Scenesters: Music, Mayhem & Melrose Ave (1985-90)

scenestersBy the time me and a flamehaired stripper with a sports car arrived in Hollywood, to look for the pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow Bar And Grill, it was mostly all over.

We were snorting up the last hours of sequins and vulgarity, mascara and laughter before the bad trip buzzkill of Cobain. We were squinting in the last blinding, big sprays of Aqua Net and final drunken caterwauls at Thursday night cattle calls, where a rogues' gallery of various whiskey sodden, speed freaky, Stars From Mars and Seaweed Eaters and Raw Flowers and Glamour Punks and Dawg Mafia and Queeny Blast Pop diehard, teased haired, Motley-Babies played their hopeless gutter-punk defiantly, even while Seattle was exploding into the mainstream.

It was the sad, last gasps of a cool and androgynous underground scene, as grunge and gangsta-rap and capitalist lifestyle unreality-tv programming were coming into vogue and all the faded  spandex stars of the strip had mostly got rich and sold-out, died, or gone straight.

I still have not seen that MAD MARC RUDE documentary, so I was thrilled to finally get to lay my tired old eyeballs of Desi Benjamin's fast-paced, informative and entertaining documentary about the slutty fun heyday of Hollywood's nightlife culture, when the punks and metalheads who worked at the new wave boutiques and indie record shops on Melrose Avenue were sharing stages with the goths and Gun Club cowpunks in seedy bars like Scream.

Desi grew up with people like Slash and Taime Downe and booked shows and worked for Virgin Records. Here, he talks to many of the great figureheads and pioneers of eighties glam decadence like Jeff Drake, the Joneses singer and guitar-slinger who many would consider the forefather of the whole L.A. glam explosion because of his obvious influence on people like Izzy Stradlin.

Everyone in the film remembers Izzy loitering around Melrose and panhandling in front of Vinyl Fetish in the dirty days before his once cool Hanoi Rocks and Joneses-influenced band went super fame stadium suckass. His Juju Hounds bandmate, Jimmy Ashhurst, from the excellent shouldabeens, Broken Homes, and sleazerock-revivalists, Buck Cherry, is also an insightful commentator in the film.

Patrick Muzingo from Junkyard is one of the highly knowledgeable old punks who you want to hear speak at greater length. The always charming, long reigning Prince Of Hollywood, Francois Haroldson of Motorcycle Boy, sweetly recalls being the only cat in Spokane who looked like Johnny Thunders--before moving to L.A., when everybody was starting to look like Johnny Thunders.

Paul Mars Black from the Joneses and L.A. Guns and Jo Dog & Paul Black's Sonic Boom; and Bryan Small, from America's Best Rock Band, the Hangmen, are only two of the Johnny Thunders lookalikes who share their memories with those of us who sadly missed the peak years of sleazy rocknroll excess and sidewalk vomiting when cool goths like Kommunity FK were playing alongside the Little Kings and Faster Pussycat and Tex & The Horseheads.

The saddest part of the film is where one mature, middle-aged, ex rocker talks about how he is grownup now, and no longer wears white make-up. Personally, I would not have ended the flick on such a bummer note, but I'll be an elderly Goth, that's just me. 

I wish Desi would have put a few more of my personal faves like the Coma-Tones, Lame Flames, the Ultras, and Miniskirt Mob in the film, but overall, he did a fantastic job spinning purple yarns about the wildly inspired, druggy, flamboyant and hedonistic bars like Rajis, the Cathouse, Coconut Teaszer and the Scream, that catapulted bands like Jane's Addiction, the Nymphs, Guns N Roses and the Chili Peppers to fame and fortune. 

Don Bolles, who has probably played in more cool Hollywood bands than anyone else, talks about Celebrity Skin, who were the last truly exciting Hollywood band. Nowadays, their fantastic guitarist, Jason Shapiro, is touring the world as a member of Redd Kross. Also entertaining is Bruce Duff from the Jeff Dahl Group and Streetwalkin' Cheetahs, who self deprecatingly cracks wise about not being cool enough for the girls in the black bras. Really fun stuff.

Jetboy, the purple haired Zeros. They're all here. The best thing about the flick is seeing so many soulful survivors who are still making vital music today, like Junkyard and the Hangmen. Essential viewing, if you loved dangerous '80s punknroll, hairspray glam, or sleaze-metal.

three mcgarrett

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Tags: hollywood, los angeles, gun club, melrose avenue, desi benjamin, Scenesters: Music, Mayhem & Melrose Ave (1985-90), DVD, Bluray, guns and roses, izzy straddlin, the joneses

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