So I’m at church on NFL opening day 2015, where I usually irritate the congregation with my one song about football.
Frankly I was starting to get irritated of it myself, having to play it ONCE EVERY YEAR since time immemorial. And on top of that, a far better football song was hiding in plain view. With deep emotional ties to my own fandom of the New York Jets.
The Eat were one of the first of the great South Florida punk bands, and arguably the best of them. I’ll stop right there and let their Alternative Tentacles bio take over:
“Formed in 1978 by brothers Eddie and Michael O’Brien, Glenn Newland, and Christopher Cottie, The Eat rapidly became a distinct member of a relatively small group of South Florida punk rock acts that also included the Cichlids. The same thing was happening all around the country; young kids everywhere were rejecting the disco and track music stagnation of Seventies radio. Armed with deceptively simple songs, The Eat gigged on a small circuit of clubs throughout South Florida — The Agora Ballroom, Flynn’s, The Premier AOR, Balkan Lounge, and 27 Birds, just to name a few. ‘In the early Seventies, doing original material in clubs was out of the question,’ says Eddie O’Brien. ‘Maybe you could slip in one per set, but the clubs sometimes even told you what covers you could play. The Cichlids were the first popular band I remember doing originals … and they kicked the door open for us, [Charlie] Pickett, The Reactions, and the others.'”
So in 1980 I got this great EP they put out. Just look at that cover….
Nowadays, it fetches all sorts of money. (And I did cash in a few years ago but I made a tape of the tunes first).
They had a weird vibe that was true to punk and true to Miami.
This was a band comprised of Irish Catholics that called their studio “Jesus Mary and Joseph” and, living in the midst of a large Jewish population, called their label “Giggling Hitler” (Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and even Mick Jagger wore swastika tees around this time too — look it up).
They flew the anti-hippie standard high by putting “No Ukes!” on the back cover collage, which I accepted as a dig at the “No Nukes” movement currently in vogue and which featured every stoned-out singer-songwriter of the 1970s. Not a dig at the politics perhaps, but definitely at the music.
And I noticed (with good humor of course) they seemed to like trolling us Cubans of the late 70s with their hammer-and-sickle stickers on their guitars and references to wondering if “she could speak English” and being “Marxist revolutionaries” and kneecapping guys with mustaches in Camaros.
Finally, I noted that the O’Briens came from Long Island, which was then the home of the Jets. And they had this whole sports thing going, even with a baseball card in the sleeve.
My favorite tune on the disk was Jimmy B Goode, the opener, written by younger brother Michael O’Brien. I had the thrill of performing half of the tune at Open Books & Records in early 1985 with members of Lethal Yellow. Michael himself was actually standing next to us. I forgot the second verse and asked him what it was. He’d forgotten it too, or maybe didn’t want to be further embarrassed.
A bit later on I got their 1982 full-length tape, Scattered Wahoo Action (which I still haven’t managed to sell), and that is where I first heard, loved, treasured the song I ended up playing at church on opening day. Written by older brother Eddie O’Brien, Open Man is perfectly hook-filled, perfectly rocking, perfectly capturing the frustration that 31 NFL teams are destined to meet every year.
And then I see Michael O’Brien, as a member of the D.T. Martyrs, running around the local rags with this shirt on:
And then I saw the Martyrs at Sync Studios with Michael on guitar later that year, just about when football was starting, and they played Open Man! With Michael on vocals! I yelled “Go Jets!” and Michael said, “Go Jets! How ’bout that O’Brien guy?”
From then on, these guys would be near and dear to my heart as fellow Jets fans. I wondered what Jets game Eddie was referring to in Open Man. Heaven knows there were plenty of disappointing ones to pick from….
Anyway, back to church. I played Open Man and everybody liked it (probably relieved at not having to sit through my football song). But I accidentally deleted the recording from my phone. So I rerecorded it “ON UKE!” in my daughter’s bedroom a day later:
Darwin in the Holy Lands
The holier the land
The holey-er the ground
The hatchlings are the food
The brood is leaving town
The craters and the tears
Currency of years
Empire ever near
The only cry to hear
Inspiration (actually desolation) here.
After over a year I’m back playing tunes at my home church. On Fridays, we watch movies or TV series and have relevant discussions about them applicable to our lives as Christians. Works for us.
This past Friday we saw the first two episodes of Justified, full of shots of moonshine and down-home white supremacist psychotics. Never done seen it afore. I don’t have cable.
The rafts? They’re still washing ashore around here. Guess they didn’t get the memo from the White House.
And real anti-authoritarian punk rock remains alive, defiant and perhaps suicidal in the continued output of Porno Para Ricardo. In case you don’t know, I’ve been harping about them since 2007 and covered a couple of their tunes to boot.
So I was pleasantly surprised to discover they dropped a tune in tribute to the Ladies in White over at their Bandcamp. This is subtler than most of their catalog but the punk intensity remains. Key lyric, “ni mil ejercitos podran pararlas” (“not even a thousand armies will be able to stop them” — which may end up being what Castro, Inc. sends after them).
Leo Hoek van Dijke has had a radio show in the Netherlands for a few years now. Back in October 2008 he interviewed me over the phone during my lunch break at the dayjob. We talked Lead mostly. Listen here: