Electric Twilight

By iggy
Photos by Alex Zorn & Mike Fornatale

This is Part I of a two part frothing rant from iggy.


Dave fiddling with a cordDave Day walks to the edge of the stage. He squats down on his haunches, fiddling with a cord. He gives a few tentative plucks on his banjo. Kelley turns his head and grins at me. "I can't believe I'm seeing this," he says. Alex snaps a few pictures of the band members as they get ready for their sound check. History is being made.

The Monks have not played in 32 years. Dave begins to pummel his banjo, eliciting the clacking sound he is renowned for. "Banjo music makes me think of butt fucking," I say, my Southern accent thicker than grits. Kelley and Alex give me nervous looks. And I wasn't even trying. I smile lazily, dribbling tobacco spit down my chin. But wait. I get ahead of myself.



Hallucinations crawl all over my scalp like a bad rash. Me head's full of dust and guitars. I can't handle the new Monks CD, "Five Upstart Americans." I put the Drunk Thumbs into my walkman. They do a way cool cover of "Monk Chant." Gary Burger and Eddie Shaw like it better than the original. I do, too. Until I hear it this time.

The Monks never did acid. Not so the Drunk Thumbs. They are dripping in lysergic discord. There's a guitar riff with no place to go but home. The bass pops and throbs. The drummer eggs them on. Let's do 'em. Let's do the whole fucking village. He's convinced his drum set is an M-60 machine gun. Or maybe a howitzer. They run a Zippo lighter through the hootches. Slash and burn. The village ignites. A cacophony of moans erupts in my brain.

I have visions of monks on surfboards. And Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore, strutting, arms akimbo, yellow kerchief billowing in the breeze. The V.C. are lobbing mortar rounds on the beach, kicking up sand.

"Charlie don't surf!" Kilgore bellows. "Monks do!"

Where are you, Brian Wilson?

Ahh, you think like I think, but you think wrong. No drugs or alcohol are involved. Rather Mother Nature is hitting me with a good dose of the flu. I'm shitting mucus. Besides that, I kinda like it. I'm light-headed and sweat drips down my nose.

The Drunk Thumbs are too much, though. I put in my trustiest friend of all, "Black Monk Time." Unfortunately, the fever hallucinations continue unabated. Usually the album is like a big recliner, something I'm comfortable in. Not this time. My visions center around the words "black monk." What if the Monks reunion show finds them taking my advice? I'd suggested they become true black monks. Perform in black face except for their gleaming white tonsures. Remember Pete Townshend in the days of pop art? He wore a jacket made out of the Union Jack. Maybe the Monks could wear jackets made out of Confederate flags. When I suggested it to Gary Burger, he asked what kind of drugs I was on. I had told him that it wasn't drugs, just me twisted little mind. Eddie Shaw just grimaced at the image, like I was a bad dream that would go away if you ignored it. iggy has that affect on people. Will Shade often implores me to return to the cheap Japanese B-movie from whence I came.

A stewardess leans forward and says something to me. I just grin and nod. I have no idea what she wants. Maybe it's important. The flight plan said we would be landing in N.Y.C. at 11 p.m. It's already midnight. I take off the headphones.

"Are we there yet?" I croak.

A puzzled look crosses her face.

"We haven't taken off, sir," she says. "The hydraulic pump on the left engine went out. It had to be replaced. We'll be taking off in a minute. Please fasten your safety belt."

We've been sitting on the plane for three hours. No wonder I haven't felt lift off. It seems nothing ever goes smoothly when the Monks are involved.



I'm staying in Harlem with Tricia. She's this cool poetess who used to go out with Dexter from the Flat Duo Jets. She broke his heart. Good for her. I think she can break some Monks' hearts. Maybe they'll write a new song about it.

We take the subway down to the Monks' rehearsal space. I grab a pita full of falafel. We walk in and catch the tail end of "Oh, How To Do Now." Dave's voice comes over the studio monitor. I can't see the boys in the other room, but I know all their voices. For thirty minutes we listen to the Monks last run through before the Big Day. Eddie's bass buzzes and crackles. "Blast Off" sounds pristine and eerie. The hackles on my neck crawl.

"Nobody sounds like that," Tricia murmurs during the song. "Nobody before or since."

Roger Johnston rides the cymbal until the song hits the atmosphere, disintegrating and burning up. Larry Clark's organ pings and burbles Sputnikia as the song ends. Gary says something. His voice is torn and frayed. Shapes of things to come.

