Edition: May 26, 2010
Rock-n-Roll Exhibition: STEVE GAMBOA
:: Playlist, notes, and a few photos, handpicked & written by Stevie Himself ::
This selection of tracks is a synoptic reflection of the music and bands that greatly influenced me as a youth playing in punk bands in Washington, DC from 1988 – 2000.
Growing up in ‘The Chocolate City,’ a southern town with an incredible musical legacy the likes of Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Go-Go and D.C. Hardcore, I was very fortunate to have been exposed to a diverse range of music from my peers in the D.C. scene where I was brought up with the understanding that being a punk rocker meant not only that you listened to punk rock, but were also open to listening to all underground music regardless of genre, an ideology that I still maintain today as an active DJ. While it’s impossible to list most of the songs that influenced me during this period that was the most formative phase of my life, this playlist gives you a brief but personal idea of the groups and individuals that impacted my musical direction, manifested my politics, determined my style and made it on the tour van mix tapes.
Hope you can dig on it…
01. Wire – Lowdown
My friends and I were well into British bands early on. From Crass to The Damned, Discharge to Blitz, with Wire being one of our favorites. This track is from their remarkable 1977 debut album Pink Flag and is a perfect representation of their sound that was simple and quite poppy, but also very sophisticated without compromising Punk Rock attitude in their playing. While the band never actually broke up, they were on an extended hiatus from 1981 – 1985 and I got to see them play in D.C. around 1999 during their short U.S. tour. It was an incredible show that cemented my opinion of the group.
02. The Stranglers – Peaches
Off their 1977 release Rattus Norvegicus, Peaches was actually quite a popular number that even crossed over into the British mainstream. This doesn’t detract from the spare brilliance of the song that features a slow, loping bass line and lascivious lyrics of front man and bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel. This sinister sounding classic still works on dance floors today when played at the right party.
03. The Clash – Drug-Stabbing Time
What can you say about The Clash? They are undoubtedly ‘The Only Band That Matters’ with a perfect line up fronted by one of the greatest voices in Punk Rock, the genius Joe Strummer. This song if off their second LP from 1978 Give ‘Em Enough Rope which is also my favorite album by the group. Although quite poppy, this song features great guitar work between Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. Before I even learned how to play bass guitar I already knew how to rock it—low to the side and with a thin strap. Paul Simonon was my first bass idol and had a tremendous impact on my style.
04. The Jam – Down in The Tube Station at Midnight
While The Jam were definitely influenced by the music, style and culture of the mid-Sixties and British bands such as The Who and The Small Faces and American labels such as Motown and Stax-Volt, they were just as Punk Rock as any band that came out of late 70’s Britain despite being labeled as Mod revivalists. They may have dressed sharper than their punk counterparts and were more adept at playing their instruments, but their energetic stage performance and righteous lyrics were definitely on par with The Clash. This song off their 1978 release All Mod Cons is a great example of Paul Weller’s lyrical finesse.
05. Gang of Four – Damaged Goods
Named after a leftist faction of Chinese Communist party officials, Gang of Four were one of the most politically motivated bands of the Post-Punk era as well as one of the funkiest. Their music was stripped down and very danceable due the combination of guitarist Andy Gill’s scratchy guitar playing and drummer Hugo Burnham’s use of complex, jazzy polyrhythm. Gang of Four had major political and musical effect on DC bands (listen to Fugazi or Q and Not U), and was also obviously quite influential in the music of contemporary ‘dance-punk’ groups such as The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem and !!!.
06. The Specials – Why?
My friends and I were big fans of the British 2-Tone Ska revival movement that included bands such as Madness, Bad Manners, The Beat, The Bodysnatchers and The Specials (who created 2-Tone Records). The 7-piece band played their own brand of Ska and Rocksteady with vital attitude and socio-political lyrics that addressed everything from racism to British teen angst. This group was quite likely my first introduction to Reggae music, a genre that is very much one of my favorites today.
07. The Saints – (I’m) Stranded
Brisbane band The Saints pre-dated The Ramones and The Sex Pistols in terms of playing fast boisterous music with raucous guitar riffs when they formed in 1974. In other words, they were quite likely the very first Punk band. Off their debut 7” single, (I’m) Stranded that was released in 1976, the song kicks off raw and direct with the wall of sound guitar work of Ed Kuepper followed by the vocals of Chris Bailey, one of the greatest voices of Punk Rock. This band was also a big influence on the DC scene.
