I considered myself a pretty serious student of Ghostbusters before I started work on this book and now I can’t believe how much I’m learning. There’s still a year of labor to be done but I think the end result will really be something special. My fingers are crossed that all the ghost heads will agree.
By the way, I’m still trying to get to Manhattan to complete a leg of research. If you’d like to help, check out my GoFundMe. Donate enough scratch and you’ll receive a signed copy of this yet-to-be-titled volume when it’s complete. Thanks for even considering; there are more worthy causes for sure.
My zine Idiot Time is on hiatus for the moment while I focus on the book. If you’re thirsty for new writings, I’ve started penning the occasional article for Hard Noise. It’s a nonfiction offshoot of The Hard Times. Here’s one I wrote about the Reagan Youth song in Airheads. Here’s an interview I did with a former Dead Kennedy. And this one’s about Wendy O. Williams and Kiss.
I’m getting married in December. My heart is full of love and I can’t wait to be a wife guy. For my bachelor party I will go to a deli and eat a sandwich.
Until the next update, stay fresh, stay funky.
This Music Leaves Stains is the first book I’ve had published but it is far from the first book I’ve tried to get published, or thought about trying to get published. Here now, an annotated history of never realized JG2 works.
Untitled Dead Kennedys Biography (2002) – Stalled during the research period thanks to several factors (college course load, punk rock politics, my debilitating lack of experience). I covered the nuts and bolts of this failure for Crawdaddy! in a feature called “Give Me Convenience, Give Me Death, Just Tell Me Your Real Damn Name.” The most interesting aspect may be that I put a letter in the mail addressed “East Bay Ray, San Francisco” and it actually reached the correct guy. Your tax dollars at work.
Star Wars Ruined My Life (2005) – Ten chapter essay collection covering the weirder aspects of Star Wars fandom, including my own struggles with George Lucas’s intergalactic money printing machine (#firstworldproblems). Hired a literary agent but no publisher on Earth was interested. I didn’t have a “built-in audience,” which meant my blog statistics were not impressive enough to warrant anything. This era was the beginning of “co-opt every popular thing from the Internet to stave print’s death!” I’m sure my medium talent was also an issue (I know the manuscript lacked punch / direction). I absolutely cannot remember why but for some reason I e-mailed Jay Mohr about this book; he sent a very encouraging reply peppered with some of his theories on Boba Fett, which justified my struggle.
Untitled Oral History Of My Middle School Experience (2005) – An interesting twist on the adolescent memoir (I think): interview a bunch of people I grew up with to see how their worldview around that time differed from mine, turning the whole thing into an oral history with several narrative tracks. My lit agent loved this idea and really ramped me up about it, but then Star Wars Ruined My Life didn’t go anywhere. Representation cut me loose and without a cheerleader I cooled on the concept. Compiled about a chapter and a half, though, and several people I hadn’t spoken to since 1994 taught me a lot about where we grew up and life in general.
Untitled Field Guide To Discontinued Soft Drinks (2007-08) – New Coke, Pepsi AM, OK, DnL…I thought the world needed a comprehensive encyclopedia of every soda that’s ever fallen off the figurative / literal map. Unfortunately, the stories behind these drinks are all more or less the same (they failed because they were bad and nobody bought them), and when it came down to pitching this book few people understood what exactly what I was talking about. “Oh, like a coffee table book with pictures of the sodas?” No, a field guide. Like for birds. Maybe this idea is terminally flawed.
Untitled “Gong Show” Episode Guide (2006) – An excuse to track down average weirdos and hear about their experiences on the greatest televised competition of all-time. I think I concluded too many former “Gong Show” contestants / employees would be dead, and I also worried about the book’s marketability. Chuck Barris was hot in ’06, but how long would that last?
Untitled “Simpsons” History (2009) – At the time a lot of rumors were swirling about “The Simpsons” finally coming to an end. That didn’t happen, but I abandoned this idea mainly because I heard Morgan Spurlock was making a “Simpsons” documentary. Had I known his end product would be some gimmicky forty-five minute nonsense instead of the in-depth feature length “Simpsons” doc we deserve maybe I wouldn’t have jumped ship.
My Life Is A Screenplay! (2010) – The high school teacher who semi-successfully sued 20th Century Fox for plagiarizing his Christmas comedy script read my post about Jingle All The Way being a cursed property and e-mailed me with an offer to co-write a book about his life. I had just started work on This Music Leaves Stains so I had to turn him down. There also didn’t seem to be much else in his life aside from “I sued a movie studio and won but then they took the money back.” Also, that title. Woof.
