Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Murphy's Law -- "Beer" (1986)

Why don't you drink f*cking beer?
What's the matter?
Are you [politically incorrect word that rhymes with beer]?

The two previous 2 or 3 lines have discussed There Goes Gravity, the new book by music journalist Lisa Robinson.

Have I mentioned that Lisa is a big fan of 2 or 3 lines?  

Lisa Robinson knew everyone from the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin to David Bowie to John Lennon to Elton John to Michael Jackson to U2 to Eminem to Jay-Z to Lady Gaga, so There Goes Gravity covers the entire musical gamut.

Lisa's true love was punk music.  That's not surprising given that she lived in New York City when its punk rock scene came of age.

The Ramones at CBGB
She and her friends went to Max's Kansas City and CBGB every night in the mid-seventies to hear Lou Reed and Patti Smith and Television and Blondie and the Ramones, who "took [her] breath away" the first time she saw them perform:

They rushed as breakneck speed through the shortest, cutest, and loudest songs I'd ever heard.  The best thing was that all their songs were under two minutes.  Their entire set at that time was only about twenty minutes, which, at that volume, was a huge plus . . . . I especially was fond of the lyrics in "Beat on the Brat" -- which basically consisted of repeating "beat on the brat" numerous times.

The New York Dolls
But Lisa's favorite New York band of that era was the New York Dolls, and her favorite musician was Dolls frontman David Johansen:

David was swagger personified.  He wore pumps.  Or a tube top, shorts, knee-length boots and a cowboy hat.  Apropos of nothing, he's burst into "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in the middle of some rock number. . . . David's onstage patter sailed above the heads of the audience, much of the press, and quite possibly his own band.

Lisa also traveled to London regularly, where she saw the Buzzcocks, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash.

The Clash came along and musically smacked me in the face. . . . I loved the Rolling Stones.  I loved Led Zeppelin.  I'd been turned on by the Ramones.  David Johansen was the wittiest, and certainly one of the best live rock and roll performers ever.  [Television's] Tom Verlaine's guitar playing was transcendent.  Patti Smith was unique.  But the Clash, at that moment, made everything that came before it seem obsolete.  This band mattered.

The Clash
When I went to hear Lisa discuss There Goes Gravity at a Washington, DC bookstore, I asked her to name some of the punk bands she had seen in New York back in the day who deserved to be better known today.

One of the groups she mentioned was Washington's Bad Brains, a hardcore punk that got noticed by a lot of people because all its members were black.  Black punk bands were as rare then as white rappers are today.  But the fact remains that Bad Brains was one of the best punk bands ever -- like Eminem is one the best rappers ever.

It's interesting that Lisa compares Eminem's appearance at Yankee Stadium in 2010 to a Bad Brains show she had seen almost a quarter of a century earlier: 

Eminem's set was stripped down, bare, intense, manic.  I hadn't seen anything quite that furious since the Bad Brains' raging set at the Ritz in 1986.

(I'm going to write about the Bad Brains in the future.  Hopefully, I'll be able to persuade Lisa Robinson to share more about that 1986 show she saw.)

Murphy's Law frontman
Jimmy Gestapo
Another great punk band that Lisa said had been overlooked by many people was Murphy's Law, a New York City band that formed in 1982.  (The group is named after the old adage that is usually stated as "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.")

You'd be hard-pressed to find a band with a more politically incorrect musical oeuvre than Murphy's Law, whose songs included "Beer," "Panty Raid," "Attack of the Killer Beers," "Quest for Herb," "Secret Agent S.K.I.N.," "Bong," "Big Spliff," "Beer Bath," "Hemp for Victory," and "Bitch."  So it might seem odd that a liberal and a feminist like Lisa Robinson would be a fan.

But for Lisa Robinson, "the lure was always the music."   In There Goes Gravity, she puts her money where her mouth is by praising a number of artists whose lyrics would give Tipper Gore apoplexy -- Eminem is probably the best example -- but whose music is undeniably original and powerful.

I share that point of view.  I've written about a number of songs by badly-behaved musicians whose lyrics may be characterized as violent, obscene, and/or misogynistic because those songs are artistically compelling.

While Mick Jagger once sang that "It's the singer, not the song," I would say just the opposite.  I think Lisa Robinson shares that point of view.

Here's "Beer," which was released in 1986 on the eponymous Murphy's Law debut album:

Click below to buy "Beer" from Amazon:  

And click here to buy There Goes Gravity:

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