08. The Fall – L.A.
From the 9th album, This Nation’s Saving Grace, by the prolific British group The Fall fronted by the enigmatic Mark E. Smith. Not necessarily very representative of their sound (although there probably is no particular way to pigeonhole the group’s sound as they have through several stylistic musical changes from formation in 1976 to the present), but a song that for some reason became one of my favorites, quite likely because of the simple and repetitive nature of the song. I was also always a big fan of the dry and abstract lyrics of Mark E. Smith who may definitely be considered an intellectual.
09. The Undertones – Teenage Kicks
An Irish Pop-Punk group that formed in 1975, The Undertones wrote Teenage Kicks in 1977 and it became one of my favorite guitar anthems. It features a super catchy three-chord riff with lyrics you are certain to appreciate as a youth, sung in the quavering vocal style of Feargal Sharkey—I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight. Get teenage kicks right through the night. Another simply written yet brilliant song.
10. Can – Halleluwah
My bands got into Krautrock bands like Kraftwerk, Neu!, Cluster and Can. Can was particularly inspiring because of their Jazz drummer Jaki Liebezeit who is one of my drummer heroes, along with the avant-garde musicianship of bassist Holger Czukay, psychedelic guitar or Michael Karoli and idiosyncratic ranting of singer Damo Suzuki. Taken from the 1971 double LP Tago Mago, Halleluwah is one hypnotic and funky piece of work that improvises around the rolling, hypnotic rhythm laid out by Jaki Liebezeit.
11. Joy Division – She’s Lost Control
Though I was never really got that into Joy Division as a band, this track off their 1979 debut LP Unknown Pleasures, struck a chord with me because of the song’s unusual production and arrangement. The backbone of the song is the mechanical drumbeat of Stephen Morris that starts it off and doesn’t vary throughout. The bass playing of Peter Hook is also just as unwavering and quite minimal. Add the distinct vocals of Ian Curtis and you’ve got a proper timeless classic.
12. The Birthday Party – Swampland
Not a particularly well-known Post-Punk group outside of their native Melbourne, The Birthday Party became one of my favorites after hearing their first album Prayers on Fire. Swampland is off their 7th release Mutiny/The Bad Seed, a compilation off 2 EPs released in 1982. Once again, the appeal of the song is the heavy rhythm section consisting of Tracy Pew’s pounding bass line and Phil Calvert’s tom-heavy drumming. Nick Cave’s spooky and frenetic vocals were also a standout feature of this band. Definitely another group that was a big influence on me as both a bass player and drummer.
13. The Cramps – Garbageman
I first heard about The Cramps from compatriot Ian Mackaye (Dischord Records, Minor Threat, Fugazi, etc.) who saw The Cramps in 1979 at The Hall of Nations, Georgetown University. It was the very first Punk show he went to and the rest is history. While Garbageman is one of my favorites, their entire catalog is brilliant. I never saw them till much later, in 1992, at a small club in D.C., but I was amazed at their performance that remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Kid Congo Powers (The Gun Club, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds), who was their guitarist during the early 80’s, became an informal member of my band The Make Up on a few tours as our maracas player and MC. This was an indescribable honor and one of the highlights of my musical career.
14. Suicide – Ghostrider
As part of the early and mid-70’s New York performing art scene, the proto-punk duo of Martin Rev and Alan Vega would become one of the most influential synthesizer/vocal acts to effect electronic groups as diverse as Erasure, Big Black and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Martin Rev would provide the minimal, eerie and dissonant musical backdrop via synthesizer and drum machine while Alan Vega would deliver spooky lyrics in a jumpy fashion, the combination of which is peerless to this day and way ahead of its time when it was released in 1977. Ghostrider is from their self-titled debut album that is essential listening.
15. The Faith – You’re X’d
Although I was too young to see this band before they broke up, I became good friends with the singer Alec Mackaye, bassist Chris Bald and guitarist Eddie Janney who were the first generation D.C. Hardcore ‘elders’ that I respected. Clocking in at just over a minute, You’re X’d was a 7” that was featured on the famous Dischord Faith/Void release from 1985. It represents the classic D.C. Hardcore sound with lyrics referring to the Straight Edge philosophy as espoused by Alec’s brother, Ian Mackaye, the singer for Minor Threat.
