By Shawn Carpetbagger

We had reached the end of the driveway. My dad laid on the horn. If the “No Solicitors”, “No Trespassing, ” “Private Property”, and “Keep Out” signs didn’t scream “I want to be left alone, ” the “Trespassers Will Be Shot” most certainly did. Chuck Berry duck-walked out the door; he looked wild-eyed and pissed. That wasn’t a guitar in his hands, it was a rifle and he was pointing at me. A white flame shot out of the barrel and I felt a sting in my chest. Chuck duck-walked back into his home, smoking rifle in hand. I was in total disbelief. I put my hand on my chest and pulled it away. My palm was dripping with blood… my own blood. I closed my eyes but when I opened them again, I was staring down at my own tombstone:

Shawn P.
October 14th, 1977 – July 21st, 1994
Killed by a shotgun blast from rock n’ roll legend, Chuck Berry.

My dad let up on the horn for a few seconds and then let it blast again. It rattled me out of my daydream and back to reality. And then the door opened; but maybe I should back up a bit.

As I sit here at my computer, drinking Budweiser, brewed in St. Louis, Missouri by the Anheiser-Busch company, I realize that it is almost ten years to the day that the story I am about to tell you occurred. My parents are divorced and my brother and I would spend a week out of every summer with my dad in St. Charles, a working class suburb of St. Louis, located on the banks of the scummy Missouri River, which makes every day punishably humid.

My dad is a real character. “Angry, white male” is a good descriptor. He is union and proud, enjoys classic rock, beer, pornography, and really loses it in rush hour traffic. Despite the fact that he has never met him, Pat from the Riverboat Gamblers does a dead on impression of my dad. He does this bit where my dad tries to explain to my brother and I how he has pissed off his (now ex-) wife: “Guys, if Kathy seems pissed this weekend, it’s because she’s not talking to me right now.” If you ever see the Gamblers, this impersonation is worth the price of admission alone.

Most days on vacation with Papa Carpetbagger were spent indoors, on the couch watching cable television, as my dad ranted and raved about the latest verdict on Judge Judy or the topic on Ricki Lake. Apparently, this quirk is genetic, because my wife often asks me to leave the room when she watches her favorite television shows because I can’t shut my mouth and keep myself from making smart ass comments, but I digress.

Needless to say, this routine became mind-numbingly dull especially when I thought about what I could be doing back home, namely party hopping from satellite to satellite in Chicago land and getting loaded with my pals. Nobody has ever accused my dad of being the most perceptive or sensitive guy, but even he could tell that my brother and I were bored to near tears. “Hey guys, want to go to Chuck Berry’s house?”

My dad’s Master Plan is that we would drive by Chuck’s home, Berry Park, in Wentzville, Missouri, located about a half hour outside of St. Louis. Maybe we would get lucky and he would be out getting his mail and we could stop him to get his autograph, a picture, maybe even a quick chat. I own a total of three autographs: one from the Dictators’ “Handsome” Dick Manitoba, one from the New York Dolls’ Sylvain Sylvain, and another from former St. Louis Cardinals catching phenom and major league journeyman Todd Zeile. In all three cases, I felt weird about asking for the autographs, I never saw the point in them. And I was certain that this hair-brained scheme would amount to us driving past the locked gates of Berry Park and turning right back around to head home, but once my dad has an idea in his brain, it’s impossible to talk him out of it.

We hopped into the car and hit the road for Wentzville. On the way there we passed the abandoned building that was once the Chuck Berry owned restaurant, Southern Air. If you are familiar at all with the infamous Chuck Berry piss video (“don’t kiss me baby, you smell like piss”), you know that Chuck has a thing for water sports. His pursuit of piss was a costly vice. A female patron of his restaurant was sitting on the toilet, happened to look up at the ceiling, and noticed a camera lens peeking down at her. According to a Southern Air waitress, Berry had filmed as many as 200 females, including two or three minors, using the women’s restroom. Chuck avoided prosecution by compensating his victims. A note to aspiring restaurant entrepreneurs: These things are not good for business, as Southern Air shut down soon thereafter.

I’m sure you couldn’t even get within a mile of the mansions of rock n’ roll “legends” who used Berry’s tunes as a blueprint like Paul McCunt…er, McCartney, or dinosaurs like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. These second generation rock n’ rollers had become filthy rich while Berry, due to a naive country boy’s business sense and a heathen’s sense of morality, isn’t nearly as wealthy as he deserves to be. But here we were in my dad’s Dodge Aries, cruising down this anonymous back country road, on our way to Berry Park– it was all very unglamorous. It was a typical rural back road, lined with barbed-wire fences, the occasional cow or horse, and modest country homes that had seen their better days. Finally, we had arrived at Berry Park.

