Have It Norway: A Photographic Journey (Featuring Text)

Recently I visited the cozy urban confines of Oslo, Norway to chew through research for my coming book on punk rock’s development outside the U.K. & U.S. (thanks, crowd funding). I found the people friendly, the food exquisite, and the water pressure in most bathrooms adequate. Here are a few images from my journey with the requisite commentary.

The bucolic Norwegian countryside as seen from your plane as it soars into Oslo. Unless my geography is total excrement, that body of water is the Vorma (Warm) River.

The days are long during Scandinavian Summer. Some argue they never really end. This photo was taken at three in the morning in downtown Oslo. My internal clock was definitely thrown by the lack of dark. I ended up sleeping in shifts of three or four hours throughout my stay.

Oslo’s Grand Hotel, where they award the Nobel Peace Prize. You would be surprised how close this esteemed building is to a T.G.I.Friday’s. I looked at the menu; they have the same Jack Daniels-battered crap as the T.G.I.F.s here. It all probably tastes better in Norway though since they have such strict regulations against preservatives and chemicals.

A group of teenage-looking guards at Norway's Royal Palace. There’s a whole protocol to be sure but it seems less intense than guard situations in England or the U.S. Getting a decent picture of the palace and its impressive surrounding vegetation is a little difficult—at least it is if you're me, a real not professional photo-taking guy.

Concrete proof they have more than one car in Norway. Let me also take this opportunity to dispel the myth that Norwegian money is wooden. It is not. It is paper and coins just like everywhere else.

My go-to breakfast spot on this trip was Kaffe Brenneriet, where you can get many a delectable item (like this ham sammy). They have a few locations around Oslo and their staff is quite pleasant enough I must say!

Indeed, we all demand den beste pølsa (the best icing) for our hot dogs. Your guess is as good as mine regarding the contents of this grocery store item. Not pictured: the Heinz brand American Hamburger Sauce.

Vibrant trees in Grønlandspark Botsparken, a recreation area just behind Oslo Prison. It’s the country’s largest prison but they only house three hundred fifty inmates. Might as well be an elementary school. America’s largest prison, Louisiana State Penn, is home to five thousand.

Everybody speaks English in Norway, as evidenced by this hilarious graffiti.

The fountain that anchors Sørli plass, a nice little area for reflection that rests near the intersection of several traffic arteries. Only the adrenalin junkies on mopeds gave me any kind of pause.

There’s a great three story record shop in Oslo called Råkk og Rålls and it’s the only place I’ve ever seen this beautiful piece of crap on vinyl. Didn’t buy it because I needed a concrete reason to return.

Sorry Ma, Let Tim Hootenanny: An Unsolicited Ranking Of Replacements Albums

1. Let It Be (1984)

It’s all here: stirring romance (“Androgynous,” “Answering Machine”), exhilarating throttle (“We’re Coming Out,” “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out”), utter tomfoolery (“Gary’s Got A Boner”), tremendous production. And that Kiss cover? How dare they move us via the songwriting of Paul Stanley?

2. Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (1981)

You can feel the wood splintering as this album busts through. A triumph of zip gun punk melting into rock n’ roll branded by the nascent Westerberg’s candor and wit. It’ll make you believe again and again and again.

3. Hootenanny (1983)

Chaotic and chicken fried the same way their live act could be (“Lovelines” is just Paul reading the newspaper over the band’s noodling), is this the truest representation of the ‘Mats? A rambling rush glued together by smudges of incredible melody that club soda sure as hell ain’t gonna get out.

4. Pleased To Meet Me (1987)

Stripped to a three piece with mounting pressure to quote-unquote make it and these dude still deliver massive kick. Every song’s a potential FM hit. We can recognize why this didn’t happen. Society at large basically doesn’t give a rip about Big Star or covered bridges.

5. Tim (1985)

Overcomes the handicaps of an enormously ugly album cover and flat soda production with truly monolithic songwriting. “Bastards of Young,” “Left of The Dial,” “Here Comes a Regular”—legends unto themselves.

6. Stink (1982)

A dip into hardcore punk. According to these dizzy Midwesterners, the genre needs harmonica (“White & Lazy”) and power ballads (“Go”). Plenty savage and fun. Bob Stinson’s leads go off like tracer missiles.

7. The Shit Hits The Fans (1985)

Most artists would bury a recording of a bad gig. The Replacements released this one as quickly as possible. Such is their charm. After a few listens you grow accustom to only hearing sixty seconds of every song that strikes the band’s fancy (including hits by Zeppelin, U2, and R.E.M.).

8. Don’t Tell A Soul (1989)

Their most naked stab for chart glory. Desperation doesn’t taste too bad coming from these guys. That said, they should have gone whole hog and asked Paula Abdul to do something.

9. All Shook Down (1990)

This one gets an asterisk since Paul recorded it as his solo debut and the label railroaded him into filing it under Replacements. Lots of acoustic pop not very removed from the ‘Mats DNA…but definitely not the trouble boys.

Mommy…Can I Go Out And…Shill Tonight?

What a fine time to remind you I am the author of This Music Leaves Stains: The Complete Story of The Misfits (not so complete any more), available for purchase here. The Austin Chronicle likes it, saying I “pull no punches” as I “accurately and respectfully” barrel through the group’s saga. Psychobabble claims this volume is “informative” and “thorough” and “pretty much anyone will get a kick out of it.” You know what? I don’t think it’s too bad either.

