UNDER THE INFLUENCE
How North Carolina Got Its Punk AttitudeBetween 1978 and 1980, New Wave was also hitting the Triangle with the likes of The Fabulous Knobs, Secret Service, the X-Teens and The Psuedes. Fanzines such as The Blind Boy Gazette, New Wave News & Modern World supported this early scene, where the new wavers and punk rockers frequently found they had to band together for support. There were a few places to play like the Free Advice, The Station, Mad Hatter or The Pier, but most clubs only let in the new music reluctantly, if at all. You may not be impressed that New Wave started sweeping N.C. in 1980, but the original Punk was quickly dying out, and as someone put it, "An outsider doesn't realize how much balls it takes to play punk or new wave in a city whose average git thinks anything that isn't Led Nugent or Ted Zeppelin is wimpy or faggy."
by Sam Hicks
In the beginning, these bands were struggling to get something going and did well to attract more than members of the other bands to their shows, but soon, other parts of the state were groovin' to the new wave as well. Greensboro's scene became more active with Small Change, Big Blow, Hellhole, The Alibis, The Stimulators, The Krakers & the Bandstands as well as clubs and record stores that catered to the new crowd. According to Mitch Easter, by the time he moved back home from NYC in July of 1980, "It seemed more local musicians had decided to take matters into their own hands. Nineteen-Eighty was the year to make a record." Using the D.I.Y. attitude associated with punk for their blue print, people were banding together to make their own clubs, recordings, record covers, record labels & shows. More bands appeared: Mondo Combo, The Dots, The Snap, F-Art Ensemble, the Grateful Penis, the Look, the Broken Crayons, the Graphic, Dark Door, the Truehearts, the Alkaphonics, the Pedestrians, Rick Rock, The Shake, The Other Mothers, The Kamikazees, Bad Checks, The Pegs, The Mutettes and Let's Active. The energy of these scenes even inspired bands like New York experimentalists Shockabilly, to relocate to Greensboro and DC's Crucial Truth to move to Raleigh*. Local labels were soon pumping out vinyl by many of these bands, and the scene started growing so rapidly it exploded and became nearly impossible to follow.
In 1981, Greensboro's newest club Friday's opened and began hosting the likes of R.E.M., Black Flag, Root Boy Slim and the Bad Brains, as well as many local bands. This kinetic Greensboro scene produced another great group called the Village Pistols, comprised of Sid Rose, Felipe Rotten, Delroy Murdock and The Drummer. With such smart-assed names, one might guess that they were serious about pissing off their audience and did their best to insult everyone with annoying originals and mangled covers of the Sex Pistols, Dead Boys, Gang Of Four, Lynyrd Skynyrd & the Village People. The Village Pistols played many shows at Friday's, but never without their masks on or their fake British accents. They recorded the "Big Money" b/w "Strawberry Fields Forever" (Nylon) single in July of 1981. Done by Mitch at his Drive-In Studio and produced by Mike Nicholson, this 45 was released the same year on their own Nylon Records. Although The Village Pistols were short-lived, their penchance for weirdness among an already strange scene cements their influential status.
In the spring of '82, the next batch of kids started forming their own bands. Many were inspired by a band called Corrosion Of Conformity who, although somewhat inactive at the time, had been around since the days of Butchwax. Their style of music was labeled Hardcore, and they found themselves isolated to practicing at home, as there were no legitimate places that would have them. The earliest Hardcore bands around Raleigh were Easy Pick-ups, Colcor (later, Missionary and Finger), No Rock Stars, The Accused and Buckwheat's Army (later, No Labels). A unique symbol of the "scene unity," was that bands No Labels, The Accused & C.O.C. shared several of the same members at the same time. Talk about a hectic schedule! In late '82, two scenesters decided to rent the old Blind Boy fanzine house to have shows in, so 14-A Turner Street had a Hardcore party nearly every weekend of that fall. The No Core cassette compilation was released in Oct. '82 featuring No Rock Stars, Colcor, No Labels & Corrosion Of Conformity and should be noted as the first hardcore/punk compilation in the state. Soon, The Pier which had "New Wave" Mondays started having Hardcore shows as well. Later bands from this scene were Barney Fiphe's Revenge, UNICEF, A Number Of Things and Total Harmonic Distortion (who became Stillborn Christians). The summer of '83 saw another No Core compilation come out in the form of a single. The 8 song, Why Am I Here? 45 showcased 2 bands from their previous cassette No Labels and C.O.C., and officially added Stillborn Christians and Statesville's Bloodmobile to the recorded band scene.
