reflections from the tip of the spear…
The Avengers founding member and drummer Danny Furious has lived in Sweden for the last 19 years. He introduced himself at a Vectors gig in Stockholm and we set this interview up. It was done through email in December 2004.
KARL BACKMAN: You started the Avengers, tell us a bit about how that came about? Originally Jonathan Postal (later voc w/ the Readymades) played bass?
DANNY FURIOUS: Well , I was born in Los Angeles California, but my family soon migrated to Orange County, just south of L.A. Fullerton to be precise. Anyway, I moved to San Francisco to further my education in the fine arts. I was a wanna-be Jackson Pollock. I heard the RAMONES were playing at a North Beach club, the SAVOY TIVOLI, close to the San Francisco Art Institue. I went alone as no-one was interested in coming along ‘cuz no one knew who the Ramones were except me! It was autumn ’76 and my little brother had played me their first album just a few weeks before and I was curious as hell . So I paid my buck- fifty or whatever and together with about 10 other people had the sonic life changing experience of a lifetime! they were amazing and I couldn’t believe they could put so much energy out for like 10 fucking people and DEE DEE was something else! I was so stoked at the idea of another band that I immediately phoned Greg and he too was good to go. I decided I didn’t want to sing this time, but instead concentrate on playing the drums. San Francisco consisted of only 2 interesting bands who were — more or less, although I didn’t know it at the time — the remainder of the Ramones audience that night. These were the NUNS and CRIME. We instantly became the third! all we needed was a singer and a bass player. I was totally floored with this “Marilyn-type red head” who also atended the SFAI and she would dress in these vintage 50′s clothes in stark contrast to the other painters at school. she seemed the perfect candidate for the job of singer. Plus I was totally in lust with her. She was the most fascinating girl I’d ever seen! so I made a play for her and popped the big question. “do you want to sing in our band?” she said “No, I wanna be an actor. I know nothing about rock and roll.” perfect!! we set a mike in front of her, turned on the P.A and left…. when we returned she said “Yea, I’ll be your singer. My voice sounds so great this loud!” We had ourself a singer but still needed a bass player. Penelope suggested this other student at SFAI named Jonathon Postal. OK, we had ourselves a band now so we started to rehearse in my loft which I shared with 3 other painters and so our first gig is credited to have been played in my warehouse, actually it was just one of our many parties but this time we provided the enterainment. we did covers of early STONES and a few STOOGES numbers. Penelope still looked like a red headed Marilyn Monroe and we didn’t have a name. I credit Jonathon with our name. We dicked around with different names like the Refrigeraters, Vomit, and the Open Sores until Jonathon came up with the AVENGERS stating it would be the name everyone could understand. Jonathon never fit in the band and he had very definite ideas of what we were to be that did not jibe with ours. for one, he had long curly hair and fancied himself Gary Valentine, bass player for BLONDIE at the time. This was NOT what we were, so his days were numbered from the git-go. when Penelope and I met Jimmy in july ’77 we knew he was our boy! Jimmy used the line from JAILHOUSE ROCK where ELVIS says in essence “I can play guitar (bass) better ‘en him!” Jimmy was hired on the spot, right in front of City Lights Books. The problem was how to get rid of Jonathon. He refused to go! We had to physically evict him and he went kicking and screaming and swearing revenge! Jonathon in fact got us our first real gig at the MABUHAY in june ’77 playing an all nite party for the NUNS who had opened for BRYAN FERRY at WINTERLAND. That show established the AVENGERS as the “new kids on the block”. the AVENGERS were the first REAL punk band from San Francisco!
KB: The Avengers’ debut gig was at your warehouse party?
