This Is What You Want….This Is What You Get.

sex pistols

I recently did an online survey “Which 70’s punk band should you be in?” It turns out that I should be in the Sex Pistols. Hmm…they did lose one bass player to murder/suicide, but they brought the original one back for their reunion. So I don’t think there will be any auditions anytime soon.

PiL

I missed the Pistols at Winterland (I was too young to go, but I did see Public Image Ltd live on their first U.S. tour in 1980 at the South of Market Cultural Center. The first band on the bill was Toiling Midgets. The curtain goes up, and on stage playing bass I recognize  “that guy who goes to University High School and rides the 24 Divisadero bus” I had never talked to him on our mutual bus route (I was too shy).  I was shocked to see a fellow high school student playing in a band in front of a big crowd…opening for Johnny Rotten. It gave me faith that my secret fantasy (to be in a band) could someday come true.

Flipper also played that show and were the best worst band I’d ever seen, albeit completely inspiring . They sounded terrible, reinforcing the punk rock concept that anyone could start a band. But there was, and still is, only one Flipper.

flipper

In the book Gimme Something Better, Jello Biafra says this show was “his favorite show of all time. I commend Johnny Rotten for refusing to play for Bill Graham. Which meant it was a poorly run Paul Rat show which was way oversold.” (check out more on http://www.gimmesomethingbetter.com) It was my first, of many more to come, poorly run Paul Rat shows.

PIL SOM

I also met my first boyfriend while waiting in line to get in. We’re in the above picture, in front of the people with the white shirts on. Oh, yeah, PiL was pretty good too.

PiL Galleria

I saw PiL again a couple of years later at the Galleria Gift Center.  The stage was in the middle of an open rotunda, so you could take the elevator upstairs and look down upon the band. Some idiots had gone up a few flights and were leaning over the rail and pouring beer on the musicians.  John Lydon (he’d gone back to Lydon at this point as he was in a legal dispute with McClaren over the name Johnny Rotten) was obviously annoyed (his hair was spiky green if I remember right) and people were handing him their hats to wear for protection. He would take the hat, flip it over, look at the label, and then shake his head and give the hat back to the person. I was wearing a hat that had belonged to my grandfather.  While I was happy for the beer protection, I thought John needed it more than me, so I handed it to him.  He flipped it over and looked at the label.  He smiled at me and put the hat on. For the rest of the show he wore the hat. I had another one of my grandpa’s hats at home, so I was willing to lose this one.  But, at the end of the show, John Lydon walked over, tipped the hat and handed it back to me.  I still have the hat and the label reads Lock and Co. Hatters, London. I lost my grandpa’s other hat, so I’m so glad that I still have this one. Of course the real value comes from it belonging to my grandpa, but it’s nice to think that it protected Johnny too.

PiL fort mason

The next time I saw PiL was in 1984 at Fort Mason Center, Pier 2. It was jammed packed, and people were pushing to get to the stage and moshing, which didn’t really fit at a PiL show. I was proudly wearing my creepers. You can probably get creepers at Target now, but back then they were a sought after, expensive commodity. You could only get them in England, so people would give money to friends who were travelling overseas to bring some back.  I was lucky in that my boyfriend’s sister worked at one of the first shops to import creepers from Doc Marten in London, and she got me a pair wholesale. Well in the crush of the crowd, one of my creepers came off and I couldn’t find it. I spent the rest of the show with one shoe, dismayed.  At the end of the gig, I stared scouting around for my shoe, and when I got close to the stage a punk rock chick was waving my shoe yelling “WHO LOST THEIR CREEPER?? SOMEONE IS GONNA BE REALLY BUMMED THAT THEY LOST THEIR CREEPER!!!” I hopped up to her and showed my shoe-less foot, and she handed me my shoe. “I knew you’d be looking, ” she said, “no one would leave without it.” I thanked her. She knew how hard it was for me to get those shoes; it was like I had fallen down in the pit, and she picked me back up.

creeper

According to a website that lists all of PiL’s shows, they evidenly played the Stone, the Warfield and the Civic Auditorium in the years after this, but I must have been busy touring and eschewing large concerts to attend any.

