I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe the exact origins of Napalm Beach. Chris tended to connect the name change from Untouchables to Napalm Beach to the changing of drummers from Chon Carter to Sam Henry. To Chris this also made sense, because of the different styles of the two drummers, Chon being a simpler New Wave style drummer and Sam being influenced by jazz rhythms of Buddy Rich and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Thanks to the help of other archivists, I’ve learned that the first show that the band played under the name Napalm Beach was on July 17, 1981. It sounds like Sam didn’t start playing shows with them until the following October. Old show calendars show a gradual adapting of the name change by clubs – for example, in August 1981 some clubs were listing them as Untouchables, and some as Napalm Beach.
I’ve written before about the name change from the Goners to the Untouchables. It sounds like the Goners was actually a Ramones-inspired punk-influenced rock band that Chris formed around 1978, who were playing shows at this time, and who recorded a demo in 1979 at Wave Studios. In fact, according to Chris’ memoir, by 1980 it looks like he’d been in the studio twice already – once with Bodhi, and once, in 1979 with the Goners.
Chris wrote: “I enjoyed hanging around with Greg (Sage) and talking about music. Soon we were recording on 2″ 16 track tape out at Wave Studios in Vancouver, Washington. It blew my mind when I walked in and realized it was the very same studio I had recorded at with Bodhi eight years before.” He was talking about the sessions with Sage for Trap Sampler which would have been in 1981. That means that Chris had recorded with Bodhi in 1973. He likely left Bodhi that same year as by 1974 he’d already formed his own original band and gone down to Los Angeles in an attempt to break into the music scene there.
The Goners, it seemed, had recorded something in San José in 1979. Chris doesn’t mention the name of the studio, but the name of the owner, Richard Dias, who Chris had also employed in 1984 to duplicate the Pugsley tapes.
It’s pretty clear that there was a continuum between Untouchables and Napalm Beach, the catalyst for the name change being the conflict with the LA ska band who wanted the Untouchables name. What is less clear is to what extent there was a continuum between the Goners and the Untouchables. The Goners had been going back and forth between Longview, Washington and San José, California, while it could be said that the Untouchables really started in Portland. Of course, the way the Untouchables started was that The Long Goodbye – apparently following instructions from someone in the band ALOST – changed the band name on the poster, and the new name stuck. This may have been their very first gig in Portland, and that gig may have been May 18, 1980, the day of the Mt St Helen’s eruption. In fact, that date, so far, is the earliest date I can find for the Untouchables playing in Portland.
There are other ways that the band changed around this time. It sounds like this is about the time that Chon Carter started playing drums; the previous drummer being someone named Luke Pyro. Chris mentions Pyro in his memoir, drops the narrative, and then mentions the band hiring “seventeen year old Chon Carter” of Longview, Washington to play drums, beginning either in 1979 or early 1980. It sounds like Mark Nelson was in the band at this time, playing rhythm guitar, and the bassists were switching back and forth between Dave Minick. Minick actually seems to have been the first bassist with the Goners, but by 1980, after Chris had moved back to Longview, Minick was still in San Francisco and playing with a punk band called The Cosmetics, so Dave Koenig ended up playing bass. Chris liked Minick’s playing and had described him to me as “Napalm Beach’s first bassist” – so you can see that there was in fact a continuum between the Goners and the Untouchables.
Here is what Chris wrote about hiring Chon Carter:
“We ran into the seventeen year old Chon Carter on Commerce avenue in Longview. It was a sunny spring afternoon. Chon stopped to talk to us in front of The Minder Binder. We offered him the drum posistion in the Goners based on his looks and age alone. His brother Cris Carter was a known rock drummer in Longview’s ALOST. Chon boasted, “I’m already in a band… We play heavy metal… We’re called LAMANTARA!” He held up the logo he had carefully scrawled during school detention that week. We waited a few hours, and it must have sunk in. He came back to the Minder Binder where we were playing Six million Dollar Man pin ball and drinking pitchers of cheap beer. Chon told us he was ready to join the Goners. Then he quit school. The band was off and running.”
Chris indicates that the Goners first show was at the Stop Inn in Rainer, Oregon, writing “We got our act together there just like Bohdi had done in 1972. It was still the same seedy dive owned by Bud Diss (Erika’s note: I’ve seen his name written elsewhere as Al Diss). Diss was a perfect name for the old saloon owner and card room gangster… The Goners tore it up, working out some great tunes, and we had a great old time blowing minds! I was writing pop songs with a punk edge. I followed the Monkees and the Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart school of songwriting. We were ready for the Big City of Portland, Oregon.”
If it is true that May 18, 1980 was the date of the Goners/Untouchables first show in Portland, it’s likely that is also when the band’s name was changed from the Goners to the Untouchables. This is the show where they opened for Chon’s brother’s band, ALOST.
What seems to be going on with Chris, is he seems to have been marking changes in the band partly by changes in drummers. First the Goners had Luke Pyro. Was this in San José? Was it Pyro who played with them in their 1979 studio sessions? I’m not sure, but if I’d had to guess, that’s what I’d guess. Was Mark Nelson in the band then? Possibly. Minick may have been on bass. Then Chris (and Mark?) moved back to Longview, and Minick stayed in San Francisco, joining the Cosmetics. Chris and Mark Nelson hired Dave Koenig and Chon Carter in Longview, and the Goners played their first local show in Ranier, Oregon, soon plotting out a move to “the big city” – Portland, Oregon.
So even though the roots of the Goners likely go back to 1978 – that period of time is murky. I think that based on the information currently available, the most concise and accurate way of describing Napalm Beach’s origin is to say that they formed in 1979 in Longview, Washington, and moved to Portland in 1980. And that their first show was was in Rainier, Oregon – probably in 1979 – and their first show in Portland was at the Long Goodbye, May 18, 1980, opening for ALOST, another Longview, Washington based band. And that this is the show where the band name was changed from the Goners to the Untouchables.
In researching this, I came across another couple of details that I found interesting, something Chris mentions in passing – first is that Mark Nelson had played in ALOST, and it appears that The Goners and ALOST socialized and likely played together several times. And that the lead guitar player for ALOST was named Tom Peterson – the same name as the iconic Portland car dealer who’s face was pictured on the cover of Wipers 10-29-79 album, and on the watch that Kurt Cobain was said to have always worn.
This is what Chris wrote: