L.A. survivors The Hangmen ride on
Cactusville – The Hangmen (Acetate Records)
In the wake ‘n’ bake legal reefer for rich white people Portland woke college culture, any mention of Burroughs is severely frowned upon because the dude was a bad man who killed his wife, but he accurately predicted this whole modern day dystopian police state NSA culture of surveillance capitalism and snitches and official narrative protecting fact checkers thinking they are helpful helpers doing their part for vegan wokeness. Nobody has the right to be left alone anymore, or mind their own business. That is their college kid idea of virtue, being micro mini Judge Dredd/Judge Judy vigilante deciders. "I like you, I don't like you." They all wanna be the jury, judge, and executioner, and the judgements are severe, as Leonard Cohen sang, in his prophetic, "Waiting For The Miracle To Come".
All my times, I've been carving out underground Bohemian, speakeasy/after-hours creative spaces, only to get displaced by the dilletante gadfly rich people who are attracted to the dames and the art. Somebody just built the first McMansion in the neighborhood and already, before the richies from outta state even get part-time moved in, code enforcers have already shown up in their oversized black shiny vehicles, harassing the old men with rock gardens, and the crazy cat lady with the double wide trailer cat colony down the street, suddenly, holy shit, all her cats are gone, as not to offend Richie McRichness. That ain't right. These old people have been here for years, and if the nice Mexican cowboy with his cop daughter don't mind, and the bitter veteran with the oxygen tank who lives on that block is cool with 'em, leave 'em alone.
Ever since I was a very hated and singled out as an example rebellious gutter urchin from an extremely uptight, tank building smalltown in the big tv screen fixated Midwest, I been looking for a place to belong, outside of society. During all my runaway bohomeless years of climbing up fire escapes to sleep on the roof of Lower East Side projects where the junkies are shooting up and their bloody paper towels are blowing towards me, to all the endless, frightened nights of walking around in circles among the gangs and crazy cops and hustlers and streetwalkers of old Hollywood and being called puta and marica by street corner males of all ages 'cause I had no car, it's not like I was the only white guy in the hood, there was also a drunk actor who lived next door, but he could get in his sports car and drive away, me I was on foot and men get pissed off when they mistake you for a chick. Hollywood was a tough hustle by the time I got there and I did not get lucky at all. Back then, I could always sorta vibe with the angry, annoyed, irritated vibe of The Hangmen's young, loud, and snotty, belligerent bad mood rawk. It reminded me of the Joneses, and it was surprising when it made it to MTV during the peak of all that screechy, assembly line, manufactured spandex metal. My scrappy pals and me kinda saw ourselves in the Joneses and the Hangmen, and we knew we had to find our way to California where it seemed that cats like us were at least tolerated and sometimes even celebrated. The promised land. Who doesn't wanna ride around in a convertible and get fucked up?
I still got the black and white ad for the first Hangmen record, torn from some old heavy metal magazine, on the wall in my garage. No idea how I am still in possession of that piece of paper after being forced to relocate, like 100 times since I first scotched taped it to the wall for inspiration in the late ‘80ss.
Most of my gang were dropouts who always sucked at making money. The lads in my band and I only got it together to record, in actual studios, about four times, so when our real low budget demo tape recorded at a crazy crackhead country music piano player's studio generated fanzine comparisons to The Hangmen, Humpers, and Dramarama, right away, we were pretty ginned up and flattered about that, cause those were summa the only bands we've liked from this country since way, way, way back when.
Somebody told me the Hangmen might have real different political views than myself, but in this age of all the monopoly-media being owned by war profiteers and big pharma shareholders, I really don't think very many people share any of my personal worldviews, at all-particularly not if they see themselves as Democrats or Republicans, and I am not really part of the university culture that says you're not allowed to appreciate somebody's art, if you disagree with their politics. If you press play and listen to the Hangmen song, "Man In Black's Hand" right now, you'll see and hear exactly what I DO have in common with those sneery anti-socials. That's it for me, man, whoo-whee, can they ever lay it down-the gutter gospel, with plain spoken and simple to understand lyrics and impossible to forget riffs that says it all for me. I can feel that tune all up and down my spine. I love it. #1 with a silver bullet. Roy Rogers, King Of The Cowboys.
