MINUTEMEN + MELTZER = spielgusher

One gig, guys! Bassist Mike Watt and rock
scribe Richard Meltzer’s vision finally realized 27 years after the tragic
death of D Boon.

 

BY BRAD COHAN

 

“It was such and such
a date that we had set up (time) for the studio to record it. So I called Mike
(Watt) when I just about opened my mouth and the first thing he said is “D Boon
is dead!” Just like that.”

 

Richard Meltzer, the original rock-write scribe, whose
poetic-cum-maniacal brainiac prose revolutionized music journalism along with
Lester Bangs, is reflecting on that fateful night in 1985 when D Boon, the rad
dancing guitarist/lyricist behemoth for San Pedro punks the Minutemen, tragically
died in a van accident. “Five years before, when Darby Crash died, that was a
tremendous explosion of pain for everybody and that scene,” Meltzer recalls. “And
this (D Boon dying) was the same thing.”

 

The flannel flyin’
econo jammers in the Minutemen, (D Boon, bassist Watt and drummer George Hurley)
were on the cusp of fulfilling a dream – collaborating with their hero on
record, with Meltzer providing spoken wordage spiels backed by the trio – before
Boon’s untimely passing. That project, along with the Minutemen, was no more.

 

“Basically, in ’85 or
so, we were planning for the Minutemen to back me up reciting a bunch of poems
and this was to be recorded,” Meltzer explains. “Then that was the week D Boon
died. So, it never happened.” Not only were the hopes of that collab dashed that
night but in Boon, Watt lost his livelihood – his best friend, band-mate and
fellow punk and Creedence champion. 

 

But now 27 years after
Boon’s death – the very bane of Watt’s existence and the reason he soldiers on with
his myriad musical projs including, his solo trips, the recently reformed
fIREHOSE and the Stooges – finally arrives the rejuvenated proj betwixt the
Pedro punk legend and the godfather of rock-write under the apt moniker,
spielgusher. “In 2004, I had asked Richard (he had moved up to Portland in the
90’s from L.A.) if he’d do this collaboration. We’ll start with Richard giving
me some spoken words to record and then I’ll get some music around it,” says
Watt. “48 of’em he recorded. He said he recorded only on Mondays.”

 

Nearly three decades
in the proverbial making, spielgusher’s eponymous debut (recently released on
Watt’s Clenched Wrench label) is now a fully realized effort, an hours-worth
and a whopping 63 chunks and snippets expertly piloted by Meltzer’s deadpanned,
New Yawk-accented delivery of his
wackily demented and hilariously rank rhymin’ and spielin’ poems while Watt and
Japanese avant-punks Mr. Shimmy (guitar) and Ms. Yuko (drums) provide the
funkazoid jammage backdrop to the spoken word missives. Musically, spielgusher
rests on a similar wavelength with Watt and Hurley’s Unknown Instructors side
gig, dOS (the two-bass band he shares with ex-Black Flag luminary, Kira) and
fIREHOSE funk chuggers like Mr. Machinery Operator‘s “Number Seven” and Flyin’ the Flannel‘s “Towin’ the Line.” “In
some ways, that album (spielgusher)
has some Minutemen parallels. It’s very small music parts and they were inspired by Richard’s (spiels).”

 

 

 

 

What sets the
anomalous spielgusher apart from the usual trite pretense of other spoken word
records is Meltzer’s cuss-filled, delicious sleaz-ism “parts” like “BEGINS WITH
S,” “FUCK AWARENESS WEEK” and “RED SHIRT.” Watt reflects on the putting
together of the LP. “We didn’t have titles. That was the last thing done. I
called’em all “parts.” It was part 1 through 63 and then Richard said “I’ll
come up with titles for these.” He then did his spiel in upper case and the
instrumentals in lower case. It was his idea.”

