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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 Stanford humor magazine, 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.

label 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




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