Sunday, April 29, 2018

Obituary - Mike Hudson

On Friday 27 October 2017, Mike Hudson, author, journalist and most notably, vocalist of THE PAGANS, passed away at his Los Angeles home, due to sepsis from a recently lacerated bowel. He was aged 61.
Hudson was born in Collinwood, Ohio before moving at an early age to Wickliffe, Ohio, about 30 minutes from Cleveland. He quit school in his sophomore year and hitched around the country, but always returned to Cleveland. Along with his brother, Brian, he acquired an extensive juvenile record, ranging from underage drinking, pot possession, carrying a weapon and assaulting a police officer.
In 1974, along with Brian on drums and himself on guitar, he formed the garage rock band, MAD STAGGERS, which mutated into VENUS IN FURS and then THE PAWNS. Come 1977, they added vocalist Robert Conn and formed the band that Hudson would become most infamous for - THE PAGANS. A single ‘Six Of Change’ was issued before Hudson took over vocal duties in 1978, with Mike Metoff joining on guitar. What followed were three classic singles - ‘Street Where Nobody Lives’, ‘Dead End America’ and ‘Not Now No Way’ before the band split up in 1979 after a failed album session.
The split didn’t last long however as in 1982, Hudson and Metoff reunited to start Terminal Records and form LES RAVING SOUNDS which morphed into a new line-up of THE PAGANS. After releasing what became known as ‘The Pink Album’, the band split-up, once again, the following year.
1986 saw another line-up, resulting in the live ‘The Godlike Power Of The Pagans Live’ in 1987. This line-up split in 1989, although numerous recordings have appeared on compilations.
The 90s became a bit of a lost decade for Hudson musically. He played briefly with GG ALLIN AND THE MURDER JUNKIES and recorded his solo album, ‘Unmedicated’, which remained unreleased until 2006. He also sang for THE HIGHROLLERS and the avant-garde band THE STYRENES.
In 1991, his brother Brian died. At this stage, Hudson, who had always been a heavy drinker, hit the bottle harder than ever. He moved to New York in a state of depression, but got a job at the Irish Echo. It was also here, in the East Village along with DEAD BOYS’ Cheetah Chrome, where the ‘Unmedicated’ tracks were recorded.
2011 saw him reform THE PAGANS again, this time as a legacy band and toured Europe and America, with an offer of Japan arriving just before his passing.
Besides THE PAGANS, Hudson had a career as a journalist having worked as
editor for the Cleveland Sun, crime reporter at the Corry Evening Journal, and literary critic at the Irish Echo. Further work appeared in Rolling Stone, Hustler, and the New York Post among others.
In 1998, a move to Niagara Falls marked what he would be most remembered for in journalistic terms. After scoring a reporting job at the Niagara Gazette, he was fired in 2000 for, allegedly, arriving drunk - which he disputed. So, in true DIY spirit, he created the Niagara Falls Reporter. He remained editor-in-chief through to 2012 when he sold his shares to move to Los Angeles.
His journalistic style was hard-hitting - the term muckraking has even been used. It was this hard-hitting style that resulted in him receiving a beating by three members of a local labour union.
He was also a noted author, having written six books including the biography of THE PAGANS, Diary Of A Punk.
In 2004, his son Ritchie died, leading to a further alcohol dependency.
In 2005, he was hospitalised and given last rites. He survived but after only a few months of sobriety, he returned to the bottle. 2007 saw him in hospital again, this time with liver failure - and was again given last rites.
In Los Angeles, he spent his time writing articles, books and songs and got heavily involved in a dog rescue programme.
In 2016, he made it back to Cleveland to do one final PAGANS show.
On the afternoon of 26 October, and following intense abdominal pain, he was admitted to the emergency room of a local hospital. A physician reportedly told him he needed immediate surgery or death would ensue from sepsis, plus he appeared to have advanced colon cancer. Even if the operation were successful, he was told he might have only two months to live.
Mike declined surgery, saying he did not want to die on the operating table, and chose to return home. He was given pain medication; hospice was called, and within 24 hours he succumbed, surrounded by several friends and his two dogs. 

