma for old bands coming back.)

The usual features "Unbelievably Bad" is known for (the pithy CD and DVD reviews, Rick Chesshire's killer 'toons) are all there and they review more 'zines than I'll ever have time to read. They continue to include a bonus CD (how the fuck do they keep the cover pirce at five bucks?) and it's chockful of the good , the bad and the undeniably ugly. Good to see "U.B." cutting through to retail shops. If you can't find a copy, drop them a line. Good shit, indeed. - The Barman


OPEN UP AND BLEED: IGGY POP - THE BIOGRAPHY By Paul Trynka (Hachette Livre/Sphere)
When it comes to The Stooges and their slightly troubled front man Iggy Pop, attempting to separate myth from reality, contextualize it, understand it, and then shape the whole mess into something that doesn’t make you want to grab a razor blade and run a warm bath after reading it, dances a fine line between brave and foolhardy.

Despite the title, Paul Trynka’s chronicle is as much about The Stooges as it about Iggy, the specter of the Asheton brothers, Dave Alexander, and James Williamson bothering his every step during the 30-plus years since the wheels came off, reunion questions, rumors, and propositions unanswered until a few years back.  And in true Stooges fashion, their first studio album since Hector was a pup, “The Weirdness,” was greeted with a universal “huh?” last month.

Tellingly perhaps, Trynka’s prologue picks up the plot at what is arguably the band’s nadir, the February, 1974 Michigan Palace dust-up which spawned the glorious “Metallic K.O.,” an album chock full of physical and psychological warfare and the sound of Iggy with his finger on the self-destruct button, where it would remain throughout a very dark period in L.A. which made John Lennon’s lost weekend look like a Promise Keepers convention.

Trynka paints a stark picture of what the boy voted “most likely to succeed” in high school had been reduced to; often homeless, drooling, desperate for Quaaludes or heroin, and boasting an arrest record which included impersonating a woman.  He was about as far gone as any muso has ever been, perhaps less concerned with dying than not living.  The fact that he eventually made it back out into the light with most of his grey matter still basicallypreserved goes in part toward my theory that he was dropped off in that Ypsilanti trailer park from another part of the cosmos after being fortified with the Detroit equivalent of Kryptonite.

When he was inevitably institutionalized for the first time after being given an ultimatum by the LAPD, even the head shrinkers’ panties were in a bunch trying to diagnosis him, eventually settling on hypomania, a disorder on the bipolar side of the chart characterized by wide swings between euphoria, irrationality, and depression.  Copious drug intake and the daily grind of hopping on and off the Iggy and Jim Osterberg treadmills is a lot of pressure for even someone with Iggy’s constitution to weather.

“Open Up and Bleed” is a wellspring of Iggy/Stooges minutia, much of which even a life-long Detroiter like yours truly hadn’t heard or read before, like the five-stitch cut on Iggy’s chin suffered during the photo sessions for “The Stooges” album cover which had to be airbrushed out or the audition arranged as singer for Kiss he never bothered to show up for.  Imagine…

Despite an unnecessary maligning of “Happy Man” as the worst thing Iggy’s ever recorded (surely most of “Avenue B” trumps it), Trynka delivers most everything you’d ever want in a sozzled Murder City saga; druggy madness, over-amplified, dirt-under-your-fingernails rawk, and a happy ending (Stooges reunion and a girlfriend with boobs as big as his head, natch!).

Talk about your American dream. - Clark Paull


The last word in Iggy biographies had to be written one day but I can't see anyone topping this, nor there being much more to say. This is the best, bar none and what's more, a good third of it focuses heavily on the Stooges.

There are a handful of competitors, most of them out of print or not worth worrying about. There's a Virgin-imprinted picture book that's just plain incorrect. Per Nilsen's thin but worthy effort "The Wild One: The True Story of Iggy Pop" is long unavailable and due for an upgrade. Richard Adams' "The Complete Iggy Pop" is a good read but also a step from an exhaustive discography that manages to find worth in even "Party". Joe Ambrose's lamentable "Gimme Danger" is obsessed with whether Ig and Bowie were backdoor men batting for the same team (a theme it revisits, snidely at times, over and over). Mick Rock's Stoogebook is a photo album. Iggy's own "I Need More" is hilarious, but no-one (least of all him) has really examined what makes the Pop tick. Until now.

