Wiring Dept. #3
I’m labeling this 1985 issue as Wiring Dept.’s third, but if you want to know the truth, I truly have no idea. I do know that the magazine put out a total of six issues between 1984 and 1986; that I possess four of them; and that the ones that came after this issue were three larger-format tabloids – so therefore my numerical guess is probably as good as any. I bought them in real time, and have somehow managed to hang onto them 37-38 years later.
Wiring Dept. is very much a San Francisco fanzine, for good and for ill (as we discussed here). In a few short weeks I’ll receive my pre-ordered copy of Will York’s forthcoming Who Cares Anyway: Post Punk San Francisco and the End of the Analog Age, and I know that York covers this strange musical interregnum in post-punk, pre-90s San Francisco quite extensively, a time and scene that was somewhat part of my lived experience. Before York’s book, and likely after it, the single best documented representation of the deep post-1985 SF sub-underground was probably Wiring Dept. fanzine, a magazine that is a note-perfect tribute to an ephemeral time and place that truly doesn’t exist in any of its original form any longer.
In reading it, I can absorb all of the fantastically arty, chaotic, boundary-pushing, dirty, DIY, alcohol-drenched spirit that attracted me like a magnet to San Francisco in the first place. It’s a great picture of the margins of a city I moved to in 1989 the very first chance I got and spent as much time in as possible while away from college in Southern California during the years 1985-89. The magazine was self-published by Eric Cope, a guy who was concurrently in the band called Glorious Din and who ran Insight Records, who put out his own records as well as this very interesting compilation that I bought in the late 80s.
Now I didn’t know a whole lot about this story until it was told to me, but Cope later put out an influential hip-hop magazine called Murder Dog – I vaguely remember it – and by then was going by the name of “Black Dog Bone”. When Sam Lefebvre wrote this piece in Pitchfork about him a few years ago, he borrowed my copies of Wiring Dept. as source material. The Cope/Black Dog Bone story is quite a wild one, and you ought to read it. The intense, insular weirdo described in the piece is very much ever-present in the page of Wiring Dept. Cope liked to take snippets of lyrics, often from Joy Division and even some of his own, and drop them on a page to fill space, while conducting bizarre “interviews” that might take two or three sentences from a chat with a band, and then drop them into his own strange ramblings, non-sequiturs, clipped sentences and half-baked thoughts cooked up in his head that were then instantly typed onto the page and left, unedited.
Which is an exercise in patience, to be sure. But still! Wiring Dept. transcends its odd format and paints an impressionistic picture of tiny clubs, starving artists, dirty punks and poets and everything that made San Francisco so weirdly wonderful at the time. There are probably 30+ bands profiled in here, some of whom seem to have been formed a week ago; my guess is that Cope was going to loads of shows, and would therefore interview anyone he found halfway interesting. Maybe he taped them; maybe he wrote down answers in “shorthand”, and maybe he just transcribed them from memory the next morning. A partial role call of #3’s interviewees reveals the sound of young San Francisco in 1985: World of Pooh, DRI, Glorious Din, Caroliner Rainbow, The Morlocks, the Fuck-Ups, Faith. No More, Tripod Jimmie, Frightwig, Short Dogs Grow and many, many more. Holding much of this together from a distribution standpoint is Steve Tupper of Subterranean Records, and he is also interviewed.
The impression is that the San Francisco underground has been left to wilt on the vine a bit by record labels, media and everyone else, and it is into this vacuum that Wiring Dept. is attempting to step in and document in its own exceptionally unique manner. I’m therefore very willing to forgive a great deal, because the lump sum of Wiring Dept. #3 is far greater than its parts.
Flesh and Bones #6
This is what we call an “all-timer”. No, not in the way that a Slash, a Forced Exposure, a Conflict or a No Mag might be, but an all-timer in the sense that if I were forced to hold on to only 25 of the fanzines in my collection, Flesh and Bones #6 just might make the cut; it made that much of a mark on me when I bought it in 1987. Its sensibilities were just goofy and mocking enough, and its tastes in modern sounds so aligned with mine at the time (Pussy Galore, Scratch Acid, Dinosaur et al), that I read, photocopied and shared wisdom from this issue as frequently and as far & wide as I could. Of course, its Tiger Beat/16 Magazine cover homage was well executed and really hit the spot for me at Age 19.
