The Reign of Lee Kwan

The band left to right: Michael, Janis, Carmela and Jeanie.

You never forget your first band.

But you do get old …….and then everything starts to get fuzzy.

I was a teenager when my first band started. Before the internet. Before cell phones. Before Star Trek The Next Generation.

It was called The Reign of Lee Kwan. Lee Kwan was mentioned in the original Star Trek as the next world dictator after Hitler. There was no consensus on how to spell it, so we spelled it many different ways- Li Quan, Lee Kwan, Leigh Kawan etc.

But luckily, due to fate, and in part to the new technology, I’m still in contact with two of the three other original members. And we were able to meet up a while ago and piece together what happened 35 odd years ago……..

Cast of Characters:

C= Carmela (me). Lee Kwan was my first band. I went on to play in some other bands (see other blog posts if you survive this one.)

Carmela and Scooter, Vespa Rally 180

Jean= Jeanie M. Lee Kwan was Jeanie’s second band (first was A Happy Death). After the Kwan broke up she continued working in visual art, including her mouse sculptures and the she went on the create the Road Kill Calendar.

Jeanie

Jan= Janis Tanaka.  Lee Kwan was Janis’ first band. After, she continued to play music with the Jackson Saints, Stone Fox, Hammers of Misfortune and Pink, as well as many others.

Janis

E=Erik Meade.  Erik is/was a friend of the band and guitarist for The Jackson Saints, and many other bands.

Erik

Michael (not present) Michael was in the band for about half the time we were together.

Michael

C: So, I was thinking about this as I coming down here…like as far as our shows. I don’t remember like actually being onstage. I can remember kind of before we get onstage, or maybe going to the show, and then after, maybe talking to people.  But the actual time on the stage is really gone.

Jan: That happens to me a lot.

Jean: So, you don’t remember the fact that, we actually got up and played musical instruments?  Like you know, Janis would come over and sit on the drums, and I would pick up her bass?

Jan: Yeah, because we changed instruments so much. And the set, you couldn’t even do it where we were on the same instrument twice for two songs.

C: So, we switched every song? I don’t remember.

Jan: Pretty much, a lot. We switched a lot.

Jean: I mean, I couldn’t I couldn’t play drums very well but….I can never can play guitar because I’m left handed, and so it always upside down and backwards. So, I didn’t play a whole lot of bass.

C: You played bass?

Jean: I did but not a lot.

C: You didn’t play guitar.

Jean: No.  I could never figure out how to do a guitar.

Jan: I switched a lot.

C: (something starts coming back)  I think I  played guitar on one or two.

Jean: Well you definitely did.

C: Did I ever played drums on anything?

Jean: That’s a good question.

C: Janis did you play drums?

 Jan: I played drums for sure.

C: You must have when you (Jeanie) were playing bass.

Jan:  Okay so if you made up the song on the instrument- that’s the instrument you had to play for the song. Cause nobody else could play it.

C: When I listened to that recording that we have of the show, the live performance, at the end of it I’m pretty sure that’s Dirk Dirksen (legendary promoter and emcee at punk club The Mabuhay Gardens).

Jean: Could be

Jan: That’s the Mab.

C:  You said the Mab was our first gig. But I don’t think that tape could have been our first gig because that tape was actually pretty good.

Jan:  Our first gig was at the Mab, I thought

C: Did we play the Mab more than once?

Jan: Yeah. Because the second time I had some lumpia, and I met Ness Aquino. (legendary owner of the Mab. It’s all his fault there was a punk rock scene in San Fran) He was weird. The lumpia was not good. I didn’t have the lumpia the first time cause I was just nervous.

C: (horrified) You ate lumpia from the Mab, like, from the kitchen at the Mab?

Jean: Yeah, I remember that we played some bike messenger bashes at the Mab like at 5:00 o’clock and I was just like “Why? Who is going to come to a show at 5:00?”

C: Bike messengers

Jan: Yeah, exactly. Those were great.

C: We played the Utah (Hotel Utah, a bar that still exists today) I think twice. Yeah. That was because of Adolph and the Gassers (a friend’s band).

Flyer from a Lee Kwan gig with our bros Adolph and the Gassers

I mean, again I don’t remember actually be on stage. But I remember at the Utah the first time we played, when I came off the stage, a guy that I knew (who I can’t remember now. I can see his face but I can’t remember his name). He was like “Oh my God. We’re all on acid and you guys are amazing.”

Jan: I didn’t know him (before the show). But I remember him.

C: Yeah. He wasn’t a bike messenger but he worked like in a bike messenger office or something. I don’t think we worked together but that’s how I kind of knew him.

And then I saw him like a week later or something and he said “You got to tell me when you guys are playing again because we’re all going to come and take acid again. Because that was amazing. You guys were so great” And I was just like “Okay…….cool?” Like it’s cool that you like us, but I don’t want to be a hippie band. I don’t want people coming in and twirly dancing to us or whatever.

Jan: I thought it would be funny

C:  I don’t really know how many shows we played. Did we play anywhere else besides the Mab and Utah?

Jan: We played the Sound of Music (club in the Tenderloin, see my other blog post about it) Yeah, we played there once, and then we played there for our last show. It was Short Dogs Grow’s first show. That was the one that when Marc was singing and someone from the street came in off the street, and grabbed a chair and ran at him with it. Marc’s singing, and he just was looking at the guy. The guy stopped like two feet from Marc’s head and then laughed. He walked back halfway down the club, and then he ran back. He did it twice. We were just like….. whatever….Marc didn’t stop, and he didn’t move. I think he might have raised his hand, like “what’s going on?” The guy left.

C:  I don’t remember that at all.

Jan: That was weird. It was a good show. You guys (Short Dogs Grow) played great and we were like “Wah”.

C: Yeah. Didn’t the cops come in and stop it?

Jan: Was that the show where the cops took the girls away all handcuffed together, or was that at a different show? I knew there was a table of underage girls.

Jean: And it wasn’t us? (laughs)

 Jan: No.

C: I remember working the door at the Sound of Music and telling people who were underage,  “If the cops come just go run into the women’s bathroom, they’re not gonna go in there”.

Everybody laughs.

C: That was the plan because Jessie was under age. I think I might have been under age or I was probably pretty close. I was like 19 or 20. 

Jan: Well you turned 19 when we were in the band.

We digress into a story of the cops trying to bust me for buying beer underage. I ran from them  to Janis and Jeanie’s house and hid. Our guitarist Michael, not present, came to my aid.

C: Yeah the cops came, and I ran into the house and just stayed there.  They were down there for a while. Michael went down and just said  “She’s not going to come out. How long do you guys want to wait?” Michael really had balls that way.

Jan: He had balls.

C: You know, I kind of think of him as sort of mild-mannered guy. Well, not mild…

Jan: But quiet. He was pretty ballsy doing things I wouldn’t even think to do. And if I thought of it, I wouldn’t have done it.

Jean: Yeah, but laundry made him upset.

Jan: Very ballsy that way. Which was surprising for someone who watched so many soap operas. You kind of don’t put the two together right?

Michael, Jessie and Jeanie on what looks to be Cal Trains

Jeanie shows us a pic of our friend Erik

C: Erik came to see us play… was Erik at our first show?. He was at our first show.. wasn’t he?  I remember when we met him, and we were playing that night.

Jan:  We met him in Marin, on that scooter ride. You were on that ride.

C: That was the Hotel Utah that he came too.

Jean: So that would have been right around when I turned 21.

Jan: We should ask him. He has a good memory.

C: I remember meeting him in the park as we rode over with Roy. Roy Wonder was the dispatcher at Lightning (a messenger company that I worked for).For some reason he was going to Marin or something… and we were like “Yeah we’re all going to ride to Marin.” Yeah, we were on our scooters, and Roy always had some Franken-bike.  You know, I don’t know why we went over.

Jean: Cause we wanted to go for a ride. 

C: I’m pretty sure that we were riding with Roy for some reason. Oh I don’t know. That’s about all I can remember.

Jan: And then Erik was on the bridge, and he had records, and I said “What records do you have?” And he said, “Ian and Sylvia records”. And I said, “I love Ian and Sylvia!” And he said “I do too! But he bought them for his parents because it was old stuff. And I love them and he said “I do too.”

C: Is that because he thought that you were cute and wanted to impress you?

Jan: Yeah.

Jean: It was right before I turned 21 because he came down to see our show, and then he kind of ended up hanging out with us.

Jan: He had decided to be our groupie. Yeah that’s what he said. Yeah.

We decide to call Erik to get his memories, as we are wondering what others thought.

Phone starts ringing

Jean: If he’s there I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.

Jan: Yeah. We’ll turn this (computer) in case it’s blocking sound.

Jan: Hello?

E: Hey?

Everyone: Hi!!!!!!!!!!

E: How are you?

Jan: We’re on speaker phone with Jeanie and Carmela. Fine . How are you?

E: Hey.

Jan: Are you busy?

E: No

Jan: Okay. We have some questions for you.

Jean: So, Carmela is putting together these histories. We’re trying to remember what the hell we did when we were in Lee Quan. So, we’re asking people what they remember because we can’t seem to remember half the stuff we think we did.

C; Will you tell us Erik, what you remember about meeting us in the park, and then seeing us play? And if you can remember where you saw us play.

E: I saw you at the Hotel Utah.

C: Was that the first show that you saw?

E:  Well that was the first show I saw of you. And I think that was the night that Janis jumped on that guy who hit Michael.

C: Oh!  Tell us that story.  (much laughter)

Jan: None of us remember that.

E:  Yeah, yeah that was great. That was the whole reason why I just thought you (Janis) were so great. You were playing, and it was first time I saw you do that thing you do. 

That thing you do….. Janis and Jeanie at the Hotel Utah

C: That thing you do? What is it?

E: Some guy was standing in front of Michael, and he shoved him or something like that. Michael turned around, and the guy hit Michael.

C; In the face?

Jan: What did the guy say to Michael?

C: The guy was harassing Michael?

E: The guys was harassing Michael. And Janis threw her guitar off, and jumped up off stage and landed, and hit him, and like knocked him to the ground.

C: Awesome!

Jan: Good, good…..

 E: She was straddling his shoulders, and then she started punching him.

Jan: Whoa!  What?

E: Yeah

Jan: I must have had a drink.

E; And I was like “that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”.  Then well that’s pretty much like the main thing that I remember. I remember you playing. Somewhat.

C: You don’t remember what we sounded like? If we were really bad or anything like that…

E:  Uh…..You were very minimalist, I remember thinking. I wouldn’t say it was bad because I was thinking that it was kind of like everybody’s punk band that first got started.

C: You cut us some slack, is what you’re saying here.

E:  But I mean, you know there was a lot of kind of more interesting bands, like the Slits or something. Like where it’s kind of shocking and weird but uh………… Let’s see. It’s funny cause I don’t remember a whole lot beyond that except, I don’t remember if it was this that same night  or maybe it was the next time I saw you guys which I think was the Hotel Utah again. Maybe it was the same night. Because I do remember going out with you guys somewhere. And I was riding on the back of Janis’ motorcycle.

Janis and Erik at Buchanan St.

Jean: That was my birthday.

E: And we went to Clown Alley (a hamburger place).

Jan: Clown Alley?

Jean: Oh. Now maybe it wasn’t my birthday.

C: Are you sure that wasn’t when we played the Mab?  Because the Mab was right near Clown Alley

E: Well maybe it was. Did you play the Mab?

Jean: We did.

C: Well do you remember?  Because I don’t remember playing at the Mab at all.  But Janis does. She actually had a recording of us that she gave me, and I’m pretty sure that it’s Dirk Dirksen on the end of the tape, talking. Sorry, Jeanie. Jeanie had the tape. So, it’s like Oh my God, we must be at the Mab. Where else would Dirk Dirksen be?

Jean: We played bike messenger bashes there.

C: Yeah so everyone remembers different stuff and so for some reason I’ve completely lost the show at the Mab, but I definitely remember the Hotel Utah. Remember more than once.

Jean: Well, we have pictures so that makes it easy.

 E: I met you guys in a park in San Anselmo. And you guys said you were going to have a show.

C: I think we were pretty excited that we were playing a show.

Jean: WE’VE GOT A SHOW!

E:  Yeah. Yeah, that what it was like really. It’s like the funniest thing. I was coming back from work, and I worked at the used record store in San Rafael, and I had bought an Ian and Sylvia record. Which I bought for my parents. But then Janis ran up  and said “What’cha got in the bag?”  I said “Ian and Sylvia”  And she says “ I love Ian and Slyvia!”. And I was like….”Oh, so do I!”.

C: Was that a little white lie, Erik?

E: Yes. I was like, “So great to meet someone else who loves them.”

Everyone laughs

E: So let’s see,  what else. It’s funny because, now that you bring it up, it is kind of funny how my memories are so limited. Yeah.

Jan: So you were at the Sound of Music show when we played?

E: The funny thing is that I have just the vaguest memories of the Sound of Music, but like not even enough to really piece together any kind of a story. I think what happens is that the things that stand out in our mind are the ones that make the memories. But I keep going back to Janis jumping off the stage. That’s a really vivid one.

C: It’s weird that Jeanie and I, and Janis, don’t remember that. That’s a pretty outstanding thing.

Jean: But You know like when you’re on stage and everything. There’s all this adrenaline and we’re just trying to get through the set so you know,  you don’t hardly remember playing at all. Right?

C: Erik, I was just saying that, and this was the same thing when I talked to Tom and Greg, I can’t remember actually being on stage and the “playing” part. Like of pretty much almost every Short Dog show that I’ve ever done. I can remember things like maybe somebody jumping up on stage and bashing into me or, Something like that where there’s a fight that broke out. But same with Lee Kwan,  I don’t actually remember playing.

Jan: Maybe because it’s in a different part of your brain maybe.  People would say “How was tour?” and I say,  “I can list off all the food I ate.” (Everyone laughs) All I can say is I do not remember.

E:  It’s true, I really feel that way with a lot of the gigs. You played the Hotel Utah a couple of times, didn’t you?

C: Yeah, we played once for sure with Michael and once for sure without him.

E: Yeah, I remember you were playing with Adolph and the Gassers.

Jan: And The Hot Combs. They might have been on the same bill actually.

C: We might. I think we played with them more than once. I think we played with them at least twice.

Jean:  We did a couple of bike messenger bashes. where it was like bands that were all messenger bands. Those were the people we could get shows with, the people we knew.

C: I just saw John Thaxton (singer and guitarist of the Hot Combs and the John Thaxton Experience)

Jan: Oh

C:  Yeah I was playing at a memorial for somebody from the bike messenger scene who had passed away, and he played the Western Messenger Girl song. I said to him “Oh my God! I have this tape of Lee Kwan where it’s announces that we’re playing with you at the Mab”  and he was like “oh wow you guys were so great.”

Everyone laughs.

C:  I don’t know if he actually remembered.

Erik, I was telling Janis and Jeanie, that when I was listening to that live tape, I could kind of almost hear like the seeds of something really cool emerging.  And I wish I had stuck with it like to see where it would have gone, although so many other things happened.

E: Yeah.

C: But I think maybe we had something interesting going. I don’t know, maybe it’s a revisionist history.

Jan: I like it! I like it!

C: We had something to create.

Jean: We had fun!!

Jan:  We had a lot of fun. We had good songs.

E: Yeah.

C: Do you remember seeing us at the Mab?

 E: You know it’s funny cause of that I don’t really remember…wait …wait….no… One of the problems with things like this too, is that I was at the Mab so many times.  Again it’s just sort of like everything is kind of a big blur. Like when pictures used to be in slides instead of print. Like layers of three or four slides of different bands flowing into each other. And that’s actually one of the reasons about not being able to remember the actual gigs you played. It’s the same thing with me. I have memories of being on stages and stuff like that, but then I also have to remind myself that I would go to people’s shows and be hanging with bands. So I’d be backstage or onstage. I can remember being at some club in Fresno. It was a big venue on the stage and looking out at the audience. But I can’t remember whether or not that was like a show of ours. Or whether I’d gone down with some other band. Standing on the steps, right side the stage, you know watching you guys. And so that kind of blends with whatever shows like I might have played there.

Jean: I’m having the same thing because I remember something, and then I’ll be like “Oh no that was Happy Death.”  That wasn’t Lee Kwan.

C: Back then, it’s hard for me to distinguish Short Dogs from other stuff. I know I played at the Mab in Short Dogs because I’ve got flyers. But I again I have no recollection of it.  I remember the backstage at the Mab which was that tiny little room.

E: Yeah.

