I think, therefore I'm not what I expected...
I am not a very good drummer. Nevertheless, I was the first drummer for three bands,
all of which went on to bigger and better things after I moved on. I played with
X at their premier at Farrah's Going Away Party. I was technically the Dils second
drummer, but the principle still applies. But before those adventures, I was part
of the founding of Dallas' earliest and oddest punk band.
Mulletto was hatched during the same Spring of '77 that gave birth to so many seminal
punk bands. The sparse reports and bootleg cassettes of the Pistols and the Clash
had found their way to Big-D, and just as these enticing morsels were fueling the
Screamers and the Weirdos and the Germs out in LA, they were providing a much needed
excuse for a bunch of high school buddies to form a "real" band.
To understand Mulletto you first have to be introduced to King Boredom and the Yam
Manor. While enrolled at North Texas State, Geoff Agualubia earned the nickname of
King Boredom on account of his unsurpassed expertise in sedentary living. He taught
us to achieve nirvana with a comfy sofa, a pack of Lark cigarettes, a bong and a
huge record collection. Everyone wanted hang out at Geoff's little garage apartment
if only to escape the dorms and decompress. In a stoned reference to Popeye, the
apartment came to be known as Yam Den. Later, his houses in East Dallas became
successive versions of Yam Den as our small crew sought refuge from all that we
disdained about "modern culture" in the mid-seventies.
Besides Geoff, the other members of our bohemian gang were Leslie Bohme and Dudley
Sherry. We were all self-taught musicians of varying abilities. Dudley "played it
left-hand" because he taught himself with the only instrument available to him,
a normal right-handed guitar. So, he turned it upside-down and fingered the chords
backwards which lead to a unique style and sound.
Leslie Bohme had been my best friend since second grade. We had done everything
together, from skateboards to model cars, and his Dad must have been into Country
& Western because he had bought Leslie a really nice Fender pedal-steel guitar and
encouraged him to learn how to play it. He was actually very good, and sometimes
I would accompany him on bass while we played Country classics like "Stand By Your
Man". By the time we graduated from high school we had both decided to pursue a
Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at college. Leslie was perhaps the most inventive
and talented man I have ever known - he was simply a genius when it came to observing
and appreciating the odd and arcane minutiae of daily life in North Texas. His
paintings and drawings, while seemingly crude, represented a fully-baked maturity
that I could only marvel at. Unfortunately, like many geniuses, Leslie had a screw
loose. What was merely anti-social behavior in a growing child became full-blown
schizophrenia after he left home and moved away to college. He was forced to drop
out of school and return home to maintain a "normal life" on psychotropic drugs.
In the Spring of '77 we had all graduated from college and were marking time while
waiting for the next phase of our lives to begin. I had about a month before I was
planning to move to Hollywood and pursue a Master's Degree at USC. When I arrived
in Dallas I found that Geoff and Dudley and Leslie had been writing songs with the
intention of forming a punk band. I joined in the effort, hanging out at Yam Den
day and night while we perfected our collective writing style.
The method involved sitting around, stoned, drunk or both, with each person throwing
out lines of lyrics in an attempt to craft the silliest, most ironic and sarcastic
song on a pre-determined subject. A good example would be one of our first songs,
Had three girls over last night
Guacamole was outtasight
Woody Allen's cute, but not very sexy
Welcome to the Dallas metroplexy
Jabberyack Jack and
The first line was Leslie's. Dudley added the second. The
third line came from overhearing Geoff's wife talking to a friend in the next room.
And I suggested the stupid "metroplexy" line. The method seemed to work, so we stuck
with it and wrote songs that weren't so much about things, but more like nonsensical
stream-of-consciousness rants. Songs like Crude Footwear:
Met a fink in suede sandals
"Texas Traveler" was his handle
Breaker-one-nine for the fink
His penis-ring was really pink
Upon closer inspection
He had patent-leather go-go boots on
Pointed his patent-leather go-go boots in my direction
In their reflection I could see his root
Dudley's metal building in a frying pan
I think, therefore I'm not what I expected
I love to hear people clear their throats and stuff
Makes me wanna write a song about Eskimo sex.
Or, another favorite about smoking and television called Tray-Ke-Auto-Me
Heard a rumor that I had a tumor
This suppressed my sense of humor
Then came the big decision
Should I watch some television?
Saw the Cartwright family
They were on their horses three
Took a shot at Hoss, but missed
Hit Little Joe and he was pissed
Got so scared I changed the channel
Found "I've Got a Secret"'s panel
Turned the knob three times more,
There's Merv Griffin with Zsa Zsa Gabor...
We wrote a hilarious song called His Twin Brother was Marcus
Welby and an ode to boredom named Jockomo. When it
finally became time to put
these lyrics to music it was obvious that Leslie and Dudley would sing and play
guitar, and Geoff was comfortable providing the bass. Even though I had little
experience, I volunteered to pound the drums as best I could if we could borrow
a kit from someone.
We set up rehearsal in a garden shed in Dudley's backyard during the oppressive
heat of the early Texas summer (Dudley's metal building in a frying pan.) Our sound
immediately gelled into what could best be described as psychedelic-fuzz-tone-folk.
The "folk" part was my fault — we would have preferred to sound more like the
Ramones, but I simply couldn't play anything like Tommy's machine-gun speed.
So the beat was more swingin' than rockin', and it suited the necessary simplicity
of the melodies and chords that we amateurs were capable of.
After a few weeks of daily practice we had a set of about ten songs:
His Twin Brother was Marcus Welby
Ode to MeMa
My Son Stan, the Tidy Bowl Man
...and a few others I can't recall. We decided to throw a party and stage our
premier in Dudley's living room. Even our friends who were familiar with our
eccentricities and were usually willing to cut us some slack didn't know what
to think of Mulletto. I really don't know where the name came from — I think
it was just Geoff and Leslie playing with words and liked the way it sounded.
