Gregg Turkington on Punk in Tempe, the '80s, and a Band As Good as Black Flag
Speaking with comedian Gregg Turkington about Phoenix's storied 80's punk scene, yielded plenty of yarns about seeing legendary bands in their prime. However, he also painted a vividly grotesque portrait of Arizona during the Reagan '80s and his own teenage experience in trying to navigate reactionary politics, fried food, and screaming rock stars.
Image courtesy Gregg Turkington A teenage Gregg Turkington interviews Henry Rollins (then a member of Black Flag).
We ended up with more images and stories than we could fit in print -- so enjoy this look and oral history-style read from Gregg Turkington (who performs tonight at Crescent Ballroom as Neil Hamburger).
The town was filled with assholes and the kids at school were just mean, jock-types. I was always getting in trouble for things you shouldn't really get in trouble for. In 1980, the Libertarian Presidential candidate Ed Clark was in Tempe. Somehow, I got to interview him with a friend of mine. I was in eighth grade. I went and told my social studies teacher about it, thinking it might be interesting to do a report. Not only did he say no, but he took me aside and said, "I've had students like you, and they often end up like this...," and he made a little limp-wristed, gay motion thing. It felt like a really intolerant place.
Have you seen The Apple Dumpling Gang? It's this horrible Disney movie starring Don Knotts. They showed it one year at my junior high as a reward for doing well. I was a good student but I hated the movie, it was for little kids.
Image courtesy Gregg Turkington
The next year, they were giving us another reward at the end of the year and they were showing The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, the sequel. I was a year older and I didn't want to watch it. I went to my teacher and asked if I could go to the library to read.
She said no, and I said it seemed more like a punishment, not a reward. She told me I needed a letter from my parents. So I got that from my mom and handed it in, and the teacher was like, "Ugh, I'm so sick of your attitude."
I went to the library and was reading a book, and the librarian approached me and said, "Sometimes it's better to play along with what everyone else is doing." You're the librarian! It was a very redneck sort of scene: even the kids were right-wingers.