Held Nov. 10-13, it was
indeed an All Star Spectacular at Brooklyn’s Bell House.
Text & Photos by Michael Passman
Opening Night Thursday,
November 10th had Norton Records Employees The Nor-tones, Dex Romweber Duo, The
Phantom Surfers, The Alarm Clocks, The 5,6,7,8’s, and The Black Lips.
The Norton Records 25th Anniversary was a practically non stop
rock ‘n’ roll party for four days straight.
The best in garage/surf/primitive R&B all gathered around Norton
Records and its founders, Billy Miller and Miriam Linna. There was never a less than stellar act
playing and never an unhappy person in the room. Some of the acts were legendary, some of the
acts popular, some of the acts were new but make legendary rock ‘n’ roll, but
nearly everyone, both attendees and acts, gathered together, mingled, and
watched the weekend unfold to some of the greatest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. It was a party, a rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza
reminiscent of the older rock ‘n’ roll tours that combined Jerry Lee Lewis,
Little Richard, Elvis, Buddy Holly, etc.
The Nortones opened every night of the party with a great blast
and a lot of fun with their Norton High letter sweaters. They improved nightly and most people got
there at opening time every night to catch them.
The always memorable Kim Fowley emceed for most of the weekend
and participated with his vast knowledge and experience about great rock ‘n’
roll in all its glory and perversity.
Dex Romweber Duo brought in the opening night with their own mix
of R&B, Memphis
blues, and a good measure of Hank Sr. that gives them their famous combo or
raunch, subtlety, country, and heartache.
Dex Romweber Duo
The Phantom Surfers followed with incredible tunes lined up with
what looked like a double-necked Fender Jazzmaster and a performance that was
out of this world. An added treat for
the show was Russell Quan (The Mummies, The Bobbyteens, and The Chuckleberrys)
joining them on stage for more than a few fun antics and rock ‘n’ roll
The Phantom Surfers (also with Russell Quan)
Cleveland, Ohio ‘60s garage rockers The Alarm Clocks
came next with their trademark Gretsch fuzz and incredible songs to boot.
The Alarm Clocks
A surprise ‘hello’ came afterwards from the Detroit legend and sharp dressed rock ‘n’
roll survivor himself, André Williams.
Kim Fowley then joined him for some on stage perversion that’s the stuff
that legends are made of.
André Williams (also pictured at the top with Kim Fowley)
The 5, 6, 7, 8’s followed.
An all girl trio from Tokyo, Japan best known in The West for their
appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill.”
Japanese rock, like many Western things co-opted by Japan, is often
considered exciting and fun, but more of a novelty instead of being important
in its own right. The 5, 6, 7, 8’s was a
little surprising since it was less raunchy than many of their recordings, but
their sound of roots rock with hints of rockabilly and great surf guitar
melodies proved they are a true rock ‘n’ roll band and more than deserved their
place in the lineup with better known modern acts and legends both old and new,
as well as equal praise.
The 5, 6, 7, 8’s
A special close to the first night was a late announced addition
of The Black Lips, a self described “Flower Punk” act who have received much
critical praise in their prolific career, as well as a dedicated following of
mostly younger fans. Many of the older
attendees cleared the room for their performance since their fans have a reputation
of rowdiness, nudity, and general youth debauchery that is part rock ‘n’ roll,
but is also at times merely showing off in elation to draw attention to
themselves. As expected, the crowd got
rowdy for their show, but them being fans that came for the Anniversary and not
their performance, it was the least rowdy crowd to be witnessed at a Black Lips
show, which made their performance a lot more exciting. The added treat was King Khan joining them
onstage for a tune at the end of their set
The Black Lips (notice flying alcoholic beverage related
The Black Lips with King Khan
Day 2, Nov. 11
With a phenomenal opening night and looking forward to the lineup
for the next few days, we all knew it was going to be great, but we had no idea
how one great night can build into another and another. Friday night’s festivities were no exception,
starting with early readings by André Williams and Kim Fowley in support of
their books “Sweets” and “The Lord of Garbage,” respectively. The weekend
“house” band, The Nor-Tones, made a louder ruckus than the night before rose to
the occasion of playing on par with so many stellar bands and legends. Great Gaylord with the Condo Fucks made a
rousing, soulful noise to start with.
The frontman sounded way too young for his talents and gave many an
almost “Where the hell did this guy come from?” impression.
Great Gaylord with The Condo Fucks
Mark Sultan, a one man band legend, also shared in the night’s
performances. Mark Sultan has constantly
been touring for yours. Although he’s
among those who have been seen the most compared to others in the weekend
lineup, Mark has a soulful voice and a songwriting ability that seems to keep
evolving into something greater.
A great swinging band from Japan came up next that absolutely
wowed the crowd with crazy on stage antics and great surf music with garage and
rockabilly overtones, Jackie And The Cedrics.
They’ve had a few brief stints touring The States a few years back, but
few people in general knew about them other than their Norton 10 inch. They left a lasting impression.
Jackie And The Cedrics
The Reigning Sound was the band that everyone was waiting to see
that evening. Gregg Cartwright and Co.
have put out music that some revere to be among the best album ever made, “Too
Much Guitar”, and they’ve transcended the typical garage rock labeling with a
broad and loyal following. Their
performance of songs like “I’ll Cry” and “We Repel Each Other” brought the
crowd to a roar.
The Reigning Sound
The final lineup for the evening was the revolving lineup of the
Norton R&B/Soul Revue. This
definitely was an all star show from start to finish that included Marcus “The
Carcass” Natale from The A-Bones on bass and Mick Collins from The Dirtbombs as
the backing band. The revue started with saxophone legend Lonnie Youngblood.
