Thursday, July 31, 2008

50th Post! My 30 minutes as drummer for the Didjits (including rare tracks)

Here are the songs for download: Didjits Rare Tracks
Set List:
1. Give It Back (Dickies Cover)
2. Barely Legal (Live)
3. King Carp (Live)
4. Dear Junkie
5. Skull Baby (Live)
6. Fire In The Hole (Live)
7. Sitting Round At Home (Buzzcocks Cover)
8. Cutting Carol (Live)
9. Joliet (Live)
10. Killboy Powerhead (Live)
11. Gold ElDorado (Live)
12. Evel Knievel (Live)
13. Max Wedge/Stingray (Live)
14. Plate In My Head (Live)
15. Long Lone Ranger (Live)
16. Captain Ahab (Live)
17. Ax Handle (Live)
18. Goodbye Mr. Policeman (Live)
19. Jerry Lee
20. Stumpo Knee Grinder
21. Shavehead Monkey Duster
22. One Dead Hippie
23. Signifies My Go-T
24. Jumbo Macho Big
25. See My Scar
26. Pet Funeral
27. (Ridin) Your Train
28. Fix Some Food Bitch
29. Do Smiles Give You Away
30. What Gives You The Right
31. Purple Haze
1: from "Fuck the Pigs" 7"
2-3: from "Pigs/We Have Your Son" 7"
4-6: from Sub Pop Singles Club 7"
7: from Buzzcocks Covers Compilation
8-18: from "Backstage Passout" Live LP September 19, 1990 at the Kilburn National Ballroom in London (I believe they were on tour with All and Fugazi at that time, so this was a Fugazi crowd they were playing for)
19-31: from "Signifies My Go-T" Demo Tape

The Didjits were my favorite band in high school. Midget Farmers had played "Dad" off the Hey Judester album since the beginning, but we also liked to play "Elvis' Corvette" and "California Surf Queen" on occasion. I got into them right when Hornet Pinata came out, so it was their prime creative period, and I got to see them at least 3 times during their run - once in between the Hornet Pinata and Full Nelson Reily albums, once after FNR came out but before Little Miss Carriage EP, and once with their replacement drummer after the last Que Sirhan Sirhan album came out. Also, I went to the Touch and Go fest two years ago specifically to see them play, and loved it.
But the replacement drummer situation is what this post is all about. In the summer of 1992 Brian Lysne and I were making one of our regular trips down to Little 5 Points to buy records, t-shirts, etc., and were checking out Princess Pamela's/Junkman's Daughter (back when it was on Euclid Avenue), and saw the flyer attached above on a pole in the store. I was 16 years old at the time, but I was so excited about the opportunity to play with the Didjits that I tore down the flyer and started calling Rick Sims immediately. I kept on getting the answering machine, so Brian and I left 10 or so messages with increasing levels of juvenile rhetoric before we gave up and carried on with our summer vacation. A week or so later I was doing the dishes, and one of my parents answer the phone, and gives it to me telling me that it was someone named Rick Sims. I almost choked right there. He explained to me that they had been recording the Little Miss Carriage EP (with Ray Washam on drums mind you) the past week, and was sorry about not returning my call earlier. He wanted to know if I would like to come up to Chicago and try out to play in the Didjits. When I told him that I was 16 years old, he said that he didn't care - if I played well enough, I could join the band.

