Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dirt - Our Forebearers in Atlanta Noise-Rock


Here is the download - Dirt Discography

Track Listing:
1. Cleft on the Chin, Devil Within
2. Booger
3. Rugburn
4. Heavy Petting
5. Championship Dick
6. Grunt
7. Sad Hash
8. Negative Vibe No. 365
9. Palm Full of Pork
10. Milkbelly
11. Guilt on Ice
12. Shiny Girl Go
13. Suckah
14. Cold Fish
15. Nude Dancing in Arizona
16. Mopar
17. Skag Fight
18. Tam Po Po
19. Casa de Hee Haw
20. Peet
21. Serret
22. Gorgeous Weed
23. Dirk Flemming
24. Sinister Purpose

1-2: From 1st 7"
3-4: From 2nd 7"
5: From "Bag of Jakes" 7"
6-15: From "She Male Sugarpussy/Drill the Minx" LP
16-24: From "Sahara of the Bozart" LP

What were you doing in 1989? I can guarantee it was nothing compared to what these guys were up to. They were so ahead of their time in this town - I can't even imagine what people must have thought of this band back then, but I think they would rule this town today. I never got to see them live myself, but I had heard of their legendary status even back then when I was in high school. Actually, Stewart Voegtlin from William Carlos Williams wrote this piece on The Left Hand Path, which sums it up better than I ever could:

"It keeps you fit - the alcohol, nasty women, sweat on stage, bad food - it's all very good for you."

Some said Bonny Scott reborn, or Brian Johnson's shrieking shadow, an avatar of tres chord rock 'n' roll, stereotyped spitsink antics, Elvis zee Pelvis shake, rattle, roll. Hyperbole aside, John Forbes was very much the incarnation, google-eyed, gyrating; the gushing showman, a smile like The Young Traci Lords's gash: supple, crazed, welcoming. The rest of the [early] band was nothing close to Vomit, Lou, Deno and Gary; there was Jennifer Hensley, Runaways incarnate, smoldering in lip gloss, razorblade charm, navy blue coveralls. Dean Clyne and Georgia's answer to Phil Rudd, the late Allen Page on bass and drums respectively. Atlanta was indifferent as usual. The Royal Peacock, Clermont Lounge; well drinks for $2.50; Bud and High Life cans half the price. Poison's quick trickle had a lot to do with it. Most folks were furniture by 11 p.m. Forbes would come out, lightnin' bolt legs, Schlitz beer can hat upon his head. Plug in. Look around. Smile. Page would count off and away they went. Three hours later and Buckhead Safety cab lays down the law: Any one of you guys pukes in my ride and it's $40 flat. No if sands buts. Got it?

Before Page spilled his fluid thuds upon Hensely's maggot writhe wah, big-haired Deanna Gonzalez warmed the drum throne with junk trunk. Page musta seen 'em with DG; he basically cribbed his whole approach: heavy hands on hi-hat and snare; kicking through that gawdamned kick drum. It would have been too much; Forbes and Hensley locked-jaws with true Rodehaus Bluez. Leads written for lairs outta place even in James Dickey, in Harry Crews. The sort of sultry "please, cum onan fuck meh," schtick Gifford/Lynch tried to land with siren belle, Lula. Instead it comes off as lots of granny come-ons; rosewater perfume ain't no way to keep a man interested.

One can dance to Dirt. Perhaps that's why the name sounds sensible. Honest. Easily arrived upon. Two feet to the floor, shakin' ass, etc, etc. Keepah knockin but ya can't come in... Little Richard, James Brown, the Grady High School Marching Band; that's where the beatz; the riddims rose from. Past, present. Near, far. Forbes fashioned the take bright, belligerent. By the time the two singles and single split clipped into a full-length, the local foax had nothing left to do but corral Benjamin "Smoke" into his Sundee best and snap that shot. Nothing quite like a tranny queer drinking two fingers of Kentucky Gentleman and working on a Basic 120. And the title... She-male Sugarpussy. The band printed the song list on the spine; motherfuck a lyric sheet. Personnel was printed on the label. Whew. Lotsa print putz whined and opined; dude's voice sux; AC/DC, or worse: Rose Tattoo. Forbes really only ever sounded like Gilbert Godfrey passing a habanero hairball through his urethra. Despite the shenanigans, Dirt continued. David T. Lindsay, basically the only sensible "music writer" to ever call Coca-Cola Kingdom home, put their records out; he attended their shows; he served them the best compliment ever, setting them as the IDEAL in the midst of so many "show reviews" plundered about the pages of Creative Loafing. Cutting foax down to size was immensely easy; all Lindsay had to do was scribble this sentence on the end of every blurb: "________ is every bit the band The Black Crowes aspire to be but no where near as great as Dirt." I thought he'd do it once, twice maybe. Lindsay did it for months. It got funnier and funnier. It's still funny.

