Guerilla show at the University of Miami. Opening for Black Flag in Albany. First mention of "Broken Talent". Final performance.
A while back, when compiling the BROKEN TALENT anthology lp "Broken Talent Rules No One", I solicited memories of the band from some of the people who were there when and where it all happened. The original idea was to print them all in a booklet that was to come with the album.
As it turns out, there were so many memories that it would be impractical to include them all in a single booklet. So instead I wrote my own liner notes and everyone else's anecdotes and stories languished in the TPOS archive.
Until now. Thanks to the wonder of the internet (which never runs out of space) I'm able to present, unexpurgated and uncensored.... complete and unedited..... in all its shame and glory..... the bonus deluxe tale of BROKEN TALENT as told by those who helped write it.
In those days, things were changing very fast for me. Not that I was ever really sheltered but within a few months spanning 1983-84 I suddenly had a new group of friends and my interests in everything from music to literature to chemical experimentation just exploded. Punk was the essential glue in all that and Broken Talent were among the very first to hit me over the head and make me want to BE part of that scene. I saw them as equal parts dysfunctional, driven, rancorous, amiable, brilliant, insane, and unpredictable. Much like a lot of the people I was meeting, to their credit, and I suppose how I liked to imagine myself at the time. It was a good, instant fit.
So of course I jumped at the opportunity to go on tour with them. Any excuse to get out of Miami was a good one but this was better than most. Much of it is a hazy blur, with people split into different cars arriving at various Southern destinations disdainful of any real "schedule" but the liberating, socially unacceptable level of sheer FUN remains indelible.
We did some truly crazy shit. One detour was to "Heritage USA" outside Charlotte, the Chrisitan Disney World of its time led by the alternately comical and terrifying televangelist duo of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. So here's a half dozen or so Miami punkers in various states of physical and mental dishevelement in the beating heart of Reagan-era evangelical lunacy and what do we do? Denounce their hypocrisy? Make an impassioned stand for reason and science? No. We did laundry. Hey, they had a laundromat and we needed one, ok? Really nice laundromat, too, aside from the "I would like to slowly and painfully kill you" glares we received the entire time there. And everything came out "whiter than white," of course.
On the way out, a woman gave us a bible and said she'd be praying for us. I'd already read it (the sadistic parts are great) so I gave it to Rick who proceeded to "edit" the Good Book by ripping out pages and tossing them from the car. No bolts of lightning or hail of locusts fell from the sky, but we WERE followed by His Security Patrol and then a cop to the state line and somehow, unbelievably, not pulled over. I guess God hated Jim Bakker, too.
Other adventures? Well, in Durham (where I learned the science behind "gravity bongs" from Tex and the Horseheads) I led an expedition of inquiry and research to the Lucky Strike Factory, where we hoped to observe the birthing process of these iconic American-made cigarettes that have blazed a path of glorious wheezing, hacking, and spitting up green bile for millions through the years. What else were we going to do in town, enroll at Duke? Nixon went there, you know. Anyway, as Mark Feehan still reminds me to this day (with "Lucky Strike Factory" serving as a euphemism for "George is Hopelessly Lost") we spent an entire afternoon driving all over Durham--and possibly parts of Idaho and Finland--looking for the damn place. Finally, we returned to the house we were all crashing at, adjourned to the back porch for a smoke, and gazed down the hillside to see the fucking Lucky Strike Factory no more than a mile away. I blame it on too much gravity.
Then there was the Diner in Atlanta. Supposedly a famous place (so famous I can't remember the name) right on Ponce de Leon, who as you will recall from 4th grade history discovered the Lucky Strike Factory. In not so much a "great story" as a special moment, I remember sitting there with (equally inebriated) Libby Bentley of Morbid Opera fame and the two of us insisting we wanted an order of "Dog Bread and Monkey Cakes" from this poor, harried waitress. After about our fifth plea for this very special dish (I believe I told her I had seen it on the kids menu) she blew her stack and angrily announced to the entire diner that "we do NOT have Dog Bread NOR do we have Monkey Cakes!" I felt kinda bad about it but then looked over and saw a line cook who looked EXACTLY like Little Richard circa 1957 snickering to himself. I'll bet he would have made us some Dog Bread and Monkey Cakes.