Hangmen guitarist, Jimmy James, like I said elsewhere, is roughly the USA! USA! equivalent of Spencer P. Jones-ya know how Spencer ended up playing in every great band of his era? That's been Jimmy James over here, from the very bluesy and sleazy saloon punks of Rock City Angels, to working man bar brawlers Junkyard, and Hangmen, he has been contributing to the best bands that have come from this country since the eighties. He even played in my all-time favorite rocknroll band from Hollwood since the Doors, the immortal Coma-Tones.
Notorious hellraiser, Bryan Small, has always written these really catchy, memorable riffs that'll stay in your skull forever and he has exactly the kinda mewling, wet alleycat singing voice that I think makes for all the best rock ‘n’ roll, he just appeals so deeply to my own gutter glam scuzzy dive bar sensibilities. The Hangmen sometimes remind me of the Finnish glam greats, Smack and other times, they drift into heartsick loner Jeffrey Lee Pierce terrain. "Lookin' For Blood" is kinda vengeful and foreboding, like a nastier Pat Todd and the Rank Outsiders or even AC/DC, it's really perfect rock ‘n’ roll in my book. Dirty, and cantankerous, like the Four Horsemen. Ain't talkin' bout love. I'll probably be listening to this CD “Cactusville” all night.
I actually went outta my way to scrounge up a copy of this disc cause I just knew it was gonna be real good, something just told me. As Iggy Pop sang: "Everything is really hard, if you ain't got that credit card." It's tougher than you might imagine to acquire this kinda disc where I live, no record stores within a two or three hour drive and I'm a pedestrian, like I said. "Cactusville" will remind summa my old homies of our dearly departed friend, Paul K & The Weathermen, or Gun Club, or Concrete Blonde. I think my old "Another State Of Mind" and Social Distortion obsessed buddy, Scruff who was briefly our drummer before meeting an Indiana goth chick and becoming a gravedigger in Fort Wayne will love it.
"I got fucked up in Cactusville..." reminds me of me. "Nobody's Girl" would sound great on the radio if they still played rock ‘n’ roll on the radio, and anybody who could still afford to travel anywhere should probably put this in their CD player before leaving town, it's ideal road music, meant to be played loud, with your sunglasses on and your elbow out the window, wind in your hair. The powers that be have been pretty effective at keeping most of us blue collar people locked down for longer than just the past two years of pandemic nuttiness, but if I was still young and free and could just get in the van and aim it westward like we used to when we were more impulsive and less responsible, this is EXACTLY what I want blaring while the fast food chains, abandoned churches, rundown motels, and decaying roadside, pink sunset Amerikkkana goes blurring by me. Instead, I'm just gonna sit here in this rickety old man chair and look at the fucking mountain some more. Things ain't nothing like they used to be.
NEVER GO HOME
"Black Boots" might be my fave tune though cause I can so strongly identify, ya know "I wanna get high and I wanna get by and I'm a long way from home in my black boots". I can dig it. I was just telling my old lady she should probably bury me in this particular bandana I have on now. Maybe I wouldn't hit it off with this guy in real life, I'm pretty alienated from humanity after all this time, but I sure can FEEL his music and I appreciate him for that. "No more years of arriving, years go by, still I try..." Couldn't have said any of that any better, myself. While most guitar slingers in my age group who are still bothering to make music at all seem to do it for basically mercenary reasons, just hustling for a name brand easy way, headliner payday, these dudes here, Bryan and Jimmy still play rock ‘n’ roll from the heart, they got it. They are it. If I had not retreated from the big city rat race and anti-poor gestapo, years and years ago, they'd be one of the only remaining rock ‘n’ roll groups I'd leave my house to go see.
