Last month I tried to breakdown the LoveSong of the Month / Love Songs / The Love Songs overlap, but this month I’m going back even further. If I say how far back we’re going you’ll probably stop reading right now so I’ll just say that we’re going… PRE-INTERNET.
Camino Brazos is a horseshoe street in the California Bay Area suburb of Pleasanton (or “Ton Town”).
My buddy, Paul (the same Paul who has been mentioned in a number of these columns whether he agrees to it or not), lived on Camino Brazos and, may I remind you, not only had his finger firmly on the pulse of groundbreaking happenings but also didn’t wash his bedsheets once during all four years of high school (note to self: ask Paul’s permission before sharing that) (From Paul: “…sure I’m good with that. Not sure if that’s punk rock or just nasty”).
As a reliable patron of the arts and bastion of subversive culture, Paul not only occasionally sat in with my high school band, Your Mother, but even let us sometimes practice at his house, on Camino Brazos. Come to think of it, the original drummer of Your Mother (whom I’ll get to) also lived on Camino Brazos so I suppose it could be argued that this callado calle was shaping up to be the beating heart of Ton Town’s thriving underground (no disrespect to Tyrranicide, who were the greatest band to ever come out of Ton Town, but they were way up in Vintage Hills, while we were down in the flats, on Camino Brazos).
Throughout the summer of 1990 we’d surface from Paul’s house, the sun blinding us after hours of Nintendo and downloading pornnet stories via his phone cradle modem, and stand in his driveway trying to pinpoint where an unmistakable rumble of live music was originating. The sound was always too muffled to locate, but we could tell it was heavy music and, as such, deserving of our attention. One fateful day some kids (literally, 12 and 13 year old kids) stumbled out of a house toward the end of the block, and we knew by their pasty skin, pre-teen mullets and long sleeve death metal shirts that we’d found our
We introduced ourselves and asked if we could watch their band practice (provided their parents were cool with it). They invited us into a densely soundproofed living room at the center of which stood a Lars Ulrich-circa-1989-sized drum set.
These wee ones then ripped through a handful of very long death Metal songs (long for us, who rarely played anything over a minute) while we sat on a burnt orange-colored crushed velvet couch and marveled at them. These kids were young, we thought, much too young to know about Death Metal let alone be able to play it with such precision and devotion.
The bass player/growling vocalist kept a bottle of Chloroseptic on his amp and administered a few pumps into his mouth whenever there was a guitar break.
In between songs the guitar player delivered rehearsed banter along the lines of “Thank you for coming out tonight, you motherfuckers are insane. This next song is called ”<insert unintelligible but unmistakably violent song title here>.”
And behind the wall of drums one could only make out their drummer’s hair, a blonde coif that deftly avoided entanglement with the whirling drum sticks. It bounced during the fast parts and bobbed during the heavy parts. And during the speedy double kick parts this featherdome of fur switched to Windmill Mode, a tactic possibly meant to distract us from the fact that the beaters on his kick pedals, fast though they were, were no longer making contact with the drumheads.
I quickly became friends with the between-song-bantering guitar player, Sean, because he added my phone number to his list of band people that he would call nightly. Despite being so young Sean would call some surprisingly high profile musicians, lower his voice, and pretend to be “part of the scene.” I picture his phone cradled between his ear and shoulder as he lay across his bed absent-mindedly flipping through an issue of BAM, and talking to actual, professional Thrashers with the confidence of a lifer. “Yeah, that’s cool about your new album. We got a gig during lunch at school next month.” Thinking about it now it is kind of adorable – Sean was like Cameron Crowe’s character in Almost Famous (when he could have easily gone the Talented Mr. Ripley route).
To Deities’ immense credit, they were soon playing such legitimate coke fronts as The Omni and One Step Beyond with those same high profile bands that Sean was courting on his princess phone. As easy as it was to make fun of them for being kids pretending to be cool they were actually out there making cool things happen.
Unfortunately for Sean, though, one of those cool things that he made happen came back to haunt him like a Hammer Smashed Face.
As I mentioned above, one of the other distinguished denizens of Camino Brazos was the original drummer for Your Mother. His name was Shawn (with a “W”) and he had this quaint habit of destroying everything that he loved. In 7th grade he once chased down and then jumped some high schoolers with a skateboard for no discernable reason beyond them not living on Camino Brazos. His reputation for reckless and unnecessary violence continued to grow from there. He also somehow achieved both a bowl cut and a mullet at the same time (see photo), so I suppose his unruly behavior and experimental style only heightened the lore of our burgeoning Camino Brazos Art Scene.
Shawn was also notorious for his excuses as to why he would flake on our shows (“Dude, I got in a fight on the freeway!” is one such example). Until one day he simply…vanished. Poof, literally not seen again for years. But by then it was too late…
By the mid-90’s Your Mother had become the international juggernaut that we now know them to be (see photo of the band jetsetting below), and all because of a backfired act of kindness by Sean (with an “E”)…
Once Sean heard about Shawn’s disappearance (during a long, late night phone call with me) Sean casually shared how Deities would jam through Your Mother songs during their practices and that their drummer, Bradley, knew most of our stuff.
“I’m sure Bradley would be happy to fill in until you found a new drummer.”
That was over 30 years ago and I’m still playing music with Bradley.
I’m going somewhere with all of this, I promise, so I’ll gloss over some of the next few years in hopes of getting to my point sooner.
