Category Archives: Legs McNeil

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GG Allin’s Last Day on Earth! Legs McNeil’s New Vice Column!

By Johnny Puke, as told to Legs McNeil

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Art by Brian Walsby

I never paid much attention to GG Allin when he was alive because I thought he was a talentless bottom feeder who’d do anything to get attention. Consequently, I never bothered with his music, and stayed away from reading about him. I mean, compared to my pals in the Ramones, what could Allin possibly have to offer? GG seemed like a spectacular mess who was just taking up space until he killed himself. I didn’t really need any more garbage heaps in my life. But after he died, my best friend Tom Hearn told me he’d hung out with GG a few times in New Haven, Connecticut, and that he was a nice guy.

“Really?” I asked Tom, intrigued that I let my preconceived notions keep me from checking Allin out. I love it when my prejudiced ideas get shattered and I have to take another look.

“Yeah,” Tom told me, “He was like this incredible asshole on stage, just fighting and screaming and shitting on everyone, but off stage he was really nice. He was kind of like a more violent, fucked-up version of Joey Ramone. Ya know how Joey was so incredibly focused on stage? And then when we were hanging out with him, he was funny as shit? GG was kind of like that …”

Hmm, I thought, Maybe I was wrong about the guy…

When I was doing a reading tour of the south last winter, I became friendly with Johnny Puke, from Charleston, South Carolina, where he books and manages the Tin Roof, a fun, dumpy punk club. Johnny told me that he was with GG the night he died and I thought it would be an interesting story to get on tape. So I asked Johnny if I could interview him some time, Johnny said, ”Yes,” and last October, just as it was getting really cold outside, I headed back to Charleston to interview Johnny Puke. This is his report.

 

via GG Allin’s Last Day on Earth | VICE United States.

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Legs McNeil (look-a-like) Held In Colorado On Triple Slaying Arrested In Oklahoma!

By DAN ELLIOTT December 29, 2013 3:52 PM

This photo provided by the Pueblo County, Colo., Sheriff’s Department shows Legs McNeil look-a-like, Harry Carl Mapps. Authorities say the man suspected of killing three people and setting fire to a home in southern Colorado was captured in Oklahoma after a nationwide manhunt on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.

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(AP Photo)

This photo provided by the Pueblo County, Colo., Sheriff’s Department shows Harry Carl Mapps. Authorities say the man suspected of killing three people and setting fire to a home in southern Colorado was captured in Oklahoma after a nationwide manhunt on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Pueblo County, Colo., Sheriff’s Department)

DENVER (AP) — A man suspected of killing three people and setting fire to a home in southern Colorado has been captured in Oklahoma after a nationwide manhunt, authorities said Sunday.

Harry Carl Mapps, 59, was arrested at a motel in Roland, Okla., on Saturday night, said Kirk Taylor, sheriff of Pueblo County, Colo. Mapps had spent more than a month on the run.

A booking photo showed him with a swollen lip and large red patch on his right cheek, but authorities said there had been no struggle. No other details of his arrest were released.

Taylor said Mapps was found using information developed by the U.S. Marshals Service in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Mapps had lived in Texas.

The Marshals Service had issued a fugitive warrant for Mapps and said authorities were searching for him nationwide.

 

READ MORE AT: Suspect in Colo. triple slaying arrested in Okla. – Yahoo News.

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Linda Lovelace: Loose Lips


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Before Linda Lovelace’s untimely death in 2002, the sex superstar sat for a no-holds barred interview with pop-culture historian Legs McNeil. Fortunately McNeil hired a film crew to record the historic event as Linda recounted the making of “Deep Throat.” Includes additional comments by Marilyn Chambers, Chuck Traynor, FBI Agent Bill Kelly, Harry Reems, Jane Hamilton and Eric Edwards.

A film by Alex Chmaj and Legs McNeil

BUY THE DVD

 


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Legs and Gillian in NYC Thursday Night

715x288_f-i-tPlease Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
Thursday, November 21 | 6:00 pm
Great Hall (new location!)
Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center Directions

Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil
Authors Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil present their book, Please Kill Me, the first oral history of punk, in which Iggy Pop, Dee Dee and Joey Ramone, Malcolm McLaren, and scores of other punk figures scrutinize, eulogize, and idealize the most nihilist of all pop movements. A book signing will follow the presentation.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

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What Lou Reed Taught Me

photo © by Tom Hearn

1978 photo © by Tom Hearn

By Legs McNeil

One morning in the 1980’s, when I was writing an article about crack cocaine infiltrating Middle America, I was strolling into a West Virginia dinner for breakfast, singing the lyrics to Lou Reed’s “New Age.”

“Can I have your autograph, he said to the fat, blond actress,” I hummed the song that was rumored to be about Lou’s affair with actress Shelly Winters, as I walked from the parking lot. The day before, me and photographer Jim Tynan had been doing drug busts with the local cops—meaning we’d sit in the back of a van filled with sweaty cops with their guns drawn, waiting to rush out the doors once the sexy girl in the driver’s seat made the buy– to arrest Jamaican crack dealers. I always went out the doors behind Tynan, since he had to get the photograph, and because he was bigger than me– and I knew his body would shield mine once the bullets started flying. Okay, I’m a coward, I admit it.

So I was relieved we’d made it through a bunch of busts without getting shot at, and was looking forward to a leisurely breakfast. I was in my own head as I sang, and a fat hillbilly lady, exiting the diner, turned to me and said, “You’re a vile, horrible man!”