Here's a story about a smart lower middle-class Midwestern kid at war with his father (read: authority) who's desperate to be accepted by society's upper ranks. Who decides he's going to make it - in something - and brings to bear the sort of singular self-mindedness that'd do a Fortune 500 B.S.D. (Big Swinging Dick) proud. Who's who's constantly refereeing a battle between himself (Jim) and his healthy ego's creation (Iggy). Throw in some gore and more mind/mood-altering chemicals than a peer-reviewed medical journal could document in a lifetime of papers, and you have a rollicking tale that's rarely been told with detail, feeling and (as far as I can tell) accuracy. Paul Trynka's a terrific writer - and there's the additional rub in contrast to all that's gone before.

There's the occasional slip. For example, Rob Tyner uttered those immortal words "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers", not Brother JC Crawford, but for a writer walking the tightrope between pedantic fans, a well-known subject and editors that often don't have a clue, he does pretty well. As a veteran Ig observer (he's been an editor and feature writer for the essential middle-aged rock and roll fan's bible, Mojo, for longer than I can recall), Trynka's not short of an opinion and can uncover new facts. Bet you didn't know Don Gallujci being walked through Ron Asheton's collection of Nazi memorabilia had more to do with the boys being dropped from Elektra than any perceived lack of new tunes? Or Pete Marshall from Iggy's '90s solo bands was in the slot to fill the bass spot in the reunited Stooges? or that Ig's German squeeze Esther Friedmann was his significant other for close to a decade (notwithstanding a constant parade of groupies)? There's plenty more where that came from, plus some revealing personal encounters and third party anecdotes.

One that's hitherto unheard is a run-in with voodoo in a nightmare two-month holiday in Haiti, when Iggy violated a witch doctor's ceremony and copped a curse for his troubles, After nearly making the holiday a fatal one to remember, Esther drags an unhinged Pop onto a plane before our favorite well-mannered boy falls over some dark brink. There's some speculating about Jim's mental faculties at the time that have only been hinted at by the man himself in interviews before now, but it's a judgement not lightly made and based on corroboration.

The Stooges stories are laid out in all their gory and glory. If you didn't believe the post-"Raw Power" criss-crossing of the USA were anything but a grimy, soul-destroying, self-destructive existence, Trynka's narrative will change your mind. There's nothing romantic about the decline of the Stooges apart from some defiance and diminishing hope in the face of the odds (but at least it's a story that has a happy ending - 30 years later.) All the blood and drugs and degradation are there, but Trynka manages to steer clear of sensationalism and tell it like it apparently was.

Trynka's done his (and everyone else's) homework with an exhaustive series of interviews with Iggy and other players over a period of years. He also backs up his interpretations via detailed supplementary notes without getting all scholarly on us. And yes, he does, er, probe "The Ambrose Question" but instead of insinuating and sniping, goes straight to Angie Bowie who, although no friend of her ex-husband or Iggy, answers in the negative. She should know, I suppose.

This isn't an authorised biography but the Pop and his management did co-operate with Iggy going as far as giving access to his psychiatrist, Dr Murray Zucker, the man in the white coat who helped pull his psyche back from the netherworld when His Igness was down and out in a post-Stooges Kill City.

If you've questioned the up and down nature of Iggy's solo career, Trynka puts a blunt reason forward: Coke. Record label shenaningans to one side, it's a credible theory and not one we've had in the ear before in such a pointed way. Pop's pretty much the man who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, album after album, and the author dispassionately charts the way his subject eventually played by some form of the rules to re-establish his career.

Some unseen pictures fill out the 450 pages in fine style. There's also a behind-the-scenes blog by the author for those who decide I Need More. If you, like me, thought too many people had been to the well too often to make an Iggy bio worthwhile, think again. This is recommended without hesitation. - The Barman


AC/DC: MAXIMUM ROCK & ROLL: THE ULTIMATE STORY OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST ROCK AND ROLL BAND (Harper Collins)
By Murray Engleheart and Arnaud Durieux

I'm not a flag carrier for Acca Dacca but am the first to acknowledge their impact and mammoth global fanbase. At last count there were seven biographies of the band doing the rounds and just about every second American I know namechecks them as Australia's best-known musical export. Things could be worse - they could be citing Men at Work.

