Untouchables first show at Long Goodbye – 1980

With regards to the Danielson biography, I’ve realized that what started out as a seemingly minor detail and/or – depending on what you’re willing to see – a red flag – in Chris’ story – deserves a bit more attention. (There are actually a number of these “minor detail red flags” but anyway – this is one.)

This is the issue of the Mt St Helens explosion on May 18, 1980, which, according to Eric Danielson, was the same date that Chris’ band The Untouchables played their first show in Portland (Rocky Road To Recovery, p 13). Unlike the date of Snow Bud’s first performance in 1986 coinciding with the Challenger disaster, I personally don’t recall Chris mentioning this date link (1/27/22 note – see here for update). Eric does not provide the source for this claim, and I can’t find any corroborating data online. This seems to be new information, as it does not appear in Danielson’s 2010 essay.

The more I dig into this assertion, the more threads of all different types seem to begin to untangle, some of these being significant to Chris’ life, others being significant to gaining insight on a number of other issues from the history of northwest music.

So let’s start with the assertion itself – something that, unless there is some other indisputable primary source that Danielson had access too – should ideally have been confirmed with Chris while he was alive. Was the Untouchable’s first gig in Portland on May 18, 1980? And did they play with The Rats at the Long Goodbye, with Greg Sage in the audience?

Based on Chris’ writings, the venue is correct – their first show was at the Long Goodbye – but I can’t confirm the date and the reported line up doesn’t match. Chris wrote in a draft memoir that The Untouchables first show was at the Long Goodbye, and that they opened for a Longview band called ALOST. Further examination, however, shows that in fact, Chris’ band was at that time, indeed called The Goners. However, according to what ALOST reported to Chris, the band was listed on the poster advertising the show as The Untouchables. In other words – for some reason – the club itself changed the band name on the poster, and Chris and the boys just rolled with it. They became The Untouchables.

Could this shine light on the March 31, 1989 poster for Pine Street Theatre swapping the band name Alcoholics Unanimous with Mudhoney? It remains a mystery.

In any case, this incident shows, from my perspective, how suggestible Chris could be, and how casually he could accept some things, like the changing of his band name, that others (such as myself) might take much more seriously.

Other than Chris’ narrative, I am unable to find any additional information on the band that was called ALOST – including when they played at Long Goodbye. If nothing else you can say that ALOST band lived up to their name.

According to Chris’ draft memoir, the show that Danielson is referring to – where The Untouchables played at the Long Goodbye with the Rats, and Greg Sage in the audience, was in June 1980. In his writings, Chris says on that night there were “Four awesome bands” and notes that The Rats were headlining – but he goes on to list only three bands in total. The line up he lists was The Imperialist Pigs – a proto-Poison Idea band fronted by Tom Roberts (who died in 2006, age 47); The Untouchables (specifically, Chris Newman, Mark Nelson, Dave Koenig, Chon Carter); and The Rats – Fred Cole, Toody Cole, and Sam Henry. Sam had recently left the Wipers. This was the show with Greg Sage in the audience.

If I had to guess – I’d suspect that Chris writing “four awesome bands” was an error – that he had the image of Greg Sage in his head which glitched his memory – but the Wipers didn’t actually play that night.

Did Chris know for a fact that this was June 1980 and not May 18? I don’t know, but the sense I get is that not only was this not the first show that he played at the Long Goodbye – that The Untouchables had already played a few shows, mostly at the Long Goodbye, and Chris seems to have felt that Sage may have been there specifically to see The Untouchables perform.

It seems that this given date of May 18, 1980 being a “first” for The Untouchables is not correct, and without any corroborating evidence it’s hard to know if The Untouchables even played on this date. If they did – where’s the source?

Why do I call this detail a “red flag”? For a couple of reasons. First, in terms of the history of the band – if Danielson cannot provide a source or any corroborating evidence for this claim – it means that it’s just something he heard or even something he made up. This, along with a refusal to acknowledge or correct false information when presented with conflicting evidence from primary sources – makes him a profoundly unreliable historian. And this is a bit remarkable, considering that, according to his Amazon author’s bio, he has a journalism degree (B.A. Western Washington University, Bellingham) and two history degrees (B.A. University of Washington, Seattle; M.A. George Washington University, Washington D.C.).

Mind you – this is just one of Danielson’s many problematic or demonstrably false claims. And with so many problems in this document, it’s hard to wonder if there’s a reason why this came after Chris’ death. It’s particularly important because when not much work has been published about an artist, every work that is published has greater weight, and false or misleading information can be carried from one document to the next. And if you don’t cite your sources, it can be near impossible to trace down where anything came from.

This, by the way, has been an ongoing issue between me and other historians of northwest music. Some are more problematic than others, but all seem to be actively hiding or altering certain bits of information.

The other reason I called this detail about the Mt St Helens eruption a “red flag” is that there does in fact seem to be some strange connections to Mt St Helens in terms of dates, names, locations, etc. Whether that’s something I want to get into – or at the risk of sounding a bit paranoid – whether it was a trap Danielson laid for me – I haven’t decided.

painting of post-eruption Mt St Helens from Kurt Cobain's collection
Cross, Charles – Cobain Unseen (2008) – p 98-99
image from Kurt Cobain’s collection described as “landscape painting” is clearly post-eruption Mt St Helens with writing across the top, reading “Frances Farmer will come back as fire to burn all the liars and leave a blanket of ash on the ground”