Photos by Alex Zorn & Mike Fornatale
is Part II of a two part frothing rant from iggy.
air crackles, shedding sparks. It's Electric Twilight.
The Westbeth Theatre radiates an incandescent aura,
more magnificent than St. Peter's in Rome. The city
itself is suffused with a glow. I shine like a 1000
looks fantastic tonight. She radiates Swinging London
with a Brian Jones haircut and a red vinyl raincoat.
Tricia shucks off the outer garment, revealing a saucy
black outfit. I squirm uncomfortably. I'd make a pass
at her, but it wouldn't be a good scene. Pepper spray's
an aphrodisiac for me.
scans the lobby. Most of the crowd is pale and pock-marked,
arrayed in motley attire.
rock people sure are an ugly bunch," she says truthfully.
person, who shall remain anonymous, asks me to keep
an eye on Dave Day. Dave has an insatiable taste for
don't want another Munich," the unnamed party says to
me, assigning the thankless task along with an enigmatic
piece of the Monk myth.
periodically check up on Dave at the bar. I try to be
subtle about it, but he knows what I'm up to. Fortunately,
he's good natured about it. He's absolutely overjoyed
to be in New York, surrounded by autograph seekers and
fans. Dave needs love more than anybody I know. And
he deserves it.
you think we'd really be doing this?" he asks me. My
only answer is a grin. I have a smile so big that a
plastic surgeon will have to scrape it off. He looks
at his wife, Irene. "He's so proud of me," Dave says.
And I am. He is my rock n roll hero.
and Gary talk about hunting?" Dave suddenly asks, his
pale blue eyes sparkling.
seems I have something in common with every Monk. Me
and Gary hunt. Roger and me like to read. Eddie and
I consider ourselves writers. Me and Dave are Gene Vincent
freaks. Larry and I, well, maybe I don't have something
in common with every Monk.
I tell Dave that me and Gary ain't got a chance to swap
bear hunt, right?" Dave queries.
only thing I love as much as rock n roll is bear hunting
with dogs. The baying of Plott hounds in the early mountain
morning as they track a bear and bring it to bay makes
my flesh goose pimple. Especially if I've got a gram
of methamphetamine in my system and rockabilly in the
tape deck. Bear hunting with Elvis on crank! It don't
get no better no how. Anyway, I answer that yes indeed
I do bear hunt.
time you kill a bear," Dave suggests. "Shave its head
like a monk!"
you think like I think!" I whoop.
wrap my arms around Dave and give him a hug. At this
moment, Lucia finally nails
me for an interview. I've seen her coming for me a couple
times, but I've managed to avoid her. Now, I'm backed
into a corner. Literally and figuratively.
a minute," I say. "Is the camera on?"
answers in the affirmative. I pull Dave's Greek fisherman
hat off and plant a big fat sloppy kiss right on his
tonsure just for Lucia. I know she is imagining me
doing the same to her. I would give her the nicest
tonsure you've ever seen. Then I vomit verbal sewage,
spouting clichés like the sports journalist I used
the fabled moment draws near. I hustle a couple of Monks
up to their dressing room. Me and Tricia squirm into
the main room. A quasi-legendary New York outfit does
a short set just before the Monks come on. The Third
Bardo are most famous for a garage-psych nugget from
'67 called "I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time." With their
theremin and disoriented lyrics sending shivers through
me gonads, it's vintage psychedelia. Not lame ass Grateful
Dead garbage posing as hallucinatory discombobulation.
That San Fransisco stuff ain't worth a pinch of dry
owl shit. I'm glad Jerry Garcia is dead. I wouldn't
piss on his piles if they were on fire. Ever mind. It's
audience screams as a cabinet bearing the legend "Monks"
is set up around Larry's keyboards. It's REALLY HAPPENING.
Kelley looks like he's about to shit a squeal worm.
of us at the sound check now have to share our heroes
with the unwashed masses. Struggling through a crowd
of 800 to catch sight of the Monks bites. New York is
full of major dickheads. Dietmar's made a short documentary
film, which is displayed on a screen behind the stage.
The crowd is restless.
this crap off!" they shout. "We want the Monks."
personally want to see the film. But some chicken zit
in front of me keeps up a running dialogue through it.
