Dan Levy (danlevy) Thu 10 Jun 04 09:44
Play it loud. It's got a really lush sonic space.
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Thu 10 Jun 04 10:13
I'm trying to think of some other Robert Quine projects. Didn't he play a tour with Marianne Faithfull? My band Secret Six opened for her in Houston, and it was a memorable experience. I remember Fernando Saunders on bass quite well, and he's still playing with Lou also. I remember Black Mask as being one of those first Lou LPs, possibly preceded by Rock n Roll Heart (?) that had a few really good or great songs, and several that really made me cringe. I have to say the cringe quotient kept increasing over the years, tho I still love the guy. Seemed like Quine was playing with all those NY bands for a while. Guess we need to visit AMG to check. As for the garageband site, it looks pretty good, tho I must confess I'm ignorant as to details, how it works, etc. I'll research it more but I do agree, it could be a nice way to go in the future. A clearinghouse or whatever for the lost punk bands music is a nice idea. There aren't a whole lot of the Skunks live CD's left. If a demand manifests itself, I suppose I'll order up another pressing. I have lots of tapes in the closet that could possibly yield more products. For those of you who didn't know, the Skunks released a CD in 2000 that collects the best of two 1980 shows, one at Max's Kansas City and the other at Back Room in Austin. Plus we stuck on our first single, Earthquake Shake/Can't Get Loose -- the one recorded in a garage on 2 track for nothing. Now, Rik, I guess I can agree with the comparison of punk to folk. I dunno. But as to your Steely Dan / Eagles comment -- why no punk band aspired to that level of sophistication? Well, I don't know how to answer that in a nice way. To be blunt, I have always detested Steely Dan and only in the last couple of years have I found the Eagles remotely interesting. To me, punk was clearing the pipes, getting back to basics of guitar, bass and drums, and playing what felt like rock n roll to me. The Stooges, Dolls, like the best rockabilly, like Howlin Wolf. I'm not feeling especially erudite just now, but that's as close as I can get to answering the question at the moment.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 10 Jun 04 10:33
for me, Quine's part on Blank Generation (Richard Hell and the Voidoids) is a big deal. I was about 14 in 76 when punk started to get enough attention to filter down to a junior high student in Houston. i was really captured by the whole anti-virtuoso aesthetic of the music. By that time, there had been a long virtuoso tradition in rock, which basically kept it off limits unless you could play long, fast solos. I was so tired of guitar solos. At the time, i was really into the music of the early british invasion, the stuff that washed up in the wake of the beatles--stuff that was catchy but barely competent. I loved that that music was so teen centric (as apposed to music for grownups with money which is what a lot of the music at the time seemed to me). I also loved all the pop music of the 1960s, the garage stuff, motown, stax...all the stuff that focussed on songs rather than concept albums or rock operas, etc. I was really taken with the idea of singles (45 rpm) and dancing, both of which seemed to have fallen completely out of favor. This was all back in the late 70s, before the various strains of punk became ossified. There were different types of bands and sounds, people doing all sorts of different things--but the guitar virtuoso bit was de- emphasized. So you had lots of people playing who rejected the guitar slinger type deal, but who still approached playing rock guitar from that traditional stance. Although the guitar parts were often raw and rough, the guitar playing did not sound dramatically different than anything that had gone on before. Some of the production was different but the way that lots of people approached playing the instrument was pretty similar to what had gone on before. The first time I heard Blank Generation backin 79 or so (which i'm assuming was a long while after it first came out) Quine's part immediately struck me--his guitar playing sounded fundamentally different. It sounded like he had actually rethought how to approach a guitar solo. This was not someone who was boasting about being barely able to play, nor was it someone trying but unable to play much. He had reconceptualized how to play in this context. It was a guitar solo for people who hated guitar solos. It sounded like he had studied every incompetent solo on singles from the 1960s-- garage bands, british invasion stuff, etc. and had developed an insturmental vocabulary from those gestures. It was angular, irregular, off kilter, and skittish. It was not a display of braggadicio or machismo, yet it was far from incompetent, and it seemd to convey doubt, tension, and uncertainty. I still love the song and his part on it.
