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!”
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: 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.
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.
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.
(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.)
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.)
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.
C: I was with the girl, not the one you liked, but the other girl, the one with the Mohawk I guess
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.
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.
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
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.
C: So we got paid
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.
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 .
In this one you can see the chicken wire is gone.
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.
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.)
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…
We sure do miss our buddy George. We love you George.
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.
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.
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.
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. ”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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).
That’s me playing Franko’s bass in Salt Lake City. You can barely see Franko at the bottom of pic. Thanks Franko..RIP.
This article, written by Mark Hedin, was originally published in Central City Extra’s October 2015 issue (pdf). You can find the newspaper distributed around area cafes, nonprofits, City Hall offices, SROs and other residences – and in the periodicals section on the fifth floor of the Main Library.
It’s been 40 years since punk rock first reared its snarling, safety-pinned head. Although San Francisco’s thriving punk scene doesn’t always get its due, the rebellious music and community flourished here, characterized in large part by bands such as the Avengers and Dead Kennedys, whose pointed social commentary and songs of protest and angst placed them along the trajectory of creative dissent that, as poet-about-town “Diamond” Dave Whitaker has often said, went from “the beatniks to the hippies to the punks.”
While the spotlight — and sometimes searchlight—focused on the “Fab Mab” Mabuhay Gardens and other North Beach clubs such as the On Broadway and, to a lesser extent, the Stone, down in the Tenderloin, the underground of the underground found itself a home. Anyone who was anybody could gig at the Mabuhay, but to play at Celso Ruperto’s Sound of Music club at 162 Turk St., you had to truly be a nobody.
Photo: Jeanne M. Hansen/Lise Stampfli
“The Sound of Music was a dump, the sound system sucked, but it was a club where about anyone could play and most people could get in free or cheap,” White Trash Debutante singer Ginger Coyote recalled. Coyote has remained active in the punk scene over decades now, leading her band and publishing Punk Globe magazine out of L.A..
Today, the site is as quiet as it was loud back then, with a retractable black metal security gate stretched across the front and inside, mattresses, a ladder and debris visible through the glass façade, a real estate agent’s sign stuck on the exterior.
In September, a collective calling itself the Punk Rock Sewing Circle organized a series of events in San Francisco and Oakland celebrating 40 years of Bay Area punk. Among them were four walking tours, of the Tenderloin, SoMa, the Mission and North Beach. If you saw a group of about a dozen people standing outside 162 Turk on Sept. 24th, led by a fellow with a microphone and small speaker — not Del Seymour — that was it.
Other stops included the site of the Market Street Cinema, the Crazy Horse strip club next door to the Warfield, Oddfellows Hall and the 181 Club.
Sound of Music stalwarts Frightwig, Flipper, Toiling Midgets and Vktms were among the Punk Rock Renaissance acts appearing in concerts at 111 Minna and the Mission’s Verdi Club over the course of the week, and Sound of Music flyers were plentiful among the hundreds displayed at the various events.
Club owner Ruperto, usually known by his first name, took a cue from fellow Filipino Ness Aquino, the owner of the Mab, and began booking bands in late 1979 or early 1980 as an alternative to the drag shows he’d been hosting, said Ian Webster, who worked at both venues.
With the city bursting at the seams with misfits and outcasts, there were plenty of willing performers and before long, the Sound of Music was mostly a rock ’n’ roll club, providing a community for those kids.
“They really made it a place where we could go and be safe, because there was always shit going down, just like now,” said Paul Hood, who played there often in Toiling Midgets.
Slam dancing to the band Society Dog. (Photo: Bobby Castro)
“For me it was the antidote to the shit of the ’80s: typical high school, ruled by the wealthiest kids with nose jobs and BMWs. Once I found the weirdos who liked to dress up and be silly, I felt liberated,” said Michele, an exile from the Peninsula. “When I think back on it, we were given four more years to play and not have to grow up. “I have a terrible memory. But for sure that time was super-important to me. I grew up on the Peninsula with friends I had known since kindergarten. In high school they morphed into assholes. It felt oddly akin to the entitled gentrification that has been going on in S.F. now. I felt very disenfranchised and chased out of my own life by rich, self-centered, clueless kids who were out of control, yet in control. I found my heart, my music, my politics, my values and my best friends in the punk scene.”