At the time of Mike’s passing, I was on vacation in Australia. Being someone who tries to avoid all things computers while on holiday, the news of his death completely bypassed me. Since I interviewed him, we had remained in touch via Facebook conversations and he always forwarded me an autographed copy of his latest book. I now treasure the Diary Of A Punk book greatly.
I have to confess, I had not noticed a lack of correspondence with him since returning from Australia. Christmas appeared, then New Year, other stuff happened - you know, life in general. It was via a post from Stefan at Just4Fun Records that sent alarm bells to me. A brief follow-up message to him confirmed that Hudson had indeed passed away.
It still feels odd; a genuine Punk icon, who I was in contact with has now passed. Not really a surprise I concur, but my listening to tracks like ‘No Now No Way’, ‘Dead End America’, ‘Downtown Beirut’, ‘Wall Of Shame’, ‘I Juvenile’, ‘She’s A Cadaver’ and ‘Brian Always Said’ - tracks that have lived with me for many years (decades) - are now seen in a new light.
RIP Mike - you lived a life on the edge and I am forever grateful.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Show Time

The Stranglers
THE STRANGLERS - RUTS DC - Town Hall, Auckland, New Zealand - 2nd February 2018
It’s been 31 years (yep - thirty one!!) since I last saw THE STRANGLERS - and that wasn’t even the first time! It was on the ‘Dream Time’ tour and they stopped in Ipswich. That was back when Hugh Cornwall was still in them. Hugh actually jumped in the crowd that night to pull a guy outta the audience who had been spitting at them. The guy had had a warning before letting another big greeny go, so Hugh jumped into the throng at the front of the stage at the Ipswich Gaumont and hauled the gobber onto the stage. The band then proceeded to take said gobber’s trousers and undies down, exposing his weener to all of us laughing and shouting Ipswich Punks! Then a banana was produced, peeled and stuffed on the gobber’s gonads, undies and trousers very roughly pulled up squishing the ‘nana and skin in his undies, before Mr. Gobber was given to the roadies!! That remains one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen at a show.
Anyway, I lost interest in the band after Hugh left; to me he was very intrinsic to the make-up of the band, even though musically they always pivoted around Dave Greenfield’s keyboards and that monstrous, pounding bass of JJ Burnel. This show was billed as the ‘Classic Collection’, which is pretty self-explanatory. So, with the added bonus of RUTS DC, I got my ticket and headed to a rain-soaked Auckland to see THE STRANGLERS for, what I had and still have no doubts about, the last time.
Ruts DC
I’d never been to Auckland Town Hall before. It’s a typical town hall theatre complete with balcony (which spans round virtually to the stage), good sound and over-priced beer. I mean, $9 for a bottle of fucking Heineken??!! Thankfully I managed to squeeze in a good few pints of Guinness in the pub beforehand, so the Heinie topped things off nicely.
All too soon, RUTS DC came on looking very dapper for a bunch of fellas who are probably very close to drawing their pension! The band’s last album, ‘Music Must Destroy’ is a total cracker and they launched with a track from that - ‘Surprise’. From there it was a totally classy performance of classic RUTS and tracks from that new album. It’d be pretty pointless saying what the highlights were as every track, ummm,... Destroyed. ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’, ‘West One’, ‘Music Must Destroy’, ‘Kill The Pain’, ‘Jah War’, ‘In A Rut’, ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and closer ‘Psychic Attack’. The only fault was the set was way too short.
These guys are seasoned, quality musicians. Drummer Dave Ruffy in particular didn’t drop a beat and played those old, complicated RUTS rhythms without fault. Both guitarist Leigh Heggarty and bassist Segs looked great too, often drawing in tight around the drum kit to really lock in. Segs also made the comment of the evening asking, with a distinct smirk, who was going to see the Foo Fighters the following night in some hideous stadium. Surprisingly, a lot (too many?) of the crowd were... “I shouldn’t be so cheeky should I?” was his reply!!
I was hoping for an encore - but alas no....
Ruts DC
So it was left to the other set of near-pensioners to try and follow that. Kicking off with the moody and magnificent ‘WaltzInBlack’, I had high hopes. Then I got the first of many songs during the night that I didn’t know. ‘Was It You’ appeared third from the ‘Dream Time’ album. It’s a track I always liked and was pleased to see its inclusion here - particularly with JJ sounding so impressive. The first real hit of the night though (and I mean sonic hit as well as hit single) was ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ that saw that bass simply pound out and made all that went before it seem rather tame. From there we got a good number of the Classic Collection - ‘Hanging Around’, ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Walk On By’, ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Nice ‘n Sleazy’, ‘Nuclear Device’, ‘Tank’, ‘Go Buddy Go’ and most surprisingly, ‘Just Like Nothing On Earth’.
Hugh’s latest replacement, Baz Warne, did a fair sounding impression of him I concur, but that sense of intimidation that I’d always experienced at previous STRANGLERS gigs was noticeably lacking. Maybe it’s cuz I’m 31 years older too!! Dave did a stunning one-handed keyboard solo (I think during ‘Walk On By’) while drinking a beer (or water) before scrunching the cup and heading it away. It got one of the biggest cheers of the night and seemed to put the biggest of smiles on the collective face of the band. Incidentally, I didn’t realise drummer Jet Black had left the fold either.
My own personal favourite, ‘Duchess’ got aired (first STRANGLERS record I ever bought dontcha know!), ‘No More Heroes’ was part of the encore - and then they were gone.
The Stranglers
Classic Collection?? My arse was it!! No ‘Peaches’, no ‘Straighten Out’, no ‘Five Minutes’, no ‘Strange Little Girl’, no ‘Skin Deep’, no ‘Something Better Change’ let alone ‘Death And Night And Blood’ or ‘Dagenham Dave’. There were about 10 songs I didn’t know and while both ‘15 Steps’ and ‘Norfolk Coast’ were good (the former in particular), neither are ‘Peaches’.
I felt a bit unfulfilled on leaving. While the good bits were great (let’s face it, the good songs are fucking classics and they were played well), there’s no denying my attention wandered and that tension I always associated with the band had gone.
Yep, this was definitely the last time I’ll see THE STRANGLERS - unless, maybe, Hugh rejoins.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Year-end Recommendations 2017

