Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Terry Graham - Punk Like Me

Terry is, of course, best known for his time drumming with the Gun Club, although he was also in the seminal punk band the Bags and contributed (briefly) to the Cramps, as well. Terry joins the many other early LA punk rockers who have written their tales of the 70’s scene. His voice is a bit Beat Generation-y, with wild descriptive terms, somewhat non-linear sentences and plenty of hep talk about sex, booze, drugs and rock’n’roll.

His early years include a dead-beat dad who took off on his mom, traveling about, a step-dad who turns out to be pretty cool, an attempt at being a juvenile delinquent, an early interest in drums that waxed and waned, a first girlfriend who turns him on to sex, literature, cinema and even more music, and plenty more. After getting bored with Texas and, incredulously, a girlfriend who turned him onto countless coolness and countless screwing, Terry picked up and moved to California in the hopes of somehow working in film.

That hope didn’t last long, but he ingratiated himself into the fledgling punk scene and, after sleeping on floors of punk squats and going to The Masque, the Whiskey and the Starwood in search of punk rock, he eventually becomes the drummer for the Bags. Since he arrived in town a couple of years before me, it’s interesting to read his take on the first wave of bands and he is happy to give his opinion, good or bad, on these musicians. Funnily, he dates Jane from the Go-Gos and, in a very un-punk way, criticizes them for their lack of musicianship and declares that they won’t go anywhere. 

Instead it’s the Bags that break up – dissolve over the much-feared “personal differences” and everyone’s other activities. (He does mention the Bags shows that I made it to after arriving in LA in 1979, though.) Of course, then comes the Gun Club, which he joins along with Bags’ bassist/guitarist Rob Ritter in its infancy, with Brian (Kid Congo) still wrenchin’n’slidin’ the 6 strings. Brian, of course then joins the Cramps, they get Ward, record Fire of Love and – crazily enough – go on a wildly successful tour of the east coast in front of packed houses! Of course, not everything goes as well, although they do a lot (LOT) of touring (I wish that I had their booking agent back then!) and end up on Blondie’s label Animal Records for their new album, Miami. Kinda fascinating to read Terry’s opinions of the songs, which are overall pretty different than mine, as I thought there was a lot of improvement on this record and he didn’t care for it, overall. Another record (The Las Vegas Story), endless touring (I know that it can be a slog, but I'm jealous of the amount that they were able to do and surprised by the number of pretty big shows that they played) and constant bitchin' about singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce and eventually Terry skulks out of a hotel in Paris and leaves the band before the end of a tour (kinda petty and truly un-professional, but he did what he felt he had to do). His book ends with the end of the band - I suppose he assumes that no one is interested in his post-rock'n'roll life, which does tend to drag down a lot of rocker's tomes.

In general, I liked the initial part of the book where Graham talks about the burgeoning LA punk scene as a whole rather than his tour stories  – although those are interesting, as, again, I had no idea how popular the Gun Club was outside of LA. But, a surprisingly good read - I dug it a lot more than I expected that I would. Recommended for those who are interested in the early LA scene.