Galaxie 500

Industrial punk memories

At work, I listened to the Galaxie 500 box set, and followed it by the live Copenhagen concert on CD. All their songs sound the same, but so good, droning on forever.

I survived high school with Galaxie 500 and My Life With The Thrill Kult. I went to a philanthropic boarding school. It was chartered for orphans, but there was an orphan shortage in the 1960's, so they expanded the definition to "social orphans." I got in under this provision, poor, from a boring, broken home.

Other kids dug R&B and hip hop, but I had tapes with songs like "The Devil Does Drugs" and "Dig It." The Thrill Kill Kult has mellowed out into weak pablum, but when I first heard them they kept things amusing.

They were the first band I'd seen in concert. A guy I'd met the day before, Dan, picked me up in his parents' car and we drove 120 MPH to Philly from West Chester, PA. Tickets were $12. I wore Docker shoes, no socks, and a print shirt. All the other men looked like Depeche Mode stunt doubles. This was seven years ago, when Alternative was for fuckups and freaks. Dan smoked skunkweed in a little pipe made from a plumbing connector. "I'll just tell the cops I'm a plumber if I get caught," he said.

He ended up hamburger in the pit, his face torn around the eyebrow. I got beat, too. It was great. TKK had a giant dancing penis and crucified a half-naked guy dressed as Christ on a foam rubber cross, and then a Virgin Mary come out with giant sloping breasts and gave Christ a blowjob. A women set off a firecracker on her crotch and a guy grabbed me and said, "Kid, you have to dance if you'll be here. Jump up and down, now." So I did. They sprayed the crowd with water and people exposed themselves. I got my ass pinched.

I remember leaping up and down with 400 other people, fist in the air, screaming out the chorus "Christian Zombie Vampires! I am the Father! The Father of Nothing!" Over and over, in the blackness of the club, with a little tinge of sacred violence.

God bless the Trocadero, in Philly, for that show, my first indoctrination into a world that rejected the smothering blandness around me.

I saw TKK four years later, in Buffalo, in college. A weak crowd, a weak band. The era passed, and I'm no longer cool enough to specialize. I listen to Meat Beat Manifesto albums over and over, alternating with Motown, and Galaxie 500, whose songs survived alternative culture to become an island on the musical sphere unto themselves.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


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