Editor “Jeffo” was coming out of hardcore, and as someone whose attention had been turned toward the long-haired punk and caustic underground noise of 1987, he mocked hardcore punk relentlessly, with frequent jokes about the Boston Crew, “Revolution Summer”, the Cro-Mags and Jodie Foster’s Army. He covered and reveled in “grunge” before it was grunge, while taking the best potshots at ’81-’82 HC and at heavy metal wasteoids I’ve ever seen. A lot of his live reviews were actually just made-up fantasies of getting in fistfights at gigs with people like Thurston Moore or Glen Danzig; stage-diving to mellow acts like Salem 66; and heckling multiple bands “with a Big Stick wig on” (remember Big Stick?).
The graphics were all hilarious cut, pasted & jumbled items from other magazines, many of them from the hippie 1960s, as well as a few homegrown comics (mostly Jeffo’s) that were usually quite OK. An example of a typical graphics might have a lowbrow dildo advertisement placed on the left (“The Erecto”, “The Giant Bone”), with a strategically whited-out musical equipment ad saying “We’ll make that ___ of yours as big as Tommy Dorsey’s!” on the right.
Flesh and Bones also had a few staff photographers who took excellent band shots, usually of the modern acts with the longest, filthiest hair and the most thrift store-adjacent clothes (Raging Slab seemed to be a favorite, a band I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about since 1987). This was not a mag I really read as a consumer’s guide; it was one I celebrated because it was laugh-out-loud funny, and contrary to some quarters, I like to laff! The Redd Kross interview in Flesh and Bones #6 is right up there with my all-time favorite band interviews, ever, and the Dinosaur (Jr.) interview (beautifully hijacked by Thurston Moore, who also loves making fun of hardcore) is outstanding as well, considering how dour those guys typically were.
Jeffo also swelled with New Jersey pride, probably somewhat tongue-in-cheek, yet proud to represent the Garden State nonetheless. 1987-88 was an unusual time in the American underground, particularly when you look at the photos. Hair was long, metal wasn’t verboten and abrasiveness was a band’s ticket to ride, particularly if they wanted coverage in Flesh and Bones. I’ve searched in vain for copies of Flesh and Bones #1-#5 for years to no avail, getting only so far as photos here and here.
Trouser Press #36
I happened to have been a teenaged Trouser Press subscriber in the early 1980s, yet had never purchased an issue during their 70s heyday as an Anglophilic rock magazine whose subhead was “America’s Only British Rock Magazine”, and who were actually originally known as the Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press. Theirs was a good niche to mine in the 1970s, but starting in 1978 with a Todd Rundgren cover, the magazine started backing away from the UK in favor of the domestic.
I think my subscription started with Issue #69 here (wooo!) and ended with their final issue, #96, here. That’s a tremendous amount of new wave, ladies and gentlemen. I didn’t even keep them and abandoned them when I became far too cool a few years later. The magazine’s Flock of Seagulls and Culture Club covers, at least, were a far cry from their roots and even at the time felt like a marketing-driven cry for help, and/or subscribers. I remember the actual contents not being so cut and dried; it’s where I learned about Los Angeles’ paisley underground, for instance, and it hipped me to the Dream Syndicate and the Three O’Clock for the first time. I believe I came to understand what no wave had been through this magazine as well.
While clearly not a fanzine, Trouser Press had that long 1970s backstory that I didn’t really know much about, so recently I found a few cheap copies, one of them being this one, #36, with Lou Reed on the cover. Now wait a minute, how come no one told me that Lou Reed was a total asshole? He gives perhaps the most abrasive, entitled, paranoid, mean-spirited interview I’ve ever read to Scott Isler in this one, and I now think even less of Reed the human being, as opposed to Reed the musician, than I even did the day before yesterday. To Isler, by means of introduction, he says, “I know your type…a typical downtrodden Jew….A make-believe hippie….This is the worst nightmare. I’ve dreamed of this on the subway….If you weren’t a journalist you’d never be invited to anything hip”. And he’s only just getting started. Just an angry, disgusting human being and yeah, I was kidding above – of course I knew that he was a prick, but seeing it laid out so clearly in an interview just makes me a bit, um, well, “sad”, I reckon.
