High Water - Junkyard (Acetate Records)
"Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago...."
JUNKYARD STILL GOT IT IN SPADES!
Back when I still thought Axl Rose was a could do no wrong, a rebel hero who had courageously escaped a hellish small-town disreputable dishwasher fate, not unlike my own, the misunderstood, fucking innocent, ginger haired, rural Mike Monroe from the corn-fed Midwest, I recall him wearing an old school Junkyard t shirt in all those "Circus" and "Hit Parader" pinups I had taped all over the walls of my first shoebox bachelor apartment that the totally New Wave love of my young life had helped me paint purple.
I really thought I'd arrived! We had a promising basement-show punk band, in those days, but we still lived in a shitty, dumb, nothing to do, farm town straight out of the saddest Bob Seger songs. I never liked the bigoted, cross-eyed rednecks at the veterans halls, the musclebound, bullying suburban jocks in the Camaro's, the racist history teaching wrestling coaches, the sports-bar drunkards with the barbecue stains, the Izod shirted country-club conformists, nutty extremist church crazies, or dickhead fratboy cops. I never liked their bullshit hierarchy, kneejerk customs, hazing rituals, or boot camp drill sergeant, behavior modification tactics, not to mention, their senseless cruelty and complete lack of style.
I was the kind of kid who liked the Scorpions and the Thompson Twins, Bauhaus and Prince, Van Halen and 38 Special, and I was pissed off all the local authority figures decided to make such a big stink about my pierced ears, spiked bracelets, Aqua-Net, and Robert Smith eye-liner. Constant harassment. Jealous rednecks, weekly fistfights, arsonist-stalkers, creepy juvenile probation officers, crusading PMRC church people, it was awful.
I'm sure you remember that Ritz concert where Axl Rose talks about all the people who wanna push you around and how he did not need that shit in his life. I really felt that, with him. Everywhere we went, there were these uncool authority figures and petty, dumbfuck rule-enforcers, giving us shit for no reason, other than we did not dress exactly like them, or convey any desire to want to become obedient and subservient, little clock punching, uniformed, name tagged, wooden soldiers, so they always thought we needed to be punished some more.
Growing up, these rural township, "Children of The Corn", sports people, they wanted to beat me up everyday, mostly because of the poorly applied Pete Burns makeup. Some crazy rednecks were enraged they saw me hanging around with an extravagantly gorgeous girl who I never even got to sleep with, though I spent years mooning over her, we just shared a common taste in music, but the idea that she was frequently choosing to be around me, just made them so angry. There were whole packs of these foaming at the mouth angry men. Villagers with pitchforks. They all called me Boy George. Devo. Every cliché.
Once I got my own place, I was able to shelter a lengthy roll call of likeminded drifters, dropouts, strays, and gadabouts in my one bedroom pad, we were able to smoke indoors back then, at home, even in the bars, we cussed, we hollered, we painted thrift-store canvases and crazy shit on the back of our jackets, made collages, created our own fanzines, sent postcards, drank underage, read library books, there wasn't much else to do...We could drive out to the reservoir, stop by the video game arcade, visit the supposedly haunted cemetery near Crybaby Bridge, that was about it.
I always had several people staying at my little halfway house and I made my own sleeping space in the kitchen closet. We'd crowd around my crummy black and white tv and watch vhs tapes recorded by various kindhearted girlfriends who had cable from "120 Minutes" and "Headbanger's Ball". That video of the Junkyard Gang piling into hot rods and speeding recklessly around in Tinseltown was a real inspiration to me and my cowboy booted bassist, the celebrity DJ at the only nightclub in the area that had an MTV era teen night, who portrayed Andy Taylor in a Duran Duran lip-synch tribute act, and his future replacement-a big lug of a funky bass player who would guzzle Wild Turkey and singalong with me to Tom Petty's "Southern Accents", always insensitively blared way too loud in our downtown apartment building, echoing down the hall, annoying the mad bad Zodiac Mindwarp lookalike painter antisocial punk rock guitarist, who was most usually entertaining our skinhead drummer and his younger, DC hardcore, Minor Threat, Catholic school friends.
He was wise to stay close to the drummer, a great drummer is really crucial and all too elusive. 'Most important member of the band. There was also a flash fingered, fedora wearing, girl charming lead guitarist, but he was out of state in this era finishing his senior year of high school, and there was also our loose cannon roadie/road manager/bodyguard who later became my main sideman in a poor man's AC/DC punk band with a long procession of exploding drummers-he was always off working at the pizza place my other Catholic school buddy got us all jobs at.
I met him right after he had burnt something down. He was an unholy barbarian. It has been said that I always formed these hoodlum bands with the craziest people in town, and you're supposed to have at least one or two bandmates who are sometimes awake during daylight hours, and who have reliable transportation and phones. I didn't know. They say you're no one until somebody hates you, hell, that whole state always hated all of us. Man, does that Junkyard single, "FADED" remind me of those wild days. "Cut From The Same Cloth", too!