Many punk bands were already too big for the Sound of Music when it opened its doors to the scene a few years after the first wave broke. So no one saw the touring bands from New York’s earliest days of punk there: The Ramones, Cramps, Patti Smith, Television, Blondie and the like, nor the English bands that followed — the Sex Pistols had played Winterland in January 1978, after all. And the Avengers and Nuns, locals who opened that show, had already dissipated before Sound of Music even got started.
But for newer local bands such as Faith No More, Flipper and Frightwig, who went on to make names for themselves in the ’80s, the Sound of Music was an important launching pad.
“There was a movement happening there at the time and it just grew and grew and by ’82, the Sound of Music was happening in a regular way,” recalled Hood, who worked as a bike messenger, along with most of his Toiling Midgets cohorts to support himself while frequently gigging there.
“They started to bring in bands that could really fill the place — Gun Club from L.A., for example. “Some of these memories are hazy, but we played there with Flipper a lot in ’80, ’81. We were always paired and put together. We would be considered one of the bigger bands because we could put more people in the club.”
Other frequently appearing acts, such as Translator and Romeo Void, Hood recalled, reflected a transition that began to take hold moving away from punk to edgy new wave and pop. If a concert fell through for some reason somewhere else, there was always the Sound of Music.
Coyote recalled: “When Agnostic Front was going to play the Mabuhay Gardens, a certain female who ran a distribution company used all her pull strings to get the show canceled. She accomplished in getting Ness to cancel the show. But it moved to the Sound of Music and was a sell-out show.”
Mia Simmans, who still performs around the city as Mama Mia and was back on stage with Frightwig at the Punk Rock Renaissance show at the Verdi Club, wrote of those early ’80s days: “Frightwig used to practice at Turk Street Studios, right across from the Sound of Music. One day I went into the club in the afternoon and asked Celso for a job. He looked me up and down and said I could start bartending that evening. I was 17.”
“I saw all of the bands of the era during my stint there — it was great fun, loud as sin and about as dirty. Bartending was easy, as all everyone ever wanted (or could afford) were the $1 cans of beer, with the occasional shot of nasty bourbon thrown in on special occasions. Everyone was broke, pissed off about everything and having the time of their lives. If I didn’t like a band, I would throw half-full beer cans at them from the bar.”
Flyers from the ’80s for Tenderloin shows. Adolf and the Gassers got some legal heat when aSecond Street camera store noticed their name.
“The Sound of Music was more democratic,” Webster, who performed there, booked bands and worked the door, recalled. Also, at a time when the Broadway clubs were being harassed by the administration of then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, nobody in officialdom bothered much with the Sound of Music. In the 1979 mayoral election, of course, Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra had challenged Feinstein, who’d become mayor the year before when Dan White murdered Mayor George Moscone in his office, taking down Supervisor Harvey Milk as well.
Along with serious proposals such as banning cars downtown or requiring police to be elected from the precincts they served, Biafra vacuumed leaves in Feinstein’s Pacific Heights neighborhood to mock her publicity stunt of spending a couple of hours with a broom sweeping Tenderloin streets. Biafra came in third behind Feinstein and Quentin Kopp, with 6,591 votes in the general election. Which is not to say the club entirely escaped the attention of authorities.
Drummer Jane Weems recalled walking out of the bar one night and into the glare of police spotlights, shining on a man standing in front of the club with a needle in his arm, poised to inject. Instead of the suspect pleading with police to “Don’t shoot!” this time it was the cops shouting, “Don’t push that plunger!” But, Weems said, he did anyway.
“You saw fucked-up shit all over the place,” she said. “You were a young adult who could be up at night, who could go to shows, etcetera, and you could see the nightlife for the first time and it was crazy.”
“One afternoon, while I was setting up the bar,” Simmans recalled, “two police officers came in and asked me for my ID. I said I needed to go get my boss, and ran down the narrow stairs calling ‘Celso, you gotta come up here now!’ He met me halfway up the staircase and I told him the cops were here and that I was 17. He didn’t bat an eye, and told me very seriously to go downstairs and not come out until he came down to get me. I did as he asked, and, unfortunately, never bartended there again. The Sound of Music was not shut down as a result of my age, and Celso remained a gentleman and a friend.”
“Frightwig played our first show there and many times after. It was a great club that welcomed us in all of our freaky flavors, never asked for a demo, just embraced the entire scene and swallowed it whole!” Carmela Thompson, a former bike messenger who still performs around town in a number of bands when she’s not working as a genetic consultant, remembers how at her band Short Dogs Grow’s first-ever gig, at the Sound of Music, they only got to do about three songs before the police shut it down over underage kids in the bar. At their next gig, she found herself working the door, telling underage kids, “If the cops come, just go hide in the bathroom.” “It was pretty loose,” she said. Of the band, “I don’t think any of us were 21.”
