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Reminder: Big Takeover - Still in Time for X-mas Gifts! / R.I.P. Wiz from Mega City Four (44) and Dirk Dirksen (69)

13 December 2006

1) Just a reminder that there’s still time for the perfect X-mas gift: Big Takeover magazine! Indeed, if you want a holiday gift subscription for your friends or family whom you think would enjoy our pages (or one of our t-shirts, or any of our back issues, or our CDs), you can still order on our secure online store at

http://bigtakeover.stores.yahoo.net/

Just let us know in the “comments” section of the order form that the order is for X-mas (why not write, in all caps, “RUSH! THIS IS FOR X-MAS!”), and we will be glad to send the package by priority mail to ensure it gets there fast and on time. And include in the “gift message” section anything you want to say, and we’ll take it from there. If it is for a subscription that you want to start with #58 or the brand new #59, we will similarly send the first issue(s) by priority mail. (If you want it to start them with #60 in the spring, we will also be glad to send a postcard for now to let them know about your gift, and that it is from you, with any message you might include.)

Remember, subscriptions are just $20 ($32 overseas, $30 Canada), and our other stuff is even less. For our other stuff, remember, our t-shirts now come in three colors (black, white, and dark red) and six sizes (four men’s, two women’s), all but two of our back issues are still available (if your friends like a specific band we’ve featured), and we are now offering used, good-quality CD copies of the three out of print SPRINGHOUSE CDs (for a limited time) as well as sealed copies of EVEN WORSE, LAST BURNING EMBERS, and DOUG GILLARD.

For those without a credit card who want to mail us a check made out to “The Big Takeover” for a holiday subscription or other gift check (using the prices on our store), that would be possible too, but you’d have to hurry. And here’s the address:

1713 8th Ave. Rm. 5-2
Brooklyn, NY 11215 USA

In any case, there’s a lot of information on our new issue 59 in my last blog, December 1 (see that) if want to know more. And on behalf of myself and our entire staff at Big Takeover, we wish you the best of holiday seasons and a cool New Year too. And see you then! –
2) That out of the way, suffice to say I am enormously saddened by the death of WIZ last week, 44, my old friend who was the singer/guitarist/songwriter for MEGA CITY FOUR, and more recently, SERPICO and IPANEMA. From what we hear, he took ill at an Ipanema rehearsal, where the trio were rehearsing songs for the band’s first album, and eventually died suddenly a few days later on December 6 in St. George’s Hospital in Tooting, Southwest London (a little ways from his longtime Farnborough, Hampshire home) of a blood clot on the brain. This is of course a shock for everyone, starting with his many fans worldwide (Mega City Four put out five pretty ace albums plus a good live one and a radio sessions one, and even scored an unlikely #35 U.K. hit with the awesome “Shivering Sand,” and he never released a bad or unworthy record in his life!), and taking in those of us who knew him.
If this is particularly painful for me, it’s because I knew him pretty well for 19 years, and had long, long conversations with him about his ultra-thoughtful and uber-honest emotional lyrics. For a brief while, when he and I were both experiencing bad romantic breakups, we exchanged some sobering letters on the subject over the Atlantic that I have never forgotten, and I remember each of us congratulating the other that that sad times were long in the past. It was pretty strong bond between us, along with his sincere appreciation (like few I’ve met) for the reams of paper I devoted to his records and shows. Finally, along with my colleague MARK SUPPANZ had just had dinner with him and his Ipanema bandmates exactly three months ago, at El Sombrero in the Lower East Side of Manhattan September 13, just prior to Ipanema’s first (and only) New York show on their only U.S. tour, at Arlene’s Grocery club. (See the live review I filed in the new issue 59.) I hadn’t seen him play in a decade, since Mega City Four’s many visits here, and he seemed quite excited about being over here and was in tremendous spirits despite the struggle to get an unknown band off the ground. (Typically, he refused to call it “Mega City Four” even when their old bassist GERRY BRYANT joined the group a while back—he was always moving forward as a person and with his songs.)
I can’t believe he’s gone. It just makes no sense. I hate it when the lives of my dear friends prove so unfairly fleeting, and as a two-decade fan, I am also lamenting that someone so happy to remain to creative (the two Ipanema records are rather storming for anyone, let alone a 20-year veteran in his 40s, especially the crushing “”Je Suis un Baseball Bat” single), one so excited about the half-dozen new songs he debuted at the Arlene’s gig, has been snatched from us. It shakes me bad.
There is a rather touching memorial page for Wiz (birth name DARREN BROWN, though I always called him Wiz) at http://www.furtive-mts.com/wiz/. There are pages of fans and friends leaving their tributes, and one is more affectionate and grateful than the next. Typical is that of JON KASTNER, whose fine Canadian band THE DOUGHBOYS welcomed Wiz as a member for a while after the Megas split in 1996, and who collaborated with him on some songs of a few of the Doughboys LPs. ” I can’t tell you how sad I am. I hate to even write this to my old friend and band mate and song maker buddy. Why stuff like this happens to the nicest people I will never know. You would have had a hard time finding a more com [SIC] and understanding guy then Wiz. Just a beautiful person. My heart is broken. I will never forget him. Love, John K.”
Kastner is right; he was as much a great person as a great talent whose music meant so much to many.
Still gathering my emotions this is what I wrote there to register my own feelings:
“I am stunned and sad. Wiz was a friend and we just had dinner in September; I never suspected I would never see him again. And everyone knows how much I admired him as a songwriter, singer, and overall person with a lot of heart and artistic integrity. I can’t begin to say how much I will miss his emails (I told him last how much I missed his distinct handwriting from the letters days) and the emotions in his songs I knew I could always count on to be unfiltered and uncompromising and full of personal impact. But now that he is gone I am grateful just the same for all he gave me/us and will remember him that way.”
There is also a MySpace tribute page at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=136503291, and I was extremely moved by Wiz’s girlfriend KARINA’s post there about his last days, where she describes how happy he was that MySpace had led to an onslaught of his fans contacting him with their overwhelming appreciation for him. For once someone got to hear that before they died, and between that and the new songs he was working on, she says he died when he was incredibly happy.
Without question, he died loved as well. We can all hope for that. –
3) Finally, he wasn’t a friend of mine, but also RIP to DIRK DIRKSEN, 69, the impresario of San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens, the CBGB of that town in the late 1970s when it had the best punk rock scene in the world from 1978-1979. He at least died in his sleep November 20. I met him for the first time in April, having wanted to for 28 years (he wasn’t present at the club the two times I attended it in 1980 and 1983, I know, I asked for him!!!). He seemed amused when I told him I was a “fan” of his work from live records and bootlegs from the club, of his introductions and concluding announcements from the shows there, and he’d said he would sit for an interview when I came back to San Francisco, but now I will never get to do that interview. Damn!
Like CBGB’s HILLY KRISTAL, only with a totally opposite, extroverted personality, Dirksen was also a lot older than the new punk rock bands he gave a home to, becoming something of a needling father figure to them. And best of all, he fit the punk rock times better than anyone ever where it came to MCing a show. Instead of lauding the fans and artists, as had been done for centuries, he was like a one man DEAN MARTIN roast without the guffaws, delivering sharp tongued barbs with his dog Dummy under his arm, encouraging a state of near riot that fit the shows perfectly. Like on the F WORD live LP, where he says “Let’s bring out these plastic punks from L.A.”
At the end he would then similarly berate the audience’s intelligence, telling them to deposit themselves in the trashcans and what not. I told him what a pleasure it was to see him MC the show in April (AVENGERS, MUTANTS, FLIPPER, and the sadly JELLO BIAFRA-less DEAD KENNEDYS), where he ironically read off a long list of all the old San Francisco punks who had died in the last 30 years and couldn’t be there that night. But at the end of the night he reverted to old form, when he said something like “What part of ‘it’s over’ don’t you lamebrains understand??!!?? There’s not going to be any more music!!! Why are you still here?!!?? Why don’t you grab your coats, go out the front door, and go back to the ticky-tack suburb that you came from?!” I nearly fell on Fillmore’s floor, I was busting such a gut.
In an excellent eulogy in the San Francisco Chronicle (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/11/22/BAGCJMHQ8B1.DTL), writer JOEL SELVIN quotes one of his typical vintage broadsides, telling a dubious band, bracing for his verbiage, they could have an encore after all: “I’ll give you one, but only because the next group is an absolute pimple in the armpit of progress. Now everybody, please pay attention because it’s time to play ‘People Are Stupid.’”
Oh man, the man was a classic. When I met him I told him I would like to see someone compile a “best of” of his MC work and put it up on YouTube or as an MP3 file on the net somewhere. I hope someone with a lot of tapes and videos has the gumption to do it now. As well as the best guy to rev up a crowd and leave it bemused and crazy, he was funny as heck.
Apparently, when he died, according to the SF Weekly, he was working on I Remember One Night at the Fab Mab, “an oral history of the club with archival photos and memorabilia” as well as a Mutants documentary. And both are due next year. Both would be fitting memorials, as it turns out. (For now, there is also a memorial board for Dirksen, at http://fuzzmonsterrecords.com/dirk/) Thanks Dirk, for the laughs.

 

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