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.
By the spring of ‘77 we were bored and ready to do something, but we didn’t know what. We were 4 musicians with little in common musically other than we’d all known each other for years, but had never played in a band together. I was a drummer who could also play (some) guitar. Andy Gonzalez played drums. He didn’t play anything but drums, so I played bass. Andy Thoreson and Steve Evans played guitar(s). The 2 Andy’s were superior musicians to Steve and I (Gonzalez sight reads drum music and understands composition and musicalness better than most. Thoreson is a musical genius, basically.), and the thought of the 4 of us starting a band was furthest from our minds. Still there wasn’t much of anything else happening at that point and Steve’s house in Lawndale was a great place for us to hang out, drink beer and make noise.
Around that time I saw a TV movie about Howard Hughes. Whenever he got into an introspective mood, he’d pick up his tenor sax and blow. I thought, “Man, it would be great to be able to do that!”, so I went to Hogan’s House of Music, our favorite hangout on Hawthorne Blvd. in Lawndale and inquired about renting a sax. They didn’t have a tenor, but they had an alto, so I rented it.
For some reason the first tune I could pull out of my ass was the theme from the old TV sitcom, “My Three Sons” staring Fred MacMurray. I excitedly showed Thoreson what I could do and he wrenched the sax from my hands. Thoreson blew My Three Sons on alto and defined The Skabbs.
Soon we found ourselves in Steve’s cork lined practice space running over our half-assed arrangement of the theme to My Three Sons, over and over again.
Yes, it’s bad - really bad. That’s what we liked about it. The concept of The Skabbs was born. We recorded every take, and later we’d listen back and laugh our asses off, then we’d listen again. We wore the cassette out and enjoyed the process, and we decided to start a band.
The name came from a review in Crawdaddy or Cream magazine. It was review of a Black Sabbath album called “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. I think it could have been written by Lester Bangs because it was so scathingly funny. The reviewer referred to the band as “Black Skabbath” and the album as “Skabbath Bloody Skabbath”. Thoreson said, “That’s what we should call the band. The Skabbs.” That was that.
Here’s “verson 3” of My Three Sons. If you want the other 6 or 7 versions, let us know!
The show tonight was a huge success. Unfortunately the headliners, Stars At Night were unable to perform as one of the members of the band was sick, but Seleste from SAN was there organizing the whole thing, and she was a total sweetheart. Other bands that stood out were Teen Rex, who were pretty unique and rocking, and Marvelous Things who had a somewhat atmospheric 80s sound with a little bit of The Strokes thrown in for good measure. Good crowd, and the less than ideal PA system seemed supercharged during our set. Thanks to Mark and Jacquie for coming out.
Well, here’s our first audio post (first of many I hope). This song was the first original song written for The Skabbs in about 13 years. This particular recording was from a rehearsal session in late ‘08, soon after the song was written by our guitar player, Andy. You’d have to ask Andy, but I think the song refers in some way to his HORRIBLE JOB (we all have horrible jobs, but his is of a particularly gruesome sort of horribleness). The wonderfully compressed sound on this track is courtesy of Garageband, which is how it was recorded using that single tiny condenser mic perched above the screen on my iMac. We’ve since re-recorded using Protools (available on our Corporate Identity EP), but I love this version and it happens to be the only version of the song I have on my work computer at the moment, so here you go.
For those of you unfamiliar with us, we’ve got a gazillion songs that were written for us many years ago when we were young, dumb and full of stupid, and all that will be discussed in future posts. For now, I hope you’re intrigued enough to want to check in occasionally and see what’s new, or old as it were.