Punk ’77: Vom Is Busting Out All Over

“I’m jumpin’ around and crawlin’ on the floor and realizin’ shit I’m better than those idiots up there. So I sez, ‘Hey if they can do it we can do it, right guys?’ ‘Right!’ ”


On the men’s room wall at the Whisky: “Vom eats your mom’s puss!” I wrote that. In the women’s room: “Vom is a good fuck.” I did not write that. Vom: the first band of my very own. Me: singin’ & dancin’ & writin’ tunes! Yeah!

Story goes like this: Back in July or so my pals & buddies the Dictators came to town for four fab days at the Whisky, once again the premier club in all of L.A. (fuck the Roxy). The four greatest days of rock & roll I’ve ever spent and I got to introduce ’em five outa the eight shows they did. Wore my motorcycle jacket without the sleeves and waved a meathook over my head in menacing fashion. Said great dumb things. One night these cops’re there to break up a fight that’s already broke up (Joan Jett vs. Handsome Dick Manitoba’s galfriend Jody Jeshurin) so they decide to fuck with me concerning my “deadly weapon.” Nothin’ happens to me but Bobby Abrams is actin’ drunk. A great four days of rock & roll and Joe Smith catches one show and calls me “the seventh Dictator.” Meetin’ women at a faster rate than any prior four days in my life. Hot times!

Okay so my fading interest in all this rock-roll hokum I useta love so much but wasn’t gettin’ much out of anymore gets revived. In spades. Okay so I’m in NYC for 19 hours en route back from Montreal on account of I hadda take a train ’cause of this air control strike up there and I’m hangin’ out with Manitoba and Adny Shernoff at CBGB’s and I get to meet Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys who buys me a beer and tells me he’s been readin’ my stuff f’r years and I’m crazy he sez. He’s wearin’ a chain thru his earlobe and a dog collar and stoopid chopped up hair and he’s fallin’ all over the place and I’m crazy. Maybe so but fuggit anyway… Felt good tho to be inside the scene again, outside’d been makin’ repenetration seem remoter and remoter but now I’d repenetrated so what the hell…

Okay so I’m back in L.A. suddenly catchin’ two shows in one night, Tom Petty at the Whisky (hot ’n’ archetypal) and then this new wave danceroo at Myron’s Ballroom capped off by some really bland shit by the Weirdos who were just the greyest packa geeks I’d ever seen. I’m jumpin’ around and crawlin’ on the floor with DD Faye of Back Door Man mag and really havin’ the hots for all this shit like back in the good old days and realizin’ shit I’m better than those idiots up there, like me just crawlin’ beats shit on their whole set. So I sez to Gene Sculatti — the man who wrote the first-ever article on San Fran for Crawdaddy back in ’66 and here he is 30 fuckin’ years old still feelin’ the same damn thing in his goddam bones — and Gregg Turner — 22 and BDM’s resident punk ’cause he dresses all right. I sez to ’em “Hey if they can do it we can do it, right guys?” “Right!” and so on the spot we decide to start somethin’ called the Scumbags, ’s the name we originally picked.

Couple weeks later we’re at the Whisky for the Zippers and the Weasels and by then our name is Vom and we’re already hippin’ Rodney Bingenheimer to the fact of our real hot existence. The Weasels turn out to be even worser bowel droppings than the Weirdos and all they got’s this stuffed weasel hangin’ from the mike that Turner keeps tryin’ to grab from down on the floor until he gets a “warning” from the management. These Weasel people’re just some hippies left over from the days of glitter who could easily’ve been the Hollywood Galaxies before they got hep to the necessity of new wavin’ themselves but whatever they are/were they’re just uninspired mere music with this finale about beatin’ the broad with a rake (singer waves an actual rake over his head: fuck him). But basically it’s all a matter of new wave, shmoo wave, L.A.’s just basically a buncha dummies transparently posing as x or y like you’ve never seen: stoopidsville, Jack!

Okay so later that night 1. noted Arkansan ex-rockcrit Metal Mike Saunders — now a CPA — is up there introducing the Zippers (good band) in his Dodger cap and also 2. Bobby Abrams is back for the first time since his Tators unpleasantness. Anyway so in the course of subsequent idle rock-roll chatter 1 becomes our guitarist and 2 becomes our manager. What the rest of us’re gonna specifically do is still up in the air altho I know I’m gonna be singin’ (did two gigs with the Soft White Underbelly way back when: yelled “Piss!” in the mike at the Cafe au Go-Go in ’67 and wrestled with regular SWUB singer Les Braunstein at a ’69 show with the Group Image at the Hotel Diplomat) and I’m certainly also willing to shoulder my share of the bass­-and/or drums chores should they eventually present themselves, ain’t never played either of ’em but what the heck (ditto for Gregg and Gene).