C: But I don’t remember actually being on stage playing, although I know I did. And the same thing with the on Broadway. I can remember one instance of playing at the On Broadway because I fell down on my knees, and so did Tom, at the exact same time. So that’s sort of stuck in my memory. and I remember the backstage at the On Broadway. Yeah. It’s hard with that because I was at the On Broadway every weekend for probably five years.

E: I remember being at the On Broadway. I can remember when I was played there with the Undead, and then watching a million bands- Gun Club,  Code of Honor and Black Flag, and the one that really stuck in my head was that….Remember the Live at the Rat album? And Black Flag was doing that song “What’s the matter with Henry?” or “What’s wrong with Henry?”. He was stalking the stage all naked. But I remember being backstage and there was a pool table back there or something. He was holding on to cue ball, and he was sitting in a corner trying to work himself up. He was clutching the 8 ball. And he looked at me and said “What you looking at?”

Everyone laughs.

E: I remember looking at him thinking, “there’s some weirdo crouching in the corner”. I remember that very vividly.

Jean; I have one really vivid memory of the On Broadway.  It was me and Janis, and Faith No Man (not an error, that was Faith No More’s original name) was playing, and Courtney Love came on, and was singing. Janis and I ran out of the club screaming with our fingers in our ears and saying, “I never want to be in a band again if this is what music has come to.”

E: That’s hilarious

C: You didn’t know her at that time?

Jan: No

Jean: And then later Janis actually was in a band with her, and she remembered we had this experience. I was traveling around the country. And Janis said “Oh Jeannie you’re going to hate this.” And you were right.

E: That’s so funny, because just last night I was doing a loadout at the Design Center and there was some guy, a  fairly younger guy who was wearing a Faith No More t shirt. But he had that original logo you know from the Mordam days, from the Ruth Schwartz’s record. I asked him “Oh,do you know those guys?” I suddenly realized that back in the day,  if you saw somebody with a Faith No More shirt,  we would just naturally assume that they were friends with them, you know? Because it was all part of our scene. But I was looking at the guy. He was younger, and so I thought, Oh he’s probably more just like a fan, and maybe never seen the band. But then it turns out that it he’s some guy who’s got a shop of some kind over at Soundwave in Oakland. So he goes “Yeah they’re my neighbors.” It’s so funny that   You just brought up that Faith No Man thing. I was glad that somebody like this guy actually knows them.

C: It was a different world back then where if you if you saw someone wearing a punk rock shirt, you were like…..

Jan: Oh, I can talk to you.

C: You’re part of my tribe.

E: I was thinking the same thing because I saw some woman with blue hair as I was walking past a restaurant and I thought, “Oh, there was a time when I would have assumed that was somebody who was part of my tribe.”

C: But now everybody’s doing it!

Jan: There was a time when you could run up to any guy that had just shaved their head, and go run your hand over it and say “OOOHH” and they would go “AAAhhh”.  You know they wouldn’t get mad. Or think you’re a weird old lady.

E: Yeah, I have memories of you guys (Lee Kwan) but they’re like nondescript memories, like memories of standing outside the Hotel Utah and talking.

C: Kind of snapshot memories …

E: More like early early video memories or when you had a Super 8  camera. So, like they’re moving picture but they don’t have sound.

C:Yeah.

E: I don’t really necessarily remember what we were talking about. Beyond the fact of just knowing that I really liked you guys. I mean obviously, I mean that was a life changer for me. That first time I saw you at the Hotel Utah, I saw life changing after that. That totally just changed the trajectory of my life. You know. I was out in Marin. I was in a big gloomy funk for like a year.

 C: You think Erik if we hadn’t shown up in the park that day, we wouldn’t have met? I think we probably would have met at some point.

E: I don’t know. I don’t know if we would have. We might. Well we very possibly might not have. Because I had dropped out of the San Francisco scene although I don’t know why. it’s really funny.

Jan: Because it was so hard to get there.

C: Were you depressed about the loss of your singer? Maybe, or was that much earlier?

E: My best friend Ricky Paul had hung himself.

C: Yeah that’s it. I was referring to that. I’m sorry I didn’t remember him being your best friend.

E: Yeah, he was a really close friend of mine. And then I had broken up with my girlfriend at the time but I don’t know why, but I was just like in this like dark spot. I remember. I remember sitting around, listening in my room to….That whole year I listened to almost nothing but the first two Joy Division records

Jean: Oh God

E: The Meat Puppets records and the first two REM records like Murmur and Reckoning or whatever. And then Meat Puppets doing Up On the Sun, and the two Joy Division records Closer and Unknown Pleasures. And I was off being gloomy and everything like that. And then I was working at the record store. I guess I was I don’t know what’s going on but then I met you and I went and I was just like “this is cool” and  I went to go see your band. I think it was cause I was like …I got excited about something.

C: You thought Janis was cute and you wanted to come see …..

Jean: Janis is like bubbly and happy…..

E: Definitely. The reason I was certainly like…. you know… you’re right because she’s so bubbly and happy.

Jean: Everybody feels like, you know you meet Janice and she’s like “I’m your friend” you know.

E: And that’s what I thought. And it was all so cool that you guys came out on your scooters or scooter or something.

Jean: Yeah. We did

E: I remembered thinking that was cool in itself. And it felt like you had some sort of an interesting community. I think it was either at the first time I saw you, or the second time I saw you, I said that I was going to be your groupie.

Buchanan St. house Xmas card. Jeanie and Janis are standing, Michael is crouched at the bottom

Everyone: Yeah I remember that.

Jan: I remember you telling me.

C:  Yeah. I thought ‘That’s cool.”

Jan: We made it!

C: Oh My favorite memory, Erik-and this was a little bit later on. We, you and I, had decided that we were gonna be alcoholics. Do you remember this? So we had gone out, and I think it was just me and you, or maybe we went out with the whole group. We got really trashed. And we were at Buchanan Street the next day, and I remember waking up on the couch, and you came in with two beers. And we opened them up, and put them on the table, and then we just looked at each other. And you were like ‘I don’t think I can do this.” I said “I don’t think so either”, and you’re like “oh man….we’ve failed at being alcoholics.”

Chilling at the Buchanan St. house, left to right Carmela, Jeanie, Erik, Tom and Janis

E; Yeah you know what I think? It’s really interesting. I think that our memories are there. It just takes opening the door, because they can be locked up so long. It’s just like if you have everything in the drawer and you actually open it and say “Oh there’s that.” It breaks open the memory.

C: I have read that people store different memories for each other. So like I might store something about you, and you don’t remember it, but I’ve got it there for you.  It’s kind of a weird, I guess, like a social memory or something.

Jan: Yeah, I was thinking that on stage there’s no memory – it might be because you’re working with it. It’s either in a different place, or you’re not making short term memory from it.

Jean: Because you’re concentrating. You’re doing a muscle memory thing, you know.

Jan: Either it’s either in a different place or it isn’t committed to being a true memory.

C:  Thank you. Yeah. You both are kind of hitting the nail on head. It’s not a short-term memory, it’s a muscle memory. So, you’re just access it’s like a computer- you’re accessing that file and playing it, and it’s not really creating something new.

Jean: Or you know, somebody gets on stage and hits you with a chair. Yeah.

Lee Kwan promo kit. Yes, we were serious.
Lee Kwan lives! At the Jackson Saints Haight St Fair reunion, left to right Kern, Jeanie, Janis, Alfie and Carmela

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Panic In Detroit

greystone

I posted a blog earlier about my recollections of an incident at the Greystone Hall in Detroit on July 4th, 1987. At the time the event just seemed like part of the fabric of the odd world of punk rock touring. Recently I was asked about the blog posting by someone doing a documentary. But was my recollection the truth? Considering this was over 30 years ago, I went back to primary sources for another experiment on the accuracy of memory. And as always with Tom and Greg, hilarity ensues:

C: (starting off with my memory of the incident) For me, I was upstairs so all I heard was the bang, and the building kinda shook, and then you (Greg) ran upstairs.

Tom: First of all, were you (Carmela) getting or giving someone a haircut?

C: I was giving one of the guys from the Electric Love Muffin a haircut. He had curly hair. And when the car hit the building, we didn’t know what was going on cause we we upstairs. But it was either the sound or the shake that scared me so much that I stabbed myself in the hand with the scissors.

T: Really?

C: Cause I was cutting his hair and I was holding out a curl, and BAM !!… it startled me. I had a fucking hole in my hand for a while. And then I think it was you (Greg) who came upstairs. And you were like “Oh my God, have you been up here the whole time?” And we’re like “Yeah what’s going on?” And you said “You missed everything!” And then you told us the story of what was going on downstairs. I think maybe some of the other Muffins ran upstairs with you because they were looking for us, or their guy.

MI0001404477

(The Electric Love Muffin, back in the day, note the guy with curly hair behind the front-man)

T: Do you want to start back earlier in the day?

C: Yeah let’s start earlier. I think the whole day was kinda a trip.

T: I don’t remember anything about the building, but I remember us showing up and getting in there. And there was Big Scary (the club promoter) and a smattering of little punk rock kids that were hanging out, all seated on the floor. And he was like “Bad news, The Descendents blew the P.A. last night”. We had been playing a lot with the Descendents so we were like “Oh man, kicked in the face by them again”. So there was gonna be no show. We were disappointed, and we had nothing to do but hang out with him all day. I do remember he said, “Oh you guys are supposed to have food, and we don’t got any food. What are you? Fucking Californians? And eat avocados?” And he was making cracks like that.

C: He called us “California Faggot Vegetarians.” Is that what you remember?

T: Yeah “Faggot vegetarians”

G: Didn’t he have salad for us?

T: He had something.

G: And wasn’t he cooking? The thing that I remember, the first memory I have is “Wow the show’s off, but it’s kinda cool the guy’s here. And he did have, I’m almost positive, some salad. Cause I remember looking at it, and it was the weirdest salad ever. Because there was like, tin foil, on this table, with salad spread out over the whole table. And there was dressing on it, and it was like, baking. Like drying. And I was vegan at the time. Weren’t they cooking meat too?

C: I thought when we pulled up, he was barbecuing.

T: He was barbecuing

C: We got out of the van, and he told us the bad news. And he was barbecuing.  And he said “ I hope none of youse are a bunch of California Faggot Vegetarians because we’re barbecuing.”  And we were all sorta like (looking at our shoes) “oh, yeah, uh….”  Nobody said anything but we were all thinking like “Oh my God…..” And I think later on you (Greg) said “Yeah, we’re all California Faggot Vegetarians”. And he said “I knew it!! I knew you would be faggot vegetarians! And that’s why I got this salad for you!” I remember there was salad.

T: There was….. quite a spread!  And immediately he’s like “We need beer for the band.” And he literally picked one of the underage punk kids up, and shook him upside down by his ankles until the change fell out of his pockets.

C: I don’t remember that.

G: That’s great!

T: So, he literally shook these kids down for money. Then we got the money. Me and Kary went in his car to the liquor store. It was my only foray into Detroit. I had a little bonding moment with him, and he was telling me like his history, and weird biker shit. And we got to the liquor store. And I remember going to a KFC, but I don’t know…..maybe that’s blurring in my brain.

G: It sounds like that would be a delicacy, if you went to KFC!

All laugh

G: And we’d be pissed.

T: Well the liquor store had the big, thick 4” glass, which you kinda see now a little more often. But then it was like, whoa, I’m not in California. “Holy Crap, what kind of war zone is this?” He was telling me how bad ass and dangerous Detroit was, and all the craziness.  I was like, simultaneously impressed and thinking “is this guy some kind of a blowhard?” at the same time.  And when we got back and later in the evening, I was like “Holy shit, this is Detroit!”

G: I just remember thinking, it was kinda of nice of him to do all this.  We could have shown up, and just been told that it was canceled. I always like it when they blame the P.A. on the band. Um, you’re twiddling the knobs there.

T: It probably was the big fucking skinhead road manager that the Descendents had. Remember that dude? That big ginger guy we had to kiss ass to all the time. He hated us.

G: I thought the club name was Graceland.

C: Oh, I didn’t even remember the name of the club until I wrote the first blog.

T: Yeah till this happened. Well, what else I was gonna say about his weirdness? I can’t remember. God it’s terrible being me.

C: It’s ok, we’re all in the same boat. This was 30 years ago.

T: Well anyway, we come back (from the liquor store). So there’s beers.

G: There wasn’t a lot of people, right?

T: No there were just kids hanging out. We don’t know if they were left over from the previous night, or they showed up every night. Or they came to see us. They were young, punk rock kids and there was this big, fat biker. It was weird. So you (Carmela) started doing haircuts, and I was happy about it too. Like, this was kinda nice.

G: Yeah. It was a break.  I remember that.

T: I’ve been around some dangerous people. You know some people, when they are dangerous and drunk, you just kinda feel like anything could happen? I did not get that.

G: No,  I didn’t get that either.

T: I knew he was a bad-assed kind of guy.  I didn’t get a bad vibe from him, like it was going to go sour. Like Bob Noxious or someone like that. Like, this could get weird any second.

G; Like pulling out the knife and stabbing the air conditioner.

C: He seemed more like a Monterey Mark. A very tough guy but underneath was nice and kind.

T: Ok here’s my thing, so you guys are upstairs giving haircuts and I was downstairs. I remember sitting in a room, and I think I was against a wall. And hearing the slam, and really not knowing what it was. But for some reason, in hindsight, I knew what happened. But my memory thinks I saw the wall come in. I don’t know if that’s a false memory or not. But what I do remember is this:

BOOM!!!!!! And somebody running to the door, looking out, and coming back in and saying what happened and Kary doing this (Tom mimics someone pulling a gun out of a holster and pointing and firing.) And I don’t know where the gun came from, but he stood up and drew it like “HUZZZZZAAAAAAAHHHHH” Like a pirate that pulls his sword.

And all those the fucking Detroit kids hit the ground like they’d been practicing it, you know.  Greg and I still had beers in our hands, because we were a little hammered by that point and we’re like “What is going on??” Not knowing whether it was a joke. Later in the evening I understood there was some sort of previous friction between the guy who drove through, but I thought it was just an accident. Big Kary talked a like a bad ass, but he was a lovable guy, and now he’s kinda my new friend…..and OH MY GOD… he’s pulling a 45 or whatever that big hand cannon was. Holy cow, the kids hitting the ground was awful.

G: Do you remember the aftermath of that at all?

T: I don’t think there was much.

G: I don’t either

C: Did he fire the gun?

T: No

G: No

C: (To Greg ) Is that your same recollection (of  Tom’s account) ?

G: No.  My recollection is that I was on the main floor, it was almost like a rec hall type place, in a rectangle. I just remember a few people came running through the door, from the front door, and you could see fear on their faces. You know what I mean. And they spread out and went to the sides. And so, I ran, or we ran, or whatever. The guy (Kary) was there and he was kinda running, but like walking, and he says “Get my gun.” And he went to the office, that’s where his gun was, and he came back with it.  The car came through, but I thought someone was coming inside with a gun.

C: So, you didn’t see the car?

G: The car came through.

C: You saw it?

G: I heard it when I was running. But I thought it was a person.

T: But you never saw the car.

G: I did see the car.

T: See, I just thought I saw the wall move, get shoved in.

C: You saw the wall move, and did you know what had happened?

T: Not until the kids went out and checked, or came running in like Greg said. And they said “someone ran into the place”. I don’t think anyone knew what was happening. I didn’t realize he went to the office for his gun. I thought it was in his belt or something.

G: I remember him saying that “Get my gun”, summoning somebody, ya know?

T: Those kids were his minions.

G: But I think the false memory is that it (the car) actually came through. But, you heard it, and the fear, you could see the fear in the people. Except for the guy with the gun.

T: Cause when I learned it was a car, my brain was still trying do the Canadian thing…. “No one’s upset, there’s no trouble here. There’s an accident. Someone accidentally drove through.”  I still wasn’t wrapping my head around that somebody was vengefully trying to fucking drive into the club. I thought it was just another screw up.

Imagine if that happened, if we had the show. And.. (of course, talking about false memories)….and the club was full. There probably would have been 8 more people then were there.

C: Imagine if that happened now?? He probably would have shot somebody, right? Cause nowadays if somebody was barging into a club like that, you would think it was a terrorist attack.

T: Well if it happened nowadays, Kary would have gone to jail for having a gun.  There would have been SWAT teams there for the club. The police response for anything now is so over the top then it was then. You know what I mean? It’s crazy.

G: Yeah, it’s a cliché but no fries, it’s the way we go about certain things, we come in heavy now.

T: Yeah, like helicopters

C: Did either of you guys see the person in the car?

G: No

T: No

C: Did the guy get out of the car and run away?

G:  I never saw him, …uh

T: Did the guy even leave the car? Did he pull the car out, and drive away?