Now you want to know who the goldmine interview is in Trouser Press #36? It’s Elton John! Yes, Elton John in early 1979 is sitting at his absolute low point of popularity across his entire career, and spends most of his interview bemusedly acknowledging this. More importantly, in early 1979 he has recognized the importance of punk rock music, and Elton John – he likes it! A lot! He talks up the Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees (he just calls ‘em “The Banshees”), Rezillos, Sham 69 and more, often wistfully, and as if he were on a therapist’s couch, acknowledging the stone cold truth that a much more exciting and relevant style of rock n roll has just overtaken and made irrelevant (I wish) his own creations. I know that Elton was a fanatical record collector who had been given carte blanche to raid Tower Records on LA’s Sunset Blvd for whatever records he wanted, and he did so often. So I salute him for his breadth of taste, and for his introspective ability to assess where he stood in the whole rock n roll edifice in 1979. “I get annoyed when radio plays ‘Your Song’ but no Stranglers”. Elton John said that!
Trouser Press may have covered the underground somewhat, but they really tried to laser in on the rock music omnivore, who was perhaps a person (male, no question) just approaching his thirties who’d buy Elton John and Pat Travers records but whose sweet spot in 1979 was probably Elvis Costello and maybe some American power pop. I like Cole Springer’s comprehensive piece on Captain Beefheart, as he comes to terms with music he once dismissed as too daffy and abrasive and now, at the end of the decade, is starting to recognize the genius therein. Stiff Records’ latest output gets raked over the coals. And The Pork Dukes are mentioned more than once in this issue. Go put that in your pipe and smoke it.
It’s a far better magazine, journalistically, than the one I remembered from when I was subscribing to it, and even if I don’t or didn’t cotton to 65% of what they’re talking about in #36, I’ll probably wanna pick up any other cheap copies of the magazine I find down the road that date from this pre-new wave era. And look, no one really ever comments in Fanzine Hemorrhage’s comments section so far….did you read Trouser Press? What was your take on it? Did Lou Reed ever redeem himself as a human being, or is this just who he was? Tell us!
Damage was an upper-pantheon San Francisco punk tabloid that ran from 1979 through 1981. I have a few issues from their 13-issue run, and I’m always game to add more, especially after hearing the terrific interview Rock Writ podcast did with editor Brad Lapin recently, which you can listen to here. It wouldn’t be a stretch in the least to call it San Francisco’s “answer” to Los Angeles’ Slash and New York’s NY Rocker; other newsprint/tabloid gems from this general era include LA’s No Mag and Boston’s Take It! and Boston Rock. We’ll get to frolicking in all of this stuff in time, promise.
I’m always sort of bedeviled and a little bothered when I read some of these San Francisco-focused magazines, even Search & Destroy at times, as I continually find the focus on social politics boring, the art-school aesthetic pompous and pretentious, and many of the local musical mediocrities to be dull as dishwater. Damage #7 exemplifies much of this, exceptionally more so than other issues which I’ve enjoyed far more than this one. I don’t know, maybe catching “the scene” as the calendar was rolling over from mid-1980 to late 1980 is catching it all in a bad stretch, but there’s a sense here in #7 that it’s all a bit globally played out, and baby, you and I know that wasn’t the case.
Maybe it’s just San Francisco itself. Crime have just released their awful third single, “Gangster Funk / Maserati”, and the key members of the band have changed their names to “Frankie Valentino” and “Johnny St. John”. Some of the “new wave” artwork in the magazine follows suit, looking like Nagel paintings and reeking of cocaine. There’s a piece in here about “Trends: Pop Music”, which spotlights some of the Bay Area’s weakest nu-wavers and skinny-tie power poppers (No Sisters, Rubinoos) as pretty much the hottest thing going. And honestly, when you spend three big pages covering the Public Image Ltd. press conference, things are looking grim.
So Damage #7 does what I’d have done to mitigate, and sends Amy Linden to interview The Cramps, who’ve just released Songs The Lord Taught Us, and puts Bruce Conner on a plane to Tokyo to cover the scene there. Anything but the moribund local scene depicted here. The Flipper interview, which is terrible, is very much to the contrary – but you wouldn’t have known it by the meandering discussion of punk’s past and present & absolutely no context for who this incredible band were and what sort of music they were playing.
