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Thursday, April 29, 2010

THE RECORDING OF THE FIX 'VENGEANCE' SINGLE AND THE ARRIVAL OF BLACK FLAG IN THE MIDWEST AND OH SO MUCH MORE! -- THE HISTORY OF THE FIX PART FIVE... When we began the Fix, we would ply ourselves with as much beer and liquor as possible to make the party real. By the end of the year, we started to take things much more seriously, and the music's pace made it difficult to keep up with if we got too drunk.

An exception to that rule was the first single sessions at the Recording Workshop, in Chillicothe, Ohio in December 1980. Jeff had a pal who was taking a recording class there, as advertised in Rolling Stone. Real credibility, we scoffed, as if that hippie rag could endorse anything worth a fuck. But the place was a pro-looking joint and it even had a little dorm for the bands to stay in that was eerily similar to summer camp. Mike didn't play this session, refusing to go with us. He was angry from the previous night when we played in East Lansing at a house party and no one would give him a ride home when he wanted to go. So his childish revenge was to not go to the session. No big deal. Craig grabbed Mike's bass and off we went.

The three remaining Fixers jumped into Jeff's Chevette, loaded up on beer and headed out. By the time we stopped to refuel somewhere in Ohio, Jeff was so drunk he staggered into the path of car at the gas station as sleet fell. The car missed. Jeff drove us on.

The sessions went well, two days worth. One day, they laid down the basic tracks and I did a scratch vocal. To accomplish the sound we wanted, Craig and the engineers wired together a stack of guitar amps, I mean, a literal stack maybe eight feet high. It was something to see. We made some Van Halen jokes and moved on, hitting liberally on a bottle of Crown Royal. And more. And more. Enough so that at one point, during about the 3rd take, Craig fell over backwards into the amp stack, toppling the speakers on top of him as we all laughed helplessly. Craig included.

"Are these guys alright?" one of the engineers asked Jeff, who was keeping it together somewhat.

"Oh, sure, they'll be fine," Jeff said, hammering beer #10 and watching Craig and I stumble around on the floor, attempting without luck to pick up the amps and put Humpty-Marshall back together again. It was the end of night one of recording. We had most things down.

On night two, we started sober, which helped. The bass tracks went easy. From that point on, I only recall standing alone in a vocal booth that was almost pitch black, surrounded by a growing mountain of beer bottles, raging until things came out right. We packed up and left in the dawn's early light, drunk, pointed north to home.
A week later, Black Flag was playing in Chicago. Two sets, one night, with Dez still singing. Jeff and I jumped in the Chevette and drove to the Cabaret Metro. The reason we used Jeff's car all the time was simple: it was the only vehicle between us that could make it cheaply and money was very short among most of us. Mike was the only one with a job, as a union food handler at Michigan State. Craig and Jeff were poor college kids. And I was getting unemployment from my Census job. We could milk that kind of thing in Michigan, where years of ham-handed Democratic rule, coupled with four years of ineptitude from the Carter White House, had put unemployment in the state at around 10%.

Black Flag was doing a U.S. tour and we wanted to know how that could possibly happen. I mean, who listened to this music outside our own cadre of freaks and outcasts? It was exactly what I asked Chuck Dukowski when I saw him in the dressing room at the Metro. He was generous with his time and more than willing to share his numbers. He also promised to try to set up a date in Lansing when the band hit the road again that March. We left emboldened by Black Flag's relentless, fuck-you tirades that left me breathless. Dez Cadena was the real deal, a skinny guy with some fat cords. Ginn essentially exploded his guitar in a way that was very Craig-like, and I saw the jagged similarities between the Flag and the Fix.

In February 1981 the Fix scored a weekend of shows at Oz in Chicago, which was getting on the map with its own blue-collar punk rock, led by the band that would define the city. The Effigies had opened for Black Flag at Metro and I dug their Angelic Upstarts/Sham/rock base. Singer John Kezdy was a grim motherfucker, and the music had zero sense of humor. It was led by Earl Letiecq on guitar, a wild man with a serious metal bent and a yen for all substances.

Oz was located on Broadway in one more shady part of town, its third location under the same name. We were booked for two nights, Feb. 12 and 13, a Thursday and a Friday. Oz consisted of two adjoining rooms with unisex bathrooms, a couple bins of chilled Old Style and the bands set up at the end of one of the rooms. When we got there, about a half-dozen punks were milling around, drinking cheap beer. These were what we ended up calling "leather-jacketed meanies." They copped their flow from the English punks, with their jackets adorned with slogans and the names of their favorite UK acts flying between studs and buttons. They were caricatures in a way, and I had to frown because it was surely not a look endemic to the U.S. But they were a pretty cool lot who eyed us with suspicion, clad as we were in simple overcoats and mufflers, with longish hair covered by knit caps and wearing high tops to a man. We were not one of them, and felt it. We drank our beer alone before our first set, which was to begin at 3. The place was freezing, outdoors, the temperature hit zero, but folks kept filtering in as the morning progressed from midnight, to 1 to 2. By the time we shed our coats and walked onto the floor, there was a decent crowd, mostly guys, looking at us with doubt, murmuring to themselves.

When we lit into the set, though, it was like hitting a home run. Eyebrows raised, beers went down faster among the crowd, and we nailed it, dead on. We ran through five songs in a row to start, typical. And when we ended that fifth tune, the boys erupted in a belligerent, hearty cheer. It worked. We passed the litmus test with a crowd that damn well got it.

Not that we really gave a fuck. After a second set at 5 a.m., we left to our appointed crash pad for the night - the Evanston basement apartment shared by Kezdy and a short, chatty fellow named Jon Babbin. We were well into the booze by the time we got out there, and Craig and I heralded our arrival to the burbs by breaking a number of empty beer bottles against a brick wall. We did it with gusto and a good degree of anger.

The next night we repeated our performance and headed home. Babbin asked us if we were looking for a manager. We said we would consider it. He dug our din and was obsessed with the business end of punk rock and the idea of touring. We hated business, but were game to take our noise to more strangers like Black Flag was doing.

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