Pirate Cat Radio


How Denis Leary Honored David Bowie on Last Night’s ‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll’

Warning: This article contains major plot points from the most recent episode of “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” “Rebel Rebel.”

At first glance, Thursday’s episode of “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” seemed preoccupied with blithe plotlines involving Johnny Rock (Denis Leary) and his girlfriend, Ava (Elaine Hendrix), engaging in a threesome – and Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies) throwing over boyfriend Flash (John Corbett) for some sexual experimentation with a sultry singer from out of town (Rebecca Naomi Jones).

But underneath the comedic narrative, the episode, titled “Rebel Rebel,” also served as series creator Leary’s homage to the late David Bowie, who died at age 69 earlier this year.

“He’s one of my favorite artists,” Leary told Speakeasy on the set of “SDRR” back in April. “Bowie and the Stones were my bridge until punk rock happened, so he’s always been a huge part of my rock and roll life.”

Before Leary even got into how he was able to work the legendary music artist into his FX show, he reflected on how Bowie’s death came on the heels of the loss of his friend and longtime collaborator, guitarist-composer Adam Roth, who passed away in December 2015 following a battle with cancer. But in an unexpected way, it was Bowie’s video “Lazarus,” released two days before the singer’s death, that provided Leary with an initial sense of healing:

“We were all mortified about what happened with Adam,” said Leary. “And that Friday [Jan. 8], I saw that video by Bowie. I thought it was an amazing video about a guy dying. I called [“SDRR” music-tech advisor] Charley [Roth], Adam’s brother, and his wife, and I said, ‘You guys have got to watch this video,’ because it’s the first time since Adam died that I watched something and I went, like, ‘Oh, my God!’ This made me feel almost like I’m healing a little bit. Like, spiritually, it’s uplifting.

“And then [a couple of days later],” Leary continued. “I wake up and find out that Bowie died, and I went, ‘That’s f—ing crazy.’ That that guy, an artist, could know what was happening to themselves and leave this document afterwards that – by the way – it’s not sappy, it’s not sentimental. How crazy is that video? And powerful!”

Leary’s next challenge was figuring out how to best honor Bowie on “SDRR” without messing with the show’s light, comedic tone. “It was very emotional for me,” he said. “[The writers and I], we said, ‘We gotta pay tribute, but we can’t do something serious because that would just be crazy.”

HIDE CAPTION Denis Leary as Johnny Rock in the 'Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll' episode 'Rebel Rebel' PHOTO: JEFF NEUMANN/FX
Denis Leary as Johnny Rock in the ‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll’ episode ‘Rebel Rebel’ PHOTO: JEFF NEUMANN/FX

So other than a couple of fleeting references to Bowie’s passing in the dialogue – and the “Rebel Rebel” title – last night’s Julieanne Smolinski-penned episode kept the Thin White Duke’s presence to a minimum. That is, until the final moments.

After Johnny and Flash found themselves booted out of their respective bedrooms so their girlfriends could engage in some women-only action (Ava with a member of an all-female AC/DC tribute band; Gigi with Jones’s character, Davvy), they bonded over pizza and a David Bowie doc. But what Leary never expected, was that he would be able to make the documentary part of that scene actually happen.

“I wanted to do a thing at the end where we would pay tribute to Bowie by virtue of the fact that this funny stuff was happening – and we were watching this Bowie documentary,” he said. “But I figured, I’m never going to get permission from his family, because it’s not, like, a serious tribute, it’s just me and Flash, who love Bowie, at the end of the show.”

As it turns out, the artist’s family was more than accommodating: “They gave us, like, 20 minutes of footage from back in the ‘Aladdin Sane‘ days, onstage and backstage,” said Leary.

For the record, the clips are not from an actual documentary. They’re BBC-owned footage of Bowie from the 1970s.

The end result was the best of both worlds for Leary: “You have to pay tribute to the guy, but on this show, it’s just gotta be funny.”

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Behind the scenes of Blood Orange with Iggy Pop

I am sitting in the waiting room of a Spanish vet with a sick cat and Iggy Pop. It feels like the strangest dream.

