Anyone who knows me knows I've never been one to revel in the past. I'm the last one to cast a misty-eyed glance back at the "good old days". In my experience the people who take this angle are usually the ones who weren't there. Whatever mistakes, false starts and missed opportunities I've had the pleasure of having, I was wherever I was for better or worse.
This blog is not meant to romanticize any choices I made or any particular era. It's simply a place where I share stories and take stock of where I've been as a way to figure out where I might want to go next. I'll celebrate some people along the way, some of them you'll know or know of, others will be new to you. I'm glad to have known every one of them.
The posts are in no thematic or chronological order. The date at the end of the post's title refers to how the content of the post relates to me personally. I make no claim about the accuracy of my recollections I only promise that I'll be as honest and accurate as I can be. If you were there and you remember things differently than I do, or you find evidence that contradicts my memory (I wouldn't be surprised or upset) feel free to let me know.
Rather than editing the posts for historical accuracy, I'll put ( * ) next to any parts that have been challenged or updated for that reason.
CHRIS SMITH OF KARP PLAYING MY LES PAUL JR. OLYMPIA 1997
When I saw this photo posted on my Facebook feed my mind immediately went back to the night it was taken at The Capitol Theater in Olympia, WA. on the last night of 1997’s Yo-Yo-A-Go-Go Festival. KARP were a truly fantastic band on an average night but when they were on fire like they were this night they were as a good a band as I’ve ever seen and that’s saying something because I have had the privilege of seeing some really great bands.
I don’t know why but I remember that at the moment this photo was snapped I was play-menacing our house cat, a cat whose name escapes me now.
I mention this because that same cat would later take a voluminous piss in the middle of a huge stack of my Punk flyers when I was in the process of rearranging my walls one weekend in 1982. This incident ruined half of them, sending them to the trash heap of history. I am glad I have this photo so that the image of some of those dead flyers can live on. After I discovered the pool in the middle of my precious paper I wanted to drop kick that cat but it was probably curled up on my lap the next day. What are ya gonna do, ya know?
As this photo suggests, I was a voracious collector of flyers in my Punk Rock youth. After moving to San Diego in 83 I also gained something of a reputation as a flyer artist myself. You can search the archives of this blog for evidence of my artistic contributions to the So Cal Punk aesthetic of the 80’s if you’d like to take a look.
When I was a kid I combed the streets and studied every telephone pole of Seattle for any Punk or Punk-like flyer I could find. I was also very forward about ingratiating myself with the jaded record store employees of University Ave. in an effort to get a hold of any posters like the ones I’d see hanging on the walls of the shops I visited every weekend. I still have that Dead Kennedys In God We Trust, Inc. poster you see behind me rolled up in a tube somewhere.
The other major source for amassing wall art was my compulsive pen pal and mailorder activities in that era. Half the time I received a letter from a kid in Detroit, LA, Texas or wherever there were flyers stuffed in the envelope too. The backs of show flyers were often themselves used as stationary. The people who ran my favorite record labels like Touch and Go, Dischord, and many, many more were also really just a little older than kids themselves and they were almost always responsive when I asked if they could throw in some local flyers with my record order.
I remember being particularly jazzed when Jeff Nelson from Minor Threat sent me that beautiful three color mini poster from the band’s Wilson Center show with Government Issue. That’s another one I still have around somewhere. It’s down in the left hand corner of the photo.
One other thing I want to mention is my Motorhead shirt. I loved that shirt. It’s funny to think back now from the vantage point of our hyper merchandised, consumer minded era but back in the early 80’s most Hardcore and Punk bands didn’t even sell t-shirts or anything at shows as far as I remember. Bands like Black Flag just set up, played, packed up and left. It wasn’t until around 84 that bands really got into the apparel business. Back in 81/82 you kinda had to look to the metal side of things to hit screen print gold.
How times change.
(Photo of me in my room in Tacoma, WA. 1982 from my personal archives)
My Stand-up comedy career can be divided into three periods.
As a child I made a practice of memorizing routines and bits by Cheech and Chong, Steve Martin and George Carlin to perform for my friends and classmates. In fact my first performance in front of an audience was in 1977 when I did a medley of bits culled from Steve Martin’s classic albums of that era in front of my fourth grade class at Moorlands Elementary School in Bothell, Wa.
I was a big hit with the kids but my teacher was less approving. She was especially upset when I did the joke “…when a person asks me in a restaurant ‘mind if I smoke?’, I ask them ‘mind if I fart?’” Of course the joke that drew the most ire from my teacher got the biggest laugh of all from the kids. I was hooked!
As a nine year old stand-up in the late 70’s I found it exceedingly difficult to make a career of it. This was, after all, a few years before the comedy explosion of the 80’s and at the time I wasn’t allowed to stay up past 9pm so it was tough. Once I’d exhausted all the audiences in my immediate surroundings I put my comedy dreams on the back burner to pursue the completion of my primary school education.
It wasn’t until about 25 years later while living in Olympia, WA. that I got back into Stand-up. I don’t remember exactly what inspired me to start hitting open mics at that time. I do remember feeling inspired after seeing Mitch Hedberg and Marc Maron a few months apart at a club in Oly that briefly hosted comedy around that time. I think those shows helped push me to give it another go. The time was right.
This second, middle-era of my Stand-up career started primarily at Seattle’s Comedy Underground and at Giggles out in the U District and then at Comedy Underground’s Tacoma location. I eventually moved back to California (I’d lived there in the 80’s and 90’s) spending sometime in SF performing at places like Brainwash, then in LA performing at various spots around town most frequently at the Lucy’s Laundromat on Sunset in Silverlake. This era culminated with a national tour I did doing Stand-up as an opener for musical acts Scout Niblett and Swearing at Motorists. I learned a lot on that tour. Among other things I learned that doing Stand-up in Baton Rouge, LA. at a biker/frat bar is not for the faint of heart. I also learned that while it seems like a bad idea to do a fistful of magic mushrooms before going onstage in front of hundreds in Dallas, TX., it’s not as bad an idea as you might think.
When I got back to LA after that tour I didn’t know which way was up and I’d pretty much lost the trail completely in my life. I just didn’t have the center of gravity to do much of anything so I moved back to the Northwest, bounced around a little, went to art school, studied painting, blew through some money, played music, got jobs, left jobs, lost jobs, I was in a fantastic art collective called Oregon Painting Society that did comedy shows from time to time, did tons of shows with OPS, performed at the Tate Modern in London, quit drugs and alcohol, did a couple Stand-up shows in art-world settings, and all kinds of other stuff.