16. Bad Brains – Don’t Need It
Without a doubt the best Hardcore band that ever existed, and they’re from my hometown. I bought this album (a self titled 1982 debut also known as the Dublee Sessions, NYC) originally as a cassette in 1986 and it blew my mind at the time (still does). I then had numerous opportunities to see them live from 1988 through the mid-90’s in small venues in DC including one gig at the original 9:30 Club in which I was hit in my eye by one of H.R.’s bigger dreads during a stage dive, a badge of honor I bragged about for months. There is too much to say about this iconic band but one only needs to listen to this song (especially the last 11 seconds of Earl Hudson’s drumming) to understand the power and the precision of the Bad Brains. A must have album.
17. Minor Threat – 12XU
Another band I was too young to see live but one that had a big influence on my youth, especially as a Straight Edger. Off the Flex Your Head Dischord Records compilation from 1982 that featured 11 DC Hardcore bands. It’s actually a cover of a Wire song from their first album Pink Flag. Another one-minute wonder and classic number from the DC Hardcore archives.
18. Scream – Bet You Never Thought
Scream were a first generation DC Hardcore band (although technically from the suburbs of Northern Virginia) formed in 1981 that I was fortunate to see several times coming up in the scene. They were definitely up there as one of the mightiest live bands I saw as a youth. They had a particular sound that was very melodic without compromising power and also had anthemic political and socially conscious lyrics that were great to sing along to. A large part of the band’s appeal was the singing ability and stage presence of front man Pete Stahl, who also happens to be a super nice guy.
19. Rites of Spring – Drink Deep
Rites of Spring were a very influential Post-Hardcore band during my youth. Most likely because I was very close friends with the entire band, especially singer/guitarist Guy Picciotto and bassist Michael Fellows. They also happened to be one of the most powerful and viscerally emotive bands I was lucky to see live with more personal lyrics that were also quite different and reflective of the scene at the time. Their shows would often end in injury and destruction of equipment. Proper.
20. The Nation of Ulysses – R.O.T.T.E.N.
I played self-taught bass guitar in this band from 1988 – 1992 and released 3 albums and 7” singles on Dischord. This track is from the last album we put out in 2000, The Embassy Tapes that contained material we recorded in 1992 along with some live tracks. The album derives its name from the group house the band and other friends lived in Mt. Pleasant, Washington, DC, that was also officially known as The Embassy of The Nation of Ulysses. Despite it’s lofty designation, The Embassy (basement) also served as our practice space, a small and musty, carpet-lined room where the 4-track recordings were made in proper DIY style, hence the super lo-fi quality that makes it sound just right. It was also one of my favorite songs to play live.
21. The Jesus Lizard – Nub
We knew The Jesus Lizard as a Chicago band even though they had formed in Austin, Texas, in 1987 before moving to Chicago. There was always a strong DC/Chicago Punk connection because of independent labels such as Touch and Go, Thrill Jockey and Drag City, as well as the many bands that toured through both cities and made strong connections. This song is off Goat the second album by the band that came out in 1991 and was produced by Chicago legend Steve Albini (Big Black, Rapeman, Shellac). Their music was definitely guitar driven with heavy bass and drums behind it, but what propelled the whole act live were the unpredictable on stage antics of singer David Yow who would do anything including disrobe or leap off stage. It always made for a great show.
22. The Laughing Hyenas – Sister
Ann Arbor, Michigan’s The Laughing Hyenas were probably the menacing band I’ve ever seen live. Not only did they look completely scary onstage but the combination of John Brannon’s savage singing style laid over the dirgy guitar of Larissa Strickland and hammering rhythm combo of bassist Kevin Strickland and Jim Kimball made for a very visceral show that no band I’ve seen could replicate.
23. Public Enemy – You’re Gonna Get Yours
The first release from Long Island Hip Hop revolutionaries Public Enemy was the 1987 12” featuring the groundbreaking tracks You’re Gonna Get Yours / Miuzi Weighs a Ton / Rebel Without a Pause. The cover photo of this single was taken by an L.A. based photographer named Glen Friedman, who was very tight with the DC scene because he had taken pictures of Minor Threat, Black Flag, The Misfits, and the Bad Brains (as well as skaters such as Tony Alva and Jay Adams and hip hop artists from The Beastie Boys to LL Cool J to Run DMC). Glen gave this single to Ian Mackaye and Ian shared it with all of us. At the time it was a really revolutionary hip hop record in terms of production, lyrics, and presentation and it was a staple on our mix tapes and dance parties.