So go see 'em if they play within striking distance of whereever you live, and buy their T-shirtt. I'm pretty sure that Jimmy still likes Bloody Marys. Hook him up. I don't know much about bassist Angelique Congleton or where she came from other than she is as rock as fuck, totally has that right on thing that emanates from the inside out, a couple years back, I brushed with her old man online and he told me he was actually friends with my dead former bandmate from Kentucky. Man, it's a small world after all. There's a NYC band who still covers songs I wrote with that guy when we were wild. Jorge E. Disguster is a great drummer, exactly the kind you wish for, the perfect rock ‘n’ roller.
Rick Ballard plays on the record and has been gettin' himself filthy in the real rock ‘n’ roll trenches for years now, by heroically releasing some of the most essential underground music of our age. All the best bands like Dragbeat, Sour Jazz, Black Halos and Super Suckers, so let me take a moment to go infomercial on ya and thank him for doing all that important work. Hangmen masterpieces, "Metallic I.O.U.", "East Of Western", "In The City", "Loteria", and the very crucial, "LOST ROCKS BEST OF" are all for sale for $8-$13 from the Acetate Records website and look man, that's like less than a dollar a song and it's handsomely packaged and you get to keep it and replay it on the back porch forever, whenever somebody cool shows up with a bottle for the bonfire! That is a LOT of entertainment value for your buck.
If you like listening to seedy, decadent rocknroll from the bad side of town, you'd be hard pressed to do better than purchasing their classic albums. "We've Got Blood On The Toes Of Our Boots" even guest stars Eddie Spaghetti and I know an awful lot of you tattooed kids love that dude a lot. The Hangmen version of "I WIll Stay" is one of the best things I ever heard.
If you like songs about loners, junkies, and liquor stores, check out Acetate's website and tell 'em I said hi. If you know me well, you know it ain’t all that likely, me, ever, ever, ever endorsing a band who covers the Lords Of The New Church because I guess that band is my sacred cow, they do an outstanding cover of the Tony James-penned, "Russian Roulette" and just lay it down like rattlesnake motherfuckers.
My memory's a bit hazy now, cause you know, back in the ‘80s, ahem, we used to drink some, but I'm pretty sure somebody even told me that Bryan Small co-writes songs with the blindingly beautiful feathered crown goddess and patron saint of fucked over musicians, Inger Lorre from the legendary last shining beacon Nymphs. One of my nearest and dearest lifelong friends died alone in a fucked-up hospice awhile back and I saw online how his widow was selling off his much cherished record collection. That just killed me, he worked all his life for minimum wage at a record store he had to take a bus to and from everyday for years. He turned so many people on to good music and it totally grieves me he is gone.
My kid was always asking me who I'd like to go visit and that was the dude. We used to live together in a tiny ramshackle apartment I painted purple, we could just sit together and listen to blues records all night long. Sometimes, he'd trip on too much acid, and I'd have to retrieve him from the bank parking lot below, where he was running around naked. My grand-folks died and they sold off the old homestead, so I do a lotta thinking about home, what home means, the value and sacredness of having one. I've spent some years of my life outside and houseless so as my friends keep dying off one by one, I'm trying to make sense of it all, but none of it seems right. How can you be driving down by my home when ya know I ain't got a home, etc etc.
All you lonesome drifters and outlaw train hoppers will be sure to relate to the Hangmen's lonesome town rocknroll motherfuckery, but only if you like your music raw and raucous and turbulent and tortured like Tex & The Horseheads or Johnny Thunders. The late, great Rontrose Heathman played on "East Of Western". One of the most important rockers in the history of the sport, an actual living breathing, real member of glam icons, Smack, was even in his band for while. Raine Raisikan who also played alongside Timo Kaltio and Izzy Stradlin. I mean...COME ON! I don't know about you, but I just wanna FEEL GOOD! These guys are the alley cats, for sure, to paraphrase Nikki Sudden, they "stayed bruised".
