017. Fucked Up Once Again: Flipper, Fryfogle's, London, Ontario, Canada, May 1983, $n/a, with Guest Contributor M. Zeppelin.
I do not have a ticket for this gig. Instead, here is the cover of their second album, 1984's Gone Fishin', featuring a cut out their famed Flipper Touring Van on the cover. The side of the van reads "Flipper suffer for their music, now it's your turn." MZ rode with the band in this very van, and describes the "delightful" exprience below.You know, I never much cared for Flipper. I’m not talking about TV’s slimy, lovable SuperDolphin from the ‘60s but instead the confrontational, contrarian refuseniks that rose from San Francisco’s late ‘70s punk scene.
I liked — and still like — their "Sex Bomb" 45: catchy, irritating, and really, really funny in all the right ways. Similarly, I also don’t mind its predecessor, "Ha Ha Ha," with both slabs of clangorous cynical angst regularly appearing as toe tappin’ party tunes back in the day, most easily enjoyed in conjunction with a massively inebriated group of revellers.
That was about it for me, though. Neither their debut album from 1982, Generic Flipper, nor the group’s overall approach of hardcore-played-at-16 rpm — widely, and accurately, praised as an influence on and forerunner to the sludgier, pre-commercial-landslide grunge acts (see: Melvins, TAD, early Soundgarden, etc. as well as Nirvana — Kurt was oft photographed wearing his Flipper t-shirt) — gained much aesthetic traction with yours truly.
Flipper, Generic Flipper (1982)
Still, in my alternaworld, Generic Flipper was a Popular Favourite among many I was hanging with and it was a given that most would be making the scene at Fryfogle’s that night (I'll be writing more about Frys in my next installment, on John Cale). Since Flipper’s lumbering noise-blitz is possibly best appreciated when twinned with that aforementioned inebriation, it made sense for all of us to rise to the occasion and completely overdo the party spirit. This turned out to be one long night of excess that started early, ended late, and found Flipper — either as a performing unit or as persons — intersecting with us over the course of the evening.
Things got off to an early, disorderly start at Thing 1 and 2's apartment. I briefly mentioned these two in my Gang of Four piece, she working at a downtown clothing store and moonlighting as a part-time punk stripper while he was a college student. They had a basement apartment underneath a business that closed on evenings and weekends, making their pad a drop-in centre of sorts, with the added bonus of not having to worry about noise as there were no nabes to disrupt.
I showed up with MZ and Lady Bump for some pre-gig partying although MZ says she has only a vague recollection of this first part of the evening. A few others may have been there as well, but what I most remember is this: us arriving and having Thing 2 tell us that he had recently scored some absolutely blotto weed. We sat around listening to music, copiously partaking in the lovely green while the Things detailed just how whompingly powerful this current score of pot was.
No kidding. To say that this particular batch was Industrial Strength Wallhammer Shrubbery was an understatement. M. Zeppelin (who previously helped me write about an Iggy Pop show we were both at) remembers it thusly:
"Various has much better recollections of the evening than I do (as always). I had forgotten about the KILLER WEED that Thing 2 had served us earlier that evening. Not sure where he got it or what was in it — this was before the days of the hydroponic goodness and BC bud that we’ve all come to know, love and develop somewhat of a tolerance for. "
Methinks in retrospect that it was laced with something besides plain ‘ol Maryjane sweetness. I remember being concerned about how, at some point within the upcoming hour, I would need to find a way to successfully eject myself from the couch which I was now becoming one with. Not only would I actually have to stand up on my two feet, but actually put one foot in front of the other and walk the dozen or so blocks from Chez Thing to the bar. Good luck with that one, Various.
A nice buzz is a splendid thing, but being zombiefied and incapacitated aren’t necessarily my idea of a good time ... not that this exactly kept my partytime impulses in check that night. In fact, things were simply getting started (The other moment that’s bizarrely fresh in my mind from that night relates to a catatonic me sitting mesmerized by a recurring electronic pinging sound in Devo’s "Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy" which was playing at the time. I had never noticed it before and to this day, whenever I hear that song, I still zero in on that very production tick).
"Sex Bomb" (1982)Somewhere around 9 p.m. or so, the time had come for myself and the rest of us to confront the then-intimidating dual beasts of standing and walking. We were all in pretty nasty shape as we shambled out the door (of course we’d had a spliff for the road and brought along more for later) for our extended stumble from the House of Things to Fryfogle’s. Thing 2 had started getting his shine on earlier than the rest of us and was already a wreck by the time we were just starting, leaving him in the worst shape of all. This was underscored when it suddenly dawned on our cheerily degenerate pack of Good Time Charlies that we had lost him at some point during the walk.
Yes, you read that right: we lost someone while walking somewhere. And just to be clear: we weren’t making our way through dark busy streets packed with human throngs. We were slow-mo moseying down quiet streets in the residential part of downtown at a still light time of the late May mid-evening with absolutely zero other people around us. There was only a few of us, so someone going missing from a group that small should have been instantly conspicuous.