Dirt may not be the IDEAL. But then again they may be. She-male Sugarpussy isn't a great record. But it's good. The song titles are almost as good as the record's title: "Nude Dancing In Arizona;" "Palm Full of Pork;" "Sad Hash;" "Cold Fish." I understand these song titles. They are my past, present, future. They have to be. It's neither Heavy Metal, nor "Hard Rock." Despite all the groove and blues references they might just have sounded like a second-rate Zepp, circa Houses of the Holy, at precisely five fucking times the speed. "The Crunge" was Page/Plant preening groove and blues; "The Ocean" gets them even closer to Forbes and Co: "Naaaah, naah, nunnah neh nah naw, neh nah naw neh nah neh naw naw...." Ain't much difference 'tween tunes. "Sad Hash" the exception. Hensely comes on with Peter North cumshot wah. Thick, ropy, serpentine. Forbes refuses to play charmer, just screaming, shrieking, howl. Foax who ever thought they might need a vocal "approach," would never approach Forbes' thought as vocal. It's a lung thing. A heart thing. Darby Crash with Bowie's haircut. Or vice versa. And then to look over at Hensley scraping her SG, the beat goes on. And on. And on. IDEAL is forever. Every bit the band The Stones aspired to be but no where near as good as _________.

As you probably know, John Forbes and his girlfriend Jennifer (not Jennifer Hensley, who was in Dirt but then joined Seersucker) moved up to Chicago after Dirt ended in the early 90's to start Mount Shasta, who I was a huge fan of. In fact, when hal al Shedad recorded our second album with David Barbe, I was most excited because he recorded Mount Shasta's "Who's The Hottie?" album a few years before, and it is a favorite of mine. David said that John Forbes had the loudest voice of any singer he had ever worked with. He could blow out a microphone in the studio from across the room. Also, he told me that John wrote actual lyrics to all his songs, but good luck verifying that one. Dirt is just great, totally visceral, and must be acknowledged for their contribution to Atlanta music.

Above: Cover for their first album "She Male Sugarpussy - Drill the Minx", which included all the song titles and information on the record spine, which was brilliant. Interesting to note Benjamin Smoke as the cover model, from Opal Foxx Quartet and Smoke - seminal Atlanta bands. Below is the insert from the CD and the back cover. It's interesting to note the era they were coming from based on the thank you list. Even Drivin' n' Cryin' is thanked.



Here is the cover for "Sahara of the Bozart", which was graciously provided by Stewart.

32 comments:

  1. i guess that is benjamin on the 'she male' lp cover? i never made that connection when i played this album in the past.

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  2. worth noting that harry o'brien recorded alot of cool music around this time. the studio was in an old strip mall up off south cobb drive in smyrna ... he was the first engineer that i ever recorded with, cool guy. hope he is doing well wherever he is.

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  3. That is Benjamin. Part of the entire Cabbagetown collective. Before moving to Atlanta, Dirt and 86 were the only two decent Atlanta bands I knew of. Holy shit, such a brilliant band. You should post the Seersucker 7" that Worry Bird did. That is another classic.

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  4. I need to post an 86 discography sometime soon, just for completeness sake (at least the 3 albums, I'm not sure about anything else). I don't have the Seersucker 7", and I never got the CD of theirs either. There were certain bands from that time I really latched onto, but for some reason not them. I think it might have been because I saw them open once for the Bosstones, and it was such a poorly matched bill I think I just got bummed on them a bit and never gave them their due chance. I also don't think I knew the Dirt connection back then either.

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  5. i only saw dirt with allen paige on drums, never with the original drummer. question, am i right in remembering chris lopez as a late member of dirt or was he only in seersucker?

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  6. great post! I would love to see an 86 post as well. When i moved up here from FL they were the first local band I was really into during late 80's. Somewhere I may still have a cassette copy of a live show at Metroplex. I will try to locate it.

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  7. great post! I would love to see an 86 post as well. When i moved up here from FL they were the first local band I was really into during late 80's. Somewhere I may still have a cassette copy of a live show at Metroplex. I will try to locate it.

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  8. great post! I would love to see an 86 post as well. When i moved up here from FL they were the first local band I was really into during late 80's. Somewhere I may still have a cassette copy of a live show at Metroplex. I will try to locate it.

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  9. not sure why it posted 3 times ... sorry

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  10. Dirt is a GREAT band! i never got the chance to see them live, but i did see Mount Shasta numerous times.I have wore out the records. Thanks for posting this...