About five months ago I started doing Stand-up again here in Portland. This begins the third chapter of my career. I don’t know why I started back up exactly. It’s true I was running out of patience with the vagaries of the art world, I couldn’t afford to throw every penny toward a painting career that got plenty of attention but almost no sales at all, I also was transitioning into being single again, and I was frankly a little bored with music. I wanted a form of expression that was compatible with working a lot and being strapped for cash. More than anything else though I just felt a calling to get back into it.
In Portland I’ve found Stand-up comedy heaven. It’s a great scene with tons of open mics in a bunch of great rooms. There are a slew of talented young and not-so young comics, the scene is creative, fresh, friendly and I can’t imagine it’s not at the beginning of a comedy explosion of sorts. All the pieces are in place. I am more excited by and engaged in comedy than I’ve ever been and it feels great.
I’ve also been able to combine my love of visual art with my comedy career by sketching the ever changing faces and places of Portland comedy. I show my drawings on my Portland Stand-up Comedy Sketchbook Tumblr.
The above flyer is from a show at the ABC house in Olympia that was a held as a fundraising benefit prior to my move to California. I’m a little unsure as to what year that would’ve been. 2000 maybe? The flyer was drawn by my dear friend and brilliant artist Tae Won Yu. The bill featured my friends Lindsay Arnold who was making the rounds as a Stand-up at the time and Jared Warren of KARP, The Whip, Big Business and Melvins fame. Jared was between bands and was another one of my Stand-up Comedy mates for my trips up to Seattle to The Comedy Underground. Both Jared and Lindsay were and still are hilarious. Lindsay is a lawyer now and Jared is a rockstar still.
Me? I’m a Stand-up comic! If you wanna see me do my thing go to almost any open mic in Portland. If I’m not on stage just look for the guy with the sketchbook.
(The Jason Traeger Show flyer by Tae Won Yu from my personal archives.)
LETTER ART FROM TOM NIEMEYER OF THE ACCUSED TACOMA/SAN DIEGO 1982/83
Once upon a time, in a far away land before Googles started Googling and no Tumblrs had ever Tumbld there was only one way for young Punked Rawkers to share their thoughts and images with other such youths in far away corners of the Kingdom. It wasn’t done with a click, it wasn’t done with a mouse, back in this time they had to leave the house…and go to the Post Office.
In some previous blogs I’ve written about the crucial role the Postal Service played in allowing the Punk Rock virus to spread, morph into a social network, and infiltrate all corners of the globe back in the 80’s. I’ve written about the pleasure of waiting for a package to arrive and of the delayed gratification inherent in these exchanges. Another viscerally delightful aspect of the written communications of this time that I can’t emphasize enough was the physicality of the exchanges.
When you read a letter a kid sent you from another town, state or continent you weren’t looking at a computer screen. You were looking at their handwriting written on a piece of paper that their hand had pressed on, that paper was from somewhere else and it was carried to your door from another city by people. The envelopes had weight, and texture, and they were often covered in and filled with drawings, band logos, and stickers. This handmade, tactile reality was a big part of the experience that was the Punk Rock social network of the early 80’s.
Looking through the shoe boxes of correspondence from my prime Punk Rock pen pal years of 1981-84 reminds me in a visceral way that Punk Rock/Hardcore was a user-generated folk movement. It was a mostly handmade, totally non-corporate, non-commercial, spontaneous burst of art and attitude made almost exclusively by kids for kids. After looking through a bunch of my letters from that era I realized that many of the heavily adorned envelopes were themselves a form of folk art.
One of the best envelope folk artists I corresponded with in the early 80’s was my pen-friend Tom Niemeyer of the now-legendary Splatter Rock, Grind, Thrash, Punk/Metal pioneers The Accused. I think I first met Tom at a Black Flag show in Seattle in 1982 though after 30 years I’m a little foggy on the what, where’s and when’s. All I know is he and I continued to correspond for few years after I moved from the Northwest to San Diego in 1983. He was and still is a super cool dude, whose music and artwork defined a whole wing of the Seattle hard and heavy music scene from the Hardcore days through the Grunge period all the way to today. Martha Splatterhead Lives!
Tom Niemeyer envelope art from my personal archives.
PUNK IS AN ATTITUDE THE WRECKS BESSIE OAKLEY RENO 1984
I don’t have a clue what goes on behind the scenes of incarnate reality aside from what I’ve gleaned from the countless glimpses behind the veil I’ve secured through close encounters of the trippy kind with minor to massive doses of psychedelic substances over the years. These psycho-spiritual excursions may have provided me with some very useful modeling of the post death/pre-birth state but they sure didn’t leave anything resembling a neat little cosmic answer tied up with string on my doorstep!
I’m compelled then by observation and experience to take a rather agnostic view of the realms beyond. It seems like the only sensible position to take, after all, if these bardos were well understood they wouldn’t be the realms beyond. Instead they’d be a Subway Sandwich location or something. My position on these matters means I can’t honestly say I believe in reincarnation, but I’m also able to say I don’t not believe in it either.
That said, there are certain people I’ve known who, without my even immediately recognizing it, are subtly related in my mind with another semi-specific place and time. My old friend Bessie Oakley is one of those people. As long as I’ve known her I’ve always associated her presence with that of a frontier woman of The Old West.
If you knew her you’d agree it wouldn’t take a great leap of imagination to see why I made that connection. It’s not rooted in bunch of metaphysical b.s. that’s for sure. Heck, all you have to do is say her name out loud…( )…. If that isn’t the name of a heroine from the out of cowboy days dag blammit, I’ll eat mah hat!
It also doesn’t hurt that Bessie’s from Reno, NV. (or was it Sparks that she grew up in?) Not to mention her look. She is very beautiful but not in a overly delicate or super girly way. Even though I knew her well as a young lady there was a flinty edge to her appearance and demeanor that gave her good-natured summery glow a formidable quality.
She wasn’t too tall, she wasn’t too small, she had a frame that would’ve served her well splitting a cord of wood or tearing up the dance floor in town at the saloon. If she wore make-up at all she never wore much of it. When she thought hard about something her clear blue eyes would get squinty and I could just picture her surveying a stranger riding up on his horse toward the porch of her homestead from across a sun bitten prairie.
Her personal style did nothing to place her squarely in the times we lived through together as friends either. All through the Punk/Hardcore days she wore her blonde hair down past her shoulders and often in braids. She wore denim, long skirts and sensible shoes and with only a minor tweak here and there she could’ve strolled onto the set of a Western movie and straight into the camera’s eye without anyone having to shout “cut!”
