SUZI QUATRO Cooler than Leather Tuscadero.
Just before Christmas I came across a VHS copy of Times Square, tucked in a box of exercise videos that had yet to be filed on the shelves of the new Capitol Hill Half Price Books--which is right next door to the one-time church in which Eddie Vedder and his former wife Beth occasionally lived and threw some pretty great parties. (Talk about an interesting cross section of music people--very different from the Friendster landshark pack who currently barge into any party they hear about rather than--egad!--go home.) For those who don't know about Times Square, it's a movie that many of us saw in the theaters, backintheday, about two teenage girls who meet in the loony bin and become cult punk rock heroes in NYC after DJ Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry) gives them air time on his radio station. I hadn't seen the film since ye olde backintheday--before the dykes claimed it--but the soundtrack has remained in my vinyl collection since I bought it in 1981. Directed by Allan Moyle (Pump Up the Volume, Empire Records), Times Square holds up pretty well (the tag line, "In the heart of Times Square, a poor girl becomes famous, a rich girl becomes courageous, and both become friends," is an eye-roller, especially now that we know the underlying lesbian content was squelched), but the outstanding soundtrack is one of the most amazing collections of (at the time) soon-to-be-classic songs and bands--the Ramones, the Cure, XTC, Gary Numan, the Pretenders, Talking Heads, Joe Jackson, Patti Smith, and Suzi Quatro, as well as two killer/hilarious songs sung by stars Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado: "Damn Dog" ("I can lick your face/I can bite it, too/My teeth got rabies/Gonna give 'em to you/I'm a damn dog") and "Sleaze Sister Voodoo," which is dedicated to Brian Jones and everyone else who got "kicked outta the band." Director Moyle was fired before the film was finished because producer Robert Stigwood (Grease, Saturday Night Fever) wanted too many scenes re-shot in order to make more room for music and the proposed double-album soundtrack, which really must have chapped Moyle's hindquarters given it was he who'd discovered a young girl's diary in an old couch and then written a screenplay inspired by it. VHS copies of Times Square are available online, but I haven't been able to track down new copies of the soundtrack. (Being introduced to Patti Smith via the comparative bummer track "Pissing in the River" was unfortunate for me, but learning early that Suzi Quatro was even cooler than her Happy Days character Leather Tuscadero more than makes up for it; she's been called an original Riot Grrrl.) If you saw this in the theaters then you might also remember FM, a 1978 stinker about a radio station that employs DJs including Martin Mull and Eileen Brennan ("...Mother is home..."--ugh that was gross) who want to save it from becoming "corporate," which also had a mostly kick-ass soundtrack for the times featuring Queen, the Rolling Stones, Warren Zevon, and of course Steely Dan, as well as bit parts for Tom Petty and REO Speedwagon, who played themselves. Given the current radio wars, if you can find a copy of FM it's sure to give you a giggle.

Continuing with the theme of stories told from the rocker chair, I heard that Robyn Hitchcock and Visqueen are among the bands/artists recording tracks for the upcoming Young Fresh Fellows tribute CD coming out in April to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of the band's PopLlama debut, The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest. When that album came out, the Young Fresh Fellows comprised Scott McCaughey, Tad Hutchinson, and Chuck Carroll, and soon included Kurt Bloch and Jim Sangster among its legendary lineup. Tentatively titled A Tonic of Tones, the upcoming 21-track tribute will also feature the Makers, the Figgs, the Maroons (with Stephen Malkmus), the Mendoza Line, I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House, the Black Panties, the Presidents of the United States of America, Comb*Over, the Silos, Charlie Chesterman, Eric Kassel, Louden Swain, Carla Torgerson, Amy Stoltzenbach, John Ramberg, Christy McWilson, Conrad Uno, Emily Bishton, and others.

kathleen@thestranger.com