Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hardcore Archeology: The Young Republicans


Commentary by: Porcell

The YR's were my first stab at a punk band, circa 9th grade. The band consisted of 3/4's of the original Youth of Today lineup, namely me on guitar, Graham Phillips on bass and Darren Pesce on drums. We had a singer named Eric that didn't really show up to practice too often, mostly because he was slowly turning away from punk and hanging out with the "Drami's" at school. In case you don't know what a Drami is, it's the type of kid who hangs out at the drama club after school, smokes clove cigarettes and dresses in a psuedo-new wave jacket with puffy shoulders, skinny tie and a Cure button. You had to grow up in the 80's to really unappreciate this type of pretentious geek. Needless to say, as punks, the drami's were our arch enemies, so we booted Eric from the band rather quickly and maliciously.

By this time we were well into high school and pretty serious about the band, so we started looking for a new singer, with absolutely no luck for months. It was tough because me and Graham were really the only 'core kids around and punk was so alien back then that the rest of the school literally thought we should be locked up. Then our break came. Rumor had it that a skinhead had moved to the area and was going to North Salem high school, not far from where I lived. Graham and I cut out of school early and drove over to North Salem, asking everyone in the parking lot if they knew about this skinhead character, which every single person did. "Yeah that fucking weirdo? He's here, you'll see him when he gets out of class for sure, you can't fucking miss him!" We knew we had found a kindred spirit without even meeting this dude.

Sure enough, out walks this kid in full boots, braces and flight jacket, head shaved to the bone. I can't tell you how radical it was back then to shave your head not only with a buzzer, but with a razor. No one did that back then. The dude looked friggin' awesome, just for the shock and awe he generated by his appearance alone. We introduced ourselves, and he seemed psyched to have some friends because it was apparent he had made a lot of enemies at school already. He became our new singer that day without even trying out.

His name was Sam, and he was an interesting character. He was the son of these rich, ultra left wing intellectuals from the city who sought greener pastures out in the countryside of Westchester. Sam, unfortunately, had to be relocated kicking and screaming and was really bummed to leave the city. He was young but had already been to his fair share of shows and would dazzle us with stories about the lower east side, A7, moshing at CBGB's, and Harley Flanagan, the leader of a "punk gang called the Cro-Mags." Sam would come with us to the Anthrax when it was a tiny art gallery in Stamford, Connecticut and was the first person I ever heard describe slam dancing as "skanking." Thus he became known at the 'thrax as Sam the Skanking Skinhead, and he would go nuts on the dancefloor for every band.

Sam at the John Jay Highschool Battle of the Bands

Sam was really good friends with this kid Niels, a half oriental skinhead from the city who was better known as "Womp'm", the guy who drew all those awesome early Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags flyers (if you've never seen these before, do some searching on the internet, they were incredible). Womp'm would come up to Westchester to visit Sam from time to time, and when he did it was a big deal for us. We'd sit in Sam's room for hours while Womp'm would hold court and play all these new 7"s that came out, like the Abused, Cause For Alarm, Urban Waste and Antidote. We'd spin the records and practice moshing around the bed and stagediving off the dresser.

Niels came with us to the Anthrax once to see Youth Brigade, and he was a fury on the dancefloor. He broke his nose during Youth Brigade's set, and I raced up to the bathroom to see if he was ok, only to watch in awe as he crunched his crooked nose straight again with his hands and ran back downstairs to continue moshing before the song was even over. The dude was hardcore.

So, back to the Young Republicans... with Sam in the band we ditched all our Circle Jerks and Dead Kennedys cover songs and started writing our own material. Before long we had enough songs for a demo, so we recorded in the this tiny studio in the back of a music store in Katonah. Some of the music from that demo actually became Youth of Today songs in later incarnations. Here's the breakdown...

First Show -- The Anthrax

1. High School Rednecks: The music later became "Straight Edge Revenge" note for note. This was the first song on the demo and one of our big "hits," at least with the Anthrax crowd. "High school rednecks with long hair, chewing tobacco and going nowhere." Laugh, but rednecks were a big problem for us back then and would constantly would try to kick our ass. They were worse than the jocks. If you're not from north of White Plains, you just won't understand.

