The autograph collectors of the world are an odd lot.
When you're a kid, the manic splat of a rock star or pro jock occasionally holds some measure of importance.
The stalking, however, was more of a commitment than I was really willing to make. I just didn't have it in me to take it that far. The few autographs that I've gathered were usually just the result of coincidentally being in the right place at the right time.
Occasional good luck wasn't enough of an incentive for me to make a serious go of it as a collector.
But years later I found myself with a steady gig as the booking agent and house DJ at Trees in Deep Ellum. And, by 1990, I had been doing this long enough where I had seen it all firsthand; the fevered rock star egos, the occasional contempt for the audience revealed only behind the curtain. It was this immediate proximity to a weekly barrage of touring acts--along with the simple mechanics of having my record collection stored in the upstairs DJ booth--that gave me a bizarre idea.
Ask these people to sign somebody else's shit.
The challenges were myriad; matching the right record with the wrong artist for maximum odd juxtaposition, asking in a way that wasn't too obviously confrontational; then knowing how to make a clean break once the artists come to the full realization of what they had just done.
It was risky business all the way around.
I started looking at it as a sort of passive/aggressive semi-confrontational art project. And, over 20 years, I've amassed quite the twisted assortment of odd autographs. They are of little sentimental value to anyone but myself, but these are a few of the more interesting stories behind a few of them. Let's thumb through some of the psychosis...
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Sonic Youth on the 12" single of LL Cool J's "Go Cut Creator, Go!"
Sonic Youth had just signed with Geffen Records, recorded "Goo", and released "Kool Thing" as a single. Chuck D from Public Enemy appeared in the music video, which was a tribute to LL Cool J. SY was playing at Club Clearview that night, and by coincidence, I ran into them while picking up a to-go order at Deep Ellum Café. After sprinting across the street to grab the record sleeve, I returned to find that Kim Gordon had already split. Thurston, Lee and Steve were glad to sign the LL Cool J record, though.
Radiohead on Cheap Trick's "Next Position Please" LP
It was 1993 and Radiohead were playing at Trees on their first American tour. People were just discovering this weird new song called "Creep" and the band was literally on the radio and in our heads. Backstage, they talked about how they hated the song and didn't want to play it. Uh oh. "Creep" brought down the house that night, of course. Cheap Trick, on the other hand, were just creepy. The guitar player was like 60 years old and dressed like a little kid. They were also on their third or fourth bass player by this album. Next...
Donny Osmond on NWA's "100 Miles and Runnin'" 12" single
It was one of those deals where a local branch of a major record label rented the upstairs loft at Trees to host a private party. One of the guests of honor that night was Donny Osmond. He apparently didn't really feel like mixing it up with the invited crowd and asked if he could hide in the DJ booth with me. I told him, "Uh, sure. If you'll sign my NWA album." He had no earthly idea what he was signing, but was happy to do whatever it took to not have to interact with the fawning drunken freaks. Donny and I didn't have a whole lot in common. He was once a child star, and I was once a child. That's close. I wonder if he's ever heard "Fuck The Police".
King Diamond on "The Bee Gee's Greatest Hits" LP
Most hardcore metal doods already know that European death metal god King Diamond permanently relocated to the DFW area 20 years ago. One afternoon, King D strolled unannounced into the old Bill's Records location, and all the Depeche Mode-lookin' kids working there that day dared me to walk up to him and engage him in conversation. I told them we should raise the stakes and make it really interesting: I would get him to autograph a Bee Gee's album. Flak jackets and body armor were distributed and a Sharpie procured. You could shred the air with a machete as I bravely made my way down the aisle to approach the great beast. I offered him the Bee Gee's album and pen. His evil gaze met my own before uttering the words, "Sure, I can do that for you." Then he bought a CD by Frank Sinatra and left in a pickup truck.
Snoop Dogg on a "Six Underground" 12" by the Sneaker Pimps
In June of 2002, Gypsy Tea Room promoter Scott Beggs hired me to do a Cottonmouth, Texas DJ set as opening act for Snoop, so I had a bag of records with me in the booth. Beggs and I both kind of figured that they would open the doors at 8, I would spin until 10 or so, Headkrack would pump up the crowd for another 10 minutes or so, then Snoop would come out and do his thing. It was midnight before he ever showed up. And he was so baked that he and his entourage left later that night without even getting paid. Scott and I ended up taking a big paper bag filled with cash to his downtown hotel room the next morning.
The Cows on Flip Wilson's "Cowboys and Colored People" LP
The Minneapolis band The Cows are a sort of punk rock comedy act--if you're into watching a sweaty band of toothless crank-jacked freaks beating the living shit out of each other onstage during a show. Flip Wilson was the cross-dressing African-American stand-up comic who had an alter ego named "Geraldine". On the night that The Cows played at Trees, singer Shannon Selberg drew a crude bra onto his shirtless torso with a Black Sharpie; then guitarist smacked him in the face with a sharp elbow. Man down!
Ken Davitian and Shavo Odadjian on NWA's "Dope Man" 12"
OK, this was a terrible idea. The NWA record is their very first EP, a collector's item. In good condition, it's probably worth about 200 bucks on eBay. Davitian is the obese dude from the Borat movie; Shavo was the bass player in System of a Down. Dear God, what was I thinking? At a late night DJ gig at The Roxy Theatre's VIP room (where John Belushi unfortunately spent his last waking hours), I spotted Borat's foil holding court with the SOAD twerp in a booth near the coatroom. Shav apparently took offense that I had asked the fat guy to sign but not him, so after listening to a lot of nonsense about him doing a record with The RZA from Wu Tang Clan, I finally let him sign it too. That's the bad thing about autographs--once they put their name on the cardboard, there's no putting the ink back in the pen.
