Reportedly “shamed into action” by the recent fifth anniversary of this site, Mighty High guitarist/vocalist and all-around champion of scene unity Chris “Woody High” MacDermott returns with a new installment of his ongoing series, “Spine of Overkill.” It’s been a while, but quite frankly I’m happy to post one of these anytime he wants to send it over. In this edition, Woody recalls Crumbsuckers‘ Life of Dreams album and his first trip to CBGB’s to see them play a Sunday matinee.
Crumbsuckers — Life of Dreams
My first trip to CBGB’s should be something that I remember really well but I don’t. It was either C.O.C. around the time Animosity came out or it was a Crumbsuckers gig. Either way, it most definitely involved quarts of Budweiser, my bullet belt and my good friend Jon. I knew all about CB’s but hadn’t worked up the nerve to go there on my own just yet. I wasn’t sure how a metal chooch from the suburbs would be accepted at the punk mecca. It took a chance meeting over 300 miles away to finally get me through the doors.
I left for college in Zeptember 1985 at SUNY Brockport, way upstate New York near Rochester. On the very first day I was standing on line for a free hamburger at some lame-ass student mixer wearing my favorite Venom shirt. Out of nowhere this short little dude with huge muscles and a mohawk comes running up to me and says “Dude, I love Venom! Are you into hardcore punk, too?” I told him I was just starting to get really into it. The next thing he says is “Cool! Do you like the Plasmatics?” Of course I loved the Plasmatics! He introduced himself to me as Jon (pronounced “Yon”) and that he was from Yonkers. I told him I was from New Rochelle and from that moment on we caused serious mayhem for several years. Talk about scene unity! He brought me up to speed on New York hardcore and a lot of classic punk stuff I’d missed. In turn I played him Motörhead, The Rods, early Iron Maiden and Slayer’s Haunting the Chapel EP. I really blew his mind when I played him Master of Reality by Black Sabbath. He’d never heard it before and it flipped his lid big time, especially “Into the Void.” He said he never listened to the Cro-Mags the same way after that, and they were his favorite band.
We both worked at the college radio station WBSU. In late ’85 or early ’86, we got in an advance tape from Combat Records — Life of Dreams by the Crumbsuckers. Jon knew all about these guys and said I’d love it. I put the tape into my Walkman and headed off to class with it pounding through the headphones. Holy shit, this was just what I’d been looking for. Hardcore intensity with metal chops crammed into short, speedy songs. The back to back openers of “Just Sit There” and “Trapped” completely floored me. This was like the best of Bad Brains and Exodus rolled into one. I played that tape over and over again. Then we played the hell out of the vinyl on the air once it was officially released. I risked the station’s FCC license by playing songs like “Shit’s Creek” and “Bullshit Society.” I felt these were important messages that everyone needed to hear. Especially “Bullshit Society,” which is still one of the few political songs I’ve ever really liked. I’ve been quoting the lyric, “It’s so true, it’s a bullshit society,” for over 25 years. And every election day I always make sure to crank up “Super Tuesday.” All 16 songs are great but my favorite by far has always been “Hubrun.” On the lyric sheet under the title “Hubrun” it says “words: insignificant” but I disagree. A song about a Long Island weeed road trip is extremely significant. Recently on the Crumbsuckers Facebook page they were nice enough to use Google Maps to show the spot where they used to score dope. They also transcribed the lyrics which include brilliant couplets such as:
Strike the flint to the steel and torch up that old bowl.
And that smoke hits your lungs, and its all minty and cold.
Then this rush hits your head, just like a tidal wave.
And before you know it, you’ll become its slave.
Shortly after the album’s release I was talking to Combat’s radio rep, a big guy named MegaDon. Spring break was coming up and I asked him if any Combat bands were playing NYC while I was in town. He said the Crumbsuckers were doing a CB’s Sunday matinee and filming it for some videos. I was fuckin’ stoked! Whenever I was home I’d work a bunch of shifts at Joey’s Luncheonette in Pelham to earn some extra scratch for albums, shirts and beer. On Sundays I’d open the store at 5:30AM and work until 2PM before space trucking into the city. MegaDon put me on the guest list so I had even more beer money than usual. I have no recollection whatsoever who else played that Sunday afternoon but I do remember the Crumbsuckers blowing the roof off the place. I’d only been to a few punk shows before this but this one was more nuts than usual, probably because of the cameras. It was only a few years ago that I saw the actual video for “Trapped.” Thankfully my ridiculous GBH style hair isn’t prominently featured.
As great as the CB’s show was, the one they played in Rochester later that year was even better. They were opening for Discharge at the Penny Arcade on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. This was gonna be a killer show! Then a friend of mine picked up the new Discharge album Grave New World. Holy shit, it sucked! At first we thought it was some kind of a spoof on King Diamond but each song was worse than the next. But there was no way we were gonna miss the Crumbsuckers no matter how bad the Discharge album was. The label hooked me up with a free ticket again and said if we got there early we could interview them. Me, Jon and a few other dudes piled in a car and got there just after soundcheck. The Crumbsucker guys were very cool and answered all of our stupid questions. Guitarist Dave Wynn was especially nice to us. All he wanted to do was smoke pot and talk about Frank Zappa, King Crimson and Santana. They were pretty adamant about saying they weren’t a hardcore band and wanted to be known solely as “Crumb-Rock.” They did some hilarious station ID’s for us using the “Crumb-Rock” tag-line. When it was show time they blasted out a killer set playing just about everything off of Life of Dreams but even faster. There was only about 20 or 30 people there but they didn’t let that bother them. Discharge was completely horrible. They sounded like Zebra. The only good part of their set was when they let Crumbsuckers vocalist Chris Notaro sing “State Violence / State Control” with them.
[If you'd like more info on Discharge's disastrous US tour for Grave New World, check out this report with amazing audio from their San Francisco show.]
Over the next year or so I saw the Crumbsuckers a few other times but those were definitely the most memorable occasions. Round Christmas 1987 I got an invite to the Relativity/Combat holiday party at the China Club in NYC. Most of the Crumbsuckers were there and we got really drunk while Joe Satriani played a set. I was looking forward to their next album but when Beast on My Back came out in 1988 it was a major disappointment. It was more metal but had all these parts that sounded like Queensryche. I was totally confused and not into it at all. That seemed to be most people’s opinion, though I know there are some out there who love the album. The band broke up not long after. They did a successful reunion show a few years ago and it’s just been announced that the Italian label F.O.A.D. is putting out a mint deluxe double album of early demos and live shows (pre-order info here). It looks awesome and I’m definitely ready for some more CRUMB ROCK!