2017 was an interesting year for music. I heard a lot of stuff but, like any year, I also missed a lot of good gear too. PROPAGANDHI’s latest still hasn’t crossed my ears and I think I only heard about one release on Deranged Records. What I did hear though made for an impressive year, with older bands like CHANNEL 3 cranking out brand new stunners along with newer names like DEBT NEGLECTOR.
For me, 2017 also had a very dark shadow in the passing of GRANT HART. It remains hard to believe that I was talking to him, here in NZ, just the year before. It has brought a whole new sensation which would have otherwise been lacking when listening to the recent HUSKER DU boxset.
Didn’t get to see as many bands as I would have liked. MINISTRY were due to play but cancelled (drug issues was it, Al?), I caught THE DAMNED for the 36th time and ADAM ANT blew me away on the ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ tour. I’m still blitzed by that version of ‘Beat My Guest’!!
Anyway - Top Tens and also-rans as follows. As I said above, there is a lot I have not heard - and these lists are always objective - but for me, these represent the Top Sounds of 2017. 

1. CYANIDE PILLS - Slice And Diced {Damaged Goods}
3. CHANNEL 3 - Put ‘Em Up {TKO}
4. CAREER SUICIDE - Machine Response {Deranged}
5. DEBT NEGLECTOR - Atomicland {Smart Punk}
6. PARANOID VISIONS - Rebellion {FOAD/ Overground}
7. REPLACEMENTS - Live At Maxwell’s {Rhino}
8. KOMPLIKATIONS - Humans {Rockstar}
9. CJ RAMONE - American Beauty {Fat Wreck}
10. PANDEMIX - Scale Models Of Atrocities {Boss Tuneage}
Other contenders: 1919 - Bloodline {Westworld}, BAD COP/BAD COP - Warriors, PEARS/ DIRECT HIT - Human Movement, WESTERN ADDICTION - Tremulous {Fat Wreck}, THE CRAVATS - Dustbin Of Sound {Overground} , DAMNED - 40th Anniversary: Live In Margate {Liveherenow}, DEAD ENDING - Shoot The Messenger {Alternative Tentacles}, DIRTY PRIESTS - s/t {BDI}, GRAND COLLAPSE - Along The Dew {TNS}, STUNGRENADES Class War: Fight Back! {Bastard Son}, SWHAT - Wasty Tasty {Heart Of The Rat}, DELINQUENTS - About Last Night {Violated}, FOX FACE - Spoil + Destroy {Dirtnap}, TIM BARRY - High On 95 {Chunksaah} 