Meantime I’m busy writin’ lyrics for Mike to put music to, been doin’ words for years with the Blue Oyster Cult so it’s embarrassingly e-z plus this time I’m not auditioning lyrics for anybody so whatever I do’s cool: free at last! So I’m suddenly doin’ the best stuff I ever writ, to wit: “Electrocute your cock/Electrocute your cock/Lookin’ for a handjob/Stick it in a clock.” Good, right? And these other good’uns too called “Wee on Me,” “Taking a Shit in a Rainbow” and “Broads Are Equal” (pro-ERA). Turner does something called “Too Animalistic” and Saunders does “(I Am) The Son of Sam” and the three of us together come up with our fuggin’ goddam masterpiece, “I’m in Love with Your Mom”: “You’re usin’ Tampax Super/She’s usin’ Kotex pads/She’s got those grown-up ovaries/I wish I was your dad/I’m in love with your mom.” Music ripped off from Kiss, Nugent, “Hot Rails to Hell,” et cetera (new wavicized of course). Meanwhile Gene up in Burbank’s comin’ up with dandies like “California Schools” (“They’re the worst in the nation”) and “Kike Dyke.” Workin’ out!

Point is we’re dealin’ mostly with Outrageous Stoopid­ness Per Se (th’ name o’ the game, I mean ’s what new wave is really about, ’s what rock & roll when it was cool was about, ’s what L.A. will always be about, all of ’em rolled into one) but other’n that our subject matter or “ideology” ain’t really consistent song to song, ’cause, like, we don’t really care in that regard and not so much on account of any prevailing worldview regarding the vapid­ness of any and all meaning or any of that shit, just ’cause, well, what’s the diff? Lyrics is lyrics, just something to hang your pipes and guts on for 3:27 or 4:18, and anybody who takes ’em for the lyricist’s actual perception is an asshole, right?

Main thing I’m thinkin’ thru this stage of things in case anybody wantsa yell “critics band” at me is I ain’t really been much of a “critic” in recent years at all, in fact it was havin’ to continue bein’ one (hey I invented it way back in ’07!) just to pay the rent that kinda got me down on the whole scene to begin with. Like who the fuck with any balls can stomach having to constantly review “prod­uct” — be it vinyl, paper, celluloid, or so-called real world events? Sick of reviewin’ product, I wanna be the product for a change, at least be recognized as such. Like far as I’m concerned I’m still to this day one of only a microscopic handful of critpeople who’ve stepped out enough thru the whole editor/publisher/record company roadblock to ac­tually be rock & roll on the goddam printed page, doncha think? Anyway, a chance to kiss all this (printed) intellectual preoccupation goodbye.

Rock & roll = antics! And I’ve had ’em fallin’ thru the hole in my pocket since time immemorial. Useta jump in fountains at Rolling Stones press parties. Got banned from the Bitter End for life for throwin’ banana peels and chicken bones at Doctor Hook. Once used the ladies room at a Pamela Polland party (men’s was taken) and — dig this — pissed on the toilet paper roll just to make things hard for urinators who just might need it dry. Some sonofagun once called me “the grandfather of NY punk” (somebody actually did, forget who tho) by which he musta meant I useta do stoopid asshole things at the drop of a scumbag and I can do ’em again, only this time I ain’t the obsessive mid-20s jackass I once was, I’m a 32-year-old capable of extreme calculation as well as drunken sponta­neity up on a stage where IT’S ALLOWED f’r cryin’ out loud. So far for Vom I’ve got a number of goodies planned, not the least of which is the live cockroaches I’m gonna have crawlin’ on my face for the finale (may even eat one or two). And for stage attire: a pair o’ pants over my face with slits cut in the leg; Band-Aids over my eyes; this real swell outfit made up of pantyhose with a jockstrap over ’em and a full-length ski jacket with the zipper open, nothin’ else, that’s all…

Meanwhile me and Gene’re spendin’ Sundays hangin’ out at Venice Beach with a whole bunch of his pals from St. Helena up in Napa County who all followed him down here. We’re body-surfin’ like there’s no tomorrow and coppin’ surf attitudes that make total sense in the Vom universe (i.e. Vom is the nexus for all points of rock-roll eternity or at least the dumber ones). We’re passin’ beer out there amid the New Waves (which is just as illegal in sunny Southern Cal as passin’ reefer) and makin’ believe the cans’re dosed with lysergic (psychedelia in context, daddy!) The Acid Surf! “We want the surf and we want it… NOW!!!” Thus is born an eventual Vom surf in­strumental called “Binge” and three beachfolk whole­-heartedly agree to Vom out with the rest of us: bassist Lisa Brennies (23; musical credits include the Warfield Fox, the immortal Motels, the Curls); guitarist Phil Koehn (23; House of Imagination, Grains of Sand, Gerhardt Gesell, Ring & Pinion, the Curls); guitarist Dave Guzman (26; Seventeen-Man Band, Black Glove, Fifteen, also the Curls). (Gene and Phil’s brother Mike once had a duo called Len & Ben). (Dave and Mike also backed up both Ray Campi and Freddie Blassie on recent Ron Weiser enterprises.) Some professional assistance! And we even pick up a couple roadies too: artist Bob Angell and his galfriend Jeannie.

