Monday, July 29, 2013

New York, rookie year

In which the Pope and I set the NYN reset button, I get a crash course in American culture and drink champagne from a fountain.
Elliot Harris = Aid Haid - Leo Faison = The Pope - Dieter Runge = Detour, Lenny Ducati -
Iolsta Hat = Poet, lead singer of The Communists
Louis Tooloose = Lou Ferreiro, bass player for The Communist/NYN
 Oh yeah. The name. Legend goes that Leo was friends with Patti Smith and that he inspired the song Rock'n Roll Nigger. I never heard that from anyone involved. This is my understanding: Punk age - the word nigger is demeaning - yes we are the oppressed, so up yours - New York Dolls - Patti's song - detournement. Just listen to her lyrics, Jimmy Hendrix, Jackson Pollock, Rimbaud, all oppressed people. I could completely identify, and once I was in the band I made a stencil that I used for t-shirts, flyers, and completely covered a jacket that I wore every where. I never got into trouble, and one morning I found my self in an after hours club sitting at the bar, the only white boy. It could'a been a scary scene. There was a woman with nails that were longer than her fingers sitting on one side of me and a guy on the other. After a while the the guy said:" You know what? You're so crazy you're cool." A good mix of ignorance, naivete, attitude and enthusiasm went a long way.

A timeline I just discovered, written in 86.

Yes, I had run out of $'s, kicked out of Hollis Hotel and now was at the 2 200 sq ft NYN loft on Greenwich St and Canal St on Manhattan’s lower west side courtesy of Aid and The Pope. Across the street was the Holland Tunnel, and two blocks to the West was the closed down elevated west side highway on which you could walk among plants sprouting out of the cracks in the concrete. The building had five floors all occupied by bands. The lower floors were mostly art rockers like Rhys Chatham, who played the open e-chord for an hour at a time. The 4th floor was divided in two spaces and occupied by NYN and The Communists. The top floor housed a progressive fusion band. Richard Hell & the Voidoids rehearsed below, but didn't live in the building. Since they always borrowed stuff from us, we were usually on the guest list. They were one of my favorite bands. Great songs and the slashing double guitar attack of Bob Quine and Ivan Julian was cuttingly brilliant and very influential just like Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, Years later I would play and record with the Voidoid’s Ivan Julian. I loved The Communists and became good friends with their lead singer Iolsta Hat. Iolsta wore her bra outside her clothes years before Madonna and was Goth before the term existed. The Communists were conceptual and rocked. They had great songs and presence. I roadied for them a couple of times at CB’s and Max’s, dressed in black leather pants and a white dinner jacket from the $2 bin at Canal Jean.

Aid Haid - Elliot Harris, 1978

The Pope - Leo Faison - at One Fifth

Poet/singer and Goth pioneer Iolsta Hatt.

Louis Tooloose - Lou Ferreiro. 1978

The NYN loft was just one undivided room with a stage for the band and the beds lined up against the walls. There was a couch and a TV that ran all the time, except when we rehearsed and that was everyday. Since the TV was on all the time I got crash course in American culture. Actually, one of the first shows I remember was the Saturday Night live show when The Stones introduced Miss You, but the daily dose was I love Lucy, Honeymooners, The Odd Couple, Hogan’s Heroes, Sanford & son, and my favorite the Twilight Zone. We'd be kicking back on the couch with the guitars on our laps, practicing scales. I would be the only one ever to turn off the TV.
Aid and the Pope were the founders of NYN and their respective songwriters, guitarists and singers. They both hailed from Utica, upstate NY. Aid’s brother Wayne and his sister Cassandra often came down and stayed with us for stretches of time. They were also good musicians and played and sang with us. So, here I was, one German guy, living with 4 African Americans, a great education.

