Sometime within a week or two following the “Tribute To Elvis” sessions (probably late August, 1977), The Skabbs reconvened at Steve Evans’ Lawndale retreat and began an ambitious project: Make a proper recording of The Murder Rock Anthem. Fortunately for us, Steve owned a 4-track reel to reel recorder. Steve also owned a huge PA system, and often did live sound engineering for local bands, so he had plenty of equipment on hand.
The four of us did a “live” recording of the basic tracks. As memory serves, we probably used about 4 mics or so on the drums, running them through the mixer, then sending the live mix to one track on the recorder. One track each for bass and guitars and there you have it. Next, we mixed the basics down to 2 tracks, then overdubbed guitar solos (Andy Thoreson’s first, then Steve Evans’) on one track, then it was time to record vocals.
As I recall, Dwayne came in once all the instrumental tracks were done. He stood in the cork lined music room with headphones on and screamed on cue. That was quite a sight (and sound!) because none of us could hear the music, except Steve who was in another room engineering. All we could see and hear was this crazy man screaming incoherently.
Our big plan was to submit the results to the Dr. Demento Show* in hopes of getting airplay, and eventual fame and fortune. We wrote a letter (with help from our friend and future producer, Peter Bunch) and got everyone we knew to sign it, like a petition, and submitted it along with the tape of “Murder Rock” (including a 4-track version of “My Three Sons”) to the Dr. Demento Show. A short time later we got a letter back saying that although he liked it, he did not play “instrumentals” on his show. Who knew?
That rejection letter served as an unintentional call to action for The Skabbs. We had to do something that would show Dr. Demento and everyone else who didn’t “get it” that The Skabbs were not going away that easily. Then we remembered that our drummer, Andy Gonzalez knew a guy…
Next: What’s Punk Rock?
*Dr. Demento was a DJ who did a weekly local (and later syndicated) radio show during the 70s and 80s featuring “humorous”, or novelty music. In about October ‘77 we heard Devo on Dr. Demento promoting their show the following night at the Whiskey a Go Go and we were so impressed we went to the show and found untold levels of inspiration. More on that some other time.
Is It Possible To Flip Over Before You’re In Your Grave (Part 3)?
Back to the first Dwayne session, August 17, 1977: We played a Led Zeppelin song, and a slow blues jam, so what else could we possibly do? Well, as it happened Elvis Presley died the day before, so, knowing Steve Evans could do a comical imitation, we ran through a typical progression and went with it. Since Steve was singing lead, we inlisted Dwayne to play Kazoo. What could be more Elvis?
Is It Possible to Flip Over Before You’re In Your Grave (Part 1)?
Right from the start we knew we couldn’t do it with just the four of us. We had to add someone who would bring that certain something we needed to make it… something, who knew what? But yeah, a singer would be nice. It’s funny now, because each of us can sing (Well, Andy Gonzalez hums while he drums, so I guess that counts as singing) but at the time we instinctively knew we needed a front man.
Steve Evans worked at Weber Toyota in Lawndale with a kid about our age named Dwayne, who was about as affable a guy as anyone could ever meet. Dwayne walked around the car lot and would often feel inspired to do a kick ass Robert Plant imitation. Steve was like, “Dwayne could be our singer”, so we asked him if he’d come over one night and “try out for the band”.
The night we chose (for some reason) was Wednesday, August 17, 1977. Regardless of whatever night of the week it was, we proceeded to get fairly drunk and persuaded poor Dwayne to let it all hang out. Of course we recorded the proceedings.
Since we knew Dwayne’s specialty was Robert Plant, we started off with a rendition of “Communications Breakdown”, but Dwayne had no clue what the lyrics were or whatever the melody (can you talk about melody while discussing Led Zeppelin?) or phrasing was supposed to be or anything, but he could scream, really well. In the true spirit of Led Zeppelin, we stole their tune and claimed to author “The Murder Rock Anthem”. I love how you can hear Andy Thoreson shouting “Now!” and “Keep Singing!” by way of direction to Dwayne.
A week or two later we recorded a “produced” version of Murder Rock (Which we’ll post about here some other time), but this version, which was the 2nd or 3rd take (we have the reel to reel master somewhere) is extremely classic. Dwayne is the star, no doubt.
A personal note: This was one of the first times I played bass in a rock band, and it shows. Not that I’ve improved or anything.