I was flabbergasted. Then I realized she thought I was singing to her, but I didn’t even consider the words, it was just a tune flowing through my head.

“He said to the fat, blond actress…”

The woman’s face was pinched and mean, thoroughly insulted that I’d turned her blobby form into song. Since there was no explanation that would suit her, I just chuckled as she waddled to her car, thinking, “Wow, even here in West Virginia, Lou Reed gets me in trouble…”

Such was the power of Lou.

Lou Reed was to me, the most influential artist of my generation. Yeah, the Beatles and the Stones were more popular, but for honest, human emotions, you couldn’t beat Lou. I never met a girl in a gin soaked bar in Yonkers and she never blew my nose or my mind, ya know what I’m saying? But many times, I didn’t know where I was going. Many times I spent waiting for her to come. Many times– if only, if only, if only…

The depth and articulation of sheer desperation—whether it be waiting for my drug dealer or trying to get off sexually or some other private weirdness that I was too mortified to admit—Lou had been there and converted it into a song.

Take “Kicks” off one of his first solo albums. “How do you get your kicks for living?” he asks, right before the jarring mix is blasted to eleven and you’re thrown out of complacency.

I think John Cale said it best, when he stated, “The first time Lou played “Heroin” for me it totally knocked me out. The words and music were so raunchy and devastating. What’s more, Lou’s songs fit perfectly with my concept of music. Lou had these songs where there was an element of character assassination going on. He had strong identification with the characters he was portraying. It was method acting in song.”

Wow, I’ve never heard Lou’s work defined so succinctly.

Lou’s songs weren’t about being a junkie, they were a junkie. Or hungover, or frustrated, or broke– he eliminated the fourth wall. That distance. We used to have a saying at Punk magazine, “Show, don’t tell,” in other words, instead of trying to write about punk, just be punk.

Yeah, Lou taught me a lot.

Many people, who have read Please Kill Me, the oral history of punk that I co-wrote with Gillian McCain, don’t realize that the book begins with a question from Lou.

He says, in the last entry of the prologue, “Rock & roll is so great, people should start dying for it. You don’t understand. The music gave you back your beat so you could dream. A whole generation running with a Fender bass… The people just have to die for the music. People are dying for everything else, so why not the music? Die for it. Isn’t it pretty? Wouldn’t you die for something pretty?”

And the rest of the book is an answer to that question– the punks that follow answer the questions in their own way—and while many people chose not to continue, they die—a surprising number of people survive.

It seemed the perfect way to begin a book titled “Please Kill Me,” ya know? I thought that would be a worthwhile question to pose since the basis of all philosophies is, “To be or not to be?”

I mean, why go on? Is life too shitty to continue?

That was the glory of Lou—he showed us all how awful the world was, just listen to “The Kids,” off of Berlin—“the black Air Force Sergeant wasn’t the first one…” He’s always pushing us to go further into the depths of hell— to have all the experiences that life has to offer—the profound and the profane—before making up our minds on whether to end it all. I’ve always been fascinated with people who have been to psychic places that I had not yet journeyed to—Lou Reed, William Burroughs, Norman Mailer, to mention a few—the people who knew the true secrets of life. And hopefully try to weasel those truths out of them.

With Lou, all you had to do was listen.

http://pleasekillme.com

Copyright 2013 by Legs McNeil

 

 

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What Lou Reed Was Really Like: Legs McNeil’s Tribute To The Velvet Underground Legend!

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Lou Reed was always a grumpy old man. Okay, so I did my best to ask him the most annoying questions when the Punk magazine staff first interviewed him after our first night at CBGB’s, with questions like, “How do you like your hamburgers cooked?”

Lou never forgave me, which was OK by me. I was a bit put off by Lou’s date, Rachel, a transvestite with a 5 o’clock shadow, who sat next to Lou during the interview and didn’t open her mouth. Weird. It seemed to me that Lou inhabited some ultra-hip netherworld where all the rules had been discarded or rewritten—gay, drug addict, narcissist—and as repulsed as I was by this place he occupied, I was also fascinated.

White Light/White Heat was the first album I ever bought, when I was 19 years old and it seemed to contain all the rage, noise, dark humor, and confusion I was living. I kept the record at my porn star girlfriend’s apartment on 14th Street, where I would run away from the Punk Dump, Punk magazine’s offices next to the Tenth Avenue entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. That record saved my life countless times when the rats and filth got to be too much, and I’d chug a six-pack of Bud and listen to “Here She Comes Now” or “The Gift” or the title track, and dissolve into a place where suddenly everything made sense.

Lou Reed articulated things that were never supposed to be clarified, like those “rushing” sounds on “Heroin.” I actually get goose bumps listening to those sustained notes of the different drugs flowing from my bloodstream and magically walloping my brain that the song mimics. I mean, that’s a real fucking achievement—to audibly duplicate the experience of a drug hitting the brain. It’s so ludicrous, so exact, and so wonderfully transcendent that I can’t help loving Lou Reed for dedicating his life to making songs of the depraved. Not just for the hopeless, but music that spits back that private experience—just in case you’ve never had the pleasure—and makes it sound so beautiful.

Lou elevated rock ‘n’ roll to literature. (Consider that he released “Heroin” the same year the Beatles released “All You Need Is Love.”) That was why I love punk rock so much (which was originated by The Velvet Underground—they did everything first). The songs are so beautiful and so beautifully capture the hysteria and the confusion, and, occasionally, the bliss of being a fuck-up. Magic. Fucking magic—as if Lou was writing the real soundtrack to Last Exit to Brooklyn and In Cold Blood and Down These Mean Streets and The Executioner’s Song—all at once.