The magazine’s overall quality control just seems off this time. Later-period garbage records by Stiff Little Fingers and The Members get total raves, and someone thought it would be a good idea to interview The Dead Boys in 1980, after all of the band save Stiv Bators & Jimmy Zero had quit. You don’t get this sort of malarky from Slash in 1980, and even though there’s a great Peter Urban review picking apart X’s Los Angeles whilst enumerating his disappointments, I’d have probably found myself having a hard time trusting Damage as a tastemaker. Then again, I was 12 years old and would have been too scared to spend my dollar on this anyway.
Take It! #5
(This piece is taken from a written overview I did on Take It! fanzine (1981-82) in the most recent Dynamite Hemorrhage fanzine #10. You’re more than welcome to check out the full piece in the magazine if you’re so inclined).
From where I’m sitting today , trying to recall the environment I was marinating in at 14 years old in 1982, it’s sort of unsettling to see Take It! #5 cover stars The Dead Kennedys, and reckon with just how unimportant they ended up being. I mean, at San Jose’s John Muir Junior High School in 1982, the two bands on every burgeoning punk’s lips were the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. Even people who didn’t know who they were knew who they were. They were the big-deal punk bands, the scary punk bands that last year’s jocks and this year’s mohicans wrote in sharpie on their denim jackets and all over their pants & Pee-Chees. And everyone knew about “Holiday in Cambodia”, “California Uber Alles” and “Too Drunk To Fuck”. These were, as they say, the soundtrack to our lives.
My first real “punk” show, in fact, was The Dead Kennedys, 7 Seconds and Whipping Boy at a sold-out Keystone Palo Alto. So yeah, pretty weird to see them pretty much persona non grata forty years later, a band barely remembered nor revered, yet mocked mercilessly by virtually everyone I know when they’re talked about at all. I blame Biafra – a self-aggrandizing turd who did everything possible to alienate 85% of the people who came in contact with him, then lawsuited his way into musical and historical oblivion. (I do suppose there’s a more charitable interpretation of the man and his career, and I’m open to hearing it).
Anyway, Take It! #5 puts the Dead Kennedys on the cover – albeit a cartoon drawing of them – and on a flexi with the Angry Samoans and Flipper. Editor Michael Koenig talks about the six-month delay in getting this issue out, so now we’re definitely into 1982, finally. Highlight of the issue is – that’s right – Byron Coley with a big piece on Black Flag. This is right after “Henry Garfield” has joined the band, so there must have been a short period in LA in which he wasn’t called Rollins just yet. It’s a pretty exciting on-the-ground snapshot of a particularly important time in the band’s story – Garfield in; Damaged deemed an “anti-parent” record; LAPD taking over etc.
Gerard Cosloy, who must’ve been all of 16 years old, contributes a list of his favorite tapes for the year, including NME C-81, Theater of Hate Live and The Future Looks Bright. He then goes on to write a paean to east coast hardcore, specifically fuckin’ SOA and Minor Threat. In fact, this is the first issue of Take It! that deals well with the onslaught of ‘core that was pouring out of all corners of the USA at this time.
The Boston show reviews are broken out into single show reviews, rather than a column, and this time are by Koenig and Bill Tupper – but Tristam Lozaw thankfully still gets another full page to vent about Boston radio and everything wrong with it. Ira Kaplan does a nice takedown on Robert Christgau – a perennial article, written by many, that was all the rage for many years – and includes this nice quote comparing his obsessive grading compulsiveness with the scattershot gonzoid approach of Lester Bangs: “Not that they’re opposites – I plot Christgau and Bangs on a circle, one at 0° and the other at 360° – people who reach the same point by uniquely different routes.”
Other strong material: David Hild (The Girls) and Steve Stain, writing articles about each other. A short review of an Amos Poe film I’m not familiar with that stars Susan Tyrell from Fat City called Subway Riders – hey, sign me up! I dig Gregg Turner’s column this time, about fanzines and specifically Negative Army, put out by Mike Snider. (For what it’s worth, I could use any of your extra copies of this fanzine if you have them). I personally ran into Snider a few times at Lazy Cowgirls shows in LA later in this decade and we yukked it up together with Shane Williams, the now-deceased rocknroll bank robber of some repute. A story for another time (or, if you prefer, you can read my story about my encounters with Willams right here).