Thompson and Webster both described Ruperto’s haplessness as a businessman. Thompson eventually would insist that there be a doorman hired and adequate supplies of beer for sale before her bands would agree to play. “He’d run out of beer. He’d go to the store and buy beer to sell at the club,” she said.
Hood remembered how Ruperto let teenage artist Kim Setzer do some “really raw” murals of boxers, and now-deceased Toiling Midgets drummer Tim Mooney about seeing a car burning in the back. He saw someone in there, but it was “too hot” to attempt a rescue.
Webster remembers doing battle with the TL’s dope dealers who wanted to ply their trade in the club’s bathrooms. Maybe that was why, as another patron recalled, the women’s room had no locks.
In the basement rooms across the street from the Sound of Music where bands would practice at Turk Street Studios, burglary was a constant problem. Eric Bradner, who led the TL walking tour during the Punk Rock Renaissance program, told of bands outside the Sound of Music being offered their own gear, freshly stolen from the studios across the street, at bargain prices.
Bass player Lizard Aseltine said, “I used to swamp the bar so I could see shows. I loved seeing Tragic Mulatto. I remember Gayle’s green, duct-tape bra. They were fantastic. I liked seeing Eric Rad’s band Sik Klick — an obvious reference and reverence to the Lewd’s Bob Clic. Another great memory was seeing the Contractions. I was a huge fan of Kathy Peck and I loved watching their drummer with her electric drill. There were many a great time.”
Bassist Peck went on to in 1988 cofound H.E.A.R. — Hearing and Education Awareness for Rockers, a nonprofit that battles hearing loss, especially in teens — after her own experiences with hearing loss and tinnitus. The Contractions appear on the only known record from the bar, 1983’s “SF Sound of Music Club Live, Vol. 1” which also included Repeat Offenders, ELF, Arkansaw Man, Boy Trouble, Defectors, Ibbillly Bibbilly, Dogtown, Katherine and Farmers. You can’t even find it on eBay.
Tragic Mulatto, Webster said, “was one of our go-to bands. There were only three of them. When there was a gap in the bookings — and there were many — I’d walk across the street to Turk Street Studios. And if the show was advertised in advance, they could draw a pretty good crowd.”
Eric Rad, whose band Housecoat Project was another mainstay of the scene, died of a heart attack onstage at the Mab. His wake was held at the Sound of Music. He is remembered for wearing long dresses to work in the copy shop in the lobby of the Mills Building, 220 Montgomery, long before Boy George took that style mainstream. Two of the incredible, industrial-looking guitars he designed and built from random metal and plastic parts, with innovative features, are now displayed at the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, donated by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, who bought them.
The Sound of Music was hardly the only locus for punks in the Tenderloin and Civic Center, though. Out at the Civic Center, the Ramones played a free concert in August 1979. At the corner of Eddy and Taylor, the upstairs after-hours 181 Club hosted occasional shows in its bordello atmosphere, where patrons could bring in a bottle and pay $10 for a setup. And there were plenty of punks hanging out on Polk Street and sharing cheap flats. “I remember seeing Faith No More at the Sound of Music, and that it was small and grimy, and later going to 181 after shows to dance with the drag queens,” Michele said.
Images of burning police cars from the White Night riots of May 21, 1979, outside City Hall were featured on the cover of the Dead Kennedys’ first album, “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” released later that year — rumor has it that the protest was somber and uneventful until some punks decided to start breaking City Hall windows and torching police cars. Ruperto died in Reno in 1990, reportedly of a heart attack.
According to Coyote, Ruperto, who dressed and lived like a pauper, left half a million in his bank account. Included in the Punk Rock Sewing Circle’s Renaissance week events was a tampon drive, organized with St. Anthony’s. A pair of mannequin legs with fishnet stockings was placed at venue doors, calling attention to the collection of sealed boxes of tampons and pads, or cash for a cause. More than 550 boxes were donated.
The Sound of Music hosted its last show in 1987, Webster, who worked there almost to the end, said. It’s currently vacant and “available,” according to signs posted on its windows. Upstairs is the Helen Hotel. Next door, as ever, is a vacant lot on one side and an auto shop on the other.