The shows themselves? Broken Talent? Well, they were the Maypole for all the psychosis swirling around. The nuclear core. Playing with JFA. The show in that funky, semi-abandoned church. Columbia, South Carolina and rooftop madness next to the venue involving hurled items and pagan rituals. Shit, they even let me help close out a few sets with my beat-up, 50 dollar alto sax bleating out completely dissonant noise to a completely dissonant version of "Sex Bomb" (as if there's any other version). It was pretty fucking great.
I've forgotten a hundred things that happened, but for me the whole thing was liberating. And stuff that may seem a little juvenile, reckless, even destructive (self or otherwise) 30 years later actually make me jealous of a time and place in life where you CAN get away with all that. And really, what the fuck else is punk for, right?
My first band was named after Broken Talent. That was Lethal Yellow, which my bandmates Alex and Paul had gotten from the BT song, “My Old Man,” in which said old man “gives the plants lethal yellow.” We thought it was hilarious, as that line meant pissing in a bunch of potted plants, when in fact lethal yellow was a plant disease that once killed a huge amount of palm trees in South Florida. We didn’t know what we were doing, but at least we ended up with a name that screamed “Florida punk.” Not that we were thinking about that at the time.
Broken Talent thought we were legitimate enough to help us get our first show, at an auditoriom all-ages show in the fall of 1984. The headliner was a then-new band, Antiseen, who bravely soldier on today playing some of the finest punk rock down south. From what I remember, we played terribly that night, but they liked us enough to invite us back for another show at the same venue the following spring. Lethal Yellow didn’t last much longer after that, but we remained around the BT orbit for some time.
I actually ended up joining Broken Talent for a couple of months in 1985. We played two shows: one in front of about five people and another in front of around 500. The first was at a club in Lantana, Florida, on a weeknight, where we got an audience consisting of a few friends and a greater number very angry bar patrons who hated us. The other was opening for the Dead Kennedys and Raw Power. My stint in Broken Talent was really a blip. In an incidence of great timing, they fired me the same day I quit.
Broken Talent carried on for a while, breaking up not long after, but members carried on the legacy—Marky founded the Trash Monkeys, Malcolm made a racket with Bunny Brains—but this is where it all started. Listen. It turned out pretty well, don’t you think?
First of all, you should know that Broken Talent is Malcom Tent and Malcolm Tent is Broken Talent. Those of us who were "in" Broken Talent, were only there because he wanted us there and well, because we had nothing better to do at the time. And while that doesn't sound like a compliment to Malcolm, it's the honest truth. After all, we were living in South Florida in the mid-eighties. Playing in a garage band was a hell of a lot more rewarding than crisping oneself at the beach and doing loads of cocaine. For me, anyway.
I met Malcolm at American Sr High School in 1982. I was an incoming freshman who had just discovered punk rock during a lonely and formative summer and when I caught sight of this skinny, pimply senior with frazzled hair and a Devo button, I knew we had to meet. As luck would have it, my older brother said he was "OK" because he was friends with kids in his Latin Club, such as Richard Malia. That's Big Santo to you. So I joined the Latin Club and got myself invited along to a midnight showing of "Song Remains The Same" and because of Malcolm's bad ear, we had to evacuate during "Rock and Roll". That's when our friendship blossomed and before long I was getting off on his bus stop and spending the afternoons listening to his records. Lots of Ramones, Sex Pistols, Joe Jackson… I still don't understand his fascination with Grand Funk but hey, I learned to love Patti Smith through him and he STILL calls me every Easter Sunday as an homage to my love of Patti. Anyway, before too long, Malcolm decided that he HAD to be one of his idols and form a band. And in true punk spirit, it would be as D.I.Y. as humanly possible. Anyone who has ever known Malcolm, knows exactly how true he's stayed to this one principle.
Santo was on board from day one and I'm not entirely sure that the whole thing wasn't his idea. It may have been mutual. I don't recall how anyone else was recruited or even in what order. I wasn't an integral enough part of the band and, truth be told, I wasn't very interested. All I knew is that my pal needed me to play a part in it because he knew no one else and hey, I was going to be there anyway, so why not? So a bass guitar was handed to me, notes were shown to me and I did what I was told. I couldn't get used to a pick so I defiantly pushed up my desert plate-sized glasses and announced that I was the next Tina Weymouth. Screw you, we're playing a hardcore show at Flynn's, so there. And we did. It was fun checking ID's at age 16 alongside Mr. Flynn. And if everyone else forgot to mention this stray fact, I will: We were supposed to be called "Broken Palette" but Joe Flynn or his ridiculous wife couldn't make sense of Malcolm's speech impediment or maybe it was a cheap phone but it sounded like "Talent" to them so there ya go. I wasn't even nervous when we finally got on stage. We all pretty much sucked and really, the ten minute version of Flipper's "Sex Bomb" would put everyone in a stupor anyway. Or make them flee to the lobby. I didn't care.