There’s a sneering and pretty funny article about Nancy Spungen and a 1974 poem that she left behind, reprinted and showcasing her genius (I’ll spare you a second reprint). Peter Holsapple opines on the glory of the Go-Go’s, unaware, most likely, that they’d be the biggest band in the world a month or two from now. Tim Barry tongue-in-cheeks his way through a report on his trip to “Reggae Sunsplash” in Jamaica; Byron Coley writes on Bomp Records’ Battle of the Garages compilation with a prescient eye toward the 60s punk revival; Amy Linden takes on Flipper. And there’s just an incredible singles roundup from Coley, with reviews (among others) of The Cheifs, Panther Burns, Scritti Politti, Cordell Jackson, Glenn Danzig, Social Distortion, Kimberly Rew, The Meat Puppets and Fang. No, really!
There’s something a little culturally demoralizing for Americans when we come across Europeans who can write, communicate and think better in our native tongue than we can. Folks like Matthias at Fŏrdämning, Henrik at Human Garbage Disposal and Tom Arnaert at Bazooka! are my jealously-looked-upon models in that regard. I mean, I personally took three years of high school Spanish, baby! I even know well enough to stay away from lengua and tripa burritos, so why can’t I craft an erudite, funny, Spanish-only music fanzine?
Well look, maybe erudite isn’t exactly the right word for Arnaert’s 1997 third issue of Bazooka!, but it was absolutely one of my favorite sources for garage punk & expansive roots/world music rock-turning in the late 90s. Arnaert and I traded “CD-Rs” in those days, and the guy sent me some of my favorite collections of obscure global 78s, down-home Americana and blues comps back in those frantic years when everything was coming out on CDs only, and I got the notion that I’d better sell all of my vinyl, and fast, because vinyl records were soon to be dead as a doornail. Clearly, we were trading fanzines as well; I put out my final issue of Superdope in 1998 and I reckon that was my coin of the realm which enabled me to procure this issue of Bazooka! and the two that followed it.
From his perch in Ieper, Belgium, Arnaert surveyed all he saw in the worlds of low-class, lo-fi garage punk and other sundry forms. A great comparison fanzine both in content and layout for this magazine would be Eric Friedl’s Wipeout! – note the exclamation point. Both took as their starting point loud & raw rocknroll music both present and past, and as they dug deeper, they extended their remit to include loads of “black” music, i.e. the bedrock upon which all of their current passions rested. Arnaert in particular goes deep into fife & drum music on this one; you may recall this was the time of Othar Turner mania, powered by cultural appropriators Birdman Records’ Everybody Hollerin’ Goat CD.
Bazooka #3 also surveys 1977-78 Belgian punk – why wouldn’t he? – while also interviewing New Orleans’ trash/rockabilly overlord King Louie (Royal Pendletons, Persuaders, King Louie & The Harahan Crack Combo) and penning a Mick Collins survey to boot. The mag is just bursting with reviews of both records and current fanzines, laid out haphazardly wherever space exists (this happens to be a great cheat for those of us who’ve created fanzines but don’t know a thing about true graphic design). In 1997, this is whom you’d find darting about the pages of Bazooka! as well as in the record collections of its fellow travelers: Bassholes, Thee Headcoatees, the Demolition Doll Rods, Billy Childish, Chrome Cranks, T-Model Ford, Splash Four and Junior Kimbrough. If that sounds like your kettle of tea, let me assure you that it probably is. I experienced those last three years of the 1990s as fairly grim ones, musically, and I know there are others who agree with that verdict – so it was great to have Arnaert’s Bazooka! out there to help illuminate the silver linings.
We Got Power #4
This early 80s Los Angeles hardcore fanzine’s been rightly exalted for its place in the times, but revisiting this issue struck me just how flat-out DUMB it all was. I mean, don’t get me wrong – We Got Power #4 was about as down-the-center, pitch-perfect, bandanna-wearing, fists-flying, slam-your-ass-off 1982 LA HC as it got or ever got – yet it’s also incredibly, surprisingly teenage and comes across as super, super stupid. Even dumber than Touch & Go, and Touch & Go was pretty goddamn juvenile. And hey – that makes sense – editor Jordan Schwartz and his We Got Power-contributing pals were high school kids, and god love ‘em for it.
