GG was still alive when I first heard of him, but not for long. It was 1993, and I was a nerdy D&D kid on the verge of love with Heavy Metal. One of my best friends went punk at the end of our freshman year, and read Maximum Rock & Roll religiously. I was at lunch when the black-and-beige photo of the naked performer jumped off the page. MRR was never kind to GG, but I didn’t stop to read the story. Punk didn’t click with me for a couple more years. By then, GG Allin was in the ground and well on his way to becoming a legend.
It was a winter night in 1996. I was nearly a year out of high school, and wore a hair-style I couldn’t even begin to describe. At the suggestion of John Lydon’s book, “ROTTEN,” I’d taken scissors at random to my long hair. It was an oddly shaped stinking mess that I rarely washed. Dr. Filth called me up and yelled, “GG Allin’s backup band is playing in Moosic!”
I had no clue what any part of that sentence was supposed to mean. I remembered the naked bald man from the magazine, but still knew little else. My girlfriend’s roommates agreed to drive, but my girlfriend hated Punk, so she stayed home. This probably prolonged our relationship another year. The only cassette we had on the trip was the brand new corporate-debut of an up-and-comer named Marilyn Manson. “Portrait of an American Family” went through two loops at full blast on the trip to Sea Sea’s.
Moosic is a town in Pennsylvania between Scranton and Wilkes Barre, between an hour and an hour and a half from where I grew up. There were five people in the Dodge Omni, and there may have been one that wasn’t a teenager. This area is coal country, bred by hard, craggy mountains that are no fun to navigate in the occasional good weather.
Sea-Sea’s was a notorious hardcore bar just off the highway. This was the first of many shows in my years as an ornery punk. I saw DRI. I saw Blanks 77. I was not present when Biohazard fans knocked down the wall between the bar and the stage. I was perched on a speaker with a camera in hand when Earth Crisis fans tested the chain link fence that replaced it. When we rolled into the dirt parking lot that evening, we had no idea what we were in for when we came to see the Murder Junkies.
GG was born “Jesus Christ Allin” in 1956, the same year Rock & Roll was created. His name was changed to Kevin, but the nickname “Jee-Jee” came from his older brother, Merle’s inability to say the name Jesus. Even in those formative years, Merle was shaping GG’s public persona. GG rode on the first wave of Punk with his band, the Jabbers.
GG didn’t keep a band long. Tours were shut down when he was arrested, and drugs got in the way of recording sessions. To be blunt, his recordings sounded like garbage. Even as a teenager I couldn’t take his sophomoric lyrics too serious. I was pretty sure if GG was the murderous psychopath he claimed to be, someone would have figured it out. GG was in and out of jail, and served three years in prison for rape.
I’ll tread lightly on the subject. No person deserves to have any violence inflicted unless in defense and to prevent more violence. I don’t want anyone to think I believe any victim was ever “asking for it.” However, as we laugh at anyone duped by a Kenyan prince that wants to give away money, there are safer relationship options than a guy that wrote a song called, “I’m Gonna Rape You.” This is probably the least violent and most inoffensive song on the subject he wrote. GG never denied his victim was cut, burned, and that he drank her blood. He said this was consensual. She did the same to him. He claimed his victim was writing a book about him and wanted publicity, and even the police and judge acknowledged discrepancies in her story. The amount of drugs involved make all parties unreliable. In the end, GG pled the charges from “assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder” to “felonious assault.” This was a man that cut himself apart with glass during live shows, then shit on himself, and rubbed the shit in his open wounds. If he can’t be trusted with his own safety, others shouldn’t be trusting their own with him. Regardless, GG accepted his punishment and did his time in a Michigan penitentiary. Prison psychologists called him, “courteous, cooperative and candid.”
The Murder Junkies formed when GG was released. Merle Allin played in this band, and kept them together after GG’s death. GG had long maintained he would kill himself on stage to become the god of Rock & Roll. With the recent emergence on YouTube of GG’s final afternoon, his demise has finally become the bizarre theatre he always aimed for. On his last day, he started a riot in Manhattan when the power was cut during his second song at a club called The Gas Station. After trashing the venue, the riot spills into the street with angry punks stopping cars and screaming. GG escapes, completely naked, covered in his own blood, and followed by a crowd. The adventure is captured by a video camera following the action. Later, GG went to a party where he snorted cocaine, shot heroin, and was propped up against a wall for pictures after he passed out wearing a yellow dress. The next morning he was cold, but party-goers insisted they’d seen him awake after the photos for more cocaine. He was laid to rest in his native New Hampshire. His gravestone has been removed after years of fans drinking, masturbating, and shitting on it in tribute to the Troubled Troubadour.
I thought, “Fucking hippie,” as we were shoved aside by a short old man in rainbow hair and beard. Then he got on stage. This was Dino the Naked Drummer, who did as his name implied. The opening band was 3 Days Dead, who became later Bela’s Fix, and later Legosi’s Morphine. This name stuck around a few years as they were Scranton’s mainstay for Gothic Metal. Singer D.F. Lazarus was still at the front of the stage when the Murder Junkies claimed it, now fronted by a giant named Mike Denied. Right off, Denied kicked Lazarus square in the chest, knocking him flat. At the moment, it was the wildest thing I’d ever seen in live music. The music was aggressive, violent, angry, and I was hooked. I didn’t know any of the songs the band played from both the GG years and from their new record, “Feed My Sleeze.” I ordered both the next morning.
The Murder Junkies album was everything you’d expect it to be. It was GG’s backup band continuing after the main character was dead. Merle’s presence gave the band the same authenticity as that Doors reunion with Morrison replaced by the Christian from Creed. My first GG Allin CD changed my life for better or for worse, but certainly forever. It was his final studio recording, “Brutality and Bloodshed For All.” Many of the songs I recognized from the show: “Anal Cunt,” “Kill Thy Father, Rape Thy Mother,” “Legalize Murder,” “I Kill Everything I Fuck.” Liner notes included retrospectives from former collaborators on GG’s brilliance. I couldn’t have agreed more.
A punk rock record store opened in downtown Binghamton that year owned by Mike Abalienation, front man for the grindcore band Murder Squad T.O. (not to be confused with the gangsta rap group Murder Squad). Every week I bugged Mike for new GG records, and bought everything he ordered, and every 7″ he recommended. This was the early days of the Internet and Wikipedia was only a twinkle in the eye of Jimmy Wales. I assembled my own mythology of the singer. I tracked down websites with pictures and waited hours for video clips of GG’s interviews to load. Most people wrote off GG as an ignorant clown, but I saw something greater.
To be perfectly honest, most of GG’s discography us unbearable. Recording quality on most is slightly above toilet, and for every great turn of phrase, there’s a garbled mumbling of forgotten lyrics that were never re-recorded. Each album contains several gems, but the song “Dogshit” is an accurate description of the rest. While my interest in the performer never waned, my tolerance for the music did. Every few months I can put the iPod on GG for an hour or so, but I don’t care for it much.
The one album that has stood the test of time was the CD I liked the least upon first hearing it. “Carnival of Excess” is a Country album, packed full of twang and whiskey. It was nothing like the grungy, fast punk GG was known for. For credit, the production is phenomenal, and the songs are thought out. Every facet of GG that was good enough for me to ignore the rest of the garbage is allowed to shine on this record. When most of his music comes on the shuffle now, I usually skip it. If I’ve been on the highway for hours, hanging off the steering wheel, dreaming of coffee, and a song from “Carnival of Excess” is shuffled in, I switch the music and listen to that album from start to finish. I can finish any journey with “Outskirts of Life” in the speakers.
If GG’s career could be remembered for one contribution, I would like it to be this album. Unfortunately, his brother Merle will make sure it’s for being the guy that shit on himself at shows and bashed himself unconscious with bowling balls. Seven of the tracks were written with the Criminal Quartet studio band, and also included were recordings of GG by himself on the floor of his apartment with a 4-track, recording covers of Patsy Cline’s “Pick Me Up,” a song titled “No Rights,” which sounds like it was made up as it was being recorded, and possibly the same for an early version of “Outskirts of Life.” The studio version of the song may be the most inspiring outlaw, road-warrior, cowboy song ever written. The alternate version at the end of the album is called “Borrowed Time,” and contains none of the polish, and none of the optimism of the song it grew into. This was GG fresh out of prison and reasonably sober, holding nothing but his legacy in his hands. This was the song GG was put on earth to write, and we have the rare opportunity to see the path from where it started to the masterpiece it became.
As the Murder Junkies finished their set, our driver found us. She and her boyfriend had spent most of the night smoking pot with strangers in the parking lot. When they’d come in earlier to check on us, someone smashed their window and stole the tape deck. The Marilyn Manson cassette had been tossed aside. I couldn’t argue with the thieves there. We used my black trench coat to cover the window for the trip back to Binghamton. The heater didn’t work, and we were still cold. The brick that smashed the window remained on the floor.
GG was no hero, and no one ever seemed to see what I saw in him. Over time I came to see what they didn’t see in him. Videos of his biggest shows have 30 people in the audience. Some have only 1. By the end of the first song, GG is a rampaging maniac punching and smearing body fluid and excrement on anyone he can reach. There may not be a single song from GG Allin that could be played on commercial radio in its entirety. Lyrical content is crude and sophomoric at best, viciously offensive at its worst. Inundation with this humor is desensitizing. You hear all that he’s urinated on, living or unliving, copulated with, masturbated over, shit on, or engaged with any object for any given perverse act. After 100 songs, it gets boring. With the age of Honey Boo Boo upon us, it’s clear GG was an artist ahead of his time. The bounds of human depravity are there for the testing, and GG was our Mark Twain.
Paul Juser lives in Brooklyn. You can read his fiction at www.printisbetter.com