Photos by Alex Zorn & Mike Fornatale
is Part I of a two part frothing rant from iggy.
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.
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.
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
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.
don't surf!" Kilgore bellows. "Monks do!"
are you, Brian Wilson?
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.
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.
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
we there yet?" I croak.
puzzled look crosses her face.
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
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.
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
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
sounds like that," Tricia murmurs during the song. "Nobody
before or since."
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.
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.
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!
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,
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!
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.
there it is in all it's glory.
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.
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.
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.
esta los huevos rancheros, Gary? Dave?"
Plaza de Toros, iggy!"
we would wrap our arms around one another and break
big black spot/she called it a twat/but it looked more
like a manhole to me."
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.
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!
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
a minute! That, that, that's my girl!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm given the honor of introducing Eddie. The room
is full of Monks fans who 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.
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
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?
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.
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!
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
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
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?
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.
believe it is time to turn Harlem on to the joys of
"Five Upstart Americans."
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.
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.
know Clapton got a hit song out of his kid falling
out the window," I say to Eddie as he opens the door.
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.
I could fall out the window and the Monks could get
a hit song out of it," I say.
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,
you have any daughters?" I ask.
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
fucking weird," she said to me one day. "All my education
didn't prepare me for you."
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 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!
so me and Eddie and Sherrie talk trash for a while.
Then Eddie drops the bombshell.
lost his voice," he says. "He can't sing."
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.
I'm glad you're amused," he says, chuckling.
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.
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
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.
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
guy got me," he says ruefully, counting his change.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
sounds just like a 23-year old Gary Burger, insane
with the fleshpots of Hamburg delirium.
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
play like a girl," I say during a break between songs.
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.
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.
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!"
couldn't have been scripted any better," Eddie says,
contents copyrighted by the Monks