February 14, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks

Tom Petty, March 27, 1980
Pencil on bond paper

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers got lumped into New Wave for a bit, maybe because their debut album sounded like such a throwback? That label quickly proved false, but it did lead me to Damn the Torpedoes.

I was blissfully free of any Byrds or Bob Dylan associations, so I took their work at face value, and loved it. Plus, Tom Petty just came off as effortlessly cool, which was a major selling point to someone who was tragically uncool.

Looking at this old drawing reminded me of someone... who is it? Ah yes, Dale Gribble! No editorial opinion is meant by that.

Stevie Nicks, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

Since 1975, I've had an intense love/hate relationship with Stevie Nicks. She was given a reprieve from my hatred when she started hanging around Tom Petty, reasoning that someone as cool as him would only hang with other cool people, right? Their relationship resulted in some adultery rumors for Petty's marriage and Stevie's debut solo album, of which I genuinely liked 40% of.

Back in the day, the image of Stevie Nicks was compelling, but the musical output that came from it too often bothered me. I was never a fan of poetic mysticism, save for a few tunes from The Doors. And it bothered me that she got the lion's share of attention in Fleetwood Mac, when it was clear that Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie consistently had the goods while Stevie was hit or miss.

A good case in point is the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk. In my mind, the 2-record set is really 3 solo albums. Christine McVie’s songs were faultless, and so organic and seemingly effortless that it was easy to once again take her for granted, rather than praise her as being the most consistently great member.

Then there were Lindsey's songs! I was captivated by the ad hoc feel of his tunes, as if he’d haphazardly thrown a mess of wet noodles on the wall and whatever stuck became a song. They sounded alive and urgent and even when he was pissed off (on something like “That’s Enough For Me”, for instance) it still sounded…fun. “Fun” was never a word one would use to describe any part of Fleetwood Mac, but neither was “alive” and “urgent,” you know? But that’s what I heard coming from him, and at times it seemed like Lindsey was making a jittery new wave record while his bandmates were putting on more cocoa butter to soak up the Southern California sun.

Then there were Stevie's songs. "Sarah" is undeniably pretty. "Angel" remains her best rock moment. But then there was "Sisters of the Moon," which makes me cringe just typing the title.

As soon as I had home-taping capability, I made a cassette of just Lindsey's Tusk songs, with some Christine bonus tracks thrown in. Pointedly, there was no Stevie. And by the time of her second solo album in 1983, I was decidedly anti-Stevie (save for the track "Enchanted"). Turns out Lindsey's production was her emperor's clothing, and here was my editorial cartoon on the matter:

For the Bird, Winter 1983
Charcoal on sketch paper

February 13, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison, Spring 1981
Felt tip pen and letter stencil on bond paper

Only upon finding this stash of drawings from my teenage years did I remember how much Jim Morrison once meant to me. The 1980 publication of the Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman book No One Here Gets Out Alive was a conjuring trick that resurrected the dead. And the first Second Coming of Jim Morrison culminated in his September 1981 Rolling Stone cover with a headline forever etched in my brain: “He’s hot, he’s sexy and he’s dead.”

Jim Morrison, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

While many of The Doors’ singles were still all over the radio, the book (which I read a total of 5 times in high school – even gave an oral book report that garnered an A) led to buying and listening to the albums.  Because it was so evocative of the era, this led to a crash course in 1960s hippie history (Richard Brautigan, Peter Max, youth rebellion, free love and rampant venereal disease), and I briefly fashioned myself a modern day hippie. But hippies weren’t as glamorous as, say, The Warhol Factory, and since both camps did lots of drugs, might as well stick with The Lower East Side over Woodstock (indoor plumbing always wins).

Come the tragic murder of John Lennon, it was The Doors, The Beatles and Black Sabbath who got me through that horrible winter of 1980-81. And come the introduction of marijuana to my world, Jim Morrison’s excess was an inspiration to scale greater heights of inebriation. He set the example that constant intoxication can lead to artistic achievement, so under the ever-present gaze of an American Poet poster on the bedroom wall, I wrote horrible poetry.

Strange Days, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

Come the time I had a boyfriend with a terrible liquor problem, I realized that Morrison de-evolved into a fat, belligerent drunk, and suddenly, the romanticism of him faking his own death evaporated. And year after year, Ray Manzarek’s non-stop worship that relived every second of Morrison’s existence seemed pathetic.  And I am still traumatized by this drum poetry reading by John Densmore.

Since 1980, Jim Morrison continues to be a Burnout Rite Of Passage, like a sexy, psychedelic teddy bear for the Freaks & Geeks years. Walk into any head shop right now, and he’s up for sale alongside the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix posters.

