Tag: Untouchables

Matches: Untouchables 1980 and Nirvana 1993

This is one of the many posters advertising for a show Chris would play that was secretly making Chris the butt of the joke (and of course later, when it was Boo Frog, we were both the butt of the joke. You can decide for yourself whether the Nirvana poster deliberately evokes it. Bound, endangered women were kind of a staple of 1980s punk rock posters. In this case she looks like a 1940s movie star… kind of like Francis Farmer.

What’s in a name? (part 1) Goners/Untouchables/Napalm Beach

What is in the name of a rock and roll band? Nothing and everything.

I want to start by talking about Napalm Beach, with the idea that I’m now moving toward the idea of Nirvana and Napalm Beach as mirrors of each other, because that seem to have been an intent. “One above, one below.” I believe this is what you see indicated on Tarot Card number 1, the Magician, with the double edged wand that looks like it has a candle flame at each end, one arm pointing up, one down. What is magic but a potent type of mind control? That’s how I see it, anyway. Obviously there’s a lot more at work (global finance), but it’s really clear beyond clear there is an occult element to this running all down the west coast – Los Angeles, San Francisco (Monterey, Marin, Sonoma), Portland, Seattle.

With regards to Chris’ history in Portland, he seems to have formed this band called The Goners while living in San Jose, where his family had relocated in the 1970s. After trying and failing to get traction with his first all-originals band in Los Angeles in 1974, he’d spent a few years working as a sign painter. His family was going to a Pentecostal mega church in San Jose, where his two sisters would meet their husbands and marry young. His sister Becky’s husband (the one who in 1996 helped dump all of Chris’ belongings) had a father who worked for Boeing in San Jose, and I think that’s significant for a number of reasons. For one thing, that particular Boeing plant is closely linked to Stanford University. Both my parents have their PhD’s from Stanford. There is also a link to directed energy weapons.

So in that world, Chris formed this band called the Goners. Then Chris and his band relocated back to Longview. When and why Chris moved back and forth between San Jose and Longview is a bit murky to me, but I think there were tensions between him wanting to pursue rock n’ roll and trying out other more conventional ways to make a living. He had been in a covers band called Bodhi 1971-74 which had done pretty well, but he’d always been trying to transition to a band that did all or mostly originals and could still work regularly, progress, make records, etc. There was a whole thing going on at that time period with regard to managing the expectations of small town wanna be rock n’ rollers which is worth another entire essay (I swear I could write a thousand page book) – but I’ll leave that for now, except to say, things that Chris and I thought were just reasonable life-advice in the 1970s and 1980s often were in fact calculated, top-down, control and expectation-management programs. (My working theory right now, fwiw is that the punk movement was a CIA op.)

So the Goners, which I believe was basically Chris, maybe Dave Minick, and probably shifting drummers at first – moved to Longview, and then, because Longview was a small town, to Portland, which to them, was the big city. Chris had lived in Seattle in the past so I’m not sure why they chose Portland rather than Seattle, but they did. It may have been influence of people around Chris, like the band they first played with in Portland, another Longview band called Alost. What Chris wrote was that it was Alost who told the first club they played the band name was “Untouchables” and then the name stuck. As I said earlier, it shows how suggestible Chris could be. Where I would spend months trying to come up with a band name, or tweaking lyrics, Chris tended to go with first thoughts. He often wrote out songs fully formed. No draft one, draft two, crossouts, etc. If he was drafting and editing, it was all in his head.

