REVIEWS 1979

L.A. Reader | UCLA Daily Bruin | Slash (Church interview)

...
from: L.A. Reader
July 6 — Vol. 1, No. 35

SOUNDS LIKE MURDER (excerpt*)

Lastly, The Last. Yeah, they look like somebody's kids. Three of them are Mrs. Nolte's kids from Hermosa Beach. Younger, less experienced, and infinitely more pop-oriented than any of the other bands discussed here, they are just as exciting and uncompromising in their own right as the rest.


The ringleader is Joe Nolte, a thin, wry guy who's still fighting his acne. Joe is one of the most intelligent — and caustic — musicians that I've met in L. A. You sense that he must have been a real pain in the ass for his teachers. He reminds me of every kid I ever knew in school who was too smart to stay out of the principal's office for very long.


Joe writes songs that fuse graceful pop melody and primordial punk anger and speed without compromising either. Sort of like The Beach Boys Get Pissed. The Last's music shares certain traits with sixties' folk rock protest music, but it is thankfully free of the smug self-congratulatory air and sing-along mentality of that music. The Last's music is made by people who grew up listening to English Invasion bands, the Byrds, and "For What It's Worth." They use older forms as a frarme for wide-eyed social comment drawn from a seventies Southern California perspective. (They can play a mean love song, too.)


In the months since I first saw them, the Last have grrown enormously in confidence and ability. I once thought of them as crudely exciting; now they're just plain exciting. Their Tinker Toy equipment still plays tricks on them with great regularity, but, problems and all, they have provided me of late with plenty of those rock 'n' roll Moments that one remembers with pleasure.


Here are two. In most of their sets, the Last play a slow, rolling, unrockabillylike version of "Be Bop A Lula," that deathless chant of teenage lust. As the band brazened their way through this breathless ode of adolescent carnality, I looked up on stage, and gasped. Joe Nolte disappeared, and Gene fucking Vincent was standing there in his place. No, I was wrong, it was still Joe up there, but the wide-legged stance and the granite eyes suggested everything in rockabilly while imitating nothing.


Moment Two came courtesy of a guest star: Phast Phreddie, the vinyl-addicted former editor and writer for the late local rock journal Back Door Man. Phred took the stage at the end of a recent Last gig at the Troubadour to help the band pounce on a version of the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard." As I looked on with awe, watching Phred shake, twist, pump, and hully-gully through one of the wildest numbers I'd ever seen, I thanked the stars that there are still keepers of the flame around.


The five groups that I've talked about aren't the only games in town, just the best. There's a bounty of unusual, lively outfits around L. A. — just check the Reader listings for a rough idea of the dozens of currently gigging bands in town.

—Chris Morris

[Joe's notes: the other 4 bands mentioned were X, The Alley Cats, The Screamers, and The Plugz]

 
...
from: UCLA Daily Bruin
October 8, 1979

THE LAST EXPLODES

"So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many may be called but few chosen." Matt. 20.16.


The much hailed "L. A. scene" has already yielded at least one commercial success here (The Knack) and in Britain (The Dickies). Some of the best talent remains relatively undiscovered, however, and The Last are a pleasant revelation for any rock and roll fan.


L. A. Explosion is the work of a band with a healthy attitude toward their influences. Acknowledgements are made, musical and thematic nods abound, but the band makes everything sound fresh, as though both they and you had discovered adolesence only the day before.


The Last defy any categorization more specific than rock and roll, and much of the credit must go to the songwriting of Joe Nolte, as well as the many harmony vocal parts he shares with his brothers. On the Buddy Holly-styled "This Kind of Feeling," for instance, the vocals sound as if they might have come right off of Beatles IV, although the music has an American feeling that is alien to British pop.


While the quality of the production does not always live up to the band's ideas, at least the ideas are initially there. The Last are among L. A.'s finest local bands at the moment, and their reputation is certain to grow with as solid a debut as L. A. Explosion! Behind them. The Last may yet be first.


—James Bradbury

[Joe's notes: the Beatle album referenced was of course Beatles VI, not Beatles IV — probably a UCLA typo]

 
...
from: Slash [interview by Jeffrey Lee Pierce]
November

Trouble at the Church

This is a story about the church. You see, the church is this old rotten gray building on Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach. It used to be a house of God, but now it's a house of chaos, since the whole So. Bay punk contingent have moved inside. It's a crowd consisting of Black Flag, the Last, Red Cross, the Descendants, the Disposals, the Urinals, and friends, plus various people hanging out at different times. It's a crazy place to go to, and a good example of L.A. punk music existing outside of Hollywood & Chinatown.