G: He probably pulled it out and drove.

T: Yeah, I kinda feel like that’s right.

G: But I think we left really quickly.

T: Left? Where did we go?

C: So, after the car hit, and you saw him (Kary) pull the gun out, and everybody dropped… I guess the guy left?

G: Yeah, we went back , and he (Kary), with the gun, was walking towards the car. So you wanted to be away from that.

T: Yeah, so that’s why we went upstairs

G: Did we leave quickly or did we stick around?

T: Go where? I thought we spent that night in the club?

G: Did we sleep there?

C: I have no memory after you coming up and telling me about it. As a matter of fact, to be honest, I thought we played. I thought this all happened after we played. I don’t even remember that there was no show that night.

T: I seem to recall, just that feeling of, you (Carmela) being really upset because there was a gun involved, and this is clearly not safe because we’re in Detroit and people are driving their cars through walls. And the owner is pulling a gun out. And being bummed because I was drunk, a little buzzed, and wanting to continue on with the evening. Like, “the guy’s gone now, the gun’s away, everything’s fine. Let’s go back to normal, we still got some spaghetti! Everything’s fine now.  Everybody be happy again. Don’t trip”

G: “There’s still beer left!”

T: “We’re not driving to Wisconsin!”

G: Where would we have gone?

C: (To Tom) Did you come upstairs?

T: We may have both come upstairs. I remember the guy on the stool and you cutting hair.

C: I remember you being just blown away that we were upstairs the entire time, and we missed the whole thing basically. And you were really excited.

G: I mean….a car coming through… a guy with a gun……ya know

T: That as big excitement! That was the most….

G: Isn’t tour all about distractions?

T: A distraction from the fact that all you got paid for this night was some dried out lettuce and some hotdogs!

G: I have to say, which is really pitiful too, is that I have a fond memory of this.  I think part of it was 1) we got a break and 2) we got to hang out together in this weird scene and 3) (pause)….. there was food.

C: And beer!

G: Yeah and that was something you struggle with all the time. And so, it was nice.

T: Yeah like whenever we have food and beer, its like, we’re in the motel, we’re in our happy place, let’s stay there.

G: Let’s stay there and enjoy this as much as we can.

T: Cause we were really good with having fun…..with beer.

G: Yeah

C: Well, I had had a really bad experience with a gun probably 2 years before that, so I could see me…

T: oh, yeah , over at Dogee’s (a friend of ours)

C: Yeah, so I could see me freaking out and not wanting to stay there, if there was a gun there.

G: I think we left

T: But where did we go?

G: I don’t know but I think we left

C: Did we go get a motel?  Motel 6?

T: I do remember that it was in Michigan that you (Greg) found out that Burger King had vegan grease. So we’d buy their French fries, we’d all eat their French fries and all our farts would smell the same. So no one could tell “Who did that?”. (everyone laughs) Michigan was where George first went off the vegetarian bandwagon and had McDonald’s, remember? And we were like “Don’t do it!!” And he ended up getting so sick.

C: I remember him having the bag, and Greg said something like “I’m not judging you George, but I just have one thing to say”.  And he said “What?” and you said “Rainforest.” (everyone laughs)

And then he opened the bag and started eating, but I could tell he felt bad about it. But it was too late.

T: It’s like, “I’m eating the Rainforest.”

C: So did we stick around? Did the guys in Electric Love Muffin go with us? Or did they go back home?

G: Were we heading towards Michigan? Or were we heading towards the East Coast?

T: I think we were heading towards Wisconsin.

G: Wisconsin, so we might have gone up 40, or whatever it is, and found a place there.

T: Just grabbed a motel?

G: Yeah

C: Was George with us?

T: I’m still having that feeling like “I’m bummed we didn’t stay at the club! We can’t give up on Kary like that!”  I think we stayed at the club, but I could be wrong.

C: Did we have George with us?

T: Yeah, that was a George tour.

C: Where was George?

T: George was there.

C: Was he downstairs with you guys?

T: I don’t know. Where was he? In the room?

C: Was he off with some girl?

T: George got laid more than anybody.

C: Remember he slept a lot? He might have been asleep in the van the whole time.

T: I think he was either upstairs with you or downstairs with us. He was there. God, I wish we could ask him.

C: I know. I don’t remember him running up the stairs with you. So maybe you and he were still downstairs.

(we all discuss how great George’s drumming was, especially as he was so young)

C: This is the picture that I found (shows the pic of the front of the club bashed in)

G: Oh, is this the place?

T: See how Carmela does it? She gets the story then she feeds you a little actual memory

C: Does that look like anything you remember? That was obviously the front and we came in around the back. I remember being in the back of the club.

G: Yeah I don’t remember the front at all.

T: These are fun, because what I remember about that room is that there was a lot of red. Red carpet, red walls. That’s all I remember

C: Kinda like the On Broadway? (a club in San Francisco)

T: I remember the upstairs room was painted like grey and blue, where you were giving the haircut, but that’s all I remember. I don’t remember anything like this.

C: I don’t remember that, because I don’t think we were ever outside the front. I think we pulled in around the back.

G: I don’t even remember the front being open. I just remember it like being locked, and everything was based around that.

C: The back door was open and we parked in the back.

G: And that might have been it, the person might have gone through the front door because it was locked.  Meaning nobody was out front.

T: It’s interesting to think that the reason this is boarded up is because of that night . I don’t think that that is the case, but it’s kinda nice to think that.

G: And it looks like from that that a car, even going a slow speed, would go right through that.

T: But the guy wasn’t, you know what I mean, He was like “Fuck you man”, he wasn’t throwing a punch, he was shoving, If he wanted to drive the car through, he could have done it.

C: So it was just a warning? Somebody was mad at him? (Kary)

G: “So I’ll fuck up this car a little bit, but dammit I’m gonna be able to pull it out!” He must have pulled it out, just backed up and left.

C: My memory is that the car was still there when I came downstairs, and the guy wasn’t in it.

G: That’s mine too but I don’t know if that’s true.

C: But you don’t remember that? (to Tom)

T: What?

C: I thought that the car was still there when I came downstairs.

C: (Reading the article found online about the club). So FYI, Scary Kary his last name was Safarian, like Rastafarian.

T: Ha

C: It said he took over and was booking bands there , it mentions Boom  (a friend of ours from Detroit who was in bands there), and it says “In the end Sagafarian was on the way down , deeper into narcotics deals and by 1988 the club was falling apart and was mismanaged . Not long after, an angry drunk smashed the front doors of the hall in with his car.”

T: Wow so it was a big incident then.

C: “Safarian left the Greystone and it closed for good. In 1990 Safarian found himself facing 54 years in jail for robbing a pharmacy. He has been in jail since, for almost 22 years”

G: Jesus

C: But the guy who emailed me said he had just gotten out recently.

T: I thought he died.

C: I thought he died too.

T: I will say this about the car. I think the car pulled away. I feel like the car pulled away. But I still have in my brain I see the big, squared off, old 1980s chrome bumper, light brown, like sedan, Dodge Dart kinda shape car.

G: That’s what I think too. 4 door.

C: A big American car, I was going to say, kinda of a dirty mustard yellow.

G; Yep that’s it. Brownish.

T: Wow maybe it was still there then.

G: That’s the color that I have too.

T: But I also remember this : Being perfectly ok with staying there, and partying on, and drinking beer and there being a gun on the premise, and big Kary swinging it around. But I didn’t want to go out the front door. That’s the front lines where all the guns and car guys are shooting each other. I don’t want to stick my head out there and see. When we went to the store, me and Kary talked about drugs. And he sort of played it off like he was an ex-Junkie . Like all drug addicts do. Like “I used to, and I’m not into that anymore. But let me tell you what a badass I was, and what it was like to cop heroin in Detroit.”  And that was like a bonding thing, because I was a drug user, and we had that conversation to the store. I do remember that and sort of thinking about his crazy drug addict Michigan life. As opposed to telling him about California. Like “we just call Mexicans, and they come to the door and deliver!” But apparently out there you had to rob pharmacies.

G: With a guy like that, you can see, there were huge cultural differences with us . But there were huge cultural differences with us everywhere we went . We were just, kinda feral. We had an accent. We looked Californian .

So it didn’t open after that? That was the last show? Last non-show?

T: That never occurred to me, it was just another night.

C: I asked the guy who contacted me.  He said, “Kary went off the deep end and robbed a store, went to prison. And he only got out a year and a half ago. “

I said “wow that’s a long time to be in prison. Were there any shows after the crash?”

And he said “I’m trying to figure that out. I believe there were some shows after, but I wasn’t going to shows that year.

T: “I’m giving up shows for Lent!”

C: (corrects) “I wasn’t going to a whole lot of shows that year.”

(still reading) “My buddy and I were going to put on a show there in 1988. We had to scramble and get a hall in Hamscramick (or something like that) because the Graystone was closed by then.

He said “that story of the guy hitting the building and knocking the wall back is extraordinary, even for this crazy town “ and he sent me the pic as well.

T: It didn’t seem that crazy at the time.

C: At the time, I don’t remember it being that weird.

T: It’s another example of thinking we’re a tiny ripple, and it turns out that we’re a splash in the puddle.

Update: After looking at our tour calendar, we played in Minneapolis the night before Detroit and Chicago with the Descendents the day after, so we likely headed to Chicago after the show and stayed with our friend Motor there. The Doughboys and MIA played with Descendents at the Graystone on July 3rd, so hopefully the Doughboys got to play before the P.A. blew. Today the club is a laundromat.

greystone today

There are some videos of shows at the club. Hard to see what it looked like in it;s hey day, but this one of Black Flag from 1986 at least has some good sound quality:

Hot Animal Machines! Short Dogs look back.

I interviewed Tom and Greg at my house on June 10th, 2018.  I’ve noticed over the years that we remember things differently and remember different parts of events. I  asked the guys to participate in an experiment – I gave them two specific times to conjure up in their memory. The first was a show we played in Pensacola, FL, and the second was a gig we played about a week later in Daytona Beach, FL (which had a stage behind a chicken wire fence.) This all happened about 30 years ago. I wanted us to take turns recalling, without the interruption of each other’s memories. After a little clarification of what show happened in what town, we were ready. Mike was present to film the session. Let’s see how we did……..

Tom started with Daytona Beach.

T: My memories are little tiny snapshots. There’s being in the parking lot besides the Henry Rollins’ guys, and realizing that they were like really together, and making us feel very disorganized. I don’t really remember playing behind the chicken wire, but I remember after getting off and going out and seeing Henry Rollins play, I thought “why didn’t we think to do this”?  He was crawling up on the chicken wire front, tearing it off and putting his face through it. We were like “AAAAAHHH….That guy is so intense! ROOOAAARRR!!!!!.

I don’t remember the Doughboys that well, but I know we were friendly with them. And then after the gig I remember the three big things were 1) drinking with the Rollins band, trying to get them to drink. They were scared about it because they thought they were going to get in trouble. We were like “C’mon we’re all grownups, let’s party!” So we coerced them to drink, and then they wound up getting in trouble by Henry.  2) The Rollins band not wanting the pizza cause it had meat on it, and we were like “We’ll take it!” Well, you wouldn’t (to Greg who was vegan at the time.) And they threw it away, which pissed me off to no end. And (3) Henry coming in after his set, by which time I was pretty hammered. Henry coming in, and changing completely while me and Carmela were standing there, And he’s completely naked, and then getting dressed and walking away. I said, “Did you just notice Henry Rollins getting completely naked”? And Carmela says “What?” It was like two feet from you, the man’s stripping down!  And then continuing to drink, and Henry’s coming in and out and getting annoyed with his band for having fun with us! We were having fun.

And then at the end of the night Greg getting up and saying to Henry’s band “You’re the mother-fucking hot animal machine, not him! You’re the mother-fucking hot animal machine!” You grabbed your guitar cases, took one step and the cases crossed and BAM , you flat on your face. And I was like “That’s rock and roll!”

hot animal machine

G: Yeah that was awesome.

T: That’s how you party motherfucker!

G: And everyone laughing.

T: Everyone laughing with you.

G: Yeah that’s a good memory of mine.

C to G: You wanna tackle Pensacola?

G:I only have one memory of Pensacola. I don’t remember the show. All I remember is a memory of the beach and how the sand was sugar.  The width of the beach was extremely small and the sand dunes were extremely small.  And I only have the memory of me looking left. Not right.  That’s the only memory I have of Pensacola.

T: Left side of the beach

G: As I was telling Mel, I just see scattered pictures. Also, I was thinking with my memories, is I get these pictures, then I fill in the blanks, and so I remember when we were in Missouri, and what’s the college town there that we played?

T: Kansas City?

G: No.

T :Lawrence?

G: I have a written account of that. Then Tom Galbrith (the drummer for Field Trip) wrote something and it was really different from my account.  I believe his account. I omitted stuff that I would have loved to put in my account, you know because I didn’t remember it- like what’s-his-name from the Gun Club.

(You can read Tom’s story here: http://www.spinesis.com/tom-galbraith-we-thought-he-was-going-to-kick-this-guys-ass-2/ )

T: Oh God, Jefferey Lee Pierce

G: Yeah , all that.

T: How about us ordering 20 pizzas to the radio station? (everyone laughs at this)

G: You know what also is weird is what I remember from that radio station- I remember kinda being assholes.

T: Yeah.

G: And feeling, you know when you are on tour, confident, even when you are playing to nobody, you’re a gang, you’re moving forward. And I remember saying “fag” on the radio.

C: Hmm.

G: Calling Janes Addiction “Fags”

T: Which was a playful sort of thing, ah….

G: Yeah, but I do remember that and when I think back, that becomes a bad memory. It’s almost like my memory of Daytona. We’re swimming in the ocean, after the gig, and it’s low tide.  But when I think back I have this visceral feeling like “someone could have died.”  You know, because we were drunk. And if it was high tide one of use would have died. You look back as an adult and you put upon these fears.

T: Oh my god, I look back at being a motorcycle messenger and shudder. I actually get like “Oh my god!”  It gives me chills to think of the ridiculous physical risk I put to myself through on a minute to minute basis.

G: I remember the Doughboys, we were friendly with them, they were real nice.

T: They had dreadlocks.

G: Yeah they were from Philadelphia, or they were Canadian.

C: Canadian.

T: Montreal.

(Here is a pic of the Doughboys I found online. If you look closely, the Doughboy on the left is holding a Short Dogs Grow t-shirt.)

doughboys-penrods

G; I was thinking about the Electric Love Muffin.

G: They were like Life Sentence, those damn shirts everywhere. They were good promoters. But I think they opened that show.  I felt competitive. Not something I would ever say to you guys when we were there, but I felt competitive like Doughboys were on our level, you know what I mean.

C and T: yes

G: We hadn’t jumped to Rollins’ level, so it was like ok, we’re opening or they’re opening. I wanna be second. I don’t remember the playing a lot, I remember the afterwards. And that’s a weird thing.

T: I was thinking that same thing. I remember very few actual onstage moments, couple in Vancouver, that one party in Spokane where we played for an hour and a half.

G: “Everybody Rock and Roll the Place!”

C: I think that maybe because we played so much, it’s hard to isolate the actual shows, not that we played the same set each night. These two gigs, I don’t remember being on stage at all. I remember a couple of shows where maybe somebody stage-dove and smacked into me or something like that. But not the actual playing.

G: But with Rollins, I remember you (to Tom) and I being very confident going through the crowd drunk, and I remember seeing these three guys. They were like this (Greg folds his  arms across his chest), and they had jeans, black t-shirt, sort of tribal tattoos, sort of a brush cut, like punk. And I remember seeing them and thinking “they’re here to see Rollins” (everyone laughs). Engineer boots, not punk really, but maybe post punk. It was almost like, “we’re becoming irrelevant”. Like, times are changing. On Instagram, I’ll find somebody who documents scenes. And you can see how fast 1982 to 1987, short hair to long hair- it went really fast. And if you were playing hardcore in 87, you could be left behind. We weren’t hardcore, but that was still sort of the only thing going. We were post punk.

T: If you were playing hardcore, you were going to have to wait another ten years for it to come back!

C: Well, the Pensacola gig, I have no recollection of playing at all. I found the name of the club-it was called DMZ. So neither of you guys remember anything of that night. I only remember the parking lot. We went out to the parking lot and the van wouldn’t start, and so we were stuck. So then we made George find us a place to stay. It was one of the first few gigs we played with George. And he did; he found two girls. They lived in Mobile, AL. They didn’t live in Pensacola, and we went and stayed with them.

G: Yeah, and I hooked up with that girl.