And I didn't care when I was asked to relinquish the bass and move to drums. I just blamed my wonky playing on my double-jointed fingers and spent an afternoon under Malcolm's little brother's drum tutelage. Brian was an outstanding metal drummer who was just agreeable enough to show me how to play a few standard beats so I could fake my way through a set of cover songs for BT's next gig, "Psychedelic Tuesday" at Fire and Ice in Miami. We would play "Dr. Roberts", "Spanish Castle Magic" and "What Goes On" for a friendly crowd. (I enjoy telling folks that we shared the bill with The Chant, a band my husband would later join.) I remember my crash stand falling over in slow motion while Libby from Morbid Opera laughed hysterically. Ha ha, Libby. I still remember that! And then I got stuck sitting cross-legged in a corner with some dude from the Revolutionary Communist Party who decided to "struggle" with me over the fact that I had read some Ayn Rand. Should have kept my mouth shut. But that was part of the fun of being "in" BT and being around that scene. You never know who you'd meet and for a kid from a working class Hialeah neighborhood, it was all pretty rad. Right, Malcolm?
So yeah, I was replaced again and that was A-OK with me. I had no aspirations to be a rock star. I would be content to help lug equipment now and then, join them on a mini-tour of the south with Brian Douglas Clemons, and get to say for years after, that I was in a band once. I got to look Jeff Clayton in the eye after their 1992 Ft. Lauderdale show and say, "Nice touch, blowing up that bible for my old band's song, 'My God Can Beat Up Your God' but I'm pretty sure we played it better, dude." I married a guitar player and while my kids get a kick out of seeing his face on the back of the one album he recorded with them, they have always heard tales of how Mom was in a garage band and every so often, someone says "Hey, I remember you! You were in Broken Talent!". And oddly enough, it's taken me forever to write up some notes for this thing and while Malcolm was tapping his foot, guess what? I got asked to audition to be the drummer in an all-girl punk band of (mostly) forty-somethings, Angry Pudding. So this time, I practiced and now I'm in a band that truly wants me! This time, I'm not just filling space until someone better comes along. And while I'll enjoy my time in this band and impress the hell out of my teenage daughters, nothing will be quite as cool, quite as SLACK, as being in THE quintessential South Florida garage band, Broken Talent.
It all started in 1984 at Open Books and Records in North Miami Beach. I don’t remember if I placed an ad or answered one, but in short time I was being auditioned by a Mr. Malcolm Tent at my family’s house in Unincorporated Northwest Miami. Malcolm was personable and friendly so whatever nerves I had before the audition quickly went away once we broke the ice.
I grew up near a 7-11 at 103rd street and I-95, sometimes witnessing wrestlers from the Gordon Solie era buying snacks and beverages after a long night of choreographed beatings at the convention center. Guys like Dusty Rhodes, Kevin Sullivan and The Purple Haze. When I turned eighteen, the showman in me wanted to be like those wrestlers and perform to mesmerize the masses and Broken Talent would be the vehicle for such ambitions. Never mind that I didn’t even own a drum kit at the time- Malcolm brought over a set of scrapple and it was my first time playing drums. Prior to that audition, my drumming experience came from beating on desks with my fists at school. But Malcolm didn’t need to know that and somehow I got the gig. I was now a member of a band, a gang. I became a Broken Talent.
Enthusiasm for the drums was my greatest asset. My second greatest asset was a willingness to (mostly) take direction and creative criticism from a non-drummer, Marky Feehan aka Marky Awesome. He kept my inner Keith Moon reigned in and told me where to place the 2 and the 4, when not to bust on the hi hat and oh yeah he hated drums solos, but so did Ringo Starr, so I hated drum solos too but only because I wasn’t practiced and formatted to do them. Otherwise I would have eventually worked my version of the drum solo from ‘West Side Story’ by Buddy Rich into the Broken Talent set list.
