L.A. Explosion -8/15/79
.(Bomp BLP4004; Trash (Japan) TRSH-2001; Line
.(Germany) LLP 5015AS; London (UK) SH-Z-8540);
reissue: Lolita (France) 5041 - 1985
reissue: Line (Germany) in the mid-90's
reissue: Bomp (CD) BCD4004 - 2003
(Bomp CD has bonus tracks)

 Where can I buy this CD?

 L.A. EXPLOSION - where the songs came from

 by Joe Nolte

 

"L.A. Explosion", as conceived at the end of '78, was to be the ultimate Last showcase album. (Being a first album, that kinda goes without saying.) It would feature the best of the stuff we'd worked out during our one year recording career, including definitive re-recordings of our first three singles.

Ahem.

It did represent a good cross-section of some of our best stuff, but the "She Don't Know Why" re-recording is arguably inferior to the original, and the third single ("L.A. Explosion", the title song) didn't even get re-recorded. Ah well . . .

I'd been exploring '60's motifs musically since early '74 (at least), but between August of '76 and April '77 I went a little nuts. The emerging punk thing seemed to me to be a rebirth of Rock & Roll, and I had this urge to play with some of the various genres prevalent in the last Golden Age, some ten years earlier. I did Beatle influenced stuff, Stones, Who, Kinks, Surf, Garage Blues, Garage Psych, Folk Rock, you name it. Each song was deliberately designed to come out the way it emerged - it wasn't accidental by any means.


One unexpected result of that flurry of sixties songwriting was that to this day I find myself incorporating '60's motifs into my stuff unintentionally. It used to worry me, and indeed for a time in the mid to late '80's I deliberately rejected anything that sounded retro. Which in retrospect (no pun intended) was stupid.


You write how you write, you write what you want to write. You gotta please yourself if you want to have a prayer of reaching anyone else.


Anyway so I'm older and wiser now, and back in the late '70's I was too young and stupid to care about the "retro" epithet.

Now I was writing a lot of punk stuff too, again copping from Modern Lovers, Dictators, Pistols, Ramones, Clash, etc. - working a lot of stuff out in the process of attempting to find my own voice. There would also be ballads, more traditional straight ahead rock, the occasional medieval malady (Don Waller coined that term), etc.

At the end of '78 Bomp was ready to spring for a Last album. We spent December '78 through mid February '79 in a small practice studio in Santa Monica working material out under the direction of John Harrison, staff engineer at Village Recorders, former Hawkwind bassist, and now our producer. He assisted us in choosing songs for the album, and though it's a fairly representative cross section of the stuff I'd been writing it does seem to have turned out rather '60's biased. Hadn't really planned on that happening.

Recording details for all this will follow, but a word here about the production is relevant. The goal of Randall Wixen, our manager, and John Harrison was to "clean us up". I was not opposed to the idea - after all, we were a bit ragged, and we did want to make a good album. It would however transpire that Harrison was vehemently against almost anything approximating distortion. The few times we attempted to introduce an appropriately funky amp, fuzz tone, etc. (anything to get that drone thing happening), the results were disastrous. Not musically disastrous, because we were never able to get far enough into the distortion experiments to find out.


It turned out that any time we broached the subject in word or deed we proceeded to butt heads with John Harrison. Nothing would get done, everyone would argue and we would waste a lot of precious time. Since without John Harrison there would be no album (he was sneaking us into the Village in the dead of night, usually), we quit trying, and let John have his way.


On the plus side, he indulged my every overtracking whim, and a good listen to the album on headphones will reveal a bizarrely large amount of vocals and instruments playing over and around each other on nearly every track. So I had my fun.

Unfortunately, the result is not what people were expecting. At the time we had a total of three hilariously awful sounding singles. Not that they sounded bad, per se, but they were so low fi, so primitive, so awash in reverb that it was difficult for most people to listen to them. Word on the street was, however, that we were poised to do amazing things, and would certainly produce a masterpiece once we got into a proper studio.

Ahem.

The word on the street after "L. A. Explosion" came out was: "What happened?" All my friends, from Phast Phreddie to Chris Morris, from the Screamers' KK to Bomp's Greg Shaw, were appalled (though some grew to like it). It sounded way too weak, way too tame, and was missing all the fire and power of our ragged live performances.

