Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016


The world fell down after I returned from Spain. 

Idiocracy turned out to have been a documentary sent from the future and folks that we could really do with still having around have passed on.

La Alegria -
for absent friends
I’ll take up this epistle where I left off. Leaving Benidorm for Madrid after another rip-roaring FUNTASTIC. It was full on Hallowe’en when we hit town, the streets were rammed. I made it to base camp and took a wee while to regroup before heading to Madklyn where them Young Fresh Fellows were DJing at this excellent Madtoon haunt. It went well. From there I introduced mi crew to the wonders of WEIRDO BAR! where Pantero Rosso was laying down a mighty selection of shouty punk rock to which Kurt and I took great pleasure in screaming along with.

Ther great crowd in there was equally up for the craic. When the lights came on there was only one destination that could follow this. Can you guess where that might have been? Wurlitzer is where. The place was jumping because November 1st was a holiday. Monday night/Tuesday morning was for all intent and purpose a full blown Saturday. The Dictators “Weekend” come to life on steroids. 

Forth and McOi
Scott (McCaughey) and I left Wurli at 5.35am. On my way to the hotel, I had pizza for breakfast. Or was it supper? No coca cola though.

It was a real honour to be asked back to El Sotano, Diego and Francisco really make it fun. November 1st - being a holiday - was relatively sedate. That lull is perhaps what brought upon the lurghi but after 5 days with about 5 hours (maybe 8 tops) sleep then perhaps I was getting what I deserved, getting further away from being a youngster with every passing day. I’m reminded of that song by Spirit, “Nature’s Way”...

The Device
Next day, the YFF van headed for Valencia. Some of us stayed put to just dig being in Madrid. The early night meant I was up bright and early to meet Ulla and Murky for breakfast. One great thing did happen though, Tad’s cymbal device was located and I was able to deliver it before the band set off. That was the last sign that I recall of thinking that there could be a god or something akin. Before the fucker started acting up and picking off good people for no apparent reason. The talisman had been returned though and that made me feel like I'd achieved something worthwhile.

Lisa and I met Mr Marco Padin, he of the Ghost Highway imprint for a slap up Italian lunch at La Tagliatella out near where he works near the Suentes train stop.  This man does great work. In the evening we did a wee tapas crawl with Murky and Eva. Some time out just to talk and sup.

Three Troublemakers
November 3rd was Ruthie’s birthday and the festivities took place over cocktails and the YFF show at El Sol. That was quite a combo to have play your birthday party young lady! They even played “Gear Summer” in which said wee lassie makes a cameo appearance! Ms Varla Rose made the Sol scene too.

So all of a sudden it’s Friday. And The Dahlmanns headed to town with first-timer Jo Espen Johansen. Lisafer wired into “sea varmints” (c) LF - with them at the food hall while I stood back and watched. What I recall of it because I was in a haze of booze and pharmacy drugs was a blast! At one point my head totally cleared when I was in Wurlitzer with Jo and Andre. Line sensibly opted to sleep by that point. That place has healing powers and just as well because my Madrid electricity was on the futz and then some.

La Fiambrera’s SHAG exhibit came to a close that Saturday. These gals have really done an amazing job getting to the level they’re at now, just a month shy of being open for 2 years. Having a bunch of my favourite people on earth join me in the greatest city on earth was a trip. Of course others were missed but next year I hope the whole gang can make it provided I make it to the 6 decade mark. And even if I don’t then the party can still go ahead.

Casa Camacho is virtually next door to my favourite pastry emporium and it is the home of the "yayo" (a tasty aperitif that consists of gin, vermú and casera). Ms Ulla and Captain Lagarto made a great choice by picking this place and if you ever get out there you need to try one or several of those. The lurghi kind of had me on the ropes but there was one more night to go with the gang and I wasn’t about to wimp out. I wasn’t firing on all cylinders but at one point in Wurlitzer, I swear that my napper totally cleared. I don’t recall what was playing or what the intake between the pharmacy drugs and booze was but I really should have been paying attention rather than just attempting to stay vertical.

So maybe it wasn’t a blaze of glory but I think we did pretty well. The upside of not being completely wasted was that it was really just a tiredness/cold combo I had to deal with on the Sunday morning. Folks were beginning to leave town and the curtain was on its way down. I left the kids in Iowa (the cafe) to make a bee line to see Pantones play a kids show at La Casa Encendida, a very nice culture centre downtown that reminded me of the CCA in Glasgow.

