Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers (“Roadrunner”)

Pure protopunk! If you hear the similarity to The Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray,” no coincidence there. Direct rewriting of that prior masterpiece, but here with very positive and peppy lyrics! Also, John Cale produced this song (and five others on their debut album)! This band is an important transition into what came to be known as punk and the music of that era (original band member Jerry Harrison later joined the Talking Heads, and Jerry Robinson co-founded The Cars). I got to see the second generation of the band in Berkeley in the early 80s (awesome show), and many times since with constantly changing band members. One memorable gig was JR performing in Sacramento’s Park Plaza, known to locals as “Wino Park” (and now officially renamed Cesar Chavez Plaza). Like at all his gigs, he hung out and interacted with the fairly small audience before and after the show. And what a single “Roadrunner” was, with “Pablo Picasso” as the “B-side!”

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Laurie Anderson (“Language is a Virus [From Outer Space]”)

I couldn’t stop listening to her United States Live 4-album box set when it was released in 1984! Total mind bender. Then I saw her perform in Berkeley (Berkeley High School??) in 1986, and words can really not describe how amazing that show was. And, as hoped, William S. Burroughs joined her on stage and they performed while dancing together. Performance art does not get better than her!

Talking Heads (“Life During Wartime”)

This live version is from their Speaking in Tongues tour which Jonathan Demme made into the concert movie Stop Making Sense (3 nights from their Hollywood performances at the Pantages Theater). This track is actually from The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, released the previous year (1982), and which is a masterpiece. I saw both tours in San Francisco, and you can see for yourself how off-the-charts that tour was. The one the year before was no worse. LOVE THIS BAND!!

The Undertones (“Teenage Kicks”)

I was hesitant to post this song since so many bands have covered it and it has got a lot of airplay recently, but in the late 70s it was an absolute jaw-dropper. Peppy and poppy and still edgy. It’s not your Sex Pistols punk, obviously, but it certainly expresses an emotion that was part of the punk psyche and sentiment of the day. I couldn’t stop listening to it when it came out. Unfortunately, this is one band I never saw live. Yet another sad trombone.

The English Beat (“Ranking Full Stop”)

The other spectacular 2 tone ska band of the day (yes, there were others besides The English Beat and The Specials, I know!). As I mentioned in my post below for the Ramones, I was at the US Festival in both ’82 and ’83 for all days of the events. Amazing lineups!! Hot as hell! I suppose this was an anticipation of the Coachella festival that would come to be many years later. But just one stage, many great bands. Love this song and the original band!! Saw them last year at the Belly Up in Solana Beach and Dave Wakeling is the only member of the original band. Fun (nostalgic?) and disappointing at the same time. It’s really not The Beat without Ranking Roger and Saxa (not to mention the others). IMHO.

Dead Kennedys (“California Über Alles”)

I saw them at the Mabuhay around this time, but I can’t be sure if I was at this gig in particular. They were no strangers to SF. Happened to see them this year at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. Ugh… Can’t stand the new singer. Band still rocked it. And a young couple decided to engage in sex on stage during the show… the nude woman went belly up on the stage… ended up on the news and everything. Not sure if that was a publicity stunt for something. I was standing right behind the mosh pit so couldn’t see the floor of the stage, and had no idea that even happened until I saw the news afterward. Très bizarre…