Monday, July 18, 2016

LONDON STYLE 2016

panoramic shot of Dave Davies of the Kinks in Soho
Dave Davies of the Kinks in Soho London - Iphone pano shot
Fabulous fashions from Italian designer Bucobianco from Official Made In Italy pop up shop in Covent Garden 2016


Boots cosmetics salesgirl Trafalgar square
Dave Davies of the Kinks in Ben Sherman suit at BBC

punk couple Camden



rockabilly couple Soho London

doll umbrellas at Pylones shop Covent Garden

dapper man with cane Victoria station

tube rider with gold metallic rat purse

Sunday, July 17, 2016

London - Summer 2016



Dave Davies and Mark Hamill

Marilou and Mark Hamill


Chinatown London

bus selfie

Dave in front of London neon art
Chinatown - London


neon sign - Soho

horse and carriage - Covent Garden

me and D

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A visit to see Sunny Afternoon! 2016

Here are some photos I took of our recent visit to see Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter theater in London. Dave was invited to the performance by his old friend Mark Hamill and his lovely wife Marilou. Dave got to meet Oliver Hoare for the first time since Oliver has been playing Dave in the musical. The whole cast put on an excellent show.




Monday, April 4, 2016

A Spring day in London - 2016



Trafalgar square at dusk

Dave looks at art at National Portrait Gallery

pretty facade
 Paddington
Dave Davies at Paddington station

woman in bunny ears - Easter Sunday - Archway
homeless man and pitbull near Thames river

Dave Davies in South Bank
me and Dave on the tube
Dave checking out the punk rock vinyl at All Ages Records in Camden
really good coffee at this cafe in the West End!
The Old Eagle pub Camden
Amy Winehouse mural near Pratt Street - Camden
North London bouquet
Camden street art
Salisbury Arms pub - Covent Garden
Camden


Amy Winehouse mural by Pigasus - outside the Earl of Camden pub


we took a selfie in the reflection of Stringfellows' mirrored doors..

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Felix Griffin of D.R.I. and other Texas Punk Memories

This post originally appeared in 2011


photo by Ken Miller
Texas Punk Memories - Offenders, Dicks, M.D.C. and Felix Griffin - drummer for D.R.I. and Blunt Force Trauma 

I was supposed to be reviewing a stack of Texas punk rock and bluesy or cornpunk music cds sent to me tonight - The Rock Garage Texas Live Concert Series, Hickoids, Churchwood and T. Tex Edwards and the Swingin Kornflake Killers but I got sidetracked reminiscing about Texas. I had driven through there once on tour in the late 80s with my old roommates M.D.C. It was so flat there, driving forever without seeing anything or anyone. The punk clubs were high ceilinged, huge and sweaty. There was graffitti scrawled on the ladies restroom wall in Houston about Verbal Abuse singer Nikki Sikki, just like there was in S.F. We were all squished in an R.V. together, a band, a girl (me) and a big fella named Monterey Mark. Mark was a skinhead but he was touring with a punk band. Dave said the promoters paid up more quickly with Mark along on the tour. His stout, cross armed presence onstage also seemed to mellow the aggression of antagonistic skins M.D.C. encountered at many concerts.



After we got back from tour to S.F. I returned to singer Dave Dictor's pad where I lived in a punk commune of sorts although it wasn't officially called anything other than the Rathouse. Others who lived there were Joe Britz - zine publisher of Tales From the Rathouse and Lawrence Livermore who started Lookout Records and discovered Operation Ivy and Green Day. I wrote for Lookout zine once in a while. My first review was of Redd Kross' record Neurotica. Dave introduced me to his old friends from Texas like Mikey Offender Donaldson, the bass player from the Offenders and M.D.C. and then songwriter/bass player for Sister Double Happiness and his girlfriend at the time Tammy (who had also been Dave's and M.D.C. guitarist Ron's girlfriend at one point, although I can't remember who was first.) Tammy was THE muse for M.D.C. and so many bands from that time and place. She was a beautiful blonde heartbreaker with a big round derriere, a tattoo of a feminist fist on her right arm and, rumour had it, webbed toes, which only seemed to add to her mysterious allure to men. "Webbed toes?" I asked, "there's a part of Texas where that sort of thing is common," a Texan ex-paramour informed me. This was my first inkling that Texas and its inhabitants were "different."