It was so good to finally see them play. What it had to lack in volume was more than made up for by seeing the rapport their music has with children of all aged, parents and kids alike. They seemed like good role models as they let the youngsters loose with their instruments after the set. The drone/proto-free jazz noise emanating from the stage sounded like something a WIRE reader would piddle themselves over. Meanwhile, there's a brand new album coming on Subterfuge. Sooner rather than later I hope.

Every one of the wee attendees will one day start or be in a band. I’m sure of it.
Are there such events as these here in the UK? Health and safety would likely have a field day and make it virtually impossible to stage. The Spanish people are very savvy and seem to be blessed with a crazy strain of common sense when it comes to family.

There was a children’s rock’n’roll show at Wurli that morning too with Las Señoritas Estrechas and Calvario. Stepping back in there in daytime was a little psychedelic. Menudofest is a regular occurrence where the kids get to chalk on the walls and let off some steam in this very cool environment. Even if it’s a plot to indoctrinate them for later life then it’s a win/win. They’ll associate it with a good time. It's the “baby” of Marta, a punk rock Snow White that I met in Benidorm with her friends in conjunction with Wurlitzer. The staff in this joint are real troopers in every respect of that word.

This almost brings me back to where we started. I was really starting to fade but got my second wind when I was able to see Sonia briefly and to meet her son Lux! He’s already beginning to act like his namesake. Jim and Kurt came by having gotten back from Bilbao and that – as they say – til next time - was that.

As I wandered back to get my bags and a cab to the airport, I just wanted to get on the ride again but I was about to pay the price of having such a good time. My thanks to everyone that chipped in and turned up to make my 59th year on this fucked up world a special thing. The Fellows adding "NBT" (based on The Screaming Dizbusters version)  to their set in Benidorm and Madrid and a call from MRC on were the icing on the cake. 

If I forgot something then that equates to me having an even better time than I think than I recall. How far can too far go? 

That's coming right up in 2017. I hope...

Friday, November 18, 2016


I didn’t know Don Waller but he was a pivotal character in my zine upbringing. He and his merry band of maniacs put together a magazine called Back Door Man that could arguably be considered the first ever punk rock magazine. Bomp and the like seemed scholarly by comparison. BDM and Teenage Wasteland Gazette signalled an injection of attitude or swagger to the world of print.

I did have some dialogue and also correspondence with Don. I think Sid Griffin was involved but I can’t remember what it was about. In recent years I’ve suggested to anyone that would listen that a compendium of Back Door Man was long overdue. Jim Parret tells me that he was working on such a beastie with Hozac. I hope that will all come together.

Many of my friends knew Don so this must be a shock to them. In coming days, people will discover the importance of this character in the various avenues of which he served. This week has gone over the score on the condolenceometer and I’m aware that, being we’re at the age we’re at, this could well just run and run. 

But I sure hope there can be a let up. Or that people who deserve to shuffle off this mortal coil might be given priority.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


The passing of Mose Allison just days after his 89th birthday is yet another sign on the highway to the fact that there aren’t many of the genuine innovators left. I’m perfectly aware that this is symptomatic of us all getting old. I don’t appreciate the smart arse aspect of that being pointed out but still, there is that cosmic certainty of inevitability.

Mose was, for a while, a shining example of living history. That he was spared to a good age was absolutely to the advantage of those of us who were able to see him play. Though I was aware of him, it was only in the past 15 years that I really came to appreciate that he wasn’t just some old jazz guy. It’s being reported that he was too blues for jazz and too jazz for blues. In essence he was more than either of those pigeonholes.

I’d discovered an act called Parlor James on a visit to San Francisco in 1996. One of the members was a lady by the name of Amy Allison. Her voice was like nothing i ever heard before and I was captivated to the point that I bought all the promo copies I could find in Amoeba Records. Some years later, I contracted chicken pox in New York and found out that Amy Allison was playing the Lakeside Lounge the day after the doc gave me the all clear to get out of Dodge. Dodge being NYC.

A few years later the very wonderful Laura Cantrell cut an album, “Not The Trembling Kind” and on it was “The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter” written by Amy. Having asked Laura for contact details, I plucked up the courage to cold call her and the rest is history, six weeks later she was here in Scotland ready to play shows with Amy Rigby and ultimately to record with David Scott.

