Lordy, Lordy, Mizz Izzy!
LAST NIGHT WE WENT TO THE SCREENING OF THE RUNAWAYS, the new film about that pioneering proto-punk band that blazed trails in the rock world and proved that, yes, women can rock.
Kathy Valentine, Roadway Inn, Dallas, January 1978, in the middle of three days of gigs we played in DFW.
Yes indeed back when knuckle-draggers ruled the Earth and the name John Wayne cut more ice than Jon Stewart, there was a lot of sexist baloney passing for wisdom. The film is good. I loved all the Iggy music in the soundtrack. Michael Shannon’s portrayal of reptilian beast Kim Fowley almost steals the show. Cherie Currie was there to do Q&A afterward, looking good, as were Kristen Stewart & Dakota Fanning also. But then again, director Floria Sigismondi, statuesque and dripping classic rock star panache that would make Anita Pallenberg and Jerry Hall envious, really outshone the so-called movie starlets. But then again I don’t go to many teenage vampire flicks.
Marilyn Dean (drummer) & Kathy Valentine. All the Violators, plus Lois, my wife, shared an apartment on E. Riverside in 1978. Those were some kind of times, I tell ya.
Oh and Kristen does a very credible job as Joan Jett, Dakota does a good portrayal of Cherie Currie.
The Violators 1977: Clockwise from top: Jesse Sublett, Carla Olson, Kathy Valentine, Marilyn Dean.
Floria Sigismondi, the director who is more rock star than the stars she directs.
I was reminded of those days in the mid-seventies not just because I saw the Runaways at the Armadillo World Headquarters, but because it reminded me of when I first met Kathy Valentine, Carla Olson and Marilyn Dean, three of the first rock chicks in Austin. Carla was about 25, when I met her, I think, but she’d already been in band called Silver Cloud in about 1974 or so. Kathy and Marilyn were age 16 and 15, respectively, and they were starting a band. About a year later they were starting another new band and wanted to have an all girl band, but could find no satisfactory girl bassist, so I joined, which is not to be taken as a shot at my lack of masculinity. We were all friends. The band was the Violators, which debuted at Soap Creek Saloon on New Year’s Eve 1977-78, also with a preview of my other band, The Skunks. This took place as a mini-set in the middle of a set by a band called the Tools. The Tools was a songwriting project of a guitarist and sound man named Charlie Ray. Eddie Munoz, Billy Blackmon and I had played on his demo, so we also did this one-off gig with him. At the same time we used it as a venue to preview the new bands, the Skunks and Violators. Lots of trivia there. Anyway, the Skunks (Eddie, Billy & myself) played our first real gig opening for the Violators at Raul’s in February 1978. The rest is Austin rock / punk / new wave history.
Sally Norvell sang for the Gator Family, was married to the Huns' Phil Tolstead, later to Jon Dee Graham, and I have no wisecracks for that. She was also in Congo Norvell, and she's quite fabulous.
Playing with the Violators was a trip. These cavemen would come into the dressing room after the gig, expecting to be invited to an orgy. Even many of the guys who assumed a sort of “cool” aura would say, “You guys play pretty good for girls,” as if that was a big compliment.
Carla Olson/Mick Taylor Band: L-R: Jesse Sublett, Carla Olson, Juke Logan, Mick Taylor, George Callins + 5 others, including Ian McLagan & Joe Sublett & Rick Hemmert.
Later I played with Kathy Valentine in LA in World’s Cutest Killers. She was an international rock star by then from being in the Go-Go’s, which were kind of on hiatus at the time. Kelly Johnson was from Girlschool, an all-girl metal band from the UK (Kathy was actually in an early version of that band). We recorded a demo that was produced by Mike Chapman, producer of most of Blondie’s hit records. That was interesting, too.
Last night at the screening I spoke to one of my most handsome friends, the drummer Clem Burke (drummer for Blondie and a long, long list of other great bands) and Nigel Harrison (Blondie ex bassist), Kathy Valentine and others. Plus a Skunks fan behind the counter gave me my popcorn and drinks on the house “as a gift for all that great music you’ve made!!” Which was sweet! Kathy, by the way, has several SXSW showcases this week with her band, the Bluebonnets, and Clem will be her guest drummer.
Clem and I discussed the death of Alex Chilton and the fact that Eddie Munoz, who was in the Skunks (original guitarist) and now plays with Clem in Magic Christian, has moved to New Jersey! Good luck, Eddie.
World's Cutest Killers, L-R: Jesse Sublett, Jebin Bruni, Kathy Valentine, Kelly Johnson, Craig Aaronson
The Runaways film is being distributed by Bob Berney’s new company, Apparition, so I expect it to do well. They don’t call Bob “the Guru of indie film” for nothing.
The Skunks give Patti Smith (in hat) room to chant "Have no fear! Tell God the Skunks are here!" as she rips the strings off Lois' guitar. That guitar was later stolen from our van in New York City, after our second night at CBGB.
My good friend Tony O’Neill co-wrote Cherie Currie’s new memoir, Neon Angel. Nobody writes about being a rock n roll dope addict like Tony. Nobody writes like Tony, period. His new novel, Sick City, comes out this summer. Full disclosure: Tony and I have the same literary agent, Michael Murphy, and we have made a blood pact to co-promote Michael’s roster. On the other hand, I would promote Tony’s work even if we were talking about Michael Murphy the old cosmic cowboy singer, who has absolutely NO connection to yours truly.
My wife, Lois Richwine, and Debbie Harry, backstage at the Austin Opera House in 1978. Debbie was sweet & gracious, the guys were very cool. Lois is also in Austin's vanguard of rock chicks. Not as a musician but a personality. plus she made the deadbeats pay the lousy cover at our gigs! plus she booked Max & the MakeUps, Charlie Sexton, Lou Ann Barton, etc.
The after party at Moonshine was cool. I met Floria Sigismondi and her husband, who plays in Living Things, plus their lovely daughter, Stephanie, who looks maybe 3 or 4. I had to tell Floria how cool she is, not that she doesn’t already know.
Also two women mistook me for Michael Shannon. I hated to disappoint them, but the real Kim Fowley was there, so, anyway. Shannon was in NYC, acting in “Our Town.” Hmmm.
Here’s yet another shameless plug for my gig Saturday: High Noon at Antone’s Records with the Murder Ballad Show. Jon Dee Graham and I will be joined by one of Austin’s awesomest girl rockers, Terri Lord.
Terri Lord rocks!
No story about Austin's girl rockers (or any real rock n roll story) is complete without a tip of the hat & full body hug with Margaret Moser. Without her a lot of us would have had to get real jobs.
AND NOW… a post script… I want to do a shout-out to a couple of my current favorite Austin gals with guitars, just to prove that I don’t live in the past. If you are not hip to Izzy Cox, you ought to be. Friend her on FaceBook, check out her MySpace and she’s all over YouTube. I love this gal.
Izzy Cox, outlaw murder ballad queen
She is scary, endearing, super-talented. She bills herself variously as the Queen of Murder Ballads and the voodoo jazz blues murderbilly babe, whatever. She is a just a big-eyed, big-chested world of wonder, if you ask me. Some girls could pose in their underwear with a shotgun and look like a silly poseur, a Victoria’s Secret ad gone to the dark side. But when Izzy does it, well, it’s got its own reality.
Also, here’s to Eve Monsees, one of Austin’s best guitarists, no kidding. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with her a few times and she’s got it in spades. She’s got her own band called Eve & the Exiles and she also plays with Kathy Valentine in the Bluebonnets.