Most recently, it was a thrift shop. And across the street, bands still practice at Turk Street Studios, although these days it’s one of 600 spread across four states owned by a company that calls itself Franciscan Studios. The beat goes on.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
When I think of Gilman Street what comes to mind are flying dead animals, doing stretches with Mr. Chi Pig, and the visual of Boom King running around with a large garbage can on his head, singing his heart out, pants falling down around his ankles.
Was all of that Tim Yohannan’s intention when he planned to start a club?
Tim Yo was a bit of an institution, having compiled Not So Quiet On The Western Front (one of my fave high school comps) and writing and editing Maximum Rock N Roll fanzine. In high school I stayed up to the wee hours to listen to Tim and the MRR radio on KPFA, but I think I first met him was when he interviewed Short Dogs on same show. Kent Jolly hooked us up with an interview- super helpful for an unknown, unsigned band about to go on a full U.S. tour. When I got back I would often see Tim at shows, holding a tall can of Bud, and smoking a cigarette. He always had a smile. Short Dogs had a song titled “Don Juan” that was really short, maybe 60 seconds tops. Tom changed the lyrics from “Don Juan” to “Tim Yo” and serenaded him at our first appearance at Gilman Street. Tim laughed so loud I could hear him above the P.A.
We were actually involved in a tiny bit of the early Gilman planning sessions. I think the initial idea was kept on the down low as they looked for a space – they wanted it to be in S.F. but finding a location that would tolerate noise and people hanging out was proving to be difficult. SF was also expensive. When they were fairly certain that they’d locked down the space at 924 Gilman, they started having small meetings, asking bands and fans’ opinions of their “ideal gig space”. Being budding alcoholics, we told Tim there had to be alcohol at gigs. But we also wanted all ages to be able to attend. Tim liked his Bud too, but in the end getting approval for minors and alcohol proved too difficult. The kids are alright. He invited everyone to help out, and most pitched in a hand to build the space. I volunteered to pick up the drywall. When I got to the yard, I realized it was going to take about 50 van trips to move it all. I loaded as much as I could, but they had to arrange for a semi to take the rest. Janis and Erik put in some of the electrical stuff, and helped build out the toilets. There were some skilled people who were able to tell the unskilled what to do. The work got done.
Tim wanted Gilman to be an event space that people would just go to automatically, no matter who was playing. He didn’t want any advertising, or for bands to tell friends they were playing. Another thing Tim wanted was an arbitrary lineup, i.e. the bands would play in a random order.
Looking back now I understand that Tim saw this as an experiment- how long would people come to a space without knowing who the bands were, or what order, or if there would even be music at all? Would people stay and give new bands a chance, and learn something? And it would have been a great experience. But for the bands, this was our time, and we couldn’t take the risk of being a social experiment. We had to go on tour, and it was really rough out there. So there was advertising, and headliners. And like every good thing, people took the club for granted.
One thing that was odd for an anti-elitist like Tim was that one had to become a member of the club in order to go in. It cost $5 for a lifetime membership. I think it had something to do with codes, rather than exclusivity.
We played the first month it opened. Years later, I couldn’t tell you how many times we played there, but recently my brother gave me a book called “924 Gilman” which includes the history of Gilman Street up to 2004. There are first hand accounts from Tim, Martin Sprouse and other people involved of how the project got started. My memory is subject to flights of fantasy; luckily someone had the vision to try to document the history from several sources.
According to the book our first Gilman show was in 1987, on Jan 10th. In the back of the book there is a list of all the gigs and lineups- that really helps jar the gray cells. That date reads Short Dogs Grow, Feederz, Mr. T Experience and Undesirables. I think Feederz headlined. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Gilman gig where they brought a bunch of dead animals from the pound and threw them out in the crowd. But in my mind that’s what I see when I think of this gig-flying stiff dogs. I heard someone say one animal had a collar on with the owner’s phone # and a punk called and told them what was happening. Would someone actually do that? Was there actually a pay phone at Gilman? There were a lot of animal rights activists/vegans in the crowd who were really offended and the Feederz were big on offense. But…don’t believe everything you hear…..or read…or even witness. Were they real dogs?
SDG-Gilman March 15th, 1987
Book says the next gig we played was on March 15th 1987, the Jail Jello? No Way! benefit (officially called No More Censorship). Jello was being sued for the HR Gieger cover of Frankenchrist. Luckily Jello didn’t become Lenny Bruce, obsessed with the trial, ruining his career. Book says the lineup was SNFU, Short Dogs Grow, Forethought, Honor Role, Corrosion of Conformity, and Social Unrest. According to my flyer Corrosion of Conformity didn’t actually play (didn’t I say don’t believe everything you read?). In my mind Green Day filled in however Martin Sprouse pointed out that was too early for Green Day (although Wikipedia says they formed in 1987). Maybe it was the Lookouts? They were very young kids.
