Mink Deville (Capitol)
Hey washed old rock guy what’s your favorite record? Ya know, as in album, CD, download? I’m going with the first one to pop into my head. Now if I were angling for a broadening of my hip cache I could have opted for some obscuro reference that I could lord over the unknowing, my taste cred skyrocketing. But as I prefaced earlier, that would only burnish my hipness. A free moment of insight: I’m an old rock guy, I don’t need any more cool credentials thank you, just walking upright above ground is as dialed as I need be, your approval a long faded desire.
I have no doubt that when asked most anyone would be hard pressed to name just one because there are musical works that are favorite in different ways. My favorite Brian Wilson (Surf’s Up) and my favorite Germs (Forming) hold differing heralded spots. Or Neil Young (Tonight’s The Night) or Buzzcocks, or The Jam, or George Jones, all essential in their own right and so I too share this quandary hence I’m going top o’thee head style.
As a native Angeleno of a certain age, 61, and being a corndog from the valley (D. Boon r.i.p), there is no separating my musical journey from the advent of KROQ. Up until the former KPPC was resurrected as a wild cat outpost for radio reprobates you had the mighty KMET (tweedle dee), maybe KLOS but that was all big label MOR crap and for a lot of us, the younger demographic, this just wasn’t cutting it any more. Once I got to Rodney and Jimmy Rabbit and the rest of the wild style DJ’s and heard the new music it all changed. Before ‘New Wave’ there was just Punk and then whatever bullshit Eagles crap they were spewing from the corporate world. So everything on KROQ could be saluted under the ‘Punk’ flag.
Amidst the Pistols, Blondie, The Ramones, The Weirdos, The Clash, The Pretenders (all ‘punk’) escaping the speakers of my radio came an outlier. It didn’t sound punk but there was something in there that screamed punk rock. The attitude. (Stupid digression warning- my dear pal Keith Morris (CJ’s, Flag, OFF!) and I were kicking it having a morning Joe, he’s telling me about doing a story for the LA Weekly about his favorite album, just then my phone alerts an email, for some reason I’m tasked to do the same. Ha-ha! take that punk rock icon, little nobody me got the same request) Keith says what would yours be? Before thinking I blurted “first Mink DeVillle record” thus…
The gateway song was “She’s So Tough” by Mink DeVille and it indeed checked a few of the actual punk rock boxes, subject matter, a hard guitar, the girl caused the singer to say “I get so jacked up -right off my feet.” Damn that was how I wanted to feel about my girl. I bought the album and a new world was opened to me. It was like reading your first Raymond Chandler novel. The world Willy DeVille and his cohorts created was a living environment that existed in a totality. I was a young man from the cultural hinterlands of the SFV with zero street smarts. When I heard Willy DeVille proclaim that his girl had the “Cadillac Walk” and did the “Spanish Stroll,” and that she was a “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl” and though not entirely experienced in these things oh man I had no problem identifying with the sentiment. Willy had some inside dope to share with me on the “The Party Girls,” and post this foretelling, how sage he actually was. So many times in my life have I, when a relationship sours, sang the couplet from “The Party Girls.”
“Tell me baby are you tired of me, our conversations, the games that we play.” Nice heads up pal but the real genius and guidance of this song comes in the resolve. After detailing the myriad ways in which his emotions had been played out by his paramour Willy decides the best remedy is to just walk the little girl home. That’s what he’s going to do, he’s gonna stroll her home. Such a dear conceit coming from a pompadour sporting, switchblade flashing, backstreet crawling, punk.
The music accompanying these tales didn’t hew to the current trends. The music struts and staggers down the streets of NYC. Doo-wop and blues, boogie woogie, latin percussion and guitars sleek but steel hardened tough. Songs about riding on the A Train paint so clear an image that you can taste the Yoo-hoo and smell the exhaust. A world of mohair suits and smeared eyeliner. Red light bulbs and lipstick as you fix then crash. Savior-faire.
Mink DeVille was my Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen always hit me like a suburban kid that imagines all these interesting scenarios where Willy DeVille wrote from what seemed to me experience, true or not, the Jersey in Springsteen was not something I identified with but those streets that Willy sang of, I aspired to inhabit that world. As I came of age and became old enough to underage sneak into bars it was Willy DeVille and Bo Diddly that guided my behavior. Though still a pup I had spine and knowledge mystically handed down to me from fellow travelers. Punk was never meant to be a style but a way to see the world. To see the world with an unapologetic passion, whether it be the Germs passion for conflict, the Buzzcocks passion for love, or my good pal Keith’s suburban refutation of civic order. It was never about codified music and fashion. A few years later when “punk” became popular it was over for me. A million kids dressed in a uniform, dripping with the same signifiers claiming individuality (I see a lot of the OC cookie cutter punks now showing their MAGA stripes), they were never punk to begin with. Punk was inclusive of any outsider group brave enough to forge forth on their own terms regardless of style or popularity. Mink DeVille were the essence of punk rock.
Thelonious Monster’s new album Oh That Monster is out on November 3 via Immediate Family.