 

 


fuck awareness week by wattfrompedro

 

 

For Watt to ascribe to
and worship at Meltzer’s altar would be a natural move. As teenage corndogs,
him and D Boon idolized the music critic. “Me and D Boon were just huge
students of his. It was great when we got to meet him and gettin’ to be friends
with him,” remembers Watt. “The first time me and D Boon knew about Richard
Meltzer was because of his words with the Blue Öyster Cult – that’s the first
way we knew him. Then he wrote books like The
Aesthetics of Rock
and he wrote in magazines like Crawdaddy! Richard moved to Los Angeles the early days of the punk
scene and he was in a band called VOM. We got to see gigs and he was with the
Angry Samoan guy Gregg (Turner). He also had a radio show called Hepcats from
Hell on KPXK, a Pacifica station. He had a show that would be on Saturday
nights from midnight on and stuff and I was hearing’em there. Lo and behold, we
got to meet him but it was through the punk scene becuz he was way in it.”

 

The enthusiasts Boon and Watt were of
Meltzer even spurred the name change that would go down in Minutemen lore. Catalyzing
Meltzer’s influence, Dennes Dale Boon then morphed into one D Boon. “Eric Bloom, one of the singers of Blue Öyster
Cult, would put his name on the first albums they had as “E Bloom” and then
there’d be “R. Meltzer,” ya know, with words like “Stairway to the Stars” or
“She’s as Beautiful as a Foot,” explains Watt. “So D Boon, yeah – he kinda got
into it from those guys. The first time he used that (D Boon) was actually for his
paintin.’ He started signing his paintins’ “D Boon.” D Boon was a painter,
too.”

 

Having moved from New
York to Los Angeles some-years earlier in the mid-70’s, Meltzer found himself
anchored to his beloved L.A. punk scene. For him, L.A. punk, not New York punk,
was the shit.

 

“I moved out of New
York in ’75; I was 30,” reflects Meltzer. “I felt like I used (N.Y.) up. I
lived it – been there, don’t that. I ate it up. I moved to L.A. and I used it
up in like ten minutes. But it took me longer to get out. I never cared to
pretend they (New York) had a scene. The Dictators, who were kind of a pre-punk
N.Y. band, who I’m still in touch with and who are friends of mine, weren’t
really punk. The stuff like Blondie, I never thought it was punk. Talking Heads
weren’t punk. Maybe Richard Hell was punk. I liked Lydia Lunch. To me, that
scene was very overhyped, overrated. They had a bunch of very lightweight bands,
who were part of what was considered New York hardcore. I never got along with
Richard Hell. I thought he was a putz. But as far as his music (goes), it’s
alright.

 

“I was going to shows
like four, five nights a week, wherever shows there were…X, Germs, Weirdos,
Screamers. It was an audience of maybe 200 people who would go to most of the
shows. It was a scene that didn’t give a hoot about the mainstream market for
this stuff. It was a vibrant scene for a while. L.A., to me, which is the
cesspool of the universe; the punk scene was its only redeeming feature.

 

Meltzer also recalls
the demise of L.A. punk. “It wasn’t until I.R.S. Records signed some local
bands like Wall of Voodoo and the GoGo’s that everybody suddenly smelled the
possibility of money in it. That turned everything bad, I think. GoGo’s used to
wear lampshades on their heads. Then were asked by I.R.S. ‘How would you like
to become an ordinary girl group?’ They thought ‘Fine, let’s do it.’ After that
everything went to hell.”

 

With the gig-going Meltzer
ingrained in L.A. punk, it was inevitable that Boon and Watt’s paths would
cross with the iconoclastic VOM front-man and writer. “This is back in ’78.  ’79 or ’80,” says Meltzer. “I was in L.A. and
had a punk rock show. I was aware of them (Minutemen) already. They had a few records
out. Then Mike Watt-we had not met yet – sent me some vinyl and asked me what I
thought of it. ‘Is this any good? Are we full of shit?’ Please tell me,’ asked
Watt. Following that, we kinda became friends.”