This record, "High Water", has a real cool Steve Jones energy and fuck you attitude that takes me back to my misspent years as a wayward goth kid who was strangely attracting many desirable, older women once everybody finally got cable and the small-towners finally saw some other people with scarves and black hair on the TV.
I've since noted how the powers that be have REMOVED all rebellious and artistic music from the airwaves, but back then, "Sweet Child Of Mine" was being played everywhere, every five minutes, and our own juvenile attempts at songwriting were not so different from the kinda stuff that the Replacements and Soul Asylum got record deals doing, so some of us, we thought we were goin' places....
Me and my drunkard cronies, we would sing our wet cat boisterous anthems about the open road and freedom until are throats were raw because there was no P.A. yet and we were hollerin' over the guitars-we'd drink, and write songs about our crazy childhoods in these intolerant, uptight, unreasonably conservative towns in the plantation states. We could not play at the local heavy metal hole, because you had to do like, Bon Jovi covers.
We did Gun Club covers. I still recall how we'd scornfully laugh at those ridiculous, pink haired fools who thought they were going to become big stars in that "Decline Of Western Civilization Part 2" film we rented from the video store, all the time. We'd strum on really low end, cheaply made, hundred dollar guitars and talk shit and laugh for hours until we vomited out the window into the bank parking lot below. Always planning our escape to the coasts.
Beautiful girls would show up with always more booze and we'd continue partying for days on end. Back then, it was all new and thrills galore, we could see no dour consequences on the horizon-just more good times and lovely women. Road-trips and eight-tracks. The Cramps and Hanoi Rocks.
It was grand having my own domain to hold court in, after so many hard years and years of being cold from sleeping on other people's floors and couches, unheated attic spaces and dirty boiler rooms, and being able to pick the playlist all the time, which was a crazy mixture of punk, goth, commercial new wave, cowpunk, and some of the hipper sleaze and glam bands...Tex and the Horse Heads, Lords Of The New Church, Hangmen, Sea Hags, Gun Club, Dogs D'Amour, Circus Of Power, Georgia Satellites, Rock City Angels, The Cult, Steve Earle and the mighty, mighty Junkyard!
They were scarred for life, nitty gritty dirtbags like me and my friends, and we could relate to their heartfelt songs they poured all their real emotions into, ya know? This was when all those shitty corporate-rock bands were rolling off assembly-lines that all sounded the same. All that Warrant, Whitesnake, Winger, Nelson nonsense. Junkyard were good lookin' guys, but in a Regular Joe mechanic, roofer, or carpet layer way, they did not look like lifeguards in lip-gloss, like all the poof-metal blouses singing formulaic cowboy ballads aimed at cheerleaders in the heartland.
David Roach had an original voice, some said it was similar to Vince Neil, but only if Vince had been a moonshine guzzling, pinball playing, switchblade wielding, Jason & The Scorchers rockabilly cowpunk! I suppose Junkyard did have a tinge of that vintage "Too Fast For Love" bubblegum sleaze-metal vibe, but their tunes were smarter, more deeply felt, with some really fantastic countryish arrangements, pianos, Lynard Skynard slide guitars, they had some authentic Texas soul like Willie Nelson, and they made a distinctive sound that was like, part Johnny Cougar shooting the shit with the Skoal spittin' farmer philosopher on his grandma's porch, and part two fingers up, malt liquor anarchist, loitering behind the convenience store in a vomit stained Dils t shirt and surly frown.
Talking on the phone to Scarlet Rowe one time, I remember explaining that my own crew of scruffy hell raisers were originally a lot like Guns N Roses, which was where we got all our overconfidence-they were the biggest band in the world, and it seemed like we had so, so much in common with them, as we really were a subversive, ragtag, angry band of smalltown stoners, droputs, weirdos, and Motorcycle crashers who listened to underground music of all genres from Depeche Mode to Motorhead, and we had grown up in detention halls and ran away from home - Hell, none of our moms had even dated David Bowie-we were not well connected haves, ya dig, but we felt like we KNEW Izzy and Axl, and I remember how Scarlet-he insightfully replied, that was their main appeal-how EVERYBODY, in every car in the Dairy Queen parking lot felt that same way about somebody in Guns N Roses. That's why they were so important to all us latchkey nobodies from nowhere places. And man, was he right.
Now they are boring stadium-pros, but early on, it seemed like they were our fellow insurrectionists-greasy punks who worked at liquor stores and gas stations, who had objected to the hypocrisy of the brainwashed, Midwestern, middleclass, middle of the road and they made anything seem possible because they united and had got to record their songs. We absolutely loved "Mr. Brownstone" and "It's So Easy".
At first, they seemed like misfits, undesirables, self-reliant recidivists, troublemakers-who had come together because none of them really fit-in, anywhere else. We were from that "other" Amerikkka-the one they don't show much on TV. That is why we liked them, it always felt like the status quo was, "Out Ta Get Me", too! It's weird, though, when you see how all the "Headbangers Ball" bands who got lucky in the '80s all seem so completely out of touch with their own fan base, now. Fat Elvises, sleep walking through some bullshit Col Tom Parker movie, only motivated by power and always more big money grabs...