Berry’s home was nice, but was not very fitting for a rock n’ roll legend of Chuck Berry’s magnitude. The Berry Park sign was partially obstructed by overgrowth as there hadn’t been a concert on this property in years. My dad brought the car to a stop and we took it all in. The gate to his home was wide open, so we got a good glimpse at his property. I could see his home, his garage where he kept his vintage cars. And as I expected, Chuck Berry wasn’t in his bath robe fetching the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from his driveway. He wasn’t anywhere to be seen. “Well, I guess it’s time to go home.”

The Aries’ tires screeched as we sped past the open gates. “It’s time to meet Chuck!” My dad had a faraway look in his eyes, like the time he downed his Xanax with a six-pack of Bud Light. He chuckled to himself as we sped down the driveway, my brother and I trying to figure out exactly what the fuck he was up to. We reached the end of the driveway with a screeching halt. My dad laid on the horn.

HONK!!!

No answer.

HONK!!!

Again, no answer.

HONK!!!

I thought about all the signs on the gate. I’m sure this shit doesn’t fly with an aging rock n’ roller who by all accounts is bat shit crazy. And then the door opened.

An older woman, huddled up in a bath robe came out of the house and made her way to the car. She seemed nervous as she looked into the car. I immediately recognized her as Chuck Berry’s secretary of many years, Francine Gillium, of ambiguous racial stock, from the documentary Hail! Hail! Rock n’ Roll. She couldn’t have felt much comfort as she took a look at each of us. My mustachioed father was still perming his graying hair at that time and looked like a creep. My brother was a fourteen-year-old marijuana dealer with the requisite stoner ‘stache. And I was a sixteen-year-old punk rocker, complete with Black Flag t-shirt and freshly shaven head. “Can I help you?” She gulped and waited for the eventual home invasion.

“We’re here to see Chuck!” My dad acted like he had known him for years and this was perfectly normal and appropriate. “Well, he is performing in Las Vegas this weekend. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave the property.” Francine tried to come off stern and authoritative, but she sounded terrified. “Tell him Tom P. and his boys say ‘hi!’”… She huddled up in her bath robe and quickly made her way back into her home.

My dad fumbled around for his video camera. This wasn’t one of your new handheld camcorders, this was one of those video cameras connected to a battery powered VCR unit. He pressed record and began to narrate our encounter. He zoomed in on Francine with “that’s Chuck Berry’s secretary of thirty years, she just kicked us off the property.” He scanned over to Chuck’s garage, “and that is where Chuck keeps all of his convertibles…” I noticed some movement over by a group of small buildings at the end of the property.

“Dad, we need to get the fuck out of here!” I pointed at the rather large redneck speeding toward us in a golf cart. Francine had called security on us. My dad turned the camera toward the oncoming security guard. “And here comes someone to arrest us.” He shifted the car into reverse as my brother yelled at him, “Dad, you asshole, get us out of here!” My dad swatted back at him in the backseat as he tried to film the oncoming security guard and drive in reverse at the same time. He lost control of the car and backed into a ditch. “Holy shit!” We screamed in unison.

The redneck was gaining on us and I noticed another golf cart on its way, with an even bigger country bumpkin behind the wheel. In a move worthy of Steve McQueen, my dad spun the Aries out of the ditch in a 180 and floored it out of the hole we were stuck in and off of Chuck Berry’s property just as the golf carts were closing in. As we drove away, the security carts followed us on the opposite side of the fence line. We waved to them as they angrily pointed us to leave and never come back.

A week later, at home in Naperville, Illinois, home to a future school shooting, coming to a high school near you, I get a phone call. It’s my dad and he is excited. “You wouldn’t believe who I ran into at the airport!” The past week had been so surreal, I already knew the answer.

“Chuck Berry!” He answered before I could chime in. He had been to the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to pick up my aunt and uncle who had taken a second honeymoon in Hawaii. As he was waiting for their flight’s arrival, he noticed our pal Chuck, guitar case in tow, hurrying out of the airport. “Chuck! Chuck!”

Chuck Berry turned around. “Chuck! Chuck!” My dad ran after him. I can only imagine the scene, Chuck Berry turning around to see what this crazy white man was going on about. My dad recounted the whole story about our visit to his property the previous week. Chuck apparently humored him. He went on and on about how his boys were rock n’ roll fans and would love to meet him. “How would you like to meet with Chuck Berry and get your guitar signed?’

I was psyched. I had just recently started to fuck around on guitar again and besides aping Ramones and Rip Offs records, I picked up on Chuck Berry leads as well. Of course, I’d love to meet Chuck Berry and talk shop with him. “There’s only one catch.” Oh, Christ!

