The Essential Houston Punk Starter Kit

Legonaire's Disease front man Jerry Anomie once dispelled rumors that he had died by staging a "funeral" in a Houston record store.
Legonaire's Disease front man Jerry Anomie once dispelled rumors that he had died by staging a "funeral" in a Houston record store.

Top 10 lists are notoriously blunt instruments to sift through musical history, so Rocks Off crowdsourced this piece to provide a sense of Houston's indie and punk heritage from the ground up. The input below is not meant as a declarative end-all but as a conversation in action.

Sure, exemplary singles from the likes of the Hates, Spunk and Truth Decay are AWOL, but the list does shed light on more obscure vintage and contemporary bands that usually fall through the cracks. Plus, some may argue the semantics of what constitutes a 'single,' but sometimes a little leeway helps stir discussions and memories.

The Essential Houston Punk Starter Kit
Photo by David Ensminger

GARY YOKIE, THE RUSE

MyDolls, "Nova Grows Up/The Rapist/In Technicolor" (C.I.A. Records, 1981) Really Red, "New Strings For Old Puppets" 7" EP (C.I.A. Records, 1982)

MyDolls, just because I've been listening to it recently. Also, Really Red because they crammed so much onto that vinyl surface. Of course, I'm partial to the C.I.A. label. Both bands managed to create a unique sound without resorting to cliches of the day, recorded or live.

MyDolls always hit me right between the eyes with their music and lyrics. With Really Red, nobody had to demand "louder, harder, faster," since they always delivered.

The Essential Houston Punk Starter Kit

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WES DODSON, RATBASTARD/RIVETHEAD MAGAZINE

Turmoil In the Toybox, "Messiah" b/w "Inevitably Sex" (Anomie Records, 1991)

"Messiah" is a creepy, ambient soundscape that metaphorically hones in on something that makes my neck hair stand up. It's a dark and uncertain wall of sullen gloom that can only have been a product of Anomie Studios and mastered by Scott Ayers of Pain Teens!

"Inevitably Sex" exudes Negativland/Over the Edge-like tape splicing, samples and off-the-wall psychotic mixing, illustrating a robust, pre-Internet era in which samples had yet to become a negotiable legal tool of copyright trolls.

STEW CANNON, AK-47

AK-47, "The Badge Means You Suck" b/w "Miss My Machine" (Pineapple Records, 1980) Really Red, "Modern Needs" b/w "White Lies" (C.I.A. Records, 1980) Legionaire's Disease, "Rather See You Dead (Than With Wool on Your Head)" b/w "Downtown" (Disease Unlimited/Lunar Lab, 1979)

Of course, I would say "The Badge Means You Suck" by AK-47. The Ferguson, Mo. mess just proves it is still relevant today. "Modern Needs" just always struck me as the perfect punk song -- great vocal, driving guitar, and tight rhythm section...a good solid hard-rock tune with a catchy refrain.

"Rather See You Dead," on the other hand, is raw and primitive, like all Legionaire's Disease songs, but the "BAAAAHHH" scream is classic Jerry, and it has some pretty good guitar work on it as well.

HAROLD "SPIKE" JONES, EARTH ARMY/RED NAKED

Really Red, "Crowd Control" b/w "Corporate Settings" (C.I.A. Records, 1979) Red Naked, "Taco Cabana" (Redneck Records, 1997)

My favorite Houston single is/was the Really Red "Corporate Settings/Crowd Control" that almost wasn't released because it wasn't hardcore. What do I like about it? Probably that it was pre-hardcore. It's just good music, by its own rules, and no bullshit "punker than you" posturing.

Our Red Naked 7" was pretty good too, at least "Taco Cabana," which is a punk late-night grub anthem with mariachi trumpet.