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Thu 10 Jun 04 10:38
Free & Simple -- i like your tribute to Quine on Blank Generation. Myself, I was draw to both schools of guitar playing, the guitar slingers and the anti-competent kind, and the trash stuff, too. As to why Patti was cranky that night, I really don't know. She seemed high, but not in a giddy way. I guess she was just in a foul mood about something or other. She was a rock star on the road--I seem to recall that Because the Night was a hot single at the time?-- so you can imagine whatever. She certainly stayed at the club, because it was obviously the place to be, and maybe she was friendly to some other people, maybe not. But she did seem to hold some kind of grudge against me, for the hat comment, I guess. Yes, Ed, there was a splurge of demand for Skunks product after your Fresh Air piece ran. What's the new one going to be about?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 10 Jun 04 11:36
Somehow I never got into Richard Hell and the Voidoids. What I remember is that I wanted to write a song called "Love Comes in Spurts," thought I was really clever, then a punkophiliac friend told me Richard Hell beat me to it. Ah well. (This was a guy who figured punk was about style, and I suppose _Lipstick Traces_ sorta puts it in that context, the explosive blend of art, design, fashion, and music. All that stuff mixed with social critique & disruptive thinking. Have we discussed the Sex Pistols yet? I was trying to dredge up memories from that era in 70s and early 80s in Austin, and Reagan's death reminded me of one: the day he was elected president, the Gang of Four played Club Foot in Austin, and it was the perfect remedy for election blues. I also remember a later great show that X played at the same venue... they played two nights, as I recall, to a packed house both nights. (Ed, I think I saw you there?) Under the Big Black Sun was just released. Not sure who opened - Buffalo Gals? They were kind of a fixture. Jesse, I also remember a Joe Ely show at Hogg Auditorium with the Skunks opening... that was a great show, and I think Ely had to notch up the volume to follow you guys.
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Thu 10 Jun 04 19:59
The Skunks opened for Gang of Four twice, and one of the gigs was in NYC, I think. They were an awesome band. What a groove they laid down! What energy! They were a damned inspiring band to watch and I really enjoyed playing with them. Opening for Joe Ely at Hogg was kinda fun. It's a pretty hall but the acoustics are so lousy. Ely had the Lubbock band and they were shit hot. I remember actually training to get in shape for that gig, because I knew we needed to kick ass. That's when I started jogging, actually, believe it or not. But another funny footnote is that reading Robert Parker helped, too, because he made exercise sound really stimulating & manly. Ely's shows seemed like epics back then. If there was any fairness in the world, he would've become a superstar back then. I saw X a few times but you know, they never really clicked for me until later. I think the Appalachian harmonies rubbed me the wrong way or something. But I finally got hip to them. I don't think we ever opened for them but I can't say for sure. I loved opening for 8-Eyed Spy. We always had fun with George Scott and Lydia Lunch, and the other guys, too. Pat, Doug, and I forgot the other guitarist's name. They were another really talented bunch, and Lydia was a trip. We drove George and Lydia to the gig in Houston and I remember Lydia talking about horror movies a whole lot. She and George had an encyclopedic knowledge of that stuff. But I didn't know just how wild her past was until I picked up one of her memoirs. Yikes! She's had quite the sex life. George had a fantastic record collection. boxes and boxes and boxes of cool 45s from all kinds of genres. He was a real musicologist. We were staying with him on our 2nd or 3rd trip to NYC one night that we played somewhere in the city and he had a gig with John Cale. We arrived home from our gig first and when he came in he was somewhat drunk with this strange shit eating grin on his face. What's up? we asked. He said, I quit. Well, how did Cale take it? George smiled and said, I threw a cream pie in his face, that's how I quit! So that's one way to quit a band.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 10 Jun 04 22:00
I never listened much to Lydia Lunch, but you inspired me to find her web site. Some MP3s there; I'm listening to one now. Also a great photo of Lydia with Exene: http://www.lydialunch.org/images/LL%20with%20Exene%20by%20Ken%20Winokur2.jpg We've drifted from the book, which is about two incredibly painful parts of your life. It feels like it was hard to write, but would have been harder not to write? What made you decide to revisit that living nightmare in your past, and how was that exploration related to your battle with cancer?
Berliner (captward) Fri 11 Jun 04 03:44
(I don't want to get off of <jonl>'s question, which is, after all, why we're here, but I wanted to address <rik>'s point about complexity and punk, in that there was, in my opinion, a virtuosic impulse on the part of some of the bands, but it got directed towards the emerging technology of the time, as when Joy Division became New Order. So complex, virtuosic playing a la Steely Dan was impossible due to the llimitations of the technology, but a virtuosic handling of what was on hand became possible, certainly. Certainly there was a punk impulse inherent in the black Detroit guys who originated techno -- ever heard the version of "No UFOs" with vocals? --, and that was, I think, part of what the British and European kids who picked up on it heard.)