Jim Morrison, Winter 1983

But my genuine take away from that phase is two of their albums: Morrison Hotel and Waiting for the Sun.  To my ears, they stand up proud regardless of historical context or personal memories of Morrison worship… which I forgot I had till I saw these drawings.

February 12, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, March 22, 1980
Pencil on 3-hole punch paper

When I first heard “Brass in Pocket,” it was good enough. Being high on a New Wave frenzy, I was excited for an album that would probably be another in a series of Blondie clones, and that was fine by me.

Seeing the debut album cover for the first time at Camelot Records was exciting; it was just as simple and iconic as the cover of Parallel Lines, but more minimalist. And that red leather motorcycle jacket and fingerless gloves? It was a lightning rod for a girl still in the “dress-up” stage of life.

But once the record needle hit the first track on the album (“Precious”), it was – literally - drop-jaw time. This was so not Blondie new wave fizz – this was some serious rock shit, with dirty words, dirty thoughts and dirty guitar wrangling that had me miming an air Telecaster before ever reaching the final track, “Mystery Achievement.”

The impact of that first listen to their debut album still resonates to this day. It was the songs, the sound, the sequencing of different emotions. That a girl was at the center of it was just one of many transcendent points. But let’s focus on Chrissie Hynde.

Chrissie Hynde, May 13, 1980
Watercolor on bond paper

Whereas Debbie Harry was a goddess, Chrissie Hynde was human. No matter how much makeup and clothing I slapped on, I could never replicate a millimeter of the Harry aura. But I already had the bangs and too much eye makeup – throw in some hastily crafted fingerless gloves, buy a leather jacket and voila! – I could look like a 10th rate knock-off of my new idol (and that I went to high school dressed like that remains one of the most embarrassing days of my youth).

As much as I needed to be inside the music I listened to, I had never felt the urge to pick up a guitar until Chrissie. In retrospect, it feels like an acoustic guitar magically popped into my hand somewhere during the 3rd listen of side one of the album. In reality, it was a $35 Sears acoustic given by my Mom as a birthday gift the following October. But it was Chrissie who inspired the need, Nancy Wilson of Heart who seconded the motion, and that enabled a teenage girl to have the exact same experience as every teenage boy around her. Gender should not be allowed to rob one of that heady musical milestone and Chrissie made it seem as natural as getting a driving learners permit.

Pretenders Space Invaders, October 1980
Pencil and marker in sketch book

Because so much was made of Debbie Harry being A Girl, Chrissie being One of the Guys had real magic. She was following in the footsteps of her musical idols – most all of them men – and her being female never made her reconsider what she could or could not do. That she was able to accomplish all this without sublimating her natural female tendencies was a lesson quickly learned. That she did not make an issue of it made it all the more potent.

In the press, Chrissie wasn’t so much out spoken as honest about everything. From being drunk and belligerent to being broken-hearted and vulnerable, she wasn’t a manufactured image, she just was.  And none of it would have meant much for very long if not for those songs and that band of people.

James Honeyman-Scott instantly became my new guitar god, Martin Chambers made my legs twitch and Peter Farndon was so dreamy. Together, those 4 were dynamite, and I could empathize with the great thrill it must have been for Chrissie to be Just One of Those Guys. Which is why the deaths of Honeyman-Scott and Farndon were such a punch to the gut – it might as well have been the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash for all the destruction it caused to a great rock band.

Chrissie Hynde, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

Chrissie and Martin recovered and moved on, and had many great moments. It’s not like Chrissie could have stopped doing the only thing she ever wanted to do in life. And in the ensuing years, even when she had moments of musical laziness or misfires, she is always genuine in much the same way Keith Richards or Iggy Pop are always true to their code. Chrissie Hynde proves that musical integrity and longevity is not just a Guy Thing, but rather it’s staying true to what you were born to do.

February 05, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Cheap Trick

Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick, November 18, 1979
Pencil on ledger paper

In May of 1979, I was in deep thrall to Rex Smith, so my reaction to Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” on Casey Kasem’s Top 40 was only about how catchy the song was. The “cute guys” in this band had been popping up in the teen girl magazines I read, so I knew they mattered more in Japan than here, but see Rex Smith to know why this introduction went no further.

In August, I did my first round of 12 albums for a penny via Columbia House, and Cheap Trick at Budokan was one of my choices. The sound of the shrink wrap coming off this album was, in retrospect, the trumpets sounding my entry into a new world. Inside the album was a 12-page booklet crammed with tons of photos, lyrics and notes from the band. The cartoonishness of Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos intrigued me, but it was The Foxes that stopped me dead. There was no denying the dreaminess of Robin Zander, with that square jaw, big brown eyes and long blonde hair. But the bass player? Dark wavy hair, crystal blue eyes, hairy chest and a ski slope nose, looking like an idealized Michael Sarrazin.