Billy Ray Cyrus on The Cramps "Flame Job" LP
A few years back, Miley's Dad brought his mullet to town on his "Some Gave All" tour. On my way into a DJ gig at the Slip Inn, I dropped by the ol' faithful weed spot in the Bronco Bowl parking lot and spied a tour bus parked by the backstage loading dock. I slid by to check out the scene: Billy Ray and a roadie were out back throwing a football behind the venue. He was a nice enough guy; yet probably not pleased that promoters had only sold 150 presale tickets for his show in a building that held 4,000 people. Bravely, I reached in my backseat, grabbed something punk rock out of the crate and asked him to sign it. Billy Ray Cyrus had never heard of The Cramps, but was happy to sign an autograph for anyone. On a sadder note, Lux Interior, the lead singer of The Cramps, passed away this week in Los Angeles.
Paul Westerberg on "The Music of America" LP
My initial introduction to the former lead singer of The Replacements came on the morning of the band's show at Theatre Gallery in 1986. Russell Hobbs and I were asleep in the loft space above Prophet Bar and were both awoken by lots of heavy boots on the staircase. It was 8 in the morning; the band had driven straight through to Dallas after their show the previous night. They were thirsty and they wanted beer--like now and shit. I reminded Westerberg of this when I asked him to sign this ridiculous album back in July of 1993. The record is a collection of traditional patriotic American folk songs and anthems sung by a choir in Minnesota. As Seen On TV!!!
The Jesus Lizard on the "Jesus Christ Superstar" soundtrack LP
Already knew Davids Yow and Sims from their Scratch Acid days down in Austin, so they had a pretty good sense of humor about drawing all over the iconic soundtrack album cover in white Sharpie ink. It was 1991 and the show was at Trees. Epic. Local blog We Shot JR intimated earlier this week that TJL are getting back together. Be seein' ya there.
Bushwick Bill on the 12" of "White Wedding" by Billy Idol
It was November of 2001 and Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys was here for a solo show. Trees promoter Scott Beggs asked me to take Bushwick out to Bill's Records for an afternoon autograph signing. This was a no-brainer all the way around; a midget named Bill, a record by a different midget named Billy Idol, at a store called Bill's Records. Bushwick was still recovering from having his right eye shot out at the time. That had to hurt.
Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca from Star Wars) on a Maxwell 12"
Everybody in Dallas has seen this guy around, right? He's like eight feet tall, lives in Granbury and looks like Mick Fleetwood. I met him at a party in East Dallas one night. He sat in the same chair all night; it was odd to watch all of the partygoers come by pay their respects. I ran out to my car, grabbed the only record I had with me, and the Wook threw me a freebie. (He probably gets like thirty bucks a pop for his sig at most dweeb fests.) The cover photo of Maxwell here looks kinda like Chewbacca in a suit. No shit. It's a good look for Max.
Lee Ving on the "Business As Usual" LP by Men At Work
Fear lead singer Lee Ving is still a gnarly old punk rock dude. His autograph is some sort of an algebra equation and the words "FUCK YOU!" This Men At Work album came out right about the same time that Fear made a very controversial appearance on Saturday Night Live. For many, this was the first time that mainstream Americanos had ever been exposed to the ritual phenomenon of slam dancing. Men At Work may have been the most annoying band on the planet during the '80s.
White Zombie on Ice Cube's "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" 12'' single
The band did this for me before a show at Bronco Bowl, and I think they liked the idea of doing it. They were gore freaks from the East Coast, Cube was an explicit gangsta rapper from the West Coast; it was a good dynamic. That was right after Ice Cube had left NWA and hooked up the Bomb Squad, the East Coast-based production crew responsible for the first two Public Enemy albums. Rob Zombie spent a great deal of time drawing something cool on this record jacket.
Quiet Riot on The Smiths' "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side" 12" single
On a Friday night in August of 2002, Quiet Riot was out there on its last legs, screeching spandex scraping by on a painful tour playing shitholes and dive bars. On this particular night, they were entertaining a few dozen people at the Canyon Club inside Bronco Bowl. Getting the opportunity to deface a Smiths record before their show provided the sole highlight of their evening. Not that I have anything against The Smiths; it just seemed like a good idea at the time.
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There are literally dozens of other oddities in this collection; Soul Asylum on Ted Nugent's "Weekend Warriors"; Shonen Knife on Led Zeppelin's "Coda"; Teenage Fanclub on Dinosaur Jr.'s "You're Living All Over Me"; Cop Shoot Cop on The Gun Club's "Las Vegas Story" LP. All of those were snagged after soundchecks at Trees. Bartender Craig Dupois grabbed those for me while he was getting posters and memorabilia signed for the club.
A few local artists were also good for funky knick-knacks: Rev. Horton Heat signed a rare LP copy of the Ike Turner instrumental album "A Black Man's Soul" for me and MC 900 Ft Jesus drew a nice illustration on the jacket of Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack for the blaxploitation film "Sweet Exorcist". Both of those albums are worth about a C-note each without the signatures. The Buck Pets also signed an old album by The Jeff Beck Group.
You know, we're essentially a product of mash-up culture now; none of us are pure and without influence or the odd juxtaposition. This much we know is true. These records exist as a sort of series of cave paintings; and they offer certain artists a permanent opportunity to comment on their creative peer group.
And to answer your next question, no. Not for sale.