In the wastelands of So. Bay, being a punk is much closer to what it was a couple years ago than it is now. People like Black Flag or Red Cross, with their pinned-on pictures and scroungy look, often find themselves living in a part of town that does not prefer their presence. People at the church get threatened, chased, harassed, and picked on by both surfers and policemen. One night when I left the church to go home, I was pulled over by three squad cars who searched and questioned everything just to give me a ticket for a broken tail-light. The police often bust into the church looking for weapons and "punkers."

Anyway, Slash got together a bunch of them for an interview, including Ron Reyes, the drummer of Red Cross; Keith, singer in Black Flag; and Joe Nolte, leader of the Last; as well as Gregg, Jeff and Steve (who's only 12 years old) of Red Cross. Plus some guy named Scott who is 17 and ran away from home to live at the church.

Slash: So the police have become very aware of you lately?

Ron: The cops know we're here, they don't like us. One night these guys drove by and yelled something, so one of us threw a bottle. They came back and there was a fight. When the police finally arrived, they immediately took up sides and started coming down on us without ever listening to what we said.

Keith: When we first played down on the Strand, the cops knew us.

Joe: There was a party after that Polliwog Park thing and the cops didn't come in, they just stayed outside and busted people as they left. Now, they come in a lot.

Slash: Is this kind of harassment any different as in Hollywood? Like at the Masque or something?

Ron: In Hollywood, they don't get harassed unless there's some kind of legit reason. Like a big crowd or something. Here, they come around without a reason.

Slash: Personal Harassment...

Joe: Anybody who looks like us...

Slash: So why don't you just move to Hollywood?

Keith: 'Cause we hate Hollywood! That's the big scene out there. Fuck that scene...

Slash: I heard Black Flag had some trouble with it. Like getting dropped off good bills and stuff...

Keith: People thing we're real bad boys or something. Everybody knows we're really just nice guys... (laughter in the room) We all work jobs, so we like to just get wild on weekends. Crazy every chance we get. We were dropped off maybe three of four bills. One with X. One with the Alleycats.

Slash: I heard you were recording now...

Keith: We're getting ready to make an album, we can keep it together. We're getting all this free time in the studio at like, one or two in the morning. This guy wants to give us free time, so he can establish himself as a punk-new wave producer. He wants to get Robo to use different drum sounds. Lots of guitar overdubs. We're a "live" band, we don't need that crap...

Slash: You don't care then?

Keith: Yeah, we do. But we're gonna do it our way!

Slash: Who's it with?

Keith: It's gonna be Upsetter, with Chris, hopefully...

Slash: Did you like San Francisco?

Joe: You walk into Mabuhay and get instantly high.

Ron: It reeks... it reeks.

Keith: We'd go over real well at the deaf club, 'cause we use lots of sign language. (he flips us off)

Slash: But you did well?

Keith: The reception was great. We're playing and people are going "commit suicide!" I said, "Go kill yourselves, you fucking homo-pot-smoking jerks!"

Ron: They're all dancing and at the same time yelling "L.A. sucks!"

Slash: Joe, I heard you had a bone to pick with Slash?

Joe: Yeah, I do. Slash editorial policy has been to ignore the Last, because we're on Bomp or something. For some reason, Slash categorizes us among the likes of 20/20, the Pop, and Motels, and we don't belong in that category, because the roots of the Last are basically hardcore. We've been involved in the scene. We debuted at the Masque when it was essentially a showcase for the Skulls... (at this point everybody in the room screams "hooray for the Skulls!") And our music is pop-influenced, but not any more than the Buzzcocks, or the fucking Clash! Anybody who's seen us, know we're not some fucking power-pop Knack clone. The Buzzcocks are more wimp-rock than us.

Keith: Maybe we should throw a benefit for Slash...

Slash: Why do you think the Buzzcocks can get away with it?

Joe: Because they're from fucking England, man! And it's hip to be from England! The only guy who mentions us is Bo Clifford, who's on Bomp...

Slash: So you wanna be in Slash, huh?

Joe: It's a great magazine! I read it religiously. I wish we could see our names in there. We wanna be written about by the great writers like Kickboy!

Slash: Well, you're in the rag now...

Ron: The Go-Go's do basically the same thing as the Last, and they get accepted...

