Ciao Manhattan : Chris Barry, Snake Appeal, and The Cult of Purple...

By Kenney Silvers
(SugarBuzz NNC)

SugarBuzz Magazine

"Mister Programmer, I got my hammer, and I'm gonna smash my, smash my radio!"

"Music is for social change, but the music business is for social control, and they even control us..." (-Stiv Bator)

"We're talking in cliché’s, betray yourself for money/Having is more than being, now/Nobody's sorry..." (Subway Sect)

"This room costs two thousand dollars a month, you can believe it, man, its true-Somewhere, a landlord's laughing 'til he wets his pants..." (-Lou Reed)


For decades, upon decades, the Lower East Side, with its seedy Alphabet City, was a teeming enclave of bookstores, record stores, low-rent juke-joints, educational Mom N pop coffee-shops, punk boutiques, ethnic restaurants and corner bodegas, indie-galleries, fantastic Jewish delis, public gardens, and junk sculpture. The whole Apple flagrantly ignored archaic blue-laws, Draconian drug-laws, and the mindless, but always profitable for the establishment bullshit- prohibitions, in it's varied after-hours cinemas, performance spaces, and open-all-night secret pubs. It was this long-traditioned atmosphere of liberty, and tolerance, that attracted all the artists-in- residency, from all corners of the Earth, that made the Village such a festive, and chic, and most-desirable place to live.

Part angels, part monsters, the 222's came storming out of Canada in '78, playing Max's Kansas City, and touring with Teenage Head. The 222's were smart-assed, leather clad, bubblegum-punk delinquents, reminding some of Gen X, Eater, and maybe even, Slaughter & The Dogs. Cartoonish rogues with Velvets/Alice/Bowie/Stooges/Warhol's Factory glam-rock undertones. They're still fondly remembered by legions of avid-collectors, the world over. 222's emaciated, teenage-soul belting vocalist, Chris Barry's next band, 39 Steps, were arguably, more intriguing-sortof straddling new wave, glam, and hard rock. 39 Steps never "made it" in America, though a quick glance at their old video on You Tube confirms that their obscurity was only due to lack of proper record company promotion. Their collective ability, panache, and star-potential could easily rival most any of the top-name cult-rockers of the New Wave-era. Chris Barry was a real rockstar, in league with Peter Wolf, Richard Butler, Ian Astbury, Nick Marsh, Peter Perrett...and come to think of it, Iggy Pop!

Then, there was NYC's best early nineties rock group, Pillbox, who were whipsmart exponents of a more refined, jazzy, stomping rendition of the Johnny Thunders/Stiv Bator/Thee Hypnotics like, spooky gutter-sleaze, but perhaps...a bit more in the bruised vein of Nick Cave, Jacobites, Rowland S. Howard-you know--that slightly more cerebral strain. Pillbox was made great by the winning combination of Chris Barry's feral charm, contagious penchant for carousing, pathos, intellect, and arch-wit, complimented by Mister Ratboy's phenomenally catchy, often innovative, and lascivious, enfant terrible guitar-stylings. Ratboy's previous band, Motorcycle Boy, had been "Kicked Out Of Hollywood" for playing loud, fast, and short blasts of Vibrators/Hanoi Rocks/Ramones type punk-n-roll, smack dab in the midst of all that lousy Poison/Nelson/Warrant corporate rock, power-ballad shit-what Kim Fowley calls, "the cock-stink bands". Many of those clowns didn't even realize they were disposable corporate-tools-they were mostly convinced fools, bedazzled by the coke and chicks. That's part of what made Manic Street Preachers so important to some of us-that they were paying attention to the contradictions and paradoxes of chasing fame, and "decadence". Hooker-punching, tour-bus exploitation, sanctioned cruelty and institutionalized violence, wanton materialism, misogyny, racism, greed, and "ass-kicking" hardly qualify as counter-culture rebellion, when those were just the normal characteristics of the prevailing, dominant, bully-culture of the Reagan Years, which unfortunately, gave rise to the ongoing, international nitemare of the Bush Age of unapologetic power grabs, brazen imperialism, pre-emptive wars, constant propaganda, war crimes, secret police, dynasties and media-monopolies, unchecked pollution, law-of-the-jungle steroid-capitalism, robber baron C.E.O.'s and painfully terrible music! The "Ownership Society"! Your local police proudly rifling through the pockets of teenage skate-boarders, like its some crucial matter of Homeland Security, hoping to find a bag of dirt-weed. THAT'S the freedom our neighbors and relatives are paid to kill and die for, over-seas. Bollocks!

Flipside Magazine's MOTORCYCLE BOY 45 was the starting pistol for a small, but devout, network of obstinate, highly-selective, post-glam rollers, teenage sleazegrinders, and flash-punk sophisticates, who were bored shitless by the dead-dull deedling of the Sunset Strip, "Post- Appetite". This loose assortment of tasteful cultists only dug a few of the eighties major label hair-bands: the Hangmen, the Godfathers, Candy, the Cult, Sea Hags, Zodiac Mindwarp, the Nymphs, Dogs D'Amour, and early Manics. Mostly, we preferred underground sounds like the Ultras, Gunfire Dance, Thee Hypnotics, 16 Forever, Fizzy-Bangers, Soho Roses, the Bounty Hunters, Tex & The Horseheads, the Joneses, Miniskirt Mob, Coma-Tones, Star Star, Uncle Sam, Snatches Of Pink--stuff like that. Most of us were in our late teens, and early twenties, and we were pretty fearless, back then. If Kerrang! mentioned that some British sleaze band had broken up, you showed up in NYC, uninvited, demanding to replace the lead singer. (Hello, Kill City Dragons.)