1. DUNCAN REID AND THE BIG HEADS - C’mon Josephine {Damaged Goods}
2. DEALING WITH DAMAGE - Don’t Give Into Fear {Boss Tuneage}
3. FIVE THOUSAND - Monadh {Our Future}
4. NIGHT MEN - C’est La Vie {Rockstar}
5. JADED EYES - Hatespeak {Boss Tuneage}
6. NIGHT PEOPLE - Night People {Deranged}
8. FEEDERZ - WWHD? {Slope}
9. PAGANS/ HIP PRIESTS - Split {Just4Fun}
10. THE SWEET THINGS - Slather {Spaghetty Town}
Other contenders: ANTI-SYSTEM - At What Price Freedom?, NATTERERS - Toxic Care {Boss Tuneage}, FACE TO FACE - Say What You Want {Fat Wreck}, STARVING MILLIONS - V {DIY}, WRATHS - My Home {Bird Attack}, LAST GANG - Sing For Your Supper {Fat Wreck}, HUSKER DU - Extra Circus {Numero Uno}, DR. BOOGIE - She’s So Tuff {Spaghetty Town}, PATSY’S RATS - Roundin’ Up {Dirtnap} 

1. HUSKER DU - Savage Young Du {Numero Uno}
2. COVENTRY AUTOMATICS - Dawning Of A New Era {Free Range Product}
3. RAMONES - Rocket To Russia/ Leave Home box sets {Rhino}
4. DAVID BOWIE - A New Career In A New Town {Parlophone}
5. BAD DRESS SENSE - We Rule! {Boss Tuneage}
6. HANOI ROCKS - Reissues {Dissonance}
7. SWINGIN’ UTTERS - Drowning In The Sea, Rising With The Sun {Fat Wreck}
9. MANIACS - So Far... So Loud {Overground}
10. ELECTRO HIPPIES - Collected Works 1985-1987 {Boss Tuneage}
Other contenders: THE PROLES - Morton Crescent {Overground}, CHRIS SPEDDING - The RAK Years {Cherry Red}, MINISTRY - Reissues {Dissonance}, GOOD RIDDANCE - Ballads From The Revolution {Fat Wreck}

