Fame, Shmame: Overlooked AZ Hall of Fame Nominees
by Matt Neff
Halls of fame are all well and good, but face it: they never ever get it right. There’s always about twelve dozen perfectly great artists that get completely overlooked, or worse, ignored in favor of total mediocrity, and who gets to argue about it? No one, because halls of fame are HALLS OF FAME. Immortal—unassailable—in the postmodern deterioration of all that is good, holy, reliable, and worth clinging to for dear life, halls of fame bludgeon the gullible masses into comfortably seeing The Canon, and/or give something for tourists to do when they go to Cleveland. And wouldn’t we be better off just admitting that Cleveland can’t be gussied up?
“Hall of Fame” conceptual problems notwithstanding, their choices usually suck anyway. As a certain local music snob with ears full of sarcastic wax (and a close friend) remarked to me the other day, "Hall of Fame? More like Hall of Shame!" I laughed at his brazen wit and we both went out for chianti and pizza. Actually what he said right before that was: it’s not that Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and Glen Campbell are simply old, it’s that they’re old, irrelevant, and BORING. They haven’t made any interesting music since 1976, and even then just barely. Sure they’re famous; they’re also limp, money-ridden geezers who couldn’t tear the roof off a Play-Skool pizza parlour. They support the notion that every twenty years all the popular music celebrities on the planet should be loaded onto a rocket piloted into the sun to make room for all the young hellions who are still artistically relevant, in their prime and deserving of fame and fortune.
So, regarding every Hall of Fame that deigns to plague the surface of our fair planet: tear the mothers DOWN! To further support this point, here are some long dead but real cool Arizonan underground acts of a punk-rock variety that I sadly suspect will never make it into our new hall of fame.
One of Arizona’s earliest punk bands (1977), they were roughed up regularly by all the intolerant hillbillies and hicks who proliferated through late seventies Arizona (quite possibly the very same hicks and hillbillies who attended Fleetwood Mac and Glen Campbell shows). They hit the road to L.A. not long after and called it quits in 1978. Their one and only record is still available from In the Red. They sound a little generic, but, eh, they're still better than the Gin Blossoms. "She really puts out! She really puts out!"
The initial incarnation of Mighty Sphincter: fairly decent buzzsaw punk with arty inclinations. Cris Kirkwood supposedly wrung his hands with delight when saw them. Here’s the A-side from their one and only 45, which has all but gone the way of the dodo.
A death rock hardcore band that follows in Mr. Cooper’s footsteps with doom ‘n’ gloom, makeup and theatrics, and copious knowledge of the Algonquin Indians. Most of their records are out of print but I found a few on used music sites. This is from 1984’s This is Phoenix, Not the Circle Jerks comp LP, which also featured Sun City Girls, JFA, Soylent Greene, Zany Guys, and Conflict (also hard to find).
Fast, furious, outraged, challenging and completely tasteless: great Situationist-inspired hardcore from a bunch of Southwestern malcontents with axes to grind. I first heard their “Jesus Entering From the Rear” on the Alternative Tentacles Let Them Eat Jellybeans LP and I’ve loved them ever since. This is from their 1984 album “Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss?” which is available from Broken Rekids and which was originally released with a sandpaper cover to better destroy the records it was placed beside.
These guys aren’t from Arizona (L.A., rather), but they did write this beautifully offensive gem which was banned from KROQ in L.A. and almost had them sued by Ms. Nicks’ legal team. Consequently they deserve all the recognition they can get. Lots of great information at Break my Face and records available from the Bacchus Archives.