Her personality was right at home in her person too. She was and still is funny as hell with a sense of humor that reflected her love of John Waters and which could make even the guys blush. She is tender hearted and warm but she didn’t take any sh-t from creeps. I always knew her to be patient and very open minded but she didn’t put up with nonsense or suffer fools gladly.
She also happens to be the very definition of a maverick pioneer, if not in terms of settling the land and breaking ponies, then at least culturally speaking. She and her all-girl Hardcore band The Wrecks were matter-of-fact Riot Grrrl before the first people to call themselves “Riot Grrrls” were out of grade school! I might be forgetting one but I can’t think of another all-girl, or even girl-centric band, in that early American Hardcore era.
The Wrecks were a not-at-all-distant memory by the time I met Bessie in 1984 and soon afterwards, another Wreck, Jone Stebbins, who immediately became one of my dear friends as well. Bessie and Jone weren’t only known for being Wrecks either. They were equally well regarded and probably just as well known for their work as the co-editors of one of the most engaging and well loved fanzines of the time, a brilliant, funny, and charming off-the-cuff serial work of art known as Paranoia ”the magazine for blind and illiterate punks”.
As fate would have it, a few years later in San Francisco I came to be friends with the band’s drummer Lynn Perko. She and I even played music together a few times when her band Sister Double Happiness was on a hiatus. I sucked, she was great, our jams didn’t leave the practice place. I was an acquaintance of The Wrecks’ singer Helen in S.F. as well. At the time I knew her she was working at the old Hard Rock Cafe location over on Van Ness and we’d all hang out together withthe likes of Gary Floyd, Debbie Gordon, Phillip Gilbeau, Roddy Bottum and that whole Texas/S.F. Dicks/ Faith No More /later to become Imperial Teen scene.
Even though most Punks, myself included, only got to experience The Wrecks’ music from their legendary cassette releases, I also had the good fortune of feeling the impact of their energy in my life as personal friends. It has to be said though that you didn’t have to know them personally or even know their songs to be touched by their influence. The fact is, if you were involved in the American Punk scene in that era you likely were affected by them whether you knew it or not.
I say this because they were hugely important individuals in the compact but very vital and widely influential Reno punk scene, a scene known by its nickname Skeeno. That city’s motto the “Biggest Little City in the World” could’ve very accurately been applied to its Punk scene alter ego as well in terms of the disproportionate size of its footprint on the national scene. All the touring bands played Reno back then. For instance if you lived there you probably saw Minor Threat, I lived in the much bigger city of Seattle and never had the chance to see them live.
Of course Reno didn’t just import the great bands they exported some too. By far the most well known of these exports is the mighty 7SECONDS. If you follow my blog you know I was great friends with 7 SECONDS (who I met through Bessie) and that as a teenager I had the life-altering experience of seeing the country as a roadie for the band. I also shared a place with Kevin, his girlfriend Angie, and some other folks in Reno for a while around the time of that tour.
When I said earlier that you didn’t have to know The Wrecks or have even heard them to be touched by their broader influence, I’m thinking primarily about how their presence was felt nationally through the gender inclusive, proto Punk Rock-feminist message woven into 7 SECONDS’ songs and aura. It may seem strange that in a politically radical scene like American Hardcore there were very few bands singing about gender equality but it’s true.
7 SECONDS weren’t just any band either. They were one of the most popular bands around and they toured a lot. Everywhere they went they made a point to address women’s and girl-centered issues head on from the stage. Kevin’s lyrics also spoke specifically about defending and promoting women’s roles and rights in Punk Scene itself.
Like I said, this was a very rare message to hear before 7 SECONDS but it was more common after they delivered it to the scene. So it was no small thing. I knew a lot of girls and guys, myself included, who deeply appreciated this strong pro-woman perspective being voiced in the very dude-centric, too often very macho wilderness of the scene at that time.
I’ve read many interviews, and I’ve heard Kevin talk on stage very clearly about how his gender inclusive perspective was influenced by the big role women played in the Reno scene. Bessie and Jone, The Wrecks, he and his brother Steve Youth’s sister Cari and other women helped shaped that scene into the special one it was. It should also be noted that the 7 SECONDS brothers were raised by a strong mother who was known to the scene, and thanked on every one of the band’s releases, as Ma Seconds.
That’s what I mean about the ripple effect Bessie, Jone, Lynn and Helen’s music has had and continues to have on the world. It’s also worth mentioning that I was urged several times to write this post by a woman who herself has long been a prolific and inspirational progenitor of The Wrecks’ motto “Punk is an Attitude”, none other than Bikini Kill/Jigsaw/3rd wave feminist icon, artist, and activist Tobi Vail.
So all you Tumblring teenage Riot Grrrls out there who have had your lives changed by Kathleen and Tobi’s shouts, wails, singing, playing, pounding and professing, you might want to Google ”Wrecks Reno Punk” sometime. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ll close on a personal note…
I can say this now over 25 years after the fact without a hint of embarrassment because it wasn’t a secret then, it’s no secret now, and it only shows what exceptionally good taste I have, and had in human beings even as a young Punk.
Bessie Oakley was my first true love. I hoped then that I wasn’t shooting too far out of my league as a 15 year old in my feelings for her, even if I was I couldn’t help it! My love for Bessie transcended the realm of being a mere crush on some older, unapproachable, scene queen that I could only admire from afar. Yes, she was and will always be, a total Punk Rock hero of mine but she was also one of my closest, most beloved friends and she was someone I (and half the guys in the scene, I’d imagine) simply adored. Like so many other people, I still adore her to this day!
…and I love Jone, Kev, Lynn, Steve, Troy, and all those Reno people who meant so much to me and taught me so many good things about life. Thanks guys!
I’d like to dedicate this post to all of you and to Tobi Vail.
R.I.P. Phillip Gilbeau.
The Wrecks, Bessie Oakley and Jone Stebbins photos by Cari L. Marvelli. Birthday collage made for me from Bessie Oakley (featuring Tim Yohannon, Jone, Silvio from Italy, Barry from Christ on Parade, Martin Sprouse and many more) from my personal archives. Thanks to Cari L. Marvelli.
AC/DC MONEY TALKSDOLLAR SIGNED BY ANGUS YOUNG TO ME SAN FRANCISCO 1991
In an earlier blog post I talked about AC/DC and the time I met Angus Young. I wanted to post a photo of this one other piece of memorabilia I own from that meeting. My AC/DC dollar. These dollars rained down on the crowd from the ceiling during the climax of the song “Money Talks”. Like thousands of other fans, I grabbed a fistful of these from the air as they swirled around me. I would’ve picked more of them up off the floor but the crowd was packed so tightly, I doubt any of them made it down that far. I gave all my extra bills to friends of mine who’d appreciate them. I kept this one however because it’s the one signed to me from Angus.
