An individual exhibiting such uniqueness or individuality that he or she will cause a roomful of bar cronies to exclaim, "That's one interesting motherfucker!" Actual sexual relations with one's mother are not required.
By Wil Forbis
"I think he's taking a shit now."
It was 1986 and there were four of us, all teenagers, sitting in the back seat of a '74 Camaro owned by a kid named Robin Rothwell. Robin was passing around a joint while the rest of us listened to a homemade compilation tape roaring from a cheap ghetto blaster.
Sylvain was speaking. He had a shaggy brown Mohawk and was best known in our group for his claim that he'd blown up a car by sticking gasoline soaked rags down its gas tank and setting them afire. We were listening to what Sylvain claimed was a band but it sounded more like battle scenes from a war movie. Loud crashes. People screaming. And occasionally something that, if one listened hard enough, could be construed to be electric guitars and drums.
But the din of noise on the tape had softened to a few groans. So Sylvain began narrating what he believed to be happening.
"Yeah, he's definitely take a dump."
We listened, in awe, priming our ears for whatever the sound of taking a shit sounds like. (A sigh of relief? A soft splatter against concrete?)
That was the first time I ever heard GG Allin, the most shocking performer in the history of rock music. Born to a family of backwoods New Hampshire hillbillies he was first named "Jesus Christ Allin", a name his toddler brother mispronounced as “Gee Gee”. (When he reached the age of five his mother had the good sense to rechristen* him "Kevin.") His teen years were embattled; he wore dresses to school, was caught masturbating in public and quickly developed a taste for booze and drugs. Upon reaching adulthood he began playing music, first drums, then fronting numerous punk bands such as The Jabbers, the Scumfucs, the Texas Nazis and the Murder Junkies. But the group behind him was never the point; GG was the star. His willingness to perform lewd acts of public indecency became legendary. He would defecate and urinate on stage, roll in his sacrament, and then consume it. He would repeatedly smash his microphone against his brow until a torrential rain of blood poured down his face and chest. He actively fought with his audience, grabbing hair, battering skulls with mike stands and eagerly accepting their blows in return. He encouraged women to perform oral sex on him on stage; sometimes they did so willingly, sometimes he would chase them through the seedy, beer soaked punk clubs he played in and molest them.
* Or “re-Christian” him. Get it? Because his name was originally Jesus Christ?!
Eh, screw you people.
GG’s career ran from the late ‘70s until 1993 when he died of a heroin overdose at the age of 36. During this time he released dozens of albums, toured the country with his bands multiple times, was tried and convicted for murky and controversial charges of cutting, burning and raping a female fan, appeared on the Jerry Springer show and created a larger than life persona of unmatched debauchery and excess. Along the way he earned the loyal admiration of thousands of fans and fiery condemnation from both mainstream society and many of his fellow punk rockers.
I, unfortunately, never had a the pleasure of seeing a GG Allin show, but I have watched the hours of videotaped footage collected in DVDs like GG Allin: Terror in America, GG Allin and the Murder Junkies: Raw, Brutal, Rough and Bloody and famed film director Todd Phillips’ (Old School, Starsky and Hutch) student film, Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies. It is some of the most simultaneously entertaining and repulsive footage ever captured on camera. Appearing alternately in a loincloth made out of the America flag, a jockstrap, or nothing all GG menacingly performs such songs as “Bite It You Scum,” “Cunt Sucking Cannibal,” “Suck My Ass, It Smells,” “Legalize Murder” and “Look Into My Eyes and Hate Me.” (As Jerry Springer remarked, GG was “not the Perry Cuomo of his generation.”) The lyrics to his songs, often inaudible when sung in GG’s mutant roar, contain such chestnuts as….
I'm infected with AIDS
From “I Kill Everything I Fuck” and…
…[I]t's alright to
expose yourself to kids
From “Expose Yourself to Kids.”
It’s not hard to read stuff like this and think, “Maybe Tipper Gore had a point.”
What especially stands out in the footage of GG’s shows is his relationship with his audience. With your average rock show there’s a sense that the band is being placed on a pedestal for fawning adulation. Punk broke down the barrier between the musicians and their audience and allowed the bands to present themselves as part of the crowd, no better or worse than the people they were playing for. But GG was actively at war with his audience. He cursed them, hit them, threw objects at them, and in the case of women (and some men!) attempted to rape them. And they fought back, throwing epithets, fists and bottles at GG while he was onstage. Watching the pit at a GG Allin show was like looking at some curious rite of passage of an obscure Africa tribe where only the bravest are willing to get close enough to the stage and risk either bodily harm or the possibility of receiving a fistful of shit, piss or blood. (It's strangely ironic that after all the shows GG did with no concern for his audience’s safety, Great White is the band that ends up killing a hundred of their fans.)