DAN WORKMAN, CULTURCIDE/SUGARHILL STUDIOS

Plastic Idols, "I.U.D." b/w "Sophistication" (Vision Records, 1979) Stinkerbell, "Who Blew Smoke" b/w "Kill Boy Thrill" and "Misfits" (Angry Neighbor, 1992)

My entry into the Houston punk scene was Legionaire's Disease, but I didn't bond with them at all. I heard the Plastic Idols' single "I.U.D." on the "Fun House" radio show and fell in love! THAT was the sound of Houston punk. They were the gateway drug that led to the Judy's, while I happily toiled away in Culturcide playing darker tunes.

My next '45 single crush' was "Who Blew Smoke" by Stinkerbell. Little did I know that I'd end up marrying the lead singer!

Trish Herrera and the MyDolls were inducted into the Houston Music Hall of Fame last year.
Trish Herrera and the MyDolls were inducted into the Houston Music Hall of Fame last year.
Photo by David Ensminger

TRISH HERRERA, MYDOLLS/NO LOVE LESS

Legionaire's Disease, "Rather See You Dead"

The reason I love that single is because Jerry Anomie took a photo of his grandfather in his casket and used it for the cover, and created lyrics from a line his grandfather used to say to him. His grandfather said, "Never be a sheep," and he'd "rather see him dead than with wool on his head." "BAAAAHHH."

Story continues on the next page.

 

Photo by David Ensminger
Photo by David Ensminger
John Reen Davis speaks fondly of the jukebox at Heights institution Andy's Home Cafe.

JOHN REEN DAVIS, HAPPY FINGERS INSTITUTE/ANARCHITEX/ETC.

I used to play "Teaching You the Fear" by Really Red and "Nova Grows Up" by MyDolls whenever I ate at Andy's. They were both on the jukebox for about 20 years. AK-47's "The Badge Means You Suck" was a classic. I guess Culturcide's best single was "A Day at My Job."

Later stuff would include "My Desire" by Pain Teens; also "Sacrificial Shack" and "You're a Freak" by Sugar Shack; Peglegasus' cover of "Autobahn," and, of course, Happy Fingers Institute's "Screw the Curfew."

Photo by David Ensminger
Photo by David Ensminger

MEL HELL, ZIPPERNECK

Silver Blueberry, "JV Girls" (digital single, Boobo Records, 2014)

A super shiny group of punks from my neck of the woods. In fact, this latest single is an ode to my alma mater. It's been 20 years since I was smoking in the girls room at Jersey Village High School, but according to Silver Blueberry, things haven't changed one bit. This track is both crunchy and sweet, with intermittent bursts of pure teen angst, like cherry Pop Rocks in your Coke. Wait, make it a Pepsi, oh oh oh...

CHRISTI WORKMAN, STINKERBELL/SUGARHILL STUDIO

Teddy Boys, "Steady with Betty" b/w "Rockabilly Boogie" (Ricky Dog Records, 1982) The Usuals, "Cradle to Grave" b/w "Caballeros" (self-released, 1982)

These two represent talent in Houston that requires recognition. I have so many fond memories of watching these bands perform and hanging out in an early-'80s scene. Although neither of these bands were considered punk, they had a punk following.

The Teddy Boys were rockabilly and the Usuals had a "Clash" style. For me, not only are these 45s anthemic, they were created at a time when the Houston underground scene was flourishing.

Photo by David Ensminger
Photo by David Ensminger

J.R. DELGADO, DOOMSDAY MASSACRE/SCREECH OF DEATH

Legionaire's Disease, "Rather" Weird Party, "The Secret Lives of Men" (Twistworthy Records, 2012) Linus Pauling Quartet, "Find What You Love And Let It Kill You" (Homeskool Records, 2013)

How can I possibly pick two favorite local 7" releases when I've been listening/collecting since '79? My favorite classic, hands down, is Legionaire's Disease. Their 1979 release captured what punk rock was/is all about: loud, raw, simple, full of energy and feeling, and it changed my direction of music.

My second pick is a tossup between two current releases: Weird Party is great garage psycho-punk, while Linus Pauling Quartet offers beautiful, well-written stoner/psych/garage/punk rock and roll! Other 7" shoutouts go to: Born Liars, Something Fierce, Secret Prostitute, Hell City Kings, the Swamps, Black Congress and Mikey and the Drags!

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