“I told him you have leukemia.” Of course, you would. I told my dad I didn’t exactly know what having “leukemia” entailed. I rubbed my shaved head, that would pass for a recent chemotherapy session, but beside acting “sick, ” I didn’t know enough about the illness to pull off a convincing acting job. “I don’t know”…”we’ll just tell him it’s in remission.” I can’t say that I’m totally sold on the idea of karma, but I’m sure if it exists, I’d eventually pay for pretending I was suffering from leukemia. “Alright, I’ll do it!” I agreed after deciding that Chuck Berry teaching me the duck walk and getting my Harmony guitar signed was worth the potential karmic leukemia I would suffer from years down the road.

The next week, I got another call from my dad. Chuck Berry had given my dad a business card and told him to call the number on the card to set up a meeting. I had gone over what I would say to him when we met, what I would ask, I was ready. “You wouldn’t believe it…” He sounded upset. “The phone number he gave me doesn’t work!”

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 206 user reviews.

By Rachel Perry

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/alex_and_chris_-_pop_stall.mp3]

It’s weird what a person can find herself stumbling into. In the summer of 2003 I returned to Chicago, a city I’m very proud to call home, after nine months of seclusion in college. I don’t remember how I started hearing about them; I really didn’t know the first thing about local music, but all of a sudden these bands seemed to be showing up everywhere: the Ponys, the Tyrades, the Ms, and the Hot Machines, to name a few, as well as a young woman who went by the name of Miss Alex White. Alex, who I soon discovered pulled double duty as a guitarist in the Hot Machines, played with a drummer called Chris Playboy. The idea that rock n’ roll fit to out-do any and all other rock n’ roll in the world was being made right under my nose left me basically awestruck. It’s a hyperbolic statement, I know, but the music in Chicago was and is impressive, exciting, and dangerous to the unassuming. It’ll blindside you. I downloaded three songs from Alex White’s website and listened to them over and over, throwing “Pop/Stall” in particular onto nearly every mix tape or CD I made for people last year. I was especially impressed with Alex’s voice: raw and throaty, utterly belying of her nineteen years; I couldn’t believe that a girl my age from the North Side could sing like she’d been raised on dirt and rubbing alcohol. I still can’t.

In January 2004 Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy released a four-song 7″ called the Young Monsters EP, as the first release on Missile X Records, a label they started together. The single arrived not three days after I ordered it with a very cordial note: “Hi Rachel! Thanks for buying our first single, we really appreciate it! “Alex and Chris.” The single is, well, something of a force. Alex’s vocals sound like she’s trying to cough up a switchblade, and the songs, which go from a fast, pissed off pace to plaintively slow(er), all point to music we’ve heard before, but the influences aren’t immediate. It’s punk-y, it’s got soul, maybe it’s blues, but maybe it’s not. The roots are familiar, but it’s ambiguous enough to be interesting. I hung on to that note they sent me; absently tucked it in a drawer because I thought it was nice of ‘em. When Chris was hit by a car and killed crossing the street outside the Empty Bottle a week later, it made me shudder to look at it. I never met Chris; by all accounts he was a truly wonderful person, and hearing about his death was awful.

It took about a year, but I finally got to see Alex play in June of 2004 at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. Unfortunately, I’m into a lot of music that my friends aren’t familiar with (or just hate), so more often than not, going to a show means spending some quality time enjoying music by myself in a room full of strangers. Gets real old, real fast, so I wheedled a couple of my friends who are far more likely to listen to Belle and Sebastian than the Baseball Furies into joining me. Alex and Matt Williams, who has been playing drums for Miss Alex White recently, were great that night. Of course, I had been looking forward to seeing them for so goddamn long that they could’ve gone up there in kimonos and yodeled for thirty minutes and I would have declared it a rock n’ roll epiphany. Instead, they played a strong set of two-, maybe three-chord grime-coated songs that were furious, sad, desperate, but, as really good songs can be, weirdly inspiring. Awesome. Danceable as well. I was so intrigued by their set that it was only after they left the stage that I turned around and realized that one of my friends had not only fled the room, but the entire building. The entire block, actually. The other buddy who had the guts to stick it out I later found at a Dunkin’ Donuts, complaining of a headache. “It was just too fucking loud, ” she explained.

This is an e-mail interview I did with Alex — the first interview of any kind that I have ever done — and fortunately, she was very obliging. Take a look at what she has to say about her short-but-action-packed history, Missile X, the Hot Machines, and the records we have to look forward to.

How long have you been playing music and writing songs?
You know, time has been a blur since early pubescence… I had to call my mom to figure out that I actually picked up a guitar at thirteen. As far as writing songs, I suppose I’ve been doing that since the beginning, primarily because I never learned how to play other people’s songs! I never had much of a mind for playing by ear, so I learned a couple dumb chords and started noodling around by myself. Sometimes a pinkie or index finger would slip, and before I knew it, I figured out a new chord, and soon thereafter, a song would follow.