The author at the ranch
The floors of the building were made of wooden planks with about an inch space between them. One could hear what was spoken. Just imagine the cacophony of three or four bands playing at the same time. Of course we all knew each other’s songs intimately. One of bands downstairs had a song that went on for about 20 min with the singer going: “I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself…” After about 20 minutes one of them would go 1,2,3,4 and they'd end the song. The art rockers from downstairs soon got a big break with the Brian Eno produced New York No Wave LP. 
The knowledge of each other's songs came in handy when we got ready to record our single and had no drummer once again. Eddie, the drummer of the prog-rockers upstairs just came into the recording studio and nailed it. Later I would play and record most of my songs with him on drums. Besides all the cacophony all the bands stopped at 10:00 PM, except on weekends when there were jams or parties. The biggest and wildest ones were the NYN parties. Usually there were 2 or more bands and we either sold liquor or charged at the door and provided drinks. The parties were generally packed, people making out on the fire escape or on the roof. On one particularly hot night, outside temperature was 100F plus, one a woman arrived in a glitter bikini, which hung behind the stage after the second song. Some people had tar on their bodies after returning from the melting roof. Usually the cops shut us down sometime in the morning. If you search 474 Greenwich St on line you can see pictures of a beautiful space. It sells for more than $ 1 000 000.- , 1 100 sq ft now (you can find a pic of the building). Back then, we paid $ 375.- monthly for 2 200 sq ft. Yeeeehah!

474 Greenwich St.

 The building is cleaned up, all the doors and windows are new. The NYN loft were the four windows on the left, second floor from the top. There was a liquor store in the corner of Canal St, building on the right.

The Author, The Pope, The Drummer (George Darrow). Pic of Debbie Harry and flyer for Pure Hell.
 Pure Hell was an all black punk band band from Philly. I loved their flyer. Everybody was dressed in black leather. Here is their LP.

Life at the loft, summer 78

 In June 78 NYN was scheduled to play a 2-day festival in a dance space on Lafayette St, when the bass player had an offer to get paid to play in a band and quit. “I’ll play bass,” I said, never having played before. Leo and Aid had a friend who did some artwork for a Kiss LP and instead of $$, got paid with a bass from Gene Simmons. It still had some of Gene Simmon’s blood on it. Mine would follow soon. This bass, a Gibson Grabber was quite ugly and very difficult to play. I practiced for hours day in and day out and we did the gig. When we set up for the sound check Wolf nailed his drum set to the parquet floor, which didn’t go over too well. We played ok, but something had been brewing between The Pope and Aid and the band dissolved.
Leo and me vowed to continue, with me playing the second guitar. We started to practice and looked for more players.
One day, exploring Manhattan I found a cheap guitar in a garbage can on 110 St. I walked it back all the way to the ‘ranch’, that what Aid called it, some 120 NY city blocks. It fixed up enough to use as practice guitar and during the summer my friend Ruediger brought my Tele over from Germany. That summer a few friends came visiting across the Atlantic and I heard that people had to camp out for several days in the London airport to catch a $99 Laker Airways flight. There were visitors at the loft all the time. A 16-year-old Michel Basquiat was one of them, often sitting on the stage while we were rehearsing. Did hanging out with NYN inspired his art? Hahahaha!

Untitled, 1981, Jean Michel Basquiat.
By September we started to play again. Bob and Iolsta broke up and the Communists dissolved. Louis Tooloose their bass player joined us and we went through various drummers and had a singer for a while. For the rest of the year we played at Club Hollywood, CBGB’s, Max’s and our Loft.
I worked some odd jobs, but mostly was broke, not pretty. Leo, who had a day job as a chef at the legendary One Fifth (Ave) (Patti Smith lived upstairs with Allan Lanier from Blue Oyster Cult) helped me a lot through this occasionally rough and depressing time. I was often hungry and my gums were bleeding, caused by the lack of fresh food, yet I never felt that I wasn't in the right place. Keith McNally managed  One Fifth and almost became our manager. He subsequently opened the Odeon, Cafe Luxemburg and other now legendary restaurants.

First gig after reset.