What happened to all those guys? Ya know? I'm not into cloistered, pampered, spoilt, arena-rock brand shills like Gene Simmons, putting their yes-men go-fers in the iconic Ace and Peter makeup. My generation's big rockstars all sold out, too. Mostly, they just seem so sadly removed and clueless, now. You gotta feel sorry for all the groups playing their half-hearted old power-ballads at those sparsely attended festivals with only one original member.
I never liked most of those manufactured bands, anyway. Like, who cares about a Skid Row, without the real singer? No-one. Kix still put on a good show, but most of the big-hairbands have zero relevance, now. The guys with the money are so out of touch. Vince Neil punching hookers, drunk driving, again and again. I'm not interested in the corporate-metal 80's Goons. Nothing to say, they can't write, most of 'em. Too rich to be good. Prissy, princess and the pea, bourgeoise. Buncha out-of-touch ivory tower Mariah Carey divas.
Overpriced tickets, hostility towards their own audience. Lawsuits and silk suits. That shit was for the squarehead corporate straight world, not the rocknroll underground, ya know? How do you make a record like the Sex Pistiols or AC/DC and suddenly turn into Journey, overnight? I liked that "Appetite" album, back in the '80s, because of Izzy's laidback Keith coolness and tastefully understated Chuck Berry licks, and even giddy classic rocker Steven Adler's reckless swing, as much as for Axl's angry-cop machismo, or Slash's half-lidded blues deedlings, or Duff's Sid Vicious necklace. Now the big-time brand-named MTV bands all seem so preciously removed, like cloistered king-babies, corporate-rawk elitists, hyper-sensitive pharaohs who require whole entrouges of handlers and assistants.
I don't know anything about the pressures of fame and the burden of money, or the obsession with being some fatcat, capitalist executive ownership society Trump Tweeter yelling, "You're Fired!" at his employees, but I know I wouldn't really wanna hang out with people who are mainly interested in real estate or the stock market, who have shrinks and attorneys, acupuncturists and masseuses, and maids and gurus, and astrologers and fluffers on call, ya know....
Like I said, I never got along with the jock power-hawk cliques, bully bouncers, military goose-steppers, or country- club golf people, I have no interest whatsoever in people like that, and never did. I guess the crazies and the losers are my people. I was my own scene. The bands I related to were the stand-alone, diehard, reckless ones-the risk taking, defiantly unique, rabble rousers, with the guts to stand in the flame, chewing gum and telling the truth, from Hank Williams to the Clash, from TSOL to the Coma-Tones - that's who captured the hearts of us young hicks and hoodlums. Where I came from-everybody knew somebody with a lizard and a bench warrant, what do you have to say, though?
We wanna hear a real song. It's tragic how having a little money seems to ruin so many people-it's supposed to empower you to help others, not turn you into a mean hearted paranoid on the phone with the lawyers fretting about monopolizing control of all future profits and worrying about royalties and guarding one's stuff. Once you have your big house and motorcycle and get to cook out and have a big loud stereo, calm the fuck down, right? Enjoy the stars in the sky and the ripples on the pond. Have a drink. Play some records. Be thankful. These starlets have no sense of humor.
It's a privilege, being able to record your original music. It's a privilege being able to make a living entertaining people. I don't care who any primadonna celebrity thinks they are, they should not disrespect their paying customers, a lot of these guys were never really punks, though, they came from like, sports and military backgrounds, they are more like, oppressors than rebels--you know this because as soon as they got hillbilly rich, their true colors came flying right out like winged-monkeys, threatening journalists and beating up fans for taking a picture; they seemed less and less like us, and more and more like the cops.
Bollocks to poof metal--it became just so money-oriented, mean-spirited, corporate, empty...product-like. Steven Tyler does fucking Burger King commercials. A decade past their decadence and the majority of the N.A. ex punks started selling handshakes and autographs, like accountants or bankers, ya know? $500 VIP fanclub only meet and greets where you don't really even get to meet the pompous millionaire frontline, are you kidding me?? Get lost.
Meanwhile, Junkyard remained totally relatable, reliable, rootsy, regular, authentic, down to Earth, everyday rockers-true punks, diamond geezers, signed on for life. Just listen to their hit-song, "Faded"! Or "Hell Or High Water" which just perfectly describes this absurd irreality we are all inhabiting now, against our will.
Junkyard know all about our pained struggles, they are still totally the proletariat. They really are just like us. They can't find their freakin' wallet. All they got is one pair of boots and a dirty couch. They are people you could still go bowling with. No star trips, no price gouging, no celebrity greedhead egomania. They never lost their coolness or integrity, their genuine energy, or their punk ethics. They still have their teenage cool, what Tom Waits calls, "That Feel"! They have discovered some secret youth elixir.