Apparently the next gig was April 3rd, 1987 with Rabid Lassie. Ah…. Rabid Lassie, and their hit song “Anal Thermometer”. I loved those guys. Next gig- July 18th with Half Life, Terminal Choice, FBI and Shattered Youth. No recollection of that night (no animals being launched I suppose), which is too bad as that was the last time we played there.
Our next gig was supposed to be Oct 9th, but we cancelled the show because our van broke down, or maybe it was the time when someone smashed the windshield and stole the two front seats (we deserved that for parking it in Hunter’s Point overnight). I’m not sure what happened when Greg called to cancel; he might have joked that we were cancelling because we were going to see Motley Crue and Poisin the next day at the Oakland Colisuem. But they thought we cancelled TO GO SEE Motley Crue and put a note on the door for the show saying something like “Short Dogs Grow cancelled tonight because they wanted to see Motley Crue”.
We then found out that we were now banned from playing Gilman Street for this discretion. We were invited to the next members’ meeting to address our banning. We elected Greg to defend us. Greg was the best choice, because 1) Everyone likes Greg, even when he’s being a jackass, 2) He was the only one in the band who could articulate a complete thought and 3) He was still involved with Mind Matter, who they respected. At our next practice Greg gave us the news that we were still banned. He said they actually wanted to forgive us, but they posed a hypothetical -“Would you have cancelled if it had been Soul Asylum on the bill” Greg honestly said “No.” As a reward for his honesty, we sailed across the Rubicon and out of the hearts of Gilman. (I found a flyer that we played there after that, but I don’t know if it was a joke, or if we actually snuck in and played. It’s listed in the book, but again I have no recollection of it.)
It certainly took the wind out of Gilman’s sails for me. I still went there to see some favorite bands, but it didn’t belong to me anymore. Then one night when I walked in, saw lots of people riding around on big wheels, turned around, and went back to San Francisco.
I didn’t go back for a couple years. Jessie’s boyfriend was playing there and she wanted be supportive. I’m sure I couldn’t figure out what to do without her for one night. I still had my membership card in my wallet. While I hadn’t been following any of the Gilman drama, I knew Tim had passed the lease onto a collective of music fans. I wasn’t sure if MMR was still footing the bills or if the collective had to be self-supporting. We showed our membership cards to the guy at the door and he said they were no good- we had to buy new ones that were only good for a year. When we started to explain to him the meaning of “lifetime membership”, the guy yelled in our faces “I’M SO SICK OF YOU OLD TIMERS COMING HERE AND SHOWING THOSE OLD CARDS. IT’S A DIFFERENT CLUB WITH DIFFERENT RULES!!”
I was mortified. Old Timer?? I was only 25. Did I really look that old ??? Jessie just got right back into this face and jerked her thumb at me. “She hauled the dry wall to build this club. Why don’t you have a little respect?” I grabbed her arm and went back to the band van. Eventually we went in, the band having smoothed things over on both sides, but I didn’t go back for a long time. When I did finally go, it was to see the Bar Feeders. This time I knew not to take my card. The membership fee was voluntary and I happily paid it. I paid it for my friend who came with me too. I knew I was old. We were at least 10 years older than the average person in the club. My Gilman era was truly over.
But of course, I did play more time. My band Psychology of Genocide was asked to play a Gilman benefit for a battered woman’s shelter in Berkeley. I mean, how much of an asshole could I be to say no to that? So we agreed to play, and the people putting it on made some pretty cool flyers. About a week before the gig, I joked to our singer Boom “I was banned from Gilman Street in the 80’s, so they might not let me in. James may have to play bass. “ Boom then told me that he too had been banned from Gilman, along with our guitar player Mike. They were in the same band at the time- The Idiots. Boom had said something about gay people on stage, and the folks at Gilman took offense. Boom told them “I can make jokes about gay people because I’m gay myself.” But that didn’t appease them and they banned his and Mike Fuentes’ gay asses from playing there again.