Oktoberfest, first loft party

...and at Max's. Louis, Detour, Pope, drummers changed.
The owner of One Fifth put on a nice x-mas party for all the employees and I got to go to the upper west side with Leo, having wonderful food and drinking champagne from a fountain. NYN had all kind of fans from Seymour Wakshal, a violin professor to Michelle Robinson, who later became Sid Vicious last girlfriend. Sometimes Leo and I were invited to Seymour’s house on W 67th St, by Lincoln Center and we partied with opera singers. Seymour played for the opera and taught at NYU. On Jan 5th there was a big party at One Fifth and I got to hang out with the likes of David Bowie, Ric Ocasek (The Cars) and talked to Iggy Pop for a couple of hrs, all about Berlin and German History, about which he knew a lot.
Earlier in 78, CBGB’s and Max’s were the center of the scene, then more and more clubs opened, Club 57 on St. Marks place, which later moved to Irving Plaza was one of the first ones, Club Hollywood of 2nd Ave, were I first saw Afrika Bambaata and other hip hop acts and in October the Mudd Club which mixed the art and rock’n roll crowd and became an instant hot spot. "This ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB's."  Early on I saw the  B 52's, Percy Sledge, Marianne Faithful and many other bands. Broke all the time I developed skills to talk myself into almost every club. Once you played a club, you usually got in. With the Mudd club it was a bit harder, but I managed to go out every night for the first 3 years in the city. There were also many other loftparties besides ours and often when there was a performance I’d go to the kitchen to get some food, sometimes waking up in the morning with half a sandwich in my pocket, which would never be wasted.
Aid liked to listen to reggae and frequently played the Generation X LP he had back then. Leo had bought the Johnny Burnette Trio's LP so we could learn The Train Kept a Rolling (While I was in the band we only did 3 covers, The Stooges Search & Destroy, Train Kept a Rolling and the Who's My Generation). The pop soundtrack of that year was kinda dominated by The Cars, who rode the new music wave with pure pop.

Next time, The Niggers really get going and record a now sought after 45 and open for the Plasmatics on Halloween 79.
The writer immediately after a show at the loft, in the elevator which served as dressing room.

                   Notice the peculiar look of the picture It was taken from a slide to xerox print.
more sources:
Here is a one hour long documentary on the early Brit punk scene, a great quote from the movie: Punk is what the 70's should have been. It would have been a very boring decade otherwise.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

42nd Street Crash.

In which I arrive on 42nd Street via the Boulevard Montparnasse, Portobello Road, a $99 flight and two days later, go straight to Rock'n Roll Heaven.

  Getting kicked out of Rotz Kotz fulfilled chapter 1 of my original plan to start a band within 6 month or leave Hannover  So it had worked out and then it stopped. After just around the 6-month back in Hannover I had played at the Documenta and had some wild times with Rotz Kotz. 
Yes, we had one big bed. Mattus, Ulli, the author.

Meanwhile I was working as a taxi driver 4/5 nights a week, hardly ever seeing the daylight during the winter. By the spring of 78 I was ready for a change. I had gotten my US visa and my communards Mattus, Ulli and I went to Paris with Ulli’s Renault 4 to hang out for the 10th anniversary of the May 68. 

Renault 4 web pic.

Inside R4. Check out the shifter. You pulled and pushed and turned the handle. The Citroen 2CV had a similar one.
May 68 slogan, under the pavement, the beach.

The R4 was a cheap no nonsense car just like the Citroen deux-cheveux; both had small engines. Plastic Bertrand’s Ca Plane Pour Moi  (it works out for me) was a huge hit at the time and played on every jukebox in Paris. Plastic Bertrant was indeed plastic a studio produced song, no band, but completely infectious. I believe the artist and producer are still in courts today trying to decide who actually sang on the record, kinda like Milli Vanilli (if you must) in the 90’s. Milli Vanilli was a psychedelic disco in Hannover in 1969. ha-ha! Yes, I needed to leave. The Ramones had come out with their second album in 1977. It was called Leave Home.
After three or four days in Paris I bade good bye to my comrades and hitched to Calais to take the ferry across the channel. I got to London in the evening and tried to call the # of a woman I had met in Berlin a few months ago. No answer, so I drifted around the city all night long. I was wearing black leather pants, a black double breasted suit jacket from my dad and didn’t real carry any luggage, just a small canvas bag ca 18” square. Once the morning hit I made my way to the flea market in Portobello Road. I bought a big X Ray Spex button and added it to my Patti Smith button.

