(Circa 1979 - 1992)
Eric Page (honorary)
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"I Was a Phase 2 Rockroach"
My joining the ROCKROACHES is one of the factors that begins Phase Two. It is in essence the Junior College Years - upon meeting George in Fall 1982 until George and I moved to Memphis, Summer 1984 (Phase 3). Phase 2 also has John going in the Navy and Bill leaves for Mississippi State.
Band Memory is a shared memory. I remember moments but they are only decisive in relation to me. George wrote all the songs and the band was not a democracy. But all my other bands (White Wolf, Abyss(mal), Paper Tiger) had no clear leader and were about as lame as you could guess. Now I had a nazi for a leader. A regular 'Johnny Ramone'. George's individualism informed the band. I tried to conform to this new FAST way of playing distorted limp wristed pop songs as fast as I could. George would get upset at himself for not being a 'natural musician' and frustrated with a changing lineup for not falling into step. I was greatly informed by George's powers of persuasion and I'm sure I assimilated that knowledge to wrangle many a rockstar and starlet into my films a decade later.
George told me that this younger guy John Prescott was the singer. John was also a member of the church and was going in the Navy soon. I liked John regardless of these two facts. I mean, I still see organized religion for what it is and I pissed off an Army recruiter at East Union High once by wearing one of those Rolling Stone magazine shirts. How dare anybody tell me what God is. John is/was one of the most cynical guys I ever met. Even George and I have a spiritual pre-text but Im not sure about John's belief system anymore. But once committed to something, John was there. He taught himself to smoke before entering the Navy just so he'd have something to do. His Mother was countrified like mine. I don't think I ever saw his father. Like most of my close friends to come, John seemed hatched. The parents were further out of frame than a Peanuts cartoon. I told George that I was adopted a full year before I told my parents that I knew. George only had an inkling that his bio-father's last name was 'Brady'. We were bastards of young (see PHASE 3).
Bill was quiet. I hardly got to know the guy save for being with him in fotos or at a handful of practices. I knew that Bill was going to be an engineer. Weren't those always the crazy ones? Bill was clearly the best musician in the band. Bill's dad taught me Western Civ at Northeast and told me on many occasions told me 'my son listens to the Rolling Stones."
Bill was quiet and quiet people sorta make me nervous.
NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI JUNIOR COLLEGE
Still in High School, Bill and I had attended the same "rock concert" in Booneville in 1981. The headliners were STILLWATER ("Mindbender") and southern rockers POINT BLANK ("Oh Nichole"). I still remember that punk rock episode of C.H.I.P.S. where the anarchic teen had a POINT BLANK poster on his wall! Right. Bill and I didn't know each other that night. He was taking pictures for the Booneville High News. I was the cartoonist for my school paper but that night it would have been hard for me to draw a picture. Me and my friends were all wasted and driving back home when we were stopped by the cops. I remember the springs of the car seat making a racket as I kicked the empties up underneath while the Sheriff did his walk with a flashlight. All in all a very satisfying night and my first rock show - I just wish Bill had taken a crowd shot.
Much to our amazement the College library owned the STOOGES RAW POWER and the NY DOLLS first LP. I had read about the bands but never heard them. I could tell they were older than the RAMONES. George wasn't as fascinated with these bands, his passions lay in the summer of 1976 and beyond: EATERS, 999, BUZZCOCKS, VILETONES, ABRASIVE WHEELS, MINOR THREAT and my fave TSOL. George was handsome, smart, influential and couldn't - or rather chose not to - win. I remember George asking me to use my own name to check out the LPs cause he didn't want to leave a record of his name at the school.
Later we would meet John at SNAPPY SNACKS on our school lunch break. A '3 for a dollar' dough burger dive in a Booneville alleyway. When night fell we met at John's house for TV PARTYS and watched SCTV. We put a positive spin on punk's nihilism because we couldn't understand the lyrics. But I remember pulling into Burger King once in Tupelo while Joey just happened to be singing about Burger King. The relevance gave me a chill that I did not get from Led Zeppelin.
|George, John, Mike
George subscribed to CREEM but he was no 'boy howdy'. I never had a beer with George, he was straight edge and wanted us to be. I hated the herd mentality too but I drank a little when George and John weren't around with my number one redneck buddy Charles Gibson.
"FOUR ARMS TO HOLD YOU"
George wrote some great songs during Phase Two: "Insecurity Guards", "Death of a B-Movie Queen", "Power and Passion" - but sometimes it was all we could do to play music. George and I fussed over shared childhood memories; like comic book stories featuring four-armed men which led in part to our co-created CAPT. ANARCHY (which Fantagraphics would publish in 1989 as KID ANARCHY.) We shopped Tupelo thrift religiously and I found Krishnamurti for a dime. It's like Steve Martin said, "You will read just enough to fuck you up for the rest of your life." We found new punk releases "SUBTERRANEAN JUNGLE" and 'PLASTIC SURGERY DISASTERS" in the 'import section' at Album Alley in Tupelo (you must remember that Mississippi long ago seceded). Newsom's Record Shop is the Sears Mall had closed with disco.
It was impossible to find a drummer. No one knew how to keep a simple beat - so we improvised with Dr. Rhythm.
We conceptualized another band called The ANGRY REDNECKS which was akin to hardcore which we were listening to more and more. We talked about visiting the ANTENNA CLUB in Memphis (one hundred miles away) where it was rumored we could see a REAL punk rock band.
