Somehow longtime author, punk rock drummer, and self-described "punk anthropologist" Aaron Cometbus (born Aaron Elliot) has managed to stay relatively under the mainstream radar while simultaneously gaining great notoriety and deserved respect among underground punk circles for close to three full decades now -- ever since the beginning of the eighties when, barely a teenager, the highly intelligent and gifted Berkeley youth began writing his seminal punk fanzine Cometbus.
He also played music in many bands from a young age. His second band Crimpshrine, in which he played drums, was the pioneering East Bay punk band which had a major impact on the burgeoning East Bay punk scene, up until their demise in '89. Since then Aaron has continued to consistently make music as a member of, literally, dozens of different bands -- most of them short lived groups. Some, such as Pinhead Gunpowder, which he formed with Billie Joe Armstrong and others in the early nineties, still play occasionally. His most recent band is the Thorns of Life which formed a few months ago in Brooklyn and features Blake Schwarzenbach (of Jets to Brazil & Jawbreaker fame) and bassist Daniela Sea (known for her former membership of the Gr'ups and Cypher in the Snow as well as her acting role in the TV show The L Word). The band, who played their first club date ever on Monday at the Hemlock in SF followed a few days later on Thursday last by a "secret show" at Thrillhouse Records with a reported 100 folks squeezed into the small Mission Street retail space., play 924 Gilman tomorrow (Sat. Jan 31st).
As reported earlier today by both the Guardian UK and Associated Press, famed British folk singer-songwriter John Martyn has died earlier today, of unknown causes, at age 60. Martyn, who was very recently awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the 2009 New Year honours list, was best known for melding jazz with his folk musical style.
Martyn's 1973 album Solid Air, whose title track reportedly was a tribute to singer-songwriter Nick Drake, with whom Martyn was often compared, remains his most acclaimed album. Over his several decades-long career Martyn had collaborated with such high-profile acts as Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and David Gilmour. Additionally he had collaborated a lot with his former wife Beverley Martyn.
As reported by the Guardian, Martyn, who was known for wholeheartedly living the rock n roll lifestyle (booze and drugs), had struggled in recent years with alcoholism and once told Q Magazine that, "If I could control myself more, I think the music would be much less interesting. I'd probably be a great deal richer but I'd have had far less fun and I'd be making really dull music."
In 2003 his right leg was partially amputated after a large cyst under his knee burst, leading him to spend his latter years in a wheelchair.
I recently found a bunch of old California punk flyers buried in a box that had been stored for years since back in the 80s when these shows that took place in both the Bay Area (SF and Berkeley) and in SoCal. This Amoeblog focuses on some California punk flyers from the 1980's.
Almost as much as I loved the music itself, I equally loved most of the simple but impassioned flyer designs and the raw energy that went into making them. They were often created by a band member or one of their extended crew. While the styles ranged a little bit from one flyer to another, they were usually just handdrawn graphics or images or maybe just one simple image cut out of a magazine and slapped on the page.
Sometimes the main information (the band names or club info) might have been handwritten or else typed out, but not like today on a computer. Back then it was usually made on a typewriter, then blown up on a copy machine to match the scale of the flyer.
Compared to now, when everyone has the luxury of a tricked-out computer oozing with graphic programs etc. that can do every type of desired design at the click of a finger, this was an archaic and simple time. It was when cut-and-paste meant literally cutting out an image or graphic with a scissors and pasting it with glue or Scotch tape or sometimes just spit to hold things in place. Having a friend who worked at a local Xerox store or working there yourself was always a plus. Same went for those who did fanzines. I remember many show flyers being so rushed that they would be Xeroxed and all passed out before anyone would catch some glaring typo or ommission such as the date of the event having been left off the flyer! Or sometimes with handwritten flyers it was impossible to make out the name of the venue or the date because it was so badly drawn or so artisitically done that design prevalied over content and legibility.
Patrick Hambrecht of the unique Brooklyn rock group Flaming Fire has a really wonderfully written article in the latest Vice magazine (published online yesterday) entitled "The Past, Or Three Reasons I Quit My Band and Started Over." In the piece he writes, "I was in a band called Flaming Fire. I recently ended this band." The charismatic center of the self-described "spooky electronic chant" band / metaphysical arts collective has created an extremely entertaining piece of writing in which he draws analogies to the cartoon G-Force and also Syd Barrett. What he wrote follows and will certainly entertain anyone who has ever been in a band:
"When I was a kid, my favorite show was G-Force, an anime about "Five secret agents trained to fly like birds." They traveled around in a huge space plane that could turn into a phoenix, and everyone on the show had a cool vehicle that detached from the phoenix. Mark, the leader, had a jet fighter; the robot sidekick had a subterranean drill; the girl had a scooter; the cool guy had a racecar. The only guy who didn't have a cool vehicle was Tiny. Tiny was the fat dork who drove the big plane, and waited for everyone to come back from their awesome solo missions. When you start a band, you think you're going to be Syd Barrett, and everyone else will let you get drunk, do lots of drugs and be fun while they pack drums and set up gigs and do all the boring stuff. But that's not going to happen. Because you're the band leader, the band is your thing, not theirs. Your drummer may be in eight bands, your bassist may be a painter, your lady vocalist may be a cartoonist, but you won't have time for those things yourself. You have to set up gigs, book tours, cart them around in a van you buy, smooth over arguments between members, try to save money from gigs for recording sessions, mail out promo CDs over your lunchbreak. You're not Syd Barrett; you're a secretary. You're Tiny."
AMOEBA MUSIC BERKELEY HIP-HOP TOP FIVE: 01:25:09
1) Q-Tip The Renaissance (Motown/Universal)
2) Common Universal Mind Control (Geffen)
3) 88 Keys The Death of Adam (Decon)
4) E40 The Ball Street Journal (Sic Wid It/Warner)
5) Atmosphere God Loves Ugly (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
Thanks to Inti at Amoeba Music Berkeley for supplying this week's Hip-Hop Top FIve chart of the best selling albums of the week. As with both other Amoeba stores, the current Q-Tip and Common albums are both still selling steadily. So too are 88 Keys and the "Ambassador of the Yay Area," E40. In addition to the former Jive Records artist's first release through Warner, E40 is also one of the 40 odd artists featured on the fantastic new hip-hop rooted but musically diverse compilation N.A.S.A. The Spirit of Apollo on Anti (more on this release later). Not on this chart but still selling well at Amoeba Berkeley, as well as elsewhere, and coming in at a close number 6, is Kayne West's 808s & Heartbreak (Roc-A-Fella Records). "I really like that album," said Inti from Amoeba, adding that, "It's a concept album and I always appreciate concept albums. And people are loving it and buying it."
This week's Top Five's newest chart entry, Atmosphere's God Loves Ugly, is in fact a reissue of the relatively slept-on 2002 release by the superb Minneapolis, Minnesota duo comprised of Slug (emcee) and Ant (beats). Atmosphere's stellar last album When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers) was the top selling hip-hop album at Amoeba Music for 2008. As time goes on and mainstream hip-hop gets more redundant and repetitive, it seems unique voices like Slug's (an intelligent, insightful emcee with a real gift for storytelling and flipping the script in a truly original way) over the dense innovative beats of Ant, rise to the top to get the attention they rightfully deserve.