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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The music scene in Michigan at the time was, as always, torrid. But punk rock was a fledgling notion, and we had one venue to hit. Bookies, a small club with a black-and-white checked floor, had a tattered but screaming PA and a long, well-stocked bar. It was the premier punk rock joint in the Motor City, socked away on West McNichols next to a gay bar and across from a Church's Fried Chicken. Punks were periodically robbed at gunpoint around there, and the small parking lot was rimmed with barbed wire and a rent-a-cop on the premises spent most of his time smoking joints in his car. Bookies pulled in the best acts with alarming regularity. Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers played an achingly terrific set there on a steamy, stormy night in July, 1979. I saw Pere Ubu, the Dead Boys, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Iggy Pop, and Magazine there. Local bands who made their mark at Bookies included Coldcock, which featured a local hairdresser named Andy Peabody as its singer. He was a glammy Bators rip and he did it well. They ran over some great covers, including "YMCA" and "I Can't Help Myself," done with two guitars and a fat rhythm section.

Destroy All Monsters played around Michigan all the time, a deadly boring act led by former Stooge Ron Asheton. DAM was Asheton wanking with no restraint while a singer who called herself Niagra sipped from a can of Tab and pompously waltzed around looking disaffected. That band's ostentatious presence was countered by the monstrous post-MC5 damage of Sonic's Rendevous Band, who were good every time out.

Mike and I were spectators at these shows, secretly going home and bashing away on the guitar, taking turns showing each other some ham-handed lick.

So when we stuck an ad up in March 1980 in some MSU-area laundries, we wondered what our hard work might get us. Neither of us could play a thing, really. We had listed as musical interests such acts as the Dead Boys, the Ramones, Thunders, Buzzcocks, some more obscure stuff like Live at the Roxy, Lurkers, Depressions.

"Well, I'm calling about your ad," Craig Calvert said to me when he responded. "I like a lot of that stuff," he continued. "And if it helps, I'm black."

Craig came over with his white Strat and some good joints in a nice case. Mike and I looked at him, he looked at us, and it was good. We liked him and he seemed to like us. We smoked, talked about what we wanted to do - "play fast music and piss people off" - and set out some possible covers. He said he had a drummer he had jammed with, some MSU kid who "is pretty goofy, but he's actually really good." We agreed to allow him to bring this kid named Jeff Wellman over.

Then Craig took his guitar out and played a little bit. Oh shit. He was really good. I mean, good as in, fuck, we couldn't hold a candle. I played guitar, but I sucked. Mike played bass and he was better.

"Why the hell would he want to play with us?" Mike asked me after Craig left. "I mean, he can actually play."

"I dunno," I said. "Maybe he actually feels the same way we do about music. Not everyone wants to make a million hits. Some people feel alienated by that idea."

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