Friday, December 11, 2009

The Sonics - "The Witch" From the Album Here Are The Sonics and
The Hives - "No Pun Intended" From the Album Tyrannosaurus Hives

The Sonics Here Are The Sonics album cover The Hives Tyrannosaurus Hives album cover

Always stumped for ideas, I was thinking about maybe writing a post where I was shooting this imaginary game of pool with the lead singer for The Hives. And then I thought, well, what if I did the research, and what if I found out that, to a man, the members of the Hives reject billiards? What if I find out that they all hate the game? What then?

And so after that I thought--a little confused, I'll grant you--that research was the hobgoblin of small minds.

Fuckin' Misfits! So then, here we are: I'm hanging out with Howlin' Pelle Almqvist at this bar I've dredged up from my memories. It's in New Orleans (or it was), and it has (or had) plenty of smooth, clean tables, and featured the fuckin' Misfits on their jukebox, how 'bout that?

The front door to the joint has been left open and you can hear the raindrops hitting the pavement outside over the muffled sounds of Bourbon Street five or six blocks away. It's hot and of course it doesn't get any more humid. I'm wearing a white cotton button-down longsleeve, and if I couldn't see 'em, I can feel the soggy ellipses in my shirt traced by the dripping sweat under my arms. The fans hanging from the double high ceiling, swirling languidly, don't help in the slightest.

Dixie's Blackened Voodoo:  not sure if this stuff is still around or notSo yeah, Almqvist and I are shooting pool. Since it's my world, and since it's New Orleans, I'm drinking Blackened Voodoo lager. The Hives' frontman is drinking Jameson's with Bass ale chasers. He's wearing black slacks, a black vest and a black shirt with red trim. A red cravat is tied aound his neck. I think to myself that he's got to be just about parboiled in there. His hair, now sweatslick, is parted at the side and combed over. His pupils are tiny, and he's frantic from one moment to the next. He calls nine ball in the side pocket, and I shake my head, mutter to myself, "tough shot."

Pelle slows down for a second, looks me in the eye and says, in his slight Scandinavian accent, "I'll make it, my friend."

His shot doesn't go as planned. Instead of hitting the nine, the cue ball hits the three, which hits the thirteen which kisses off the opposite rail . . . and squarely hits the nine, which drops into the side pocket.

I shake my head again, resisting a smile, and Almqvist quickly jumps onto the table, spreads his legs wide apart, looks down at me, and shouts, "I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so!"

The cashier in his booth stands up, and yells, "hey!" and Pelle rapidly descends from the table, but the rest of the match goes similarly. When he breaks, he screams, "a get together to tear it apart!"

When he knocks my seven ball away from the corner pocket, where it had been blocking his stripes, he says it had been his "main offender."

And so on and so forth.

Eventually, slightly annoyed at the histrionics, I take off my glasses and look at him. "Howlin' Pelle," I say, "why don't you give it a rest? You're with a friend. I know your songs, man."

"Ahh," he replies, "but did you buy The Black and Blue Album?"

He has me. "No," I admit. "But I downloaded some of the songs," I say with the complete and utter honesty you always ascribe to yourself in dreams and other imagined scenarios.

"Now see what I mean?" he asks me, bringing his fist down softly against the forest green felt in front of him. The cashier is watching him warily.

"Actually I don't. None of the songs you quoted were from The Black and Blue Album, I'm realizing. And Lord knows I've given you plenty of opportunities to scream 'Try it Again.'"

My words hang in the air awkwardly even as the billiard balls on the tables around us continue to clack as they collide, even as the steaming bayou rain continues to fall outside.

I attempt to smother the awkward silence. "You know, Pelle, I love the suits. A lot of people say The Beatles were never as good again once they stopped wearing suits."

Pelle gets back to the game, leans over the table, studying a cross-table shot involving his six ball. "You know, you can talk to me--you can talk to us, to Niklaus and to the rest of us--about the Beatles. Not like those Gallagher Brothers, for ten years if you mentioned the Fab Four, they'd go into a fucking conniption fit."

Well, well, well. "Sure, the Beatles. But really," I say thoughtfully, or at least hoping a thought will come, "when I think of the Hives, I'm reminded of The Sonics. Talk about a singer who could howl. Everybody covers the Sonics, but I think only the Hives could bring something additional to 'Cinderella.'"

Almqvist shoots and drops the six. The shot that went awry notwithstanding, he's a good player, beating me consistently, that's for sure.

"We used to cover 'The Witch' in Fagersta," Almqvist tells me as he chalks, careful to keep the blue dust that flies off away from his slacks. "Crazy fucking song. And Christian always talks about how manic their drum sound was . . ."

"Kurt Cobain said something about that, too, I think."

"Ah, fuck Cobain," Almqvist says to me, dead earnest. He turns away from me and communicates to the waitress via hand signals that he wants another Jamison's and that he wants another Bass. Turning back to me, he says, "I'm tired of hearing about Cobain. The man's been dead for fifteen years, and still he hasn't the decency to go away. Nirvana had one-tenth the sophistication of either The Sonics or The Hives. . . ."