Angus Young has always been at the top of my pantheon of Rock-N-Roll heroes. If you don’t get it, or think I could do better than him I’d suggest you watch this one video from Youtube and then explain to me how some other guitarist in some other band is better. I would sincerely like to hear that band!
AC/DC Money Talks Dollar from my personal archives.
CIRCLE JERKS THE FARTZ @ THE SHOWBOX FLYER SEATTLE 1982
This post isn’t gonna do anything to improve my standing as a cool guy but it’s guaranteed to send my mom’s coolness portfolio through the roof.
I pulled this flyer off the side of a derelict building in Seattle in 1982. I’d seen it there from the window of a bus I was riding on. Upon catching a glimpse of it I immediately rang the bell, got off the bus and doubled back to grab it. This wasn’t because I wanted to learn about an upcoming show but rather because I wanted a memento of a show I’d already seen. A show that changed my life because (I think) it was the first Punk show I went to.
I’d been a teenager a for all of a couple months when I saw this show listed in the calendar section of The Rocket, Seattle’s hip, free, bi-weekly paper at the time. I’d missed a couple Punk shows that I’d been aware of in the preceding months but this was the one I knew I had to get to come hell or high water.
The Circle JerksGroup Sex LP was in constant and very heavy rotation at my house and I couldn’t bear the thought of missing this chance to see them live. There were a few little problems standing between me and my dream however…I didn’t have a cent, I was living in Tacoma, and the show was on 1st Ave in Seattle!
If you’re familiar with Seattle I should probably explain that this was not the 1st Ave of today, teeming with families and tourists. This was also not the Showbox at the Market as the theater is known today (a legit venue that features top-tier acts and sometimes plays host to corporate events). Back in ‘82 The Showbox was a bare-bones, dilapidated old ballroom that looked and smelled like its best days had been located somewhere in the Jazz age.
1st Avenue was a very sketchy stretch of downtown that at the time was ruled by a gang of tough street kids who hung around the center of vice in the area, a place with a name that suggests it was a heart of darkness, a place called: The Donut Hole. The “Donut Holer’s” as the gang was known, were notorious among the Punks I knew in Seattle for terrorizing everyone, but especially Punks. These ne’er-do-wells were just one color in the palette of menace that I understood 1st Ave to be.
All that would’ve been okay with me if my mom hadn’t also known about the reputation of the place just as well as I did. When I told her I needed a ride to the show when we visited my grandparents that weekend she told me there was no way on Earth she was going to drop her kid off on 1st Ave. on a Saturday night to go to see a “Punk Rock” band. This was simply out of the question.
Being the very cool, very supportive, woman she was then and still is now, upon seeing the utter dejection and desperation written in every inch of my small frame she said she’d let me and my brother go to the show on one condition: she’d have to come along with us.
I was completely aware of how utterly uncool and at odds with my Punk Rock fantasies this idea was. I was also a realist and I knew that my show-going fantasies were going to stay fantasies if I didn’t take her up on her (looking back now, wildly selfless and very generous) offer. I accepted her offer on the spot. So did my brother.
In the interest of giving my mom her full, undiluted due and maybe even as a way of etching her name in the temple of all-time Punk heroes, I should make a couple things clear.
This wasn’t a time when well-to-do Yuppies had neck tattoos, the songs of The Stooges weren’t used to sell Volkswagens, and only women and guys in The Castro district of San Francisco had pierced ears. What I’m saying is: Punk Rock was not a well-known, culturally accepted thing at this time. Most parents if they knew anything about it were terrified and or disgusted by the idea of it. This wasn’t Warped Tour U.S.A. and Punk Rock was to say the least, very edgy.
It should also be said that my mom wasn’t a counter-culture maven, biker mama, barfly, or burnout. She worked almost all her life as a librarian, educator, and library administrator. She was and still is a voracious reader, a kind soul, and is a fine upstanding citizen.
She listens to Classical music.
However this night in 1982 she put on a pair of engineer boots, a Motorhead t-shirt, tucked in her jeans, and listened to and watched The Fartz bash out their brand of political thrash before the Circle Jerks came out a blew everyone away with their super-charged kinetic insanity.
She got the fact that most of the violence we saw was ritualistic, she could appreciate the creativity of people’s attire, and she was impressed with the energy and abandon displayed by both the bands and the crowd. In short, she wasn’t freaked out and she understood why I was into what I was into.
I’d be lying if I told you that after seeing what Punk was all about that night she let me go to the next show by myself. She didn’t. That’s why I can say today that my mom has more old school Punk Rock cred than most of you: she saw T.S.O.L., FEAR, X, The U-Men, and Code of Honor in 1982 ferchrissakes! I was there too and I’m still jealous of her!
So next time you see a librarian “shush” a table of Punks in the library, it might not be because they’re being too loud for her, it might just be because she thinks they’re talking out their a—es about some sh-t they don’t know about!
MAXIMUMROCKNROLL COVER DRAWING PUNK ROCK SOCIAL NETWORK SAN FRANCISCO 1988
I drew the cover of MAXIMUMROCKNROLL magazine twice. This one from August of 1988 is the better of the two. In terms of style I was definitely attempting to channel the hand of R.Crumb for this drawing. In terms of content I was probably subconsciously formulating a ten-year life plan for myself (thankfully I managed to stay out of the trash barrel!). I did my fair share of drawing for MRR between 1985 and the time this cover came out. I also did a little bit of writing too, mostly record reviews, a couple interviews, and a few columns as I recall.
Looking at this cover and thumbing through the pages of the zine got me thinking about the role MRR specifically and fanzines in general, played in building and reinforcing the Punk/Hardcore network that grew to cover a good deal of the planet between the end of the 70’s and the arrival of the Internet in the 90’s. This is the same network that paved the way for the indie rock explosion and all the permutations that would follow.
Many people talk about about the history of Punk in terms of authenticity, often framing the topic as a state of perpetual decline from the originality and uncompromising brilliance of The Velvets and The Stooges to the consumerist, parent approved, Hot Topic, Punk-style era of Blink 182 and the Warped Tour.
When I first got into Hardcore in the early 80’s I remember some older people telling me Punk was dead, that it had died with Sid Vicious or whatever. They were of the opinion that the cool, creative, revolutionary “first wave” bands like the Talking Heads, Ramones, Television etc. had been replaced by mindless, suburban, generic Hardcore and that the interesting part was essentially over.
