Sunday, December 04, 2011

'Lazy' (The Nuns, featuring Jennifer Miro)

August 1977: Through a succession of events too boring and personal to explain here, Your Blogmaster found himself in Southern California during the last handful of weeks of summer, 1977. Over the last few years I’ve been cobbling together notes towards writing a memoir of that time, provisionally titled Midsummer Punk; for now, however, I’ll concentrate on one specific occurrence.

The L.A. Punk/Wave community was beginning to make itself known and heard at that time. Not being so clued in as a relative outsider to know about places like the Masque, I was content to check out the few groups I was aware of at that Sunset Strip mainstay, the Whisky A Go Go.
But what shows they were! Using my minimal leverage as an out of town fanzine writer, I managed to finagle a free ticket out of The Ramones’ record company to see them at the Whisky, my first time experiencing them live. I saw two sets in one night; my ears rang for the next thirty-six hours.

My first Whisky gig, though, was The Dictators, supported by a group from up North, San Francisco’s own Nuns. Handsome Dick and his mob were pimping their ‘comeback’ lp, Manifest Destiny, uneasily caught between the juvenile, ‘teengenerate’ in-crowd humor of their now-classic debut, and wholehearted courting of the Stadium-Rock consuming majority.

For me, the new Dictators songs - rockers like ‘Steppin’ Out’ and ‘Science Gone Too Far!’, the surprising ‘Hey Boys’ (a Power Ballad before the term existed!) – appealed, and yet...
Mostly, it seemed like they were trying way too hard; that they also cranked their amps far louder than the confines of the Whisky deserved only added to the alienation of Go Girl Crazy! fans like me.

The Nuns were another, far more intriguing ball game altogether. Their lineup was quite the mismatch at first glance. There was Jeff Olener, a loud, foul-mouthed, leather-jacketed post-teenage delinquent. He didn’t so much sing as bellow and bark: in other words, the perfect front man.
Actually, and unusually, there were two front men throwing the songs in the mugs of the assembled L.A. mooks, expectant if unfamiliar with them and their foggy urban spawning ground. Olener’s cohort was one Ritchie Detrick, who was from NYC and (according to the Punk jungle telegraph) had been a roommate of Dee Dee Ramone's.
But wait, there was a third presence vying for the punkers’ attention: this blonde, model-thin-and-gorgeous creature, wrapped in a black (silk? vinyl? rubber?) trench coat, a Veronica Lake sweep of hair cascading down her face. Her name was Jennifer Miro, and she sat at stage left, playing electric piano and regarding the audience with a glacial gaze that was equal parts contempt and obliviousness.
Not to say that the rest of the Nuns’ lineup wasn’t as formidable. There was baby-faced Alejandro (back then known just as 'Al') Escovedo on guitar, who has created quite the impressive solo career for himself since those days. There was also Mike Varney on bass: he never really fit in, and in the following decade went on to be a major player and promoter on the Bay Area’s Metal scene.
Anyway, the Nuns’ set came suitably hard, loud and confrontational, with songs like 'Decadent Jew' and 'Suicide Child' (all together now: ‘you shot my dog, you *effing* hog, you're a suicide child...’).
The opening song, though, provided a serious and most un-Punkish contrast. It was called ‘Lazy’, performed by Jennifer alone on stage; a languid, quarter-to-two saloon closer that one could romantically describe as ‘decadent’.
I am including a later recording of ‘Lazy’, from the Nuns’ only fitfully successful 1980 debut disc for BOMP. Besides obviously being from here, another San Francisco angle could be found in the song’s original lyrics, in which found Miro asserting that the reason for her romantic malaise was due to all the local guys being more interested in each other! (A demo of the original ‘Lazy’ was regularly played, back in the day, on a local FM radio show hosted by out gay DJ, rock writer - and future president of Sire Records - Howie Klein.)
Jennifer Miro, phone home if you overcame your laziness.

And a sad Postscript: Jennifer Miro passed a few weeks ago in New York, of cancer. Here is video of her with the Nuns, playing at Winterland in summer '77, doing 'Lazy' (solo) and 'Savage'. Remember her this way: that walk, that voice, that mien. Wow.