Friday, June 27, 2008

Peter Laughner "Nocternal Digressions"

After having a lengthy discussion about making music with my friend Cory, he recommended that i check out Peter Laughner's solo stuff. So i ebayed and google-searched. But i found nothin. i have no idea how to find this stuff. In fact, i'm not really sure that it was ever released. So i really don't know how you can get this other than finding a friend to make you a copy (thanks Cory)...


To understand his music--or any music for that matter--it helps to understand something about Peter Laughner's life. Music, after all is an expression of some kind of interaction between the world around and the musician.

i only know what i remember Cory telling me after getting wasted at the Bug Jar and from what little i've read on the intergeek. But Peter Laughner grew up in the 60's obsessively listening to The Velvet Underground--basically a worshiper Lou Reed. He was friends with Lester Bangs and wrote about rock'n'roll for Creem Magazine. He played in a sweet punk band called Rocket From the Tombs which was pretty much the precursor to The Dead Boys.

In a lot of ways though, it seems like Peter Laughner was caught in a really tough period. He was witnessing the death of probably the most dynamic period of music in US history and the ushering in of....disco. All he wanted to do was make music and no one ever appreciated anything he did. He was a sweet guitar player but wanted to play punk-driven rock'n'roll. He never got along with any of his bands. And when he tried to perform solo, the only venues really were coffee shops. And of course they hated him because he was basically playing punk music--not exactly complimentary of the latte.

You can see how a situation like this could lead to disaster.


Well, in 1977, Peter Laughner came home to his Cleveland apartment, pressed play on his tape recorder, recorded what is now called Nocturnal Digressions and then died that night of organ failure. Cory calls it suicide and after listening to the album, i think he's right.

Peter Laughner was barely coherent. He even tells us in between songs that it's from all the drugs, alcohol and Lucky Strikes. His voice is raspy from the beginning and deteriorates throughout the course of his recording. It's clear that he's walking himself into the grave.

Then there's the songs that he decides to play. From Television's "Blank Generation" to The Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes", it says a lot about Peter Laughner's life at that time. When you're listening, you can almost see him playing in your head (In fact, you're probably looking similar).

Peter Laughner chooses mostly covers to play. i think this makes a lot of sense given the way his music was received, not to mention what a fan of rock'n'roll he was. He almost seems to be paying his last tributes: Television, Robert Johnson, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison....etc.

Peter Laughner ends the album with an abbreviated version of "Summer Time Blues" rushing through to finish before the tape cuts off. And it does. And that's the end.

The result is a mix of "i don't give a fuck" punk, folk, and post World War II blues. The recording quality is horrible. His guitar playing is amazing. And he plays the songs beautifully. But more than that, it expresses (maybe better than anything i have ever heard) alienation from the world around you, and alienation from yourself. It expresses being depressed and being pissed off about it. It's what music is about.


psychedelic elvis said...

best fucking picture ever.


asdfg said...

Hey, can you upload 'Nocturnal Digressions' somewhere (i.e. rapidshare) and e-mail me the link so I can listen to it?

kyle. said...

i will try to upload a couple of my favorite songs via my roommate's computer. Mine bit the dust. Won't even boot. No guarantees. i'm not even sure if i have a hardcopy of the album at this point.

i don't know if i trust this website, but it looks like you can purchase a recording of the album for 12 bucks:


Anonymous said...

"Blank Generation" isn't by Television. It's by Richard Hell, and the famous version of it is by him with his band the Voidoids (there's apicture of Laughner with Hell on the cover of Clinton Heylin's book From the Velvets to the Voidoids). Thanks for tip about this recording. I must get it.

styreneboy said...

Anonymous: Richard Hell played Blank Generation with both Television and the Heartbreakers before doing it with the Voidoids.

idiedforloveat3am said...

