Monday, August 30, 2010

Pro Wrestling Primer: An early ECW TV taping

In the early ‘90s, ECW was one in a million of American indie wrestling promotions putting on matches with local unknowns and the occasional big name of the past. Nobody dove out of the balcony in Eastern Championship Wrestling. Sabu had yet to show up and do a moonsault through a table. It’d be a little bit before Tommy Dreamer innovated some violence. A Tai Pai Death Match would have scared the little kids who showed up to see Superfly Jimmy Snuka. And hell, the Sandman wasn’t even drunk. This kinda stuff doesn’t usually happen overnight.

This video I found claims that it is the very first ECW TV broadcast. Forget about ECW meaning blood, guts, and violent spectacles for a little bit. Anybody who misses the days of studio wrestling may want to give this a chance. I love the intro!

The show opens with ECW commissioner Tod Gordon, announcers Jay Sulli and Stevie Wonderful, and the late “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert standing ringside in what appears to be a high school gym. Apparently Hot Stuff thinks he’s going to provide expert analysis on commentary, but the commissioner has other plans. Instead, he announces Terry Funk as the third man in the booth and Gilbert is pissed. After backing Gilbert out of the picture, Funk lets us know that he’s happy to be here and expresses his appreciation for the wrestling fans in Philadelphia. To Terry Funk, Philly is the “HC” portion of the American wrestling circuit. “HC” meaning “hardcore,” of course. He promises that the ECW wrestlers will give their heart and soul in the ring, even though they’ve never been on TV before.

Back from commercial break, our first match has the Super Destroyers defending their ECW tag team titles against the Hell Riders. The Super Ds come out to Michael Meyers’ theme from the
Halloween movies, so they’re automatically cool in my book. It’s probably safe to say that whoever are under the masks are not the same wrestlers who portrayed the Super Destroyers in the days of World Class. As they enter the ring, I notice Hat Guy, complete with straw hat and Hawaiian shirt, in the crowd. The Hell Riders go on the attack before the bell, but the Super Ds rally back and make quick work of their foes. Super D #2 scores the win with a front somersault splash onto one of the Riders.

Terry Funk wants an interview with the Super Destroyers, but gets their manager Hunter Q. Robins III instead. Funk addresses this typical bush-league wrestling managers as “Hunter Q. Robins The Turd” and gets hollered at for it. Robins wants respect, but he’s not getting it from Funk tonight as we go to a promo video about the ECW champion, the Sandman.

The Sandman may not have been the beer-chugging, cigarette-puffing psychopath that made him one of ECW’s most recognizable wrestlers…but you’d have to be drunk to believe that his early gimmick was going to get him far in life. In 1993, the Sandman was a surfer who carried his board with him to the ring. Even though it’s safe to say that Memphis (where the matches featured on the video took place) isn’t exactly known for its great surf, the Sandman is ready drop in on any wave any time. Yes, that is Billy Joel singing “Big Shot” in the background. Oy vey. No wonder the Sandman became a drunk later on.

We’re back from commercial break and Stevie Wonderful is breaking down the first round of ECW’s TV title tournament. Match #2 is about to take place, pitting Tommy Cairo vs. Wildman Sal Bellomo. “Born to Be Wild” hits the speakers and here comes the Wildman. Those of you who may remember Salvatore Bellomo from his early ‘80s WWF jobber tenure won’t recognize him in ECW at all. Apparently things got pretty wild in between. Dressed in a Roman soldier outfit, Sal’s added long greasy hair, a beard, and a ton of weight. It’s not a pretty sight. But if you’re a fan of the Confederacy of Scum bands, you’d be stoked to see that Bellomo is led to the ring on a chain by none other than the Cosmic Commander of Wrestling.

Out comes the undefeated Tommy Cairo, who probably thinks he looks really tough in his motorcycle leathers. Too bad he just looks really gay instead. The match is watchable, but nothing to write home about. Sal Bellomo has Cairo on the verge of his first defeat a number of times, but the Iron Man manages to fight with courage and vigor and whatever. The Cosmic Commander distracts the referee long enough for Johnny Hotbody to interfere. His attempt backfires, sending the Wildman careening over the top rope and losing the match via countout. Stevie Wonderful claims that the result should have been Tommy Cairo losing by disqualification due to the outside interference, thus breaking his no-loss record.

There doesn’t appear to be a third part to this video. I even looked around on the page it was posted on. Oh well. Still, it’s fun to see ECW in their humble beginnings. They certainly weren’t any worse than the WWF or WCW were at the time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bring Our Curses Home

Although they’re probably remembered by most for being a poor seller on the Sound Pollution catalog, .Nema were a sleeper hit in my music collection about ten years ago. Before “bandana thrash” took effect and eventually reduced hardcore punk to the same status as rockabilly by essentially killing any notion of injecting new ideas into the music, this is what hardcore bands sounded like in the 1990s. Blast beats, harsh vocals, and tuned-down guitars that showed more than a little bit of metal influences. In comparison to similar bands of the time like Gehenna, .Nema resided somewhere in the second or third tier, but don’t let that stop you from giving them a listen.

