Saturday, June 11, 2005

Feathered Hair + GI + Body Bags

The above photo is a pic of a "high school senior picnic" with lotsa flowing feathered hair circa 1981. Uh,'s ok, yer not on acid, I fucked the pic all up in a photo editing program to protect the identities of the guilty that I found on some Blacksburg Va High School reunion website. I actually delivered pizzas for awhile in Blacksburg circa 1986, and recall the town being pretty near to Jerry Falwell's bible thumping H.Q just down the road.

Looking at these students reminds me of some of the reasons I got so into punk rock in the early 80's, and was consciously rejecting the conformity and grotesque bourgeois brainwashed 80's values and so called "normality" of my "peers".

In the early 80's , my father was to join a little start up media company called USA Today. Dad uprooted us from a village in western NY along the Erie Canal, to become a worker on the information superhighway and help edit the nation's experimental satellite delivered newspaper. Moving to the suburbs of D.C for me, was a mindnumbing & warping experience to say the least.

Much of the city was a bombed out pcp dosed ghetto warzone, and outlying bedroom communities of our nation's capital a vast wasteland of hopeless corporate conformity & dull drones with Government Security clearances. It seemed unlike the blue collar jobs people in upstate NY had, everyone in "The Beltway" was a white collar clone working off the tax payer teat at innoucuous pork filled agencies and fiefdoms like the US Geological Survey, Clarence Thomas' EEOC or James Watt's Dept. of Interior. Within the faceless bureaucracies, Spy culture is big, and right down the road was an airport named for the first director of the C.I.A and numerous and anonymous lobbying and military contracting firms in every sinister tinted window bearing office complex. Lots of my classmate's folks and our neighbors worked for divisions of the military, Treasury Dept, NASA or within the almighty "Intelligence Community". It's hard to imagine what they mean by "intelligence " or "community", when you aren't allowed to think for yourself or discuss anything with anyone. My neighbor Tim (now of the band Avail) down the cul de sac had a pop who was a CIA analyst, and one got the feeling their wasn't a lot of dialogue about that in the family.

Meanwhile the Army recruiters trolled campus promising you could "Be All You Can Be In Today's Army" and Ronald Reagan's cold war humor had us believing the "The Bombing begins in 5 minutes. . ."

I was busy rebelling, creating underground newspapers, spray painting bullshit punk rock slogans on walls and trying not top get beat up by moronic jocks. I was also getting into mags like Trouser Press, Maximum Rock & Roll and listening to bands like The Cramps, Damned, Clash, Minor Threat, Social Distortion, No Trend, The Ramones & and soon starting my own noisy little combos with pals.

It's been kinda interesting, even weird & mostly sad to see the extreme outpost of rebellion that was hardcore punk turn into a well marketed mall cartoon version of itself. Nowadays mannicured & moussed bands like Good Charlotte , Fall Out Boy, MX PX & Sum 41 are sort of representing the ultimate distortion of punk. They all remind me more of Def Leppard than the scrappy bands I used to go see.

I remember punk slipping into a death nell in the late 80's & then it all really got instantly out of hand a few years later after Nirvana blew up. Basically the underground was adopted quick & The Offspring went from playing Gilman St. to having 5 or 6 fax machines set up backstage in every amphitheater by 1995. I remember looking around thinking who the fuck anywhere would need 5 fax machines? How many times a day do 5 people need to fax something absolutely all at once in this band's entourage ? Must have had a no waiting policy in their contract rider I guess...

I assume everyone in the band has a Blackberry by now...

Stuff like that makes me long for the good ol days, when bands didn't even worry about any of that shit. If ya sold more than a thousand copies of your underground record, and it went into a second pressing it meant it was pretty much a hit! If ya had a free beverage & place to sit backstage it was like you had made the big time. But why would you sit backstage when all your friends were in the other room?

