A European fest recently, I searched for an exit with the thought to wander around the old East Berlin neighborhood a bit before our set time.
I caught sight of Wattie standing outside a tour bus, his crimson Mohawk standing straight up as if it were a compass reading of his aura. The last time I’d seen him his stripe of hair hung limp in sickly dreads like hydrangeas wilted during an unseasonable heat wave.
We did the bro hug.
He Looked trim and hale, and I told him so.
“Ya gotta mate, ya gotta,” he said. Even that usually impenetrable Scottish brogue seemed clearer than usual. “Two ‘eart attacks mate, two” he said, pounding at his chest. “Dropped a wee bit o the fat, feeling fit, yeah?”
I’d heard, of course of his scare onstage.
Have we reached the season where our indestructible punk heroes, hell, ourselves, need to face the oncoming mortality?
As I strolled along the Spree, spearing currywurst with a tiny trident fork, I wondered at this thing that has given me the opportunity to be here at this time, in this place.
What world is this, that these heroes give a hug and we chat as the old acquaintances we have become?
And as so often with gentlemen of the twilight, how the talk reflects on the decades we have all shared in these trenches.
Has punk become the new blues, where no one bats an eyelash that a 60 year old is up there owning the stage?
Perhaps because we were supposed to be ugly in nature, boots on the ground and ear to the dirt, there has been no deterioration as the hair metal bands of the same time have suffered.
The senior class of punk looks pretty good up there, finally under proper lights and through modern sound gear, playing in front of 3000 well behaved fans that have aged along with us.
In turn, your metal band playing the same hall sees this as just another step down the ladder, a bitter disappointment from playing the arena that shadows the horizon of this same city.
Those spandex pants and scratchy hair extensions now a cruel reminder of better days.
It is a shame that not all of the old friends, heroes as well, are not here to enjoy those lights.
It’s the fact of our age, and that sparkling wild life we all enjoyed, that make you cringe just a bit when the phone rings, a name and number you haven’t seen in years.
And then the inevitable question that serves as a greeting: Hey, did you hear about….?
It’s a week before our first Southwest tour.
We’re talking 1982 here people, long before a nationwide jaunt could be booked with a few lazy swipes at the smartphone, raping Facebook for local promoters.
Kimm had been doing his homework for months, conferring with the master Chuck Dukowski for contacts in the different cities. It was a patchy affair, a mysterious Underground Railroad type network of people connected by the love of punk and borrowed phone calling card numbers.
There was a person, a club, a band in every town, and of course when it came to Austin TX, man, that crew was The Big Boys.
We went out to the Whisky on a Thursday night when they were in town, an opening slot for X, maybe it was their first time in LA?
We’d heard a few tracks, and were digging the chugging groove they were laying down, adding a new syncopation and funk to the skate thrash meter.
But also a bit mystified by the big lug of a singer, Randy-Biscuit-doing the set in a big ol white jumpsuit.
Then came the closer, a raucous version of Hollywood Swinging, when Biscuit shed the one piece, revealing a pink motherfucking TuTu underneath!
He smeared cheap lipstick across his face and threw himself into the song, into the crowd, terrifying and exhilarating.
On the way home, cruising down the deserted 101, burping up the ghost of an OkiDog (with kraut yo), we meditated on what we just witnessed.
We were excited, maybe a little intimidated, about the next weekend’s gig in Austin with the Boys themselves and another rookie band called Husker Du.
The next day we returned to Hollywood and met the band at Exene’s bungalow.
Would Biscuit greet us in drag? Shout in our faces as the madman we witnessed shouting out his demons onstage last night?
But when we got to the bungalow, we found him rinsing out the tutu in the kitchen sink, the white jumpsuit already hanging out to dry in the courtyard. He was doing the laundry, but turned to greet us with that expansive grin.
Hey, how y’all doing?
To be continued