DF: The Warehouse gig was, as I said, one of our huge party’s where we happened to be providing the entertainment. We were getting our “chops” down and showcasing our “singer”. I remember thinking that it was cool Penelope sang “I WANNA BE YOUR MAN” in the same way PATTY SMITH did “GLORIA”, that cross- gender kinda thing. We also played “THE LAST TIME”, and “MERCY MERCY” by the STONES’. the audience were young artsy-fartsy party people. you know, friends! I think it’s important to note that our first real show (at the MABUHAY 6-11-77) was the showcase gig for the AVENGERS and we played ONLY original material. this was partly due to PENELOPE taking a trip down to Hollywood and kickin’ it with the SCREAMERS for a few days. PENELOPE was from Seattle where the SCREAMERS (then known as the TUPPERWARES) were also based. She had been their “body guard” in Seattle prior to her moving to San Francisco and they were good friends. upon her return from Hollywood (where the SCREAMERS were the darlngs of the fledgling Hollywood scene-AND RIGHTLY SO!) she announced that — “we must have our own songs!” we agreed. Problem was no one had ever written a song before! So we set about trying to write some. I believe it was me who wrote the first 5 or 6 songs as I had no problem trying! mabey they weren’t the ultimate in PUNK ROCK compositions, but they were at least ours! The songs included “I WANT IN”, “FUCK YOU”, “VERNON IS A FAG”, “MY BOYFRIEND’S A PINHEAD”, “TEENAGE REBEL” and” CAR CRASH”. 4 out of 6 songs written entirely by your’s truly. We ended the set with me (ego nutcase) doing a typical rendition of “SEARCH AND DESTROY”. This was after we had finished our set as the AVENGERS. Needless to say, we were the highlight of the evening, it now being 4 in the morn! DIRK DIRKSON, the proprioter and M.C. was duly impressed and asked us back the following week even though half the time GREG was playing one song and PENELOPE was singing another! definately the way to begin any punk-rock career!!! The audience was made up of R&R enthuseists and displaced freaks and young gays out to have a bit of fun. They fuckin’ loved us! and we them! we shut ‘em all down! PUNK ROCK HAD FINALLY ARRIVED IN SAN FRANCISCO! and PENELOPE was the FACE! screw the NUNS and CRIME!
KB: You supported the Sex Pistols on their last show on January 14 1978, what do you remember about that night?
DF: What I remember most is a rainy afternoon and I’m on stage completely alone, setting up my drum kit for a forthcoming sound check. Winterland is a huge cavernous former ice skating rink taken over by BILL GRAHAM (another absolute scum bag and enemy of the people) in the sixties to cash in on the hippy thing. So I’m setting up and who do I see sitting and staring out into the empty arena not 5 or 6 feet from me but the one and only JOHN ROTTEN ! Well, thinks I to myself, nows your big chance, fuckin’ say something fool! but the scowl on that boys face is enough to scare the shit outta, I would think, anyone so I’m trying to work up the guts to introduce myself prepared for the dissing of a lifetime when who bounces up to me grabbing my t-shirt, but SID VISCIOUS! Sid simply says “I gotta have your t-shirt mate! ” I’m wearing a home made hammer and sickle flag t-shirt belonging to the Dils so it ain’t mine to give away and so I reply” I’m wearing this shirt tonight and it doesn’t belong to me” and he gets real pushy saying “Come with me I’ll trade it for one of mine” and I say “no thanx” still wanting to talk with Rotten and not this spoilt brat and he says “fuck you mate” and fucks off and naturally Rotten finds this all so distasteful and he too fucks off shaking his head in disgust. So I never spoke to Rotten. The AVENGERS were in their dressing room, the NUNS in theirs and the PISTOLS had their sorta v.i.p. room, shielded from everyone so we did not mingle with them. The nuns were into heroin and SID, who’d been carefully guarded during the whole tour was let loose to fuck himself up as he pleased and the NUNS who were into smack were only too happy to help SID get his dope and they got high together and you all know the story of what essentially happened to him after the last show in San Francisco — he O.D’d that night, was hospitalized, flew to New York and never really recovered, rapidly spiraling downhill to his death a little over a year later. I wasn’t at the party after the show with the elite junky punks (we were essentially a drug-free band) but several “friends” were and the reports were sordid and disgusting. This was NOT what PUNK was about for me. I’m not saying the AVENGERS were goody two shoes, because I soon found myself a hopeless addict lost in my own downward spiral of misery and junk. More on that later. Back to the show — the PISTOLS came on stage and performed a lack luster show, SID being high and JOHN cynical and disgusted about what was happening to his band, the first and possibly ONLY true punk band. I was fascinated. They sounded terrible and SID was trying to be