We were probably half way there when it sunk in that T2 had vanished. "Thing 2?! Thing 2?! Where are you?" we called, but to no avail. We backtracked a block or two, but there was no one. Spontaneous combustion, perhaps?
Given our absolutely polluted state, it didn’t seem massively unusual that one of us should simply disappear and so we continued on, figuring that it would all wash out in the rinse later on.
As it turns out, had we retreated back one block further we would have indeed discovered Thing 2 passed out in someone’s front lawn hedge. While we may have overlooked T2, the keen eyes of the municipal constabulary were far more successful in locating Mr. Thing, thoughtfully assisting him out of the hedge and into the drunk tank for the night in order to sleep it off.
Unbowed by a vanishing human, we continued on until we arrived at the bar, joining up with many friends there including Le Château who had dropped in after working his evening shift nearby. It was still fairly early in the evening and I was already in a shape that tended to be more frequently observed at a nights’ end — an excessive night’s end at that. I was so out of it that I could hardly stand up and, with the club packed to the rafters, there was little room to do so anyway, let alone anywhere to sit. Needing physical stability, I ended up literally propping myself up against one of Flipper's huge speaker cabinets on the right side of the stage in between continued drinking and effort-heavy forays outside for further giggle weed.
I have no idea who opened the show and only shards of memory about Flipper’s actual set. Mostly I recall them being enormously loud, alternating plodding, ten minute numbers with what seemed like ultimately pointless twelve minute tune-up breaks wherein frontman Bruce Loose would try to push the audience’s buttons and vice versa. One of the local Amazonian punkettes stood at centre stage, teasing the band members about having looked out her apartment window earlier that day only to see them lined up at the cinema across the street for an matinée showing of the newly released Return of the Jedi.
Here are Flipper in 1983, not lining up for Return of the Jedi but instead being interviewed (at the five minute mark) on San Francisco Cable Access TV, preceded by "Sacrifice."In another mood, I probably would have been amused by it all, but the combination of the band being annoying, the human wedge-in of a club, having to prop myself up against stadium-volume speakers that were giving me vibra-skull and a thundering headache, while bodies slammed, writhed, and hurled both dark slogans and themselves on Frys' packed floor made me want this all over with asap. The set seemed endless.
A merciful conclusion eventually reared its pretty head, followed by a protracted period wherein we tried to discern where the aftershow party was happening and who was going with who. M. Zeppelin had been promised an interview with the band to be aired on her CHRW radio show but they kept shirking every time she tried to track them down. Once word got around that there would be a bash at one of the studio spaces upstairs at The Clifton Arms, just a few blocks away, MZ decided to pile into the famed Flipper van with the band, tape recorder and mike in hand, to try and cajole them into finally giving that interview that their management/representative had promised.
I was recently back in London, Ontario, and took this photo of graffiti art on a downtown wall, mid-way between the Clifton Arms and where Fryfogle's once stood. The figure of the woman on the left is pretty emblematic of what chunks of downtown London are like these days.
Over to you, MZ:
"I first heard of Flipper at Records on Wheels in London, Ontario. There were always new 7" inch 45 records on the counter near the cash register and once in a while I’d buy one on speculation — especially if the graphics were intriguing. I bought "Love Canal / Ha Ha Ha" and later the Generic Flipper LP, and regularly played "Sex Bomb" on my college radio show.
It was in the guise of "intrepid college radio station reporter" that I was supposed to interview the band.
They were due to come into the station. I waited around all day but, not surprisingly, they never arrived. I THINK that I brought a recorder to gig that night (VA: Yes. You did.), assuming that the band would happily agree to a quickie interview. NOPE. The band acted like 9-year-old ADD kids all hopped up on sugar and red dye #40. "NO INTERVIEWS!!!" shouted Bruce Loose (or possibly Will Shatter) when I meekly approached them at the gig. I rolled my eyes thinking "yet more punk rock prima donnas enjoying their 15 minutes."
Perhaps it was the weed, then, that converted this normally shy A-student into a stark raving drunken loony who hung around the band and helped them hump their equipment into the very famous tour "Truck" at the end of the gig. There was a party a few streets over and they needed directions, so I think that was why I ended up in the back of the Flippermobile.
The interior was as one would imagine — crammed and stinky and with little space to perch. The band had played in Toronto the night before and so there were a couple of scary girls that had tagged along with them, attaching themselves to the van like barnacles on the hull of a putrid pirate ship. They were obviously quite threatened by the new female presence in the truck, and started kicking me and said "WE’RE with the band, girlie!" No argument from me — they’re all yours."
As for the rest of us, Lady Bump, myself, and probably a few others crammed into Chateau’s car for the brief ride over to the old bruiser of a building that housed The Arms, on the corner of Richmond and York. It was probably nearing 2 a.m. at this point and we arrived at the front of the building only to find everything locked. We knew that a party was going on up on the fourth floor — but how to get up there?
We clumsily skedaddled around to the back of the building and were happy to chance upon a fire escape leading up to a top floor open hallway window. The three of us began to scale this very rickety fire escape — no small task since Lady B and I could barely stand up straight (LC was driving that night, and therefore the sole face of sobriety). I probably crawled up the escape more than walked.
