THE VILLAGE PISTOLS ACCORDING TO A VILLAGE PISTOL...
The Village Pistols was a coming together of hare-brained ideas by several people
living in and around Greensboro, North Carolina in the Summer and Fall of 1980.
The original idea for the Village Pistols came from college student/record store
employee/college radio DJ/mad genius Ed S. Ed originally conceived of the idea over
a few beers with friends, and he constructed, with his girlfriend Lisa's help, a
poster announcing the imminent arrival of the Village Pistols. A crude graphic design
that featured elements of the Village People and Sex Pistols logo and a revealing
photo of Marilyn Chambers was quickly snatched off kiosks and telephone poles around
UNC-G. Ed at the time was a musician wannabe (in the nicest sense) and created and
devised more concepts than any human could possibly carry out. These ideas were often
funny and a bit crazy, but he had a knack for holding sway over an audience of friends
and working everyone up into a frenzy about his "projects". Originally it was just
a poster project for fun and then slowly the idea gained momentum.
At a party Ed and I pitched the idea to Bill N., the leader of a local band, the
Alibis, and he was definitely into it. We knew we wanted to do something more outlandish
than anything any of the scenesters had ever seen locally. Bill was totally serious
about playing bass in a cheerleader outfit. By now Ed wanted to be in the group,
too. No experience, no ability, c'mon anyway. Craig, as always, had to be convinced
but soon joined up. Bill just had too much work and gigs with the Alibis and had
to drop out of the project before we started rehearsals and so Ronald was drafted
into the fold.
From that point we set about developing our concept. That concept was to play a few
gigs, completely incognito and in masks, shock the hell out of the trendy little
twits that had, in our eyes, ruined our scene, and reclaim it as our own. Since we
wore masks we could continue with other projects without fear of alienating core
scenesters. Rehearsals started in September, 1980 after I visited NYC for the first
time. We first rehearsed in Krackers' guitarist Doug B's house on Market St. near
UNC-G. With me on guitar, vocals, Ed on pseudo guitar, vocals, Craig on drums, vocals,
and Ronald on bass, vocals, the Village Pistols lineup was set. I'm fairly certain
that it was Doug who suggested we play "Strawberry Fields Forever", but it may have
been Ed. Doug definitely wrote the arrangement, stripping it down to three chords
and giving it that breakneck tempo - our first act of sacrilege, not our last.
I had a song fragment from the last band that was deemed too Buzzcocks-like for our
sweet Monkees/Beatles sound. Originally I tried to finish it with Ronald's brother
Raymond. I think we called it "Bad Drugs", but I think it was called something more
crude and sexual for a little while. We may have taped it but who knows where the
hell it is. I brought that in to the rehearsal and we whipped it up into a tune
called "Big Money". We also learned some covers of really annoying songs by avant-punks
like Gang of Four (then only a cult thing in G-boro), Public Image and Wire. The
Alibis had made the climax of their set a rousing version of the Sex Pistols' "God
Save The Queen" and it was what the little scene gimps yelled for from the very
first song to eventual capitulation at the encore. It had become something of a
joke for them, and they wish they probably never played it. We also played it in
the Leeches (a pre-VPs outfit) and we were now going to begin it, stop, profanely
pronounce its irrelevance and launch into the atonal, arhythmic "Poptones" by Public
Image. Weren't we clever? Also whipped up was a rocked up version of "Macho Man"
and a few other tunes including the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer".
Our first show was October 19, 1980 at Fridays supporting the Alibis. Introduced
by Gary C., the Alibis drummer, we pretty much achieved all we needed to achieve
with that first gig. The crowd was thrilled as well as annoyed. We were sloppy as
hell. Loud as fuck. Ronald came into his own designing our masks and stage wear.
