Jet Boys of NW

November 10, 2014 § 3 Comments

The underground music culture of mid-eighties DC is fondly remembered by its participants as a continuous spectacle of club shows as documented in the pages of fanzines and broadcast on WMUC. Everybody was in a band or at least had a roommate who was. Punk rock was the core of the scene, but it should be realized that punk was already becoming a legacy genre – the first wave – Minor Threat, Government Issue, etc. had already moved on. The Revolution Summer soundtrack was provided by Rites of Spring – they didn’t have a record out, but the cassette is around here someplace. Cool kids hung around Food for Thought and tried out new noise at DC Space. We read Truly Needy and WDC Period, fanzines that are now archived at the University of Maryland.  I played in a band called Donut Safari.

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I moved to DC from Richmond VA after a few months of hanging out with a band called Holiday – to even dip a toe into the lineage of that group would amount to getting dunked in the zeitgeist of the era I’ll save it for another time. Holiday cut one record that I know of and it was one side of a 45 that they shared with another band. I might still have it around here someplace.

That summer I washed windows with (Donut Safari founder) DJ Tommy B, listened to records and wrote reams of lyrics. I played guitar about as well as the next person – I was less of a punk anyhow and liked to listen to Television, Small Faces and Big Star – old bands. My housemates Neil Haggerty and Tom Rafferty had a band called Jet Boys of NW – this was the coolest band I had ever heard. They played about four gigs (one at WMUC where I got to play along on a de-tuned autoharp with a beercan slide.) Definitely influenced by Sonic Youth – they were the gold standard then – but certainly not a lesser entity.

Tom, Neil and his music/life mate Jennifer moved to New York I guess right after I moved to San Francisco. I had a couple of letters from them, and from DJ Tommy B, who is still my LinkedIn “contact”. One time Pussy Galore played at a club near my apartment, so I went to see them and Neil came over to hang out. I gave him a pair of pants.

Sometime after that, Tom, Neil, and Jennifer moved to San Francisco where we shared a place. Royal Trux had been their side project in NY – the record was mysterious and damaged – entirely unique – and they were bringing it to the coast. We booked studio time and played two songs I had never even heard before. Some kids in Chicago had offered to put it out on their new label, Drag City. Listening to it now is still a slightly disorienting experience.

Seeing some lukewarm reviews in Forced Exposure and other fanzines (where had the fanzines gone? SF was the shittiest excuse for a music scene I had ever lived in…) validated this effort so we continued on for a while – I’m not sure how long – before I quit the band. Well, I wasn’t really ever in the band. But we were friends and there are some fine moments captured on old cassettes around here someplace.

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§ 3 Responses to Jet Boys of NW

  • Ben says:

    Hey, thanks for taking the time to write up this interesting piece of info. Not to second guess your own memories, but you’re given credit for 3 Trux songs rather than 2: Hero Zero, Love Is (the two released on that first Drag City single) and Red Tiger (A-side of a ’92 Drag City single, but recorded in 89 with the other two, according to Neil in the Singles, Live, Unreleased liner notes).

    • Ben, thanks for the reminder – I felt like I was missing something. Also, the posthumous Hand of Glory was from the same period and was sort of a dry run for Twin Infinitives, I think. I borrowed the drum machine from a girl in L.A. (who probably never got it back). Neil programmed all the clunky “grooves” in our kitchen on 15th and Church in San Francisco. I still have the cassette someplace. Take care, PJ

      • Ben says:

        wow, I didn’t know Hand of Glory was done after the SF move – Neil and Jennifer always seemed (in interviews at least) fond of obscuring facts, but from I had understood they had worked up Hand when they were still in NY, then abandoned them/had the tapes stolen (can’t remember where I read that one) and switched gears to Twin. I’m a pretty big Trux fanatic so I appreciate the info – I’ve got a piece on TI that’s supposed to be in the next issue of Perfect Sound Forever in early/mid September. I imagine that tape (and any other related ones) would make for a pretty great listen.

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