Thursday, August 06, 2009

When The Kids Had Killed The Man I Had To Break Up The Band



YOUR FEARLESS NARRATOR was actually almost in this band -- or more accurately I was the singer in an earlier incarnation of Kraut -- back in the very early '80s. Now that I have your attention, allow me to 'splain how I came to be the NYC Hardcore scene's version of Pete Best...

Two weeks ago, Big Mike, the Urb, the Admiral (aka Jimi the Greek) and me were having a smoke outside Stini Yiamis on Ditmars Blvd. when the subject somehow turned to the rock bands we tried to start back in our wayward youth. Putting the cart way before the dead horse, I'll reveal the absolute highlight for me came when I joined Urb's group, Peer Pressure, for an encore set at a small club in Sunnyside. Literally jumping onstage, I took my leather jacket off in dramatic fashion and grabbed the mike for stirring renditions of the Ramones' Rockaway Beach and the Clash's White Riot. Sadly, and to punk history's great detriment, no known footage exists of this seminal event.

Documentation, however, conceivably could still exist of the recording session our nameless band made at a Long Island City studio. I know Dave last had the cassette, which captured about an hour's worth of our covers-laden material. These were mostly punk standards like Blitzkrieg Bop, Garageland and Pretty Vacant. I was always fucking up the last song, jumping in either too soon or too late with the first line "THERE'S NO POINT IN ASKING YOU'LL GET NO REPLY" while waiting through the fairly long intro:





But we also had a few original compositions, such as my very own Stiff Little Fingers ripoff/homage STATE OF THE UNION:
THE PEOPLE I KNOW ARE ALL PATRIOTS
CONTENT TO LIVE THEIR LIVES IN FRONT OF TV SETS

THEY DON'T MAKE WAVES FOR FEAR OF A STORM
THEY PAY THEIR TAXES AND FOLLOW THE NORM


WELL I DON'T WANNA BE JUST ANOTHER JOE
I WANNA KNOW WHERE THE TAX DOLLARS GO
THE PENTAGON YELLS COMMIE, GIMME MORE MORE MORE

WHILE THE GHETTOS IN NEW YORK CRUMBLE ON THE POOR

YET THE POOR ARE THE ONES WHO GO OFF TO WAR
TO PROTECT BIG BUSINESS ON A FOREIGN SHORE
AS AMERICAN DEMOCRACY AND ALL IT STANDS FOR
MURDERS ITS CHILDREN FOR OBEYING THE LAW

THIS IS THE STATE OF THE UNION!
THIS IS THE STATE OF THIS UNION!!
Soon after we made a recording of this song, I parted ways with the lads. There was a fairly big age gap, with me going to college and just about to turn 21 while the rest of the band was 5 or 6 years younger than that. I wanted to do more original material and, even more important to me at the time, much more political stuff, like the lost classic above. I never imagined this band going in that direction, despite my constant history lectures (El Salvador = the next Vietnam), and so I just stopped showing up to Dave's basement on Saturdays after my film appreciation class at Hunter College in the the morning, and soon I lost touch altogether.

Amazingly, just a few short months later, Davey had a new band called Kraut made up of some of the guys I played with and some I didn't. Davey Gunner, who I knew as a drummer, was now the lead singer, and Johnny Feedback -- who used to hang around while we practiced -- was now on drums. By May of '81 they had secured an opening slot for the Clash at Bond's based on a demo tape of 3 songs! The Clash had originally signed on for a week's worth of shows at the legendary Times Square venue, but they sold too many tickets and had to play additional shows. Thus they needed opening acts on short notice, and Kraut enterprisingly got the tape in Mick Jones' hands, who evidently liked what he heard. According to the band's MySpace page, the Bond's slot opening for the punk icons was their first-ever live gig. Talk about your baptism under fire.



Their first single, Kill for Cash b/w Just Cabbage, was a self-made DIY affair that nevertheless sold out fast. I bought a copy at Bleecker Bob's in Greenwich Village, but alas sold it along with the rest of my punk singles and albums for a mere song about 10 years ago on the advice of a long-gone ex. I can still hear her saying, You never play them, they're just taking up space; you might as well get some money for them. It's my fault for listening to her, of course, but just like that about 100 vintage punk albums and 50 singles were history. Shortly after, I went on eBay and looked up what some of the 45's were going for. A copy of Kill for Kash was going for close to 100 bucks -- and that was before bidding closed. I ended up with about 150 dollars for my whole fucking collection.

Kraut contributed two songs to the essential hardcore compilation New York Thrash. Their first album, 1982's An Adjustment to Society, featured the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones on guitar for a new version of Kill for Cash. The video for All Twisted was in rotation on MTV. Later on, Kraut would become more of a speed metal band, but they had a nice little thing going on there for a while, and they're much more than a footnote in the history of New York Punk. Me, on the other hand...

My own crew in Astoria tried to get a few more bands together over the years, including one where I tried to learn an instrument. Big Mike had a huge, fretless jazz bass with an amp that he lent me, and I could play a few progressions, but soon found out I could not play an instrument and sing at the same time. No kidding. Anyway, we spent way more time trying to come up with catchy names for the band than actually practicing. I still remember trying to convince everyone that my idea to call us "Stavros and the Two-by-Fours" was a winner, to little or no avail. And so folk-punk songs of mine like the haunting, elegaic Momentless Times would go unrecorded.

Soon we finally gave up our musical dreams, Real Life being what it is. My friends would kid me about how right after I left, Kraut took off and made it big; how I coulda been a contender, etc., in the way your closest buds like to bust your balls just because they know they can. In reality, I never begrudge anyone's success or even harbor regrets in that way. In other ways, sure, but that's for another time, another place, another girl, another planet.














Portrait of The Warden as a young poseur



6 comments:

OAK said...

WOW! I remember being at one of those gigs in Sunnyside.
REALLY low ceiling in the joint...lotta fun...Thanks for the flashback.

The Warden said...

So you were literally one of tens of people there! Hey, I'm all about the flashback, no cover charge either...

jimithegreek said...

dude ur memory is razor sharp
darn tootin

The Warden said...

Jim, I still have a few working brain cells that haven't succumbed to age and abuse!

Nazz Nomad said...

I think I still have my Kraut 45's. Use ta have the KRAUT sticker n the back of my mc too. I saw Dougie Holland at the Damned (or was it X?) show back in April (or was it May)?

The Warden said...

Nazz, those 45's are definitely collectors' items! I also used to have their Wetting the Scythe on cassette, long gone now. You must have been a fan if you can pick out Holland in a crowd.