"SO I HEAR YOU'RE WRITING A BOOK ABOUT GG..."
Or: The Truth Is Kind Of Important When You're Destroying Rock'n’roll
By Joe Coughlin
It started with
the best intentions, but more on that later. As a wide-eyed, then-suburban spudboy, I'd kept loose tabs on GG Allin's,
uh, career since the late '70's via fanzines and
I don't think I even heard his music until 1988, when “Expose Yourself To Kids” became a love-it-or-leave-it staple on the station out of MIT. People were calling to request that it not be played... like, ever again. I found the song, and the uproar, priceless. It was classic, mid-tempo punk with droll, mock-Beach Boys backing vocals behind the chorus. It rocked --- and disturbed --- with conviction, and GG's performance raised genuine chills. Of course, the party line quickly became, "He can't be serious..."
Let's fuck some
kids -- they can't say no / molest them now before they grow
Threaten them with oral sex / expose yourself to incest / 'cause it's
Alright to expose yourself to kids / do it now, before they grow up & it's too late
Find an elementary school at recess time /
pull your pecker in front of them & masturbate
Suck a little
hairless crack / hold 'em down, they can't fight back
Watch 'em scream, and cry with fear / fuckin' cunt, don't tell nobody dear
I'm a pervert, it's OK -- hey / candy, little girl? Walk my way, ya fuckin' bitch
Child abuse is on my mind / little fuckin' kids I'm soon to find
I didn't think he was serious, not about this, but he did have a serious gift. I hadn't seen seasoned rock fans so polarized since the New York Dolls. The irony was all the more precious, since GG was easily (deliberately?) the least articulate figure in the music's history. This guy made Jim Dandy Mangrum look like Michael Stipe. Where the best acts always weed out the lightweights, where even the hardest hardcore might offer wisdom or a hint of salvation, GG's public image was simply: Asshole. Long overdue for rock’n’roll, I reckoned, but his loudest rhetoric was yet to come.
year, an outskirt
I got there just in time. It was a summer Sunday afternoon, and the doors hadn’t opened yet. The first thing I noticed was the kids. Not one of these little Mansonites would crack a grin; no one was here to have “fun”. What few words they said were just versions of "GG's fuckin' God, man," otherwise they just sat there and simmered. The manager was a friend, so I was allowed to walk in the back door. "The show's off," he said right away. "Somone pissed on some furniture during the sound check, so I told 'em to go fuck themselves." He was aware that no one outside was planning to leave, and was calling the cops. "Better me than the neighbors," he figured.
The band and their stuff were still onstage. GG's brother Merle and a few friends were waiting inside. I knew Merle peripherally from the so-called scene. I ducked back out and saw GG, sallow and stymied, rallying the kids to bumrush the place. Something about, "They won't gimme a fuckin' microphone, but I can just go around & yell the lyrics at everyone."
I went back in the other way, and pretty soon the front door flew open. Of all the days I should've had a camera...GG went right to the stage, and the kids surrounded it. He yelled out that the club sucked, and the band kicked in. He hit the floor and started bashing his face into it when the cops got there. Two of them got onstage and just watched him squirm at their feet. They motioned to the band to stop, which went ignored. Then GG rolled onto his back, whipped it out and yanked it like Turkish Taffy, bucking his hips up at them. The cops cracked up at each other and did nothing. Suddenly, more cops: the ones onstage were needed outside. A bunch of kids followed. I watched from a neutral spot down the block. There were paddy wagons galore, and anyone who didn't start walking was thrown into one. A few kids tried to argue about "free speech" before getting cuffed. When it was over, all I knew was that GG had gotten away.
long after, he left for
* * *
to 1992. GG has dropped from obscurity into prison. I'd stayed in touch with
Merle, who now lived in
"Oh, that fuckin' guy," he drawls, "we hate him." Deadpan. I know right then I'm gonna end up involved somehow. Merle yawns out a marvelous tale of the dicksucker's slavish fan tactics and ultimate humiliation by the band which has me in hysterics. "You wanna see a show?" He pops in a tape. "This is a pretty good one." I see another drab dump of a club, another joyless bunch ringing the stage. A countoff, and the band plods into a fairly ominous riff. GG emerges in just boots, gloves, studded dog collar, a pitiless scowl and a shitload of long, ruddy scars. He's real fucked up and real pissed off --- Punkenstein --- but focused. Prison appears to have bolstered his resolve. The crowd visibly tenses at the sight of him, and suddenly it's not so funny anymore. If only we'd listened to him all those years ago, I wonder, maybe this wouldn't have happened. It's an older song of his, I'd later learn, but the lyrics are perfect for what's about to happen:
Well, you want me --- to KISS YOUR ASS!
The voice is from hell. GG hops off the stage, scrambles to the left, swings and BOWM!, cracks some fucker square in the face with the microphone. The guy's neck snaps back and he crumples to the floor. Stunned, his friends drag him away...
Well, bend over buddy, here comes my foot!
GG's twisting and spazzing all over the place as the crowd presses itself tight against the back wall. Strangers are clutching each other for safety. One lone guy is "singing" along, one lone chick gyrating on all fours atop a half-wall...
I don't need that cry-ass shit!
Somewhere in all this, he takes a swipe and drags a girl by the hair to the front of the stage. She flails, then goes limp like a marionette. People are stuffing themselves through the exit like the Three Stooges. You can actually hear screams over the music...
Temper's rising, take a fit!
He dumps her ass on the floor, straddles her head from behind, she buckles at the waist. He sticks out his chest and glares in pride and revulsion at them. Someone runs over, shoves him off her, pulls her away. GG goes after him, punching and kicking. The band is on top of it, and joins in the chorus:
Bite it -- you
Bite it -- you scum!
Bite it -- you scum!
Bite it -- you scum!
GG owns the place. The hype, it turns out, was true all along. This is war...
Well, you want me -- to CON-TRI-BUTE!
He turns his back to them and squats. They seem to've been expecting it...
All I got is what's for you...
He pumps out a chain of dark, runny turds, spins up & around, drops to his knees...
All you want -- is more and more
They pray he's not gonna do it, but everyone knows he will...
Gluttony -- you pig, you whore...
He feasts from the pile, spits mouthfuls at the crowd, barking out the chorus between bites. The room is choking on its own dread. Then, of all things, a fucking guitar solo. GG scoops his poop, takes a whiff, grunts, drops the mike and smears his face with both hands, down his chest, around his cock, runs back into the crowd, bangs his head against the wall a couple times. Just before the third verse, the room all but empty now, he finds the mike:
One day when your
end is near
I'll be laughing at your fear
One day when there'll be no one
Who'll be fuckin' up my fun?
There's another chorus, GG rolling in glass and shit, some bottles and furniture thrown at the few remaining gawkers, and a big, empty feeling. Two or three people applaud. Merle tells the band to start something called "Cunt Sucking Cannibal" as GG smashes his own skull with the mike, his face still caked with the brown stuff. The song takes off, and GG roars, "I'm a filthy fuckin' animal..my body stinks...I ain't got no teeth...I live alone in a dive..." He hoists up into the ceiling fixtures and tries to yank them out before falling on his back. He pulls a girl in a red leather mini onto the floor and jams his head up her crotch. She pushes his face and breaks away; he rips the ass off her fishnet hose and leaves her staring at her shit-covered palms. At one point, GG tries to crack a whiskey bottle on his noggin. He's laid up on a bench at the end, bellowing, "I seen all the people leave the room...what the FUCK?!"
It goes on like this. He intros the next song, "Kill The Police," but the PA is shut down before the first verse is through. He throws himself into convulsions on the floor, accompanied by a drum roll, and they're outta there. Total time: about seven minutes. A jump in the tape shows the cops weren't far behind. One fan is still yelling out GG's name while a bouncer denies everything to some very angry officers. The footage moves outside to a flabbergasted crowd. The way they talk, you'd think some of them even stuck around to see what happened. I ask Merle if GG got away again that night. "Oh, yeah," he mutters. And the shows are all like this now? "Pretty much. Sometimes we get to finish the set."
Then he handed me a black binder, about an inch thick. "This is something he's been working on in prison, says it's his life story." Indeed it was, in the third person (from which he often spoke), with quotes in the first, and starting at Day One. On the surface, it looked pretty thorough. There were dates, towns, the lonely log-cabin childhood, tales of his fucked-up old man, and being outcast through school, addresses of all the rooming houses, the day jobs, recording sessions, long-lost band members' names, outrageous incidents at parties and in dressing rooms, onstage blowjobs, and an everyday Russian roulette that underpinned his fate. Who knew that GG's actual given name was Jesus Christ Allin? That alone said plenty. I couldn't believe it. It was all there, it seemed, but the writing itself, which was pretty hokey. I asked Merle why no one was doing anything with this. "No one wants to," he said. "One guy tried and said Fuck It."
begged him to convince GG to give me a shot, to let me do a treatment on any
ten pages and see what he thought. I'd done a newsletter and various shitrag reviews, and figured I had a clue. I had it all
planned out: I'd do it on the computers
at work, take his calls from prison to compare notes, and track down all those
names for interviews. I could finish in a year if we were just embellishing
established facts. Merle hears a lot of shit, so it naturally took some
prodding, but soon the ten pages arrived. I fleshed 'em
out to about 30 and mailed it to GG. He called collect that weekend and said,
"You got the job." Merle would deliver the complete diaries on an
upcoming swing through
* * *
He was fairly cooperative at first, for someone with nothing else to do. He sent lots of sensational mail, bizarre drawings, and suggestions for titles nearly a paragraph long, never once spelling my name right. It took him a while to accept that I wasn't out to make money off him. The more we talked, the more he toned down his standard PR-bits, and soon he was calling just to shoot the shit. More and more, he made me laugh, long and hard. To this day, I swear he had no idea how funny he was. (Ditto Merle, who also doesn't spell my name right, but he's another story.) I stayed at work 'til 11:00 most nights for the next ten months & even came in on weekends to write. I firmly believed (and still do) that this had huge crossover potential, that average jerks could be moved to care about GG Allin. The tremendous documentary film "HATED," which opened during his jail time, proved it with stellar reviews and held-over runs.
The story grew more amazing each day, and I sank all my dough into a home PC. Any one facet of his life (the drugs, the women, the personal hardship, the music) was easily a book on its own. It was no idle boast when he said he lived ten years to our one. But antics aside, the bottom line really was music. Every song, and there were dozens, told a true story or heartfelt belief. Virtually all the post-Jabbers stuff was about pain, mostly self-inflicted. As he'd later say, "I put myself through tragedy every day, so I can face it when it hits me." There was no stopping these songs from coming out. Despite what his many detractors like to think, GG was a legitimate artist, maybe more so than most. I was honored he would share so much with me.
On the downside, he wouldn't bring our work to the phone. Reams of notes would go unchecked, causing several major snags. He also wouldn't discuss certain songs there, like "No Room For Nigger," for obvious reasons. And he refused to talk about prison itself, preferring to handle the story chronologically. He grew more concerned with the number of pages I had, not what was on them. I'd sometimes play his own music to him over the phone to verify a lyric, and he'd say, "I have no idea what the fuck I'm saying there." Fewer and fewer things added up. The mail slowed to almost nothing, and he assumed my research alone could fill all the holes. I knew he couldn't completely trust me, and I understood that. But the biggest disappointment was when he started suggesting I wing it, when the accuracy ceased to matter. March, the end of his stint, was near, and he promised to devote all his free time to our project. I had to believe. He just wanted out; who could blame him?
was surprised, then, to be one of the first people he called when he walked. He
was thrilled to be eating McDonald's, for chrissake,
and I was happy for him. After fucking around a bit, he'd be off to
finished the record in no time, and all were ecstatic with it. The title would
be "Brutality And Bloodshed For All,"
despite my brilliant suggestion of "Number One With A Bullet." I was
sure this would be his year --- hell, he'd already been on "Geraldo,"
and the feds were onto him for writing Gacy and
* * *
We hooked up at the Hotel Clermont lounge / titty bar, where GG was in great spirits, buying rounds of Bud cans and tipping the faded dancers generously. The long-rumored stench was nonexistent. His eyes were bright, and he glowed with nervous energy. An absurd, six-inch tuft of dyed-red beard jutted from his chin, and under his leather was a white smock with a rusty, abstract floral print. A closer look revealed the "print" to be a hundred dried blood spatters, accumulated in dabs over previous tours. He advised as to the prices for under-the-table handjobs & the like. We spent the first half-hour talking about a mutual fave of ours, Tiny Tim. I mentioned the fan report and GG asked, "Really? What songs did we do? Did he say how it ended?" He was serious. All too soon, we had to leave for soundcheck.
