Posts Tagged ‘Danzig’

Bret Easton Ellis + Danzig > Less Than Zero

Posted: September 16, 2013 by The Social Retard in Books, Movies, Music
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Where to begin? This may be the most convoluted post yet. I guess we’ll start with Less Than Zero, the novel, initially. I believe I saw it when I was 17, at the height of my teenage angst. Who am I kidding? I’m twice that now and still very much full of teenage angst. I had just read the book Generation X by Douglas Coupland and had never been so devoid of hope ever. That book was such a downer. Naturally, my impulse was to go even further down the nihilistic rabbit hole, so where better to turn than the works of Bret Easton Ellis.

If you ever want to read a book full of characters with no redeemable qualities, see Less Than Zero, the introductory dissertation. This is hardly exclusive to <0, however. The Rules Of Attraction and Glamorama are similarly difficult to get through because you have no rooting interest in seeing the characters do anything but self-destruct and die. The main character of American Psycho is equally unsympathetic because he’s a serial killer but at least he’s strangely likable.

The movie, which I sat down to watch recently, shines a neon light on the characters making them less menacing and interesting without making them any more appealing. Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Julian, is more a tragic figure in the movie than just a consummate fuck up and scumbag, as he was portrayed in the novel. We’re somehow supposed to feel sorry for this guy . Maybe this has more to do with RD2’s on-screen presence than anything in the script. In a nutshell, this movie sucks…and hard.

There is something worth saving from the wreckage of <0: the soundtrack. Then up-and-coming producer Rick Rubin was charged with the music and he used the opportunity to put a spotlight on his and Russell Simmons’s still fairly new Def Jam Recordings. Label alumni included LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Slayer, and just signed Glenn Danzig. The rest of the album is mostly throwaway except for the now classic Bangles’ cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” and a track from Roy Orbison. I know. Which one of these is not like the other? Well, fast forward seven years from <0 when Rick Rubin produces American Recordings for Johnny Cash. That, and the subsequent volumes, resurrected the Man In Black’s career and brought it to new commercial heights. On that first album is a Danzig-penned track called “Thirteen”. The performance is legendary and one of the true highlights on that extraordinary album. It would appear something similar might have been in the cards with Orbison.

The Big O’s contribution to this soundtrack is also a Danzig composition called “Life Fades Away”. You can tell that Glenn wrote it for Orbison as it has an old timeyness that we hadn’t heard from his Misfits or Samhain work. Ol’ Roy sings the fuck out of it too, ending on as strong a note as he had ever belted. Who knows if this wouldn’t have led to a career revival on the level of Cash but the world would never know as Orbison passed away the following year. Danzig would also deliver a similar sounding track, “You and Me (Less Than Zero)”, his first as a solo artist. Credited with the Power & Fury Orchestra, (and as “Glen” on the label) Danzig proves that he can do powerful without sheer brutality. His singing is still in full throat and you can’t imagine him standing still in the studio while trying to record it. His delivery is every bit as intense as any of his prior work or since but there is no distortion.

The soundtrack includes flat out stupid covers by Aerosmith and Poison, a lackluster “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” from Slayer, the non-Anthrax edition of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise”, and a decent track from Joan Jett. But after Orbison, Danzig, the Bangles, and even LL Cool J, the album is just not terribly good. However, the fact that the Orbison and Danzig tracks only appear on this soundtrack makes it essential to own.

I hunted mine down on on May 19, 2010 from a less than honest seller. He claimed in the listing that it was sealed but it certainly was not. The cover is pretty fucked up but, to be fair, the record itself is in excellent condition. I would have raised a bigger stink but it only cost $6.10. I would have gladly paid even more for a 7″ featuring Orbison on the A-side and Danzig as the B-side (or vice versa) if such a thing existed. You hearing me, Def Jam? I would still buy it. Make it.

