The loss of virginity – Butthole Surfers virginity that is – is a tender time, recalled with hilarity in this excerpt from Dave Brigham's book "(C)Rock Stories"
How could I resist the Red Worms’ Tour of Superhot Lots?
My high school buddy John and his brother Dave, rabid Butthole Surfers fans, had decided in early June that they would quit their jobs and follow the band up and down the East Coast for the summer. I gave notice at the grocery store, which didn’t go over so well with my parents, but I assured them I could live off my old paper-route money for a month or two. In order to defray costs a little bit and increase our opportunities of hooking up with friendly folks who might offer a couch or two for us to sleep on, John and Dave decided we should form a band and busk in parking lots outside the shows.
After a week of less than intense jamming, John singing and banging on a snare drum, Dave thwacking away on a bass and me playing guitar, we knew a few Surfers tunes and partial songs by the Stooges, the Circle Jerks and the Partridge Family, enough to make complete idiots out of ourselves. Our first set, in front of a Dumpster behind Boston’s Channel Club, consisted solely of a 10-minute version of the Surfers’ “Lady Sniff,” a stomping, warped blues masterpiece featuring rude bodily emanations and absurd lyrics about broken teabags, bacon and the city of Detroit.
We played before the show. The overflowing garbage was rank in the early afternoon heat, and there were puddles of putrid liquid lapping at my amp, but I was thrilled that a dozen or so people stood and watched, a few even dropping coins in my guitar case. One guy gave us a problem, though. He was like a punk-rock Kurt Rambis, easily 6-foot-9 with long brown hair and shop teacher glasses. He glared at us the whole time, and unceremoniously ended our impromptu gig by unplugging my amp from the lamp post as the feedback grew louder and louder.
“Hey, don’t touch my amp,” I said half-heartedly.
“Who do you guys think you are?” he snarled.
“The Red Worms,” John answered snidely. “Wanna buy a tape?”
“You guys weren’t cleared to play here,” he said.
“You’re a cop?” Dave asked, looking way, way up. “Wow.”
“I’m not a cop, dickhead.” Again, the snarl. “I’m from The Wave.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but a shiver went up my spine. The Butthole Surfers scared me. John and Dave had seen them once before and owned almost all of their albums. Between their stories and what I’d read in SPIN magazine and heard on college radio, I knew that the Surfers lived, Manson Family-style, on a ranch in Texas, took lots of drugs, sometimes performed naked and wrote insane psychedelic paeans to “creeps in the cellar.” I’d heard about people in the crowd at their shows getting in fistfights and jumping on stage and being bloodied by acid-crazed biker/roadie types.
“Oh, OK,” John and Dave said in unison. The big guy loped away, looking back at us every few steps until ducking inside the club.
“What the hell is The Wave?” I asked.
“They’re kind of like the Kiwanis Club,” Dave said. “But instead of meeting in lame-ass all-you-can-eat restaurants once a month to discuss how they can help homeless people and sick kids, The Wave regulates the freaky vibe at Surfers shows.”
“So we’re not freaky enough to play?” I asked.
“No,” John said, a bit dejected. “But at least we got through one song.”
“I thought the Surfers were all about anarchy and shit,” I said. “Why do they care so much about ‘regulating the freaky vibe’?”
“They don’t,” Dave answered. “They don’t give a shit about The Wave, but they also don’t not give a shit about them.”
As we packed up, my college buddies Jim and Jeff, and Jeff’s girlfriend, Laura, shuffled by.
“Jim! Jeff!” I yelled.
“Holy shit!” Jeff said. “What’re you doing here? Were you just playing?”
“Yeah, you remember my buddy John?” I pointed to him. “That’s his brother, Dave. We’re the Red Worms, and we rocked this parking lot like crazy!”
“Sorry we missed it,” Jim said. “How long did you play?”
“About 10 minutes,” I said.
“The heat?” Jim asked.
“It’s not the heat, it’s the Wave,” John said.
Jim, Jeff and Laura waited for more.
“I don’t know,” I said. “This crazy tall guy came up and told us we had to stop playing. He said we weren’t ‘cleared’ to play here.”
They shrugged their shoulders. Laura chugged the rest of her ice coffee, and we walked into the club. I forgot instantly about The Wave and their tall bastard envoy. The sound system was throbbing with a garden-variety punk song that I couldn’t identify. I looked at John, and mouthed, “What is this?”
He listened for a moment. “GG Allin,” he said with a big smile. John and Dave were kind of into GG, but from the stories they told me about his disgusting debauchery and dangerous stage show, I had no desire to hear his music. I covered my ears.
“You’re a prude!” Dave yelled at me. The two of them laughed at me.
“Get me a beer, ya weirdos!” I yelled over the din.
We turned to the bar, where Jim bumped into a few friends from high school, some of whom I’d met when they visited Jim at school.
Roaming to the other side of the bar a few minutes later, I got tackled by my friend Heidi from college, who was there with two other buddies of mine, Pete and John, and Pete’s friend, Joe, whom I’d met a bunch of times.