So I was actually fine with Lou Reed hating me. I don’t know how many times I came out of a blackout to find Lou and Punk magazine’s editor in chief, John Holmstrom, huddled in the corner of some music promotion party, talking about some obscure sound-tech innovation or some half-assed artistic pronouncement. Lou never even acknowledged that I existed. I didn’t care, because Lou once paid me the highest compliment of my young, skinny, insecure life. Of course he didn’t tell me but mentioned to Holmstrom one time, “He may be an asshole, but he can write…”

Now that compliment got me through almost as much as his music.

Over the years, people asked me, “What’s Lou Reed really like?”

“An asshole,” I’d tell them and see the disappointment in their faces, and wait until they were thoroughly bummed out, before adding, “But if I’d written just one of the hundreds of great fucking rock and roll songs that he has written, maybe I’d finally be a happy man. Can you imagine if you’d written ‘Heroin’ or ‘Sweet Jane’ or ‘Rock & Roll’ or ‘New Age’ or any of his songs? Jesus, the guy really is good, isn’t he?”

Unfortunately, I came to learn that Lou’s “grumpy old man routine,” at least in his younger days, was an act. I think Lou did it to keep out the noise. I know a select few people who were truly friendly with Lou and enjoyed the charming, funny, smart version of him, when he allowed himself to be human. How tedious. I prefer my version—the ultra-bored, quick-witted, cheap, miserable, malcontent man who never experienced a moment of joy in his life. It went with his songs.

Of course, thanks to Laurie Anderson, we know this is not true. Lou actually seemed to be silly in love with her, as so many gossipers and bloggers have detailed their stupid, tender moments. Makes you wanna barf. But Lou was human after all—and at least he tried to keep these snapshots to himself. And believe it or not, I think Lou died happy. Don’t quote me on that, but I think he fooled us all.

READ MORE AT: What Lou Reed Was Really Like: Legs McNeil’s Tribute to the Velvet Underground Legend – The Daily Beast.

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Legs McNeil’s Tribute to Lou Reed

photo by Tom HearnLou Reed was always a grumpy old man. Okay, so I did my best to ask him the most annoying questions when the Punk magazine staff first interviewed him after our first night at CBGB’s, with questions like, “How do you like your hamburgers cooked?”

Lou never forgave me, which was OK by me. I was a bit put off by Lou’s date, Rachel, a transvestite with a 5 o’clock shadow, who sat next to Lou during the interview and didn’t open her mouth. Weird. It seemed to me that Lou inhabited some ultra-hip netherworld where all the rules had been discarded or rewritten—gay, drug addict, narcissist—and as repulsed as I was by this place he occupied, I was also fascinated.

White Light/White Heat was the first album I ever bought, when I was 19 years old and it seemed to contain all the rage, noise, dark humor, and confusion I was living. I kept the record at my porn star girlfriend’s apartment on 14th Street, where I would run away from the Punk Dump, Punk magazine’s offices next to the Tenth Avenue entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. That record saved my life countless times when the rats and filth got to be too much, and I’d chug a six-pack of Bud and listen to “Here She Comes Now” or “The Gift” or the title track, and dissolve into a place where suddenly everything made sense.

Lou Reed articulated things that were never supposed to be clarified, like those “rushing” sounds on “Heroin.” I actually get goose bumps listening to those sustained notes of the different drugs flowing from my bloodstream and magically walloping my brain that the song mimics. I mean, that’s a real fucking achievement—to audibly duplicate the experience of a drug hitting the brain. It’s so ludicrous, so exact, and so wonderfully transcendent that I can’t help loving Lou Reed for dedicating his life to making songs of the depraved. Not just for the hopeless, but music that spits back that private experience—just in case you’ve never had the pleasure—and makes it sound so beautiful.

Lou elevated rock ‘n’ roll to literature. (Consider that he released “Heroin” the same year the Beatles released “All You Need Is Love.”) That was why I love punk rock so much (which was originated by The Velvet Underground—they did everything first). The songs are so beautiful and so beautifully capture the hysteria and the confusion, and, occasionally, the bliss of being a fuck-up. Magic. Fucking magic—as if Lou was writing the real soundtrack to Last Exit to Brooklyn and In Cold Blood and Down These Mean Streets and The Executioner’s Song—all at once.

So I was actually fine with Lou Reed hating me. I don’t know how many times I came out of a blackout to find Lou and Punk magazine’s editor in chief, John Holmstrom, huddled in the corner of some music promotion party, talking about some obscure sound-tech innovation or some half-assed artistic pronouncement. Lou never even acknowledged that I existed. I didn’t care, because Lou once paid me the highest compliment of my young, skinny, insecure life. Of course he didn’t tell me but mentioned to Holmstrom one time, “He may be an asshole, but he can write…”

Now that compliment got me through almost as much as his music.

Over the years, people asked me, “What’s Lou Reed really like?”

“An asshole,” I’d tell them and see the disappointment in their faces, and wait until they were thoroughly bummed out, before adding, “But if I’d written just one of the hundreds of great fucking rock and roll songs that he has written, maybe I’d finally be a happy man. Can you imagine if you’d written ‘Heroin’ or ‘Sweet Jane’ or ‘Rock & Roll’ or ‘New Age’ or any of his songs? Jesus, the guy really is good, isn’t he?”photo by © Tom Hearn

Unfortunately, I came to learn that Lou’s “grumpy old man routine,” at least in his younger days, was an act. I think Lou did it to keep out the noise. I know a select few people who were truly friendly with Lou and enjoyed the charming, funny, smart version of him, when he allowed himself to be human. How tedious. I prefer my version—the ultra-bored, quick-witted, cheap, miserable, malcontent man who never experienced a moment of joy in his life. It went with his songs.