The boys finally walk out. They don't appear to have tonsures. Gary and Eddie are as bald as cue balls. Roger and Larry have decided to hang onto what remains of their hair. Dave's head is covered by a Greek fisherman's hat. None of them have run to fat, though. Gary looks like the woodsman he is, what with his lean frame covered in denim shirt and jeans. Eddie is definitely a jazz man. He's got stylish shoes.

The Monks are trailed by a film crew that will prove to be ubiquitous for the entire week. There's Dietmar, the German director and the lovely Lucia. I instantly fall in love with her dark Spanish looks. Here is drunken Maria in the flesh!

Larry immediately bolts now that business is done. Gary calls Dave back into the rehearsal space and assaults him with Das Furlines take on a couple of Monks tunes. I listen. The girl group's covers don't scare me like the originals do. I say as much. Gary looks over at me and gives a half-smile. You have to live and breathe Hamburg, whores and horror shows to construct torture devices that reek truly of medieval times. The Fall's versions of Monk tunes have always left me unconvinced, too.

I talk to Eddie for a bit, but he has to split. He leaves after we agree to attend his reading at Shakespeare & Co. later tonight. Then, I hang out with Roger, shooting the shit. Roger is soft-spoken and very intelligent, shattering any preconception one would have of a Monk as a rock 'n' roll thug. He likes to read, especially history. I promise to send him a good Churchill biography I've been reading. "The Last Lion" by William Manchester. A good 'un, that. Ah, yes, my little Monk fans. You thought iggy was just some dumb hick who hadn't even got past the third grade. I made it to junior high, you chicken zits!

Dave steps into the stairwell. "I did this just for you after I saw your picture on our website," Dave says, sweeping the hat off his head.

And there it is in all it's glory.Honest-to-goodness Monk scalp Gleaming in the early afternoon New York City sunlight. A real honest to goodness Monk tonsure circa '66. He'd shaved the son of bitch to the skin. I howl with delight as we give one another high fives. "Dave Day, you are my hero!" I hoot. And he is.

Dave and his wife, Irene, invite me and Tricia down to the Olympic Cafe. We say we'll catch up with them. We wait on Gary and the three of us finally meander on down to the restaurant. Strangely enough, the two females order split pea soup while we guys go with chicken noodle.

Ah, you think like I think I think. Great minds think alike. From chicken noodle soup springs strange fantasies. I imagine iggy, Dave Day and Gary Burger as Heroes of the New West, like an old Republic serial matinee that played at the Bijou on Saturday afternoons back in the '40s. And today kiddies, another exciting episode of Tres Amigos. Picture us in Mexican regalia, sombreros, big mustaches and bandoleers crossing our chests.

"Donde esta los huevos rancheros, Gary? Dave?"

"La Plaza de Toros, iggy!"

Then we would wrap our arms around one another and break into song.

"That big black spot/she called it a twat/but it looked more like a manhole to me."

It would go over like a lead balloon. That would be okay, though. The Monks are used to it. Prophets without honor, men without countries, strangers in strange lands etc. Nobody would be ready for us.

Land sucks. Let's go back to the water, boys. De-evolution. Which is what Monk music is. It slithered out of the primordial ooze. That could be another continuing serial. Stop it, stop it, I don't like it!

Anyway, Gary is smitten with Tricia. I don't blame him. She's as cute as a squirrel's nut. He invites her to Sunday night's show as his guest. Cryptic lyrics run through my brain.

"Wait a minute! That, that, that's my girl!"

But she's not. I scare her. When you live and breathe rock n roll, Monks and personality contortions like iggy does . . . well, it's nightmare white, creamy as semen and suicide.



At 7 o'clock, we go to Shakespeare & Co. I grab another pita stuffed with falafel on the way. You can get it for about $2 anywhere in N.Y.C. I haven't seen Jerod Gunsberg in a year. He doesn't recognize me. I've lost thirty pounds since I stopped drinking. I'm as thin and handsome as Errol Flynn after a prepubescent romp. When women look at me they think of two words. No, not marital bliss. Crime spree.

I have a brief exchange with Alex about the American Civil War. She correctly refers to it as the "War of Northern Aggression." She's from Maryland, but she still thinks the Union winning that conflict was a good thing. Go figure. I bail out before I can say anything that will further isolate me. I am in occupied territory after all i.e. New York.