“Hey hey!” I said. John thrust a Rolling Rock into my hand and we toasted and laughed about how great it was we were all about to lose our Surfers virginity.
The gang of us stood there for quite a while, pounding beers to fight off the oppressive heat of what the Surfers’ lead weirdo, Gibby, called “a goddamn cold day in Texas” during the show. Within minutes, sweat dripped down my face and pasted my jeans to my legs. Everybody in the place was pounding alcohol to fight off the heat.
The beer, the heat, my angst about the Surfers and the buzz of multiple conversations – John and Dave were talking about seeing the Bad Brains the previous weekend; Jim, Jeff and a few others were arguing about who was better, The Clash or the Pistols; Pete, Joe and John discussing two girls across the bar wearing goth cheerleader outfits – was making me sick.
I’d seen plenty of punk rock shows, but each one still got me twitchy with anticipation and fear. I worried that some tough guy with a Mohawk was gonna call me a suburban pussy and knock me on my ass. I envisioned somebody flicking a cigarette and the club going up like Coconut Grove. I walked toward the stage, where there was a little breathing room, just in time for the opening band to crank it up.
I moved to the side of the quickly forming mosh pit. Raging Slab chug-chugged their way along; people were into them, but after half an hour or so the pit started getting a bit crazy, and the bouncers had to shut the band down.
The club, which was already wall-to-wall with smelly weirdoes, suddenly got twice as full, five times as hot and 10 times as scary. Thick-necked guys in cutoff shorts and ripped Laconia Motorcycle Week t-shirts crowded the bar, pushing weenies like me and my friends aside. Club kids who normally don’t come out during the day seemed to leak out of the bathrooms, vials of blood around their necks and fingernails scratching anybody who looked at them.
There were a bunch of fat guys in their early 30s who were obviously tripping. They were randomly walking up to people and screaming nonsense at the top of their lungs and then flapping their arms and skipping in circles.
Even people who looked normal had the look of the asylum about them, having spent too much time drinking and baking inside the club.
I went into the bathroom and while I pissed in the urinal, two guys were snorting coke and punching each other, really hard, in the chest. As I walked down the graffiti-scarred hallway toward the bar, the lights went down, the crowd erupted and my first, and only, religious experience began.
The Surfers hit the stage in a blinding flash of light, the guitarist screaming at the top of his lungs while the singer laughed maniacally through a bullhorn, all while two drummers pounded away on their stand-up kits, the bass player loosened everyone’s bowels with his low-end dirge and in the middle of it all a woman with an incredible body wearing a monkey mask danced stark naked. It was a combination nightmare and wet dream, the fear and ecstasy almost too much to bear.
I was transfixed.
I’d seen plenty of bands up to that point, ranging from mainstream rockers like Rush and The Police to Connecticut hardcore bands like the Violent Children, the White Pigs and Chronic Disorder. I’d seen all sorts of weird punk characters – guys with mohawks and neck tattoos, girls with dog collars and safety pins through their cheeks – and witnessed drugged-out freaks rolling around on VFW hall floors, covered in blood.
Somehow none of that prepared me for seeing the Butthole Surfers. Strobe lights flashed continuously; the singer, Gibby, pranced around in his underwear, donned a nurse’s uniform and dry humped a blow-up doll; the movie screen behind the drummers played graphic films of penis reattachment surgeries and car crash investigations; and the music was a relentless attack of tribal beats, distorted guitar, psychedelic vocals and bombastic bass.
For 90 minutes I vacillated between fear and reverie, letting the sweaty, stinky, sidewinding crowd move me around like seaweed in a tidal wave. I was sure that one of the giant freaks in cut-offs I’d seen at the bar was going to come up from behind me and push me headfirst into the mosh pit and laugh and laugh and laugh as I was crushed. In the next moment, I closed my eyes and put my hands up like a man who’d been saved by Jesus, happy for the emotional release and the feeling of total freedom.
The band never let the crowd relax. One song bled into another, Gibby’s vocals oozing out of the P.A. in layers of manipulated loops of fart sounds, banshee wails and nonsensical lyrics about nuns with bullwhips and freckles as big as steam engines.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal, Gibby took out a shotgun and aimed it into the crowd. He shot several blanks, which were loud as hell and scary despite their obvious harmlessness. He finished up the performance by dragging a crash cymbal off one of the drum kits, squirting the top with lighter fluid, lighting it and banging on it with a drumstick as flames licked the ceiling above the stage. People went nuts for that, screaming ecstatically and pushing toward the stage like he was the Pope.
I followed the stumbling, sweaty crowd outside into the scalding heat and humidity and made my way over to a fence to wait for anyone I knew to walk by. One by one my friends straggled toward me, each one more dazed and amazed than the one before. Nobody could say anything more profound than “Wow,” “Unbelievable,” “Awesome” or “Holy shit!”
Copyright © 2010 Dave Brigham – Reprinted by permission of the author
The story preceding is an excerpt of one of the 15 stories in (C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity by Dave Brigham, which is available at Booklocker