A special appearance by The Mighty Hannibal, who was led onstage
by King Khan, to the roar of the crowd.
Being blind and surviving a recent stroke, the only limitation noticed
was him needing a few minutes to find his microphone. The audience remained transfixed on him
through the whole performance. The man
is a giant in R&B and rock ‘n’ roll.
It was great to be part of an enthusiastic crowd giving him his
due. Joining in to take his place on the
throne was the Happy Organ man, Dave “Baby” Cortez.
The Mighty Hannibal
Next to take the stage was André Williams, the great Chicago
R&B singer/songwriter/producer whose hard life and periodic relapses into
addiction are well known and harrowing.
André is a true survivor who still gets out to tour regularly, despite
his increasing age, but his sobriety gives him much more vitality than he
displayed years ago. André is loved by
all and is finally reaping the benefits of his contributions to music. André was on fire, full of energy, and had
the crowd in a frenzy by the time the band and him ripped into “Agile, Mobile, and Hostile.” About two thirds through the song, he stopped
singing. We then saw his wife rush up to
the stage screaming “Andre, stop!” The
crowd got quiet while fellow musicians and performers came out from behind the
curtain while the band continued playing the song. We weren’t sure what was happening, but
everybody stood still while the music kept playing, waiting for an
outcome. Lonnie Youngblood and Mick
Collins both moved over to either side of him and played the song the rest of
the way through. André caught his
composure, finished up with the last song, and his set was over. Maybe he over extended himself, but we were
all very relieved that he was ok.
The final act in the all star revue to come on stage was Melvin
Davis, a Detroit producer and performer who’s made some of the best soul songs
in the past 50 years, among them being “Chains of Love” which was brought to
the world by The Dirtbombs on their album “Ultraglide in Black”. More raves came from the crowd and mostly
songs that few people were very familiar with, but in true Norton Records
fashion, Melvin and the rest of the all stars took us backwards to show us how
we got here. That evening and the
performers showed everyone what true rock ‘n’ roll is, from the one man wail of
Mark Sultan to the outrageous, high energy of Jackie And The Cedrics, to the
incredible soul music of The Mighty Hannibal, André Williams, and Melvin
Davis. It was an unbelievable evening.
Day 3, Nov. 12
A diversion uptown to check out The Left Banke interfered with
catching The Nor-Tones, Daddy Long Legs, and The Hentchman (of whom I really,
really dig, unfortunately). I arrived
back at The Bell House in time to catch The South Bay Surfers, composed of a
rotating lineup of rock ‘n’ roll hooligans. The Norton Anniversary version was
Dave Klingaman, Lorin Peterson, Joe Cardinal, and the perpetually enthusiastic
Russell Quan. A great act, but Russell tends to always steal the show no matter
how hard he tries not to.
Lorin Peterson of The Subway Surfers
Joe Cardinal, Dave Klingaman, and Russell Quan of The South Bay
Another CA based act, Luis & The Wildfires followed. Their upbeat, hell raising act leaned towards
rockabilly, but it was definitely more rock ‘n’ roll with a little rockabilly,
including a rousing, crowd cheering cover of Joy Division’s “Digital.”
Luis & The Wildfires
Next was Untamed Youth, the Missouri based act led by legend Deke
Dickerson. All accolades and compliments
warranted. One cannot say more other than mention the band participated go-go
dancing contest that followed. There
were go-go dancers on stage, but all the band members danced better than them
according to the crowd response.
Untamed Youth (3rd pic: It’s Not a Party Until Beer
Deke pulled a double sitting in with another legend, The Randy
Fuller Four following his previous set.
This act is steeped in garage rock history as well as Texas rock history, and it’s a very rare
treat to hear and witness.
Randy Fuller Four with Deke Dickerson (all cleaned up after the
Question Mark & The Mysterians ended the evening in
outlandish and outrageous style that was hot, soulful, and rousing. Oh yeah, all anyone remembers from that one
is singing along to “Da Doo Run Run” and “Be My Baby” with help from The
Crystals La La Brooks supplying the helping pipes and her huge fro, then being
outdone by Question Mark and The Mysterians ripping into “96 Tears” with their 66
year old leader’s fringed arms in psychedelic shirt outstretched and putting
the audience into a trip. Exactly.
Day 4, Nov. 13
The notorious Bloodshot Bill opened up the final evening, in his
pajamas, reasons unknown.
The Figures Of Light followed, a brand spankin’ new band
including the stellar Mick Collins and Miriam Linna
The Real Kids sadly had to pull out, but New Jersey’s Swingin’
Neckbreakers filled in the slot and joined the party:
The A-Bones, composed of Norton Records founders and showcase
hosts Billy Miller and Miriam Linna hit the stage and got the crowd going, most
notably with “Outcast”, a song made famous by The Animals.
Suddenly, Flamin’ Groovies Members Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney
joined them on stage and the crowd turned into an elated pogo pit when they
broke into “Shake Some Action”, “Teenage Head”, and “Slow Death.”
A mouth-watering treat came next with The Tandoori Knights,
composed of King Khan, Bloodshot Bill, and an outstanding upright bass player.
That was a great evening, but it ended with the fathers of all
things garage and distortion, The Sonics!
They were on fire. Every song was
eaten up by the crowd, including a few new ones that had a slight ‘80s lean on
them, but were still great rockers.
“Strychnine,” ‘Dirty Robber”, “Boss Hoss”, “Psycho”, and of course, “The
Witch”. The whole weekend was one
revelation/incredible band after another.
It was also the best music festival EVER.