We created our own grass-roots fanzines, radio shows, rock groups, and cable access TV shows, celebrating our own seething subculture, on-the-cheap. There weren't mortgages, or children to support back then, so everyone kinda pitched-in, each according to his ability, and stuff happened, cos there was a lot less bitter competition. We were all influenced by 70's glitter and punk rock, and kinda alienated by Fangoria-Thrash, commercial poof-metal, and politically correct, white, suburban, backpack hardcore. We rooted for each other, and took pride in our stubborn refusal to play Def Leppard or Bon Jovi covers, in the bars, preferring to start our own flash metal punk bands, influenced by the cool underground sounds of every generation. This was all before the internet, so we communicated with all our excruciatingly- opinionated pen-pals via the post, and girlfriend-enraging long-distance bills. There weren't that many of us, back then, and there was still a real sense of comradeship. Maybe we didn't have spare rooms full of "collector" crap we didn't use for anything, but we had each other. There were still little record stores with loads of good records in the dollar discount bins, and we constantly made mix-tapes for one another-sharing the wealth, spreading the gospel.

It was easy enough to ignore the jive bull-horns of big media, esp. if you couldn't afford cable, anyway, and were therefore, spared from the insufferable power-balladry of all those nauseating groups that signed in the aftermath of Guns N Roses, and were so aggressively marketed on Headbanger's Ball. Die-Hards and curiosity seekers can catch a peek into this still-thriving, secret society of speakeasy sleazepunks on-line, via the French Sons Of The Dolls blogspot--Bubble-Gum Slut Fanzine, or that other primo-portal for the trash/sleaze underground, as explored by such top-notch ravers as Stu Gibson, Michael Toland, Anti-Holly, Smut-Strutter, Subculture Hero, Chris Humphreys, and the Doyen Of Insurgent-Rock Ranters, Mister Sleaze E. Grinder, over at Another fantastic on-line resource that fans the still-flickering flames of real rock'n'roll is the I-94 Bar. Stop in for a beer.


One of the sharpest, most stream-lined, concise, stylish, and thoroughly under-appreciated post-glam bands who came along in the ominous, mission-district shadows of Smack, Hanoi Rocks, Gun Club, Lords Of The New Church, The Jacobites, Suicide Twins, and Birthday Party, who also seemed to spurn the macho corporate-wank dumbfuckery of hair metal, and made a ripple in the lives of their listeners, were PILLBOX, a band started in NYC by swaggering Canadian crooner, Chris Barry and the eccentric Swiss guitar-ace, Mister Ratboy, shortly after the break-up of the classic Motorcycle Boy line-up. They found a suitably thunderous drummer, named Screamin' Joe Rizzo, and a long string of fashionably anorexic French bass-players, and promptly formed an audaciously potent little beat combo. Lurching and surging around elegantly, kinda like, when Brian James played for Iggy, wailing their doomy, urbane, nihilistic portents...A sideshow slide-show of black cocktails; bare-footed, clove-smoking, French-fluent Lolitas; rodent-infested squalor; soup queues; dappled neon lights reflecting on rain-slick alleyways; bathroom floor meltdowns; and Holiday Cocktail Lounge black-outs...The urgency and slapdash-feel one hears on much of "Clownroom" is a result of having to make due with extremely limited studio-time, with like, zero budget. The Pillbox C.D. came out on Circumstantial Records, a tiny label, probably best-known for releasing discs by the Kevin K. Band. "Clownroom" featured at least three really indelible songs-"Holly", "Sinister Urge", and "Bobby's Shakin' Again". Nonetheless, potential airplay and exposure were scotched when Flipside Magazine folded, and the rest of the rock media all focused on the antics of the Grunge Widow, and the Elvis From Hell Boasting of the Blues Explosion. You know-the whole "Alternative"-marketing coup. All that lousy, fake, grunge shit like Bush, and the in-coming trust-funders, with the high-powered publicists. It was demoralizing to see the Mega-Stores and Millionaires moving in. Madison Avenue had totally infiltrated our underground.

The music channels quit playing music, which had been devalued, by sell-out digital-age suits, compulsively tracking trends, and a passive public, who are ever content to go with the flow-even when that meant fifteen more years of video-games, reality shows, and still more bands that all sounded like Creed, Lit, and Hootie. The Canadian version of MTV mighta played their minimalist, low-budget video for "Holly" a few times, but it's a shame Americans never got a chance to see the World Famous Mister Ratboy, pulling all his fabulous Duane Eddy/Ronnie Wood/Rocco Barker poses, while a close-up Chris Barry hollered for his faraway flame, cos it obviously would have appealed to anyone who has ever bought records by Iggy, the Stranglers, Cramps, Adam Ant, or Flesh For Lulu. It was catchy as hell.


