|Contortions, circa mid 1978: Christensen, Chance, Bertei, Harris, Place and Scott.|
By early 2002, I was drafting liner notes for a Spanish reissue of the early Contortions/Blacks material and it allowed me to put together all the various threads I had been collecting for so long. I used the excuse to contact most of the living members of the original group, talking on the phone with Pat Place, Don Christensen and early guitarist James Nares, as well as exchanging emails with James Chance himself. Pat Place laughed at one point during our conversation and said, “You remember more about this stuff than I do!” James Nares let me know that he had been in a very, very early lineup with consisted of himself, James Chance, drummer Steve Moses and “Annie”, or Anne DeLeon, who he referred to as “Alan Vega’s girlfriend.” I knew there was more to the story than I was privy too, but after little nuggets of minutiae like this kept getting dropped on me, I wondered if the research would ever end! I know reality is rarely linear, but this Contortions saga seemed to grow by the minute. James Chance wrote me an email saying that the precursor to Contortions was a group he had with Lydia Lunch called “The Scabs” which also featured Reck, the first bass player from Teenage Jesus and Jody Harris. Of course, Jody Harris would leave, Lydia would draft Bradly Field on “drum” and Teenage Jesus proper was born. Awhile after I turned in my finished notes, a James Chance interview in Bob Bert’s “BB Gun” magazine seemed to obliterate all the work I had slaved over! This mag beat the release of the LP reissue by a week or two, not that anybody really noticed the coincidence. I think it happened around late 2002. Luckily research like this is not a competition – it’s an additive process of setting the record straight and people like me and Bob Bert were just trying to get the bigger picture of the music we loved out there.
|James White and the Blacks? Chance, Kristian Hoffman, |
Pat Place and Anya Phillips
During 2007, I helped Marc Masters on his epic tome entitled “No Wave”. People always told me I should have written the book, but I’m no writer! I’m glad Marc took the initiative and I helped him however I could, from sharing my print and video archives to vigilant proofreading (I found out the hard way that even when you think you caught all the mistakes, there’s still a few more. Ha ha ha.) I tried hard to help Marc fete his publisher’s apathetic approach to editing and photo selection. Sometimes it got really hairy and it seemed like outside factors were going to run the book completely. Luckily, despite the fact that the publisher was too lazy to research or pay for more images and their editors kept insisting on changing confirmed facts into extreme typos or mistakes, Marc’s book came together pretty well. Ironically, it is the smelliest book I’ve ever owned – it reeks of chemicals for some reason. Oddly apropos, given the nihilistic slant of the subject! Some people have complained that “No Wave” is too “dry” or “boring”: in Marc’s defense, I think he was more interested in getting some of these hidden facts straight for the first time, rather than reading like a Harlequin romance novel! Six months later, in mid 2008, Thurston Moore and Byron Coley’s “No Wave” tome emerged and helped round out the documentation with tons of killer photos and anecdotes. I still believe these two works are absolutely complementary and should be used together in tandem to get a real picture of the scene. I’m thanked in Byron and Thurston’s book, but I don’t remember doing much. Ha ha ha. I’ll take whatever credit I can get though! I definitely got a free copy, and that was enough for me!
Lately more and more recordings of period No Wave gigs have surfaced. Luckily I have had privileged access to many of them and access to the these rarities has allowed me to tie together even more threads. Over the next week, I will present a blow-by-blow chronology of the rise and fall of the early Contortions line-ups, describing the changes in personnel and sound from month to month starting in December 1977 and wrapping up in late 1979 with a little more context ending in 1981. Come visit every day this week and geek out with me. I welcome comments and corrections. If anybody from the bands have any feedback or anything to add, please do so!
-Weasel Walter, 11.7.11
Early History of The Contortions #2 (Dec 1977-May 1978)