C; Yeah, I wasn’t sure, there was something about a pair of coveralls, whether they were yours or hers, I don’t know. One of you gave the other a pair of coveralls.

(in the photo below, Greg is wearing the coveralls, and I believe a tube top around his neck. This photo was taken in Gainesville around the time of these shows.)

gainsville (3)

G: Yeah I wrote that down too.

C: Yeah and I remember they had a ferret.  And for me, a troubling memory- like when you were mentioning saying “Fag” on the radio.

G: Yeah.

C: I was with the girl, not the one you liked, but the other girl, the one with the Mohawk I guess

T: Right.

C: I don’t remember a Mohawk, but I remember she had dark hair. She took me to the mall to buy hair dye. And when we were in the mall, you guys weren’t there, it was just me and her. It was raining, it was a really bad storm, and there was a huge clap of thunder. This guy was walking outside, near the car and he jumped-he was just scared. And she said “Look at that N-word jump”. I just remember being shocked. I’d never heard anyone use that word before. Ever.

And she was a punk rocker with a Mohawk! And I can’t remember now, and this really bothers me, I can’t remember if I said anything. I remember wanting to say something.

T: You were like “Holy shit we’re in the south!”

C: Yeah, but I think I was so shocked, that I just was mute. And I don’t know if I ever told you guys that.

G: Nope, I don’t remember.

T: No.

C: I thought, partially because she was so hardcore,  how could that come out of somebody?

T: The presumption of someone with a Mohawk.

C: I remember thinking at the time about how Janis told me that she heard someone use the N word, and she went ballistic on them. I remember thinking “if Janis were here, Janis would kick her ass.”  But I’m staying at this woman’s house and I gotta be nice.

G: She had air conditioning!

C: That was my biggest memory of that, but we were with them for a few days. And I did write down that we went to see movies.

G: We based out of their house

T; Yeah we were there for a few days. And that ferret kept stealing our money.

G: Wallets.

C: Yeah, the ferret stole our money.

T: Who did we play with at this club DMZ?

C: Well I have written down that we played with a band called Gruel

T: Who?

C: Gruel.

T: Gruel.

C: But the next night we went back because the van, this is my memory and I don’t think this is right, but the van was in the parking lot, and you fixed it.

T: That sounds right (sarcastically).

C: No, it was really funny.

G: Joe Pethoud wasn’t there?

C: Joe wasn’t there because he had quit the band a week before.

G: Yeah and he fixed our starter before he left.

T: I love him.

C: You (to Tom) took a wrench. You came running out yelling “I fixed the van I fixed the van!” You were so excited about it. And I was so excited.

G: I was extremely excited you fixed the van.

C: And I said “how did you do it” and you said you took a wrench and pulled on something in the engine and freed it.

G: The engine was between the seats.

T: Something was shorting it out I think.

C: You had a wrench and were yelling” I fixed the van”, and we were like “Yay Tom!!”

T: I probably hit the battery once with the wrench.

C: The Accused were playing. I remember meeting them, and they had roadies and money, and they were going to camp because they were really excited about this particular campsite nearby.

G: Are you thinking about Murphy’s Law?

C: No, it was the Accused from Washington.

T: Weren’t Adrenaline Overdrive from down there too?

C: We played with Adrenaline OD in Texas or something . The Daytona Beach was the show we played with Rollins Band.

G: That was a big show.

C: Yeah it was a big show. The promoter Tommy, I think his name was, confirmed that show long before. He was a professional and had it all set up, but he didn’t say anything on the phone about the chicken wire. When we got there, I remember he made all the bands get together and everyone had to say “We will not touch the chicken wire”.

T: That’s right.

C: He had  a huge deposit on the chicken wire, or rather on the show. There was no place to play there anymore so he had to put this huge deposit, and we all agreed.  I remember seeing Rollins in the parking lot with the barbell, sitting there for hours working out and the mom coming over with her kid. And the kid introducing Rollins to the parent. I can’t remember if he was mean or nice.

G: I remember that.

C: Doughboys played first, then we played. Then MIA played and I hated them, just because I didn’t like that they were playing after us. Cause they were touring with Descendents. I think Descendents might have been touring with Rollins too. Then Descendents played and then Rollins played. I found a couple of pictures. Rollins tore down the chicken wire.

T: Which is way more punk and fuckin ballsy, and I remember now that you say that thing about the deposit. Which is of course why we didn’t touch it.

C: We needed the money . We had $100 guarantee, which was A  LOT of money then.

T: And we were super polite and nice and didn’t want to piss those people off

C: That too, and also we didn’t want to ruin their scene, cause we didn’t live there. And afterwards he came up to us, might have been you (Tom ) and I, or maybe all of us, and one of the Doughboys, and he said “I’m paying you guys. I’m not paying Rollins, Decendents or MIA.

T: What????

C: So we got paid

G: Really??

C: He said I’m paying you guys because you’re both from out of town and not part of the package.

T: And I’m looking at your van .

C: And how skinny you guys are! No, he paid us and the Doughboys.

G: Wow.

T: That may be why Henry was such an asshole at the end of the night. I’m a little more forgiving then just “Stop making my band drunk”.

C: He knew, he agreed, everybody agreed. Even the Descendents didn’t touch the chicken wire

T: Well it was worth it because he rocked

C: It was great. I remember as soon as he came on the stage; I remember him putting his fist through it.  I think I was with you Tom, and you yelled “Holy shit he’s doing it!”

At this point I pulled out some pics I found on the internet of Henry onstage at the Daytona beach gig. This is the pic of Rollins onstage and there is still some chicken wire .

rollins-at-penrods (1)

In this one you can see the chicken wire is gone.

henry-rollins-at-penrods-daytona-beach-1985 (1)

T: Oh my god.  Now how does that phase your memory? When you actually see it right?

G: Wow.  That really changes everything.

C: Maybe Rollins went before Descendents because this is Milo without the chicken wire onstage.

You can see in this pic, no chickenwire.

descendents-at-penrods-daytona-beach-1985 (1)

T: I seem to recall Rollins going before Descendents.

C: I thought Rollins played last, but look- there’s no chicken wire.

G: Yeah Descendents played last.

T: Yeah cause they were the bigger band. Rollins had just, that was his first or second tour.

G: That was Search and Destroy or whatever it was.

T: That was Hot Animal Machine.

C: This was the flyer that I had from that show. (I show them the original flyer from my flyer collection- shown below.)

rollins

T: YOU’RE THE HOT ANIMAL MACHINE!!!

C: I remember going backstage, and I remember you telling all the guys in the Rollins band to drink a beer.

T: There was a big garbage can full of those elephant beers. I definitely remember you were on the left, and Henry was on the right and he was soaking wet with his soaking wet shorts. And I took a little peek over, and OOOOOHH Naked Henry. I didn’t sign up for this!

C: I didn’t see anything.

T: I saw pubes, the whole thing.

So Tom may be the only one of us who really knows who’s got the 10 ½. We’ll leave  you contemplating that imagery. Stay tuned for more stories of broken vans and tube tops… 

Flag who got the 10

We sure do miss our buddy George.  We love you George.

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I Get Pulled Over So Much, I’m Not Even Here Yet

Comedian Chris Rock takes a selfie every time he gets pulled over by the cops.  Oh…if only I could go back in time and do the same.

breaux bridge

SHORT DOGS GROW: BREAUX BRIDGE, LOUISIANA

First time we got pulled over on tour was on our way to New Orleans. We had just crossed over into Louisiana with Tom at the wheel and I remember Tom saying “If we keep this pace up, we’ll be in New Orleans before it gets dark!”. Seconds later we were pulled over. The officer got Tom out of the van and into the squad car. We followed in the van to the station where Tom was locked in a cell. For speeding. We were driving the 64 Ford Econoline. To be fair, I can’t think we were going much over the speed limit, because that van, loaded with band and gear, couldn’t go much over the speed limit. The bail was something like $200. No way we had that on hand, so Greg had his mother wire the money.  After posting bail, Greg asked for a receipt. The officer wouldn’t give him one. Greg’s mom said she was going to call the Breaux Bridge, Louisiana station and bitch the officer out for busting broke poor kids. I think she was going to call the Mayor too.  Now we know where Greg got it from, although I highly doubt Silver ever bricked any ATMs.

thirdking

CAMELTOE: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Catherine, guitar player in Cameltoe, had a sweet Dodge Swinger that we used in our video for song “Take a Wild Ride”. But at some point the Swinger got too expensive to repair (I think) and she had to sell it. After that she had some questionable cars. My favorite was a dark grey car that she called the Stealth Bomber. It was from Canada, procured by her husband from a family member or friend. The car couldn’t be registered in the U.S. without paying some crazy tax or fixing the emissions. Catherine took the license plate off and drove without registration or insurance. Might as well go all the way. For a while she flew under the radar- I don’t think she even got any parking tickets when parking illegally…..as there was no plate ( NO PARKING TICKETS IN SAN FRANCISCO!! Not likely to ever be replicated). One night on the way back to our studio after a gig, driving down 3rd Street , she got pulled over. She was panicking somewhat and Emile was telling her to stay calm- all they could do was tow the car. The officer looked in the car with his flashlight, saw me in the back with guitars and amps, and asked what the deal was with the musical equipment.

“We’re in a band” Catherine said. ‘We just played a gig at The Bottom of the Hill.”

The officer seemed excited. “You’re in a band?” he asked. “Do you know Metallica?”

Catherine hesitated only briefly. “Yes, we know Metallica.” And then handed him her license, and said something like she hadn’t had a chance to register the car yet.

The officer went back to his squad car and got on his radio. I heard him say into the radio “I just pulled over these girls who are in a band and they know Metallica!”

He came back a minute later and gave her the license back. “Say hi to Metallica for me” and let us go. No moving violation, no lack of insurance fix it ticket, no impound for an unregistered vehicle.

“Yep” Catherine said “The Stealth Bomber strikes again, flying under the radar of even the SFPD.”

Thank you, Metallica. Who we never have met.

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CAMELTOE: DALLAS, TEXAS

We played a gig in Dallas, and I told our drummer Joe at the start of the gig that I wasn’t gonna drink tonight because I’d be getting pulled over later. Joe wanted to know why I was getting pulled over. “This is Texas, Joe. That’s what they do here.”

After the gig we had to drive to Denton- an hour or so away, and where we had a place to stay. I was keeping a close eye on the speed and making sure I signaled every time I switched lanes. I told Joe to keep an eye out for the cops. He pretty much laughed at me, until…..

(Siren noise) I got pulled over. I asked the officer “What did I do?” Seriously, I was perplexed.

“You don’t have a light above your license plate. I don’t know what ya’ll do in California, but in Texas you have to have a light over your license plate.” Luckily he let me off with a warning.

Joe was shaking his head in disbelief. I said, “This is Texas, Joe. Don’t mess with Texas. ”

seattle_kerry_park

HELLFIRE CHOIR: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Eric and I flew up to Seattle after work for Friday night gig. We had a beer at SFO before getting on the plane. We picked up a rental car at SeaTac, and drove to the gig. Shelley and Michelle had driven up with the gear earlier. I had looked up the address of the club, a place we hadn’t played before. Eric and I seemed to be driving for a long time, but SeaTac is south of Seattle so I figured we’d have to go some distance. Finally we get to the club, and it’s a little bar out in the sticks. Not many people around. Eric called Shelley, and we figured out that the stick bar and the rock club had the same name. We were now about an hour away from where we needed to be. And we were only 30 mins from our set time.

I pulled out of the stick club parking lot. Eric had Shelley on the phone- she was navigating with him. People at the rock club were helping her with directions. The fans were in on the game. Minutes later, we get pulled over. I can hear Eric narrating the experience to Shelley and the fans. “Ok we’re heading south now on (some street). Ok, there’s some sirens behind us. Oh shit we’re being pulled over….”

The officer asked me if I’d been drinking. I looked at Eric and then back to him.  “I had a beer on the plane. But that was a little while ago.” Actually it was before the plane, it had to have been about 4 hours previous, but I started to panic because I wasn’t sure if that was enough time for the blood alcohol to clear. The officer had me get out of the car. I walked the line. I touched my nose. I was praying he wouldn’t ask me to do the alphabet backwards because I can barely do it the right way. Meanwhile Eric is still narrating to everyone at the club. “She’s walking….ok, yeah, she’s doing pretty well. Now she’s touching her nose with her ring finger…..” Finally the officer had me blow into a breathalyzer.  “She just blew…we’re waiting for the results………” The officer came back and said I blew under the limit so I could go. “She passed!! We’re free!!! (crowd roars)”. The officer said when I pulled out of the lot, my lights weren’t on, so he had to pull me over. I switched the lights on, and we (safely) hightailed it to the club. The club pushed the set times a little so we could play. Everyone in the club congratulated me on passing the test when I arrived.

I later learned that 90% of people driving without their lights on at night are intoxicated. Watch out for them.

 

steamboat springs

HELLFIRE CHOIR: STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLORADO

Driving from Colorado Springs to Steamboat Springs, Shelley was at the wheel when it started to snow. Of course I was freaking out, and luckily we got pulled over for SPEEDING.  After the cop gave us the ticket, Michelle took over.  A harrowing drive through the whited-out Rabbit Ear Pass ensued, but I was somewhat relaxed with Michelle behind the wheel. We made it into town and Michelle stopped at a stop sign. The car behind us couldn’t stop and plowed into us, bashing in the rear door.  No one was hurt. The next day we wheeled our rented gear back to the music shop from the rear parking lot so they wouldn’t see the gear had been in a car that had been in an accident.  It all seemed pretty funny until we took the rented van back to the airport rental place. The rental agents took a look and told us that we were the lucky ones- one of their rentals had driven off the mountain in the storm the day before and all four passengers had died.

monterey

COOKIE MONGOLOID: SAN FRANCISCO

Exited 280 onto Monterey, shortly thereafter the siren went off. I really had no idea what I’d done. It was probably around 2 in the morning and I was going home after a gig. The officer came up to the window.

“Coming home from a gig?” he asked.

“Yes sir” and a pause. “How did you know?”

“I looked in the back of your truck and saw your guitar in there.  Metal band?”

I laughed. “yeah, it’s a heavy metal tribute to Sesame Street.”

He said he thought metal when he saw the guitar case because I had “hit it a little hard coming off the freeway”. He told me to slow down a little, and let me off without a ticket.

I didn’t even get a chance to tell him that I know Metallica.

 

Guns N’ Salad: Detroit Rock City

Detroit to me is…….punk rock, Hell’s Angels, guns, and salad.

Brian, the bass player from Electric Love Muffin, reminded me recently on this blog of the crazy time we played together in Detroit. What follows may read as fiction, but most of this is actually true. Brian- feel free to correct and/or corroborate.

This was Short Dogs Grow’s first time in Detroit and we were booked to play the Graystone. Tom had booked the show, and in our tour phone book he listed the promoter as “Scary”, complete with quotation marks because we weren’t really sure if he went by “Scary” or if he had some foreign name that just sounded like “Scary.”

We were booked for the 4th of July, and “Scary”said we should come by early because he’d be barbecuing in the back . We didn’t eat meat at the time, but it never hurt to get to a club early to try to find a place to stay for the night.  “Scary” (also known as Cary) turned out to be a big guy somewhat like a typical Hell’s Angel.

Scary’s first words to us were, “I hope you’re not a bunch of California Faggot Vegetarians!” followed by laughter. We all squirmed and shuffled and looked at our Converse. Certainly we would need to defend our gay brethren, but I don’t know if I  was more nervous about the homophobia confrontation, or whether I would have to eat meat to keep this guy from kicking my ass. After an uncomfortable silence, Greg Foot smiled and gestured to all of us. “Yeah,” he said “we’re all  California Faggot Vegetarians.”  Scary laughed again and hit Greg on the back. “I knew you would be, so I made you guys a big tray of salad and vegetables.” And he pulled out a big meat pan full of salad and cut veggies and proceeded to grill our lunch.

There were a lot of young punk kids hanging out and he was feeding them too. I started to think that his nickname was just a tease, and that he was a just big ol’ teddy bear at heart. I didn’t hear anything homophobic or derogatory from him the rest of the time we were there.

electric love muffin

(Electric Love Muffin in Philadelphia)

The Love Muffins arrived later and we made friends pretty quickly. I was on some kind of hair-cutting jag (I think I was exploring being a stylist) so I offered to cut their hair. Having absolutely no training whatsoever except cutting my own hair (which looked pretty bad) only one of them was brave enough to take me up on it- Brian, who had short curly hair, so it was pretty easy to clip the ends of his curls. We went to a little upstairs room so he could sit down, and I could have some space to work. At some point while I was cutting, there was a loud bang and it startled me enough that I stabbed my hand with the scissors (luckily for Brian I didn’t stab him in the head). It didn’t bleed but I wondered if I would be the first SDG band member to go to the hospital for lockjaw.

A little while later  Greg ran into the room, pretty breathless. “Have you guys been here the whole time?” he asked. We said yes, and we were just about to come downstairs. “No way you guys missed the whole thing????!!!!!!!!!!!” And we were like What? What happened? Greg then recounted the incident:

“We were all hanging out drinking beer with the Detroit punk kids and Scary. All of a sudden we heard a loud bang and we’re like WTF???? I look at the front of the club and the doors are just gone. It turned out this guy drove his car into the front door of the club. When this happened, all of the punk kids dropped immediately to the ground. The only people left standing were Scary, me and Tom (I can’t remember if Greg mentioned where George was). Then Scary pulls a gun out of his waistband and starts firing at the guy. So Tom and I dropped to the ground. The guy put the car in reverse and pulled out.  I don’t think Scary got him. I can’t believe you guys were up here the whole time and missed it!!!!”

greystone

(I found this pic of the club on the web, I think it’s fairly soon after the incident)

Brian and I looked at each other, and I realized that I was busy stabbing myself while the punk kids were ducking and covering. We didn’t really believe Greg,(because…well…sometimes he does embellish) until we went downstairs a bit later (when the coast was clear) and saw the damage. I don’t remember any police coming. The punk kids told us that stuff like that happened all the time.  They told us that the club didn’t make any money, and that Scary was involved in some illegal activities which helped pay the club’s rent and feed all the kids. He was a punk rock Robin Hood apparently.

I was just wondering what happened to ol’ Scary so I googled him and found this on the web- an article from 2012. The year the article mentions is 1988, but we were there in 1987, so it’s possible that more than one thug drove into the front doors:

In 1986, after the closing of the all-ages punk venue the Hungry Brain in Delray, the Graystone soon filled the void as Detroit’s main destination for all-ages punk shows, this time under the management of Corey Rusk of Touch and Go records, then based in Dearborn. Rusk and company brought in such bands as the Descendents, the Meat Puppets and Big Black.

But after a local skinhead gang broke Rusk’s jaw, he handed the keys over to Cary “Scary” Safarian, a Bluto-like fireplug of a man who couldn’t be intimidated by local toughs.

But Safarian was also a pretty smart promoter, working out deals that brought in Die Kreuzen, MDC, DRI, the Crucifucks, Bad Brains, Corrosion of Conformity, Dr. No, the Cro-Mags and many more, for all-ages shows with low ticket prices. But even for Safarian, it was tough going. He had to guarantee vegan meals for fussy national punk acts while trying to keep the hall under control, protecting it from the cops, the neighbors, the patrons — and sometimes the bands. It was here that such “outside” punk acts as Boom & the Legion of Doom and Slaughterhouse played sets, the former throwing roadkill and animal parts out into the audience, once upsetting the straight-edge, vegetarian singer of Seven Seconds so much he allegedly burst into tears.

In the end, Safarian was on the way down, getting deeper into narcotics and illicit deals. By 1988, the club was falling apart and mismanaged. Not long after an angry drunk smashed the front doors of the hall in with his car, Safarian left the Graystone and it closed for good. In 1990, Safarian found himself facing 54 years in jail for robbing a pharmacy in rural Calhoun County. Safarian has been in jail since, for almost 22 years.

Though the memories live on, the hall itself is no more, the space having been taken over by a coin laundry several years ago — making it the best place to do laundry while soaking in punk rock history.

Poor Scary, if he’s still in jail -that’s 25 years for armed robbery. I don’t know the details of his case but most people get less time for killing someone.

Here’s a link to an interview of Scary. You can form your own opinion of the man:

 

 

 

Snakefinger and Chris Isaak

To this day, I wonder why my musical tastes took a left turn from bands like the Bay City Roller to art collectives like the Residents once puberty hit. Was it hormones? An allergy?  Or was there something genetic going on that was driving me to the music of Ralph Records, or Jad Fair or SPK?

snakefinger

My first boyfriend was a huge fan of Residents’ collaborator Snakefinger and took me to see him play at the Victoria Theater in. The opening band was a group of Rockabilly guys names Silvertone.  I was impressed with their lead singer’s silver guitar, it actually detracted from how cute he was.  We  quickly forgot about him when Snakefinger came on and played. I was only 15, but I’d never really heard anything like it. I picked up Chewing Hides the Sounds right after. Every time I pass by the Victoria Theater now (one of the few surviving things of the Mission district from my childhood), I think of Snakefinger.

Later on I found out that the singer of Silvertone went on to have a solo career under his real name, and he named his first album Silvertone.

 

Silvertonelp

Guess who? The lead singer of Silvertone…Chris Issak.

Fast Forward 30 years and I’m flying a lot for work, and I had a lot of upgrade points. But I could never use them because everyone else who travels has a lot of upgrade points. Eventually I just tried to upgrade every flight I ever took, and every once in a while I would get a hit.  Well I was flying to Burbank and I got called up to the desk for my upgrade. The gate attendant looked like she was going to pee her pants. “I’ve seated you next to him” she whispered to me as she handed me my upgraded ticket.  “What? Who?” I asked.  “Him!!!” she said slightly louder.  I had no idea what she was talking about and went to pee before they called boarding. When I got back they called first class, and I followed one other guy down the ramp.  It was a small plane, so there were only two first class seats, one behind the other, and followed by coach class of two side by side seats.  I had to wait for him to sit down before I could move pass to my seat.  As he buckled up I realized “Him” was Chris Isaak.  I wasn’t sitting next to him, just right behind him. The whole flight I was so tempted to poke my head around the seat and yell “HEY DUDE I SAW YOU PLAY 30 YEARS AGO IN SILVERTONE!!” , or “EXCUSE ME, AREN’T YOU THE SINGER FROM SILVERTONE??, or even “YO SUNSET HOMEBOY (he used to live in my neighborhood” But of course, I didn’t have the guts, and flew in silence, leaving the man in peace to learn his lines for the show he was probably taping that day in Burburk.

STING’s BASS

 

I was listening to a podcast interview of Flea yesterday and was amused by his opinion of the Police. He’d loved them when they first came out, but recently he revisited their music and felt like it hadn’t held up over time. They are the only band he’d loved “back in the day” that he can’t listen to now. He told a story of how he’d gone to see the Police in concert. He was able to get behind the stage to watch Stewart Copeland play drums and he saw that Stewart had written “Fuck Off You Cunt” across his toms. He said it was directed at Sting, who Stewart hated by that time. (listen to the interview here:

http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/episode_656_-_robert_trujillo_flea_aziz_ansari

stewart copeland

Stewart Copeland circa 1983?

It’s kinda of a sad story because I can’t imagine being in a band with someone who you hate so much, you would write that on your drums. But the story also made me laugh because it reminded me of my only connection to Sting: STING’s BASS.

In 1988 we did a somewhat hectic SDG tour. I’d quickly booked us cross country to meet up with MDC in West Virginia to do a couple of weeks with them. MDC was able to get gigs in places where I’d tried repeatedly and had no luck- exotic places like Salt Lake City. If we would let MDC use our gear, they would let us open for them. It was a worthwhile deal for us. We also wanted to get a NYC show so our east coast label people could see us. Rough Trade NY were able to get us a gig at CBGB’s. The date they got was a bit rough with the schedule, but I made it work. We would have to leave immediately after our gig in New Orleans (always money maker for us) and deadhead to NYC. It would be rough, but it’s CBGB’s (!) and our NY could people see us.

Somewhere between the two cites (a big blur) we stopped and called our SF label. We were in the middle of being sued (also part of the hectic-ness) and needed to check in. Our label rep, Steve, asked Tom to look in our van, and see if my bass was in there. Tom yelled from the pay phone “Hey Mellie is your bass in the van? Some guy in New Orleans says he has it” Someone from New Orleans had called the label, and said he had my bass. He would send it postpaid to the label if I wanted. Panicked, we pulled everything out and sure enough, no bass. Steve said don’t worry about the bass, he’d sort it out; don’t worry about the lawsuit, we’d sort it out; don’t worry about the government, just get your asses to NYC. (thank you Steve and thank you nice bass-returning guy. He did send it back). I’d have to ask the other bands at CBGB’s if someone would lend me a bass. I didn’t think it would be a big deal.

bass 80's

The bass that got left behind……..photo by Methanie.

Turns out the east coast is not as mellow as the west coast. There were about 5 other bands on the bill. The first band was a country guy named Tim Lee. The other bands included Michael Stipe’s sister’s band, kind of a hippy thing. As I watched them load in I saw they had about 8 guitar cases. They had three bass players in the band and no guitars. For sure I thought they’d help out a fellow bassist. Everyone in that band said no. All the other bands on the bill said no. Tim Lee finally said yes. He really wanted to leave after his set (we were on last), but he stayed till 3am so I could have a bass to play. Thanks Tim.

After our set, everyone was gone but our label people and the club folks. We were packing up and the club manager came up to me with a guitar case. “Does this belong to you?” he asked. I knew it wasn’t ours but I said “Let’s take a look”. He opened the case and there was a bass inside. I don’t think it was anything fancy, but IT WAS A BASS. He knew right away it didn’t belong to me and we figured out from the stickers that it has to be Michael Stipes’ (ok,ok, one of his sister’s, but he probably paid for it). We were playing with her band in Boston the next day so I told the manager we could take it to them. He said “no way” He knew I didn’t have a bass, and being an east coast kinda guy, figured I was trying to pull a fast one.

The next day Greg and I went to a music rental place. We were playing with some of the same bands in Boston, and I didn’t think anyone was going to have a huge change of heart and let me borrow a bass. We walked in looking like the broke musicians we were, and asked about renting a bass. The guys told us the price (something like $50 a day which was huge to us but we had to do it). So Greg pulled out his credit card and said let’s do it. The guy asked me what kind of bass I wanted. Christ I didn’t care, just anything with four strings. When we looked dully back at him at the question, he tried a different strategy. “What kind of bass do you play?” Greg told him it was a 70’s P-Bass. He shuffled off to the back and came back with a vintage 60’s P-Bass. He opened the case with a flourish, and let us feast our eyes. I took a look and said “Don’t you have anything else?” It looked kinda fey to me. He freaked out and started yelling “This is a Vintage P-Bass. This is the best bass in all of NYC right now. STING just used it for a recording, and when he brought it back he offered me $$$$$$. STING WANTS THIS BASS BUT I WON’T SELL IT. Because it’s the best bass in the world”. Greg said “ok ok we’ll take it” more to shut the guy up then anything else.

For the next two days we referred to it as STING’s BASS. Since we had a huge deposit on it (on the credit card), we had to make sure it came back intact. I never let it out of my sight. When we got to the Ratt in Boston we saw Stipe’s sister and her bandmates in the parking lot. We asked them if they knew they left a bass in NYC. Their roadie (yes, they had a roadie that I’m sure Michael Stipe paid for) freaked out, went to check the gear and realized one was missing. I did tell him that we offered to bring it with us, but the club said no, since you guys weren’t cool with letting me borrow it. The roadie looked rather bummed, and then got in their van and spent the next 8 hours doing a round trip to NYC.  They had spare basses (which you know who probably paid for) so they didn’t need to borrow one, but Greg did say “We’d let you borrow ours, but STING lent it to Carmela and he’d be pissed if we let anyone else borrow it.” They thought we were full of shit at first but once they saw the bass, and how we kept calling it STING’s BASS, at some point I think we had them going.

I couldn’t watch their band. George had more of an open mind and tried to get me to give them a chance. He thought they were doing something interesting. But to me, the only thing worse than a hippy is a stingy hippy. I just googled Michael Stipes’s sister and her name is Lynda Stipe and her band was called Hetch Hetchy. They pretty much fell apart after that tour.

You can formulate your own opinion:

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mn0000673641

Turned out that STING’s BASS was actually a pretty nice bass. If we hadn’t had such a huge deposit on it, I would have been tempted to keep it. When we brought it back, I apologized to the guy and said I really liked STING’s BASS. He got a kick out of our nickname and started to refer to it as STING’s BASS as well.

I was ok after that because our next gig was in West Virginia with MDC. We’d already told them on the phone what happened, and they said no problem, I could use Franko’s Rickenbacker. So I was Lemmy-like for two weeks. Didn’t sell me on Rickenbacker however. I was glad to get back to my P-Bass, which was there when I got home. (thank you again New Orleans guy).

mdc sacred hate 1988mdc sdg dayton 1988MDC

 

franko bass

That’s me playing Franko’s bass in Salt Lake City. You can barely see Franko at the bottom of pic. Thanks Franko..RIP.

San Francisco Politics: Jello Biafra and Sister Boom Boom

jellomayor2

In 1979 Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco. It was a dark time. Jonestown and Moscone and Milk’s assassination occurred about a year earlier. The election for mayor was bringing up a lot of bad memories. Everyone was affected in some way- had known someone who died in Guyana, was a friend of Milk, or like myself, went to school with Moscone’s daughters. Dan White’s trial had just happened and most people were upset with the lenient sentence.

My parents had a deep distrust of politicians, most likely stemming from Watergate. Upon reading about Jello my father said something like “He can’t be any worse than the people in there .”

I thought it was fantastic. It was so …………..unexpected. I was young, and had never heard of anyone that young or nutty running for office and dammit San Francisco could use some levity at the time. It must have resonated with some other people too because Jello came in fifth place (6591 votes) and you know there weren’t  6591 punk rockers in S.F. with their shit together enough to go voting.

jellomayor1

A few years later I was given an assignment for my civics class to volunteer for an election campaign and write a report about it.  Jello was still political and was organizing events like Rock Against Reagan, but unfortunately he wasn’t running for office at that time.

But there was someone else running: Sister Boom Boom, one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

21sister-boom-boom

The Sister were a group of gay activists (kindof) founded in 1979, around the time Jello was running for mayor. I would see them in the Castro- campy nuns. They got your attention. They raised awareness on queer issues like the fag-bashing that was going on in the Castro. They raised money for Cuban refugees, and organized the first AIDS fundraiser. They also brought some levity to the city. I remember a few Sisters on the corner of Castro and Market handing out pamphlets that said “Make Plants Wear Pants” lampooning ……who knows? The flyer didn’t say.

Ok, it wasn’t Jello Biafra, but a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence had to be pretty interesting.

The voter bulletin had an address for Sister Boom Boom’s campaign headquarters, but no phone number, so I figured I’d go there to volunteer. Luckily a classmate needed to do the same project and was game. We went to the “headquarters” together- a multi-unit apartment building, no names on the door. We hung outside for a bit, then noticed an open window on the ground floor with a curtain gently blowing in the breeze. We penned a note on a scrap of paper found on the street and pinned it to the window with one of our punk rock safety pins. The note read something like:

“HI! WE WANT TO VOLUNTEER FOR SISTER BOOM BOOM. PLEASE GIVE HER THIS NOTE. WE HAVE TO DO THIS FOR SCHOOL ASAP. HELP! HELP… WE DON’T WANT TO FAIL CIVICS. (plus phone numbers)”

To my complete surprise, Sister Boom Boom called the next day. He said his name was Jack and could use some help handing out flyers. We arranged to meet in the Castro. How cool, I thought, handing out flyers to all the interesting people in the Castro.

When we showed up I think he was a little surprised that we were straight white girls.(a little punk rock, meaning we wore black trench coats which made us look a bit like little old men)  He probably thought he was getting two frustrated queer youth, not a couple of Catholic girls. But he was pleased because he was going to capitalize on it.  He said he’d over campaigned the Castro, and wanted to hit more “straight areas”.  We were going to hand out flyers at Stonestown.

Ugh, this was the mall in the part of town that I lived, and where we went to high school. There would be no one interesting in Stonestown. I knew that already. But we did our duty and handed out flyers. Some people were amused but a lot were offended and would hand the flyers back. It wasn’t fun, but I sure learned about shock tactics and politics.

Afterwards Jack took us to lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory on Castro Street. I can’t remember much about the conversation but he did mention he was an astrologist and he thought he should have run for School Board because he could really make a change there. We probably probably talked about how much school sucked and that we couldn’t wait to graduate so we could go see the Dead Kennedys at the Mab whenever we wanted.

I never talked to Sister Boom Boom or Jack again. I would occasionally see his astrology column in a paper –maybe the Chronicle or possible the SF Weekly. He retired from the Sisters about 4 years later and became a Muslim.

Sister Boom Boom got 23,124 votes for Supervisor and placed 8th in the election, which goes to show you the electoral power of the gay community. 8th wasn’t enough to serve. But Jack made his mark. The city passed a law the following year that said candidates have to run for election under their real names. To this day it’s known as the Sister Boom Boom law.