In the storeroom I talk to Eddie Shaw until this very cute chick walks in. She works at the bookstore. I try to make time with her. She ignores both of us until she finds out Eddie's the author reading tonight. Instantly, she turns charming and chatty, batting her eyes at him. She cold shoulders me like the scum bag I am, but hey, who does she think she is? She works at a friggin' book store for Christ's sakes. Not to mention I'm twice as tall as Eddie and have twice as much hair! But not half as much notoriety, damnit. Maybe in 32 years the snobby New York bitches will come for me when I've got nothing left to give 'em. Not that I have much to give 'em now. Just a good recipe for sweet taters and possum pie. And I breed a helluva good coon hound.

Anyway, I'm given the honor of introducing Eddie. The room is full of Monks fans who Eddie: he reads AND writes!have come to see him read from his book "Black Monk Time." Eddie winces as I describe his writing as an unholy menage a trois between Hunter S. Thompson, Lester Bangs and Charles Bukowski. You just can't please some people! All the while, the German documentary crew films away. I hope Lucia notices that I am particularly dashing tonight, runny nose and all.

I compound matters and embarrass Eddie further by reading an excerpt from Dave Davies auto-biography, "Kink." The British rock 'n' roll legend reminisces about playing with the American band in Germany. Ultimately, he dismisses the Monks as "silly." Eddie immediately sets the facts straight, offering the Monks take on the Kinks. He describes them as little narrow chested twits.

Dave Day's also in attendance. At first I don't even recognize him. I think it's because of the fluorescent lighting. He looks like a '70s glam star. Anyway, Dave Day had gotten into an altercation with Davies backstage at the aforementioned show. Eddie reads from his book about the encounter between Kink and Monk. If you want to know more about it, buy the book! Just go to the front page of the Monks website and click on "merchandise." How's that for a plug, Eddie?

Then, Eddie shares a wonderful story about the band, involving a drunken fist fight, military police, tear gas and Larry Clark sitting at an organ wearing a gas mask playing "Green Onions." This time I'm not hallucinating. I swear! The crowd laughs heartily at the image.

Eddie reads a few more excerpts before answering some questions. Dave Day also does the Q. & A. thing. He talks about his hermit-like existence in the forests of Germany and how he finally returned to the States in 1976. He couldn't even speak English anymore and had to relearn the language by reading comic books. Dave is a very emotional guy and the outpouring of love from the audience chokes him up. He's so thrilled to be surrounded by people who understand and adore his music. Hell's banjer, my own eyes tear up!

The real star of the night, though, is this German fan. He's sold everything to get to New York for the Monks' reunion. Including his kidney, me thinks. He brandishes an original "Black Monk Time" LP like it's the Holy Grail. Martin the Monks FanHis zealotry is frightening even to a fanatic like yours truly. He even knows where Roger threw up after consuming too much speed after such and such gig in some small podunk German town in 1967. That's a Kraut for you. They can turn anything into a cult, including a small Bavarian blowhard with bad breath and no sense of humor. I'm not sure if Germans really understand rock n roll. It should be fun, not deadly serious. I think this guy would even collect a stool sample from Eddie and Dave if they let him. He would return to the Fatherland with the strangest piece of Monks' arcana, that's for sure.



It's Friday morning. I sit in Tricia's apartment. She has gone to work. I try to get in touch with Eddie. His phone is busy. I pick up the new Monks CD. At first, I didn't like the title of it, "Five Upstart Americans." Suddenly, I do. Very much so. I realize that's what it meant to be ex-G.I.s in Germany in the early '60s, uprooted from familiar surroundings, banging out a reaction to the British Invasion. Five American boys, far from home, rebels without a clue, disciples of Norman Rockwell having a really bad day. What does it mean to be American now at the Turn of the Century? Are there any constants?

Yes. I believe Jerry Lee Lewis has always been the King of Rock n Roll. I believe the Apollo moon landings were staged. I believe in Jimmy Cagney, a snarling public enemy, smearing grapefruit in his dame's face. I believe in Manifest Destiny. I believe Butch Cassidy was not killed in Bolivia. I believe in a morning pick me up. I believe in an afternoon bracer. I believe in a night cap. I believe booze will rot your brain and your innards. I believe rubbers ruin a fuck. I believe "The Great Gatsby" is the Great American Novel. I believe in the seedy underteatside of the American Dream Beast. I believe Crazy Horse had big medicine to kick the living shit outta Custer. I believe in darkness. I believe in the Big Rock Candy Mountain. I believe the Monks are the Greatest American Rock n Roll Band ever.

