How Angry Was My Samoa...

Being the TRUE and COMPLETE history of
one whole year or more of
not much of anything
set in L.A.

By Bonze Anne Rose Blayk
(F/K/A "Kevin Eric Saunders a/k/a bonze blayk")

Once upon a time...

Metal Mike Saunders, white, 26, freed from durance fairly vile as drummer for the dreaded VOM, longed to operationalize his original vision of VOM ("Richard Meltzer and Gregg and I are starting a band... kind of a heavy metal Fugs..."), and so he turned to the turfhood of his youth in Arkansas to recruit a guitarist to implement the goal... indeed, to "the self-same sod he trode, the soil he mowed" as a child...

"Uh, Kevin, see, the house in Van Nuys has this great garage you can live in for only $30 a month. You can get a bookkeeping job working for me at the hospital if you can't find anything you like better."

Ordinarily one does not picture Uncle Mike as a God of Sales, but in this case the pitch worked. The garage, it turned out, had a little moisture problem when it rained--like an inch or two creeping up from the clogged sewers of the Valley--but the job was there and it was, as they say, an opportunity not to be missed.

"So he loaded up the van and he moved to Van Nuys. Flats, that is. Boulevards. Convenience stores..."

Crucial cargo aboard the van included guitars, amps, drums, and a Peavey PA700S with two hefty Cerwin-Vega PA speaker cabs, which I purchased in a fit of equipment lust with money left over after I graduated from college (hail to my and my bros alma mater, UT Austin: Hook 'em Horns! Here, picture the satanic hand gesture favored by metaloids, which is also used to spur the Longhorns to victory... coincidence or ?).

Arriving in Van Nuys I was welcomed by the household, including Tremors bandleader Dave Roeder (unlisted co-author of VOM's masterpiece "I'm In Love with Your Mom"), Jeff Piehler (who did the label art for Bad Trip Records), and all-around Greek Guy and Master Roofer/Starwood Bouncer Phil Rizzuto (truly a touchstone of taste in musical matters), whose place in the house would occasionally be vacated for roommates from the outer limits, selected by Metal Mike for their presumed ability to pay up rent on time. For example, Danny had truly surpassed the outer limits, with his blond/blue bowlcut/vacant:

"Yeah, acid can be really heavy. Like one time my arms just starting bleeding gushing blood all over everywhere..."

"Uh-huh... you just remember that it's not real though, right?"

"No man, no, you don't get it... it IS real."

Back to the PA

So anyway, here I was in swingin' Los Angeles with a fairly loud PA and a big brother (though technically smaller than me). I meet this guy Gregg Turner, and I'm thinking, hey, is this the Reg, the hardly-famous critic/fanziner/ripoff artist my brother flames about? No, this is GREGG: there's a big difference here in the G department, and Mr. Shaw was never associated with the Samoans in any way (other than inducing hardly-needed bad vibes in my brother). Mr. Turner on the other hand was not just a critic, but also a guitar owner and ex-VOMster eager for a gig as a highly conceptual vocalist-lyricist-self-hating-jew-type.

And so starting with the premise that we want to make the Dictators look like "funny-boys", we decide up-front to cover "Two-Tub Man" and "Next Big Thing." Hey, if you can't hover 'em, cover 'em. Mike had a couple of thousand reasonably original songs sitting on his cassette tapes ("Diptheria C.O.D.", anyone?), Pat Reilly had contributed a massive gut-clunking riff that Mike turned into "I'm a Pig", and there was a slate of VOMpirisms, self-evidently doomed to a creepy kind of amortality, such as the aforementioned "Mom", "God Save the Whales," and "Too Animalistic".

So the material was there, but here you've got your basic paucity of bandmembers:

Bandmember Roster 8/1/78

Quan. Type Comments
1 1/4singersMike 3/4, Gregg 1/2
1 3/4guitarists"Kevin" 1, Mike 3/4
?drummersMike 3/4, "Kevin" 3/4

The Recruitment Phase

So you're looking for somebody, who ya gonna call? The L.A. Recycler, dude! And that's where we turned after personal contacts led nowhere: if you need romance or some punk rockers in your life, let your fingers do the walking.

