Where was I in '77? Listening to KISS records like any red-blooded American kid
should've been. By age nine, I'd amassed nineteen KISS LP's with a carrying case
to boot. Junior high was all metal, all the time — think parachute pants,
handcuff belt, and whatever fan club merch was available. Ozzy and Mötley Crüe
ruled early on... every inch of wall space (including the ceiling) in my room was
covered with posters and clipping from Circus and Hit Parader. Things
got progressively more EVIL as 8th grade rolled around with Metallica, Slayer, and
Venom in heavy record rotation. I kept outfits like Metal Disc and Earth Tunes
("rock bottom import prices") busy sending out picture discs.
Punk Rock didn't register 'til eighth grade summer camp in 1985. My pal Daniel's
Walkman introduced me to the Sex Pistols followed by the Misfits. We won Camp Carter's "air band" contest doing "Anarchy In The UK", though I had pushed for us to lip-sync Metallica. I set my gloved hand on fire during our performance because I
never stopped liking KISS, at least as long they kept their make-up on. I wore a
black trench coat with an anarchy symbol on it despite the fact that it was summer
in Texas. Pathetic? Perhaps. Fun? Definitely. Another kid tried to buy the trenchcoat
for $50! My PUNK ROCK fate was sealed a few months later when a First Methodist
Church Sunday School teacher discussed the evils of modern music. Among the atrocities
she cited was the Dead Kennedys' song "I Kill Children". Needless to say, I bought
Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables LP the next day and what my folks surely hoped
was a passing phase of adolescence continues to this day. A year later, a book
entitled Hardcore California would pique my interest even further and leave
me forever fascinated with bands from the Golden State.
So, yeah, I was a late-comer, a poser. My birthdate dictated that my first punk
rock show was to be a full decade after the first Ramones LP was released. That's
why I've always loved the smart-ass question posed by a classic 1979 ESR Texas punk
compilation: Are We Too Late For The Trend? The appropriate answer can be found
on a compilation LP released a couple years later on California's American Standard
label: Who Cares?
In high school, I bought everything Dischord and other punk mail orders had to offer.
Serious, relentless pursuit of obscure punk records began around 1990, my first year
at Wesleyan University in Connecticut where many a study session were interrupted
for emergency record purchases. A bootleg LP entitled Me Want Breakfast really set
the ball rolling. This LP compiled tracks from an early LA punk label, Dangerhouse,
which was responsible for some of the best releases of the era. Songs by the Randoms,
X, Alleycats, Bags, Dils, Weirdos and Rhino 39 blew my mind, and I had to get MORE.
Further enlightening followed with the first four volumes of the bootleg
compilation series Killed By Death. I grabbed the singles whenever and wherever
I could. Trips to New York City record stores became more frequent. For the first
couple years, I focused almost exclusively on late 70's / early 80's California
and Texas punk releases . I knew I was in deep when I decided to sell off my prized
copy of the Crüe's rare first 7in. to justify purchasing rare punk records like
the Child Molesters "Hillside Strangler" 7in. (copy #1 of 200, natch). Years later,
I would learn that the Mötley Crüe record I had treasured and later sold was, in
fact, a fake.
In 1991, I started a reissue label called Existential Vacuum
and released records
sporadically for several years. EV focused on mostly early Texas punk groups,
though the occasional contemporary punk/garage/whatever record would sneak in. EV briefly re-emerged from a long dormancy in 2006 to issue some previously unreleased
tracks by the Ralphs, a fitting swan song for the label. In 1997, I started writing a monthly column in Maximum
Rock & Roll and carried on for almost three years until I ran out of things
to say. Some of those "Peer Pressure" columns have been recycled into pages on
Break My Face. I spend
much of my free time tracking down early punk rockers, improving my website, and enjoying Austin.
If you were in an early punk band or if you were just friends with someone in a
punk band way back when or if you just have a good yarn to tell, drop a line. Also let it be known I've got a ready
steady cash stash to blow on fliers, buttons, fanzines, and records by punk bands
from the late 70's and early 80's.
Ryan Richardson ♠
P.O. Box 9175 ♠
Austin, TX 78766 ♠
CONTACT: Break My Face