At the club, GG yelled over to us from a closed door: "Is this the men's room?" We shrugged. "Well, it is now." While we laughed, I had to remember that he'd ripped off lots of people who'd tried to work with him, that he put his own fans in the hospital, that he might just as soon kill me as drink with me. I also knew he spent an undue amount of time being provoked, that he was as paranoid as he was audacious. For all the horrible shit GG stood for, I couldn't help but be charmed by how utterly himself he was. One thing seemed sure: If you just treated him like a person, you'd get it back twice.
As he paced around, I felt I was looking at either The Last Free Man, or someone more trapped than any of us. He was ranting about going to prison for being an individual when the music started, and the aura changed instantly. It was "Bite It You Scum," jet-engine loud and precise, thick as the tension it brought. GG was all movement and animal grace, his voice an icy shriek. Right away, I saw a girl unconscious, her friends pulling her away by the feet. A crying teenage boy ran for the door with his hand on his face, blood streaming through his fingers. I thought about bolting, but couldn't look away. Three nubiles up front whooped and made out with each other for a cameraman. GG brawled with another guy, then gave him grinning thumbs-up when they stopped. He yanked a clump of hair from someone's head and stared at it while he sang. The new material was dynamite, and during a later song, he skipped the last verse to eat out a local stripper in front of the stage. An orange highway cone was being thrown around, and GG tried to fuck the small end of it before whipping some heavy metal barstools at us. I stood behind a wall of people, thinking someone could easily die here. I have to admit, I found the prospect exhilarating.
In a stark moment, I watched him standing under severe white light, his face knotted in rage, a trickle of blood running into his eyes as he sang. I was sad and drained to think he'd endured fifteen years of this. I thought of the hundreds of bands I'd seen, and suddenly they meant nothing, a fluffy bunch of notes. This was uncool, an honest threat, what rock'n'roll was meant to be, but it was more than that. GG hit me as everything right and wrong with being alive at once: all the strength and all the sickness, but working together, an obscenely accurate metaphor for the human condition. Every last possible emotion was going down in that room. It was forbidding, real, and raised a huge, glorious tangle of questions. The whole fucking world needed to see this.
Clearly, there was a message, but I wondered if it was being wasted on young white trash, or if GG himself was even aware of it. I think he was. Before I could blink, it was over. We were supposed to sit down afterwards, but backstage was off limits while (I later heard) GG ate out the flasher chick. The next morning, it all felt like a bad dream --- even though, for them, this was a really tame show. I flew back home to my tedious life, forever changed.
* * *
I immediately bought plane tix for
anyway, this time I was ready. I stayed up front the whole time and got hit in
the back with a lot of flying beer and debris. The show was devastating. GG did
a turkey-baster enema, and set fire to the place
before the first song was over, sliced himself up with a busted can, pissed on
the crowd, leaped over the barricades into several fights, the works. A total hate-fest. I was beaming.
We were supposed to hang out all the next day and do book stuff, but GG wasn't answering the phone. Granted, it was a rough show, but we'd just be talking. I later found out that he and Merle watched sitcom reruns while a machine screened my calls. Knowing they were going barhopping later that night was all the more galling. I met them at the dives anyway. GG was noticeably suspicious of me, watching when I talked to anyone else, yet was strangely courteous. Once again, he said this wasn't the time or place to talk. They had one more show and then, he assured me, he was all mine.
soon heard the last show was a bust, with most of the crowd keeping a safe
distance. GG was going to visit some friends down south, tape spots on the
Jerry Springer & Jane Whitney shows, then play a newly-scheduled
* * *
The show had ended in a near-riot, with GG running naked and bloody in the streets, stopping traffic. A gaggle of kids had followed him around, he eluded the cops and ended up at a party, where he did some drugs and died sometime after sun-up. A slapdash autopsy would declare it an OD, though his symptoms were more consistent with asphyxiation. There was none of the organ trauma that goes with a drug death, plus he'd been alive for hours after doing the drugs. Heroin kills now, not later. He almost certainly rolled over and suffocated, too fucked up to know he couldn't breathe.