I knew that I couldn't become the drummer for the Didjits, as I had only been playing drums for less than 2 years at that point, and still had one more year of high school left. Still, I wanted to get the chance to play with my favorite band (a dream come true for sure), so I asked my parents if it was okay and they allowed me to do it. I drove up from Atlanta with Brian and my dad one Friday, and we arrived in Chicago on Saturday morning. I remember watching a little league baseball game down the street from where I was supposed to audition, but being so completely nervous I couldn't even think straight. Finally, my appointment time came and I loaded my drums into the basement of a small house in Chicago that Rick and Doug were using to try out bands. They were from Champaign at that time, but I guess they did the auditions in Chicago as most of their perspective drummers were probably going to come from there. It was a very small room, and there was no PA so we played the songs instrumentally. Rick wasn't wearing sunglasses, which really tweaked me as you never saw him without the glasses in pictures or live. He also was playing the black SG by that time, as his Dan Electro was stolen at one of their shows recently. I remembered we played Dad, as I told him it was a song I played in the Midget Farmers, as well as Long Lone Ranger, Captain Ahab, Max Wedge, Ax Handle, and I believe played Dear Junkie as a new song just to see how I would play on a song that had no drums yet. Every time we finished a song, Doug the bass player would say "yep - he knows that one". In preparation for the audition, I had learned how to play drums on every Didjits song, at least as best as I could, because I didn't know what songs they would want to play. It was actually really good for my drumming development, as it helped to build my stamina and the Midget Farmers songs got much faster and more intense after that point, and I probably would not have become the drummer for Car Vs. Driver, Hal al Shedad, etc. that I was if not for this challenge I faced when I was 16 years old. I remember that I couldn't play Max Wedge very well, as Brad Sims (their original drummer and Rick's brother) would play the verse part with hi-hat, snare and kick drum playing eighth notes at an unbelievable tempo. I'm not sure if I could play that beat today if I had to. I also didn't play Ax Handle too well, as it seems like a simple song, but the kick drum is actually doing a triplet pattern with the snare that is kind of hard for a novice drummer to play. I remember Rick Sims got behind my drumset and showed me how to play the song, and then also gave me tips about how my drums were set up. Specifically, my cymbals were way too low to play music like this, and needed to have them around head height so my arms would be able to provide the most power and speed for the drumming required. I changed my setup at that point and pretty much kept my drums set up like this ever since. Supposedly Rick Sims was originally a drummer, and his brother Brad took over to play in the Didjits, and became an incredible drummer himself. Brad is an amazing drummer, and should get a large amount of credit for how good their songs were due to his inventiveness and power behind the kit. I asked them why Brad left, and it seemed like he had several children by that point and took a factory job somewhere in Kentucky to spend more time with the family and support them. At the time, I guess they were having problems replacing him, as most of the people who were responding to the audition call either had never heard of the Didjits, or were wierdos. I guess that is a problem when you are in a band with a following like the Didjits - like how it's listed on the flyer - Are you inhuman enough?
Brian Lysne was with me in the basement while I played with Rick and Doug, and my dad sat outside in the car until it was over. Rick and Doug knew that I was a big fan of theirs, and basically drove up to Chicago just to play music with my idols, so they humored me and were super cool the entire time. It made me love their music even more after that. When I was loading out my drums, Rick was talking with my dad, which must have been one of the strangest conversations ever. I should have taken a picture of the two of them. Now that I think of it, I have no pictures whatsoever of the entire trip. I should of at least had Brian take a picture or two while I was playing. Regardless, it was one of my favorite memories of my teenage years, and one of the most exciting moments in my life. Although I never acknowledged it at the time, I am also very thankful to my father for allowing me to do this, and still look at it as the best thing he ever did for me.

Brad, Rick and Doug, circa 1991:
Here is the artwork from the Didjits singles and Demo tape:
Fuck the Pigs single - what more can you say?

Cover of the Backstage Passout Live LP - sorry I couldn't find a bigger picture. I don't have access to a scanner big enough for LPs. By the way, Rick Sims' in-between song banter is best in the business, as this album proves time and time again. "This song's about prison - I'm sure you all can relate to it".

The "Pigs/We Have Your Son" live single. I loved how the Didjits would write statements on their records that didn't necessarily have to do with the songs, but just looked cool. Their artwork/designs were also great.

The Sub Pop singles club single - I love the black on black image of half of Rick Sims' face on the front.

The "Signifies My Go-T" Demo Tape - Thanks to Joe who runs the amazing Last Days of Man on Earth blog for posting it.

