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.
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.
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.
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.
Please 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.
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.
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.