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Thursday, June 3, 2010

THE HISTORY OF THE FIX PART SIX...The first week of March 1981, the single, "Vengeance" b/w "In This Town" came back from the pressing plant. Tesco and Dave had handled the whole thing. One thing the Fix were not was business savvy. They delivered a couple boxes of the 200 singles to our Beulah Street abode. We promptly set a box of 15 on one of the floor heating vents, melting them into oblivion.

A week later, Craig had set us up a show in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., home of Central Michigan University about 60 miles north of Lansing. We showed up at the joint, hauled our gear up some stairs, and began line checks.

"Wait a minute, what are you doing?" The guy who set up the show came up to Craig, who turned his back immediately. It was something we heard on occasion from weak-kneed sissy bar owners, promoters and soundmen. They wanted to be rock and roll warriors until the real deal hit them in the face. We often had showdowns with them and won, because at the end of the day, they couldn't turn down the guitars on stage.

This time, though, the guy persisted. I jumped in as Craig blared away, tossing chords and notes into a semi-melodic stew.

"This is the band you booked and we're here to play," I told the guy. We had no manager and no contract, but we were not the nicest guys when you tried to fuck us over. Things tended to get stolen and broken, and I always felt we held that card.

"You cannot play that loud in this bar," the guy said. He was a preppy little brat who was used to getting his way. "So turn it down and get it together."

By now Craig had stopped, Mike was unplugging and Jeff was nowhere to be found.

"Fuck you, give us some money, we're leaving," I said. Craig stepped up the attack and seconded my demand for money. He went face to face with the guy and I scooted away, looking for something to steal. Ah, the liquor room was handily set next to the rear load-in door. I pulled two fifths of whiskey and walked out to the van. When I walked back in, Craig was taking down his gear and we were loading out. It was been decided. Here's $50, go home if you want to play that kind of thing.

It happened in places where this music was just taking hold. Episodes like this played to what a guy from the Controllers told me in 1978: "Punk rock turns everyone into their dad." People who might bang their heads to Sabbath or Grand Funk turned to spineless weasels when three chords of fire came their way.

At the end of March, Black Flag came to town to play Club Doo Bee. Fix and Necros opened, the place was packed, and a trio of local police cars sat in a parking lot across from the club. We played a tremendous set, one of our best to date, and Flag went off like a bomb. At a party later at the Beulah house, the place was filled with punks from all over and we hung out and drank 'til 7 a.m. listening to everything from our considerable music collection, from the Pink Fairies and Slade, which seemed to impress the Black Flag guys, to the Damned and the Heartbreakers. Ginn told me he had seen the Ramones a dozen times. Dez was putting some AC/DC on the stereo as I was heading to bed. They were good house guests.

In April, we were invited back to Oz in Chicago, delivering this time to a much fuller house. Babbin was there. He talked, talked some more, and impressed us with his growing knowledge of places to play around the U.S. He was in as manager. It was haste of a higher order that arrived at the decision to do a U.S. tour. The reason was simple: Black Flag did it, we can too. We never even considered that no one would care. It was just what we had to do.
DOA came to town and stayed at our place. We were now part of the network, which was fine. Any band touring at that time was solid and honored the de facto rules of couch crashing. No stealing, no pilfering of existing food supplies unless invited and no phone bills. A bit of cleaning was usually in order as well. It was the Econoline version of wilderness living: Leave it the way your found it.

Over many, many beers, DOA convinced us that touring the U.S. could be done and was fairly easy. Ken Lester sat in our living room and, using a phone card, talked for hours to promoters and, at one point, Jello Biafra. We were impressed. Lester told us that no record label support was needed. Only a van and a phone book full of numbers, which he readily shared. Craig copied them down and we passed them on to Babbin, our new manager. The party that night was limited to our two bands, talking about the shows they had done and what we were up to.

Randy Rampage drank more beer than seemed possible. While Flag had no look other than an aura of menace that was more psychological than physical, DOA dug the fashion. Bandanas on the arms and legs, bleached hair, fat rings and boot chains were part of their deal. When they left our place to go to Club Doo Bee to play, some of the neighborhood kids asked them what band they were in.

"Kiss," Rampage told them without a pause.

Their show was strong but poorly attended. While DOA had been on the road since 1979, their legacy was still growing, a slow bloom rather than the relatively meteoric rise of Black Flag. Not to mention the nonexistent buzz of the Fix.
There were other bands beginning to play out around Michigan by the spring of 1981. Violent Apathy, from Kalamazoo, was a four-piece led a charismatic singer named Ken Knott. VA were eccentric in their approach, featuring a guitar player who could barely find the frets and a drummer who would occasionally fall off his improvised drum stool, his set scattering at the same time. They were green, but they had great heart and we stuck them on as many bills as we could.

The Necros were from Maumee, Ohio, and were starting to get a lot of shows around Detroit. Young, insecure, and slaves to whatever trend happened to be flying around, the Necros brought with them a cadre of junior high school kids wherever they played, who chased each other about like it was recess. The Necros sound was as juvenile as their appearance, a timid blast of sound that had some skill at its heart. When they got Corey Rusk in the band, he instilled some integrity to the operation, just as he turned the little Touch and Go label into an international success.

Little else was going on in the region. While national acts like the Ramones inspired bands everywhere they went, we cared little about legacy in that regard. And it seemed a good thing; we weren't exactly role models.

By May 1981, the Fix was plotting its tour, with Babbin doing his work out of Chicago. I somehow became his point man in the band, and he called me daily to report his progress.
"Oklahoma City came through, they'll put us on with the Embarrassment," Jon told me one night. It was so foreign to think of playing this music for someone in OK City. I steeled myself for trouble in some of these spots, and wasn't disappointed.

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