However, I digress. It seemed to be only right that I investigate her dad’s work properly and it floored me. There had been versions of his songs but being the singular artist that he was, the way to hear these was performed by the man himself. I was lucky enough to see him perform too and the last time. At Glasgow Jazz Festival in the Old Fruitmarket he tore the place a new roof.

The one time I met him, I’m certain he had no idea what the hell I was babbling about. He smiled and nodded a lot. My favourite recent Mose story is the time that he appeared on “Later” and he declined to let Jools Holland plink along with him. To me that's the measure of a true giant.

Mose Allison was a quiet cerebral man with nothing to prove to anyone. He conducted himself as the archetypal Southern gentleman at all times and if you never heard him then jeebus, you surely have a treat in store.

Amy sent this link to a cool obituary that explains in some detail just how important her dad is in the firmament o everything. I'm not about to say "Was". My condolences to my dear friend and her family at this time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Miriam and Billy, Berlin (I think) 1988

As you’ll no doubt be aware by now, Billy Miller left this god-forsaken excuse for a planet on Sunday November 13th. He put up a hell of a fight and in recent times I had convinced myself he was truly superhuman. That he may well pull through because no mortal could really endure the run of health hurdles this guy faced on a daily basis. So it was a shock to learn that he he’d gone and perhaps  the initial feeling of loss was tempered with a wee bit of a relief to know that no further trauma would befall him.

First time I met him was in the autumn of 1983 during my first ever stateside. I’d been penpals with Miriam since 1978 so we met up and hit it off, simple as that. Ours was a transatlantic congress rooted in the fandom that had brought us together and that no blighter was ever about to ever tear asunder. 

The kids with Leo Schnauser,
November 1987
And of course, we were hardcore Dictator fans when there weren't so many of those around. On my 30th birthday, Billy and Miriam took me to meet Al Lewis at his restaurant in NY. One of the few times I’ve ever been stuck for words. To Billy he was Leo Schnauser not Grandpa. The discussion moved on to Larry Storch as I recall.

Over the years we had many adventures. Not as many as I’d have liked because some bugger decided to install a big pond between us so that was problematic. Memories are a little jumbled right now and trying to put this together, my head is jumping all over the place. If it ends up making any semblance of sense then that will be more by accident than any sense or notion of clarity.

I was looking for the story about the time he and I were on a panel at Berlin Independence Days in 1988 but it doesn’t seem to be on the web any more. Greg Shaw stood up and told everyone that just two members of said talking shop represented rock’n’roll referring to Mr Miller and myself. That was quite an honour. You can see from the photo that they split us up in the hope that we wouldn’t cause mischief. Did that work out? What do you think??

That panel I was on about... Richard Boon, Some daftie, Jon Storey, ?,
Ed Ward, ?, Sir Wilhelm Miller, ?

Them A-Bones at The Loft,
Berlin 1988
The big European launch of the Norton Empire was at that same BID event. Wolfgang Doebling had released  "The A-Bones "Tempo Tantrum" 10” on his own Exile Records and he brought the band to play during the event which was the equivalent of something like the New Music Seminar crossed with CMJ. A wee band from the Pacific Northwest by the name of Mudhoney was also in attendance. Billy was tickled by the amount and selection of “baloney” (cold meats) for breakfast that was available in the Pension we all stayed at. It was like being at some crazy rock’n’roll camp where folks from all over came to talk about music.

The A-Bones at
Coyote Studios (?)
Billy Miller was the funniest, sharpest cat I ever met. He had his finger on the pulse of everything. His perspective was based upon an inherent grasp of the human condition. There was one situation that involved a discussion about Bobby McFerrin  (I know) that I remember nothing about other than the fact that I sniggered for hours afterward.

The last time I made it out to NY, Howard Thompson and I visited Castle Norton and spent a fantastic afternoon there. I also got to see them in my beloved Madrid and also in London with Roy and Cyril. The last one in the company of Stewart Cruickshank who left us a year ago (tomorrow). Billy features in the Punk Rock USA documentary Stewart made so if anyone would like to hear that then shoot me a message.

I've been looking through the pictures from B + M's wedding and I still can't believe we attended such an event. Talk about being made for one another... It boggles my mind to think of the way that Billy and Miriam have had to struggle with illness and hardship these past few years. Folks this good and pure and true should never be subjected to the gauntlet they’ve had to run. It’s all too obvious that there is no justice where such matters are concerned. 

