The first time I heard Bad Brains was when I bought the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation. The comp had great bands like FLIPPER, D.O.A., Black Flag and Dead Kennedy’s, but when the Bad Brains song Pay to Cum came on it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. First of all, the song was played ridiculously fast. I still don’t think there’s a song that’s been released anywhere that even comes close in sheer velocity. And then there’s H.R.’s vocals, a blistering stream of consonants and syllables so ferociously jammed together it sounded like auctioneer at cattle sale hopped up on enough speed to power an 18 wheeler cross country. Twice.
Anyone who knows the history of Black Flag knows about Spot. The legendary South Bay lensman had a brief tenure as bass player in the band but went on to produce most of their earlier E.P.s and helped build the legendary Media Arts studio where most of their seminal tracks were put to tape. He then began taking photos professionally of the local surf, skate and music scene in the late 70s and early 80s for beach newspaper the Easy Reader. His photo collection, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening – Southern California Life: Skate/Beach/Punk 1969-1982 displays his considerable talents with convincing proof.
X is a sacred band for me. The first concert I ever went to was when they opened for Devo at the Long Beach Arena and I probably saw them more than any other band during my impressionable adolescent years. I bought their debut album Los Angeles when it came out and have purchased everything they’ve put out ever since. Some of my favorite show memories are watching them play at the Country Club in Reseda on Sherman Way pressed up against the stage hanging on their every word. More poetic and accomplished musically than many of their peers, an X show made you convinced that you were witnessing a true original American band. They were punk rock angst mixed with country western pathos and rockabilly roots. They couldn’t have happened anywhere else.
Apparently Kurt Cobain was such a fan of Patrick Suskind’s vile, dark psychological thriller, Perfume, The story of a murderer, that he carried a copy with him wherever he went and re-read it hundreds of times. He even wrote a song about the main character, called “Scentless Apprentice” for Nirvana’s second album In Utero, a work that was at first almost rejected by his record label as being unlistenable. Some thought Cobain was deliberately trying to sabotage his career after the pressures and indignities of alt-rock super stardom left him feeling more alienated than even before he was famous. In Utero is in fact a stunningly good album with moments of beautiful discordant music and angst ridden yet resigned lyrics, but if there is one song on the album that you can almost see the point of the people who wanted to write the album off at first, “Scentless Apprentice” would have to be the song they’re looking at. There is very little of the haunting melody we get from songs like “Serve The Servants” and “Heart Shaped Box.” Instead it’s Kurt wailing “Go Awaaaay” in a caterwaul scream filled with venom and spite and very little harmony.