As for Bret Easton Ellis, his last two novels have taken his previous works and turned them on their head, in a good way. He’s gone so fucking meta, it’s ridiculous. Lunar Park is vintage Ellis only with using himself as the main character. Imperial Bedrooms is the sequel to Less Than Zero, only it makes sure to tell you that <0 is a fictional account of the characters within. The movie, laughably so. This allowed him to bring back the Julian character. It is my favorite book of his. I never re-read novels but I recently re-read this one and it is so deliciously twisted. For even more meta-ness, Andrew McCarthy (star of <0, the film) reads the audio book of Bedrooms, which is narrated by the Clay character than McCarthy played 25 years prior. Fucked, right? Yes, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


12 Hits From Hell by Misfits

Posted: July 20, 2013 by The Social Retard in Music
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1977, the year that punk broke. The movement’s progenitor, Iggy Pop, was trying to sober up in Berlin. The Sex Pistols were running roughshod over London. The Ramones chainsawing through CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. At least, that’s what we’ve always heard and read about. I was almost two years shy of being a magical wad courtesy of my father.

Nope. I wasn’t there. I couldn’t even claim to being there for the rise of R.E.M. or Metallica. My concert-going apex began with the advent of nu metal and the inexplicable popularity of Green Day. The word “punk” wasn’t part of my vernacular. It wasn’t until 1993, at the foolhardy age of 14, that “punk” and “music” were connected in my brain. I didn’t have a cool older sibling to teach me about it. My mother’s most extreme musical exploration was Black Sabbath. No, it took Guns N’ Roses and their retarded “effort”, The Spaghetti Incident, to introduce the idea of “punk rock”.

There was this kid in my homeroom named Ricky that seemed to know what was up when it came to rock music. So when we were talking about what would end up being the last GN’R album to feature Slash, I mentioned that I had heard that the album was a “punk” album.

“What’s that? What does punk mean?”

Ricky was no fucking help. It wasn’t until I was well into high school and at the height of my teenage angst that I discovered the Sex Pistols. My musical growth was stunted for so long by hanging out with so many uncool people, some of which are among my best friends today. Years spent wasted on throwaway bands like Green Jelly and Jackyl. Most of the crap we listened to on 103.5, the Blaze. This was the “metal” station. But they played fucking Foreigner! We didn’t know any better.

My friends have gotten marginally cooler (some I traded in for cooler friends, some I no longer talk to – addition by attrition) but still have largely atrocious musical tastes. They segued into bad rap and got stuck in the past rock-wise, while I expanded my horizons. I found whole new genres to be abrasively critical toward.

But the one band we all seem to agree on is the Misfits. We found about them in a roundabout way thanks to the aforementioned Metallica (as well as that awful GN’R album). Say what you want about them now but Metallica has meant more to rock music than anyone realize. Their most important contribution, though, is covering “Last Caress”. We must have listened to Live Shit: Binge and Purge a thousand times and “Caress” was always the highlight. One minute and twenty eight seconds of furious power chords and unseemly lyrics. The liner notes showed that the track was written by Glenn Danzig.

Wait a minute. The “Mother” guy? Good music came out of New Jersey? It turns out that there’s more than corn in Indiana and there’s more from NJ than Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. In a little town called Lodi, nonetheless.

What followed was the constant consumption and immersion into all things Danzig and Misfits. This band with the revolving door of guitarists and drummers wrote songs about B-movies accompanied by largely nonsensical words, the ones you could actually decipher. When the boxed set came out, you truly saw that the words Glenn was singing were hardly Edgar Allan Poe but that didn’t matter. The fury laced the inherent poppiness of these songs was undeniable.

We started with the two eponymous compilations. My buddy Hector buying the first which consisted of singled and much of Walk Among Us. I purchased the far inferior second. I thought I made out like a bandit because I had “Last Caress” but Hector’s had “Ghoul’s Night Out”, “London Dungeon”, and “Horror Business” which, even after buying all of the individual albums, I still didn’t have.

The summer of 1995, I listened to almost nothing but Legacy Of Brutality. Because of this, I thought there was something wrong with my stereo. “She” sounded so much better at Hector’s on his CD. Little did I know that the band recorded so many version of each song with varying degrees of quality.

That was made quite apparent in 1997 as the boxed set and extended version of Static Age was released. Static Age is what happened when some money and care went into the mixing process. It was, by far, the best sounding Misfits release possible. The only problem was the weird sound of Franché Coma’s guitars. They just seemed to lack the proper punch. The songs were phenomenal but the true power of their capability was just never quite captured on tape.

