Jessica Lange screamed

Jessica Lange screamed with authentic terror as King Kong’s mechanical fingers threatened to crush her to jelly.
“Get rid of that monstrosity, Cara Mia..” Dino De Laurentiis said to his associate producer, Anna Gropellius after the dailies were confirmed. Anna was a genius at solving problems on the set. She found a good home for the temperamental phalanges in a South American amusement park owned by associates of Pinochet. Another challenge for Anna was squeezing a giant rolled up Persian carpet into Dino’s private Leer Jet on a remote South Pacific Island where the film company ruined the pristine ecosystem with a cheaply built hotel sans plumbing, while filming an epic disaster flick. She flew in technicians who removed the windshield, slid the Persian carpet into the narrow fuselage then resealed the cockpit window. Taking a commercial flight back to Rome rather than taking a chance with Dino’s Leer jet, she wondered why great scripts turned into bad movies. She wanted to make meaningful movies; high production values, with a great cast and a fun production schedule. But currently she was facing a more personally challenging situation.
“I feel like they can see that I am Jewish…” She said under her breath to me as we walked down the underground concrete bunker filled with sneering punks in Nazi regalia. It was the punk event of the year. Johnny Rotten aka John Lydon, had a new band since the Sex Pistols had disintegrated, called PIL. Public Image Limited. He was acknowledging the crass commercialization of the music business. On stage, the opening power punk trio, local sensations, Tito Larriva and the Plugz, thrashed out a fierce version of La Bamba at 140 beats a minute sung in East LA Spanish at decibels surpassing any sane level of music enjoyment. The Summer of Love and Seventies arena rock music were definitely over for this next generation. No more songs about love. This was disillusionment with a vengeance coupled with offensive fashion. These grooves were faster than the previous generations of hit songs and more aggressive, but also more machine-like. This was a reflection of the technological influence on human creativity. In the Sixties the grooves had a swing to them that implied a glorious feeling of optimism and a trust in love. This was a condition that dated back to the music of the big bands after World War II. The bodies of the listeners could sway, relating to these organic tempos. When we move to a comforting groove our body and mind can heal by throwing off tension. Those grooves were based in a 6/8 time signature, that was originally derived from Delta Blues that got it’s cue from African Rumba and also the Irish Jig. It was felt and counted as a six beat pattern with the downbeat on the “One” every six beats. Now that was changing. Punk music was no longer allowing the swinging grooves to give us a sense of hope. Instead the mechanical repeated pulsing was unforgiving, insistent that the listener lock up to the incessant pounding. The rhythm simplified to a four beat pattern with busy sixteenth notes filling in any open spaces between the downbeat now hitting every four beats instead of every six beats. Things were definitely heating up. The only movement attainable for the listener’s body was an up and down “pogoing”; which became the only acceptable form of dancing in the mosh pit/ war zone down in front of the stage at punk concerts. The music industry could not adapt, still insisting on selling records that the older generation had bought. But eventually, because of economic necessity, thirty five years after this seminal concert, kids would be wearing T shirts with punk bands from this era emblazoned on them with titles like Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Circle Jerks, X, etc. The music industry eventually understood but they took quite a while to be convinced. Johnny Rotten sang there was “no future”. Punk music was the future.
We were scouting the Olympic auditorium for a location for our futuristic punk extravaganza. Susan Sarandon, Anna’s pal had committed to the female lead and Stiv Bators and the Dead Boys would be the actors/band in the indie flick. It looked like a go. But Anna was having some trouble with the menacing sense of humor these kids showed. It was all merely for show though. LA was not really as desperate as the London punks, or the New York Punks. That was impossible with Southern California’s shining sun and balmy beaches. After the LA punk scene’s initial fashion rebellion it was inevitable that the music business would eventually find a way to co opt the look, water down the sound, and sell it to the kids in a sanitized format without any of the political protest. But for a few moments, it felt like the real thing; dangerous, anarchistic, relentlessly aggressive music that often sounded pretty good. Some of it I liked; funny, loud and hilariously rude. In the middle of the maelstrom I spied a friend, Jan De Wolff, who ran security at previous punk concerts showcasing the Dils, Suburban Lawns with their very talented lead singer Sue Tissue, and the infamous Germs with the future guitarist of Nirvana and Foo fighters; Pat Smear. The lead singer for the Germs was Darby Crash who unfortunately committed suicide on the same day that John Lennon was killed becoming an undeservedly small footnote in musical history. But nevertheless, the Germs were amazing. A true LA creation that immortalized insightful drunken stupidity with innovative, brutish yet poetic musical sensibilities. The only moment of enlightenment for me was realizing that I was the only person in the concert who had witnessed Gene Krupa, Fred Neil, Duane Allman and Darby Crash all live and in living color in one lifetime. In some ways, the punk music had a familiar attitude to the true grit of the original Allman Brothers, of Tim Buckley and Bethlehem Asylum. Touring the US and England in the early seventies with Tim’s band we had pushed the envelope. In years to come he would be called the godfather of Punk and New Wave in the fanzines and voted number one male vocalist in London’s New Musical Express. Johnny Rotten and Chrissie Hynde both named him as their vocal inspiration. But I also recalled Bethlehem Asylum; dangerous, loud, creative, inspired, paving the way for British and American punk music. I had kicked up Tim’s tempos, easily matching these hardcore punk grooves, adding a hint of Afro/Cuban undercurrents reconstituted from Coconut Grove and the Asylum. My heart ached for the excitement of performing live music that was outside the mainstream, music that struck a chord in the hearts of diehard fans of whatever genre. But I stuffed my memories back down into the recesses of my fractured heart that was still hurting from Tim’s murder five years earlier and came back to this current music scene; keeping an open mind and trying to remember to use ear plugs. Later, the stories about the PIL concert appeared in Slash, the decisive underground zine of the LA punk music scene edited by an outspoken Brit calling himself, Kick Boy Face. His eloquent writing style galvanized LA punk music. Good music criticism is a necessary ingredient for any vital music scene, whatever the era. He also reported LAPD busting heads at the punk shows, but Jan De Wolff’s unique story never made print. While trying to maneuver her vintage VW out of the jammed up Olympic auditorium parking lot amidst the PIL traffic congestion, a parking attendant guarding a chained VIP exit, sensed an opportunity for conquest. He opened the VIP chained exit for her. Then he slid into her passenger seat, insisting on a treat for his cooperation. He reached across the gear shift and slid his hand into her bandolier belt she had tried to load with real bullets, then down inside the front of her torn black levis adorned with safety pins. She turned sideways, positioned her Doc Martins and kicked him in the crotch. He went sailing out of her beetle and she sped off. Arriving at her apartment in Silverlake, she undressed as her impatient boyfriend lay in bed watching her. The parking attendant’s wristwatch fell out of her panties. Real rock n roll will never die, it just invents a new look.
excerpt: “History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

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