At one point, Dave Day is on the screen, reminiscing
about when Gary discovered feedback. The rocket scientist
in front of me shows off his erudition.
feedback," he says sarcastically. "Do you remember the
first time you guys hit a drum?"
a fuck brain. Doesn't he realize that Gary Burger is
one of the very first people ever to use feedback, one
of the Pilgrims To The Mecca Of Distortion? Of course,
that's the beauty of rock n roll. It's totally topical,
showing no respect for the past. But still...
asshole," I whisper in his right ear.
reach up and grab his other ear. Hard. I twist it until
he begins writhing in pain.
are my friends you're talking bad about," I drawl. "I
don't know how you'uns do it here in the city, but down
South it takes nine pounds of pressure to rip somebody's
let go. He turns around, face screwed up in fury. He
sees the gleam in my eyes that only somebody still pissed
off at having lost Gettysburg can get. He says not one
crowd continues to hoot and holler, jeering the film.
The Monks finally take the stage. They are beautiful
and sublime in black robes and rope ties. The audience
loses its collective marbles. The band takes off their
robes and arm themselves for battle. Mike takes the
stage with his idols. He walks stiff-legged and sweat
beads up on his forehead. Mike is dressed all in black
like the other Monks. He scurries off, hiding in the
hate you, baby, with a passion," somebody in the audience
hate you, too," Eddie replies.
crowd howls with delight. They're totally fascinated,
like they're watching backwoods preachers handling snakes.
The guys rip into "Monk Time." And they're off. Gary's
voice is shot, but he manages to rasp his way through
the lyrics. The crowd is stunned. It's one thing to
hear the Monks on a stereo. Live is another matter.
Atoms ricochet off my head. The song finally shudders
to a halt. Gary brings Mike on and introduces him as
the son of a Monk. Gary announces that his voice is
gone and Mike will be filling in for him. The audience
accepts this without a murmur.
up, is "Oh, How To Do Now." The song structure teeters
at times. In the old days, you couldn't have slipped
a credit card in between the chord changes. The Monks
aren't that tight anymore. Occasionally, somebody muffs
a key for a few measures, but their enthusiasm and energy
make up for it. There's no doubt that they played this
stuff six days a week, eight hours a night. After 32
years, the machinery is a tad rusty, but you can tell
it was well oiled once. Their instincts take over. A
modern band could never come close to approximating
the past few years, I've kept Gary supplied with a steady
dose of cassette tapes in the mail, everything from
the Drunk Thumbs and the Sonics to the Butterfield Blues
Band. He said it's reignited his passion for rock n
roll. Gary's been bragging to me that he sounds better
than in the '60s. And he ain't lying. His tone has grown
hair, like a herd of woolly mammoths on Rogaine. I hate
Gary Burger. He gets sounds out of his guitar that I
want to get out of my writing. There are rubber scorch
marks inside me cranium. Gary plays much looser than
on record. He uses the original versions as springboards,
hurtling past the bridge and hurling himself into gales
of feedback. His hangnail solos are wildebeests on tricycles.
Gary and Eddie act like two kids, posturing to see who's
the toughest one on the block. They love to push each
others buttons. That's imperative with Monk music, though.
It's a highwire act, balancing tension and egos. When
they're playing, the two work off one another to a degree
that borders on the psychotic, I mean psychic. The friction
is replaced by a chemistry that the two had better realize
they will never find in another musician. They're like
tag-team wrestlers. Eddie pins the song to the mat,
allowing Gary to kick it in the head. Repeatedly. iggy
has strange vision of them entering the WWF as the new
is the essential ingredient in their foreplay. Currently,
Roger is not as in practice as his bandmates, but he
still has that jungle groove hardwired into his genes.
He and Eddie make up the most unique rhythm section
in rock n roll. It's impossible to understand over-beat
until you actually hear it in person. Roger is louder
than Jesus stepping out of the Book of Revelations with
a hangover and a hard on. He grips his sticks upside
down, punishing his kit. His tom toms bellow in protest.
can't sing at all. The
audience accepts Mike as lead vocalist, no questions
asked. Mike nails every song, including the high parts
Gary isn't able to do anymore after thirty years of
cigarette smoking. Gary channels his frustration into
playing guitar. I used to think Link Wray was the greatest
live guitar player I've ever seen. No more. Gary Burger
Is The Man.