Santo was to BT what Robert Plant was to Led Zeppelin. Initially, I didn’t understand the appeal of this guy as a vocalist – he wore coke bottle glasses and had a perpetual five o' clock shadow but not chic in a Sonny Crocket manner. He usually dressed like a bum and didn’t sing so much as make words come from his mouth. But he was perfect- a combination of feigned apathy and snark on stage, which only pissed off the punks even more. They wanted it delivered fast and furious but we weren’t that kind of band to begin with. "Faster! Faster!” they shouted, with their lime green Gainesville haircuts and GBH t-shirts. "Okay, you want faster?" Santo asked in earnest. "Here we go everybody, this is a song called ‘Faster'’’. Of course it was anything but. That night, the wannabe slam dancers would have to settle for cranking up D.R.I. in the parking lot if they wanted it "faster". And telling us we sucked and we were all hippy bone-smokers.
Looking back, I suppose BT was an antidote or alternative to the burgeoning hardcore punk scene in South Florida. Everyone and their grandma were playing 160 beats per minute thrash. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good bands playing hardcore punk but most of them were just riding a trend for ass, grass or cash.
I suppose anecdotal musings can be dicey at best but here goes nothing.
The summer tour of 1985 was a success. Yes we only had five people watch us at the Electric Banana in Pittsburgh and then had to sleep in our car (that was awful) but we did very well in New York. Our first stop there was Albany, opening for Black Flag. Henry Rollins was still a hair farmer and the show took place at a fireman’s hall. Santo was looking sharp in his Miami Vice white jacket and a couple of babes talked him up. "So, you gonna buy us some drinks?" “Oh, we don’t have any money”. And poof they were gone, with Marky cracking up and Santo completely dumbfounded.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
From the beginning………during the tour, we didn’t play any shows in Florida. It was as if we needed to escape our home state. Atlanta was nice and the Powell family kept us fat and happy with hot food and a good place to sleep. We then made our way up to North Carolina where some drunk skinhead heard Malcolm make a slight of skinheads on a college radio station so the dude came looking for us but eventually he gave up the ghost. It gave us a good scare though. We then got the misery of Pittsburgh out of the way, played Albany and then had a blast in New York City, playing two shows at CBGB’s. One of those gigs we opened for the Cro-Mags, a notorious skinhead group. I think they called us hippies a couple times and the drummer did a skateboarding routine backstage (he was the only nice guy in the band). How in blue hell we got to open for the Cro-Mags, you’ll have to ask Malcolm.
We brought a blow-up doll on stage and Santo made romantic overtures to her. He then went to share his passion for this doll by handing her to the mosh pit. Big mistake-they set upon that doll like a pack of piranhas on a leg of lamb. Funny that people were moshing to us. That never happened in Miami.
Heading back south, can’t forget that the members of ANTI-SEEN gave us a place to stay and made us feel welcome in North Carolina. By the time we got back to Florida, we were all shagged out and that was from only two weeks of touring. I don’t think Broken Talent was built to tour; too much angst and a clash of personalities.
I was kicked out of BT a few times, enough that it became a running joke of sorts, I rarely took it personal due to the fact that I was a handful back then and I knew it (I’m kind of a handful these days too). They would kick me out and two weeks later ask me back in. And I always jumped at re-joining because I loved the music so much. I found it curious those guys couldn’t replace me in a big city such as Miami. Was I really that dynamic? I don’t think so. I was very young and still learning how to play drums and there were many other drummers out there who could hold the beat just as well if not better at the time. If I had to guess, it was familiarity that kept me in the fold no matter how much of a headache I may have been. BT were an odd mix of genuine weirdoes, thus harder for them to create a comfort zone with newbies. Nowadays being a freak isn’t as much of a stigma. Hey I’m an artist, and I’m *eccentric.*
My final gig with BT was opening for the Dead Kennedys in November 1985 at the Cameo Theater on Miami Beach. I was nervous, opening for a band I practically worshipped. So I got drunk. And then I got real drunk. And I played sloppy. The drum set was moving across the floor in several directions and cymbal stands were falling over. To cap it off, I sang a bush league version of ‘*The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave’*. Malcolm called me the next day and told me it was over, this time for good. And I knew it was the end of the line, that I wouldn’t be getting a phone call three weeks later asking me back.
BT got another drummer and did a few gigs and a radio show interview or two. But not six months after my ejection, BT broke up. Malcolm moved to Connecticut and that sealed it. The dejected part of me, the envious side was glad they broke up. After all, what were they without me in the mix! But that was short lived. When BT died, it truly was the end of an era in Miami music and it stung. I guess using a Cinderella song here would be inappropriate but here goes; *Don’t know what you got til it’s gone*………
I hope you enjoy the songs on this record as much as I do. My personal favorites are ‘My Old Man’, ‘Shemp Conquered The World’ and ‘Soap Opera Girl’.
