The Diaper Days of PDX Punk

February 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm (The Easy Chair)

It’s time for one of those old fogey posts, where I reminisce about days gone by. If it adds authenticity, you can read this in the voice of Walter Brennan.

Back in 1978, I was a teenager about to leave the nest to make my own way in the world. Religious upbringing promising world destruction kept me from taking school too seriously, but Earth’s end wasn’t happening on schedule. Since global cleansing was imminent, might as well get dirty, right?

I experimented with marijuana and alcohol, but was one of those kids whose imagination was better without drugs. I bopped along with the stoner kids, learning what “normal” life was like. Music was changing in so many ways: Instead of pop, rock, country and soul, you now had punk, metal, disco and other offshoots. So much to take in.

I got a call from a stoner-schoolmate, asking if I wanted to go to a punk show? It was all-ages if we went to the first set. It was held at the Long Goodbye on NW 10th and Everett. What the hell? Might as well see what’s up with this punk music.

Around this time, . The Clash and The Sex Pistols meant punk rock. Blondie and The Ramones were representing the US of A. Locally, we had a few bands, but none were more prominent on the punk scene than The Wipers. A chance for a seventeen-year-old to see them in a bar? Fuck yeah, I’ll go!

I fluffed my long red hair, put on my Mickey Mouse tee-shirt, (the one where he’s flipping you off) and drove from Sandy, Oregon to West Linn to pick up my ‘date’, the dude from school. We smoked joints all the way to town, and made our way into the bar.

I learned a few things about punk that night. Even if he’s flipping the bird, Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters have no business at a punk show, unless it’s Snow White being gang-banged by seven little people. These guys were short-haired and angry, and liked punching each other while they danced. There were no women at the show, which made me question the sexuality of the genre even more. (In time, I would realize that while music is sexual, it doesn’t define the listener’s sexuality. Much like the guy who goes to the Tom Jones show, or the girl who attends the Zappa show, you will get your pick of the 97% of the opposite sex that dominates the crowd.)

As to the show? It was noisy. Fast, loud, aggressive. One group, I believe it was The Neo-Boys, brought a black and white TV on stage and watched a Nazi-heavy war film while playing. Their set finished at the same time the movie did, so they smashed the TV and left it on stage.

I was ready to leave, but there was one more band, The Wipers. Someone kicked the bigger pieces of TV out of the way, and this tall, skinny blonde guy came out, plugged in his guitar, and proceeded to tear the roof off the sucker. (h/t to George Clinton.) This band was twice as loud, twice as mean, and ten times more musical than their predecessors. I left the show with tinnitus and a huge grin.

That was the only time I saw The Wipers on stage. I would see Greg Sage tooling around town in his beat-up old white pickup truck. He would come into the store where I worked on occasion. I never gushed and he was always quiet. In the mid-1990s I picked up their CD Silver Sail, and it went into heavy rotation. It’s still toward the front of my CD stash.

After that show, I started listening to bands like AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Motorhead. I saw Blondie for $1.92. (The Cars were supposed to open that show.) When the original Decline of Western Civilization came out, I found another new favorite band, simply called X.

I still like it loud, hard and fast.


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