Gulf Coast Punk

Where Were You the Day Punk Died in Houston? (New Year’s 1980)

As the curators of Wild Dog Archives reflect on the project’s first year of existence nearing the eve of a new year (35 years after the so-called death of punk in Houston), an expression of gratitude is in order for our virtual spectators who have commented on or shared an artifact from Henry Wild Dog’s collection and kept the story alive. Here’s to 2015 and the hope that the remnants of punk may yet “feed many generations to come.”

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TRANSCRIPT:

“At this time a cruel accusation can be heard from many mouths. As much as we might try to persuade ourselves, inspired by the spiral of the punk scene in ’79 — the accusation is true. Punk really did die. It died in Houston on January 1, 1980, at exactly 3:47 a.m. Just like Beethoven, idealism, Hendrix, and Disco…Punk would never be heard again.” (from PUNX’s “History of Houston Punk” series published in 1986)

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(Scans courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Wild Dog Records: Teenage Punks Vast Majority Talk Anarchist Sounds (1979)

Houston’s youngest band at the start of the scene, Vast Majority recorded its lone studio effort I Wanna Be a Number in  March 1980 on Wild Dog Records. Henry Wild Dog, who helped produce the 7″ single, had a brief stint with the band as part of its second lineup. His contribution to gigs at Paradise Island earned him the DIY-inspired handle Henry “Bad Guitar.” Original member Scott Telles (vocals and trumpet) recounts the band’s history with WDA’s namesake on the Hyped 2 Death Archive Series #201.

As verified in an interview with the original members in WILD DOG, the politically motivated teenage punk band performed for the first time alongside AK-47 at Houston’s inaugural Rock Against Racism show held on April Fool’s Day 1979 at the Island.
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(Original galley courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Wild Dog Zine: NOLA’s Red Rockers and Police Intrusion at the Island (1981)

“I saw the Sex Pistols when they came to the Kingfish in Baton Rouge [in 1978]. That was the beginning. Then The Normals were the only punk band in town, and I really liked them alot [sic]. They were something different. Their music was a big influence.” – Darren “Derwood” Hill, bassist and backup vocalist, Red Rockers (From a 1981 interview in WILD DOG)

Originally formed in 1979 as The Rat Finks, the Red Rockers were the most successful band to come out of New Orleans’ early punk scene.

In 1980, Red Rockers recorded two of its original songs, “Dead Heroes” and “Red Star,” on the No Questions, No Answers compilation released by FINAL SOLUTION zine editor Larry “the Punk” Holmes’ Vinyl Solution Records. That same year, the band recorded its first EP, Guns of Revolution, on Larry the Punk’s New Orleans label before relocating to San Francisco in 1981. Red Rockers’ first LP, Condition Red, was recorded in 1981 on San Francisco label 415 Records and featured guest vocals from Jello Biafra on a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Red Rockers gigged at the Island in Houston in 1981 while on tour. Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn and contributing interviewer Marjorie were “fortunate” to party with the band during their stay, according to an interview in WILD DOG zine, in which Darren “Derwood” Hill discusses The Clash’s influence, opening for The Dead Boys at Houston’s Whiskey River in 1979, the changing New Orleans scene, and dedicating a song to the Houston Police at the Island performance.

Deeply rooted in progressive and underground movements, Weissborn steered many of his interview questions toward punk politics and the band’s social message. “Anarchy is fine, but you can’t be an anarchist for anarchy’s sake,” Derwood said in response to whether the band held anarchist or Marxist beliefs. “You’ve got to have something behind it. You can’t destroy everything because then you destroy yourself.”

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(Original galley courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Mydolls: Punk Idealism and Missing Teeth at the Island (1980)

Houston’s female fronted Mydolls was formed in 1978 by guitarist and vocalist Trish Herrera and bassist Dianna Ray. Linda (Bond) Younger, guitar and vocals, and drummer George Reyes complete the original lineup, which continues to perform today, nearly four decades later.

Inspired by protopunk legends from the early New York scene, Mydolls recorded their first single, Nova Grows Up/Therapist, in 1980. Their second 45 release, Exorcist/Imposter (1982), and 12″ album Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick (1983), also were produced on Houston independent label CIA Records, which was founded by Houston punk progenitors (and friends of the band) Really Red.

In 1986, the year Mydolls originally disbanded, PUNX magazine out of Houston published a three-part series on the “History of Houston Punk.” Part 3 focused on the year 1980, featuring short narratives from the city’s founding punks and first wavers, including Mydolls.

