Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Above: Wolf Roxon (right)and Paul Major with Debbie Harry:
"This is as good as it gets, folks."
Despite what a lot of vaunted music historians and rock critics will tell you, the history of rock music is told almost entirely in urban legend rather than actual documented history. Rock and roll, more than any other genre of popular music, thrives on the bombastic, larger than life myth of the rock star and his/her exploits. It's how generally talentless individuals gain everlasting notoriety and fame - their music might not be particularly 'good' or even 'interesting', but their actions and behavior warrant attention that their music may not. Think of The Sex Pistols, the greatest con in rock history, who were famous for spitting on people and saying 'fuck' on television before they ever put out an album. Think of the 80s hair metal abomination (left) and bands like Motley Crue who are remembered more for their VH1 Behind the Music than their one kick ass album. Or think of black metal and it's rise to notoriety - how many articles about Mayhem have you read that take the high road and neglect to mention the suicide of Dead and the band members making jewelry from his skull. And think of how few people would ever have heard of Varg Virke-what-his-face if he hadn't burned down a church and stabbed Euronymous. Or, more close to home, think about Led Zepplin, a band that our esteemed editor, Mr Cobras, exposed last year as a bunch of no-talent douche-brellas here. How well would Plant and Page be remembered if they hadn't got all creative with that shark?
From Johnny Thunders shooting up llama snot, to Elvis shooting televisions, to dudes snorting lines of ants, trashing hotel rooms and tour buses, to Ozzy biting bat heads, to Stevie Nicks ordering roadies to blow cocaine into her rectum with a straw (easily the worst job ever), urban legends are the "true" history of rock and roll as told by the people that actually make rock and roll what it is (or was): the fans (below).
In the interest of adding another legend to the cannon of rock history I got drunk one night and asked punk rock pioneer Wolf Roxon, guitarist for Wolfgang and the Noble Oval, The Moldy Dogs, Walkie Talkie, and The Metros, to tell the story of the man that once rejected Madonna as a lead singer shortly before her rise to world domination. It's a pretty interesting story, so I decided (with his permission, of course) to post his response, unencumbered by my editing or my incessant babbling...
"In the 1980-82 New Wave scene in New York City, my group, Walkie Talkie, rehearsed in the “Music Building" (still there!!). The owner, Jack Lerner, bought an old warehouse in the unsavory Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan and turned each individual storage loft into a rehearsal room. They were rented to bands for a monthly charge and available 24/7 to make all the noise you wanted. The walls and floors were solid concrete and the doors were thick, hardened steel.

"Walkie Talkie (right) rented a room on the "infamous" 10th floor where there were many name groups including Billy Idol, the remnants of the Patti Smith Group, Regina Richards and the Red Hots, and others. We tried to assist and support each other, even to the point of standing on either side of Billy Idol in the elevator to keep him from collapsing. Generally, there was a spirit of camaraderie with all the bands--we would loan equipment, talk shop, and so forth. It was definitely not cool to say anything negative about another band.

"Madonna's group rehearsed on the floor below us. Whenever we took a break during our rehearsals on those hot, steamy New York nights, we would open our windows and could hear them very clearly. Like us, and most newly-hatched bands, they were in that period of development when a group mixes both inspiration and perspiration in order to play tight and achieve a signature sound.

"We all seem to remember one song blowing in our windows which we are pretty certain originated from Madonna's room. The lyrics seemed to focus on two lines: "round and around like a merry-go-round" and "all night long". The song went on forever, seemingly just repeating these two lines... all night long.....all night long.

"If you search the internet and You tube, there is no shortage of pictures and demo recordings of Madonna during the very early 1980's. She looks clean and fresh, with stylish hair, vibrant, daring, edgy and full of confidence to the point of conceit. But, with the exception of the latter, this was not the Madonna we knew. Her hair was longer and generally drab, more attitude than edge, unremarkable in dress and she did not stand out as a musician, songwriter, or a front person which, during this era, was viewed as an essential key to success.

"Of course, "band news" and rumors were always circulating and when her band broke up, we heard she was looking to join another group--so we kept ourselves locked in our room and never ventured to the snack bar or some public area where she could find us.

"But it didn't take long. One night she jumped into the elevator and complimented us as a group and individually. She popped the question more than once--asking if she could join the group and, over the next week or so, cornered me, then my drummer, Randy, suggesting we get together and pool our musical prowess.

