THE RECORD BAR PUNK
At the Record Bar in the Oxford Mall, Clint and I shuffled through the racks of cassettes and whispered over the clicking of plastic. From the moment we entered the store, we were furtively eyeballing the vaguely punk looking clerk behind the counter with a Clash button on his black employee vest.
“I swear, that’s one of the guys I was telling you about,” Clint said. “The band that played at the skating rink a couple weeks ago.”
Before I went back to Birmingham, I was stuck at the Sheltons for a few more days, going out of my skull with boredom. So I decided to give Clint a call. He was psyched to hear from me. His first response was, “b-b-b-b-b-butane!” We had a good laugh remembering the fun we’d had that summer. He suggested we drive down to Oxford and check out the music store at the mall. I had twenty dollars burning a hole in my pocket. All the way there, he told me about a punk band he’d seen perform at the skating rink. They were the most amazing band he had ever seen up close. “In between songs, the band members alternated positions,” Clint said. “Switching from one instrument to the next.”
Now that we were mere feet away from one of the members, I suggested we go talk to him.
Slowly, we crept up behind the guy and stood there for several seconds before Clint cleared his throat and said, “Hey.”
The guy turned around nonchalantly. “How y’all doing?”
“Didn’t I see your band play at the Oxford skating rink?” Clint asked.
“Yeah, that was us. My name’s Brian.” He pointed at his nametag.
We introduced ourselves and shook hands.
“That was an awesome show, man.”
“I can’t believe they let you guys play punk.”
“My friend Dave works at the skating rink,” Brian said. “That’s how we got in. But we were playing Dead Kennedys songs and insulting people, so Dave pulls me over to the side and says we gotta tone down the profanity. Well, the next song we play is ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off!’”
We all laughed.
“Man, after that, we were shut right the fuck down! The crowd was yelling, ‘You suck!’ We grabbed our shit and took off.”
“That’s so awesome!” Clint and I enthused.
“I don’t think they’re gonna invite us back.”
“What’s the name of your band?” I asked.
“That night we were The Whales. We change our name every time we play a show. Not that there are many places to play.”
“I know. Nothing’s going on in this shitass town.”
“You guys always play punk?”
“We do a variety of tunes, some punk, some ska, a little rockabilly. Sometimes all within the same song.”
“Cool. I listen mostly to punk.” I showed him the tapes I’d found, stoked beyond belief to finally have albums by Social Distortion and Minor Threat. I held them tightly in my hand like trophies. “I’ve been dying to find these,” I told the guy. “Every since I saw that movie Another State of Mind. Do you know that one?”
“Yeah. That’s a cool flick. I just ordered those tapes a few weeks ago. I was hoping somebody would find them.”
We talked about punk bands for a while. He recommended some albums, making me swear I’d check out Plastic Surgery Disasters by Dead Kennedys as soon as I had the money. He said it was their most musical album. A classic. I memorized every word he said.
After we’d made our purchases, Clint and I walked down to the Orange Julius. He wanted to know what it was like being in a mental hospital.
“Being locked up… man, it’s all a big joke. They didn’t know what else to do with me, and I guess if they didn’t know what to do with you, they lock you up.”
“When my dad found out what happened to y’all, he was rearing to go beat your dad up and that other guy. I ain’t never seen my dad so pissed off.”
“Everybody knows about it now, huh?”
“Well, yeah. It was in the paper.”
“So are you coming back to Anniston before you leave for LA?”
“Maybe for Christmas. I don’t know what’s happening yet, where I’m going to end up…”
“We should hang out if you’re in town. And hey, man… tell your brother…” Clint paused. “Tell him I said what’s up. Okay?”