In the late eighties/early nineties, the East Village was still a Stephen Sprouse, acid-green mohawked carnival of aging com-symps, drag-queens in super-sized Dolly Parton wigs, pan-handling gutter-punks, Hasidic Jews, Dominican pimps, and sneering super-8 film-makers. Sidewalk barkers sold voodoo incense, used porn, cool-as-shit earrings, and scratched-up jazz vinyl on the street corners. Hydrants were open, reggae music poured from open windows, children were playing stick-ball, rock'n'roll was in the air. Exotic birds, and crosslegged girls in hemp circles, wearing "Meat Is Murder" t-shirts, fallafel-vendors, claw-footed bath-tubs, spray-paint stencils, tambourines, "No Business As Usual" flyers, sidewalk chalk master-pieces, Sorrentoes pizza on Second Avenue. Polaroids in the window from when Britain’s New Romantic stars got their hair snipped at Astor Place. It was real alive.

Beautiful women were everywhere! You didn't buy no bar-fly fedora for $25 at Target in New Jersey. You maybe found one in a garbage can, two or three sizes too small, with a big yellow mustard stain on it, 'wore it anyway. Rare cats like Dee Dee Ramone, Cheetah Chrome, or Chris Barry might be seen, roamin' free, maybe drinkin' a Ballantine Ale in a paper bag. The psychedelic street circus was an unlikely safehaven for oddballs, incorrigibles, punks, queers, unwanted kids, and otherwise damned youth, who fled victimhood in crooked small-towns, to pursue happiness among other star-crossed, drop-out, bohemians and conscientious-objectors. My own early mentors were female film-makers, burntout rockstars, and hookers who were all alot more compassionate and moral than any of those twisted fiends you see in line at the post-office in the "heartland":sadist sports-team coaches, R.O.T.C. neo-nazies, juvenile corrections-abusers, and Gun-Crazy Christian Broadcasting Zombies who always target, and bully, weird kids from bad homes. I made my own home amidst the other squatters, tearaways, street-poets, and punknrollers. Exile On Rivington Street. A Fellini freakshow, there was community, there. It even turned out that not ALL rich people were blowhard oppressors. There were lots of down and out scapegoats whose symbolic otherness was an intollerable red flag in twisted homelands, and we were still able to band together in squats and communal loftspaces. The studio I shared with two hot dames for $500/month now goes for $500 a night as a trendy, high-end, pompous and imposing hotel.

PILLBOX was dark, sleek, vaguely reptilian---writhing with bohemian mojo, and noir-creepy, downtown prayers on fire. Ratboy's riffs coiled-up, and sprang-forth, abruptly, like cobras, while Chris Barry bayed and howled about women, drugs, heartache, and hard times, in the after-hours half-light, in the still murderously ungentrified Bowery. Pillbox were the artsy, inflammatory demimonde of the leopard-print underville, in the twilight's last gleaming. It was the pained cry of hard-scrabble immigrants who had foolishly followed the ghosts of the Velvet Underground and Johnny Thunders to the Lower East Side Of Manhattan, to scrounge and starve in the after-hours ghetto, in the sad, last days of Grenwich Village. Thunders and Nolan had just died, and there was an obvious breach in NYC Rock that even the Throbs, NY Loose, and D- Generation could never quite fill, esp. after Circus of Power moved to Hollywood.

I always respected Chris Barry for being almost a sovereign nation unto himself. He always advocated personal freedom, and critical-thinking, and was strong enough to swim against the current, and live by his own code. Ratboy was incredibly gifted, disciplined, focused, goal-oriented, and already tired of sleeping on dirty floors. These guys were pallid, model-thin, self-effacing, and black humored. The picture of jaded, been around the block, gum-chewing cockiness, even though, they always looked hungry. Both were extremely knowledgeable about the history of their shared vocation-droll, generous, good company. MISTER Ratboy was a One Man Music-Machine. Chris was a Personality, in capital letters.

PILLBOX had many famous fans, including both Bebe Buell and Marianne Faithfull, as well as various members of the Ramones, B-52's, Blondie, and the Blackhearts, and had NYC rent been an even remotely-viable, ongoing proposition, it's easy to imagine how Pillbox could have continued onward, by touring with their more-established friend's bands, and attracting an ever-broader fan-base, and potentially, the investors needed to finance a more consistent follow-up CD, minus the rush-job duff-tracks like the pointless M.C. Boy rewrite found on "...Clown-Room"-but sadly, that was not to be.

In the early 90's, the ambitious, Italian, NY Mayor, and his billionaire cronies, "gangsters and bankers, and various wankers", wanted to kill the libertine spirit of the city, and vilify the artists and immigrants, pot-smokers, break-dancers, skateboarders, and politicos, who had inhabited Downtown since like, forever. He unleashed a load of lame legislature making graffiti a big crime, closed all the peep shows and after-hours spots, started vigorously enforcing classist drug-laws, silencing protest, and had paramilitary NYPD storm-troopers run riot on all the homeless people in the parks, in violent sweeps that many still shudder to recall. His low-life landlord buddies promptly continued to jack NY rents up so high that only elitist millionaires could afford to live there-unless you were the servants of the millionaires, in which case, you could still pay too much to live in Jersey, or the outer boroughs, and commute to your daily-servitude, on the train. The tiny boutiques and indie record stores had dissipated, making it safe for exasperatingly banal, upwardly-mobile, golf-playing, Wonder-Bread Cheeze Food spokesmodels like Carson Daley's TRL, pimping their ever-dumber, fully assimilated, money-worshipping, conspicuous-consumption-oriented, billionaire boys club lifestyle-chasing hip-pop, the Disney stores, the Disney groups, whitey kindergarten rap, brainless disco with an eighties synth-pop spray-tan, the mega-stores, the Strokes, emo, and those rich gremlin twin- billionaires and the Simpsons to open up all their billionaire emo nightclubs, and make the parks all nice and cozy for dumb television personalities and their pampered pets, and NYU students. Even over-paid and over-rated Gap Ad, Ryan Adams, whines he can't afford to pay the NY rent.

