Local lunatic

The lost gospel of GG Allin
By JAMES PARKER  |  April 28, 2006

SCUM PUNK: Helmeted in blood, throwing poo-poo, starting riots, GG Allin took the frontman-as-health-hazard thing to the limit.When GG Allin’s prolonged and ordurous interrogation of his own existence ended at last in June 1993, when punk rock’s abuser-in-chief finally exited the reeking stage via the trapdoor of an overdose, the informed consensus was . . . well, that’s that then. There would be no musical legacy to speak of, because GG’s music was godawful. Who could take anything from, or do anything with, the rubbishy noise that he made? And as a performer — helmeted in blood, throwing poo-poo, starting riots — he seemed to have taken the frontman-as-health-hazard thing to the limit. Après GG — nothing.

Perhaps that’s why we still talk about him: there’s no school of acolytes to disperse his influence, no clones or knockoffs to adulterate his memory. The new DVD Terror in America: Live 1993 (Music Video Distributors) catches GG on the last tour of his life, giving everyone hell. It’s a gentler viewing experience than last year’s Savage South: Best of 1992 Tour. GG in Terror is fresh from prison, and he looks almost pleased to be back with his band. Dressed for work in boots, jockstrap, rubber gloves, studded collar, and bloodstained lab coat, he measures out the stage with his distinctive lumpy swagger before going predictably berserk. But there’s a little less horror. Lots of bashing himself in the head, yes, and some random swinging at the crowd, but this is standard damage, just GG setting the mood. The abject, essential figure captured in Savage South — naked and raging, daubed in his special palette of blacks and blues and browns and smeared reds — does not materialize.

Once again, though, we ask ourselves: who the hell is this person? What happened? Can anyone explain it? Perhaps Joe Coughlin can. Coughlin — 46 years old, works in a cemetery, resident of South Boston — knows a thing or two about GG Allin. Why, he (almost) wrote the book. In 1992, during a conversation with GG’s brother and bassist Merle, Coughlin was handed a document purporting to be the life story of GG Allin, self-penned. The childhood in the two-room log cabin in Northumberland, New Hampshire, the terrifying father who christened him Jesus Christ Allin (his mother later changed his name to Kevin Michael, but Merle still called him JeJe), the years spent wolfing peanut-butter-and-dog-food sandwiches in Boston rooming houses, the bands, the beatings . . . It all seemed to be there. Coughlin, a non-professional writer, asked to be allowed to work up the manuscript into a full-blown biography, and he sent a 10-page treatment to GG, who was in state prison in Jackson, Mississippi, for a parole violation at the time. “I applied for the job,” he says when we meet on a dark afternoon in Jamaica Plain’s Midway Cafe. “And, uh, I got it.”

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GG’s grossest hits: Joe Coughlin recommends

While not a fan per se (“I appreciate it more as pure story”), Coughlin suggests the following as some of the more definitive material by and about Allin. Please note that GG recorded with a number of bands, and much of the stuff has been bootlegged into multiple versions of varying consistency. Buyer beware . . .

GG Allin | Freaks, Faggots, Drunks & Junkies [Awareness, 1988] | “The sound of a soul swirling down the toilet, and apparently having a hell of a time in the process. Extremely depressing, and hard to forget.”

GG Allin & Antiseen | Murder Junkies [ TK O reissue, 2004] | “A confirmation that things would not end pretty. Mostly guns, knives, and prison, with appropriately harsh, militaristic music.”

Hated — GG Allin and the Murder Junkies [Music Video Distributors, 1993] | “A chilling documentary by Todd Phillips (yep, the Starsky & Hutch guy), who plays it straight down the middle.”

GG Allin & the Southern Baptists | “Look into My Eyes And Hate Me”/“Hotel Clermont” [Railroad, 1993] | “The A-side of this late-period single is a masterpiece of upchuck rage and contempt — that rare sonic elevation of absolute gutter scum into a being of true worth and power.”

GG Allin & the Murder Junkies | Brutality and Bloodshed for All  [Alive, 1993] | “His strongest, angriest, and (surprise!) most accessible post-1983 record. Not helped by unfortunate graphics, retarded liner notes by Kim Fowley, or GG’s death just prior to its release.”
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