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Fri 11 Jun 04 07:18
Well, <jon>, you're right, it got to the point where I had to do something about it. I used to be a real meat and potatoes guy, intrinsically suspicious of terms like catharsis, and stubbornly convinced that therapy was for people with *serious* mental problems. So, after the 2 years I was a pill-gobbling, carousing rock n roll mess (that is, until I met Lois who forced me to stop), I suppressed it as best I could, which meant that, on a daily basis, I thought about Dianne fleetingly, because as soon as I thought about her, the flashbacks of the murder, guilt, unanswered questions, and all sorts of horrors zapped through my brain. I never broke down. Ten years passed without a single tear -- about anything; I was in a way a different kind of zombie. Obviously, that's not a healthy response, though that's the way our culture used to recommend we deal with things -- buck up, suck it up, keep going, don't look back, accept rape and murder and serial killers as *god's will*, etc. Ellroy wrote My Dark Places, the book about his mother's murder, published in 1996, and I thought it was a great book. I also noticed that it made him seem more complete. I started thinking about doing this, and soon after my cancer diagnosis in November 1997, I realized I had to do it. I can't say exactly why. A couple of things resonated about Ellroy's book. One was his frequent statement: You always pay for what you suppress. Another was him saying that he wished to do honor his mother. I wished to honor Dianne. She was more than just a crime victim, and yet, I knew that's the way she was treated by the media when the murder hit the front pages. She was an artist, a poet, a comic, deeply sensitive. She always made a big impression on people, whether it was in a quiet encounter or just walking through a crowd. The first thing was to write about the experience of coming home and finding her, going from the giddy high of the gig and wanting to tell her all about it, then dropping into free fall hell, finding her, and feeling that the universe had just blow to smithereens. Then the experience with the cops afterward, who naturally assumed I was the their man, case closed. Writing all that stuff was an incredible rush of energy, although for the first year or so afterward, the results were mostly negative. Everything got far worse -- the flashbacks, guilt, pain, grief. Like the floodgates had opened. Yet having gone that far, I was committed, and I knew I'd have to do the rest of it, go back and investigate what really happened, find out why the charges on the murderer were reduced, why there was no trial, who the other victims were -- what were their names? Where'd they come from? How did he find them, etc. And how could I have prevented this? So you ask how this was connected to the process of fighting the cancer. One strange aspect was the fact that the cancer attacked my neck, almost fully enveloping it (48 of 80 lymph nodes on the right side were malignant, plus the jugular vein, saliva gland, tonsil, muscle, and other tissue), and after the onslaught of surgery (13 hours), chemo and radiation, I was left with serious chronic pain. I tried everything to overcome it, including conventional pain meds, acupuncture, biofeedback, yoga, prayer, etc., and finally settled on a daily regimen of non-opiate pain drugs. And the pain manifests itself as a strangling sensation. DIanne was strangled, too. Going back to *fix* this thing of 25 years ago, I had to admit my failings as a boyfriend. I had to accept my guilt for allowing a scuzzy former roomate and best friend to continue visiting us, even though he was sometimes accompanied by this scuzzy guy we did not like or trust, who turned out to be the serial killer. And I should've fixed the window which he eventually used to enter our house. But I also had to accept that that's the way we were back then -- children of the sixties, I guess, living a little on the edge. Having this thing to fix gave me another sense of mission, I guess, in that writing the book, which would be about my music career and the cancer thing as well, was important in other ways. Having jumped down this trap door again, I had to figure a way out. As I said, things had gotten worse once I started writing about it. Then, as I delved deeper and investigated the investigation into the murders, and met various cops and Texas Rangers who worked on the cases, and read all the newspaper stories about it, things got much worse. I went to Houston and explored Dianne's old neighborhood with her best friend, Mary McGee, contacted her father and brother. Her mother had just died. Her brother gave me Dianne's first oil painting, which she painted when she was 13. I sank deeper and deeper. Rarely smiled or laughed. Slept very little. Finally I went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder, and treated me for it with EMDR and some other therapy, and I started feeling better. The flashbacks decreased significantly, and the guilt wasn't so bad. I was able to think about Dianne the way she was, alive, and finally, I was able to think about my own past a little more clearly, too, since it wasn't all tied up in murder and horror. That helped me write about those times and even laugh about them. When I first started writing, I approached the book as a How To book, thinking that might be a good way to hook people into the story, and I guess I was thinking I needed the justification for contributing to the over-bloated field of memoir writing. After a while, though, that seemed silly. Best just to tell the story as simply as possible. So that's what I tried to do. After all, I don't want to suggest that people follow my example anyway!
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Fri 11 Jun 04 08:28
the whole story is so harrowing, and that is quite a post
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 11 Jun 04 09:49
Was their much tension over your investigation of the past vs your current life with Lois? It must have been a strain, and hard to support seeing the pain you were going through.