This magazine proudly stands out from its peers for a couple of reasons. First of all, where We Got Power is concerned, hardcore punk rock is a total nonstop party, as opposed to serious business. The very first page of this issue is a collage of various young LA punks drinking, goofing, laughing and is simply captioned “Fun”. Jordan Schwartz, Dave Markey, Jennifer Schwartz and other WGP contributors strike me as fabled “latch key kids”, growing up in Santa Monica with little-to-no parental supervision, drinking, skating and going apeshit at every Black Flag, Bad Religion, Circle One, Descendents, Youth Brigade et al show they can turn up at – which is pretty much all of them, by the evidence presented herein. Their energy and extreme dedication to the ‘core is infectious and almost cute in its innocence. To contrast the vitality and excitement of 1982 LA punk with, say, what was going on in deadened LA “punk” four years later, when Markey would tour as a member of Painted Willie with a running-on-fumes Black Flag, is to wish time stopped in its tracks and you too could be stagediving to Circle One’s “Destroy Exxon” with Schwartz and his pals.
We Got Power #4 also xeroxes in color pages along with black & white ones, and while it’s incredibly crudely typeset, it just reads better overall that your standard ‘82 hardcore slop-job. And it’s pretty much hardcore- and hardcore-adjacent bands only, so yeah, they’ll praise Red Cross and The Minutemen (who both played mostly hardcore shows at this point), while keeping away from the heavy, ultra-serious English UK82 punk and “oi” that was polluting so many young ears around this time. A typical record review isn’t going to get you particularly far, and might be about as developed as this review of the compilation Life Is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself: “Holy Moly, what a record, if you don’t like something on this record youre fucked up in your head.”
There are dopey interviews with Black Flag, Husker Du, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Bad Religion and Suicidal Tendencies in this issue alone; quite possibly six of the ten most eventually beloved bands of this ilk of all time. Oh – and this is the exact magazine that started the rumor, still unconfirmed, that the Meat Puppets actually played a Phoenix gig in ‘82 in which they covered an entire side of The Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack, including the talking. (“That’s stupid, punk rock – I just think of it as rock and roll” and so on). I so, so want this to be true, and even better, for a tape to turn up.
Perfect soundtrack for this issue would be Bad Religion’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse and/or the American Youth Report compilation that’d come out later that year. The following year, the We Got Power team would put this 40-song compilation out, one of the first HC records I ever bought and one that I helped form a “tribute band” for (full story here; photograph from our only gig here). And you can of course get this issue and all of their other issues in the deluxe We Got Power book for only twenty bucks here!
Brown Paper Sack #1
Some of my favorite record-collector nutballs are the 60s punk maniacs who organically coalesced in the 1980s to fanatically scream their allegiance to unheard, raw 1965-66 American teenage garage rockers, and to orgasmically scream their disallegiance to just about everything else. Their ranks were certainly best exemplified by Tim Warren, the Crypt Records impresario who started putting out the mind-blowing Back From The Grave compilation series in 1983, and who then tacitly started releasing the Garage Punk Unknowns records two years later. For what it’s worth, I interviewed Warren about all this in issue #2 of my own magazine, which you can download a PDF of here. Yet he was in no way alone, as an avalanche of illegitimate 60s punk compilations that flowed forth in the 80s very much proved.
For a certain class of these obsessives, it’s as though 1967 came around and music completely, totally, 100% was over. That’s pretty much the tack taken by issue #1 of Brown Paper Sack. It came out in 1997 and far as I can gather was the work of Andrew Brown, a Houston, TX gentleman who wouldn’t put out a 2nd issue of this thing. While 60s punk “scholarship” had advanced quite impressively over the previous fifteen years to that point, Brown is definitely working his angle, which is most definitively Texas and Louisiana-based garage punk music of the 60s. It just so happened that Texas probably gave the world the single best per-capita ratio of screaming 60s punk bands of any of the fifty states, and therefore there’s a ton to mine in this particular angle. Around the time of Brown Paper Sack #1, a German label was putting out reissue CDs of the early 80s Flashback compilation series, now called Texas Flashbacks, and this stuff was finally beginning to be heard by folks beyond 1966 Texas teens, including by me.