In spite of all that, KROQ played the thing and we found ourselves catapulted to the upper echelons of the local scene (for about two months, but I've told you that story).


We vowed to make sure we didn't repeat the same mistakes with future recordings.

Now, 22 years later, none of our subsequent recordings have had anywhere near the impact of this one, and the "L. A. Explosion" album is considered by many to be a classic, and by most to be our finest hour.

Go figure . . .

 

 SHE DON'T KNOW WHY I'M HERE (lyrics)

Listen to a clip of this song: (Real Audio)

Listen to a clip of the single version of this song: (MP3)

  (written April 1977 by Joe)
Most of the songs I wrote about girls were indeed about living, breathing, actual, specific girls. In most cases I'm going to identify said sirens by an initial, so as not to offend them. In this case, however, since the song is not specifically a torrid romantic diatribe but rather a socio-political observation, I'll name names. Brother Mike had known these three girls from his glitter days, and introduced me to them January 1977. We all hung out, I would occasionally drive them to the all-too-rare-in-those-days punk rock show, etc. etc. It was watching their reaction to and fondness for the early punk bands, while being in the unfortunate situation of not being able to gig yet, that I began to feel like a glorified chauffeur . . . the three girls were Helen, Mary and Trudi. Trudi was the "girl with the raven hair" - she became the only non-musician in the scene to have a fanzine devoted to her, and is currently married (with children) to K.K. - drummer for the late lamented Screamers. Mary was the "girl with the soft blue eyes" - she is better known to those who remember the glory days as Mary Rat. Helen is better remembered as Helen Killer - the girl who punched Sid Vicious in the mouth by accident in '78. Musically the song is an obvious homage to the Castaways' "Liar Liar".

 

 THIS KIND OF FEELING (lyrics)

Listen to a clip of this song: (MP3)

  (written Jan 14, 1977)
I wanted to write an ersatz Beatle song - in the period spanning late Summer '76 to late Spring '77 I was obsessed with recreating various 60's motifs, little knowing how such a brief obsession would mark me nor the influence it would arguably have - so I thought, if one wants to really sound like someone, one should aspire not to sound like them, but rather to sound like whoever they were trying to sound like. So I imagined myself as a young John or Paul trying to rip off the Everly Brothers, and came up with this. It's not about anyone, as far as I can remember.

 

 BOMBING OF LONDON (lyrics)

Listen to a clip of the single version of this song: (Real Audio)

Listen to the single version of this song during a 1978 radio interview - (Real Audio)

  (written March 1977)
More Beatle obsession, word-wise. Musically, this one started out in the early '70's. In 1971 I saw a film (don't remember the title) which was either about the Olympics or Drag Racing. In one scene they cut to a nightclub, where this Japanese band was playing what we would now term "Classic Punk Rock" - i.e. Seeds, Music Machine type stuff. It was oddly moving and inspiring, and indeed was one of the primary primal influences leading to the formation of The Last. I had a cheap electric guitar and amp at the time, and tried desperately to reconjure the song they played at home. Never could quite finish it.
(In retrospect, it's immediately obvious that, tune-wise, it owes a great deal to "The One Who Really Loves You", "Mother In Law" and "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind" - there was something about that 1-1-1-6 melody that obsessed me throughout my childhood.)
Anyway, in 1977 I returned to it, and imagined the Ramones trying to do a Japanese band trying to do the Seeds, and Bombing resulted. Musically, it's pretty much what I wrote at the age of 15.
Lyrically, I was thinking about how being born during the Nazi bombings of England could have potentially affected the outlook and psyche of the various Beatles, and after that it pretty much wrote itself.

 

 CENTURY CITY RAG (lyrics)

  (written Spring 1975)
That's right - '75! The old progressive/anarchist band I'd had with Vitus had broken up in the fall of 1974, and in early 1975 I was experimenting with a few different styles. I wanted to do something different - progressive wasn't it, clearly, I wasn't about to go metal (too obvious), so what resulted was a combination of strange medieval ramblings and my first serious forays into ersatz 60's recreations. Among them was this obvious Who ripoff, lyrically based on someone Vitus & I had known who was one of the most manipulative people we'd ever met, musically aspiring to sound like the lost song from "The Who Sell Out".