I was practically salivating as I took this in, and wondering “Why the hell are they in teen magazines?” Because these were men – rock & roll men! All this hormonal upheaval and I hadn’t even put the record on the turntable yet!

Robin Zander, December 1979
Pencil on 3-hole punch paper

Other than Sonny & Cher Live, and Judy Garland at Carneige Hall, I’d never experienced live recordings, so hearing hyped-up Jap girls screaming at the bands’ every move was fun and infectious, and then there was the aural onslaught of Cheap Trick’s music. The guitars and bass roared in golden yellow and dark green waves, the drumming was just as precise and exciting as Blondie’s Clem Burke, and Robin Zander’s voice was elastic and powerful. The album replicated one of their shows; not counting Shaun Cassidy in 1978, I’d never been to an honest-to-god rock concert, so this album was like a Cliff Note’s version of what would happen once I finally got to one, which was very helpful.

The songs that captivated me - “Come On Come On,” “Look Out” (still my favorite song on the album), and “Big Eyes” - were flat-out pop songs, but with a tight, rock bombast that I’d never heard before. It sounded like classic early Beatles’ singles on 10 pots of coffee, and I LUVED it!

They were just as revolutionary to me as Blondie, but in a different way. Whereas Blondie introduced me to layers of lifestyle, art and kitsch outside the mainstream, Cheap Trick introduced me to a world of rock that was devoid of macho posturing and ham-fisted illusions of musical grandeur. Blondie was artsy, edgy new wave, Cheap Trick was hard rock with a showman’s flair, but both groups shared one vital trait: an unabridged dedication to pop music, melody as homage to their idols and inspirations expressed in wholly unique ways.

Ballad of TV Violence, August 1982
Pencil and marker in sketch book

Before summer vacation was over, I got Cheap Trick’s second album, In Color, and adored its big, hollow pop thunder way more than the live album. By Christmas, I had their 1977 debut album, and that was a transcendent moment I’ve yet to recover from.

Cheap Trick directed me up two other important avenues:
#1 Rick Nielsen on the December 1979 issue of CREEM kick started my life-altering love affair with that magazine.

#2 Tom Petersson and Robin Zander allowed me and my best friend, Wendy, to freely and safely express our burgeoning, post-puberty sexuality. We wrote utterly filthy, dirty short stories starring Robin & Tom, and this was accompanied by an enthusiastic series of nude drawings I did of both of them. Where the hell are those teenage scribbles?

February 04, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry of Blondie, June 16, 1979
Color pencil on 3-hole punch paper

For every serious music fan, there is that one song, that one moment that completely changes their life. It’s such a dramatic, cinematic scene, that in regards to that event, to classify one’s life as B.C. or A.D. is the only way to convey the religious weight of it.

My personal Jesus appeared before me the first time I heard Debbie Harry sing, “Yeah, riding high on love’s true blueish light/Ew ew oh oh.”

At the time, I was a Casey Kasem Top 40 junkie. From the first moment I heard “Heart of Glass” the very first week it hit the Top 40 chart, my antennae started quivering. I knew the song was trying to be disco but it certainly wasn’t; there was a lot more going on under the covers. And I suddenly remembered all the little bits about Blondie that I’d run across previously in magazines, and I could literally feel pieces falling into place.

Debbie Harry, September 16, 1979
Color pencil on letter bond

I rushed out and bought the single, and actually liked the flip side ten times more. “11:59” was urgent and pleading while the singer’s voice was cool and detached and the dichotomy sucked me under. Plus, the label said “Produced by Mike Chapman.” Oh, man, count me in!

I then rushed out to buy the album, Parallel Lines, and there was no going back. Despite the prejudice of my religious conversion, the cover to that album is still one of the most striking examples of album artwork, simple yet effective, able to convey layers of meaning and style with just a few broad strokes.


Deborah Harry, November 18, 1979
Color pencil on ledger paper

That album sounded like a jukebox full of promise, sounds that I’d heard in various forms before, but were now brought together under one umbrella. I heard “Sunday Girl,” and “Pretty Baby” and thought them just as yummy and hook-filled as any of my childhood AM pop favorites, and they did a cover of a Buddy Holly tune! But I also heard hard, chaotic, frantic sounds that riled me up, like “One Way Or Another,” “Hanging On the Telephone” and “Will Anything Happen?” and I asked myself, “Is this punk rock?” Plus there was a slow, eerie tune with this dead and hollow drum beat (“Fade Away & Radiate”), a song that mentioned watching someone shower, and the very last song on the album telling someone to piss up a rope. “Heart Of Glass” was the lamest thing on the album, and I was ecstatic!