‘My Personal Anarchy’ (below) was contributed by Trish Herrera, recounting the female punk experience in Houston.

I was a rebellious back-up singer from Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. Having been strip-searched and arrested for not putting on my blinkers when changing lanes, I was fairly oblivious to limitation.

“Mydolls’ friendship developed into 5 and a half years of expressing repressed emotions about our fucked up system. Being new and inexperienced became beneficial…we were oblivious of breaking rules. We didn’t care if we were viewed as fashion risks until one day Dianna’s teeth were knocked out by some Island tourist jock who shoved her, face first from the back of the dance floor, claiming she was a ‘fucking waver.’ This incident gave new perspective on the punk idealism, originally being ‘acceptance of any human being’…overlooking the problem that not many of us know how to behave as human beings.

“We always wore black as a memorial to the symbolism in Dianna’s missing teeth, and it stuck.”  

NOTE: According to an interview in Maximum RockNRoll #356 published in January 2013, Dianna Ray lost her two front teeth watching the Butthole Surfers perform at the Island in 1982.

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(Media courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Wild Dog Zine: Island Owner Phil ‘Hix’ on Stolen Mics and Broken Glass (1979)

“There will be some regulations, rules, standards, or something of the sort – I hate to use the words ‘rules and regulations’ – about who helps clean up. We used to have popcorn in here. Instead of eating it, they threw it.” – Phil Hicks (From a 1979 interview in WILD DOG zine)

Paradise Island (Parasite Island), Rock Island, and later just the Island was Houston’s first designated punk rock venue, an exile’s dive on Main Street converted from a former Mexican restaurant. The club was run from 1978 to 1983, debuting many local first wave acts such as Christian Oppression (later the Hates, Houston’s longest running punk band) and AK-47 while also hosting nationally famous bands, including X, Black Flag, and Dead Kennedys.

In a 1979 interview by John Peters for WILD DOG #3, Island owner Phil Hicks spoke candidly about whether his club would survive overhead and damage costs from unruly punk crowds or sell out to disco investors, Austin versus Houston, Legionaire’s Disease’s notorious performances, and whether to leave broken glass on the floor in the spirit of its destructive shows.

“If rock’n’roll doesn’t pay the bills then I will be satisfied that I have experimented at all levels,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair for me to support a building and not to at least be able to experiment and try different things. I have never put popular rock’n’roll bands in here, not because of the budget, but because I started out with a game plan of having a place so that unexposed talent or bands could come in here, so they would have a place to play in front of people and could get a start. Momentumwise [sic], emotionally – so they could get out of their practice room.”

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(Original galley; first page out of six courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Wild Dog Zine: The Normals on New Orleans Punk and the Clash (1979)

Like Houston, little is known on a national scale about the first wave New Orleans punk scene. According to Legionarie’s Disease frontman Jerry Anomie, New Orleans hosted some of the band’s wildest shows.

Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn and Larry Holmes (aka Larry the Punk), founding editor of New Orleans zine FINAL SOLUTION (F/S), exchanged news about the local punk scenes. “Back in the day, every city had one fanzine writing about the music in their town, their bands. Henry had Houston, I had New Orleans, and Henry and I traded articles, traded fanzines,” Holmes told Wild Dog Archives. Launched in 1979, the same year as WILD DOG, F/S ran for nine issues until it folded in 1981.

In October 1979, The Normals hit the East Coast. According to an interview (below) in WILD DOG #3, the band was set to play with Neon Leon, a black punk band, at Max’s Kansas City in NYC and with The Battle of the Minorities, The Laughing Dogs, and Iggy Pop at the Zappa Club in Brooklyn. A few of the stops included CBGB’s on Halloween, The High Club in Philadelphia, and The Rat in Boston.

The Normals and other New Orleans punk bands are the subject of an upcoming documentary by Al Champagne and Pablo-Romero Estevez titled Almost Ready: The Story of Punk Rock in New Orleans.

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(Original galley courtesy of Wild Dog Archives; promo photo of the Normals from Wild Dog #2.)

Christian Oppression at Paradise Island (1979)

Christian Oppression, the second iteration of Hates frontman Christian Arnheiter’s band, perform at Houston’s Paradise Island club in 1979.

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(Photo by Glen Brooks; contributed by Christian Kidd.)