"The truth is, we never considered her a prospect. The decision was unanimous and never even discussed. Now, this is the part that's a bit foggy--I swear we never even gave her an actual audition. I remember going with Randy down to the bar where she worked (off St. Mark's Place) and having a drink while we very politely told her that we just didn't need any other members and she would be better off finding a band where she could be the sole singer/frontperson. This was true, especially after Vic Harrison joined our group. He was an incredible vocalist, guitarist, keyboard player and songwriter. So there was no room for Madonna even if we were willing to consider her.

"Today, most people would be astounded that we have no recollection of auditioning Madonna. But you must realize that in early 80's she was one of many thousands of wannabes (like us) in the New York scene. In fact, Walkie Talkie had a larger fan base than her at this time. But what's most puzzling to me is that Madonna would want to join us. Both our musical approaches were relevant to the early 1980's, but Walkie Talkie had one foot firmly in the 1960's while she was 1970's dance rooted. This is a huge musical difference and it's hard to imagine how we could have ever survived together.

"When we pool our memories, decades later, it's possible she did come up to our rehearsal space and probably sang for us while strumming the chords on her guitar. This sort of exchange happened quite often in the Music Building and wouldn't necessarily be memorable. But I don't want to give the impression we had a long line of applicants for a singing position and Madonna took her turn and was told to take a hike.

"Walkie Talkie broke up in early 1982 and I began working on solo projects. Within that year, I left the scene, hung up my guitar and lost track of pretty much everyone.

"I have a vague recollection of Madonna playing the clubs in the Chelsea area where the focus was more on dance songs/bands/performances and perhaps even singing and dancing to prerecorded tapes. The next time I heard about her was when I was in London in 1984. I was staying with Paul Major and one day he put a record on the turntable. "You won't believe who this is!!!" he exclaimed. Yep, sure enough it was Borderline which is still my fave song of hers.

"By then, I was a schoolteacher and saw a growing number of my students dancing around the playground to Madonna's hits. Every so often I would confide in my pupils, telling of how I knew Madonna a few years ago. “Sure Mr. Roxon....dream on” was the usual response. So I would shuffle back to the classroom where, armed with my red grading pen, I'd attack a pile of essay questions—correcting the spelling and punctuation and writing comments and advice in the loose-leaf's margins which would seldom be read and never followed. And every so often, my eyes and ears would turn toward the open windows where, on the blacktop below, Madonna was conquering a new generation of virgin listeners turning on for the very first time. Seemed she never stopped....round and around...all night long and all day too... for nearly three decades.
"Many people ask, if we had to do it all over again, would we let Madonna join Walkie Talkie, in other words, did we make the biggest bonehead decision in rock history since Pete Best quit the Beatles??? The answer is yes....and no. We simply were not looking for another singer/guitarist at that time and, if we were, the major consideration, would have been talent. We just didn't feel she had anything to offer our act.

"However, our biggest mistake was underestimating her desire, drive, and will to make it to the top--no matter what it took. Every successful group has a "ringer" like her (or a manager) who is very aggressive and never misses an opportunity to sell her/himself or the group. Perhaps she would have made a difference. But who knows? She most likely would have dropped us at the first smell of success or fame. What adds to the irony is the fact that Walkie Talkie parted ways so, in the end, we had nothing to lose.

"Regardless, occasionally at night, when safely tucked away in my bed, my mind ventures to wonder what could or might have happened had we had just said “Yes” to Madonna."

There you have it, straight from the man himself. Some of you might see Mr Roxon's story as a failed opportunity. Perhaps he could have "made" it, got all famous and stuff riding Madonna's coattails, but from my communications with him, I doubt that he would have had much patience with people like Denis Rodman or Jose Canseco or Vanilla Ice, or any of the other million dudes Madonna dated. Though it would be pretty funny to see him on MTV wearing one of those cone bra things and doing that ridiculous Vogue dance. Thanks again, Wolf.


Anonymous said...

Blowing coke into Stevie Nicks' asshole?!! I'd have done it in a heartbeat in 1979.

"Thanks luv. Do Mick next."

Oh shit.

Shelby Cobras said...

Somewhere, somehow, Cory just jizzed a little.

Erik Del Tigre said...

This kind of quality posting makes IC look like a reputable music site. Knock it off!

Shelby Cobras said...

Don't worry dude, for every well-researched and well-written post like this one, there are half a dozen juvenile brain farts like Doc Rockit to firmly establish us as amateurs.

Jack said...

note to self:
stories about stevie nicks and her butthole inspire anonymous comments... start more rumors about ms nicks' rectal region...

oh, and 'anonymous' that story is about the 2005 version of stevie nicks...

Anonymous said...

To bad the Nobel Oval never got out of the bedroom Maddonna would have fit right in (eva braun).

Jack said...

thank you, jon.