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Fundraising flyer for Sister Boom Boom…the broom spells out “Surrender Diane” referring to Diane Feinstein, the Mayor at the time (who Jello lost to.)

This Is What You Want….This Is What You Get.

sex pistols

I recently did an online survey “Which 70’s punk band should you be in?” It turns out that I should be in the Sex Pistols. Hmm…they did lose one bass player to murder/suicide, but they brought the original one back for their reunion. So I don’t think there will be any auditions anytime soon.

PiL

I missed the Pistols at Winterland (I was too young to go, but I did see Public Image Ltd live on their first U.S. tour in 1980 at the South of Market Cultural Center. The first band on the bill was Toiling Midgets. The curtain goes up, and on stage playing bass I recognize  “that guy who goes to University High School and rides the 24 Divisadero bus” I had never talked to him on our mutual bus route (I was too shy).  I was shocked to see a fellow high school student playing in a band in front of a big crowd…opening for Johnny Rotten. It gave me faith that my secret fantasy (to be in a band) could someday come true.

Flipper also played that show and were the best worst band I’d ever seen, albeit completely inspiring . They sounded terrible, reinforcing the punk rock concept that anyone could start a band. But there was, and still is, only one Flipper.

flipper

In the book Gimme Something Better, Jello Biafra says this show was “his favorite show of all time. I commend Johnny Rotten for refusing to play for Bill Graham. Which meant it was a poorly run Paul Rat show which was way oversold.” (check out more on http://www.gimmesomethingbetter.com) It was my first, of many more to come, poorly run Paul Rat shows.

PIL SOM

I also met my first boyfriend while waiting in line to get in. We’re in the above picture, in front of the people with the white shirts on. Oh, yeah, PiL was pretty good too.

PiL Galleria

I saw PiL again a couple of years later at the Galleria Gift Center.  The stage was in the middle of an open rotunda, so you could take the elevator upstairs and look down upon the band. Some idiots had gone up a few flights and were leaning over the rail and pouring beer on the musicians.  John Lydon (he’d gone back to Lydon at this point as he was in a legal dispute with McClaren over the name Johnny Rotten) was obviously annoyed (his hair was spiky green if I remember right) and people were handing him their hats to wear for protection. He would take the hat, flip it over, look at the label, and then shake his head and give the hat back to the person. I was wearing a hat that had belonged to my grandfather.  While I was happy for the beer protection, I thought John needed it more than me, so I handed it to him.  He flipped it over and looked at the label.  He smiled at me and put the hat on. For the rest of the show he wore the hat. I had another one of my grandpa’s hats at home, so I was willing to lose this one.  But, at the end of the show, John Lydon walked over, tipped the hat and handed it back to me.  I still have the hat and the label reads Lock and Co. Hatters, London. I lost my grandpa’s other hat, so I’m so glad that I still have this one. Of course the real value comes from it belonging to my grandpa, but it’s nice to think that it protected Johnny too.

PiL fort mason

The next time I saw PiL was in 1984 at Fort Mason Center, Pier 2. It was jammed packed, and people were pushing to get to the stage and moshing, which didn’t really fit at a PiL show. I was proudly wearing my creepers. You can probably get creepers at Target now, but back then they were a sought after, expensive commodity. You could only get them in England, so people would give money to friends who were travelling overseas to bring some back.  I was lucky in that my boyfriend’s sister worked at one of the first shops to import creepers from Doc Marten in London, and she got me a pair wholesale. Well in the crush of the crowd, one of my creepers came off and I couldn’t find it. I spent the rest of the show with one shoe, dismayed.  At the end of the gig, I stared scouting around for my shoe, and when I got close to the stage a punk rock chick was waving my shoe yelling “WHO LOST THEIR CREEPER?? SOMEONE IS GONNA BE REALLY BUMMED THAT THEY LOST THEIR CREEPER!!!” I hopped up to her and showed my shoe-less foot, and she handed me my shoe. “I knew you’d be looking, ” she said, “no one would leave without it.” I thanked her. She knew how hard it was for me to get those shoes; it was like I had fallen down in the pit, and she picked me back up.

creeper

According to a website that lists all of PiL’s shows, they evidenly played the Stone, the Warfield and the Civic Auditorium in the years after this, but I must have been busy touring and eschewing large concerts to attend any.

I finally saw the Sex Pistols at the Warfield in 2003. My brother bought me a ticket ( I was over my fear of larger shows, but too still cheap to buy tickets to them). My expectations were low, but to be honest, I was blown away by Lydon. He was a pure entertainer, cleverly manipulating me and the crowd into having a great time.

sex pistols warfield

I did go see PiL again in 2010 at the Regency. Gone are my high fashion days of hats and creepers. My friend Paul and I stood in the back in comfortable shoes, and I have to say that John Lydon/Rotten still delivers.

lock hatters

 

Children By the Million Sing for Alex Chilton

Let it Be

One of my all time favorite records is the Replacement’s Let It Be. I wore the grooves out of my scatched up copy in my tiny basement in-law apartment of my grandmother’s house. For as much as I liked the band, I never really got to see them live, just one song at the Shoreline Theater. They opened for Tom Petty, and played at the ungodly hour of 8pm- way too early for and self-respecting hipsters to make the scene.  We missed most of their set, catching only “I’ll Be You” while they rocked about as tiny ants on the stage from our vantage point on the lawn.

The-Replacements-Pleased-to-Meet-Me-Front

I was given a cassette tape of Pleased to Meet Me, and loved the song Alex Chilton so much, that I would listen to it, flip the tape over and listen to Skyway and keep repeating until I finally broke the tape. I can’t tell you any other songs on the album because those were the only two I ever heard from it.

As much as I liked the song, I never went any further into an investigation of Alex Chilton. A friend at work raved about him- told me he  was a brilliant songwriter, but had eschewed rock and roll and fame, and now worked as a dishwasher in New Orleans. I thought that was interesting and promptly forgot about him.

One day I was talking about food with my friend Barry, and he mentioned he was going to New Orleans. He  had a plan in place for each meal while he was there. He said it would be a challenge to eat that much food- breakfast, lunch and dinner at well known restaurants, but he’d made the reservations and was going to go for it. Was I up for it???  Do you even have to ask? I once peeled and ate 20lbs of crawfish at an “all you can eat” crawfish boil in New Orleans. When I told the bartendar I was from San Francisco, he said I did a good job, for a tourist of course.

Barry also was planning to see his  good friend Alex Chilton, who would be playing his annual New Year’s Eve gig, and go to a football game that takes place on New Years Day.  “Oh, the dishwasher!” I thought. That would be interesting. And I could see my cousin, who now lives in New Orleans. We are each half Scottish, and Hogmanay is big with the Scots, so I’d go first footin’ with him.

So I wound up meeting Alex very briefly on the trip. We visited his house on New Year’s Eve day to say hello and hang for a little bit, as it would be too busy to chat at the gig. He lived in a typical New Orleans house, small but efficient, and had loads of guitars lying about. I looked around while he and Barry caught up. I remmeber him being quiet but humorous. He’d had a good year, money wise, as That 70’s Show was using one of his songs as their theme song. He was getting royalties. He wasn’t washing dishes. I don’t know if that was actually true ( I certainly didn’t have the balls to ask him), but he seemed to live a comfortable, simple lifestyle. This was pre-Katrina but you could still have a nice quality of life in New Orleans without making a ton of money. We left early so he could get a nap before his gig. I was impressed that he could sleep before he played. It was his ritual.

We had an awesome time in N.O. and Alex’s gig was great, but I did have hard time holding up my end of the bargain as far as food went. “Breakfast, lunch and dinner!” Barry would chant each day. But after 3 days I groaned “Breakfast and dinner! Breakfast and Dinner” !!! I hadn’t trained for this, and I had to beg off of a couple of lunches to give myself a rest. Barry eventually forgave me.

Over the many years of our friendship, I would often consult Barry’s travel plans. He travels A LOT- always going to SXSW, New Music Seminar, Giants Spring Training, not to mention lots of various gigs like Coachella, Lolapalooza, and events like Sundance. Then he said he was branching out and going to Europe. We compared calendars, and saw we’d overlap for a week in Europe for our planned vacations. He was going to see Alex play some gigs in England. Alex had a gig in Italy while I would be there, so we planned to meet in Milan.

I flew to Milan, and of course was a little delayed. I texted Barry upon landing and he told me to come to the hotel NOW. We could get a ride on the tour bus to the gig. It took me a while to get through customs, and the texts from Barry started to get a little frantic. The gig was at a stadium on the edge of Milan, and we didn’t want to miss it. The cab driver let me off at the hotel and I saw Barry pacing in front of the tour bus. I ran across the piazza yelling “Barry, Barry , Here I am!!!”. He grabbed my bag and tossed it on the bus. As soon as I boarded, the driver shut the door and sped off. I looked around the bus and it was packed with nicely dressed people in evening gowns and tuxedoes, all starting at me with curiosity. Huh? I was underdressed in comfy jeans and a tee- my crossing-the- Atlantic flight gear. I mentioned this to Barry, and he said “Oh that’s just the London Symphony Orchestra”.

What? It turns out that the gig was a tribute to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heartsclub Band, and the Symphony would be playing the music. Each song would be sung by a different performer- all of them stars in their own way. Barry had managed to hold up the tour bus by telling the driver that I was someone important flying in from the states. So that explained the odd looks as they tried to figure out which famous rock star I was. Ha ha.

We got to the gig and went backstage to look for Alex. It was a little honeycomb and we peeked into various rooms before we found him. I caught a glimpse of Marianne Faithful warming up. We chatted with Alex for a minute and then left to give him a chance to prepare in private. As we walked over to the backstage bar, we ran into Peter Murphy. “Peter!” Barry exclaimed, “Have you met Carmela? She just flew in from San Francisco!” Peter Murphy smiled and shook my hand. He was being polite, but I’m sure was wondering “who the hell are you?” It was fabulous, Barry did this with everyone. I got to shake Marianne’s hand, and then she grabbed my arm and muttered “the horrors, the horrors”. Turns out she has terrible stage fright and has to be dragged to the stage to preform.

alex chilton milan

The show was awesome. Besides Alex, Marianne and Peter Murphy, Robyn Hitchcock and the Residents played. There were some other famous people performing (Badly Drawn Boy and Beth Orton) that I didn’t really know. After the set we were able to take the tour bus back to the hotel. I sat next to a guy on the bus and introduced myself. He said he lived in Berkeley and we chatted for a minute before he told me that he was one of the Residents. OMG! I was a big fan, but obviously couldn’t recognize anyone from the band. I mentioned this and he said it was great being a Resident because you could be incognito. He introduced me to a couple of the other Residents. I told then how I used to watch the garage door of Subterranen records as I painted apartments across the street with my dad. I wanted to catch a glimpse of a Resident but it was like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  They agreed that “no one every goes in, and nobody ever goes out.”  Alex got on the bus and sat behind me. He leaned over and asked me my birthday. A couple of minutes later he told me I was the King of Diamonds. I said “It’s good to be king!” He replied “It’s lonely at the top”. He then asked the young guy next to him what his birthday was, and then told him what playing card he was, and they wound up talking all night.

Barry told me that Alex had a system where he calculated which card of the deck you were- by adding up the numbers of your birthday, and probably some other information. The card told him a lot about you- some cards were good, some neutral, some bad. He based a lot on the cards. I don’t think the King of Diamonds was that great of a card but he was still very nice to me. The guy next to him must have been a good card because Alex spoke with him the rest of the evening. I guess the system worked. He probably had a lot of crazy fans, and it was a way to screen people that somehow worked for him.

We wound up going out to dinner with some of the Lonely Hearts. I sat at the table with Robyn Hitchcock and his wife. Peter Murphy was also there. We went to a restaurant that opened up just for us, as it was quite late. I was jet lagged but managed to stay awake, texting my roommate back home “I’m eating dinner with Peter Murphy!!!! I love Italy!” It was surreal to say the least. I was a bit intimidated. Everyone was very nice and were asking each other about their upcoming touring and recording plans. I was a bit out of the element. My tour plan was an upcoming gig at the El Rio.

The next day Alex flew back to London, and Barry and I scoured Milan looking for something to eat. We couldn’t seem to find a restaurant that was open, much less breakfast, lunch AND dinner. It was during one of the famous fashion weeks. We assumed all restaurants must be closed because fashion people don’t eat food, and the restaurants figured it’s a good time to close for vacation (and it wasn’t in August either). We finally found a place open and it was the first time I’d seen a bathroom where literally there was just a hole w/drain on the floor. I’d heard rumors that this happens in some places in Italy, but I insisted Barry go take a look, even tho he didn’t need the lav. It was hilarious.
I left Barry the next day to catch a train to Florence to meet up with my parents, and he was headed back to the States, I think hitting New York on the way back.

When Alex passed away I called Barry to offer my condolences. He was at an event that Alex was supposed to play at, and it became an impromptu memorial. I was sad for him. We laughed about our time in Italy. Barry said “I’ll never forgot you running across with piazza with your suitcase, blond hair flapping around,  yelling “Barry, Barry, here I am” with the London Symphony craining their necks out the bus window, wondering “who’s the famous blond?” Britney? Christina ? Madonna?”

Nope…it’s King Diamond!

king diamond

 

Sex (not so much), Drugs (not much of that either) and Rock and Roll (yes, lots)

Sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Such a cliché, probably because it’s true; the three go together like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.  In rock and rock autobiographies, it’s practically required to recount your overdose and paternity lawsuit in the first chapter. But for me, well I’m not saying that in the past I was an angel, but Hammer of The Gods it was not.

Sure there were drugs around- mostly bad biker speed and lots of extra-strength pot. But at the start of Short Dogs Grow,we were mostly drinkers. The rock and roll was obvious- everyone I knew was in a band, used to be in a band, or was going to be in a band, man, that was gonna rock.

As for sex, well I’d love to say that I had throngs of groupies, but that wouldn’t exactly be the truth.  Actually, I was pretty shy and a bit of a prude (years of Catholic schooling).Before our first tour, Tom sat me down for a serious chat, something out of character at our tender ages of 19 and 20 years old.

“Now Mellie, it’s okay for us guys to sleep around on the road, that doesn’t raise an eyebrow. But you can’t. If you sleep with someone, everyone will know. Everyone will talk about it” I laughed.  He continued, “C’mon, you know how people are. You don’t want that to be what people remember about you.”

Ok, double standard aside, Tom did have a point. There were only a handful of women playing punk music then, and very few touring. Like it or not, I would stand out, and that was never my goal. I didn’t want to be singled out as female, or as the girl who slept with so-and-so. I didn’t wear sexy clothes or makeup on stage (or in day to day life either). I was (and still am) a feminist, who jumped around, played hard and wanted to be judged on my own merit. I was not a joiner and would never have been a Riot Grrl (way past my time anyway). Still I was often told “not bad for a girl”. Bleech.

But Tom didn’t need to worry. Besides being shy, and a bit of a prude, I kinda had a boyfriend: Greg Adams, the guitar player of The Rhythm Pigs. They had moved recently from El Paso to San Francisco to release their first record with Ruth Schwartz’ new label, Mordam Records. Ruth had great taste in music. Her first record was Faith No More’s We Care a Lot. I loved Faith No More, and even got Billy to give me a couple of bass lessons.  Rhythm Pigs were slated second, and her third was Victims Family’s Voltage and Violets. What a hat trick she played.

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Flyer from VIS lounge. What an awesome lineup.

I met Greg at the VIS Lounge- a former Fillmore blues bar on its dying legs. It’s now been remodeled into The Independent, but back then it was two floors- the upstairs was the backstage. I think it was near Valentine’s day so I was handing out sugar hearts to everyone. I gave one to Greg, and we chatted.  A few days later I found a package on my doorstep- it was a paper bag with a picture of Mickey Mouse on it, and inside was a little plastic motorcycle and some candy. Someone had written on the bag “from your secret admirer.”  I had no idea who it was from. I didn’t have a boyfriend, and not many people knew where I lived. Most people I knew lived in the Haight Ashbury, lots of people jammed into awkward Victorian flats. But I lived in a tiny studio in-law apt in the Castro, in a building my parents owned. It was an illegal unit, invisible to the outside of the building, although there was a door bell for me.  I found out later that Greg had somehow gotten my address, rang all the bells, got in, and left it on my doorstep.

I can’t remember Greg ever asking me out- we didn’t date in those days. You basically got drunk with a guy and if things went well, presto-now he was your boyfriend. Greg was the sweetest guy- always positive, never backstabbing, very supportive. He was an amazingly talented guitar player. The Rhythm Pigs’ album was released quickly and they planned a long tour to support it.

