“Grave Digger Blues is a nasty, raunchy, rude-boy romp that I totally loved. In its sinister way it is very, very funny. The exquisitely rendered visuals and other enhancements are great. You’ll love it, especially if you hate the Beatles.” W.K. Stratton (Chasing the Rodeo, Boxing Shadows, Floyd Patterson: The Fighting Life of Boxing’s Invisible Champ)
“If I didn’t already know that Jesse Sublett was musical, I’d likely start to suspect it while reading Grave Digger Blues. Not so much because music is a big theme in this multi-media serial novella, but because there’s an unmistakable rhythm and hooky turn of phrase to Sublett’s writing that only someone with a good ear can pull off. For the record, I think the story could stand on its own as a traditional novel — I mean, noir at the end of the world? Come on. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, and Sublett’s snappy, dark prose is the bread holding the whole thing together. The musical clips and illustrations are like a tasty bag of chips on the side — they make the experience more enjoyable, but without the main course, it wouldn’t be a meal.” Minerva Koenig (author and blogger)
You may have seen all these comments before. I had them on a separate page, but I’m streamlining, so this will appear as a new post.
Los Angeles Times FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2005
The riveting “Never the Same Again: A Rock n’ Roll Gothic” (Ten Speed) by Jesse Sublett, bass player for the Austin, Texas-based Skunks, starts with the murder of his girlfriend when he was 22, ends with his battle with throat cancer a couple of years ago and goes to some wild punk shows in the middle. Hard to put down.
–Marion Winik (author of First Comes Love)
WINNER – BEST of AUSTIN 2004: Best Rock Lit Luminary
It’s been a good year for Jesse Sublett. After reading his latest book, Never the Same Again: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Gothic, you’ll think he’s entitled to a couple. The scorching memoir details his early days as one of Austin’s punk pioneers, before his life was derailed by the murder of his longtime girlfriend. Suspected of the crime, he then proves instrumental in uncovering her killer’s identity. Picking up the pieces, he rises to prominence as one-third of the Skunks, Austin’s premier punk band, and pens a series of rock murder mysteries before being diagnosed with a normally terminal form of cancer. Thank God, as evidenced by our opening line, Sublett beat this too, and turned all this turmoil into one hell of a read. Delving into the past must have awoken long-dormant memories, as a reunited Skunks can be seen gigging around town, and 2004′s Austin Music Awards featured longtime Chronicle family member Sublett, with his throbbing bass backing the Class of ’78, a supergroup of survivors from Austin’s punk heyday.
–(The Austin Chronicle 2004, CRITICS Poll, Politics and Personalities)
June 2004 Texas Monthly
“Sublett examines his life through the dual prisms of survivor’s guilt and a survivor’s ethic. Along the way he culls wry anecdotes from his eclectic résumé as not-quite-famous musician, hard-boiled mystery novelist, documentary screenwriter, and now-emotionally rehabilitated husband and father while leavening the raw sadness with honesty and optimism.”
Press Release from Boaz/Ten Speed for Never The Same Again: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Gothic
Never The Same Again recounts the extraordinary life of Jesse Sublett, bass player, singer, songwriter and crime novelist. It’s a road trip through a landscape of rock ‘n’ roll dreams, murder and disease, told with candor and a hardboiled sense of humor.
As a musician, Jesse had what it takes. He quit his day job in the late 70s, and, together with Eddie Muñoz, Jon Dee Graham and Billy Blackmon, created the Skunks, a new wave rock ‘n’ roll band that was instrumental in establishing Austin, Texas, as the live music capital of the world. In his star-studded memoir you’ll find cameo appearances from Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Elvis Costello, Carla Olson, Rolling Stones, Go-Go’s and more.
In the late 1990s Jesse was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, with less than 9% chance of survival. “Depending on how you look at it, chemotherapy and radiation is either a great way to start off your new year or a rotten one. I’ve decided to assume that it’s going to save my life, so it’s a damn good way to kick off 1998, starting at eight a.m. on the first Monday of the year.”
Jesse came to understand that the cancer that enrolled his family, his doctors, and his friends in a monumental effort to save him, was somehow connected with his past, with the hardscrabble life he endured growing up in the Texas hill country “LBJ country” and the self-absorbed life of a rock ‘n’ roll star on the road and on the run.