GG’s performances were extraordinary. His music was not. It
was, at best, primitive unskilled punk rock. Had he been not singing about
public masturbation or killing policemen it would have been inseparable from
the gazillions of mediocre punk bands that sprung up in
GG’s dedication to his extreme performance style was not just the result of a damaged, chaotic mind. He had a strong philosophical backing belief that he should live his life exactly the same onstage and off. He said, “In rock and roll there can be no limits, no rules.” GG firmly believed that rock music, as an art form, had been co-opted by safe, pedestrian corporations interested only in churning out lowest common denominator music that would appeal to the masses. And he felt that he, and only he, was inserting the danger back into rock and roll. This attitude that earned him a lot of supporters amongst the punk community. Mykel Board, columnist for punk bible Maximum Rock and Roll, was an early follower of GG’s work. George Tabb, another MR&R writer and member of the band Furious George, sang enthusiastic praise. Alternative rock critic Everett True wrote fondly of GG, saying “He is the dark side of rock 'n' roll made flesh incarnate.”
But by no means was GG universally embraced by punk. The substance free straight-edge community was disgusted with his alcohol and drug abuse (indeed, his willingness to stick almost any substance offered to him into some orifice in his body.) The more political segment of punk decried the fact that GG was not being shocking to make a point about the value of non-conformity, he was doing so simply for the sake of being shocking. GG's very existence revealed the schism between the two main groups of punk rockers. There is one segment that sees the punk movement as part of a larger, essentially Marxist movement towards the destruction of corporations and the rise of a nurturing society based on needs as opposed to wants. For them, concepts like rebellion, anarchy and defying authority are a means to an end, an attempt to subvert the power of the existing political and cultural structures. (Band’s promoting this philosophy would include Bad Religion, The Dead Kennedys* and Fugazi.) Then there is the disorganized mass of social misfits who find their way to punk but are apolitical and have no interest in larger causes. They seek chaos, anarchy, destruction for their own sake and make no promise of a utopian “better world” rising from the ashes of their actions. (Bands on this side would be the Mentors, the Butthole Surfers and, of course, GG Allin.)
* Though it’s worth noting that the DK’s frontman, Jello Biafra, was a fan of GG’s.
A lot of what made more political punkers
so uncomfortable with GG was that he exposed an inconsistency in their
methods. If your goal is to smear your non-conformity on the face of the man,
(for whatever reason) where do you stop? Do you draw the line at shocking
fashion such as mohawks and tattoos and loud music? Do
you draw the line at violence towards others? Or do you draw the line at acts
people consider disgusting on the most primal level: shitting yourself, drinking
your piss and singing lyrics that violate the most basic moral codes that
humanity has ever designed? Around GG, many punks became prudes. Because they
saw that the ultimate act of rebellion was not just doing things that the mainstream
consider repulsive, but doing things you, yourself,
Outside of his thoughts on performance, GG had a broader, Nietzsche-esque philosophy of "might makes right" which he expounded upon in his famous 1993 appearance on Jerry Springer's television program. The show itself was a farce, themed around the attempts of a father to free his teenage daughter from the clutches of GG’s music. (The young woman, Liz Mankowski eventually became GG’s girlfriend and was there the night he died.) Springer, a few years away from focusing his show of transvestite dwarves and their lovers, vigorously condemned the shocking nature of GG’s performances while defending rock and roll in general. Every fifteen minutes or so GG would announce to the crowd that all women need to be raped and the Springer audience, mostly middle aged housewives, would fall beside themselves in outrage. (Perhaps the best moment came when a young woman screams at GG, “You are the devil,” and he replies, “Thank you. That’s the nicest thing you ever said about me.”
On the Springer show, GG’s defense of his actual philosophy is vague at best. He makes an argument along the lines of Nietzsche’s famous quote, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” explaining that his intent in heaping abuse on his fans and audience (and lovers) is to toughen then up for the real world. There are obviously a million counter arguments to this and Allin never concedes that part of a civilized society’s job is to protect its citizens so that they don’t need such a degree of toughening up. But Allin clearly shows himself to be a sharp thinker, unafraid to tackle the philosophical inconsistencies that rise up in any reasoned analysis of the Judeo Christian morality that Springer and his audience are so desperate to defend. (It should be noted that unlike a lot of performers within the darker realms of punk music, Allin seemed neither racist nor homophobic, indeed he freely claimed to have had sexual acts with other men, including his brother.)
GG was quite capable of enduring the attacks he received
from mainstream society, the punk movement and the judicial system. He was less
capable at handling the abuse he dealt his own body. By his mid-thirties, he
looked haggard and battered, with grizzled lines running down his face (a bit like one of his idols: David Allan Coe) while
his often unwashed body took on a doughy quality. GG frequently consumed
heroin, cocaine and alcohol and they were all taking their toll. In 1990, he
announced that he was going to kill himself on stage on the coming Halloween.
When that date rolled around he was in prison. He made the threat a
few more times but was never able to follow through. On June 27, 1993, he
performed a spectacular but short show at
GG’s funeral was a history making in the world of punk rock. “Mourners” turned the service in a party, shoving drugs and booze down GG’s throat and molesting his corpse. Lying in a coffin, unable to defend himself, the once bigger than life icon, loved by some and hated by many, was just a mass of skin and bones. As one attendee noted, “He was leaking embalming fluids … There were gouges and scars everywhere and he was discolored, and frankly, starting to go bad after five days.”
Everyone’s heard the adage, "Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse." Well, two out of three ain't bad!
Wil Forbis is the pen named shared by such noted authors as James Ellroy, Katie Roiphe, and Jim Thompson. E-mail him, I mean, them, at firstname.lastname@example.org
View Wil's Acid Logic web log, a stirring endorsement
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