Here is also some live footage, etc. from the Touch and Go 25th Anniversary show: Didjits in 2006.

Lastly, here is an interview with them that I copied out of a zine from Book Nook when I was in high school. It takes place between Fizzjob and Hey Judester, and before they were picked up by Touch & Go, so it is a good read from before they became superstars (click on images to enlarge).

16 comments:

  1. i could be completely wrong about this, but didn't another atlanta/athenian, gerry fuchs also do a little do with the didjits? for some reason that seems right. i could be wrong. and speaking of gerry, how bout a martians post?

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  2. As far as I know, Jerry had a hard enough time being in The Martians (at the time) and Didjits would've been anathema. For the record though, I was the one who connected Jerry to Jon Fine in New York and, well, the rest is history. Great story though, James.

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  3. Hey Henry - I was going to post a Martians discog next week, but I have the Elvis/Bad Luck 7", the two 7"s you put out, the album on Allied, and the Refuel songs, but isn't there a demo tape or other release?

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  4. Also, I only have one 7" by Vineland, and Jerry doesn't play on it. Doug Scharin plays instead, which is not a bad substitution.

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  5. hey james

    i've got the martians cassette converted to wav format. its up to you to dumb it down to mp3.

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  6. Kip - If you post it somewhere (or we can meet to exchange CDs), that would be great. Send me an email (jejoyce77@hotmail.com) so we can work out the details. I also need Spiney Norman, Fiddlehead, any rare After Words stuff? I was going to post the Sammich LP soon, but I heard their later stuff was the best.

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  7. Hey James. Yeah, if Kip's got the tape converted, just go with his. I know it's here SOMEWHERE though. Do you have any 42 to post? I saw them once at BLT's with The Hal and Barrel way before I moved here and they still stand out as one of those bands I just wish I owned a recording by.

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  8. I have the 7" that the 42 released, and the one song on the Live at WREK comp, but I would like to get the entire Live at WREK set by them. Do you have any pull with those guys to get a copy? I was in the studio when they recorded it, and it was one of their best "shows".

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  9. Getting anything from the WREK archive has been nightmarish. I wish I could help, but I have zero pull there.

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  10. ... and in other weirdness you ran into the first drummer for Cough Syrup at that audition, which was weird since he was living in DC and no one down here had met him yet. You met him like 3 years before anyone else and then when you guys met you realized you already knew each other.

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  11. yo...thanks for sharing this man this was such a killer find today.

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  12. Super excellent story!

    I too was a teenage Didjits fanatic. I grew up in a Chicago suburb and I would tune my little radio to WNUR-- when the static wasn't overwhelming! -- hoping to hear some of the bands I had read about in zines. One band that was magic to me even before I had heard a note of their music was Didjits. I knew of the Didjits from a t-shirt one of the senior punk kids wore to school-- The infamous "Makin' Steak" tee! One perfect, interference free evening WNUR played the first Didjits song I had ever heard: "Headless". WOW! The next time I had saved up a bit of cash and somehow found my way to Wax Trax Records, I purchased "Full Nelson Reilly" on cassette and my life was never the same again. I got to see them live on the "Que Sirhan Sirhan" tour and I was there to witness the reunion at T&G 25 as well. Fucking brilliant! Skol.

    P.S. This website is really fantastic!

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  13. Hey Mdgarmager, thanks for the feedback and stories! I think I still have that Makin Steak shirt, which the guys in the band didn't even know about! They were definitely one of the best.

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  14. I too am a Didjits fanatic!!! So much so that I talked Doug into moving from Matoon into our house in Champaign. Rick followed soon after. I flew in from Portland for the Touch N Go Show, and again a week later for the gig in Champaign, much to the dismay of my bank account. This was an excellent tale. Reminds me of how amazing those guys were.

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  15. That’s so fucking cool! I live in Atlanta, and I love the Didjits, and I’m only two years younger than you were.

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