BT rules (no one)
December 5th, 2011
THE SET UP
It’s 1982 and I am going to high school in Davie, FL, which is full of native guys who chew a lot of tobacco and misplaced northerners who couldn’t get along with their people up North. I and my family moved from Buffalo a few years back and consider myself a product of the Broward County school system, for better or for worse. My junior class opened up a new high school and there I met a girl in my psychology class who was obviously different. She was living with another student and her mom for reasons I never fully understood, because I was as naïve as a baby goat being led into the tiger cage. This personality defect of mine must have been part of my charm because we became friends. She was from Dade County and had some friends down there, one of whom was Malcolm Tent, who lived in Hialeah. This is how I got my brief peek into the punk lifestyle. Because in the cesspool that was 80s South Florida, there were a lot of reasons to hate society.
THE HOOK UP
I started playing guitar poorly when I turned 15, and I had been playing about a year when I started playing bass for Malcolm’s brother’s Iron Maiden teenage cover band. We practiced at his house in Hialeah so I got to hang out with Malcolm for quite a bit. After that dissolved, and after Malcolm showed me how to play "Sunglasses After Dark" (Cramps version) on his guitar, and after getting a few mix tapes with the Dead Kennedys and DEVO, and being 16, and being completely frustrated with my life, and and and… and I barely remember anything. But Santo, Malcolm, and I started practicing DEVO cover songs on my back porch in Sunshine Ranches. Santo wore a lab coat. He let me wear it once. I still have one. The three of us went to go steal batteries once from an Eckerd in Cooper City, but I chickened out. They had a bunch of D-cells down the front of their pants. The nice checkout girl who sold me mine just kept her head down.
“Mongoloid” is a DEVO tune that I didn’t know the chords to so I played the G as an F#. “Jocko Homo” is highly keyboard based. I played it on a Vantage Les Paul copy that I had bought for $150. In fact I had only one guitar, and a solid-state Peavey amp. After a few practices Santo brought some songs he’d written. One of which, “Radiation,” was about penis growth after nuclear war. He sang that one "Censored censored censored censored censored" because I didn’t want to make the neighbors uncomfortable. I was such a good kid.
We never really got a drummer. Jill Elizabeth played with us once or twice but I don’t think she knew how to play drums.
My favorite song ever is “I’m Dead.” I helped to write the music but I wrote it more pop rock than the version the real band recorded afterwards. This is probably why I was such a schmuck in the band, because I was at the stage where I wanted to improve musically. But I felt like I wanted to embrace the attitude. Hanging out at Malcolm’s I thought that a good band name would be Broken Palate. Later he agreed, and Broken Palate it was. When getting us our first gig in early 1983 at a place in Miami Beach called Flynn’s, there was a translation issue over the phone and Broken Talent played its first and only gig with Santo, Malcolm, me, and a guy who the bar owner brought to play drums. We started off with “I Saw You Shine” by Flipper. We played a version of “The Twist” with macabre lyrics of yanking out someone’s heart. We played five or six DEVO songs, “I’m Dead”, “Radiation”, “My God Can Beat Up Your God”, and the future first single “Blood Slut.” I thought we were horrible but the guy who hired us actually seemed to like it.
In the fall I went to college and never saw anyone again. They got another guitar player and a drummer, started recording and touring, and I have no idea what else. I joined a couple other punk bands that never did a lot after undergrad. The rest is.
THE ACTUAL ALBUM LINER NOTES
In the beginning, there was Palm Springs North, an all- white suburb in unincorporated Northwest Dade County, FL. I hated it there. I was surrounded by rednecks, reactionary Cubans, dying geriatrics, and normal people of all sorts.
When punk rock found me (via a late night news report on TV), I was compelled to share it with the weird dude who sat behind me in 9th grade chemistry class. He knew nothing about music but he was receptive to cultural corruption. I could tell him about Devo, Ramones, The Clash, Elvis Costello, and/or a million others without getting laughed at or beaten up. It was pretty cool.
In 10th grade, he had the idea that we should put a band together and play the Freaky Funky Follies (AKA the school talent show). He rounded up a few people who knew how to play instruments (which we did not) and we all kind of learned “God Save The Queen”. He sang, I “played” bass. We called ourselves THE PUNKS. Oddly enough, it seemed to go over well. From there it devolved into trying to learn “Another Brick In The Wall” because that’s what the people who knew how to play were into. That’s what I was not into. End of band attempt.
