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.