Of course, thanks to Laurie Anderson, we know this is not true. Lou actually seemed to be silly in love with her, as so many gossipers and bloggers have detailed their stupid, tender moments. Makes you wanna barf. But Lou was human after all—and at least he tried to keep these snapshots to himself. And believe it or not, I think Lou died happy. Don’t quote me on that, but I think he fooled us all.

I was there the night the Velvet Underground were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and just by accident I bumped into Lou as he was walking to the stage to accept the honor.

“Hey, buddy,” Lou said and stopped to shake my hand. I thought, “He must not recognize me?”

Either that or he was so overwhelmed by the moment that he let his guard down. But I prefer to think he didn’t recognize me, since it keeps my world that much more organized and orderly, knowing that Lou Reed still hated me.

And probably still hates you, too.

-Legs McNeil

©pleasekillme.com
© photos by Tom Hearn

http://pleasekillme.com

 

 

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Alice Cooper’s Dead Drunk Friends!

By Alice Cooper as Told to Legs McNeil

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Illustrations by Brian Walsby.

I first met Alice Cooper at a party on Park Avenue in the mid-1970s. It was really one of those, “I’m not worthy” moments. Alice was one of the few guys I truly respected back then, because he’d made it on his own terms: by “driving a stake into the heart of the peace-and-love Generation,” and by playing delinquent rock ‘n’ roll for punks like me. That night on Park Avenue, Alice invited me to interview him, so we sat down for a long session at his place in Bel Air a few days later. Alice was deeply disturbed by what he’d heard about some of the punk bands, telling me, “I don’t get this scene, I mean, do they wanna make money or don’t they?”

I explained that yes, they did want to make money, but they wanted to do it on their own terms like he’d done. Alice was relieved that the punks wanted to make money—and so we’ve remained friends ever since. He’s just finishing a new album of cover songs by all his old friends from the Hollywood Vampires, the old drinking club he conducted at the Rainbow in LA that included Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Ringo, Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon, and Jim Morrison, among other rock luminaries, I called him up to talk about some of his old pals.

Three Hollywood Vampires: John Lennon, Harry Nillson, and Alice Cooper, 1974. Image via

HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES

When we put the Hollywood Vampires together, it was sort of a tribute to the old Hollywood drinking clubs, like when John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, and W.C. Fields would drink every night. So I said, “Well, we do that anyways, so let’s just go down to the Rainbow and drink…”

Pretty soon it was a thing called the Hollywood Vampires, and we would go up to the top of the Rainbow and sit there and drink. Every night it was Harry Nilsson, Bernie Taupin, Micky Dolenz, myself, and whoever else would show up. Ringo was there once in awhile. Keith Moon came when he was in town.

John Lennon would come too. He and Harry Nilsson were the best of friends, ya know? So if Harry was in town, he was always with John, and they’d come over. He was great! John was just another one of the guys, ya know?

But the really fun thing to do was to see what Keith Moon was gonna wear that night. One night he’d be in an Adolf Hitler outfit and the next he’d be the Queen of England. I mean he would go all out, Keith was the full package, and the greatest drummer I’ve ever seen in my life.

Keith was everybody’s best friend. When he was in town, he would stay at my house for a week, then go to Harry Nilsson’s for a week, and then stay at Ringo’s for a week. There was nobody like him. I always tell people, 30% of what you’ve heard about me is true, 30% of what you hear about Iggy is true, 30% of Prince is true, whatever… but everything you’ve heard about Keith Moon is true.

Keith got into the Hollywood Vampires because he was the life of the party, which probably killed him too. It was the kind of thing where he really didn’t have an “off” button. And when you’re really good friends with somebody, after a while you go, “Hey, ya know, you don’t have to entertain me…”

There are a lot of guys that can’t turn it off. Chris Farley was like that. All those guys who were overweight comedians, they were guys who had to prove themselves all the time. They just performed all the time, and you wanted to just sit them down and say, “You don’t have to perform right now!”

Keith Moon was like that. He was like a little kid that needed Ritalin or something, it was like, “Keith, just relax!” But he just couldn’t.

READ MORE AT: Alice Cooper’s Dead Drunk Friends | VICE United States.

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Keith Morris: BLACK FLAG

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Copyright 2013 by Legs McNeil

Keith Morris and I have been pals for about a million years, ever since I crashed on his floor after another drunken night hanging out in LA during the 1970‘s. In the 80’s, when I was working at SPIN, I borrowed a copy of Hardcore California, a book about the Southern California punk scene from him and never returned it. I’d shudder whenever I came across the book. So last year I finally sent it back to him with my sincerest apologies. That sort of rekindled our friendship. Since I’ve always been confused about Keith’s time in Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and the whole California Hardcore scene, I thought what better way to get some clarity then to interview Keith and let him explain it himself? So we talked on the phone for 4 or 5 hours and Keith laid out the entire history of the hardcore scene. It probably helped that I started off by saying, “Talk to me like I’m a moron and don’t know any of this stuff…”
A month after we finished the interview, Gregg Ginn, the guy who co-founded Black Flag with Morris, initiated a lawsuit against Keith, along with Dez Cadenia, Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton, because they have been touring under the name, “Flag,” giving the fans a taste of true hardcore punk rock. (Henry Rollins is also named in the lawsuit) Since Gregg Ginn’s “Black Flag” has become a bloated, monotonous carcass of everything we hate about rock & roll, “Flag” got together to pass the torch to a new generation of head-bangers and shame Gregg Ginn’s “Black Flag,” by showing the world how the noise should be played.
As this lawsuit travels through the courts, take a few minutes, as we travel back to those dark days of the 1970‘s, when the world was one giant macramé-éd Happy Face and teenage angst was drowning in the swill of the deadly “Folk Rock” –and a few fuck-ups dared to challenge the status quo….