Flash forward to the first year of college. My chemistry class friend is attending the University of Florida. I’m still in Palm Springs North. One boring weekend, some friends and I drove to U of F for a visit. Turns out it was just as boring up there as it was back home. One evening, in our boredom, my friend suggested that we jam on a few tunes. He had the cheap bass guitar that we used in The Punks sitting in his closet. I picked it up and started thumping around on it. Since we didn’t know how to play any real songs, we came up with a few ditties of our own- “Blood Slut” and “My God Can Beat Up Your God” among them.
It was a fun way to kill an evening and I promptly forgot about it. The next year, my friend transferred from U of F to the University of Miami, which is way closer to Palm Springs North. We resumed our strange way of time killing and after a while he started talking about forming a band. I had nothing else to do and it sounded like fun so I was into it.
Obviously, since we were now a band, we needed to get a gig. He and I went into his mom's garage and repeated our Gainesville weekend trick. We floundered around on a couple of “songs”, recorded them onto cassette, and sent the cassette to a club. Lo and behold! The owner booked us for a show. It suddenly occurred to us that we might need somebody to help us be a band. I knew a dude in unincorporated Southwest Broward County (20 minutes and a galaxy away) who owned a guitar and apparently could play it. He hated Broward as much as we hated Dade, so he was in.
Now arose the problem that would plague us until the end. The drummer problem. We didn't know anybody who wanted to be a drummer. We asked everyone we knew. No volunteers nowhere- Dade or Broward. Time was running short. With a week to go, our friend's sister, who had never picked up a drumstick in her life (unless it was attached to a chicken or purchased from an ice cream truck), volunteered to do the dirty deed. We jammed with her once. She was able to hit the top of the drum with the stick. She was in. Meanwhile, we told the club people that our name was “Broken Palate”. When we saw the flyer, it said “Broken Talent”. We shrugged and decided that we were stuck with the name.
We arrived at the club (which had just opened and was called Flynn's) with our cheap made- in- Taiwan gear and set up on the stage (which was built onto the end of the bar). The club owner, an artist named Howard Davis, wanted to hear us play a number or two. We all looked at each other with grave apprehension. We hadn't counted on this. Howard insisted, so we played the one song that we all kind of knew- “Mongoloid” by Devo. We made it through the song, but Howard looked somewhat nonplussed. For reasons unknown, he decided to let us play. And we were willing to, except that our friend's sister chickened out before showtime. I can't say I blame her, really. We put out an appeal to the audience and luckily there was a guy out there who could play the drums. Suddenly, we were a band again. Off we went, into the unknown wilderness of our set. One couple made a game effort to dance. Howard was not too happy, but he was resigned. After all, this was Miami Beach and nothing was happening anywhere. At least this was something. Somehow we made it through the set. After it was over, the guy who played drums disappeared. We never saw him again.
Back in our respective suburbs, we decided that our guitarist was too much of a nice guy. Plus his playing was a bit conventional. He wrote a blues song about how his shoes were too big. “Shoes Blues”, he called it. We knew we needed someone more abnormal, both in temperament and in chops. My friend from chemistry class (who, by the way, was our singer and was named Santo) made some inquiries amongst family friends and found a young hippy lady whose name was Cat. I don't know what kind of music she was into, but she had her own drum kit and she was game for some noisemaking. I switched to guitar, which I honestly did not know how to play. Our friend Jill stood in on bass, which she honestly did not know how to play. Suddenly, we were a band again.
I don't know how, but Santo scored us a return gig at Flynn's. There was a new promoter there named Richard Shelter. We played with a bunch of hardcore bands and had a bottle thrown at us. I guess they didn't like our Flipper and Devo covers. Or our originals, which sounded like Flipper playing Devo. Badly. Richard was not too happy with us, but he paid us anyway. This is when we thought we might be on to something. Except we still needed a band. Jill was temporary and I could sort of play the bass so it was more practical for me to switch back. Santo inquired around the University and uncovered a professor's nephew named Mark. Mark didn't work a job and had no particular place to live. He was fixated on Flipper and the New York Dolls. He chain smoked Lucky Strikes (filterless) because there was a pack of Luckys on the cover of the first Dolls album. One of his few possessions was a cheap made- in-Taiwan guitar. His days were spent doing absolutely nothing. He was our man. Suddenly, we were a band again.
