Anybody Can Play That Music

What perfect bullshit. You often see it in reference to the Ramones or the Pistols or the Dolls. It must be just writers’ laziness, they want a snappy pseudo-philosophical way to say “it’s simple music.” Or maybe the line appeals to their democratic souls. Whatever, anybody can’t do it, it’s hard as hell to play anything right. And before you play a note you have to have something to play. They’re saying that everyone has ideas like Dee Dee’s and David’s and Steve Jones’? That is not my experience.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

So back to The Slumlords. Now we had Nicky for a drummer, but we were still a trio and we couldn’t find a bass player. Out of nowhere – I don’t know where he came from, he was just there one day – appeared Billy Dick. His real name. He didn’t play bass but he played guitar, so we decided he would be “low tone” and I would be “high tone.”

Billy Dick: 6’7” and thin, but he remains the strongest guy I ever knew. He had a little MG car that he could lift off the ground from either end. He could beat both my arms with his left arm at arm wrestling. Once at Max’s some asshole walked up to him and said, “You suck.” Billy punched him in the face, once, and the guy was out so cold I thought he was dead.

Billy had a nice simple style, a lot of Keith/Paul Kossoff basic riffs with good tone, speeded up of course. He was perpetually broke. Half the time he couldn’t even come up with practice money, except once in a while he would show up in brand new Capezio shoes or some $300 jacket. I never asked but I assume he hustled from time to time, he was exactly what a lot of gays like, and he did bring down some “possible managers.” Also, he showed up at every gig with a brand new piece of equipment that didn’t work.

We played fast but not that fast, occasionally hitting Ramones tempos but usually a bit slower. Andy’s songs were of a type that became more popular in the 90s, melodic but abrasive, especially his singing. A lot of people hated his voice, which was shrill and he shouted, sort of a Louisiana Johnny Rotten. “She was a New York model, she sucked a New York bottle.” I thought it was great.

The only recorded remains of The Slumlords are a couple of rehearsal tapes recorded on a boom box and one live gig (at Rockbottoms on 8th St), also recorded on a boom box. Perhaps I can convert it. More than one set was recorded off the board at CB’s but I have no idea what happened to that stuff. We played for the Yippies at 10 Bleecker, across the street from CB’s, we played at Max’s two or three times, but mostly we played at CBGB.

We got better. Andy kept coming up with new songs, killer songs I believe to this day, which inspired the rest of us to play up to them and we did. For the first time I felt competent on guitar. I wrote my first two real songs and everyone liked them too. They were called “I Want My Atom Bomb” (“I fooled the 4-star generals, I said I’d kill for peace”) and “This is My Church”, that title taken from Karl Malden’s righteous speech in the ship’s hold in On The Waterfront.

We never drew much of an audience or got any reviews but some people liked us. Hilly Krystal for one, who kept giving us gigs and told us that we would be on the second Live at CBGB album. You know, the one that was never made despite the fact that the first one sold pretty well.

Our big live moment was when Johnny Thunders played with us at Max’s. We opened for the Voidoids that night, who were showcasing for record companies and who actually opened for us. Naturally, the hip New York biz audience couldn’t be bothered to stick around for peasant bands like us. But Johnny stayed, and after we played two songs Peter Crowley (who ran Max’s) came up to the stage and said that JT wanted to play with us, was that OK? Yeah, that’s OK. Johnny plugs in and turns the reverb up to 10. He says, “Let’s do something traditional.” We had been doing “Around and Around” at practice and Johnny played the intro and off we go. It was the high point of my life up to that point. What a fucking feeling! We even ended on a dime. Then Johnny says “How bout ‘Bye Bye Johnny’” and we did that, both of us singing but neither remembering half much less all the words. To me that made it better. Then JT stepped down and we finished the set on top of the world. Afterwards we were all getting high upstairs and he said, “You guys are hot, you need a bass player.”

Here’s one of the bands we played with once, Von Lmo. Not exactly party music but no doubt worth seeing live. This might be the night we played with them, but anyway it was around that time.

4 thoughts on “Anybody Can Play That Music

  1. Keep them coming, Gene! Your stories are one of a kind and are a window on history.

    Von Lmo, on the other hand, are a sudden reminder. What I like about the clip is that I actually watched to the end, because I like the noise and those precision head turns are pretty compelling.

    At the same time, there is good noise and bad noise. Or perhaps, better put, noise that gets us together and noise that makes us feel like we’re fucking machines.

    Von Lmo seems to be in the latter group.

  2. You can’t dance to it. I have it on good authority (his guitar player in this video Lou Rone and others) that Von is/was way off his rocker. Hey, Von found an outlet and that’s good, otherwise he would have shot up a subway station. I was fascinated seeing this live and it sounded better live. It had enjoyable elements believe it or not, and of course it is intensely intense. I like it when I’m in the mood.

    Also believe it or not, Lou Rone above became a postpunk Peter Frampton, although he predates punk and has soul roots. He was also in the band Kongress. Subsequent guitar slingers like Steve Vai have nothing on Lou since Lou did it first. I think Lou has better feel. Here he is, love the song, the backing is wedding band, Lou sounds great:

  3. These are great Gene. Just great. Interesting. Funny. Historical. Everything.

    I don’t know else to say because it would do this justice.

    But, I can ask to keep em coming like the others.

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