-Legs McNeil

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Keith Morris drawing © by Brian WalsbyKEITH MORRIS: The way that I met Greg Ginn was through his younger sister, Erica, while I was working at this record store, Rubicon, on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach in 1975. The gentleman who owned the record store, Michael, had a mad crush on Erica. So Greg Ginn would walk down to the record store with his sister—and Erica and Michael would go off to do whatever young lovers do– hold hands and watch the seagulls fly or the surfers on Hermosa Beach. You know, they’d get lunch or beer or cigarettes– and I would be left to run the record store– while Greg Ginn hung around, waiting for his sister.

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They were always playing Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles and the first three Springsteen records and Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in the record store and I wasn’t real excited about listening to them. What was happening– as this music was being played– the seeds of my musical rebellion were starting to come to fruition.

I thought, “I’m not into any of this, I need to be listening to Black Sabbath, I need to be listening to Raw Power by Iggy and The Stooges, I need to be listening to The New York Dolls, and I need to be listening to three-piece power-trios blasting off– trying to remove my skull!!!”

So after Michael and Erica left, I’d take off the Joni Mitchell and put on Uriah Heap and Deep Purple, ya know, just anything loud and abrasive. Gregg actually didn’t have any choice because I was the guy behind the counter– but I liked Greg. I liked talking to him. You know, it was cool hanging out with him. He seemed like a good guy. He liked a majority of the stuff that I’d play, and the comments Greg would make, would be right along with what I was thinking, so that’s how we came together. That’s where the seeds of Black Flag were planted, in that record store in Hermosa Beach.

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Michael had purchased some tickets for the Journey and Thin Lizzy concert at the Santa Monica Civic. So the three of us, Michael, Gregg Ginn and me, drove up to the concert in my Chevy Impala. Afterwards, Greg said, “I gotta handful of songs. Why don’t we put together a band?”

See, we were a couple of nerds. We weren’t part of the local music scene. We were just a couple of guys that were going through this blindly. I didn’t how to play an instrument, but I wanted to learn. I played a little bit of bass, but not enough to amount to anything. So we didn’t rehearse yet. We had to find players– we hadda find people to play with us. We went through three bass players before Chuck Dukowski joined the band– and that’s when Black Flag became a band– because Chuck Dukowski brought a work ethic. Now we were gonna start practicing, ya know? “We’re gonna learn these songs! We’re not gonna flip flop around like a fish on the deck of a boat!”

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Now it was time to find a real drummer and so we put an ad in The Pennysaver, your local weekly, throw-away newspaper with ads like, “We’re having a garage sale on Saturday!” And one of the guys who answered the ad was Robo (Roberto Valverde), who brought his secret weapon, the cumbia, with him.

So the three and four hour rehearsals started to kick in. We kind of resembled a band, but none of our friends liked what we were doing. The best we could get would be playing in a garage in a backyard– that would erupt into a full scale mini-riot. We would have the bikers and the football players and the cheerleaders and the drug dealers and the surf-rat ho-dads– and they would all be fighting on the front lawn.

Occasionally some musician friends would show up, like Juan, the bass player in Ratt, who’d just laugh and say, “This is hilarious!”

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The punk stuff was just to starting to bubble up here in L.A—like the Germs and the Runaways, but we didn’t have our ear close enough to the ground to know about it. We were still going to Ted Nugent and Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Anaheim Stadium, stuff like that. We would go to anything that interested us, but we ended up falling in love with the Ramones. The Ramones were a huge influence, and not only did I see them when they played at the Whiskey but they actually threw a party, like an all-night party over at the Tropicana Motel. There were so many people at the party that I’m surprised the Tropicana allowed it to happen. There was a minimum 100 to 150 people there– ya know, the Screamers were there, and the Germs were there, I’m sure some of the guys from the Dickies were there too.

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And, here we are, these guys from the South Bay, and if I met the Ramones or conversed with them, it’s beyond me; because of my condition– I was completely drunk. And that’s when I cut all my hair off. I found a pair of hedge trimmers and cut off my hair– that left it all spiky, almost like a flat top– a kind off skinhead scenario. So I felt really proud of myself.

Of course, the next day I went to work hung-over, with this really horrible haircut. My old man was pissed off– he wanted to know what was up. His partner’s wife accused me of being a royal sinner and that I was never gonna be allowed to get into heaven. Ya know, silly, non-sensical crap like that.

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We just started playing parties and we ended up playing at Pollywog Park, a nice, friendly, family place you go to have your summertime picnic over in Manhattan Beach. It’s just a nice, little park where you take your blanket and your girlfriend and your picnic basket and your bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken or your McDonald’s Happy Meals and you lie out in the sun and put on some sunscreen and watch the children play as they splash around in the pond.

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They had a band shell at Pollywog Park, and the Parks and Recreation Department of Manhattan Beach sponsored live music there every weekend. So they were scheduled to have the Air Force Academy Big Band play, but a couple of the guys got sick, and when you’re in Big Band and a couple of guys get sick, everyone gets sick. So they had to cancel, and the guy from the Parks Department needed a band to fill in immediately. See he gets in touch with Greg Ginn, who tells the guy we were a soft jazz band, with a few Fleetwood Mac covers thrown in.

