Perfect Sound Forever

Robert Quine

by Jody Harris
(May 2007)

I do worry sometimes chillen, that unless Quine's friends write down what we remember about him, we will eventually die off and his sense of humor will be utterly lost. Or you will die (that's more like it), you the public will die without knowing how delightful it was, on the whole, to be around him. On a good day.

He had a unique and deadly combination of imagination, utter fearlessness and perversity PLUS demeanor, timing and delivery – rather like his guitar playing (good catch, Jody). His intimate mode of address was "Moron," "Asshole" or, with special fondness, "Insect." In the course of a phone conversation he might, out of the blue, offer to molest my son ("that little whore") or suddenly be saying "Jody, I'm touching myself." You knew he was going to do something like this and you waited for it, like waiting for the spider in your closet.

For sheer gall, nothing approached the excruciating routine which he perfected and regularly inflicted on me and I know not who else in the year before his wife Alice died, when he still had game, about having himself surgically transformed into Candy Samples ("I'm almost ready do it for you, Jody," me giggling idiotically).

Sadly, I know, in the bald retelling -- ha! Quine, a new one -- this may seem, well, boorish, no? Or like, reely awkward? But it was mad funny if you were there, under the withering gaze. He had a kind of badger instinct for where you kept your cookies and there was nothing he would not do to get you to drop them.

There was a gentler note as well, thank god. Like, having somehow got it in his head that I was mentally ill, maybe as mentally ill as he, he would make Theremin noises and say admiringly (as my parents) "We're landing in Kansas, Jody!" whenever I did something that really impressed him.

He employed a droll, Shirley Temple-like diction, condescending and yet somehow sympathetic, for all quoted material. Sooner or later, irresistibly, you found yourself trying to wrap your face around this mannerism. Every inanimate object was a "wretched little ___," and he referred to more or less anyone not actually in the room as "Little ____" (Alice was always "Little Alice, Sweet as a Little Apple on a Tree"; my wife Margaret was "Little Melody,” for some reason). Helplessly, you did this as well. I haven’t yet met an FOQ (friend o' Quine) whose speech centers remain entirely autonomous.

I remember a million little throw-away bits (no, I don't, not at my age) but, to choose one that does swim to the surface... Hello, little memory. At the end of one of our 'frolics' (Quine for banging on guitars, ordering in, and watching several episodes of, say, "Lassie") during which Alice hadn't made her usual appearance, he said at the door, "You might have noticed Alice is kind of quiet tonight. Uh... that big garbage bag over there... would you mind taking that down with you when you go?"

I never knew to what extent he cooked his stuff in advance or just let lightning strike where it would. He told me that on one of the later Hell tours, he relentlessly terrorized someone who shall remain nameless, insisting, au fait, that if he wanted to be accepted in the band he had to be given an enema (by Quine) - "everybody else did!" He was especially proud of that one, and I bet he worked it up.

On another level entirely, during the long run up to his mom's death he repeatedly offered me $300 to take the bus to Akron and kill her ("no one would ever suspect you, Jody"). I was and am insulted by the amount.

The pedigree for that story is provided by another:

When he knew that his dad, whom he truly loved and admired, was going to die, he called him and said, in effect, ‘where’s the beef? This waiting around is getting on my nerves, I’m tempted to take matters into my own hands, Menendez Brothers, etc.’ Without missing a beat, his dad replied, “But you know, Rob, you’d be looking at a long and expensive trial.” "Rob" was beaming with filial pride when he told me that one.

See the rest of the Quine tribute

Check out the rest of PERFECT SOUND FOREVER