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Fri 11 Jun 04 14:00
Lois could see that main thing was for me to get well, and that meant physically as well as mentally. She allowed me the space and everything else I needed to do what I needed to do. We actually talked about Dianne at length for the first time. When we first got together, I told her the story a few times, and after that, she just didn't want to hear about it. I guess that's what I needed at the time. I shut up and shut down as much as I could. There came a time, especially in the fall of 2001, which I call my summer of death (besides dealing with Dianne's murder in full again, several close friends died, one of cancer, another was tortured to death by drug dealers with a flame thrower; and then 9-11 happened which seemed like an afterthought, believe it or not), when Lois thought I should pull back, that I had gone too far and should probably go no further. I had invested immense amounts of time and money (which I didn't have, so it was borrowed) to write this book and get to the bottom of the story. She said screw the book if it's going to do this to you, you don't have to finish it, move on to something more pleasant, etc. It was a possiblity to consider but I wanted to forge ahead and I promised not to go eat a gun or something over it. And I rounded the bend. Finally I found out enough -- not everything, but enough -- and got to the point that thought I could dig my way out again. One important thing that happened was that I finally got over my death penalty wish. I knew in my heart that capital punishment isn't workable, even if it's the right thing to do in some cases, and I absolutely believed (and still do) that it's the right thing to do in the case of this particular monster. I mean, here it is: If I could have had my wish, I would've wished for this killer to be executed, and then they could go ahead and outlaw capital punishment forever. Well, of course that's a pretty selfish wish. I got over it, finally, after seeing the kind of cynical deals they cut with him to get his testimony against another killer, and the total ineptitude of the cops and prosecutors in Kerr County who could have arrested him for the murder of at least two other girls back in 1975, a year before he murdered Dianne. But the girls disappeared on a fall day in 1975, and although their clothes and underwear were found by the side of the interstate, their shoes and purses in the their locked car, the sheriff simply shrugged his shoulders and said, Oh, well, I guess they ran away. At the time, the killer was out on bail for 2 rape charges, a long haired druggie in a tiny town (Kerrville) at a time when long hair was enough to get a guy pulled over and harrassed on general principle. So, anyway, those are just some of the things that affected my thinking. Yeah, pretty harrowing, and Lois is pretty special. I got lucky in love twice in a row.
Richard Evans (rje) Sat 12 Jun 04 05:05
Survival is definetely the utlimate revenge. At what point did you decide to go public with the story as opposed to writing of a more private nature, such as journals and how did that decision shape the work? There are some amazing yet disconcerting passages in the Martin Amis book _Experience_ where he talks about a female cousin whom he was close to when young but whom went missing sans trace with her bodily remains being discovered far too many years later at Fed West's house. Not only does he talk about coming to terms with the confirmed fact of her death and probable torture but he talks about coming to terms with her being a victim in such a public offence. This is not the focus of the book, but it is a recurring thread.
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Sat 12 Jun 04 06:23
It's interesting that you mention that Martin Amis book and its recurring thread, because as I recall, there's a similar thing in Night Train, which did not move me at all as a novel. Actually, I always intended to go public, once I actually started the journals. I've never been much of a diarist per se, just as I was never the kind of musician who just played *for fun*. I always figured that if I was going to *be* something -- whether it was musician or writer, it had to be for real, for public consumption, and not something I did on the side as a hobby with a day job. I know that's a little bit odd, but that's the way I've always been. I think one underlying idea behind your question is did I fear the consequences of making this private hell public. I did think about that, and I worried that it would disturb Lois, because she's a much more private person than I am. I also worried about my parents, because there are lots of things in the book, like all the high jinks related to getting high in my teens and twenties, that they knew little about. But in the end, I figured that I'm a writer, I'm a public persona already, and as such, I owed it to myself to be honest and dig all this stuff up. I figured that it might do some other people some good to read about it, too. It always bugged me to hear people talk about *closure* and *putting all this behind you* as if a horrible experience was something that had to have a beginning and an end, that there's some point at which you smile and say it was all for the best, it was god's will, etc. This may sound bitter. Whatever. I do think in the post-9/11 world, we've seen that sometimes the public doesn't feel that way. They do want to keep reliving traumatic experiences. Especially when the media sees entertainment dollars in it, and politicians can capitalize on it. Another motivation, another thing that moved my typing fingers, was the way the far right kept beating up on the sixties generation, saying that all those things we did to help change the world -- thru rock n roll especially -- were a big mistake, it was a tragic waste of time, etc. That really made me mad. So one thing I wanted to do was to show the psychic power of rock n roll to heal and inspire and uplift, and its role as simply a legitimate way of life that has value. You've got guys out there who are little known across the land, toting their Stratocasters & Precisions & drum kits who are the Picassos and Dalis of the new millennium. Know what I mean?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 12 Jun 04 09:14
Yeah, rock and roll is the heartbeat, and great bands just keep coming, though I suppose it's harder to find the great stuff since the low-hanging channels are filled with hip-hop at the moment (not to denigrate hip-hop, which has its own stream of great beats). You've got a great couple of pages in the book about your swan dive into rock and roll, buying your first guitar etc. Could you say a bit about the scene back then? (Around the same time I was writing songs for a band in Big Spring, Texas, where we'd been rock-saturated since the 50s, when our local radio station KBYG went totally nuts over rock, and at night we could pick up KOMA in Oklahoma as well as Wolfman Jack from across the border.)