When did you start playing shows? How did the Miss Alex White band begin?
I started playing shows at fourteen, with my first band, the Psychotic Sensations– the first and only band in which there was a bassist. This guy, Winston “Todd” Burdick the III, was a fucking badass bassist, and I’ve never found another man who could add up to him. Whatever the case, within the last five years, Todd sort of disappeared– became a circus clown and started riding the boxcars. The drummer, Kevin Johnson, is a playwright in New York now. We used to play basement shows at my house, in my garage, at other garages, all over Chicago. I still have a couple tapes of this crazy shit we played, but nothing was ever released. Then I started a two-piece band with my friend Alisa called the Red Lights, when I was sixteen or so. We were playing a show at a communist bookstore, I was wearing hot pants and my face was covered in blood, and incidentally, a couple guys from the magazine Horizontal Action showed up. Immediately, they booked us for “real” shows, opening for bands like the Clone Defects (whom I was obsessed with at the time). Alisa eventually became disenchanted with playing in a band, and so my best friend Chris Playboy filled in on drums. We didn’t know what to call ourselves when we were playing our first show, so Phillip from the Afflictions listed me as “The Young Miss Alex White.” From there, we became Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy. Pretty distinctive, right? And at the first Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy show at Cal’s Liquors in downtown Chicago, Jered from the Ponys and Matt from the Baseball Furies approached me, asking to start a band, which would later become known as Hot Machines.

You’ve played around Chicago, as well as in Milwaukee and recently New York City. Are there plans to do an extended tour?
When the live In The Red record and proper In The Red record come out, I assume that we will be extensively touring the United States and southern regions of Canada. I guess around fall and winter. I look forward to it… I like traveling, driving, looking out the window and drinking, so touring should prospectively be ideal.

Your voice is an essential part of your songs– it really stands out. Have you always been able to sing like you do? Is that grated tone something you work towards or something that came naturally?
Hmm. Well, I’ve always been a “belter”. I have two younger brothers, so screaming was an essential component of my childhood. Musically though, I remember Alisa and I were playing the song “Stranger” and this weird yelp escaped me… we both stopped and looked at one another, and with this ghostly face she asked me, “What the FUCK was that?” I kinda grabbed my throat, and was like, “Did I just die for a second?” So yeah, my voice just happens the way it does. And given this opportunity, I would like to personally thank booze and cigarettes for lowering my voice an octave lower than it should naturally occur. Unfortunately though, I do lose my voice pretty often– but what’s weird is that I can still sing– I just can’t talk. This leads me to believe that my singing comes from some nether-region that is in no way related to my speaking voice.

You write songs for both Miss Alex White and the Hot Machines — the two bands have different set-ups and sounds. When you’re writing, do you keep in mind which band you’re writing for? Do you have specific people, bands, or influences in mind when you’re writing, or is a song just a song?
The Miss Alex White band is normally a two-piece, as opposed to the Hot Machines, two guitar/two vocals and drums set up; I write for both bands. However, I’m not the type of person who sits at home with a quill pen and a piece of parchment, pouring my soul out over scales and measures. I simply convene with my band mates, we turn the PA on, and I just start playing two or three compatible chords. From there, a second part will naturally develop, and so on. In this respect, there is no difference in the songwriting between the two bands– the songs are fluid and unforced. I make up the words as we go along, which is why many of them are strange and incoherent. The dichotomy lies in the fact that I have Jered to bounce ideas off of in the Hot Machines. We trade off singing, and it’s texturally more complex. Other than that, I develop songs very similarly in both bands. And no, to answer your other question, I don’t think of any one else when making a song– unless it’s an asshole boyfriend or some other jerk, or someone I love. Instances influence me.

It’s strange that often musicians are asked about their influences, and they’re able to spit out two or three bands they think they draw from. How is that possible? Are you conscious of specific musical influences on songs as you are writing? And, well then, who are your influences?
You know, that’s actually an interesting observation– that people can readily answer “Definitely Guns’n'Roses, Heart, and I’ve always liked Fleetwood Mac.” It’s almost as if some one can condense a lifetime of music listening into three dumb bands (like the aforementioned, who I fucking hate). I know that when asked this question, I usually feel like I’m on the spot, so I blurt out the Modern Lovers, because that’s one band that I love unconditionally. However, I feel that I’m more so influenced by particular songs, as opposed to entire bands or records. For instance, I’ll listen to “1969″ for a week. Then I’ll listen to “I Can’t Sleep at Night” (Deadly Snakes) for two weeks. Then I’ll listen to the Remotes song “Transylvanian Dutch” for a couple days, then Viva L’American Deathray’s “Zipgun Blues” for hours. I become extremely addicted to songs. For instance, it would almost be unfair for me to claim that I “absolutely” love the Rolling Stones, because I think most of their songs are awful, and I’m a Brian Jones kinda gal. However, I can confidently say that I specifically love the songs “Fade Away” and even “Shattered, ” ya know? But Forty Licks? Common.