Mr Miller,
Jay Street Fall 1983
Knowing Billy was such a privilege that I can’t even begin to explain. Those of you who were lucky enough to have met or spent any time with him at all know what I’m talking about. For those that didn’t, you have the Alt. Smithsonian archive that Norton Records resides over to investigate. The Millers have done more for the culture of America that matters than anyone ever. Before “Americana” came to mean almost nothing, Billy and Miriam were documenting what made their country great. When it actually was. If any dipstick can get us back to that then I'll take notice. 

Despite what seems to be happening around us, the Norton vision is very much intact and Miriam will carry that on. Joey Ramone only knows what must be going on in what is left of her mind right around now. 

Direct all your love toward that lady for as long as it takes to at least get her on an even keel. Billy may not physically be around but he’ll never leave our hearts nor or minds. 

Not for a second. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016


Very sorry to report the passing of my dear friend and total inspiration this shitty Sunday afternoon.

Much love to Miriam and the family at this time we all hoped wasn't gonna come.

And also to you folks who know what I mean when I say this was the funniest fucking gut I ever met and an utter gentleman always.

More if I can ever think straight again later.


Arriving in Alicante the day everything kicks off adds a degree of urgency to proceedings  but it also provided another glimpse of that small world syndrome. I met Rafa, a Madrid native that has lived in Edinburgh forever. We must have been at the same shows dozens of times but never met and share a whole bunch of friends and acquaintances. It’s always great when this happens so we went straight to the pub after getting off the bus to raise a glass (or two). That set us up well but in the topsy turvy FUNTASTIC world, time doesn’t travel in a straight aligned line like it does much of the rest of the time. Like when you go out to eat at 9pm and all of a sudden it’s midnight and you realise you may well have missed Shock Treatment. That’s the band, not the electroconvulsive therapy however much you think that I might benefit from such a jolt or three.

As we boarded the UFO to head on out of this world entertainment wise, I wondered what the denizens of “The Benidrome” must think of the annual influx or do they even notice? FUNTASTIC XI was packed with even more activities than ever. Meaning that if you could keep up with the pace then it was perfectly possible that you could have no sleep for something like 50 hours straight. Not including the extra hour for the clocks going back. So we arrived just before The Phantom Surfers busked their way to the stage in order to close the opening party to leave the floor open to the death-defying DJs.

It makes my heart soar to see so many “weel-kent” faces. The social aspect is perhaps more important than the bands but the sheer scope of music delivered is mind-boggling, something for everyone and a wee bit extra just for good measure. If you don’t care for what’s going down on stage then the DJ’s will provide the soundtrack for whatever devilment you choose to get up to out by the pool. The Pound to Draculin exchange rate was a little rough for we Brits abroad because of the Brexit numbskullery but that didn’t hamper the fluid intake none and you can’t put a price on this level of feeling that you left that shitty old world behind for a bit. There are those that you really wish were there too though. Those who could sure use a hit of this kind of crazy.

Photo by Tom Ahawk
Saturday began quietly enough. A leisurely wander prior to meeting La Hembra Alfa, Raccoón Robledano and the gang. I dunno, it seems to me that these kids must feel like they have their grandpa hanging around but they say not. I love them for that and a ton of other stuff.

JC3 / Photo by Tom Ahawk
The Johnny Casino Three were the best of the early evening rock action for me. It tailed off a wee bit but I was too distracted with everything else. It’s very hard to focus in this environment. The notion is to just not try and retain what’s going on but then how would anyone find out that they need to get their arses across to this annual blast.

I wasn’t too thrilled with The Ar-kaics records but live they’re much more full blooded. From that point, they were the biggest surprise to me. A really solid outfit that bear re-investigation and one that I would definitely see again. 

Zelatorrific! / Pic by Oklahoma Watt
Zelators delivered upon the four songs I saw them perform less than a month ago. If the B52s had come from Akron then that’s just a wee insight to what these folks are capable of. They’re working on their debut album now so once that’s all in place, I think this thing could really travel. Damn nice people too. 

Las Munjitas Del Fuzz were next and they put the Mediterranean into the Medway Sound and had Brother Russ Wilkins join them onstage. 