Patrick Muzingo beats the hell out of those cans, he is a powerful force of nature. Todd Muscat has to be my age or older, but he still looks and dresses just like my oldest sons. They shot their video in Patrick Muzingo's mom's garage-they come from Garage Land. If you ask me, "Sixes, Sevens and Nines" was one of the most underrated records associated with 80's sleaze rock, but "High Water" is a new high-water mark for this kickass band. VERY INSPIRING.
David Roach's song, "Til The Wheels Fall Off" is pretty much a mission statement. He ain't gonna crap out. He's all in. Love him, hate him, but you know his name. Everybody calls them, the People's Band, and that is so true-they never put us on, or changed their tiger stripes, just because they made some money, or appeared on a magazine cover. They undoubtedly experienced their own sorrows, creative differences, money squabbles, substance abuse issues, divorces, internal power struggles, fuckups, heartaches, whatever, but they never let it change them into uptight, domineering greedheads, or nutty control freak, bean-counting, conference-table, hedge fund managers.
A while back, my wife asked me if there was anybody famous I would like to meet, and I had to think about it, as I'm not into idle heiresses, TV show divorcees, TMZ celebrity fame culture, white boy DJ's, Spencer and Heidi, the Situation, women whose only talent was their boob-job, or any of that shit, at all. Then, I thought, to myself, Junkyard. I wouldn't mind comparing notes or riding motorcycles with those haggard ole stars and I'll tell you why. They always knew who they are, and never seemed at all inclined to settle for sucking, or being mediocre ingrates milking the past, or doing anything fake or halfhearted. They relentlessly kept bringing you the songs that make the young girls cry, old favorites like "Blooze" and "Life Sentence" and "All The Time In The World", with new favorites like, "Hellbound", "The River", "Til The Wheels Fall Off" and "Kindness To The Dead", they recognize their primary job is to bring the people together and uplift the room, and they do that with a supremely respectable work ethic and enthusiasm and dedication.
The songs they are writing now will outlive them. They are making valid and vital contributions to rocknroll. All those other bands got super-fame lame, fucking around with Bucketheads and Fergie, corny rap songs and phony-baloney industrial remixes, couldn't write any new shit of real value, kept charging us more, to hear lukewarm, come-lately, mediocre lineups of faceless replacement members trudging through the same tired five songs and the same two awful covers. J
unkyard experienced many of the same highs and lows every big-name band did in those '80s glory days, and the mostly sucky decades of boy-bands and robot-muzak that followed, but Junkyard are badass motherfuckers who always held fast to their youthful idealism.
While on hiatus for a while, vocalist David Roach even formed another trashy gutter-punk blues band with the legendary Jo Dog of Dogs D'Amour and Jo Dog & Paul Black's Sonic Boom, called Borracho who recorded a rare album which is a highly sought-after artifact in my bespangled circles. I've long suspected that Junkyard don't always get the job as openers for the really big tours with the major bands, or higher paying festivals they deserve to headline, mainly because they just rock like fuck, and other prominent musicians just don't wanna follow them. Same as Michael Monroe, nobody wants to be on a bill with his band, either, they might get smoked.
Junkyard steadily, determinedly, overcame a couple of setbacks and lean years and lineup changes, but they held out for the very top-shelf, best guys in the business to join their dedicated, hardworking, reconstituted gang of wildhearted ruffians, and many fans agree, they are better than ever, right now.
The last famous hairband song I remember giving a shit about was probably Cinderella's "Gypsy Road", and that was a mighty long time ago. Ratt shoulda called it quits when Robin Crosby passed. I never really liked Poison, so I find that guy with his bandanna on those tv shows pretty ridiculous. I don't know how Junkyard managed to keep their feet planted so solidly on the sidewalk, while all those spandex cartoons and bloated buffoons they used to share the airwaves with just totally lost the plot, started wearing cornrows and K-Fed bling and football jersies and shorts, onstage-!!!
Maybe it's just me, I'm pretty old fashioned, and have zero desire to join the i-Phone/Axe Cologne/Justin Timberlake/Donald Trump/Unreality-TV so-called mainstream world, but I personally loved how Junkyard never tried to follow trends or chase fads, or pretend to be Queen, or Eminem, or Nine Inch Nails, or Korn, or Kanye West, or Marilyn Manson, or posture as anything they aren't. They were simple men, there ain't that much they need. A bonfire, a pretty girl, a cold beverage, and a leather jacket, some home fries, and they were mostly satisfied.
"Hands Off" was a heavy song for me when I was in my late teens and early 20's, when I was involved with this one particularly conflicted, blonde heavy metal chick with a Penthouse figure and an evangelical background, who kept cheating on me with older guys from touring rock groups, I think we've all been through something like that, by now, which is why entire saloons sometimes sing along to that song together.
I remember how "Slippin' Away" had so much heart and soul, and when I moved to rainy, damp Cambridge , MA, in the gloomy autumn-time, it seemed to really capture a kind of sentimental longing and melancholy that overcame me year after year, mostly about my first band breakup and the old gang goin' our separate ways for good, as some of them chose to enter adulthood. It still makes me think of having freezing cold ears and hands in my pockets, hunchin' around Harvard Square, seeing nothing but the loneliness rollin' offa all the people, dead leaves crunchin' underneath my duct-taped brothel creepers, while trying to figure out how I was going to spend my last five dollars. I spent a lot of this lifetime exiled out in the elements, walking around in the rain with a wet cigarette.