What’s the story behind your record label, Missile X? I know that you have a few singles in the works– do you want to do more than that (i.e. release LPs) or keep it small?
Chris Playboy and I started the label last summer, to put out our own debut single. We figured that it sounded easy enough to start a label, so why the hell not? And so we saved a couple hundred dollars from show funds, had pieces of plastic transformed into music-playing discs, and thus began Missile X Records, “Dirty but Danceable since 2003.” I’m putting out the Dirges within the next month, which is Ross from the Brides and A-Ron from the Baseball Furies, I’m putting out a Spits single on Halloween that will have a little toy in it, and then there’s a couple other fantastic surprises planned for the next year. I’d like to be able to put out LPs one day, but I’m in no rush. A band would really have to deeply strike me to do that.

Speaking of which, what has the reaction been to the Miss Alex White single? Has it sold well? Have you received orders from exotic locales?
The Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy single has sold amazingly well. We pressed five hundred copies, sent out fifty or so for promotional purposes, and I currently have about seventy-five left in a box under my bed. That means that I have sold roughly three-hundred seventy-five copies since late January 2004, when it came out. So technically, I’ve sold at least 62.5 singles every month over the course of six months, without ever playing out of town– almost strictly through mail order and playing four shows. To me, that’s an overwhelming success for a 7″ debut on a completely unknown label by two unknown friends who play music. The reviews I have read have been very positive, ranging from Maximum Rock’n'Roll, Horizontal Action, Venus Magazine, etc., and the feedback has been quite good. They’ve sold everywhere from the Philippines, to Australia, to New Zealand, to Newark, New Jersey. I’m very pleased, and I know that Chris Playboy would have been very pleased as well.

Word has it that Larry Hardy is going to release a live Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy record on In The Red. How did you get connected with Larry, and do you know if there will be more Miss Alex White records in the future?
Todd from Horizontal Action sent my single all over the place, and Larry Hardy got a hold of it. He sent me a very flattering e-mail, and I happened to be going to LA that weekend to visit my boyfriend at the time. So to make a long story short, Larry and I met up, went record shopping at Amoeba, and discussed uniting forces over Cuban coffee next door to the Silverlake Lounge. Larry Hardy is releasing the last show Chris Playboy and I ever played, which will be “Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy Live at the Double Door.” That will be released on In The Red Records as a tribute to Chris Playboy, my best friend, who was killed while crossing the street by a drunk gang banger only a month after our single came out. We never had an opportunity to record an album, so this live record is an attempt to capture the songs we made together. Then Larry suggested a proper Miss Alex White studio record with all new songs as a prompt follow up. [We] have a new line up: Wes Kerstens from the Clone Defects on guitar, and Eddie Altesleben on drums.

As for the Hot Machines, you guys are on hiatus right now, correct? There’s apparently a single coming out anytime now– are there any plans to do a full-length, possibly with In The Red?
The Hot Machines are currently taking a break as the Ponys continue to support their In The Red record[s], “Laced with Romance” [and 2005's "Celebration Castle"]. As far as releases go, there is a two-song single out on Cass Records. There are two songs on the “Maybe Chicago” compilation. There is also a previously unreleased track on the Foundation skateboarding video, “That’s Life” [it's during Gareth Stehr's part]. There is indeed talk of a Hot Machines In The Red record, because there’s a crazy demand for it, and it must be recorded for historical purposes. I get at least a hundred e-mails a week asking if we have a CD, to which I reply, “Buh, duh, like, no.”

And last, but not least…

Who are some of your favorite bands to play shows with?
Black Lips, Clone Defects, Tears, Hunches.

Who was the first band that you listened to as a kid that had a big impact? In other words, who was your first favorite band?
I distinctly remember picking up “Who’s Next” when I was eleven and nearly shitting my pants. I was in my living room, and I didn’t know how to dance, so I just kept spinning around.

Favorite show you’ve seen?
There are a few: the Real Kids at the Double Door last year [for memorability]. The Ponys’ first show with Ian at the Fireside last year [monumental]. The Hunches at the Cactus Club [fucking CRAZY]. The Coachwhips at the Fireside [they played on the floor]. The Intelligence at Subterranean [lost my shit].