    Gus

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  11. Second that 86 posting... I'd love to have digital versions of that stuff. Those records are killer.

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  12. Hey trawets, you like that Lonesome Crow? I caught a few of those Dirt gigs, and one time I saw them open for the Sub Pop band Tad at the Masquerade. After one song, Tad Doyle from Tad was down in the audience front and center, cheering louder than anybody else. He kept cheering them in between his own songs during his set. That's one BIG fan.

    Great review of She-Male, and I agree about Sahara of the Bozart. One of the best (and shortest?) Atlanta records EVAH.

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  13. Davd T. Lindsay took a lot of heat for the record's brevity. His response: "The candle that burns brightest, burns shortest."

    BTW, NO on Lonesome Crow for me. Give me In Trance or give me deth.

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  14. If you do an 86 post you should put Phantom 309 in. I had all of those 12"s but no clue where they are now.

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  15. I saw that 86 will be playing the 688/Metroplex party on October 4 at the Masquerade Music Park. Maybe I'll try to get a post up before then.

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  16. Dirt put on one of the most amazing shows I've ever seen one night at Sylvia's Atomic Cafe. I have no idea when it was but I remember being blown away. Benjamin was funny...used to be my waiter at Tapatio's back in the day...

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  17. Oh fuck...I'm thinking about Smoke, of course. But DIRT! Of course I know Dirt. They were incredible.

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  18. Hey Julie - thanks for the post! It's interesting to think about how back then these bands could be so related and close (i.e. in the same "scene") but yet sound so musically different, to the point that we might mix up the shows in our heads. I also never got to see Smoke, although I had the chance many times, but I was stuck in my younger idealistic all-ages circuit.

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  19. There was an 86 reunion??? Need more info -- including how to get on that mailing list. They were great.

    Don't forget the Opal Foxx Quartet while you're at it. That's Ben as Opal on the cover.

    And Jennifer Hensley was the guitar player in Dirt, but it was John's girlfriend Jennifer who moved to Chicago with him. Different Jennifers.

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  20. Thanks for the clarification. I was wondering how Jennifer Hensley was playing in Seersucker and Mount Shasta at essentially the same time. I have corrected this on the post.

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  21. My girlfriend from Atlanta took me to the Little Five Points festival in 1990, I think. I saw Dirt then. There was a woman who was doing some very funky dancing. Was her name Lydia? The one from the lyrics in the Seersucker song Electra 225?

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  22. Good post. Forbes was my total idol.
    As an aside, I totally forgot about the Royal Peacock. Saw the Go-Devils there one night. Good times.

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  23. I never saw any shows at the Royal Peacock myself - it was before my time - but I did see the Go-Devils with Young Fred open for All at the Masquerade and with Insane Jane at the Roxy when Little Green Pill came out. Do you remember Young Fred? I can't find anything about them in the modern era. No singles, no demo tapes, nothing.

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  24. I vaguely remember young fred (again from live@wrek - Young Fred, 8/1/89, Live At WREK, VHS, #54, PCM). Yikes that was a long time ago. Insane Jane's PLP huh. So many strolls down memory lane. A fine blog you have sir.

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  25. Dirt, Opal Foxx Quartet, Go Devils, Bad Egg Salad, Magic Bone, Snatch...the true Atlanta underground way back when.

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  26. The cover is Ben as Opal, it was a photo shoot of the whole Opal Foxx Quartet and some solo shots of Ben by Cheryl Wilgren. That is Chris Lopez her boyfriend at the time in the background. I think I heard somewhere that she has several hundred photos of the Opal Foxx Quartet and I am sure some of Dirt and other bands from that era. She was frequently taking photos and at a lot of shows. This shot is behind Little Five Points Pub after a Sunday brunch show.

    Dean Clyne was a much bigger part of Dirt than you have mentioned here. He is one of the only bass players I have seen brake strings regularly onstage and he was frequently bleeding from playing so hard. He was a remarkable bass player!!! Crazy good. He would throw some high kicks into the air so the band would know when song changes came up, it was hard to know where they were in the song because they played so loud.

    The band was never really as good after Clyne left.

    Mt. Shasta was awesome. Seersucker didn't really do it for me at all.

    I miss Page.

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  27. amazing bug-eyed Atlanta grunge!!!

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  28. Damn, I miss these folks.

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  29. a few links to some other bits of Benjamin ephemera...

    I was onstage for this one, before DIRT...
    http://www.archive.org/details/Toast-DestroyAllMusicFest-1985-09-06

    and this one is more on topic to DIRT (yep, that's Benjamin and John Forbes)...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bufw_sGaBbE

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  30. Never thought I would see this:
    http://youtu.be/oM09fpp3NWg

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