Roc* Around the World November, 1976   25

FASHION

ROCK & ROLL —IT'S A DRAG?

Drag has been a part of the Rock & Roll underground chic thanks to Warhol, Divine et al since—it seems forever. A 'part' of it—but not actual Rock & Roll, that is until Wayne County started playing the Rock Clubs rather than gay bars. And his act is real, raw, Rock & Roll—his band, 'The Back Street Boys' are typical of the current New York punk vogue. The difference being that the lead singer not only sings, but also does a great drag show and some hysterically funny impressions— it is truly Rock & Roll theatre!

Wayne County is serious about Rock & Roll and first conceived the idea for a Rock/Drag act in London, during the late sixties, whilst acting in Andy Warhol's 'Pork.' It has taken him since then to persuade 'the powers that be' i.e. booking agents and club owners that his kind of Rock & Roll can sell—the record companies are still skeptical. Judging by the capacity audience when I saw him last, it can't be long—his bookings have spread from New York to Boston to Cleveland and Houston.

When I saw Wayne recently in Boston I was prepared for anything—I first saw him several years ago in Los Angeles and he was totally outrageous! Well, he has cleaned up his act for general consumption—but don't despair, anyone who can sing "Toilet Love" can't be Rock's answer to Pat Boone.

Although his set was only about 40 minutes long he managed five costume changes, starting off in a leopard print mini-dress and curly wig—he looked better than most of the au-

dience. Both the act and the music were get down raunchy. very rude but very funny. His first costume change, was, for me, the best—having dashed behind a curtain onstage he re-appeared in a long platinum wig and quite literally the 'trashiest' outfit I have ever seen. It was made entirely from polyethylene bags covered with toilet rolls, TV dinners and old milk cartons, the piece de resistance however was the 'Pyronate A 200' box attached to

his wig!

Another quickie change and the trash queen was replaced by a faded Southern belle, the Delta Dawn of the country circuit? Wayne grew up in the South and his limp and wrinkled organdy dress, with huge picture hat complete with dead flowers was perfect. The band slid into a mellow rock/country number whilst Wayne sang us a tear jerking tale of a bad girl with a heart of gold—that must have had every country singer, past & present spinning!

Wayne then announced that a dear and close friend of his would be appearing. He again vanished behind the curtain and "Patti Smith"

slouched out and began a killingly funny composite of free-form poetry, song and word association, with snatches of "Singing for God" thrown in for good measure. He out Patti'd Patti, with a tousled shag, baggy pants and shirt, and the audience loved it, like getting two for the price of one.

This marked the end of this part of the set and Wayne returned to the stage in his 'straight' clothes and own hair. His ensemble of battered felt hat, T-shirt and striped P.J. pants was the epitome of 'Bowery Chic' and in keeping with his outfit he got down to some basic Rock & Roll.

The main question I wanted to ask Wayne was, where he got his costumes—traditional drag costume is usually very stylized and elaborate. He explained that apart from the wigs. he either made or found everything that he wears onstage. the 'trash' outfit was genuinely that! He also said that he has found the most amazing parts of costumes in the streets and alleys in New York—the rest he actually sews and remakes himself. It seems strange to imagine the outrageous Mr. County sitting home sewing together the contents of his garbage can—but it's just another side of Rock &

Roll.   — Annie Dalton

OFF

cerning books written by/about current rock artistes . . . in the months to follow we'll be looking at Eric Idle (of the Monty Pythons): "The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book," Peter Hammill (of Van der Graaf Generator); "Killers, Angels, Refugees," Ian Hunter's "Reflections of a Rock & Roll Star," Patti Smith's "Witt" and "Seventh Heaven," or Alan Hull (of Lindisfarne): "The Mocking Horse" . . . literally, all outstanding reading

. . . this month we're taking a look at Led Zep's history as seen by journalist Ritchie Yorke.

From their inception, Led Zeppelin seemed blessed by Lady Luck. Just why they have thundered to the top of rock's pantheon (and I'm sure many kids thought they were kiddingly self-indulgent with their gold, spotlit blimp inside "Led Zeppelin II") has remained a mystery to lots of magazine critics and analytical onlookers of "heavy rock." Unfortunately, any number of these rhetorical intellegentsia have failed to be moved by either Zep's music or their secular importance in the Pop spectrum. They have never succumbed to hype, sham, or glam—they have remained truly reverent to the Muse of music in spite of enormous financial success—and they believe in their audience and their shared rapport.