24. Junkyard Band – Sardines
DC’s indigenous underground music, Go-Go, has been a vital part of the city’s culture since it was created by the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, in the mid/late 1970’s. Living in the city, we were all fans of the music and commonly attended Go-Go shows. The very last Minor Threat show in 1983 was with Austin’s Big Boys and DC Go-Go band Trouble Funk. Junkyard Band were a Go-Go band made up of kids ranging in age from 8 – 13 that played the percussion based/call and response music using items such as plastic buckets, crates, hubcaps, etc. Sardines is their most famous single and was released on Def Jam in 1986.
25. The MC5 – Looking at You
The Motor City Five were another big influence on my bands in terms of live performance, political ideology, and balls to the wall Rock n’ Roll aesthetics. Although the high-energy first album Kick Out the Jams would be the obvious choice, their second album Back in the USA released in 1970 is my personal favorite and a proto-punk classic. Looking at You (initially released as their very successful debut single in 1968) features the vocals of Rob Tyner with melodies that twist around Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith’s and Wayne Kramer’s raging guitar riffs. A brilliant band that also got us listening to garage rock and psychedelic groups.
26. The 13th Floor Elevators – Levitation
Off their second album Easter Everywhere released in 1967, Levitation perfectly exemplifies the amalgamation of trippy psychedelic reverb and distorted garage rock on what was a groundbreaking record for its day. The Austin, Texas trio of vocalist/guitarist Roky Erickson, guitarist Stacy Sutherland and electric jug player Tommy Hall made up the group that was as much of a random later influence on our bands as Love, France Gall and Prince.
27. Spacemen 3 – Come Down Easy
I’m not exactly sure how we came to know of Spacemen 3 but they were a very popular group with our band The Nation of Ulysses. They were a kind of neo-psychedelic Space Rock band from Rugby, England, made up of 2 main members, Jason Pierce (J. Spaceman) and Peter Kember (Sonic Boom). Their sound was very minimal, droney, and bluesy with simple chord progressions and lots of guitar layers, feedback and effects. Come Down Easy is off their second album Perfect Prescription that is also generally known as their magnum opus. Once again, a big influence on our sound especially is terms of simplicity and repetitiveness.
28. Spiritualized – Come Together
Spiritualized came about in 1990 after Jason Pierce and 3 other members broke away from Spacemen 3. Writing, singing and composing all the groups’ material, Jason has always been the core of Spiritualized despite many eventual personnel changes. Musically, they are similar to Spacemen 3 in regards to the whole psychedelic Space Rock aspect but Spiritualized definitely developed this sound further, implementing aspects of Gospel, Blues, orchestra, and Phil Spector ‘wall of sound’ production in which layers upon layers of effect laden guitars were used, as in Come Together off their brilliant album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space from 1997. Saw them perform live in DC in a sublime show that sealed my love for the band that I still follow today.
29. Thee Headcoats – All My Feelings Denied
Our band The Make Up were very much inspired by neo and traditional Garage Rock bands because of the simple chord progressions, vintage keyboard sounds, and straight ahead drumming using a small Jazz trap kit. Thee Headcoats from Kent, England, was one of the main band that influenced us tremendously from playing to production. Made up of Billy Childish, Johnny Johnson and Bruce Brand, the trio was from an early UK Punk background before getting into Garage Rock, the result of which is a definitely unique fusion of Punk attitude with straight bluesy rock and roll as if Bo Diddley had an ugly baby with Hasil Adkins.
30. The Gories – Boogie Chillin’
Hailing from Detroit, The Gories were a 3-piece bass-less garage band with a heavy electric Blues influence that formed in 1996. Made up of Mick Collins and Dan Kroha on guitar and vocals plus Peggy O’Neil on drums, The Gories were one of those legendary super-underground bands you heard outrageous stories about before you actually knew what they sounded or looked like. None of them apparently knew how to play instruments before they joined the group, their first album House Rockin was recorded in a tin shack, etc. Boogie Chillin’ is a cover of a John Lee Hooker song that appears on the Alex Chilton (Big Star) produced album, I Know You Fine, But How You Doin. Never got to see the band before they broke up in 1992 but their stripped down, raw sound and production was another great influence on The Make Up.
31. The Mummies – What a Way to Die
Another legendary Garage Punk group that we did a few shows with while on tour on the West Coast. The 4-piece outfit from San Mateo, California, formed in 1988 and became notorious in this underground scene for their rambunctious and often abusive on-stage shenanigans, ‘Budget Rock’ aesthetics and raw garage sound when it came to playing and recording, their mummy outfits (which smelled as if they really had been used to wrap a cadaver), and their touring mobile which was a 1963 Pontiac ambulance. Some of the most ridiculous live shows I’ve seen and a definite inspiration in terms of stage shows.
