"Scusi, Mio digresso," as some Italian men would say, rushing into the bathroom after a long Laura Antonelli movie. Where was I? Oh yes, making a meal out of music books. Two of the aforementioned culinary tomes have recently come to my attention, although they might not suit all tastes. They do fit, however, under the heading of music sociology and should be noted as thus.
The first, Eat My Shoes: The History of the Sex Pimples is a vivid document of this pivotal band in the 'punk' movement. The second is Babylon's Forgotten Ashtrays, a focus on several of the breakthrough artists of the reggae genre. Straightforward stuff here. Not like that book The Liszt of Adrian Messenger, a cheap attempt to mix classical music with Agatha Christie.
Eat My Shoes is an important look into the brief, frantic, manic and destructive flurry known as the Sex Pimples. The Messiahs of the punk movement, the Pimples were destined to burn bright, quick and out. Four of them, lead singer Ricky Barf, his Siamese twin brother (connected at the mouth) and drummer Mickey Barf, lead guitarist Mal-Content, and bass player Clive Noxious.
Where bagels go, trouble follows. And troubles certainly followed the Sex Pimples. Their single, "Young Fascists" was banned by the BBC. So was the album, "Anarchy in the Ukraine." Violence followed their concerts. In Texas, a girl rushed on the stage and struck bass player Clive Noxious with a refrigerator. Noxious was doomed for tragedy. In London at the Flaming Groins Club, he covered his mom with linoleum, shag carpeting and new drapes, while singing "September of My Years." Finally, Clive took his life by stapling his wrists together. For his fans, it was the only way to go. No one ever thought that Clive would be an old age pensioner. As this song, "Young Fascists" says:
"...I can't stand my Mother
And I hate my Dad.
Sometimes I want to snuff 'em
Stuff 'em in a Glad Bag.
I got a white pale face
With the blotchy red specks.
I don't think nuthin'
But violence and sex.
Young Fascists! That's we are.
Young Fascists! I'm a living scar.
Young Fascists! I hate this song I just wrote.
But if you don't buy this record
Gonna cut your throat.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah."
If that's not enough for you, sink your teeth into Babylon's Forgotten Ashtrays. The book does not pretend to be a serious text book of reggae music, but more of a pictorial document. The famous and the not-so-famous share equal pages. Included are Jah Kitsch, Truck Drivers of Rhodesia and Oy U-Hoo, along with giants Barb Wirey and the Maulers and Poops and the Midols. In fact, the book contains photos from the Barb Wirey concert held locally in 1976.
How I remember that show. Held at the Santa Barbara Country Beach Men's Room, it was standing room only. Poops ad the Midols had opened the show, featuring music from their album "Culture Dreaded Gnats." I wasn't familiar with all the songs. My comrade was convinced that they were playing the same song twelve times. A man next to me said that they were alternating between two songs, six times apiece. It didn't matter. We were waiting for the headliner.
The crowd was in a lather (thanks to a handy soap dispenser) when Barb Wirey and his Maulers took the stage. Barb is incredible! What charisma! Standing, proud, dramatic, defiant, and somewhat dazed. His head was framed in a mess of "breadlocks" (pieces of Roman Meal braided into every strand). Smoking a two and a half foot reed weed filled reefer, and then putting out the butt on a security guard's coatsleeve. What audacity! Fifteen minutes later he decide to play, nearly all of his album "Gastaman Vibrator," including the hit "I Shocked My Lawyer." The crowd wanted an encore, but Barb doesn't give them. With the last chord still hanging on the sink, Barb lit another reefer, flipped a thankful ash to the audience, used the facilities, and split. It was the end of an experience. So is the book.
[First published November 4, 1980.]