Although a smattering of material was released by some of these bands, like the totally rad A Number Of Things LP, Corrosion Of Conformity was the most influential band to come out of the early Raleigh hardcore scene. Woody Weatherman, Mike Dean & Reed Mullin were the nucleus of the group, and it was their commitment to forming a scene in the first place, that seemed to make the greatest impact on other bands in the state as well as their own career. C.O.C. was one of the first bands of this new breed to travel and play in other cities, where part of their work ethic was to "trade" shows with other hardcore bands they encountered. For example, this might result in them playing Charlotte and some Charlotte bands then being able to play Raleigh. Even though the scene was growing bigger, there were still clashes with the authorities over this "new" attitude and style of music. The Raleigh courts issued warrants, denied drinking and entertainment licenses and basically harrassed the owner of a very supportive venue known as the Culture Club into closing his doors. And a C.O.C. flyer containing "666" upset school officials, so The Brewery was told by authorities to cancel the show. When the owner was unable to reach the bands and decided to allow them to play anyway, the club was raided by police, turning up a fruitless search for underaged drinkers. C.O.C. had to hold a press conference and read a statement before newspaper, radio and television reporters denying affiliation with satanic culture and calling into question the press' negative coverage and their First Amendment right of free speech.
Harrassment aside, Corrosion Of Conformity were fast on their way to becoming state legends and the unofficial leaders of North Carolina Hard Core (NCxHC) when their Eye For An Eye (TXLP-04) LP was finally released on their own No Core Label in 1983, later reissued by Toxic Shock Records in 1984. This granted them with the honor of becoming the first Hardcore band to record an LP for an out-of-state label. Eye For An Eye is the most readily available of their early work, and showcases their Black Flag influenced sound of that time. C.O.C. soon developed a sound all their own that would spearhead another movement known as crossover. Crossover was a combination of hard core/punk and heavy metal that few other bands were also experimenting with, and C.O.C. soon found themselves riding on the crest of the newest "wave" in music. Their second LP Animosity (Death-002/Enigma-72037-1) features this new sound and came out on Death Records, a subdivision of Metal Blade Records in 1985. C.O.C. have continued to record numerous albums and are, hands-down, the longest lived band of the N.C. Hardcore era. It's difficult to imagine that some of the scenes which followed might even have developed without the existence of this band.
The early Winston-Salem punk & hardcore scene was few and far between. In early '82, there was Cat Fight, Ill Gotten Gains and The Trash (which became Kindergarten) but with no places to play, these bands didn't last very long. Late '82 saw the high school punk band Subculture get things together. Matt "Smart-Ass" Smith, Clint Buss, Ed Marshall, K.C. and Chris "D." Philips started rocking their parents' basements in no time. It's interesting to note that a guy by the name of Simon Bob "Sinister" (whom we'll get to in a moment) worked at the Hanes Mall Record Bar, had considered singing for them before he moved to Durham. Anyhow, in 1983 Subculture only performed in Winston-Salem about 5 times, since the only place to play was a Deli called Pockets that had shows after hours. As usual, the more experienced bands like C.O.C. soon welcomed them into the family and began performing with Subculture in Winston while they got to play with C.O.C. in Raleigh. The "old pros" helped them with many things including t-shirts and the making of their only release, the I Heard A Scream (FBE-006) LP, which was eventually released by Fartblossom Records in '85. Inspired by their local success, the record contract and the chance to have a wild summer, this group of 16 year olds did a tour to the Midwest and back, often playing with other up and coming groups like NOFX. Their ages and their success did not make a good mix, however, and the most well recognized group from Winston-Salem rapidly disbanded.
