Patti Smith – “ladies and gentlemen blaise cendrars is not dead” (1971)

April 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm (Patti Smith, Poetry & Literature)

ladies and gentleman
blaise cendrars is not dead

     by patti smith

Ladies and gentlemen
Blaise Cendrars is not dead
that rummy you buried in such
grave ceremony was his own enemy
true the right arm gone
Blaise slashed it himself
that little puff box run
run at the mouth
was jack rolling our hero
with a wicked pack of cards
But Blaise a jack dandy himself
noted the error
(all the chips were on puff boxes’ side)
and like the great Hammurabi
Blaise cut him down
right hand for that bad hand of poker

He is alive in every marked deck
every poker chip
he has a pair of slick dice
and he’ll wheel you straight to hell
and when you dial round the black market
you deal with him
yes it’s our man who drops that cigar ash
on the receiving end
yes it’s him crooning liquid music
and sonorous tin pan
through every cable line
linking every slob sister swindler
little snakesman two bit gambler
even slightly illegal and angel
has an ash in their vest pocket
and a kodak of that scoundrel
vainer now one armed crack face
than this mock hardy youth
he drags me in and out
of every photo booth
and praises in bad poetry
the polaroid sixty second snap

A fool hearty documentarian
his choppers have spun the globe
and for want of a straw hat we were trapped
knee deep in the swamps of Panama
we suffered malaria
and as a result
slaughtered 2/3 the mosquito population
of that hot hole
Christ it was a lusty battle
we were sick with laughter
and sick ourselves
runny assed and cunt with clap
hair red with crabs and lice
in our boots we rolled our own smokes
twisted up a few panama reds
and plotted the destruction of that wily insect
we danced to Vulcan our private god of flame
and sacrificed a few of those blood suckers
snapping their heads with our nails
which turned our hero slightly pale

Some years I bragged the beauty of my hands
I cried,
“I have music neath these fingernails”
and true these fists never failed
to spiel whole logs full of
literatures Roman a clef
and now it’s come to this
mosquito in fire
mosquito death hiss

Christ then it began again
the old fever and thirst
for raging fire
with torches we ran whole lengths
of those Panama fields
and as the brush caught up
I cried out in my most disgusting French
Blaze on Blaise
and that bastard burnt me with a cigarette

Like a great epic movie
we’ve reeled the world
why only six months ago
I assisted that cur in the most marvelous
hoax of the gentle midwest
Our wagon rolling in a dry bone state
Blaise posed as Louis Saucer
humble rainmaker prophet in rain boots
but when the clouds cracked
the white rain was liquor
and all of Iowa was soused with tequila
every pour sap that poured to the scene
of the great rain left drenched
to the teeth
and drunk to the teeth

Blaise curled that famous lip
and we laughed and laughed
and caused more mischief since
It was his ticklish fingers
that caused Mick the jagger
to dance like a fish
he shot lightning from the theatres
robbed the actors of their shadows
and backstage mirrors
it was his sassy diseased kiss
that laid miss universe out with the mumps
the recession? our man’s been pinballing
with the Jewish jewel thieves
feeding opium into IBM
and sparing no one the bugger
robs school children

The dirty shit still spits poetry
between his clicking spaced teeth
tracing aerial views of Greenland
land of the treacherous iceage
and fanatic hun
gold mine dreams in goat canyon
charting the gold where the moon slaps
then drunk with that special glitter
running lyrics in gold dust inks.

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Mike Stax – “Greg Shaw: Pioneer, Architect, Mentor” (2004)

April 30, 2009 at 3:49 am (Music, Reviews & Articles)

Mike Stax, of Ugly Things magazine, wrote this moving tribute to the late Greg Shaw in October 2004, talking about Shaw’s influence on him and friendship…

With the death of Greg Shaw the world lost not only a pioneer of rock fandom but the chief architect of an entire musical universe, populated by innumerable bands, writers, fanzine publishers and independent label owners. Defining the boundaries of this universe would be an impossible task. The present day garage rock movement is just one of its most recent manifestations, but to call it Greg’s biggest achievement, as many writers have done in the obituary columns, would be to completely miss the much larger picture.


The big picture was something Greg seemed to understand better than any other writer or scene-maker. When punk rock exploded in 1976 with all its ‘Year Zero’ and ‘No More Heroes’ bluster, Shaw was one of the few observers who understood that the movement was neither a musical coup d’etat nor a disposable fad, but the latest chapter in a rock’n’roll continuum that stretched back to the garage bands of the ’60s and the rock’n’roll rebels of the ’50s.


