January 18, 2011
An excerpt from the upcoming book Cramp, Slash, & Burn: “When Punk and Glam were Twins”
by John Scarpati.
Ya know, it was funny at the time.
You’d be there, oh, say 1:40 a.m. at the Cathay De Grande sippin a cocktail.
Lost in your thoughts, you look around only to see what madman is behind the turntables in the DJ booth this time, who thinks playing Bob Seger at 45rpm is such a grand idea at 105 decibels.
That’s when your eyes fall on a familiar face.
The visage the same, but now the hair is longer and bigger, the clothes more stylishly rumpled.
And is that goddamn mascara you got on? Dude!
But you’re hardly one to talk, as you adjust dear departed Aunt Babe’s ermine shawl about your shoulders, so it sits just so.
It was the mid 80’s, and it seemed as though the baldy punker team was losing yet another solider to the trash team every day.
Our generation of punk rockers, we were the brats of the 70’s, just reaching drinking age in those early 80’s.
Our shared soundtrack of youth consisted of Kiss and Bowie, Cheap Trick and Black Sabbath.
There was trashy pop floating from tinny am radio stations, the background to our earliest memories:
Endless 8 track loops of Frampton Comes Alive in the back of Mom’s station wagon, and the heavy stoner rock absorbed through the thin drywall separating us from our older brothers’ smoky rooms.
We were forever subjected to someone else’s music, it seemed.
And then –finally—punk rock.
All these things were mixed together, our heads vodka-powered cuisinarts, and somehow we all arrived at a similar place.
And that place might as well be John Scarpati’s photo studio, ground Zero for the trashglam movement.
It was there that we were coaxed to tease the hair a little higher, pout a little more, and let our glam flags fly!
I know other bands made a similar transformation, it’s all there in the photos after all.
And I imagine there’s a lot of bands that are cringing at the thought of Scarpati finally scanning those photos, setting them free into the wilds of the internet.
Oh, I suppose we could be embarassed as well and try to hide from these shocking and somehow feline images of debauchery.
But let’s be honest here, shall we?
We had a fucking blast back then!
Scrappy Enigma Records seemed to be welcoming every burnt out punk band in town, and they encouraged us to stretch out beyond the hardcore boundaries we’d always had to obey.
So you meet Bill and Wes, you go into the studio with Ron Goudie, you get invited to a couple actual industry Christmas parties and boom!–there you are in Scarpati’s studio, can of Aqua Net pink in one hand and a sweating highball in the other.
I suppose it was a time when, as children all of 23 years old, we were already jaded veterans of show business.
Through the wringer of booking and promoting, being ripped off by promoters and doormen all over again, it was if we suddenly thought—hell, why not?
Why not us to be the next ones, to get a major label deal and ride these dark streets in a limosine instead of a ’79 Jetta with a broken tailight.
We spent 5 nights out of 7 in Hollywood, and it seemed as though fame was maddeningly possible, yet just out of reach: palpable and elusive as an aroma.
And so we tottered along the Strip in our cowboy boots, wearing scarves and earrings that would make Liza Minelli blush, passing out flyers and getting smashed.
Leaving our beloved Firefly on a damp night, we’d stumble over to Hollywood Blvd and make a right, vaguely in the direction of the Frolic Room.
Walking on Stars, each of us silently going over the speeches we’d one day make, on hands and knees, in front of our own granite pentagram.
And the streetlights overhead, they hummed their own song as they cast their harsh sodium glare at the forgotten celebrities underneath our feet.
You squinted up at them through the mist and they glowed amber, like spotlights pointed center stage.