During my longish interview with Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders, Mr. Stampfel spoke very highly of a young NY musician and cartoonist named Jeffrey Lewis, of whom I had not heard before (this was in the portion of the interview that did not make it into - nay, was not even transcribed for - my Nerve Magazine interview with Stampfel. It will appear in full form, along with a brief chat with Antonia, in Bixobal #3, if all goes according to schedule).
Stampfel tells the following story: "I met Lewis at Ed Sanders’ birthday party, and there’s two kids onstage, and one of them says, 'We’re going to do a history of punk rock on the Lower East Side which is a history of punk rock, 1959 to 1975,' and I thought, 'Yeah, kid - yeah, right. This is gonna be good.' And he proceeded to do this twelve minute thing starting with Harry Smith, going to the Holy Modal Rounders, and then the Fugs, and basically namechecking every single punkish influence, and then in 1975 the Ramones get to England and people believe that punk rock is invented. And he would sing a little snippet of every single group he was going through, and he nailed it! I mean, he did a brilliant job of exposition - he remembers things that I’d forgotten, you know? And I went up to the guy - 'Man, that was fucking great - you nailed it!'
And subsequently he asked me to record on an album behind him called City and Eastern Songs, that Kramer recorded..."
So in addition to being grateful to Peter Stampfel for more or less, through his music, turning me onto the joys of oldtimey some 20 years ago, I now owe him a debt of gratitude for introducing me to the music and art of Jeffrey Lewis. I mean, dig, anyone who does an anti-folk album of slightly more "accessible" versions of Crass songs, that I can play my non-punk friends without them making me turn it off, is doing, if nothin' else, something extremely socially useful for, well, anyone like me... but Lewis is doing a LOT else, and has some of the flat-out funniest/smartest songs I've heard in years. Check this interview with him, or this one, or this neat little film for "The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane," for instance. Or "The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song," or his dark, hilarious meditation on Will Oldham and indy rock - there's a whole delightful afternoon to be spent listening to Jeffrey Lewis stuff online. I wish I'd gotten around to transcribing the part of the Stampfel tape where he talks about Jeffrey just a little earlier, because the GUY WAS JUST IN VANCOUVER! (Feb. 22 - he played Richards on Richards). And will be playing Seattle March 31st, for those of you who are mobile.
Actually, he says he's lookin' for a pick-up gig on April 1st, but I'm guessing crossing the border will be too complex to swing at short notice... Will keep y'all posted on that.