Naturally I reserve the right to resurrect any of these properties at a future juncture. You never know when Chuck Barris might be hot again.
The music world is mourning the loss of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died yesterday from liver failure
brought on by apparently not related to the rare skin disease called necrotizing fasciitis that Hanneman developed following a 2011 spider bite. He was 49.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to call Jeff Hanneman the heart of Slayer, as much as any member of that band can have an individual persona outside their collective window-battering sonic monsoon. Jeff was a guy who seemed to love what he loved unabashedly. Case in point: he plastered Oakland Raiders stickers on his guitars next to emblems from punk bands who wouldn’t be caught dead outside a football stadium. Of course, that’s the kind of move Slayer is famous for, blending the raw fury of punk with even angrier outposts (Jack Tatum was colder than anyone in D.R.I. and you know it).
More importantly, Jeff Hanneman played with such heat and ferocity you just knew he was putting in his all. I’m not trying to make this about me but when I look back at some of the ways I’ve described the basic sound of Slayer in the past—“turgid cascade of sadism,” “[sounds like someone] being ripped apart by a pack of wild dogs”—who else could evoke such responses but Slayer? Jeff Hanneman was obviously a huge part of that. He helped define speed/thrash metal, he did it with a tremendous amount of passion, and for that we’ll always miss him.
EDIT: After checking out various obits for Jeff online I think this open letter from Slayer, posted a year and some change after the initial spider bite, is the best item to read to get a sense of what his illness was like.
The following quotes are taken from recent Punknews.org interviews with singer Jello Biafra (second from right) and bassist Klaus Flouride (far left) concerning the band they used to share and are presented “oral history” style, because additional commentary is sort of unnecessary (or maybe because I just can’t bring myself to dwell on this acrimony anymore).
KLAUS: We’d recently been invited by a premiere festival that has in past years reunited bands ranging from Sex Pistols to Portishead to perform with the original [Dead Kennedys] line-up. We put forth the offer (through our manager to Jello’s lawyer—the only route), the proposition to which we were flatly refused…we have to think, he plays Dead Kennedys songs, we play Dead Kennedys songs as we both have the right and desire to, so why the hell can’t we figure out how to let our agendas go and perhaps play them together again?
JELLO: I’m still as proud as I’ve ever been of Dead Kennedys’ music and our legacy and all the cool shit we did together but I’m just embarrassed to know those guys now.
KLAUS: The reason Biafra will only talk to us through lawyers could be that he’s too embarrassed to admit he skimmed $76,000 from his fellow band mates and then lied to us about it. That’s what he did to [guitarist East Bay] Ray, [drummer] D.H. [Peligro], and myself, and that’s what he was found guilty of in the trial.
JELLO: They sued the shit out of me to walk away with everything and abuse it anyway they want. Sure, there was an accounting error on [our record label] Alternative Tentacles’ part, for which I am very sorry and for which we paid them in full dating back to something like 15 years before they sued.
KLAUS: In the early days after the trial, when we found ourselves offered tours and dates to play, I personally contacted Jello and invited him to put the past in the past and to come along with us to which he flatly refused in the form of a fax letter. Since then we’ve again offered an olive branch and invited him to sing on subsequent tours only to be told by his lawyers to not contact him directly, but to make all communications through his lawyer.
JELLO: I’m not a big fan of reunion[s] but when I saw the Stooges it was not lost on me how much it would mean to people to see the real Dead Kennedys line-up back together…but for that everybody has to be willing to get along and treat the other people with respect and they have no intention of doing that…in their hearts [the other Dead Kennedys have] become Republicans and I just wouldn’t do something like that unless we can bring back the real thing.
KLAUS: That’s kinda a crazy inflammatory comment and he knows it. What do you think? And so you can’t claim that as a non-answer answer I’ll be serious for you and state flatly, no we aren’t [Republicans], and it is sort of sad that one would even ask that question in response to yet another flagrant “Big Lie” kind of statement.
JELLO: In a way getting me back into the band would be their worst nightmare, [because I’d] make them rehearse.
When I originally posted this video last night, I tried making a few cute jokes about the jarring oddity of seeing a counterculture icon like Jello Biafra using a flat screen TV in what looks like someone’s man cave, but I deleted all that after I realized it’s 2011, this guy’s the one Dead Kennedy who resisted the urge to reunite, and he makes too many great points in this rant for me to distract with teasing about free weights or vegging out in a rec room. So go on with yo’ bad self, Count Ringworm. This Bud’s for you.
