Monthly Archives: August 2006

Roadie tales, the TV series

So, when exactly is BBC America going to start showing Steve Coogan’s new show Saxondale here in the US?

I wandered across the article below, and I *cannot* wait to see this series…one suspects that Coogan knows the ways of the roadie better than he’s let on previously.

Anyone from the UK or on tour there who catches this, I’d love to hear what you think — it apparently airs Monday nights on BBC2. Perhaps I’m getting excited over something that’s not all that fantastic — though since it involves Coogan and roadies, I’m guessing my excitement’s probably justified.

Possibly one of my favorite quotes *ever*:

“And there’s this definite hierarchy. Normally, singer at the top of the wish list, then guitarist, then bassist and finally drummer. Unless of course you’re the good-looking cunt from U2, in which case you shoot straight to the top. The keyboardist, if there is one, is a bit of a floating point, cos keyboardists are, as a rule, pretty depraved. Don’t ask me why. Anyway after that there’s us lot. I mean you know what they say, don’t you? Sleep with us and you’ve almost fucked a quarter of a bassist.”

*****

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,,1799583,00.html

Backstage class

Beer-guzzling they may be. But as depicted in Steve Coogan’s new comedy, roadies are also educated and funny. Theirs is a world of sex, drugs and AJP Taylor, discovers Ben Marshall

Saturday June 17, 2006
The Guardian

The first thing that needs to be said about Steve Coogan’s new sitcom, Saxondale, is that it is very, very funny. And the second is that like all the very best of recent comedy (The Office, Peep Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm) it reveals a near-forensic knowledge of its subject, the subject in the case of Saxondale being the post-pop life of a fiftysomething roadie (the eponymous Tommy Saxondale), who, after decades of criss-crossing the globe in the service of rock’n’roll stars, finds himself stranded on civvy street. Coogan – bearded, be-denimed and wearing a series of faded, thousand-wash tour T-shirts – has a look of permanent and almost-palpable disgust as he goes about his new job of pest control (“Simply The Pest”). He is perhaps the first character Coogan has created that we are supposed to laugh wholeheartedly with as opposed to at. As with so many people who have spent most of their adult life at the coal-face of the music business, Tommy Saxondale’s dress is so uncompromisingly rock’n’roll you suspect he could only ever get work exterminating vermin.

However it is not the rats, cockroaches and pigeons that cause Tommy so much visible, barely-contained pain, but rather the vagaries and moral imbecility of modern life. In the opening scene a group-therapist delivers a short, stunningly banal lecture on the pointlessness and wickedness of anger. Asked for “feedback”, Tommy says: “The notion that anger is, per se, a bad thing is, I would say respectfully, horse shit. If General MacArthur’s reaction to Pearl Harbor had been to find himself a quiet place and do some deep breathing you’d be goose-stepping into this meeting today and there’d be a great big eagle on the wall.” When the therapist follows this up by drawing vapid parallels between love and hate, Tommy finally loses all patience: “I don’t think there’s any confusion. The things I love and hate couldn’t be more different. I love my daughter. I love my Mustang. I love my girlfriend. I love the way Eno can paint a picture with music. I fucking hate my ex-wife.”

If Coogan’s vision of the roadie as erudite, world-weary wit, anecdotalist and master of the obscene aphorism (a sort of foul-mouthed Peter Ustinov in Lewis leathers) jars with the media’s portrayal of the breed as amoral procurers of drugs and teenage girls, it is only because the media have only ever told one half of the story. It’s also worth remembering that Coogan, unlike most people who address the subject, is writing from experience: not only do stand-up comics have their own mini road crew, but his brother Martin was lead singer with the Mock Turtles.

Larry and Dex – two career roadies – are happy to talk about their life on the road, providing their real names aren’t used. Dex says: “It’s a bit like working for M15 – we’ll talk but we won’t name names, and we don’t want ours mentioned either. We can be as horrible as M15 if anyone breaks our code of silence.” Like Coogan’s Saxondale they are thoughtful, self-effacing, funny and belie the cartoon image of the roadie as rock’n’roll’s flabby-bellied, flatulent, lard-arsed hod-carriers.

They both agree that life on the road is very weird. Larry explains, “You spend months, sometimes as much as 18 months, in the company of the same people. You sleep on the same bus as them, you eat with them, you work with them, you get pissed with them. You share everything with them – books, porn, DVDs, opinions, experience, everything. And you learn a lot. You can experience more in one tour than a lot of people experience in a lifetime. But all that stuff doesn’t necessarily make you any good at life off the road. Arguably it makes you worse. You get home and you have this sort of helpless arrogance that if you’re not careful can pretty fast turn into impatience. You’ve seen more than most folk, you’ve done more than most. Shit, you’ve even read more than most folk. And all these regular people seem incredibly naive and a little bit petty, a little bit thick.”