A week later I moved to L.A. and was so overwhelmed by the burgeoning Hollywood scene
that I soon forgot about Mulletto. But they took the opportunity to find a better
drummer in the person of another old high school friend named Geoff Graham. Unbeknownst
to me, they were writing new songs, practicing hard and changing their sound to
a more straight-ahead hard rock style. They played a few paying gigs with proto-punk
bands such as the Nervebreakers. Unfortunately, Dallas was not yet ready to embrace
Mulletto traveled to Austin to record a demo tape in a studio at the University of
Texas. They recorded
a handful of their best standards and being aware of my involvement with Dangerhouse,
they sent a copy to me in Hollywood. I liked what I heard — they were clearly
a very different band with their new drummer - but the mix quality was too crude
to commit it to vinyl. David Brown seemed less than impressed with Mulletto's shtick,
but he was intrigued, so I invited them to visit L.A. and we would arrange for them
to play at least one gig in Hollywood and see what developed.
Dangerhouse was fortunate to convince Elmer Valentine to book a Tuesday night show
at the Whisky with Mulletto opening for the Dils. Then Mr. Valentine pulled his
usual shit and cancelled the gig at the last minute for a "better draw". We quickly
pivoted and moved the show to the Larchmont Hall where I thought they put on an
inspiring performance even if SLASH Magazine gave them a merely lukewarm review.
The boys returned to Texas with an understandably bitter taste in their mouths after
witnessing the rather insular attitude of the Hollywood cognoscenti. Whatever hard
feelings they had were apparently channeled into improving the band. The new songs
reached for a higher level of sophistication, both musically and lyrically. Bohme
assumed the leadership and began contributing his own painfully autobiographical
compositions. A good example would be Group Therapy, a song about
his own experiences with psychotherapy:
There's Gerald, he thinks he's Jesus
Tells us that every time he sees us...
The lyrics contained scathing and embarrassing anecdotes with names included, and
when we asked him, he claimed that they were all true stories from his group therapy
sessions. In this period Mulletto wrote what I consider to be their punk/pop masterpiece
I've Gone Bourgeois:
I've gone bourgeois, what can I say?
I've got fringe in the back window of my Chevrolet.
Jeff's cat Ted gave me some advice:
He said 'bourgeois boredom is the spice of life.'
They also composed their equivalent of the first punk rock medley, combining
reactionary politics with snappy parodies of Steppenwolf, Moody Blues and the Who
in the epic Down With The Sixties:
Grow your hair down to your ass
Save the environment and do it fast
The Grateful Dead were your big heroes
Just like them, your IQ is zero
It's sick to see hippies still around
the lost generation of the underground
Crosby, Stills, Nash are together again
so sit in your opium den and listen to them
All you hippies are nostalgia now
gonna take a gun and go POW POW POW
blow your guts out on the street
watch the crows strip off your meat
Completely tongue-in-cheek, of course.
I felt a responsible guilt for the shabby treatment that the boys endured while
visiting California and promised them that Dangerhouse would release a Mulletto
single if we could record some tracks worthy of their abilities. With this in mind,
I traveled back to Texas to assist in producing a new recording session. We booked
some time at a cheap sixteen-track studio in a strip mall on Henderson with the
eponymous name of Real to Reel. This would be the group's best chance to show what they could do.
The sessions started out in a promising fashion with the boys playing tight, economical
instrumental tracks with an obvious goal to waste as little time on the clock as
possible. The only problem was that Leslie was leading the band and counting down
the intro of each song and setting way too fast a tempo. Like Ted Turner in a hostile
takeover, he was off his meds in a vain attempt to intensify his performance. From
the control room I kept asking him to slow things down, but each entreaty only made
things worse. I could sense a train wreck ahead and sure enough the next day was
a disaster when we gathered to record the vocal tracks. Bohme was so hopped up you
would have sworn that he was on crystal meth if you didn't know that this was what
he was like when he didn't take his drugs. God bless him, he only wanted to do his
best for me and the band, which manifested itself in a terrible constriction of his
throat. The result was that he sounded like he was singing on helium. I had seen
this same thing before, during the Avengers sessions when Penelope's nervousness
caused her throat to close up. Our solution then was to get her drunk and rely on
the alcohol to lubricate her vocal chords and her attitude. This wasn't going to
work with Leslie. Our only choice was to soldier on and get in done.
I listened to the tapes many times over the next few weeks. I have to admit to a
bias, a bias built upon the bond with my oldest friends and bandmates, so I was
automatically inclined to love anything I heard from Mulletto. But the A/R man
in me — the co-partner of Dangerhouse Records — told me that it wasn't
up to our standards. It wasn't just that the tracks didn't do the band justice,
but I felt that I couldn't honestly sell the idea to Dave that we should spend
Dangerhouse's limited funds on a band that would probably never be seen again in
Los Angeles. To my great dishonor I never really admitted this to the band; we
just shelved the project indefinitely.
Back in Texas, Mulletto continued to play the odd gig here and there, usually in
front of a hostile or indifferent audience. Leslie's ability to regulate his behavior
through prescription drugs was becoming an iffy prospect, and as he withdrew the
band simply faded away. Dallas was still not ready for a group of seemingly normal
guys who sang songs about serial murders, psychotherapy and tracheotomies. Go
— Pat Garrett
(a/k/a Rand McNally)
P.S. Stewardess on the above Mulletto flier look familiar? She resurfaces here a few months later!
CONTACT: Break My Face