Flop – Whenever You’re Ready
Did the world need a more tuneful version of the Buzzcocks? Doesn’t matter, ’cause we got one anyway in Flop. Whenever You’re Ready, the long-deceased band’s meandering sophomore effort from 1993, packs an embarrassment of heartsick crescendo/decrescendo that lead Flopper Rusty Willoughby tries to downplay with Cobain-style lyrical subterfuge (“You’ll survive a vegetable, the meat’s diseased and she said so!”). Silly choruses aside, you can’t shake the majority of Flop’s unapologetically saccharine earworms, and Whenever’s only real detractor is the generally paper-thin production.
Hog – Nothing Sacred
Chris Farley fans might remember Hog from the soundtrack of Black Sheep. As far as I know, Nothing Sacred stands as this meat n’ potato “rawk” collective’s only full release, a record that gets by more on raunchy attitude than craftsmanship. You won’t hear anything here you haven’t heard from the bar band down the street: Stadium-ready testosterock, lazy mid-tempo balladry, and even lazier Alice in Chains theme hijacking. Still, you could do much worse when it comes to generic crap, and the big hit—“Get a Job”—retains its crushing riff and semi-sarcastic charm all these years removed from Penelope Spheeris’s third or fourth worst film. Raise your beer and/or Axe body spray canister to this one.
Jello Biafra w/ D.O.A. – Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors
I think Mark Prindle once opined that Last Scream is the best record Jello Biafra made outside the Dead Kennedys, and he’s unequivocally correct. In fact, I’ll go one further and say this record is streets ahead of the final DK entry, Bedtime For Democracy. It’s louder, it’s shorter, but most importantly, it’s angrier. D.O.A.’s no frills punk plodding spurns Biafra to bleat his sardonic bile like ’82 never ended and also creates the perfect throbbing soundtrack for Last Scream’s crown jewel—the ominous fourteen minute drug war conspiracy manifesto “Full Metal Jackoff.” Jello pours so much passion into what ends up being a human rights screed you’ll be surprised how often you find yourself listening to the entire chilling composition.
Gay Cowboys in Bondage – Owen Marshmallow Strikes Again
Playfully lo-fi punk n’ roll from the 1980s Texas underground. It’s never explained who the titular character is, but we do learn the singer of Gay Cowboys is addicted to Kool-Aid and favors bologna to other lunch meats. If you’re expecting anything as vicious (or as viciously played) as the song these guys had on that Flipside comp so many years ago, you’ll be let down, but Owen Marshmallow Strikes Again remains a fine meeting point between the Dead Boys and “Weird Al.”
Deez Nuts – Stay True
Aussie rapcore outfit that’s taken Andrew WK’s party-all-the-time agenda and applied more R-rated urban anger. “I make music ’cause it’s what I fuckin’ do!” vocalist JJ Peters grunts on the opening track. Meatheaded stuff, but also possibly some kind of purposeful goof. The ducat-chasing anthem “I Hustle Everyday” justifies Stay True’s entire existence, if only for the following LULZy verse: “When you get a bitch knocked up, who’s gonna cough up? The hospital bils, and every other fucking thing…be my guest, put your head in the sand, but if I was you, man, I’d formulate a plan!” Sure, Deez Nuts promote a lot of stupid things, but at least they’re looking out for baby mamas.
Before I went to bed last night, I watched this Youtube clip of the Dead Kennedys playing “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” at some rowdy punk rock show in the 1980s. Not surprisingly, this lead to a bizarre, DK-related dream when I finally hit the hay.
In my strange vision, Jello and the other DKs had finally put aside their differences and decided to reunite for one final rabble-rousing tour. I went to go see them at some Coachella-type festival, where they refused to play on the main stage. Instead, the Kennedys set up on the ground directly in front of it, insuring no one beyond the front row would see them.
Jello and the boys started playing and the place went pretty nuts. After a couple songs, they whipped out a brand new one, the exact name of which escapes me. I know the joke was the chorus sounded like they were calling for the release of a person who was falsely imprisoned, like, “Free So-and-So!” However, the name they chose was slang for money. As he sang the chorus, Jello pulled wads of cash out of a small sack and threw them into the crowd.
This struck me as kind of weird. Didn’t the Joker do that in the first Batman movie? Somehow I managed to steal the bag of money away from Jello. I ended up going to the nearest mall and throwing the majority of the cash behind the counter of the Sears customer service desk. A nearby clerk looked at me like I was insane.
Immediately following this scenario, I woke up.