I tapped my alien powers of information gathering for a crash course on Blondie. I found new magazines like Circus and Hit Parader, but it was blast to find Blondie popping up in staples such as People, US and Dynamite. I very quickly learned as much of the Blondie M.O. as possible, had a broad overview of what they were about, what they represented and how they were popular all over the world save for America, where they were deemed too odd, too different, too “punk.” When “Heart Of Glass” hit #1, I was as shocked as I was pleased.

Deborah Harry, March 23, 1980
Color pencil on 3-hole punch paper

Blondie were a new and different world of music, a stranger, more varied world, where not all songs were love songs, where there was subtext and layers of meaning behind every lyric, every riff, and every artistic decision. Blondie was the tree trunk that sent me out onto a thousand branches, where I finally learned about punk (checked out dozens of albums from the library; the Sex Pistols’ debut album didn’t sound like Blondie, so I didn’t care for it, but the Ramones were intriguing), Andy Warhol, CBGB’s, underground art and films, early 60s girl group pop, and that there was a lively, exotic world thriving outside the Billboard Top 40. I learned more about the world of culture within a couple months than I had in my previous 13.5 years. It was heady and addictive.

“Blondie is a group,” and then there was Debbie Harry. Say it again, my bruthas and sistahs: Debbie Harry! Amen.

Deborah Harry, May 1980
Water color on bond paper

She was (and is) a goddess! Aside from Cher, I’d never experienced anyone like her. She was absolutely gorgeous, cooler than shit and had the most glamorous clothes, shoes and hair imaginable. In print, she was intelligent and insightful, but very coy about her past, her private life and her age, which gave her an air of mystery. She and her boyfriend, Chris Stein, created and ran the band, and she was an equal partner in songwriting, presentation and direction. Again, I repeat, I’d never experienced anyone like her; she was so beautiful and powerful and talented that she seemed more like a comic book hero.

Everything I needed to know about life, sex, fashion and music, I looked to Debbie. And because American media was now as infatuated with her as I was, it was easy to get all the advice I needed.

Blondie Was a Group, January 1983
Charcoal on sketch paper

Blondie profoundly altered my viewpoint of the world, and I had the utopian belief that it affected everyone else, too. I’m sure it did in many quarters across the nation, but at Kirby Junior High in north St. Louis County, there was no change at all. When I dared speak to someone else about Blondie, it was a bad topic. If someone wasn’t talking trash about them being a disco band, they were thinking they were too punk, too fucking strange, uncool.

But I knew they were all dead wrong, and the “Us & Them” mind set took firm root in my psyche. I’d unwittingly found a way to further ostracize myself from the peer group, but this time it left me with a whole other – and better – world to explore, football fields of things to think about, which made ignoring everyone so much easier to do. 

D.H. a.k.a. B, April 1983
Charcoal on bond paper

February 03, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow, November 17, 1979
Ballpoint pen & color pencil on ledger paper

8th grade was turning out to be an even bigger abscess than 7th grade, so I needed new distractions. One of them was an obsession with black & white Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 1940s.

I took a quick break from reading every old Hollywood biography I could buy with allowance money or borrow from the library to commemorate my new favorite fellow-Missourian, Jean Harlow.

(Teenage Scribbles = finding a large stash of drawings I did between the ages of 14 - 20, with the vast majority happening before too many drugs, boys & bold misadventures preoccupied my time.)

February 02, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Suzanne Somers

Suzanne Somers, August 14, 1979
Color pencil on sketch paper

The 4th season of Three's Company would start the following month, so the advance publicity was in gear. Miss Somer's debuted a new hairstyle in all the gossip magazines lying around our home. I felt this was truly noteworthy.

(Teenage Scribbles = finding a large stash of drawings I did between the ages of 14 - 20, with the vast majority happening before too many drugs, boys & bold misadventures preoccupied my time.)

February 01, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Vogue Magazine

Beads, July 30, 1979
Crayola crayon on 3-hole punch paper

Bored on a summer vacation day, leafing through the July edition of Vogue, getting upset that my puberty-ravaged body had nothing in common with anything on any page.

Profile, July 30, 1979
Crayola crayon on 3-hole punch paper

I used to raid my mother's makeup drawer to try and approximate these looks. Paper was more cooperative than my face, thus I went for the higher success rate.