We are in Ibiza making a feature film, a noir thriller called Blood Orange. Iggy is playing the lead, an ageing rock star married to a beautiful seductress, and things get complex and dark. In these days of corporate movies and haemorrhaging budgets, it’s something of an anomaly. It’s the first feature directed by Toby Tobias, who wrote the script.

Toby is one of the hardest working people I know. He got Blood Orange off the ground with deft skill and blind faith. Blood Orange is financed by investors, family, friends and credit cards. In the midst of this intense schedule, 15-hour days, 15 days to shoot the film, there is the feeling that something good is happening. There’s a crew of 25 brilliant technicians and creatives from Ibiza, England, Barcelona and Madrid. No one’s being being paid up front but we all care.

And in the middle of it all is Iggy. Iggy was a surprise; Toby approached his agent, he liked the script, liked the director, accepted that it was low budget, that it would be tough, and that the living conditions would be basic.

Iggy has a deco villa with views to the ocean, opulent on the surface but devoid of character. It’s built like an ocean liner, clean lines and balconies and turquoise pool. He calls it the “dorm”. We are like a dysfunctional family. The “kids” are the other actors: Ben Lamb, Antonio Magro and Kacey Barnfield.

My job is to “look after Iggy” and the other actors, but primarily Iggy. It’s the strangest and most dazzling job I’ve ever had. I have dropped everything, abandoned my family and stepped into the dream.

For me, Iggy’s music was a series of teenage epiphanies that led me from New Romantic shiny Pulp to a dark growling poetry that spoke about distant cities and limitless possibilities.

When I meet him, I’m so nervous I am basically mute. He has a huge grin and blue, blue eyes. We make the short drive to the set; Iggy asks if “this interminable mind-fuck will ever end”. I realise it’s going to be fine.

We have an editor on the set and some of the actors clamour around to watch the rushes. Iggy doesn’t. When I ask him why, he says: “I don’t need to. I know I’m fucking cool.”

Mostly we try not to destroy the location villa; it’s the epitome of luxury.

On the set Iggy strides around with a shotgun and dead rabbits slung over his shoulder; there are corpses and a lot of blood. Off set he reads his Kindle, the cat purring on his belly.

Very occasionally being with Iggy feels normal, but mostly it’s surreal. Our day has a rhythm; coffee and eggs are my collateral. Being with him is like having an amazing perspective on the world. I ask him if he prefers touring or acting. He replies: “They both suck.” On Nico: “She taught me two things, how to drink red wine and give oral sex”.

There are moments I’ll never forget: hearing his songs drifting down from the balcony in the morning, or looking for his script and glasses. “There was a time when all I had was a T-shirt and a penis and that seemed to be enough,” he says. But most of all it will be the cat.

The cat has adopted us as his family. Grey and white, and kittenish, he actively seeks the company of Iggy. The “butler”, a camp guy who lives in the garden in a cottage, tells us the cat “just turned up”.

Meanwhile we ricochet between one millionaire’s villa to another, like a Hockney painting, of whites, blues and greens, from our bizarre fictional world where dark events play out daily, to our dysfunctional family life.

We do not leave our villa – we are not near anywhere, and there is no time anyway.

We wonder who is in charge – Iggy? Jacques, the omnipresent owner of the location villa, or Chris, our smiling producer? It’s probably the cat.

Then one night the cat is sick. He’s listless and limp and seems to have difficulty breathing, and there’s some matted hair on his side. His benefactor is Eleanor, who’s here to learn about makeup, but bizarrely is sometimes Iggy’s stand-in. It’s about midnight and we’d just finished shooting, too late to take a cat to the vet. We tell the producer our concerns, and he rolls his eyes. I sleep with the cat on my bed, wrapped in a blanket; he drinks a tiny bit of water. I’m half expecting him not to make it through the night. Would we use the shallow grave on the set? Dark dreams stalk my sleep.

At breakfast, after hearing the news, Iggy says, “I think we should make the kitty our priority today.”

It’s been an intense schedule; this is his first free day in two weeks. Earlier I’d asked him if he wanted to go to a spa. “I don’t want to go to a fucking spa. What am I going to do, put seaweed on my face? I hate that music they play.”

So we drive to a suburban vet with our driver Jos, Eleanor and the kitten and agonise over its likely fate. It’s not looking good. Somehow the cat’s fate has become as important as the movie. Reality and fiction slide into each other.