A few years later, there was the Post-9/11 Clampdown that most New Yorker's still think was an inside job false-flag attack, like the Reichstagg fire, used to allow the secret society/spy/world bank/investor/military class to decrease our civil liberties... Then, the Ramones died, and they closed down C.B.G.B.'s. Now, you not only had to service all the right people, or be related to show-biz moguls, but be willing to hustle, work like a bitch, and play ball with robber-barons, and immoral multi-nationals to even just VISIT the city, that had spawned punk rock with it's cheap rents and bum bars. Currently, the once-amazing, shining city-of-the-spectacle is a cost-prohibitive tourist-trap for the dwindling middle-class, and a V.I.P. lounge for smirking, cologne-reeking, hard-charging, whores of war types, who burn money in mid-town strip-clubs. The suit and tied, high-financed "greed is good" vermin, who've spent the last 30 years playing shell-games, dodging taxes, lobbying Congress, and cooking books-seizing power and destroying your, and your grandkid's future. The almost ungraspably evil ruling class only cares about consolidating more power.

These same infotainment-industry slime-buckets employ former highschool sports-team bench-warmers to abrasively cheer-lead for all this run-amok millionaire lawlessness, white collar swindling, and bloody Blackwater shadow government imperialism that they call "patriotism" and "democracy", on their 24 hr. propaganda-channels, steadily sledge-hammering the under-educated, and exhausted, lumpenproles with unrelenting lies and misinformation... Alot of those dubious Brooklyn gimmick bands are the progeny of these capitalist hard-ons. They don't really wanna have bands anymore-they all wanna have BRANDS. Ciao, Manhattan. O how I loved thee...Privilege-warped, urban-outfitted socialites, with store-dummy smiles, who don't have to work, can hang around the velvet ropes, swilling booze, living vicariously offa other people's lime-lite, and chasing bandwagon, after bandwagon, year after year. The music-capitals are dominated by these creeps.

A boho-hobo renowned for his ageless insouciance, such as Chris Barry, the Dionysian prince-of-immediacy, however, had a hard time effectively competing with the relatives of show-biz has-beens, star-fucking corporate rockers, and zillionaire private-school dolls who infected the NYC rock-scene with their trend-hopping, avarice, and reality-show, back-stabbing gamesmanship. The right-wing oligarchy had a young clutch of big-business friendly, sons and daughters, whom they were determined to break-in as the new celebrities. Ashlee Simpson, Justin Timberlake types. That's why we're now stuck with all those gutless Disney childstars, and showbiz relatives, where there had once been the Dolls, Ramones, Deadboys, Blondie, Cramps, Suicide, Dictators, Talking Heads, Mink Deville, Television, Cherry Vanilla, Tuff Darts, Richard Hell, Fleshtones, Fuzztones, Wayne County, the Phantoms, etc., etc.

Ain't no rock'n'roll no more-just the pastime of the rich-!!! It's all about having ACCESS-it ain't about talent, or soul, or who writes the best songs, or who did it first. All that matters to the corporate gate-keepers is money, so naturally, the easiest thing in the world is to keep it in the family, promote the niece with the nice complexion, or the gimmick. Genuine Article rocknroll motherfuckers are seldom malleable enough to capitulate to the fast talkin' demands of shell gaming accountants, and whenever they do, they invariably get screwed hard. Tim Yohannan from Maximum Rocknroll, and Prince were both right about corporate rock. Either you own your masters, or your masters own you.

Remember all those hideously overplayed, cocaine-cowboy, California crooner songs that you used to have to hear on A.M. radio, as a nauseous kid, on long, dizzy, family roadtrips, where you puked Dairy Queen chili dogs all over the backseat? Well, do ya really need to hear that lot's KID'S bands? Me, neither! Read: "What's Class Got To Do With It? American Society In The 21st Century" edited by Michael Zweig, "You Are Being Lied To" edited by Russ Kick, and "A People's History Of The American Empire" by Howard Zinn, and weep.

The working poor have effectively been cordoned-off from inhabiting the music capitals. You only get a voice if you have a showbiz uncle. The rest of us have been "resettled" in the plantation-states, where you have to pay $62 for a background check just to be a supermarket busboy. Lots of Americans I know have been utterly, completely, incapacitated by poverty. It really is class warfare. It's hard to start a band when you got nowhere to live. Rural communities in the flyover states are so fucked-all the manufacturing jobs moved overseas, Wal-Mart killed Main Street, the banks foreclosed on the family farms, drugs are everywhere. They just cutoff opportunity, build more jails, and wait for people to drive drunk. Prison populations have doubled since 1990-almost all of 'em, non-violent drug offenders. More than 500,000 people warehoused for reefer, the only "good jobs" are working for the military, or the prison state. The slave culture kills creativity. People take these shit-jobs in desperation, are worked like mules, and of course, they wanna get drunk when they come home. A home turns into a squat overnight, once the hot water gets disconnected, you can't stay clean, you're ruined.