32. The Make Up – Born on The Floor
I played self-taught drums in this 3rd band of mine from 1995 – 2000. Born on The Floor was recorded live at The Black Cat club in DC in 2000 and then released in 2006 well after the band had broken up. As it’s a live recording and one from our last show, I believe it is an accurate representation of the band in a live context. I also chose this song to highlight the lyrical genius of Ian Svenonius:
I was enraged
with the black ops sent by the CIA
I was packing things for Angola
she said ‘No, you’re just an embryo!’
33. Fela Kuti – Sorrow, Tears & Blood
In keeping with our diverse exploration of music, we were introduced to the work of Fela Anikulapo Kuti during the early days of Punk Rock. We were immediately attracted to the King of Afrobeat because of his radical anti-establishment politics how he so well articulated his ideas as a natural orator. After eventually acquiring his entire catalog of releases and watching the Fela documentary Music is the Weapon, he became one of the band’s favorite musical icons. Fela Kuti and the Africa 70 released Sorrow, Tears & Blood in 1977. It’s a 10-minute epic that deals with subject of brutality from the Nigerian police and military forces. A timeless, hypnotic and extremely funky classic.
34. LKJ – Street 66
UK-based political dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson is one of my personal musical heroes. Street 66 is off his album Bass Culture and is one of my favorites as he toasts about giving the police some ‘righteous raasclot licks.’ Destroy Babylon indeed…
The room was dark
Dusk howling softly 6 o’clock
The fine sight
Was moving black
The sound was music mellow steady flow
And man son mind just mystic red, green, red, green
No man would dance but leap and shake
That sharp through feeling right
Shape that sound
Making movement, ruff enuff
Cos when the music met I-tops(?)
I felt the sting, knew the shock, yeah, had to do and ride the rock
Outta dis rock shall come a greener riddim
Even more dread than what the breeze of glory bred
Vibrating violence is our own(?) move
Rocking with green rhythm
The drought and dry root out
The mighty poet I Roy was on the wire
Weston did a skank and each man laugh and feeling irie, dread I
Street 66, the said man said
Any policeman come here will get some righteous, raasclot licks
Yeah mon, whole heapa licks
Hours beat, the scene moving right
When all on a sudden
Bam, bam, bam, a knocking pon the door
“Who is dat?”, asked Weston, feeling right
“Open up, it’s the police, come on, open up”
“What address do you want?”
“Number 66, come on, open up”
Weston, feeling high, replied, “Yes, this is Street 66, step right in and
take some licks.”
Songs remixed by Marlowe Bandem.
Note: Steve Gamboa was the significant part—hear everything/see everything/say & do everything—of Washington, D.C., Punk/Hardcore scene. He used to be the bassist of The Nation of Ulysses. He was in Cupid Car Club very shortly, and then The Make Up—he moved to drums—with his ex-bandmates in The Nation of Ulysses. Nowadays he spends most of his time in Bali, becoming a DJ—Stevie G., that’s him—and also writing for some magazines.
:: If you wanna listen to the songs, go to Big Audio Dynamite and pick the playlist ::
– July 14, 2010: Heru Wahyono (singer of Shaggydog, half part of Dub Youth)
– July 21, 2010: Dedi Kristian (ex-Music Director of CDBS FM Bali, HipHop activist)
– July 28, 2010: Ade Putri (publicist of Millionaires Club)
– August 04, 2010: Sammy Bramantyo (bassist of Seringai, radio announcer of Gen FM)
– August 11, 2010: Simon Grigg (the guy who formed and managed Suburban Reptiles, one New Zealand’s first two Punk Rock band; the legendary NZ bands’ producer/manager/DJ/you name it)
– August 18, 2010: Oddie Octaviadi (vocalist of Getah)
More exhibitions later by Jimi Multazham, Marzuki Mohammad, Veroland, Pratiwi Sasotya, Alfred Pasifico, Santi YZ, Nasta Sutardjo, Dewa Palguna, Edy Khemod, etc.
See y’all again next Wednesday!
Boozed, Broozed, and Broken-boned,
*subject to change
The Block Rockin’ Beats
Curator: Rudolf Dethu
Every Wednesday, 8 – 10 PM
The Beat Radio Plus – Bali, 98.5 FM
120 minutes of cock-melting tunes.
Zero horse shit.
Rad-ass rebel without a pause.
Shut up and slamdance!