Reading, along with the actual work they do, is in fact one the least acknowledged activities of road crews. We all know, or think we know, about the drink, the drugs and the girls (which according to every roadie and band member I have ever met has as much to do with boredom as it has with addictive, excessive personalities), but we rarely hear about the books. Tours of the sort Larry works on involve inordinate amounts of travel. And travel, as any frequent flyer will tell you, involves an inordinate amount of reading.

“You’ll get some new kid on the bus and he’s practically illiterate,” explains Dex, “but by the end of that tour, if he survives, I can pretty much guarantee he’ll be better read than most English Literature or History BAs. And the reason you read is exactly the same reason that you shag anything that moves or swallow pills without even knowing what they are. Cos a lot of the time, when you’re not actually working, you’re really bored. And frankly a little bit of AJP Taylor is far better way of entertaining yourself than a nose full of crystal meth. Oh, and you can sleep on Mr Taylor. You can really get some sleep on EP Thompson, he’s better than Valium. Boring Marxist twat.”

This pithy dismissal of one of Britain’s most distinguished historians could easily have come from the lips of Coogan’s Tommy Saxondale, who in the series’ opening episode has a pop at the Proclaimers, demolishes anthropomorphism and punctuates a point about self-defence by shooting an animal rights protester in the foot with an air-pistol.

“It can be quite an aggressive atmosphere on tour,” explains Larry. “You have to be able to hold your own, both verbally and physically. That kind of vibe encourages quick wit and strong opinions, cos you have to be able to stand by what you say, even if you don’t mean a fucking word of it. When I started out I hardly said a thing for a year. I was a teenager and surrounded by these guys twice my age who could demolish you in less than 12 words. I did a lot of laughing, but didn’t have the cojones to actually attempt a joke.”

It is certainly true that roadies are often far more erudite and funny than the bands they work for. Noel Gallagher, one of the best and funniest interviews in British pop, admits that he learnt the art of the anecdote, and hence the interview, from his time roadie-ing for Madchester’s Inspiral Carpets. Motorhead’s Lemmy, who in more than 30 years in rock’n’roll has never failed to be anything less than engaging, also began his career as a roadie, lugging gear for Jimi Hendrix. Indeed, the name Lemmy is supposed to come from his days as a roadie when he would ask people to “lemmy a fiver”. Larry sees an irony in all this.

“So often you go on the road cos you really want to be in a band. I mean they say rock’n’roll critics are frustrated musicians but us lot … guys like Noel and Lemmy, they are real proof of that, but they’re also exceptions. The weird thing is that a lot of time the band behave like they want to be doing your job. They’ll sit on your bus rather than their own, they’ll join in the banter, and a few of them actually get quite good at it. And it’s like they’re frustrated roadies. In a way that explains the whole groupies thing. Groupies wanna get as close to the band as possible, they’re after the ultimate autograph. And there’s this definite hierarchy. Normally, singer at the top of the wish list, then guitarist, then bassist and finally drummer. Unless of course you’re the good-looking cunt from U2, in which case you shoot straight to the top. The keyboardist, if there is one, is a bit of a floating point, cos keyboardists are, as a rule, pretty depraved. Don’t ask me why. Anyway after that there’s us lot. I mean you know what they say, don’t you? Sleep with us and you’ve almost fucked a quarter of a bassist.”

Now as obscene aphorisms go that ain’t bad. Tommy Saxondale would certainly approve.

Saxondale, Monday, 10pm, BBC2

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This week’s photo adventures

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Stories and advice from the road

Wandered across this new article in The Guardian while doing some research, and while I’ve actually heard some of these stories, others are new and very funny, mostly because I know how easily they happen. Ahh, how I miss Glasgow….

Enjoy.

