Stag-O-Lee to re-issue BEHIND The MAGNOLIA CURTAIN and BLOW YOUR TOP September 12th ”â Cargo distrib.
PANTHER BURNS to play two sets at:
The 100 CLUB 15th September, London
The CLUNY 17th September, Newcastle
The last of the great cult bands and the genius undiscovered band from the eighties are over in the UK. I saw them once years ago in Philadelphia in 1987 and they were mindblowing and they sound even better now. If you love the Cramps and the Fall you will love this…
From the crucible of Memphis honky tonks and inelegant dives, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns reared it flaming, wooly head in year of 1979. Soon Falco, known then only as the ”ËBeale Street Blues Bopper’, led his group of errant electric troubadours into the vortex of New York’s new wave/no wave anti-art scene. As purveyors of art-damage Dixie-fried style, the group embodied the wreck-a-billy ethos that the New York downtown scene was craving. Excruciating performances around Gotham drew the attention of Geoff Travis, founder of Rough Trade records in London. With the shrewdness of a record entrepreneur with no ear for music, Travis commissioned the first album of Panther Burns.
The resulting first album was attempted at Sam Phillips studio but flopped, and the session was moved to another mid-town Memphis studio where it was recorded in one and two takes. Drawing from their brutal live set forged in rented cotton lofts on Front St. and in a country & western joint called The Well, the band spewed out the material in the studio during the course of six hours. Joining Falco in the core group of Alex Chilton, drummer Ross Johnson (fired during the sessions), contra bassist Ron Miller, and fill-in guitarist Jim Duckworth, were the marching Tate County, Mississippi Fife and Drum Corps of blues cane fife player, Napoleon Strickland. Together they evoked on vinyl the agonizing terror of a feral panther trapped by disgruntled farmers in a stand of wild cane bamboo that the planters’ posse had set ablaze. The legendary Panther Burned brightly down on Panther Burns Plantation and still does. There were Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones, and now, lord almighty, the PANTHER BURNS.
What happened next is shrouded in mystique, other than the known facts that the group was ever seen weaving through the smoke of burning mansions in the back seat of a black ’64 Thunderbird, wrecking happy homes, inciting brother against brother, and pledging allegiance to long lost causes. When the first album, entitled Behind the Magnolia Curtain, was released in 1980, instantly the bar was lowered for everyone in the music world who was really listening. The sheer abandon of the music infused with such phenomenal fires and decadent motifs was at once an anthem and an indictment of the gothic south from which the band sprang forth by a process of spontaneous generation or combustion, rather than any form of God-given birthright.
Soon the band once again crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and took up their outpost in New York’s east Village. By then Falco had trained himself in the manipulation of media tools like broadcast and cable TV, and had diverted the thrust of the band’s incendiary stage performance onto the dreamy blue CRT tubes of unwary home TV viewers. PANTHER BURNS became known subliminally as a neo-rumorist group in the underground of the 80’s low life art explosion as well as appearing as a passing glitch on home TV screens. The chagrin, the uneasy stance, the credo of doubt that emanated from the aura of the group at once drew and repelled audiences who greeted the band with squeals of ecstatic joy or with howls of contempt.
Geoff Travis once again sent a chunk of funds from London along with a producer, and this time the band was put into Radio City Music Hall orchestral recording studio on 6th Avenue in New York to record their second record. Travis was an entrepreneur to be respected because he muddled ahead with Panther Burns’ recording career admitting full well that this record would sell nothing. How prophetic and undaunting! The album was entitled Blow Your Top, named after the rant of a mentor of Panther Burns known as the Howling Wolf, whom Falco had met at the WC Handy Theater back in Memphis. Blow Your Top was recorded with the group of road warriors that had joined the fold of PANTHER BURNS including New York no wave drummer, Jim Sclavunous. It was a bit of a strange, yet holy alliance formed with one foot on the 4th Chickasaw bluff of the Mississippi River and the other standing at the foot of Grant’s Tomb.
With singular cunning, Geoff Travis palmed a US domestic deal to co-release Blow Your Top with Animal Records, a new label in New York formed by Chris Stein and Deborah Harry of Blondie with whom Falco had appeared on the celebrated TV Party cablecasts from 23rd Street. The album was thusly released world-wide in 1983 with the predicted dubious results. However, the movements of the band drew attention from senior critics in the New York Times, landed full page spreads in Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, and sundry publications like the East Village Eye.
Pretty soon the band was gigging from Foufounes Ãâ°lectriques in Montreal, to Yale University to the LSU graduation party on the USS Kidd in Baton Rouge, to the Polo Grounds in Los Angeles where they held forth on stage with the Cramps and Vampira. Smoking illegal Cuban cigars hand-rolled on 14th Street, the boys were driving to cross-county gigs in the back seat of 1963 Chrysler LeBaron black limousine that Falco had bought off a former housemaid at San Simeon to whom William Randolph Hearst had bequeathed the behemoth. The group was riding high, wide, and handsome and merrily took up two lanes of traffic where ever they went.
Close of Phase One of the recording career of Tav Falco and the Unapproachable PANTHER BURNS. The release of this double-album re-issue of Behind The Magnolia Curtain and Blow Your Top will be the first set in the forthcoming series of eight re-issue albums spanning the career of PANTHER BURNS released in full cooperation with Stag-O-Lee.