Special note must be made that the skin tone in this drawing, and the one above, was done with the Indian Red crayon. Political correctness was several years in the future.

Hand, July 30, 1979
Pencil and nail polish on 3-hole punch paper

After a half hour with the crayons, I went high concept by filling in the fingertips with my mother's Avon nail polish. To this day, it still gleams all frosty orange.

Jerry Hall, July 30, 1979
Watercolor on 3-hole punch paper

By the afternoon, I graduated to watercolor. And I was not going to pass up an opportunity to draw Jerry Hall, who - even though she had it made by hooking up with Mick Jagger - was still actively modeling at this time.

Oh, how I loved me the Some Girls album from the summer before. Anything to do with it was glamorous - 'cept for maybe Jerry's nose? Can't help but note that I took some artistic license - the junior high version of rhinoplasty.

(Teenage Scribbles = finding a large stash of drawings I did between the ages of 14 - 20, with the vast majority happening before too many drugs, boys & bold misadventures preoccupied my time.)

January 31, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart, July 24, 1979
Color pencil on 3-hole punch paper

The summer before starting 8th grade, I loved disco. So I was not bothered by "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" I even thought that most of the album it came from - Blondes Have More Fun - was pretty damn great.

Later on, I went backwards through Rod Stewart's music catalog and quickly realized why so many were upset. But not before thinking large chunks of Foolish Behaviour was pretty damn great.

RELATED A fictional imagining about THE decisive moment in the downturn of Rod Stewart’s career.

(Teenage Scribbles = finding a large stash of drawings I did between the ages of 14 - 20, with the vast majority happening before too many drugs, boys & bold misadventures preoccupied my time.)

January 30, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John, May 6, 1979
Color pencil on 3-hole punch paper

I was a hardcore Livvy fan, joining her fan club during the 1976 Don't Stop Believin' era. Things were looking pretty bleak for her - both artistically and chart-wise - come 1977's Making a Good Thing Better. Grease saved her career and gave us all something to obsess over during those last innocent moments before junior high began.

Olivia's Bad Sandy and her (still amazing) album Totally Hot inspired me to makeup my face and hair in an endlessly bittersweet parade of 15th-rate imitations (she always had the best hair, didn't she?). Growing weary of the uphill battle, I finally gave that all up and just drew her, instead.

(Teenage Scribbles = finding a large stash of drawings I did between the ages of 14 - 20, with the vast majority happening before too many drugs, boys & bold misadventures preoccupied my time.)

January 15, 2012

James Spader is Fat, and It's OK?

James Spader got fat and it makes me sad.
Above left is James Spader from 1989's Sex, Lies and Videotape, and above right is Mr. Spader from the January 12, 2012 episode of The Office.

It was brave of him to don that formfitting workout suit in the pursuit of comedy, but then we can see just how fat James Spader is, and it makes me angry.

I'm sure Delta Burke is now at peace with her body, but maybe she sees something like this and still feels a tinge of anger at all the grief she had to suffer through because she stopped starving herself.

Do actresses over 40 who starve themselves into social X-rays see this and wonder if it's OK for them to have some cheese popcorn, just a few handfuls, maybe?

James Spader, Alec Baldwin and Val Kilmer are the three biggest examples of working actors who were once ultra hot but who have let themselves go. I have run across some places making whale jokes about Val when he was photographed flopping on the beach, and that was just as fair as all the nasty remarks about Kirstie Alley. But tally the points of Val vs. Kirstie fat cracks for statics on the injustice of double standards.

The long-standing double standards of male vs. female fatties is no longer acceptable because of the number of female voices now in the media. To that end, kudos to Glamour magazine's campaign to include normal-sized models in their fashion layouts. Now let's take it a step further with an article about what a big fat drag it is to see James Spader rubbing his big fat tummy!

Christina Aguilera has let herself spread out, and it's the focus of a Marie Claire cover article. Why isn't Alec Baldwin on the cover of Men's Health as the warning signs of a heart attack waiting to happen?

James Spader again goes for the laugh offering up a tray of Oreo cookies, but it's irritating to see him displaying his downfall without any further retribution.

I've read comments about how sad it is to see what Brigitte Bardot has become, but keep in mind she's old and is no longer in the business. She's living a normal life, and getting heavy and getting old happens to everyone, outside of Hollywood, right? But when you're a steadily working actor that was once a white hot symbol of heart-stopping sex, it's just sad to see it blow up in your face. And that it happens free of the snarky side-eye that an actress peer has to endure.

Oh well. James Spader is no longer hot, he's just fat. Let's look back at what we've lost: