An individual exhibiting such uniqueness or individuality that he or she will cause a roomful of bar cronies to exclaim, "That's one interesting motherfucker!" Actual sexual relations with one's mother are not required.
Our story begins in North Beach, in Frisco, in the closing months of the beatnik era. Much like the hippies, who in ten years would bail out of the Haight and head for the hills. In the late 50's and early '60's the beatniks were bailing out of North Beach and heading for the hills.
We're concerned here with two beatniks in particular who headed for the hills of northern California and started a tiny independent record label called Kicking Mule, which was dedicated to reissues of obscure folkie material.
As much as they were Beatnik Junkie drop outs, the couple ran their business well enough. They were able to keep up the payments on their forty acres and stay in business, (in fact they're in business to this day) and raise kids.
One kid in particular (I don't know what his birth name is and it doesn't matter because the name he got famous with is the one that counts), was named Bruce Loose. Later, the band he fronted was called Flipper, the subject of this 'Interesting Motherfuckers' column in Acid Logic.
By all accounts, Bruce was a fairly average little boy growing up in the country, torturing small animals and setting an occasional wildfire.
Many years ago, I interviewed Bruce for a 'zine called Puncture and Bruce fondly recalled sitting around the fire at night hearing stories about the wild old days in North Beach, from his mom and dad. Of course there were always a lot of musical instruments and musicians around the place.
Back in the day, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead had a side project called 'Old and in the Way', a rootsy-folkie thing which jammed and recorded at the Kicking Mule compound.
At some point Jerry handed Bruce a mandolin. And Bruce handed it back.
there was some parental pressure on young Bruce to be a folkie, but Bruce
would have none of it. He was burning for the bright lights and big city
and the raw sounds of Rock and Roll. So when he was about 17 he got on
the bus and headed for Frisco.
He arrived a bit late for the initial explosion of Punk. Matter of fact, the raw angry stuff of punk had pretty much decayed into 'New Wave' by the time Bruce hit town. Where once The Stranglers and The Nuns had ruled the scene, now there was Bonnie Hayes and the Wild Combo, whose little brother Huey Lewis, out of Marin fuckin County, later sold a bazillion discs for some corporation.
Bruce was pissed when he found this out. But there was nothing he could do about it, until he hooked up with Will Shatter.
I don't know Will Shatter's birth name. I used to know it but I forgot, same as Bruce. I could look it up but I gotta get this thing done in the next 15 minutes before I go to work so I'm gonna skip the research.
I do know Will Shatter was a lawyers kid from Cupertino or Palo Alto or some hi-rent burb on the peninsula. Will was in a band called Negative Trend that was right there on the furious first wave of West Coast punk.
Then that rage burned out and was replaced by feel-good New Wave and Will was betrayed and drifting. He moped around the foggy streets of Frisco, drinking endless cups of java in the Haight Fillmore and writing poetry while his GF worked as a paralegal.
Reportedly, Will and Bruce hated each other at first meeting. It was at a party that Bruce spotted Will as a preppie poser and Will spotted Bruce as a cheap thug. Bruce sprayed beer in Wills face and the rest is history.
Soon Bruce and Will had a band thing going. It wasn't called Flipper yet. They needed the other two guys. But the noisy angry stuff they played was totally out of style and they couldn't get bookings, so they sat around and shot up smack and bided their time.
Then Ronald Reagen got elected president and suddenly there was something to be angry about all over again. There was no shortage of people who wanted to be in a band with Will Shatter of Negative Trend and that weirdo country boy Bruce Loose who just wanted to fuck shit up.
It seems like this thing for "anger" comes around every few years. Half a decade after Flipper mined it, SST really struck paydirt with Black Flag and Henry Rollins. Before they found Henry, Black Flag was just another South Bay punker band playing down-and-out surf bars in Hermosa and OC. Dez Cadena lives off his Henry Rollins connection to this day. You think Coal Chamber would have a CD out if Dez couldn't say he'd been in the version of Black Flag fronted by Mr. Rollins? I've seen the dude buttering up a young punker chick, telling her war stories about touring back in the heyday of Black Flag.
(For that matter, in terms of 'anger rock' didn't Eminem just sell a gazillion copies of his disc, which is all about: being angry? You heard it here first. And Flipper invented it, performing under the influence of unfocused rage. Which is why they never sold as many discs as Eminem. Em figured out how to market unfocused rage. Or Eminem met Dr. Dre along Santa Monica Boulevard and Dre saw the potential of all that rage and hatred and put it to work for some good old fashioned corporate profit.
But back in the day, who knows what would have happened if Bruce Loose had run into Dre? Probably nothing, cause at the time Dre was busy with NWA.)
Where did they get the name 'Flipper'? They were looking at pictures of Thalidomide babies with flippers for limbs. They named their band after that phenomenon. They were an underground sensation from the get go. Nobody was more outrageous.
In Frisco everybody is outrageous, that's all you hear about, everyone you talk with. It's not like Detroit where you actually have to do really crazy shit to get noticed over the din of giant machinery and the smoke and confusion of heavy industry.
I remember a show where Bruce was daring members of the audience to come up on stage and snort some white powder. He was taunting the crowd, telling them it might be the best crank they ever inhaled, would keep them up for days, or it might just be ground glass.
Flipper got lots of bookings. The left was hella pissed off at Reagan and what better way to show that, than to book Flipper? There was the sheer romance surrounding the band. Bruce married a woman named Mary and had two kids with her and then got her to start a band, and called it Housecoat Project, after some obscure bit of musician slang for a famous guy's wifes vanity effort.
A deal was wangled for sponsorship, from Jagermeister, fora Housecoat Project tour. The tour got canceled halfway through because one club got burned down in Denver and then at the next place, I think it was Amarillo, somebody got shot. So if you're on tour sponsored by Jagermeister and your tour gets canceled because it's even too wild for Jagermeister's corporate conscience, that's pretty crazy. The whole point of Jagermeister is to get out of your mind.
Bruce had a corporate account and was flying into gigs whenever he could get a babysitter.
Among other things, that was one reason Jagermeister gave for canceling the sponsorship: 'abuse of expense account privileges'. I have to ask, 'What did they expect?!' They were dealing with Bruce Loose! Johnny Lydon coulda got away with it. The fact that Bruce didn't, makes him cooler than Lydon, by a country mile.
But anyway time went on and once again the 'angry' fad ebbed and Flipper was left high and dry. Bruce tried to keep it going. There was a meeting with some publicist from Warners, because Flipper had got enough momentum that the major label was sniffing around.
The PR cat asked Bruce, "What are you so angry about?"
Bruce goes: "I'm just angry. Does it have to be about something?"
The publicist goes: "Well...yeah, duh! You have to have a pet cause if you're going to be a celebrity"
Bruce goes: "Well, I'm angry about the degradation of the environment."
Spoken like the true country boy. He didn't even realize nobody gives a shit about the environment, least of all hard-core big city scenesters, the very people who made up what little fan base Flipper possessed, at that point.
But Bruce didn't give a shit.
I recall him telling me a story about watching a hawk riding a thermal one time, on a hill in Yolo County. Suddenly the hawk dove down, and it seemed like the hawk would smash right into the ground, but instead the hawk snatched a mouse out of a tangle of weeds and then beat its wings and rose back into the sky.
So that's it for this episode of "Interesting Motherfuckers" I could go on but IM is supposed to be maybe 1000 words and I'm over the limit. Hey, there's lots more, any publisher types out there in Acid Logic land reading this, I could write a kick-ass "History of Flipper" book. You know where to find me.
(Editor's Note - Uhhh, Pete sort of neglected to mention this, but I thought readers might be interested in the fact that Will Shatter died of a heroin overdose in 1987. After all, that's what rock and roll is all about right? Death! And Dying! Will Shatter died for you America! Bruce Loose also got fucked up in a car accident and can't perform live anymore.)
- LINKS - SEARCH
Columns - Features - Interviews - Fiction - Acid Radio - GuestBook Sign/View - Blogs
View ForbistheMighty.com for more sin and wackiness!