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What ya all fire'd hurr’d up fer, boy?
How in the hell did a country hick-a-billy, barefoot and bareback, hell bent for leather from a no-hole like Crowley, Louisiana ever get into punk rock? Considering that Crowley had a population of 17,000 and it was 3 hours from New Orleans and 4 from Houston —the only two urban areas capable of sustaining a punk environ. (One must remember that in 1977, punk was an urban phenomenon.)
It was a one in a million chance! I was ostracized for admitting that I liked Bruce Springsteen (before I heard punk) or even for enjoying Elvis Costello. Well, everyone was listening to Foreigner, Kansas, Styx or Journey at the time, so go figure. Or better yet...F*** ’em!
Besides having heard MC5's "Kick Out The Jams" and Iggy Pop's "Search and Destroy", I would have to say that what I read in Rolling Stone in 1976 is what originally piqued my interest. It was an article about Patti Smith, and man, she was a far cry from the hippy chicks and disco babes I had been seeing in the rock press at the time. What a complete departure from the ordinary, and what a glorious din! ! ! ... a breath of foul air to chide the doldrums of ‘70s culture into oblivion! Hell, I had seen great magazines like Horseshit turn into the Rolling Stone overnight and now there was a sense of rebellion again ... F***in’ A! ! !
The next thing that influenced me (besides the music) was a change in employment. I was asked to go to work in Lafayette, Louisiana (change of locale) with a cynical bastard that constantly ranted misanthropically about the ’70s culture of disco and prog rock. He was a jaded hippy, that came from the underground comics era, when comix were still truly radical in their views. (He, Ray Weiland, did the front and back cover of this EP/CD). I conceived the front ‘Confederastika’ from a Time magazine claiming that the Confederate Flag was the new American Swastika, they didn’t have the balls to twist the arms into a real swastika. I did.
Through Ray’s underground comix connection, he had found Legs McNeill’s ‘PUNK’ Magazine and thus the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash. He had discovered the holy trinity of punk! While working, we would sit for hours listening to all sorts of punk rock on our headphones...Undertones ... Buzzcocks...Dead Boys...Richard Hell and the Voidoids, et cetera, et al, ad nauseam ... You name ’em, we were listening: our appetite was insatiable!
We used to go into Baton Rouge, New Orleans or Houston with loads of cash and buy anything that looked punk in the 45 or LP racks (and believe me, I bought a lot of sh*** just for the covers). We would fly up to New York for work and spend a months salary each, on records! We were mad for it, it was an all consuming addiction, which accounts for a very large collection to this date. One might say, “Not very punk!” this obvious and ostentatious consumerism! F*** you, motherf***er! Shut the f*** up and f*** the f*** off! I skipped rent for these records! Anyway we were paying the outrageous price of $1.50 a single and $7.00 an LP! $800 went a long way in those days.
Anyhoo, this brings me to how I met Don Spicer, the bass player on this silly EP that’s now selling on eBay for the ludicrous price of $200+. My manic and misanthropic friend (Ray, the underground comix guy) had a sister whose ex-boyfriend owned an independent record store that stocked punk records in Baton Rouge. He was auditioning a guitar player for his punk covers band “Jet Rink and the Solar Skates” and I showed up with spiked hair, beat up Fender guitar and Super Reverb amp. I had about three original songs in me pocket and they were feral at best, but hey, that’s punk!
Don was the lead guitarist, and to be honest, a pretty damn fine guitarist at that. However, I didn’t care to play “Chinese Rocks:” Richard Hell and Johnny Thunders had already performed the best versions anyway! I played the three feral songs and flunked the audition. I found a drummer (Bill Martin) and started practicing. We started hanging out at new wave gatherings in Lafayette (no punk shows as of yet in Laffatit) where we met a person that was interested in playing bass with us. We managed to put together 13 original songs and started playing about in Louisiana. Not many places would have us, but Lafayette and New Orleans were accepting punk bands as openers. We even opened for Black Flag and the Red Rockers on the Jealous Again tour in 1981. That was the night that Darby Crash died: Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1981.
Somewhere along the line in this tragi-comedy, I ran into Don Spicer again —this time at a sh*** Dogs gig in Baton Rouge at The Tiger Bar. Don had hair that night that stood off his head by at least twelve inches. I am not talking about a spike, but a full-on pompadour cross between Li’l Richard and Esquivel or Lux Interior! A massive pomade thing and wearing these really strange polyester shirts with long tails. The guy was SWANK! He was as skinny as a rail I swear the can of Budweiser he was holding, weighed more than him! I had come across Don on several occasions, of memorial note was an Iggy Pop gig at Ole Man Rivers in Baton Rouge and I realized that our paths had crossed several times for some enigmatic reason. . . maybe kindred spirits?
And this is where the worm turns! Toxin III was scheduled for studio time for this very EP and our bass player quit! With him went the borrowed guitar that I was playing at the time. Now, I had one week to find a new guitar and a bass player for the booked studio session. I took out a loan for a guitar and phoned Don to fill in for the session. He accepted the invitation and drove the 90 some odd miles to my house in Crowley to practice before the studio date. Now that’s dedication! 90 miles one way every day for a week of practice in a sweaty backroom, for “NO MONEY”! Thanks Don, you were a real trouper!
