[Editor’s note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999’s top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Monday, Jan. 11.]
Memphis Goons guitarist/pianist Xavier Tarpit said he has seen the future
of rock ’n’ roll — and it’s in the nation’s strip clubs.
“The way punk was in England in 1976 — that’s the way it is in strip
clubs now,” Tarpit said recently. “The music that’s played as dancers
perform and the audience reaction to the performance — you won’t find
that at a rock ’n’ roll concert anymore.”
What Tarpit has found in strip clubs is the latest addition to the avant-garde Goons’
lineup: LuLu the drummer. “She basically bangs on a snare drum and bounces her
breasts,” the PC-insensitive Tarpit said of the ex-dancer, whom he described as “barely
Although LuLu has not rehearsed yet with the Goons, Tarpit expects her to be there
when the band enters a Virginia studio to record Real Good Vibrations (for a
Change), its first new studio work in 20-odd years.
The Goons, who play an unholy musical mix akin to the experimental sounds of Captain
Beefheart and Pavement, first made their mark in the early ’70s, although no one knew it
at the time. Holed up in a Memphis, Tenn., basement, the band — Tarpit, plus guitarists
Wally Moth and Jackass Thompson — recorded 10 full albums of weirdness, none of
which was released for more than two decades.
Teenage BBQ, the Goons’ debut, finally was issued by the Shangri-La label in
1996. It included such tracks as the scathing “Sweet Love”
excerpt) and the faux-Dada “Chop Chop Chop” (RealAudio
excerpt). The group then re-formed, with a new steel guitarist,
The Artist Formerly Known As Stringbean, for a show in Memphis.
“Up until the last minute, the song list was changing,” Moth said recently about that gig.
“That comes from not playing in 20 years.”
That show prompted Shangri-La’s owner, Sherman Willmott, to consider follow-up
performances in 1999.
“I’m not a big reunion kind of guy, but they showed that they’ve still got a lot of songs in
them,” Willmott said. “We’d like to book a show at the Great Pyramids sometime, but I
think we may have some competition from the World Wrestling Federation.”
Meanwhile, Goons companion and unofficial manager Rover Rollover is in talks with an
unnamed reissue label about releasing Memphis Goons Ur-Text, a box set of
recordings from the late ’60s and early ’70s. According to Tarpit, the heretofore unissued
work makes such Teenage BBQ songs as “Bring the House Down”
excerpt) seem tame by comparison.
“This is all of the material that was not acceptable for Teenage BBQ,” he said. “If
you thought that was strange, this is the Memphis Goons beyond even [the eccentricity of
Beefheart’s] Trout Mask Replica.”
Amid this flurry of activity, Tarpit continues to scour strip clubs around the nation’s capital
for new discoveries. “I’m not talking about Vegas-styled, silicone-filled gentlemen’s
clubs, but down ’n’ dirty dives,” he said. “You’re finding all kinds of talent there. These
are people that live on the edge.”
At one club, Tarpit recently met three Washington-area musicians — Skinny Joe Legs,
Jukebox Something and Blind Lemon Peckerhead — who’ve nursed themselves on the
Goons’ music for the last year.
The threesome, who as yet have not settled on a band name, have become part of a
collective of Goons’ affiliates that models itself after the Wu-Tang Clan’s extended family
of associated musicians. The collective alternately calls itself the Memphis Goons Mafia
and the Goons-Tang Clan.