Dave also introduced me to Gary Floyd, singer from the Dicks and he told me what an inspiration Gary was, that he had come out of nowhere and shocked everyone at the University of Texas campus crossdressed and curvy with a mohawk, being flagrantly homosexual in the late 70s/early 80s conservative Texas climate. Dave had moved from New York to study at the University of Texas. He wanted to be a lawyer before he got into punk rock. They were heady times but I had a falling out with Dave over something and decided moving out was best and next became roommates with Ron Posner, the guitarist from M.D.C. Soon after me moved in the craziest and funnest roommate ever, a guy named Felix Griffin. Felix was the drummer in D.R.I. He did not come from a poor family but he did come from Texas, run away to live on the streets of San Francisco with the punks and skins before becoming a bonafide crossover punk metal superstar. 

Felix fascinated me for many reasons. His crazy drinking yet talent that kept him on tour drumming with a successful world famous band. He was a musclebound handsome guy with huge blue eyes, sandy blonde hair and a boyish charm about his face. Yet, for all his macho prowess and strength he was so sensitive, reduced to a rubble of tears if he played the right Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard song. I was from New Jersey and had never heard Johnny Cash before. I was an ignorant fool who thought Johnny Cash was a funny, old guy and I couldn't understand why Felix didn't just listen to thrashcore music all day long considering that was what he played. His exgirlfriend had become a junkie, so out of touch with him or anyone she could feel for, that it hurt me to see Felix hurt. The dramatic highs and lows of his mood swings and relationships with his girlfriends was difficult to witness. There was a lethal pattern I noticed that began with a six pack, tears and country music and ended with a disaster. There was the night he crashed his truck through someone's garage door and spraypainted something mean on it afterwards.



Felix couldn't spell for s**t and didn't seem to read much but he was a musical genius and a really good drummer by music snob standards, going nuts with his amazing rhythms on a double bass set. He loved music and didn't just play his records through speakers, he blasted tunes through a motherf

**king p.a. in our apartment in the quickly gentrifying Haight Ashbury district. I will never forget the hysterical yuppie from upstairs shaking at the door with a policeman next to her as she hissed in a furious whisper that we turn the music down. "It's not me," I tried to explain, "it's my roommate." You could tell the yuppie lady was not used to being ignored. She seemed like someone who had always gotten her own way. "I have to work in the morning!" she snarled. Felix Griffin did not care. When he decided to drink and crank up the tunes, nothing could stop him. The cop said,"Well someone's going to jail and it's gonna be YOU if your roommate doesn't turn down the music." So I went back into the apartment and screamed at Felix at the top of my lungs, "The fucking cops are here and if you don't turn it down someone's going to jail and it's not gonna be me!" He would barely turn to acknowledge my screaming since he was usually in the middle of telling a joke to a friend and then finally he would turn it down and then the cops would leave and then the whole scenario repeated itself a couple more times in the evening, cops and all!

Felix could also be incredibly funny and made the most insightful observations about people, he described Ron M.D.C. as someone who couldn't turn a corner without walking in a right angle. When not playing/touring with M.D.C. Ron ran a shop called Fogtown Skates. He didn't skateboard himself but sold a lot of boards and shirts there. Ron's room was clean as a whistle and he liked nothing better than to kick back playing classical music on an acoustic while puffing a fatty. Ron could sight read music very well and loved musicians like Andreas Segovia.  In some ways, Ron and Felix were best friends and in many ways, their friendship had a Mutt and Jeff like quality of opposites to it. Ron was a brilliant Jewish intellectual who never cracked a beer and Felix was a bible belt good ol' boy who never cracked a book but they shared a sense of humor. There was always a laugh to be had but Ron wasn't laughing the time Felix and his old skinhead friend Sonny cooked a pound of bacon in vegetarian Ron's pan and Ron said it couldn't be scrubbed clean enough and threw the pan away.  But you know how sometimes it's human nature to make assumptions about the pieces fit together and the more you get to know people the smaller you find out the world is.   



When I caught up with Felix over the phone recently, I realized the connection between Ron and him was not only that they were roommates but that they were band brothers through the revolving doors of band line ups. I asked him about his D.R.I. days and he told me, "the two best records are D.R.I. Dirty Rotten LP, Dennis played bass on it, the first one is classic no doubt about it and Dealing With It. Mikey Offender played bass on that. That era was super punk and straight up, we tweeked it. It was my idea to get Mikey to play bass." I had never realized that Mikey "Offender" Donaldson was a thread running through the sounds of so many of these great early Texas punk bands. I remembered Mikey sitting down and showing me the chords to John Wayne Was a Nazi and telling me how he had composed the intro to classic punk hard hit. Felix added that he had toured with M.D.C. as a drummer in 2008 in Europe for the Mikey Donaldson memorial. Felix also expressed sadness over the recent suicide of Chumley, who had been playing bass for D.R.I. Felix told me he plans to bring his daughter up to a November 26 concert in Oakland to see Attitude Adjustment and other bands play in homage to their departed friend.