I was always surprised that Junkyard did not have more cross-over success on country radio, public radio, in the Alt-Country Wilco circles, because one can easily imagine all the people who like Uncle Tupelo, Lucinda Williams, or Bottle Rockets appreciating the slower and more emotional side of Junkyard, at least as much as the Buck Cherry and Backyard Babies people love the rowdier Junkyard material. David Roach can really sing, too. They should be on Austin City Limits!
Junkyard always had that hard drivin' truck-stop gutsy grime and grit of Raging Slab and Four Horsemen, but their depth of feeling was always a lot bluesier, more sincere, they were way more earnest and vulnerable than their friends in all those other Cathouse bands. I suspect that is why they have so much ferociously devoted fan loyalty---you always see one or two Junkyard patches or pins on somebody's denim battle-vest at any longhaired rock show, or cool record store you go to. It's because people can really feel those songs. Junkyard mean it, maaan. They even seem to have real sincere gratitude for their awesome jobs and their loyal legions of faithful fans who keep coming out to see them in huge numbers, while so many of the other groups from that era are sad parodies of who they once were. Todd Muscat, Tim Mosher, Patrick Muzingo and David Roach just got better, as they got older.
I mean, nobody even knows who is in L.A. Guns, anymore, or who is claiming to be Ratt this week, and most of the people who show up to see the half-assed victory lap Guns N Roses rich dude reunion don't even know that it ain't Izzy up there, cause they are the sports fans who come to those shows, people who can pay $300 and up, for a fucking concert ticket and $75 for a black t shirt. The upper middle class malI people, who don't really care for music, do they? It's just another sporting event. Junkyard keeps it real and brings out all the old punks, bikers, heavy drinkers, grouchy old hermits, former dancers, and cool kids because they still strictly adhere to the wild spirit of bona fide street punk, they still fight for our love like righteous rocknroll outlaw underdogs, and give their all, to their live audience, who they really seem to cherish, and have respect and gratitude for-and they are somehow, all the way alive, deep into in their middle age, they still got it in spades.
I think they manage to bring the big rocknroll rockshow to the smiling, cheering, pogoing, lighter hoisting, stage diving, delighted fans by simply not faking anything, or trying to bullshit anybody, put on us, or get over, on cheap make-a-buck, so what fame gestures and empty brand name familiarity. I don't know about you, but that character and soul and generous spirit they have, that means so much to me, I absolutely love that down-home realness aspect of Junkyard.
All their former peers are big assholes, now, while the conspicuously more appreciative, self aware, thoughtful fellas from Junkyard are people you wanna skateboard with, or have a hootenanny around the bonfire with, or play old T Rex and MC5 records and smoke cigarettes with 'em on the back porch, or just have a shot of tequila and listen to 'em-ya know, because they clearly remain standup guys, honest to goodness, true punks. I had their first LP on cassette in 1989 and would sit there on an old faculty room school couch donated by by muddah, smoking endless chains of Marlboro red cowboy killers, drinking Black Label or Budweiser, singing along, eyes closed, hearts a pumping, laughing with my leather clad comrades, smiling, melting into the music. I miss that. Nobody gets together in rooms to listen to stacks of old records, anymore. It's all work, worry about the kids, worry about the state of things in this fucked-up country, everybody's got their own regret over long gone loves, and mistakes made, the dead friends and sad farewells, the missed opportunities and broke up bands; grim vigils, white knuckled sobriety, chronic pain, anxiety disorders, and patiently awaiting our turn to die.
I remember hearing those early Junkyard songs again in L.A., when I was staying with eleven last call glam losers in another one bedroom apartment, all these blue/black hair-dyed bozos competing to sponge off the same phone sex operator, join the same dead-end polka dot scarf band, sleep with the same death rock queen, and play the same hopeless Coconut Teaszer open mic night. "That's life! In Hollywood!" Always over-reaching and grabbing the extra piece of pizza, or extra slug of whiskey some hairspray vixens had brought to the reeking crash pad before the other black-haired guys did.
We had to scrounge to survive. Everybody weighed 125 lbs and we all looked like Mick Mars and hated each other. The girls all worked as phone sex operators, dancers, or at sex shops. I only knew one guy with a job. It was pretty awful, those last cut throat, competing hours of Sunset Strip hair-metal. "Cut From The same Cloth" and "Hellbound" from the new Junkyard album, those songs are both about people who get trapped in that life, stuck on the morbid merry-go-round of titty-bars, payday-loans, backbreaking deadend jobs, dive-bars, emergency rooms, evictions, graveyards, jails, and institutions. Really great songs filled with mercy and experience. By the time I made it to Hollwood, the cool Joneses and Nymphs and Little Kings and Jane's Addiction scene documented in Desi Benjamin's wonderful documentary about the heyday of glam-punk hedonism, those days were already long gone and over, we had missed the peak. The town was already goin' permanently douchebag. Who could afford it?
