Monday, August 1, 2011

Imperial Dogs In 'Mojo'!

The new (September, 2011) issue of Mojo contains an 11-page feature by Jon Savage on the history of pre-punk rock, which opens with the following paragraphs:

It's October 30, 1974. The Imperial Dogs are playing their second ever show in the Student Union's multi-purpose room at California State College, Long Beach, and it's like wading through tar. Because the event is being captured on videotape, the overhead lights are turned up full and the hall has all the ambiance of a particularly clinical shed.

The Dogs have tried hard. Flyers promise "an evening of sex, violence and public outrage." The stage is decorated with handmade banners, a large swastika flag hangs over the bass amp, a distinct declaration of intent.

The singer, Don Waller, has severe Iggy damage, his black leather pants slipping down to his naked crotch as he prowls the stage. The guitarist could be in a grunge band with his military trousers and long curly hair. The bassist looks like a refugee from Fredericks of Hollywood, in horizontally ribbed fur trousers, white make-up and leather armbands. Hippies they are not.

"We're the Imperial Dogs," spits Waller, "trashy little whores!" Following a storming version of The Kinks' Till The End Of The Day, Contradictions ("driving me insane"), the New York Dollsy Just Kids, and a pretty solid I'm Waiting For The Man, the group prepare for their forte, their original song, This Ain't The Summer Of Love.

Waller glares at the audience: "Let's go up the country, let's get mellow," he sneers. "Let's smoke weed ... we'll just ignore everything ... We don't care, we'll get real high, man, so what? When people like us get the technology, man, we will just put them in camps. We're going to kill them all man, we're going to kill everybody with a Carole King album. Eight million people in fucking America bought Tapestry, we're going to kill 'em all and anybody who wants to save a tree you can get fucked 'cos we don't give a shit about trees, man ... so everybody be cool, be hip, just don't feel, man, be too cool to dance, right. It's going to be real mellow. It's going to be a real good time. It's so mellow here. I can feel all mellow. All right! You fucking scum! All you hippies out there! This Ain't No Summer Of Love!"

Except for one solitary "Fuck you!," the audience reacts to this heroic spew with indifference. It's not surprising. Filmed from the side of the auditorium, the footage shows a sparse collection of long hairs, mostly wearing flannel shirts, T-shirts and denim. Although polite, they are not engaged, wandering in and out of shot to seek amusements that don't involve this theatre of cruelty.

The final song, Rock 'n' Roll Overdose, is dedicated to, "Adolf, the Lizard King, and Bo Diddley." For an encore, the Dogs rip through Mott The Hoople's Rock 'n' Roll Queen.

This riveting footage, forgotten for three-and-a-half decades, illustrates the dilemma faced during the early '70s. In strict terms, Waller was right: the hippies had creatively peaked in 1969. What was left five years later was residue, smeared all over a moribund popular culture.

It was a golden period for black music, but in white rock the '60s still held sway. In America, the Number 1 albums of November 1974 were by CSNY, Carole King, John Lennon and The Rolling Stones. If you were 10 years younger, you were still waiting for something of your own to happen. What would a true '70s rock music sound like? How could you make an impact in a youth culture that had the consistency of mushy Granola?

Those were the questions facing the Imperial Dogs in 1974 and the lack of answers was driving them towards extreme postures -- the swastikas, the stage violence, the anti-hippy rants. But instead of public outrage, they got tepid applause. For them, tolerance was worse than outright hostility. Yet they were not alone. Elsewhere in America and Europe, others were groping toward the same thing. Long dismissed as a run-up to the main event, the Pre-Punk period of 1971-76 is a fascinating lost pop-culture moment: It represents a path not taken, a future that never happened.

There's also a full-color photo of the Imperial Dogs -- it's the center-spread of the DVD booklet (and seen at the top of this page) -- captioned: This ain't summer lovin': The Imperial Dogs kill everyone, October 1974.

And there's a pull quote: "We're going to kill them all, man! We're going to kill everybody with a Carole King album."

And, a couple pages later, there's this:

In Los Angeles, during the fading days of Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco, there were The Imperial Dogs, The Pop, Kim Fowley's Hollywood Stars, and Zolar X -- a group who took the Spiders From Mars concept into hyperspace, with silver-foil uniforms H.P. Lovecraft pseudonyms, and their own alien language.

And ... at the end of the 11 pages, there's this:

The Imperial Dogs DVD is available from; check it out here.