I had a different take on the thing then and I still do now. I might even venture to say that I think the most revolutionary phase of the Punk movement, the one that would have the most widely felt ramifications for the culture at large, was just beginning with the birth of the North American Hardcore scene. This might not have always been true artistically speaking, but it was true in practical and infrastructural terms because this was the era when the Punk “scene” evolved into the worldwide Punk/Hardcore network.
It is my contention that as enthusiastic participants in that scene my fellow compatriots and I had the privilege of test driving a Beta version of the technologically-facilitated, hyper-connected future that would arrive in the 90’s and change the world in the Oughts.
We Punks weren’t content to wait around for the technology to arrive before we built a user-generated, open source, social network. We built one for ourselves using the tools available to us at the time, things like photocopiers, landlines, word of mouth, locomotion, and the good old Postal Service. Today many of us take our socially networked lives for granted but back then it was a different story.
When I was a young spiky-haired Punk the world was the same size it is now but our experience of it was different. It felt much bigger because our experience of it was smaller. While this was true for grown-ups, it was especially true for kids. Most kids at my school didn’t have a clue what life was like for kids in other cities, let alone other countries. If they knew another kid in another part of the country it was because they visited their cousins in Cleveland every summer or something. Sure, there were the odd school-sanctioned pen pal projects you might participate in but for the most part your friends and your understanding of other kids’ experiences were gathered the old fashioned way: from your immediate surroundings.
It was different for the engaged Punk rocker. A single issue of a fanzine like Flipside, We Got Power!, Suburban Voice, Forced Exposure and certainly and perhaps foremost of all MAXIMUMROCKNROLL could keep you busy for months. The pages of these zines would yield countless addresses of bands, record labels, of smaller zines, artists, people who put on shows, and also of kids just like you who had sent in letters talking about what it was like to be a Punk/Freak where they lived. The letters came from big cities like L.A. or New York but more often they came from from smaller ones like Lansing, Poughkeepsie, or Tallahassee. They weren’t only from America either, you were also just as likely to come across contact info for someone living in Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Tokyo or Rome.
All you had to do was write to one of these addresses and you’d almost always get something in return. Being the era it was, that something could take a few days or a even few months to arrive but when it did it was an envelope or box that usually contained a multi-page handwritten letter, often written on the backs of a show flyers from that city or region. The envelope might have xeroxed paper stickers inside it or plastered on it. If you ordered a record from a band or a label you could expect to get a handwritten note and some extra stuff in that package too.
It was very satisfying as a kid in middle school to have such broad and fruitful interactions with people from other places who shared my love of the music and culture. This gave me the feeling of inhabiting a world that was bigger, more interesting, and a little more wild than the world the other kids at my school lived in.
They couldn’t reasonably hope to meet, interview, or maybe even become friends with their favorite bands but I could. The thought certainly never crossed their minds that they could be having weekly interactions with people from all over the country and all over the world if they wanted to either. Looking back I can see that I felt like my world was wider and more connected because it was!
Maybe I’m missing something, but when I try to think of another place in the culture at that time where a similar organic network was being built I can’t come up with another equivalent example. If anyone thinks of one, let me know.
When I was 15 and I moved to another part of the country I didn’t have to wait to make new friends or find a place to fit in. As a matter of fact, the day I arrived with my mom and our stuff at our new rental house in San Diego there was a note taped to the front door that had been left by some Punk pen pals of mine saying they’d be back to pick me up in a few hours to take me to see Battalion of Saints and Social Distortion.
What’s even more amazing is that one of those guys who came to pick me up that night is my very best and oldest friend to this day: Martin Sprouse. A couple months ago Martin and I went to L.A. to visit the other guy that was in the car that night, our very good friend and all around great human being, Pat Weekend.
I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking I was full of sh-t if I were to tell them I met two of my oldest friends on a social network in 1983 but it’s true. It’s just that the name of that social network wasn’t Facebook it was PUNK ROCK.
MAXIMUMROCKNROLL cover by me from my personal archives.
I could write a book about my experiences with Skinheads back in the day but I wouldn’t want to because I’m just not that interested in the subject. I want to make it very clear that while I will talk about Skinheads in this post, this post is NOT about Skinheads.
This post is about how we as human beings might approach the obstacles we find standing between ourselves and our personal freedom and happiness.
Now, as a way of discussing that subject, I’ll talk a little about Skinheads…
In the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s most of the Skinheads I encountered came in one of two varieties I call the “Mixed Nuts” and “Big Shineys”.
The ones who didn’t come in these varieties, ones I didn’t mind and sometimes even liked seemed to have largely disappeared from the scene by this time. These were individuals who loved the style, and related to the subculture as it had evolved in England from the 60’s. They listened to Oi!, Ska, and Punk and could be found at shows hanging out like anyone else.
(It’s worth noting that I can’t recall ever seeing a good, bad, or ugly Skinhead put on a show, put out a fanzine, play in a band or do much of anything besides hang out…just saying.)
One guy like this who springs to mind was a cool dude my friends and I used to look forward to running into up in L.A. in the 80’s when we went to shows at places like the Olympic Auditorium or Perkins Palace. He was a slight, stylish guy, with the old Last Resort “crucified skin” black and white line drawing tattooed on his forearm. He went by the name “Skin Ed” he was cool, had good style, and knew the subculture.
He’s not the kind of Skinhead I disliked. The kind I’m talking about, the ones who started showing up later, the ones I’m calling “Mixed Nuts” and “Big Shineys” were not cool, didn’t have love for their chosen subculture, weren’t stylish, and I’ve never met a soul who looked forward to seeing these types show up anywhere. Even if their presence at shows wasn’t outright menacing it was always was very tiresome.
Both of these varieties moved around and appeared almost exclusively in groups, that’s why I’m comfortable making generalizations about them: they invited such treatment.
First I’ll describe the “Mixed Nuts”. These types would show up at Punk shows looking like a motley collection of strays who’d found each other wandering around in a field. A typical group of “Mixed Nuts” might look like this:
There’d be “theskinny one “ with a pronounced adam’s apple and a bird-like profile, the big “overweight one” who was rosy cheeked and looked like he actually needed his suspenders, “the girl”would be there. She might have a “Skin-Chick” haircut (peroxide bangs in front and back and close cropped in between) although she might not sport the look at all and might instead have a normal, if world-weary, look and feel of girl from a bad home. Then you’d have the mid to big “tough-guy” character and maybe a smaller “short guy” and sometimes the group would be rounded out with a “heavy metal style guy” or an “older, non-Skinhead guy” with a baseball hat, a mustache, and a beer belly.