Best thing(s) about living in Chicago?
Ten dollar thirty packs of Old Style. Not LA, not New York. Backyards, beaches, alleys, and tall buildings. Cheap handjobs. The Horizontal Action Blackout.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 222 user reviews.

By Manny Badtimes & Max Dropout

Glenn and Doyle,  circa '82.

Most of us were probably a watery load of DNA festering in a teenage womb at the very moment the Misfits destroyed Frisco back in 1982. This important piece of music history, which has nearly slipped through the cracks of pop culture’s brain, is perhaps the most significant event in the Misfits’ chronology; their explosive menace tattooed a permanent shadow of the band across the face of the West coast hardcore punk community, and was nearly grounds for a state-wide ban against Danzig and his associates. Though things may have initially seemed bleak, the event and the subsequent hoopla surrounding it may explain why Misfits iconography has as strong a presence on the West coast as it does on the East. Continue reading

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 232 user reviews.

By Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/gg_allin_-_drink_fight_and_fuck.mp3]

I was under the age of 14 the first time I timidly crept through the half-assed black paint job that coated the Mogz stairwell like gizzard gloss; and all the while, my back was prodded by fingers, slapped by limp palms, and stained by warm tar-drenched chiding from the yellow-toothed, nicotine spewing pack of punks who at the time considered me a ward of sorts.

Mogz, known as “the underground upstairs, ” was probably the only “legal” punk rock club in my town at the time, located up the block from the Catholic-run and tactlessly-titled charity shop, “The Retarded Children’s’ Store, ” and right above some bullshit neo-beat coffee joint. The street all the time reeked queer of Colombian grounds and almond extract, attracting piss-stained vagrants from the near-by public park with their windowful of petite Louise Brooks wannabes, scrawling high-strung passages in their dainty little notebooks. The park urchins would stand on the curbs at night, pushing their bum gloves down past their rope belts, delighting themselves while tucked between fly-by-night porno paper dispensers, ogling the pretty malcontents, who were kept ignorant of these offensive scenes by the bright counter lights reflecting against the shop front’s dark panes of glass.

It was a struggle to keep that sort of place open at the time. Aside from the vagrant attraction to young girls and loose change, there were the numerous violent clashes with your affluent, white high school football kids and local black and Mexican gang members, both of whom would often gain admittance to clubs to hassle the weird (white) kids–add an emerging skinhead culture into the mix, and you have a recipe for a volatile atmosphere. There was no solidarity amongst the lower class kids, due to racial division.

I still remember my first show at Mogz. Earlier that day, some friends of mine who managed a local comic shop were contemplating out loud whether or not they ought to go to that night’s show at the “underground upstairs” — GG Allin & The Murder Junkies were playing in only a few hours… hell, at that time, we speculated that GG was probably buying heroin from some 24 karat mouth down on the avenue or raping some cheerleader as we spoke. Strangely, in spite of our wild fantasies of GG prowling our fair city streets, there was still the question as to whether or not the show would be worth the admission cost. Years later, after moving to Texas, I learned that GG, at the height of his nihilism, would charge a three-dollar admission to get in… the catch was, it would cost you something around seven dollars to get out, though. Either the show would end prematurely, never occur at all, or we would surely be trampled or split in half by the psychotic popster.

By that time, I was familiar with only the imagery of Allin. I’d seen him on several talk shows, including an appearance on Geraldo, which amounted to little more than a scab-chested GG in shades, flapping his gums to the scathing drone of one long, continuous “bleeeeeeeep.” His shit-smeared likeness was plastered all over the interiors of respectable record-cum-head shops, on posters, T-shirts, and I’d always run across those bootlegs with the color cover of Allin looking like a one-man Tolos-Blassie brawl. Based on that alone, I had disregarded him as a meat head spectacle. Nevertheless, Allin was a piece of counter culture iconography as immediately identifiable as the Misfits, the Cramps, or Morrissey.

When my “associates” jokingly suggested taking me, the little underage punk, to Mogz for the inevitable GG Allin melt down, my apprehensive response clenched the deal, and hours later I was being propelled up that ominously shaded stairwell.

Allin never played one song that night. I remember hanging back in some dark recess with my friends, watching him sputter out of control, naked, like some tweaking, bulimic ape — a primordial man stroking the underbelly of modern pharmaceuticals. GG dominated the club floor by running in a mindless circle with all the centrifugal momentum of a white trash Whirlitzer, smeared in blood and other bodily pastes; meanwhile, his band shuffled around the club, looking bored. Anytime any of the staff or the security approached him, GG would wallop them in the face with a pair of flailing fist — all while still in full stride.

After a thirty minute witnessing of his stamina, we’d had our fill of GG’s performance and split in the event the cops might show up.

