JOHN VOMIT & THE LEATHERSCABS
I first heard the band name circa 1990 from a friend who'd found the sleeve (no record)
in San Francisco's Record Nurd (later renamed, more appropriately, Stoopid Records
and moved to Los Angeles). The song titles "I Suck" and "Punk Rock Star" sounded
mighty promising! With band members calling themselves Pus Grime, Urea Vile, John
Vomit, and Dusty Phlegm, there was little chance of finding out anything. Luckily,
some collector scum profiling of the "No Thanks" hinted that the band had probably
included their real names in said list; this proved to be true. Needless to say,
the guys I spoke with were VERY surprised to hear that anyone knew about the record
much less wanted a copy bad enough to track them down.
John Vomit & The Leatherscabs was yet another "joke band" who — perhaps
by pure accident — created some classic punk tunes. The "band" was formed at
Stanford University and led by a regular of the school's humor magazine,
The Stanford Chaparral. The man who would come to be
called Mr. Vomit felt "punk rock" offered fertile ground for lampooning and an easy
outlet for wise cracks. With no more than one practice under their belt, John Vomit
& The Leatherscabs' first and possibly last gig was an opening act for a screening
of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on campus. The band lovingly supplied the
crowd with tomatoes and bananas before the show and so the audience pelted the unpracticed
members as they cranked through the first number. If there were more gigs, no one
seems to recall, but apparently the band felt they were ready all at once for the
next step: their own 45.
The Leatherscabs were a random hodge-podge of instrument players (we hesitate to say
"musicians") to say the least: one guy who just happened to be overheard playing
his guitar in the freshman dorm, another chap from a jazz-fusion outfit, and even
a high school kid plucked off the streets of Berkeley to play some brief, inspired
leads on their one and only 45. At least one of the Leatherscabs went around seeking
"investors" whereby people who contributed a token amount of money ($1?) would later
get first crack at a copy of the band's debut single. I can only imagine that "investors"
weren't exactly lining up. "Punk Rock Star" and "I Suck" were recorded live to tape
at KZSU, Stanford's student radio station. The Leatherscabs propped up the radio
station's microphones (meant only for speaking, not recording music) in front of
their amps and blasted away. No overdubs. One, possibly two takes, and it was time
to press the tunes into wax. If that ain't punk rock, what is?
When the record was eventually pressed, it was run directly after a colored vinyl Moby Grape pressing.
The result was that the first few copies of this already impossible-to-find disc
are on purple vinyl! A collecting dream or nightmare depending on if you have it
or not which — unless you're a band member — the answer is undoubtedly
"not". A full ten years after our first contact, Urea Vile expressed admiration for my
continued interest and reassured me that, if nothing else, the executors of his
estate would sell me the record.
John Vomit & The Leatherscabs is yet another punk record where the sleeve proves
to be very elusive which is a cryin' shame as it pictures the band atop a mucky mound
of refuse at the city dump. I contacted the Stanford Chaparral circa 1995 seeking
out copies only to find that a couple of boxes of 45's had been chucked a few years
before! The band couldn't have picked a more appropriate exclamation for the picture
sleeve: "Picked Off The Litter!"
And in one of the more interesting Leatherscabs "Where Are They Now" tidbits, David Henry Hwang
(a/k/a "Maggot Wong") earned himself the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play of the Year for M. Butterfly!
— Ryan Richardson
CONTACT: Break My Face