Even still, seemingly every small-town, shag haired, would-be glam dude from everywhere had showed up too late to cash-in on the Guns N Roses gravy train. Some of 'em had already discarded their overpriced plastic Lip Service pants and switched over to camo shorts and combat boots, to pursue the ubiquitous Alice In Chains mopey buzzkill thing.
Faster Pussycat had just written a wonderfully moving tribute to Mother Love Bone singer, Andy Wood, that we all loved, they had some great songs on "Whipped" and shoulda stayed the course, but times were changing, and all the stripper girlfriends we hung around with were dancing to gangsta rap and grunge/alternative, things were becoming kinda gloomy and morose.
I never liked all that grunge moaning, personally. There were only a few bands left around worth venturing out to see-The Ultras, Motorcycle Boy, Miniskirt Mob, and Celebrity Skin. We felt confident we just needed to replace the lost drummer and we would steadily become like, the next Hangmen. Instead, we became America's Next Top Dishwashers. What had once seemed so promising and exciting and fun, tantalizingly seductive and hypnotic, it was a fading mirage. Its neon lights are always glistening like endless summer, it seems like Heaven from afar, but for me, L.A. was becoming a real bummer, close-up. Hospital wards and self-loathing hookers, dysfunctional crazies and meth-heads.
I couldn't stand the mercenary grunge people pretending to suddenly be angst ridden, deep and edgy....OR the party all the time, silly-string, cheese in a can, brainless Motley Crue and Poison knockoffs who were everywhere, the metal heads who all actually looked up to Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx as their life's role models, and seemed to have no bottom, as to how far they would stoop, and how badly they would degrade themselves, to stay in L.A.'s armpit, chasing this ever seedier rocknroll lifestyle. It got real "Less Than Zero" there, for awhile. It was hard to watch.
Not that I was much brighter, back then-I've already confessed my misguided adolescent identification with doofy headbanging metal dorks. It did not take long to get sick of extreme poverty in the black heart of Old Hollywood. You got tired of people stealing your shoes and drinking your vodka and gobbling down your last leftover piece of cold pizza, all the hustling and dog eat dog backstabbing, hold-ups, hassles, Jack In The Box, Taco Casa, and those long, dark walks to the Whiskey, or Rainbow, everything was pay to play rat-race, it was just ugly as fuck, really for the mean-hearted. I was not cold or hard enough to do all that dirty work that little neighborhood demanded from even it's most talented and attractive denizens, ya know?
Communal living was losing it's romance, and this was right around the time I first discovered you can not pay big city rent with a record store job. I wanted my own quiet space to write, to read, to think, but the best I could do was get kicked out almost nightly by one mood swinging, heavy drinking, stripper girlfriend, or another.
Cue: "W.F.L.W.F." from the new Junkyard record. Sometimes, what one needs most is a solitary, pay by the week, hotel room and some books and peace and quiet to maintain a rational distance from emotionally charged other people and not be a participant in their clawing up chaos and rivalries, and war. I was still sucked in to the whole night-life drama, back in my 20's. Had enough bad nights at sad bars and sad nights at bad bars for several lifetimes. There was a bar called "Crazy Girls" and I knew a lot of 'em. Pretty girls can always get bartender or hostess jobs anywhere, but with one million failed Izzy Stradlin and Bobby Doll wannabes all convening in front of the same tourist trap T-shirt stores, wearing the same bangles and silver bracelets, all smoking their cigarettes with style, all wanting the same easy record store, or Goth boutique jobs in the same little zip code, it was hard to find steady and dependable, living wage work.
I begrudgingly took a job passing out fliers for a tiny store on Melrose. It was not fun, I was always dripping wet in the hot sun, and made just enough to barely get by, on Cisco fortified screw-top blackout wine, shoplifted convenience store hot dogs, and maybe a shared order of some Arby's curly fries with Horsey sauce. We were always hungry, but we looked fabulous. 'Wish I still had my old scrapbooks. Kids today(!!!) with the 5000 dollar guitars and showbiz uncles don't have any idea what we used to go through just waiting to use pay-phones, calling strangers about jobs, trying to communicate with Spanish speaking landlords, responding to musician's wanted ads in the back of grimy entertainment rags, desperately seeking someone who had heard of any bands you liked, when everybody else just wanted to be smiley faced clones of Bon Jovi, or sour-pussed imitators of Nirvana, and sharing rehearsal spaces with goofy "The Simpsons" quoting funk bands who always seemed to love to leave dozens of glass 40-ounce bottles filled with junkie piss to mark their territory.
