Protopunk

Search & Destroy: Iggy Pop at San Francisco’s Old Waldorf (1977)

“We thought LUST FOR LIFE would come out and knock the world backward; we were wrong. It was kind of like working on FUN HOUSE. That was a great album…people hated it.”Iggy Pop (From a 1977 interview with Search & Destroy’s Lynn X.)

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(Search & Destroy No. 4, 1977; photo by Richard Peterson; image courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Imagery of Revolt: AK-47’s The Badge and the Machine Mandala (1980)

One of the most iconic records to come out of the first wave Houston punk scene, AK-47’s The Badge Means You Suck (/Kiss My Machine, 1980) was a protest anthem against Houston’s Police Department (HPD), which had a documented history of racism and extreme violence during the 1970s. Nine victims are named on the cover of Badge, among them 23-year-old veteran Joe Campos Torres and 21-year-old activist Carl Hampton. The HPD tried unsuccessfully to sue the band after the flipside’s release in 1980.

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(Original artwork by Jimmy Bryan; original signed lyric sheet courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Aliens Invade The Island (1981)

“Roky Erickson, singer for the late and much-lamented Thirteenth Floor Elevators, the best psychedelic band to emerge from the Southwest, knows a good hallucination when he shrieks one.” – Rolling Stone (from a flyer promoting Roky Erickson’s appearance at the Island)

After being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1968, famed 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson was committed to Rusk State Hospital in East Texas. Shortly after his release in 1974, he formed Roky Erickson & The Aliens. The band’s first full length album, I Think of Demons, debuted in 1980, followed by The Evil One in 1981.

“Two Headed Dog,” “I Walked With a Zombie,” and “Creature With an Atom Brain” are just a few of the hard-driving, horror-infused songs Roky Erickson penned that separated him from the Elevators’ psych rock sound. The early 1980s proved to be a prolific time for the artist as he produced new music and toured consistently throughout the U.S. and Europe.

In the summer of 1981, Roky Erickson & The Aliens returned to Houston for a gig at the Island, the city’s premier punk rock venue.

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(Flyer courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Josefus and An End to LSD-Laced Oranges at Milby Park (1970)

Prior to Houston’s first wave punk scene, the city held its own during the psychedelic underground of the late 1960s, with legendary venues such as Love Street Light Circus downtown and its own version of Woodstock in Milby Park every Saturday and Sunday.

Local psych and garage rock bands performed for free on the rolling hill where nearby trees concealed coolers full of LSD-laced oranges. The venue at Milby Park ended abruptly, once again under the boot of an antagonistic HPD.

Formed in Houston in 1969, Josefus was a latecomer to the Houston psychedelic circuit, which included 13th Floor Elevators and Red Krayola, two of the most notable Texas acts from this era. Playing at Milby Park and other local venues, Josefus’ darker experimental sound bridged acid rock and blues-infused Southern rock; however, the sound was not harmonious with Summer of Love psychedelia.

Dead Man, the band’s first full length album, was released in 1970. While the band dissolved shortly after this debut, it was revived again in 1978 with a new lineup, and Josefus released several singles on its own Hookah label. Josefus continues to perform sporadically as of 2013.

Simultaneous to Houston’s earliest punk bands, WILD DOG zine acknowledged the garage and psych rock music that influenced — yet created a rift within — the newest wave.

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(Media 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!”

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

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.)

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