By PKM Editors

These are the TOP TEN STORIES for the year on PKM, our toppermost of the poppermost. Enjoy these over the next few days while we prepare some great new stories for the new year.

1. RUTH UNDERWOOD: A MOTHER OF INVENTION

An integral part of Frank Zappa’s band the Mothers of Invention, Ruth Underwood stayed mostly in the background on stage and in the studio, filling the sound with her indispensable contributions on marimba, harp, xylophone, vibraphone and drums. Her reputation, as a multi-instrumentalist and composer, has only grown since the Mothers disbanded in the ‘70s. Ingrid Jensen, our ace young reporter, takes the top spot, just as she did last year with her Poison Ivy Roschach story.

2. COOL TOWN: HOW ATHENS, GEORGIA CHANGED AMERICAN CULTURE

Athens, Georgia proved that a town could create its own thriving music scene beyond the pale (and free from the dilution) of the mainstream music industry. And, as it happened, that scene served as a model for other towns. As an undergrad at the University of Georgia in the 1980s, Grace Elizabet Hale was immersed in the Athens music scene at its peak, when R.E.M., the B-52s, Pylon, Vic Chesnutt, Love Tractor, Chickasaw Mudd Puppies and many others ruled the roost. Veteran rock journalist Parke Puterbaugh spoke with Hale about her book and her Athenian experiences.

3. VIN DIESEL, ARTHUR RUSSELL AND ME

Mixmaster Arthur Russell meets wannabe rapper Mark Sinclair (aka Vin Diesel). What could possibly go wrong? That’s what Gary Lucas thought when he brought these two talents together in a recording studio. At the time, Lucas was an A&R scout at Columbia Records as well as running his own Logarhythm label. He and partner Geoff Travis of Rough Trade (UK) thought it would be a good idea to bring these two together, to tap into the burgeoning rap market. Yo! No! Gary Lucas tells the tale for PKM

4. JOHN TAYLOR: STILL IN THE PLEASURE GROOVE WITH DURAN DURAN

John Taylor is the bass guitarist in Duran Duran, a band that stormed out of the New Romantic movement in the early ‘80s with a series of songs, albums and videos now considered classics. They released their 15th studio album this year and have begun touring again. Taylor talked to PKM’s Crispin Kott about the past, present and future of Duran Duran.

5. DOWNTOWN LIFE: JOHN OATES RECALLS HIS EARLY DAYS IN NYC

When Daryl Hall and John Oates arrived in New York from Philadelphia in 1972, they were a folk-soul duo signed to Atlantic Records. The city, particularly the Downtown scenes at the Mercer Art Center and Max’s Kansas City, would have a profound impact on them personally and musically. Even after their music became MTV and radio staples, they continued to live in New York and the city continued to shape their songs. John Oates spoke with Chris Epting, his memoir collaborator, about those days for PKM

6. DON VAN VLIET AND FRANK ZAPPA: TWO PEAS IN A MISSHAPEN POD

Guitarist Gary Lucas found himself smack dab in the middle of two of America’s musical geniuses, Don ‘n’ Frank. Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa were boyhood chums whose fates were inextricably linked, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Gary Lucas only learned the nuances of their relationship when he became not just Don’s manager but a member of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band. Here is his remembrance of both men and a love letter to his mentor, Don Van Vliet.

7. THE DICTATORS BACK TOGETHER! ANDY SHERNOFF TELLS ALL

 With their irreverent mix of ‘teengenerate’ sarcasm, three-chord garage rock, surf music and party-hearty stage antics, The Dictators presaged New York City’s punk attitude. An eternal favorite of PKM, the band, with a break here and there, ‘coulda been a contenduh.’ Alas, in 2021, they are stepping back into the ring! Three of the four original members–Andy Shernoff, Ross “The Boss” Friedman and Scott Kempner–have been joined by former Blue Oyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard to release new music and eventually tour. David Laing caught up with Andy Shernoff for a long and wonderful conversation about all things Dictators

8. JUNIOR KIMBROUGH’S JUKE JOINT: KEEPING DIRTY BLUES ALIVE

During the 1990s, a legendary but crumbling juke joint in the northern Mississippi hills kept the ‘dirty blues’ of Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf and Fred McDowell alive. It was run by a Memphis bluesman named David “Junior” Kimbrough. After hearing tales of the music being produced there, Bob Pomeroy, though he lived in Pittsburgh, was desperate to see the place. In the winter of 1993, he and some friends drove down. He reports on what he saw and heard on that trip for PKM.

9. KID CONGO POWERS: DREAMING ABOUT LUX & POISON IVY, JEFFREY LEE PIERCE AND SEAN DELEAR

The genial former member of the Gun Club, the Cramps, Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds and a collaborator with just about anyone else cool, Kid Congo Powers has not slowed down since his move to Arizona. His current projects include recordings with Wolfmanhattan Project and Pink Monkey Birds, who’ve just released Swing from the Sean Delear, inspired by a dream about Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Eric Davidson talked with Kid Congo Powers from his Tucson home, about old times and new activities.

10. MIDNIGHT COWBOY: A NEW YORK CITY PORTRAIT

Midnight Cowboy (1969) is the only X-rated movie to win the Best Picture Oscar. Now considered an American classic, its release was fraught with controversy, inducing an anti-gay backlash. Seen half a century later, it’s a brilliant snapshot of a city on the verge of decay. Pulitzer-winning author Glenn Frankel has just published a book about the making of the film, starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman (‘Hey, I’m walkin’ here!’). David Stewart spoke with Frankel and describes the backdrop to Midnight Cowboy for PKM.

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