 

 WALK LIKE ME (lyrics)

  (written Feb 9, 1978 - revised Mar 20, 1979)
As originally written in '78 this was essentially a Clash ripoff - exploring the theme of punk rockers as the new proletarians, "let me count the blisters on your hands" being an obvious homage to the French Revolution, where if you didn't have enough blisters they typically guillotined you. I tried to write it straight but as it progressed toward the end it was clear that the anarchists singing had become the new dictators. Way obvious and cliche, but it was fun.
We'd already recorded the backings for it for the album when I attended the St. Patrick's Day show at Elk's Lodge, which turned into a Police Riot. Many friends were beaten up for no reason, and I, having seen the whole thing, was appalled. I've got pages on this, and may share them later. At any rate I immediately rewrote some of the words (the Riverside reference refers to a similar incident that had occurred days before at a Germs show in that city), and the song became a serious diatribe against the fascism of the time.

 

SLAVEDRIVER (lyrics)

Listen to a clip of this song: (MP3)

  (written February 1978)
Basically a tongue in cheek homage to all bosses. I started out pissed off against my current boss, but was unable to keep the song serious, for obvious reasons. There is an obvious "oh shit" just before the instrumental, so it was rather bizarre when KROQ started playing the thing in the fall of '79. Wow, swear words on the radio. This was evidently a favorite of the early fledgling O.C. punk rock kids, who used to chant it while skateboarding.

 

EVERY SUMMER DAY (lyrics)

Listen to a clip of this song: (MP3)

Listen to a clip of the single version of this song: (Real Audio)

  (written August 1976)
This girl I knew (who shall be identified as "L" a little later) was a few years older than I, and had gone to see the Beach Boys play at the grand opening of Wallach's Music City in Torrance in late 1963. The Beach Boys at that time were poised to become the biggest group in the country, and 1964 looked promising.
Then the damn Beatles hit.
Now, for me and many others, the Beatles were a necessary diversion after the horror of the JFK assassination. All this girl could think about, however, was "Oh shit - this is gonna destroy the Beach Boys".
Which, relatively speaking, it did.
Judging by recent interviews, Brian is still stewing over it.
So I started with that, and used the "last summer" of '63 as a general allegory for the folly of thinking that youth will last forever. Some 20 years later I don't feel as if I've quite become an adult yet, but I'm quite sure it's coming.
Anyway, it's a tragedy, a very sad song in the guise of a simplistic summertime homage. We almost got Brian Wilson and Dean Torrence to sing backup vocals on the album version, but schedule conflicts got in the way. Pity.

 

THE RACK (lyrics)

(written Dec 2, 1976)
Mike joined the band in October of '76 as backup/occasional lead singer, proceeded to come up with a groovy new band name (The Last) and subsequently bestowed upon me a heap of lyrics he'd written. This one was based on his experiences while incarcerated in a mental institution in the early/mid '70's. He'd been locked up in solitary, strapped to a bed, for an incredibly minor infraction (not washing dishes fast enough or something) and this song was based on that. The institution was, I think, the Del Amo Hospital mental facility - if any of you are planning on committing anyone to that institution, I'd think again.
Oh yeah, that's the place where he learned to take drugs.
Anyway I set his words to an Ian Hunter type melody, and added the chorus, which had been floating around going nowhere for a while.

 

Mike Nolte says:

I wrote the words, that is, most of the words.

I think Joe wrote the chorus, only he'd know for sure.

Based on my true-life adventure in a mental institution at the age of 12. Being the fact that I wasn't toeing the line at home, fighting with my brothers, etc., and the fact that a close relative was institutionalized for a few years (nervous breakdown), it seemed to my parents that I should talk with a psychiatrist who was based out of a brand new mental hospital in Torrance.

Now, in all fairness to my parents, they were told beforehand to pack an overnight bag for me just in case the fine doctor wanted to speak to me at length. As for me, I thought it'd be cool to talk to a shrink and possibly get out of going to school the next day. Anyhow, what was supposed to be, at the most, a one-night stay turned out to be 6+ months!