Right around this time, we decided to go up to get some pictures before the sun went down. While we shot photos on the sidewalk, at least two motorcycle cops cruised by and told us to get out of the street. Keith and Joe went to the liquor store and came back with not 2 or 3, but four six-packs of beer. They took some pictures around the area, then Keith had to leave to go to work. So we went back and finished the interview, while the rest of Red Cross and a bunch of friends showed up. At this point, Slash began to get the real dirt.

Slash: Let's get some dirt now. Who wants to be rich?

Ron: Me!!!

Joe: Me!!!

Jeff: Joe does!!!

Scott: Me too!!!

Joe: Of course I do! There's no shower in the church! There's no stove in the church! There's no refrigerator! None of us have a car! We're all fucked! We're stuck here in So. Bay and we're piss-poor!

Ron: I just want tall girls! Negro love!

Joe: Anybody who says they don't wanna be rich is a liar!

Slash: So this isn't aesthetics or anything, you're only after money?

Ron: I think everybody knows there's no money in this...

Joe: It would be stupid to play music to make money! It would be so much easier to go to law school! Everybody down here is playing exactly what they want to play.

Ron: We played a full house with the Germs and didn't make anything for it!

Jeff: You made that agreement...

Ron: Yeah, fine, but...

Joe: You made the agreement, you didn't talk to anyone else in the band...

Jeff: Ron set up that fucking gig! So fuck you all!

Ron: Now wait a minute!!!

Slash: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! How do you fuckers ever live together?

Scott: Dirty!

Steve: You got showers at the beach! Why don't you use them?!

Joe: I haven't had a shower in weeks...

Scott: You! Me!

Slash: Shut up! Shut up! Now listen! Next question, who here is directly influenced by David Bowie?

Joe: 90% of punk-rockers in L.A. are just old Bowie freaks...

Scott: No! Not me!

Jeff: Not me!

Joe: First time I saws Mary Rat, she was all glittered out at a Bowie concert!

Slash: Yeah! More dirt!

Joe: Hung out with my brother Michael back in 1976...

Slash: What's your collective influences?

Gregg: The Avengers!

A Girl: David Bowie!

Scott: Church music!

Joe: Rockabilly!

Ron: No, I don't like rockabilly too much. It's a good joke...

Slash: Marvin Rainwater is god!

Gregg: Penelope Houston is god!!!

Jeff: Penelope Houston is god!!!

Steve: If you changed the bas lines in rockabilly, it might be okay. Some bass every song...

Joe: You can also say that about rock and roll...

Slash: What's the general opinion here of Penelope Houston?

Gregg:

Steve: GREAT!!!

Scott:

Slash: How did you like the Clash doing Be-Bop A Lula?

Scott: They're assholes!

Prescilla: They sounded just like a normal rock and roll band...

Scott: It was cosmic...

Slash: How do you like San Francisco in general?

Jeff: Fags!

Joe: There's more fags in Frisco than anywhere...

Slash: What are some other bands around here?

Joe: The Urinals, the Descendants. The Urinals are great. The most minimal band ever. The Descendants have a lot of real good songs...

Scott: The Disposals!

Joe: The Disposals are an all girl group. Their drummer is this 31-year old housewife...

Jeff: She's an alcoholic!

Scott: Fuck the Descendants!

Slash: Who's paying for the Red Cross recordings?

Steve: I paid for it with my paper route...

Slash: Have you played around town?

Jeff: We played at the Soul Palace once...

Steve: I don't think it's fun being kicked offstage right when we went on...

Slash: At King's Palace? Why?

Steve: Underage...

Slash: What do you think of pornography?

Steve: I only like kiddie pornography...

Ron: Yeah, like see Jane take off her clothes. Look at Jane.

Steve: They asked me if I...

Jeff: His teacher is into punk rock and stuff.

Steve: He looked at my notebook and got all excited.

Slash: What do you really hate?

Steve: I only hate school.

Ron: I hate ugly girls!

Jeff: I hate the Buzzcocks!

After that, people started toying around with the instruments, it all turned into a wild psychedelic jam. Next thing I knew, Red Cross was playing their whole set right there in the room. We left the place, which was littered with beer cans and garbage, to go see X. This gang of people pretty much have their days numbered at the church. They all know that pretty soon somebody's gonna put them out of a home. Then, there'll be nowhere to go. So, as Jim Morrison said, "get your kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames." They certainly will down here...