 It started to rain and didn’t stop. There was still no answer at my friends #. I was getting soaked and with no idea what to do I decided to just make it to the airport. Laker Airways was happening at this time. It existed since 66 but in 77 Laker Airways became the first long haul, low cost, no frills, no food, who needs it anyway, airline and flew from London Gatwick to New York’s JFK for $ 99. There were no reservations whatsoever. You just went to the airport and got on the next available flight. I bought a bottle of Sherry and got on the flight, my clothes still wet. A minute before the doors were closed two black models sat down next to me.
When we got to New York the bottle was empty, I was drunk and had a fever. It took me two hours to get through immigration and customs, no place to stay, one-way ticket, didn’t know anyone, but I made it. It was the 5th of May 1978. I guess back then NY was happy if anyone visited. It was run down, nearly bankrupt and dangerous. The bus dropped me off at 1st Ave and 38th St. Without a plan I was drawn uptown and west, eventually getting to Times Square and 42nd Street. Then, this was the center of sleaze, drugs, prostitution, porno-theatres, peepshows, illegal gambling, etc. I was tired, hadn’t really slept since Paris, and sick with fever, but all the hotels I encountered between 38th St and Times Square seemed to be full, or so they said. I kept walking until I found a narrow staircase leading up to Hollies’ Hotel on 8th Ave and 48th St. It was $10 a night and I think I was the only white person there. I could touch the walls with my outstretched hands, the bathroom and a filthy group shower was in the hall. First I didn’t think I could sleep there with all the cockroaches, strange smells and the violent sounds coming from the other rooms, but soon crashed and stayed in bed for two days, just going to the convenient store downstairs to get some orange juice.
 This clip is the other side of the Lou Reed clip below. Just happened to be about 42nd St.

My first day up and out in NY happened to be the last night of the three day Johnny Blitz Benefit at CBGB’s. Johnny Blitz was the drummer for the Dead Boys who had relocated from Cleveland. He got seriously stabbed in the East Village. This is described in detail in Legs McNeil/Gillian Mc Cain’s, Please Kill Me (pg 314-18). The Dead Boys were styled after the Pistols and had a classic punk anthem with 77’s Sonic Reducer. Their lead singer Stiff Bator was a huge Iggy fan and at the end of every gig at CB’s he would throw a mike chord over some pipes and perform a mock hanging. He od’d in 1990.
Bands like Patti Smith, Television, The Ramones and Talking Heads all had one or several albums out by then and were playing bigger venues. Blondie was on their way to become a huge pop band and Television had already disbanded. For the Blitz benefit many of these artists came back to CB’s and played, each night going nonstop from 8:00 PM on until late. 
 Johnny Blitz Benefit Band List

Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Robert Fripp at the Johnny Blitz benefit. May 7th 1978

Outside CB's. David Johannsen, left, Joe Ramone, 4th from left. late 70's

The place was packed and I found some space on top of the jukebox were I stayed until the last band finished sometime at three or four in the morning. Two days after I arrived in NY I had gone to Rock’n Roll heaven.
I didn’t know a soul in NY so I just cruised Manhattan during the day in Baudelaire fashion and went to CBGB’s at night, hang out and watched bands. The second Television album Adventure had just come out, and I bought the cassette and a cheap player, the Walkman wouldn’t come to Europe and the US until 1980.  There I was, cruising 42nd St holding a cassette player to my head, listening to Foxhole
Cover of Televison's 2nd LP. from left: Fred Smith, Richard Lloyd, To Verlaine, Billy Ficca.

The Ramones: Johnny, Tommy, Joey, Dee Dee
My first trip out of Manhattan took me to Rockaway Beach following the Ramones song. Another purchase I made during my early NY days was Patti Smith’s book Babel, which I still have today. These yellowed newspaper ads are still folded in it.
Newspaper clips May 1978

Max's Kansas City ad. May 78.