It wasn’t difficult to imagine how these ones had found each other. They met in some corner of either a smaller town or a crappy suburb somewhere. One met the other in High School, they in turn met another guy at a job, the girlfriend of one of the guys started hanging out, the older guy had a house and beer, another showed up and you have the group. The look and some ideology spread around and everybody went shopping.
The “Mixed Nuts” outfits were a little scrappy and rough around the edges: Army surplus combat boots on one of them, Doc Martens on another, wide suspenders on one, skinny suspenders on the other, a dirty t-shirt here, a bad tattoo there, patchy scalp, an ill-fitting flight jacket, no flight jacket at all…that’s the look.
Now what to do? Let’s go to the punk show and cause some problems.
The other variety, the “Big Shineys”, were a somewhat different story. I remember encountering this type a lot toward the end of my L.A. show going days. I also ran into them in San Francisco and at 924 Gilman in Berkeley of all places. I saw them on the road in Seattle, Portland, Florida, Atlanta, Texas, and at a few other stops.
This variety of Skinhead also arrived at the shows in a cluster but they weren’t such a visual grab-bag. The uniforms were more dialed. They had shinier boots, shinier flight jackets, with newer looking patches on them. Their heads were usually shinier too. Their tattoos were more crisply rendered and these markings had obviously been acquiredafterhaving adopted the look and the ideology that went along with it.
That’s the “Shiny” part of the name.
The “Big” part doesn’t just refer to the fact that, yes, these guys were often bigger physically than the “Mixed Nuts”. Their attitudes were bigger too. The girls were meaner, they wanted to see violence. The girls and the short guys started stuff, the big guys finished it, and the others joined in on the mess when they could do so safely.
Their numbers were often bigger too. Instead of five there’d be 10 maybe 15 of them. In L.A. I remember some shows where there were 50 or more of the “Big Shinys”. I’d be lying if I said that this kind of situation was only tiresome and not frightening because the fact is, this sort of scene was frightening. 50 or more “Big Shineys” at a show was a situation that was impossible to ignore or to do much about.
Of course you always do something in the face of any obstacle standing between you and your happiness whether you think you’re doing something or not. So the question is: what do you do?
As far as I can tell, you have three options when facing any challenge to your freedom, liberty, safety, and happiness: You can leave, you can ignore the challenge, or you can oppose the threat (aka: fight).
That’s about it.
Leaving is usually the first option you take in any sitiuation if you don’t get off on fighting or are not heavily invested in an outcome one way or the other. This was what happened to me and my friends toward the end of my first decade of Punk shows. The scene had gotten so dumb and so boring and most of the bands were so sh-tty and uninteresting that none of us cared an awful lot if thugs and gangsters took over. As far as we were concerned they could have it. “ Here are the keys to the scene fellas, knock yourselves out! Oh and while you’re at it, please take that last suggestion literally.” We might’ve told them as we walked out the door.
The second option, ignoring the threat, is one I’ve seen exercised too many times to count in the Punk show context. I understand avoiding confrontation and blending in, we’ve all done it. But If I had to count on my fingers all the times I heard a Punk rocker at a show defend thugs, thuggery, and the rights of thugs with an argument about them having a “right to be there too” or how “they’re not so bad, I’ve talked to them before” or “they’re just drunk” or whatever hair-brained, excuse for saving one’s own ass a person might think of, I’d need to use all my fingers and my toes and your fingers and your toes too in order to do the counting. Sad but true.
Ignoring, in my opinion, is the worst option when dealing with an issue. The fact is if you love something and you’re invested in it and you have any guts or ability at all you have to resort to some version of the third and final option available to you when dealing with a challenge, threat, or attack on your freedom or the freedom of others:
You have to fight.
There are two ways to fight, maybe more, but mostly it comes down to either trying to give as good as you get or to employ a non-violent means of persuasion against your foe. Both methods can be effective when applied judiciously and appropriately. I definitely suggest the non-violent methods are the most creative, effective, and ultimately most inspiring way of dealing with a threat.
When it came to Skinheads specifically, I’ve seen a few versions of the “give as good as you get” strategy employed in defending a show or scene. In the end the result is always pretty much the same: someone gets hurt very badly or even gets killed.
I once visited a very together and established anarchist squat in Amsterdam in the 80’s and as my host was showing me around the large room in the complex where they held shows, I noticed a couple large steel barrels by the front door filled with dented, scuffed-up baseball bats, heavy sticks and clubs. I asked him what they were for and he said, in his hard Dutch accent, “Doze are for de Skinheads…when de show up we lock de doors, pass out de bats, and den we let dem in…de don’t come around anymore.” Simple but effective I suppose.
The most interesting and best example of fighting back against Skinheads with non-violence that I can think of took place at a Fugazi show in Olympia in the 90’s.
Fugazi’s fans and friends were beyond dedicated. The band rocked so hard and were such pillars of righteousness and integrity that they organically amassed tremendous amounts of emotional and spiritual currency and goodwill with the people who bought their records and came to see them play. Their shows were always an event wherever and whenever they stopped but in Olympia in the 90’s their connection with the people was particularly intense and full of love.
So when a good-sized collection of “Mixed Nuts” Skinheads showed up to cause grief at the sold-out, capacity 800, Capitol Theater just before Fugazi took the stage, no one was in any mood to humor their nonsense.
Being the nice, respectful, peaceful scene Olympia was, I was a little concerned when I saw the “Mixed Nuts” walk onto the dance floor, swaggering and menacing the folks around them. I wasn’t sure how people would respond. I was expecting trouble and I positioned myself in the room in case it kicked off. Again, I’m not a brawler by any stretch I just thought I might be able to do something and I knew I wouldn’t be alone.
It turns out I didn’t have to do much at all. No one had to.
As soon as Ian noticed this cluster being pushy and making “Roman” salutes toward the stage, the band stopped playing. Guy asked the attention-seekers if they were indeed Romans since they were making a Roman salute. Everyone laughed at them. He told them he really didn’t like to see Romans f-cking up everyone’s good time. Ian suggested that these individuals ought to find another place to entertain themselves that evening.
The large, amped-up crowd was immediately agitated by all this. As anyone who ever saw the band or has heard a live recording of them knows, Fugazi were masters at creating live sets that segued with great fluidity and momentum through their catalog so any unwanted interruption was difficult to take but a willful interruption from outside, negative forces was intolerable.
I could go into more play-by-play analysis but I’ll end my account of the show by telling you that from the stage Ian ended up handing each of the Skinheads a five dollar refund while the crowd continued to laugh and jeer at them. He then asked the crowd to part like the Red Sea which they did, and he asked the Romans to leave.