A point that stumps most is that Led Zeppelin holds the unrivaled top spot as the

world's most popular heavy band. They sell more albums and draw more fans to their live performances than any other group including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. How they reached the top—without hit singles, without TV exposure, without critical approval—has baffled the music industry and carved the group a niche as the Pop Paradox of the Presence. In an attempt to survey their success. their image, and their brilliant organization, Australian columnist, deejay. feature interviewer, Ritchie Yorke has written "The Led Zeppelin Biography" (Methuen/Two Continents Publishers-Toronto/New York-S4.95), a look at their history, their private lives, and their phenomenal creative drives and output. Much of the book is based on interviews stretching back to the group's formation in 1 %8.

The book is primarily a chronological retrospective of the band. It starts with the decay of the Yardbirds, Jimmy Page's last group, and traces their individual careers prior to their union: John Paul Jones was a prominent arranger and session-man, Robert Plant and John Bonham were trudgin' thru the Mid-lands with a group called Band ofJoy. Yorke says: "What Page wanted was a re-formation of the Yardies. To keep his hand in and to keep an ear to the ground within London rock circles, he returned to occasional session work ... the ward spread

on the musician's grapevine that Jimmy needed some hands . . . as fate would have it, the first player to join Page in this reconstituted Yardbilds lineup was bass player. John Paul Jones." And as Page recalls: "Now John Paul is un-

questionably an incredible arranger and musician—he didn't need me for a job. It was just that he felt the need to express himself and he thought we might be able to do it together. John simply wanted to be part of a group of musicians which could lay down some good music. He had a proper musical training and he had quite brilliant ideas. I jumped at the chance of getting him." Terry Reid suggested that Page give this young singer he had heard a try. At an audition in Birmingham, Page thought Robert Plant was fantastic. They then spent some time together, hit it off completely, and tUe band was three. In a gentlemanly gesture, Plant suggested his drummer in Band of Joy as being the perfect percussionist Page needed. John Bonham, on tour at that time with Tim Rose, was preparing to join either Joe Cocker's band or Chris Farlowe. But as Bonzo so appropriately put it: "I knew that Jimmy was a good guitarist and I knew that Robert was a good vocalist, so even if we didn't have any success, it would at least be a pleasure to play in a good group." Right from the start the group gelled. As Jimmy remembered: "The four of us just got together in this four-II-four room and started playing . . . then we knew . . . we started laughing at each other. Maybe it was from relief or maybe from the knowledge that we knew we could groove together. But that was it. That was just how well it was going." Robert Plant says the publicity which

later surrounded the vibes of the first meeting was completely accurate: "You just couldn't walk away and forget it. The sound was so great." They toured Scandanavia as The New Yardbirds. but felt that they were working under false pretenses. Soon after (either thru John Entwistle or Keith Moon of the '1°1, they adopted Led Zeppelin as their moniker. With name, style and rapport established, they set out to produce their first album. I gyess I'll stop here 'cause everybody knows their Cinderella-story and about their first triumphant tour of the U.S. The band has gone from strength-to-strength ever since. . . .

The biography. in all, is simple reading and very favorable towards its subjects. Small tidbits include an understanding of Peter Grant's business manuevers that enable the band members to control their own creativity without

record company pressures; personal comments about their albums and songs; and, of course, real neat pictures of the boys in action. Yorke's writing skims over their adventures, sometimes all too briefly or superficially. And sometimes I just wish he had a bit more scope to his

style—there are occasional dips in content. Perhaps, the Zep's elusiveness with the radio and press accounts for this. The music has been their major statements, not their candidness. It seems rather awkward that their accomplishments have accounted for their fame. Page, Plant. Bonham & Jones would prefer to remain anonymous. The whole Is equal to the sum of its parts. Resisting accusations of break-up, tedium, and insincerity, Led Zeppelin soars on.

Mr. Curt

the SHELF

141 new series of reviews/observations con -

Photographs by Duana LeMay

Picture