Me, myself, I know how it feels to live in CACTUSVILLE. The dirt road forever flats are for the already irreparably broken people who just want to be left the fuck alone, not hassled or harassed anymore for failing at capitalist society. There ain’t no happy feelings politeness preference culture where I live. Just rusty old fences with angry-in-the-elements pitbulls, multiple No Trespassing signs everywhere you look, and a lot of frowning hermits who don't wave back, you go fucking around, somebody pulls a gun, all the grouchy oldsters here seem to wake up horrified to still be here, mostly an awful lot of widows and widowers, and hostile ancients whose family's don't look in on 'em no more. The elderly are hoping they make it to heaven by morning, and what few young ones are around are all just frustrated senseless, bored out of their minds since what few stores and cultural hubs were here before covid closed down the little cardboard town, you see 'em all lurkin' round behind the dollar store in their fake gold necklaces, looking for crystal meth, all the other shadies, just imitating. I just sit here and write in this dumb notebook, listen to the roosters, watch the sky.
It's healing to be removed from the angry stupid crowds of big city me, first dumbfucks and ignorant, aggressive consumerist hate mobs, but man it can get dead dull and sometimes, dead lonely. The late MC5 bassist Mike Davis had a similar situation when he lived in Arizona. You know how there's just like a million suckshit Spin magazine model duo/fake garage bands that you can't help but detest and envy, because of all their did nothing, bought and paid for, undeserved hype and fame and fortune? Then, you got some unsung heroes who just keep punchin' away, year after year, for just a tiny audience of true believers, who can hear their special little frequency and you just can't help but root for them?
For me, the Hangmen are a real rare, exceptional band of hard rockin' survivors who keep doing it when most everybody else just up and quit. "Death Valley" is the nazz, man. "Don't like the Man....don't like the Flag...poor souls never had a chance...", honestly it just sound so much like he's writin' about me and all my droppin' like flies dead buddies. It's music for outsiders, antisocial hermits, desperadoes and heavy drinkers with no hope and no future and nowhere to go. All us people who been beat up, thrown out, kicked to the curb like ghetto trash nothings, nobodies, to make way for the squeaky clean haves on the hill, who always wanna buy up all the property and turn our rundown places where the poor people came to hideout into gentrified Disneylands for the vibrant and diverse sensitive people with the waist length dreadlocks and OM tattoos and anime backpacks and furry animal hats and backyard yurts and credit cards galore. Vibrant and Diverse is just wokey wokeish real estate code for: be rich, or get the fuck out, motherfucker. "Cold Memory Blues" is my favorite kind of tortured torch and twang, makes me wanna make the hike down the snaketrail to the gas station and buy a pint so I can remember the more innocent golden days when my friends were alive, we had a million laughs, were bitching about our record store jobs, and still wholeheartedly believing in all our glistening rock ‘n’ roll dreams, before everybody split off to different parts of the world, never to be seen or heard from again, or started dying in such relentless, exhausting, succession.
We used to dance in our red cowboy boots on the motherfucking bar. Hell, I STILL walk around with holes in my shoes. Love that guitar playing, it's just hauntingly beautiful. Sad, though. The Hangmen’s “Cactusville” is real close to the kinda yearning and countryish old timey soul music I always wanted to make with my dead end, no hope, set-to-self-destruct, fucked-up garage bands. I never wanted to sound at all like the fucking Ramones, God bless their souls.
The Hangmen’s "Don't Count Me Out" is exquisitely gorgeous and forlorn outlawed country. It all just rings true to me. I was just writing the other day about how many songs are called "Don't Look Back". Also, a lot of songs already called, "Honktyonk Heaven". I found that out cause I googled it, while trying to find the right chorus for a tune I was writing about my friend who died alone in the hospice after all the love and joy he gave for decades to so many people, I was thinkin' how both me and him are sorta on our way home to that honkytonk heaven cause we never fit-in for long nowhere while we been here. I keep relocating farther and farther away from this supposedly civilized society, cause I want nothing to do with high rent purple Buddha landlords, hot tubs and airbandb rentals, trendy hipsters, red carpet celebrities, idle heiresses, VIP rooms, gentrification nightclubs, 15-piece Pacific Northwest cos-play orchestras, strop n frisk exclusion zones, call the cops Karens, the longer I live, the less I relate to iPhone people.
