The Island

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.)

Wild Dog Zine: Phil Hicks’ ‘Cage’ and No Wave Pop at the Island (1981)

“The overall concept of the band is two girls and alot [sic] of machinery…there is a discordant…there is a quirky element to it. It’s highly personal music, you know?…This is Mod-Art. Get up and dance.” – Mechanical Servants (From a May 1981 interview at the Island)

Releasing only one EP in 1980, New York’s Mechanical Servants consisted of two female vocalists with an arsenal of musical apparatus – Pamela Kifer on guitar, organ, and synthesizer and Victoria Harper on bass, typewriter, and synthesizer. According to Kifer’s Tumblr, where there are photos from a past gig at the Island and pool party with the Bongos in Houston, the tech no-wave duo self-recorded their four-song EP (and only known surviving record), Min X Match, on the Mystery Toast label.

A long-time fan of female fronted groups, Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn attended the Mechanical Servants’ show Sunday, May 17, 1981, at the Island, after which the band joked about bruises from their performance, which featured male go-go dancers (what must have seemed an odd number at the mostly punk rock dive), and Island manager Phil Hicks’ bondage themed props. “Servants 1 and 2” also discussed plans to release a second independent effort, Zombies Go Home, a nod to NYC’s 3 a.m. crowd.

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(Original galley 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.)

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.)

Dead Kennedys Shut Down the Island (1983)

The Dead Kennedys headlined the last show at the Island in Houston on May 14, 1983.

According to “A History of Houston Punk Rock Fanzines” by Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn, which was published in PUNX, the Island officially closed in April 1983.

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(Flyer designed by Tom Bunch; courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

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.)

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.”
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(Media courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)