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 Jean Encoule

An Oral History Of Crime

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JOHNNY: “After we heard the test pressing, we felt ready to play live. I had told my barber, a lesbian, who was active in gay politics, about the group I was in. One day, she asked if we would play a free gay political fundraiser at the Old Waldorf.

Halloween night of 1976 found the Old Waldorf half full, mainly gay politicos. There were also some people in wild fruit costumes, and maybe 10 friends of ours up front. When we hit the stage, I was truly amazed: it actually sounded good! We were playing together. Kowolski had been babysitting Ricky all day, and he even seemed with-it. We could hear what we were singing and playing better than at our rehearsals. Our friends were dancing and enjoying themselves, but a lot of people were running for the exits. When we got to the fifth number, ‘Murder By Guitar’, Jeffery Pollack, the Old Waldorf’s owner, pulled the plug. We left full of encouragement.

We looked around for another place to play, and, after a sales talk with the manager of the Stud, a bisexual bar south of Market Street, he agreed to let us play one night with a one dollar cover charge. We decided to do a poster for this show, and I thought, since we were called CRIME, we should feature famous criminals on our posters! First, a series of war criminals, then gangsters, then serial killers, and so on. So, I thought we should start off with Hitler. The other guys OK-ed it, and it was done. Not surprisingly, stores refused to display the posters. I remember Aquarius, which promoted itself as some kind of alternative store, was especially nasty about it. The owner, Chris Knab, was also very slimy when we brought in our first single. He and Howie Klein, our self-appointed nemesis, later started the Outcaste Show on KSAN, and it was about as outcast as Knab’s pseudonym, Cosmo Topper! Even though the first two singles got attention in England, and our shows in San Francisco did well, we were ignored by the local rock press, and the self-appointed representatives of punk and new wave to the mainstream. The only honest attempt to get things right was when the first issue of Search And Destroy came out”.

HANK: “Howie was a very ambitious guy. If you look back on the progress of Howie Klein, from small-time music critic and radio host, to presidency of Reprise Records, it seems that he had a very clear notion of what he was doing. To the extent that, now, he’s been able to rewrite history by making himself producer of the Ramones’ first two records, while the rest of the people he associated with back in the day have sunk without a trace. He always did seem to look for ways to get under our skin”.

JOHNNY: “At any rate, after we stuck these posters up all over town, the guy from the Stud called and, without any discussion, told us that the show was cancelled. We heard that Bill Graham saw the poster, and had told people working for him that we would never play Winterland. We went down to his Bill Graham Presents to confront him about this, but or course couldn’t get in his office. Frankie quickly wrote a song called ‘Crime Wave’, which included the line “We don’t play Winterland”.

It seemed lame to continue with the criminal posters at that point, and we still needed to find another venue. Wandering in North Beach one night, we saw posters announcing a group called Switchblade, playing at a weird-sounding place, the Mabuhay Gardens. We decided to investigate. The Mabuhay Gardens was a philipino supper club with acts like the Philipino Elvis and Amapola. We met Ness Aquino, and asked if we could do a show like Switchblade. He said that they had not done so well, but we argued that we would. He agreed, and gave us a night. I don’t know for sure if the Nuns or Mary Monday played there before or after we did, and I don’t think it matters much.

Tony Green had a friend named Alan Purcell, who was a nail salon owner, photographer and fancied himself as another Andy Warhol. We did a photo session at his south of Market warehouse, and I gave him a picture of a snarling fashion model with slicked back hair that I had cut out of some snotty European fashion magazine, and asked him to do a poster for the Mabuhay show, since he was playing with the idea of managing us.

For the next flyer we used a picture from the same magazine. Since Alan had gone off to do something else, I gave the picture to Stark, and showed him how we wanted it laid out. This was the procedure for all the posters that followed. Stark was the layout man, and I guess it was our own fault for letting him sign the finished, usually stolen, artwork. I remember he spelled Halloween as ‘Holloween’ on one poster, and his spelling hasn’t improved over the years, judging from the book he later put out. He spelled Frankie’s last name ‘Fixx’ instead of ‘Fix’.

After Hank joined the band, he essentially took over managing the band, which I had been doing up until then. He was especially involved in the posters, but on one occasion, for a show with the Dils opening, we both felt we were too busy to find an image for a poster. Hank and I sat down with Stark, who claimed to be a painter, and had some lousy psychedelic paintings lying around his place. We told him to make a simple drawing of one of the badges we wore with our police uniforms – I think we gave him one to copy. Then we showed him how we wanted the information to read. We thought it would be hard to fuck up, so we had him drop it off at the printer. When we went to pick up several hundred posters, we were appalled. The ‘badge’ looked more a pineapple! We destroyed the posters. We took our posters very seriously. Years later, Stark claimed total credit for the posters, including some that Hank laid out, in an enormous and meaningless coffee-table book called The San Francisco Rock Art Book, or something. There’s a photo of him with the caption: “The artist in his studio”. The one poster he avoided taking credit for was, of course, the Hitler poster.

Our second show, the first one at the Mab, was something of a nightmare. A hundred or so people showed up, and we hit the stage in our leather biker outfits. It was completely different from the first show: the audience was eager, verbal and ready. We slammed into the first song and noticed the next big difference – the sound was dreadful. The vocals were non-existent, and there was constant feedback. Frankie and I looked at each other, and at the crowd, who were going wild. We shrugged and continued on through the set.

The Quaalude days were on their way out, and, at this point, the homemade jobs were still around. Ripper was probably just on coffee, and Ricky – well, it’s anyone’s guess! I remember different people, Don Vinyl and Ricco, dressed in S&M & Clockwork Orange fashions, spinning themselves into a frenzy. A tall kid named Michael Lucas, wearing a homemade t-shirt, with a crude CRIME logo and ‘Hot Wire My Heart’ written on it, towering over some people, and staring into Frankie’s eyes. Bambi, a blonde transvestite, who sang torch songs, danced nearby while Vale (of Search And Destroy, later ReSearch), stood over to the side, taking it all in. -> -> ->

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2 Responses to An Oral History Of Crime

  1. Pingback: Crime (the band) – Invisible SF

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