The song "The Rack" was inspired by my stay there, and needless to say, I could have written a book about my adventures! Maybe one day I will.

Just to throw one incident at you . . . I was given the task of returning the meal cart to the cafeteria every day after lunch (and I do mean RIGHT AFTER LUNCH!). One day, I got so entrenched with some movie on TV and forgot about the meal cart. I was locked up in solitary confinement for 1 week. which meant being alone in a room the size of a small closet with only a mattress (no blankets or sheets), a bedpan and urine container, and a single lightbulb that was on 24/7! No TV, no books, no visitors . . . NOTHING!

And I was only 12. . .

 

OBJECTIONS (lyrics)

Listen to a clip of this song: (Real Audio)

(written November 1976)
Yeah, I voted for Carter. Big deal.
The music for this was actually completed Summer 1974. I could never find words for it, and originally scripted it as a love song for my current girlfriend (who shall be identified as "F" subsequently) in August '74. The lyrics, however, as you might suspect, were corny beyond belief. I liked the music however, and revisited it just prior to the 1976 Presidential elections, turning it into an arguably equally corny political diatribe.
Standells ripoff, you say?
Damn straight.

 

A FOOL LIKE YOU (lyrics)

  (written April 21, 1978)
Vitus wrote this one - I think this was his first submission to The Last. The subject matter became an affair of much political discord, and shall go nameless here. In truth, we were waving swords at the wrong scapegoats. At any rate, take it as a rant against soulless industry executives, and a warning of the coming DIY revolution.
I realize we're fucked if Vitus gets online and decides to contribute. Oh well.

 

SOMEONE'S LAUGHING (lyrics)

  (written September 1976)
This was written for "F". (I bet you were wondering when we'd get to the famous initialed girls.) Classic idiot male story of not appreciating what you had when you had it & letting it go & suddenly realizing what a classic mistake you'd made. The embryonic version of The Last (which was called The Power and consisted of me, Dave Harbison on bass, and Vic Pizarro on drums) made its debut at a party at the house of the aforementioned girl - we were too loud so everyone ended up outside and we found ourselves playing for the furniture. Later that night, I realized that what I'd had with this girl was irrevocably lost, and the next morning I wrote this song.

 

I DON'T WANNA BE IN LOVE (lyrics)

Listen to a clip of this song: (Real Audio)

  (written September 1977)
I never quite got together with "L" (look - another initial!) - it was weird for both of us even though there was obviously some sort of mutual attraction - so I tried to put the weirdness into a song, which ended up being this one.

 

BE BOP A LULA

Listen to a clip of this song: (MP3)

  (arranged July 1977)
I borrowed Vitus's 4-track and messed around with a lot of stuff - obviously this was an attempt to do Gene Vincent's immortal song as the Doors would've. Best overheard response was in 1980 at Al's Bar, when one biker said to another, "You know who this guy reminds me of?" and the other responded "yeah - GENE MORRISON". . .
Who could hope for more.
I think we were playing with the late lamented Top Jimmy, appropriately enough.

 

LOOKING AT YOU (lyrics)

  (written Nov 29, 1978)
Also about a specific girl. However, since she's dead, I'll name her. Paula Pierce. As in Pandoras. Her boyfriends read as a who's who of L. A. rock, but I've made enough enemies already so I won't name them. Actually their names are a million miles away from me at this point.
Anyway we would run into each other at the New Masque in late '78 and inevitably end up in some parked car or another, and for some reason I started getting obsessed, and if you write songs obsession is a good thing, and anyway that's how this one came about.
Musically this is number two of my Tchaikovsky ripoffs. Number one was "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" - the chorus is a half speed take on Tchaikovsky's violin concerto, which I'd originally set to a surf beat in '74 as a joke, resurrecting it when "She Don't Know" needed a chorus.
Looking At You is based on the opening stuff from Tchaikovsky's Symphony #1. The same theme can be heard in Generation X's "100 Punks", which is coincidental, and the Descendents' "Silly Girl", which I'm sure they got from my song.
I revisited the same theme in one of my most recent songs, "Take Care Of Her", which is me doing Descendents doing me doing Tchaikovsky.
And Billy Idol can go bugger himself.