The crowd began a simple and very loud chant directed at the trouble makers, it went like this: “LEAVE! LEAVE! LEAVE!”
Then they left the same way they came.
The chanting gave way to a joyous eruption, the band launched into a song, and the rest of the show was as good as any I’ve ever seen from them or any other band.
You can decide for yourself why the Fugazi show worked out differently than a dozen other Punk shows might have. I think it comes down to one thing above all else: the level and depth of emotional investment among the people was too widespread and too strong for them to tolerate or knuckle under in the face of the threat. The Romans weren’t just messing up an evening’s entertainment product, they were messing with an engaged community.
I’m trying to think of ways these principles can be applied not only to social and political problems but also to personal, emotional, and spiritual challenges. It’s interesting to consider.
FROM BMX TO BLACK FLAG LOGO DRAWING FROM JUNIOR HIGH TACOMA 1981/2
In my pre-teen and adolescent years I loved drawing logos.
I vaguely remember drawing this Black Flag logo for some art project in Junior High (based on that of the insecticide of the same name, it was almost as popular a version among punks at the time as the classic “four bars” ). This would’ve been in late ‘81 or early ‘82.
It’s kind of surprising I didn’t go into graphic design considering my early obsessive fixation with logos. If I had I probably would’ve ended up earning some money from making art. Now wouldn’t that have been awful?
Before discovering punk in the early 80’s I was a huge BMX enthusiast. I competed in races around the Seattle/Tacoma area in the late 70’s but as much as I liked riding and racing I was always just as interested in the look and feel of BMX: the bikes, magazines, and gear.
Oh, and by the way, for all you whipper-snappers under the age of thirty-something who might be reading:
In the BMX era I’m talking about racing in races was the only game in town. “Freestyle” at the time was a term known only in the world of competitive swimming and, speaking of swimming, I didn’t see anyone riding a BMX bike in a swimming pool until I moved to So. Cal. years later. I can’t recall ever even seeing photos of anyone doing that in the BMX magazines in the late 70’s/early 80’s either. Of course in Washington State there are no pools.So aside from riding around the neighborhood or jumping your bike over a hastily erected wedge of a ramp to catch air, racing is what you did.
Though I lived in Washington I had a decent grasp of what was happening in So. Cal. because I subscribed to and carefully studied publications like BMX Action and BMX Plus! almost obsessively. I’d spend hours with felt tipped pens trying to draw perfect reproductions of the logos of my favorite brands of bikes and components. Brands like Cook Bros. Racing, Diamondback,Torker, Mongoose, JMC, Hutch, Kuwahara…the list goes on and on.
There was something magical about the logos and all they symbolized to me. They represented something that was rare, expensive, and very specialized. In that era where I lived you were forced to travel to often out of the way places in order to get to the specialty bike shops that carried the good parts by the right makers.
BMX was a semi-underground sport that you had to seek out if you wanted in.
Like Black Flag and many other hardcore bands I would soon come to love and whose own logos I would soon be studying and drawing on my clothes, most of the BMX manufacturers and racers I admired hailed from the promised land of Southern California. Racers like Stu Thomsen, Anthony Sewell, and Harry Leary to name a few. They raced at tracks with exotic-sounding names like Azusa, Devonshire Downs and Soledad Sands.
I used to imagine what it was like at these places and what these racers must’ve looked like wearing the graphic uniforms of their big factory teams, flying around the track, catching air, and crossing the finish line. It all seemed so far away, so sunny, and spectacular to me living as I did in the rainy, grey Pacific Northwest.
As much as I dug the look and feel of the sport I also really liked that BMX felt like it was my thing. It wasn’t something everyone else knew about. Going to a race with my mom and my stepdad or with my dad and my brother somewhere outside of town on the weekend expanded my world because the races drew kids like me from all over the area. Only a couple times did I run into another kid from my school at one of these races and I didn’t especially like it when I did.
What’s he doing here? this is my world. Of course it wasn’t. It was for anyone who wanted to be a part of it. Just like punk rock.
BMX wasn’t a school sport and it wasn’t a team sport like little league or football, neither of which I had any interest in at all. It was an individual activity that took time, some money, skill, and technical knowledge if you wanted to participate in it. All these things took a lot of work and effort for me to acquire them. There were no coaches involved and there was nobody to tell you how to do it, which meant you had to figure it out and do it yourself.
I found this self-directed aspect of it to be personally empowering and it gave me a sense of belonging to something cool. I didn’t analyze it or think about it that way at the time, I was too busy having fun. Looking back though, I can see that BMX gave me a sense of self-esteem of the sort that all kids need, and hopefully find, if they are to have the confidence to survive and thrive in the wider landscape of adolescence. I think it might’ve been my experience in the world of BMX that later helped me find the guts to strike out into the uncharted and unsanctioned do-it-yourself world of Hardcore Punk.
The parallels and overlaps between Punk Rock, skateboarding, and BMX are obvious and have been written about and documented widely. I don’t have a whole lot to add to their history beyond my own personal experiences moving in, around, and through them.
In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I’d like to say that I know now how lucky I was to be blessed with parents and step-parents who openly supported, or simply didn’t stand in the way of me following my interests back then. It couldn’t have been easy watching me do all this potentially dangerous stuff. Their skilled and artful hands as my guardians and stewards helped instill in me a decent sense of judgement and helped keep me safe and motivated throughout my early years. Big thanks to them all.
I still sometimes marvel when I see BMX on television or in The Olympics, or when I hear a punk song on the radio or see a Black Flag shirt for sale at the mall. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s all so ubiquitous in the culture now.
AC/DC, RACE RELATIONS, ANGUS YOUNG and ME TACOMA/S.F. 1981-1991
AC/DC was the biggest band around in 1980 when I was in the 7th grade in the very white suburbs north of Seattle. Their logo was everywhere and their album Back in Black was truly inescapable. I was not a huge hard rock fan but I loved that album and all their earlier ones like everyone else seemed to.
I should not have to argue the case that AC/DC’s no-frills, four-on-the-floor, blues based hard rock kicked and still kicks serious butt. Sure their lyrics ranged from not-very-deep to downright dumb but who cared? If you wanted poetry you can read a book right? They wrote catchy songs full of power and attitude, had swagger, a sense of humor, Angus mooned the crowd and wore a school-boy uniform, and the rest of the band wore jeans and t-shirts. That was all very cool.
When I got into punk just after the Back in Black craze I was sure half the AC/DC fans out there would soon see the light and cut their hair too.
