I used to know a girl who swore that the most useful gauge of whether a relationship would work was how you travel: If you and your partner travel well, with only minimal bickering over this or that, your lovers' fate was as good as sealed; fight like hell and the coupling was surely doomed. Whether or not you agree with her line of thinking, the theory rings true to me: We vacationed twice, squabbled endlessly over everything from restaurants to the number of art galleries a human being can walk through in one day before snapping like a twig. We haven't talked in, oh, about six years now.
That theory seems to be applicable to Fort Lauderdale punk group the Crumbs. After a recent ten-day trek through this fine country with old-schoolers the Queers, Crumbs drummer Chuck Loose decided to bail once the band van came choogling back home.
"They're just not very responsible," Loose says of his ex-bandmates, who include guitarist/vocalist Raf Luna, guitarist Johnny Bee, and bassist Emil Busse. "The tour was great and we had a lot of fun, but they wouldn't do simple things like buy guitar strings. They would be drunk, they'd be playing out of tune and feedbacking all over the place but they couldn't hear it 'cause they were so blitzed. I had to be the one who loaded up the van and made sure we got paid, and I was just getting too stressed out to do it. I don't want to have to be their dad and they don't want that either."
Although Loose describes his departure as amicable, he could have picked a better time to leave the band. The Berkeley-based indie label Lookout -- former home of platinum-punk hotshots Green Day, as well as the Queers and the Mr. T Experience -- has just released a single by the Crumbs, and is set to issue the band's eponymous longplayer sometime next month. Loose, however, says the timing is right: "My sanity is more important. We're all bummed out about it, but they'll struggle onward." An ex-member of Fort Lauderdale's Against All Authority will fill the vacant drum seat. Meanwhile, Loose has picked up the bass and hopes to form a new group with former members of Los Canadians.
Miami's electro-punkabilly group the Psychonauts will have three of their original tunes included on the soundtrack for the upcoming film The Blank Page, an indie release by the Covert Creative Group, a Chicago-based film company. The film is about a floundering small-press music 'zine. The soundtrack disc is slated to be released soon on the Southport Soundtraxx label.
I was talking on the phone with a friend from Memphis last week about the usual stuff -- records, writing, movies -- when I asked him if he had heard that Faron Young had died. "Died?" came the response. "I didn't even know he was still alive."
That's what the honky-tonk world was like for Faron Young in the last couple of decades leading up to the early-morning hours of December 11, when he died in Nashville from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A legend from the country-and-western era of the Fifties, one of the singers who helped carry the hard-swinging innovations of Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams into the music's greatest decade, Young spent the last twenty years a virtual stranger on country radio. While George Strait was keeping Young's legacy alive in the late Eighties with an ace cover of "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')," the man himself was treated in Nashville like an ancient relic -- an expired product on a dusty shelf, way in the back of Music City's profit-minded consciousness.
The irony in this is that a good part of Young's reputation was built on his willingness to help out young songwriters: It was Young who first cut "Hello Walls," written in 1961 by a then-unknown songwriter named Willie Nelson; ditto for Don Gibson, whose "Sweet Dreams" gave Young one of his most enduring hits. The Shreveport, Louisiana, native was one of the early heroes on his hometown's Louisiana Hayride, the radio show that also helped break Hank Sr. and Elvis Presley. His first hit, 1953's "Goin' Steady," tromped along the line separating pure country and wildcat rockabilly, and his later hits ("I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night," "It's a Great Life," and especially his signature song, "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young") defined the sound of unbridled, hellfire honky-tonk and still sound vibrant 30 years after they were cut.
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By the mid-Sixties, when the tough sound favored by the Fifties swingers was being gelatinized into the thick, gooey sounds of countrypolitan, Young's star began to dim. He continued to appear at the Grand Ole Opry, but, like his contemporaries from Hank Thompson to Hank Snow, when Young lost his footing on the charts, he never got it back. And because country radio continues to ignore the architects of the music's history, Young is hardly known to the audiences who scurry around the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Garth Brooks, and the myriad corndogs who owe Young a chunk of royalty change whether they cut his songs or not.
Faron Young was 64.
-- By John Floyd