I happen to have an all-time favorite 60s punk song, and that favorite is “Born Loser” by Tyler, TX’s Murphy and The Mob. Aside from the kernels of information included in the Back From The Grave Volume Three insert, the only Murphy and The Mob information I know of is Brown Paper Sack’s single-page interview with Terry Murphy, the titular head of the band. Like many of the energized and bewildered teens that made these records, they aimed to make a “British Invasion”-style A-side that might be their hit 45, a la “Psychotic Reaction” or “Dirty Water”, and often would bang out some crude B-side in an hour or two as a throwaway. Those throwaways, of course, are often the stuff of legend, a la The Twilighters’ “Nothing Can Bring Me Down” or Murphy and The Mob’s “Born Loser”, confirmed in the latter instance by this interview.
Brown either feigns or genuinely adopts a pissed, dismissive tone toward anything & everything that stood in the way of these latent garage heroes, including promoters, radio people, and every other form of music, especially pop. It’s honestly what I totally love about these guys. The one true path was defined by The Roamin’ Togas, The Gaunga Dins, The Basement Wall and so on – and fuck everyone else.
Like Ugly Things, Brown ensures that his interviews don’t simply scratch the surface but rather get down into every friggin’ detail imaginable; I mean, while most of the participants in mid-60s punk would have only been in their late forties by the time Brown caught up with them, their availability and recollections were likely deemed to have been extremely elusive, so best to catch everything now and not wait for someone else to fail to do it later. 26 years later, i.e. when I’m writing this, those still alive are now in their mid-70s – so if you ever personally wanted to grill an American 60s garage punk original mover, now would be the time. Brown Paper Sack #1 is absolutely upper-echelon 60s punk scholarship, and I’d love to know if Andrew Brown kept up his mania in print elsewhere anytime after this.
Drunken Fish #1
That’s Drunken Fish #1 and only, as far as I’ve ever known. It’s one of the greats, especially if you really like records….and I do. This relatively small and limited magazine included a split 45 by Splintered and The Back Off Cupids, the latter of whom I believe were affiliated with “Rocket From The Crypt”. Yet if I ever had that record, I must have sold it decades ago, and I’ve thereby been left with a fantastic collector/accumulator/navel-gazer-centric sort of fanzine that I delightedly take for a personal spin every ten years or so. Today I’d like to tell you why.
Drunken Fish was published by Darren Mock in 1992. Those of you who were sentient and rooting around the underground in the 1990s know that he quickly turned his passions into a fine label that put out records & CDs by Bardo Pond, Roy Montgomery, Truman’s Water, Doo Rag, Lee Renaldo and all manner of other heavy hitters throughout that decade. That sort of commitment to wide-ranging, off-beat underground quality shines through in his magazine as well. I’ve revisited this issue often primarily because of Dave Stimson’s “Low Tech” piece, focused on seven of the rawest & most crude of total-genius 45s from the previous fifteen years: Mike Rep & The Quotas, O Rex, Screamin’ Mee-Mees, Tav Falco & The Panther Burns, Vertical Slit, Fuckin’ Flyin’ A-Heads and Solger. Solger! Anyone who wrote anything about Solger in 1992 was an instant hero to me. That single cannot be touched. I reserve a special ‘lil piece of my heart for the genre known as “shit-fi”, so this article was and remains solid gold.
I think this is also the magazine that got me to wake up and really pay attention to Lee Hazlewood for the first time. Once I got hooked on the guy I was all-in. Man, Hazlewood records were really tough to find for a while there! The original albums were going for way more than I could afford in the mid-90s, then all of a sudden these LHI Records CDs started showing up in stores late in the decade, and I snapped every one of them up. I thought they were bootlegs at the time. Anyway, Mark Sullivan of Adelphi, MD, who wrote this excellently comprehensive Hazlewood discography piece in Drunken Fish – please stand up and take a bow, right now.
So you can likely already see the breadth & heft of this issue so far – but wait, there’s more. Mike Trouchon interviews loopy Englishman Simon Wickham-Smith, who’s living in Davis, CA while his girlfriend goes to UC-Davis (!). Johan Kugelberg covers various punk and noise rarities, and as in many of Kugelberg’s blathers, he pointlessly equates “rare” with “masterpiece”. I know that for years I’d chase down mp3s of material he’d raved about – i.e. records that he owned and that you didn’t – only to be forlorn, bereft and a little miffed that I’d spent precious time clicking & dragging when I could have been eating a hot dog or something. And Darren Mock himself pulls together a complete discography of Wales’ Fierce Recordings, who put out a Jesus & Mary Chain 45 that was just sounds from a “riot” at one of their shows (among many, many other things).