And truly the quality was exceptional even if we only had a few responses. As Mr. Todd Homer put it a few years back,

"I remember driving up the alley behind the house and hearing some cheesy-sounding guitar playing. I thought, maybe I should blow this off... but I went ahead and went in."
Steve Besser, Angry Samoans Manager and Name-Bringer: "You gotta hire this guy! You gotta hire this guy! He's wearing this great leather jacket! This guy is so cool! He looks like he belongs in the Velvet Underground or the Music Machine! Who cares if he can play or not!" (The exclamation points were indeed Steve's!)

And Billy Vockeroth shows up somewhere there too, I can't remember the first time I met him, though somehow I think it was at Gregg's (parents') garage. It seems like we saw more drummers than any other rock species, mostly of the "Next, please!" category. We kept looking, too, for months and months, because even though Billy was really good he was--well--not quite--hard--enough. He was said to have immense amounts of "float" in his drumming by enthusiastic teens... float which sometimes threatened to leave the band's marginally competent frontmen flailing in a foot of water...

Needless to note, the band never managed to replace Bill, who was indeed not replaceable either as a drummer or as a human being (every band should have at least one!).

Bandmember Update 9/1/78

Quan. Type Comments
1 1/4singersMike 3/4, Gregg 1/2
1 3/4guitarists"Kevin" 1, Mike 3/4

The Naming Process

With the membership roll in order, the primary concern of every band must be nomenclature, specifically, a name, not just a name, but a really cool name. Given that about half a zillion bands face this same dilemma, what to do? The decision algorithm for choosing a name, one employed by most major corporations, may be summarized thus:

  1. Brainstorming: Come up with every name you can, no matter how ridiculous.
  2. Advocacy: Try out names on acquaintances, twist band-mates' arms or other appendages.
  3. Drunken Council: Hold a drunken council over the course of an evening in which the parties finally wrestle the issues to the floor and choke them until dead, dead, dead, and all but one name has been struck from the list. (Alas, few U.S. corporations now honor Step 3, which has had a significant deleterious impact on the quality of corporate decision making since 1980.)
    NB: You should avoid bootleg alcohol, even when coping with severe budgetary constraints, lest one or more bandmembers also wind up dead, dead, dead.

As you are no doubt already aware, this band is competent in many algorithms, not least those related to drinking (save perhaps Metal Mike). "Metal" Mike Saunders, Kevin "Bonzo" "Don't call me Kevin" Saunders, Gregg Turner, Todd Homer, Billy Vockeroth, Steve Besser, and Dave Roeder were in attendance at the Council. This table summarizes the outcome of the Naming Process:

Naming Process Outcomes
Proposed Band Name Chief Advocates Verdict
Dead Kennedys? All Taken already
eigenvectors? "Kevin", Gregg NEIN!
Metal Mike and the Surf Commies? One Guess! NYET!
Angry Samoans? Steve, Todd IOE!

The Role of High Concept in Punk Rock: Tuning 440

Every band requires a concept, and aside from the rote (almost unavoidable) glorification of our American Heritage of satire, suburbs, and B-movies a primary Samoans precept was: this is a punk band that plays in tune.

Metal Mike, ever the perfectionist but a true son of Uncle Scrooge, actually forked out for a Korg tuner so the band had a pair including mine; Todd at times professed a punk leaning towards atonal tunings but always seemed to make the wrong sounds at exactly the right time. A P-Bass through an MXR 10-band equalizer into a Fender Bassman 100--that's a tube amp, right!--driving a Peavey folded horn 18" bottom tended to make anything Todd did sound great.

Tony Conn

Well, there were these two guys in the Samoans who were rock critics, and what can I say?, were into "living history". For reasons we'd probably all rather not delve into too deeply, e.g., anxiety over the "wrecked by success" syndrome, persistent stage fright, and fear of missile weapons, they thought retro-billy rocker Tony would be an excellent front man, just the guy to do "Mom". Like, say, live at our first gig at the Rio Theatre in Rodeo, October 28, 1978:

"I'm sitting on your sofa,
I'm sitting next to your Mom,"

Next, please!

LIVE! From Santa Monica High School, it's the Angry Samoans

The Three B's: Bowling, Beer, and Big Cigars

- bonzie anne blayk, an Arkansan-American and proud of it!

Updated 3/13/11