Almquist's comment pisses me off, because, you know, I like Nirvana. "I always thought that Bleach--while not exactly garage--had the same purity and the same intensity," I say, as evenly as I can manage. "And you know, growing up in Aberdeen, I bet Cobain heard the Sonics before he was fourteen years old."

The waitress brings Pelle his drinks. "You might have a small point. But if Bleach owed part of itself to the Sonics, by Nevermind all Cobain wanted to do was sound like the Pixies. And I have no use whatsoever for that band, none at all. And here's what else: where was Cobain's showmanship, man? Kurt staring at his amps for two hours doesn't cut it if I'm in the audience, friend. You ever watch Nicholaus Arson play his guitar during a show? He's a clear and present danger. My God, this planet in its post-Cobain rapture needs The Hives so very much. If there really was a Dr. Rock, his prescription to the world would be us."

"You know, six or seven years ago, they said that The Hives were part of the 'garage revival,' but the revival was short-lived, and the patient's gone terminal. The movement's dead--even Jack White is playing the blues in Nashville these days--but The Hives have transmuted and they have survived. We're not as heavy as we were, and we shouldn't be. We're not very punk any more, and we don't want to be."

He drains his ale in one draught, and takes what I now realize to be the last shot of the game and of the match. "Far corner," he says, as we both watch the eight ball roll smoothly across the felt on its way into that very pocket.

Shit, I just got dogged. I think it was four games to one. That's the last time I fucking play imaginary pool with a cocksure Swede who hates the Pixies, I can tell you that.

Almqvist starts taking his stick apart, and tells me, "I'm meeting someone at Landry's soon. Thanks for the games. It was great to play, I rolled you, so . . . . No pun intended."

The Sonics - Here Are The Sonics - 01 - The Witch.mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File Under: Garage

The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives - 04 - No Pun Intended.mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File Under: Garage Revival

Note: the opinions expressed by Pelle Almqvist in this blogpost do not necessarily reflect those of La Historia De La Musica Rock, nor do they, for that matter, necessarily reflect those of Pelle Almqvist.


tad said...

Rastro: Jeezus! My Ghod! WRITE A NOVEL! Yr dream pool-match w/ Pelle reads like a movie: I can SEE IT. All this great stuff is going 2 waste.... Well, mayB somebody'll read yr blog & offer U a book deal. I'd buy a copy. ... Was I babbling? Sorry.
I don't know either of these bands, but the Sonics hava great reputation up here in my neighborhood (as U've noted in yr comment about Kurt C. likely hearing them in his youth). The Sonics & the Wailers (Tacoma, Wash. band) were sorta the predecessors of the Kingsmen & the Ventures, yes? & apparently a lot more, if I'm reading U right. Keep up the great work....
BTW, Pelle isn't a "Swedishman," he's a Swede. Isn't he? -- TAD.

rastronomicals said...


Absolutely right on "Swede." I did a quick search, and what was returned suggests only that it's a common error.

Thanks for pointing it out and I've corrected it.

A shame because I liked the dactyllic rhythm (BAH-dah-dah) the nonexistent word brings. "Cocksure Swede"--with which I've replaced it--(BAH-dah-BAH) is good there, but not as good.

Ah well.

Can't write a novel because my ideas are too small . . . . but thanks for the praise. Tell your friends.

I know, you have, and I appreciate it.

The Sonics (also from Tacoma) covered "Louie Louie" on one of their albums, and as I found from reading the Wikipedia article on the band as I was doing research for this post, one of their songs was a Wailers cover, too.

So those guys would've predated The Sonics (at least in the regional/national consciousness).

Not sure when the Ventures broke. Melanie's a big fan of them. They of course were more surf rock, but garage and surf shared some characteristics for sure.

I know you prefer to read and not download, but do yourself a favor and download "The Witch" and give it a listen. Like Pelle says, it's crazy, man.

And if you like that, you might wanna dig up "Cinderella" and "Strychnine." Those three, at the least, are like "Louie Louie," "96 Tears" and "Wooly Bully": indispensable.

There I go, longwinded again. . . . thanks, Tad.

tad said...

R: I'd B the LAST person 2 call YOU long-winded. & I don't mind NEway, just keep doing it.
On the downloading: I mighta tried it w/ my old computer, which supposedly had MASSIVE amounts of available memory (which wasn't enuf 2 keep it from dying after my mother wrote a book on it & I wrote the equivalent of another 1), but w/ the current tiny laptop & the teeny amount of memory I was warned about, I'm a little scared 2 try it.... I will look in2 the Sonics, tho....
...& if current publishing shows us NEthing, it's that NO idea is 2 small that it can't B Xpanded in2 a massive 1,500-pg trilogy, or better yet an open-Nded series.... So, try short stories, then? U're really already writing them.... -- TAD.