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 Jean Encoule

An Oral History Of Crime

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HANK: “It seemed we were constantly playing ping-pong with our image, or our perceived image, or what we perceived our perceived image to be, which is, I think, very different from what our perceived image was. And our stock would go up or down, depending on how wild our last show was. I think the first indication that we were guilty of hubris was the Bimbo’s show, which was a disaster. We were constantly at odds with the Mabuhay management, and, in a moment of madness, we thought that we could book a bigger show on Halloween, which is the biggest holiday of the year in San Francisco, and steal the thunder away from the Mab. We rented out Bimbo’s, which appealed to us for its swank, underworld atmosphere, and we booked the Weirdos, who we perceived as being the biggest band in Los Angeles, to open. Bimbo’s is a very fancy, very expensive facility, and we had to charge more than anyone had charged for a punk show.

Advance sales were terrible! To add to the aggravation, Phil Kaufman was filming a scene for his remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers in the alley next to Bimbo’s, and his truck was blocking our access to the club, and we couldn’t get our PA in, and it was a big mess – I ended up yelling at Phil Kaufman that his film would never be as good as Don Siegel’s original, and I was right – but it didn’t do me any good! Not very many showed up. It was a very sad, very depressing show.

We really stuck our necks out, and we really took a bath. Of course, word quickly spread about this fiasco, and we went back to the Mabuhay with our tails between our legs for another engagement after that, to re-establish ourselves. By that time, the Mabuhay had so much momentum behind it that it didn’t seem to matter who was playing on the weekends: it was the place to be! Conversely, a band playing on the wrong day or at the wrong time was doomed. One of the best shows I ever saw was Suicide, but they played a 7:00 show because Dirk had a cabaret thing with some of The Tubes’ dancers in the late slot. Consequently, there were about 11-people in the audience. I think that, essentially, people weren’t necessarily fans of the bands or the music, they just wanted to be there because it was a scene – and, as with any scene, it seemed like the centre of the universe to the people in it, but we were always trying to reach beyond that scene.

For instance, when Lynn Hershman, an artist who organised programs of bands playing San Quentin Prison, asked us if we’d be interested in playing San Quentin, it seemed like a great idea to us. We got an incredible amount of publicity out of that show – there were pictures that just begged to be published! We even got in the World Weekly News! We were the only punk band on the show. The prisoners divided themselves into groups – blacks and non-blacks. There were bands that came on before us, and after us, and when a black band would play, all the non-blacks would stand up and leave en masse, and wander around to the other side of the exercise field – and vice versa. When we played, just about everybody got up and left, because they didn’t like us at all. They did like the girls who were with us, who were dancing in front of the stage. The prisoners were kept behind a roped-off area, but they were picking up pebbles and throwing them at the girls’ butts, which kept them entertained for a bit while they suffered through listening to us. We got an incredible amount of publicity out of that show, but it wasn’t enough to help us get anywhere with record labels.

JOHNNY: “We had a reputation for being difficult, which we often were, and I think that it hurt our chances for getting any small label interested in us, and we were too over-the-edge for any real company to even consider. So, there was really no place for us, although Seymour Stein of Sire was interested enough to come to our rehearsal studio to see us play – but any possibility of a deal seemed to be blown when Frankie told him that he was wasting his time with the Ramones, and that they were hippies who should get haircuts! Stein was very offended by that.”

HANK: “For a short while, we had a manager, Mort Mortiarty. It was just a verbal agreement. There was never anything on paper, since he didn’t have a California management license. In fact he had managed The Tubes, until they got signed, at which point, they fired him. Then they sued him for managing them without a license! He arranged for us to do some live in-studio demos with a friend of his, Eliot Mazer. Eliot was a pro who managed to get a very good sound, considering what we were at! Just blaring away at the same time – the material on the San Francisco’s Still Doomed LP/CD on Swami is taken from these sessions. We eventually cut some demos at a real studio, Different Fur, with Henry Kaiser producing one session, a pre-stardom Huey Lewis producing another, and one produced by Stacy Baird. This, and the soundtrack to the film that Larry Larsen shot live at the Mab, is the only unreleased material left – although somebody bootlegged some of the demos on a seven-inch a few years ago. I made some forays down to LA with the demos. I played one for someone’s label, and he told me: “That isn’t a song. That is not a song””.

JOHNNY: “Well, when Kerouac took On The Road to publishers they said: “This is not a novel. This is not a story”. As soon as somebody makes money off of something, then it’s valid!”

HANK: “That meeting pretty much summed up my major label experience. On the independent level, I met with Greg Shaw (Bomp!), but his offer wasn’t very good. We played LA on the infamous Fun Bus tour, and a van-load of friends and fans came along (March, 1979). One of the two roadies on the trip was Joey D’Kaye, who later played bass for CRIME. The other was Jonathon ‘Formula’ Plenn, who died of cancer, in early 1995. We had two really good shows, but there was a big scene with Frankie before the third show.”

JOHNNY: “One of the guys on the Fun Bus was Vadar, who said he came from another planet. He lived in an airplane hangar, and used to do mega-doses of acid, and listen to tapes he made of our shows. He was really stuck on Frankie, and kept pumping Frankie’s ego all weekend. After the second show, Frankie tells us he wants to stop playing guitar, and become the lead singer. We told him, no, we thought it was a stupid idea, and he started sulking. So, the third show wasn’t too good! Afterwards, on our way back to San Francisco, we stopped off at a gas station in the San Femando Valley, and a couple of guys motion for us to come over to their car. I think it was just because we were in a van that said CRIME in big letters – but maybe they’d heard us interviewed on KROQ the night before – a highlight of the interview was Rodney remarking that it was funny that we were called CRIME – and dressed in cop uniforms – while The Police didn’t – and had we ever thought of playing with them? At any rate, these guys had a huge amount of speed, and they gave us a bunch. So we get back on the road, and we all take some, but not Frankie. He’s still sulking, and we’re all going: “This is great speed. Are you sure you don’t want some?” Frankie says: “No” – and keeps sulking. Finally, he gives in, and has some, and he starts feeling better, and starts talking about plans for the band. It really was exceptionally good speed. Hank, who was driving, yelled: “Jews on speed will take over the world!”” -> -> ->

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2 Responses to An Oral History Of Crime

  1. Ken Fury March 1, 2011 at 2:41 am

    CRIME – Extortion 7″ available here:

    http://www.fybsrecords.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=5&Itemid=3

    Johhny Strike, Hank Rank, and the gang are doing two new ripping Crime jams on the A side, that harken back to the hey day of the band. On the flip we have the traditional Moroccan band, Gnawa Express, collaborating with Crime to bring us the eerie “Suwani”.

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

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