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Sat 12 Jun 04 14:16
I bought my first electric guitar in 1968, I believe, the year I turned 14. My memories of that time and the years just before and after are very subjective and impressionistic, filled with gaps and certainly subject to fuzziness and error. I remember Wolfman Jack, of course, and the odd stations whose signals blasted through from hundreds of miles away. There were a couple of those on the border, one in Dallas, and maybe KOMA sometimes, I'm not sure. In retrospect, it strikes me a s a pretty ecclectic mix of stuff, because you had all the Texas regional bands with hits, and KTSA-AM in San Antonio played a lot of them, and that means Sir Douglas Quintet (not one of my favorites, actually), the Chaynes, Mouse & the Traps, 13th Floor Elevators, Moving Sidewalks, Playboys of Edinburgh, and a cool band from nearby Fredericksburg called the Crossfires, who had gone out to LA and got signed to Capitol Records, of all things. Brit invasion was still going strong, and Ed Sullivan Show was a marvel, plus those other shows, too. Most of the bands playing on TV were lip syncing, but we were either too dumb to notice or too excited to care. Being isolated in a small town in that era was full of little surprises and mysteries, and for me it's all tied up with the mysteries of adolescence and early teens, too. The psychedelic records started coming out after the Elevators debut in '67, so there were all these drug references in lyrics, or in the sounds, too. You'd get goosebumps when you heard it, even though you weren't positive whether they were definitely talking about getting high or not. We were running around in the woods, smoking various weeds that looked like they resembled pot, and some that didn't as well. There was a lot of craving for that experience, to be in that groove. My friends and I wanted to be hip soooo bad. Fortunately, they printed the plans for building a fuzz box in Popular Science or Popular Mechanics, and for five bucks my brother did the assembly and soldering and viola, fuzztone!! I couldn't play for shit but I could make that psychedelic noise, and that was somewhat satisfying. There's nothing new to the comparison, but the early energy, experimentation, DIY methods and ethos, of the late 70s punk scene was very reminiscent of the mid sixties. A few years ago, I visited with an old jukebox distributor / repairman out in Luling who told me lots of stories of those days, when he was distributing records from his car trunk, promoting them at sock hops and through his string of jukes. Great stuff. Writing songs for a band in Big Spring? What's the rest of that story, Jon?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 12 Jun 04 17:40
I was uncoordinated and stubby fingers, so I couldn't get anything much like music out of a piano or guitar... but I could write, and I had a great sense of meter. I would go drinking with my friends (my Dad was a Schlitz distributor, and I was known to slip an occasional case out the door) and I would carry a notebook and write poetry, and eventually I was writing lyrics and passing them to a guy I'd grown up with, Rick McKinney. He'd taken guitar lessons, and could play well enough, so he'd started a band called The Time Machine that was pretty popular in Big Spring (especially given the lack of competition). He put music to my lyrics, and we had several songs that were not horrible, though I don't know how well I remember 'em. One was called "Strawberry Man," another was "She's Gone Away." I hung out with the band, shot a bunch of photos of 'em (I was also getting into photography), and had this vicarious rock and roll experience. I moved to Odessa during my senior year but kept driving back to Big Spring. I met an attorney named Dick Clarkson who worked with Warren Burnett's law firm, and he was going to fund a 45 to be recorded at the Robin Hood Brians studio in Tyler, where John Fred and the Playboys (among others) recorded. He didn't come through, though, because Warren Burnett's son Abner wanted to record something, so he put his money there. Abner was a folk singer... I think he's the same Abner Burnett at http://www.worpt.com/. At some point the band changed its name to The Mercenaries, then started working with a great black r&b singer named James Green and became James Green and the Mercenaries. I couldn't tell you how many songs I wrote, maybe a handful.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 12 Jun 04 17:46
When Ed gets back, I bet he'll have something to say about The Record Shop in Big Spring, which he discovered at some point. They always had everything, so it wasn't hard for us to find records that we wanted. The owner, Oscar Glickman, would carry everything that was released, and I can't tell you how many hours I spent flipping through LPs at that store. It was great. (We also had a newsstand that carried pretty much every periodical you could want, so on the writing side I was feeding my head with material from all over the world.) What was it like growing up in Johnson City? I imagine it was pretty interesting when Lyndon was president...
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Sat 12 Jun 04 20:27
When LBJ ascended to the top spot, the town boomed from population 611 to 1000, which was a big jump. There was an extra glow on life there, and it was grand to see the Big Man speed thru town in his white slab sided Lincoln, or to see him at church, or at the ranch. A lot of new kids in school, and they were from other places, too, including DC, which was a little educational, and since some of my friends' dads were secret service, we sometimes went out to the ranch. We were there to greet him the last time he flew back, his last day in office. Shook everyone's hand, handed out his gold signature pens. But really, life there was stultifying and stupid. If you weren't a redneck you were in for a lot of grief. A lot of fat asses & small brains there, and C&W was king. So I got in fights constantly for being a rocker. Rednecks would chase me & try to cut my hair, which was barely touching the back of my shirt collar & ears, which was as long as you could get away with under the school dress code. I have NO nostalgia for small towns, no affection for that way of life. Give me the big bad city any day. People were mean & ignorant & intolerant. Like I said earlier, it was isolated and cut off. Radio and Ed Sullivan were the main pipelines for cool back then, until Rolling Stone and CREEM, and a few other rock mags you could get. So I subscribed. Bought singles at an appliance store in Fredericksburg, 30 miles west, or Austin, 45 miles east. There were just a few of us rockers, which forced us to band together. For the most part, other than a couple of school dances per year, the only live music in town was at the county fair & rodeo. You can just imagine what kind of music they had there. Fredericksburg had Pat's Hall, a serious fucking C&W joint. A little bit of the hardcore classic country music still rings my bell, but for the most part, my exposure to the kind of people who liked C&W, and all the trappings that went with it -- cowboy hats & boots & shirts with yokes, etc. --left me with a lasting aversion to all that stuff. Therefore I despised cosmic cowboy music when it erupted. My tastes have broaded a little bit over the years. I like a little Willie Nelson now and then, but for the most part, country flavored music is not something I care for at all. Back to JC in high school, though, there was one rock n roll band, made up of guys 3 years ahead of me. They were called the Vibrations, and they were a typical garage band of that era. 1968 or 69, I believe, and they played all the garage band hits -- Louie, Louie, 96 Tears, Dirty Water, Knock on Wood, Gloria, Steppin Stone, Satisfaction, Midnight Hour -- hell, I think I can almost remember every single song they played, and I only heard them 2 or 3 times, but it made a HELL of a big impression. They were all in my brother's class and friends of his, but he wasn't involved, not a musician. These guys really lit my fire. That's probably what sent me to Sears & Roebuck to buy that electric guitar. Then in 1970, this hipster accounting teacher moved to JC named Tommy Sturrock. He had a black pompadour and a real good R&B voice. I think he may have been from Louisiana. He took over the band and they became Tommy Sturrock and the Soul Counts. They played a couple of gigs and shifted into more of an R&B groove. They seemed pretty great to me. The tightasses in town were outraged, though, and they gave Tommy the boot. The band gave it up after that, and none of them pursued music any further. I like the story of your friend's band. Mercenaries is a great 60s band name. And one thing about Abner, I guess whenever he got into any trouble, daddy could always get him out. Odessa's always been a rough town. They must've had some clubs there.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Sun 13 Jun 04 00:29
these are great stories. My uncle, who grew up in houston, started at UT in 1970. Even at that late date, it was dicey to stop at most places between houston and austin if you had long hair.
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Sun 13 Jun 04 07:37
Oh, absolutely. There were a number of places in Austin where redneck thugs hung out for the pleasure of beating the crap out of hippies and/or African-Americans. Don Weedon's filling station on the northern end of the drag (I think it was a Conoco) was one such place. The unfortunate blacks who happened to stop there sometimes got treated to shit like the attendant sticking the nozzle inside the car and spewing gas, instead of the tank. In Johnson City and Fredericksburg, hitchhiking hippies who passed through town would get picked up by the sheriff and taken straight to the barbershop, where they were shorn BEFORE being taken to the courthourse where formal charges of loitering or vagrancy or whatever were filed. No Norman Rockwell bullshit around there for anyone who looked different than the norm.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 13 Jun 04 10:31
I'd almost forgot how scary it was to drive around Texas back then if you had long hair and looked hippie. Interesting that we just kept flying our freak flag, as David Crosby put it. We drove a lot to Inks Lake, where Marsha's parents lived, and to West Texas to see my parents, and it was like living in a video game sometimes, Dodge the Redneck. Mean sullen characters who would follow you til you left their town. The only reawl trouble I ever had, though, was in Odessa. I visited a friend on the west side of town, which was not my usual stomping ground. It was kinda nutty - he was smoking bana peels. I was walking to a phone booth to call my folks to pick me up; he didn't have a phone. A group of 5-6 guys stopped their car, jumped out, ran to me and knocked me down, pounded my face, then took off. I managed to get off the road and hide... saw them come back around, and I always wondered if they were going to pummel me again, or check whether I was okay. When I reached the phone booth, I was spraying blood everywhere from my nose; I thought it might be busted. Oddly enough, this didn't freak me out too much. I think I was just relieved that I got away. I'll never know what the deal was with those guys. I never thought about it being a hair thing, but I guess my hair was pretty long for Odessa at that point, though nowhere near as long as it was in the early 70s. I can't recall Odessa having a single place for bands to play, though there was something in Midland (can't remember the name of it, but I traveled there once with another Big Spring band called Just Us Four to take photos. It was a real dive, we had a blast.) Odessa did have concerts at the Ector County Coliseum and a few at odd other places. It blew my mind that Steppenwolf - then one of my favorite bands - came to town. There were local bands who would play dances, including one that used the name Zachary Thaks, copped from the Houston band. The best show I remember was The Music Machine at some youth center... they were great! (Sean Bonniwell's recorded great stuff recently, too ... and he's written an autobiography, _Beyond the Garage_, that I'd like to read...) Sorry about going off on my own memories, here; those synapses get so little use these daze. What was life on the road like for the Skunks, when you were touring? What kinds of venues were you playing? Did you have favorites?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 13 Jun 04 11:46
"Most times you can't hear them talk Other times you can. All those same old cliches, 'Is that a woman or a man?' And you always feel outnumbered, You don't dare make a stand."