It’s a real barn-burner over the course of its 24 pages. There are Discogs listings for the aforementioned record active as of this writing that actually include the ‘zine, if you’re interested!
Even in my ripening older age, I’ll still find myself hitting these exciting musical-discovery inflection points in which entire worlds open up, and I spend an inordinate amount of time frantically collecting, downloading, studying and of course listening to sub-genres I’d neglected.
It’s usually through the influence of one or more curators, whether that person is a friend, a writer, or a “disk jockey”. There’s the friend – several friends and correspondents, actually – who sent me deep down a dub rabbit hole when those incredible Blood & Fire CDs started popping up in the late 90s. There’s Erika Elizabeth’s Expressway to Yr Skull WMUA radio show, which I listened to religiously circa 2010-13 and discovered an appreciation for music (to quote myself) “…at the perfect intersection of deep-underground pop; 70s-80s British DIY and post-punk; 90s shoegaze and twee (stuff from lost 45s and cassettes that no one’s heard for two decades, I’m serious); garage punk; and a lot of noisy girl-helmed bands that had been lost in a patriarchal fog of several decades of disregard.” In fact I probably started the Dynamite Hemorrhage fanzine in 2013 because I’d been so re-invigorated by this particular radio show taking place across the country from me, and for the first couple issues she was the only other person I’d allow to write for it, so indebted was I & so complete was my trust.
Then there’s Matthias Andersson’s Fŏrdämning, easily one of the finest fanzines of the 21st century. He wrapped it up a few years ago, yet in 2017, when Fŏrdämning #11 came out, I could feel my own tastes and tolerances expanding simply by virtue of Andersson’s heavy influence. As I read his dissections of modern and past experimental, noise, and rock-adjacent (sometimes barely) sounds, I developed a much deeper appreciation for the weirder edges of the sub-underground, and my own podcast and fanzine evolved accordingly during the mid/late 2010’s (i.e. a few years ago). It turned out that as Matthias was moving somewhat closer to more rock-oriented sounds – i.e. he talks about his admiration for The Suburban Homes and Cheater Slicks in this very issue – he was helping me move closer to his personal original starting point in noise and formless free-form not-even-music. If it weren’t for him, I’d have known nothing about Neutral, Leda, Amateur Hour and Enhet För Fri Musik, for instance.
Fŏrdämning, you may not be surprised to find out, was a Swedish fanzine, albeit one written in perfect English. Better than perfect, even, in that there’s nothing stilted nor dumbed-down in the least, the way some English-language fanzines emanating from the European continent have often been (and listen, if I tried to attempt a fanzine or even a paragraph in Swedish or any other language, it would easily be the worst thing you’d never read).
From his perch in Gothenburg, Andersson celebrated his collector obsessions, yet in a manner not at all redolent of the stench that can often emanate from the mania of collecting. Fŏrdämning #11 opens with an essay about a beautiful year at his local record store in which a nameless collector has unloaded an insane collection of Fŏrdämning-approved gems: New Zealand 90s lathe cuts; Majora 45s; the Siltbreeze back catalog; Flying Nun rarities; Urinals and Fall singles, Twisted Village records and so much more. The essay is about how Andersson and his pals frolic in the abundance and in their amazement at their own good fortune. It’s the stuff dreams are made of – no seriously, my dreams. You can actually read the piece here.
This intro serves as a prelude to an issue that focuses on micro-labels of the past, including Bill Meyer’s Roof Bolt, Mike Trouchon’s gyttja, and two noisy tape labels I wasn’t familiar with: Thalamos and Vigilante. Roof Bolt was a terrific – and terrifically unsung – 1990s American label focused on New Zealand that put out fantastic Alastair Galbraith, Roy Montgomery and Terminals records, along with the only 45 ever from Brown Velvet Couch, a total high-water mark of the NZ underground. Andersson also carries on his back-page column about lathe-cut records “Speaker Crackle In The Garden”, which this time focuses on Sandoz Lab Technicians. In the reviews section, there are the exact reviews that turned me on to Stefan Christensen and Blue Chemise. A top-drawer issue all around.
You should also know, if you don’t already, that Andersson is the fella behind the I Dischi Del Barone, Fördämning Arkiv and Discreet Music labels. He’s been on a hell of a run the past decade.