But returning to the subject at hand - biographies - and you can draw a line under the topic with this 496-page epic. It's the last word in Acca Dacca books and comfortably puts a couple of other recent efforts that I've browsed well in the shade.

It's all in the detail. The authors are clearly fans but have crafted a comprehensive history of AC/DC in a measured way that doesn't get bogged down in over-the-top adulation. The focus is rightly on the band's formative years and the story's told with a deft touch and a sense of colourful irreverence. There's loads of quotes - as Sydney's leading street press scribe, Murray Engleheart's interviewed the Youngs often enough - and an awful lot of published sources have been trawled and acknowledged. It's called doing the homework.

Musically, the smart guys know that it's all in the riddim', and you have to give AC/DC their dues - the bottom end is killer but it's tied to Malcolm Young's staggeringly solid chording. That's it's boogie and 12-bar blues is beside the point. The Youngs never tried to be innovative, just be the best at what they did. The authors know this and it's acknowledged.

The curious thing is how the surviving band members dealt with Bon Scott's death so quickly and moved on to greater heights. That they installed a new singer, recorded a new album ("Back in Black") and cracked the American market in short order was incredible. Losing your singer would have killed most bands stone dead. (Could you imagine a Jaggerless Stones?) I would have liked more insights on how the Seedies dealt with Scott's passing, a pivotal event in the band's career. Were they driven by cold business economics or their belief that Bon would have wanted them to keep going? On the subject of his demise, there's enough circumstantial evidence to suggest casual heroin use may have been a factor. The facts are calmly laid out, and the readers can draw their own conclusion.

A striking aspect is how sane Bon Scott's replacement, Brian Johnston, appears. You have to give him his dues - stepping into Bon's shoes (or footprints - he performed barefoot) was a big call. There's not a negative word to be said in the book against the guy and by all accounts he's still as unaffected as ever.

The narrative tails away after "Back in Black" and that's probably down the band losing its resident hellraiser and the always private Youngs drawing an even heavier veil on their lives offstage. While some may hanker after Engleheart and Duriex to dish the dirt, the fact is that there probably isn't any, Angus' disputes with neighbours over his renovations on his Dutch pile notwithstanding.

A consummate rock read even if, like me, you're not right into the band. - The Barman


BAD BRAINS LIVE AT CBGB 1982 (MRA Entertainment)
Bad Brains are the Jekyll and Hyde of hardcore. Jazz and prog rock roots apart, their stock-in-trade was (and undoubtedly still is) a fast and furious punk attack that switches to mellowed-out reggae quicker than you can say Haile Selassie, let alone spell it. Singer HR is, by all accounts, as mad as a cut snake and the band's had more break ups than Paul Hogan'shad botox shots. AOR fodder, they ain't.

Culled from a three-date stand at New York City punk rock Mecca/toilet CBGB in 1982, this DVD probably captures Bad Brains at their most intense. There's a brief scene-setting shot outside the club which gives way to a crowd shot, filmed from side stage. Fittingly, for hardcore - which has always made the loudest claims about breaking down boundaries between performers and punters - HR makes his way out of the audience onto the stage. And the 19-song barrage begins.

At times, there's as much to watch off-stage as on with the CB's patrons throwing themselves all around the place during the fast ones before skanking away and giving it up for Jah when a reggae curveball's thrown their way. At one stage, the singer holds up a set of keys he's found on the stage. Twenty-five years later, I'm wondering if the bloke who lost them (there evidently weren't many girls at this show) got 'em back or had to fork out 40 bucks to have new ones cut like i did, after the Barmaid went swimming wearing boardshorts.