Berliner (captward) Mon 14 Jun 04 02:18
"Are you a booyyyyy or are you a girrrrrl?" Ah, the Barbarians, from Bostown! Jon, I never have been to Big Spring, but I did used to hang out at Village Music in Mill Valley, CA. John Goddard, who owns the place, got seriously into dealing with collectors when he and another guy went out there and cleaned out Oscar's 78s. They lined the bed of the truck they'd rented with the Patti Page and other unsalable ones, and drove the rest back to California. The weight of the shellack collapsed the truck's springs, and it was complete junk by the time they got it back, but they made so much selling the records that they just paid for the whole thing. John later made many more trips back there, and I proudly owned a copy of Roy Orbison's Lonely and Blue album with a sticker from The Record Shop saying it cost a whopping $3.98. Wait! I take that back: I must have been in Big Spring the time I had an assignment to write about the Vaughan brothers, who were playing a show at the penitentiary for Austin's blues club owner Clifford Antone, who was doing time there on one of his extraordinarily stupid pot busts. But I believe the hotel we all stayed at was in Midland. I'm also curious about the Skunks' touring circuit. You guys weren't "fashion punks," ie, slavish copiers of the New York/London styles, nor were you squeaky new wavers. Now, granted, clubs in those days would book anything even remotely non-mainstream if they thought it'd draw a crowd, but what were your hot cities, and which bands did you feel were your peers and friends?
Jesse Sublett (jessesublett) Mon 14 Jun 04 07:51
First off, I was titillated by Jon's report on seeing Music Machine, and I'm going to look up that memoir by Sean Bonniwell. I didn't know about that, and of course I loved that band. What a great sound, and by the sound of the title, Beyond the Garage, it's a book I want to read. There's a memoir by a drummer called Confessions of a Rock Drummer, I think, that's pretty decent, too. If memory serves, the author was from Okahoma, and played in bands you've never heard of, but the writing is exhuberant and hits a lot of cool notes. Which reminds me of the rock memoirs in Sunday's NYTBR, none of which was mine, sadly. Ah well, what the fuck. I'm glad you asked about the Skunks' on the road. As you point out, Ed, we weren't the typical new wave band, as such. The Skunks also passed as a bar band in lots of venues, because we were a loud guitar band, and we had a big repertoire that included a dozen or so covers -- Stones, Velvets, Kinks, Dr. Feelgood, Stooges, etc. Most of the Austin bands who started out at Raul's could play only 45 minutes or so, but we could play all night, which meant that a lot of bars out there, including some blue collar joints (or whatever local colloquialism might apply), would hire us. Sometimes the gig was a bomb and we never went back, sometimes it was hit and we kept going back. We played workingman's places like the Back Room in Austin, Soap Creek, Mother Earth, frat parties, even a wedding reception now and then! New Orleans was always fun, but the gigs were rarely great. Jed's was a dump, and the reception wasn't stupendous, Jimmy's was a nice joint, and as I recall, the gigs there were OK. Show Place in Metaire was bizarre, and not fun. The 688 in Atlanta was a great place. We did some good shows in North Carolina, but I don't remember the clubs. We would piece together enough gigs between Austin and New York to make the trip worthwhile. Houston could be very good or very stupid. We played quite a few gigs in discos. Lots of discos would devote one night a week as *punk night* and we'd play those, even tho we weren't all that punkish compared to other bands. We sort of *passed* sometimes, because we had a good rep with booking agents & club owners as a dependable, professional band, and we had a following too. In Houston, we played the Rocksy (a disco) a lot. Rock Island was a total dump, and some gigs were good there. The scene there was strange. After Austin, every town in Texas could be frustrating and disappointing. The scenes in these other cities always seemed to be just getting off the ground, even into the 80s. We played Fitzgerald's which was a little stuffy for us, but not as stuffy as Rockefeller's, a former bank, with the acoustics of a bank, which meant that we were always WAY TOO FUCKING LOUD!!! The Escape in Houston was one of our best-paying gigs. It was a new wave dance club that featured bands but had the mix just right. But the cops who moonlighted there (and some of the security guys, too) were extremely brutal, so in a way