Smart, filthy, and funny, Mike Edison is no ordinary author, and his reading/book-release party Thursday night in Brooklyn was, accordingly, a break from the expected. Jon Spencer -- the madman behind the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Boss Hog, Heavy Trash, and Pussy Galore -- joined Edison onstage at Frank's Cocktail Lounge (Christmas lights up since 1974) in Fort Greene to blow minds for a gig appealing equally to the literate and the lowbrow.
And Spencer wasn't there to just play a few songs at a book party. He was leading a working band, newly christened the Space Liberation Army, and featuring Hollis Queens (Boss Hog, Edison Rocket Train) on drums, Dean Rispler (Murphy's Law) on bass, with Edison on keyboards and Theremin. And while they could easily blow minds just jamming their psychedelic blues, their witches-brew of outer-space jazz and punk rock is designed entirely to back Edison as he reads from his book and otherwise rants about sex, drugs, professional wrestling, and various other topics. And it all read like rock'n'roll.
On night four of a five-stop jaunt to promote the paperback release of Edison's deliciously lowbrow yet highly literate (and lengthily titled) memoir, I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World, fans clung to every word during the hour-long set of stories, only breaking for a full-tilt rock'n'roll version of the folk standard "Cocaine Habit Blues."
Still, it's difficult to classify the performance: spoken-word that rocks? "I like to call it extreme storytelling," Edison told SPIN.com afterward. "Literary mayhem. We're 21st century beatniks. Troubadours for the new-world order." Whatever it was, it worked, and it suited the spirit of Edison's book perfectly. (For a deeper taste, check out the book's accompanying CD, also titled I Have Fun Everywhere I Go, a studio-produced version of excerpts from his book backed by Spencer's avant blues.)
But even without help from his posse of punk-rock luminaries to help illustrate the sleaze of Edison's adventures in porn-mag land (his rollicking account of directing a Cheri magazine "Girls of New Orleans" photo shoot) or the wistfulness of the last time he hung out with friend and one-time bandmate GG Allin before his death (that's right -- an honest-to-God wistful story involving everyone's favorite shit-hurler), Edison brings the stories from his book to life with the performance chops of a seasoned rock'n'roller and the humor and bombast of a former Screw magazine editor-in-chief.
My favorite story of the night was "Jews for Jesus" (sample line: "Was I ready to accept Jesus as my savior? Not even the promise of condomless sex with a disease-free shiksa porn star would've gotten me back into that theological kook house!"), which recounted his experience going undercover to expose Jews for Jesus as a Baptist organization. It's a tale told in classic Edison fashion: hilarity, absurdity, a touch of raunchiness and indignation, and even a little poignancy.
Listen: "GG Allin Died Last Night"