The audience comes in all shade and variety of male, with suburban air guitarists mixing it with shaven-headed studded collar-wearers. And they all get physical. Me, I find it tiresome when some show-off with a Mohawk gets up and tries to share the band's space (like in "Riot Squad"), but the band barely bats a herb-affected eyelid. No problemo when the house's lighting system blows a fuse either. They just plough on. Speaking of herb, how do guys notoriously zonked out on some of Jamaica's finest sacrament manage to explode like atomic bombs song after song? Your own results may vary significantly if you try it at home.

HR's free-wheeling and highly diverse vocalising to one side, Oscars for starring supporting roles must go to guitarist Dr Know and drummer Earl Hudson, the backbone of these performances. Dr Know's tone when he unwraps what passes for a solo is extraordinary.

The camera work is limited but surprisingly good considering the chaos that's breaking out all around and the sound only occasionally veers off into the ordinary. Pity one of those time is when the Brains play their "hit", "Pay To Cum", but that's life. Bonus features are some brief fan interviews who variously have turned to Brad Brains for a weight loss cure or an energy outlet. There's also a girl in a paster cast who thinks having her arm run over by a motorbike is fun. There's also audio of the DVD, calling itself "I and I Survive".

Trivia time: Opening acts for at least one of the shows from which the DVD is taken were Minor Threat and the original Beastie Boys, then known as The Young and the Useless.

I've found most hardcore a self-limiting cul-de-sac but here's proof that it doesn't always have to be. Now watch this all the way without getting motion sick. - The Barman


HUSKER DU LIVE FROM THE CAMDEN PALACE (MRA Entertainment)
I gotta right to enjoy this. Back in the years B.I. (Before iPods) I spent a six-week holiday flying around the USA with a Walkman and a handful of Ramones and Husker Du tapes. It was around the time of "Candy Apple Grey" and the Huskers were either major label sell-outs or champions of taking punk rock to a wider audience. I like to think of them as the latter, even ifthey never truly broke through.

This is a staggering November 1984 performance by a band on its way somewhere. Previously available on video, it's scrubbed up well in the digital transfer process, both visually and sonically speaking. The bulk of the songs are taken from the first three albums ("Everything Falls Apart", "Zen Arcade" and - mostly - "New Day Rising"). "Flip Your Wig" was not yet in the can. Warners were just a vague presence on the horizon and were yet to whip out their chequebook. The band was in not so swinging London for a one-off show.

If you didn't know, Husker Du had that rare knack of welding melody to power and delivering the package at breakneck speed. Possessing two on-the-money songwriter/singers in guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart, they covered the bases from folk to psych and back via soulful punk rock (and roll) with energy and grace.

This small-ish audience didn't deserve them, feeding back barely enough energy to light a single-burner gas barbecue on a total fire ban day. The joint's only half-full so Bob Mould half-focuses a half-lidded gaze on the half-appreciative audience - and gives it 200 percent. Handlebar moustache-assisted bassist Greg Norton throws himself around relentlessly - wearing spring-loaded shoes that Krist Novolselic must have inherited a few years on - and surely was the guy that made this band sound so different with his high-=register, furiously finger-picked basslines. The evidence is right here, on songs like "Terms of Psychic Warfare". The restaurant industry's gain is punk rock's loss (which is to say he runs an up-market eatery in Minnesota these days.)

There's a surprise cover late in the set of the Mop Tops' "Ticket To Ride" that I suppose was slipped in as homage to the country they were visiting. Nice touch but it's soon swamped by a triple-blow closing sequence ("Recurring Dreams", "Eight Miles High" and "Love Is All Around" - the Mary Tyler Moore TV theme, not the Troggs tune) that gives Mould a chance to show off his solo chops.

No bonuses on this one unless you count the cheesy intro sequence (this is from a Brit TV broadcast in '85) but the hour of brutally great music should tide you over. - The Barman


TUNNEL VISION – Hoodoo Gurus (EMI)
The “Be My Guru” documentary which comprises the second half of this exhaustive two-disc package makes much of Dave Faulkner’s itch to preserve the band’s legacy by writing songs that are timeless, mean something to himself and the listener, and flat-out rock.

Mission accomplished.

As goes Faulkner’s scalp, so go the fortunes of the Hoodoo Gurus; the early hit-happy years marked first by a fright-wig, then a long drape, and finally, as the singles began to taper, so did his hairline.  As if I’ve any room to talk.

