Houston Underground

Sicko #2: Houston’s Culturcide Plays Amsterdam with Bad Brains (1987)

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TRANSCRIPT 

Culturcide in Europe

The first of Houston’s underground bands to play in Europe, Culturcide received a warm welcome from Dutch and Belgium audiences. They landed in Den Hague and went on to play a government-sponsored rock festival in Amsterdam at the Paradisio theatre, with such acts as Bad Brains, Nick Cave, SPK, and many other bands. They also played in Eindhoven, Vin Ray, Nijmegen (Holland) and Ghent and Antwerp in Belgium. Another week of dates in Germany unfortunately fell through, but Culturcide made lots of new contacts and friends in the cities where they played.

They received coverage in the Dutch magazine 007 and Britain’s SOUNDS. While in Antwerp, they caught an art-video installation about violence in America which featured Ed Gein and replicas of some of his gruesome “leather” crafts.

Upcoming Culturcide projects include recording their live set for release, tunes like “Pizza Hut,” “Death Speaks,” “Feeling I Was Gonna Die,” “Pass for Normal” and all of their other great songs which until now have been heard by a lucky few. Dan Workman, their guitarist, will do a solo performance at Lawndale as part of the “On the Edge” series on September 26. Be there.

(Sicko #2 courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Experimental Noise: Culturcide ‘Dedicates’ First Single to Museum of Fine Arts Houston (1980)

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(Media courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Formed in 1980, experimental noise rock band Culturcide recorded their debut single, Another Miracle/Consider Museums as Concentration Camps,  at MRS Studio in Houston, where the AK47’s The Badge Means You Suck and the Legionnaire’s Disease single I’d Rather See You Dead also were tracked. Fronted by noisemakers Jim Craine and Perry Webb, the single’s lineup credits two guitarists, Trazz and Dan Workman, as well as screams by Adele and yells by Don.

In this introduction to Culturcide on Houston Matters (via Houston Public Media), SugarHill Recording Studios President and Culturcide guitarist Dan Workman reflects on the band’s entry into the Houston underground music scene in the 1980s.

Houston Underground: Space City!, Direct Action, and Ultra Zine (1978)

Epicenters like San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and New York’s East Village are well established in the lore of fervent counterculture. Despite popular consensus, Houston, Texas, held its own as a locus of bohemian life and political activism from the late 1950s through the early 1970s.

Faced with a brutal police force and a roster of reactionary Klansmen, Houston’s alternative press railed against injustice in all its forms. Apropos of its mission, SPACE CITY NEWS (later SPACE CITY!) displayed Pancho Villa on the cover of its first issue, which debuted on the Mexican revolutionary general’s birthday, June 5, in 1969.

Born in 1955, Henry Weissborn was 14 when SPACE CITY! first appeared on newsstands. The paper was published by members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and a coalition of other radical youth groups active in Houston and Austin at the time. In addition, the Youth International Party (YIP or Yippies), fronted by Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Ed Sanders, and Paul Krassner, was formed in December 1966. All of these forces, combined with radical movements around the world, would shape Weissborn’s political identity throughout his life.

SPACE CITY! was an outlet for the counterculture in Houston. Anti-war, anti-police state, and pro-civil rights perspectives earned many of the newspaper’s staff death threats, police intimidation, and even bomb scares. By the mid-1970s, concerted efforts of police intervention, commercial redevelopment, and the general lack of cultural expression would stifle Houston’s underground.

Space City!

Weissborn became aware of the Yippie movement in his early exposure to SPACE CITY!. Central to the cause, the Youth International Party tied the Hippie movement of the late 1960s to the New Left, and the high point of its activity occurred at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. By the mid-1970s, the issues had changed.

By 1976, the end of the draft and the Vietnam War had quieted much of the angst from the preceding movement. The most aggressive activists had either been imprisoned, voluntarily exiled, or were living under assumed identities. National countercultural icons were maintaining a voice in academic circles through literary writings and speeches. Musically, the world had changed. Acid/Psych Rock evolved into Prog, and the airwaves were co-opted by Disco. Top 40 music killed the experimental edge that had emerged a decade before.

Primary Yippie activity revolved around marijuana legalization, although widespread hysteria surrounding its usage had waned. A dozen pot-smoking Yipsters were ignored at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City. In April 1977, the Youth International Party’s 10th anniversary “Be-In” was held in New York City’s Central Park with a turn out of only 200 members compared to 10,000 in 1967.

Despite the drop in numbers, the Yippies were finding new avenues of protest in the late 1970s. “The Yippies are the only truly authentic New Left group that has survived,” Weissborn said in a Dec. 6, 1978, interview with THE DAILY COUGAR, the University of Houston’s student-run paper. The core of the movement was rooted in action and not ideology, Weissborn underscored, and its strength lie in influence and not numbers. UH’s Yippie Chapter comprised only three members — Weissborn and brothers Jeff and Dave Stewart. Texas Tech University in Lubbock had the only other Yippie faction in the state.

At the time of the interview, Weissborn was President of UH’s Direct Action Committee and a self-proclaimed Yippie leader. A major issue of concern in 1978 was the anti-nuclear movement. The Yippies along with other activists, including Jimmy Bryan, helped organize the Mockingbird Alliance, which was Houston’s first anti-nuclear protest group. In October 1978, the group held an “Anti-Nuclear Tribal Stop,” which Weissborn described as a five-hour music festival of life. Attendance was a challenge for many of these early events. A “Be-In” held at Houston’s Lynn Eusan Park in November of that same year drew a crowd just above 500. This event was marked by early appearances of some of Houston’s first punk bands and featured a speech by Aron Kay “Pie Man,” the Yipster known for throwing pies in the face of Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy among others. “The ‘Be-In’ signaled a new wave of protest in the Gulf Coast region,” Weissborn told THE DAILY COUGAR.

It’s clear by this early interview that Weissborn advocated direct action and raising social consciousness. Though he admits, “certain members of the Direct Action Committee resent the major involvement of the Yippies, saying DAC is a YIP front concerned with pot smoking and putting on rock concerts.” While the Yippies were actively involved in marijuana law reform, Weissborn said, “we’re not just a group that goes out and smokes pot.” He added, “It would be a weakness to be solely focused on pot legalization because the media and the public wouldn’t take us seriously.”

Other social issues central to the Yippie cause included the Equal Rights Amendment, gay rights, government spying, and racism. To chronicle what actions were being taken around the country and internationally on these issues, Weissborn founded ULTRA, the official underground zine for UH’s DAC. Weissborn debuted this first iteration of his DIY magazines in April 1978 and published the fourth and last issue of ULTRA in January 1979. Coverage ranged from local dope prices to national news on labor movements and hunger strikers across the Atlantic.

It is difficult to surmise how much influence ULTRA may have had on the Houston populace and UH student body. The zine stands out as a not-so-common artifact of social protest during an otherwise stagnant era in Houston.

In THE DAILY COUGAR interview, Weissborn announced plans in the making for a Rock Against Racism rally, to be held April 1979. The event would prove transformative for Weissborn. Abandoning his Yipster identity and long hair, Henry “Wild Dog” entered the scene.

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(Original issue of Ultra #1 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.)

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.