We rehearsed a bunch at the University. The four of us and our cheap gear would smoosh into one of the glass rehearsal booths which were designed for one or two solo instrumentalists. We didn't have to pay to use them. We worked up a number of tunes and gamely kept trying to play them right.
After the Flynn's fiasco, gigs were impossible to find. We promoted a couple of guerilla shows at the University and they were fun, but we couldn't get away with that too often. Santo decided that if we had a vinyl record it would be easier to get bookings. To that end, we assembled in Cat's living room on New Year's Day, 1984. Her brother had a mixer and a couple of microphones. We had a reel to reel recorder from the early 1960's and a bunch of tapes (same vintage) that Santo found in an old disused closet at the University. We also had three songs that we thought we could play well enough to make into a record. Cat's brother was all hung over from the previous night and we were nervous as hell as we played those three songs over and over until we got a take of each that was acceptable. Live to two track. No overdubs or funny stuff. Later, Santo and I sat in his dorm room and chose the best versions of each song. He copied them onto another ancient reel of tape. I took the reel to a pressing plant that Santo found in Hialeah. I don't remember if it was the only pressing plant in town, but it was certainly the cheapest. They had a huge hopper of ground up 12" disco singles. They'd melt the chunks of vinyl and use them to press new records. The engineer let me sit in while he cut the lacquer for our records. The dude was a chain smoker. I clearly remember him blowing smoke all over our lacquer while he was cutting it (look up “how to cut a lacquer” to see if this is a good thing to do or not).
A few weeks later, records in hand, we went to a print shop (the cheapest one in Hialeah) and made covers. My mom begrudgingly printed the inserts at her job. Suddenly, we had a record. And sure enough, it was a lot easier to get gigs- such as there were in South Florida. We played wherever and whenever we could. We also rehearsed wherever and whenever we could, which wasn't very often. We were all broke. Mark didn't drive. None of lived near each other. Getting together for a jam session was difficult. Thus, our gigs tended to be shambolic. We didn't completely fall apart onstage too often, but we were usually on the verge. But it seems we had enough attitude to pull it off.
A fair number of punk rock misfits in South Florida seemed to dig our noise. We called it HANGcore (Hardcore Art Noise Grunge core). We called our friends and fans the Broken Talent Auxilliary Corps. We hung out and examined the other bands in the scene. There really was a sense of something happening in the air; not just for us, but for all of the bands and people involved. Our little scene was an oasis in the cultural/ social/philosophical wasteland of South Florida.
And that was nice, but I didn't think that remaining in South Florida would get us anywhere. I was born with a chronic case of road fever and being in a band gave me the motivation to plan some temporary escape. I bought the latest issue of Maximumrocknroll and started combing the scene reports. Anyone in the South who promoted shows got a phone call from me. All of a sudden, we had a little tour booked.
It was short and mostly sweet. Several of the Broken Talent Auxilliary Corps came along for the ride. We traveled in two cars and did all the great things bands do on tour. We got lost, overstayed our welcome, went broke, made friends, butted heads with promoters, ate at Stuckey's, and played a few shows. All with Santo's porno audio cassette of “Enema In Bondage”, which he purchased at South Of The Border's “Dirty Old Man Shoppe”, blasting in the car cassette deck. To this day, I can't drive through North Carolina without hearing the sounds of gurgling water and feminine moaning.
This was Cat's last ride with Broken Talent. After it was over, she moved to California to pursue a career in screen writing. I wonder if she made it? Anyway, we were again without a drummer. But that wouldn't stop us! We played shows using friends and members of the Auxiliary Corps on drums. Some knew how to play, others didn't. Was it suppposed to matter? This was punk rock, after all.
We carried on shambolically this way for a few months until a young lad from North Miami answered a flyer I had posted at Open Books And Records. Enter Shayne Sicpup El Duce Hansen. He was a few years younger than we were and (he told me many years later) had never played drums in his life. Fooled us! He was at least as musically ept as we were, so he was in. He was also as broke, carless, and bereft of gear as we were. So trying schedule rehearsals did not become any easier. In fact, it became more difficult. We kept writing songs, though, and we jammed when and where we could.
