Sympathy for Mr. Allin
by Scott Bass
Warning- dirty words ahead.
Perhaps you have heard of the late GG Allin; he was the guy with the stage show that involved stripping, shitting, and fist fighting with his fans... usually while simultaneously singing his songs as the backup band buzzed on. For most people, and certainly for critics, thatís enough information to know that this guy gets zero stars, and contributed exactly nothing to the annals of worthwhile musical culture. Such a funny word that is. Annals.
An alternative view would be that GG (born Jesus Christ, mercifully changed to Kevin by his mom before school started) Allin was an inspired kid with real musical talent that left a rather impressive legacy despite decades of mental illness and addiction. And much like how The Cramps mined obscure depths of '50's and '60's raunch to excavate tasty covers to introduce to a whole new alterna-audience decades later, GG often channeled his deep regard for the music of the past into songs that he would... letís say "reinterpret" for his fans.
He got his start playing drums on a couple of late '70's singles but by '79, GG was a full-fledged frontman with backup band The Jabbers. One unexpected place The Jabbers drew some inspiration from was The Ohio Express. Ring a bell? The history of the Ohio Express is complicated, but this is a group that was once synonymous with the "Bubblegum Pop" sound in the '60's. Their hits included "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and "Chewy, Chewy." If youíre too young to remember these, you didnít miss much. They called it "Bubblegum Pop" because it was so sickly sweet, moronic, and after a few minutes of chewing, ultimately insipid. Pretty much the absolute opposite of the music GG Allin would later be known for.
GG Allin and the Jabbersí nearly straight-up (sped-up) cover of The Ohio Expressí 1969 "Up Against The Wall" demonstrates a honed punk band who are taking cues from a much wider range of influences than the casual listener might give them credit for.
Many of the early records came out on David Peelís Orange Records -- the same David Peel that hung out with John Lennon so thereís your GG Allin / Beatles connection. Two degrees. Peel and Allin recognized in each other a kindred spirit; despite outwardly appearing as near opposites -- a burned out hippie and an Iggy-wannabe shit-rocker -- they actually had quite a bit in common. Both were insanely driven outsider iconoclasts that put out a near endless array of releases despite near-universal dismissal by critics and record buyers at large.
To demonstrate his admiration, Allin didnít have to change much when he "reworked" Peelís "Iím Going To Kill You" from the 1970 The American Revolution album. The lyrics get refined a bit, but the hook is verbatim and itís a real toe-tapper too. Kill!
Now letís shift gears to Baker Knight, who had some success as a singer in the '50's and '60's but is probably best known as reliable source for material for the eraís largest stars Ė Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and many others all recorded tracks written by Knight. Add to that list GG Allin, who probably wrote the lyrics to "Tough Fuckiní Shit" in his head the first time he ever heard Baker Knightís 1966 side "Sorry 'Bout That," also covered that year by Nancy Sinatra. The original track has the attitude but Baker was unable to fully realize the lyrical theme at the time. GG Allin to the rescue, and he successfully rectifies the problem.
Never interested in being part of the punk "scene," Allin made no secret about his love for outlaw country -- recording several albums in the genre and often covering his favorite artists with updated X-rated lyrics; David Allen Coeís "Longhaired Redneck" became "Outlaw Scumfuc." Hank Williamsí "Family Tradition" became "Scumfuc Tradition." You see the pattern. Over the years, GG developed his own vernacular and like fellow visionary Prince, didnít care much for proper spelling.
One of his most memorable country efforts was his cover of Warren Zevonís "Carmelita," from Zevonís 1976 debut LP, featuring an "improved" line swiped from Linda Ronstadtís cover the following year. GGís version introduced the track to an entirely new audience and is arguably the best realization of the song.
"I pawned my Smith-Corona and I went to meet my man." -Zevon
"I pawned my Smith & Wesson and I went to meet my man." -Ronstadt / Allin
Sometimes with GG, artists were given credit when their material was appropriated, sometimes not. One of the songs featured prominently in the 1993 documentary Hated was "Die When You Die," a slightly-retitled and reworked version of the B-side to the debut 1978 single from Detroitís Destroy All Monsters, featuring ex-Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and MC5 bassist Michael Davis. Besides the obvious appeal of lyrics that include "die when you die when you die youíre gonna die," GG was hip to this song because he was into good music.
Another track Geeg seemed to have swiped was his (ahem) "I Wana Suck Your Cunt." Yeah weíre going there. GG was keen to the early Northeast Boston scene, and one band that was huge on that scene in the late '70ís was DMZ. If you listen to one of the first recorded documents out of Boston, the 1976 double LP Live at the Rat, youíll hear a song by DMZ called "Ball Me Out." GGís song is a straight cover of the DMZ song, just with X-rated lyrics. DMZís song is about getting yelled at. GGís version is about... well actually itís pretty self-explanatory. And thatís how he spells "wana." Wadya goní do 'bout it?
In the mid-'80ís, when GG put together an all-female backup band called The Cedar Street Sluts, one of the songs they were known for was the you-have-to-admit-itís-catchy "Sluts In the City." Itís very unlikely that fans picked up that this was pretty much a straight cover of obscure '80's Los Angeles power pop act Candy (which featured future Guns N' Roses member Gilby Clarke).
And if you thought GG had no sense of humor, how about an homage to Mad Magazine that proves otherwise? For adults only, but if youíd made it this far...
Blame the drugs, the craziness, the physical neglect, or just an inescapably juvenile mentality -- whatever the cause, over the years, GGís output got lower-fi and less interesting until his death in 1993. But it would be unfair to simply forget about Allin and write him off as a talentless hack. He was the real deal; he genuinely loved music and was earnest in his quest to make rock 'ní roll dangerous again. You might not like the artist, but you have to respect the concept. Allinís proposition that rock music had become too safe isnít such a crazy idea and we should salute him for his efforts. Perhaps a roll of two-ply toilet paper and a bottle of Jim Beam would be in order?
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