Here’s something you can do for free: take a look at the online photographic supplement for This Music Leaves Stains and see a wealth of Misfits imagery I couldn’t afford to license for print publication. Imagery like the photograph above. Look at that goddamn punk rocker. He’s sick of everybody’s shit.

If you’re curious how a dope like me wound up writing a book like that in the first place, this interview might help explain a thing or three.

Thank you for your interest and consideration. We remain one thirty eight.

When There Is No More Room In Court, The Misfits Will Reunite

Original recipe Misfits Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig, 1979. Photog unknown.

In not very surprising news considering the recent past, founding Misfits Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig have announced they will take the stage with Jerry’s brother Doyle and a drummer to be named later for several performances as “The Original Misfits” at 2016’s Riot Fest. We understand this to mean Glenn and Jerry have finally stopped suing each other over ownership of the Misfit logos and skull faces. Fantastic. I’m excited to see the exclusive merch they plan to roll out for this landmark concert engagement.

My enthusiasm for the reunion itself is mild. Of course Danzig goes back to the Misfits, driving a stake through the heart of its legal monster with option to make a final artistic statement on the matter if he chooses. Of course Jerry agrees, because it’s spectacle (and profitable). A bigger surprise would have found Danzig buying back the performing rights to the Misfits and icing Jerry out for the rest of his life, or Danzig retiring from music and moving to Nepal to become a monk. Sting went back to the Police. Nesmith went back to the Monkees. Of course Glenn Danzig goes back to the Misfits.

Everyone goes back to the well—especially if the well vomits money.

Obviously there is also cynicism in my heart that any of this will actually happen. Riot Fest is four long months away, and these guys have lived in acrimony for a far greater period than they ever spent making music. Will Jerry and Glenn make it to September without another donnybrook or injunction? Maybe if the Original Misfits drummer is one of their lawyers.

It’s like the Mets. I wanna believe, but history and logic tells me otherwise. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. We’ll see come September.

One Simple Trick That Will Calm Your Restless Baby (Or Babies)

Last weekend I journeyed to the Tri-State area to knock out some research for my next book, the untitled exploration of punk rock music’s development outside the United States and United Kingdom. I parked myself in Jersey City every night and as such I got to hang out with this baby. I haven’t spent much time around babies so it was a fun learning experience.

Did you know you can set a fussy child at ease by softly repeating the phrase “Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey?” It’s true. Free advice to all you new parents out there. Also, a baby will watch pretty much anything on YouTube, from unboxing videos to grainy footage of late ’90s hardcore bands.

The Artist Formerly Known As

To say anything else may be exceptionally unnecessary. And yet…

It was only a few years ago that I began digging into the Prince catalog. I purposely started with The Black Album, my reasoning being, I know the hits, I know Prince can orchestrate pop perfection, let’s see what it’s like when this guy is stumbling. Prince suppressed Black for nearly a decade because he felt dissatisfaction with it (one rumor suggests a bad ecstasy trip convinced him the album projects too much evil). Yes, I often begin my journey into legendary bodies via a most dubious property. What can I tell you? I’m American, I’m obsessed with failure.

My immediate reaction to The Black Album: if this is Prince at his worst, sign me up. Sections of Black’s malcontent electro funk are misguided, sure, but as with all his work, Prince commits with such totality (even to utter silliness) you can’t deny the sale. You remain absorbed and ultimately feted.

Now The Love Symbol Album and The Gold Experience are go-tos. Bold, decadent, liberating, rich with flavor. I also spend a lot of time getting lost in the grooves and hymnals of Chaos & Disorder. Sign O’ The Times? That thing is a best of / greatest hits unto itself. And of course, the one Prince album I paid close attention to at the time of its release, Batman.

I want to say I understand people who dog the Batman album but I actually don’t. Prince captures the glamor, the restlessness, and the bankruptcy of Gotham City. The music freezes, it bleeds, it works both within and outside the motion picture’s context. I can’t comprehend why “Partyman” and “Trust” aren’t FM radio staples. The balladry avoids being overwrought. What a thrill to have it all culminate in the white knuckle lunacy of “Batdance.”

“Batdance” is on this Warhol level, a gleeful vandalism of Neal Hefti’s 1960s theme, a schizophrenic pastiche of Burton’s film driven by fascist percussion, indiscriminate keyboards, searing guitar, and direct dialogue samples. It’s jarring and insane but again, Prince commits. That’s why the song reached #1; the Artist’s dedication willed this cacophony into something incredible.

It feels strange to comment on all the risks Prince took in his career, if only because he possessed the celestial wizardry to more or less conquer them all. Is there another human being who could have successfully changed their enormously bankable and recognizable name to a singular character of their own invention with no known (or offered) pronunciation? Ricky Shroder has spent decades trying in vain to make people drop the “y.” If he had adopted a symbol we would have sent him to live on the international space station.

Thanks for the fifty-seven years, Prince. You will never be equaled.

Help Make My Next Book Better

Perhaps you know I am currently working on a book that will explore punk rock’s development in Europe, Asia, South America, and other corners of the planet that aren’t the U.S. & U.K. Research can get expensive and obviously I’d like to make the thing as boss as possible so when Rowman & Littlefield put it on shelves in October of 2017 you can look at it and say, “Goddamn! That’s a proper book.” So look deep in your heart and possibly your couch cushions and consider donating to the associated campaign:

International Punk Tome Research Fund

Thank you for your consideration, however fleeting. Here now, apropos of nothing, is a photo of Bruce Willis in a bunny costume.

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