 

Meltzer was instantly sold
on the Minutemen’s jam econo aesthetic. “They were just so unassuming; they were just folks,” he says about
the trio. “They never postured. They never wanted to be celebrities in any way.
They didn’t dress or talk like celebrities. They were just genuine with
everybody and the music didn’t feel like the traditional lyric that most bands
still do and they weren’t going to do. They wrote things on a napkin and it
became a song, especially when they were doing short things. I just thought ‘Great.
There’s no need to play these long jams and solos.’ Everything they did was
just so basic, and at all times, real.”

 

Meanwhile, Meltzer had
soured on the rock-writing, having penned shit-tons of reviews since the mid
60’s. He invented the singular phraseology for rock criticism, until the
template was deconstructed. “I was certainly one of the first two or three
(critics),” Meltzer says. “It was very free-form at first. What is a record
review? It was yet to be determined. In 1966 and ’67, there was no style sheet
on what a record review was. Then Rolling
Stone
comes in and the record companies insist on writing on a dotted line
so they can sell records. (They said) ‘Write clearly about this record and
you’ll be paid well to say good things about it’.”

 

Ironically, one of the
last critiques Meltzer wrote was of a Minutemen disc. “That (1982’s Bean Spill EP) was one of
the last rock reviews I ever did. I would still write about shows once in a
while and the scene. But I didn’t write about the Minutemen after that,”
remembers Meltzer. Watt, in hopes of a Meltzer review, sent him the record. “I
did send’em the Bean Spill EP and
sure enough (I wrote) ‘Here it is, man, it came out,'” says Watt. “In the review,
he called us ‘scientist rock.’ I used that in a song. I think ‘History Lesson –
Part II.’ I put it in there and it’s a direct quote from him.”

 

As an SST Records devotee
(Meltzer professes his love for Black Flag, too), he was witness to his fair share
of Minutemen gigs and one in particular stands out. “I saw a really great show
they did in the Mojave Desert. This long, long bus ride out to the desert. As
soon as we get there, Minutemen were already set up but everybody had to piss.
The first several minutes of the show was everyone pissing in a circle around
the stage. It was terrific.”

 

***

 

Fast forward to the
present: both Watt and Meltzer are reveling in the glory of spielgusher and in
a bittersweet stroke of karma, artifacts of the original collaboration, poems
that the rock scribe gave to Watt and Boon, recently turned up in the bassist’s
pad. “We just got them (the
spiels) and I gave it to him (Boon) and he was takin’ them on the ride. You can
see on one of the original words. My memory’s terrible but I know it’s my fuckin’
writin’ and I can see chords so I must’ve been coming up with some music right
away. But, fuck, ya know. It’s like 27 years ago. I can’t remember it exactly.
But I saw those chords written there and it is my writin.’ Man, I only had’em
for a day or two before that fuckin’ thing happened. I never thought of it
again and then I misplaced those words and never saw’em again. I found’em again
in a box, a couple weeks ago (http://mikewatt.com/hoot_spielgushermeltzerminutemen.html).
One of’ ’em I can’t find but I found nine of the ten. I made copies of’em and
gave’em to D Boon when he was on that terrible ride. Of those ten, nine of them
ended up in this (spielgusher) piece
here.”

 

Meltzer is even open
to the possibility of doing one spielgusher gig. The emphasis on one.

 

“I can do one. But I
certainly couldn’t do a lot. It takes a lot of energy. I’m 66 years old. When I
did VOM, I was 33 I think and I already was exhausted just doing it then. I do
reading many times a year but it’s not as physical as a rock show.”

 

In true “much respect”
Watt fashion, he busts out laughing when hearing about the prospect of the one
gig. “Wow. I don’t know. I’ve been too afraid to ask Richard. Wow – one gig. He
was already so kind. I didn’t want to lean on him for shit like ‘Hey, now you
gotta tour!”

 

 

 

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