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/filmandmusic/story/0,,1841193,00.html

In Glasgow, beware of flying axes

The Rolling Stones still do it, but how do rock bands survive touring? Dave Simpson hears their tales of drugs, gangs and missed buses

Friday August 11, 2006
The Guardian

Almost Famous (Perils of touring)
Road to ruin? … A scene of the touring life from the film Almost Famous

Prepare for insanity
Ian Ball, Gomez

“The hardest thing about touring is trying to survive an endless groundhog day lifestyle. People think you’re seeing all these great places, but you won’t see anything. You’re going to wake up on the tour bus outside the venue, probably hungover, slightly disorientated, hot and in desperate need of a shower. You’ll basically see the area around the venue, a restaurant, a soundcheck and that’s it. And its going to be like that for every single city in the world. It’s like being the detective in a surreal mystery. You’re constantly solving tiny little problems: misplaced shower gel, room keys, passports, sanity. We have all literally gone on stage and said ‘Hello’ to the wrong town at some point. Our guitarist Tom Gray’s classic was in Australia. I can’t remember which city he said, but he was at least 1,200 miles off.”

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Don’t miss the bus
Matt Rubano, Taking Back Sunday

“On our first UK tour, I was left behind by the bus in Birmingham. It was a communication thing where one guy goes, ‘Where’s Matt?’ someone goes, ‘He’s asleep,’ and it’s, ‘OK, let’s go.’ I was outside in a telephone booth calling my girlfriend. I wandered around Birmingham for a couple of hours, and got chased by some guys who had left the pub. In the end, I found a security guard on an industrial estate, and pleaded with him to let me call home, as it was an emergency. The only number I could remember was my girlfriend’s, who emailed my manager in California, who then called our tour manager, who had just arrived in Oxford. The same thing happened to me again two days later. That time a very nice Pakistani family lent me £10 and drew me a map of how to get to London.”

Be careful who you support
Alan Vega, Suicide

“Opening up for any high-profile band is a great opportunity. But don’t do it unless you are prepared to fully commit. When we supported the Clash in Scotland, every night felt like world war three. The kids came for the Clash and got us first. They were so hyped up – but we wouldn’t back down. I taunted them, ‘You have to live through this to get to the Clash!’ Our presence infuriated them to the point of riot. It was pure mayhem, they were destroying everything in reach. In Glasgow, an axe flew by my head. It was surreal, I felt like I was in a 3D cowboy movie. We barely escaped with our lives – but we were really going out there to survive. Thirty years later – guess it worked!”

Don’t take crap from your own audience
Jean Jacques-Burnel, the Stranglers

“Very early on we decided that audience interaction made things an event. We developed a philosophy called Truth Through Provocation. For the encores, we’d be in Edinburgh and say, ‘At least people in Glasgow know they’re Scottish whereas in Edinburgh they think they’re English,’ and all hell would erupt. We had a similar approach with hecklers. If people spat at us, we’d wade into the audience, until one day we decided it would be more fun and more effective to drag them on stage and stick a banana up their arse. In New York we couldn’t get bananas so we used celery. Some people were amused – when Terry Wogan mentioned it on the radio people started queuing up to get it done. But when we tried it in France, it ended our career there for years.”

Steer clear of freaks
Ian Ball

“A good rule is to never sit next to the dressing-room door, because when the crazy people invade they latch on to the first person. Our bass player is always the unfortunate soul who cops it, because he’s such a welcoming guy. The craziest invader we’ve had was probably Ewan MacGregor, who turned up in Sydney. He was really exuberant because he’d just finished Star Wars and had consumed half of Scotland’s whisky. We were in the worst dressing room you can imagine and he came barrelling in like a cannonball, ‘HeyyouGomezguysarefuckingcrazeeee.’ That was actually pretty good fun. Usually it’s weird Argentinian women convinced you’re marrying them in the morning.”

Don’t stand too close to bandmates
Matt Rubano

“Our singer likes to twirl the microphone like a lasso. One night at Earls Court, in front of 12,000 people, I walked forward and caught it on the forehead. I was knocked to the ground. I got back up and realised I was soaking wet. I put my hand on my forehead and I was gushing blood. I was rushed off the stage and patched up. By the middle eight of the second song, I was back on stage and finished the gig, blooded and bandied up. Then they rushed me to casualty. Afterwards, fans sent me helmets. Some said, ‘Are you doing that again tonight?’ It looked really cool.'”

Use hearing protection
Andy Partridge, XTC

“We had this nerdy image but I remember reading in the 80s that we were officially the loudest band ever. We used to have the sound as loud on stage as it was in the audience. We used to see all these supposedly fearless heavy metal bands and think, ‘You pansies!’ because they were wearing earplugs. However, after five years of touring, I’d lost 50f my hearing.”

