boys

MULLETTO




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.

bohme
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, Jabberyack:


      Had three girls over last night
      Guacamole was outtasight
      Woody Allen's cute, but not very sexy
      Welcome to the Dallas metroplexy
      Jabberyack me
      Jabberyack you
      Jabberyack Jack and
      Jabberyack Lou

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.

fryingpan 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:

Jabberyack
Crude Footwear
His Twin Brother was Marcus Welby
Nursery Rhyme
Hot Tacos
Ode to MeMa
My Son Stan, the Tidy Bowl Man
Jockomo
Tray-Ke-Auto-Me


...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 punk.

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.

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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 figure.


— Pat Garrett
(a/k/a Rand McNally)
May 2008

P.S. Stewardess on the above Mulletto flier look familiar? She resurfaces here a few months later!


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