But no matter how fast he ran as a young artist, no matter the booze and pills, no matter the glitter and adoration, no matter the poetry, no matter the magnitude of sexual titillation, Jesse couldn’t outrun that awful memory. He couldn’t obliterate the day in 1976 when he returned home from an out-of-town gig to find the body of his longtime girlfriend, Dianne Roberts, murdered in their bed. And he couldn’t escape the tormenting thought that he could have done more to prevent her death.
Heartbreak spurs song; hardship steels resolve. In Jesse’s songwriting you’ll notice, no doubt, the influence of the murder and its aftermath. But, in his memoir you will observe a fierce resolve, a determination to bore into the past to examine the interconnectedness of things. Jesse faces down his demons and gains, if not victory over, then, perhaps, detente with memory and the past. [Buy the eBook on Amazon, or print copies always available at BookPeople in Austin]
James Ellroy + Jesse Sublett
“Never the Same Again is a harrowing, wrenching, spellbinding work of great candor and soul. Read it, think with it, dig it.”
James Ellroy (Author, L.A. Confidential, American Tabloid, The Black Dahlia, The Cold Six Thousand)
“Never the Same Again is an important work. Jesse Sublett’s pursuit of his dreams — undaunted by societal standards of success and failure — is the true chronicle of a generation. Making choices, taking chances and then facing the consequences, however bizarre and unexpected they may be, Sublett takes us on a ride through life that is crazy, funny, and sometimes deeply tragic, but ultimately, an inspiring and always highly readable survivor’s tale.”
–Michael Connelly (Author, The Black Echo, The Lincoln Lawyer )
“Jesse’s odyssey of growing up in a small Texas town with a head full of big ideas, and his relentless drive to take them in the direction of his artistic intuition, is a moving story that captures an important cultural moment. Having grown up in Huntsville, Texas, I can really relate. Surviving the horrible murder of his girlfriend in 1976, and going from punk rock to fatherhood, his story becomes a universal one, and he makes it sing with authenticity.”
–Richard Linklater (Filmmaker, Slacker, Dazed & Confused)
“Jesse Sublett has been a valued contributor to the pages of Texas Monthly … He’s funny, fast on his feet, a great stylist, and the rare journalist who connects immediately with whichever audience he’s writing to. He’s been a pleasure to work with, and I give him my highest recommendation.”
–Evan Smith (Editor, Texas Tribune)
“Jesse Sublett’s hard-rocking portrait of the creative life is solid gold proof that good guys don’t always finish last. Jesse was always my favorite Texan punk rocker.”
–Jake Riviera (President, Stiff Records and Riviera Global; Manager of Elvis Costello, the Damned, Rockpile, and Nick Lowe)
The Skunks 1979
“Maybe you were actually there to see the Skunks at Raul’s. Maybe you weren’t hitting the local clubs then, but remember hearing their songs “Cheap Girl,” “Earthquake Shake,” and others in rotation on KLBJ-FM in the early Eighties. Maybe you’re only familiar with their work through the Sons of Hercules’ perennial cover of “Gimme Some.” Or maybe you’re just hearing the Skunks for the first time now, via the live performances at Max’s Kansas City in New York and Austin’s Back Room on the just-released Earthquake Shake: Live. Whatever the case may be, chances are if you like loud music and live in Austin, you’ve been influenced, at least in some small way, by the Skunks.
After disbanding the Skunks, Jesse Sublett went on to form the bands Secret Six and Flex before moving to Los Angeles in 1987 and becoming a published crime novelist and screenwriter. Sublett reunited briefly with Violator/Go-Go Kathy Valentine in a band called World’s Cutest Killers, then played and recorded two albums with the Carla Olson/Mick Taylor Band before returning to Austin. The better part of two decades later, the Skunks’ legacy lives on.”
–Ken Lieck (Author, “Young, Loud, and Cheap: The Skunks, the Band That Broke Austin Out of the Seventies”; Austin Chronicle, 12.08.00)
“Jesse Sublett is one of the few of my generation to actually run the thread through the eye of the needle and be able to tell me what it’s like. He defined punk in Austin, Texas, the future Live Music Capital of the World, when everyone else was still trying to figure out how to walk properly in cowboy boots so they could get next to Willie. By the time newcomers bearing guitars, drums and big ideas started flooding the city to cash in on its music scene, he’d ditched his axe and his band the Skunks for a typewriter, and, using Austin and music as his canvas, painted a picture as black as any Lou Reed ditty as a rock and roll crime writer, living vicariously through his character, Martin Fender. When that turned boring, he wrote scripts and screenplays, playing on his vast knowledge of Texas and the American West. Then he got cancer right at the cusp of forty–the trendsetter was once again get ‘way ahead of the curve–and has written about the Big C and the inevitability of aging and death in a manner far more chilling and dark than any bad ass Skunks’ rant, his novels, or any of his retellings of the how the west was really settled. It’s powerful stuff, mainly because he keeps reminding me, he’s one of us. He just got here quicker than we did. Reading is believing.”