Guitar Wolf is a worthy concept in terms of performance art but for me, “musically”, that’s where it falls short. They sure know how to kick up a dirge but the density of the noise is something I find utterly charmless. I’ve tried. You might call it endurance but it just strikes me as thunderously dull. Visually spot on but lacking any tangible substance. I like heid-boggling volume as much as the next maniac but I find this lumpy and nowhere near as amusing as I wish it was. I’m aware that many will disagree, that is of course your/their perogative.

Photo by Tom Ahawk
What can I say about those Young Fresh Fellows. One of my favourite bands since forever ago. I reviewed their first album for Sounds in October 1985 – before many FUNTASTIC attendees were born – and have never looked back. They are also my dear friends and they wedged a version of "THE NEXT BIG THING" into their set dedicated to me. I had no idea they were going to do that. These past three years that I have been fortunate to attend this wonderful gathering of the clans, a band from the Pacific Northwest has been the epicentre. I wonder who it might be next year?

So much drinking and dancing ensued following the Fellows. La Hembra Alfa alerted me to this that Nacho de la Cruz had posted somewhere... 

"Sí pero finalmente abrazasteis los cantos de sirena del moderneo y en esas andáis aunque naturalmente reneguéis de ellos como San Pedro a Cristo, pero compartís fiestas, festivales y demás codo con codo. Yo pensaba que había dejado de molar desde hace años, pero viendo el sábado subido a la tarima de la ventana del Funtastic a Lindsay Hutton con su esposa o pareja bailando como si no hubiera mañana las putas canciones de toda la vida que estaba pinchando parece que no, bueno sí, pero eso que me llevo."

It was nacho's DJ set what caused it. Possibly the greatest review I ever got. Viva Patricia!

Las Jennys - Photo by Isa Risa
It was already the wee hours of Sunday and nowhere near enough sleep later, bound we were for Las Jennys de Arroyoculebro at Rockstar Bar. A total highlight that just hit the spot. That wee wummin with the beard and the singer could cause a row in an empty hoose. Come to think of it "she" looks a wee bit familiar, don't you think?

Sunday evening was billed as Hallowe’en Pandemonium. To say that the collected throng was up for all of that and more is an understatement. How Paloma and Varo continue to be able to outdo themselves is nothing short of miraculous. People come to this because they are fans of the organisers just as much as they might dig any band that's playing. They trust the curation and they want to be in attendance of the biggest party thrown in any given year. Cruising at the altitude FUNTASTIC flies at, experiencing is believing.

The Freaks of Nature were perhaps my hit pick of the final run. Like The Manfreds channelling The Fleshtones Blast Off period. Paul Manchester is convinced that The Cavemen are the greatest band in the world and he even dressed up like one. I’m closer to the age of an actual caveman and it was all a wee bit overwrought but the kids loved them. Like Les Grys Grys, they ain’t for me but if it opens up a way for youngsters to discover this hooch then I’m fine with that. Let me know when if ever they get anywhere near being as wild as Las Jennys.

Mummified / Photo by Isa Risa
The Fuzillis oeuvre is all over the shop but it really works as the atmosphere cranks up. An archetypal party outfit that get extra brownie points for shoe-horning a version of Tommy Ridgley’s “Jam Up” into their repertoire. The Mummies were way better than I expected and the ideal way to close the band action on the eleventh edition of FDC. There  was still mucho dancing to do after that but I wasn’t able to stay til the death because I didn’t want to feel like death on the drive to Madrid later that day. In this fucked up world, there is no escape that can equal the outright pleasure that is part and parcel of the FUNTASTIC experience. 

The kids and some old daftie / Photo by Isa Risa
To all of the folks that congregate from all over to make it what it is, I salute your stamina and ability to rage. To all of those who couldn’t make it this year due to illness or whatnot, I hope that circumstances are different come 2017 and you can beat a path back to the vessel that annually carries us on out of this world. When on terra firma, we could be found in an excellent wee tea room adjacent to our accommodation. 

Florentine Salón de Te was often the place to be and they do the most scrum-diddley-umptious mini jam doughnuts amongst much other delights.

Photo by Tom Ahawk
These serve as field recordings and shouldn't necessarily be indicative of how it sounded in the room or as a backdrop to the shenanigans taking place around any given performance. So don't judge any of the acts based on these. See them for yourselves should you ever get the chance.

Monday 31st October was the day we hit the road and headed for Madrid. More about that end of the adventure in due course... Howlin’ at the Hallowe’en Moon in my favourite rock’n’roll city in the world. What could possibly go awry?

I'm not sure who took this but they sure captured a great moment...