First though, some cosmic fortuity: the missing drummer’s full name was Shawn Bradley. So, after Shawn Bradley went missing, a kid named Sean led me to another kid named Bradley. Shawn Bradley… Sean… Bradley… Coincidence? Kismet? Is it even further providence that this all happened on Camino Brazos? It boggles the mind!
Another thing about Camino Brazos before I move on: Many years after our storied suburban symposium of old punks and young metalheads first meeting in front of Bradley’s house in 1990, a young kid knocked on Bradley’s door asking him about his band. Bradley asked him, “Do you live on Camino Brazos?” The kid responded, “No, I wish.” True story.
Oh yeah: Paul’s little brother, Chad, joined Deities for a while, further cementing Camino Brazos as central Ton Town’s unquestionable seat of power.
Wait, I have an even nuttier story about Sean and Bradley: Their moms were friends in high school back in Wisconsin. Unbeknownst to each other, they both moved to the same small town in northern California where their sons (Sean and Bradley) coincidentally became best friends.
ANYWAY… Bradley did sit in for Shawn and by the end of his first Your Mother practice he had a miraculous 40 songs under his belt (that’s almost 20 minutes of music!). And he played them better than they’d ever been played. I can only assume this is because Bradley spent his time inside that padded living room practicing drums and not outside on the mean streets of Ton Town stealing tow trucks which could then be used to steal smaller cars (another Shawn nugget).
Two peculiar notes about Bradley in those early days:
- He only listened to Death Metal and Polka music (his grandfather is in the Concertina Hall of Fame)
- He didn’t say more than seven words at a time to us for TWO YEARS
Fast forwarding through the 90’s… Bradley continued playing with Deities when not playing drums and scoring baskets with Your Mother, and he and I even followed “Weird Al” Yankovic around like he was the Grateful Dead one summer.
But as the millenium approached, we found ourselves on a train somewhere between Naples, Italy and Hell, Norway discussing the future of Your Mother. He and I were alone on this trip because the rest of the band bailed after our tour finished in Israel, leaving us to ponder what was next. One disposable thought was to start a new band and just call it “Love Songs.” Since much of our catalog thus far were variations on the love song theme why not just be upfront about it moving forward? Plus, how funny/idiotic would it be to call ourselves something as gentle and non-threatening as “Love Songs” yet continue to play the underground Punk and Hardcore and Metal circuit, where even if people enjoyed us no one would openly admit to liking/seeing/buying a record from a band with such an awfully awful band name? We were already well-versed (and even a little preferable towards) shows in which we did not fit, so why not double-down on it? We filed the name away and the train kept a rollin’ (literally).
Your Mother broke up in January 2000 (exactly 23 years to the day as of this writing). Instead of playing music together we found more fun (and therapy) in posting fake press releases about ourselves for our website, YourMother.com. Most of these postings were one of us writing some absurd story (a la The Onion) about one of the other members of the band in a sort of passive-aggressive put down. Far and away our most unintentionally popular post was about the “news” that our bass player, Alan, was replacing the newly departed Jason Newstead in that other Bay Area powerhouse, Metallica. Somehow the moderators at Metallica.com saw this post. Our website had a big “YM” in the corner, which stood for “Your Mother” and not “Young Miss”, but that detail was missed by the Metallica news team and they went ahead and revealed to the world that “Teen Magazine, YM, Announces Metallica’s Replacement for Jason Newstead.”
During these last days of Your Mother I continued writing love songs and exploring the masturbatory art of the 4-track recorder, a device which allowed me to play all the instruments myself and never, ever, ever, ever have to rely on another person ever again.
But truth be told, there were a few of these new songs I was working on where I needed a qualified drummer to give them any chance of being listenable, and Bradley was game to test the theory. I packaged those songs on a cassette generically labeled “love songs” and passed them out to friends at the last Your Mother show. The next day, Bradley moved to Southern California and Camino Brazos was never the same again…
A year passed and Bradley moved back to the Bay Area to be closer to somewhere that was away from his now-ex-girlfriend. He suggested we jam and, as I’ve stated many times before, it is no fun jamming without a bass player to make fun of. And so enter Seth, a Your Mother superfan and, more importantly, fixer of vans. He also played bass, but that was beside the point.
“But what should we call ourselves?” we inevitably asked ourselves in advance of our first show.
And with no one of sound mind in the room to stop us we stuck with the name on the demo containing the songs we were now playing, “Love Songs.”
I could have saved you a lot of reading and just let you watch the video below. It explains all of this in much more concise terms, and more melodically to boot. Hopefully your legs aren’t too numb from sitting on the toilet this long.
In this song and video you’ll find Squeaky from Year Of the Fist and Dick from Subhumans, so thanks to them for their respective contributions. Also, thanks to The Damned for establishing that a “love song” really isn’t that bad.
This is one of many pandemic-related projects that The Love Songs have done as a band in lieu of writing new music. Frank, Salem, Bradley and I, having been forced apart since pre-lockdown, recorded this song remotely so it could be included on a benefit for long-time The Love Songs’ benefactor, the late Scott Rogers. That record is available through Thrillhouse and the proceeds go towards helping secure Scott’s legacy as San Francisco’s most respected underground promoter.
Final tangent, and today’s last True Story: I just learned (from her autobiography, Reckless) that before she started The Pretenders, Chrissy Hynde was an original member of the following bands, the veritable Mt. Rushmore of Punk Rock:
* Sex Pistols
* The Clash
* The Damned