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October 21, 2022
Kid Congo Powers’ Playlist for His Memoir “Some New Kind of Kick”
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.
Kid Congo Powers’ memoir Some New Kind of Kick is an illuminating coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of the alternative music scene.
Booklist wrote of the book:
“A beautifully edgy tale of a kid discovering himself through music.”
In his own words, here is Kid Congo Powers’ Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Some New Kind of Kick:
Some New Kind of Kick is a memoir about my experiences growing up as a queer, Mexican-American kid in Los Angeles in the ‘70s, and how I found freedom and community through music. Many of these songs have deep personal significance for me, and I hope you’ll be able to find some significance in them too.
“Declarate Inocente” – Lucha Villa
My sense of the dramatic was forged early by hearing the music my parents listened to, especially the rancheras songs of Lucha Villa. I didn’t know Spanish at the time but from the emotion in her voice I could have guessed the lyrics:
“Light me on fire if you want me to forget you,
Put three bullets in my forehead,
Do with my heart what you want,
And then for love’s sake, declare yourself innocent”
“Moonage Daydream” – David Bowie
David Bowie gave license to be free with my secrets of being a queer teenager. His alien like androgyny made so much sense in puberty, growing awkwardly into my body, experimenting with drugs and sex. A bisexual rockstar from Mars was a perfect analogy for my conflicted queer teen years.
“Piss Factory” – Patti Smith
I mailed away for this 45 from the back pages of LA fanzine Back Door Man. My first peek into what was to become the punk beatnik literary mashup of Patti Smith. Attitude and dreams of escaping small dead end factory job for the bright lights of the city and becoming something or someone else really spoke to me. Just piano, guitar, voice and guts.
“53rd & 3rd” – The Ramones
The Ramones shocked me out of a deep depression after a murder in my family rendered me dead inside. The Ramones replaced it with hope, humor and a leather jacketed buzzsaw noise. What I needed at the exact right time. Started a fan club. My life was saved by rock and roll.
“Christmas Weather” – Student Teachers
In 1978, I took a Greyhound Bus from LA to NYC and was befriended by the teen members of Student Teachers and The Blessed. Wild nights at Max’s and CBGB ensued. I crashed in their crash pad. 45 years later, I am still a family with these ones.
“Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)” – Siouxsie and the Banshees
In 1978, while on an acid trip, me and my friend Pleasant heard this song and decided the atomic bomb was going to drop so the only recourse was to dig an underground tunnel to a liquor store and wait it out, wearing bright clothes from Fiorucci naturally. What could go wrong?
“Gun Slinger” – Bo Diddley
In 1979, a weird kid named Jeffrey Lee Pierce asked me to be in a band with him as the guitarist. I told him I didn’t play guitar. Not to be deterred, he loaned me a guitar and gave me a cassette tape with this song on it, exclaiming “It’s only one chord and it’s great!” I played along for hours every day. The Gun Club was formed. I was now a guitar player!
“New Kind of Kick” – The Cramps
This 1981 release was only the second time I had been in a recording studio. I was now named Kid Congo Powers and a member of The Cramps. I love the wild guitar solo and the lyrics by Lux Interior, “life is short, filled with stuff, don’t know what for, I ain’t had enough, I want some new kind of kick” summed me up!
“The Las Vegas Story / Walkin’ with the Beast” – The Gun Club
By late 1983 I was back in The Gun Club with my friend Jeffrey Lee Pierce. We recorded the album, The Las Vegas Story. The sessions were done at Ocean Sway studios at the same time Stevie Nicks was in recording something, and Ry Cooder was recording the soundtrack to Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas soundtrack. We borrowed Ry’s whirly whirlies.
“Paralyzed” – The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
Not even working with the intense ones, Lux Interior or Jeffrey Lee Pierce could prepare me for the anarchy that was playing guitar for The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, whose name is Norman. It was like chasing a wild feral cat! Almost impossible, but could be so cute and cuddly, if only you could catch him!
“From Her to Eternity” – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
In 1987, I moved to Berlin Germany to play with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. My first recording with them was recreating a “live” version of this song for the Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire. Had recording with Ry Cooder’s gear on my last album put the good juju on me to be in this wonderful company of Wim Wenders? We are even in the film. What an honor!
“The Weeping Song” – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
From my last recordings with The Bad Seeds in Sao Palo, Brazil in 1989.
“Lullabye” – Congo Norvell
By 1992, I had left both The Gun Club and Bad Seeds and moved to Los Angeles. I started a band with singer Sally Norvell called Congo Norvell whose mission was to pay tribute, in song and sound, to those touched by the AIDS epidemic. An epidemic so cruelly ignored by the United States government. Sally had also played Nurse Bibs in the Wim Wenders’ film , Paris, Texas. This Wim Wenders thing is getting spooky! Or more to the point, Wim has excellent taste in music—on that we can agree!
“He Walked In” – Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds
Many years after the death of Jeffrey Lee Pierce, he still visits me in my dreams.
Kid Congo Powers is a guitarist and singer-songwriter best known for his work with The Gun Club, the Cramps, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He is currently the frontman for Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds. He lives in Tucson, AZ.
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