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Rhythm Pigs first record. You can see where they changed 1984 to 1985 underneath their name,as Steveocide had done the artwork the year before the release.

Although Short Dogs did not have a record, we booked a tour as well. Greg left about a month before I did. The morning he left was pretty sad as we didn’t know when we’d even be able to talk to each other again.  And we didn’t know if he’d actually be coming back to S.F., it would depend if they got optioned for another record. Imagine going on a cross country trip without a cell phone, without the internet, and without having an answering machine at your house. Imagine only being able to call from pay phones if your  “questionable” credit card number obtained from an Anarchist bookstore was working.  That’s what it was like. I had their tour itinerary and he had mine. All was subject to change.

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Greg and I, just before he got in the van. We smiled for the camera.

We decided we’d try to call at certain points and see if we could find each other- the Where’s Waldo of punk rock USA.  I did manage to catch Greg when I was in New Orleans. I called a club where he was playing and they were able to get him on the phone.  A few minutes later I heard Greg’s voice for the first time in almost two months.

“Hi Stacey!”

“WHO IS STACEY??!!!!”

“Hey, OMG is that you?  Where are you? How are you? How is your tour going” Greg was always pretty excitable.

“WHO IS STACEY???!!!” I could not be moved.

“Oh, she’s helping with the booking. She’s adding the shows on the end of the tour.”  He sounded pretty convinving. He was a bad liar,so I figured it must be true.

We made plans to meet in Washington D.C. the following week.

Short Dogs was staying for a few days with Tom’s brother, Bob,in D.C.  He was out of town when we arrived, but left keys with the neighbor and we settled in pretty quickly. Bob, a busy Georgetown law student, had an Apple computer. Being bike messengers, it was the first time any of us had seen a pc.  Tom turned it and sat down on the desk.

“Don’t touch it!!!” I yelled.

“Why?” Tom asked.

“You don’t know how to use it! You’ll break it! They are very expensive!” Tom brushed me off.

“My father paid for this. I’ll probably get it when Bob’s done with it. Hell, it’s practically mine already”

We all huddled behind him. There was a blue screen , empty except for a little garbage can at the bottom. Tom tried typing some stuff on the keyboard, but nothing happened. We all made suggestions. I offered “run computer,”  (I had seen an IBM computer in 8th grade and knew this one DOS command) and after no response we got frustrated and typed things like “Fuck off” , “You suck”, and “where is Bob?”, but all that happened was a few beeps and a blink of the garbage can. Obviously, we would not be retiring early as dot-com millionaires.

The next day the Rhythm Pigs picked me up and we headed  for Pittsburg. They were playing at the Electric Banana, the town’s punk club. They had played there before, and told me that the owner was a Mafioso. He carried a gun and would often threaten bands when they went to get paid. Ed said that this time they would count how many people came in and would demand the correct amount. It was a far cry from the punk DIY promoters that I was used to.  We made it on time to the show, and a lot of people showed up. I could relax and enjoy the music. And the end of the night, Ed went to get paid. An argument ensued about how much the band earned, and the promoter pulled his gun. He basically told Ed to take what he’d offered, or take nothing. Ed, being unarmed, took the money and returned to the van, pissed.

“I’m tired of this guy’s bullshit. We’re gonna wait here until everyone leaves, and then we’re going to get our revenge”

“What’s the plan? “ Greg asked.

Ed mulled it over. “We’ll pull the van up on the sidewalk, just under the neon sign. Then I’m gonna jump up there and clip the wires, and we’re taking the sign with us.”

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The famous neon banana, where the club took it’s name.

The Electric Banana had a huge neon banana above the front door. It was a landmark. Greg and Jay agreed that this was a good idea. I disagreed.

“Are you out of your mind? This guy is Mafia!!! He has a gun! He’ll have you killed.”

Ok, I’m only half Italian, but I had seen the Godfather.  I knew how long Italian people could hold a grudge. Oddly enough, Pittsburg was voted “the Most Livable City in the USA” that year, and here I was, not going to live to see my way out of it.

He pulled the van around the corner, and we waited. Finally the neon sign turned off, and the owner locked up, got into his car and left. Ed brought the van back around. There was no way I was getting out of the van, and told Greg to stay inside. Ed and Donnie(roadie) got on the roof and started cutting wires.  There was a huge POP POP and then a shower of sparks rained down the side of the van.  A light went on in the club. I was certain Ed was dead, either shot or electrocuted. Greg jumped out of the van, to survey the damage.  Ed and Donnie hit the ground and hurled themselves inside, while Greg scrambled into the front seat and drove off. Sirens wailed in the distance. We got on the freeway and after a few exits Greg pulled over.  Ed said that there must still have been juice running to the sign, and they shorted it out when cutting the wires.  Although he didn’t get the sign, he felt pretty good about his revenge. Ed took over driving and we headed back to D.C. to drop me off. It was about 4 in the morning.  We all fell asleep, and about twenty minutes later I woke up with a start. The van was weaving all over the road, and I could see Ed in the driver’s seat, passed out.  I yelled his name and jumped into the front passenger seat. Ed said “I’m awake, I’m awake”  and, now, so was I. I stayed up front, and talked his ear off till we got to Bob’s house. I had survived Pittsburg, dammnit, and I was going to survive the ride back.  Getting back to D.C. was bittersweet, as I didn’t know when I’d see Greg again, and we made our goodbyes. But I was so happy to be able to lie down on Bob’s couch,with no guns, no oncoming traffic, and no Mafiosos hiding in the corner.

We both made it back from tour alive, and were homeless (my in-law had to be gutted, as the building inspectors declared it was illegal). My friend Jeanie had found an apartment on Haight St with her boyfriend. It was a small 2 bedroom, and we all decided to move in together. I think we paid $800 month ($200 each), a lot for those days.  It was a fun house though, and Jessie would often stay on the couch in our tiny eat-in kitchen.  She and Greg loved Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and on Saturday morning I would be awakened at the ungodly hour of 9:30am to her gently knocking and whispering, “Greg, it’s time for Pee Wee.” Many times I would step over bands sleeping in our hallway on my way to school. I went through a phase where I wouldn’t wash my hair, and one day Greg dragged me to the bathroom and held my head under the sink while he shampoo’d my hair.Jeanie laughed in the hallway as she heard me protesting.  Jay, the Rhythm Pigs’ drummer, decided to leave the band, so they recruited Kenny Craun from Dischord Records’ band Beefeater to replace him. Kenny looked more like he belonged in Motley Crue, then Beefeater, a hardcore punk vegan band. Rhythm Pigs were a better fit for him. He spent most of his time in San Franciso napping in a tiny closet in our hallway. I don’t think he every even saw the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Greg in our bedroom on Haight St. I think that’s his gold top lying on top of the laundry basket, partially obscured by dirty laudry.

The band went to Austin to record their second record, Choke On This, with Spot (Lockett), the former SST house engineer and producer of the classic SST albums Jealous Again, Damaged, Metal Circus, Zen Arcade, My War, Family Man, Up On the Sun, New Day Rising etc etc etc. I flew out for the mix, a less hectic time of the recording session. It was the first time I’d been on a plane since age 11 and I was terrified. It was expensive to fly- we split the cost of the ticket. Back then you could smoke on airplanes! And they gave you free drinks! I took off and landed in Las Vegas, Phoenix, El Paso and finally Austin. As you can imagine I arrived pretty drunk, and very experienced in locking my tray table in the upright position. El Paso was a small airport, so they brought an external exit ramp up to the plane door. Greg was waiting at the bottom, and I practiced rolled down the ramp.

They had a song called Marlboro Man, and Ed wanted to have some “squaws” screaming in the background. He asked me to get into the vocal booth and start screaming. I didn’t want to, but Greg was excited that I would get to be on the record too. I got into the booth, opened my mouth, and…..nothing came out. I was not a singer and must have had “vocal booth fright”.  I finally managed to get some squeaks recorded, and Greg was happy, but I doubt you can actually hear me on there.  Spot was quiet, and like most engineer/producers, focused, patient and meticulous.

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The second album Choke On This.

The band planned their next tour and it looked like they would be gone for a year, maybe more. The stress brought about our only fight, and Greg slammed his fist into the wall and broke his hand. I thought that was the end of the tour and recording, but no, the show must go on.  We moved out of the Haight St. apartment- I went to take care of my grandmother’s house as she had just passed away, and Greg went to Amsterdam. We never said goodbye, never broke up, never talked about it. It was just “see ya later.” We talked once when he came back to San Francisco over a year later, and he then he moved back to El Paso.

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Hanging out at Haight St. shortly before we moved out. Note the Ace bandage on Greg’s hand. He would not let them cast it, so he could still play guitar.

In 2007 I went to El Paso for work. I got Greg’s cell phone number from Ed and called. I told him I was in El Paso for a day, and could he meet for lunch or coffee? We met at a local Mexican restaurant. He looked the same and was very happy- he has two kids, owns his own security business, and raises horses on his ranch. After lunch, I hugged him goodbye, and said I was glad he still remembered me after all this time. “Remember you?” he laughed, “of course I remember you. You were the first love of my life. The only one before I met my wife.” Aw…didn’t I tell you he’s the sweetest guy you’d ever meet?

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Postcard from the road to Janis, Erik, Michael and Jeanie. I added a note at the end telling them to have Greg call me at Shane’s house (mutual friend) in Denver on the 29th, if they heard from him. It was a step above carrier pigeon. Courtesy of Erik Meade (thanks for saving it Erik).

Head For The Border

I wouldn’t call myself an international pop star as I’ve only played outside the U.S. a handful of times.  But, damn, it sure feels like I’ve crossed the border a lot.

Oh Canada

When I was in Short Dogs, my best friend Jessie put in a good word for us with her Vancouver booker friends, Cattle Prod productions. They booked numerous Vancouver clubs and had the knowledge, patience and ability to legally bring punk bands across the border. Tom was from Calgary and had experience crossing the border, often regaling us with exciting stories of cavity searches, confiscated equipment and jail time. Our first time through, however, was only excruciatingly boring. We sat at the border for 4 hours while they processed our working papers. It made the risk of an illegal border run almost seem worth it.

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Pic 1.Greg takes us to the border

The second time we sat for hours at the border again. There was only one other van next to us, side panel open and a cute girl sitting in the doorway. It didn’t take George long to wander over and start talking to her.  Finally Greg came out with our papers and waved us into our van. George ambled over, (“hurrying” not being a part of his vocabulary.)  I asked him how it went with the cute girl- would she be coming to our show in Vancouver? He said the van was full of chimpanzees.  The cute girl and her partner were trying to bring the animals back across the border, but they didn’t have all the documentation they needed- vaccinations, etc. She talked to the chimps in sign language- they did research but the girl referred to the chimps as her friends.  The chimps signed at George, and she interpreted- they were bored too! She told George that the chimps were cooler than most people and she preferred to hang out with them. I was so bummed to miss the chance to talk with them, but George was probably our best representative, a gentle soul who lacked pretension.  You can’t fool a chimp.

After playing in Vancouver, we went home through the same border, and U.S. guards actually turned us around and sent us back to Canada. They said the van was too dirty for them to inspect, and we needed to clean it out before they’d let us back in the U.S. We sat in no man’s land doing our best to clean it, while the border patrol looked on in amusement.

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Pic 2. The dirty van! The occupants weren’t exactly roses either.

On a later Canadian tour, we thought it might be easier to cross back to the U.S. at a desolate border outpost, so we went down to the Dakotas. The lone border cop had nothing better to do than to ask questions and make us empty our pockets. Mine were empty. Tom had some guitar picks and matches. Greg had an “I Dream of Jeanie” hand mirror, and George had his very thin wallet, which upon inspection by the agent, contained a razor blade.

“Got any nose candy to go with that razor blade?”

We thought he was joking and giggled a bit. But he was using the term “nose candy” FOR REAL.

“Well I’ll have to take it and test it.”

George jumped into action and told the agent that he was a drummer and used the blade to cut drum heads to size. Miraculously, the agent believed him and let us through.  God knows what was on that blade.

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Pic 3. Carmela and George kicking it in the van’s loft.

The last time we went to Vancouver was the worst. We had borrowed a mini-Winnebago from our friends’ band Field Trip (extraordinarily generous and trusting folk). Before we crossed back to the U.S., we cleaned the van from top to bottom. At that time there was a “zero drug tolerance” in effect at the U.S. border. People were being busted for pot dust (they would wipe the dash board with a chemical that turned purple if there were any marijuana residue.) It was possible to have never smoked pot in your life, buy a car secondhand, and basically have it confiscated at the border. We were stopped as usual and waited a long time.  Finally the border cop came out with an empty small film canister and a little tissue swab with some purplish stain on it- a positive test for pot dust. My first thought was it had been planted, but they said the dogs found it under the last seat bench. We were screwed. The Winnie Wagon belonged to Greg’s childhood friends, and the border patrol said they were impounding the vehicle. Greg went pale at the thought of telling Jim Galbraith, the registered owner, and I turned red invisioning dollar signs flying out the window because I knew it would it take a fight to get Winnie back, and we lived far from the border.

We kept waiting- and luck would have it,  there was no place to park the beast. The border cops had impounded so many vehicles since the zero tolerance went into effect that there was no room left in their lot. I guess they hadn’t started to auction them off yet. Finally after what seemed like 12 hours, they told us to take the Winnie Wagon and go home.

Ole Mexico

Short Dogs never played in Mexico, but when our drummer Joe quit the band in El Paso, we went for one last hurrah in Juarez.  In a tiny bar we did shots of cheap tequila with the local drunks. Pretty bar maids selling buckets of Coronas complete with ice were subject to Greg’s high school Spanish. “Como te llamas?” Greg thought he could keep the bucket and a struggle ensued as the bard maid tried to take it back. I decided that 25 cents a shot was too much to pay, and went down the street to the liquor store to buy a bottle of cheap tequilia. Greg came with me and bought a case of Corona to take back to El Paso. While we were in the store it started to rain. It was very hot outside, and as we waited at the stop light steam rose from puddles on the street. “Desert rain” I said to Greg. Later he and Tom wrote a song with that title, detailing our little Juarez adventure.

Back in the bar, things were getting out of control, and I decided to leave. In a foul mood,  I walked back over the border bridge by myself. Once across, I realized I had no idea how to get to the place we were staying. Luckily a police officer stopped me and asked me what the hell I was doing alone so close to the border.(where people get killed by smugglers, I later learned). I told him that my friends were drunk in Juarez and I wanted go back where I was staying- all I knew was it was an apartment builiding next to a park.From my meager description he was able to give me directions and I made it back. I got into the apt and collapsed on a futon on the floor.  Five minutes later, the front door burst open and my hostess ran in, hit the tape deck button on her stereo and started climbing the walls. “I’M STILL IN HOLLYWOOD!!!” blared from the speakers. She ran around me, she circled the house, she jumped up and down on the couch, she danced on her bed, all the while singing with Johnette Napolitano at the top of her lungs. Her date had slinked in after her and eventually he got her into the bedroom and shut the door. The music finally turned off. I was just about asleep when the door slammed open again. Greg Foot lurched into the room and fell down next to me. He took his shoes off. Then he started punching me hard in the arm.

Whack. “Mel”

Whack, Whack “Fucking Mel.”

Whack. “Mel”

Whack, Whack “Fucking Mel.”

Then he leaned over and puked in his shoes.  He got up, ran to the sink and puked. Then he went to the door, opened it and looked outside.

“Where are you going? Get back in here, you’re drunk!”

The doorbell started ringing.

“Tom’s waiting for me downstairs in a car with the girls.”

“Girls? What girls? The girls you were trying to steal the Corona buckets from?”

No response. He ran out the door and into the night (leaving the door open of course). I got up, closed it and laid back down, too exhausted to chase him because I had walked home FROM MEXICO!  The next morning I got up, resigned to clean up the mess. Greg’s shoes were sitting next to me. But there was no barf to be seen. I walked over to the sink, and…..it was spotless. He must have been full of pure tequila, which evaporated during the night.  My hostess appeared hours later. I could tell she had no recollection of her Concrete Blonde performance, and I don’t think she was too thrilled with the guy she woke up with. Greg and Tom eventually came back to get me and Greg was happy to find his shoes. He thought he’d left them in Mexico. We regrouped and took Joe to the airport. Unfortunately we were now stuck in Juarez with no drummer and the cruelest hangover of all time. I cannot drink tequila to this day. Fortunately we got a call from promoter Mary-she’d found us a drummer, and we left the scene of druken debauchery to move on to……New Orleans.