We also played out when and where we could, which to me, wasn't often enough. So in the summer of 1985, a year after our first trip out of town, I used the MRR method to book another tour, all the way up to Albany, NY and back. This time it was just the four of us in my 1972 Dodge. I borrowed my friend Lonnie's bass (without telling him) just for the occasion. He had a real Fender as opposed to my Taiwanese piece of balsa. No case, though, so I wrapped it in a blanket. Santo made a bass cabinet out of some plywood and a RadioShack speaker. Mark had a somehow acquired a new guitar. It was a Les Paul with part of the fretboard cut off. A friend of Santo's lent us a Fender guitar amp. He never reclaimed it so we put it in the trunk (which leaked). No drums, though. We figured we'd deal with that at the shows.
So what did we do on this tour? Ran out of gas in the middle of the night in West Virginia, ran out of food in Pittsburgh, ran out of money in several places, got ripped off by a history teacher (who promised to pay us for attending a lecture and then skipped town), got fed by an 80 year old Mae West wannabe in Brooklyn, etc etc. We also played a few shows, with bands like The Freeze, Cro Mags, Token Entry, Saint Vitus, and the almighty Black Flag (the tale of how we got on that bill is a story unto itself). We also spent a week in NYC and it was the first time for most of us. What an experience! I made a bunch offriends, some of whom I'm in touch with to this day.
When we returned to South Florida we had morphed into a tight and powerful band. We played exactly one show as a tight and powerful band before we got rid of Shayne. The generation gap just could not be bridged. This, of course, led to another frustrating period without a drummer. Jah knows we tried and tried and tried but we just could not find a drummer who was consistent, available, or not a drug addict. We played the odd show here and there with fill- ins, but by now, things were unravelling. Santo was immersed in his studies, Mark was permanently unemployed, and Cindy, our best prospect for a drummer, quit after recording a demo with us.
During this static period, my friend Todd Jenkins discovered an English pub in the Little Haiti section of Miami called Churchill's. He talked the owner into letting him do a show there. He wanted Broken Talent to headline and it seemed like a fun gig, so we decided to do it. My youngest brother Brian was an excellent jazz/ metal/ glam drummer. I begged him to play this one show with us and he agreed to. His band (called Cheri) had a rehearsal studio in Hialeah. Broken Talent got together a couple of times and tried to hammer out a set, which was difficult because Santo never showed up. One day, a week before the big gig, Brian and I arrived at the studio, ready to work. Santo no- showed. Then Mark no- showed. Now, people seemed to dig our slovenly demeanor on stage, but I preferred the tight and powerful sound. I did not want to play another sloppy wreck of a gig so I no- showed. Forever. And that was that.
So here we are, 30+ years later. I'm amazed and gladdened that people still remember our music and still want to hear it. When I tour with my solo acoustic punk rock schtick, folks still ask to hear “Blood Slut”, “My God Can Beat Up Your God", "Kill The Dead", and so many others. I actually have a mini Broken Talent set that I do sometimes. The songs play well on acoustic and people seem to dig 'em. So maybe we were wrong all those years ago when we said “BROKEN TALENT RULES NO ONE”.
YOU AIDED AND ABETTED (in order of appearance): Jill Elizabeth, Dawn Martin, Lonnie Pollard, Tim Powell, Incubus Dada, S.O.S. Dada, George Kelley, Mrs. Wilson, Dez Spellbound, Lloyd Void, Subhash Chandra, Open Books And Records (Ted and Leslie), Yardbird Records (Michael Dean), Yesterday And Today Records (Rich Ulloa), Richard Shelter, Mike Shannon, Morbid Opera, Gay Cowboys In Bondage, Lethal Yellow, Generic Death, Suburban Liberation Army, Underground Records, Mike McGonigal, Rena Birk, Todd “Godd” Jenkins, Kathy Kelly. THANK YOU.
MEMBERS OF BROKEN TALENT WHO ARE UNHEARD ON THIS ALBUM: Grant Denn, Ivan Gripweed.
SHAYNE HANSEN THANKS: Paul Enema,Sebastian Gurshman, The Powells (for giving us lodging and loaning me their drum set for our '85 tour), Debbie Rage (for telling me I was "sessy"), and most of all thanks to Andy Powell for his good humor and amazing talent (RIP) and to my brother Dean Edward Hansen who kept me sane in an insane world (RIP)
Have a look and a listen: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmNU9CMTW2Q
Some blogging about Broken Talent by Aesop, who was also there: cosmichearse.blogspot.com/search?q=broken+talent
Apparently our anthology LP is still available: floridasdying.com/collections/punk/products/broken-talent-rules-no-one-lp?_pos=2&_sid=704de03d4&_ss=r
Broken Talent cd's and cassettes are always available at Discogs. Bandcamp, too.
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