–Joe Nick Patoski (Author, Selena, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson: An Epic Life)
“On a cold and otherwise unremarkable Austin night in February 1978, something happened in a campus-area club called Raul’s. The first punk show was scheduled, featuring the debut of a band called The Skunks.
Bassist and lead singer Jesse Sublett was handsome and erudite, brimming with piss and vinegar. His vision of the band as an apolitical garage-rock trio manifested during the punk explosion. Its attitude and energy fueled his desire to make rock ‘n roll that mattered, a dream that came true at Raul’s: The Skunks, quite literally, helped put the cosmic cowboy kingdom of Austin on the rock & roll map.
That evening was a turning point in Austin’s musical history. Dozens of bands came in The Skunks’ wake. The sounds and scenes shifted from punk to New Wave to hardcore to cow punk and back but always The Skunks blasted away with unrestrained defiance. They were the premiere recording and touring band of the first wave of Raul’s bands and their music still pulses with the lifeblood of that era. The authentic sound and skull-rattling vibrancy of their music, however, was never successfully documented on vinyl, however, making the recent discovery of two dusty cassettes (one in Sublett’s closet, the other in that of friend, photographer and long-time fan, Glenn Chase) a chance to address that gap in the band’s permanent legacy for posterity and, not inconsequentially, in a digital format.
The Skunks’ classic lineup was well in place by the time these Back Room and Max’s Kansas City shows were recorded. Sublett and original Skunks drummer Billy Blackmon hit a groove when guitarist Jon Dee Graham joined in early 1979, evident in every track. Its 15 potent songs of love, angst, and other matters of the young heart form a gloriously exuberant soundtrack from the days when rock ‘n roll could save the world with three chords and a lotta volume.”
–Margaret Moser (Rock Critic and Author)
The Violators 1978, clockwise from top, Jesse, Carla Olson, Kathy Valentine, Marilyn Dean.
“Jesse was a great help to me in my formative rocker years. As a 16 year old struggling musician, I was enthralled to meet a real live rock guy who looked just like he stepped out of the Faces or the Stones. He was so damn good-looking he scared and intimidated me. He was already living the life I had only dreamed of so far. By befriending me and accepting me, Jesse gave me the fuel to keep the idea lit. He supported my first feeble attempts at becoming a pop star, turned me on to Lou Reed and the New York Dolls, tried to make me appreciate Patti Smith, showed me how to play the riff in “Shake Appeal” by Iggy Pop, and helped launch my first credible band, the Violators.
Jesse also inspired my early songwriting a lot. He was one of the few musician pals I had who was actually and prolifically writing his own songs instead of only banging out covers. His songs were clever; the humor and intelligence in the lyrics reminded me that you don’t have to be Elvis Costello or Ray Davies to write great, cool songs.
Jesse and I stayed in touch over the years, and after the Go-Go’s broke up, he participated in my first identity crisis band, the World’s Cutest Killers. It was LOTS of fun, and we almost got a record deal, but then we didn’t. The songs we wrote together during that period have provided material to plunder for almost a decade now. I still call Jesse up periodically and say, “Hey, Jesse, remember that tune we wrote? I’m thinking of reworking it…”
When Jesse got cancer, he was unknowingly taking on another inspiring role model job. If I ever have to go through a similar experience I only hope that I would do so with the grace, courage and humor that he showed me during the whole ordeal. My admiration and respect for Jesse is very nearly boundless — as a songwriter, as a musician, as a story and essay writer who actually found and writes with his own voice, and above all–as a human. The way he has pursued his passions and interests have made his life an excellent example of how to get by in the world with style and substance.”
–Kathy Valentine (rock star)
Jesse’s first three crime novels, Rock Critic Murders, Tough Baby and Boiled in Concrete are all available as eBooks via Amazon. Rock Critic Murders is also available as an enhanced iBook for iPad, with music, video, etc. Buy at the iBookstore or iTunes.