Now, a few words about my famous band, THE SKUNKS, founded in Austin, Texas at the dog-ends of 1977. Our first gigs were in January and February 1978.
The Skunks helped put Austin on the rock n’ roll map. Margaret Moser said it first, back in 1981, and she was right.
The Skunks of Austin, Texas, originally formed in late 1977, on a whim. Eddie Munoz and I were talking, we had no gigs, our band (Jelly Roll), had fallen apart over the summer. I was playing in an all-girls-but-me-band called The Violators (Kathy Valentine, guitar; Carla Olson, guitar; Marilyn Dean, drums; and me, Jesse Sublett, on bass. Carla, Kathy and I all shared vocal duties). When the Violators scored a booking at a Tejano bar on the Drag called Raul’s, we were all excited, as there were no other punk bands in Austin at the time. The booking was slated for early January 1978. We played our first gig right after the Sex Pistols show in San Antonio. We opened for a local band called Project Terror and it went gangbusters. We got another booking for January 27.
See the blurb from a local zine called Rumors with comments from Roy (Raul) Gomez below.
Previously, we had played mini-set on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1977, opening for that classic hippie cabaret band, Uranium Savages at Soap Creek Saloon. Eddie and I and Bill Blackmon also backed up Charlie Ray, who had one-off band called the Tools. So we played our little set, about a half dozen songs between both bands, playing 99 miles an hour and 125 decibels and THE HIPPIES ALL HATED US. They yelled and threw things at us. Margaret Moser was there and she loved us, though, and so was my future girlfriend/future wife, Lois Richwine. She loved us too, but she wouldn’t go home with me.
Things worked out. The January gig got canceled because I had pneumonia — I was in terrible health — but i got better, we played in February to a hyperactive, practically violent crowd at Raul’s. That was the beginning the Austin punk scene. The Sex Pistols had played San Antonio 3 weeks earlier. Everyone was curious about what they had missed.
Dozens of bands formed after that first show at Raul’s; in the following weeks and months. The scene evolved SO FAST that by September, a new band called The Huns formed and part of their schtick, their artistic stance, was that we, the Skunks, were old and boring, we were yesterday’s news. The Huns even did parodies of my songs “Something About You Scares Me” (which became “Something About You Bores Me”) and another song, I’ll remember later. Kathy and Carla moved to LA where they formed the Textones. Later, Kathy joined the Go-Go’s. Carla went solo in 1989 and has enjoyed a successful career as a songwriter and producer.
The rest of this you may know. At the end of 1978, Eddie Munoz left the band and moved to LA where he joined a great new band called the Skunks of Austin, Texas, with Jesse Sublett”>The Plimsouls. Eddie’s replacement, Jon Dee Graham, joined the Skunks and we kept going, evolving, getting better and louder and, I don’t mind saying, even more important to the Austin music scene. The imprint of the Skunks on the overall American new music scene can be evaluated by other music writers, but if anyone tries to tell you that the Skunks aren’t one of the seminal bands who kicked Austin music into a new, international level, helping jumpstart Austin as a music Mecca and the live music capital of the world… if someone tries to tell you otherwise, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
UPDATES: Thanks to our friend Beth Mitchell Mansell, we have some exciting iPhone videos of THE SKUNKS from the big show at the Continental Club last 6.29.13. Beth’s husband, William Mansell, did a masterful job at the drum throne that night. Check out the rocking action on these clips:
THE SKUNKS “COMMIT A CRIME” Continental Club 6.29.13
Also for your pleasure: See the music player at the bottom. I’ve added a couple of tunes for your cultural enrichment.
I was part of a small circle of rock n’ rollers here in Austin, guys and girls, who were bored to death with the then-current state of music in Austin and of course, Texas in general, and the world in general. We’d been following the outpouring of cool and daring new bands from the UK and also LA and New York, bands like the Sex Pistols, Damned, Elvis Costello, etc., and before that, Blondie, Ramones, etc., and before THAT, in the early to mid 1970s, we were huge fans of what they now call proto-punk, that is, Iggy, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, etc.
Anyway, I was part of two bands at the same time, right there at the wild nexus happening at the end of 1977, having been asked to join an all (otherwise) female band, THE VIOLATORS, playing bass, that band consisting of KATHY VALENTINE, CARLA OLSON, MARILYN DEAN, and Me, my terrible self, Jesse Sublett.