New York Post even ran an old picture of him on the cover the next day,
hoping to sell a few copies. The wake and funeral would be in
Yep, it was a freak show, as though everyone could have their way with him for a change. Kids put stickers on the coffin. A girl draped her panties over his face. Someone put pills in GG's mouth and "washed them down" with beer. A goodbye-bottle of Jim Beam in his arms was wrenched free and guzzled from. The band's drummer drew on GG's leg with a magic marker, and people took snapshots of the deceased's bloated pud. The party line now was, "He would have wanted it this way."
Merle was blasting a rough dub of the new album at the funeral home, and it was a motherfucker, easily GG's best. There was a paean to necrosodomy in "Anal Cunt," a rare address to the listener in "Take Aim & Fire," the riotous "Shove That Warrant Up Your Ass," the pro-AIDS "I Kill Everything I Fuck," and the one that would title his bio, "I Am The Highest Power." Merle was also playing country music, and I was shocked to discover that GG had stolen the melody for his "Outlaw Scumfuc" directly from David Allan Coe's "Longhaired Redneck," and another from Hank Williams, Jr.
I met a number of folks I hadn't been able to find. I'd mention a story about them from the diaries, and always get the same response: "That's not how it happened at all." Most of them didn't want to know about any book, particularly GG's ex-wife. At graveside, they all had wildly disparate takes on GG and his "mission, " the one constant being a blameless bewilderment with the whole thing, like he was just trying to be zany or something. With huge hunks of the story still missing and practically nowhere to go, I hung it up for the next several months.
oft-anticipated media circus never happened. Aside from the expected zine coverage, there were six-line blurbs in SPIN
and Rolling Stone, but that was about it. Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh
are alleged to have discussed it, but I haven't heard proof. So where does it
stand? Well, things got worse. A girl in
In January '95, I got the call to end 'em all. I found out the "diaries" themselves were fake. They're either the aborted bio Merle had mentioned (by a scenester who solicited two years' worth of fan contributions & ran), or a fictionalized account by a prison buddy I'd also heard about. Neither is verifiable, but I was hardly the only person holding this document, as I'd been so profoundly assured. If that weren't enough, I found out this year that GG didn't even write a batch of songs from a pivotal period early on --- songs for which he'd given me insanely detailed background histories so that I'd dress them up nice.
His "followers" will probably hate my take on it for admitting, among other things, that GG loved his kid; that he thought about ditching rock'n'roll for country music later on (partly because he liked it, partly to piss everyone off); that despite his I-hate-my-audience rap, there are backstage videos of him saying, "We owe these people a show." What, you mean he wasn't Satan? Too complicated. I also get a special chuckle from people who say, "Well, he was mentally ill." Like we show up for work every day and we're not.
One last note for you ultra-correct types: Much has been made of GG's claims to have raped women (and men) on and offstage. Call it propaganda. None of this has been substantiated in any way, and I've seen almost every gig ever taped. No one took a worse beating at these shows than he did. As to his much-publicized assault trial, all parties contacted so far agree that the acts in question were consensual. The "victim" has changed her story repeatedly. You can read all about it later. Meanwhile, check your facts before you spout off.
GG always said he wanted to get beyond the common perceptions and tell his story straight-up, but I wonder if he could even tell the difference at the end. His public image had eaten him alive. He often defied his own intelligence and worth, as though acceptance on any tangible level meant treason to his cause. He might well have bagged it if he heard me now, trying to paint him as anything more than... “baddest-ass rocker ever!” It was a no-winner from the word go.
The book currently idles at around 300 pages before adding everyone's quotes, dead-ending at the onset of prison, while I try to replace all the bad info with something fathomable. People ask me, why even bother at this point? Because it's still the greatest story in the world: Hilarious, cryptic, tragic, vile, infuriating. Because I know too much at this point not to (what's proven to be true is better than all the bogus diary stuff anyway). Because there are still three or four dozen people who like, really wanna read it. Because, for however briefly and cautiously, he trusted me to try and get it right. And because I owe him one for kicking my ass back to reality. Fuck what anybody thinks. The guy made a difference. I miss you, GG. And don't worry, man... Whatever your reasons, no one's ever gonna top what you did.
note: Due to continued circumstances as
described here, I’m gonna try and go the straight Oral
History route with this thing. If you ever worked with GG, I’d like to hear
from you. Lisa T., are you still out there? Please write
© Copyright 1996, Joe Coughlin
This article first appeared in MetalFest magazine and Implosion magazine.