As a rock writer and historian, Shaw’s insight and breadth of knowledge was unparalleled. Bangs, Meltzer et al, get most of the ‘rock writer’ plaudits, but when I need to actually learn something about the music I turn to Greg Shaw’s work. Starting with Mojo-Navigator in 1966 (probably the first rock fanzine) and continuing through the 1970s with Who Put the Bomp!, he set the standard for rock fandom, championing the best overlooked bands – new and old – and illuminating the more obscure nooks and crannies of rock’s history: the small labels, regional scenes and no-hit bands that had been forgotten by all but a small core of collectors. With Greg Shaw at the helm, Bomp! magazine helped galvanize an entire generation of rock’n’roll fanatics worldwide; fanatics who, realizing they were not alone in their obsessions, began to form bands or start fanzines of their own. Without Bomp! magazine there would have been no Kicks and certainly no Ugly Things.


With the release of the Flamin’ Groovies’ “You Tore Me Down” single in 1974 Bomp became a record label too. In its first decade it helped nurture a variety of genres, including punk, power pop and garage rock. For the latter, Shaw created the Voxx subsidiary, which he began in 1979 with the Crawdaddys’ Crawdaddy Express LP.


In parallel to releases by new bands, Shaw launched Pebbles, a series of compilations drawing from his massive collection of rare ’60s garage singles. Pebbles was inspired by Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets set, but Shaw’s archeology investigated a much deeper strata of ’60s obscurity. Pebbles became the model for an avalanche of ’60s garage compilations that continues to this day, and set the stage for today’s reissue market. The inspiration for Norton, Crypt, Sundazed, Dionysus, Get Hip and dozens more labels can be traced back directly to Shaw.


Shaw, however, would be the last person to proclaim his own importance. Unassuming and soft-spoken, he preferred the role of the quiet catalyst: bringing people together and providing them with the tools, the materials and the environment they needed to make it all happen.


Greg Shaw was the ultimate mentor. One word consistently comes up when I talk to the people who knew him: encouragement. “He was always so encouraging,” they all say. All of them. Encouragement is a rare commodity, especially from the right person; somebody you respect. Greg’s encouragement was always generous and sincere, and it was a source of strength to many.


I speak from personal experience. Greg’s encouragement changed the course of my life in a very real way. In 1979 I was a 17 year-old kid living in Yorkshire, England, when I heard a track from the Crawdaddys album on John Peel’s radio show – a raging version of “Oh Baby Doll.” As a passionate fan of ’60s British R&B I was stunned to discover this was not some vintage obscurity but a new band – from San Diego, California, of all places. I immediately tracked down and bought the LP and shortly afterwards wrote an effusive fan letter to the band, c/o Voxx Records in San Fernando Valley, California.


Greg Shaw received my letter and forwarded it on to the band. “This guy sounds really sincere,” he wrote to Ron Silva, “you should write him back.” Ron did write back and several months later I was on my way to America to become the Crawdaddys’ new bass player. It was the beginning of a difficult but exciting few years for me as I struggled to get by without money or a green card, but Greg was a constant source of encouragement. His words of support helped me find the self-belief I needed to tough it out through the hard times. Greg’s encouragement continued and even increased after I left the Crawdaddys to form the Tell-Tale Hearts. Within a few months of our formation, he offered us an album deal. He released several of our records over the next few years, booked us regularly at his Cavern Club (which he established as a venue for the blossoming scene) and helped us establish a following. He did the same thing at the time for other up and coming garage bands: the Miracle Workers, the Gravedigger Five, the Primates et al. We even got our photo in People magazine posed in the club behind Greg and other Cavern Club regulars.


During the same period I started a fanzine Ugly Things, inspired largely by the now-defunct Bomp! magazine. Once again, Greg was there for me, happy to look up any obscure fact or figure, provide a rare photo or clipping, or turn me onto obscure bands or records I was unfamiliar with. He went way beyond the call of duty. One time, for example, I was working on a series of articles about English producer Joe Meek, so I asked Greg to help me fill some of the (quite considerable) gaps in my Meek collection. A couple of weeks later, he handed over more than a dozen 90-minute cassettes. He’d taped his entire collection of Joe Meek singles – hundreds of them; it must have taken him days of painstaking work cuing up 45s and typing up the tracklists. That was the kind of person Greg was. He recognized the passion I had for what I was doing, and fueling that passion was its own reward.


I didn’t see much of Greg in later years, but he would still send me emails from time to time – always offering me words of encouragement about my work, both as a writer and a musician. As I stated earlier, Greg was a HUGE inspiration for me with Ugly Things, so you can imagine how I felt when, just a couple of years ago, he told me in an email that he considered Ugly Things “the best fanzine ever.” For him it was probably just a casual piece of hyperbole, typed in the heat of the moment, but for me it was the most meaningful and inspirational compliment I’d ever received. I’ll never forget it.


And, like countless other people out there who benefited from his inspiration and encouragement, I will never forget Greg Shaw.


Mike Stax

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