Hey, let's not forget about that Simon Bob guy I mentioned earlier. Upon moving to Durham, he started the Ugly Americans with Danny Hooligan, Chris Eubank and Jon McClain (not to be confused with the Austin Texas band of the same name). These guys were a great combo and the good word soon spread. When they began to frequently play out, the between city gig trading quickly grew to include Durham. Of course, the only place to play in Durham was St. John's Cultural Center, which was "a church basement in the ghetto," but Simon Bob was quite the scene builder and organized several popular Hardcore shows featuring tons of up-and-coming talent. Graphic artists and musicians had worked in these scenes together since Joy Cook made th' Cigaretz cover and Erroll Englebrecht did C.O.C.'s Eye For An Eye cover. Simon Bob also made a name for himself by doing artwork for his own band, as well as Subculture, C.O.C. and even the Dead Kennedys. The Ugly Americans released their first LP The Dream Turns Sour on their own Discipline Records label ('84) to much scene acclaim. They played all over and soon found they were the second crossover band (C.O.C. was first) to be signed to Metal Blade Records with their Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed (Death-004/72082-1) LP, released in 1985. The Ugly Americans are a highly regarded group who've separated and gotten back together for 'reunion' shows on and off throughout the subsequent years.
In the early '80's, a guy by the name of Jeff Clayton moved to Charlotte and began unifying the numerous groups in the spread out and disjointed scene. Although there were other bands before he arrived, like Not The Wogs and the Wreck, he helped to network the many great bands who were spread out over the giant metropolis of Charlotte. Clayton, who had already been in No Prep Punks, started a new band in 1982 known as Worthless Creed. They played many a punk-assed show but only ever released a cassette of their music. Jeff also put out his own fanzine called New Breed ('83), that focused the local mindset and attention on the scene. By March of '83, Worthless Creed had become Fight 4 Life and more bands formed, like the Dead Haneys and Misguided Youth. Early shows were frequently at Todd Ritchie's house in nearby Gastonia as well as at the Milestone, which had infrequent, but cool shows.
By 1983, Fight 4 Life had broken up and Jeff Clayton's infamous Antiseen formed and began stomping through Charlotte, mainly playing at house parties, out of town or at the Yellow Rose. Legend has it that the Antiseen and another well known Charlotte band Fetchin' Bones, played their first show together. The stage shows that the Antiseen began to put on were the scariest this state has ever seen. Throwing animal guts, slashing their faces with broken bottles, smashing washboards across their heads, destroying, setting on fire or literally blowing up their equipment were all things that you might encounter at these gigs. Though all this insanity couldn't possibly be translated to vinyl, their deep down and filthy dirty music was first recorded in '85, and resulted in their Honour Among Thieves LP (BFCH-1) on Bona Fide / Chopper Records. However, due to record company problems, this album wasn't released until '88. In the meantime, they recorded and self-released the Royalty 45 EP. This band is still making plenty of noise and have continued to record material and play anywhere they can.
By late '82, many clubs, bands, zines and record stores had already come and gone. A band from Cary, who blurred the lines between the genres even further suddenly pounced on the scene. The Pressure Boys (Bryon Settle, John Plymale, Neil Barry, Greg Stafford, David Blythe and Rob Ladd) stole the wild party torch from their Hot Nuts godfathers with their infectious brand of funky ska & roll. Although the Pressure Boys didn't fall into the New Wave or Punk catagories very neatly, they gathered a large following from both groups and were one of the first bands to boldly stand out as... well, an alternative to whatever else was going on. David soon left and was replaced by Steev Adams before they recorded the first Pressure Boys 6 song EP Jump! Jump! Jump! (ARDDD-41400/4321). Jump was recorded at the Drive-In with Mitch Easter and released in 1983 on their own A-Root-Da-Doot-Doo Records.
They played out incessantly until their line-up changed again, with Neil being replaced by Stacey Guess, and they recorded again at the Drive-In, with Don Dixon producing, to release the Rangledoon EP in '84. In 1985 The Pressure Boys had a live song from their March 16, '84 recording at the Carrboro Arts School released on the More Mondo N.C. compilation LP. Nineteen-eighty-six saw them putting out a cassette-only deal called The Hell Tape to satisfy their rabid fans. This tape included the first two EP's as well as demos from 1982, 1986 and the March 1984 live recording. In early '87 they did a brief stint as Miller Beer's promotional band before deciding it wasn't quite their style. Jack Campbell replaced Steev and the Krandlebanum Momentus (ARDDD-47224/4324) LP was recorded at TGS Studios with Steve Gronback and Overdub Lane with Wes Lachot. The Krandlebanum LP came out in '87, once again on their own AR3D/Smash Records Product, featuring an inner sleeve crammed with rejection letters from Warner Brothers, Sire, Atlantic, A&M, Chrysalis, CBS, Epic, Polygram, EMI and Geffen. They eventually called it quits and played their last show at the Cat's Cradle in Aug '88. The P-Boys were an amazing rock band with a ska horn section sound and their combination of irreverence, professionalism and independent attitude inspired many people and was a major influence on the scene-builders to come. Just like C.O.C., an entire book could easily be written about the career of this band.