2. Respect For Authority (None): This song basically became "Stabbed In the Back." The lyrics were your standard "Fuck all parents, teachers and bosses" fare.

3. Backyard Bomb: "Expectations" was a modified version of this song, but with slightly different picking. About nuclear war. Remember, it was the Reagan era; that was some scary shiz.

4. Tumor: The music never became anything YOT, although it was a pretty decent (and blatant) rip off of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown." It was about how everything you eat causes cancer, which was pretty ironic considering we ate at McDonalds every day.

5. We're Gonna Sabotage Your Cookout: This one also never graduated to the Can't Close My Eyes ep, but it was our genuine hit song nonetheless. It's basically a fantasy about a gang of punks turning up at a suburban backyard cookout and busting the whole thing up. It was sort of like our "Fight For Your Right To Party."

6. We Got the Beat: Yep, a punk version of the Go-Go's song. Another Anthrax fave. Moby would tear it up for this one.

There might have been other songs on the demo, but quite honestly I haven't heard the damn thing in about 2 decades so that's all that's left in the memory banks. I've actually been trying to track down a copy for years, but I fear that, like Atlantis, it may have become lost over time. If anyone manages to get their hands on one, let me know.

One last cool anecdote in the short but illustrious career of the Young Republicans... like I said, the entirety of John Jay High hated us and thought we sucked, which made us very suspicious when the official Drami band called (and I shit you not) Purple Forest challenged us to a battle of the bands. Of course we couldn't back down because you don't show fear to your enemies, but they were much better musicians than us and could play Talking Heads songs flawlessly. Everyone thought we were gonna get seriously chumped in front of the whole school. On a whim, we made flyers for the event, complete with directions to John Jay auditorium and brought them to the Anthrax one weekend. Quite honestly I didn't think any of the Anthrax crowd were going to show because Connecticut was kind of far from our school and most of the punks that hung out there were older (like 19, which seemed really freakin' old to us at the time).

Porcell at the John Jay Highschool Battle of the Bands

On the night of the battle, though, in an amazing display of scene unity, practically the whole entire Connecticut hardcore scene showed up to support us. Jeff Cud, one of the sound guys at the Anthrax, had this punk car called the Cudmobile that was covered with stickers and had a huge cow with the CTHC symbol spraypainted on the hood, and you can't imagine how psyched we were when we saw that thing pull into the John Jay parking lot, followed by about 6 other graffittied junk cars. Out stumbled about 2 dozen punks dressed in chains and leather. The New Haven crew were Exploited-type punks, and they were in rare form -- drunk, mohawked and completely obnoxious. They looked totally intimidating and we loved it.

The librarian who was taking tickets at the door was literally scared out of her mind when the Anthrax crew marched up to the door, and she refused to let them in. I personally complained to the principal, pulling the "discrimination" card since there were no restrictions over who was allowed to come to these kind of open events. The principal walked over and said, "What can we do, we have to let them in..."

We were psyched. The school was scared. Graham hit the opening bass line of "High School Rednecks" and the slamming started. It was bedlam. There wasn't any security whatsoever, just a few teachers who were plainly too freaked out to intervene. Mohawked bodies flew off the stage; everyone was grabbing the mic singing along. The rest of the school looked on wide-eyed as we went off. We managed to play all our songs plus a cover of "Wonderbread" by the Vatican Commandos with me on vocals, Cappo on drums, Fudd from No Milk On Tuesday on bass and the guitarist for the VC's on guitar. Then the gym teacher told us we had to stop because there were too many people onstage. Purple Forest had a tough act to follow.

Covering "Wonderbread" (Cappo on drums in the background)

From then on at school, people treated me with a strange kind of respect. Granted, they still thought I was a freakin' psychopath, but they all knew I had this whole exciting, creative life outside the scope of their tiny boring world. And it's been that way for me ever since - I've been on the outside and happy to be there.

I know this is kind of long, but I think I just needed to get this out of my system and tell all there is to tell about the semi-obscure Young Republicans and get it over with. To the 3 people out there who care, I salute you...


Random Related Fact: In the entire history of North Salem High School, the only students to get officially expelled were Wendy O'Williams of the Plasmatics, Sam Collins of the Young Republicans and Gavin Van Vlack of Burn.

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