The man, the myth, the legend, Jon Spaencer in my kitchen! Photo: Stimboy
Get out your number two pencils, because it’s time for a Stimboy pop quiz! Besides being variously referred to as “spokesmen of their generation,” what do Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins and Ian McKaye all have in common? Is it tattoos? No. Is it haircuts? Hardly. Is it humorless, rambling, self-righteous spoken word “performances”? Possibly, but no. It’s not even being on the cover of Details Magazine. For those of you who haven’t guessed the thing that sets these three deep thinking alterna-icons apart from the pack is the fact that they have all been house guests at one time or another of yours truly.
The home of Stimboy and PooPeeDee has frequently been a haven for wayward punkers looking to shave a few bucks of their travel expenses and we have always been more than happy to oblige. If there was a compilation album featuring a song from every band who has slept on our sofas and floors, it would be a punk rock version of “We Are The World.” It would include tunes from such notables as Minor Threat, TSOL, Husker Du, Black Flag, The Vandals, The Subhumans and many ore bands that can be mentioned or indeed remembered by your humble scribe. While any schmuck with a boombox and a couple of Sonic Youth cassettes can opine about whether these bands’ music will stand the test of time, the important thing to me in the long run is, how did they rate as house guests and how do the manners of today’s rising young stars compare with those of the golden age of American punk? So without further delay,
Stimboy’s top ten most memorable guests from worst to best.
10. Black Flag
This was a tight race, they barely inched out my number nine selection but won in a tiebreaker due to the bitchy antics of the Bo Gritz of punk, Henry Garfield, oops I mean Rollins. Notable conversation: Chuck Daniels, oops, I mean Dukowski, informed me that when Greg Ginn said they were going to get a singer from Washington DC to replace Dez Cadena, he thought Ginn was referring to Ian McKaye. Dukowski quit the band soon afterward.
Mule is best known for their Gun-Club-meets-Jesus-Lizard brand of Midwestern rock and the fact that bassist Preston used to be in the Laughing Hyenas but I will always remember them for their sniveling, whining and complaining. The food’s too cold, the beer’s too warm, the sofa’s too soft, the floor’s too hard. Hey! It’ s fucking fre,e ain’t it? You’d almost swear they were English. Notable conversation: None.
Nice guys, good band. Does anybody know what happened to them? Notable Conversation: I have no idea, we spent most of the time drinking beer and skateboarding.
Stimboy and PooPee give them two thumbs sideways. A quiet bunch, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had left a couple of 7” singles on the coffee table before they left. Notable conversation: It turns out that their guitar player is just as obsessed with Quisp breakfast cereal as we are.
6. Jello Biafra
Although I had known Jello for quite a while, I never actually saw him when he stayed at the house. PooPee and I have been in Denver for the weekend and when we returned there was a nope on PooPee’s pillow with a big smiley face which read, “guess who’s been sleeping in your bed?” And signed “Biafra” on the bottom. It turns out he had been flying to San Francisco when bad weather forced an 18 hour layover in Salt Lake. As we were the only people in town that he knew, he somehow convinced my mom into picking him up at the airport and letting him into our apartment. I wonder if he stole anything…
5. Husker Du
The first time Husker Du played in Salt Lake their van broke down and by the time they arrived, there were only about fifteen people left in an abandoned west side garage to see one on the greatest shows I have ever witnessed. After the show, they took their whopping $25 and bought an enormous pizza at The Pie and a case of Old Milwaukee. They had two days off between shows and spent the majority of it sitting on our sofa, watching TV and chainsmoking Camels. Their metabolism was such that it allowed them to survive on little more than beer and nicotine. My kind of people!
4. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
After putting on the best show this year (last March at the Cinema Bar with Dollymops and Swimpigs) the Blues Explosion adjourned to La Casa de Stimboy for a quiet evening of video viewing, singles listening and PooPeeDee’s homemade chicken soup. Due to some confusion over door money after the show, Mr. Spencer and Co. actually made up the difference out of their own pocket, giving the opening bands a modest, but well appreciated extra 20 bucks or so. Best part of the evening: Drummer Russell being generally surly while shaking off a couple of swarming groupies, kind of like Karl Malone shaking off Muggsy Bogues in the paint.
These kids from Portland by way of Alaska are just about the only good thing Sub Pop has left these days. Just a basically nice, unpretentious trio of fellows who not only write great songs and pull it off live, but shoot a mean game of pool as well. Upon walking through the gated walls of PooPeeDee estates, I sadly informed them that the fridge was empty and I could not offer them a beer. “Oh?” They said, “Don’t worry about that, we have a whole box of it in the van.” They then proceeded to load a case of Anchor Steam and Heineken into the refrigerator and forced me to accept a free Pond t-shirt and a couple of rare singles to boot in exchange for floor space. Notable conversation: Their road manager asked if we hate dogs, and when I said yes he replied, “Good I expect to be awakened by dogs in the morning.”
2. Minor Threat
Yes, Minor Threat actually did play in Salt Lake City—in the packed basement of a frat house no less. Everything you’ve read about Ian McKaye is true: He’s a thoughtful, intelligent, passionate guy who treats even assholes like me with dignity and respect. And contrary to popular belief, he was (and is) not some self righteous, straight edge missionary saint. Notable conversation: Ian told me the whole impetus for the straight edge “movement” was purely local, based on the fact that he and his friends were tired of every hall in DC that booked punk rock type music being shut down because of drunken rock jocks trashing the bathrooms and picking fights with the kids. He was also dismayed that they same individuals he was railing against were now shaving their heads and adopting the straight edge philosophy as an excuse to trash bathrooms and beat up kids who did drink. He hinted that Minor Threat would not tour again. Two years later Fugazi was born. Oh yeah, he also gave me five bucks for some long distance phone calls he had made and told me to spend the change on “a case of Coca Cola” And you know what? I did.
And finally the number one house guests of all time…
These folks were such good friends for so long that it breaks my heart when I think of the travesty they became in later years, parading under the TSOL banner with no original members and contrived Hollywood posturings. The band I knew and remember best was one of the true punk bands in the sense that, any time you attended one of their shows, there was always a sense of the unpredictable, of the possibility of complete and utter mayhem occurring at any moment. In other words, to use a hackneyed phrase, the potential for anarchy. TSOL were guests at our house more times than I distinctly remember and various members of the band returned the favor whenever I was in Los Angeles. Most memorable experience: The second time they played Salt Lake, the only place to have shows was the same garage where Husker Du had played a couple months earlier. Knowing that the demand for tickets would exceed the space, TSOL agreed to play a second show, a private invite only party at five bucks a head in my mother’s basement on Salt Lake’s east bench. The Boards played, The Massacre Guys played and then TSOL. Punk fucking rock! Chester broke his leg, Brad Collins drank beer, Fightmaster threw up, T-Roy slam danced, the police came, the police left, an ambulance came, the police came back, the neighbors moved and the sun exploded. Everyone got laid and no one went to jail. Those were the days.