We rename the cat – bizarrely christened ‘Sugartits’ by the crew – to ‘Pop’. Iggy laughs. We must be an unconventional sight in the waiting room, even in Ibiza, but no one visibly raises any eyebrows. The vet is a gentle sincere young woman who explains that the cat has probably been in a fight or fallen, and is having trouble breathing. And is female. Iggy’s surprised. “She kind of acts like a he.” She’s going to need to stay in the hospital for a few days on an antibiotic drip.

When a group of people work in such close proximity there needs to be an outlet for the collective neurosis. For a while it was the catering, which was often both surprising and disappointing. One of the commandments of film-making is Never Compromise on the Catering.

Toby’s devastated, he’s an amazing cook. The all-time low is pasta with sausages. Iggy is diplomatic. “It’s like welfare dinners at elementary school.” But some of us plot increasingly wild revenge scenarios on the chef.

But our team has collective neurosis and the thing that bonds us is the cat – its survival and fate.

Next we have to find her a home and it’s going to be a challenge. Ibiza is an island of cats, and everyone who wants one has one, and we only have a few days.

Jacques, the villa owner, is the obvious candidate, but he has four already. He tells us mysteriously: “I am the cat wrangler, I tell them the truth.” Bizarrely Iggy agrees. “He is.” I realise the cat is taking up as much of my time as the film.

The next day is Iggy’s other day off and we visit the cat at the vet. She’s looking much better, and the vet tells us she has three broken ribs, is in a lot of pain and would have died if we hadn’t brought her in.


Many conversations about pet passports ensue. Iggy can’t take her to Miami – he has dogs. Eventually Sondra, who looks after the villas and is as mischievous as the cat, and similarly seeks the company of Iggy, agrees to take her. It is an emotional moment.

The film wraps. It is done. I tell Toby “it’s always been about the cat” and he agrees. To make a movie in 14 days seems like a small miracle. No animals were killed; in fact, the producer moves hedgehogs from the road at night and Ben rescues the beetles spiraling upside down in the pool. And the cat is saved.

For us the cat underlined that Iggy was someone great. We knew that he has a brilliant mind, is self-effacing, funny and subversive, but the cat made us love him unreservedly. At the airport Iggy asks: “Do you have any Euros, hon? I gave all mine to the cat.”

When I get home the world slides back into focus and it’s rather grey. I remember I have a screenwriting book called Save The Cat! I dig it out – the writer explains the Save the Cat scene. “They don’t put it into movies anymore. And it’s basic. It’s the scene where we meet the hero and the hero does something – like saving a cat – that defines who he is and makes us, the audience, like him.”

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BIG BOY PETE AND THE OFFBEATS / Winklepickin CD / 22 Records / 2010

More than 50 years after the heyday of Skiffle music in jolly olde England, an original voice from that era is still reminding the world why that style of music was so incredibly popular and influential in the 1950’s pub scene.  It can be argued that Skiffle was England’s original punk music, with an explosion of 30,000 bands slogging it out in local taverns at the height of Skifflemania.  Members of bands ranging from the HOLLIES to CLIFF RICHARD to a humble little band called the BEATLES cut their teeth in the Skiffle scene.  And all this is to say that this CD is not only historical, but it’s also hysterical.  Fun, funny and infectious with just a guitar, upright bass and washboard, and plenty of voices.  Sounds pretty punk to me…


3  “When Lonnie Was King” (the history of Skiffle in less than four minutes)
4 “Hemsby Gap” (easy rolling bawdy anthem to simpler times)
10 “Let’s Make It One In A Row” (fun romp reminiscent of DAVE EDMUNDS)

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DONT’S Those Delicate Chemicals CD

DONT’S / Those Delicate Chemicals CD / Self-Released / 2010

These local indie rock heroes are all over the place in a good way.  Sometimes they’re in updated techno/disco territory, sometimes in ‘90s alt-rock land, sometimes in Arty Quirksville.  It’s all done with a light touch so nothing seems pretentious or overstated.  They wear plenty of influences on their sleeves, but always put things together their own way.  Not groundbreaking, but definitely easily listenable.