Talking about the old days, Felix explained that much of his frustration was fueled by his feeling financially burned by Rotten Records who managed D.R.I.,"they ripped us off!" he told me about his old manager.  "D.R.I. getting ripped off like that, it fucked me up.  Ron Peterson, stole the whole record company and embezzled tons of money.  He was having the cds printed up in Singapore or someplace like that so they couldn't keep an eye on how many were being sold.  After Crossover I called it Corrupshover, hell, we didn't even know what royalties and publishing were.  All of the street punks that crossed over to that scene got ripped off."

Like many drummers, Felix also feels like he didn't get the compositional credit and royalties he was due. He was the force behind changing D.R.I.'s sound to the crossover punk/metal legends they became.  "I helped compose Nursing Home Blue and I wrote the intro to Yes Ma'am on Dealing With It which is the record that changed everything.  I was turned on to Venom, early Metallica and early Slayer and I brought that to the band."



Since Felix quit playing with D.R.I. he has played in a Texas band called Roger's Porn Collection which released one album.  For the past three-four years he has played drums in an old school punk/Northeast hardcore influenced band called Blunt Force Trauma.  The band's themes , he explained, deal with new world order, Big Brother and antigovernment.  Last year they toured Europe with Napalm Death and Sick of it All.  He added about one band member,"Craig Holloway is a bass player from the Detroit area.  He's a great artist."  Blunt Force Trauma has two records out Good Morning America and Hatred for the State.  They are working on a new album called Let Them Eat Red, which Felix added, has the same elements as Dealing With It.  



Back in the day, Felix would always reminisce about Texas, the state that spawned him, saying,"Where I come from it's so boring, all there is to do is get drunk and beat up your best friend. " So when people talk about England, poverty, misery and anger spawning punk rock I think of the desolation of Texas, a flatland peppered with bible belters, gun nuts and madness inducing pockets of isolation spawning its own special brand of punk rock (all those bands came from there M.D.C., D.R.I., Dicks!) and Felix Griffin.



As far as Felix's wild lifestyle goes he had racked up 10 years clean and sober a while back but had slipped for a while.  He hasn't had a drink in a month but added he is taking his life one day at a time.  You can't change somebody.  About D.R.I. he added,"I would still play for them." 



Reviews coming soon, I promise.

Felix in center holding cigarette in black special forces t-shirt/street kids photo by Ken Miller

Saturday, January 2, 2016

What do you mean you've never been to Bogota, New Jersey? Bergen County fun

This piece originally appeared in December 2012 at another site

Not too long ago I relocated from Oakland, California to the NYC area.  On a recent afternoon, my father, chess book author Fred Wilson, took me to small Bergen County, New Jersey town called BOGOTA, New Jersey to check out a tiny row of antique shops on Fort Lee Road near the railroad tracks. The stores are full of cool, reasonably priced collectibles and furnishings.  These cartoon wood cut out figures of 1940s cartoon character Jiggs and a lady were on display at the first shop . . .


The highlight of Bogota's 'blink and you'll miss it' row of antiques shops is a gem of a store called Good Things run by a friendly and knowledgable fellow named Dan Navarro, who still has a day job at a publishing company when not running the shop.  He has a great selection of items that could rival the inventory in any hipster Soho shop of similar antiques but I bet Bogota's treasures are more reasonably priced . . . rare, mod Italian lamps, vintage belt buckles, assorted vases, figurines and a gold leaf deco cat are just some of Dan's cherry picked goodies that make Bogota worth a trip over the Hudson River.
 
me in front of Good Things
my father talking with Dan of Good Things


Funky medical ear chart tray at Good Things

cool cookie jar at Good Things
Dan recommended a film about Bogota called 'Anytown, USA'.  Another highlight of his groovy little shop was seeing the cool apple cookie jar at Good Things and then buying some cookies at the Palisades Park bakery!  We finished up with lunch at a real, chrome diner, the Jackson Hole in Englewood, New Jersey which has excellent food.  They have little, flip card jukeboxes at each table and make real whipped cream for the sundaes.
cookies from the Palisades Park bakery
Jackson Hole Diner in Englewood, NJ