Given the current condition of the mainstream music biz, the fact these guys were even on a major label beggars belief.  Seems like no one knew where the Gurus were supposed to hang their hats in the U.S., the band compartmentalized as “college rock” (still haven’t figured that one out) and generally viewed as denizens of the Paisley Underground (see Rhino’s “Children of Nuggets” box).  Regardless of how much hand wringing the suits at their record label or radio programmers engaged in, they simply got on with it, guitarist Brad Shepherd climbing aboard to replace Kimble Rendall and sending the band’s fortunes and sonics into overdrive and leaving the detritus for someone else to sort out.

The logical point of ingress for us Yanks would seem to be their first U.S. single “I Want You Back,” but this scribe’s introduction came via that soaring opening riff off “Stoneage Romeos” last track “I Was a Kamikaze Pilot,” first heard in the back of my friend’s Chevy van on the way to a Mitch Ryder gig on the east side. Save your assbackwards quips for later…

I got a bellyful of music videos long about 1983 and while it’s lamentable that in 2007 they’re a necessary evil of something as simple and pure as being in a rock and roll band, the music itself here almost makes you forget you’re watching 30 of the damn things on Disc 1 alone, from the cheesy stop-action toy dinosaurs in “I Want You Back” to the quite slickly scripted “When You Get to California.”  Add in sixteen live clips from Sydney, New York, The Big Day Out, and a town which still reeks of patchouli oil 40 years on from the Summer of Love (Ann Arbor, Michigan), and you’d be hard pressed to find a better way to veg out on the couch on a snowy Sunday afternoon and kill a six-pack of Stroh’s.

The aforementioned “Be My Guru” on Disc 2 is rammed full of testimonials from a small army who, as greasy, long-haired teenagers, were inspired by the Hoodoo Gurus to don pointy boots, fringed suede jackets, and paisley shirts and hole up in garages all over Australia and bash out their own legacy via two and three-minute blasts of immediacy, confirming what I’ve suspected all along; the band are be a straight-up Aussie national treasure, not to mention about the most unaffected group of musos that’s ever roamed the planet.
- Clark Paull


THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT (Pioneer)
RUDE BOY (Legacy/Columbia)
Although probably unintentional on the part of whoever decided to pair “Rude Boy” with “The Kids Are Alright” for a Friday night showing at Grosse Pointe, Michigan’s Punch & Judy Theater back in the early 80’s, it was a brilliant discourse on cross-generational myth-making nonetheless, the punks having elbowed Pete Townshend’s generation aside a half decade earlier, the music biz grasped firmly by the short hairs with absolutely no clue what to do next.  Symbolism no doubt lost on most in attendance, however, judging from the thick haze of pot smoke above.

Now, through the magic of digital technology, I’m able to recreate that evening – minus the contact buzz - without leaving my bunker or even remaining upright for that matter, remote, six-pack of Canadian beer on ice and a box of Slim Jims within reach at all times.
 
“The Kids Are Alright,” originally released in 1979, is the culmination of uber-Who fan Jeff Stein’s seven-year odyssey of collecting, mooching, and five-finger discounting footage of a band comprised of four guys - all of whom wanted to play lead - behaving badly, swearing loudly, and standing to salute with one finger up their nose.  Despite my endless proselytizing in this forum about the likes of The New York Dolls, The Ramones, and The Stooges, The Who, in their prime, were the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band to ever draw air and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.  Offer void to Rose Tattoo fans.

With his very first film, the neophyte Stein manages to set the bar by which all music documentaries should be measured, a cohesive and exciting integration of interviews, early promos, television clips, and passionate, bare-fisted live footage of The Who ripping huge chunks out of the scenery, chips on their shoulders, fighting and fucking anything in sight, and trampling everything – their audience, their songs, even themselves – into submission.
 
The carnage left in the wake of their appearance on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” insured it would be their only appearance on a U.S. variety show, the band going off script with a post lip-synched “My Generation” detonation of a triple-packed charge concealed inside Keith Moon’s bass drum which left Townshend with hair ablaze and completely deaf for 20 minutes.  Their live U.S. debut at the Monterey Pop Festival ends with the ritual destruction of equipment, leaves the hippies wondering what happened to peace and love, and contrary to popular opinion, makes Jimi Hendrix’s flaming guitar sacrifice look like a cub scout marshmallow roast.