3/5’s of the band having been banned for the past transgressions of listening to hair-metal and pretending to be gay, Boom suggested that the whole band play the show with paper bags over our heads. We would probably have been banned for impersonating the fabulous SF rock band The Paper Bags. Unfortunately it didn’t matter if we were recognized or not. Only about 5 people showed up for the gig. A benefit for a needy cause in the most socialist city in the United States and no one shows. You could have swung a dead cat in there without hitting one leftist-leaning liberal young punk idealist.
return of the banned- Boom, Carmela and Mike back onstage at Gilman, 2011
Happy New Year! I rang the new year in with Frightwig, Redd Kross and the Melvins at the Great American Music Hall. Each band, quite different from one another,has been a major influence on punk rock, and on me. The memories flooded back on this show.
This is the first time I’ve seen Frightwig since their reunion. I was always a little intimidated by them because they had balls. I first met one of the Frightwig gals at the Hotel Utah. After finishing my day as a bike messenger, I went to the bar with my co-worker Paul, and he started chatting with a friend who was drinking alone at the bar. After she finished her drink she got up and wobbled out the door. Paul shook his head and said “I don’t know how she’s gonna play tonight.”
“What band is she in?”
I wasn’t in a band yet, but I knew if I ever was, I wouldn’t be able to drink that much and do anything, much less play a gig.
Short Dogs Grow played with Frightwig once at the Farm. For some reason I had cut all my hair off the day before. Tom was disappointed because we’d all been rebelling against punk and growing our hair long, but I hated the in-between stage. The day of the show I went to Woolworth’s and bought a black wig. I told the girls in Frightwig that I was wearing a frightwig in their honor. They thought it was pretty funny. That was the first and last time I wore a wig onstage. Cheap wigs don’t breathe, and I almost melted under the stage lights.
I wasn’t aware of the Frightwig/Redd Kross connection. Apparently around this time the McDonald brothers were recording Frightwig’s album. I was a big Redd Kross fan from the time of Born Innocent, about age 15 for me. (they were Red Cross back then, before the lawsuit). They managed to captured the feeling of being 15 and an outcast in high school perfectly (most likely because they were also teenagers in high school). I grew up with them. They morphed out of punk and into rock- huge KISS fans and then into psychedelia. I spent many nights in the early 80’s at the On Broadway waiting to see if they’d show up for their scheduled gig. Lots of times they cancelled- the van had broken down, their parents wouldn’t let them go to San Francisco, or they just got busted for something. Occasionally they would get through. I’ll never forget the first time they came onstage with long hair to the middle of their backs and tye-dyed shirts and played a scrotching version of Deuce. This was in the era of punk rock where there literally was a uniform: short hair, punk shirt, pegged jeans and docs or creepers. For Red Cross to come out wearing hippie garb with long hair was like Dylan going electric. It was the most radical thing I’d seen in my whole life (but remember I had only been alive for 15 years.) The other highlight of that night was Jeff McDonald got his shirt caught on my earing as he brushed by me. He had to stop and untangled himself. I stood there with my jaw open, too starstruck to be able to talk to him.
I didn’t know much about the Melvins, although they lived in SF for a while. I met Buzz in 1993 at the Warfield with Tom. Faith No More was playing and I think Tom got a plus one on FNM’s guest list. Babes in Toyland and Kyuss were supporting. Tom and Kat of BIT had gone out years before. She didn’t like me much. Tom and I were pretty close and I think that bothered her. He told me once that he mentioned over dinner that I was going to a prom, and she slammed the dinner plate on the table. “Can we have one dinner where you don’t mention Mellie?” (That made me feel pretty good). On the way over I told him if he ditched me to go backstage I’d be pissed. He promised he wouldn’t, as he really didn’t have any interest in rehashing the past. I wasn’t reassured.
(I couldn’t find a poster from the Warfield..but this is the tour.)
I had only heard BIT once, for a minute. We’d been in Minneapolis and the folks at Twin Tone gave us a tape of their album. On our way out of town, Greg popped it in the tape deck. After one or two songs, Tom reached over and popped the tape out and threw it out the window, saying something like “That’s the worst shit I’ve ever heard in my life” I’m afraid the band wasn’t much better live. (I will admit,l though, that extreme jealousy probably clouded my opinion). Tom and I went for a smoke after the set and when we came back in we ran into Buzz. He and Tom knew each other, and Tom asked him his opinion of BIT. Buzz was not impressed. There was no spite or malice in his appraisal; he thought BIT’s presence was due to other factors than their limited muscial ability.. I’ve read his opinions on many musical issues, and while I don’t always agree with him, I usually appreciate his assessment. In this case, it was spot on.