With an ex-member of Ottawa (whose split LP with Jihad was a favorite back in the day) in the lineup, .Nema was the product of suburban boredom fueled by malt liquor and a love of old school black metal. After releasing two seven-inches, .Nema went on hiatus. During this time, some of their members formed a brief black metal project called Dysentery and also played in Kathode with none other than Andrew W.K. .Nema reformed in the summer of 1997, sounding much better than their previous incarnation. Unfortunately, they didn’t stick around for very long. This LP was recorded at the beginning of 1998 and apparently, the process effectively laid the band to rest once and for all. A year later, Bring Our Curses Home was released and thanks to Arwen Curry’s glowing review in MRR, it found its way into my collection and has remained a part of it ever since. They did a dandy of a Citizens Arrest cover, but the main mix tape favorite was always the song “Success is Theirs” with the effective opening line “This is SHIT! Your life consists of nothing.” Considering the circumstances in which the band formed, I think they’d like knowing that during the summer of 1999, this was a good record to listen to in between Darkthrone and Emperor CDs while smoking weed late at night. Maybe you’ll feel the same way I did, so feel free to bring your curses home here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

We Should All Read This Post in Unisons

On August 21, 1988, Agnostic Front played a great show at CBGB that served as the material for Live at CBGB, one of their best albums. Most people reading this are probably already familiar with that record. It captures Agnostic Front in their element. They tear through classic songs like “United Blood” and “Friend or Foe” with utmost precision, seemingly not letting up until the very end when they close the set with “The Eliminator.” Agnostic Front was clearly at their peak when they played this show, and it’s also been said numerous times that 1988 was the peak of NYHC’s second generation. What else can you say about Live at CBGB that hasn’t already been said countless times over the years?

Here’s one thing that can be said: Live at CBGB has more in common with live albums like Frampton Comes Alive! and Unleashed in the East than you’d think. We at The Evil Eye hate to be the ones to burst your skinhead bubble, but even Agnostic Front went into the studio to fix their live recording before releasing it. Vocals are turned up and guitars are overdubbed. Between-song banter is edited and the set list is rearranged. Some songs were even left off of the record, either for time constraints or because the band fucked them up. Honestly, there isn’t much to complain about, so please don’t think that we’re doing so when we write about this stuff. Obviously Agnostic Front was interested in releasing the best live album possible, which they certainly did. It’s just funny to think that a hardcore band would go the same route as numerous ‘70s rock bands did when releasing a live record.

Like we did with the Bad Brains’ Rock for Light LP a few weeks ago, we’ve decided to offer up both the original soundboard recording and the Live at CBGB record so you can listen to them and make the comparison yourselves. Perhaps you will find it interesting to hear them both, or maybe you’ll just think this is an exercise in extreme dorkdom. Click here or a lot of you people ain’t gonna live to see tomorrow if you keep fucking around this way.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Buy or Die

In Dutch historical lore, Balthasar Gerards was responsible for what was possibly the first recorded assassination of a political leader by firearm when he pumped three shots into the body of William the Silent, the successor to Philip II of Spain’s throne, in 1584. He was caught immediately, but was said to have remained perfectly calm during his four days of torture before finally being executed. Nearly four hundred years later, a new breed of anti-establishment figures adopted Gerards’ name and used hardcore punk to effectively spread their message of discontent with the world: Balthasar Gerards Kommando, or BGK.

Back when I posted Bastards’ Siberian Hardcore LP, I mentioned that my favorite early European punk bands were the ones who emphasized instrumental power over speed for the sake of speed. Jonestown Aloha!, BGK’s first album, is a fine example of this preference. For more than ten years, this record has done battle with Raw Power’s Screams from the Gutter for first place on my list of favorite Euro punk records. Both of those classic albums found their way into my life at the same time. They were both dubbed onto the same tape to listen to while hanging West Coast Pizza ads in doorways around town. I don’t know that one album is necessarily better than the other is. Really, I’ve given up on trying to decide. It’s like eating ice cream. On some days, I like chocolate. Other days, I prefer vanilla. Neither one is the wrong choice. Both are good for different reasons.

I do recall that Screams from the Gutter won me over instantly, whereas Jonestown Aloha! took a little bit longer to sink in. At first, there were individual songs that I enjoyed. For instance, it seems like every time I’ve made a hardcore mix tape for a friend, the song “Race Riot” shows up on the track list. “Buy or Die,” “Spray Paint,” and “Get Killed” were also early favorites. I continued listening to Jonestown Aloha! on a regular basis that summer. The more I listened to the record on my Walkman, the more I liked it. By the end of the summer, it hit me: this album is actually really awesome. Don’t you love it when records do that on the odd occasion? Or are you one of those pansies who only listens to a record once or twice before filing it away?