The veritable turd in the punchbowl, their wide-eyed performance of “A Quick One, While He’s Away” from the Rolling Stones’ “Rock & Roll Circus” veers wildly between power pop, operatic harmonies, country and western, and vaudeville, Moon’s flailing simply too fast for conventional cameras to capture at normal speed.  And has there ever been a better way to greet a new sunrise than the Woodstock set, the stage fading to black, Townshend’s SG still ringing feedback?  “Ladies and gentlemen, The Who…”

Amongst the decimation, Stein manages to chart the band’s origins, debunks a myth or two, and attempts to place them within some sort of musical and social context, which was probably harder work than tracking down all of the celluloid.  Townshend’s a genius as far as I’m concerned but much of his legacy, like “Quadrophenia” for starters, is complicated.  Sometimes it’s best to just sit back and let the music (and pictures) do the talking.

In the end, though, Stein wasn’t content with the footage he’d unearthed of two key Who tracks, “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and he managed to coerce the band into a secret gig at Shepperton Studios which resulted in what might very well be the Valhalla of concert cinematics, beautifully lit and shot, both songs brimming with anger, frustration, and tension.  If, as it is alleged, this was The Who firing on only three cylinders, perhaps a steady diet of brandy and late-night carousing should be mandatory for all drummers.

There’s a second disc here loaded with bonuses like interviews with Roger Daltrey and Stein, a film restoration documentary, an isolated John Entwistle audio track, some unreleased footage, and a mesmerizingly annotated 32-page booklet, but it’s all merely window dressing compared to the main event.
 
If there’s any consolation to Townshend about being usurped by the Year Zero brigade, it may lie in his spiritual and sonic influence on groups like The Clash, none of whose members have ever had much good to say about “Rude Boy,” the part fiction/part documentary/part performance film, now finally available digitally over here in the U.S., in which they had little input until it came time to help Bill Price salvage the soundtrack.
 
What passes for a plot revolves loosely around the hiring of Ray Gange, playing himself, as a roadie for the 1978 “Sort It Out” tour.  Gange, whose life is frequently hazed by a heavy alcohol intake, apparently has nothing better to do between shifts at a porn shop than having sex in toilet stalls, waiting for his dole check to arrive in the post, and hanging out with the band and his vertically-challenged skinhead mate.  Most of the dialogue would benefit from subtitles unless you’re able to cut through the heavy Pom accents - made even more impenetrable by the effects of fermented malted grains - or translate “jack the lad,” “down the nick,” or “stroppy wankers.”  I haven’t a clue.

There’s an undercurrent of social commentary at work here on the parts of directors David Mingay and Jack Hazan that I don’t even have a prayer of trying to convey, having slept through political science, economics AND social studies in high school.  Many of the exterior shots from in and around a pre-Thatcher London are perpetually shrouded in gray and depict skirmishes between police in riot gear, the National Front, and uh, the anti-National Front (see what I mean?), abandoned council flats tagged with racist graffiti, and a malaise which hangs over the proceedings like a funeral shroud.

With The Clash’s name appearing above the title, though, most won’t come here for either a message or character development.  Gange, on film and reportedly in real life, spirals downward, drowning in a sea of tipple and stumbling through several scenes so seedy that you’re tempted to start shooting up.  There’s no doubt he has a knack, but I’m not sure if it’s for acting or vomiting.

Actually, that’s entirely unfair.  Admittedly no actor, Gange had the role presented to him by Mingay and his acceptance was based more on a chance to get close to his favorite band than any utopian vision of film stardom.  The bonus interview footage reveals a bright, cerebral guy who saw his payment from the producers as a way out of the country and his performance exudes such a natural and understated sense of scruffy charisma that it’s easy to forget he’s in character.  Although barely conscious through most of the first two reels, it’s hard to not to love Gange, in a drooling-floppy-eared-dog-that-perpetually-humps-your-leg-as-soon-as-you-get-in-the-door way.