Under the name Untouchables, between spring of 1980 and summer of 1981, the band blazed a trail through Portland and Seattle. They were playing constantly at Portland clubs like Urban Noize, The Met, 13th Precinct, The Long Goodbye, Euphoria; and in Seattle at The Wrex, Gorilla Room, and Metropolis. They opened for Joan Jett in Portland, Johnny Thunders in both Portland and Seattle. They were given a spot opening for a band called April Wine at the Paramount Theatre (not the best fit for them as it turned out). Then, in the summer of 1981, an LA ska band wrote a letter about the name Untouchables. Chris has described this in diffrent ways. At first it sounded like a cease and desist letter, but in his biography he indicates something subtler – that the band asked if he “owned” the name Untouchables. And Chris responded that they did not own the name, and the ska band thanked them, and began to use the name. What Chris wrote in his biography is this: “When we played our showcase gig at the Paramount a few months later, Double T productions changed our legal name to Napalm Beach.” Honestly, it boggles my mind, that as late as when he was writing these memoirs, 2010, Chris thought that a promoter could change his band’s “legal” name. As for how that name was developed – my understanding is it was Mark Nelson’s idea. Chris was obviously ok with it, and again, how he was thinking at the time, and the different influence pushing and pulling on him are worth examining in part because it speaks to where music was at that time, but also, what kinds of influences were beginning to surround Chris, and how they were – I think the word is manipulating – him. Mark Nelson was one of those influences.

The reason why I bring all of this up is, it seems to be part of a pattern. I wrote earlier about how the band was forced to slow down when in 1983 all of the clubs suddenly closed in Portland and Seattle. In this case, before that even happened, they’d spent a year creating buzz under the name Untouchables, only to get pushed from at least two different angles to change their band name. A name change is not the best move when you’ve already established recognition and momentum.

The reason why I started thinking about all of this right now is, as I’ve said, I’m now looking at Napalm Beach as the other side of the Nirvana coin. Nirvana’s show dates are, for the most part, all archived online now, and in taking a look at them, I realized something that wasn’t really clear from the biographies I was reading prior to 2010, which is that Nirvana also went through several name changes early on. Yes, this gets mentioned – but I never realized that, for example, Nirvana was actually playing shows under names like Pen Cap Chew or, more notably to me now – Skid Row.

Chainsaw Music

1982 Portland AM NW “punk scene” segment (excerpt)

What you see throughout the full video are people struggling to capture what their scene and sound is about in a TV soundbite, as well as complaining their music is being ignored by the local music press.

Chris used a lot of fuzz tones. Someone says “chainsaw music” – when Chris is asked “what is chainsaw music?” Chris says “I don’t know, you have to ask these guys.”

Untouchables / Napalm Beach shows in Seattle 1980-83

This is a distillation of some of the information recently published on a blog called Three Bands, Three Bucks: Seattle Clubs That Rocked 1980-95

Although it seems to be an ongoing project and not an exhaustive list, one thing I noticed is a drop off in frequency of Napalm Beach being booked in Seattle after 1989. Eric Danielson has also indicated that Napalm Beach, at least to him, seemed to “disappear” after their first European tour in November 1989. Although I’ve been critical of Danielson’s fact checking, this was a personal experience observation.

I now suspect that the disappearing was by design.

Information on the website also confirms what Chris had told me back in 2010 when he talked about his history playing in the northwest – that most small and mid-sized rock clubs seemed to close down in 1982. This happened in Seattle and Portland simultaneously. That is when Chris moved briefly to the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where he met Valarie, whom he would later marry. It is also where he was introduced to heroin. For various reasons I suspect all of that too, was by design.

When the Satyricon got running in 1983, 84 – Chris moved back to Portland. For many years Napalm Beach would headline at Satyricon at least twice a month, once with Snow Bud and once with Napalm Beach. Napalm Beach and Snow Bud also played many other clubs in Portland and Seattle, and occasionally elsewhere.

Untouchables started playing around Portland and Seattle in 1980. They changed their name to Napalm Beach in August 1981. Untouchables/Napalm Beach shows in Seattle before 1983 included

The Wrex (1980-82)

1981

March 21 – Untouchables
May 8-9 – Untouchables, X-15, Tiny HolesJuly 15 – Untouchables
July 17 – Untouchables, Crisis, Spectators
July 18 – Untouchables, Spectators
August 5-6 – Untouchables
August 9 – Untouchables, Executives
October 8-10 – Napalm Beach, Grey Matter
October 31 – Napalm Beach, Visible Targets, Sleeping Movement
November 14 – X, Napalm Beach
December 11 – Napalm Beach
December 12 – Napalm Beach, Visible Targets

1982

February 5 – The Untouchables
February 19 – The Fleshtones, Napalm Beach

The Wrex closed in March 1982, re-opening in January 1983 as The Vogue. The last published show was on February 20 and it was The Fleshtones with Blackouts.

