I’m pretty sure these are the last of the old photos sitting on my hard drive. Assorted live shots and some odds and ends.
In response to last month’s post about Tom Troccoli, Tom himself has added a Meat Puppets page to his site. There, he describes his first encounter with this odd group of desert punks. He also alludes to the strong feelings those memories still hold for him. Tom’s sharp memory, good eye for detail and quirky use of the occasional all-caps makes for entertaining reading.
Even better, he passed along his collection of Meat Puppets photos and his permission for me to share them. These smudged, aging poloroids document the ten weeks we spent on tour with Black Flag and the Nig Heist back in 1984. I hadn’t seen these pix in two decades, and they really take me back. I don’t recall ever being that young.
These days, I work with a lot of young people. I always encourage them to think hard about their future and not to take it for granted. But there’s not a one of them who wouldn’t quit their jobs in a heartbeat if they had the chance to go on the road for two and a half months. These pix bear out that dream pretty well.
We had only two days off, we slept on the floors of strangers and we were making twenty-five bucks a night. We endured arrests, snowstorms and those annoying huge pots of spagetti the promoters would make to feed us all. (You haven’t lived until you try to serve yourself a plate of overcooked pasta while Rollins glowers over you, making sure you don’t take more than he feels you deserve.) But what 23-year-old could pass up the opportunity to drive across the country, put on eye-liner and pose in front of a Detroit tenement?
Anyway, Tom offered a selection of descriptive comments to go with some of his favorites from this collection. The all-caps have been left intact.
Photo #2: “I’m overhead. Cris has tossed himself backwards into the crowd and is being supported by the fans. Somewhere I have a photocopy of a contact sheet from ANOTHER photog. He snapped one at the EXACT moment I snapped mine, and you can see me hovering over the crowd with Polaroid. This one’s D.C.”
Photo #5 : “We made a gag out of claiming you were Raymond’s model for the My War cover, and here Davo is NOT trying to knife you (yet), but emulating the sleeve. This was the same Denny’s the three of you tipped the waitress by dumping your half filled plates on the rug under the table.”
Photo #6: “Check the expressions on the folks BEHIND you! This is at a McDonald’s at Niagra Falls New York a few hours before crossing the border and we have ingested anything possibly contraband. Clearly, the effects are taking hold.”
Photo #7: “You MADE me shoot this one AS Bostrom being Elvis circa 1972 Madison Square Garden post-gig. This is maybe my all-time favorite picture of you. It PERFECTLY captures the humor and spirit I best remember in you.”
Photo #10: “This is the exact moment I came running out to the van in Atlanta with the latest ish of Rolling Stone awarding you (and The Minutemen) 4 Stars for MP II. YOU may have snapped this one.”
Photo #17: “We each took one of each other being blasted in the head full on by the Surfer. I can’t find the one you took of me. That one’s Atlanta.”
Photo #18: “Right outside Birmingham Alabama. I had just that moment heard the news that Marvin Gaye Sr. had murdered Marvin Gaye Jr., rolled down the window, shouted the news, and clicked the shot.”
By 1982, the Meat Puppets were all living together: dogs, girlfriends, hangers-on (i.e. drummers), all of squeezed into one little house in Phoenix’s historic Fairview district. None of us worked (well, the girlfriends did, but that stopped shortly after they moved in). I slept in the practice room behind the drums and subsisted on coins cadged from under the sofa cushions.
In the fall, we all moved clear out to Peoria. We stayed there until Curt’s twins were born, after which I moved back in with my mom and everybody else relocated closer to the center of town. The first two of these pix are from the Peoria compound. Note the three-foot high dead weeds behind us in the first photo.
The next two were taken the same year on a couple different west coast tours. I don’t remember the location of the waterfall (probably somewhere around Yosemite), but I know the book I’m holding is about Elvis. The target practice took place on a mountain near Bakersfield. Our van got stuck on the way back down, so I had to walk a couple hours to a filling station for a tow.
The next two pix are from a 1985 visit to Graceland. That’s me at the King’s graveside, and that’s Cris across the street in the gift shop that had Elvis’ plane in front of it. I bought a cool shirt with the TCB logo on it. I still have the shirt, but it no longer fits.
Eventually, we all moved down to Tempe and wound up in separate houses. But we were still within walking distance of each other. Basically, we lived in each others laps for about a dozen years. Curt eventually moved to California, settling finally in Texas.
The final pic was taken in New York, at the party where we received our gold records for “Too High To Die.” I still have mine; it hangs in the back bedroom, right under my wife’s college diploma.
Clearly, the Puppets were kids that any mother could love, but how much do we really know about their respective families? Did Derrick’s mom also like to dress him up and pose him? Were there musical instruments lying around Cris and Curt’s house as well? The answers to these questions may never be known. But what photographic evidence does reveal this much: the boys were cute when they were little.
Since these are the only six pix that I scanned from a shoot that numbered over a hundred, they must have been my favorites. The session with photographer Joseph Cultice took place in the summer of 1995, for the purpose of album and promotional art, as well as magazine covers.
We first started using Joseph around 1985. His first official placement with us was the press photography for the “Out My Way” EP in 1986. I’d like to think we had a hand in giving him his first “start” in the business, but the truth is, he would have done it with or without us. He’s still out there working hard, and I’m happy to say that he’s so successful that he doesn’t even need to post any of his old Meat Puppets work on his Web site.
We continue now to post and purge the various odds and ends found in the various directories on my hard drive.
The first one is by Rusty Pusser. I’m pretty sure the next two were taken by Naomi Petersen. The next is by Renata Golden. The second to last, with Curt in the straw cowboy hat is by Joseph Cultice. And the final one is by Brian Mahoney. Savvy owners of “Classic Puppets” will recognize three of them, and recognize the other two for the outtakes they are.