Houston Punk Rock

Wild Dog Zine: The Hates on Destruction at the Island (1981)

“In the past there have been alot [sic] of situations where people were up and pogoing, but there has never been fist fighting and destruction as went on at my last two shows. There were things being thrown at us, and I liked it.” — Christian Arnheiter on performing at the Island, WILD DOG #5 (1981)

Christian Arnheiter formed Guyana Boys Choir with bassist Robert Kainer and drummer Mike McWilliams in 1978. The band’s first live performance took place December that same year as an opening act for Louisiana Zydeco performer Clifton Chenier, at the downtown Masonic Temple.

Guyana Boys Choir was short lived, and Arnheiter regrouped as Christian Oppression with drummer Glenn Sorvisto and bassist Ed Felch. The band was renamed The Hates after Kainer rejoined Arnheiter. The Hates’ first two EPs were recorded at Wells Sound in Houston in 1979 on the band’s private label, Faceless Records.

“The punk scene in Houston is systematically suppressed,” Christian Arnheiter said in WILD DOG #1 (April 1979). Arnheiter commented in a 1981 interview (pictured) with WILD DOG that punk shows were becoming more violent at the Island — and that he enjoyed this response.

“There’s a punk crowd in Houston, and this is part of that hardcore crowd,” he said. “It’s building up; before you just had a few people going crazy in the crowd. There seems to be different factions, too…they really didn’t get along, and I thought it was great.”

hates (2)

(Original galley courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Grass Roots Activism, Rock Against Racism (1979)

Before WILD DOG zine, Henry Weissborn, a sociology student at the University of Houston and President of the Direct Action Committee (Yippie Chapter), edited the organization’s underground zine, ULTRA (1978-1979), which covered civil disobedience, gay rights, feminism, marijuana reform, anti-nuclear campaigns, and the counterculture.

In 1979, Weissborn booked New York’s Joy Ryder and Avis Davis to headline a Rock Against Racism (RAR) outdoor concert/event at the University of Houston. The Yipster organized show was cancelled at the university campus, and the lineup was rescheduled at the Paradise Island club. Houston’s first RAR concert on April 1, 1979, featured first wave punk bands Really Red, Legionaire’s Disease, and Christian Oppression (The Hates). Vast Majority, a band Weissborn later joined as Henry “Bad Guitar” and helped to produce its only release on Wild Dog Records, made its first appearance at the venue, as did AK-47.

ULTRA #4, Weissborn’s last issue, covered Houston’s emerging punk scene in its last pages and notified readers about an April 1 “Be In.” Only weeks after the RAR showcase, WILD DOG #1 debuted in April ’79.

“We’ve only just begun,” Weissborn said in his inaugural Editor’s Note in WILD DOG. “The Houston punk scene is getting off the ground…the April 1 Rock Against Racism brought out virtually all the punk bands in town. Wild Dog hopes to keep the heat on!”

wilddogyearbook

(Students of the University of HoustonHoustonian 1977 – Seniors: Voigt – White. Houstonian Yearbook Collection. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.)

Caught on Tape: Legionnaire’s Disease, Ruse and Christian Oppression (1979)

Legionnaire’s Disease, Ruse, and Christian Oppression at Rock Island and Old Plantation — two of Houston’s earliest punk venues — in April and September 1979. This tape is from Dale Brooks (pictured) of Houston’s Video Boyz.

PHOTO CAPTION: “I’d throw up if I knew which way was up.”
Disease
(Media courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Punk Politics and Protest Anthems: AK-47 Live at the Island (1981)

“The man who killed Joe Torres / Never went to jail / The sniper who picked off Carl Hampton / Never paid any bail / The killers of Milton Glover / They might be pulling you over tonight / And if you happen to get shot / Well I guess you started the fight.”   — The Badge Means You Suck, AK-47 (1980)

“The Badge Means You Suck” is arguably one of the best protest punk songs against police brutality, and it originated in Houston.

AK-47 were an integral part of the musico-political affront taking place during Houston’s first wave. Formed the same year it debuted at the Rock Against Racism show at Paradise Island in 1979, the band released its polemic debut single The Badge Means You Suck/Kiss My Machine in 1980, which condemned the Houston Police Department (HPD) as racist and trigger-happy in spite of an antithetical department slogan at the time — The Badge Means You Care.

The Badge holds its own among other punk protest anthems such as Black Flag’s “Police Story” and “Hate the Police?” by Austin’s The Dicks. While AK-47 is considered a seminal punk band in late ’70s Houston, a hard driving sound influenced by Hawkwind and the previous era’s prog rock, long hair, and visual art showed some continuity between first wave punk and the psychedelic movement that preceded it. The iconic cover art by Jimmy Bryan is representative of this earlier generation.

The single’s front sleeve lists nine victims slain by HPD around the time, memorializing their names so they would not be lost to time. In the image’s background police wear full riot gear, and the HPD crest is displayed. The flipside cover for “Kiss my Machine” is a collage, which Jimmy coined “Machine Mandala.”

“I was the only hippie in the band,” he told Wild Dog Archives. “The point with my artwork was to inject the same imagery that fed much of the protest during the Sixties.” At several AK-47 performances, Jimmy — the band’s “art director” — would appear on stage wearing his own gas mask. Swaying to the rhythm, he controlled a “light show” of sorts that featured black and white transparencies (which he developed) displaying similar stark images.

“I wanted punks to understand that this movement, this music, was connected to the ’50s/’60s counterculture. Punk was not dissimilar; it was a continuum,” he said.

Whether you consider them hippies or punks, AK-47 had an impact on the early Houston punk scene, and “The Badge Means You Suck” lives on in protest of police brutality.

(Music written by Stew Cannon and lyrics written by Tim “Phlegm,” a journalist covering the Houston crime beat.)

ak-47

(Photo by Chan Ramos; courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Taking Inventory (2012-2013)

From only a few of the boxes found in the Wild Dog Archives we managed to log some 193 news-based countercultural and music publications, including early issues of SPACE CITY!, ABRAXAS, HYMNAL, OVERTHROW, REsearch, and a full run of V. Vale’s San Francisco, Beat-funded SEARCH & DESTROY, quite possibly our favorite punk zine next to our own Houston’s WILD DOG.

An Ode to Houston’s Original Wild Dog (2012)

Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn (1955 – 2008) was a poet, writer, activist, publisher, punk, and musician based in Houston, Texas. After his untimely death in 2008, at the age of 53, his house sat idle. For most of his life, Henry was a collector.

In 2012, his house was purchased by a developer, gutted, and then remodeled. In the process, more than 30 years of archived periodicals, personal writings, vintage magazines, posters, flyers, vinyl, cassettes, 8-tracks, punk zines, and an array of additional ephemera were systematically being thrown out.

A chance encounter put us in contact with the new owner, and in a matter of 72 hours we found ourselves in possession of a legacy, not only to one man’s entire life but to Houston’s first wave punk scene and its musico-political roots.