As we made our way back into the main hall, Erik Meade grabbed Tom’s arm and said “Kat wants to see you.” Erik put a backstage wristband on his arm. Tom looked at me, somewhat helpless.”Don’t you dare.” I growled.
“I’ll just be a minute, I promise.” He disappeared down the stairs with Erik.
I was furious. Looking back, I should have just gone to the front of the stage and banged my head to Kyuss- maybe jump into the pit, and make some new metal friends. But no, I stood, rooted to the spot, revelling in my anger which increased by every minute he was down there. I thought of how he was drinking the free backstage beer, hobnobbing with all the famous rock stars and making time with the groupies. He was probably gone for 10 minutes, but it seemed like two hours. When he got back, I asked him where my free beer was. He said he didn’t drink anything because he spent the whole time talking to Kat. She asked him what he thought of her band and when he didn’t give her the response she wanted accused him of not liking her band. He said “well, you know, I’m more in James Taylor there days.” He said she just kept harping on the fact that he didn’t like her band, so he told her that I was waiting for him upstairs, and he really should be getting back. “Oh, Mellie.,” she said ” You’re STILL hanging out with her?”
File me under: Albatross.
The next time I saw the Melvin’s was in L.A. in the late 90’s. My band Cameltoe was playing an evening show at the Garage, and the Melvins were headlining a day gig. We were able to go in and watch their set. I recognized the bass player Mark-he had been the guitar player of a local band Clown Alley, who Short Dogs had played a few gigs with. He also worked for a while at guitar center, which was where I first met him. Since we were playing that night, we were able to hang out with them as they packed up. He recognized me and we caught up on some old friends. The were playing a few days later at Slims in San Francisco, and he put me on the guest list.That was the last time I saw them.
All three bands have had their issues with drugs and alcohol,lineup changes,label changes,etc.etc. It’s great to see them all still rocking out, playing new stuff and being excited about music. Redd Kross and Frightwig were having a blast jamming together on Crazy World. I saw Buzz standing off to the side of the stage watching Frightwig’s set. When Steve mentioned that Redd Kross and the Melvins had a lot of common I knew they were gonna break into Deuce.
As we counted down the last minutes and seconds of the year, major memories of my youth mixed with memories of 2013. One of the nice things about being older is knowing that “this too shall pass.” I’m able to watch local bands like Frightwig play and just revel in the moment, no jealousy or animosity that they are playing and I’m not. Hell, they could have thrown Babes in Toyland on the bill, and I would give the band a chance. I’d even offer my hand to Kat to wish her peace in the new year.
Peace…and happy New Year!
Redd Kross rocks with Frightwig, the Great American, NYE 2014
Tom and I learned a lot when booking our first tour, and we were determined not to make the same mistakes for the second one. This time, we would be organized. We would be persistent. We would ask for vegetarian food (nicely) as part of our guarantee.
And this time, we had a headquarters. Oh sure, you can book a tour while living in van, while being evicted out of a crazy loft, and while sleeping on your former bandmates couch; we had proved that. But it SEEMED like it would be easier if we had a place to paste up our calendar, our atlas of the United States and our prospective promoter phone numbers.
This place happened to be the in-law apartment in the basement of my grandmother’s house. I was the youngest of her 16 grandchildren, and was named after her. She had passed away the year before and her house was in probate, so my mom asked me to live in the in-law, and keep an eye on the house while the legal stuff was happening.
My best friend Jessie spent many nights at the in-law. Often after gigs she would ride home with me on the back of my motorcycle, getting up the next morning to take the bus home or to school. The bed in the unit was a king size. Tom, Jessie and I spent many nights in chaste friendship sleeping in the bed together. It kinda sucked being the person in the middle, but if it got too cramped we would sing “I’m crowwwwded, roll oooooover” and everyone would shift slightly. I had to get up early for work so after weeknights at the Chatterbox I would tiptoe out to my bike for a 50 mph ride through the streets of San Francisco to get to work by 7:30 am. Most of the time we existed in harmony, but one day I got a call in the morning at work:
“Mel, this is Jess”
“What’s up Jess?”
“Look at your feet.” I glanced down and saw black and white high top Converse tennis shoes, a little scruffy.
“Are those your shoes?” she asked, sternly.
“Um, yeah??” But the seed of doubt had been planted. And I thought, any minute now she might call me Carmela, which people used to only do when they were pissed off at me.
“No, those are not your shoes. Those are my shoes. Your shoes are sitting here on the floor at the house.”