Even WITH all the non-stop lies and media distortion ("weapons of mass-distraction"), over two thirds of the American people have vocally opposed the occupations, bail-outs, and worldwide imperialism, but "the people" have little to say. Common practice is for cities to silence peaceful protest with violence, false arrests, and big-media blackouts. The strong-arm of the lawless is encouraged to hurt citizens for exercising their "freedom", under the bullshit pretext that they're engaging in dangerous "disorderly conduct". The cops regularly use chemicals, tasers, and "pain-compliance holds" to wrestle free-speechers to the concrete. When victim makes anguished face, or reacts to the pain, they add on the "resisting arrest" charges. Usually, the charges are dropped, but only after painful and humiliating, violent arrests, expensive legal fees, and the cops almost never get reprimanded, hell, most of the time, if an especially malevolent beatdown is caught on video by independent media, or bystanders, they'll just send out the p.r. flacks, and give the abusive cops commendations, as "officers of the year"-because they only "protect and serve" the corporate elite. Let's face it-most of these cops and robbers, prison guards and prisoners, police and thieves, ultimately, all belong to the same personality type/marketing group. Who wants a license to harm others? Only a thug, an abuser, a predator sociopath. It really does seem like the short-cut to winning promotions, and commendations, in this police state is for a "PEACE OFFICER" to aggressively fuckup some peaceful protester! I dunno about you, but MY HEROES make art, and wage actual peace, not violence and oppression. Dig?


In the daze of wine and Pillbox, subterraneans from shattered backgrounds still flocked to Manhattan's dynamic melting pot environment to "make it" in the music-biz. The Hanoi Rocks/Demolition 23 guys were from Finland, Princess Pang were from Sweden, Ratboy was from Switzerland, Circus Of Power were from Florida, Ronnie Sweetheart and Chris Barry were both from Canada. Sadly, most of these NYC buzz-bands always bombed in Peoria. Raging Slab and Smashed Gladys shipped straight to cut-out, and Mean Gene Simmons promptly sued White Zombie for their light-hearted album artwork.

The stump-dumb major label hairbands-Skid Row, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, etc., all had the million dollar record mafia-MTV and McGhee Mgt.-ruthlessly marketing their juvie-liberation mimes to latch-key kids, drunken cheerleaders, and bigoted springbreak jocks in Footballville, U.S.A. Unfortunately, Michael Monroe was too androgynous, tragic, and authentic to effectively sell tough guy fantasies to parking-lot hicks in the midwest, unlike his bitch-slappin', fag-bashin' imitator, Waxl. Rarely metal, barely metal, Mike Monroe's purist, heart-felt, rock'n'roll soul was always "Too Little Richard" to appeal to barbeque-gobbling, draft-beer guzzling, military-school cadets, or cassette-purchasing, stone-washed, Camaro driving frat-types. He just wasn't stupid, and sexist enough for the domestic violence-stained Guns N Roses/Motley Crue fanbase, even when paired-up with pyrotechnic-ejaculating top-guns like Adam Bomb, and Steve Stevens. He really wasn't fakin' it!

Danny "Discipline" Nordahl had been a member of Stiv Bator's Evil Boys, who recorded that live album at Limelite, and when former London Quireboy, Ginger, was supposed to join the burgundy-plumed Throbs, the Kerrang! Magazine "dirty glam" set, were all ginned-up about Ginger's arrival in NYC, and many of us were a bit disappointed at the classless way the Throbs always slagged-off Ginger in the metal mags, after they failed to hit it off.

For a few, brief, shining moments, the Throbs seemed poised for some kinda East Coast arena-glam coronation. Rip magazine was trumpeting them as the next Guns N Roses. The calf-eyed strippers all wanted to bed them, and all the young dudes wished they could afford their clothes. Four dudes that all looked like Brian "Damage" Forsythe, the Throbs lorded around town all imperiously-regal in their velvet foppery. Speaking of Little Richard, they even secured him to pound ivory on their blockbuster-that-wasn't to-be. I dunno why they never went mainstream, other than they really weren't the best songwriters in the world, though it pains me, somewhat, to bring this up, because I remember how proud Danny was of writing "Honey Child". I liked "The Only Way Out", alot. This was the poof-metal era, after all, and there wasn't a real surplus of genius songwriting abounding-just alot of genius saturation-marketing. The case that constantly gets made on behalf of "Livin' On A Prayer", "Home Sweet Home", "I Remember You", and most of "Pyromania" being masterful Cheap Trick/Beatles- quality brilliance, kinda gets a little over-stated, after awhile. Alas, Bob Ezrin mighta over-produced their epic debut. A far cry from their Ramonesey "Proud To Be Loud" demos, "Underground" was anything, but! They just didn't have alot of exceptionally memorable, or lyrical songs. Their dramatic production screamed, "arena-rock", but much of their work was like a tinny echo of Zodiac Mindwarp, minus the wit, knowing wink, or catchy pop hooks. Their record tanked, and a few of 'em limped-on, for awhile, playing Massachusetts dives as the Vibes. Danny joined NY Loose. The personable Ronnie Sweetheart reunited with the guys for a well-received show at Don Hill's a couple years back. Last time we checked-in, he was working as a cook at some country club in the Hamptons, and had just reemerged with a raucous sleaze-punk outfit called Stripclub Devils. Is it just me, or did Ronnie Sweetheart seemed to be a major-influence on Billy G. Bang, from Andy McCoy's ill-fated sleaze-metal, super group, Shooting Gallery? Only Circus of Power really possessed the down and dirty, blue collar soul-power to hold their own with Guns N Roses, and the Cult.