The back of the Clifton Arms, October 2011. I'm thinking that the fire escape could well be the same rickety one we climbed up and down in order to get to the Flipper afterparty, entering/exiting through that top floor window (all photos by VA).
Once through the window, it took us exactly zero seconds to deduce where the party was, its sound detritus echoing through the whole top floor. Walking into the small cramped two room space, I was instantly handed a beer and passed a joint amid just about every key substance being enthusiastically ingested around me. The band were indeed there, with our host perched on Bruce Loose’s lap.
MZ filled us in on the futile interview attempt in the van, remembering that ...
"We got to the party which was in a wee little apartment in an old downtown hotel that had seen much better days as a road house in the '20s and '30s. The party spilled out into the halls, the roof and the rickety fire escape — which Various FONDLY remembers."
By this point, I don’t think I was even communicating within a standard human spectrum. I now realized I had crossed the point of no return, feeling like death warmed over, knowing that it would only be a matter of time before cookie-heaving ensued. I decided that, after a dozen or twenty beers in concert with seemingly bushels of alphaweed and side orders of speed zooming through my plodding carcass, which was increasingly screeching "Yo! I’m Giving Up and Out On You Soon," that now may — perhaps — just possibly be cut-off time for me.
I was feeling worse by the moment and soon deduced that being in a cramped, noisy, human-saturated box of a room, overly atomized with a strong swathe of Eau de Ashtray, may not have been the best environment for me at that time. I ditched the party, went back out to the fire escape and laid down on my back on the stoop outside the window. It made total, rational sense to me at that time that the best possible thing I could do would be to drag my sorry ass out onto the brittle, rickety fire escape several storeys above a hard, concrete pavement while in a state of incapacitated obliteration. Reasonable, don’tcha think?
"(Various) Artists' (low budget/effort) Rendition" of my 20-yr-old self at the top of the fire escape, taking a break from an evening of hijinks and buffoonery.
I lay there looking up at the night sky, the stars spinning around like a flushing toilet. Somewhere around 4 a.m., MZ, Lady Bump, and Château emerged to grab me and finally head home. First, however, we had to navigate our way down a few flights of a decidedly ropey fire escape. Considering that the three partakers among us couldn’t have walked a straight line on solid ground even if it meant winning top-line real estate, implementing this exit strategy was undertaken with maximum concentration and frayed nerves.
While not generally afraid of heights, I do have an issue with unsecured heights, meaning that I will easily look out of the window on the top floor of the world’s tallest building with zero trepidation, yet I get nervous once I go beyond a few steps on a ladder. Seriously, which of those two am I most likely to sustain a fall and injury from? Suffice it to say, walking down this iron-grated contraption of questionable stability at the best of times would be deeply unpleasant to me. It took all the resolve I had ... but, damn, I wanted to get home and to bed, preferably before the sun rose.
So, with substantial trepidation, I began the white-knuckle odyssey of putting one foot down in front of the other, grabbing the railing so hard as if I was about to fuse with it. Owing to being sober and athletic, Château decided to have some "fun" with the situation, his evil self bounding down way ahead of us. Arriving back on earth, he grabbed the fire escape at its base — unsecured to the pavement — swinging it left to right, the swaying reverberations reverberating all the way to the top. Willing ourselves down this now-moving structure, one careful footstep at a time, made us feel like we were in The Poseidon Adventure or something.
"We are going to kill you when we get down there," we threatened, all of us knowing full well that wasn’t in the cards as LC was our ticket home.
Le Château, standing at the bottom and swinging the fire escape from side to side, not pictured.
We did eventually reach solid ground, amid much faux-grimacing at Château, and slunk into his car. Alas, we may have been finished with the evening, but it wasn’t finished with us. Both MZ and I ended up having a chat with Ralph — not on the Big White Telephone in our homes, but instead pulled over to the side of the road (MZ: "I don’t remember too much after the party but I am told that I politely barfed at the side of a road when being chauffeured home in the wee hours") and later with me hanging halfway out LC’s car window as it zoomed down Wharncliffe in the early morning hours.
Oh my. Fucked up once again.
I'll leave you with this final story from MZ:
"In the mid 80s, I used to visit a well-known bar in Toronto called the Cameron House, arguably the centre of the cool "Queen Street West Scene." It had a juke box which included Flipper’s "Sex Bomb" and I would always play it when I got there. Invariably, after only a few bars, the hipster waitress would yank the player’s electrical cord from the wall socket to make it stop immediately. I want my quarters back."
"Fucked Up Once Again," from the reunited Flipper, 1992.
Next On Stage à June is bustin’ out all over when MZ and I get an up-close-and-personal audience with John Cale from the legendary Velvet Underground. This is the gig wherein I did even better proximity-wise than at the Joe Jackson concert ....
NOTE: I am now cross-posting current (and previous) entries on my Wordpress blog (although this Flipper entry won't appear there just yet).
© 2011 VariousArtists