The first person I really met, at CBGB's, was Aid Haid (Elliot Harris) one of the founding members of the New York Niggers. I was always one of the first people there because I just didn’t know what else to do once the evening hit. Aid was sitting at the next table and friendly and open as he was, invited me to go see their band the following Saturday at their loft on Greenwich and Canal St on Manhattan’s West side. This area, Tribeca (the triangle below Canal St) is ultra upscale and expensive now, but was a virtual wasteland back then with just some of the old factory buildings, still housing business, while artists had moved into others and the rest stood empty. At night it was mostly deserted. I don’t remember the other band that played but the Niggers just rocked. Aid and another black guy (The Pope/Leo Faison) played guitar and took turns singing. They had a hippyish bass player and a Japanese drummer with double bass drums, who called himself Wolf 1. The last song was the the Stooges Search & Destroy, which used to be Rotz Kotz’s last song also. Probably any other punk band on the planet played it, because whenever there was a jam everyone would know it.  At the end of the song The Pope threw his Gibson SG straight up in the air, and stepped off the stage, the guitar crashing down behind him. It looked completely nonchalant, not like Pete Townsend at all. Around 5:00 AM someone woke me up and said that the party was over.
A few days later I ran into the Pope and Aid at CB’s and I asked them if I could come to one of their rehearsals. That was the beginning of our friendship and when a few weeks later I run out of money and got kicked out of Hollies’ Hotel, it was the New York Niggers who rescued me and let me stay with them in their 2 000 sq’ loft. They had a gig coming up and I offered to roadie for them. It was in a hair-cutting place right on Saint Mark’s place. On the last song, Search & Destroy, Aid gave me his guitar and just sang lead. This collage is from that gig. The Pope is playing lying on the floor, Aid is singing, Wolf in the back and I am on the right. The first time playing in New York and on hallowed grounds, just a few doors down from were the VU and Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable was happening 10 years earlier.
The New York Niggers playing St Mark's Place June 78

  One of the first things I realized quickly going to the benefit and hanging out at CBGB's and Max's every day was that there was not the same separation of music as in Germany and maybe England, where Punk was more narrowly defined and had an urge to look down on other music. NY was more inclusive and welcome to a broader variety of bands. Just look at the diversity of the first generation CB's bands, Televison, Patti Smith, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Suicide. Suicide was an amazing, unique 2 piece that went its own way and is still very underrated also for its influence. They were able to clean out a place quickly sometimes.
Martin Rev, Alan Vega of Suicide on CB's stage

This Ramones on stage with audience at CB's
These two pictures give you a good idea of the low stage and the space around it. When you stood on stage like Joe above, there was the ca 30'x'30 floor in front of you, a long bar on the left, some tables, juke boxes and pool table on the right and the door to the Bowery in the distance. In an essay called CBGB as a Physical Space Richard Hell describes the decor as the "fantastic, ghostly, jewel-smear-for-walls of a palace-for-fun-seeking children" ... "so good looking that it hurts." My arrival and first weeks in NY. Next time, I join the New York Niggers and talk about more my NY adventures.

The dressing room directly behind the stage, the kitchen in the previous place. It was open just like this. You walked by it on your way to the bathroom.

Stairs to the bathroom

Richard Hell is still alive. graffiti in the bathroom.

Patti Smith Babel. back cover.
 Patti Smith, Babel, Putnam's, NY, 1978.
Legs Mc Neil, Gillian Mc Cain, Please Kill Me, The uncensored oral history of punk, Penguin Books.
Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen, New Directions, NY, 1970
William Burroughs, Naked Lunch, Speed, Junkie, any of these will get you into the scene. William Burroughs  lived also on the Bowery and could be called somewhat of a spiritual father of NY punk, besides the VU and Dolls of course. He was certainly one of the things that made me go, and the hard-boil detective novels I read as a teenager.
Blondie with Robert Fripp at the Blitz benefit, doing NY Dolls Jet Boy
This New York Dolls song is about Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, who did steal David Johanssen's girlfriend. The Dolls were equals to Aerosmith at a time. Blondie doing Jet Boy and jamming with Robert Fripp shows their roots and also the attractiveness of the whole CBGB's scene by this time to other musicians.
Richard Hell talks about the East Village apartment he lives in since 1975. My friend and bassplayer Joe Drake lived there too and I lived one block up from 1982 - 1988.
Richard's official website.
 Richard Hell, CBGB as a Physical Space, in Sympathy For The Devil, Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007.
And I just got this from my friend and collaborator William Kelly who directed and edited several of my videos back then. See also the 2008 blogs on this site. William teaches a martial arts lesson to a squirrel in Stuyvesant Town/14th St, where he lives, 47 seconds long. On first view, this might be a little unrelated to this post, but not at all if you know the blog a bit more.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Punk Poesie.The 70's too.