So there must have been six to eight dozen families picnicking in Pollywog Park– and suddenly this guy starts screaming with this loud, obnoxious, abrasive, in your face, over-the-top band– Black Flag—shattering this peaceful, family setting. Some people would call it music, some people would call it noise, some people would just stick their fingers in their ears, shake their heads and say, “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?”

So the families start tossing everything they could at us– all those Happy Meals and buckets of Kentucky Fried chicken and thermos bottles and beer cans and blankets– everything short of their ice chests and their kids. And the guy from the Parks Department told us afterwards, “We will never allow this to happen ever again!”
That was probably one of the greatest compliments we ever got paid.
So that was our Baptism.

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We didn’t know where to go to get a gig. So after a couple of years of being locked in the rehearsal space, after one of our practices, Greg Ginn and I went up to the Masque in LA, the bastion of punk rock, and cornered one of my heroes– Brendan Mullen. We were kind of grungy looking characters; I hadn’t cut my hair yet, so we looked like the guys that roadied for Peter Frampton, ha, ha, ha!masque-pq

We were impressed with Brendan because we were impressed with the Masque, because that’s where we got to see the Germs and the Weirdoes. So we bothered Brendan to the point where he just gave in. He said, “Alright, I’ll let you play, you can be the opening band on closing night.”

So we played closing night of the original Masque, but I don’t remember it because I loved to break open a six pack or two on a regular basis and snort some Hollywood Happy Powder. I would get around Derf and Philo and Spit from Fear–they’d become friends of mine and we all became drinking buddies. And maybe Darby Crash would come hang out with us. I wasn’t thinking about getting laid– I was too drunk to even worry about what I was gonna do with my penis. I was more concerned with getting fucked up.

I mean, I was one of those guys that would sit in the parking lot outside of the Hollywood Bowl, drinking prescription peach-flavored cough syrup– and then sneak into the Hollywood Bowl to see the Allman Brothers, ya know?

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Greg Ginn and I started drifting. Our friendship started to dissolve about halfway through my second year of being in the band. We weren’t playing a lot of shows. All we were doing was rehearsing– and what were we rehearsing for? Ya know, it was like we were playing to just please ourselves. We made a couple of trips to San Francisco and that was pretty cool, but there started to be a shift in the plates. What I mean by that is when Gary joined the band, people started taking sides. It was no longer, “All for one and one for all and let’s go party!” You know, “Hey guys, let’s be bros! Let’s party down!”

What had happened was it had turned into three against one. I, apparently, was impeding their progress because of my drunken antics and because they wanted to learn more songs. My mentality was, “That’s all fine and great, but why are we learning new songs? What for?”

It got to the point where I wasn’t having any fun. I mean we would go out and play and while we were playing, while we were on stage, I was having a great time, but all the other stuff that was attached to it just started to kind of grind on me. And there was a power struggle going on and I didn’t want to get involved in that. Everytime we got into some kind of argument or there was a group discussion, I was the freckle-faced stepchild, ya know, the orphan. Eventually I just said, “Guys, I’m outta here.” Like, “Guys, I’m through.”

As it turned out, because I spent a lot of time with Chuck Dukowski, now I got to hear all of the post-Keith Morris Black Flag stories. Chuck told me that Greg Ginn was gonna kick me outta the band because I was keeping them from moving forward. That was one thing that I’d never picked up from Greg Ginn. I never saw him as being particularly ambitious– or the king of an empire, that he would eventually become.

But it didn’t start getting ugly until the Circle Jerks started playing live.

Keith Morris drawing © by Brian WalsbyKeith Morris drawing © by Brian Walsby

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After I left Black Flag, I was living in an abandoned Baptist Church in Hermosa Beach at the corner of Pier and Hermosa Avenue in Hermosa Beach. After it was abandoned by its followers, some hippies moved in and began to rent out sections of the church for glassblowing and pottery and stuff like that. The guy who was in charge was a guy named Red, who actually dealt LSD to the Grateful Dead, ha, ha, ha! And one of the things that’s happening in the church was that Redd Kross was rehearsing there.

So Redd Kross was down in the basement one Saturday afternoon, and I run into Greg Hetson and Keith “Lucky” Lehrer, who were going into the basement to audition. Redd Kross was auditioning drummers and Lucky was the drummer that they’re auditioning that day. So they’re down there for about an hour. I’m just sitting in the hallway just drinking beer, and Greg and Lucky are the first two to come out and they’re shaking their heads.

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I can see that Greg Hetson is really upset, so I said, “How’s it goin’? It sounded really happening!”

But they’re shaking their heads with a disillusioned look on each of their faces.

So I said, “Greg, what’s happening?”

And Greg said, “Well, it sounded great, it sounded amazing, but the brothers didn’t like Lucky because he was too proficient. He was too good of a drummer…”

That’s when it dawned on me, I said, “Look we gotta vocalist, a guitar player and a drummer. All we need is a bass player!”

And a couple of weeks later I ran into Rodger Rodgerson in front of the Anti-Club over in Hollywood, and drafted him– and that’s pretty much how the Circle Jerks got together.

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Raymond Pettibone is Greg Ginn’s younger brother, and he has been a part of this since the very beginning. We went to high school together. I mean, granted we weren’t all in the same classes, but there was a point in time when we were all at Maricosta High School in Manhattan Beach. We were all Mustangs—green and gold were our school colors, just like the Green Bay Packers, ha, ha, ha!