Like Chili Peppers-worshipping frat boys; or know what it was like, struggling to find a gig on the Sunset Strip in the wee last hours of heavy metal. You'd see an "open call" classified ad in the back pages of "Rock City News" or whatever, that made it seem like there was an acting job, and you'd walk up and down the boulevard looking for the address and 300 longhairs would be squeezed into some smelly old corridor applying for the same hopeless gig as telemarketing supervisor. The ads would read something like, "Do You Like To Party? Wanna Meet Girls? Do You Have A Rocknroll Attitude?" So you'd wake up early, shave, and go there, imagining an appearance as a punk extra on some tv show, like you know-Gutter Cats on "Married With Children", and instead, these bait and switch bastards, they'd expect you to sell ink toner, or light bulbs, over the phone.
I was such a gullible rube and I didn't really know anybody in L.A., and I didn't drive, so forget about it. You need a car in Los Angeles. That song "Walking In L.A." is the gospel truth. "Only a loser walks in L.A."? I was that loser. One girlfriend's mom decided I should start "interning" without college credit, you know, just laboring anywhere for free, that's how you got your foot in the door, and proved your salt, she insisted, and this began a punishing and humiliating dead-end series of unpaid positions I foolishly accepted, because I was desperate to get away from all the Rainbow Bar & Grill rejects who left dirty syringes in the bathroom sink, that my former girlfriend shared her living space with, and I was worn-down and weary from being mercilessly guilt-tripped about the phone bills, sick of walking around Hollywood Boulevard alone at night, amongst all the gang-bangers and pimps, every time we had a pointlessly futile, money-related quarrel, and I obviously had really low self-esteem. It was a whole different world then, no such thing as cell-phones, or free long distance, or the internet.
You needed a car. You needed to know somebody. And you needed to know your own worth, or these ruthless rich business owning fortunate sons will grind you underneath their pricey heels. By the time I walked three miles in the hot sun to apply for some minimum wage job, I'd be soaked in perspiration and see some older, sun tanned, big toothy, actor type pull up in his convertible, and gold necklace, breeze in and effortlessly get the job. It was rough business. 'Met some older sober musicians who were really clear-eyed and focused on making money by playing music. They were diligent and well organized careerists. That had never, never even remotely occurred to me - not drinking - so I could focus on making money, I mean honestly, back then, that kind of thing just never once crossed my mind. I didn't get it, that was a totally foreign concept to me-I was trapped in some blurry Bukowshi dream-state, all spurs and bullet belts, yo ho ho, fill up your boots me hardies, lost boys, merry men, debaucherous, Dogs D'Amour delusions, I'd read too many "RIP" magazine articles that made it seem so fuckin' easy to become rockstars.
An awful lot of talentless morons made it. My own personal Andy McCoy figure had quit our band and gone to medical school and I still had a trusty rhythm guy, and a long series of willing and eager bass players, but we never found the right drummer, ya know? So we always got stuck with the shittiest jobs and the constantly complaining companions. One of those sad stories where almost everyone dies and there is nothing to show. It was a lot of heartbreak and sacrifice for nothing.
For years, I kept trying out new musicians, I still thought I was one right sideman away from becoming the Next Big Thing. The few people I knew all seemed on the precipice if making it. Rodney on the Roq was playing my pal's bands, and ain't that how Dramarama got famous? We just need to record these songs we wrote last night man, you know he's gonna love 'em. They are like Tom Waits fronting Paul Revere and the Raiders. Fuck no, I can't sing, but neither could Taime Downe.
We thought: "It was all happening" but we needed it to happen overnight. So naïve. We were so certain it was our destiny! Sad but true-you get sucked in to the make-believe. L.A. was brutal, man. I finally made friends with some well-paid dancers who wanted to invest in my starry-eyed rock dream, but I was in some bad relationships, my bandmates flaked one by one, I let some negative people get in my head for several years, and it was all a devastatingly doomed enterprise. Non-stop to nowhere. I never even got a decent band off the ground that did not crash and burn in less than 15 minutes, all those Odin and London guys I used to ridicule in my smalltown teens, they all did way better than me!
All the Slaughter and Firehouse and Roxx Gang metalheads are still making a living. I was never into any of them. Mighta liked a cuppla Bang Tango songs. When the smoke cleared, post grunge, JUNKYARD were pretty much the last standing, experience hardened, kickass, American rocknroll band around, ya know, it was hard to imagine them bruisers getting any better, they still have this bratty, incorrigible, two fisted, dukes up, snotty streak of maverick independence I can totally identify with, even in my ravaged old age, it ain't all tear in your beer, either-they still fight the good fight! Summa their more recent tunes even remind me of the Lazy Cowgirls best stuff! "Don't Give A Damn" is straight-up honky-tonk hardcore and reminds me of a songwriter named Bob Starker from Killbuck, Ohio who had a band called the Sovines. Or old Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper. It's fun as hell...
An awful lot of the hard rock '80s guys are still just into...like, porn, not much else is goin' on upstairs, in the attic. David Roach is a folk artist and a craftsman. An artisan and a real vivid story-tellin' man. He is a real smart guy...and then, they brought the dangerously talented lightnin' bringer, JIMMY JAMES into the fold, and he is the best damn guitar player in rocknroll, probably.
