Best Of '99: Memphis Goons' New Drummer, LuLu, Recruited From Strip Club

Avant-garde outfit scours sleazy dives for talent, plans new and archival releases.

[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

legal."

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"

(RealAudio

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"

(RealAudio

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.