And Raymond’s always been a fan of Black Flag. See, we were called Panic before we were called Black Flag, but then there was some French band named Panic released a 45. When we found this out, we looked at each other and went, “We gotta change our name because we can’t afford to deal with any lawsuits!”

I mean, what lawyer would represent us? Like, “Does anyone even know a lawyer? What’s a lawyer?”

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So Raymond was the guy that came up with the name Black Flag. He also designed the band’s logo, ya know, the four bars that create the waving flag? It’s a great design. It lives forever. And the name, the Circle Jerks, was another Raymond Pettibone creation, because we had run through six or seven names, Plastic Hippy, The Runs, White Hassle–  like don’t hassle me white man, ha, ha, ha!

Anyways, we didn’t like any of the names and one day we were hanging out with Raymond in one of the bedrooms in his parent’s house in Hermosa Beach. And Greg Hetson and I were looking at each other and it was like we need to come up with a name for the band. So I pull a book off the shelf, The American Slang Dictionary, and we’re like breezing through it. I’m looking at all the different names and all of a sudden there’s, “Circle Jerk.” And I’m thinking, “Well the Rolling Stones, that’s a pretty terrible name…”

It always seems that the worst names– the most terrible names– are the most remembered names.

So I thought, “Circle Jerk, no, Circle Jerks, plural, because there’s four of us.”
So I said, “Greg, what do you think?”

And he nodded his head and that’s where that went down. So we could almost blame it on Raymond Pettibone again.

Raymond was one of the first three bass players we had before we found Chuck Dukowski. Raymond was one of those bassists that couldn’t play the bass guitar, ha, ha, ha!

We were party buddies– one night we’re at a John Cale- Zeros show at the Whiskey and he was drunk out of his mind and he picked up some girl and they were dry humping on the floor of The Whiskey A Go Go, ha, ha, ha!

Raymond didn’t really get involved in any of the inner workings of Black Flag, he was just a fan, ya know? He grew up with us. He got along with his brother Gregg, but they don’t speak now, because one of them is an incredibly horrible person– and it’s not Raymond, ha, ha, ha!

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There were two vocalists in Black Flag sandwiched in between Henry Rollins and me. A lot of people– when they think of the lead singer for Black Flag– they think of Henry Rollins– because Henry was on every album. Or just about every album. That’s one of the amazing things about Black Flag; there were four different lead vocalists and each one of us brought our own flavor to the party, ya know?

So Henry came in after Dez, and Dez came in after Ron Reyes, and Ron came in after me. Ron was only in the band for six months. He just wasn’t into it.  I don’t know what his excuse was or his reasons were for leaving, but I was told that the EP Black Flag put out with Ron, “The Jealous Again EP,” were the best songs that Black Flag ever did.

Henry Rollins used Black Flag as a springboard for all the other stuff that he’s done– and I wholeheartedly applaud him. Greg Ginn doesn’t like the fact that Henry is more successful than him. I’m surprised that Henry made it as far as he did with Greg Ginn, because Greg was always saying, “I can’t have him upstaging me! Oh, he’s doing all of the interviews!” But Henry would upstage him just by walking onstage. I mean, Henry was a punk rock sex symbol. So I think Greg was happy to have him, but also resented him.

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You have to understand that Gregg became very egotistical. He was like, “Well, I’ve got this great record label with all of these bands. There’s all of this stuff going on– and I’m in control!”  And so Greg Ginn quit the band. I don’t know when– you’re asking me a date? All I know is that Greg Ginn quit and left Henry with Black Flag and that’s when Henry decided to do his own thing with The Henry Rollins Band. But I don’t really know anything about that time.

I just know that Greg Ginn was never a vocalist, and Greg will never be a vocalist. But as a guitar player, I’d put Gregg up there with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Jimmy Hendrix– he was one great guitar players of all time.

I was the first lead vocalist, but I’m not a singer either. I was the lead screamer, ha, ha, ha!  I’m not going to be the guy that goes to the wedding and they’re gonna ask me to sing a song, ha, ha, ha!

I’m just not that guy, ha, ha, ha!

I woulda been on the first record that Black Flag released, “The Nervous Breakdown EP,” but I’d left the band. I am on the, “Everything Went Black” album. I’m on one side of three sides and I’m on another compilation, I think it’s called, “Wasted Again.” There’s enough recorded material and that would equate me being owed quite a large chunk of royalties. But I’ve never gotten any royalties from Black Flag.

Gregg Ginn doesn’t pay royalties. He once invited me to get up onstage and sing 4 or 5 songs with him. I looked Greg in the eye and said, “Sure, cut me a check for $75,000 for back royalties.”

That would’ve been just the tip of the iceberg, but he just laughed in my face.

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The Circle Jerks were out on tour in 2003 and we played a big festival over here by the L.A. Coliseum. A couple of the guys from Golden Voice, the promoters that we’ve dealt with for the majority of our lives, said to me, “Keith we need your help, we’re doing two nights of Black Flag at The Hollywood Palladium…”

I said, “Don’t even fill me in on the details, just let me know when you’re doing it. Of course, I’ll be there; I’ll be a part of it. What do I need to do?”

When I was asked to participate in The Hollywood Palladium show, it was being advertised as “Black Flag: The First Four Years.” It’s one of these situations where you’re looking at maybe $100,000 over the course of two nights and it was supposed to be a benefit for cats. So I was thinking, “Wow, they’re gonna have Ron and Dez and Chuck and Robo down here too! So I will get to hang out with some of my friends!”