Any notions that the band many feel to be the best of its generation was living a life filled with limousines, five-star hotels, champagne and groupies on ice in the dressing room, and nights of glory under the bright lights are scotched early on as they stagger from one spartan accommodation to the next, crammed into small cars alongside their gear, road manager Johnny Green practically bartering his soul in exchange for replacement equipment, and Joe Strummer acting as his own wardrobe manager, washing his Brigade Rossi t-shirt in a hotel sink.      
 
Since the camera crew wasn’t cheek-by-jowl with the band 24 hours a day, they were asked to re-enact and/or improvise certain key scenes from which their legend has grown for the sake of substance and continuity, including the arrests of Paul Simonon and Topper Headon for pigeon sniping from atop their rehearsal space which formed the inspiration for “Guns on the Roof,” and the Glasgow Apollo dogfight between bouncers and fans which landed Simonon and Strummer in the chokey.
 
Despite revelations that “Rude Boy” may not have been filmed as close to “as it happened” as originally represented, there’s plenty here to recommend it, such as (and you had to see this coming) the concert scenes, which are the picture of spontaneity, abandon, and chest-thumping bravado, The Clash lining ‘em up and knocking ‘em down with little or no regard for their or their crew’s physical well being, wedged onto postage stamp-sized stages and in many instances, sharing them with their audience.  For Strummer, the guitar was less a musical instrument than a stage prop, but Simonon, Headon, and Mick Jones show no compunction about wielding and rattling theirs like sabres.

The BBC clips of “Clash City Rockers” and “Tommy Gun” are contemptuous and white hot, the band brazenly throwing down a gauntlet on enemy turf and stepping over it on their way out the door.  The interviews of Hazan and Mingay shed a little light on just what the hell they were trying to accomplish with this project and Green still seems woozy, nay intoxicated, by it all some 25 years later.  He oughta write a book.  Wait, he already did?  Never mind.

If you’re looking for an ending that ties things up into a neat, tidy package, though, look away now because quite frankly, it doesn’t exist, “Rude Boy” coming full stop with questions unanswered, conflicts unresolved, and anthems unwritten.
 
Just like The Clash. - Clark Paull
 
- The Kids Are Alright
  
2/3 - Rude Boy


UNKNOWN PASSAGE: THE DEAD MOON STORY (Magic Umbrella)
Although (the recently retired) Dead Moon have been rarely referred to or reviewed here at the i94 Bar, so it's high time that changed. As someone who saw the band on each of their four Australian tours since 1996, I was rapt to grab a copy of this. "Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story" is the DVD version of the documentary that screened at selected film festivals. Its hour-and-a-half documents the life and times of this Clackamas, Oregon, band led by former Lords/Deep Soul Cole/Weeds/Lollipop Shoppe/Zipper/Rats/Western Front/Range Rats vocalist/guitarist Fred Cole. The ranks included both former Rats/Western Front/Range Rats bassist and wife of Fred, Toody Cole, and former Boy Wonders drummer Andrew Loomis.

The documentary introduces each of the members and outlines the formation of the band - with special attention paid to the early career of Fred Cole. His incredible past makes essential viewing as his is one of the truly unsung and memorable stories that shall ever be told in underground rock. It's all done in quite reverrential and caring fashion. We also get a look at the extraordinary life and times on the road for the band, where they have some incredible times and meet some wonderful personalities on their European and domestic US tours.

"Unknown Passage" includes an additional 90 minutes of extras - various archival footage, live performances, interview out-takes with band members and alumni - which were probably intended for inclusion in the documentary before it needed to be trimmed down. There's also a brief interview with Australian promoter Jeff Halls and the late, great GOD/Bored!/Powdermonkeys bassist/vocalist Tim Hemensley. It's curious that there's no reference to Dead Moon's (brief) appearance in the movie "Hype", which documented the Seattle grunge scene. Your guess is as good as mine.

"Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story" is absolutely essential viewing for those aware of "the world's greatest garage band" as well as those who haven't encountered the grim, cold hard truth of music, where being a rock-n-roller is not just some walk in the park. - Simon Li

 

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