In which I travel to Corsica, do the wine harvest in France, play in the south of Italy get kicked out of the 1977 Documenta closing ceremony with Joseph Beuys and also out of one of the first German Punk bands.
       The sound of the Patti Smith group was like no other at the time, neither her band nor her voice, as well as what she sang. Just listen to the opening of Gloria on her first album Horses: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” It was a call to be free, to express your desires, your fears and not feel guilty about it. It might be hard to imagine today, but there was nothing like this on the radio or in the record store. This is the time of bombastic and sentimental corporate rock with genius-musician-rock-star-gods, and bands like Yes, Genesis, Boston and others that did no longer express what we felt. Soon we found out that Patti Smith came from a scene that had developed around a former biker’s bar on Manhattan’s Bowery called CBGB’s, and included other ground breaking bands like Televison, whose lead singer’s name was Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, the Ramones and others.

2005 postcard of CB's entrance. By this time it had become its own museum.

Television 74. Richard Hell, Billy Fica, Richard Lloyd, Tom Verlaine. Richard Hell would start his own band soon and be replaced by Fred Smith.
        Just like Patti, Richard and Tom we also had devoured Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire and Lautreamont. We understood what these bands were doing. The Voidoids’ Blank Generation became the anthem that said we can all invent our selves. The British scene was ignited by what was happening in New York and exploded with bands like the Damned, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, the Slits, X Ray Specs and many others. Ultravox combined the electronics of Kraftwerk and Roxy Music with a punk sound. Fresh music was being made again and the excitement echoed the time when the Beatles, Stones and Kinks first hit the scene.

The author leaning against a trash can next to CBGB's. Winter 78. Collage with rolled up guitar string & plastic wrapper.

       In the summer of 76 I traveled to Corsica and France for 3 month and while I was reading Liberation to find work at the wine harvest in the Montpellier region, I learned that the first European Punk Rock Festival had happened at a bull-ring at Mont de Marsan, near by. The Damned were joined by French bands Bijou, Il Biaritz and Shakin’ Street.

       That fall I started playing more a electrically, working on song ideas and jamming with some people. Officially I was still a student,  and worked as a cab driver at night. In the spring and summer of 77 an ever changing group of us spend time in a small village in the south of Italy. One day a band played during a summer fest and when they took a break I asked them If I could play some songs. I started to play some Velvet Underground and was quickly joined by a drummer and a bass-player. People that had scattered around came back and started dancing. It was then that I decided that I would return to Hannover and start a band. If it wouldn’t work out in 6 month I would either go to Berlin, Paris, London or New York.

       On my way back from Italy I visited friends in Paris, who I met at the wine harvest the year before. They had become squaters in Menilmontant by now.  They showed me were to take my own apartment. In Paris I saw the early French punk band Metal Urbain. You might wonder how I traveled so much and for so long. It was all hitch hiking and sleeping outside or with people I met and the occasional train ride; plus I made good money at the wine harvest without spending any. This allowed me to buy a guitar in Paris.

       Back in Hannover I met Christian Henjes and Juergen Gleue at a show of The Vibrators, a London band with great songs and energy.  Christian and Juergen were eager to start a band too and eventually became known as the 39 Clocks, but before that happened we would have a small adventure together. Joseph Beuys had invited them to play at the closing ceremony of the 1977 Documenta in Kassel. Beuys was the most important post war German artist and the Documenta is one of the world's most important contemporary art event held every 5 years. We got a drummer and went. We set up in the sacred entrance hall of the Fridericianumen which was built in 1779. Without rehearsal or songs we just jammed away in a Velvet Underground kinda groove, three guitarist playing as fast and loud as they could and one drummer trying to keep up. It didn’t go over too well and we were put outside and played in front by the door until the plug was eventually pulled on us. There is a scene on that night’s national evening news showing Joseph Beuys closing the doors. You can hear us in the background in one of the first German punk performances at the biggest German art event. Ironically I would return to the same steps 30 years later on a visit to Germany, researching my MFA thesis.
Dieter Runge, Christian Henjes, Juergen Gleue, unknown drummer at 77 Documenta. Pic Udo Koehler.

       Soon after this I was asked to join a band looking for a second guitarist. Rotz Kotz played lots of Ramones songs, which nobody really new yet and we played some wild shows, mostly in youth centers. We had a small dedicated following , who came to our shows punked-out and ready to pogo, while 80 percent of the audience just stood in front of us with their mouths open and a finger in each ear.
Prickle Pit, Zelta Zonk, Lenny Ducati, 1977.