it was blood money. Houston was a rough town back then. Dallas was also frustrating. The Hot CLub was OK, but like I said, after Austin, you had to downscale your expectations. DJ's was another good Dallas club. Fort Worth had Zero's, which was pretty good. The perfect grimy punk club, which was OK although we got used to a little nicer type of venue, which also usually meant more money. We played all over the state. We wanted to be the next Stones, not the next B-52s, so we played just anywhere they would pay us. Lubbock was always bad luck, but we kept trying. We played Fat Dawg's and Rox, or something like that. We cancelled at last minute our first gig at Fat Dawg's in early 1980, because Jon Dee quit the band. This probably hurt our career a lot. Lubbock was a stepping stone to LA, because of the vast size of Texas, and playing the standard 3 night stand there could be very profitable. After we cancelled, the club took a chance on a just then rising club act called Stevie Vaughan and Double Trouble. They went over big and became a regular band there. I'm not saying that the same thing would've happened for the Skunks, but the club wouldn't book us again for over a year, and it definitely hurt. We played Oklahoma City -- the Bowery, located in the basement of a church -- quite often. It was an 8 hour drive from Austin but playing there 2 or 3 nights, it was worth it. They had a pretty good scene. Like places like Texas A&M, where there was a lot of repression, lots of rednecks, there were lots of artsy people who were united and determined to be cool, so there were good scenes in those places. Places like that always gave good parties for the band after the gigs, too. We hooked up with a club manager in Elyria, Ohio, in about 1980 and he loved the band, and started booking tours for us all over Ohio and the surrounding region. Pat Costigan was his name. Pat ended up becoming our road manager and moved to Austin with his wife and a bunch of their siblings. We played Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinatti, Dayton, Youngstown, Oxford and Lexington & Lewisville, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Champaign, Chicago, Erie (PA), Boston, and all over that area. Some of the gigs were with a band called Erector Set, originally from Cincy but later of Boston. They were reggae-dub-power pop-R&B type band and phenomenally hot live. Their sound man could work miracles with a Space Echo. A lot of these gigs were hot, many of them college towns, of course, and even when they weren't, playing with Erector Set was tons of fun. We consumed huge amounts of booze together, and jammed on several songs every night, usually Sister Ray and Sex Machine, if you can imagine that. Colleges were great sources of gigs. They treated you right -- deli trays, stage hands, interviews on the college radio station, the works. I guess I've mentioned playing NYC, but the clubs I remember best are CBGB's, Max's Kansas City, TR3, My Fathers Place (Long Island), the 80s, and some joint that was open all night. We went on at two a.m. or thereabouts and someone gave us coke, too, and we were there all night, and the joint was still going strong when we loaded out at 9 in the morning. In fact, a whole new crowd of people were just then arriving. So we load out our shit into the buzzing Manhattan rush hour groove, and I swear, we all felt like vampires. Playing in LA was hit or miss. Blackies was good, BLue Lagoon Saloon was good. We never played Palomino or Starwood, dammit, though I played there with Carla Olson and also with Kathy Valentine later on. The Skunks played a roller disco that was very popular at the time. Right near Santa Monica Blvd. where the Esprit store is now. It was a stupid gig. I did have lots of fun playing with Kathy Valentine's band, World's CUtest Killers, and with Carla Olson, in the Carla Olson & Mick Taylor (yeah, of the Stones) Band. We played good clubs, in LA, San Diego, San Franciso, Sacramento, etc. Playing with Kathy was interesting because, especially with Kelly Johnson (of Girlschool) in the band, there was a big contingent of lesbian fans. I was prepared for the shock of being in a band where I was not the star, but to have a large cluster of women only lusting for the girls in the band was just a little different. I mean, sometimes the guys really felt like wallpaper. I also had some interesting experience with Mick Taylor. He was still (and I think, still is) a phenomenally great guitar player. But I suppose I've digressed a little. Right now I think I'll go swarm ABE for that Sean Bonniwell memoir.
Members: Enter the conference to participate