Don’t get in a band with a drug addict
Gemma Clark, the Suffrajets/ ex-Babyshambles

“The first gig I did with Shambles, the venue got trashed, the ceiling came down, there were riots and the police were called. The first month [September 2004] was tremendously exciting, but the drug-taking soon nosedived. I would be downstairs in my pyjamas and they were upstairs in a crack den. We had a few chats but Peter [Doherty] just wasn’t coherent. It’s terrible to see a friend get like that and I just hope they’re all OK. On the road now with the Suffrajets we worry more about stopping to get a sandwich, not, ‘I’ve run out of crack, can someone get some heroin?'”

Know your limits
Francis Rossi, Status Quo

“I gave up drinking and coke in ’98. It came to a head one night when I was planning a toot the night before a day off, so it wouldn’t affect the show. I had it all planned: cornflakes, watch the news, get stuck into the coke. When I got to it, I thought, ‘No, I’ll do it next time.’ Because I never actually said ‘Stop’ I didn’t touch it again for years. Then in Amsterdam somebody I knew in a restaurant gave me some and I couldn’t say, ‘I don’t do that any more.’ I gave most of it away but had a little sniff off a plectrum. I went running down the stairs to meet the wife and kids, got halfway and my teeth started grinding. I had to run into the bar and have a tequila to take the edge off. I thought, ‘That’s it, no more.'”

Avoid antagonising the locals (especially in Sweden)
Jean-Jacques Burnel

“In Sweden they had a gang called the Raggere, who are based on 1950s American rockers. They took affront at bands like the Stranglers playing their town. We were in the dressing room when we heard dozens of cars coming up. They beat up our road crew, smashed up our equipment. We managed to do a couple of Molotov cocktails and blew up a couple of cars. The police came and we were escorted out of the country. The second attempt to play Sweden ended with the audience on stage and the band in the audience. Back at the hotel Jet [Black, drummer] was being ignored by the waiters, and he got so frustrated he hurled a chair through a window. The police arrived with machine guns once again. We’re still banned from Sweden.”

Keep smiling and don’t moan
Francis Rossi

“You learn very quickly there’s no point moaning. We have an expression, ‘I do believe this was your chosen profession.’ It’s our way of saying, ‘Shut the fuck up, you could be driving an ice-cream van.'”

Play gigs, not rehearsals
Francis Rossi

“We do 125 gigs a year and one of the reasons we work so much is because we know if we don’t play for two weeks we’ve got to bloody rehearse – and we’ve always hated rehearsals. If you do that many gigs the machine keeps nicely oiled, whereas the longer you stop the more it feels like putting a whole new bloody engine in.”

Survive touring – stop touring
Andy Partridge

“I was sick of the same orange hotel rooms and looking at the same piece of corporate art for 30 days. I’d also started to drift off during gigs. Unwittingly, from the age of 13 I’d been addicted to valium because that’s what they did in those days if you were unhappy. One night my ex-wife flushed the tablets down the toilet. It’s the only time I’ve ever smashed up a hotel room. For a while I lost my memory. I’d get nervous before gigs, throwing up. It came to a head in Paris. I threw the guitar down and ran off. I never toured again. It felt like I’d woken up. Because we didn’t tour we made better records. Giving up touring was probably a good career move.”

Hold it together: it will be OK in the end
Grant Nicholas, Feeder

“Touring can be lonely. You can be playing in front of thousands and then be climbing the walls in your hotel room. I had some problems last year – screaming at the audience off-mic. I caused haemorrhages of my vocal chords. I was terrified; my voice wouldn’t work. You have to look after yourself. The crucial thing is to enjoy the magic hour on stage because if you do, it will all be worth it. We’re doing some of the Stones dates because Charlie Watts likes us. I haven’t met Keith yet, but he seems indestructible. Apparently, he’s been saying it wasn’t a tree he fell out of, it was a hedge – ‘More of a shrub.'”

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New Show Alert: Joan Jett, Eagles of Death Metal, Throwrag

Only a few days after having the ass-shaking pleasure of seeing Eagles of Death Metal twice here in Seattle in the past week, we get confirmation that they’ll be back soon, with the fabulous Joan Jett, and of course, those crazy Salton Sea boys in Throwrag!

From The Showbox site:

http://www.showboxonline.com/newwebsite/htmlsite.html

Wednesday November 1st -Mike Thrasher presents JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS with EAGLES OF DEATH METAL and THROW RAG. $27.50 advance at TicketsWest. $30.00 day of show and at the door. Doors at 8pm. All Ages. Tickets on sale Saturday August 19th at 10am.