Dave. Well, Dave's just Dave. Wind him up and let him
go. Larry is far more tentative. He sticks to his original
solos, even though Eddie goads him to get loose and
nutty. Guys who retire from IBM at 49 as multi-millionaires
just don't get loose and nutty anymore, though.
shines on one of his two showpieces, "Drunken Maria."
He's the Buster Keaton of the group i.e. the Great Stone
Face. And not just his visage. His vocals are deadpan,
sounding exactly like the recorded versions. He's beyond
bored. His vocals don't even suggest "So what?" They
say "Big fucking deal."
hates being just a sideman. Sometimes he gets down on
his knees, doing an Elvis impersonation. Nobody, except
those well-versed in Monks' lore, understands what he
is doing. He steals Eddie's lead vocals during "Boys
Are Boys." The bass player glares at his bandmate. I
hope to see a fist fight on stage. It doesn't happen,
though. That would be really cool.
of the crowd haven't heard the two unreleased songs
from "Five Upstart Americans." "Pretty Suzanne" doesn't
go over well. With its caesuras and slow tempo, the
crowd gets edgy. For one thing, there's not enough banjo
clacking through it.
the fuck is this?" somebody shouts. "Blue Oyster Cult?"
have no idea what that means, but it strikes me as hilarious.
The guy's a couple cousins short of an Appalachian orgy.
Unfortunately for me, I understand the non sequitur.
Understand it in me bones not my head that is. The roots
of my raising run deep to quote Merle Haggard.
other new song, "Hushie Pushie," is another matter.
It's electric ragtime, Scott Joplin on speed, waving
an icepick. It's strange and goofy enough to instantly
enter the canon.
the song I've been waiting for, "Cuckoo." It's beyond
transcendent. Roger sings it like he's reading the stock
market returns and he has no money invested. Mike's
falsettos are Xerox copies of the originals. How does
he get that high? Somebody would have to wail me in
the nuts with a pool cue.
"Monk Chant" Dave and Gary cross the necks of their
respective instruments, conjuring
shards of feedback. It puts dueling banjos to shame.
The crowd roars its appreciation. Kelley looks at me
and just shakes his head in awe.
crowd yells the chorus to "Shut Up," raising fists
and pounding out the beat in mid-air. I pinch the
fire out of myself. I can't believe this.
show finally ends. The Monks toss their rope ties
into the audience. People eagerly grab for them. The
boys've come through with flying colors. With some
help from a guy from Jersey. Go figure.
the audience demands an encore. The guys have kept
"I Hate You" for the occasion. Roger sits back down
and begins thudding out the beat, bearing Armageddon
on his back like Atlas with a second wind. Anything
more would be indulgent hyperbole.
sucks. I'm sick. I don't leave Tricia's apartment
all day. The flu crouches in the corner like a wet
dog. My head throbs. I wish I could grab a new pain
killer. Maybe a double barreled shotgun. We watch
terrible movies. I bombard Tricia with twisted emotions,
mixing misogyny and regret in some sick psychodrama
cocktail. She finally takes to her bed, exhausted
by four days of the iggy experience. Hell, I'm exhausted
by a lifetime of the iggy experience.
still haven't met the girl of my dreams. I thought
she would be here, if anywhere. This is the Monks'
debut gig in the United States, the first time all
of them have been together in three decades. I was
convinced that would attract my soul mate. I'm thinking
she will hitchhike from Weberville, Arkansas or somewhere
like it just to see the show. And then We Will Meet.
Finally. I've been waiting for her for my entire life.
I need a chick who digs the Monks. As observed in
my semi-mystical essay, "The Day of the Monks," Monk
music is mainly masculine music. A woman who digs
the Monks one half as much as I do . . . well, if
she understands and loves Monk music, she will understand
and love me. But so far, no luck. The Monks are huge
in Germany and Sweden. When Gary and Roger were still
Monks, they met two Swedish girls who became their
wives. Maybe I'm looking on the wrong continent. Me
thinks a Swedish girl would accept me for the deranged
rock n roll citizen I am. And cherish it. Where are
you, Hushie? I hate you, but e-mail me. In case you
haven't figured it out yet, this is a personal ad
posing as an article.
me and Tricia hustle down to the WFMU record show. Jerod's
here. He's got the flu now. Apparently, so does Larry.
iggy comes to N.Y.C. bearing contagious gifts in the
form of a virus.
missed the Chocolate Watch Band on Saturday night. They're
going to do a set at the record show, though. I browse
through the dealer's bins. I find some overpriced Small
Faces albums, going for $400 a pop. There's one I really
want, but not at that price. I don't understand collectors.