JOHN. John had given up and didn’t seem to care any longer. So they finish their set and come out for their one encore which is NO FUN and then JOHN’s true colors came out. I have NEVER (nor will I ever again) witness a performance so real, so honest and so full of desperation as that encore. I always liked ROTTEN but now I really knew who he was and what was so different about him and every other performer before him. His performance gave me chills. It was the best live performance I have ever seen. It was so moving and real and terribly depressing and the bravest thing I’d ever witnessed. I suddenly really got it! What it was that made this punk thing so different and it was JOHN ROTTEN. I credit JOHN LYDON with being the originator of what I believe punk is (or should be) and that is to say, absolute honesty. or as close as one can get we being mere mortals and all… and I thought about that young man up there in front of the world fronting what was at the time the NEXT BIG THING and it was all falling apart around and inside of himself and he put everything he had into that one stupid song and it was so fucking real and beautiful! And perhaps this sounds a bit melodramatic or whatever but I was truly moved by his performance and I have had nothing but the highest regard for this man ever since. You can take all your definitions of what punk rock is and who started it etc., etc… but the truth is I knew without a doubt that night exactly what punk was and the truth is punk is nothing more then assets and deficits in equal measure. We had witnessed the death of the individual and punk was simply the last true scream of defiance at the witnessing of this death. So-called punk rock music and punk are really two very different things and what I believe punk is to me is a belief I will live and breath and carry till the day I die. Not self-destruction, but true love of oneself. Well now I’ve gotten preachy and boring and I will not mention this stuff again in this interview. So take it or fucking leave it, that’s the truth as I live it… and the fucking wisdom to know the difference!
The Avengers ’77 (l-r) Penelope Houston, Danny Furious, Greg Ingraham, Jimmy Wilsey by Marcus Leatherdale…
KB: Why did the Avengers break up?
DF: Jimmy was leaning towards his “fave” music rockabilly, and had aspirations to play guitar, whilst I was sorta interested in being the DIL’s new drummer as they were , once again drummerless, and that left Penelope trying to keep things together after Greg’s departure. and as previously mentioned, Greg’s exit left us a tad depressed, as he simply split without even saying good-bye really. We started to disintegrate, so Brad’s new role in the band was to inspire us to stay together and that is too much to dump on one individual – but he tried, he really tried! In fact we managed to hold out another 5 months but those months are kinda blurry and the end felt imminent.. we finally called it a day in june of ’79.
KB: What is your fondest memories from your early punk days?
DF: The fondest memories are most definitely the whole experience. The beginnings of PUNK was a unique point in time for all involved and the feeling of “this is exactly what must be done and we’re gonna do it” was pre-imminent. It was a righteous feeling! and I’m very glad to have been a part of the whole thing. There are many funny and not-so-funny anecdotes to tell but… just getting a chance to see so many great bands back in the day was incredible. the DILS, the SLEEPERS, the ZERO’s the MUTANTS. the WEIRDO’s, NEGATIVE TREND, ALLEYCATS, X, GERMS, CONTROLLERS (Mad Dog Rules!), LIARS, DEADBEATS, D.O.A., the SCREAMERS, MIDDLE CLASS and early DEVO are amongst my favorites. what can I say, I fuckin’ love good music and believe it – PUNK was great music! The brilliant thing was that at the onset all the bands had their own sound and style. and women were very much a part of early PUNK. That was a BIG plus and as much as PENELOPE and I have our differences I am very proud of her accomplishments and I know she has influenced countless young women to follow suite. BELINDA CARLISLE, when we first met her, wanted to start an AVENGERS fan club. instead she started the GO GO’s, a far superior project. One of my favorite memories was driving up to Vancouver for the first time in early ’78 to do a show with D.O.A. (think we were the first Cali band to play Canada). Anyway, we’re driving around looking for the venue and we finally find it and park our van, and standing there to greet us is this very tuff looking biker-skinhead dude who extends his hand to shake ours and announces very seriously “Hi, I’m Joey Shithead, welcome to Vancouver!”. Fucking brilliant! we had a blast playing Vancouver. That night after the show we all drove to Burnaby to party and jam in this house with no walls, a candle atop Jimmy’s amp burnt down and set fire to the speaker cabinet but that didn’t stop anyone from playin’. Almost burnt the place down! Loved playing Vancouver. Great fuckin’ town!