Between 1982 and 1984 is the perfect place to end this article, as most of the noise from the early music, punk, new wave and hardcore scenes had died down. That's not to say there weren't more important bands to come, not by a long shot. Soon, alternative bands of all kinds were flourishing. The club scene became more stable and these hard to categorize musics were accepted by more than just the early punk, new wave and hardcore fans. The printed word began to flourish and moved from the local xeroxed fanzines to nicer glossy, state ditributed "magazines." Then, scenes that were once huge dwindled and died out. In Greensboro, Fridays closed and a local magazine was soon asking "I hear we used to have a scene a year ago, what the hell happened!?" The concept of "underground" music or having a "scene" became old hat and people generally became less and less involved until North Carolina reached its current state of affairs. Quiet.
Oh, sure every city has it's truely "underground" scene that only the most hardcore of music lovers keeps track of, and once in a while some city will have a lively but short-lived scene explosion like the 1989 "Chapel Hill" thing or the more recent "Americana" movement, but somehow it just doesn't seem the same. In fact, I don't think I'm slighting these newer scenes in anyway by saying, it's not the same. The acceptance of "Alternative" music onto the airwaves seems to have taken the heart and soul out of what used to inspire us. Once a "culture" like this is started, it only takes a little sweat & blood from some new group of kids to get it growing again, but putting a lot of effort into your local scene doesn't make sense anymore because as fast as you invent a new sound, your local radio station and MTV are playing a band (who got signed last week) that sound too much like it for anyone to come out to your shows. But I really shouldn't get started on this, as it's an entirely different topic worthy of it's own article. This was titled "How N.C. Got Its Punk Attitude" for a reason and I only hope you learned about some new bands from reading it.
A virtual buttload of N.C. bands have released music on CD/LP/45. Here's a few to look for: Southern Culture On The Skids, Sugarsmack, The Johnsons, Squatweiler, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Eugene Chadbourne, Zen Frisbee, Rompe Cabezza, Jet Crown Dixie, Vanilla Trainwreck, Bicycle Face, Whiskeytown, Mind Sirens, Bitch Magnet, Flat Duo Jets, Naked Angels, Hobex, Polvo, Don Dixon, Rebar, Dillon Fence, Joe Romweber, Gumption, Blue Chair, Portastatic, Middlefinger, Laburnum, Otis Reem, the Angels of Epistemology, Bad Checks, Picasso Trigger, Geezer Lake, the Backsliders, Erectus Monotone, Code Seven, Rubbermaid, Metal Flake Mother, Six String Drag, Pure, Raymond Brake, the Ashley Stove, Motocaster, Mary On The Dash, Butterglory, What Peggy Wants, Expresso Love Seizure, Capsize 7, Anubis Leisure Society, Belmont Playboys, Code 7, Beatless (aka: Beatles), Aftertax, Evan Olson, Blue-Green Gods, Last One Standing, Clarissa, Family Dollar Pharoahs, Pipe, Fall Without Fear, Sleazefest, Tractor Hips, Soccer, the Sex Police, Spatula, Rabid Salesmen, Orange Driver, The Veldt, Notes From A Strange Mailbag, Finger, Bio Ritmo, 3 Hits, Jump Little Children, Blankface, the Black Girls, the Sidewinders, Trailer Bride, the Right Profile, The Knobs, 8 or 9 Feet, Dexter Romweber, Scuppernong, Eaglebravo, the Gathering, Breadwinner, Johnny Quest, the Naked Ramblers, Rick Rock,The Connells, Run Amuck, UV Prom, 1+2, Life after Death, The Slushpuppies, My Dad Is Dead, The Suspects, Days Of, Stigmata, 30 Foot Beast , Mission DC, Bitch Magnet, Smokin' Phones, Streets Living Theatre, Gentlemaniac, Chuck, and see if you've heard of these guys: Superchunk, Ben Folds Five and Squirrel Nut Zippers (duh!).