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Pic 4. Hightailin’ it across the desert to New Orleans

The only time I played south of the border was with Hellfire Choir. We were invited to play a Toys for Tots benefit in Tijuana, run by some San Diego motorcycle gang. The motorcyclists had set a flatbed trailer with all the equipment-we just had to show up with our guitars. We decided to leave the van in S.D. and walk over the border. As we were standing in line to cross the border, Shelley started to worry that they wouldn’t let us bring our guitars in. I told her to relax as I was wearing my mirrored sunglasses (originally purchased for my faux metal band) that made me look like Tom Petty .  “If the border patrol gives us a hard time, I’ll just tell them I’m Tom Petty’s illegitimate son and we’re on our way to Cabo Wabo to jam with Sammy Hagar.” Shelley decided to go to the front of our group to distance herself from me. Luckily I didn’t have to use my celebrity influence; we got through no problem. It was a strange gig though. The locals showed up to get the toys, but had no interest in the rock music. The five or six motorcycle gang people seemed to enjoy it however, so we put on a show for their entertainment.  Tom Petty would have been proud.

Oi! Oi! Oi! England!

The last time I crossed the border to play was in jolly old England. Cookie Mongoloid was invited to play a couple of shows in London by a group called The Meanies (not the Australian indie bunk band) who reassured us that yes, English people were familiar with cookies even though they call them biscuits. Crickey! We only took a few necessities (guitars, drumsticks, pedals). Because we probably looked like a degenerate metal band in disguise, we were searched at Immigration. The guard opened Scot’s suitcase, and resting comfortably on top of his clothes were a pair of drumsticks, a large circular saw blade and a goalie hockey mask. The agent gave us a look of resignation. “We’re performance artists!” I blurted out. Without saying a word, he gently zipped up the case and motioned for us to go through. The British invasion would commence.

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Pic 5. Crueller sets up merch while Crumb supervises.

I Know the Secret of the River That’s Right Baby, the Green River

I was getting ready to go out when I picked up the phone, and Erik Meade was on the line.

“Forget whatever you have planned tonight and come down to the Chatterbox.  I just sound checked the most amazing band and you need to see them.”

“Oh I can’t,” I replied. “I’m on the guest list for Sister Double Happiness at the Kennel Club.” To me, the guest list was sacred. If someone put you on the list, you went. Flaking would be an insult to the person who did you the favor.

While he was a fellow musician, Erik was unmoved. He insisted. Under no circumstances was I to miss this band.  He said he’d put me on the guest list. He even said he’d pay for me to take a cab from the Kennel Club to the Chatterbox. That was serious. The only reason we took a cab in those days was to go to the hospital, and man, you better be bleeding.

Usually I jetted around town on my motorcycle, with my superhero partner Jessie on the back. (our code names were Spazmo (me) and Egghead (Jess, because she wore the shiny silver bell helmet.)) But that night I think we were going to the show with Cindy and Amy, so we planned to bus together to the Kennel Club. I explained the desperate situation to Jess. We struggled with the cab idea, but justified the expense by the fact that we were on the guest list to both shows.  After Sister Double’s great set, we jumped in a cab headed for the Mission, a bit like rock stars being chauffeured to a gig.

Erik approached us as we arrived with a big grin. “The band is just about to start and it’s gonna be great.”  “What’s their name again?” I asked.

“Green River.”

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Erik did not disappoint.  It was the best live show I’d seen at the Chatterbox. Probably the best live show I’d seen besides the Butthole Surfers at the IBeam and SPK at the Russian Center.

After the show, bass player Jeff Ament was swilling from a bottle of red wine.  Club owner Alfie told him he couldn’t bring his own wine into the club.  He got a little huffy, but I jumped in and said “Hey I’ll buy you a glass of wine”.  I told him that Alfie was super cool, but she had to protect the club- she’d been harassed by the ABC. He relaxed. They were a bit broke from being on tour and couldn’t afford booze.  I didn’t want him to think I was a groupie, so I told him I was a bass player in a band too, and was having a hard time getting a gig in Seattle. He suggested I contact the Vogue- they booked punk bands on Tuesday and Weds nights. I set my sights on getting a gig there, I probably even dropped his name to get a gig.

green river flyer

He gave me their second record, which I nearly wore out on the turn table.  I wanted the first but couldn’t find it, so I wrote to him and he sent me one, and a shirt, for a small amount of money.

green river postcard

I told him I had booked a gig at the Vogue and invited him. He showed up at the sound check and watched it. He had band practice later, so couldn’t stay, but it was cool he showed up to say hi and see a bit of the band.  At the start of the gig, Greg raised his arms and yelled “Hello Seattle!!’ and his guitar promptly fell off the strap and crashed to the floor, completing a perfect Greg Foot move.

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After we got back from tour, I heard through the grapevine that Green River broke up. Singer Mark Arm started a new band called Mudhoney, which retained a lot of the Green River sound, while the rest of the band found a new singer and forged Mother Love Bone. My first thought was “what a stupid name” but Tom disagreed.  “It’s good” he said. “It has some vague sexual overtones, but it really doesn’t mean anything- like a blank canvas. You can fill it in yourself.”  Damn that Tom, he was usually right. A Seattle friend of mine who had seen both bands said everyone liked Mudhoney, and no one like Mother Love Bone- that they were sellouts. I don’t know really how you could be a sellout when there really was no money to be had back then, but there ya go.

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Around that time I met Mike Watson who had recently relocated to San Francisco from Seattle. When he saw all the Green River and Mother Love Bone posters in the house, he groaned and said, “it’s like I never left Seattle.” I had even made friends with Michael Larson, who had been Green River’s manager, and had also relocated to San Francisco. I overheard him introduce himself to someone at the Chatterbox and I butted in.

“Michael Larson? THE Michael Larson??  The manager of Green River??????”

“Well, “ he said, “former manager.”

I asked him to manage my band, but he said he was too busy with work. He worked at Lockheed or something, all very top secret, no discussion allowed. Often he would go out of town and couldn’t say when or where. It made it hard to maintain a friendship, and we eventually lost touch.

green river promo photo

Mike knew Stone Gossard, guitar player of Mother Love Bone, from his Seattle bar days. We went to see them play at The Stone, the local metal and hair metal club in S.F.  I had only been in the a few times- to see a Meat Puppets/Minutemen/Husker Du show (can you believe that lineup??) and a GangGreen show.  Tom promptly got kicked out for some kind of illicit activity in the bathroom. He was in a stall and a guy actually leaped over the door and dragged him out. I was unaware- we were down in front of the stage, and when Mother Love Bone came out Mike yelled “STONEY GOSSARD IS A WOMAN!!! STONEY GOSSARD IS A WOMAN!!!”. Stone turned and looked at him, smiled and say “Hi Watson.” I guess it was some Seattle inside joke.

Mother Love Bone was no Green River, but they did rock live, in an Aerosmith-before-the-drugs kind of way  We went to see Mudhoney later, and while I thought they were ok, they didn’t bring the rock like MLB did.

Tom went up to Seattle to hang out with a straight edge preacher’s daughter, you know, as only Tom could do. They’d  met in Spokane when we played there and had stayed in touch. While he was there, he met Stone and Jeff.  I think the preacher’s daughter had dated Kurt Cobain for a few minutes. I visited her a bit later, and she was seeing the singer for Blind Melon. I guess her straight edge magic didn’t work on them.

Andrew Wood died and MLB, understandably dissolved. The remaining guys looked around for a new singer, and Tom tossed his hat into the ring. It seemed like a good match and I think there was some interest. Before Tom got a chance to audition, they found a guy from San Diego who cinched the deal. They called Tom to tell him and invited him to a gig at the IBeam, name still undecided. They played under the name Mookie Blaylock. I told Jeff that Mookie was my dad’s nickname for me. He said Blaylock was a basketball player. To myself I thought “what is it with you guys and the lame band names?” Then they changed their name to Pearl Jam, which to this day makes me think of Miss Pearl’s Jam House, a Caribbean restaurant that was popular in the 80’s in S.F.

PJ got signed and put out a decent record.  Nirvana’s second record came out about the same time-no comparison to Bleach- another record just about worn out on the turntable. Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing the Cow Palace on New Years, and I bought tickets before it sold out. On the day of New Years Eve, my friend and workmate Becca told me she had backstage passes to the show, and did I want them? Um, do you even have to ask? Her good friend was a Chili Peppers roadie, and he sent the passes to her so she could hang out with him. The Cow Palace on NYE was a lot of effort, and since I was already going, why not give the passes to me. (Two interesting facts about Becca: she was interviewed in Social Distortion’s movie Another State of Mind, and she’s currently working on her Ph.D. Btw, thanks again for the passes Becca.)

cow palace poster

Tom and I checked in with  a guy who worked at the Cow Palace. He said the crew passes would get us into the show and backstage, no tickets needed. We sold our tickets at the gate for $100. I think I had paid $40 for the pair. We went in and went searching for the backstage. The Cow Palace is huge, so we were wandering around for like an hour and couldn’t find the janitor, much less drugs, booze, groupies and drunk musicians. Finally Tom had a good idea to wait near the stage, so we could see where the band emerged from. He held the pass in front of my face and said, jokingly, “This is the license to be an asshole. Let’s just see how much power this puppy has.”

backstage pass cow palace

He stormed up the ramp to the stage, and shoved the pass in the stagehand’s face, who, bored, waved him by. I timidly followed. And there we were, staring out at a sea of swaying fans…so many people!! A minute later, Pearl Jam walked on the stage and plugged in. Tom and I looked at each other and then back at the sea of faces. “I guess we can stay,” he whispered. I nodded. They played a great 30 min set. We stood off to the side with just a couple of techs and stage hands. After they were done, we followed them, and finally found the backstage area.

There was a bar and lots of people milling about, a few local SF musicians. We found Erik Sandin, drummer for NOFX, and his girlfriend.  They were visiting from L.A. and needed a place to stay.We need a ride home, and worked out a deal. We found Pearl Jam at the bar. The first thing Jeff says to me is “Carmela…why did you dye your hair gray?”  My attempt to spruce up for New Years resulted in my usual botched home hair care. We chatted for a while about how life was changing, and then Tom said we should go back to the stage to see Nirvana. This time the stage hand wouldn’t let us up-“Sorry, too many people already” It was packed.. We went out to the front to the guest seating area. Nirvana played what I thought was a lackluster set, spending most of their set time trashing guitars, amps and drums. I figured Kurt had lost his voice and was just trying to kill set time so they’d still get paid. After they were done we went back to get a closer look. As we were walking to the bar room, Kurt Cobain walked right by us, guitar in hand and Courtney Love in tow.  We vaguely knew Courtney because she had played in a band for a minute with my friend Janis, and Tom’s ex Kat Bjelland, and she did not have a good reputation. Tom and I looked at each other, shocked.  Tom said, “That’s the end of Kurt Cobain.” And he was proved right, because Cobain killed himself 2 years and 4 months later.

newsweek cobain

The rest of the night was a bit of a comedown. Tired of the backstage, we secured a good spot for the Chili Peppers.  The Chili Peppers were at the height of Blood Sugar Sex Majick, but Nirvana had passed them in the charts, Pearl Jam were close behind. RHCP seemed a bit passé already. Halfway through the set, I had to pee. As I was washing my hands I heard Anthony Kiedis start chanting, “Ten, Nine, Eight….” I booked out of there, ran up the stairs two at time and leaped into my seat for “Happy New Year!!!” We found Erik and headed home. We’d only spent $2 for bus fare, made $80, drank free beer, and got a ride home. It was a pretty good start to 1992.

I think that was the last time I saw Jeff or Pearl Jam.  I might have seen them at the Shoreline later that year, but all I can remember from that gig is Soundgarden.  They played with Neil Young in Golden Gate Park in 1995 and people were pretty upset that they cut their set short. It made the papers, and my mom called me and said “What’s up with your friends in Pearl Jam?” which was pretty hilarious because I have no idea my mom knew who Pearl Jam was, much less that I might have some connection with them.

In 2008 my friend Shannon thought it would be a good idea to go to Seattle for the SubPop 20th Anniversary show and see Green River reunite. I was very excited about this, and we bought plane tickets and tickets to the concert.  I didn’t know who most of the bands were- I didn’t even know that Sub Pop had continued to put out records that long. There were two stages- one small and one large. Most of the bands we knew, like The Fluid, played on the small stage.

green-river2

Green River played the big stage. The set was okay, but my memory of that Chatterbox show would overshadow even the most rockiness of sets. Mudhoney closed the show on the small stage, and I remember feeling like a kid again watching them, reminiscent of the time when the future was wide open, when you still had the freedom and potential to become anything you truly wanted to be.

Shannon and I went to visit my friend Mike Watson, the man who way back when had accused Stone Gossard of being female. He had moved back to Seattle many years before.  For a while after the visit, Shannon got it in her head that we should get back together, but I dismissed her as being silly-  we were just friends now. But I guess Shannon sensed something that I could not, because in 2012, Mike Watson and I got married.  By doing something right, I had proved myself wrong.  Thanks Green River. And thank you, Erik Meade.

mike and I with ukes

Punk Rock Prom and beyond..Rancid and Green Day

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Rancid’s 21st anniversary show was last week. This triggered many thoughts of “Another East Bay Night”…..

 

My friend Aaron didn’t have a date to the Berkeley High prom, and being a budding historian, felt that he would be missing out on an important phase of youth if he didn’t attend.  While I disagreed with his motives, I offered to go with him to document the moment.  We met up with his friend who had dragged Tim along as her date. He was pretty drunk by the time they arrived and didn’t want to dance. He gave me a Basic Radio tape, and kept saying we should go out to the limo and listen to it.  That sounded like a lot more fun than being at the prom, but I didn’t want to let Aaron down.   A few years later I went to see Death Angel at Nightbreak, and it was sold out, so I wound up hanging out with Tim (who couldn’t get in anyway because he was underage), sitting on the curb between cars and drinking beer. A few days later someone (Greg Foot?) told me that I’d been spotted making out with a young guy on Haight Street.  Making out in public is not really my M.O. I figured someone must have seen me with Tim and gotten the wrong idea.  Many years after that I ran into Tim when I was with Gary Indiana at the Bammies at the Warfield, and he told me that I have been present at the two weirdest moments of his life- the prom and being nominated for an award (both fairly non punk rock events).  I thought,  wait, what about the time when we made out at Death Angel????

 

I’ve never met Lars, but I stood next to him at the Parkside for a while.  I was selling Psychology of Genocide t-shirts and he was selling Agnostic Front t-shirts. Well, I wasn’t really selling shirts because no one was buying any. He was incredibly busy. I’m not sure if everyone on the planet wanted an Agnostic Front shirt that night, or if everyone wanted to buy something from LARS FROM RANCID.  A guy with many tattoos sat down next to me and started chatting. He asked if I wanted a beer and I said, no thanks, I don’t drink. He told me that he used to be sober but that he was experimenting with heroin again. I asked him how the experiment was going.  “Not too well” he answered seriously. I mentioned that he might want to talk to Lars about that. He said he had, and Lars didn’t think too much of his experiment either.

 I ran upstairs to the backstage room and when I opened the door 10 or so tatted out skinhead dudes stopped talking and looked at me.  “I, uh, I’m just here to use the loo” I stammered. Roger Miret said, “What do we have here?” and I thought he was going to pull a knife on me or something. Then he said “Ah, a New York Doll” and smiled and nodded his head. I smiled back, confused,  and edged towards the bathroom. When I got inside, I saw in the mirror that he had been acknowledging my NY Dolls t-shirt.

 

post prom run-in

GREEN DAY:

I was taking BART home from Berkeley and Aaron (of the prom) got on my train.  He smelled really, really bad and everyone was moving away from him.  Except me.  “Coming home from tour?” I asked. Only being homeless or being on tour with a punk rock band can make you smell that bad (I know from experience. When I came home from my first tour my boyfriend said I smelled like I’d been sleeping in a dumpster).  Yes, he answered.  He’d been out for a very long time with Green Day.  He used to be their roadie, and I want to say he played drums with them for a while, but I could be wrong there.

Many years later I was at a Paul Westerberg show and I saw Billy Joe.  People were asking for autographs and stuff and my friend got caught up in it and said, don’t you know him? Go say hi. I’d never me the dude, but I wound up standing next to him a bit later, so I turned and said “Is Aaron here?” He looked surprised and said ” I left him a ticket at the door, but you know how he is.” And then he said “You’re Carmela from Short Dogs Grow!”. I was shocked and told him he had a great memory. He said he remembered me from Gilman Street.  And then some more fans came over (his, not mine :)), so I was able to make a quick escape.

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