Instead they yelled “DEVO!” and threw sh-t at us from their muscle cars. They stalked us mercilessly like prey through the streets. I’d play Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Bad Brains for the more sympathetic rockers I knew but they only cringed. They hated it. I’d play them D.O.A., the most hard rock-sounding of the punk bands I dug but they only complained that the band “couldn’t play their instruments” Ugh.
When I moved to Tacoma for my 8th grade year, I attended a school that was very economically, culturally, and racially diverse. Jason Lee Jr High School at 6th and Sprague was located near the working class, mostly black, Hilltop neighborhood but since it was an academically respected band magnet school, it drew a lot of well-to-do white kids from the stately homes in the affluent North End as well. I lived with my Mom, Stepdad and brother right by the school.
The black kids I knew at school listened to all kinds of music but in the pre-hip hop era the biggest acts were the likes of Kool and the Gang, Rick James, Michael jackson, Teena Marie, and Prince. I liked a lot of that stuff too. I could definitely see a relationship between punk and stuff like Rick James and Prince in particular. If these kids didn’t dig my music they at least seemed sympathetic to my style. They might have had differing opinions about whether the punk look was ridiculous, funny, or maybe even “fly” but the one thing they all seemed to agree on is that it was harmless.
My nickname among some of the black kids was “Spider-leg” because my spiked up, dyed black hair looked like…yeah you guessed it.
When I pierced my ear it was scandalous. The whole school was aflutter about it. I was big for my age and I was well-liked so I wasn’t abused too badly about it but my sanity and my sexual orientation were questioned more than once that’s for sure. That is until the biggest, toughest kid in the school followed my lead and pierced his own ear too!
He was a fair skinned black kid named Raven who had a faint mustache and big biceps one of which had a crude homemade tattoo on it. He thought my earring was wild and told me it reminded him of a pirate. He thought I was cool for not giving a sh-t.
Looking back maybe I was cool.
Whatever the case, no one called me a fag behind my back for having a stud in my ear at school after that. Out on the streets was a different story…
When I talk about being harassed and attacked for looking punk I’m exclusively talking about white, redneck, rocker dudes doing the attacking. The black kids in my neighborhood certainly possessed fighting skills that were no doubt equal or superior to the rocker-types, they were just never seriously inspired to f-ck with us.
I do remember being challenged by black kids a number of times but being invitedto fight is a lot different than being assaulted and terrorized by dudes twice your age and size as was often the case with the knucklehead, long haired, rocker a—holes.
As much as I hated those idiots and most of the music they liked, I stuck by AC/DC through the years. So much so that the first real guitar I ever bought years later was a plain brown Gibson SG just like Angus Young’s.
I had my revenge on those troglodyte heshers ten years later when I found myself hanging out backstage after an AC/DC concert drinking Heinekens and talking with Angus flippin’ Young (!) about all his houses around the world. The ones he told me he never got a chance to visit because they tour all the f-cking time! Hahaha! (raspy nicotine laugh)
A friend of a friend of mine who worked for ATCO Records had gotten me and my friend Rene Van De Meer (ex-singer of the super intense Dutch hardcore band BGK and total AC/DC freak) tickets and backstage passes to meet the band after their show at The Cow Palace in San Francisco.
Revenge is sweet and as I found out… so is Angus Young!
The black and white picture is from my Jason Lee Jr. HS 8th grade year book “Best Dressed” section. I’m pictured with my classmate, the beautiful and very stylish Ms. Sharon Stewart, who was only slightly put out (look at her expression) by being voted into the section along with the joke winner…me. I remember her saying something to the effect of “you gotta be kidding me, what’s up with putting my fine self in a picture with Punk Rock?” Punk Rock was another affectionate, if not terribly creative, nickname I was called by the kids at school. She had a point.
Backstage pass sticker signed by Angus Young and (AC/DC’s drummer on that tour) Chris Slade.
R.I.P. Rick James, Bon Scott, Teena Marie, and Cliff Lippman, the friend who set me up to hang with Angus Young. Thanks Cliff.
I date this clip 1982 because that was the year I first encountered Duff McKagan in Seattle and that’s the general era he’s talking about in the clip.
Duff is four years older than I am so when he talks about there being “no scene in Seattle or Portland” he’s talking roughly about the years 78-81 when he was,as he says in the clip, “14,15,16”. This is a time I had little to no experience with by accident of birth.
His range in that era extended further than mine did. Going to Vancouver to see D.O.A. was an impossibly exotic idea for me when I was his age. I certainly would’ve lied, cheated, and stolen to have done so if the option had ever seemed remotely possible for me. After all, like he says Vancouver B.C. was legendary to all West Coast punks at the time. The bands that came down to Seattle from up there like D.O.A. and the Subhumans changed my life.
I used to stare at and study every inch of the sleeves of Something Better Change by D.O.A. and Incorrect Thoughts by The Subhumans for hours. I imagined Vancouver was like London or something, far away (130 miles!) and in another country (British Columbia). I also fantasized about having Joey Shithead and Whimpy Roy as friends who could show up in Tacoma and beat up all the high school rocker a—holes who made our lives so dangerous down there. I mean just look at those guys! Do you think they’d be freaked out by a carload of dickhead Foghat fans?
I remember Duff from The Fastbacks and 10 Minute Warning but mostly I remember him as the coolest looking dude I’d ever seen walking up The Ave. He personified the Seattle punk look of the time: a pasty, scrappy, style somewhere between glam, gutter punk and hard rocker. He was super tall, very thin and he oozed nonchalant rockstar cool from every pore.
I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see him in G n R’s “Welcome to the Jungle” video everyday after school on MTV a few years later when I lived in Encinitas, Ca.
In the 80’s I loved mail ordering stuff from ads I saw in zines. Ordering records and gear from obscure punk labels on the other side of the world involved a leap of faith that meant putting cash in the envelope, a stamp on it, and then forgetting about it. Nine times out of ten things worked out…eventually. Sometimes a record that you ordered on the last day of school would show up in the mailbox on Labor Day. If you were uptight about it the wait could be torture. I didn’t really mind in most cases, it just made the getting that much more of a cause for celebration!
Ordering from a well regarded shop like the beloved Zed Records in Long Beach was pretty much a done deal as in you knew you’d get your stuff. It wouldn’t take too long either as it was just up or down the coast from where I lived in those years.
You could also be sure you’d get your correct change as this receipt demonstrates.
What difference does 2 cents make you might ask?
Well as it so happens, I invested both those pennies in a company based in my hometown of Seattle that I understood sold sweat pants, I got that part wrong: it was software they made not “soft wear”.
Those two pennies are the reason I can afford to spend all my time blogging about this sh-t today.