Tuesday, November 19, 2013

San Francisco's early-80s bands for inspiration

I just finished a big collaborative creative-writing project with my friend, who I met in the early 80s. What did we write about? The early 80s! Particularly the early 80s in San Francisco. If you weren't living there at that juncture in time, I can't do it justice in this little post here. It was a Whole Other World, I assure you.

I needed a lot of musical inspiration to write this thing, and since the 80s were a ripe musical time in the City by the Bay (remember Journey?—they were HUGE), I had much to choose from. This was when musicians (who weren't in Journey) could afford to live in San Francisco—crazy times!

The Mutants - Opposite World. The Mutants were such a special band of weirdos that they actually wore paper bags on their heads for this MTV video and for entertainment value, lit them on fire. Occasionally they do a reunion show and you should go. So should I. I saw them once on New Year's Eve as a youth and I swear they genuinely were mutating on the stage. I can't imagine what could have caused that.

New Drug. Punk-new-wave-sardonic-dance music.

Twisted Thing - San Francisco had its share of improv actors and comedians who seamlessly blended within the musical world, making for rich musical theater.

Insect Lounge - with the late Dirk Dirksen at the On Broadway, in the ancient year of 1984. This is a typical Mutants show, just so you know.

Let's move on to The Black Athletes—skate punks who would show up (or not, you never knew) and play an all-punk or all-ska/reggae show. It was random, like winning a lottery. They were a very tight band, a very mysterious band—evocative. And they rarely recorded anything. There's a cassette floating around with a bunch of their songs. I might try to archive that on the Internet somehow. I'll need my helpers and will get back to you on that. Die Laughing is very Fugazi-like.

The Residents - One-Minute Movies, from "The Commercial Album," featuring the late Snakefinger on guitar. These videos were on MTV occasionally—for real. Great low-budget creative weirdness. You can totally see how Journey came out of this.

Man's World  - Residents' song covers were...something else.

There can be no creative-writing project about early-80s San Francisco without Flipper's Ha Ha Ha. That's just how it is.

Sex Bomb - The one and only Flipper show I attended (at the Mab in North Beach) was so fraught with tension, angst, and God knows what chemical substances, that one band member walked offstage as the show began, leaving the band to recruit someone from the audience. They got a guy in the mosh pit to play guitar on Sex Bomb, and jammed on that riff for 30 minutes. They then left the stage for good. Hail, Flipper.

Pop-O-Pies - In Frisco. This is a reunion clip. The original song resides in record collections only and it's a true mess. But a glorious one. I remember the first time I heard this because nobody was supposed to call it "Frisco." That was considered tourist word usage only. Joe Pop-O-Pie was all about appropriating lingo to his own ends, dripping with deadpan irony. Ah, youth.

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