Pants on Fire

Yanking the chain of legendary Lyres leader Jeff Connolly

"I'm just a soul whose intentions are good/ Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood." Ol' Eric Burdon ran through my mind when I got an angry e-mail from Jeff "Monoman" Connolly. I had asked for a high-resolution photo of his band Lyres that would be suitable for print. Connolly blasted back, in all caps: I DON'T "DO" HIG (sic) RESOLUTION, IT MAY HAVE EVERYTHING YOUR HIGH QUALITY PUBLICATION NEEDS BUT HAS ABSOLUTELY "NOTHING" TO DO WITH ME AND/OR ROOCK (sic) AND ROLL. I.E. "HIGH RESOLUTION" DOES NOT = "ROCK AND ROLL." ROCK AND ROLL DOES JUST FINE WITH LOW DOTS PER INCH. Connolly then sent a few crappy color snapshots and insisted I go to google.com -- where I found several more crappy color snapshots.

I was then informed that Lyres didn't have any promotional music available. In fact, Lyres haven't had a new release since the 1980s. After an exhaustive search, I finally located On Fyre, Lyres Lyres, and When I Get Offby Connolly's first band, DMZ. From those records and Connolly's favorite search engine, I was able to discern the following: DMZ was a legendary late-1970s Boston-based punk band that mainlined Stooges guitar riffs with barroom piano. Connolly's massively cool record collection helped break DMZ from the pack. For instance, they were one of the first punk bands to cover Roky Erikson's "You're Gonna Miss Me."

After a few years and a contract with Sire records that inflicted the record production team of Flo & Eddie (The Turtles) upon the unsuspecting band, DMZ broke up, and Lyres were born in 1979. "Not 'The Lyres,'" Connolly instructs. "We are not a 'the' band!" Lyres signed with upstart Boston label Ace of Hearts and blew Beantown away with their Vox-organ-powered garage rock. "She Pays the Rent" and "Help Me Ann" became worldwide punk standards, as did their covers of early '60s garage outfits like the Sonics and the Wailers -- inspiring countless bands of lesser talent to revisit those same songs in the same way.

Thieves and Lyres: Jeff "Monoman" Connolly's in there somewhere
Thieves and Lyres: Jeff "Monoman" Connolly's in there somewhere

After creating and conquering the 1980s garage-punk scene, Lyres spinal-tapped their way through 20 (and counting) lineups. In the early '90s, they hooked up with hardcore label Taang for a string of albums that were well-received but, naturally, not quite as well-regarded as their old stuff. In 1998, Matador rereleased all four Ace of Hearts Lyres records. Since then, Lyres have been riding the reissue gravy train. With that in mind, here's a Q&A with Connolly:

Q: Are the 1960s still worth revisiting musically?

A: Of course.

Q: Why?

A: Superior songwriting and musicianship compared with today's digitally produced robot crap.

Q: What bands from that era still have something to teach us?

A: All the bands that had energy, for starters. Energy is missing from 99.9999 percent of all today's money-grubbing recording clowns.

Q: Are the Sonics and the Wailers still viable?

A: Of course. Their recordings will never be even approached, let alone equaled. That's a no-brainer.

Q: Should the Rolling Stones hang it up?

A: No, they should "Start Me Up."

Q: Does rock 'n' roll work best as a singles medium? If so, why?

A: Of course. Because Sgt. Pepper's signaled the end of the singles format in many ways. That was the end of the "innocent" era. There would have been so much different outcome in music if Paul hadn't decided to compete with Brian Wilson... It "ruined" rock 'n' roll, kinda like the day the music died...

Q: What was viable about rock 'n' roll when you started DMZ that's missing today?

A: What does viable mean? OK, OK, things were "viable" in 1975 and 1976 in that all the New York Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges, Velvet Underground, MC5 seeds were already past germinating and finally began to bud and produce nice sinsemilla plants.

Q: What's the worst thing about the music industry?

A: It don't celebrate Christmas the way the rest of us does.

Q: How many lineups have you had in Lyres?

A: Basically only one or two; the rest were just for touring purposes. I'm back with lineup number one from 1976 through 1979, plus I've got a younger guitarist. The original Lyres guitarist moved to Florida around ten years ago, but I think he's in prison now...

Q: How many musicians?

A: How many musicians what? Does it take to screw in a light bulb? Can you be more specific? OK, I've trained around 50 or so different Lyres in my day. Big deal; who hasn't?

Q: Do you see Lyres as a revival act? Why or why not?

A: What an absurd question. You should be ashamed to even ask that! That's the stupidest question I've been asked in a long time. Nothing personal, of course. What am I supposed to be reviving anyways, myself? I mean, listen here: I've been releasing records and compact discs for over 27 years. How am I supposed to be a revival, of what? Again, your question is entirely absurd. Now go punish yourself...

Q: Do you see hope in events like Garage Shock and Sleazefest?

A: There's always plenty of hope every time the groups Lyres and DMZ get on planes and don't get blown up en route. We're in the audience/promoter-pleasing business. Oh yeah, we don't ever get on the planes unless we are well-compensated for our incredibly taxing efforts.

Q: What's the best experience you've had at one of those festivals?

A: Not coming home with the AIDS virus.

Q: What's your rock 'n' roll endgame?

A: Heart attack on stage.

 
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