I recently picked up a massive 2 CD collection of old Government Issue tracks called Complete History Vol 1 put out by Dr. Strange. I hadn't heard some of the tracks in twenty years, and the 80 some cuts included reminded me of what a fearsome live act this old D.C hardcore band was. My old high school buddies used to cram 5 or even 7 of us at times into a tiny Toyota and haul ass into DC to go see G.I all the time. They would play church basements, and dive bars with shitty PA's and tear the roof off the sucker every night. The singer John Stabb was a real character, unafraid to throw a lil ' ol fashioned Show Biz attitude around as the stage diving madness swirled around him. Stabb would quite often wear something outrageous like a silver studded polyester Elvis gone thrift store jumpsuit type thing to stick out above the see of flannel.

John Stabb circa 82 (GI)
pic on left by Jim Saah from Banned in DC book

Listen to G.I's Teenager in A Box from their Make An Effort 7"

While the vocal sound quality isn't always top flite, particularly on the live cuts, the meaty Tom Lyle guitar always surges right through like a fuzz toned bullet to the brain. Brian Baker produced a lot of their early studio tracks including this track Familiar from the great Joyride EP.

Live the band could get a crowd rocking in a swirling fury, with a highlight of nearly every show being a work out of the old Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra song "These Boots Were Made For Walking". Megadeath later attempted this tune, and G.I's version outrips theirs by far on likely a thousandth of the Mega Mustaine budget.

G.I would tour a lot, and play just about anywhere it seemed, ironically many of their gigs were in Vet's Halls . Once I saw them in a bar deep in a NW D.C hood on a split bill with Trouble Funk, where big black go-go boys were getting a joyous kick outta holding their stationary fists out smashing the heads of white boys who were circle dancing around in the pit.

Like their friends in Marginal Man, who I profiled late last month (check the archives dawg while the mp3'z are still up!) G.I had their live moments and their recordings only tell a portion of the story. Also like Marginal Man, they sort of left one distinct sound and attempted to forge a more commercial punk-metal-college rock hybrid that was a bit either ahead of it's time, or just plain unwanted.

G.I toured as much as possible, but bounced around on a slew of small labels ranging from early releases on Dischord & Fountain of Youth to Mystic and later Dutch East India affiliated Giant. Eventually they lost some of their core punk audience, and never really hit the big time with their "new" one. By the late 80's, the Stabb & Lyle show were on their umpteenth rhythm section and relics of a rapidly dying scene. Brian Baker had long since moved west to L.A and no longer produced their records, Minor Threat had begat Fugazi, and G.I's contemporaries like Scream were trying hard to stick it out to tour and make money in Europe, enlisting yet another drummer in young Dave Grohl from Dain Bramage. Fellow east coast thrashers like C.O.C & Gang Green were having crossover success on the thrash metal circuit, but Stabb & Lyle were unable to hit the charts with their raw & simplistic songwriting.

G.I finally pulled the plug in 1988... and with them officially died the first wave of D.C hardcore.

a few more of DC/HC 's greatest hits.

bonus track:

A band that I never saw live, but because of their sound I imagine were similar in effect to G.I was Chicago's Effigies.

One of the midwest's finest hardcore bands in the eighties, this is a download of their sorta "hit" Body Bag from 1982. It's from a 7" put out by their own label Ruthless, that also released the first Big Black & Naked Raygun records. Search around forEffigies records if ya love the sound of early 80's era hardcore, replete with pissed off gravelly vocals, speedy drum banging & just imagine a pit of violently thrashing madness in some lonely vets hall. Touch & Go re-released their Remains Nonviewable Collection awhile back.

Apparently the band did a reunion earlier in May and it's documented with some photos etc here at the great site

Effigies - Body Bag

Flyer for a killer DC Hardcore bill in 1982 featuring Government Issue, Black Flag , Effigies, The Faith, Double-0, Iron Cross at The Wilson Center ( a church basement)

thanx also to these sites:

for hosting G.I info, mp3'z & images


chuck p said...

mang, that kills me. five Fax machines! witnessing something like that is enough to mess up your mind for a good while. what's a blackberry? CP

Anonymous said...

mike- that piece you wrote on g.i. was really cool! and very funny to boot-ha! i should hire you to edit my own bio, man. really flattering stuff.

btw- i think the reason the offspring have so many fax machines is so the members can all fax pictures of their butts (at once!) to their punk faxing buddies. god knows why a band like that even needs their own private jet, either. oh, that's right, it's so they can pretend they're bon jovi in the "wanted: dead or alive" video-ha!

write on,