I would like to give a very personal thanks to Molly, Jody Bowman, Jim Reec, Ken Friedman, Mitch Easter, Stacey Mataresse, Byron McCay, Eric Marshall, Mike Greer, Mike Traister, Whit Pitcher, Don Dixon, Libby Gast, Sam Moss, Keith Roscoe, Fred Mills, Hope Nichols, Neb Rodgers, Frank Criscione & Red Eye Distributors, Matt Smith, Rusty Moore, Neb Rodgers, Burt Massengale, Dennis Harris, Bobby Kelly, Jim Hoyle, Brad Newell, "Willie" Smith, Jamie Hoover, Jake Berger, Ron Taylor, Charles Greene, Joy Cook, Moxie Campbell, Chris Stamey, Malcolm Rivera and Woody Weatherman.
A mountain of thanks to these publications: The Dixie Voice, Son of Biohazard, the Music Monitor, Reel To Real, Spectator Magazine, Southern Lifestyles, Death Skate, No Greensboro, Village Epistle, Triangle Alternative, Cradle Robber, Greensboro Substitue, Groove Association, Blatant Rebellion, Cosmic Ray, New Age, Carolina Music Co-Op Magazine, Indie File, and The Winston-Salem Journal.
This article is dedicated to my hometown hero & fearless friend Dido who's an example in courage to us all. We love you D.
Some Kind Of Punk-ography
(along with likelihood of finding them)
Doug Clark & The Hot Nuts Nuts To You LP (GR-101). Impossible to get. Recorded many other LP's too.
Various Artists Tobacco A-Go-Go (Blue Mold). Difficult.
Various Artists Tobacco A-Go-Go Volume II (Blue Mold). Difficult.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Anthology CD (???)
Captain Speed & the Funji Electric Mothers "Yesterdays Tommorow" b/w "Reptilian Disaster" 45. Impossible.
Arrogance "An Estimation" b/w "Black Death" 45 (CS-1091/1092). Ditto. Arrogance recorded numerous albums, but be forwarned, none sounded like this single.
Rittenhouse Square self-titled LP (R2 Records). Start looking in basements.
the Sneakers Carnivorous #1 EP (Car-1) & In The Red EP (CRR-3). Not Punk- but good music. Not so easy to find. The Racket Anthology CD on East Side Digital would be easier to find- try cut-out bins.
H-Bombs "Death Garage / Big Black Truck / 96 Second Blowout" 45 (crr-5) Pseudo-Punk. Doubt you'll find this.
th' Cigaretz Crawl Rite Outta My Skin (34796) live LP. Not likely.
The Flies "Nothin' To Lose" b/w "Midnight Queen" (SAR01) 45. No way in hell.
The Village Pistols "Big Money" b/w "Strawberry Fields Forever" (Nylon) 45. Probably not.
Corrosion Of Conformity No Core cassette compilation. I'm sure some jerk is making a fortune bootlegging this. Why Am I Here? 45. Doubtful. Eye For An Eye on Toxic Shock Records. Easy. Any other C.O.C. material should be easy to get as well.
Subculture I Heard A Scream (FBE-006) LP. Hard, but can be found.
The Ugly Americans The Dream Turns Sour (Discipline) LP. Not easy. Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed (Death-004/72082-1) LP & "Philadelphia Freedom" 45 (Death-72145-7). Shouldn't be hard.
The Pressure Boys The Complete Recordings (Plaid Cat) CD. Easy to find CD. EP's & LP- forget about it.
No Core Why Am I Here? Compilation 45 with: No Labels, C.O.C., Stillborn Christians & Bloodmobile. Not gonna happen.
Antiseen "Royalty" 45 EP. Tough. Honour Among Thieves (Bona Fide/Chopper) LP. Fairly Easy.
* Re Crucial Truth, David Camp wrote in to say: "Crucial truth was a band originally from South Florida not DC. (Never based in DC as far as I can recall) "
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