It was a shame that Jerry Only and brother Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein resurrected the name Misfits for their own knock-off sans Danzig. Glenn wrote all of the original songs. How was this supposed to work?

The bigger shame was that the two post-Danzig albums with Michale Graves singing were actually kind of good. The travesty being that they sounded so much better than any of the Danzig-era Misfits releases. Technology had improved over time, obviously, but it just wasn’t fair.

After Graves and drummer Dr. Chud left the band, the wheels totally came off. Jerry Only decided he could, not just play bass but, sing all of a sudden. Most fans agree that he assumes incorrectly. His own brother didn’t even believe it and left to later join Danzig on tour. They play a mini Misfits set so that fans can hear how these songs are supposed to sound when they aren’t being butchered.

Amidst the turmoil within what was left of the band, another long sought after recording was set to come out from Caroline Records. 12 Hits From Hell, a session recorded in 1980 at Master Sound Productions in Franklin Square, New York, was to finally be unleashed upon the masses in 2001. It is the only Misfits recording to feature at least two guitarists on each track.

The lineup consisted of stalwarts Danzig and Only on vocals and bass, respectively. Arthur Googy was on drums and the guitarist of the moment was Bobby Steele (later of The Undead). He recorded three guitar tracks per song with Doyle’s being added on after Steele was fired. Original session producer Robbie Alter also played guitar on “London Dungeon” and “Violent World”.

The 2001 remix from producer Tom Bejgrowicz and engineer Alan Douches melded the guitars together in the center of the mix, resulting in the most mammoth sound the original band had ever achieved on a recording.

Reportedly, complaints from both Danzig and Only caused the album to be canceled. All copies meant for stores were supposedly destroyed. Bootlegs have made the rounds since then but it remains officially unreleased.

Listening to the Misfits on vinyl is really the only way to hear them. The first time I did, I listened to the Die, Die My Darling EP and I heard guitars that just weren’t present on the digital masters.

Static Age, for as great as it is, has the bass way too high in the mix. And while many of the same songs are on Walk Among Us, they just don’t pack the punch of the 12 Hits versions. It is the quintessential Misfits release and no one was meant to hear it.

This was a bootleg that I would always be on the lookout for at record shows. Not that I had ever expected to find it. This was my white whale. It’s what got me to go to record shows in the first place.

“Experts” say that you should do a full sweep of the place before buying anything so that you can make sure that you are getting the cheapest price. Fuck that, I say. You just can’t risk losing out. If I am going to get my grubby mitts on 12 Hits, I am not going to fool around. I vowed after that hippie shithead bought Atomizer right in front of me that that would never happen to me again.

Instead of going straight down the first aisle on this particular day, Joe and I veered right. It seemed like the smart thing to do. We weren’t thirty feet in the showroom when I saw it prominently displayed on an easel, sealed. Sealed! With the price tag of $40. Mind you, I had looked online for this record and never found an opened one for under five times that amount. And here it was, in plastic, for $40.

There was, however, something amiss. The cover of the album is a pea soup green with orange trim around the white letters. This cover was very much grayer, duller, muted. Was it sun damaged or something? Was this a fake? It had to be. This son of a bitch was preying on people like me to blindly buy this severely discounted item and not notice the details because we had never seen the real McCoy in person.

I must have held and stared at this thing for at least ten minutes. Joe was likely looking for whatever homogenized classic rock claptrap he could acquire. But I was transfixed. Was I really this close to Moby Dick only to find that the whale was some animatronic facsimile? If this is a tease, I am going to harpoon this fucking vendor at the next show.

I demanded he guarantee the record’s authenticity. Will this thing actually play? He guaranteed that it would play but stopped short of anything more. In the end, I gave in. As long as they never press any official vinyl, this is probably the closest I’ll ever get. I plunked down the forty bucks, went over to Joe, and proclaimed, “I’m done”.

I called dibs on the turntable and we ran into the basement. I unwrapped my treasure and examined the contents. The insert and labels seemed to be legit but the moment of truth was yet to come.

Upon laying the needle down, I stepped back and waited. The opening blaargh of “Halloween” rang out and I knew everything was going to be alright. I didn’t care if this was official or not. It sounded great. And it was mine. It remains the most prized record in my collection.