These fucking insatiable, rich developers keep following me around, wherever I roam, organizing the overpriced coffeehouse owners and microbreweries and $12 grilled cheese truck vendors to lobby city hall to shove out all us failed ex performers, crazy cat ladies, heartbroken songwriters, rough men with scabby hands who work under the table for the racist ranchers, the crazy PTSD veterans who inhaled those Halliburton burnpits for freedom, loud children with disabilities, immigrant moms with barriers preventing them from moving forward in the big box work place, teenagers fleeing abuse, battered divorcees, all us scarred for life and worn-out not-so-beautiful losers, addicts, and anyone with an inability to pay educated big city slicker rent with minimum fucking wages, we keep having to migrate ever deeper into these ghost towns. We'll probably always be refugees. I try to be grateful for every single day that at least some of my loved ones and I are able to still be here together, sheltered, and able to walk outside at night and look at the stars. That's another cool Iggy lyric that always stuck with me, from the pre sensitivity-studies navel gazing era: "every snotty little bitch I ever met on the strip would be okay if she'd just look up", something like that. Made sense to me, anyways.
So yeah, I dunno what will happen next, I gotta lotta anxiety from trying to hold on to what little remains. I can still remember being dumb teenagers in too much eyeliner just barreling down the highways in our unreliable heap fifth-hand vehicles always breaking down and having to venture into the truck stops in our ridiculous pink and sequined clothes, cassettes falling outta the glove compartment - Royal Court Of China, Sea Hags, Uncle Sam, and Flies On Fire, singing merrily along to all the latest sleaze punk, even in all the most fondly remembered time of our lives. summer road-trips, there was always some kindof chaos we were too naive to plan for, a car getting towed because of unpaid traffic tickets, a broken water pump resulting in us being harassed for hours by cops in East Rutherford because the car was spray-painted tiger print and had a big skull on the hood, trouble with somebody's jealous boyfriend, breakups, breakdowns, it's all become a fast forwarded blur of unforeseen mayhem and merriment but back then, at least our good friends were still alive, and we could stop off at some tourist attraction or amusement park, or scuzzy greasy spoon or no tell motel and laugh it all off. Share a fucking forty ounce on the stoop.
Nowadays, everything seems so tender, fragile, precious, fleeting and uncertain. It's not everyday that I get to sit for awhile with some music I can really feel in my soul, does not happen that much for me, anymore. Society makes me sad as fuck. I try to avoid all the pig-media that aims to keep us in a state of fear so we are more easily controlled. I've had it with the whole rigged sham, it's all fake. Now I spend more time with the clouds, refereeing the feral cats, and birds and extremely wild winds meaning I keep having to get back on a ladder and re-nail everything that blew away back down. I stay busy with dust in my eyes non stop repairs and child care and reading and writing, mostly.
Everytime I step off the desert trail, get involved, go round people, or talk on the phone, I always seem to instantly regret it. Profoundly. It's like that movie, "The Matrix", everybody's an Agent Smith. They all seem like commercials to me, now. And they almost all INSIST there is some meaningful difference between commercials and "The News", this channel or that one. There might have been a time when that was more true, than it is now. I mean I can remember when Democracy Now and NPR weren't constantly pimping for more war, more cops, and more jails for the poor. Hell, I'm so old. I can still remember a time that once you relocated to the coasts, away from all that midwestern slave plantation part of the country, you could smoke in bars. I did when I was 14. You could drink on the porch, play loud music in the garage or in your car, say bad words and tell dirty jokes without losing your job or being slandered by way, way more privileged people, you could pretty much be yourself, do your own thing, have a good time without anybody feeling offended, like they should call the cops. What the fuck happened to this fucking country? They all say, "Don't Look Back", but I spend most of my time looking back honestly. The future don't look like anything but grim, Jim. The last song on the Hangmen disc is probably the best. It's poignant as hell. Sounds so, so much like what I wanted my band to sound like, had all those guys not died off, or gone straight. I love it a lot. "Now, when I'm home, I'm Home..." Like Iggy Pop said, "you better think about your home". I love where I am right now, but deep down, I know I can't get too attached. I'm a carpetbagger in this world, I'm just passing through.