I believe it is time to turn Harlem on to the joys of "Five Upstart Americans."



Harlem shows no appreciation for "Five Upstart Americans." At least Tricia's downstairs neighbor doesn't. She bangs on the ceiling with a broom until I turn the stereo down. Oh, well. I guess hearing "I Hate You" played five times at top volume would annoy anybody.

It is time to meet Eddie anyway. I catch the subway to his apartment. He is staying in the same building where Eric Clapton's kid fell out the window. Too bad it wasn't Eric Clapton who fell out the window.

"You know Clapton got a hit song out of his kid falling out the window," I say to Eddie as he opens the door.

I am referring to "Tears in Heaven." I don't think Eddie knows what I'm talking about. I'm not sure he understands half of what I say whenever my mouth flies open, like I'm speaking in tongues or something. Then again, I don't understand half of what I say. Or maybe Eddie thinks I'm very cynical.

"Maybe I could fall out the window and the Monks could get a hit song out of it," I say.

Eddie gives me The Look. Maybe he thinks I'm very mercenary. Eddie is still an altruist despite his protestations to the contrary. His girlfriend, the alluring Sherrie, says hello.

"Do you have any daughters?" I ask.

Yes, I am always on the prowl. iggy needs love. My girlfriend of many years dumped me for a stable guy. Since then I've had a hard time finding a female who will put up with my rock n roll lifestyle and attitude. Recently, I went out with a girl who had two masters degrees in psychology. Even she couldn't make heads or tails of me.

"You're fucking weird," she said to me one day. "All my education didn't prepare me for you."

Anyway, I think that if Sherrie likes a Monk, her genes will run true and a daughter would like a Monk fan. Unfortunately, her daughters are all married. So, I'm She is alluring, ain't she?thinking maybe Eddie will fall out the window and leave Sherrie all to me. I would console her in her grief. She would look very sexy in black mourning wear. I wish the rest of you in my head would just shut up!

Okay, so me and Eddie and Sherrie talk trash for a while. Then Eddie drops the bombshell.

"Gary's lost his voice," he says. "He can't sing."

I shudder. I'll be The One Everybody Blames. I've been pushing for a Monks' reunion for longer than anybody, hounding them to do it. A few of the Monks were initially reluctant to play the gig. I wonder if they will lynch me. I can see Eddie and Roger tossing a rope over a tree branch. A bluegrass song by Bill Monroe runs through me head, "My Last Days On Earth." But I also laugh. Eddie understands immediately. It'll be a Brand New Shiny Ending for the Monks.

"Well, I'm glad you're amused," he says, chuckling.

Jerod and his wife Joanne have scrambled desperately to find Gary a specialist. They are sending him to Pavarotti's doctor. No shit. From opera to over-beat. Anyway, the doctor is going to scrape Gary's throat and give him cortisone shots.

In the meantime, Eddie has called one of the Monks' biggest fans. His name is Mike Fornatale and he can replicate Gary's voice to the T. Unfortunately, he's from New Jersey. But we have no choice. Eddie got him on the phone and asked him what he was doing. Mike replied that he was eating his Wheaties before raking the yard. Eddie asked him if he could come to sound check and fill in. He might also have to do the show. Eddie swears he heard Mike hit the floor, fainting in a cold sweat.

Talk turns to what a milksop gelding Will Shade is, him and his ridiculous idea for an "Illustrated History of the Monks" coffee table book. Finally, we decide to saunter on down to the Westbeth Theatre and attend sound check for tonight's show.

On the way, we stop at a Lebanese place and get some gyros. I wolf down the pita full of lamb, waiting on Eddie and Sherrie. The guy at the counter tries to gouge me, but I cut him in his tracks. Unfortunately, Eddie is not used to New York City's artful ways. He gets ripped off, paying for his gyros twice. He is unaware of this until we are quite a ways down the street.

"That guy got me," he says ruefully, counting his change.

I laugh. The savvy rock n roll veteran, denizen of the fabled Reeperbahn, has been snookered by a recent immigrant to the U.S. of A.