Who wants a framed album displayed on their wall? I
want it on the turntable where it belongs.
Chocolate Watch Band play for a while. Their new tunes
are a let down. Nobody came to hear that stuff. Things
start to cook when they churn into "Let's Talk About
Girls." Unfortunately, it's too little, too late.
Eddie and Dave are here. Mr. Burger has his voice back.
He sounds like he's been gargling with thumb tacks.
He has the Coolest Voice Ever. The trio do a live interview
on the radio. I've heard all the stories before, so
I just look for a Wanda Jackson country album I need.
I find it, but it's $200 dollars. Sheesh.
me and Gary catch a cab across town.
going to sing tonight," he says. "Give the crowd some
love it. Gary refers to himself in the third person
just like General MacArthur used to. Anyway, Gary is
in rare form. Our cabby is one of the few white boys
in New York driving a hack. He has no idea who he has
in the back seat i.e. the man who has a legitimate patent
claim on feedback and frenzy. All he wants to talk about
is what makes the best cab. Me and Gary try to talk
football, but the cabby keeps interrupting us.
now that's a good car," he says. "Bigger back doors.
More leg room."
that right?" Gary queries.
points to different cars, sarcastically asking if that
would be a good cab. He keeps nudging my leg and grinning.
I giggle like a conspirator pouring gasoline into a
bottle. Gary is one of the original rock n roll revolutionaries.
Propaganda by deed. Lying is the art of pleasing others.
get to the hotel. Roger is watching football. We sit
around, discussing the Detroit Lions' surprising season.
Me and Gary stretch the truth, swapping hunting stories
for a couple hours. Soon, it's time to return to the
Jerod, Jo and Kelley and his girlfriend accompany three
of the Monks out to eat. Sherrie comes along with Eddie.
Jerod announces we are going to the place where Dylan
Thomas drank himself to death after consuming something
like 39 whiskeys.
it? I'm going to drink 40!" I declare.
order water along with my burger. I don't want to die
quite yet. I want to see tonight's show first. Then
I'll die fulfilled. Gary, Eddie and Larry chat away.
To them, it doesn't seem like it's been 32 years since
they parted ways in Germany.
just like we played Hamburg two weeks ago," Eddie says.
"Took a break and now we're playing another gig in New
stories swarm like a hatch of mayflies splattering on
your windshield as you zip down the highway.
the hell does 'Oh, How To Do Now' mean?" I ask.
is something that's always bothered me.
we were sitting on these five adjacent toilets. And
I said 'Oh' as it came out," Gary says, raising his
finger. "And Ed then said 'how' and . . ."
just a Southern cracker. Jerod and Jo are sophisticates.
They should know better. But none of us do. This is
A Story We Haven't Heard Before. Our eyes shine. We
are being let in on a piece of the mystery. Eddie nods
empathetically. Gary is full of shit, but so earnest
we swallow it. These guys could sell us the Brooklyn
Bridge. Gary finally cracks up.
putting you on," he says, chuckling.
faces drop. We wanted SO much to believe. We eat our
dinners. Larry leaves first. He is the Monk who is sufficient
unto himself. The rest of us relax for a while. Me and
Gary make plans to hunt in Minnesota. Finally, we get
ready to depart. Gary pays for me and Jerod and Jo.
Somehow, Eddie ends up getting ripped off again.
get to the Westbeth Theatre. Tricia doesn't show up.
She's iggy-ed out. Can you blame her? Anyway, I have
a Japanese friend who has come from Connecticut to see
the Monks, but he can't get in. The show is sold out.
He stands at the door for an hour until they take pity
on him and sell him a ticket.
all girl group of Japanese girls play. They're called
the 5, 6, 7, 8s. What they lack in technique, they make
up for in sheer chutzpah. They're these tiny slips of
girls, clad all in black leather. They're stunning.