Using permanent markers and rubber Halloween masks, he concocted hideous and garish
faces for himself, Craig and me. The masks were so stinky and hot that it made playing
really hard. For me, "Poptones" was the highlight. Several young girls pretty much
flipped me the bird throughout that song. "Big Money" was also cool but I had not
formulated any lyrics so it was just ad-libbed hogwash. "Macho Man" segued into the
tail out three chord rave-up of "Free Bird" where I played some of the worst guitar
in my life. That night I smashed a Skynyrd LP and threw it into the audience and
truly upset a genuine redneck. Just as it was over we got the hell out of there,
out the back door, ran the one block to Ed's house, changed, and drifted back down
to Friday's where no one was the wiser it was us who were up there just a few minutes
before. That same yahoo who was pissed about me smashing his favorite album was
telling me how angry he was about that heinous act. Little did he know... Mission
The only negative from that show was Ed's obvious stage fright. He faced the audience
for maybe 30 seconds of the whole set. This was all new to him and even with his huge
Bugs Bunny mask and costume he was terrified. Listening to the tape his fear was not
evident. Besides the masks we had taken to speaking with stupid British accents
between songs and it was somewhere around then we decided we were from Manchester,
England by way of Haw River, NC. If these trendies wanted an out of town band, by
We had moved rehearsals to the UNC-G music building (where we snuck in). We added
a song of Ronald's called "(I'm Not Being) Arty" and dropped "Bodies". The greatest
addition and the song I wish we had recorded later was "Lynyrd Skynyrd's Funeral"
an original of mine and Craig's that was never rehearsed on purpose. It was three
minutes of Abmin7, shrieking, wailing, and crashing drums. We traded the "Free Bird"
coda for "God Save..." and we had Bill N. sit in on guitar at the end as well as
taking the vocal chores on "Anthrax". [Our next gig] was a raging success and we
played miles better than the previous one. My "chops" were more on track as I was
using my own gear rather that the Alibis and we had new masks that let us see and
breathe better. You can hear someone yell "Stop wanking off, fat boy!" as I am indeed
wanking my plank before the first number. A great memory. Better than having a full
beer can thrown at your 1957 Les Paul. The tape of this show shows us at our rowdiest
By the start of 1981 the Village Pistols pretty much ceased to exist. Somewhere in
the Spring of that year Ed decided to start an indy record label that would feature
local acts like The Grafics, Ronald's new group and others. He wanted the first release
to be a 45 by the mostly defunct Village Pistols. My deep desire to own a piece of
vinyl with me playing on it made me more than game. We would have to get Craig back
on board as well as Ronald and even Dwayne. There was never any question as to what
the songs would be. Enough time had passed since John Lennon's death that "Strawberry..."
was again fair game. "Big Money", despite the fact I had no concrete lyrics, was
the obvious A-side.
We had heard from some Chapel Hill bands that this guy Mitch Easter had a cool home
studio out in Kernersville. We called him up, went over there and met him and thought
he was just a swell guy and just non-judgmental and hip enough to let us punk away
in his studio. We rehearsed a few times with both Ronald and Dwayne on bass and we
went in on July 1st. 1981 to cut the 45. Dwayne and Ronald's bass exchanges verses
on "SFF" and Dwayne handles "Big Money" alone. I multitracked the hell out of the
guitars on "BM" but only put maybe two on the flip side. Both vocals, mine on my
song, Ed tackling "SFF", were done in one take. The backing vocals were done in a
round table manner. That's Craig doing the long caterwaul at the end of "Big Money"
ending with the word SHIT which we edited out. We coaxed Mitch to do the organ solo
on the back side. We gave him one take, he nailed it while I engineered. We did a mix
and carted it away but a day or two later I felt "Strawberry Fields Forever" needed
MORE guitar. We went back exactly a week later (working around the gracious X-Teens)
and cut one more guitar track with me playing Mitch's red Strat through a Marshall
stack at an incredible volume. Mixed, it was all but a real record.
We sent it off to Discmakers in Philadelphia and eight weeks later we had 1000 singles.
Ed and his girlfriend Lisa did all the art design and label design. This was their
labor of love for the launching of an ambitious project. When word got out that The
Village Pistols of all bands were going to put a record out, many local musicians
and fans gave it very little support or credence as this was certainly not the most
deserving of bands to actually have tangible product out. The spirit of the thing
was to be fun and playful and Ed expected other local bands to clamor to the newly
christened Nylon Records and beg to be on his label. Ed was a huge fan of the Stiff
and Ralph labels and their DIY spirit and wanted to start his own label that featured
the prodigious talents of Greensboro rockers. He invested his savings into this project.
Even if the single sold out at $2 a pop, he could never hope to break even. The picture
sleeves cost around $.75 each and the records were about a buck throw. But he wanted
to do this badly and we all wished him well and I helped out wherever I could.
When the records arrived on September 15, 1981 we individually (Ed, Lisa & I) stuffed
each one into its sleeve and used a green number stamper to individually stamp each
one. In so doing we discovered that many (at least half) the discs were seriously
warped. This was actually a blessing because he could get a cash refund on the damaged
records and that would offset his costs a little. The record was distributed by hand
locally and regionally and through our record store contacts we got a few in the hands
of Disc Trading, Dutch East India and maybe Jem Importers.
We planned a tour to support it and had dates lined up in Greensboro, Chapel Hill,
and Raleigh (possibly Charlotte, too). Somehow, the ball was quickly dropped. Ed
retired into semi-seclusion. I saw Lisa around but Ed worked only a few hours a
week and was demoralized. The record stiffed badly. I estimate no more that 50 copies
actually sold. I started an ill-fated band with Bill. Craig, Ronald, Dwayne, and Lee
became (after a few name changes) The Return, which lasted over two years. Ed reportedly
sold off the remainder of singles to a distributor in New York for a fraction of their
— Mike Nicholson
CONTACT: Break My Face