I mean, Chris Gates and Brian Baker were also cool, and I understand they both have a lot of fans, but if you need a killer guitarist, Jimmy James remains the deadliest gun in the West. He brings all the soul and the roll to the rockin'. He cut his teeth playing in every other really exemplary rock group of the past three decades. His resume is basically drinking Bloody Marys and playing lead guitar for all my favorite gutter-gangs: Rock City Angels, The Hangmen, the Coma-Tones, Barrio Tiger. The Hangmen are obviously the best band in America...until you remember Junkyard...or Rock City Angels....(RIP Bobby Durango) and who the fuck could even come close to the savage young Coma-Tones? They were probably the real punk rock incarnation of the Doors or Guns N Roses, ya know?
Whatever band Jimmy James is currently playing guitar in, automatically, becomes this nation's best rocknroll band. Just the facts, ma'am. Billy Burks from the Humpers another one of the best punknroll underground bands on the planet, who have also had to wear that heavyweight championship of the world rocknroll belt, circa "Positively Sick On Fourth Street", agrees with me about Jimmy James, and probably some other stuff, too.
Billy Burks:: "I call him 'King Jimmy'- I knew the very first time I met him and saw him play in the late 80's that He was an Ally, more than that, a Brother. There were so few guys around at that time who were not doing the shred/speed bull shit- AND playing Les Pauls. He just gets IT - what Rock n Roll guitar is supposed to sound like - I had not seen him in a bit, until I played an early Humpers gig at Raji's and the Comatones shared the bill. They were badass, and he and I each had the same two Les Pauls . He is terrifying.
Years later, I was delighted (instead of jealous) that he got The Hangmen job. The solo he pulled off on "Bent" is one of the greatest of all time, it gives Me goose bumps EVERY time I hear it. He is terrifying - the best of the whole lot. I feel bad for anyone who has ever had to play after him. I am not even upset that my girlfriend calls him her boyfriend and that puts him in a club with Gram Parsons and Marc Bolan....Her 'Other' Boyfriends." Unquote.
Junkyard ain't for everybody...if you don't like Maker's Mark whiskey, or French fries with queso and jalapenos dipped in malt vinegar, if you don't like dancing, or roller skating, or fireworks, or skinny-dipping, or big ole friendly Golden Retrievers who catch Frisbees, or John Lee Hooker, or girls in bikinis, or lawnchairs on the roof, or glazed donuts, you might not like Junkyard. But if you do like the scuzzy rocknroll of yesteryear, bands like Izzy Stradlin and the Juju Hounds, the Crybabys, the Quireboys, old Circus Of Power, any real raunchy, Rose Tattoo style, bourbon-drenched rocknroll, you should probably buy your own copy of "High Water" and go see them live, whenever they come to your neck of the woods.
Acetate, America's Only Rocknroll Label, has even made the new LP available on super-cool blue vinyl, with a beautiful lyric sheet. Let me tell ya something. The lyrics on this new album are really fucking good, and if you know me, you know I hardly ever, ever say that, not just out of spite or bitterness, though as a decrepit dishwasher with bad knees, a bad back, a bum hand, and no access to pain pills, I get crabby, sure, I'm outta smokes and I wish I still had an elderly little Goth-band, instead of all these chores to do and all these ghosts in my haunted skull.
It's like I am always and forever trying to get back to a place and a time that does not exist anymore. I miss my absent loved ones. At least with me, it's all upfront and out in the open how I failed so miserably and that I never intended to be some Internet fucking music blogger. I do have plenty of that songwriter-heartbreak shit poisoning my outlook on some days, you know, and it's true, I usually really DO think I'm a way, way better songwriter than most everybody who gets to make records instead of me, nowadays, right? ...
But honestly, the lyrics on this record are movie-like, if you are gonna travel somewhere soon, this cd is a perfect travelling companion--his poignant stories perfectly compliment the exquisite Tim Mosher production and driving, emotional, versatile music. Like I said, there's a lot of good crunchy, melodic, belligerent punk rock here, but "Hell Or High Water" is grownup country music with soul, like Townes Van Zandt or Tex Perkins or Guy Clarke, I'll be listening to this one over and over for awhile. David Roach has become a really remarkable, blue collar poet in his old age.
Good singer, engaging frontman, excellent writer, artisan, all around versatile entertainer, it's impressive, really. He is quite the raconteur, a humorist, compassionate, observant, confessional. "Styrofoam Cup" and "Walk Away", "Wallet", "Kindness To The Dead", and "Til The Wheels Fall Off", especially, are like pages ripped from my embarrassing lifestory and probably yours, too, certainly.
If you've bothered to read this far. I can still totally relate to all this stuff, the songs are exceptional, killer guitars, and words that are fun and honest and make you want to sing along. Every once in awhile, a record comes along that makes your life a little bit better for awhile, I think that is what real rocknroll records are supposed to do, and this one really succeeds at that for me. These Junkyard geezers have seen and done it all twice already, and are still up for it. If you have had a hard life full of bitter disappointments and grief, as well as some unforgettable nights of intense love and exhilarating fun, they probably know EXACTLY how you feel, and their music makes you wanna live a little bit longer. It's good.