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So I went to my first rehearsal and it was pretty brutal. These other guys– not Dez or Ron or Chuck or Robo– were playing the songs, and they didn’t even know what the songs were. They were looking at each other– they were waiting around for the riff to go around like five or six times. It was pretty ridiculous. I shook my head. I’d had enough. I was wasting my time.

Still, I wanted to know when Chuck Dukowski was gonna show up because I know that Chuck shows up, shit was gonna happen. I actually called Greg and said, “So when is Chuck going to be showing up for rehearsal?”

Greg said, “I haven’t talked with Chuck yet…”

Then I actually talked with Chuck at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, during the West Memphis Three Benefit, and I asked him, “So do you know about the Black Flag reunion at The Hollywood Palladium?”

Chuck says, “No, nobody’s talked to me about it…”

I said, “Well, I guess you’re learning about it now….”

So I left the rehearsal that night thinking I’m not going back until I know when Robo and Chuck Dukowski are gonna be there. I called Dez to see if anybody reached out to him, to see when he was coming in. But he didn’t call back, so I just left a message on his machine. I woulda called Robo too, if I knew how to get a hold of Robo.”

Then I got my ass handed to me by Greg Ginn on the phone, who told me, “I will call you when it’s time to rehearse, stop talking shit behind everyone’s back, stop trying to mess everything up….”

I said, “Well have you talked with Robo? When is Robo getting in?”

Greg said, “That’s really none of your business. I’ll call you when it’s your turn….”

That’s when I realized that Greg never intended to have the original band on stage.

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The promoter called me and wanted to know, “Well who’s gonna be onstage? We’re sold out the first night and we need to fill up the second night. We wanna run some ads, so who’s playing in the band? We wanna advertise everyone that’s playing…”

I said, “I can’t tell ya, I don’t know, I’ve been left in the dark…”

He says, “Well you’re supposed to know this stuff!”

I said, “You need to talk to Greg Ginn…”

And it just started getting uglier and uglier. I realized why I quit the band in the first place. Initially I was just beyond jazzed, I was beyond stoked– but then getting around all these people and hearing the conversations and getting my ass chewed out for stuff that I wasn’t doing. I was like, “Are you fucking kidding? These are all the reasons I left the band in the first place!”

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So the promoter calls me a couple weeks before the show and says, “Greg has told me that on a couple of occasions, you’ve been spreading vicious rumors and you’ve been talking shit behind everybody’s back, so you’re services are not going to be necessary…”

At first, I wanted to be bummed out, but then I breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Thank you. Thank you very much. I really appreciate this…”

Two days before the show the promoter calls me back and says, “Keith, we’ve reserved a couple of tables in the balcony, so you can invite all your friends, you can hang out in the balcony, and if you choose to go down on stage and sing a few songs, feel free…”

And I said, “Well thank you for the offer, but I won’t be there.”

A few days later I get a call from him and he apologizes to me for the way that he talked to me on the phone. Which didn’t really bother me too much because it’s par for the course with stuff like this, but at the end of our conversation he says, “Well I hope that we’re still friends??”

I said, “Rick, we’re always gonna be friends. No matter what, any of this stuff that goes down, we’re always going to be friends…”

The sad thing is that Rick mixed some medication and died shortly after that.

So no, I didn’t go to the show but I heard all of the rumors, I heard all of the critiques. They were actually throwing trash cans at the stage. There were people that had purchased tickets for both nights– and they tried to sell their tickets for the second night. I heard nothing but horror stories

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Gary Tovar, the head guy at Golden Voice asked Chuck Dukowski to come to his anniversary party and give a speech to 4,000 people. So Chuck thinks about it and says, “Well, no, I’m a musician, let me try something else…”

So he calls me and Billy Stevenson. So we agreed to play the Nervous Breakdown EP at the Golden Voice 30th Anniversary party before the Descendents, who were headlining that Sunday night. So we play the Anniversary Party and everyone goes crazy. So we’re backstage, me, Chuck, Billy, Stephen and Dez Cadena, and we’re looking at each other. We’ve had a great time, and amongst the four of us, we decide that maybe we should play out as a band.

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We came up with the name “Flag” and start playing out– and all of our shows have been great. We really enjoy playing with each other. We enjoy each other’s company. I mean granted, we’re all a bunch of older guys, and occasionally somebody gets grumpy and grouchy, but that’s what older people do…

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Raymond Pettibone and I were sitting down to eat a couple of sandwiches, a short while back, and he looks at me and tells me that he knows how his brother has treated everybody that he ever dealt with like shit. Ya know, Raymond tells me he knows Gregg he’s not been cool to everybody.

I’m like, “So what else is new?”

But then Raymond tells me that if I ever get in a financial bind or health situation that I can feel free to walk into his studio and take whatever I want to and sell it.
I’m like, “Wow,” ya know?

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This is one of the greatest artists of our time and he’s extending that kind of an invitation to me? Not only was I flattered, but I also realized that he and I were real close at one time, ya know? In the circle we were running with in that church—and in Black Flag, and the whole South Bay underground scene—me and Raymond had a lot of things in common. We were both fans of the Dodgers and the Angels… We were both fans of Superman and Batman… We were really close…

But I never took him up on his offer, ha, ha, ha!

I had no need to. I was always in a financial situation where I was able to pay my bills. I get by on the skin of my teeth, but I don’t need a lot of money– because I discovered the greatness of the farmers market, ha, ha, ha!

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