The NY Loose were an entertaining live band who released some really cool, home-spun punk rock singles in the still-existing, pre-grunge underground, and seemed full of trashy promise. When they signed with a major, much of their ramshackle D.I.Y. charm immediately got a bit lost in the gloss. Big money taints the creative process, sometimes. Maybe her appearance was a liability at some point, cos oftentimes, people who inhabit that beauty-bubble find difficulty getting people to be honest with them. One suspects that Brigitte West's various collaborators, peers, record company types, even her fans, may have done her a disservice, by failing to challenge her to continue to dig deeper, and write stronger and stronger material. Naturally, senior execs at some big company are going to want to focus more on her video, and photographs, than her blood and guts soul-baring, and that's our loss. She always had talent and ability, but it's possible that everyone was so dumbfounded with her looks, that they always gave her a free-pass, instead of spurring her on to actual greatness, like they might have if she was some dude. Any artist has a far better chance at longevity, at sustaining some kinda real inspired-excellence, if they're held to a high-standard. Plenty of us get doped-up on the tinsel. It's hard to hold a beautiful woman's feet to the critical fire, but raw talent deserves to be coaxed-along, and properly cultivated. I'm glad she's making a comeback. I think she's got a real rock'n'roll heart. She's still a bomb-shell, and I think one of the old Black Halos guitarists is helping her get back to her more garagey, Bowery Trash roots, in Merry Olde.

Electric Angels played polite, fluffy, pink, girl-powered, chick-rock. Jonathan Daniel was the El Costello of eighties-glam. They were kinda like Poison with brains. Lotsa smart, and gorgeous power-ballads, and break-up songs that seemed to float right over their target-audiences' Flex-Net teased metal-heads. Tony Visconti produced an almost flawless collection of Jonathan Daniel's "poison-penned", bittersweet, bubblegum songcrafting, but potential hits like, "The Drinking Song", and "True Love And Other Fairy Tales" just never got the payola saturation-video rotation required to convert fans outside of knowing industry-circles, and card-carrying Candy Fan Club Members, like yours, rudely. Plus, I suspect adolescent boys may have had a hard time connecting to their immaculately well-groomed, lead vocalist. They, mostly, seemed to attract the girls who'd outgrown Rick Springfield. A friend o' mine once said the Electric Angels always made him think of fat groupies drinking flat Tabs with a straw. Shane came-off as kinda tailored, and premeditated. Too choreographed and contrived for hard rock fans, in the looming shadows of psycho Axl, and bottle-hurling, poor, dumb Sebastian. He lacked spontaneity, there was no id-unleashing. Bassist, Daniel was clearly, the brains of the operation, and it was almost like the singer was just some employee who was expected to clock-in, and do what he was told. Rocknroll shouldn't be like the Donut Shop. Axl made supermodels shit in the catbox! Now THAT'S ORIGINALITY! Looking back, now, it's crystal-clear that Shane was an able frontman, with a likeable radio voice, who, much like his hero, Mike Monroe, was just never allowed to develop as a writer in the context of someone else's band. Maybe he went-on to evolve into a brilliant lyricist, "in his own write", like Mike did, Post-Hanoi, but I never heard the Loveless, much less, Blue Movie, his bands that followed Electric Angels. I'm still mad for that record, even with the wimpy production. 'Brings to mind an old girlfriend who moved to Mexico.

I always loved Foetus/Wiseblood/Jim Thirwell-what a true genius! But after Trent Reznor stole his whole act, and sold it like Madonna in the malls for twenty years, it kinda sullied and cheapened the real majesty of it. You have to have easy-access to high-quality pharmaceuticals to ever fully appreciate Royal Trux. I guess their former Pussy Galore bandmate, Jon Spencer's found his niche, playing culture-vulture, Beastie Boy Blues to the hackey-sackin' festival crowds, but I don't own alot of expensive camping gear. And I don't have a frisbee-catchin' dog named Bodhi. Y'know?

The NY band with the most hype and industry support was D-Generation, who wrote one really good song, ("Helpless" from "No Lunch") before Jesse met Ryan Adams, and re-invented himself as a nasally, Neil Young-style solo-artiste. I suspect alot of bored seventies rock-royals really desperately WANTED to like D-Generation, because a couple of 'em had been knockin' around in downtown punk bands, forever, and Howie Pyro always entertained everybody with his Sid N Nancy stories. Rick "Atomic Elf" Bacchus even got to swan around with the magnificent Brigitte West for awhile! I dunno, I guess I liked 'em better than L.A. Guns.

They were obviously trying to do the old-fashioned, rocknroll street gang shtick, and everybody loves the Faces/Hanoi/Clash/GNR gunslinger model. The Lads Vs. the Establishment, only D-Gen were always rather eager to court favor with the establishment, rather than overthrow it. I guess it paid-off, cos I never saw another band who were encouraged to fail so consistently, for so long. It always appeared like their real genius was for social-networking. They ran the Green Door, and Coney Island High, and were always able to enlist the active support of every last NYC rocknroll insider for years on end, even though they never sold records. Malin STILL gets glowing reviews in glossy magazines, and videoes played on television. People CONTINUE to invest in that dude, year, after year. I saw 'em a buncha times when they started out, and just never "got" the hype. The Waldos used to blow -em away, all the time. Reminded me of some faceless pay-to-play, California covers band. Jesse was like a garagey Dee Snider fronting Keel, or Y&T, or Black 'N' Blue-any of those average hairbands you can't really remember. I think they're in the process of reuniting right now. Hard to miss 'm, when they ain't gone away. Maybe their next album will be their big break-through.

