“Swamp” – Talking Heads (Live at the Saratoga Performing Art Center, NY 8-5-1983)

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A fine, unsweetened live version of “Swamp” from the Talking Heads’ “Speaking in Tongues” tour in 1983. I say unsweetened, because the version included on the “Stop Making Sense” live CD released in 1984 from some concerts in Los Angeles was allegedly not quite as live as people were led to believe. This version comes from a soundboard recording at the Saratoga show. I’ve always love the dirty, creepy vibe of this song.

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“New York” – Sex Pistols v. “London Boys” – Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers

Here’s the late 1970s punk equivalent of the “east coast v west coast” gangsta rap battles of the 1990s … only with significantly fewer dead bodies.  Punks always caused more harm to themselves than to others.

In this corner is the Sex Pistols’ “New York,” which sneeringly spits on the New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders’ follow-up band, The Heartbreakers for being drug-addled hippie tarts.

In the opposite corner is Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers performing “London Boys,” which chastises the Sex Pistols for little boys under the thumb of their manager Malcolm McLaren.

As to who won … well, it’s hard to say.  Thunders may have won the battle, because when he recorded “London Boys” for his album “So Alone,” the Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones  and drummer Paul Cook played on the song (a nice way to bury the hatchet).   However, the Sex Pistols are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Dolls currently aren’t, so the Pistols may have won the war.  Except that the Pistols protested their inclusion, so maybe that means they lost.  Who knows?  Who cares?  Both songs are funny and immensely cool and I love both.

The version of “London Boys” included here is an earlier version that was an outtake from the Heartbreaker’s “L.A.M.F.” album from 1977.   I like the version on Thunders’ “So Alone” album, but I prefer this earlier version.

“Romeo Had Juliette” – Lou Reed

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The lead off track to Reed’s incendiary album from 1989 “New York.” I’ll let the lyrics speak for themselves:

Caught between the twisted stars
the plotted lines the faulty map
that brought Columbus to New York
Betwixt between the East and West
he calls on her wearing a leather vest
the earth squeals and shudders to a halt
A diamond crucifix in his ear
is used to help ward off the fear
that he has left his soul in someone’s rented car
Inside his pants he hides a mop
to clean the mess that he has dropped
into the life of lithesome Juliette Bell

And Romeo wanted Juliette
and Juliette wanted Romeo
And Romeo wanted Juliette
and Juliette wanted Romeo

Romeo Rodriguez squares
his shoulders and curses Jesus
runs a comb through his black pony-tail
He’s thinking of his lonely room
the sink that by his bed gives off a stink
then smells her perfume in his eyes
And her voice was like a bell

Outside the street were steaming the crack
dealers were dreaming
of an Uzi someone had just scored
I betcha I could hit that light
with my one good arm behind my back
says little Joey Diaz
Brother give me another tote
those downtown hoods are no damn good
those Italians need a lesson to be taught
This cop who died in Harlem
you think they’d get the warnin’
I was dancing when his brains run out on the street

And Romeo had Juliette
and Juliette had her Romeo
And Romeo had Juliette
and Juliette had her Romeo

I’ll take Manhattan in a garbage bag
with Latin written on it that says
“it’s hard to give a shit these days”
Manhattan’s sinking like a rock
into the filthy Hudson what a shock
they wrote a book about it
they said it was like ancient Rome

The perfume burned his eyes
holding tightly to her thighs
And something flickered for a minute
and then it vanished and was gone