Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Circle One.

Photo taken at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA, on November 26.
was introduced to Darby fifteen years after his death. A CD copy of the then-recently released M.I.A. anthology was nicked from the mall and cassette dubs passed among friends. My copy—a second generation dupe—was housed in a facsimile sleeve that I fashioned out of a manila file folder sloppily cut with safety scissors and folded into approximate J-card shape. Armed with scented magic markers I unsteadily drew a blue circle and colored the background black; it was a licorice and blueberry smelling masterpiece. The cassette was one of a few that passed between my walkman, book bag, and stereo without ever being more than a few feet out of reach††. Every song was a masterpiece which deserved and received hours of study. Each phase of the band's life melted into one another on that tape and I made no differentiation between the provisional sounds of "Forming" and the consummate G.I. It was a single, unparalleled entity. The aesthetic arc seemed like it had to be.

Around this time, having recognized a whole new world of music that needed to be explored and devoured, I got my first job at the neighborhood grocery store. Paychecks were used almost exclusively to fund this enterprise, split between the local store Trash American Style and mail-ordering via MRR ads. I picked up Germicide at one of my first trips to Trash, not having any clue as to what it contained. It was the Germs and I hadn't heard it, so that was all I needed to know.

The album was a mess, and even I, without recognizing a difference between eras of the band, could see that this was an entirely different animal. I don't remember now if I liked the album at the time, but it didn't leave my turntable for weeks. It was mesmerizing. In this performance, allegedly their second†††, they do not even pretend that they know what they are doing. Out of time with one another, the band plods along while Darby taunts them and the audience. In the recording, he became to me a three-dimensional figure. Sarcastic, funny, charismatic in a way only seen briefly on other recordings††††. We cannot see Darby empty bags of sugar on the crowd but it is obvious that something is going on in addition to the music the band is playing.

The record invaded my psyche and helped formulate a viewpoint that has not wavered. This was not merely a performance, but a battle; not only were there no boundaries between audience and band, but here was one abusing the other. This has become a hallmark for memorable shows in my opinion. Germicide facilitated my coming to shake the rock'n'roll paradigm in which a band is something special, an untouchable entity living on a pedestal. Here were not only kids like us, but clearly, clearly, we could do this, too†††††.

Tonight is the thirtieth anniversary of Darby's death, which I've observed by listening to all of the records, singing along, and reflecting on their importance in the lives of my friends and I.  Studying them, still, after all this time.
:"Then-recently" being a relative term which, pre-internet and in upstate New York, could mean quite a few years.
††:There were some other tapes in the same rotation—a few mixes made by older punks, but the true artifact was Give Me Convenience or Give me Death, complete with my rendition of Winston Smith's cover art, reproduced cassette sized and in orange, licorice, and cherry colored marker.  I dream that those cassettes will resurface a la the archive of Mingering Mike.
†††:I have seen this referred to as their debut, but the chronology in Lexicon Devil notes this as their third outing after a gig at the Orpheum and a showing at the movie shoot for Up In Smoke (at which the single version of Sex Boy was recorded).
††††:The end of "Forming", of course, being the best example, but more often than not, it seems Darby chose to be a studied, thoughtful person on record.
†††††:We did do it, actually.  Some friends and I conned our way onto the school's battle of the bands.  No songs, instruments, or clue, we took to the stage with no goals other than to antagonize and make noise.  Fifteen minutes later we were kicked off; it was a beautiful thing. 

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