We finally get to the Westbeth. I am still hitting the toilet on a regular basis. I duck inside and find a bathroom. I squat on the can, and lo and behold, my shit comes out wrapped in pita bread.



This is where we came in. It seems like many tomorrow's ago. Anyway, all of the Monks are finally here. Gary can't speak above a whisper, never mind sing. There are about seven of us standing at the foot of the stage. I meet Kelley for the first time. He has similar taste in music to me, which is to say great taste. Will Shade avoids me. That's okay, though. He despises Led Zeppelin and I think his favorite band, the Yardbirds, are extremely overrated. Alex is also here. The Drunk Thumbs' Noel Jones stayed with her in New York a few summers ago. I think they would be a great couple. Two porcupines with bad attitude to burn.

Mike Fornatale enters. He walks with the ataxic gait of a somnambulist. He is a sickly green color. His hair is a rat's nest afro, a cross between the Blues Project's Al Kooper and Jimi Hendrix. I tell him he will have to get a tonsure. He barely notices the suggestion. Mike has other things on his mind. Namely, how to keep from shaking all over. He climbs on stage with the Monks.

I haven't drank alcohol or partook of tobacco in seven months. I'm so nervous, though, I bought a can of Skoal on the way down. I stick a wad of wintergreen tobacco in my mouth, spitting into an empty soda bottle occasionally.

Lucia is here. At first I don't recognize her without a microphone or video camera. I accuse her of following me. She says I am pursuing her. Even paranoid schizophrenics have enemies as the saying goes. At least I am no longer stalked by the red headed men.

The sound check begins. I put all thoughts of liberating my libido aside. After all, nobody has heard this music played in eons. The whir of an organ and the clack of a banjo. The hair on the back of my neck stands on end. Then those immortal guitar lines from "Monk Time." I see God in the guise of Gary Burger. Friday night soundcheckHis left hand doesn't clutch a thunderbolt. Rather, it is fastened around a guitar neck. The six strings fight to free themselves, bucking and skidding like a tractor trailer that's lost its brakes or bellowing down Pig's Ridge like a bootlegger's '41 Ford Sedan gone all katywonkers with 500 gallons of moonshine sloshing around inside.

Yes, there are a few albums as perfect as "Black Monk Time." But they requite your love. Listening to "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" gives you some respite, moments to breathe. Monk music does not. It leaves you unfulfilled, wanting more, MORE, MORE! It is the only music that lay restless in Polydor's vaults for three decades demanding re-release, gnawing at five musicians innards, stretching their nerves so badly that the keyboard player Larry Clark has lived in denial since 1967, carving out a successful business career in an attempt to escape until the music hunted him down in exile in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and howled, "Play me!" This music insisted on an encore 32 years after it was last performed.

The musicians look possessed. They are not the ones in control. This music long ago took on life of its own, independent of human origins. It's the Frankenstein monster, staggering off the gurney as Colin Clive shrieks, "It's alive! It's alive!"

Some of the guys are uncomfortable and appear not to even want to be here. Except for Dave Day. He understands that some things are bigger than he is.

Mike sounds just like a 23-year old Gary Burger, insane with the fleshpots of Hamburg delirium.

And Eddie Shaw is the Devil. His countenance harbors a look that says "Why me?" He is enveloped by eternities. He contains multitudes. He has always played hell's own bass. But he has no idea what that really means. He doesn't truly understand that he is the greatest rock n roll bass player ever. There are other bass players as good as he is. Paul McCartney for one, whom Jeff Beck says is the greatest bass player ever. But Beck has never heard Eddie Shaw. Nobody is as goddamn loud and primitive as Eddie is. I egg him on.

"You play like a girl," I say during a break between songs.

He looks perplexed, like I mean it. I'm just trying to make him angry. Monk music needs to be played when you're pissed off. He runs through a bass scale. He is so loud that it rattles the plastic bottle in my hand. The Monks bash into another one. Eddie leaves me with a left ear as useless as a lesbian's pussy.

Getting their chops backThey run through their entire repertoire, except for "Love Came Tumbling Down." They even do two songs that were unavailable until the release of "Five Upstart Americans." My dark foreboding are greatly diminished. Mike has performed quite admirably, especially for one who thought he would spend the day raking leaves.

Eddie loves the idea of Mike singing. It's right in step with their philosophy "I'm a monk, you're a monk, we're all monks!"

"It couldn't have been scripted any better," Eddie says, grinning.



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