My initial reaction to the mess was one of revulsion and fear, though the longer I endured it, I became increasingly aware of the aura of attraction that peeled off this guy like a stink. He had no sleeves to stow any surprises up, and yet every action he committed himself to had all the intrigue of some carnival horror show. I wasn’t watching a performance so much as I was rubbernecking, like one does while crawling past the scene of an interstate accident, searching for some smattering of blood on the asphalt out of the corner of an eye. The walls that night were awash with a dark energy, one I tracked inside my home and that stayed with me for months to come. I never heard a single song that night, but I was compelled to spend every dime I made over the next week at our local record shop, Wild Planet, purchasing everything I could find by GG, starting with the shocking pop mastery of The Jabbers.

As that initial thrill faded out, I began to regularly tag along with my roommates, sneaking into bars and venues in search of the sort of stimulation that Allin’s psychotic intensity had wrought. And I found it once again in the reciprocal relationship of frenzy between many of the punk bands in Orange and Ventura County and the kids who showed up to watch them play. They would crank out their anthems, and kids would go apeshit, feeding into a cycle of benign pandemonium. As I indulged in these violent spectacles, I developed an awareness that the seemingly vicious nature of these events had a built-in sensitivity and consideration… an etiquette if you will. If anything malicious ever went down, you can rest assured it was perpetrated by someone who was probably at that show for the wrong reasons. There was a common misconception by most average citizens at the time that “punk rockers” were some apocolypse-chasing band hooligans, and so if ever you were looking for trouble, you ought to check into your local punk dive. For the initiated, it wasn’t about wreaking negativity so much as it was about dispelling it… it was about a naked and faceless aggression… it was about the energy. If someone fell down in a crowd, you picked them up and did your best to guard them until they had their balance. Yes, there were sinister things that went down from time to time, but you could credit the bad blood letting to the constant invasion of tough guy squares, who’d waltz in, looking for a fight. On the street, too, there was the continual discrimination often manifested as a physical threat. Numerous ingredients fed into the underlying current of tension that stirred a crowd… on a subconscious level, the expulsion of energy at a show was tied into the intolerance we faced on a daily basis.

Most of us had been driven into more comfortable arrangements by misdirected frustrations over economics and politics. The average adult American psyche at the time was a hyper crock-pot of hatred, hissing messy threats. I think many of the politically active punks were probably fighting a cause for their parents, latently, since their parents were too blinded by the patriotic condition to focus on the root of their discontent. And away from home, there was the reality of survival.

If you’re suckling from mainstream culture’s recollection of what punk is or was, then you will equate it with an obnoxious, contrived, store-bought look, and an angsty attitude that shuns all things authoritarian or conservative. The look you see typical “punk” kids flying these days is a garish retrospective mutation, the content of which is neither an honest recollection of what occurred so many years ago, nor is it in any way associated with the modern underground lifestyle or music scene.

The media is largely to blame for the distorted perception of punk rock imagery, thanks to its need to meet a shock-hungry generation’s increasing appetite. In the same manner that right wing conservatives try to mislead the public into believing that all homosexuals dress like Carmen Miranda and urinate on each other amid grand cocksucker parades by honing in on a minority of gays, most documentarians and journalists focused on the most flamboyant subjects they could find while initially reporting on the “punk rock phenomena.” Thus, the public were misled to believe that all punk rockers played with their hair too much, dressed like the road warrior, and spit heroin on old ladies–angst ridden sociopathic brats bent on grabbing attention through any means necessary.

Before mainstream culture began marketing punk, there was a zero tolerance policy toward anybody who sought to be different, and therefore it was never in any of our best interests to walk around looking like zipper-laden, safety-pinned Christmas trees with shitty attitudes. Since most of us were on our own, a primary concern was always finding a piece of security. You had to work and be somewhat presentable; unfortunately, trying to achieve that sort of look on low-rent means often times resulted in a sad and unintentional perversion of formal wear. None of us ever wanted a “Punk Planet.” But instead, we just wanted to be left alone, in our own corner of the world. There you have the root of the underground’s disdain toward any mainstream attention our culture received, as it was often a misrepresentation of what we were about, and attracted the wrong kind of person into our clubs and neighborhoods.

Aside from the typical trivial emotional and personal shit that frustrated us on an average day, we had a society against us to contend with. While the overall aesthetic of the music and the image probably grated on them, it was what we represented that they hated most of all. We were the musty bloom of America’s moral and social decay. We represented failed concepts of family, parenthood, and neighborhood. We had defected only a few blocks away with some vital information about just what was really going on behind blinding white picket fences. When I look back at the sweaty throngs of kids twisting like some 80 mile an hour maelstrom through clubs, it was a completely necessary and sensible REACTION to what was happening in our lives, and probably the healthiest way of exorcising mounting tensions; certainly moreso than picking up a gun, hitting a random stranger, or moving out to the solitude of the suburbs to pump out punching bags. We, as a culture, were a symptom of our society’s shortcomings, and our art was a reflection of everything we’d seen. The subsequent adversity we faced was rooted in the fear and subconscious guilt of our peers. They suffered from an inability to accept responsibility for what they had created, and so they truly loathed themselves deep down.

