My god, what a slack bastard I am. I seem to spend all my time rattling on about some nonsense or other on everyone else’s sites, in the meantime leaving mine to rot like a discarded plant. Let me talk about something I watched on television on Sunday night. It may be of interest to a few of you. There’s an American show called MURDER TRAIL which gets shown down here a couple of nights a week on late-night TV. Each week it documents a different serial killer and their evil deeds. I never miss it. I also listen to Throbbing Gristle and even the occasional Boyd Rice album. I do not, however, wear a trenchcoat or combat boots. Does that still make me a loser? I thought so. Anyway, the Sunday night episode concentrated on the man known as The Trailside Killer, aka David Carpenter, a fulltime loser who killed approximately 10 women in San Francisco ca. 1979-81. I’d never heard of the guy – and hey, I know my serial killers – so I stayed up late for the occasion. There was one moment which really caught my attention and almost made me lose my breath: it was the mention of “bank robber Shane Williams”. Now that name will mean nothing to many and possibly something to a few.
Shane Williams is known in underground rock circles as the guy who corresponds (or at least corresponded) with just about anybody and everybody who’ll give him the time of day. This is because he’s spent probably 25 of the last 30 years of his life in prison. That’s an approximation, but likely near the mark. He also used to write a column for the defunct Flipside mag and is generally known as “that punk rock bank-robber junkie guy” who’s often the butt of people’s jokes (just read an old Motorbooty or Forced Exposure for reference). When I was publishing fanzines back in the early to late ‘90s I would always send him a copy and he’d do a nice write-up in various publications. I was personally in touch with him for about 6 or 7 years when he was in and out of prison for various charges until I ceased correspondence with the guy in the late ‘90s. Why? Well, I wish no ill will towards Williams, but I found his philosophy to life (which could be roughly summed up as: Shoot Up, Rob Banks, Rot In Prison) to be rather contrary to mine and figured my life would be no less rich if I was to discontinue writing letters to him. But let’s cut to the chase…
In 1981, David Carpenter knew the police had him nailed for the murders and were going to soon arrest him. He then rang up an old friend he’d met in jail (he’d previously served for rape and kidnap: a real gentleman), a young bank robber by the name of Shane Williams, and sold him the crucial piece of evidence: his gun. Carpenter was soon arrested, though the police were worried about a conviction and needed the gun to make a convincing case. Lo and behold, a few weeks later, Williams was arrested for a comically bungled bank robbery (his accomplice – his girlfriend – left her student ID on the bank counter!) and taken down to the station. Knowing that Carpenter was also awaiting trial and that the police were searching for the gun, he plea-bargained and (probably) received a lighter sentence for his co-operation. Now, in Shane’s defense, he didn’t know that Carpenter was involved in anything nasty at the time; he just wanted a gun for his outlaw lifestyle. But this still nags me: can this Shane Williams mentioned on this show – and in the recreation of events the man in question was dressed like Dee Dee Ramone with a cropped haircut, thus looking like a “punk rocker” – be anyone BUT the Shane Williams? If so, that’s just fucking creepy.
On a lighter note, I have in my possession a copy of the monumental Holy Ghost 9-CD box set by Albert Ayler and it is the release of the year. OK, fair enough, Ayler died nearly 35 years ago, so let me rename that as Reissue of the Year. No, wait, this is previously unissued recordings. Fuck it, it is the Release Of The Year! I will not do it justice as yet: I need to fully digest its contents. The full review will happen in coming weeks. For now I simply say: purchase, breathe deep, open the box, fondle, caress and fetishise its contents, spin discs constantly to the annoyance of your wife, husband, flat mate, family or friends and thank the lord for the good people at Revenant.
Here are 5 other albums I am currently rocking the fuck out to:
1) SHOCKABILLY – Vietnam/Heaven CD
Two slabs of primo uberground rock from the mid ‘80s. I hear no one but myself mentioning their name in this day and age. What the fuck is up with that?!
2) SERGE GAINSBOURG – Comic Strip CD
A certain person who probably won’t be sending me a Xmas card this year just wrote about this on his site. It made me dig my copy out for a spin… and a few more.
3) VARIOUS ARTISTS – There Is No Eye: Music For Photographs CD
This is a compilation on Smithsonian documenting the photos and song choices of beatnik/folk enthusiast John Cohen. The detailed package will blow your mind, and then there’s the music: Rev. Gary Davis, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Bill Monroe, Roscoe Holcomb and more. What a goddamn delight to behold.
4) HALF JAPANESE – Loud and Horrible CD
I was originally scheduled and booked to release this myself, then Jad throws it into the arms of Drag City and I’m left stranded, the cheap bastard. I’m joking, of course. Actually, that is what happened, but that’s OK: Jad’s a saint, and let’s be honest: I’d do the same thing, given half the chance. Earth-moving can’t-play-for-shit spazz-rock from the bowels of the ‘80s; if you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss was about, right here ain’t a bad place to start.
5) NOAH HOWARD – Patterns/Message to South Africa CD
Two obscure recordings from the equally obscure Howard – who recorded for ESP back in the day – ca. 1971 and ’79 which the good people at Eremite had the sense to issue a couple of years back. Does that sentence actually make any sense? I’ve just re-read it and I think it does, kinda. “Patterns” is a half-hour piece recorded in Holland in a sextet setting w/ the likes of Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink on board. It is a fucking masterpiece. Percussion of all shades of exotic stripes are hammered, Noah wails like a wounded cat on sax and vocals and guitarist Jaap Schoonhoven – let me guess: he’s from Holland! – twangs his strings like an Ulmer/Sharrock disciple. “Message to South Africa” is a slightly shorter number which mixes up the scorch with all manner of gospel and blues touches, and if you’ve ever popped a boner to Ayler’s Music Is the Heeling Force of the Universe – just like I did a few months back – you’ll be soiling underwear over this slab of glorious noise. Not an unfettered screechfest by any means, this is "free jazz" of a beautifully tempered, soulful nature. Swish package, Coley liner notes… could a man ask for any more?