KB: You were the original drummer for Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, before they moved to New York, right?
DF: I joined JOAN JETT’s new band in january of 80 after quitting my gig with JORMA KAUKONEN (of HOT TUNA and JEFFERSON AIRPLANE fame) whom I’d been playing with just for the bucks together with my best friend DENNY DEGORIO who was the bass player and who got me the gig and said it’d be a good laugh! Well it wasn’t too funny really so after a tour in the fall of 79 of the eastern seaboard (Vermont to Jersey) Denny and I both gave notice. Gary called and said he’d got the roll of new bass player and that Joan wanted an AVENGER in the band and would I audition once again stating we’d have a good laugh so I went down to Hollywood and got the gig. ERIC AMBLE was the guitar player and he was dead serious about hitting the big-time so he was constantly in a rage over Joan’s drunkeness and my getting high. Denny’s constant insistence to try some heroin finally paid off in New York City after our tour with Jorma and I was entering my honeymoon period with the sleaziest of drugs. I was hooked from sniff one and soon started shooting the shit. My mind was definitely NOT on being a pop star! I spent most of my 3 months in hollywood as Joan’s drummer fucking rich teenage punk groupies and shooting dope with DARBY CRASH who lived across the street with his “girlfriend” Michael. By the way it was me who named the band the BLACK HEARTS. I had a fuck-band that encompassed various members of other bands whatever, and that is where I met GARY RYAN who was dating LORNA DOOM, the GERM’s bass player. I really didn’t like the music Joan was playing nor did I like her management.. in fact aside from Gary and Joan herself, I didn’t like anything about being in this band. But soon we were off to England and I couldn’t skip the opportunity having never been to Europe so in May 1980 we left for England. I was truly excited and loved England immediately. We rehearsed in the WHO’s studio in Battersea and I got to play one of KEITH MOONS drum kits. We were soon off to Holland to do a festival thing with MOTORHEAD and we got on great with them even being invited to Philthy Phil’s home when we got back to London for drinks and a night at their fave club the Nashville where the Pistol’s once played. we did a show at the MARQUEE opening for the BOY’s and we met JIMMY (sham) PURSEY. I also met a couple of girls who took me to their squat in south London and made me feel very much at home, they also being into smack. none of my pursuits in London went over too well with the rest of the band outside of Joan whom we never saw, her staying in Posh hotels while we were slumming it Joan being the star and all but no matter ‘cuz I had found my London connection so who cared! I promptly gave notice, agreeing to do a 3 week tour of the Netherlands before calling it a day with Joan and Co. Whilst in Holland Joan stayed in Amsterdam and the band stayed in a terrible Motel in a town called Apeldorn. Such fucking shit! Joan was… how should I say, a complete asshole for treating her band so badly and I have no regrets for quitting although I have no ill feelings towards her. In fact I’d love to see her again as we had some good times together. We’d pick up girls together… she being the “shy” lesbian.
KB: Do you follow today’s punk scene at all? And if you would compare the old and the new, what’s the difference?
DF: Those are challenging questions at best BUT, easy as hell to answer; it’s absurd and asinine to compare or make comparisons with what’s happening now, and what took place nearly 30 years ago. It would be like trying to compare what CHARLIE PARKER and DIZZY GILLESPIE laid down in New York City back in 1948, changing forever what people percieved as music, and the outrage they caused, litterally inciting people to walk out mid-song (and I am sure we did the same), and what is accepted as jazz music today… there is simply NO COMPARISON! This isn’t to say, however, that what young bands today are attempting to accomplish is in any way invalid… quite the contrary, PUNK ROCK is more valid today than ever, so fucking get out there and make some noise people! Start your own band and do something that means something because the reason the whole thing began in the first place was that we were sick and tired of paying our hard earned cash to see some 40-50 year old farts playing their geriatric bullshit (no ageism — just FACT!) when we fuckin’ knew that we could do it ourselves, and so much better… with a vengence!
the entire interview – lots more — here…