Junk rock

George Gimarc and an ex-Pistol make for some Rotten Television

The second segment, "Rotten Tales," features the host offering nasty little stories about "meaningless pop icons" such as Michael Bolton (outed for copyright infringement) and Celine Dion--funny, but not as nasty as it will be in forthcoming episodes. The show really gets going when Rotten turns his attention toward those pop figures who deserve praise and/or burial. For instance, he plays in its entirety the video for Tom Waits' "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (also a favorite of Beavis and Butt-head's...hmmmm) and speaks of it with reverence. Then he plays a Rolling Stones video and lies down in front of the screen as Mick Jagger creaks through the streets of New York. "The thought this is on behind me makes me really sick," Rotten utters. "There is a need for euthanasia."

Sure, it's an easy, 10-foot-tall target--there's likely some 15-year-old rocker out there saying the same thing about Johnny Rotten, whose Pistols reunited in 1996 for the crazy-big money. Yet it seems out of place on VH1, the station that has kept the Stones and Eric Clapton and the rest of their decaying lot on life support all these years. And Gimarc keeps insisting VH1 executives--including Rob Barnett, once the program director at KZEW-FM when Gimarc hosted the Rock and Roll Alternative during the early 1980s--want the show to be "meaner."

Oddly, Rotten and Gimarc had never met face-to-face during the days when Gimarc hosted Rock and Roll Alternative, though Gimarc interviewed him twice over the phone. They began working together when Gimarc was approached about creating an on-this-day-in-rock radio show as a sort of companion to his 1995 dry-eyed history Punk Diary 1970-1979. Gimarc was going to host the program till Rotten was brought in, which was fine with Gimarc. "To hell with my ego," Gimarc says. "I'd rather do it with a star. But only if John would work with me, because he's got a real reputation as being a real difficult person to work with."

Nevertheless, the two men got along famously: Rotten had read Punk Diary and was impressed with how Gimarc had presented the Pistols' story without giving too much credit to band manager Malcolm McLaren, oft cited as a visionary instead of a lucky charlatan. The radio show was eventually called Rotten Day--though to call it a "show" would be something of an exaggeration. Actually, it was a one-minute segment that aired five days a week and featured Rotten roasting some sacred cow, with most of the lines penned by Gimarc. (Imagine Rotten as the anti-Redbeard.)

Rotten Day was syndicated by the Album Network, broadcast in more than 60 markets, and briefly aired locally on the now-defunct Q102. But at the end of 18 months of hosting the show, Rotten got bored with the concept and wanted to try something different. Early in 1997, he and Gimarc spoke over the phone and batted around a few ideas--maybe a long radio show, perhaps a book--when Rotten suggested he wanted to do a television show where he could "make fun of rock and roll." Gimarc wrote up a proposal, spoke to his old friend Rob Barnett at VH1, and by the middle of this year, all three men were on a beach in Los Angeles shooting the pilot.

"A TV show for John was like, 'Well, I haven't done this yet, let's go see what this is about,'" Gimarc explains. "It's a good laugh. We want to get money out of it, and we found out there is no money in the show, but we're committed. But it's fun to have a platform of 65 million homes to tear apart this glorified golden calf called rock and roll. There are certain bits of it that need to be picked off and thrown away."

Johnny Rotten starts taking out the trash in February. Meanwhile, George Gimarc keeps collecting it. They both have the right idea.

Singing the Lord's Praises
Telling a gospel act it can perform for only eight minutes is a bit like telling a tornado to wrap it up, but the organizers of the Texas Gospel Announcers Guild's ninth annual gathering, held last weekend at the Anatole, had the right idea. For four hours on Friday and Saturday nights, gospel acts from all across the country (most from Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston) looking for record deals performed in the hotel's auditorium and turned the place out: Among the highlights on Saturday night were Rev. James Henderson's praise-Jesus rave-up (Henderson appears on Kirk Franklin's God's Property album) and performances by Dallas Anointed Voices and the D/FW Mass Choir.

The convention is sort of a gospel version of South by Southwest: Label reps from Malaco, Gospo Centric, and Savoy were in the crowd Saturday night, hoping to turn some hopeful messenger into the next Kirk Franklin, who showed up Thursday to offer his support. So did Texas Music Office honcho Casey Monahan, the governor's ambassador to the music industry. On Saturday night, TGAG president Bill "The Mailman" Miller introduced Dallas native (and very white) Monahan to the all-black crowd of more than 500 by saying, "I don't think he'll be hard to find." Praise God, that was funny.

Send Street Beat your holiday cheer to rwilonsky@dallasobserver.com.

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