Cleveland ’70s punk legends Mike Hudson & The Pagans share the second track from the band’s first new album in 24 years via Brooklyn Vegan. The album’s extended centerpiece track, “Fame Whore” takes a more Lou Reed-esque narrative approach than the record’s 7 other songs, allowing Hudson’s lyrical skills to truly shine on the biting subject matter. Mike Hudson & The Pagans play a special semi-acoustic set of songs, along with a reading from Hudson’s Fame Whore novel on December 6th in Los Angeles at Blue Bag Records, 2149 Sunset Blvd. Consequence of Sound recently premiered the album’s title track, “Hollywood High.”
Hollywood High is a very personal account of Hudson’s former muse that’s as direct and unapologetic as one would expect from the man who penned the punk classic “What’s This Sh*t Called Love?”
“The front cover is a photo of Evita Corby taken by the legendary Irish crooner and bass player Phil Lynott in the dining room of legendary LA club owner Elmer Valentine’s house, which burned down shortly afterward,” Hudson explains. “The songs on this record are about Mrs. Corby, who I fell madly in love with when the famous LA / Detroit band The Dogs did a cover version of ‘Her Name Was Jane,’ a song I wrote almost 40 years ago. They flew me out here, she was the chick in the video, our first date was a week in Vegas. Evita is probably best known as the cover girl on Iggy and the Stooges Kill City LP and as the wife of Michael Corby, who fronted the well known 80’s band The Babys. I wrote the novel Fame Whore about her and wrote this record about her as well. She was my everything.”
Mike Hudson is a survivor. Hudson didn’t earn the designation on a reality show, or by crying on Oprah’s couch. He was born to it – born to chart the folly of man in words and song, like a bard, hell, like The Bard. That is, if ol’ Billy Shakespeare had been raised in Cleveland, Ohio, destined to chronicle the bad decisions and scrapped-metal dreams of a post-Boom generation.
If this all sounds highfalutin to you, perhaps you are unacquainted with Mr. Hudson’s oeuvre. Hudson’s forty year journey through the peaks and valleys of a life fully lived begins in the mid-1970s with The Pagans. A band as crucial to the development — and perfection — of American punk as Black Flag, The Misfits or The Germs, The Pagans were a tumultuous group, always on the edge of breaking up or the verge of breaking down. Fueled by lust, chemicals, and the lust for chemicals, The Pagans burned through the late ’70s and early ’80s with an intoxicating sense of desperation. Their patchwork discography is a protracted howl of discontent, of frustration, of strangled romance set against Cleveland’s jagged skyline, a single flame burning bright in the night.
But we are not here to provide you with a history lesson. For that, we refer you to Hudson’s soul-scorching memoir Diary of a Punk. After all, we are here to praise Hudson, not bury him. Hudson’s obituary remains unwritten, and his poison pen has retained its deadly prick. After years of sporadic live shows, and genre-redefining collections, The Pagans return with new music that lives and breathes in the present. Except this time, the air filling Hudson’s lungs is the salt-tinged, sun-kissed breeze coming off the Pacific, a stark contrast to the smoke-choked Mistake by the Lake.
After a long stint as a crime reporter in Niagara Falls, New York (see his book Niagara Falls Confidential), Hudson headed West, to the balmier climes of Southern California. Inspired by his new surroundings, Hudson assembled a new incarnation of his legendary band and presents us with a full-length album. The inaugural release of Los Angeles’ Ruin Discos, Hollywood High is a return to form for Hudson. It finds Hudson in fine voice and backed by a stellar cast of musicians, including Phil Lynott’s songwriting partner Jimmy Bain (who also played in Dio and Rainbow) on bass, Keith Christopher (Georgia Satellites) on slide guitar, Crazy Marvin Braxton (B.B. King, Ray Charles) on harmonica, Tony Matteucci (The Dogs, Etta James) on drums, and Loren Molinare — who produced & co-wrote most of the songs with Hudson — on lead guitar. The man’s throat drips with passion and venom in equal measure. Based upon this new album, Hudson has added romance to his repertoire. Whereas before, any romance to be had in a Hudson song was doomed from the get-go.
On Hollywood High’s opening track “I Need a Date,” Mike sounds as close to giddy as we’ve heard him. The title track follows, hinting at that well-earned doom, but a palpable sense of hope radiates. “Death Letter” is the blues, a juke-joint murder ballad, but one where the killer is full of remorse, and longs to jump in the grave he has just finished digging. “Fame Whore” is the album’s centerpiece, a poetic rumination on life, love and madness that recalls the underrated A Monster and The Devil, a masterful 1987 collaboration with The Styrenes. The vibe here is less jazz and more rock n’ roll. It’s sad and it’s beautiful, and Hudson excels in both of these modes. “Just Got Up” brings the old-school snot, showcasing Hudson’s voice in all of its ragged glory. The man’s still got it. Do you? Hollywood High closes with a spirited run-through of latter-day Pagans classic “(Us and) All of Our Friends are So Messed Up.” We are fortunate to have people like Mike Hudson — hardscrabble folk who have made it through the darkness, and come back to tell us what they have learned. It’s time to listen.
Hollywood High will be available on LP and download via Ruin Discos on November 4th, 2014.
MIKE HUDSON & THE PAGANS LIVE:
12/06 Los Angeles, CA @ Blue Bag Records
Artist: Mike Hudson & The Pagans
Album: Hollywood High
Label: Ruin Discos
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
01) I Want a Date
02) Hollywood High
03) Death Letter
04) Detention Home
05) Fame Whore
06) I Just Got Up
07) Dark Angel
08) (Us and) All Our Friends Are So Messed Up