Ed at the time was a musician wannabe (in the nicest sense) and created and devised more concepts than any human could possibly carry out. These ideas were often funny and a bit crazy, but he had a knack for holding sway over an audience of friends and working everyone up into a frenzy about his "projects". Originally it was just a poster project for fun and then slowly the idea gained momentum. At a party Ed and I pitched the idea to Bill N., the leader of a local band, the Alibis, and he was definitely into it. We knew we wanted to do something more outlandish than anything any of the scenesters had ever seen locally.
Bill was totally serious about playing bass in a cheerleader outfit. By now Ed wanted to be in the group, too. No experience, no ability, c'mon anyway. Craig, as always, had to be convinced but soon joined up.
Bill just had too much work and gigs with the Alibis and had to drop out of the project before we started rehearsals and so Ronald was drafted into the fold. From that point we set about developing our concept. That concept was to play a few gigs, completely incognito and in masks, shock the hell out of the trendy little twits that had, in our eyes, ruined our scene, and reclaim it as our own. Since we wore masks we could continue with other projects without fear of alienating core scenesters. Rehearsals started in September, 1980 after I visited NYC for the first time.
We first rehearsed in Krackers' guitarist Doug B's house on Market St. near UNC-G. With me on guitar, vocals, Ed on pseudo guitar, vocals, Craig on drums, vocals, and Ronald on bass, vocals, the Village Pistols lineup was set. I'm fairly certain that it was Doug who suggested we play "Strawberry Fields Forever", but it may have been Ed.
Doug definitely wrote the arrangement, stripping it down to three chords and giving it that breakneck tempo - our first act of sacrilege, not our last. I had a song fragment from the last band that was deemed too Buzzcocks-like for our sweet Monkees/Beatles sound. Originally I tried to finish it with Ronald's brother Raymond. I think we called it "Bad Drugs", but I think it was called something more crude and sexual for a little while. We may have taped it but who knows where the hell it is.
I brought that in to the rehearsal and we whipped it up into a tune called "Big Money". We also learned some covers of really annoying songs by avant-punks like Gang of Four (then only a cult thing in G-boro), Public Image and Wire. The Alibis had made the climax of their set a rousing version of the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen" and it was what the little scene gimps yelled for from the very first song to eventual capitulation at the encore. It had become something of a joke for them, and they wish they probably never played it.
We also played it in the Leeches (a pre-VPs outfit) and we were now going to begin it, stop, profanely pronounce its irrelevance and launch into the atonal, arhythmic "Poptones" by Public Image. Weren't we clever? Also whipped up was a rocked up version of "Macho Man" and a few other tunes including the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer". Our first show was October 19, 1980 at Fridays supporting the Alibis. Introduced by Gary C., the Alibis drummer, we pretty much achieved all we needed to achieve with that first gig. The crowd was thrilled as well as annoyed.
We were sloppy as hell. Loud as fuck. Ronald came into his own designing our masks and stage wear. Using permanent markers and rubber Halloween masks, he concocted hideous and garish faces for himself, Craig and me.
The masks were so stinky and hot that it made playing really hard. For me, "Poptones" was the highlight. Several young girls pretty much flipped me the bird throughout that song. "Big Money" was also cool but I had not formulated any lyrics so it was just ad-libbed hogwash.
"Macho Man" segued into the tail out three chord rave-up of "Free Bird" where I played some of the worst guitar in my life. That night I smashed a Skynyrd LP and threw it into the audience and truly upset a genuine redneck. Just as it was over we got the hell out of there, out the back door, ran the one block to Ed's house, changed, and drifted back down to Friday's where no one was the wiser it was us who were up there just a few minutes before. That same yahoo who was pissed about me smashing his favorite album was telling me how angry he was about that heinous act.
Little did he know... Mission accomplished. The only negative from that show was Ed's obvious stage fright. He faced the audience for maybe 30 seconds of the whole set. This was all new to him and even with his huge Bugs Bunny mask and costume he was terrified.
Listening to the tape his fear was not evident. Besides the masks we had taken to speaking with stupid British accents between songs and it was somewhere around then we decided we were from Manchester, England by way of Haw River, NC. If these trendies wanted an out of town band, by God... We had moved rehearsals to the UNC-G music building (where we snuck in). We added a song of Ronald's called "(I'm Not Being) Arty" and dropped "Bodies".