Maybe iggy needs a Japanese girlfriend. Anyway, they
butcher some cover songs in the most ravishing manner,
skewing the lyrics in a way only people who can't pronounce
their "L"s can. Gary and me watch them for a while.
Mr. Burger is clearly delighted with them.
go back upstairs to the dressing room. Dietmar and Lucia
are still at it. They have documented the Monks' every
waking moment. I wonder if they've caught any of the
Monks picking their nose. Finally, the 5, 6, 7, 8s end
their set and come upstairs. They are introduced to
the Monks. The girls giggle shyly. It is probably the
high point of their rock n roll career. They pose with
Gary and Roger for photos.
believe you could have some Japanese poontang if you
wanted some," I whisper in Roger's ear.
just shakes his head in confusion. The Monks really
are overwhelmed by New York's reaction to them. It's
going to take them several weeks to digest everything.
the Monks take the stage. Tonight's show is just like
Friday's. But more so. The Monks are much more comfortable
tonight. Gary handles most of the lead vocal chores.
Wisely, they decide to keep Mike around to replicate
the original high parts. The set smokes Friday night's.
The Monks play every song on their set list before stalking
off. The crowd is still insatiable, stomping and shrieking.
The Monks return to the stage. They don't know what
to do. Gary turns to Roger.
down a beat," he growls.
Johnston gives him a look that translates to "Yeah,
whatever." But he does. It sounds like workmen dropping
cinder blocks down a flight of stairs. Eddie instantly
locks down on top of it. He knows exactly what to do
with this shit. He's a jazz man. It's improv time. Gary
summons feedback, casting the Morning Star out of the
heavens. Fiery the angels fell and as they fell, deep
thunder rolled around the shores. He takes his guitar
off and swings it like a razor-sharp pendulum in front
of his amp. It shrieks like a Bosnian war bride raped
song goes where it wants, roaming like a pack of starved
wolves. The crowd froths. This is magic. We are seeing
a New Monk Song, one that has never been heard before.
Does it get any better than this? Finally, it screeches
to a halt, a train wreck colliding with a school bus.
The Monks have laid waste to New York.
all bolt upstairs. Kelley staggers around, having no
idea what to do. He slumps on a bench. Eddie grins at
were we better than the Pretty Things last year?" he
grip his shoulder and we lock eyes. That's all the answer
he needs. Jerod approaches me. Last year, we had argued
about whether the Monks should reunite or not. He thought
the myth was best left intact. Jerod is so swept up
in the moment he drops his customary New York cool.
were right," he says.
of not, he believed in the Monks enough to help coordinate
and fund the festival. For the moment, he is no promoter,
though. He is just a rock n roll fan who has seen the
Monks. He's like a five-year-old who got a rocket launcher
for Christmas. 'Nuff said.
grabs me by the arm.
get a beer," he says.
go downstairs to the bar. Gary buys me a brew. He is
accosted by fans demanding his signature on CD jackets.
the other guys down here," he says. "They need to be
round them up and we troop downstairs. It is the closet
thing to Beatlemania I will ever see. Each Monk is surrounded
by dozens of fans. Dave beams. Larry, of course, squirms
uncomfortably. He doesn't understand why people like
this music. He would rather play "Green Onions" for
Standells' set is anti-climactic, despite delivering
the goods. Their versions of "Medication," "Try It"
and the garage archetype "Dirty Water" are impeccable.
But it doesn't matter. The Monks own New York, heart
and soul. The Standells are as legendary as the Monks,
but the crowd came to see the tonsured ones . The
Standells are just icing on the cake.
wake up early. I've got to leave today. My parole officer
only gave me five days out of state. I go to Eddie's
apartment and hang out for a while, saying my good-byes.
Eddie hands me Monday morning's newspaper. The New York
Times has delivered the verdict. Usually, the cynical
city journalists crucify middle-aged white boys who
want to play rock n roll. It's funny that they never
slag a 70-year old Bo Diddley. But he's black. That's
off limits. Anyway, the newspaper actually lavishes
praise on the guys.
years after breaking up, the Monks have arrived. Some
are born posthumously.
note: iggy is unsure of whether he actually attended
these shows or if it was a dream.
contents copyrighted by the Monks