Fuelled by the standard rock-band tension between a muso control-freak guitar ace, and a more spontaneous (some have said, "irresponsible") punkrock matinee-idol, lead vocalist, Pillbox had earned a solid reputation as a dynamic live band, despite their revolving-door line-up of interchangeable bass-players. Demolition 23 even asked Ratboy to audition for 'em!

I've been at a personal stand-still/stand-off with the music biz for 25 years. If I think a group is painfully average, mediocre, or flat-out sucks, they are extremely likely to become an institution that never goes away. If I believe in someone's message, recognize their talent, and charisma, respect them, and all they stand for, or deeply appreciate a song, that artist is most likely, unsalvageably blighted, and doomed to be forgotten. I dunno how this industry works-it's all a treacherous, payola-driven, back-stabbing, numbers-racket, full of corporate bedfellowism, fix-is-in small-print, and relentless nepotism. I think you might have to make a deal with ole Doc "Feelfood" McGhee, somewhere down in the Delta, beneath a hellfire moon. TV pumps pure poison, 24/7, and radio? Just listen. All lies and shit.

Since the Big 8 record companies were allowed to merge into these big three monopolies, and radio's tightly owned and exploited by Clear-Channel, quality rock'n'roll's become more difficult to unearth. The FCC,FTC,FDA,NSA,DEA,CIA,WTO,FOP,IMF... anything with letters, are all perversely corrupt, and ruling-class manipulators like Michael Powell, and Rupert Murdoch carefully segregate our information-flow, always controlling exactly whose ideas, and what messages will get conveyed to a mass audience. It's all so fucked.

Where's the soul in shrink-wrap? Popular music has sucked so hard, for so long, and it still shocks me how effective theses corporate powers have been at legitimizing very bland, mediocre, formulaic horse-shit. You go to the library to peruse the fifty dollar books on punk rock, and it's all Green Day. Green Day?! Farts and masturbation. The Dimestore Haloes were a thousand times more valid and talented and visionary than Green Day, but all that matters now is who's got the dough. Live Nation and Ticket Master are about to merge, though no one I know, personally, can afford to attend big, outdoor concerts, anymore, but I keep reading about the camo-clad military recruiters they deploy to target drunks at these outdoor festivals. The money for college always sounds real promising to all us working-class guys on the verge of divorce-until you realize how much a funeral and cemetery plot actually cost, nowadays.

You literally have to be the son of a millionaire like the Strokes, who were just never really my cuppa Duran Duran. If you're a sleazepunk rock'n'roller who has no place to fall, from humble origins, and you so much as showup a little sauced for your own rockshow...Man! The Lifestyle Police all wanna rehab and slander and blacklist and probation and excommunicate you. If you're just a buncha art-school brats who can't resist the easy temptation to tap-in to the dude-rock gang-myth for the zillionth time, they'll hire you a world-class producer, send over Bob Gruen, and Danny Fields, and Roberta Bayley, and Lee Black Childers, and David Fricke, and make you think you're Shane McGowan, when all you ever did was bang an actress, or wear a scarf. It's fucked.


After pouring millions into big budget glam albums, with top producers, that fell right off the radar, the Major-Label C.E.O.'s and A & R shysters got real gun-shy about upbeat guitar rock. After the Mayor closed Coney Island High, glam-rock was just not happening on the East Coast. Sure-there were the usual small clique of junkie bar bands with rich parents, who were willing to shell-out money for their kid's CD's and merch. tables, feeding the fantasy that they were, "professional musicians", and not just tattooed yuppies with jet-set ambitions. There was also no shortage of enterprising entrepreneurs who were willing to sell overpriced booze and $10 smokes to the fading NY rock bridge and tunnel club crowd, but Anthrax and the Cycle Sluts From Hell could only take you so far. Local heroes, Mike Monroe and the Throbs both failed to sell zillions, D-Generation flopped TWICE. So, faced with the impossible economic realities of living in NYC without a millionaire sugar-daddy, and trying to make it in the fickle music business, the woefully overlooked, Pillbox, unceremoniously, broke up after a series of minor rucks, most likely over clashing songwriting processes. The talented trio and their many bassists, left behind a hard-won cult audience of hardcore devotees, Thunders-wanna-be's, Japanese rockabilly punks with immaculate pompadours, collector-scum, downtown temptresses in rhinestone sunglasses, and leather cat-suits, etc.--many of whom, defected over to either the Jon Spencer, or D-Gen camps. The contemptible corporate rock-press only cover obedient product-rock, designed to sell empty garbage-that never expresses real human emotions, or discontent with the fixed, TV-reality of the nefarious American status-quo. The PILLBOX legacy remained in escrow, so we here at SugarBuzz, wanted to hip you cool kids to their sad but true saga.