I finally saw the Sex Pistols at the Warfield in 2003. My brother bought me a ticket ( I was over my fear of larger shows, but too still cheap to buy tickets to them). My expectations were low, but to be honest, I was blown away by Lydon. He was a pure entertainer, cleverly manipulating me and the crowd into having a great time.

sex pistols warfield

I did go see PiL again in 2010 at the Regency. Gone are my high fashion days of hats and creepers. My friend Paul and I stood in the back in comfortable shoes, and I have to say that John Lydon/Rotten still delivers.

lock hatters

 

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A (New York) Doll’s House

buster poindexter

Once again it was the wee hours of the morning and I was waiting for a flight to LAX for work. There was hardly anyone in the small waiting area.  Next thing I knew, 6 skinny, well dressed, musician-type folk sat down across from me. I instantly recognized David Johansen and his recent version of the New York Dolls, as I had just seen them play a month or so previous.  My eyes bugged out of my head and it was one of those painful “travelling alone” moments when you cannot pinch the person next to you and give the head nod.  So, I did what every punk rock music fan does in these situations- I ran into the bathroom, pulled out my cell phone and called my brother. “Guess who’s waiting for my LAX flight?”  “Who?” “GUESS! GUESS!!!!” He knew it had to be one of my musical idols, but he wasn’t getting close to the mark.  “Give me a hint?” My brother had given me a New York Dolls shirt for Xmas.  “T-shirt” was all I said.  “OH MY GOD! BUSTER POINDEXTER!!”” Only my brother would invoke the alter ego at this point.  “Go up to him and say ‘hot hot hot’!”.  My brother is not shy; he would have sat next to David and talked to him the whole way to L.A. But that’s not my M.O. I did spy a bit. They had just flown from Japan and were making their connection to L.A. They looked very tired and the flight attendant wouldn’t let the guitar player store his guitar in first class. So me, the Dolls and Les Paul all flew coach together. BTW David Johansen is tiny, tiny, tiny.

I went to New York when I was eighteen, just about to turn nineteen.  I wanted to meet The Ramones, David Johansen, The Talking Heads, Johnny Thunders….you know. My first time out of California and first cross country road trip. Being young, we had a loose plan that we would spend the summer with our friends who lived “somewhere in Brooklyn”. I think we knew where one of them worked, but no other info, so when we arrived in NYC we were tired and didn’t have a place to stay.  We needed a hotel with a garage because we had a drive-away car. The only one we found with a room was the Carter Hotel, and I thought it was ridiculously expensive at $50 a night.  As we took the elevator up to the 15th floor, the power went out and the elevator stopped. It was dark, packed with people, and very hot. Sweat was pouring down my sides (New York in June).  A kid next to me yelled out in the darkness,  “WE‘RE ALL GONNA DIE!” I almost fainted. Luckily the power kicked back on and the elevator started chugging its way up to our floor.

After a night of intermittent power and cockroaches, we got rid of the car, and I begged my friend for us to stay in the Hotel Chelsea. It’s where Sid killed Nancy; fulfilling every teens’ “Live fast, die young, punk rock fantasy.”  We got a room for $50 a night, but I didn’t complain. I loved the Chelsea from the minute I got in there….the art in the lobby, the musty smell, and musicians playing guitar in the stairwell.  I asked the next day if there were any cheaper rooms available, because we still hadn’t found our friends.  They gave us one for $30/night, no air conditioning.  I opened the window to get some air and spied a book on the fire escape. The title: Drugs: How They Work and Why.  We found our friends the next day- they had spent the weekend in Martha’s Vineyard. Bitter sweetly,  I left the book on the balcony.

hotel chelsea