Sunday, April 15, 2012

Legionaire's Disease Band - Rather See You Dead

A. Rather See You Dead

B. Downtown

Legionaire's Disease Band
Rather See You Dead b/w Downtown
Disease Unlimited (1001), 1979

Jerry Anomie was born in Tennessee but moved to Houston as a young child. Music never appealed to him growing up until a friend of his who worked at a record store played him the Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop. He ended up meeting Iggy soon after that, which helped give him a new outlook on life. Having recently spent five and a half years in prison, he started realizing he didn't have to be a criminal. He could be in a band!

Initially taking on the role of manager for his friend Dick Long's contrived band, The Niggers, Jerry's duties included rallying up musicians and finding them a rehearsal space. It soon became apparent that Dick wasn't actually up for being a front man, so Jerry hopped on board. He continued playing with the group for a few months after that, but since they had no original material to work on, he decided to get a new band started.

In the beginning he had his 14 year old nephew playing his half-a-drumset, Walter Wolf on guitar, and Stormin' Norman Cooper on bass. Norman had no prior experience playing the instrument and mainly just acted the part with his amp turned off. Finally, after several months someone noticed he appeared to putting his fingers in the right places, so they actually powered up his amp!

Jerry realized he had to make a serious go of this in order to stay out of trouble. So he sold all his furniture to get a better rehearsal space and looked for new players. He met a girl named Gwen at a Ramones show and they hit it off right away. She started bringing her guitar and amp over for rehearsals with Jerry and Norman. After stealing guitarist David Tolbert and drummer Craig Haynes from a cover band called Prisoner, Gwen Duke proceeded to quit her job as a supervisor for a telephone company and Legionaire's Disease Band finally became a solid entity.

The band had started off playing songs by the Dead Boys, Richard Hell, Iggy, and of course, the Pistol. But within six months Jerry had written them a 40-minute set of original material fueled by his hatred and rage for the system from his time in the pen.

Jerry was a natural promoter. He'd approach club owners and ask what their slowest nights were, then promise they'd pack the place if they gave them the night. He'd then go into record stores and command the attention of everyone in the place to announce their upcoming shows and leave flyers behind. Before long, the band was drawing big crowds and had built a name for themselves amongst a thriving Houston punk scene that was producing acts like Really Red, AK-47, Vast Majority and the Hates.

Eventually the band felt they were ready to make their way out to the west coast. But first they needed to record some songs because you couldn't get a gig at the Whisky A Go Go unless you had a record out. So in 1979 they went to a studio called Magic Rat. Jerry counted his money as he walked in the door and then told the engineer to give them $120 worth. Sure enough, eight songs got recorded that day!

They self-released the "Rather See You Dead (Than With Wool On Your Head)" single on their own Disease Unlimited Records in a reputed edition of somewhere between 500-1,000 copies. The cover of the record shows a picture of Jerry's grandfather in a casket. It gave Jerry the idea to stage his own funeral as a promotional ploy. So he started calling around to all the big funeral homes to try and rustle up a casket, explaining to them it was to promote a record. Unsurprisingly, he was turned down time and again. But when he promised Sunnyside Funeral Home he'd get their name on the radio, they anxiously took the bait.

Jerry called his friends at KPFT and asked if he could make an announcement on the air. It went something like this: "We are sad to report that Jerry Anomie has passed away. The funeral will be held at Warehouse Records & Tapes this Saturday. The funeral will be brought to you by Sunnyside Funeral Home; they've never had a customer complain!"

It was enough to procure them a casket for an entire week! All the punks came dressed nicely and the girls wore black. Jerry got inside the casket before they wheeled it out. Then Chris Lord of Plastic Idols read his eulogy. The event went over very well. The band played a show in the store and then left the casket in there for a week with records for sale inside of it.

After that, they played one of their most memorable gigs at a country/western biker bar called High Noon Saloon. It was a hot summer night and the place was packed. Jerry went on stage wearing only cut-offs and a Gilley's hat. The bikers didn't take too kindly to the punks being in their bar, so before long they started throwing punches. Seeing no other plausible options, Jerry slipped out of his britches, which forced the owner to yell at him to "cover that thing." Naturally, he used his sacred Gilley's hat, which of course sent the crowd into a frenzy. A guy threw a pitcher of beer at Jerry. He ducked out of harms way and it hit David's amp. So David then proceeded to take off his guitar and bust the guy over the head. A full scale riot erupted and spilled out into the street. Somehow the band escaped unscathed.

After that, they felt it was a good time to head out to California. And as luck would have it, they were able to secure a gig at the Whisky opening up for the Dead Kennedys. Unfortunately, they only got through a couple songs before a riot ensued there. Following the fiasco, they wound up spending the next six months playing the Los Angeles and San Francisco area before heading out to New York for a six month stint there.

Legionaire's Disease Band would continue to travel back and forth for nearly 10 years with the same line-up before finally being derailed by drugs. They had started the band to wake people up, and did a good job of it. But when girls and dope took priority, they ultimately lost their purpose and decided to end it. They played their final gigs in 1988 with Nicki Sicki of Verbal Abuse filling in on bass after Norman and Gwen had left.

In all the time they were together, Legionaire's Disease Band only released one other record, a four song EP in 1985. Their first single had sold out quickly and was repressed by Lunar Lab in an undetermined quantity. Jerry had given them the original 8-song master tape and authorized the repressing of just the two songs for the single. But several years after the band broke-up, Lunar Lab took it upon themselves to release the entire session on LP, despite Jerry's request for them not to. He believes it's not their best work, and in fact, their best material never even got recorded.