Yes, it’s a little spendier than usual. But I can absolutely promise that you will get every single cent’s worth, and you will be completely and utterly rocked. Many, many thanks to whomever booked Ms. Jett and EoDM together, as it’s truly a match made in rock ‘n’ roll heaven.

(Confidential to SF: Don’t worry, we’ll protect you from the Mad Washboarder!)

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…and some CRACKer Jacks…

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Okay, so there was really no buying of peanuts or Cracker Jacks — those were not-so-secretly replaced with a lemonade and vodka, hot pretzel with cheese-food-type substance (a dollar for that yellow crap? criminal!), and of course, our beloved Shish-Ka-Berries (see Shaley and Sarah devouring theirs below):

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But hell yes, I did stretch during the 7th, since it’s also criminal not to do so.

It was a fabulously fun day that was sorely needed, and I can’t thank Alan and Sarah enough for including my friends and I in their annual festivities — not to mention affording us the opportunity to spend just a little more time with our favorite Mets fans.

Click here for all the photographic evidence of our hijinks

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Mentally wandering…

Not feeling particularly chatty lately; have a lot to think about, it seems. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to:

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Silversun Pickups, July 29, 2006

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The Cops, July 28, 2006

I hope to have a few more galleries ready later this week, along with a few more shows shot.

In the meantime, my brain’s still roaming around…

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Another fantastic NY Dolls article

Robert Christgau and I don’t see eye-to-eye very often (a good example being his unwarranted and senseless swipe at the Twilight Singers in last week’s column), but even I have to admit that he’s written a compelling piece about the New York Dolls and their latest record.

*****

http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0631,christgau,74050,22.html

Rock & Roll &
Sensualistic, Polytheistic

Miraculously, after 32 years, the New York Dolls do it again

by Robert Christgau
August 1st, 2006 4:02 PM

“So everybody gets makeup, OK? You look dead on TV without it.” Back in the Conan greenroom from a Camel-stoked walk to the Hilton with his girlfriend Leah, David Johansen was taking charge of the reconstituted New York Dolls, who didn’t really need the help. The sextet showed a lot of denim in rehearsal, but all manner of magpie finery came out at the witching hour, with red-on-black a themeJersey guitarist Steve Conte’s red-lined frock coat, keyb pro Brian Koonin’s red derby, the red rose in nice-guy bassist Sami Yaffa’s hair. The multiple accessories to Syl Sylvain’s colorful costume include a snarly-wolf wristband and Max’s Kansas City kidney belt painted by his wife Wanda in Atlanta, whom he called before he went on. And Johansenwhew. Jean Harlow (?) T-shirt. Stovepipe flares. Belts and rhinestones and silvery chains. They were a great band dressed to kill again.
Many reunions never get past the tour that’s never as hot as true believers claim. And the creditable albums some bands manage never live up to old glories. The Dolls’ new album doesn’t either, but that’s compared to my desert island discswith this band, I’m the true believer. Their second shot took nearly 30 years, a decade-plus more than Blondie or Mission of Burma or Gang of Four. With junko partners Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan gone since 1991 and 1992, three of the original Dolls survived till Morrissey engineered a London one-shot two years ago. His dream fulfilled, bassist Arthur Kane died of previously undiagnosed leukemia a month later, leaving David and Syl to ride the one-shot’s reverberations. But though the pace has slowed and the execution filled out, though Thunders’s squalling sound and drop-dead time are irreplaceable, they’re still the New York Dolls.

The Dolls came together at one of Queens’ less distinguished educational institutionsSylvain, Thunders, and classic drummer Billy Murcia, who died in a 1972 drug bollocks, all attended Newtown High School, and Kane grew up nearby. Staten Islander David Johansen they met downtown, and he was different. Bluntly put, what Sylvain calls the Dolls’ “skyscraper soup” wouldn’t have been all that tasty without Johansen’s genius as songwriter and frontman. The forced rhythms and slapdash musicianship of this fast, noisy mix-upcomprising, Sylvain reckoned, girl group, blues, Eddie Cochran, Young Rascals, and Little Rascalsread radically anti-hippie and now just seems quintessentially rock and roll. But it presaged punk, and it influenced thousands of bandsnone of whom sounded remotely like the Dolls because none of them had Johansen’s eye for a joke, nose for a hook, clothes sense, appetite, or humanity. Nobody does.