ANTENNA CLUB 1983
After too much deliberation (a fault of ours) George, John, and I called the Antenna Hotline from a Baldwyn phone booth (that can be seen in 'Teenage Tupelo'). The PHILISTEENS were playing the next night. I remember sitting in the parking lot of River City Donuts in Memphis watching the hipsters file into the Antenna Club. We were numb to the possibilities. One lanky dude with a mohawk, leather and chains sauntered into the staple-marked doorway. I could envision him beating the shit out of me later. We worked up our courage and got in. The place stank of beer and black light made our white shirts turn neon. The main attraction was multiple tv's that showed rock videos (MTV was only a year old). The SEX PISTOLS played on screen but we didn't notice until they hit the chorus of "God Save the Queen." The mohawk dude turned out to be our waiter. He was also the owner Steve McGhee. The Antenna Club was the second oldest punk venue in America next to CBGB's and now it's a lesbian bar. That night it was a level of Dante's Inferno but I felt like a Mississippi Hippie.
ARKANSAS BARKING SPIDERS.
George refused to play board games but was interested in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. Perhaps it was because Tom Hanks (his favorite TV actor except for Andy Kaufman) had just starred in "MAZES and MONSTERS" which placed the role playing game in the same dangerous light as 'punk rock'. I had already played 'D&D' with that number one redneck buddy Charles Gibson.
My Dad clocked out one Friday afternoon and picked up Charles in Saltillo. Charles had no employment to parlay him. Meanwhile George, John, and I were practicing in my Grandpa George's old 'car shed'; a wooden structure with a tin roof that once housed his '24 T-Model and '28 A-Model Fords. 'Any color you want, as long as it's black'.
The Angry Rednecks were doing an original song with a negative slant called "MISSISSIPPI". Our sound went dead. Charles Gibson stood in the carport some 200 feet away laughing maniacally and dangling the orange extension cord! Soon our unplugged session became D&D headquarters and that was it for the Angry Rednecks. I had introduced the Roaches to a REAL redneck - though Chuck would be quick to say 'ridge runner'.
I met Charles over deer meat and sweet tea at his sister Candy's house in Winter, 1978. I was fifteen. I was smitten with his younger blonde sister Louella. She read AVENGERS. I wanted to be a Vision to her Scarlet Witch. Sister Candy was my chief wet dream and left behind mental notes used as lyrics for CANDY AND THE GANG, one of my better (phase 4) ROCKROACH songs. Whenever I kissed Candy bugs crawled through the camera.
Charles told me of urban myths before they were called such things: Bigfoot sightings and UFO abductions in West Virginia (where they were from). Freak bible rants and wheat straw driven into oak trees by killer tornadoes. Chuck's use of good natured stupidity combined with metaphysical philosophy protected him from any and all fates thrust upon him by Man. And if that didn't work, Charles Gibson would break wind in public and call it an "Arkansas Barking Spider".
Charles Gibson was a folk artist in that he was bad untrained painter - but that didn't stop him. He did enormous chalks on mildewed chunks of poster paper with subjects like bass fishing, Jesus Christ, and barbarians. As soon as I joined the ROCKROACHES I told Chuck.
Charles was suspicious of punk rock.
George was suspicious of new friends. "I got enough friends, I don't need anymore!" George groaned, quoting AGENT "ORANGES". But Chuck wasn't my friend - Chuck was my GURU. Pretty soon, George's cozy assumptions of morality would be challenged by a drunken wizard named DRAZIW.
THE LAST SUPPER.
George was a wizard named Sarcaz. John was a cleric named Pardue. I was the Dungeon Master. For six months we played one D&D scenario customized from three modules. Perhaps the frustrations and fantasies of a band going nowhere were thrust into the game. Then Charles turned evil. In the end Sarcaz and Draziw would fight for the fate of the universe. The End Game occurred at an all-nighter at Chuck's house in Saltillo. Sometime afterward the house burned to the ground taking all of Chuck's childhood photos and artwork. (See the house in KID ANARCHY #1)
John went in the navy and we saw him off up at Goat Island near Pickwick (a good old boy-made lake 'resort' near the Alabama line). I etched KID ANARCHY on the pavilion while John burned old poetry. Chuck was there. George and I made it back to the Antenna Club on St. Patrick's Day 1983. George bought an UNDERTONES single at Memphis Comics and we ate at Little Pigs BBQ. Chuck was there. George and I attended the Tupelo Lyric screening of "YOR, CAVEMAN FROM THE FUTURE". Chuck was there - and proclaimed loudly 'This shit is fake."
Me and the boys cared way too much. Charles Gibson didn't seem to care at all. And for his own brand of existentialism, Charles became a character in KID ANARCHY. Whenever Charles spoke in comic book form, George merely took from Dungeon tapes and memories of Arkansas Barking Spiders.
THE NAME CHANGE GAME
I was in the backyard of Charles house one Sunday observing him lifting creosote poles over his head. Then and there Charles proclaimed his 'other name' to be CHUCK MOONCHOW. I don't recall what brought this on. Maybe it was a discussion over character names for D&D. It was Chuck Moonchow that really turned into Draziw. "Charles Gibson" was just a white slave name.
The alter ego name is an established (Southern) tradition for sure; Hillbillies, Negroes, Wrestlers, and Strippers adopted fake monikers to show their dislocation and 'otherwordly' identity. Me and George would change our names as we hit another conceptual phase called BATPUNK (but that would be Phase 3 - the move to MEMPHIS). We had to get closer to the Antenna Club.
Our intentions would be announced in the city paper.
Mike McCarthy (JMM)
June 17, 2005
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