The Showbox

1981

May 30 – Rescue The Rock Of The ’80s Spring Collection w/Untouchables, RPA, Nouveau Cliche
August 30 – Save The Gorilla Room Benefit w/The Enemy, Napalm Beach, Student Nurse, Spectators, Rapid-I, the Executives, DT’s, the Deans, Scizzors, Shatterbox, Fastbacks, the Rats, Joe Despair & the Future

Gorilla Room calendar July 1981
Gorilla Room calendar July 1981

1982

May 9 – KCMU Benefit – Visible Targets, Three Swimmers, Napalm Beach
September 26 – KCMU Benefit – The Cowboys, 54/40, Life In General, Napalm Beach, The Frazz, Pamona Boners
November 12 – Public Image Ltd., Napalm Beach

Gorilla Room (1980-81)

1980

December 12-13 – The Untouchables, Casey Nova

1981

February 27 – Red Dress, Untouchables
February 28 – The Enemy, Untouchables
April 28 – Cowboys, Untouchables
April 29 – Untouchables
April 30 – Untouchables, Skinny Ties
May 26 – The Cowboys, Untouchables
July 16 – Executives, Untouchables (this entry is missing from the website)
July 18 – Untouchables

With regards to the end of the Gorilla Room, the website states “On July 23rd, 1981, the PI noted that the Washington State Liquor Board ordered a month-long closure of the Gorilla Room due to numerous minor violations.” The club was given a number of sanctions and never re-opened.

August 1981 is when Untouchables changed their name to Napalm Beach. My 2013 version of story (relayed from Chris) was: “Napalm Beach closed down the Gorilla Room. The place was packed and everything and everyone was sloshing under a layer of beer. They partied until they passed out onstage. That was the end of the Gorilla Room.”

It sounds like the violations had to do with minors drinking on the premises. My notes state that “Underage patrons found onsite included Duff McKagan and Chuck Biscuits.”

Baby O’s (1980-82)

1981

August 7-8 – Untouchables
September 2-5 – Untouchables

1982

May 14-15 – No Cheese Please, Napalm Beach
June 18-19 – Hi-Fi, Napalm Beach

Golden Crown (1979-83)

1982

June 12 – Visible Targets, Napalm Beach
July 16 – Beat Pagodas, Napalm Beach
July 30-31 – 54/40, Napalm Beach
August 20-21 – Toiling Midgets, Napalm Beach
September 17-18 – Napalm Beach, Life In General, Rally Go
November 26 – Napalm Beach, Student Nurse, LeMax
December 17 – Napalm Beach, Next Exit

The site states “On February 19th, 1983, Golden Crown co-owner John Loui was killed along with 12 others in the infamous Wah Mee Massacre. Loui had sold his interest in the club before his death, but it is unclear if his partners, The Woos, were still part of the ownership at this time.

To be continued.

Untouchables at Long Goodbye – May 18, 1980

I have now found a part of Chris’ draft memoir that claims that The Untouchables did play on the night of the Mt St Helens eruption, at the Long Goodbye. It was possibly their first show in Portland, but it’s hard to tell as Chris was writing stream of consciousness and he would veer off on tangents. So it is possible that May 18, 1980 was the date of The Goners/Untouchables first show with Longview band, ALOST. However, Chris was pretty clear that the show where he met Greg Sage was the following June with Fred and Toody’s The Rats and Tom Roberts’ Imperialist Pigs. (Chris would never call Roberts by the “Pigg” nickname which he found insulting.)

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”