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Show Time

ADAM ANT - DIANA ANAID - The Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand - 9th October 2017
Back in 1980, aged a mere 11, I was quite an Ant Fan! I had all the singles but felt I needed more. So, one Saturday while shopping in town with my Mum, and after having saved my pocket money, I ended making the first album I ever bought ADAM AND THE ANTS’ ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’. It’s an album that has stayed in my collection ever since and it still sounds superb today, with those fantastic, tribal drums and Marco’s menacing guitar lead lines.
So, when I heard that ADAM ANT was going to be playing the album in full live (plus assorted hits) here in New Zealand, I had to go. I’ll admit I was a tad concerned at the idea of seeing a man in his early 60s try to relive the genuine ‘Pop Star’ status he had 35+ years ago, but reasoned with myself that ‘Kings....’ was the first album I ever bought, so attendance for me was pretty much mandatory.
Before the event, several friends in the UK said that ADAM was in fine form so my expectations were heightened - but I was still a tad apprehensive. Thankfully, The Powerstation is not just Auckland’s best venue, but among the best I’ve been to anywhere in the world (unlike the fucking Studio), so I knew sound and vision would be top notch. Merchandise proved ANT still has ‘Pop Star’ status however...$50 for a t-shirt, $60 for a signed photo... Pah! Lots of people were buying the shirts, and good on them for that. I passed.
With a beer lovingly nestled in my hand, I awaited the arrival of DIANA ANAID. Never heard of her before but apparently she’s from Australia and used to be known as Diana ah Naid and has released about half-a-dozen albums. It was just her and her guitar and, much as I love those solo singer-songwriter types, she pretty much passed me by. I remember a song called ‘I Go Off’ and one about same-sex marriage, but that was about it. Her vocals were a bit over-performed for me, although the guitar sounded good. However, I wanted to hear some Ant Music, not Alt-country music. 
The arrival of ADAM ANT and his band was met with an orchestral fanfare before the dual drumbeats of ‘Dog Eat Dog’ kicked in. While the two drums sounded bombastic, I noticed there was no original ANTS in the line-up, which was a disappointment. However, the band was top-notch, both looking and sounding good. ADAM bound on, hero’s reception and - by jingoes - sounded great!!
‘Ant Music’ and the rest of the ‘Kings....’ album followed. Highlights were certainly the album’s darker tracks - ‘Feed Me To The Lions’, the double hit of ‘Ants Invasion’ (a personal favourite) and ‘Killer In The Home’, along with the stunning title track and album closer ‘The Human Beings’.
With the album having been played, ANT finally decided to address the crowd. He’d made the odd cheeky suggestion during the album, but it wasn’t until it was complete that he finally addressed the crowd. I was anticipating about 30 minutes of the ‘obvious’ other hits but he kicked off the non-’Kings...’ set with a complete surprise - ‘Beat My Guest’, the b-side of the ‘Stand And Deliver’ single. It’s always been a fave track (and wafts stuff like ‘Making History’ and ‘Los Rancheros’ from ‘Kings...’) and it was played with total intensity. This second part of the set actually went on for over an hour with other highlights being ‘Friend Or Foe’ (another track that could’ve made ‘Kings...’ better) that saw the dual drumming really grab the attention with those tribal, tom heavy beats, a set-stealing ‘Xerox’, ‘Car Trouble’, ‘S.E.X’ and, of course, a set closing ‘Stand And Deliver’. ‘Prince Charming’ was played (not that effectively but it’s far from an ANT classic, even though it was a huge hit) and both ‘Strip’ and ‘Ant Rap’ could’ve been ditched in favour of ‘Young Parisians’ and ‘Kick’. Small criticisms really - but that’s my opinion. Encores were ‘Good Two Shoes’ and a monstrous, riff heavy blast through ‘Physical (You’re So)’ that singed the ears.
Have to say guitarist, Will Crewdson, made the absence of Marco a virtual bonus. He looked fucking fantastic (surely a pre-requisite for an Ant though!) and played a smoking guitar, be it those leads from ‘Kings...’ which sound almost Spaghetti Western(Ish), to heavy duty riffing and onto the dam-busting, STOOGES-esque guitar noise during ‘Phsyical’. He didn’t really put a foot wrong from what I saw AND he plays his guitar low - just like all the greats! The rest of the band were really on form too.
And ADAM? Yeah, he’s still got ‘it’ - whatever ‘it’ is. He wore the tunic for the ‘Kings..’ set (but not the white nose stripe) and looked great with longish hair, the ends of which appeared to be dyed red. His voice surely was not broken, he put in the hard work, could still move with the best of them and seemed genuinely enthused by the reception he got at his first ever New Zealand gig.
So, was I happy I went? Too right I was!! The dual drumming was spot on (plus the addition of two floor toms for additional tribal percussion!), the set list was massive, the performance passionate and the execution way better than I could have dreamed.
Still didn’t inspire me to buy a $50 t-shirt though!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Obituary - Grant Hart

On Wednesday 13 September 2017, Grant Hart - founder, drummer and vocalist for HUSKER DU, guitarist and vocalist for NOVA MOB and a renowned solo artist - passed away at University of Minnesota Medical Centre. The cause of death was terminal Liver cancer that he had been diagnosed with in recent months; he was also afflicted with Hepatitis C. He was 56.
Born on 18 March 1960 in St Paul, Minnesota, Grantzberg Vernon Hart was the youngest of his family, born to a mother who worked at a credit union and a teacher father, and attended South St. Paul High School. Aged ten, he inherited his brother’s (who was just two years older) drum set and records after he was killed by a drunk driver. During his high school years, Hart was in a cover band named TRAIN, playing keyboards.
On leaving school, he landed jobs at various record stores, including Cheapo Records where he worked with Greg Norton. It was at this shop that he met New Yorker, Bob Mould. The three went onto form HUSKER DU.
The history of this great and influential band (arguably, the most influential US band after the RAMONES) has been widely documented, from the blur of ‘Land Speed Record’, through to the groundbreaking ‘Zen Arcade’ double album and onto a major label deal with Warner Bros and the ‘Warehouse: Songs And Stories’ double album swansong. There’s been the book, Husker Du: The Story Of The Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock, the chapter in Michael Azerrad’s book Our Band Could Be Your Life and the extensive Husker Du Database - to name but three - so I won’t detail too much of this iconic band’s history.
However, it should be noted that besides writing and singing songs, he was also responsible for most of the band’s artwork. He also designed a number of other sleeves, notably fellow Minneapolisians, THE REPLACEMENTS and their album, ‘Hootenanny’.
During the band’s tenure, Hart developed a Heroin habit and was also incorrectly diagnosed as being HIV-positive in 1986, just as the band’s major label debut, ‘Candy Apple Grey’ was released. It is said that it was Hart’s drug addiction that lead to to the 1988 break-up of the band. That was no doubt partially true, but the feuding between Mould and Hart about who should retain most creative control was another major factor. Then the band’s manager, David Savoy, committed suicide. If that wasn’t enough, the fact that during the end of HUSKER DU, Hart had already got together a project named SWALLOWS no doubt indicated Hart’s dissatisfaction and rankled Mould's ire further.
Following HUSKER DU’s demise, Hart released the ‘2541’ EP in October 1988 - a mere six months following the split. This was followed early in 1989 with the ‘Intolerance’ album. Later the same year, he formed NOVA MOB, taking on guitar duties along with vocals. It was an often misunderstood band and its fortune was not aided when Rough Trade, the label that released the band’s 1991 debut album, the excellent ‘The Last Days Of Pompeii’, declared itself bankrupt on the very day the album was released.
A second NOVA MOB album was released in 1994 before the band split following a European tour. From then on, Hart continued to play intimate, career-spanning sets and releasing impressive solo albums, culminating in 2013 with the epic ‘The Argument’, a double album based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost and William S Burrough’s adaptation of the same book as Lost Paradise. In that same year, the feature length documentary ‘Every Everything: The Music, Life And Times Of Grant Hart’ was released.
At the time of his passing, Hart was working on another concept album about Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, titled ‘Pop Manifestos’.
Hart is survived by his wife Brigid McGough Hart, his adult son Karl, granddaughter Grace and siblings Nett, Roxanne and Craig.  
Putting into words the importance of Hart and his music is no easy task. I was fortunate to see HUSKER DU at the very end of their career - at the 1987 Glastonbury Festival no less. Sure, it wasn’t the ideal venue or the most intense period of the band’s existence but I felt, and still feel, very fortunate to have seen the band before they imploded.
It is without a doubt that of all the bands that were spawned by the US Hardcore boom, it was HUSKER DU that pushed the boundaries the most, be it the warp-speed of ‘Land Speed Record’, the influence of psychedelia as typified in what must be one of the best cover versions ever in the band’s take of THE BYRDS’ ‘Eight Miles High’, an unerring Pop sensibility often channelled through Hart’s uplifting vocal, through to the ultimate taboo of signing to a major label. 
Hart himself challenged the pack too - long-haired, usually barefoot, openly bisexual and in possession of a voice that could soar to the heavens. I had my own personal nickname for him: Mr. Golden Tonsils.
I was fortunate to see him live here in New Zealand in 2016 - and he was stunning. Classic song followed classic song and yes, those tonsils were still golden! I managed to have a conversation with him also - something I am profoundly grateful I did now. We spoke of that Glastonbury performance and the turd who threw a bottle - which exploded as it hit his vocal microphone. We spoke of NOVA MOB too, a band I also saw at the London Marquee in 1991. And, rather embarrassingly, I mentioned his 'golden tonsils'!
Hart’s passing is tragic on so many levels. Not only was he so young, but he was still stunningly creative. ‘The Argument’ could be his finest work in fact, laden with stunning songs and invention. I desperately hope the album he had near-completion when he passed will be released.
Go well Grant and always Shine, Shine, Shine....