I looked again. Well, they did seem a little cleaner then my Chuck Taylors.
“Oops, sorry Jess. Just take mine and we’ll swap later.”
Poor Jess, she had to wear my oversized clown shoe size 7 ½ Converse to San Francisco State University. Meanwhile I started to hydrate my Chatterbox-depleted body, and her shoes began to physically tighten about my feet.
Tom spent many nights at the in-law, working with me on the artwork for our first album and the details of the tour. The apartment had a phone, but you could not call long distance on it. We would walk two blocks to the gas station and use the pay phone to call Austin, New York, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Gainsville…again and again. I won’t divulge how we did it (because there’s no statute of limitation on felonies.) Let’s just say that one person would make the calls and the other would look for the cops.
The house and in-law were in the West Portal neighborhood in San Francisco. I had grown up there, right across the street from this same gas station. When I was a kid I never thought I would grow up to use that phone to plead with promoters named “Scary” from Detroit to give me a show. I did look at the gas station a lot from my window when I was about 12 years old because I had a crush on one of the pump jockeys, a teenage boy with greasy hair and coveralls who looked like he’d just walked out of the book The Outsiders.
West Portal was a sleepy neighborhood back then and you would never run into anyone you knew there. But here I was living in West Portal again, and a few times I ran into a guy I worked with when I was a bike messenger. He was a lot older (maybe in his 40’s, you know, ANCIENT) We called him Captain America because he always wore a blue baseball cap with a red A on it. He would always talk to me at work. My boyfriend Gordon (also the dispatcher) pulled me aside one day, and said that I really shouldn’t talk to him because he has been brought into questioning many times during the investigation of the Zodiac Killer. I backed off a bit then, but when you run into someone on the street in West Portal you kinda have to say hello; it’s like a small town. He was taking care of his sick mother. Often he was going to the movies by himself at the Empire Theater. The library was down the street from the theater, and I would run into him there as well.
One day at the library I checked out a book on the Zodiac Killer. Being a punk-rock liking, black-Converse-wearing, greasy-teen -oving kinda girl, I was an avid reader and true-crime fan. I was about a third of the way through the book when I noticed that someone had gone through it with a pencil and changed the times of all the killings by a few minutes or even hours. Some other details, locations and names had also been crossed out and new info was penciled in. It was a little creepy. Then I started thinking about the FBI profile:
The Zodiac killer was an older white man.
He was a loner.
He may have lived with his mother.
He liked the movies.
(The police actually created a documentary about the Zodiac Killer and showed it at the Roxie theater. They had a suggestion box in the lobby that asked “Who do you think the Zodiac Killer is?” Unbeknownst to anyone, there was a police officer inside the box who photographed everyone who dropped in a suggestion. They thought the Zodiac would be arrogant enough to go to the movie and write something cryptic for the box.)
The Zodiac Killer was educated and liked to read.
He wrote to Herb Caen, who was the champion of Bike Messengers (I met Herb while working the door at a Bike Messenger Bash, he loved to come and party with us.)
There was no mention of what type of baseball cap he wore.
I was about half way through the book when I started making Tom come to the phone booth with me to make calls. Prior to this, sometimes I would go alone, or sometimes he would go alone, occasionally we went together for moral support. But halfway through the book, I couldn’t stand to be in the apartment alone anymore, so I would go with him. If it was my turn to go, I would force him to come with me.
Three quarters of the way through the book, I started waking up in the middle of the night because of the sound of the wind and the trees outside hitting the windows.
Me: “Tom, wake up, I think the Zodiac Killer is outside”
Me: “Tom, WAKE UP THE ZODIAC KILLER IS OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.”
Tom: “oh ferchristsakes Mellie”
and so on. This went on for a couple of weeks.
One night Jessie and Tom were over, and I made Tom come with me to the gas station pay phone. We were there for a long time. When we walked into the apartment, there was Jessie, sitting at the kitchen table with the Zodiac Killer book in her hands.
“Hey guys, did you know that the Zodiac…..”
At this point Tom grabbed the book “THAT’S IT! I’VE HAD IT!!! ISN’T IT ENOUGH THAT I HAVE ONE FREAKED OUT WOMAN ON MY HANDS? THIS BOOK IS GOING BACK TO THE LIBRARY,” At which he grabbed the book, turned around and walked down to the library.
I must admit, I went to the library many times to see if I could get the book to finish it, but it was never there. And I never got a late slip from the library so Tom did return it. Perhaps it’s state’s evidence now?
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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).