Helmet releases their first live album 'Live and Rare'
26 November 2021
The album is filled with frenetic energy
Helmet has never released a live album throughout their decades-spanning career. Page Hamilton recalls: “After persuading our label folks in Hamburg to bake these old tapes we finally managed to mix 2 live shows for release. Side 1 was recorded at CBGB’s which was our neighborhood club, a 10-minute walk from home. We all spent plenty of time at CB’s and though this is not our audition night set, it captures the early frenetic energy of the band as well as my lack of scintillating stage banter."
In 1989 I walked in off Bowery through the creaky swinging doors and plastic-slat, meat locker style curtain into the greatest rock club in the world, CBGB’s. Apparently, David Byrne (a musical hero of mine) was not sympathetic to the rent scandal that ultimately forced CB’s to close but I am a maudlin old fool and have great memories from our time there. We became a better band by playing that stage a lot and I saw some of the best shows ever in that room.
Owner Hilly Crystal and manager/booker Louise Parnassa sat facingeach other, west and east at desks up front and barely looked up to acknowledge me. Louise, a very pretty and seemingly dour (I got to know her a bit and she is sweet and lovely when she’s not dealing with hundreds of dipshits in rock bands) Jersey girl said “can I help you?”. I handed her our first recorded music on a cassette tape with hand silk-screen torture helmet artwork from a Spanish Inquisition book and an umlaut over the “M”. The songs, Born Annoying, Rumble, Shirley Maclaine and Geisha to Go were done at Don Fury’s 8 track Soho basement studio; she said “I might listen in a couple of weeks. If you wanna play sooner, audition”.She signed us up for the first available date which was that Sunday (maybe Monday?).
We played with a Night Rangerstyle rock band, one dude worea thigh bandana and a singer/songwriter girl wearing a long Loretta Lynn kinda dress. Mike Kirkland and Tommy Victor of the band Prong did the door and FOH that night. Mike later told me he wrote in the CB’s notebook ‘cool band, book with Cop Shoot Cop or Unsane’. Louise told me a few years later we were like “ice picks in her forehead” but she thought I was cute (paraphrasing here, think Jersey alphabet...fuckin’ A, fuckin’ B, fuckin’ C) so she booked us almost monthly. “Murder”, “Repetition” and “Sinatra” were brand new, so this show was pre-Strap It On, year zero. Henry probably still had dreadlocks, Peter wore Beatle boots and skinny legged-pants; John and I always dressed like 12-year-olds so no, it wasn’t some brilliant Helmet marketing scheme as a few bitter downtown hipster