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Baker's Dozen

"The Spirit": Mike Watt Of The Missingmen's Favourite Albums
John Calvert , March 6th, 2014 10:13

Currently in the middle of a European tour, the Minutemen, Dos and Firehose founder pares down his record collection to give John Calvert his thirteen all-time top LPs

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The Stooges - Fun House
I heard it first when I was only like, 16. And I found out about it because of a writer by the name of Lester Bangs… oh, and Richard Meltzer. They wrote in a music magazine called Creem. I got to meet Meltzer actually. I got to be friends with him, which was amazing. I mean, this guy wrote lyrics for the Blue Öyster Cult! Anyway… in 1973 this was before zines, and at that time most of the music magazines in the US were lame, but Creem had this vibe about it that somehow spoke to us. I mean, not 100%, but definitely it felt like the writers were speaking to us, not down to us. The writers… I dunno, they just didn't seem like shields for the record companies like in other mags [Bangs had been fired from Rolling Stone for "disrespecting musicians"]. You trusted them, y'know? Enough at least to check out the records they were telling us about. So… I took a chance and bought Fun House. 



I couldn't fuckin' believe it, man. To us, we didn't think it was rock & roll they were playing, we thought they'd invented a whole new music! I mean, this was some trippy shit. Like, I thought the first three songs were the same song played three different ways. I thought the bass was just a fourth guitar. When D's mom makes us into a band and puts me on bass (I bought my first bass for $100), I had to learn bass from Fun House, Creedence and the brothers doing R&B, or like Trevor Bolder [of Bowie's Spider From Mars and Uriah Heep], because you could really hear the bass on British rock & roll – most US rock & roll buried the bass in the mix. But yeah, Fun House was a freak out moment for us. It was the same story when we first heard Strictly Personal [Captain Beefheart's second album]. 



[At this point Mike digresses for several minutes; combines the story of moving to the Pedro projects from Virginia at age 10 to the tale of how he came to learn the meaning of the word "ponce" after a gig with J Mascis, via a short history of Francis Drake – "sorry man, D. Boon got me way into history".]



So you gotta understand Pedro at the time and the culture me and D. Boon were in. Me and D.Boon were kinda outsiders: D. Boon was a heavier man and I was a… goofier man [laughs]. And this was before we'd heard about "the parallel universe" [Mike's term for punk]. Bangs wasn't covering British punk. And in Pedro there was no jazz or anything. Just, like, country. I mean, D. Boon's dad was way into Buck Owens – I remember we would tie firecrackers to his Owens records and throw them like frisbees, blow them up. We had no idea what punk sounded like, just what it looked like, from photos. And when we first heard it, it was totally different to what we expected. Then we realised, "Oh… The Stooges were doing this before – it's the same thing! Musically, we were so ignorant back then (you've seen [Minutemen documentary] We Jam Econo, right?), so we had no way of connecting all these records we'd listened to when we were teenagers until punk came along! Also, you gotta understand that SoCal is basically 150 towns (London has the same vibe), so nobody knew each other. No one in the Hollywood scene knew Pedro, 30 miles north. I spray-painted "PEDRO" on my guitar, people thought that was my name! But the one thing we all had in common, the lingua franca, was The Stooges' Fun House. It was really important to our scene. 



So you can imagine how it felt when I was in Tallahassee Florida with my second band [Cowhouse] and Iggy phones me up! And he says "Ronnie says you're the man!" I couldn't fuckin' believe it, man.


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Mar 6, 2014 4:09pm

Cue inevitable 'He's picked a load of albums I've heard of, boooooring' type comments. Sounds like a real gent, I'd love to go for a beer with him.

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Mark
Mar 6, 2014 4:57pm

Love Mike Watt, best Baker's Dozen ever. Thanks!!

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Mark
Mar 6, 2014 4:58pm

He is a real gent, had a drink with him when he last played the Lexington.

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alex connor
Mar 6, 2014 5:36pm

mike. fucking. watt.
That made my day.
I'm still smiling...

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F Again
Mar 6, 2014 5:42pm

Oh man, what a joy. Can you bring Watt back for a second and third Dozen?

Thank you for this, it's just the best.

Watt is The Man- then, now and forever.

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Taun Aengus
Mar 6, 2014 6:20pm

Mike Watt is the man. What a heartfelt soulful dude. All those albums are like pouring gasoline on a fire.
Just had a thought--How about getting Lester Bangs back from the dead and finding out his favs?

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PRINCIP
Mar 6, 2014 7:14pm

Mike Watt is almost impossibly cool.

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Manic Inventor
Mar 6, 2014 7:19pm

A Baker's Dozen that woke me up instead of putting me to sleep. Hell Yeah!

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j
Mar 6, 2014 7:26pm

everytime i read "D.Boon" written i can hear mike saying it in his voice hahaha. he fucking loves saying it.

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chris
Mar 6, 2014 9:48pm

Every bit as excellent a read as I'd hope.
Countdown to the Ruby Lounge...

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Mar 6, 2014 10:31pm

Blue Oyster Cult ** are ** (were) shorties!! And so is Richard Meltzer!!

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Mar 7, 2014 3:46am

Cowhouse

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BOD
Mar 7, 2014 2:27pm

This was a joy to read. Brilliant. Love Mike Watt and can't wait to see him again in a few weeks.

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Jeff
Mar 7, 2014 8:17pm

Not to nitpick, but in the first paragraph of the Stooges record, the word "shields" is used, when I think Watt meant "shills": to act as a spokesperson or promoter <the>

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Mar 7, 2014 11:49pm

In reply to Jeff:

It's possible that is what he meant. Apologies, if so. I was talking to him from another country so the connection was a little sketchy.

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AdamSz
Mar 8, 2014 11:05pm

Mike Watt Forever! Thank you for getting him to talk about his favourite records, I can now go off and love him just that extra bit more.

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Mar 10, 2014 11:08am

Mike Watt will always be the man and one of my biggest heroes. I think the first comment said something about "Cue the inevitable "He's picked a lot of albums I've heard of etc." but the great thing about his choices is that they aren't just name dropping the classics as some might do, but that you can hear each album's honest to god influence on his playing and his approach to life. Thank you Mike!

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AL
Mar 11, 2014 12:46am

Seeing Mike slay in Los Angeles last year was a blast (even jamming on "Sister Ray" in tribute to Lou). Love the term "hittin' the Creedence" - gotta use that.

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Chris
Mar 13, 2014 1:49pm

I didn't want that to end...just brilliant, give him a regular spot. Got me fired up like carburetor dung.

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Christian
Mar 13, 2014 4:48pm

Excellent

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sumlin
Mar 17, 2014 11:54am

I think when he says "second band" on the Stooges page he might have meant "Secondmen" as Iggy would have asked him to be in the Stooges around 2002 when Watt was doing the Secondmen band...

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Gareth
Mar 25, 2014 1:44pm

They say never meet your heroes, they obviously never met Mike Watt. I got 5 minutes with him after his gig in Belfast a few years ago and he was polite, engaging, enthusiastic and just the friendliest guy you could meet. Love the guy, love this article!

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veronica
Apr 4, 2014 2:10am

The many musical layers of Mike Watt. That is all.

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