Just wanted to edify that Peter Laughner died at his parents' house in Northern Ohio in 1977. He had a nice relationship with them during his short 24 years, but they were kind enough to soundproof his bedroom walls. There are several other tapes made in that bedroom that are available. 'Nocturnal Digressions' was recorded the night before he died but I'm convinced he did not take his own life unless you consider his entire life a slow suicide. Also he mailed a letter to a friend the night before expressing his desire to move to the Ohio countryside. He died of acute pancreatitis and was drinking, as he mentions, the night before he died (which really pissed off Lester Bangs). He was an alcoholic and drug-addict and his thin-shadowed body disappeared with morning light. May someone bless his weary soul.

BTW, Laughner was also a member of Television but was kicked out for pulling a gun on Verlaine. He was also in: Mr. Charlie, The Blue Drivers, Friction, Cinderella Backstreet and another one I can't remember. Peace.

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Unknown said...

idiedforloveat3am: any chance you'd be willing to talk more about this letter you speak of? I know Craig Ferrier (Fifth Edition/Mr. Charlie drummer)was supposedly the last person to see PL alive (according to CP), but Craig is MIA possibly deceased. Please drop a line if you find a moment at nblakey at yahoo dot com

chris leonard said...

I was one of the first people Margaret Laughner called when she found her son Peter dead in bed and I spoke not long after the funeral to Craig Ferrier. I went to high school with Peter, saw him and Charlotte maybe twice between 1969 and 1977 around Coventry, but we had several mutual friends. The story Peter told me was that Mrs. Laughner was manic depressive and Mr Laughner was an alcoholic. Peter had the highest IQ ever recorded in the Cuyahoga Co. School system and was educated as a kid at the U of Chicago lab school. We had a writing class together my senior year at Bay High School in Bay Village OH. In the late spring of 1977 Peter was hospitalized for depression at Fairview General Hospital where I worked which is how we met again. He had been told to stop drinking due to the pancreatitis but did not--I saw him drink champagne in OJ pretending it was pure OJ (till I took a sip), and one night we went out to dinner and he had several mimosas and red wine. His last day he and Craig went for a long ride, he was drinking beer.. They came back to the Laughner's, Peter shot Dilaudid between his toes, and asked Craig to wake him up in a little while but Mrs. Laughner told Craig to leave.
I had already left for school (I was commuting to Cleveland State U) when Mrs. Laughner called and told my mother she had gone to wake up Peter and he was dead. My mother told me when I got home that evening.
I went to the funeral home but not the funeral. At the viewing they'd dressed Peter in a suit. I had never seen him in anything but black jeans and a black T shirt.
I couldn't handle the funeral, stayed home and got ripped on Ouzo and fell over in my parents' bathroom.

That's what I heard direct from PETER, and from Craig. I've heard other stories about his last days.
I have not seen Craig since 1977, the day I ran into him at Westgate Mall and he told me the above.

chris leonard said...

Charlotte Pressler (aka Stella Rayon) now teaches English at a college in Florida. I haven't heard from her in awhile, last summer she had been at a conference in Germany.
I used to be friends with the then-wife of Russ Williams who was also in at least one of Peter's bands. If anyone knows what happened to Russ, or to Leslie, please let me know. I lost track of her in the 70s but we were close friends in high school. In fact one night when Le's and I were seniors and Russ and Pete juniors we went out to a play--I'm thinking it was Rosenkrantz and Gildenstern are dead--in downtown Cleveland (which was then a real shithole) and to an old fashioned ice cream parlor called Boukair's near the Hanna Theater, it was a great evening.
I am still angry at Peter for being so reckless as to lose his life when he was so talented. I do NOT believe he intended to kill himself that night, he'd gotten so drunk/drugged he blacked out for days at a time before, and he DID ask Craig to wake him up. I'd talked to him the evening before and he hadn't sounded down, in fact he did say his therapist had asked him if he thought he needed to go back to the hospital for awhile and he told him (and me) that he did not.
IMHO it was 'death by misadventure.'
If you haven't yet read "Peter Laughner Is Dead" by Lester Bangs, who later OD'd on Tylenol.
Me, I'll be 64 in two weeks. I didn't have Peter's genius IQ or his talent, I quit drinking at 36. Getting old sucks but so does dying at 24 with so much left undone.