Eleven years ago, Don Bolles was driving his girlfriend from a rehab facility in Costa Mesa to an AA meeting in Newport Beach, when “a pair of skinheaded Newport Beach police officers” pulled him over for a malfunctioning tail light on his ’68 Doge van. “They searched my man-purse, and found a little weed and a small travel-size bottle of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Magic Soap,” recalls the drummer for legendary L.A. punk group The Germs, intergalactic glamsters Fancy Space People and weirdo rock darlings Ariel Pink. “They handcuffed me, put me in the patrol car, and stuck a little piece of paper into my soap to test it for drug content.”
Bolles was pretty confident they weren't going to find anything illicit in the small bottle, just purchased from CVS, but the cop came back to his van a few minutes later with bad news. The soap rested positive for GHB. Bolles proceeded to spend four days in an O.C. jail. The soap was sent to the real Crime Lab in Santa Ana, and a trial date and bail of $25,000 were set. Bolles was able to raise the money and get released thanks to a MySpace call for help, which garnered donations from the likes of Jack Black and his wife, Tanya Haden.
When he got out, the story of Bolles' arrest was everywhere. “My flip phone wouldn't stop ringing with calls from journalists from all over the world,” he says. “I realized this was major civil liberties fucked-ness. It was insane, but it spawned some great headlines, like my fave, 'Germ Busted for Soap.'"
The story made international news. Jimmy Kimmel even made Bolles the brunt of a joke on his show intro at the time. Dr. Bronner's CEO David Bronner soon got involved, helping with legal representation; the charges were dropped when the crime lab determined that the substance in question was indeed just soap. (Our coverage when he was found innocent was pretty clever, too: "Bolles Soap Opera Over.") Ultimately, the incident became free publicity for the groovy cleansing company and the musician himself, but it also highlighted reliability issues concerning drug-testing.
Even in his punk-rock days, Bolles was never a druggie type, though. He has, however, been an avid pot smoker for decades (I call him Mr. “Bowls”) and one of L.A.’s most eccentric figures, known for donning furry hats, boas and glam makeup at gigs. It’s no coincidence that his brand-new club, Wired Up!, which he co-created and co-DJs with Hammered Satin’s Noah Wallace, debuts on 4/20 at Zebulon. Bolles says he plans some hemp-related goodies that evening; David Bronner will even be there with some product giveaways.
Truth be told, one does not need to be intoxicated in any way to trip out at either of Bolles and Wallace’s parties. The original club, Velvet Tinmine, monthly at the Monty Bar, features wild visuals, a retro vibe and, most important, cosmic ambiance via the music they spin, strictly 45s. They describe the soundtrack as “junkshop” and “bubbleglam,” two retro genres that gained a significant new fan base in recent years. Even if you recognize only some of the selections they play, the flashback-ish energy will suck you in.
“Junkshop glam is a term coined by Tony Barber of The Buzzcocks, who made compilations with Phil King [The Jesus and Mary Chain, Lush, Felt] in the early to mid 2000s under the titles Velvet Tinmine, Glitter From the Litter Bin, Boobs and Glitterbest,” Wallace explains. “It was a way to describe the records made by all the groups in the ’70s that wanted to be like and sound like Slade, Sweet, Bowie, T. Rex, Mott, Roxy Music, etc., but did not have any luck hitting the top of the charts. It was primarily European groups. They called it junkshop because they found them for cheap in British secondhand shops in the ’90s and 2000s.”
Today these records are anything but cheap. They are rare, highly collectible and pricey, but for obsessives like Wallace and Bolles, well worth it. The pair play from colorful vintage record cases they haul to the club, and almost every treasured disc seems to come packaged in a uniquely colorful sleeve, depicting shaggy-haired boys and girls you’ve never heard of in shimmering frocks and makeup, or cartoony illustrations that look like something Sid & Marty Krofft might come up with.
“I personally got interested in junkshop glam when I started collecting glam records back in the ’90s,” says Wallace, who’s been in similarly glitzy groups out of L.A. the past few years, including Teacher’s Pet and S'Cool Girls. “Back then, prior to the Velvet Tinmine comp release in 2003, I just called it glitter rock. I found an old copy of Bomp! magazine that had a section on glitter rock that talked about Iron Virgin, Ricky Wilde, Chicory Tip, Jook and more. So when Velvet Tinmine came out, I already owned at least half the stuff on it. But I was completely blown away by the stuff I didn't yet know on those comps! I didn't know 90 percent off the Glitter From the Litter Bin comp and was even more blown away when that came out. These collections changed my life!”
Wired Up!’s name was inspired by a Hector song and a coffee table book about the bands, their records and the vibrant singles' picture sleeves, Bolles and Wallace will bring out more bubbleglam, bubblegum and junkshop sounds, plus live bands (Bolles’ silver-jumpsuited ensemble Fancy Space People play Friday) for the night.
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When we visited the guys at the Monty this month, their excitement about the music and their upcoming new night was infectious. As he threw a purple boa around my neck and picked out a sliver of vibrant vinyl to spin, Bolles sought to express his excitement: “It’s super simple, mega fun, great production, a pounding beat and gorgeous sassy vocals. There’s just an undeniable feel that grabs you by the collar and yanks you out onto the dance floor, causing you to jump around like a spaz and have a great time. It's the ’70s we never got to have here in the U.S. Here, all we got was one Gary Glitter B-side, a couple of Sweet and T. Rex hits, and a Bowie song or two. Slade, one of the biggest bands in Europe, weren't even heard here until Quiet Riot covered their songs in the ’80s!”
If two clubs celebrating the bodacious beats and glitz of the unknown ’70s isn't enough, Wallace and Bolles hope to bring junkshop out from under the disco ball, too. The twosome (who met when both played at a roller rink in L.A.) just debuted a show on Dublab.com called Kitten Sparkles Glitterbox, broadcasting every third Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. In the debut episode, they interviewed King, who explains the genre, the subgenres and his comps in depth. Listen here.
Wired Up! with Fancy Space People, Dr. Bronner's freebies, prizes for best ’70s glitter get-ups, the "Solid Tin Dancers" and DJs Don Bolles and Noah Wallace, Fri., April 20, 9 p.m.; free. At Zebulon, 2478 Fletcher Drive, Frogtown.
Velvet Tinmine at the Monty Bar, 1222 W. Seventh St., downtown; first Friday of every month.