The winds came first … the neighbors tree falling came next, and when the haunted harmonica sounds of the wind blowing through my office door, (sounding like a Ennio Morricone soundtrack), started imitating an Armenian duduk, (the most beautiful sounding instrument on the face of the Earth), I knew I was going to find something sadder than usual in my morning New York Times.
Dave Havlicek, aka Dave Day, guitarist and banjo player for one of the most original, legendary and enigmatic bands ever to grace a stage, The Monks, died last Thursday, January 10th. Day, who was born and lived in Renton just outside Seattle, Washington, suffered a stroke or a heart attack on the previous Sunday morning which left him on life support for a short time before he passed.
Many years ago, way too many to actually acknowledge, I used to work at the original Onyx Café when it was next door to the Vista Theater in East Hollywood. One evening a customer gave me a home made cassette tape of a band I had only vaguely ever heard of named The Monks, the record Black Monk Time.
I put on the tape. What I remember most are two distinctive reactions: mine of total amazement and awe, how the hell did I miss this band (I’m a record geek for chrissakes!), and the reaction of another customer saying almost the same thing. But his “what the hell is this?” was followed by something like “do you have to play this crap now!”
The Monks were five American GIs stationed in Germany who billed themselves as the “Anti-Beatles”. They played it heavy, weren’t afraid of feedback or dissonance and Dave Day added to the mayhem and the whole crunching rhythmic sound by playing the hell out of the electric banjo. They shaved their heads into monks' tonsures, dressed in black monasterial robes, sometimes wearing nooses as neckties, mocked and rocked harder than any of their sixties counterparts while basically inventing what would become kraut rock, industrial, and punk music. Am I overstating their importance in rock music history? No! Their nihilistic deconstruction of Rock and Roll, owing in part to the Dada Movement of the ‘20s, predated Punk’s similar efforts by a good ten years or more. The Monks were easily 30 years ahead of mainstream rock’s time.
Crime was formed in 1976 by Johnny Strike, Frankie Fix, Ron "The Ripper" Greco (ex-Chosen Few/Flamin' Groovies), and Ricky James. They ripped post-hippie San Francisco a metaphorical new one when they released their first (and many say Punk’s first) single “Hot Wire My Heart / Baby You're So Repulsive.” There was no mistaking these guys for mere rockers; they mixed a rebellious and sexually-charged image (they were most often seen flaunting their vampiric, just-outta-rehab good looks in tight leather, regulation police uniforms, or old-time gangster duds) with their unique blend of intellectual and furious lo-fi rock and roll. Crime found local refuge at the now legendary Mabuhay Gardens, but became nationally notorious after playing a gig at San Quentin Penitentiary in full police uniforms (of course).
In 1977 Hank Rank joined the ranks, but left in 1979. The band split in 1982 when Strike quit Crime to focus on writing. Frankie Fix attempted a Crime reunion in the early 90’s, but Strike elected not join in. In 1996 Frankie Fix passed away.
But of all of the interviews he conducted on his NBC program The Tomorrow Show the clip below (in my opinion) is one of the most compelling to watch. It is Snyder's 1980 interview with both John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten) and his Public Image Limited (PIL) band-mate Keith Levene. Bear in mind that by this stage that Rotten as main spokesman of the Sex Pistols had earned a justified reputation as one of the most difficult and unpredictable interviewees for any radio or television host. But watch it and witness how brilliantly Snyder handles his tough subject and how Lydon, used to knocking over - especially older generation - interviewers seems to have finally met his match and has to struggle a bit to keep in character and try to maintain an upper hand.
The end result is a perfect sparring match, with both Snyder and Lydon puffing away on cigarettes, that makes for the most engaging type of TV. Do me a favor: watch it and in the COMMENTS box below rate (on a scale of 1 to 5) both Snyder's and Lydon's performances. EG: Tom = 3, John = 3.