We went into the studio to obvious resistance from the studio manager! “What kind of crap is this?” He queried after the first song. I quickly pointed out to him that he had my money (paying in advance is very empowering) and he had no say as to what we recorded, so get the f*** out of here and leave us and the engineer to do our recording. Needless to say we achieved the first and only released Toxin III recordings. I even sang on the last microphone that Hank Williams sang on, and to me, that is REAL PUNK! Every song was recorded live and un-edited, until the remix session weeks later! Now enjoy or f*** off: this is what we did.
I’m not exactly sure how I became hooked up with Toxin III... Don’t recall the audition that Chris mentions in his notes... I can, however, assure you that had he not failed the audition, and failed it miserably, one could never claim that there is a single hint of justice or fair play or cosmic plan in this world. I mean, the band was started by a record shop owner just trying to sell a few more records... the singer was picked up after being a runner-up in a f***ing Elvis Costello look-a-like contest... the band’s logo was painted on the bass drum for God’s sake... this was NO place for Chris Cart!...
I guess the point at which I knew this was something that I should be involved in was one night at a local dive where I ran into Chris and Bill... somehow the band Crass was mentioned and I made the casual observance that “Reality Asylum” was pretty prickly stuff... to which they both practically jumped down my throat with questions like “oh, you feel guilty about that do you?” and “ah-ha, hit a nerve there?” and such... I didn’t fully understand the questions, but the clear fact was that these guys had the genuine potential to be far more “prickly” than Crass... Hum, extreme, I thought... I like extreme... “So, what are you guys up to?”
For me it was Chris... you can look at Chris and know he has something to say... Bill was great, but didn’t care what we said as long as we said it really fast... I had come from outside Louisiana, so I always watched it with a fascinated but distant eye... I didn’t know where Chris Cart was from (still don’t)... but regardless of where he had come from, here was someone who had clearly leapfrogged his local culture and laughed as he moved out of sight ahead of it... his head moved at the heart of what is the essence of literature... if it was a result of being ‘well read’, then he hid that behind such a brilliant veil of uniqueness, that it is reluctantly that I even point out his striking resemblance to a youthful Neal Cassady... when Neal was young and fully fired with it... and fully fired with it, Chris certainly was... in a time and place where all the harsh edge musicians walked and talked tough, but would have run off and joined Blondie in a heartbeat if the opportunity were to arise, Chris was absolutely uncompromising... I felt like Kerouac... just holding onto Neal Cassady’s flying shirttail for the ride... but ride we must!
Crowley, LA, you would have to see... it is a ‘southern’ Southern town... the studio was purported to be the last place that Hank Williams recorded and the first place that George Jones did, and was located above a seriously ancient beauty salon... you actually had to pack your gear through the middle of this local beautification process to get to the studio... far beyond the graffiti we scrawled on any surfaces that we thought we could spiff up without getting caught, Toxin III put something far deeper than scribbling or country cuts into those historic walls... I imagine, to this very day, that the old blue-haired ladies in the ‘styling’ salon downstairs come out from under those clunky hair dryers and ask, “What is that haunting noise?”... “Oh, that’s from the studio upstairs.” “You mean Hank Williams’ ghost?”... “Well no, not exactly…” “Oh, then the crazy whines of George Jones?” “No, all that has faded away long ago: what you hear is the stomp print of Toxin III”...
“and now... the time has come”...
One of the Toxin III tracks was released on a Hyped To Death compilation and I was sent a copy by Chuck Warner. There was some really good stuff on it, but anyone with a reasonable grasp of music history could probably guess at least three of the five things most recently played on the stereos of any of these other bands, but Toxin III—if you back away from the en-joyment of listening long enough to really think about it, you’ll find yourself joining even me in wondering “where in the hell did this come from?”
So in the spirit of Frank (or Sid), we shuffle along toward the final curtain... a re-packaging and re-releasing of this little beast... I love the longevity of such a priceless little burst making its way into the digital world... but I can tell you which digits Chris, Bill and I will show you if you should happen not to get this, and it’s not “pointer” or the “ring finger”... enjoy or lose... your choice...
Donald W. Spicer
Many thanks to Chuck Warner of Hyped To Death for the EQ efforts on the analog data from the original EP and tapes. And to Don Spicer for his unflagging and unselfish contributions to this EP from the beginning as it is in the end! Cheers mates ... may you stay forever hung!
The Toxin III masters are long, long gone (along with Hank and George), but in addition to the six songs from the original 7”, we’re bringing you five further examples of the backwoods genius of Toxin III, mastered off a banged-up cassette by H2D in early 2003 and for an LP version on th’wonderful Rave Up label… (Buy all his stuff, it’s great!)
Why this name?
At the time, 1978, there was a lot of talk of toxins and toxic materials to be used in warfare. I thought that Toxin III would be a great marketing statement, like;
"New and improved".
Do you play live?
Long, long time ago
How, do you think, does the internet (or mp3) change the music industry?
Radically! If this had been around when Toxin was bangin' the drum, we would have had much better exposure and control over our image.
Would you sign a record contract with a major label?
You have got to be joking, right!
C. Cart - Vox/guitar
D. Spicer - Bass
B. Martin - Drums
MC5, Iggy and The Stooges, The Dictators, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Clash