So all we need’s a drummer or even a drum kit and finally Saunders convinces the rest of us we oughta take out an ad in the Recycler and he’ll screen candidates for us. Okay! So it’s three guitars (hey hey hey), we’ll have a tubs person by Friday at the latest, and I’m gonna sing and Gregg’s gonna sing (Gene’s by now too uncertain of his musical ability — despite my insistence that it ain’t even slightly a matter of that — so he’s just gonna occasionally lie on his back Tony Conn style and kick at the ceiling). Me, Gregg, and Saunders’re meanwhile puttin’ together cassettes of our tunes on an almost daily basis for the rest of the boys & girls to listen & riff to. Target date for the whole damn package: October–November (–December?).…

Okay so all this time the word on Vom is out in L.A., V-sign is now the Vom-sign, we’re all gettin’ calls from all over the place, Harold Bronson who’s got nothing to do with us even got asked if he was in Vom, lotsa people in this town wanna know what Vom is and when it’s gonna be. Howie Klein’s written us up for Creem and we’re supposedly due for a Random Note any week now. We’ve had photos snapped and we showed up for the official opening of Rhino Records’ new store on Santa Monica Blvd. “Go Vom” and “Have a Vom day” are common parlance among certain hep rockos of this sweltering burg (if you don’t believe me you can call: Kim Fowley, Bob Merlis, Gary Sperazza, Tom Nolan, Nicole-Elena Olivieri). Audrey Pavia of Canoga Park has even started a Vom Fan Club. Dave puked yesterday and thus became the first official entry on our new “Vom Chart.” Promotional Vom tongue de­pressors are scheduled. AND THE POINT OF IT ALL IS WE AIN’T KIDDING, THIS AIN’T NO “MEDIA” PUT-­ON, WE’RE GONNA FUCKIN’ DO IT, GIMME THAT STAGE!!! I even cut my hair!

Redeeming social value paragraph — The editors of this sheet have asked me to please compare today’s new wavish whatever with 1967, the parallels being somewhat crucial evidently. Well the names of groups were stoopid then and they’re stoopider now, lots of combos poppin’ up all over the place then and even more now, that stuff’s obvious. But basically it’s a matter of back then there was this goddamn transmusical optimism passing thru the so-called consciousness that folks could and should finally get up and do it, and in so doing change the face of you name it. Today it ain’t so much any sort of prevailing optimism or any of that so much as it’s things couldn’t get much stoopider (which is what rock & roll was maybe not always exactly destined to become but at least it’s a welcome departure from the overabundance of all this crypto-elitist quality bizness that the music’s for years been shackled with and which ’67 itself contributed to immensely) and if any music-&-fun-lover out there doesn’t get up and make a fool of his/herself soon then the whole thing’s just gonna pass ’em by and — well — they blew it. Do it now or forever hold yer peace.…

Plus: ’67 they left home and now they’re just stickin’ around and complainin’. Hence the necessity for tunes to either piss off mom & dad directly or help the kids cop an attitude so they can do the pissin’ off themselves. Vom is more than cooperative in this regard.

(Me & Gene’s prognosis for the NEXT development: Punk splinters off into Beatnik Rock and College Rock — rockers vs. the mods all over again! In such an event Vom would be more than willing to change its name to either the Hepcats or Phi Delta Epsilon…)

Anyway me and some other Vommers were at the El Coyote the other day, we’d just helped Gene move south of the Hollywood Hills and he was takin’ us all out for a feed. We have a few rounds of double margaritas and stuff and the talk turns loud and bawdy, lots of free-flowing vernacular for bodily functions and the like (I kinda remember analingus was mentioned and also “Hey lookit that coozle over there!”). Finally the family group at the next table gets up and leaves in disgust and this waiter comes over and tells us “I’m sorry but this is a family restaurant” and so we get the gate. Church-going Gene’s a little perturbed ’cause well we did kinda break on thru the public sensibility whatchamacallit and tomorrow is Sun­day, sorry Gene we’ll be cool about it next time out. Outside Gene’s house tho we’re drunk and still ravin’ about hey we’re citizens of what useta be known as Babylon and here we are not permitted to behave as Babylonians do, I mean if we can’t cuss and act reprehensibly what the hell’s this world come to? Alienation, dad. So we’re thinkin’ mindlessly that hey we’re just bein’ mindless Southern Californians havin’ a good old mindless time with no art intended, quite a bit like the Beach Boys in their time. Hey: we’re the Beach Boys ’77!!

Or as Mr. Turner so articulately expresses it: “What comes out of us in the form of vom (lower case, a new common noun for ya compliments of us) is what unfortunately can’t come out of a lot of people in any form.” We’re doin’ it for ya! No fucking in the streets — cause that’s not our bag — but we have been known to hump a few telephone poles at the sight of some well-preserved middle-aged “slit” sauntering down the street. (And — lest you think we’re “sexist” or any of that cowpoop — we’ve already put in an order for Lisa with our San Fran groupie contact whenever the heck we get to play up there: one high school boy for Ms. Brennies!) (As per her request.) (Gee it’s so humiliating havin’ to “explain” things to today’s sophisti­cated readers…)

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 24, 2019

And if somehow you think this whole thing’s just so much “parody” or whatever the heck all I gotta say’s we really don’t give a son of a hot cold flying shit what you think, y’know? (Hey, don’t get us wrong, VOM LOVES YOU!) ■