After Legionaire's Disease Band, Jerry went on to release an album with his next band, Anomie, which featured Duff McKagen and members of the Cro-Mags and White Zombie. Craig later died of liver cancer and Norman in a car accident. Jerry has plans to record all the songs LDB ever played.

"Rather See You Dead" earned a spot on the Bloodstains Across Texas compilation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dot Vaeth Group - White Collar Worker

A. White Collar Worker

B. Armed Robbery

Baby's Playing Games (Vomit Pigs Cover)

NOTE: The complete version of "Baby's Playing Games" was not on the original 7" release. The clip above was taken from the Deep In The Throat Of Texas comp, as were the other two songs since the fidelity is much better than my 7".

White Collar Worker b/w Armed Robbery/Baby's Playing Games
ESR (No. 1 ), 1978

Brothers David and Doug Townsend grew up on the same street as James Flory. They all attended school together from Elementary on. David took percussion lessons in junior high, but never quite grasped the concept and decided he wanted to play guitar instead. His brother Doug, who actually took guitar lessons, realized how inept he was at the instrument and opted for drums. After James got himself a bass and an amp and the brothers gathered some crummy equipment for themselves, they all started jamming together in David's bedroom.

It was the mid 70s and they were all bored with what was being played on the radio. After they heard a Ramones album, things started to change. They were blown away with what they heard and immediately started working on simple three chord songs they could play. After scrounging together the money for better equipment, the next step was to rent a storage warehouse in Ft. Worth where they could get out of the house and work on riffs as loud as they pleased.

A friend of theirs named Jim Nabors would regularly come to their rehearsals, eventually joining the band as singer. They came up with the name Dot Vaeth Group as homage to an old art teacher named Dorothy Vaeth who used to drink in class. They used to tease her by calling her Dot Vaeth and thought it would be a cool name for the band. They even sent a letter to Mrs. Vaeth to let her know they named their band after her, but never did get a reply.

James and Doug became a tight rhythm section but felt they still needed a lead guitar player. So they ended up recruiting Pat Conley who practiced in the rehearsal space next door. After that, the band decided to move their rehearsals to Pat's trailer in Azle, TX.

Pat introduced the rest of the band to an attorney named Bryce Parker. Bryce, who would later start up Electric Slum Records and be responsible for the Are We Too Late For The Trend compilation, brought out a 2-channel reel to reel and recorded their practice. With amps cranked to 11 in the small trailer, the recording sounded pretty rough. But Bryce insisted on putting out a 7" containing the band's two original songs, "White Collar Worker" and "Armed Robery" on his newly established ESR imprint in an optimistic run of 1,000 copies.

As a teaser, the record closes with a clip of them covering a Vomit Pigs tune called "Baby's Playing Games" that fades out within a few seconds. They were pals with Mike Brock, leader of the Vomit Pigs, and after the VP's released their stellar Take One EP, the Dot Vaeth gang thought it'd be funny to do the 30 second anthem even faster than the VP's did! It wasn't until 1997 that people were able to hear DVG's rendition in its entirety thanks to Existential Vaccum's Deep In The Throat Of Texas compilation album that also includes the two songs from the single, giving "Armed Robbery" an extra couple second intro.

In 1978, Dot Vaeth's set consisted of many cover songs from New York and British punk bands. There were very few groups in the area at that time playing punk besides the Nervebreakers in Dallas and Vomit Pigs in Dangerfield. Since there were no established clubs in Ft. Worth for this type of music yet, Pat would approach club owners and tell them they did Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith covers to get them in the door. Then on audition night they'd get thrown off the stage by their second song, sometimes being physically removed from the building!

It got to the point where they had to start renting out warehouse spaces just to play shows and then charge people a quarter at the door to get in. Eventually they started gigging in Dallas more often, sometimes alongside the Nervebreakers where they'd have more of an audience. Still unable to move anywhere near the 1,000 records that were pressed, they would staple the covers to the wall to make wallpaper and fling the records like frisbees and shatter them. They even set up shop outside a Zeppelin concert once to put records in the hands of unsuspecting show goers.

A friend of theirs named Michael Ritchey owned a lighting company that had developed a new technology to simulate lightning. He was attempting to sell this special effect to Hollywood so he made a promo video with Dot Vaeth Group performing the Ramones "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment." The shoot took place on a cold winter day in a rented warehouse in Irving, TX. Unfortunately they didn't ground David properly when they shot a bolt of lightning out of his guitar and he received quite a shock. Realizing a little too late that they should have put some gym mats down, they remedied the problem and tried again. The video was aired at a party with a bunch of Hollywood industry buffs but ultimately nothing ever came of it.

The band played together for about 3 years until all their equipment was stolen out of a trailer, putting a damper to their progress. Since some of the members had already moved to Dallas while others remained in Ft. Worth, they decided to just throw in the towel.

The original trio of David, Doug and James ended up starting a band called the Infants, who later morphed into Superman's Girlfriend. The brothers both hopped around from band to band for a while, eventually settling in with the Ralphs. After having kids, David stepped away from music altogether. His brother Doug passed away in 2006 after losing a battle with lung cancer. James Flory had stints with Tex and the Saddle Tramps and the late incarnation of the Nervebreakers that toured the east coast. Pat went on to play in Blindate, a band that Doug was also in.