There’s two more BGK records after this one: 1984’s White Male Dumbinance EP and the Nothing Can Go Wrogn! LP from 1986. The seven-inch is fine, but it doesn’t take the listener on a ride like Jonestown does. However, it does have some GREAT songs in “Action Man,” “Kids for Cash,” and “Follow the Trend.” As for Nothing Can Go Wrogn!, there are some good songs, but ultimately they sacrifice the power for a more frantic pace. Consequently, it’s not as memorable of a record. Dare I say it comes off as a bit generic? But it all comes back to the first, the most, the best—Jonestown Aloha!

BGK could play hardcore better and meaner than most American bands. They were taller than you and could drink you under the table. They could kick your ass and steal your girlfriend. Crack open a Heineken, blaze some hash, and drink the Jonestown Kool-Aid here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Society Reeks of Assholes, Assholes Reek of Society

It was a cold night in December of 1994 and I was on Christmas break from school. Since I was able to stay up a bit later than usual, I took the opportunity to check out MRR’s weekly radio show on KALX for the first time. I even slipped a blank cassette into the tape deck and hit “RECORD” because I knew I was going to hear a bunch of bands that I had never heard before and wanted to remember who they were. Of course, this proved to be correct. The DJ, a guy named Ken (aka Ken Sanderson of Prank Records), played a host of brutal hardcore bands that were new to my ears. I was stoked because I was clueless about new hardcore bands outside of locals Oppressed Logic, who I had yet to see live.

Somewhere in the middle of the show, Ken put on a new song by MDC called “Bombs Not Food.” Although this song didn’t really hold a candle to anything on the first MDC album, I was pleased to see that Dave Dictor and company were still at it. I made a plan to try and track this song down in the hopes of hearing more of what MDC were up to in 1994. Fortunately, Ken was kind enough to mention that “Bombs Not Food” was a song from MDC’s new split seven-inch with a band called Capitalist Casualties. A week or so later, I went to Amoeba Records in Berkeley and picked up the MDC/Capitalist Casualties split, along with Filth’s Live the Chaos EP and a few other seven-inches that every sixteen-year-old punk kid should have in their budding record collection. When I got home, I immediately rushed to my stereo and put on the new MDC record. “Bombs Not Food” was okay and “Nazis Shouldn’t Drive” informed me that Skrewdriver frontman Ian Stuart had died in a car wreck not too long ago. Cool, MDC is still at it…now it’s time to flip the record over and see what this band Capitalist Casualties is all about.

When the needle hit the grooves, a violent barrage of jackhammer-tempoed thrash exploded out of the speakers that blew me right out of my chair. Holy shit, what the hell am I listening to here? Faster was better and Capitalist Casualties blasted through their songs at a velocity that surpassed MDC, 7 Seconds, DRI, and every other hardcore punk band that I thought capable of breaking the speed barrier. MDC, the reason I bought the record in the first place, were all but forgotten. In my mind, they phoned it in by only putting two songs on their side. Fuck that, Capitalist Casualties were out to make an impression by giving us five songs to destroy our living rooms to in a solo mosh frenzy. I instantly had a new favorite band that I was going to rave about to anyone and everyone I knew that was interested. The best part? They were LOCALS! From right here in the Bay Area! That meant that I probably wouldn’t have to wait very long to see them live and figure out how they managed to play that fast. I had to listen to this again…and again…and again. I was in a state of euphoria. Aside from Oppressed Logic, the only local bands I knew of who flew the hardcore flag were AFI and Screw 32. As much as I liked those bands at the time, it was still hard to believe that they were the bands who were carrying on hardcore punk in the spirit of Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, and MDC. Capitalist Casualties were HARDCORE, the very definition of the musical term.

Eight months later (and fifteen years ago this week), I went to Gilman Street and finally saw Capitalist Casualties for the very first time. Maybe it was just youthful enthusiasm in which everything is awesome, but their set that night was everything I wanted it to be and then some. Loud, fast, and angry, making me want to explode through the club’s walls and destroy every cop, teacher, and schoolyard bully that got in my way. It was a great show and one of the many shows I saw that summer that made it quite difficult to comprehend going back to a normal life afterwards.

This is one of quite a few Capitalist Casualties demos, recorded in June of 1988. It’s also one of a number of demos recorded on an off night at Gilman by Marshall Stax. 26 songs in all, a lot of which are rougher versions of songs that were later re-recorded for vinyl. Check out the early version of “The Roast,” in which they try to do a rap verse and more or less fail at it. It’s pretty funny, but I’m certainly glad they dumped that idea when that song was included on one of the Cry Now, Cry Later comps. Of course, there are also a number of tunes that most of you have probably never heard before. In the interest of doing the right thing, it should also be mentioned that I lifted this demo from the great Old, Fast, and Loud blog. Give that blog a look for many more old hardcore bands. Take the family to the nuclear national park here.