The greatest addition and the song I wish we had recorded later was "Lynyrd Skynyrd's Funeral" an original of mine and Craig's that was never rehearsed on purpose. It was three minutes of Abmin7, shrieking, wailing, and crashing drums. We traded the "Free Bird" coda for "God Save..." and we had Bill N. sit in on guitar at the end as well as taking the vocal chores on "Anthrax".
[Our next gig] was a raging success and we played miles better than the previous one. My "chops" were more on track as I was using my own gear rather that the Alibis and we had new masks that let us see and breathe better. You can hear someone yell "Stop wanking off, fat boy!" as I am indeed wanking my plank before the first number. A great memory.
Better than having a full beer can thrown at your 1957 Les Paul. The tape of this show shows us at our rowdiest and best. By the start of 1981 the Village Pistols pretty much ceased to exist. Somewhere in the Spring of that year Ed decided to start an indy record label that would feature local acts like The Grafics, Ronald's new group and others. He wanted the first release to be a 45 by the mostly defunct Village Pistols.
My deep desire to own a piece of vinyl with me playing on it made me more than game. We would have to get Craig back on board as well as Ronald and even Dwayne. There was never any question as to what the songs would be. Enough time had passed since John Lennon's death that "Strawberry..." was again fair game.
"Big Money", despite the fact I had no concrete lyrics, was the obvious A-side. We had heard from some Chapel Hill bands that this guy Mitch Easter had a cool home studio out in Kernersville. We called him up, went over there and met him and thought he was just a swell guy and just non-judgmental and hip enough to let us punk away in his studio. We rehearsed a few times with both Ronald and Dwayne on bass and we went in on July 1st. 1981 to cut the 45.
Dwayne and Ronald's bass exchanges verses on "SFF" and Dwayne handles "Big Money" alone. I multitracked the hell out of the guitars on "BM" but only put maybe two on the flip side. Both vocals, mine on my song, Ed tackling "SFF", were done in one take. The backing vocals were done in a round table manner.
That's Craig doing the long caterwaul at the end of "Big Money" ending with the word SHIT which we edited out. We coaxed Mitch to do the organ solo on the back side. We gave him one take, he nailed it while I engineered. We did a mix and carted it away but a day or two later I felt "Strawberry Fields Forever" needed MORE guitar.
We went back exactly a week later (working around the gracious X-Teens) and cut one more guitar track with me playing Mitch's red Strat through a Marshall stack at an incredible volume. Mixed, it was all but a real record. We sent it off to Discmakers in Philadelphia and eight weeks later we had 1000 singles. Ed and his girlfriend Lisa did all the art design and label design. This was their labor of love for the launching of an ambitious project.
When word got out that The Village Pistols of all bands were going to put a record out, many local musicians and fans gave it very little support or credence as this was certainly not the most deserving of bands to actually have tangible product out. The spirit of the thing was to be fun and playful and Ed expected other local bands to clamor to the newly christened Nylon Records and beg to be on his label. Ed was a huge fan of the Stiff and Ralph labels and their DIY spirit and wanted to start his own label that featured the prodigious talents of Greensboro rockers. He invested his savings into this project.
Even if the single sold out at $2 a pop, he could never hope to break even. The picture sleeves cost around $.75 each and the records were about a buck throw. But he wanted to do this badly and we all wished him well and I helped out wherever I could. When the records arrived on September 15, 1981 we individually (Ed, Lisa & I) stuffed each one into its sleeve and used a green number stamper to individually stamp each one. In so doing we discovered that many (at least half) the discs were seriously warped.
This was actually a blessing because he could get a cash refund on the damaged records and that would offset his costs a little. The record was distributed by hand locally and regionally and through our record store contacts we got a few in the hands of Disc Trading, Dutch East India and maybe Jem Importers. We planned a tour to support it and had dates lined up in Greensboro, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh (possibly Charlotte, too). Somehow, the ball was quickly dropped. Ed retired into semi-seclusion.
I saw Lisa around but Ed worked only a few hours a week and was demoralized. The record stiffed badly. I estimate no more that 50 copies actually sold. I started an ill-fated band with Bill.
Craig, Ronald, Dwayne, and Lee became (after a few name changes) The Return, which lasted over two years. Ed reportedly sold off the remainder of singles to a distributor in New York for a fraction of their cost. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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