Since the Dolls fell apart without having approached the megasales dancing in their heads, Johansen has enjoyed a solo career that included a long stint as cruise-ship popmeister Buster Poin-dexter and a briefer one yodeling in the canon with the ad hoc Harry Smiths. But give the new album half a chance and it stands as a miraculous demonstration of how much this modestly cultured middle- class New Yorkerdad an opera-singing insurance salesman, mom a librarianbenefits from the proximity of dead-end kids. He’s written hundreds of songs with collaborator Koonin. But when sound-check riffs evolved into songs and then a deal with the metal heavyweights at Roadrunner Records for the first Dolls album in 32 years, Johansen knew he had to generate fresh material. “It’s like being the speechwriter for a party,” he told me, coyly leaving out the “political.” Fools will grouse about a 56-year-old pretending he’s 22 again, just as Mojo’s Kris Needs recently groused that New York Dolls and In Too Much Too Soon were “neutered,” “limp” renderings of the band’s pansexuality. The Dolls always were over some people’s heads.

I’ve held off on the album’s strange title because it says so much: One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. The “even” is preemptive; those who level the self-evident charge that the Dolls don’t jam like they used to should check their own jam level and say something new. But what’s more mind-boggling is that after 30 years Johansen isn’t looking back from his earned maturityhe’s looking ahead. He has internalized his mortality so thoroughly that he realizes he won’t be 56 forever. This is a true Dolls albumas in the Conan-featured “Dance Like a Monkey,” which bids a “pretty little creationist” to shake her “monkey hips” now that “evolution is obsolete,” or the opening “We’re All in Love,” with its “Jumping around like teenage girls” and its “We all sleep in one big bed.” But it also expresses the worldview of a lean, strong-piped guy who understands what makeup is for and knows that he may not be pretty in pink forever.

Johansen scoffed at my suggestion that his new album harbored religious feelings, and I didn’t push it. Instead I’ll just mention the booklet’s Kali Yoga shout-out and quote a few lyrics. “Feel exiled from the divine,” for instance. Or “Nature with its true voice cries out undissembled, ‘Be as I am!’ ” in the one that ends “Sensualistic/ Ritualistic/Alchemistic/Polytheistic.” Or the loose talk about infinity in the two songs that lead into the perorating “Take a Good Look at My Good Looks,” which begins, “Spirit slumbers in nature/And awakens in mind/And finally recognizes/Itself in time.” The ghost track “Seventeen” is tacked on as a corrective. Begins: “I was down on the corner one night.” Continues: “I was made all of light.”

Fools may wonder why Johansen needs dead-end kids to write like this. Where’s the party? But the Dolls were dead-end kids in transcendence mode. Their goal was and is the unbounded, humorous humanism apparent in Bob Gruen and Nadia Beck’s circa-1973 All Dolled Up DVD, a far more vivid memento than any concert bootleg. Their summum was Too Much Too Soon’s future Guns N’ Roses text “Human Being”; their big drug slogan was “I need a kiss not a fix.” They were anti-hippie only insofar as hippies were passive (the Dolls rocked nonstop) and pretentious (David and Syl rail at 20-minute guitar solos as if they just tuned one out on WPLJ). Heterosexuals all, they believed in universal love the way disco utopian David Mancuso believed in universal lovewith a sloppy touch of the Cockettes. “I’ve been trying to convince Syl that what we had in the ’70s wasn’t sex,” Johansen explained at Randalls Island in 2004, and again at Irving Plaza in 2005. A Monica Lewinsky joke, he couldn’t resist. But think of it this waymaybe what they had in the ’70s was love.

One attraction of Johansen’s newfound Buddhist rhetoric is that it doesn’t shy away from the carnal. The knowledgeable lust of “Fishnets & Cigarettes” and the pussy-worshipping “Running Around” counter the lived despair of “Punishing World,” “Maimed Happiness,” and the hope- deprived “I Ain’t Got Nothin’.” And that draft for a suicide note leads into a redemptive earthly-love triptych that dovetails plausibly, if not definitively, with what is known of Johansen’s personal life, in which a long marriage to photographer Kate Simon was followed by his relationship with Leah Hennessey, whose teenage daughter designed the 10-page comic that comprises the notes. He remains a votary of l-u-v.

That is, he remains a New York Doll. “This is the most fun way I can think of right now to not work,” Johansen told me, but he has big plans for his lark. No “bar band” or “preaching to the choir” for this mature professional entertainer who began his career believing he was about to take over the world. “This is going to be a big record. It’s like there’s no rock and roll records out there. It’s a fait accompli.”

It isn’t, but don’t tell the folks at Roadrunner. Tell them they’ve underwritten another desert island disc. Because it’s quite possible they have.

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