And as we began organizing, my amigo EDDIE MUNOZ (who had rescued me from certain oblivion earlier, like in 1976, by recruiting me to join a band called JELLY ROLL, a glam blues band), said, “Hey, let’s start a punk band, play a few gigs around Austin, and then get the hell out of here, go to LA and get things going out there, become rich and famous or at least play a lot of loud rock and roll and have the babes all clamoring for us,” and I said, “OK.” So we started a power trio, with BILLY BLACKMON on drums and we called it THE SKUNKS.
It was a trio only because we couldn’t think of a guy whom we wanted as a lead singer. Neither Eddie nor I was a great or even passable singer, and no way were we going to have a band in which the drummer sings, even if Billy had volunteered himself. So we started off with Eddie and I trading off on vocals. At first he sang most of the songs, then as I started writing more, I started singing more, and enjoying it more, and eventually, I got better.
This page is a work in progress. I’ll add to it periodically. Here, before I end this particular entry, I should state that the band hit it big pretty quickly. By that I mean, a scene erupted instantaneously around our very first gig in January 1978. We co-billed with the VIOLATORS at RAUL’S, and it was explosive. The rest of 1978 was a very busy time. Lots of bands formed just because they saw us play. No lie. That’s what they told me, time and time again.
Check out THE SKUNKS 2000 CD release, EARTHQUAKE SHAKE: LIVE, on iTunes.
Weirdly, when RaveUp Records of Italy released a vinyl EP compilation of live and studio tracks in early 2001, they chose the name Earthquake Shake for that record, causing a little confusion. The liner notes were also messed up, but anyway, it’s a kind of cool slab of rock n roll.
Anyway, Eddie left at the end of 1978. At the beginning of 1979, we found a young guitar slinger named JON DEE GRAHAM. He joined the band, and we shifted into high gear again. The rest is history, I could say, if I wanted to use a cliche like that. But I’m ending this chapter here by saying, the rest is history, because today, in the year 2013, which is like 100 years later, or it seems like it, the band called THE SKUNKS consists of me, JESSE SUBLETT, and JON DEE GRAHAM, and a drummer who is often times KORY COOK, but sometimes someone else. Bill Blackmon retired a few years ago, and does his creative output with photography, storytelling, programming, and other stuff.
THE SKUNKS are often credited thusly: THE BAND THAT PUT AUSTIN TEXAS ON THE ROCK N ROLL MAP (Margaret Moser, music historian) and THE BAND THAT ROCKED AUSTIN OUT OF THE COSMIC COWBOY 1970s.
You could have a worse epitaph… or appendage… or legacy. We’re also known as THE LOUDEST GODDAMN BAND YOU EVER SAW. Whatever. Pour me a shot of rye whisky. Whisky as red as a fresh gunshot wound. Yeah. What? On the rocks, you say? No, kid, just put it in a glass, I’ll take it from there. Check in with you later.
A nice capsule history of The Skunks is this story in the Austin Chronicle from 2000, “Young, Loud & Cheap,” published when we released Earthquake Shake Live.
Here’s an excerpt:
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.
Formed in 1977 and disbanded after enough lineup changes to render the local trio all but unrecognizable to its earliest fans in early 1983, Austin’s Skunks managed to straddle the then-important punk/New Wave fence without calling themselves one or the other. Talking to former band members today, genre classifications like punk or New Wave rarely get mentioned. Instead, they favor the simple adjective “loud.” And anyhow, in 1978, the Skunks didn’t have to explain themselves.
Read the rest of the article here.
Make sure when you look up The Skunks on Wikipedia, you get the right band–that is, The Skunks from Austin, Texas. There’s also a ska band from Washington, D.C., and a band from Germany, and at least a couple more from elsewhere in the USA.
“Earthquake Shake”/”Can’t Get Loose” was rereleased in a facsimile edition by Last Laugh Records in 2012. It’s very cool, identical to the original sonically and in every way except — the sleeve is printed on much higher quality paper. We printed the original sleeve at a campus area photocopy shop where a fan of ours worked and, whenever possible, did our printing free, in a great example of artistic employee pilferage.