Mister Ratboy went on to form the World Famous perennial tribute to "New Values", SOUR JAZZ, before relocating to Japan. Their new LP, "American Seizure" is due out, any day now, on Acetate. Meanwhile, the stardusted Chris Barry, just released one of the best garage punk rock trash albums of last year with his newest group, THROBBING PURPLE. One more book I wanna mention here is "Dirty Little Secrets Of The Music Business-Why So Much Music You Hear Sucks", by Hank Bordowitz. You can hardly distinguish one genre from another anymore, cos it all sounds the same, y'know? That's why we got to be the media, ourselves, and why I continue to hold a hard-line when it comes to rocknroll, and who we give the microphone to. The world needs to hear alot LESS from these smug showbiz nephews reciting on-message talking-points for their big-media paymasters in the multinational venal-system. We desperately need to hear MORE rocknroll music made by cash-poor rockstar pioneers, dissident intellectuals, truth-knowing guttersnipes, joyous lunatics, autodidactic activists, Gretsch-strumming malcontents, crushed-velvet teens, peculiar old codgers, courageous whistle-blowers, female bikers, loose cannons, melancholy fringe-dwellers, loudmouthed underdogs, inspired rasta-men, obnoxious hellraisers, unemployed prophets, moaning fry-cooks, cranky seers, freaky freedom-seekers, lower-class tankgirls, cantankerous commoners, conspiracy theorists, misfits, carnies, dashing wingnuts, howling bozos, and reckless stooges who got stuck somewhere in the past! We all NEED the outcasts and the outlaws to remind us of what we already know, and help us remember our real purpose-our innate selves. We're NOT here to massage profit-margins for grey share-holders, or black-ops profiteers. Fuck the man! Join the real rock'n'roll resistance. Remember who you say you are.


Cursed to scramble in the pits of the scrum, PILLBOX always conveyed both vitality, and menace, much like Lower Manhattan, itself. Poetic champion, Chris Barry's campy, cocksure tales of walk-on-the-wild-side woe were a nostalgic flashback to the hedonistic heyday of Harlem bluesmen in cheap suits, and alligator shoes. Times Square strippers behind bullet-proof glass, and the gossipy, glamorous backroom of Max's Kansas City. Ratboy's strutting, circular, riffage, and Stooges trademarked handclaps'll still stick ya like a heavily perspiring Coney Island tattoo-artist. Much of "...Clown Room" feels like a time-capsule, now. A hazy hallucination from a mostly-forgotten fever dream. All those Nancy Spungeon loud-mouthed junkie prostitutes, Latino wise-guys in gold necklaces, bow-tied slumming Capotes from uptown. Scabby queens and leather boys peddling fetishes to Arab diplomats, sailors, Wall Street sickos, and baby-mobsters, who park their limos anywhere they please.

The 24 hours a day bustle and clutter of colorful hucksters selling their faux designer watches and cheap cameras to fat tourists on the grimey sidewalks. Break-dancers with big pieces of cardboard, and boom-boxes as big as billboards. Banjo-plunkers. Italian sausage and pretzel vendors. The paisley-revivalists with Beatle-boots, and Prince Valiant haircuts. The intimidating window-wiping winos who swarmed your car at traffic-lights. It was always a perpetual art-fair on the city streets-D.J.'s with their mix-tapes, starving artists with their paintings, guerilla-street theatre troupes, jugglers, elderly chess-players, community-organizers distributing free literature. Deranged, homeless vets reliving atrocities, over, and over again. The unsavoury pulse-beat of the city-fur-wearing Bianca clones on 14th St. red-carpets, and the Thompkins Square Park habitués with their crusty beards, rucksacks, and filthy bedrolls.

Now, it's a million people competing to audition for reality shows, all dressed like Old Navy, and the Gap, rushing to the gym, drinking overpriced bottled water, and obsessively Twittering on their prestigious, new tech-toys. No one has real relationships, anymore. Everybody wants to know what they can do to fend-off the New World Order world-bankers and their Chinese Democracies, while the comfortable paychecks and merciless, taser-wielding brutes see nothing wrong with serving wealthy elites at the expense of all life, and humanity, everywhere. Here's what we can all do to challenge their rule of force: help a friend. Stop competing. Whatever it is someone helped you get, pass it along. That's as revolutionary as getting your brains bashed in by the paramilitaries. Just drop the whole, "What's In It For Me, Jack" attitude, and we can proceed.


You don't hear much music like this anymore, and maybe that's what led one music critic to ask Barry, "Who told you that you could sing?" ---Like Chris Barry, or any of us, need Paula Abdul's permission to sing! Me, personally, I like Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. Alot of people are programmed to prefer phony R & B where some squeaky-clean talent-show contestant can hit the right note. This is a beauty pageant-with guitars! You guys can keep your opera-metal screechers, and Broadway musical kids. To the Judge Judies, disco-tramps, fear-merchants, industry-weasels,and television zombies, I say, "Diddy On!" -With your highschool musicals, Disney jail-bait, product pitch-men, and obedient lap-dancers. Chris Barry is one of the last in a righteous tradition of artists who never WAIT in lines, for permission to rock. You ever heard of Lux Interior, or Stiv Bators? Patti Smith, or Bob Dylan? David Johansen, or Johnny Rotten? James Brown, or Lightnin' Hopkins? Thank God none of them needed somebody to tell 'em they could sing. Chris is one of the best frontmen left-a noble tradition, a dying art. Him and Jim Jones, David Jo, and Michael Monroe are all still around. You want Paul Westerberg or the Fall-Out Boys? Let's all rip-up the false standards of the commodity capitalist/corporate colonials who've steadily got inside our damaged skulls, and start this whole righteous rock'n'roll thing all over. If Lester Bangs were alive, today, he'd tell all you kids to do your own research, jot-down your own history, dig the truth, be your own hero, and "Let It Writhe!!!"

(-Kenney Silvers)

SugarBuzz Magazine