2  “Breakdown” (more danceable than the TOM PETTY song of the same name)
5 “Killove” (for fans of the early LIARS)
10 “Gasoline” (techno CLASH?)

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THUNDER BUFFALO / s/t CD / Sarathan Records / 2010

Familiar doesn’t necessarily mean boring.  The sounds here have all been lovingly “borrowed” from many more famous garage/psych/skronk bands, but they still pack a potent punch to the eardrums.  A hint of darkness and danger helps to add to the mystery and fun that these songs deliver.


1  “Stereo” (upbeat like MY BLOODY VALENTINE)
2 “BeBop Sing-A-Long” (for fans of the new garage revolution)
4 “Middle Of The Street” (fast anthem dripping in distortion)

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WHITE NOISE SOUND / s/t CD / Alive! Records / 2010

This aptly named band manages to get all kinds of drone going, and then revs into a full-on pop song when you least expect it.  A world of music is created here that exists at the corner of Krautrock and Shoegaze, with field trips to Psych and Garage.  Timely and timeless.


1  “Sunset” (garage techno shoegazer stuff)
5 “Blood” (shades of VELVET UNDERGROUND)
8 “Don’t Wait For Me” (spacey psychedelic anthem)

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PAUL COLLINS / King Of Power Pop CD / Alive! Records / 2010

I’m old enough to remember the first wave of power pop, championed by L.A. radio great RODNEY BINGENHEIMER and Bomp Records.  Bands like the SHOES, the ROMANTICS, the REZILLOS, the RUBINOOS, DRAMARAMA and countless others made pop cool again in the late ‘70s.  Now an original from that scene proves that the charms of power pop have not faded with time, with a brilliant solo release on a subsidiary of Bomp called Alive!.  This release, expertly produced by Detroit rock genius JIM DIAMOND (who’s on fire recently with another great release by SCOTT MORGAN) is more than nostalgia and still beautifully raw.


3  “Doin’ It For The Ladies” (hilarious and catchy)
6 “Many Roads To Follow” (poignant NERVES classic)
8 “Off The Hook” (great summer driving music)

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UNITS History Of The Units CD

UNITS / History Of The Units CD / Community Library Records / 2009

Some consider San Francisco legends the UNITS the first synth-punk band to be represented on 7” (“High Pressure Days” in 1979), but whether they were indeed the first they were one of the best.  With the underpinning of an angry anti-consumerist manifesto giving them a strong philosophical thrust, they resisted succumbing to traditional punk band instrumentation in an effort to break molds on many different levels.  Though they weren’t ultimately successful in breaking through to a wide national audience like many of their peers, they retained far more integrity and creative control than the flood of synth-pop bands from the era documented on this disc (late ‘70s and early ‘80s).


5  “High Pressure Days” (synthpop antidisestablismentarianist anthem)
12 “Warm Moving Bodies” (sarcastic dance hit)
19 “Digital Stimulation” (nice double meaning)

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DEBORA IYALL / Stay Strong CD / Dottie Records / 2010

The mighty voice between SF’s greatest New Wave band ROMEO VOID is back with songs that go in many different directions musically and lyrically, sounding familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.  She’s definitely no nostalgia act resting on laurels (though with RV songs like “Nvr Say Nvr” she very well could), and the songs here do hearken to the ‘70s and ‘80s without sounding particularly nostalgic.  The kids might not get it, but it sure sounds good to these aging ears!


1  “Bring It” (should be a new inspirational anthem for TV’s“Glee”)
6 “Crocodiles” (wistful and danceable)
11 “Fine Black Dust” (would have been a good song for TV’s “Twin Peaks”)

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BROTHERS COMATOSE / Songs From The Stoop CD / Self-Released / 2010

It’s a familiar sound, but a friendly one.  Bluegrass is the nerdy hipster music of the day, and these guys churn it out with plenty of good cheer and tunefulness.  Generally bluegrass seems to work better for me live than on record, so I’ll try to catch these guys some honky-tonkin’ night around town sometime.


1  “Trippin’ On Down” (goofy and poppy)
4 “Dead Flowers” (sweet version of the nasty ROLLING STONES standard)
11 “26 On The List” (upbeat bluegrass with some fine harmonica)

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