Monday, June 1, 2009

Rhyming is Not Punk!

Sue pressed play and we launched into “Sick to Death,” our unanimously agreed upon best song:

Sick to death of the live I’m living
Life’s troubles just pass you by
I don’t want to see your face
This is where it al begins

The lyrics purposely didn’t rhyme. I felt rhyming was conventional and not punk.

We didn’t have a P.A. so I had to sing directly into the boom box to be heard. After much experimenting, I found the perfect spot about 18” from the microphone. Leaning down and over to the boom box on the floor and playing guitar at the same time was not easy.

We recorded 3 other songs: Red, White and Dry, Reagan Country and Young and Stupid (and going nowhere) and chose Sick to Death to send to the Maximum Rock-n-Roll radio show, the punk rock only radio show from midnight to 2 am on Sunday nights on public radio. The quality of the recording was horrendous – only we could discern the drums, guitar, bas and vocals. To pretty much everybody else, it sounded like pure noise. Even so, we packaged the cassette with a lyric sheet and information about the band and sent it off.

3 weeks later at 1:55 am – the last song of the night - they played our cassette. Without an introduction, it followed a band from Fairfield, California (an even farther out suburb of SF) called Carnage. I was ecstatic and moved closer to my clock radio. It was the first time --and only one of a handful of times-- I heard my music on the radio.

It was loud, distorted and barely discernible, but I loved it. The blood rushed to my face, from fear, anxiety and excitement. The song stopped, started, slowed down and sped up, as was the custom of many punk songs at the time. For a little over a minute – the length of the song - I was riveted, engaged. It ended with dead air. Thinking the song wasn’t over; they let the silence go on for way too long. Finally, a loud, over-produced song screamed from the radio. I recognized it immediately and was mortified. IT was a song by Yes called Don’t Kill the Whales” - possibly one of the worst, over-indulgent progressive rock songs of all time. When we recorded, I took a used cassette from a pile of cassettes to record on and didn’t check to see anything was on it.

They quickly yanked the song and sounds of laughter filled the airwaves. They thought it funny, not recognizing the song. Because of this mishap, my punk credentials were in dire straits. I knew everybody in the band and a few friends were listening.

Tim Yohannon, one of the founders of Maximum Rock-n-Roll, came on and said, “That was Anti-Social Youth with “Sick to Death” from Pleasanton, California. It’s happening everywhere, people - even in Pleasanton.” Those few words were what I was waiting for. Acceptance in to the punk scene by the punk authority, I went to bed smiling.

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