Lenny Ducati, Prickle Pit of Rotz Kotz, 1977.

       I learned lots of songs in a short time and how to play fast and precise, but not precise enough as I would find out. We checked the times of our songs with a stopwatch and practiced until we played faster than The Ramones in their 76 London show of which we had a tape. Usually our shows ended with the lead singer crawling around the stage, sometimes sticking his head into the bass drum Iggy style and all of the drum kit and PA scattered all over the stage. We probably played the first punk show at the UJZ Kornstrasse (see last blog), where I almost got electrocuted when somebody spilled a ½ litre glass of beer over my head.

Rotz Kotz at one of their first gigs
Lenny Ducati in action

Rotz Kotz in a toilet. Lenny with 62 Tele. Big bucks today.

       Our last gig together was in dance hall in the country where it almost came to a fight between our contingent and the country folks. I got kicked out of the band for playing some wrong chords…in a punk band, propelling me into my my next adventure. Later Rotz Kotz became one of the big bands of the German scene and made several 7”s and LP’s, but by that time I had crossed the Atlantic on a $99 one way ticket via Laker Airlines.

German wanted poster ca 1977

       The above poster hung in every post office in the country and the RAF's logo was a red star with a machine gun.

Red Army Faktion logo.

       We did not agree with the RAF's arrogant disregard of human life and replaced the gun with a guitar in this act of detournement.

Rotz Kotz poster 1977.

       Punk allowed you to reinvent yourself; to choose a new name, was part of it. Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine, Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Poly Styrene.
       Rotz Kotz were Prickel Pitt (upper left, vocals), Lenny Ducati (upper right, guit, voc), Zelta Zonk (lower left, guit, voc) and Piee Gee (drums). The pictures were taken in a deliberate way to reproduce the wanted poster effect.

       I don't remember who designed this poster, but it was quite elaborate compared to the posters I made later on in New York, and also cost a bit of money. So, we would use it for all of our gigs, just filling in date and place in the space left and right of the star. Once I was gone, the band kept using it and just crossed out my name, like I had been caught. I had to crack up when I eventually discovered this on my thesis research trip to Germany in 2007.

       Eventually quite few of my friends and communards became very active in the German new music scene. Hollow Skai started the fanzine No Fun, then No Fun Records and became one of the eminent mover/shaker, chronicler and critic of the German New Wave. No Fun’s Hansa Plast’s first LP produced the biggest independently German album at the time. Mattus Simons became first, bass player, then lead singer of Der Moderne Mann, Tiny Trash wrote a song “If Live Gets Boring Risk It” and today moderates her weekly show Happy/Sad on Berlin’s Radio Eins. Hans Keller played with the Hamburg band Geisterfahrer and would later join me in NADA and European Sons in NY.

 Ott/Skai, Wir waren Helden fuer einen Tag, Hamburg 1983
A compilation of German fanzines 1977-81. Here you can read my letters from New York
Hollow Skai, Alles Nur Getraeumt, Innsbruck, 2009. A critical homage to the Neue Deutsche Welle.
Juergen Teipel, Verschwende Deine Jugend, Frankfurt, 2001. A docu-novel about German Punk and New Wave.
Comte de Lautreamont, Les chants de Maldoror, New York 1966
Isidore Ducasse/Lautreamont, Poesies, London, 1978
Isidore Ducasse, as Comte de Lautreamont, only wrote one book, which was first almost unnoticed and then became a major influence on the Surrealists, the Lettrists and the SI.

 And finally here is the fantastic late Poly Styrene with X Ray Spex doing their best known song 'My Bondage Up Yours'. For your pleasure. A compilation of Hannover punk from 1978 to 84 lead off by the famous Baerchen und die Milchbubies, and

Der Moderne Man Der Sandman/Baggersee. 7" cover
...yeah, with special pleasure, here the clip of this energetic German Neue Welle Funk. The opening scene is from a 60's TV show that was supposed to help kids go to bed. Der Moderne Man turns it into a nightmare. Of course we can't leave out Blank Generation.

Tiny Trash & Die Neue Welt doing 'If Live Gets Boring Risk It' during their lgendary only gig. Prickle Pit from Rotz Kotz on drums.