Close to three decades ago, our culture gestated in the heat of misdirected violence from wobbling community pillars. All that so-called “free love” jargon led to maternity wards, which weren’t so cheap. Accidental children were like a 38 special aimed at the back of a household head, and reluctantly, they would resign to jobs and marriages. That’s when abuse became as valuable a vice as alcohol or tobacco.

Fourteen years after that first GG Allin show at Mogz, I’m standing in a club where I now work, watching a band of eighteen year old kids sputter across the stage with all the frenetic vibrance of Korean cartoon windups. The aesthetic is in tact, but the energy is different, if not lacking for the most part. Even when the kids on stage launch themselves at the stoic congregation of bobble heads, little else happens other than some backward shuffling and wide-eyed grinning. Someone does something that’s more like hissing than whispering into my ear, yawning out some hypothetical nostalgic diarrhea about what would have happened years ago had these kids thrown themselves at the crowd. His tone implied bitterness toward the kids, and with some further prodding, he made some statement that suggested that the kids on stage weren’t real punk rock because they never had to suffer for their art or image.

[audio:http://www.letthemeatlead.com/mp3s/flesheaters_-_because_of_you.mp3]

That night, everything started to make sense. Over the years, I’ve watched the underground rock n’ roll scene morph into something lethargic with soft rounded edges–a safe and docile shape. I recognized my own frustrations toward the fact that no one seems to move anymore, or take anything seriously, really. I sat in my room, laying on my bed, listening to the FlesheatersNo Questions Asked reissue on repeat, and thought long about my teenage days, which seem romantic in retrospect. And finally, I not only began to understand the modern calm, but perhaps appreciate it as well.

I’ve had contempt for the crusty punk for about as long as they have existed. They define their aesthetic by some word that refers to an unpleasant texture. They sit on the sidewalk scrounging for change and absorbing dirt, and with a wry-witted menace they enjoy and abuse the social progress that people like my friends and I made decades ago. They create and contribute nothing, but take, take, take. Their existence revolves around a bottom feeding lifestyle, while their cultural droppings are nothing but an odorless void, fading without any lasting impression. You may gauge the reality of a man’s life by the quality of his teeth, and in spite of their filth and repugnance, many of them have charmed smiles. They have no cause to fight for, since there was a whole other generation before them that took punches to the face every day, so that they wouldn’t have to later on. They reap the tolerance we have won, and have done nothing but take up a stationary occupancy within it, while running it down into a perverted waste. And so, my relationship with the contemporary hardcore child has a hint of parody, recalling my own domestic dejection. Sure, they have it easier than we did, but I don’t resent them for it. Instead, I despise them for their lack of initiative or movement. They are, offensively, quite easy to ignore. They stole our momentum, and forgot about it when they found a fucking faggot puppy. This is not to say that every punk rock kid is a wastrel, but it certainly explains apathy or a lack of ire the new breed are generally known for.

All the malcontents I used to know have retired to respectable corners where nobody bothers them. They have no reason to be frustrated any longer. There is no need for violence, as discipline has become an antiquated and obsolete device in almost every sector of society. The explosion in front of the stage no longer exists, and if it does, you can rest assure that it’s probably just as cosmetic a put on as a Bob Ross-kissed mohawk.

People have gotten used to the existence of punk culture, and it has been absorbed into the flow of every day life–it is as common a house hold brand as “corn flakes” is today. Those who lived through the beginning may not even realize that we finally got what we’ve always wanted: a place of our own in the world. A new generation sits comfortably in the refuse of cushy ribbon shed from the conflict before their time, and there is no longer any need to defend through force — this easing tension is symptomized by a burgeoning sophistication amongst the voices of the underground. Security provides room for experimentation, and our art continues to advance further from a text book definition of its origin.

Punk culture initially inundated a public with a barrage of constantly violent images and concepts, and the result was a desensitization that gradually rendered the defending arm of shock value obsolete. In change, there is certainly an element of death, as elements are exfoliated on a continuous basis. There is a certain casualty though that has caused a significant shift in the face of punk rock: tension. The illiberal dogmatic constraints which once opposed us may now be finally diminishing, but they were the main motivating factor behind our stress. Punk was a direct response to it. While some might argue that without its catalyst punk is truly dead. It would be more logical to suggest that today punk is merely an orphan; a motherless child left to its own designs and finally grown up away from home.

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